6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Wide Bay in the place of the Right Honorable AndrewFisher, resigned, and that the dates appointed in the writ were as follow: - Date, of nomination, Wednesday, 17th November; date of -polling, Saturday, 11th December; return of the writ, on or before Saturday, 15th January, 1916.
– Early in the session the Age newspaper, in innumerable articles, objected to the Government going on’ with the Tariff during the continuance of the war, and Ministers accepted the advice given by that journal, and did not proceed with its consideration. Now the same newspaper advocates the consideration of the Tariff. I wish to know whether the Ministry intends to follow this second advice, and go on with the Tariff?
– A Tariff must be dealt with during the session in which it has been introduced, as otherwise it would lapse, and I take it that honorable members generally are in favour of safeguarding the revenue that has been collected on the existing Tariff by proceeding with the consideration of that Tariff during this session. It is not intended, however, to deal with the Tariff before the contemplated long adjournment which is to take place this week.
– Is it the intention of the Minister of Home Affairs to reinstate Mr. Henry Chinn in the Railway Department of the Commonwealth ?
– When the matter is being discussed, I shall consider it.
– Are Ministers going to discuss it?
– The issue has not yet been presented to us.
London “ Daily Telegraph “ Article
– On Monday last there appeared in the Melbourne Argus an article headed “Our Navy; Grand Fleet Visited,” -which had been written by Mr. Archibald Hurd for the London Baily Telegraph, and cabled to Australia. In the middle o’f the report was inserted the announcement, “ By order of the censor, portion of this message deleted here.’- I ask whether the deletion was made by a censor in Australia or by a censor in Great Britain ?
– I shall ascertain the facts, and give the information to the House.
– In accepting tenders for the equipment of Australian troops, is preference given to British-made goods when articles of Australian manufacture cannot be obtained ?
– It is the policy of the Government to give preference to Great Britain under such circumstances.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs whether it would not be possible and expedient to amend the law so that sugar spirit might be used during this season only for the fortification of wine, thus providing an opportunity for the proper fortification of this year’s output?
– The matter was raised two or three months ago by the honorable member for Indi, and the honorable member for Angas also saw me in connexion with it; but after a consultation with the trade throughout Australia, it was thought that it would injure our wine trade to allow sugar spirit to be used for fortification.
– Is that the opinion of the wine trade ?
– That is the opinion of the wine trade; - of the growers who were consulted. Some who have not made contracts were in favour of the use of sugar spirit, but the consensus of the trade is that it would be inadvisable to amend the Act of 1906, and that we should keep our wine pure.
– Lord Kitchener having approved of the issue of badges to persons offering themselves for enlistment, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the offer of the Australian Patriots League to give a badge to every person between the ages of 18 and 45 years who volunteers for military service, and is not accepted, so that he may be in a position to show his friends that he offered his services, and was not refused for any discreditable reason ?
– I have read what has been published in the newspapers on the subject of badges, and the question of giving some recognition of the kind suggested has been before the Cabinet, though -not in the form under which it is now brought forward. I shall look into the matter, and let the honorable member know what can be done.
– Is it the intention of the Minister of Home Affairs to prosecute the ex-clerk Gilchrist for wilful and corrupt perjury ?
– I must have the evidence first.
– When will the Minister have time to look into the evidence, in the shape of the sworn declaration of bis friend, Mr. Gilchrist, and the sworn declarations of six or seven other persons directly contradicting that of Mr. Gilchrist, especially that of Mr. Button? Will the Minister ever, have time to see whether there is sufficient to justify a prosecution for wilful and corrupt perjury?
– I thank the honorable member for saying that Mr. Gilchrist is a friend of mine. An acquaintance is one tiling and. a friend is another. However, I shall look into the matter as soon as possible.
– Is it the intention of the Minister to have an independent inquiry into the charges made by Mr. Gilchrist against the Home Affairs Department in regard to the construction of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta Railway?
– I shall submit that matter , to the Cabinet.
– Will the Minister supply honorable members with a copy of the paper in the Department of Home Affairs in which a clerk in the Railway Department makes certain statements relating to “conspiracy in the Gilchrist case?
– I was unaware of it. I hope that my predecessor in the office was not in the conspiracy re- . ferred to.
– Has the Minister of
Home Affairs arrived at a determination with regard to the plan of the Federal Capital ?
– No, but I am hustling the matter a bit.
– The Minister of
Trade and Customs told us the other day that the State of Victoria might export mutton and lamb if the exporters would undertake to make mutton and lamb available in Australia at the f.o.b. price. Will the Minister explain whether he means the fair London parity on present values or on the price that was fixed for the surplus available from last, year in contracts entered into early last year with the Imperial Government?
– It represents the price which the Imperial Government propose to give for the meat here on board the ships.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs supply the name of any American Meat Company that has, during the last twelve months, made application, under the Commerce Act, for permission to erect works?
– I cannot call any to mind; but as no doubt during that period several places have been approved for the export trade in meat, if the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper I shall be glad to supply a return of all persons who have made applications under the Act and had works approved.
Returned Soldiers’ Uniforms
– Will the Minister for the Navy ask the Minister of Defence to reconsider his decision in reference to the return of uniforms by returned soldiers, and consent to allow those soldiers with good records to retain, during good behaviour, the uniforms in which they fought at Gallipoli as a memento of their achievement?
– I shall bring the matter under the attention of the Minister of Defence.
– In the matter of declaring a flat rate for wheat freights, has the Prime Minister dealt with the question of the space available in ordinary trading vessels, mostly under the control of the Oversea Shipping Association, which fixes the freights for wool? I refer to berth space.
– The arrangement in regard to parcels has been settled. Appli- cations by intending shippers will be made in the usual way through the usual channel. No interference has been or will be made in that regard.
– Referring to the announcement made by the Prime Minister that 300,000 tons of shipping freights have been secured to meet the export of wheat, and to the fact that this will suffice for only 11,000,000 bushels, whereas the exPrime Minister estimated that this season’s crop would amount to 160,000,000 bushels, I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will let the House know what arrangement he is making for consignments in excess of an export of 11,000,000 bushels?
– The statement made regarding the amount of freight available is that which was promised by me on behalf of the Conference. We. are engaged every day in securing more freight. Our business is to obtain all the freight available. I ask the farmer to remember that the arrangements made by the Commonwealth and States aim at enabling him to secure the full f.o.b. price. The amount of freight available will probably not be sufficient to remove the whole of the crop that we expect before June next. The greatest crop yet grown in Australia was, I think, that of the year 1914, when we exported about 1,600,000 tons. It is anticipated that about 2,600,000 tons will be available on this occasion for export. The quantity of wheat for export being very much greater, and the amount of world’s freight being very much less, than ever before, it is perfectly obvious that there is a great gap which no ingenuity, skill, or care can wholly bridge. But it has been the object of the Conference, and of my own efforts, to enable us, as far as possible, to bridge that gap. The arrangements made by the Commonwealth and States aim at enabling the producers of the country to bridge that gap; to get their money for their wheat, or a percentage of it, in the meanwhile, and, in any case, to get the full market price for their wheat. That, is the policy of the Government and of the Wheat Conference, and that, I think, we. shall succeed in doing. So far, we have provided ample freight for December, and freight for January, equal to the greatest amount available in any previous year, and it remains for those who are ready to buy wheat to do so.
– Can the Minister for the Navy say whether the Government have decided upon the establishment of a munitions factory at Beaconsfield, in Tasmania?
– I do not know that any decision has been arrived at. I shall make inquiries, - and let the honorable member know what has been done.
– On Friday, the honorable member for Cowper submitted a question with reference to pensions for women living apart from their husbands. The answer to the question is -
There 19 .no provision preventing women who live’ apart from their husbands receiving a pension. There are numerous cases in which persons are paid in such circumstances. If the husband has an income which debars the wife from a pension the Commissioner has power in certain cases to give the wife a pension. In some cases in which the wife has refused to assert her rights as against the husband the pension has been refused. In cases where the wife has been deserted and the husband cannot be traced the pension is granted.
On the same day, the honorable member for Wannon asked a question having reference to continuing the payment of the pension in part to the pensioner and in part to an institution which may bo seeing the pensioner through any trouble. The reply is -
When a pensioner enters a Benevolent Asylum temporarily his .pension is suspended. When he leaves the institution he receives pension for four weeks if he has remained that time in the institution, or a correspondingly less amount if the time was less than four weeks. No payment in the case of temporary admission is made to the institutions which are supported partly by private and partly by State contributions. The policy of the Commonwealth Government so far has been to refuse payment to the institutions in the case of temporary admissions. If, however, the pensioner is sent to the institution because he is unable to look after himself, the pension ceases, and the institution is paid 8s. a week for his support.
– Seeing that provision has been made for the export of surplus wheat, I ask the Minister for the Navy whether provision has been made for the export of apples from Hobart ?
– The Naval Department is doing everything it can to facilitate the export of fruit from Australia during the coming season. A conference of fruitgrowers has been arranged to take place in Melbourne, and the whole subject will be gone into in order to facilitate the carriage of fruit from Australia to London, and other markets, during the coming year.
– Will the Treasurer say whether it is still the intention of the Government not to present the general estimates to the House this side of Christmas? If that is so, will the honorable gentleman give the House the reason.
– It was the opinion of my predecessor that, owing to the uncertainties of the situation due to the war, it would be impossible to bring down the Estimates at this period -
– I mean the ordinary Estimates.
– And during the short time I have been in office I have come to the same conclusion.
– Is it to be taken from the Treasurer’s reply that he does not propose to submit the ordinary civil Estimates - the departmental Estimates affecting the salaries of the Public Service - to this Parliament?
– A Supply Bill is now before the House. It has relation to the payment of the salaries of the civil servants, and will carry us to the early part of March next - I think the 15th.
– Whilst I was in my constituency a short time ago, I endeavoured to communicate by telephone from Hobart to Bellerive, which is 3 miles away, and had to put 2d. in the slot. I understand that it is possible to communicate under similar conditions between Sydney and Manly for1d. Will the Postmaster-General, when revising the scale of telephone charges, endeavour to make them more uniform?
– The whole subject.of telephone rates is now under review. So far as is practicable the suggestion made by the honorable member will be carried out.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that consignees in Melbourne are finding the greatest difficulty in getting their goods from overseas delivered ? Is it a fact, as alleged by the officers of his Department, that the delay is caused by the Melbourne Harbor Trust in refusing the delivery of any goods until the whole of the goods carried by any particular ship are cleared ? The result of this attitude is that there is great delay, and that the charges for rent, &c, made by the Harbor Trust are piled up? Will the Minister look into the whole matter?
– I have not heard of the complaint raised by the honorable member, but I will have inquiry made, and he shall be informed of the result.
– May I ask the Postmaster-General whether it is his policy to support the wholesale reduction in the status of allowance post-offices in country districts to receiving offices only? Has the Postmaster-General given his personal consideration to this matter yet, and does he sympathize with that policy, which restricts the facilities for obtaining postal notes and other postal conveniences in country districts? If the Minister has not looked into the matter, will he do so, with a view to seeing that the former facilities granted to country post-offices are retained ?
– The whole subject of postal administration is now under review, and by the time Parliament reassembles I hope to be able to tell honorable members exactly what I shall be responsible for. For what is being done now I accept no responsibility at all.
– I regret the circumstance that renders necessary my rising to mention the death of Mr. Richard Edwards, who for twelve years was the member for Oxley in this Parliament. He was known to most of us during that period as a man in every respect worthy of our esteem and affection, and pre-eminently fitted to represent his fellow-citizens. Amongst the men who have passed before us all too swiftly, like figures on a cinema screen, since the time when this Parliament was opened, he was the one who played his part diligently, unselfishly, and well, without making a single enemy in this House. So far as I can recall, he never had an angry word said to him by the most virulent of political opponents. He was a man whom I felt it an honour to call my friend. He was my fellow countryman, and I naturally felt the more closely drawn to him on that account. He had all the virtues’ of his nation. He possessed to an extraordinary extent those qualities of his race which have made so many Welshmen successful men of business. Springing from the ranks, he rose to a position of considerable importance, and in this House- he gave us the advantage of his experience and business knowledge. He has left us to join the ever-increasing Dumber of those who were members of the first Parliament. When we remember that out of the seventy-five men who entered this Parliament in 1900, only twenty-one are members to-day ; and when we remember that twenty-five men. at least, have been removed by death in that short period, we are saddened by the recollection. I can only add that the deceased gentleman was one of the men who helped to make this country what it is. Possessed of indefatigable energy, a man of probity and honour, his loss will be mourned by every honorable member who knew him. We were honoured by his friendship; we regret exceedingly that he has gone from us. We extend to his relatives our heartfelt condolences in their sad bereavement, and mourn with them the loss of a good and true man .
– May I be permitted the privilege of expressing the great satisfaction I feel that’ the Leader of the Government has mentioned this matter here and now. I heard only yesterday of Mr. Edwards’ death, and it came to me as a painful surprise. I had thought that he had retired from the House to spend a green old age, giving yet many years of service, in particular to the State in which he dwelt, and to the country at large that he loved so well. Those of us who were privileged to be his comrades in the House know well how he endeared himself to all honorable members on both sides, how indefatigably he wrought in all those things that make for the upbuilding of the State, and how intensely loyal he was to Australia and to her institutions. His career furnishes a striking example - and there are, happily, many such in Australia - of a man who, beginning at the bottom of the ladder, climbed to a position of affluence and influence, not only in the State in which he lived, but in the Commonwealth. If he did not shine as some more brilliant lights have done, he, at all events, filled an extremely useful place, and did, perhaps, all the more good because his brilliancy was not so dazzling. I looked upon Mr. Edwards as one of the pillars of State, using that expression in its very best sense. We all regret his passing, and hope sincerely that he is reaping in a better country the reward of the labours that he performed here so indefatigably, heroically, and loyally. We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of the deceased gentleman, and hope they may take comfort from the recollection of the high esteem in which he was held.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
– When does the Minister of Home Affairs propose to bring in a Bill to authorize the construction of the proposed railway from the Katherine River to Bitter Springs?
– My predecessor prepared a Bill with the object of proceeding with the work without referring it to the Public Works Committee. I find that, under the Public Works Committee Act, I have rib power to do that.
– Do not make such charges.
– That, at all events, is the form in which the matter was presented’ to me, and 1 do not think that anything would have been done while my predecessor was in office without his consent. Under the Act, I must refer the proposed work to the Public Works Committee,
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs state when he proposes to introduce a Bill to provide for the construction of the proposed railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs?
– As soon as the Cabinet agrees to the proposal, and the money is available to give effect to it. Until then, I can do nothing.
Defence Buildings and Departmental Offices : Rental Paid
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the table a return showing -
The number of buildings now being rented for defence purposes in each oi the State capitals?
For what period these buildings have been occupied?
The amount being paid per annum as rent for these buildings?
How many of these buildings are considered as necessary (1) permanently, (2) temporarily?
– This question relates to my Department. The answer is: -
The preparation of this return involves a large amount of clerical labour, and will take some little time to complete. It will be put in hand forthwith, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the table a return showing -
The departmental offices accommo dated in rented premises in each, of the State capitals?
The floor space rented and the annual rent now being paid in each case?
How long, in each case, has the tenancy continued?
– A return will be prepared and laid on the table of the House.
Case of Private Murdock - New South Wales Army Service Corps : Commissions - Training Camps : Removal to Canberra - Enrolment of Youths - Salaries of Military Officers - Field Bakers - Improvements at Liverpool Camp : Contracts for Latrines, Shower Baths, and Electric Light - Armidale Camp : Attendance of Savings Bank Officer.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, but the information is not yet to hand. The replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– Particulars to enable replies to be given to the honorable member’s questions are not yet available. Replies will be furnished as soon as complete information is to hand.
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Austin Chapman) asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
In view of the dissatisfaction that exists in connexion with Liverpool and other camps in New South Wales, will he have inquiries made with a view of removing these camps to Federal territory at Jervis Bay or Canberra, where there is plenty of Government ground, pure water, good climate, and every condition favorable to health, comfort, and economy?
– Inquiries are being instituted in this connexion.
Dr. MALONEY (for Mr. Bamford) asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The instructions issued are as follow : - 1. (i) The age for enlistment will be from 18 to 45 years (18 to 50 years in M.T. Units).
With regard to (i) every person enlisting is required, on his attestation sheet, to make a solemn declaration that the answers to all the questions put to him are true.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, he is informed that-
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether, before accepting the services of field bilkers, the Defence Department insists upon the same obtaining a certificate of membership from the Operative Bakers Union affiliated with the Trades Hall? “
– Bakers are, in many instances, obtained from men already members of the Australian Imperial Force. In other cases they are enlisted on exactly the same conditions as other arms of the Australian Imperial Force, providing they are qualified tradesmen. It has been ascertained, however, that in the 2nd Military District, the custom has been to obtain a certificate of membership from the Operative Bakers Union affiliated with the Trades Hail.
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Orchard) asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made from the Military Commandant, New South Wales, and as soon as his report is received, the information will be made available. On Friday last the honorable member for Richmond asked the following questions : -
In reply to inquiries which were then being made, the following replies have now been received : -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
How many high-explosive shell bodies have been contracted for for weekly delivery in the various States?
– It is not proposed to make public at present information of this character.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented: -
Customs Act -
Proclamations prohibiting Exportation (except under certain conditions) of -
Metals, Alloys, and Minerals (dated 4th September, 1915).
Diamonds (dated 14th October, 1915).
Proclamation prohibiting Importation of “The Galvo Filter and Water Sterilizer” (dated 7th September, 1915).
Proclamations prohibiting Importation (except under certain conditions) of -
Sugar (dated 7th September, 1915).
Unset Diamonds (dated 14th October, 1915).
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Deloraine, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Strathfield, New South Wales- For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act - Promotions of -
Postmaster-General’s Department: Country Mail and Telegraph Services : Mail Contracts and ReducedRailway Service: Administration: Interviews and Deputations : Telephone Services and Rates : Industrial Organization and Arbitration Awards - Expeditionary Forces : Appointment of Military Officers : Private Ryan’s Case: Pay of Soldiers : Camp Paymasters : Warren. Camp: Employment of Trade Unionists at Camps: Conveyance from Liverpool to Holdsworthy Camp : Casualty Information : SergeantsMajor: Active Service Pay: Officers’ Training School: Measles at Armidale Camp: Cable Communications: Camp Conditions: Compulsory Service: Bread from New South Wales State Bakery : Waste of Food Supplies: Treatment of Blind Soldiers: Colonel Kirkland: Power of Officers Commanding: Pensions toWidows and Mothers of Soldiers : Badges for Rejected Recruits and Discharged Soldiers - Defence Administration: Business Management- - Tender Board - Cockatoo Island : Public Accounts Committee’s Report - High Commissionership - Representation of Defence Department in House of Representatives - Mr. Ozanne’s Offer of Military Service. - Imperial and Local Censoring of War News - Aviation Contract for. Engines : Inventions - Conduct of the War : Operations at Gallipoli : Representation of Oversea Dominions - Taxation of Absentees doing RedCross Work - Northern Territory : Closing of Hotels : Railway Construction - Public Works Department - Federal Capital Expenditure - Ministerial Changes - Charge Against ex-Prime Minister - Estimates of Expenditure - Minting of Gold - Government Appointments and- “ The Predominant Party “ - Compensation to Widow of MajorGeneral Bridges - Invalid and Old-age Pensions - Meat Exportation - Meat Prices - Transport of Wheat.
In Committee of Ways and Means: (Consideration resumed from 29th October, vide page 7058), of motion by Mr. Higgs -
That towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the- year ending 30th June, 1916, a sum not exceeding £7,201,735 be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
.- I desire to again impress on Ministers the manner in which outside districts are being neglected, particularly by the Postal Department. I am sorry to be obliged to repeat my complaint in regard to the request for two special telephone , lines, which ought to have been constructed many months ago. I refer to the requested line between Yeelanna and Murat Bay, and between Cummins and Darke’s Peak. The State authorities are so satisfied of the importance of these districts that they have constructed railways to them. The land has been subdivided, and I am not exaggerating when I say that thousands of blocks have been allotted. The district served by one railway stretches over 200 miles, and the other extends for a distance of about 100 miles. Neither place has telegraphic or telephonic facilities. During the recent adjournment of Parliament, I made a hurried trip to the districts, and saw the great inconvenience under which the settlers labour, in consequence of having no means of communication except the weekly mail. “ A man may be in the midst of taking off his crop when a machinery part breaks, and he must wait a week before he can send for a new part. They are under the same difficulty in regard to sickness and accidents. The nearest doctor is at a distance of 150 miles, and there is no means of sending a message to him except by the weekly mail or special messenger. Some time ago I understood that telephone facilities were to . be provided by the State railway authorities and the postal authorities in conjunction, but, so far, no agreement has been arrived at in regard to the basis on which the expenditure should be allocated. In the meantime, the unfortunate settler must grin and bear his troubles. I am being inundated by letters from settlers in that area, and. it is a crying shame that more consideration is not given to those men who have so many other inconveniences to face in connexion with the development of that country. The new Postmaster-General is a “whale” for work, and from his personal experience of out-back districts should have a thorough knowledge of their requirements. I hope he will realize that these cases should have immediate attention, and do what he can for the benefit of the people concerned. I do not wish to complain unduly of the conduct of the -Defence Department, because I recognise that in the raising and equipping of 160,000 men there must be cause for many complaints; but there are matters to which we are justified in drawing attention. I was surprised at a letter which I received from the Department today. I had complained of the unfairness of allowing officers of the Citizen Forces who have not enlisted for service abroad to enter the Officers’ Training School and to compete there with men who have volunteered for the front.
– The school needs an immediate and complete reform.
– Citizen Force officers who have not enlisted, because of “ cold feet,” are drawing the pay of their rank and are competing against men who have volunteered for the front, and who, having passed through the non-commissioned officers’ school, wish to present themselves for examination for the position of commissioned officer. This is unfair. Men should not be allowed to enter the school until they have enlisted for the front.
– We are told that men cannot enter the school until they have enlisted.
– Exactly. This is a statement in the letter which I wish to bring under notice, and which is signed by the Secretary to the Defence Department -
I am directed to inform you that no officer of the Citizen Forces is given preference -
I said nothing about preference being given. My contention is that men who have volunteered for service abroad should not have to compete with Citizen Force officers who have not done so. It was stated recently that over 700 paid officers in the Citizen Forces have not enlisted for active service. I know, of course, that some Citizen Force officers who have offered for the front have been told that their services were more needed in Australia than abroad.
– Are the other officers referred to physically fit for service abroad ?
– If they are physically fit ‘ to go through the training school I presume that they are fit for service abroad. Citizen Force officers who have entered the officers’ school are playing a game of “heads I win, tails you lose.” Those of them who say that they are willing to go to the front will not offer to do so until they have been appointed officers in the Australian Imperial Force.
– A man who volunteers for service abroad is submitted to a medical examination which is very different from that applied to men whose services are to be used locally.
– The letter continues^ -
It must be borne in mind that officers of the Citizen Forces who have experience in the duties of officers, and have devoted time and study in time of peace to fit themselves for service in time of war, should, other things being equal, be more suitable for appointment to the A.I.F. than those who have only recently realized that they owe the country a duty in time of war.
I should have nothing to say to that statement had the Citizen Force officers to whom I am referring enlisted. The letter states that 353 Citizen Force officers and 296 others without previous military experience, have been made officers in the Australian Imperial Force. The present arrangement is unfair to men who are making great sacrifices, who have given up opportunities of advancement, and are leaving families behind. These men have devoted considerable time to the study of military matters in order to qualify themselves for commissions, and they find that others who are not ready to offer themselves for service abroad are competing against them at no risk. Another matter to which I draw attention is this : I have a constituent who lives in the Port Lincoln district, and is now serving in Melbourne as a gunner in the Australian Imperial Force. He was given his final leave, but, as his wife resides about 40 miles from Port Lincoln, the leave was not long enough to enable him to visit her to say good-bye to her and the children. This man endeavoured to catch a boat which might enable him to visit his wife, but owing to the irregularity of the services, he could not do so, and I wired to Colonel Cox Taylor, the Commandant of the D.C.A. Camp, Queen’sroad, Melbourne, asking for the extension of his leave to the 9th instant. Tha body of troops with which he is associated does not leave Melbourne until the 16th, so that the request was not unreasonable; but I got no reply to my telegram, and the man had to return from Adelaide by train without having seen his wife and family, although he got within sixteen or eighteen hours’ journey of where they live. I think it was due to me that I should receive a reply to my telegram, and I think, too, that cases like that which I have brought under notice should receive consideration. I hope that the Government will, at the earliest moment, create a Supply and Tender Board. The purchasing business of the Department is enormous, and, in the interests of the country, this Board should be established. I believe that great waste occurs in the construction of military works. These works, like the works undertaken by the Home Affairs Department and the Postmaster-General’s Department, should be subject to the criticism of the Public Works Committee; the Defence officers should not be on a different footing from those of other Departments. The taxpayers who find the revenue for ordinary public works also find the revenue for military works. A lot of complaints reach us from the dependants of soldiers. There should be in this House an Assistant Minister of Defence, to give attention to thesematters.
– It was thought that on the appointment of a Minister for the Navy we should obtain more information, but we get less.
– I do not see that the appointment of the Minister for the Navy has been of any great advantage to this House. I do not blame the present Ministers, because there is more to be done than they can handle; but there should be a Minister to deal specially with the smaller departmental matters. Men apparently get lost from time to time when transferred from one company to another, or from one State to another. Sometimes a soldier falls ill and is sent to a hospital, and while he is there his unit leaves for the front, and no one is left to take charge of him. Recently a man at the Adelaide Hospital was receiving no pay, and I took his wife to the local paymaster, who was very courteous; but it took three hours to trace the case, and it was ascertained that the man had not received his pay because the sergeant-major who always took the pay to him had gone away to the front in a recent batch of troops. In the meantime the wife of the man had come down from the far north at considerable expense, and was paying her board close by, yet not a penny was coming in from the Department. All these things could be avoided. I am satisfied that there will be no satisfaction in the Department of Home Affairs while all the work is under the control of one head, and I am confident that the matter of the construction of public works is ample task for the most capable man that we have in this Parliament, yet we have electoral matters and statistics attached to this Department. Arrangements should be made to relieve the Minister of Home Affairs of these other matters. I am sorry that the Minister of External Affairs is not in the chamber, because he gave me a rather flippant answer last week. With no ulterior intent, I asked a simple question as to why a certain hotel in the Northern Territory had been closed, and I was told that it was closed because, so far as the Minister could learn, the only customers were two white men and a blackfellow. The hotel had been kept for many years by the widow of the late Thomas Crush, a member of the Labour party in South Australia, and evidently she has seen the Minister’s reply, because she has wired to me as follows : -
My books open to inspection, which embrace 195 accounts, exclusive of two white men and a blackfellow.
The hotel at KatherineRiver has also been closed, and I have no doubt there are valid reasons for the step taken; but when I asked a simple question as to the reason which actuated the Minister I expected to get more consideration than the flippant answer he gave. When a certain motion is before the House I shall have the opportunity of expressing my feelings with regard to the manner in which the agreement between South Australia and the Commonwealth Parliament in relation to the Northern Territory is being ignored. I remember how another agreement was insisted on to the bond. An agreement is an agreement, and I do not propose to allow this one to be ignored, or allow the matter to be left to the decision of the Public Works Committee. A certain railway route is described in this agreement, though no time is mentioned; but one cannot shut his eyes to the fact that there is an attempt to gradually sneak the line section by section into Queensland, and thus deprive South Australia of participation in the benefit that will be derived by the development of the northern portion of the Northern Territory. In fact, the proposal will not develop the Northern Territory as a whole; but as I shall have a further opportunity to deal with the matter, I will defer my remarks until that opportunity presents itself.
– Some time ago I noticed in the Sydney newspapers a statement to the effect that it was the intention of the Minister of Home Affairs to abandon for the time being the calling for competitive designs for the buildings necessary for administrative purposes at Canberra. In my opinion, this is only in accordance with the general policy of this Government of going slowly in the matter of the Federal Capital, for there is no sincerity underlying the pretended desire on the part of the Administration to push on with the building of the Capital. When the Constitution was accepted, including the provision, relating to the Federal Capital, it was never dreamt that the duration of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne would extend for so long a period as fourteen years. It was thought that five years would be the outside limit ; but, in spite of the length of time that has elapsed since the Federal Capital site, after a tremendous amount of–
– No, procrastination in the beginning, and afterwards manoeuvring to rob New South Wales of her legitimate rights, and dodge the provisions of the Federal bond-
– The honorable member had better leave that point alone.
– I say it advisedly. The right honorable gentleman has a very good idea of the amount of manoeuvring that proceeded, on the part of some of the representatives of other States at least, with the object of avoiding fulfilling the obligation entailed by the acceptance of the Constitution.
– Does not the honorable member think that it was a huge blunder to mention any particular State in the Constitution ?
– This is not the time to enter into a discussion on those lines.
– The provision is a disfigurement of the Constitution.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. The fact of the matter is that the first provisional Bill for the acceptance of the
Constitution -was rejected by New South Wales, and Federation could not come about without the inclusion of that State. One of the original conditions on which New South Wales agreed to enter Federation was that the Federal Capital should be at Sydney, and as New South Wales was the only State making any sacrifice she was entitled to some consideration. However, through the magnanimity of the present Sir George Reid, who represented New South Wales at a Conference of Premiers held in Melbourne, a compromise was effected by which, though the Federal Capital should not be in Sydney or within 100 miles of Sydney, it must be in New South Wales. Therefore, it is useless to raise that question at the present time. The fact remains that the provision was inserted in the compact, and was accepted by the other States, though we had a terrible job in this Parliament to get the representatives of the other States to ratify the agreement and finally select a site for the Federal Capital. The site has now been selected for a number of years, but there is no appreciable advance in the direction of the Federal Parliament meeting there, and at the present rate of progress it seems to me that it will be many years yet before this will come about, let me remind the Committee that on the 27th May of this year I moved the following motion: -
It was carried unanimously; yet in the face of that resolution, the ex-Minister of Home Affairs apparently came to the determination to flout the decision of Parliament, and not to take the necessary steps for proceeding with all expedition with the construction of the works and buildings that would enable the Federal Parliament to meet in Federal Territory. I trust that the present Minister will honour the compact with New South Wales, and respect the resolution of this House, lt is a very serious thing for any Minister to take upon himself the responsibility of setting aside a decision of Parliament; but it has been done in this case. I shall not allow the matter to rest. Honorable members of the Opposition have treated Ministers very generously and fairly, and given them every consideration, because of the war, and because we recognise the need for leaving their hands as free as possible from all irritating influences; but if the Government propose to take advantage of our generosity and magnanimity in order to impose on the State of New South Wales and deprive her of her just rights, I shall not stand by quietly and see it done. In the interests of the whole community, this matter should not be allowed to be lost sight of. I am sorry that the Minister of Home Affairs is not in the Chamber, so that I might make my views known to him. To make private representations to any Minister is absolutely useless. They usually go into one ear and out of the other, and are presumably forgotten, whether through woeful defect of memory or from any other cause I am unable to say. The only step a member can take is to get the matter recorded in Hansard, so that a Minister with a short memory may be able to have his memory refreshed by reference to indisputable authority. I desire now to call attention to a matter that has been brought under my notice in connexion with the Warren training camp situated in my district. Up to quite recently complaint was made that the men had not been able to get proper equipment ; that they were parading the streets in dungarees and other styles of clothing, owing to the neglect of the Department. The officers themselves also complain of their treatment. A number of officers have qualified at this camp for their commissions. They know all the men individually, they have actively assisted in their training, yet when the men have been drafted away for reinforcements, instead of obtaining their commissions and being sent along with them, they have had to stand down in favour of strangers from Melbourne. The officers allege that they have not received fair treatment in this respect. Apart from all other considerations it would be wise if, as far as possible, the Defence Department sent away with the men the officers who had been associated with them in their training, who had gained their confidence and who knew them indivi- dually. With such conditions operating there is a far greater prospect of efficiency ; of the development of a spirit of camaraderie, and of a perfect understanding between officers and men. The system of appointing officers who do not know their men does not make for the greatest military efficiency. I am in agreement with many honorable members who have had complaints to make against the Department. I could bring forward a number myself, particularly in regard to the absence of business method. Reports have been presented showing the absolute necessity of a business department being associated with the Department of Defence. There are very few strictly military men who have had any commercial experience, or, at least, the commercial experience necessary to the conduct of a business of such magnitude as that of the Department of Defence, and it is very desirable that some steps should be promptly taken to organize a business department in connexion with the war. Moreover, very few honorable members who have had any experience of the workings of the Department will disagree with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Grey, that a Tender Board should be established. In this connexion I desire to call attention to the report of the Public Accounts Committee relating to Cockatoo Island, which is of such a nature as to demand immediate attention from the Government. If the present were an ordinary time, and if any other Government were in power, no Minister controlling such a Department as this would be able to survive for long after the appearance of a report like this. I will quote one or two extracts. After reviewing the present method of financing the administration of the dockyard, the report observe^ that it has taken two and a half years to advance the equipping of the island with the necessary power-plant and machine tools, to the stage of tendering. Notwithstanding all the expenditure that has been incurred, it has taken the Government’ two and a half years to bring the dockyard to the stage when it can tender. And that period includes twelve months during which we have been engaged in a war which is threatening the very foundations of the Empire. The possibilities of such a catastrophe as that does not seem to hasten Governmental methods in the slightest degree. The report goes on -
It is impossible to say how much longer it will take to install the complete equipment on the island.
And then -
Making ample allowance for all extenuating circumstances, the Committee is unable to arrive at any other conclusion than that there has been undue delay in equipping this dockyard with the necessary plant to enable the building of warships to be carried on expeditiously and economically. It is impossible to estimate even approximately the loss caused to the Commonwealth on this account.
We all know of the unwarrantable delay that took place in the construction of the Brisbane, between the time she was laid down and the time she was ready for launching. Even when the vessel was ready for the water months elapsed before her launch could be effected through neglect of dredging and constructing the slipway into the water, and on present appearances it is likely that the war will be over long before the vessel is put into commission. With this state of things in existence it would be interesting to know how much money is going to ba spent upon Cockatoo Island and other branches of the Naval Department before any direct results are likely to accrue in connexion with the war itself. Coming back to the report -
The efforts of the present manager (Mr. King Salter) to remedy the shortcomings when he took charge were not, in the opinion of the Committee, adequately supported by the Naval Board.
That statement, made after careful investigation by the Public Accounts Committee, embodies against the Naval Board a very serious charge, that should be investigated immediately -
The Committee considers the position was sufficiently serious to have justified, without any hesitation, the suspension of ordinary routine in favour of the immediate securing of the equipment. There was no question of lack of funds, as £110,000 that had been authorized was still unexpended.
