6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister what are the leases that are to be brought under the operation of the Commonwealth Land Tax?
– The honorable member can get the information by reading that part of the Budget Speech which deals with the matter. Crown and other leases whose economic value is less than £5,000 are to be exempt from taxation.
– Will the Prime Minister disclose the method of capitalization to be adopted in regard to the leases which are to be taxed ?
– lb is quite simple, as the honorable member will see if he obtains the formula, and works it out for himself. The difference between the rent and the economic value of the lease over a number of years can be found, and then the calculation is as simple as A B C.
– Are pastoral leases included in the Government taxation scheme?
– I have already said what pastoral leases are included, and the way in which the tax can be ascertained if there is a difference between the rent and the economic value of the lease.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that efforts are being made by the Premier of Queensland to induce the Premiers of the other States to increase the price of sugar ? Has the Commonwealth power to protect the consumers of sugar against such action?
– I am not an authority on points of law, but I understand that the Commonwealth has no power to fix prices in Australia, unless under the operation of martial law.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of having his Budget Speech, and any returns that can easily be inserted, published in pamphlet form, for the information of- honorable members? It is very desirable that we should have the speech in a convenient form. Last year some exception was taken to the manner in which I had my speech printed and distributed among members with suitable headlines, but I hope that the right honorable gentleman will insert headlines, which are a great convenience to those reading the speech.
– I have no opinion on the matter, and shall be very glad to do whatever will meet the convenience of honorable members.
– Is it the intention of the Minister of Home Affairs to put any men to work at the Federal Capital before Christmas?
– I shall be pleased to do so, if there is room for the employment of more men there.
– Is the Minister satisfied that his officials are working in harmony with Mr. Griffin, and if there is friction between them and Mr. Griffin, will he have all the parties concerned brought before him, so that the matter may be threshed out in his presence?
– So far as T know, there is no friction.
– Is it correct, as reported in the press, that the naval authorities have sent an officer to inspect the new hopper barge now lying in the Tamar, with a view to purchasing it?
– The naval authorities have sent a ship’s surveyor to Tasmania to inspect a steam hopper barge which recently arrived from England, with a view, should it be suitable, to purchasing it for use at either Cockburn Sound or the Flinders Naval Base.
– Has the Prime Minister read the statement made by the Premier of Victoria in the Legislative Assembly yesterday, that the Federal Government has plenty of work to carry out, and plenty of money to spend, and that he hoped that it would proceed with that work for the benefit of the unemployed? I ask whether any arrangement was made with the Premiers of the States in respect of the loan that was made to them by the Commonwealth Government? Was it a condition that a considerable part of the money should be spent on public works to give employment to the people ?
– I have not seen the statement, but if the honorable member will read the agreement as to the loan referred to, he will see that the money was advanced for the carrying on of the public works of the State, one of the objects being to provide employment for the people. The Premier of Victoria has had other advances from this Government besides the money advanced under this agreement. However, I deprecate a contest between two Governments.
– Is the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, aware that the Minister of Defence in another place has said in answer to a series of questions by Senator McDougall that a cofferdam, estimated to cost £30,000, and to take nine months in building, is to be built for <ihe purpose of launching the cruiser Brisbane? How does the Assistant Minister reconcile the Minister’s answers with that given by himself to me on Wednesday last, that the Brisbane will not be in commission for a month or two yet ? How long will it take to put the Brisbane in commission after she is launched ?
– It is true that there is to be an expenditure of £30,000 to build a cofferdam. That will take a month or two.
– Will the Assistant Minister ascertain, and let the House know, who is responsible for the shocking bungle which has occurred in connexion with the building of the Brisbane?
– All I can say is that I do not think it is a Labour Government.
– Since the Minister representing the Minister of Defence has not answered my question, I ask the Prime Minister to ascertain who is responsible for this bad and costly blunder.
– I shall ask the Minister of Defence to discover that.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain whether the gentleman who laid down the keel of the Brisbane, and built the vessel is prepared to launch the cruiser as she lies at present?
– Not being a naval expert, I must rely on the advice of those whom we pay to look after the naval property of Australia. If any one has made a blunder, the matter must be adequately dealt with.
– Was the launch of the Brisbane a matter brought under the notice of Ministers when they accepted office, or was it the policy of the last Government to launch the vessel by building a cofferdam ?
– The matter was before our predecessors for some length of time, but they did not deal with it properly. It was hung up for some time, and it is only since the advent of this Government that a definite policy has been arranged for the launching of the steamer.
– I ask the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether he is not aware that the difficulty which has arisen is due to the fact that the keel of the vessel was laid down in a hopelessly wrong place, and that it was so laid down during the administration of the previous Labour Government. I ask him further whether it is a fair thing, when honorable members are only trying to arrive at the facts, to give answers which put a party complexion on the issue.
– If the last Administration had dealt with this matter in accordance with the recommendation of the manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, when he made it, the Brisbane would now be almost ready for launching.
– Why is the Minister quibbling ?
– There is no quibbling. This slipway is necessary for the launching of the vessel.
– I thought it was a cofferdam.
– The matter could have been taken in hand months ago, but the work has now been decided on by the Naval Board and the Minister, and is to be put in hand at once.
– Will the Government ascertain from the ex-manager of
Cockatoo Island whether he would be prepared to launch the Brisbane without building a cofferdam?
– The present manager of Cockatoo Island has absolutely refused to take the responsibility for the launching of the vessel. I do not know what the. ex-manager would have done, but I shall get the information for the honorable member.
– Does the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence know that the British expert, under whose supervision the Brisbane is being built, will leave Australia within the next fortnight? Will the Minister make inquiries to ascertain whether this is a fact, and if it proves to be true, ‘will he, before that officer leaves, have an investigation made in regard to the muddle in connexion with the launching of the Brisbane?
– I do not know that I can on behalf of the Government promise to have an inquiry held, but I shall endeavour to ascertain privately what the honorable member desires.
– Will the Prime Minister be prepared to lay on the table of the House or in the Library the cable correspondence relating to the British loan of £18,000,000?
– For the present I do not think it would be in the public interests to do so, but I shall show the correspondence to the honorable member or to any other honorable member who wishes to see it.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a rather delicate question. As there are persistent rumours to the effect that young Belgian males are being mutilated by order of the German enemy, I wish to know if the mutilation referred to, as has been suggested, consists of castration. If the Prime Minister has not the necessary information in his possession, will he ascertain whether this monstrous outrage is being perpetrated, or whether the assertion that this is being done is a monstrous lie? This should be ascertained in the interests of civilization.
– I do not think that this matter should be discussed- pub licly, but the Government will take all proper steps to make private inquiries concerning it.
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether the probate and succession duties and the additional land tax foreshadowed iu the Budget will last for the continuance of the war only, and be taken off as soon as the war is over?
– No person can tell what is or is not permanent. Our present duty is to provide for the services necessary to carry on the King’s Government.
– As a great many people will be concerned, I ask the Treasurer whether he can supply any information as to how under his new taxation proposals the annual value of leases will be assessed, ‘ and whether the unexpired term of a lease will be a factor in determining the annual value?
– I shall be pleased to secure the information, and supply it to the honorable member.
– Some weeks ago the Minister of Home Affairs promised that he would extensively employ labour on the Federal Capital site, and as there arc now a number of men in Victoria and New South Wales awaiting employment at Canberra, owing to the statement made by the Minister, I ask the Minister whether, instead of promising to give this employment at the earliest possible opportunity, he will fix a definite date when these men can apply for this employment? I have received a most pathetic letter requesting me to submit this question.
– The desire has been expressed by all honorable members that the unemployed should be given work. I have received letters similar to that spoken of by the honorable member. There has already been a large increase iu the number of labourers employed on the Federal Capital site, but I shall ascertain from the Department how many more they can employ, and when they will be prepared to take them on.
– Is the Minister aware that a large weir has to be constructed just above Queanbeyan, mid that cement works have to be started ? I ask him whether this is not work that could be started at ‘ once, and give employment to 500 or 600 men if the officers of the Department would only get a move on.
– I shall make inquiries.
COCKATOO ISLAND DOCK. Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.- In view of the fact that, apparently, people may visit Cockatoo Island without being interrogated by any one, will the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence see that arrangements are made by which, (here will be stricter supervision over the ingress and egress of visitors to the dock? On three occasions recently 1 visited the dock, landing there and walking all over the place, and coming away without being once challenged. If I could do that, foreigners could do it. I can assure the Assistant Minister that, as far as I am aware, my identity was not known.
– I know as a positive fact that police are always on patrol day and night at the (lock.
– Police and sentries were certainly there, but I was not questioned once.
– In connexion with the unfortunate wreck of the ketch which, was conveying material for the erection of lighthouses on the Queensland coast some time ago, I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether any progress is being made with the work?
– I understand that the wreck occurred four or five months ago, but that the vessel was repaired shortly after. The work has been going on ever since - until the commencement of the hurricane season, when, of course, it had to be suspended.
– Is there any possibility of the papers relating to Edward Edwards and his commission in the Automobile Corps, which were asked for a fortnight ago, and which the Minister promised to lay on the table of the Library, being produced?
– I have submitted two requests to the Department, in order to comply with the wishes of the honorable member, and it is not my fault that the information has not been supplied.
Convoy - Parliamentary Visit ro Broadmeadows Camp - Red Cross Appliances - Questions without Notice.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence now in a position to give the information asked for recently as to the number and nationality of the vessels that, convoyed the Expeditionary Forces to Egypt?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– I ask the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether it is a fact that, under an order of the Minister, a visit of three senators to the Broadmeadows Camp took place yesterday which very seriously interfered with the work at the camp, and, generally speaking, made the men dissatisfied with the delay which ensued?
– I know nothing of the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister make inquiries into the reasons why packages and boxes consigned by the Red Cross Society in Sydney for our troops at the front were bundled oi the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boat in Melbourne, in order to allow other cargo to be put on the vessel ?
– Will the honorable member submit the question to the PostmasterGeneral or the Minister of Trade and Customs?
– It is a scandal. I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that this is a fact?
– I am not.
– I _ say that you ought to be made aware of it.
– Order ! The honorable member must resume his seat; he must not enter into a debate in submitting a question.
– Then I ask the Postmaster-General whether he knows anything about the matter, and whether he approves of the action of the
Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company in putting off at Melbourne parcels consigned by the Red Cross Society in Sydney, and putting other cargo in their place? I say it is scandalous.
– Order !
– If the parcels and boxes referred to came through the Postal Department they would certainly not be put off. They must be cargo over which I have no control.
– Then may I submit the question to the Minister of Trade and Customs. Will he cause inquiries to be made?
– I shall have very much pleasure in making the inquiries desired,’ but the honorable member knows that the Peninsular and Oriental Company have no contract with the Federal Government. I shall make representations through their agent in Melbourne, and ascertain whether what the honorable member has said is correct. The possibilities are that, like many other statements, the matter has been greatly exaggerated.
– I say that it ia correct.
– The honorable member’s saying that it is correct does not necessarily make it correct.
– That perky business of yours will not go down.
– The honorable member for Eden-Mona.ro must not continue these interjections.
– Then you should not allow others to make them.
– The honorable member must not make disrespectful statements concerning the Chair, or I shall take a course which will prevent his doing it. I now ask the honorable member to withdraw his statement, and apologize to the House.
– I apologize, but do you consider that the Prime Minister treated me fairly by referring me to the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Trade and Customs? I wish to point out-
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw his statement, and apologize to the House for having made it.
– I have apologized, but I ask whether it is a fair thing when I submit a serious question for the Prime Minister to refer me to two Ministers who profess to know nothing about the matter.
– Since the honorable member has put this question to me, I may take the opportunity of pointing out that I was seriously considering whether, in view of what has taken place this morning, I should not direct that an altogether different course should be taken in regard to questions. One question submitted by an honorable member has led to eight or ten other questions being founded upon it. I do not blame honorable members. I think that in such a case Ministers should require that notice of questions should be given. If the present procedure is to be continued, there will be no end to the asking of questions. I desire now to intimate that, in future, I shall take steps to prevent a recurrence of this procedure.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to state his reasons for imputing want of truth to me in the statement he made a few moments ago?
– Will the honorable member give notice of his question ?
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether he will inquire into statements contained in a paragraph which I shall hand him directly, and which was published in the Argus to-day, with reference to an incident at the Broadmeadows Camp yesterday, and will he report to the House on its next day of meeting as to the true facts of the case?
– I believe that the new Works and Buildings Estimates are to be taken into consideration today, and I should therefore like to ask the Prime Minister whether he will let the House know what is the proposed allocation of Items Nos. 1 and 2 of Division No. 12, Naval Works, &c, appearing at page 162 of the Estimates. Item No 1 reads, “Naval works, including labour and material, £150,000,” while Item No. 2 is “Machinery and plant, £100,000.” I desire also to ask the right honorable gentleman if any provision has been made for the purchase of dredges for use at Cockburn Sound, -which Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice estimated to cost £370,000?
– I shall try to obtain the information for the right honorable member as soon as possible.
– Seeing that the Works and Buildings Estimates will be passed within the next few days, and will provide considerable sums of money for various public works, I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether his officers are prepared to start immediately with the works for which provision is made, and, if not, whether he will give instructions for them to make at once the necessary preparations?
– I am rather inclined to think that the bulk of the work included .in the Estimates is going on now.
– Will the Prime Minister state when we may expect the War Pensions Bill to be proceeded with?
– At an early date.
– But when?
– The War Pensions Bill will be proceeded with as soon as we have disposed of the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– That means that the most important Bill of the session is to go through the House without adequate discussion.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act- Finance 1013-14-
The Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure during the year ended 30th June, 1914, accompanied by the report of the Auditor-General. Papua - Report for the year ended 30th June, 1914.
Queensland Railway System - Further correspondence re connexion of, with Port Darwin. (Dated 24th July, 1914.)
Ordered to be printed.
Public Service Act - Promotion of H. S. Temby, as Clerk, Class
IV., Central Staff.
