6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence lay on the table the report of the inquiry recently conducted in Brisbane?
– There is no objection to that being done.
– Can the Prime Minister say when he will lay on the table the report of the proceedings of the recent Conference of Premiers which he attended ?
– Immediately a copy is available.
– I understand that the payment of the separation allowance to the dependants of soldiers is stopped when men are killed at the front. Cannot arrangements be made to continue the allowance until pensions have been granted ?
– The payment of the allowance is continued pending the settlement of any questions in connexion with the granting of a pension under the War
The following papers were presented : -
Federal Capital -
Progress Plan, &c. - Correspondence between the Minister for Home Affairs and others and the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction (Mr. W. B. Griffin).
Bequests for Information, made by Mr. W. B. Griffin - Correspondence.
Consultative Advice Required by Mr. W. B. Griffin - Correspondence.
Design for Lay-Out of Federal Capital City - Correspondence and Papers.
Staff Requirements of Mr. W. B. Griffin - Correspondence.
Federal Parliament House - Architectural Competition - Revised conditions - Correspondence.
Patents - List of Commonwealth Patents granted in favour of Residents of Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Turkey.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Ardlethan, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia - For Railway purposes.
Rose Bay, New South Wales- For Postal purposes.
South Melbourne, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Victor Harbor, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act-
Promotion of E. W. Daddo, as Examiner in Charge, 2nd Class, Auditor-General’s Office, Queensland.
Postmaster-General’s DepartmentAppointment of Laurence Luscombe, as Office in Charge, Class E, Wireless Telegraph Station, Roebourne.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether there is an arrangement between the Government and their supporters that Ministers shall answer only those questions asked by their supporters, and that notice shall be required of all questions asked by the Opposition. Every question asked by a Ministerial supporter has been answered.
– That is not so. I did not get my question answered.
– Every other question has been answered.
– I declined to answer, without notice, the question of the honorable member for South Sydney. May I remind the right honorable member of a statement regarding questions made by Mr. Speaker lately.
– In view of the natural anxiety of members on both Bides to know what steps are being taken for the supplying of munitions of war, I ask the Prime Minister whether it will be convenient for him to make a statement on the subject during this sitting? .
– I shall endeavour to meet the convenience of honorable members by doing so either to-day or tomorrow; to-morrow for preference.
– Has the Assistant Minister of Defence noticed in to-day’s Argus a letter signed by a Mr. Williams, in which the writer asserts that Canada, with twice the population of the Commonwealth, has sent five times as many men to the front?
– I do not like to intervene, but honorable members will see that if every letter and every little statement which appears in the public press is used as the basis of a question, I shall be compelled to take action, though very reluctantly.
– Do you call the statement to which the honorable member for Wilmot calls attention a little matter, supposing it to be true?
– I had not that particular statement in mind, but if questions of this kind continue to be asked, I must take some course to prevent them., As I have said, I shall do that reluctantly, because I have allowed many questions founded on newspaper statements to be asked. So long as honorable members keep within reasonable bounds, I am prepared to allow them to continue, but if they do not I must take another course.
– I rise to order. 1 should like to know where we are. I have attempted to draw attention, by means of a question of which I was asked to give notice, to a newspaper report in which the Prime Minister is made to impute to my Government something of which we were never guilty. Is that to pass without mention in this House? When can it be mentioned, if not during question time?
– The right honorable member has been long enough in Parlia ment to know that he has ample opportunity to bring the matter before the House. There are open to him a number of courses other than the mere asking of a question, which is not always a satisfactory means of ventilating any matter. Questions founded on newspaper paragraphs or rumours mentioned in a newspaper are, strictly speaking, out of order. I do not wish, however, to rule to that effect, because very often valuable information is elicited by. such questions.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to an article dealing with enlistment, published in the Labour Call of 6th May, in which the following passages, amongst others, occur -
What are you doing to help your country?
Have you a friend making money who could be squirting it away in lead?
Get him to enlist.
Do you know of any landlord drawing rents when he might be drawing blood?
Get him to enlist.
– Order ! I do not know whether the quotation which the honorable member desires to read is a lengthy one.
– It is not long.
– But if I allowed the honorable member to read it, I could not prevent every honorable member from doing the same sort of thing.
– At your suggestion, sir, I shall refrain from reading further, and shall ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been directed to this article, which seems to be designed to discourage enlistment.
– The honorable member is now commenting on the paragraph.
– I shall withdraw the comment. If the Prime Minister has not read the article, will he do so, and take steps to prohibit any future publication of similar matter in any journal ?
– My attention has not previously been drawn to the article.
– With reference to the question asked me by the honorable member for Brisbane on 3rd instant, regarding overtime worked by employees of the
Ordnance Stores Branch, Brisbane, the following report is furnished by the Quartermaster-General, to be laid on the table of the House as promised: -
Six permanent clerks, 179 hours, average 6 hours weekly.
Five temporary clerks, 185 hours, average 7½ hours weekly.
Two messengers,85½ hours, average 8½ hours weekly.
Seven permanent storemen, 252 hours, average 7-1 hours weekly.
Eight temporary storemen, 190 hours, average 4¾ hours weekly.
One carter, 28 hours, average hours weekly.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, agreed to -
That for the remainder of the session the Library Committee have leave to sit during the sitting of the House.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government have been instructed by the Caucus not to answer any questions without notice ?
– Order !
– The answer is “ No.”
– Order ! Questions of this character must not be asked.
– I ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether the difficulty that he and his colleagues apparently experience in answering questions submitted without notice on subjects connected with defence and the conduct of the present war is influenced in any way by his desire, and that of his colleagues, to introduce the referenda proposals of which the Attorney-General has given notice to-day?
– Mr. Speaker, does your ruling apply generally to all questions concerning whether a decision of the Caucus influences the actions of Ministers in the chamber, and debars them from answering questions without notice?
– The honorable member will see that if I had permitted him to submit his question, I could not have prevented an honorable member asking a question as to how much money, for example, another honorable member had in his pocket, or some other question of a similarly personal nature. Such questions are not permissible.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs lay upon the table of the House to-day the departmental files in relation to Mr. Griffin which he promised to lay on the table last week?
– Yes. I believe that they are being sent down to the House, if they are not already here.
– In reply to a question put to me on the 10th inst. by the honorable member for Darwin, who inquired whether I had read in the Age of that date a complaint that the Defence Department was sweating the nurses who were going to the front, and asked if there was any ground for the allegation, I have to supply the following information : -
Rates of pay for service outside Australia -
Matrons, 9s. per day; 3s. 6d. per day field allowance.
Sisters, 6s. per day; 3s. 6d. per day field allowance.
Staff Nurses, 3s. 4d. per day; 3s. 6d. per day field allowance.
Outfit allowance, £15.
Other articles, such as beds and bedding, &c., are also provided. A further allowance for renewal of clothing is under consideration.
Rates of pay for service in Australia -
Matrons, 9s. per day; 3s. 6d. in lieu of rations.
Sisters, 6s. per day; 3s. 6d. in lieu of rations.
Laundry, 5s. per week.
Outfit allowance, £15.
Temporary nurses, as required, £2 2s. per week, plus 3s. 6d. per day. in lieu of rations, and 5s. in lieu of laundry.
A proposal to provide uniform, in lieu of an allowance, is now under consideration.
The Department is not aware of any nurses being sweated.
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence a question without notice. Last week he promised a definite answer to a question which I put.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– What is this interjection by the honorable member for Brisbane to the effect that we are not going to get the best of it ? Is there some conspiracy against the Opposition?
– Order! I would remind the Leader of the Opposition that he has no right to make a statement of that” kind while asking a question. He rose to ask a question, and then made a statement-
– Which was untrue.
– Order ! If any objectionable statement was made, it should have been promptly withdrawn. It is not always wise that an interjection should be noticed by the Speaker. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Henty, whilst the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, said, “ If they want a row, they can have it.”
– That is quite true.
– No honorable member is entitled to make such a statement, but if it is made I must take notice of it. It was a remark from one honorable member which brought forth the statement from the honorable member for Oxley to which the right honorable member for Parramatta took exception. I now ask honorable members to conduct the business of the House in a reasonable way.
– I am sorry that I am constantly calling down on my head these addresses from the Chair. I am also sorry that the Opposition seem to be the only offenders in this regard.
– Order ! I am sure that the right honorable gentleman will see that he is casting a reflection on the Chair. If what the honorable member suggests had occurred I would not be worthy of holding the position of Speaker, and if the right honorable gentleman holds that opinion, there is a proper mode of procedure that he may follow in order to disagree with my action. -
– I quite agree that there is, and, so far as I can see, I shall have to take that course very shortly. In the meantime, if I may do so without interruption again, I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether he has yet a reply to the question I submitted on Friday last in regard to the method of reporting casualties; whether they are first reported to the Imperial Government before being reported in Australia? The Assistant Minister promised to give me a reply on Friday last.
– I have not the reply yet; I shall endeavour to have it by tomorrow.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral be prepared to treat as urgent matters applications from mail contractors who are at their wits’ end to provide fodder for their horses in order to continue their contracts 1
– They are being treated in the way the honorable member indicates.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether permanent Divisional Returning Officers are being, or will be, paid for the hours they work overtime, and, if so, at what rate f
– Divisional Returning Officers are not being paid for overtime. The Public Service Regulations provide that payment for overtime shall not be made unless the officer concerned is working under close supervision.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
For many years prior to the outbreak of thepresent war the Newport Workshops have carried out work for the Defence Departmentsuch as the conversion and alteration of Field and Garrison Artillery guns. The value of such work is estimated at £20,000.
Since the war began the Newport Workshops have rendered valuable assistance in fitting up and equipping motor workshops for mechanical transport units to the value of about £2,150.
Quite recently the fitting up of motor workshops and store lorries for the Flight Unit sentfor service abroad was done at Newport, butthe cost is not yet known.
Medical Examination of Recruits: Prices of Foodstuffs at Broadmeadows : Sickness at Broadmeadows : Equipment of Nurses.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is -
Yes; number not available. No alteration was made in the practice of examining recruits on 7th June, 1915. A medical officer was in attendance and worked until all those who presented themselves before 4 p.m. were examined. At 4 p.m. a non-commissioned officer gave orders on his own responsibility to allow no more men to be admitted to barracks. He did not, as he should have done, apply to the principal medical officer for another medical -officer. The principal medical officer has on previous similar occasions arranged for extra medical officers to be present when requested, and he did not know about this subject until attention was drawn to it by this question.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House, or place in the Library, the sick reports from Broadmeadows Camp showing the illness, duration of sickness, and result in each case for, say, the last six months?
– The information desired by the honorable member will take some time to prepare, but an endeavour will be made to obtain it.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that many nurses accompanying the Expeditionary Forces have spent from £40 to £60 in supplying themselves with the necessary costumes, equipment, &c., will he make a more liberal allowance than £15, such increase to take place from date of enlistment ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
When nurses were first accepted for active service a list of uniform and other articles considered necessary was prepared with the assistance of one of the principal matrons. Allowing for increased prices since the list was prepared, the allowance of £15 still covers the cost of the outfit. A proposal to provide a free issue of uniform to nurses in lieu of monetary allowance is under consideration.
In addition to the allowance granted on appointment, it has recently been decided to grant a half-yearly allowance for the upkeep of uniform and other articles of clothing, and the authorities in Egypt have been asked to say what sum is regarded as adequate for such purpose.
Any nurse who spent £40 or £60 on costumes and equipment must have bought a lot of unnecessary and elaborate articles.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Oversea ships are searched before departure, the search being especially thorough in the case of neutral steamers.
Termination of .Contracts
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1, 2, 3. Messrs. Cummins and Grant had a contract for earthworks and waterways in the western section of the line. They were not making the progress which the Department thought necessary, and delaying platelaying The supervising officers were pressing them to show greater results, which apparently they were unable to do. Finally, the contractors, finding themselves unable to make adequate progress, asked if the Commonwealth would allow them to terminate their contract; the Department to pay them for work actually done, and take over their plant at cost price. This was agreed to in the interests of speedy construction of the railway, and in view of the fact that the rest of the line was being done by departmental labour and the slow progress of the contractors hampered operations.
Preference to Unionists
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Notification is also made to the general community in a most convenient and effective manner in order that all persons desirous of presenting themselves may do so. From those who present themselves, persons are selected, in the case of temporary employment under Public Service Regulation 121, in the order of registration and competence to fill the position subject to their being lond fide members of industrial organizations; and in the case of casual employment, subject to their being members of such organization, and competent to do the work required. Applicants who are not members of bond fide industrial organizations are not selected if a sufficient number of members of such organizations competent to perform the work offer their services.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 11th June, vide page 4010) :
Department of Home Affairs
Division 98 (Administrative Staff), £31,209
– For the few minutes that are left to me in which to complete my remarks I shall confine my attention to a statement in the press this morning, concerning the method of land resumption in the Home Affairs Department. This is one of the matters in which we may not ignore the press. This Government, as well, I presume, as other Governments, disclose all their information through the press before they communicate the facts to Parliament; and we have had a reply, purporting to come from the Department, to some criticisms last week. It is stated that the Government only take individuals to Court after they have tried, in friendly conference, to reach a settlement; but any one aware of the facts, knows that that is an entire misrepresentation. There is no attempt at a friendly settlement outside ; and that is the complaint I have to make against present methods. Will the Minister tell me of a case recently, in which an owner of land has ever been consulted before the price has been fixed ? There can be no friendly arrangement, conciliation, or basis of conciliation, unless the owner himself is heard before the valuation is fixed. What is the use of telling an owner that such a sum represents the value of his land, and that he must either take it or leave it, and then putting it forth that such matters are settled on a basis of mutuality - of conciliation ? What is required is ‘ some real conciliatory method; and my suggestion is that the Minister should constitute a Court to that end. I know that, in order to do this, the Minister will require more legal power than is contained in the present Act, though that Act does permit him to make friendly arrangements altogether apart from legal sanction. Before a man is compelled to go into Court, and before the valuation is fixed, he should be heard. Only the other day I heard of a case in point, concerning a piece of land near where I live. Certainly, it was only a small piece of land, valued at £8 by the Department. However, another valuer went out and fixed the valuation at £25, and this latter valuation the Government have accepted. I venture to say that the valuation of £25 is very reasonable; and when the Minister points, as he did the other day, to a difference in valuation between £200 and £900, and gives that as a reason why he should take no further action, we ought to know, as we really do. that such differences are adjusted every day, with equitable results. But the trouble is the unconscionable delay that takes place, although this could be avoided if the Minister would see that some officer of the Department consulted with the owner of the land before the final decision was given. If conciliation is desired, let us have conciliation; but I, do not see how we can have it, or how there can be any friendly arrangement, if the views of the owner of the land are never ascertained. How can a valuer know the value of every particular piece of land, or the value of the improvements that have been put on it?
– What is the good of a valuer if he cannot give a value ?
– No doubt he does give a value; but if the Minister thinks that every valuer is competent to accurately fix the price of land, why does he sometimes employ half-a-dozen, and give each one a fee ?
– To try to come to a friendly arrangement with the other side ; and yet the honorable member says that we do not attempt this !
– I suggest another and cheaper way.
– Arbitration ! Split the difference over a dinner !
– No; let the Minister get a valuation, and, in the absence of any agreement, instead of spending further money on expert opinions, endeavour first to come to some arrangement with the owner. Very often, in the case of small resumptions, more money is spent for extra valuations than the man is asking for the land ; and surely the owner had better have the money !
– There is very little trouble in the case of small valuations when there is reason on the part of the owners.
– How does the Minister know that, if the owner is not consulted 1
– Is there no difference between £200 and £900?
– I have told ths Minister what was the basis of that difference in the owner’s mind. This man had in view the future value of the land as building sites; and there is no doubt that in a few- years’ time it will be worth quite £900 for such a purpose. I admit that the land now is not worth that amount, and my suggestion is that in such cases the Minister should, as far =as possible, see that the owners are heard.
– That is right enough.
– If the owners are heard before the value is finally fixed, it will save money to the Department, and give a better settlement to all concerned.
.- The time has arrived, I think, when something should be done in regard to land resumption; and there are one or two cases in point in my own district where great difficulty has been encountered in arriving at true values. If there were some means whereby the owner could be approached by a responsible officer of the Department, I have no doubt that, in most cases, the conclusion arrived at would be fair alike to the Commonwealth and the other side. As matters stand to-day, tike Department decides to acquire certain property for public purposes, and places a value on it. If the owner thinks that that value is not what hs is entitled to, he may negotiate with the Department, and valuers may be employed to make a further valuation. It then remains with the Department to either increase the offer or make uo alteration. It would be far better in cases of the kind if the owner could be approached, and some inquiry made into the local circumstances. The present method does not affect the rich man so much as it does the poor man with only a small piece of land, who often finds himself compelled to accept whatever is offered, seeing that he cannot, possibly defend his claim in a Court df law. There have been two or three cases in my district, but there is one in particular in which the owner purchased his land from the State Government for business purposes. The strange fact is that the value fixed by th© Commonwealth is considerably less than what the State is charging the man, who, of course, holds that the sum ought to be at least equal. I may say that I have no complaint to make against the Minister, who, when this case was brought under hi3 notice, had further inquiries made, with the result that the valuation was increased. At the same time tha valuation arrived at is considerably less than the amount this man has to pay to the State Government; and he is without means. The position is that he owes a certain amount, which he is paying off by instalments to the State Government; and if he has to part with his land at a reduced price to the Commonwealth, he will be a loser to the extent of the difference. A man in that position cannot fight the Government. He has no hope. What is the use of saying to him, “ This is our final offer; if you are not prepared to accept it, the best thing you can do is to appear before the High Court “ ? Such a man can do only one tiling : He must accept the offer that is made to him. That is where the injustice is being done. Where large estates are concerned, and men have money, the question can be fought; but a poor man is in a different position. I want to say this, also, with-, out any disrespect to valuers, that my experience in connexion with the valuing of estates is that it depends on who engages the valuer as to what his evidence is going to be. I have seen different men, all supposed to be expert valuers, called upon id cases in which a municipality was concerned. If they were on the side of the owner of the land, their evidence suited that side ; other valuers suited the municipality, and when the matter came before the Court, probably the Court would fix its own value. I know a case where an appeal was made from a municipal valuation, some years back, close to where I reside. The result was that the valuation placed upon the land on behalf of the council was reduced ; but, strangely enough, one of the principal witnesses in that case - a land valuer - has since had the privilege of selling part of that estate, and in place of realizing a few pounds per acre, the same land brought £2 or more per foot. This plainly shows that you do not always get at the true value of land by appointing a valuer; and it would be far better if we had some conciliatory method of dealing with matters of this kind : if we could, for instance, allow the owner of the land to come before some tribunal - I do not care what the tribunal may be - and give evidence in support of his claim. Then it might be possible to get at a true valuation, and I think such a proceeding would be more likely to give general satisfaction. As things are, the poor man has generally to take what is offered, and the probabilities are that in some cases injustice is done. I am not saying that the Government ought to pay a shilling more than the value of the land; but I do say that we ought to deal out even-handed justice to the owner, and we should do that by giving him an opportunity of proving the value if he is not satisfied with the offer made to him.
– In compulsory resumptions the custom is to give a little more than the actual value.
– There is something to be said on that point, and the matter is not one that applies to any particular Government. The present practice has been followed for a good many years; but I think the time has arrived when we should reconsider our position, and enable the small man, whose land we desire, to recover the just valuation of his property.