This suggests that there is something radically wrong either with the management of the Naval Board, or with the Department responsible for the whole concern, and it is nearly time new methods were adopted, and urgent reforms introduced. The report continues -
After allowing for some shortcomings, due to the want of experience, there was a general consensus of opinion amongst witnesses that the quality of work turned out at Cockatoo compared favorably with that of the British dockyards.
That information is very satisfactory as far as it goes, but it is very little use having work turned out favorably unless it is turned out in time to be useful the moment the need for its use arises. I quote further -
There were, however, very definite opinions expressed that the quantity of work performed at the island was not what it should be, and that there was a certain amount of “ malingering or deliberately wasting time.”
One witness informed the Committee that the men on piece work in England did two and two-thirds more than the men on day work here in the same time. Mr. King Salter stated that the cost of riveting steel drums and water pockets of a boiler was 40s. per 100 in England on piece work as against 70s. on day work here, and the cost of flanging boiler ends was ls. per foot in England as compared with 6s. here.
It is also stated that the work on the island is carried on under no fewer than fifty-one separate industrial awards. N/> wonder the Defence Department is spending such enormous sums of money. One would not mind the amount providing we were getting the value for it. I do not think anybody will begrudge any expenditure necessary for the efficient carrying out of the war, but in the case of Cockatoo Island we appear to be spending money lavishly - indeed, with gross extravagance - without getting any results that will help us in the prosecution of this war. The cost of labour alone is extremely high, and seems to be altogether disproportionate to the work performed, and the price paid for similar work in the Old Country. One does not care to dwell at length on these matters, but the report is now public property, and I refer to it in the hope that steps will be taken to remedy the condition of affairs which it reveals, and which reflects no credit on those responsible for it. Coming to the office of the High” Commissioner, I would suggest to the new Prime Minister that he give favorable consideration to the offer made by Sir George Reid to give his services gratuitously to the Commonwealth during the continuance of the war. It is most undesirable that an honorable gentleman who has had charge of the affairs of the Commonwealth since the outbreak of the war should, while the war is still raging, and at a time when his presence here is absolutely necessary, relinquish the office of Prime Minister to take up the post of High Commissioner in the Old Country. While entertaining the friendliest personal feelings towards the ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Fisher, I cannot bring myself to believe that the contemplated change would be in the best interests of Australia. For the Prime Minister to desert his office at a time like this in order to displace a gentleman from a post which he has brilliantly held in London, is, in my opinion, an act not justified in any way. The best interests of the Commonwealth would be served, I believe, by continuing Sir George Reid in his present office, which he has filled with such conspicuous ability and distinction. He has rendered signal service to Australia, and should be retained in his present office, at all events, during the continuance of the war. I hope it is not yet too late to reconsider the decision arrived at, and that no new appointment will be made during the currency of the war. By adopting this suggestion, the Government would act in accordance with what is the general consensus of opinion in Australia.
.- The honorable member for Grey has referred to the necessity for the establishment of a Tender Board and the creation of a new portfolio. Both suggestions are good, and from what I know of some matters relating to the tendering that has taken place in connexion with the various Camps, I think the sooner we have a Tender Board the better. It is only a few weeks since honorable members on both sides unanimously requested the creation of a new Department. That Department was created, and a new Minister - but new in name only - was appointed. Although’ an extra salary was voted, the number of Ministers to-day remains what it was before. I was under the impression, when Parliament agreed to the voting of an additional Ministerial salary, that we would have an additional Minister.
– That was the idea that we all entertained. We thought we were to have a Minister of Defence in this House.
– Undoubtedly. This ia the popular House, and the sooner we have a Minister of Defence in this Chamber, the better for the country. I found it necessary last week to bring certain Defence matters before the Chamber, and, on the following day, the Minister for the Navy replied to my observations. As I stated, on the motion for the adjourn- ment of the House on that night, I did not know that the Minister was going to reply that day. Together with a number of other honorable members who visited Papua in 1912, I was entertaining the Administrator, Mr. Staniforth Smith, and, therefore, was not here when the House met. The Minister explained that he had told a messenger to let me know that he was going to reply to my criticisms, but I can only say that no such message was received by me. I, therefore, did not have an opportunity, on entering the House, to make answer to the Minister, and had to defer my remarks until the motion for the adjournment was moved. On that motion, as the hour was late, I could make only a brief explanation, and that, to me, was not satisfactory. The Minister for the Navy read a long letter wherein the Minister of Defence made a definite offer to me. That letter, however, had no reference whatever to the controversy regarding Private P. Ryan. During August, I saw the Minister in his office on the Senate side of the House, and told him that I had had military experience, and wished to offer my services. He at once asked if I thought I was medically “ fit to go away. My reply was that, although not as strong as I was last year, I was rapidly regaining my health, and felt that if I went away the change would do me good, and that I should be just as serviceable to the country as the next man.
– Did the honorable member think he was going to a picnic ?
– Certainly not. The younger members of this Parliament, I hold, should be quite prepared to take their fair share in the conflict that is waging. I am not going to appeal from a public platform to other men to go to the front, and to make sacrifices that I am :not prepared to make myself. I recognise that many honorable members are too old for active service. Their hearts are strong -enough, but having regard to the trials that have to be undergone at the front, it would be impossible for them to go there. I, however, am comparatively young.
– I reckon that I am as strong as the honorable member is.
– I hope that the honorable member feels as well as I do at the present moment. The Minister of Defence fold me to make application, and I did so. I am giving him an opportunity to-morrow to place my application before the House. In reply to that application the letter which the Minister for the Navy read to the House came to me from the Minister of Defence. I object to the statement of the Minister that to that letter he received no reply. Many supporters of the Government have indulged in a lot of criticism, and have expressed the opinion that, instead of writing to the Minister in connexion with Private Ryan’s case, I should have waited upon him. As a matter of fact, I saw Senator Pearce in his room at the Victoria Barracks with regard to the offer I had made to him. I thanked him for his reply, and added, “ I do not desire an appointment in Australia. If you propose only to give me an appointment in the Commonwealth, then I feel that my services can be better employed in watching the interests of my constituents.” I therefore declined his offer, but suggested that until I got thoroughly fit, he might send me to Egypt where, with my knowledge of stores and other matters, I might be of some value to the Department. The letter to which I have referred, and to which I received no reply, was sent by me to the Minister about 22nd October - a month after the other letter reached me. In that communication, after complaining regarding the inadequate system of payments, I said that I would be very pleased to visit the Department, look into the system, and introduce one that would be satisfactory. To that offer I received no reply whatever. On Monday last, I went to the Victoria Barracks’ because of the element of doubt existing regarding a certain telegram which Senator Pearce said he had sent to me, but which I had not received, and also in connexion with the letter to which I have referred. No trace could be found of the letter which I sent on the 22nd October. The Minister’s private secretary, however, told me that he was certain he had seen it in the office; that, unfortunately, it had been mislaid for the moment, but that he hoped to Have it by to-morrow. I was shown a copy of a telegram addressed to me in the letter-press book, in which it was stated that Mr. Bolle was sending on that evening a report in Ryan’s case. That telegram was supposed to have been transmitted to me on the 13th, but I say definitely that I have not received it. The Minister of Defence, perhaps, is not to blame; the fault may rest with the postal authorities. I am now endeavouring to trace the telegram. I would point out, however, that that telegram constitutes no reply, after a period of several weeks, to the representations made by me in writing as well as in personal interviews. I saw Mr. Bolle on Monday, and asked him what report he had to send on to me. His reply was that he had no report, but that inquiries were being made. He could not produce any report. I told the officials of the Defence Department that I had visited the office in fairness to them, and that I did not desire to make any statement in the House which would place them or myself in a false position. The Minister seems to wish to place on the shoulders of some eighty temporary clerks the responsibility for this mismanagement. To say the least, that charge is very unfair. The clerks cannot be blamed, because the system is at fault. Some of the leadingmilitary men at the barracks admit that the system is at fault. In conversation they have given me reasons for it, and one responsible officer has told me that it would be very difficult to overcome those reasons. I have only to say that I had fourteen years’ experience in the payment, not of a great body of men like those who have to be paid by the Department, but of 200. who received different rates of pay. They were paid according to time; some working five hours and a half, others five hours and threequarters per day, and so on. They did different classes of work, but in the department of the Metropolitan Board of Works, in which I was employed, we had a system, and during the whole fourteen years of my service we did not have one mistake in making payments. To-day, unfortunately, confusion seems to be rampant in the Defence Department. I should like to see some one made responsible for the proper performance of this work. I do not believe that the chief difficulty exists in Mr. Bone’s branch at the Victoria Barracks; it exists rather in the Camps. It is about time that we had a responsible officer at each Camp to take full charge of all claims. With such an officer we should have a satisfactory service. It appears to me that when an honorable member rises in his place to suggest improvements to the Minister of Defence, not only the Minister himself, but supporters of the Government resent such action. The success of the whole machine depends on the success of its several parts, and we criticise not with the desire to create additional difficulties, but with the object of improving the machine, and making it as perfect as possible. Senator Pearce, alluding to thecriticism, has referred to us as so many pessimists. Surely he does not regard pessimism and- criticism as synomymous. If he does, I would advise him to* consult a dictionary, and learn their exact meaning. I am quite satisfied that no one in this House desires to make the Minister’s pathway more difficult than it is. On many occasions I have seen the Minister of Defence, and” have suggested certain improvements. I am not one of those who say that the Defence Department is a total failure. I admit that the Department has done magnificent work, but I do say that no one man can control that giganticorganization. For the handling of Defence matters in the Old Country there are several Ministers; and why should not Australia have more Ministers toshoulder this big responsibility? Parliament recently voted an additional sum towards the salaries of- Ministers, and the sooner an extra Minister is appointed to the Defence Department the better for all concerned.
– Already an additional Minister has been appointed.
– We have not an additional Minister, because the Minister for the Navy was previously an HonoraryMinister. The creation of a Department for the Navy was undoubtedly necessary, but we have not increased the numerical strength of the Ministry; it requires such an increase.
– And more salary?
– No. Parliament increased the salaries of Ministers by £1,650 recently, and I say that it is time that the number of Ministers was increased. The Minister for the Navy referred to charges which have been made in this House as trivial. From my knowledge of the Minister, I am satisfied that his heart is too big to permit of his referring to the case I mentioned as a trivial one. In that instance, a woman was in absolute distress. One child was in the house dead, the mother had no money with which to pay the funeral expenses, the other children were without food, the mother had been given notice from the landlord to quit on a certain date - are those circumstances trivial ? Compared with her own distress and that of her children - due to the lack of humanitarian principles on the part of the country for which her husband was fighting - what did it matter to that woman if the Empire tumbled to pieces? I read in the press a few days ago that a number of German soldiers had mutinied because they had received word that their dependants were starving. We do not want such circumstances to arise in connexion with our soldiers. I do not believe that they would mutiny; but if I were at the front, and heard that my wife and children were starving, I should not feel very great enthusiasm for the Empire. It was only after the failure of repeated applications to the authorities that I decided to bring that complaint before the House.
– What was the reply ?
– The reply was that certain responsible officers had failed to do their duty. According to the statement read in the House by the Minister for the Navy those men are to be punished; but it is useless to punish men if the Department has not a system. If a system is established and the officers are not capable of giving effect to it, they should be dismissed. But without a system of organization the officers will always fail, and we shall have a continuance of a chaotic state of things. Some honorable members are very ready to cast ridicule upon those honorable members who bring complaints before the House. Some of us have been referred, to as posing in the limelight and seeking notoriety. Let me say that I came into the House to look after the rights of my constituents, and I am not a piece of putty to be moulded into a certain shape by any particular Minister or body of. men. When matters affecting the welfare of my people are brought before me, and I cannot get redress from the Department or Ministers, I shall seek redress on the floor of the House. To a certain extent, the result of my protest has been satisfactory. When I visited the Victoria Barracks on Monday, I had conversations with various responsible officers. They admitted that disorganization existed; and I am pleased to say to those honorable members who supported my complaint on Thursday last that a system is now to be introduced. It is proposed to establish in the various
Camps paymasters, who will be .responsible for the payment of the men constituting the different units. If this matter had not been raised in the House, the old blundering system might possibly have been continued. But, owing to the matter having been ventilated, there seems to be a likelihood of a measure of redress. Perhaps, when Mr. Bolle and his officers investigate the question, they will be able to draw up a system that will be as perfect as that under which I had the pleasure of working when I was in the service of the Metropolitan Board of Works. I enter my protest against the cavalier manner in which some honorable members resent criticisms which are offered for the improvement of the service, and I reiterate that, if I fail in every other direction to get redress of grievances, I will seek it on the floor of this House.
.- I desire to make some reference, in the first place, to the recent changes in the Ministry, and to offer some measure of congratulation to those honorable members who have attained Cabinet rank. I do not know whether I should congratulate them or condole with those others who have been dismissed. The fact remains that important changes have taken place at a very critical time in our history, when, instead of new men at the head of affairs, we should have seasoned men. I feel justified in asking why experienced men have been removed and inexperienced men substituted ? I sympathize with the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and I should like to know why he has been removed from office. The opinion is held throughout the length and breadth of the country that, because two members of the late Ministry possessed sufficient backbone to maintain their positions against Labour aggression, they were obliged to surrender their offices. Whilst I congratulate the men who have been elected in their place, I would say to them, “ Take heed lest ye also perish.” I am perfectly satisfied that in a Labour Government no man can long maintain his position unless he makes himself subservient to his outside masters, and we shall have a succession of men of good personal qualifications removed from office to make room for others who are more pliable and more amenable to outside influence. The change in the personnel of the Ministry seems to be necessitated by the fact that the late Prime Minister was to be sent to Great Britain as High Commissioner. I intend to criticise that appointment. We have had no evidence of any wave of enthusiasm in the Commonwealth because Sir George Reid is being displaced to make room for Mr. Fisher. I believe that in the minds of the great mass of the people there is a feeling of profound disappointment that a man who has so ably filled the office of High Commissioner for a long period - a period sufficiently long to enable him to know all the ropes and understand all the obligations of the position - is at this critical time in our history being displaced by a man who has no knowledge of those particular duties.
– It is not right to say that Sir George Reid is being displaced.
– That is the truth.
– Then why is Mr. Fisher being sent to London ? Is he being sent from this Parliament to assume that high office simply to make way for Mr. Hughes and the political shuffle which has brought new men into Ministerial office?
– Sir George Reid was sent to London to make room for the Fusion.
– The honorable member knows a lot, but he does not speak with Ministerial authority. From a political point of view, the change from Sir George Reid to Mr. Fisher has been coldly received, and I am convinced that the majority of honorable members of this House would feel infinitely more confidence in the old and experienced man than they can feel in the new appointee. A good man is being displaced by a man who, because of his inexperience, is much less adapted to the office than the man who is being dismissed. The occupant of the office of High Commissioner ought to be a man of broad views. What sort of a man has Mr. Fisher proved himself to be in this House] Australia has recently passed through the greatest trial, so far as seasons are concerned, that the Continent has ever endured. It experienced a great drought, which was calculated to have a serious effect upon the revenue of the country, and to call for the utmost care in the expenditure of public money; but, in order to blind the eyes of the public, and because in Mr. Fisher’s own constituency there did happen to be a fair season, he could not look further afield, and he made himself ridiculous by his reiterated statement - “ a little drought.” At the time he was pronouncing that view he was proposing large increases in expenditure for the ordinary services of the Commonwealth, and he endeavoured to justify adherence to that policy by reiterated statements that the drought was only a little one. I wish he had been a farmer and felt the sting of the lash, and experienced the suffering endured by those men to whom he so cynically referred. Another qualification which we should expect to find in a High Commissioner is ability to tak© an all-round view of things. Very recently, the late Prime Minister told a deputation in Sydney that he was goingto the High Commissioner’s office because he thought it was necessary that the position should be filled by a man who held views in consonance with those of the dominant party. The further the man holding that office can get from party politics, and the more general his view of things, the better it will be for the Commonwealth. Mr. Fisher’s reference to the referendum as a non-party question shows that he is not capable of comprehensive views. His statement and that of his colleagues regarding the two previous referenda wasthat the question involved was distinctly a party issue; but now that it seems to suit his book he says that it is not. His statement is that the referendum is not a party question, or, if it is, those who are opposed to it make it such. We should not appoint to the post of High Commissioner a man of German tendencies. TheKaiser, after preparing for war for a quarter of a century, coolly asserted when the crisis came that the responsibility for the outbreak was on the Allies; that, in effect, having resisted him, they, and not he, are responsible for the war. That is the position of the Right HonorableAndrew Fisher in regard to the referendum. He has declared war on the political party opposed to him, forcing a conflict at a time when every effort should bemade to preserve unison ; and yet he saya that it is those who resist, not he, who areresponsible for the party strife that must follow. Above all things, the High Commissioner should be one at whom thefinger of scorn cannot be pointed. Now a charge amounting to misfeasance against the Treasury has been madeagainst Mr. Fisher.
– The honorable member made the charge; but he was not man enough to attempt to prove it.
– I proved it to the hilt. The charge was made in statements reported on pages 914 to 916 of the Hansard record for 5th September, 1913, and was couched in stronger language than that I have just used.
– The honorable member was not supported.
– That is a matter of indifference to me. As a representative of the people, it is my duty to defend the Treasury.
– A decent constituency would be ashamed of such a representative.
– The more the honorable member cries “ Shame !” on me for standing up against wrong-doing, the more I am proud of myself. The charge against Mr. Fisher is stated in the pages that I have mentioned; but Hansard would be searched in vain for a reply to it. Mr. Fisher, contrary to his promises to this Parliament, and without the consent of Parliament, took money from the Treasury, and applied it either to his personal advantage, or to the advantage of the political party to which he belongs. I challenge honorable members opposite to arrange for a Royal Commission for the investigation of my charge.
Mr.Wise. - If any one on the honorable member’s side believed the charge, the challenge would be taken up.
– I stand alone in this matter; but I am conscious that I am in the right. The honorable member should be ashamed of himself for seeking to uphold the wrong. The taking of money from the Treasury without the sanction of Parliament, and contrary to pledges given to Parliament, is a serious thing; but Mr. Fisher was not man enough to defend what he had done; and I say, therefore, that he is not the man for the High Commissionership. This Parliament has now been in session nearly thirteen months, and has passed one Supply Bill after another. The position created by the war is unprecedented ; but in what has been done Parliament has practically abrogated its rights in a most important particular. A Tariff sanctioned by Parliament has been superseded by another brought into operation by Executive act, which Parliament has not been asked to sanction. Were Parliament to be prorogued, this new Tariff would cease to operate. It can be kept alive, improperly, only by continual adjournments. In view of the importance of Tariff legislation, I contend that we should either revert to the old Tariff, which Parliament has sanctioned, or proceed to the discussion of the present Tariff, with a view to legalizing it. In quite a number of items there would be alterations; but the representatives of the people should be asked to say whether the new Tariff should or should not stand. In view of the fact that the Government ask for further Supply, I enter a protest and invite the Minister to seriously consider how long the Tariff is to be kept alive in that way. Undoubtedly a Parliament which consents to a proceeding of that kind allows itself to be divested of one of its most important functions, and in regard to a very leading subject. The other day the Minister of External Affairs made a statement about the action he has taken in regard to the liquor traffic in the Northern Territory. He was good enough to say that he supposed that an honorable member who made an inquiry would rejoice to know that the industry was a paying concern. I. for one, do not rejoice at that fact. I consider that the Minister showed very bad taste in practically asserting that he rejoiced in the trade being a paying concern, because the more it prospers in the Territory the greater will be the amount of degradation there. It is, of course, very nice for a Minister to be able to say for once that the State is running a concern which pays, but I submit that it is not seemly to pay into the Treasury money derived from the industry, because it is the price of blood. It is a bad business. Those who go into the back country are aware how easy it is for men to set up sly-groar selling, here, there, and everywhere. It does not speak well for the attitude of the present Government for a Minister to rejoice that the liquor industry in the Territory is a paying concern. The King has set a noble example in this regard, and many persons who have been accustomed to indulge in liquor to a moderate- extent have become followers of His Majesty.
– Look at what Russia has done ?
– The Emperor of Russia stands at the very apex of this movement. In England the authorities are doing wonders in the matter of reducing the trading hours for licensed houses, but in the case of the Northern Territory evidently the Minister of External Affairs had only one thought in view, viz., is the industry there a paying concern, will the money he gets from that source justify the evil he does? Certainly it does not redound to the credit of the Minister. This afternoon the honorable member for Calare asked the Minister for the Navy whether, before accepting the services of field bakers, the Defence Department insisted upon the men obtaining a certificate of membership from the Operative Bakers Union affiliated with the Trades Hall. I make no comment other than to say that the answer to the question was “ Yes.” At one time I had in my possession a Military Order referring to certain men. It came to me anonymously with a mark pointing out that hairdressers must be members of a union. What sort of a military force do the Government expect to get when all the more highly-paid places are to be given to trade unionists? One-half of the muddle in the Defence Department which every one knows of, and which is causing intense suffering in the homes of hundreds of women who cannot get the money they are entitled to receive, is due to the fact that the Government have insisted upon the officers employing none but trade unionists to do clerical work. The condition of things existing in that Department to-day is simply shocking. Whenever I hear a tale such as that told by the honorable member for Corio just now of a suffering woman in need of the money which hard-hearted men at the Department will not, or cannot, pay to her, I cry shame on my country, proud though I am to be an Australian. I am aware that in many instances redress has been given, but in nearly all cases a very long period was allowed to expire before the Department could unravel the mystery and determine what action should be taken. In the pay offices there should be skilled clerks accustomed to do clerical work and able to keep books properly, so that the muddle now complained of could not arise. That is all I desire to say in the way of criticism. Evidently the time has come when we ought to be a united people.’ We need recruits, but the number is diminishing every day. Can we expect men to offer to serve their country and endanger their lives at the front when, at the same time, we ask them to sacrifice their citizen rights so far as the Constitution of the Commonwealth is concerned ? That is what the Government are determined to do. Every man they ask to enlist is invited, not only to become a soldier, but to waive his citizen right in regard to the Constitution.
– Will they go away before the 11th December?
– Then my honorable friend recognises that it is not fair for the men to go away. Now, if it is not fair to those who may be going away after that date, is it fair to those who have already gone, to take the referendums? The Government want to deprive 100,000 men of a right or a privilege which is as sacredly theirs as it is mine.
– Then there must be no general election until they all come back ?
– If, through the operation of the Constitution, a general election came about, it would be the result of an accident, but these referendums are being forced on the people at this time to rob absent soldiers of their citizen rights.
– Do you say that you will not ask them to recruit?
– That is a big charge from a very little man.
– I would rather be a little man than a bulky, ugly thing like you.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I do, sir.
– Now, ask that the Minister should be called on to withdraw his remark.
– I am a strict Britisher. I do not know whether my honorable friend is.
– Don’t you get nasty, now.
– Order !
– Don’t you get nasty now, or I will soon deal with you.
– Very well; let the Minister deal with me as best he can.
– Order! Will the honorable member for Echuca kindly address the Chair?
– I regret this little digression, sir. I have put these considerations before the Committee as plainly and forcibly as I could.
– You are nothing but a sewer rat; that is what you are.
– I am not going to stand an insult.
- Mr. Chairman, I call your attention to the remark of the Minister.
– I ask the Minister to withdraw the observation.
– I withdraw it, sir.
– I have said all that I desire to say in the way of criticism. I feel that we should have proceeded amicably. Every honorable member who is favorable to the referendums should be my friend, and I should be his friend, so long as the war lasts. But the Government are forcing on this issue. They are forcing us into the position of defending ourselves against their encroachments, and thus they are makins us antagonists instead of friends. I can say of the Government, that they have certainly succeeded in doing this.
.- I feel sure that all honorable members were considerably pained bv the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Echuca. It has never previously been my lot to sit in a legislative chamber and listen to a representative man making an attack on one who is absent, practically charging him with taking public money.
– Hear, hear! That is what I did.
– The honorable member referred to one who has been appointed to the highest position that can be conferred by this country.
– I charged him with having made no reply to a charge that I made when he was in this Parliament.
– The honorable member referred to a gentleman who is held in the highest esteem by the people of Australia, and who, when he was in the Old Country, gained the respect of all with whom he came into contact. The honorable member made these charges, as he terms them, in the Chamber some time back, and he knows full well that they did not have the approval of his party.
– Privatelv. they had the approval of many members of my party.
– Yet, immediately a gentleman of the standing of Mr. Fisher vacates his seat in this Chamber, upon his appointment to, a very important position in connexion with the Commonwealth, and when he has no opportunity to reply to him, the honorable member for
Echuca attacks him. Perhaps I should rightly treat this attack with contempt. Political opponents and others give Mr. Fisher credit for having been actuated always by honest desires, and for being an honest man, but it remained for an honorable gentleman in this Chamber to-day to charge him with having taken public money. The public life of this country has sunk to a very low ebb when honorable members, at a time like this will endeavour for party reasons to malign a man of the character of the new High Commissioner.
– He was appointed for party purposes. Is that not so?
– I ask the honorable member for Calare whether he approves of the utterances of the honorable member for Echuca, who has charged Mr. Fisher with having taken money out of the Treasury?
– Answer my question first.
– If the honorable member will not answer my question I suppose I can take it that he acquiesces in the charges of the ‘honorable member for Echuca. I am sorry to have to form that opinion, because I had held the honorable member in the highest regard, and did not think that he would approve of the charges just uttered by his friend the honorable member for Echuca. The honorable member says that Mr. Fisher has been appointed for party purposes. Have not similar appointments in the past been made for party purposes 1
– The previous appointment was not made for party purposes.
– However much I may approve of the right honorable gentleman who has been holding the position of High Commissioner, as he was a Liberal I have the same right to say that his appointment was for party pumoses, as the honorable member has to say that the appointment of Mr. Fisher has been made for party purposes. But let the appointment be made for party purposes or not, the fact remains that both gentlemen have rendered yeoman service to Australia, fully entitling them to their appointments, and if any Government should be prepared to appoint either of them, we should not cavil at it, or find any fault with the step. I asked the honorable member for Calare whether he approved of the statements made by the honorable member for Echuca, and he has not answered me.
– At the time, I did not approve of the action of the ex-Prime Minister.
– But does the honorable member approve of the charge laid against the ex-Prime Minister - the charge of having taken money out of the Treasury ?
– I did not think that there were two men in the House who would approve of such a charge. There is no foundation for it. However, I have nothing further to say in this regard. The character of Mr. Fisher so stands out that nothing can be said by men, insignificant in comparison with him, to injure his reputation in the eyes of the people in this country or elsewhere.
– Mr. Fisher was not one who took expenses from the public purse and addressed party meetings at the public’s expense.
– I do not approve of that sort of talk in a representative House. No honorable member has ever heard me making a charge against another member in that way, and I only take exception to what has been said today because the charges made hy the honorable member for Echuca were unwarranted, and cannot be proved, and because I know that they have not the approval of the honorable member’s own party.
– I cannot convince any honorable member against his will.
– The honorable member cannot convince his own party. That is all I have to say upon this subject. I was sorry to hear from the Treasurer that the Estimates for the current financial year are not to be presented before the vacation. We are falling into a bad practice in this regard. The annual Estimates should be placed on the table as early as possible after the expiration of the financial year in June. Last year they were submitted before the Christmas vacation, though we did not have the opportunity of dealing with them until the year had practically expired. We were still dealing with them in June, and I believe that the Senate did not receive them until July. What is our position as representative men if we do not receive the Estimates for our consideration until the year has expired, and the money has been spent? The war is urged as the reason for the delay. I admit that the times are out of joint, but the war was in progress last year, when the Estimates were presented before the Christmas vacation, while on this occasion we are not to have, them until March, and by the time honorable members can peruse them, the year will have almost expired. At no other time in the history of the Commonwealth has it been so necessary for Parliament to deaL with Estimates before the expiration of a financial year, because we must consider economy. As much depends upon the administration of finances in regard to the successful prosecution of the war as depends upon the men in the firing line.. Everything tends to show that the war will be prolonged, and we must provide the money for the purpose of seeing it through. It can only be done by exercising the strictest economy. The chief work, of this Parliament is to deal with the war - other matters are infinitesimal in comparison - and if we are not to take the Estimates into consideration, but are just, to allow things to go on in a slipshod way, wo shall be led into trouble in the very near future. The practice of delaying; the presentation of the Estimates is growing, and if no exception is taken to it I can foresee a time when Parliament will have no say in regard to them, until practically all the money has been expended. I say nothing against the present Treasurer, because he has just been appointed.. But there is no valid reason why the ordinary Estimates should not be presented for our consideration earlier than usual this year. Of course, we have to make special provision to meet our war expenditure. But our ordinary departmental expenditure is quite another matter. I have no desire to see the existing system continued. If Parliament is to relinquish its control of the public purse, it cannot justify its existence, and it is manifest that we cannot retain control of the finances if we are to pass Supply Bill after Supply Bill. For this reason I disapprove of the delay that has occurred in presenting the Estimates to the House. I wish now to make a few suggestions to the Defence Department in a perfectly friendly way. T recognise that wonders have been accomplished in Defence matters since the outbreak of the war. But there are several questions that are deserving of consideration at the hands of the Minister. In the first place, I desire to point out that many recruits who have enlisted have been vaccinated and then returned to their homes, and that’ quite a large number of them have not been paid for the period of their enforced absence from camp. I know that an instruction has recently been issued that they shall be paid. But, although some weeks have elapsed since that order went forth, many of them are still in arrears with their pay. During the past week-end I met some twenty or thirty who occupy this position. Some of them will be embarking for the front in the near future, and the Department will owe them, perhaps, a fortnight’s pay. Surely an instruction can be sent out that these men must be paid immediately ! Then there is the question of travelling from the newham p at Holdsworthy to Liverpool. This new camp has been established 5 miles from the Liverpool station, and there is no means of getting to it save by private conveyance. I may add that each soldier is charged 2s. each way for travelling that short distance of 5 miles. He is thus obliged to spend 4s., in addition to his fare from Liverpool to Sydney, whenever he desires to visit the city.
– The fare between Holdsworthy and Liverpool has been reduced to 3s. 3d.
– Last week I was assured that it was 4s. Something ought certainly to be done to secure a reduction of this fare. For a distance of 5 miles a charge of ls. should be sufficient, especially as the owners of the vehicles always secure good loads. I wish also to stress the growing dissatisfaction which exists owing to the meagre information obtainable from the front in regard to our wounded. We know that it is impossible to secure anything like adequate information. The Defence Department obtains certain particulars, which it communicates to the relatives, but beyond that it cannot go. Now there are many cases in which parents have thought it desirable to cable Home for information regarding their wounded sons’ condition, and in which they have taken the precaution to prepay the reply. Yet they have found it impossible to obtain any reply.
– That is a scandal.
– It badly needs remedying. I have met mothers who are so anxious in regard to their sons that they imagine the very worst has happened. Only the other day I was conversing with a lady who had cabled to a hospital in which her son is supposed to be an inmate, and who cannot secure any reply to her communication. Surely this state of things can be remedied ! Let the Government appoint some officer whose duty it will be to attend to all this correspondence, to ascertain the condition of the wounded soldiers in respect of whom inquiry is made, and to forward a reply to the parent.
– Canada has solved that difficulty.
– When a parent eables to a hospital in which his or her wounded son is an inmate, there ought to be no difficulty in furnishing a reply at very little cost to the Commonwealth.
– An officer from the High Commissioner’s office ought to be able to attend to such matters.
– An officer from the High Commissioner’s office could certainly attend to such matters in respect of hospitals in the Old Country. Probably the High Commissioner would be able to appoint an officer to discharge similar duties in Egypt. Something should be done in that direction. If we wish to assist recruiting, we can do so by insuring a ready response to the anxious inquiries of parents regarding their sons more effectually than we can assist it in many other ways. These matters may appear small to the Ministerial head of the Department, but they are of very great importance to the individual. I do hope that something will be done to remedy the defects to which I have referred.
– I join with the honorable member for Hunter in expressing my regret that we are to be denied an opportunity of discussing the Estimates for the current financial year. Apparently we are to be placed in a position similar to that which we occupied last year. Upon that occasion we were told, when the Estimates were submitted for our consideration, that it was idle to discuss them, inasmuch as all the money had been spent. That is a very dangerous procedure to adopt. To-day representatives of the Government are going about the country impressing upon everybody the need of economy, and at the same time this Parliament is handing over to the Ministry the control of the entire funds of the Commonwealth to do with them just what they choose. I think that there is greater need for the enforcement of economy in this Parliament than exists anywhere else. As far as I can gather, the Treasurer has no control over the expenditure upon buildings and various other works connected with the Defence Department. At a time like the present it seems to me a waste of money to erect a very substantial building at the end of the Victoria Barracks, Melbourne. Money has been spent on that building which might have been better spent in other ways. There is a permanent structure in course of erection at these barracks. I do not know what it is to be used for, but it will not be finished until a time when I hope the war will be over. Then we have a temporary building in the barrack yard, and both seem to involve useless expenditure, as the Department could have obtained the accommodation it requires in other Melbourne buildings. I am pleased to know that the Minister of Defence replied to the remarks I made the other day on the motion for the adjournment of the House. In whatever I have said regarding the Defence Department I have not sought merely to criticise the Department. I have endeavoured to get put right things that I saw required amendment, and I say now that what i9 doing much harm to recruiting in Australia is the relation of their experiences with the Defence Department by dissatisfied soldiers and their dependants. These people say they cannot get their money, that the widowed mothers and wives cannot get their allowances, and statements of this description are bound to have an ulterior effect. In a case recently mentioned by me I stated that a man had been dismissed from camp suffering from a weak knee when eightyeight days’ pay was due to him. I received the information that no evidence of this could be found at the Department, with the additional information that no letter of complaint had been received from me on this subject, and that the only letter received from me by the Department was one in connexion with a man named Hammond. It is a remarkable thing, that being the case, that I should have received to-day from the district paymaster a letter, dated 29th October, replying to one written by me on 7th October. It took the Department from 7th October to 29th October to ascertain the facts I asked for. This letter was not received by me until to-day. It may have been at my country address yesterday, but it does take a long time for letters posted in the Defence Department to reach the individuals to whom they are addressed. Perhaps it would be better if I said that it takes a considerable time for a letter, after having been duly written and signed, to find its way to the post. In this connexion I noticed the other day that the Defence Department have ceased to date their letters in ink. This is now done by lead pencil. The Minister of Defence said the other day that the only letter I have written to the Defence Department was one inquiring after payment due to a man named Hammond, of Colac. If that is so, it seems funny that the letter to which I have just referred should deal with the case of Private Angus, of the Reserve Reinforcements, at Broadmeadows. It states that most of the payments due to Private Angus have been made, but that from the 16th to 30th September he was marked absent on the pay sheet of his unit. I am now in communication with the Broadmeadows Camp to ascertain why the man was marked absent, because his pay for that period has been held back. Now that I have taken up the case, the authorities have promised to inquire why. The point of all this is that it should not be necessary for members of Parliament to have to make these inquiries, either at the payoffice or at the Department. If the accounts were kept in a proper way, there would be no necessity for me to have to inquire about this man’s pay. Yet at the present moment men are going about the country informing the public that they cannot get their pay, that their wives could not get their pay, and that their widowed mothers were in a similar position. If the Department were properly managed this sort of thing would not occur. In another case a lady named Mrs. Piora McKay has written to the Department, stating that she has received all the money due to her excepting that from 16th August to 31st August, and has received the information that the pay for that period cannot be traced. It seems extraordinary that cases of this sort should occur at all. I know that flagrant blunders have occurred in the transfer of men from the various camps to the Base Hospital. Whether the authorities consider that when a man is transferred to a Base Hospital that is to be the end of him or not, I do not know. But if they do, they are not very complimentary to the Base Hospital.