Tenth Report on the Public Service (1913-
Rail way Surveys: Yass to Canberra; Canberra to Jervis Bay - Commonwealth Statistician’s Office - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway: Cost of Plant.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he take into consideration (o) the advisableness of making the Commonwealth Statistician’s Office a separate and distinct Department; and (6) giving the Commonwealth Statistician such independent status as will protect him from undue interference by any person?
– The honorable member is apparently under some misapprehension. The Commonwealth Statistician receives no interference whatever from the Home Affairs Department in the performance of his duties.
On the 13th of last month the honorable member for Franklin asked the following questions: -
The information was not then available, but has now been furnished. It is as follows : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, . upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice - >
– Customs forms are usually stocked and sold by stationers. “Further inquiry is being made into the matter of the supply at outports.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whetherhe will favorably consider the desirability of arranging that the mail steamers calling at Fremantle, going to and returning from Europe, should not leave Fremantle before four o’clock in the afternoon of the day of sailing, thereby giving great assistance and convenience to the local community and to the travelling public, while it will be in no way injurious to the mail companies?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
This matterhas already received consideration. The conditions of the mail contracts provide for stay of steamers for not less than six hours at Fremantle, and as Fremantle is an intermediate port of call which is invariably reached at an early hour in the morning, the detention of the steamers until 4 p.m., when such hour is in excess of six from the time of arrival, is therefore optional with the contractors. Both companies intimated their inability to fall in with the suggested arrangement.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– In answer to question No. 1, and the supposition put forward therein, I desire to say that I think we might have pulled through for the term of the present financial year without borrowing. As to the second question, I do not think the transaction does amount to a diversion of the Imperial loan for other than war purposes. The money will be used for war purposes. I have not been able to verify the information contained in the remaining questions.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That, including the several sums already voted in this and the last preceding session of Parliament for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1914-15, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &o., asum not exceeding £4,140,345.
– I hope that there will be no undue delay in dealing with these Works Estimates. The first half of the current financial year has practically gone, and the sooner we put them through the sooner will the officers of the Department know their fate, and the better chance will they have of spending the money that we vote during the financial year. So far as I am aware there will be no undue delay on the part of the Opposition, but there are some things which need saying, and I propose to occupy for a few minutes the time of the Committee in putting them before honorable members. In the first place, the Works Estimates this year are very much higher than those of last year, and I should have liked a statement from a responsible Minister having to do more particularly with public works, as to what this expenditure is to consist of. I am quite aware that everything is set out in detail in the papers, but it would take a Philadelphia lawyer to discover most of the facts. The point that I wish to make is that whatever item means the immediate expenditure of money in the employment of labour ought not to be cavilled at; but that if this extra expenditure is not to any large extent in respect of labour, then it needs very careful scrutiny. There is a very great increase in the amounts we are asked to vote this year. The total of these Works Estimates is over £4,000,000, whereas last year we spent, I think, about £2,500,000. I cannot help feeling - -and it is just as well to give expression now to my views on the subjectthat a great deal of the additional taxation that is now being imposed could have been avoided by a proper public works system. In other words, if we had done what every other Government in Australia does, and what every business firm in Australia would do in similar circumstances - if we had applied capital expenditure for capital works and revenue expenditure for works which could not be said to be capital works, this increased taxation would have been unnecessary. The anomaly which meets us at the very forefront of this discussion is that we are borrowing money that we may lend it again to the States to carry out works that we decline to carry out ourselves by means of loan moneys. The whole thing is an absolute farce.
– We have no general power to build railways.
– I am talking of general public works which we are proposing to build out of revenue, and so strain our revenue as to require its augmentation from loan funds. We are gathering our skirts about us, and playing the Pharisee in this way. We are borrowing money, and lending it to the States to do the very things which we are not prepared to provide for ourselves out of loan account. Where is the sense of such a course? Here we are taxing ourselves specially to construct out of revenue public works similar to those carried out by the States, and for which we are borrowing money specially to lend to the States. The sooner this farce comes to an end the better. I protest against heaping taxation upon the people of Australia for the purpose of relieving future generations of their national obligations when they are born into the world, and of which they must bear their proper share. That is really what the Government are doing. What proportion of this expenditure of over £4,000,000 on public works is to be provided out of loan I do not know nor can I find out. Neither the Prime Minister nor any of his colleagues has supplied ‘is with a succinct statement on the subject. In making his Budget speech the Treasurer might well have told us what proportion of this expenditure is to come out of loan account.
– It looks as if all these works were to be provided for out of the Consolidated Revenue.
– No, some of them are to be provided for out of loan, and we should be told what is the exact proportion. The papers give us no indication of it. Even if we were to search I do not think we could get the particulars.
– These are all appropriations out of revenue, however the revenue is found.
– Yes; but the revenue has to be aided from loans. It would appear that these are all from revenue, but, as a matter of fact, they are not, because there is £4,000,000 worth of public works, including the Kalgoorlie railway, the railway up north, and the building of the Fleet. The point is that revenue expenditure and loan expenditure are not separated, and we cannot tell which is which. The same old complaint has to be made about the Estimates; we cannot understand what they mean without the greatest possible trouble, and the sooner they are put on a sounder basis the better for all concerned. In my opinion, every loan item ought to come down in a separate schedule, and have a separate appropriation; but, instead, the items are all mixed up higgledy-piggledy. I suppose it is safe to say that more than half of the amount is to come out of revenue; and I say again that the sooner the people of the country realize the farce in connexion with our public undertakings in the Federal arena the better for them and their pockets. Let the working men outside understand that they are contributing anything between 10s. and £1 per head per annum - man, woman, and child - for the construction of public works which cannot benefit them very much, hut will be of some benefit to future generations.
– The working men are employed on these public works, and they do not want their grandchildren to pay for them !
– Age does not wither nor customs stale the stupidity of the honorable member, and I wish he would bold his tongue. My point is that the working men outside are being taxed for the construction of public works, and making a present of these to future generations, although those working nien are the very people who, in many cases, cannot afford to even pay into a building society for their own homes. The whole thing is on a wrong basis, and, as I say, presents an absolute farce. The Prime Minister may keep putting on taxation, but he will get no thanks for that; and doubtless somebody with more sense and gumption will laxer on look into the matter, and see the true position of affairs, and see not merely the farce, but the absolute injustice of the present policy. The States pay for such works out of loan moneys, and properly so.
– The States will borrow fast enough; they need not be hurried.
– The Sta’tes are not borrowing just now.
– They are getting on very well. “Mr. JOSEPH COOK- I agree that we are getting on very well. Only this morning I was reckoning up that we have commitments this year which, will give us a loan obligation of about £40,000,000.
– What more does the honorable member wish for?
– I wish for common sense to be brought to bear, though I know that that is a strange commodity on the other side. The fact remains that we are borrowing £18,000,000 from overseas to be spent on public works in Australia.
– We are not doing anything of the kind.
– Then I hope the Prime Minister will correct the misstatements he has been making to the House on the subject. I invite his attention to two of his statements which were made within a day or two of each other, and which are absolutely contradictory. By which of these statements does the right honorable gentleman mean to stand ? On the 20th November last the honorable member for Darwin asked the following question : -
Can the Prime Minister say whether any part of the £18,000,000, which’ it is proposed to lend to the States, is for redemption purposes, or whether it is intended solely for public works in Australia?
To this the Prime Minister replied -
The Commonwealth has been able to raise £18,000,000 through the Imperial Government. We hope to be able to finance our war expenditure out of our own resources, and to bp able to lend this £18,000,000 to the States to enable them to proceed with their several public works policies. None of it is intended for redemption purposes.
– Had I seen that answer I should , have corrected it, because my meaning was the other way about.
– It is the Prime Minister’s own statement.
– That was not what was in my mind at the time; it was the other way about.
– A few days later the Prime Minister gave us “the other way about “ in a very definite way.
– I never had anything in my mind but the opposite to what has been read.
– Then it is most unfortunate-
– It is.
– It is most unfortunate that the right honorable gentleman should say exactly what he does not mean.
– The “honorable member knows that I correct very few Hansard proofs.
– But, surely, this is not a matter of correction ?
– Quote one of the other statements, and see if the Prime Minister then meant what he said !
– Which of the statements is correct? The honorable member for Bourke asked the Prime Minister whether the Commonwealth had borrowed £18,000,000 in addition to the £1S,000,000 raised for the States. To this the Prime Minister replied -
The Commonwealth Government is borrowing through the Imperial Government £.18,000,000, and has already loaned, out of its resources, £18,000,000 to the States.
Then I asked the right honorable gentleman whether the £18,000,000 which he is raising in London was the same £1S,000,000 to be lent to the States to enable them to carry on their public works policy, and he replied “ No.”
– Certainly not.
– But the right honorable gentleman said “ Certainly, yes,” a day or two before.
– It is an error; that was never in my mind.
– It was in the honorable gentleman’s mouth, and it is in Mansard. The sooner the right honorable gentleman corrects these things the better.
– I agree with you.
– Then there was another question asked from this side the other day, by the honorable member for Calare, as follows: -
Will the Prime Minister inform the House bow much, if any, of the £8,000,000 advanced to New South Wales will be devoted by its Government to buying the season’s wheat harvest of the State? I understand that the cost will be about £4,000,000. Will any of the money required be taken from the Commonwealth advance to the State?
To that the Prime Minister replied -
I required of the States borrowing money from the Commonwealth that they should not look into the manner in which it was raised, and I have no right to ask them how it is being spent. It was borrowed to carry out public works necessary in the interests of the people of the States.
Which of the statements is correct? Here, again, the light honorable gentleman says that the money was borrowed for public works.
– The right honorable gentleman can see what was in the agree ment between the Commonwealth and the States.
– That is not the point. The right honorable gentleman, in a third attempt, says -
It was borrowed to carry out public works necessary in the” interests of the people of the States.
– The money was borrowed by them from us to carry out public works
– Yes, but where did the right honorable gentleman get it?
– I got it from Commonwealth resources.
– But you said you had borrowed it.
– No, the States borrowed it.
– I have only to say that the Prime Minister lays down a very strange doctrine when he says he has no right to inquire how the money he lends is to be expended.
– Not after I had entered into an agreement.
– If the Prime Minister were lending his own money his first question would be as to what was to be done with it - whether it was being wisely invested, and would give an adequate return. In the present case he declares that he has no right to ask any question of the kind, although he is shovelling money out to the extent of £18,000,000. One use to which the money is being put is to buy land, and to put up buildings, and these are directions in which the right honorable gentleman would not spend his -own loan moneys. He has borrowed money to give to the States to enable them, to carry out public undertakings that he would not carry out on his own account.
– What is wrong with that?
– I suppose there appears nothing wrong in the honorable member’s opinion, but to any one else it would seem a strangely inconsistent action. As to the details of the Estimates, turning to the Defence Department first of all, I find an item of £750,000 in connexion with .the Fleet unit. The Prime Minister tells us that £500,000 of that amount is to pay for the ordinary Fleet unit which was arranged for five years ago. Honorable members opposite have been going around the country saying that the Fleet was all paid for long ago, although, as a matter of fact, it has not been paid for yet to the extent of £500,000.
– That is to complete the unit, I understand.
– Of course it is, but the unit should have been completed years ago.
– “Why was it not?
– Because this precious Government took the matter out of the control of those who had it in hand, and insisted on doing it in their own way, with the result that it is costing more than twice as much, with the muddle and mess into the bargain. The Assistant Minister this morning, in a very unfair way, tried to show that there had been some delay in the building of the dam by the late Government. Why is that dam necessary ? It- is because of the previous muddling of honorable members opposite. It is not customary to build a. ship on the side of a hill, and make jio provision for launching it when completed. That is what they have done; they have built a ship without considering for one moment how they are going to float it when it is finished. Now that they have constructed the vessel they have to provide a sea about it in order to float it off the slips.
– They must have thought it was a flying ship.
– Or an aeroplane.
– They must have thought that. I desire to know who is responsible for that blunder. The Government “are trying to blame the man, who, they say, is going away.
– That is the proper thing to do; blame the man who is going away.
– I think that the proper person to blame is the manager of the dock, whoever he is.
– Or Mr. Holman; is he going away ?
– I believe he has gone to Newcastle. After palming his second-hand dock off on to the Federal Government, he is going to build a new one with the money he received.
– It is worth every penny that was given for it.
– What I have said is quite true. Why has Mr. Holman gone to Newcastle if it is not to build a new dock? Why did he part with the old one if it was still good ? The honorable member knows that it is not a good dock.
– Now we are getting into se cr ©t s
– The Government will have to spend heaps of money on that dock before it will be anything like what it ought to be.
– What would we do without it at the present moment?
– The dock is all right for the work which it was doing. The trouble is that the Government have started to do things with the dock which it was not capable of doing.
– What things are they?
– Building these big vessels. The cruiser now being completed at the dock was due for launching before the late Government took office at all, but the vessel is not built yet. Five years have elapsed since the Brisbane waa ordered from the Old Country, and she is not likely to be built for some time, and then she can only be launched by building a sea about her in order to float her off.
– Did you say five years had elapsed ?
– It will be five years next week, to be precise, since the orders for these vessels were cabled to England. The other two cruisers have been on the water for a couple of years, and would it not have been better to have the Brisbane on the water with them ? The Government could then have proceeded with the building of another light cruiser at the dock with the money that would have been saved on the construction of the Brisbane, lt “was assumed that the big ship, the Australia, would have cost £2,000,000, but it only cost £1,700,000. Yet, notwithstanding that saving of £300,000, the estimate to-day is £4,600,000 for the same fleet. That is what I call sorry business bungling and a waste of public money.
– Then you are against building any ships at all in Australia?
– Nothing of the kind.
– Then what is your argument 1
– I should have had the Brisbane built with the other cruisers and she could have been con- structed for £400,000 less than her construction in Australia is costing. She would have been in commission two years ago with the other light cruisers, and with the money so saved the dock could have been put into repair, and another cruiser built.
– The dock does -not require repairing. You do not know what you are talking about. Th© Brisbane is not in the dock.
– I suppose the vessel is where it was from the beginning. It is being built at the dock.
