5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawnto a poster entitled Cook’s Latest, which asserts that names have been removed from the rolls, and that electors are not being enrolled. Is there any truth in the statements in the poster?
– I have a copy of the poster, which has been circulated all about the place, and I should like to put this specimen of a Labour lie into Hansard right at the beginning of the contest.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I have called for order several times, and shall name the next honorable member who refuses to obey the direction of the Chair to keep silence.
– It was said a few days ago in Melbourne, by a member belonging to the organization opposed to us, that this was going to be the dirtiest, campaign that had ever been known, and this poster is an evidence of that. It is headed -
The police are taking names off the roll, but will put none on.
The police are not taking names off the roll. That is for the officials of the Electoral Department to do, when they have ascertained in the proper way - in the way provided for by honorable members opposite - that those names ought not to be there. When the officials have discovered that there are names on the rolls which have no right to be there, they put into operation machinery designed for the purpose by honorable members opposite, and these officials are men who have been selected for their work by the Public Service Commissioner. To say that “ Cook “ has anything to do with the removal of names from the rolls is a slander and a lie. Here are other statements : - 75,000 Labour voters disfranchised.
Labour voters must act at once, as rolls close immediately.
The police are collecting State rolls, but not Federal.
I do not know what is meant by that.
– The honorable gentleman does know.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is out of order.
– These are further statements:-
You may be fined £2 if you do not see to your enrolment at once.
Save £2, and got on the rolls.
The Senate Labour Six: Gardiner, Grant, McDougall, Rae, Smith, and Watson.
I should not like my name to be associated with a tissue of lies such as that.
– I ask the Prime Minister under whose authority is the leaflet printed? Is there any imprint on it?
– It is not in order to ask a question arising out of the Prime Minister’s reply.
Mr.BENNETT. - In view of the fact that this circular has been issued so largely, and no doubt with intention, will the Prime Minister give us an opportunity of viewing the supplementary roll before an election is taken upon it?
– I hope that every facility will be given for the rolls to be made available to all sides.
– Has the Prime Min ister any further communication to make to the House, and to the country, regarding the reasons given to His Excellency the Governor-General by his responsible advisers for the dissolution of both Houses of this Parliament, and His Excellency’s reply thereto? I am sure that the country desires the information..
– I have already told the House, and the country, and my right honorable friend as well, all that has been written by His Excellency on the subject. There is nothing more to be said, and I have not the slightest intention at present of doing anything more than has been done. Why this feverish desire for the documentsby honorable members opposite?
– It is the usual thing to produce the papers in a case of this kind.
– It has never been done in the history of the Federation. I see too much of what is going on elsewhere to be willing to play into the hands of those who wish to make these papers into a football during the election. Matters of this kind should be kept high and dry above party politics.
– Has the Prime Minister any communication to make as to the date of the dissolution, the issue of new writs, and the date of the election ?
– We hope to adhere to the polling day already agreed upon, 5th September, which seems to be as suitable a date as we can suggest. Beyond that, no final arrangements have yet been made.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the other dates mentioned - 20th July for the dissolution, and the 7th August for nominations - will be adhered to?
– At the present time, I am unable to make any further statement in regard to the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister give facilities and opportunity for the discussion and passing of the Constitution Alteration Bills in this House, or will he recommend the Governor-General to refer the proposed alterations of the Constitution for the decision of the people at the coming election?
– I do not know whether my right honorable friend is serious.
– I am.
– Then it comes to this: that the right honorable gentleman thinks that I so misapprehend my responsibilities that I should be willing to recommend the Governor-General to submit to the country a set of proposals in which I do not believe ! It is open to my honorable friends to take their own course in regard to these measures, and, if they see fit, to recommend the Governor-General to refer their proposals to the country; but I shall not do so in the exercise of my responsibility. The reason why I think that the measures should not be discussed in this House is that the Government do not propose to introduce any fresh controversial business. Why, therefore, should we facilitate discussion of these controversial measures which belong to honorable members opposite?
– Will you give us time to discuss them?
– I am afraid I do not. see my way clear to do that.
– Will the Government give facilities for a vote to be taken in this House on each of the six Bills for the alteration of the Constitution?
– Since I first announced the arrangement which the Government propose to make in regard to the dissolution, the right honorable gentleman has on almost every day asked for something or other to be done. I do not see my way clear to facilitate these proposals being dealt with at all. I do not believe in them ; I do not want to facilitate them. I believe that it would be an infinite injury to the country if facilities were given for them to be dealt with. Holding those views, how can I be fairly asked to facilitate their passage through this House?
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he has been informed that an industrial dispute has arisen in connexion with Government works at. Port Augusta through the Government declining to pay the rates and observe the conditions prescribed in the Waterside Workers’ award ? The matter has been brought under ray notice, and, if the honorable gentleman is not aware of it, will he make immediate inquiries? I have instructed the men to continue working, but it is extremely difficult to get them to do so.
– If the matter is a recent affair, it has not come under my notice.
– It is in connexion with the unloading of the steam-ship Innamincka.
– That has not come under my notice. I will have inquiries made, so that men in the employment of the Commonwealth Government may enjoy the same benefits as are enjoyed by men who are not in our employment.
– The honorable member for Darwin is reported to have stated that the Customs Houses at Strahan, Burnie, and Stanley have been closed, and he is also reported to have accused the Government of having done this with intent. Assuming the honorable member to have been correctly reported, I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the statements are in any way correct?
– My notice was drawn this morning to the report in which the honorable member for Darwin is said to have referred to the proposed closing of the Customs Houses at Strahan, Burnie, and Stanley as “ one of Mr. Cook’s tricks to further the interest of large merchants, and with a view to concentrating business in the city at the expense of the poorer man.”
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear !
– Honorable members have a right to say “Hear, hear!” seeing that the whole statement is an absolute inaccuracy. The position is this : In the ordinary course of inspection of outports by the inspector attached to the Central Staff, it came under notice that the bonds at Strahan, Burnie, and Devonport (not Stanley) were being kept open for an infinitesimal amount of business. There is no bond at Stanley. The amounts collected as charges on goods stored in these bonds during the previous twelve months were as under: - Strahan, £1 6s. 7d.; Burnie, £2 2s.10d. ; Devonport, £5 8s.10d. The rent paid for a bonded store at Devonport was £20 per annum, and at Burnie £8 per annum. The fees collected at the three places were only about equal to the rent of one alone. Owing to the revestment of premises at Devonport, the disparity between rent paid and fees received would have been much greater in the future. At Burnie, the most important of the ports named, from the point of view of Customs revenue, the inspector reported that there have been only fifteen transactions at the bond during the last four years. The inspector recommended that, in such circumstances, these bonds should be closed. This was indorsed by the Comptroller-General, and on the latter’s recommendation, approved by the Minister, the closing is to take place on the 30th June. The honorable member for Darwin is quite in error in referring to the closing of the Customs Houses at the outports named. It is not proposed to close the Customs Houses in these places at all. My regret is that members, before they make these statements, will not first of all communicate with the Department. In this case the honorable member for Darwin has made a statement that we propose to do something which we do not propose to do, and on that a grossly unfair charge has been brought against the Prime Minister.
– Inasmuch as I understand that the Liberal party do not hold a caucus, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will give public repudiation to the statement published in the Age yesterday-
– Order ! Questions founded on newspaper paragraphs are not in order.
– Well, I ask the Prime Minister whether a caucus of the Liberal party was held during the past few days to discuss industrial matters?
– The question is not in order.
– I should like to answer, if I may.
– Order !
– No, they have not been discussed.
Teesdale Smith Contract
– Can the Honorary Minister say whether there is any truth in the allegation that has been made that, under the direction of the Commonwealth Railway Department, a day-work gang has been put on to finish Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract?
– If the honorable member will put on the notice-paper any question he wishes to ask in regard to the contract referred to, I shall be happy to answer him .
Punishment of Cadet - Solitary Confinement
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence have full inquiries made in regard to the circumstances in which a young cadet named Charles A. Spong was fined in the Essendon Police Court for an offence against the regulations? The cadet had appeared on parade without a uniform, and was ordered to go to his home, and return in uniform, but the boy’s father, thinking that his son would be too late for that parade, detained him at home, and, in consequence, the boy was fined for having disobeyed the order of his officer.
– I shall ask the Minister of Defence to look into the circumstances the honorable member has detailed.
– Can the Honorary Minister say whether, under the last Administration, when Senator Pearce was Minister of Defence, four cadets were not put in solitary confinement for breaches of regulations?
– I shall endeavour to get an answer to the question submitted by the honorable member by to-morrow.
– Why is the Electoral Department striking the names of mariners from the rolls by refusing to recognise their ships as their residences ?
– I know nothing whatever about the matter, but I shall have inquiries made.
– Seeing that some of the country electorates in Queensland are so extensive, can the Prime Minister say approximately what period there will be between the issue of the new rolls and the issue of writs, so that there will be opportunity for electors to see whether their names are on the rolls?
– I do not quite see the bearing of the question. The Government will do all they can within the law to see that a clean roll is presented to the electors. More than that I cannot say.
– It seems that the Prime Minister does not understand the question. From Charleville, the seat of administration in Maranoa so far as electoral matters are concerned, to the furthest outposts of the division, a journey by coach takes exactly two weeks. I wish to know if the Minister will give us time after the printed rolls - or the clean rolls, as the Prime Minister calls them - get to those outlying places, so that we can see that every one who is entitled to be on the roll is there, or, if not, is placed on the supplementary roll. Also I wish to know what period the Minister proposes to give between the date of the issue of the printed roll from Charleville, and the issue of the writs, which will be the last opportunity for getting names on the rolls?
– I understand that, at present, all the rolls are being’ printed.
– Not in New South Wales
– Yes, in New South Wales.
– The rolls for many of the subdivisions have not yet been received.
– I am aware of that; but that does not take away from what I am saying, namely, that the rolls are being printed - in all the States. All contracts for printing stipulate that the rolls are to be completed within the month. Therefore, within a month we shall have the rolls ready. Then there will be two months until the day of the election.
– That is not the point.
– How long will there be before the issue of the writs?
– This is my answer : The Government will give the fullest possible time consistent with, getting, as far as possible, clean rolls.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, on the last occasion of the printing of the rolls, it was found that the Government Printing Office in New South Wales could not turn out rolls in the time specified, and the work had to be hawked all over Sydney, and farmed out to any place that could do it? Will the Prime Minister take steps on this occasion to satisfy himself that the rolls can be printed in the time specified, seeing that the New South Wales Government Printing Office is not to be relied on in this regard?
– Some of the rolls are being printed elsewhere on this occasion ; but, as to those which have gone to the Government Printing Office in Sydney, I can only say that I received the assurance of the Government Printer, Mr. Gullick, who is a thoroughly competent man, that he could do them within a month if he got the copy. This assurance was given in the presence of .the Premier and Mr. Cann.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs received from the Government of New South Wales any of the money spent by the Commonwealth Government last year in connexion with the quarantining of Sydney ?
– No money has yet been received. We are pressing the claim for it, and intend doing so.
– Some weeks ago, the Postmaster-General promised to make some inquiries into the grievances of the telegraphists employed in the Brisbane Post Office. Is he yet in a position to make any statement regarding the matter ?
– An officer has visited Brisbane to inquire into the matter, and has made certain recommendations by which the hours that the telegraphists were compelled to work may be materially altered. If possible, I propose to visit Brisbane nest week and look into the matter.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he knows anything about a political cartoon which has been issued, in which the Treasurer is shown as preventing the Leader of the Opposition from taking away the old-age pensions, and whether he thinks it is fair political combat.
– The honorable member will see that that is not a proper question to be asked. The Treasurer cannot reply to that question.
– I ask whether the Treasurer is responsible for the issue of this caricature ?
– The honorable member may ask that question, but he certainly did not submit his question in that way.
– I ask whether the Treasurer was responsible for the issue of the picture depicting him standing between the Leader of the Opposition and an old man, the object of the picture being to show that the Treasurer was trying to prevent the Leader of the Opposition from taking the old-age pension from the old man 1
– I am not in any way responsible for the cartoon. The foundation of it was that I was the first Treasurer to pay old-age pensions under the Act. There was an amendment of the Act proposed, which, if carried, would have prevented the payment being made.
– Is “it the law of the Commonwealth that the Electoral Registrars have to be satisfied as to each applicant for a claim card for electoral enrolment before issuing it? Is it not a fact that in New South Wales candidates have applied for thousands of claim cards to be issued to them; and, if so, will the practice be discontinued?
– I am afraid that both parties are making application for claim cards, so that there is much of a muchness on either side. It is a fact that every claim card has to be investigated and scrutinized, and no name is placed on the roll until it has been ascertained that it has a right to be there. It is, however, quite a different proposition in regard to purging the rolls, which seems to be very much more difficult.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1, 2, and 3. The recent visit of the High Commissioner was undertaken on leave of absence for private business granted by the last Government and subsequently confirmed by me as Minister for the time being. Advantage was taken of the High Commissioner’s visit to Australia to discuss with him various official matters practically covering the whole of the chief heads of business with which the High Commissioner’s Office is charged in respect of the United Kingdom, the Continent, and the United States of America.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1.Yes, to rank of Colonel; on the recommendation of the Military Board.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
When is it proposed to start the work in connexion with the Port Lincoln Sub-naval Base?
– No date can yet be definitely stated. It may be mentioned that in Admiral Henderson’s recommendations regarding the order in which works should be taken in hand, Port Lincoln is placed in the second stage, i.e., after necessary works at Sydney, Fremantle, Port Western, Thursday Island, Brisbane, and Port Stephens.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
What parts of the Temple of Peace table were partly prepared by the firm of Messrs. Robertson and Moffat at their factory at Post Office-place ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
Messrs. Robertson and Moffat state that the whole of the table was polished throughput by them, at their own factory at Post Office-place, Melbourne, and that the table was then fitted up by them. All locks, handles, hinges, pushbolts, &c., were put on by the firm after the table was polished.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Dissolution - Cockatoo Island Dock - Old-age Pensions: Inmates of Institutions - State of Finances : Public Works Expenditure - Representation at Madrid Postal Conference - Telephone Construction : Guarantees - Tariff Reform - Electoral Reform - Appointment of GovernorGeneral and Governors - Federal Territory Works - Workmen’s Compensation Law - Rural Workers’ Wages - Maritime Wireless Company’s Contract - Supply of Telegraph and Telephone Material - Tenders for Post Office Works: Day Labour - Preference in Government Employment - Appointment of Divisional Returning Officers - Purging of Rolls: Mariners’ Votes - Designs for Federal Houses of Parliament - Tasmanian Shipping - Der went Naval Base - Typothetæ: Inter-State Commission’s Report - Military Appointments - Postal Department Appointments.
In Committee of Supply:
Consideration resumed from 12th June (vide page 2139), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That a sum not exceeding £3,060,026 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1915.
.- On Friday I was referring to the refusal of the Government to grant the House any information regarding the memorandum or memoranda placed before the GovernorGeneral in connexion with the double dissolution. I felt justified in taking up my then attitude, inasmuch as a great constitutional question has arisen in the history of Federation, and it is the duty of the Government, not only to this House, but to the country, to give the fullest possible information. I admit that the Prime Minister has, within the last few minutes, refused to give any information; but I enter my protest, which I hope will go to the country, against such a stand being taken by the Government. It suggests that the Prime Minister has something behind, and is not prepared to meet the country with that full information to which it is entitled. We are, as I say, face to face with a great constitutional issue on which the two Houses are to be dissolved at once. This has never occurred before, and may not occur again for years to come. Yet we cannot get at the bed-rock facts - we cannot obtain that statement which fell from the lips or pen of the Attorney-General, expressing in detail the reasons which have prompted the Governor- General to grant the dissolution. This is a course of action on the part of the Government that deserves every possible censure, and I sincerely trust that this side of the House will continue to fight until we are placed in possession of the actual facts of the situation. I do not know what other members are prepared to do, but, personally, I am prepared to sit here and tie up Supply until we have the statement to which I have referred. A few days ago I saw from the public press that the Prime Minister had declared that this memorandum must not be disclosed. A day or two afterwards I read a statement from the Private Secretary to the Governor-General, repudiating this assertion, and saying that no such statement had emanated from the Governor-General.
– Wherein is the discrepancy?
– I have not at hand the statement made by the Private Secretary to the Governor-General, but the honorable gentleman will find that it is to the effect I have mentioned. In view of the importance of the question, and the desire of honorable members opposite to bring about what they describe as a reform of the Senate, is it not absolutely essential that we should have this information? The action taken means, I shall not say the abolition of the Senate, but the nullifying of its powers, and the constitutional point at issue is so great that we should have the fullest information regarding it.
– The honorable member’s concern for the Senate, which is supposed to represent minorities - which is supposed to be an Upper House - is quite touching.
– I am not much concerned with the question as to whether it represents majorities or minorities, but I object to the interruption of the honorable member. If, in effect, the Senate is to be absolutely dependent upon a vote of this House - if there is to be a double dissolution directly it rejects a second time any Bill passedby this House - surely we ought to have placed before us the memorandum prepared by the AttorneyGeneral dealing with the constitutional aspect of the question, upon which the GovernorGeneral took action. As it is, we are in complete ignorance of necessary facts which ought to be disclosed for our guidance. The attitude taken up by the Government on this question deserves the censure of the House, and I trust that when we go to the country it will receive the censure of the people. Let me pass now to certain propositions that the Government are now putting before us. Within the last few days the Treasurer has expressed pleasure at the fact that the Labour party, whilst in power, were able to provide out of revenue for our naval and military defence schemes. I now find him fighting for the right to borrow for naval and military purposes. Where does the right honorable gentleman stand ? What position does he really take up? Would he favour the cost of naval and military defence being provided for out of revenue, or does he really think that it should be provided for out of loan? Leaving that point, I would remind honorable members that for some time the Government have been telling us that the whole question of Tariff reform has been placed in the hands of the Inter-State Commission, and that the Tariff cannot be dealt with in any way until the Commission has investigated every case that could possibly come before it in respect of trade, commerce, and industry. We now find the Minister of Trade and Customs and his colleagues expressing a readiness to rectify Tariff anomalies immediately. They propose to go to the country with a cry of that sort. How unfair and untrue it is. The position is that the Government and their supporters will try to gull the public in this way, and if they are successful at the polls they will do nothing with the Tariff. They will have three years of office, and studiously refrain from resurrecting the Tariff question.
– They will not come back to office again.
– I hope they will not. Another change in their attitude is in respect of constitutional amendments for the purpose of electoral reform. We have heard so much from the great brains of the Liberal party as to the sacredness of the Commonwealth Constitution that it is surprising to learn that they are prepared now to favour such an amendment of it as will permit of electoral reform in a certain direction. They propose a proportional scheme of representation for the Senate and preferential voting for the House of Representatives. They alsostate that they are in favour of the initiative and referendum. But what has been their attitude all along to the Referenda Bills that have been sent down from another place? The Leader of the Opposition asked this afternoon that an opportunity should be given this House to deal with them; but his request was refused. The Government will not give us that opportunity, and are not prepared to give the people a chance to vote upon the referenda questions. What, then, is the meaning of this change of front on the part of the Ministry in respect of electoral reform? Is it that they have found themselves handicapped by the present electoral system in their efforts to defeat the Labour party. Their hopes and anticipations were that the Labour party would never enter the Senate. Sir William McMillan, speaking at the Convention, referred to a position in the Senate as likely to be the blue ribbon of Australian political life. It was thought that no one would dare enter those sacred doors who had not wealth enough to cover the country, and whose superior position did not place him on a pedestal; that we, the hobnailed people, would not dare to enter there. Now that we have entered, and the people recognise our status, they desire the alteration of the Constitution to provide for the initiative and referendum. But I must leave that subject, because my time is limited, and there is another to which I wish to make reference. The Prime Minister said a day or two ago that he knew nothing of a report of which we have heard much in the press recently, a report relating to a property worth nearly £1,000,000, and for which £75,000 is asked to make it effective; I refer to the Fitzroy Dock. It has been said in the press that I bring in the Fitzroy Dock as Mr. Dick used to bring in King Charles’ head. Well, King Charles is dead, and I do not mind kicking his skull about. Mr. King Salter, reporting on the position of affairs at the dock, has thrown on the shoulders of the men employed there the chief responsibility for its inefficiency. I repudiate the charge. I say that the inefficiency is to be placed, not on the men, but on the Naval Department. The inefficiency that he speaks of, and any consequent injury to the vessel which may be launched a couple of years hence, is not the fault of the men, certainly not of the Australian workmen employed on Cockatoo Island. I challenge the Naval Department and Mr. King Salter to refute my statement that 90 per cent, of the men on the Island today have been brought from Great Britain. Mr. King Salter wishes to introduce the old-world methods of working, and these men say, “ We have obtained improved conditions in Australia, and are not going back to the slavery that we suffered in England.”
– Piece-work !