– They are not allowed to include him on the pay-sheets.
– That is so. I do not think any business man ‘ would ever attempt to carry on his business in the same manner that the Department is conducting its business. In the payments to the troops at the barracks a man’s name is read out - “ John Jones, £4.” It takes four people to pay John Jones his £4. in postal notes, the duty of the last of the four being to use a sponge with which to wet the envelope. In my view, a system of payment by cheque would be better.
– Many are being paid by money-order.
– Yes. The present system ‘of payment seems to be cumbersome, but I think it would be preferable if cheques were used.
– What about exchange ?
– The Defence Department could get over any difficulty of exchange.
– I do not see why the Government should help to fatten up the banks.
– I think it would be simpler if cheques were used.
– Exchange has to be paid on a money-order.
– Why cannot the money be sent by cheque payable at the various post-offices throughout the Commonwealth ?
– The money order is all right; that exchange goes to the Government again.
– The money order system is cumbersome, but I suppose the Department knows what is the best method of paying its men, though we do not seem to be able to get any improvement. I received a letter to-day from a man who informs me - I do not know whether his statement is correct - that the Department owes him £15 5s. “I have been told to inquire everywhere,” he says, “ at Melbourne, at Seymour, at Ballarat, and I cannot get any reply. They seem to take no notice of me.” That is the great trouble. These men write to the Department in their endeavour to get their pay, but no notice is taken of them at all. They are not even told that the matter will be looked into, and, as a letter I read from the district paymaster shows, it takes a long time before the Department will even send a reply to a member of this House.
Privates who have enlisted have great difficulty in getting any money sent to them. I trust something will be done in this matter, because, apparently, recruiting will have to go on for some considerable time, and no honorable member will care to be on a platform and have thrown up against him the statement that the men are not able to get their money. I want, however, to pay a compliment to the Base Records Office. If any Department is doing good work it is Base Records. The officers there are able to give all the information they receive. But, unfortunately, the news from the front is very scanty indeed. To illustrate this I will quote one particular case which I went into. A friend of mine had enlisted, and I was anxious to find out for his people how he was and what he was doing. We got the news that he had been sent to Malta, so I went to Base Records to inquire, and the officer there said he would do all in his power to find out. A cable was sent to the Commandant at Malta, but no reply came to hand. Three weeks later the young man’s mother met one of his comrades in the country, a man who knew one of the doctors in Malta, so we sent a cable direct to that doctor, who happened to be assisting at one of the Malta hospitals. The reply came straight away, so it could not have been the fault of the cable company that no reply had been received to the previous cable. The doctor to whom the cable was addressed replied that he had lunched with the young man on that particular day, and gave the information that he was doing well. We also discovered that the young man was 8 miles inland, at Malta. He had been suffering from influenza, had been sent to an inland hospital, and, as far as the authorities were concerned, he was practically lost sight of altogether. I want also to bring under the attention of the Government the position with regard to some of the permanent officers at the Defence Department. I refer to the sergeant-majors, the men who have devoted their lives to military work, and who to-day are not allowed to go to the front. I think about 100 per cent, of them have volunteered and are really anxious to go, but they are being kept back. About a dozen, I understand, who have been allowed to go are now out at Broadmeadows training.
– The Department will not even issue uniforms to those men.
– It seems very hard on these men that they should be prevented from taking any part in this great war. It has been suggested that a good many men who have come back and are unfit to return to the front should be allowed to take up this work, thus releasing the sergeant-majors for active service. Then, again, there are men who have been through the militia and are now over the military age. They are well qualified to perform the duties allotted to the sergeantmajors, and I suggest that their services should be utilized, so that the men who have taken up military duties as a profession may have an opportunity to go to the front.
– There are hundreds who want to go.
– Yes, I know there are, and now they are having it thrown up to them that they are suffering from cold feet, when, as a matter of fact, they are anxious and willing to go, but are being kept back by the Department. As permanent officers of the Defence Department these men, if they are not allowed to go to the front, will really be at a great disadvantage later on in the training of troops, because they will not have seen active service. Then again, they are Buffering a disadvantage because they are being paid at a lower rate than men of similar rank on active service. Sergeantmajors here - men who want to go, but are not allowed to leave their work - are being paid practically the same wage as corporals on active service. Certainly those who do not volunteer should not receive the same pay as men of similar rank at the front, but the men who have volunteered should not be punished simply because the Defence Department holds the view that they are more useful here than they would be on active service. I trust that all these difficulties will soon be removed. It is a serious matter that there should be any trouble about deferred pay, especially in the case of men who have left wives and dependants behind them. It is even more serious that it should be possible for men who have returned from the front to be walking about the streets and declaring that the Defence Department owes them £50. £80. or £100. Those men have nob come to me, so I am only saying what I have heard, and I believe they have been asking if the payment is deferred because the Commonwealth cannot afford the money. In the cases that have been brought under my notice, and in which I have approached the Department, I have been told that nothing could be done until the pay-sheets came from Egypt; but surely the pay-sheets could come from Egypt at the same time as the men, or if they could not be got ready in time to be forwarded by the transport by which the men were travelling, the documents could be sent along a week or two afterwards, so that the men would not be kept hanging about waiting for their money. These are matters which I fear will stop recruiting to a great extent, for it will be difficult to persuade a man that it is his duty to go to the front for patriotic reasons only, leaving his wife and dependants here in uncertainty as to his pay. I hope all these matters will be remedied quickly, so that recruiting may proceed as energetically as before, and that there will be no further need for complaint.
– I desire to take advantage of the presence of the Treasurer to refer to a matter in connexion with the minting of gold. I understand that the States have asked on more than one occasion that the Federal Government should take over this work.
– They are not unanimous. There is a profit on the minting of gold in some of the States.
– I understood that there was a slight loss.
– Not in Western Australia.
– The right honorable member’s statement is rather surprising. Generally speaking, there is no profit from the minting of gold, but there is a considerable profit from the minting of silver. The Federal Government, I understand, have their silver minted in London, paying the British Government the actual cost and deriving the whole of the profit. That is a fair arrangement. The States, I am led to believe, have asked the Federal Government to take over the minting of gold, and if that request, which is a fair and legitimate one, be acceded to, I should like to know why silver should not also be minted here.
– There is not enough used here to make it pay.
– That is rather strange. The Treasurer, like myself, is anxious to provide as much employment as possible in Australia, and I would ask him to ascertain whether there is any rea- son why silver should not be minted here. We produce silver in large quantities, and it is, to say the least, strange that we should have to send it to Great Britain to be minted. If we take over the minting of gold, I see no reason why we should not mint in the same building what silver we require. I ask the Treasurer to look into the matter.
– I hope to have something to say on the subject to-morrow.
– I am glad to hear it. There is another matter to which I desire to refer. On the motion for the adjournment of the House last Friday, I drew attention to certain matters concerning Australian troops. The honorable member for Grampians followed with a further reference to the subject, but in neither of the two Melbourne morning newspapers has there been any allusion to our remarks. I am not complaining because something which I had to say in the House was not reported in the Argus or the Age, but I think that in this instance the failure was due to the action of the Government in censoring the report. I am not blaming the Government ; but I am rather inclined to think that the censor, acting on their instructions, cut out all references to the subject. I understand that it is the Imperial Government who do not desire any reference in the newspapers to the incident, and that the local censors have prevented the publication of news really because the Imperial Government do not desire that it shall be published. I recognise that the Commonwealth Government would be taking upon itself a very serious responsibility in refusing to act in accordance with a wish expressed by the Home Government in respect of a matter of this kind. I do not blame the present Government, feeling certain that the Imperial Government have asked them not to allow the statement to be published. I feel the position I am in a good deal, having been a member for so many years, but I am fortified in the action I am taking to-day by the fact that accounts are appearing in the country press, although publication in the city is forbidden. It is more than probable that Mr. Bean, a first-class journalist, has cabled out an account of this incident, but his report cannot appear; yet if a soldier who cannot write nearly so graphically sends out the facts of the case, his letter can appear, and actually has appeared, in the press. If the Government here are preventing publication at the instance of the Imperial Government, our Government ought to ask them definitely for their reasons. I sincerely trust that, if the fault lies with the British Government, the Government will came to them asking for the censorship to be removed, and, if not, why not? On 1st November a cable message appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph giving a fine account of the doings of the British Navy, from the pen of Archibald Hurd. In the very middle of the article appeared, “ A portion has been deleted here by instruction of the censor,” but there was nothing to show whether this was the British or the Australian censor. It is hardly likely to be the British censor, because it would be most peculiar to cable out from England that portion of the article which had been deleted. I asked the Minister for the Navy a question on the subject to-day, and he promised to make inquiries. I hope it will not be found that the Australian censor has been deleting matter that has already appeared in the British papers. If it is so, it is very much “ over the odds.”
– It looks like it, and everybody knows what that part of the article refers to.
– If the matter has appeared in the English papers, and has been deleted here by the censor under instructions from the Defence Department, some inquiry should certainly be made.
.- I desire to emphasize the hope expressed by many members on both sides that the proposed increase in the country telephone rates will not become operative for some time. We in the country have sufficient difficulties to overcome without the people being loaded with this extra expense. Quite a number of subscribers have told me that if the telephone charges are increased, they will have to give up their telephones.
– Why pick out the country ?
– The city constituencies are represented by members who can look well after their interests. 1”, as a country member, am particularly voicing the views of people in the country who, in the past, have not received their just dues. I know that the Postmaster-General, as chairman of a Royal Commission which made a number of recommendations, is sympathetic with any proposals for reform, and I believe that he will do his utmost to have those recommendations carried into effect. I shall not be surprised if in the near future we have a proposal from the Minister to place the Department under the control of Commissioners. As he advocated that policy earnestly a little time ago, he will not now stultify himself by failing to put into force the reform that he then proposed.
– I never used the word “ Commissioners.”
– If the PostmasterGeneral introduces some form of effective administration which will be satisfactory to the country, I shall be satisfied. I desire to deal briefly with the position of mail contractors who are carrying the subsidiary mails from railway stations in New South Wales. As a result of a question which I asked the ex-Postmaster-General in June last, I ascertained that in the year 1913-14, when there was a daily service on most of the country railway lines, the Railway Department of New South Wales received £121,811, but in 1914-15, when the railway service on country lines was curtailed to three trains a week, a subsidy of £123,000 was paid. In other words, for a curtailed service the Railway Department of New South Wales was receiving an enhanced subsidy. The reason given for the increase was that the opening of a number of new lines has necessitated the granting of an extra subsidy. I should like to know what number of new railways was brought into existence in New South Wales in 1914-15 1 Furthermore, I asked a question as to whether the mileage travelled on newly-opened lines exceeded the saving in mileage by the curtailment of the former service. I venture to assert that the number of train miles travelled’ in 1914-15 was less than the mileage in 1913-14, in spite of any additional new lines. The late PostmasterGeneral informed me that “ under the existing agreement between the PostmasterGeneral and the Railway Commissioners of the several States, no reduction is made in the payment by the former when the frequency of the railway service is reduced. On the other hand, no additional payment is made where the railway frequency is increased.” The subsidiary mailmen who carry the mails in various directions from the branch lines made their contracts in the expectation pf having to deal with a service on six days a week, but immediately the railway service was curtailed, the Postmaster-General notified those contractors that their subsidies would be considerably reduced.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7. 4.5 p.m.
– I can give honorable members a specific instance in illustration of my contention that, whilst the large mail contractors of New South Wales/ - the Railways Commissioners of the State - have had their subsidies increased, the small and subsidiary mail contractors, because of the curtailment of the railway services, have had their subsidies reduced. A mail contractor named Hawker entered into a contract for the conveyance of mails’ from Coolac, on the railway line between Cootamundra and Tumut, to a place called Jugiong. He contracted to carry the mails six days a week for a subsidy of £175 a year. When the Railways Commissioners, in their wisdom, curtailed the railway service to trains on three days instead of six days in the week, the Postmaster-General immediately notified Mr. Hawker that his: subsidy would be reduced from £175 to £87 10s. per annum in consequence. The contractor had made his arrangements for changing stations and for fodder some months ahead. He had no hope of securing any other work on the days on which he was not engaged in carrying the mails; and, although under the new conditions he only took the mails three days a week, he took precisely the same weight of mails as he would have had to take if he had continued running his coach six days in the week. He had this added disability, that, on the three days on which he had to take the mails, his passenger space was curtailed by reason of the increased amount of mail matter to be carried on each trip. He has consequently been a loser all along the line, and no redress or sympathy was given him by the Postmaster-General. I find that the reason advanced by the PostmasterGeneral for the reduced subsidy paid to mail contractors in these circumstances’ is that “the amount is calculated on a mileagebasis, and strictly in accordance with the general conditions of mail contracts.” If it is in accordance with the general conditions of mail contracts that small subsidiary mail contractors should have their subsidies reduced in these circumstances, I want the Postmaster-General to say how it is that the subsidy paid to the large mail contractor has been increased. Surely a general condition of contracts should be applicable to large contractors as well as to small contractors. It should not operate to the advantage’ of the large contractor and to the detriment of the small contractor. In country districts the mail service is the only link between the local residents and civilization ; ‘ and I appeal to the Postmaster-General to bring about a little more consistency in connexion with the payment of subsidies for mail contracts in New South Wales. Although I cannot speak with the same authority for the other States, I believe that what I have said of the experience in New South Wales in this connexion is applicable to the other States as well. I do not know whether the Minister responsible for the sending of cables from Australia to our boys at the front is the Postmaster-General or the Minister of Defence, but I hope that what I am about to say will be brought under the notice of the Minister concerned. I am loath to make a personal complaint, but I have personal knowledge of the facts I am about to state. In common with many other honorable members, I have a son at the front. The anniversary of his birthday occurred on the 20th June. I had a natural parental desire to send him a cable a few days before that date to congratulate him on his birthday. I desired that he should realize that his parents and those at home remembered his natal day, and held him in high esteem. I took advantage of the week-end rates in sending him a cable, which was very brief, and cost me only 14s. 2d. The other day I received a letter from my boy in which he thanked me for my foresight in cabling our love and congratulations on his birthday, but added, “ I am sorry to tell you that the cable did not reach my hands for weeks and weeks and weeks.” When a parent takes the trouble to send a cable to his son at the front, and pays the rate required of him, there is surely something wrong if it does not reach his son’s hands for many weeks after it is sent. On behalf of parents similarly situated to myself, I appeal to the Minister responsible to see that greater expedition is used in order that cables sent from Australia to lads at the front may reach their destination within a reasonable time. Surely a cable should not take weeks and weeks to reach the person to whom it is addressed. I have something to say concerning the Defence Department. In making these remarks, the last thing in my mind is a desire to raise any party feeling in connexion with these matters. Complaints of the work of the Departments at this time may very well be regarded as suggestions for improvement. With regard to our Military Camps, the fact seems at present to be overlooked that it is the Federal Government that is responsible for their administration. However much we may blame individual officers, it is the Federal Government that is, after all, wholly responsible for the administration of the Military Camps. I intend to refer to one or two matters, which may be in the form of complaints in order that the Minister representing the Minister of Defence in this House may see what is occurring through spectacles other than those which he wears himself. As one who is keenly interested in the recruiting movement in New South Wales, I say deliberately that those who are endeavouring to recruit more men, and still more men, under the voluntary system are faced with many difficulties and disabilities which might be easily removed by a little more keenness in the administration of our Military Camps. One of the matters which requires radical alteration has reference- to the lads after they have gone into Camp. Before they go into Camp they are allotted to a certain unit, and have particular numbers given to them. They are put into certain battalions, and if they then fall sick they are placed in a hospital or under medical supervision. The moment they come under the purview of the medical officer they lose their identity as members of the battalions to which they were allotted, and their transfer papers are not immediately sent on to the battalion to which they are transferred. Men who have fallen ill and gone into hospital, have had their pay withheld for weeks, and even months, because, when convalescent, they have been attached to another unit, whose Officer Commanding, or other responsible officer, knew nothing of their circumstances. This is a grave fault. Within at least forty-eight hours of a man going into hospital, the fact should be known to a recording officer, and the man should have his papers given to him directly he joins his. new unit.
These matters get talked of by the lads concerned, and knowledge of them spreads through town and country, producing hesitancy on the part of would-be recruits, who, otherwise, would be only too ready to join the Forces. It must be remembered that our recruits are not all wealthy men; very many who offer their services and their lives are entirely dependent upon the modicum of pay that we give. The system of voluntary enlistment is on its trial. Soon there will be hardly a family in the Commonwealth which has not lost some near and dear member, who will have fallen covered with glory, or has not had some member returned sick or wounded. People are already asking whether the voluntary system is effective. Unless we have a much better response to the appeals for recruits, there will be in favour of conscription a public opinion so strong that no Government will be able to withstand it. I say this deliberately, because I am a firm believer in voluntary enlistment, which is on its trial.
– It has been tried, and found wanting.
– It has not broken down ; not by a long way.
– When the Government have realized the position, the Prime Minister will not give the reply which he gave to a question recently asked as to whether he would submit to a referendum a proposal for conscription, when his answer was “No.”
– Mr. Asquith saysthat the voluntary system is still all right, in Great Britain. Australia has raised 160,000 men, and, therefore, has not done badly.
– Unless there is a better response to the appeal for recruits, we shall have to introduce some other system. I should be only too pleased to hear a suggestion for the avoidance of conscription.
– The. honorable member should define “ conscription.”
– Compulsory national service. I want some system which will be more equitable than that which drains away only our best men, leaving the others behind. I desire that the voluntary system shall be thoroughly tested; but I know, having taken a great interest in the recruiting campaign, that the response has not been what it should have* been. This is largely due to what, in a restricted sense, I term maladministration. Unfortunately, while inducementsare offered to get men to go to the front, there is not a whole-hearted effort to look after those who return, and those in Camp are not treated as they should be treated. For instance, recruits on going into Camp are given blank aluminium identification disks, and enterprising persons charge them ls. each for engraving on these disks’ the particulars that the authorities require. Why should not the Government bear the cost of this engraving ? I should like to know what is paid for the privilege of doing the work, and who gets the ls. that the soldier pays, if the engraver does . not get it. I have not heard anything on the subject from the Defence Department. I am stating what I have heard from men in Camp. Then, again, ls. is charged for the stencilling of names on the men’s bags. Why should the soldier have to pay for this stencilling? Why, at least, should not stencil-plates be provided, so that the men may stencil their names on their bags in their spare time?
– Where does the ls. go?
– Into the pocket of the man who does -the stencilling, I take it. I should like to know whether the privilege of doing this stencilling is contracted for, and whether it is paid for.
– Is the work done by one of the staff?
– I think that it is done by a private person. I wish to refer also* to the bread supply, which was dealt with the other day somewhat dramatically by the honorable member for Nepean, and referred to by the honorable member for Cook. I am not concerned with the details of the contract between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales State Bakery. The bread may be weighed in the bulk. But there is the stipulation that the bread shall be supplied in 4-lb. and 2-lb. loaves. Therefore, if they sell bread by the cwt. it does not relieve them of the consequences of breaking that clause. I contend that the Minister, through his proper officer, should see that the contractor complies with the contract. I wish now to point to another factor which, to my mind, is even more important than that clause. The Chief Secretary of New South Wales, Mr. Black, has lately promulgated a regulation which applies to all bakeries, and it is that, no matter whether it is fancy bread or any other sort”, a loaf shall weigh 4 lbs., or 2 lbs., or 1 lb., as the case may be. If an exception has been made of the State Bakery, the regulation is little short of a scandal.
– The State Bakery is not supplying the public.
– Order ! The honorable member has now reached the time limit.
.- I replied the other night to the complaint as to the bread from the New South Wales State Bakery. The honorable member for Hume has mentioned two points, and I wish to show how absolutely ridiculous he is making himself appear. In the first place, the bread is supplied to the Military authorities at so much per 100 lbs. It is taken from the State Bakery to the Military authorities, and put on the scale, and they get the 100 lbs. for which they bargain. Is that fact disputed f
– No ; but the bread is not weighed out to the men.
– Is the weight of the bread checked by the Military autho- rities ?
– Yes. I verified this statement at the week-end, and found that it is correct.
-. - How do you get over the clause in the contract?
– The honorable member says that he is not disputing that the Military authorities are getting full weight from the State Bakery, but that there is a clause which provides that the loaves shall be supplied in two sizes, namely, 2 lbs. and 4 lbs. All that I can say is that if there is a slight variation in the weight of the bread-
– Do you call a shortage of 8 or 10 ozs. a slight variation?
– It may be. In a period of months there has very likely been an isolated instance or two picked out, where the State Bakery has not been very particular, because the bread had to be put on the scale and the bulk weight taken. There is absolutely nothing in the contention of the honorable member.
– Is it issued to the troops by weight or by loaf?
– That is another question. I asked the honorable member for Nepean the other day whether there was a complaint that the men were not getting enough bread, and he admitted that there was not. As a matter of fact, the only complaint in that connexion by Opposition members is that bread is being wasted. The honorable member admits that, does he not ? He now wheels round and says that the men are not getting enough bread because of the way in which it is delivered.
– That does not get away from the fact that the State Bakery is supplying light bread.
– The honorable member for Hume says that the Chief Secretary for New South Wales has issued a regulation’ which provides that bread made by bakers shall be of certain weights, namely, 2 lbs. and 4 lbs. That regulation is not singular at all; it is to be found in every State. The honorable member for Hume says that the regulation applies to all bakers. In the corridor the other day I put a case to him. I said, “Suppose that I, as a baker, were to make bread for my own private table. Do you go so far as to say that the regulation would apply to me, and that I would be fined if I did not produce bread of the prescribed weight?” And he replied, “Yes.”
– If you sold it.
– The honorable member did not say that. He is now wheeling round again. What he said then was that the regulation went to that extremity. The statement only shows how absolutely ridiculous he makes himself in trying to find fault with the Government on this question.
– It is a great pity that he does not let you wallop the Government.
– The honorable member, as usual, adopts very elegant language. The whole point of the regulation is that if a baker sells a loaf ostensibly of 2 lbs. or 4 lbs. weight, he is liable to be fined so much per ounce for every ounce he is found to be short in providing the public. But if the same baker makes bread, specially for a gaol or a hospital, where it is supplied by the 100 lbs., and not by the loaf, it is not a breach of the regulations if a loaf is found not to be up to the prescribed weight. As the Leader of the Opposition stated by interjection just now, I have my complaints, and am willing to join with honorable members in bringing forward any reasonable complaint. The honorable members for Nepean and Hume would strengthen their position immeasurably if, when they find that they are wrong on a point, they would admit their mistake, because on another occasion, if either brought forward a reasonable . complaint, they would receive some support. They prefer to bring forward a ridiculous case, and persist in the contention after it has been explained to them over and over again that they are wrong, and the result will be that when they come along with another complaint no one will take the slightest notice of them.
– “When the quartermastersergeants are delivering 32 lbs. of bread to a tent, they hand out eight loaves, but do not weigh it; and if each loaf is 8 ozs. short, the men in the tent are defrauded of 8 ozs. per loaf. That is the complaint I make.
– I see.
– They have not time to weigh the loaves.
– Is that all the honorable member’s complaint about the bread ?
– That is all my complaint, so far as that is concerned.
– The whole of the honorable member’s complaint about the bread is that the men are not getting a fair deal as regards the quantity they receive; but, if he will go to the Camps, he will find that they are getting more bread than they can eat. He is beaten right down to the last point now, and it is only a theoretical objection.
– It is more than that.
– It is an objection which has not any substance, because, if the honorable member will go to a Camp, he will find that the men are not being given less bread than they require. There is any quantity of bread supplied to them.
– If a baker were to supply short-weight bread like that, he -would be fined £50.
– It has been stated that bread is buried in the ground because the men cannot eat it. The honorable member for Nepean says “Hear, hear !” to that remark. In all conscience, if the men are burying bread because they cannot use it, how can there be a complaint that they are not getting enough bread to eat. The suggestion to the contrary is absolutely ridiculous.
.- There are one or two phases of the bread question with which I wish to deal. While I do not know of any actual shortage of bread for the troops, that is not to say an actual shortage does not exist. Most of the waste is not due to there being a superabundance of bread supply to the troops as a whole, but comes about because the same quantity of bread is supplied on Saturdays and Sundays, when there are 20 per cent, of the troops absent, as is supplied on other days when there is a full complement in camp. The honorable member for Cook will recollect that one of my contentions last week was in regard to the waste at camps. When the mess orderly goes for the issue of bread, he receives so many loaves for so many men, and, as the honorable member for Hume has pointed out, if the loaves are each from 8 to 10 ounces short, it stands to reason that each man is not receiving; his full quantity of bread. It may be claimed that the mess orderly can return and secure a few more loaves if he requires them, but it is not an easy thin? to receive extra rations in the various Camps. I wish to emphasize the fact that the loaves which I produced in the chamber last week were picked out indiscriminately from an officers’ mess.
– The honorable member said .that it was bad bread.
– It might be better.
– Yes, it might be better. Some of it is bad. In support of my contention that the manner in which much of the bread supplied by the State bakery in New South Wales is baked leaves a good deal to be desired. I refer honorable members to the military authorities in that State.
– On the other hand, they say that they are absolutely satisfied.
– Then the honorable member must have gone to one source for his information while I went to another, though I went to the highest possible sources in New South Wales in support of my contention that some of the bread supplied is really not fit for issue to the troops, and they confirmed it. As to the shortage in weight, I do not say that the State bakery supplies short-weight loaves with the object of defrauding the troops of their full complement of bread, but I do say that gross carelessness is shown which would not be tolerated from a private baker. The authorities would not permit him to issue loaves short in weight. The State should set an example to private employers in this respect, and if the State authorities insist on private bakers supplying full-weight bread, they should set an example in the matter, particularly as it opens up an avenue for a profit which should not exist. We know that in Camps and in Governmentcontrolled concerns there is not the same care in checking goods as is exercised by private firms, and it is reasonable to assume that when the Camps take delivery of bread it is a frequent occurrence for the number of loaves to be checked, and not the actual weight
– How is it that, o with three Defence Ministers, we cannot have one in the chamber when we are discussing these matters?
– The time occupied by this squabble is a disgrace to the National Parliament.
– Is the honorable member in order in describing a debate in the Chamber as a disgrace to the National Parliament?
– If the honorable member for East Sydney used those words, which I did not hear, I ask the honorable member to withdraw them.
– I offer no apology for what I said, because it was absolutely true, but in order to conform with the rules of the House I withdraw my statement.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw it unreservedly.
– In accordance with the forms of the House I withdraw it, but in the circumstances I could not heir) the statement I made.
– The honorable member knows the rules of the House. He is aggravating his offence by these additions. I ask him to withdraw his statement without any addition.
– I withdraw it.
– I regret that there is no Minister representing the Defence Department in the chamber, but I sin cerely hope that the Postmaster-General, who is representing the Government, will take a note of what I am about to say.
– Ministers will see it in Hansard.
– I wish to make a special appeal on behalf of those soldiers who have been unfortunate enough to lose their sight. Of the 2,300 wounded soldiers who have returned to New South Wales, five have suffered this misfortune. I understand that these men are to receive a pension of 25 s. a week, and if they desire it to be taught a trade, and those to whom I have spoken say that they do desire it, as they prefer to do something that will occupy their minds. There are two of these men in my electorate, one being a lad of eighteen years of age. 1 certainly think that we should treat these men on a more liberal basis than that provided in our War Pensions Act. The present pension is not sufficient for them. They have done their duty, and they have paid the greatest penalty it is possible for a soldier to pay without losing his life, and we ought to put them in a position in which they will be independent of any work.
– The whole matter is under review, and whatever is decided upon will be put into practice by the Federal War Committee, with the assistance of the Minister of Defence.
– I am delighted to hear the Minister say it, because we should do all in our power to make the pathway of these men through life as comfortable and as easy as their unfortunate condition will allow. They should really be the God children of the people of Australia. If we do not provide adequately for them we are lacking in our duty. I am pleased to say that the people in my electorate are doing something on their own account for the two soldiers residing in the district who have lost their eyesight. I was at a function at Fairfield recently. The population there is not very large, but there were over 1,000 people present. Three of these lads were there, and the spirit in which they met their misfortune was such that one could well understand the deeds they have accomplished at Gallipoli. After the function, when they were leaving the hall, a guide leading them, one of these young men, who is only eighteen years of age. immediately ‘he got into the night air knew that he had left the building, and exclaimed, “ Steady a moment.” When the guide inquired what he wanted, he replied, “ Wait till I strike a match so that we may see where we are going!” Nothing that we can do is too good for men who are prepared to meet their misfortunes in that spirit. At Fairfield and Smithfield the people are determined that returned soldiers so afflicted shall be properly housed. One of these soldiers is to be married at Easter, and a resident is providing him with a block of ground, whilst others are going to build a house and furnish it for him. This blind soldier, who is about to assume the responsibilities of matrimony, is thus to be given the titledeeds of his home and’ the necessary furniture. Most of the soldiers who have lost their eyesight desire that they shall be taught a trade. But I say that their pension should be sufficient to enable them to live independent of work if they so desire. I am glad to learn from the Postmaster-General that the Government are prepared to treat them more liberally than other returned soldiers are to be treated.
– I was pleased indeed to hear the concluding remarks of the honorable member for Nepean in reference to returned soldiers who have been unfortunate enough to lose their eyesight. I hold in my hand letters on behalf of blind soldiers who may become workers in South Australia, and who desire that they shall not be treated by the Commonwealth as mendicants, as our ordinary blind are treated. The treatment that is extended to the blind by Australians is a disgrace to the Commonwealth. The treatment of the blind by civilization generally is a disgrace to civilization. It is a travesty upon it. We ought all to be ashamed to subscribe to the treatment that is extended to those persons ,in our midst who labour under the greatest affliction known to suffering humanity. It ought to cut us to the quick to see a blind woman singing in Flinders-street from morning till night in order that she may get sufficient to live upon. We talk about Socialism, but if ever Socialism is realized and that sort of thing is permitted, I hope that Socialism will be banished the next day. When our blind enter a public institution they are treated nearly as badly as those similarly afflicted who remain outside of it. They are made to feel their positions more keenly than are any other infirm persons on the face of the globe. Who knows any affliction that is worse than blindness? Who can imagine anything worse than the plight of one who has never seen the glories of this earth, who hears exclamations of joy and cannot understand what prompts them ? I hope that the remarks of the honorable member for Nepean have not fallen on deaf ears, and that the Treasurer will see that, notwithstanding what pseudophilanthropists in the States may wish to do for soldiers who have lost their sight in the war, their pensions are irrevocably preserved to them. I wish now to quote a letter that I have received from the Blind Workers Union of South Australia for the purpose of showing that I am not speaking at random of the treatment that is extended to the blind. The lady secretary of that union, in a letter to the Minister of Defence, says -
It has come under our notice, through the medium of the press, that, after communication with your office, a conference of managers of institutions for the blind in the various States, 0 together with other persons, was held in Melbourne to consider ways and means of assisting returned soldiers whose sight has been so impaired as to render them incapable of following their usual occupation.
We beg to point out that the members of this conference do not properly represent blind workers, either in or out of the various institutions of the Commonwealth. For instance, in this State (South Australia) the blind workers have no representation on the Board of Management.
It is a cold-charity show in South Australia, where an attempt is made to make blind institutions a payable concern. I am strongly of opinion that success will never attend any effort in this direction. On behalf of the inmates of these institutions I have attempted to get the full amount of the invalid pension paid to them. But the authorities will only allow sufficient to be paid in the form of a pension to bring their earnings up to £52 a year.
– They may get anything they like from their relations.
– But those who have no relations are compelled to depend on this form of charity. Personally, I hold that it is the duty of the State to provide for them.
– They get a home, too.
– And it ought to be a good home.
– I hope that the honorable member will be a good contributor to such homes.
– If I had wielded the power that the right honorable gentleman has wielded, I think I would have done a little more than he has done to make the lot of these people in life easier. The writer of the letter I have quoted goes on to say -
The above-mentioned conference is practically the same that, in 1011, approached the Federal Government with certain proposals concerning the blind, one of which was not to grant pensions to blind persons, except on conditions set down by themselves. Therefore, we beg respectfully to suggest to your Department that, before finally arriving at any decision with respect to any proposals placed before you concerning those recently afflicted (who, owing to their affliction and to the terrible experiences through which they have passed, will be quite unfit for some time to safeguard their own interests), you will appoint some responsible person or persons to guard the interests of those returned soldiers, and that any pension or other publicly-subscribed funds due to them be not placed under the control of managers of blind institutions nor of boards of management as they are at present constituted.
We also beg to state that, not only are the blind not represented on these boards of management, but the Government, who are asked to subscribe large sums annually towards the support of these institutions, are without direct representation, so that boards of management and managers are not accountable to anybody or to any section of the community.
It is desirable that the blind, as a whole, should, where practicable, have an opportunity of expressing themselves, through their representatives, on all matters pertaining to their general welfare, especially all unions and societies which have for their object the improvement of industrial and other conditions of the blind, and the protection of their rights as individuals.
In another letter she tells me that these institutions are controlled by persons who are supposed to be elected by subscribers to them, but that in reality these persons are re-elected from year to year as a matter of form. They know nothing whatever about the institutions, except what the managers may tell them. The letter which I have read expresses the views of the blind workers in regard to such institutions. I hope when the question of giving pensions to the blind heroes who offered their lives and gave their sight for their country is taken into consideration, that their right to a few shillings per week will not be interfered with by the gentlemen who compose the boards of any institutions for the blind.
– Have they no Wages Boards in Adelaide ?
– In New South Wales they have a Wages Board affecting blind workers.
