6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to - That the House at its rising- adjourn until Monday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
– I desire to ask the Prim© Minister whether, if it is found impossible to pass a Bill before we adjourn to sanction the Murray waters agreement, there will be delay in proceeding with the works that are in contemplation ?
– When making the financial statement I said that, with the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition, I would engage to pay our proportionate share of the cost of the works that are in contemplation, ana take all necessary action to give effect to the agreement, whether we were able to pass the Bill before the adjournment or not. If it is convenient to do so, we shall deal with the Bill before the adjournment, which, however, will not extend over more than about six weeks.
– I understand that the Council cannot be constituted until the Bill has been passed.
– We shall endeavour to frame a Bill to meet the situation as soon as the States are ready. I was under the impression that the Victorian Parliament had not yet passed its Bill. °
– All the State Parliaments have passed Bills dealing with this matter.
Food at Flemington: Non-Commissioned Officers: Mr. Orchard, M.P. : Fitting up of Transports : Payments to Dependants of Soldiers : Information regarding Wounded Soldiers : Reported Exchange of Identification Discs.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the volunteers who are encamped at Flemington are given nothing substantial to eat between noon one day and breakfast time the next; that they get only bread and jam for tea ? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that the cooking arrangements at Flemington are very bad ?
– I am unable to answer the question in the absence of the Minister for the Navy, but I should be sorry to think that such things are likely.
– The Government is advertising for non-commissioned officers for the training of recruits, and I ask the Prime Minister whether, before ap- %pointments are made, steps will be taken to ascertain if there are among the men * who have returned from Egypt persons capable of doing this work, and whether such men, if obtainable, will be appointed in preference to outsiders ?
– The policy of the Government is to give returned soldiers preference in all matters.
– In view of the splendid services rendered to Australia by the honorable member for Nepean in drawing attention to matters at the Liverpool Camp, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the advisability of sending that gentleman to Egypt to put things right there?
– Unless he wishes to go in another capacity I think that we cannot spare him.
– The Minister for the Navy promised two days ago to make available all papers in connexion with the fitting out of transports by certain firms in Melbourne. When will the , papers be available?
– As soon as copies can be made. The Minister for the Navy has gone to Sydney to be present at the launching of the Torrens, and will not be back until Monday, but the papers will be made available as soon as possible next week.
– May I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for the Navy, what is being done regarding the payment of money allocated by soldiers at the front to their dependants at home. I may tell the right honorable gentleman that nearly every member of the House has had grievances brought before his notice in regard to this matter, and something must be done to clear up the situation. People ch innot get the money that lias been left to them. They try, month after month, until thev are sick of trying. Some have sought the assistance of their solicitors, and even then they have been unable to get the money. Nor can they get any explanation. I have had two cases brought under my notice this morning.
– If honorable members will give me concrete cases such as those the right honorable gentleman says he has in his possession, I will endeavour to make a statement on the subject before the House rises.
– I have here a telegram that was sent to Mr. Nunn, of Albert Park, by the Secretary for Defence on the 28th May, respecting his son, stating: - “Regret to report Private C. J. Nunn wounded. Will advise further particulars.” Since that time it has been impossible to obtain further information, and no further letters have been received from the son. This is one of those cases that, I think the Prime Minister will admit, should be investigated, and I ask him if he will be good enough to have further inquiries made.
– The case quoted by the honorable member is not a singular one. The Defence Department is investigating many cases, but I am sorry to say, as honorable members must know, that there must be many instances where investigation can go on until the end of time without any discovery being made.
– The Department should not be overworked.
– It is not a question of the Department being overworked. Honorable members have read of the character of the landing in Gallipoli, and it is almost inevitable that many cases must have occurred as to which satisfactory information will, perhaps, never be obtained.
– But in the case re*ferred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, there has been both discovery and report.
– I know of one case where a soldier was ‘reported to have been wounded. Then he was reported missing. He was then reported to have been in hospital, and finally it was discovered that the person referred to in the reports was not the person they sought. Investigation after investigation has been made in this case, but the Department cannot be certain of anything. I can only say, in answer to the honorable member’s query, that the Defence Department is endeavouring to obtain all particulars.
– Does the Prime Minister think that a good deal of this confusion may be due to the action of the soldiers themselves in interchanging their identification discs, if it is true that these discs have been exchanged as has been reported.
– I believe that soldiers have, for various reasons, exchanged their identification discs, tut that is not the explanation. The right honorable gentleman, like myself, has had some experience in mining matters, and he knows that accidents sometimes occur as the result of which nothing is left by which the victim may be identified.
– That has nothing to do with the organization at the base.
– The Government has very properly addressed a communication to the Government of Western Australia regarding the adoption of the 4-ft. 8»)-in. gauge between Fremantle and Kalgoorlie. Has it sent a similar communication to the Government of South Australia regarding the line between Port Augusta and Adelaide, so that the gauge may be uniform for the whole distance from Fremantle to Adelaide?
– Communications similar to those sent to Western Australia have been sent to the Government of South Australia, and the subject is now being considered by the South Australian Government. As the Engineer-in-Chief for South Australia advises against having two gauges in the Adelaide station yard, it is impossible to say what the decision of the South Australian Government will be.
– In view of the fact that the Postmaster- General has stated that the non-payment of certain moneys due to certain guarantors connected with the telephone line from Talbot to Lexton has recently been brought under his notice for the first time, although honorable members representing the districts had brought the matter under the notice of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral for Victoria on more than one occasion, and a member of the Labour party who does. not represent the district also brought it under his notice, are we to understand that all matters of domestic concern of this nature should be brought directly before the Postmaster-General before the Deputy Postmaster-General for the State is approached ?
– No, quite the contrary. We desire the extension of decentralization, and do not wish to have all these matters brought before the Minister. Of course, we cannot prevent appeals against action that has been taken.
– Is it not a fact that the Postmaster-General has received communication regarding the Lexton to Talbot telephone line during his term of office, and that his predecessor also received communications on the same subject? Did not the honorable gentleman, about three weeks ago, receive a deputation on this subject, which I introduced ? Has not the Department on every occasion given the usual reply, whether it came from the honorable member’s Secretary or from the Deputy Postmaster- General, that it would not pay the guarantors anything further 1
– In the case referred to the Department holds that those who undertook to do certain work have not carried out their contract. They desire the Department to pay to them money which the Department thinks ought not to be paid to them under the arrangement that was made.
– The honorable gentleman has been reported to have said that they should be paid.
– I have not said such a thing to any one.
– Is it true that among the 11,000 temporary employees referred to in Mr. Anderson’s report on the Postal Department, allowance and receiving officers are included ? If so. would not a larger number of country offices require to be closed if effect were given to the recommendation to reduce the number of temporary employees in the Department ?
– Allowance and receiving officers are included in the figures stated, and number about 7,600. They are not, in the strict sense of the term, employees of the Commonwealth; but as they are exempt from the operation of the Public Service Act they are classed as temporary employees. Other temporary employees are navvies employed in making conduits, and casual employees, some of whom are employed for only a week or two at a time. The number of temporary employees properly so called is small. There are only 111 clerks and about 221 mechanics, speaking from memory. I have taken steps to make permanent as many of the temporary employees as could be so dealt with, but no changes can be made affecting the allowance and receiving officers.
– In view of the wholesale manner in which the amounts paid to allowance officers have been cut down by the Department during the last month or two, will the Postmaster-General say whether he has recently investigated the allowance scale and satisfied himself that it is reasonable?
– I do not agree that there has been any wholesale cutting down, and where it has occurred, it has been done according to a fixed scale. I am not in a position to say, without further examination by experts, whether the scale is reasonable or not, but I intend to have it looked into and tested.
– The PostmasterGeneral has cut down where all his predecessors refused to do so.
– My predecessors did what I have done; they acted on a departmental scale which works automatically.
– In In view of the fact that the miserable little salaries of those who are conducting allowance offices in the Darwin electorate have been reduced since the present PostmasterGeneral took charge of the Department, I ask him whether he will have an investigation made to see whether his predecessor, Mr. Agar Wynne, did not have the same recommendation made to him, and did not act upon it? “
– Discretionary power is * given to Deputies in regard to this matter. The exercise of the power in a certain direction is not mandatory. Each case is considered on the circumstances. When the revenue of an office justifies a reduction it is actually made, but to say that there has been a sweeping reduction is wrong. There are 4,000 or 5,000 allowance offices, and the number of appeals has been very limited. For special reasons allowances have not been reduced in many cases, but there must be those special reasons for taking such action. No salaries are paid ; the allowance officers are remunerated according to the work they do.
– In view of the fact that postmasters and postmistresses at railway stations are not paid by the Postal Department, but by the Commissioners of the States railways, is the PostmasterGeneral correct in saying that they are classified as temporary employees of his Department ?
– They are classified by the Public Service Commissioner as temporary employees of the Postal Department, who are exempt from the Public Service Act,
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that the allowance paid for years past to the postmaster at Coolangatta has been £17 ? If so, why has notice been issued to the effect that the postmaster must accept £12 a year, otherwise the office will be closed ?
– I am not aware that any such notice has been issued. It has been explained over and over again that these positions are given only to those who have independent business.
– Every one knows that.
– Every one does not appear to know it. The claim is made that these officers should be put on a salary basis, but they are paid according to the work done upon a certain scale. If the work done is less, they get less.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that orders have been issued to the effect that, because the revenue of the Mascot Post Office is a few shillings below the regulation amount, the office is to be closed? If this is not being done by his authority, will he have the matter inquired into ?
– I am not aware of the circumstances. Such matters are left entirely to the Deputy Postmasters- General, but I shall have inquiries made. The practice is not to close an office until it has been below the status fixed by regulation for at least twelve months. We cannot ascertain the grade of r office until sufficient time has passed to allow the revenue to go up or down.
Training of Recruits: Sale of Temperance Drinks on Transports. Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON. - In the absence of the Minister for the Navy, will the Prime Minister ascertain from the
Minister of Defence whether it is a fact that raw recruits have been sent from Australia direct to the firing line without any training? I have a good and sufficient reason tor asking the question.
– I cannot believe that it is true, but I shall communicate with the Minister and ascertain the facts for the honorable member.
– About six months ago I wrote to the Defence Department with regard to the supply of temperance drinks to troops leaving Australia in transports, pointing out that all supplies, were obtained from Melbourne firms, even in the case of vessels leaving Sydney. I have brought the matter under the notice of the Defence Department by several letters, and the Attorney-General, who also received a communication from a factory in my electorate, has placed the matter before the Minister of Defence.
– Will the honorable member submit a question?
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will request the Minister of Defence to furnish a reply to my communications, because time after time they have been acknowledged–
– I again ask the honorable member not to go beyond asking a question.
– Will the Prime Minister ask the Minister of Defence to furnish a complete reply to my communications ?
– I do not propose to ask the Minister of Defence to give a complete reply, because I do not know the facts.
– I have explained them.
– I do not know them even with the honorable member’s explanation, but I can promise him that if his communications to the Defence Department are such as to have warranted a reply being sent earlier, I shall ask the Minister to have a reply sent without delay.
– A9 an unusually large shipment of fruit to Great Britain is expected this season, I ask the AttorneyGeneral if further steps have been taken to see that sufficient refrigerated steamer space will be secured for this export ?
– I can only repent what I said the other day, namely, that the matter has been under consideration, and that we hope to be able to make arrangements in part to deal with this matter by the steamers under the control of the Government. However, the whole question of refrigerated produce generally is under consideration, and the fruit referred to by the honorable member will be included.
– I wish to read for the benefit of honorable members the freight arrangement in regard to the shipment of wheat during the forthcoming season. It is in the form of the following letter : - 34 Queen Street,
Melbourne, 25th August, . 1915
The Hon. The Attorney-General for the Commonwealth, Melbourne.
Wo have the honour to set down the terms on which we are appointed Joint Chartering Agents for the Common wealth.
Our remuneration for chartering to be 4d. per ton on all tonnage chartered by us, in lieu of chartering commission.
The total chartering commission of 5 per cent, to be returned to the Commonwealth Government, less any chartering brokerages that may be paid away by us to local brokers or brokers in the United Kingdom, or elsewhere. Where such chartering brokerages be earned by Messrs. Elder, Smith & Co. Ltd., London, or Messrs. Antony Gibbs & Sons, London, they are to be at the rate of5.8ths per cent., not exceeding 4d. per ton.
On Commonwealth and interned vessels no chartering commission be paid whether on parcel or full cargoes.
The fees paidus to be subject to revision after 500,000 tons have been chartered by us; but, in any case, no later than 15th December, 1015.
Where, under this arrangement, no provision is made for work actually done by us, a fair and reasonable rate of remuneration to be paid.
We are, Sir,
Elder, Smith, and Co. Limited
Gibbs, Bright, and Co
– How does the Attorney-General propose to deal with the 5 per cent, discount on charters which is returned to the Commonwealth Government?
– We propose to stick to it.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral mean that the Commonwealth Government propose to keep the 5 per cent, while charging it to the producers ?
–The 5 per cent, is the amount invariably paid to the charterers on the chartering of ships. In this case it is proposed that the agents for the Commonwealth, that is the charterers, shall get4d. per ton. The rest of the money will be divided in such a way that oversea brokers will get the5/8ths of the total of the 5 per cent.
-5/8ths per cent. ?
– Of whatever the amount is. The practice is that 5 per cent, on the freight is usually divided in this way - 33/4 per cent, goes to the shipper and 11/4 per cent, to the broker. Such an arrangement does not apply in the present case. The charterers, our agents, get 4d. per ton. That is quite clear. Where the work is done through brokers elsewhere - in England, in France, or in America - the brokers will get fiveeighths ; that is to say, they will get onehalf of 11/4.
– That is different.
– With regard to the 33/4 plus the five-eighths, as it will be in many cases, that will go to the Commonwealth and the State Governments, who are the trustees and guardians of the people.
– Into the Treasury ?
– That is exactly where it will go. If honorable members desire to ask any other questions on this subject I shall be glad if they will put them on the notice-paper.