– Mr. King Salter wants piece-work, but he wants something more. Mr. Justice Heydon, when, for the first time in the history of our people, piecework was imposed on the engineering trade, found that we were so bitterly opposed to it that he tied up his award in such a way that no employer would take advantage of it. In the first place, the normal wage earned under the time system must be paid. Further, men must have 5 per cent, additional for piecework, whether the output is greater or not, and must be permitted to earn up to 50 per cent, above the normal rates before any attempt is made to reduce their pay. The employers do not want a piece-work system that safeguards the interests of the men. They want a system under which they can take the smartest man at a trade or calling, and make him a sort of bell-wether of the flock, every other man being forced to work at the same rate, or receiving proportionately less. This has been the damnation of the engineering trade in England. The VickersMaxim Company has a bonus system ; Hawthorn Leslie, Thorneycroft, the Greenock Company, the Palmer Company, and Thames Limited pay time rates. The Yarrow, Clydebank, and John White companies pay bonuses. The Dumbarton and Cammell-Laird companies pay piece-work, but as to Parsons and the Wallsend companies I have no information. Mr. King Salter came from Chatham Dockyard, which is known as the scrap yard of England, and a “ scab “ yard. He seeks, not alone to introduce piece-work, but to get all the “scab” labour he can, building the vessels with low-paid labour.
– Such men will give bad work.
– Yes, every time. Have I not seen it myself? I have known vessels to be built with lead rivets inserted instead of steel. Vessels have been turned out of some dockyards in that way. Such a thing must not happen here. If the Minister of Defence, or the Ministry, attempts this sort of thing, we shall not be afraid to close down Fitzroy Dock, whether vessels of war are built or are not built. The inefficiency for which the men are blamed is the fault of the Defence Department. There are two destroyers on the slips to-day almost ready for launching; but when they are launched they will have to be tied up to the wharf. They cannot put the boilers in, because they have not yet got the plates out, and hundreds of tons of machinery have yet to come from the Old Country. Neither Mr. King Salter nor Mr. Cutler, but the Naval Board, is to blame for any inefficiency, and for not getting out material which would enable the work to be done efficiently. What is the position of the Brisbane? She is practically plated up efficiently but for one great heavy plate which has not been brought out yet. They are boring holes to test the strength of the basement on which the slip is built, to see whether the launching will go off effectively, but when the vessel is launched, they will not have machinery to put into her. They tell us that they cannot get the necessary supply of labour; but they can get labour if they will pay the rates that are paid by outside establishments. They will not pay these rates except to new-comers.
– What is meant by newcomers ?
– Men who have recently come from England, whether working men or officers. Three years ago I knew nearly every man on Cockatoo Island; to-day I know scarcely one. Although the Minister of Defence issued the instructions that, ability being proved, Australian workmen should have preference, men who have been in the service for twenty-five years are being cast out every day, new men taking their places. When an Australian workman asks for an increase of pay he is refused it, but when his place has been taken by a new man, that new man gets the increase. Those are facts that I know of, and speak of with assurance. Is it to be wondered that they cannot get the men? There is no dearth of labour, but they wish to reduce the status of the workmen. They wish to get all the skilled hands they can, and to introduce underpaid labour, with a hope that they may thus reduce the cost of the vessels that are building.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am pleased to see the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in the chamber, because it is my intention to touch on a subject with which he proposes to deal by a motion of which he has given notice on the businesspaper. The Treasurer said that he was the first Commonwealth Treasurer to pay old-age pensions; I hope that he will add to his fame by agreeing to some of the proposals that I shall make this afternoon.We know that the cost of living has increased considerably of late, and that old-age pensioners are not able to live in decent comfort on their present pensions.
– The honorable member has stated that he proposes to discuss a matter covered by a notice of motion that has been placed on the businesspaper by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. He will not be in order in doing that. He may refer incidentally to the old-age pension system, but he must not discuss the motion of which notice has been given.
– I thought that motion had disappeared. The old-age pensioners are now in a deplorable condition, and many honorable members would be pleased if the Government brought forward again the Bill introduced last session, which Ministers hesitated about pushing on with because they found the Opposition unanimously in favour of it.
– The honorable member may speak of the need for increasing the old-age pensions, but he may not definitely refer to that proposal.
– I have not very much to say on the matter, but I hope that what I shall say will he sufficient to induce the Treasurer to agree to the suggestions which I am about to make, and that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will have a word or two to say on the subject. It will be a pity for the Parliament to come to an end before the Government has done something for our old friends.
– Will the honorable member help me?
– I shall do my very best.
– You are all very friendly just now.
– It might suit the Treasurer to be more friendly towards our old people. They would be delighted if he closed his career as Minister by doing something of the kind that I am about to propose. Many of them have had to go into State institutions, because the pensions were not sufficient to enable them to live in comfort. When these old people forfeit their pensions and go into institutions the Commonwealth makes a profit of 2s. per head. . That amount might very well be paid to the old people in the institutions. When a pensioner is not receiving sufficient to pay rent and keep himself in food and clothing, he makes application for admission into one of the State institutions; and if he is drawing a pension he has no trouble in getting in. The Commonwealth pays the institution 8s. per week for his keep, and that 2s. which the Commonwealth thus saves might very well be paid to the pensioner. Many female pensioners, too, are obliged to enter these institutions, and they are treated in the same manner. If the Commonwealth would pay the 2s. which at present is saved, the Government would be doing a great service to our old friends, which the whole of the people of Australia would be grateful for. I believe the Treasurer will agree to something of this nature, because this matter has been discussed frequently in this chamber, and if a vote were taken almost every member would show his sympathy with an increased pension to our old friends. Many of our invalid pensioners, who have to buy medicine, find the 10s. a week allowed by the Commonwealth insufficient to maintain them in ordinary comfort. The invalid pensioners are not very great in number, and even if the Government are not prepared to increase the old-age pension, they might, at any rate, take into consideration the possibility of giving an increased pension to our invalid friends. Last session the claims of the blind people were brought before the Chamber, and I think the Treasurer expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth is not treating them with anything like liberality. Other members have expressed similar views, and it is due from the Government that they should formulate some scheme to pay the blind people the full amount that is being paid to the old-age pensioners. The number of blind people who are eligible for a pension is about 2,700, and, as many of them are at present receiving a pension, the proposal I am making will not mean a very heavy increased expenditure. The aged, blind, and invalid pensioners are all contributing to the revenue of the Commonwealth, and many of them have paid a good deal more in taxation than will ever be returned to them. Many countries of the old world have a contributory system of pensions; but inAustralia our revenue is sufficient to provide our aged and invalid people with a pension without imposing any additional taxation on them.
– You do not suggest pensions on a contributory basis?
– No; but our opponents have suggested that. I say that the country is rich enough to provide for a full and sufficient pension from revenue. A matter of serious importance is the number of blind people who are to be seen begging in the streets; and, if only to remove those people from that form of obtaining a livelihood, the Government should long ago have taken into consideration the possibility of providing them with a pension. In some of the institutions a few of the blind people are earning decent wages. If they are earning 10s., they receive a pension of 10s. per week; but if they get a rise of 2s. 6d. or 5s. per week, that amount is taken off their pension, so that there is no inducement to them to become energetic. Many, who are not energetic, are receiving a full pension; and I say that it is the duty of the Government to pay the blind people a full pension without any restriction in regard to their earnings. From the few speeches made on this subject last session, I had come to the conclusion that the Government intended bringing forward some scheme which would provide pensions for our blind folk. We know that if the
Government could, by any means, bring forward a measure to place pensions on a contributory basis, they would do so.
– The AttorneyGeneral said he would do it if he had his way.
– But he will not get his way in that matter. The people of Australia do not desire our aged people to contribute towards their pensions. There are many people in Australia who are drawing handsome pensions, and who have not contributed in any way to such pensions. No one objects to them drawing pensions, because, no doubt, they have rendered valuable service to the community, but their services were not more valuable than those which many of the oldage pensioners rendered. They contributed all they possibly could to the country, and made it possible for the people following them to produce greater wealth and bear heavier taxation. The Government have an idea of introducing a Bill to provide pensions for members of the Military Forces, but our first duty is to see that our old-age pensioners are properly treated, seeing that to them we owe much of our present prosperity and the development of the country. That is why I say it would be a pity to allow Parliament to close without some reason being given by the Government as to why they are not making more adequate provision for the old-age pensioners.
– The reason is that you would not allow us to do anything.
– Then why did the Government not resign?
– Did you ever hear of a majority resigning?
– The Government had not a majority or they would have brought forward these measures. The matter of pensions was of a noncontentious character, and would have had the whole-hearted support of all members.
– You talk that way, but I could not pass a two-clause Postal Amendment Bill last session.
– Much has been said regarding the rural workers, and during the passage of the Pensions Bill through the House of Commons those were the people who were referred to as requiring pensions more than any other class of worker. Their wages have been so poor that it has been impossible for the rural workers to save a penny, and, unfortunately, even in Australia many of the same class of workers are found in our benevolent asylums and charitable institutions. Many of our rural workers, who assisted to build our roads and bridges and railways, did not receive a sufficient wage to enable them to live in decency in their old age. That is why they are glad to-day to be receiving the miserable pittance which the Government are paying them. I hope that when our friends criticise the rural workers, as they have done in the past, they will remember that the major portion of the people in institutions are those who have worked on the land, but have not received sufficient wages to enable them to live in decency in their old age. That is certainly an argument in favour of providing better wages for the rural workers. If the Government are not inclined to increase the old-age pensions by 2s. 6d. a week, they might well take into consideration the granting of 2s. a week to all old persons in institutions. At present, the Government are making a saving of 2s. a week out of these old persons. Our object should not be to derive a benefit from the fact of these people living in homes. Our duty should be to allow them to have the money to which they are justly entitled, and the Government should see their way clear to pay it. It must be remembered that the people who would receive it live year in and year out without a solitary copper jingling in their pockets. I hope also that the Government will take into consideration the granting of full pensions to the blind.
.- I make no apology for again addresing myself to a question of such great importance as the building of ships of war. I had not sufficient opportunity when speaking a little while ago to develop my remarks. We are involved in the expenditure of nearly a million of money on Cockatoo Island and the possibility of spending another £75,000 for the purchase and maintenance of machinery for the purpose of making the dockyard efficient in the matter of shipbuilding. There is considerable disruption and disagreement on the island; the men are fighting the heads in every way; and I wish to solve the problem that is facing us. I am pleased that Senator Millen, the Minister of Defence, is endeavouring to arrive at some solution of the trouble. The question is : What line must be taken to arrive at it? The impression of the men on the island is that the officials there are not favorably disposed towards naval shipbuilding in Australia. They are all men who have come out from Great Britain; for instance, Mr. King Salter, the manager, who has come from Chatham with a high reputation - I have nothing to say against him - and others. The impression among the men is that these gentlemen are prejudiced, and wish in every way to keep down naval shipbuilding in Australia, in order that it may be done m Great ° Britain. I cannot say whether that impression correctly states the position, but, at any rate, it accounts to some extent for the disruption upon the island. I have already said that men are leaving the dockyard. They are doing this because the conditions existing on Cockatoo Island are not those that they can obtain elsewhere, because the Australian practice is not the English practice, and because Australian workmen are not prepared to submit to conditions that, have been in operation in places in the Old World, whether in a dockyard for naval shipbuilding or in a dockyard for mercantile shipbuilding, especially when those conditions are laid down by men who have not the Australian spirit. We know that a man does a certain amount of riveting per day. The new boss comes along and says, “ I want fifty more tomorrow.” He gets the fifty more, and then he asks for another fifty. So the men are being driven to desperation, and many of those who are resenting this are importations, good capable men, no doubt, who have come to ths country, and who have been driven to their present attitude by those who have reduced the dockyard to a condition of chaos and strife. The men will not do this work. They are not prepared to do it. I have already said that the Defence Department is responsible in a very large way for the delay that is taking place, and I am going to set myself against Mr. King Salter and even against the administration of Cockatoo Island prior to his advent. Much of the inability of the dockyard to turn out the boats as an effective fighting force is due not to the men, but to the Defence Department. I have been in close touch with the Minister of Defence for some time, because there are certain features of work on the island that need consideration. First, there is the question of the framing of regulations. The men do’ not know where they stand. They have no status. They may be dismissed at any moment. Many of them who have had years of service are being gradually passed out, thrown on one side, and scrapped, as it were, for newcomers. How can we expect a body of Australian workmen to sit down and remain silent in circumstances such as those ? A man who has given good service to the dockyard naturally looks forward to some reasonable conditions under which he can work, but the introduction of new men and the displacement of the old hands create considerable trouble, about which the men are very justly complaining. The island can be well conducted if the Government are prepared to pay the wages that are prevailing outside. There is no dearth of labour in Australia, provided good wages are paid, but the Government will not pay proper wages, and therefore the men seek for them outside. I know the boilermakers very well, and, to some extent, I represent the engineers, and I know that if the Government attempt to interfere with the conditions that the trade unionists have built up in Australia for the betterment of the people, and that if an attempt is made by Mr. King Salter or Senator Millen to introduce any system of labour into that dockyard that is not in harmony with those improved labour conditions that have been built up here, so surely will the dockyard go down, the men will not work, and I would be one of the first to associate myself with my fellows in the dockyard in saying, “ If you black list us, we shall make you black.” I have a copy of a document - it is supposed to be a secret one - which illustrates the methods attempted to be introduced at Cockatoo Island to bring the men under the whip, but which will not come about. First, there is the ordinary form issued to a man who is an applicant for work. It is as follows: -
Name of applicant -
Where last employed -
Duration of employment -
Name of foreman -
Every applicant for employment in the Cockatoo Island dockyard must fill in that form, but here comes the sting and the black list, an evil of the past, which they are seeking to introduce in Australia. There is another form - it is a secret form, but I have been able to get a copy of it - which is issued to employers in the engineering trade or in any trade related to the Naval dockyard. This form is as follows : -
Mr. is an applicant for employment in this establishment as . Will you please fill in particulars requested on the attached form, and return at your earliest convenience.
Signed - General Manager
Information requested : -
Date of leaving your employ -
Length of service -
Department in which employed -
Name of foreman -
Conduct, character, and ability -
Rate of wages on leaving -
Is applicant under any obligation to you, or has he any unexpired contract? -
Reasons for leaving -
This is supposed to be a secret document as between the management of the island and all employers throughout Sydney, but what is it but a scheme of victimization ? A man may leave another employer in order to better himself; he may think he can get better wages at Cockatoo Island; but he is not allowed to make any reply to the information supplied in this document, which is placed against him.
– It is a black list emanating from a Government establishment, a copy of a practice which existed fifty years ago in Great Britain, which Mr. King Salter is attempting to resurrect. He is too late in his endeavour to introduce this sort of thing in Australia, and he will have to come down and give some recognition to the status of trade unionists. This system cannot exist. We shall kill it, even if in our efforts we have to kill the dockyard. I have a letter here. I shall not mention the name of the writer, and I shall only read the first part of it to prove that I am not making any exaggerated statements. This letter is addressed to me, and proceeds as follows : -
Received your wire, and was under impression that you were in possession of the facts. However, I was telling you last Sunday of an attempt that was being made to work a newcomer into the place of , the boilermaker. Youknow him. He has been employed for the last twenty-six years. However, it came off last Monday in this way. . . .
And then he declares that he was put) off for a newcomer from the Old Country. I had occasion to make some representations to the manager of the island. Whether they were effective or not I cannot say, But I received a reply that the man had left of his own accord, and therefore could not be. replaced. I contend that the man was positively driven out of his position. He was victimized until he could stand it no longer. This was one of the most efficient and experienced men I ever knew; and yet he has been practically driven out, tortured by fault-finding. Is it any wonder that there is dismay among the men employed, and that they refuse to work in the dockyard? There is no dearth of labour if this establishment were run on Australian lines, but with the Old World methods adopted there must be eternal trouble; and, if it means death to the dockyard, we cannot help it.
– What has become of the former manager ?
- Mr. Cutler is so highly appreciated in New South Wales that he has been given full control of the harbor works in Newcastle, and in the State generally. I do not mind hitting out straight, and I say unhesitatingly that Senator Pearce, as Minister, was as much to blame as any other person for the present position. Mr. Cutler is a keenbrained, thoroughly capable engineer, but for whom naval shipbuilding would never have been considered as a practical proposition in this country. Another phase of the trouble is that men who have given first-class service as engineers, boilermakers, and so forth, have no possible chance of advancement; and, as a matter of fact, it is the men who have been brought out to Australia who are protesting against the methods of administration. There is no dearth of labour, but men would sooner be out of work than “accept employment at Cockatoo Island. The position there is characterized as “ nothing short of hell,” and from what I know I agree with that view. In Tuesday’s Age, a gentleman named Brookes is reported as expressing himself in most pronounced terms in connexion with the industrial situation; and, inasmuch as his utterances have received a very extensive advertisement, I should like to traverse some of his statements. Mr. Brookes is thus reported -
In his retiring address, the president, Mr. H. Brookes, said every act of the manufacturers now was closely scrutinized, as of the confraternity of criminals who would not work, and gave employment to the police. Commissions drag manufacturers before them. Royal Commissions sat Upon them. Inter-State Commis sions turned them inside out, and the press didn’t miss a point. At wages board conferences very frequently the free play of reason and friendly discussion was assisted by knowledge of threats of boycott or strike.
Can we hope for any industrial peace when a gentleman occupying such a position puts forward a proposition of that sort ? It is true that there may be strikes, but the workers do not call the employers criminals, or desire them to be treated as such. What is desired is such a readjustment of our social conditions as will prevent employers like Mr. Brookes having all the wealth while the workers have none. We all have to live, some in luxury, and some in poverty, even to the verge of starvation ; and here we have the Chairman of the Chamber of Manufactures characterizing our efforts at social reform as an attempt to make the employers criminals. The workers only ask for something more than they have today, and they are told that they are plunging the country into the hell of Socialism. If there is such a change, we shall not have hell, but heaven, though it may, in a way, be “hell “ for men like Mr. Brookes, who have so much to lose. The speech by this gentleman is full of the most bitter antagonism to the Labour movement; and I ask whether there is anything in the Labour programme or purpose to call for such an utterance. I shall not quote from the speech further; but its only effect can be to stir the workers up to larger purpose and greater effort, for the benefit, we trust, not of the few, but of the many. We are on the verge of an election in which the issues will be great; and I can only hope that the outcome will be some good to Australia in improving the lot of the worker. We on this side are eager, anxious, and ready for the battle; and, if we fail, we shall return with a minority to worry the Government; we shall never leave them until we have our teeth in their throats, and have eaten them to death.
.- I should like fo say a few words in regard to a part of the Treasurer’s financial statement the other day. I do not hesitate to say that for audacity that statement was about the most outrageous I have ever heard delivered in this House. The right honorable gentleman told us that he expected to finish the year with a surplus of £824,305. Does he mean to tell us that on this year’s transactions he has, or will have, such a year’s surplus ?
– I did not say so; do not misrepresent me.
– The right honorable member now backs down, and says that there will not be such a surplus.
– A new financial authority!
– I do not pose as a financial authority. If there is one thing I have to be thankful for it is that I am not an expert on anything. If there is a man who is a burden to himself, it is the expert; and I do not wish to be classed as one on finance or any other matter.
– Just a critic?
– Not even that, when I think of the honorable member for Parkes. The Treasurer is reported to have said that he was going to close the year with a surplus of £824,305. As a matter of fact, what the Treasurer has done is to take money out of the Trust Funds to the extent of £1,819,000.
– All the money for old-age pensions is paid into a Trust Fund. When I spoke the other day I said that the surplus would be on the year’s transactions, inclusive of the surplus at the beginning of the year.
– The right honorable gentleman certainly led the country to believe that he was going to finish up this year with a surplus of over £824,000.
– That is not an accurate statement.
– That was the impression left here and outside.
– It is of no use arguing with the honorable member, who is not worth bothering about if he makes such statements !
– I am sorry that the right honorable member is losing his temper.
– I ant not, but the honorable member is not saying what is true.
– Order ! The Treasurer must not interrupt.
– Did the Treasurer tell us that there was a deficit of £1,819,000 last year?
– Where is the Treasurer reported to have said that?
– The honorable member can read it in Hansard.
– Let the right honorable member read it for himself.
– I should if the Chairman would let me.
-The Treasurer will have ample opportunity to reply to my statements.
– I shall not bother to reply to them.
– But we desire to know the actual facts. We shall tell the country that the Treasurer, after being in office for twelve months, has landed the country in a deficit of £1,819,000. This experience, so far as he is concerned, is not a new one. A few years ago, when he took office as Treasurer, he inherited a surplus of £600,000, andnine months later, when he retired from office, there was a deficit of £500,000. He now tells us that we shall close the present year with an estimated surplus of £800,000. How has that been obtained? In the first place, the Government have depleted to a very large extent the Old-age Pensions Fund. The Treasurer did not tell the House last week what the Government proposed to do in respect of the old-age pensions.
– God forgive us if we have to listen to this sort of thing !
– The right honorable member will have to listen to a lot of it. I shall repeat this statement from every platform on which I stand during the election campaign.
– The honorable member ought to make sure that it is accurate.
– It is more accurate than the statement which . the Treasurer made last week in asking for Supply.
– Why not read what I said? The honorable member would rather misrepresent me.
