6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the answer recently given by the PostmasterGeneral, to the effect that no pressure would be brought to bear on the girls “who are employed as telephonists in the Sydney Post Office, to cause them to take up night work, I ask the honorable gentleman if he will instruct the Deputy PostmasterGeneral for New South Wales not to continue to ask these girls if they will accept night work, and to discontinue all attempts to compel them to do so?
– As far as I can learn, the girls are not being compelled, nor are they being harassed. The matter of night duty will stand over until I have an opportunity of going into it.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the press statement that, prior to the settlement of the terms of peace between the Mother Country and her enemies, responsible Ministers of the various Dominion Governments will be called into consultation with the members of the Imperial Government? Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to make a definite statement concerning the matter?
– There have been suggestions on those lines, but much of our information on the subject comes through the press, in the reports of answers to questions given by the Under Secretary for the Colonies in Parliament. The subject having been raised, I should like to express my opinion that the British Government does not yet realize to the full the real position of the distant Dominions in matters that very nearly affect us.
Training Camp: Travelling of Wounded Soldiers : Recruiting : Reports of Casualties : Nurses’ Uniforms
– I wish to know from the Minister of Defence, through the Minister for the Navy, if he will take immediate steps to provide for the trainins: of recruits under better conditions, climatic and moral, than thee prevailing in a congested city like Melbourne? If so, will his officers be instructed to inspect and report on the numerous important advantages of a camp site near a suitable country centre such as Bendigo?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister of
Defence, and inquire if the proposed arrangement can be made.
– Is it a fact that wounded soldiers, who -were brought back by the Kyarra, were bundled into the Sydney express without their rugs and traps, which had been sent on by an earlier train, and that no provision was made for their comfort on the journey from Melbourne to Sydney, Chey having to struggle with the other passengers in the train to obtain food, and many of them travelling the whole distance cold and hungry? Will the Minister inquire into this matter, and see that, in future, when our heroes return from the front, they have special consideration, and that, if necessary, special trains are provided to take them to their homes ?
– I was asked a question on this subject- yesterday. The complaint is being inquired into.
– Has the Minister for the Navy seen a statement in the press to the effect that in New South Wales the country police receive 10s. for each person whom they persuade to volunteer for service with the Expeditionary Forces? Can the Minister say whether the press statement is correct, and does he approve of the arrangement mentioned ?
– So far as I know, the Commonwealth Government pays nothing to policemen for encouraging recruiting.
– Nor does it intend to do so.
– A member of our Expeditionary Forces was reported *to have died in May last, but since the reported date of his death several letters have been received by his relatives stating that he is not dead, but in hospital at Malta, and a letter from a fellow soldier to the same effect has also been received. I understand that the man’s relatives have sent half a dozen cablegrams to the hospital authorities at Malta, and have received no reply to any of them, and I now ask the Minister whether it is not possible to deal with those who are responsible for not having replied to these cablegrams. Honorable members can imagine the feelings of the parents. They are told now to apply for a pension, but they know full well that their son is alive.
– At this end we are doing everything possible to furnish re- liable information at the earliest date, and we have instructed those at the other end to do the same.
– What supervision does the Department exercise over firms which supply uniforms for the nurses who go with the Expeditionary Forces? Has the Department any supervision over the prices charged, or any knowledge of them ?
– The Department has no supervision whatever of the charges of retail establishments.
– Your people are telling the nurses that they can get their things only at one place.
– That, to my knowledge, is not so.
– It is so. Do not make this another Liverpool Camp matter. We know it to be so, and the Minister should know it, too.
– A question having been asked of the Minister, it is not for other honorable members to reply to it.
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker.
– I draw the attention of the Leader of. the Opposition to the fact that, on three or four occasions I have given replies furnished by the Department to the effect that nurses can go anywhere they like, and get what they like.
– I regret to say that we know those replies to be incorrect.
– I have already called the honorable member to order for interjecting, and he has apologized for having done so. Now he is offending again. There is a proper way in which to ask questions.
– If the right honorable member will furnish a specific case, I shall have the matter inquired into.
– How can I? The girls that I know of have gone oversea, though there are plenty of others who are being similarly treated. There is too much of this bluff.
– I ask the Prime
Minister to state, for the information of the general public, whether minors who are permitted to deposit money in the State and Commonwealth Savings Banks will be allowed to take up £10 and other bonds in the proposed war loan?
– Neither minors nor persons of full age will have any difficulty in procuring the bonds. If, cash is sent in, the bonds will be delivered to the applicants, who will then have them as their personal security, and may do what they please with them.
– Will the Minister for the Navy say when it is expected to launch the cruiser Brisbane?
– About the 15th September.
– Will the Minister for the Navy lay on the table of the Library the papers connected with the appointments of Messrs. H. H. Fanstone and E. . Henshaw. I asked for them some time ago, and they were supplied, but I had not then an opportunity to consult them.
– There is no objection to doing what is asked.
– As the Minister of Trade and Customs has stated that he will not withdraw the increased Tariff proposals, or allow them to be dealt with by this Parliament this session, will he afford honorable members an opportunity, before the proposed long adjournment, to consider proposals for the reduction of duties on indispensable household necessaries, particularly1 foodstuffs and clothing, because of the high cost of living, and the expense of providing for a family?
– It has been announced that the Government does not intend to interfere with the Tariff schedule in any way; but if the House thinks that it should be dealt with, of course, it can compel that to be done.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral yet received a cablegram from the Imperial authorities re the 50,000 tons of concentrates that it is desired to send to America ?
– No reply has yet been received.
– With reference tothe statements of the Attorney-General regarding the metal trade, and the replies of certain gentlemen, which are published in this morning’s newspapers, will the Prime Minister appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the facts?
– I do not propose to discuss the matter. It is not one that ought to be referred to a Royal Commission.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, in view of the statements to which I refer, and the request that has been made by the persons concerned, for an investigation by a Royal Commission into certain remarks made by him reflecting on their loyalty, he will consult his colleagues, and endeavour to have a Royal Commission appointed ?
– The honorable member entirely misunderstands the position. There is no more necessity for a Royal Commission in this case than there was in the Australian Metal Company’s case. The directors of that company have been removed from their positions, and interned, and the company declared an enemy firm, as it is proposed to declare one of these other companies. The Government are not going to submit this matter to a Royal Commission, or any other body.
– The Leader of the Opposition asked me if I would have some statement prepared with regard to the amount earned by the carriage of cargo on transport ships. In reply, I have to say that the gross freight received for vessels used for transport purposes up to 22nd July of this year was £1,300,147. This does not include freight due on two large ships, the account for which has not yet been received, and which is estimated to amount to £30,000. The estimated gross freights for detained’ ships used as cargo vessels solely are £300,000, and the receipts from detained vessels under charter to the Western Australian Government and one or two private firms amount to £3,937. It will be seen, therefore, that about £1,300,000 has been earned by transports and detained German vessels. From the gross freights there will be deducted the expenses of loading and discharging cargo, which may possibly amount to 25 per cent. The amount earned is a set-off against the cost of transporting the troops, and is paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and credited to the vote for the Expeditionary Forces. The amount earned by five ships used as cargo vessels goes into the revenue.
– The Minister says nothing about wages or insurance.
– The point is whether this money should go into the revenue or be used as a set-off against the war loan.
– It is going as a set-off against what the Commonwealth will be charged for commandeering these ships. Up to date these ships have cost us nearly £5,000,000, and this £1,000,000 odd will go as a set-off against the commandeering.
– The ships have earned £1,000,000.
– Does the Minister intend the statement he has just made as a substitute for the business statement asked for, in which would be shown the debits as against freights earned, that is, all charges connected with the running of the vessels ?
– That is a matter which will come up for final calculation and ‘adjustment when the war is ended ; we cannot go into it yet.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether it is a fact that a building is to be immediately erected by the Home Affairs Department at Canberra for the manufacture of small arms, and, if so, has the Minister yet decided on what portion of Canberra the building is to be erected? Will it be erected in conformity with the plans as drawn by Mr. Griffin ; and, further, has Mr. Griffin been consulted?
– The question of building a Small Arms Factory at Canberra i3 under consideration. Mr. Griffin, the Public Works Committee, and others will be consulted as to the best site.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether, in view of the many complaints received in regard to the works now being carried out at the Henderson Naval
Base, he will refer the matter to the Public Works Committee, in order that the allegations may be investigated, and, if unfounded, refuted?
– The matter of the Henderson Base is in the hands of the Naval Department. If my memory serves me aright, the trouble is regarding the site, and so forth.
– I should like to know at what date the destroyer Torrens will be launched ?
– The Torrens will be launched on the 14th August.
– I should like the permission of the House to read a letter and make a statement in regard to the treatment of the wounded soldiers who last week were taken off the Kyarra.
– I do not think that the letter I have here needs much comment. It is, I think, only necessary for me to read it in order to induce the Government to take some action; and if the course I am taking this morning has that result, every honorable member will be delighted. It is heartrending to think that our wounded soldiers, after fighting the battles of the Empire, should be treated in the way these poor fellows were treated when on their way to their homes last Saturday. The letter is as follows : - 21st July, 1915.
I wish to bring under your notice the scandalous treatment meted out by the military authorities to the returned wounded soldiers from New South Wales and Queensland who were landed from the Kyarra in Melbourne. These heroes, who fought for us in the Dardanelles, were forced to travel by the express on Saturday mixed up with the other passengers, although some of them were on crutches, and others in bandages with their eyes shot away. Many of them were unable to travel alone, and nurses were in attendance. When Seymour was reached, and the rush for refreshments were made, these men had to take their chance with the rest, and many were unable to get anything, their nurses being unable to get them into the rooms. They were hustled by the railway officials into their seats - despite remonstrances by many civilians and fellow passengers. Many of the soldiers had no money - and had it not been for a generous few of their fellow travellers and others, who bought up the available supply of fruit, &c., and pushed it into the carriages, they would have had to starve until Albury was reached. Some of the wounded men complained bitterly at the treatment meted out to them, and stated they would have been better off if they were in a German camp. Their luggage and rugs had been taken on by an earlier train, so they were cold and hungry too. In God’s name why was those gallant fellows made to travel by the express? Surely a special could have been provided for them and their nurses - or, failing this - a special should have been reserved for them, and there should have been no necessity for them or their nurses to hustle for refreshments - they fought for us like heroes, and nothing was too good for them.I have waited until now expecting some one else to ventilate this inhuman justice.
– The responsible officers ought to be shot!
– I need not read the signature, and will only say that the facts are narrated by an eye-witness. All I ask the Defence Department and the Government to do is to treat these men like men. They have done for us what many of us would like to do for ourselves; and the least we can do is to see that they have care and comfort when they return to Australia.
Bill returned from the Senate with the following message : -
Message No. 66.
The Senate returns to the House of Representatives the Bill for “ An Act relating to War Census,” to which it has agreed with the amendments indicated in the annexed Schedule, in which amendments the Senate requests the concurrence of the House of Representatives.
Melbourne, 23rd July, 1915.
Schedule of the Amendments made by the Senate.”
No. 1. - Page 2, clause 9, line 31, leave out “ making “.
No. 2. - Page 2, clause 11, line 40, before “ Any” insert “For the purposes of this Act”.
No. 3. - Page 3, clause 15,at end of clause add “ Penalty for any offence under this section : Five pounds.”
No. 4. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 4, line 1, leave out “possess” and insert “ own “.
No. 5. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 4. line 1, after “ Motor Cycles “ insert “ or other Motor Vehicles “.
No. 6. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 4, line 2, leave out “ possessed “ and insert “ owned.”
No. 7. Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 5, line 1 , leave out “ possess “ and insert “ own “.
No. 8. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 6, line 1, after “ property “ (second occurring) insert “ owned or “.
No. 9. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 6, second column, leave out “ Trust Account “ and insert “ Account of Other Persons “.
No. 10. Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 6, item (i.). leave out the item and insert the following new item : - (i.) (a) Unimproved Capital Value of Land;
No. 11. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 6, item (iv.), leave out “Partnership Interests “, and insert “ Value of Share of Assets in Partnership as per last Balance-sheet.”
No. 12. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 6, item (vii.), after “ Deposits “ insert “ Fixed or at Current Account “.
