6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. WEST presented a petition from the Anti- Vaccination Council of Victoria praying the House to take into consideration the urgent necessity for abolishing the practice of vaccinating and innoculating soldiers.
Petition received and read.
– The other day, when a petition was presented, I pointed out that it would he as well for honorable members to allow me first to peruse petitions they desired to present. I have no wish to prevent any petition being read, because members should know what is in the minds of certain people, but this petition is on the borderline as to whether it is in order or not.
Mr. WATT, on behalf of Mr. Wise, presented a petition promoted by the Australian Natives Association and the Compulsory Service League, and signed by 70,721 electors of Victoria, praying the House to provide for compulsory military service duringthe war.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether it is a fact, as reported in the press, that three or four ships are about to leave Australia in ballast, because the owners have been unable to obtain from his Department permits to load coal? If it is a fact, will the Minister give further consideration to the matter in order to preserve the coal industry ?
– I have not had the opportunity of verifying the accuracy of the statement in the press. Our difficulty lies in the fact that if we compel British or allied vessels to carry wheat, and allow neutral vessels to carry coal, which is a much more profitable cargo, we are penalizing our own people. If we allow shipowners to carry coal it will be good-bye to our export of wheat.
– We cannot force any vessel to carry wheat.
– We cannot force a neutral vessel to take any cargo except what its owners choose to carry. The owners of neutral vessels probably find greater profit in leaving Australia in ballast, and picking up nitrates at a South American port, or timber at Puget Sound, than in carrying wheat from Australia.
– But is not the Minister preventing them from carrying coal?
– If we allow them to carry coal, we shall not get any boats to carry our wheat.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence lay on the table of the Library’ all papers relating to the case of Staff
Sergeant-Major Tanner, who is undergoing sentence as a result of a court martial in connexion with the Liverpool Camp riot?
– I have no objection to complying with the request.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs say whether any circumstances have arisen since last week in connexion with the butter trade which will allow him to lift the embargo on the export of butter?
– In no respect have the circumstances altered. I may add that on the day that the Queensland merchants applied to be allowed to send butter away the price was raised1d. per lb. in that State.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. In the Age of Saturday appeared the following report, headed -
“A SEPARATE PEACE.”
” A Hellish Suggestion.”
In the Senate yesterday Senator Long (T.) asked the Acting Prime Minister whether he had noted that when n question was asked in the Houao of Representatives on Wednesday as to whether Germany had ever approached Australia for a separate peace, Mr. Fowler had asked, “Did Australia consult Germany!” “ Is it competent for the Government,” said Senator Long, “ to take action against an individual making such a hellish suggestion?” (Hear, hear.)
The Acting Paras Minister. - The effect of the statement on the public is to be gauged by the source from which it emanated. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) I do not think that such a statement is likely to cause perturbation in the public mind.
Senator Needham (W.A.). Troat it with the supreme contempt it deserves. (Hear, hear.)
It is almost unnecessary for me to remind the House that my interjection, together with the question I asked earlier, had reference to a cable message which made it appear that the statement regarding peace with Germany had emanated first from the Prime Minister of Australia, and secondly from Mr. Ryan, Premier of Queensland. It is quite obvious, therefore, that the observations made in the Senate cannot apply to me, but they do apply, apparently, to the leader of those senators, and to another Labour leader in Queensland. It is just possible that the intellectual Btrain-
– Order! The honorable member is now going beyond a personal explanation.
– I will leave the matter to the House. Honorable members will be able to form their own opinions as to the remarks applied to me.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House say whether the Government have taken into consideration the suggestion made by one of their supporters that the question of conscription should be referred to the people? If the Government have not done so, is it not possible for them to consider this matter before the return of the Prime Minister?
– When the suggestion with regard to the referendum was made, I remarked that we might submit to the people the other referenda questions at the same time. If the country is to be put to the expense of a referendum at all, we might as well submit the other outstanding questions.
– Is it the intention of the Government to exempt pastoralists as well as agriculturists from the tax on excess war profits which the Government have foreshadowed ?
– Will the Leader of the House state whether any information or memorial has reached him from the employees of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow in regard to the inadequate houss accommodation there ? The problem is said to be acute, and the conditions under which the workmen live intolerable.
– I have had no communication from the source referred to. If the question is placed on the paper, I will bring it under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether the land resumptions in connexion with the Henderson Naval Base have yet been completed ; if not, what is the area actually resumed and the amount paid in settlement of claims thereon, also the area still waiting settlement and the amount claimed thereon ?
– T - The answer is as follows: - lt is not proposed to acquire, at present any additional private lands; certain Crown lands necessary in connexion with the Base will be acquired in the near future.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the Government are prepared to amend the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act this session to give effect to the promise of the Treasurer, given last November, viz., that pensioners resident in State institutions should receive the balance of pension after claims of the State institution had been satisfied?
– This matter is under consideration.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the Government intend to take immediate or any steps to give effect to the motion passed in this House last year - that the inspection of produce passing from State to State should be taken over by the Commonwealth ?
– This question will he further considered after the termination of the war.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Negotiations with the Dominions mentioned by the honorable member were suspended shortly after the outbreak of the war, and it is unlikely that they will be resumed until the war terminates.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether the Government will grant separation allowance to the wives of members of the Australian Imperial Force, where the wives are temporarily absent from Australia ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Separation allowance was approved in order that dependants of soldiers who were receiving less than 8s. per diem, and were resident within the Commonwealth, might, during the service of the soldier, lire in relatively the same degree of comfort as prior to the enlistment of the soldier.
Residence within the Commonwealth was an essential factor when the allowance was granted, but recently payments have been extended to wives and families of soldiers resident in New Zealand, under reciprocal arrangements with the Dominion Government.
Absentees, even though temporarily absent, are not eligible to receive the allowance, nor is it considered that there is justification for the extension of the payment to those with means sufficient to leave the Commonwealth.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the estimated tonnage of Australian sugar held on the day the price was raised from Twenty-five pounds ten shillings (£25 10s.) to Twenty-nine pounds five shillings (£295s.) per ton?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It was estimated that stocks of Australian sugar would last till 12th February, but the demand, especially from jam manufacturers, continued to increase, so that it became necessary to refine imported sugar, and prices were raised on 17th January, 1916, to cover extra cost and duty. The actual tonnage held on that particular day is not on record.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act -
Finance 1914-15- The Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure during the year ended 30th June, 1915, accompanied by the Report of the AuditorGeneral.
Death and Invalidity in the Commonwealth - Committee concerning causes of - Preliminary Report.
Death and Invalidity in the Commonwealth - Committee concerning causes of - Reports on -
Risks of Middle Age.
Ordered to be printed.
Arsenal Committee - Extracts from Report upon Visit to India, 1915.
Baralong - Further correspondence with the German Government respecting the Incidents alleged to have attended the sinking of a German submarine and its crew by His Majesty’s Auxiliary Cruiser Baralong on 19th August, 1915.
Chaplains - Applications by the Anglican Chaplain-General for the appointment of additional Chaplains for Transports, and correspondence in connexion therewith.
Cordite Factory - Extracts from the Annual Report of the Manager for -
Year ended 30th June, 1914.
Year ended 30th June, 1915.
Customs Act -
Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statu tory Rules 1915, No. 247.
Proclamations Prohibiting Exportation (except under certain conditions) of -
Gold Jewellery of a quality standard of 9 carat and over (dated 10th May, 1916).
Fruit, fresh, dried, or preserved in any way, and Nuts used as Fruit (dated 10th May, 1916).
Harness, Saddlery, and Leather Accoutrements Factory - Report for -
Year ended 30th June, 1914.
Year ended 30th June, 1915.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Scone, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 78.
Public Service Act - Promotions of - J. H. Moore, as Clerk, 4th Class, Crown Solicitor’s Office.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr.
Higgs) read a first time.
.- I shall be glad if honorable members will permit me to make my second-reading speech now. The debate can then be adjourned, and we may proceed to the further consideration of the Budget. The commercial community are asking for a pronouncement on this question, and I shall be very glad if honorable members raise no objections to the request I have made. I shall not occupy much time in endeavouring to explain the principles of the measure.
– I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Speaker-
– I cannot allow a general discussion at this stage.
– I should like to make a personal explanation. This is a rather unusual request, though, if anything were to be gained by it, I could understand its being made. What the difference is between to-morrow and today, as regards the merits of the Bill, I do not pretend to know. Perhaps the considerations are balanced either way; and I do not know that the forms of the House need raise any barrier. The Treasurer appears to be charged to the full with information on the subject, and I think that, perhaps, on the whole, it would be better to permit him to relieve himself, even though, in order to do so, we have to set the forms of the House aside.
– I sincerely hope I may not fall into the habit of the Leader of the Opposition of making a speech every day. However, I am thankful to the honorable gentleman for having given me leave to move the second reading.
– The next time the honorable member prefers a request of this sort I shall not forget those few words.
– I withdraw anything that may be offensive to the honorable member. I imagine there is no necessity for me to argue in favour of the introduction of this Bill. All the references I have seen in thepublic press regarding the proposal to tax war profits have been wholly favorable, and in private conversations I have met no one who objects to the measure. “Under tha circumstances, I do not propose to take up honorable members’ time unnecessarily. The Bill is a lengthy one, containing some fifty-five clauses, but Part I., and the latter portions of the measure, consist of machinery clauses taken almost bodily from our Income Tax Act. The clauses which demand the attention of honorable members are clauses 7 to 17, inclusive. Honorable members will observe that the title of the Bill is the “ War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill.” The phrase “Wartime Profits “ has been chosen because there might be a difficulty in proving that a war-time profit was a war profit. The Government considered it advisable to call the Bill a War-time Profits Bill, because certain firms and companies are enjoying huge profits during war time - profits as high as those reaped by firms which might be deemed to be particularly engaged in making war profits. Therefore, all war-time profits in any trade or business above a standard or date and line to be defined will be taxable to the extent of 50 per cent. Before being taxable, however, the profits must exceed the sum of £200 over a full year, or £100 over a half-year. This exemption, which will mean very little to a large firm or company, will, nevertheless, mean a great deal to smaller business people, and will exempt the latter from taxation on war-time profits.
– May I reply to the honorable member’s question by asking another ? Do I understand that the honorable member is in favour of no exemption whatever in the matter of war-time profits?
– Why make a distinction in this case?
– Mainly in the interests of small business people. If the honorable gentleman will propose an amendment in favour of abolishing the exemption, I shall be very glad to put the matter before the Government for their favorable consideration.
– I have not formed any opinion on the matter at all. I was merely seeking for information.
– The tax is to be paid on the profits arising from any business to which this Bill applies, during any accounting period ending after the 30th June, 1915. In the United Kingdom the War Profits Bill was passed in 1915, and covered the first eleven months of the war. The Government do not propose to tax the profits accruing during that period, because the firms and companies have probably in all cases distributed their profits, and it might cause a very great deal of irritation if we now demanded that they should make good those profits.
– Is the Treasurer going to draw a distinction between the man who grows the wheat and the man who afterwards handles it?
– Yes. In order to grasp the provisions of this Bill, which from its very nature is technical and abstruse in some particulars, it is necessary for honorable members to keep clearly in view three factors - the profit standard, the pre-war standard, and the percentage standard. Now, the profit standard will vary in different businesses, and in order to discover what is that standard we must first ascertain what was the pre-war standard. The pre-war standard, too, will vary in different businesses, but in all cases it must reach the percentage standard, which is defined in this Bill as the return of 6 per cent, on the capital invested in the case of a company, and of 7 per cent, in the case of a private firm.
– That is net, of course?
– Does that mean that if a company has increased its capital in the meantime it will be allowed 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, on the additional capital ?
– I will deal with that phase of the matter presently. Assuming that a company’s pre-war profits amounted to a net return . of 5 per cent, on the capital invested and the post-war profits represented 6 per cent, after allowing for an exemption of £200, that company would not pay a war-time profits tax, because 1 per cent, would be added to the . 5 per cent, netted before the war, and its profits would thus fall outside the taxable arena. But if a company’s pre-war profits amounted to 5 per cent., and its postwar profits to 10 per cent., after allowing for a £200 exemption, it follows that 1 per cent, -would be added to its 5 per cent, pre-war profits, and the balance would be divided between the Government and the company. In order that the pre-war standard of profits may be arrived at, a taxpayer will be allowed to average his profits over any two of the last three prewar trade years. If, however, he feels that the last three pre-war trade years were years of abnormal depression, the Commissioner of Taxation will allow him to calculate his profits upon four out of the last six pre-war trade years, but he will not permit him to plead that the last three pre-war trade years were years of abnormal depression unless he can show that during those years his profits were at least 25 per cent, less than they were when averaged over the previous three years. -
– Does the honorable gentleman allow for the normal growth of business in his calculations?
– I imagine what the honorable member would consider normal growth in the case of a business would, in the minds ‘ of other people, mean abnormal prosperity.
– The honorable gentleman is not justified in making that remark, because he knows nothing about the matter.
– That observation is quite in accord with the honorable member’s customary and polite method of replying.
– May I ask why there is no definition of “profits “ in this Bill J
– I would point out that the Treasurer is quite out of order in discussing the details of this measure. In moving its second reading he should confine his remarks to its main principles.
– If you, sir, will permit me, I wish to say that the honorable member for Balaclava considers that I have been discourteous to him. He asked me whether I would make any allowance for the normal growth of a business. May I point out to him that one man might consider that the growth of his business had not been in any way normal, and that lie had sustained abnormal losses? In the Bill we have provided the definition for which the honorable member for Bourke is asking, and I think he will find it quite ample. Honorable members will be interested to know that the Bill will apply to all businesses carried on in Australia or owned or carried on in any other place by persons ordinarily resident in Australia, excepting businesses carried on by municipal corporations, other local governing bodies, by public authorities, by societies registered under a Friendly Societies Act of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory, and not carried on for pecuniary profit, or by a religious, charitable, or public educational institution. Agriculture within Australia is also exempted.
– Why >not exempt pastoralists, too ?
– Because all small pastoralists will get the benefit of the £200 exemption over their ordinary profits. With regard to agriculture, the Government are of opinion that the cultivation of the soil in its various forms, such as the growing of cereals, fruit, vegetables, and flowers, ought to be exempted.
– Is sugar exempted also ?
– Yes; the definition will include sugar growing, but it will not include the timber industry or dairying. Dairy farmers will be in the same position as the small pastoralists; they will have the benefit of the £200 exemption. All persons, firms, or companies conducting businesses associated with agriculture, such as commission agents for the purchase and sale of the products of the soil, will be regarded as taxable, but the Government, in their sympathy with the man on the land, consider that the farmers, as a class, do not, as a rule, earn 6 per cent, upon the capital invested after making due allowances for all charges. The exemptions also include offices, or employments, and any profession the profits of which depend mainly on the personal qualifications of the person by whom it is carried on, and in which comparatively little or no capital expenditure is required. These would include doctors, surgeons, and barristers.
– I can see that one effect of this Bill will be to increase considerably the profits of a deserving section of the people.
– I am quite in agreement with the honorable member. Owing to the limited powers possessed by the Commonwealth Parliament nearly every Act passed by this Legislature has given a great deal of work to members of his profession. This Bill follows very closely upon the lines of the Act passed by the Imperial Government with certain important amendments. With regard to the proposed exemption of offices or employments and certain professions, it is considered that if a medical man earns high fees during the period of the war, his increased revenue will have been obtained largely by the expenditure of his vital forces, and, therefore, he should not be called upon to pay war-time profits, as he is provided for by the Income Tax Act.
– Will not that argument apply also to businesses generally ?
– No, because in the case of ordinary businesses increased profits will not be obtained by the expenditure of vital forces, as in the case of professional men such as doctors, but will result from the increased prices of commodities. It is also provided that the profits arising from any business shall be separately determined for the purpose of the Act. That is to say, if a person, firm, or company is carrying on several businesses, the profits of one business cannot be set off against the losses of another, but a person, firm, or company may set its losses against its profits in any accounting period after the 30th June, 1915. Thus, if a taxpayer is called upon to pay a war-time profits tax during 1916, or in any accounting period thereafter, and if the war should unhappily last until 1917, and if he made a loss in the latter part of the financial year ending June, 1917, he would be able to set this loss against the war-time profits upon which he had paid -taxation in the previous accounting period. We may say, therefore, that what a man will pay under this Bill during the war-time period will be decided by the profits he makes over the whole period. Modifications in the provisions of the Act are to be allowed in cases where, in the opinion of the Commissioner, this may be advisable. For instance, this would apply where there has been a change in the constitution of a partnership ; the postponement or suspension, as a consequence of the present war, of renewals or repairs; or exceptional depreciation or obsolescence of assets employed in the business due to the war. By the way, I observe that, at the annual meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, held in Brisbane the other day, the following resolution was adopted : - .
That, while accepting the principle of the tax on excess war profits, this gathering of business representatives from all parts of the Commonwealth expresses the strong conviction that in the imposition of the proposed tax on war profits a manifest injustice will be wrought (1) unless due regard is paid to the prospective loss upon the termination of the war owing to the anticipated shrinkage in values of stock and plant; and (2) unless some equitable provision is made to meet the caBe of British companies whose Australian trading profits are also subject to taxation of similar character in Great Britain.
This provision, “ exceptional depreciation or obsolescence of assets employed in the business due to the war,” may meet that request to some extent; but it will not meet a case where the stock of a firm acquires an enhanced value during the war, and at the end of the war returns to its pre-war level. In such a case, the taxpayer would not be entitled to obtain relief by applying to the Commissioner. It may, however, meet the case of a woollen manufacturer engaged in making blankets for soldiers who has a huge stock of them on hand at the sudden termination of the war, and is unable to dispose of them, and they depreciate very greatly in value. That manufacturer will be entitled to apply to the Commissioner for relief. The Commissioner will have power to modify the provisions of the Act in the case also of - the necessity in connexion with the war of providing plant which will not be wanted for the purposes of the business after the war; or liabilities incurred in a business at the instance of the Commonwealth Government in pursuance of the war-time policy of the Government.
I apprehend that there will not be many cases of that kind; but there are some in which, owing to the action of the Government, a company has been induced to apply its profits to the extension of plant. The Commissioner will also have power to modify the provisions of the Act in any other special circumstances specified in the regulations.
– Modification in such cases will mean a reduction of taxation.
– It will mean that the tax will not be collected. The honorable member for Henty has referred to cases of capita] being increased. Where capital has increased during an accounting period, or portion of an accounting period, an allowance in profits is made to enable a return of the percentage standard, viz., 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, on the increased capital. Where capital has been decreased during an accounting period, an addition to the profits must be made amounting to 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, on the capital withdrawn from the firm. If a firm with a capital of £50,000 is producing a return of 10 per cent., and takes half that capital and invests it in some other concern, the Commissioner will add to the profits on account of the capital which has been taken out of the firm. Provision is made that the Commissioner may, in any case where he thinks fit, allow the tax to be paid in instalments of such amount, and payable at such times, as he directs. Now I come to the request of the honorable member for Bourke, who asks for a definition. The profits shall be taken to be the actual profits arising in the accounting period, after making certain deductions which are allowed under the Income Tax Act, such as all losses and outgoings, including commission, discount, travelling expenses, interest, expenses actually incurred in gaining or producing profits; all rates and taxes, including State and Federal land taxes; deductions for wear and tear, or for any expenditure of a capital nature for renewals.
