5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until to-morrow at half-past 2 o’clock p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Booroomba and Gibraltar, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Brisbane, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Collingwood, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Ginninderra, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes (two).
Granville, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Hawthorn, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Malvern, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Weetangera, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Port Auguata-Oodnadatta Railway -
Agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia, for the working of the.
Public Service Act -
Promotion of P. P. Green, as Clerk, 4th Class, Electrical Engineer’s Branch, Lismore, New South Wales.
Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account Act -
Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council, dated 7th April, 1914.
Debate resumed from 17th April (vide page 128), on motion by Mr. Kendell -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to by this House: -
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed address: - - but regret to have to inform you that your Advisers deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.”
– I propose to address myself almost entirely to the Teesdale-Smith contract, and to the debate on the public platform and in this chamber bearing directly or indirectly upon it. Before dealing with the papers connected with the contract, I wish to explain why it is necessary, occasionally, in all railway construction, to go in advance of rail head to secure the even continuity of formation work. With up-to-date track-laying machinery, such as we have on the transcontinental line, and with sufficient engine power - which, through no fault of our own, and because of the sins of our predecessors, we have not yet got - track laying can be proceeded with at a uniform daily mileage, but a peculiarly difficult section of country retards, not only formation work, but also the track laying for which that work is a preparation. The EngineerinChief and his Department have long recognised that the success of the construction of the transcontinental railway will depend almost entirely upon organization, there being practically no engineering difficulties, except in two sections, throughout the whole length of 1,060 miles. These difficulties are to be met with in the neighbourhood of the Pines, South Australia, at a point about 100 miles from Port Augusta, where the line has to get up on to the tableland, and in a district known as the Sandhills, some 200 miles still further west along the route. The Engineer-in-Chief attempted, by pressing ahead with the track laying, without completing the ballasting and otherwise finishing the line, to get up to the first difficult section, which commences at a point 92 miles from Port Augusta, and ends at a point 106 miles from that place. In that 14 miles will be the only cuttings of any importance, with the exception of a few difficult miles a little further on along the route until the Sandhills section is reached. As the representatives of South Australia are aware, the quality of the water is always troubling the Railway Department of the State by reason of the mechanical defects which it creates on its northern system, and the difficulty is doubled in our case, because we have had to try to carry on the work of railway construction with very ancient engines left to us by our predecessors. ‘ Consequently we have not been able to ‘ get along as fast as we wished to, although we have known that with the new plants for haulage and other transport purposes coming to hand, and now being put into commission, there was serious danger of the track laying machine catching up with the formation work, and, therefore, of the track laying being stopped, and the men employed on it being thrown out of work, whilst the difficult section to which I have referred was being traversed.
– The facts have been known for the last two years.
– They have been known to this Government only since we took office, and we attempted at once to grapple with them. Had our predecessors done the same, two years ago, the difficulty would not have arisen.
I come now to the actual terms of the contract with Mr. Teesdale Smith and the correspondence out of which it has arisen. I must weary honorable members by reading the actual records, because, as they will see when I have finished, gross injustice has been done to me, and, through me, to this Parliament, by one feature of the public criticism to which I have been subjected. The first paper which I read is a telegram from Mr. Teesdale Smith to the Engineer-in-Chief of Commonwealth railways. It is dated the 3rd February, 1914, and says -
Learn from resident engineer that - the Supervising Engineer, Captain Saunders, was referred to - you will entertain proposal construct earthworks92 to 106 miles. I am prepared accept petty contract for same at same rates I am now getting for the extension YeelannaMannipa railway, namely, 4s.6d. cuttings, 2s. 6d. hanks.
That is the offer to which I direct particular attention. It was represented to me that the country in connexion with which the South Australian Government had made a contract was similar to that with which we have to deal, and the South Australian contract having been let after tenders had been publicly called for, the payment by the Commonwealth of the same prices as were agreed to by the Government of South Australia was a guarantee that the contractor was not making too good a bargain - or will examine country, with your engineer and fix rates on the ground. Time, three months. Deposit one thousand. and so forth. I did not see the telegram when it came to the office, but, on the 6th February, the Engineer-in-Chief, accompanied by the supervising engineer at Port Augusta, and Mr. Teesdale Smith, called to see me. Mr. Deane asked me if I had seen his recommendation with regard to the letting of the contract to Mr. Teesdale Smith, which he had sent up the previous night. I said that I had not seen it, and he got it in my office, and submitted it in person. The exact terms of that recommendation are these -
Between Lake Windabout andEucolo Creek the line goes over tablelands. The ascent to the tablelands and the descent on the other side involve earthworks of considerable magnitude, possibly 100,000 cubic yards of cutting at each end.
This matter ithas been proposed by Captain Saunders to work by day labour with the smallplant for which tenders have been called.
Not with the day labour he had, because this contract did not displace a single man working under that system for the Commonwealth, nor did it throw idle one pennyworth of plant. For a plant, in addition, would have had to be obtained and the labour, too. I ask honorable members to bear that point in mind when they read the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Deane continues -
I am not at all satisfied that this is the best way of doing it, but I do not want to interfere with his arrangements. 1 suggested, however, some time ago, to some men of experience that they should go to Port Augusta and inspect the work, with a view to submitting a price. This they did, and concluded they would want 5s. a cubic yard for the cuttings, and, as they had no plant themselves, the Government to supply plant, tools, water, and so on.
Now we are getting to the contract -
Mr. Teesdale Smith, the wellknown contractor, has been to Port Augusta and talked the matter over with Captain Saunders, and yesterday he came here to see me. He is just finishing a contract in the Eyre Peninsula, namely, the extension from Minippa to Streaky Bay, for the South Australian Government, and he has a large quantity of plant, tools, men, and horses at his disposal. He submits an offer to do the work, and I wired his terms to Captain Saunders for his opinion.
Then comes the telegram which I had better read in order to put it on record -
The wire was as follows: - “ Smith offers take piece-work from 92 to 106 miles. Cuttings, 4s.6d.; banks, 2s. 6d. He will find water, plant, explosives, horse feed. Completion in three months from acceptance. Do you recommend acceptance?”
This was to the man who otherwise would have to dothe work himself, and that Captain Saunders is no loafer, I would remind honorable members-
– He was the better of the two.
– Exactly. When it is a question as to his ability to do work, or of getting somebody to do the work in place of himself, his opinion is well worth having, as. the honorable member for Melbourne has pointed out -
Captain Saunders now replies as under - “Re Teesdale Smith’s offer. I consider the time stated to complete work warrants paying prices stated. Fauldingham stated he wanted 5s., and we were to supply plant, tools, water, and pay men. I cannot do the work in three months.”
Now the Leader of the Opposition ridiculed Captain Saunders’ telegram, and said, “ What sort of a recommendation is that?” All that I have to say in reply to his comment is that the Supervising Engineer waited in my room on the 6th February, and himself to my face recommended the giving of this contract to Mr. Teesdale Smith. If that recommendation is no good, why did the right honorable gentleman appoint Captain Saunders to that highly responsible post in South Australia? Mr. Deane continues -
It will be seen that, in Captain Saunders’ opinion, no better arrangement for carrying out this work properly can bo made, and T ask the Minister to allow me to enter into a contract with Mr. Teesdale Smith on these lines. Mr. Smith is quite agreeable to paying a deposit and entering into a contract according to our specifications. The value of the work at each end would probably be between £20,000 and £30,000, and he offers to pay a deposit of £1,000 right away.
The right honorable gentleman opposite has been going round the country speaking as if this contractor had obtained a contract for both ends of the work, whereas he has only offered to do one end, namely, a section of 14 miles.
– Is that each end of the cutting ?
– No; there are cuttings going up on to the tableland, and 7- miles of cuttings going down from the tableland farther on. All that Mr. Teesdale Smith undertook to do, and was allotted, was to carry out 14 miles of cuttings going up on to the tableland, and the engineer’s estimate of - the cost on this approved recommendation was between £20,000 and £30,000, not £60,000, as the Leader of the Opposition has been saying throughout the country.
– Do you think it will work out at that?
– I will give the absolute facts which I have had taken out.
– Any one reading that document must come to the conclusion that it is a contract for each end.
– I do not think so; no officer in the Department read the document in that way. The facts are all stated in the papers, and the honorable gentleman can come to his own conclusion. Continuing, Mr. Deane says -
This is an urgent matter, and I think the chance, which has been quite unexpected, is a good one, and should be seized with the object of carrying out the work effectually and promptly.
Here is the point to which I ask honorable members to pay particular attention -
Mr. Smith lias to dispose of his plant from the Minippa-Streaky Bay contract, and he cannot hold his offer open for more than a day or two, otherwise, the plant, horses, and men will be dispersed. I strongly recommend the serious consideration of Mr. Smith’s offer, and shall be glad to have the Minister’s approval with the least possible delay.
What I did - and I take full responsibility for my action - was to approve of this contract on the data submitted to me., These data were first! that the price waa safeguarded owing to it being based on the result of public competition in South Australia for similar work in similar country. What I submit is that on these particular data it was clearly my duty to take this expert advice so strongly given to me. I am not in a position, nor is any Minister in a position, to go round and take out quantities, and translate himself like a hero in the Arabian Nights over the country to spy out the land, and see if the recommendations given in regard to it are accurate in all particulars. I am only there to weigh carefully in the public interests the recommendations made to me. On the data submitted here, and the very strong recommendation, not only of the Engineer-in-Chief, but of his own lieutenant, who, the honoraable member for Melbourne tells us, is a very excellent officer, it was my duty, I say, to give the utmost weight to this recommendation, and I approved of the contract.
– Why did you not call for tenders, though ?
– A difficulty in calling for tenders, my honorable friend will see, was that ‘the whole essence of this contract was the time consideration, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out.
– Was there any other offer in?
– There was no other offer before me.
– You did not give any one an opportunity to make an offer.
– I believed in the absolute exactness of every one of these recommendations and figures, and if I did not, my honorable friends over there know as well as I do what would have been my duty in the circumstances. I had no reason to doubt the absolute accuracy in any particular of this recommendation.
– Who suggested that?
– Well, we are agreed. The point is not that I took Mr. Teesdale Smith into my private sanctum and discussed this matter with him, or, as the honorable member for Yarra said the other day - and I hope he will take the first opportunity of correcting the statement -
Mr. Deane, EngineerInChief, said that 3s. a yard was a fair price for the work, hut Mr. Teesdale Smith got 4s. 6d. a yard, and 2s. 6d. a yard, in addition, for taking the material a chain and a half outside the railway cutting.
– Mr. Deane swore to that in the China inquiry.
– Why the Chinn inquiry took place three months before this matter came up !
– Mr. Deane swore to that.
– I think it is infinitely to be regretted that an ex-Minister of the Crown should fish in such muddy waters with so little justification.
– I will give it to you out of the evidence if you like.
– I do not want the evidence given before the Chinn Committee. ‘ I am dealing with this particular contract,’ and if the honorable gentleman cannot dissociate the two things in his mind, how are we going to get on with the consideration of this matter?
– Mr. Deane said that any rock-cutting could be done for 3s. a yard; why go back on that?
– I am not attacking Mr. Deane. I am explaining my own particular action in this matter, and taking full responsibility for it. I have a great deal to say to-day, and I ask honorable members to allow me to go ahead. The next thing I wish to draw the attention of my honorable friends to is that there is a good and sufficient answer to the ridicule which the Leader of the Opposition has cast upon the penalty provision in this contract, in the actual terms of the reccommendation which I approved. What I approved of was a penalty of ?1,000, plus other penalties, on a contract of the value of between ?20,000 and ?30,000, to be completed within three months.
An Honorable Member. - Was that one penalty of ?1,000?
– I know my honorable friends are not all students of the law, but some of them, at any rate, are much better as paid agents in the Arbitration Court than as interpreters of a legal document. I regret having to take a man who occupies so important a position as that of the Leader of the Opposition, into what I might term the mere kindergarten of common sense, but so that there may be no excuse for any honorable member again showing this lack of knowledge in regard to the penalty conditions of the contract, let me quote the opinion of the Crown Solicitor, to whom I referred this matter only this morning, in order that there might be no further doubt in regard to it. I wrote this minute to the Crown Solicitor this morning -
In approving this contract being allotted, I recognised time as being its essence, and was of the opinion that failure on the contractor’s part to complete within the stipulated time would justify forfeiture of the ?1,000 deposit agreed upon. The. question has now been raised that the only penalty against delay in completion is the ? 5 per diem penalty provided in the contract form, and I accordingly would be glad of your opinion whether failure to substantially complete the contract within the stipulated time would justify cancellation of the contract and forfeiture of the deposit.
– You cannot forfeit the deposit.
– Another lawyer gives his opinion in regard to this matter. If the honorable member is acting as attorney for Mr. Teesdale Smith, I have nothing further to add. The Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth says -
I think the time limit of three months, with a penalty for non-completion within the time, means completion within the three months or a reasonable time afterwards.
What would be a reasonable time afterwards would depend on the circumstances; but I think it would not extend to an additional month.
The Leader of the Opposition was trying to make this contract appear as if it might be spun out for years, and I am giving in reply to the honorable member’s opinion the view of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor
– I still think so.
– It is impossible for the honorable member to change his mind. The Crown Solicitor’s minute continues -
If the contractor failed to complete the work within three months and a . reasonable time Afterwards, the Minister would clearly have a right to cancel the contract, and if he failed to substantially complete the work within the three months, and there was no reasonable possibility of his doingso, say, within a month more, I think also that the Minister would be entitled to cancel the contract.
– He only thinks so.
– What else can he do but think ? The only person who can be sure is the person who has no data to go upon. Here is the language of the Crown Solicitor in the clearest possible form -
The penalty of£ 5 per day is a penalty for exceeding the three months, and is not, in my opinion, the only penalty against delay, as unreasonable delay would involve cancellation of the contract, and the deposit would be available to make good any damage suffered by the Commonwealth by reason of the non-fulfilment of the contract.
I have explained to honorable members the actual position in regard to the penalty provisions. As I approved of the contract - that is, on the recommendation - the penalty was £1,000 on a £20,000 or £30,000 job. In other words, it was a great deal more than the penalty imposed in the average contract for supplies and work done for Commonwealth Departments as a whole - I speak of the average contract, not of the contracts of my right honorable friend the Leader of the Opposition, because he never thought of penalties; he did not bother about them - and that forfeiture of £1,000 is a very considerable penalty on so small a contract. If my honorable friend wishes to arrive at a fair analogy I would like him to refer to New South Wales, where the Caucus Government sought, after mature consideration, to enter into acontract of £3,000,000 with a private contractor without asking for more than a bond of £50,000.
– That contract was never made.
– I say that Cabinet sought to enter into such a contract, but the Parliament of New South Wales defeated it.
– You sought to behave yourself, but you could not.
– A great exponent of dignity is on his haunches again. I will deallater on with the further questions of penalties, but, as I have already said, I made this incursion into the kindergarten of common sense in order that my honorable friends opposite may not be able to further mislead their dupes with reference to these penalties.
– That is a nice way in which to insult the workers of this country!
– I am absolutely taking full responsibility for approving of the contract on the facts submitted to me. If I had had any reason to believe that any one of the matters in the recommendation put before me was not correct, I would not have entered into the contract.
– Would you have made the contract if the railway had been your own private concern ?.
– Yes, on the recommendation, I would, because if any man runs a private concern he must reasonably trust his experts.
– Have you ascertained whether South Australia is paying 4s. 6d. for cuttings?
– I am taking steps to obtain that information. In regard to the question of price, I said to Mr. Deane at the interview to which I have referred, “Have you satisfied yourself that these prices are as stated?” in other words, are they the same, with deductions, as the price for which this contractor did similar work in similar country for the South Australian Government? Mr. Deane told me that he had satisfied himself of that fact, and I then approved of the contract. Honorable members will find in the file which I am laying on the table to-day ample substantiation of my statement.
I have explained to the House exactly what I did. I gave instructions to Mr. Deane then to be very careful, when the Crown Solicitor was drawing up the contract, that Mr. Teesdale Smith was to complete the job within the stipulated period of three months, and some time afterwards, about the end of February- the actual date may be seen by reference to these papers - Mr. Hobler, Deputy EngineerinChief, came to see me in regard to a proposal from the Engineer-in-Chief that, in addition to this 14 miles of country, Mr. Teesdale Smith should be given a further section of 7 miles further along the line, and all the country in between. I said immediately to Mr. Hobler, “ This is. an absurd proposition. I cannot tolerate anything of the kind.”
– You had an eye-opener by then.
– No, the Leader of the Opposition did not appear on the scene for months- afterwards ! I refused to give to this man whom I am accused of befriending this further section of line because I am a strong believer in the principle of calling for tenders, and the laughter on the part of honorable members opposite is surely most amazing, seeing that they are the party that does not believe in tendering at all, but believe in doing everything by departmental labour, not allowing the public the safeguard of public competition. However, I told Mr. Hobler that I would not consider the proposition ; whereupon he said, “I am afraid you will have to.” I said “ Why?” and he replied, “ Because Mr. Deane has written a letter on which Mr. Teesdale Smith will rely for getting a further extension of this section.”
– He wrote that without your sanction?
– Absolutely, and I am about to explain what action I subsequently took. I turned up that letter written by Mr. Deane; and having found that the Crown Solicitor had included this section in the unsigned contract, I immediately took steps to have the matter remedied. On the 7th February Mr. Deane wrote to Mr Teesdale Smith as follows: -
Your offer is hereby accepted, subject to your leading the material from the cuttings into the embankments for li chains, measured from the mouths of the respective cuttings, for which no payment will be made for that portion of the bank so constructed. . . . No extras will bc paid for unless ordered in writing by thu Minister or Engineer-in-Chief, nor yet will any claims for delays be entertained.
. In case of any dispute, my decision’ is to bc absolutely final.
And this is the dangerous paragraph that I discovered only at the end of February -
In the event of your carrying out the foregoing work to my satisfaction, it is understood that that portion of the line between 122 and 12!) miles will be carried out by you under the same conditions.
I knew nothing of that letter or of that paragraph, but immediately I heard of it I said to Mr. Hobler, “ This sort of thing cannot be tolerated.”
– Did you not smell a rat then?
– The honorable member may deal with smells, but at the present moment I am. dealing with facts. From this moment onwards the public records show - although the Leader of the Opposition had not then come on the scene at all - that the Minister did not accept the recommendations of his officers with regard to this particular contract.
– Why not?
– Because I did not think they were sound in the public interest. Any one with common sense in a Ministerial position is bound to accept the judgment of his experts on data submitted when he has no reason whatsoever* to doubt the genuineness of it.
– That was not an expert question.
– It was altogether outside an expert question. It was a legal question.
– Did Mr. Hobler recommend it?
– I remind honorable members that there is a time limit to speeches, and that every honorable member will have an opportunity of speaking and replying to any arguments or statements made. I ask honorable members, therefore, to remember this, and refrain from interjecting.
– Immediately I got the recommendation before me, I sent for Mr. Deane’s letter to Mr. Teesdale Smith, and my subsequent action is found on the public files. I found correspondence had ensued between Mr. Deane and Mr. Teesdale Smith. The following telegram had’ been despatched by Mr. Deane on the 19th February to Captain Saunders -
In the event of my at once letting Teesdale Smith that portion of the line between 122 and 129 miles, ascertain can he finish it in three months from this date.
This was sent, no doubt, because I had impressed on the Engineer-in-Chief the absolute necessity for getting Mr. Teesdale Smith off the job in the three months. Mr. Teesdale Smith replied on the 21st February -
In reply to your telegram, I am prepared to carry out the second portion of the proposed work, finishing within the three months, provided you let me have the work on the top of the tableland, between the two points, at the prices already arranged.
Which is easy country, I may say. I first of all took action to put the matter right so far as the Commonwealth was concerned, telegraphing to Mr. Teesdale Smith as follows on the 26th February - Re Engineer-in-Chiefs letter to you, dated 7th inst., which first came to my notice yesterday. Desire inform you concluding paragraph written without my authority.
It was on the 25th February that I discovered this matter.
– A fortnight after the contract was signed.
– Mr. Deane also wrote to Mr. Teesdale Smith as follows -
I have to confirm my telegram of even date reading - “ Find that concluding paragraph of my letter of 7th inst., in connexion with section between 122 and 129 miles, was not in accordance with Ministers approval, and is hereby withdrawn.”
Then Mr. Teesdale Smith telegraphed -
I formally protest against withdrawal. This work was mentioned at interview.
– Mr. Teesdale Smith says in this telegram -
I formally protest against withdrawal. This work was mentioned to Minister at interview on the6th. In compliance with terms your letter 7th, I only yesterday purchased forty camels, making total over 100. Three additional waggons, making total eight; sixty additional draught horses, making total 110; additional scoops, drays, harness, ploughs, &c. Without prejudice, however, I am willing agree withdrawal referred to by you, provided you give me the work from 88 to 92 miles, in exchange, and accept my tender for Gibson’s tank.
This was my reply -
Be your wires of yesterday to myself and Engineer-in-Chief, the final paragraph in EngineerinChief’s letter to you, dated 7th inst., was entirely unauthorized, and accordingly invalid. Consequently it is not a question of your making terms, but of your accepting a “fact, of which I now give you formal notification.
So that, owing to my action, the only result of this unauthorized letter is that Mr. Teesdale Smith has not received a penny piece more of Government work. I may say for the benefit of the House that I had an inquiry into how the letter of the 7th February came to be written, and I found that Mr. Teesdale Smith had suggested it.
– He evidently got hold of you.
– Here is another honorable member at the same thing, so dead to decency that he will not hear an official explanation of these things. This is a minute initialed by Captain Saunders -
On their return to the office of the EngineerinChief, after a draft had been prepared of the Enginecr-in-Chief’s letter to Mr. Teesdale Smith dated 7th February, Mr. Teesdale Smith asked that an undertaking with regard to the second portion of the line between 122 and 129 miles should be embodied therein, provided he carried out the first work to the satisfaction of the Engineer-in-Chief. “ Mr. Teesdale Smith appealed to me, saying, ‘ That was arranged in the Minister’s room.’ He did not say, ‘ by the Minister.’ I assented to this, and, in due course, the letter in question, with the condition asked for by Mr. Teesdale Smith, was despatched to him.”
He certainly never said anything of the kind to me in the Minister’s room.
– Who was in the Minister’s room?
– The Engineer-in-Chief of Commonwealth Railways, the Supervising Engineer at Port Augusta, and also, during a portion of the inquiry, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs. That was the first and last time I ever saw Mr. Teesdale Smith, and yet we have this mountain of cowardly insinuation raised on so flimsy a foundation.
– Then the paragraph in the Argus was wrong?
– I shall deal with that in a very few moments.
– Better deal with it now.
– If the honorable member deals with it as the Leader of the Opposition dealt with it the other night, he will break a record that has stood for 2,000 years - the record of Ananias.