.- I hope the Minister will look into this matter very closely-
– I will-
– As I believe he will, if his attention is properly drawn to it. I assure him that no attempt is being made to disparage the present Administration as against any other. I have had a fair amount of experience of the legal aspect in connexion with many applications upon which I have had to advise as to the legal basis of compensation, and I can assure the Minister that it is very difficult for even a lawyer to understand precisely what the present Act means. To emphasize the point, I need only mention that within the last two months a majority decision has been given by the High Court - Mr. Justice Isaacs took a different view - as to the legal basis of compensation under our Land Acquisition Act. Under the Act as it was read by Mr. Justice Isaacs, if land were sublet, and each one of the lessees made a claim in respect of his interest in the land, the sum total of these claims might probably far exceed the amount of compensation to be paid by the Government. The matter was adjudicated upon by the High Court in a case reported about a month ago, and the majority decision determined that the value of the land itself, apart altogether from the total value of the interests in it, should be the basis of the compensation. I have known many cases in which claimants for compensation were considerably embarrassed because they did not know on what basis they could pursue their claims. - they did not know what position they would be in if they went into Court. For instance, a man might make a claim as lessee for . £1,000 - I know one case in which an interval of eight or nine months was allowed to elapse before a valuation was made - and in such a case a man going into Court, if he does not maintain the valuation which is based upon his assumed meaning of the Act, will get no interest. The adjudication may take place so long as a year after the claim is made, and yet the claimant may be deprived of his meagre interest at the rate of 3 per cent., and also of his costs. In the case of a man of limited means this is a hardship, forhe cannot afford to risk £100 or £200 in costs in a claim of £500 or £600. In the case of thee resumptions made in Western Australia for Post Office purposes, the sum involved” was, roughly, £170,000. That valuation was not adjudicated upon for at least a. year, and I believe in one instance, whilst 3 per cent. was payable from the date of the resumption - assuming, of course, that even this interest was ultimately allowed - the owner of the land was actually losing £4,000 or £5,000 a year, as the difference between what he was getting for his land prior to resumption and the amount that the State allowed to him. Obviously that was not fair. I was credibly informed by one of the lawyers connected with the case on the other side that such a state of things as this actually did exist, and while some time may be necessary before the law is made clear, the Minister will, I think, see the point I am making. There are many little technical points in connexion with this Act that I should also like to see cleared up. It is not yet clear whether 10 per cent., in addition to the capital amount of the valuation is allowable. Why should not the public know precisely what the position is?
– I do not think there is anything in the Statute to justify its payment.
– The Minister is perfectly right, but the difficulty is that it does not follow that the Court will not allow it.
– The Court does in some instances.
– But the point has not been decided. A decision was given in 1905, in which some doubt was thrown upon the obligation to give this extra 10 per cent. ; but we have passed a Land Values Assessment Act, in which we acknowledge that this 10 per cent, ought to be allowed. In the English law, from which some provisions of our Act have been taken, there is no specific provision for the payment of 10 per cent, after compulsory resumption, but, as a matter of practice, a sum is allowed, and the result is that when valuations are made a man does not know what position he is in in regard to the 10 per cent. I do not think it is fair to the public that this should be so. The law ought to be made as clear as it can be made as to what basis compensation is payable upon. It ought also to be made clear what compensation is payable in respect of damage done to land. In Eng-‘ land that is specifically provided for in Acts of Parliament, and it is also provided for in some of the State Acts here, but we have not followed the exact wording of the English Acts in that provision in our legislation. I could refer to several other matters, and I would now like to ask the Minister, “Is it desirable that we should not give notice to a man whose land we are going to take over before the proclamation is issued?” At present a man may wake up some morning, take up the Government Gazette, and find that he has lost his interest in a property that has been taken over, and that he has nothing more than a legal claim to compensation. Then there is the wide divergence of valuation to be considered. I have known of cases in which there was a difference of £20,000 between a claim and the departmental valuation, and possibly both were honestly made in regard to the value of leases, the value of buildings, the returns on the capital, ana” possibly the fluctuation of interest on principal. This was not connected with the Department presided over by the Minister. I would suggest that we adopt the principle which runs through some of our State Acts, of giving a man notice to treat if we want to take his property over; to tell him that we want to get so much land before we actually issue a proclamation taking it over. There would be no embarrassment to the Department by adopting this course, because it is in the hands of the Department to say that, if an agreement could not be arrived at as to the price, the matter would bo settled at the discretion of the Court. By the adoption of this principle the Department would be in a better position, I think, to arrive at a basis of compensation. In a great many instances the impression seems to be that the Department should not disclose its valuation, because it might influence the owner in his valuation. In the case of a church property, I have known of a wide disparity between the claim and the amount offered. If a valuation had to be made in, say, the case of a cathedral affected by vibration, it would take, I was informed, £100 to get an expert opinion. Now, if the Department got that, and did not show it to the person primarily concerned - the man who makes the claim - would that be fair? In my opinion, all the valuations on both sides ought to be shown.
– In other words, the cards ought to be placed on the table.
– Yes; in matters of this kind every man should put his cards on the table, because it is purely a matter of opinion, and the information will enable a layman to say with some approximation to certainty what is a fair thing, and the owner could be guided either to agree under the circumstances or insist upon his claim. I quite agree that the Minister ought not to be exploited by bogus claims, but nevertheless there are many cases in which gross hardship is inflicted.
– No doubt.
– It would greatly help, therefore, if the Government would show their valuation, because no injury would be done, as, in the event of disagreement, it would not be a legal fight in the ordinary sense of the term between two litigants, but would be a case of the law being guided by expert valuation.
– I want ; to emphasize the point raised by the hon’“;..orable member for Angas with regard ? to the departmental method of allowing only 3 per cent. on the capitalized value of the property resumed from the day the proclamation is issued. In the case of properties occupied by the owner as a dwelling the position is not so serious, but if a house is let, and the owner, as the result of the Government proclamation, gets only 3 per cent. on the capitalized value, the position is very different. In some cases an owner might be dependent on the rents from a property resumed. These rents might give him a return of from 7½ per cent. to 10 per cent., but the Department will give him only 3 per cent. In such a case, a very grave injustice would be done. Instances of this kind have occurred at Port Augusta.
– I do not think we have resumed any land there yet.
– Yes, you have.
– Two years ago.
– An area of 160 acres on the south side of Conway Town was resumed, and a proclamation was issued subsequently, stating that the properties not required immediately could remain in the occupation of the present tenants on payment of 3 per cent. on the capitalized value. This is distinctly unfair. As I have said, where an owner occupies a property, it makes no difference; but where a place is let, it makes all the difference. It shows that you cannot lay down a law and make it applicable in every instance. I want, also, to complain of the delay in reaching finality in these matters. It is a long while since those resumptions at Port Augusta were authorized. I know in one case a claim was put in on my advice, and it has been outstanding for a long while.
– How long ago was that?
– This was before the House met after the adjournment. The land was resumed three months before that. Mr. Robert Hall is one of the valuators, and Mr. Holdsworth is another. I cannot understand how it takes so long to arrive at a valuation of a property of four or five rooms. In the ordinary course of business, we could get the valuation inside a few hours, and the departmental valuers ought to be able to do it as quickly. This is the case of a working man who bought a block of land and started to build on it. When the building was partly finished, he received notice that it was to be resumed, so he is now between the deep sea and somewhere else. He does not know what to do, for he has no money to get another place, because his money is tied up in a property which is half built, and he cannot get payment from the Government for it. This is a simple valuation, and it ought to be made without delay. It has not yet arrived at the stage when there is any matter in dispute. I could understand the delay if the valuation by the owner was much in excess of the valuation by the Department. But in this case there has so far been no valuation by the Department, although the owner’s valuation has been sent in for some time. Ten or eleven weeks ago I was informed by officials of the Department that the matter would be specially hurried on, and I ask the Minister now to see that it is proceeded with.
– I shall see what I can do.
– I wish the Minister not to forget that where property is resumed of which the owner is not the occupant, but for which he is receiving a certain rental, the practice adopted of allowing him only 3 per cent. of thecapitalized value is not fair to the owner.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to a matter which affects his Department and other Departments of the Public Service also, and that is the principle upon which preference is granted to unionists in public employment. Last week I put a question to the Prime Minister with a view to getting a definite answer on the subject. I asked the right honorable gentleman to state what the principle was which determined the recognition by the Government of the particular union to which preference is granted, and also the principle upon which the union preferred acts in the selection of men to fill vacancies in temporary employment. I was referred to Public Service Regulation 121, dated 12th May, 1915, which says -
I put the questions to the AttorneyGeneral again on Friday last, and as the answers were by no means satisfactory, I put them again to him to-day. I asked -
I received the following reply to those questions : -
Whenever casual or temporary labour is required by the Commonwealth, the secretary of the union concerned is notified of the fact, and of the time and place where applicants for employment may present themselves, and requested to inform his members of those facts.
Notification is also made to the general community in the most convenient and effective manner, in order that all persons desirous of presenting themselves may do so. From those who present themselves persons are selected, in the case of temporary employment under Public Service Regulation, subject to their being bond fide members of industrial organizations; and in the case of casual employment, subject to their being members of such organization and competent to do the work required. Applicants who are not members of bona fide industrial organizations are not selected if a sufficient number of members of such organization, competent to perform the work, offer their services.
The industrial organization embracing members engaged in the industry or calling concerned is communicated with.
Persons competent to do the work required, and not in employment, are selected.
In addition to that, there is the notification or minute which was issued by the Minister of Home Affairs. Perhaps the honorable gentleman can tell me whether his minute still stands. The minute reads -
When employing labour, other things being equal, preference must be given to members of unions.
When registering applicants for employment they must state what union, if any, they are members of, and when called upon to start work must show their pence-cards, or ticket of membership.
– That refers principally to clerks.
– Am I to understand that it still stands?
– It has been somewhat extended.
– But the principle of it is still followed?
– Yes, the principle followed is the same.
– The Government have said that their policy is preference to unionists, other things being equal.
– That is right.
– They are administering the Public Service Act. The money is provided from the public revenue, to which all taxpayers contribute in proportion to their liability according to law. The administration of the Act, even if the principle of preference to unionists, other things being equal, is followed, ought to be an administration by Ministers, or officers responsible to them, according to law.
– So it is.
– I am not suggesting that it is not. But I wish to point out that there is a contract between the Commonwealth and the private individual employed by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is one party to that contract, and the private individual another. The money is provided by the taxpayers; but, under the rule adopted by the Government, all taxpayers have not an equal right to apply, because the right is restricted to unionists. If a statement made by the Attorney-General to the Labour Conference which recently sat in Adelaide is correct, the following is the procedure by which persons employed by the Commonwealth enter into their contract: - In addressing the Conference, Mr. Hughes made a number of remarks, and, referring particularly to regulation 121 of the Public Service Act, he told the Conference -
Effective preference to unionists ought to be provided for.
Effective preference is what the honorable gentleman advocated. I am quoting from a Labour newspaper, which publishes, I presume, an accurate account of the proceedings of the Conference.
– It has been censored.
– No doubt it has been censored. The Attorney-General said -
The principle of preference would not be successful unless the unions would supply the labour.
That was the honorable gentleman’s first point -
The regulation Mr. Cohen hail referred to was framed to give effect to the principle of preference, and it certainly did so. But unionism, which had become a power by persistent agitation and organization, must not rest on its oars. Preference was worth little if it were bought at, the expense of militant unionism.
The Attorney-General was reminding unionists outside that unionism must be kept militant, or, presumably, if it is not, it will not be strong enough to maintain preference. He further said -
Unionism had by this regulation all it wanted. It must do the rest itself. Every time there was ti vacancy in the Departments there was only one way for departmental heads to fill it.
I wish to direct the attention of the Minister particularly to this -
Hu must notify the secretary of the organization that there was a vacancy.
That was the first point. The head of a Commonwealth Department, who is responsible for the persons employed b,> the Department, must notify the secretary of the organization of a vacancy requiring to be filled. Who” is the secretary of the organization ? He is a person outside the Commonwealth Public Service, and utterly irresponsible, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. The Commonwealth has no control over him, although lie may be responsible to his union. I am not making this a personal matter. I am simply arguing the question of the principle. The principle is that when a vacancy arises the first thing the permanent head of the Department has to do is not to notify some person who is responsible to the Commonwealth for his conduct or misconduct, his capacity or incapacity, or any selection he may make but a person completely outside the control of the Commonwealth.
– Very serious!
– It is a vital matter. If that sort of thing is to happen, it is ;a step towards the cleavage of the -whole principle of responsible government. The principle of responsible government is that we have control of public affairs here, through the representatives of the taxpayers in this House, carried out by men who ought to be responsible to Parliament for their actions.
– So we are.
– They are not altogether. They are responsible to an outside body. Technically, the Minister is quite correct when he says that the Government are responsible to the House. That is perfectly true in the sense that if an adverse vote was passed by the House they would go out of office; but when they come to the House and are called upon to answer for their actions, they address themselves, not to the members of the House, but to persons outside. The important point is that a new principle is being introduced. This is not a question of loyally carrying out political principles, measures and planks which the Government advocated to the electors, such as the plank of preference to unionists. It is something more : it is an insidious attempt to give persons outside the Departments big responsibilities in the selection of persons to be employed by the Commonwealth.
– This is all special pleading.
– It is not a question of special pleading, nor am I attacking the Minister. I am only attempting to ascertain the principles on which we are being governed. The Minister will probably reply that at the last election the Labour party stood for the principle of preference to unionists, received a mandate from the people, and are carrying out that mandate in this instance.
– It was your party who decided that preference to unionists was to be the question on which to go to the country.
– That is not .the point. The plea which I have outlined as likely to be put- forward by the Minister might be urged against any objection to the application of the principle of preference to unionists, but the Minister is doing more than apply that principle. He is introducing the altogether different principle that, in the appointment of persons to positions in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, the Trades Hall, an outside body, is to be recognised in place of the public officers of the Commonwealth. That is a very different thing from the principle of preference to unionists, which may be said, in a sense, to have been settled as a principle at the last general election.
– This is all special pleading.
– If I am .wrong in my facts I trust the Minister will correct me. I do not want to do him an injustice.
Will the Minister listen to this quotation, and say whether it is correct -
The mode of procedure was for the Departments to notify the secretaries of the unions of vacancies. It was then necessary for the union secretaries to supply the labour. The Government wanted preference, and it wa3 doing its best to get it. The unions should be prepared to supply the labour where it was required. He suggested that the unions should keep an unemployment roster.
Does that represent the procedure which has been followed by the head of the Minister’s Department in the employment of these men?
– Then does the Minister’s Department notify the secretary of the union at the Trades Hall that there is a vacancy?
– Yes, I dare say they would.
– What is the next step ? Does the secretary of the union then send along to the Minister the name of the person who he thinks ought to be appointed ?
– How does the condition “ other things being equal “ come in there ?
– Is that the way it is done?
– Go on with your special pleading, and leave me alone.
– I am not here to do any special pleading. The Minister is administering the principle. Does he not know the ordinary procedure in his own Department ?
– You are misrepresenting it.
– I am doing nothing of the kind. I began in a quiet, peaceful way by asking the Minister the simple question - Does the procedure which I have described fairly represent th* method followed in the Home Affairs Department ?
– Your premises are false, as most legal reasoning is.
– Will the Minister leave the question of legal reasoning out altogether? Assuming that I have not said a word this afternoon, may I ask the Minister this question - and I think I am entitled as a member of the House to an answer - Does the Home Affairs Department, when a vacancy arises in the Department, send a notice to the local Trades Hall informing the secretary of the union of the fact?
– Does the honorable member for Darling Downs know that it is the law of the country in the case of some awards, as laid down by the Bench, that when employers want employees they must apply to the union secretary for them?
– I admit that thatis so in New South Wales, but this is a different case. The other deals with the question of private employment. This concerns the Public Service of the Commonwealth. Assuming that the honorable member, as Minister of Home Affairs, is right in applying the principle of preference to unionists, because the country has so decided, I contend that the method of applying it is wrong. Instead of the Secretary of tho Department, or the sub-head, or whatever person in the Department is responsible for the selection of employees, making the selection out of all the applicants - and the picking out of the man is the real vital act - according to the quotation I have made quite a different procedure is followed. I do not want to misrepresent the Minister, and for that reason I shall be glad if he will tell me whether or not the quotation actually describes what the Department really does.
– I shall make my own speech in my own way. I am not here to be cross-examined by you. You aro too cunning.
– I am not here to crossexamine the Minister, but I thought M19 Minister was here to answer straight questions.
– We should have the right to criticise the Minister’s policy.
– Who disputes your right ?
– I appeal to honorable members on the Ministerial side to say whether I have asked the Minister an unfair question?
– The Minister says he will answer in his own way, and in his owntime.
– The point I am putting to the Minister is that, if the procedure described in this extract is correct, instead of the selection being made by an officer in the Department who can be called upon to justify it to the Minister, it practically lies with somebody outside the Department over whom the Government have no control or disciplinary power whatever. That in itself introduces a very serious principle.
– Do you say that the Minister has not the right of appointment?
– As a rule, the appointment is made in the way prescribed in the Public Service Act. But in this particular instance the Attorney-General said -
The mode of procedure was for the Departments to notify the secretary of the unions of vacancies. It was then necessary for the union secretaries to supply the labour.
That statement appears to imply that the selection of men does not lie with the officers of the Departments, but with the secretaries of the unions.
– I think that a list is given, and the Commissioner appoints men from the list.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs, if that is the case, to make a statement.
– That is what they tell me if I recommend any person .for appointment to a job.
– A private individual can go down and register his name at the office of the Public Service Commissioner, but when he comes to apply for a position he finds that a unionist is preferred to him.
– What report did you quote from ?
– I quoted from a report in the Adelaide Herald of a statement which was made by the Attorney-General. I also quoted from a reply which he gave here this afternoon, but which did not answer the whole of the question. What I desire the Minister of Home Affairs to do is to ascertain from his colleague who is the person who absolutely makes the selection of the man to be appointed to a vacancy.
– He says that he will tell you by-and-by.
– In a statement which appeared in the Argus of 29th April last, Mr. T. J. Smith, secretary of the Federated Clerks Union, made these remarks relative to the appointment of Mr. Duffy -
I replied, in effect, that there were positions vacant in the Defence Department, and that the union was not able to obtain sufficient men to fill them, although we had advertised the vacancies.
It is a remarkable thing for the secretary of the Federated Clerks Union to say that they were advertising vacancies in a Department of the Commonwealth.
– You do not wish to make out that I am responsible?
– No; but the report shows where the responsibility for selection lies. Mr. Smith continues -
I told Mr. Duffy that if he were capable of filling a position, as we only sent fullyqualified and capable men, I would give him a letter to take to the Defence Department, from where I was continually receiving telephone messages for men. Mr. Duffy said that he “did not think that he would be capable for two or three weeks, as he had not had any shorthand practice for a” time.
I am not attacking the Minister of Home Affairs personally, but merely asking him to state exactly what the procedure is.
– What is the use of talking about preference to unionists at all when the present system is .exclusive employment to unionists?
– I know that that view is strongly advocated, and I have quotations which seem to indicate that. For instance, there is a gentleman of the name of Cohen here-
– Order ! I ask the honorable and learned member not to proceed too far.
– I beg your pardon, sir.
– I have allowed a considerable amount of latitude.
– Where am I going too far, sir? We are considering the Estimates of the Department which, above all, was responsible for the introduction of this principle. Of course, I will not give the quotation if you think that I am going too far, but I consider that anything which affects vitally the administration of this Department, above all others, should be set out in this House.
– I noticed that the honorable member for Darling Downs did not take up the cudgels when the Pastoralists Association was giving preference to scabs.
– I certainly did not, because I knew nothing about the Pastoralists Association.
– Order ! I ask honorable members to cease these interjections. They show how, if more than a certain amount of latitude is allowed by the Chair, the debate will develop into a discussion on the principles of trade unionism, which is altogether foreign to the question before the Committee. I permitted the honorable member - and he was quite in order - to deal with paragraphs relating to a statement by the Attorney-General, a member of the House; but any statements made by men who are not members of the House I will rule out of order.
– I am prepared to resume my seat now, and so give the Minister an opportunity of stating the case for the Department.