– Then they are more advanced than in South Australia. The South Australian institution is dominated by one man, who is the sole arbiter in regard to all matters that come within its purview.
– The lowest wage that can be paid in New South Wales is 16s. a week.
– I think that is the minimum in this institution; but I should not like to see any one compelled to live on 16s. a week. Their food alone will cost that sum. Mine does, and they may require more than I do.
– I think it is 16s. a week and board.
– That is more reasonable; but the point I want to make is that, when a man receives a pension from the Commonwealth for the services he has rendered, he alone should be allowed to judge how the pension shall be used. Do not let somebody else be the arbiter for him. If he can swell his pension by what he earns, well and good ; but do not let ther?, be any provision which says, “ We will make the pension up to such and such an amount.” Let whatever pension is paid go to the blind man, and give him the whole right of spending it, I am not going to follow on the lines of those honorable members who have criticised the Defence Department, because I have had very few complaints about the Camps, or about the general management of Military affairs in South Australia.
– You are lucky.
– No; I do not’ think we are lucky. We happen to have better managers than in New South Wales. In this, I am not speaking without knowledge, because I went down to the Mitcham Camp on one occasion to see it for myself. I met the officer in command, told him I wanted to go through the Camp to see what I could see, and learn what I could learn, without being known. I told him I did not want any one to lead me round, or to prepare the Camp for me. After questioning the officer in command as to whether he had experienced any difficulty in obtaining supplies - clothing, blankets, and equipment - and receiving the reply that everything was fairly “well up-to-date, I was allowed to stroll through the Camp at my leisure. I happened to strike it at one of the worst times possible, too. As I approached, I asked the nearest way to the Camp, and was advised not to go by the shortest route, as that portion of the Camp was under quarantine - meningitis having broken out. When I got into that area, I saw that every tent was down.- I saw several heaps of rubbish being burned. Quantities of equipment were on the grass awaiting destruction; so that I do not think I could have visited the Camp at a worse time. I asked every question I possibly could without appearing to be looking for trouble. I met several young fellows with whom I was personally acquainted, asked them what their food and clothing and the Camp generally were like, and if they had any complaints. I went from end to end of the Camp. I saw men in the Y.M.C.A. tent eating and drinking. I saw a stadium boxing match finish. I saw the “ tucker “ being served out - and I did nob get one single complaint. Two honorable members of this House, and one honorable member of the Senate, have sons who have gone through the Camp and to the front, and they made no complaint; so that I think the Camp in South Australia must have been carried out in a fairly satisfactory manner.
– You are not aware, perhaps, that the Colonel in charge of the Liverpool Camp is a Labourite ; that is the trouble here.
– Oh ! That’s it, is it?
– I am somewhat surprised to hear the complaints that have been made as to the Camps in New South Wales; and, while I am not going to blame the Minister for this lack of management, I say that he is lax in not seeing that an alteration takes place. The men who are responsible for the management of the Camps are not 9s.-a-day men; and here I want to get right back to all the talk about the navvy being a shirker. The men in charge of these Camps draw their £500, £600, and £700 a year. The honorable member for Wentworth said that somebody ought to be made to “ toe the mark.” My view is that somebody ought to be marked with the toe if he does not do his duty. The application of the boot to a few of these gentlemen in the same manner as you would apply it to a navvy would quickly bring about an alteration in Camp management. Your Colonel this, your Major that, and your Adjutant the other, when they strut around at some soiree as though the earth were made for them, ought to be asked why it is that they had to burn so much bread in Camp because they did not know how much to order. Those officers are said to be business men. No doubt they are business men whose fathers are bankers or mercantile men in Collins-street or Flinderslane; but they have not had to “ toe :he line ‘ ‘ like a ganger on the east-west railway, out in Never Never land in Australia, has to. If there is anything wrong with the Camp at Liverpool, I say to the Minister of Defence, “ Get your biggest pair of boots on, and go round and have a kick or two.”
– It is a rear attack that the honorable member is making.
– As far as the officers are concerned, I may be making a rear attack, but it is a frontal attack that I am making on those responsible for it. I stand now for the navvy and the industrial worker. The honorable member for Wakefield will tell us a lot about the shirker and the slacker amongst the navvies, but if you want to find something about the mistakes that follow the shirker and the slacker, you will find it among these gentlemen of epaulettes and high collars.
– I do not think one of them has a bigger collar than the honorable member.
– Quite possible; but I have not got any epaulettes.
-The honorable member makes up for it in collar.
– I am a garden-variety politician, trying to do the best I can in the interests of those I represent. We shall hear shortly a good deal of talk about the waste of money at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard; but it must be remembered that the men there do turn out a ship worth having. They do not burn part of their work like the bread is burnt at the Camps. The point I want to make is this: that it is possible for the Camps in New South Wales, or for any Camp, to be run properly if the Minister will put the acid on to the individuals not doing their duty. The honorable member for Nepean deserves every credit for digging out the trouble at the Liverpool Camp, and forcing an inquiry into that matter. If the Minister of Defence does not follow that inquiry up, and, if necessary, administer the proper remedy to the re- sponsible officers, then the fault will lie on the Minister, who will deserve all the criticism that he may get for it. I want, however, to place on record the fact that, as far as South Australia is concerned, the Department certainly has a competent set of officers, if the result of their work is to be the gauge of its quality. If, elsewhere, the Minister is not getting efficient service from some of these highcollared officers, he should say to them, as it has been the custom to say to the navvy men in the past, that they are not doing their share of the work, and must get out. Let the Minister tell them to “snatch” their time. This might be a vulgar way of expressing it, but it should be effective, and the responsible officers would get the shock of their lives if they were told on a Friday night that they were not wanted, and they could go up to the pay-office in the morning to get paid off. Some of them would almost drop dead. Another matter I want to bring before the Minister is dealt with in a letter which I have received from Mr. C. W. Wittber, engineer, of 174-176 Grenfell-street, Adelaide. The complaint he makes shows that Victorians appear to have a pull on the Defence Department in regard to certain contracts. Mr. Wittber wrote to me as follows, under date 28th October, 1915: - Dear Sir,
I have had a reply from the Defence Department, and, as this is very unsatisfactory, and does not carry any information, I now write you full particulars of the matter, in accordance with your suggestion.
To begin with, I have taken the keenest interest in aviation for six years past, and have spent over £600 in experiments and building a biplane. On 19th February last I noticed in the newspapers that the Defence Department would be requiring engines, and wrote them for particulars. The Secretary replied, on 22nd February, that no particulars were yet available, and the calling for tenders was not yet authorized.
Next, to my surprise, I received an urgent telegram, sent from Melbourne at 4.35 p.m., Saturday, 6th March, which reached me on Monday, 8th March, requesting that my price for constructing three engines should be submitted before Wednesday! I immediately took the train to Melbourne, and there I inspected the sample engine.
I asked whether this sample engine could be taken away and used as a pattern by the successful tenderer, and was told that it could not. Not having this model, and having to do everything from inspections and drawings, the cost of construction would necessarily be much heavier, say, equal to about £25 per engine. You will see later that the successful tenderers were allowed the use of the model engine.
I managed to get in my tender, my price being £525 per engine. I subsequently learnt (although I cannot disclose my informant’s name) that I was the lowest tenderer, but Tarrant Motors Ltd., a Melbourne firm, were given the contract at about £35 per engine above my price. They also, as stated before, had the use of the model engine as a pattern.
I had been put to loss of time and expense, which I can ill afford, in my trip to Melbourne; and there was evidently no intention of considering the tender they had asked mc to submit.
I next learnt that another Melbourne firm, Kelly and Lewis, had been given three more engines to construct, and at a price about £15 per engine above Tarrant Motors’, or £50 above mine. You will observe that the first tenderers were given no opportunity for tendering for these further machines. This was most unfair to the other tenderers, and shows the strong leaning of the Department towards Victorian firms.
I am told that what happened in this case was as follows: - Kelly and Lewis had a question asked in the Federal Parliament, through some member, “ Why were Tarrant Motors allowed the use of the model engine when it was refused to other tenderers?” To prevent a scandal, this firm was given the contract for three more engines.
But I am told, further, that six more engines have been ordered without any calling for tenders from another Victorian firm (outside Melbourne) .
I want to know if this is a fact. I am quoting the letter without making any comment, but I shall ask the necessary questions, because it is not clean’ treatment, and the Department has no right to do it.
– The honorable member wants to know what ‘ roguery is going on, and he says he is making no comment on the letter !
- Mr. Wittber con.tinues -
I trust you will see that this unfair system is put an end to, and men like myself given a right to compete in Commonwealth contracts. My work is recognised as of the highest class. 1 specialize in the finest engineering work which most other firms will not undertake. If the Defence Department had inquired about me they must have learnt that I was quite capable of carrying out their requirements. And if they had no intention of considering my tender, why did they put me to the expense and loss of time of a trip to Melbourne?
Now, as regards the biplane I have built, and which has been inspected by the Military authorities here, I have asked that one of the aviators, who are employed by the Defence Department at high salaries, should come over and inspect it. “I do not know why this is not done. The Defence Department should bc only too ready to give assistance and foster the industry, and their aviators are employed and paid for that purpose. I again ask your kind assistance in this matter.
I enclose copy of the letter I wrote to the Minister of Defence, and the very unsatisfactory reply I have received.
Trusting that you will not allow this matter to rest or be delayed in the usual red-tape fashion.
I am told that it is compulsory that all accepted tenders should appear in the Gazette. A friend of mine tells me that Tarrant Motors’ tender and their price has never been published.
I shall now read the letter which Mr. Wittber forwarded to the Minister of Defence. It is as follows: -
Adelaide, 8th October, 1915.
The Hon. Minister of Defence.
St. Kilda-road, Melbourne.
On 9th March last I tendered for the construction of three “ Renault “ type 70 H.P. aero, engines for the Defence Department. After waiting for sixteen days for a notification of the receipt of my tender, I wrote, and in reply was informed that my tender had not been accepted. Since I tendered I have been watching the Commonwealth Gazette to see who had been accepted, also the successful tenderer’s price; but up to date it has not been published. I have noticed in the Melbourne Argus that Messrs. Tarrants Ltd. have had a trial run with the first engine, which, I understand, is the first out of the three which were ordered from them. I also understand that a further number of these engines are required, and that another Melbourne firm are at present constructing more engines for the Department, and I would like to know why the first tenderers were not notified of the further requirements in these engines.
I was pleased to note that last February the Department had decided to give firms in the Commonwealth a chance to tender for the construction of aeroplane engines; but it is very apparent that firms outside of Victoria are not considered, as I have good reason to believe that my price was lower than that of the firm who were accepted, therefore, I think it is only fair that the legitimate tenderers should know how they stood in the matter.
I may point out that when I inspected the sample engine at Point Cook, one of the first questions I asked was whether the sample engine could be used as a pattern in the event of a tender being accepted, and the reply was to the effect that nothing was to leave the school while the war was on, so naturally this put the prices of the engines up considerably more than it should have. I now find out that the firm who constructed the engines had the sample engine in their factory to work from, thus facilitating the work for them, and not putting all the tenderers on the same footing.
I wish to point out that I have for the past six years been deeply interested in matters pertaining to aviation, and have spent a lot of time and money in trying to advance aviation in Australia. I also wish to draw your attention to the fact that I built a biplane about three or four years ago, and although I made various proposals to your Department, the matter was put off until I was heartily sick and tired of trying to receive any departmental recognition or assistance. Last August I finished off a 50/55 H.P. six-cylinder aeroengine for my own machine, which, with an old 25 H.P. engine was only capable of short, straight hops, and I am now awaiting permission from the local commandant to test the machine with the new engine, which has been tested on the bench, and gives splendid results. It is now fitted in the machine ready for a trial. This engine of mine is entirely designed and built by South Australians, who have not had an opportunity to see an engine of the radial type, and was made without the aid of foreign mechanics; also the propeller is of colonial timber, which goes to prove that Australians are quite capable of undertaking this class of work on their own.
The engine has been inspected under load by two members of the local Military Inventions Board, viz., Mr. Goodman, ‘of the Adelaide Municipal Tramways Trust, and Professor Chapman, of the Adelaide University, also Majors Hudson and Logan, of the Headquarters, Keswick, who would, no doubt, give their candid report of same should they be asked to do so.
Trusting you will give this matter a fair hearing, and enable all those who are willing to assist in doing their best a chance to prove that others outside of Victoria are competent in carrying out this class of work.
The Department wrote in reply -
Department of Defence,
Melbourne, 20th October, 1915.
Dear Sir, - With reference to your letter of 8th inst., relative to the manufacture of aeroplane engines, I am to inform you that the first order for engines was divided between Messrs. Tarrant Motors Ltd., and Messrs. Kelly and Lewis, who were selected from those tendering at the time. These firms to each construct three engines.
It is noted that you have completed a 50/55 H.P. six-cylinder aero engine, and it is hoped that it will be completely successful.
A report on the trial of the engine is awaited with interest.
Mr. Wittber had told them that a trial had taken place before the Military Inventions Board, together with Major Hudson and Major Logan, yet in this reply to his communication the statement is made that a report of the trial is “ awaited with interest.” Will the Department ask Major Hudson and Major Logan what was the result of the trial] Will they seek for information from the Military Inventions Board ? Do the departmental authorities, in short, want an invention of any kind from South Australia? That is the position in a nutshell. Do they care a tinker’s benediction as to whether they ob- tain such an invention from South Australia or not? Did the Defence authorities tell this man anything about the contracts that had been let to Tarrants Limited and to Kelly and Lewis? Why were not tenders invited in the Commonwealth Gazette ? I want to know where the influence is, and who “ has the pull 1” If there is a “ pull,” and we cannot pull a job to South Australia, we shall have to call another meeting of the Caucus. We shall do things for our State unless a,n opportunity is offered to manufacturers there to build an aeroplane for the Department. Joking apart, I think this man, if the facts stated by him are correct, has ma’de out a good case, and that he has been harshly treated.
– Has the honorable member made inquiries from the Department?
– No: I am giving the letter, as I received it, for what it is worth. Having regard to the writer’s reputation in Adelaide I do not think he would make an incorrect statement.
– Does not the honorable member think he should have got the other side of the case before bringing it before the Committee?
– Perhaps I should have done so, but seeing that this man takes the responsibility for every statement made in his letter, I did not think any harm could be done in bringing it before honorable members. If it is proved to be incorrect then his reputation as a truthful man will be lost.
– And the honorable member will withdraw his speech from Hansards
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) f8.58]. - We have listened for some time to supporters of the Ministry, who invariably begin their speeches by berating any poor benighted man on this side for his temerity in daring to criticise anything the Government does. The moment that castigation of honorable members on this side has ceased, however, these supporters of the Government proceed to hurl at it anathemas which, because of their fierceness, remind one of the smoking plains of Sodom and Gomorrah. I” should like first of all to refer to a lamentable statement made this evening - by way of interjection, it is true. - by the honorable member for East Sydney. It seems that to-night, for the first time, the cat has been let out of the bag, and that the reason why no criticism of the Liverpool Camp comes from honorable members opposite is, apparently, that the Camp Commandant happens to be a Labourite.
– That is the reason for the opposition to him shown by honorable members opposite.
– I venture to say, in reply to the honorable member, that until to-night no honorable member on this side knew that Colonel Kirkland had any politics.
– Then you are very dense.
– The honorable member is the best judge of density in this chamber, and I submit to him as to an authority on such a matter. The point remains that, for the first time, we hear that all this defence of Colonel Kirkland on the one side, and the allegations as to criticism of him on the other, is because he is a Labourite.
– This is news over here.
– Is it? The honorable member does not know, but the honorable member for East Sydney, who is Colonel Kirkland’s particular friend, does. I understand that he is a voter in my honorable friend’s constituency.
– No. All his opponents have united in a Liberal League in the Nepean electorate.
– The honorable member makes many astounding statements. If Colonel Kirkland is at Liverpool Camp doing his work as a Labourite, then the sooner he is removed the better. We want neither a Labourite nor a Liberal in the Camp. It is disgraceful to bring party politics into our soldiering.
– We should not have any soldiers if they had to be non-politicians.
– Do they take their politics into the trenches?
– I hope not.
– Have they any time for them there? It is only in the National Parliament that we seem to have time to bang these political questions about.
For the first time in this chamber we are assured that men are being put into positions, kept there, and shielded from criticism because they are Labourites. The head of the Government laid it down the other day that all these appointments were to be on the basis of membership of the predominant party, and it seems, according to the honorable member for East Sydney, that Colonel Kirkland is a member of the predominant party.
– That used to be the rule when the right honorable member was in power.
– I can only say that I know of no such rule.
– In those days it was impossible, even with a microscope, to discover a Labourite occupying a high position.
– In making an appointment to the Public Service, I never asked a man whether he was a Labourite or a Liberal. I do not know that I made any but three appointments, and in those cases I knew nothing whatever of the politics of the persons concerned. But here is this doctrine being preached, naked and unashamed, that men must be placed in high positions because they belong to a certain political party. I do not care half as much what the Government do in this respect in connexion with appointments to civil occupations, but, for heaven’s sake, let them keep politics out of soldiering.
– A Liberal would not get a job if I knew him, because Liberals are of no use.
– Colonel Kirkland was not appointed because he was a Labourite.
– But the statement is made by one of the Government’s own supporters that Colonel Kirkland is being criticised only because he is a Labourite.
– What the honorable member for East Sydney says has nothing’ to do with the Government making an appointment, but you are trying to make a great deal of capital out of a very little.
-When the statement is asseverated on the floor of the Chamber in this way, it is time to call attention to it. particularly in view of the fact that the ex-Prime Minister laid it down as a fundamental principle of civil government the other day that high positions must be given to the predominant party. Here is an illustration of it, and I am protesting against the application of this principle above all other things to our preparations for defence.
– From the colonel right downwards, including field bakers, and every one else.
– This is the only case so far mentioned, and I am still hoping, for the sake of the reputation of the Army and the Government, that it is a misstatement.
– The Minister of Defence has been blamed for making every appointment upon the recommendation of the Selection Committee in each State, instead of making appointments on his own account. I cannot see, therefore, how he can be charged with this appointment. You cannot have it all your own way.
– If the honorable member will go the right way he will get no criticism from me in matters of defence. It is high time to protest against the statement that men in high positions in the Camps are Labourites, and as such must be immune from criticism.
– What the honorable member said was that they were criticised from your side because they were Labourites.
– May I retort by saying that because Colonel Kirkland is a Labourite honorable members opposite rush to defend him ? Is not that statement as good as theirs?
– I will defend any man who is attacked in Parliament, and cannot defend himself, whether he is Labour orLiberal.
– I have yet to learn that I have ever said a word about Colonel Kirkland in Parliament.
– Butyou are smart enough to set somebody else to do it.
– I am afraid that I shall have to leave the honorable member to his meanderings.
– I know as much about the dirty business of politics as you do.
– I am sure the honorable member knows a good deal about the dirt of politics. He knows what none of us ever knew until to-night, that the New South Wales Camp Commandant was a great Labourite.
– You knew it, as was shown by your opposition to him, and I charged you with it.
– I did not know. I know it now for the first time, and it is a very illuminating statement. For the honorable member for Cook of all others to chide honorable members for daring to criticise the Government over the bread question is, to use the language of the moment, “ over the odds.” If there is one man in this Chamber who has constantly let out at the Government and scarified them, it is he, but nobody else must do it. The Government is to be congratulated on its defenders to-night. One of them has defended them by impliedly accusing them of political favoritism in the making of appointments. The honorable member for Cook defended them by making a series of charges which, if they be true, are the clearest proof of the incompetency of the Government in their management of the Camps. The honorable member says that there is so much bread up there that they are actually burying it. There could not be a more deadly criticism of the management of this Camp.
– I did not say so. I said that that complaint had been made. I asked your side if that was the statement, and your side confirmed it.
– Does the honorable member believe that the bread has been buried?
– The statement was made on your side, and I took it for what it was worth.
– If it is true, it is the clearest proof that the control of the Camp is utterly incompetent. If it is not true, the honorable member’s criticism of the statements made on this side falls to the ground. The bread question wants settling once and for all.
– It is as dead as Julius Caesar.
– I assure the honorable member it is not. He has not yet replied to the criticism from this side, nor can he reply to it except by making a much more” odious statement. If the men in the Liverpool Camp are getting short-weight bread, they are not getting what the regulations entitle them to get.
– You cannot pro- duce an actual complaint of short rations.
– Of course, everything said on this side is theoretical. It is only the complaints that the honorable member makes that are practical and possible. It goes without saying that he defends his Government when any one else criticises them, but he gives them more criticism than anybody else in the House does. Like the proverbial family quarrel, no one must interfere when they are at it. I do not think that there will be room for any one else to get in by the time the honorable member and “ Archie “ have finished with them. It is not a bad beginning when one honorable member calls the other members of his party “a pestilential gang of greedy place-hunters on the make.” Talk about bashi-bazouks ! My language is most respectful. By the way, what did the honorable member for Hindmarsh mean by saying that honorable members opposite were “ on the make.”
– I should like to know what he meant.
– I think we ought to know. The honorable member for Ballarat is concerned in that charge, and so is the Postmaster-General, who is sitting in his place so snugly and silently. Thank Heaven, he has the muzzle on at last. He looks quite respectful, sitting at the table as sleek as an old housetabby. He, too, is on the make; he, too, is one of those pestilential fellows.
– Do not father anything that will bring you down below your grade.
– I admit candidly that it does bring me below my grade to even repeat the remarks made by honorable members on the Government side.
– Those remarks give honorable members on your side a lot of pleasure.
– The honorable member for Indi is another honorable member who never has a complaint to make. He told us that he gets from the Department everything he wants. Is that because there are so many Labourites in the Department who will serve him when they will not serve honorable members from this side of the House? Is the doctrine of the predominant party working itself out in the administration of the country.
– I get what I require because I am not too lazy to look for it.
– The honorable member is able to approach a Labourite and a friend, and he apparently does not realize the difficulties of honorable members on this side.
– I have any amount of trouble.
– On Friday, the honorable member for Indi chided every honorable member on this side because of our complaints, and declared that he never had any trouble. He knew - he said - the man at the gate ; he knew the door to go to, and how to get in, and get all his troubles settled. And now to excuse himself for all this backstairs influence and favoritism he finishes up by saying that honorable members on this side do not get what they want because they are lazy. I did not know that the question of laziness came into this matter. I venture to say that honorable members on this side work quite as hard to get justice for their constituents as does the honorable member, and if they are not . as successful as he, perhaps we know the reason better now, after the statements of the ex-Prime Minister and the honorable member for East Sydney.
As to the honorable member for Adelaide, if he has no complaints to make, and everything in the garden looks lovely to him, I hope he will not chide honorable members on this side of the House who do not find the garden looking quite so full of bloom, and who experience a great many difficulties in their efforts to get justice for their constituents.
– Did your sureporters have any troubles when you were in office?
– Plenty, but then our administration was impartial. We did not lay down the doctrine of the predominant party; that is a new invention patented by the great apostles of purity in government and administration.
– You showed that in your appointment of the Inter-State Commission.
– I think so. Is the honorable member able to tell me to what party Mr. Lockyer, for instance, belongs ?
– I know that he does not belong to the Labour party.
– The honorable member knows more than I do.
– You made no appointment of anybody belonging to the Labour party.
– I did not trouble to inquire to what party those gentlemen belonged. I selected the three whom I thought to be best fitted for the Commission, and one was a man who had been selected by the Labour party prior to the Liberal Government coming into power. 0
– What was wrong with George Rylands ?
– I would advise the honorable member not to bring up the case of George Rylands, because I understand that he has admitted that he was getting his money for not doing the worth of that money.
– You only understand that he made the statement. That is one of your dirty innuendoes.
– The honorable member is too contemptible to reply to when he makes those statements. I thought I was paying a tribute to George Rylands’ honesty and candour.
– I do not think your statement is correct.
– I think it is. At any rate, I did not discharge him. He was removed from his position by a man in whom both parties in this House believe implicitly. I believe that no man in the House will charge the honorable member for Angas with bias, and in that matter he acted entirely on his own responsibility.
May I mention a case which, I think, requires investigation at the earliest possible moment? I wish, first of all, to make the general statement that, in my opinion, the Defence Department is waterlogged on its business side. It does not get one whit better for all the criticism of it, and it will not become any better until a radical change is made in the way in which the business side is conducted. I hope there is nothing of a party nature about that statement. There is not one honorable member opposite who does not know that the business side of the Defence Department is hopelessly at fault, is not keeping up with its work, and is not doing the work it is called upon to do. The result is that cases of genuine hardship and suffering are occurring every day that ought not to be tolerated in a free community like this. Here is a case in point. A widow with five children came to my house. Her husband died of pneumonia on a transport on his way to the front, on 2nd August. That woman has had £4 in three months on which to keep herself and her five children.
– They ought to “ sack “« somebody, and then perhaps there would be some improvement.
– She is in dire want and distress to-day.
– If I were the honorable member for Parramatta Ishould be ashamed to state such a case if I had not made some inquiries into it. I have obtained redress in every case I inquired into.
– How could I make inquiries when I knew nothing about the case?
– The honorable gentleman could go to the Department.
– Of what use is it to go to the Department? I should get the usual explanation, but there would be no alteration in the system.
– The officers at the Victoria Barracks would set that right in five minutes.
– I tell the honorable member that the system wants altering. It is of no use to go to the Department to rectify individual cases three months after they have occurred. What is necessary is that such cases should be made impossible of occurrence. That is the point, but the honorable member for East Sydney is too thickheaded to see it.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– All my time has been taken up by honorable members on the other side. By leave, I should like to be given the opportunity to state the case to which I have referred. It is a typical case, and that is why I mention it here. It is of no use to try to rectify these individual cases three or four months after they occur. They represent three or four months’ acute suffering and deprivation. I want the system altered so that such cases may not occur.
– People from the honorable gentleman’s electorate come to me.
– Order !
– The honorable member for ‘ East Sydney should keep quiet or go out of the chamber. He has continued to interject during the last half-hour. This is what I get when I try to ventilate the grievance of a widow with five children, who has been suffering for three months. I get no redress, and nothing but gibes and jeers from the men to whom I appeal for redress.
– Did this widow receive any money from the Pensions Office ?
– No; she could get nothing, and she came to me in despair. Her husband, I believe, had £6 owing to him at the time he died, and all she has been able to get is £4.
– There might be some trouble in getting money due to the husband, because that cannot be obtained until his pay-book comes to hand.
– Why is not this woman on the pension list?
– She ought to be, and some one should be sacked if she is not;
– It is three months since her husband died, and she can get no information about anything. She is a poor woman, and has nothingto depend on. Such a case is a scandal, and the system which makes it possible is what I am attacking. I am not attacking the Minister, though he must be held to be finally responsible for the system he is administering. If he will not alter the system, there is nothing for us to do but attack him. That is the last thing I wish to do, Taut I say that these cases should cease at the earliest possible moment. If’ a man loses his life in the service of his country, there ought to be machinery and a system in existence to prevent his widow being put to the straits which this poor woman has had to endure. She ought not to have to go round looking for relief and redress in this way. There should be machinery in existence to enable the authorities to fix up her case without any trouble. It all shows the shocking want of business control in the Defence Department, which has- been evident from the beginning through all Administrations, and which threatens to continue till the end of time.
– Has this woman received any reply from the Pensions Office?
– She has had no reply at all, so far as I know. May I remind honorable members opposite that the woman is helpless. Most of these women are unable to help themselves in these technical matters. They ought not to be expected to do so. The officers of the Defence Department know that the husband of this woman was a married man, and had a family. When he died, some system should have operated automatically to enable the Department to discover the widow and children.
– If the pension papers had been sent in the Department would have sent money until the pension was issued. That is being done in dozens of cases which have been brought under my notice.
– I am glad to hear thai.
– The Department pays wages for two months after the death of a soldier.
– How long has the honorable gentleman had this case in hand 1
– I have not had it. in hand. I am acting at the earliest possible moment. I have taken Uie woman’s statement as she gave it to me. Her husband died on the 2nd August, and all she has had from the Defence Department in three months is £4 on which to keep herself and five children. Those are the bare facts of the case, and I think they require a lot of explanation. I ask the responsible Minister to investigate this case.
– Is it a New South Wales case ?
– Yes. I hand the particulars of the case to the Minister. What I claim ought to be done is this : I say that the Minister representing the Minister of Defence should lay on the table a statement setting out the procedure that should be followed, so that honorable members may know what it is, and, if necessary, be able to post the statement to his constituents for their information. It would be better still if the Department were to follow these cases up, and fix them without any trouble on the part of the widows and families. The widows ought not to have to go about begging and praying for something to live upon. I repeat that such cases are a perfect scandal. It is said that these things do not occur in some of the States. Why. then, should they occur in New South Wales with such shocking frequency ? I urge the Minister for the sake of his reputation and that of the Department, and in the interests of humanity, to put an end to them. It is no pleasure to me to draw attention to these matters, and I have not done so before; but the case which. I have mentioned is so shocking that I think that there must be something radically wrong with the system to make this possible. It is useless to be contented with the making of inquiries into individual cases : the system needs altering, so that justice may be done. I have been told that one of the causes of the trouble is the over-wrought condition of the Sydney office, which is undermanned, so that the employees have to work overtime night after night, week in and week out. Whydoes not the Minister of Defence relieve himself of the civil work of his Department ? Why does he not call in some of the best business men of Australia, and ask them to put things on a business footing ? Let them suggest a staff for the civil work.
– He has supporters who could take this in hand.
– The Minister ought not to be bothered with these’ details. He has enough to do on the military side. But although the Commonwealth has paid Mr. Anderson over £1,000 for advice, and has had reports from Committees and Commissions, nothing results, and nothing can result, until the Minister ceases to strain every nerve to keep everything within his own hands. To do that is beyond the power of any one man, and the sooner the civil business of his Department is under proper business control the better it will be for the Minister and for the reputation of Australia.
The other morning I visited the Base Hospital to see the arrangements for providing luncheon for sick and wounded soldiers who are receiving outdoor treatment. I found that these men are required to attend at 9 o’clock in the morning, and that some of them have to wait about for a great part of the day before being attended to. What could be simpler than to draw up a roster so that each could take his turn in fixed order 1 When things are done wrong, unnecessary trouble is made for all concerned.
When at the hospital, I met a man in civilian clothing who told me that he had been jeered at by three men in khaki for not being at the front, although, as a matter of fact, he had been at the front, had been wounded, and had been discharged as incapable of further service. That man is liable to insult, because he has nothing to distinguish him from men who have not offered their services. Lord Kitchener has suggested the issue of badges to those who have received an honorable discharge, and I suggest that something of the kind should be provided here.
– The Prime Minister stated this afternoon that the matter would be looked into.
– I am glad to hear it. Every day I receive complaints which make me think that the civil affairs of the Department are hopelessly mismanaged, and it is that that has caused me to make these remarks. It is easy to say, “ Why not go to this officer or to that?” hut if the system were put right grievances would not occur. The sooner the present scandal ends the better for the country’s reputation.
.- I support the demand of the honorable member for Parramatta for an inquiry into the case that he has mentioned. Honorable members generally regret the necessity for making these cases public. We all desire that the widows of men killed at the front shall have no difficulty in getting what money is due to them. During the past twelve months I have had brought under my notice a great many claims for pensions, and have not found much difficulty in getting them dealt with in the Pensions Office. As a rule, when notice of a death is received, the pension papers are sent to the next of kin to the deceased to be filled in. and the ordinary payments are continued for two months, so that in ninety-nine cases out of 100 there is no interval between these payments and the payments of the pensions. The case mentioned by the honorable member for Parramatta is a most serious one. He told us that in three months a woman received only £4. Many of these persons do not know how to seek relief. As I said the other night, the outbreak of war forced us to suddenly create organization which is naturally defective in operation. I can safely say that I have had more cases of delayed payments brought under my notice than have been put before any other honorable member. At least 1,000 cases have been brought before me. Nearly all of them have been fixed up easily enough, but I have in vain appealed to the Department to introduce a system which would enable men to get their payments without difficulty. If the Minister for the Navy will take a note of the suggestion that I am going to make, he will be able to put an end to the trouble which occurs when soldiers are sent into the Base Hospital or are transferred from one camp to another. Those are the cases in which 95 per cent, of the complaints occur. In the Ballarat Camp the Officer Commanding has to make up the pay-sheets, send them to
Melbourne, and then the money is sent to Ballarat. If a soldier is transferred from Ballarat to Seymour all record of him is lost. The week’s or fortnight’s pay which is owing to him in Ballarat probably is not paid for three, or four, or five months. At Ballarat a sum of money should be placed at the disposal of the Officer Commanding in the Commonwealth Bank, and every fortnight the paymaster in Ballarat ought to be able to pay the men without sending the pay-sheets to Melbourne, and, in the case of a man being transferred to another Camp, to do what is done in connexion with any mine or business here. If a man is owed four or five days’ pay and is transferred to Seymour he ought to receive a cheque before he leaves for that place. A pass-book should be issued to the man, and the date to which he is paid up to should be noted therein. If a man were sent to the Base Hospital he could produce the pass-book to the paymaster there, they could enter him up, and know exactly when to start paying him again. I venture to say that if that little plan were adopted by the Defence Department 99 per cent, of the complaints about the non-payment of money would cease immediately. It seems to me remarkable that so little power is given to the man in charge of a Camp. On Sunday I inquired into the case of a man who has been drunk about twenty times, who has deserted again and again, but who has never deserted for twenty days. He has come back at the end of nineteen days and been fined. The Officer Commanding has recommended that the man be discharged, for he has no power to discharge him. But while that recommendation is being dealt with the man is rifling the kit of the other soldiers, stealing boots, socks, and other articles. When I went to the place he was put under lock and key. In most cases we have to continue to pay a man of that type 5s. or 6s. a day. Although the Officer Commanding says that he ought to be discharged, yet he has no power to act. God only knows when he will get word from head-quarters that the man will be discharged. If the authorities here do not proceed at a greater pace I believe that many of these men will be in Camp until the end of the war. At least we shall have to feed them. The officer in charge ought to have power to say that they should be kicked out of the Camp immediately. I know of a case where a man was medically unfit for active service. The
Medical Board at Melbourne said to the man, “ You are not fit to be in the Army, and we order your discharge.” One would naturally expect that the man would get it, discharge. This man has a job to go to, and every day the discharge is withheld it costs the country 5s. a day. He was told that it would take at least a month before he could get his discharge papers. He is anxious to go to the job, but he dare not take on any work until he gets a discharge. One would think that if the departmental heads had any care or concern for the finances they would be only too anxious to give him an immediate discharge. It is a very simple thing to do. When the Medical Board examine a soldier and declare that he is physically unfit for active service, one would expect the Board to have clerks present to write out his discharge immediately, and then sign it, and hand it to him as he passed out of the door, and so finish the matter. Yet it is pretty safe to say that after the Medical Board recommends a discharge it takes at least a month before the soldier can receive his papers from head-quarters. These are little things which ought to be easily rectified. I believe that everybody here wishes to assist the Minister of Defence. We all recognise that his position to-day is a most difficult one. He ought to be looking after the big things of the war. I have not gone to him with one complaint about the non-payment of money, because I recognise that he has enough to do as it is. T have not gone to a Minister. I have gone down to head-quarters, but it ought not to be necessary for a member for an electorate to have to take that course. The honorable member for Dalley says that he has gone to Mr. so and so, and had dozens of cases rectified. I have gone to Mr. Evans and Mr. Bolle, and had hundreds of cases rectified. But that is not an aspect of the question with which I wish to deal. I want to emphasize the fact that a system is wrong which compels an honorable member to be continually interceding in these matters. There is not a week in which I have not to write at least 300 letters on Defence matters, and 90 per cent, of them are in connexion with the non-payment of soldiers. I ask the Minister for the Navy to convey my suggestion to his colleague, and tell him not to mind what the heads of his Department think about it. I recognise that Mr. Evans and Mr. Bolle are doing their best to cope with the work. Writing to me the other day about a letter I had sent with reference to the pay of Private So-and-So, an officer said, “ Will you call and see the Officer Commanding and have this man’s payments adjusted?” It was, I think, a most astounding request to receive from an officer. Judging from the letter, one might think that the honorable members of this House are mere office boys for some of the Military crowd; that we are here merely to do their bidding, to go from one room to another and find out how much pay is due to a man. That incident ought to prove to Senator Pearce that there must be a great lack of system in connexion with the payment of the soldiers. The Government ought to adopt the principle of decentralization. They did a wise thing in establishing Camps in the country. Let them now provide each Officer Commanding with a paymaster, and a banking account out of which to pay the men every fortnight. Let the Officer Commanding pay the soldiers who arc sent away, whether it is to another Camp or to a hospital. From my experience, I guarantee that my suggestion, if adopted, would solve practically all the difficulties, ft is a matter which ought to be dealt with without delay. The present system does not assist recruiting. I guarantee that when a soldier’s wife is complaining that her money is not coming to hand, it is not an inducement . to her next-door neighbour to enlist and leave his wife and little children at the mercy of the Defence Department. I have had thousands of cases where persons have been left for two months without getting any money. A feeling is growing up that we here are careless and heedless of the welfare of the wives and children left behind by the soldiers. This country is, as Mr. Fisher said, prepared to spend its last shilling in prosecuting the war. We on this side, and, I believe, honorable members on the other side, are prepared to see that the wives and children of those who enlist are dealt with fairly and justly by those who remain behind. That is the least which we who are not volunteering can do. It does seem a shame that the military regime should be practically controlling Australia to-day. The officers know nothing about business. Very few of them have even been engaged in business. They may be very fit to lead men on a battlefield, but, simply because a man is a lieutenant in the Forces, that gives him the right to be called and to take charge of a room or a department in the Victoria Barracks. That ought not to be so. We find the same procedure in connexion with the doctors. An honorable member of this House was put in charge of th<Base Hospital. Was it because he was an eminent doctor, or because he had had great experience ? Nothing of the sort. It was because he was next in order of seniority in the militia. That principle is in operation at the Victoria Barracks. The same system is in force at the Victoria Barracks, and as men are placed in charge of rooms in this way, and not because of their business training, the Department is in a state of chaos.