– How much do you expect to get?
– The honorable member seems to think that if we allow these deductions we shall get no revenue. These deductions are only those which are allowed in the case of the income tax, from which we derived £3,000,000 this year. We must allow the deductions in order to arrive at the net profit. The Bill provides -
Deductions for wear and tear or for any expenditure of a capital nature for renewals, or for the development of the business or otherwise in respect of the business, shall not be allowed except’ such as may be allowed under the Income Tax Assessment Acts 1015, and if allowed shall bc only of such amount as appears to the Commissioner to be reasonably and properly attributable to the year or accounting period. Deductions shall not bc allowed on account of the liability to pay, or the payment of, Commonwealth or State income tax or wartime profits tax, but a deduction shall be allowed for any sum which has been paid in respect of the profits on account of any wartime profits tax or similar tax imposed in any country outside the Commonwealth.
This brings me to the latter portion of the resolution passed by the InterState Chambers of Commerce Conference at Brisbane, pointing out that, unless some equitable provision is made to meet the case of British companies whose Australian trading profits are subject to taxation of a similar character in Great Britain, a manifest injustice will be wrought. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, for whom I have great respect, and who takes a very keen interest in financial questions, and the desirability of making people pay according to their ability to pay - a principle with which I quite agree - has interjected that by following the lines of the British war profits tax we should not get very much revenue. I propose to give an illustration for the purpose of showing that if we do as well in some cases as is being done in the United Kingdom we should tax a fair amount of profits if they are made, and also for the purpose of showing that the provision for avoiding double taxation is a reasonable one. The Colonial Ammunition Company Limited carries on portion of its business in Australia, and I understand from the Commissioner of Taxation that it has no objection to its business in this regard being disclosed. The gross income of the company is £129,652. The deductions allowable under the income tax in Australia are £39,435. leaving a taxable income of £90,217. The amount of the Commonwealth tax of ls. 6d. in the £1 is £6,766 5s. 6d. against a total net profit of £90,217. In England £42,000 has been assessed as war-time profits and income tax. The Commonwealth collects a further £6,766, and the State of Victoria collects over £5,000. It will thus be seen that in the absence of a provision to make a deduction for a tax payable in England, the whole of this company’s profits would be absorbed.
– Will the British Government reciprocate ?
– The British Government will reciprocate in that regard. It is provided that any deduction allowed for the remuneration of directors, managers, and persons concerned in the management of. a business shall not exceed the sums allowed for this purpose in the last pre-war trade year; and that no deduction shall be allowed in respect of any transaction or operation of any nature where it appears, or to the extent to which it appears, that the transaction or operation has artificially reduced the amount to be taken as the amount of the profits of the business for the purposes of this Act. Already I have had brought under my notice a case where the manager of a business hopes to avoid the war-time profits taxation by increasing the salary he sets apart for himself. He will not be allowed to do so. It is further provided that, in estimating the profits, no account shall be taken of income received from investments, except in the case of life assurance businesses and businesses where the principal business consists of the making of investments ; and that in the case of any contract extending beyond one accounting period, and only partially performed during that period, the Commissioner shall attribute to each of the accounting periods in which the contract was partially performed such proportion of the entire profits or losses or estimated profits or losses as is properly attributable to such accounting periods respectively. The profits of any pre-war trade year are to be computed on the same principles and subject to the same provisions as the profits of the accounting period. When I said that we had followed the lines of the Imperial measure I meant that we have done so to a very great extent, but we do not adopt its definition of capital. That which we have adopted is this -
The amount of the capital of a business shall be taken to bc the amount of its capital paid up in money or in kind, together with all accumulated profits and balances brought forward from previous years to the credit of profit and loss account and invested in the business, less all proper deductions for wear and tear or replacement.
– Will that include reserve funds ?
– Yes, provided that they have been invested in the business. The remaining clauses, from 19 to 55, are machinery provisions taken from the Income Tax Assessment Act, and relating to returns and assessments, objections and appeals, the collection and recovery of the tax and other matters embodied in the Income Tax Assessment Act, with which those persons who endeavour to avoid paying income tax are most familiar.
– For what year will this tax operate first?
– Any accounting period after the 30th June, 1915.
– Will it operate for the year now closing ?
– Yes. It is stated in the measure that the profits should be assessed in any accounting period ending after the 30th June, 1915, and the Act will continue until it is repealed by proclamation. Some firms make up their accounts half-yearly, others yearly; but the Commissioner of Taxation will determine the period in any case where a firm does not make up its accounts yearly or half-yearly. As soon as the. Bill becomes law, the Commissioner will be in a position to collect the tax upon profits accruing in any accounting period which ends after the 30th June, 1915.
– The paid up capital of a company is £100,000, and the accumulated profits represent another £100,000. Ten per cent, on the paid up capital is only 5 per cent, on the total.
– If the accumulated pro - fits are used in the business, that is so.
– But this tax is in addition to the income tax, and will operate on top of it. In other words, a man who makes £100,000 profit will pay income tax on that sum, and then this war profits tax on the balance.
– Yes, he will pay the income tax as well. I hope honorable members will assist me to have this Bill passed as quickly as possible. I have already said that firms and companies are restricting the issue of capital because they have had no pronouncement from the Government, and it is not right that the sword of Damocles should be hanging over their heads.
– At the same time they require an opportunity to look into the measure.
– I think that everybody who has paid any attention to current events has expected a tax to be imposed on war profits.
– Hear, hear ! It only requires thought as to the machinery and procedure.
– That is so, and after all, although some of the clauses appear to be involved and somewhat abstruse, still -there are certain clear outstanding features which can be grasped with brief study.
– Will it make any difference to your operations whether the Bill is passed now or a couple of months hence ?
– I think it will. A company or a firm has a right to know what its obligations are. The shareholders may be demanding from them certain returns, and they will not consider as sufficient the directors’ excuse that they have set apart a certain amount of the profits in anticipation of the passage of a Wartime Profits Bill. Personally, I see no necessity for postponing the measure. If honorable members are agreed that it is fair for the Government to take portion of the war-time profits, the only thing we are likely to quarrel about is the percentage to be taken.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 12th May, vide page 7914), on motion by Mr. Higgs -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1, the Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1.100,” be agreed to.
– I received a promise from the Leader of the Opposition on Wednesday last that if a brief adjournment were given the Estimates would be passed that evening.
– Nothing of the kind.
– That was what I understood the honorable member to say, and I thought that the Opposition Whip was agreeable to the proposal. The Leader of the Opposition was not ready when the Budget debate was resumed to proceed with his speech, and I understood that if he were given a little time in which to prepare his remarks the Estimates would be allowed to pass next day. I do not blame the Leader of the Opposition, but I appeal to honorable members to be kind enough to allow us to get the Estimates through this evening, so that they may be sent on to the Senate.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The Treasurer has made the astounding statement that I had promised to give him his Estimates on the night on which I spoke. The facts are these : The debate on the military statement having collapsed, I asked for a little adjournment so as to enable us to take a useful part in the discussion of the Budget. Instead of granting courteously, as any Leader of the Government will grant at any time to the Leader of the Opposition, a little time to collect myself, the Treasurer, with his customary hard bargainingj attempted to impose the condition that he should get the Estimates through that week, not that night. I told him then that I would do my best to assist him, but I was unable to give any definite promise. What happened immediately afterwards? If a comparison be made, it will be found that honorable members on the Government side occupied a great deal more of the time last week that did honorable members on this side. In those circumstances, what folly it is, and how unfair, for the honorable member to remind me that I entered into a compact of any kind. No one dreamt then that the debate would be drawn out, but the Budget now appears to have been lost sight of, and the military question has taken on a new lease of life and become infused with quite a different spirit. The result will be, I predict, that we shall discuss that question over and over again. The people outside Parliament are discussing conscription in serious mood, and that is why the debate is being prolonged. I ask the Treasurer to be a little more generous in his attitude toward the Opposition. He has sat on this side, and it is rather early for him to have forgotten what took place when he was in Opposition. He will find that if he acts a little more generously he will be more likely to get generous treatment in return. My responsibility in regard to the duration of the debate is absolved by the fact of honorable members on the Government side consuming so much time last week.
.- The conscription debate in this Chamber will not be without its effect on the public opinion of Australia, if it be necessary for the public opinion to receive any stimulus upon this vital question. It has been disappointing to the people generally that the Government, who have been in charge of the conduct of the war from its inception, have not earlier adopted a policy which is absolutely essential for the proper prosecution of the war. The time for the discussion of this question is long overdue. We have been hurled into a contest which we believe can be won only by marshalling the whole of our manhood and resources side by side with those of the Allied Forces in Europe. Under the present system we are dependent on the public spirit and self-sacrifice of a section of our people to voluntarily do the work which the whole nation should be doing. In this war sacrifice should be spread equally and equitably over the whole community, instead of our allowing the more publicspirited of our young men to take upon themselves the burden of the Empire. Sometimes we seem to forget that we are fighting the most highly organized military nation that the world has ever known - a nation that for many years has brought science and organization to bear on its whole civil and military system, and we can successfully oppose to that preparedness nothing short of the entire resources of the Allied Forces. In time of peace, the British people are not a highly organized military nation. We have had to depend exclusively on the authority of our Democracy, and there can be no shadow of doubt that at the present time Democracy as a war machine is on its trial. That central authority which alone can exercise the power necessary to prosecute the war has in a large measure failed to properly organize the resources of the nation for war purposes. Compulsion does not apply alone to the necessity for sending the maximum numbers to the front. It is adopted in order that the manhood and resources of a nation may be so ordered and regulated that its utmost effort can be put into the fight.
A lot of fustian is talked about compulsion. As a matter of fact, the whole structure of society is based on some form of compulsion. We are compelled to obey laws, and to support certain institutions, and sometimes compulsion falls on the individual with great severity, but the general welfare of the State makes it necessary that such compulsion shall be exercised in order that the authority of the State may be paramount. The issue of compulsion was dealt with by Mr. Hughes in 1907, when he introduced into the House a motion for the establishment of a system of compulsory military training in the Commonwealth.
The position was so well put by the Prime Minister that I think, at this stage, the House should have the benefit of his utterances. Referring to compulsion, as it applies to society generally, he said -
Compulsion, to which my critics take exception, is the very essence of the government of these States, and, indeed, the very essence of civilization itself. Those who object to compulsion are recruited chiefly from two schools - the Socialists and the Individualists. It is difficult to understand how either school can consistently object to the proposal merely because it is compulsory in its nature. The Socialistic theory depends absolutely upon compulsion, the Individualistic upon absolute freedom. But the Individualist is not less illogical in this matter than is the Socialist, because the whole system of law, which regulates and orders all things in a civilized community, is based upon compulsion.- Absolute freedom is a chimera. All men are bound in their actions by the law. A citizen is not told to do something merely because it is right, but because it is the law, and if he does not do it something happens to him. A law without a penalty is usually of no effect, and is not regarded seriously.
That lays down the principle of compulsion on which society is based, and it could scarcely be stated with more force. During a period of peace, after calm, full and exhaustive discussion on the platform, in the press, and in this House, we established compulsory military training in Australia, and that law has been indorsed by two successive Governments. It was believed at that time that the only way in which Australia could properly defend herself was by a compulsory system of citizen forces, so that each individual, who enjoys the rights and benefits and privileges of our laws, should have laid upon him the duty and responsibility of defending the country. If it was found necessary during a period of peace to place such a law upon the statute-book, what can be said of a Government, who are the central authority, and the only authority that can enforce such a law, failing to perform its obvious duty of putting the Defence Act into operation? I know that it has been urged that our Defence Act in this regard does not apply because the enemy is not battering at our gates. But who can say that there is any difference between defending Australia on Australian soil and defending her on the battlefields of Europe? No one who calmly and dispassionately considers the question can hold for a moment that we are not as much on our defence now in meeting the great military organizations of Europe as we should be if confronted with the enemy on Australian soil. The Defence Act, after full discussion, was declared to be necessary for the efficient defence of the nation; and yet it has been allowed to remain inoperative, simply because the Government have failed to show themselves strong and courageous enough to make it applicable to the present war. They have failed to make that necessary and slight amendment which would render the Act an efficient instrument in the effective prosecution of the war. The Defence Act was passed in 1909, and its intention was clearly shown by the honorable member for Gippsland on Friday last. The war provisions of an earlier Act were embodied in the Act of 1909, and further indorsed by a subsequent Act of 1910; and these set forth a thorough scheme of organization. Under these Acts, which found support in every part of the House, the Minister of Defence, or the GovernorGeneral, has power to call out for service on the battlefield all men between the ages of eighteen and sixty years; and I do not see why those provisions should not be proclaimed and made applicable to the present conditions. We could, I think, leave our medical men to discriminate between those who should and those who should not go on active service up to the age of sixty years. Every one of us who has been on the recruiting platform must, in view of our present inefficient system of voluntaryism, have felt a certain amount of diffidence in asking others to do what we are not prepared to do ourselves; and I, for one, am quite in favour of making those sections apply to present circumstances. When Sir Thomas Ewing’s Defence Bill was before the House in 1908 the present Prime Minister dwelt on the necessity for compulsion; and the views he then expressed afford the strongest argument for the application of such a system now. On that occasion the present Prime Minister said -
Why should only one man in forty be asked to bear upon his shoulders the responsibility and burden of defending his country? It is true that under the present system that burden is voluntarily undertaken, and whilst that is much in the volunteer’s favour it is very much against those who decline to do their part in the defence of the Commonwealth. It appears to me, and to all who support the principle embodied in the Bill, that since defence con- cerns every one, every one has a right to take part in it.
The case could hardly be put better. The debates in this House om that occasion show conclusively that the present debate should have been unnecessary,, for the Government, shortly after the war broke out, ought to have introduced a measure applying the compulsory provisions. We prided ourselves on having led the whole Empire in placing the duty and responsibility of defence on all citizens. We were proud of the fact that we had no standing army in the ordinary sense of the word - that we had eliminated from our Democracy all traces of militarism as understood in Europe - and had imposed the duty of defence on all those who enjoyed the protection and privileges of our laws. We have also, had utterances by the Prime Minister on this subject since he left Australia, and these show, I think, that we ought not to allow the voluntary system to continue unless we are prepared to face the danger of discredit being, cast on the Commonwealth. We are all proud of the Prime Minister’s brilliant and eloquent speeches at the heart of the Empire, in which he has expressed the sentiments of Australia in regard to trade relations and Empire preference. The right, honorable gentleman has also expressed views as to the need for still more efficient, military organization, and, when in Canada, at a luncheon given to- him by the Prime Minister of the Dominion, the Leader of the Opposition, members- of the Cabinet, and Judges, he said -
Australia has been able t» accomplish what she has because, as the corner stone of her democratic edifice, she had a system of compulsory military training. In a Democracy every man must be taught that the primary duty of a citizen was ability to defend his country, his home, and himself
That is reported in the Times of 25th February of this year; and, later on, at a great public meeting in London, the right honorable gentleman declared -
Germany’s military power must be utterly crushed. In no other way can the peace of the world be secured. Peace under any other conditions would be only a period of feverish preparation for another and even la more fearful struggle.
Here we have it laid down that the system of compulsion is the corner stone of the organization of Australia, and he urges greater effort and efficiency in the prosecution of the war. In Great Britain a system of compulsion has been introduced, and yet, in spite of all, our Defence Act, so far as the present crisis is concerned, is allowed to remain inoperative, simply because the Government, apparently, have not the courage to take the proper steps for the moblization of our Forces.
– In New Zealand compulsory service has been introduced.
– Quite so; in New Zealand some such system has been adopted, or is about to be adopted.
Mr.finlayson. - It is about to be suggested; there is no guarantee that it will be adopted.
– It has been suggested as a policy.
– There is no doubt about it being adopted.
– I do not think that any honorable member, or anybody outside of this chamber, will dispute the fact that if we had a system of ‘compulsion operating, and if the central authority were able to call up our manhood and to marshal our resources in a scientific manner, it would be able to prosecute the war much more effectively than it is doing at the present time. “We know that the Government have a representative in London, in the person of the Prime Minister, and we know that because of the speeches which he has delivered there in favour of a more active prosecution of the war much is expected of Australia. The Acting Prime Minister, too, recognises the peril of the present situation, and that recognition carries with it the responsibility of putting into the fight every ounce of our energies. Senator Pearce, in speaking a little time ago, said -
Defeat in this war meant good-night for ever to the British Empire, and it meant goodnight for ever to Australia and all ideals of advancement along the lines on which we believed true human advancement should run. How great and strong was the call to every man of military ago in Australia to-day, when their lives, liberties, and freedom, and the very existence of Australia, were all at stake. -
T venture to say that the utterances of the Prime Minister and of the Acting Prime Minister in themselves convincingly show that there is only one course for this Parliament to pursue if Australia is to discharge her duty to the Empire in connexion with the present! war. Public opinion is now demanding the introduction of conscription throughout the Common wealth. It is obvious that we are not doing cur utmost in the prosecution of the Titanic struggle in which the Empire is engaged. Realizing all these facts, I contend that this House is entitled to know why the Government are paltering with the important and vital question of compulsion. Do they regard the pressure exerted by the organized unions of Australia, upon which they depend for their political existence, as more important than is their sacred and honorable duty of bringing the centralized authority of the State to bear in the prosecution of the war in the most effective manner possible ? The resolution adopted last week by the Trades Hall Council in reference to . conscription does not reflect the opinion of the unions throughout Australia. I am satisfied that a referendum on the question would disclose a very different result. Tens of thousands of unionists have gone to the front, and tens of thousands more are in favour of putting forward every effort that we can towards the prosecution of the war. I do not know that the Trades Hall Council has not left itself open to a charge of being opposed to the voluntary system as well as to the compulsory system. One may search the exterior of the Trades Hall building in vain for a single poster calling upon men to volunteer for the front.
– It is not necessary to exhibit posters there.
– Does that fact mean that the executive forces which control the Trades Hall - I am excluding the great body of the rank and file of the Labour organizations - are opposed to voluntary enlistment as well as to conscription 1
– It may be information to the honorable member to learn that sons of the members of the executive have enlisted, and are already at the front.
– I know that there . are thousands of unionists at the front. But there is a suspicion that the directaction section, the Syndicalistic section, which is eating its way into the executive power of the various trade organizations throughout Australia - the section which Mr. Hughes declared has neither religion nor nationality, and ought to be cast out of the Labour movement as one would cast devils out of swine - is opposed to the voluntary system as well as to conscription.
– That was a most unfortunate illustration for the Prime Minister to use.
– I am only concerned with the former part of it, not with the latter. We cannot ignore the fact that we have already placed our soldiers under military discipline. They have to endure all the hardships of the trenches. The question of an eight-hours day does not enter into their consideration at all. If they commit a breach of discipline they have to suffer for it. If they became deserters they would be shot. Yet what do we find ? That in the civil ranks of Australia, the organizing forces of labour are allowed to call out the members of unions at any time. The latter are allowed to go on strike, and to plunge the Commonwealth into all kinds of industrial disturbances, with the result that the forces of the nation which should be utilized in the prosecution of the war are very seriously impaired.