– I do not intend to speak at very much length, because I think that already too much time has been spent over these Estimates, and I have no desire to resort to the wellknown practice of “ stone-walling.” The honorable member for Darling Downs is only pursuing the practice of the legal profession. I do not often bother my head very much about that profession, but when I have strolled into a Court, 1 have always noticed that the lawyers are a remarkably able body of men. Their first act is to assume false premises, and, having done that, the ingenuity of their arguments is marvellous. If the premises of a speaker are false, his conclusions are likewise; the public do not, as a rule, recognise that, otherwise, I suppose, they would not have so much special pleading to pay for. I think honorable members have a perfect right to the information which is desired by the last speaker. The principle laid down by the Department is “preference to unionists, other things being equal.” I do not propose to discuss whether it was a sound proceeding to convulse the whole of Australia on such a great and important subject, in the interests of the Empire, to decide the fate of the Parliament of this country ; but our honorable friends on the other side thought that it was, and the country went against them. Whatever we may think of the value of this principle in the abstract, we are compelled to carry out the verdict of the country.
– It will go to the country again.
– Assuming that my honorable friend is perfectly correct in his statement that it is the most absurd thing in the world, why on earth should you convulse the country on an absurd proposition? Now let us get to the facts. There are two classes of employment which are dealt with. One class is me chanics and labourers, and the other practically is clerks. With regard to the former class, if a building is going on, and twenty men are wanted on the following Monday, there is an intimation posted on the building, or somewhere near it, that twenty men will be required on a certain day. An intimation is also given to the union secretaries, who are the persons who should know who are unemployed. The men, when picked, are picked as unionists.
– By whom?
– If my honorable friend were building a house, who would pick the labourers employed on it ? Would he pick them himself, or would his builder pick them, or would it be left to the builder’s foreman to do so? The man in charge of a particular work generally picks the labour required for it. What do I or my officers, except perhaps the engineers, know abouta matter of this kind ?
– Do the unions supply the labour ?
– The unions have an opportunity to do so, but persons other than unionists have the right to apply. Otherwise what meaning would there be in the words “ other things being equal “ ?
– We shall tell the Minister of some cases in which nonunionists were turned down.
– Just now, unfortunately, things are very dull, and there are more than enough unionists to carry on the work of the country ; but, if things were now as they were before the war, when there was a scarcity of labour, would not the fact that there were not enough unionists available compel us to employ non-unionists as well, whether we liked it or not?
– The Government give exclusive employment to unionists, not preference.
– That is not so; but I shall not argue the point.
– It has been argued before the constituencies, and they have given their decision on it.
– With regard to temporary clerical labour, such as that employed in the Electoral Department, unfortunately here, as in the Old Country, there is any quantity available.
– The Minister refers to clerks employed to do ordinary clerical work?
– Yes ; not to persons appointed to positions where there is responsibility for the conduct of an election. A register is kept by the Public Service Commissioner, and an applicant for employment is asked to state whether he is a unionist. If the man is a unionist, and his services are required, he is appointed. If there are not enough unionists applying, non-unionists are also appointed.
– And then comes a strike.
– I am not going into that. The country has determined this matter. I deny that the Home Affairs Department, or any other Department, is under responsibility to any trades hall in Australia in connexion with its labour.
– But it is, notwithstanding the denial.
– It is for honorable members to prove that.
– Well, suppose it is?
– The Minister admits that the unions supply his Department with labour.
– I do not admit that.
– Then who supplies it?
– And who gets the work?
– That depends upon the state of the labour market. Were I to speak for two hours, I should not convince honorable members opposite.
– Because the Minister’s facts are all wrong.
– To turn to another matter of more immediate importance - because the question of preference to unionists was threshed out in the constituencies during the months which preceded the last general election - I refer to the resumption of land by the Home Affairs Department. A great deal of land has been resumed of late years for sites for drill halls and other buildings, and there will be big resumptions for naval bases. I admit that the, departmental procedure is not perfect, but I resent the implication that my officers have any other desire than to act justly and fairly. Where the compensation claimed amounts to only a few hundred pounds, and the claimants are poor, I do my utmost to prevent litigation, because it is nothing short of cruelty to force a poor man or woman into Court. I am not so much concerned about the large landowners, who can protect their own interests, though I try, where possible, to effect settlements.
– The Minister settled very promptly and justly some cases that I brought before him.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that there is a weakness in our methods of valuation, and I have promised the Committee to look into the proposed resumption of a property in the neighbourhood of his residence. Land-holders in the Federal Capital Territory have this advantage over many in other parts of Australia, that I repeatedly send back reports to the Administrator, telling him to arrive at a satisfactory settlement if he can. That policy has been pursued with marked success. But in many other places it is difficult to get the right person to act for the Government. Except in South Australia, many of the valuations that the Department receives are astounding.
– How does the Minister account for that?
– Apparently the South Australian valuators know the values of property better than do those in the other States.
– The same principles apply throughout Australia.
– Yes ; but, in regard to property that I know in South Australia, the valuations have been remarkably close to a fair price, whereas in other States valuations have differed astonishingly; and I speak of the valuations of, not second and third rate men, but men of recognised capacity. This difference between valuations creates difficulties for the Department. I am not in favour of the application of arbitration methods to the settlement of disputesregarding resumptions. When a valuable property is concerned, the expenses of arbitration are often tremendous, especially when lawyers are employed, and in the end the arbitrators generally come to a decision by dining together, and resolving to split the difference between what is asked and what is offered. 1 am not prepared to recommend my colleagues to adopt that system. However, I do not contend that there has not been just cause for complaint in some cases, and I shall see what can be done to improve our methods. I believe that it will be necessary to alter the law, though on that point I must have the advice of the law officers of the Crown. Certainly our system is capable of improvement, and I shall see what can be done to improve it.
.- I admire the inconsistency of the Minister of Home Affairs, who, notwithstanding what he has said of the lawyers, has tried, in his administration, and in the legislation which he has introduced, to force to the High Court, at great expense, land-owners who are unwilling to accept the compensation offered for their land by the Department. I congratulate the Labour party on the feeling of triumph existing in their minds. Has the Minister at last promised that he will give preference to unionists up to the hilt? Trouble has occurred in the past because he has not been doing that; but, apparently, now he has satisfied the Caucus. It is strange that there should not be a Minister present in the chamber when I am speaking. A short time ago only one Minister and one member of the Labour party were present on the opposite side. The Minister has made a very lame explanation regarding the method of appointing persons for works carried out by the Home Affairs Department. The honorable gentleman says that the foreman on a job may employ whom he likes, unionist or non-unionist, although preference is given to unionists, other things being equal. This, however, is the instruction issued by him on the 29 th September last -
When employing labour, other things being equal, preference must be given to members of unions. When registering, applicants for employment must state what union, if any, they are members of, and when called upon to start work, they must show their pencecard or ticket of membership of some union.
All foremen in charge of work to be notified as above.
In view of these instructions, I think we may take the Minister’s explanation with a grain of salt. -In the Argus of 15th instant the following letter appeared-
– Surely I am not to be held responsible for that.
– I think the Minister was responsible for its appearance. His promise to carry out the principle of preference to unionists to the very utmost, even against the advice of the officers of the Department, has created a feeling of jubilation in the Labour party. The writer of this letter says -
Sir, - I would like to bring under notice one of the many difficulties a man has of obtaining work. I went to the Department for Home Affairs to register my name as unemployed for work coming on at Canberra and Broadmeadows. I told the clerk I was a married man with four children dependent on me, and wished to register as carpenter’s labourer. He informed me that he could not register me, as I was not in any union. Seeing that I could not obtain work without joining a union, T went to the Trades Hall to join the Woodworkers’ Union, but the secretary told me he could not accept me, as they had to give preference to men already in the union. Now as this means that a single man who is in the union, and fit to be fighting for his King and country, would get work in place of me, who cannot go to fight, I would like to know if something cannot be done to bring about a better state of affairs. - Yours, &c,
– Who signed that letter ?
– It is signed “ Willing to Work.”
– There are a good many such cases.
– Why did not the writer put his name to it?
– He knew that if he did he would probably never have another chance of employment.
– The charge of victimization comes well from the honorable member.
– This man thought, no doubt, that he. might find himself in the same position as certain men who worked on the Government trawlers in New South Wales, and who were told that they would never again be employed by the State. That was a case of blacklisting by the Labour party.
– They do more blacklisting than any one else.
– Then the honorable member admits that there is black-listing on the part of those whom he represents?
– No, I admit nothing except the incompetence of the present Government.
– A Labour man can never do anything good, according to the honorable member.
– When we hear the honorable member talking about “ scabs “–
– And dirty “ scabs “ at that.
– Order ! Will the honorable member for Maranoa cease interjecting ?
– I can well understand that the honorable member feels annoyed when a question of this kind is brought forward. Many men are compelled to join unions in order to secure employment. They have to sacrifice their political opinions, and are compelled by force, if necessary, to vote as their union directs.
– The honorable member is romancing when he suggests compulsory voting at the bidding of the unions.
Mr.GREGORY. - A man who joins a union is also compelled to contribute a portion of his earnings, by way of levies, to keep these people in Parliament. Preference to unionists in the ordinary acceptationof the term is bad enough, but the. position becomes worse when we find that temporary employees in the Electoral Department, which has to prepare the rolls and to make all necessary arrangements for the conduct of elections, must be tied to a political organization in order to secure employment.
– It is organized corruption.
– I come now to the Small Arms Factory, and the references that have been made recently to the position occupied by Mr. Griffin. The Public Works Committee, of which I am a member, was recently compelled to visit Canberra to examine a site for a Small Arms Factory which had been marked upon the plan ; and upon our return we found that Mr. Griffin, who is responsible for the lay-out of the city had not been consulted in the slightest degree about the matter by the Department. This sort of conduct on the part of heads of Departments must tend to a great extent topromote the ill-feeling that at present exists. The Minister of Defence a few days ago made the extraordinary statement that some eight months ago he issued instructions that a second shift should be worked at the Small Arms Factory, and that that instruction had not yet been repealed by him. What is to be said of the Administration which admits that, although such an instruction was issued eight months since, and has never been repealed, absolutely nothing has been done to give effect to it. I venture to say that but for the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, who reported on this question, there would have been no possibility of a second shift even at the present time.
– If we could hear the Minister in this Chamber, I think the honorable member might be convinced.
– I know that he i? very plausible.
– That accusation might be made against the honorable member and a good many more.
– The fact that the manager had reported that a second shift was not practicable might be some excuse for the inaction of the Minister. But the Minister has at his disposal an efficient staff. He knows the requirements of the Department, and he might reasonably have been expected to have a thorough investigation to determine what could be done in the way of carrying out his direction. Some honorable members think that there has not been at the disposal of the factory sufficient material to enable two shifts to be worked. That is a reflection on the Administration. It shows how careless they have been concerning a matter of the utmost national importance.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member is not in order in dealing with the manufacture of rifles, inasmuch as the Estimates of the Department of Defence are not before the Chair.
– I would point out that it is suggested that a large sum shall be expended on an extension of the Small Arms Factory.
– But there is no provision for that expenditure on these Estimates.
-(Dr. Maloney). - The honorable member is in order in speaking to thequestion of public buildings to be erected for the Department of Defence by the Department of Home Affairs.
– I shall have to move, sir that your ruling be dissented from.
– In order to save time I shall refrain from making any further reference to the matter. I have a good deal of evidence on the subject which I shall be glad to hand to the press. A few days ago I asked in this House some questions regarding the transcontinental railway. The replies I received from the Minister of Home Affairs show that there has been great delay, and an enormous expenditure in connexion with this undertaking. Three years have elapsed since the first sod was turned, and, so far, 531 miles of earthworks, and 520 miles of platelaying, out of a total of 1,053 miles, have been carried out; while only 40 miles of ballasting have been completed; but the expenditure already amounts to £3,550,000. The railway is practically unballasted, save for 40 out of 1,050 miles, yet this enormous expenditure has been incurred. Although 520 miles of platelaying have been completed, that length of railway is not yet constructed. Deviations have been made where there are big depressions which require large earthworks. The cost is something like £7,000 per mile so far as the plates have been laid. In the report from the EngineerinChief we are told that something like 4,000,000 cubic yards of earth have yet to be shifted. It was originally estimated that the total cost of the line would be £4,000,000. The Engineer-in-Chief has pointed out that the original estimate of the probable cost of the construction of this railway did not provide for stone ballast, but merely for sand or gravel ballast; but, on the other hand, we must remember that, as a result of the report of the Powellizing Commission, the size of the sleepers used was reduced from 9 ft. to 8 ft. 6 in.; and, as shown in >the report of the Engineer-in-Chief, the formation is now one foot less in width than the width upon which the original estimate was based. The Commissioner of R’ailways in New South Wales, in giving evidence before the Powellizing Commission, showed that the cost of railways in the far western port-ion of that State was from £1,700 to £3,000 per mile. These railways are very similar to the line being built by the Commonwealth, yet we have this enormous expenditure. I think that £7,000,000, instead of £4,000,000, is a reasonable estimate of what the line will cost when it is completed - and goodness knows when that will be. It is not very hard to ascertain the reason for this enormous cost. Recently a series of articles dealing with this railway appeared in the West Australian, and the following paragraph, which concluded that series, indicates the real reason for the extraordinary expenditure that is now being incurred: -
Individuals among the men doubtless strive to do a fair thing, but the trail of the politician is over the whole job, and the Government stroke beats its slow, slow measure. That the engineers do not like the dominance of the men goes without saying. To safeguard any of the officers from Ministerial reproof, I must say that none of them unburdened himself regarding the conduct of the workers. The labour costs on the railway should have been small. The line offers no difficulties of cuttings, and embankments of magnitude, .but I venture to say that were the Home Affairs Department to publish an accurate ‘ statement of .the labour costs per mile of the 217 unfinished miles to which the rails extend on the western section, the figures would stagger the taxpayer, and arouse him to some comprehension of the game which opportunist politicians permit the employees of the Government to play.
– Do you not think that the writer was staggering a bit when he wrote that paragraph ?
– No. I happen to know the gentleman who wrote this paragraph. He is a leading member of the West Australian staff.
– I know him also.
– The Minister will not agree with me when I say that political influence has had a great deal to do with the excessive expenditure and great delay that have taken place in connexion with the construction of this railway. The articles in the West Australian point out the method that has been adopted in laying the line, and we have had from the Engineer-in-Chief a very exhaustive statement in regard to the charges made in the columns of this’ newspaper. The West Australian says -
And, while it is recognised that the rails and sleepers are practically thrown on the surface of the plain, that the formation of road beds is almost ignored until after the track has been laid.
When we have rails laid on an improperlyformed bed, over which trains carrying a weight of over 600 tons pass, the effect upon the bed is such that it cannot be as good as if the formation had been properly laid in the first instance. Prom what I can gather from the strictures in the articles in the West Australian, instead of sleepers and rails being laid on a properly-formed bed, they are practically laid on the surface of the ground.
– Do you think that an engineer such as our Engineer-in-Chief would do work like that?
- Mr. Bell is obliged to make a name for himself. Things were pretty bad before he arrived on the scene. I believe that he is a very highclass officer, but at the same time he must give way to the Government’s policy of preference to unionists, and he has had a considerable amount of trouble through labour difficulties. I am ready to believe that the Minister has been endeavouring to help his officer, but the pressure comes from behind the Minister, and I do not think that he has been strong enough to withstand it.
– How does that affect the question of the laying of sleepers on the surface of the ground ?
– Because it has been Mr. Bell’s duty to show some return in the shape of a reasonable quantity of mileage having been completed by the present Government.
– I was told by the engineer at Kalgoorlie that splendid progress was being made.
– According to the statement given to us bv the Minister the other day, after three years we have completed 531 miles of earthworks and 521 miles of platelaying, but have ballasted only 40 miles, and this has cost as £3,550,000. Very little money has been spent on the matter of providing for water supplies. In many instances surveys for water supplies are only just now in hand. Necessarily there must be a large expenditure in this direction ‘n the future. Advantage will need to be taken of all the large granite outcrops close to the line for the purpose of securing catchment areas for supplying fresh water to the railway.
– Does the amount given by the Minister include all the expenditure on plants and sleepers?
– I believe so. There are rails and sleepers in hand that have not yet been laid. The line will probably cost £7,000,000 instead of- £4,000,000. We understood that by the introduction of tracklayers a greater mileage would be completed; in fact, we were told that these platelayers would lay even more than 2 miles of rails per day: but we learn that there has been trouble in this regard. The West Australian says that the men working on the platelayers work only 5, 5i, or 6 hours per day, while the rest of the men are required to work eight hours. Mr. Bell says that this .’athe usual practice. He also tells us that the men are working equally as well as, if not better than, they would for a private employer. The West Australian states -
The rail sleepers and fastenings for that length of track are sent out to the head of the road each day. When the work goes smoothly, the material sent out is frequently laid in less than the day. Not having more material to go on with, the men return to camp, and the invariable practice is to pay a full day’s time for this. Such practice has been found to be the most economical and the best for all concernedMr. Bell is making excuses for the method permitted in -regard to these platelayers. He does not deny the statement that the men work only 5, 5J, or 6 hours per day, but he says that a certain quantity of material is taken out to the head of the line, and the men return to camp when there is no further work for the:n to do.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This afternoon we have heard a great deal about preference to unionists. Honorable members who support the Government repeatedly claim that this was the principle on which they went before the electors, but my experience during the election was that in my electorate Labour supporters were very careful to avoid any reference to the subject; if there was any question that they did not touch it wis the question of preference to unionists. On the other hand, those among bh-s Liberal candidates who spoke on the question repeatedly, and made it a most prominent feature of their campaign, were returned to this House with good majorities. I say most emphatically that the country is against the principle of preference to unionists, and but for the fact that matters connected with the war overshadowed other issues Liberals would have been returned with a big majority. The title of Labour party is a misnomer. The party in power should be called the Preference to “Unionists Labour party. Many of those gentlemen who are so loud in their condemnation of free labourers who wish to secure employment in the Government service, and hurl at them the epithets of “ scab” and “ blackleg,” would not be so loose in their language if they were on a public platform asking these men for their votes. It is time that the people should know where they stand on this question. Fancy a man having to apply through his union in order to secure an appointment in the Civil Service. The Commonwealth is a union of States, and as every person in the Commonwealth is contributing to the cost of that union, every working man is entitled to equal consideration when he seeks employment. I wish to speak for a moment or two upon the question of valuations. Governments seem t> favour city people as against country people. At least, city people receive fairer treatment than that bestowed upon country people. The present procedure in regard to resumptions is that any person who has a claim against the Commonwealth is involved in very heavy expenditure by having to proceed to the capital of his State, where the High Court is sitting, and take with him all his witnesses in order to prove his case. I do not see why country people should not have equal privileges with the cit; people in this .respect. I do not see why the Department of Home Affairs cannot send to a country town and have small cases adjusted before a stipendiary magistrate, just as disputes in regard to municipal and shire valuations are settled.
– Would you give them the right of appeal to the High Court?
– There is no reason why they should be dragged hundreds of miles to the High Court, when the lower Courts could deal with these matters more expeditiously and effectively. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the Administrator of the Federal Territory had adjusted many of these difficulties in a friendly manner. The same system of amicable arrangement can be extended to the outlying parts of Australia. I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Angas say that on resumed properties the Government allow the owners only 3 per cent, on the value at the date of resumption. In connexion with the land tax, however, the improved value of the land is fixed, the value of the improvement is deducted, and the balance is capitalized at 4i per cent. Therefore, it seems that when the Government are taking land from a man they allow him only 3 per cent., but when taxing him they capitalize his property at ih per cent., or 50 per cent, higher. My view is that land should be resumed on the same basis as that on which it is taxed. I hope the Minister will give consideration to the suggestion. - In conclusion, I desire to assure the Minister that he is entirely in error with regard to the procedure at conferences of the Liberal party. Any resolutions at such conferences are simply suggestions which Ministers may adopt if they please. Ministers have adopted some such resolutions, but they have also at times adopted the resolutions of Labour conferences.
– The Liberals were very solid when they were on this side of the House.