– The honorable member for Grampians is not holding that position at present.
– I am aware of that. Whether he had the good sense to resign I do not know. He may be an eminent man in his profession, but he was appointed because he was next in order of seniority, and the same principle is applied in filling nearly every position.
– The honorable member would not have accepted the appointment if he felt that he could not do justice to it.
– There are many men at the barracks who are trying to do the best they can, but they are not fitted for their positions. The Minister should endeavour to run his Department on a business footing, and avoid the mistakes of the past. One reform which will shortly be instituted in regard to the payment of wives of soldiers at the front should prevent a lot of trouble. Every woman will have a pass-book, which she will present at the nearest post-office every fortnight, and when she receives her allowance the sum will be entered in the pass-book and initialed. This is the same system as is pursued in regard to the payment of old-age pensions, and it should run as smoothly as the payment of the old-age pension does. If reform is brought about in regard to the payment of men in the camps, the appointment of paymasters . in each camp, who will be authorized to pay the men to the full amount before they are transferred, the Minister will have a much easier time in the future.
– I am surprised to find that a Supply Bill has been introduced authorizing the expenditure of over £7,000,000 without any explanatory speech by the Treasurer. I do not know of any previous occasion on which this course has been followed. The Labour party, when they were in opposition, were very insistent that full explanations should be given in regard to every Supply Bill. I am sorry to see that the Estimates have not been submitted. They are usually presented within a couple of months after the end of the financial year, but that system seems to have been departed from since the outbreak of the war, though I see no reason for it. The Departments should be in a position to provide their Estimates, whether there 13 a war in progress or not. They must have information as to what they propose to spend in the coming year, and the Treasurer is always able to estimate what revenue he expects to receive. It is regrettable that we should have departed from a rule which has been the practice of all Parliaments in Australia up to the outbreak of the present war. Though four months of the current financial year have elapsed, so far as I can see there is no present intention of providing estimates of revenue and expenditure for the consideration of honorable members. This Supply Bill will probably carry us io January or February, but I do not know exactly what the period will be, because we have not had any explanation. This is the third Supply Bill we have had during this financial year, and when it is passed we will have authorized the expenditure of £32,000,000. It is a puzzle for any one but Ministers to know why we have had a month’s recess. It was not fair or considerate to honorable members to ask them to travel thousands of miles to their homes, only to be called back after a month, and then informed that the House will not sit for more than a week or so. That is not the way in which honorable members should be treated. There was no reason why we should not have proceeded to deal with the Estimates, and then have prorogued.
– We have given the right honorable gentleman a good excuse to come to a nice climate.
– As the honorable member lives in Melbourne, he is not inconvenienced; but those who live far away are considerably inconvenienced and put to a great deal of annoyance and inconvenience. I am surprised at what I may describe as “ playing with the finances.” There is no reason why we should not pass Estimates and the Appropriation Bill in the ordinary way, and then prorogue. I understand that it is claimed that a prorogation would destroy the Tariff resolutions ; but it seems to me that it would be an easy matter to pass a Bill through both Houses validating the Tariff until Parliament can discuss it in detail. We could then prorogue and go into recess for a few months. I am well aware. that in war time it is necessary for Parliament to be at the call of the Government - I am quite prepared to agree with that view - but it should be done in a way which is most convenient to honorable members. I am told that the Government are anxious to have this Supply Bill passed to-night. I have just glanced at the Bill. It is customary to circulate these Supply Bills long before the resolutions in Committee of Supply and Ways and Means have been agreed to; but that course has not been followed on this occasion. It seems to me that the Government consider the passing of Estimates by Parbament as of no importance, and the Legislative control seems to have gone by the board. Another matter about which I complain, and about which I have complained ever since the outbreak of the war, is the mixing up of loan expenditure and expenditure from current account, placing the revenue obtained by loans to the credit of the Consolidated Revenue, and treating loan moneys and current revenue as if they were one and the same thing. This practice has never been followed in any State. The usual procedure is to submit loan estimates and revenue estimates, and it is the better plan. Honorable members do not know the details of the expenditure of this £5,000,000 which is provided in this Bill for defence, yet no State Government would propose to spend £5,000.000 on public works without submitting loan estimates and giving all details in regard to it. Are we to be less careful as to our finances than the States, which have had long experience, and have had just as much trouble in getting loan estimates through Parliament as in getting estimates on current account agreed to? Since the advent to office of the Labour party the
Commonwealth Parliament have got into a slip-shod way of dealing with the finances.
– We are spending £50,000.000 or £60,000,000 a year on the war, and do not get much information in regard to the expenditure.
– We are not told what this £5,000,000 for defence is required for. There is no information on the point. I hope that the Treasurer will give us the information we require. There ought to be no difficulty experienced by the Departments in submitting their Estimates within four months of the close of the previous financial year. Under present circumstances, however, the Estimates for the current financial year will not be presented to us until eight months or more of that year have elapsed.
– These are not normal times.
– They are straightforward times in regard to expenditure, and honorable members ha.ve a right to be supplied with details of the expenditure.
– The right honorable member himself had to ask for an extension nf time when he was Treasurer.
– For one month, perhaps.
– For two or three months.
– Thehonorable member is always very courteous to me, but he is prone to exaggerate. We have extended to the Government every consideration, but we do want the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure to be placed before us in such a way that’ we understand them.
.- During the course of his remarks the honorable member for Ballarat stressed the necessity which exists for granting greater powers to the Commandants of our various Military Camps. In this connexion I desire to bring under the notice of honorable members a case which occurred the other day at’ Armidale. In that Camp there are about 400 men, and suddenly measles made its appearance ‘ amongst them. There was not a stretcher in the Camp, and there was no hospital accommodation. The Commandant despatched an urgent wire to Sydney requesting permission to purchase stretchers upon which to place the sick men. He had to wait four days before a reply was forthcoming.
That reply was to the effect that the Department did not regard it as its business to secure stretchers, and if they were needed the local residents would have to supply them. Needless to add, long before the reply was received the local residents had provided the sick men with stretchers. But I venture to say that in such circumstances it should not have been necessary for the Commandant to wire to anybody for permission to purchase stretchers. He should have been able to purchase them on his own authority, and to send the bill to the Department.
– Did the authorities quarantine the Camp ?
– They did in New South Wales when only two or three cases of measles occurred.
– When I visited the Camp I saw, at least, twenty cases of men recovering from measles. There are one or two other matters that I wish to impress upon Ministers. There is nothing that requires more reorganization in the Defence Department than does the supply of information in regard to casualties. Dozens of cases have come under my notice in which an intimation has been sent from the Defence Department to the relatives of soldiers who have sustained injury at the front, and in which the relatives have thereafter unsuccessfully endeavoured to secure further information. Personally, I do not know of any man who attends to his duties with more assiduity than does the officer in charge of the records at the Base Hospital in Melbourne; but he is handicapped by what transpires overseas. I propose to cite a case in this connexion which is by no means an isolated one. I may inform honorable members that recently I have taken the trouble to secure a copy of the cables that have been forwarded in reference to casualties sustained by our troops from the Base Hospital in Egypt. In the present instance, the first intimation was that a soldier, whose name I shall not mention, was reported wounded, by cable, under date 26th May last. The parents were naturally anxious to secure some additional particulars, and accordingly they got into touch with the Defence Department, and received the following reply : -
Egypt advises absence further reports, assumed all wounded progressing satisfactorily.
The father thereupon cabled to almost every person he could think of in Egypt, but could get no further information as to his son. Eventually, in reply to an urgent request of mine, another cable was despatched on the 12th September, On the 18th September, a cable was received from Alexandria, which read - …… Reported wounded 10th May, 1015. No further report.
– I am afraid that it is good-bye to that poor man.
– Still another cable was despatched asking for a report as to the injured soldier’s progress and his whereabouts. It was addressed to the Australian Intermediate Base at Cairo, and read -
Can you ascertain and report progress. . . . . reported wounded 10th May? Alexandria replies, “ No further report.”
Subsequently a communication was received, which set out that the soldier in question was wounded and missing, though he had previously been reported as wounded. The Australian Intermediate Base added that there was no trace of his whereabouts, and that he had not rejoined his unit. It has taken the Department five months from the date when the man was first reported to have been wounded for the final information to be obtained. These reports go from mouth to mouth in the country. Parents state their boys have been wounded, and that they can get no information regarding them. I have heard people telling one another of their difficulties in this respect, and when other parents hear, they are not anxious to let their own sons go. If the Department had the necessary staff, it should be a very simple matter to keep up a regular weekly record of what is occurring. That information could very easily be coded and transmitted to Australia in the nature of a progress report, so that if a man is progressing satisfactorily the Department would be in a position to send that information to his next of kin. I know, as a matter of fact, that this is done in regard to the wounded in Europe, where it would not be possible for a man to be missing for three months without the Base knowing.
– I know a case where a man was reported to have been wounded at the Dardanelles, and his parents can hear nothing further about him.
– I can quite understand, when the actual conditions at
Gallipoli are taken into account, why it has nol been possible to obtain- additional information from Gallipoli. But that is not the point. The point I want to make is that, when information reaches the Base in Alexandria that a man has been wounded, a week should not be permitted to elapse before information is obtained as to the hospital he is in and the progress he is making.
– The man may never have left Gallipoli.
– I have not the slightest doubt that this particular man never did leave Gallipoli, and that he is dead ; but the Department should have found that out within a week. If inquiries were made regularly, as they should be, the Department should be in a position to give the relatives every possible information.
– Has not the Department over and over again requested the British officers to send this information ?
– This information comes from our own Australian Base at Alexandria. The casualty branch of the Australian Forces is under the management of Australian officers, and if the officers at the Base set to work in a detailed kind of way, it should be utterly impossible for a man’s name to remain on the Base records as “ wounded “ for week after week without further information being obtained.
– They may not go into hospital at all.
– I know they do not all go into hospital, but surely it should be possible to ascertain from the Base that they did not go into a hospital. That is the point. The relatives of these men are naturally anxious, and want to know, and if the Department set to work it should be able to furnish information to relatives without very great expendditure being incurred. The whole thing is a matter of organization at the front. Under proper organization, if a man did not turn up at hospital after being reported wounded, inquiries could be immediately made, and if the man was missing it would be just as well that the relatives should know. But to go on month after month with this wearying, wearing anxiety of knowing nothing, and of having no idea what has become of any particular soldier, is very trying. I suggest that the Department should establish such a scheme of organization as will enable them to obtain the very fullest information as quickly as possible regarding all casualties. There is another matter I wish to bring before the notice of the PostmasterGeneral now that he is here, concerning guarantee telephones. I have always had my suspicions that telephones erected in the country under the guarantee system were not given a fair deal. One telephone erected under these conditions in my electorate has always given me that idea. The line I refer to is that between “Woodenbong and The Risk. It cost £636 9s. 2d. to erect, and a cash guarantee was given by the people using it of £39 9s. 4d. for the first three years. I was under the impression that this line had been paying for some time, and I wrote to the Department asking for information. I find that for the year ended 10th November, 1912, the revenue was £42 14s. 2d., for the year ended 10th November, 1913, it had risen to £77 8s. 10d., and during the year ended 10th November, 1914, it had gone up to £87 lis. 9d. The Postmaster-General will notice that the revenue rather more than doubled itself in these three years, and that for the last year it amounted to 13.7 per cent on the capital cost. One would think that a country telephone returning 13.7 per cent, had reached the paying point. Apparently, however, the Department does not think so, because I find that the guarantors’ liability in the first year was £14 16s., in the second it was £11 16s., and in the third it was £6 ls. lid. I do not know how much revenue the Department expects before it may be considered that the line is paying, but if a private firm could get a gross return of 13.7 per cent, on its capital expenditure it would be able to meet depreciation charges, and have a considerable profit left. The extraordinary thing about the whole, business is that, in 1912, when the line’ produced £42 14s. 2d., the Department considered that to make it pay they had only to take £14 16s. from the amount of the guarantee, but that when the revenue had more than doubled, they still thought it necessary to take £6 ls. lid. Their system of mathematics is something that I cannot understand.
– Did you make any inquiries ?
– No; I did not. I have simply given the facts contained in the letter which they wrote to me, and in which they set out their case. I will hand the letter to the Postmaster-General, and ask him to make the necessary inquiries. In my opinion, a line that produces’ £82 per year, and pays, 13.7 per cent, on the cost of construction, ought to be considered a paying proposition.
– Does that £82 include cost of operating charges?
– No, I understand not.
– Well, that . would cost something.
– But it would not represent very much. I suppose the operator at the Kyogle end has charge of, perhaps, a hundred lines, and the operator at the Woodenbong end, being an allowance officer, is paid so much per call. I think the Postmaster-General will see that if, on a return of £42 in the first year, the sum of £14, taken from the guarantee, is considered sufficient to bring it up to the paying point, it should be unnecessary to take anything from the guarantee when the revenue has more than doubled. I should like to know what percentage of revenue on the cost of construction is considered necessary before a line is regarded as a paying proposition. If the Postmaster-General works it out, he will find that the Department seems to place it at 15 per cent., but I think that is altogether too much to expect of country telephone lines.
– I desire to take this opportunity to make a few remarks upon two or three aspects of matters that have been placed before the House. I can assure the honorable member for Richmond’ that I will investigate the grievance which he has brought under my notice. It seems to be complicated and inexplicable, but I will endeavour to get at the facts, and have what appears to be an anomaly rectified. Concerning the subject referred to by the honorable member for Hume, namely, the carrying of mails on the railway systems of the Commonwealth, I want to say that I am in no way responsible for the present condition of things. That contract was entered into by some predecessor of mine in office a long time ago, and it seems to lack that attention to detail which should have “been exercised in a contract involving, as it does, the expenditure of such a large sum of money. To-day, we are in the anomalous position that while we have arranged with the railway authorities to carry our mails, say, six times a week by train, if they reduce the trains to three times a week, we still have to pay the same amount as previously, and in two or three cases in which we improvised a trolley service to maintain the mail service as originally arranged, the railway authorities actually had the audacity to charge us for the trolley service as well as for the trains that did not run.
– And yet critics say that some Governments are not businesslike.
– I do not want to stigmatize any one in particular over this subject. I simply state that it is unfortunate that we have not displayed a keener comprehension of our responsibilities and obligations in these matters. With regard to the other subject brought forward, the delay in the despatch of week-end cables to and from our men at the front, I can only say that I hope that trouble will disappear. The Postal Corps which is being sent to Egypt is being despatched for the purpose of remedying unforeseen difficulties that have arisen since the outbreak of the war.
– But much of the trouble is caused here through letters being put into the wrong bag.
– If there is any trouble at this end, I will have full investigation made. The principal difficulties, I understand, have been at the other end, owing to the absence of coordination, but I hope all troubles will soon be remedied. I realize that I have been called upon to administer a heavy Department - a Department that is the butt of every honorable member of the House, and practically of every man outside the House - at an important juncture in the history of the Commonwealth.
– You had a word or two to say about ityourself .
– I never indulged in hostile criticism. My endeavour always was to help those who were administering the Department, and I want to say that I feel that the responsibility to-day is far greater than it ever has been in our history. It would have been a comparatively easy matter if I had been called to this task about five years ago, when the Treasury was overflowing with funds, and when there was a possibility of carrying out reforms without inconveniencing the general public ; but to-day, I am charged with the responsibility of administering a Departmentthat has gone from bad to worse, in many respects, during the past few years, and I have to pay full regard to the necessity for the strictest economy through the exigencies of the war. I ask honorable members, therefore, to remember this in their criticism. I do not mind criticism if it is good, and if it be levelled honestly. No man need fear honest criticism, for it serves but to indicate what may or may not be remedied by those in authority. I should like to-night to set out for the benefit of honorable members and public bodies, as well as the public generally, one or two principles that I intend to observe in the conduct of the Department. There has grown up a system under which the Ministerial head as well as responsible officers are interviewed at all hours of the day, and without any notice, by members of Parliament, public bodies, and the general public, without previous intimation of the objects of their interviews. In this way much valuable time, which officers should be devoting to their duty, is lost. This unbusinesslike and slip-shod method must inevitably lead to a waste of time on the part of the Minister as well as his staff. I propose, therefore, that every interview with me or with a responsible officer shall be preceded by a precise statement of the object with which the interview is sought.
– But some of these matters arise unexpectedly.
– Matters of urgency need not come under that rule.
– In other words, the honorable member proposes that all interviews shall be by appointment?
– Yes, and that the object of the interview shall be notified. It is not fair to the Minister or to the departmental officers that interviews should be sought with them without notice, and concerning matters of which they have received no previous intimation. Time is lost very often in finding out what is wanted, and it frequently happens that a second interview is necessary. If the object of each interview be intimated in advance it will be better for the Minister or the officer concerned, and will lead to expedition and economy. I propose to apply the same rule to . public deputations. I intend, if I can, to require that a precise statement of the object of any proposed deputation shall be forwarded with the application for an appointment. If this be done, it may often be found that the matter can be adjusted by the Minister without a deputation, and unnecessary travelling may thus be obviated.
– When such a statement is sent along a reply will be furnished that the matter “ will receive consideration,” and the whole subject will be forgotten by the Department before its reply is received.
– That will not occur while I am in office. I have issued an instruction that expedition is to be regarded as an indication of the just performance of the duty ef every officer.
– And the Minister will enforce that rule ?
– Yes, or I shall know the reason why. I wish now to deal briefly with a matter relating to the industrial side of the Department. Rightly or wrongly this Parliament decided some time ago that all matters appertaining to wages, hours, and conditions of labour in the service should be determined by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. That is the policy of the Government, and is clearly understood to be the basis upon which such matters shall be adjusted.
– Does that apply throughout the whole service ?
– Yes, except in the case of those who are exempt by Act of Parliament.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral see that the awards of the Court are carried out?
– I shall do so in all cases. There is cast upon those representing the men engaged in the postal service the obligation of seeking an award by the tribunal which has been fixed by Parliament for the adjustment of their grievances, and there is cast upon the man controlling the Department the obligation of seeing that the awards of that tribunal are carried out in their entirety.
– They have been dodged in the past.
– I am not going to carry on my shoulders the sins of others.
– And we do not ask the honorable gentleman to do so.
– Quite so. It will be remembered that when the proposal to bring public servants under the Conciliation and Arbitration Court was debated in this House I spoke strongly in opposition to it. I then pointed out the dan- ger of applying the principle of arbitration to a Public Service which already had the right of appeal to Parliament. I urged that if we gave to such a body of men the right to go to the Arbitration Court they would avail or try to avail themselves of it while it served their purpose, and that when it failed to do so they would seek that which they, in my judgment, had forfeited - the arbitrament of this Parliament on matters relating to wages and industrial conditions generally. A dual system has been very largely adopted in the service. There are in it men known as “ exempts “ - men who do not care to come under an award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, preferring; to remain under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commissioner. This dual system is going to lead to endless confusion and discontent in a service wherein I should like contentment to reign. 1 should be very pleased if every man in the service would take his place in the registered association or union associated with his branch, which has appealed to the Court and has secured from it an award. Unless that is done, we shall have trouble. This is what I should like to see eventuate. When the question of the extension of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to the Public Service was under discussion in the House I indicated that this double-barrelled system to which I have referred was likely to be evolved, but irrespective of my view at the time, Parliament decided that public servants should have the right of appeal to the Court. I feel that it has been proved up to the hilt that the system is not satisfactory, in view of the fact that all do not use or seek to use it. For this reason it is being discredited. I should therefore like every officer, if possible, to belong to the association or union attached to the branch of the service in which he is employed. 1 have no kind of sympathy with the man who will take the advantages of an award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to the securing of which he has not contributed anything by way of membership of a union or an association. A man who will stand by’ and do nothing while his brothers in unionism are fighting for what they believe to be their rights - paying their contributions week by week to provide for the cost of an appeal to the Court to secure what they believe to be right - is not acting fairly to his mates. He stands by and pays nothing, but expects to share in the benefits of that award.
– Perhaps he is satisfied.
– He cannot be if he avails himself of the benefits of an award.
– But perhaps he has to do so.
– Not in all cases. I do not know why that is so, but I hope that it will not long be the position.
– The Minister wants to get them all into a pen.
– No. I want to get contentment in the postal service, and do away with that friction which is ever generated by a dual system, whether it be in connexion with control, administration, or adjudication. Where this dual system exists there can be neither contentment nor efficiency in the service. On the matter of telephone rates, I am in a rather strong position, because in 1909 I, with others, investigated the question of telephone charges, and pointed out the existing anomalies and the necessity for altering the conditions and increasing the rates, which were then totally inadequate to give the necessary service without at the same time building up a serious’ deficit. The then Government made an attempt to adjust matters, but it was not a wholehearted attempt. What they did was merely a palliative for a trouble that wanted much stronger treatment. Since then other charges have been suggested, and recently a Committee was appointed to deal with the telephone question. These men did their work thoroughly, and their report proves that the Department cannot be successfully carried on on the lines hitherto followed. Mr. Anderson has also confirmed our previous findings. I therefore to-night stand in the position that the attitude of the Postal Commission on telephone administration and charges has been confirmed, not only by the passage of time, but by every independent authority that has been called upon to investigate it. I am therefore in a position to tell the Committee tonight that, in view of the exigencies of the service and the position and future necessities of the Telephone Department, the scale of charges recently promulgated will come into effect some time in December. I have looked through the amended scale of rents and call charges, and spent the last week-end in an endeavour to see whether I could give any further relief to subscribers, while at the same time doing justice to the Department and the service. I found that the proposals in the new scale came nearest to the view expressed by the Postal Commission six years ago. They are as follow: -
Instead of being calculated on the population basis, which is not adopted by any other telephone system, the above rates are based on the practical, common-sense method of calculating the number of subscribers on the exchange. The charge for a call upon a public telephone will be 2d. The estimated increased revenue is £180,000 per annum. The present deficit of the service is £500,000.
– Your estimate depends upon having the same number of subscribers ?
– No; we are allowing for a 20 per cent, decrease. An examination of the rates charged on other telephone systems shows that, except in Sweden, Switzerland, and Copenhagen, Denmark, there is no other system in the world that will be nearly as cheap as ours, even at the increased rates. Therefore, although we have to serve a scattered population on a large continent, with great initial expenses, we are able to give a service which is equalled by very few other countries.
– Will the charges in each State be uniform?
– Yes; throughout the Commonwealth.
– In Sydney, you can speak about 15 miles through three ur four exchanges for the one charge. In Tasmania, to speak through two or three* exchanges, you have to, pay an additional rate. Can you make the practice uniform ?
– The charges per call will be uniform. The difference comes in in the number of subscribers on any particular exchange. The value of a telephone increases as the number of people who can be reached within a given radius increases.
– Will the Minister date the alteration from the commencement of the next financial year?
– No; because the extra revenue is necessary to help to meet the deficit. I am not prepared to take over a Department full of difficulties, and calling for radical reforms, with a £500,000 per annum deficit staring me in the face, especially as five or six years ago I recommended that that deficit should be reduced. These charges will be gazetted in December.
– In view of the difficulties that the people in the country are suffering from, will you postpone the regulation for six months ?
– I know their difficulties, and have as much sympathy for them as any other honorable member has. Had the new rates been adopted years ago, I should not have had ‘to face these difficulties to-day.
– Do you propose to alter the rates on the trunk lines?
– Not at present. I wish to compare some of the charges tobe made under these new proposals with the charges made in other cities with similar networks. In Portland, Oregon, the charge for a business telephone on the flat-rate system is £20 a year, and for a residence telephone, £7 10s. In Washington the flat rate is £10, but under the measured rate the minimum charge’ for a business telephone is. £18 15s. for 2,000 calls, and 2d. is charged for every additional call. In Chicago a flat rate of £15 for residence telephones is imposed, and under the measured rate the minimum for a business telephone is £12 10s. for 1.200” calls, and 2£d. for every additional call. Even in Germany, where the cost of operating and the price of material is only about 40 per cent, of the cost in Australia, the charges are practically higher than those which I propose to introduce in the Commonwealth. In South Africa the minimum charge for a business telephone under the measured system is £7 10s. for 900 calls, and Id. is collected for every additional call. Every call over a distance of 5 miles is counted double. In London the flat rate is £17 10s. for business and residence telephones. On the measured rate the charge for a business telephone is £5 10s. for 360 calls and Id. for every additional call, and an extra charge is imposed on all calls through other exchanges. Those figures are sufficient to show that in comparison with the charges levied in other parts of the world, the rates I am proposing are just, and even lenient. I do not like being obliged to impose extra charges, but that course is necessary. During the next three or four months I intend to devote whatever ability I have, and all the time I can spare, to a thorough investigation of the postal services, and if after having gone through the Department in a thorough manner I can evolve some system which will remove the anomalies which exist, and improve the general conditions in the Department, and if Parliament is prepared to adopt that system, I have no doubt that in time I shall have the pleasure of being able to reduce the charges. At present it is impossible to avoid an increase.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– A few days ago the Prime Minister was asked a .question in - regard to Mr. Ashmead Bartlett’s reports on the problem at Gallipoli, but no honorable member has touched on that matter during the present debate. Honorable members may be wise in maintaining silence on the subject, but Parliament is to adjourn shortly, and may not meet again until March, and if any discussion is to take place in regard to the war operations the present is the most opportune time. Australia is doing its share in the terrible war which is in progress, and the Supply Bill before the Committee contains a- vote of over £5,000,000 for the Expeditionary Forces. The Prime Minister stated that it was not for us to reason why in regard to the conduct of the war. I do not agree with that view. Australia is expending an enormous sum of money, and the unrest in the British Parliament provides evidence .that there is something wrong in the Imperial conduct of affairs. We in Australia ought to know a little more than we are permitted to know at present. I do not desire any information as to the mode of campaign. He would ba a fool who would ask for such particulars-,, but as people who are as much involved in the present struggle as the inhabitants of.’ the United, Kingdom, I do demand that Australia, as well as the British tax’’ payer, should have some say in the conduct of affairs. We are paying our quota, and yet we have no more say in regard to the large expenditure on the war than have the people of America. There should be no taxation without representation of some sort. The opinion has been abroad for some time that the Oversea Dominions should have a say in the administration of the war in certain directions.
– Does the honorable member not think that it would be just as well for us to put our own house in order first?
– I may claim that 1 am dealing with what is our own house, in view of the fact that it is costing us over £50,000,000 a year at the present; time. The right honorable member for Swan to-night objected to the expenditure in Australia, but it is not a fleabite compared with the vast expenditure we have undertaken in connexion with the conduct of the war. If the honorable gentleman was justified in complaining of the expenditure in Australia, I am surelyjustified in referring to what we are being called upon to expend in connexion with the war. The Ministry, through thu Prime Minister, should, in my opinion . make some approach to the Imperial Government to secure that, in common with the other oversea Dominions, we should be given some say in the matter. It has been suggested in the Imperial Parliament itself that the oversea. Dominions should be consulted to som( extent. I do not presume to lay down any lines of policy, but I do say that, as a paying partner in the concern, w should have some representation in the administration of the great affairs in which the Empire is engaged to-day.
– The honorable member should not forget that as partner? we do not pay pro rata.
– I think that we arn paying quite our share, and I will tell honorable members why. It is the wealth of the British Empire that we are out to protect, and, according to their wealth, the people of Great Britain are not paying more than we in Australia are paying.
– They are paying more per head than our people are paying.
– I believe that is quite true, but they are not paying more according to their wealth. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the people of Great Britain have little or nothing to pay with. I cannot say that that is not our concern, because it is, since we are subjects of the same Empire. If the people of Australia had only the limited representation and voice in the conduct of affairs that the people of England have to-day, I do not think that they would be so wholehearted about joining in the fight in which the Empire is engaged. In my opinion it is a disgrace that there should bo men in Great Britain to-day who are giving their lives for a country in which they have no votes. We are not in that position. Our people have votes, and it is as the representative of those who have votes in one part of the Commonwealth that I express my views on this question. I charge no one in particular, but it is a well-known fact that the whole of the Gallipoli business has been a muddle from start to finish.
– Does the honorable member think that if we had had a representative in the Old Country that would have altered the matter ?
– I shall pass that interjection by without comment.
– I think the honorable member had better not pose as a military strategist.
– I am satisfied that the Leader of the Opposition means well by that remark. We know that we have plenty of heaven-born military authorities who can see other people’s mistakes, though they cannot see their own.
– What I mean is: what, after all, do we know about it?
– That is all very well, but as an individual, very early in the campaign, I expressed the opinion that it was a mistake. I heard soldiers forty years ago say that the only way to force the Dardanelles was to make an attack at the Bulair neck of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Turks themselves have thought so, because that is the part of the peninsula which they have most strongly fortified. We have been attacking a narrow front, and it is generally admitted that there has been a mistake. It is a muddle; but we are paying very heavily for it in flesh and blood and money, and I repeat that we should have some say in the conduct of the war. We are now sending to the Old Country a representative who will be fresh from Australia, who is thoroughly informed of our financial position, and of the opinions of people supporting both sides in this House. When we are doing the fair thing in rendering assistance to the Empire, it is but right, in my opinion, that, with the other oversea Dominions, we should have some representative at the centre of the Empire in close touch with those who are controlling events, and able to give us information as to how things are going on. What I have said may be unpalatable in some quarters; but I have come to the conclusion that when we are paying so much in flesh and blood and money, the time has arrived when we should have some representation. I do not expect universal approval of the opinion I express. I do not know whether the Prime Minister intends to do anything in the direction I suggest. Judging from what he said the other day, he does not intend to adopt such a course ; but ] shall be very sorry if there is not some expression of opinion from Ministers, and particularly from the Prime Minister,* in connexion with our concern in the trouble at Gallipoli to-day. If the Prime Minister does not express some opinion of the kind, we cannot force him to do so, because I may inform honorable members opposite that this is not one of the matters that can be brought before the Caucus. I leave the subject with these remarks, and with the repetition of my view that something in the direction I have suggested should be done.
.-I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for the Navy, as representing the Minister of Defence in this Chamber, to one more pin-prick that, as a recruiting enthusiast in New South Wales, I find is going to add to the difficulties we have to confront in promoting the voluntary system of recruiting we have adopted.I recollect a debate in this House in sup- port of generous provision for the mothers of soldiers killed in the war. A case was brought under my notice to-day of a mother whose son was her chief, if not her sole, support. He went to the Dardanelles and was killed. Representations were made, and the necessary affidavits furnished, to the Department in connexion with the case, and to-day it was my very unpleasant duty to send forward the departmental decision that this mother is to receive the magnificent sum of £13 a year as a pension for her maintenance. That is £1 per lunar month. I urge the Defence Department to take a more generous view of cases like this.
– The widow concernedmust have some other source of income.
– I understand that she owns the house in which she lives, and has a daughter who helps her to keep body and soul together.
– Why did not the honorable member, when the War Pensions Bill was last under discussion, allow to go to the vote a proposal for the generous treatment of cases like this ?
– Had a vote been called for, I should have supported the proposal to deal generously with mothers bereft of their sons. I put this concrete case before the Minister in the hope that the impression gathered from his reply to the request from both sides for generous treatment will be borne out. ‘A pension of £13 a year is not my idea of generous treatment.
– The Department must give effect to the law.
– So far as I know, there is nothing in the law limiting an annuity to £13 a year.
– Dependence must be proved.
– In this case, it can be proved. This is a mere question of administration .
– The Commissioner for Pensions, not the Defence Department, decides these cases.