The Government ought to say whether they are in favour of compulsion or not. They ought to declare whether they believe that Australia is doing her utmost to assist the Allied Forces in the successful prosecution of the war. If she is not, it is their duty to bring forward measures to insure the attainment of these ends. If they refuse to do so, they will lay themselves open to the suspicion that they prefer to be bossed by the direct-action section of the executive of the Labour organizations in order that they may prolong their political existence rather than to prosecute the war as it is their duty to prosecute it. The other day a suggestion was made that a referendum should be taken upon the question of conscription. I venture to say that the result of any such referendum would be an overwhelming majority in favour of that system. I can thoroughly indorse the statement of the honorable member for Gippsland that some country districts have done more than their duty under the voluntary system, whilst others have not. In my own constituency I know of one family from which no less than seven sons have gone to the front. As a matter of fact, there are whole families whose members have enlisted, and almost alongside these are other families who have not contributed a single unit to the gigantic struggle in which we are engaged. Conscription ought to be introduced in order that the
Government may insure equality of sacrifice throughout the community. I hope that in this supreme crisis they will exhibit the courage which the nation expects from them. The honour of Australia is at stake, not only because we are a part of the Empire, but because the utterances of our own Prime Minister have demonstrated that we should be prepared to do what he himself has advised that Great Britain should do. The Old Country has done her part, and she can show us a long lead in that she has enlisted some 5,000,000 men out of her eligible population. She can also show us a long lead in the manufacture of munitions. Mr. Lloyd George declared some time ago that there are 3,000 munition factories in Great Britain, in which, apart from the men, no less than 300,000 women are employed. I have received letters from women in my electorate who are desirous of helping the Commonwealth in any capacity in which they may be of service. They have volunteered to enter our munition factories in order that Australia might be enabled to do her utmost in the prosecution of the war. I noticed in the newspapers this morning a question relating to what had been done in Australia in the matter of the manufacture of shells. I have “on the business-paper a question which seeks to elicit information as to how many factories are at present manufacturing shells in the Commonwealth, and how many women are employed in them?
– The honorable member wishes to tell the enemy that?
– I do not think we can go wrong in giving to the public information similar to that which Mr. Lloyd George, as Minister of Munitions in the Old Country, has already given to the world. He stated that in Great Britain there are 3,000 munition factories operating, in which, apart from men. some 300,000 women are employed. From no stand-point have we discharged our duty in Australia.
– The honorable member says that, after what he heard the other night.
– Perhaps I should improve on my statement by adding, “ in comparison with the work done in Great Britain.”
– Compare Australia with Canada.
– As a part of the Empire we should take our lead from the centre of the Empire. Great Britain has shown the need which exists for compulsory service, notwithstanding that she has already enrolled some 5,000,000 of men. We have not enlisted anything like a similar percentage in Australia.
– We have not the men.
– We could enroll a corresponding percentage of our eligible population. I am not going to undervalue the organization which has been effected in the Commonwealth. The Defence Department is to be commended for the wonderful work it has done in the enrolment, equipment, and transportation of such large numbers of men as have already gone to the front. But it is not a question whether we have done as much as Great Britain, Canada, or any other country. What we have to bear in mind is that we are engaged in a struggle which threatens our very existence, and that, according to the Acting Prime Minister, if we lose in that struggle, we may say good-bye to the independence of Australia and to all the privileges we enjoy. We have to nsk ourselves whether we have done all that we could do to successfully prosecute the war, and, if we have not, we have failed in our duty to the extent to which we have failed to put forward the best efforts of which we are capable. We ought to prosecute the war in a way that will be worthy of us as an integral part of the Empire. I hope that this debate will cause the Government to come forward with some plain statement of what their future attitude on the war is to be, and that they will say how far they intend to defy, and for ever destroy, the influence of the authority that exists in Labour organizations, and which, if not met, will threaten the very authority of the State. They should tell us why it is that, after being in power for something like eighteen mouths, they have made no attempt to put into operation in the conduct of the war the compulsory provisions of an Act upon our statute-book which received the assent of all parties, and was ratified on two or three occasions long before the declaration of the war.
The question of what is to be done in connexion with the repatriation of returned soldiers is to be brought before the House in a concrete form, but I have one or two observations to make upon the matter at this stage. I wish, first of all, to pay my tribute of praise to the work done by the honorable member for Wannon in connexion with the scheme of repatriation he has organized, and which has been so consistently successful in his own electorate and in that of the honorable member for Corangamite. I wish also to congratula te some of our public-spirited citizens on the princely character of the donations they have made to the fund established by the honorable member. Whatever scheme may be decided upon by this House for the benefit of our returned soldiers will have my hearty support, and I shall do all I can to make it a success. I must, however, express regret that in connexion with the Bill which has been introduced to deal with the subject, the Government have not taken the view that the debt we owe to those who have fought on our behalf would be best redeemed by assistance afforded from the National Treasury. I believe in compulsion for military service. I believe that those who are fighting for the country at the front should be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue derived from general taxation. I believe that pensions paid to or on behalf of soldiers should be met in the same way, and in my view, it follows that a repatriation scheme for the benefit of our returned soldiers, and to redeem -the debt which the country owes them, should be financed, on the same principle, out of general taxation. I woUld not exclude voluntary contributions from those who are prepared to render assistance in that way, but I say that the great burden of the cost of the repatriation of our soldiers should be borne by the Government, and financed by their powers of taxation. I regret that the Government have not realized their duty in that respect more clearly.
I am sorry that the Minister for the Navy is not present, because I wish to say a word or two on the question of shipping. We know the difficulties that have been experienced in getting bur wheat away to the markets of the world. The Minister of Trade and Customs may be able to say how far the Government have taken charge of shipping in Australia, and to what extent they have worked in conjunction with the Imperial authorities in connexion with its control. When the war broke out, the Imperial Government, for the defence of the realm, took charge of the railways of Great Britain, and appointed a Committee to see that exorbitant charges for railway services were not levied on the public. Yet the Imperial Government and the Government of the Commonwealth have apparently allowed the shipping companies to do just as they please. To show how the value of ships has gone up as a result of the high freights which may be earned during the war, I may mention that a vessel which, before the war, could be bought for £7,000, has, since the war, been sold for £47,000. Instances might be quoted in which, owing to the enormous increase of freights, the returns from one short voyage have been sufficient to cover the cost of a vessel previous to the war. It does not appear to be generally known that the Imperial Government have taken the war risks on vessels, though not on their cargoes, during the war, and have guaranteed the owners against loss. The ship-owners are giving nothing in return for this special protection which they enjoy under the guarantee of the Imperial Government.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Government should take over the shipping?
– No ; but I think that there should have been a little more organization by the different Governments of the Empire for the control of shipping during the period of the war. We know that freights have increased many times over. The freight on some goods from America has gone up from £2 to nearly £20 per ton, and on the top of that there is increased insurance and other charges owing to the war. This is a matter which the Government should look into. They should ascertain how far the use of the vessels which they have commandeered for transports in the carriage of cargo has indirectly contributed to the enormous increase of shipping freights. In the Budget the Treasurer has told us that the Government earned something like £1,000,000 from freights, and that after meeting all expenses there has been a profit returned to the Treasury of some hundreds of thousands of pounds. We should be given some information as to the basis on which the Government fix the freights charged for the carriage of goods by these transport vessels. Do they make use of the large number of vessels they have commandeered for the transport of troops in such a way as to keep freights down to a reasonable level ? A good deal might have been done in that direction towards the reduction of freights charged on general merchandise.
– Is the honorable member referring to interned steamers only ?
– No, to all vessels commandeered by the Government for the transport of troops.
– They are bringing back some of them empty.
– They have been used for the carriage of goods, and there is a suspicion that the Government have been adopting the current rates of “freight on all goods carried in these commandeered vessels. If the Government, knowing, as we all do, that the shipping freights as present charged are excessive and extortionate, fixed reasonable rates for goods carried by the transport vessels, that would have a material influence in the reduction of the rates of freight upon all cargoes carried between Australia and the Mother Country.
– In dealing with the commandeered vessels, have not the Government to bear in mind that they must pay a greater rate for the ships subsequently ?
– That is a matter of business. If the Government permit the shipping companies to fix the rate of freight, and then charge those rates on the transport vessels, they are not using the power which they possess to keep freights down to a reasonable amount.
– You mean to say that if the shipping companies charge £20 per ton, the Government should charge £10 per ton?
– I say that the Government should charge only reasonable rates of freight.
– This is the first time I have heard the honorable member as an advocate of Socialism in our time.
– I do not think the honorable member understands the difference between a time of peace and a time of war. I have said that the only way in which a war can be successfully prosecuted is by the central authority assuming a dictatorship, and using every means that may be necessary to bring all its forces into successful operation.
– Has the honorable member received any complaints from exporters ?
– I am asking the Government to say whether they fix freights for the transport vessels, or are themselves controlled by the shipping companies in the matter of fixing freights?
– Nearly 800,000 cases of apples have been shipped from Tasmania at a reasonable rate.
– -I am glad to hear that. I am afraid that in the matter of Government and private expenditure we have failed to realize that the country is at war. We can see no signs of economy in Government Departments or amongst the civil population. Business is going on as usual, and, as a matter of fact, the unlocking of large sums of money has created something like a boom in many parts of Australia. We have spent £70,000,000 so far in this war. Our war loans have realized £35,000,000, and £20,000,000 has been borrowed on the credit of our note issue. So far, however, there has been no sign of economy in public expenditure or on the part of private individuals.
– What have you done yourself 1
– If the honorable member wishes to know, I am prepared to tell him privately. I was about to point out that we are unlocking large reserves of capital in Australia by the flotation of our war loans. We have already raised £35,000,000 locally, and probably before the war is over another £50,000,000 will have to be taken out of our reserve capital. It is true that it is all going into circulation, but after the war we shall have to borrow more money to meet our obligations. Probably the markets of the world will be shut against us, and we shall have to borrow locally to carry on our public undertakings. At a time like this the Government should set an example in economy by curtailing administrative expenses in such a way as will enable the money so saved to be placed in the war chest, and thus help to defray our expenditure on the war.
.- It is difficult to resist the temptation to follow the honorable member’s arguments and to combat them, a task which, from my point of view, is comparatively easy. I am against conscription absolutely; I am against it on principle. To me it seems peculiar that the thing we condemn in Germany, and which we are agreed is the main cause of this lamentable war, should be held up now as the remedy for the destruction of the very evil we are complaining about. I find myself unable - unlike the honorable member for Henty, who admitted last night that he had altered his opinions on this matter, and had abandoned his previous predilections for the voluntary system - to agree that it has failed. I am unable to alter my principles according to the varying circumstances of the time.
– Do you believe in the principle of conscription for home defence ?
– I have no objection to replying to that interjection, because a great deal of twaddle is being talked about conscription for home defence. Of course, we have conscription for home defence. Society, under our present condition of civilization, could not exist without some form of compulsion. We compel people to register, and we compel doctors to register .and to notify any outbreak of disease ; but in every such case compulsion is exercised for the benefit of the people as a whole, for the safety of human life. Conscription for war, onthe other hand, is conscription for the destruction of human life.
– My question was directed to the conscription provisions in our present Defence Act for home defence.
– That form of compulsion is exactly the same as the compulsion which is being exercised in France, where every man is called upon to fight for the defence of his country; but the position in France has no parallel with that of Australia at the present time. Were Australia invaded, as France is today, the compulsory provisions of our Act would properly and legitimately become operative, and no objection could be reasonably offered to that system. France was the first amongst the European nations to adopt it. It was imposed upon that country, I believe, by Napoleon for his European wars, and there can really be no comparison between the French system and the adoption in Australia of conscription as we understand it to-day. If the honorable member for Wimmera believes that we should have in Australia the same military machine that exists in Germany, he must know that we can get it if we are willing to pay the price - the absolute sacrifice of individual liberty. I stand shoulder to shoulder with every man in the community in my desire to see the Allies triumphant in this great war. I can conceive of nothing more disastrous to the nation that we love and to the things we adore and work for, than that Germany should win, for I believe that would be the end of life and liberty from our point of view. But, in my opinion, to win this war it is not necessary that we should adopt Germany’s system, for indeed that would be casting out devils by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils’, and I am not prepared to sacrifice the individuality of every person by allowing military domination in this country.
– You believe in union domination, do you not?
– The best cure for union domination, so far as the honorable member is concerned, is for him to join a labour union and get to know the facts of the case.
– He might get some of the spoils !
– There are none. But, on the other hand, I can guarantee him plenty of work, plenty of hard knocks, long hours, weary and expensive times, but with all the glory of the knowledge that he will be doing his duty. My principal reason in rising to take part in this debate was not to discuss the question of conscription, for that question is really not properly ‘ before the House. When conscription is specifically proposed either by the present Government or any other authority in the House, I shall be prepared to discuss it, and I can. guarantee honorable members in advance that I will give them a fairly good time on that subject. Conscription is only the alternative to the voluntary system, and I contend that until the latter system has failed, nothing can be gained by discussing conscription. We have the umbrella handy if we want to put it up. There is no need to use this weapon of conscription until it can be proved that Australia is not doing ‘her proper share in this wai.
– Do you think we could do more under the conscript system?
– No ; the figures show that we have sent away, or have in Camp, something like 250,000 men, in addition to about 5,000 men in the Fleet, and some forces in New Guinea and in other places. If to that enormous number of men is added those who have offered and been rejected, it will be found that we have practically enlisted not less than about 400,000 men. If Australia did nothing further in connexion with this war, she would have done more than her share as compared with any other part of the British Empire. In proportion to our population we are far ahead of any other part of the Empire. Three days before the war broke out the Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, said at Colac -
I hope there will be no need for our brave men to leave our -shores, but I am perfectly certain, if the need arise, we shall see a response as spontaneous and complete as at any time in our history. There would be no lack of volunteers. My impression is that if war breaks out, the trouble will be to get our men to stay at home
The response has been magnificent. I think the Leader of the Opposition himself must be delighted with what Australia has accomplished. One feels utterly unable, with the limited vocabulary at one’s disposal, to appreciate adequately the heroism and conduct of our men. Australia has a record of which she has every reason to be proud, and no reason at ali to be ashamed. The recruiting figures show that the response of the men has exceeded all expectations. The speeches of the present Prime Minister have already been referred to. Here is what he said in a remarkable outburst in Sydney -
It was no use going round like a. tame cat to these men. They must be fought with the ferocity of a Bengal tiger. Principles they cannot understand, nor argue, and religion they have no use for. There is only one thing they can understand, and that is force.
I am opposed to force, because I believe it is no remedy for the present situation ; there are things that will achieve much greater results than force. I believe that the schoolmaster who cannot control his scholars except by the use of force should be out on the road breaking stones. I am entirely opposed to force as a remedy.
– But you apply force to the liquor trade ?
– If the honorable member for Barrier is anxious for a debate with me on that question, I shall oblige him at any time. I have referred to the deeds of our men. Here is a statement which appeared in the Melbourne
Herald on the 15th instant. . It is a quotation from a report by Mr. Hamilton Fyffe, the Daily Mail correspondent -
Eventually one company refused to advance.
An officer cursed vainly, and then shot three or four men with a revolver. The company then obeyed, but a hurricane of fire from the Russian batteries drove it back. On the same night the officer was murdered with a bayonet. Tcn men then balloted to decide which should bc executed, and the company was sent back. That is what we shall get with conscription.
– Because the experience of the world proves, particularly in the case of Germany during this war, that the stiffer conscription is, or the more complete the military organization is, men must be driven instead of led to fight.
– The stiffest conscription in the world- is that of France. Have the French to be driven to fight?
– I do not think that the French system is the stiffest. I think that the German conscription is stiffer. Certainly there are more exemp tions from military service in Germany, but they are allowed for purely military reasons. Certain people are exempted in order that they may indulge in scientific and commercial interests, and in research work for the advancement of those interests, but the interests themselves are used and developed in every way in order to support the military machine.
– When the war broke out only half of the men capable of bearing arms in Germany were available under the conscription system.
– That was due to the numerous exemptions.
– That could not be said of France.
– In spite of the records and magnificent heroism of the men who have gone from Australia, we are told that the only course we can take is to force men to go and support them. I do not know what honorable members imagine will be the feelings of the men who have responded voluntarily and so nobly to the call for recruits if they find that they have to be supported by men who are compelled to go to the front. I am certain that no man who would go under compulsion would feel very comfortable in the company of men who hari volunteered to go, and I believe that the men who have volunteered to go will not feel very comfortable in the company of men who are forced to go.
– Yet, strange to say, the bulk of those who have volunteered to go are ardent conscriptionists.
– The most ardent conscriptionists are those who are unable to go, ‘ and are always- willing to find others to take their places, and those who have their representatives at the front. Naturally and legitimately those whose sons have gone to the front are entitled to argue, “ Why should not other people’s sons go?” But the reason for one cannot be applied as the reason for the other.
– My boy of six years at home wants to know why he is compelled to go to school.
– The honorable member’s intelligence, developed by means of education, ought to be able to impress on his boy the benefit that he will derive by attendance at school. As I believe that the conscription system should not be sought to be imposed until we have arrived at the end of our voluntary system, I propose to suggest what appear to me to be many reasons why recruiting is hindered. The Defence Department itself has done more than any other, institution to hinder recruiting. It has under its control a large number of permanent officers who have been trained at considerable expense, paid good salaries for many years, and kept in comfort and good fettle; and at the outbreak of the war many of these men were anxious to go ‘ to the front. We were entitled to expect that every one of them would be willing to volunteer. They were supposed to be trained for that purpose and to be experts in the art of war. As we had paid them, and kept them, and trained them for war, we expected that when the time came they would be able to go and fight our battles for us. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that a very large proportion of these officers was anxious to go to the front, the Defence Department said, “ No; we will not allow you to go,” and in consequence, until a few months ago, we had the very strange spectacle of many of these officers not doing the duty for which they were paid and trained, but walking about the streets, engaged in local routine defence work.
– The Department may have thought that they could do better work here.
– I am well aware of the reason why the Defence Department did not allow these men to go. It was thought that they could do better work here. The Department reckons that these men were indispensable here, probably in just the same way as the Lord Mayor of London thought that his footman was indispensable, and asked that he should be exempted, or as one British employer thought that a supervisor employed by him on a Government contract at the rate of 30s. a week was indispensable and should be exempted, or as another employer thought that a single man to whom he was paying 16s. 6d. a week was indispensable and should be exempted. Even in regard to the military Service Bill before the House of Commons at the present time, a great deputation of one-man shopkeepers claimed exemption, because their services were indispensable to the carrying on of their businesses. I am not so certain that the services of these military officers were necessary in Australia at the beginning of the war. If so, why did the Defence Department a few months ago issue an order that every man on the permanent staff should offer for enlistment or produce a medical certificate justifying his exemption? Many of these men are very capable. On the other hand, many are utterly incapable - principally those on the reserve staff - and their incapacity has been proved during the war. Many of them are just about as adept at tripping the light fantastic toe at Government House as they would be in showing a clean pair of heels at Gallipoli. Perhaps it was just as well that they did not go. I shall quote some records later on in regard to the conduct of some officers at the front; but my point now is that we have occupying positions in the permanent Defence service a number of capable, efficient men, officers, and instructors, whose whole opportunity of life has gone, whose whole opportunity for promotion in their profession has gone, whose health and ability warranted their going to the front, but who are held back by the Department. In the street every day we can hear people say, “Why should I enlist while those military Johnnies are walking about the street? When they go I shall go.” The remark is quite a common one. Another hindrance to recruiting is the -incapacity of the officers in Australia as shown by their incompetency to control the men in the training camps. This was particularly noticeable in the early stages of the war. We had disgraceful reports of camp and street riots. Time and again Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide were absolutely in the hands of the soldiers. Their officers had no power, influence, or control over them. Fortunately, we have overcome that difficulty to some extent. The experience of Brisbane may be indicative of the experience in other States. We had men in charge of the camp there of great reputation - men presumed to possess experience and ability in the handling of recruits - but it was not until we got rid of all those picture officers and obtained the services of a young man who, though only twenty-seven years of age, possessed some courage and intelligence, that we were able to secure order in the camp.