– Members now sitting in Opposition belong to no Caucus, and sign no pledges; we have no super Parliament over us.
– Is it not a fact * that the right honorable member for Swan was beaten for the leadership of your party by only one vote?
– As I was not at the meeting of the party, I cannot say what took place. Meetings of our party are held, but we tell our leaders emphatically that we do not bind ourselves in any way and retain perfect freedom to do as we please. If at a meeting of the Labour Caucus, however, nineteen members are in favour of a proposal, and eighteen are against, those eighteen must bow down to the will of the majority, and follow like dumb, driven cattle. A few days ago Government supporters had a great deal to say about the shortcomings of Ministers, but they were careful to countup the votes, so that when a division was taken the Government won by two votes. Honorable members opposite will point to these divisions as proofs that they are not Caucus-bound.
– Do you decide anything at the Liberal Caucus.
– We decide nothing. I have never signed any pledge, and I do not intend to do so.
– From what has been said about preference to unionists in the Home Affairs Department, the inference might be drawn that this was the only Department in the civilized world that gave such preference. The honorable member for Dampier expressed the belief that the slow progress in the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway is due to the domination of the unions and political influence. So far as my knowledge goes, no railway construction job in the Commonwealth has ever shown the same mileage record as has the departmental construction of this line:
– Is this not the first job that has had the advantage of the platelaying machine?
– I do not know whether that is responsible, but a better mileage record has been made on that line than on any line previously constructed, either by day labour or contract. If this line were under construction by contract, unionism would still dominate the work, because no contractor could carry on the work without giving preference to unionists.
– Why not call it exclusive employment to unionists?
– The workers’ organization is so powerful that any contractor would be forced to give preference to unionists. Yet honorable members opposite are trying at this serious period to make political capital out of the fact that the principle of preference is in operation on this Government job. Prior to entering this House I was connected with the building trade for a number of years, and I know that in that trade there is absolute preference to unionists in private as well as in Government employment. The principle may be found in operation on any building job in Sydney to-day. For three years I was a member of an Arbitration Court, and often the Court stipulated in its award that when the employers wanted labour they were to notify the union secretary.
– That was the law of the land.
– If it is the law of the land, why cannot it be the unwritten law of the Department?
– The fact of it being the law of the land does not make the principle right.
– I am not discussing whether it is right or wrong. I am merely showing that preference to unionists is no new departure. The honorable member for Darling Downs drew attention to the fact that the engineers in charge of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway construction are compelled to notify the unions whenever employees are required, but that is not a new system.
– I do not think it is in operation in many States.
– In most of the big cities the larger unions have such an arrangement with the employers, and they, in turn, give a guarantee that they will endeavour to send along suitable labour when it is applied for. The Home Affairs Department is carrying out big works throughout the Commonwealth, and the Minister must not be expected to stand up against conditions that are recognised in all the States. He has to get the work done, and to secure the best men, and he follows the line of least resistance, in the same way as any other employer does, in order that his work may not be held up. If a contractor were constructing the large building in course of erection at the foot of Bourke-street, he would have to apply to the union secretaries for whatever labour he required; but if twenty men came along, and only ten were wanted, the clerk of works would make his choice.
– But the men have to show their union ticket.
– The honorable member could notravel on the railways without showing his ticket. Members of any society throughout the world, whether it be a medical society or a friendly society or a labour union, must produce a ticket. When a child is christened, his name is placed on a certificate, and throughout life that is a means of proving his identity. The unionist’s ticket” serves the same purpose.
– The ticket is to show that the holder is a unionist.
-That is so, and the unionists’ movement throughout the world has done more than any Parliament to improve the condition of the people.
– Nobody objects to unionists.
– If the honorable member does not object to unionists, why does he “ slang-whang “ them on every occasion? My last election was fought on the principle of preference to unionists, and I obtained a majority almost as big as the total vote received by some honorable members of this House. I know that the Home Affairs Department is doing everything possible to extend employment at this time. The Minister is not tying up any work, but if he tried to throw the gates open to admit all who come along he would have trouble in the Department, and work would be stuck up.
– It would be terrible t«o have trouble in that Department.
– Some honorable members are always sneering at the Home Affairs Department, but it contains some of the ablest administrators in this country. I will mention an instance of the ability and foresight that characterize two of the head men in the Home Affairs Department. Anticipating a shortage of cement on account of the war, they cabled to London for thousands of casks, which they were able to buy in the British market at 7s. 6d. a cask. The cement was brought to Australia as ballast in returning troopships, and it was landed here for less than 9s., although cement cannot be bought in Australia to-day under 20s. a cask. These men could see ahead, and their action saved the country thousands of pounds; and, under the circumstances, it is only fair that the fact should be mentioned. The Minister, as a layman, is perfectly justified in taking the advice of experts and able officers, by whom he must be, to a great extent, guided. O
– Why not turn some of these officers over to the Defence Department ?
– I cannot at this moment discuss the Defence Department; but I hope that this question of unionism will be fairly considered. Unionists are good citizens, and have a right to employment; and, of course, they have a right to invite all to join their organization, with a view to making the conditions better. The trade unionists of this and every other country, when they have gained advantages, have been prepared to permit these to be enjoyed by others; but it is rather strange to hear it contended that, when an advantage has been fought for and gained, other men who have not contributed, and refuse to contribute-
– This is public money, remember.
– The public is composed of every person in the community. If I am charged at the Supreme Court, I a.m tried by a Judge who is paid with public money; but I cannot be defended by a barrister who does not belong to the union of his profession. Of course I do not object to that legal trade union, because barristers have a perfect right to protect their profession.
– It is said to be for the safety of the public
– It is also good for the profession. I support the Department in giving preference to unionists, because I think it will tend to make the position of the workers more stable, and prove to be for the benefit of the whole community.
.- I wish to refer to two questions which come directly within the purview of the Minister of Home Affairs; and one of these is referred to in a paragraph in the report of Mr. Robert McC. Anderson, to which it is only right that the Minister should have an opportunity to reply. I do not know whether the charges there made are true or false, but I do know, as has been urged by the honorable member for South Sydney, that we have very able officers in the Department of Home Affairs. Of course, whether the organization of that Department is perfect, and such as to secure the carrying out of public works within a reasonable period, is a matter for the Minister. That honorable gentleman might have an overworked Department, the condition of which rendered it necessary to introduce a thorough system of re-organization in order to bring about the desired end; indeed, I believe there ha-s been some re-organization that has proved beneficial. For instance, the Department is gradually acquiring its own staff, thus enabling work to be carried out by our own officials directly, instead of, as heretofore, depending on the Departments of the States - a policy that involved considerable delay.
– That policy is still carried out.
– In some instances. Commonwealth public works are increasing enormously, and I believe that their conduct will be more and more concentrated in the Department of Home Affairs. Further, there are, in my opinion, large public works connected with the Defence Department that could be carried out by the Department of Home Affairs with much advantage. Certain works have been brought before the Public Works Committee, of which I am a member; but, although some of these have been reported upon, while others are still under investigation, I shall make no reference to them now. However, certain works have come under my notice, quite apart from my position as a member of the Public Works Committee; and these are works which, I feel sure, ought to have been handed over to the Department of Home Affairs. The works are associated with the Defence Department, and an instance is afforded by Flinders Naval Base. The remarks that apply to the construction of the wharfs, and so forth, at that place apply, in all probability, to the various Naval Bases throughout the country; and I hope that the Government, in regard to works that do not come within the purview of the Public Works Committee, will see that they are, as far as possible, placed under the control of the Department of Home Affairs.
– Has not the time arrived for a separate Public Works Department ?
– That may be, unless the Department of Home Affairs itself can be constituted a Public Works Department, and relieved of much of its present administrative work. I see no reason, for instance, why electoral, statistical, or meteorological matters should be associated with the Department of Home Affairs; on the other hand,I think that these might very well be grouped under, perhaps, another Minister, who has, naturally, more time at his disposal.
– Statistical and meteorological work does not take up much time.
– But the Department of Home Affairs ought to concentrate the whole of its ability and energies upon the speedy and efficient construction of public works. Mir. Anderson, who was appointed by the present Government to investigate the general administration of the Defence Department, refers in his report to the Department of Home Affairs ; and I think his remarks ought to be brought under the notice of the Minister. I take it that Mr. Anderson drew up his report only after proper investigation; otherwise, he has no right to make these reflections on the Department. We must take it that the report of Mr. Anderson is authoritative - a report made by a gentleman of high standing, who was specially appointed by the present Government- and we must conclude that these serious reflections were made only after the fullest and closest inquiry. Mr. Anderson, in his report, says -
A striking instance of how regular conference and the exercise of tact would overcome little difficulties that ultimately develop serious friction is provided in the relations between the Departments of Defence and Home Affairs. Your officers, in almost every branch of the service, have complaints to make of delay and trouble in their transactions with Home Affairs, which, if half true, would entitle the gentlemen there concerned to a long term of rest “ without the option,” but the Minister of State for Home Affairs and his secretary were so cordial in their reception of me when I- called to discuss this matter, and so frankly anxious to solve difficulties, that it should be easy for representatives from both sides to arrive at some satisfactory arrangement for the future. Let it be borne in mind that the two Departments are members of the same Commonwealth, spending funds from the same source, and composed of officers of similar training and ideals.
There is no question about the soundness of one Department carrying out the construction works of the Commonwealth, “but leave might bo granted to a Department, such as Defence, to do certain repairs and similar works up to an amount to be agreed upon.
That is a suggestion, I take it, with which all honorable members are in accord; indeed, some honorable members have so indicated in their public utterances -
This would insure their being carried out quickly and promptly by men and material available, and relieve the Department of Home Affairs of a number of small affairs which usually cause greater trouble and friction than large ones. The engineer of the Home Affairs Department, who attended the Minister and his secretary at the conference referred to. resented all suggestion of delay: but where dissatisfaction is so general there must be some reason behind it.
Mr. Anderson does not state the nature of the dissatisfaction, except to say that it refers to delays within the Department -
Instances were submitted which it was stated would take pages to recite, and a. few were given as representative cases of delay.
I hope the Minister will be able to explain these remarks of Mr. Anderson, and, if they are true, will tell us whether he has suggested any organization with a view to preventing similar complaints in the future. This is highly necessary, in view of the fact that what I have quoted is the report of a gentleman specially appointed to investigate these matters.
The honorable member for South Sydney referred to preference to unionists. I contend - as I indicated by interjection - that the present system is not a policy of preference to unionists, but is a policy of the . -exclusive employment of unionists within this Department. I do not wish to discuss the question of unionism generally, because I may say that I am a believer in unionism. I am with the honorable member for South Sydney in the opinion that unionism has done a great deal to consolidate the interests of the workers, and to enable them to improve their position.
– And it has done a great deal for society.
– I shall not discuss the question as it applies to preference awarded by a judicial tribunal, because I think that we ought always to separate judicial preference from administrative preference. My objection to preference to unionists in Government Departments is that it means taking the money of the whole of the people in order to subsidize one particular class. From the stand-point of justice, a great Parliament like this cannot justify such a policy. I venture to say that if the people had had the opportunity to decide this question, apart from any other considerations, there would have been an overwhelming majority against a system or policy which borders on the misappropriation of the public funds.
– Do you favour the initiative and referendum?
– I shall not discuss that question, but I believe that there are matters that ought to bo separated from all other political considerations before it is possible to get the sense or judgment of the community regarding them; and as to preference to unionists we were not able to get a distinct verdict. I am prepared to admit that the people, at the last election, showed that they desired the Labour party and their policy, but there was no opportunity for a definite pronouncement on the particular question of preference. Had there been such an opportunity, as I have said, I believe that the sense of justice on the part of the whole of the people would have rebelled against the pernicious system as applied to the Public Service.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter, though, of course, he may discuss the application of preference in this particular Department.
– That is what I wish to do; but it will be generally conceded that during this serious and trying war period of the last eight or nine months there has not been that concentration of energy on the part of the governmental authorities that the occasion demands. Instead of concentrating on the supreme problem before us, we have entered on a course of party legislation.
– The honorable member is going outside the question bofore the Chair.
– I only wish to say that one of the actions to which I take exception has been the application of preference to unionists within the Department of Home Affairs. I have in my hand now a minute issued by the Department as far back as 26th December, 1914, which defines the terms of preference to unionists within the Commonwealth; and we know that, as a matter of fact, preference has been applied in connexion with the works carried out by the Department. I regret that party considerations have been resorted to in this period of war rather than that Parliament has been asked to concentrate its energies on the preparations necessary to fight the enemy. The first important act which signalized the accession of this Government to power was the introduction of preference to unionists in the ship-building trade of Victoria. Preference to unionists was introduced in order to provide for the exclusive employment of unionists who. were paid by money borrowed from the Imperial Government for war purposes; and we find this position - that this war money has been applied by the present Government in order to compel a system of exclusive employment to unionists within the Government Departments of Australia, and it is being partially used for the purpose of subsidizing and bribing the supporters of the Government. That, I regard as an outrage on the public conscience.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in saying that this money is being used “ to subsidize and bribe “ the supporters of the Government?
– If the honorable member applies the term as indicating a charge of bribery against the members of the Government or the members of this House he is distinctly out of order.
– What I say is that I consider that this application of public moneys is in a form that means a subsidy to the unionists of Australia, who are generally regarded as the supporters of the Government, the nominators of the Government, and the controllers of the Government - in that sense it can only be used to bribe these various organizations.
– The honorable member is not in order in imputing these motives to the Government.
– I do not make any charge of personal corruption against members of the Government. My charge is against the system of administration that has been introduced. I do not charge the members of the Government individually with putting their hands into the public Treasury and devoting the money to their own purposes; but I do say that this vicious system of preference to unionists introduced by the Government
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is now discussing the main principle, and I would remind him that it is outside the matter before the Committee.
– I would like to draw your attention to this minute issued by the Minister of Home Affairs-
– So long as the honorable member confines himself to that lie will be in order.
– I am referring to the question of preference to unionists as it applies to Government employment, and especially as it applies to employment in the Home Affairs Department. I think everybody having a healthy outlook upon the tremendous and profound responsibilities that are attached to any Government which seeks to carry out its trust, must realize that that Government should set an example to its own community in the matter of commercial morality. It is the duty of a Government to lead the people in that respect. Instead of that, what do we find? Ry the introduction of this system of exclusive employment to unionists, paid for by public money, the Government have dragged the best traditions of British administration in the dust, and struck a lasting blow at the purity of our public life and the integrity of our administration. Not only has this system’ been introduced into the ship-building trade, but a variation of it has been forced into the question of contracts. By the application of public money in this respect the Government is seeking to build up the unions of Australia in order, in my opinion, that they may politically profit later on.
– Order ! The honorable member is again imputing motives.
– I will not pursue that question any further, though at the present time I can find no other interpretation to place upon the Government’s action. As a Parliament we should be ashamed to think that we are the first representative Government within the British Empire that has so tainted and sullied the traditions of British justice as to use public moneys to subsidize the political organizations upon which the Government depends for its support.
– The honorable member is now decidedly imputing motives, and is decidedly disorderly.
– I do not intend to pursue the subject any further. I only regret that I have to stand up in my place to-day to attack a system which I venture to say is unparalleled in the annals of British administration in any part of the world.
.- I have listened with a good deal of attention to the exposition by the Minister of his position in regard to the subject of preference to unionists. I was hoping that he would have enlightened us on the particular phase of this question to which I have drawn his attention on more than one occasion, but he very carefully left it alone, and I again invite his attention to - in fact, I challenge the honorable gentleman to give us an explanation of - what appears to me to be the very essential part of the policy upon which we are told so frequently that the Ministry obtained the verdict of the country at the last election. I shall be on safe ground, I presume, so far as the Minister’s criticism is concerned, if I adopt his own premises, and the premises of his party in this connexion, and assume that the Government and the party were returned to power on their policy of preference to unionists, “ other things being equal.”
– That is right.
– That was the position put before the electors by those members of the Labour party who had the courage to tackle this question - preference to unionists with the proviso “ other things being equal.”
– That is the policy today.
– That phrase, “ other things being equal,” conveys to the average person, as it does to me, a certain significance. It means that preference to unionists was to be qualified by certain considerations and certain conditions. When it came to a question of selecting unionists or non-unionists, then this proviso was supposed to come into play. Unionists were not to be selected unless “other things were equal.” What are these “other things”? What do they amount to in regard to this selective process? Any one would naturally conclude that where a unionist and a nonunionist stood, apparently, on a level footing before the person who had to employ them, the unionist; would get the choice; but where there was, apparently, some disadvantage against the unionist, then the proviso would be taken to mean that the non-unionist would get the employment. I fail to find, however, that there has been any selective process at work at all as between unionists and nonunionists. There is no inquiry, for instance, as between a unionist and a nonunionist applying for the same job as to which of the two is the better workman. There is no inquiry as to which has the better character. There is no inquiry even as to whether one man is the father of a family, and whether the other spends his money mostly on football matches and picture shows. I want the Minister to tell me - I challenge him to explain his position now - what he means by “ other things being equal.” I want the Minister to tell me in what way, where, and when this proviso is applied:
– The .answer is obvious. What are two and two? Four, not six.
– Two and two are not always four. Two and two drops of water do not make four drops of water, aud the honorable Minister is only bluffing when he talks like that. I repeat that I want the honorable the Minister to explain how, and where, and when this proviso of “ other things being equal “ applies in the matter of selecting workmen in his Department. If he cannot tell us, then I can only conclude
– I told the Committee how it operated.
– The honorable Minister has not yet told the Committee or the country how, where, and when this proviso operates. If he cannot tell us that, then we are obliged to conclude tha.t that proviso is so much dust in the eyes of the electors of Australia.
– You understand the English language as well as I do.
– I hope I do, but I am in difficulties sometimes to’ understand the honorable Minister in his use of the English language, and I want him to explain in plain English what he means by this proviso of “ other things being equal.” I want to find out from him how, when, and where he applies it. Failing a satisfactory explanation, I can only conclude, as I say, that it is so much dust thrown in the eyes of the electors. I know for a fact that any one who wants work on a Federal Government job now has to go to a secretary of a trade union before he has the slightest chance of getting on.
– A good thing, too.
– The honorable member says it is a good thing. Having regard to his ideals of public life, I can well understand such a remark; but I believe that the people of Australia have a somewhat higher ideal of political life than that, and that when they are fully seized of what is going on, they -will come down very heavily upon it indeed. In order to avert a catastrophe of that kind, I would suggest that the Minister could do -a great deal by giving us the information I have asked for several times, and which I now challenge him to give. If he cannot state in plain English and in specific terms what is being done, then I can only conclude that, to use his own expression, his premises are false, and that he has no case at all.
.- One would think to hear the Opposition that there is no economic advantage whatever in the system of organized labour that prevails. I contend that there are distinct economic advantages in the whole process, and that it is not merely a matter of favoritism, as imputed by the honorable member for Wimmera. It is not a bribe. It is not a form of corruption.
– How Would you describe a policy of that kind if it is not corruption ?
– I would describe it as consistent with the condition of society under which organized labour should be given its proper status in the social order.
– It is not consistent with public honour to use public money in that way.
– Do these men get any more money than non-unionists?
SirRobert Best. - They get employment to the exclusion of non-unionists.
– They are getting more than non-unionists ; the PostmasterGeneral says they are to get more.
– They get the awards of the Courts. In the legal profession the principle of preference is recognised, and, as the right honorable member for Swan suggested, it is for the public safety that we have men trained to a standard. The situation is analogous, though not the same, in regard to labour; it is in the interests of public safety that organized labour, co-ordinated and disciplined, should be encouraged.
– But is there a standard in the quality of work demanded?
– I do not say that; but I do say that the principle of preference to unionists could be carried somewhat further, and that the industrial workers, when organized, should be expected to produce better work by adopting standards. The workers should not be a rabble in which each man has to fight for his own hand, and go out on strike because of some trivial trouble. We know very well that organization among the workers is essential for economic peace.
– Preference to unionists does not prevent a strike. There is one to-day at the Naval Base.