– My information came, I think, from the Secretary to the Defence Department. Another matter to which I direct the attention of the Treasurer is this: Certain gentlemen recently went to Egypt to assist in the Red Cross work there, but it seems possible that they may be treated under the income tax law as absentees.
As an amending Bill has been foreshadowed, I hope that their case will be taken into consideration, and that the same privileges will be extended to them as are given to those on active service. It would be unfair to treat them as absentees.
– The matter will be looked into.
– I sympathize with the Leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for Swan, and other honorable members who complain that -the Estimates have not been submitted. The explanation is that the times are not normal. The Empire is at war, and the fact that the British War Office is meeting the expenditure incurred on our troops at Alexandria, Gallipoli, and the hospitals in the Mediterranean, for which it will make a claim for reimbursement later, prevents us from preparing Defence Estimates. We could not submit the Estimates of four or five Departments and leave the Defence Department out of consideration.
– The Defence expenditure can be estimated.
– Action to obtain Supply was commenced about twenty-four hours after I was sworn in as Treasurer, and the right honorable member for Swan will make allowance for my inability to make a financial statement last Wednesday. I propose to ask leave to-night to introduce a War Loan Bill, and to-morrow, directly questions have been disposed of, I shall endeavour to make as full a statement as possible concerning the financial position of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages to be passed without delay.
– Is it usual to move to suspend the Standing Orders in relation to a Bill not before the House?
– This is the usual time for moving the motion that has been proposed. The Bill could not be introduced to-night if the motion were not carried.
Question resolved in the affirmative.””
That Mr. Higgs and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I rise to call attention to a natter that should have been referred to earlier - the absence of financial proposals for fittingly recognising the great uervices rendered to Australia by the late Major-General Bridges, the first leader of our Expeditionary Force. The glorious death of that gentleman has had sad and serious consequences for his wife and family, and nothing is proposed, nor appears in contemplation, for the adequate recognition of their sacrifices. To put the case in a nutshell - because we may not discuss it at length at this hour of the night - the death of Major-General Bridges has required of his family a tremendous monetary sacrifice, so far as the family is concerned, to say nothing of his having given his life to the service of the country. Had he stayed here, he would have been entitled at least to as handsome treatment as many other officers in our Defence Forces have received - officers, some of them, by the way, who had rendered not a tithe of the service which he had rendered. Honorable members will recollect that only a little while ago a commandant of New South Wales retired, after filling out his years of service in peace time, with a gratuity of, I think, £1,500 voted to him by Parliament.
– What case was that?
– It was the case of Brigadier-General Gordon.
– He received £2,000, I think, and he has another job at Home.
– Had MajorGeneral Bridges not gone to the war, but stayed here, filling out his round of duties as other superior officers have done, he would have been entitled to receive an amount of about £4,500.
– £5,200 if killed on duty.
– In salary?
– No; under the regulations of the Defence Department. Had he been injured here in the performance of his duty, he would have been entitled to a gratuity amounting to £4,500. That is, I believe, the amount which we actually did nay to General Hoad, and we paid £2,000 to Brigadier-General Gordon when he retired from the position of State Commandant. All that General Bridges’ widow and family will receive is about £150 a year.
– What are their circumstances ?
– I believe that General Bridges left his family in very poor circumstances; in fact, I understand that they have . practically nothing. He received only a very moderate salary until just lately. Any one knows what representing a place like Australia at the heart, of the Empire means. I believe that while General Bridges was in London the amount we paid to him did not nearly cover his expenses, and the result of his unselfish service to the State is that his widow and family have been left in very poor circumstances indeed. I know the democratic feeling prevailing in this chamber that one man is as good as another, and I know the arguments which are put forth from time to time. But I submit that, in these matters, we may not alone take that democratic view. We have a right to take the value of the General’s services to the country, and on that basis, and on that alone, he is entitled to more generous treatment than is provided under our present war conditions.
– I shall see that the case is submitted again to the Cabinet. It is a peculiar case. I believe that, in the Defence Department, there is only one other case like it.
– Let it be remembered also that General Bridges more than any other man represented the entire Army. He was the maker of the Army in a very real sense, and I do think that his case is entitled to exceptional treatment. It stands by itself. It can be construed into no precedent, so far as I know. An honorable member has just put up a plea that we ought to be admitted to all the privileges that members of Parliament get at the other end of the world. If we are to be entitled to all the privileges, is it not up to us to accept some of the responsibilities?
Mrtudor. - If General Bridges had died here, and not in war, his widow would have been entitled to’ £4,500, but by passing the War Pensions Bill we abrogated her right under the regulation.
– That is so.
– That is a point for the House to consider.
– It is the only point, and a strong point, too.
– I submit that there is another point, and a very strong one. Every other country, democratic or autocratic, always makes a special grant to the leaders of its Military Forces, in time of war particularly. I submit that these two points, taken together, make an exceptional claim on the consideration of the House. I ask the Government to take this matter into their very serious consideration, and see whether, in the circumstances, they cannot pay this officer the compliment of treating his family more generously than is proposed in the regulation. Unless something of that kind is done it means that the Government will be penalizing this hero. That is the point which we all ought to get into our minds. We have actually penalized General Bridges because he created an efficient Army, and went out and sacrificed his life in leading it. I submit that we ought to treat him at least as generously as he would have been entitled to have been treated had he stayed here and done nothing special for his country. I was glad to hear the Minister of Trade and Customs say that this matter will have reconsideration, and I express the very earnest hope that the result of such reconsideration will be an increased ^generosity on the part of the Government and the House to the family This country will never know the debt it owes to General Bridges, and how much of the efficiency of its Military Forces is due to his unselfish and patriotic labours during the whole of his career in our service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
I’ll. 331. - -The point made by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the position of Lady Bridges is a good one, as I think that honorable members will admit. I promised him across the table a moment ago, as I promise the Committee now, that this matter will be reconsidered by the Government, and a definite answer given to the question before the House rises on Friday.
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan) [11,341. - When we all went the o~ther day, at a great deal of trouble, to perform a duty ; when we followed the remains of the gallant General to Canberra, surrounded by a certain amount of pomp and military display and laid him in the grave, there, I could not help thinking, “ What does all this mean? We are doing our duty by honouring the dead leader of our Army; are we going to do our duty to those whom he has left behind ?” I am glad that this- matter has been brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition, and favorably replied to by the Minister of Trade and Customs. None of us, I think, would feel satisfied that we had done our duty to General Bridges if we did not look after those who were nearest and dearest to him.
Mr. HANNAN (Fawkner) [11.361.- I have listened with interest to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition and supported by the right honorable member for Swan. 1 shall take no exception to the proposal that has been made. If Major-General Bridges would have been entitled to this money had he remained in Australia and died a natural death, his widow should be entitled to it now that he has sacrificed his life leading Australian soldiers in another part of the world. I wish, however, to indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Hume. The pension which is paid to many of the mothers of the soldiers who have fallen at Gallipoli is not sufficient. When the War Pensions Bill was before the House I was one of those who trusted that these mothers would be treated equally with widows, and be entitled to the full pension of £1, but’ I find that many of them are receiving no more than 5s. a week. It is not sufficient compensation for the great loss and sacrifice they have suffered. I trust that the Treasurer will be able to make a statement as to the probable future cost of pensions, because I believe that- it is the desire of the people of Australia, and of the majority of members of the House, to see that justice is done to those who have made sacrifices during this great war.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Issue .and application of £7.201,735).
– I wish to discuss the matter of the telephone rates.
– I thought that the right honorable gentleman ‘was prepared to let the Government have all these Bills.
– But we were not aware that we were to have an important declaration of policy involving £180,000 additional taxation - for that is what it really amounts to - and this is the only opportunity we have of protesting against it.
– The right honorable gentleman can discuss the telephone rates on the Loan Bill to-morrow.
– That is precisely what we cannot do to-morrow. I have heard with soma concern this declaration of policy from the PostmasterGeneral. I should have thought that before making any declaration of that kind he would have inquired first of all into the whole of our telephone system; yet, after being in office for so short a time, he tells us that he proposes to make the people pay £180,000 more for the existing wretched, inadequate, and inefficient telephone service. I did not expect it from him. I am not so sure that he has not always been a strenuous advocate of removing the inefficiency of the service before the imposition of increased rates. One would not object to payment where one had a fair return for his money, but in New South Wales the telephone service is the most inefficient of all. Itcould not be worse, and yet on the top of that we are to have the solatium of increased rates. If the Minister enforces these increased rates it will simply mean a huge decrease in the number of telephone users, because the use of the telephone will be outside the pale of ordinary people. To propose to nut the matter straight by raising the rates is unwise and unbusinesslike. I should have thought economy on a grand scale should be possible by the wholesale introduction of automatic telephones, and that this would cut down the expenses of the Department immensely ; but nothing is done, there is to be no improvement in the system, and no retrenchment or economy in this respect. We are simply to place an additional £180,000 upon the users of telephones.
– By the substitution of automatic telephones for the common battery system £1 3s. per line per annum can be saved.
– Having made a dignified protest why does not the right honorable gentleman let the matter pass?
– Dignity is a poor substitute for hard cash.
– More could be saved by the introduction of the automatic system than will be gained by the increased rates.
– The Department are installing automatic telephones.
– They have taken two years to install one.
– They have taken five years to install one at Parramatta, and the job is not yet finished, the exchange there being in such a state of chaos that the telephone is not of much use to me. It could not be worse, and yet the Postmaster-General proposes to increase the rates by 30 or 40 per cent. I do not think that I can pay the increase. I shall have to do without a telephone. Do not honorable members think that we are getting on?
– We are getting on to midnight.
– Never mind about midnight. This is the first day of sitting for the week, and we have only two or three days in which to speak. I notice that those people who do not use the telephone system are very keen supporters of the proposals of the Government. It is always a fine thing to make the “ other fellow “ pay.
– Party strife.
– What about the party strife that is involved in making the people of this country contribute another £180,000 for the present wretched telephone service?
– I am merely doing what the honorable member’s Government ought to have had the courage to do.
– I am not aware that it takes courage to tax the people. The greatest coward in the world can levy taxation on the people. That is not a test of courage.
– And the greatest fraud can deprive the people of an efficient service by starving it.
– The service is starved, is it; and consequently it is inefficient? The Postmaster-General knows better than that. He has written better than that in the report of the Postal Commission. All I ask him to do is to give* effect to that report.
– t intend to do so.
– To impose taxation is not a test of ability or of courage.
– I will give effect to the other recommendations in the Postal Commission’s report if I am granted a reasonable time in which to do so. But I have first to decide the matter.
– The PostmasterGeneral will find that this House is going to decide it. There have previously been Ministers who have told us what they were going to do, but they are not in office to-day.- May I remind the Postmaster-General that, after all, Ministers merely propose things; Parliament decides them, and the people who are at the back of Parliament. It is on behalf of the telephone users that I am making these few remarks. When we provide them with an efficient service, we shall be entitled to levy a fair charge upon them. But the Postmaster-General is merely attempting to bolster up an inefficient system. The very last thing that the owners of a private business which was not paying its way would dream of would be to increase their charges. They would know that by so doing they would land themselves in the Bankruptcy Court.
– I would not have said a word if I had thought that the honorable member would become annoyed.
– I am not annoyed. I am merely replying to the very autocratic statement of the PostmasterGeneral, who says that it is for him to decide.
– I said that I have first to decide what I will do.
– The honorable gentleman has already decided. That is the trouble. He has said that this regulation will come into force in December. I appeal to him to allow the matter to stand over until he has thoroughly investigated the working of his Department.
– I have done so, and I know where I am.
– All I can say is that the honorable gentleman’s attitude does not promise a smooth passage for him. If he knows all about the Postal Department, and nobody else knows anything, he will find himself in difficulties. If he will take a bit of advice from an old hand like myself, he will not adopt that tone.
– I do not intend to shirk my duties as others have done.
– The honorable member is going to do a lot of things that other Ministers have not done. But to affirm that his predecessors have been shirkers will not help him. There have been men who have administered the Postal Department with quite as much ability as he can bring to bear upon it. At any rate, I am here to protest against his arbitrary and unreasonable proposal to levy additional taxation to the tune of £180,000 annually, on the telephone users of this country, without giving them any indication that they are to be provided with a better service than exists to-day. The service is as bad as it can be. The Postmaster-General will not find anything like such an inefficient service in any of those countries in respect of which he quoted rates with so much triumph to-night. In America there is a most efficient telephone service.
– The honorable member is a bit out there.
– I am a bit out in that I have understated the position. The telephone efficiency in America is equal to that which obtains anywhere in the world.
– And the subscribers pay four times as much for the service as they pay here.
– Here they are - honorable members upon the other side nf the chamber-
– We want to get some fun out of this-
– It is a pity that the honorable member does not hold his ignorant and supercilious tongue.’ He sits there rolling out more abuse to the square inch than does any other honorable member, and it is time that he ceased.
– That is undignified, coming from an ex-Prime Minister.
– I admit that when the honorable member is looking at me my dignity goes. The very sight of him drives it away. I hope that honorable members opposite will recognise that I, at least, can stay here as long as they can. I am on the right side of the chamber to have my say, and we have the right sort of thing under consideration to enable me to have it.
– The honorable member is not inclined to ring off?
– Whenever one discusses the telephone service, honorable members opposite, who are great believers in Collectivism and Socialism, constantly point to the private enterprises of the world as examples which we should follow. They came into office to blaze the track and to show other countries how to do things. Yet their cry always is, “ See what is done elsewhere.” Only the other day the honorable member for Cook seized the opportunity to show how well private businesses in Australia are managed. In this connexion he mentioned Messrs. Farmer and Company and David Jones, of Sydney, and exclaimed, “ Look how well they serve the community. See how well they treat the public a,s compared with the way in which we treat them.” Before imposing extra charges on the people of this country, the PostmasterGeneral ought to take steps to give an efficient service, and upon this point I shall move an amendment to the schedule, in order that it may be tested.
.- The new Postmaster-General has done what every other Postmaster- General has done. He has taken what his officials put in front of him, and has said “Amen.” I was hoping that when we got a new Postmaster-General we should have an end to this application of the rubber stamp to everything the officials submitted. I know the officials have been fighting for this change for a long time. The PostmasterGeneral, having been in office for three, days, says he has thoroughly investigated the question, and that he is in a position to pass judgment. The honorable gentleman, could not possibly have investigated it if he had given all the time he has been in office to this one subject.
– He knew all about it before the honorable member entered the House.
– No, he did not. There is such absolute waste and utter mismanagement in connexion with the Telephone Branch that I can tell the Minister that if he will but put a stop to that he will make the Telephone Branch pay handsomely. I will give an instance or two of what is going on. The other day a telephone exchange was about to be started in a small village in my electorate. The Department quibbled for a long time as to whether they would put it in at all. but, after having held the money of eighteen subscribers for from nine to fifteen months, they decided to put it ‘in, and sent a man up to do the work. He was there for three weeks waiting for his tools to come, doing nothing. When the tools arrived, he thought he might open his cases to see what material had been sent from the store. He then found that the cotton cable - an essential to his work - had been forgotten, and he was waiting for another ten days before he received any cotton cable, so that he was there for nearly five weeks doing absolutely nothing. When another line was being erected the other day, I went along it during the process. An inspector was on duty watching in the interests of the Department, but I saw box-poles put into the ground, and anybody who knows anything of timber knows that box-poles will not last two years in that ground. Apparently, however, that is a circumstance that does not matter. Yet the PostmasterGeneral states that, in order to make the telephone service pay, the rates must be raised. Surely the proper thing is to first put the Telephone Branch on a proper footing, making it impossible for this sort of thing to occur, and then, if it will not pay, increase the rates ! I have already given the Postmaster-General a,n instance of where his Department said that a line returning 13.7 per cent, interest did not pay, and where deductions are still being made from the cash guarantee put up by the residents. While this sort of thing is going on we have no right to increase rates against subscribers. Regarding the charge of 2d. per call on slot telephones, I do not know what the experience was when the rate was 3d., but I venture to say that the number of calls was very few. One of the first things discovered when the rate was reduced to a Id. was that business increased to such an extent that the telephones began to pay, and if the slot telephones are not paying at Id. per call, they will pay a great deal less at 2d. per call. There are scores of people who would not hesitate to pay Id. but who will hesitate before paying 2d., just as there are a lot of people who might have one copper in their pocket but will not have two. I am certain that the additional rates will not bring in any additional revenue, but that the Department may rather lose on the transaction. If the” Department cannot make telephones pay at Id. per call, it is time to give up the business of running telephones.
– What are the charges under private enterprise in America ?
– They are sufficient to pay the telephone monopolists in America big interest on the money they have invested, and the comparison between what happens in Australia and in America, where the monopolists are in a position to charge the people what they like, and make enormous profits,- is not a fair one. I will never consent to the telephone rates being raised until the Department has been thoroughly re-organized. The proposal of the Postmaster-General is like putting the cart before the horse. If Parliament once consents to the increase of these rates, and the Telephone Branch pays in consequence, they will muddle along indefinitely, and we will never get any chance to secure much needed reforms. I am satisfied that the moment the Postmaster-General can say, “ Here is a credit balance,” we will hear nothing more about re-organization, and he will find all his energy will fizzle out, because his officers will put up to him the argument that there is no necessity to bother. .On the other hand, so long as there is a deficit there will be some chance of securing that re-organization in the Department which is so badly needed. I want also to direct attention to the position with regard to trunk telephone lines. I am satisfied that the officials underestimate altogether the revenue to be derived from this source, and they seem also to be unable to appreciate the circumstances in very many instances. A little while ago a telephone line was applied for in my electorate between Cawongla and Kyogle, a distance of 10 miles. At present telephonic communication between those places is viti Lismore and Casino, a distance of over 65 miles, and the reason advanced by the Department against the direct trunk telephone line was that there would not be sufficient business to warrant it. Now, anybody who has had experience of calling through a number of exchanges knows that one might be there a couple of days and not get a connexion. I have tried myself to get telephonic connexion between Cawongla and Kyogle, and though I have persisted for four or five hours, I have been unsuccessful. Therefore, when the Department puts up that reason as an argument against a direct trunk line, I am unable to understand it.
– The honorable member knows that this discussion is out of order. He can discuss it on the PostmasterGeneral’s estimates.
– The discussion is very much in order, and the first item is an excellent opportunity for dealing with this matter. When the Postmaster-
General’s estimates are before us he will, no doubt, take good care to be out of the Chamber.
– Would you mind saying if this procedure was settled upon by your Caucus to-night?
– When did we have a meeting of Caucus? We did not have a meeting to-night; we have not met this week, and I might tell the honorable member we do not meet in Caucus at all.
– There are no pestilential, greedy grabbers “ on the make “ over here.
– We are protesting because the Postmaster-General, at about 11 o’clock to-night, came down with his proposal to increase the taxation upon the people by £180,000 a year. That is not a fair thing.
– I do not think he will get it.
– I hope he will not. I hope that when the Postmaster-General’s estimates come on we will succeed in carrying a reduction of the item.
– It will be three or four months before we get the Estimates.
– If the PostmasterGeneral had been in office for, say, six months, and had assured us that he had given this matter full and complete study; if he had done all that was reasonably possible to put the Department in order; if he had eliminated all the waste that is going on ; if he had done all in his power to put things right, and Stil the telephones were not paying, he would then have had a fair case upon which to ask us to consent to the additional rates. Instead of that, he has been in office only a few days. He has hardly hnd time to warm his official seat before he comes to this Chamber and asks us to consent to this iniquitous increase in the rates. If the Postmaster-General intends to treat the Committee in this cavalier way, and if he asks us to challenge his decision as he did to-night, he. must be a greater simpleton than I take him to be if he thought that in regard to this matter the Committee would not immediately take up a challenge of that sort, even at this late hour of the night. This is a matter which we have been considering for a long time, and we were under the impression, or at least I was, that one of the things that led to the downfall of his predecessor in office was this proposal to increase the telephone rates.
– No sooner did the Postmaster-General take office than he accepted the decision of his officers. You have only to look at the documents dealing with this matter to realize that they have been prepared for a long time. They are all creased in the folds.
– And the ink has faded.
– And the red-tape is frayed.
– The new PostmasterGeneral no sooner got. into his chair than he accepted this proposal of his officers by putting his signature to it. I am not prepared to see this done, and when we reach the division relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department, , in the schedule to the Bill, I hope to see the position definitely challenged. If the Minister had laid the regulation on the table and given the House an opportunity to challenge and disallow it, one might have taken a different course; but, seeing that Parliament is to be asked to rise on Friday for the Christmas vacation, the only opportunity we have to challenge this proposal is to invite the Committee to vote definitely upon it on the item in Supply, and to give the PostmasterGeneral a direction to do the one thing or the other. That is what I propose to do.
– I desire to take this opportunity to discuss very briefly the action of the PostmasterGeneral in regard to the telephone charges. I look to the honorable gentleman to make a success of the administration of his Department. He is one of the few mcn of the House who has the organizing habit. He is built on such lines, and I hope that he will use this faculty to good advantage. I, for one, expect that the present PostmasterGeneral will prove to be one of the successful administrators of the Commonwealth. He is the best man we have yet had in the office.
The question of increased telephone charges has been under the consideration of the Cabinet for some time. I understand that there was a Cabinet decision some eight weeks ago, and that a further decision was recently arrived at. The Postmaster-General has a thorough grip of the question. He has made a most careful study of it for several years, and all the information relating to it has been worked up and submitted to him to pass judgment upon. If, like some other Ministers, he had been less candid, he would have said nothing of his intentions in this regard; the House would have adjourned in the ordinary way, and in December the new rates would have come into operation. As it is, he has made a clear statement to the Committee, and has given honorable members an opportunity to express their views upon the subject. Instead of being complimented upon taking this course, he is condemned for it. The honorable gentleman is to be complimented for his candour in stating definitely that these charges are to come into operation within a certain time. He has pointed out that the Department shows an annual deficit of £500,000, and that the increased telephone charges will’ raise only an additional £180,000, so that a very considerable deficit will still have to be met.
The honorable member for Richmond has mentioned that there is disorganization in the Department. I know that is so. One can hardly touch the Department anywhere without feeling that it is in a state of disorganization; Money is necessary to improve it. A better system in some respects cannot be secured without first spending more money. Paradoxical as it may seem, we must spend more in order to save.
– That is not business.
– If a private business firm is losing £500,000 a year, it has simply to shut up shop or to stop the drift.
– What business firm would nail up its prices in its ‘ shop window and say, “ These increased rates are to reconstruct my business “ ?
– We have had a number of Postmasters-General. Mr. Agar Wynne held that office in the Cook Administration.
– And he was beginning to shape very well.
– We have not been able to find any alteration made by him.
– He altered the design for the Commonwealth stamp.
– The present Minister has not even done that.
– I can, at least, say this for the present Postmaster-Gene- ral: That I had cases which had been hung up for some time, but with which he dealt very promptly.
– Were they necessary and justifiable matters?
– I believe that they were. I was not complaining as to the nature of the decisions; my complaint was that the matters were hung up. I do not complain if a decision is given against me in any of these cases, but I do complain if there is no decision.
– I have no fault to find with the Postal Department.
– Then I shall expect the right honorable member to vote with us against the test motion to be submitted presently. If the telephone service is made a good and efficient one, I think subscribers will be well content to pay the charges levied upon them. The charges, particularly in respect of telephones for business purposes, are not exorbitant.
– How are they going to affect the private users of telephones ?
– If persons are using telephones for pleasure, and quite apart from .business, they must expect to pay, at least, the cost of the service, and at present they are not doing so.
– According to these new rates, there will be a charge of £10 or £12 for a private telephone in a city.
– That is not so.
– What is the use of exaggerating ?
– Did not the Minister speak of £10 for 4,000 calls?
– I appeal to the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister to cease these interjections.
– A little while ago I asked the Treasurer a question regarding the Oldage and Invalid Pensions Act, hoping, having listened so often to his admirable advocacy of the claims of the aged and infirm, to find him equally sympathetic as an administrator; but apparently he has searched the musty shelves of his Department for the answers of previous Ministers, and hands them out to me as an indication of what the law on the subject is. I do not want to be told the law, for I have studied it, and know how it stands. He is indorsing the attitude of two of his predecessors in attempting to pass on to the States the Commonwealth responsibility for old-age pensioners who fall ill, although the Treasurers of the States are endeavouring to raise money to carry on with from any available source. The States had old-age pensions systems in operation at the beginning of Federation, and the Commonwealth relieved them of the responsibility when it adopted a uniform law. I recommend the Treasurer to look up the Bill prepared by the honorable member for Swan when he was Treasurer and adopt it. If an old-age pensioner falls ill, he can be committed to a benevolent institution by a Court, and the Treasurer has authority to pay the institution for his maintenance. If there is no recourse through a magistrate to such benevolent institution, and the pensioner has to go to a hospital, his pension rights accrue for four weeks; but some old people have to spend weeks and months in a public hospital, which has to carry the burden of their maintenance, as they are not paying guests. No democratic Minister should let this happen. The Treasurer should allow portion of their pension rights, say, 2s. a week, to accrue till they come out, and pay the balance over to the institution. Will the Minister go into the matter?
– Yes, carefully and sympathetically.
– I have asked the Minister of Trade and Customs by what authority he discriminates between Australian ports from which beef, mutton, and lamb are to be exported, and those from which they are not. The Government have power to prevent the exportation of goods, but not to discriminate between ports. I know this is so, for I have looked up the law on that subject also. The Minister, on being pressed, told me that some States had assured him of their readiness to make available for home consumption beef, mutton, and lamb, at what he called the f.o.b. price at which it was being shipped, and that if any State disagreed with those conditions, he would not allow it to export. I asked the Minister again to-day if by f.o.b. price he meant London parity with ruling rates, or the price fixed with the Imperial authorities months ago for the surplus meat then in Australia. He admitted that it meant the price arranged with the Imperial authorities. Whilst
I do not personally challenge the attitude adopted by the Commonwealth Government, the Imperial authorities, and the State Governments who made arrangements to let the Imperial Government have supplies of beef, mutton, and lamb at the prices agreed upon, but I would point out to the Minister that those prices were for the surplus product of this country which had been put into the freezing chambers at very low rates. They matured probably in September, October, and November of last year, and at that time Iamb was bought in Victoria at, I believe, from 8s. to lis., and mutton at from 10s. to 12s. To-day the position is altogether different. A commercial telegram from London, dated 30th October, gave the following quotations: - Australian sheep, first quality, cross-bred or merino, 40 lbs. to 60 lbs., 5 ?d ; second quality, 36 to 56 lbs., 5½d ewes, 30 to 50 lbs., 5£d.; Australian lambs, best brands, 28 to 40 lbs., none offering: fair quality, under 36 lbs., none offering: inferior lightweights, 6jd.; New Zealand lambs, lightweights, 28 to 36 lbs.. 8$d. ; medium weights. 36 to 42 lbs., 7jd.: heavyweights, 42 to 50 lbs., 7£d. ; second quality, lightweights. 7d. It will be seen that no Australian lamb is offering for the reason that the supplies in the previous year were requisitioned by the Imperial authorities, but for New Zealand lamb, which provides the best basis of comparison, approximately 8d. per lb. is being paid. The contract price arranged with the Imperial authorities for Australian lamb was 54d., and was fixed at a time when we had a surplus of last, year’s lamb on hand. The Minister of Trade and Customs, by an administrative act, has proclaimed a continuance of that contract price, but I ask if it is fair to deprive our producers of the London parity for beef, mutton, and lamb? T realize the force of the cry for cheaper meat but the whole world is crying out for dear meat, and is prepared to buy all the meat Australia can raise at the prices ruling in London. New Zealand and America are getting the benefit of those high prices, but the producers in Australia are to receive only 54d. per lb. for lamb, when a fair parity at Home would ‘ be 7id. Does the Minister propose to enforce the prohibition against export right through. the shipping season, and so deprive th° producers of the London parity for their products? I say that it is an improper act on the part of the Minister of Trade and Customs to apply a proclamation that might have “been very fitting when dealing with last year’s surplus products to the products of the present year, which are worth considerably more in the Home markets. The workers in the pastoral areas and upon the farms and stations are to continue to receive full rates of pay, slaughtermen are to be paid the higher rates they are demanding and the Courts are awarding, the butchers and other workers in associated industries are continuing to receive full pay, and it is only fair that the producer should be allowed to receive for his product its full market value. The Government are sending a High Commissioner to London, one of whose duties will be to extend the commerce of Australia, and to enable Commonwealth trade to penetrate the markets of the world wherever the highest prices can be obtained. We are cut off from financial assistance from abroad, and are now dependent upon our internal resources; and I am surprised that a Government placed in such a position should seek to diminish the resources upon which they must depend bv depriving our producers of the legitimate returns for their products which they have a right to expect, in view of the prices ruling in the markets of the world.
– I move -
That the question be now put.
I ask leave, Mr. Chairman, to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– What is this? Higgs moving the “ gag.” I should lose all hope for humanity if he did so.
– The Government have made this proposition to take from 25 to 30 per cent, of the commercial value of the products of the exporters of meat out of the pockets of the producers, whilst at the same time insisting that those producers shall comply with such awards as to wages and conditions as the industrial tribunals of the country fix upon the application of labour unions. I am informed that in Queensland, the State from which the Treasurer comes, 40 per cent, of the stock has been lost; and yet when the producers of that State have an opportunity to secure fair prices for their meat in the markets of the world the Government, through the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs, deprive them of that opportunity. Members of the Government and tbeir supporters have said that they have no power to affect the cost of living in this country; but bv an administrative act the Minister of Trade and Customs has affected the cost of living, as far as the price of meat is concerned. He has determined that lamb which brings from; 7½d. to 8d. per lb. in the Old Country must be sold here at from 5d. to 5fd. per lb. Honorable members on the Government side have insisted that the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to fix or regulate prices, and yet by an administrative act the Minister of Trade and Customs has undertaken the regulation of the price of meat in this country.
– It has not yet been decided by any Court that we have that power.
– Ministerial supporters always try to frighten the people by saying that, though they may do certain things, if they are> challenged the High Court may decide that they have not the power to do them. The honorable member for Denison has, I think, overlooked the fact that during this session we passed a Bill which empowers the Government to prohibit the export of any goods. The Minister of Trade and Customs has informed us that he will not permit the export of mutton or lamb unless the balance remaining in the country is sold at what he calls the f.o.b. price, and he has interpreted that to mean a price which was fixed months ago, when the cheap surplus product of the previous year was put into freezing chambers at low rates, and not the price at present ruling in London.
– Because it was intended to ship meat to America.
– I think that a guarantee was obtained that the meat exported would only go to the Imperial authorities. I am sure that the Treasurer is intensely interested in the arrangements which have been made for the transport of the wheat harvest, and he must be as anxious as I am that some more explicit statement on the subject than we have so far heard should be made in this House. In the earlier stages I thought it very unwise that the Government should propose to interfere with a business which has been satisfactorily carried out by private enterprise in past years. I have protested against the difficulty which honorable members experience in obtaining an explicit statement as to the arrangements which are to be made. The Prime Minister and various State Ministers have said that a flat rate has been fixed, and that an allotment of space is to be made; but can any Minister present interpret this flat rate?
– The honorable member has reached his time limit.
– It has been claimed for the Postmaster-General by the honorable member for Cook, who himself is an expert organizer, that he has the organizing habit; but I see no evidence of it in the statement put forward to-night. While the honorable member claims credit for his organization, it is clear that for what has been done an honorable member whom the Caucus has just turned out of office is responsible. I suppose that that is the Caucus idea of progress.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the honorable member for Gippsland take the chair for a short period?
Honorable Members. - Hear hear!
– This is only one little phase of the whole thing.
– If so, what will the full-orbed face be like?
– Do not worry. It will all come out in time.
– As a telephone user and subscriber, I’ am forced to worry. A very serious impost has been placed on the public. Without increasing the efficiency of the telephone service, the cost has been increased 25 per cent.
– It is an increase of 100 per cent.
– The honorable member poses as a telephone expert, and has often berated us for our ignorance of telephone matters; but I challenge him to tell me what the revenue of this Department is. I say that an increase of £180,000 in the revenue is an increase of 25 per cent, in the cost of the service. If the increase is one of 100 per cent., so much the worse. This socalled party of progress is increasing the cost of a Socialistic service, making the people pay through the nose for the use of the telephone. If this is Socialism, I prefer private enterprise.
I was the first pioneer of low rates, and it goes against my grain to see the rates constantly increased, and the service constantly made worse. This savours of the bureaucracy and inefficiency of pure Socialism, of which we have heard so much elsewhere.
– It is Socialism, and, therefore, demoralization. I do not advocate the placing of the telephones under private control, but I plead for efficient public control. The administration of the Post Office is worse today than it was at the time of Federation.
– The honorable member thinks that Tasmania is the world. In the big States the verdict of the people is that the services of the Post Office are less efficient now than they were at the time of Federation, and it is the same in Tasmania. All that members opposite can do is to increase the rates. The honorable member for Cook has laid down this startling theory, that to begin reform in a business you must start by putting up the rates and getting money in that- way to make the service efficient. I venture to say that he never attempted to do that in his own business.
– A man cannot give a good article unless he is getting a fair price for it.
– A man cannot get a price of any kind until he has the article to supply. That is what I am pleading for now. Give us the article and then we shall discuss the price. The Department are charging for a perfect article, but the public are not getting it. That is part of my complaint. The new Postmaster-General came into the Department especially as a reformer and an organizer, such as he has proved himself to be on many a well-fought field. I am amazed that he should begin by putting up the price of the commodity before inquiring into the nature of the commodity he has to sell to the public. He is beginning at the wrong end. As the honorable member for Richmond said, he is putting the cart before the horse, and it looks suspiciously as if he had fallen already under the hypnotism of the bureaucracy of the Department. That was the fatal defect of his predecessor, ,if I may say so with great respect. I know how easy it is for a man to fall under the control of the officials. A new Minister, quite unaccustomed to the control of a huge Department, naturally has to look to them for guidance, and it is the easiest thing in the world to fall under their glamour.
– This is not his scheme at all.
– Exactly. The honorable gentleman has simply taken up the article of faith of his predecessor, who has had to pay the penalty for that and other things. If this be reform, I should like to know what a perfect specimen of it is likely to be. This is the wrong end to begin at, and the right end has been pointed out by the honorable gentleman himself very clearly in his own report. I propose to quote a few passages from that document, because I think that they ought to be preserved.
– Raking up the dead.
– Is not this report the Postal bible?
– No. I have the last balance-sheet for the telephone branch, and am studying it with very great interest.
– The trouble in this Department seems to be that they always begin at Z instead of at A. For instance, the honorable member for Denison has a balance-sheet. This report lays it down that the very first thing to do is to get a Board of Management, and they will supply a statement of finances from time to time. It states that there should be a general manager.
