5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– A short time ago, the Prime Minister stated that no regulation to deal with absentee voting would be made by the Government unless laid before Parliament. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to say that that promise will be adhered to?
– Yes. I have been in a position to say that all along. No regulation dealing with absent voting will be made except with the right honorable member’s concurrence.
– To clear up a doubt in the minds of some honorable members, I ask if it is the intention of the Government that all the names received up to the day of the issue of the writs, and not on the general roll, shall appear on the supplemental roll ?
– It is hoped that it may be done, and it will be done so far as we can compass it. Moreover, we desire to give the fullest publicity to the lists of names struck off the rolls.
– Before the closing of the rolls?
– I am afraid that it cannot be done before the closing of the general rolls, but we hope that it may be done in time to enable mistakes to be rectified by the supplemental roll. Directly the roll is issued, copies will be made available, and it will be for honorable members generally to examine them at the earliest moment to see what names have been taken off, and what names have been put on.
– Gould it be arranged that all the names now being put on the rolls shall be exhibited publicly, so that it may be known what names are being added?
– That has already been suggested, and the suggestion would be a good one to put into practice were it not for the enormous expense that it would entail. If the names were published when put on the rolls, the people could see exactly what was being done.
– If the names struck off the rolls were also published in the local newspapers everything would be open to the public.
– I understand that the names struck off are exhibited in the registrars’ offices.
– The great majority of the people do not know where the -offices of the registrars are.
– It is an easy matter to find them. The suggestions of honorable members have been made on more than one occasion, and could be put into practice with advantage, except for the tremendous cost of publication.
– It is the cost that is the trouble.
– I am afraid that the cost puts these suggestions out of consideration altogether, but I see no reason why lists should not be published daily, outside the offices of the registrars, and at the post offices, from which the registrars are not far distant.
– It is not necessary to publish printed lists.
– By publicly exhibiting the lists in the manner I speak of, we ought to be able to do a great deal towards the cleansing of the rolls.
– I am quite willing that names which should not be on the rolls shall be struck off, but every person who is qualified to vote should have his name on the rolls. With regard to names to which exception is taken after the issue of the writs, is it not possible, if the notice of objection is satisfactorily answered, for them to be left on?
– The law is against the adding of any names after the writs have been issued.
– Can the Prime Minister see his way to the publication in the leading newspapers of each division of the names added to and taken from the roll for that division?
– I am told that the expense would be enormous, but I shall take care that publication is made in every other way possible.
– I want to ask the Minister of Home Affairs a question in reference to the electoral rolls. I understand that the police in New South Wales have what is known as a field book for use while they are collecting the State rolls with the view to eliciting who are entitled to be on the Federal rolls and who are not so enrolled. Is it possible that a person may be able to see that book’, so that he and others may be enabled to get on the roll ? Such a request was made in my district and refused.
– I do not know. Some people in Parramatta asked the same question of me last Saturday. I will ask what the law is on that point.
– Yesterday the honorable members for Franklin and Darwin asked me whether applications for permission to increase fares and freights between the mainland and Tasmania had been made by the Union Steam-ship Company, and Messrs. Huddart Parker & Company. My reply was that no such application had been received, but as I have just had put into my hands an application from these companies, which I have not yet read, I think it only fair to let the House know.
– Will the Postmaster-General agree, that under no circumstances will he allow the monopolists to increase the fares and the freights between Victoria and Tasmania? The Tasmanian producers are suffering enough inconvenience through having no railway.
– Are they suffering after three years of your administration ?
– The administration of the last twelve months has destroyed all.
– You made them suffer all right.
– I do not think’ it would be fair for me to express an opinion offhand, as I am, to some extent, in the position of an arbitrator, but I will look most carefully into the matter.
– Keep it under observation.
– I will keep it under observation.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether, speaking at Tamworth on Monday night, he said that by a careful husbanding of the financial resources of the Commonwealth he had been able to pay his way, and to leave a surplus of £1,000,000, and whether he also said that a commencement had been made in economical administration, but that there was a great deal yet to be done to clean out the Augean stables? I ask further, whether his reference was not to a mythical personage who kept 3,000 oxen in a stable which had not been cleaned for 30 years, and whether he thought it right to reflect as he did on the public servants of the country?
– Order! The honorable member is entitled to ask a question, but not to make a statement.
– I do not want to make a speech about the matter, but I would like to know whether the Prime Minister meant to say that the public Departments of the Commonwealth are in the state referred to by that classical reference?
– Yes. I do not know whether the reference was quite a correct one.
– No; but you said it, though.
– It will do for electioneering.
– I think it is mild compared with some of the statements of my honorable friend.
– Order !
– Look at the little man here, laughing.
– Order ! I ask the Prime Minister not to discuss the matter.
– I will try to be more careful with my allusions, just to please my honorable friend. But I do say, quite emphatically, that I am afraid that there is a great deal to do to bring the Departments into an efficient condition, and that is no reflection whatever on the officers who are there trying to do their very best with a lumbering and creaking machine.
Post Offices : Weston, Kynuna, Oxfordstreet (Sydney), Sooth Brisbane, and Gladstone - Pay of Officials
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that on the last Estimates a sum was voted for the purpose of erecting a post-office at Weston? Further, is he aware that although the financial year will shortly expire, up to the present no commencement has been made with the work, and will he ask the authorities to take such action as is necessary in order to see that the building is erected ?
– I will be very pleased to look into this matter.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral look into the question of building the Kynuna post-office? An. item for this purpose has been on the Estimates for some time, and I can assure honorable members that if they had to live in a tin house with the heat 116, or, perhaps, 120 degrees in the shade, this would not be a laughing matter to them. The work has been delayed for some years. An item has appeared on the Estimates for some time, but there has been no attempt to start the building yet. Is it the intention of the Department to make a start as early as possible ?
– If the session closes to-morrow, I propose to go to Brisbane to look into several matters.
– You will have to go 1,000 miles farther to look into this matter.
– When I get to Brisbane, I will make inquiries of the Deputy Postmaster-General concerning this case.
– I ask the Postmaster-General whether it will be possible for the Government before they separate to transfer half-a-million or a quarter of a million from the waste on defence to increasing the pay of the little postmasters and postmistresses in the country villages all over Australia.
– I do not know that I have any power to transfer money from the vote for one Department to the purposeof another Department without the authority of Parliament.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware of the unsafe condition, and also the unsuitability, of the post- office in Oxford-street, Sydney? If so, will he take urgent steps to remove the unsuitability, and take into consideration the fact that it is thirteen years since this question was brought under the notice of the Department, and that, up to date, nothing has been done?
– I have inspected the Oxford-street post-office, and I agree that it is not large enough for the work done there. I have given instructions to see if we can obtain a site. I inspected a site the last time I was in Sydney, but it does not do to make public the position that we want to obtain, otherwise the price would be put up against us.
– Is it the intention of the Postmaster-General’s Department to immediately proceed with the erection of the post-office long promised to South Brisbane ?
– I will make a note to inspect the site proposed when I get there next week.
– A site has already been secured.
– I rise to ask the PostmasterGeneral a question, even at the risk of it being deemed to be electioneering window-dressing. Is it true that the reason advanced for not putting .an aerogen gas plant in the Gladstone Post Office is that the light is only used for an hour per day in summer time, and, if so, will he take into consideration the time that the officers have to work at night in winter time ?
– I must compliment the honorable member on his astuteness. He spoke to me on this matter yesterday, and I mentioned to him that there was a departmental report which stated that light is only required at the post office for one hour in summer time. I told him that I was going to Brisbane and would try to get some more particulars for him. *
– Yesterday I made a reference to the evidence being given before the Meat Export Trade Commissioner and the printing of the evidence. I have been informed that, in answer to certain questions, some witnesses are handing in written statements, and I desire to know, from the Minister of Trade and Customs, whether the con tents of those statements are being incorporated in the minutes of evidence?
– I cannot say whether they are or not. The conduct of the Commission is entirely in the hands of the Commissioner. It may be that confidential information is being imparted to him, but I cannot interfere with the way in which he shall deal with such information.
– You do not see any objection to it, do you ?
– The practice which the Commissioner is adopting is not an unusual one. Often persons are willing to give evidence of a confidential character, but owing to personal, business, or other reasons, they ask the Commission to keep the names or the sources confidential.
– But in other cases it is the means of obtaining evidence ?
– Exactly. Our Arbitration Act makes special provision for confidential evidence to be taken.
– A man can very often summarize his evidence much better.
– Yes. Speaking from memory the Inter-State Commission Act contains provision to take evidence in public or in private. Mr. Justice Street has permission to make the fullest inquiry he can into this matter; he has complete compulsory powers, and certainly it was our wish and our intention in appointing him that he should get the best information he can.
– Confidential evidence ?
– Of course it is on behalf of the country that the investigation is being made. In the circumstances we must leave the conduct of the inquiry to the Commissioner, trusting that he will obtain in the best way possible consistent with the public interest the information which is desirable.
– I ask the Minister whether the experience of the Justice who has been appointed arbitrator, and that of the Government, warrant him in thinking that he has all the powers he needs or whether he has discovered that any other power will be necessary? I want to say to the Minister now, as I said in speaking to the Bill, that if there are any other powers possessed by this Parliament which can be conferred on the Commissioner I hope that the Government will put a Bill through before we rise so that the Commissioner shall have full and complete power to deal with the matter.
– As far as I am aware the Commissioner has all the powers necessary to making the inquiry.
– That we possess.
– At least all the necessary powers that we can give him. A copy of the Meat Export Trade Commission Bill was submitted to the Judge on the day on which it was introduced here, and he has made no request for additional power.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government have yet considered the claim for compensation of Mr. Wm. Somerville, a reporter on the staff of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, who was injured by the accidental letting-off of a gun at the Liverpool Military Area?
– The sum of £150 has been granted to Mr. Somerville as a matter of grace.
Dismissal of Men
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Mildura to the border of New South Wales has been completed?
Was the line from Mildura to the New South Wales border erected by contract or day labour ? 8. (a) What is the length of the line?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
Mr. Teesdale Smith’s Contract
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The Cook Government: Administration - Potatoes : Inspection Charges in Western. Australia - Senate’s Addresses to the Governor-General: The Constitution - Motions of Dissent from Speaker’s Rulings - Votes for “ Contingencies “ - Australian Note Issue: Gold Reserve: Printing of Notes - Immigration Vote - Oldage Pension Expenditure.
Debate resumed from 24th June(vide page 2493), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- When my remarks were interrupted last night I was dealing with the unsatisfactory conditions existing in the Treasury. Necessarily I was compelled to be brief in my remarks, but the instances which I then gave appear to be characteristic of the general administration of that Department. I propose to deal with the various Departments in turn.
Attorney-General : - This Department is administered by Sir William Irvine. That gentleman is under engagement to the Marconi Company, from whom he holds a retainer. It is well known that the Marconi Company has taken legal action against the Commonwealth Government, contending that the Commonwealth has infringed the company’s patents in connexion with the inauguration of a system of wireless telegraphy. Large sums of money are involved, yet the services of the Attorney-General are not at the disposal of the Commonwealth in any way in connexion with this case. A statement of these facts, which have been admitted on the floor of the House, is a sufficient indictment of the shortcomings of the Government in this connexion, and further comment is needless.
External Affairs: - This Department is administered by the Hon. P. McM. Glynn. Although a great deal of criticism can be levelled at this Department, there is one item which I think is overwhelming in its importance.
I refer to slavery in Papua. I have the evidence of a Liberal newspaper supporting the Government as to the awful state of affairs existing in that dependency of the Commonwealth. In the Age of the 16th of this month there appears an article with these headings in large type : -
More Revelations. therecruiting system.
It is now over a month since the Age pub lished the first of the revelations concerning cases of undisguised slavery which existed in Papua within the last twelve mouths, and still the promised official report is not forthcoming. Efforts have been made to minimise the importance of the revelations and to suggest that they related to quite isolated and very exceptional incidents in the life of the territory. Additional information has come to hand which goes to prove that the Australian public has a very great deal yet to learn concerning the ways of a certain class of labour recruiters who have been permitted to operate in Papua under the very noses of the officials resident in outlying districts. This information demonstrates that were it not for the present energetic and fearless administration of the Native Affairs Department the grossest possible injustice would be done to the helpless natives in the inland villages.
And then details are given -
Towards the end of 1913 there were at work in a certain division two recruiters. The methods these men adopted were briefly these: They would arrive at a coastal village with a recruiting vessel and a well armed crew. They would land and march through the village to another village a few. miles inland. Here the two men, either directly or through interpreters, would tell the “ boys “ that the nearest Government magistrate wanted to see them in the first village, and that it was the natives’ duty to go there at once. The natives, much impressed, would obey, and would go to the first village, only to be informed there that the magistrate was not -in the village, but aboard the vessel they could sec swinging at anchor in the roadstead. Unsuspiciously the poor blacks would go aboard. Directly the last boy had touched the ship’s deck the blacks were thrust below, the vessel would sail, and when next the natives saw land they were miles away from their homes, and quite at the mercy of their unscrupulous captors.
Other instances are given, which the time at my disposal does not permit me to quote. Then the Age, at the conclusion of this indictment of the Government, says -
The feature of these, as of many other cases of semi-slavery in Papua, which has such a disquieting aspect, is the silence of the authorities. The investigation into the actions of the two recruiters described above took place nine or ten months ago, but no report has been made. to Parliament on the subject. Parliament and the people of Australia are entitled to know all the material facts concerning the abuses of the Papuan labour recruiting Ordinances which arc the subject of official action. Until the policy of secrecy now reigning in the Department of External Affairs is abandoned, a continuance of public confidence in the administration is impossible.
There could be nothing more sweeping than that statement, which is the testimony of a great Liberal newspaper. Those facts are not from some “ tainted “ Labour source.
– Have not the Government any information concerning these scandalous allegations?
– Apparently they do not wish to give the House and the country any information on the matter. I now propose to quote a remark by a previous Lieutenant-Governor of this Territory, namely, Sir William McGregor. Referring to those who work the plantations in these islands, he said -
They went to New Guinea for their own ends, and this fact should never be forgotten in dealing with the natives of that country.
The natives are evidently regarded merely as instruments to be used in the pursuit of wealth, and it is the duty of the protecting Government to administer the affairs of the Territory with that fact in mind.
The principle which is here involved was responsible for one of the bloodiest wars of history. The great civil war of America between the North and the South arose over this very question of slavery. Yet the same practice obtains on a smaller scale in a territory of our own. It is a scandal that the Government have exhibited such ineptitude in this matter that a great Liberal newspaper has deemed it its duty to direct attention to it, and has declared that confidence in the Administration under existing conditions is absolutely impossible.
Defence: - This Department is administered by Senator Millen. There is chaos and muddle in every important defence activity -
Dealing with the Navy, I propose to quote a special article which appeared during the current month in the Sydney Morning Herald - another great Liberal newspaper.
If time permitted I might quote that journal with a view to showing the great success with which the Defence Department was administered by Senator Pearce.
But the article to which I now desire to direct attention was published in that newspaper on 15th June of the present year. It reads -
Chaos at the Navy Office. friction amongst the members.
Reports have gained currency in political circles during the past few days with regard to the general condition of Defence administration, which, if substantiated, are thought to constitute a public scandal.
– I would advise those who read my remarks to turn up in Hansard the speech delivered by the honorable member a day or two ago, and they will then appreciate the point of his interjection.
The article proceeds -
The most serious statements may be briefly summarized as follows : -
The friction at the Navy Office, similar to that which culminated in the dismissal of Captain Hughes-Onslow, still continues, impedes efficient administration, and has resulted, and still results, in gross delays and chaotic management of naval affairs.
There has been a consistent opposition to the interests of Cockatoo Island on the Naval Board, which has resulted in necessary reforms being delayed for considerable periods, and in many cases neglected altogether, although the urgent need for them had been recognised long before the Commonwealth took over the control of the dockyard.
Vital matters going to the very root of Defence administration, such as war orders despatched by the British Admiralty, which settled the disposition of the Australian Fleet in time of war, did not receive consideration for several months.
The Commonwealth does not possess in its service a single officer, either on the Naval Board or occupying subordinate positions outside Cockatoo Island, who has had any experience at all of modern naval work, and it is feared that if similar delays which accompanied the appointment of Mr. King Salter as general manager of Cockatoo Island, take place in strengthening the technical side of the Navy Office, an even greater waste of public money may be occasioned. This has special reference to the organization of Naval Bases, which is now to be taken in hand.
No steps have been taken, as was contemplated, to strengthen the Naval Board, which now comprises two officers who have had no modern naval experience at all, either ashore or afloat, and one officer whose experience has been entirely afloat. No member of the Board or any of its officials have had “ Admiralty “ experience. The application to the Admiralty for the services of an officer of high standing, with experience on naval works, has for some reason been withdrawn.
Melbourne Punch, another Liberal newspaper, in its last issue, I think, states that the withdrawal of this offer by the British Admiralty is due to the bungling that has taken place in the administration of the Department by the present Minister. The Sydney Morning Herald continues -
The article is too long for me to quote in extenso. What I have already read summarizes the complaints against the Department.
On the 18th June of the presentyear Punch deals with the same question. That organ, it must be remembered, occupies in the Liberal world of Victoria a somewhat similar position to that which is occupied by the Bulletin in New South Wales. This is what it says -
That waste and inefficiency have characterized naval administration during the last twelve months has been patent to every observer. Since the arrival of the battleship, the maladministration has amounted to a public scandal. It is now so serious that the Liberal party newspapers are shocked into dismay. It may be, of course, that Senator Millen went to the Navy Office at a difficult moment. The Fleet was coming, a strong CommanderinChief was arriving, the Naval Board was weak and split in twain, and the money bill was becoming heavy. A decrepid dockyard had just been taken over by the Commonwealth from a State Government, that thanked its stars that it had been able to shift its bugbear on to a simple-minded, trusting purchaser. And, worst of all, Senator Millen was new to the game, and was harassed with work at the military branch. But it should have been within the power of this “ reform “ Minister, this Titan of business methods, who scoffed at past administration, and promised to show us all what a magnificent organizer he was, to get things adjusted in twelve months. He has had money, time, every expert assistance he has asked for, and an obedient and able staff. But he has made the worst possible muddle out of his difficulties. . . . Naval Base work has been neglected, except where it has furnished opportunity for a party political attack; and Cockatoo Docks have been allowed to drift into a worse mess than they were in when Senator Pearce bought them for £ 870,000. Disorgani zation exists in the administrative branch and dissatisfaction in the service.
Could anything be more sweeping than the criticism which this Liberal newspaper has felt itself compelled to launch at the Minister of Defence ? I do not think so.
After some months of the control of this Department by Senator Millen there was a report published by Sir Ian Hamilton as follows : -
The centralization in the Defence Department at Melbourne exceeds anything I have experienced during more than forty years’ service in India in the United Kingdom, and in every part of the world where troops, administered by the British War Office, are stationed. . . It is on financial grounds that the present mass of petty questions, which, in a wellordered business, would be dealt with locally, are now referred from districts to headquarters.
This is a report by one of the greatest experts in the service of the British Empire.
Then we have a statement as to the labour difficulties at the Cockatoo Island Dock. This great reform Minister, Senator Millen, has sought to introduce piece-work in this establishment; and in last week’s newspapers there was a notice to the effect that there is to be a reduction in the wages of the artisans by, I think, 3d. an hour. This has caused general commotion; and Senator Millen has now arrived at the conclusion that it is impossible to carry on the administration without going back on this phase of his foolishness and having a conference with the representatives of the Labour organizations to seek their aid in making it a success.
In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 16th June the following appears: -
Senator Millen is, however, grappling with the difficult problem of remedying the defects at Cockatoo Island, in spite of his other preoccupations. After conferring with the general manager of the dockyard, Mr. J. King Salter, the Minister will carry out his intention of conferring with representatives of the men employed at CockatooIsland, with a view of obtaining their co-operation in finding a solution of the labour difficulties at the dockyard. The problem before the Minister is threefold: - (1) The appointment of some common industrial tribunal (if possible, Federal in its scope) which can deal with the various labour difficulties that occur from time to time; (2) the supply of the present serious deficiency in labour which is delaying the work; (3) the adoption of some form of piece-work.