No. 13. - Page6, Second Schedule, paragraph 6, item (viii.), leave out “ Money Lent “ and insert “ Debts due to me “.
No. 14. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 7, line 2, leave out “30th June, 1915”, and insert “31st December, 1914”.
No. 15. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 7, second column, leave out “ Trust Account “ and insert “Account of Other Persons”.
No. 16. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 7, item (iv.), after “ Pension “ insert “ (not being Commonwealth Old-age or Invalid Pension) “.
No. 17. - Page 6, Second Schedule, paragraph 7, item (v.) (of deductions), after “ Fund “ insert “or Friendly Societies”.
That the Senate’s message he taken into consideration forthwith in Committee of the whole.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
– I propose to accept these amendments, the nature of which I shall generally indicate.
– I should like to know how this Committee comes to be set up before we enter on the business of the House? I submit that the Committee cannot be set up until we reach our ordinary business stage.
– Let us get the Bill through.
– It cannot matter to the Government whether this Bill is put through now or ten minutes later. My point is that the Bill is wrongly before the Committee at this stage of our proceedings.
– In war time these things have to be done.
– What nonsense!
– I hope this Bill will be dealt with now.
– I have no objection if the procedure is in order, but I cannot see that ten minutes’ delay will make any difference to the war. However, I withdraw my objection.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has raised the point that the Committee has been improperly constituted. I call the attention of honorable members to the fact that the House can order its own procedure, and it has resolved itself into Committee. The standing order under which this is done is No. 378, as follows: -
Every message from the Senate should be received without delay by the Clerk-Assistant or the Serjeant-at-Arms at the Bar, and be reported by the Speaker as early as convenient, and a future time named for its consideration, or it may, by leave, be dealt with at once.
– This was not done by leave.
– I have never known a procedure of the kind.
– The first amendment - not merely a verbal amendment - is in clause 15. It reduces the penalty for not notifying achange of residence from £50 to £5. I think that amendment is one which may be accepted, seeing that it does not relate to a serious offence.
– That is not the penalty for giving a wrong address, but merely for not notifying a change of address ?
– Yes, subsequent altogether to the first registration. The remaining amendments all relate to the second schedule. The first of these - No. 4 - provides for the omission of the word “possess” in paragraph 4, and the insertion of the word “ own “ in lieu thereof. The amendment was suggested by the Victorian Commissioner for Taxes. Amendment No. 5 provides for the insertion, in paragraph 4, of the words “ or other motor vehicles “ after the words “ motor cycles.” This addition, we believe, will improve the paragraph. Amendment No. 6, substituting the word “ owned “ for the word “ possessed “ in paragraph 4 of the second schedule was also made at the suggestion of Mr. Prout Webb, in order that the meaning of the question might be made perfectly clear. The same remark applies to amendments 7 and 8, which are of the same character. The next amendment is in paragraph 6 of the second schedule, the words “ trust account” being left out, and the words “ account of other persons “ being inserted. This amendment is made so as to cover agencies as well as trustee ac-> counts. The more general term was suggested by Mr. Prout Webb, and it seems a good suggestion. Amendment No. 10 is a recasting of item i of paragraph 6, in order to distinguish between the unimproved capital value of land and the improvements thereon. It was pointed out that ‘ ‘ improved capital value ‘ ‘ as used in the original -paragraph was not a term known to taxing bodies. We have made this amendment in order that what is required of the person answering the question shall be made perfectly clear. “Unimproved capital value” is a wellknown term having a definite meaning. The same may be said with regard to the words “ value of all improvements.” The amendment makes for greater clarity of expression, and the new items have a definite meaning well known to taxation bodies.
– “Improved value “ is a well-known term in respect of municipal taxation.
– The improved value of any land made the subject of this return may be easily ascertained by adding together the figures given in respect of paragraphs a and b of item i whereas if the two divisions were put under the one heading we should not be acting in conformity with the. principle of taxation followed where unimproved values are singled out. I think that the local government taxation in New South Wales is based wholly upon the unimproved value.
– But that is not universal.
– I shall not argue the point. This point will come before, the Joint Committee, and may be discussed by it if there is any difference of opinion. My view is that this amendment considerably improves the schedule. Amendment No. 11 relates to paragraph 6, item iv. of the second schedule, the words “ value of share of assets in partnership as per last balance-sheet “ being substituted for the words “ partnership interests.” This amendment has been made at the suggestion of Mr. Prout Webb. It was also at his suggestion that amendments 12, 13, and 14 were made. Amendment No. 12 inserts after “deposits” in item vii. of paragraph 6 the words “fixed or at current account.” This addition has been made because there might otherwise be some doubt as to whether both fixed and current account deposits were intended to be included. Amendment No. 14 leaves out of paragraph 7 of the second schedule “ 30th June, 1915,” and inserts “ 31st December, 1914.” This will enable most persons who now come under the income tax to send in their schedule as supplied to the Taxation Commissioners of the various States, and which are made up to the 31st December, 1914.
– In amendment No. 10 it is proposed to insert in paragraph 6 of the second schedule the words “ unimproved value of leasehold estate.” Was there any such provision in the original paragraph ?
– We must make the same distinction with regard to leasehold estate as in respect to freehold estate. The original question was as to the improved capital value of land, including buildings.
– Leasehold interests were not included in the question.
– Certainly they were. In the original question the reference was not to “ freehold land,” but to “ land,” no matter under what tenure it might be held. I consider that the amendment made in another place materially improves the question as originally framed. A man will now know what he is wanted to do. Amendment No. 15 is similar to an earlier one to which I have already referred, and is framed to include agencies as well as trust accounts. By amendment No. 16, item iv. of paragraph. 7 is amended by inserting after the word “ pension “ the words “ not being Commonwealth old-age or invalid pension.” We do not need to be supplied with information regarding such pensions, since it is already available to us. Finally, it is proposed to amend paragraph 7, item v., of the second schedule relating to deductions by inserting the words “ or Friendly Societies” after the word “ Fund.” That will put contributions to friendly societies on the same basis as payments to pension and superannuation funds.
– Would the AttorneyGeneral be good enough to explain amendment No. 11 ?
– That amendment substitutes for “partnership interests” in paragraph vi. the words “ value of share of assets in partnership as per last balancesheet.” “Partnership interests” is p rather ambiguous term, and might include goodwill and a number of other considerations, but “ partnership assets as per last balance-sheet “ is more definite. Such a balance-sheet will be available to partners, who can give the information already compiled. The amendment has been made upon the suggestion of the Commissioner of Taxes. I think it is an improvement, and will avoid a good deal of trouble in respect of partnership accounts. I move -
That the Senate’s amendments be agreed to.
– These amendments by no means affect the principle of the Bill as originally introduced, but appear to be purely statistical. I can quite understand these amended returns being furnished for purely statistical purposes, but whether a man pays on the basis of the improved or the unimproved value of his land will not materially affect the operations in Flanders, and therefore some of these amendments do not seem to relate to a War Census. They are something extra to the adjective “ war.” I do not for the moment, however, see much objection to such an amendment as that relating to the unimproved value of land, viewed only from a statistical point of view. It may help us hereafter in studying our statistics if these matters be analyzed into their constituent elements. One result of these amendments will be a more detailed analysis of a man’s possessions no matter what they may happen to be. Amongst other things they will furnish excellent work for valuators, adjusters, auditors, and accountants. Incidentally this census will afford a great deal of employment.
– The amendments made will, as a matter of fact, mean less work. The second schedule will now conform to the ordinary way in which returns are made out. We are distinguishing between improved and unimproved values of land.
– And therefore, since some one who is an expert will have to make out this return, it will lead to a multiplication of work. The multiplication of expense that will be incurred in providing these additional returns in this particular way suggests that something else i3 in view besides prosecution of the war. However, I think we may allow the schedule to go through, particularly as I understand we shall have further opportunities of considering it when the War Committee is called together. The AttorneyGeneral has promised to submit the second schedule to the Committee.
– Quite right.
– Therefore, we shall have further opportunities of ascertaining what the general feeling is by consultation with some of the people who will be particularly interested in the operation of the measure. At this stage I shall support the amendments.
.- May I draw the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to the difficulty a trustee company will experience in furnishing particulars required of all the assets within the company’s control within the time specified. If this schedule applies to trustee companies, it is important that they should be given sufficient time in which to prepare a return.
– I quite admit that there will be cases where companies, and particularly trustee companies, will be called upon to make very lengthy returns, the preparation of which may involve a good deal of trouble. We cannot expect these companies to do this in the time allotted to individuals, and whilst we do not propose to make any alteration in the Bill, every latitude will be given to companies in this matter. Compared with the tremendous number of returns that we shall receive, those from such companies will he few, and their classification, along with the other returns, can be proceeded with as they arrive.
– As far as I have been able to follow the amendments, they seem, on the whole, to be rather in the nature of improvements, but if we were being asked to express a final decision now, I should press for further time for consideration. The Attorney-General has already given an undertaking that this schedule will not be brought into operation until the whole matter has been submitted to the War Committee, and that I understand will sit almost immediately. That Committee will have an opportunity of inquiring, not only from the expert officers who have been dealing with our taxation Acts, as to the most convenient methods of dealing with this proposed return, but also from the representatives of commercial bodies, who have, I understand, already expressed a desire to make certain representations as to how the return could be most quickly and effectively made. That being the case, I would deprecate lengthy or detailed discussion at this stage. Some of these alterations are of enormous importance, though, on the whole, I think they are in the right direction.
– They go a good deal further than the originals
– In some ways they may increase the difficulty. The Attorney-General has indicated now for the first time that companies will be required to furnish separate returns as distinct from those of their shareholders.
– We shall issue Gazette notices informing the companies as to what we want.
– I was going to suggest, as we shall have an opportunity of discovering what is the most convenient way of getting the information we require, that the AttorneyGeneral may find his best course will be, first of all, to demand returns from all individuals, and then to supplement these returns by such information as may be required from companies.
– I discussed the matter yesterday with the Government Statistician, and I think that will be the best way of dealing with companies. After all, companies are not very numerous, and can be dealt with quite simply.
– We shall have an opportunity of going into that matter later, and, that being’ the case, all I desire to say is that I think it will be a mistake to enter into prolonged discussion at this stage, because we cannot possibly have time to consider the amendments.
– I have never been able to regard this proposed collection of statistics as a business proposition. I can understand that it would be a good idea when the general census is taken, in order to get information regarding the social condition of the people, if we could then ascertain the wealth of the community. Such information would be interesting to reformers and those whose desire it is to alleviate the social condition of the people. But in such a census we ought to give every assistance to those who are under the obligation to furnish returns, just as we give assistance in the collection of the ordinary census. We are not proposing to do anything of that kind now. If there is any object in this proposal at all, it is to ascertain the wealth of the community for the purpose of taxing a certain portion of their wealth or income - the only business way would be to deal with income - inorder to meet the war expenditure. And therefore we propose to compel over a million families, who 1 suppose are not worth very much, to furnish a return just as we are proposing to ask those who are moderately well off, and those who are wealthy, to give statements of their wealth.
– They have to do that now.
– They have, under the various Income Tax laws.
– Three-parts of this Bill is not needed at all.
– I do not believe that this return when it is completed will be of any value to the Government, nor do I think the Government will have any time to deal with it. By the time they have any time to bother with the wealth schedule it will have ceased to be of any value, on account of the changed value of property and securities, and the consequent change in the circumstances of the people concerned. There is one pathetic item in this schedule - ‘ ‘ How much money have you lent?” What will be the position of a pawnbroker in regard to that item, and of the unfortunates who pawn their property? He has to-day certain amounts out. Probably within the next three or four months’ time that amount will have been increased by hundreds of pounds. The same argument applies generally, and in my view the schedule, when it is complete, will be of no value whatever.
– I agree with the honorable member for Capricornia with regard to the wealth census, but there is one item proposed in these amendments to which I desire to draw particular attention - the alteration of the date from the 30th June, 1915, to the 31st December, 1914. The AttorneyGeneral stated in the course of his introductory remarks it was not proposed to use these returns for the purpose of taxation. I hope it is not.
– I do not think I said that. 1 think I said that was not the primary purpose.