-Will the PostmasterGeneral, before the House rises, lay on the table a complete list of the reductions that have been made in allowance post-offices ?
– If it is possible to obtain such a return in time, I will.
– I - In view of the admission of the Postmaster-General that these offices have been reduced without his consent, will he take immediate steps to have the old allowances reinstated, especially in the Darwin district?
– If any specific case can be brought before my notice, I will see what can be done. Otherwise I do not propose to interfere.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– These matter are not under the control of my Department.
Motion (by Mr. Spence) agreed to -
That leave be granted to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905.
Bill presented by Mr. Spence, and read a first time.
In Committee of Supply: Debate resumed from 26th August (vide page 6194), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That a sum not exceeding sixteen million one hundred and ninety-five thousand four hundred and sixty-nine pounds be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1916.
Upon which Mr. Greene had moved -
That the amount be reduced by the sum of £1.
– Before saying what I desire primarily to say, I should like to make some reference to this vexed question of the reduction of post-office allowances that has been alluded to to-day. To take away money from these poor people, who have had this miserable pittance for years, and who have been relying upon it in the manner stated, strikes me as being one of the meanest ways imaginable of effecting retrenchment, and such a process of reduction ought to be stopped at the earliest possible moment.
– It It is not the Labour policy.
– Unfortunately it seems to be the effect of Labour administration. I should like to point out to the Postmaster-General that he is doing what every one of his predecessors resolutely declined to do.
– Reductions have taken place before now!
– That may be, but I believe that previous reductions have only been made after some change has taken place in the conduct of the office. The rule has been to leave undisturbed those who have had these small salaries for years. Only when changes have been made in the ‘personnel has there been any reduction in the allowance, and it is time the Minister knew all the circumstances, if he does not already know them. The other day, in my own electorate, a widow had her sole means of livelihood cut in half. Nothing could be more heartless and cruel than this kind of thing. I really believe that the honorable member does not know what is going on. I doubt if there has ever been a Minister who has so completely accepted what his officers have put before him, as my honorable friend does.
– They do not put these matters before me.
– Then they ought to. It is the peculiar function of a Minister to decide in all cases of this description, which ought not to be decided by hard and fast rule and regulation. I am speaking now only of the small allowance offices, not the big offices, which must go up and down as the scale and range of business varies. But why attack poor people who have enjoyed these emoluments from time immemorial? The officers of the Department, apparently without consulting the Minister, are cutting them down ruthlessly without giving any reason except that they are applying a rule that has long since been set aside. If that is the only kind of retrenchment we can have, then there is not an honorable member who would not rather do withoutit. We do not desire retrenchment at the cost of poor widows. Surely we can let them alone. The Minister, whether he knows it or not, is doing a great injustice, and inflicting the utmost cruelty, in many cases, where his predecessors have declined to interfere. This is going on every day. Honorable members on both sides know that it is, and if the Minister does not I should advise him to get to know it as quickly as possible. Whatever else the Government are proposing to do they should let these old people alone. They have had to depend upon this emolument for years, and it is in many cases their livelihood. I should not have spoken in this way but that the Minister has tried to make it appear that we know nothing of these things. As a matter of fact, we know that cases which have been passed over by his predecessors for many years have been unjustly and cruelly treated in this way by him. People who have had these small pittances for so many years should be allowed to enjoy them until they move out of office. When they leave the.a. if the Minister pleases, the payments may be scaled.
There is another matter that I should like to clear up. The Prime Minister this morning, in answering a question relating to the delay in reporting sick and wounded men at the front, sought to lay the whole blame for what is taking place on the struggle at the front. Some of the delay in reporting cases may be because of what is taking place at the front, but the case referred to this morning - and it is only one of many - affects the organization at the base. These men are reported as being in hospital; we are told the nature of their wounds, and then all knowledge of them ceases. This is due not to disorganization at the front, but to lack of organization at the base. When a -man goes into hospital over there the officers representing the Department ought to know where he is every day. There should be no difficulty in securing that knowledge. If the organization is of any good at all they should be able to keep track of these cases’ at the base and in the hospital.
– The trouble seems to rest with the medical profession over there.
– Not at all. It is the easiest thing in the world to blame other people. Is there no one representing the military who can collect these cases from the hospitals? May I mention a case that occurred only this morning. A fortnight ago a cable was sent through the Defence Department inquiring for a soldier who had been reported as wounded. It was a serious case, but the reply to that cablegram only arrived this morning. Another cable was received here a week ago reporting the same case, but the reply to the message sent a fortnight ago was only received this morning.
I wish now to refer to the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Richmond, to reduce the proposed vote by £1 as an indication to the Government that we expect them, when they bring down their Budget, to so retrench, if possible, as to keep down the expenditure on the ordinary services of the Government to the sums voted and spens last year under those headings. The proposal is a reasonable one. Retrenchment is long overdue in connexion with the public Departments, and our general administration. There seems to have been no attempt in recent years to bring the Departments under proper and efficient business control. We are multiplying reports on the subject. We have first of all a commission, then an inquiry, and now an expert business man investigating the business of the Departments. There, are tons of reports and material already pigeon-holed, but no action has been taken in recent years by any Government to try to reduce the swollen Estimates of these Departments. Meantime proposals for spending multiply every day and almost every hour of the day.
I desire to stress the point that our expenditure is increasing by leaps and bounds, and that the position is altogether a little serious. Here we are face to face with a cool proposition to spend nearly £6,000,000 extra on tha ordinary services of government. The cost of ordinary services, arising out of the war cannot be set down at more than £1,800,000 extra. Except for the two items of war pensions and the £1,300,0.00 special appropriations for interest, this £6,000,000 represents increases unaffected by the war in any way. This increase ought to be reduced very seriously, seeing that the Government are asking the people to submit to a great load of heavy taxation by reason of the war. Unless this is done it means that the £4,000,000 to be raised by the income tax will not be sufficient to finance the ordinary services of the Government, and therefore it should not be called a war tax.
This amendment is really a proposal to carry out the intention expressed both by the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral that the taxation we are now imposing shall be for war purposes. What is the use of talking in that way when, as I have shown’, the ordinary Estimates in their present swollen condition will require more than this additional revenue of £4,000,000 to balance them. Seeing that at the end of the year we shall have spent on the war alone over £62,000,000, that last year we spent out of loans nearly £15,000,000, while the States spent out of loans £25,000,000 - so that Australia last year added to its loan indebtedness some £40,000,000 - it must be recognised that the position is very serious. All this is taking place notwithstanding a reduction in our population. The payments to- the States this year are £70,000 less than last year, indicating that our population is decreasing instead of increasing. In other words, while the burdens of taxation are multiplying the burden-bearers are becoming fewer. This cannot go on for ever. I am not here to suggest that we should impair the efficiency of the public services.
– Does the right honorable member suggest that the population of Australia is declining ?
– It must be less since the payments to the States are less.
– But the Government Statistician shows an increase of population.
– Then how is it that we have as payments to the States £70,000 less than last year?
– It may perhaps be due to more accurate bookkeeping.
– I venture to say that that is not the explanation. Immigration has practically ceased, and as a result of the war <we> have sent away 100,000 men, some of them, unfortunately, never to return. We have to face the fact that the burdens of taxation are towering up, while at the same time we have a less number of burden-bearers to put under them.
– Is not that a platitude?
– May be it is. My honorable friend perhaps will say that the demand for economy is equally a platitude ?
– It depends on what the right honorable member proposes by way of economy. If he suggests economy in respect of luxuries he is right, but if he desires that % lot of men shall be thrown out of work he is not.
– I do not desire that anyone shall be thrown out of employment if it can be avoided. I am as anxious as the honorable member is that all our workers shall be kept employed, and that they shall receive good wages. That, however, is not the point. The question is whether the (ordinary services of government are costing us too much - whether we are spending money in directions in which we ought not to spend it.
– Hear, hear! Why do we not set an example?
– Why did not the right honorable member do so while he was in office?
– The honorable member for Oxley, by his interjection, is indicating in the clearest possible way that he is totally ignoring the war and its consequences.
– Nothing of the sort.
– In the last twelve months the Government have added to the taxing burdens of this country from £6,000,000 to £7,000,000 sterling. They have put on the backs of the people in one year an additional burden of 30s. per head. Let my honorable friend get that into his mind. It is not a subject for quips; there is a very serious situation.
– We recognise that.
– Then I hope the honorable member will listen when I tell him that there ought to be some serious attempt to effect a reduction in this expenditure in order that we may devote the proceeds of additional taxation to war purposes alone.
Last year Parliament increased the land tax, which, because of the drought, has yielded less. We increased the probate duties, until now, having regard to their duplicate character, they are the highest in the world. One and a half million pounds has been added to Customs duties, and now the Government are asking us to impose an income tax which is calculated to produce an extra £4,000,000. About £7,000,000 has been added to the total taxation of Australia, and unless the Government shear down the Estimates, all that amount, and more, will be required to meet the expenditure on the ordinary services of government.
– What item would you cut down ?
– I do not propose to deal with items this morning, except in regard to a few instances, but T reply to the honorable member that, as a start, I would not pay people for goods more than the price tl.ey had contracted tor; I would not hand out money to people who have never asked for it, and certainly have no right to get it. I would not pay £500 to cancel a contract which is being properly carried out, to satisfy a mere political whim and theory. I would not do any of those things in this time of war, strain, and stress. I am told that great extravagance, if not great something else, is taking place in connexion with the fitting up of the. transports, and I have asked that the papers relating to that subject be tabled.
– The papers can be seen by honorable members whenever they ask for them.
– The statements I have heard are so serious, that I think the House ought to see the papers.
– Very well, you can have those papers, and every other paper in the Departments that is not absolutely confidential.
– I am suggesting items that require investigation as to whether there is extravagance.
– There may not be a great deal of extravagance.
– There may not be. We shall never know whether there is or not unless we investigate the expenditure.
– I agree with that.
– I assure the honorable member that I am not treating this matter in any party spirit. If I were, I should treat it in a very different way indeed. I am simply asking the Government to make a searching investigation into these items, in order to ascertain if a saving is possible. Then, again, I think it is a wicked waste of public money to spend £100,000 on the taking of the referenda.
– No; we cannot fix prices unless we get the authority of the people.
– T The Government are not going the right way about this business. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I say that when the Government have secured the constitutional amendments which they are seeking, they will not be able to do the job then.
– The referenda proposals have not been agreed to yet.
– No; but honorable members have heard my prophecy, and if the proposals are approved by the people, they will be able to see to what extent my forecast is verified. In the meantime, to expend £100,000 on taking referenda of this kind is a wicked and profligate waste of public funds. In my judgment, the £150,000 estimated for the taking of the war census is also, to a large extent, a waste of money. The Government could obtain a great deal of the information at no expense if they went the right way about the job.
And what shall we say of the Post Office ? We have before us proposals for raising £500,000 of extra revenue through that Department. So far as my judgment goes, we ought not to vote a penny increase anywhere until there has been a thorough reorganization of the Department. The mere raising of the rates will not help the Government to finance that institution. Mr. Anderson points out that for many years the Department was starved, and in those years the loss was less than it is to-day. Now we are pouring extra money into the Department to the extent of millions every year, and the loss increases. The more money we vote the Department for capital expenditure the greater the loss becomes.
– Is the loss greater in proportion to the amount of business?
– Yes, a great deal more. That is the sinister feature of the Postal Department. Every . employee in that Department represents an earning power much less than he represented some years ago. Who does not remember that some years ago a proposal was made by a Labour Government to ‘ spend £600,000 extra for the purpose of making up the leeway of the Department. I think several attempts were made by way of special votes to overtake the arrears, but instead of such extra money being so spent as to admit of the Department reverting again to the normal position of affairs, what happens? Thedepartmental revenue, augmented by such special votes, is made the normal’ spending level, and from that point another upward jump is made, and so the system continues until £2.250,000 of thetaxpayers’ money is required to square, the ledger in the Postal Department. Nothing can cry so loudly for reorganization as that great Department. I express some dissatisfaction with Mr..
Anderson’s report on one point. He insists tha* the difference between income and outgoing is only £500,000. That is not a fair statement of the position. We are putting £2,250,000 of extra revenue into the Department every year, in addition to the £500,000 loss on profit and loss account, and if that extra amount is not to be taken from capital account it ought to be debited to current account. It all comes from Consolidated Revenue.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Leave to continue granted.
– There is no bookkeeping when from £1,000,000 to £1,500,000 of money is poured into the Department every year, and is not accounted for in its balance-sheets. The deficit, so far as the revenue of the Department is concerned, is not £500,000, but £1,500,000, and, when the interest and other charges are added, the total outgoing from Consolidated Revenue is about £2,250,000 sterling more than is earned by the Post Office. That sort of thing has been continuing for the last five or six years, and now we have a trumpery proposal to again raise the rates.
– And that will result in less revenue.
– I am inclined to believe that that will be the result in some respects. The proposals before us - I mean those of Mr. Anderson - are supposed to be concurrent and cumulative, but they are not so. If the telegraph rates are increased, the revenue from that source will be less, and the telephone will gradually replace the telegraph, as it is already doing, and thus the Estimates of increased revenue from telegraphs will not be realized for some time to come. No manager of a grocery business, which is already losing money, would think of raising his prices above those of the trade. His only hope of making the business succeed would be to keep his prices down. The very last thing he would do to get himself out of trouble would be to increase his prices. The man who pursued such a course in private business would be going headlong on his way to the Bankruptcy Court; and it is certainly not the course by which we can put the Post, Office on n proper footing. Re-organization is what is needed, and” the necessity for it is expressed by Mr. Anderson in many places in his report, which makes most picturesque and interesting reading as a study of “how not to do it.”