– It was sworn evidence.
– The next proposal of Mr. Teesdale Smith was that he should be given work between the beginning of his work and our rail head; and that proposal I also turned down. Mr. Teesdale Smith appears to be a very clever gentleman. I was given to understand that on that occasion he had the Commonwealth in his hands; but, on looking into the matter, I found that, so far from his having the Commonwealth in his hands, it was a case of Mr. Teesdale Smith being in the hands of the Commonwealth. Mr. Teesdale Smith had bought over our heads the camels which we had hired ; and, under the circumstances, we could not get camels; and Mr. Teesdale Smith said that he could not carry our culverts up to his work - that he was not in a position to do so, for he put the matter, politely- unless we gave him the particular additional work he required. This proposal was recommended to me very urgently by the late Engineer-in-Chief in a report, on which I put the following minute : -
Please let me have results latest costing under Saunders’ management for 5 miles of similar country. In the meantime, failing transport, so exercise. your powers- because all Mr. Smith’s work has to be done under the direction of the EngineerinChief - under contract that culverts, &c, may be put in later, by Department; Teesdale Smith being required to so order his embankments as to readily permit , of this being done.
The effect of this on the operations of Mr. Teesdale Smith and of the Commonwealth was that, instead of Mr. Teesdale Smith having a line of communication, so to speak, for his material and water carts, he was required, under the powers of the contract,, to heap up the earth on each side of the places where we expected the culverts to be placed, and to leave that earth there ready for us to fillin. when transport was provided. This further apparent difficulty was surmounted ; and I again take full responsibility for, surmounting it.
– That was a big thing to do!
– If that is true, I am justified in thinking that the honorable member could not have done it.
I remind honorable members that Mr. Deane’s recommendation, as approved by me, referred to the value of this contract as between £20,000 and £30,000.
– At each end.
- Mr. Teesdale Smith got only one end.
– The letter to me spoke of 200,000 square yards.
– Exactly; and the fight honorable gentleman was not able to take out the simple arithmetical calculation which has been taken out by the officers of the Department. The schedule showed 107,279 cubic yards at 4s. 6d., or £24,137 15s. 6d. ; banks, 134,744 cubic yards at 2s. 6d., or £16,843; and surface forming, 297 chains at 45s. per chain, £645 15s. So the actual cost of doing the 14 miles, instead of being, as represented to me, between £20,000 and £30,000, came out at £41,626 10s.6d. This I submit is a matter for which I cannot personally be held responsible.
– The Minister, relied on the figures of others?
– Exactly; and anybody with an atom of justice in his composition must see that a Minister is, perforce, compelled to rely on the official figures of his experts. Mr. Hobler, who was on leave at the time, had nothing to do with the recommendations, but, on the contrary, was subsequently opposed to them. When Mr. Hobler came back from his leave, he told me that he did not like the business ; and this is what he had to say about it -
The portion of the line which is covered by Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract is a series of hills rising to a tableland, and bore indications of being one of the most expensive parts of the railway to construct. The estimate of the cost of performing the work by departmental day labour is approximately 2½ per cent, less than the amount being paid to Mr. Teesdale Smith. . . . Consideration was given to the whole matter, and as it appeared probable that the departmental estimate, based on conditions applying nearer to Port Augusta, mightbe slightly exceeded in respect of this particular work, and as, moreover, the utilization of Mr. Smith’s plant immediately available made it possible to complete much earlier than the Department by its own organization could, it was assumed that the 2½ per cent, difference, even if realized, was not sufficiently great to offset the advantage of an early completion…..
The platelaying would, it was anticipated, be extended to this portion of the railway at a very early date; and the view was taken by the Engineer-in-Chief that if this excavation were not pushed on with forthwith, the platelaying would be liable to come to a full stop. He goes on to say - . . . and the interruption to operations would cost the Department far more than it might possibly have saved by doing the 14 miles of earthworks itself. He (EngineerinChief) regarded it as essential that this work, should be done, and done quickly, and considered that this was a favorable . opportunity of advancing the progress of the line.
– Did Mr. Hobler inspect this piece of work?
– I sent him to the place immediately he could be spared, and his report in regard to the nature of the country I have here.
– That was after the contract had been let.
– Yes; the report is dated 20th April, and it has come from South Australia. Mr. Bell says -
As instructed by the Minister, Ihave obtained a report from the Deputy EngineerinChief (who is now at Port Augusta) as to the nature of the material which is being excavated by Mr. Teesdale Smith under his contract. Mr. Mobler’s wire reads as follows: - “ Your wire re contractor Smith’s earthworks. He has thirty -five small scoops working, and is ploughing and scooping tops of some of cuttings, also portions of banks. The cuttings generally, so far as hehas opened them up, which is to cutting Hi), show that 103 and 104, though fair material on top, have hard cores of reefs of disjointed silicated sandstone, which is too hard to plough, awkward to bore, and bad shooting.”
I do not propose to read the whole of the report, because it is on the file, and honorable members may see it there later.
– Are there any other salient points?
– The whole of Mr. Hobler’s report is set out in the file, which also shows some controversy with Mr. Teesdale Smith with regard to the way in which he had been treated. Mr. Teesdale Smith does not appear to regard me as a friend and brother, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition; but, if we take his correspondence, rather as almost an opponent; indeed, I might also say, after this, as a political opponent, in this business. That gentleman, on the 15th of this month, wired me to say that he was very much afraid he would not be able to obtain labour - a suggestion that he would not be able to carry out the work. I wired in reply on the same day -
Trust you will be able to make satisfactory arrangements, as the Department expects you to complete your work within the stipulated period.
Having given the House the gist of the official files dealing with this matter, I would like honorable members to ask themselves - because this has become the focus of partisanship - whether they think that any person could possibly say that I, in charge of this Department, had been blameworthy or neglectful of the public interests in connexion with this work?
– That is the only question which I ask honorable members to put to themselves.
– No one has accused the honorable gentleman of dishonesty.
– The ex-Minister of Home Affairs says that no one has ever accused me of any dishonesty. I propose, in reply, to deal with the statements made recently throughout Australia by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The charge made against the honorable member is one of incompetency rather than dishonesty.
– The charge made is one. of corruption.
– I am charged, impliedly, with corruption.
– I am not now charged impliedly with corruption; but, before simple-minded audiences who did not know me, and . who were ignorant of the facts, the insinuation of corruption was spread broadcast for the most disreputable of party reasons. It struck me at first as somewhat amusing that a man whom it has been fashionable to describe as having been born with a silver spoon in his mouth should suddenly be held up to universal abhorrence as one so bankrupt in pocket and honour that he would accept a bribe from a not-too-rich contractor.
– Whoever suggested that?
– I shall read the statements made, and ask this House whether any two conclusions could be arrived at with regard to them? The charge levelled against me was that which I have mentioned, and, at first, I was disposed to regard it as something in the matter of a Caledonian joke.
– A very poor one.
– A very poor one, indeed.
– It is not the sort of joke of which a Caledonian would be guilty.
– I recognise immediately what my honorable friend has pointed out: that this is not the sort of joke that an honest Caledonian Would care to make. This was merely an implied charge of corruption. It was not a straightforward calumny, such as a burglar of credit might have indulged in; but rather a whispering, insinuating suggestion, such as might be made by a sneak-thief of public reputation, or a man who had not the courage to come into the open and say clearly what he meant At the very outset I challenged the right honorable whisperer. I analyzed his language, and challenged it. I am not going to take the House through the whole of these insinuations; but in its issue of 17th March the Argus reported the Leader of the Opposition as having said in the Melbourne Town Hall -
It was stated in the newspapers the other day that Mr. Irvine, the Attorney-General, and Mr. Kelly, the Acting Minister of Home Affairs, had a secret conversation, or interview, with prominent contractors, and that they discussed the probability of a contract being let in connexion with the construction of the Western Australian railway. Later on, Mr. Kelly is reported to have made a statement to the press that a contract was let to Mr. Teesdale Smith for the construction of a portion of the transcontinental line.
That is what the right honorable member said in Melbourne. Later on, in Sydney, when he had the official papers dealing with this matter, and knew that the contract was entered into on 6th February, three weeks before this alleged interview, he repeated this insinuation and attempted to connect the alleged interview with the contract. He knew in Sydney, even whilst he was talking to his dupes, that the date of the alleged interview, as given in the Argus, was the 23rd February.
– I read it.
– But the right honorable member did not tell his audience in Sydney that the date of the contract was 6th February-
– And that the contract could not possibly have been influenced by any alleged interview which took place three weeks after the event.
– This is awfully thin.
– I thought it was, too; but it seemed to go down with the Labour meeting.
– Where is the suggestion of bribery ?
– The Leader of the Opposition said the Attorney-General and I had had a “ secret “ conversation or interview with prominent contractors, and that later on I was reported to have told the press that a contract was let.
– What is the date of the newspaper from which the honorable member is quoting?
– I am quoting from the Argus of 17th March. According to that report the Leader of the Opposition went on to say -
Whether the contract was for a good purpose or not is not the question.
It seems now to be the only question, but at that time it was some other mysterious question that was exercising the minds of these Labour men -
Whether the contract was for a good purpose or not is not the question. Calling in contractors for private consultation with Ministers who are letting contracts without tender or any information to the public . . . is not good enough. . . . Let them come into the open. .
We are told now that there was no suggestion, yet Mr. Fisher said at this meeting
Let them come into the open. Surely they are men enough to do that. We hear a great deal about the dignity and the independence, and the uprightness of the Attorney-General -
He dragged in the name of the AttorneyGeneral -
– His name appeared in the paragraph.
– In the paragraph relating to the interview alleged to have taken place three weeks after this contract was signed. The Leader of the Opposition used the term “ upright “ sarcastically, and now asks the House to believe that he did not desire his audience to conclude from his statement that an Australian Minister of the Crown had been “got at.” In Sydney the right honorable member, speaking, I think, in the City Hall, said, as reported, I think, in the Sydney Morning Herald of 20th March -
These gentlemen who were going to restore clean administration had fallen into serious error.
– Possibly so.
– The Leader of the Opposition implied nothing, did he? I ask fair-minded men in this House whether that was not an inference that we had fallen into unclean ways. According to this report, the Leader of the Opposition went on to say -
Why were the facts kept secret? If a great Democracy was going to live and prosper, public business must be done in the open.
He repeated his charge again -
Why was this contract secretly entered into and not known to the press?
Shades of Ananias! I have quoted the press, and he himself has quoted it as giving the first indication, of this matter in Melbourne long before he came upon the scene. There were in the press two references to this contract. One clearly emanated from me, and the other was stated to be an interview with me. They were published long before the right honorable member came upon the scene. And yet he said that we were trying to keep this matter secret. He had, further, the temerity to tell his audience that he could not get an answer from the Department in regard to it. This file of papers will show that the Leader of the Opposition’s letter was received in the Department of Home Affairs on Saturday, 14th March, before his Melbourne speech. The right honorable gentleman received an answer to his letter in Bendigo on Tuesday the 17th. I challenge any man in this Chamber to say that he has ever received an answer to any question from any public Department with similar celerity.
– Particularly from the Home Affairs Department.
– Exactly. The honorable member agrees with me that great expedition was shown in this matter, and yet we have this hollow, contemptible pretence that there had been some effort to keep the right honorable member out of the possession of facts to which he was entitled.
– That is their game.
– It may be; but it is a very disreputable one. It is one which reflects not only upon the man attacked, but upon the institution of Parliament, and upon this country, of which this Parliament is a reflex. I can imagine no greater slander on the honesty of our people than to make these insinuations all round Australia that Ministers of the Crown are corrupt, and have secret dealings with private contractors, from which the contractors derive great benefit. It is obvious, therefore, to the whole House, although possibly half the House will not publicly recognise it, that these insinuations have no more solid foundation than that of party bias, and that my real fault is that I occupy a place on this bench, and by so much stand in the right honorable gentleman’s way. Being here, he appears to think that I deserve no more generous treatment at his hands than any man may receive who has the temerity to stand between a famished wolf and that for which its belly craves.
– Did not the Melbourne Age say that it savoured of Tammany Hall?
– I am not concerned with what the Melbourne Age said.
– Why did you not go for them for libel ?
– I prefer always to attack the responsible person. The person responsible for starting this unclean thing in Australia is the right honorable leader of honorable members opposite.
– It is unclean, then?
– This suspicion and insinuation is unclean, and the honorable member himself is the last man who ought to take any part in such things.
– Why, you impostor? What have you to say about me?
– Order ! The honorable member for Gwydir is out of order.
– I rise to order. The honorable member has uttered a serious innuendo concerning myself, and is not prepared to explain or withdraw it. It is a miserable and contemptible thing for any man to do, and I ask him to withdraw the remark.
– Order ! The honorable member himself has this moment been guilty of unparliamentary expressions, and I must ask him to withdraw them, in order that I may ask the honorable member for Wentworth to withdraw what he said.
– I withdraw my remarks, knowing that they are warranted by the attitude of the honorable member.
– The honorable member must withdraw them without qualification.
– I withdraw them.
– I now ask the Honorary Minister to withdraw any expressions which the honorable member for Gwydir regards as offensive to him.
– What I said was that the honorable member should be the last to indulge in the disreputable sort of things that had been indulged in.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw whatever the honorable member for Gwydir regards as a reflection upon him.
– If the honorable member is not the last person, I shall withdraw them.
– Order !
– I withdraw the remarks. It is worth putting on record that when we get into this House and can deal with the calumnies face to face, and challenge the right honorable member to formulate his charges of corruption, he at once says - to quote his actual words - “ I impute corrupt motives to no one.” I am not a suspicious person. I do not imagine that any one who knows me, at any rate, will believe that I am capable of being bribed; but I submit that on the facts that I have given to the House I could only regard in one light the continued insinuations and innuendoes of the right honorable whisperer, and was entitled when we came into this House to challenge him to formulate his insinuations or withdraw them. He has withdrawn them. He says he makes no charges of corruption against any man, so ‘ that we can pass from that unclean side - the only unclean side of this business.
– Hear, hear!
– There is one rather amusing aspect of this affair. The right honorable gentleman has sought to flagellate me for seeing contractors. Any one who is in charge of a public Department doing public works, must necessarily from time to time see the persons with whom he does business. The ex-Minister of Home Affairs, the honorable member for Darwin, recognises that fact. I never attempted to charge him, and God forbid that I should do so for a moment, with any suggestion of improper action in seeing contractors. He saw them. The only difference between myself and my predecessor is that for purposes of record - I put it on no other grounds - I prefer to see them in the company of other people. My honorable friend, properly no doubt in his own eyes, and acting without any idea that blame would’ attach to him for doing so, used to see these contractors from time to time alone. He was no , rubber stamp ; he preferred to do his own business. I prefer in the interests of the Department to have arecord of the business that I do with business, men.
– That is right; I saw every one who came along.
– Side door or front?
– Whichever way they turned up.
– Now let us see what happened through my honorable friend seeing some of his callers. Mr. Gorton, of the Powellising Company, a very good business man, called upon him and they did some departmental business together. No one will suggest that anything improper occurred, but if I am charged with want of business capacity, let me show that the ex-Minister who is admittedly the best business man that the Labour Party ever had, could make occasional mistakes.
– You are another business man !
– I am as open as daylight, and I want my remarks regarding the honorable member to be taken literally. I am not making any attacks whatever on his integrity.
– You were going to alter all this.
– We did alter it too. With this one exception, where on the officers’ recommendation there was particular reason for not calling for tenders, we have called for tenders for every important work for which tenders could be called, and that is a new thing in Australian politics during the last few years. Let us take the big Western Australian sleeper contract. The Fisher Government accepted the highest tender instead of the lowest. The ex-Prime Minister said, “ We called for tenders.” Is that to be merely an opportunity for . accepting tha highest, and not the lowest, offer that comes along ? They accepted the highest tender, and they told the House that they were dealing with the State of Western Australia. The Leader of the Opposition repeated this statement in his speech the other day. As a matter of fact, the persons who are making the most profit out of this are a private firm - the Powellising Company - the managing director of which, in the ordinary, course of business, called to see the exMinister. This is one of the astonishing results. I am quoting now from the agreement between the Western Australian Government and the Powellising Company - the head company. It provides the following payments - for all timber treated for the use and requirements of the Government of Western Australia within the State, 9d. per 100 super, feet; for all other timbers that they are to treat, and we are, of course, in that category, 2s. per 100 super, feet. That 2s. was reduced to1s. 3d.
– I got him down.
– My honorable friend did, but I am amazed that he did not challenge the agreement, as. a Commonwealth Minister should have done, on the ground that the Commonwealth was being plundered by having to pay a great deal more royalty than the State of Western Australia was asked to pay.
– We did not know the other.
– What business men!
– That was a secret agreement.
– Whatever else this agreement meant, it amounted to a gift by the Commonwealth to the company of a large sum, because if 9d. was a fair price for supplying to the Western Australian Government, it ought to have been a fair price against us.
– Where is that company operating?
– It is the head company in Western Australia, of which Mr. Gorton is the most active agent, I understand, throughout Australia. The difference as between 9d. and1s. 3d. for powellising amounts to £13,125 on the whole contract, which we would have been presenting as a clear profit to the company under the agreement.
– On how many sleepers?
– On 1,400,000.
– It would come to more than that.
– Those are the figures I have had worked out. There is a further thing. My honorable friend was not a rubber stamp;
– We got a good bargain in the transportation of goods from the Western Australian Government.
– The honorable member says he did, , but what does it work out at? He was working on a basis of 25s. per load for sleepers. We have got that price down now to. 23s.
– The difference in royalty on the whole 1,400,000 sleepers would come to £35,000.
– I am talking of the prices actually arranged. There is another point in connexion with this Powellising Company which is interest ing, in view of the talk which has been indulged in concerning admission by the side door. That company is not only a powellising company corporately, but individually its members are interested in the development of our rural industries by reason of their having taken up certain areas of land. It is also interesting to know that a gentleman in another place, who was recently chairman of a Select Committee, is similarly concerned in rural industries along the route of this railway, and that the late Supervising Engineer of the Western Australian section of the line - not in his own name, I understand - also took up 1,000 miles of country in that same district. It is a further evidence of the business-like activity of this particular powellising industry, that it entered into contracts with the late Government - without any specifications whatever, and without any deposit - for the supply of 100,000 powellised mountain ash and messmate sleepers. Fortunately, it did not wish to go on with the contract, which was thereupon cancelled.
– They said that they had taken the contract too cheaply.
– They agreed to supply the sleepers at 7s. 6d. each.
– It is only fair to say that the late Government had a man on the works for the purpose of inspecting every sleeper.
– That is quite true. There were conditions imposed in that sense.’ But I am speaking of the free criticism in which my honorable friends opposite have indulged during the past few days, and I say that that contract was let absolutely on letter.
– What about the side door now?
– I do not suggest anything about the side door in this connexion.
– Who is the chairman of that company?
– Bless me, my honorable friends now want to know everything ! To go a stage further, the late Minister of Home Affairs will recollect buying a certain amount of machinery, for which obviously tenders could not be called. Take, for instance, the Castle excavator. That was bought without any tenders being invited. Being a patent, of course he could not invite tenders.
That excavator was bought without any tenders being called, and in the particular country in which it has been employed it has not proved a great success.
– Its purchase was rotten business.
– So we can all make mistakes occasionally. Then at the Federal Capital, the late Minister of Home Affairs - in opposition to the advice of his expert advisers - purchased an oil tractor, which has not been able to tract since.
– She did good work, but they ran her through the river and spoilt her.
– That tractor cost £1,000, and her traction loads also cost three or four times as much per ton as did those of the other tractors up there. Generally speaking, the purchase of this tractor was a rank bad bargain. It was bought on the engineering certificate of the late Minister of Home Affairs himself.
– It was a good engine.
– Then what about all the contracts which were made by our predecessors in office for the supply of wireless material ? I would like the Leader of the Opposition, my right honorable whispering friend, to inquire most carefully into the expenditure of £24,000 odd of public money with one company without any tenders being invited, and without any public competition whatever.
In regard to the contract question as a whole, honorable members opposite must not be afraid that the Ministry will accept every tender which comes along. We use the tender system as a safeguard - not as a means for losing public money. Where any tender is too high by contrast with the official estimate, I have always made a point of refusing it, and of calling for fresh tenders.
– In this case the Minister did not do that.
– For the obvious reason that, according to the recommendation, there was not sufficient time.
– Undoubtedly, the Minister was got at.
– What does the honorable member mean?
– That the Minister paid too much.
– There are two senses in which the statement that 1 have been got at might be construed.
– I did not intend the statement in the personal sense - most certainly not.
– Where a tender is too high, I have’ invariably called for fresh tenders. A case of this kind occurred at the Federal Capital the other day. The tenders received were too high, and I would not accept any of them. Two contracts for two small post-offices were announced yesterday. Both of them were considerably under the departmental estimate.
– Were any restrictions imposed in the specifications?
– None whatever.
– I was told that there were.
– There were not. The first tenders were too high, so we called for fresh tenders, and we got better prices than were disclosed in the official estimate. Consequently, we accepted one of those tenders. So far as railways are concerned, I am having prepared - for confidential purposes - an official estimate of the cost of constructing that line, so that we may be ableto gauge the value of the tenders we receive for general line construction. With us, calling for public tenders, I repeat, is a public safeguard, and we have instituted this practice for the first time for three years, and have departed from it in only one instance, in which time prevented the adoption of that safeguard.
I can only say that the reference to the Queensland system which was made by the . Leader of the Opposition was a little bit faulty in two particulars. In the first place - although the information was contained in the report from which he quoted - the figures which he gave in regard to day labour entirely ignored the. circumstance that a great deal of up-to-date machinery is used in Queensland to-day, whereas none of this machinery was employed at the time the works of which he spoke were constructed by contract. Moreover, the country in which works were carried out under the contract system was entirely dissimilar in character from that in which similar undertakings were constructed by day labour. I would further point out that the so-called system of day labour which was employed there . was not the day-labour system as we understand it. I asked the Engineer-in-Chief for a report on this matter, and I propose to conclude my remarks by quoting from that document. This officer, it must be remembered, was Engineer-in-Chief in Queensland until he accepted his present position under the Commonwealth.
– Is the Minister referring to Mr. Bell?
– Yes. That gentleman has reported as follows -
As desired by the Minister, I have to advise that the method under which railways have been constructed in Queensland for a number of years has been by a combination of day labour with small contracts, butty-gang, or piece-work.
– Now, what about the statements that have been made in this House ?
– Exactly -
That is to say, whenever convenient, the work has been given to men who employed others to assist them, parties of men working together, or to men working alone.
– The Victorian Railway Department does the same thing.
– And we are doing the same thing on the transcontinental railway to-day.
– The Victorian Railway Department does not adopt that system.