The methods of this anti-Labour Government have caused confusion at the dockyard; and Senator Millen has practically had to go down on his knees and invite the Labour organizations to join with him in finding a solution of the difficulties and bringing the management to some sort of success.
– He does show a grain of intelligence in doing that !
– Yes; he has got things into a hopeless muddle, and is now compelled to retrace his steps.
On the military side, there was a great camp at Liverpool last year under the control of this Minister, and a special board was set up by him, and instructed to investigate the work then done. The instructions were as follows: -
Court of Inquiry re Liverpool Camp.
In dealing with this report, I desire that the Military Board should include a recommendation as to what immediate action should be taken with regard to all the officers who are shown by this report to have failed in their duty.
Also, what should be done to remedy the defects and weaknesses shown to have existed in thesystem of administration and command.
The result of the investigation is summarized on page 21 of the report as follows : -
As far as this battalion is concerned, it may be said thatSaturday and Sunday were wasted, owing to defective ordnance administration.
Monday and Tuesday were worse than wasted, owing to bad brigade arrangements.
Wednesday, to a great extent, was devoted to resting the men.
Thursday gave them two hours ten minutes’ useful training and some instructive marching.
Friday’s work was spoilt by marching them in trying weather before any training was attempted.
Saturday spoilt, to a great extent, the good effect of anything that had been learnt during the camp.
So far as the 14th Infantry are concerned, this camp was a waste of time and money.
This is a report by a committee set up by the Department, and it testifies to the ineptitude, incapacity, and bungling under this so-called reform Minister.
This Government has introduced novel regulations and instructions regarding labour on public works to get rid of the contractor, and in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 6th June an instance is given of the success of the Government’s adminstration -
A Day-labour Job.
Members of the local rifle club are incensed at the Department paying £71 to carry out work at the local rifle range which the club offered to do for £45. The work was left in a most unsatisfactory condition….. The Department has now promised to send up a man to complete the work to satisfaction, but by the time it is completed the cost will he fully £100.
Thus we find that a job which those connected with the local rifle range offered to do for £45 will, under the bungling of the Minister, cost £100, or more than double.
– The Minister knew nothing of the particular instance, but what was done was under regulations which the Minister issued.
Area Officers : - I now desire to show how area officers are being deluded. These men were promised that their pay should be increased from £150 to £180 per annum. The arrangement was that the money had to be placed on last year’s Estimates, but that was not done; and now the Government has issued regulation No. 55, of 1914. I have not time to read the regulation, and shall simply give its effect. The increment, it appears, is to be given only after officers have served three years, and then on the recommendation of their superior officer. It should be remembered that the services of almost all the area officers commenced at the beginning of 1911, and, therefore, the regulation cannot take effect in any case until after the end of this year, and then, as I say, only on the recommendation of the superior officer. What does this mean? It means that the Government have promised the increase of £30, but have left their successors to pay it. Did we ever hear of such a lovely scheme of financing? This is the way in which the Government fools the area officers.
Customs Department : - The Customs Department is administered by the honorable L. E. Groom, and the supineness and ineptitude of the management is well known from one end of Australia to the other. The Government are responsible : I again bring great Liberal newspapers into the witness-box to testify to their bungling and chaotic administration.
The Age on 15th June this year contained the following: -
From the moment it took office until it secured its double dissolution it has declined to give a Parliament which is crowded with Protectionists the slightest opportunityof rectifying our Tariff, which everybody knows to be full of flaws, and an utterly ineffective instrument of Protection. Now, however, that an election has been precipitated, and the people’s day of power is dawning, there is a sudden and tremendous change, and the Minister of Customs, who ignored anomalies for more than a year, and a bare month ago thought it highly “ improper “ for any one to seek to expedite the work of the Commission, eagerly assures us that progress reports will be forthcoming next session, and “ definitely “ commits his Government to deal with anomalies as soon as the new Parliament meets.
And in referring to this matter on the following day, the Age said -
Recognising that the Tariff must be one of the main issues, the Ministerial party has been giving close attention to that subject. . . . The revised policy of the party is now to legislate immediately on Tariff anomalies, *a list of which, it is said, has been compiled by the Department. The rectification of these anomalies will be independent of any report from the Inter-State Commission. Moreover, the Commission is now to furnish progress reports, so that thu Government may be able to deal with the exclusively Protectionist incidence in the Tariff.
We are to go to an election with this ineptitude in this Department - it is a matter of common knowledge to the public - and when there are a considerable number of our workmen unemployed, unable to obtain employment probably because this Government neglected to do its duty in regard to several outstanding instances of “ black “ goods driving our own manufactures out of our own markets. During the last twelve months the Department should have been put to its full usefulness to the country. It has done nothing. And now we are told that Ministers are going to do something in the future.
– They promised rectification of anomalies, but they will not define what an anomaly is.
– They promised it, but they .are in such a state of uncertainty that they are unable to make up their minds on anything positive. They have adopted the same old Conservative attitude of men who will only do something constructive when popular clamour will, no longer tolerate the neglect of national interests. Consequently there is stagnation in this great Department that should exist for the development and progress of the great industries of the country.
Home Affairs: - This Department is administered by the Eight Hon. Joseph Cook, assisted by his humorous understudy, Mr. W. H. Kelly. The Electoral Branch, working under the direction of these Ministers, has produced a condition of affairs that is discreditable in the extreme. Full details and proof, based on Liberal ad missions, were given by me yesterday, and may be seen on reference to the Hansard report of my speech of yesterday, and therefore need not be repeated. Other honorable members of the Opposition have amply substantiated the charge. The rottenness of the administration of the Electoral Branch has been proved up to the hilt.
Postal Department: - This service is administered by the Hon. Agar Wynne, who is a most estimable gentleman, but whose control, owing to the limitations imposed upon him by the Government, has not been a success. I now come to another quotation from a Liberal newspaper bearing on the administration of this Department. I could say these things, and more, myself, but if I give the testimony of Liberal newspapers as to the administration of their own Ministers, it will be more effective. The Melbourne Punch, of 25th June, 1914 - that is to-day’s issue - on page 1099, says -
Mr. Wynne says that he is tired of the Post Office. There has never been such a Department. It has broken Minister after Minister, and it is as far away from organization as ever. It helped to break the health of Mr. Austin Chapman; it disgusted Sir John Quick of public life; it left Mr. Frazer sapless after eighteen months of office; it sent Mr. Thomas scurrying away to External Affairs; it hurt Mr. Tom Ewing, and Mr. Mahon and Senator Findley; and it stays on - the Commonwealth old man of the sea. It has beaten every politician who has tackled it, and none of them could say why. Perhaps it is the result of red tape, or Acts and regulations, or sheer bigness; or, perhaps, it is a case of one man attempting the impossible. The old office goes lumbering along, weighted down with inefficient officers taken over from the States, and waiting for the one great Napoleon of organization who can lift it up to good condition. Mr. Wynne’s case proves that without a Napoleon the Post Office needs a board of independent governors. Railway Departments would be just as much the despair of Parliaments and people if politicians were allowed to govern them also.
But the point is that the Government were heralded in as the great business Administration. It was said that they were going to organize everything, and bring about economy in the Commonwealth Departments, and efficiency in the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth. But here is the testimony of a Liberal newspaper, an enthusiastic supporter of the present Government, which states that the administration of the Postal Department has been an utter failure. I have no desire to direct my criticism towards the honorable gentleman in charge of the Department personally. I believe that he is absolutely the best of this bunch of Ministers, and that he stands head and shoulders over any of his colleagues as a business administrator, but, even in this case, the very best man- the Government could choose - so lacking are they in material - has so administered his Department that it is now stated that disorganization is rife in it, and that the Government have failed to meet the situation effectively.
The sum total of inefficiency and ineptitude of this Government is alarming. Notwithstanding that all the great Liberal newspapers of the country had their well organized and highly paid staffs watching day after day for the three years that the Labour party were in office in order to try to find something on which to criticise the administration of Departments, there were none of the charges and evidences of incompetency such as are now proclaimed throughout the land. These things are so undeniable that these great Liberal newspapers are compelled by the facts that cannot be hushed up, quieted, or subdued, to bear witness to such an aggregation of administrative bungling, as has not appeared before in this country.
It was my desire to deal with another matter which affects the Government as a whole, and in which they have combined their collective wisdom, or lack of wisdom-
– Ineptitude would be the better word.
– Perhaps it would be. Their collective incompetence appears to have brought them into a more sorry mess in matters in which they have acted in concert than even the bungling that has occurred in the separate Departments. I now refer to the way in which they have bungled the questions arising out of our Constitution in connexion with the double dissolution, and the refusal to allow the people of this country to express an opinion on the proposed Constitution alterations, which have been twice passed by the Senate in this Parliament. However, the time at my disposal will not permit of my dealing with this item as it should be dealt with if touched upon at all, and therefore I am compelled to leave it.
I can only say that the Government, without a constructive programme, Conservative in the ex treme, with the weight of sins which oppresses them, and, with the mess they have made of the administration of the Departments, testified to throughout the length and breadth of Australia, will certainly get their deserts when they appear before the people. I trust the electors will take special steps to see that their names are on the rolls. I am absolutely confident that if the whole of the people of Australia are given an opportunity to express their opinion on the Government programme and administration, the promises they made before being intrusted with the control of affairs, the insincerity which has characterized them, the absence of any attempt to give effect to their promises, and their general bungling, which is in evidence all round, this second Fusion will suffer the fate which was meted out in 1910 to the first. I feel sure that there will be a regular debacle, that these worn-out politicians, these has-beens, these gentlemen who are living on their past reputations, stripped of any qualities which could be of use to the people of this country in these enlightened days, will meet their Waterloo on the day of the people’s supremacy, and that a truly democratic, progressive, constructive Labour Administration will take their place on the seats of power and authority in the Commonwealth.
– I have frequently mentioned in this chamber the inspection charges made by the Western Australian Government on potatoes coming from other States. I first mentioned it last year, and was told that the Minister would consider it.
– The last reply I gave was that the Commonwealth and State officers were engaged in going into the whole of the inspection charges, and I am expecting a report daily from the West!
– The matter is too serious for delay. Last season the potato-growers had an absolute failure so far as prices were concerned; and this year they are not much better off. I understand that potatoes are bringing a fairly high price in the West, but our growers are practically prohibited from sending their produce there. The Western Australian Government are evading the section of the Constitution which says that there shall be Free Trade between the States. They have been imposing an inspection fee of 15s. a ton.
– Your Labour Government, I suppose?
– It was put on by the Liberal Government.
– It was put on last year by the present Administration. The previous Government had a different regulation respecting the inspection of potatoes, hut Mr. Bath repealed it. I saw him about the matter when he was in Melbourne recently, and he promised to give it serious consideration. I have received intimation that the whole of the figures are being gone into, and I think the honorable member will find that relief will be given.
– The whole trouble arose through the rascality of one or two exporters of potatoes in Victoria. While potatoes were 15s. a ton here, and much dearer in the West, it was clearly proved that an inspector in the employ of the Victorian Government acted in collusion with a certain exporter. The firm made thousands of pounds by getting potatoes which came from districts where blight was prevalent, at 15s. a ton, putting them into other bags on which, with this officer’s connivance, the Government brand was put, and exporting them to the West as potatoes grown in clean districts. The Western Australian Government, in consequence, imposed an inspection fee of 15s. a ton. This matter can be seen in the records of the Victorian Agricultural Department, and the Liberal Government in power in Victoria at the time did not do their duty by prosecuting the inspector, and letting the people know exactly what was going on. I very much regret that Parliament will prorogue with the question at such an indefinife stage. What is to happen if the officers cannot come to an agreement, and the Western Australian Government refuse to reduce the charge? Under section 112 of the Constitution we have power to compel them to do so.
– Thehonorable member will admit that it is fair and proper to allow the Western Australian Government first to remedy the difficulty before exercising our powers under the Constitution.
– I admit that.
– We have asked them to do so, and Mr. Bath consented to the Conference which is now being held. I think the honorable member will find that as the result some reduction will take place. I cannot anticipate, but Mr. Bath approached me in a very fair spirit.
– If the matter had only been mentioned for the first time this session, I could understand that reply being given, but it is nine months now since I brought it under the Minister’s notice.
– The difficulty was to get information from the West, but when Mr. Bath came over I saw him personally.
– The matter is of such importance to the potato-growers that I am surprised that the Government, who profess to be the friends of the farmers, have allowed it to lie dormant so long. I am glad that a Conference has been called, but if no agreement is come to, the potato-growers of Victoria will have lost this season’s market in the West before Parliament meets again. Action ought to be taken immediately, because many growers who cannot find a market for their potatoes may be turned off their farms. Victoria is free from the blight now, and there is practically no disease amongst our potatoes, so that it seems a great pity that the residents of the mining districts of the West should be paying such high prices for potatoes, while our Bungaree potatoes are selling at 70s. per ton.
– They are not paying a very high price. When we have any to sell, we cannot get any price for them.
– I am talking about good potatoes. The potatoes grown in the West cannot be compared with those we grow at Bungaree, in Victoria. If the Minister of Trade and Customs will give me an assurance that he will treat the matter as one of urgency-
– It has been treated as one of urgency by the Government from the beginning.
– I can hardly believe that.
– We could not get a reply from the West.
– If the Western Australian Government would not reply, the Commonwealth had power, under the Constitution, to take action.
– Drastic action.
– I admit it, but it was threatened in a previous case, and even the threat had an immediate effect upon the Government in question. I trust that the Government will recognise even at this late hour the serious position confronting the potato-growers of Victoria in finding a market for their produce. I understand that the Tasmanian Labour Government propose to test the validity of these inspection charges, and I think that the Federal Government should assist them. When the Attorney-General was asked the other day whether assistance would be given, his answer was, “ No; leave it to the individual.” But this is rather a big matter for the individual to take into Court.
– We are taking action which will have the desired result.
– Very well; I leave it at that. I hope that the action which is being taken will have the desired result, and that finality in the matter will be reached before the end of this month, as it will be impossible for this Parliament to take further action if the Minister’s anticipations are not realized. The responsibility will rest upon the Minister of Trade and Customs if this season the potato-growers are unable to secure a market for their potatoes.
.- The matter mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat is one that should be referred at once to the Inter-State Commission. It is for the consideration of such matters that the Inter-State Commission was appointed, and not exclusively to investigate Tariff matters. In order that Ministers may get out of a dilemma they deliberately require the Inter-State Commission to devote all its time to a subsidiary if not an extraneous question. Why should the Commission be sitting on the Tariff while the larger issues of continental import with which they are charged are left unsettled ?
– It is plain that the honorable gentleman was not here last session .
– I was not here last session, but I was in this House long before the honorable member for Richmond, and I know what the Inter-State Commission was appointed for.
– The honorable gentleman does not know the Act, which was passed by the Labour Government.
– I say that this matter mentioned by the honorable member for
Ballarat is essentially one for the InterState Commission. It is entirely within the jurisdiction of the Commission, and it is to the reports on all such matters by the Commission that we must look when we propose to take concrete action in this Parliament.
– We should always consider the suaviter in modo first.
– I am pointing out the method provided by the Constitution. I do not find any Latin phrase in that document such as the Treasurer falls back upon when at times he desires to impress us with his vast erudition.
– Why put so much vinegar into your speeches? Every one is most friendly.
– Vinegar ! Does the right honorable gentleman want soothing syrup now, or a medicated lozenge. I desire an assurance before the debate closes that an opportunity will be afforded honorable members to consider the private business now on the paper. There are many motions of the utmost importance on the paper in the names of private members. Some of them, as you, sir, know, affect yourown rulings, and touch very vital issues that came before this House, but have been shouldered out of the way because of a curious standing order, or, I should say, perhaps, a curious interpretation of a curious standing order.
– Order ! The honorable member’s last remark certainly implies a reflection upon the occupant of the Chair.
– The last thing that would occur to me is to do or say anything disrespectful to yourself, or to any one occupying your position. If there is anything in the remark which you consider offensive I unhesitatingly withdraw it. I wish to impress upon the Treasurer the desirability of his giving an assurance on behalf of the Government, whom he is representing at the present moment, that we shall have an opportunity to consider many of the matters on the business paper in the names of private members.
– I cannot give such an assurance - the honorable gentleman knows that.
– I know nothing of the kind.
– Let the Leader of the Opposition interrogate the Prime Minister if such assurances are required.
– What is the position occupied by the honorable gentleman now ? Does he not represent the Government ?
– I am in charge of the Bill before the House.
– The right honorable gentleman is at this moment representing the Ministry, aud I wish him to give us some guarantee that we shall have an Opportunity to discuss the business on the paper. Since private members have not all been consulted, what is it to us that bargains have been made by leaders? Denial of our rights in this matter mayforce us to push our rights to the extreme in discussing items in the Supply Bill. It will not go up to the Senate so soon as it otherwise would.
– The honorable gentleman is comfortable enough. His seat is safe, and he has a home here. He is all right.
– That is a contemptible remark.
– This is nice from the right honorable gentleman who claims that he never makes personal remarks about people.
– It is perfectly true.
– If I wished to imitate the Treasurer’s bad taste I could say something which the right honorable gentleman would not care to hear.
– Say anything you like, I defy you absolutely.
– Well, I defy you also.
– Order ! I ask the Treasurer not to interrupt.
– I did not threaten the honorable gentleman ; he threatened me.
– I say that the remark made by the right honorable gentleman was a most contemptible one.
– I do not think so.
– Order ! I ask honorable members to cease these personalities.
– The Treasurer’s habit is to make personal attacks on opponents and then claim that he never resorts to personalities. As an instance, he said on one occasion, quite gratuitously, that if I walked down the streets of Perth I would be absolutely unknown. My retort, which
I think was apropos, was that some persons were too well known, and that I had never been chased out of Kalgoorlie by 30,000 infuriated diggers. Of course the right honorable gentleman was furiously indignant that I should recall a well-known incident which is embalmed in history. Getting back to the point, I want some assurance of an opportunity to consider the private business on the paper. Honorable members do not come here as children and put motions on the paper that have to be printed day after day at the expense of the country without a sincere intention that they shall be considered by the House. Some attention should be paid to their wishes in the matter. In Great Britain at the present moment public opinion and feeling in Australia is being outrageously misrepresented by a certain globe-trotter who has a place in the House of Lords. I refer to Earl Grey, who wishes to involve Australia in an enormous expenditure to establish some Empire structure in London, although we have ample accommodation there already.
– I suppose he has some property to dispose of.
– Very likely, or he may be interested in the syndicate that wants to sell it.
– That is his game.
– I do not know, but it is possible, and by no means improbable. According to the latest cable this man has grossly misrepresented the feelings of the Australian people on a matter of import to the whole of the people of the Empire. There is a motion on the business-paper which would enable the members of this Parliament to express their views in connexion with that matter. I think we should have the opportunity to do so. Anyhow, I shall strive to secure it. There is ample time available for private members’ business and for settling the issues depending upon the appeals from the decisions of Mr. Speaker. It is right that you, sir, on resuming the chair, as perhaps you may, after the election of the new Parliament, should be fortified with the knowledge that your decisions have received the approval of the House, or otherwise. I am glad to see that the Attorney-General has come into the chamber.
– He has not long to remain, but anything the honorable gentleman has to say he will be glad to hear.
– I wish to say how pleased the honorable gentleman must be at the honours which have recently fallen thick upon him “ as autumn leaves in Vallombrosa.” Not only has his scheme to bring about a double dissolution been crowned with success, but a mark of high favour has been conferred upon him by His Majesty the King. There is no doubt that the honorable gentleman has earned that distinction quite as well as have some, who already enjoy it. I congratulate him on his accession to such distinguished company as that of Sir Robert Best and Sir Thomas Ewing, not to speak of another who has also received a title. In connexion with the latter an anecdote is current which shows the sort of person considered worthy of these distinctions. In Papua lately one of the most heroic feats in exploration ever recorded was performed by a Government officer named Ryan. Had Ryan’s valour been exhibited on the field of battle instead of amidst the rapids of a remote Papuan river, he would most assuredly have been rewarded with the Victoria Cross. When the story of his gallant exploit was modestly submitted by Ryan to this official, now happily retired to private life, what was his comment? Naturally one would have expected a word of commendation of the splendid feat and of the gallantry with which, at the imminent risk of his own life, Ryan - himself seriously wounded - saved the lives of his little party of native policemen. What, I say, was the official comment? Absolutely not a word of praise, but merely an intimation that Mr. Ryan’s typewriter “ evidently wanted a new ribbon.” And this individual is selected for Imperial honour while Ryan, the man of heroic action, is passed over !