There is not a word from the Government as to the rectification of any of the abuses beyond a suggestion to make the public pay more. That, however, is the way to buttress the abuses and not to remove them. To quote the honorable member for Nepean, let us first have our “ spring cleaning “ - let us ‘ have a scheme of re- organization, new management, and proper control. If there has to be a general manager, let us not hesitate about his appointment; and I ask the Government not to pigeon-hole Mr. Anderson’s report, as many tons of reports regarding the Departments have been pigeon-holed before. Personally, I do not favour the appointment of a general manager, but would prefer a commission of not less than three members. This. I submit, would be a better plan than to have a general manager, in a system so varied as ours is in many ways. Whatever may be the contemplated method of reform, why not propose it, instead of seeking to get more money out of the public, and further buttressing up the disorganization and utter and absolute inefficiency, which, according to the report of the man who investigated the matter, prevail at the present moment? I ask the Prime Minister not to dream of persisting with his proposals until he has instituted searching reform in the interior organization. It is not fair to the people to make the charges still higher until some relief has been afforded’ in the way of a better and more efficient service. We are told that similar services elsewhere are better than ours in many respects, and it may be that for those services elsewhere the people have to pay more than we do ; but it is now sought to make us in Australia pay more without any improvement or reform.
– At any rate, the telephone service is better here than in London.
– It ought to be. The British Post Office is in a very different position from our own so far as the telephone service is concerned. May I remind the honorable member that the earnings of the Post Office in England represent a profit of £15,000,000 or £20,000,000 every year?
– In London the charge is 3d. a call, whereas it is only Id. here.
-But other things are cheaper in England than here, and we must view the service as a whole. In England, as I say, there is a large profit, while here the service represents a loss each year of £2,000,000 or £2,250,000. This is a direction in which retrenchment ought to be applied in preference to the ,cool proposal to raise the charges without any attempt at re-organization.
Then, Mr. Anderson also made investigations in the Defence Department; and, in the second paragraph of his report, he says -
Some of the Departments are in bad shape, but fortunately their deficiencies can easily be made good……
I had noted quite a number of his animadversions, but I have not time to quote them. Here, however, is his summing up in regard to the financial side of the Defence Department: -
To sum up the Finance Department, it is in a disorganized, dissatisfied, and unhealthy condition. . . . Under modern and reasonable conditions the Finance Department could not only be run with fewer mcn, but within a few months would be a happy, contented stall’, working easily within the regulation office hours.
There is a sweeping condemnation of the financial side of this Department; and there are worse things that he has to say about the Post Office. We have in this report the clearest indication that thorough re-organization is needed, from top to bottom, in the internal economy of the Departments. This is no new subject for me; I have been stressing it for a very long time. Our motto at the present time, in reference to the whole of our services and Departments, should be - business efficiency. We hear a great deal about national efficiency; and we ought to set the people outside an example by making our own Departments efficient so far as we can. Surely such a contract is not beyond us? The whole business of our public services is not a very big one. There are many private businesses in the world with a far bigger annual outlay than the total cost of Australian government, both Federal and State. We can grip a problem like this, and all that is needed is the will and determination. Efficiency always spells economy - ‘the terms are almost convertible, and if you get one you stand a good chance of getting the other. I .do not know that I need go further into detail. I understand that Mr. Anderson is at work at the present time in the Department of Home Affairs, where, I think, there is, in many respects, need for improvement, notwithstanding that we have in that Department very capable and able officers. Indeed there are able officers in all the Departments, and our complaint is not in reference to the officering, but concerns rather the political policy of the Departments, for which, of course, Ministers and the House are responsible. We may shoulder our responsibilities on to somebody else, as we like, but we are responsible to the people for the conduct of the Departments. We are the directors of this huge national business, and every one of us must take his share of the responsibility.
– The honorable gentleman has used the word “ political,” but I remind him that, when he was on this side, the same charges of extravagance were made.
– I use the word ‘ political ‘ ‘ only in the sense that we are the directors of the nation, and must bo responsible for the conduct of the nation’s business. While we have officers below us to direct and re-adjust as we choose, ours is the responsibility; and that is why I am quite within my public and imperative duty in pressing the point at the present time. I repeat that I am not making these remarks in order to obtain any political advantage, but to show the necessity, with the present war burdens upon us, of not spending any more than is absolutely necessary on the ordinary administration of the country.
There is another thing we must never forget. All the time the war is going on we are wasting our financial reserves. It cannot be repeated too often that the financing of the war is at the expense of either the working capital or the savings of the country - these are the only two sources from which the expenditure can be drawn. The less we can do with for efficient war purposes, and for the efficient purposes of administration, the more working capital we leave as the staying power of the nation, which, after all, is as important as is the fighting power. If we are to win, it will be bymeans of the last million men and the last £100,000,000 of reserves; and, therefore, waste at the present time is wicked profligacy. Again I say that for ordinary purposes this year there is an increase of £5,800,000 odd in the expenditure- that is for ordinary new works out of revenue, and ordinary administrative purposes. This is where retrenchment ought to begin; and it must be made firmly, skilfully, and intelligently, as it can be, with benefit to the country and the working of the Departments themselves.
I know that the Prime Minister desires to go on with some other business, and I am sorry to have to obtrude these observations at the present time; but I cannot altogether acquit him of blame, when I see him introducing proposals, almost every day, for further taxation and further spending. It is time to ask the right honorable gentleman to call a halt. Let him leave his proposal in regard to the Public Accounts Committee over for the present, for surely it could be considered later. It is true that the proposal is a comparatively little matter, but it is among many others that ought never to have been introduced in a. time of war. Our object should bo not solely to achieve what is desirable, strictly fair, or advantageous, but to ascertain what we can do without. That should be the main guide and spring of all our actions. Expenditure upon war needs is the one thing that cannot be stinted; and the less we apply to other services the more we shall have for the war and its vigorous and successful prosecution. We ought to try to save enough money to prevent our having to draw on the proposed £4,000,000 of income taxation for our ordinary services, so that the money may go towards liquidating our war liability. I commend that policy to the Prime Minister with all the earnestness of which I am capable.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) put -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 15
– There being the necessary statutory majority, I declare the motion carried.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Supply: Debate re sumed.
Mr.FINLAYSON (Brisbane) [12.6]: - What I am about to say has been instigated by the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition this morning. It is one of the commonest things for an Opposition to criticise the finances of a Government. Criticism of finance is always easy, and the less one knows of the subject, the easier it is. Charges of extravagance are regularly brought against all governments, and no doubt will continue to be so brought. Ever since I entered Parliament I have been familiar with such charges, which will continue, no matter what Government may be in power. The activities of the Commonwealth are bound to increase, and the expenditure of the Government will increase likewise, and I view without alarm the continual advance’ of the Budget. We must, however, take care that we get value for the money that we spend, and I have not heard the Leader of the Opposition, or any of his party, say that we are not doing so.
– I - It is not what one spends, but how one. spends it, that constitutes extravagance. An expenditure of £50,000,000 may not be extravagant, but it would be extravagant if we got for it only a value of £45,000,000.
– If £50,000,000 were spent in running an establishment which should be run for £35,000,000, would not there be ground for a charge of extravagance?
– In such a case there would be disgraceful extravagance. Although the Commonwealth expenditure must increase, I am alarmed at the increase of the State expenditure, which is proportionately much greater. Government expenditure in Australia seems to be almost without limit, as if there were a momentum that could not be arrested, and the position causes uneasiness. The Commonwealth is committed to expenditure of alarming proportions, which must be felt for many years to come. The Leader of the Opposition has draw attention to the fact that last year the Commonwealth spent £15,000,000 out of loan funds and the States £25,000,000. Those figures show the tremendous expenditure on government and developmental works in Australia. The fact that the Commonwealth expenditure must increase rather than decrease shows how necessary it is to provide better methods of administration. The subject is one which should command the attention of our best men. The States will feel the financial strain more acutely than the Commonwealth, and I think that care should be taken to prevent the overlapping of Government Departments. At present, Commonwealth and State Departments, operating the same machinery, are doing practically the same work, although the application of business methods would enable one set of machinery to be used for both Commonwealth and State work. That remark applies to the machinery used for the levying of land and income taxation. I am aware of the local difficulties which confront amalgamation and concentration. Each State has its own methods of valuation, varying exemptions, and different methods of application. But the information which is collected at so much expense, and so effectively, by the States might very well be used by the Commonwealth, or, perhaps, it would be better, the Commonwealth having control of agencies all over Australia, that the collection of information should be intrusted to it, and that the information so collected on a uniform basis should be made available to the States. Our greatest need at present ia a Federal system of finance, and I was hopeful the other day that this would be brought about when I noticed in the press that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the State Premiers were about to have a conference in regard to financial matters, but unfortunately my hopes in this direction have disappeared ; we are still confronted with the States angling for money, and looking to sources of revenue which are bound to conflict with and overlap those of the Commonwealth, and with the Commonwealth, on the other hand, looking for sources of revenue that are bound to conflict with and overlap those of the States. In fact, we have municipal bodies, State Governments, and the Commonwealth all making demands on the same people, and draining them by expensive methods and overlapping machinery. This neither tends to economy nor reflects credit on Commonwealth statesmanship. Again the public works policy pursued iri Australia is wasteful to the highest degree, each local authority, each State, and the Commonwealth carrying on its works in its own way and without reference to each other. A certain amount of expensive plant is always required for the construction of works, but the present patchy, faulty, local, parochial method that is pursued deprives us of the opportunity to secure the very best machinery. The latest scientific appliances and mechanical devices for the economic expenditure of public money cannot be availed of because of the lack of concentration, and the absence of community of interests and association of work. Much could be gained by an association of the States and the Commonwealth with regard to the construction of public works and departmental activities. The Governments in their own domains should set an example to the municipal authorities by making the best use of the results that follow from the concentration of effort. Of course I am aware that local jealousies and prejudices would first have to be eliminated. There would need to be less decentralization In this regard I may be preaching an unpopular doctrine, for there are many honorable members who claim that there is already too much centralization.
– We need both.
– Yes; when they are properly worked together. Concentration of power in one final and distinct recognised authority, with delegation of power from that central authority to the lower authorities alone can give effective decentralization. But the trouble now is that every little centre is an authority to itself. Unfortunately our system of government is developing along the lines of the higher authority deriving its powers from the lower authorities, instead of the higher authority having the power of delegation to the lower bodies. It is this which is causing all .the disturbance in Commonwealth matters. This is trenching on the doctrine of Unification, but the whole development of commerce, business, and finance throughout the world tends today towards centralization. Combines, trusts, and monopolies are legitimate developments of commerce, business and finance, and, under proper control, are good for the community, because they eliminate waste and overlapping, centralize authority, and secure efficiency by delegation from the central authority. But in Australia we are endeavouring to secure efficiency by the minor authorities with their well-diffused and carefully divided parochialized centres, delegating power to the higher authority. The more closely that we follow the methods of commerce, business, and finance the more likely are we to attain success, and I point out that the tendency in all countries of the world in these matters is to secure efficiency by centralization. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition uttered an absolutely well-founded truth when he said that waste and extravagance are existent in our Public Service. That this is so is due to the lack of centralization, and to the unfortunate fact that the central authority has not the power to control matters to the full, or to determine what shall be done by the minor authorities in order to eliminate waste, and secure efficiency in all departments of public activity. The other day the honorable member for Balaclava made a most interesting and acceptable suggestion in regard to the public debts of Australia. I have been in this Parliament for over five years, and I have heard this subject repeatedly discussed, but for some reason unknown to me we are still proceeding in an admittedly wasteful way, losing each year £1,250,000 in interest. Financial experts on both sides admit that something should be done to consolidate the public debts of Australia in order to save this waste of money.
– The honorable member’s party has always been opposed to it. .
– So far as I can see, the indications are that the fault does not lie with either party in this Parliament. I know that the right honorable gentleman has always taken up a very correct attitude on this matter, and the honorable member for Balaclava, fortified by his experience in State matters, has also told us distinctly that there is urgent need for consolidating the State debts - that it will tend to the advantage of all parties, while the Treasurer has also recommended that this should be done, but it seems to be difficult to get the parties concerned - those who can handle these matters - to come together in a spirit of mutual trust and confidence.
– The Commonwealth has always gone to the States with a big loaded revolver. That is not the way in which to approach them.
– I quite agree with the honorable member that there has not been that give-and-take policy which would enable a satisfactory conclusion to be arrived at. I am prepared to say the same with regard to the control of Savings Banks. While I do not admit that the States had any complaint against the Commonwealth Government for establishing the Commonwealth Savings Bank on the ground that it was entering into competition with the State in- stitutions, which was never intended, at the same time, a system of two authorities competing for the same money means overlapping, and leads to unnecessary waste in the shape of buildings, machinery, salary, and effort.
– Then why did your Government do it?
– The authorities who gave us the Constitution, with all its faults, gave the Commonwealth Parliament the power to deal with banking.
– But the Commonwealth need not avail itself of Chat power in this direction.
– The trouble is that when certain authority was availed of, it was afterwards discovered that the Commonwealth had not the power to act. There would be tremendous relief to many of us if some means of getting the financial authorities of Australia - States and .Commonwealth - together, so that a federal system of finance might be arranged, and our financial affairs based on some mutual cohesive principle.
– Why does not the Government try to do something in that respect?
– Ask the Premier of New South Wales to give up some of his rights, and try to realize what he will say.
– The same old cry !
– I differ from the view that we should invite the States lo a conference on the understanding that we should ask them to give up any rights. The Parliaments of Australia are given the duty of governing the people wisely and well, but the people are not getting fair consideration, or the advantages that they would get, if there were more confidence displayed, or if better financial methods were employed.
– It is all very well to talk in generalities, but get down to facts.
– I admit the generality, but as a matter of fact these conferences should be approached from a give-and-take stand-point. The Commonwealth cannot expect the States to surrender all their powers, nor can the States expect the Commonwealth to surrender its powers. But it seems to me that the development of affairs in Australia is proceeding inevitably in the direction of the powers of the Commonwealth being increased. I do not care whether this may be termed “Unification or Uniformity, but what will get Aus tralia out of its financial mire during the next few years will be more centralized authority, particularly in the matter of finance.
– The adoption of the referenda proposals will not help towards financial concentration.
– Of course not. The referenda Bills are not put forward as financial proposals. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition, that they will not help us much. They will help us a little, but in my opinion their adoption will be but the beginning of another period of legal quibbles as to where the State authority ends and that of the Commonwealth begins.