– I think the AttorneyGeneral did say what I suggest, but if the idea be to make this return a basis of taxation later, this change of date will operate most unfairly.
– Because in no circumstances will any tax as the result of this return be collected before next year. That will mean that the Government will be taxing people in 1916 on incomes received in the years 1913-14.
– All the States have done that.
– The States at the beginning of the present year collected taxation for the year ending 31st December last. That procedure is all right, but in this amendment we are proposing to get information for the year 1914 to form the basis of taxation to be collected in 1916. Such a course would be most unfair. There are two classes of incomes that have been made during the last twelve months. The first is that of a man who has made a tremendous income, amounting in some cases to a colossal fortune, out of supplying goods to the Defence Department. If there is one class of income which, more than any other, should be a fair subject of taxation in the near future, and taxation to a considerable extent, it is such an income as that. But for it no return will be obtained at all for the purpose of a war tax.
– Your argument is based on the assumption that this is to be the final return on which taxation will be collected.
– It would be manifestly unfair to collect income tax in 1916 based upon a return of incomes earned for the year ending 31st December last.
– Your contention is that the period ought to end at the 30th June last. That is, no doubt, a fair argument. The reason why the 31st December was fixed was that the income returns for that period had already been made out.
– I admit that the 31st December would, from the official point of view, be the more convenient date. The second class of income to which I refer is that of the person who was hard hit in 1914-15 by the drought, -whose income has been very small and whose losses have been enormous. If we are to. ignore the results of that year and tax the man on his income for the year when he did make some money, we shall be adding insult to injury.
– I can quite see that there might be injustice.
– I suggest that the matter be inquired into.
– Taxation of the States must, to a large extent, have been levied on that basis this year.
– Yes, but the tax for the year just past is always collected in the early month of the current year. Another point to be noted is that a great deal of the statistical information in Australia is practically useless, because it covers a period in which there were two half seasons. In a great producing country like Australia we should endeavour to arrange the collection of our statistical information so that it will cover a complete season. In the older countries of Europe the calendar year does cover a complete season. We, in Australia, have adopted the European practice for general convenience, but our calendar year comprises two half seasons. A great deal of our statistical information is rendered valueless for purposes of comparison by the fact that part of it is collected over portion of two years, and the remainder for the calendar year. For the purposes of this census it would be advisable to ask for a return covering the period of the financial year, 1st July to the 30th June.
– That is what we suggested originally, but we took the advice of experts.
– The officials, no doubt, favour the calendar year, because that would make their work much easier, but if these returns are to be the basis of taxation a great injustice will be. done.
– I do not know whether it is the intention of the Attorney-General to again bring forward this Bill for consideration after it has been submitted to the War Committee?
– As this is our final opportunity of dealing with the measure, I desire to emphasize the point made by the honorable member for Richmond, namely, the unfairness of using the information obtained under this Bill for the year ending the 31st Decern- ber last as a basis for the taxation of people whose incomes since that date have been very much reduced owing to the drought and other causes. If the tax is levied on the basis of the figures obtained by this census, they will have to pay out of their shrunken incomes an amount very much out of proportion to their actual earnings during the period for which they have to pay the tax. On the other hand, there are persons who have had an enormous increase of income owing to the national calamity and the position they have occupied as suppliers of various requirements for war purposes. In some instances persons have risen from comparative financial obscurity to positions of affluence, and if the tax be based on information obtained under the census for the period set out in the amendment, those persons will escape their proper share of taxation. Another point that is worthy of consideration is, that persons of comparatively small means might be allowed to pay the taxation in instalments extending over a period instead of in one lump sum. Many persons have experienced a substantial reduction of income, and have had to meet constant appeals to their patriotism, on behalf of various war funds, and they will be placed in an awkward position indeed unless they can be given some consideration in the manner I suggest.
– Are you not dealing with the taxing measure?
– The Attorney-General has stated that this is the last opportunity we shall have of dealing with this matter, and I am assuming that the information that will be obtained by the war census will be used as a basis for formulating a scheme of taxation.
– But when the “taxing Bill comes before the House you can discuss this matter.
– That Bill will have been framed, and there is always a disinclination on the part of a Minister to accept amendments, which are invariably regarded, especially when they emanate from the Opposition, as hostile. Therefore, I mention these points now so that the Attorney-General may give them consideration before drafting the Bill. Some provision ought to be made in the taxing measure to prevent discrimination against members of Parliament by the State departmental officials. In New South Wales there is discrimination against Federal members in regard to State income tax. There provision exists for deducting the amount of money expended in earning one’s income, but such a deduction is not allowed to Federal members resident in New South Wales. They are not permitted to deduct even election expenses, and are allowed as a matter of grace only a paltry deduction of £10 from their parliamentary allowance, notwithstanding that they have to maintain two homes, and incur many other expenses which they would not have to do as private individuals.
– We are allowed to deduct nothing whatever in Queensland.
– In Tasmania Federal members are allowed to deduct £100 for expenses.
– I knew nothing of that.
– I will give consideration to the matter.
– All I desire is that all citizens shall be placed on an equality in regard to deductions. There should not be discrimination against a taxpayer, because he happens to be a public man. Members of Parliament should be treated in exactly the same way as private individuals. I hope that the Minister will see that some safeguard of the kind is inserted. With regard to the general proposals of the measure, I shall not now occupy the time of the Committee, but I hope that all these matters will receive the serious consideration of the War Committee, and that the Attorney-General will consider particularly the wisdom of reverting to the date originally fixed.
– I offer a protest against one of the Senate’s amendments. Under clause 15 three days’ grace is allowed . after a change of residence for the making of a return. After the lapse of that interval a prosecution may follow, and the Senate has provided for a fine of £5. This may operate unfairly to men whose work necessitates continual travelling, and an almost weekly change of residence.
– The Bill originally provided for a fine of £50, which the Senate has reduced to £5.
– I think that there should be no fine at all. Persons in the back country are continually changing their residences. Many of them live in tents, which they are constantly moving from one place to another; and, according to a decision under the Queensland electoral law, a tent is not a residence. How will such persons be affected by this provision ?
– The law will be administered with full regard for the customs and convenience of the people at large.
– It is understood that the Government intends to propose an income tax, and I assume that the details obtained from the wealth census will not be used for the income tax assessments, but that citizens will be required to furnish special income tax returns. If information regarding the work of the community is required for record purposes only, it does not matter much whether the date which has been discussed is fixed as the 31st December, 1914, or the 30th June, 1915. As to the income tax returns, however, would it not be fair to base the income tax for next year on the income for this?
– The Government will have to provide machinery for the collection of the income tax, and will not be in a position to deal with information of a date later than 30th June, 1915.
– Why cannot the Commonwealth do as the States do ? Their income taxation is payable in the early months of one year on the actual income of the previous year?
– The States have their income tax machinery already in operation. It took us fourteen months to create our land tax machinery; and, in the first instance, we had to get every taxpayer to value his own land.
– Cannot the Government commence at once to create the necessary income tax machinery. It would be a great convenience to citizens to be able to make up their Federal and State income tax. returns at the same time.
– I cannot give any undertaking on the subject, but I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member and others under the notice of the Treasurer. There is no income tax proposal now before us.
– But when a taxing Bill is introduced, it will be impossible to alter it.
.- Why cannot the Government, in collecting Federal income taxation next year, make use of the returns furnished in connexion with the income taxation of the States?
– The income taxation of the different States varies in respect of rates, exemptions, and many other matters.
– I thought that income taxation was collected in all the States much on the same principles.
– No. We could not use the States forms or machinery, though we should be saved much time, trouble, and expense if the facts were otherwise.
– Am I right in assuming that a trading company may make up the return required under the Bill from its last balance-sheet, even though that balance-sheet may be six months’ old ? Many trading companies cannot make up their returns quickly, because they need some months for stock-taking.
– Under the State laws, every partnership has to return a balancesheet at least once a year, and we are prepared to accept that. While the arrangement may make a difference in individual cases, this difference will matter little in the aggregate.
– If ten persons are partners in a trading concern, each of them, I presume, will have to make a return showing his share of the assets. Will the partnership or company also have to make a return ?
– The matter must De considered. Personally, I think that that would be unnecessary, except to provide a check. We wish to ascertain the wealth of our citizens; but it may be that some of the wealth of the community is so held that it would not be shown -by any partner’s or shareholder’s returns. Certain reserves might be of that nature. In such cases, we should need returns from the company as well as from those constituting it. I do not think that that could happen with partnerships.
– I understand that the Bill, and its schedules, are to be inferred to the War Committee.
– Only the seconi schedule.
– If the War Committee suggests any alterations, will they be incorporated in the Bill?
– They will be incorporated in the schedule. It is provided that the schedule and the forms to be filled in shall be those prescribed.
– I regard this Bill as something like a doublebarrelled gun, although only one barrel appears to be shooting at the present time. Nearly all the discussion has been on the assumption that this wealth census is to be taken for the purpose of taxation in the near future; and I suppose this is about the only sort of measure that is worthy of general support at the present juncture.
– What about organizing the nation?
– We have not heard a word about organizing the nation. As to the collection of statistics regarding the men from eighteen to sixty years of age, the idea seems to be that we ought to keep 100,000 fighting men at the front. At the present time we have about 100,000 recruits.
– That is not so.
– We have pretty well 100,000; at any rate, the difference is not worth disputing about.
– You are forgetting the casualty list, and the wastage.
– At any rate, the idea seems to be to keep 100,000 men in the fighting line ; and to do this we must have from 130,000 to 150,000 men enrolled. At present we are getting the men by voluntary effort, and in Victoria in two weeks something like 20,000 enlisted. It appears to me that these statistics, regarding men from eighteen to sixty, will be practically useless, so far as this war is concerned, if the ultimate goal be what I have indicated. We must recognise the fact that the expense limits the number of men we can put in the field; and if we think that 100,000 is a fair contribution, that number can be raised by voluntary effort. Anything necessary in the way of the selection of recruits can be done by regulation, so as to retain those here who are required in the manufacture of munitions.
– It is not a question of what we think is a fair thing, but a question of what the enemy makes us do.
– No doubt it is_ a matter of necessity in the last analysis; but I repeat that this portion of the Bill appears to me to be practically valueless.
As to the wealth statistics, unless it is proposed to impose some form of taxation based on the accrued wealth of the community, I fail to see any use in the information contemplated.
– I regret to have to intervene, but I remind the honorable member that the Bill, as a whole, is not under discussion. I have allowed great latitude, but I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the amendments before the Chair.
– I was under the impression that this was regarded as the last opportunity we should have to consider the measure, and that we were discussing it as on a third reading. However, I shall confine myself to a more limited area. Different methods are adopted in different States in the collection of income taxation; and in no State has it been found necessary to have a wealth census before imposing the taxation. If the idea is an income tax, or even an increased land tax, where is the necessity to throw on the people of Australia such an enormous amount of work? I largely agree with the remark of the honorable member for Capricornia, that, unless there is an idea of taxing some of the capital wealth of Australia, the Bill will cause, I shall not say a waste of public money, but, at any rate, useless expendi.ture at the present time. The information called for may be all right for statistical purposes, as an addition to the information gathered at the present time by Mr. Knibbs ; but, in the absence of an intention to impose a wealth tax, I fail to see its utility.
.- It is just as well for us to remember that honorable members have drawn certain conclusions from these amendments, as they will affect taxation proposals in the future ; and, if we are to regard this measure from a taxation point of - view, we ought to be very careful to have every question so plain and intelligible that it can be thoroughly understood by those concerned. Every person between the ages of eighteen and sixty has to furnish truthful returns; and I suggest that the AttorneyGeneral, before he accepts amendment No. 10, should go carefully into the matter, and see whether it is as intelligible as it appears on the surface. For instance, what does the “ unimproved capital value of land “ mean ? What does it include 1
Does it include freehold and leasehold, or does it merely mean the capital value of freehold lands or those in process of becoming freehold ? If it does include freehold as well as leasehold, where is the necessity for the amendment which asks the individual to give a return of the unimproved value of his leasehold land ? Although I am supposed to have some acquaintance with the land laws of Australia, I do not know what these provisions mean; and I do not see how, under the circumstances, we can expect a truthful and intelligent return to be made by a country youth of eighteen or a little over. Such a youth, of course, is under penalty in the event of making a mistake ; and it is most inadvisable to have any overlapping or duplication. Under one provision which is not affected by the amendments before us, an owner of property has to give a return of the value of his live stock; and I ask the Attorney-General to inform me how a man is to arrive at the unimproved value of a leasehold’ estate if it be separated from the stock that the leasehold carries. What value has a leasehold without the stock ? These are all matters that ought to be made quite clear, so that youths of eighteen and over may be able to reasonably, truthfully, and quickly supply the information sought. I say definitely that if I cannot get an expression of opinion from the Attorney-General on these points, I propose to move at the proper time that we do not accept the amendment No. 10.