– Did not the right honorable member say that it was estimated that there , would be a surplus of £824,305 on the year’s transactions?
– I explained that point fully. The honorable member can read what I said.
– I have read the right honorable member’s speech, and I say that he did not explain this point. If he chooses to quibble, I shall have no objection. It would seem that the Treasurer is following in the footsteps of other members of his party who make statements, and, when we seek to pin them down to them, try to run away from them.
– The honorable member is at it again.
– I wish to get a statement of fact. The Treasurer is interrupting me so repeatedly that I have no hope of making a connected statement. I want to show that, according to the right honorable member’s own statement, the revenue for the year just closing amounts to £21,462,000, and not, as he would have us believe, to over £23,000,000. The further point I wish to emphasize is that on the transactions of the financial year, during which the right honorable gentleman has been in charge of the Treasury, there is shown a deficit of £1,819,000. He told us further that, owing to the non-completion of certain work, an expenditure of £200,000 would go over as a commitment to next year. If that £200,000 had been expended, as provided for, there would have been a deficit of over £2,000,000 on the year’s transactions. But there is more to come. The Treasurer told us that large reductions had been made in the military stores, and that large savings had been effected by him in the various Departments. He did not tell us how those savings had been brought about. The truth is that they have been secured by holding up a large number of works which should have been proceeded with. Instructions were given by the Government to the various Departments not to proceed with certain works which had been authorized. During the year the Departments have been starved to such an extent that the ordinary expenditure will have to be considerably increased next year to restore their efficiency. The Postmaster-General told us the other day that, to bring his Department to the standard of efficiency that he desired, an expenditure of £4,000,000, spread over a period of four years, would be necessary. If that is so, the Treasurer should have made provision for that additional expenditure.
– Why should it be necessary in view of all the money spent in previous years by the Labour party?
– When the Labour Government took office, it found that the Departments had been starved. In the early years of Federation, we experienced a severe drought, and there was an almost insane desire on the part of the Parliament - I shall not lay the blame at the door of any particular Government - to return to the States more than the threefourths of Customs and Excise revenue to which they were entitled. Instead of spending on Commonwealth Departments what was necessary to keep them efficient, the Governments of the day cut down expenditure, and returned to the States, by way of surplus revenue, more than £6,000,000.
– But that cutting down should have been rectified by the way in which the Labour party spent the money.:
– When the Labour party took office, they found it necessary to expend enormous sums to bring the various Departments to an efficient standard. We were not in office long enough, to spend all that was necessary in that direction.
– But we did not starve the Departments.
– No. The present Government, on the other hand, has starved them to an unparalleled extent. We wish now to learn of the commitments of the present Ministry in respect of the coming year. The Treasurer did not tell us what they were.
– I did not make a Budget speech.
– The statement which the right honorable member made last week, then, was only in the nature of a preliminary canter?
– That is all.
– If we do not obtain from the Budget more information than was given us by the right honorable member last week, then heaven help the country. The Treasurer has admitted that we shall have to pay next year on account of the Navy, a sum of £200,000, which should have been paid this year. That is one commitment. Then the automatic annual increase in respect of oldage pensions is about £200,000 a year. Is that not correct?
– The honorable member knows more than I do.
– That is understood. When the Treasurer makes a statement, we naturally expect him to know what he is talking about, but he admits now that he did not know what he was talking about last week. The automatic increase in respect of the maternity allowance next year will be about £150,000, and the automatic increase in respect of military defence at least £150,000. Under Admiral Henderson’s scheme, the automatic increase in naval expenditure next year would be, I understand, about £200,000, but I am putting it down at £150,000; while a moderate estimate of the increased expenditure on the Federal Capital, if there is any honesty of purpose on the part of the Government, is £200,000.
– It will cost that to kill the rabbits which the Labour party allowed to grow on the leasehold lands in the Territory.
– When I was there I saw men digging out the rabbits and wire netting the land, so that, I presume, by this time the rabbits have all been killed off. Returning to my estimate, if the Government’s great scheme of developing the Northern Territory is proceeded with, next year there will probably be an expenditure of £50,000 there apart altogether from railway construction. These automatic increases and commitments to which I have referred total £1,100,000, and, added to the deficit of £1,819,000, will bring us face to face with a deficit of £2,919,000, less the alleged surplus of £824,000, which the Treasurer tells us is in the Trust Funds. No matter what party is in power next year, the Government of the day will have to provide for this. Why did not the Treasurer take the House into his confidence last week, and make a frank statement of the actual position ? All this was carefully glossed over. The finances of this country - and no one knows it better than does the Treasurer - are in a rotten condition. When the present Treasurer took office upon the retirement of the Fisher Administration, he said there was a surplus of £200,000, and a sum of £2,400,000 accumulated in the Trust Funds. He inherited that from the Labour Government. But the right honorable gentleman was not prepared to tell us last week that, on his own figures, there would be a deficit of £1,819,000 on the actual transactions of the present financial year. He tells us that the revenue was £21,462,000, or, adding the accumulated surplus, about £24,000,000, while the expenditure was only about £23,000,000, leaving a surplus of £824,000. I wish to know how the Government proposes to obtain the £2,000,000 which will be necessary to prevent a deficiency next year ? It will have to raise loans for the construction of the east and west railway, which willcost several millions, and for the Northern Territory railway, which will cost some hundreds of thousands of pounds. Ministers will probably propose to pay for some of the defence works out ofloan money, but they cannot pay for all in that way. Is it their intention to construct the Navy, and to carry out military defence works, wholly with loan money ? Of course, that may be so. The method of the Attorney-General when Premier of Victoria was to reduce the old-age pensions. I hope that that method is not going to be adopted by this Government, though it is about the level of its standard of economy. I know what that Attorney-General did when Premier of Victoria, and I know that his influence over the Treasurer and the other members of the Cabinet is so great that they will have to do what he tells them to do. If he says that a saving is to be made on the old-age pensions and maternity allowance, it must be made. The Treasurer has declared that the greater part of the maternity allowance expenditure should be stopped, the allowance being given only to those considered deserving. Thus he proposes, in order to square the ledger, to pauperize those who take advantage of the beneficent piece of legislation passed by the Labour party. We are entitled to know whether the Government intend also to introduce a revenue Tariff, taxing kerosene, tea, and cotton goods.
– And whether the land tax is to be abolished.
– Ministers would like to abolish it, but have not the courage. They say to the farmers, “ The horrible Labour party is ruining the country, and driving out capital by the land tax that it put on you,” but they have not the courage to propose the repeal of that tax.
– I think they will increase it.
– They are too much afraid to do that. It will be left for us to increase it. How will the Government prevent a deficiency of £2,000,000 next year ?
– I wonder if anything will be taken off the transcontinental railway expenditure)
– Probably that is what the Treasurer intends. He belongs to a Government which brought about a dead-lock and strike on the transcontinental railway, to prevent money being paid out, building up a surplus by delaying the construction of the line.
– The honorable member does not mean that.
– It looks like it.
– The Treasurer remained in the Cabinet while it was going on.
– The right honorable gentleman resigned from one Cabinet, and has regretted it ever since.
– I have never regretted it; it is the best day’s work I ever did.
– The right honorable gentleman has looked very sorry. As the Postmaster-General is present, I should like to ask him a question, which I hope he is not too fared to answer. I wish to know why certain parts of Australia are given preference in the matter of telephone construction by not being called upon to furnish the ordinary guarantees. I am very pleased to know that there is now a telephone line between Dalgety and Bendock, but I should like to be informed why the persons interested were treated by the Department differently from the way in which persons in other districts were treated?
– So far as I know, there has been no distinction made.
– It is stated- I have here a newspaper cutting giving the particulars - that it was estimated that there would be a loss of from £20 to £25 on the line, and that the inhabitants of the district to be served were asked to guarantee £200, but that when there was a change of Government, the honorable member for Gippsland induced the Department to forego the guarantee. In nearly every other case in which application has been made for telephone construction, especially by honorable members of the Opposition, guarantees have been demanded from the districts interested, to meet any possible loss. Why was an exception made in the case of the district to which I have referred?
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have made noexception. In one district all the guarantors failed, and the guarantee could not be recovered from them, but that was before I took office.
.- There are one or two matters to which I wish to call the attention of the PostmasterGeneral. In last night’s Herald, and this morning’s Age and Argus, are published statements regarding payments made in Sydney in connexion with a wireless telegraph plant. Some little while ago, during a debate in this chamber regarding the purchase of material by this Government without calling for tenders, the Postmaster-General interjected that the last Government carried out a great deal of work in connexion with wireless telegraphy without calling for tenders, of which he had said nothing. I do not know whether the interjection referred to purchases from the Maritime Wireless Company Limited, and shall be glad if the honorable gentleman will give us some information on the point. It is stated in the newspapers that Mr. Haldane, the Chief Accountant of his Department, wassent to Sydney to examine the books, and, according to the Herald - the statement does not appear in the Age or the Argus - Mr. Haldane is of opinion that sufficient was not paid for the material obtained. We are told that the Government has now settled the matters in dispute. I should like to know whether anything more has been paid. I raise no objection to any increase in the payment if, after the examination of the books by Mr. Haldane, it was thought right to increase it; but I would point out that the facts show that the last Government made an arrangement which was not in any respect disadvantageous to the public. The Postmaster-General told the representatives of the Age and Argus that wherever possible he called for tenders for the supply of material. That was the practice of his predecessors. He said, too, that the business of the Department cannot be conducted expeditiously without occasionally purchasing material for the supply of which tenders had not been called. He told the press representatives that some of the material required is patented, and can be obtained only from one firm, and that other material is made only by one or two places in Australia, and that it would bewaste of time to call for tenders for the supplying of it. I quite agree that that is so, and have nothing to say in criticism of the statement. But in view of the interjection which the Postmaster -General made in this chamber some time ago, I shall be very glad if he will be good enough to give us a full explanation of this matter, because apparently what he said was a reflection upon either the late Postmaster-General or myself. I trust I will not be misunderstood in what I am about to say, but I am very much in favour of a Minister attending the Madrid Postal Conference. If there had been no dissolution, and the present Postmaster-General had been going to the Conference, I think the Opposition would have given him a pair; but I am rather sorry that, whilst the honorable member for Balaclava intends to attend the Conference, he has stated that he does not intend to return to this Chamber. I am sufficiently a party man to admit that I would be very glad to see a Labour man capture the Balaclava seat, but if that could not be I should be glad to see the present Postmaster-General return. He has announced definitely, however, that he will not stand for re-election, and I think it is unfortunate that the Government are to be represented at the Madrid Conference by one who will no longer be a member of the Ministry.
– I am not anxious to go if your party are opposed to it. I will stand down at once.
– I hope I will not be misunderstood. I think that it is a good thing that the Minister should go. The Government shouldbe represented by a Minister, and I should be very sorry, indeed, if the Opposition were to raise any objection to the granting of a pair. I hope the honorable member is not resenting my remarks, because I believe he is very popular on this side, and, if only because of his personal popularity there would be no objection to his going. I would like the honorable member to attend the Conference, and to nominate for a safe Liberal seat, so that he could then come back to Parliament and give us the advantage of the information he will obtain at the Conference. It is a little unfortunate that the information which I am sure the honorable member for Balaclava will glean by at tending the Conf erence will not be placed fully and completely at the disposal of the Government after he returns. I know there will be a full report, but he will not be in the Cabinet to see carried out those reforms which he may consider wise and advisable as a result of the Conference.
– You think it would be better to send the exPostmasterGeneral ?
– I have not spoken unkindly. Indeed, I am sorry that the honorable member for Balaclava has announced his intention of retiring from public life.
– Hear, hear ! He is the best of the whole blooming lot.
– But every honorable member in the House will agree with me that it would be better, in the event of the Liberal party being returned to office, if the representative of the Commonwealth at the Conference were a member of the Government, and were thus able to place the information he obtains fully at the disposal of the Government and the country. Having said that much, I do not wish the honorable member not to attend the Conference. He may go with my blessing, if that is any good to him.
– Do you think that a Minister could go at election time? The Government will not be represented at all if I do not go, but I am not anxious to go if there is any opposition.
– There is no such feeling, and I say that it is better that the honorable member should go than that we should be represented at the Conference by officials only. In regard to the administration of the Department, whilst some things have been done since the honorable member has been PostmasterGeneral which I have not agreed with, he has advocated other things with which I do agree, but which for some reason or other he has not carried out. One of those is the abolition of arbitrary State lines.
– I quite agree with you, but the difficulty cannot be overcome without amending the Act.
– There are difficulties in the way, but it would be agood thing if some of those arbitrary lines could be done away with. I may mention one instance. Many months ago, approval was given to the construction of a telephone line between the towns of
Wentworth, in New South Wales, and Mildura, in Victoria. Some time elapsed, and I received a communication from Wentworth asking when the connexion with Mildura was to be effected. Apparently the Victorian portion from Mildura to the River Darling had been done, but the New South Wales portion had not. The result was that a line built practically to the Darling River was lying useless for some months, whilst waiting for the short connexion with Wentworth to be made. I am not blaming the PostmasterGeneral, but I just mention this instance to show what things occur under the present system. I have communicated with the Department, and the result has been that tenders have been called for the completion of the line to connect Wentworth with Mildura. Had it not been for the arbitrary State lines, the work, when started from Mildura, would have been carried right on to Wentworth. There is another matter I desire to call attention to. The present Government have gone in for the building of a lot of these lines by contract instead of day labour. Last session a good deal of discussion took place about the superiority of day labour over contract in connexion with the construction of telephone lines,the argument being that day labour was cheaper and more expeditious. The Government are now calling for tenders for the building of a lot of telephone lines, which class of work was previously done by day labour. I do not know what the result is in other constituencies, but in connexion with two or three small lines in my own constituency I know that in the time wasted in calling for tenders the work could have been done by the Department. The distance from Wentworth to the River Darling is very short, but the line has not been built, although the line for the 12 or 15 miles to Mildura has been completed. Had this work been intrusted to day labour, it would have been completed long ago. There is another instance. For some considerable time the residents of Menindie have desired direct telephone connexion with Broken Hill, a distance of from 60 to 70 miles. After the required guarantee was paid, the Department decided that the line should be built, and called for tenders. The Postmaster-General is a business man, and no doubt has endeavoured to introduce business methods into the Department. But I have a letter dated 9th June, which says -
That a notice appears in the Commonwealth Gazette of the 16th idem, 1914, inviting tenders to be received up to 2.30 p.m. on the 17th instant, for the erection of an additional wire between Broken Hill and Menindie. Specifications and general conditions may be seen, and schedules, &c., obtained, on application at the offices of the Electrical Engineer, General Post Office, Sydney, and the Assistant Engineer, Hay, and at the Post Offices at Broken Hill, Menindie, Wentworth, Wilcannia, Tareena, Balranald, and Euston.
The telegraph poles are already standing, and for the laying of a single wire the Department are inviting tenders. It does seem to me that in the time that is wasted in calling for tenders, the work could be done. I shall be glad if the PostmasterGeneral will look into that matter, but I am more anxious to get some reply regarding the supply of wireless fittings in Sydney. I was surprised a few days ago when the Prime Minister stated that there was to be a double dissolution. I had no idea that the conspiracy of capitalism and privilege would be so successful as to bring about a double dissolution. I venture to say that the outcome of this double dissolution will be extremely farreaching. I had intended to express my views upon this subject, but as an article in to-day’s Age expresses them far more ably, I shall content myself by reading a portion of that article -
Just as people sometimes build better than they know, so they often destroy more than they had any conception of. The Federal Ministry, in getting the Senate dissolved over a dead-lock specially manufactured to that end, has, without intending it, virtually made the House of Representatives supreme. For all future time, should Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson’s precedent be sustained, the Senate, as an independent authority, will be abolished, or at least rendered a nullity. Any party Government of the day, as long as responsible government may continue,can drill the Senate into submission by presenting to it some obnoxious measure, and compel it to accept the same under the penalty of a dissolution. The manner in which this coup has been effected virtually annihilates the Senate as an independent voice of the people. It may he surmised that the majority of Ministerial followers had no idea of what they were doing when creating their artificial dead-lock. All that they probably saw was a means to an end of breaking up a powerful Labour majority in the Senate. For this single purpose the expedient was not without its merits, since Labour could scarcely hope, in the balance of parties in the constituencies, to maintain such a lop-sided House as that which exists at present of twenty-nine Labourites to seven Fusionists.
But little as the Conservatives guessed at the radical nature of the change they were bringing about, the Attorney-General was fully aware of it. Nor has he been guilty of any concealment about it. When he went down to Warrnambool some few months since, he gave the cue to what was in his thoughts, in presenting a forecast of the extinction of the Senate as a part of the Constitution. He then showed how very little use to the people the Senate is, and asked the electors to contemplate its being set aside as an expensive encumbrance. Liberals who have growing doubts about the value of the bicameral system did not affect to be horrified at Mr. Irvine’s plain indication of the direction in which his aspirations were travelling. The Conservatives blenched a little, but forbore anything more than a mild expostulation. What the true reformer of Parliament sees is that, with the more direct association of the people with legislation through the means of the referendum and elective Ministries, there is not much need for a second Chamber of Review. The referendum makes the people themselves perpetual reviewers of the work of Parliament, and the experience of the world is that the populace can do the work more cheaply and effectively than any second Chamber can do it. There will not, therefore, be any cause for wailing amongst true reformers over the fate which has overtaken, not only this Senate, but all other Senates, in being made, as the GovernorGeneral has made it, a cipher in the Constitution.
But, for all that - far-reaching and perhaps salutary as this action of the Government and the Governor-General may become - the change has been brought about by quite improper means. A great alteration in the Constitution, as this must prove if the Governor-General’s fiat bc consummated, should have been put to the people in proper form, and adopted only after their verdict had been given. No Ministry, or majority in one Chamber, in concert with the Vice-Regent, ought to have any right or power to radically modify the Constitution .as it stands. We have only to reverse in thought the state of political parties to see how full of significance this argument is. Let us suppose a Senate with a large majority of “Liberals and Conservatives in it. In an equal balance of parties and a defective electoral law such as now exists, that contingency is just as likely as the present one. If there were a large Labour majority in the House of Representatives, such as came in in 1910, and a large Conservative majority in the Senate, such as may at any time occur under present conditions, the Labour House of Representatives will be able to treat the Conservative Senate as a nullity by holding over it the threat of a penal dissolution. The argument is too clear to need any reinforcement. In that case it would become conspicuous that the Senate as a check on legislation has been abolished. The proposal put forward by Mr. Irvine in Warrnambool will have been effected. In that day Conservatism will see that it builded in reform -far better than it know.
I have not time to elaborate these views, which represent mine. A little while ago, at an Australian Natives’ Association Conference, I spoke about the nonnecessity for sending State Governors to Australia, and Mr. “Watt, who was the Premier of Victoria until yesterday, in criticising my remarks at Malvern, said that I had stated that Governors should be born, bred, and elected in Australia. I may explain that at the conference to which I have referred I was dealing with State Governors. I said that I could agree with that part of the programme of the Australian Natives’ Association that said that Governors should not be sent to us from the Motherland. I pointed out that prior to Federation I had not held that view, but that since Federation I did not consider it necessary for State Governors to be sent to us from the Motherland. I said that they should be elected, not merely from those born in Australia, but also from those’ who had come to Australia many years previously, and rendered long and distinguished service to Australia. Then I went on to say that while I did not in any way commit myself to the views I was about to express, in view of what had been done, and in view of the tremendous effect of the decision of the Governor-General upon our Constitution, the views of the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Cook, were worthy of being considered. And I quoted what those views were. These are the words of the present Prime Minister -
Now I take leave to dispute that statement altogether. It does not follow at all that to have parliamentary government we must have a Governor-General appointed by the authorities in England. … It seems to me that the better way to harmonize colonial with Imperial interests would be to allow the people of the colonies to select a Governor-General of their own, who would be in touch with the aspirations of those people, who would know what their prejudices and aspirations are, what _ their conditions of life arc, more intimately and closely, by reason of his having lived here a great number of years himself. And this need not necessarily interfere with the government as we know it to exist under the Crown. It would not do so. I venture to say that we should have a little less friction created in the machinery of government if permission were given to the colonies to elect their own Governor-General.
– Those were Mr. Cook’s views prior to Federation.
– Yes ; they were expressed during a debate in the New South “Wales Parliament. I said that, without committing myself to those views, they were worthy of being considered. I do not think that it was out of the way for me to say that.
– During the reign of tie present Government I have not been able to get any satisfaction in the matter of postal accommodation for the district I represent. There is urgent need for a post-office at Botany, and there has been a great deal of correspondence over it. If I go to the Home Affairs Department I am told that the matter is in the hands of the PostmasterGeneral. If I go to the PostmasterGeneral he smiles, and says, “I shall do what I can,” and then in a few days tells me that the matter is in the hands of the Home Affairs Department Between the two Departments I can get no satisfaction. At the Kensington end of my district there is also urgent need for a new post-office. It is a growing residential suburb of Sydney, and the people there are anxious to have facilities for doing their business and telegraphic communication. No finality, however, can be ;got from the present Ministry. The same remarks apply to a post-office site that was almost decided upon (before the last Ministry went out of office. Tenders had been called for a site, and they had been received, but twelve months have gone by and nothing has been done. The Prime Minister, as head of the Department of Home Affairs, has the assistance of the Honorary Minister and the VicePresident of the Executive Council, but yet there is nothing but chaos in the Department. It is time Parliament had some explanation as to why there is this chaos. Ministers .are trying to save money so that they can show a decent financial statement when the Treasurer comes to explain his financial proposals.