– That is the trouble.
– They must be regarded as only stepping-stones to something else. I can see opening before us a vista of unlimited referenda proposals if we continue a Constitution that is as open as ours has been to legal - differences and qualifications and disputes and arguments. We shall never get rid of the difficulty until we accept a process of delegating power from the central authority to the minor authorities, rather than continue the present system of delegation to the central authority from the minor authorities.
– You can only secure that by Unification.
– My own feeling runs more in the direction of the proposal that is now finding so much favour in America - that every ten years a conference should take place between the representatives of all the interests in,volved, at which any desirable alteration in the Constitution can be ‘ determined.
– Why should we not proceed under our existing Constitutional power ?
– The only way we can do that is by the present method of submitting an occasional proposal by way of referendum; but a much better plan would be that of holding a conference. I do not know why, even now, we should not have regular conferences between the State and the Federal Governments for the purpose of suggesting amendments of the Constitution, which should be accepted without popular reference. I do not wish to reflect upon the intelligence of the people of Australia.
I believe we have the most intelligent democracy, and the most intelligent people, particularly in regard to Parliamentary affairs, of any country in the world ; but, as a matter of fact, honorable members all know that a large mass of the voters do not realize the effect of the proposals now being submitted. I have heard members of this Parliament talking about them in a manner that showed they knew very little about the question ; and how can we expect the bulk of the people to vote intelligently on matters that they do not understand? They do not. They vote upon them from a party stand-point. The party sitting on this sde of the House refuses to make the referenda proposals party questions, but as a party we have allied ourselves to certain amendments of the Constitution,
– By your having signed the party pledge have you not made this a party question?
– No. We have declined to make it a matter of party controversy.
– But can the honorable member vote against it after having signed the party pledge?
– After having pledged himself to support it?
– It is the policy of the party to carry these referenda proposals, and to that extent we are pledged.
– And to that extent this becomes a party question.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs overlooks one important factor. There must come a time in the history of every reform when some political party will identify . itself with that reform, even to the extent of declaring that it will stand or fall by its attitude thereon. That has been the experience of every reform that has ever taken place under parliamentary government. The party sitting on this side of the House have pledged themselves to support this reform in our constitutional government. Members on the other side do not see eye to eye with us. That may be very regrettable, but I do not think that even they look at the subject from a party point of view. The honorable member for Darling Downs has repeatedly’ been -quoted by us as advocating certain amendments of the Con stitution exactly on the lines that we have adopted in this proposal. The honorable member for Angas has provided us with some of our best arguments. Individual members of the Opposition believe that amendments to the Constitution should be made. The honorable member for Flinders has repeatedly said that he is in favour of Constitutional amendment, but that he is not prepared to support these proposals so long as the Labour party is in power. That is making a party question of it.
– These honorable members separate themselves from the majority of their party. Honorable members opposite never do that.
– They do not so separate themselves. But the honorable members for Darling Downs, Angas, and Flinders have consistently opposed the referenda questions when they have been submitted to the people, although individually they have expressed their approval of them.
– Not all of them.
– Perhaps not all of them; but honorable members have subsequently opposed those amendments of which they have expressed approval. I believe, however, that the intentions of honorable members sitting on that side of the House are just as honorable as the intentions of members who sit on this side. In regard to all methods of government, the desire on the part of all members is to do the best possible for their country, notwithstanding that differences as to method may occur. The trouble is that people cannot agree to differ, and I am afraid that the moment we stop differing we shall stop progressing. But what I cannot understand is that, whilst the Leader of the Opposition said this morning that the referenda questions will not carry us very far, and will not give us the powers that we think they will, members on that side of the House should, nevertheless, put so much energy into their opposition to them. If the amendments are going to be as feeble and paltry in their effects a3 the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition says they will be, why do they meet with such opposition ? Why do honorable members create such a furore about them, and spend so much money in the task of defeating them ? May I now for a few minutes refer to one or two other matters. The honorable member for Richmond has proposed to decrease the sum required by the Government by £1 as a protest against increasing the expenditure of the Commonwealth in regard to its ordinary services. From some points of view the amendment has my hearty concurrence. Judged from certain stand-points, a protest ought to be made against the growing expenditure of the Commonwealth services. I quite understand that any extension of the activities of the various Commonwealth Departments must necessarily involve an increased Budget. The Commonwealth is inaugurating new Departments every day, and is extending its operations into fields that have never previously been touched. This must necessarily be followed by increased expenditure. The trouble is that our expenditure is not giving us a satisfactory return, and that in some departments the expenditure is unreasonable in comparison with the services rendered. Generally speaking, I think our public servants are free from corruption, and that Australia iS well served by them. I believe that in all Departments of the Commonwealth we have honest, capable men administering affairs. At the same time, there is such a tremendous overlapping of Departments, and such endless circumlocution that it is impossible, under existing circumstances, to get the best service. May I give an illustration ? A proposal is now under the consideration of the Minister of Home Affairs for the establishment of a Departmental Board composed of officers from the various Departments, who shall control supplies, manage contracts, and arrange orders for the various Commonwealth Departments. At the present time each Department manages its own stores. If the Post Office requires any stationery it contracts for it. If it requires any canvas, it contracts for it. The Defence Department also arranges its own contracts for stationery, and gets its own canvas for bags and tents. Each Commonwealth Department gets its own supplies in this way, quite independently of any other Department, and quite unconcerned as to whether any other Department is handling the same goods or not. Each Department has its own stores - huge buildings in each capital city - managed by its own officers. No business in the world could possibly be successful under these conditions - and what is the remedy proposed ? The establishment of a Departmental Board with departmental officers - the men who are handling these things now - who will come into consultation with each other so that all Departments shall work together. At first sight the proposal looks like a reasonable and sensible one, but to my mind it will only result in a perpetuation of the very worst features of the present method of stores supply. My reason for saying that is that the ordinary departmental officer is a fool where business matters are concerned. Any business man reading, for instance, the specifications for contracts, or the conditions attached to the provision of certain articles as usually drawn up in a Commonwealth Department, would know that the man responsible for such documents knew nothing at all about business methods or the operations, of commerce. They have never had the experience. That fact is sufficiently well indicated when it is known that the ordinary departmental officer is rejected as an authority on business matters. They all get into a routine way of doing things. There is a regular lackadaisical, easy, slow-going process under which a matter is “passed on from one officer to another until it reaches the top, and then filters down again to thebottom, the practice of which would break the heart of any man who wanted to do business in a businesslike way.
– T - They are official machines.
– How are you going to stop it?
– I will give my remedy straight away. I have stated that I am prepared to support the motion submitted by the honorable member for Wakefield, which to my mind offers the only solution of this question - that is, by the appointment of a Board, independent of the service, superior to the service, outside the service, comprising men experienced in business, who shall control the stores and supplies of all the Commonwealth Departments from one end to the other.
– That is good.
– Such a proceeding would offer the most satisfactory method of dealing with this trouble.
– The United States Post Office has the same difficulty.
– The same trouble exists everywhere; but while our business is small we can put in the necessary machinery, and its extension will take place automatically with the growth of the Departments. It would be much more difficult for Great Britain or for America to take such a step as this ; yet, whilst we can do it easily, we seem to prefer the old methods of the older countries of the world, contenting ourselves with doing what we know is wrong, and what no business man would tolerate in his own business for a minute. Mr. Anderson, so far as I am able to judge, is a very capable gentleman, but the net result of his inquiries has simply been that he has told us in official language what we have all known for years. The red-tape and circumlocution of the Postal Department to which he referred in his report have long been known to us. Our own correspondence with the Department, and that of our constituents, have told us of fearful delay, the endless red-tape, and the circumlocution associated with it, and Mr. Anderson’s report merely puts in concise form what we have all been saying of the system in different ways. What is the promised remedy ? The PostmasterGeneral is going to submit a report in reply.
– The first remedy is not to interfere too much with industrial enterprises.
– I do not think so. I am suggesting that the Government should establish their own sources of supply. Our experience in supplying from our own factories the goods required for Government services has not been unsatisfactory. We have no reason to be ashamed of what we have tried to do in the way of manufacturing our own supplies. The products of the factories of the Commonwealth Government are superior to those turned out by others; even if they were only as good the position would be satisfactory.
– Take the Brisbane, to begin with.
– There are influences in connexion with the Brisbane that would not operate in regard to the Clothing, the Boot, and the Saddle and Harness Factories of the Commonwealth.
– Or the Small Arms Factory ?
– There, again, we have had absolute mismanagement because of political influence. That factory, I think, was mismanaged from the begin ning, because the wrong man was engaged as manager.
– How long would such a man have remained in charge if the factory had been under private enterprise?
– About a weekhe would merely have been given time to get out.
– That is the difference between State and private enterprise.
– That is why I am proposing that we should take from the control of departmental officers and the Government the supply of goods for Federal Departments. Such work must be under the control of competent business men of experience, courage, and integrity. Australia is by no means destitute of such men.
– That is to say, the honorable member would withdraw from private enterprise competent men to establish State concerns.
– Just as the people draw from private enterprise the members of this Parliament. We are drawn from all walks of life, and come here with a varied business experience, but, unfortunately, we approach the consideration of questions put before us, not from a business, but from a party, point of view.
– T - This is not a place for business.
– It is not a place where business is conducted in a businesslike manner.
– The State, then, is to ask private enterprise to do for it what it is unable to do for itself?
– Not at all. On the contrary, the State is going to make money for the people as a whole by using the brains of men now employed in making money for private individuals. Their ability to carry on business successfully for individuals should be utilized to the advantage of the whole community. A man who is willing to serve his country by carrying on its business affairs in a satisfactory and honest way shows his patriotism.
– What will the honorable member do when the bulk of our enterprises are carried on by the State? Where will he obtain men for his State establishments?
– There is a desire on the part of workmen in Australia to be employed by the State rather than by private enterprise. There is no difficulty in getting men.
– That is quite understandable.
– It It is not because they obtain an easier job under the Government ; it is the question of tenure that concerns them. I believe that in some Commonwealth Departments to-day men are badly treated compared with the treatment of their fellows under private enterprise. The Government is not always a model employer. The postal sorters, for instance, at the instance of this Parliament, went to the Arbitration Court and obtained an award covering their conditions of employment and various items of their emolument, but we found an outside authority - the Public Service Commissioner - supported by the PostmasterGeneral, coming in and proposing to interfere with that award.
– Postal sorters are suffering because of interference with the award of the- Court.
– There was, at first, a difference of opinion as to the interpretation of the award, but the Public Service Commissioner’s proposals have been modified.
– I am glad to hear it. That it should be possible for any outside authority to interfere with an award of the Court shows there is a danger of even the Government not being what they ought to be - model employers.
– The order issued in every Department is that awards of the Court shall be observed.
– The award in regard to preference to unionists is supposed to be observed, but I know of no one who is disregarding that award to a greater extent than members of the present Government are doing.
– In what Department is that occurring?
– In the Defence Department and Department of Home Affairs.
– The honorable member knows that the statement is incorrect so far as the Home Affairs Department is concerned.
– I can show that it is not.
– Then give us facte. Do not let us have idle generalizations.
– I do not think there would be any difficulty in establishing my statements, but there is one thing that I am not going to be tempted to do, and that is to castigate in Parliament members of the Government of which I am a supporter. What I have to do in that respect is done by correspondence.
– Or in the proper place.
– Quite so.
– O - Or upstairs.
– Or upstairs. I am not going to tell the Committee how a Minister is disregarding the policy of his own party.
– Then why not send a statement on the subject to the Department?
– I have.
– The honorable member has not done so.
– The Defence Department needs to be controlled in regard to its expenditure and its works policy. Defence is at all times a costly process, and I know of no Government Department that is more open to wasteful expenditure. It is unfortunately true that every country seems to have difficulty in securing honest service in respect of Defence matters. After every war there is a recurring crop of military contract scandals. I do not know why there should be such an inevitable development of Defence activities in that respect. Why is it that our Defence officers seem to be absolutely careless in regard to the expenditure of public money or incompetent to control it?
– B - Because they are trained for destruction.
– My experience, particularly during this war, leads me to think that we should absolutely deprive military officers of the power to spend, a single shilling. They should have nothing whatever to do with the control of supplies. The country spends a lot of money in training, equipping and qualifying them for purposes that are not very commendable to our civilization, but which, nevertheless, have to be met, and, strange to say, these men who have been specially trained as military experts, are expected at ‘the same time to be financial and business experts, able to handle anything and everything.
– The civil side of the administration needs to be taken out of the hands of the military authorities.
– That is the point of my whole argument. We have made a start towards taking the control of defence works out of the Naval and Defence Departments. All such work should be concentrated in a Department of Public Works.
– We make the same complaints about other Departments that are not controlled by military men.
– But the charges are not so serious.
– Why should the audit branch of the Defence Department be under the control of a colonel? Why should it not be under the charge of an accountant?
– In some cases such mcn are civil officers with honorary military rank, but, while they have all the necessary civil qualifications for their position, the tendency of the system is always to make these men members of the Naval and Military Forces’. Their identity as civil authorities becomes merged in the military side of the Department. The only remedy is to take from the control of the Defence Department everything except matters appertaining only to defence. Let expert sailors and soldiers play at sailoring and soldiering, but to expect a military officer to be an authority on bran, tin, leather, canvas, paper, and everything else, is unreasonable. The Minister of Defence has made one satisfactory and progressive move in taking from the Defence authorities, to some extent, at all events, the control of the construction of defence works and buildings. But there is still a very partial and one-sided arrangement. The light and airy way in which military and naval officers talk of an expenditure of £50,000, or £100,000- of building a naval base here, a submarine base there, and a destroyer base somewhere else - seems to suggest that they have no consideration for the expenditure of public money. I do not think they are competent to spend public funds in a satisfactory way, and so I advocate that all naval and defence works, and particularly the supply of goods, should be absolutely separated from . the Defence Department.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m..