– Yes, at the dock. Be exact.
– The terminological exactitude of the honorable member is remarkable. Had he anything to do with the building of this vessel on the side of a dock without any means of floating it when it is finished ?
– That was done by the gentleman you imported from England, and he made a mess of the job.
– The manager of the dock, whoever he is, is responsible. Tn answer to a remark by the Prime Minister, I tell him that I am very glad that no Liberal Government ever did propose to waste public money in that way. The fact remains that this vessel, which should have been built originally for £350,000, is going to cost nearly £800,000 before it is finished.
– That is the imported manager’s bungling.
– The Labour party’s bungling.
– Do you want cheap labour ?
– I want good labour.
– There is another item to which I desire to call attention. It is a pity that in the framing of these Estimates we cannot keep out party feeling. This item is a great mistake, to say nothing else. On page 48 of the Budget papers there appears an item, “ Defence lands purchase,” and attention is called to a note at the bottom of the page, “ The purchase of sites was paid for from Consolidated Revenue Fund prior to 1913-14, and from 1913-14 from Loan Fund.” I do not know who inserted that statement, but if somebody had desired to make political capital out of it he could not have done better. Why is it necessary ‘ to bring these things in? The right honorable member for Wide Bay never makes a statement in this House without trying to make a subtle comparison between the good things which he did and the bad things which his predecessors did. *
– I never saw that statement before.
– Then the honorable member ought to have seen it. It is an absolute and wilful misstatement of fact on somebody’s part. The honorable member knows that we paid nothing from Loan Fund on this account.
– Who is responsible for putting that statement there?
– I am responsible for what is there.
– You said you were not responsible.
– I said nothing of the kind. That remark is not only impertinent, but it is unmanly.
– On a point of order, I ask that that statement by the honorable member for Wide Bay be withdrawn.
– It is quite true.
– If the Prime Minister said anything to which the honorable member for Perth objects, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark.
– I think the right honorable gentleman said that he had not seen this paragraph.
– The honorable member for Perth has just interjected that I repudiated something which I had said. That is not true, and I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– I think the Prime Minister is under % misapprehension. I did not say that he had repudiated something he had said. I said that he had repudiated responsibility for a statement that appears in the Budget.
– N.o. I understood the Prime Minister to say that he had never seen the statement.
– I was not aware of the statement being in the Budget-papers, but I take responsibility for everything that is there.
– Of course ; nobody else could take the responsibility. Therefore, I desire to find out who is to blame.
– Nobody is.to blame but myself.
– I think the honorable gentleman ought to find out who sticks these little remarks in official papers. To begin with, they are incorrect, and, more than that, they place a sinister party aspect on a statement, and that is not fair.
– The statement can only have been made for the sake of comparison.
– Then let your comparisons be fair. Why say something that is not correct?
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– If I say a few words the Leader of the Opposition will be able to continue his remarks. I merely desire to say that I will deal later on with the question he has raised.
– I hope we shall have no more of these unfair and untrue comparisons. The fact is that my right honorable friend and his followers in the Senate would not permit us to pay for anything in the shape of defence out of loan money.
– Except the dock.
– Yes, except the dock. The party now in power insisted that these defence sites should be paid for out of revenue, and in those circumstances it is unfair to insert a note like this in the Budget. I notice another item of £175,000 payable from loan for machinery for Cockatoo Island. Loan expenditure was denounced bitterly by the right honorable gentleman and his followers when we were in office.
– Is that correct?
– It is correct, and we could only get our proposal through by making a compromise after it had come back from the Senate once or twice. Now the Government propose to spend £175,000 from loan for machinery at the Dock. Here is the inconsistency of my honorable friends. They will pay £175,000 out of loan for perishable machinery for the dock, but they will not pay loan money for a site of land which is everlasting, and must improve in value as years go by.
– There is another item for new works at Cockatoo Island.
– I am speaking of the purchase of machinery from loan money, which honorable members opposite denounced us so bitterly for on the last occasion.
– How long will the machinery last?
– Not being an authority, I cannot tell the honorable member. I should not think that machinery for ship-building would last for many years.
– Some of it will last fifty years.
– I should think it would last from a dozen to fifteen years.
– It is proposed to spend only £40,000 on the purchase of land in the Federal Capital Territory this year. Last year £250,000” was voted, and £180,000 was spent. Has there been a change of policy?
– There has been no alteration of policy. We buy up land as it falls in. There is no urgency.
– The Federal Capital site will prove a veritable sink for our money if we do not grapple with this matter. We need all the land in the Territory, and must put it to the best possible use, under the control of some one who will be responsible for seeing1 that it gives an adequate return. The better the use to which the land is put, the sooner the Territory will be selfsupporting. The present procedure seems to me very slow.
– It does not matter when we purchase this land, if we purchase it at the right time.
– The right time is as early as possible.
– When the leases fall due.
– We can terminate the leases. It must be remembered that the land is paid for according to its value in 1908. Will it be fair, six years hence, to take land at the value it had twelve years previously? Shall we not rather be under an obligation to those whom we dispossess to make a fresh assessment?
– And give them the unearned increment?
– My view is that we should take the land at the earliest possible moment, and get the unearned increment for ourselves. Does the Assistant Minister suggest that the present holders can put the land to its best uses, not knowing when they may be dispossessed ?
– I do not suggest that they should be given the unearned in- crement which will result from our expenditure.
– Nor do I. My view is that the land should be resumed so that the Commonwealth may get the unearned increment.
– The honorable member suggested a new valuation.
– It will be fair to make a new valuation if the land is not resumed soon. We should not leave the present holders in possession for half-a-dozen years more, and then pay them for their land according to its value in 1908. We should either resume the land at its value at the date of resumption, or take it as early as possible at the valuation originally fixed.
– We are doing that.
– No, we are not. This year only a paltry £40,000 is to be spent on land resumption. The sooner we have a proper public works policy for Australia the better. The administration at present is absolutely chaotic. There is duplication in every direction. The Departments are each carrying out works for themselves, and the Home Affairs Department is also carrying out works for themselves, and master-General’s Department is carrying out capital work for itself, on which ‘‘t is spending about £900,000, and the Home Affairs Department is carrying’ out works for the Postmaster-General’s Department which will cost about £1,000,000. The Defence Department is carrying out works for itself costing £400,000, and the Home Affairs Department is doing about £200,000 worth of work for it. This duplication of authority in the construction of public works must increase expense. It means the duplication of staffs, irresponsibility, and general costliness. I hope that the Public Works Committee will soon get to business, and investigate some of the proposals, reporting to Parliament as to what shall be done. The present system is costing hundreds of thousands of pounds more than should be spent. Until we concentrate responsibility and proficiency, and spend our money as a private individual would spend his, we shall have to pay through the nose for our public works.
– Is the honorable member in favour of some of the large Defence works being investigated by the Committee ?
– I am.
– The Act does not provide for that.
– Yes, it does. Everything that has not to do with strategy may be investigated by the Committee. Defence works were at first exeluded from the Bill, but my honorable friend and others clamoured for a fuller and more thorough investigation, and the Bill was amended accordingly. There is abundance of work for both the Committee of Public Accounts and the Public Works Committee. The sum of £4,000,000 is to be spent this year without investigation; we shall probably vote the money to-day without an inkling as to how it is to be spent.
– The statement which I hand to the honorable member shows how it is to be spent.
– One of the items in the statement is “Redemption of loans by the Government of South Australia on account of the Port Augusta railway.” That is not a public work. Another is “Purchase of land and erection of offices in London, £60,000.” Who knows anything about that? Then we have “ Construction of railway from Pine Creek to Katherine . River and southward.” Has any plan of the line been put before us, or any estimate of its cost ?
– The authorizing Bill was passed through this Chamber in seven minutes.
– In other Parliaments money is not voted for railways until plans and specifications have been put before members.
– The honorable member’s complaint was that we do not show how loan money is to be expended.
– No ; I said that there were no plans or definite proposals for spending it. Of course, every item has a designation. ‘ My point is that there has been no investigation into these proposals.
– They are clearly set out.
– Yes, but we are not informed in regard to any one of them whether it will be profitable. As to the railway, we are not told the reasons why it should be built, where it is to be built, and how.
– A loan Bill is to follow.
– The amountsto which I have referred are already provided for by loan. The honorable member is going to pass a loan Bill covering £2,000,000, but it contains only one clause. There is no information as to how the money is to be spent. The thing would be a joke if it were not so serious. We are wasting thousands of pounds of public money the destination of which is not know. Our present public works system cannot be cheap and efficient, and the sooner we have one constructing Department the better. We should get together a capable scientific staff and concentrate responsibility in it; then, with our Committees looking into financial matters, we can quickly work a revolution in public expenditure.
– Perhaps the most important statement made by the Leader of the Opposition was that regarding the delay in building H.M.A.S. Brisbane. The vessel, he said, was ordered five years ago next month. Its keel was laid in January, 1913.
– The right honorable gentleman was two years in office before giving the order for that.
– The order was given in accordance with our policy, that not only small destroyers and vessels of war, but also large war vessels, should be built in Australia.
– Why was the honorable member’s Government in power from December, 1910, to January, 1913, without giving the order for the laying down of the keel of the Brisbane?
– It took a long time to get the necessary material.
– In other words, the Government was not ready.
– Why were we not ready ? Because a great- body of public thought led by the honorable member, and those who think with him, in Australia had been dead against anything in this direction being done in Australia.
– You know that that is absolutely incorrect.
– I give it as my opinion only. We had no organized forces in Australia, no trained men with which to build the vessels, and, consequently, when the other ships, including the Australia, were being built for us overseas -we sent there men from Australia to be properly trained in the building of those vessels. When they had gained their experience of naval ship-building, and were technically capable of doing the work, they returned to Australia to begin the building of warships here. That procedure was partly the cause of the delay that has taken place. Could we have adopted any better method, seeing that we were about to commence th« building of war vessels in Australia ?
– Could not shipbuilders have been imported to Australia to do the work?
– I am not a native-born Australian, but I say that we frequently send to other parts of the world for men when we have better men here unrecognised.
– They could be taught here.
– We had not the works here where our people could get the necessary technical instruction. Every new development means extra cost to begin with.
– Especially when there is plenty of political influence behind you.
– As the honorable member is a pastmaster of that sort of thing, he knows all about it.
– To say that we could not get men here is all humbug.
-We could get the men here, but we could not very well teach them ship-building and the technicalities of naval construction. There is a great deal about modern ship-building that cannot be acquired even in Government dockyards.
– How about Japan?
– Japan adopted the same principle as we adopted, and since then they have begun to be heard of among the nations of the world. There is a great deal of difference between five years and less than two years ; but if there has been bungling or lack of foresight in connexion with the building of the Brisbane at Cockatoo Island, I regret the fact. I am sure that all honorable members regret it. However, the duty of correcting the blunder lay with the last Government, who occupied the greatest proportion of the time between the putting down of the keel and the outbreak of the war.
– The blunder could not be corrected.
– Then I presume that the vessel must be considered as lost.
– If the blunder made is such that it cannot be corrected. I understand that the honorable member means that the vessel cannot be launched.
– The mistake was made when the keel was laid down in the wrong place. No provision was made for launching the vessel.
– The acting superintendent at the time was Mr. Cutler, and the ship-building manager was Mr. Barr.
– Has not Mr. Cutler said that even now he can launch the Brisbane within three months?
– I do not know. If I desired to ascertain whether the vessel could be launched, I would ask the officer responsible. The opinion of any one who is not an expert is of no value. My object is to remove the wrong impression that will be gathered^ from, the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta that the Brisbane trouble had been in existence for five years.
– Mr. Cutler is supposed to be an expert. He laid the
– Well, all that can be part of any investigation that is made. I am not averse to an investigation being held, and as that would lead to no delay it might be found possible to refer it to the Public Works Committee.
– Hear, hear!
– Anything that will lead to a thorough investigation of our expenditure without hindering urgent expenditure will have my very warm support.
– Would it not be one of the duties of the Committee of Public Accounts?
– The failure to launch a vessel in a proper way should be the subject for a report from the Public Works Committee. The members of such a Committee, like members of Royal Commissions, of course, are not experts; they are generally men who are guided by considerations of common-sense, who hear evidence and weigh, it, and give their opinion on it.
I was disappointed when the Leader of the Opposition said that the infor- mation as to the number of public works constructed out of loan money, and as to the number constructed out of revenue, was not shown on the Budgetpapers. As a matter of fact, this information is given, but, as the honorable member afterwards admitted that this was the case, I shall not discuss the matter further. The honorable member characterized the position of the Government as a farce.
– What position?
– I mean in regard to the expenditure of revenue instead of loans on public works. The honorable member pointed out that the working men of to-day are paying for that farce by providing for works that should be debited to future generations. I do not agree with that view. It is the duty of this Parliament to appropriate any surplus money available towards its public works, for in this way it will be making a much better investment than by holding up the money; but it is especially the duty of a Government, with the welfare of the country at heart, when times are good and the revenue is high, not to expend all its revenue when very little good can be done -with it, but to conserve it for expenditure at a time, such as the present, when there are plenty of workers looking for employment.
– We never have enough revenue to do that.
– That all depends upon the character of the Government, and whether they are prepared to spend every penny they get in order to keep sweet with the public. With all our faults, we in the Federal Parliament have been able to do many things with a limited revenue, and yet have conserved the public finances in such a way that to-day the Commonwealth, Australia generally, is in a better position, financially and otherwise, to meet the consequences of the war than any other country. We have hardly been disturbed by the war.
– You must remember that there have been good Liberal Administrations, except for a little while.
– During the little while that Labour Governments have been in office, they have laid down principles that other Governments have been obliged to follow.
– You had so much money in your last term of office that you had a financial debauch. You spent. £18,000,000 more than the Liberal Government had in the preceding three years.
– That statement is incorrect. When the right honorable gentleman was Treasurer he inherited all the advantages that his predecessors possessed when they left office, and yet he spent £1,600,000 more than he earned.
– You must remember that we could have spent the whole of the surplus.