The Attorney-General no doubt feels happy that his name will appear in Burke and Debrett; yet I have a lingering doubt whether the ancestor to whom he sometimes refers with justifiable pride would, if in the flesh, share his feeling. For that ancestor, I may say, in passing, the race to which I belong cherishes a reverence and affection which inclines it to look leniently over many things that otherwise would have its condemnation. After his recent achievements we must regard the Attorney-General as a great political architect, but he may have “ builded better than he knew” in bringing about this double dissolution. His political ancestors of fifteen or sixteen years ago, when they gave to the Senate its present political power, thought that the Senate would be dominated by the wealth of Australia. They did not imagine for one moment that the Democracy would capture that Chamber. They then “builded better than they knew,” just as I think it will be found the Governor-General’s present advisers are doing. My belief is that their advice will eventually react with appalling effect upon the party they represent in this House. Under the Constitution as I read it the Governor-General has a certain discretionary power. The section which provides for his guidance by the Federal Executive Council in Executive matters cannot, as the verdant Argus would have the public believe, override those clauses which specifically vest in him certain discretion. How can it be contended, for instance, that the discretion conferred by section 128 is to be exercised only by the advice of Ministers. It was put in the Constitution expressly to be exercised independent of such advice. That is obvious, because if you read it otherwise there is no machinery left by which a measure passed twice by the Senate and rejected here can be sent to the people for their decision. Acting upon the advice of his Ministers, the Governor-General hag surrendered absolutely that discretion, and has become for all practical purposes-
– I ask the honorable member not to reflect on the GovernorGeneral.
– I did not intend to make any objectionable reference to His Excellency, nor can my remarks be construed as being in any sense derogatory to him; but it is necessary to my argument that I should point out the effect of his recent decisions.
– The standing order provides that an honorable member shall not refer irreverently to the GovernorGeneral.
– I was about to say that, in order to make my argument clear, it is necessary that I should refer directly to the replies which the Governor-General has made to the addresses from the Senate. His Excellency has undoubtedly surrendered to the Ministry of the day the discretion which the Constitution vests in him in certain circumstances, and has surrendered it under the assumption that in doing so he is obeying a principle of what is called responsible government. There is no occasion even now to reflect in any way upon the representatives of His Majesty in the Commonwealth and the States. As long as the Australian people are satisfied to put up with imported viceroys I do not know that I, as an individual, have any right to complain. We are spending on these gentlemen, and upon the upkeep of Government Houses, at least £100,000 per annum, and if the “umpire” - if we may so refer to the Governor-General in this connexion - is to be merely an animated rubber stamp, whose action is to be absolutely dominated by the Ministry of the day, that Ministry holding office by the very smallest majority, then it is wildly foolish for the people of Australia to go on paying so much to maintain these gentlemen and their establishments.
– There is on record an instance where W. G. Grace appealed to the cricket council against an umpire’s decision in regard to the wearing of leggings, and was successful.
– I do not follow cricket or football to any great extent, and therefore am not a great authority on the subject to which the honorable member refers. But I do think that Australia must shortly come to the conclusion tha,t it cannot afford the wild extravagance of spending £100,000 per annum, if not more, on the upkeep of gentlemen who act merely on the invitation or according to the direction of the Ministry of the day. If we want these * functionaries at all, we can get them at a much cheaper rate. We have in our midst men who are quite as capable of applying a rubber stamp or a signature to a Bill as are these gentlemen who are now imported from oversea. The Ministry have therefore given a great impetus to the movement against imported Governors; and if it becomes, as I think and hope it will, a live issue in the immediate future, then the responsi bility rests with them; and there again they “ builded better than they knew.”
The threatened -dissolution of Parliament has promoted the origin and circulation of some curious similes by the Government press. According to that veracious print, the Argus, it is quite sacrilegious to call in question the action of the functionary whose fiat is the last word iu the matter. Criticism of his act or motives is likened to the violent assaults now so frequent on football umpires. This simile is obviously defective, and shows on the part of its author a painful lack of imagination. It seems to me that he would have found a much more effective illustration of the position by drawing on practices not uncommon in another branch of sport. For instance, there are gentlemen in motor cars who do speed trials on the highways and the streets, and derive rauch enjoyment therefrom. Now I think a completer illustration of the present political débâcle may be derived from the playful pranks of what is known as “ the motor hog.” We” know how often he runs people down, and then careers through the night so that his number may not be detected. A juggernaut has struck this Parliament, and the “hogs” who steer the machine will not permit us to get its number, so that their conduct may be investigated before the grand jury of the nation.
The honorable member for -Calare has posed as an authority on matters in my constituency. I have here a letter, from a witty friend in Kalgoorlie, from which I should like to read an extract, as it may interest the House, and may enable the honorable member to see himself to some extent as others see him. My correspondent writes -
I notice by Hansard that the honorable member for Calare has been posing, on the strength of a flying visit, as an authority on wages and conditions of life generally in Kalgoorlie. As a fact, ho had very little opportunity of obtaining a true view of gold-field life, and the4 “ silvertail “ element, with which he associated himself exclusively, evidently transferred their outlook to the guileless visitor. Anyhow, his remarks excite from the old hands only a smile of derision. By the way, I see that he is loaded with a multiple patronymic - Henry Robert Maguire Pigott. The two latter names excite reminiscences. They belong to men who achieved great notoriety in their native land. One - Maguire - was a patriot, parliamentarian, orator, and historian. The other - Pigott - was none of these, though he helped to make his tory of a sort. Judging by what I saw of this political medicaster during his stay here. I should say there is immeasurably more of the Pigott than of the Maguire in his composition.
I would like to refer to some remarks made by the honorable member for Riverina the other day, but as he is not now present, I shall postpone what I have to say until a future occasion. I again appeal to the Government to give an opportunity for the discussion of the business of private members on the notice-paper. For your own satisfaction, Mr. Speaker, you should insist on the discussion of the motions dealing with rulings that you have delivered ; as none of them are in my name, I can speak impartially regarding them. It would probably tend to your satisfaction if these motions were dealt with, because it would enable you to assure your constituents during the coming conflict that, whatever had appeared in the press or had been said on the platform concerning your decisions, a majority of your fellow members had indorsed your interpretation of the Standing Orders. I hope that the Treasurer will represent to his colleagues the need for giving opportunity for the discussion of all these motions. As a reference to Hansard will show, the debates which arose when Mr. Speaker’s decisions were challenged were very exciting, and it is not fair to him, to the House, nor to the country, that the questions which have been raised should be left unsettled.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Issue and application of £3,060,026).
.- I wish to take this opportunity to draw public attention to the large sum which the Cook Government has placed in the schedule of this Bill under the heading of “ Contingencies.” In the Prime Minister’s Department, which is a small spending Department, the contingencies are set down as £3,615; under the heading of “ The Parliament,” contingencies amount to £2,540; under the heading of “The Treasury,” to £30,100; under the heading of “The Attorney-General,” to £6,790; under the heading of “ External Affairs,” to £34,500; under the heading of “Defence,” to £272,450; under the heading of “Customs,” to £35,300; under the heading of “ Home Affairs,” to £14,950; and under the heading of “ Postmaster-General,” to £356,000. In addition, £200,000 is set down as an Advance to the Treasurer, making, with the sums for contingencies that I have detailed, £956,245, about which no particulars are furnished. The total Supply askedfor is a little over £3,000,000, and all but one-third of this amount is set down under the heading, “ Contingencies.”
– The items are shown in last year’s Estimates.
– There is no information in the Bill. Why does the Treasurer need £200,000 for an Advance? What will he do with the money? The work of this Parliament is practically finished. During the next three months, while preparations are being made for the election, how can be spend nearly a quarter of a million pounds on unforeseen, incidental expenditure ? The relation which contingencies bear to the itemised expenditure is ridiculous. The salaries for the central administrative Naval Force amount to £7,000, and the contingencies to £2,000. How can the Central Naval Office need £2,000 for contingencies? The salaries for the Royal Naval College amount to £4,500 and £3,000 is set down for contingencies. For the Royal Military College £4,000 is required for pay and £9,000 for contingencies. Again, under the head of the Northern Territory, for the Administrator’s office £6,170 is required for salaries and £15,000 tor contingencies.
– That is all easily explained. This is the same as every other Supply Bill which has been introduced here.
– Under the head of Northern Territory we find that for lands and survey £1,908 is required for salaries and £4,000 for contingencies, while for railways and transport we are asked to vote £4,000 for salaries and the same amount for contingencies.
– Every Supply Bill is the same in this respect.
– That is not so.
– Look at last year’s Supply Bills.
– If the Treasurer has followed this practice before, I think that the time has arrived when it should cease.
– It cannot be stopped.
– Seeing that attention was directed to this matter previously by a supporter of the right honorable gentleman, I think it is time that we had some details of the expenditure submitted to us. To ask an expiring Parliament to appropriate £1,000,000 in a Supply Bill for three months under the heads of contingencies and Treasurer’s advance is asking too much. In my opinion - and I can -do no more than express an opinion - there ought to be details furnished to the public as to what is included in the items for contingencies.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
.- The schedule contains several items to which I wish to refer. I observe an item of £10,000 for immigration, including the expenses of advertising the resources of the Commonwealth. I desire to know how this money is to be spent if the Treasurer would not mind telling us. Is any portion of the sum to be used to assist immigrants “to come to this country 1
– No, it is to be used for advertising.
– I suppose that it is to be used for publishing misleading advertisements.
– No, I did not say that. None is to be used for the payment of passages or any thing of that sort.
– Most of the advertisements I have seen have been of a misleading character. I think that the right honorable gentleman ought to give us a sample of the advertisements which are inserted in British newspapers so that .we may know what they are like. This Bill contains an item of £10,000 for advertising the Commonwealth, and I think that an item of £50,000 was voted for this purpose on the Estimates for last year. Of course, if the truth about Australia is to be advertised, perhaps the money may be well spent, but if the advertisements are to set out conditions of employment for labour which cannot be fulfilled when persons come here, we shall do a very unfair thing to such persons. I suppose that the Treasurer knows of the unemployment which exists in Victoria. Thousands of our own people are out of work together with many of the immigrants who have been brought out. These persons cannot find employment. In Ballarat we are being appealed to every day by immigrants who have been deluded into coming to Victoria, yet the Commonwealth is still spending money on advertising. I am not prepared to blame the Federal Government. I do not know what class of advertisements the money now asked is to be expended on. Perhaps when we reach the third reading pf the Bill the Treasurer may make a statement as to how that money is to be expended.
– I desire to refer to the exportation of potatoes from this State to Western Australia. To show the urgency of this matter, and how potatogrowers in Victoria could be relieved, 1 might mention that for Bungaree potatoes growers are getting £3 10s. a ton, whereas in Perth, on the 16th June, potatoes were quoted at from £10 to £13 5s. a ton, showing a difference of at least £6 10s. It costs a very few shillings to pay for the carriage of a ton of potatoes to Western Australia. If the officers can come to an arrangement, whereby the inspection charge can be removed, it will be of very considerable benefit to both consumers in Western Australia and growers in Victoria. I desire now to clear up a statement made by the Minister of Trade and Customs. He said that the inspection due of 15s. a ton was imposed by a Labour Government in Western Australia. That statement is correct, but when honorable members understand the conditions existing prior to that act, they will realize that at least the Western Australian Government have dealt much more justly with potato-growers in Victoria than did the previous Administration, known as the Wilson Liberal Government. Mr. Hogan, member for Warrenheip in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, has been taking a great interest in this question. Some months ago our ex-Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Graham, repudiated the statement that the inspection charge was imposed by a Labour Government in Western Australia. On the 2nd December, 1913, Mr. Bath, Minister of Agriculture in Western Australia, wrote to Mr. Hogan as follows -
It was not this Government that introduced the peeling regulations, as these were in force for some time prior to our advent to office, and they not only had the effect of putting up prices to a prohibitive rate to consumers to between £30 and £40 a ton, but had seriously curtailed the consumption. Within a short period after I took up the duties of Minister of Agriculture, 1 withdrew these peeling regulations, and instituted the system now in force, with the result that there was a very substantial reduction in the retail price of potatoes, and a corresponding increase in the consumption. This you can note from the table contained in the copy of letter attached, which is to bc read from the bottom upwards.
Our position is that we made the introduction of potatoes much easier, but, at the same time, we found it necessary to insure adequate safeguarding of our potato-growing areas from the introduction of disease.
I will deal with that later -
Prior to the inspection fee of ls. per bag there was a charge for this service of Id. per cwt., though the conditions under which it was deemed advisable to allow potatoes to be introduced here were certainly restrictive. Having due regard to the safety of local producers, it was found necessary, in addition to the inspection fee mentioned, to require that all imported potatoes should bc peeled in bond. This acted very detrimentally to shippers in the East, and was the means of enhancing the price of the article here to an almost impossible figure, placing this very necessary item of diet practically outside the reach of the ordinary householder. Recognising this, the Government realized the necessity for some amelioration of the existing conditions.
I set out hereunder a comparative statement showing prices ruling in 1011, as against those for 1913.
Without quoting all .the figures, I may say that in Western Australia, on the 29th July, 1911, potatoes were selling at from 34s. to 40s. per cwt., but almost immediately after Mr. Bath altered the peeling regulations, and substituted the inspection due of ls. per cwt., the price of potatoes fell to 14s. per. cwt. At the time when potatoes were sold in Western Australia at prohibitive prices, potatoes were sold in Victoria at 15s.. per ton. It will be noted that Mr. Bath said -
We found it necessary to insure adequate safeguarding of our potato-growing areas from the introduction of disease.
I wish to show tEe tactics pursued by some of the commercial classes in Victoria, and the laxity of administration of the Victorian Government in connexion with the export trade. On the shoulders of the latter rests the blame to-day for the action taken by the Western Australian Government. I ask honorable members to listen to a most remarkable statement of affairs in Vic- toria, which is taken from the Age of the 8th December, 1911 -
By a recent successful coup in potato-dealing a large profit, estimated at £10,000, is alleged to have been secured by a Melbourne firm.
That is all I will quote from that particular portion, but I will now show how that £10,000 was made-
During the brief period the Labour Government were in power in Victoria, I (Mr. Hogan) obtained from the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Plain) the file dealing with the potato scandal, and I found that the case was referred to the police, and that inquiry proved up to the hilt that a grave scandal had been perpetrated - that a conspiracy had been successfully run in connexion with the export of blight-infected potatoes to Western Australia, bearing the Viet or ian Government’s certificate that they were free of blight, and had been grown in blightfree districts - Elmhurst and Tolmie. There is no use in mincing matters, and, therefore, J may say that the firm concerned is that of W. H. Maine and Company.
They are still doing business in Melbourne, I understand.
The facts are briefly these: An inspector, employed by the Department of Agriculture, named Sisson, was induced to give certificates that potatoes which had not been grown in the Elmhurst and Tolmie districts, and which he knew had not been grown in those districts, had been grown there, and were free from blight. Accompanied with those certificates, the potatoes were sent to Western Australia, and when they arrived there the Western Australian Government found that they were badly diseased. What else could the Western Australian Government do under such circumstances than say, “ We cannot depend on Victorian experts; we must inspect the potatoes ourselves; “ and that is what they did. The firm I have named, during 1911, sent an enormous quantity of potatoes to Western Australia. They were really the only firm that could send potatoes to Western Australia, and the other firms wondered how it was done. Eventually, however, the secret leaked out. lt was a significant fact that this inspector, who was dismissed by the Department of Agriculture, is now in the employ of Maine and Company; in fact, he was really in their employ all the time. … I have here an extract from the departmental file, in the Department of Agriculture, showing the quantity of potatoes branded “ T. Bowler, Tolmie,” forwarded to Melbourne during June, July, and August, 1011, and the quantity shipped during the same period by Maine and Company, branded “ T. Bowler, Tolmie.”
These figures show that, during those months, Bowler sent to Melbourne 447 bags, whereas the quantity shipped to Western Australia by Maine and Company, branded “ T. Bowler, Tolmie,” during the same period, amounted to 1,212 bags.
That one grower had sent from the district of Tolmie 447 bags of potatoes, and yet Maine and Company had sent to Western Australia 1,212 bags branded with that grower’s name, or just about three times as many bags as Bowler had sent to the Melbourne market. Those facts were clearly proved, yet the Agricultural Department took no action except to* dismiss the inspector. The officer had entered into a conspiracy with those exporters, and during the time that the blight was prevalent in this State, they were getting potatoes from blight districts, getting the Government brand placed on them as having come from clean districts, and sending them to Western Australia under the name of a particular grower in Tolmie.
– What happened to Maine and Company?
– No action has ever been taken. The Labour party obtained control of the Victorian Parliament for about a week, and during that week the Minister of Agriculture looked up the files in the Department; that is why we are in a position to say to-day that those things took place. Naturally, the Western Australian people are afraid that some of those tricks will be repeated again. If the Minister of Trade and Customs were present, I would suggest that the inspection should not be left to the various States, but should be undertaken by the Federal Government. I would not for a moment advocate sending potatoes or any other produce to Western Australia which are likely to introduce disease there. As a safeguard against any such contingency, it is necessary that there should be uniformity of action, that the inspectors should know their duty, and that the Government brand on articles should be a guarantee that such articles were- free from disease.
– We want somebody to inspect the inspector.
– Evidently that was so in the case I have mentioned. The Minister of Trade and Customs stated previously that the inspection fees in Western Australia had been imposed by the Labour Government. I have just quoted a letter from Mr. Bath, the Minister of Agriculture in Western Australia, in which he shows that prior to the imposition of that fee every potato imported into Western Australia had to be peeled in bond.
– I told the honorable member that.
– That precaution raised the price of potatoes to £40 per ton in Western Australia. Immediately the Labour Government come into office in that State, they rescinded the regulation in regard to peeling in bond, and imposed an inspection fee of 15s. per ton. At once the price of potatoes fell from 40s. per cwt. to 14s. per cwt., which shows, bad though the present regulation is, it is infinitely better than the regulation which obtained prior to the advent of the Labour Government. I have been trying to show honorable members that the Ministry in Western Australia had to do something to prevent the importation of diseased potatoes. If by any chance the present Ministry should come back to power after the elections, I think the question’ of the inspection duties being undertaken by the Commonwealth ,vill be worthy of their consideration. I hope the Minister of Trade and Customs will see the urgency of this matter in connexion with the Conference that is to take place within a. few days, and that some satisfactory arrangement in regard to the inspection of potatoes in Western Australia may be arrived at.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That thu report be adopted.
.- On page 5 of the Bill there appears a “ miscellaneous “ item, “ maintenance of persons admitted to charitable institutions in accordance with provisions of Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.” I should like to know to what this refers. A Bill was promulgated by the Government last year in which it was proposed to make a certain arrangement.
– The Bill did not pass.
– No, but does this item seek to give effect to what was proposed in that Bill?
– This is a payment which has been made all along to the charitable institutions in accordance with the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– It does not refer to that proposal which was in the Bill of last year?
– No ; it is the old system that has been in force from the beginning of the Act. When pensionersare admitted to charitable institutions on the order of a magistrate, we pay the institutions 8s. per week for each pensioner. That is the amount which we are required to pay for the maintenance of inmates of these institutions when they are sent there by order of a magistrate. They may, perhaps, be already pensioners, but even if they are not, so long as they are sent there by the order of a magistrate, the Commonwealth has to pay for their maintenance at the rate of 8s. per week.
– What about immigration?
– Last year the sum of £50.000 was placed on the Estimates for the purposes of immigration, including advertising the resources of the Commonwealth. The amount provided for in this Bill, namely, £10,000, is intended to cover a period of three months.
– Where is the money being spent?
– It is being spent in advertising. We are not paying the passages of any immigrants to Australia. However, the Minister of External Affairs is present, and will be pleased to inform honorable members how the £50,000 for advertising the resources of the Commonwealth was expended last year.
.- The sum of £50,000 was voted by Parliament last year for immigration, and advertising the resources of the Commonwealth. The greater portion of it was spent in advertising or administration in the United Kingdom. We are now extending our advertisements to the Continent, because there is at present in England rather a dearth of the class of labour that we desire in Australia. The vote may be increased this year owing to the greater activity in some of the northern countries.