– The Attorney-General told us that the alteration in amendment No. 10 is purely a matter of convenience, and that the new methods proposed had’ been adopted because the original form was not recognised in any Taxation Department. I point out, however, that the new suggestion will bring in a great deal more revenue than the old one, because it alters the basis of taxation in a very large degree. It represents all the difference between taking a property over as a going concern and buying land and stocking it afterwards. If a man wishes to make a good sale, he does not sell a property as a going concern, but usually disposes of the land and the stock separately; and, as I say, there is just about the same difference between the old and the new methods of taxation proposed. There is a vast difference between the unimproved capital value of land and the capital value of land including the value of all improvements ; and I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will not - unintentionally, of course - deceive the Committee by saying that there is no difference. If the new method is adopted it will mean probably half as much more taxation as would the old method. There is another point that appeals to the man with practical experience on the land, and that is, that an owner has to return the value of “ all improvements, including houses- and buildings thereon.” I hope that the valuation under this measure will not be on the same basis as that usually selected. The usual way of arriving at the value of improvements is to find their cost and allow a certain ‘ amount every year for depreciation. But tha does not give the value of the improvements. In many cases, owing to altered conditions, the value has ceased to exist. The cost may have been heavy in the first place, and the percentage written off for, perhaps, only three or four years, and yet the value may have vanished absolutely. One man may make improvements at the cost of thousands of pounds, and a subsequent purchaser of the property may put these, not at what they cost, but at their real value, which may be only a few hundred pounds. Unless we are going to crush the people who are responsible for production, it is essential that we should have the unimproved value of the land with the improvements thereon - not separately - and that the improvements should be put at their real earning value, and- not at their cost less an amount for depreciation. I hope that the War Committee will go fully into these two phases of the question, because the matter is of some importance to the producers of Australia, and will have an important bearing upon the future of the production of the Commonwealth.
– I understood the AttorneyGeneral to say, in reply to the honorable member for Lang, that the second schedule to this Bill will be handed over to the War Committee.
– That is so. Before it is sent out to the people, it is to be referred to the War Committee.
-And that joint Committee will have the final voice 1
– That will mean government by regulation, or legislation at the back of Parliament. I should be sorry to think that the AttorneyGeneral would sanction anything of the kind.
– I said, a few days ago, when the Bill was under consideration, that the second schedule would be referred to the War Committee. That is quite in conformity with the principle affecting government by regulation, lt would be quite open to the Government to send out the schedule, without referring it to the Committee, and with any question we liked to put upon it. The Bill provides for that being done; but, in order that the House might know exactly what it was doing, I said that the Government would not, in any circumstances, allow the first schedule to be dealt with by the War Committee.
– My reference was to the second schedule.
– In or O’er to shorten discussion, I said it would be done. The principles are well settled. No question of principle is involved, and I said that the questions of detail to be settled could be dealt with effectively by the War Committee, on which both parties are equally represented.
– But a very serious alteration might be made by that Committee.
– No question of vital principle can be affected by the second schedule. It’ is designed only to ascertain the wealth of the community, and the Committee might say to the Government, “ The questions you propose to put will not afford the best means of ascertaining what that wealth is.”
– But if an alteration be made on the suggestion of the War Committee, will the schedule be returned to Parliament for further consideration ?
– No. If the honorable member can suggest any improvement to the schedule, I ask him to do so now. We wish to make it as perfect as possible.
– That is not the point. The point I wish to emphasize is that the Parliament will have no power to review any alteration which the War Committee may suggest.
– The matter is in the hands of the Government, and must remain there. If the Government take the advice of the Committee, and that advice proves to be wrong, they must put up with the consequences. The Government are responsible.
– Order ! I ask the Attorney-General to cease interjecting.
– The AttorneyGeneral’s pleading is interesting, but not convincing; and the precedent proposed to be created is so dangerous that I think that a protest should be made.
– The same sort of thing occurs every day. Day after day the Government are making regulations.
– But this is a Bill of vital importance. The whole scope of the census may be altered by additions made by the War Committee to the second schedule.
– Cannot the honorable member trust his own Government?
– But it is to be taken out of the hands of the Government.
– Not at all.
– The AttorneyGeneral says that the War Committee will have the final voice in the matter. If it amends the schedule Parliament will have no power to review the amendments.
– But the Government will have power to deal with any alteration made by the War Committee.
– If the Government is not going to accept the advice of the War Committee, what good purpose will be served by referring the schedule to it?
– The point is that the power to amend the schedule will be taken out of the hands of Parliament.
– That is the danger I foresee, and I do not think I should be doing justice to my position if I did not protest against anything in the way of legislation at the back of Parliament. I hope that other honorable members will also protest against the course proposed.
– I do not think there is much force in the argument just advanced by the honorable member for Indi. The Government are given power under this Bill to make regulations, and a regulation will be framed covering any amendment made in the second schedule. It is proposed that that schedule shall he submitted to the War Committee, and no doubt any reasonable suggestion made by the Committee will be adopted. I would remind the honorable member for Indi that from day to day regulations are made by the Government, and that those regulations have to be laid on the table, so that the House if it thinks fit may disagree with them. Although it is not expressly stated, I gather from the second schedule, as amended by another place, that leases from the Crown will be included in this return. It seems to me that the proposal to require a return as to the value of improvements on leasehold as well as on freehold lands should be carefully considered. Improvements on land leased from the Crown are of no value to the tenant unless he is to have a continuous use of that land. I think it would have been far better to omit from the schedule the provision that a return shall be made in respect of improvements on Crown lands leased from the States, and to confine the census to freehold lands and freeholds that are leased. I do not approve of the Bill at the present time, as it will not be necessary during the war, and I certainly do not think the second schedule is necessary. I fail to understand why in this time of trouble and difficulty we should burden the people of Australia by taking such a census, in view of the fact that the information to be collected is, I believe, for all practical purposes, already in the possession of the Statistical Departments of the Commonwealth and States. Unfortunately, when a pertinent question is put to the Attorney-General, the only answer given is usually an offensive personal remark. A few days ago, I asked him whether the information proposed to be obtained was not already for the most part in the possession of the Government Statistician? That was a pertinent and courteous inquiry, but the only reply I received was that the views I held dated back from Pharaoh’s tomb. That was a rude answer to a courteous question. The honorable gentleman is, I regret to say, very apt to make an offensive reply to an inconvenient inquiry.
– We are now dealing only with the amendments made by another place.
– The proposed expenditure of probably £150,000, in making this census, is absolutely reckless.
Even when complete the schedules will be of no use during the war, and we cannot afford to spend £150,000 in this way.
– When the Attorney-General stated last Friday that it was proposed to refer the second schedule to the War Committee, I protested against that course being followed, and I shall be prepared to agree to it only on the understanding that the schedule, as finally determined, will be presented for the final decision of the House before we adjourn. Unless such a condition be imposed we shall create a most dangerous precedent. This is one of the most important schedules that has been submitted to the House.
– And one of the most useless.
– That may be the opinion of honorable members opposite.
– It is only my own opinion.
– Under clause 8, the Government could clearly, without any agreement, in regard to the War Committee, amend the second schedule. All that is proposed is that the War Committee shall have an opportunity to express its opinion on the final revise, and to make any suggestions. The Government, however, must be the responsible authority, and it cannot share its responsibility with any one.
– The AttorneyGeneral nodded assent to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Flinders, who said emphatically, as he left the House, that he was satisfied with the replies that he had received from him.
– The honorable member says I only nodded.
– Tes; but a nod is as good as a wink sometimes. The honorable member for Flinders said he would permit the schedule to go through in its present form, though he said there were important alterations that must be made before the schedule is submitted to the people. I assume that the honorable member for Flinders, being a member of the War Committee, will, in that case, make a determined effort in that Committee to have the schedule altered in accordance with his ideas.
– I can say nothing at all about the matter, except that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the schedule is reasonably perfect. I know of no important alteration that could be made now or by the War Committee.
– I understood the honorable member for Flinders to say that drastic alterations would be needed.
– I certainly did not hear any such language, and, if I nodded, as the honorable member suggests, I must have been nodding to some of my friends elsewhere. I did not nod assent to any suggestion, such as the honorable member says was made by the honorable member for Flinders.
– The AttorneyGeneral looked directly at the honorable member for Flinders when he was speaking, and he seemed to be nodding assent; but what I would like to know is whether it is not possible, after submitting this schedule to the War Committee, to again submit it for the consideration of this Committee?
– If the War Committee is really anxious to discuss this matter I do not suppose it will occupy more than a couple of hours; discussion can take place on Wednesday morning.
– In that case, will the honorable member submit the schedule to the House on Thursday ?
– I will not promise that. It is not for me to call the Committee together. That is a matter for the Prime Minister.
– Seeing that this portion of the Bill will come under the AttorneyGeneral’s immediate supervision, I take it that he will not only be a member of the War Committee, but that he will preside over its deliberations on this particular matter. That being the case, I see no reason why a special meeting of this Committee should not be convened by the Attorney-General, who, as he will preside, ought also to be the convener. If the War Committee can meet on Wednesday, there is no reason why the schedule as then finally agreed upon should not be submitted to this Committee on Thursday.
– We must have finality somewhere. Let the schedule be made as perfect as this Committee can make it. Then we shall know where we are. But if this Committee will not make any amendments now, how will it be possible for the War Committee to understand the temper of this Committee?
– In order to understand precisely what is meant by the amendments inserted in the schedule in another place it is necessary to read the amended schedule side by side with the original. And it is a difficult matter to understand at once just exactly what the Senate had in mind. If the AttorneyGeneral assents to any propositions made by the War Committee, I think we may rely upon it that the Government will submit the altered schedule to the House.
– With regard to the amendments made by the Senate, may I say that, in my opinion, not one of them affects any vital principle, or does anything more than make the Act more distinct and more effective for the purpose in view.
– The honorable gentleman may give us that assurance, but the honorable member for Flinders also had an assurance.
– The honorable member for Flinders did not know at the moment what the effect of these_ amendments would be, and in order to guard himself against accepting a proposition, the extent of which he knew nothing at all about, he asked that the matter should come up before the War Committee. But I do know what the amendments made by the Senate will mean. I saw them before they were submitted to the Senate. All were the result of suggestions by experts.
– Anyhow, I hope the Attorney-General will see that this House has the opportunity of looking at the schedule after it has been considered by the War Committee and before it is issued to the public.
.- I think the suggestion that any amendments to the schedule introduced by the War Committee should be placed before the House is a good one, but the point to which I desire now to draw the notice of the Attorney-General is that no protection is afforded in the schedule to soldiers who are at the front. If we pass the Bill as it now stands, the men fighting at the Dardanelles will be brought under its penalty provisions. Cannot some further clause be inserted, taking that aspect of the situation into account? Regarding the proposed amendment to question 7 in Schedule 2, by which “ 31st December, 1914,” is to be substituted for “30th June, 1915,” I wish to foreshadow a further amendment altering the date back to 30th June, 1915. As a matter of convenience, the 31st December will suit most country people. Income-tax returns, returns for the Pastoral Protection Boards and other bodies have to be made up to that date. The .preparation of these returns often means a b:g income for solicitors and agents who now are employed on behalf of their country clients. I know that many farmers in my own electorate pay more in fees for the preparation of their schedules than the amounts actually collected by taxation. For the convenience of these people, and for general convenience, I would like to see the date in the schedule altered to 31st December, 1914, but I do not think that it is right that people should be taxed for six months prior to the date when the tax is due, and I sacrifice the convenient aspect of the question in order that people should not be called upon to pay more than they are entitled to pay.