– The electors will not believe that story.
– I think I can persuade my constituents to believe it. In the whole of ‘the district I represent there has not been a shilling spent by the present Government, whereas during the time of the Fisher Government two urgently required post-offices were built, and the Department were making provision for others. The present Government have come in to starve public works. They have refused to vote the money to carry on the services of the Commonwealth, and so far as Sydney is concerned, they have done nothing towards its progress, nor that of my particular district.
– There has been more money spent in Sydney than in any other part of Australia.
– I represent a very large part of Sydney, and I can assure the Postmaster-General that I have heard nothing but growls from my constituents because things cannot be done. I do not blame the Postmaster-General - he does his best - but between the Postal Department and the Department of Home Affairs there is something wrong. No matter what Government comes into power after the next election, in place of allowing the two Departments to fool away time in selecting sites and getting valuations and having reports sent along, a Committee should be appointed to do the work without taking up all the time that the two Departments now waste upon doing it. If I wish to buy a piece of land I go to look at it, and if it suits me, I buy it. But, of course, that cannot be done by a Minister ; and, consequently, there is much correspondence, red-tape, and expense.
– Was it not the same under the Labour Government?
– It is 100 per cent, worse now.
– There are the same lot of officers.
– If the officers are under instructions to keep down expenses, I do not blame them.
– Then the Government are not spending all the millions of money that they have been accused of spending ?
– The Government may be spending .millions on the Defence side, but not on the Post Office. Twelve months ago there were over 600 men employed in the Federal Territory, but we were told .hy the Honorary Minister the other day that over 200 less are now there. I do not see why this should be, because on the last Estimates we voted £200,000 for the development of the Territory. At the present time, however, there is a lack of employment. there, and no real advance with the work has been made, although Mr. Griffin has been. appointed as the head of the .architectural branch. The brickworks, which are only of a temporary character, under an old and expensive system, are almost suspended; and altogether there seems to be no management in the Territory. There is a compact with the people of New South Wales, and it was carried out, as far as possible, by the late Government. Parliament has never grudged money for this purpose ; but, although the Government have been twelve months in office, we have almost a state of chaos. I protest against the people’s money being spent on roads where the traffic is so little as to permit of the grass growing. I should like to suggest that workmen’s cottages be provided in the Territory, so that the men may not be obliged: to live in tents during the present very cold weather: They are prepared to pay rent for proper housing, the provision of which would induce them to take their wives and families there, and thus help to swell the population within the area. The Government, however, are trying to save money, and thus we find an unemployed trouble brewing, not only there, but in all thelarge cities. A Government whose only policy is to “ mark time “ ought to be sent about its business. When the honorable member for Darwin was Minister of Home Affairs, thepresent Prime Minister and the Honorary Minister constantly attacked him for not pushing forward the public works at the Federal Capital; but those honorable gentlemen are now dumb, and it is only right that the public should be made aware of the apathy of the Government. When the Fisher Government were in power, they passed a Workmen’s Compensation Act, on a non-contributory basis, under which a workman who was injured received twothirds of his wages, while, in case of death, his dependants were given a grant of from £200 to £500. A man from my district was employed to go on a barge to the Northern Territory, and at tha port of destination he was drowned. I placed the . facts before the Minister, pointing out that there was a widow and. small family without means, and suggested the advisability of putting the Act in force; I received the reply that the matter would be inquired into, and, later, when I asked the reason for. delay, I was informed in another letter that the law authorities considered that the woman had no case. I do not think that it is right for the Government, under such circumstances, to take advantage of any legal flaw, having regard to the intention of Parliament when the Act was passed. It certainly is not creditable on ther part of the Government to flout an Act of Parliament in the way they have done; but, although personally and otherwise, I have kept this case to the front, I have not been able to obtain justice for these poor people. I can only say that I shall make as much use as I can of this case when I am before the electors. The Labour party are looking forward with pleasure to the coming election, because they firmly believe that it will result in a change of Government, thus affording an opportunity for the prosecution of a vigorous, strong policy, with the object of developing the resources of the country. Members on this side would be only too anxious to assist the Government in any progressive legislation; but, as we know, none has been introduced; and, therefore, it is quite time that the way was made for others with capacity and a record for work. During the three years of the Labour Government, the prosperity of all the States was unparalleled, and, notwithstanding the great influx of immigrants; the country was able to absorb and. find employment for all. It is certainly significant that when we have a reactionary Government in power we should, for the first time, see an. unemployed difficulty looming ahead. It reflects no credit on any Minister to so conduct the business of his Department as to retard the employment of the people, for this only means a lessening of the production of wealth. There seems now to have arrived a period of stagnation.
– That is because all the immigrants who came in under the Labour regime, to the number of 50,000, are in the towns.
– If the honorable member and other pastoralists are prepared to pay a decent living wage, they will find men quite willing to live and work in the country. In the dairying districts, however, we find that men are paid from 15s. to 17s. per week, and are asked to live, like cattle, in sheds.
– Where is that done?
– In the honorable member’s own district.
– No man there gets less than 30s. per week.
– Then the wages must have been raised lately. I had the advantage of hearing some evidence in the
Arbitration Court in New South Wales on this point, and it transpired that on the South Coast - there was no evidence as to the North Coast - men are paid the small wages I have mentioned, working seven days a week, from 4 o’clock in the morning until 8 or 9 o’clock at night. In that case, the Sydney milking employes asked for increased wages, and this evidence was called by the employers to show that, in view of the low wages in the dairying districts, the increased wages could not be given in the metropolis. Under such circumstances, we can readily understand why the rural population is not increasing in the same ratio as that of the cities. If the dairying industry cannot pay decent wages, I have no time for it.
– I am very sorry that the honorable member for Barrier has asked me to deal with the wireless telegraphy business. I have made no comments on the position up to the present ; and, but for the special attention drawn to it by the honorable member, I should have considered the short report I gave the newspapers as much as I was justified in making public. A sum of something like £24,000 has been paid to the Maritime Wireless Company of Sydney. The late Government, without calling for tenders, entered into a contract with that company for the supply of plant and machinery. No provision was made in the contract that the machinery should be manufactured in Australia, as to the rate of wages, or the employment of Asiatic and other foreign labour, or for any penalties. A large part of the machinery supplied to the Government was not secret at all, and was imported from America. Upon an investigation of the books we found that very large profits were made in respect of the imported goods. In addition to that a sum of £2,250 was given to the company ostensibly to assist them in the purchase of machinery; but it was not a vote by Parliament. The company received it by way of amounts added to the accounts that they rendered. To one account there would be an addition of £50, while to another an addition of £150 would be made. I do not think that that was a reasonable or a fair way of making a grant to the company. If the Government thought it necessary to give them assistance it should have provided for it on the Esti mates, instead of hiding it away, by adding these amounts to accounts that were rendered.
– Did the exPostmasterGeneral, Mr. Thomas, do that on his own initiative?
– I am not going to refer specifically to any one. I did not wish to deal with the matter, but I have been forced to speak of it since the honorable member for Barrier asked that I should make a full explanation of the statement which appeared in the press. Some time ago the managing director of this company told me that he was unable to obtain from the Department a sum of £4,000, which, he said, was owing to him. I said to him, “ I cannot understand these grants that you have been receiving; I believe that we have been overcharged, but if you will allow Mr. Haldane, the chief accountant of the Department, who is at present in Sydney, to examine your books, I shall be prepared to make a settlement upon his report.” He agreed that this should be done. Mr. Haldane examined the books, and found that, whilst considerable profits had been made by the Maritime Wireless Company on the imported goods, it had carried on certain experiments, partly in its own interests and partly in the interests of the Department, in connexion with which it had made no profit. On the imported goods it had made a large profit, but on the material which was made locally it had actually lost money. Taken as a whole, the transactions had not yielded them any profits worth speaking of. _ Mr. Hughes. - What was the proportionate value of the imported goods to that of the locally-manufactured goods?
– Speaking at random, I should say that the value of the imported goods represented nearly two-thirds of the whole. Upon receipt of Mr. Haldane’s report I had an adjustment of the accounts, and we have since settled with the company. Much has been made of the desirableness of insuring secrecy in the manufacture of these goods, but the fact is that the imported goods could have been obtained in England as well as other countries. Once the patents are taken out there is nothing really secret about any process that is being used in Australia.
– But Mr. Balsillie has taken some of the Shaw Company’s patents.
– That is the allegation. Father Shaw says that he is the inventor of a certain apparatus, which Mr. Balsillie has used, whereas Mr. Balsillie says exactly the reverse. That is a question which they must fight out between themselves. It is not a Government matter, and I am not interfering with it.
– Could that machinery have been manufactured here ?
– Yes; some machinery of the same class has since been manufactured here. The honorable member for Barrier also dealt with the question of postal districts. I agree with him that if we could disregard State boundaries in this matter an improvement would be effected. At present, if any trouble arises in connexion with the Department at Broken Hill, a letter has to be sent through Adelaide and Melbourne to the Sydney office, and has then perhaps to be returned to Melbourne to be dealt with finally. Surely it should be possible to make Broken Hill the administrative centre of the district! And so with Deniliquin and Albury. Albury might be made the centre of a postal district extending 50 miles into Victoria, and 50 miles into New South Wales. At present, however, each State is dealt with separately. Some time ago, in connexion with certain work at Albury, there was a shortage of material, and a delay of something like two months occurred in obtaining supplies from Sydney. Letters sent to the Sydney office were overlooked, and there was a shortage of stock there. On the other hand, we had plenty of the required material in Melbourne, and when I learnt of the facts I wanted to know why the stock had not been obtained from this city. I was told at once that it was a New South Wales matter, since Albury was in that State. I have given instructions, however, that in such circumstances material is to be obtained from the nearest available source. It is, after all, only a question of bookkeeping and of subsequent adjustment between tie State branches of the Department. As to the question of calling for tenders for works, to which the honorable member for Barrier referred, I may explain that the practice I follow is to obtain first of all an estimate of the value of a work proposed, to be carried out, and then to invite tenders for it. If the tenders are higher than the departmental estimate, I cause the work to be carried out by day labour; but if they are lower, I accept a tender for the work.’ The honorable member for Ballarat asked me a question regarding the cost of undergrounding wires in that city. In that case the tenders were something like 25 per cent, higher than the departmental estimate, whereas in connexion with an Adelaide work the tenders were below the departmental estimate. Taken as a whole, I think that the system works very well.
– But I was dealing with the time wasted.
– There is no doubt that work is done by contract quicker than by the Department.
– But while it was advertising for tenders for a work the Department could carry it out.
– No. In New South Wales, the Department is eighteen months in arrears with its works. If we do not call for tenders for them, we shall not be able to make up this lost ground. We have not sufficient engineers and other officers to supervise the carrying out of all such works by the Department.
– But does not the Department have an officer to supervise work done by tender?
– We have an overseer on every job, but in New South Wales at present we have not sufficient officers to enable the Department to carry out all these works, and therefore, if honorable members desire telephone and telegraph lines to be constructed in their districts, they must put up with the tender system whether they like it or not. As to the complaint made by the honorable member for South Sydney, I may say that when I was last in Sydney I paid a visit to Kensington, which is in his electorate, and found there was room for postal improvements there. There ought to be a new post-office. I may say, however, that I have been endeavouring to give the first call to people in the back-blocks who are without postal facilities. At the present time, when a district which has, say, an allowance postoffice, begins to grow, the municipal council quickly agitates for a post-office. The allowance post-office is no longer thought good enough for the district, and eventually a new post-office is built. Then a deputation of councillors asks what is going to be done for the allowance postmaster or postmistress, who, because of the provision of an official post-office, ceases to be employed by the Department.
– That sort of thing takes place in rural rather than in urban districts.
– No. It has happened at Sandringham, a suburb of Melbourne, and at various places round Sydney. It is rather unfortunate that many of these allowance officers who have been doing the work for ten or twenty years, and have built up a good business for the Department, should lose their positions as soon as an official postoffice is created.
– It is very hard on them.
– Can they not pass an examination ?
– They are usually shut out by the regulation imposing an age limit. Reference was also made to my proposed visit to Madrid. I candidly admit that I am not at all anxious to go.
– Go, by all means.
– The Government, however, think that Australia should be represented at the Madrid Conference, and I propose, therefore, to retain my present office until after the next election, so that I may attend in a representative capacity. There are several important questions to be discussed. One of these, which relates to the reduction of foreign postage on letters, will affect Australia very materially. Its adoption would involve us in a loss of from £50,000 to £100,000 a year, and for that reason I do not propose to support it. We have to look to ourselves, and cannot afford to be too generous to outside people. It is proposed that we shall carry an ounce of mail matter for the price that we are now charging for half-an-ounce. If that reform were adopted in respect of foreign letters we should be asked to do the same in respect of the local service. The Postal Department is losing something like £500,000 a year, and it is not fair to ask the people to submit to taxation in order to permit of concessions abroad.
– It is the Telephone rather than the Postal Branch of the Department that is a losing service.
– It should not be a losing service. The cost of management in Sydney amounts to £4 2s. 8d. in respect of every £4 received from a telephone.
– That is without the calls?
– Allowing for calls, what is the position ?
– Even then there is a loss. A Departmental Committee is at present obtaining very valuable information in Sydney on the subject. I propose to visit Sydney next week, and to go from there to Brisbane to inquire into certain postal matters. I shall then report to Parliament, and I trust that the information that I shall be able to obtain will be of considerable value to my successor.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney) [5.47J. - We are deeply grateful to the PostmasterGeneral for the very clear exposition of the affairs of his Department that he gave us in the brief time at his disposal. His statement with regard to the Maritime Wireless Company, however, seems to leave room for censure upon that company, and I therefore ask him to supply us with the actual amounts paid for imported and locally-made goods. The honorable gentleman said that two-thirds’ of the total value of the transactions were in respect of importations.
– That is making a guess.
– I am informed that the importation is relatively small.
– I do not assert that I am correct.
– I do not pretend to speak with precision, but my information is that about £2,000 worth is imported, and about £29,000 manufactured locally. I hope that the Postmaster-General will supply the Committee with accurate particulars. The loss made by the Telephone Branch is a matter for regret, but we are becoming case-hardened to the complaints about that Department. The honorable member for Barrier attempted to put it on a business basis, and, if a loss is occurring now, there must have been a very much greater loss then. Its operations ought to be on a business footing. I am glad to have the assurance of the Postmaster-General that the day-labour system is not the hideous conspiracy to plunder the public that it baa been described by interested politicians, but that, on the contrary, it is often the best and cheapest means of getting work done. Coming now to another matter: On the 28th May last, I stated that the method of dealing with applications for employment under the Home Affairs Department at Jervis Bay was opposed to, and destructive of, the alleged policy of the Government, upon which Ministers had secured the simultaneous dissolution of both Houses. It has been reiterated repeatedly by Ministers that no distinction has been, and would be, made between applicants for employment who belonged to industrial or other organizations, and other applicants. On the 28th May I read to the House letters which completely shattered that position, and so that I may deal with the subject now to better advantage, I shall read those letters again to the Committee. The first letter is as follows: -
Commonwealth of Australia.
I am in receipt of your application for employment, dated the 10th instant, and should he glad if you would furnish me with the name of your union and also further particulars of your experience. (Sgd.)…………………………
The Attorney-General asked, “By whom was that written ?” I replied -
By the Resident Engineer- Mr. Jeffrey is, I think, the name; but the name is not so important as the astounding nature of the communication. I venture to say that in the history of the Commonwealth Public Service this is absolutely unique. On the 19th of the same month there came from the same gentleman to this applicant the following communication : - “ Naval College, “ 19th May, 1914. “ In reply to your application for employment here, I have to inform you that there are no vacancies at present. Your name has, however, been filed for future reference.”
The Minister was admittedly a little disturbed by this revelation, and inquiries were promised. On the 10th June, the honorable and gallant member for North Sydney addressed a series of questions on the subject to the Minister of Home Affairs, to which replies were furnished by the Assistant Minister. We must assume that these replies afford the only explanation possible of the amazing gulf between the protestation and the performance of Ministers; between their platform oratory and their administration. The first question asked was -
This is the answer -
Smith was asked for the name of his union, because in his letter to the Resident Engineer, while stating that he was a unionist, he did not state to which of the two unions he belonged. There are two painters’ unions in Sydney. I am informed that there is a federated body registered throughout Australia under the name of the Federated House and Ship Painters Paperhangers and Decorators’ Employees of Australasia. A disagreement occurred, and the New South Wales branch then registered under the State Act in the name or the Amalgamated House and Ship Painters Paperhangers and Decorators’ Employees Association of New South Wales. The federated body then formed another branch in New South Wales, which, I understand, has not yet obtained registration.
That explanation was put forward with all seriousness by a Minister whose Government has made the prohibition of preference the corner stone of its appeal to the people, and has secured the infliction on this Parliament of the severest penalty that could be imposed for daring to question its sincerity and its action in this matter. We are now gravely assured that the reason why Ministers have abandoned their principles and broken their pledges, is that there are two unions, one of which is a federated body. What an astounding anti-climax ! Professing to recognise no union, and to refuse preference to any unionist, they yet meticulously inquire which union an applicant belongs to !
Public money is to be expended, we are told by Ministers, without regard to anything except the value given by the employes to the Government. Neither creed, colour, political opinions, membership of an industrial association, nor anything else has any influence in the making of appointments. That being so, why was this man asked whether he belonged to a union? That he was asked such a question damns the Government’s position. We are told that the question was asked because there are two unions, and a man might have been appointed who belonged to the wrong one. What can the question mean if it does not mean that the Government wished to ascertain whether the man belonged to a union? It was foundthat he did belong to a union, andhe was turned down. Those two facts are perfectly well established. Another applicant, who belonged to a union, did not say so, and was appointed. Under the Constitution, no discrimination is to be made because of any one’s religious belief. What would be thought if an applicant for employment were asked, “What religion are you? Not that we want to know, because we do not care two straws, but you might belong to the wrong religion.” Membership cif a union, we are told, has nothing to do with the making of appointments to the Public Service.Sheep and goats are treated alike. Why then was the question asked? Why, indeed! The only reply that suggests itself to the fertile minds of the Minister in charge of the Department - I suppose Mr. Jeffrey is still there; unhappily it would be impossible to sack him even for this frightful indiscretion - appears from the following questions and answers -
The answer is “ Yes.”
Because, in the opinion of the Resident Engineer, his statement of experience was not satisfactory. The reply sent to Smith was on a stereotyped form to the effect that there were no vacancies at present.
Then comes question 4 -
Is it correct, as stated by the honorable member for West Sydney, that thelate Government never asked the name of an applicant’s union ?
To that the reply was given -
Under thelate Government the Works Branch was instructed to write to or inquire of the Secretary of any Trade Union if any men were required, or if men applied at the office they were asked whether they belonged to a union.
The last Government had a right to ask whether an applicant was a unionist or not. It believed in preference to unionists, and it acted in accordance with its beliefs. It did not announce that preference would not be given to unionists, and then ask whether a man is a unionist before appointing him ! This Government says of preference, “ We will not touch, taste, nor handle the accursed thing.” All applicants are to be treated alike. Why then was Smith asked, “ Do you belong to a union?” and why, when he had replied, “Yes,” was he turned down? We are told that he was turned down because he had not sufficient experience. What had the name of his union to do with that? Suppose I were applying for a position, say, as paper- hanger or undertaker - that after the election I may officiate at the political obsequies of my esteemed and distinguished friends opposite, is the one thing that bears me up in the hour of our affliction - and being asked my religion, I replied, “ I am a Primitive Methodist.” What would be said if the reply was, “ Had you been any other kind of Methodist, it would be all right, but a Primitive Methodist will not do, because it is proved by the facf of your being a Primitive Methodist that you have not sufficient experience at your business ‘ ‘ ? That is absurd, but not more so than the so-called explanation of my honorable friend. The letter means this, if it means anything at all. Smith was asked which of the two unions he belonged to. This long and meandering dissertation on the internecine struggles of these two unions is frightfully interesting, but absolutely irrelevant. What does the departmental reply mean ? That Smith’s experience, or lack of it, is adduced from the fact that he belonged to the wrong union. Could any honorable member tell what experience a man has or has not by the fact that he belonged to this or other union, or this or other religion? Such a thing is absolutely absurd. It is a perfectly proper thing to ask a man what his experience is, but it is a perfectly improper thing to ask a man what union he belongs to, when the Government do not believe in preference to unionists of any sort. The question continued -
Is it correct, as suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney, that every applicant for employment is now asked the name of his union?