- Mr. Kernot, the EngineerinChief for this State, told me that it does -
It has been almost the invariable custom to let the erection of timber bridges by those methods, also side-cutting, side drains, surface forming, and clearing, and frequently erection of fencing, erection of telegraph line, culverts, getting and filling ballast, &c, &c., and occasionally platelaying and centre-cutting.
That is distinctly the opposite of what we have been led to believe by my honorable friends’ opposite.
– To what lines does Mr. Bell refer?
– To those upon which he has been working for years.
– Then he is wrong.
– Mr. Bell is wrong in saying what he has been doing?
– What about the Cloncurry and Richmond lines?
– I will quote only one other paragraph from this report. It reads -
Work for which a reasonable price could not he obtained, or which could not bo conveniently or expeditiously done in this way, was carried out by day labour.
– So much for the figures quoted in this connexion by the right honorable gentleman.
– The honorable member has not read the whole of the report. He should read it all.
– I have no objection to read it all. Mr. Bell further says -
The letting of this was left in the hands of the engineer-in-charge of the work, who was supplied by me with a schedule of quantities and prices to work to.
Exactly the same principle as we are working on the transcontinental line in Western Australia to-day -
These small contracts and piece-work particulars were shown on separate pay-sheets, and were carefully scrutinized in my office each month, the pays being made every four weeks.
This is the man who did not know what he was doing !
No large quantity of work was let to any particular man, and no definite quantity was stated, but merely an arrangement made for so much per cubic yard, chain, lineal yard, or foot, to be paid, and the arrangement was terminable at any time.
– That was piece-work, not contract work.
– The Leader of the Opposition said it was day labour.
– I say it was piece-work. The transaction was direct between the Government and the man. That is piecework.
– My honorable friends opposite had better settle it amongst themselves. The Leader of the Opposition says it is day labour. The next man to him becomes furious at the idea of describing it as day labour, and says that it is piece-work. The Engineer-in-Chief, who had charge of it, describes it practically as petty contract work. In the face of this report, the figures upon which our honorable friends opposite have been relying throughout the country are shown to be, to the extent indicated, bogus and misleading.
– The Minister did not intend to read that last paragraph. He was going to omit it until he was challenged.
– What next? It is the best paragraph of the lot. I have now to read the last paragraph of the report -
Work for which a reasonable price could not be obtained or which could not be conveniently or expeditiously done in this way was carried out by day labour.
When men were employed by small contractors, their time was taken by the departmental time-keeper, and they were paid the rates arranged for between them and their employer, the latter being paid the difference between the value of the work done by him for the month and the amount due in wages to his men.
What we are proposing in connexion with the transcontinental railway is to endeavour to secure satisfactory tenders for the completionof the line. We want to know where we stand. That is the main reason for doing work by contract. We cannot know where we stand if we do the work by departmental labour. At the Capital, in connexion with the Military College, last year, the accounts of the Home Affairs Department got hopelessly astray, so that we had to find an immense sum of money this year, the necessity for which we did not know anything about until the Estimates were being prepared.
– The honorable gentleman means to refer to the Defence Department ?
– No; to the Home Affairs Department employed in construction for the Defence Department. It has been clearly shown that, in connexion . with the expenditure of public money, if the Commonwealth is to run its projects upon anything like safe business lines, we must adopt better methods. We propose to get the benefit of public competition in order that we may contrast tenderers’ prices with our own estimates. If we see any justification, and I have not the slightest doubt that it will be very readily forthcoming, we can adopt the wise and sensible course in the construction of the transcontinental line, knowing before we start exactly how much it is going to cost.
– I wish to preface the remarks I intend to make by saying that it must be clearly understood that I impute no motives to either past or present Ministers. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has stated the case for the Government. Boiled down, the justification for the adoption of the contract system is based upon two considerations - first, the time available; and, secondly, the nature of the material in the cutting to be made, which is held to justify the fabulous prices tobe paid for the work. Surely this is a grave censure on the administration of the Department. Could there be a graver censure upon the administration than that it should be left till the eleventh hour to make this particular contract when it was known to every man in the Department, and particularly to Mr. Deane, that this difficult work had to be done. It was urged upon him by the Supervising Engineer that it was necessary to make ready for this work, or there would be a block in the construction of the line. The matter was left till the eleventh hour, and the Minister has said that it must be settled to-day. The fact that cuttings would have to be made at Lake Windabout, which is, roughly speaking, 100 miles from Port Augusta, in country I have been over scores of times, was well known to Mr. Deane from the very inception of this great work. Yet it is left till this year before any attempt is made to prepare for it. It is a singular fact that in connexion with everything with which Mr. Deane has been associated there has been procrastination and blundering to such an extent as to really hamper the whole work of the construction of this line. I think it is time that the blame should be laid on the proper shoulders in connexion with this particular matter. In the early stages of the work the Supervising Engineer was pressing the Department to obtain the necessary plant of small trucks to handle the sand in connexion with the depot where the station yard is at present. For months and months this man, whom we were paying £1,800 a year, turned down the representations made to him, and the men engaged upon the work had to barrow out the stuff on planks, because there were no other means provided for the purpose. Again, he is responsible for the excavator that is referred to. It was used for a section of the work, and was proved to be an absolute failure. If any one wishes to know where it is to-day, I can tell him that it is on a scrap-heap 50 or 60 miles from Port Augusta. For that thing the Commonwealth has had to pay something like £3,000. Again, I lay the blame at the door of Mr. Deane, the exEngineerinChief for Commonwealth Railways. We have another example of his want of capacity in the fact that while he knew that engines would be required to carry out the construction of this great work, he had some fad in his head about some other kind of motive power, and he procrastinated and delayed calling for tenders until the men had to endeavour to carry out the work with engines which should have been on the scrap-heap.
– I do not think the honorable member is quite correct in that, as Mr. Deane strongly recommended Baldwin engines six months before the late Government went out. I am speaking from memory.
– I do not think so.
– I know he made a recommendation which was not accepted.
– The result was that the men had to slave along as best they could, and I saw them coming back from a trip, and having to draw the fires in order to repair engines while they were almost red hot. Let us look at this question of the want of time. Surely there should have been time enough to put down a few trial holes. Is the Prime Minister aware that no trial holes were sunk before entering into this country? Some have been sunk since, but only two of them proved the existence of hard material. My information, like that of the Minister, is second-hand, but it is to the effect that most of the work can be done with scoop and plough. For this work the contractor is to get 4s. 6d. a yard, and we are told that the price was based on that paid by the South Australian Government. The Minister would have strengthened his case had he ascertained from the South Australian Government that the facts were correctly reported.
– Instructions were given last week to do that, and the complete schedule is coming over.
– The information should have been here to-day. It came as a revelation to me that the South Australian Government is paying 4s. 6d. a yard for ordinary excavation on the Mannipa line, where there is hardly any stone cutting. I think that the Minister will find that he has been misinformed on the point. It is said, too, that 2s. 6d. a yard is being paid for the banks. What is meant by “bank”?
– The material taken out of the cutting has to be removed, without, cost to the Commonwealth, 1½ chains from the mouth of the cutting.
– That is a distance little greater than the length of this chamber. In addition to what is paid for excavation, the contractor is to be given 2s. 6d. for putting the earth on the bank. 1” challenge the Minister to find a parallel for the cost in South Australia.
– I was assured by the Engineer-in-Chief that he had checked the figures.
– The Minister has found that other statements which he was assured were correct are not correct, and he will find to his sorrow that South Australia is not paying 2s. 6d. for work such as the Commonwealth is paying for at that rate. I have had something to do with constructional work. A certain amount is always paid for making up a bank, but the contractor has to remove the earth from a cutting in any case. The Commonwealth is paying this contractor 2s. 6d. a yard for the removal of the earth. The contract which has been let means an expenditure of about £3,000 a mile for earthworks alone. Most of the country through which the line goes can be excavated with plough and scoop; there are no waterways to be bridged, and consequently no culverts to be made. The contractor has merely to take out so many cubic yards of earth and put it on a bank, and for this the Commonwealth is paying nearly £3,000 a mile. I venture to say that the cutting at Port Augusta is larger than any other in the contract.
– That cutting is practically through puresand.
– Except at the top, it was through stiff clay, and made with obsolete machinery. At the beginning they had to cut a gullet into the middle of the cutting and to carry out the earth on drays over a heavy sand track. Yet the whole cost was only1s. 9d. a yard. The. Minister did not tell us that this contractor is getting £2 5s. a chain for construction formation under a foot in depth. For any formation where the cuttings are less than a foot in depth the price is £2 5s. a chain. For practically 60 miles of similar country, the Government itself did the work for 15s.10d. a. chain. The earth has merely to be scooped up on each side of the track to form a bank to carry the sleepers and rails; for this £2 5s. a chain is now to be paid. It was alleged that a prime factor in determining the contract was that the contractor had a plant close at hand. It was stated at first that this plant was at Port Augusta; as a matter of fact it was from 250 to 300 miles from the place, and the contractor had another 20 miles of construction work to finish with it there. The first thing he did was to buy, over the head of the Government, camel teams and other teams which came there loaded with Government requirements; that showed his gratitude. He also bought up all the water, right on to Tarcoola, again showing his gratitude. But I am assured to-day by the Assistant Minister that he has not gained anything by that, because, under the Commonwealth law, we have power to resume. Another reason that has been urged why this contract was let was because of the difficulty of getting water there. Surely to Heaven this great Commonwealth, if it had at the head of affairs the men whom it ought to have, could get water for this work as well as Mr. Smith could. He soon made an arrangement for bringing water on to the work by carrying pipes from some water supply he has at a distance. It was quite easy for the Commonwealth to make similar provision.
– Does not the fault lie rather with the Engineer-in-Chief, who recommended all this?
– Am I not trying to make that point? Not only was the present Minister deceived regarding the matters put before him in connexion with the contract, but his predecessor was also deceived, although he very nobly accepts all responsibility. Who was responsible for the contract for supplying 100,000 mountain ash powellised sleepers? Primarily it was the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. King O’Malley; but, in my opinion, he was as innocent in that matter as the Assistant Minister to-day is.
– And equally guilty, if guilty at all.
– Yes. Surely there is a limit to the sheltering of the heads of public Departments from the responsibility of their action. It is about time,
I think, that somebody spoke up and exposed the man who is responsible for this great blunder.
– We ought to get the Public Service Commissioner out of the road and shift a few of them.
– He did not appoint Mr. Deane.
– I do not know; but some of the officers Avant shifting.
– I was not referring to that point. The Assistant Minister is not referred to. We paid about £5,000 to Lawrence and Chalmers, of New South Wales, for a permanent survey of the line from Port Augusta to Tarcoola, and part of their duty, I am informed, was to show when the sections came out the nature of the country to be passed through. I understand that the present Government got that survey made for the purpose of letting this work on contract; but again I would point out that there was not a trial hole put down in these banks.
– I do not think that you are right there. I think that that work was done because it was a question, of expenditure.
– The Minister must know
– The engineer’s report states the borings in those particular cuttings.
– Which engineer?
– The engineer referred to in the papers that the Minister read to-day.
– The Minister did not read anything of the kind. I can assure the honorable member that not a trial hole or a boring was put down in any part where the cutting was to be made. It was represented that it was difficult and hard country, but not a trial hole was put down. We paid a high price for a permanent survey of the section, and I want to know whether it is true, as I have been informed, that deviations have now been made in the survey, and that they . are distinctly in favour of the contractor.
– Where is the Minister? This is a very serious thing to say.
– What is the significance of that statement?
– I will point out its significance.
– Are you sure that a deviation was made after the contract was let?
– Yes ; I believe that my information is correct.
– Messrs. Lawrence and Chalmers were engaged to survey, I think, 120 miles of line, which had to be done, quickly, and that was about six months ago.
– They have finished their work.
– But it was not in relation to any contract at all.
– The firm have finished their work, for which we have paid £4,000 or £5,000.
– They were engaged by the last Government first.
– I am not blaming the Government about that at all; nor am I imputing anything to them. My information is that deviations have been made which give scores of thousands of yards at this fabulous price to Mr. Smith.
– That is the most serious part of the thing.
– If that deviation has been made, the contract is practically broken, and the contractor can do what he likes.
– He will take the material out by the yard.
– But he will get more yards to take out.
– The Assistant Minister has admitted that, instead of from £20,000 to £30,000, the contract represents £41,000, again showing that he had been misled by his advisers. I venture to say that when the contract is finished the cost will be between £50,000 and £60,000.
– There was one small deviation recommended by Mr. Deane, and I referred the matter” to the new EngineerinChief. Speaking entirely from memory, it was a deviation which, I think, shortened the length of the line very materially, but added to the extent of the excavation. It added, roughly, I think, to Mr. Smith’s total contract, but it decreased the cost of rail supplies by about £1,000. It was recommended by Mr. Bell, the new Engineer-in-Chief, and I accordingly approved of it. That is the only deviation.
– A deviation has been made. It has increased the number of yards that Mr. Smith is to take out, but, on the other hand, it is claimed by the Department that the shorter haulage and reduced rail material will compensate.
– Will that deviation break the contract?
– There is only one way, I think, of clearing up this matter. The Assistant Minister has made his statement in good faith, but he has been deceived, if he has not been sold.
– Bought and sold.
– That is a very improper remark to make.
Mr.Howe. - I did not mean a personal reflection.
– I would riot say that, because the Minister representing my party was misled by the same man. The present Minister has made a statement to-day regarding the nature of this country, the quantity of earth for removal, and the total cost.I predict that the cost will be considerably more than he has stated. I assert that, with the exception of two trial holes, it was all soft, ploughable, and scooping country. The Minister has admitted that there were from twenty to thirty-five scoops working when his own officer went up, who, he said, saw only scoops on top. He could not know what was below if they were only scooping on top. Unless there is an inquiry held into this matter by men who know something about the business, it will be a question of my word against the Minister’s word. I do not wish to make any imputation. I believe that the present Minister is as innocent as any man can be. That he did not show enough business capacity is clear from the fact that he did not insist on trial holes being put down, or object to the contractor getting 4s. 6d. a yard from an open cutting and carrying the stuff a chain and a half, getting an additional half-a-crown on the 4s. 6d., making a total of 7s. per yard. He shows want of practical knowledge in connexion with that work ; but, far be it from me to say that he has been in any other way more culpable, or deceived, than honorable members of the previous Government were.
– You say it is costing the Commonwealth 45s. for what we cam get done for 15s.10d. ?
– There are different prices - 4s. 6d. a yard for cuttings, 2s. 6d. on the bank for earth removed from cuttings over1½ chains at each end, £2 5s. per chain for formation which is not more than a foot in depth, and 4s. 6d. a yard for formation which is over a foot in depth. My opinion is that Mr. Teesdale Smith is getting £2 5s. a chain for work similar to 50 miles of work done by our people at an approximate cost of 15s. l0d. per chain. All these facts can be verified by an inquiry on the spot.
– They have not given a contract for 50 miles of that work.
– I do not know what extent of country there is . at £2 5s. per chain. I do not think there is a great deal of it.
– It is roughly only £120 more per mile.
– The difference is in the cuttings, and the 2s. 6d. for carting out on the banks.
– As blue metal can be taken out at 2s. 6d. a yard, why does this cost 4s. 6d. ?
– There was no necessity for Mr. Deane to be placed in the position which he represented himself to the Minister to be in when he said that he was pressed for time. Every man who was about the job knew that these cuttings had to be made. They knew that, not twelve months ago, but two years ago; and I want to tell the Minister that practically the same procrastination is going on to-day in connexion with waterworks. No provision is being made for the water supply, and presently we shall be told of some other contracts being let, and in connexion with which it will be said, again, that time is the essence. The work is advancing into the dry country, and yet no provision is made at all for water supply. Had Mr. Deane so desired, he could have procured a plant and carried out these cuttings long ago, as has been done on other jobs. Twelve months ago, if necessary, he could have had a gang of men engaged in making the cuttings and preparing for the laying of the rails when they came along, but nothing was done until the eleventh hour, and then Mr. Deane went to the extent of saying that Mr. Teesdale Smith’s offer was only open for the day, because the contractors’ plant would be moved away. Mr. Smith had no plant within 250 or 300 miles of the spot. If ever there was anything that looked like deliberate misrepresentation it was the statements made in connexion with this contract, and the blame ought to be sheeted home to the person responsible. I do not think it is for the Minister, or for Parliament, to shoulder the blunder, if it is not worse than a blunder, in connexion with this job.
– Have you any explanation of Captain Saunders’ attitude?
– In my opinion, Captain Saunders’ position was not put as clearly by the Minister as it might have been put. Time after time, Captain Saunders has brought before the Department the necessity for getting this particular work done ahead of him, so’ that when the plate-laying gangs came along there would be no block. He received a telegram while we were sitting on the Royal Commission in Adelaide, and he said then, “ I cannot do this work in three months.” He knew from previous experience that he could not get the plant.
– He said that he could not get a wheelbarrow without reference to Melbourne.
– When time is made the essence of a contract, we expect to pay more for the work.
– Why did the Department want it done in three months?
– Simply because Mr. Deane said so.
– What was the hurry?
– Because the line is made to within a few miles of this spot, and until this work is done, it blocks the plate-laying, and will throw out the other construction gangs. These cuttings, and all the work preparatory to plate-laying, ought to have been done six or twelve months ahead. Captain Saunders made a truthful statement when he said, “ I cannot do the work in three months, and if you want to make time the essence of the contract, you must pay more for it.” He has not said that in any document, but he knew well the difficulty of getting additional plant. Time after time he asked to have this work done, and Mr. Deane blocked it on every occasion: In the end, Captain Saunders said that if the Department must have the work done within three months, an extra price would have to be paid, and having regard to that fact the price obtained by Mr. Teesdale Smith, might be within the mark. The surveys were carried out by the one Department, and Mr. Deane absolutely took over the control of them. I venture to say that Captain Saunders was under the impression that the Department had the details of the shaft sinking and boring in connexion with these works.
– The price was quoted to Captain Saunders, and he again expressed approval ; that is what I cannot get over.
– Does not the honorable member see that there is a catch in that? What does Captain Saunders mean by 4s. 6d. in the cutting, and 2s. 6d. on the bank? There are two different propositions in the ordinary application of work, but in this particular job the earth taken out of the cuttings is placed on the bank, and 2s.’ 6d. extra is charged for it. I do not think Captain Saunders had that in mind. His reference was to works in which the earth is taken out of a side cutting, and it is necessary to get the material from beside the roadway in order to build up the bank.
– The telegram does not say so ?
– It is impossible to state much in a telegram, and nothing was done until the very last moment. The Minister was told, practically with a pistol at his head, that unless he accepted this contract that very day, the offer would be no longer available; and Captain Saunders was in the same position. One thing that was particularly noticeable this afternoon was that the Minister never attempted to justify the contract. The whole of his speech was to clear himself of any imputations. Prom the very first I made no imputation, because I know that his predecessor was put in the soup in the same way by, the same gentleman.
– Hear, hear.
– And it is time the blame was placed on the proper shoulders. T say one thing, and the Minister says the opposite, and the only way to clear the matter up is to have a special inquiry on the ground. One of the primary factors in the price should be the nature of the material to be removed. Some say it is hard material, while others say it is soft. I maintain that the only way to get evidence is on the spot. The very fact that there is practically £3,000 a mile to be paid for mere earthworks without culverts, side drains or waterways, just merely dealing with the earth, ‘gives an idea of the price the Government are paying for this contract. However, I shall occupy no further time in dealing with that matter. I understand that at Mount Gambier the Prime Minister made the statement that Ministers had tried to pass through the House measures of a noncontentious character, but that when they were sent to the Senate they were treated as party matters. He went so far as to mention three Bills - the Norfolk Island Bill, the Pine Creek-Katherine River Bill, and the amendment of the Audit Act - and he led his audience to believe that these Bills had been rejected.
– I did not.
– The honorable member said that they were treated on party lines.
– I did.
– Then how could they get through the Senate if they were treated on party lines. Is it not a fact that two of them are now on the statutebook without amendment?
– How could that come about?
– Because senators dared not stand to their arguments, and had to knuckle down.
– The honorable member did not tell the people at Mount Gambier that these measures were now on the statute-book without amendment.
– I was referring to the Public Works Committee Bill and to the Committee of Public Accounts Bill.
– You spoke of the Norfolk Island Bill, the Pine CreekKatherine River Bill, and the Audit Bill.
– Yes, I went into details, and showed what the Senate tried to do.
– I cannot allow this dialogue.
– The inference went out that these Bills had been rejected because of a party fight, but every one knows that they passed without amendment. What was the only noncontentious Bill that was rejected? The Audit Bill. It was an Audit Bill merely in name. It certainly altered the date of the financial year, but it also provided for a Supply and Tender Board. Was it not said on this side of the House, “ Put these matters in two measures, and we will pass both of them ? “
– Why the need to do that?
– Because in no State can we find the Tender Boards in such a position as provided in that Bill. In South Australia the Tender Board is under the Public Service Commissioner; it is the same in New South Wales, and I understand that it is the same in Victoria. Therefore, when it came to appointments and making appointments by regulation, as provided in the Audit Bill brought down by the right honorable the Treasurer, we drew the line, though we offered to pass both matters if they were put into distinct measures.
– If we did what you desired.
– The right honorable gentleman once said that he had swallowed dirt long enough.
– No. You are saying it.
– The right honorable gentleman did it for a long time. He said it.
– I never used the expression. It cannot be found in Hansard, or anywhere else.
– The right honorable gentleman made use of the expression in a speech in Western Australia.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– The right honorable gentleman has often contradicted it, but he knows, as every honorable member knows, that I am not in the habit of telling an untruth.
– You are this time.
– I am trying to tell the truth. However, I have no quarrel with the right honorable gentleman. Of the three measures about which the Prime Minister made such a noise in Mount Gambier two were passed without amendment, and, in regard to the third, we offered to pass it if it were separated into two Bills. What other noncontentious measures were brought down last session ? The Ministers abandoned the Electoral Bill.
– The honorable member ought to know. Ministers also abandoned the Loan Bill. There was less opposition last session than in any previous session. When the honorable member was leading the Opposition, he and two or three others held up the House for forty and fifty hours, whereas the longest sitting last session was not more than sixteen hours.
– In spite of all we did, you passed eighty:three measures; you passed the whole of your programme.
– And we did not apply the “ gag “ ; we sat it out. In the session of 1912, the Prime Minister occupied as much time as any ten honorable members. The proof of it is in Hansard. I wish to see whether the Government are going to the country. Why are they so anxious for a new electoral roll ? Is the present roll to be discarded ?
– Yes, if we can get a better one. Why not?
– Is there to be a complete canvass?
– Is the honorable member aware that to-day there are constituencies with 2,000 more names on the roll than have any right to be there?