– The right honorable gentleman knows very well that his pursuing that line of argument is of no use. The Leader of the Opposition canvassed a reply that T gave to a question submitted by the honorable member for Darwin, which apparently did not convey what I had in my mind. This was what the right honorable gentleman quoted -
– Can the Prime Minister say whether any part of the £18,000,000, which it is proposed to lend to the States, is for redemption purposes, or whether it is intended solely for public works in Australia?
– The Commonwealth has been able to raise £18,000,000 through the Imperial Government. We hope to be able to finance our war expenditure out of our own resources, and to be able to lend this £18,000,000 to the States to enable them to proceed with their several public works policies. None of it is intended for redemption purposes.
The intermediate sentence should have read -
We are able to finance our war expenditure out of the loan raised, and, out of our resources, to lend to the States an equivalent amount.
– The Leader of the Opposition was quite entitled to interpret your remarks as he did.
– J make no accusation against the Leader of the Opposition. I am glad he brought the matter forward, lt only shows that it is necessary that care should be taken in answering questions submitted without notice. About the same time I answered another question on the same subject in quite a different way.
– Reading the two answers took me back to the old “ Yes-No “ days.
– According to the honorable member for Parramatta, my reply was that I did not consider that the States who asked for loans from the Commonwealth should pursue the matter further than to inquire whether we could provide them with the money, and that they should not ask in what way we were able to provide the money. I took up that stand when the States began to inquire, but in order to relieve their minds as to onesource from which they thought we might get the money, I told them frankly that,, sd far as my Government was concerned,, the money would not be derived from an inconvertible note issue. I made a negative statement, and I think that it was asfar as I could go at that particular time, for reasons that I need not now mention; but as soon as the fact became known that the British Government would cheerfully provide £1S,000,000 for our war expenditure, it was clear to me that we could not give the States £20,000,000, as they had asked, but that we could provide them with £18,000,000.
– It is curious that the two amounts are the same.
– Not at all. There was no limit to their requirements. We could not give them more, but we gave them, and gave quite cheerfully, the maximum amount that could be supplied to them. I ask honorable members to give special attention to this matter. The discussion is informative, and I do not desire honorable members to miss any of the points relating to this loan. We are dealing with two different periods. While our Commonwealth expenditure as detailed in the Budget relates to the financial year ending 30th June next, the loans asked for by the States from the Commonwealth relate to a period of twelve months from the time that the loan was actually agreed to.
– From December to December ?
– That is practically so. The two matters relate to two different periods, and this leads to a little confusion on the part of some honorable members, who inquire, “ Why are these amounts alike?” The object we had in view was to enable the States to see a full year ahead in regard to their public works policy, and thus to more . efficiently control their expenditure. Our difficulty and it has been the difficulty of all Parliaments, is that we have not had a consecutive public works policy extending over a sufficiently long period. The desire of this Government was not to give the States a paltry advance from time to time - not to give them £1,000,000 today, and perhaps £500,000 a little later, but to avoid the uncertainty which would arise from the making of such advances from time to time. The merit of the whole policy is that it enables the States to see clearly ahead of them up to the end of 1915. Whether the war be long or short the red troubles of the States, apart from conversions, are now out of the way. Therein lies the merit of the loan. I am yet unable to say what the cost of it will be, but I think that per cent, will cover all charges. Honorable members who have been accustomed to deal with such matters will recognise that that is a very low rate at this particular period.
– Hear, hear!
– I desire also to avail myself of this opportunity to publicly express the thanks, not merely of the Commonwealth Government, but of the whole of the people of Australia, for the manner in which His Majesty’s Imperial Government has met us. The term of the loan from His Majesty’s Government is fourteen years. That will give us time to look round.
– It is a loan from the British Government to the Commonwealth for that period ?
– Yes; with no other parties to intervene.
– Did the right honorable member ask the States to repay the Commonwealth within that period ?
– The terms are set out in the agreement.
– I know all about that, but when I asked the Government of Western Australia to redeem a loan from the Commonwealth, 1 was told that it was a matter of spite on my part, although I badly wanted the money for Commonwealth purposes at the time. The right honorable member will have .some trouble with the present Premier of Western Australia.
– No, The agreement made with the States is that they shall redeem the loan as soon as possible after this trouble is over. We must not forget that this is an extraordinary, and not an ordinary transaction. It is an extraordinary transaction to cover an exceptionally difficult experience- an experience so far as the magnitude of war is concerned that is without parallel in our history.
– There is no definite time fixed for the redemption of the loans by the States.
– We are members of the one household, and the States will be treated as they have been in the past.
We cannot make a hard and fast rule, but the position is that the States can now see their way clear to the end of 1915. I do not wish at this stage to make political speeches, but I shall be glad to give any information in my possession. Large as the works expenditure is, in my opinion a much larger expenditure will have to be incurred in Australia at an early date to provide for our adequate land defence, and probably for adequate sea defence.
– I do not intend to occupy very much time in discussing these Estimates, for I recognise that it is the general desire of honorable members that they should be passed as soon as possible. The Prime Minister would have us believe that he desires to be so fair in his statements, and apparently so amiable and generous, that listening to him one might easily be deceived. The fact is, however, that, whilst he is making these speeches, which seem to suggest that he is acting in the most generous way, he is really doing quite the opposite - he is introducing unnecessarily drastic legislation, and thus adding to the difficulties and the burdens that the people are bearing, and will have to bear.
– The right honorable member practically charges the Treasurer with working the confidence trick.
– I object to the honorable member putting words into my mouth. This is not a time when we’ should increase our expenditure from revenue. Just as we have to be economical in the management of our own private business at the present time if we are to keep our heads above water, so we ought to be as economical as possible in the administration of our public affairs. It seems to me that during this terrible double crisis through which we are passing - the great crisis of a horrible war and the crisis of an unprecedented drought which is doing immense injury to the people of this country - the Government are going to increase our ordinary expenditure instead of acting cautiously and moderately as they should do. What reason is there for increasing the ordinary charges upon the general revenue at the present time? If we wish to expend money on public works we should ascertain which of those works are capable of being charged to loan, and, instead of paying the principal, should pay only the interest, at all events during the present crisis. The right honorable member, however, has not followed that course. He has increased by over £1,000,000 last year’s expenditure in respect of public works chargeable to the ordinary revenue. I have no hesitation in saying that that increase of £1,000,000 should not have been charged to revenue, necessitating, as it does, the placing of extra burdens on the people in order that it may be met.
– Other countries are doing the same.
– I am not altogether cognizant of what other countries are doing in this matter, but I do not hesitate to say that there should not be imposed at the present time any unnecessary additional charges of principal moneys upon the revenues. That, however, is not the policy which the Government are pursuing. The proposed expenditure under these Works and Buildings Estimates amounts to £4,303,870, whereas last year’s appropriation wa3 only £3,266,569, and as compared with the actual expenditure we have a proposed increase of expenditure of £1,725,775 chargeable against the estimated revenue. For that I see no justification. I do not wish, however, to be misunderstood. It must not be assumed that I do not desire to see public works going on; that I do not want employment to be found for the workless.’ That is not the position I take up. My point is that there is another way of finding employment other than by imposing extra taxation and additional burdens on the people, and that is by charging the works to Loan Funds, and only charging against the revenue the interest and sinking fund. The Budget which the Treasurer presented last night shows that- it is estimated that we shall receive this year from revenue £23.273,000, and that the estimated expenditure is £14,310,715 in excess of the estimated revenue. We intend to provide for that excess by borrowing £10,500,000 from the British Government, by selling Treasury-bills in aid of revenue to the amount of £2,588,314, and by using; the surplus on 30th June last of £1,222,401. I shall not deal with the question of the amount of the proposed expenditure to-day, for we shall have an opportunity to discuss it on the
Budget. The point that I wish to make is that many of the works in these Estimates might very well have been charged to loan. The Government would have been fully justified in so treating them. Even my honorable friends opposite have got rid of the idea that we ought not to borrow for constructing our public works. In his Budget speech yesterday, the Prime Minister said that-
It will be necessary in the future that more of the expenditure for permanent public works shall be defrayed by means of loan.
They are prepared to borrow for this, but not for that. They are willing, for instance, to borrow for the purchase and construction of the dock at Cockatoo Island, and also for the purchase of land for post-offices and other purposes. But they draw the line at borrowing for the construction of naval bases. I am very anxious to learn what is provided this year for the important work of constructing naval bases. I have asked to be supplied with the information, which is not contained in the Estimates, and I think it will be seen that the amount is very small, and not commensurate with our requirements. What is the effect of charging so much of the expenditure on our public works, against revenue, especially during the present great crisis] It means that the Government find it necessary to impose drastic taxation on the droughtstricken producers of the country. It is not sufficient that 14,000 land owners, in the first instance, primarily had to find the money to build the Fleet of which we are so proud, but it is now proposed to force the same 14,000 landowners to provide another £1,000,000 a year immediately, and for the future. What justification is there for such taxation at a time when most of our producers and land-owners are suffering such severe losses and disadvantages owing to the drought ?
– Are they not best able to pay?
– I do not think they are ; and we ought to remember that we are not making levies, but imposing taxation. It would, perhaps, be better to at once resume those properties, and so let our land-owners know exactly where they are. Pastoralists, agriculturists, and producers generally were never in such difficulties as they are now; at any rate, I can speak with authority for Western Australia.
– The right honorable member would prefer to tax the poor man’s beer !
– That is a matter on which I am not now expressing an opinion. The proposed taxation is not necessary, and could easily have been avoided. Much of the proposed expenditure in these Works Estimates might well have been made chargeable to loan moneys, such as the £400,000 for naval works, the £750,000 for the construction of the Fleet, the £44,000 for the Northern Territory, the £75,000 for lighthouses, the £16,000 for the construction of vessels for other Departments, and the £955,000 for telegraphs and telephones -a total of about £2,240,000. Why should this expenditure not be made chargeable to loan, especially in the present terrible crisis? The Government prefer to charge the general revenue, with the result that drastic taxation is to be imposed. It would have been quite possible to have made both ends meet this year without imposing an additional land tax or any probate duties, if it had been desired to do so, and to have paid the war expenditure from loan. There is one important matter on which I hope to obtain some information. What is to be done in regard to the naval base at Cockburn Sound? We all know that Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice recommended that dredges should be obtained to make the channels, the dredges being estimated to cost £370,000. In this connexion there is some provision made on the Estimates, but what should first be done is the dredging of the channels, all the other proposed expenditure being premature. There is always a certain amount of difficulty and risk in connexion with the formation of channels in the open sea; and before any other large expenditure is undertaken in connexion with this naval base it should first be placed beyond all doubt that there is adequate and safe ingress and egress. As I have said, the powerful dredges which would be necessary are estimated to cost about £370,000, and they should be obtained at once.
– The right honorable gentleman told the electors in Western Australia that he had ordered those dredges.
– And so I was informed. The honorable gentleman must not think that I ever misrepresent facts to the public. If he will look at the records in the Defence Department he will find there a telegram from the Department, informing me that the dredges had been ordered. The Assistant Minister shakes his head, but if he doubts my word he is doing me a great injustice. If it be necessary T shall obtain the original telegram from the Post Office to prove that my statement is correct.
– Plans and specifications had been asked for.
– I was informed that the dredges had been ordered. It may be that there are those who would resort to dodges of the kind suggested; but I am sure the Assistant Minister will acquit me of any such idea.
– This is a noble outburst of indignation 1
– I am simply telling the truth, as I hope the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will always do. The insinuations made against me are most unfair, because I never make statements of that kind without authority.
– I may tell the right honorable member for Swan that the dredges have never been ordered.
– I found out that the dredges had not been ordered, but that was long after the elections, and only in consequence of inquiries I made when I returned to Melbourne. I made the statement to the electors in all good faith; but, as it was not a matter affecting my own Department, I had to depend on others. I may say that, in connexion with these dredges, I made, on the same authority, another statement that proved to be incorrect. Only on the evening before I made the speech I received a telegram telling me that the dredges were to cost £1,000,000, and, though I had my doubts as to whether such an enormous amount would be required, I did not feel justified in altering the figure. As a matter of fact, I subsequently ascertained that the estimated cost was about £370,000, and this fitted in better with what I regarded as a reasonable figure. I mention this to show that errors may occur even with the best intentions. As to the Brisbane, there seems to be a desire to be somewhat ungenerous on the part of honorable members opposite, though there is no reason for this that I am aware of. We ought always to endeavour to be absolutely fair with one another, and I was somewhat surprised to hear the Prime Minister say to-day that the members of the Opposition, and especially the honorable member for Parramatta, were not in favour of shipbuilding in Australia. That statement is not only ungenerous, but most inaccurate. On the 24th November, 1909, in answer to a question, the honorable member for Parramatta said -
I sincerely hope that we shall be able to build the other three destroyers here; but, as regards the other vessels, I do not know. My very earnest desire will be to build all that wo can, to develop our building resources and the equipment of these boats in every possible way.
– The inspection by the ‘Admiralty will be confined to the vessels to be built in Great Britain ?
– Of course. I am afraid that we cannot hope to undertake the building of the larger vessels in Australia yet awhile, but I trust that the time may come for us to do that, and the sooner the better, I think. The sooner we are self-contained in everything relating to defence the better for all concerned. That is the spirit in which I approach this matter.
In connexion with the creation of the new unit, a great deal of labour and effort will be required. It will not be found an easy matter to begin from the bottom and build up an Admiralty in Australia. That, however, is the task that has been assigned to us; and there has been a hopi expressed by the Imperial authorities that we shall make ourselves selfsufficient in the least possible time.
That statement seems to me clear enough, and it does not lie in the mouth of any person cognisant of the facts, as the Prime Minister ought to be, and is, to say what he did this morning. It goes without saying that there is not a man in Australia who would not desire to see this country self-contained - to see as much work as possible done here, with every opportunity to work out our own destiny. Of course we cannot do this all at once, but it is idle to taunt any party or person with not desiring to have all our shipbuilding done within our own borders. To suggest that there are people here who would prefer to see our vessels built in some other part of the world is as ridiculous as it is unreasonable. I commend to the Government the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the Departments should” be so re-organized as to bring all work of one class under one control. This is a reform that was contemplated when I was in office, but nothing could be done at the time. The idea is that all engineering work, such as railways and so forth, should be under the control of a competent man, or more than one man if necessary, in one Department. For instance, works and buildings might he separated from railway undertakings; whereas at present some railways are carried out by the Department of Home Affairs, and others, such as those in the Northern Territory and in Papua, by the Department of External Affairs.