– From what State did that young man come? Was it not Tasmania ?
– I believe that he came from Tasmania originally. The incapacity of some officers was further proved by the conditions of the camps. In the early stages of the war the condition of affairs in the various camps was a matter for discussion in this Chamber day after day. There were motions for adjournment, and questions without number, honorable members complaining of the state of affairs, and pointing out that soldiers were compelled to live and carry on their training under conditions that were simply disgraceful. The fault did not lie entirely with the arrangements made by the Defence Department. It was largely due to the fact that men absolutely incompetent to fill the positions were placed in charge of these various sections of defence activity. When the reports of these conditions in the camps were spread by the soldiers, honorable members must have heard it said time after time, “If that is how things are, I am not going.” One of the greatest hindrances to recruiting in the early stages of the war - and to a lesser extent now that some kind of oi’ganization has been brought about - was the incompetence of the officers managing affairs for the Department. Another hindrance at the present day is the conduct of recruiting sergeants, many of whom, because of their temperament and lack of ability, are absolutely unfitted for their positions. They use all sorts of threats, because they occupy a semiofficial position, or hold a little brief authority in the name of the Commonwealth, and they seek to impose their will on the people. Those who do not respond to their invitation to enlist they class as slackers, wasters, shirkers, and cowards. Last week a recruiting sergeant spoke at a meeting at a big establishment in Collingwood, and used the usual arguments, telling the workmen that they were cowards if they did not go to the front, that it was up to them to do their best and not be shirking their duty, and so on. One of the employees in that establishment was evidently considerably affected by the meeting, and here are two verses of some poetry that he wrote next day -
Three Sergeants spoke straight out last night,
About this Great and Bloody Fight,
Although we knew they spoke aright,
No one stirred.
They asked for young and able men,
To come right forward there and then,
To drive the Kaiser from his den,
But no one stirred.
Right through the poetry the refrain is “ But no one stirred.” Why is it that the response to the appeal of the recruiting sergeant is so poor? No one believes that it is because men do not realize their duty, or are unwilling to do it. It is not because men are unable to appreciate the gravity of the situation; it is not because of lack of patriotism, but it is because of their instinctive objection to the insults and suggestions made by the recruiting sergeants.
– That is a very poor reason.
– It may be; but the character of a man who invites a woman to be his wife has generally a good deal to do with the reply, and’ so, too, the character of the men who invite young fellows to enlist is very often an obstacle to their doing so. A stricter control over the recruiting sergeants would result in their being more of a help than, as at present, a hindrance to recruiting.
– Where do you find the bad recruiting sergeants?
– I have just mentioned one.
– But you are applying your criticism generally.
– Of course I am. Some members of this House were bustled in Swanston-street the other day by recruiting sergeants.
– A system of compulsion would cure that.
– Proper selection of the recruiting sergeants would cure it. The Government are employing the wrong men.
– But we are depending on the individuals to do what the State ought to be doing.
– Those men are speaking for the State, and are paid by the State to do the State’s work.
– The State ought to do it by compulsion.
– No; the State ought to send the right men to do this work, and then there would be a proper response. Another hindrance to recruiting is the reports by returned soldiers. All of us have received communications from men who have enlisted, but the most painful have been the reports by men who have returned from the front. I desire to read to the Committee a few extracts from a statement made by a returned captain who says that he has been recommended for discharge, although the Empire requires fighters -
There is too much graft . and rapid promotion going on, and the hospital staff helping themselves unreservedly. . . . The Minister relies on the board reports, which I contend are faked. . . . Although we are crying out for conscription, good men are being humbugged, and such as I are being shelved out of pure vindictiveness. This is a puny resort, and it is a pity that those concerned do not effectually employ their methods against the enemy. That we are all subject to lying indictments when such a state of affairs prevails is true. . . .
Colonel- indulged to such an excess on the way to Egypt and on his arrival in Cairo that he was unable to report to head-quarters for some weeks. He never hit the front, and was returned empty to Australia, but is now going out with a substantial promotion. . . .
Captain- refused to go to Gallipoli, but he was returned under the heading of sunstroke, I understand. There are hundreds of such cases where kissing goes by favour. . . .
Colonel- went out as O.C. troopship, and, without such annoyances as I had, got well on it. He got the tremulous symptoms, also could not sleep, and continued in Cairo for three weeks after he came off the boat, and. mind you, he was so well jagged that he did not report to head-quarters for a fortnight at least . after his arrival. . . .
Captain- , when he got the date of hia boat for Gallipoli, got on a yelping bender, and got down to it, and would not go to the front.
Later on lie says -
I get more money in Brisbane than going as a captain, but would like to go out in a unit, and get a fair chance.
In his last letter he gives this record of another officer - who was sent home from Africa, summoned after the war by a trooper, yet lie went out from Perth to England with the Imperial Reservists; has never been to Gallipoli, but, although he took a fit in Cairo streets with the drink, lie is suffered to put spokes in the wheels of good men who go to the front.
That letter is written by a captain in Brisbane whom I know personally. Here is the case of another officer - a major, who was accused by his lieutenant-colonel of slackness, inefficiency, and unsuitability. I have eighteen sworn affidavits by majors, captains, sergeants, medical officers, and stretcher-bearers, including the ‘man who was second in command of the company, in which the statement of the lieutenant-colonel in regard to this man’s slackness is declared to be absolutely untrue. One man says that the statement is a deliberate falsehood, whilst the second in command says that he saw the officer every day in the trenches. The lieutenant-colonel said that the medical officers could find nothing the matter with this major, but I have a sworn statement by the man in charge of the hospital that the medical officer - unfortunately he is now dead - had told him that this major was seriously ill. The deponent himself states that the major was in hospital for several weeks seriously ill with appendicitis, and that he rejoined his unit when he ought to have been still in hospital. There is all this evidence, but what relief can this man get? The captain to whom I referred in the first place asked for an inquiry, and I supported his application, but the request was simply refused, and he was discharged. The major, a vigorous, healthy, and willing young man of about twenty-six years of age, was returned to Australia on the word of a lieutenantcolonel whose statements are said in sworn affidavits to be absolutely untrue. It is reports such as these that ar© hindering recruiting. I have here a cutting from the Bulletin in regard to a returned captain who lately shot himself in Brisbane -
The treatment they are getting on their return to Australia is preying on the minds of a good many officers. . . To put it quite plainly, a very large number of those officers who have not moved outside Australia, but have entrenched themselves in safe easy jobs, arc making a dead set against the returned officers - men who have been invalided back from the front - and the men who have stayed at home seem to be able to pull most of the strings at present.
I have mentioned but three of dozens of cases of which I am aware. Every honorable member must know that the reports by returned officers regarding what is taking place at the front are such as to make us feel nervous. I have purposely refrained from reading the countercharges against the lieutenant-colonel referred to, but I have them here, and if they are true that man ought to have been shot long ago, for he is absolutely unfit to be in charge of men. These statements call for inquiry. Honorable members are aware that the reports of returned soldiers regarding the manner of their treatment by superior officers, and the incompetence, incapacity, and timidity of those superior officers in some cases, is doing a great deal of harm to recruiting. I gladly admit that there are a large number of both officers and men who are a credit to their profession and to Australia; but, unfortunately, there are other cases of the kind to which I have drawn attention, and the fact that they are being talked about is hindering recruiting. The relatives of these officers and hundreds of others know the facts, and their friends say, “ If that is the way you were treated they will not get a chance with me.”
– Lots of such occurrences are talked about on tramcars and elsewhere.
– A further obstacle to recruiting is the treatment meted out in Australia to returned soldiers. I feel very bitterly about the way in which soldiers are being discharged from the Forces. Men are returned, and after being in a convalescent home for a little while they are certified as being medically fit and discharged. That is cruelty. The most severe trouble these men will have will not be their physical hurts, the loss of an arm or a leg, but the shock to the nervous system, from which it will take them years to recover. Yet they are being thrown out of the Forces as soon as they are able to walk, and to aggravate that injustice they are discharged without a pension or means of livelihood. Is there any honorable member who has not had returned soldiers applying to him for assistance to get a job?
– I have met lots of them.
– So have I. No soldier ought to be discharged from the Forces until a job is found for him. There are in existence committees which are supposed to assist men to find employment, and I believe that, as far as possible, they are trying to fit men into positions, but I have knowledge of one man in Brisbane who was invalided home with the loss of a finger. He could not return to his trade, and he applied to the War Committee for assistance in finding employment. At the first place to which he was sent he was offered 27s. 6d. a week, and at the second place 30s. The principals of the two firms concerned have been most pronounced in their patriotism, and in urging upon young men their duty to serve their country, and then they offer returned soldiers 27s. 6d. and 30s. per week. This is the condition of things that is handicapping recruiting. We shall not get many more men until it is put an end to; and we shall have to shoulder our responsibility. We talk a great deal about the matter, but we should take care that no man is discharged until some kind of way is provided to afford him a chance to make a living.
– Whether he is a unionist or not?
– That is not the question at the present time, though I am hoping to say a word about it before I have finished. A fortnight ago a returned soldier was haunting the members’ room in Brisbane day after day in search of work. He was a married man who had gone to the front, leaving a wife and family of seven ; and now he is discharged as an invalid, and has not a penny coming in
– Who employed him prior to the war ?
– I do not know.
– Employers, both private and State, promised to keep places open.
– That is a kind of promise that is very easily forgotten, and to which there is no legal means of keeping employers. These facts are common property, and, naturally, young men, and also married men with families, object to go. to the front if that is the treatment to which they have to look for ward. I believe that Australia is doing more than any other country for our soldiers, but that does not relieve us of the responsibility of insuring that these men shall have a chance of making a decent and comfortable living.
– We ought to take the responsibility, and not place it on private employers.
– I absolutely agree with the honorable member.
– Let the country be responsible.
– I am relating these facts in the hope that a remedy may be found. Another hindrance to recruiting is found in the war profits which are being made by different firms in Australia. Of course, to a large extent, my argument on this point is discounted by the Bill tabled to-day. We are at last beginning to realize that the business of the country, and the money made here, does, and should, belong to the people of the country. It is, however, a common argument advanced by possible recruits that they do not see why they should go to the front and allow others to remain behind and make money. We all know of firms that have taken advantage of every opportunity during the war, in the way of Government contracts as well as other departments of commercial activity, to make abnormal profits. There has been no diminution during the war of the profits made in Australia, and these profits are not all made by British born. Perhaps one of the saddest things is that, while we preclude enemy subjects from participating in the war, we allow them to carry on business, and of this a striking illustration has come under my notice in Brisbane. The head of one produce firm, an elderly man, has two sons at the war, and he is now conducting the business, and carrying a heavy load of which he thought he had got rid. In another case, an elderly German, head of a produce business, has six sons assisting him, and during the war they have gone merrily on making money, especially in view of the fact that the first firm I mentioned is handicapped by the circumstances. The German firm have very naturally taken advantage of the opportunity to extend their business; and this is only one illustration amongst hundreds.
– Are these men of the German firm of military age ?
– Some people - I do not say I should - might say that conscription would meet their case.
– There could not be a stronger argument for conscription.
– The honorable member for Wimmera spoke too quickly, because these sons would not be allowed to go to the front, and we could not force them to go.
– Because they are enemy descendants.
– Born in an enemy country?
– A good many have been born here.
– A good many enemy descendants, born here, have gone to the war.
– Some have gone, I admit ; but the Defence Department has laid it down that descendants of the first generation are not to be accepted for service.
– Well, such descendants are going to the war.
– After special investigation.
– But the first generation is looked on with suspicion.
It is a most peculiar fact - though, of course, it has an explanation, in one way - that it is not Germans or Austrians who have come here from their own countries who are the most dangerous citizens in Australia, but their descendants who were born here, many of them, and who do not realize the great impassable gulf that there is between German rule and British rule. Because of their ignorance of the contrast, they are not able to properly value their position as British subjects. However, it is a wise thing on the part of the Government to limit their enlistment to a large extent. There is another hindrance to recruiting amongst the working classes - those classes whom the honorable member for Wimmera is particularly anxious to get hold of, and who, I believe, in spite of his suggestion, have responded more nobly and numerously than any other section of the community. We may call them “unionists” if honorable members like, but the fact is that one thing keeping back men from enlisting to-day is the increased cost of living experienced during the war. Over and over again I have heard men declare that they would not go to the front to preserve the property and businesses of wealthy men who, immediately they get the opportunity, increase the cost of living and sacrifice everything or anything in order to make money. Married men, anxious and willing to enlist, have asked how they can do so when they do not know how their wives and children will fare during their absence at the hands of men who are robbing the community. It is interesting to notice in Mr. Knibbs’ latest figures, covering the period up to March, 1916, the increase there has been in house rent and the cost of living generally. As to the purchasing power of money,, the following figures show the difference between the fourth quarter of 1914 - when the war commenced - and the fourth quarter of 1915 : - Sydney, 24s.. 7d. in 1914, as against 28s.1d. in 1915; Melbourne, 22s.1d., as against 26s. 5d.; Brisbane, 20s. 4d., as against 25s.1d.; Adelaide, 22s. 5d., as against. 25s. 8d.; Perth, 23s., as against 24s.1d.; Hobart, 22s. 3d., as against 25s. 9d. ; and for the Commonwealth, 22s. 10d., as against 26s. 8d. Mr. Knibbs has later figures, from July, 1914, to March, 1916, showing that the increase in the retail prices of food, groceries, and so forth, was: - In New South Wales, 35 per cent.; Victoria, 39’ per cent.; Queensland, 43 per cent.; South Australia, 26 per cent. ; Western Australia, 13 per cent. ; and Tasmania, 34 per cent. - an average for the Commonwealth of 34.6 per cent.
– Had not the drought something to do with that?
– If so, that ought to be corrected by this time. The drought was only temporary at the beginning of the war, and we have had ample time to recover, as witness the remarkable wheat and fruit crops. During the period covered by the figures I have quoted, I notice that the increase in wages has been- 9 per cent., as against 34.6 per cent, increase in the cost of living. I am asked! why the workers do not go to the war - why they do not go and fight for robbers who would take the bread out of the mouths of the wives and children left behind. Why should they? Tell mewhy should they? It is not that these men wish to shirk their duty, lack patriotism,- or do not believe in the British Empire and the “ dear old flag.”
– Why is it?
– It is because they object to men who talk patriotism and act Prussianism. From to-day’s Argus we learn what goes on amongst the other classes - we learn that in Victoria, during the six months ending on the 31st of the third month of this year, 720 motor cars of one sort were sold in Victoria, and that the total number of all makes of motor cars sold in the same period numbered 1,547, valued at about £500,000- in the one State alone.
– One of the Ministers bought two of these!
– That makes a wonderful difference, does it not? Profits may accumulate, and motor cars may be bought, but the cost of living to the poor working men is increased by 34.6 per cent. Yet it is desired to compel them to go and fight. But I challenge you to compel the working men to go and fight. The Compulsory Service Bill in the House of Commons may pass, but if the statements of the men on the Clyde are worth anything - if the decision of the Miners Federation last week is worth anything
– Do you sympathize with that?
– Certainly, I am against conscription, and I refuse to allow you, as I refuse to allow myself, to compel any other man to do what I consider, and what he himself considers, to be his own duty. It is sought to compel men to go and fight, while others are left behind to make dividends and buy motor carE - men whose incomes have not been lessened in any way during the war.
– Why not compel them by conscription to go to war?
– Conscription will not reduce the cost of living. The honorable member overlooks the point of my argument. I am urging that these conditions form one of the greatest hindrances to recruiting, and I deplore the fact that we are hampered here by our Constitution - by Inter-State jealousies! - and to some extent by lack of courage on the part of the Commonwealth Government. We should take things in both hands, and throttle those exploiters who ought to be conscripted, or whose businesses, at any rate, ought to be conscripted.
– We wish to conscript these men.
– Yes; but not to go and fight.
– The War Taxation Bill will find them out !
– War taxation is not finding them out, because they are going gaily on their way the same as ever. As a matter of fact, immediately the Federal income tax and the Federal land tax came into operation, they were used as an excuse for raising prices; and immediately the War Profits Bill is passed, prices will be raised again. We seem to be going round in a vicious circle; immediately a tax is imposed, these men add another penny to the price of sugar, butter, or meat. They have a hundred ways of “ getting it back again.” We have the power to impose taxation, but not the power to limit the price of goods; and the only remedy I can see at present is to have one authority in Australia, with power and courage to tackle the question, and say, “ Thus far shalt thou go, and no further.” Read the commercial columns or the annual reports of any financial or commercial institution. Have their profits of 10 per cent, to 20 per cent, decreased one iota during the progress of the war ? The Colonial Sugar Refining Company published its balance-sheet the other day, and that balance sheet disclosed a profit for last year of £261,000. The same old quarter of a million sterling every year, notwithstanding the country is at war.
– Of how many millions does its capital consist?
– I do not know, neither does the honorable member nor anybody else know the actual amount of unwatered stock. Whilst the workers are being threatened with conscription, the people who most strongly advocate its introduction are those who are protesting against taxation, and the friends of the exploiters who have put up prices. Somebody complained the other day of the tremendous disgrace attaching to men who go out on strike during these times. It was pointed out that they actually refused to bake bread. What a fearful reflection on their patriotism ! Why, the wonder to me is that they are willing to work at all under the circumstances. Indeed, it is only because of the narrow margin which exists between bread and nothing that they are obliged to work. They have to work to make a living. Men do not go on strike for fun. Life is too serious a matter for that. Just now, when things are so finely cut that one can scarcely realize how the housewife manages to keep bread upon the table, the wonder to me is that there are so few strikes. It is the manufacturers who control the foodstuffs and the groceries of the people who are going upon strike, and whose patriotism might be very properly impugned. No greater obstacle to recruiting exists in Australia to-day than the continual rise in the prices of the necessaries of lii e, which prevents m&o from enlisting to fight Germany because they feel that it is much more necessary for them to fight here. Another hindrance to recruiting of which I desire to speak more particularly concerns the Imperial Government. Whatever opinions we may ‘ entertain of Senator Pearce, his name will be for ever remembered by many of the mothers of Australia because of the protection which he sought to extend to their sons during this war by keeping the temptation to drink out of their reach. I have nothing to complain of his conduct in giving effect to the advice tendered by Lord Kitchener at the inception of the war - advice which was supported the other day by General Birdwood. Whatever faults exist to-day in respect of offering temptation to drink to our troops lie principally at the door of the Imperial Government. I have heard it repeatedly stated that the condition of affairs which obtained in the camps in Egypt, so far as drinking .was concerned, has exercised a very detrimental effect upon recruiting. I have heard mothers repeatedly say, “ I cannot believe that I ought to let my son go to the front if the statements made in regard to the conditions which obtain at the military camps in Egypt are true.”