– He did not know then that he was going to be Minister.
– Evidently not, but every item of reform so-called in the Department seems to begin at the wrong end, and, instead of working outwards from the centre, they seem to work from the circumference to the centre. The honorable member for Gwydir lays it down, on page 19 of the report, that there should be a general manager - the Chairman of the Board of Management - who should be “ immediately responsible for finance and .general administration.” We have the finances all right - £180,000 extra - but no general manager. Then there should be a Postal Director, who should be “ responsible for the management and general supervision of the mail services,” and a Telegraph and Telephone Director, who should be “ responsible for construction and maintenance.” Here is the triumvirate that is to control this great public utility, to make it pay, to provide the public with an efficient service, with a duly audited balance-sheet from time to time, and a general analysis and review of the finances relative to the management -
Your Commissioners are strongly of opinion, from the evidence given and from personal inspection of the various branches of the Department, that the Board of Management recommended would effect great savings within a short period -
Why should the Postmaster-General begin to put up the rates until he sees what economies he can effect? in addition to the large savings which should result from the removal of staff matters from the control of the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner.
Here are two items of increased savings. The Board of Management is to effect savings .in a very short time, and an additional modicum of savings is to be effected by removing the staff from the control of the Public Service Commissioner -
Evidence was given to the effect that the position of Chairman of the Board of Management would be worth a salary of at least £2,000 per annum. Your Commissioners are not prepared to recommend the amount of salary necessary -
After saying that it should be £2,000, the honorable gentleman goes on, in the next sentence, to say he was not prepared to recommend what it should be - but consider that in order to obtain suitable members for the Board of Management it is imperative that attractive salaries be provided, as the service requires the highest standard of administrative ability procurable. The constant concern and the main interest of the Board of Management would be to anticipate public requirements -
I suppose that this increase is in anticipation of a public requirement. Did anybody ever hear of a people requiring £180,000 more to be clapped on in the way of taxes? This increase is the requirement of the bureaucratic Minister, not the requirement of the public -
The constant concern and main interest of the Board of Management would be to anticipate public requirements by continuous assimilation of all the improved methods adopted in the post and telegraph world, and it would, in order to popularize its own system, be constantly considering the public welfare.
I suppose that the honorable gentleman’s method of considering the public welfare is to make an additional charge of £180,000-
Such a Board of Management would, doubtless, endeavour to establish the post and telegraphic service on a self-supporting basis, without undue sacrifice of facilities to the public. Once effective management is established, reforms in the Post and Telegraph Department will inevitably follow.
The honorable gentleman has clapped on the rates, but he has not given us the management. Then, over the leaf, he says in his report -
Such Board of Management should equip Parliament through the Postmaster-General with reliable advice on the financial condition of the services. “ Having looked into this matter during the week-end,” he said, “ I have decided that an increase of £180,000 must be imposed.” Where is poor old Spence? What has he gone for? Why did the party put him out at all?
– Why do you keep on saying that? How do you know that he did not resign ? He may have resigned.
– Quite true. He may have declined to sit any longer with that “ pestilential gang “ opposite. Paragraph 485 of the Royal Commission’s report says -
Your Commissioners inquired into the question of the advisability of separating the Telephone Branch from the Post and Telegraph Department. The evidence received was to the effect that the telegraphic and telephonic services are closely associated, and could not be separated with advantage. The engineering and construction work of both these branches is performed by the staffs of the Electrical Engineer’s Branches.
According to this paragraph, the telegraph and telephone services must be linked, but now the Postmaster-General says that they must not be in association, that there must be complete separation, and that the telephone service must be made to pay as such. As a matter of fact, he was correct in what he said a few years ago. The one service profoundly affects the other, and the two must be considered together in their bearings one upon the other. That aspect has not been considered by the PostmasterGeneral.
– He has had no time as yet to do so.
– He seems to have had time to clap on this tax..
– He did not put it on.
– Then apparently he has not had time to take it off. The public took the last increase of rates without saying much about it, but now that £180,000 additional taxation is to be imposed for a worse telephone service I am afraid that many people will be saying something about the proposal and about the Government that put it forward. 1 feel strongly on these matters, because twenty years ago when I was Postmaster-General in the State of New South Wales 1 reduced the rental for private telephones from £12 to £5 per annum, and made the service what it ought to be - something of utility and advantage to the people of the whole of Australia.
– At that time there was no profit-and-loss account kept, according to the sworn evidence of Mr. Nelson.
- Mr. Nelson was not in control at that period. The result of the reduction in rates was that the number of subscribers trebled in the first year, and it has continued trebling and quadrupling to such an extent that the Department has never been able to catch up with its work.
– What will be the saving effected by installing automatic telephones ?
– It will be £1 3s. per telephone.
– We are informed by the Royal Commission that the introduction of “the automatic system would result in a speedy saving, but the remarkable feature of our telephone service is that, since the increase in the last rates the deficit has likewise increased. The honorable member for Barrier, when Postmaster-General, put up the rates, but the deficit increased. The more money that is poured into the Post Office, the worse it- becomes, and this state of affairs will continue until we have effective control. I make no reflection on the officers; they have grown up with the present system; but it is time there was a complete change of method and management. No one has held out so strongly for reform in the management of the Post Office as the present Postmaster-General, yet he is going on in the same old bad way against which he has fulminated many a time ,in this Chamber. We expected reforms from one who, according to the honorable member for Cook, is a great organizer, but the only evidence of his ability to organize is his proposal to follow the beaten track laid down by his predecessor, and clap more taxes on the public without the slightest pretext for doing so.
– Red-tape is the monkey-wrench in the machinery of efficiency.
– I understood that this was the Cabinet policy, and that this matter had been before Cabinet. Then what is this great business man of , the Cabinet doing that he allows these rates to go through ? Is he also beginning at the wrong end ? Is he also muzzled 1
– I am hobbled.
– And the PostmasterGeneral is hobbled. If this sort of thing is going to continue, I am inclined to think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh will be back soon.
– I would not bank too much on that.
– Well, he says that he will. He says that he will be back in the Department when the Minister is baking in the nether regions.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Wise). - The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire, briefly, to explain the reason why I intend to vote with the Government if this matter is forced to a division. We have in Australia to-day the cheapest telephone service in the world. Under it- notwithstanding the abuse that has been showered upon it - the subscribers are being better served than are telephone subscribers in any other part of the world. In the big cities of the United States of America, the telephone service is split up amongst companies, so that in many instances it is impossible for a subscriber to’ be switched from one part of a city to another part. When I was in Sydney the other day I was shown a service which will permit of subscribers communicating with each other over a distance of 10 miles through four or five switchboards, including an automatic board. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that twenty years ago we had a better service than we possess now. But it was stated in sworn evidence the other day that until quite recently the telephone users in Sydney had not a metallic circuit.
– They have not one now.
– Every practical man knows that with an earth return circuit it is impossible to have a silent line. I quite admit that in Sydney there is not a complete metallic circuit, hut about 79 per cent, of the lines in that city have metallic circuits. The service is so cheap that before the outbreak of the war the applications for telephones were so numerous that it was impossible for any body of electrical engineers to cope with them. What has been done in Sydney in the matter of providing an efficient telephone service is simply wonderful. That city- presents greater engineering difficulties than are to be found in any other city in the Commonwealth. The way in which it has been laid out renders the installation of an efficient system most difficult. When the authorities commenced to install metallic circuits there, they excavated enormous tunnels at great expense in that rocky country.
– What rocky country ?
– In the rocky country in Sydney. When the streets of that city were opened out, it was found that they were largely composed of blue rock.
-i-I happened to construct many miles of them, and I know that that is not so.
– That is the testimony of the engineer. He says that the tunnels have been excavated in rocky country. Huge tunnels have been laid down, and the conduits leading from them branch off to the various distributing centres. The cost of these works has been debited to one or two years, and the result is that the overhead charges are enormous. These tunnels and conduits will suffice for the next twenty-five years, and consequently the charge ought to have been spread over that period.
– Does not the honorable member see that they are not overhead charges at all ?
– The charges should not have been debited to one particular year.
– I tell the honorable member that these works have been paid for, and consequently there are no overhead charges.
– Upon what authority does the Leader of the Opposition say that the system is not paying ?
– The honorable member is talking of something of which he knows absolutely nothing.
– The day-labour system is responsible for the high cost of the work.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. The undergrounding of the telephone wires in Sydney is being carried out cheaper than it is in the United States, where men work longer hours, and where the telephone service is conducted by companies. I know something of this matter, because I have worked for a contractor, and we never engaged a man unless we could make a clear £1 a week profit out of his labour.
– Was not the undergrounding of the wires in Albury under the day-labour system a public scandal ?
– It may have been in the opinion of the honorable member, who is prejudiced against day labour..
– It may interest the honorable member to know that I was the first man to begin undergrounding the telephone wires in Australia.
– And the honorable member worked under the daylabour system. Did he not do a fair day’s work under that system T
– Oh yes!
– All other men who are employed under it make the same statement. At present we are taxing all the people of Australia to lighten the burden on a few persons who are getting a good service for the money which they pay for it. In Denison, in Tasmania, 99 per cent, of the wires have been laid underground, with the result that the users of the telephone possess practically a silent line. We shall get a good service throughout the Commonwealth when the Department have had time to install it. Immediately the service becomes a payable one, I shall seek a reduction in the rates. I believe that, under the increased charges which it is proposed to levy, the service will prove a payable one. As the population increases after the war is over, we shall soon have cheap telephone rates again, because no Minister desires to make a profit out of the telephone service. All he wants is that the system shall pay, whilst the attitude of consumers generally may be represented by what was stated before the Public Works Committee at Geelong the other day, when a business man said he did not want something for nothing with regard to his telephone, and was quite willing to pay for whatever service he received’. No man desires a telephone system at the expense of the people of Australia. I can tell the honorable member, however, where one great saving can -be effected in the construction of country lines. Whenever a line is being constructed in the country, even if it is only intended to carry one or two lines, an engineer is sent out to survey the line. A foreman follows, supervising the erection of the line, and expenditure goes on in that way that is not required at all, whilst very often the line is made too strong.
An Honorable Member. - By using 15-ft. poles when 10-ft. poles will do ?
– I would not erect such short poles, but I have seen 26-ft. poles being used to carry two wires. «A.fc Bridgewater it is possible to see such a line, the construction of which must have cost £26 a mile.
– Does the honorable member remember that when I described (.His particular line, he referred to it as being jerry built?
– The line that the honorable gentleman speaks of is a line where the poles are 8 or 9 feet high. In the line I suggest the poles should be 21 feet high, 2 ft. 6 in. round, and 4 feet from the butt. That gave about 17 feet out of the ground, which is ample.
– Pony insulators, too. were used instead of proper insulators on a very lightly-constructed line. I am not speaking of that line at all, however. My opinion is that the engineer has followed too closely the engineering in the Old Country, where provision has to be made for snow troubles, which are the worst troubles the telephone has to meet. In the country a line at one time erected at the rate of £11 6s. per mile ought not to cost more than £16 a mile now. That line would probably last from seventeen to twenty years if the timber was well selected ; and if that system were adopted the Postmaster-General would be able to reduce his expenditure very considerably. What is the need of sending an engineer out over surveys like those in the country when there are foremen linemen quite capable of doing the work. If the people were to find the labour, as it was suggested by the honorable member for Wannon, they would, with a foreman lineman supervising and putting on the wire - because an amateur ought not to be permitted to deal with the wire - the cost of construction would be reduced still* more. Another matter in connexion with the Post Office came under my notice quite recently. Men were told off to go by train at 6 o’clock in the morning, then walk some distance, and to work until 5 o’clock in the evening. The result was that the hours were very long. The men complained, and set out their grievances, and the result was that two engineers went down in a motor car to have a look round and attend to the complaint. Highly salaried officers are necessary in the city, but they are not, in my opinion, necessary in the country, and their presence in country districts all tends to an increased charge. I hope the PostmasterGeneral will go into the details of this branch of the service again, and I am of opinion that he will be able to make greater reforms, and at the same time bring charges down. I do not want to see the telephone service dp more than just pay its way. I do not want to see the Government making any profit out of the telephone service, because immediately you increase the telephone rates you penalize a majority of the business people who are using the telephone for the purpose of facilitating trade and increasing the community’s wealth. Business people in a smaller way who are compelled to use the telephone, will also be penalized. Any profits that may occur to the system, however, instead of going back in big dividends into the pockets of some owner, will eventually find its way into the people’s pockets. In my opinion, however, the Postmaster-General has been compelled to increase the rates. We cannot go on in time of war giving an excellent service for very small pay without penalizing a large number of people.
– Is the honorable member satisfied that this increase is necessary ?
– If the great deficit exists that has been described, some such action is unquestionably necessary. That being so, we must have a fair and reasonable scale of charges, and one that will make the business pay. I have been forced to speak to-night in order to make an explanation to those who are using telephones in my constituency, and I believe that when they have had the position placed before them, they will be quite willing to help us to squares the ledger during this time of war. I greatly appreciate the manner in which the right honorable member for Swan received my interjection to-night with regard to the delay in the presentation of his Budget speech on a former occasion. He said that I had exaggerated by saying that he had asked for time ; but I have looked up Hansard, and I find that he was asked twice why he had not presented his Budget. The session opened on the 9th July, 1913, and we did not get the Budget speech until the 2nd October of that year, although we were under normal conditions at the time. I would not have mentioned this but for the fact that I wanted to show that my statement was correct.
– I have to express my indignation that the Treasurer brought in his proposals to increase the telephone rates at such a late hour. It is absolutely wrong to place this heavy imposition on the country people. Members from the other States, after travelling all night, are not in a position to deal with this important proposal which has been brought forward so suddenly. Mr. Spence, when Postmaster-
General, presented a statement to this House indicating that there had been a loss of £500,000 on the telephone systems of the Commonwealth ; but it was shown that practically the whole of that loss was accounted for in the capital cities of the Commonwealth, and, that being the case, it would be only fair for the Government to ask the subscribers to telephones in the metropolitan areas to bear the increased charges, in order to make up the deficiency. The honorable member for Denison was very much astray in his geological information concerning Sydney when he informed the Committee that engineers had told him that Sydney was rocky country, and nothing else but bluestone. That- information is not correct. The delays which occur when fresh applications are made for connexions with exchanges are partly responsible for the unsatisfactory financial position of the Department. Generally it takes weeks, sometimes months, before the new telephones are installed. In my own constituency application was made eighteen months ago for a telephone line from North Condobolin to Bobadah and Vermont Hill, a distance of about 60 miles.
The people were told that they would have to subscribe a certain amount to cover the cost. They put their hands in their pockets and found the money; but even now they have not got the telephone, though tenders have been accepted. They are willing to pay for it, and if the Government had pushed the business along, certain of those subscribers would to-day have been increasing the revenue of the Department, and thus helping in a certain measure to reduce the deficit. The same thing is happening elsewhere. Only the other day I had a letter from a gentleman who has a business at Cumnock, and another business at Yeoval. He wrote to me to say that he had written several times to the Department, but could not get telephone connexion, and he asked me if I would move in the matter. A gentleman in another town told me that he had been waiting for quite a long time to get. telephonic connexion ; and only last week, when I was at Manly, I remarked to a friend of mine, a Mr. “Webb, that I would ring him up in the morning. “ No, you won’t,” he said, “ for I have dismantled my telephone, because I find it pays me much better to walk and see my friends, and tell them what I have to say, than to try to ring them up on the telephone.” I hope the new Minister of Home Affairs will be instrumental in persuading his colleague in the Cabinet to introduce some American ideas into the telephone service of the Commonwealth.
– The people would then have to pay three times as much as they do now.
– Well, they would probably get a good service for their money. The honorable member for Brisbane knows perfectly well that in Chicago, or any of the other big cities of America, it is possible to get a fresh connexion with a telephone exchange in a couple of hours, whereas in Australia one has to wait sometimes four or five months.
– The honorable member is comparing an agricultural district in Australia with a city district in America.
– I have just been telling what was the experience of a friend of mine at Manly, and I was about to refer to the conditions in Sydney. I propose to give an experience of any own as an illustration of the way in which revenue is lost by a Department. Some three weeks ago, shortly before catching the express from Sydney to Melbourne, I rang up the Leader of the Opposition from the railway station. I then left the cubicle for a moment to look up another subscriber’s number, and found on returning that it was impossible to call up the number. I drew the attendant’s attention to the fact that I could not get the clerk at the other end to hear me; and after ringing up he said “ It will be all right now; you will be able to get on.” I tried for thirteen minutes to get connected, but failed. Meantime, others were’ waiting to use the telephone, so that the Department must have lost a revenue of 5d. or 6d. Multiplying my experience by that of the people of Australia, honorable members will recognise that if this leakage were stopped, it would more than equal the extra revenue to be collected by means of these increased rates. I take exception to these methods. The whole service needs to be galvanized into action.
– You cannot move them.
– Provided that there was no waste of effort, and that the service was conducted on up-to-date, businesslike lines, I should not object to the Department showing a loss. The people of Australia of late have been heavily taxed. The new Tariff, I dare say, will bring in an additional £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 of revenue; the income tax is estimated to yield’ £4,000,000, but will, I think, return something nearer. £6,000,000 ; while the graduated land tax will yield an additional £2,000,000. Additional taxation to the extent of £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 has recently been imposed, and surely we. can afford to give the people the privilege of a cheap telephone service. I look upon the postal and telephone services as the principal media through which the advertising of Australia is transacted. Country life in Australia would be very dull without the telephone. We country people use it to bring the doctor promptly to the bedside of our sick ones; we use it also to ascertain the conditions of the various markets, and in these ways we help on trade, and indirectly advance the business of the country.
– The injustice of the present position is that the country telephones are paying.
– Quite so. Why should they be penalized? If a man desires to have a telephone line erected beyond 2 miles from his own town, he has to pay for it out of his own pocket. In addition to this, the new Postmaster-General now proposes to make him pay double rates.
– The Postal Department has never recognised the claims of country districts.
– There are honorable members on both sides of the House who are determined that the country districts shall have a fair deal. The telephone rates between Sydney and rural towns are very excessive. Country telephones are largely used on Sundays. Sunday is a day of rest, and country residents avail themselves of the opportunity to communicate by telephone with city friends, or sick ones in the hospitals. The Government now propose to impose double rates for Sunday messages. While in Sydney recently, I received’ an important telephone message from my wife at Blayney, which is only 187 miles away ; but, because it was sent on a Sunday, the message cost 4s. 8d. The same message, sent after 7 p.m. on a week day, would have cost only ls. 2d. This system of charging a reduced rate after 7 p.m. would, if in operation on Sundays, lead to telephones being used on that day far more than they are, and the revenue would thus be increased. I cannot find’ words to express my indignation at the action of the PostmasterGeneral in penalizing country residents. One of the first steps to be taken by the Postmaster-General to encourage country settlement is to grant telephonic conveniences, and I strongly protest against the action of the Government in increasing the telephone rates, as all the loss on telephonic and postal services is, as the ex-Postmaster-General pointed out, caused within the metropolitan area. . The rates should be increased only in the capitals, and matters should be allowed to continue as they were in the country districts, where those services pay.
.The information that £185,000 of fresh taxation is to be placed on telephone users will come as a shock to the longsuffering subscribers of New South Wales. We should not mind it so much if we were getting a good system, but to charge people extra for the wretched service now given is outrageous. New South Wales has the worst system in the States. The officials say it is due to Sydney’s rapid growth in the last few years, but they have not taken the precaution to make provision for the future, as -any ordinary business man would do. One of the complaints in New South Wales is the lack of attention. This, for instance, is a rule “ more honored in the breach than the observance “ -
It is the duty of the operator to repeat every number passed by the subscriber, in order to give the subscriber an opportunity of correct ing any misapprehension. In case the repetition is not clear, the operator’s attention should be called to the fact. If it is incorrect, the right number should be repeated very distinctly, with emphasis on the figures misunderstood.
The average Sydney subscriber certainly repeats the figures with emphasis, for there is a growing tendency on the part of the attendants not to repeat the number. A good deal of delay is thus caused, as the subscriber does not know whether the attendant is getting the number or not. - He waits, and finally loses his temper, which is a mistake, for once you lose your temper on the telephone you are “gone to the mountains.” The attendants seem to have no fear of being reported. If you do report them the officer in charge promises an investigation, but you hear no result or the cause of the delay. On 18th August, 1911, Mr. Ramsay Sharp was appointed a Commission to inquire into the complaints. In his report he stated -
Before dealing with the results of tests and observations, I wish to emphasize the stupendous task that confronts the telephone officials, before the present system can be brought up to date and the result of part neglect wiped out, to say nothing of the difficulty of coping with the rapidly increasing demand for telephone connexion throughout New South Wales. Those responsible for the present chaotic conditions show want of foresight and ability, lack of faith in the future development of Australia, and want of acquaintance with the commercial life of this city.
He recommended -
That all subscribers on single lines be allowed a rebate till their lines be made metallic. . . . That a second meter be placed at subscriber’s telephone, or a system introduced whereby the subscribers make the record under the telephonist’s supervision. . . . That more power be given telephone managers to deal promptly with careless and inefficient telephonists. . . . The Telephone Department should be run on strict commercial lines, with a new business department thnt is in close touch with the’ development of the State, familiar with the latest methods in telephony, and competent to make ample provision for expansion on the various exchanges and lines connected thereto. . . . The present centralization methods should be discontinued, and the city and suburbs divided into districts with an electrical engineer and a telephone manager to each district. The electrical engineer to have control of the local construction staffs, repair shops, stores, &c. ; and the telephone manager to look after traffic staffs and attend to local applications for new lines, removals, &c.
Those recommendations were made in 1911, but the very defects which Mr. Ramsay Sharp said existed at that time continue to exist, and yet the Minister tells us that there must be a material increase in the telephone rates. At present, the subscriber has no means of checking the account rendered to him periodically. He cannot say that the account represents a faithful record of his use of the telephone. Throughout the States complaints on this score are general. Business firms allege that they are continually overcharged. Some eighteen months ago an appliance for the automatic recording of calls at the subscriber’s end. and also in the exchange, was submitted by the inventor, Godfrey, to the then PostmasterGeneral, Mr. Agar Wynne, who promised to give the machine a trial. If that invention were brought into use, the subscriber would feel satisfied that he was paying for what he had enjoyed. The officials may say that, instead of the subscriber being overcharged, there is a likelihood of calls not being charged up, but in the Argus of 1st June last year, appeared this letter under the heading “ The Infallible Telephone Department “ -
Sir, - I have a telephone on my private house. Six months ago my family left for a holiday to the Old Country, and I decided to lock-up the house and stay at a hotel during their absence. The house was securely locked, and the key left at the local police station. I have only been to the house once during that time, and the telephone department now charges me for 652 calls, alleged to have been recorded from my house. It is so absolutely impossible, as with the exception of the police who looked in once a week, no one has been near the place. Now I am told that if I don’t pay the line will be disconnected in fourteen days. As my family are returning on the incoming mail steamer, I have to “ part up “ or suffer abuse. When are we going to have matters righted? - Yours, &c, 31st May.
Frequently complaints of that nature have been made to me, and the Department invariably answers that somebody must have entered the house and used the telephone. There should be some means provided for checking all calls, but there is a tendency on the part of the Department to turn down all inventions of Australian origin.
– They turned down insulators invented in Australia in favour of those made in Japan.
– That is the policy of your party.
– That is not the policy of the party on this side of the House. We should encourage our own inventors. New inventions should be tested, and when they are equal to the imported article they should be installed, and the demand for them created. I have particulars of another mechanical contrivance for recording calls -
Some three years ago, shortly after the introduction of the toll system, a device known as the “ Phonetoll “ was invented. This machine collects one penny from telephone users for each separate call, and is for use in conjunction with all types of telephones to which large numbers of persons have access. The “ Phonetoll “ conforms to the regulations, and in no possible way interferes with the proper working of the telephone. This machine is an improvement on the “ Telecoppa,” a coin collecting device owned by this firm for use on magneto telephones only. On placing the “ Phonetoll “ on the market, the permission of the PostmasterGeneral was sought, and, as no objection had been made in the case of the “ Telecoppa,” it was expected that the improved machine would meet with the same approval. Before, however, the slightest notice was taken of this request, more than four months elapsed, when a sample machine was asked to be submitted. This was promptly done, and, at the suggestion of the engineer, certain slight alterations were made, which completely eliminated any possible objections from a mechanical point of view. Permission to use the machine was still not definitely granted to the public, and many months again passed before any sort of reply to various requests for consideration was elicited. The ultimate response from the Department was the raising of quibbling objections that the machine interfered with the proper upkeep and maintenance of the telephones where it was in use. The statements are unsupported by so much as a fraction of truth. The phonetoll, so far from causing any interruption, is actually of material help to the working of the exchange, preventing, as it does, the incessant Hashing of switchboard lights by impatient callers. The principal objection seems to be that it is necessary to place a kep in the attachment when receiving messages, a feature that is common to every device for collecting coins, and has not been found in any way to cause obstruction. Our Mr. Beedon recently went to Melbourne, and spent several weeks, at considerable expense to this firm, in endeavouring to lay the matter fairly before thu PostmasterGeneral, and succeeded in securing an interview. That gentleman, however, gave us to understand that he had no time to interfere in any mechanical matters, all of which he left to his engineers, and declined even to inspect the machine. Subsequently the PostmasterGeneral’s Department definitely vetoed its use. The Minister remarked on the occasion, however, that he believed the machine to be a success, and knew of instances where it had effected a saving of £25 per annum. Our attention has been drawn by subscribers using our attachment to the fact that one feature of its use is a very great reduction in the number of calls charged, amounting in some instances to as much as 50 per cent. - a result brought about by the elimination of many quite needless calls, made before a really efficient coin collector became available. We suggest that this is the real objection to the phonetoll, the mechanism of which is so simple as not to need the special knowledge of an engineer to see that the statement that it in any way interferes with the operation of the telephone is puerile. The machine is the only one which affords subscribers really efficient protection, and we are sure that the gross unfairness of the Department’s “action in preventing its use will be quite clear to you. We enclose a representative selection of letters taken from scores of such communications, the examination of which wc invite. At present there are no means whatever available to subscribers to insure the collection of telephone fees, and this action of the Government is obviously short-sighted, as tending to place telephones beyond the reach of many people who, with the phonetoll in use, would find their instruments a source of revenue to themselves, and convenience to the public.
I do not know the writer of that letter, but it does seem to me that it describes a machine that might be advantageously used. It should be given a trial. The public will be satisfied if they have some guarantee that the bill sent to them by the Department for telephone calls represents the amount of their indebtedness. I hope that the Postmaster-General will go into the merits of this machine, and will also call for a report on the Godfrey system, which is receiving a trial at the Ballarat exchange. If it be proved that these machines will accurately record the number of calls, the Minister should consider the advisability of installing them. There is one other matter to which I wish to refer, and that is the injustice which is being done to persons in charge of allowance post-offices through having the paltry pittances paid to them in many cases cut down by more than one-half. The person in charge of an allowance office in one place in my electorate was, in the past, receiving £16 10s. per annum, but he has been written to by the Department to inform him that, in future, they cannot afford to pay more than £8 per annum. In another place, where £12 a year was paid, the amount has been cut down to £8. In a small district in my electorate, where there was a tri-weekly mail service, the allowance postmaster received £12 per annum. He had to provide a room for the post-office, and it was necessary for him to be in attendance all day to attend to the telephone. The mail service was increased to a service of six days a week, and the Department gave the postmaster the magnificent increase of 30s. a year. The allowances paid at the present time in many of the country districts are so small that people are saying that they will not take the responsibility of looking after the post-offices for such a meagre payment. I am aware that it is considered unreasonable to give a considerable allowance where the revenue derived from the establishment of the postoffice is not very great, but the Department should not regard postal facilities for country districts in that light. In these matters large centres of population are treated generously, but in dealing with the country districts the authorities of the Post and Telegraph Department seem to think that people will gratefully accept the smallest amount of payment for looking after a post-office. I hope that the present Postmaster-General will restore the allowances which were paid in the past, and will justify in the eyes of the public his appointment to the position which he has been called upon to occupy.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
– I move -
That the amount provided for in the schedule be reduced by £1.
This amendment is a protest against the imposition of the new telephone rates without the revision of the organization of the Department.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; re-‘ port adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) proposed -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1915-16, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £647,696.
– I would like to see a copy of the Bill before it is put through. Are not these proposals to be financed out of revenue ?
– That is a conundrum which the Treasurer cannot answer; he does not know.
– In the schedule I see some items which really make me wonder whether we are engaged in a war or not. Here is a proposal for public works which is larger than usual.
– I say yes. It is a million more than the Government spent last year. Surely no one will tell me that a number of these works could not be postponed while the war is in progress. There seems to be not the slightest idea on the part of the Government to economize.
– I thought that the people of New South Wales wanted the building of the Capital proceeded with.
– Does it do any good to drive home these taunts about the Federal Capital?
– I understood so.
– I see.
– What about the statements of your supporters yesterday afternoon - the honorable member for Lang, who made a great noise about why the building of Parliament House at Canberra was not being proceeded with, and the right honorable member for Swan, who complained of the delay in constructing the transcontinental railway?
– Is not this a paltry and puny way of looking at a big subject ?
– He is off again; I am sorry that I spoke.
– The honorable member for Illawarra so far forgets his duty as to be girding and gibing in a silly ignorant way when any one rises here to discuss a matter. It is a pity that he comes here to do it. It is about all that he does. He never makes a speech in the House, but he sits there girding out interjections at everybody who tries to do his duty. It is all very well to laugh, snigger, and grin, as the Postmaster-General is doing. What does he care about the interests of the country! What does he care about there being a war, or anything of that kind ! This is the treatment one receives always when he gets up to say anything. I am accused because I ask the Government to review their financial obligations, and see if they cannot cut down some of the expenditure on public works. Let them wait till the war is over. One honorable member asked me if I am an actor, and a responsible Minister asked me if I mean it, and sits grinning at me like a monkey. I think it is time to make a protest against the levity which is going on in connexion with the supremely important question of the nation paying its way and financing the war. It may be a small matter to be grinned at by ignorant puppets here.
– But it is a serious tiling for this country.
– Is the honorable member in order, sir, in calling honorable members on this side ignorant puppets?
– There was no necessity for the honorable member to rise to order, because the Chair intervened at once. I call on the honorable member -for Parramatta to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it, sir. It is becoming intolerable that I cannot get up here to say anything without being subjected to gibes and jeers. I will not stand it.
– You gibe at other people.
– There, the honorable member is off again I I ask you, sir, to require him to be silent. If he does not keep silent, he will have to be silenced.
– You will not silence me!
– I will stop the honorable member’s ignorant tongue before he is very much older.
– You will not!
– I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to withdraw the remark.
– It is not parliamentary to allude to any honorable member of the House in that way.
– Is it parliamentary for the honorable member to be insulting me at every turn ?
– I called the honorable member to order at once.
– Yes; and he took no notice.
– Yes, he did.
– He immediately began to interject again.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark without arguing with the Chair.
– I withdraw the remark, sir; but I wish to say very plainly that this kind of thing must stop. I will not tolerate it any longer. I am calling attention to a very serious problem in Australia. Here are representatives of the States meeting together and discussing the question of where to raise money to finance themselves. Our obligations are towering up, our loan obligations in particular. We are spending more, and not less, during the war. If we think that we can light Germany one-handed, as we are trying to do, we are making tb” mistake of our lives. This question is going to be decided ultimately, not alone by the sharpness of the sword or the skill of the generals; it is going to be decided by our financial resources in the end.
– This is after keeping us here for three hours about telephones that do not pay.
– Let the honorable member, go home; nobody wants to keep him. We are in the National Parliament, and the’ very last thing which an honorable member on the other side will tolerate is a discussion of the finances. It provokes ribaldry, and all sorts of insulting interjections the moment any one on this side begins to suggest that it is time to cut down the expenditure. It is the most serious problem that we have to face.
– You want us to run telephones that do not pay.
– Order !
– We objected to the public being saddled with an increase of £180,000.
– Economize to make the telephones pay.
– I appeal to honorable members on both sides to allow the honorable member addressing the Committee to be heard in silence. I do not wish to take any strong measure. I appeal to the generosity of honorable members to assist the Chair in doing its duty.
– Here is an item of £90,000 for post-office buildings. Will anybody tell me that, until the war is over, we cannot get along with the buildings we have 1 Are all these buildings so urgent that the Government must spend huge sums during the war time? 1 wonder if this sort of thing is done in any other country where a war is being waged. I do not wish to cut down anything which is imperative, but will any one tell me that all these buildings are imperative in war time ? The notion is monstrous. It is not only the National Parliament which is piling up the works expenditure in this way, all the State Parliaments are doing likewise; but it is of no use to talk about anything here. There is only one simple specific which my honorable friends have, and that is to make people pay more taxes in war time, and scatter the money round in order to buy popularity and gain the applause of their constituents. It is a popular policy, I know; but it will not last much longer. My honorable friends are getting to the end of their tether in Australia, and there is going to be a very serious outlook in the near future if I am any judge. Here we are with a war thick upon us, at a time of crisis really, and everything dependent on the national finances of the Allies, and the Empire in particular, with warnings from the British Prime Minister. I did not read that honorable members elsewhere jeered and laughed at him when he discussed the finances. They listened to him with profound respect, as they were entitled to do, and appreciated the seriousness and the gravity with which he approached the subject. Here one gets nothing but insults from honorable members on the other side. Their stock in trade seems to be to sit on their seats and hurl insults across the chamber. It is all that they can do; it is all that their intelligence permits them to do, and all that their care for the public welfare allows them to do either. In the name of all that is decent and fair I protest that they ought not to treat these matters in that way during this time of unprecedented national importance and gravity. The times are serious - indeed, they never were so serious before as affecting the interests of our financial welfare. The silver bullet- is going to be the last say in th% war. It is time that this Government - in fact, every Government - began to overhaul its civil establishments and see if it cannot put them on a reasonable war footing, instead of dissipating money in this way, and thus preventing the possibility in the end of providing that financial backing which alone can take us safely through the war. In a recent issue of the Nineteenth Century a writer laid it down that when the end of the war comes we cannot be said to have won properly unless we win it with a million men to spare and with financial resources to enable us to maintain our financial status in the councils of the world and enforce our rights as belligerents. How are we going to do it if we fritter away our financial resources in this way on our civil establishments as if there were no war in progress, and even on an infinitely more liberal scale than in the time of peace? I hope that the
Treasurer will set himself to the task of seeing that the cost of purely civil administration is pruned down, in order that we may have the more money to devote to the war and its prosecution to the bitter end.