– Order! I must again remind the honorable member for Macquarie, as I have reminded other honorable members, that the question of the principle of preference to unionists is not under discussion at present, except so far as it may apply to the Department of the Minister in charge of the Estimates.
– I am applying my remarks to this Department. I suppose that amongst all the employees of the Department there is not 5 per cent. of workmen who are not trade unionists now. It behoves the Government who have the welfare of the country at heart to see that this system is encouraged, and to see thatlawandorderprevail.
– But is not the public money held in trust for the whole of the people ?
– The public money is held in trust to see that it shall be properly and effectively spent and I say the Government are doing their duty when they see that the right sort of men are employed; men who come within the scope of our industrial laws. The officials of the Department can be trusted to exercise their judgment whether all things are equal.
– Let us hear about it, then.
– How would the honorable member do it except by using his own judgment ? The officials of the Home Affairs Department are just as capable of judging whether other things are equal as the honorable member. I have just listened to encomiums on the staff of the Home Affairs Department. My experience of the Civil Service is that the responsible officials are really too careful on this point. As to there being robbery, as suggested, how can there be robbery when the same rate of wages is paid to all men?
– But it is not. The Postmaster-General told us this only the other day.
– Yes, that is the point.
– I admit that may be stretching the question; but the awards are there, and may be enforced. It is certainly as logical that men should be organized industrially, as it is that lawyers should require to pass their examination.
– Then the logical result of burglary is that the burglar should take all the loot.
– The logical result of burglary is that the burglar should go to gaol. I say it is in the interests of the general community that the men should be organized industrially, and that the man who “poles” on his fellows, and is not in an organization, is very defective in his mental vision. Of course, I admit that the system is not perfect, but I ask again what are we going to do ? I believe that the Government who encourage organization, who see in it the germ of a higher standard of society and the possibilities of maintaining law and order, are discharging their proper functions. What is to become of the whole fabric of our industrial legislation if the Government does not insist on its use?
– I would again remind the honorable member that the discussion of the general principles of preference to unionists is out of order, and I must ask him to connect his remarks with the principle as it applies to the Home Affairs Department.
– I am- going to connect it in this way - by saying that preference, as applied by this Minister, is at stake. The honorable member for Wimmera charged the Minister with showing favoritism to unionists because of the subscriptions they made to the party funds. It would be just as fair to charge the Liberals with preference to non-unionists because those who contributed to the Liberal party’s funds wished it. But, as a matter of fact, there is no compulsion on unions to contribute to the party funds at all, and in my electorate there are a number of unions that are not affiliated.
– I should like, sir, to dwell upon the matter before the Chair, but your ruling seems to . me to hamper’ the free discussion of a question which, in my opinion, is one of the very utmost importance, not only to this Parliament, in the discharge of its duty of controlling public expenditure, but to the community as a whole. The question is one which, i.n so far as it affects Federal employment, concerns the taxpayers of the country probably to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. We have had a. statement on the subject from the Minister of Home Affairs this afternoon. The people as well as the* Parliament have been waiting for some time for a definite official statement upon it. We have been told ‘that the condition “ other things being equal “ weighs every time in connexion with the employment of men in the Federal Public ‘ Service ; but we can prove over and over again from official records that what should be an essential condition does not count at all. It is only included, I am afraid, to mislead the people. I can refer honorable members to an advertisement calling for applications for a particular position in the Northern Territory during the previous regime of the Fisher Government. A certain applicant sent a letter to the Minister of External Affairs, and was in formed by the Minister’s secretary that he was considered a suitable applicant in every respect, and that the Department were prepared to engage him provided he could assure the Government that he was a member of a recognised union. The applicant informed the Government that he was not a member of any union. In reply to that letter, he was informed that if he was prepared forthwith to join an. approved union he would be engaged, and sent to the Northern Territory. A facsimile of the letter written by the Secretary to the Minister of External Affairs has been published in very nearly every newspaper of importance in Australia. This man was turned down because he would not join one of the political unions. In those circumstances, of what use is it for honorable members opposite to assert that the condition “ other things being equal “ counts in the making of appointments to the Public’ Service? It is clear that, in the minds of the members of the present Government, the essential qualification for employment is that the applicant must be a member of an approved political union. We have been told by the Minister to-day that the heads of Departments are instructed, when desiring to engage a man, to apply to the secretaries of unions, and the secretaries of the unions are to supply the man who is required, whether other things are equal or are not.
– The secretaries of unions are notified that men are required.
– They are notified that men are required, and they engage the men if they are unionists. Applicants who are not unionists are turned down if a unionist is to be found for the vacant post. Numerous instances could be quoted to prove this up to the hilt. Some little time ago the Censor’s office, in Adelaide, employed three clerks. After .a time the Minister of Defence considered that the expenses of the office might be cut down.
– Order ! The Defence Estimates are not now before the Committee.
– I am quoting this instance merely as an illustration to prove that what has been said by the Minister of Home Affairs and other honorable members on the other side today, to the effect that consideration is given to the condition “ other things being equal,” is not supported by the facts, and that the existence of the condition, whether it be intended or not, has only the effect of throwing dust in the eyes of the community. The censors at Adelaide were instructed by the Defence Department to get rid of two of the three clerical assistants employed, and it was suggested that the work which the three men did could be undertaken by one man. The censors represented both political parties, and I give them the credit of saying that they did not enforce their political ideas at all. In response to the directions of the authorities of the Defence Department, two men were sent away. An intimation was made to the Department that the censors had dismissed two unionists, and had retained in their employ a non-unionist. They were asked why they had done this, and the reply, which was representative of all the censors, and of both sides in politics, was that they had continued the service of the most efficient man, and had dispensed with the services of the two who were less efficient. They were instructed to dispense with the most efficient man, and to re-engage the more efficient of the other two.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 7.45 p.m.
– We must consider more closely in this Parliament the question of efficiency in the prosecution of public works under Federal administration: I fear that in existing conditions we have nothing like the efficiency we ought to have, and are not likely to promote it under the pernicious principle of preference to political unionists on public works. I wish to say straight out to the Minister that a man cannot get work on the east-west railway unless he is a unionist, and can produce his union ticket.
– What about all those distressed farmers who got work at carting on the railway at that particular time? Was there any objection to their getting tickets ? Do you say they did not get tickets?
– Does the Minister know that a man without a union ticket cannot get employment on the railway? Surely honorable members have a right to know from the Minister responsible for the largest spending Department in the Commonwealth, outside the Defence Department, whether it is true or not that a man cannot get employment on that public work unless he presents a ticket received from an approved union?
– The instructions are “ preference tq unionists, other things being equal,” the same there as anywhere else.
– The “ other things being equal “ cry is sim- ply-
– Absolute hypocrisy, and the people know it in every part of the continent. The people have had instances before them to show that “other things being equal” means absolutely nothing, and it is about time that the cry was dropped.
– The distressed farmers did not find that.
– I am coming to them. I shall say what I think about the treatment by the Commonwealth Government of distressed farmers looking for work on that big public undertaking. It is about time the Government came out in their true colours, and said, “ We are going to have unionists in public employment, and no one else.” If the Minister had not mentioned the distressed farmers, I was going to tell the Committee their position in South Australia. That part of the State is a country of irregular rainfall, in the northern regions, where we have had an unparalleled drought and disaster in hundreds, if not thousands, of homes that would touch the coldest heart. Men have been driven from their farms there to seek employment elsewhere, in order to send a loaf of bread home, and to help to keep the pot boiling. Otherwise, they would have been reduced to the very verge of starvation. They went to the east-west railway, and were told unmistakably that unless they joined the union there was no employment for them. They had either to go without work or join the union, and put down their cash, possibly the last pound they had in the world, part of which would be used for the promotion of political propaganda in which they did not believe.
– I doubt that very much.
– I can assure the Minister that it is absolutely true, and I defy him or his officers on the railway to deny it. They will not deny it. I have seen several receipts for the money these men had to pay before they could get a day’s work.
– What union is it?
– The honorable member knows better than I do what union operates along that railway.
– The A.W.U.
– That arrangement was in operation before the present Government took office.
– It was never in operation with the consent and concurrence of the Cook Government.
– Yes, it was.
– I will deal with that.
– And the honorable member for Wentworth was the man who sanctioned it.
– I am sure it was not in operation; but I will leave that point to be dealt with by the honorable member for Wentworth, who, as Honorary Minister, controlled the work during the regime of the previous Government. I have myself seen the receipts in not less than half-a-dozen instances of men whose families were practically starving, and who had to put their money down before they could get work on an undertaking paid for by money contributed by every man and woman in the Commonwealth. There never will bo efficiency in public undertakings so long as this wretched business is made to apply to public expenditure as it is to-day. The effect of it is that our public undertakings are not controlled by the Government of the day. They are not directed by the experienced, trained minds of practical men, who are supposed to control public expenditure, and efficiency is, therefore, absolutely impossible. The control is from the bottom, and not from the top. How, indeed, can it be otherwise, because I believe that every man employed to-day on the east-west railway is a member of one of the political unions, and the gangers have to belong to a union also? Yet the Minister says that the condition “ other things being equal “ applies. I have in my mind the case of another man in South Australia who was quite recently seeking employment. He is one of the most experienced and efficient gangers to be found on any railway. He is respected and admired by the navvies employed by Mr. Timms, one of the best contractors in Australia. Wherever Mr. Timms has a railway job he has a following of the best and most efficient navvies in the country. This ganger is respected by those men. He is a man of the greatest capabilities, and yet unionists refused to work under him, and a strike occurred, which continues. They had nothing against him except that he was not a unionist. He had worked and controlled men all over the Commonwealth, had always been on the best of terms with them, and commanded their respect, although he had never been a unionist; but, he added, “ Rather than create trouble, I am prepared to become a unionist.” They would not let him join, and would not even take his money, with the consequence that he could not get work. That man has two sons fighting for Australia at the front to-day. What, then, is the value of the Minister’s idle plea about “ other things being equal “ ? What is the use of honorable members opposite making a parade of the same hollow excuse that “ other things being equal “ applies to the selection of men for work under the Commonwealth Government? This House has lost its grip, if it ever had it, of public expenditure, and I doubt very much if it ever had it, because public expenditure on a very large scale has been undertaken only during comparativelyrecent years. When this House loses its grip of public expenditure, when the Government lose their grip, and when the men who have had a life-long training, and are paid to control the expenditure of public moneys, no longer have that control, it means the loss of at least a million sterling a year to the Commonwealth; and I often think it means a loss of nearer two than one million. The taxpayers of the country have to foot the bill, and the fact is gradually dawning upon them. These are not solitary instances of the mischief wrought by the application of this pernicious principle. Ordinary people of common sense and intelligence, with their eyes open, in every part of Australia have almost daily evidences of the result of this kind of control or want of control of public expenditure. I saw in the press the other day that the Government of New South Wales propose to introduce from America a university professor to deliver lectures on efficiency in industrial affairs, and that
Victoria and South Australia were joining in the project.
– Victoria initiated it.
– Then let Victoria have the credit. If Victoria initiated it, Mr. Holman cordially cooperated, and Mr. Vaughan, of South Australia, also promised to join.
– They know they have nothing to hide.
– If they get the right type of man, and if, when they get him, he makes out a case, and they follow it, ifc will mean a saving- of millions, of pounds to the taxpayers of Australia, Federal and State. But what is the good of bringing out a man of that type, and uttering excellent precepts, if the men who should control do not control? I shall have something more to say on this question before long. In the meantime, will the Minister be good enough to give, to-night or to-morrow, a few figures as to the present position of the east-west railway, showing the expenditure in different directions? If he so desires, I shall be glad to put a question on the subject on the notice-paper, so that lie may give the information before the Appropriation Bill is introduced.
– Have you not got all the information in the reply given to the right honorable member for Swan the other day?
– No. I will ask for the information in the form in which I want it. I thank the Minister, and accept his assurance that he will do what I ask.
– I should not again have interposed in the debate-
– The honorable member lias already exhausted his rights in this debate.
– On a point of order-
– There is no point of order.
– Then, by way of personal explanation, I wish to refer to an interjection made by the Minister, and another by the honorable member for Maranoa, to the effect that, while I was Acting Minister of Home Affairs, the same principle to which exception has just been taken - the principle that a man must belong to a union before he could get a job - was in operation on the eastwest railway. There is no foundation for that statement.
– Did you not have a conference with Lundy ?
– What I did as Minister was to make terms with the representatives of the Australian Workers Union as to the rates of wages at which their members would work right through to Tarcoola; but I entered into no understanding, and the whole administration of the Department bears out what I say. I in no way bound myself not to employ any persons other than the members of the Australian Workers Union. All that I did was to undertake to pay certain wages, and give certain conditions to the members of that organization, and, so far as that was concerned, I kept my word.
.- I am rather surprised that the Minister of Home Affairs does not give a reply to the question of the honorable member for Perth. What does he mean by the words “ other things being equal “ ? How does he apply them in actual practice ? 1 think it is due to the Committee that he should give a clear explanation, because it has only been on one occasion that the highest Court in Australia has ordered preference to unionists, and then it was done because one of the litigants refused to bind itself not to give preference to a particular organization it favoured.
– That principle could not apply to the Government, surely?
– I do not know whether it does or not.
– Did we not fight the last general election on this question, and win 1
– It is quite true that we obtained a double dissolution on this very question; but everybody knows that it was overshadowed by other events. And, after all said and done, has the country proclaimed so decidedly in favour of preference to unionists that Ministers are warranted in going to the length which they are doing? What are the facts? At the last election, Riverina was lost to our party by 1,139 votes, Grampians by 177 votes, Werriwa by 7 votes, Indi by 619 votes, Corio by 748 votes, and Gippsland by 610 votes, and the total of that majority was 3,300.
– Was not that a reversal of the result of the previous election?
– According to honorable members opposite, 3,300 persons have made this momentous change. What have we had since then ? We have had two by-elections, when this question could be discussed and considered in a much calmer and much more complete way than in September last, and what was the result ? In the Grampians the verdict was reversed by a larger majority than was given against us in September. As regards Bendigo, honorable members opposite retained the seat; but did so with a majority only one-third of that which they obtained in September.
– What about the recent elections in Queensland and South Australia f
– I am dealing with Federal matters. I could explain the Queensland decision very fully; but that does not come into this discussion. The evidence goes to show that public opinion does not favour the policy which honorable members opposite adopt now. It is of no use for the Minister to tell us that this rule does not prevail right through the Departments, for it does. A man has no chance of getting employment in the Commonwealth Service from now out unless he is a unionist. We know, unfortunately, that in one Department they have gone so far as to say that the awards of Courts giving increments in wages shall only apply to members of the Public Service who are unionists. The honorable member for Macquarie, who always addresses us in a calm way, and looks at matters from a fairly reasonable standpoint, said before dinner that this was done in order to promote peace and to secure efficiency. The evidence, unfortunately, does not show that. Besides, the honorable member ignored one aspect of the question which we should not ignore. The highest law of all, especially in Australia, is that a man should be allowed to work to earn a living for himself and his family whether he belongs to a union or not. It is incumbent upon the Minister of Home Affairs and his colleagues, when they depart from that great principle, to show why they are not recognising the law now as has been done all along.
– I do not intend to detain the Committee long. The honorable member for Lilley has claimed that the country has not honoured the principle of preference to unionists, seeing that two by-elections, held since the last election, have resulted differently to the parties. The most significant fact is that in the Conservative
States the people at a general election, not at by-elections, which we know are never a true reflex of public opinion, the electors have returned a party, if not pledged to the principle of preference to unionists, at least in favour of extending the principle as far as possible.
– And they kept it in the background.
– I cannot say that I ever kept the question in the background, and I do not think that any representatives in my State ever did. At every meeting I addressed I invited the electors if they wanted to hear my views on the subject to declare their wish. At the recent State elections I went round the country districts, and was prepared to talk the rural workers’ log if I was asked. I did not mind, as we had justice on our side, and if we could not maintain the principle we deserved to go down. I did not hide either preference to unionists from the electors generally, or the rural workers’ log from rural constituents, because we believe in the proposals. Behind each proposal is a just principle, and I believe that the mass of the people of the Commonwealth recognise that. I desire to refer to one or two questions raised by the honorable member for Wakefield’ and the late Minister of Home Affairs in regard to the agreement drawn up during his regime with the Australian Workers Union. The agreement which was drawn up by that organization at that time regulated the wages and conditions as from the point where they were then working to Tarcoola. The conditions were favorable to the working men. They were held to be fair, equitable, and just so far as the work on that line was concerned, and having obtained such conditions the men should get preference. I am with the exMinister in that regard. He did not give preference, but the Australian Workers Union took very good care that, having gained so much for the workers, it would not be their fault if the movement was allowed to rest there.
– They did not find the money out of which those conditions were to be paid’ for.
– The fact that the exMinister made a compact with the Australian Workers Union satisfactory to their representatives showed that something had been gained for the benefit of the workers ; otherwise they would not have come from the east-west railway to Melbourne to confer with him. The agreement, I believe, provided for a wage of lis. 8d. per day to Tarcoola. The union have gone still further and made the rate now, I think, 12s. 2d. per day. The benefits gained by this organized effort cost the worker the magnificent sum of XI per annum. The honorable member for Wakefield said that he had seen receipts for payments to the union held by drought-stricken farmers who had applied for work on the east- west railway. I would like him to say in what form the receipts were made out.
– There were two receipts - one for a contribution to the union, and the other for a levy.
– If the honorable member’s statement is correct the receipts were union tickets, because I hold similar forms in my pocket.
– What were the levies for?
– For the daily newspaper.
– Is that required of all men ?
– Order ! The honorable member will please confine himself to the question before the Committee.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Wakefield was that each of these men, in order to get work on the east-west railway, had to purchase a anion ticket, even if it was with the last pound he possessed. I do not wish to say that the honorable member wilfully stated what is not a fact, but I doubt very much the veracity of his informants. I have been a member of the Australian Workers Union for some years, and from what I know of the organization I am quite satisfied that an organizer does not ask -a. man who is “-stumped” and “ stony broke” to pay before he has got anything, or to pay with his last pound. It is not a principle with -a trade union to kick a man when he is down. I am quite sure that if Charlie Gray or any other organizer went to a man on a job, he would say to him, “What about taking a ticket in the union?” If the man said, “ I have not any money,” the organizer would say, “ What about taking a ticket on next >pay-day#” And if the . main replied, “ I can-not afford to do so, as I shall have to send the money -to my wife,” :the organizer would say, “ How about taking a ticket on the following pay-day?” That is the practice with an organizer. If the union were to go to greater lengths, and proceed much further than they have done in the way of striving to obtain little benefits for the men toiling out in the sun, they would be justified. I went there in the month of February, when the heat in Adelaide ranged from 95 to 108 and as high as 110 on three days in the week at a stretch. I had lunch with the men under the mulga bush, and one had to constantly brush the food in order to keep the flies off, to see that he did not get more flies than food. Such are the conditions under which the men work. The union demand that so long as these men are doing the pioneering work, and making it easy and comfortable for those who will travel by the railway, they shall be given fair conditions. That is what a man is asked to pay for when he joins a union. We are fully justified in contending that when a member of a union with a ticket applies for a job he shall be given preference. I hope that the Government will be solid on the principle, and put away the shibboleth of “ other things being equal,” because a trade union does not send along men who are not competent to do work. Go to the carpenters’ union, and you get an efficient carpenter; go to the painters’ union, and you get an efficient painter. It is only a man who thinks that he can lickspittle to the “boss,” and thereby gain an advantage for himself, who does not join a union.
– Because he is not a duffer.