– It may be?
– Yes. I am going into the question of what sum ought to be placed on the general Estimates.
– Does the Minister see many of the advertisements which are inserted in the press?
– I a good many of them.
– For what class of labour does the Commonwealth advertise?
– For farmers or farm workers.
– It is not much use advertising in France.
– I did not say that we are advertising in France. I said that we are advertising in the northern countries of Europe. In some European countries, as honorable members are aware, a fine is imposed for advertising. Happily, the conditions of many countries, as well as of Great Britain, are improving from the stand-point of labour. In one instance, in the north of England, where 100 or 150 immigrants had been procured last year, only seven agricultural labourers could be obtained this year. Many men there now belong to unions, which have been successful in obtaining for them better conditions than they previously enjoyed.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer two questions - one having reference to the Commonwealth Bank, and the other to the gold reserve. Dealing with the latter first, I again express my regret that the Treasurer sees fit to keep such an excessive gold reserve against the Australian Note issue at the present time. He has never made a clear and definite statement to this Parliament as to why he does so. His act is unjustifiable, and is against the best experience
– I do not think so.
– And it is absolutely unnecessary.
– That is the right honorable member’s opinion.
– The only State in the southern seas, or even in the Dominions, which has had a large experience of a State note issue is Queensland. Its experience of nineteen years conclusively proves that a not less than 25 per cent. gold reserve is ample. The Australian Note issue has never varied to the extent of more than £1,000,000. After reaching £10,000,000 it has shrunk to a little more than £9,000,000. Yet the Treasurer assumes that in some circumstances the variation willbe such that he may be immediately faced with a demand for gold to the extent of £2,000,000. The Treasurer could pay £2,000,000 in gold at any moment and still be within the law. There never was such a mistaken policy as that of throwing away probably £50,000 a year.
– We could not invest it, anyhow. We will want it immediately.
– The Treasurer could invest the money from month to month.
– And get very little for it.
– How can he invest it from month to month?
– I have done it.
– I lent it to the States.
– What interest would the right honorable member get by lending it from month to month?
-I think three months is a fair term. But the money will not be required for a year, and for that period 4 per cent. net can be obtained at the present time. When Treasurer, I obliged States with short-dated loans at the rate of 1 per cent.
– One per cent. is not worth thinking about.
– I suppose it would be beneath the dignity of the honorable member to help the States in a small way like that.
– Not at all. But surely I can ask for information.
– The honorable member said that 1 per cent. was not worth thinking about.
– But other honorable members think that the public interest is of some importance. Even if the Commonwealth got no interest, it would be better to lend the money, and allow it to be utilized, than to allow gold to be accumulated in the Treasury in excess of all reasonable requirements.
– We have heard all this before.
– That is the worst feature of the Treasurer lately. Whenever any information is being given to the House he objects.
– Not at all. But we have had this over and over again. The policy of the Government is well known.
– In dealing with the right honorable gentleman I have shown a patience and consideration which he does notappreciate.
– We do not want to be told the same thing twelve or fifteen times over.
– I am quoting facts.I intend to quote from the Treasurer’s own documents.
– They will be very accurate.
– They are not always accurate.
– We will take our stand upon them, anyhow.
– I have here a table of the Note Issue which shows that that issue has varied from £9,959,554 to £9,142,487, and that the gold reserve has varied from 40 per cent. to 45 per cent. The table reads -
The Treasurer will admit that at the present moment the gold reserve is so far in excess of legal requirements that he could pay out £2,000,000.
– Yes, I suppose that is very nearly so; but the right honorable gentleman said 33 per cent.
– Some sixteen cartloads of gold would have to be taken away.
– The right honorable gentleman said 33 per cent.
– I have always said that from 33 per cent. to not less than 25 per cent. is an ample and sufficient working margin.
– We have had no experience of stress.
– We have had nineteen years’ experience of the system in the North.
– But never under any stress or difficulty.
– What period was the most distressing in Australia? Was it not in 1901-2, when there was the greatest drought ever known here? The Treasurer is totally unreliable when he makes such general statements.
– I think the right honorable member is very unreliable, and I should not like to follow him in finance. The right honorable gentleman has had no experience, and yet ho expresses opinion ex cathedra, as if he knew all about the matter.
– I admit I have not had great experience.
– Then why be so dogmatic ?
– But I have the advantage of historical evidence, and of- the experience of others. The Treasurer need not get angry because I bave proved him to be erroneous in his statement that we have had no experience of difficulty and stress. The system was inaugurated in Queensland in 1893, and in 1901-2 there was the most distressful period ever passed through in Australia. The number of, sheep dropped by 50 per cent., and the nation’s finances were at the lowest ebb. Taking it that even only £1,000,000 were invested, it would, at the present rate of interest, bring in £40,000; but, apparently, the Government can well afford to do without that money, and think nothing of it. Why am I accused of keeping a reserve of 40 per cent, during the latter period of the Labour Administration? I did so because I had promised to do so; and we on this side always keep our promises.
– In any case, it would not go into revenue, would it?
– No. Evidently the opinion of the honorable member is that if it does not go into revenue, it does not matter.
– What is the point, then ? If it does not .go into revenue, it goes into a fund that can be used in the public interests; and two bodies benefit, namely, the States, who obtain money at a lower rate of interest tuan that at which they could borrow else? where, and the Commonwealth, which is advantaged to the extent of £40,000. Another point is that the Commonwealth has been borrowing from the Australian Notes Trust Fund and other trust funds at the 3i per cent., or, including sinking fund, at a cost of 4 per cent.
– We get the money for nothing, and I think we do very well.
– The Government get that advantage as the result of legislation passed by the Labour Government. The right honorable gentleman was fortunate in having left handy for him such a fund.
– I was thinking about it before the right honorable gentleman came into office; and he must remember that he got a forced loan from the people.
– The Treasurer is like one of the Georges, who was under the impression that he “ alone did it;” he forgets that the system had been in existence for seventeen years before he wrote a memorandum, and had been enacted in a Parliament of which I was.a member at the time it passed.
– That was a small arena !
– It may be of interest that, in addition to the asset in connexion with the note, issue, there are accumulated earnings in trust fund amounting to £471,000 odd. There would have been a full £500,000 if the Treasurer had exercised what I call reasonable common sense in the investment; and such an earning power is of some value. Further, there is greater stability in a State note issue than in any other issue.
– The interest, after deducting expenses, amounted to £301,000 at the beginning of last year.
– In June this year it is £471,000 odd, and that is without taking into account the value of the plant and the notes in circulation and in hand, which are a very valuable asset.
– We get it for nothing; it is all right.
– I think the Treasurer will admit that we have been fortunate in securing the services of the man who looks after the printing of the notes.
– Yes, I think so.
– I have been informed that he is printing the notes a great deal more cheaply than we could have purchased them, and is producing an equally good article.
– And we have the whole under our own control.
– That is so. I may mention that every authority that we consulted, without a single exception, was against the notes being printed in Australia; but the late Government decided to have the work done here.
– Are we printing all the notes Ave inquire now?
– I think so.
– I think not, because a little while ago we were still issuing notes of the private banks.
– Why not? We bought those notes, and it would be foolish to throw them away before ‘they are used up.
– But the right honorable member spoke as though all the printing necessary was being done here now.
– So it is, only we do not throw away property that is still useful.
– The private notes are being dispensed with as quickly as possible.
– As soon as the private notes are reasonably worn out, they arc withdrawn. The honorable member for Riverina is apparently like the Treasurer, and asks airily, “ What is a million ?” We cannot afford to throw away the people’s property.
– But without any “throwing away,” is all the printing we require being done here now?
– Subject to the Treasurer’s concurrence, I ‘say Yes. If it is not, it is because the printer’s time has been taken up in the printing of stamps. The approximate £500,000, of which I have spoken, is an additional reserve against the Australian notes.
– What did all this cost the public?
– Nothing. With regard to the Commonwealth Bank and the attitude of the Treasurer towards it there never was a father of an institution that would desire so much to destroy it as the right honorable gentleman and his friends.
– I do not think that is right. ‘
– I shall prove it. We have witnessed the spectacle in this Parliament of honorable members rising on the other side to attack the bank and its Governor, his conditions and his actions, without a tittle of evidence.
– I have helped the bank a good deal.
– I hope so, because it is the right honorable gentleman’s duty to do so in his present position. The Governor of the bank has been entrenched by Statute to enable him, with the assistance of the Deputy-Governor, to manage the institution in the interests of the people. He started without a penny of capital, and in the face of a good deal of hostility from certain leading politicians and others. He debited all the expenses of starting to the first year, and yet today he has practically wiped off the debit and is almost square. I have not spoken to him on that matter since I left office, but I congratulate him on what he has accomplished.
– You said when introducing the Bill that the bank was going to be of benefit to the farmers ; do you think it has been ?
– Can you quote any instances of it?
– Yes it is of general benefit, and in every way of benefit to the producers. The honorable member will discover as time goes on that it will be the farmers’ sheet-anchor. When they are in difficulties they will not be squeezed at any time for political reasons. The Government are attempting to take away the savings bank business from the Commonwealth Bank. They want to rob the bank of one ‘ of its proper ancillary agencies. Both Mr. Watt and Mr. Holman say that the State Savings Banks have done better since the Commonwealth Savings Bank started than they did before. Why then do the Government want to do away with the Commonwealth Savings Bank? Why do they want to embarrass these two States by changing the present conditions?
– If the State Savings Banks have done better it must mean that the Commonwealth Savings Bank has done no good.
– Why then do the Government and their supporters, and the State Liberal parties, want to destroy it”
If the State Savings Banks have done well, and the Commonwealth Savings Bank, although offering what is practically 14 per cent. less interest, is doing well, does it not show the inconsistency of the whole lot of them? They are the people who always say, “ Let us have open competition in everything so that things may he clean and prosperous.” We gave them competition, and now they say, “We want none of it. We do not want competition ; we want to be protected against any rivals. We do not want the people to have the opportunity of going to any other bank.” The Labour party have given the people another bank of their own which has prospered, and honorable members opposite hate it, and hate all connected with it ; but the people have discovered enough now to know that it is, and will continue to be, a permanent part of the Commonwealth banking system, as it ought to be. At the 1912 Premiers’ Conference I made the following proposals: -
The States to become partners with the Commonwealth in the Commonwealth Bank -
By supplying portion of the capital, not exceeding one-half;
by each State becoming responsible for the liabilities of the Bank in proportion to the capital subscribed by it;
by each State sharing the profits in proportion to capital subscribed by it.
Each State to use the Bank as far as practicable as its banker. The Commonwealth Bank to take over the Savings Bank of each State, whether Government or trustee, as a going concern.
After the Commonwealth Bank has taken over the business of the State Savings Bank, the State Government to have first call on any amount which it repays to the Savings Bank in redemption of loans existing when the bank was taken over; also to have first call on three-quarters of the amount of deposits in the State available for investment.
In addition to these terms the States were offered representation on a consultative body which should meet from time to time to consult as to the working of the institution. I suggested that this body might consist of the Treasurers of the States and the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. In other words, so far as the Savings -Bank was concerned, I proposed that each State should retain all its current investments, and also have first call on three-fourths of any further deposits in that State available for investment; and, further, that as regards the remaining one-fourth each State should share equally with the Commonwealth in opportunity for its investment. Thus, instead of having six separate balances, one in each State, there would be one balance every year, and the money would flow freely from State to State. Each State would get more than it could ever have by having separate balances, and the Commonwealth would gain great advantages also. At the Premiers’ Conference of 1914, the State Premiers, Western Australia dissenting, made the following offer to the Commonwealth -
The Commonwealth Bank to withdraw from the Savings Bank business.
The States to allow the deposits now held by the Commonwealth Savings Bank to remain on fixed deposit with the Commonwealth Bank, and to become responsible through their Savings Bank or otherwise for the repayment of such deposits. States to transact their State banking business with the Commonwealth Bank.
The Governor of the Bank submitted the following alternative scheme -
He proposed to accept the States’ offer to transfer their banking business in Australia and London to the Commonwealth Bank; and offered to hand over to the States 75 per cent. of the increase in depositors’ balances for investment in the States for a term of 30 years at market rates.
He declined to give up the Commonwealth Savings Bank, holding that it performed a useful public service in collecting money that would not otherwise be deposited in State Savings Banks. He intimated, however, that he would consider the States becoming partners in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, each State to receive half the net profits made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank in its business in that State.
It is interesting to again recall that the Treasurers of both Victoria and New South Wales intimated in the Conference that their State Savings Banks had done much better since the advent of the Commonwealth into the business.
The Commonwealth Government, through the Prime Minister, intimated to the Conference on the same day on which Mr. Miller’s proposal was made, that it accepted the resolution of the Premiers, and was prepared to take the necessary steps to carry the arrangement into effect. This, of course, meant the abolition of the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1914-15, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £754,930.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Sir William Irvine do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The total amount provided for by this Bill is £754,930, and, with very few exceptions, is for the purpose of continuing or completing works which have already been authorized by Parliament. It is intended that the Bill shall cover the expenditure for three months - July, August and September.
– Have you spent all the money voted on the last Estimates?
– No. But under the provisions of the Audit Act all expenditure authorized on the last Estimates lapses on the 30th June next. It has already been intimated that it is expected that the new Parliament will assemble about the 5th October, when it will be the duty of the incoming Government - this Government, I suppose - to immediately ask for Supply. Whether I am in office or not, the incoming Government will have my support in getting that Supply, because without it the administration of affairs cannot he carried on. I have always been in favour of assisting the Government in office to that extent. The items of expenditure in the Bill are about a fourth of the amount provided on the present Estimates. I shall refer to the principal items. There is provision for an expenditure of £75,000 on the Federal Capital, including provision for water supply, the construction of a weir on the Cotter River, road construction and mainten ance, the erection of a power-house and brickmaking. I believe that the weir will be a very fine work. The site is a magnificent one, and it will hold a sufficient quantity of water, and good water at that. The power-house is already nearing completion, and the brickmaking machinery was being brought up-to-date when I paid a visit to Canberra a little while ago. There is provision for £14,000 for Quarantine, to enable works in connexion with the construction of new buildings to be continued. For Naval buildings, £30,000 is provided, and includes provision for the completion of the works now in progress at the Naval College, Jervis Bay. For military defence £40,000 is provided for the erection in the various States of drill halls, mobilization stores, buildings for Aviation Corps, the completion of woollen mills, &c. For Post Office buildings, £80,050 is provided. Of this, £4,000 is to be devoted to wireless stations. The balance will be expended in the various States in the following proportions: - New South Wales, £30,000; Victoria, £20,000; Queensland, £5,000; South Australia, £8,000 ; Western Australia, £12,000; Tasmania, £750; and Northern Territory, £300.
– There is nothing there for Papua.
– Papua is an independent country. The sum of £270,000 is provided for telegraphs and telephones. In New South Wales this money will be spent on - telegraph works - re-poling, &c, £16,900; telephone works, completion of new exchanges, and connecting new subscribers, £65,987; trunk lines, £6,800; switch-boards (city extensions, £5,470; Glebe automatic exchange, £3,243; other works and material, £23,287), £32,000; total expenditure in New South Wales, £121,687. In Victoria the money will be spent on - telegraph works, £5,000; telephone works, connecting new subscribers, &c, £42,000; trunk lines, £7,000; switchboards (Windsor exchange, £11,000; minor works, £2,000), £13,000; total in Victoria, £67,000.
– Of which £5,000. is spent in the country.
– In Queensland the money will be spent on - extending the trunk line from Brisbane to Rockhampton, £2,760; battery switchboards (Brisbane, £7,729; lamp signalling switchboard, Brisbane, £2,362), £10,091; other items, £17,149 ; total, £30,000. In Western Australia the money will be spent on automatic switchboard, Perth, £10,980; and material and small items, £13,020; total, £24,000. In Tasmania and South Australia numerous minor works are provided for, including a switchboard which will cost £2,500. A sum of £40,000 is provided for works at the Naval Bases to meet expenditure in connexion with work in progress at Westernport and Cockburn Sound during the first three months of the next financial year. For the construction of the Fleet, £75,000 is provided for labour and material in connexion with the building of the cruiser Brisbane and the torpedo destroyers Torrens, Swan, and Derwent, now being built at Cockatoo Island. In the Northern Territory £5,6S0 is to be spent, including expenditure on roads from Pine Creek to the Maranboy tin-field, just opened up, £1,500; and from Stapleton to Daly, £500; and subsidies for the construction of roads where land is already leased, £500. The object of the Bill is to allow the works already authorized by Parliament last session to be carried on. As I informed the Committee when I introduced the Supply Bill covering the ordinary services, we have been accustomed in the past to pay for these works for a short period out of the Treasurer’s Advance, but the practice has been found inconvenient, and has necessitated unduly swelling that vote, and, as the result is the same in the end, it seems to me that the time has now arrived, seeing that the expenditure on these works and buildings has grown to such large dimensions, when Ave should have, as was contemplated by the Constitution, two Bills submitted, one for the ordinary services and one for -works and buildings. I hope that the information already supplied in the first Supply Bill - I thank honorable members for their assistance in having it passed - and tha.t which I am now giving will be sufficient to enable honorable members to gain a clear view of what the Government intend to do during the first three months of the coming financial year. That is all I propose to say in regard to
Sir John Forrest. the Bill itself, but I intend, and am sure that honorable members will expect me to make, a statement regarding the expenditure on New Works and Buildings. I shall make a comparison between our expenditure during the financial year just closing and that incurred by the Fisher Government during their last year of office. For the year ending 30th instant, it is estimated that our expenditure out of revenue on New Works and Buildings will amount to £3,540,571, as against an expenditure of £3,536,365 during 1912-13. There is very little difference between the expenditure under this heading during the two years in question, the increase during our term of office being only £4,206. On the other hand, we have spent a good deal more out of Loan Funds than did the previous Administration. During 1912-13 the expenditure out of Loan Funds amounted to £1,189,904, whereas we estimate that we shall have expended during the twelve months ending 30th instant £2,109,000, an increase of £919,096. The total expenditure on New Works and Buildings out of Revenue and Loan Account for 1912-13 was £4,726,269, whereas for this year it is estimated at £5,649,571. The total expenditure out of Revenue and Loan Accounts on New Works and Buildings during the twelve months ending 30th instant is estimated to be £923,302 in excess of the amount expended during the previous twelve months.
– So that the Liberal Government have been more extravagant than we were?
– I shall not say that, but we have spent more on New Works and Buildings than was spent last year. The honorable member for Yarra interjected, whilst another honorable member was speaking a few days ago, that we had starved the Departments.
– I do not think I made that statement.
– The honorable member did, but I do not think that he meant it. It was perhaps only a chance observation. The figures that I am about to give will show that there has been no starving of the Departments on the part of the Liberal Administration. We have done our best to spend the money, and to spend it as economically as possible. So far from starving the Departments, we have expended on public works during the last twelve months more than the late Government did in 1912-13. I should like to make a comparison of the expenditure out of revenue on certain specific works during the two years in question, in order to disprove the assertion that we have been starving the Departments. Here are a few of the items -
– There was a good falling off there.
– There was a falling off in the expenditure out of revenue.
– So that it has been a case of starving the Department. I was quite right.
– We shall see directly whether or not the honorable member was correct in the statement that he made. To continue my comparison of the expenditure on New Works and Buildings out of revenue, let me give the following additional items -
In respect of the last-named item, there was an increased expenditure of £247,357 out of revenue on very urgent public necessities -
I suppose that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will hail with delight the falling off in respect of that item, though I cannot share his satisfaction -
It will thus be seen that there was an increase of only £4,206 in our expenditureout of revenue on New Works and Buildings as compared with that for the previous twelve months. I propose now to give some figures regarding the expenditure out of Loan Funds, which is estimated to amount this year to £2,109,000. On the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, the expenditure during the current financial year, which closes on the 30th inst., is estimated at £1,340,000, as against £606,985 last year. The expenditure during the present year would have been greater but for the unfortunate cessation of work due to an industrial dispute at the Kalgoorlie end of the line. We estimated to spend £1,400,000, whereas we have spent only £1,340,000. The expenditure on the purchase of lands in the
Federal Capital out of loan last year was £169,845, whereas this year it will be £190,000. On the London offices this year the expenditure is estimated at £55,000, as against £19,856 spent last year. Then, again, last year a sum of £152,319 was paid out of loan account for the purchase of a site for the General Post Office, Perth. The purchase having been completed, we have not had to pay anything on that account this year.