– The railways in the Northern Territory are under the EngineerinChief.
– At any rate, I know that much trouble was caused in the absence of such a reform as that I suggest. The naval works, like those at Western Port and Cockburn Sound, are carried out by the Defence Department; and, seeing that the Navy Board is not primarily an engineering body, I have no hesitation in saying it is not competent to carry out the works now in hand. Is the Navy Board competent to carry out the works at Cockburn Sound?
– The Board has neither the machinery nor the men necessary.
– The Board is carrying out the work now.
– And very badly, too, I expect!
– The Director of Naval Works has just been sent round there.
– And I should like to know how much experience he has had. The other day I made statements that reflected seriously on the Navy Board, including the Engineer, and not the slightest notice has been taken of my remarks. I said that members of the Navy Board had made a misstatement, in that they alleged that Admiral Henderson had certain information in his possession which it was subsequently proved he had not. What has been done at Cockburn Sound can scarcely be described as “work.” Practically nothing has been done, beyond making some borings and erecting a shanty for an office. Further, I can say that at that place there is an officer - and he is a “ valued member of the Labour party “ - who, during three months never did a stroke of work, and he drew his pay all the time.
– What were your Government doing?
– We did not know. When I discovered it, I wrote to Admiral Creswell, telling him of what was taking place, and he subsequently wrote, and admitted that what I had told him was a fact. That sort of thing is a scandal. I suggest to the Minister of Home Affairs, who has under his control an Engineering and Works Department, that he had better take away from the Naval Board the control of works of magnitude, because I assure him that, although the Naval Base at Cockburn Sound was opened with a blare of trumpets, there was not at that time a single plan in existence to show what was proposed to be done. I have asked for plans, but there are none, and there will not be any until the report of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice is received, because the officers of the Naval Board are not competent to prepare plans. I ask the Minister of Home Affairs to see that these works are handed over to the EngineerinChief, so that we may have some competent men in charge of them. The officers of the Naval Board are not engineers ; they are naval men.
– They have a good man in Colonel Owen.
– He is not connected with the Naval Board. The only engineer under the direction of the Board is Mr. Fanstone, and on him the whole responsibility rests. It is not fair that a Board, comprising Admiral Creswell, Captain Clarkson, and this young engineer, should be the authority to carry out these big works. The Minister of Home Affairs has in his Department good men, with experience and knowledge, who would be able to carry out these works satisfactorily. I do not desire to say any more, except that, in my opinion, these Estimates are founded upon a wrong policy altogether at this time. They seem to be aimed at those people who possess anything. Cannot honorable members see that they are throwing themselves open to the taunt that they are attacking those who do not support them?
– Do you want iia to tax the poor?
– I do not want the honorable member to tax the poor; I want him to be fair to all. The Government are attacking those who voted against them, and are allowing their supporters to escape in every way.
– You want us to tax tea and kerosene.
– The Government are taxing those who have been, enterprising, and who have done more to build up this country than the honorable member would ever do if he lived a thousand years.
.- I am very glad that the right honorable member for Swan spoke so cogently as to the necessity for having a single authority responsible for all Commonwealth works. What the right honorable gentleman has said is absolutely true, and if the Minister will look into the matter he will find that there is an effort constantly displayed by every Department to increase its own functions by entering upon the works sphere. That sort of thing leads to duplicate staffs of draughtsmen and professional men, to muddle and chaos in public enterprises, and to definite loss to the Commonwealth. Perhaps I may be permitted to relate just one instance in connexion with the Naval Board. The present arrangement is that above high water-mark all works, except purely technical undertakings, are carried out by the Home Affairs Department, whilst works below high water-mark are undertaken by the Defence Department. That definition is utterly ridiculous. What is required of a Department controlling labour and industrial enterprise is a knowledge of labour and industrial enterprises; technical officers to deal with the brainwork and various technical sides, and other officers to deal with the practical labour side. Consequently we want one Department that will manage all the various labour activities of the Commonwealth, whether they are above or below high water-mark. Experience has shown that definition to be utterly and supremely ridiculous. Take, for instance, the friction that occurred during my term of office between the officers of the Defence Department and the Home Affairs Department in connexion with a design foi*
Naval Barracks at Westernport. The Defence Department said that these barracks were essentially a Defence matter; therefore, that Department would design the building. They did so, and we found that the air space allowed per man in the plans was only the same as the air space allowed on board ship, and owing to the nature of the design an immense expenditure was to be incurred which was totally uncalled for. Eventually, owing to the skill of the officers of the Home Affairs Department, a new plan was drawn up, which the Minister of Defence accepted over the heads of his Board, and speaking from memory, that plan actually gave 40 per cent, more air space per man, and,; saved £20,000 on the cost which would have been incurred by the. first design.
Take the other, question raised by the honorable member for Swan, that of railway administration. After a considerable struggle,- we succeeded in getting the construction of railways in the Northern Territory placed in the hands of the Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways, in whose hands that work certainly ought to be; but the running management of the existing railway in the Territory is still under the control of the Department of External Affairs.
– I have taken it over.
– Then the honorable member has taken a very wise step.
– I hold the opinion that all railways ought to be under the Engineer-in-Chief .
– Of course they should, whether they be in Papua, the Northern Territory, or elsewhere, and not only the construction of railways, but also the running of them, because the two operations are indissolubly bound together.
I have just time to refer to a matter which was brought up in the House this morning. I allude to the remarks of the Assistant Minister of Defence in connexion with the arrangements for launching the cruiser Brisbane. By courtesy of the Minister of Defence I have been permitted to go to the Department, and see the papers relating to this matter. I gave the Minister an undertaking that I would not refer to anything that came before me in my purview of the papers in regard to the date, or probable date, of launching the Brisbane. I have seen no papers bear ing upon that question, to which in any. case I would not wish to refer. The general effect of the Assistant Minister’s statement this morning was that, owing to the procrastination - although the honorable member did not use that word - of the late Minister of Defence, this very necessary antecedent to the launching of the Brisbane has been unduly postponed, and that accounts for the delay in the launching of the ship. Now I find that although the present Government have been in power for a considerable time-
– Only nine weeks.
– The actual approval of the work for launching the new cruiser was signed by Senator Pearce only on the 25th November. In view of that fact, it is a little ungenerous to twit the preceding Minister of Defence with responsibility for all the delay that has occurred.
– The present Government had to go into every phase of the question.
– I am going to give the House the whole of the facts.
– Authority for the cofferdam was given before the last Ministry took office.
– The honorable member means that a recommendation had been made.
– No; authority had been given to go on with the construction of the cofferdam.
– I particularly wanted to get at the facts of the matter raised by the Assistant Minister’s statement this morning, and I confined my scrutiny to those papers. I find that, after the present manager of the dock arrived, a scheme was suggested some time, I think, in May for getting the Brisbane into the water. On 9th June, the first Naval member of the Board recommended that this work should be proceeded with. A Board meeting, which was attended by the late Minister of Defence, was held, and it was then resolved to ask the general manager of the dock whether he could suggest some expedient for getting . the ship into the water, leaving the permanent launching work in connexion with the dockyard itself for some future occasion.. That gentleman some time afterwards replied that he could not suggest any such scheme; and he again reported to the Board the urgency of the matter-
– Did he not also urge it in May?
– Not to the Minister. The honorable member is trying to make the late Minister of Defence responsible, and I am giving the facts as disclosed by the papers.
– The Minister was Chairman of the Naval Board.
– He was just as the present Minister is; but the present Minister was in office for eight weeks before he signed the approval of this work. Everything that goes wrong during the honorable member’s administration is the fault of the officers, but everything that went amiss under another administration was the immediate responsibility of the Minister ! That sort of argument is not fair, and it will not cut any ice in an assembly of this character.
– The previous Government had the matter under consideration for six or eight months before they left office.
– That statement is utterly without foundation. If the honorable member desires his word ever to receive credence in this House in future I challenge him to substantiate that statement at the next meeting of the House. As a matter of fact, the new manager of the dock did not arrive in Australia until February, and the question had never been raised at all prior to that. So far as I am assured by the officer in charge of this Department, the matter first came up in the joint report, made some time in May, to which I referred.
– The report in which the manager regarded this work as urgent?
– Yes, and yet the honorable member says that the Government had the matter under consideration for six or eight months before they left office ! What credence can we place on the word of this distinguished member of the Executive Council ?
– The manager also brought the matter up in March.
– That is news to me. I have been to the Department, and the honorable member apparently knows more than his officers.
– I know all about it.
– If the honorable member does know all about it, it reflects mighty small credit on him that he gave such a false impression of the matter to the House this morning.
– On a point of order, I submit that “the honorable member must not make a statement like that.
– I certainly say that the Assistant Minister gave a false impression this morning.
– You say that I intended to convey a false impression.
– If the Assistant Minister takes exception to the remark, I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– In deference to your ruling, sir, I withdraw anything to which the Assistant Minister takes exception.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The real trouble in the launching of the Brisbane is due to the place in which she was laid down. Had the ship been constructed in a suitable place and in the normal way, this particular expenditure for launching her would not have been required. Had the site been carefully chosen it would not have been necessary to spend this sum on a special cofferdam. I do not place the responsibility for this on any Administration in particular, but the fact remains that the ship was laid down during Senator Pearce’s administration in 1913.
– This cofferdam will be useful for the launching of ships of large dimensions in the future.
– On that particular spot. But, I might point out, the dockyard is indissolubly dependent for its success upon the actual lay-out and situation of the dockyard itself. In this case the Government started to build a ship haphazard. They had a large flat ledge of rock, and began to build a ship on it, and then they found they had to consider how they were going to get the ship from the rock into the water. The actual location of the dockyard is defined by the fact that the Government are making this particular cofferdam to get ships off that particular ledge into the water. Their dockyard organization, therefore, may be wrong from start to finish. I do not say it is, but this accidental location of the site may be wrong from an economic point of view, and the Government may be handicapping their dockyard for all time. For these reasons the Government should look into the matter very carefully and endeavour to come to some sound judgment upon it.
With every desire to assist the present Administration, I wish to refer, briefly, to . the question of the designing of the Federal City. A matter of this kind ought, obviously, to be far above petty party considerations. Some time ago, after the adjudicators in the town planning competition had awarded the first prize to Mr. Griffin, of Chicago, a departmental Board was formed which itself created a new design, largely composed of sections of a number of different designs sent in. I do not want to enter into the merits of that design, but, personally, I can see no real value about it. Afterwards we asked Mr. Griffin to come to Australia to help us in fixing the design up. He came, and I am here to tell the Minister that his coming to Australia was viewed with hostility by the officers of his Department, especially by some officers associated with this particular plan that appeared to be in danger from the adverse reflections passed upon it from outside. I explained to Mr. Griffin personally that I was not satisfied with the machinery for carrying on. the Capital work, and that it was my intention to give him - he having a sort of temporary connexion with the Commonwealth - a position which would give him the right of direct access by report to the ear of Parliament, more or less in the same way as the Inspector-General of the Forces has direct access to the ear of Parliament, in order that members might be assured that the work was being carried out upon proper lines.
– Has he not now to report to Parliament?
– Yes; but I am talking of the actual design. If a number of public officers, buttressed behind their permanent positions, desire to stop another man - I do not say they do - but if they do - that man is likely to have a mighty rocky passage. I wanted to give him direct access to Parliament by report. There is no doubt there has been opposition to him, and I say this, without bitterness, about officers, almost all of whom are my personal friends. He saw the site and made recommendations for alterations in the suburban or outlying portions of the city, that is to say, not the portions of the city with which we have immediately to deal. He returned, under the terms of his agreement, to America, aud in his absence the Lands and Survey Branch was to have made a contour survey of these suburban areas. When he came back to Australia the survey was not completed, and there was some trouble in getting the actual drawings out of the Branch. There also arose a fresh question as to who was to lay out the actual streets on the city area, and then, for the first time, I was faced with the suggestion by the Administrator - I call it a suggestion, but it appeared to be a claim, although not put in so many words - that no approval had been given to any city design. I informed him that the amended design had been approved. I now find from the answers given by the Minister, no doubt in the very best of faith, that the departmental view is that what I approved, and what was circulated in the schedule and in the terms of competition for the Federal building, was not a design, because it was not a finished line drawing, but only a “ sketch.”
– That is about what it is.
– That is’ the point. But, so far as the city area was concerned, it was the finished design. So far as the suburban or outside areas were concerned, seeing that the contour survey had no’t been completed, it could only be what straw-splitters would call a sketch, but it was a mighty finished sketch. The departmental position is given away in the schedule issued by the Minister in February, 1914, in the opening paragraph of which the following appears: -
An amended plan by Mr. Griffin, the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction, has been published, showing the alterations in suburban treatment suggested by his closer knowledge of the locality and other modifications that he has considered desirable for the time being. But, while immediate economies (particularly in railway arrangements) are thus contemplated, steps are being taken to prevent anything standing in the way of the ultimate consummation of the complete design.
Reproductions of Mr. Griffin’s original premiated design, and of his design as amended, appear opposite page 130.
Mr. Griffin is not a personal friend of mine, nor am I interested in him personally in the slightest degree, but some of the officers concerned are personal friends of mine, and, therefore, I have no bias in my view of the matter. If the Minister will go into the matter himself he will find that the cause of the delay does not rest with, the Director of Federal Capital Designs. I do not think it profitable to say any more.
– Was there any trouble with surveys when you were in office?