– You may get a duffer, bat be has to live, and should be given a trial. If a man is a duffer, the “ boss” can always say, “ You do not come up to expectation, and you must get.” Honorable members on the other side speak more from hearsay than from -actual experience.. I put in eighteen years in a factory, and I know well that not a man was kept a minute longer than he was profitable to the “boss,” who was a very shrewd gentleman indeed. I care not who the “ boss “ is, he will not keep a man who does not suit him. No matter whether !a person is a drought-stricken farmer or not, he is not much -of a man if he is not prepared -to share the burden and responsibility of maintaining the conditions that -have , been fought for and won, and striving to get even better conditions. The honorable member for Wakefield referred to a ganger who had worked for Timms, who, I know, is a reputable builder of railways and a fully competent man at his own business. He said that this was a ganger against whom the men had nothing to say, whom they respected, and who was a splendid workman, and that they would not work under him unless he took out a union ticket, which was refused to him. If the honorable member wishes to convince the country of the truth of his statements, let him give that ganger’s name. If he does so, I undertake to obtain from the union in Adelaide a statement that they did, or did not, refuse to work under that ganger for the reason he has given.
– I shall give the Committee the whole history of the strike, and the honorable member will not like to hear it.
– I do not know if the honorable member refers to Ganger Thomson. I know all about that case.
– Thomson is not the man to whom I referred.
– Whoever the man may be, I cannot think that the honorable member has given a correct statement of the facts, although he may have repeated what was told to him. I cannot believe that unionists would be so tyrannous as to do what he has said was done; and if he will give the name of the man to whom he referred, I shall ascertain whether he was or was not “ black-balled,” so to speak.
– What about the camp at Riverton? Tell us all about that.
– I have not risen to give instances, or to cite cases ; but I am prepared to ascertain the facts of the case to which the honorable member has referred, if he will give me the name of the ganger concerned.
– One might conclude, from the speech of the honorable member for Adelaide, that unionists are, without exception, the best workers to be obtained in the country.
– It is a fact that they are.
– In that case, they do not need preference by law, or Ministerial instruction, because their merits will guarantee it to them. Every em ployer desires to obtain the best men available; and if unionists are the best men, they are sure to be chosen in every instance. I am sorry that the Minister of Home Affairs has not put up a better fight against the Trades Hall. I hoped for something like decent resistance to its pressure. Preference to unionists was adopted by the Department of Home Affairs when the honorable member for Darwin was in charge of that Department. The Trades Hall pushed him into it. It attacked the Government for a long time, until finally he made the plunge.
– He did not require to be pushed.
– He did. Nothing could have been harsher than the things said about him at the Trades Hall two months before he took this action; but directly he had issued his instruction on the subject, he was singled out as the one member of the then Government to receive praise, and has been kept on a pinnacle ever since. The Minister of Home Affairs has the handling of public funds, which have been contributed to chiefly by non-unionists, inasmuch as they form the bulk of the taxpayers. He is the trustee for the public, and should try to get the best from the expenditure of its money. Instead of doing so, he pays this money exclusively to unionists, having no regard to the fact that there may be more efficient workmen obtainable who are not unionists. It is his duty to get the best men that can be obtained for the work to be done; but he does not do that. Not long ago he made a show of resisting the Trades Hall, but the effort was very feeble. I am sorry that he has not told the Trades Hall what, I believe, he and many other members on that side think about this matter. He has issued a minute, in which he directs that preference shall be given to unionists, “ ether things being equal.” The words “ other things being equal “ are a blind. Ti they meant anything, when a unionist and a non-unionist applied for a position, an inquiry into their respective merits would be made, and whichever was the better man would be appointed. That does not happen. The hollowness and hypocrisy of the phrase are made evident by the fact that there is no such inquiry, and that non-unionists are not informed by the Minister that work is available.
The Minister goes to the secretary of a union, or to the Trades Hall, to get men.
– And the men appointed must have a union ticket, and produce their pence-card.
– Yes. The Minister does not pretend to ascertain whether a non-unionist there is available who would do better work than any unionist that may be applying.
– The words are a subterfuge.
– Their use amounts to downright deceit. However, I shall not speak at greater length on this subject now, because I have said a good deal about it on previous occasions. Formerly persons coming under section 40 of the Public Service Act - that is, temporary clerks - were exempt from the instruction regarding preference, but the exemption has now been abolished, and the appointees must be unionists.
– “ Other things being equal.”
– I have shown how meaningless that phrase is. Had it any merit, the Minister would have explained it to the Committee; but ha is ashamed to do so.
– I have explained it. Did not the honorable member explain it to his constituents prior to the last election?
– Yes. I am sorry that this principle is being applied to the appointment of men to positions in the Electoral Department. It amounts to a positive scandal. We have the party in power, whose interest it is to get themselves returned at the polls, appointing to the Electoral Department a host of temporary clerks who could manipulate the rolls. How can we continue to hope for a clean following under these circumstances? Any self-respecting Government would make it impossible that anything could be done improperly to favour them. A Government, like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion.
– Who makes up the roll for the honorable member’s division?
– All the rolls go to the head office, and are there handled by the clerks. I do not say that any clerk now employed would do anything wrong, but I see possibilities of wrong-doing, and my point is that the Government should put the purity of electoral administration beyond the possibility of doubt. What they are doing courts suspicion. The best men who apply should be appointed, and should be taken in the order of their application. These clerks are paid out of the public funds.
– Was preference to unionists an issue raised at the last election ?
– Not in the sense that the honorable member desires to imply. Preference to unionists in Government employment such as is now being practised by the Minister of Home Affairs was a very serious question so far as the Government of that day were concerned, and they made a determined stand upon it. But the Labour party either dodged the question altogether, or, if they referred to it, described it as a principle affecting only a few hundred men.. They wish now- to have us believe that the people have indorsed the principle. From a party stand-point, I am glad that the Government are following it. From that point of view, I hope they will continue to do so, because there is no political act which stinks in the nostrils of the people as does this policy of preference. Preference to unionists had a lot to do with the overthrow of the Labour Government at the 1913 elections. Clerks even in good times often fmd it difficult to obtain employment, and the pay they receive is not what it ought to be; yet in a time of stress like that through which we are now passing the Minister heartlessly insists upon preference to unionists in respect of clerks and others seeking employment in the Public Service. He requires that they shall be accredited by the secretary of a trade union and by other outside organizations, the members of which are not known to a one-hundredth part of the people of Australia, although they are running this Parliament, and are really the rulers of Australia. In their hands honorable members opposite are mere automata. The Minister is doing something more than insisting on the .policy of preference to unionists. The policy which he is enforcing practically declares that a man who does not join a union shall not have a chance of earning his bread in the Government service. The Labour party, who are always decrying monopolies and the men who have made a little more than they have, are trying to create in Australia the biggest monopoly ever known.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his attention to the Estimates of the Department of HomeAffairs.
– The Minister of Home Affairs must take his share of the responsibility. He is doing his best in his Department to enforce this principle, and doing so at a time when sympathy should be shown to those out of employment. We have not only to conduct the war, but to look after those who are at home, and for very many of whom there is little food. We are passing through bad times, and a Government which professes to be guided by the principles of humanity should not be unmindful of this fact. But where is there any humanity in this principle of preference to unionists? I am sure that the Minister will regret the action that he has taken. I know that it is against his better judgment, and am confident that he will be sorry, in a political sense, when he sees the numbers go up after the next general election.
.- When the time allotted to me under the Standing Orders expired this afternoon I was discussing the administration of the transcontinental railway. I was then pointing out that, although an extraordinarily large expenditure had been incurred, little work had been done, and that there had been inordinate delay in the construction of the line. I had also made allusion to certain strictures which had appeared in the W est Australian regarding this work, and the reply which the Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. Bell, had made. The men employed on the railway enjoy exceptional advantages. The average wage earned by them is about 13s. per day; special provision is made for them by the Government, so that they can secure board at 22s. 6d. per week, a hospital is provided for those who may fall sick or be injured, and there are other conditions far better than those enjoyed by workmen in Kalgoorlie. The Government at present seem to be trying to disturb industrial conditionsat Kalgoorlie by offering far better conditions on the railway construction works.
– They are model employers.
– Yes; and with the stupidity of the honorable member’s party they will probably close down the mines at Kalgoorlie. They do not care much whether they do or do not. The honorable member would not care if the stupid policy which he supports resulted in the closing down of the mines at Kalgoorlie so long as he was able to say that the Government were model employers.
– The people of Australia do not think it is a stupid policy.
– They will have an awakening, and when they do, very little will be heard of the honorable member and his friends. I complained this afternoon that a section of the men employed on the transcontinental railway worked only five and a half or six hours a day, while others had to work eight hours a day. Mr. Bell explains; -
The rail sleepers and fastenings for that length of track are sent out to the head of the road each day. When the work goes smoothly, the material sent out is frequently laid in less than the day. Not having more material to go on with, the men return to camp, and the invariable practice is to pay a full day’s time for this.
That is the excuse offered by the Minister and the Engineer-in-Chief. I can see no reason why sufficient material should not be sent out to enable these men to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. It has been said that the Department offered a bonus to the men to do more work. The offer was not made from the Central Office; but I believe that the supervising engineer on the works offered the men a bonus if they would lay more rails per day.
– There was no authority for any such offer.
– But the Minister knows that it was made.
– Mr. Bell says that the offer was made, but declined.
– The offer was made without the authority of the head office. I have that assurance from the Engineer-in-Chief. If the Department and the Engineer-in-Chief were satisfied with the work these men ‘were doing, why did they bring Mr. Costello, the secretary of the organization concerned, to Melbourne, at the expense of the Government, in order that they might consult with him regarding certain matters, including the question of the number of rails that should be laid each day. I am not certain, but I believe, that the Minister wanted them to lay more than they were doing. He knows that the track-layers, bought at enormous expense, will enable more rails to be laid, and can be made to give better results ; but, as the West Australian says, the political influence behind all this work has prevented him from doing what he desires, and from getting from the men a fair day’s work. The other day I. asked whether the Government would agree to submit the whole question of the expenditure upon this railway to the Committee of Public Accounts; but the Minister of Trade and Customs, who was in charge of the House, said that he saw no reason why this should be done. I can understand that Ministers see no reason for this, but, nevertheless, it should be done - there should be every public inquiry into this scandalous expenditure of money.
– It is not a scandalous expenditure of money,; the money has been well spent.
– The West Australian complains of the excessive number of men employed.
– What does a scallywag pressman know about the matter?
– The honorable member for Balaclava read something today from a scallywag press associated with the Minister’s party.
– I should be sorry to be associated with it.
– Will the honorable member for Dampier agree to stopping the construction of the railway while the inquiry that he is suggesting is proceeding?
– There would be no need for any stoppage of work. The honorable member knows perfectly well that while the Public Works Committee is making inquiries into certain, works, the progress of those works is not retarded. The excuse of the Department for the extraordinary number of men now employed upon this railway is that they are training men for the traffic work and for the mechanical branch when the railway, which was started three years ago, and to-day is not a third finished, is taken over in the dim future.
– It will be finished in eighteen months.
– The Minister should not talk nonsense. All these men are now being trained, so that there will be an ample staff of shunters, porters, and guards. I thought that before now honorable members would have heard something in connexion with the sleeper contract.
– The honorable member knows all about that matter.
– I doubt it. A big argument took place in this chamber prior to my coming here in regard to the class of sleepers that should be used upon the railway. The Commonwealth Parliament owes a great deal indeed to the fight that was put up on that occasion by Mr. Hedges, formerly the member for Fremantle. Two arguments were raised when Parliament decided that a certain quantity of powellised sleepers should be used. One was that, in order to show their faith in the powellising process, the Western Australian Government had given a contract to the Powellising Company for the supply of 1,000,000 sleepers. The other was that the New South Wales Government were negotiating for 900,000 sleepers for use on the State railways; in fact, the statement went round the House that they had ordered this quantity of sleepers. That the Western Australian Government did give a contract to the Powellising Company for the supply of 1,000,000 sleepers is a fact; but the agreement did not state any price, or any time of delivery, or any conditions of supply; and from that day to this the company has not supplied one sleeper to the State- Government. I do not believe that it was ever intended that it should do so. When I was in New South Wales with the Powellising Commission, I tried hard to ascertain . the full secret in regard to the New South Wales contract. Officers of the State Railway Department, in giving evidence, having said that they had never recommended the use of powellised sleepers, the Commission tried its best to get in touch with the Minister who had negotiated in regard to the matter, but failed. However, the Minister’s secretary sent along the following telegram -
The Minister of Works regrets having been unable to attend the Commission. He wishes me to inform you that he inquired the price of powellised sleepers, intending, if the price was right, to subsequently satisfy himself if the material was suitable.
The Commonwealth Parliament was led to understand that the Government of New South Wales, believing that powellised sleepers were suitable for use in their railways, were negotiating for this purchase; but we now find that the Minister who had the matter in hand was merely making inquiries, so that, if these sleepers proved suitable, the Government might think of putting them into the State railways. Another big argument used in this House was a report from an engineer in Western Australia that the sleepers principally used in his State were karri and jar rah. As a matter of fact, while there were at the time 6,000,000 jarrah sleepers in the Government railways of Western Australia, there were only eighty-two karri sleepers.
– Who was that engineer?
- Mr. Light, whose report was quoted in order to show the value of powellised sleepers. It was claimed that the powellising process “ would convert any timber, hard or soft, into a non-porous, homogeneous, closely-fibred mass, much harder, stronger, and tougher than the timber in its original state.”
– Is the honorable member quoting from a prospectus?
– No; I am quoting from the evidence taken by the Royal Commission, not from the evidence of one’s eyes; for some of the sleepers that came from Warburton were cracked and gnarled and smashed to pieces. I regret that time will not allow me to deal fully with this subject to-night. I say nothing against the powellising process; it may turn out all right; but I claim that there has been no trial that would justify the expenditure that was proposed to be incurred in using these powellised sleepers, or in paying the enormous royalties that the powellising people Would have received in the event of the contract having been carried out. The powellising process is an English patent; but though it is necessary to treat the timbers of Great Britain and the Continent and America, which are very poor, with some antiseptic, this patent has never been applied there. It was brought out tm> Australia, where we have the finest hardwoods in the world. If we could secure some antiseptic that would preserve our- timbers, it would be a great boon. We have millions of acres of magnificent timbers, and I would give credit to a Government who would say that a systematic trial” of any preservative process brought forward should be given to show whether it was good or not.
– We have given the powellising system a trial.
– If honorable members only knew what trial was given ! The Western Australian Government tendered to supply 2,200,000 karri sleepers under that awful secret agreement which was kept private for nearly eighteen months. I believe that that tender would have been accepted had it not been for the work of Mr. Hedges, and the vote of want of confidence moved in this House. There was nothing to justify the enormous expenditure of over £750,000 involved in the contract with the Western Australian Government, but had that agreement been signed the royalty which would have been paid to the powellising people in connexion with the supply of sleepers for the transcontinental railway alone would have amounted to £82,500. No wonder there were many who were prepared to argue in favour of that contract.
– That was before my time.
– This is ancient history.
– This is the first occasion on which this history has found its way into Hansard. Tha powellising process was tried in New Zealand in connexion with some red pine sleepers, and Mr. Burnett says of them -
Examination from two to two and a half years later showed that of those fresh from the saw G6 per cent, were decayed, and all had to be removed from the line, while those naturally seasoned before treatment were al! in good order.
The treatment there proved a- magnificent failure, and the worst feature is that Mr. Saunders, who was an officer of the Department, reported to Mr. Deane prior to the contract having been accepted -
It has been claimed, however, by the patentee that the process will preserve all wood from being attacked by dry Tot. This statement has not been borne out in New Zealand, where thousands of whitepine sleepers have shown very marked evidences of decomposition after being two years in the ground, and the Railway Department have cancelled their contract with the Powell Company for all orders they had placed with the company.
That experience does not prove that the process was no good, but it does show that there was necessity for the exercise of grave caution, and that there was no justification for the Government entering into a contract for over 2,000,000 powellised sleepers. We obtained evidence from Mr. Fraser, the Commissioner of Railways in New South Wales, re- garding the experience of powellising in that State.
– He contradicted his statement afterwards.
– That is absolutely incorrect. How dare the honorable member make that remark? Mr. Fraser told the Commission that for the purpose of giving the process a trial he had 4,000 sleepers of the one class of timber cut from the bush. Of these, 2,000 were treated by the Powellising Company, and 2,000 were left untreated. Both lots of sleepers were laid in the one track in the same district, so that they should be under identical running and climatic conditions. At the end of two and a half or three years,
Of the 2,000 powellised sleepers, thirty-one had been removed or marked for removal. The fastenings were losing their grip, and the grain of the timber seemed to have absolutely perished, some of it having got almost into a condition of dust. Mr. Fraser produced some samples of condemned sleepers, which, he stated, were amongst the worst of the rejects. These were in an advanced stage under the rail scat, and badly shattered.
Every member of the Commission inspected the sleepers, and in many places we were able to pull out the dogs. Two of the worst sleepers, which gave evidence that the process had hurt the timber, were sent to Melbourne. The sleepers that had not been treated were in good condition. I desire honorable members to realize that, even now, I am not condemning the process, because it may be that enough was not known about it when these sleepers were treated. .But there must have been some powerful influence behind the Government at the time to induce them to enter into such an enormous contract. It would be a great advantage to Australia if this process could be proved to be a success, because there are enormous quantities of timbers that are not suitable for sleepers unless some successful antiseptic for their treatment can be found; but the fact that the Government were committed to such a large expenditure as £750,000 in Western Australia, when the process had had such a little trial, shows that there was some marked influence at work in our parliamentary life at the time.
– Was not this the only process that was given a trial ?
– It was. I have shown that the powellising process was an absolute failure in New South Wales. In Victoria it was inquired into by a Committee appointed by the Railways Commissioners. They had timber treated, but it also proved to be a failure. The same result attended the treatment of some timber for Messrs. Alcock and Company. That firm has an electrical process of treatment, which, although too expensive for sleepers, I can highly commend to the Defence Department as likely to be of great value in connexion with timber for rifle stocks. I believe that if the electrical process were utilized for the treatment of timber for rifle stocks, the Government would be able to get over the present difficulty in that regard within a very short period. Many years ago the Defence Department called for tenders for the construction of gun carriages, and demanded that powellised timber should be used. The selected timber was treated by the Powellising Company, but it proved a complete failure. The Department absolutely refused to allow one stick of timber to be used in the gim carriages, and destroyed the lot. I desire to say a few words now about the contract for 100,000 sleepers that was let by the honorable member for Darwin to the Powellising Company. Many members on the Government side have complained from time to time about the contract let to Mr. Teesdale Smith by the honorable member for Wentworth; but I ask the Committee whether there was anything in that contract that will compare with the contract let to the Powellising Company by the former Minister of Home Affairs ? The amount of the contract was £37,500, and had been given to the Powellising Company without tenders having been called, and without the company having been required to sign any contract, or put up even 6d. as a deposit. Six months elapsed, and nothing was being done to protect the Department.
– Was that the only powellising company in Australia?
– There is only one firm really, though they have companies in the various States. The honorable member for Darwin, when Minister, contracted for 100,000 mountain ash sleepers, which is the timber that the Victorian Government would not allow to be put on the track. Those sleepers were powellised; and as soon as they were delivered, the first thing the engineer did was to give instructions that they were to be put in the sidings. The evidence in regard to these sleepers was particularly bad, showing that they were cracked and very much destroyed. Mr. Hobler said that the sleepers were split, and showed a certain amount of distortion, whilst Mr. Saunders told us that they were split badly, and that, instead of being 10 x 5 some of them were 8x4. The worst feature, however, was disclosed by Mr. Wilkinson, the Government Analyst, who said that the sleepers that were kept here for the purpose of investigation showed strong marks of the development of moulds, and that it was evident that this was not prevented by the treatment with sugar and arsenic. If that be so, there is very great danger in the future in connexion with these sleepers. As I said before, I do not wish to contend that the process is no good, because it has not really had a trial, though there was a small test made in Western Australia. We understood that somewhere about thirty or thirty-five were put down in East Perth, and we found that there had been eighteen, one of which had been taken up each year for the purpose of investigation, leaving only twelve.
– Was there anything wrong with them?
– No, but they had been only seven or eight years on the track.