And the Minister’s reply was -
No, it is not correct. The Government has no objection to its employes belonging to unions, and throws absolutely no bar in the way of the employment of unionists. The principle of every artisan having an equal opportunity for Government employment is the only innovation it has introduced. An instance of this is the case of the employment of Painter C. York at Jervis Bay mentioned below.
The charge was that the resident engineer asked this man Smith what union he belonged to, and the answer now is, “ We do not care whether you belong to a union or not.” But that is not tlie answer the Minister gave. He says it was most important to know which of the two unions he belonged to. Then we are told the late Government sent out these same notices, and what of it? It was right that we should do so, because we believe in unionism. But they do not. How comes it that the Government, after being in office for twelve months, sent out a notice asking a man what union he belonged to? It is perfectly obvious on the face of their own statement that the Government lack courage to turn down unionists as such, and are making a hollow pretence of disciiminating between unions, which is an odious thing to do, and which they have no right to do. I do not know anything at all about these two unions. I have not heard of any quarrel between them, and, indeed, that is not a matter which concerns us. All we are concerned with is whether Smith is a competent painter. No evidence has been adduced to show that he was not, but the evidence is clear that he was a member of a union. York, also, was asked whether he was a member of a union, but he did not say “Yes.” He knew the Government, so he said nothing. Like Br’er Fox, he “ lay low,” and he has got a job. Smith told the truth in saying that he belonged to a union, and he was told, “ Because you belong to the wrong union, we shall not employ you.” I do not want to delay the Committee any longer. I am taking up the Government’s own statement of the case. That is the best defence they can give. They do not deny that, practically twelve months after the Government took office, this man Smith was asked to what union he belonged. If they say that they were using the same forms as were used by their predecessors, that answer is absolutely no excuse for doing what they did. A man is charged with larceny, and he pleads that, “ The man who used to live in this place before is doing seven years for larceny; he has only been out of the house about twelve months, and it is very hard, to get out of the ways of those who went before us.” That is the kind of defence the Honorary Minister makes. He does not deny that Smith was asked if he belonged to a union, and that he was turned down : but he states that the man was turned down because, in the opinion of the resident engineer, his statement of experience was not satisfactory. The statement of the resident engineer, so far as it is expressed in the correspondence, is that the real reason why Smith was turned away was that he belonged to the wrong union. The Government were afraid to engage a man who belonged to the weak union, lest the men belonging to the other union should leave them. It is to this pitiable extremity that my honorable friends are reduced. They face nothing. They side step every difficulty. The idea of preference to unionists is repugnant to their souls, but they have no objection to unionism; far from it - excepting, of course, in certain circumstances. I will leave it to the electors of this country to decide between us. There the matter stands, and no further explanation by my honorable friends can get over the facts I have given. Those letters remain as proof positive of the reliance that is to be placed upon the statements, promises, and platform mouthings of my honorable friends.
– The honorable member for West Sydney has made a characteristically amusing statement in regard to this matter, and in a characteristic declamatory way he said that he was content to allow the charge to stand where it is, and allow the people of Australia to deal with it. I hope that by the time this matter has been properly considered, apart altogether from rhetorical tricks and amusing distortion, the public will say that this charge does not stand, any more than any other of the charges we have been hearing lately, but that this charge lies. And I am going to show honorable members why.
I would remind honorable members that when this matter was brought before this House on a previous occasion it was then the Government, and the Minister especially, who were charged with giving preference to nonunionists. The Government and the Minister personally were held to be responsible, and to have personally connived at this most atrocious of all forms of preference - preference to artisans who would not join and subscribe to the unionist movement. That charge was repudiated immediately by Ministers in this House, and, in view of the statement to which we have just listened, I take it that that charge is absolutely and entirely withdrawn ; for the honorable gentleman referred all through to what a resident engineer distant 500 miles from Melbourne had done, and he suggested in one of his utterances that this nian should have been “ sacked “ for doing such a thing ! It is no longer the Government, but a Government officer, who is held wholly and solely responsible for all the trouble. However, I pass from that point.
I desire now only to say that when the country finds its ears tickled with the statement that the Government have been giving preference to non-unionists, I would like the statement of the honorable member, who is the president of the new union which has been recently formed, to be weighed side by side with the constant charges made by the secretary of that union, the honorable member for Cook, who for many weeks has been accusing me in this House of having given a stronger and more straightout preference to unionists than any previous Government have ever given ! One honorable member, who is president of the union, accuses me of giving preference to non-unionists, and so that honorable members opposite may toss the doubleheaded penny with complete success, another honorable member, who is secretary of the same union, accuses me of going to the other extreme, and giving preference to unionists to an extent never previously attempted. I only refer to this in passing, because it is now admitted that whatever charge the honorable gentleman may attempt to twist out of the letters of the men and the answers of the Resident Engineer, he now, by his very utterances, confesses that the primal charge against Ministers was unfounded, and ought not to have been made.
Now let me look into the question of discrimination between unions. The honorable member for West Sydney asks, “ What has. it to do with the works officer whether a man belongsto one union or another union?” I did not want to say anything that might damage one union as against another, and for that reason, until the honorable gentleman has driven me to it, I have not said or- suggested anything that would’ have had any- such effect. But I will say just this, that there are painters and painters, as the honorable gentleman knows j there are ship painters and house painters. When one wants house painters he does not want ship painters. In one of these unions there is a greater number of ship painters proportionately than in. the other union. The application of the man Smith opened with the statement that he had started his training in the Brooklyn Navy Yards, United States of America, and thereby showed conclusively that that man was by origin a ship painter and not a house painter.
– Did you want a ship painter or a house painter?
– A house painter. And the man’s application justified the assumption that he was by origin a ship painter.
– What has his origin todo with the question?
– It created a reasonableassumption in. the mind of the Resident Engineer that the man belonged to a particular branch of the painters’ trade whichdeals specially with ship painting.
– Do you say that a moa who paints a ship could not paint a house?
– I do not say that he cannot cover a house with paint, but he cannot do that class of work as well as a regular house painter.
– That is all bunkum.
– I am informed by the works officer that the sole idea underlying the request to know which of thetwo unions the man belonged to was that one union contained a greater proportion of ship, painters than the other.
– But York belonged tothe same union as Smith.
– Quite so, but otherwisehis references are satisfactory. I havestated how the letter happened to bewritten, and I also told the honorable member that the works officer stated that one of these unions, to which both these men belonged, had been providing him with men, some of whom had. been, unsatisfactory. They were not the sort of painters that were wanted..
– After that, you took York!
– No, “ before “ that we: took York.
– You took York twentyone days after. That is your own. statement.
– If honorable members will cast their minds back they will remember the theatrical way in which the honorable member for West Sydney said that it was after Smith had been told there was no vacancy another man, who had not said that he was a unionist, was engaged. The fact is that in any decently-regulated Government Department priority of application accounts for something ; in fact, accounts for most things, and this other man, who was taken on two days after Smith was notified that he was not required, had applied nineteen days before Smith thought of going to that job.
– But he was taken on two days after.
– He went there two days after. If the honorable member would only apply his fertile brain to the simple problem, he would find that the notification to the other man to go on duty - on which he acted two days after Smith’s letter was dated - must, of necessity have ante-dated Smith’s letter by at least a fortnight. Yet this is the sort of absurd charge that is levelled against this Government.
– What has that to do with the man’s competence? First you say that his union was the deciding point, and then you say that priority of application was the deciding point.
– The moment I deal with one tricky effort on the part of the honorable member, he tries to catch me on another. No matter which way you meet the honorable member, you find him equally unsound from all points of view. First he said, “ You pick the man,” and afterwards, when you show that there were not necessarily vacancies-
– No, you did not.
– I ask honorable mem bers to compare my quietness in hearing the attack with this soldier-ant on a gridiron hearing my reply. Now, let us see exactly.
– Hear, hear!
– There, there? We never get exactitude from the honorable gentleman!
– Look at page 1263 of this session’s Hansard.
– No; I am referring to page 1969, on which appears my answer to a question dealing with this matter.
The honorable gentleman’s statement of the case was full of misrepresentations and absurdities which have since been exploded, yet he now says that the departmental answer has conclusively proved his case, namely, that this other man was taken on after Smith was refused.
– Your answer proved my case.
– I have been trying for five minutes to get that answer out.
– Let us have it. You are on the wrong page of Hansard.
– No, I am not. This was my answer -
The painter in question - C. York - applied for work on 21st April, 1914, nineteen days before S. Smith applied, and, as his statement of experience was satisfactory, he was employed.
– Why did you ask the other man to what union he belonged ?
– The honorable member must have been out of the chamber. He means - why did the Resident Engineer ask the man to what union he belonged? It was for this reason - the letter of application started with the statement that the man had begun his trade in the Brooklyn Naval Yard, and the Resident Engineer assumed from that that the man was a ship-painter, and, as he had previously had a number of instances of men from one of those unions in which there was a large proportion of ship-painters as against house-painters, he wished to know whether the man, who had not mentioned the name of his union, belonged to that union which had so many shippainters in it. That is the whole thing, lock, stock, and barrel. That is the reason why the Resident Engineer asked that question, and I can assure the honorable member that quite a number of unionists are not ashamed of their profession. Quite a number of men applying for work under the present Government state that they are unionists, and there is no other case that honorable members can produce where a man, who has described himself as a unionist, and given bona fide testimonials, has not been employed by the present Administration.
– No; but you might tell the Committee why they are not ashamed.
– Because, if you like, they know that we do not discriminate between unionists and non-unionists. That is the reason why. I believe that if the honorable member went to Jervis Bay, and asked the men there whether they were unionists - we have never done it - he would find that practically every man working there is a unionist, for this reason: nearly every one in the painting trade - the honorable member may be able to find an exception or two - belongs to a union.
– Go on !
– Yes, it is really true. I suppose the honorable gentleman would go to the union if he required a painter for his own house.
– I would.
– The honorable member will not mind my referring to his being concerned in some litigation in New South Wales with a painter named Martin Systrum, who brought an action against the honorable member. I can remember my friend in that case, but he had not employed a highly-paid tradesman from the Trades Hall. This man Systrum was not a unionist - had never been a unionist.
– To the best of my knowledge, I do not remember such a man. I have never employed such a man.
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that he did employ this man.
– Was he a constituent of yours ?
– The house was in my constituency. If my honorable friend would only look up that case, he will find that he, of all people, should be the last person in the world to bring a charge against any one of employing a non-union painter. If honorable members will consult Hansard of this session, on page 1969 they will find the whole thing clearly set out in a statement which is in no way coloured by me, but is a straightforward departmental answer. I would have preferred not being asked to say why the Resident Engineer wished to know to which of the two unions this applicant for work belonged, but, since the honorable member has dragged it from me, and has insisted on my saying it, the union cannot hold me responsible for . any effects that may accrue to it as a result of any statement I have made in this place. I am sorry to have had to make it, but the honorable gentleman has insisted on getting it. I think I have said enough to explode the honorable gentleman completely. I hope we shall not have any more of this sort of nonsense. I wish that honorable members would decide in advance the exact form of attack they are going to make on the Government, and not let us have the same farce that we have had lately of Mr. Catts, the honorable member for Cook, on one side of the fence barking against us - -the most amazing thing in natural history - denouncing us for granting preference to unionists, while another honorable member claims that we are doing the exact opposite. We leave it to the country to weigh the case the’ party opposite has against the present Administration when it has to rely on this flimsy sort of attack in order to make good its charges.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.^5 p.m.
– In addressing the House on the present occasion, an honorable member feels in a somewhat curious position. Events occur with such speed that one almost loses breath ; and we have to realize the situation in which we are placed by a party who have talked and canted so much about our sacred Constitution, and yet seem to treat it so lightly. We are tonight following a time-honoured practice, which has come down to us through 600 or 700 years, of declining to vote Supply to the King until grievances are redressed ; and, under the circumstances, it is not out of place to refer to the present financial position. The late Government, it appears, left a credit balance of £2,600,000, and of that, £1,800,000 has already gone, showing a deficit to that amount on the year’s transactions.
– The money has vanished into thin air.
– That is a practical way of describing the position, though it is not the way in which it would be described by the Treasurer and others. We are, of course, assuming that the expenditure for the next year will be similar to that for this year, but doubtless there will be an increase on defence, the maternity allowance, and in other directions. We may take it, therefore, that the present balance of £800,000 will disappear, and that the year will close with a deficit of about £1,000,000. The Government may claim this to represent able finance, but most persons, not blinded by party feeling, will see that not much advantage has accrued to the country; and it is right that the people at large should know the position. I prefer that the facts should be put in a plain way so that plain men and plain women may understand them - much better than they would if they were presented with that financial juggling with which we are so familiar. According to Talleyrand, language was intended to conceal thought, and it would appear that figures and their manipulation were intended to cover up deficits. Private members this session have had very little opportunity to bring grievances before the House, and I am availing myself of the present occasion to call attention to the curious attitude adopted by the Government in regard to the appointment of the Permanent Returning Officers. In three of the cases within my knowledge - that of Hindmarsh, Boothby, and Richmond - the old Returning Officers had been in the service of the Commonwealth ever since its inception, and are experienced and well qualified men. The two men in South Australia are now in the service of the State Government, and likely to remain there; for whatever may be the fault of the Government of my State, they would not be guilty of throwing adrift men who have served them so faithfully. In answer to all my questions regarding this matter, I am told that the decision does not rest with the Government, but with the Public Service Commissioner - this Czar.
– That is correct.
– Then it is not much to the credit of the Government, or to this Parliament.
– We cannot override the Commissioner.
– Is this man, who exists by virtue of an Act of Parliament, to be superior to Parliament and to the Constitution? Is he at liberty to run rough-shod over the country, making appointments that are without justice and positively a disgrace? He has gone out of his way to do an infamous and a dirty trick ; and what is the excuse, if there is an excuse? The excuse is that all appointments must be made from the Commonwealth or the State service. If the men I have referred to were not servants of the Commonwealth, in the name of heaven, what were they? None but a man who would split hairs for the purpose of doing injustice would discover an Act of the character, or have thought of one, much less have put it into execution.
– Did these men put in applications ?
– Of course.
– Were they not dealt with on their merits?
– The honorable member would see the position if he had any sense, though, God knows,he has not much ! Would a merchant or a manufacturer, for example, be justified in turning away an accountant who had served him faithfully, and appointing another man in his place, simply for the love of doing so? Surely the honorable member is not so blinded by party spite that be cannot see justice and equity? Is this what the glorious Liberal party has come to - prepared to cheer and back up anything this man is prepared to do?
– The honorable member believes in political influence?
– I say that the matter of these appointments looks very significant. I do not say there is any political influence, but it looks very much like a case of “ Take your time from me, boys,”; and the honorable member, no doubt, knows what that means. I now desire to turn to the question of what the Government calls the “purging” of the rolls. It has been recognised ever since the initiation of Federation that a mariner - a term which covers the engineer, captain, and all on board down to the trimmer in the stokehold - by virtue of the fact that he lives on a ship, is entitled to register with that ship as his place of residence in the home port. But it has been discovered in some wonderful way - on the principle of “Take your time from me, boys” - that this is all wrong, and it has been decreed that mariners must register for somewhere else than the ship. Where is a man to register for when his home is on a ship, and he lives on it, sailing all around the Australian waters? Because of the very fact that a man is at sea, the satellites of the Liberal party would strike him off the roll.
– Because he is doing useful work for his country!
– More useful work than the lackeys of the Liberal party will ever do. Day after day, instead of attending to their parliamentary duties, Honorable members have to keep watch for any new infamy in this work of “ purging “ the rolls. The new regulation to which I have referred ought to be altered, and it would not take five weeks, or five years, to alter it. Its very existence shows the utter incapacity of the men who are presiding over the affairs of this country. The fact that a mariner’s name was on the roll at a port would suggest to any sane and intelligent man that there was a reason for its being there. But no ; some abstract idea jumps into the Chief Electoral Officer’s head, and be issues a regulation. What this is for he does not know, and he does not care - he has to “ purge “ the rolls. A very strong protest is justified against the attitude of the Government in regard to the double dissolution. I am not going to refer to the Governor-General, or repeat comments that have been pretty freely made in this connexion. I am willing to assume, for my argument, that the Governor-General, with section 57 before him, bad a great deal to justify the position he has taken up. There are two ways of governing a country by either party. Public men can try to raise the standard of public life ; have some regard to ideals, and, in calling history to their aid, adopt the morals of the best men. and not the worst. The aim should be to get the best out of our Constitution, and not degrade it. I unhesitatingly say that the present Government never intended to do anything of a useful character from the hour they took office; and the record shows absolutely nothing to their credit - only one continuous folly and failure. It is a matter of indifference to me whether we on this side win at the next election ; but from my knowledge of the Australian people, I am certain that they will not tolerate any Government who drag their institution down from that standard which they desire to preserve.
– What about the last election ?
– I shall deal with that matter later. My object now is to present an argument, a matter about which the honorable member never worries his head. I charge the Government with deliberately laying a trap for the Governor-General, the King’s representative, to fall into, and with utilizing the Constitution-
– I think the honorable member is out of order in charging the Government with laying a trap for the Governor-General.
– I would be the last man to reflect on the GovernorGeneral, the King’s representative, and I submit that I am not doing so.
– It is not the reference to the Governor-General, but the expression, “ The Government are laying a trap,” which I think is out of order.
– They are laying any number of traps every day.
– And the honorable member for Maribyrnong ought to be laying rabbit traps.
– I shall leave it to honorable members to decide, after I have concluded my argument, whether the term I have used does not fitly describe the action of the Government. I read with great pain the Ministerial statement presented to the House early last session. It was a declaration of war against the working classes of the Commonwealth. It contained two promises, one being a promise to introduce an amending Electoral Bill, and the other a proposal to deprive the rural workers of the right to approach the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Government, however, had not the pluck to carry out that which they were infamous enough to propose.
– Order !
– Is there any word which will better describe the attitude of the Government?
– If the honorable member wants a high standard, he ought to set a high standard.
– I have.
– The Treasurer spoke of us as “rascals.”
– The Government, in order to obtain a dissolution, have pursued a line of action, under section 57 of the Constitution, which I am sure was never contemplated by any member of the Convention. The Government did not wish to pass any legislation for the benefit of Australia. Their one desire was to get rid of the Labour party. They were actuated by feelings of hatred for a party which had put up a magnificent record of legislation.
– If the Labour Government had such a splendid record, why did the people wipe them out?
– They did not. They gave us a majority of the votes cast.
– That is not correct.
– Honorable members opposite, in interjecting in this way, are following a line of action which is common to them. The Government withdrew the Electoral Bill, and brought down tha Government Preference Prohibition Bill. They knew that it accomplished nothing, but believed that, if it were rejected twice by the Senate, they would be able to get a dissolution, under section 57, which imposed no conditions as to the character of the measures to which it applied. No one ever thought that; the Bill would bring about this result; but will any one say that it was not deliberately planned by the Government?
– How often were the Opposition told in the House that it was the intention of the Government to obtain a double dissolution?
– That interjection serves only to support my argument. If the Government wished to bring about a dissolution under section 57, why did they not introduce an important measure, such as a Bill to repeal the land tax, or some other valuable piece of legislation passed by the Labour Administration? We know that honorable members opposite hate the land tax and other legislation passed by us, but they dare not try to repeal it.
– We want the money.
– To try to bring about a dissolution on the flimsy grounds upon which the Government relied was to try to degrade the Constitution. And why did the Government take this action ? Merely because of their desire to weaken the position of their opponents. They had no regard for the welfare of the country. I impeach the Government and their supporters to-night. Those who support the party opposite may be divided into two camps. In the one I place those who are almost foaming at the mouth in their hatred of the Labour party, while in the other I would place the more respectable section, who say, in effect, to the Government, “ We do not want you to do anything, except to keep out the Labour fellows.” The Government say that we blocked every bit of legislation which they introduced.
– That is true.
– The Governmentintroduced no legislation.
– What about the Electoral Bill?
– That was introduced only because “of the Fusion party’s malignant hatred of their opponents. There was other important legislation on the notice-paper. If precedence had been given to such measures as the Norfolk Island Bill, the Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Bill, and the Bureau of Agriculture Bill, they would have gone through readily, because they were of such a character that we could not oppose them. Honorable members opposite suggest that we would oppose any legislation introduced by them; but we dare not oppose any Bill likely to prove beneficial to the people. We would be bound to support it. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General made up their minds, however, to drag the Constitution in the mire, and they played the game as low down as it was possible for any Minister to play it. And for what reason ? What was the crime charged against the Senate? The only charge made was that the Australian manhood and womanhood had elected a Labour Senate. If it had been a Fusion Senate there would have been no complaint. After the last general election, however, we had, for the first time in Australia, a House of Review in the hands of the Labour party. The Government and their supporters have said again and again, “ What could we do ? “ But what has been done in Australia during the last fifty years? In Victoria, for instance, the Legislative Council has again and again turned down measures passed by the Legislative Assembly, and yet there has never ‘been a double dissolution. Government after Government has submitted to that sort of thing. Legislative Councils have thwarted the will of the people, and State Ministries have “ taken their gruel.” That, too, has been the position in South Australia, particularly since the late Charles Cameron Kingston retired from State politics. The Legislative Councils are at the same old game now, and that is why the Treasurer loves them. He loves them because they have blocked the will of the people for fifty years. He cannot understand why the people, instead of appreciating the virtues of the grand old Tory luminaries, who had been in power for so many years, should have elected to the Senate a majority of the Labour party. It was because of this action on the part of the people that the Fusion party determined that the Senate must be destroyed under section 57 of the Constitution. I leave it to honorable members to supply the word that will fitly describe the policy pursued by the Government. I challenge the Fusion party to point to a parallel case in the history of the Conservative party in the Old Country, and I hope that the result of the approaching elections will be to sweep away the Government, not because it is a Conservative Administration, but because it has degraded the public life of Australia to such an extent that it will become a by-word throughout the Englishspeaking world. Honorable members opposite, when questioned, say, “ We are just finding out what we can do under the Constitution.” What a nice policy they are pursuing ! Had we been in their position, what would have been said if we had sought to avail ourselves of the Constitution as they have done. Would it not have been said at once, “ They are only Labour men; they are Constitution wreckers, and attach no value to the Constitution.” But it has remained for the State Rights Brigade to slash at the Federal Constitution.