– The surveys were pushed through reasonably in time, but there was some trouble in getting the results of the surveys printed. That is one of the many things that show that it might be advantageous to us to have our own lithographic establishment. The best of men are influenced by their human nature, and when an outside expert is temporarily introduced among a number of permanent officers there is naturally a certain amount of friction. I ask the Minister to use all the persuasion in his power to keep the work going harmoniously. He has excellent officers, and it ought to be possible to have them all working together for the good of the Capital area.
– Like the honorable member for Wentworth, I have no personal feeling in regard to Mr. Griffin, who was an absolute stranger to me until I met him in my office. I should be unfit for the position that I occupy, and indeed for the position of a member of the House, were I not ready to see that Mr. Griffin, who is a stranger in a strange country, gets fair play and justice from the Department. That, no doubt, is the wish of Parliament. I have no knowledge of any friction, but is it not possible that there may be some other member who thinks that he could fill my position better than I do? There must always be a feeling of that kind. My duty is to see that this feeling, if it exists in the Department, is not allowed to injure Mr. Griffin or the interests of the Commonwealth. I do not know that there is any feeling, though I should not be surprised at its existence, knowing what I do of human nature. Mr. Griffin desired to see me when I entered office, and I thought it better to have a personal interview with him, at which we could talk over matters generally before written communications took place between us. The impression he left upon me was that, under his agreement with the last Government, he was to be put in charge of a staff of officers, and to be practically independent of the Minister. Being a layman, I thought it my duty to send the agreement to the Attorney-General, asking his interpretation of it. The reply I received was that there was no legal obligation on me to do what Mr. Griffin suggested should be done, and that Mr. Griffin was entirely under my control. It had been suggested that Mr. Oliver, an officer of the Victorian Government, should be asked to report in regard to the drainage of the Federal Capital; but after visiting Canberra, that seemed to me unnecessary. I do not say that my decision was the right one, but I came to it in good faith, and moved by my sense of duty. As to the delay regarding the contour survey, that has been due to the delay in the lithographing of plans, caused by the pressure of work in the Government Printing Office. Mr. Scrivener has suggested the establishment of a Commonwealth lithographing department, but I have not recommended that. As honorable members know - especially members like the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Balaclava, who have been at the head of Governments - it is the tendency of new Departments to grow rapidly, and I think that we can do without this Department for the present. The delay of which I speak, which has not been the fault of the officers of my Department, is the only delay that has occurred. I am waiting for Mr. Griffin’s finished designs. I do not say that there is not any amount of work to be done at the Federal Capital, but I like to see well ahead, and to know the requirements, not of one month or of three months, but of a long period. I have no wish to arrive suddenly at a dead end.
– That will not happen at Canberra for another fifty years.
– Canberra, like the town from which my honorable friend comes, will be capable of considerable improvement during the next fifty years. An-‘ application that Mr. Griffin may make to me I shall consider, but I do not intend to have two separate staffs of experts. That is not my idea of the way to save public money. I have told the . House the situation as far as I am able to grasp it. As regards the question of delay, I think that my honorable friends in the late Government committed an error of judgment - that is, if they desired the construction of the Capital to be pushed on - in advising Mr.
Griffin to come here, and giving him his mission - not that I have any doubt about his ability. I pass no reflection in that regard - indeed, how could” my training give me the right to sit in judgment on a professional man of his character? I hold that, with the designs at its command, it was possible for the Commonwealth to build a capital which would have reflected credit upon us by employing the ability which is available in Australia without going outside. However, that again is a matter of opinion. My honorable friends in the late Administration thought otherwise. I shall endeavour to the best of my ability to see that there is no unnecessary friction, that the expenditure of the public money is carefully safeguarded, that the erection of the Capital is pushed on as speedily a3 possible, and that the city will be a credit to the Commonwealth when it is completed.
– I desire to say a few words by way of explanation. The Minister stated in the course of his remarks that I had approved of an expert being briefed.
– I did not say that; I said that the matter was considered.
– I propose to state exactly what I did approve of, and, with the permission of honorable members, I will explain why I did it. I approved of a consultative opinion being obtained from Mr. Oliver - who, perhaps, was the best authority on drainage in Australia - as to the general scheme of drainage for the Capital. That consultative opinion was to cost £100. It was not to be a case of appointing a permanent officer in addition to the permanent officers whom we already had.
– That is right.
– What I did was that which any honorable member would do if he were starting a work on his own account, and that is to get the best consultative opinion he could obtain at ‘ a reasonable figure, in order to assure himself that he was proceeding on right lines. I think that if the Minister will inquire into what has happened in regard to water he may find serious ground for wondering whether it is not a very wise thing to get consultative opinion in a Department like the Home Affairs Department.
– 1 admit that.
– I would be the last person in the world to admit to anybody or to believe that the officers in the Department are not the most highly publicspirited men we have in the Commonwealth Public Service, and are not in their separate spheres highly capable and intelligent professional men ; but they are called upon to be Jacks-of-all-trades. A man cannot be expected to know everything, and, therefore, I suggested - and I did hope that my honorable friend would carry out the suggestion - that the principle might be adopted of calling in consultative opinion in matters of that kind in order to be satisfied that we were on safe ground.
– I desire to make a few remarks concerning the Works Estimates, chiefly because in a year of very great stress, when there is very general suffering, the amounts set down for new works show a large increase. The sum of £1,870,000 is the increase on the amount placed on these Estimates for last year.
– The charge is that we are not spending enough.
– I was not making that charge. We are on the horns of a dilemma. We are between the proverbial spirit of evil and the deep blue sea. If we refuse to sanction the construction of these great and important works we shall rest under the charge of seeking to prevent the labour market from getting the assistance which it needs at a time of stress, and if we assent to the spending of this additional large sum we shall be liable to the charge of helping to create those conditions which will render increased taxation necessary. That is our position. There are a few matters to which I desire to refer specifically. In spite of what our honorable friends opposite say, and of what some honorable members on this side say, it does appear to me that we should be chary about authorizing expenditure on the Federal’ Capital.
– Because it is not a. reproductive work.
– Nonsense 1
– Because we are better situated in Melbourne than we should’ be at Canberra. To spend in a year when expenditures are growing so heavily £240,000 on a work which certainly wilL not come into use for years to come seems to me an outrage, and we might well spare the taxpayers to that extent. I am fully aware that as the work has been started we cannot abandon all expenditure, but I do submit that the expenditure there should be reduced to a minimum, and £240,000 is not anything like the minimum to which we could come down with very great advantage to every section in this community. The Parliament should not have been asked to ratify the agreement to take over the Northern Territory - and I opposed it when it was first introduced - until a definite policy for the development of the country had been laid before the House. A majority of honorable members, of course, were favorable to that agreement, and so the agreement was ratified, and the Territory has been a sink for our money from the day it was handed over to the Commonwealth. In his Budget statement the Treasurer admitted that up to the present time the Government had not succeeded in getting a satisfactory type of settler to go to the Territory, nor arc we likely to do so for some time. Perhaps the most unfortunate phase of this business is that the revenue of the Territory is decreasing. The revenue’ for last year showed a decrease on the revenue for the previous year, and the estimated revenue for this year shows a decrease of £5,600 on the revenue for last year.
– It is very hard to find any revenue there.
– In the Budget-papers the revenue for last year is put down at £74,606, whereas the revenue for this year is estimated at £66,000, showing a decrease of £8,600.
– What is the increase in the estimated expenditure?
– There is a small decrease of £2,940. In view of the fact that we are asked to agree to an expenditure of £44,000 upon new works in this Territory, I think that we are entitled to ask how soon something will be done which will give us some return for the money spent. When the Government propose to spend large sums of money, they should be prepared to give to Parliament the data on which they justify their action, but in the case of the Northern Territory I can see no justification for these Estimates. A sum of £1 1,000 is to be provided for the equipment of the Marranboy tin field. I am not aware that any information has been given to this Parliament as to what these tin mines are. Are we equipping these mines for the advantage of certain proprietors who are developing the tin-mining industry in the Northern Territory, or is this money to be spent on Government-owned, Government-worked, and Government-controlled mines ? If the Government are taking on the responsibility for profit or loss on these mines, we should be apprised of the fact, and should have data put before us to justify the project. As a matter of fact, however, the condition of affairs in the Northern Territory generally has never been placed before Parliament in a satisfactory way, the information accorded has never been that which Parliament has a right to expect, and I feel justified in demanding that before we vote considerable sums of money for a venture such as this, we should have more particulars provided. I should like to know whether the Government are employing men on this tin field, and, if so, whether the condition of employment is in accordance with preference to unionists. Honorable members are entitled to know if the Government have so far forgotten their obligations to the whole of the people of the country as in this instance, to give preferential treatment to one section of the community. We are probably beating the air in raising these protests.
– Would it not be better for the honorable member to wait until we reach the External Affairs vote, and then say what he has to say?
– My impression is that Ministers will not give any information unless it is dragged from them.
– They will give more than you have the sense to understand.
– I intend, as far as lies in my power, to drag the information from them. I am endeavouring to elicit information which will justify our voting £11,000 for a specific purpose about which the Government have given us no information.
– Are you moving for the excision of the item?
– I am not, but if the Government are taking all the responsibility of the profit and loss upon these tin mines, the excision of the item would be justified, unless the mines are to be so conducted that every portion of the working community shall have a fair opportunity of employment there. The other day I submitted a question in regard to a statement which had been published to the effect that the settlers who had gone to the Northern Territory had proved to be unsatisfactory, and to-day I think I am in duty bound to ask the Government to tell me what steps they propose to take to secure the right class of settlers for the Northern Territory; because if they are not prepared to follow a reasonable course they should not ask Parliament to continue spending money upon works which are wholly and solely for the benefit of the very large army of Government employes who were sent to the Northern Territory in order to develop it. As far as I understand the position, so far practically no one has gone to the Northern Territory except as a salaried man. The Ministry should inform us if they have secured a single settler for the Northern Territory. I should like to know if there is any prospect of getting men to take up land under the leasehold conditions prescribed under the Labour Government.
– Why do you not wait until we reach that item on the Estimates?
– The Minister cannot side-track me in that way. In regard to New Guinea and other important matters external to Australia, we are undertaking very grave pecuniary responsibilities, and in view of our comparatively limited population, and of the severe drought from which we are suffering, and the heavy cost of the war, I feel that we are justified in asking the Government to be more explicit in regard to their policy in connexion with these matters than they have been hitherto. I shall not feel satisfied until we have an explanation on all these matters.
– There are very peculiar rumours current in connexion with the work proceeding at the Quarantine Station at Manly. I have information supplied to me by persons who have been working there, and who have since left the works or have been discharged, which alleges that the work has been costly, and that the brick-work, especially on the laundry and some other buildings, has been scandalously scamped, some of the joints, which have since been covered up, being really about % inch wide. I have also been informed that the concrete flooring has cost per yard three times as much as the ordinary rate for concrete work.
– At the Quarantine Station, Manly.
– Was he a butcher who informed you ?
– He was a tradesman who had been put off the work.
– A discharged servant.
– Many a good man is discharged by bosses who have no conception of what is just in their treatment of men. In Government work an incompetent overseer has been known to discharge men whose only fault was their better knowledge of the work. I am informed that a man has been placed in charge of the work who appears to be more anxious to get his relatives on the job at the expense of others than is compatible with justice.
– Does the honorable member think that that is so ?
– The names of these have been supplied to me. At any rate, I would like’ the Minister to inquire into it. I ask him to ascertain what is the cost of this work as compared with the cost of similar work outside, and also to inquire into the truth or otherwise of statements made by a number of persons - who are quite prepared to furnish their names, if necessary - that the gentleman in charge of it, and who is a defeated Labour candidate, has discharged men in order to take on his own relatives in their place. I have been told that the work of setting out the concrete floor was so badly done that it had to be taken up and altered more than once. If that be so, it seems to me that it is something which requires looking into. I am not prepared, of course, to vouch for the accuracy of these statements, but when information of that kind is supplied in good faith - and I have no reason to doubt the bona fides of my informants - it is proper to bring the matter before the Minister for inquiry. Of course it may be that these statements are the result of bias. But their authors appear to be sincere.
– The honorable member is requesting the Minister to investigate the matter?
– Yes. Perhaps the Minister may be able to tell us what works are being carried out at the Quarantine Station, Manly, to what extent they have progressed, and what increased accommodation they will provide ? Another matter which has been brought under my notice is to the effect that, although arrangements have been made for a tram line to haul things up the rather steep inclines, instead of it being used for hauling material, horses and drays, involving the services of a certain number of men, are utilized for the purpose. It seems to me that that must add considerably to the cost of these works. The matter of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, I think, comes under the Department of Defence. To my mind, some steps ought to be taken to “expedite the progress of work there, particularly in connexion with naval construction. I sincerely hope that the question of how the cruiser Brisbane is to be launched will not be finally decided until it has been referred to the Public Works Committee, in order that that body may obtain evidence on the matter, and lay that evidence before the Minister, who might then be induced to arrive at some other conclusion than that which has already been arrived at. All considerations springing from a desire to avoid offending the amour propre of any person should be set aside, if by so doing we can get that vessel launched six months earlier than she will be if we have to erect a coffer dam for the purpose.
– The erection of a coffer dam is going to be proceeded with.
– I am very sorry to hear the Minister make that statement, because it seems to me to imply that his mind is absolutely closed to any suggestion which might result in expediting the launch of the vessel when every day’s delay is fraught with danger to the Empire.
– The matter has been inquired into by the Naval Board.
– Every month that the cruiser remains in her present useless position is one of danger to us. It has been stated that the gentleman who is responsible for laying the keel of the vessel - I refer to Mr. Cutle.r, who is at present in charge of the dockyards under the Government at Newcastle - is prepared to launch her, and to take the full responsibility for his action, in a period of three months, as against nine months which will be occupied under the coffer dam system.
– It will take nine months under present circumstances.
– I understand so. Whilst taking, every precaution for the safety of the vessel in launching. I think that we should have some regard, not only to the expense involved in launching her, but also to that very much more important element - the saving of time that might be effected. I hope that the Government will allow this question to be referred to the Public Works Committee, or a special tribunal not composed of interested officials, for investigation and report.
– What is needed is a special inquiry into the. administration of the island.