– I do not feel inclined to let the speech of the right honorable gentleman pass without saying something upon it. I believe that economy should be practised in regard to administration; but as there is so much unemployment due to the diminution of private trade, in my opinion this is particularly a time when the Commonwealth should proceed with a public works policy if it is able to provide the means for doing so. I have contended this for the last twelve months.
– But we are increasing our expenditure in this direction.
– If the Government can see their way to go on with these works, now is the time to do so, when there are .men in idleness owing to the slackening of private trade. The right honorable gentleman referred to the expenditure of £90,000 on postal buildings, but time after time we have heard from honorable members opposite the cry that there are not sufficient postal services in country districts.
– This money is for postoffices.
– The post-offices are being built in country districts principally. Will honorable members opposite who have post-offices being built in their electorates say, “ Let these postoffices stand over until after the war “ ?
– If there-is a general policy to that effect I am prepared to say it to my constituents.
– I quite agree that there should be the closest economy in every branch of the Public Service, and that there should be economy in the expenditure of public money on public works; but I maintain that there should be no diminution in the amount of public money spent on those works, especially a< this time, when men are in idleness through the slackening of private trade. When the war is over, we must look for a revival of trade, when men will be fully employed in the industrial activities of the country. . That will not be the time for initiating a vigorous public works policy. Now is the time, when there is slackening of employment in private trade.
– Does the honorable member say that with 160,000 men withdrawn from the industrial enterprises, there is still a big unemployed problem 1
– I can find plenty of men out of work in my own electorate, and I shall be glad to hear of any wort that is available for them. Probably men will be required for the harvest, but that will only be a little rush for a few weeks.
– Four months.
– There will not be work for four months for an army of men. I urge the closest economy in the administrative services, but apparently the Government, upon whom the responsibility rests, are in a position to find the money for the carrying out of these public works.
– The question is whether employment is to be found in the productive areas, where the wealth of this community is created, or artificially in State employment. Statistics show that the drought still raging in Queensland has accounted for 40 per cent, of the stock of that State, or, in all States, fully £100,000,000 worth of the internal resources of Australia. At the present rate, over £50,000,000 a year is being taken out of the productive zone for war purposes, our total production being nearly £230,000,000 a year, including the cost of the raw material imported and turned into the finished article; yet, while every producer’s resources are being strained, not only to carry on his own affairs, but also to keep his employees at work, the honorable member for Cook proposes still to carry on the great policy of State enterprise in finding work for men when their services are required in the areas of production. I have at heart the welfare of the people who work for their living as much as the honorable member has.
– The honorable member seeks to have a big army of unemployed, who would provide him with cheap labour for- his harvest.
– That is an unfair charge. The honorable member has never heard me advocate that view, and I do not reside in an atmosphere that does so.
– It is the trend of the honorable member’s argument.
– It is not my argument. My point is that this is the time to privately organize the community, and allow private agencies to get to work to absorb our surplus labour profitably, and I join issue with those who say that private agencies cannot do so. Haymaking is now commencing, and the gathering of the harvest will occupy from seven to eight weeks. The produce to be shifted will amount to 3,500,000 tons, and merchants, traders, bankers, and financiers, as well as the producers - in fact, every one connected with the lifting of the great harvest - will be extremely busy. I believe that with proper organization there will be a job for every man in the country, but we need that class of organization which will bring the job and the man together. With all the energy honorable members opposite have applied to the bringing of men to the actual work in the producing areas, they have not been able to do so, excepting through one or two bodies, such as the Shearers Union. They have neither the organization nor the machinery for dealing with the labour required for handling our great harvest. For the money that honorable members opposite are taking from theRural Workers Union they provide no organization.
– What is the Farmers Union doing with the money which it collects ?
– If my honorable friends would expend a little more effort in bringing the job and the man together, instead of for ever levying taxes on people who already carry too much of the burdens of this country, they would be rendering a greater service to unionism. I challenge the honorable member for Cook to point to one organization which will provide a man with a job in connexion with the forthcoming harvest.
– What is the farmers’ organization doing?
– It does not draw about £1 a year from each rural worker for looking after his interests. At a time like this we cannot expect to inflate the public expenditure by creating jobs for the people. The only course open to us is to increase production. This is not the time for a policy for the erection of new public buildings. Personally, I am prepared to vote in favour of the cessation of a number of public works which are in progress in the Federal Capital, in the Northern Territory, and on the transcontinental railway. We cannot afford to keep them going while we are spending over £1,000,000 per week on the war. The present is a time when we should increase the activities of private enterprise, and I do hope that honorable members will recognise that fact.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat was very careful to suggest that certain public works to which he objects are’ being undertaken merely for the purpose of providing employment. But on that ground alone his contention would fail, because public money cannot be expended better than in providing work for the people, so long as the money expended is devoted to necessary, useful, and reproductive undertakings.
– That idea is exploded.
– The greatest evil in this country is that which has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition - I refer to the want of organization. The great lesson that we are learning today is that of industrial and economic organization, and it is being taught to us in a very severe fashion by the only nation in the world which knows organization - I allude to Germany. The greatest problem with which we are confronted is that of utilizing the human energy and wealth that is now running to waste. There is nothing more dangerous in a country than for people to be idle. There is nothing more foolish.
– Do not go into the ethics of the subject.
– It is a question of £ s. d. as well as of ethics. In to-day’s newspapers I read the statement that on the books of one bureau in Melbourne alone are registered the names of 1,000 men who are out of work.
– Did the honorable member also read a letter from a farmer?
– What does it say?
– It says that there is not sufficient labour available for the harvest, and suggests the stoppage of public works to make men available to reap it.
– I hope that no attention will be paid to that suggestion, because, while there are men out of employment, as there are in every State, and particularly in our capital cities, it would be a suicidal policy to create more unemployed so as to give the farmers a superabundance of labour at cheap rates.
– That is a libel on the farmers of this country - a scandalous libel. The honorable member knows very well that in harvest time the farmers pay good wages.
– Only a few minutes ago, the Leader of the Opposition was attempting to get into Hansard statements as to the hilarity, carelessness, and indifference that were being exhibited by honorable members on this side of the chamber, when, as a matter of fact, there was no warrant for his sueeestion.
– Does the honorable member stand up and seriously say that?
– I do.
– The honorable member ought to know that it is untrue, and he does know it.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it. The honorable member himself took part in it. He knows it.
– I ask the honorable member to assist the Chair in preserving order. Whilst he was speaking, he complained ‘ bitterly of interjections. I ask him to set an example by abstaining from interjecting when another honorable member is speaking.
– The Leader of the Opposition has accused me wrongly. I neither interjected- *
– Does the honorable member say that seriously’
– I do. The honorable member may laugh if he chooses, but that makes no difference.
– The honorable member knows better.
– I know when I interject.
– And I know, too.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not catch me that time. I was very careful not to interject. The Government propose to spend a certain amount of public money on various works. The Leader of the Opposition, and the honorable member for Wannon, have suggested that those works are unnecessary. The former affirmed that some of them might not be immediately necessary.
– Not urgent.
– That contention is quite a reasonable one. There are some works which might be postponed without serious disadvantage to the community.
– The honorable member does not suggest that anybody advocated the cessation of public works - except in relation to the war?
– But the honorable member himself suggested that they were being carried on merely for the purpose of providing employment for unionists.
– I did not.
– That is the statement to which I take exception. But, even if works were being undertaken for that purpose alone, they would be justified. As it is, they are doubly justified, because they are necessary, and because men are waiting for employment. The country can do nothing better than provide work for the people. The workers of this country are not loafers. ‘They want work, and they are offered charity. I hope the policy of this Government will not only continue as it is, but that before long there will be such an extension of the idea that the Government will recognise their right to keep the people in work, or else, while they are unemployed, to keep them in such a condition that they will not starve.
– The honorable member is missing his opportunities when he talks like that.
– Probably I am.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I have made several appeals to members of the Committee to cease from interjecting, but apparently those appeals have fallen upon barren ground. I shall make no more. If honorable members will not obey the Chair I will name them.
– There are some public works not included in the schedule that might be gone on with. I am prepared to say, also, that there are public works in the schedule that ought not to be proceeded with. There are certain works in connexion with Military and Naval defence that will be mere waste of public money. I take this opportunity of expressing my dissent from a suggestion contained, I think, in the Argus, that work at the Federal Capital should be suspended during the war. That, to my mind, is quite unnecessary. I do not know any work that would be more reproductive to the community than expenditure on the Federal Capital, and I do not know any work more necessary. If the Government will only take their courage in both hands, and go strongly ahead with the expenditure of public money in proper directions, they will be rendering splendid service to the community.
– “Where is the money to come from?
– I do not think there will be any trouble in getting money. I have unbounded faith, both in the ability of Australia to carry its load, and in the readiness and willingness of Australia to carry that load. We have far from exhausted the financial resources of the country. It is better for us to raise as much money as we require for local purposes at home, so as to keep, not only the capital, but the interest, circulating in the country. For that reason the Government have taken a wise step in suggesting an additional loan of £18,000,000. Even the £7,000,000 suggested as the requirements of the States during the next financial year should not be beyond the country’s resources. Honorable members complaining of the expenditure on public works have all along grumbled at the waste of time by the Postal Department in the erection of post-offices and country telephone lines. The difficulty that is being experienced in Sydney is due to the absence of five or six exchanges situated round the city sharing the telephone work by a system of decentralization, so that the subscribers can get more prompt attention. More money ought to be spent on public works. We never were at a time when this was more needed; and, far from objecting to any restriction on public expenditure in that direction, I am prepared to support the Government to the fullest extent they are willing to go.
– I am not appealing to the Leader of the Opposition for any consideration for my personal comfort, but I do put it to him whether he ought to raise a discussion upon a Works Bill, in view of the fact that I have, later to-day, to make a speech on the financial situation of the Commonwealth.
– I have not raised the discussion. I made a simple protest, and it seems honorable members opposite must all answer it. I cannot help that.
– I have to make this financial statement, and I am not quite ready with it. In all probability I shall also have to attend a meeting of the State Premiers, when I may be called upon if the question of finance is discussed. When the second Supply Bill asked for in connexion with New Works and Buildings, involving the sum of £1,042,000, was put forward by Mr. Fisher, on the 23rd June, 1915, there was no debate whatever, and the Bill passed through all its stages without amendment. If the Leader of the Opposition was prepared to treat the former Treasurer in that way, does he not think it would be magnanimous on his part to let this Bill go through at this hour of the morning?
– Would it not be better for the honorable member to give us the setting of the previous resolution, instead of singling it out? What went before it, and what came after?
– What went before was a discussion similar to that which has been taking place for several hours tonight. Yet when we come along now with a similar resolution regarding a third Supply Bill, involving a sum of only £647,696, the honorable member protests. If his supporters would be content with his protest, it would be quite right, but he has certain supporters who feel it their duty to make a few remarks too.
– They simply follow your own members.
– What I want to point out is that on the previous occasion nothing like the same debate took place as that which honorable members are instituting now. I was asked whether the works mentioned in this Bill were to be paid for out of revenue or by loan. I say, in reply to that, that they are to be paid for out of revenue. It is possible, however, that when the Estimates are finally closed, certain of the items will be deleted from the Estimates and included in a Loan Bill. In speaking on the second Bill, the right honorable member for Swan said that-
Furthermore, the amount he is proposing to expend on new works and buildings this vear should have been charged, if not all, for* the most part, to loan funds.
This showed that it has been the practice to charge a portion of the works to revenue, and a portion to loan. The item of £260,000 for Defence will probably be out of loan funds.
– The two speeches we have just listened to are revelations as to what is in the minds of the Government and their supporters, and they do not promise very well for an economic administration of the civil establishments during this time of war. I confess I am bitterly disappointed. For honorable members to say - in this time of war, when we are trying to rake in everv sixpence, when we are floating loans by tens of millions throughout Australia, and are appealing to the people to patriotically contribute their money - that the Government are not spending nearly enough on public works, is a revelation of the attitude of the party that is governing Australia. One does not wonder, in view of statements like this, that the public debt, as well as the taxation of Australia, is increasing so rapidly ner head. One does not wonder that Australia is already, perhaps, the most highly-taxed country in the world. But it is a fact. The honorable member for Indi on Friday was gibing us over this same question. He struck quite a triumphant note when he said that the present Government had always lived within their income, and that the Opposition had never done so. The answer to that is that the present Government have, within the last two or three years, placed £5,000,000 additional taxation upon the people of Australia. They have added £1per head, or £5 per family, to the burden of taxation within the last two years. Indeed, to be accurate, they have done all this within the last year, to say nothing of the permanent obligations they are entering into for other than war purposes. It is because we want more for war purposes that I am arguing we should spend less just now for civil purposes. There is every reason why we should carefully husband our resources in order to have loan money available to meet the war needs of the nation. Members behind the Government appear to think that we can beat the. German nation one-handed. Here we have the spectacle of Germany all out, out to the lasf sixpence, her people suffering agonies of discomfort and distress in order to beat us; while in this House we have honorable members opposite holding the notion, apparently. that we can beat that nation with one hand and carrv on onr usual occupations with the other. They are ready to fling money about for all sorts of things. Here we have proposals to spend £4,000,000 for public works, £1,100,000 more than last financial year. It is monstrous. In the ordinary loan expenditure this year there is an increase of £800,000.
– Suppose we reduce that amount, would it make any material difference ?
– I venture to say it would. We have a right to do the best we can for our people, just as other countries have a right to do the best for their people; but does the honorable member see this policy being carried out in other countries ?
– God help us if we followed the people of other countries.
– It will be God help us if we do not follow the Old Country in connexion with this war.
– We are doing better than they are.
– I am simply, amazed at the statement made by the honorable member. Our loan expenditure for the war is little over £40,000,000, and in the Old Country it is between £1,200,000,000 and £1,300,000,000. As 5 is to 45, so should our expenditure for war purposes be to the expenditure of the Old Country. Let the honorable member reckon it up for himself, and then let him say, if he can, that we are doing better. Our financial obligations this year, to be equal to theirs, would be about £200,000,000, instead of £40,000,000; and yet, in the face of this fact, honorable members opposite complacently say that we are doing’ better than the Old Country. _ Will honorable members really open their eyes and see what are the relative positions? Such statements as have been made really reflect upon their intelligence.
– It is a wonder the people did not send you back to conduct this affair.
– Order ! Will the honorable member for Cook cease interjecting ?
– These statements come trippingly to the tongue of the honorable member.
– You must not think that you are going to have it all your own way.
– He will not, either.
– I deeply regret this display of arrogance and tyranny from honorable members opposite.
-Order ! The honorable member for Parramatta is directly inviting reprisals, and I ask him not to do so.
– I care not whether I invite reprisals or not. I am here to do my duty, as I conceive it, to the country, and I care not for all these jeers and interjections. Let honorable members make them. I can stand them. I am determined to make my protest against this extravagance in expenditure on the civil departments of this country at this time. I want now to refer to the increase of £3,000,000 on the ordinary Estimates of the year.
– Order ! That is not now before the Chair. The question under discussion is the expenditure of £647,000.
– Which is part of the extra £3,000,000 of which I am speaking.
– The Committee have already decided that.
– That is what I am talking about. I am protesting that, in this time of war, instead of husbanding our resources, we are spending £3,000,000 more than usual on the ordinary administrative Departments. I say, also, that we are doing that whilst we are withdrawing 160,000 of our citizens from the industrial ranks. That is to say, 160,000 of our people are being paid for out of special war loans; and yet I am told there is a serious unemployed problem in Australia. If there is, then all I can say is God help the Government of this country, for the State Governments spent more in the last financial year than in the previous year, which was a period of peace. Money is pouring into this country from loan sources, and if. with our waterways and our ordinary channels of communication open, and our ordinary industrial enterprises going on, there is a serious unemployed problem in Australia, that condition of things is a serious reflection on the Government of this country. Is this all we get out of Socialistic methods of government? After relieving ourselves by means of loan moneys we are told that as a result of all the operations of Socialistic Governments to-day there is a very serious unemployed problem. I venture to say there is no serious unemployed problem in Australia to-day. There may be defective organization, but there is today a job for every man in Australia who wants work. I do not deny that there may be some temporary dislocations, but taking Australia by and large there is a job for every man who wants work. We find the farmers saying that they have not workers to gather the harvest. They pay good wages in harvest time, and if the Government will economize as I have suggested and let these men help to get in the harvest they will do well. But when these things are mentioned we are met with more of these interjections of which I complain. We are told, “ You want to sweat their wages down.” We have to listen to such taunts whenever we argue for economical government in war time. I never felt my duty so seriously as I feel it just now. It is time that the Government of the Commonwealth and the State Governments took a pull at themselves and sought to ascertain whether it is not possible to shear down the civil institutions of Australia and to place our civil resources upon a war footing.
– I wish to take exception to the remark made by the Leader of the Opposition that whenever the question of the war and the finances is discussed by the Opposition in this House their observations are received by gibes and sneers from honorable members sitting behind the Government. I can assure the right honorable member that the Government and their supporters are as profoundly impressed with the seriousness of the business which confronts the country as he and his party are. He complains of the expenditure on public works. It is only a few months since not only public men, but the press of Australia, were appealing to the Commonwealth and the State Governments to keep the wheels of industry going round in the interests of the thousands who had been thrown out of employment owing to~private enterprise having become paralyzed as the result of the outbreak of hostilities. Within the last month or two there has “been an improvement in the conditions of the unemployed, but the whole of the unemployed in Victoria have not yet been absorbed. In the metropolitan area there are possibly 3,000 or 4,000 men still out of work and looking for employment. That is a reasonable estimate. It is the duty of the Commonwealth and the State Governments to do everything possible during the depression which is operating in many industries as the result of the war to carry out necessary public works with a view to assisting these people. As the honorable member for Cook has said, we should not hold over these works until times become normal, when private enterprise will stretch out for every man who can be obtained. The Commonwealth and State Governments should not wait till then and enter into competition with private enterprise in obtaining workmen. My recollection is that when things were at their worst in New South Wales after the boom, the late Mr. E. W. O’Sullivan came forward with a bold public works policy. The people at that time said he was not justified in doing so, but the years which followed proved the wisdom of the policy that he had the courage to carry out. It proved of the greatest possible benefit to thousands of workmen in New South “Wales, giving them practical assistance when it was most urgently required. Without referring to any particular form of government in operation, I desire to say that the State Governments, as well as the Government of the Commonwealth, have endeavoured to rise to the occasion and to grapple with the conditions brought about by the war. But for the active policy carried out by the majority of the States and by this Government during the depression experienced for the first five or six months after the outbreak of the war things in Australia would have been much worse than they were. I desire once more to assure the Leader of the opposition that the Government and their supporters are just as profoundly impressed as are the Opposition with the seriousness of the great struggle that is now going on and the part that we have to play in it in the interests of, not only our own country, but the Empire as a whole.
Mr. PIGOTT (Calare) r3.4”3 a.m.].- I agree with the remarks made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat as to the condition of affairs prevailing in Australia for the first six months of the war. They do not apply, however, to the present situation. The honorable member must not forget that we have drawn, principally from the labour market, something like 160,000 men.
– I am glad that the honorable member admits that.
– We are all labourers. The Liberal party has done more for the workers than has any other political party in Australia. We gave them the franchise. We were not afraid to do so, believing that the more liberty we gave them the better.
– Why not give them a vote for the Upper Houses ?
– We have adult suffrage, so far as both Houses of this Parliament are concerned, and for this the Liberals have to be thanked. I repeat that 160,000 young fellows have been withdrawn from different channels of labour in order to fight for the Empire. We have also every promise of a record harvest, and if, as the honorable member for Fawkner says, there are 3,000 or 4,000 unemployed in the metropolis of Melbourne, it is their own fault and the fault of the Government. Country people are crying out for labour. Mrs. Reynolds, the wife of the manager of an experimental farm in New South Wales, controlled by a Labour Government, recently stated at a recruiting meeting that they could not secure sufficient labour, and that she had felt constrained to go into the harvest fields and to assist to gather the crops. The ex-Prime Minister, in this House, said that he had every promise of a record harvest this season. He anticipated a harvest of 160,000,000 bushels, which must absorb a tremendous amount of labour. The channels of labour are open throughout the country. We wanted six shearers to shear our sheep, and could get only two, and had to put off the shearing for about three weeks until we could get the other hands.
– I suppose the shearers have gone to the war.
– Then the sooner the people in the towns go out into the country to take their places the better. This cry of the Government providing work for the people in the cities must be put an end to ; we must conserve our resources as other countries are doing, but if we go on as we are doing at present we shall be very much worse off than the Mother Country. The horse that won the Melbourne Cup was the best stayer, and the nation that will win the war is the one that can stay to the finish.
– Within a few short hours the Opposition have objected to the Government making certain Departments pay, and also to the Government proposing to find employment by means of public works. To enforce economy by cutting down public works is only another method of bringing about conscription, and is urged by those who have not the desire or courage to vote for conscription directly. The great British nation has never needed to introduce conscription, because it has always known that it could make men join the Army by shutting down big works when necessary. Bringing about unemployment in the cities means that those on the land will be able to fix their own prices for land, and means also the forcing of men to enlist for a livelihood. I shall always object to bringing about conscription in that way. If it has to come, it will have to be fought out in this House vote by vote. Without detracting one iota from the glorious work done by our men at the front, it is sober truth that thousands of them went because there was no. employment in Australia for them. In times of stress it is the duty of the Government not to close their purse-strings, as private employers do. A bold policy is called for, and that is what the present Government are adopting. In the time previous to the war the Government would not borrow. The Opposition, when in power, passed a Loan Act for £3,500,000 for the Fleet but the Labour party repealed the Act, and paid for the Fleet out of revenue. Times are very different now, and the Government must have a bold policy. I hope that neither they nor the party behind them will ever listen to any method of bringing about compulsory service by stopping the wheels of industry.
– I am sorry the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has imported into what was becoming a very interesting discussion a subject that has nothing to do with the question. The manifesto of the Leader of the Labour party at the last election announced that if one sphere of economic production failed, the party would create new ones, their object being to keep the wheels of industry going. The honorable member for Fawkner rightly pointed but to-night that all parties had combined in the early stages of the war to contribute to a policy of profitably absorbing labour. Things, however, have moved since then. The people were agitated, not only by the outbreak of the war, but by the fact that the country had stopped producing, and we had to send all round the world for foodstuffs to feed our people and stock, and so avert a famine for man and beast. Since that happened we have begun to appreciate what Australia can do, and what she can raise. The rubbish that we had to import as food has shown us that we have a country well worth fighting for. A policy by which the State has to absorb and employ its population places on the State the obligation to create employment, i regard public works, not as an instrument to absorb labour, but as a means of providing facilities to enable the people to carry on trade and commerce and assist production. I hope we shall never reach the stage at which we regard a public work as a mere means of absorbing labour. We build up a far better State by putting in each man’s hand the means of working out his own destiny. I have heard this Government charged with failure to carry out its election pledge to find employment for every man and woman in the country, but I do not look on that as its real obligation, although it probably represents the obligation placed on the Labour party by its then leader. The true obligation of the State is to provide reasonable facilities for its people to carry on their ordinary avocations. It is not the duty of the State to engage against private enterprises, and go into competition with its own taxpayers, levying taxation on them for the purpose of that competition. Instead of undertaking a public works policy for the purpose of providing employment for the people, as some honorable members have suggested, the prime reason for such a policy should be the creation of facilities that may assist production. A party may go upon the hustings and win its way to power by saying to the electors, “Support us, we have a vigorous public works policy, and we will give you employment.” But when the State has utilized all available means of providing employment, and is unable to absorb all those who are seeking work, the followers of that party find themselves cast upon their own resources, and the Government having failed to organize enterprise those people find themselves without a means of support.
– I have not previously spoken during this part of the session, because of a vain hope that the party charged with the government of the country would be allowed to carry out some portion of their policy; but I cannot sit idly by and hear a comparison, which has nothing to justify it, instituted between what we in Australia are doing and what is being done in Great Britain. Long before the war was entered upon, our small population of less than 5,000,000 had cast upon it the huge task of developing this country and making it reproductive. We were performing the task with credit and success; but even in normal conditions we could not carry on that work without borrowing approximately £20,000,000 annually, independent of the money provided by private concerns. We are still engaged in putting the primary improvements on a continent much greater in extent than Britain, France, and Germany, and to say that we are not doing proportionately what the population of Great Britain is doing is to try to establish something which carries its own contradiction on its face. The mere fact that we are engaged in developmental works - the building of thousands of miles of railways, the making of harbors and public buildings, and the provision of postal and telegraphic facilities - which, it is hoped, will be ultimately reproductive, has the effect of taking a big proportion of our people from present reproductive enterprises, and a large proportion of those remaining are engaged in taking advantage of the speculative methods of making money, and juggling with the production already established, or likely to result from the development of our industries. At that stage in our growth we have been caught by the war. No political economist with a character to lose, if asked to classify our people, would say that more than onethird of them were really engaged in reproductive works with head or hand ; and no amount of juggling with the measure of production already established can assist us to meet our difficulties. Wc must meet them, it is true, and we must do what is possible; but I do not think that anything we can do at this stage by closing down on the public works of the Commonwealth, and simply throwing a lot of people upon our present neglected industries - neglected in the past for the more speculative methods of making money - can materially benefit us. Whilst it is desirable that we should be given every opportunity for harvesting and marketing our crops, I have no sympathy with the proposal for taking labour from the cities, because my practical experience as a fanner gives the lie to the theory that it is possible to take thousands of artisans out of the city and make effective agricultural labourers of them. As part and parcel of such a sporadic system of employment we should require some method by which the workers could be chloroformed and kept dormant, or packed in wadding for the greater portion of the year, when they were not required for harvesting work. Until we devise a system by which pre-eminenoce is given to the genuine land-user over the men who exploit him, we shall be confronted by those social problems which have been accentuated by the present war. I do hope we shall not hear repeated, again and again, this comparison to the detriment of Australia, for we know that no real comparison can be reasonably deduced.
– I quite agree with some of the remarks that have fallen from the lips of the honorable member for Werriwa; and it appears to me that at this juncture, and in view of the obligations we are likely to incur, the Treasurer should take into serious consideration the criticisms of the Leader of the Opposition with regard to tt:e proposed expenditure of £90,000 on postoffices. If, as some honorable members are declaring, this expenditure is to provide work for the unemployed, r.ll J cun reply is that, as the Government have several irons in the fire, they are creating competition for the services they require in different directions. If the Government intend to find work for the unemployed labour of the Commonwealth, principally single men, whilst they are at the same time inviting single men to answer the patriotic call to the flag, I asls what hope have the Government of attracting the men, whose services are earnestly desired to save our very Constitution, for a monetary return of 6s. or 8s. per day, when, at the same time, they are offering those men employment in the midst of civilization and comfort at 10s. and 12s. a day ? The Government are setting up competition for the one class of labour in two opposite directions, and the result must be disastrous. Although we have the greatest objection to the tactics of our enemies, there is yet one system of the Germans that is worthy of our earnest consideration. The moment the war broke out, the German nation organized the whole of its forces, industrial as well as military. The German in the factory receives only the same wages as the German in the trenches. There is no inducement to him to stay at home in peace’ and comfort to receive higher wages than are paid to men risking their lives for the country. The Government will be entering upon a very difficult course if, while they invite men to volunteer for the front, at the risk of their lives, for 8s. per day, they undertake public works for which they call for the same class of labour at from 10s. to 12s. per day. Private enterprise has often come to the rescue when there has been a considerable amount of unemployment; but it must be remembered that we are only just recovering from a very serious drought, during which primary production was held up throughout Australia. This resulted in a serious loss of capital, and in the usual avenues of rural employment being almost completely closed up. I am in a position to say that a rumour was circulated by interested individuals to the effect that, in the agricultural districts, city men who knew nothing about farming work could secure employment at not less than £1 per day. I know that no fewer than 500 men came to the town of Wellington, in New South Wales, on a particular morning, and sat down there expecting the farmers to come along and employ them at £1 per day.
– Did they get work ?
– They could only get work at the ordinary rate paid by farmers of from 8s. to 9s. per day. These men expressed their disappointment in very vigorous terms, and left the district sadder and wiser than when they came into it. These asinine rumours are set going in the cities to induce men who are accustomed to only casual employment to believe that they will find an El Dorado in the rural districts. The Government have undertaken to supply 9,000 men per month to the firing ‘line. At the same time, they are proposing to undertake many public works, such as the building of post-offices. The award for bricklayers is, I believe, 14s. per day, and if a single man is in a position to choose between employment on public works at 14s. a day and going to the front at 8s. per day, we know how he is likely to decide. If the Government propose to limit employment on public works to married men, I have, of course, nothing more to say. The Germans pay ls. 5d. a day to the man in the trenches, and the same wages to the man in the factory. If a man is not satisfied with his job in a factory, he is promoted quick and lively to the trenches. The consequence is that in Germany they have no unemployed problem. It appears to me that the Government are, in this matter, on the horns of a dilemma. They must break their word to the Imperial authorities to send 9,000 men per month to the front, or they must give the people of this community to understand that they will employ only married men on public works. The statement so often repeated that any born fool, and the perfect waster in every other walk of life, may at the same time be a heaven-born farm labourer is the most ridiculous fallacy ever uttered. Do honorable members believe for a moment that a man owning machines costing anything from £55 to £155 each will place an unskilled man in charge of them at a skilled man’s wages? We know that he will not do anything of the kind ; yet city people honestly believe, because they have been told it over and over again, that any man in possession of health and strength can get a job on a farm at not less than £1 per day. There is not a man in Australia to-day who if he wants a job. and looks for it, cannot find it; and consequently I say that the proper place for a single man physically fit who finds that a job that will suit him is difficult to secure, is in the firing line. The Government cannot expect to succeed if, for the firing line and for public works they compete with themselves for the labour of single men who are physically fit.
.I join issue with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports as to the motives which actuated most of the men who have joined our Expeditionary Force. The honorable member says that most of them enlisted because they were compelled to do so by want of employment. I consider that they were prompted by the highest motives that could actuate citizens - the desire to fight for the preservation of the liberties of their country. If there was unemployment at the beginning of the war, the Government could have found a remedy for it. Honorable members on both sides are aware that the Minister of Defence had to be whipped into adopting two shifts at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. Had the country been full of unemployed, men could easily have been found for three shifts. I have repeatedly drawn attention to the need for following the example of Canada and South Africa in regard to the manufacture of munitions. Canada has manufactured £50,000,000 worth of munitions. Had we done as much, the money would have found employment for about 330,000 men at £3 a week. Of course, money spent on erecting structures of bricks and mortar, and in building railways in the Northern Territory does not leave the country, but its expenditure does not help us to defeat the Germans, the Turks, and the Austrians. Their defeat can be brought about only by the sending away of troops and the furnishing of munitions. South Africa has manufactured about £8,000,000 worth of munitions. Australia has done practically nothing in this way. I understand that private enterprise in Newcastle is manufacturing shell cases, but I do not think that any have been yet sent out of the country. Were we to vigorously engage in the manufacture of munitions, for which there is an unlimited demand at good prices, we should provide remunerative employment to some hundreds of thousands of men, and should materially assist Great Britain and her Allies. Only in this way can we help to bring the war to a successful issue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means covering Resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Mr. Higgs and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor), by leave, agreed to -
That leave of absence for one week be granted to the honorable member for Macquarie.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The business of the next sitting will be the War Loan Bill and the Murray Rivers Agreement Bill. One or other will be taken first, and the other will follow. ‘
– Better take the State Bill first.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, to whom we can always look for the information that we require, when he will assume control of the wheat freights question, which, strictly, comes under his Department, and of which I should like to see him take charge in this House; I have one or two reasons for taking this course. We experience a difficulty in getting any information on the subject in response to our questions. The Minister sitting at the table has a great deal to do with trade and commerce, he is well posted in the practice of shipping, and therefore is in a far better position to inform honorable members.
– This is no time for a lengthy statement.
– I know that; but my reason for speaking now is the ability of the honorable member to handle the affairs of his Department. The next point is that we desire to obtain some very important information. In this city today I endeavoured to get from the premier shipping firms a quotation for the coming season’s harvest, but there is not one of them in the market to buy. Surely this matter has been going on long enough - from the 24th July to the present time ! There is not a shipper in this city who is prepared in the present chaotic state of the freight business to enter the market. It is one thing to make an arrangement abroad and announce to the country in a sort of flippant way that freights have been arranged from December to January, and that we shall be able to go ahead; but it is another thing to find the buyers. I seriously ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to assume the control of this business, and to let the trading community have the benefit of his experience.-
.- I am most anxious to do justice to a constituent in the Wellington district. I hare questioned the Minister of Defence and the Minister for the Navy, arid written to the Department. The Ministers said that they had sent three cablegrams in connexion with the matter, and, as I cannot get any satisfaction from them, I shall be very pleased if the Minister of Trade and Customs will act. A young fellow named Robbins enlisted from the Wellington district, and went to the front. Instead of making the money due to him payable to his mother, it was made payable to his credit at a Savings Bank. The old lady, of course, expected to get the money as soon as he went to the front. She ib a widow who was entirely dependent upon the efforts of her son, and* now she is absolutely without means of support. This good old lady, who had not been accustomed to go out to service, rather than beg amongst the people of Wellington, is doing menial work. It is deplorable that any country, Labour or Liberal, should allow the mother of a soldier who is fighting for the flag to go out as a servant because the Defence Department will not do its duty. I think it is high time that some action was taken. The Minister for the Navy will recollect me handing over the papers to faim. He promised to have some inquiries made, but up to the present moment they have not crystallized. 1 ask him to be good enough to make a note of the name, namely, i±. C. Robbins, 23002, 6th Field Ambulance.
– I will.
– Four or five months ago, the Defence Department informed me that they had cabled to Egypt to. get the allotment mad© out in favour of the mother, and at the present moment she, being a woman of high spirit, is working as a domestic rather than beg. The Defence Department knows all about the case. If I have written one letter, . I have written twenty, and also seen the paymaster at the Victoria Barracks in Sydney. I ask the Government, for the credit of themselves and the country, to attend to this very important matter.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) f4.31 a.m.]. - I have a motion on the notice-paper for a later hour pf the day. I desire to know whether I shall be allowed an opportunity to bring the motion before the House, or whether it is intended to proceed with Government business. It is a proposal to grant representation to the citizens of Dependencies and Territories.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra- Minister of Trade and Customs) “4.32]. - In moving the adjournment of the House I announced that the Loan Bill will be taken first this afternoon if the Treasurer is here ; otherwise, I will proceed with the River Murray Waters Bill. The Minister for the Navy has taken a note of the question raised by the honorable member for Calare. The Attorney-General is dealing with the quest-ion of wheat freights and seeing the representatives of the various States. As soon as Tie has fixed ut> the matter, T understand that it is to be handed over to the Department of Trade and- Customs to be dealt with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned a’t 4.33 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 November 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19151103_reps_6_79/>.