– -There are worse evils than drink in Egypt.
– Here is a letter from Canada -
What kind of men will the Mother Country send hack to us when this war is over? We know that tens of thousands will he killed or maimed, hut that is a light thing by comparison with moral degradation. Is it not a cruel response to the loyalty of the wives and mothers of Britain’s overseas Possessions, who have yielded so fully their sons and husbands, that the interest of the British brewers and distillers, and the preference of drinking officers, should outweigh theirs; and should make of no account the known temperance sentiments of tho countries who arc furnishing, equipping, and paying the Colonial troops?
We have had exactly a similar experience here. I cannot forget what happened one morning in Brisbane recently. A father who has two sons at the front came to me and said, “Look at this” - pointing to a letter from one of his sons who was in the trenches at Gallipoli. His boy in that letter told him how day after day, although up to his knees in water, he had steadfastly refused the rum ration. He went on to say that at last one bitterly cold morning, after he had been out all night, and was feeling very dispirited, he was tempted to take just a mouthful of the rum. He promptly spat it out, and in his letter he told his father how the thought of his past, his regard for his parents, and his Good Templar obligations, came to his rescue. He concluded by saying that he would rather die than taste the abominable stuff again. His father at once wrote a letter to Lord Kitchener, in which he said, “ If this is the best that the Imperial Government can do for our soldiers they do not deserve much consideration from us.”
– .That yarn is as old as Adam. The honorable member should tell us something new.
– I am sorry that it annoys the honorable member. I propose now to quote a few sentences from The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary, by Stephen Graham. On page 250 the author, in speaking of our soldiers, says -
They como to Egypt from a fresh colonial country, from good homes, pure women who arc their mothers, gentle and innocent girls who are their brides. They nobly offer themselves to fight for their race against a false idea and a predatory nation.
He then goes on to say -
The first army that came was the wildest, boldest, and they plunged right away into the sin and gaiety and dangerous pleasures of the city, conducted by the money-grubbing but ingenious and smiling Arabs, to the gambling dens, dancing houses, and strange parlours of the back streets. They were cheated, swindled, robbed whilst drunk, robbed whilst asleep, but they saw strange sights and tasted unusual pleasures, sating the new eyes and lips which Egypt had given them. At last, the time drawing nigh for their departure for the Dardanelles, they resolved to get back part of what they had lost in the back streets of the city - certain things they could never get back - and they went down in force and sacked tho houses and rushed the Arabs and Arab women to the streets and took back what they could find. There was a great riot. The native police were called out, and they fired at tho screaming mob. Such scenes were enacted in the city that brought to mind the continuous street rioting in Alexandria in the oUl early Christian dnys. But what is most significant in the sight of these fine young men in the city is the realization of the impure strain they take back with them from Egypt to the women and the children of Australia and New Zealand.
One of tire biggest hindrances to recruiting in the case of a certain class of young men in Australia is this record. Hitherto such records have been censored, but now they are being published in the magazines. We have a big account against the Imperial Government because of the way in which they treated our boys in Egypt. The latter were handed over to them clean, healthy, fresh, and true, and in what condition have many of them been sent back? Fortunately, we know that the camps in Egypt are being broken up, and the men taken to England. Another hindrance to recruiting, and a very great one, is the administration of the War Precautions Act, particularly in the matter of the limitation of free speech and the freedom of the press. In this connexion we have a rather remarkable statement by the Prime Minister, which was published in the Sydney Swn on the 13th May. Speaking at a press dinner in England, he said -
A free press was so much part of civilization tit at it was inconceivable that civilization conld exist without it. If we were ever to have a real Empire, the press must be one of the chief means of attaining it. A great thing the war had done was to make the British people know eacli other clear of the mists of prejudice. They were mo longer dull and distorted images. It would largely depend on the press whether the new, dear vision of the nobler life would be maintained.
That is a statement with which I entirely agree. But it is in entire contradiction with the facts as they exist in Australia to-day. We have not a free press here, neither have we freedom of speech. Returned soldiers have told me again and again, *” We dare not talk now, but wait till the war is over, and then we will talk of things which Australia will shudder to know.” The Government are so fearful of criticism at the present time that if a man mounts a soap box to speak ahout the war they send a policeman to arrest him. They imprisoned Tom Barker in Sydney because he published a -cartoon which caricatured the war.
– The honorable member has been giving utterance to the sentiment of that ‘cartoon this afternoon.
– I know that. Probably I am protected by my privilege in Parliament. In the Sydney Domain last Sunday certain persons were talking very freely, but they had to be extremely careful of what they said. A free press! I wish we had it in Australia, because we might then get some of these evils remedied. So, too, if we had liberty of speech, we might get some of them remedied. The Defence Department is afraid of criticism. It will tell you that, in order that recruiting may not be prejudiced, men must be prevented from speaking. Only the other day the Argus affirmed that a statement made by Senator Pearce was prejudicial to recruiting. If that were so, why was he not interned, seeing that his word would certainly carry much more weight than would that of a man on the Yarra bank or anywhere else ? Free criticism is the life of a nation. Mr. Justice Higgins made a very fine speech some time ago in Melbourne, in which he pointed out that the war was particularly a subject for public criticism.
– Mr. Justice Higgins should never have made0that speech.
– He can answer for himself; but I wish to say that I absolutely agree with the position which he took up. The man who is afraid of criticism is more in love with his own opinion than with truth. The Government institution, or individual, afraid to let the people freely say what they think will never make any progress. Knowledge is always advanced by the utterance of free opinions, and truth can only he discovered by investigation and criticism. Free criticism, through the press or by word of mouth, is the safety-valve of the nation. There can be nothing hefcter, more healthy, or more useful, for the nation than to allow the people freedom to express their opinions.
– Would the honorable member allow every traitor to go down the street giving utterance to traitorous sentiments ?
– What is a ‘traitorous sentiment is a matter of opinion. I am so fond of my own opinion that I am prepared to allow every other man the same freedom to express his views as I claim for the expression of my own.
– The honorable member would have rows at the corner of ever j street.
– That is not so. I can illustrate tie only limitation which should be put upon freedom of action or speech. Standing where I am, I can swing my arms about in any way I please; but if I get too close to my neighbour, my liberty to swing my arms freely may be very properly interfered with. Freedom of action, speech, or criticism, is only logically and properly limited when it interferes with the -equal liberty of some one else. I wish I had time to make a few quotations from a little book I have here entitled The History of Freedom of Thought, which honorable members can obtain from the Library, and which I advise them to read. They will learn there what was said by Socrates, the pagan of old, by Milton, by Stuart Mill, and many other authorities worth quoting on the subject of free speech and liberty of conscience. It is remarkable that people who, when in opposition and out of power, struggle and fight for liberty of conscience and freedom of speech as legitimate rights always demanded by every Britisher, become, when positions are reversed, the greatest tyrants and opponents of freedom of speech. We find that in religion, politics, and social affairs. I believe that today the limitation of the freedom of speech, and the stoppage of public criticism, are doing as much as anything else to hinder recruiting. It is of no use to talk to me about compulsion whilst such obstacles to voluntary recruiting may be removed. Until we have exhausted the resources of the voluntary system, I refuse to consider conscription as a reasonable issue. Until we have arrived at a time when we can say that, after every reasonable effort to secure a sufficient number of men by the voluntary system, we have absolutely failed to do so, there will, in my opinion, be no reasonable or logical justification for the imposition of compulsion.
Sitting suspended from.-6.S0 to 7.J/.5 p.m.
– This debate, since the delivery of his Budget speech by the Treasurer, has been confined almost entirely to the question of conscription. In my view a diversion from even so important a matter as the consideration of the Budget is justifiable in the circumstances, because it is impossible to conceive of anything of greater moment than the means to pro vide effectively sufficient numbers to represent the Commonwealth at the front in the great conflict that is raging at the present time. I have listened with pleasure to many of the speeches that have been made, and with a good deal of amazement to the speech of the honorable member for Brisbane. I must say that that speech was fearfully and wonderfully made. I did not know where the honorable member was going to land himself. He seemed to be struggling violently with some ruling passion in his own bosom, and trying to get under shelter in some city of refuge. Eighty per cent, of the arguments the honorable member used were the strongest that possibly could be used in favour of conscription, yet he protested against . it. He protested over much, and when he came to the close of his speech he admitted fairly that he was against conscription, at all events until it was proved that the voluntary system of recruiting had failed. I hope I do not misrepresent what he said. In my opinion, and I think in that of most of the people of the Commonwealth, the voluntary system of recruiting has failed absolutely. It has failed in the State from which I come. We have had there two recruiting movements by special trains. No one could have promoted and supported those recruiting trips more industriously and enthusiastically than did the Premier of South’ Australia, Mr. Vaughan, and those associated with him. Yet they were failures. I believe that similar recruiting movements in Victoria have also been failures. In my own State it is admitted all round, that recruiting on the voluntary principle is played out, and that many who are prepared to go to the front are waiting for the application of the compulsory principle, when they will cheerfully present themselves for enlistment. I cannot recognise any consistency in the people of the Commonwealth in protesting against the application to recruiting for the war of a principle that breathes through all our legislation for the defence of Australia. The conception and execution of the whole of the designs of Australia against an invading enemy are based on compulsion. It has been pointed out eloquently and effectively by the Prime Minister, when appealing in Australia to his own political supporters, that their industrial organization and all its success are due to and based on the principle of compulsion. If compulsion is a proper principle to apply in our defence legislation for the local protection of Australia., is it not consistent with that principle that we should be prepared to apply compulsory service for the defence of the country on the other side of the world? We ought to thank God every moment of every day that we are defending Australia there in this war, and not here on our own soil. I am a whole-hearted conscriptionist in this case. In the prosecution of this war time is of the essence of the contract, and a resort to a method that will provide numbers sufficient to adequately represent Australia at the battle front would be of infinitely more value to-day than it would be in three months’ time. Prompt and effective measures would, undoubtedly, help to determine the duration of the war and to conserve human life by bringing it speedily to an end. We owe a duty to the 200,000 men who have offered themselves, and have been prepared to lay down their lives for this magnificent heritage of ours in the Southern Seas. Is not every man at the front, and every returned soldier, almost without exception, pleading with the authorities and people of Australia to bring, without any unnecessary delay, this principle of compulsory national service into operation in order that the splendid sacrifices that have been made may accomplish the best and widest results? Though I am afraid I shall have to do so at some length, I wish to deal concisely to-night with a matter of public expenditure, particularly in connexion with the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway. I make no apology for this, because I have repeatedly in this House referred to the demoralized methods, inefficiency, and enormous and unjustifiable expenditure which has been associated with the construction of that railway. The matter ought to have been brought under the consideration of this House for searching inquiry a year or two years ago. If it had received the attention its magnitude demanded, we would be in a very much better position than we are in to-day. I approach the consideration of thequestion with some diffidence so far as it concerns the highest responsible officials. I am well aware that the present EngineerinChief of Commonwealth Railways came from Queensland to the Commonwealth service with a very high reputa tion as an eminent railway engineer. Personally, he is a man who is rightly held in the highest possible respect by every one who knows him. But I want to say that the conditions under which Mr. Bell works in the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, and those under which he was engaged for very many years in railway construction in Queensland, are just as different as night is from day. It is very difficult to apportion the blame for what has occurred. So far as the Ministers or the Engineer-in-Chief are concerned, we ought first to investigate the system under which this railway construction is being carried out, and if we give the most rudimentary thought to this matter we must admit that failure is inevitable under any management if the enterprise is to be conducted under this system which now obtains. It is impossible to build economically, from the Melbourne office, a railway from the northern part of South Australia, in the direction of Western Australia.
– Parliament ought to have been shifted from Melbourne long ago.
– It is not a question of shifting Parliament so much as the adoption of some sane, commonsense method in railway construction, and of putting responsible, efficient men on the spot instead of using the . Port Augusta office - and I suppose, similarly, the office on the western end - for the despatch of urgent telegrams to Melbourne and the receipt of similar communications from head office. During the first year of construction, at all events, at Port’ Augusta, the outside public could not get a look in at all. If they wanted to despatch messages they were told that the lines were engaged on Commonwealth business. The railway was estimated to cost about £4,250,000 - one authority says under £4,000,000 - and it was stated that when completed for traffic there would be a loss of £40,000 a year in working expenses. We will be mighty lucky, indeed, if either forecast proves to be reliable.
– Why did not the honorable member say this when the Bill was before the House?
– I said a good deal concerning the East- West railway on that occasion; and to-night I want to emphasize my views, speaking, as
I do, from a personal knowledge of the country extending pretty well over thirtyfive years.
– We were misled in regard to this railway.
– No, I do not think there was any misunderstanding; but I want to inform the honorable member for Denison that the East-West railway, now under construction, is what railway people would call a desert railway, and when the Bill was before the House I never discussed it on any other basis. Mr. Anderson, who was engaged by the Commonwealth Government to investigate several Departments of Commonwealth -activity, referred to this line as a 5. -in. rainfall railway. Those are his figures, not mine, but on the average I dare say he is about right. Now, we were told that this railway had to be constructed for defence purposes. If that had not been the reason, the Bill would probably not have been passed for another generation or two. When we have completed the line, we shall have to extend the railway from Port Augusta right to the Northern Territory - this also largely through country with a very small rainfall - and on top of that it has been suggested that we should consider the construction of a strategic railway to connect Port Augusta with Sydney, which, so far as South Australia is concerned, will also go very largely through country with a limited rainfall. If we are to carry out these undertakings, particularly through such country, it is essential that there should be economy of construction; but the very opposite has been our experience in connexion with the East-West line, which is being built on such extravagant lines as to give one the impression that the Government have money to burn. We have spent money most recklessly. That railway which was to cost £4,000,000 is going to cost at least £6,500,000.
– Probably £8,000,000.
– Well, perhaps it will cost £7,000,000. It should’ never have cost so much. At the beginning a mistake was made in the employment of officials who were entirely strange to the country. South Australian officers of large experience and of the highest capacity, when they applied for positions, were turned down. I am not saying this because they happened to be
South Australian officers. I want to show that it should have been recognised that a South Australian officer, with a capacity for the work, would have been infinitely better than any other man, because of his special knowledge of the country. In South Australia we have built hundreds of miles of railway through similar country, and cheapness of construction, consistent with efficiency, has always been the first consideration. We could not build lines through those dry areas if we had not adhered to a policy of economy. In the selection of officials for the east-west railway, however, men from other States were preferred. Some of them were, of course, efficient, but they had not experience of local conditions, and in their professional life they were not required to deal with country with a limited rainfall. Because of this necessity to study economy in the administration of railway affairs, the garment was cut according to the cloth in South Australia, and we have now come to be regarded in the Commonwealth as the Scotchmen of Australia.
– How many miles of railway have you built there?
– We constructed 600 miles recently at half the expenditure per mile required for the east-west railway, for which the estimates have been exceeded by 70 per cent, or 80 per cent. I know, of course, that the present engineer is not responsible for the estimates or for the management in the earlier stages of the work, but the latter is a long way from being up to concert pitch even now. One fault was the beginning of construction work before the authorities were ready.
– That was done to please the Tight honorable member for Swan.
– No; it was done to please South Australia.
– The line was started months before the officials were really ready, and in the first year, around Port Augusta every twenty shillings’ worth of work cost forty shillings. In connexion with the route, particularly in the vicinity of Port Augusta, there has been an unnecessary expenditure of £100,000. The cheapest plan would have been to keep the line from Yorkies Crossing near the beach until it reached the town, then to have gone along by Dunn’s mill, between the Tassie-street warehouses and the Government wharf, and right around to the existing railway reserve and railway station. I expressed the view to the Engineer-in-Chief at the beginning that this route would have met all the necessities of the place for a generation or two to come.
– What did the honorable member know about it?
– That is what the Engineer-in-Chief asked me, and I told him, that, given the route and the facilities I suggested, the Commonwealth railway would have as much accommodation as there was in Port Pirie for twenty years to handle the Barrier railway traffic, amounting to 1,000,000 tons a year. When I asked the EngineerinChief whether he had ever seen Port Pirie, he admitted that he had not, and I said, “ Well, the Government ought to send you there.” I repeat that the Broken Hill traffic, representing pretty well 1,000,000 tons a year, is handled at Port Pirie with no more conveniences than would have been afforded the Commonwealth railway at Port Augusta by adopting the suggestion I made. But what did the officials do ? In selecting a route they cut right through the town and nark lands of Port Augusta, and got into the worst sand-drift country that could be found anywhere. Houses and land were resumed at a cost involving the country in an expenditure of £100,000 that was not needed.
– Who was the Minister then?
– What has the Minister to do with a matter of this kind ? The next step was to create a traffic department. I ask honorable members to give attention to these matters, which involve the expenditure of millions of pounds, and about which Parliament knows very little. We should have a business statement as to this railway at least twice a year. We are not doing our duty if we allow these millions to be spent without proper efficiency, and without any demand for the issue of proper business statements. I ask honorable members to believe that I am dealing with this question from a non-party point of view. It is too big a matter to be considered in any other light. My own party was in power when the proposal to create this traffic department was brought forward, and I put my protest before the Government ‘and the Minister. Who had ever heard of the creation of a separate and independent traffic department to manage a railway under construction ? It had never previously been heard of. When a railway is being extended by sections, a traffic department may run traffic on a partially -completed section before the whole has been completed ; but here was an altogether new enterprise, and no traffic department in existence. The officers of our Railway Department dealt with my written protest, and said that I knew nothing about the matter. They assured the Government that the establishment of a traffic department would be a good paying venture; and so it was started. What has been the result? The other day I asked for a return showing the operations of this traffic department from the date of the last return supplied to me; and, though my request was promptly met, strange to say, a period of five months between the previous return and the nine months covered by the present return is not accounted for. It may be an oversight. However, the return shows that, for the nine months ended in April last, the Government traffic over the line yielded £143,588 lis. 8d., and the public traffic £12,793 19s. That provides a nice prospect.
– That is the revenue from both ends of the line.
– If that be so, it makes the position twice as bad. The expenditure in the same period was £213,291 6s. 4d.; and the net loss on construction and public traffic was £57,008 15s. 8d. I wish honorable members to realize the infinite confusion caused by mixing an independent traffic department with a construction department. If the engineer who is constructing the railway requires a truck, he cannot get it until he has requisitioned the traffic officer. If honorable members only knew the infinite confusion and red-tape and loss characterizing this marvellous railway, their hair would stand on end. If we put young officers into a job, the first thing that possesses their soul is the desire to build up a big department, and to magnify their importance, with a corresponding lifting of their screws.
– That is not the only trouble. There are departments within departments to-day.
– Yes; and they lead to enormous waste. I have never heard of a more telling example of it than is to be found in the creation of this’ traffic department at least four years before the completion of the railway, and at a time when the whole of the line should be in the hands of the construction engineers. The Government should have engaged a first-class man, the best railway construction manager to be found in the Commonwealth, and paid him £2,000 a year.