– Because it did not work just as they wished it to do.
– Exactly. I have proved that the situation in this Parliament gave no cause for alarm. We have had the same sort of thing from time to time during the last fifty years in the State Parliaments, and yet there has been no double dissolution. Legislative Councils have trampled on the will of the people again and again, and Ministers have taken this treatment “lying down.” And yet the Fusion Government in this Parliament say that they could not do anything else - that they could not pass any legislation. Are there not many important and entirely non-party questions awaiting the attention of the Federal Parliament? Could not the Government have attempted to deal with them instead of leaving them to demand our attention at a time when questions of more pressing urgency are waiting to be dealt with? There were many such questions with which the Government could have asked Parliament to deal. Had they done so, they would have raised the tone of the public life of Australia, and the Labour party would have been constrained to say to them, “ Whilst we do not agree with your general policy, we are bound to admit that you are doing your best for Australia in dealing with non-party legislation.” That is what could have been done, and what would have been done if the Cabinet had had its way. In my opinion, the Cabinet is ruled by two men, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I did not intend to address the Committee again on this motion, but I must say a word or two in reply to some of the statements that have been made, and deal with one or two of the matters that have been mentioned in the debate. Seeing that I was as clear and explicit as I could be when moving the motion, I regret that what I said appears to have been misunderstood by the honorable member for Kennedy. This is the report of my remarks as they appear in the Hansard report, page 2033 -
– Has not the right honorable gentleman spent more than his income?
– Seeing that at the beginning of the year there was a surplus of £2,643,305, and that there will be a surplus of only £824,305 at the end of the year, I should say that that question is unnecessary. I remind the right honorable member again, however, that he had a surplus of £2,261,673 at the beginning of 1912-13, and also that at the end of 1912-13 he had a surplus that he had not anticipated, and that my position is similar. I think I can give honorable members even a little more hope. Notwithstanding this estimate, which has been prepared by the Department, I am prepared to make a little more liberal forecast, and to express the hope that the balance on the 30th June instant will be over £1,000,000.
– In respect of the year’s transactions ?
– On the transactions of the year ending 30th June, and inclusive of the surplus.
Surely those words were clear enough. I had no intention of withholding anything from honorable members. I took into account, not only the revenue we expected to receive during the year, but also the surplus brought forward from last year, doing exactly what was done by the Leader of the Opposition. That there was no withholding of information is clear from the official report of my speech.
– Where does the right honorable gentleman expect to get the £200,000 necessary to make up the surplus of £1,000,000?
– It is not easy to make an exact estimate of the year’s finances, even so near its close as the present date. We have to provide for large expenditure in all Darts of the Commonwealth, and must do the best we can. The Estimates of revenue and expenditure that I have given are the best that I can get.
– The right honorable gentleman has said that he expects to have a surplus of £1,000,000.
– I hope to have such a surplus.
– Does the Treasurer call it a surplus?
– I think that I have given the honorable member for Kennedy his quietus. He ought not to have said what he did, in view of the plain statement that I had put before the Committee already. Great things are expected from members who have held high positions. For many a day we obeyed the honorable member for Kennedy as Speaker, and I did not expect that he would misrepresent matters.
– You may have to obey him again.
– I hope not, though I do not say that for any personal objection that I have to the honorable member. Many misstatements have been made during the debate, and during the year that we have been in office. There are two statements that have been made continually with which I propose to deal. One is that when the last Liberal Government left office, and was succeeded by the Fisher Government, there was a deficit of £450,000. That has never been disputed. We have never said much about it, but we have a good defence which has already been put before the country, though it has not been continually repeated. That we left a deficit of £450,000 is being said all over the country, as if we had been a spendthrift Government, and had brought the Commonwealth into debt. As honorable members opposite insist on reiterating this statement, I may be excused if I go into ancient history to give the exact facts. We have been told that the Fisher Government, when they came into office, found a deficit of £450,000, and three years later left office with a surplus of £2,653,000. That parrot-cry is heard all over the land.
– Is it not true?
– It is true; but the facts are capable of explanation, and I shall explain them. I have no hesitation about making these remarks, because I am speaking the truth, and honorable members cannot get away from the truth. I have no wish to equivocate in any way. Those unacquainted with the facts might believe that it was the financial wisdom and economicaladministration of the Labour party which brought about this apparently great improvement in the finances of the Commonwealth; but, as I shall show, the facts do not support that belief. It is well known to all who take an interest in these matters that the Commonwealth began to pay old-age pensions before the funds under its control sufficed to meet its expenditure. The date on which the pension liability commenced was 1st July, 1909.
– The right honorable member’s Government started with £200,000 in hand.
– I think that we had £650,000 in hand; but that was not enough.
– The Labour party showed you how to save money.
– I do not wish to refer to that matter now. I considered that the money was being illegally taken from the States. It was thought proper to begin paying pensions on the. 1st July, 1909, although the funds available did not then suffice. On the 31st December, 1910, the Braddon provision, under which the Commonwealth had to pay to the States threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, ceased to operate, and it was intended to make some temporary arrangement to cover the period between July, 1909, and that date. My late friend, Sir William Lyne, who was then Treasurer, when cross-examined as to how he would get the money, said that he would be a little short, but that he would finance the business somehow. It was well known that the one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue which was retained by the Commonwealth would not be sufficient. But the expiration of the Braddon section was at hand, and it was felt that we should be able to finance the business in some way until it had expired, when there would be more money available. The permanent division of the Customs and Excise revenue between the Commonwealth and the States had long been the subject of animated discussion, and in August, 1909, nearly eighteen months before the Braddon section was to cease to have force, the Deakin Government entered into an agreement with the Governments of the States, under which they were to receive front the Commonwealth 25s. per head of their populations, instead of three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue. At the time the amount was looked upon as a small one in comparison with what had been formerly received; and it was small, but the Governments of the States were led to agree to the arrangement by the promise of the Deakin Government that the people should be asked by referendum to agree to an alteration of the Constitution which would secure the per capita payment for an unlimited time. The Governments of the States also agreed that a proposal to alter the Constitution to terminate the Braddon section on the 30th June, instead of the 31st December, 1910, should be submitted to the people. They agreed, further, that the deficit which was expected to result in 1909-10 from the payment of pensions by the Commonwealth, should be borne by the States to the amount of £600,000. Thus the Deakin Government made provision for the inevitable deficit. Every one knew that there must be a deficit if we did not get money from the States or elsewhere. In April, 1910, the people rejected our proposed amendments of the Constitution.
– A good thing.
– I, am not now discussing that, though I advised it. The deficit, which amounted to about £450,000, could not be legally recoveredfrom the States, and it was therefore carried forward. The Labour Government subsequently, by force of law, instead of under an agreement, did exactly what was contemplated by the Deakin Government. The Labour Government provided for the payment to the States of 25s. per head of population, but only for a period of ten years, and thereafter until the Parliament should otherwise provide. The deficit of £450,000 was brought about solely by the early payment of old-age pensions.
– What did that cost?
– About £1,500,000, and we had about £650,000 brought forward from previous years towards paying the £1,500,000. The early payment of old-age pensions was the sole cause of the deficit. Had the Deakin Government remained in office, and had their proposed alteration of the Constitution been agreed to by the people, there would have been no deficit. Indeed, the Labour Government met it in practically the same way that the Deakin Government proposed to meet it. So much, therefore, for any credit that the Labour party may assume for getting rid of the deficit. The Deakin Government made ample provision for the payment of oldage pensions before the expiration of the Braddon section, but the people did not sanction our proposed alteration of the Constitution. Had they done so, and had we remained in office, we should have had ample funds to meet the deficit on the 30th June, 1910. Honorable members opposite always take great credit for what they did, but they do not give us credit for having introduced the old-age and invalid pensions legislation, which was carried without a dissentient voice. One would hardly expect them to be continually talking about this deficit of £450,000, which was incurred to enable old-age pensions to be paid many months before the’ Braddon provision expired.
– We had to make you do it.
– If you made the Deakin Government do it, you have no occasion to say so much now of the deficit which resulted from what we did. A great deal has been said about the surplus of £2,653,223 on the 30th June, 1913. I do not know why such a song should be made about it, because it must be remembered that the Fisher Government inherited a surplus of £2,261,673 from the year 1911-12. During the year 1912-13 the Fisher Government received as revenue £1,477,413 more than the Treasurer estimated, and expended £1,175,810 less than he estimated.
– Good financing.
– The Leader of the Opposition is never tired of referring to the surplus of £2,653,223 which was in the Treasury when he left office. By this continual repetition he seems to take credit to himself for a deliberate storing tip pf money. Apparently lie would have us believe that by wise financial arrangement he had built up a fund for future use.
– Hear, hear!
– There could be nothing more misleading than that idea. The surplus of £2,653,223 was accidental, unexpected, and unintentional. As I said before, the honorable member received £1,477,413 more revenue than he estimated, and he spent £1,175,810 less than he estimated. I can prove that the Leader of the Opposition did not expect to have that surplus. Indeed, the Estimates showed that he did not, and all through the year his actions showed that the surplus was not anticipated. He actually borrowed £1,300,000 during that year, and of that loan he expended £1,190,000. Does any one think that he would have borrowed £1,300,000 if he had expected to finish tlie year with a surplus of £2,653,223?
– Where did he borrow it from ?
– That is not the point. He borrowed it. If he had expected to have such a large amount of money in hand at the end of the year, would he have been justified in borrowing £1,300,000 of money for public works? Further than that, I wish to say that if the Leader of the Opposition had only received his estimated revenue of £20,422,000, and expended what he actually did expend for the year 1912-13, namely, £21,507,863, he would have ended with a deficit of £1,085,863. But fortune favoured him, for he received £1,477,413 in excess of his estimate, and expended £1,175,810 less than his estimate, thus making’ the surplus of £2,653,223. This enabled him to live within his means to the extent of £391,550, and to add it to the balance to credit on the 30th June, 1913, of £2,261,673, this making his credit balance on that date £2,653,223. I would like to compare the revenue for the three years in which the Labour party were in office, 1910-11, 1911-12, and 1912-13, with the three previous years when the Liberals were in power. The revenue available for Commonwealth expenditure in 1907-8, 1908-9, and 1909-10 was £20,082,044. During the three succeeding years, owing to the operations of the Braddon clause, and also to a period of great prosperity throughout the Commonwealth, tlie revenue received by the Labour Administration was £43,662,109. During those three years they had available for expenditure £23,580,065 more than we had. The Labour party spent tlie whole of that immense sum with the exception of £2,653,223, that being the surplus on the 30th June, 1913. I desire to say a word about that also. I would not refer to it, but I am bound to speak out when statements are made which are not based on facts. Liabilities amounting to £1,201,416, which were included in the Estimates of expenditure for 1912-13, were not paid, but were left for us to pay in 1913-14.
– Without the loan there would have been a deficit.
– There would have been a very small surplus. It is only fair to say that Mr. Fisher’s accumulated surplus of £2,653,223 should be reduced by the following amounts which we had to pay : - Fleet expenditure, merely postponed, £702,432; new works expenditure, merely postponed, £160,818..
– What do you mean by postponed ?
– Works which it was expected would be finished in 1912- 13, but were not finished until 1913-14. Then there were : Accounts not paid (after deducting revenue not brought to account), £328,248; audit correction, £9,918, making a total of £1,201,416. If these amounts on the Estimates for 1912-13 had been paid, the real surplus would have been £1,451,807. I do not wish to say any more. The figures I have given have been carefully prepared, and I am certain that they are correct. I would like to reiterate what I said on a previous occasion -
This Government came into office only a week before the expiration of the financial year. In the last three years, during which the Liberals had been out of office, the annual expenditure of the Commonwealth increased from £8,155,666 in 1909-10 to £15,387,933 in 1912-13, the increase being £7,232,267.
The result of the termination of the Braddon clause, and the substitution of a contribution of 25s. per capita to the States, during the three financial years 1910-11, 1911-12, and 1.912-13, was that £14,190,095 more of the Customs and Excise revenue was retained by the Commonwealth.
If we add to this the land tax revenue, which for the same three financial years amounted to £4,152,676, we have the enormous sum of £18,342,771 received by our predecessors (the Labour Government) which would not have been received if the Braddon clause had continued, and there had been no Federal land tax imposed.
The unexpected possession of £18,342,771 of extra revenue naturally encouraged a vastly increased expenditure that could not have been possible, or even thought of, otherwise, and, consequently, large expenditure has taken place from revenue, which would have been impossible under the conditions existing for the previous nine years of Federation.
I went on to say -
The Government do not intend to interfere with the expenditure to which the country is committed. We intend to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth on safe and economical lines, doing justice to all, and showing favoritism to none. We will do our best to restore public confidence, to stimulate enterprise, and give security to the whole people.
That is what we promised this House when we came into office, and I submit that we have carried out that promise faithfully.
.- I congratulate the Treasurer on the careful manner in which he read that speech. The honorable member read a speech the other day in which he carefully avoided telling the people that he would finish the year with a deficit of £1,819,000.’ He led this Committee to believe that there would be a surplus of £824,000 at the end of the financial year, and it was on this point that a discussion took place this afternoon. I ask the honorable member whether he has a deficit of £1,819,000 on the year’s transactions ?
– Yes, I have.
– I did my best to protect the Treasurer from interjections, to an undue number of which he is subjected at times. I now ask the Treasurer to assist me in keeping order, and I also ask the honorable member for Kennedy not to put his questions directly across the table, because by doing so he invites interjections in reply.
– I do not wish to put my questions directly to the Treasurer, but as he accused me this afternoon of saying something which was not. correct, I wish to prove that it was correct. Until I got the answer from the Treasurer a moment ago, he did not tell the Committee that there was a deficit of £1,819,000 on the year’s transactions. On the other hand, he has referred to an alleged surplus of £824,305. Let us read the right honorable gentleman’s words, so that there will be no mistake.
Honorable members are very generous with other people’s money. Considerable savings have been made in other Departments; and, as far as can be foreseen at present, the accounts at the close of the year will probably be as follows : - Accumulated surplus at the 30th June, 1913, £2,643,305- this figure is audited, and, therefore, exact; revenue for theyear, as estimated, £21,462,000, and, with the surplus, making a total of £24,105,305; expenditure for the year as now estimated, £23,281,000, showing an estimated surplus on the 30th June, 1914, of £824,305.
What was the Treasurer’s object in saying that there was a surplus of £824,305 - because he must have known that hia statement was not correct, and that he did not have a surplus? The object was to make the country believe that he had so carefully supervised the expenditure as to have a surplus of £824,305. He has admitted that the last time he was in office, in spite of the fact that he took over a surplus of £600,000 from the Fisher Government, after nine months in office there was a deficit of £500,000. In other words, the Fusion Government went to the bad at the rate of over £100,000 a month. The Treasurer went on to explain that the late Government had left a surplus of £2,643,000, and put it into Trust Funds for old-age pensions and naval construction ; but the right honorable gentleman, in dealing with old-age pensions, instead of paying them out of the current revenue of this year, has exploited those Trust Funds in order to make good an amount equal to £1,819,000. In the next breath he claimed credit for having paid the old-age pensions six months earlier than they would have been paid had not the Braddon section been repealed, whereas there was not one man who did more to prevent the Surplus Revenue Bill being passed than the honorable member. He and his friends “stonewalled “ the measure night after night, in order to prevent the Government; getting the necessary money to enable the old-age pensions to be paid. The Treasurer should be the very last to talk of what he did in respect to old-age pensions. He should be honest in the matter. After telling the Committee that the Fisher Government left a surplus of £2,643,000, the right honorable gentleman went on to explain that there was an amount of £328,248 that should have been charged to the year 1912-13, but which was passed on to the year 1913-14. Will the right honorable gentleman say that there is not a similar amount to be passed on from this year to next year? It is done every year. What was the object of the Treasurer in bringing forward these figures? Was it not to show that there was an amount of £328,248 that should have been paid last year, but was not paid ? Owing to the extent of Australia it is not possible to get in all the accounts by the end of the financial year, and, therefore, some really due for payment in one year must be held over for payment in the next financial year. That happens to any Government. I do not say that the Treasurer deliberately quoted these figures in order to deceive the Committee, but the effect of his remarks was to do so. Let me take the right honorable gentleman on exactly his own figures, and see the position in which the present Government are placing themselves. According to the Treasurer’s statement, there is £200,000 for naval construction, which should be -paid this year, but which will stand over till next year. That is one commitment for next year. Other commitments for next year are the automatic increases to oldage pensions, £200,000, and maternity allowances, £150,000; the automatic increase in Defence expenditure, £150,000; the automatic increase in Naval expenditure, £150,000 - under the Henderson scheme I think it will be £200,000; expenditure on the Federal Capital site, £200,000 - if there is to be any work done there ; and increased expenditure on the development of the Northern Territory, £50,000 - putting it down at the smallest amount. Then there is also a sum of £328,248 to represent accounts not paid this year which will have to be paid next year.
– That is the amount left over from last year.
– But the right honorable gentleman knows that the amount will be just about the same this year. Further, there is an amount of £208,000 for the purchase of Garden Island, which has not been paid this year, and’ will be a commitment for next year. With all these vast sums, assuming that the revenue for next year will be about the same as that of this year, and that the expenditure is kept down next year to the_ same ratio as that of this year, there will be commitments in addition to the ordinary expenditure to the extent of £3,366,000. If we deduct from this the balance of £824,000 from this year, there will be, roughly, a deficit of £2,542,000 at the end of the next financial year. How is the Treasurer going to meet it?
Is he going to meet it by reducing the old-age pensions? Is he still going to rob - I withdraw that word; is he going to exploit the Old-age Pension Fund ?
– Who is robbing any one? You should be ashamed of yourself.
– I withdrew the word.
– The expression is not in order.
– You should apologize also.
– I apologize to the right honorable gentleman. I ask him whether he is going to exploit the Oldage Pension Fund ?
– What funds? Where are these funds?
– That is just what we are trying to get at. What has the Treasurer done with the £1,819,000? He has not told us. Let me tell the right honorable gentleman that the people will want to know what he has done with that £1,819,000?
– They will not think I have run away with it.
– The right honorable member knows that I am not referring to him personally, though many of his supporters made that allegation in regard to the ex-Treasurer, one of the most contemptible things that I know of in political life. The honorable members for Gippsland and Echuca did so. Men taking that course are not fit to be in public life. At the present rate of expenditure there will not be 3d. in the Treasury at ‘the end of six or eight months unless there is some attempt to replenish the coffers.
– If the Government get through £1,800,000 in eleven months, surely they will get through the balance in five months?
– It is quite reasonable for honorable members to ask whether it is the intention of the Government to put a tax on kerosene and tea, or to put on revenue duties as against protective duties. Are they going to put a tax on cotton goods and other things that are not manufactured here so that the burden will fall on those least able to bear it?
– I think the Treasurer, when he was in Western Australia, had a tax on tea.
– The right honorable gentleman was one of those who delighted in getting his revenue from a tax on tea.
– Did not the right honorable gentleman vote in the Federal Parliament for a tax on tea ?
– How long ago was that?
– Never mind; the honorable member did so.
– If the honorable member looks at the record, he will probably find he did the same.
– No; we on this side voted against it. Then there is the Attorney-General, who says distinctly that he is prepared to put old-age pensions and the maternity allowance on a contributory basis. Are the Government going to collect the pennies, twopences, and threepences from those people who have helped to build up this country - to exploit them in order to make ends meet?
– In Western Australia I put both tea and sugar on the free list.
– I do not dispute that, but the right honorable gentleman in this Parliament voted for duties on tea and sugar. Whatever virtue the Treasurer may have had in Western Australia he cannot claim here; and we are entitled to know exactly what taxation is to be imposed. We are faced with an empty Treasury inside six months; and if the Government propose revenue duties, or an additional land tax with reduced exemption, they ought to have the common decency to tell the country. I know that the Honorary Minister is quite prepared to tax, not only tea and kerosene, but the wages of every working man in the community. I have proved from Hansard exactly what I contended this afternoon, namely, that the Treasurer led the House and the country to believe that there would be a surplus of £824,000 while he knew there was a deficit of £1,819,000. Under the circumstances, the Government ought to have the honesty to tell us exactly what their proposals are.