– While I was absent from the Chamber I understand that the right honorable member for Swan complained that I treated him rudely the other evening by way of reference to Pharaoh and a voice from his tomb. I am sorry if the right honorable member thought that I intended to be rude to him. It was a mere jocular remark. T. ask him to accept my assurance that I did not intend to be rude. The reference was merely jocular on my part, and I hope the right honorable member will accept it as such.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong, and other honorable members, have spent a good deal of time discussing the proposal that the war census schedule should be submitted to the War Committee. I am sorry now that I ever made that suggestion. I made it with the object of saying time. It has not saved any time at all, for honorable members are now discussing the schedule with such avidity that it might be regarded as the only bone upon which their legislative jaws could find exercise. Yet there has not been one suggestion for the improvement of the schedule. If honorable members do not desire the Committee to make amendments, why do they not themselves suggest how the schedule may be improved ? The schedule has been materially improved since it was first submitted to the Chamber. I am told that the honorable member for Flinders says that the schedule requires drastic alteration. I dc not think it does; but if it does, I invite honorable members to point out what those drastic alterations should be. I agree that the War Committee should be called together to deal with this schedule as quickly as possible. I ask honorable members to make the labours of the War Committee an absolute sinecure by making the schedule perfect before it leaves this House. To send the Bill to the War Committee and then bring it back to the House would not be the way bp expedite business. If the War Committee make any suggestions which involve a radical alteration of the schedule, we will submit it to the House again, but mere minor alterations relating to the manner in which the desired information is to be obtained are not matters of importance to the House at all. If there be drastic alterations which alter, limit, or extend the scope of the inquiry beyond the bounds set forth in the schedule as printed, I will submit them to the House.
– The schedule can only be altered in the last resort by the Government, and must not such alterations come before the House in the same way as any regulation?
– An alteration would have to be laid on the table of this House, but it will be in force while it is on the table. It is quite true that the House will have a subsequent opportunity of dealing with any alteration by way of regulation; but the alteration will be printed and circulated before the House can stop it.
– Is not the schedule absolutely under Government control, except that the Government will have the advice of the Committee?
– That is so. I ask the honorable member to realize that the War Committee is composed of six men from either party, plus the Chairman.
– And the Chairman says that he will not allow an alteration except in small details.
– I have said that if any alteration of a vital character is made, I will bring the schedule back to the House, but I shall not go to the War Committee and limit its right of action.
– If the House is not sitting what will be the position ?
– I do not know what I shall do then, but I do not think that contingency can arise. It is suggested that the War Committee shall meet at 2.15 on Wednesday next, so that the schedule can be dealt with before the House meets on that day. After all, the Government have the responsibility for any alteration, and no alteration of a vital nature will be made without the House having a further opportunity of discussing the schedule.
– There seems to be an entire misapprehension on the part of honorable members opposite as to what the War Committee has to do. I take it that the Committee will be bound by the general intentions of the measure. The object will be to get somebody from outside Parliament who will have to do with the ultimate making up of the returns, and ask him if we can achieve the objects of the Bill without undue interference with people’s private affairs.
– Will you send for the police and the detectives?
– The men outside who will be called upon to fill up the schedules can tell the War Committee the best way in which that can be done. That is all that is intended. What is the use of putting the public to unnecessary trouble when the same ends can be otherwise achieved, whilst at the same time reducing inconvenience to a minimum. If there be any changes of policy suggested by the War Committee, surely honorable members can trust the Government to attend to them. The War Committee can do nothing except what the Government ultimately permit them to do.
– Do you know of any legislation in which the schedules have been made part of the Act, but power has been given to some outside persons to alter them after the Act is passed ?
– What outsider can alter the schedules? Parliament has given the Government infinitely greater plenary powers in connexion with the war regulations than in connexion with the war census. In framing all his war regulations, the Attorney-General has, no doubt, obtained information wherever it was obtainable, with a view to making the regulations as effective as possible, whilst at the same time causing a minimum of inconvenience to the people. This schedule is in the absolute power always of the Executive of the country. The criticism by honorable members opposite means that they cannot trust their own Executive.
Amendments 1 to 13 agreed to.
Mr. PIGOTT(Calare)12.56].- I move -
That the Senate’s amendment, No. 14, leaving out of paragraph 7 of the Second Schedule the words “30th June, 1915,” and inserting “ 31st December, 1914,” be disagreed with.
.- I support the honorable member for Calare. It must be obvious to every man who has read of the circumstances of all Australia, that the incomes of many people in 1915 will be vastly different from their incomes in 1914. For instance, the incomes of the sugar farmers, the dairy farmers, and other men on the land for 1915 will be much lower than their incomes in 1914. I think, therefore, that we should adhere to the schedule as it passed this House, providing for a return of income for the year ending 30th June, 1915.
– When the War Committee deals with this schedule, will it have power to make an alteration ?
– This is one of the questions that the Committee will be fairly entitled to discuss, and it may suggest an alteration.
.- We shall be making a mistake if we do not accept the Senate’s amendment providing for a return of income for the year ending 31st December. Most business firms, as well as private people, have already made up their balance-sheets to the end of 1914. and I do not think the Government desire to inconvenience large firms and business houses by involving them in the expense of making a special balance-sheet for the year ended the 30th June, 1915.
.- If, as the Attorney-General has remarked, this is a legitimate subject for the War Committee to make a suggestion upon, would it not be fairer to that Committee to leave the schedule in its original form, providing for a return for the year ended 30th June, 1915, rather than to now accept the Senate’s amendment, and then ask the War Committee to consider a further alteration?
Amendments 14 to 17 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 1.5 to 2.15p.m.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
– I have received the following letter from the honorable member for Richmond : -
I desire to give notice that I wish to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the conditions under which the nurses leaving Australia are supplied with uniforms, outfits, &c.
As the time within which the motion could be moved has expired, the matter must stand over until the next day of meeting.
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether, except by leave of the House, the time for the moving of motions can expire until two hours after the business of the day has been called on. I ask whether the leave of the House was asked in this case.
– A message may come from the Senate at any time, and the message with which the House has just dealt was received before the proceedings of the day commenced.
– You, Mr. Speaker, need not read such a message at once unlessyou choose to do so.
– When I read the message, I was under the impression that its consideration would be fixed for a later hour. I am not responsible for the action of the House in resolving to consider it forthwith. Messages from the Senate, or from the Governor-General, should be read at once, and this message was read as soon as opportunity offered.
– There is no meaning in the standing order which provides that a member may move the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of public importance if, to prevent that being done, you have only to get a message from the Senate, and have it taken into consideration forthwith.
– Had even one honorable member objected to the consideration of the Senate’s message forthwith, the matter would have had to stand over.
– I was under the impression that my notice of motion would be dealt with in the ordinary course, and, by way of personal explanation, I wish to say that, had I had the slightest idea that the procedure which was being followed would prevent me from moving the adjournment, I should have objected to it.
– The whole thing is unprecedented.
– As you, Mr. Speaker, made no mention of my letter, I concluded that everything was right, and that I should be called on in due time. It is only fair to myself to say that. In view of your ruling, there seems to be no other course open than to give notice of my intention to move the adjournment of the House on Wednesday next.
– When I read the Senate’s message, I was under the impression that its consideration would be taken at a later hour of the day, and when it was moved to take the message into consideration forthwith, I thought that some arrangement had been come to, and that the business would take but a very short time. I could not know how long the consideration of the message would occupy.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he ascertain from importers and others -
In the event of the aforesaid return showing that not sufficient have been provided for to satisfy the requirements of the forthcoming harvest, will he, in conjunction with the State Governments, arrange to import a sufficient quantity, and have them supplied to farmers at cost price?
– In the first instance inquiries will be made of the State Governments to ascertain what action, if any, they are taking, or propose to take.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
When calling for tenders for sleepers, will the Minister encourage the small man by accepting small parcels in preference to accepting tenders for large numbers?
– The Department has purchased quite a number of sleepers in small lots at country stations, and, in connexion with the recent tenders received, has allotted orders for some 63,000 sleepers amongst several small suppliers.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
The following papers were presented : -
Liverpool Military Camp, New South Wales - Interim Report on, by Mr. Justice Rich.
Northern Territory - Report from the Administrator in regard to the Mining Industry.
Ordered to be printed.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 75, 94.
Mr. ARCHIBALD (Hindmarsh-
Minister of Home Affairs) [2.23].- I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is purely a financial matter, but it may not be out of place to give honorable members some information as to the actual position of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. It is thought that the line will be open for traffic at the end of 1916, and I have no reason to doubt that, if no unforeseen contingency arises, the estimate will be correct. The speed limit at first will be 30 miles an hour. Mr. Deane, when Engineer-in-Chief of Railways, made an estimate for an unballasted track and 70-lb. rails.
– I do not know whether it was the late Government that altered the estimate.
– I made an alteration in respect of the ballasting.
– I did not know that it was to be an unballasted line.
– Until I came into office, no provision was made for ballasting, except at crossings.
– It has been repeatedly urged that this Government has increased the cost of the line, but it is easily seen that an unballasted track with 70-lb. rails must be less costly than a ballasted track with 80-lb. rails. According to the progress report for the week ended 17th July last, the earthworks at the Kalgoorlie end of the line had been carried as far as 289 miles 40 chains, while the platelaying has been completed as far as 288 miles 28 chains, and the telegraph line has been erected for the same distance. At the Port Augusta end the earthworks have been made for 292 miles 8 chains, and the platelaying and telegraph lines have been carried out for 290 miles 48 chains. The men employed on the construction works number 2,477, of whom 1,281 are working at the Kalgoorlie end, and 1,196 at the Port Augusta end. The total length of the line will be 1,053 miles, and the rails have been laid for 579 miles, or more than half the distance, although the line has not been properly ballasted for any great length. In the opinion of experienced engineers, including the Engineer-in-Chief, a speed limit of 30 miles an hour is a fair one for an unballasted track.
– I doubt that that speed can be attained unless there is some ballasting on the line.
– Some ballasting has been done, but no great amount of ballasting.
– I understand that for 500 or 600 miles the track will pass over limestone plains, where very little ballasting would be required.
– There is a school of engineering whose members preach the advantages of cheap unballasted tracks, and are not very particular about the safety of the travelling public. There are a great many engineers of that school in America. It appears not to matter much to them how many persons are killed or meet with accidents, because compensation can always be offered. On the other <hand, there are those who believe in a safe, solid, and wellballasted track. As an illustration of such work, I may point to the Canadian railway now in course of construction, though I do not think quite finished, from Quebec to Port Rupert, about 450 miles north of Vancouver. That line is being built partly by the Canadian Government and partly by the private company, and large sums of money have been spent in making the track solid and substantial, the promoters being of the opinion that this is the most economical method of construction. There are many other points of interest in connexion with that railway to which reference could be made, but time does not permit, and I refer honorable members to it as a very notable event in the history of railway construction. Of course I do not wish honorable members to think that an exactly similar policy is being carried* out by the Government in connexion with the transcontinental railway; but we have taken what I might call a middle course. I do not know that, as a layman, I have any right to express an opinion, but I do hold very strong views in opposition to a cheap and unballasted track.
– What I thought when I ordered the ballasting was that it would be a waste of money to have an express line that was not ballasted.
– The Government have sleepers for about 900 miles, and rails for about 800 miles have been delivered and paid for. Questions are asked in this House about the progress of the work and the cost; but we must not lose sight of the fact that we have not only paid for the rails and the sleepers, but for a considerable amount of material that is not being immediately utilized, but will certainly represent a part of the cost of the finished line. I refer to this matter only because, on one or two occasions, honorable members have pressed for a report in connexion with this work, and to such requests for information I, of course, raise no objection. I point out, however, that unless a report embraces all these facts that I have mentioned it is only a partial report, and might result in misleading the public. I ought to mention that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, at their new works at Newcastle, are rolling rails for this railway, and will supply all that are necessary for the complete construction of the road. It is only just to say that this company is turning out first-class rails, which have passed all tests, and, according to our own engineers, are absolutely satisfactory. We are all, of course, more or less anxious to keep work as much as possible in the country, and it does not matter much whether that end is attained by the Government or by private employers. The fact remains that steel rails can be rolled in Australia, and are being rolled at the present time.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Minister in order in introducing this Bill before this railway has been investigated by the Public Works Committee? The Public Works Committee Act provides -
The Committee shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, consider and report upon every public work (except any work already authorized by Parliament or which is authorized during the present session, and except works for the naval or military defence of the Commonwealth exempted by Order in Council from the operation of the Act) to be executed after the passing of this Act (and whether such work is a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, extension, or new work) in all cases where the estimated cost of completing the work exceeds Twenty-five thousand pounds.