– I do not know where those constituencies are, but I do know that, within twelve months of compiling a new roll, there will be a great excess of names shown. How long does the honorable member think it will take to get the rolls right? He says that he wishes to have a new roll before seeking the electors, and he proposes to have a canvass by the police, but, unless he has a deep-laid scheme to disfranchise thousands of people, there will need to be a further canvass after that, by which thousands will be put on the roll. So that by the time we have the two canvasses and the two rolls - because until the first roll is out we cannot get any check as to what names have been left off - we will be in November, at least. Yet the Prime Minister claims to be in a hurry to get to the country. There will always be a surplus of names through people moving from place to place and through deaths. I have more faith in the people of the country than to believe there was plural voting at the last elections. I have investigated many of the charges, and not one has proved to contain a scintilla of truth. If the Ministry desire a test, let us go to the country at once.
It has been said that the Liberals have my constituency of Grey “ in their pocket. ‘ ‘
– Who says that?
– That is what the Liberals say; and I am ready to try conclusions. There is no doubt that the Attorney-General desires a fight; he does not believe in sticking here doing nothing, and for him the present Ministerial inaction has no attraction. There is no doubt that the honorable gentleman sacrifices thousands of pounds by remaining in his present position in this Government; but he is a man of action, and does, I think, desire a double dissolution. As for other Ministers, I do not . think they would welcome . a dissolution, double or single. If they are in favour of a double dissolution, why do they insist on having new rolls, and thus putting off the possibility of a contest for six months, even if the two test measures are not passed ?
– Does the honorable member wish to go to the country now ?
– I would prefer to go now, and I am prepared to accept the challenge of the Ministry to-morrow. I shall, I suppose, have the hardest fight of any candidate in South Australia; but that does not deter me; and I certainly do not wish to remain here indulging in a faction fight all the year. If Ministers are in earnest, let us go to the country, and then, perhaps, they will have a chance to carry out their great programme. I should think that the Government’s first experience of contract work will be a warning to them. The plea, of course, for having this work done without tenders was want of time. I may say that I am credibly informed that there was another tender, and I should like to know whether the Prime Minister knows anything of the matter.
– It is not so.
– A contractor says that it is so. I am told that Mr. Timms made an offer to do this work; and I ask the honorable gentleman to find out whether that is a fact. It is said that Mr. Timms put in an offer, and was prepared to enter into negotiations. I do not say that the matter went to the Minister, but I venture to say that support of my statement will be found in the Department. The contractor whom I have named came before the Commission and offered to do the work at £1,000 a mile; he wished to have a “ cut-in,” and, naturally, he was “ on the job “ as soon as possible. Mr. Baxter, too, was on the spot; and I feel sure that in twenty-four hours the Government could have got tenders. Mr. Baxter’s visit showed that the Government were in favour of tenders, and Mr. Timms was in communication, it is said, with the Engineer-in-Chief. This, however, has been kept in the background by the Government.
Colonel Ryrie. - That is a serious charge to make.
– I make the charge, and I stand by it.
– Was that offer made to the Minister?
– A member of Parliament does not like to take undue advantage of his privileges; but there are circumstances in this, and other contracts, that have a very ugly look, and every one of them can be traced to one man. If Mr. Timms was in negotiation, and made an offer, I wish to know what that offer was.
– To whom was the offer made ?
– To the EngineerinChief, as was the offer of Mr. Teesdale Smith.
– The Minister may never have seen the offer.
– Then it is surely a queer way of doing business. I am not making any charges against the Honorary Minister, whom I believe to be as innocent of any wrong-doing as any man in the House, but I do not say the same of all. There is indication of something very “ crooked “ about the business. When I interjected to-day, the Honorary Minister said he had never seen any offer; and I believe that is true; but, still, I think he knows something about it.
– Why were Mr. Baxter and Mr. Sadler not asked to tender?
- Mr. Baxter went to inspect the work, and that is how Mr. Teesdale Smith got to know this nice little job was going. As I said before, I am as eager as the Attorney-General is to appeal to the electors, and to learn who have to rule this country. I have no hesitation in saying that as things are at present nothing can be done in this Parliament, just, as we know, nothing was done last session. If the Government had introduced a policy of noncontentious measures we could have done work this session and last session that would have reflected credit on the Legislature. “We might, for instance, have dealt with the Northern Territory, where money is going to waste. But there is no policy, and there never has been one, in regard to that portion of Australia. Even if this particular legislation occupied us for three years it would be work well done; and it could have been performed entirely free from party lines. We might have found Liberals and Labour men taking sides, and, perhaps some scrambling amongst the States as to the routes of the railways, and so forth; but we could have had a settled policy in regard, not only to railways, but also to water conservation and mining.
– There are railways required where there are people; and what is the use of providing lines where no people are?
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. The Northern Territory will in the future carry millions of people. Why does the honorable member not go to the Northern Territory? Simply because there are no railways. The striking requirements of the Territory are railway construction, water conservation, and the encouragement of mining; and all these should be pushed on concurrently. At present, however, we are going on this session as we did last session, fighting over twopenny halfpenny Bills like that relating to preference to unionists. Is there one unionist less in the Government service to-day as the result of the Ministerial minute? Will there be one less as the result of the proposed Bill, even if it be passed? Not one. The Honorary Minister has, I see, now entered the Chamber, and I should like to repeat that a contractor named Timms made an offer to do the work which has been under discussion this afternoon.
– No such offer was before me at the time the contract was signed. I can assure my honorable friend that I am having the fullest inquiry made into the circumstances.
– Will the Honorary Minister also inquire whether the offer I have referred to was received in the Department ?
– I have been informed, and I believe that my information is correct, that Mr. Timms put in an offer for this particular work. My information may be wrong, but I was told this week in Adelaide that Mr. Timms was in communication with the exEngineerinChief. If he was, then the Minister should have known of it.
– There were other things of which the honorable gentleman on his own showing, was not aware.
– If I had thought that there was any one else in as favourable a position to do this work as was the man who got the contract, I ‘certainly would not have approved of it.
- Mr. Timms was in partnership with Mr. Teesdale Smith for a long time, and is carrying out bigger works in South Australia than Mr. Teesdale Smith is undertaking to-day. He was quite capable of undertaking this work, and I fail to understand why he was not permitted to put in a price. Had he been allowed to do so, the Minister would have gained a better idea of whether the prices offered were reasonable. It is rumoured that Mr. Timms made an offer, and, that he was in communication with the late EngineerinChief, but I cannot say whether or not an actual concrete proposal was made. It was Mr. Timms who, when before the Royal Commission, stated that he was prepared to take a contract for all the earthworks on the line at the rate of £1,000 a mile and to complete the work in two years.
– When did the exEngineerinChief start to . withhold information from his Minister?
– Ask the Honorary Minister; he knows more about the matter than I do.
– According to the honorable member’s own showing he does not.
- Mr. Timms offered to construct the whole of the earthworks for £1,000 a mile, whereas the contract entered into with Mr. Teesdale Smith represents, roughly speaking, nearly £3,000 a mile for earthworks, without culverts.
– The honorable member’s knowledge of contractors should be sufficient to satisfy him that what they offer to do when before a Committee is not always what they will do when they are asked to set out on paper the price at which they will undertake a work.
– Quite so. I should like to ask the- Minister whether any trial holes were put down.
– As a matter of fact I think there were trial holes.
– They were put down after the contract was let.
– I think not.
– I stake my reputation on the statement that not one trial hole was put down until after the contract was let. It was obviously the clear duty of the Engineer-in-Chief, before letting the contract, to cause trial holes to be put down so as to ascertain the nature of the country in ‘which the cuttings were to be made.
– I shall inquire into the matter. The Engineer-in-Chief, as the papers show, gave me a statement as to the character of the country, in which the cuttings were to be made.
– In regard tothe silicated sandstone?
– No, ‘the honorable member has in mind Mr. Hobler’s report.
– The trial holes were not putdown until after the contract had been let. Two were put down by a Mr. Thomas, or a Mr. Thompson, an engineer in the. Department. I obtained all my information from the rail head, and, like that secured by the Minister, it is second-hand, but I think he will find that my statements are correct.
– I am having the matter fully inquired into by the present EngineerinChief.
– On the Minister’s own showing, the contractor has twenty or thirty scoops at work, and he has a very nice job, since he is receiving 4s. 6d. a yard for scooping out the earth, and 2s. 6d per yard for carting it on to the bank. Did the Minister think, when he let the contract at 4s. 6d. a yard for the cuttings, that he would have to pay an extra 2s. 6d. per yard for carting earth up to the bank?
– That was only to be paid after the first chain and a half.
– That is about the length of this chamber.
– It depends upon the size of the cutting whether it is a fair thing or not.
– I do not think the Minister imagined he would have to pay in addition to the 4s. 6d. a yard for scooping out. the earth, 2s. 6d. a yard for carting it on to the bank. His experience in this instance should be a warning to him in dealing with future contracts.
– The Teesdale Smith contract has already been referred to at length in this House, but I feel that I cannot allow it to pass without a few words from myself. It is fortunate for us in Australia that hitherto there have been but few charges or insinuations of corruption in connexion with our. parliamentary life.
– There is no charge of corruption now.
– And it is in the interests of not merely the side to which an honorable member who is attacked belongs, but of every side, and of every man on each side, that such charges, if made, or insinuated, should be either proved or disproved. The corporate honour of this House cannot afford to allow even the slightest shadow or slur cast upon the personal honour of its members to remain uninvestigated or unexamined. The ex-Minister of Home Affairs says that no such charge has been made.We are accustomed, as all who enter public life must be, to stand hard knocks. We must be prepared to receive them. We sometimes give them, and none of us can complain so long as they are delivered face to face and above the belt. But where we find a man, occupying the position of leader of one of the great parties in this Commonwealth, not having the courage to put forward a direct charge, but spreading abroad the subtle poison of insinuation, which is infinitely more dangerous, then not for a moment can those who are directly or indirectly touched, afford to take no notice of it. It is said that no charge was made. No direct charge was made, but may I ask honorable members what is intended to be conveyed when reference is made to a secret conversation, or interview, with contractors. In the first place, this interview was not a secret one. But what is the object of saying that an interview was “secret” unless it be to convey the impression that there is something that will not bear the light of day?
– And there is, too.
– Does the honorable member now make a charge of corruption ?
– I do not make anything of the kind.
– Does the honorable member insinuate corruption?
– Then the honorable member had better hold his peace in this connexion. Those who attempt to take away the honour of other men who are as honorable as themselves tread upon very dangerous ground.
– The whole business is very shady.
– I heard a few moments ago the word “fishy” proceed from over there. Are these interjections intended to refer entirely to those who have dealings with the Government? Are they not intended to have some references to the conduct of Ministers themselves? When the exPrime Minister refers to the “ uprightness “ of the Attorney-General, does he not convey the impression that there is in this transaction something inconsistent with it? When he says that this Government “came in to bring about clean government,” what meaning has that remark in relation to this transaction, if it is not intended to convey to those who have no other means of knowledge than what they hear from him as their leader, the impression that there was something unclean in the transaction into which the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs entered? The ex-Prime Minister, then, is the man who makes this charge. He is the man who spreads abroad these poisonous insinuations. I am not going to make innuendoes. I propose to make a direct charge. I assert that the Right Honorable Andrew Fisher, who ventures to go about Australia spreading abroad these vile insinuations against the public credit and honour of his opponents, is the man who, or whose Government, is responsible for first of all introducing into Australian public life the spoils system of the United States.
– You have said that before; it is not new.
– I have said it before, and I shall say it many times again, because it is true. We have all wondered - at least, I have, and I am sure many others have - how a great country like the United States of America, one of the greatest peoples in the world, full of energy and intelligence, leaders of thought in many directions, have so long endured a method of administering public affairs in which the spoils system is so prevalent. We now find for the first time that they are beginning to cast it off as an unclean, unwholesome thing. We find that Governors are elected in various States on the ground that they will put an end once for all to this uncleanness in public life. We find the last and most striking example of this change in the election of a man, by the greatest city in the United States of America, by a huge majority to give Tammany its deathblow. Yet the man who is responsible for the introduction into this country of Tammany methods, above all others, is the Leader of the Opposition, who is apparently willing to bind these broken fetters that the United States of America are casting aside round the clean, young limbs of Australia.
– The honorable member is a liar. I will say it.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, but I think it.
– Is that a withdrawal?
– Order! The honorable member should withdraw without qualification.
– Am I not entitled to my thoughts? If I am not, I shall bow to you, and not to the Attorney-General.
– When you come to think of the party that occupy the Opposition benches, and the meaning of the policy which their Government adopted, we find that they have copied the tactics of that body which has earned the contempt of all civilized countries under the name of Tammany. Do they not say to their members exactly the same as the Tammany Association says - “ If you come here, if you join us, if you subscribe to our political funds, if you become one of us, we shall secure to you, not only all the jobs, all the business, all the work that we can, but we shall make the lives of all who do not join us a hell upon earth “ - to use the language of a man connected with them ? We can condemn them from the very lips that have been casting abroad these insinuations against us as “ The sneaks of society.” They say, “ We shall not only do that, we shall do more. We shall say that the law will be called in aid to give preference to all of you who join us and subscribe to our political funds. You will be made a privileged class, for the law itself will come in and condemn as unworthy to earn their livelihood in this community those who do not join our association.” Is not that Tammany? As soon as ever they are intrusted with office, we find them, instead of exercising, the power which is handed over to them for the benefit of the whole people, saying, “ We are going to administer the public funds and the public trust of our Departments for the benefit of those who subscribe to our political funds.” I shall have something more to say upon that subject a little later on, when I deal with the test Bills that are to be submitted to the House. I propose, in the meantime, to deal with some of the statements made by the honorable member for West Sydney, who, I am sorry, is not in his place to-day. I am not going to attempt, because it would be impossible for me to do so, to enter into competition with him in the realm of rhetorical debate. He is, I think, a man who excels all others in this Parliament, and probably in most other Parliaments, in the brilliancy of his rhetoric. I give him the fullest credit for it, and have no time, even if I had the particular talents, for entering into a contest of that kind with him. I propose, instead, to deal with the more solidmatter of his address. He did me the honour of devoting at least half of his speech to myself personally. He charged me with being one who. saw the light but yet was afraid to follow it, and in that he referred mainly to my attitude upon constitutional reform. He cited a number of passages from my previous speeches, and I felt very much flattered. I thought the passages he read out sounded very well, if I may say so, and I entirely agreed with every word which he said I had uttered. I have never, so far as I know, varied one inch from the statements which I made before this House, both in 1910 and in 1912, but I am accused of doing nothing. Upon what is that charge based ? Upon my not having voted for those six constitutional monstrosities that were brought forward under the name of amendments of the Constitution by the other side.
The Leader of the Opposition has, time after time, both here and outside, urged that matters of constitutional amendment ought to be dealt with as matters aloof from party politics. Have they been so dealt with by those on the other side? I venture to think that, from the first moment they were introduced, they have been treated, both in this House and in another place, as purely and essentially matters of party politics. You have only to examine their form to see that they were begotten in party prejudice, and that they bear on their face all the marks of that origin. I have no time to-day to go into a minute analysis of those six propositions for constitutional amendment which I am accused of inconsistency in not voting for, but I have time to deal with one or two of them, and propose to do so.
– They will be down here a little later.
– I intend to give my honorable friends an opportunity of amending them, and ofputting them into decent shape before they reach this Chamber.
– The force of public opinion is something, even to the AttorneyGeneral ?
– The force of public opinion is something to all of us.
– That is why members of the Opposition are where they are.
– Yes. I was remarking that we had put before us a family of six deformed, misshapen, and misbegotten amendments of the Constitution. Let me deal with the first - that which proposed to increase the commerce power of this Parliament. Every speech made in favour of that Bill was entirely in favour of enlarging, almost without restriction, the power which this Parliament possesses over the general trade and commerce of the Commonwealth. But what was the proposal which was placed before the people by the late Government? They proposed to omit the words ‘ ‘ with other countries, and among the States.” In other words, they proposed to omit the Intra-State restriction on commerce, and in the very same Bill they asked that the Constitution should be amended by adding to paragraph 1 of section 51 the words “ not including trade and commerce upon railways the property of a State, except so far as it is trade and commerce with, other countries or among the States.” What would be the effect of that? Did the honorable member for West Sydney himself know what would be its effect, or was he ignorant of it? I suppose there is not an honorable member of this House who does not recognise that of all the trade within the” boundaries of any State, at least nine-tenths of it is trade which is carried on the railways? Yet this Bill, which was put before the country avowedly for the purpose of endowing this Parliament with power to control Intra-State trade, exempted from that power at least nine-tenths of that trade. Was that explained by the Leader of the Opposition, or by the honorable member for West Sydney? Did they tell the people that, they were giving them a stone when they asked for bread - that they were offering them only the shadow of a sham ? I might say, with Bassanio, “I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.” Was not that Bill the shadow of a sham ?
– Why fight a shadow?
– Why did my honorable friends spend three or four weeks in fighting a shadow ? Did they ever explain the meaning of that Bill to the electors? I venture to think that they did not. Why was a provision inserted exempting trade and commerce upon railways, the property of a State, except so far as it. was trade and commerce with other countries or among the States? Because, during the period of gestation of this hopeful offspring - in a fit of terror on the part of the Caucus - its members thought that they would have all the State Governments arrayed against them unless they exempted all freights and fares on the railways from the trade and commerce power with which it was proposed to vest this Parliament. This particular child, therefore, was paralyzed from its birth - it was hopeless. Had that amendment been carried, it would have vested this Parliament with power to control only so much of the internal commerce of a State as is carried along its roads.
– Did the AttorneyGeneral tell the people that?
– I analyzed each of those Bills, and told the electors all about them.
– The honorable gentleman did not tell them that during his election campaign.
– I can assure the honorable member that I did. But whilst my honorable friends were timorously afraid of touching State interests in that respect, they laid their axe at the very root of State independence by their next proposed amendment of the Constitution, namely, in the Bill relating to the control of State railways. They sought to enact that the whole of the control of the terms and conditions under which persons shall be employed on the State railways should be subject to a Federal tribunal. I do not suppose any one will dispute that one may entertain a proposition - and it would not necessarily be an unfederal one - that the whole of the State railways should ,DE handed over to the Commonwealth. However, nobody has proposed that, and I do not suppose it is yet within the range of practical politics. Such a proposition, however, would not necessarily be of an unfederal character. But to propose that the States should hand over to the Commonwealth control of the conditions of service of the men employed upon their railways, whilst leaving the States with the obligation of financing those undertakings, is absolutely absurd.
– That remark will apply to every private employer.
– I have heard that statement over and- over again. It it quite true that it- will apply to every private employer if Parliament has the power to determine the conditions under which that employer shall work. In that case, the employer becomes the subject of Parliament for that particular purpose. Similarly, if this Parliament has power to say to a State Government under what conditions it shall work, that Government becomes subject to this Parliament, arid if it be subject to this Parliament, it necessarily ceases to be independent. If we are to maintain the sovereign independence of the States as members of the Federation, they cannot be subjected to that kind of legislation by this Parliament.
– Have not railway employes the same rights as the employes of private firms?
– I often wish that some kind power would endow the honorable member with the faculty of understanding what he hears. His statement is substantially a repetition of that made only a minute ago by the honorable member for Grey. I have just said that if Governments are made the subjects of a particular Parliament there is no reason why the terms and conditions under which they shall work should not be determined in the same way as are the terms and conditions which are laid down for the guidance of private employers. But if we bring the State Governments into that category we shall destroy Federation. I come now to the proposed amendment of the Constitution relating to corporations. We know the origin of that proposal, but I need not refer to it now. Let us consider rather its effect.
– That proposal goes a lot further than the Attorney-General said.
– Its effect would be to give to this Parliament a general power to make laws with regard to corporations. Municipal corporations and those for charitable purposes were to be exempted. Now, it has already been pointed out by Mr. Justice Higgins, for whom I am sure my honorable friends opposite feel some respect, that if any such law were passed it would lead to the ridiculous result that we should have one code of laws made by the Federal Parliament for hotels kept by companies, and another code of laws made by the States for hotels managed by individuals. We should have a Federal law of libel for newspapers owned by companies, and another law of libel for newspapers owned by individuals. There is only one other proposal to which I desire to refer - that contained in the Bill relating to monopolies. Have any honorable members on the other side anything whatever to say in favour of that proposed amendment ? They cannot define a monopoly. In the debate, the honorable member for West Sydney admitted that he could not do so, but he cut the Gordian knot. So far as I know, Alexander the Great and Mr. Hughes are the only persons in history who have cut the Gordian knot. This is the way in which he cut it. He said, “ I cannot tell you what a monopoly is.” Once you get away from a legal monopoly, which every one knows as an exclusive right to something, to the exclusion of all others, such as the exclusive enjoyment of the occupation of a piece of land, a patent right, or other legal monopoly, you cannot define any person’s business as a monopoly, except by the terms, more or less. The more successful a business is the. greater the monopoly. If it is very successful, a man may monopolize the whole of his particular business in a particular district. The way in which the honorable and learned member for West Sydney got over the difficulty was by asking this House to pass the Bill, which provided that whenever a chance majority or party in this House declares the business of any person, or company, to be a monopoly, it is a monopoly; there is an end to it, and it should be taken over. Let me tellhonorable members that if it had not been for an amendment which was moved by myself to include the words “ on just terms,” and which, if I had not moved it, would not have been included in the last Government’s proposals, the monopoly would be taken over without compensation.
– The amendment was accepted immediately, as we were prepared to accept any amendment of the kind to allay the public feeling of apprehension.
– I do not like to hold my honorable and learned friend the ex-Attorney-General responsible for these proposals. He is a lawyer, and an able man, and I do not care to impose upon him the whole responsibility for the paternity of these things. I do not know how they were created. I think they may be regarded as the illegitimate offspring of a political syndicate. However they saw their birth, here they are, and, in the language of Gloucester’s description of himself, they may be described as -
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before their time Into this breathing world, scarce half made up.
– And they are coming again.
– Yes, we shall see the wretched things walk in here again, and will have to deal with them still in the same deformed condition. I am giving honorable members on the other side an opportunity of replying to some criticisms of these things, and I hope that when they bring them in again they will find some answer to these criticisms. Now, I wish to deal with another matter.
– Is the honorable gentleman leaving that question ? Does he not propose to add anything to what he has said ? Does he not propose to set before Parliament what the Government intend to do in this connexion ?
– This session?
– Yes; or at any time.
– No. The honorable member has reminded me of another charge made by the honorable member for West Sydney. I had it in my notes, and intended to deal with it. The ex-Attorney-General’s first charge was that I voted against the proposed amendments of the Constitution, and the second was that the Government are not prepared now to bring in their own constitutional amendments. The honorable gentleman referred to it as a scandal, a shame, an outrage, a crime or something of the sort, that the people should not at the next election have an opportunity of dealing with our proposed amendments of the Constitution. Let me join issue at once with him on this point.
– I have no desire to interrupt the honorable gentleman, but I thought that perhaps he would put forward his own proposals.