.- The electors will welcome the statements of the honorable member for Kennedy as to the attitude of the Treasurer, especially when they remember the tirades of abuse and misrepresentation that were indulged in by Fusion candidates - the charges of “ extravagance,” “ orgies of finance,” and so forth, that were such common talk during the last election. It is now cheering to have it on the authority of the Treasurer himself that, not only has he spent the whole of his revenue, but has had the pleasure of spending over £1,800,000 accumulated by his predecessors. This Government have paraded before the country their intense desire to assist in the development of the industries in Australia. To hear them talk, one would think that their one dream, day and night, was the expansion and protection of those industries; but wo have waited in vain for any effort on their part in this direction. We have asked the Government to introduce Tariff legislation, and offered our co-operation, but each time our overtures have been contemptuously rejected. The commercial advantage of Australia is of small importance in their eyes when compared with the security of their positions on the Treasury bench. Their inattention to the industries of Australia is equalled only by their culpable lack of attention to the commercial interests of Australia abroad. Australia must, in the future, be increasingly dependent on oversea markets for the sale of our produce. Through climatic conditions we are able to produce in great abundance food stuffs that are urgently required by people in other countries of the world; but, though the Government have been repeatedly invited to give attention to this matter, they have just as repeatedly refused. Will honorable members follow me while I tell them of the replies given by the Minister of Trade and Customs, and by the Prime Minister himself, in regard to reciprocal arrangements with Canada and New Zealand ? On 9th July last year, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in’ reply to myself, said that no decision had been come to respecting this matter; on 5th September, in reply to the honorable member for Capricornia, the Prime Minister said that no arrangement had been concluded; on 10th September, the Prime Minister, in reply to the honorable member for Capricornia, said that no answers were “possible at the present time”; on 11th September, the Prime Minister, in reply to the honorable member for Yarra, said that there had not been an opportunity to consider the question; on 25th September, the Minister of Trade and
Customs, in reply to the honorable member for Yarra, said that the matter was receiving attention; on 30th September, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in reply to myself, said, “ The matter is still under consideration “ ; on 23rd October, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in reply to the honorable member for Yarra, said, “ The matter is receiving the attention of the Government”; on 27th November, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in reply to myself, said, “ I am not in a position to make a public statement “ ; on the 9th December, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in reply to the honorable member for Yarra, said that nothing further had been done; on 16th April this year, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in reply to the honorable member for Yarra, said, “ No information can be given at this stage”; on the 11th June, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in reply to myself, asked me to give notice of my question, and, when I did give notice, he, on the 13th June, said, “ I am not in a position to make any definite statement at this stage.” No wonder the Minister of Trade and Customs has earned the title of the “ Minister for Observation “ ; and he will, at any rate, go down to posterity famous as one who was never able to give any definite statement as to any decision arrived at, but always assured the House that the matter was “ under observation.” If one could find out what particular quality of magnifying glass would suit the honorable gentleman’s political vision, we might discover something that would really secure some attention and action. For many years, Queensland and New South Wales, at very heavy expense, subsidized a line of steamers which gave direct access to Canadian markets. That contract was taken over by the Commonwealth Government at Federation, and, by yearly extensions and short contracts, was carried on until 31st July, 1911, when it expired. Negotiations were proceeding between New Zealand and Canada, and New Zealand had been able to arrange some Tariff advantages amounting, generally speaking, to about1/2d. per lb. on food stuffs. Queensland and New South Wales, who had succeeded in creating and developing a very satisfactory business, found themselves faced with the difficult position that New Zealand was arranging a shipping service with Canada, which was intended also to include the two former States, and would place their goods on the Canadian market at an advantage of1/2d. per lb. generally. On the 27th September, 1910, the press published a cablegram from Sir Wilfrid Laurier to Sir Joseph Ward, the Premier of New Zealand, to the effect that he was asking the concurrence of the Commonwealth Government in an arrangement that would include New Zealand, as well as Queensland and New South Wales. Only one tender was received; and in November, 1910, the honorable member for Wide Bay, who was then Prime Minister, stated that a communication had been received from Canada requesting concurrence; but, in view of the advantageous reciprocal Tariff arrangement New Zealand had with Canada, he was not in favour of heavily subsidizing a line of ships which would place Queensland, New South Wales, and the other States at a disadvantage. So the matter has been going on, and there is the fact that the contract expired three years ago. The business that had been built up by Queensland and New South Wales was practically sacrificed.
– Does the honorable member suggest that that was through not getting another shipping contract?
– It was simply because of the failure to enter into reciprocal relationship with Canada and New Zealand.
– Did the contract not expire when the honorable member for Barrier was Postmaster-General?
– Yes. The Minister of Trade and Customs evidently wishes to insinuate that the honorable member for Barrier was to blame for the stoppage of the contract, and for the dislocation of trade ; but the opposite is the case, as is shown by one outstanding fact. The then Minister of Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Yarra, was in communication with both Canada and New Zealand, and before he left office, in 1913, he had practically completed an arrangement with the two Dominions. All that was necessary was the signature to the arrangement in regard to the advantageous reciprocal relationships. Although the present Minister of Trade and Customs had the advantage of having all the work done, and had only to put pen to paper in order to place Australian producers on the same basis as New Zealand producers, he did nothing, and has done nothing.
– Was it not really owing to the selfishness of the Brisbane merchants that the agreement was broken at all?
– It was solely the neglect of the Government to renew it.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he would now be willing to enter into a contract such as was offered to the then Government, which meant the payment of a subsidy of about £70,000 a year when the trade we were doing was only worth about £80,000 a year? The attitude of the Brisbane merchants, and of the then Government, was, and is yet, that unless Australian goods are to be admitted to Canada on an equal basis with those of New Zealand, it would be utterly foolish and bad business to pay £70,000, which would only have the effect of helping a competitor to enter our markets. The idea of subsidizing a line of steamers to enable a competitor to cut our business, under such circumstances, would be absurd; and I am sure that the Minister of Trade and Customs would not now be willing to enter into any such arrangement. The present Government took office in June, 1913, and I have read the replies given up to June, 1914, on this question. We have been told that the matter is “receiving attention,” and “ under observation “ ; and if we live long enough we may possibly find the Government doing something. If the Government do not do something within the next three months, they will not have another opportunity, for they will have to give place to others who will, at any rate, make an effort. The following appeared in the Age of the 10th inst. : -
The Canadian Government is establishing a new Trans-Pacific Mail Service, with fortnightly instead of monthly sailings, as in the past. The two fastest Canadian-Pacific “Empress “ liners will be included in the service. The old contract having expired, the British Government has refused to continue its contribution.
When I asked the Postmaster-General if he had any communication from the Canadian Government in regard to this matter, I learned to my astonishment that the Commonwealth Administration knew nothing about it. The contract which at present exists between the New Zealand Steam-ship Company and the Canadian and New Zealand Governments, and in respect of which a subsidy is granted by the British Government, will expire three or four years hence, and the Liberal Government are so greatly interested in the development of Australian trade and the promotion of Australian industries that they do not even know what is going on as between these parties. They say that since the Commonwealth is not a party to the contract, it is not interested in it. In view of the efforts which are being made by the great steam-ship companies trading between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere every Government ought to be alive to the commercial importance attaching to the opening up of new markets. The present Government, however, seem to be quite indifferent to all these matters. Australian industries can perish for want of Tariff protection, and Australian industries may perish so far as oversea markets for their produce are concerned, because the Government are utterly indifferent. We have here an opportunity for a reciprocal arrangement of the most tempting character with Canada. Just before he left office, as Minister of Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Yarra arrived at a most satisfactory agreement with the Canadian Minister, who was then visiting Australia. That agreement, I am sure, would have been acceptable to the Parliament and to the country. But for all we know, it is still unsigned. The Liberal Government, are paying so much attention to political matters of comparatively small importance that they have no time to give to these great subjects of national moment. I wish now ito protest against the proposal of the Government to be represented by the PostmasterGeneral at, the International Postal Conference to be held at, Madrid.
– The honorable member for Darwin, Mr. King O’Malley, says that he is the best Postmaster-General we have ever had.
– I made not the slightest reference to the honorable gentleman’s abilities or qualities. I am prepared now to repeat what I said publicly in Brisbane when I first heard of his contemplated retirement, and that is that there is no member of this Parliament whose retirement will be hailed with more- sincere expressions of regret on the part of honorable members generally. The Honorable Agar Wynne is one of the few Ministers who can he approached at all times, who is always a gentleman, and who always treats honorable members fairly and squarely, no matter to which side they belong. The point that I wish to make, however, is that this International Postal Conference will be of tremendous importance, and that if the Government deem it necessary to be represented at all, they ought to be represented by some one who occupies an official position, or by a member of this Parliament. When the Conference meets the honorable member for Balaclava will be neither PostmasterGeneral nor a member of this House. That is an unfair position in which to place the representative of Australia. It is unfair also that the Commonwealth should be represented by a man who will have no standing so far as the Parliament is concerned. If the honorable gentleman had intended to remain in Parliament the Government could not have made a more acceptable appointment. He will render good service to the Commonwealth in any event, but we shall largely lose the advantage of his presence at the Conference, in view of the fact that when he comes back he will only be able to make to us a written statement. He will no longer be Postmaster-General, and able, therefore, to carry into effect the decisions of the Conference.
I have now something to say regarding the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, and the designs for the Federal Houses of Parliament at Canberra. At the invitation of the Minister of Home Affairs, the representatives of the various State Architectural Associations met recently in Melbourne. That Conference was invited to appoint a representative to proceed to London to join other gentlemen - one from the United States of America, one from Great Britain, one from France, and one from Germany - in adjudicating on the designs sent in for the new Parliament Houses in response to prizes offered in open competition. On Srd inst., I asked the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether it was true, as reported in the press, that a Commission was being appointed to sit in London. The honorable gentleman sheltered himself behind this statement -
London has been decided on as the place for the adjudication of these designs by this Go- vernment just as it was by the last; for the reason that it is most readily accessible to the four other members of the Committee over whom the Australian architect will preside. ‘
On the following day I propounded a few other questions on the same matter, and received the reply that -
Competitive designs were invited from architects throughout the world, and we are providing a board of adjudication which will commend itself to competitors in every country in the world.
I interjected -
That is a reflection on Australian architects.
The Assistant Minister replied -
I suggest that the honorable member might, with some appropriateness, ask his own leader why it was proposed, under the Fisher Administration, that the only arbitrator upon these designs should be an Englishman sitting in London.
Tennyson tells us -
That a lie which is all a lie, may bc met and fought with outright,
But a lie which is half a truth is a harder matter to light.
The Assistant Minister’s statements are bad because, while apparently true, they are actually false.
– In what way? I allowed the honorable member to see the papers.
– I was about to say that through the courtesy of the Assistant Minister I had seen the papers. I have also seen the printed conditions of the competitions in regard to the laying out of the Capital city, and the designs for the Parliament Houses at Canberra. These designs were to be sent to London and Melbourne. From those sent to London five were to be selected by a nominee of the British Institute of Architects, and out of those sent in here three were to be selected by a representative gentleman in Melbourne. The representative in London was then to come out here and to compare his five selected designs with the three selected in Melbourne, a final choice being then made. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, however, said that the Fisher Administration decided that the only arbitrator on these designs should be an Englishman sitting in London.
– In my answer to the honorable member’s question, without notice, I was wrong in stating that the final arbitration was to be in London. The arbitrator was to come to Australia, but I do not know what particular magic there was in that fact. He was still to be an Englishman.
– Another statement made by the Assistant Minister was that the previous Administration decided upon London because it was more accessible to the other judges. That statement is also wrong, because the previous Administration made no arrangement whatever for a Commission of any kind to sit in London.
– That is a quibble.
– It is a plain, straight statement.
– The honorable member knows that the adjudicators were sitting in London under the old proposals.
– One man was to sit in London, and to select the designs. The present Government have decided that five adjudicators shall sit in London and adjudicate.
– Are they to come out here?
– No; that is the point I want to make. What is wrong with Australians that the designs for the Federal Parliament Houses cannot be sent to Melbourne to be adjudicated upon on the spot?
– The honorable member is overlooking the fact - deliberately, perhaps - that an Australian architect is Chairman of the Adjudication Board.
– The conference of representatives of architectural associations which met in Melbourne was invited to nominate a gentleman to proceed to London. It did so. Whether the best man has been selected is immaterial; but this gentleman is going to London, with all expenses paid, and is to receive £10 per day while engaged on Commonwealth business. It would have been ten times more useful, and would have cost little more, to have brought the four adjudicators from the other side of the world to Melbourne, so that they could visit the site before adopting any design. Designs, plans, and full particulars were sent all over the world, and architects generally were invited to submit designs for the Federal Capital city. Mr. Griffin, an American gentleman, secured first prize, and was invited, very properly, to come over here to look after the work. When he came here, he found that a departmental Board had adapted three or four of the selected designs, and from them had evolved a general scheme. As soon as he went to Canberra, however, and saw the country for himself, Mr. Griffin discarded the Departmental Board’s design, practically discarded his own, and based upon it a new design altogether. This shows that, notwithstanding all the details that could be supplied on paper, it was not possible to secure such a conception of the work required as is gained by an actual visit to the Territory. The building of the Federal Parliament Houses is a work of vital importance. If the architects who are adjudicating on the designs had been brought to Australia, had visited the Capital site, and had studied the contour of the country and its climatic conditions, having all available meteorological data submitted to them, they would have been more likely to choose the best design. As it is, what do they know of Australian conditions? We have it on record that a gentleman of very high standing in London was commissioned to design the new Commonwealth buildings there, but that, when his plans came to Australia, the Commonwealth architect pointed out so effectively how they could be improved that the Government sent him to London, with the result that the rental value of the building was increased by something like £3,000 annually, and the plans were entirely remodelled. I have considerable doubt as to the advantages of competition in these cases.
– Why should we not have a distinctly Australian architecture?
– What encouragement have our architects to develop an Australian style of architecture? Each country and each age has had its architecture, and modern buildings do not compare with those of ancient times, when more seems to have been known about mathematics and construction than we know now. Australian conditions demand an Australian style. As to the ability of one of the gentlemen who have been chosen to adjudicate, I have considerable doubt; I refer to Mr. Sullivan, of Chicago, about whose reputation I have made some inquiry, and the information I have received is not complimentary. How can an American, a British, a
French, or a German architect know better than an Australian architect what suits Australian conditions? It is doubtful whether even architects favour these open competitions. They certainly give young architects the opportunity to make known their ideas.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Committee and the Postmaster-General to the transport facilities between the mainland and Tasmania. That traffic is in the hands of a combine, and the day is not far distant when it will so increase fares and freights as to greatly interfere with commerce. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will prevent Tasmania from being penalized as it has been in the past, and as it seems likely to be in the future. The Age published on the 30th May an excellent article headed, “ The Revised Schedule; Substantial Increases, Fares Advanced up to 13 per cent.,” in which it showed that the freights and fares of the shipping companies doing business along the coast have been considerably increased. The excuse is made that this increase is due to the higher wages paid by the waterside workers, but it is altogether out of proportion to that increase. No other shipping companies that I have read of make such enormous dividends as some of the Australian companies. According to the monthly sharelist of Messrs. Joseph Palmer and Sons, which contains information up to the 31st May last -
Howard Smith remains steady at 76s. 9d., and we recommend the purchase. Last year the profit, after paying dividends on preference shares, was about £125,000, or equal to 50 per cent. on the ordinary shares. The dividend was 20 per cent., but it is expected that 25 per cent. will be paid this year. If so, the yield will be 61/2 per cent. on present price, and there is talk of a new issue of shares on liberal terms to ordinary shareholders.
The people are being penalized and commerce interfered with to enable the shipping companies to make enormous profits. This is most unfair, and I wish to know what the Government intends to do to put an end to the present state of affairs. According to the Hobart Mercury -
The Union Steam-ship Company announces that the price of Newcastle coal is now temporarily raised 2s. per ton. The reason given is not that the coal itself has risen in price at Newcastle, but because the company’s vessels have such difficulty in getting a load, and often have to wait for periods as long as a week before they can get their turn for loading, on account of the enormous congestion of shipping wanting cargoes.
The honorable member for Newcastle, and other New South Wales representatives, say that the congestion complained of is not nearly so great as it has been made out to be. I understand that in Hobart, Newcastle coal now costs from 25s. to 27s. per ton, a price which paralyzes the industries which we are struggling to establish. We hope that the day is not far distant when Tasmania will be the tourist resort of Australia, the Switzerland of the Southern hemisphere. I have seen the tourist traffic of Switzerland, and know what it brings to the hotelkeepers and shopkeepers of that beautiful country, and I know what it will mean to Tasmania to become, as she will become, owing to the splendid advertising of her Railway Department and the Labour Government now in power, the tourist State of the Commonwealth. I am informed on the best authority that, during the holiday season, one has to book a month ahead to secure a berth on a steamer going to Tasmania. How can business men arrange a month ahead? It ought to be possible to obtain a berth within at least twenty-four hours of sailing. We have in Tasmania the cheapest railway fares in Australia, travellers being taken 60 miles into the beautiful Derwent Valley for 2s. first class, and ls. 6d. second class, and there are low rates on other lines. But of what use are they if many tourists find it impossible to get to Tasmania? Recently I travelled from Hobart to Sydney in the Mokoia. Something went wrong with the steering gear, and the weather was rather rough, so that we were about nineteen hours overdue. The steamer was overcrowded, passengers who had paid first-class fares, myself included, being given accommodation in the steerage. I was one of five in a cabin. The steerage dining-room and the sitting-room were converted into sleeping apartments. Travellers would never willingly submit themselves to such hardships as had to be suffered on that trip. I slept two nights on deck, and on the second night the water was running down my back.
The Leader of the Opposition has promised that, if returned to power, he will establish a Commonwealth-owned steamer service between Tasmania and the mainland. All that the present Government has done is to tie up the Commonwealth for seven years, increasing the subsidy of the steam-ship companies from £13,000 to £15,000. I admit that the service between Melbourne and Launceston has been improved, but we need a better service between Sydney and Hobart, the great bulk of the tourists coming from New South Wales, where there seems to be more money than in any other State. When 1 was in Hobart last week, a merchant showed me two letters, stating that goods had been brought to the wharf at Melbourne for transport by the New Zealand steamer calling at Hobart, and had been refused, with the result that they had to be sent by way of Launceston, at a considerable increase of cost. The merchant was of the opinion that the goods were not taken because the steamer would arrive at Hobart on a Saturday, and the company did not wish to pay for overtime. Surely we are not to be penalized because the waterside workers have obtained something like reasonable conditions. For the information of the PostmasterGeneral, and to show the interest which the people of Tasmania are taking in this matter, I quote now from the Launceston Examiner of 30th May -
The references in the Senate to the matter cf steam-ship fares, as reported in yesterday’s Examiner, naturally came in for a fair share of local attention. The means and the cost of transport between Tasmania and the mainland are a subject of prime importance to the people of this State. The interest consequently is easily understood.
Although no information of a definite character is yet locally available, there is reason to believe that before long there may be an increase in the fares and freights between the ports of Tasmania and those of the mainland.
The new Tasmanian mail contract was mentioned in the Senate on Thursday, Senator Findley inquiring whether any provision was made in it to safeguard citizens against any increase of fares. Senator McColl asked that notice be given. Locally it is understood that the new contract contains a provision that there shall be no increase unless it has the approval of the Postmaster-General; but, it is pointed out on behalf of the companies, that if they can prove to the PostmasterGeneday that their expenses have been heavily increased, and particularly when that has been done by one of the Commonwealth’s own Courts, it is very reasonable to suppose that he would allow such extra charges as might be shown to be required to give the contractors a fair profit. So far, the announced increase applies only to the mainland coastal trade, but it will be a pleasant surprise if Tasmania escapes. Up to the present Mr. Cramond, the local manager of the Union Co., has not been advised of any contemplated alteration. The local manager of the Huddart Parker Steamship Company Ltd. (Hon. J. W. Evans) left yesterday on a visit to Melbourne. He goes on the company’s business, and will be absent a fortnight.