– F - Five thousand pounds would not be too much.
– He would have saved the country £200,000 a year if we had got the right man, and put him, not in the offices here, but on the railway itself, and let him live there; and if he had been given authority to build the line, subject only to furnishing reports, say, once a month to his engineerinchief in Melbourne. We should have had such a man as would be employed by a contractor, not only a competent engineer, but also a business man, who could introduce some business principles into the construction of the line. Had we done this, we would not have been lamenting that a railway which was estimated to cost about £4,250,000 is going to cost between £6,500.000 and £7,000,000.
– T - The estimate was £4,000,000.
– That was a rough estimate made without much data being available.
– The estimate of revenue was a rough one also. If it is realized we shall have something for which we may be exceedingly thankful.
– Do you think that the revenue estimate is high ?
– It is ridiculously high. I have discussed these matters with the Engineer-in-Chief on two occasions; on one of them, before the Minister. I was asked if I did not consider railway construction a big factor in the development of a country, and I replied that, of course, I did, but that it was necessary to recognise the limitation of development by the nature of the country to be traversed, and more particularly the rainfall. If a railway passes through fairly good soil, with an abundant rainfall, we can place no limit to the possibility of the country so developed.
– Especially if there are two or three good mines close to the line.
– If we combine the two we have great possibilities; but in this instance we have not those possibilities. The railway is going away from the auriferous country. By the end of this financial year the line will have involved the Commonwealth in an expenditure of £5,160,000, and only a little over two-thirds of it will have been constructed. Out of a total of 1,030 miles there are 287 miles yet to be built. Furthermore, we have only from 160 to 200 miles of the line ballasted, and as the estimated cost of ballasting is about £700 a mile, we can easily realize the big figures this business will involve us in before the line is anywhere near completion. Is it not time that the House demanded the application of business principles to such an enormous expenditure? The line is being built in country far away from the reach of honorable members. Even very few South Australian or Western Australian honorable members can see what is going on. Therefore, the House should be supplied with frequent progress reports, in order that honorable members may know how the work is proceeding. I wish now to deal with the matter of the building of workshops at Port Augusta. There is among the official papers a remarkable minute involving a very big matter. It is headed, “ Department of Home Affairs,” and reads as follows : -
The responsible Commonwealth railway officers recommended that the Marine Board reserve and other land at Conway Town, Port Augusta, totalling some 227 acres, be acquired for Commonwealth railway purposes as a site for locomotive sheds, carriage sheds, landing and storage of coal, &c., and urged that it was wise to look well ahead in such matters. Early in 1915 the land was acquired. A considerable part is below high-water mark, and will require to be reclaimed before use.
Speaking from memory I think that this resumption involved an expenditure of £50,000.
– It was a very good thing to do. If the South Australian Government had done the same, and put the railway workshops at Port “Adelaide instead of at Islington, they would have saved thousands of pounds.
– I shall tell the honorable member what I think of it.
– W - What is the date of that document?
– It bears no date, but at any rate it was before the “flood.” The resumption at Port Augusta was no more required than is a fifth wheel on a coach. Imagine the resumption of 227 acres for the erection of workshops in country over which a desert railway is being built ! That is an area three times greater than the whole area of the metropolitan railway station and workshops in South Australia.
– Did you speak of a “ desert” railway?
– If the right honorable gentleman had been listening he would appreciate the meaning of the term, which is a recognized expression amongst railwav people in regard to railways traversing country having a limited rainfall.
– You pushed the Bill for the construction of this railway through Parliament under false pretences.
– If I had had my way this railway would not have been touched until the railway to the Northern Territory had been completed. There are in existence at Quorn railway workshops which were taken over from South Australia by the Commonwealth with the transfer of the Northern Territory. When the South Australian Government first started the construction of the great northern railway, workshops were established at Port Augusta in the sand drift and near the salt water. Those shops had to be shifted. If the Commonwealth authorities had only availed themselves of data in the State on this, as well as on a hundred other matters, they would not have made a lot of the enormous blunders which can be debited against them to-day. The honorable member for Hindmarsh and the EngineerinChief have said that the workshops at Quorn are mere sheds.
– Quite right!
– In those mere sheds there have been employed for thirty-five years about 200 men, including engine-drivers and firemen, a big number in extreme outside country.
– That must have been a long while ago.
– No, nearly all of them have continued there until the present time. Those shops are used for the repairing of rolling-stock of every kind.
– Are not the repairs done at Petersburg ?
– They are sent to Islington.
– They are not. If the honorable member had taken the trouble to ascertain facts which were obtainable in his own State, he would not have made half so many blunders, and there would not be so much demoralization in the Department. For the last thirty years those shops at Quorn have done the repairs of all coaching stock for all the narrow gauge railways in South Australia, including the Broken Hill line, which handles a traffic of a million tons per annum, but excluding the southeastern loop lines.
– I doubt that.
– Does not the honorable member know that for the last thirty-five years a return by the superintendent of the workshops has been made to the Commissioner of Railways annually? It is from that return I have obtained my figures, and the honorable member or the engineer could have seen it had he made inquiries. All cattle and sheep vans on all narrow gauge systems in South Australia are repaired at Quorn, and all the painting of all coaches has been done there. Minor and major repairs to engines, even to the extent of complete overhaul - until a. boiler has to be replaced, when the work is done at Islington - have been shared between Petersburg and Quorn, but the heaviest work is done at the latter place. Last year 2,700 vehicles, which had undergone every kind of repair, were turned out of the Quorn workshops, and that is a greater number than the Commonwealth will own between Kalgoorlie and Oodnadatta in the next thirty years.
– There is a break of gauge between those townships.
– A proposal is under consideration, and is sure of adoption, which will take the Commonwealth gauge of railway past the doors of those workshops, but if the gauge cannot be altered, all the Government need provide for at Port Augusta are the requirements of the East-West railway. On . the basis of data in the South Australian statistical offices regarding the average production for the last sixty years in the area west of Port Augusta - and during the greater part of that period greater prosperity was experienced in the country than there is today - the railway will not carry one fully-loaded train of goods tonnage per week.
– Do you include mails?
– No. And what will the passenger traffic be? The Government will be exceedingly lucky if they get one fully-loaded passenger train per week. They may commence by running tri-weekly trains. I do not believe that more than 5 per cent, of the oversea visitors to Australia will use that railway.
– Did you know of these facts when the Bill was before the House ?
– Yes; and, knowing them, I expected the railway to cost £4,000,000, not £7,000,000.
– In the circumstances you have mentioned, is the building of the railway justified ?
– I do not believe that the Bill would have passed the House in the face of those figures; it is possible to give too much for a sovereign.
– You said the railway was absolutely necessary.
– I said that it was essential to defence, and justified only as a defence work. What I say tonight I have said before. Is it likely that people will leave the floating palaces in which they have voyaged from Europe in order to travel from Fremantle to Adelaide overland ?
– They may desire to see the country.
– They will want to see it only once. Until recently it was the custom of the steam -ship companies to charge only one fare from England to Australia, the same amount to Fremantle as to Sydney. This railway was never expected to pay interest, and only by the most sanguine was it expected to pay working expenses, even on a capital cost of £4,000,000. It is my desire that the Government shall endeavour to keep down the construction cost. Do honorable members believe that that railway will get a big passenger traffic from the oversea steamers ? I have said that not more than 5 per cent, of oversea visitors will travel by rail; 10 per cent, would be an extravagant estimate. Ex press trains, with sleeping and dining cars and other facilities, especially for first-class passengers, are not the most profitable form of traffic.
– You admit that there is a loss on the carriage of first-class passengers ?
– On some railways. There is no loss on our InterState first-class traffic, because of the proportions to which it has grown.
– But there is a loss on the South Australian railways?
– Yes, on some.
– The second class passengers carry the first class passengers on their backs.
– It is a recognised principle that second class traffic always pays better than first class traffic.
– Then, why not make all second class?
– What I say is not the case on railways like the present through railways, especially since that “traffic has grown so immensely. In an indifferent country, however, the provision of first class accommodation is very costly.
– Take the AdelaideMelbourne express, for instance.
– The first class traffic on that line does pay.
– Do the sleeping berths pay ?
– The sleeping berths themselves undoubtedly do not; but if there were not’ this sleeping accommodation there would .be fewer first class passengers. There is no doubt that it is intended that the transcontinental railway shall carry the English mails, though I doubt whether it will attract oversea passengers. To carry the mails there must be high speed, or they might as well be permitted to come round by sea to Melbourne and Sydney. High speed means the very best road we can get and the best engines, and the policy should have been to make the road so strong-
– It is a good strong road.
– Tt is; and there ought to be the best road that can be provided.
– How can you say that it is a good road, if it is not ballasted for more than 160 miles?
– It is true that there are only 160 miles ballasted, but when it is completed it will be a road on which a very high speed can be obtained. Having secured a strong road and good rolling-stock, all the details in the way of stations, and so forth, should be on the pioneering scale.
– What is the estimated duration of the journey from Fremantle to Adelaide?
– Nobody can tell, though it should be possible to say.
– According to the railway time-tables of New South Wales it will take a week.
– If so, there will be no passengers and no mails, and we might as well have had no railway.
– The journey will be done in thirty hours.
– Nothing of the kind - it will not be done under forty-eight hours. The line traverses a sandhill and drift country for long stretches, and it will be a tough proposition to make the line in some places, and a tough proposition to keep it open.
– I wish you had told us all this before we had sanctioned the railway !
– It is certainly a cheerful prospect!
– I am emphasizing these points to show the necessity of adopting more business-like principles in the construction of the railway.
– South Australia is certainly giving us in the north a taste of our own physio!
– I only wish we could get South Australia to give the Commonwealth a taste of efficient management in the matter of railways. If the Commonwealth Government had asked the South Australian Government to construct a railway to the borders of Western Australia, the line would have cost £1,000,000 less than it will as a matter of fact. As to this £250,000 involved in the construction of shops, the EngineerinChief, Mr. Fell, defends himself in the minutes I have here; but as these are too lengthy for me to read in the time at my disposal, and as it is only fair that the recommendations of Mr. Bell should appear before the public accompanied by my criticism, I suggest that the Minister of Home Affairs lay them on the table and move that they be printed.
– I - I shall place them on the table.
– Otherwise I should have felt it my duty to read every word. Before going further, I wish to be perfectly candid and say that I have interests at Quorn, where I have lived for thirty-five years. My only desire is that this matter should be decided by experts; and I wish to read an expert’s opinion regarding the shops condemned by Mr. Bell.
– It is swamp land at Port Augusta.
– According to the departmental minutes, it is.
– Who is the expert whose opinion you have?
– He is a mechanical engineer in a very high position. He has had forty years’ experience, and has seen the development of the South Australian railways, so that his opinion on a mechanical locomotive question ought, at all events, to be as valuable as that of the Engineer-in-Chief, who is not a mechanical engineer, but is a railway civil engineer. I am perfectly willing to tell the responsible Minister, in confidence, who this authority is; and I am sure that if I told the honorable member for Hindmarsh, he would admit the man’s capacity and wide experience. This expert says -
To deal adequately with the repairs and renewals to the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge locomotives, carriages and other rolling-stock which will eventually work on the lines between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, I think it would be in the interests of the Commonwealth if, instead of spending something like £250,000 in the provision of workshops, machinery, tools, and appliances for dealing with this work at Port Augusta, that a simple running shed only be used at that point for the purpose of meeting running needs for the line above referred to, because, when you take over the Great Northern line, you will have full control of all the sheds and appliances which are at Port Augusta for 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, which would enable you to provide all the stabling accommodation which is necessary for your engines and carriages, which is thought desirable should be kept at Port Augusta for meeting the requirements of the Bast-West railway. Therefore, full advantage should be taken of utilizing to its fullest capacity for not only repairing 3-ft. 6-in. gauge engines, but also engines of the 4 ft. 8J in., the railway workshops which belong to the Commonwealth, and are now erected and in commission at Quorn. For this purpose I strongly” urge as a matter of policy which would result in considerable economy in working, of converting the line between Port Augusta and Quorn from 3-ft. 6-in. to 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. I estimate that, roughly speaking, to relay this line, which is 25 miles long, with rails of 80 lbs. to the yard, the strengthening of the bridges between the two points, and mixing the gauge in Quorn yard, and also mixing the gauge in the Quorn locomotive yard and sheds, would not cost the Commonwealth more than about £4,000 per mile, as it must be taken into account that no heavy earthwork would be encountered.
– That is £100,000.
– But if the honorable member follows me he will see that is discounted later on -
The line is at present well ballasted, and it would only mean the difference in cost as between the 50 lbs. line which now exists on the 3-ft. 0-in. gauge and the proposed 4-ft. 8½in gauge line with 80 lbs. plant. In those circumstances, you will readily perceive that it would bc an economical move to carry out this as a part of your policy, and get it put in hand at the_ earliest possible moment before the EastWest railway is opened, as by converting this line would mean the first section of the strategical line which was recommended by the War Department (Lord Kitchener), and which must eventually be carried through from Quorn to Broken Hill, connecting up with the New South Wales State system at that point, now in course of construction. You will thus see that the approximate cost of conversion of this 25 miles of line will amount to practically £100,000, thus showing absolutely a saving to the Commonwealth of the very large amount which is proposed to spend at Port Augusta in workshops and appliances suggested above.
All that would be necessary at Quorn for dealing adequately with repairs to all the rolling-stock running on the East-West line would be the provision of a wheel lathe and one or two other smaller machines which would not cost, at the outside, more than £5,000.
I ask the Government to take this expression of opinion into consideration, and also to have the matter properly investigated. I may tell honorable members that there is not. a mechanical engineer on the South Australian railways whose opinion is not in accord with that I have read.
– Is Quorn in the Wakefield electorate ?
– No, it is not. My informant goes on -
I commend this scheme to your very careful consideration, as you will notice that there is money to be saved in it, and the goal ultimately to be reached is one central depot for dealing adequately with the repairs and renewals to your rolling-stock running on the Great Northern, and also on the East-West railway, and later on with the strategical rail way, which must come sooner or later in connecting Sydney with Port Augusta.
– D - Does the honorable member know a responsible man to investigate this matter?
– I can only say to the Minister that he ought to call for the opinion of the South Australian officials, because, if they have not the. requisite knowledge, I do not know who has.
– What about Mr. Griffin, the architect?
– He is not a bad man, and the honorable member will hear a good deal more about him. It would be in the interests of the Commonwealth if there were a little bit more checking of our own men. If they are the best men, they will come out on top. But if they are not the most efficient men we ought to have a check upon them.
– Give Australians a show.
– Certainly, I would do that; but I may tell the honorable member that by occasionally introducing one or two of the best men in the world, we will elevate the Australians into better men than they are. I condemn the superficial policy which asserts that Australians know everything. I must apologize to honorable members for having occupied their time so long, but possibly this matter will be subjected to further criticism, and I shall be afforded a further opportunity of discussing it when the Supply Bill is under consideration. I have not said all I wish to say in connexion with this business by any means. It is a business which I understand, and I am determined to probe it to bed-rock until we secure a better system, and until we begin to exhibit a little more thought for the taxpayers generally. Another matter upon which I desire to touch briefly is that of the Northern Territory. There is a deplorable tale to tell there. Again I would remind honorable members that if the Commonwealth, when it took over the Northern Territory, had secured officials from South Australia to represent it, it would have saved scores of thousands of pounds. It is about time that a bit of sanity was introduced into our administration of this Territory. It is about time that the Commonwealth recognised that a good many of the States can teach it something. I should like to know if honorable members opposite defend the expenditure which- has taken place in the Northern Territory during the past four or five years, because the greater part of the money spent there might just as well have been thrown into the sea. Had the Government obtained data which were available in South Australia, and utilized the services of men who had been in touch with the Territory for forty or fifty years, or had they appointed men of capacity from other countries with interior areas where similar difficulties had been encountered, they would not have wasted the money which has been wasted there. And after all this waste we have now reached the position which was put before the Government by South Australian representatives at the inception of our administration of this area, namely, that tropical agriculture, and, indeed, agriculture of any kind there, is foredoomed to failure. The Territory can be developed only along pastoral and mineral lines by the opening up of stock routes, and by the construction “of a railway right through the country. When this has been accomplished, and success has attended development along these lines, we may gradually extend that development in other directions. If that policy had been adopted we should have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is a source of satisfaction to me to know that the Minister controlling the Territory and the Government generally, have now arrived at the conclusion that the policy which has hitherto been adopted was a great speculation, and has resulted in as great a failure.
– There has been no attempt to give effect to any policy there.
– There has been a mighty expenditure, with a very little increase in population. If we were to take away from the Territory all the Government officials there, practically no population would be left.
– What about handing the Territory back to South Australia?
– There is one fact to be remembered, namely, that the South’ Australian Government did not spend upon the Northern Territory a tithe, or even a twentieth part of what has been expended upon it by the Commonwealth. When the Commonwealth commenced to administer this Territory, it seemed of set purpose to lay it down that no South Australian should occupy any official position.
– The Government did not want to take population from South Australia.
– They did not want men of experience or of local knowledge. There were a few Government officials in South Australia who, if they had been appointed by the Commonwealth to positions in the Territory, could have done as well as any man, and they, because of their local knowledge, would have warned the Government against many of the mistakes which Ministers have made, which have resulted in an enormous expenditure completely wasted.
– I have listened with some attention to the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield, and I confess that I was a little surprised at his attitude, to-night as contrasted with his attitude upon this question some .years ago. But I rose chiefly for the purpose of endeavouring to do justice to an absent man, to one who, in my judgment, has not received fair treatment at the hands of this House, or of previous Governments, or of officials in the Service. I was very sorry to hear the late Minister of Home Affairs make the remarks which he did the other evening in regard to Mr. Griffin, the winner of the competitive prize design for the Federal Capital. Upon that occasion he practically affirmed that-
The re-appointment of Mr. Griffin was an absolutely profligate waste of public money. There was no necessity for him to be here at all. His plan having been accepted, were there no competent architects in Australia who could carry it out?
I think I shall be able to show, before I resume my seat, that instead of the reappointment of Mr. Griffin being an absolutely profligate waste of public money, it was the very reverse. I shall never be one to remain silent when a man who has no opportunity of defending himself is being maligned. For the information of honorable members who were not in the House when this question first cropped up; I wish to say that there was a time when Parliament decided to call for competitive designs for the building and planning of the Federal Capital. These designs were open to the world, and the successful competitor was the man who has been spurned here, who has been the victim of an attempt to degrade him, not only in the eyes of his profession, but in the eyes of those who were responsible for his appointment. When Mr. Griffin’s plan was awarded the first prize, one would naturally have thought that the first duty of those responsible for the building of the Capital was to bring him to Australia to give effect to his design. But that was not done. I believe that an attempt was made to do it. However, owing to lack of foresight, and of a keen appreciation of what was right, the proper step was not taken. The result was that after his plan had been decided by experts to be the best, it was not put into execution. Having awarded him the first prize for that design, I submit that we should have trusted to the judgment of the adjudicators, and not to that of amateurs who came on the scene later on. No sooner had the House decided to proceed with the work of founding the Federal Capital than the officers of the Home Affairs Department set to work to give effect to a composite plan - a plan built up from several of the premiated designs. Out of these scattered fragments they formulated a new design, which was not submitted to experts for their critical opinion, but was submitted only to the Department. The Department, finding no other way out of the difficulty, very wrongly, in my judgment, allowed this amateur plan - a composite plan which its framers could not interpret to-day-
– Some of them could not.