– Is it not a fact that that property is bringing in a net return of about 5 per cent. ?
– I think it is; but when we build the new post-office I do not suppose that it will give us that return.
– It is bringing in a net return of 5 per cent. at the present time.
– Yes; it is, I think, well let. On the redemption of South Australian loans, in connexion with the Northern Territory and Port Augusta railway, last year £240,899 was expended out of loan, whereas this year we have expended £128,000. On the Pine Creek to Katherine railway last year there was no expenditure out of loan, but this year there has been an expenditure of £4,000, and it is possible that before the end of the month an amount of £123,000 will have to be made available for payment in Loudon. On the Papuan railway, for which a loan was obtained, and which was authorized last session, £16,000 has been spent this year. Another item in the Loan Bill passed last session was in respect of land purchased for post-offices. Under that heading we have spent £70,000, whereas nothing was spent during the preceding twelve months. Yet another item in the Loan Bill of last session is that of conduits for telephones, the expenditure in respect of which this year has amounted to £306,000.
– That is not a fair comparison. We did the same class of work out of revenue.
– I have given the late Government credit for that in my figures relating to the expenditure out of revenue.
– I know that the right honorable member does not wish to be unfair.
– That is so. The expenditure on telephone conduits which we provided for out of loan funds was paid for out of revenue in 1912-13.
– We did the work, and paid for it, out of revenue.
– The total loan expenditure during the year just closing has amounted to £2,109,000, as against £1,189,904, showing an increased expenditure of £919,096. The estimated expenditure for the current year was £2,815,627, after allowing for the amount of £300,000 required for defence sites, which was struck out of the Loan Schedule by the Senate, and subsequently made a charge out of revenue. Of the £300,000 that was thus made a charge on revenue, only £120,000 has been spent.
The expenditure from loan this year will be over £706,000 less than was anticipated. The expenditure on the transAustralian railway was expected to be £1,400,000, but it has been only £1,340,000. On the 30th June there will remain £453,000, which the Treasury officials say will be sufficient to carry on the work with vigour until the reassembling of Parliament; but an additional appropriation from Loan will then be necessary. The funds to which I have referred have been provided by the investment of trust money in Commonwealth inscribed stock. The note fund is the principal source of our loan funds. The Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, the purchase of land in the Federal Capital area, the erection of Commonwealth offices in London, the resumption of property in Perth, the redemption of loans, the construction of a railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River, have been paid for with loan money.
Speaking on the Loan Bill on 29th October last, I said, in reference to the programme of my honorable friends opposite, that during their three years of office they had outlined a policy of railway construction from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie and from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek which would cost over £10,000,000. I pointed out that they had practically agreed to spend millions on making Naval Bases, on the foundation and embellishment of a Capital City, and on other national works, and I asked whether it would be possible to find the money by direct taxation. I ventured the opinion that it would be impossible, and that, even if possible, it would be unwise and ruinous.
It is the general consensus of opinion that railways should be paid for from Loan Funds. We have to carry out, not only the transcontinental railway now in course of construction, but also the north and south transcontinental line. I have urged this Government, and the Queensland Government, that the best way to open up the Northern Territory would be to extend our railway from the Katherine River southwards to, say, Newcastle Waters, and through the Barklay Tableland to Camooweal, where it will join the Queensland railway system, there being only 200 miles of line to construct to extend the Queensland railway from Cloncurry to that point. The Queensland Government is making a railway from Rockhampton to Townsville, and within a short time one will be able to travel through the older settled parts of the continent from Fremantle through Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Rockhampton, Townsville, and then west through Cloncurry to Camooweal, and so on across the Barklay Tableland to Newcastle Waters and Port Darwin, going through good country all the way. That is a project which I hope will be carried out.
– What is the difference between the right honorable member’s policy and that of the Labour party?
– I do not know that. If my ideas agree with those of my honorable friend, it shows that two persons can think of the same thing at the same time. This is a great national question, not a party one. We must be careful to construct our railways through the best country, so that they may prove paying concerns, otherwise they will be burdensome. Our railway expenditure in the Northern Territory will probably amount to about £10,000,000.
The Leader of the Opposition seems to consider a Naval Base as a work in a different category from other public works. It would be a splendid thing if everything could be paid out of revenue, but in a new country that would not be economical, because; to enable our people to develop the land, we should leave as much money as we can in their pockets. We should be careful not to take from them by taxation money that they need for the carrying out of their own projects, which must advance the country in which they live. In myopinion, it is not necessary to make any difference between one kind of public work and another. My right honorable friend was asked on the 11th of this month whether he was prepared to pay for the construction of Naval Bases by money raised by increased taxation, and he replied “ Yes.”
– I said nothing about increased taxation.
– The remarks to which I refer appear on page 2043 of the Hansard record for the current session, and I shall read them, as I have no wish to do my right honorable friend an injustice.
– I suppose the right honorable gentleman wishes to tax the people very heavily in order to spend millions on Naval Bases? Why does the right honorable gentleman not say “ yes “ if that is what he means?
– I have explained againand again that whatever expenditure is necessary for the protection of the country in ordinary times, it should be met out of annual revenue.
– Here is a question which tests the whole sincerity of the right honorable gentleman’s statement. Is he prepared to tax the people to payforall these Naval Bases?
– Yes. If the Prime Minister puts that as an honest, straightforward question.
– I do.
– Whatever is necessary for ordinary defence purposes should be debited to the annual revenues. That is my position.
– And direct taxation imposed for it.
– I knew that there was a trick, and I was right. The Treasurer attributed to me the words “ increased taxation.”
– How is the necessary money to be obtained except by increased taxation? This year our expenditure has exceeded our revenue.
– Then what has become of the Prime Minister’s surplus?
– The sum of £2,653,000 which was carried forward has been reduced to £1,000,000, the difference having been spent, in addition to the whole of the revenue for the year. As we are spending a large sum in excess of our revenue, how can we get money for additional public works unless the revenue increases largely, which is not immediately likely, or unless we borrow, providing interest and a sinking fund, or unless we increase taxation ? The statement of my right honorable friend was- that he would pay for the construction of Naval Bases by taxation - I leave out the word “ increased.” But I know that there must be an increase. I estimate that the following amounts will be required for the following Naval Bases during the next few years : -
We have already arranged to spend £1,043,000 for the purchase of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. That is a loan on which we are paying interest, and we shall have to pay back the principal. There was an item of £175,000 on the Loan Bill of last year which is included in the amount of £1,043,000.
– That is a transferred property.
– Only by arrangement; it is not a transferred property within the meaning of the Constitution Act. However, it is very convenient for the Government to treat it on the understanding that it is a. transferred property. The right honorable member the Leader of the Opposition was quite right in getting Cockatoo Island Dock handed over and paying interest on it as a transferred property, if he cares to call it so ; but that does not take away the obligation of finding that money when the time comes for repayment, and of paying interest on it in the meantime. That is to all intents and purposes a loan. I saw in the paper this morning that £300,000 is required already to be spent at Cockatoo Island. Then there is the Cockburn Sound base. I have an intimate knowledge of the whole of that locality; I know the difficulties to be surmounted, and I know what dredging has to take place, and I have estimated that £2,000,000 will be required to be spent there by the time the base is finished, so that naval ships may rendezvous there, and go in and out at all times through the channels which must be dredged through the Parmelia and Success banks, and by the time the dock is completed, because that is a necessary part of the establishment. I think £2,000,000 is a moderate estimate.
– On what do you base your figures?
– On my own knowledge, and I have had a large experience of public works. Those are my own figures. Coming now to Westernport and Hobson’s Bay, Victoria, it must be recognised that we must have a dock there. We cannot have a large city like Melbourne without a dock. Sydney has one, and Melbourne will require a similar convenience. For this Naval Base, then, I have estimated £2,000,000. That also is a moderate estimate. At Port Darwin, £1,000,000 will be wanted if we are to do anything at all.
– There is no dredging at Port Darwin.
– But it is an expensive place at which to carry out works. . Then there are the nine subbases, for which I have put down £3,500,000, and that brings the total to £10,000,000. If any one who has a knowledge of the cost of these works and’ equipment and the difficulties which surround them can assure me that they can be carried out for less than £10,000,000’ I will be glad to hear him.
– You could not do the work in five or six years.
– It is not proposed to do that. Those works will takeseveral years. Therefore, I say that theright honorable member for Wide Bay is inconsistent when he says that the Naval Bases ought to be built out of revenue. At the first opportunity, and evenbefore there was any great necessity for borrowing, he purchased theCockatoo Island Dockyard at a price which, - with the loan authorized last year for further equipment, brings thecommitment from loan to £1,043,000.
– That was in order to show a surplus of £2,000,000.
– I desire toknow why the Leader of the Opposition did that. Surely Cockatoo Island is a naval base. And the expenditure which has already been incurred is only the beginning, because we were told this morning that the expenditure of another £300,000 is required there at once.
– That is for machinery; the dock is there.
– All the estimates include machinery. I would ask honorable members opposite what prospect there is of opening up Cockburn Sound, which the honorable member for Fremantle is so much interested in, if we are to restrict our expenditure to amounts obtainable from revenue? And what hope have other honorable members, who arc interested in the other bases and subbases I have mentioned, of getting them opened up without recourse to loan money, when we know that, according to Admiral Henderson’s estimate, they will probably cost £15,225,000. There is only one way in which they may be carried out from revenue, and that is by imposing extra taxation; and the right honorable gentleman will be puzzled to carry out those works even by that means, because taxation is pretty heavy already, and very large taxation will be necessary in order to complete works of such magnitude.
– How would you carry them out?
– By borrowing the money and providing only interest and sinking fund. That is what the Labour Government did in connexion with the dock. Do honorable members mean to tell me that the expenditure on Cockatoo Island can by any sort of reasoning be considered other than loan expenditure? That is suitable for loan just as much as any other work ever undertaken in Australia from loan funds. By borrowing the money and providing only the interest and the sinking funds, the annual expenditure could be within our means, and the interest and sinking fund would only increase proportionately with the work of construction. We would not borrow the money all at once, but as we required it, just as is done in connexion with our railways and other public works. Why should we depart from the plan upon which our railways, telegraphs, harbors andrivers, water supplies, defences, and other extensive enterprising works have been so effectively carried out ?
-They are reproductive works.
– Not all of them. There is a large number of buildings and other forms of expenditure that do not bring in a direct revenue. We have expended in Australia about £300,000,000 of loan money on the following works: -
I ask honorable members and the people of this country why we should depart from a system that has proved so beneficial ? I think the success which has attended our public works system throughout Australia is marvellous. For the most part those works which do not pay are paid for by those which do. Our railways may not all pay, but the whole of them together pay something like 4 per cent., and so are no burden on the general taxpayer. They represent £180,000,000 of our loan expenditure. Such a departure as is proposed seems to me to be dangerous to our progress and development. As I have already pointed out, the Labour party departed from their non-borrowing policy at the very first opportunity, when actually there was no necessity to borrow. I cannot see why we should discontinue a policy which is dictated by common sense, and is so much in accordance with our own ideas. Most honorable members in this House are architects of their own fortunes, and have they always depended upon having the money in their hands before undertaking any enterprise? Every man in the community works with borrowed capital. Even the smallest farmer borrows from the Savings Bank in order to develop . his holding and make himself a home. Is not that the system followed by every one ? There is practically no man who carries on his business with his own money. The policy everywhere is to get money at a cheap rate and invest it at a better rate. It is the same with the squatter, the shipowner, and the merchant; it is all a policy of borrowing the capital of other people and making a profit out of it.
The result is unparalleled in the whole world for success. In Northern Queensland and in Western Australia - indeed, in any part of the continent - we see progress and development that would not have been possible but for the advantage of borrowed capital. We should have had none of our great avenues of communication, such as our railways, or the magnificent settlement that can be seen on every hand, but for borrowed money. We are now told at the beginning of our career that we must not borrow, but must raise what money we need by taxing the people. I say at once that I am dead against that principle, because it must be admitted that the more we take out of the pockets of our people the worse it is for the country. All the money they have, and more besides, they require to develop their lands and the industries in which they may be engaged. The principle of no-borrowing is founded on some misconception, and is not practicable, as is shown by the facts of our every-day existence. Any one who enters upon an enterprise, whether it be in the building of a house or the starting of a business, must have financial assistance. There are the Savings Banks, and other financial institutions, and in Western Australia we have what is known as the Agricultural Bank. This institution was founded by a Bill that I myself introduced in the Western Australian Parliament; though to hear some people talk one would think that I was altogether devoid of liberal sentiments. Under that Act, a man may, for the asking, obtain 168 acres as a homestead farm, and, moreover, before he leaves the office, he receives an order which entitles him, to an extent provided in the measure itself, to draw allowances on certificates of improvements. A man thus assisted can go to work at once, and is allowed the full value, I believe, for the first £300 of improvements. This, of course, is borrowed money, without which it would be impossible for many men without means to make a home for themselves and their families. It is a curious thing that honorable members opposite in private life practise what they condemn in the State. If it is wrong for the State to borrow, it is wrong for an individual to borrow - if borrowing is advantageous to private people, it is advantageous to the State.
– Before the right honorable gentleman sits down, will he tell us the state of the Trust Fund?
– I have not the figures here. These Naval Bases, which have been dangled before us as some great prize, will have to wait if the scheme propounded by Admiral Henderson has to be carried out by means of revenue obtained by taxation. On the other hand, the coast is clear for borrowing, and we can afford to pay the interest. A loan of £1,000,000 does not mean more than £40,000 a year in interest; and there is a great deal of difference between the finding of the two sums. I shall say no more now, but simply submit the motion.
.- I congratulate the right honorable gentleman on the vigour of his address this afternoon. He has dwelt at great length on the question of borrowing for the purposes of defence, and, singular to say, he has, in his own figures, shown why such borrowing should not be undertaken. I might suggest here that, on such occasions as the present, the Treasurer should follow the courteous precedent set in previous years, and furnish the Leader of the Opposition with a copy of the figures to be submitted, especially when an immediate reply must be made.
– I should certainly have done so had I thought of it.
– The right honorable gentleman told us that the total indebtedness of Australia - Commonwealth and States- is now about £300,000,000. The largest item in that is £180,000,000. and the others are made up of £4.000,000, £22,000,000, £40,000,000, £7,000,000, £3,000,000, and general items totalling £44,000,000. Which item in all these do honorable members think represents the total sum borrowed for defence purposes? The item of £3,000,000. This means that only 1 per cent. of the loan expenditure of Australia, during our whole history, and under the most extravagant Governments, has been on defence. The Treasurer lashed himself into a state of fury because we, on this side, refuse to plunge this country into an indebtedness of £15,000,000 for defence purposes. Could inconsistency go further? Yet the right honorable gentleman is backed up by the cheers of his party. This is one of the issues on which we are quite prepared to go to the country.
– What is the issue”!
– The issue is one to which I pin the honorable member down. We shall demand that the annual expenditure on defence shall be made out of our annual revenue, as is the case with every self-respecting country in the world. The Government, and their supporters, came here, so they said, to prevent extravagance; and yet, in a time of peace, when the prosperity is unprecedented, and money so plentiful that there is a credit, balance, they propose to borrow money for the purposes of defence. The Treasurer was quite fair, as he generally is, and admitted that the Government had spent £1,500,000 of the surplus bequeathed to them.
– But the Prime Minister said otherwise.
– The Prime Minister! He does not know anything about it. What would the Treasurer propose to do in time of distress, war, or other emergency? If we pledge or over-pledge the country’s credit in times of peace, we shall find that credit gone in time of trouble. Every self-respecting country does what the Labour party proposes shall be done. A borrowing policy is no new thing on the part of the Treasurer or the Prime Minister. When the last Fusion Government were in office they introduced and passed an Act to borrow £3,500,000 for the purpose of constructing a Navy. We, on this side, did our utmost to defeat that measure, but we were closured. However, we appealed to the people on the issue, and declared for an Australian-owned and manned Navy, in co-operation with the Navy of the Mother Country, to be paid for out of the annual revenue.
– The Labour Government took the money from the States. What used to go to the States came to the Commonwealth.
– We took nothing from the States but what the States agreed to give up, and what the then Fusion Government agreed to accept. That agreement was made by the Fusion Government, and not by us, and it was made with the consent of the States, as arranged at the Conference, of the proceedings of which there is not a line extant.
– Not even the blottingpaper !
– Quite so ; even the blottingpaper used at that Conference was destroyed in case a single piece of authentic information leaked out. The agreement was embodied by the then Government in a Bill, and we on this side, as a party, accepted it as an honorable agreement. One of the earliest pieces of legislation by the Labour Government was an Act assuring to the States the whole of the money which was set out in the .agreement, and which the States are getting to-day.
– Only for ten years.
– True ; but that period was fixed when we beat the Fusion Government on the question of putting the agreement into the Constitution - we beat the Fusion Government then, and we shall beat them now. The Fusion Government at that time had the co-operation of the States, and a two-thirds majority made up of a combination of parties in the House. But we went to the country, and the Labour party won. We then declared that we would not pledge the credit of the people of Australia in good times for purposes of defence.
– There were not very good times when the Fusion Government was in power. The good came afterwards, when the Labour party were returned.
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s statement. It is true that we had good times, but the right honorable gentleman, in his present term of office, has had better times. And what has he done with the opportunity? He admits that he has gone to the bad to the extent of £1,500,000 in his first year. Let the right honorable gentleman show manliness and courage, and admit the facts.
– Could you have done any better?
– I do not accuse the Treasurer of having done badly. He has said that we inherited a great heritage. I maintain that he inherited a greater heritage, yet finds himself going gradually to the bad, eating up not only the whole- of the revenue he has received, but also the surplus that was left to him.
– You ate it up when you were in office.
– Notwithstanding that we inherited a deficit, we paid £3,500,000 of loans from revenue, and during the whole of our three years of office we saved on an average £100,000 a month.
– You had in the three years £18,000,000 more than we had.
– The Treasurer during this year has had, on the average, the . same as we got in the previous year; but instead of saving £100,000 out of his annual revenue, he has dipped into another purse, and gone under the line to the extent of £150,000 a month, thus making a difference of £250,000 in the monthly expenditure of the two Governments.
– As the result of commitments left by the Labour Government.
– The Treasurer now wishes to plunge into the loan market while his annual expenditure is in’ excess of his revenue.
– You would rather go in for extra taxation.
– As regards commitments, the silliest of men can talk like that. I pay this honour to the Treasurer that he has never been so foolish as to refer to the word “ commitments.” He has a bigger mind. I am sure that many a time he feels a twitch, if not a little shame, at the use that is being made of the word “ commitments,” that word which has been coined by the Prime Minister, and who, perhaps, knows more thanhe pretends to know.
What is the reference in the word “ commitments “ ? Owing to the rule of Parliament, that no money can be expended until it is properly appropriated by Act, a considerable proportion of the financial year is passed before expenditure on any work is legal; and, therefore, in most cases the full amount appropriated cannot be legally spent within the financial year, or the works approved of completed. Therefore, at the end of each financial year, no matter what Treasurer is in office, there is a carrying over of works that are uncompleted and unpaid for. I ask the Treasurer whether it is not a fact that a portion of the appropriations for this financial year will fall over until the next financial year?
– I suppose” so.
– The Treasurer has had long experience in these matters, and knows that this falling over is inseparable from the very proper policy of receiving authorization before expending any money. It will be clearly seen that the legacies from one Government to another are about equal.
– Not necessarily equal; but there is always overlapping.
– If another Government came in, in all probability there would be the same amount falling over into the next financial year as was left over for the present Government to meet when they came into office. So the argument in regard to “ commitments “ belongs to the kindergarten school in regard to its financial aspect. The Treasurer, in dealing with Cockatoo Island, was less ingenuous than usual. His contention is that Cockatoo Island is not a transferred property.
– It is not under the law.
– If the Treasurer holds that view, then he must say that quarantine stations and lighthouses are not transferred properties.
– I think they are covered by the Constitution. I maintain that Cockatoo Island is not an ordinary transferred property.