– It seems to me that while during peace time the Defence Department may blunder along without serious deficiencies or extravagance, a time of stress, such as the present, discovers the weakness of our organization to an alarming degree. In such times we discover the weak points and the strong points, and, unfortunately, we must admit that the Defence organization of the Commonwealth has broken down in its conduct of afl:ars in connexion with the war. I am inclined to allow reasonable excuse for the Defence officers, and the Minister of Defence, for what happened at the beginning of the war. They made enormous blunders and committed grievous errors. The early stages of the war were characterized by the most flagrant misapplication of funds. The placing of orders, and the letting of contracts for the supply of goods, was disgracefully managed. There is no excuse for what happened other than the fact that the Minister and his officers were placed in an unprecedented position, became hysterical, and did not know what they were doing. But the Department has had sufficient time to overcome the initial difficulties, and adequate opportunities have been afforded them to improve their organization.
– At the commencement of the war the Defence Department had to act with great rapidity.
– Tha That is the excuse I am making, and that is why I do not press my accusation, beyond saying that the blunders then committed were simply astounding. Yet, after twelve months of experience, the Defence organization- seems to be as hopelessly in chaos as it was at the beginning of the war. I am satisfied that there is in the Department a fairly large number of officers who have rendered magnificent service, who are working early and late, and who are doing honestly and earnestly the best they can for the country.
– Then why vilify them when they cannot defend themselves ?
– Because their best is not good enough. The trouble is that the majority of officers in charge of the administration of affairs seem to be hopelessly inefficient. With great regret I have to confess that after twelve months’ experience of war, and after the mass of correspondence which it has brought to- me and every other honorable member, I feel contempt for the ordinary military officer as far as his business ideas and methods are concerned. I do not il ink half of them are capable of running a pie shop, much less a big organization. The waste of foodstuffs and material that is taking place in the camps is a disgrace to any organization. The honorable member for Nepean called attention to the condition of affairs, at Liverpool Camp. By so doing he has rendered a service to the community; he has every reason to be proud of the action he took, and I gladly acknowledge the good he has done. Every one of us knows that it was impossible for him to exaggerate the conditions obtaining in the military camps. but what annoys me is that honorable members on this side of the House, who knew of the conditions existing, and had brought the matter before the Minister by correspondence and interviews, were unable to get any redress. Nothing could be done until the honorable member for Nepean publicly called attention to those things, and secured the appointment of a Royal Commission. No wonder the soldiers in Liverpool Camp are singing to the tune of a well-known Sankey hymn. “ What a friend’ we have in Orchard.” But the conditions at Liverpool Camp were no worse than at many other camps in the Commonwealth. I drew the attention of the Minister of Defence to certain things which were happening at the camp at Enoggera, in Queensland, and I received the usual official replies that the matter would receive attention, and, later, that the complaints were exaggerated. I communicated with the Minister, and also told him verbally that he was expecting too much from human nature when he asked the officer who was really responsible for the conditions that obtained to report adversely upon his own conduct of affairs.
– What about Senator Gardiner’s report?
- Senator Gardiner was bluffed by the men whose interest it was to bluff him. Those officers would bluff the Minister of Defence also; I do not blame him. The Minister gave me a reply to a question I asked concerning the arrival at Brisbane of the troopship Kyarra with returning soldiers. I have the incontrovertible testimony of two independent witnesses, one of them a doctor, that even the military authorities in Brisbane had absolutely no information regarding the arrival of those men other than that they had derived from the public press.
– The arrangements were published fully in the press.
– But surely the officers were entitled to receive official notification on the subject. The officers in charge of the depot to which the wounded men were to be taken were absolutely unaware of the arrival of the men, and had no information or instructions that they were to prepare for them, other than what they saw in the press. The consequence was that the relatives of the returning men could obtain no information from the military authorities as to whether their wounded relatives were on the ship or not.
– The officers in Brisbane were not responsible.
– Of course they were not; the blame was attachable to headquarters. And yet when I asked foi information on the subject from the Minister of Defence, I was given a report from the officer in Brisbane whose business it was to attend to these matters and who could not be expected to criticise adversely his own arrangements or lack of arrangements. Reports from officers in those circumstances are absolutely valueless to honorable members. And what of the officers who were suspended in Melbourne ? I do not know the gentlemen; they may be absolute paragons of excellence, but I know that somebody was responsible for the ill-treatment of those wounded men. Yet by some ordinary military method of whitewashing, the responsible officers have been allowed to go scot-free, whilst their subordinates have had to bear the blame. Even the Minister seems unable to break through the military caste which protects one officer against another, and enables one officer to shield his comrade. The invariable upshot is that the man on top goes free and the man underneath has to bear the blame. The disorganization in the camps still continues, and I told the Minister only this week that every day cart-loads of good food and good material are being taken out of Enoggera Camp and absolutely wasted. It is the same in all the camps, and this is going on month niter month; yet, after twelve months of experience-
– And three Defence Ministers !
– We are no further forward. The only remedy is to take the control of goods, supplies, works, and, in fact, everything necessary for the carrying on of the Defence system, out of the hands of the Defense officers, because they are absolutely incapable, and give it to others. The country is losing thousands of pounds under the present system.
– If we are going to do that, we had better save the salary we voted the other day. I am beginning to wonder what we are getting out of it.
– Quite right; we are getting nothing out of it yet, although the man himself is all right. I want to confine soldiers io soldiering and sailors to sailoring. We cannot expect military men to be business experts. The experience of this and every other country in regard to military men in war time is that they are absolutely incompetent to handle business matters.
– Those you are attacking cannot defend themselves here. If you know so much why do you not bring a definite charge against them ?
– I have done so. I do not think that I have lacked definiteness. The last time I spoke in this Chamber I made definite statements, and the Minister has letters from me naming the men whose conduct I called in question, but I am not going to blackguard “men here or mention names in my speeches. I decline to make use of my position in this House to speak for or against individuals. This is the place to make general charges, but I am prepared to make to the Minister specific and concrete statements giving the principals and the particulars. This is the place where we are supposed to look at matters from their broadest aspect, and not from the merely local or individual aspect. As an illustration of present methods, take this case: A man applied for a new pair of boots, to which he would be entitled only at the end of six months, but through walking about in mud and water his boots failed him, and he needed a new pair. He had to send a requisition for a new pair to his officer, who recommended that they be issued. This recommendation passed through several hands until it reached a Board, which solemnly sat, and, after investigation and the calling of several witnesses, solemnly passed a resolution that, owing to unusual wear and tear, the boots were unfit for service, and that a new pair should be issued. That decision found its way down to another officer, who ordered that the old pair be withdrawn, and that a new pair be given out. Thus, after a wait of about six weeks or two months, the gentleman finally gets his pair of boots.
– If that is done in connexion with every pair of boots issued, how do they issue their tens of thousands of pairs?
– Because the tens of thousands were issued in a lump in the first place, each man as he went into camp getting a pair. We have all laughed over Mr. Anderson’s description of the circumlocutory methods of the Postal Department, but the circumlocution in the Defence Department is much more extravagant and wasteful than in any other.
A good deal has been said about the medical staff, but if there is one branch of the Defence Department that deserves credit for its work in this war/ it is the medical staff. There may be individual cases of incompetence, and some rather serious rumours are current this week regarding the condition of affairs in Egypt; but, generally speaking, our medical corps has rendered remarkably good service. In previous wars an average of four men died from sickness for every one that died from wounds. To-day only about onethird of the men are sick compared with those who have been killed or wounded, which shows that we have made good progress. The nurses in particular deserve our warmest congratulations and deepest gratitude. Our experience of nursing and hospital treatment in this war proves in a much more lurid way than I ever expected to prove it that my motion on the notice-paper, for the compulsory training of girls in hospital and nursing work in the same way as the boys are trained for military work, is absolutely sound.
– Teach them how to keep a home first.
-H -Hospital and nursing training includes some of the most useful and necessary elements in home training.
– Bad cooking more than anything else drives men into premature graves.
– We lose more soldiers from sickness caused by bad cooking and amateur nursing than from any other cause. In the Boer war the amateur nurses were a perfect pest to the doctors, and cost the nation hundreds of lives. Things are not so bad now, but we want them to be still better. The girls should be trained to look after the boys, just as well as the boys are being trained to protect the girls, for a girl without training is just as dangerous and inefficient as a man without training. I recommend honorable members to read some good books in the Library on the need for the organization of medical and nursing facilities. This is just as important, and in some respects more important than the need for organization in military training.
I notice that there is a resurrection of a somewhat active character of certain ideas in regard to military service. During the discussions in this Chamber on the War Census Bill many protests were made against the inclusion of any idea of conscription, and we were assured that the Bill had no connection with conscription. That assurance was accepted by the House.
– You do not believe in it?
– I believe the census is the first step to conscription.
– I - If necessary for the defence of the nation.
– A number of people, on the platform and in the press, are advocating conscription, but I shall always oppose anything in the nature of compulsory service for military purposes outside Australia. It will be quite time enough to have conscription when the necessity arises in Australia.
– When would you say the necessity arose ?
– It will arise some considerable time after the Mother Country adopts conscription. There is no necessity for us to talk about conscription now, and the Government ought to discourage any talk about it. The voluntary system, is proving adequate for our requirements; and I have the highest admiration for the young men who are joining the colours; the response is simply magnificent. To increase recruiting it is not necessary to have a system of com pulsion, either by Act of Parliament or by employers refusing to employ single men. The proper method is to guarantee that, when men do join, they will be treated properly. There are numbers of young men who are not enlisting simply on account of the reports as to the way those who have enlisted are being treated. It is not conscription, but better treatment, that is required - better treatment in the camp and when they get to the fighting line, and, particularly, better treatment for the wounded and sick.
I wish to express my pleasure at the character of the case the honorable member for Moreton tried to set up last night. He evidently knew that the case was a bad one, and, though he tried to carry a heavy load and swing a sledge hammer, it was a very weak attempt-like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut.
– I thought he had a very good case in regard to the bread contracts.
– It was a very bad case, and I think the right honorable member for Swan will find that all the literature he has circulated will not have the effect expected. The House and the country are well aware that the policy of the Labour party is preference to unionists. The Opposition threw down a challenge which we accepted, and we were victorious on this issue at the elections. Surely when the Labour party is returned to power we are expected to carry out our policy? I do not think that preference to unionists is being carried out properly or fully, though, at any rate, in some respects, we are trying to carry it out.
– Should it be carried out regardless of the cost?
– That is not the question. Preference to unionists will always mean that extra will have to be paid for work, but the work obtained is of better quality. Unionists always demand better wages than do non-unionists ; indeed, the only use the non-unionist has in the economic world is to bring down wages - to be a strike breaker and a wage reducer. If people employ unionists they must make up their minds that the work will cost more; but, as I have said, the service is better, and, in the long run, cheaper. However, I do not wish to discuss the whole question of preference to unionists, but merely to say that the honorable member for Moreton must find a sorry satisfaction, after all his rhodomontade and deblabberating, in the knowledge that the very firm he was championing - the firm which wished to get the contract without the condition of preference - has accepted a Government contract this month with the condition attached.
– Their conversion has cost the country £1,500.
– Every man employed by that firm must now join a union.
– The firm never objected to unionism.
– They did, and no unionists had a chance of getting a job with them.
– Have the firm put on another man since they took this contract ?
– No, and every man employed there has had to join a union.
– Every man there had joined a union before.
– That is not so. The honorable member for Moreton accused me of calling men “ scabs,” and it is a rather disagreeable term; but when I used it I was quoting from a letter that had not been sent to me personally. I have no complaint to make if a man chooses to be a non-unionist, because he lias as much right to be a non-unionist as I have to be a unionist. He must, however, stand by the result of his own action, and must expect only the wages and standard of a non-unionist. The demand of the non-unionist to be recognised in the economic world as on the same level as a unionist, and to enjoy the same results, is unreasonable, impertinent, and unfair. The honorable member for Moreton and the right honorable member for Swan had better make their peace with the Automatic Bakeries Company, who have, as I say, accented a Government contract on the condition of preference to unionists. Abandoned bv their friends, what are those honorable members1 going to complain about next?
– You have seen the error of your ways. It cost the country £1,500 to open your eyes !
– I can assure the honorable member that if the Automatic Bakeries Company had not been willina to give preference to unionists they would not have sot the contract, but they have learnt wisdom; and I hope that their in fluence will induce the honorable member for Moreton and the right honorable member for Swan to see their error, and to. accept a policy which has been indorsed, by the country, and which has secured,, and always will secure, the best results toevery interest involved.
.- I’ have listened with attention to the remarks of the honorable member for Brisbane, and it strikes me that our political life iscoming to a somewhat low ebb when we find political organizations promoted at the expense of the Commonwealth. The honorable member, perhaps, better than we on this side, knows how the funds of these organizations are used for the purpose of assisting honorable members opposite in their political battles. When we hear honorable members arguing that it is essential and proper that Commonwealth money should be expended only on those who join such organizations, while men who have a sense of right and’ justice, and who believe they can best fight their battles alone, are left to starve, there is something wrong in our political life. I do not think I have heard any speech which so utterly condemned the administration of the Defence Department as that of the honorable member for Brisbane. From the beginning to the end of his address, he voiced his dissatisfaction. Indeed, quite a number of honorable members opposite have shown plainly that they are not satisfied with the administration of the Defence Department. One would have thought that whenever reasonable grounds were forthcoming for an inquiry into departmental methods the Minister would have been only too glad to grant it. But the very reverse has been the case. The honorable member for Brisbane has argued that it would be wise to institute a greater measure of control over Commonwealth stores, particularly in the Defence Department. Need I remind him that twelve months ago a Royal Commission made a special recommendation to the Government in favour of the appointment of a Supply and Tender BoardSouth Australia possesses the finest Supply and Tender Board in the Commonwealth, and it is wonderful to see the good work which it performs. I venture to say that if we had had an efficient Simply and Tender Board here large sums of money would have been saved, particularly in connexion with Defence administration. I recollect that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, the honorable member for Brisbane, and others, have repeatedly drawn attention to maladministration and extravagance on the part of that Department. Yet nothing has been done to remedy these evils. Promises have been made, but we have not witnessed their fulfilment. I would counsel the Government to appoint a Supply and Tender Board as speedily as possible, with a view to putting an end to this waste. In the building of the cruiser Brisbane we have suffered the loss of three years of her period of effective service, besides incurring an excess expenditure of £200,000.