– Quite so. As the honorable member for West Sydney referred to the matter I am glad to say that it has already been publicly indicated that we shall be prepared, at the proper time -
– “Not now,O Lord, not now.”
– I am now going to tell honorable members what the proper time is. I have always maintained that the power to refer amendments of the Constitution to ‘the public is one which ought not, except so far as is absolutely necessary, to be exercised at the time of an election. We cannot separate these things entirely from party issues. They never have been and they never will be entirely separated from party considerations. They ought to be, so far as possible, divorced from party issues when the people are asked to vote upon them. They ought never in any circumstances to be left to the people to decide upon during the heat and turmoil of a general election. If any one considers the vote taken a short time ago at the referenda he can come to only one conclusion, and that is that that vote was a purely party vote. Honorable members on the other side will admit that. It was natural that it should be. When a conflict is going on amidst the intense excitement of a general election all over Australia it is almost impossible to conceive that the citizens will not follow their political leaders in the referenda as well as in other matters.
– Both sides made it a party question.
– I have always believed that this great power vested in the Australian people should be exercised wisely and sanely, and, so far as possible, at a time when they are not subjected to the excitement and inflammation of a general election. I have always said that. The first referendum was held by the late Government when there was not a general election.
– You get the full play of vested interests then.
– That is what the honorable gentleman is here for.
– We find that, when honorable members begin to impute motives without any substantial reason in support of thorn, they have the weaker end of the stick. That is always the case when men are driven to make personal attacks.
– It is a phase of civilization, and the honorable gentleman knows it.
– The honorable gentleman does not know much about the phases of civilization.
– Order ! I ask honorable members to refrain from continuous interjections. The AttorneyGeneral can scarcely complete a single sentence without a chorus of interruption. I again remind honorable members that there is a time limit to speeches, and, in fairness to speakers, other honorable members should refrain, as far as possible, from unnecessary interjections.
– I am going to answer directly the question put to me. The proper time, and the time when this Government will bring forward their constitutional proposals, will be the time when they go before the country.
– Hear, hear ! Let that be soon.
– And the sooner the better. The honorable member for West Sydney said a good deal about the Beef Trust. I have always observed that when the members of the party occupying the Opposition benches in their platform utterances give prominence to the question of trusts and combines - which constitutes the main portion of their political capital, I may say - they love to deal with the subject in an abstract form. They have occasionally had concrete examples, usually one at a time, and it must always be a new one, because no sooner is one investigated than it turns out to be unsuitable for their purpose. Honorable members will recollect the tremendous agitation there was some time ago to nationalize the sugar industry, and they know the result. A Royal Commission, appointed by the Labour Government, found out that it would not do to nationalize the sugar industry, because the Government could not sell sugar as cheaply as could the Sugar Monopoly. Then there was the Tobacco Monopoly, about which we heard a great deal some time ago. What about that? We are now told that it is a purely beneficial and philanthropic institution.
– Who said that?
– I said that it was a very good monopoly for the employers, and the employes ; that it was exceptional in that respect; but that the public had to pay the piper.
– No one minds the public ! So long as an enterprise gives the employer good profits, and the employes good wages, who is concerned with the poor public? We were told by the honorable member for West Sydney that the Beef Trust is upon us, and asked “Why do you not do something?” What are we to do ? The honorable member for West Sydney says, “ Amend the Constitution.” That is his only suggestion. He tells us that the trust is a huge, dangerous creature, which is slavering us over, preparatory to swallowing us. His knowledge of serpents seems as defective as my knowledge of ostriches; we should both go to school to learn natural history. He points out that there is this fearful monster ready to devour us, and he asks “ Why do you not amend the Constitution at once?” What good that would do, I do not know. This particular combination would not be affected by any of the proposed amendments of the Constitution. Assuming that the trust exists, and that its operations are calculated and intended to be as injurious to Australia as its worst enemies declare that they will be, none of the proposed amendments of the Constitution help us to deal with it. We have already abundant constitutional power to deal with this combination. I have often said, and I repeat now, that under the Constitution we are hampered in dealing with combinations of certain kinds which may exist among us. But the Meat Trust is not one of them ; in the first place, because, if there is a combine, it is a combine which exists altogether outside Australia; and, in the second place, because its operations in Australia, so far as there may be need to control them, can be controlled by the exercise of our power in regard to exportation. Therefore, the honorable member for West Sydney must suggest some more practicable and immediate way of dealing with this terrible bogy.
– Would not the imposition of an export duty on meat be an interference with the trade of the States ?
– Constitutionally, we have unlimited power to control exportation, to impose duty on exports, or to deal otherwise with them.
– Could we distinguish between the products of Swift and Company and those of, say, Angliss and Company?
– My honorable friends are so intelligent, and in such a hurry, that they anticipate my statements. We cannot condemn a man who is conducting a perfectly legitimate business becausehe happens to have done something wrong in some other country. Let us look at the matter with eyes cleared of the film of prejudice. If we find a man spending £200,000 on the erection of a thoroughly up-to-date meat works, intending to buy up cattle for the purpose of exporting meat, can we say to him, “ What you are doing is what we should thoroughly approve of and encourage in any one else. But, as you are named ‘ Swift,’ and in combination with others have done certain very wrong things in America and the Argentine, we intend to stop your operations here “ ? The ex-Minister of Trade and Customs will agree with me that that is impossible.
– I have said that we cannot take action while the works are being erected.
– Can we take action when the person concerned proceeds to buy meat at the ordinary rates? I have gone pretty fully into this matter, which the Minister of Trade and Customs has had, and continues to have, under careful observation. We can attack this company only as we could’ attack any other company, namely, on the ground that it is doing something wrong ; that its methods or operations are calculated to injure the public of Australia. We have not yet had in Australia any judicial inquiry into the operation of meat trusts in other parts of the world; but, for the purposes of my argument, I assume that what has been said against this company is true; that, in combination with others, it obtained a large control of the meat industry of the United States of America; that the combination was prosecuted ; and that, although the prosecution failed, the combination had to be dissolved, and subsequently continued its operations in the Argentine. I shall, moreover, assume that in the Argentine the company joined with others, not merely in what we may call a legitimate combination, but also in an improper combination. I wish that I had time to cite the eloquent language that has been used by the honorable member for West Sydney in praise of trusts and combines. I have often pointed out, in my feeble way, that trusts and combines are usually beneficial, and that it is only when they adopt particular methods that they become injurious, and require control; but I have never done so with one-half the fire and eloquence of the honorable member for West Sydney. I have one or two passages here in support of my statement; but as they are pretty well known to honorable members, I refrain from quoting them. We may take this as true, that you may have combinations to prevent cut-throat competition and to regulate trade, which are beneficial to everybody. Up to a certain time in the Argentine, the seven companies operating there, including the two American companies, were carrying on business on proper and legitimate’ trading lines.
– They had an honorable understanding.
– There was a written agreement. They determined the total quantity of meat to be exported each month, and the quantity that each was to send away - the arrangement being based mainly on the proportions of their working capital. Combinations of this kind exist everywhere, and must increase, because they are combinations for protection and defence against what is fairly called cut-throat competition. They are combinations of which the public cannot complain. There was a special investigator sent out by the London Times to go into that matter, and in regard to that combination, although he condemns ultimately its proceedings very strongly, he says -
It is fair to point out that while the agreement was in force neither the market conditions nor the profits earned by the companies gave any grounds for the charge of cornering; at the same time the policy effected a steadiness in the price of cattle and beef in this country which was of benefit to the trade at large.
He goes on to point out that Swift and Company and Morris and Company were not satisfied with that, and that they served the other companies with an ultimatum, saying, “ You must give us 40 per cent, more, else we will go to war with you and cut you out.” That is the point at which there was an attempt which, for all that I know to the contrary, may still be going on, and a very dangerous attempt to “ corner “ the meat market in the Argentine. It is, of course, a matter which we may regard with some suspicion when we find the same people coming here, and, though not as yet having it in their power to adopt the same practice, establishing large meat works. The Argentine has dealt with them by passing certain measures. I will not go into the measures particularly, because that would take too long, but the Executive was given power to control the operations of that trust, provided that its operations were of a kind that were quite inconsistent with normal conditions. Now we find this thing taking place here. As I said before, they are a very huge concern, and are beginning to buy. I believe that if there is to be a danger to the Australian stock producer from the Beef Trust here, it is not a danger in Australia, but a danger to their market in London. That is where the trouble may come in.
– You do not know all about it, not by a long way.
– I do not, and I admit that I do not. I admit that there are very few subjects under heaven or earth that I know all about, or even as much about as my honorable friend knows about any, but I am giving the House the best of my knowledge and belief after making some inquiry into the matter. I have been assured that, as far as Australia is concerned, provided that the London meat market is unrestricted or unmonopolized, the stock-raisers here will probably be strong enough at all times to make their own market.
– What about the general public; where do they come in?
– As far as the general public in Australia are concerned, the companies have not yet had any effect whatever.
– Have they not? If you were a working man buying meat, you would know the difference.
– It is very easy for my honorable friend - nothing is easier - to go on a platform and say to a large crowd of unthinking people, “ Meat has gone up in price; it is due to the Meat Trust”; but the statement is just as false as it is easy to make. Honorable members ask me what we propose to do. We do not propose to wait to amend the Constitution. We propose to act as a reasonable Government, and that is to ask a reasonable Parliament to invest us with the powers necessary to deal with these companies, should they adopt illegitimate methods, at the earliest possible moment. We have two Bills mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which we are prepared to submit to Parliament, and the only thing that the honorable member for West Sydney or the Opposition does to facilitate their submission is to move a vote of want of confidence’ in us, and to adjourn the Senate for three weeks. That is their way of assisting us to carry through the measures to deal with the Beef Trust. Now I come to another subject. The honorable member for West Sydney held up his hands in horror at my venturing to say a word against the representative character of the Senate. He exclaimed, “A Senate that is elected on the same suffrage as the people’s House.” Is this the same Mr. Hughes who has so often referred to the entirely undemocratic character of the Senate? Is this the same Mr. Hughes who originally spoke of the Senate in such strong terms ?
– Oh, conditions have altered ; do not trouble to quote it.
– My .honorable friends know it all by heart, and so I do not think I need quote it all. But, in dealing with the Financial Agreement three years ago, my honorable friend said -
This infamous attempt to fasten this fetter on our limbs for all time is inexcusable. Were the Constitution before them to-day, the people would spit upon a provision for equal representation.
I could quote a good many other remarks, too, but I shall. not waste’ time by going into them. The honorable member has pointed out,- over and over again, not once, but a hundred times, that the Senate, which he now relies on, which he holds up as a sacred body, which must not be spoken of disrespectfully,, is a body based on a principle which is absolutely undemocratic, absolutely unrepresentative of the people.
– How do you propose to alter it?
– We will toll you presently what we intend to do. ,1 agree with a good deal of what the honorable member for West Sydney said about one matter - and it is a very important matter - and that is the position of the Senate in relation to the . constitutional position of this Parliament. He said that now industrial questions loom very large, and he used very strong expressions in his references.’ To a large extent, I agree with my honorable friend, and if you include in the words “ industrial questions” the regulation of all those social and industrial matters which are involved in production, interchange, commerce, and trade, a complete change has come over the face of the Federation of Australia during the twelve years it has been in existence.
– And of the world.
– And possibly of other parts of the world, but here, at all events. Under the original frame of the Constitution, where the Federation was, to a large extent, a kind of partnership of States, and nothing more, equal representation, perhaps, had many things to recommend it, but it has ceased very much to possess the foundation for it at that ‘time; in fact, it is almost impossible to conceive of this Parliament proceeding and developing. As an Australian Parliament, dealing with huge industrial and commercial problems, we find that the widest problems that engage the ingenuity of mankind in every department of life are forced more and more into this arena. The people are coming more and more to look to us, as the Parliament to give the guidance in these matters. Since that is the result, it becomes more and more impossible to conceive that a body, not representative of the people of Australia in any true sense, in respect of which a voter in one State has nine or ten times the voting power of a voter in another State, can be allowed for an indefinite time to impose bars or blocks to the will of the people being carried out. I have suggested a remedy. For these blocks, no redress is apparently possible at first sight, but these impossibilities tend to fade away. One thing, however, is impossible. Under the existing Constitution, it is practically impossible to. change equal representation, because it is impossible to suppose that every one of the smaller States would consent. On the other hand, it is not at all impossible to conceive that we may have an alteration made - a power of dealing with these deadlocks - which will be based upon a principle that will ultimately, and after due consideration, give effect to the desire of the whole people of Australia, irrespective of State boundaries. That is a matter of constitutional amendment. This Government dare not put off the immediate responsibility that lies before us until we can get an amendment of the Constitution under which we live. We have to deal with these matters now. The people have intrusted us with the power and the duty of carrying on the government of thecountry. They have given us a majority, certainly not a very large one.
– Where is it?
– I thought our honorable friends would at least be ready to admit that if there is a majority of only one elected by the constituencies, the party which has that majority has not only the right, but also the duty, of carrying on the government of the country. Do honorable members opposite say that the power of the Government to effectively carry on the affairs of the country is to be blocked by the will of a Chamber that does not represent the people, or, at any rate, represents them only in a lop-sided and unequal way?
– Put the question, and we will decide it afterwards.
– Will honorable members listen to what the honorable member for West Sydney stated just prior to Federation ? At that time the honorable member published a pamphlet from which this quotation was taken, and republished in one of the Liberal publications. I presume it is correct.
– It is bound to be correct.
– It can always be denied if it is not correct. The honorable member said in that pamphlet -
In the first place, it is an utter abandonment of the bedrock of Democracy which places the government in the hands of the majority of the people. No matter how ingeniously this may be cloaked by plausible and enticing arguments, nothing can hide the fact that what these gentlemen really propose is government by a minority. Not a minority of intelligence or worth, nor even of social position, but merely a minority which is located in certain portions of the continent.
A system which gives to the Tasmanian voter nine times as much effective voting power as to his fellow colonists in New South Wales will be extremely popular with that favored individual. And, away in the distant and arid wastes of Western Australia, where, in some electorates, thirty-nine votes return a member of Parliament, the idea of having an equal voice with great colonies like New South Wales is, doubtless, regarded with intense enthusiasm.
Apparently the honorable member for West Sydney has never changed his views in that regard. What is the position that the Senate claims to hold, and is asserted by members of the Labour party to hold, in the Constitution?
– What did you say about the constitution of the Senate at that time?
– I do not remember; I was younger then, and I may have said a great many wrong things. In the course of my life I have said very many things that were inconsistent. Honorable members can make what use they choose of this fact, that I do not know at the moment whether I supported or opposed the constitution of the Senate at that time; but I am telling the House what I think now. Perhaps the position of the Senate at the present time is best stated by Senator Pearce, who is reported in the Daily Telegraph of the 4th June, 1913, to have said -
Whatever happened, the Labour party were masters of the situation, as no legislation could be passed or repealed without the sanction of the Senate. The future was pregnant with possibilities, because if the Senate rejected a measure twice within three months, the Governor-General could order a dissolution.
All I can say is that,if the political situation is pregnant with possibilities, I do not think my honorable friends of the Opposition are anxious to see the deliverance take place too soon. The late Speaker (Mr. McDonald) is reported, in Hansard of the 22nd October, 1913, as follows: -
I ask the Government what they have done to carry out their policy, and what solitary measure, containing part of their policy, they have passed through the House and sent to the other Chamber?.
– Who is responsible?
– I take it that we are responsible; but when weand a set of men who will sit there and allow themselves to bo insulted in every possible way-
– By whom?
– By the very fact that they sit there without power, and have to do our bidding.
Could anything more clearly show that the continuance of the present position is impossible? Honorable members on the Opposition side point out that, although we do hold a mandate from the majority of the people of Australia to conduct the government of the country, they not only can, but will, make it impossible for us to do that, and they will block us by means of their power in the Senate. Yet, we are told that, in putting forward a measure to test, between the Senate and this Chamber, whether the Senate is representative of the people, and entitled to block our efforts, we are putting up a mere sham. Here is another quotation from a speech by the honorable member for West Sydney, and published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 4th June, 1913-
One thing is certain. The Fusion can pass no laws with which the Senate does not agree. In that Chamber the Labour party has an overwhelming majority. The Fusion cannot even get Supply without the consent of the Senate. It can only live upon the terms the Senate imposes.
Now, what becomes of the argument that we heard in this House the other day?
– It just shows that Caucus controls the Senate.
– Exactly. What becomes of the argument that the Government are to carry on the administration and pass all sorts of non-contentious legis lation, when honorable members admit that we cannot carry on unless we submit to the terms which their majority in the Senate imposes ? I say that that position is intolerable.’ We on this side claim to represent the majority of the people, and to be allowed to carry on the government of the country, and honorable members opposite, who represent the minority of the people, say they will not allow us to carry on that government.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When you left the chair, Mr. Speaker, I was dealing with a number of quotations from leading members of the Opposition to show how impossible is the present parliamentary position with one House, the popular House, the House which, under the Constitution, does represent the majority of the people of, Australia, the House to which every Ministry is responsible, and is alone responsible, with one party - in this case the Liberal party - holding a majority of seats in it, unable admittedly to carry out the ordinary functions of government, obstructed not merely in every legislative proposition put forward by Ministers, but even in regard to making the necessary provision for carrying on the government of the country. Because we are threatened that Supply will be stopped; we are told that we cannot move a step without the permission of a House which is in no sense representative of the people of Australia. I may add one quotation to those I have already used. One of the leading members of the Labour party is reported in the press to have said at Rockhampton, in the presence, I believe, of the Leader of the Opposition, “ Let the Prime Minister bring forward any proposal to repeal any of the measures which they had placed on the statute-book and they would see how the Senate would boot it out.” Who used this expression? Why, the President of the Senate, a man who, in his high office, is supposed to be in a position of impartiality. But apart altogether from the question of good or bad taste on the part of a man in the position of President of the Senate in using such language, or in using such a threat, if this expression does nothing else it gives additional clear evidence of the impossibility of the present conditions, in which, though Ministers have a majority with which to carry on the ordinary business of government, they. are blocked by a House which in no rational sense can be said to be representative of the people of Australia. The honorable member for* “West Sydney has accused me of being guilty of an unconstitutional and improper act in stating that the policy of the present Government is to go for a double dissolution. He said that I had done what no man ought to have done, and that I had indicated that a double dissolution should be granted. I have done nothing of the kind. What I have maintained is that it is the policy of the Government to carry out ail the conditions on which the GovernorGeneral may grant a double dissolution; and I have always said - npt recently, as the honorable member for West Sydney said, but always - that when we carried out our part it would be for the gentleman who occupies the position of representative of His Majesty to carry out his part. That is his discretion.
– Have you not to advise the Governor-General?
– No ; that is the very thing I was about to say. The honorable member for West Sydney, who was Attorney-General in the late Administration, must know that that is one of the few important public functions, if it is not the only one, which a Governor or Governor-General of any constitutionallygoverned country must perform without the advice of his responsible Ministers.
– He must take the responsibility.
– Yes; and I have throughout said that nothing I would do would be done to cause the slightest embarrassment to His Excellency in carry: ing out that high function. But what is the attitude of the honorable member for West Sydney? The Government, if the opportunity arises, will place the position before the Governor-General. But the honorable member knows perfectly well that His Excellency is not obliged to accept any advice given to him.
– The Governor-General may not dissolve except on advice.
– But he is by no means bound to dissolve on advice.
– That is so.
– While rebuking me for adopting an attitude I never adopted in urging the GovernorGeneral to exercise a discretion in one direction, the honorable member for West Sydney, in the strongest and clearest language, himself said that the Governor-General ought to exercise his discretion in the other way; in fact, he devoted many minutes to an analysis of the conditions that ought to govern the discretion of the Governor-General, and to an endeavour to prove that His Excellency should not grant a dissolution. That is ground I prefer not to tread. All I say is that, in the present impossible position in this House, without an amendment of the Constitution in the direction I have already indicated, there is no way open to us to bring about a working parliamentary condition, except the way the Constitution itself provides, that is, to send up a measure which, on being rejected by the Upper House, will, after the other requisites have been complied with, afford ground upon which the GovernorGeneral may, if he chooses, exercise his discretion.
– The honorable member thinks he ought to do so on that ground.
– “ Ought to do so!” I have never said so, and I shall never say so. It is our duty to open the door for him to do it. We cannot do more; we cannot compel him to enter through that door. ‘
– You are reported as having said so on more than one occasion.
– I do not think that the honorable member can refer to any report of my having said so. I know of no report, and I have never said so. It has been reported over and over again that I, as well as the Prime Minister, have said that the only door that is open to us to end this position is that of a double dissolution.
– In the Town Hall speech, the honorable member went further.
– I remember the speech to which the honorable member is referring. The speech took half-an-hour, or twenty minutes, to deliver, and the report occupied the space of 2 inches.
– It was in reply to an interjection.
– I said that we were going for a dissolution, and one gentleman asked, “Single or double?”, and I said “ Double.” Of course, we are going for a double dissolution. That is our whole policy; there is no other way out. But we have our duty, and the Governor-General has his duty. “Under the Constitution, these responsibilities are settled. Meantime, we are presenting a measure which we conceive to be one which tests, as perhaps no other measure can, the intrinsic and inherent difference between the two parties in this House, in order to afford an opportunity for the constitutional right to be exercised of allowing both Houses to go before the people in order to determine who has the right to carry on effectually the government of this country. We have thrown down the gage. What are the other side going to do about it? Look at it, walk round it, talk about it?
– Face it like men.
– We shall see, no doubt, the same spectacle as we saw last session - the party that purports to represent Democracy in this country fighting, talking, delaying, catching hold of every parliamentary pretext - for what ? To prevent them going before the people, who are their masters. We shall see honorable members on the other side taking to earth like the badger. But, sooner or later, honorable members opposite will have to come out in the open.
– Later !
– The honorable member says “ later,” but I say the sooner the better ; and, if honorable members opposite wish it to be soon, all they have to do is to reject or deal with the measures at once.
– This is parliamentary government with a vengeance! “Reject our measures - 0, dear Lord, reject our measures ! ‘ ‘
– I have no objection whatever to the honorable member for West Sydney saying his prayers, but I do object to his saying them in the middle of my speech. We have been told that the Government Preference Prohibition Bill is a mere sham, a mere empty measure - that it does nothing, achieves nothing. The Leader of the Opposition is not present, and the honorable member for West Sydney may, perhaps, answer the question I propose to put. Will the Leader of the Opposition give a pledge that, if the Labour party should be returned to power, they will not resort to this unclean practice of preference to unionists in the Government service?
– We will answer that after the Greek Kalends.
– I should think honorable members opposite would. But if they will not pledge themselves or their party not to resort to these Tammany practices, how can they, in Heaven’s name, say that the Bill is not necessary ? If, as soon as by the chapter of accidents they take office, -they resort to using the powers of the Government for the purpose of giving billets to their own supporters, how can it be said that the Bill is not necessary?