– As compared with a life of two or three years in the case of untreated timber.
– The honorable member will remember that Mr.’ Julius, the Western Australian expert, demonstrated the holding power of the dog-spikes in the case of karri sleepers, which had never been treated, but had been on the track for nineteen years. If one gets a selected piece of karri it has a considerable life.
– The honorable member is ignoring the experience on the Great Southern line.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to state his views. Karri is one of the finest timbers we can get, but it has to be specially selected, and ordinarily it is one of the worst that can be put in the ground. We had evidence as to the experience with this timber on the Great Southern railway, where, as a responsible witness told us, the karri, after six years’ life, could be literally shovelled off the track. Mr. Dartnell, an aid Engineer of Existing Lines, said that when that railway was taken over he had to put jarrah sleepers In and bolt them to keep the track together - it was in such an awful state. Unless there is some antiseptic to stop dry-rot, karri is absolutely useless, but there is a sort of bastard karri - half jarrah and half karri, and deep red - which is a magnificent standing timber. In fact, the British Government have been paying the highest price in the world for karri to use as telephone standards. Karri is magnificent out of the ground; and, as I say, if it is specially selected, it has a long life. Mr. Julius, who later, for a time, was a member of the Powellising Company, and is a responsible man, told us that sleepers that had been in the ground for nineteen years without any treatment were as good as on the day they were put in. But the average karri sleeper is absolutely useless. An attempt was made to- introduce a side issue in reference to certain sleepers of the kind that were used on a railway in the north-west of Western Australia. In the Marble Bar district, the country is infested with white ants, and we were anxious to find out some method of treatment to prevent attacks. On the recommendation of the Department, we erected a plant, and powellised nearly all the jarrah sleepers we had there; and I believe that thereby wo preserved them to a great extent. On the other hand, it must be remembered that for the 14 miles of railway at BallaBalla, which is in the same zone, specially selected jarrah, untreated, was used; and we had evidence that from the day the timber was put in, not one sleeper had been attacked by ants. All the evidence showed that there was no danger to the transcontinental railway from this source, and that the white ants were only a bogy raised here for the purpose of inducing the House to accept the powellising system. In the sidings it is possible that white ants may attack jarrah occasionally.
– The east- west railway does not run through a white ant country.
– That is so; and the argument used was an unfair one, seeing that there was no real danger. I have no objection, in any shape or form, to any treatment by a process of the sort; but I wish the Committee to realize that, if it had not been for Mr. Hedges, we should have had to pay, under the original contract for 2,200,000 sleepers, with a royalty of 2s. per sleeper, £82,000 in royalty alone. In justice to the honorable member for Darwin, I must say that, owing to his action, which I believe was opposed by the Government at the time, the contract was reduced to 1,400,000 sleepers, and the royalty to ls. 3d. per 100 super feet, or £32,000.
– I was prevented this afternoon by the “ strike “ of Ministers from putting a question; and I now wish to know whether the Minister of Home Affairs has made any arrangements to appoint a permanent Secretary to his Department. I think the honorable gentleman ought to take the Committee into his confidence. I know that he is not responsible for the old slip-shod methods.
– The Prime Minister has given an assurance that the matter will be looked into.
– The Minister ought not to “ spread his net in sight of the old bird “ - I have sometimes given that sort of answer myself. Does the Minister think that his Department is being properly administered by a Secretary who resides 500 miles from head-quarters?
– He is not the Secretary; the Acting Secretary is the Secretary.
– Is it fair, then, that the Acting Secretary should not receive the Secretary’s salary ?
– I do not think it is right at all.
– Is the Minister prepared to pay the Acting Secretary the full salary, and give him full responsibility ?
– The Government have promised to look into the matter, and it will be fairly considered.
– Will the. Minister insist on the Prime Minister doing the right thing? Is the Minister going to put the present Secretary in his proper position at Canberra ? Is he going to make him Administrator, or will he tell him he is not wanted ?
– How long has he been in this position?
– About three years. It seems to me there is a tendency to play with the subject of the Federal Capital. I ask the Minister if it is a fact that he is bringing the clerks and draughtsmen away from Canberra two by two, and not in a body, reducing the staff there in that way, so that the work of administration may be dealt with from Melbourne ?
– No; there is an efficient staff there - all that the Administrator wants.
– Does the Minister propose tn administer Canberra from Melbourne or from Canberra?
– It is being administered from Canberra now, subject to my approval, ami has been ever since I have been Minister.
– Then 1 ask the Minister this question : Is he prepared to go on with the railway from Yass to Canberra ?
– I think my honorable friend had better give notice of that question.
– Honorable members opposite may think that this is a joke, but it is no joke to hundreds of men who are travelling round the country looking for work, or people directly interested in obtaining railway facilities. When honorable members get on the hustings, they will not make a laughing matter of it. The Public Works Committee are inquiring into this work, and I would like to know if they are prepared to indorse the attitude of the Minister should he say that it is not to be gone on with when it has been definitely promised, and so many men are out of employment? Is not this a good time to find employment on this railway?
– It is a question whether they might not be better employed on another job.
– There is no other job for them. Am I to understand the Minister does not propose to go on with the railway?
– I did not say that.
– The Minister is non-committal; he will not say anything; but I am going to have an answer, or else I am going to keep him here a little while. I ask the Minister this: Does he propose to have a Land Act for the Capital Territory, or is he going on in the old slip-shod way? Does he know that there are denominations asking for sites for churches - that in one case a church has been promised near Williamsdale to the Rev. E. Robinson, and yet the people cannot get any title to the land from the Minister?
– Is the church to be built on the avenue?
– The honorable member may be an authority on cold water, but not on churches.
– I am serious in regard to this matter.
– Does the honorable member think that it is right not to give the people a title to their church ?
– I do not say that.
– Here is a crowd of people who have been promised a church by some public-spirited resident. They have asked the Minister if he will give them the title to a piece of land right away from the city site upon which to build, and he can give them no definite reply. I am not blaming the Minister, because there is no Land Act.
– Is the honorable member aware that the honorable member for Echuca wanted to stop the Federal. Capital the other day ?
– I am aware that, by his interjection, the honorable member intimates to me that he does not believe that these people should have their title.
– I believe they should have it.
– The honorable member takes up one attitude here, but he will sing a different song when he gets on the platform. I ask the Minister to give me a definite reply to my question. I insist upon having one. Does he propose to give these people a title to this land?
– Yes, as soon as possible.
– Unless the Minister is prepared to treat these people honestly, fairly, and in a commonsense way, I am prepared to block the business of this House until he does. Honorable members opposite may laugh and scoff as they like. They may have the force of numbers behind them, but there is such a thing as parliamentary procedure, and I am prepared to use the forms of this House to force an answer to my query. The matter is not one which concerns my own electorate. These men have no votes. I suppose that is why honorable members laugh at their complaints.
– They shall have justice and fair play; you know that as well as I know it.
– The Minister says he will give them fair play, but he knows he is tied up at present without any Act to administer. I- ask him again, Is he prepared to give these people a title to the land?
– It is a matter for the Government to deal with.
– A matter for the Government! Fancy a Minister sheltering himself behind that. Surely the Minister can exercise his own authority, and say whether these people will be given a title. They have written to me stating that the gentleman who offered the church will withdraw his offer unless he can get some title, and I think the Minister should tell me that he will exercise the power he has to give some title to this church. Why cannot he say to them, “Go on; I will see you through?”
– Why did not they write to me, and tell me that he would withdraw the offer?
– I have sent the letter on to the honorable member.
– I have not seen it.
– That is ‘ what I am complaining at. You have a Secretary 500 miles away, who has no authority, no real power, while we go through this farce of discussing questions of land which the Administrator ought to be responsible for, and find that there is nobody the Minister can call to answer.
– He is doing good work up there.
– I am not saying anything about that. I have a very good opinion of Colonel Miller, and some knowledge of his capacity and ability; but this Department is like the fifth leg of a stool, trying to do its work with the Secretary hundreds of miles away.
– He is not the Secretary of the Department at all.
– Who is?
– The Acting Secretary.
– Then, why do you not pay the Acting Secretary a decent salary, and call him Secretary?
– And why don’t you talk a bit of sense?
– I am trying to talk something the honorable member can understand. If I talked sense, he would not understand it. It is easy for the honorable member to laugh like a baboon, and say, “ Talk sense,” but he must realize that, although he has got a blind voting majority behind him, that sort of argument will not go down. I shall use my rights to insist upon fair and reasonable treatment for these people. Why are poor men being driven into the High Court of this country, and compelled to fight for what they are really entitled to for their land? What do you mean when you tell a poor man that you will settle the question in the High. Court? It means that you are going to ruin him. What is needed is a Land Act or some system of arbitration, and I ask the Minister to have a little courage, a little backbone, in matters of this description, and not to content himself with saying, “ We will leave it to the Government,” or “We will do it as soon as possible.” What I say is that he should do something in order to give the people for whom I speak some relief. He should appoint this Acting Secretary as Secretary, and appoint Colonel Miller as Administrator. At present the man in charge of the Federal Capital Territory has no real power, has to do very responsible work under great difficulty, and does not know what to do. I warn the Minister that his telling me to talk sense will not have any effect. I have been too long here to stand that sort of thing, and I warn him that unless he gives reasonable consideration to these things I shall use the forms of the House to teach him a lesson in politics. The majority must rule, but still the minority has some rights. Honorable members cannot sit in corners laughing and jeering at questions of this kind, because the men concerned are poor men and have no votes.
– Nobody laughed.
– The honorable member tried to sidetrack this.
– No, I did not.
– What did you ask that question for?
– For information.
– Well, I will give the honorable member some information; but I do not know whether he will understand it.
– I think I agree with the honorable member’s attitude.
– The honorable member says he agrees with me, and yet he is ‘ prepared to sit like a dummy voting machine, and back up the Minister when he says, “Talk sense.” If the Minister will tell me that he will give a title as good as he can give to these people at Canberra, I am prepared to resume my seat, and let the Estimates go through. I ask whether he does not think it a reasonable proposition that he should favorably consider the request I make on behalf of this clerical gentleman, the Rev. Ernest S. Robinson, who is highly esteemed and of good repute, and who asks for a title to the land for his church ? If the Minister will not answer, I give him warning that to-morrow I will use the forms of this House and insist upon getting some definite reply from him. The arrangement in connexion with the Department of Home Affairs is a public scandal. Here we have the Secretary of the Department at Canberra for four years, as I am reminded by the Government Whip, and we have in Melbourne an Acting Secretary, who is supposed to be doing his work; but if you write to the Secretary of the Home Affairs Department concerning any matter at Canberra, it has to be referred down there. This business of circumlocution goes on all the time. It is monstrous, and I again appeal to the Minister to display some backbone, and say that he is going to make a change. I ask him again to appoint some court of arbitration to settle these land questions. It is easy for the Minister to sit there and do nothing, simply because he has the numbers behind him, but I appeal to him for fair play. If the appeal were made fromhis own side, he would afford some information, and I urge that the members on this side are entitled to the same consideration. He gives no answer with regard to the railway about which I questioned him. The Minister knows there are hundreds of men walking about this country looking for work; but we can get no information about this railway, although the’ work has to be carried out. I do not want to block the Estimates.
This is the first occasion on which I have taken up any time upon them. As I have already pointed out, I am not appealing for my own constituents, because the people there have no votes at all.
– More’s the pity they have not.
– I ask the Minister the question: Are those people not going to have representation 1 “Why does not the Minister take advantage of his power to bring in a Bill to give them representation?. The Minister, I notice, does not seem to be disposed to answer any questions to-night.
– I answered enough for you, and I only got insulted for my pains.
– I am sorry if the Minister has felt insulted by anything I have said under great provocation. If I have insulted him, I am sorry. I am only asking him simple questions, and I expect simple answers. Is he prepared to treat these people fairly ?
– As far as I can, I will give them every consideration; but I am only one of the Government.
– Now I am satisfied with the answer of the Minister, and I will sit down.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 99 (Electoral Office), £55,266
– I wish to draw the attention of honorable members to a reply given by the Minister of Home Affairs on the 28th May last with regard to the policy of preference to unionists. On that day the Minister was asked -
Whether the policy of preference to unionists is to be applied in making temporary and other appointments to the Electoral Department?
The answer which the Minister gave was as follows : -
The regulation providing for preference to members of trade unions or industrial organizations, other things being equal, will apply, in so far as it may be applicable, to the employment of temporary clerks under section 40 of the Public Service Act. It will not otherwise apply to the electoral administration.
I think that answer indicatesan interference of the Minister with the working of the Public Service Act. That Act, I would remind the Committee, was introduced with the full support and acclamation of honorable members who are now on the Ministerial side. The object of the Act was to prevent preference and favoritism, and also to prevent persons in authority from appointing friends or persons in whom they were interested to positions in the Public Service. The object was to remove all these appointments from political influence, and allow the Public Service Commissioner to deal with all appointments and promotions on their merits. That was the purpose of the Act when it was introduced in the early days of Federation, and’ that was the spirit in which, until the advent to power of the Labour party, it was worked. Now, however, we find things are different. Honorable members opposite some years ago complained bitterly of political influence, favoritism, and preference; but now they are themselves interfering with the Public Service Commissioner, and telling him that he is to make appointments and promotions only from the ranks of those who belong to political organizations, who select and secure their election to this Parliament. It seems to me that this is a monstrous state of affairs. It is not only improper, but it is illegal, and it places the Commissioner in a false position. I tell the Minister that he has no more right to direct the Public Service Commissioner and the Chief Officer how they are to perform their duties than a man in the street has. The Commissioner and Chief Officer are governed bythe Public Service Act. They are supposed to be removed altogether from control or domination in any way, and to exercise all their power independently of any Minister. Apart altogether from the consideration that appointments and promotions should be free from political influence, even worse has happened in the present case, because the Minister is bringing political influence and political preference into the administration of the Electoral Act.
– How can that be so with ordinary clerks?
– There are all these temporary officers and poll clerks, and clerks making up the rolls, and clerks of all kinds.
– It does not apply to them.
– Why not?
– Because they are practically glut clerks.
– I repeat that the Minister has not the power under the Public Service Act to interfere in the slightest degree.
– Has there been any disturbance of the Electoral Act?
– There has been a disturbance of the Public Service Act by the interference of the Minister. The Minister has nothing whatever to do with the exercise of these powers by the Public Service Commissioner. Every officer employed in the administration of the Electoral Act, from the highest to the lowest, should be free from interference by the Government at any time or in any way.
– We do not interfere with them. The rule refers only to temporary clerks.
– The Minister will not appoint them unless they have a certain brand upon them.
– The right honorable gentleman’s party used to do the same thing.
-I should be just as severe in my criticism of my own party if they were guilty of such a thing as I am in my criticism of the present Government. Once a blow is struck, as the Government are doing here, at the administration of the Electoral Act, which is the foundation of our parliamentary system, a departure altogether is made from what is right and just. I never, during all the time I held office under the Federal Constitution, interfered with the appointment of any person, from a messenger boy to the highest officer employed under me.
– Nor do the members of the present Government.
– If they are not doing it, why do they say that no one shall be appointed as a poll clerk, or a temporary clerk, or to any other position in the electoral branch of the Home Affairs Department unless he is a unionist ?
– Rubbish ! They have never said so.
– Surely that statement is incorrect. The honorable gentleman was asked whether the policy of preference to unionists was to be ap. plied in the making of temporary or other appointments to the Electoral Department.
– What was the answer ?
-The answer was that “ it would apply in so far as it might be applicable to the employment of temporary clerks under section 40 of the Public Service Act, but it would not otherwise apply.”
– There is the answer; it applies to temporary clerks.
– Is not a poll clerk a temporary clerk?
– I consider that he is. Although they may assume the power to dominate the Public Service Commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer, and may compel them, through fear of losing their appointments, to do what they wish, the Government possess no power of the kind. It is a gross interference with the administration of affairs. Any one who has a knowledge of the law will bear me out in my statement that the Government have not the power to appoint even a messenger boy to any of the Departments.
– It is a shame; they ought to have the power.
-No matter, that is the law. The object of passing that law was to purge the Administration of the favoritism in connexion with public appointments which it was said had previously existed throughout Australia. No doubt there was some reason for the passing of such a law. But what took’ place in that way in olden times was nothing to what is going on in the same direction under the Labour Administration. The electoral law and its administration are the foundation of our parliamentary system, and should be above suspicion, flow can they be above suspicion when Ministers openly say that no one shall be appointed as a temporary clerk at election time unless he is a unionist? Is that fair to those who are not unionists? There are two main political parties in Australia at the present time, and is it fair that a Government, because they happen to be in office, should take it upon themselves to say that no clerks shall be employed in the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department at election time unless he is a unionist? It is -t piece of grossly unfair party action, which ought to be repudiated by every honorable member opposite as strongly as by myself. The Electoral Department should be above party considerations, and free from interference by any member of the Government. I would have all the officials of that Department absolutely independent of the Government so long as they performed their duties properly. There must, of course, be a means of punishing wrong-doing by any officer under the Government, from the highest to the lowest; but unless wrong is being done by a public officer, no Minister should interfere in any way with the administration of the Public Service Act. He has no right to do so under the law. Above all, no Minister should interfere with the administration of the Electoral Department. I charge the present Minister of Home Affairs with doing so. The honorable gentleman practically says, in the answer he has given to the question put to him, that if temporary officers are required at election time he will appoint them from unionists only. Is that fair ?
– I did not say that.
– The honorable gentleman will not even acknowledge what he has said. He says that the rule of preference to unionists will apply. /
– Other things being equal.
– The honorable gentleman has said that the rule is to be applicable to the employment of temporary clerks under section 40 of the Public Service Act. Where does the honorable gentleman get the power to apply the rule in that way ? He has not the power to do so.
– The AttorneyGeneral says different.
– I cannot understand how the Attorney-General could say so, as it seems clear that the Minister has not that power. He might say that he would not take the officer recommended to him by the Public Service Commissioner; and, if he did, another would be sent to him. But he has no right to try to use any influence over the Public Service Commissioner in regard to the appointment, promotion, or removal of officers. The very object of the Public Service Act was to do away with such a state of affairs, because the people throughout Australia were of opinion that such a system was a menace to good administration.
– No one is going to alter it.
– To introduce into the administration of the Public Service Act, and especially in connexion with electoral affairs in this country, a system of preference to any particular class, unionists or non-unionists, of this religion or that religion - to introduce a system of favoritism to members of a particular political party - is tantamount to bribery.
– Order !
– I repeat that it is tantamount to bribery.
– Order ! I must ask the right honorable gentleman to withdraw that statement.
– Why should i withdraw it ? I say that to do such a thing as that is tantamount to bribery. Ministers propose to do it, but they may not yet have done it.
– The right honorable gentleman’s statement is distinctly out of order, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– Very well, [ will do so; but I must find some other word to carry the same meaning. I say that it is scandalous, and savours of corruption of a very flagrant character.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 100 (Public Works Staff), £62,491 ; division 101 (Census and Statistics), £19,888; division 102 (Meteorological Branch), £31,122; division f03 (Lands awl Surveys), £28,569; division 103a (Railways)^ £185,157; division 104 (Works and Buildings), £247,054; division 105 (Governor-General’s Establishment), £6,058; division 106 (Miscellaneous), £178,200, agreed to.
Division 107 (Centred Staff), £32,232.
.- It will materially shorten the discussion on these Estimates if the Postmaster-General will, at the outset, make a statement as to what is being done to give relief to the mail contractors. As the Acting Leader of the- Government is present, I would ask him if he is willing to give effect to the arrangement which I understand was come to earlier in the sitting to report progress at this stage ?
– I hope the Committee will see its way to put through the rest of the Estimates to-morrow.
– The Opposition have no desire to block them.