– The honorable member thinks that we ought not to build a cruiser here?
– It is quite clear that we ought not to have started to do so now. Had the order for her construction been placed in the Old Country, the vessel would have been in commission long ago. Let the honorable member read the report of Mr. King-Salter as to the conditions which existed at Cockatoo Island. At the Small Arms Factory we are manufacturing rifles at a cost of more than £9 each, when we can buy a similar rifle abroad for £4 5s. each. We have the best machinery available, and our workmen are as good as those of any other country in the world. The wretched conditions which are being forced upon the people by the political party opposite are alone responsible for this state of affairs.
– In America, people will not employ a man who is over forty years of age. They are killing off that class of workman very fast.
– I am very doubtful about the accuracy of that statement. The American workman does not look for work in Australia.
– B - Because the wages are not high enough.
– Take the case of the Ford Motor Car Company. According to their annual report not a man in their employ is earning less than £1 a day. Cannot we build up model companies here? I am a great believer in cooperation .
– Y - Yet the Ford Motor Car Company made a profit of §50,000,000 last year.
– Because they get every man interested in the work which he has to do for them. They pay him well for it. The honorable member for Brisbane referred to the activities of certain Socialistic Governments in connexion with trading concerns. May I remind him of the position which obtains in Western Australia ? There the Government started with a great flourish of trumpets to give the farmers cheap machinery. They had everything with which to establish a firstclass factory. Yet, at the end of the year’s operations, the factory receipts totalled only £72,000, whilst the expenditure aggregated £140,000. Of course, there may be stock in hand.
– It seems very difficult to get ti balance-sheet in connexion with these concerns.
– That is so. There has been a great scandal in connexion with this Factory. The manager of it recently resigned, affirming that it was impossible to carry on properly owing to tho action of the Minister in compelling him to dismiss this man and appoint that man. Political influence was constantly creeping in-
– Did the honorable member read what the Minister had to say in reply ?
– Yes. But the Minister has not appointed a Commission to inquire into the grave charges made by thb late manager of the Factory.
– He made a very effective reply to them.
– Nothing of the sort. In connexion with the State batteries in Western Australia, the receipts amounted to £39,000, and the expenditure to £49,000.
– Who established them ?
– The right honorable member for Swan, and I followed his example. I understand that there are about thirty or thirty-five State batteries in Western Australia at the present time.
– They are rusty.
– When I was a Minister in that State they were not rusty. They were paying their way. In the figures which I have quoted no charge is made for depreciation or interest on capital expenditure.
– Is it not a fact that additional advantages are now given to prospectors ?
– No. There is, I believe, a small advantage in respect of increased tonnage. The receipts from tie Government Brickworks in Western Australia last year amounted to £i,900, and the expenditure to £2,700. Prom the State hotel there the receipts were £37,000 and the expenditure £35,000. In connexion with the State-owned sawmills the receipts were £303,000 and the expenditure £411,000. The State-owned steamship service - and here again nothing has been allowed by way of depreciation or interest - yielded a revenue of £101,000 as against an expenditure of £109,000. Although these Government trading concerns have plenty of money behind them, and every opportunity of making profits, they have in nearly every ‘instance resulted in grave failures. The same thing is true, to a large extent, of our railways. If we could prevent the exercise of political influence, instead of it being necessary to increase freights, we could reduce them down to about the American level. I was for six years in charge of the Western Australian Railway. Department. There we got rid of political influence entirely, and in the second year reduced expenses by £220,000. In the next four years, although we increased the wages of the men by ls. a day, and reduced the freight charges by £100,000 a year, making the freight on superphosphates £d. a mile, we were able, after paying interest on capital and working expenses, to return to the Treasury £660,000. Yet, although only a slight interval has elapsed, the profits for these lines have gone, and freights have had to be raised, political influence having become rampant again. I do not say that the exercise of political influence is the fault of one party rather than another, but it will creep in, and, therefore, a big blunder is made in associating Governments with trading “ concerns. Under ordinary circumstances the Treasurer would be justified in expecting that the speeches in this debate would show no trace of party feeling; and, because of the war, I am disinclined to criticise the Government severely, but it cannot be forgotten that the Labour party has forced its political desires on the Parliament. This morning we had a division on a proposal for amending the Constitution, and within a few months a referendum is to be taken, at a cost of over £100,000, to deal with a matter which has provoked much discussion and party heat of late years. The referendum is- to be taken, notwithstanding the demand for economy in public expendditure. In my opinion, the time is inopportune for the imposition of income taxation. There has been a drought in nearly every part of Australia.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the income tax. proposals, because they form the subject of an Order of the Day.
– I understood the Attorney-General to say, when delivering his second-reading speech on the Income Tax Bill, that he desired that his proposals should be considered in connexion with the financial statement, and I have ri a intention of speaking again on the subject generally.
– I have called other honorable members to order for attempting to discuss subjects set down on the business-paper.
– I thought that you had ruled that we could discuss generalities, but not deal with particular proposals.
– Any passing reference is in order, but the Income Tax Bill itself may not be discussed
– I wish to deal only with the subject generally. When speaking on the financial question it is impossible to avoid reference to the fact that the sum of £4,000,000 is to be raised by income taxation, and, aa I say, the time is inopportune for the imposition of such taxation, seeing that during the past twelve months the people of all parts of Australia, except Queensland, have been passing through a very bad time.
– The people of Queensland have been passing through a very bad time within the last twelve months.
– They are certainly having a bad time now. A tax of the kind proposed must restrict employment. I believe in graduation when an income tax is necessary; but, in my opinion, an income tax is not necessary at the present moment, and the working people will feel the effects of the proposed legislation more than any one else. Whenthe tax is imposed, the owner of a motorcar will try to do without his chauffeur;, the man with extensive grounds, will reduce the number of his gardeners,, servants will be retrenched, and employees generally will be prejudicially affected. I think, however, that the coming season will be a very good one, and that next year our people will be in a better position to pay income taxation. It would have been better had the Government allowed this proposition to remain in abeyance for a while, and had given the assurance that income taxation was to be imposed later merely to raise enough money to pay interest on the war expenditure and to provide a sinking fund for the extinction of war loans. As, however, the tax is to be imposed, I hope that economy will be exercised in the various Departments. There has been no economy in the past. Having travelled a good deal with the Works Committee of late, I know that in many directions there has been the grossest extravagance. There is not the slightest doubt that, because of the employment of day labour, the cost of the transcontinental railway will be increased by £2,500,000 or £3,000,000.
– Mr. Bell makes a different statement.
– I have a very high opinion of Mr. Bell, having seen something of his work, but having gone closely into the report recently presented, which shows the quantity of earth works done, the mileage of rails laid, and the amount of ballasting, I feel confident that the line will cost a sum nearer to £7,000,000 than to £6,000,000. Then there is the expenditure at the Flinders Naval Base. Admiral Henderson recommended the establishment of a sub-base only, but the Department proposes to expend about £1,000,000 on the site, and over £500,000 on buildings alone. Admiral Henderson reported that a wharf or a suitable hulk would be needed, the base being merely for submarines and torpedo boats, but a wharf is being constructed which will have a length of 1,080 feet. The site is sand and clay, yet difficulty is experienced in driving in the piles, which, I understand, are of Queensland serpentine, but I am sure that there would be no difficulty with jarrah piles. However, an excavation has been made 1,000 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 20 feet deep, and a wall built to keep out the sea water. This has been done to allow of the piles being driven to a sufficient depth, and, of course, the work has provided employment for an enormous number of men.
– Is that a positive fact?
– I was down there, and saw it. It seems that they could not drive the piles to the required depth, and had to make an excavation, which, I am sure, was 20 feet deep and about 1,000 feet long. The piles were shod with iron, but they said they could not drive them.
– What was the obstruction?
– I saw nothing in the nature of rock. In Western Australia we have driven through limestone. I cannot understand how the excavation came to be made, but my idea is that it was done to find employment.
– I - I do not think that they are so bad as that.
– I never heard before of the authorities building an earth wall to keep out the sea, and then starting to build a wharf, and afterwards dredging the wall away.
– They did not put the wall down.
– It is there naturally. The work was evidently done on the advice of an officer, who, of course, might be wrong.
– There is a wall built all round.
– It is only typical of cases which occur throughout the country, and Labour members know it, too.
– The Department’s estimate of the expenditure at this subbase is £1,000,000, which, I think, does not include the fortifications. I do not desire to deal further with the Small Arms Factory, as I had quite enough to say about that matter the other day. Honorable members talk about extravagance at the present time and the need for economy. While we have the Small Arms Factory at work, and feel that it is necessary to impose specially heavy taxation on the people, the Government ought to consider twice before they spend a large sum, which, according to my estimate will be over £375,000, in erecting a factory at Canberra. They should consider very seriously before, simply for the sake of a fad, they cause the expenditure of that large sum.
– Are we to measure your other statements on the same rule as that one?
– My statements are reported in Hansard, and if the honorable member wishes to refute them he can.
– Do you not think that you ought to give some of the officers’ estimates which you took in evidence? What is the good of taking a biased view of the whole thing? Why not state the case fairly ?
– I prefer to exercise mv common sense, as the honorable member does occasionally.
– I cannot return the compliment.
– I do not desire to bandy compliments with the honorable member just now, otherwise I might be able to do so, perhaps with more effect than he could.
– You had better try your hand. I do not want any of your threats. Do not attempt to threaten me, because, if you do, I will straighten you out pretty quickly.
– Order !
– The honorable member can read my remarks in Hansard if he likes - he was here the other night when I spoke - and try to refute them, but I am not stupid enough to think that we can establish a Small Arms Factory in a new territory without making housing provision for the workmen and their families. If that provision is made I think that my estimate will not be found to be in any sense exaggerated. It has’ struck me as very peculiar that in a time of stress those who have been responsible for the working of the Public Departments are sent away on a holiday when their services ought to be of most value. For instance, the Secretary for the Defence Department should be the mainstay of the Minister. He is the one mau in the Department who ought to have a thorough knowledge of all its ramifications, and it is essential that he should be at the elbow of the Minister, more especially at this juncture. Yet he was sent off to New Guinea or to one of the islands, and another gentleman, who mav be quite as competent, but as to whom I know nothing, occupies his place. We find that the same course is being periled in connexion with the medical branch of the Defence Department. We understand that Colonel Fetherston is being sent to Egypt at a time when the whole Department is in a hopeless mess, so far as the care’ of the sick and the wounded over here are concerned. I would not have spoken about this matter, but for the eulogy given to the Department by the honorable member for Brisbane. I propose to relate the experience I had with the Department only during the past few days. A young fellow, who wished to do his best for the country, enlisted. At Seymour it was feared he had been attacked by meningitis, and he was transferred to the base hospital. When he was leaving Seymour he wired to some of his friends that he was being sent to the bass hospital. He arrived in Melbourne at about noon, and was landed at the hospital at 12.30 o’clock. A friend called there at 3 o’clock, and - though it is startling to learn it - in the Department there was not the slightest record of the young fellow having been brought there.
– That is nothing new.
– The friend was persistent. He insisted that the young soldier must be there, as he had received from him a telegram saying that he was to be sent there. At last he got permission to go through the hospital for the purpose of trying to find out for himself. After searching round for over an hour he came back to the office and ‘ reported that he could not find his friend. “ Well,” they said, “ we have no record of him, and so he cannot be here.” The young fellow was persistent, and started to make a further search, and at half.past four o’clock he found his friend on a verandah just outside the quarantine ward. Although the sick soldier had been dumped down there at half-past twelve o’clock, not only was there no record in the office as to his arrival in the hospital, but he had not been seen by doctors or nurses up to half-past four o’clock. That is too bad. I am not blaming either the nurses or the doctors for an occurrence of that sort, because it is quite possible that, they may be overworked.
– There are plenty of doctors who are willing to give their services down there.
– I believe that in many instances the doctors are worked up to twenty hours per day. The administration is in a hopeless muddle. Instead of a sound, practical business man being put in charge, some person with military experience is appointed, and the result is that the business portion of the work is in a hopeless muddle. The gentleman who should be most competent in unravelling the thread is, I understand, being sent to Egypt, and somebody else, I suppose, will be asked to take his place. That sort of proceeding is not good, and reflects greatly on the administration. Of all the departments, the Defence Department should be the one urging people to enlist. It must startle any person who goes over the Department to see the large crowd cf healthy, strapping young fellows who are engaged there, and they are not civil to the public either. I am not the only member of this House who has met with incivility there.
– There ought to be a committee of laymen to look after the administration of the hospital, as there is at every other hospital.
– I think it would be wise for the Department ‘to seriously consider the employment of elderly men and’ girls to look after, the records. I feel quite satisfied that from such persons the outside public, and those who are suffering from the loss of dear ones in connexion with the war, would receive more consideration than is shown on many occasions by many of the subofficials.
– O - Order ! The honorable member has reached the time limit-
– I thought that honorable members were allowed to speak for one hour and thirty-five minutes.
– In In order that consecutive speeches might be delivered on the main motion granting Supply, the Committee concurred in my suggestion that the debate upon that motion should be considered a financial statement debate, upon which the rules of the House permit speeches to be made for one hour and thirty-five minutes. That procedure was followed until the Leader of the Opposition spoke upon the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Richmond to reduce the amount of Supply by £1, and when the Leader of the Opposition had spoken for half-an-hour, I drew attention to the fact that his time had expired ; but he was permitted to exhaust his right to speak twice for thirty minutes. It appears, however, that during my temporary absence from the chair, when the honorable member for Brisbane rose to speak, the view was taken that, as the honorable member had not spoken on the main question, he should be permitted to speak” for one hour and thirty-five minutes; but the Committee will at once see that, if one honorable member was to be allowed to speak for one hour and thirty-five minutes, and another honorable member was confined to thirty minutes, it would create a state, of affairs that would cause inconvenience. I, therefore, intimated that, until the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Richmond was disposed of, the debate must be governed by the rules relating to the length of speeches in Committee of Supply; and I shall confine honorable members to speeches of thirty minutes’ duration until that amendment is disposed of. I have no objection, if the Committee feels so disposed, to allowing the honorable member for Dampier to continue, and occupy his second period of thirty minutes. Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the honorable member be given leave to speak again? Leave given.