– It is a mere question of preference.
– Yes, of course it is - preference to the supporters of honorable members opposite. The other night I watched the lights in that room upstairs where our friends opposite meet.
– Honorable members opposite are very anxious about that room.
– I know. I was with some friends enjoying a pleasant evening over the way, and when we went in those lights were burning. At the adjournment, which takes place in the middle of the entertainment, the lights were still burning, as they were after the entertainment was over; and I do not know how long afterwards. I should have liked very much to be there. I can well imagine what took place - I can well imagine the more ardent and courageous spirits, especially those whose seats are quite secure, urging their colleagues to come to the scratch - to come up and fight, for they were sure to win - and the timorous gentlemen, whose seats are not quite so secure, replying, “ Not yet, O Lord, not yet.” I said to some of my friends that I should be prepared to take a wager that the badgers “ would have it “ - that they would stick to their holes and fight, bite, scratch, and do anything but be drawn into the open ; and the result has justified my view. Opposite, we have the party who are supposed to represent Democracy, and yet they are going to take, probably, weeks in debating a want-of-confidence motion, and more weeks in debating a single test measure, and in adopting every parliamentary practice, and using every parliamentary method they can, to avoid the possibility of going before the country. That is the position.
– How does the AttorneyGeneral know that?
– The honorable member, with his 15,000 majority, is one of the stalwarts who would doubtless come up to the scratch.
– How many are there on the Attorney-General’s side who are a bit afraid?
– If we are afraid, we are prepared to take the risks.
– Are you? Ask the Liberal members.
– With regard to the charges of insincerity which the honorable member for West Sydney has urged against us, I point out that he can very easily test the matter by getting his party to at once allow the Government Preference Prohibition Bill to be dealt with. What can be the outcome of this amendment to the Address-in-Reply? We all know how every vote will be cast, and we are only wasting time in a discussion that cannot alter a single vote. Let us deal with the question, and we shall then see whether we, or honorable members on the other side, are in earnest.
.- I listened with great interest to the AttorneyGeneral, and also to the Honorary Minister at an earlier stage. At the outset, I would like to say that the AttorneyGeneral was possibly unconsciously unfair in the statement that any discussion that takes place on this amendment is an obstruction of the business of the Chamber. The honorable gentleman knows full well that this censure amendment will not limit or extend the time of the discussion by one moment, because every word said on it could have been said on the main question itself. And how can any one say that there is obstruction? There can be obstruction in this Chamber only so long as the Ministry desire. It will continue only so long as they desire it to continue, and only on such topics as they desire shall be discussed; on every subject on which they desire there shall be no discussion they will prevent discussion; it is entirely in the hands of the Government. I can understand that the Honorary Minister should defend himself and his administration - that he should defend the purity of his personal honor. It was quite within the limits of fair fight to counterpart the stroke of his opponents; but I am surprised at the indignation he shows when any one assails him.
Why should he be indignant if anybody imputes the purity of his motives? Of all members he ought to be the last’ to do so. Why should be object to the pangs and darts of base imputation, considering that year after year, while he sat in Opposition, there was no Minister or Ministry who was not the subject of imputations by him on their conduct and administration? I have no desire to traverse the statements of the Attorney-General. I have no wish to say one word in connexion with Chinn, or Ryland, or Deane, or the contract question, and very little to say on preference to unionists or postal voting. All I wish to do is to present, so far as I can, facts that to me seem more important than those so far discussed, and to offer a few thoughts for what they may be worth. The Attorney-General, in answer to the question that I put, expressed the opinion that election time is the worst possible time at which to put a question to the electors by referendum. The honorable gentleman assailed the arguments of the honorable member for West Sydney, but left entirely unstated the position of the Government. I asked the Attorney-General why, if he cannot agree to the propositions of the Labour party, the Government should not at least put before the people the propositions which they believe to be absolutely necessary; and the answer he gave was that they would be put later on at the election ? The honorable gentleman then proceeded to argue that an election, which is a period of excitement, is the worst possible occasion on which to put such questions. I admit that that is a valid argument in connexion with any proposition that may be put forward by the Labour party. The men who sit behind the Government are hostile to every proposition we may put forward, on the ground that it goes too far. That is a legitimate argument, but how can it be used as an argument against the propositions of the Government? They oppose us on the ground that we ask for. too much, whilst they are in favour of something less. But since we cannot oppose any alteration of the Constitution which would widen, however slightly, the powers of this Parliament, it is inevitable that this party would support the Government in any proposal in that direction. No question of party could be raised. Our party wants to secure a widening of the Constitution, and if it could not reach the limit of its own desires in that direction it would indubitably be delighted to secure as much as the Government proposed to concede. No party feeling could arise, therefore, at a general election so far as that was concerned. Both parties, irrespective of their fundamental differences, would be bound to support an amendment of the Constitution. I put forward that thought merely by way of a preliminary consideration. I ask the Attorney-General if what I state is not correct, and if it is whether it is not necessary to find some other reason for the inaction of the Government. The honorable gentleman referred to the question of trusts and combines, and asserted that some members of our party had given utterance to the strongest sentiments in regard to various institutions that exist in this country. Quite right. If we pin our faith to a collectivist system of society, and look forward to a time when the human race will gather to itself the means of production - regarding the means of production as the means of life - why should we not, as we must, view this stage of human society in which all forms of competition are controlled by only a few men as but a transitory step to that which we desire? I come now to my main question. I desire, first of all, Mr. Speaker, to “take you back to what happened twelve months ago. The two parties were then before the country, fighting for various issues, and, as the Attorney-General has pointed out, the present Government came back to power. They came back, it is true, with a majority of members, but not with a majority of the votes of the people behind them. That is the first important distinction to be noted. The AttorneyGeneral now wants to create a situation in the Senate. And be it here remembered for future reference that sometimes men like the Attorney-General say incautiously in anger, out of the bitterness of their minds, what in calmer moments they would not think of uttering. The honorable gentleman, when’ asked to-night “What are you going to do with the Senate?” replied, “Weshall tell you what we shall do with the Senate when we have the chance.” I shall tell the House at once what he and his party will do with the Senate. If they ever secure a majority, they will change the existing basis of election to the Senate. Instead of each State being polled as one constituency it will he cut into several, so that the Liberal party may obtain a larger proportion of representation there. By this readjustment of the constituencies they hope to secure, not that the Senate shall represent a majority of the votes of the people, but that their party shall have fuller representation there.
– How can they do that without the consent of the Senate?
– As a preliminary to this they must, of course, first secure a majority in the Senate. In this Chamber they have a majority of members, although they do not represent a majority of the votes of the people. But they do not propose so to change the constitution of this House as to base representation upon the totality of votes cast. Honorable members opposite went to the country, and on coming back made various proposals. On meeting Parliament the Government sent out a programme, just as they did the other day, through the medium of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, in which they declared, amongst other things, that they would readjust inequalities; that they would raise the standard of living; and that they would grapple with complex problems and do other important things. It was a very glowing programme that they put before us. And on the Monday following the general election the Age declared that the people had now a guarantee which they could not secure from the Labour party - the guarantee of an immediate readjustment of Tariff anomalies. It pointed out that in the return of Mr. Bennett, Mr. Rodgers . and Mr. Ahern the people had a guarantee that, so far as Victoria at least was concerned, the Government would be kept up to its promises, and one of those promises was that there should be a readjustment of Tariff anomalies. Another proposition which the Ministerial party put forward was a scheme of social insurance - insurance against sickness and accident. They said that they would provide against the accidents of life. Later on, Parliament debated various proposals, and whatever the Government desired to pass it did pass. But it did not put forward any Tariff revision scheme: it did not submit any Bill to provide for insurance against sickness and accident; it did not bring down a Bill to provide for a referendum upon a proposed amendment of the Constitution to enable it to take action in the direction of social insurance. Not one item which in any way affected the social or industrial conditions of this country was brought forward for the consideration of Parliament. What, now, is the answer of the Government to those who complain of its inaction in this respect? It declares that it was blindly obstructed and prevented from carrying on the business of the country; that somewhere, as yet undisclosed, it had a social and industrial policy - a policy of progression - a scheme for grappling with important problems. Yet it went through the whole session without doing anything, and now excuses itself with the plea that it could do nothing owing to the obstructive tactics of honorable members on this side of the House. Is that true? Is it not a fact that whatever the Government wanted to pass it passed in a single night? Has any serious proposal been submitted to this House by the Government? If the Government had any policy of a progressive constructive character it had the power in its own hands to present it and to push it through Parliament. It had the power to push it in the Senate, and if the Senate had then failed to deal with such a policy the Government could have represented it to the country as consisting of a body of men who obstructed useful progressive constructive legislation. But it did nothing of the kind. If it had had such a policy somewhere in the recesses of its own mind - if it had had any definite policy for the development of the social and economic conditions of the country - is it not a reasonable conclusion that it would have produced it, have fought for it, and have sought to obtain all the advertisement it could get by propounding such a great Liberal programme ? But where is its great Liberal programme? Where is its great and magnificent policy? Every honorable member - I care not whether he agrees with me or not - must come to the conclusion that the Government had, and has, no such policy. If it had it would have availed itself of the facilities at its command to present it to ihe people of Australia. Last session it pushed forward two Bills, one of which touches no one, while the other affects but very few. I ask myself why the Government has presented such trifling measures, and why it has sought to secure a double dissolution upon them.
– Twenty-nine senators have said that those measures are important.
– I propose, a moment or two hence, to discuss that point. Some men may think that there is a question of principle at stake, and that the Government should fight for it. I merely point to these two measures as constituting the principal work submitted to us last session. Parliament has met again. For what has it met? Ostensibly, and so far as appears on the surface, it has met again not to do anything - not to carry on the business of the country - but to secure a double dissolution upon two items called test measures, which, whether they are carried or not, will never do anything to develop the resources of the country, will not augment its revenues, create one crust the more, or add one atom to the sum of human happiness. If they have no such programme, I am driven to ask myself what is their purpose ? They must have some object that does not appear on the surface, and I must look for it in the financial situation as it is developing to-day. I must look for their real object in the position of the Government and the interests for which it stands. I have no desire to take up the time of Parliament in discussing those fundamental diversities of opinion which exist upon big questions among the members of this Chamber, particularly with relation to the problem of how far the functions and powers of Parliament should be utilized to. bring about social and economic changes. Apart from these, there existed in Australia other broad, national issues. So long as they existed, so long as they remained mere matters of sentiment wherewith to appeal to the sense of national pride, so long could the gentlemen who are opposed to the social programme of the Labour party claim to be the special custodians of them, and seek to divert public attention; with them, from the social and economic problems of the time, which we in our party regard as all important. Again and again they talked of a great fleet and a great army, of a unified railway gauge throughout Australia, by means of which our troops could be transported from one part of the continent to the other, of a great railway to link up the east with the west, and of other railways here, there, and everywhere. They turned to the Northern Territory, painting it as a land enormously rich, with great resources, stretching 900 miles north and south, 600 miles east and west - a land that had been basking in the sunshine of centuries, and only awaited our energies to develop it into a new Canaan flowing with milk and honey. They were going to drain the vast swamps and irrigate the wide, dry areas in the north, make it a white man’s land, and people it. They depicted there the growth of great cities and the uprising of garrisons of armed troops to resist any possible Asiatic invasion. Yet, for three years, they did nothing whatever. The Labour party came into power, and immediately proceeded to do the things about which other parties had merely talked. I am not referring to these matters in any way as a reproach, but I am citing them as short pages of history to lead up to the questions with which I shall deal. So long as these matters remained mere subjects of sentiment, and while we were -sitting upon this side, our opponents claimed that they were the real fathers of these various projects. They claimed the credit, such as it was, and all the glory. They said they were the persons who laid the eggs; they were the ones that developed the ideas; and that the Labour party were merely the mechanical incubator that hatched the glorious conceptions of Liberalism. But now what a change has come over the scene I Now we have to face the cost; we are face to face with the great fact that to-day all these great propositions are in their infancy, and somebody will have to foot the bill. They deny any part in them; they disclaim their own progeny. They say that these responsibilities have been foisted upon them by the Labour party. The Prime Minister said, “ These responsibilities are not of our creation. They have been created by the Labour party, and we have to pay the bill.” The Treasurer said that everything belonged to the Labour party except the transcontinental railway, which Was his own exclusive idea. The real issue now before this Par liament is not so much the question of trusts or combines, not the question of preference to unionists or the restoration of the postal vote, but the problem of how the National Parliament is to meet the responsibilities imposed upon it as the result of the party combat in this Chamber. If this is to be a National Parliament at all, the great problem which must be settled by it is whether, with the means at its disposal, it shall assume and exercise half-a-dozen functions effectively and maintain them in full life and vigour, or continue to try to exercise a dozen functions, and permit them to drag out a weak, weary, and inanimate existence, so that nothing can be said of them but that life exists within them. The question that, after all, lies at the back of the mind of every man in this Chamber, the question at the back of the mind of the Government, in fact, the real issue, is what I have stated. These matters of preference to unionists and the restoration of the postal vote are merely things upon the surface. We are told that during the next year we are bound to have a deficit of something like £5,000,000. The expenditure, said the Prime Minister, is going to increase automatically. Apparently, for some years it is going to increase by millions. On the other hand, the revenue is declining. A few days ago the Treasurer set out to give an explanation of the decline of the revenue under the Liberal Government. He said, “ Of course, it is declining; how can you expect anything else when there has been nothing but strikes and lockouts, and industrial unrest generally since we have been in power?” I thought all the industrial unrest occurred during our term of office ! It is a most peculiar thing that, in spite of all the strikes and lock-outs that are said to have occurred during the rule of the Labour Government, the revenue went on rising,’ and now the great Treasurer of the Liberal Administration explains away the declining revenue by the fact that industrial unrest still continues. Revenue must be raised; but how? The Prime Minister said, “ We are going to borrow.” At Mount Gambier he said, “ We propose to borrow, and must borrow heavily; we are obstructed by the Labour party; we were prevented last session by them from getting our Loan Bill through.” Is that true? Is it true that anybody in the Senate prevented their Loan Bill from passing ? Nevertheless, it must be clearly recognised that a Loan Bill for the near future is not sufficient to meet the requirements of this country.” The Government may delay or postpone new works, or borrow some amount to carry them on, but no sum of money that they can legitimately borrow will adequately meet the obligations of the Federation during the next few years. What do they propose to do? Will they tax, or will they retrench?
– That is just the point up to which the Leader of the Opposition led us last session, and then dodged the issue.
– The responsibility rests with the Government. Paragraph 12 of the Governor-General’s Speech states distinctly that they will at a later date - after they have returned from the country, and provided that they obtain a majority in the Senate - submit proposals to deal with the financial situation which now confronts this Commonwealth. I repeat that the Ministry have no social and economic policy; otherwise they would have presented it to the country. Knowing as they do the financial situation, I ask the House to consider why it is that they have not put forward proposals to meet it. Is it not all important, that, instead of voting upon a question of preference to unionists, or upon a proposal to restore the postal vote, if we are to have a great contest between two political parties, the people should be permitted to vote upon the financial proposals of the Ministry? Is it not a fact that the Government intend to go before the electors without saying a word as to what their financial proposals are? Then when they have come back from the country with a blank cheque they will fill it up for what amount they choose.
– The honorable member thinks that we will come back.
– I am assuming that the party with which the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs is associated will come back. I always like to assume the worst from my own stand-point. That being so, I conclude that the financial proposals of the Government are of such a character as will not earn them any kudos; otherwise they would unquestionably give them all the advertisement that they could. They would inscribe them on their banners. Since they have not proclaimed, either in the press or elsewhere, what are their proposals in this respect, I am justified, from an examination of the Government and its personnel, in drawing my own conclusions. Ministers are face to face with an enormously increasing expenditure and a declining revenue. We all know that the AttorneyGeneral is the man behind the guns in this Government, and that the policy which he has pursued in another Government is that which he is most likely to pursue in this Government. Faced with a similar situation in the Victorian Parliament, he very cleverly created a sixpenny crisis. This was not brought about by a member of the Labour party, but by a member of the Liberal party. He created a blank-
– It was the other man who created the blank.
– The AttorneyGeneral seized the opportunity, appealed to the country, and obtained a majority. Having done that, he immediately proceeded to institute a policy of cutting down pensions, of stopping all increments, of lowering wages wherever possible, of refusing to pay trade union rates on the railways and elsewhere, and of increasing the freight upon the farmers’ wheat, but not upon wool. He increased freight upon wheat by £d. a bushel, and he generally attacked the whole system of factories legislation.
– Will the honorable member allow me to interject?
– Then there is not one of those statements which has any foundation in fact.
– If I am wrong I am quite prepared to admit it. But I also was a member of the Victorian Parliament at the time, and I think I have as large a conception of what truth is as has the Attorney-General.
– But there is a record fortunately.
– I also have a knowledge of the records. Since the AttorneyGeneral has denied my statement I say that the records of the Victorian Parliament show clearly that the railway freight upon wheat, but not upon wool, was increased. That is my first statement. It is also true that pensions were reduced.
– To 7s. per week.
– It is also true that increments were stopped, that the AttorneyGeneral, so far as the casual workers on the railways were concerned, refused to pay the trade union rates which were being paid by private employers. It is true that he told them there were more hard knocks to come. Now, I propose to make my own deductions. The members of the Government - if they remain where they are - will be compelled to face the issue. Personally I am anxious for them to remain there. I am not anxious to remove them, although I am one who has a large majority in his constituency. If the Government succeed in creating a sixpenny crisis over preference to unionists, and if they obtain a majority in the Senate, they will do what the AttorneyGeneral has first suggested - effect changes in the other Chamber to suit their own party. They will borrow as far as they can, because, as the Age remarked the other day, this country, in order to meet the necessities of the hour, is bound to raise additional revenue somewhere. It is open to them to raise that revenue by additional taxation on wealth or by additional taxation upon the necessaries of life. Which will they choose ? Will they levy an additional tax on the wealth of this country, or will they raise the required revenue by impositions upon tea and kerosene? If they have to retrench, in what direction will they proceed ? They cannot retrench in regard, to the States because they are under an obligation to pay them an ever-increasing amount. They cannot retrench in regard to the transcontinental railway, because the Treasurer will take care of that part of the business. They have statutory obligations in connexion with many other matters, and they can only retrench by stopping all increments, by a reduction of wages, by the abolition of the maternity grant, and by a decrease in the amount payable in connexion with old-age pensions. Will honorable members say that those would be legitimate reductions? The Government should inform Parliament of what they propose to do before they go to the country.
– Can we not borrow money ?
– The cat is out of the bag now.
– Yes, for national works.
– Order ! I have several times called “ Order!” and honorable members have interjected immediately afterwards. I do not wish to take any harsh measures, but if honorable members will not obey the direction of the Chair I shall have to resort to powers I have under the Standing Orders to enforce my authority. I ask honorable members, when they hear my calls to order, not to interject immediately afterwards; and I again remind them of the time limit to speeches.
– That is the situation as I see it. That is the objective of the Government, and we can understand that the questions of preference to unionists and the restoration of the postal vote are merely subsidiary issues. I take it that what the Government desire to do is to force us to the country, if they can do so, upon issues of their own selection, and under conditions which they will impose. The Attorney-General coming back with a majority in the Senate, if the party opposite can secure it, proposes to present his propositions to the country which cannot then interfere, because the Government will have a security of tenure for three years. Is that not so?
– It would be a very good opportunity, I should think.
– Just so. Those are exactly the tactics the honorable gentleman pursued when in the State Parliament, arid they are the tactics that he proposes to pursue here. That is the situation, and honorable members opposite wish to obscure it, and slime it over. They will not deal with the really important things that matter, but wish to raise other issues. That is one of the reasons why, as I said last session, the question of preference is not worth fighting over, because it affects nobody. The honorable member for Werriwa asked us the other night, “If it is not worth fighting over, if it creates nothing and destroys nothing, and is the mere shadow of a sham, why fight for it?” That is a fair question; but when we understand the objective of the Government and their desire to cloak over the real issues, this question serves them well enough for the purpose. I can quite understand that honorable members on this side, regarding the question as one of principle, are prepared to fight it, whether it means much or nothing. t take it that the prerogative of our party is to preserve intact every social privilege that has been secured. We stand face to face with a Government that we know well can do nothing as the Senate is at present constituted. The Senate is of more importance to the Labour movement, to the interests we serve, and to the future progress of this country, than is the possession of the Treasury bench by this party at the present time. Our imperative duty is to keep the Government where they are, and not to pull them off the Treasury bench.
– How is the honorable member going to vote on this motion?
– I do not mind answering that question. If my vote would keep the Government where they are, they would stop there.
– Let the honorable member try.
– I have no objection. I tell honorable members candidly that if my vote would keep the Government where they are, they would stop there. I wish that to be clearly understood, as far as I am concerned. I say that it is imperative, from the stand-point of our movement, the interests we serve, and the future progress of the country, that the Government shall be kept where they are, until, in a few months’ time, they will be compelled to put forward their propositions to deal with the financial situation that confronts this Commonwealth. They ought not to be permitted to go to the country until they have put forward those propositions in a clear and concrete form.
– There are other propositions, in regard to the amendment of the Constitution, which they should also put forward.
– They will not long continue in their present position before they will be forced into making a declaration. It is because they believe that such a declaration would be odious, and would render them unpopular in the country, that they want an election at this juncture upon other issues, before they are compelled to expose their hand. That is why, as an individual member of the Labour party, who does not fear the result of an election, I believe it would be good policy, as Napoleon once said, to retire from point to point in order eventually to win, and not to fight the Government in any mere Berserker spirit. They wish to select the issues, and to choose the ground of battle; but I say that in three months’ time they will be compelled to put before Parliament their proposals for dealing with the financial situation, and they know well that their declaration upon that matter will not help them in the country. That is where I stand as an individual member of the Labour party. On the other hand, I say that if there is any reason why the vote of censure upon the Government should be indorsed, and why I should indorse it as a member of the Labour party, it is not because of anything connected with the Honorary Minister, but because the Government, in the face of the immense responsibilities confronting this Parliament, have absolutely failed in their duty to Australia in not shouldering those responsibilities, and declaring in definite terms how and by what means they propose to meet our gigantic financial obligations. On that ground, and that ground only, I support the motion of censure.