– There is a good deal of work still to be done.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The Prime Minister intimated, in reply to a question by me at the beginning of the sitting, that he would be in a position to make a statement to the House either to-day or to-morrow as to what is being done in regard to the urgently important question of munitions. I now ask the Acting Leader of the Government if we can hope for an explicit statement from him or the Assistant Minister of Defence? I assure the Government that honorable members on this side feel very strongly that the House is entitled to be informed at the earliest moment of what is being done. The whole community also is anxious to learn what steps the Government are actually taking to have substantial assistance rendered by all sections of the people, who are capable of rendering it, towards ending the struggle now going on. I am sure the Prime Minister will, as far as he can, keep the promise he made, but we should all be relieved if we were given a definite assurance to that effect by the Acting Leader of the House.
– The Assistant Minister of Defence desires to read a statement to the House.
[9.441. - I have to read to the House the following statement by the Minister of Defence, Senator Pearce, regarding munitions -
In order that the action to be taken may be clearly defined, I wish to point out that, by my letter to the Associated Chamber of Manufactures, asking them to appoint a responsible Committee, I intend that this Committee shall be constituted for the purpose of organizing the various trades, collecting information as to plant and capacity of same.
As regards the Departmental Committee, this consists of the Second Naval Member, the Director of Naval Ordnance, the Chief of Ordnance, the Chemical Adviser, with Mr. S. McKay and a representative of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited as consultative members. This Committee will consider, from the point of view of the Government, the following questions: -
– Supply of material to this Government by Australian manufacturers.
– Government manufacture of war materiel.
– Contracts between the War Office and Australian manufacturers.
The Committee shall consult with Sectional Trade Committees which may be formed, or with individuals.
The Departmental Committee shall have no authority to place orders or to enter into any financial engagements on behalf of the Government.
– Is the reference to the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures?
– Yes. This means that the departmental Committee will consult with any committee of any standing in Australia in order to further the manufacture of the munitions urgently needed at this juncture.
– That is purely a departmental Committee ?
– Yes. it is a departmental Committee; but it will consult with any other body or Committee with a view to the achievement of the desired end. We will hold out every inducement to any manufacturer in Australia to assist the Government.
– Just to give you advice ?
– Then what does it mean?
-It means that we will hold out every inducement to manufacturers to help in the production of shells, and all other munitions required.
– Four out of the six members of the Committee are your own officials.
– Would the honorable member like it the other way about? I wish to say that the Government are now inquiring from the Imperial authorities through the War Office in London in reference to everything that can be done at this juncture. We are hourly awaiting certain news. We are endeavouring to bring about the manufacture of munitions in Australia at the earliest possible moment. That is our desire ; and, asI have just said, we are hourly awaiting information from the War Office. Until we get that information, it is impossible for us to do anything. There is a certain secret which can only be transmitted to the Government here - it is not for the information of private individuals.
– When do you expect it ?
– Hourly ; we are awaiting it now.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Assistant Minister of Defence or of the Attorney-General a matter connected with the censorship. I informed the Prime Minister some time ago that a certain pamphlet had been brought into Australia under cover of a publication, to which, on the face of it, there was no objection. The enclosure was possibly introduced without the knowledge of the proprietor of the paper. I handed it to the Prime. Minister, but, owing to a misunderstanding, he seems to have concluded that it was the newspaper itself that had to be censored, whereas what I really desired was to draw his attention to the enclosure. The paper and the enclosure were, I understand, sent to the Censor’s office, but they have been returned to me with an intimation that the newspaper appeared to have passed the censor in England, and its contents seemed free from objection. The extraordinary point is that no reference was made to the pamphlet, and it is at that I ask the Attorney-General to look. I do not wish to mention what the pamphlet is, or the name of the newspaper, but the pamphlet is signed by a German, who gives his address at Munich, and who declares that it was brought over by the courtesy of returning Americans.
– I think I have seen one in the Department.
– It certainly is not the sort of publication that is likely to promote Australian patriotism.
.- I desire to repeat a suggestion I made about a fortnight ago,’ to the effect that a good way, or one way, of removing much of the misapprehension that exists in our midst to-day would be to have a joint meeting of the two Houses in camera, if that be desired. The present Minister of Defence, the ex-Minister of Defence, and, of course, the Assistant Minister of Defence, I suppose, know more about the question of munitions and so forth than any other men in the country, and a good heart-to-heart talk at such a meeting as I have indicated could not fail to be of benefit. It would at least remove any misunderstanding or misapprehension that at present exists. Of course, it would be criminal, unpatriotic, unworthy of a member of. this Parliament or of the Empire, to disclose anything of a secret nature discussed at such a conference; but I think that a day devoted to such a purpose could not fail to do good. I strongly urge on the Government the desirability of arranging a meeting of the sort.
– I desire to hand to the PostmasterGeneral one letter of five which were addressed as follows: -
Is it not possible for the Postal Department to exercise a little more caution ? The person to whom the letter was addressed is an Australian who enlisted in Canada; and the address ought to have been clear enough. However, the Postal Department considered that it was not sufficient, and they altered the letter “ C,” signifying Canada, into “A,” and sent the letter to Egypt, whence it has been returned to the Dead Letter office. The return of this letter was followed by the return of four others, but at length the Department woke up to the fact that “ England “ does not mean “ Egypt,” and they have been forwarded.
– I support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong as to a joint meeting of the Houses. So far from such a gathering causing any uneasiness, it would clear the air, and eliminate any doubt and apprehension that may exist as to the Government doing their utmost at this juncture. The daily press is doing all that is possible to make the people fearful of the Government; and while honorable members are somewhat in the dark as to what is being done, there can be no satisfactory refutation of the statements made. It is due to the Parliament and the country - to all sections of the community - that we should know what is going on. A gathering of the kind would do much to rehabilitate the Ministry in the minds of members of both Chambers.
. -As a member of the Opposition, and without having consulted any other honorable member, or the Leader of the party, I say that I thoroughly sympathize with the spirit which has prompted the remarks of the honorable members for Maribyrnong and Macquarie. To one who has sat here night after night, listening to party speeches, it seems a farce that two bodies of public men, each professing to be animated by patriotic aspirations, should allow their party disputes to continue while an unprecedented war is raging in Europe, and our country is under obvious disadvantages which we could mitigate by concerted action. Without committing myself to the particular suggestions of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I hope that the Government will have regard to the example that has been set in Great Britain, Canada, France, and other countries, and see if this Parliament will not be patriotic enough to put an end to party hostilities for the time being, in order that the best energies of the best men in both chambers may be concentrated for the furtherance of the interests of the Empire.
– I am very sorry to have to intervene at this stage, but I have heard so many utterances similar to the speech of the honorable member for Parkes thatI am getting tired of the subject. We have been told by the members of the Opposition, and by the Conservative newspapers, that we should realize that the time has arrived to consider something beyond party politics: that the national welfare must be placed above party politics.
– It is an explanation for which we ask.
– There are different ways of looking at the national welfare. To my mind, the national welfare means the welfare of the general body of the people. We, on this side, are of the opinion that we are best able to look after the national welfare. There is a distinct difference between this Parliament and that of Great Britain, which does not represent the people of the country.
– It never has done so.
– This Parliament represents the people of Australia; but to suggest a Coalition such as has taken place in the British Parliament shows the “ flapdoodle “ character of the talk that we hear now. The working man of Great Britain is not represented in any true sense of the word in the Parliament of Great Britain; whereas in Australia we have an adult franchise, and this Parliament is representative of the adult views of Australia. In Great Britain not one man in three has a vote.
– There has been no suggestion of a Coalition.
– The meeting together of the two parties would be nothing more nor less than a Coalition such as has been brought about in Great Britain. Why was that Coalition brought about ?
– I suggested merely one meeting of the two parties.
– The British Coalition was brought about becausethe Government party there was not strong enough to act firmly on its own, and was afraid that at the next elections it might be charged with having done something which would be distasteful to the electors. The Coalition was formed because the Government knew that it did not represent the people. I hope that we have heard the last of these proposals. To my surprise, the Age’ newspaper, which is supposed to be a Democratic organ, tells us that the time has gone by for party politics, and that we should consider first great national matters. I ask the conductors of that newspaper if the Tariffis not a national matter? Those who are opposed to Protection think that it is not; but if the amendment of the Tariff, to make it such as it ought to be, be made a party question, we cannot help it. Protection is the life-blood of the people of Australia ; and 1 ask the conductors of the Age whether it is or is not a party question ? We hope, also, to gain for this Parliament wider powers, so that it may be able to do something. If the amendment of the Constitution is made a party question, it will be a disgrace to the other side, and will show that honorable members opposite do not desire that this Parliament shall have wider powers. That should not be made a party question.I admit the consistency of the honorable member for Parkes. He has always stated his opinions fairly and candidly, and for that we all respect him. But when men who claim to be Liberals and Democrats advocate a National Parliament, and the mixing of parties, we know that they are merely playing with words. For what reason ? To gain political ends. They wish us to stay our hands so that we may not prevent those who have been exploiting the people in the past from continuing to do so.
– Does the honorable member think that that is the object of the members of his party who have made these suggestions?
– I have never regarded the amendment of the Constitution as a party question.
– It should not be so regarded, nor should the Tariff be regarded as a party question. In both political parties there are men who differ on the fiscal question. Yet newspapers, politicians, and political organizations are asking us to stay our hands at a time when the people need legislation. The members of the Opposition and the newspapers that support them know that we shall never agree to do this. Their statements are merely a political placard, the object being to move a floating section of the population which may attach itself to one side or the other, that, in the national interest, they have offered the Government party something which has been refused. I hope that our leaders will take a strong stand on this question, and will rebut the statements of those who talk about national feeling. What is underlying these suggestions is party pride. The object is to defeat the intentions of this party. I hope that we shall always endeavour to legislate for the welfare of the people, and that we shall not stay our hands when the people are in need of legislation simply because the Conservative element desires us to do so.
.- I have listened to the remarks of the honorable members for Maribyrnong and Macquarie, and their suggestions commend themselves to me. They said nothing at all about a Coalition, or about the formation of a National party. The advisability of doing what they suggest has been in my mind for some days past. Criticisms have been uttered in this Chamber and outside which lead ‘the people to infer that the Minister of Defence in particular, and the Government in general, are not doing all that should be done in regard to defence. There are those who know a great deal more on this subject than I do, but from what “little I know, I am satisfied that the Minister of Defence is doing all that he can, and that if he were in a position to tell the members of both Houses all that he knows, and all that is being done, they would have confidence in the Department over which he presides. I understand the suggestion of the honorable members for Maribyrnong and Macquarie to be that there shall be a confidential meeting of the two Chambers in camera, whereat the Minister of Defence may tell every member of the Parliament exactly what has been done, and disclose information which cannot be disclosed to the general public. Every member would receive that information on his honour not to make it public. If that were done, we should know exactly what the Minister is doing, and all that can be done, and if we were satisfied that everything possible is being done, a great deal of the criticism that has taken place would not be continued, and the general public would, in consequence, have more confidence in the Government than they have now.
.- I cannot agree with the honorable members for Maribyrnong and Gippsland. It would be a great mistake for this Parliament to close its doors to the press, and to stifle Hansard, by sitting in camera. Some days ago, when the honorable member for Balaclava was speaking, I asked if he wished to form a mutual admiration society, or a kind of Star Chamber, whose members would be custodians of information which the public was not allowed to have. The chief complaint made outside is that the public do not obtain sufficient information, but I cannot understand the position taken up by those who contend that there- should be a joint sitting of both Houses in camera and that Ministers should impart to them information which ought not to be disclosed to the general public. Once such information became known to every member of the two Houses, it would be impossible to keep it out of the public press. The reporters would get the information piece by piece from different members, until they were in ‘ a position to publish a statement of what had taken place, and no one would be able to contradict it.
– A well-guarded statement could be made to the press.
– Every one must know, as I do, that honorable members are always anxious to see their names in the public press. Nothing pleases an honorable member more, or helps him to take his breakfast with a greater relish, than to find, on opening his newspaper, that some of his utterances of the previous evening have been reported by the recording angels. The public have no knowledge of us except that which they gain from the press. If there is any information which should not be given in the House while Hansard and the press are present, then it should be kept within the breasts of Ministers. If Ministers are possessed of any information which cannot be stated publicly, then under no other conditions should it be disclosed to honorable members. We all know that both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence have information which they will not divulge to any one, and I cannot see what useful purpose would be served by pursuing the course suggested by the honorable member for Maribyrnong and the honorable member for Macquarie. We have had it suggested that a Coalition Government should be formed, and the formation of a National Cabinet in Great Britain has been cited as an example that we should follow. Those who put forward that proposal cannot have carefully read the reports received from Great Britain from time to time. There was very grave reason for the changes made in the British Cabinet. A certain amount of suspicion attached to Lord Haldane, seeing that he visited Germany twelve months before the war, and knew Germany’s resources and what was going on, and that sufficient information was nob supplied to the British Government. If the opportunity offered, I could give a good deal of information on the subject. Honorable members may rest assured that there were very serious reasons for the changes made in the personnel of the British Cabinet. The situation which gave rise to those changes has not yet occurred in Australia. Do honorable members think for one moment that if the British Ministry asked that a certain course should be followed by the Commonwealth Government the request would not be at once complied with ? I hope that we shall maintain ourselves in the position in which we have been placed by the people of Australia. If the House has no confidence in the Government, then there is a constitutional course for it to take. If the Opposition were in power to-day, would they not at once remind us of the constitutional position when a proposal for a Coalition was made ? The question is whether the members of the present Cabinet are fit to hold their onerous positions. If they are not, then there is a constitutional means of removing them. I hope that we shall hear no more of this proposal for a Coalition Government. It would be just as easy to mix oil with water as it would be to assimilate the views of some of the Opposition with those of honorable members on this side of the House. If the Opposition think that the Ministry have not the ability necessary to the proper conduct of the affairs of the Commonwealth, let them move a motion of want of confidence, or adopt one of the many other forms provided for testing the opinion of the House. The people of Australia placed the Government in power, and I am satisfied that they are pursuing the proper course. Since we cannot agree with theOpposition on matters of ordinary legislation, I am fully satisfied that it would be utterly impossible for us to agree with them on broad questions of Australian defence.
.- I am entirely opposed to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Macquarie and the honorable member for Maribyrnong that there should be a joint sitting of the two Houses to consider in camera the question of munitions. I am perfectly satisfied that if we sat here for months, with the Minister of Defence present to tell us exactly the position in regard to the question of munitions, the result would not be the production of one additional rifle, shell, or gun. It would not result in the increased production of any one of those things that are essential to the carrying on of the war to a successful issue.
– It would not satisfy the Opposition.
– I do not pay much attention to the opinions expressed by the Opposition in regard to this matter, but I do attach importance to the views expressed through the public press regarding the supply of munitions to the Australian troops. Communications that I have received from our soldiers at the front show that their equipment” is not second to that of the troops of any nation of the world, and this fact is borne out by opinions of military experts from all parts of the world. In the struggle that is now taking place we should assist the Empire in every way, but I do not think that the holding of a private meeting of the two Houses in order to consider defence matters would render any assistance in that direction. The Minister of Defence is now conferring with men who are in the best position to give him assistance, and when I hope that success will follow their efforts, I think that I am expressing the wish of all honorable members. Nevertheless, I know that the Minister and those who are assisting him will be faced with the greatest possible difficulties, for the art of producing the different classes of steel required for the manufacture of various descriptions of machinery is an exceedingly difficult branch of the metal trade. I was employed for a number of years in the iron trade with one of the most progressive firms in Victoria, which spent thousands of pounds for the purpose of establishing a steel foundry; and though that -firm secured the services of a recognised expert steel-mixer, whom they considered to be the best man in the State in that class of work, after all their trouble and expenditure their foundry had to be closed down. People who undertake the work of casting steel have to encounter the greatest possible difficulties in dealing with the different formulae ; and I am positive that we shall not be able to establish a steel foundry for the production of shells without months of preparation and a great deal of expense. The Minister is not responsible for the present condition of affairs. Senator Millen, had he still been Minister, would not be responsible. The responsibility rests upon this Parliament for not having looked ahead, when creating the defence system, to possibilities that might arise. To-day, when we find ourselves in a great struggle, we are hot in a position to provide all the munitions required to uphold our own end in the war without taking into account the matter of rendering the assistance that we desire to give to Great Britain. We can only judge our Minister of Defence by the material on which he has had to work, and I am prepared to say that when the war is over, and the press, the public, and honorable members of this House are ready to view the situation freed from the anxiety and excitement that now prevail, they will be unanimous in saying that the Minister ot Defence, with the material at his command, has done everything that in the circumstances a human being possibly could do.
.- I rise to supplement the remarks of the honorable -members for Maribyrnong and Macquarie. Members of Parliament generally are representatives of the people of the Commonwealth, and at this juncture they have a right to know what the Government are doing. Similarly the Government would be justified in taking them into their confidence, and would not be displaying any weakness in doing so. If the Minister of Defence could lay before honorable members on both sides of this Chamber a statement of what has been done already, and what is proposed to be done in the future, there would be less carping and criticism on the part of people who have not that knowledge. The suggestion for a joint secret meeting is an excellent one. I believe that at such a meeting the Minister of Defence would be able to justify every step that he has taken, and that honorable members of this House and senators would leave the meeting feeling the utmost confidence that everything possible had been done, and would be done. We have a right to know what the Minister is doing, but as he sits in the Senate honorable members of this House are not in close touch with him. There are honorable members in this Chamber who know what is being done.
– Why is it not mentioned in the House as is done in the House of Commons ?
– There would be no weakness displayed in doing so. The question of a Coalition Government, raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, is a side issue; no one has suggested it; neither has the question of producing steel been raised. The only question is whether we should bring the parties together to hear a statement as to what has been done, and what is proposed to be done. When that statement is made, 1 feel confident that Australians will feel proud. I have the utmost confidence in the Government, and I believe that if honorable members of the Opposition and senators knew what was being done, they would also have confidence; and confidence being one of the greatest things that tend towards success, I hope that, in the -circumstances, the Government will consider this matter favorably, and come to some arrangement whereby they can lay before honorable members a statement of whatis being done, and of what the Government have it in their minds to do in thefuture.
– Bolts occasionally fall from the blue, and this is one. I did not dream that at this hour of the night there would be a full-dress debate. However, I intend to take my share in it. I indorse every remark made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I do not think that the honorable members for Gippsland, Maribyrnong, South Sydney, or Macquarie would suggest a Coalition Government - they would rather walk to the other side of the House than make such a suggestion - but at the same time the proposition that they have made is worthy of much criticism. The honorable member who has spoken from the other side of the Chamber, the honorable member for Parkes, as a scholar and reader, will agree with what I am about to say - that it is not logical to compare the English Ministry with ours. The Liberal party, though in a majority in the House of Commons, are in a minority in the House of Lords; whereas in the Upper Chamber of this Parliament the Government have an overwhelming majority of thirty-one to five. As the honorable member for Barrier has interjected, the Liberals in the British Parliament are less in number than the Conservatives and the Liberal-Unionists combined. Was it any wonder, therefore, that a National Government of all parties was formed during this crisis? But do honorable members believe that there would have been any Coalition if the Liberal Government had had a majority in that fossilized institution known as the House of Lords, the majority of members of which owe their seats to the mere chance of birth? No member of this Ministry has refused to take a commonsense suggestion from any member of the Opposition or any member on this side. I have never yet insulted a Minister by asking him a question, the answer to which the wise public should not know. I agree withthe honorable member for Maribyrnong that the information which the Government have to give should not he given in camera. I have had experience of a meeting in camera when everybody present swore not to say a single word to the press; but the whole of the proceedings were reported in the press next day.
It is an insult to the press and to the public to suggest that these important matters should be discussed in camera. Let any announcement bythe Government be made in this chamber, and if any member of the Opposition has a suggestion to make to the Government, it will be welcomed by every member of the Ministry.
.- I shall not add anything by way of comment on what has just been said, but I desire to inform honorable members, on behalf of the Treasurer, that he finds it necessary to obtain Supply, and he will look to the House to pass Supply during the current week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 June 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150616_reps_6_77/>.