– I do not wish to do the right honorable gentleman an injustice. I do not wish to go to the public and charge him with misrepresenting the matter. I would not do it unless I knew that he had deliberately done so, and I do not believe that he is capable of doing that. Quarantine stations, lighthouses, and defence works are all practically on the same basis.. When Defence was taken over by the Commonwealth, all the defence properties were assessed by our own officers, and approved; and as Cockatoo Island was an essential part of the property purchased by the State of New South Wales for the purpose of defence and other things, and as the Commonwealth Government were desirous of building war-ships in Australia, and considered that Cockatoo Island was the best place where they could be built and repaired, we entered into negotiations with the State Government to transfer that part of their property from the Crown of the State of New South Wales to the Crown of the Commonwealth. . For that reason, the property falls into its proper relationship as a transferred property of defence, and any argument to the contrary would defeat the whole purpose and intent of the provision in the Constitution regarding transferred properties. There is no need to say that a loan should be raised for the purpose of getting that transferred property, because the State of New South Wales already possesses the loan, and the Commonwealth merely pays the interest on it.
– They have applied for the capital. All the States have applied for £9,000,000.
– The Treasurer now tells us that the States are demanding cash from the Commonwealth Government for all these transferred properties, including defence buildings, post-offices, Customs houses, and so on. I do not blame them, but the Treasurer is not going to pay it to them.
– No; because we have not the money unless we borrow it. Where are we going to get £9,000,000?
– The Treasurer now agrees with me that quarantine and lighthouses, and any other State functions the. Commonwealth takes over, should be taken over as transferred properties; so that the action of the Labour Government in regard to Cockatoo Island was not only correct, but also the only sensible and sane course the Government could follow. Apparently, the proposal of the Treasurer is that if he had the power he would borrow £15,000,000.
– Not all at once. Only when we might require it.
– I do not accuse the Treasurer of wishing to borrow money until he actually needs it, and then only under the best conditions; but evidently the policy of the Government is to borrow from time to time as required for naval and military expenditure.
– No. Only for great works such as Naval Bases.
– Would you exclude military works?
– I think forts come under the same category.
– For military and naval works of that kind, the policy of the Government is to borrow money.
– I do not see any other way of doing it unless you tax the people.
– Does the Government of Great Britain do it?
– Their position is different. Other countries do it, and I believe that Great Britain wO soon do it.
– In times of- war, the Government of the United Kingdom. would raise loans, but they lay down the general rule that these works in times of peace must be paid for from revenue, and at the same time they are also reducing the national debt instead of increasing it.
– In Australia we have so many more things to do with our money.
– I agree with the Treasurer that, in regard to reproductive works, a young country should avoid drawing .heavily on the annual revenue for the purpose. The only restriction I would put on borrowing in that relationship would be to prevent the carrying out of wild-cat schemes that would not bring in a reasonable return. ‘Now as regards the Perth Post Office site, which was mentioned by the right honorable gentleman, and which was spoken of so much during the ‘last election, we’ borrowed the money to pay for that site, and the property now upon it earns 5 per cent, interest on the money borrowed. What a foolish thing it would have been’ for any one to say, “ We will buy a property returning 5 per cent, out of current revenue!” The purchase of that site was a good investment. The Treasurer knows that it is a property that will gradually increase in value. We borrowed the money from the Trust Funds, which the Fisher Government established, at 4 per cent., of which 3
– There will be no per cent, when we build a post-office on the site. There will then be no rent.
– At any rate, the Treasurer is getting it now; and, in our opinion, the freehold property was worth the full value of the money spent on the purchase, and if the Commonwealth erects a post-office on the site, though we may not get income in the shape of rent, we shall have its equivalent.
– Then we shall have to provide the interest out of revenue.
– If the site had not been provided by the previous Government, we should have had to get another site of equal value, and pay cash for it, as we did in the case of the London offices site. The Treasurer is, as a matter of fact, pleased that the site in Perth was obtained in that way.
I was waiting for him to tell us the state of his Trust Funds. That would have been a simple bit of information that would have been of use to the public. I hope that before the Parliament is dissolved he will be good enough to give that information to the public.
I wish now to deal with other issues. I quite agree with the view which the Treasurer has expressed regarding the opening up of Australia by transcontinental railways, with a branch line to Queensland. The carrying out of such an enterprise must involve much time and money, and will require great determination. It will certainly need a Government with a backbone to give effect to it. Honorable members will search in vain for a record of any new country that has suffered from the prosecution of such a bold and resolute policy. It may involve the country in a loss for some time, but we are well able to bear the burden of giving effect to it, and posterity will have reason to thank us for doing so. Every State in the Commonwealth has, with one exception, where railways were run out westwards to open up new country, laid down branch lines that have soon proved profitable. In the past trouble has arisen really in connexion with the smaller lines, and I agree with the Treasurer that we might legitimately pledge the credit of Australia to enable these great works to be carried out. These railway lines are tangible, interestearning properties, increasing in value from day to day. Naval and military works, however - forts and naval bases - are in a different category. They return nothing, and are of no value except for defence purposes.
– Under my scheme the country, instead of being required to pay for these works at once, would pay for them gradually.
– But if the right honorable member’s party comes back to office it will go on borrowing and borrowing for every work of the kind.
– And paying off and paying off.
– The end of our defence expenditure is not yet. Greater troubles may arise.
– My trouble is in regard to taxing the people so much.
– The first principle of defence is that the people who own a country should defend it. If a very special expenditure were necessary to save the country, then I should be prepared to pledge everything we have in order to save it.
– The right honorable member and his party would provide at once for defence by taxation, whereas I would pay off our defence expenditure gradually, making it easier for the people to bear it.
– The policy of our party is that we should spend from year to year out of revenue whatever the country can afford on a definite defence policy. Under such a system we would be able to see as time went on what we wanted. It is to be seriously regretted that the original estimates of the cost of giving effect to the defence schemes propounded by our distinguished naval and military advisers should have proved to be sadly in error. This Parliament cheerfully entered into those schemes, and intends to complete them. The Labour party, however, stand for proficiency and economy. We shall ask the people to continue these schemes on the basis of a reasonable expenditure; but we shall not pledge their loan credit for such a purpose.
The Treasurer had little, if anything, to say regarding the question of a uniform railway gauge throughout Australia. If there is one reform that ‘ is urgently necessary it is this. I had the honour to put before the country a policy which declared that there should be at least one gauge of railway from Perth to Townsville. Clearly such a railway is as necessary from the stand-point of general utility as it is for Defence, and the actual economic benefit, within a very few years, would, I believe, be more than sufficient to pay the interest of the cost of reconstruction. A uniform gauge would benefit, not only the travelling public, but the producers. Producers,’.) indeed, are the chief losers from the present breaks of gauge, which give rise to great economic waste. I feel sure from what I have read, and from what I have heard the Treasurer say, that he is entirely in accord with the policy I have just enunciated, but I think it should be definitely fixed.
I also expected to hear the Treasurer make some reference to the agreement entered into with the State Premiers in regard to the control of the Murray waters, and the proposal of the present Government to grant £1,000,000 to assist the States in locking the river and making other improvements.
– I believe that a Bill is being drafted; but I have not seen it.
– The Treasurer was at the Conference.
– Not, I think, when this particular question was settled.
– The right honorable gentleman, as Treasurer, ought to have been consulted when the Commonwealth was being pledged to an expenditure of £1,000,000 to give effect to the agreement arrived at between New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.
– I do not think that the exact terms have been settled, but, generally speaking, an agreement has been arrived at.
– I gather from a written document that the terms of the agreement are that the Commonwealth shall subsidize the work of the States by an expenditure of £1,000,000.
– I have heard that that is so.
– The importance and far-reaching effect of such an agreement cannot be readily realized. It is the first proposal on the part of the Government to co-operate with the States in carrying out a great enterprise. So far as I can judge as a layman, they have no direct authority under the Constitution for doing this, but, on general principles, I am not opposed to the proposal. If the National Parliament can assist the State Governments in opening up trade routes, and in shortening and cheapening the means of transport, then I, and, I am sure, many members of my party will be delighted to co-operate with them, especially where the primary producers will be benefited by such schemes. But we cannot stop at the work of improving the navigability of the Murray and the Murrumbidgee. We should be prepared to co-operate with any State in dealing with other navigable rivers, whether they flow through one State or more. That is my view, and I hope that the Treasurer will adopt it. I congratulate the right honorable gentleman on the frank statement he has made regarding the finances. He must have felt uneasy when his Government were being charged with spending considerably more than their income. The plain statement of fact is that the present Government have expended all the revenues that they have received,plus about £1,800,000. If they had had more time, there can be no doubt that they would have quickly expended the remaining £1,800,000 of the surplus which they inherited.
I think that the Treasurer was somewhat disingenuous in his comparison of the expenditure on new works and buildings by the Government and their predecessors. When we were in office, we set aside out of revenue £600,000 to do what was practically loan account work, and we had no expenditure to that extent out of loan money. The Treasurer, in presenting us with a statement showing what the present Government had expended out of loan account on telephone conduits, should have mentioned that we provided out of revenue for such work.
– I showed what had been expended out of both loan and revenue accounts.
– Quite so, but I think that we expended a very large sum out of revenue on works which the present Government have provided for out of loan account.
– I gave the Fisher Administration credit for that in my statement of expenditure out of revenue.
– Quite so ; I wish, however, to emphasize the difference in the principle followed by the Labour party and the present Administration in this respect. When we had any spare revenue, we expended it on the construction of telephone conduits and other improvements relating to the Postal Department. We regarded that as a good, sound policy to follow in times of prosperity. It is certainly in keeping with our general policy.
Coming to the Federal Capital expenditure, it was somewhat interesting to hear the right honorable gentleman claiming credit on behalf of his Government forhaving spent more in that direction than we had done. I think I have heard many of his supporters declare that they would not spend a penny on the Capital. I agree, however, with what the Treasurer has done in this respect. The work of building the Capital having been commenced, we should complete it in the speediest way consistent with economy and the proper expenditure of public money. I desire, also; to congratulate the Treasurer upon his straightforward expression of opinion, that, while some of the buildings erected during our term of office for the Military College and other purposes were better than they might have been, the character of the constructional work was all that could be desired. He has spoken, also, of the beauty and utility of the Cotter River, and of the works initiated by the Labour Government in providing a necessary water supply for the Capital. I am glad that he has been frank and fair in this matter. We are laying the foundations of the Capital of a country that will be, I hope, if it is free from foreign aggression, one of the greatest in the world. Every National Parliament must have its own home for its own safety and security. There should be no loss of time and no delay in providing it. There are many persons who may say that a Federal Capital is not required; but it is required by the Constitution. We have lately heard a great deal about the Constitution and what it imposes - a great deal that we never thought of ; but if there is anything clear and definite in that instrument, it is the statement that there must be a Federal Capital, and that it must be established in New South Wales.
The Treasurer did not refer to a matter which is of importance to Tasmania. The Government increased the Commonwealth’s grant to Tasmania, but has only paid £5.000 of its liability to the State.
– This year we have paid Tasmania £90,000. ‘The Fisher Government paid only £85,000 for one year; we have been meeting its liability and our own ever since.
– This Government has made one payment of £5,000. It increased the Commonwealth’s grant to Tasmania by £400,000, and has so far paid only £5,000. Ministers and their supporters have the same views about paying as they have about borrowing. They promised Tasmania to do something for her in the dim and distant future.
– Our arrangement is very scientific.
-Yes. Ministers take the credit and kudos of the increased grant, and will leave to their successors the liability.
There are many other matters with which I should like to deal, but I shall not trespass further on the time of honorable members. I suggest to the Treasurer that he should not waste the public money by keeping such a large gold reserve; that he should get the £40,000 due to the Commonwealth.
– I think that we shall want it all next year.
.- I congratulate the Treasurer on his frank admission that he has a deficit of £1,819,000. The Prime Minister, speaking at Tamworth, told the people that the Government has a surplus of £800,000. One or other must be telling an untruth, and I do not think that it is the Treasurer. It is only fair that the country should know the exact position of the finances. I should like to know what the right honorable gentleman proposes to do in regard to the Savings Bank business of the States and the Commonwealth. He says that we should not have interfered with the “Savings Bank business of the States, and the Government promised to introduce a Bill to give effect to an amicable arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States regarding the business of the Savings Banks.
– I introduced the Bill.
– The right honorable gentleman told us then that the Commonwealth had no right to interfere with the Savings Bank business of the States. How long is it since he changed his mind on the subject?
– I never committed myself in the matter.
– The right honorable gentleman went as near to doing so as he could. Speaking at the Premiers’ Conference, held at Brisbane in May, 1907, he said-
It has been urged on the Government several times - and I have had it in my own mind in the interests of the people of Australia, although I have not done anything yet, nor do I know that the Government are going to do anything - but it is within our powers to have a post-office savings bank for all Australia.
The Honorable G. Swinburne. -It was mentioned yesterday.
TheRight Honorable Sir John Forrest. - I have not read the report; but I say it is quite competent for us to establish such an institution ; and what a splendid institution it would be forthe people of Australia !
Now the right honorable gentleman condemns it as an institution of this “ horrid, beastly Labour party,” which should not have been established. Now he is trying to destroy this “splendid institution.”
– Is that all that I said?
– No. The honorable member said further -
We know very well that the States have no machinery to successfully carry on a savings bank without the assistance of the post-office, which is under the control of the Commonwealth. That observation of the honorable gentleman, therefore, cuts two ways. We can get some of the savings of the people into the coffers of the Commonwealth any time we like, and perhaps then the honorable gentleman would not be able to boast that he has command of the Savings Bank money to a far greater extent than the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has not laid hands on the Savings Bank, and should it ever do so, it will not be for the purpose of borrowing money, but for the convenience and assistance of the people of Australia.
Honorable members opposite were not, when the Treasurer made that speech, on the most amicable terms with the States, and threatened to establish a Commonwealth Savings Bank, which he said would be a splendid institution for Australia. He pointed out that in the Post Office the Commonwealth has better facilities for collecting money than the States possess. At that time the right honorable gentleman was in favour of a Commonwealth Savings Bank. But the party opposite never learns anything. Now it is cringing to the Premiers and Treasurers of the States, as it did in 1910, to secure support at the coming election . Let the right honorable gentleman be frank, and tell us whether he has really changed his mind on this question.
– I did not propose a Commonwealth Savings Bank. What “ the honorable member has read were really passing remarks.
– They formed part of a strong party speech. When the right honorable gentleman’s conscience pricks him, he speaks his thoughts in a way that there is no mistaking. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the break of gauge question, which this Government has referred to a body of experts. Having committed the community to an expenditure of millions of pounds upon the construction of a long length of railway on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, Ministers have asked a body of experts to report which is the best uniform gauge for Australia. If the Commission recommends that the gauge shall be 5 ft. 3 in., will the Government tear up the line they are now building and convert it to 5 ft. 3 in. ?
– I hope not.
– Does not the right honorable member see the utter absurdity and stupidity of the Government’s policy? I would be ashamed to belong to a set of men who would commence the construction of a line and afterwards ask experts to determine what the gauge should be. There is a reason for that policy, and that is that South Australia and Victoria are opposed to the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, and the Government are trying to curry a little favour with those two States, but have not the honesty or moral courage to tell the people what is in their minds. In these important matters we have a right to know just exactly where we are. The Treasurer has not told the House how far he has depleted the oldage pensions fund. It is from that fund that the Government have taken a large portion of the £1,800,000 which they have spent in excess of their revenue during the last financial year. We desire to know just exactly what is in the minds of the Government. Are they going to reduce the old-age pensions?
– Not so far as I know.
– Well, will the Treasurer tell me where he is going to get the money to finance the old-age pensions next year?
– Yes, I will tell you next year.
– Again, the Government have not the moral courage to tell us what they are going to do. The Treasurer knows that he will have a deficit next year.
– I do not.
– Then the right honorable member is going to starve the Departments to the extent of over £1,000,000 sterling.
– He will not be in office.
– But he will leave a deficit as a legacy for those who follow him, as he did on a previous occasion. The House is entitled to a more explicit statement as to the Government’s intentions in relation to the old-age pensions, and the financing of their obligations.
– I told you that we hoped to have a surplus of a million pounds this year. Whatever the surplus is, it will go into the old-age pension fund.
– That means that what the Treasurer has not spent of the £2,600,000 surplus which we handed over to him last year, added to an amount of about £200,000, which he has been able to save by starving the Departments this year, will make a total of £1,000,000 which he is going to add to the old-age pension fund. Is that the whole amount? Will that meet the requirements of the old-age pensions for next year?
– No. We will have to add more from revenue, as we always do. We had to add to the fund this year.
– The trouble is that the Government spent £1,800,000 more than their revenue for last year, and they had to take that amount from the Trust Funds. How are they going to recoup those funds? They have the £800,000 which is the balance of the £2,600,000 surplus, and the £200,000 that they will save from works that ought to have been, but have not been, completed, making £1,000,000. They will still be £800,000 short. What is the Treasurer going to do to make up that amount?
– We will have to make provision for that.
– We know the Treasurer will have to make provision, but how? The automatic increase in the old-age pensions next year will be about £200,000; in the maternity allowance over £100,000, and in the Defence Department about £200,000. These amounts will make a considerable deficit next year, and we desire to know what is in the mind of the Treasurer in regard to future arrangements, and the collection of that money. Is ho going to put a tax on tea and kerosene, or reduce the old-age pensions ?
– Well, is the right honorable gentleman going to wipe out the maternity allowance?
– I do not think so; but those who are well off do not require the allowance.
– The AttorneyGeneral said that he would wipe the maternity allowance out, if he had his way, and put the old-age pensions on a contributory basis.
– Why should we give the allowance to people who do not require it?
– Why is the right honorable member so anxious to make this payment a mere charity dole?
– Is the old-age pension a charity dole ?
– Does not the Treasurer know that the people who receive the pensions are those who built up this country, and made it possible for us to be here at the present time ?
– Is the old-age pension a charity dole? Answer me that.
– I say it is; and until such time as you are prepared to give it to everybody, that will be the interpretation which your party will put on it.
– You are saying that it is a charity dole.
– The right honorable member has put that construction upon it.
– Your party took credit for passing the Bill.
– We assisted in passing the Bill, and it was the best measure we could get at that time. The Treasurer was one of those who tried to prevent us getting the money to pay the pensions when the Bill was passed. The right honorable member moved an amendment that the Surplus Revenue Bill should be postponed for six months.
– That was before the pensions were passed.
– But it was from the surplus revenue fund that the pensions were to be paid.
– I reckoned the withholding of the surplus revenue from the States was a dishonest thing to do, and I see no reason for changing my opinion. Surely there were better means of getting money than by taking it away from people to whom it belonged.
– Does the right honorable member say that that surplus money belonged to the States?
– Then the right honorable gentleman shows an ignorance that unfits him for the position he is in. The Commonwealth was entitled under the Braddon clause to spend one-quarter of the revenue collected from Customs and Excise. We did not spend that quarter, but we took the necessary precautions, after paying back to the States over £6,000,000 over and above the amount we were obliged to pay back-
– You went further than that.
– After paying that amount, we had a perfect right to put the surplus into a Trust Fund. We desired to do that in order to pay the old-age pensions, and the right honorable member for Swan voted against our proposal. The honorable member for Franklin also voted against it. Of course, he is a good party hack, and had to do that.
– I read section 87 as plain English, and as I construed it, what your party did was dishonest. What does the section say about the balance after the Commonwealth has spent its one-fourth? I took only a common-sense view.
– Section 87 says-
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise, not more than onefourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.
We could spend up to one-fourth.
The balance shall, in accordance with this Constitution, be paid to the several States or applied towards the payment of interest on debts of the several States taken over by the Commonwealth.
That was not the balance of the onefourth, but the balance of Customs and Excise revenue.
– Well, I do not care which way you put it.
– After the Commonwealth had spent one-fourth, the surplus was to go back to the States, but the Commonwealth was entitledto spend up to one-fourth. If our use of the surplus revenue was dishonest, why does not the right honorable member do now what he says we ought to have done? There isthe £700,000 which we are supposed to be voting now, and the £1,000,000 of unexpended money which the Treasurer says he will have at the close of the financial year, and which he proposes to put into the old-age pensions fund. If the right honorable member is honest in his contention in . regard to the surplus revenue, he should pay the amount back to the States, because it is an unexpended balance, which, according to the right honorable member’s interpretation of the Constitution, should go back to the States.