– A Committee has already been appointed by Parliament, which could deal with the matter at once. No delay need be involved, because the evidence to be called would be supplied by a very few individuals.
– The Public Works Committee have not the power to deal with the matter.
– That body can be appointed a Special Committee for the purpose; but if any better tribunal can be selected I shall offer no objection. We should get all the information that is available, in order that we may not commit ourselves to a course of action which may entail months of unnecessary delay fraught with grave danger.
– The Naval Board have taken that point into consideration, as well as all the other points mentioned by the honorable member. They are just as anxious to have the cruiser launched quickly as is anybody.
– What I fear is that, by the time she is launched, she will be obsolete. There are many other matters to which reference ought to be made in this connexion, but considerations of prudence while we are at Avar restrain one from mentioning them here. The matter to which J have referred, however, is one to which we can safely allude, for it is common knowledge. I am sorry to learn that there is no means of expediting the launching of this vessel, and that we are likely to have her remaining on the stocks for many months more, when we should have in commission as many war vessels as possible. Public works at the Federal Capital should also be accelerated. Judging by present indications most of us will be in our graves before the Federal Parliament meets at Canberra. Yet one of the strongest inducements held out to New South Wales to accept the Constitution Bill was that the Federal Capital would be established in New South Wales, and the general impression conveyed by the advocates of Federation wa3 that it would be established there within five years. We are now in the fourteenth year of the Federation, but for all practical purposes are no further advanced in this respect than we were at the outset. Those who believe in honouring the bond in the letter and in the spirit should be prepared, no matter from what State they come, to assist the representatives of New South Wales in securing recognition of that which was intended by the framers of the Constitution.. They should insist upon steps being taken to accelerate the carrying out of the work of erecting the Parliamentary and other public buildings at the Federal Capital, in order that we may meet there at the earliest opportunity. To my mind, also, such works should not be charged to the Consolidated Revenue Account. The buildings and other works necessary at the Federal Capital should be provided for out of Loan Funds. We have to remember that the Capital is not going to be built for the use of only the present generation. Its public buildings will be of a permanent character, and everything we do there will benefit, not only the present generation, but future generations. It is, therefore, only reasonable that the initial outlay - I do not say the annual upkeep - should be defrayed out of loan money, instead of being a charge upon the general revenue. This also applies to Post-offices, railways, and other permanent construction works. I hold that view very strongly, and think we are making a great mis- take in expecting our annual revenue to bear charges which might legitimately come out of loan expenditure. I shall not at this stage discuss the Tariff, except to say in passing that I regret to find the Government making proposals involving the collection of £3,500,000 additional taxation from the people. These proposals are altogether unnecessary, and could be obviated if we paid more attention to the advantage of defraying, out of loan accounts, many works now paid for out of the Consolidated Revenue. These are considerations to which I am afraid honorable members opposite will turn a deaf ear. At the same time, I think that there are at least some supporters of the Ministry who must have some misgivings as to our future ability to bear the load being placed upon us, when they see our expenditure mounting up by millions every year, and that they must on reflection be anxious to know to what point we can go without absolutely breaking down the capacity of the people to bear these heavy loads.
.- I should not have arisen, but for the general references that have been made during this debate to the fact that a Public Works Committee has been appointed, and that, therefore, all matters in dispute between the parties in this Parliament will now be fully investigated. My knowledge of the working of the Public Works Committee of New South Wales leads me to suggest that such a body is expected to inquire, not into what has been done, but into what is proposed to be done - to inquire into projected expenditure, and not into expenditure that is already incurred. As soon as we pass these Estimates, Ministers and their responsible officers will be empowered to go ahead with the public works, for which they provide, no matter what the Public Works Committee may think or do. If the Committee raised any objections they would undermine the Ministerial responsibility to this House, and friction would also occur between Ministers and the Committee if it proceeded to make post mortem examinations. A Public Works Committee, if it performs the functions properly allotted to it, should not investigate expenditure already incurred. The members of the Committee are politicians, drawn from two different political parties, and we know what would happen if they were asked to investigate various works already carried out. If, for instance, they were asked to inquire into what had been done at Cockatoo Island, the Federal Capital, or elsewhere, we should receive a report that would not be worth the paper it was printed on. We have had all kinds of Select Committees, and have had from them majority reports and minority reports, according to the way in which the interests or opinions of the two parties in the Parliament have been affected.
– There should be a definite reference by Parliament to the Committee.
– Exactly. The only object of such a Committee is to prevent Parliament entering upon works that would be unwise or extravagant. The object should be to prevent unnecessary or wasteful expenditure, and not to criticise it after it has already been incurred. We have just appointed a Public Works Committee, and it seems to me that this is an opportune time to raise this question. If we are to submit to the consideration of the Committee past expenditure, or expenditure involved in Estimates at present before Parliament, the probability is that it will lead to an interminable amount of political trouble for the Ministry and for Parliament. The real work of such a Committee should properly begin six months or three months before the close of each financial year, and it should cover the consideration of works which the Government contemplate undertaking during the next financial year. These proposals for public works should be submitted to the Committee, that the Government and Parliament may have their guidance and advice when being asked to undertake those works.
– Hear, hear !
– From some of the speeches which have been made, it would appear that some honorable members are hopeful that the Public Works Committee will be called upon to investigate the wisdom of past expenditure upon public works.
– No; but the Committee might be called upon to make a special investigation in connexion with a particular matter.
– In my view, the Public Works Committee can only perform its functions with satisfaction to the
House if it is called upon to advise upon expenditure which has not yet been incurred.
– In advance of the work proposed to be done.
– Just so. I take the case of works at Cockatoo Island. No one will contend that everything connected with the system of administration there carried out by the Labour Government is perfect. He would be a very courageous man who would do so.
– Hear hear 1 He would.
– The same thing applies to honorable members on the other side. They are npt all prepared to defend everything that has been done under the contract system. When we have information that, in connexion with the construction of public works, there has not been capable supervision and direction of great public expenditure, the time will nave arrived for a special investigation by a body of men who will not be influenced by party considerations in the verdict at which they will arrive. The honorable member for Dalley knows more about the work at Cockatoo Island Dock than probably any other member of the House. The honorable member is on the spot, and, whether he likes it or not, is informed of what is going on there. The honorable member will agree with me that the consideration of past expenditure at the dock is not a matter which should be submitted to the Public Works Committee. That Committee should consider only future expenditure proposed for public works. There should be no retrospective investigations by such a’ Committee. If there are, they will cause trouble. The functions of the Public Accounts Committee are quite different. It will be the duty of the members of that Committee to report, not only on proposed expenditure, but upon expenditure already incurred, in order that Parliament may have advice which it could not secure otherwise as to the wisdom of adopting certain methods of administration. I must say that, from my knowledge of the work of a Finance Committee in a State Parliament, no. very important results followed from it.
– A lot of good work has been done by. such Committees in some of the States, and good legislation has followed from their work.
– During my term in the State Parliament of New South
Wales I did not notice that any material improvement in administration or extension of the information available for Parliament resulted from the appointment of these Committees. This was a good while ago, and it is possible that the work of such Committees was not then systematized in the way it has been since. On the subject of the expenditure of public funds, I say that it is as much the duty of members supporting the Government as of members of the Opposition to investigate public expenditure.
– You do not do it when your party is in office.
– That stone might be returned to the right honorable gentleman if I were disposed to discuss the matter on’ those lines. A new system can only be perfected by vigilant observation on the part of those responsible for its proper development. There are defects in our administration of public works expenditure which none of us can justify. Many men who are to-day placed in charge of works carried out by day labour should not hold the positions which they occupy. I do not attach any blame to any one in particular for this, because I admit that it takes time to discover the qualifications of different officers.
– A continuous policy would lead to improvement in that regard.
– That is so; but vigilance will be necessary. It will not be sufficient to be guided only by the advice of superior officers.
– If we get a body of trained foremen or leading hands, that must have a ‘tendency to improve the system.
– It may be possible to get a great deal of information upon methods of administration, but the essential thing is that the man called upon to make use of the information should be able to distinguish between what is important and what is not important. Information may be received from designing men who have a personal object to serve, as well as from men who are sincerely giving the beat advice they can. I believe that the day-labour system, properly supervised, should in every instance give better results than any other system, not merely because the work should be done more cheaply, but because the quality of the work should be more enduring, and so give a better return for the expenditure upon it. In recent years I have travelled through New South Wales, where a large amount of railway work has been going on, and I have been greatly pleased to note the character of the work under the. day-labour system as compared with similar work done under the old contract system. Any one can see that the cost of maintenance of this work is going to be materially reduced from year to year.
– That is the advantage of good work.
– Quite so; accidents are not so liable to occur, and it is not necessary to employ men to keep an observant eye for dangers to the lives of the travelling public, or to the safety of goods. Such inspection, I may say, is quite common on the contract lines in the State I represent. There is, however, inherent in some men a desire to withhold the best that is in them. I do not say that a man should always be exerting his full strength merely because he is employed on day labour; but he ought to give as fair a return as he would if he were working under other conditions. The best standard is fixed when there is an employer who understands the work, and does not ask a man to do more than he himself would do as an honest workman.
– Nor less.
– Quite so ; and this end can only be secured by men with a knowledge of the work they are controlling, and with sympathy for the policy they are administering. The Labour party would be saved a lot of trouble if there were not men who were disinclined to give a fair thing, and if there were not controlling officers who did not know whether or not a man was doing so. I take it we are incurring extraordinary expenditure to meet the unemployed difficulties that are arising.
– Where is the extraordinary expenditure?
– There is a proposed increase of nearly £1,000,000, which must be spent in the employment of labour. No work can be done without labour; and even if the money is spent on material, that means employment somewhere. By these means we are preparing to alleviate the distress that is already threatened. If the war continues, all that the Government can do will be only a drop in the bucket compared with what may be expected by the people. As private employment declines, there will be a great clamour for public employment, and that clamour will reach the Ministerial room through the members of this House, and through public appeals outside. It is easy to foresee that Ministers will be faced with such an expenditure as has not occurred in the case of previous Governments. It would be absolutely unwise, under the circumstances, to have our works split up and sectionized under different controls, which afford no opportunity of fixing responsibility on the right shoulders. The Defence Department and the Department of Home Affairs are spending large sums of money on public works, while the Post Office has always been responsible for a large part of the public works expenditure. Under the present system, or want of system, we are often brought to a stand-still between the controlling elements, and members of the House are rendered unable to do their duty to their constituents. As a ‘matter of fact, there is at present no real administration at all - one party transferring its responsibility to another, and that other Department transferring its responsibility to the next one. All this shows that our public works should be brought under one head; and, under the Public Works Act, the Public Works Committee might readily proceed to investigate proposed expenditure before Parliament rises. I merely rose to define the functions of the Public Works Committee, and to urge the necessity of a keen and intelligent watch on our large expenditure, so that the people of the country may get a reasonable return.
.- I desire to supplement, and, if possible, emphasize, the recommendations of the honorable member for Gwydir as to the wisdom of seeing that the Public Works Act, which was passed a year ago, is observed with regard to the principal items in the schedule. I think the honorable member for Gwydir mentioned that there is some doubt as to whether those items come within the operation of the Act, but there seems to be no doubt whatever that Parliament intended that all works to cost over £25,000, not exempt as military or naval expenditure, must for the future be dealt with by the Public Works Committee. The law is perfectly clear as laws go. Section 14 of the Public Works Committee Act provides -
The Committee shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, consider and report upon every public work (except any work already authorized by Parliament or which is authorized during the present session, and except works for the naval or military defence operation of the Act) to be executed after the passing of this Act (and whether such work is a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, extension, or new work), in all cases where the estimated cost of completing the work exceeds Twenty-five thousand pounds.
It will be seen that the three classes of work - those already authorized, those authorized concurrently, and all works not exempt as of a naval and military character, must go to the Committee.
– That means that works already in hand will have to be reported on.
– It means that some of the telephone works, which rightly figure so largely in the schedule, are brought within the purview of the Act. Military stores and works of that kind do not come within the operation of the Act; but such an item, for example, as that, of the Perth Post Office, must. For that post-office there is a revote of £11,935, and a vote for a new service of £25,000, making a total of £36,935 ; and, as I read the Act, works, whether they be a continuation or not, must be referred to the Committee. The references to the Committee have to be dealt with in due order ; and the authorization of this expenditure must, I take it, be followed by the resolution contemplated by section 15 of the Act. The Minister must come down with a resolution giving authority to the Committee to investigate; and I hope it is not intended to depart from that course, which will not, in my opinion, delay the proper conduct of the work. It is the kind of Ordinance that Parliament expected when this important Act was passed, and all works to cost above £25,000 which are dealt with in these Estimates come, in my opinion, within the provisions of the measure, and ought to be referred to the Committee. I take that to be the view of the honorable member for Gwydir; and I should like the Minister of Home Affairs to say whether it represents the intentions *r** the Government.
We all desire, I take it, that these Esti mates shall be passed; and that is why we are not discussing them at length. The Government, I think, are entitled to these Estimates, in order to provide for unemployment, and to meet the demand for public work; and, therefore, any undue opposition would not be justified; but the procedure I have referred to will not diminish the pace at which works can be put into operation.
– Will the honorable member tell us his experience of the procedure in the State Parliament?
– This procedure is largely taken from the Victorian Act, but the State Committee deals only with railways in that way. There have been some occasions when important public works of another kind have been referred to the Committee by general consent.
– I hardly think that telephone extensions and such works as those should go before the Committee.
– It all depends upon whether a particular item is going to exceed £25,000. The Act says clearly that extensions and reconstructions shall be dealt with.
– We will not be able to start any works without consulting the Committee, I suppose.
– No; we cannot start any works in excess of a certain estimated cost. Section 15 of the Act says -
No public work of any kind whatsoever (except such works as have already been authorized by Parliament, or which are authorized during the present session, and except works for the naval or military defence of the Commonwealth exempted by Order in Council from thu operation of the Act), the estimated cost of completing which exceeds £25,000, and whether such work is a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, extension, or a new work, shall be commenced unless sanctioned as in this section provided.