I hope that the Postmaster-General will use his influence to prevent the freights and fares being further increased on that steam-ship route. Such an increase will be penalizing us to an extent greater than we can bear; it will be penalizing the merchants of Tasmania, and the people of that State will suffer considerably by reason of the huge rates that will be charged. There is another matter I should like to draw attention to. Last year a huge area of land was purchased on the river Derwent for the purpose of constructing a naval base, but the land to-day is in the same position as it was when taken over by the Government. Nothing has been done, and the people are wondering, why the land should be allowed to remain idle. The loss in interest on the purchase money is considerable, and surely the Government might have taken some steps to prepare for the enormous work of making a naval base on that site. I suppose this is one of the means by which the Government have made a saving - a saving by cheeseparing and restricting expenditure on necessary works. If members on the Government side were free to speak they would say that a cheeseparing policy has been pursued, and that the development of Australia has been seriously retarded. Is it any wonder that the Treasurer claims to have effected an enormous saving ? I was astonished to hear the right honorable gentleman say that the Government had restored public confidence. Will anybody who has given serious consideration to this question say that the public ever lost confidence? Why should these people lose confidence in the Fisher Government, who accounted for every penny of expenditure that they incurred, and who were under the rigid supervision of an Opposition who stuck us up night after night when we were trying to get our Estimates through? Complaint was made at that time about certain information not being given, but this Committee is asked to vote over £3,000,000 to carry on the Government services for the next three months without having even a schedule submitted to show how the money is to be expended. Had this been done by a Labour Government, what criticism would they have been subjected to ! We are supposed to meekly accept the short Budget given by the Treasurer without any criticism, but we find that as we criticise the right honorable gentleman brings down another Budget. Which Budget is correct, that made a few nights ago, or that made by the Treasurer to-night? I desire to know in what way the great saving which the Treasurer claims has been made? Before the honorable member for Gippsland entered this House he went about the country denouncing the financial waste on the part of the Fisher Government. Yet we now find him sitting silently behind a Minister who alters his Budget statement within a few days.
– A Minister who proposes an expenditure of £840,000 oncontingencies.
– Yes, on contingencies, which the honorable member for Gippsland told the country the Fisher Government had-
-“ Done in.”
– Yes, by locking the door and keeping the AuditorGeneral out. But the right honorable member for Swan has been honest enough to say that the accounts had all been duly audited, and everything was straight and above board when he assumed office. I venture to say that had the right honorable gentleman been Prime Minister, as well as Treasurer, he would not have found himself in the hole he is in at the present time. Had a strong man like the right honorable member been Prime Minister, he would have had a complete supervision of the whole of the Departments, and would not be in the hole into which he has been pushed by Ministers letting the Teesdale Smith contract, and incurring other expenditure that the right honorable gentleman knew nothing about until he was informed by his officer. No Treasurer can be supposed to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the whole of the enormous expenditure of this country ; he has to trust to his Ministers, and they have led him into a hole. Yet to-night he spoke about restoring public confidence, and the honorable member for Gippsland listened para lyzed. “ Did I not tell you,” he says, “that I was right?” and I presume he will go to his constituents and say, “ I heard the right honorable member for Swan, that great financier, say that the Government have restored public confidence.” The honorable member said that there had been a waste of money in defence expenditure. The further honorable members opposite travelled into the back country the stronger were their statements, because there was no press to report them, and the farmers, working long hours, could not combat the misstatements of the honorable members for Indi, Wannon, and Gippsland. The Treasurer claims that he has effected a saving of £160,000 on defence, and that he has made big savings in the Stores Department. Has that Department been cut down and starved so that the nextMinister will have to build it up again ? If there was proper supervision of the Stores Department - and the Auditor-General no doubt sees to that - there is no room to make the great saving which the honorable member has claimed. Then the Treasurer claims to have effected a saving of £200,000 on the construction work. The honorable member for Dalley made it perfectly clear that that saving was brought about by discharging some men and engaging others, so enabling the work to be slowed down. There has been an alleged saving of £200,000 in an expenditure of over £1,000,000, and the right honorable gentleman tells us that the Government have restored public confidence. The honorable member for Kennedy dealt well with the supposed surplus for the present financial year. The Fisher Government left in the Treasury £2,653,223, and the present Government are claiming that they are finishing this year with’ a surplus, when they have really a deficit of £1,819,000. Coming events cast their shadows before. We had to face a deficit of £400,000 when the Labour party came into office previously, and when the Fisher Government return to the Government bench in three months’ time, they will find themselves burdened with a greater deficit, left to them by those heaven-born financiers who are restoring public confidence. The Age stated a few days ago that the Treasurer had not explained the expenditure from loans, which that journal says will amount to about £27,000,000. If the expenditure is so great, the people of Australia should know it. When a journal with the circulation of the Age takes the responsibility of making such a statement, the least the right honorable gentleman should do is to pay attention to it, and say whether it is a fact that he has spent a huge sum on loans in addition to the amounts mentioned in the statement he made to the Committee.
– I will give you the facts when we get to the Works and Buildings Bill. Wc are only dealing with revenue now.
– The revenue and loan expenditure should go side by side. The Fisher Government did incur an enormous expenditure, but they constructed a considerable number of revenueproducing works from revenue. I desire, to know whether the Treasurer has been constructing any of these works out of loan money.
– You will get the facts on the next Bill.
– We should get the information now. We may allow this expenditure to pass, and then find that there is a huge deficit instead of a surplus.
– The statement I have made covers all expenditure, but the details of the works will be given on the next Bill.
– Will the details show that the loan expenditure of the Government is £27,000,000 ? I want to know what expenditure there has been out of loan funds. We know that it has been the method of Tories to find an outlet for their money, and when the Fisher Government imposed a land tax, the heaviest in any part of the “world, the capitalists said. “It is no use investing our money in land; we shall invest it in consols.” Is the Treasurer encouraging them by floating loans locally? At any rate, we should know before we go to the country how he intends to meet the extra expenditure. The farmer should know that such commodities as tea, kerosene, and cotton goods are free. Is the Treasurer going to impose a tax on tea, which i3 now free ? Does he intend to make up his deficit and balance the finances by imposing taxes on tea, kerosene, and cotton goods? I hope the policy that the Government are framing will give some indication of where they are leading us, and some indication of how we are to get the revenue with which to develop Australia. I have heard a great deal of talk about the great financier we have on the other side of the chamber. I looked on the Treasurer as a heaven-born financier; I even went so far as to advocate that he should have been Prime Minister; but now I find him a broken idol. After a financial statement like that he has given us, I could not, in the future, advocate that he should be Prime Minister. The other night, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister said, “ We came into this House with a falling revenue, and have met all our obligations.” How have they done it? They simply sat back and used the splendid surplus left to them by the Fisher Government. Where would they have been but for that surplus? If the people of Australia allow them to go on as they are doing, the country will be landed in financial ruin. The Prime Minister went on to say, “ We have received no assistance from the Opposition since we have been in power, struggling on with our majority of one. If we had not had a majority, we would not have remained in office.”
Tha CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I regret it very much.
.- In a report presented a few days ago from the Inter-State Commission, entitled “ Typothetæ,” a paragraph appeared stating that the Provincial Press Association “became affiliated with the Master Printers,” and that that “ affiliation involved their co-operation in observing and enforcing the cardinal features of the Contract;” that is the contract, referred to in the Typothetae report of the Commission, between the Master Printers’ Association and the various wholesale merchants in Melbourne. I have received from the Secretary of the Victorian Provincial Press Association the following letter -
We beg to hand you herewith a copy of letter forwarded on 6th instant to the Chairman of the Inter-State Commission, denying the Commissioners’ statement that the Victorian Provincial Press Association was, or is, a member of the combination known as Typothetae. The Commissioners having presented their report to Parliament, my executive considers that the association’s denial should be made public in like manner, and we will, therefore, be glad if you will acquaint Parliament with the fact as set forth in the letter of 6th inst., above referred to, and oblige,
The letter forwarded to the Inter-State Commission is dated the 6th June, and reads as follows: -
At an executive council meeting of the Victorian Provincial Press Association, held yesterday, the Inter-State Commission’s report upon the combination known as Typothetæ was considered. In the report it is stated that the Victorian Provincial Press Association is an affiliated member of the above combination, and that affiliation involves co-operation in observing and enforcing the cardinal features of the contract said to have been entered into between the Melbourne Master Printers’ Association, paper merchants, and suppliers of printers’ materials in the State of Victoria. With regard thereto I am directed by my executive to inform you that the Victorian Provincial Press Association is not now, and never has been, in affiliation with the combination referred to in the report; that it is not aware of any contract between any of the parties ; .and that it has never been asked to observe or enforce any of the provisions of such a contract; and my executive council therefore fails to see any justification for our association’s inclusion as a member of the combination.
– The Provincial Press Association was never requested to send any representatives to give evidence before the Inter-State Commission. It has been included by the Commission as part of the combine without having had the opportunity of giving evidence, or, so far as the association knows, without any evidence being presented to the Commission that it was affiliated or connected with the combine, which this letter explicitly denies.
– Who is responsible for a serious blunder like that?
– We can only ascertain that after the evidence is presented.
– But the evidence is not to be presented.
– There is only a bald report declaring that there is affiliation between the Victorian Master Printers’ Association and the Victorian Provincial Press Association, and we have no evidence as to how the Commission has based its statement to that effect. The Victorian Provincial Press Association has never been connected with the Master Printers’ Association, and knows nothing of any contracts. It is in no way associated with the combine, and it has not been asked to give evidence. We are all most anxious that the Inter-State Commission shall provide Parliament with valuable information in connexion with tlie Tariff and other matters, but if reports of this character are to be submitted, they will very largely discount the value of the Commission’s reports when they come before us. Tlie Secretary of the Victorian Provincial Press Association has taken the proper course of forwarding this letter to the Inter-State Commission. The association is desirous that the Inter-State Commission shall justify its finding in relation to the Victorian Provincial Press Association, or else withdraw absolutely its report associating that body with the Master Printers’ Association. So far no reply has been received from the Inter-State Commission, and, in order to vindicate its position and justify itself to the public, and gain for its denial the same publicity as is given to the report of the Commission, I have been requested to read these letters, and hand them to Hansard for publication.
– I am exceedingly pleased to hear the statement made by the honorable member for Wimmera. I quite indorse the sentiments he has expressed. If the Inter-State Commission makes a big blunder over one particular item, how can we depend on its reports when they come before us ? Some honorable members profess to be satisfied with a summary of the evidence the Commission takes. I have already indicated that I shall not be satisfied with anything less than a report which is as near a verbatim report as it is possible to get.
The Treasurer has given us two small statements in regard to the finances, but honorable members are not yet satisfied, and I add my plea to those already made this afternoon for a very concise statement of the condition of the finances to be submitted prior to the House being dissolved. I do not know whether Ministers agree to a statement made on the 11th March by the AttorneyGeneral at the Glenlee State School, in the Wannon electorate, and reported in the Nhill Free Press of the 13th March. This statement lias a very important bearing on the manner in which the Government are dealing with the finances just prior to a general election. The AttorneyGeneral is reported to Have said -
Why, then, is an autumn session necessary T If we are going to carry out the intention of getting a double dissolution, and getting the people to support us in that, it will be absolutely necessary to have a meeting of Parliament by which we can send up the test Bills, and have them rejected, before the time arrives for the Treasurer to bring down the statement of the financial position.
I will the special attention of the Treasurer to the concluding words. To use a plain phrase heard every day in the streets, “ Does this account for the milk in the cocoanut?” Is this the reason why the House and the country are to be kept in absolute ignorance of the true state of the finances, simply because Ministers desire to get a dissolution and go to the country without showing exactly what the financial position is ?
– We did not get the Budget speech last year until the 2nd October.
– The Treasurer cannot shield himself behind an excuse of that character, because he has always been a* stout protestor against delayed Budget statements. Over and over again, when in Opposition, he has denounced Treasurers for not presenting Budget statements earlier, notwithstanding that sometimes there was justifiable excuse for delay. As far back as the 11th March, we had the Attorney-General saying that it was necessary to bring the test Bills in and have them rejected, and to get a dissolution, and not to tell the country of the state of the finances. It is a very serious position we find ourselves in within a few days of an election and of the close of the financial year, when the Treasurer ought to be able to tell us the exact financial position.
– We could not have the Budget until August, anyhow.
– Parliament will then be dissolved, and we ought to have a fuller statement than we have had.
– I have given all I can.
– Does the speech of the Attorney-General in the Wannon electorate explain why the Government were in such a hurry to get a double dissolution? The present Government came in to put the finances and the Departments right, but they have made a muddle of both.
The replies of the Prime Minister and other members of the Government to questions in respect to the Tariff were of a very different character on Friday last from what they were some days before. Ou Friday last, iu answer to the earnest pleadings of the honorable member for Indi - it waa an arrangement, and a nice bit of play - the Minister of Trade and Customs, with quite a show of enthusiasm, said that should the Government survive the general election, mid once more find themselves on the Treasury bench, the anomalies iu the Tariff would be rectified on the assembling of the new Parliament. On 14th May of this year the honorable member for Capricornia asked the following questions : -
To these questions the Prime Minister replied as follows: -
The Inter-State Commission advises that - 2 and 3. Pending the hearing of evidence in all the States interested, the Commission is unable to arrive at any definite conclusions which would enable it to submit a progress report in connexion with the Tariff. If, however, as the investigation proceeds, such a course is found by the Commission to be expedient, it will be taken.
On 2Sth May, about a fortnight ago, the Prime Minister, when speaking on the same subject, and referring to some observations of my own, is thus reported in Hansard, page 1645-6 -
When the Inter-State Commission has completed its investigations into the Tariff, the responsibility of this Parliament will commence, and it will be for this Parliament to exercise that responsibility in the light of the information furnished by the Inter-State Commission. . . . Have they not been appointed for the purpose of informing this House? It is their prime function; but what the honorable member wants is that we shall dictate to them what they shall do, what industries they shall investigate, when they shall report, and what evidence they shall submit. That would be an interference with the proper functions of the Commission, as laid down in the Act, and the Government do not intend to lend themselves to any such action.
Here wehave from the head of the Govern ment very different statements in reference to the Tariff, and the first was no doubt given after deliberation and consultation with the Inter-State Commission. The second statement was made, I think, on the motion for the adjournment of the House by the honorable member for Cook.
-What is wrong with the statement?
– All I can say is that it seems to be a direct contradiction of what the Minister of Trade and Customs said on Friday last.
– I do not think so.
– I do, and it proves the insincerity of the Government on the Tariff issue. The Government speak with so many voices that it is difficult to know what their intentions really are.
Here is something about a leading article which appeared in the Times, though I do not know why that newspaper should call this a “ Liberal “ Government, because it is Fusion from top to bottom, and not nearly such a good fusion as the previous one -
The Times, in a leading article, says that the Liberal Ministry’s policy appears to be mainly one of negation, and polici es of that order do not usually appeal to the Democracies of new countries.
– The Times correspondent out here is very friendly to the Labour party.
– This is not a contribution by the correspondent, but a leading article coming from the editorial chair.
– We know who informs the editor.
– The Times, which is a leading newspaper in the British community, is not considered to show any extreme bias, particularly in favour of the Labour party, and yet we find it expressing the opinion that the policy of the present Liberal Government here is one of negation.
– I tell the honorable member very plainly that the correspondent is biased in favour of the Labour party.
– That is quite incorrect
– We never get a “ show,” anyhow.
– All I can say is that the press of Australia has been extremely kind to the Prime Minister and his Government, and if the Labour party could get the same journalistic support they would sweep the polls in the easiest fashion.
– I am not talking of the Australian press.
– It is a strange thing that in both the Postal Department and the Defence Department the Australianborn, however educated and expert, does not seem to obtain a fair “ show.” I have information regarding highly intelligent, well-qualified young officers in the military, who, because they happened to be Australian-born, and not from the Imperial service, are denied positions to which they naturally aspire:
– That cannot be laid at the door of this Government.
– I am speaking of what is happening at the present time.
– We have just filled two of the highest positions from our own people.
– That is so; and there is Colonel Parnell, who has occupied the highest position in this State as Commandant, and who has been sent to the Military College. It seems to me that Australian-trained officers can manage Australian cadets in a far better fashion than do the imported men.
– And Australian officers are doing it.
– The officers to whom I refer, when they were placed in certain positions, were promised by their superior officers that, should they qualify on certain lines, they would be entitled, after examination, to posts that were offering. Young men of exceptional intelligence, after triumphantly coming through the most severe tests, were denied a chance of stepping higher up the ladder. They submitted applications for transfer to the Instructional Staff, and were prepared to undergo examinations similar to the examinations which the ex-Imperial men are subjected to; but, to their disappointment, the A.A.G. returned their papers, with a memorandum stating that, owing to their not having Imperial service, the applications could not be considered. I hope that inquiries will be made regarding this, because if there is one thing necessary to the success of our defence scheme it is that young Australians may be able to go up the ladder, rung by rung, to the most important positions.
– I suggest that the honorable member should compare the number of officers we have brought to Australia with the number of officers brought by our predecessors.
– I do not think that our Government was responsible for the appointment of the manager of the Cordite Factory.
– I waa not referring to that appointment.
– It is well known that at the time there was no one in Australia who understood the manufacture of cordite, and that we had therefore to import an officer for the purpose.
– And so with the Small Arms Factory.
– Quite so. I am not going to detract from the efforts of honorable members opposite in connexion with the defence system, but I think they will admit that the late Administration had to lay the foundation of the various services in connexion with the Department, and that it was almost essential that some of the officers required for them should be imported; but we have now a number of young Australians highly intelligent and qualified in every way to fill these positions. I have some in my own electorate, but they are debarred from promotion. Surely the Prime Minister does not approve of that sort of thing. They are prepared to submit to the necessary examinations and to stand aside if they cannot pass them. . The Commanding Officer tells them, however, that they are not competent to fill these positions because they have not had Imperial service.
– Does the honorable member say that an ordinary officer is debarred from promotion because he has not had Imperial service?
– I can vouch for this information. I have gone to considerable trouble to investigate the whole matter, and can vouch for the statement which I have before me. It is an actual fact that this takes place, and it is a disgrace to Australia. In this written statement it is set out that -
Officers have submitted applications for transfers to the Instructional Staff -
That is in respect of the artillery and other branches of the service. SergeantMajors have been actually doing instructional work and have done it well. They have been promoted from time to time, but they are now debarred from further promotion and transfer. This barrier must have been raised by an English officer.
– When was this regulation issued ?
– It must have been issued quite recently, because these men thought that they had a right to go for these positions. It was thought that a man, no matter how humble his birth, was eligible for promotion, and that he could go on and reach the top of the ladder.
– The senior officers have barred that for years.
– That is the honorable member’s answer. That grievance is years old.
– I am talking of what is happening now.
– Show us the regulation.
– Surely the following statement should be sufficient evidence to support my contention -
Officers have submitted applications for transfers to the Instructional Staff, and were prepared to undergo examinations similar to the examinations which the ex-Imperial men are subjected to; But to their disappointment the A.A.G. returned papers, with a memorandum stating that, owing to the non-commissioned officers not having Imperial service, the application could not be considered.
– That is the fault of the Act.
– Then the Act should be amended.
– Of course it should be.
– I doubt whether an Act has ever been passed which debars young Australians from taking these positions.
– I can show the honorable member the section of the Act.
– And the honorable member for Maribyrnong voted for it.
– No; it is in the old Act.
– The honorable member every day is up against the legislation of his own party. He is denouncing his own legislation.
– That is a wrong statement. The Postal Department is also importing men to fill certain vacancies to which men already iri the Service should be appointed. I understand, for instance, that the position of Chief Electrical Engineer for the Department in Queensland is vacant, and that it is said that there is no one in the Service fit to fill it. During tlie absence of the Chief Electrical Engineer from Victoria his duties were satisfactorily carried out by men who are now held not to be competent to fill the Queensland appointment. Australians who have been trained here, and who know more about local conditions than men coming from abroad could possibly hope to’ know, are being put aside. If this sort of thing is to continue, we might just as well put up, over the door of many of our Departments, the notice, “ No Australian need apply.” Some of the cleverest young men in the Department are being kept down, in certain cases, by their superior officers, although they have passed the necessary examinations for promotion. In answer to a question which I asked in the House I was given a long list of officers who have been imported by the Postal Department. The full list ought to have appeared in Hansard. I asked the Postmaster-General recently -
Was it necessary to negotiate with an electrical engineer in Ceylon to fill the vacant position of electrical engineer in Queensland (Postmaster-General’s Department) while one of the applicants for that position ls considered capable to occupy the position of acting electrical engineer for Victoria during the absence of ifr. Dircks for eight or nine months, and is not this position a more important one than the one for which he was an applicant?
The reply that I received was -
Two members of the engineering staff of the British Post Office, who are eligible for appointment, without examination, under section 31 of the Public Service Act, have been nominated for appointment as assistant engineers, Chief Electrical Engineer’s Office, PostmasterGeneral’s Department, at the salary of £468 per annum. Suitable engineering officers, with the qualifications desired in the position in question, are not available from within the Service, and the nominations have been made to more effectively meet the public requirements for an official Telegraph and Telephone Service.
Here, again, we find Australians having to give place to a man from Ceylon or some other place over sea. This practice’ is having a very discouraging effect on some of the finest men we have in the Postal Department. I applaud what the Postmaster-General has done in causing men in the Service to be trained to occupy high positions in it. Training schools should have been established years ago in connexion with all the Departments. Such a school was established many years ago in the Department of Trade and Customs, with the result that some of the best men in the Service today are not more than thirty or thirtyfive years old. Mr. Lockyer told me that he would have no hesitation in recommending any one of them to act as a State Collector of Customs.
– But what would the honorable member do with others who have spent practically all their lives in the Service ? Would he keep them down t
– Certainly not. I am simply pointing out that the Department itself has trained young men to fill the highest positions in the Service.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140617_reps_5_74/>.