.- In common with other honorable members on this side, I thought that at this juncture we should have had a speech from an honorable member on the other side, in reply to the honorable member for Bourke. Before I speak upon the various subjects with which I propose to deal I should like to say a word or two on the financial position which was enlarged upon by the honorable’ member for Bourke. There is no doubt that it is the greatest of all the questions confronting this Parliament and the people of the Commonwealth. It behoves us as representatives of the people to carefully consider the position as it is likely to present itself in the near future. One reason for our difficulties in connexion with finance is the expansion of our defence system. I give way to no man in my earnest desire to defend Australia against all comers; but I say that it behoves us to take that question into our earnest consideration, because the defence expenditure is increasing by leaps and bounds, and is this year nearly a quarter of the national income. If compulsory military training continues to extend, as it must do under the present Defence Act, in ten years’ time in a community of 5,000,000 people we shall have no less than 800,000 boys and young men constantly under military training. I should like to put the position plainly before honorable members and the public at large. We may be per head the richest nation on earth; but I ask whether any nation could stand such a financial strain as that will involve? What do we find when we refer to the great military nations in other parts of the world ? The number of men under training in the army of Russia is, in comparison to the population, not nearly so great as the number here will be when our defence system comes into full operation. The same may be said of France, Italy, Austria, and Germany. Germany, with a population of 67,000,000, has an army of 815,000; and the Commonwealth, with a population of 5,000,000, will, in the course of ten years, under the existing system, have 800,000 men and boys under military training. It is true that we do not require our young soldiers to go into barracks, nor do we insist upon them devoting two years exclusively to soldiering. On the other hand, the payments to soldiers in Continental countries are very small - privates getting from 2d. to 3d. per day, and officers so little that without private means they could not keep themselves. In proportion to our population, our military expenditure is greater than that of any other country in the world. I may be asked, what is the remedy for this state of things? I do not believe in the volunteer system, which is one of the curses of the United Kingdom. Ever since I began to think on these subjects, I have advocated compulsory military training, though strictly for defence purposes. But the motion of which the honorable member for Perth has given notice will have my hearty support. I am in favour of beginning the military training with boys who have arrived at the age of sixteen years. I do not say that it has not been a good thing at the start to begin the training with boys at the age of fourteen years, because Australian youngsters are precocious, and more easily bent at the age of fourteen than at the age of sixteen. But we are all happy to observe that they have taken to our military system as ducks take to water. I have two youngsters now in training who thoroughly enjoy it. It is for this reason that the system meets with so little opposition. But to reduce its cost I would commence the training with boys at the age of sixteen, and later, perhaps, with boys at the age of eighteen, and discontinue it before the trainees had reached the age of twentysix. Perhaps four years would be a sufficiently long period of training. In my opinion, it would be better to make the period of training still shorter, and to insist on continuous training for six months at a time. That, I feel certain, would be productive of better results than the present system. The Navy aa well as the Army must entail very heavy expense, and it behoves this Parliament, whose duty it is to look after the interests of Australia, to take all these matters into consideration, with a view to preventing such a calamity as national bankruptcy would be. We know that this or any other Conservative Government would borrow to pay for defence. That was suggested by the honorable member for Calare. But the time for borrowing for defence has gone by in civilized countries. What is happening in France? There, those who own the wealth of the country are being asked to pay for its defence. It is the great bulk of the people who, in the time of war, give their lives in defence of the country, though, of course, rich persons give their lives too; but it is the wealthy who should pay for defence. The liability should not, by borrowing, be placed on the shoulders of future generations. Coming now to the subject of the test Bills. I notice that the Postal Voting Restoration Bill is to be no longer regarded as a test Bill; at any rate, it is not to have any prominence in that connexion. It is the Government Preference Prohibition Bill that the Government propose to use for test purposes. It has been said, over and over again, that there is nothing in that Bill, and that is quite true. Why does not the Government propose, for the purpose of a test, legislation of such importance that no Governor-General, if it were rejected twice by the Senate, could refuse a double dissolution ? Has an unimportant Bill been brought forward so that the Governor-General may refuse a double dissolution when asked for? Legal members on both sides of politics are strongly of opinion that the Governor-General is unlikely to grant a double dissolution in connexion with the two so-called test Bills which have been brought forward. Why, then, does not the Government introduce a measure which, if rejected by the Senate, would certainly justify the Governor-General in granting a double dissolution? I shall have more to say on the subject of preference to unionists when the Bill is before us in a few weeks’ time. Should the GovernorGeneral be asked to grant a double dissolution, it may be regarded as certain that the Labour party in the Senate will carry its Constitution Alteration Bills, and those measures, if rejected by this House, will in some way be submitted to the Governor-General. The Constitution, which says that the Governor-General may grant a double dissolution, also says that he may grant a referendum, and I feel sure that if he does one he will do the other. Further, I have no hesitation in prophesying that the people will agree to the proposed amendments of the Constitution when they are again referred to them. The Attorney-General has admitted that he is in favour of some of these amendments. Unless this Parliament obtains power to nationalize any monopoly, it will be impossible, in the face of the experience of America and of other countries, for us to effectively deal with trusts and combines. The Beef Trust has been mentioned a good deal of late, and Mr. S. Kidman and Mr. Falkiner - I do not know whether the latter is the honorable member for Riverina or a relative, or merely some one of the same name - are reported to have said that if the Beef Trust came to Australia it would not be a bad thing.
– The Worker made me say so, but I did not say it.
– I have not the cutting here, but I certainly did not read the report in the Worker, so that it must have appeared in another newspaper. One of these gentlemen said, “ These smart Yankees can teach us something.” I intend to refer to the Beef Trust, and T ask the honorable member for Riverina, who is largely interested in the raising of stock, to contradict me if he thinks that I am wrong in any statement I make. I am not speaking from a party point of view, at all. This is a most serious question for the people, and also a serious question to the Meat Trust in all parts of the world. Probably, as the gentleman said, the Yankees who are coming over here can teach us something. But we ought to be prepared to prevent such a state of things arising as they have brought about in other parts of the world. The great argument that is used in connexion with the Beef Trust is that meat is scarce in all parts of the world. I grant most readily that meat is scarce in all parts, even in those countries which once upon a time used to export a vast quantity. From Holland, for instance, when I was a boy the cattle steamers took its surplus meat to the United Kingdom every week. But what is the position in Holland to-day ? Its people cannot export any meat because they have not enough for themselves. That is not because the number of stock has decreased, even in comparison with the increase in population, but because the great mass of the workers want some of the sweets of life in the shape of meat. The workers on the Continent are becoming meat eaters. By reason of the improvement in their conditions and the greater spread of education, they naturally ask for a portion of that wealth which they are mainly instrumental in creating. Therefore, they are determined to have some of the things which they had to go without in days gone by. Take the requirements of the teeming millions on the Continent, where a worker’s family has only, say, lb. of beef a day. All the meat that we could possibly send them would be quickly absorbed by the market when it arrived. It is quite correct, as is said, that there is a scarcity of meat. If ours was a legitimate export trade I would not say a word. I am not here to restrict, or to advocate any repressive measure which would be the means of killing,’ the export trade that we have worked up in meat or anything else. But I am here to protect the interests of the people of Australia first and’ foremost, and, as we all know, charity should begin at home. In my opinion, “ something is rotten in the State of Denmark,” when consumers of meat arecalled upon to pay the extraordinary prices which are now demanded. I would say nothing against a legitimateexport trade. If meat were realizing 2s. a lb. wholesale in Australia, and it was bringing that price wholesale in the Old Country plus the cost of transit, I would not say a word. So long as our exporterscould get as much as, or perhaps a little more than, they could get here, I would be quite satisfied; I would bow to the inevitable. But I do strongly object to a state of affairs which has not arisen of late, but has existed for many months. When I open the Conservative newspaper of Adelaide on Monday morning and read. the market reports concerning Australian frozen meat in the Old Country, what do I find? Only last week I found that, after paying the cost of freezing and exportation, which amounts to a little over Id. a pound, Australian sheep were selling there at about ltd. a pound less than they could be bought for here. This is not a singular case. It does not happen in one week only, but has been going on for months and months. Any one who knows anything about a 60-lb. merino wether, first quality, knows that he could not have more beautiful mutton to eat. Well, first-class quality crossbred or merino wethers, 40 to 60 lb., are being sold in London for 3£d. per pound. So far as Adelaide is concerned - and it is not the dearest place in the Commonwealth for meat - I am positive that no butcher, large or small, whether he buys by hundreds or in small mobs, gets a prime-quality merino wether under 4d. a pound wholesale, after disposing of the skin and the by-products. What does the price of 3Jd. per pound in London mean? It really means 2§d. per pound to the exporter. There is something wrong somewhere. The difference is not so great with lambs, but, in the case of beef, what do we find ? Fore-quarters have brought 3fd. per pound, while ox hinds have realized 4d. a pound. Such is the price of prime Australian beef in the London market. It is well known that no butcher here has been able to buy beef wholesale for anything near that figure. Taking Australia as a whole of late years, there has always been a sufficient quantity of animal food to supply all wants. There is, I believe, in the worst of times, a little surplus; at any rate, of late years there has been. During the good years we have had a fairly considerable quantity of meat available for export; but the exporters have sent away a little more than the really available quantity. Suppose, for instance, that I have ten bullocks to sell, and that some person wants to buy nine bullocks; it is of no use for me to sell nine; . because I would not know what to do with the tenth. If I were to sell the nine, I would simply have to destroy the tenth. If I go with my ten bullocks to a buyer who wants only nine, he practically has to get the bullocks at his own price, or endeavours to do so, and, as I am forced to get rid of my ten bullocks, I have to let them go at his price. Then a process is invented which enables me to send Home some of my cattle frozen, but, instead of sending away the legitimate surplus, that is one bullock, I export three out of ten, even if I lose £1 a head, so long as I make £4 extra on the remaining seven. That is the way in which this business must bo worked. I cannot find any other explanation. I do not want to cripple the export trade. I do not desire to see a return to the times that we had in Adelaide twenty years ago. I remember a mob of 600 Queensland cattle being sold in Adelaide on one occasion, and the squatter had to send down a cheque for £28 to pay the expenses. I do not want to see such a thing occur again, nor do I desire to see a return to the days when we used to go to the Adelaide market and get a 40-lb. lamb for 5s. That did no good to the producer or the grazing industry. If charity begins at home, we must be prepared to protect the people. Honorable members may ask how we are to do it, and whether we are to impose an export duty. If we cannot deal with trusts by legislation - and evidently we cannot - we must restrict the export trade in such a way that the people will not unduly suffer by the machinations of trusts and combines. We might follow the example of the Argentine Republic. Even those of us who have not been there know that the Argentine is a much superior .country to Australia for cattleraising. Probably its pastures will carry five times the number of stock that our Australian cattle pastures do; but, despite all the advantages which the country enjoys for cattle-raising, the trusts have been at work, and the people have found it absolutely necessary to take measures to protect themselves. Legislation has been brought forward in the Argentine Parliament, and may have been passed by now, providing for a maximum monthly export of, say, 80,000 animals. That number would be allotted between the various companies that are exporting at the present time, the number being varied according to the seasons. Could not Australia follow on the same lines? Then the Argentine proposes to levy a tax of $100 on every head exported above the stipulated number. I do not mean the American dollar, but the Argentine paper dollar, which is worth about ls. 8d. on the average. That means a tax of £8 or £9 on every animal exported above the stipulated monthly output. Surely, if the Argentine people, with their enormous facilities for stock breeding, find it necessary to legislate in this way to protect the people, it is about time that we in Australia took steps in the same direction. Such legislation’ would not interfere with the legitimate export trade. The prices I have referred to on the London market would not be remarkable if they applied to only one, two, or three weeks; but for months, and, possibly, years, past, our meat has been selling in the London market at Id. or 1½d. per lb. cheaper than we can buy it wholesale in Australia.
– Is not the distribution dearer than in Australia ? We have to pay our butchers more.
– I am talking about the wholesale price of meat, not about the price in the butchers’ shops.
– Some of the tradesmen in Sydney are getting £10 a week.
– That has nothing to do with my argument, because I am speaking of wholesale prices; and though the price of preparing the carcases is greater than it was before, its effect on the retail price of meat is not very great. Everybody feels keenly the increased price of this article, and perhaps that may be one of the reasons why members on the Government side are -not very anxious to submit the referenda questions to the people. I hope that if the Governor-General grants a double dissolution, they will be again put before the people. Although the people have been told about this dreadful Socialism, that talk has been going on for so many years that very few persons nowadays take notice of it. It grieves me very much when I find men stooping to misrepresent the Labour party by repeating, over and over again, the same old misstatements, with the one object of making the people believe that the Labour party is so very bad. I thought a learned man like the Attorney-General would be absolutely above that sort of thing; but we hear of him trotting out the old story about the Labour party wanting to weaken the marriage tie and disturb the home life. It grieves me, indeed, to read such puerile and ridiculous statements; and that they should come from a man of such standing is surprising. According to a report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Mr. Irvine referred to “weakheaded Socialists who were being led by their leaders into a policy which, if carried to its logical conclusion, would inevitably not only weaken the marriage tie, but strike at the root of family life.” I suppose I am one of the leaders of the Labour party in South Australia, and I would strongly advise anybody not to be casting any sheep’s eyes at my wife, because he would very soon find out what I think about the family life. It does seem terrible that our opponents have to stoop to that sort of thing, and use the mud-rake to bring up those nauseous misstatements again. I do riot think there are many members on the Government side who would stoop to such tactics, and I should have thought the AttorneyGeneral would be the last man to so demean himself. I do not know what the session is going to bring forth : nobody can read the future, and things are especially uncertain in politics; but perhaps some member on the Government side may tell me whether, if the Governor-General refuses to grant a double dissolution, the Government will be prepared to abandon their present attitude, and go for a single dissolution ?
– Oh, no: they will resign.
– Will they accept a single dissolution, and take their chance before the people of Australia ? Of course, if the people put the Labour party back into power, the question of the difference with the Senate will be disposed of; but if, on the other hand, the present Government come back with greatly increased strength, it will be a proof to the Senate that, so far as the two test Bills are concerned, the Government have the opinion of the people behind them. I agree with the Attorney-General when he says that the Senate should be elected on a different basis. One of the reasons why I objected at the time to the adoption of the Australian Constitution was because the Senate was not to be elected on a democratic basis. The AttorneyGeneral and equally Conservative gentlemen were then strongly in favour of the Senate being elected as now. I maintained that the Senate should be elected on the popular and democratic vote of the people of Australia. But what would it have meant? It would have meant that Federation would not exist as it does now. It would not be a Federation. It would be a unification such as some gentlemen on this side of the House desire to achieve. I also agree with the Prime Minister that the Senate should not be elected for more than three years. No House of Parliament should be elected for more than three years. No doubt, as a matter of personal feeling, the member of Parliament would wish, once elected, to remain in Parliament for a longer term than is now the case; but men in public life must be prepared to put aside their personal feelings, and view the question from the public stand-point. From that stand-point I agree with the Prime Minister that no House of Parliament should be elected for a longer period than three years. But do those who hold with the Prime Minister hold the same views as to State Parliaments ? On the question of the franchise of the Legislative Council they do not give way; they always fight the matter to the very last ditch. Things are quite different according to their way of thinking when dealing with Legislative Councils. The honorable member for Bourke is right in saying that he is very much afraid that if the present Government come back with a majority here and in the Senate the whole of the seats will be so gerrymandered that the Liberals will have a majority in both Houses for many years to come. To show what a Conservative Government will do when they get a majority we have an illustration in South Australia, where the Conservative, or so-called Liberal, Government brought in a Redistribution of Seats Bill, which cut up the districts in such a way that, on the face of it, it would seem absolutely impossible for the South Australian Labour party to ever again get a majority in the Legislative Assembly, to say nothing of the Legislative Council. And what they did in South Australia honorable members in this House will be only too eager to do. It is the duty of the Opposition to prevent such a state of affairs coming about. We are told on the public platform that the Labour party have prevented the passage of legislation, but my duty as representative of the majority of the electors of Boothby is clear. The 17,000 who voted for me said, ‘“Go into the Federal Parliament, and carry out the Labour platform.” I came here, but I could not do so. What is now my duty ? Seeing that I cannot help to carry out the Labour platform, my duty is to prevent the other party destroying any of the glorious legislation put on the statute-book by the Labour party. If a double dissolution takes place it is my opinion that this is the last Conservative or Liberal Government Australia will ever see. If the Government wipe themselves out of existence by means of a double dissolution, I do not think that Australia will ever again tolerate a Conservative Government to rule over its destinies.
– Seeing that honorable members, particularly on the Government benches, seem to be so tired, I think I might ask the Prime Minister for the adjournment.
– You know the trouncing that you gave me on Friday for adjourning early.
– I cannot understand, and I feel sure the country will not understand, the silence of honorable members on the Government benches. Immediately the real Prime Minister, the man who leads their Caucus, the honorable member for Flinders, has spoken and cracked the whip, what do we find ? Young members who came into the House, and were going to do wonders, are afraid to express their views, because they do not coincide with those of the Attorney-General; they are afraid to give utterance to those feelings that they poured forth on the public platform. Hence we find silence here to-night. I feel sure that their constituents will not be satisfied to be represented by dumb men. For hour after hour I have sat expecting to hear the opinions of these young men, reported to be such excellent platform men ; but not one of them has expressed his views in the House. Why this silence? Simply because the strong man of the party, the honorable member who is compelling them to preach the policy they are embracing, has said, “ You shall not talk.” Is there any body of honorable members in any Parliament more Caucus ridden than honorable members on the Government benches?
– We wish to get on with the real business of the session.
– I wish to show the constituencies the type of men representing them. I challenge these honorable members to get up and give expression to their opinions, so that we may hear them. The Prime Minister was charged the other day with slandering Australia, and an Honorary Minister in another place was also charged with making certain statements that were repeated outside the Commonwealth. In reply the Prime Minister did something that I am told by old Parliamentarians is quite unusual; he quoted from the evidence taken by a Royal Commission that is now sitting, and when I interjected to make sure that I was on right ground as to whether I could do so also, our friends opposite said “ Certainly, you can do so.”
– The interim report is before another Chamber.
– That may be so, but I question whether it is right to quote from the evidence here. However, now that I am released from the embargo I shall quote from the evidence of this Commission to show that the Prime Minister was unfair, and altogether misrepresented the case. I shall endeavour to prove from the evidence what he asked me to prove when I interjected. First of all, I wish to quote Mr. Knibbs, who gave evidence before the Select Committee of the Senate. The Prime Minister quoted Mr, Knibbs to show that there were 170,216 more people on the roll than should be there, but he failed to go further and tell what Mr. Knibbs did say. In reply to question 500, Mr. Knibbs said -
I would say, because of migration, one should expect a number on the roll somewhat greater than the number instantaneously eligible.
By this he meant that there will be always more names on the rolls than there are people in the country.
– “ Somewhat greater “ number, I think he said.
– Mr. Knibbs went on to give the reason -
The inevitable duplication is the only deduction I can make. That is, I think, duplication is inevitable, owing to the conditions existing in Australia, so long as the rolls include everybody in a place that are entitled to vote in that place.
There is a good deal . of Inter-State traffic, is there not? - Yes, it is very large. It amounted in one year to 773,000 persons, roughly.
The Prime Minister would deprive the travelling business men, the wealthy men of pleasure, and the shearers of their votes simply because they go from State to State; and how unjust and unfair it is to lead the country to believe that the rolls are stuffed and “ faked.”
– Who said they are?
– The Prime Minister, by his remarks, led us to believe that such is the case, and he did not quote Mr. Knibbs in full. Mr. Oldham, the Chief Electoral Officer, said -
An excess of enrolment is inevitable; but it is a tribute to the efficacy of the enrolment system in itself that at any given time there is on the rolls an excess of names - more names than are entitled to be enrolled - inasmuch as if that were not so, under the law as it stands, there would be a number not enrolled who really ought to be. I am of opinion, however, that the estimated excess of 175,000 is too great.
That is the opinion of an unbiased witness; and, in the face of the’se facts, a gentleman holding the high and honorable position of Prime Minister of this country tries to mislead the people by misrepresentation. As a member of the Royal Commission, I asked the electoral officers throughout Australia the one question, “Do you believe there was any inflation or stuffing of the rolls for party purposes? “ and not one would answer in the affirmative, because they know very well that it was not so. The term “ dummy “ cards is a misnomer ; they are really interim cards intended to prevent the system, at the time of its inauguration, from depriving a number of people of their votes. Honorable members opposite are so accustomed to “ dummies “ on their side - an example of which we have seen to-night - that they cannot get the idea out of their minds. I understood the Prime Minister, again misrepresenting the facts, to assert in this House that a Labour man was in the booth at Fremantle for five hours.
– I said that a man was in the booth for five hours.
– On this point I wish to quote from the Hobart Mercury, one of the biggest Tory papers in Tasmania, which controlled the destinies of the .tight little island until a Liberal rose to the occasion, and, not with ink, but with potatoes, changed the trend of history - who, by throwing potatoes, brought about a great crisis. The Hobart Mercury of the 14th inst. reported the Prime Minister to have said in this House that a Labour canvasser was in the booth at Fremantle for five hours, and further stated that, when I declared that that evidence was refuted by the Returning Officer, I caused laughter. Now, this reported speech went throughout my constituency, and the good ladies of the Women’s National League, who were assembled not 1,000 miles from here to-day, are fully convinced that a Labour man was in the booth for the time stated. As a matter of fact, however, the person who was in the booth was Mr. Castieau, whose evidence before the Commission clearly showed that he is not a Labour man. When he was giving evidence before the Royal Commission I asked him whether he complained about the Fremantle booth being overcrowded, and it appeared that, although there were a number of officers to whom he might have represented the facts, he preferred to go to some of the Liberal League people and to tell them that they should have a responsible man there to bear out his statements. Mr. Castieau did not make any complaint to the officers at the booth, nor, according to his evidence, did he make any complaint in writing. The Prime Minister, in dealing with this matter, showed his unfairness by quoting a section, and only a small section, of the evidence given. The following is from the minutes of Mr. Castieau’s evidence -
I was five hours in the booth there - from 3 o’clock until the booth closed. I was asked if I had recorded my vote, and I said, “yes.’5 They said, “What are you doing here?” and I said I had as much right to stay as the other people had.
By Mr. Foster. - Were you showing people how to vote? - Absolutely no; I am a justice of the peace.
By Mr. Laird Smith. - And yet you broke the law by refusing to leave the booth? - I was told I had no right there, but I was not asked to go out.
Justice of the peace as he was, Mr. Castieau was breaking the law in remaining in the booth, and the scrutineers did not, it appears, make any complaint. There is no doubt, although I have no evidence to show it, that Mr. Castieau asserted his authority as a justice of the peace, and we know the awe and majesty with which the holder of that office is regarded. Where is the policeman who would put a justice of the peace out of the booth? Mr. Castieau, who resides in another part of Western Australia, voted in Perth as an absent voter, and then he went down to Fremantle, for what pur pose? We shall see from the following extract from his evidence: -
By Mr. Laird Smith. - Were you interested in the return of any particular candidate? - A candidate was a particular friend of mine, and I should have liked to see him returned.
Evidently Mr. Castieau’s friend was not returned, and, therefore, we may assume that he was a supporter of Mr. Hedges, the Liberal candidate. As a justice of the peace he broke the law, because he desired to see the Liberal candidate returned.