– Will the honorable member be permitted to speak to the general question after the amendment is disposed of?
– I do not feel inclined to give a ruling upon that point at this stage.
– I am a great believer in the justice of our participation in the present war, and I have no time for those who are not prepared to give their assistance towards its prosecution to a successful end. The Argus of the 24th July contains a report of a resolution which was adopted by the Federated Clerks Union, and sent to the Prime Minister. This resolution was as follows : -
The union wishes to impress upon the Fed,ra Ministry ami the Federal Labour party that, after having discovered who arc the owners of the wealth of this Commonwealth, the time is now ripe for the Commonwealth Government to first call upon the wealthy class and their sons to fight and defend their own property, and thus prevent the same wealthy class from any longer forcibly causing such rapid enlistment of our brother workers (through their empty stomachs and unemployment) to merely sacrifice their valuable lives in defence of the wealthy man’s castle, whilst the same class are extracting higher rentals and extensive profits out of the foodstuffs, &c, of the workers’ relatives.
– Hear, hear!
– Yet this is the class of person which is being granted preference in the Defence Department. I am sure that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports does not indorse this resolution. There is no one more enthusiastic in regard to the successful prosecution of the war than the honorable member is. I am sure that he does not believe that the men Who have made a great name for us at the front went away with the Expeditionary Forces through the sheer necessity of empty stomachs.
– I have letters to that effect.
– There may be a few cases of that sort, but the great majority of those who went away to fight for us did so in the full belief that they are fighting in the best interests of Australia. Many of them would have gone had they received no payment. They should not be classed with those people who are being given preference in the Defence Department. I would not have cared had this been an individual expression of opinion. In any community there can always be found a few who will talk like this.
– There may have been fifteen members of the union present at the meeting out of a membership of over 1,000.
– Nevertheless, the union must accept the blame, and I have seen nothing showing that it has repudiated this resolution. A great deal has been said about the orgy of extravagance which is evident, not only in regard to the Commonwealth, but also in regard to the expenditure of the States. The figures relating to borrowings by the States as supplied by the Treasurer surprised me. There is not the slightest doubt that if the present rate of borrowing is continued for the next two or three years we must have fears for the future because I understand that these are all new borrowings, and that none of them are for paying off old loans. New South Wales last year borrowed £4,933,000 from the Commonwealth, and also raised £4,207,000, mostly within Australia, making a total of £9,140,000 for the year. Western Australia, with a small population of about 320,000 people, borrowed last . year from the Commonwealth £2,066,000, and from within the Com monwealth £2,618,000, or a total of £4,684,000, a large amount for such a small community. We must realize that this sort of thing cannot go on, and that a big loan expenditure must eventually be hurtful to the people. We could profitably spend a million pounds a year in Western Australia in developmental work, but when such large sums as I have indicated are utilized there is no doubt that it will attract workers into Government employ, with the result that in the near future, when expenditure is contracted, there will be destitution, and, perhaps, financial insolvency within the State. I would have liked to have had from the Attorney-General some information with regard to some of the proposed new departures in other directions. We do not know much, for instance, about the details of the arrangement under which the Commonwealth are to dispose of the sugar crop this year, and there are two other items, the metal exchange and the freightage of wheat and flour from Australia, upon which more information could be given. The latter is a matter of very great import- ance to the producers of this country. So far as the metal industry is concerned, I cannot understand what is the object of the Attorney-General in trying to form a> metal exchange here, because it will not help production in any shape or form. We have heard complaints from time to time about the middleman, and yet this proposal will make it absolutely compulsory on all who purchase metal to obtain it through some member of the proposed exchange. No good can result from this. It will only add to the complications of those who are handling the metals. If it were proposed to “establish an organization to promote the smelting industry, I could understand that some good might be the outcome, but this scheme cannot in any sense be conducive to the promotion of the mining industry. Now, on the ‘question of wheat freightage, I want to say I had no desire, when I asked some questions in this House recently, to reflect upon the firm of Elder, Smith and Company. I merely wanted to know if they had been connected with a certain German firm. And in this connexion I would like to say that in Australia there is not a single big firm that has not been anxious iri the past to get German agencies. Even the Government were purchasing from the
Germans. We gob our electrical supplies from Germany, and not long ago some machine shops on motor vehicles were here for inspection by members of Parliament, nearly every article being of German manufacture. Therefore, no reflection could be cast on any of these firms because they had German agencies. The AttorneyGeneral told the House that Elder, Smith and Company were not agents for Beer, Sondheimer and Company, of Hamburg; but, according to the Shipping and Commercial Journal of October, 1914, Elder, Smith and Company were even then advertising the name of this firm among their long list of agencies. I cannot understand why an arrangement should be made for the freightage of our wheat through the agency of two particular firms, instead of allowing this business to be handled by the agents who have been looking after it in the past. Of course, if the Government like to step in with the object of doing their best to assist the producer, there can be no reason to complain; but I want honorable members on the other side to realize that the time is coming when, if they are not very careful, they will bring ruin upon the one great industry of this country. We have a land tax and a super tax. There was never any question of placing a tax on the manufacturing industries of the cities. Now, on top of all this other taxation, we are going to havean income tax. I cannot understand why the Government do not act as in Western Australia, and allow a man to pay a tax according to the source of his largest revenue, investments or land. The Government will need to be very careful how they treat the great producing industries of this country. We anticipate that something like 1,500.000 tons of wheat will be shipped from Australia during this coming season. Every chartering agreement makes provision for a rebate of 5 per cent., and I understand from the Attorney-General to-day that the firms who are to look after this business will get lj per cent., while the Government will “ collar “ the balance of 3$ per cent, of the commission, so that they will get about £200,000.
– And they will stick to it.
– They are going to rob the producers to that extent. It is no wonder that a member on the other side in politics in the Western Australian
Parliament censured the Government of his State on account of its secret agreement with the Commonwealth.
– What did he do with the motion?
– I do not know.
– He withdrew it. It is evident you did not follow, that matter closely enough.
– I suppose pressure was brought to bear on him from the members of his party. Anyhow, I say it is entirely wrong. Surely the Government are going to realize the difficultiesof our producers. It cannot be said that the duty on jute is a protective duty. It is a special impost upon the farmers of Australia. I come from a district in Western Australia where for the past six or seven years thousands of people have been placed on the back country, and it will be difficult for anyone unacquainted with the conditions to imagine how they are living there. I was down there for twelve months myself, and I know how hard the conditions are for the people there, away from a railway, getting a mail perhaps only once a week, having to ride 5 or 6 miles to get it, and then probably having to wait all day. For the last four years there has not been one good season there, and not 10 per cent, of the people have been able to make a living. These are among the people who are expected to pay heavy taxation, and now this interference by the Government is about the last straw. The Government, by their agreement, are going to try to drag £200,000 out of the producers of Australia.
– Were not those troubles you speak of caused because one of your colleagues put those people out on a waterless country?
Mr.- GREGORY.- No; the present Government took them further out. They are talking about a railway to Mount Marshall.
– But your Government established settlement as far as Mount Marshall.
– No; not so far as that. The railway is now to be taken further out.
– To save the people your Government put there.
– Nonsense. I believe that the Minister of External Affairs will admit that I am not painting an exaggerated picture.
– The picture is a true one; I will admit that.
– Owing to the seasons they have experienced, some thousands of farmers in Western Australia have found themselves in such positions that no description could exaggerate the seriousness of their lot; .and I hope it will be found possible to give them some assistance by the suspension of the Tariff upon jute goods. I believe a majority of honorable members of this House are in favour of dealing with this question at once. Australia is the richest producing country in the world, and the men I am referring to are the men who have materially helped to build up the country’s position. Surely some little consideration should be given to them in their present plight; yet we find in the wheat chartering agreement, the details of which have been kept so very secret, the Government hope to make a profit of £200,000 out of the farmers in the shipment of their produce to Europe.
– The honorable member would say nothing about it if the middleman had been getting it.
– The honorable member talks about monopolists, yet his Government is proposing to give two firms an absolute monopoly in this matter of transport. I do not desire to reflect in any way on the two firms interested in the agreement, both of which are well known and reputable; but I can see no justification whatever for presenting to them this great monopoly and the enormous income that will follow on the Government’s action, whilst, at the same time, the Commonwealth Government is itself making a profit out of the farmers.
– I agree with a good deal of what the honorable member who -has just resumed his seat has said in regard to Western Aus, tralia and the treatment that should be meted out to the men on the land there, though I disagree with his attitude towards Government enterprises. The argument he has used was used over and over again, in years gone by, against the establishment of the Post Office as a Government concern. Not many years ago at cost eighteen pence to carry a letter from London to Somersetshire. Now, with tha Post Office a Government undertaking the same letter can be sent thousands’5 of miles for one penny; and I do not think any one would ever seriously argue that we should substitute the old system of private delivery for the present postal system. I believe that, where possible, the Government should undertake its own works, and carry them to a successful issue; and, notwithstanding all that has been said regarding the position of Government enterprises in Western Australia, I have read that if the total results of those enterprises could be procured, they would show a net profit on the year. May I for a few moments refer to the financial statement made by the Prime Minister, so far as it referred to the income tax. I desire, straightaway, to enter my protest against a system that makes it difficult for the taxpayer to understand the basis upon which he is being taxed. If there is anything a taxpayer has the right to know, it is what he has to pay, and how the item is made up. I challenge any honorable member of this House to give anything .like a clear interpretation of the basis of taxation as it was presented to this House in the first instance. I asked, without success, several Ministers to explain it. I asked one man who is supposed to be an expert in matters of this kind, but he could give me no satisfaction; and. I do not think it was possible for either mathematician or accountant to have thoroughly explained the proposals as they were then set o.ut. The system of imposing taxation as carried out in Japan seems to be far simpler, from the point of view I have in mind; and in this connexion I want honorable members to bear in mind that the income tax that has recently been imposed lias come to stay until we have paid off the debts now being incurred. In the Japanese Y ear-Book for the year 1907, page 368, it is stated that the income tax, as apart from the war tax in Janan, may amount tn 2i per cent. For a considerable period after the war with Russia, the Japanese war tax was increased to something like 400 per cent, of its normal rate, the figures showing it to be as high as 20 7-20th per cent. But in Japan, increases of taxation are made by a comparatively simple decimal system. The difficulty to which I have referred could be easily and simply arranged by the adoption of a graduated scale, increasing by decimals.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the details of the income tax on this motion. He will have another opportunity to do so.
– I have lodged my protest against the complexity of the formula in the schedule of the Bill. I may remind you, sir, that the matter of the income tax was first mentioned in this debate by the Prime Minister, and has since been spoken to by many honorable members.
– I am sure that as a Temporary Chairman the honorable member must be aware that, in debating a motion, he cannot discuss other business appearing on the business-paper.
– Then I think I may express a wish that the honorable gentleman controlling the proceedings of the Committee had exacted compliance with the rule when a reference to the income tax was first introduced into this debate.
– I think I am justified in saying that. My conscience, at all events, is clear in the matter.
– On a point of order, I wish to ask whether it was not understood that honorable members might debate the income tax on the motion now before the Chair.
– I remind honorable members that, officially, I know nothing of any arrangements of the kind w.hich may be made. I am here to conduct the proceedings of the Committee in accordance with the rules of Parliament, and one rule that is universally observed is that when a matter is down on the businesspaper for discussion it may not be discussed on a motion dealing with entirely different business. The Income Tax Bill is on the business-paper for discussion, and therefore the enforcement of this rule of debate will not deprive any honorable member of an opportunity to discuss that measure at the proper time. This is not the proper time, and I have therefore ruled as I have done. I should like to inform the honorable member for Melbourne that I have no feeling in the matter. My object is only to conduct the proceedings of the Committee in as orderly a manner as possible, and in conformity with the rules of procedure laid down. The statement that I have not directed the attention of other honorable members, referring to the income tax, to the fact that it is not in order to discuss that question on this motion, is not accurate. The Income Tax Bill has appeared on the business-paper since the debate on this motion commenced, but since its appearance I have called the attention of other honorable members to breaches of the parliamentary rule in discussing it on this motion, and only just recently I had to remind the honorable member for Dampier that I could not permit him to discuss the details of the Income Tax Bill on this motion.
– I raised my point of order because I understood that you, sir, had asked from the Chair whether honorable members desired that they should be privileged to debate the two questions together. I understood that an arrangement to do so was made by the Committee, and not by representatives of parliamentary parties.
– The honorable member is in error. What I secured the concurrence of the Committee for was a suggestion that the speech of the Prime Minister in submitting this motion should he treated as a financial statement, the object being to enable honorable members to speak for a longer time on the motion than they would otherwise be privileged to do in Committee. I have at no stage of the debate ruled that honorable members are privileged to engage in a discussion contrary to the rules of Parliament.
– The honorable member for Wimmera referred to protective duties and the revenue from the Tariff in order to show that it is unnecessary to raise £4,000,000 by the proposed income tax. I can appeal to the honorable member, as a Protectionist, to admit that true Protectionists do not desire that any revenue should be derived through the Customs House. Their desire is that local manufactures should be built up to give employment to the people, and that the country shall become self-contained. The war may be referred to as showing the wisdom of that policy, because it has taught us how little we can do for curselves, and the extent to which, in the past, we have been depending even upon enemy countries. Let us hope that, in this respect, wo shall do better in the future. I trust that when we come to discuss the Tariff, we shall frame a really Protective Tariff, and not a mockery and a sham such as the Tariff we have had in operation in the past. Quoting from the Times of the 7th May of this year, I find that a revenue of £103,000.000 is derived from the income tax of Great Britain r.nd Ireland Roughly, it may be said that the population of the United Kingdom is 45,000,000.