– Why does it not go back?
– Why does not the Treasurer pay it back to the States?
– Because you made an agreement.
– Let the right honorable member carry out his honest intention. He proposes to do this year exactly what he blamed us for doing a few years ago. It was wrong when we did it, and it is right when the right honorable member does it. We well remember that, when the tracklayer was purchased by the Home Affairs Department for the construction of the Kalgoorlie - Port Augusta railway, it was characterized by honorable members opposite as a wild and extravagant piece of expenditure, which should never have taken place. But when they came into office they extolled that same machine as one of the most magnificent pieces of mechanism that Australia had ever seen.
– I never said that.
– No; but I am quoting that as an illustration of the fact that everything the Labour Government did was denounced by their opponents as being wrong. Now the right honorable member does the same thing as he denounced us for.
– Did the present Government ever do anything right?
– I admit that sometimes the present Government have done right by accident. We had the painful spectacle not long ago of the Government rushing in to proclaim an Act on a certain day, and discovering two days afterwards that they had involved themselves in a loss of £156,000. I refer to the sugar legislation. When Ministers were asked about their mistake, they said, “ Those who have to pay the Excise are all very honorable men, and they will pay up. They belong to the
Liberal party, and assist the funds of that party.” If they did not say that, they ought to have said it. But those people did not pay up until we had the humiliating spectacle of the Government begging and pleading with the Opposition to allow legislation to pass, not only in this, hut in the other Chamber, so that they might protect the revenue to the extent of £156,000. What Ave did was quite proper; but the circumstances showed stupidity and blundering on the part of the Government.
– And on the part of the Labour party, because they passed the Bill.
– It is perfectly true that the Labour party passed the Bill; but does the honorable member say that that was a blunder?
– I do, undoubtedly, considering the form in which the Bill was passed.
– What about the stupidity of the other party in not finding that out?
– I do not deny that either.
– I have, at all events, one friend on the other side who admits the stupidity and blundering of the Government in this matter. There are many other subjects to which I might refer, more particularly that of the Teesdale Smith contract. What is the position?
-A blunder !
– I am not sure that it was not a criminal act that was committed. The Government have allowed the country to be fleeced of tens of thousands of pounds.
– There were worse blunders by the Labour party.
– Even if that were true, it does not excuse the present Government; and such a retort does not clear the atmosphere in any way.
– Blame both Governments.
– It is not my function to blame the Labour Government. It is the duty of honorable members opposite, if they can, to point to any wrongs committed by the Labour Government; but, up to the present, they have not successfully done so. The Government now find themselves in legal difficulties in connexion with the Teesdale Smith contract. They have paid a great deal more than they had any right to pay for the digging of soft material at a price based on that of digging hard material ; and the latest news is that, in order to complete the work, the Government are employing day labour. Why are the Government not honest enough to tell us the exact position? At present we have no very clear idea as to what is being done in this connexion. I understand that this Bill has to be passed to-day, and, under the circumstances, I shall not longer detain the Committee.
.- I notice that there is an item of £10,000 for advertising in connexion with the Government immigration policy. Only a few days ago, along with a number of other honorable members, I had the painful duty, as representing the unemployed in the city of Melbourne, of waiting on the Prime Minister. It is not that unemployment is confined to the Victorian metropolis, for I believe it is prevalent in every State of the Union. The State Governments are principally, if not wholly, responsible for finding employment for the immigrants who are brought to this country. The Federal Government have no power, in any shape or form, to settle people on the land; and the object of the immigration policy of the State is to bring people here for the purpose of settlement. Mr. George Elmslie, the leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, has pointed out that since the inauguration of the immigration policy, about five years ago, only 3,00 out of the many thousands of people brought here have actually been placed on tie land. It is evident that four-fifths of the immigrants have been encouraged to come to Australia by the glowing promises made in alluring advertisements in the press of the Old Country; and this £10,000 we are now asked to pass is to further advertise the great opportunities which Australia offers to the rural workers of the Old Land. I admit that, from a working man’s point of view, Australia is superior to the majority of the older countries; indeed, I go further, and declare that, from that point of view, it is superior to all countries. We must not forget, however, that the Federal Government and Parliament have no power, so far as land settlement is concerned; and, therefore, we should not in any way be parties to assisting the State Governments to bring people here only to find, as Australian natives have found already, that there is no land available. As a member of the Labour party, I enter my emphatic protest against this Parliament spending any money on immigration until it has power to find employment or provide land for settlement.
– That is, the honorable member would wait until the Commonwealth has power to deal with the lands ?
– I should wait until the Commonwealth can in some way carry out the promises that are being made to people in the older countries. Does the fact that less than 300 people out of thousands have been placed on the land justify this, or any other Government, in advertising in the manner in which they have advertised during recent years? The failure of the State Governments to carry out their promises to immigrants would justify this Parliament in refusing to spend another penny. There is another feature that should receive serious attention. At the present time, a State Royal Commission in Victoria is visiting the metropolitan slum areas, and they have found that thousands of our workers are living under conditions that are a disgrace to any civilized community. If we go to South Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Richmond, Collingwood, or the industrial centres of Carlton, we’ find highly respectable working men, with their wives and families, living in what are practically slums, and paying rents of 10s. to 12s. a week out of a wage of £2 5s. or £2 6s. The State Governments of Australia - particularly the Government of Victoria. - and also the Commonwealth Parliament, so long as it votes money to assist immigration, are responsible for the present condition of affairs. Thousands of people have been brought here with no provision for their proper housing, with the result that for every vacant house there are two or three applicants, and the landlords have seized the opportunity to levy what is practically a tax of, on the average, 5s. or 6s. a week on the wages of the working classes. If any .State Government had gone to the people and told them that this would be the effect of their immigration policy, they would have received very short shrift. In New South Wales, the Labour Government are carrying out a system of immigration, but they recognise their responsibility for seeing that the people are properly housed; and, in view of the extra demand, have, during the last three years, been erecting workmen’s homes. In Victoria, under a Liberal Government, the position is altogether different, for no housing whatever has been provided. If in this State of Victoria there were a Government determined to settle people on the land, they would be perfectly safe in instituting an immigration policy; but the fact of the matter is that immigrants are walking about the streets of Melbourne, in open competition with Australians for the work that is available, and in this State, at all events, employment is very scarce in many industries. The Victorian Government have recently taken a new line in immigration, and are bringing thousands of boys to the State. Heaven knows that the conditions in the rural industries of Victoria - and these are typical of Australia generally - are bad enough to-day without the open competition of boys, imported from other parts of the world. Honorable members opposite, like the majority of country representatives in the State Parliament, are the advocates of cheap labour in Australia. In the State, country members proclaim from the platform their readiness to assist Parliament to pass industrial legislation for the protection of men and women in factories, but when they are asked to assist the Labour party, with legislation for the protection of rural labourers against unscrupulous rural employers, they are found voting in favour of the latter. There are employers iri the country districts of Australia who can only be classed with many employers in our manufacturing industries. We have fair employers who at all times are willing to comply with trade union conditions, but there are others who’ are always trying to get under legal determinations, and behind conditions fixed by industrial tribunals. And we find honorable members on that side of the House, and men sitting in State Parliaments, doing all in their power to deprive the rural workers of anything in the nature of a reasonable wage.
– Do you support the rural workers’ log?
– From the very inception, the honorable member for Echuca has been recognised as a protector of that particular class of employer who delights in paying the lowest wages and giving the worst possible conditions. He is a bitter opponent of all forms of trade unionism, and he is prepared to support the Government to the hilt in denying to the rural workers the right that all other workers of the community enjoy, that of registering under the Arbitration Act, and applying to the Arbitration Court for better conditions. The rural workers’ log referred to by the honorable member is a proposal put forward by the union. The members of that organization have asked the farmers to meet them in conference to discuss certain proposals. Those who have had any experience in industrial matters know that the original proposals submitted by the workers are not always adopted. If the farmers agree to meet the representatives of the Rural Workers Union in conference they will have the same experience as employers in other industries have had, namely, that they will find that the men are a reasonable body; and if the farmers do not meet the men in conference, no doubt the latter will take the other constitutional means at their disposal, and approach the Arbitration Court to get better conditions. That is the usual procedure. But at the last election, the honorable member, supported by a certain section of the press-
– The Age, for instance.
– No, the Argus, so far as the rural workers log was concerned - the honorable member went through the country, and told the people that if a Labour Government was returned the whole of the conditions in the rural workers’ log would be carried into effect, and that they would absolutely prevent the non-unionist son Or daughter of a farmer from being employed by the father, and banish the farmers’ sons and daughters from their parents’ farms. That was the statement circulated throughout Australia, and supported by honorable gentlemen opposite, and many others standing under the banner of the Liberals.
– That statement is not correct, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member can make any explanation he wishes by way of a personal explanation at the conclusion of the remarks of the honorable member now speaking.
– I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– The statement made by the honorable member for Fawkner was, in itself, not unparliamentary. If it is an erroneous one affecting the honorable member, and if he desires to correct it, the honorable member may do so by making a personal explanation at the close of the speech; but the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner may not be interrupted for the purpose.
– The statements made through the press and by a number of gentlemen standing under the Liberal banner were responsible for the presence of many honorable members, not because they were statements of fact, as far as the rural workers’ log was concerned, but because they were misrepresentations of the contents of that log, and of the possible policy of the Rural Workers Union. The rural workers do not desire any more rights than those conferred on the members of every other union in Australia, namely, the right to meet as an organization, the right to confer as members of an organization, and decide as to what they consider are fair and reasonable conditions for their labour, the right to submit those conditions to their employers in conference, and, failing a satisfactory settlement in that way, the right to approach the Federal Arbitration Court. So far that course of action has been denied to them, and we find that the present Government, who say that they are the friends of the workers, come forward with a policy which contains a proposal to amend the Conciliationand Arbitration Act, by striking out the provision which gives to the rural workers the same right to approach the Arbitration Court that other workers in the community enjoy. Such is the regard Ministers have for our rural workers.
– We prefer a system of Wages Boards for the rural workers.
– If it is the duty of a Parliament to protect the workers by industrial legislation that protection should be extended to the weakest section of the community, and in regard to industry the weakest, the poorest paid, and the most harshly-treated section is that connected with rural work. But to that section honorable members opposite who say they have such a great regard for the interest of the workers would deny the right of approaching the Court in order to secure better conditions of labour. The system of Wages Boards referred to by the honorable member for Wannon has been in operation in Victoria for twenty years, but the rural workers-
– Have never asked for it.
– The rural workers of Victoria have been denied the right of Wages Boards by the gentlemen in the State House connected with the same party and same political organization as that to which the honorable member for Wannon belongs.
– They have never asked for it.
– They have asked for it. The organized rural workers of Victoria have asked for it, and, true to their pledges, the Labour party, as a party, when an opportunity was given, have stood up on the floor of the State House and appealed to the Governments of the day to extend the Victorian system of Wages Boards to the rural workers of Victoria, but it has been denied to them by the party responsible for the political being of the honorable member for Wannon. We find that the Government who denied to these men that form of legislation are bringing to our shores hundreds of boys - the last ship brought 600 of them - and sending them to the rural districts, in order to assist the advocates of cheap labour. It is only a question of time when, with this form of competition going on, and with no trade
Union regulation of the industry, the condition of the rural workers here will be as deplorable as that of rural workers in the Old Country. In the circumstances, I enter my emphatic protest against any Federal Government voting money to assist the State Governments in luring people to Australia under promises which those Governments know that there is no possibility of carrying into effect. The other day one gentleman said, “ There is no such thing as unemployment in our country.” The same thing is said by other men on whom fortune has always shone. They say that any man who needs work can find employment, but these men have never experienced what it is to go out in the morning and parade the streets all day with the apparition of unemployment and want tracking them all the time, otherwise they would not be so fond of sneering at one who speaks to them of unemployment. There has been unemployment in this country in the past, and there has been want. There is unemployment, and there is actual want, in the State of Victoria to-day, and, while there is unemployment and want in our midst, as long as I can raise my voice, I shall raise it against people being brought here under promises that cannot be carried into effect, thus preventing our nativeborn from obtaining that employment which will provide food and homes for them and for those dependent on them.
.- Honorable members on the Ministerial side have on many occasions said that the reason why the Fisher Government were able to show such a handsome surplus at the end of three years was because that Government received in revenue £18,000,000 more than the Liberal Government had received in the prior three years.
Mr.Rodgers. - I think it was £19,000,000.
– Very well; let it be £19,000,000. But honorable members do not also say that in the present year the Liberal Government have received more than was received last year by the Fisher Government, or six or seven million pounds more than was received in any year by the last Liberal Government in power. And yet they have got through it all. The Treasurer has submitted that Ministers have spent every penny of the £23,000,000 or £24,000,000 they have received. Now they come along and say they have a surplus of £1,000,000. If an honorable member started in business with £2,600,000, spent £1,600,000 during the year, and, though he tried hard to do so, could not spend the other million pounds, could he say that he had a surplus of a million pounds? If honorable members opposite are honest, when next they are telling the people that the Fisher Administration during its three years of office had £18,000,000 more revenue than its predecessors had, they will frankly admit that the present Government have had the same revenue, that they have spent every penny of it, and that they have, in addition, spent over £1,600,000 out of the surplus of over £2,600,000 which they inherited from the Labour Government.
– Why is the honorable member always abusing us? We never attack his party except in selfdefence.
– I am not abusing the Government; I am simply pointing out the actual facts. With the exception of the Prime Minister, no one interjects more frequently than the Treasurer does. Yet when he is reading page after page of his speech he pays no attention to interjections; he wants to be able to hand over to Hansard his typewritten copy of it. The right honorable gentleman has told us that the schedule to this Bill represents for the most part votes which the Government have been unable to expend during the last twelve months. That being so, if the £754,000 for which the Bill provides represents for the most part re-votes, it will be seen at once that if the Government had spent that amount they would have swallowed up the whole of the surplus left them by the Fisher Government. When the Estimates were under consideration last year, many representatives of Victoria now sitting behind the Government condemned our expenditure on the Federal Capital. We expended about £100,000 in twelve months, whereas the Fusion Government propose to spend £75,000 in three months. These honorable members, however, offer no objection.
– How did the honorable member vote ?
– I voted to keep the expenditure down to the level reached by us. But what honorable members opposite did not hesitate to denounce as extravagance on our part, is now regarded by them as justifiable expenditure on the part of the Fusion Administration. I come now to a matter relating to the Post and Telegraph Department. Representatives of country districts have complained that they are unable to secure for their constituencies a fair deal in the matter of mail services and post-offices; yet not one country representative sitting behind the Government has, uttered a word of protest against the readiness of the Fusion Government to extend postal facilities in the city. A post and telegraph office has just been opened in the new Commercial Travellers’ Club, Melbourne. At the present time, we have the General Post Office at the corner of
Bourke and Elizabeth streets; a post-office at the Stock Exchange, about 220 yards distant; another post-office at the Customs House, which is only 220 yards further on; a telegraph office at the Prince’sbridge railway station, and a telegraph office at the Flinders-street station. And yet a post and telegraph office has been opened at the new Commercial Travellers’ Club, by a Government who pretend that they are doing something for the country. We already had five post and telegraph offices in this city within a radius of a quarter of a mile. I have purposely left out of account the post-office in the Rialto, Collins-street, which is only a little more than a quarter of a mile from the General Post Office.
– Are Government officials employed in the Commercial Travellers’ Club?
– In the new post and telegraph office there.
– The Government must give the spoils to the victors.
– I am considering, not that particular cry, but the attitude of the Government, which professes to be prepared to do something for country districts. What have representatives of country constituencies sitting behind the Government to say?
– Is not the new postoffice in the Commercial Travellers’ Club opposite the Flinders-street railway station, through which hundreds of thousands of people pass every week?
– No. The most westerly entrance to Flinders-street station is at the foot of Elizabeth-street, whereas the Commercial Travellers’ Club is in Flindersstreet, midway between Queen and Elizabeth streets’.
– It is almost opposite the station. I am a member of the club.
– There was already a telegraph office in the railway buildings, Flinders-street, where stamps could be purchased, whilst letters could be posted in the pillar outside. That office still remains. If the honorable member’s contention is right, therefore, the Government have provided a new post and telegraph office at the Commercial Travellers’ Club, which is less than 100 yards distant from the telegraph office at the Flindersstreet station. The honorable member for Melbourne tells me that he received no request for the opening of the office.
– Do I understand the honorable member to infer that public requirements do not warrant the provision of this new office?
– I do not say that. My point is that there were already four post and telegraph offices within a quarter of a. mile of the General Post Office, and that this new post and telegraph office at the Commercial Travellers’ Club was not asked for by any member of Parliament. The commercial community in our cities apparently can obtain these concessions without the intervention of a member of Parliament.
– Then this cannot be a Government act for which we are responsible.
– The commercial community does not support us.
– The most intelligent section of it does.
– Some do, but the bulk of these people are represented by the honorable member for Parkes and those who think with him.
– Do they or do they not vote for the Labour party? The honorable member has said that they do, and that they do not.
– I believe that the bulk of them support the Fusion party. I am merely pointing out what the commercial community can get in the way of postal facilities in one of our great cities from a Government which, according to its own supporters, refuses to grant requests for telephones and postal facilities in the country.
– As a country representative, I am not at all envious if city people can obtain a requirement which is a facility for them.
– We have, I suppose, as many post-offices in Melbourne as are to be found in any other city in the Commonwealth. I do not think the opening of this additional office was warranted.
– Unless the honorable member infers that the public requirements did not warrant it, 1 fail to see that he can object to it.
– It might have been warranted, but I do not think it was. So far as I am aware, the public did not ask for it, and honorable members opposite who growl about their inability to obtain improved post and telegraph facilities in country districts have not complained. Coming to another matter, I notice in Division 3 a proposed vote of £5,000 for lighthouses, and in Division 17, another proposed vote for £21,000 for lighthouses. There was no “Division 17” in last year’s Estimates. We voted only £15,000.
– But I granted a lot of money out of the Treasurer’s Advance for the purpose of lighthouses.
– I asked that that should be done, because I desired that the work of providing lighthouses should be expedited.
– This is all that has been asked for in respect of the three months’ period.
– If that is so, Division 17 is a new item.
– As a matter of fact, all the material is ordered and arranged for. One of the boats has been sent on its way, and all the gangs have been organized.
– Does any part of the proposed vote of £21,000 relate to the provision of vessels?
– The ketches have been provided for. It is to pay for the towers, optical apparatus, concrete, and other material, and wages.
– Are the ketches being imported ?
– No; we have bought two Australian ketches. One was built in New South Wales, and the other in Tasmania.
– This is the first time that the Department of Trade and Customs has attempted to carry out such work for itself. I think it can do it better than it could be done by any other Department.
– It avoids circumlocution. We have our own officers doing the work.
– I am not finding fault with the amount of the proposed vote ; I am. simply seeking for information. I hope that these works will be pushed ahead, and the Australian coast properly lighted as quickly as possible.
– There has not been a moment’s delay.
– I wish, in conclusion, to emphasize the point that honorable members opposite can no longer plead that we enjoyed a larger revenue than has fallen to the lotof a Liberal Government. The Fusion party, during the last twelve months, had the same [revenue that we had, and have not only expended the whole of it, but some £1,500,000 in addition. They have also provided out of loan account, as the Treasurer has admitted, for works which we carried out last year out of revenue.
.- I should not have risen to speak on the motion were it not for the fact that the Department of the Postmaster-General is spending a great deal of money on postoffices in and around Melbourne, although in Brisbane many prosperous suburbs, and many busy parts of the city, are entirely without post-offices. No doubt, Ministers desire to placate staunch supporters, and have placed post-offices in the heart of this big city to enable the large business houses to avail themselves more readily of postal facilities. It is the great use that the business houses make of the Post Office, and the smallness of the sums that they pay for the services rendered to them, that cause the loss of revenue in the working of the Department. Had the Government the courage to charge business houses what they should pay for the services which are given to them, the postal revenue would be larger, the service would be better, and decent salaries could be paid to our postmasters, and proper remuneration to underpaid assistants. The public suffers because the Government will not charge properly, for many of the services which it renders to business houses. We have been promised a new post-office at South Brisbane, with a separate telephone exchange, but, although land has been secured for a site, the erection of the building has not been begun, and we do not know what is intended. This part of Brisbane has grown largely as a business centre, and as a residential quarter, but it is without a decent post-office, and its telephone communication is inadequate and out-of-date. The people of Brisbane will be sadly disappointed if something is not done shortly to improve their service. A new post-office was promised for Wynnum, where there is a population of 2,000 or 3,000, but nothing has been done in the matter yet. I suppose that sufficient influence has not been brought to bear on Ministers.