– In the first place, I am not called upon to interpret questions of law.
– This is not a question of law, but a question of fact.
– It is a question of law. In the second place - and this is not a ruling by me, or an interpretation of law, but a matter of fact - a special Act of Parliament has been passed authorizing the construction of this line.
– I did not expect this point to be raised, though I am not surprised that it should be brought up by my eccentric friend, the honorable member for Maranoa. The answer to the honorable member lies in the fact that I am this afternoon asking practically for a Loan Bill. Such a measure, of course, for obvious reasons, is one rather for my right honorable friend the
Treasurer; and I, as Minister of Home Affairs, am merely dealing with the constructive phase of the question. As pointed out, this railway has been authorized, and a loan is now asked in order that it may be completed.
– This is one of the works that might be hung up, thus saving good money.
– I notice that that sentiment is cheered by Victorian members. I will not insult the House by assuming for one moment there is any likelihood of this work being hung up, because, when large sums of money have been sunk, as in the present instance, it would be the most insane policy to suspend operations. The only chance we have of dispersing the large army of workers now employed on the line is to finish the work as soon as it can be economically finished, thus affording an opportunity for a return on the capital expended. Rolling-stock to the value of about £500,000 has been paid for, and the total expenditure up to date is £3,700,000.
– What is the amount authorized to date by Parliament, irrespective of this Loan Bill?
– I cannot say, but a Loan Bill is usually an indication that the money previously authorized is running out.
– The rising of Parliament may be anticipated, and a larger balance kept in hand than would ordinarily be the case.
– I do not think that that is the reason.
– Does the Minister anticipate that the. proposed loan will be sufficient to finish the line?
– Yes. We have already spent £3,700,000, and we require £1,500,000 more, making a total of £5,200,000, which we think will build and equip the railway.
– Rolling-stock and everything?
– Yes, so I take it.
– How much of that will represent rolling-stock ?
– I have not the figures as to that. I may mention that the first estimate was for 70-lb. rails instead of the 80-lb. rails now being used, the change having been made in accordance with the best advice, and, it is understood, parliamentary wishes, as indicated in debate. Should any honorable member be inclined to object to the alteration, I may remind him that Parliament did desire that there should be 80-lb. rails. It is also worthy of note that the estimate of cost was practically for an unballasted line, and was based on a lower rate of wages than that we are paying at the present time; and, further, the war has affected the price of manufactured material that is necessary in the construction. However with an efficient staff, and the co-operation of the men, we have been able to “peg along,” and I have no doubt that we shalt succeed in constructing this line within the estimated time, and at the estimated cost.
.- There is one very significant admission from the statement just made by the Minister of Home Affairs. Last night the Prime Minister made a very interesting statement, which, however, I understood was only forestalling in an incomplete way what the Minister of Home Affairs was going to tell us to-day, and that was with reference to the linking up of this line, by arrangement with the Western Australian Government, from Kalgoorlie to ‘the sea. The Minister has made no reference to that matter. I take it, therefore, that the Prime Minister’s statement was based entirely upon some informal discussions he has had with members of the Western Australian Government.
– No; he said that negotiations were still pending.
– Then I take it that the Minister of Home Affairs does not feel that he is in a position to take the House into his confidence at the present time, even if he has the confidence to give it.
Coming to the cost of this line, I think that it has been built on what is, perhaps, the most expensive of all methods. I do not blame the present Minister, nor, indeed, any particular Minister, ‘for this fact. If a rational method had been pursued we should have taken care that, whether financed, operated, and worked by us or by the State, the necessary linking up from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie was completed before we started to build the line from Kalgoorlie eastwards.
– What is the position with regard to the narrow gauge on the South Australian side?
– That is another matter. On the South Australian side we can get our material by sea to the railway base. We can ship our material to Port Augusta and send it on from, that point. On the Western Australian side, however, we have to carry our material over the State railways, and have had to pay enormous haulage charges. Those charges having been paid - and I do not blame the Minister - we are now going back from our place of commencement to the place of supply. This is an absurd way of constructing such a line; but no one, apparently, is to blame for it.
I am glad that the Minister agrees with me that it would be false economy to spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar. In other words, this railway, if it is to be of any value at all, has to pay as an express service.- It is not a transcontinental line in the sense that an American transcontinental railway is in the United States. Until the opening of the Panama Canal there was practically no communication between east and west except by railway, and the onlY competition was that existing as between rival companies. In this country, however, sea communication between east and west is practically as short as Land communication, and unless this line can beat very materially the time occupied by sea transit we are not going to secure any passengers for it.
– Has the honorable member ever estimated what will be the difference in fares by sea and by rail over this route?
– As far as I have been able to go into the matter, I am satisfied that, provided we are able to secure a through communication from Melbourne to Fremantle - if we can do away with any break of gauge either at Kalgoorlie or Port Augusta - and construct a line on the gradient I laid down, namely. 1 in 100, at an average speed of 45 miles per hour, the actual saving of time will be such that people will be prepared to pay the increased cost of travelling by rail. But if we are going to run this service on the basis of the Victorian and New South Wales express rate, which is 33 miles per hour in the case of the best services, we shall not induce any one to travel on this line, and the whole of our capital outlay upon it will be practically wasted. In that consideration the matter of ballast was absolutely vital. When I became a Minister I found that the only provision for ballasting was practically in respect of level crossings. The amount on the estimate was insufficient for practically all other purposes. I immediately gave orders that the line was to be ballasted throughout. Unless that is done we shall secure only with the utmost difficulty a maximum of anything like 30 miles an hour. I am inclined to think that the rate given by the Engineer-iu-Chief and quoted by the Minister was quoted, not as the average, but as the maximum speed over an unballasted track. There is, of course, a tremendous difference between a maximum and an average speed. On a line with the proper curves and gradients an average speed of 45 miles per hour can be secured, and we must aim at getting an average from Adelaide to Fremantle of at least 45 miles per hour on this service. To do that the Government will have considerable difficulty with the South Australian Government, even if they are able to negotiate themselves out of the difficulty that has arisen with the Western Australian Government. The’ Government of Western Australia - and I am not reminding honorable members of this fact with the object of creating any hostility in respect of the present or any past Government of that State - undoubtedly pledged themselves to build at their own cost, simultaneously with the line we are building from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, the railway to the sea to which I have referred. They have not carried out that pledge. I arn not here to hamper with my criticism the negotiations now going on, but, unless our line is linked up with the sea by a 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge railway with the same curves and gradients as our own, all that we are now spending ‘will be of very little value. The Government of Western Australia, whether because of force of circumstances or some less worthy reason, have deceived us in the past, and it will be necessary in any negotiations to bind them to build the line to the sea according to the same gradients and the same speed ideal that we are observing in the construction of the transcontinental railway.
– I do not think it is practicable to secure the same gradient all through.
– There might be a slight difficulty about Midland Junction.
– We shall be able to secure right through a gradient of 1 in 100.
– There are at present near Kalgoorlie one or two gradients of 1 in SO, which were made before I took office. It is no serious disadvantage, however, to have such a gradient over a short section. It is an easy matter to obtain an additional engine to haul a train over a short section where you have such a gradient, but the moment the ideal I have mentioned is departed from we shall have brought into operation the old State ideal of quick curves and steep gradients, which traffic officers in all the States have been lamenting from the time of its institution. The construction of a line on the cheap-building and heavy-haulage basis is the most expensive of all methods, and its adoption in this case would be suicidal. We must have on the transcontinental railway an .absolutely express service as understood in America or the Old Country. Without it our line will be of no use. There is an extraordinary difficulty with the State Government so far as the South Australian end is concerned, and it is due largely, I believe, to the personal views of one of the officers of the South Australian Railway Department. When I held office as Minister, I urged very strongly that the utmost pressure should be put upon the South Australian Government - and I endeavoured to do this, also, personally, over here - to insure that the new line from Adelaide to Port Augusta should be built according to our models with respect to gauge, gradients, and curves. It appeared, however, that the South Australian Chief Commissioner of Railways thought that the line to Port Augusta should be built on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, his reason for this being that it would be extremely inconvenient to have a break of gauge in Adelaide! We do not want any break of gauge anywhere. Our desire is that the line shall be built on the same gauge right through from east to west. We do not want any sectional or parochial influence to interfere with our ambition in this respect, which is absolutely vital. We have one hold over the South Australian Government, and that is that a uniform gauge line from east, to west is vitally a defence proposition. Indeed, the prime reason for this Parliament entering upon this project with the unanimity with which it eventually entered upon it was that it was recommended by Lord
Kitchener as ,a defence proposition. Now, if there is any point where a ‘ break of gauge is a matter of supreme military concern it is where you are away from your centres of mobilization. A break of gauge in a mobilization centre is not vitally important, because there you can get your men away in any direction by any of the lines; but with a break of gauge far removed from your centre of mobilization there is absolute chaos, rollingstock converging from both ends, and an absolute dead-lock taking place in the free passing of troops east and west.
– That would apply also to passenger traffic.
– Certainly; but I am putting forward the defence ground now, because it is a lever that we may use to move the State Government. Many a State Government has the unfortunate habit of saying to the Commonwealth when it isapproached, “This is our business; be good enough to look after your own.” We have to consider what weapons we have at. hand when met with such an argument. I am pointing out we have this defence weapon, and if South Australia will not meet us in our desire that there shall be a line of uniform gauge right through to Adelaide, we might ourselves build a line, under our defence powers, from Port Augusta up through Quorn. The only difficulty likely to arise would be in securing the same grades and curves between Port Augusta and Quorn.
– We might get them through Terowie.
– If South Australia would not connect up with a 4-ft. 8^-in. line to Adelaide I would tell the State Government that for defence reasons we must connect up our mobilization centres with this line, and that we intend, therefore, to build for ourselves a 4-ft. 8^-in. line, which would leave out Adelaide altogether, and pass over the range near Port Augusta, proceed through Petersburg, and eventually link up with the new Broken Hill line from Sydney, as well as linking with Melbourne through Mildura, or some other convenient centre.
– Should we be able to carry merchandise over such a line?
– The States might say, “What use could you make of such a line?” My answer would be, “What use would the people residing in the districts through which that line passed have for a responsible State Government that tried to prevent them from using it?” They would rise en masse, if because of the fractiousness of their own State Government they could not use a line already in existence.
– Whatever may be the opinion of the Adelaide authorities today, they will have to give in, whether they like it or not.
– Yes ; but the linking up of this line from Port Augusta to Adelaide direct on the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge cannot be too strongly urged at the present moment, since . the State Government are already pushing ahead with their 5-ft. 3-in. project. I believe that at base it is the false doctrine of the one man to whom I have referred which is at the back of that project.
– Have they started to build the line?
– As far back as eighteen months ago they were dealing with the plans, and were, I think, putting in hand some of the subsidiary contracts.
– They told me some eight months ago they were going to build a 4-ft. 8^-in. line.
– I do not think that they have done much beyond talking, so far.
– When I left office, the State Government had not come down from their proposal to build a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line, but if they have done so since no one will be more pleased to hear of it than I shall be.
There is one other consideration and that is as to the running rights of our carriages on the Australian railways. Long before the present Minister came into office the various State Railways Commissioners arrived at an arrangement in regard to the load gauges, for tunnel purposes, and so forth, of all new rolling-stock to be built. We are building to that load gauge, and I think we ought to aim ultimately at securing free running rights for our trains over all Australian lines. I have in mind the ordinary free running rights which obtain even as between rival railway roads in the United States of America. Any train going from Sydney to Fremantle ought to be able to run straight through without passengers being called upon to change at any point.
Our trains must be better than the State trains, both in regard to speed and comfort, because there is a difference between travelling in a train for one day and for four days.