The population of Australia is very nearly 5,000,000, or one-ninth of the population of the United Kingdom. If, proportionately to the population, we raised the same amount in Australia from income tax as is raised in the United Kingdom, we should derive from that source over £11,000,000. In the circumstances, the honorable member for Wimmera will agree with me that, in looking for a revenue of £4,000,000 from the income tax, we are anticipating only about one-third of the amount derived from that source in Great Britain in proportion to population.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– I cannot expect that the . honorable member will always agree with me, but I have shown what our revenue from this source should be, if in proportion to population we derived the same revenue from this form of taxation as1 is derived in Great Britain. In Webb’s standard statistical work, completing the work of the great Mulhall, it is shown that, in 1903, the revenue of Great Britain was £1,750,000,000. The revenue for Australia, at the time, amounted to £210,000,000. The revenues of both countries have increased greatly in the meantime, but the point I wish to make is that when a revenue of £103,000,000 is derived from the income tax for the United Kingdom, it is clear that, in looking for a revenue of £4,000,000 from the same source in Australia, we are expecting a very moderate amount. The honorable member for Wannon said that a division of the wealth of Australia would give £45 to every individual. I made an interjection at the time which was misunderstood by the honorable member, who regarded my remark as somewhat offensive. My statement was that any Socialist who would suggest such a division of wealth might be regarded as an absolute fool. It is always used as an argument against Socialism that Socialists suggest the equal division of all wealth. But no Socialist who has ever written a work on Socialism would be such an idiot as to make such a suggestion, i know the kindness of heart of the honorable member, and I feel that his attack upon the maternity allowance was unintentional. Ninety-five per cent, of the women who go through the Godgiven trial of bringing Australians into (jio world claim the maternity allowance, and I honour them for claiming it. I am most anxious that the stigma of poverty should not attach to the acceptance of the allowance, though it is sometimes attached to it by ‘ men known as “ pillars of the church “ - I do not know what church is meant - and who, no doubt, have kindly hearts. I shall always oppose any attempt to cast a slur on the maternity allowance. The Leader of the Opposition has made certain statements concerning the Post and Telegraph Department. I had many years’ experience in London at different times, and I was last there in 1911. I want to say here that in London I was never able to use a telephone from one room of an hotel to another without having to pay 3d. If I used a telephone in the street it cost me 2d. If I sent a telegram from one part of London to another, I was charged 6d. for twelve words, including the address. I can send sixteen words, including the address, here for the same money. Again, I have paid as much as 4 1/2d., and, in one instance, 6d., to send from London to another part of England a newspaper, which I can send from one end of Australia to the other for Id. In Australia a sixteen-word telegraphic message may be sent from Thursday Island, over a cable, and round the coast of Western Australia - a distance of 5,000 miles - for ls., whereas a cable message from England to France costs. 2£d. per word. I think that the Postal Department, in view of all these facts, will be perfectly justified in slightly increasing its charges. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the newspaper rates, but I should like him to say whether the British Government is prepared to incur a loss in respect of the carriage of newspapers by rail. Every one knows that it is not prepared to do anything of the kind. Then, again, in Japan, where Id. is worth more than 3d., and, in some cases, even 6d., in Australia, the registration fee on a local newspaper is one-eighth of a penny. The honorable member for Macquarie last night, in referring to the income tax rates, spoke of a Sydney property, the rental returns from which amounted to £3,906 per annum, and in respect of which, amongst other charges, £618 14s. lOd. had to be paid by way of municipal rates. I would remind him that the municipal rates in London run from 8s. fid. to 14s. 6d. in the £1, so that, striking an average of 10s. in the £1, the owner of this property, if it were in
London, would have to pay, not £618, but £1,953. Any person who realizes on his properties in Sydney or Melbourne, and invests in landed property in England, will rue the day. Rates there are heavier, and the probate duties are also higher, than those prevailing £d the majority of the States. I wish now to refer to the case of a returned soldier, reported in last night’s Herald, which I regard as an infamy. This soldier, while at Gallipoli, was wounded, three shrapnel bullets entering his body. When he was taken to the base hospital, these bullets were removed without the administration of chloroform. He was then asked to submit to a further operation. Is it any wonder that, with his nerves shattered, this man, who had undergone tha agony of an operation, without chloroform, for the removal of the bullets, should have refused to allow a second operation to be performed upon him? As a medical man, I think he was perfectly justified in the stand that he took. But, as the result of it, he has been brought out here, and has been robbed of the money which the Parliament intended he should receive.. He was a farm labourer, receiving 10s. per week, so that he could not be expected to have made any savings. The rules of the patriotic fund forbid a loan being made to any soldier on whose name a slur has been cast by the military authorities, and the secretary of the Red Cross pension scheme, Mr. F. M. King, has been breaking the rules of that organization, I believe, by helping this unfortunate man. Honorable members will be still more astonished to learn of the treatment meted out to another returned soldier. This man was declared by Dr. Fred Bird and Dr. Springthorpe, two of Melbourne’s leading medical men, who have gone to the front, to be suffering from spinal injury, as the result of a kick from a horse, but, according to a sworn declaration which he has made - accompanied by a magistrate I visited him at his address, and I have the opinion of two other medical men to support me - the doctor in charge of the Base Hospital applied electrical treatment to determine whether he was malingering, and he actually caused a court martial to be summoned to try him. In God’s holy name, is it not time we put these hospitals under the control of a com mittee of laymen ? No experiments upon any large scale have ever been made in the London hospitals, for the reason that they are controlled by committees of laymen. But I have heard it stated in lectures that in Germany the seeds of cancer have been planted in the breasts of innocent women, with the object of determining whether they would grow. I have also heard it said that the vile diseases dealt with in the Vienna hospital have been implanted in patients, in order that the students might watch the results. It is for these reasons that, in advocating the nationalization of medicine, I have always urged that no hospital ‘ should be under the sole control of medical men. I suggested to the Defence Department that there should be a committee of three to interview all patients who had any complaint to make, but that suggestion has not been adopted . As I understand that honorable members are anxious to catch their trains, I shall avail myself of another opportunity to reaM the sworn declaration made by the unfortunate soldier now in the Base Hospital, St. Kilda-road, to whom I have referred, and who, I am sure, has the sympathy of the Committee.
.- I refuse to give a vote on this question without stating my attitude. I am unable to attend the House on Monday, because I did not know that the House was to meet on that day, and I have made other arrangements. I object to a proposal to reduce the amount of the vote by £1, because it is likely to be represented afterwards that honorable members have given a vote for or against a certain proposal.
Motion (by Mr. Sinclair) negatived -
That the question be now put.
– I object to the proposal to reduce the amount by £1, inasmuch as it will involve a vote of censure on the Government, and an effort will be made later on by certain honorable members to interpret the vote as one for or against a duty on jute goods.
Opposition Members. - No.
– The honorable member for Dampier has been discussing this question this afternoon, and has raised his protest against the duty on jute goods.
– There will be a specific motion on that subject.
– At any rate, the matter has been under discussion this afternoon. On 8th July, the Leader of the Opposition invited the Government to allow the consideration of the Tariff to stand over for the present, and I object to one item being dealt with, either inferentially or directly, when there are other items of as much consequence to other sections of the community which demand urgent consideration. Therefore, any vote I give on this matter, or on any other similar motion, will not be a vote for or against a duty on jute goods. I desire an opportunity to consider the matter.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by £1 (Mr. Greene’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages to be passed without delay.
This motion will enable the Bill to be taken up to the Committee stage, the Leader of the Opposition agreeing that the measure shall be put through before tea-time on Monday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering Resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first and second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Bounties Act - Return of particulars for financial year 1914-15 of persons to whom bounty paid, amounts paid, goods, &c.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Statement re pensions for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1915.
Manufactures Encouragement Act - Return of bounty paid during financial year 1914-15.
Nurses’ Uniforms - Complaints re prices charged.
Public Service Act - Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 144.
Order of Business - Nurses’ Uniforms - Fitting out Transports - Notification of Casualties - Base Hospital Organization - Personal Explanation - Allotment of Soldiers’ Pay.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The Supply Bill will be the first business taken on Monday afternoon, to enable an amendment to be moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It may or may not be convenient to bring on the Income Tax Bill after the tea adjournment.
– Put that over until Tuesday.
– Very well; I shall arrange for other business to be taken on Monday evening.
I have some papers here regarding the complaints that have been made in connexion with the supply of nurses’ equipment; and I think it is only fair to the firms concerned that their reply to the charges should be furnished for the information of honorable members.
As to the remarks about troopships and the hiring of vessels, I told the Leader of the Opposition, as I tell kim now, that he will have an opportunity to see the papers as soon as the Minister returns from Sydney.
– There are two Ministers, and it is not, the Minister of Defence who is in Sydney.
– That being so, I shall see the Minister of Defence to-morrow, and also wire to the Minister for t heNavy in Sydney, in order to meat the Leader of the Opposition in the matter.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say yesterday that a vote would not be taken on the Constitution Alteration Bill relating to the term of senators until after luncheon to-day.
– I did say so.
– With that in my mind, and knowing also that the financial proposals had to be debated, I did not attend until after the division was taken; and the result is that I have missed my opportunity to give a vote. I should like some explanation why the decision arrived at yesterday was departed from.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs) [4.271. - I desire to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the unsatisfactory condition of affairs in regard to missing soldiers, and the reports concerning them. In one case, a man named McCarthy was reported as missing, and I forwarded to the Department an extract from a letter giving an account of the death of this brave soldier, and asked the authorities to make, -some investigation. In reply, however, I am informed that a cablegram has been received, intimating that the man is officially reported as missing. The Department here acted promptly. This, of course, is very distressing to the relatives, .especially when there has been a letter written by a person in a position to give all detailed information as to how the young man met his death. In the second case there were two letters, one from a nephew of the missing man, stating that he is actually in the hospital at Lemnos; and there is still a third similar case.
– The Defence Department will send a wire if the friends so desire.
– I suggest that there ought to be proper investigation in regard to men who were reported missing in the first instance. There were some official reports some time’ ago, but probably nothing further has been done, and some doubt is naturally created as to the nature of the inquiries that are made across the seas. Iu one of the cases, in regard to which I communicated with the Department, I gave tha names of officers who knew the whereabouts of a lad who had been reported missing, but nothing resulted. In such cases the anxiety of the friends is infinitely greater than if there had been definite news as to death, because then they knew the worst, while the present’ conditions, with lingering hopes, aro real torture.
– I should like to know what steps are being taken to improve the organization at the base hospitals, because that is where the trouble seems to be. Once men are reported there seems to be an end of the matter, for nothing more is heard of them. After all, there are not so many thousands of men in hospital ; and I cannot understand why a medical officer, for instance, ‘ could not be detailed to furnish information whenever it is wanted. I take it that in any of our big hospitals in Australia, there is not a patient whose condition is not reported on every day; and surely reports could be got more frequently from the base hospital ? The trouble is not at this end, though it is here that the responsibility lies. As I said before, the whole trouble seems to arise from a lack of organization. I could understand there being some trouble concerning men at the front, where there must be great confusion ; but there should be no difficulty in keeping track of the men in hospital. I do not know whether Dr. Fetherston has yet departed for Egypt.
– I could not say.
– Why not send somebody over to organize the transmission of information, the lack of which is the most worrying and1 anxious thing that the people of the Commonwealth have to put up with to-day ? It is strange in the extreme that it should take a fortnight to get a reply to a cable as to the condition of’ patients in hospital in Egypt. I suggest that the Prime Minister should have this matter cleared up.
.- The Commonwealth Government have been most careful and desirous to smooth the war conditions in every way.
– I am sure of that.
– And I. am convinced that we have been all too tender with people for whom wei axe not responsible.
– What do .you mean ?
– Exactly what I saywe have not complained about other people who have been at fault, after we have done all we can. That may be a desirable attitude; but there is a limit. If these complaints continue, action may be taken to insure more particulars with less delay. I do not wish to go further than that. We are not in full command.
– The Government are in full command at our own base hospitals.
– They are only part of the scheme, and a very small part. If, towards the week-end, honorable members will let the Defence Department know of oases of missing men, it will send cables, at the Government expense;, with a view to ascertaining their whereabouts, if possible, and to relieving the tension that is imposed upon friends and relatives. We have arranged to do that, and to secure the desired information as expeditiously as possible. There is a friend of my own in camp who wishes to go to the front, but who will be unable to do so if his son has been killed there. The Bon has been reported as missing, and he is also alleged to be the inmate of a hospital, but we can get no trace of him. That is a most distressing case.
– I saw a letter from a man’s nephew in which the writer states that he saw his uncle - who had been reported missing - in a military hospital.
– The honorable member must know that after big actions quite a number of those who took part in them will swear that they saw all sorts of things which they did not see at all. The explanation is that their minds have been unhinged by the shock of battle. The Government are prepared to go to considerable expense to relieve the anxiety of relatives in every possible way. If honorable members will communicate their wishes in this matter to the Defence Department, we will see that prompt inquiries are made by cable.
The Leader of the Opposition ‘ a little time ago mentioned the case of Mr. W. E. Hawkins, in which a complaint was made of departmental blundering. The facts- are that the soldier in question had originally allotted his pay to one person, but afterwards re-allotted it to another individual in a different State, so that by the time the necessary adjustment was effected trouble had arisen.
I recognise that honorable members generally have been very good in helping the Government during an exceedingly difficult time. The complaint of the honorable member for Moreton is quite a good one. Last night we did think that a vote upon the Constitution Alteration (Senators’ Term of Service) Bill might be most conveniently -taken after the adjournment for lunch to-day. There were, however, many good reasons why we should take it earlier, and one of these was the convenience of an honorable member who is in ill-health, and who was present.
– That is why I was absent.
– But the honorable, member is expected to be here always. However, we will excuse him on this occasion, because he was enjoying a rest before undertaking a special duty. Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150827_reps_6_78/>.