– None of them could, as I shall presently show. These men were encouraged to pirate the plans of other men, and to adapt them to their own use. Then a change of Ministry took place, and, to the credit of the Cook Government, I must say that they saw what ought to have been seen at first, namely, that the author of the winning design was the man who understood most about how effect should be si von to it, especially as he possesses qualifications which are undeniable. The Cook Government, therefore, brought Mr. Griffin to this country presumably to carry out his design. To brins him here for any other purpose would have been to insult him.
– The purpose for which he was brought is specified in the agreement.
– Of course it is. But for some reason which I cannot explain, after his arrival here the officers of the Department were still permitted to pursue their conduct in regard to the composite plan of which I have spoken. The result was that Mr. Griffin, who is a master in his profession, was humiliated and degraded by men who were constantly striving to place him in a subordinate position which he ought not to occupy.
– The PostmasterGeneral says those who brought him to Australia allowed the departmental officers to pursue this made-up plan?
– I can find no evidence to the contrary.
– When Mr. Griffin came to Australia the other plan was entirely discarded.
– The departmental plan is as dead as Julius Caesar.
– I am glad to hear that.
– I never took the trouble to look at it.
– Whilst the plan may have disappeared the operations of these officers continued.
– That is not correct.
– I will show that it is, if the honorable member will allow me to proceed.
– The departmental plan is still up at the Capital, in the billiardroom at Yarrolumla
– That is so. The agreement gave Mr. Griffin the fullest power to carry out his obligations to the Government and Parliament, but he was not secured in the exercise of that power by the indorsement and support which he should have received from those responsible for bringing him here. This gentleman was never allowed to exercise the power, without which it was impossible for him to carry out his plan. I propose to deal with this matter step by step. When, as a responsible Minister, and member of this Parliament, I feel that I should stand by one who has been unfairly treated, I consider it an obligation upon me to go to the root of the matter. I have taken the trouble to go into this case from the beginning. I have visited the Capital site, and have investigated on the spot the confirmation of ohe matters dealt with in the papers that came before me. I say that every important step taken at the Capital site has been in antagonism, and in opposition to, the recommendations of the gentleman whose plan was adopted, and who is responsible for its proper carrying out under his agreement.
– Because they were entirely impracticable.
– When we have a gentleman of this type, who possesses credentials from the highest authorities in the most advanced States of America, it amuses me to hear the statement made that his proposals are impracticable. By saying that they are impracticable, the honorable member for Hindmarsh condemns the adjudicators of the premiated designs for recommending the adoption of an impracticable plan.
– I do impeach the adjudicators. The idea of a plan being adopted against the opinion of a civil engineer !
– This is a serious matter, and I want honorable members to take it seriously. The first step taken by the departmental gentlemen was in connexion with the location of a site for an arsenal. Let us judge those who have been responsible by what has occurred. The site selected was condemned by the designer of the Federal Capital as being hopelessly in the wrong place, for very material reasons. It appears that, when this site was selected for a Small Arms Factory, a plan of the Factory was also drawn out. In the meantime, the Standing Committee on Public Works had been brought into existence by this Parliament, and the matter was submitted to that Committee. To their credit, be it said, the members of the Committee turned down the site selected by the departmental officers in opposition to the advice of the designer of the Federal Capital. The Small Arms Factory, which, but for the Public Works Committee, would have been erected, would have been quite unfit for the purpose for which it was designed. If the departmental plans had been followed, the structure would have been built without any proper recognition of the necessary weight-carrying capacity for any establishment of that character. As a matter of fact, the floors of the Factory, as proposed to be built, were designed to carry 100 lbs. to the square inch; whereas, in the case of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, the management asked for a carrying capacity of not less than 250 lbs. to the square inch. In Melbourne, in the case of ordinary city retail shops, provision has to be made for a carrying capacity 40 per cent, in excess of what was provided for by these men who were superseding the designer of the Federal Capital in the carrying out of his work. Had this building been erected in accordance with their plans, we should have had another abortion and disgrace added to the many already included amongst Federal works. The next step these people took in opposition to Mr. Griffin, and despite his objection, was to build a power-house costing £88,196; in such a place as to defeat one of the principal objects of the Federal Capital design. There were many other places where the power-house might have been erected, and where it would be equally serviceable for the purpose in view.
– They had to put it on the river.
– I take it that that necessary condition might have been secured in more than one quarter of the Capital site.
– A site is provided on the original plan for the purpose.
– That is so, but it was not the site chosen by the departmental officers, and that is the trouble. Everything seems to have been put exactly’ where it would tend to destroy the symmetry of the original plan. This power-house has been built near to the site chosen for the UpperLake, which was one of the chief attractions of the original design. The departmental officers built a railway to these works of some 5 miles in length’. The usual thing occurred, and their estimates for the work were largely exceeded. This appears to be the inevitable result, and they gave a hundred and one excuses in the usual way for their ill-digested estimates by blaming some one else. The Minister suggested the construction of a light railway or tramway for construction purposes. Had such a light railway been built there would have been no material loss when the permanent railway was subsequently constructed in the proper locality.
– Why was not the Minister’s instruction carried out?
– Because it was turned down by the official authorities.
– Surely the Minister had power over them ?
– The Minister at that time probably had the power, but he did not exercise it, very likely because he did not realize the mistake that was being made.
– L - Let the honorable gentleman read my instructions, and he will see that this was done in contravention of my orders.
– Then the honorable gentleman was responsible for that.
– I ask the Committee to keep order. The Minister is delivering a very interesting and important speech, and I think it should be heard in silence.
– I have here the document referred to by the Minister of Home Affairs, but I do not wish to occupy the time of the Committee in reading documents. I have here documents which give the whole history of the proposal for a light railway, and show how it was turned down by the officials, and a railway was ultimately constructed at a cost of £49,000.
– T - They did not carry out my orders.
– I know that they did not. But where was this railway constructed? It was constructed again in such a way as to destroy one of the main features of the Capital design.
– Why do not the Government fire the men responsible for this kind of thing?
– W - Wait awhile. They are scrapping me first.
– This railway was built across the lower part of the proposed Upper Lake, and since’ it was built it has been carried away by the weight of water on this low-lying spot so suitable for a lake. Over £4,000 has been required for making good the damage caused by washaways which have occurred since the railway was constructed. Here again is evidence of a lack of comprehension of the needs of the position by the men who overstepped the Minister’s instructions, and carried out a work which is not to their credit.
– Was this railway constructed where Mr. Griffin proposed the construction of a railway?
– No. As I have said, the whole thing appears to have been deliberately done to spoil Mr. Griffin’s design.
– Are these officers still in the Department?
– Yes, but the honorable gentleman should wait a bit. I want to say that the treatment of Mr. Griffin by the late Minister of Home Affairs was not such as I think he was entitled so expect. When a gentleman with a grievance appeals to be heard so that he may set his case before those who are responsible, the least the Minister can do is to admit him, give him audience, and allow him to be heard. We have letters here - letters with which I do not trouble the House to-night - showing that there has been an utter lack of that respect which was due to such a man.
– I never refused to hear him at all.
– I am dealing with the facts - that is all.
– And you are twisting them, too.
– I am not in the habit of doing that.
– You will do anything when in opposition to push the other fellow out.
– Now, that- is just another little germ that is getting into the honorable member’s brain.
– The Postal Department must be an easy post when you are able to run the. Home Affairs Department, too.
– That does not affect the position at all ; it only shows that the honorable member has no knowledge of my capacity.
– We ought to give you something to do.
– I am working while the honorable member is asleep.
– Yes; but you allow a lot of wasters, who want to be shaken up, to remain in the Department.
– That is another matter. Let me deal with this question first. We find, also, that a sewerage system, objected to by the designer of the Territory, has been instituted. I have seen the system, and I know from my reading of the reports connected therewith, that such a system, rendering pumping necessary, should never have been started in the Capital city. The sewerage could all have been done by gravitation.
– You are wrong again.
– No, I am not. The system has been so started that the sewage will, of necessity, have to be pumped for over 100 feet, and what they are going to do with it, even then, heaven only knows. The men who have designed this wonderful system for the Capital city have not devised any scheme to dispose of the sewage.
– Yes, they have.
– Will the honorable member say what it is intended to do with it?
– Establish a sewage farm.
– I am glad that I have had that admission, because I could not find anything to that effect in the report.
– You will find it there.
– I am not referring to the report which the honorable member has in mind. If the site which I saw is to be set apart for a sewage farm, then I say that another blunder has been made, because it is well known that soil of a special character is necessary for a sewage farm. It must be largely of an absorbent nature; and, so far as I could ascertain, the soil of the site intended for the Capital city sewage farm has very little absorbent quality. Apart from that altogether, it is known throughout the world to-day that sewage farms which were regarded as the ideal system are now condemned’, because authorities have discovered something which time only could reveal, namely, that land continuously loaded with sewage becomes sewage-sick and poisoned, and will grow nothing subsequently.
– Not if it is alluvial soil.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. The opinion I have expressed is held by experts the world over to-day. No matter how absorbent the soil may be, it ultimately becomes poisoned and sewage-sick.
– In how long?
– It depends, of course, on the absorbent quality of the soil.
– Of course, it does.
– This appears to be a censure on the Works Committee.
– It is a censure on the Government too.
– These works were started before the present Governmentcame into office, and therefore no blame can be attached to the present Administration.
– I reckon we ought not to spend another “ bob “ on the Federal Territory.
– That is another question. If there is one thing more than another that ought to receive consideration in connexion with city construction, it is that the sewerage system may be on the most modern lines, so that taxation on the people may be as light as possible. That is one of the fundamentals which, I venture to say, will later on be shown to be wholly absent so far as concerns the Federal Capital city. Up to date, about £30,000 has been expended on this work, the commitment is £75,000, and the total amount involved is £150,000, and we are committed to a pumping system for all time as against a gravitation scheme, which would have been the cheapest, but is not now possible.
– I am quite sure you are wrong.
– I am not asking for the honorable member’s opinion. When special works involving a large expenditure of money are contemplated, it is sound economy to employ the best experts available rather than those who have had no experience in such work, and even at this late hour I commend the Minister for having sought out such an expert to report on the sewerage system as well as on the water scheme to be adopted for the Federal Capital city.
– Is the Minister re f erring to Mr. Oliver?
– My own impression is that one of the last acts we did was to engage Mr. Oliver for that work, but he was turned down.
– But the present Government retained him.
– No; we retained him when we were in office.
– T - That is quite right. Mr. Kelly engaged Mr. Oliver.
– I object to the Minister generalizing in this way. We recommended that Mr. Oliver should be appointed for that work.
– But the honorable member did not appoint him.
– No, because you would not allow us to do so.
– I want to be quite fair in this matter, and I note that the Leader of the Opposition says that his Government saw the necessity for taking this step.
– What has Mr. Oliver to advise on ?
– Mr. Oliver will not give his opinion until he has made a thorough investigation.
– Anybody who knows the school of sanitation that Mr. Oliver belongs to knows what his report will be.
– He has no superior in Australia.
– I wish now to refer to the water supply, which is another very important matter. One of the essentials for a modern city is cheap water, without which it would be impossible to beautify its environs. Now, at the Capital -City the water supply ought to have been secured by a gravitation scheme, and this was one of the conditions laid down when the site was selected, but to-day we find, in opposition to the advice of the designer of the Capital, that a water scheme involving pumping to a head of 850 feet has been adopted. Up to date the expenditure on this work totals £196,614, and ultimately it will cost £275,000. When we capitalize the cost of running a pumping plant we can easily calculate how much more money could have been spent on a gravitation scheme and still left us in pocket.
– What engineer advised a pumping scheme ?
– The officers in the Department are the authors of this scheme.
– Has the Minister received an estimate of the cost of a gravitation scheme ?
– We shall have it very shortly.
– I think the Minister might have waited till he got that estimate.
– I can only say that’ if the estimate for a gravitation scheme is as reliable as the estimate for the railway and the estimate for other expenditure in the Territory, I am not going to rely upon it, but will wait until I get expert evidence.
– Your own speech is a condemnation of the Government’s action in the Federal Territory, and if any man votes any money for this place after your speech he deserves to be booted out of this Parliament.
– I do not ask for the honorable member’s opinion upon this subject.
– But I am here to give it.
– This is somewhat unusual, is it not?
– It is unusual, and it is about time that the country and this House knew where we are in this matter.
– I am referring to the Minister’s remarks. It is a very unusual, but a welcome, speech from our point of view.
– I do not know about that, but it is my duty to make this speech, I think.
– It is unpleasant no’doubt, but it is quite right.
– In this water scheme a large dam 110 feet high is being built, and from that dam there is a pipe line running to the Murrumbidgee through a tunnel cut through hard rock and concreted on the inside, carrying an 18-inch pipe. Then the pipe line is dropped down a vertical shaft for 80 feet to run through another tunnel under the Murrumbidgee, and the water is brought up another 70 feet to reach the pumping station on the city side. Why it could not have been carried across the river on concrete piers is a mystery. Apparently, carrying water under water to raise it above the water is one of the new ideas.
– Would concrete- piers be as permanent?
– Always, if properly founded. This work has cost £22,000, although a bridge should have carried the pipes. All that expensive work was done, I take it, just to spend money, or to teach others how the job should be done. Owing to the pumping part of the scheme, the pipes used have to be twice the thickness of gravitation pipes, and, consequently, cost much more. No one objects to the method or system of brickmaking introduced in the Territory ; but when the brickworks are put right in the middle of one of the mainresidential sites on the plan,the designer has just reason to complain. The evident intention is to spoil his design, if possible. This is the sort of thing that has been done in antagonism to the man whose agreement makes him responsible for the designing and carrying out of the Capital. A bridge was built across the Murrumbidgee, and has since been carried away. It cost a good deal to build, and more to keep it going.
– I think that the first was only a temporary wooden bridge.
– N - No; it was a permanent bridge, with, steel girders.
– Another has been built in its place; yet some of the State bridges built years ago still stand. No roads are yet formed within the city proper, although some are formed for miles outside. Although these roads have become set, one of them was recently given a coat of a kind of sticky clay, over which motors cannot travel after rain. That road cost £9,000; and the clay business was the act of men who evidently do not understand roadmaking. A sum of £29,502 has been spent on fencing, surveying, and destroying rabbits. Rabbit- proof gates have been built on the roads, and four men have been given permanent appointments, whose business is to shut the gates so that the rabbits may not come in or go out.
– Who is responsible for that kind of business?
– The honorable member can judge for himself
– The Government, of course.
– Not the Government; but the men who have been running the Territory.
– And who runs them?
– Those who run them have only discovered these things lately. The honorable member for Hindmarsh commented strongly tho other night on the extravagance of this Government as compared with others in administering the Territory. The cost of administration has been as follows: -
I quote the above in justice to the present Minister. Let me place before the Committee the merits of the men responsible for the works to which I have just referred - the men engaged in carrying on the work in the Federal Capital - and compare them with the credentials of the gentleman selected to carry out his own design.
– If what the honorable member has said to-night can be substantiated, those men ought not to be in the Service for five minutes longer.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say so. Whit we have heard is quite sufficient for us to take action on. Mr. Griffin’s credentials are as follow : -
Professional Education - 1895-8, matriculated student in the University of Illinois, course of architectural engineering; 1898-9, course of architecture; 1S99, graduated with Degree of Bachelor of Science in Architecture in the College of Engineering, University of Illinois. Professional experience - as architect -1899, entered office of Dwight Heald Perkins, architect; 1900-5, served successively as chief of staff with the following architects, all of national repute: - Robert Closen Spencer, Jun., Webster Tomlinson, Adamo Boari (the architect to the Government of Mexico), and Frank Lloyd Wright (with the last as partner) ; 1906-13, practised independently with offices in Chicago and executed buildings in the States of Illinois, New York, Connecticutt, Florida, Michigan, Indiana, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa. As landscape architect and town planner - In independent practice since 1899, designing and engaged in carrying into effect the works connected with town sites, public and private grounds, including some ten new neighbourhoods, seven new villages, four State university and collegiate institutions, four new cities. Professional Associations - Member of Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Fraternity, U.S.A.; Member of American Institute of Architects, Washington, D.C.
– Why does a man with those credentials come’ here for £1,000 a year?
– Some men do not make money their object in life. This will probably be the last big Capital built in the world, and there are “some professional men who would rather have their name handed down in history as the builder of it than possess mere money. It will be something for Mr. Griffin to hand down to his children, and more honour to him for attempting the task. I have the credentials of Mr. Murdoch, in the Department of Home Affairs. I know nothing of him personally, Apparently his experience has been somewhat varied. His credentials are as follows: -
Thirty-six years’ active experience in the profession of architecture. The first seven years of that period were spent in several of the foremost architects’ offices in Scotland as an indentured pupil and as an assistant. Coincident with the practical office work, I studied at and passed the examination of the South Kensington Schools of Science and Arts in those subjects usual to an architectural education. The remaining experience of twenty-nine years has been in Australia; the first four of them, in association with other architects and by myself. Private works of considerable size and variety occupied mc, until the bad times of 1893 brought about acceptance of an engagement with the Queensland Government. After eleven years in the Queensland Government Architect’s Department, my transference in 1004 to the Commonwealth Government Service occurred, which engagement still continues. In the capacity of designer, or supervisor of construction, or both, the buildings engaged upon number very many hundreds of every kind, and in value from a quarter of a million pounds downwards. Due to my position in the Department, probably no person has had a wider experience in Australia, including its tropics. Engaged in considerable European travels, and have paid visits to the United States of America, Canada, and New Zealand. Am a Fellow of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects.
No man will say that Mr. Murdoch’s knowledge is commensurate with that of Mr. Griffin.
– Mr. Murdoch is a better man than Mr. Griffin.
– He is not in the same street with Mr. Griffin.
– Mr. Murdoch’s only fault is that he is an Australian.
– He is not an Australian; he is a Scotchman.
– Mr. Murdoch is a very good man.
– It is degrading to hear any man speak of a man of Mr. Griffin’s type as “a Yankee bounder.” Much more is it degrading when the remark comes from an ex-Minister of the Crown. I am not in a position to say whether there are no architects in Australia competent to carry out Mr. Griffin’s plan; but I am in a position to say that those who have attempted to do so have failed miserably. I desire to place before honorable members a few matters not so high in importance as the building of the Federal Capital, but, on the other hand, ordinary matters with which any architect could deal, in order to show how our officers stand in regard to their capacity for dealing with them.
– Would not the Minister do better if he pilloried the Ministers responsible, and did not spend so much time on the officers?