– Then Mr. Castieau is not a Labour man?
– He is not, or probably he would have been elsewhere. Then I put the question -
It was not altogether in the interests of purifying the polling booth that you went along?
He replied -
I think it was my duty as a justice of the peace to do what I did.
What right had he as a justice of the peace to break the law? When I asked him whether he thought it was his duty to remain in the booth for five hours and so to break the law, he said -
I did not know that I was breaking the law.
Truly a nice statement to be made by a justice of the peace, who would probably be trying a man next day for doing the same thing. He was sent there in. the interests of the Liberal party.
– The honorable member is attacking this man because I called attention to his evidence.
– The Prime Minister deliberately led the House and the country to believe that a Labour man had been in this booth for five hours. I am now pointing out that it was a member of the Liberal party. I have here a report of a Conservative newspaper, which prides itself on the efficiency of its staff, bearing out my statement that the Prime Minister led the House to believe that this was done by a Labour man.
– Who said such a thing ?
– The Prime Minister did. He is always twisting words.
– That is untrue. I made another statement about a man wearing Labour colours.
– That, also, was not true.
– This witness was asked by Dr. Maloney -
Did not the policeman intimate to you that you had no right to be there?
That is to say, in the booth. He replied -
The Returning Officer told me I had no right there.
But even then he did not go out. He made no complaint to the Returning Officer about people remaining in the booth. Why were they there? Did they go in for fraudulent purposes?
– The honorable gentleman would have had the people of Australia believe that they did.
– This justice of the peace was there to administer the Electoral Act.
– Order !
– Was he a Labour man?
– Order !
– Who said that he was ?
– You did.
– I have already several times called for order, and I again ask honorable members to obey the direction of the Chair.
– I invite honorable members to listen while I give the reason why these people remained in the booth. In reply to Dr. Maloney, this witness said that another gentleman was in the booth “ for hours,” and, when asked whether any one remained there as long as he did, he answered -
I cannot say; but I think so. It was an extraordinarily wet afternoon - -tremendous rain. That was the justification; and I suppose some people would have had to be shoved out.
The witness did not suggest that there was any malpractice. He simply said that these men went into the booth to escape the rain.
– They “ came in out of the wet.”
– Our honorable friends on the Ministerial benches know what it means to “ come in out of the wet.” Finally, this witness, whom the Prime Minister was good enough to quote as bearing out the contention that there had been dual voting, personation, and roll stuffing, said, in reply to the honorable member for Melbourne, that he did not know of any case of personation, nor did he know of any case in which a man or woman had voted twice. I come now to the evidence given by the Chief Electoral Officer for Western Australia - Mr. Cathie. He was asked by the Chairman -
Have there been any charges made against the administration of the Department at the last election?
He answered, “Newspaper charges.” Then the Chairman said -
I wish to know whether there are any direct charges.
To which the witness replied, “No.” Coming to the allegations which have been made in regard to lost ballot-papers and the picking up of ballot-papers in the streets, let me’ read what the Chief Electoral Officer of. Western Australia said on oath. He was asked -
What check do you have at the end of the polling in regard to each Returning Officer as to the supply of voting-papers?
He answered -
After the recent elections instructions were issued to the Returning Officers to count all unused papers, and report any discrepancies. They were counted, but there were no discrepancies.
And yet we were told by honorable members opposite that corruption took place there, and that ballot-papers were found lying in the mud. At the last general election, each of the Divisional Returning Officers had the right to appoint and select his own staff, and exercised that right. These officers selected men who had been engaged for years in carrying out the same class of work. The Chief Electoral Officer at Perth was asked -
Who has the appointment of temporary officers at elections?
He replied -
Under the Act the Divisional Returning Officer is charged with the duty of appointing all officers.
Then he was asked -
Has there been any interference with your authority and independence under the Act?
He answered, “None whatever.” Another member of the Commission - the honorable member for Wakefield - asked the witness -
Did you have any complaints of people voting more than once?
– Does not the honorable member think that we should have this report in our hands, since the honorable member is able to quote from it ?
– Most certainly it is unfair that this evidence should not be available to honorable members generally; but the Prime Minister was the first to quote from it. He challenged me to prove an interjection which I made, and I am now doing so. I had not intended to quote from this report, notwithstanding that the evidence has been published in the press, but the Prime Minister has compelled me to do so.
Mr.fisher. - Is the honorable member actually quoting from a report?
– No. I am quoting from the minutes of evidence. In answer to an interjection, I got permission from the Prime Minister to use this report, and I think that I am right in doing so. It is no pleasure to me to wade through the evidence, but I trust that honorable members will listen attentively to my quotations from sworn evidence by unbiased people - public servants - who have been slandered.
– This is not the only Commission upon which the Prime Minister has commented, both through the press and on the platform.
– Quite so. The Chief Electoral Officer for Western Australia was asked, at Perth -
Did you have any complaints of people voting more than once at the last election?
He replied -
I had no official complaint; but I had verbal statements made to me that So-and-So had voted more than once, and so on.
It was a common thing for voters to appear and bo informed that they had already voted? - That was stated in the press.
But was it not stated by your officers? - No. One elector wrote to me and said he had been informed that he had been impersonated both at Claremont and Cottesloe. I investigated that case, and found that that was not so - that no one had voted in his name.
Let me now quote from the evidence given by the Divisional Returning Officer, Fremantle, a gentleman who has had considerable experience, and who is also unbiased, being a civil servant, knowing practically no politics, and holding the high and honoured position of postmaster at Fremantle. This evidence was given by him -
It has been stated in the press, and probably outside, that, in a certain street in South Fremantle subdivision, each elector voted two or three times; is there any truth in that statement? - Absolutely none.
Is there any justification at all for such a statement? - None whatever.
With regard to the appointment of officers we again have at Fremantle the officer confirming the statement I have already quoted with reference to the whole of Western Australia -
You appoint all your own presiding officers and poll clerks throughout the division? - Yes, with the assistance of the Assistant Returning Officer.
Have you ever been directed to appoint certain persons and to refrain from appointing certain other persons? - Not at the last election; but on a previous occasion I was requested not to appoint a certain person.
That was in 1910, when the Fusion Government were in power -
By Mr. Laird Smith. - That was not at the last Federal election? - No.
By the Chairman. - A previous general election ? - Yes.
And was there some solid reason given why you should not appoint that person? - Yes. ShallI give it?
Perhaps I should not ask you to pass judgment on your superiors, or the Minister, but did the instructions come from the Minister or from the Chief Electoral Officer? - From the Commonwealth Electoral officer. It was not a direct instruction, but it was clear enough for mc not to appoint the person.
That was not under a Labour regime, but under the Fusion party, and yet those lilywhite gentlemen opposite tell the people that we are the people who are responsible for all the bitterness and unfair treatment of electors at the last election. Here is the instruction issued by the late Minister -
You were instructed by the Chief Electoral Officer not to appoint partisans? - That is so.
They did not appoint any partisans during the whole of that election, so far as I know. Here are other questions by the honorable member for Wakefield -
Were any charges of fraud preferred by any one to you? - There were no charges made.
There was some complaint about congested polling booths in Fremantle? - Yes.
Were they very much congested?– They were a little bit crowded; but, as I said before, itwas due to the frightful day- to the people crowding in to get out of the rain - and to the referenda and absent voting.
By Mr. Laird Smith.- Were there, in the majority of the booths, scrutineers duly appointedby the candidates? - Yes.
In each of the booths in Fremantle? - Yes.
Are you of opinion that, had there been any attempt to impersonate or to do any fraudulent voting, that these scrutineers would have discovered it?- You would think so; I take it that they are there to prevent any such possibility.
You use civil servants on your staff as far as possible? - Yes.
Have you an efficient staff? - On the whole, yes.
No undue pressure was brought to bear on you by the Electoral Officer to reduce the staff in any way? - None whatever.
It was left solely to your discretion? - Yes, solely to me.
Were the persons who moved from one subdivision to another, and went to a polling booth other than that of their proper subdivision, able to record their vote? - Yes, if they wished to. Some of them really moved into the subdivision after the printing of the Tolls. In some cases they would have to vote as absent voters
Did the scrutineers make any complaint of impersonation, dual voting, or any breach of the law? - Not to me.
No complaint whatever was made? - No.
I have quoted from the evidence given in the immediate vicinity of the place where the dual voting and personation were supposed to have taken place - the place of refuge which the Prime Minister sought in order to prove his assertion that there was a Labour man in the booth for five hours for improper purposes. I have said sufficient to show that his statement was quite unwarranted. Again, I want honorable members to realize that immediately the Government that now occupy the Treasury bench came into power they caused an inquiry to be made. Had they obtained a tittle of evidence in support of the allegations which had been so recklessly made, would they not have resumed that inquiry upon the advice of their officers? But they did not. So far, we have not been able to discover one concrete instance of impersonation, or of dual voting; or, indeed, of any serious breach of the Electoral Act. It is true that at Toowoomba there was a case of attempted impersonation, but the electoral machinery was so efficient that the would-be impersonator was detected in the act by the scrutineer of the Labour candidate. I consider that the people of Australia have been slandered by those persons who stated that at the recent election dual voting was practised, and that the rolls had been stuffed for the purpose of securing the return of certain candidates to this Parliament. Personally, I believe that everything in connexion with the election was square and above-board; and I regret that I have been forced to touch upon this question by the challenge of the Prime Minister. In regard to the Teesdale Smith contract, a great deal has been heard of a charge which is alleged to have been made against the honour of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs. As a matter of fact, no such charge was levelled at him, and all the talk in this connexion is merely an attempt to sidetrack the main issue. I do not think there is an honorable member of this House that would indulge in any corrupt practice. Certainly, it would not be profitable for any Minister of the Crown to do so, because we have such an honest body of civil servants that he could not do it without the information leaking out. I am aware - and so is the honorable member for Franklin - that in another State corrupt practice by a Minister was indulged in at one time. But how long did that Minister last? I venture to say that no Minister could remain in his position very long if he were guilty of corrupt practice. In connexion with this particular contract, I charge the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs with incapacity. He has endeavoured to throw the responsibility for the Teesdale Smith contract on the late Engineer-in-Chief, who was his adviser. Surely the Minister should be possessed of sufficient ability to enable him to discern whether or not a contractor is asking too high rates. If he is not capable of doing that, he should seek expert advice to guide him. During this debate, we have heard a great deal to the effect that the Government believe in the system of inviting public tenders in connexion with the letting of every contract. But the Assistant Minister “of Home Affairs has himself admitted that no tenders were called for this particular contract. Yet not a word has been uttered in condemnation of his action by honorable members opposite, who had so much to say about “ the man on the job “ during the regime of the late Ministry. The difference between the contract system which is adopted in Queensland, and the system which has been introduced by the present Government, is that under the former undertakings are carried out by direct labour - the representative of the Government directing the men who undertake it upon piece-work. I have had a little railway experience, extending over twenty-one years, and I wish to ask certain questions of the Minister who is in charge of the House this evening. Under the Teesdale Smith contract, the amount payable by the Government is 4s. 6d. per yard for taking the earth out of cuttings, and 2s. 6d. per yard for depositing it on the banks. Mr. Teesdale
Smith is required to take the earth from the cuttings a distance of only 1? chains, before depositing it on the banks. I hope I am speaking to some practical men; and, if so, they will understand that a yard of material taken out of the cutting will probably represent 11/3 yards when it is put into the banks. I am of opinion that Mr. Teesdale Smith is a smart man. Naturally, he will insist upon measurements of material being made in the cuttings, so far as the 4s. 6d. . per yard is concerned; but when it comes to the 2s. 6d. per yard, he will insist upon the measurement being made’ in the banks. What a remarkably good thing he has.
– Is he required to shift the material in the solid or the loose?
– The honorable member knows more about milking cows than he does about railway matters. He is all right on a dairy farm.
– Is the contractor required to shift the material in the solid or the loose ?
– With all due respect to the honorable member, I cannot follow him. I have it on the most reliable authority - from an eminent engineer - that in some contracts for railway construction the contractors have been required to carry the earth from the cuttings on an average a distance of 40 chains before depositing it in the banks. I contend that the Government have been got at owing to their inexperience. They have met a smart business man and’ capable contractor, who is out to get all he possibly can, and I say, “ Good luck to him.” But what about the people who are going to make a great saving? Where does the saving come in when we are paying 7s. a yard for taking this stuff out of the cutting and placing it in the bank? The contractor has really a good thing on. The Minister said the contract price was not ?50,000 or ?60,000, but that it was ?30,000. He subsequently told us that it will amount to ?41,000. Without being a prophet I am going to say that I believe it will cost us ?60,000 or ?67,000 before the Government are done with Mr. Teesdale Smith. I should like to know from the Minister who let the contract whether he will stake his reputation and resign from his present high position if the cost exceeds the ?30,000, or even the ?41,000 which he mentioned.
– To stake his reputation is nothing.
– I mean as a practical man, because the honorable gentleman has made out that he has gone in to reform the Home Affairs Department. He is going to make a great saving, but I fail to see where the saving comes in. Mr. Deane was quoted this afternoon by the honorable member for Yarra, and the quotation was laughed to scorn. It was shown that Mr. Deane gave sworn evidence that the hardest rock material on the transcontinental route could be shifted for 3s. a yard, and because Mr. Deane subsequently recommended that 7s. a yard should be paid our honorable friends tried to laugh the honorable member for Yarra out of court. But it was the same Mr. Deane. Why did he give the sworn evidence which has been referred to? Was it in order to crush Mr. Chinn? If that was not his reason, why did he not stick to his guns, and insist that this rock cutting should be done for 3s. a yard ?
– But it is not rock.
– No, it is not rock. I am credibly informed that before the contract was let not a bore was put down to discover what the strata was.
– Not a single trial hole.
– That is so. Did any one ever hear of such a thing in connexion with a business transaction ? I ask honorable members to listen to this report on the subject of the character of the country through which these cuttings are being made -
Office of the Engineer-in-Chief, 84-88 William-street,
Melbourne, 20th April, 1914.
Department of Home Affairs.
Material taken out of cuttings under Teesdale Smith’s contract.
As instructed by the Minister, I have obtained a report from the Deputy Engineer-in-Chief (who is now at Port Augusta) as to the nature of the material which is being excavated by Mr. Teesdale Smith under his contract.
Mr. Hobler’s wire reads as follows : ; “ Your wire re Contractor Smith’s earthworks. He has thirty-five small scoops working, and is ploughing and scooping tops of some of cuttings, also portions of banks. The cuttings generally, so far as he has opened them up, which is to cutting 119, show that 103 and 104, though fair material on top, have hard cores of reefs of disjointed silicated sandstone, which is too hard to plough, awkward to bore, and bad shooting. Cutting 113, pure sand; 114, hard material, consisting of silicated sandstone mixed with stiff white clay. Anticipate cutting 102 will be hard material similar to 103. Cutting 119, not bad material on top, but indications point to it being hard core, similar to cuttings 103 and 104. Remaining cuttings opened up are generally of good material. Regarding cuttings not yet opened from 119 on, no trial holes sunk. I consider these will be fairly good excavation material throughout, with probably few hard cores. Contractor’s chief difficulty and most unusual expense is that in regard to water. Position with regard to this is causing him heavy expenditure and great anxiety.
Summarized, the information I have obtained is as ‘follows: -
I need not read the summary to honorable members. That is evidence that when the contract was let the Government knew nothing at all of the nature of the country. These are the gentlemen who are going to revolutionize the great public works of Australia. Let us consider the question of day labour. I could not get the necessary papers, and cannot ask questions here, and what I say is subject to correction by Ministers; but I have it on the most reliable authority that the actual cost of construction carried out by day labour under the supervision of the departmental engineer was 3s. 6d. to 4s. a yard in rocky ground, and in soft ground was under 2s., or actually ls. lid., and on side cuttings into banks the cost was ls. 4d. That was with men working on day labour under the engineers, and those men are still on the job. Did honorable members ever hear of anything like it in their lives? We are told that a saving is to be made by keeping an engineer to watch the contractor’s engineer. It reminds me of a friend who had a difficulty with a railway porter, and took a return ticket, and walked back that he might take it out of the Government. That is the position in which the Government are in connexion with this matter. They stop day labour to make a saving, and they bring an engineer along to watch the contractor’s engineer. The contractor appoints his gangers to supervise the carrying out of the work by the very men who were previously carrying it out under the day labour system. The only difference is that under the new contract system we have another engineer at a big price and a number of other supervisors to watch the contractor. Even honorable members opposite do not believe that a contractor is always the most honest of men. It is singular that there should have to be so many supervisors employed to watch a contractor. My friend, the PostmasterGeneral, will bear me out in this. He knows that he has to keep a man on every job to watch the contractor for the construction of a telegraph line.
– The PostmasterGeneral says that he will give the honorable member some hot stuff.
– I hope so. I ask the honorable gentleman whether it is not a fact that he requires to have a supervisor who thoroughly understands the work to watch the work of the boss whom the contractor puts on in order to see that he digs the holes of the telegraph poles sufficiently deep, and that he does not cut the bottoms off the poles to make it appear that they have been sunk 4 feet in the ground when they have only been sunk 2 feet.
– The honorable member knows both sides of the question.
– Yes, I am the son of a contractor. Every bit of his work was passed by the inspector. But there was an inspector to supervise it. The Government finally conceived the idea of doing this work itself-, and thus saved thousands of pounds. I have not time to go into details, but the figures that I have quoted show that the work could be done with day labour for £30,000 less than it will cost under contract. With the day labour system, the engineer who is responsible to the Minister would carry out the work himself. ‘ I shall watch the work most carefully, to discover whether the Minister’s estimate of £41,000, or mine of £67,000, will be the nearer to the actual cost. If I am right, the contractor will make a profit of £30,000 on the job. I wish for more information concerning the railway. According to the Age, a tender has been accepted for a survey of 110 miles of route in South Australia for’ £4,400, or £40 a mile. Was that tender advertised for in the usual way? I wish to know what has become of the six surveyors who were on the staff when a return was furnished to this House. Where are they now? If two surveyors at the Kalgoorlie end could make a deviation of something like 100 miles, and still keep ahead of the construction work, why cannot the same thing be done at the Port Augusta end? It is said that the Government entered into a contract with
Mr. Teesdale Smith to expedite construction, and to enable its expensive tracklaying plant to continue at work without interruption. I ask what has become of the excavating plant, and all the other facilities provided at Fort Augusta for carrying on the work without interruption? The return from which I have quoted shows that on. the 31st December last there were 620 men, exclusive of the staff, engaged on the line. The honorable member for Grey pointed out that when the contract was entered into Mr. Teesdale Smith’s plant was 150 miles in a direct lino from Port Augusta, and would have to be taken 400 miles by land and sea to get it to Port Augusta. Is there anything to show that this gentleman will carry out his work within the promised time? What is to prevent him from breaking the contract? How often have we not known contracts to be broken, and the contractors to make more than they would have made by carrying out their contracts? It is the extras that give the contractors their profits. I wish to know if the Mr. Teesdale Smith who has accepted this contract is the gentleman who constructed the Adelaide tramways, and whether any extras were paid on that contract? Is he the gentleman who constructed the north coast railway of New South Wales, and did he receive extras in that case? Is he the gentleman who constructed the line from Gawler to Port Augusta, and did he receive extras for that work? In every State a vast amount has been paid for extras in connexion with railway contracts. In Tasmania a contractor retired soon after the contract was entered into, and got’ something like £5,000 on retiring.’ I have heard of other contractors constructing a railway quickly, and then working it in their own interests. Ministers, to satisfy their supporters, who have a prejudice against day labour, have hurriedly entered into a contract which, I feel sure, will be disastrous to the Commonwealth. I am told that some of the plant which belongs to the Government has been lying about anywhere since the day labour system was discontinued.
– A great deal of it was lying about before then.
– That is merely a rumour. The Leader of the Opposition told us that a man who may have been sitting up all night because of illness at home, and, consequently, could not work so’ well as was required of him, may therefore have been cited as “ the loafer on the job.” The plant which the honorable member saw lying about might have been in charge of some one . who was away on sickness. I would not brand any set of men as loafers. Men work, not for the dirty lucre, but because of the interest they take in what they are doing. The gangers employed under the day labour system were a most able body of men, and, I understand, have found employment in private enterprises, showing their capacity for their work. The penalty for nob carrying out this contract in time is £5 a day, so that if the work takes nine months to complete the contractor will have to pay only £750 in penalties.
– But there is a forfeit of £1,000 besides.
– Well, £1,750 would not be very much, considering the size of the contract. In view of the cost of getting labour, I feel sure the contractor will prefer to be nine months over the work, and to pay the penalty. I should like to have leave to continue my remarks to-morrow.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
The following paper was presented: -
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway- H. Teesdale Smith’s contract for earthworks.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I ask the Prime Minister if he has any objection to the printing of the paper which has just been presented by the Clerk on behalf of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs?
– I take it that copies of all the essential documents relating to the contract are among the papers which have been laid on the table. It is necessary that we should know that all the essential papers have been presented, and that they should be printed.
– Order ! I understood the honorable member intended . to conclude with a motion.
– I moved the adjournment of the House, sir.
– It is customary for an honorable member addressing the Chair to rise in his place to move a motion.
– I cannot move a motion, but any Minister can do so now.
.- I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the drawings in regard to the sections of the line are available? If they are ready and could be laid upon the table with the other papers it would be a very great help to us in discussing the question of the contract.
– Will the Prime Minister lay upon the table the papers containing the terms of the contract entered into with Messrs. Lawrence and Chalmers in connexion with the survey of the transcontinental railway ?
– Or on the Library table.
– Yes, that will do.
.- I hope that all the essential papers have been laid on the table. I have no other desire than that honorable members should be made aware of all that took place in regard to this transaction. As regards the sections, I shall inquire in the morning and let the honorable member for Herbert know. With regard to the contract for surveying, is it a recent contract to which the honorable member for Maribyrnong refers?
– A contract with Lawrence and Chalmers for a survey at, I think, £40 a mile.
– Does the honorable member mean the survey which the firm have completed?
– They have completed a survey for a certain distance.
– But this is a new contract.
– Is the honorable member referring to a survey of the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, or a line from Oodnadatta northwards?.
– The line from Port Augusta westward.
– I understand that Messrs. Lawrence and Chalmers have surveyed two or. three sections. Which contract does the honorable member refer to?
– The papers in connexion with the survey contracts.
– Does the honorable member mean a contract for a survey of the transcontinental line or any contract anywhere?
– I am asking particularly for the contract for a survey of the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.
– I know that the firm did survey a line from Oodnadatta to the MacDonnell Ranges, or in that direction, some time ago. I understand that the contract was given to the firm by the late Government. Does the honorable member want those papers tabled ?
– You can put them on the table if you like, but it was the others that I asked for.
– I shall be glad to give the whole of the papers, or any information, with reference to these matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 April 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140421_reps_5_73/>.