I shall be glad if the Minister will tell us whether that section is to be departed from or observed. It seems to me that the law is mandatory. I may add that experience has shown that it is an extremely wise safeguard that, at least, a partial investigation shall precede expenditure, even though Parliament is willing to authorize the incurring of the expenditure immediately.
.- The Leader of the Opposition spoke very strongly this morning in regard to the Public Works expenditure, and main tained that a good deal of it should come from Loan Account. If the honorable gentleman had gone through the items carefully, he would have found that some of them are such as even he would never agree to have carried out with loan money. I think that while we have sufficient revenue we should expend it on public works, because they are an asset that remains, and, as the present generation has the benefit of a good deal of that expenditure, I do- not think that it is fair that we should hand the burden of it on to those who follow us. The right honorable gentleman has had such a taste of the “ boom, borrow, and bust “ policy in the State Parliament that he desires to inflict the same thing on the Federal Parliament, but the people have no desire that we should follow that insane policy.
– You are carrying out works from revenue and borrowing in aid of revenue.
– I notice, on page 264 of the Estimates, that the first item of the proposed expenditure in the Northern Territory is, “ Addition to buildings and fencing.” Surely the right honorable gentleman would not borrow money for that work? Other items are - fencing, the erection of cattle dips, completion of new stables and quarters for attendants, erection of windmills and pumps, purchase of coal hulk, equipment of sanitary plant, installation of engines, electric light and telegraphs on Government steamers, and a stonebreaker for the Works Department. I find elsewhere water and sanitary services, and military stores, the erection of sheds for coal, and new switchboards and extensions. Would the honorable member pay for those works out of loan? All through the Estimates are items of that character, and I am sure that when the honorable member has glanced through his speech he will feel a little astonished at having made so many errors and made himself appear so stupid. The right honorable member for Swan expressed alarm at the extent of this expenditure, but I believe this is a period which justifies expenditure on public works of this character. I remember that during the drought in 1902 an old friend of mine, the late Mr. E. W. O’sullivan, who was Minister of Works in New South Wales, expended £7,000,000 on public works, although at that time the revenue of the State from taxation was less than £2,000,000. Of course the total revenue was something like £14,000,000. No citizen in New South Wales to-day denies that Mr. O’sullivan was justified in un- - dertaking all of those works. I say that the present, too, is a period when we should expend money on public works, because for every penny so spent we gain an asset. Let honorable members opposite point out the items to which they are objecting. Every year when the Estimates are submitted we have this same general complaint, but when it comes to the consideration of items, they are passed in globo. Honorable members admit that the works are such as the people require, and I think, having regard to the expenditure of the Federal Parliament ou public works, its record is one of which we should feel proud. There is very little of that expenditure which we need regret. Is there a member in the chamber who does not require expenditure in his own electorate? I know that expenditure is necessary in my own district. There is one post-office which the late PostmasterGeneral visited, and he admitted that the building and its surroundings were a disgrace to the Commonwealth. But I find no reference in the Estimates to a new post-office for that place. It is an unsafe building of matchboard partitions with a glass front, and twice in the last two years burglars have entered it.
– If you desire to get these Estimates through to-day you had better sit down.
– If I had my way I would pass them in globo, but I thought some reply was necessary to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the carrying out of these works from Loan Account. The money can be provided for every item shown on the Estimates, and as long as we have the revenue our public works should be a charge on revenue only. In reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Echuca to-day, I, as one of those who visited the Northern Territory, am firmly of opinion that the Marranboy tin proposition is the “best in Australia. Personal friends of mine there tell me that the lode is 25 miles long by 8 miles wide. The ore is very rich, and it has even paid them to take it down to Darwin, although it has cost them 2s. 6d. a mile to carry it from the mine to Pine Creek, about 40 miles. The late Minister cer tainly deserves credit, because it was he who put the amount on the Estimates, and it was through his assistance that the ten-head battery is already on the road. I am informed that when that reaches the field it will enable a large number of men to be employed. At present some of the miners are going to the war, and many others are seeking employment on the Pine Creek to Katherine River railway. I am satisfied that the best item that could appear on the Estimates is a sum for the encouragement of mining in the Northern Territory, which is undoubtedly a mining field, both for copper and tin, and I believe that if the prospectors could get out they would find any quantity of gold. I should not have spoken but for my desire to encourage the Minister to push on with the proposition to assist the miners there. The miner is the best pioneer that Australia could have. Once the mining industry is developed in the Territory 1 am confident that the development of the pastoral and other resources there will make great headway.
.- The Prime Minister referred, in his Budget speech, to the proposed Murray waters agreement, but, unfortunately, no money is provided on the Estimates for starting the work. 1 commend the right honorable gentleman for adopting the agreement, but I regret that we have to wait for the States to pass it before we pass it ourselves.
– When do you think Victoria will pass itf
– I do not think there will be much delay, but if we pass it ourselves first that action will have a great moral influence on the States.
– What are the odds that the Victorian Parliament will not knock it out?
– They would be more likely to knock it out if the Federal Parliament did not pass it than if the Federal Parliament gave them a lead.
– Those two interjections from South Australians show a very unFederal attitude.
– I believe the extreme severity of the present situation will cause the three State Parliaments to pass the agreement, but we, ourselves, have a great duty to perform. What procedure does the Prime Minister intend to take in the event of the States adopting the agreement during the recess, thus enabling us, if we so desire, to consider it as soon as we re-assemble? Will the Prime Minister, in that event, bring down a Bill to give immediate effect to the agreement, and to provide for the necessary expenditure ? At the present moment the Murray is almost dry, and now is the time for a proper engineering inspection. Will the Prime Minister have an engineering investigation made into the condition of the river in anticipation of the agreement, so that when Parliament does give authority for the expenditure of the money the work may be proceeded with with the least possible delay?
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer) [3.521. - I make no complaint about the question raised by the honorable member for Wimmera, but the position of the Commonwealth is clear. The Commonwealth is simply a donor and participant in this great work to the extent that it will provide £1,000,000 towards the expenditure. Immediately the Bill passes there will necessarily pass with it an appropriation of £1,000,000 towards the work, and our officer will, of course, be one of the Commissioners to look after its proper expenditure. Nothing will be gained by the Commonwealth discussing the policy in the meantime, because the agreement is one which, immediately it is approved by Parliament, becomes binding. We have simply then to find the money, and go on with the work. 1 do not agree that we should go on beforehand.
– I am not asking you to go on with the work; I am asking you to ratify the agreement.
– The honorable member knows that any promise given by me, particularly in relation to an agreement, has never yet been set aside, nor will this one be. As soon as the States have given legislative effect to the agreement there will be not a day’s delay on the part of the Commonwealth.
I may mention while I am on my feet that it is intended to sit on Wednesday at the usual hour, and on all week days following until we are able to finish the business.
– Will you take the Budget on Wednesday?
– I shall arrange with the honorable member to take the business in any way he thinks best, subject to the arrangement about the passing of the necessary Bills. That will get the honorable member for Wimmera out of his difficulty, because we shall have to come back comparatively early in the new year, say, immediately after Easter. There will be ample time then for the question to which he referred to be dealt with without causing delay. We are hoping that Parlia-ment will be able to conclude its labours for this year by next Wednesday week,, and I ask honorable members to come prepared to assist to bring this about.
– Is it the intention of the Prime Minister, in order to enable public works to becarried out expeditiously, to submit them as soon as possible to the Public WorksCommittee in the terms provided for by the Act?
– I am glad’ the honorable member has asked the question. Since looking at the Act it hasbeen a matter of anxiety to me to know how we are to give full effect to its terms. We should almost need to bring down a. schedule of works immediately we meet next year.
– There might be some of the works ready now, as the plans and! specifications are generally prepared in anticipation of the passing of the Estimates.
– We might have one or two which the Committee could go on with, but its members might also need a little rest, owing to their arduous labour* during the present year. It may, however, be possible to find some useful work for them to do in the interval.
– Will the Prime Minister furnish details regarding the expenditure on the Naval Bases?
– The- information furnished to me is as follows: -
– I wish to have a clear understanding regarding the business of next week. In my opinion, the Budget debate should precede the passing of financial legislation, and should be entered upon next Wednesday.
– Let us finish next week.
– We need a couple of days for the Budget. Then there is the Commonwealth Bank Bill, which the Prime Minister insists on putting through.
– I think it my duty to do so.
– It is a very controversial measure. May we take it that we shall deal with the Budget on Wednesday?
– I told the right honorable member that I would fix the business to suit him, on the understanding that the measures necessary would go through.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on Resolution of Supply, reported and agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and passed through all its stages.
Order of Business - Unemployment - Use of Trucks in PostmasterGeneral’s Department - Saddle and Harness Factory.
– In moving - .
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to supplement what I have already said regarding the arrangement with the Leader of the Opposition by stating that the first business on Wednesday will be the debate on the Budget, and that we shall arrange the businesspaper to meet the convenience of honorable members from time to time.
– When is it expected that the House will finish?
– Next Wednesday week.
.- The Works Estimates having been passed, I should like some information from the Minister of Home Affairs. This morning I received a most pathetic letter from a man whom I do not know.
– A letter from Queensland?
– No. The man was a shearer in Queensland, and he knows its representatives in this House. He mentioned the name of the honorable member, and referred to other honorable members. He has an invalid mother and a crippled sister, and they are wholly dependent upon him for support. In fact, I know that the reason why he never married when he was in Queensland was on account of his having to support his mother. He has travelled Australia from one end of it to the other. Owing to the. drought in New South Wales, he got only six weeks’ shearing in the whole of the year. Coming into Victoria, he tried to get work in the agricultural industry, but that has “ gone bung,” and he has registered himself at the Labour Bureau. Here is a man who is fairly “ on his uppers.” It is not a solitary case, for there are thousands of such cases. It behoves the Government, if they have any work to be done, to give these poor fellows something to do, so that they may have some kind of a Christmas, even if they may not have as good a Christmas as a lot of persons who are permanently employed. I know that the Minister of Home Affairs is sympathetic, and I hope that he will push his officers to the extreme in order to give these unemployed people something to do before the approaching festive season. There is another matter about which I wanted to speak, in connexion with the Estimates.
No doubt many honorable members have observed ever since Federation a number of men making horses of themselves in pushing trucks about Melbourne for the Postmaster-General’s Department. I have made inquiries into the matter, and learned that in no other State does such a state of things exist. Not only is it degrading to the men, but it adds to the cost of the work, and it is time that the Department took some action. This is not the first time that the matter has been brought up here, not by honorable members from other States, but by honorable members who represent Victorian divisions. From this corner the honorable member for Yarra drew the attention of the ex-Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, to the matter, and an inquiry was promised. The Department is supposed to employ some brainy engineers. Surely to goodness they have inventive genius enough to devise some other method of carrying poles and ladders about these large cities, instead of ordinary trucks which costermongers were accustomed to use sixty years ago in London.
.- The honorable member for Maranoa is- in the happy position of representing a farback Queensland electorate where there is comparatively little unemployment. He should come to Fitzroy and Carlton to find unemployment. I confess that we do not seem to get very much definite information as to what is being done in regard to going on with works already commenced or starting new works. I would like to get more definite information, because numerous pressing questions are put to me. I wish to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Defence Department to the conduct of the Harness Factory at Clifton Hill. I was informed this morning that men are working there overtime. I can see no sufficient reason why men should be working overtime when there are very good tradesmen looking hard for employment. I do not recommend the displacing of a man in order to give his job to another man, but I do earnestly recommend that where men are employed at full time, and are not able to cope with the work, a chance should be given to men who cannot find employment anywhere. The matter was brought before me this morning by means of a small deputation. I ask the Ministers to find out if the statement is accurate, and if it is I submit that such a state of things ought to be corrected. I submit, too, that we should get some definite information from the Minister of Home Affairs as to new works which are being started or are likely to be started, so that in these difficult and trying times honorable members can give people some information as to the prospects of employment.
– I wish to supplement what has been said by the honorable members for Maranoa and Batman. The distress is very keen in some parts. I receive letters in shoals, and now that the House which has charge of finance has voted the money for new works and buildings, I believe that the Minister of Home Affairs will not allow any small obstacle to prevent him from immediately spending the money, because work is very much needed. I was rather sorry to notice that the State Premier lias attempted to put on the shoulders of the Federal Government practically the whole of the responsibility for unemployment. I know that the Federal Government are capable of absorbing only a certain number of men. I also know that the State Governments have six times the chance to give employment to men who are out of work. In the Railway Departments of New South Wales and Victoria alone there are 30,000 more employes than the Commonwealth employs, temporarily and permanently.
– Is there not a Labour party in the State House?
– Yes; and I hope that they will do their duty.
– That is their job.
– I know that it is. _ I do not like the idea of the State Premier trying to shift the responsibility on to this Parliament. Let him take his own responsibility, and if he does I am confident that the Commonwealth Government will do their duty. I am certain that the Minister of Home Affairs is sympathetic, because I know that he is feeling the pinch in his own constituency. His heart is with us, and I hope that no mere official obstacle will be allowed to prevent him from starting works straight away.
– I would point out to honorable members that it is a most unpleasant task for any man to occupy my position at the present time. Continually I am receiving letters from all parts of the country, as well as from honorable members, asking the same old question, “Can you find employment!” This afternoon we have voted about £4,300,000. Speaking offhand, I am inclined to think that some of the money has already been spent; but, so far as I am concerned, I will do all that I possibly can to see that any work which Parliament has been good enough to sanction at the request of the Government is undertaken. There ‘ will be every effort on the part of my Department to push on the works, but I cannot help saying that the whole of the unemployed have no right to lookto the Commonwealth Government to find employment for them.
– They do not care who gives them employment, Commonwealth or State, so long as they get it.
– I know that. The sum of £18,000,000- it does not matter how it came into Australia - is at the disposal of the States, and they ought to bear their share of the burden.
– That is poor consolation for a man who is hungry.
– I admit that. Personally, I will do all in my power to find employment in conformity with the votes of Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141204_reps_6_75/>.