– I have a duty to perform, and I am not asking the honorable member for advice. When I was intrusted with the position which I now hold, one of the first things I did was to look into the characteristics of the buildings in which the work of the Postal Department had to be done. I have realized for eight or ten years past that, unless we have buildings in which the staff and appliances can be co-ordinated and kept under proper supervision, we cannot attain that efficiency, service, discipline, or organization which are necessary for the successful conduct of a Department. The first step taken by a man about to build a factory in which a number of men are to be employed is to see that the place is built so that the employees can do their work with the least amount of inconvenience and the greatest amount of profit. So it should be with the Post Office and other Departments. But when I went to see the result of the expenditure of £84,000 near the Sydney railway station on a building which should have been a modern structure for dealing with mails and .parcels, I found that the place was so constructed as to be absolutely incapable of meeting the needs of the Department, or of being adapted to do so. The ceilings were 11 feet high. Honorable members can realize what that means to the health of the hundreds of men employed, with dust rising from the mail bags passing round. It also prevented the use of those modern appliances for the removal of mail bags speedily from point to point, and inlet to outlet, that can be seen in all modern post-offices. These fundamental requirements had been neglected, and so this building, which cost £84,000, will not fill the bill or supply the needs of the’ branches of the Postal Department removed to it. .
– Who was responsible?
– The Home Affairs Department and the officers who designed it.
– Did not the postal officials say what they required ?
– Unfortunately I cannot answer all queries when I am endeavouring to make this matter clear. The next thing which came under my notice was one for which the Public Works Committee have to be thanked. On the recommendation of the Postal Department a site had been acquired by the
Home Affairs Department for an Automatic Telephone Exchange in Sydney. Hundreds of human beings would have been working in that building, and ultimately locked in between other high buildings with an exit only 12 feet wide. The Public Works Committee wisely drew attention to the lack of exits for the employees if any of the buildings caught fire. It was at that stage that I came upon the scene, and my purpose was to find a way out of the difficulty.
– Was it not to be a fireproof building?
– It was, but trouble is to be anticipated from fire in the adjacent buildings. The only remedy which the Home Affairs Department could suggest was the expenditure of large sums of money in the purchase of means of exit, £9,000 for one scheme, and £30,000 for another. I considered it to be my duty to avoid that expenditure if possible. On consulting the plans of the proposed exchange, I found that the designers have neither provided for the coordination of the machinery of an automatic exchange nor made provision for the staff which would occupy the building immediately on its completion. The whole basement, comprising 4,000 superficial feet, had been wasted by being utilized for the carrying in of cables, and that provision, together with a light area, had made impossible the coordination of the machinery in such a way as to allow of economical and efficient working. I told the Minister of Home Affairs that I could not adopt plans which did not provide the essentials for the service, and that I proposed to employ the assistance of an outside architect. The Minister suggested that I should consult Mr. Griffin. I did so, and he designed a plan which utilized the whole of the basement, allocated and co-ordinated the plant on two floors, and made a building of five stories ample for the accommodation of the staff that will be required to occupy it forthwith. In addition, he provided for the walls to be so constructed that two stories can be added later to meet the requirements of the trunk-line staff when they are transferred in seven years’ time. It is the duty of a Department to look ahead, and to get what it really requires, but the trouble is that plans are drawn without a full comprehension of what they are wanted for. Another in stance ia the parcels and mails office being constructed at Spencer-street, at a cost of about £200,000. The external design is all right, but when one looks into the internal design he becomes almost paralyzed by the evidence of ineptitude on the part of those responsible. The plan does not seem to have been worked out with a full knowledge of what the building was to be utilized for. The first floor is allocated in an indifferent way, and the rest of the floors are divided like a chequer board, with walls built from pillar to pillar on floor after floor, without any regard to the need for co-ordination of management and supervision. In that case I did not call in Mr. Griffin. I employed one of my staff who has an aptitude for this kind of work, who has gone through every branch of the service, and thoroughly understands the requirements of the postoffice. I indicated to him what I thought was necessary, and the result has been that, whereas the scheme worked out by the Home Affairs Department, under the advice of the Postal Department, would absorb the whole of the six floors, comprising 18,000 superficial feet, by striking out the dividing walls, removing all barriers between -the supervisors and. the supervised, and bringing the whole operations of each department under proper review, we shall have two of the six floors available for other purposes, either to be utilized by ourselves or to be rented, and thus to bring in an income which will help to pay the interest on the capital cost. A lack of thoroughness, and of knowledge of what is intended to be done, seems to be characteristic all through the Department. I had before me a proposal for the expenditure of £12,000 on a motor garage. That seemed to be a large sum of money to expend in this time of war. I inspected the stables which up to that time had been used as a garage, and suggested that they should be reconstructed to meet the requirements of the motor service. A plan was submitted for reconstruction at a cost of £450, but it seemed to me that the altered structure under that proposal would be no better than the original. I therefore gave instructions that the stanchions should be taken out of the centre of the stables, and placed near the walls, with brackets to hold the roof; that a suitable cement floor should be put down, and tanks installed, so that we could have a meter on our petrol consumption, and avoid the waste which had taken place formerly. That scheme was carried out, and the result is that at a cost of £1,000, instead of £12,000, we have a motor garage that will last us for the next ten years.
– It seems as if the recent Cabinet changes have justified themselves.
– Another instance of the condition of affairs into which the Department has fallen is provided by the General Post Office in Sydney. There we have a building of handsome external design, but a veritable rabbit warren internally, one of the worst buildings for a post-office that I have ever seen. The telephone exchange and the testing room are situated on the third floor. The testing room ought never to have been placed there, but having once been put there, it grew with the building, until, finally, the floor was in danger of collapsing under the weight, and had to be supported by strong girders resting on the main wall. The cables ran from the tunnel to the testing room in a chute measuring 9 feet by 2 ft. 6 in. To my amazement I found the chute to be constructed of wood, without a fire break. One fire has already occurred, and it was only by the mercy of Providence that it did not take hold of the chute. Had that been done there would have been one great flue to carry the flames into the testing room, where there are wooden joists and floors, and where 350 telephone girls are at work. If that room caught fire none of the girls could get down by the stairs, for the whole place would be a fiery furnace. When, on a visit of inspection, I saw this, I could hardly credit that such a state of affairs could be allowed. On looking through the papers I found that nine years before attention had been called to this menace to human life, and that the Fire Brigades Board had three times adversely reported on the conditions. With an outbreak of fire the whole of the testing room would have gone, and Sydney would have been without telephones for seven or eight years, for it takes about that time to build up a new system. All this danger was well known, and warnings had been given regarding it. During the last three years a move has been made to have the arrangements altered, and ultimately a new chute was designed, and the designs were there when I came on the scene. But the design for this chute pays no regard to the requirements of the case. The present chute is more than ample for all the cables that will ever go up, but the new chute was designed twice the size, the only effect of which was to shut out light from the staircase. It seems almost impossible to believe that these things can be. The new chute, as designed, would not only shut out the light, but would increase the cost; and before going to New Zealand, when the officials were very much excited owing to the Fire Brigades Board’s report which I had asked for, I told them to leave the matter until I returned, because I could not settle it at the moment. When I returned, however, I found that, in spite of my caution, and in spite of what had been told them by the Minister of Home Affairs-
– I - I issued orders.
– I found that during my absence a tender had been accepted, and the Department committed to the expenditure. I need not say that I cancelled the tender; and I intend to throw the responsibility on those who disobeyed the orders. I may say further that the tender accepted was for £455, while the estimate for the design prepared by Mr. Griffin, and indorsed by the Fire Brigades Board as filling every requirement, is only £240, or only a little more than half. It was because I saw this money could be saved that I left orders that nothing should be done until my return from New Zealand. The present chute is surrounded with some of the most beautiful cedar panels that I have ever seen. These, I suppose, were used in order to preserve uniformity with other parts of the work, and as there are about 2,000 feet of the cedar, and it is very valuable, I am having it carefully taken down in order that it may be utilized in the internal remodelling of the General Post Office. If that can be done, then the chute that is to be built will cost the Government nothing - I shall save the whole. There is another important matter to which I desire to turn. Recently, in all our large post-offices, alterations and renovations have had to be undertaken. In Adelaide the office is congested”, and the State Works Department has drawn plans which have been submitted to me. I always take it that the Federal authorities, to whom we pay large salaries, should be held responsible, no matter who draws the plans, because, after all, it is the Federal authorities who recommend the plans to me. I found by these plans that it was intended to spend a very large sum in making additions on the same design as that of the old building:. When I tell honorable members that the Adelaide Post Office is so designed that one branch is located in twelve rooms, and another branch in twenty rooms, they will understand how much supervision’ is possible. The officers are not only divided in this way, but the rooms of a branch are not even adjacent, some being on one floor and some on another, and idling is thus rendered quite easy. According to the original plans it was intended to create a further number of rabbithutches on the top floor at heavy expense ; and, as I am not able to go myself, I have sent a gentleman from the Department to Adelaide to get all the plans and other data, and bring them to Melbourne. So far we have so redesigned the building as to be able to insure that the cost of other alterations will not, I think, be more than that of the original plan, though I am not quite sure what the cost itself will be. The original plan provided only for the requirements of five years, necessitating a further extension at the end of that period, whereas we have managed to provide for twenty-five years’ growth at the same price. I desire to show that, if I had taken the ordinary course of accepting the plans presented to me, and I had had no knowledge of the requirements of the Department, I should, as in the past, have proceeded in such a way as to bring trouble in the administration. In Perth we are building a new general post office to cost within £20,000 of £250,000, for which price, I think, we ought to get a modern building that will be a credit to Australia. The State authorities have designed this building, and I must admit that I regard it as a rather gorgeous production, on which, had I assumed office in time, I probably could have saved some £30,000 or £40,000 without lessening the accommodation. When I got the plans I found that it was intended to put in walls on every floor that would only have had to be immediately pulled out, and the contractors would have charged extras, as contractors only can charge. Fortunately, I came upon the scene before the main walls were put up, and we have been able to so arrange that, until the space is required for post-office business, all the- other Commonwealth institutions in Perth can be housed there, instead of paying rent as at present. Thousands of pounds have been saved by preventing these walls and fittings going in. Honorable members will appreciate the difference between having open spaces, where the men may sit at their work at tables under supervision, and separate rooms in different parts of the building; and, further, it must be remembered that all these rooms would have to be furnished #t a cost of thousands of pounds. In these buildings there will be no rooms either for supervisors or workmen. They will be built on the lines of the modern banks in New York, where the bankers sit in the same rooms as do the clerks who are engaged in the performance of their functions. That is the modern method of conducting a big department. In order to stress the defects which have occurred in the building of some of our Government Departments, let me point to the Commonwealth Treasury to-day. Those buildings were recently erected, and their estimated cost was about half of their actual cost. Only the other day, whilst sitting at my table, I heard a chipping in progress close by, and went outside to ascertain its cause. I found that a concrete balconette, on which there was an outlet for water at both ends, had been so constructed that the water would not reach either end, but lay in the centre. Workmen were engaged in endeavouring to remedy this defect. I maintain that there was .no excuse for such a fault. Down in the lower levels, where there is a court-yard, the same thing occurs. The water falls and runs into the buildings instead of into the gratings. I merely point out these faults to illustrate the lack of thoroughness that is observed in the construction of our large buildings, even when adequate funds are available. Such errors are inexcusable, and would not be forgiven by any contractor.
– We ought to have a Royal Commission to inquire into this business.
– Then I have a very tough proposition in the Melbourne Post Office. Like the Sydney Post Office, it has been built for the main purpose of spending money. To reconstruct these buildings and to bring them up to date is a much harder task than to design new post-offices. Can honorable members blame me when I say that I cannot rely on men who have carried out work in this way, and that I am obliged to consult a gentleman, who, the moment he is told what I require, grasps the needs of the situation ? I go to Mr. Griffin because I have proved that he possesses an ability to grasp any problem in architecture that I have not met with in any other man. I have gone to him for assistance in re-designing the internal part of the Melbourne Post Office, and I am sure that by so doing I have saved the Commonwealth thousands of pounds. The same remark is applicable to the Sydney Post Office.
– Is Mr. Griffin paid a special fee for his services?
– He is paid by fee. .
– H - He has not accepted anything yet.
– We shall shortly be removing our mail branches from both the Melbourne and Sydney Post Offices, and that will afford me an opportunity of remodelling those places. I hope so to remodel them that the public, when they enter those buildings, will be able to transact all their business on the one floor. I trust, too, that when these changes are made we shall be able to secure economy of administration and efficiency of control. In rising to-night to defend a man with a reputation of which he has every right to be proud - a man who has been selected in competition with all local talent to give effect to his design for the new Catholic college in Melbourne - I feel that I have discharged a public duty. I have endeavoured to trace the situation, step by step, and it now only remains for me to effect the important improvements I have outlined in the conditions as they present themselves to-day.
– If I am not at liberty to speak again, I should like to ask the leave of the Committee to do so for not more than ten minutes.
– We have listened to-night to a speech which, whether the honorable member who delivered it is aware of the fact or not, contains one of the most scathing indictments I ever heard against a great Department of State, and against the Government of which he is a member.
– Let there be no mistake about it. Nearly the whole of these misapplications of ability have occurred during the administration of members of the present Government.
– This is a new Government. The Government has only been alive six months.
– Let us look at the facts. It was only the other day that the Minister of Home Affairs went up to the Federal Capital, and he informed us on his return that about £800,000 has been spent there, and most of it wasted.
– T - That it was unwise expenditure.
– That most of it was wasted, was the expression used by the Minister. Here to-night, the detailed items have been supplied. A power-house has been constructed where it ought not to> have been constructed. It was begun during the administration of my honorable friends opposite. A railway has been built where it should not have been built.
– L - Look at my orders.
– The Minister of Home Affairs tells us to-night that while he gave orders his officers disobeyed them, and he apparently allowed those officers to disobey them.
– T - They do not call it disobedience.
– Does not my honorable friend recognise that his colleague was to-night indicting his administration for the greater part of the time he spoke?
– N - No; he was indicting a system which is past control.
– A Socialistic brick-works has been planted in the Federal Capital. That also was put in the” wrong place, and, again, while the present Minister of Home Affairs was in charge of the Department.
– I - It was not put in while I was there.
– Yes, indeed it was.
– No; the right honor- able gentleman is wrong there.
– All I have to say is that those brick-works were there when we took office.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot blame the Hughes Cabinet for that.
– Oh, I see; there has been a transformation. But the trouble is that while a transformation has taken form, and the name of the Government has been changed, the same Ministers are in office. What the PostmasterGeneral has succeeded in doing tonight has been to indict one of his own colleagues in the most scathing fashion.
– No; I indicted the officers of the Department.
– The Minister of Home Affairs is responsible to this Parliament for the conduct of his Department.
– The right honorable gentleman is responsible for not standing by Mr. Griffin when he brought him here. “ f?f j
– There, again, is one of those random statements which my honorable friend is so fond of making. I want to express my belief that Mr. Griffin will not confirm that statement. I challenge the PostmasterGeneral to get Mr. Griffin to say that he did not receive proper support during the whole of the time that we were in office. The honorable gentleman knows nothing about it.
– I do know something about it.
– He will allow me to tell him something about it. For instance, Mr. Oliver has been referred to. If all I hear about him be true, he is the best sewerage expert in Australia. I remind the Postmaster-General that one of the last things we did before leaving office was to arrange the terms of that gentleman’s employment. Our proposal was turned down, and now it has taken shape again, I presume, again on the suggestion of Mr. Griffin. So one might go through the whole of this matter. I asked the Postmaster-General for dates, because he was making sweeping assertions which brought us all under his condemnation.
– Does the right honorable gentleman blame the Minister of Home Affairs for employing Mr. Oliver?
– I do not. I commend him for it.
– Especially as Leader of the Opposition, the honorable gentleman commends him 1
– But just as the Minister of Home Affairs is deserving of commendation for bringing Mr. Oliver into the matter, the honorable gentleman’s other colleague in the Caucus merits the severest condemnation for turning Mr. Oliver out of it. The PostmasterGeneral has not referred to an item which does not constitute the most scathing indictment of his own Government, and of their administration.
– It is a wonder that the right honorable gentleman’s Government did not find out some of these things.
– We shall be in it, I dare say, before it is over. If we are, I say that it is in the public interest that we should be in it. I want to say that these things ought to be inquired into at the earliest possible moment.
– And no more money spent until they have been inquired into.
– If the Government believe that there is truth in the statements we have listened to they should not waste a moment in probing these tilings to the bottom, and sheeting home the blame to those who are culpable. This is a serious matter. Here are millions of money at stake.
– This is the first time for many years that we have had a practical man as a Minister.
– Is it not a singular thing that the only member of the present Government who apparently can take control of these matters is the Postmaster-General, and not the Minister who has charge of the public works of the Commonwealth? There appears to be no member of - the Ministry capable of finding out what has been going on in the Home Affairs Department but the busiest man in the busiest Department of them all. He apparently has had time, in between attending Labour conferences and receiving the censure of his employees, a trip to New Zealand, and the administration of, I believe, the most difficult Department of the whole group, to investigate the affairs of the Department of one of his colleagues, and to attempt to sheet home these cases of alleged gross culpability, amounting almost to criminality, so great is their scope and so far-reaching is the damage alleged to have been done.
– The right honorable gentleman would not have permitted a Minister of his Government to do the same thing.
– I certainly would not.
– There is evident tonight a new idea of responsible government.
– Yes, there appears to be quite an understanding between the Postmaster-General and the present Minister of Home Affairs.
– It shows the freedom we have over here.
– Let us get back to the serious side of the matter.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that these things should be cloaked up 1
– Certainly not. I am asking the Government now not to lose an instant in uncovering them further.
I wish to say a word with reference to the officers who have been indicted. If the statements we have heard are correct, they ought not to be continued in their present positions five minutes longer. They ought never to have been there, so great is their utter incompetence, if half of what the PostmasterGeneral has said be true. Here are these officers lying under these terrible charges of incompetence, and under a charge which almost amounts to misappropriation of public funds.
– N - No, no!
– I will say to the misapplication of public funds, so grave is the indictment levelled against them. This is a British community, and these men must be given their chance to defend themselves. The sooner that opportunity is afforded them the better it will be for the reputation of this Government and of this Parliament. I now invite the Minister of Trade and Customs to tell the House precisely what he proposes to do, or, at any rate, to say that he intends to take the whole matter into serious consideration, and without a moment’s delay come down to this House with a proposal that will sift these charges to the bottom, and, if necessary, weed out any incompetency that may be found, and if incompetency be not found, will do these officers the justice to which they are entitled in a free community.
– Unfortunately I was called away by the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department to do other work, and did not hear the whole of the Postmaster-General’s speech. Honorable members are aware of the position I occupy in the absence of the Prime Minister and the Acting Prime Minister. I shall consult the Acting Prime Minister, and the Cabinet will take the matter into serious consideration. I shall make a statement as to what the Government intend to do about it at the earliest opportunity, which may possibly be to-morrow. I gather that serious reflections have been made upon officers who have a right to an opportunity to clear themselves. The matter will be taken into consideration by the Government, and if it is possible to-morrow to indicate what the Government intend to do in the matter, I will make a statement.
The following Bills were received from the. Senate, and read a first time: -
Rules Publication Bill.
Acts Interpretation Bill.
Post and Telegraph Bill.
Commonwealth Public Service Bill.
Customs Bill (No. 2).
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending . an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
The following paper was presented : -
Workshops at Port Augusta or Quorn - Copies of reports as to establishment of Commonwealth railway workshops.
Ordered to be printed.
House; adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 May 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160517_reps_6_79/>.