– The Railway Department has not lost sight of that. A big effort will be made to have these trains the best in Australia.
– I am glad of that. My honorable friend knows that he could not get people to live for more than one day in such trains as those now provided by the States, and people will not spend several days in the trains that will run over this route unless they are particularly comfortable, when there is an alternative route by steamer.
If the Minister is not in a position to-day to inform the House of the negotiations that have taken place with the Western Australian Government, I hope he will be in a position to do so before the House rises. Speaking with no desire to harp upon things that are past, may I urge upon the Minister the necessity of being very careful in his negotiations. If he consults his own railway officers–
– I shall do that.
– If he consults these officers, he will find that it is very necessary to be particularly careful when negotiating with Western Australia. ] do not think I need say another word on that point. The memory of railway officers is usually particularly keen about the other negotiations that have taken place, and I hope everything will be put down in black and white, so that on some future occasion nobody will be able to say that nothing was agreed upon.
This is not the time to talk about closing down this railway construction. Such a decision would involve very serious waste. The country in certain districts is of such a nature that, if an embankment were constructed to-day, it would probably be blown away to-morrow if left uncovered; so that the quicker the rails and ballast are put into position the better. As a matter of fact, no wind at all is needed to disturb that soil. I remember seeing an excavator working at a distance of 10 miles. There was a huge pillar of dust above. The soil is so light and friable - so very fine - that it is taken up by the merest breath.
– The honorable member will understand that that is not nice stuff for men to work in.
– It is not; and, recognising the arduous and trying nature of their work, I gave an increase of wages to the men. For the safety of the line, and in the interests of economy, the quicker the ballast and the rails are put down, the better. I, therefore, urge upon the Minister, whilst pushing ahead with his platelaying record - which I recognise is good - to also remember this aspect of the question. Do not let us contemplate the possibility of being able to travel only 30 miles an hour over the line completed in 1916. Let us have something better, so that we may be in a position to realize that within a very short time of the opening it will be possible to travel at true express speed over a finished line from Fremantle to Adelaide.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth cannot be in touch with the real difficulties in the way of construction, or he would realize that the absence of ballast is not the only anxiety being felt in this work. The chief difficulty is the absence of rollingstock.
– I understand that.
– It was insisted that this work should be done in Australia by Australian contractors; but in no single instance has a contractor kept to the terms of his arrangement. Engines that were very badly required have not been delivered, and I understand that the Toowoomba firm engaged in engine construction is practically in a state of insolvency. Contractors for the rails have similarly been behind time, and the remark applies particularly to the gentleman from New South Wale3, who sat in the gallery for months and months, until he got the contract.
– Does the honorable member recollect how I used to be criticised for importing foreign engines?
– I do. The present Minister received a good deal of attention from local manufacturers, but none of the contracts that he made are being delivered up to time. Now we are in the position that we cannot get even imported engines, on account of the absence of shipping accommodation.
– I hope the honorable member will not think that I was carping at the Minister in what I said. I understand the difficulty quite well. I was merely anxious that we should push ahead with the ballasting, at all costs.
– I should like to know if there is any money provided for the widening of the railway between Kalgoorlie and Perth, or Fremantle?
– None whatever.
– Then I will ask the Minister that, before any arrangement is fixed up with Western Australia, he will give the House an opportunity of knowing the details. I have it on good authority that if that line is left in the hands of the Western Australian Government there will be no trains running in June, 1916. They have not the necessary plant, and without that the work cannot possibly be proceeded with, though it is very necessary that we should push on, because of the large amount of capital already involved. There is no doubt that considerable dissatisfaction exists amongst the men working at the different ends of the line, and I want to impress upon the Minister the fact that it will be calamitous if anything in the nature of a strike takes place just now.
– Wages are fixed in accordance with the cost of living.
– I understand there is considerable difference between the wages paid to the two sets of men. If the Minister will take into consideration the nature of the country in which a good deal of this work has to be performed, with its great rolling sand-hills extending for miles, he will understand that heavy demands are made upon the physique of the men employed. Work in these sand-hills, where the average rainfall is only about 6 inches, is much harder than it would be on firm country. At the Western Australian end the position is much easier from the point of view both of working and camping. When the Minister of Home Affairs conceded an additional rate of wages to the men at the Port Augusta, end, it was because they had to work in difficult country ; and I hope that, before the Minister comes to a final decision on the question of wages, he will bear in mind that there are other circumstances to be taken into account beyond that concern-_ ing the mere cost of living. It is a fair thing that all the men employed should get an equivalent rate of pay, otherwise there will be trouble. I have every confidence, if there is no cessation of work, that by June, 1916, the two branches of this line will be nearly linked up. But it must be clearly understood that the line cannot be ballasted by that time, on account of the absence of rolling-stock.
– They have not got the engine power.
– A large portion of the rolling-stock is used for the conveyance of material and water. Honorable members have only to know that as much as 190,000 gallons of water have been carried along the single line in one day to understand the difficulties that have to be faced in this-work.
– One of the difficulties was caused by having to use impure water in the boilers.
– If we had sufficient haulage power we should be able to get over that difficulty.
– I think better water has been found now; but, in any case, there is no doubt this has been a colossal work. The material that has to be transported now is equivalent to one-third of the whole transport over the Victorian railways, a fact which speaks eloquently of the work that had to be done. There may have been mistakes, just as there are mistakes in all big works; but I feel confident that in the end this railway will stand out, a magnificent undertaking, a credit to the men who have carried it out. I think both ends will have been connected within the time stipulated, unless there is labour trouble; and in this regard I would urge the Minister to give the men the benefit of any doubt he may have in his mind. The wages paid are 13s. at one end, and 12s. 2d. at the other, and it is difficult to induce the men to believe that there is that difference in the work which would justify a variation of lOd. per day in the wages. I feel confident that the Minister will do his best to agree to what is a fair proposition. I again impress upon him that there is no more uncomfortable section of the line than that which the men will have to work on in the next stage. I speak as one who has done railway work under contractors in Victoria, and I know how arduous it ‘s to be continually shovelling sand in a climate such as that in which the men on the transcontinental railway are working.
There is a stretch of country beyond Tarcoola that is as bad as any country ever bridged by a railway; on that section the men have yet to work, and they ask that they be paid the same rate as the men on the Western Australian end of the line are receiving.
– I am much obliged to the Minister for the information he has given to the House. It must be gratifying to every honorable member to be told that the rails have been laid for 578 miles out of the whole length of 1,053 miles - more than half the length of the line. The progress henceforth will, I believe, be more rapid. The sand hills in South Australia, west of Tarcoola, represent the only extensive stretch of sand along the route, and when they have been negotiated the . line will traverse level country for the whole distance to Kalgoorlie. When Western Australia is criticised for not having constructed a broad-gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, as the Parliament of that State undertook to do, I hope it will not be forgotten that there is no statutory undertaking to that effect. There was a statutory undertaking covering a period of five years., but that period has expired, and now the only obligation on the State Government is one of good faith.
– Do you not think that we can depend on the good faith of the people of Western Australia?
– I am sure we can. The default has not been due to the unwillingness of the Western Australian people or Government to carry out the undertaking, but to the fact that the State has temporarily fallen on bad times- The Government, are short of money, and they have a deficit of over £1,000,000 on current account. The present Premier has repeatedly said that he is willing to fulfil what he acknowledges to be an obligation, but he has not the means to do so immediately. If some arrangement for providing the means can be devised between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government, Mr. Scaddan will be willing to proceed with the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle section of the line. I understand that a survey has been made, and that a ruling gradient of 1 in 80 has been obtained.
– They have completed Hie survey of the section from Midland Junction to Kalgoorlie.
– Yes, and I understand that they have found a suitable route. I think the Western Australian Government are undertaking; a good deal more than is necessary. To build a new line from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie is unnecessary at the present time. That work would cost, perhaps, £1,500,000, and the difficulties of gettingmoney in these days are very great. I have been informed that it would be possible to lay another rail along the existing track.
– But you could not improve the grade.
– I believe that both the grade and the curves could be improved by the expenditure of a little money, and I was told a couple of years ago by Mr. Deane, who was then EngineerinChief for Commonwealth Railways, that another rail could be laid on the same sleepers for the time being, and that the line could be improved later.
– The sleepers are only 7 feet in length.
– Mr. Deane told me that he thought such an expedient was possible. At any rate, it seems to me that the building of a new line is at present a serious matter for the State Government to undertake. Therefore, I hope they will utilize the present line, and improve it when they have the means and the opportunity. The east-west railway has always been associated with Western Australia. The fact seems to be overlooked that 600 miles of the total length of 1,053 miles is through South Australian territory. The railway will be of just as much benefit to the people of South Australia as to those of Western Australia, but the latter is committed to the construction of a broad gauge line from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie - a distance of 387 miles - whilst South Australia is not asked to spend a farthing, and this while there are 600 miles of the railway in South Australia, and only 453 miles in Western Australia. I hope that people will remember that fact, and also realize that Western Australia at the present time has a much smaller population than South Australia.
– South Australia gave consent to the building of the line.
– South Australia promised consent if Western Australia entered Federation, but never gave it until its consent was embodied in the
Act for the transfer of the Northern Territory many years after. I have no doubt that the Commonwealth Government will inquire as to the way in which the State Government can be assisted in regard to the building of the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle section. It may not be possible to put that work in hand at present, but the two Governments must endeavour to work together in some way, so that the work may be completed, and there may be a through line from Adelaide to Fremantle, with only one change of gauge, I hope at Adelaide. I do appeal to the Minister to try to induce the South Australian Government to construct the line from Port Augusta to Adelaide on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, so that the break of gauge shall be at Adelaide, which will then be the terminus of the east- west railway. In conversations I had with a member of the previous State Government of South Australia, he seemed to take a reasonable view of that proposal. It must be better to have the break of gauge in a great city where there is accommodation for passengers, rather than at a much smaller centre. I believe it would be of advantage to South Australia, as it would certainly be to Western Australia and to the passengers on the line to have the one break of gauge in Adelaide. I should like to point out the advantage that this east-west railway will be as a connexion between the eastern and western railway systems. The Commonwealth had in 1913-14 22,000 miles of railway, of which 4,000 were in Western Australia and 18,000 miles in eastern Australia. A line of 1,053 miles will connect up two systems, and of that distance 578 miles of rails have been laid. In the matter of railway construction Western Australia is far in advance of South Australia and Tasmania, and even in advance of Victoria. According to Knibbs for 1913-14, the mileage of open railways in the various States was: New South Wales, 4,246; Victoria, 3,886; Queensland, 5,213 ; South Australia, 2,357; Western Australia, 3,910; Tasmania, 766; and the Northern Territory, 146.
– The Western Australian total includes the transcontinental railway, I suppose?