– Has the honorable member spoken privately to the PostmasterGeneral about; these matters?
– That should not be necessary. The Minister knows his duty, and should do it. I expect him to do the right thing by the whole community. He should not concentrate expenditure in his own neighbourhood. A large expenditure on post-offices should be made in Queensland, where postal facilities are inadequate, and where population is increasing rapidly. I hope that when the PostmasterGeneral visits that State he will commit his Department to many new postal works. The policy of the Minister of External Affairs for the development of the Northern Territory was put into my hands only a few moments ago. I incline rather to the Treasurer’s ideas as to the best way of opening up the Territory by railway construction. The Minister of External Affairs seems to have accepted advice which is not as practical as the Treasurer’s ideas. The matter, is not of consequence now, however, because the Government is not likely to have an opportunity to put any policy into effect. What is proposed for the encouragement of the dairying industry in the Northern Territory is, to my mind, altogether unsuitable. In my opinion, and in that of the best judges of country who have visited the Northern Territory, the land north of the fifteenth parallel of latitude is unfitted for dairying, which could not be carried on there with any degree of success. It is proposed to buy in the northern part of Queensland, at £8 or £10 a head, cattle which can be used for dairying in the Northern Territory. I think that the only cattle that could be bought would have to be got from the southern part of Queensland. Many beasts would be killed by the hardships of the journey, and those that survived would probably not recover for two or three years. It is very difficult to travel dairy cattle. They must be handled tenderly, if good results are to be got from them when they have reached their destination. Probably the Minister is acting on the advice of a man who is not competent to advise him on this subject. In my opinion, dairying in the Northern Territory can have a chance of success only if young stock is sent from Queensland, and allowed to mature there, acclimatizing in the process. This would give an opportunity to offer inducements to dairy farmers to rear more calves. The rearing of calves is a matter to which serious attention will have to be given in the near future, because the stock of the Commonwealth is rapidly decreasing. Probably the calves that are now killed would, if allowed to go on maturing, supply all the meat that Australia requires. At the present time, owing to the smallness of their holdings, dairymen can rear only a small percentage of their calves ; generally only enough to maintain their dairy herds.
– When a man can get from 60s. to 70s. for a pig six months old, and only about 15s. for a calf of that age, would you compel him to rear a calf instead of a pig?
– A calf six months old brings considerably more than 15s. If the honorable member has any at twice the price, I know where he can get a ready market for them. Last year the New South Wales dairy stock decreased by 21,000, and the South Australian dairy stock by 11,000; I have not seen the figures for the other States. These are facts thatwe cannot put on one side. Moreover, by reason of the present high price of fat stock, dairymen are being induced to turn many of their dairy cattle into beef cattle, so that within a year or two we may have a shortage of both beef cattle and dairy cattle. My solution of the difficulty is that the Government should resume a great part of the Northern Territory for the rearing ofbeef cattle. Most of the good country there has already been secured, but the Government should reserve whatever may be left. Then, instead of buying dairy cattle, full grown, to be taken to the Northern Territory, our dairymen should be induced to rear their young calves, to be sent there for the establishment of dairy herds in the Territory.
.- I notice that there are published in this evening’s paper figures in relation to the rolls. I believe they are similar figures to those mentioned in the House by the Prime Minister yesterday. I do not know whether those figures are going to do duty at the elections, but I find in them a slight mistake.
– The honorable member cannot discuss that subject. This is the Works and Buildings Bill.
– I was under the impression, for the moment, that we were on general Supply. At any rate, these figures are inaccurate ; but even they show that there are only 10,000 electors less on the roll now than there were last year, and half of that number can be made up in Maribyrnong alone when there is a full roll. I can assure the AttorneyGeneral that there will be more names on the roll at this election than there were at the last. I desire to say just a few words in regard to the mounting up of expenditure in regard to defence. I find that the defence expenditure in the Schedule of this Bill totals a big amount, and in the Supply Bill we passed this morning, nearly £1, 000,000 of the total of £3,000,000 is to be devoted to defence. This matter is becoming so serious that I believe the Department is becoming altogether too big for one man. I do not care how good a Minister he may be, whether he be Senator Millen or Senator Pearce, or what his politics may be, the time has come when this House should carefully consider the expenditure on defence. It is too late to talk about any great reforms now, but I hope that when the new Parliament assembles a Committee of members of both Houses will be appointed for the life of the Parliament, whose duty it will be to scrutinize and analyze all expenditure on defence works and defence generally. In that respect, we in this House are in a sad plight. Without making any reflection on any Minister, I say that the House is at a distinct disadvantage in not having amongst its members a Minister who is thoroughly acquainted with the details of defence expenditure. This Chamber is supposed to be the real custodian of the public purse, but it seems to be customary, in the creation of Cabinets, to choose the Minister of Defence from the Chamber which has no control over finance.
– I do not see any necessity for having any Minister in the Senate, after what has happened. There is no Senate now.
– In effect, the Senate has been wiped out; and, so far as I am concerned, if that Chamber is to be limited in its powers, as the decision of the Governor-General limits it, I would advocate the abolition of it altogether.
– The decision of the GovernorGeneral has done away with the Senate.
– Order !
– We have been landed in a difficulty by the advice of Ministers having been acted upon by the GovernorGeneral ; and, without desiring to cast any reflection upon the Senate, I say that we might as well do without that Chamber altogether. I was remarking that every Ministry seems to place the Minister of Defence in the Senate, and, in order to counteract that disadvantage, we ought to have a permanent Committee of both Houses, including an Honorary Minister, if necessary, to scrutinize defence expenditure, so that this Parliament may have more than one man with a fair grip of this great spending Department. I hope that something will be done, apart altogether from the appointment of a Public Works Committee. That Committee will have enough to do to look after works in connexion with other Departments, but it is necessary that this House should know more about the details of defence expenditure than it does at the present time. We may ask for particulars, but we rarely get a satisfactory answer, because the one man who is well posted in the details of Defence administration is in the Senate chamber. If necessary it would be a splendid idea to amend the Constitution, so that if a senator held the portfolio of Minister of Defence, he could take a seat in this chamber during the discussions on the Defence Estimates and other defence subjects, and give this House the information which it should have. At the present time this House is in an awkward position withregard to defence. The Treasurer reels out details of million after million of expenditure, but when he is asked to particularize in regard to defence he has not that familiarity with the details which would enable him to give a satisfactory reply. I must compliment the right honorable gentleman on the concise statement he gave to the House this afternoon; and on the fact that he is prepared, although other Ministers are not, to give credit to this side of the House for the works we inaugurated and partly carried out. If I have a seat in the next Parliament I shall insist on the defence expenditure being scrutinized more closely, and on more information being furnished to this Chamber, either per medium of a Committee of both Houses, or by bringing the Minister of Defence into this Chamber during the discussion of defence matters. I shall fight for such a reform in one shape or other.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
Interim report presented by Mr. Bruce Smith.
Motion by (Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Mr. Groom. - Yes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
Tasmanian Steam-ship Service - Electoral Rolls : Objections - Home Rule for Ireland - Private Members’ Business - “ National Review “ - Woman Suffrage.
Motion by (Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Will the Prime Minister consent to take my motion in favour of a Governmentowned steam-ship line between Tasmania andthe mainland as unopposed business? It can be regarded as noncontentious, seeing that everybody believes in the idea.
– I shall consider the matter between now and to-morrow.
.- During the discussion on the Supply Bill we have heard much about qualified electors being struck off the rolls; and I believe that evenyou, Mr. Speaker, have had some difficulty in this connexion.
– The honorable member cannot traverse matters that have been a subject ofdebate.
– I only desire to lay that to-day my attention has been drawn to the fact that, through excessive zeal on the part of some official or other, both my wife and myself have been disfranchised. If it is possible to successfully lodge a formal objection against persons who are prominent in the electorate, possibilities of electors not so well known being disfranchised are very great indeed.
– These things occur every day.
– I do not wish to debate the matter, but simply to draw attention to the fact. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well that, whether I reside in the division or not, I am entitled, as the Parliamentary representative, to have my name on the roll; and I wish to take the present opportunity to enter my protest. Members who live nearer to their constituents have the advantage that they can bring matters of this kind quickly before the House, whereas we from a distance have to wait a considerable time for letters. I certainly think that some more stringent method should be adopted by the Electoral Branch to insure that qualified electors are not most unjustifiably removed from the rolls. The onus, it seems, is in every case thrust on the individual to see that his name is on the roll rather than calling upon the Department to take the necessary care to keep the roll fair and clean. I take the opportunity to press the fact that apparently those who are opposed to us politically would deprive even members of this House of the right of voting.
– I appeal to the Prime Minister to allow my motion in favour of Home Rule for Ireland to be put without debate. The right honorable gentleman knows full well that never in this Parliament, and, I doubt, in any other Parliament, have members been deprived during a whole session of any opportunity to bring forward private business.
– Why talk like that? This is not an ordinary session. We agreed to do certain things, and we have kept the agreement.
– I do not wish to go into the question of whether or not this is an ordinary session, because, if I did so, I should have to blame the Prime Minister for the present situation, which, in my opinion, has been created without necessity. I should not be so anxious to have the motion put to the vote if it were not for the fact that men in prominent positions in the Old Country have been expressing opinions as though they were speaking for Australia, when, as a matter of fact, they have no right or authority to do so. Their utterances, however, are taken as gospel, and are published broadcast in the press. In the case of Earl Grey, for instance, it was, in my opinion, a piece of consummate impudence on his part to express himself as he did when he returned to England after his visit to Australia. He spoke as if he knew the Australian people, and as if they concurred in his opinion on the Irish question.
– What has he been saying ?
– He expressed the opinion that the people of Australia had nosympathy with those who desired Home Rule, but every sympathy with Ulster. While in Australia that gentleman was very busy in this connexion, and I was not at all surprised at the action he took on his return to England. Further, while I have the greatest respect for our High Commissioner, I must say that that gentleman has expressed a very strong opinion, and, in view of his position, he may have bean taken as voicing the views of the people of the Commonwealth. The only body or set of individuals who can properly set forth the view of Australia are the representatives of the people in this and another place. But for the fact that private members’ time was absorbed by the Government, I have no doubt that I should have obtained an expression of opinion on the motion, for it was my intention to take up very little time. My desire now is to show that those who have been, purposely I think, misrepresenting the opinions of the people of Australia, are quite wrong; and the Democrats of the Old World ought to be shown that we in Australia are Democrats who desire to see justice done to the people.
.- I indorse the request made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The Prime Minister was not here to-day when I desired to point out to him certain reasons why private members should not be deprived of a privilege which they have freely exercised in every session of every Parliament of the Commonwealth up to the present. This is the first time that private members, who donot put their motions on the paper merely to ornament it, have had their rights in this respect taken away. This is the first Government who have attempted to gag individual members by refusing an opportunity for the discussion of their motions ; and I think that the Prime Minister has sufficient sins on his shoulders’ without having to face the country with the incubus of this additional offence. It would be more in accordance with fitness and justice, which we expect from one in his position, to give time for the discussion of a few of these private motions.
– I know that I am the scapegoat for you people I
– I have said nothing unjust in depreciation of the right honorable member, and he well knows it. He cannot point to any remarks of mine during the past thirteen or fourteen years that have been very severe on him.
– I read something that the honorable member wrote the other day about, I think, “ bovine ferocity.”
– The honorable member has evidently fallen across some good literature. He may depend upon it that it was something good, and I am glad a kind friend has brought .it under his notice. Private members, as I say, do not put their motions on the notice-paper merely for display, but with a desire to have them discussed. I remind the Prime Minister that many fruitful ideas An legislation have originated, not with (Governments, but with private members.
It would appear that I said something :the other evening, perhaps not understanding his outburst of poetical eloquence, that has hurt the feelings of the honorable member for Riverina. However, the honorable member quite took away my breath when he claimed that “ Tipperary “ was voting for him. Of course, as we are at the Antipodes no -doubt a good many things here are just the opposite to what they are in the Old World - the seasons, for instance. But as to the generality of things, the notion is merely a fable. We change our skies, but not our manners and feelings. That is why’ I find it extremely difficult to credit the honorable member’s claim regarding “ Tipperary “ vote3. It would certainly be most remarkable if the man who in “ Tipperary “ would be looking for the honorable member with a gun, should be chasing him with a vote in Riverina.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– What statement?
– That any man in Tipperary would chase me with a gun, or that my ancestors were ever treated in that way.
– The honorable member has said nothing unparliamentary.
– I freely withdraw anything I have said which is objectionable to the honorable member for Riverina. Indeed, I had not meant to refer specifically to him. I was referring rather to the class he represents. It would be an amazing thing if a man, who in Tipperary would be looking for a representative of the class of the honorable member with a gun, should be chasing him with a vote in Riverina. If it be true, then such people are recreants to the principles for which their ancestors suffered. Knowing that the people to whom the honorable member refers generally sympathize with Democracy, I shall be surprised if they add to the majority which the honorable member anticipates.
There is another matter I would like to touch on before I sit down. We are in the habit of receiving certain publications in the Library, and I think that for the sake of decency some one should draw attention to the utterly partisan character of the majority of them. I have no objection to the dissemination of opinions, however contrary they may be to mine, as every class has a right to the free expression of its own views, but I do object to the finding on the Library table half-a-dozen of these magazines expressive of one set of opinions, and only a few insignificant newspapers in another part of the building expressing a different set of opinions. I call attention to a few phrases I have chosen from the March number of the National Review, which is an utterly partisan publication, in order that Mr. Speaker might see whether, in his opinion, it is a publication that is worthy of finding a place in the National Parliament. The publication says on page 12 -
Unionists continually misread their opponents . . . because they treat an Asquith Cabinet as a Gladstone Cabinet. They talk with bated breath of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, &c, conjuring up visions of the Grand Old Man, Pitt, or St. Vincent. They have actually to deal with a time-serving lawyer, Asquith; a Welsh mountebank, Lloyd George, and a Dundee wind-bag, Churchill - a descendant of the great house of Marlborough - whose careers prove that they will stick at nothing. With their colleagues they constitute a Cabinet of Habakkuks-
I have consulted most of the dictionaries and cannot find a definition of Habakkuks - who at a pinch do not draw the line at corruption.
I believe the Prime Minister was once an admirer of Liberal Governments. This publication refers to the present British Government as -
Slimy hypocrites such as Mr. Masterman, one of Mr. George’s sycophants.
The Prime Minister used some very strong language the other day at Tamworth. I thought it was hardly the speech of a gentleman who intended to wind up the session in peace and good-will and amity with his fellow legislators.
-I must have been reading some of that stuff of yours, and it must have set me going.
– I recognise that the right honorable gentleman has borrowed the best portion of it. Now, here is another quotation from this so-called National Review -
The Government have been publicly convicted of corrupting their constituencies …. a Government of snobbery, jobbery, and robbery.
Another phrase used is, “Government by blackmail.”’
– Do they refer to our Government ?
– No; to the Asquith Government. If the honorable member used such terms as applied to the present Government, I believe that there is a “black hole” somewhere to which he would be consigned pretty quickly. Other things in this journal are-
This is merely one of the dirty tricks with which thename of Asquith will be for all time associated.
The callous cynic at the head of the Government.
Ananiashas become a back number since Mr. Lloyd George appeared on the political horizon.
The Opposition should have long since demanded the impeachment of Mr. Asquith, for the traitor that he is.
The reading of the speech of the Prime Minister at Tamworth recalls a passage in Dante’s description of the chamber in the infernal regions to which traitors are consigned. Dante says that when a person is guilty of a notable treason his soul descends to the infernal regions, while a demon takes possession of the body so long as it remains on earth. It is not uncharitable to say that some thing of that kind may account for the extraordinary deliverances of the Prime Minister recently at Tamworth and other places. I am glad to know that the right honorable gentleman has been studying some of the literature in Labour journals. It may remind him of the time when he was a bright and shining light on the side of Labour. The days of death-bed conversions are not finished, and who knows but that at some time or other the Prime Minister will see the original light that lured him to public life, and rejoin, if permitted, the party of Democracy which is doing its best to elevate the people of Australia.
.- By courtesy of the Prime Minister, and by leave of the House, I desire to give notice of a motion for to-morrow.
– I give notice that to-morrow I shall move -
That this House testifies to the facts that after twenty-one years’ experience of woman suffrage in various parts of Australasia, and fourteen years’ experience in the Commonwealth, the reform has justified the hopes of its supporters and falsified all the fears and prophecies of disaster voiced by its opponents.
That, as foreseen by its advocates, its effects have been -
to gradually educate women to a sense of their responsibility in public affairs;
to give more prominence to social and domestic legislation.
That Australasian experience convinces this House that to adopt woman suffrage is simply to apply to the political sphere that principle of government that secures the best results in the domestic sphere, the mutual co-operation of men and women for the individual and general welfare.
I may say briefly that this motion is on similar lines to that to which I sought to get the agreement of Mr. Deakin, who was. leading the House in 1909. I ask the Prime Minister to glance over what Mr. Deakin said, and perhaps he may come to an agreement with me upon it.
.- I understand that the Prime Minister proposes to withdraw his motion for the adjournment of the House, and to substitute one which will enable us to meet at 3 o’clock to-morrow.I ask my friends to enable him to do so. But before we close this sitting the Prime Minister might indicate, as far as it is possible for him to do so, the approximate date on which the writs will be issued. That date is of equal importance to the date on which the election is to be held, because on it will depend the opportunity people will have to get their franchise. I do not wish to press the PrimeMinister.
– How can I give the date until Supply is granted ?
– I shall be satisfied with the answer of the Prime Minister subject to Supply being granted, which I am helping him to get, and which he will get. He could indicate when His Excellency will be good enough to issue the writs. It has now been laid down in an official document that His Excellency acts on the advice of his Ministers on this and on other matters. Therefore, I think the time has arrived when the Prime Minister should indicate when the issue of the writs is likely to take place, for the information and protection of those who are entitled to be on the roll and exercise their franchise. I do not desire to traverse other matters. We shall have another sitting to-morrow. I quite agree that, instead of meeting at 10.30 to-morrow, we should meet in the afternoon.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. to-morrow.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta-
Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs) [6.30].- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I do not know when the writs will be issued.
– We shall do the very best we can to have the election on the 5th September, as I have already announced. For reasons which I can give the right honorable member, I cannot tell him the other dates, but we shall try to do the fair thing. As to the question raised by the honorable member for Melbourne, I would point out to him that he need not wait until to-morrow. I do not know exactly what he desires, but if he wishes me to express my own opinion on the question of womanhood suffrage I shall be very glad to do so at once.
– If the right honorable gentleman’s opinion is indorsed by his colleagues that will do. We can indorse it, and the matter will be at an end.
– I cannot undertake to have a vote on the question.
– Let us take a vote on it.
– I am prepared to tell the honorable member that my own opinion, which has never wavered, is that womanhood suffrage has been an excellent thing for Australia.
– The right honorable member cannot at this stage discuss a motion of which notice has been given for to-morrow.
– I wish only to express my own opinion on the abstract question of womanhood suffrage.
– The right honorable gentleman is entitled to do that, but he cannot refer to the specific motion of which the honorable member for Melbourne has given notice for another day.
– That is all I propose to do. Indeed, I do not know the exact terms of the motion. I am not prepared to interfere in any way with any of the political troubles of the Old Country. They have their own troubles there, and they are set in different circumstances from our own; but I say quite frankly to the honorable member for Melbourne that I think the time will come when the women of the Old Country will be given the vote. I am sorry that so much trouble should be taking place in England in regard to it, and I believe that the women of Great Britain would have had the vote before now but for the conduct of the suffragettes. That is my firm opinion.
– But the right honorable member thinks that womanhood suffrage has done good in Australia?
– That is so. I have seen no reason to alter my opinion. The result of extending the franchise to women in Australia has been distinctly good, and I do not think that the extension of it to the women of the Old (Country will do the slightest injury to the Empire. More than that I cannot say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 6.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140625_reps_5_74/>.