– No. The foregoing figures represent only lines thatare actually open. Everybody must realize that a work which will connect two separate systems of 18,000 and 4,000 miles respectively must be of great advantage to the whole Commonwealth. Sometimes this line is compared with a railway to places where there is no population. The transcontinental railway will pass through the Golden Mile, which is 387 miles from Fremantle, and is the richest square mile of gold-bearing country in the world. Kalgoorlie and Boulder have a population of 30,000, and I repeat that a railway which is to connect eastern Australia with a community such as that cannot be likened to railways that are to be built for developmental purposes and have no immediate reproductive outlook, although it is hoped and believed that they will be of great value in the future. The eastwest railway will not pass through a desert. The idea that the territory between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie is a desert of sand has been exploded. The only considerable extent of sand is situated on the South Australian side, westward of Tarcoola, and there is no sand at all on the Western Australian portion of the route. For 600 miles the line crosses an open limestone plain, which, although there is no surface water, is covered with vegetation in good seasons. There are 20,000,000 acres of land there covered with grass and saltbush, the herbage in very good seasons being a foot high. The rainfall on this area is within the 10 inches per annum, but I think is rarely that amount. Honorable members know that many fairly good sheep stations are situated in country having an average rainfall of less than 10 inches. The railway will enable sheep to be moved into this district when feed is plentiful there and scarce elsewhere, and will allow them to be taken away again when the feed there becomes scarce.I do not think that I need say any more on the subject now. The work has got beyond the stage at which it meets with opposition. I would only add that, notwithstanding my long connexion with, and advocacy of, this project, I never heard it even mentioned until about a year ago that the line was originally designed as an unballasted line. According to the then Engineer of Commonwealth Railways - Mr. Deane’s - report, dated 20th September, 1911. an estimate is given of the approximate cost of the whole work, giving the items of cost in detail, and among the items is “ sleepers and ballast, £1,038,000.” A few weeks ago I met Mr. Deane in this building, by accident, and told him that I had heard it said that the line was designed as an unballasted line. He replied, “Nothing of the kind; the reason that that is said is because for a long distance the track crosses a limestone plain, where the foundation is sound, and little ballast will be needed.” Thus the cost of ballasting is much less than it would be if the surface were everywhere loose. According to an official minute which the Minister has just handed to me, it is stated that Mr. Deane’s original estimate of the cost of the line is £4,045,000, not including ballast. This statement is at variance with Mr. Deane’s report on 20th September, 1911, above quoted, and is altogether at variance with my own knowledge of what was being done, for I need hardly say I would never have approved of an unballasted line. I have always said that the work would be carried out for £4,000,000, but it now seems likely to cost £5,000,000. It must be remembered, however, that the rate of wages, which was 8s. a day when the work was commenced, is now 12s. 6d. a day; that 80-lb., instead of 70-lb., rails are being used; and that many other things havetended to increase the cost. Everything is being done for the comfort and health of those employed on the line. A friend of mine, who is a medical officer connected with the work, showed me in Perth some photographs of his quarters and of the hospital, both of which are on wheels.
– The men who are employed on the line do not live in such quarters.
– I understand that a number of them live in carriages, in which bunks are fitted up as in sleeping cars. Although there have been delays and difficulties, I think that we have now broken the neck of the undertaking, and the sooner we get the rails linked up the better. It is a well-known saying of railway contractors that once the rails are linked up the job is finished. I wish the Minister every success with the work.
– I agree with the honorable member for Swan that the people of Western Australia will have cause for gratitude when the line is finished. The fact that the completion of the line is now within measurable distance is very pleasing to those who in days gone by have taken a prominent part in advocating its construction. T do not wish to sound a discordant note, but it is not to be forgotten that, although the right honorable member for Swan has consistently advocated and supported this project, it is the Labour party that must be given the credit for carrying it out. The honorable member for Wentworth said that thirty miles an hour would be the maximum, rather than the average, speed travelled on the line, but he has overlooked the fact that ballasting is being proceeded with as fast as rolling-stock for the purpose is made available, and .within the next eighteen months a considerable length will be ballasted. On the ballasted sections the speed will be more than thirty miles an hour, and the average is likely to be quite thirty miles an hour.
– In Western Queensland the speed on earth-ballasted lines is limited to eighteen miles an hour. The ideal to be aimed at on this line is an average speed of fifty miles an hour.
– I hope that the line will not have been opened long before trains are running over it at that rate. I am glad that the Government is discussing with the Government of Western Australia the question of a loan to provide for the widening of the gauge of the line between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle. The Scaddan Administration had provided the money necessary for that work, but, owing to the stringency of the London market eighteen months” or two years ago, it had to re-appropriate the money for other purposes. Now that the Commonwealth Government is likely to come to its assistance, the work ought to be completed before very long. The honorable member for Grey wanted to know if I had any authority for saying that the Government of Western Australia would discontinue the making of developmental lines, to concentrate its energies on the widening of this line. I had no authority for saying that, and I did not say it. What I said was that the Government of Western Australia has constructed hundreds of miles of railway each year, and that it is absurd to suppose that it has not plant for the widening of the gauge of the line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. The Government of Western Australia is as desirous as we are that the widening of the gauge of that line should be completed simultaneously with the completion of the line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. The honorable member for Grey would have us impose conditions upon the spending of the money proposed to be lent, but recently, in advancing £18,000,000 to the States, we imposed no such conditions, and there is no need to do so in this case.
– I did not make any statement of the kind.
– The loan will be a pure matter of business arrangement between the two authorities, but the money will have to be advanced without imposing any stipulation as to its expenditure. Honorable members must not lose sight of the fact that the Western Australian Government have over 3,000 miles of railway to deal with, besides the particular work to which I have referred. As the Fremantle-Kalgoorlie line is, in a sense, an artery running east and west through the State system, the State authorities will be faced with the question of converting the whole of their lines to a gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in., or have breaks of gauge here, there, and everywhere. It is not merely a matter of the State undertaking the financing of 387 miles of railway; they will have to face the continual cost of trans-shipment at each junction from the time the line is built until, with the expansion of their finances and commerce, they can undertake the conversion of the remainder of their system. I could mention at least half-a-dozen places where it would be necessary to tranship traffic if the FremantleKalgoorlie is linked on to the main line.
– You assume that they will do that.
– They must either do that or build an entirely separate railway.
– They will have to do so ; the curves of the present line are entirely inadequate for our service.
– I speak with a very intimate knowledge of the line; and I say that the section where there are curves which might be deemed too sharp, is a very short one indeed. If there rs to be any idea of a third rail, it would be cheaper to alter the curves, as would be possible, with a very limited number of exceptions.
– What are the ruling curves on the line?
– I could not say from memory. As I say, it would be cheaper to alter the curves, if it were not for the fact that there is this break of gauge to deal with. I do not know what the State Government intend to do. A survey is completed from Midland Junction to Kalgoorlie, and at present the remainder - a matter of about 20 miles as the crow flies - is being surveyed. Should money be available through the Commonwealth Treasurer, as I hope it will, the ‘State Government will then be in a position to make a commencement without delay. They ought to experience no difficulty whatever in completing this section within a reasonable time, and inaugurating the service from Fremantle to Port Augusta.
.- I desire to add a word or two to what the honorable member for Grey has said in regard to the payment of the men who are doing the practical work of this railway. It is quite easy for us, of course, to discuss ways and means, and talk about curves; and we are prone to forget that away out in this arid desert, if we choose to call it so, these men are bringing about the consummation of this great work. The conditions under which they live and labour are such as no honorable member would care about “ touching with a 40-ft. pole.” I have been out to the 98-mile peg, and I had the pleasure of riding back on an open truck in the face of a gale of wind and small rain. I was like a Red Indian when I arrived, and it was a week before I was able to thoroughly clean myself. The Minister has had an assurance from the union that controls the work on the line that they will give an undertaking, as they did to the ex-Minister, to do the whole of the work a.t a given rate ; and it is now within the power of the honorable gentleman to close with an agreement that will insure the line being constructed within the time specified. These men are not asking one penny more than has bs:m granted to the workers on the western section. For a long time the workers on the
South Australian side were working at the same rate as the men on the Western Australian side; but the latter realized that their labour was worth more, and they successfully sent their representative to negotiate with the Minister in Victoria. The men on the South Australian side claim that they entered into an agreement with the ex-Minister, and honorably kept it; and that honorable gentleman made the arrangement because he realized that their claim was justified. The men are now getting into the very heart of Central Australia, and work under conditions that it would be hard to parallel anywhere, unless further north. Further, the conditions, apart from those of the work, .are not of the best; and all they are asking for is 13s. a day - the same rate that has been granted on the Western Australian section. It has been argued that the cost of living is greater in Kalgoorlie and on the western section ; but I submit that the cost of living should not be taken as the basis. We must admit that on the Westem Australian side the country is wooded, and altogether better to work in. We have the assurance of the secretary of the organization last week that on one occasion when he was on the job on the eastern side the men had to sleep out in the open, because all the tents were blown down in a squall. If an agreement were entered into on the terms desired, the Minister would be on safe ground, because he could calculate on the work being done to a finish. To show that the rate asked is not an outside one, I may mention that, in the fruit-growing areas of the ranges of South Australia, Mr. Justice Buchanan ha3 awarded railway men a minimum wage of 10s. a day, although their conditions are infinitely better than they are in the middle of Australia, the proximity of the capital giving them opportunities for better food. At the present time, men on the eastern section are receiving 12s. 2d. per day, and they ask for an extra 10d., now that they have fulfilled their agreement with the ex-Minister. The argument is all iu favour of the men; and I hope that the Minister will realize that the moTe quickly the line is finished the better it will be for the Commonwealth. Even from that point of view, it would be wise to enter into the agreement, but I am supporting the men on the ground of justice and equity. If the Minister is well advised, he will make the conditions such that the men will do their best to carry out his desires.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
– I find, according to the Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday last, that my name does not appear in a division in which I voted.
– The honorable member pointed out this fact to me, and I consulted the tellers. Evidently a mistake was made in marking down the name of a gentleman who was absent, instead of the name of the honorable member for East Sydney.
– In the course of my remarks last night I stated that a delay had taken place in the Department of External Affairs in the sending on of a message from the Defence Department. My reason for saving that was that, on the file given me from the Defence Department, there was a letter dated 30th March, whereas the High Commissioner referred to a cable from the External Affairs Department dated 7th April. I have received from the Minister of External Affairs a statement prepared in his office to the effect that the letter requesting the transmission of the telegram, although originally dated 30th March, was not sent on that date; and that on the copy that the Department of External Affairs got the date of the Defence Department’s request was altered to the 5th April. That does not appear on the file that was given to me. But the letter was only received by the Department of External Affairs on the 7th, at which date the cable was despatched. I make this personal explanation so that the blame may not rest on the wrong shoulders. There seems to he an additional cause of complaint against the Department of Defence.
Sitting suspended from 4.0 to 4.7 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to intimate that there will be a number of Bills for the consideration of the House next week. It was contemplated by some honorable members that we would be able next week to complete the immediate work before us, but I do not think I shall be able to make a financial statement until the week after next. Ample notice will he given of the Taxation Bills.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the. Prime Minister the following cablegram from London, which was published in Thursday’s issue of the Argus: -
The steamer Benalla of the P. and O. branch service, which left London on 24th June on a voyage to Australia, carrying 800 immigrants, sent out wireless signals when 800 miles east of Durban to the effect that there was a fire aboard.
I am sure that I am hut expressing the hope of every honorable member when I say that I sincerely trust that the passengers on the Benalla are now safe. Quite recently the Prime Minister announced that he had received from the Home Government what was practically a request that we should send to the front every man of military age whom we could spare; and I would like, therefore, to learn whether, amongst the 800 immigrants on the Benalla, who, no doubt, are Being brought out by State Governments, there are any men of military age. If there are, then I can only say that their coming here it inconsistent with the appeal from the Imperial Government. I question the wisdom of bringing immigrants to Australia at the present time. No doubt the time will arrive when the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State Governments, will have to take into consideration the advisableness of carrying out a system of immigration, but this is not an opportune time for such a policy. Notwithstanding that thousands of men are leaving our shores to participate in the struggle now going on in Europe, the number of unemployed in the different States shows no sign of diminution. From my point of view, the States are pursuing a cruel policy in bringing hundreds of people to Australia during the present time of depression.
– Are the immigrants on the Benalla coming out of their own volition, or are they assisted immigrants!
– I cannot say, but I take it that they are assisted immigrants. If they are, then I hope that the Prime Minister will, in the interests of the thousands in Australia who are at present out of employment, use his influence to induce the States to cease further efforts in this direction until our own industrial position shall have improved.
.From the intimation just made by the Prime Minister, it would appear that the Government have decided shortly to close down Parliament.
– Not to close it.
– Then, at least, to close it temporarily. On the 15th inst., I took occasion to place before the House a request that we should not close down, even for a brief adjournment, until certain urgent matters had been dealt with. On the evening of that day, the Melbourne Trades Hall Council considered the matter, and passed the following resolution, which has been forwarded to me by Mr. Chas. Gray, the secretary of the Trades Hall: -
That this Council enters its emphatic protest against the insidious attempts being made to adjourn all business in the Federal Parliament, knowing that whilst the exploitation of the peoplehas bees accentuated during the progress of the war, it would be inimical to the best interests of the country for the people’s Parliament to take down the sign, “ Business as usual.”
I think that this resolution, passed by the Trades Hall Council, which represents something like 150,000 trades unionists in this State, should be taken into consideration, together with the request that I have preferred to the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 July 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150723_reps_6_78/>.