7th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-Will the Postmas ter-General inform the House what reasons actuated him when issuing the new regulation which increases the rate of postage on printed circulars?
– The new regulation was issued because it was found that the old regulation was being used illegitimately to defeat the intentions of the Department. The new regulation was drawn to safeguard the public revenue.
– Was the
Minister for Works and Railways correctly reported in an Adelaide daily newspaper when it made him say that the experiments by Mr. Balsillie, at Bookaloo, have been responsible for an increase of from 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. in the rainfall?
– The figures that I used were 50 to 70 per cent.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether, notwithstanding his fever for economy, he can see his way to abolish thepractice of reducing the size of telegrams to the dimensions of 11/2 inches by 1 inch, and whether he cannot provide a clean, cheap envelope for enclosing the messages ? My telegrams come to me in a dirty condition out of the pockets of the telegraph boys, where they have, apparently, been in close proximity with string, tops, and other articles of boyish enjoyment. But I have ascertained that very serviceable envelopes can be bought wholesale for about 3s. 6d. a thousand. I ask the Minister whether he can see his way to increase the expenditure of the Department by the use of such envelopes ?
– I have receivedso many complimentary references to the introduction of the method of saving revenue of which the honorable member complains, that I am surprised to find that he objects to it. Until the change that I have made is generally demurred to, I shall not do what he suggests.
– Will the honorable gentleman lay on. the table the letters which he has received from persons complimenting him on the reduction of the compass of telegraph forms, and will he also lay on the table the letters that he has received condemning this pettifogging economy?
– Most of those who complimented me on the reform did not wait to write a letter, but sent a telegram. It is not my practice to keep congratulatory letters.
– In view of the fact that telegrams are an important part of our public records, the production of which is often called for by Courts of law, years after the message was sent, will the Postmaster-General take means to prevent their mutilation in delivery from the sender to the receiver?
– The original telegrams are not mutilated. We keep them.
– Is it the policy of the Department of the Postmaster-General that, where the revenue of a countrypostoffice is not equal to the cost of that office, the postmaster orpostmistress in charge shall begiven the option to continue the service at a reduced rate of remuneration equivalent to the income of the office, or to close it altogether ?
– The payments made to those in charge of allowance offices are graded in accordance with the revenue of the office. If such an office does not yield sufficient revenue to pay for the services of the postmaster or postmistress, the Department cannot undertake to provide a salary for its attendants.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways whether the officers mentioned in Commissioner Blacket’s report have still control of the public works at Canberra?
– Some of them have; others are on furlough at the present time.
– Is the press announcement correct that works at the Federal
Capital have been brought to a standstill? If so, is the Minister still keeping an expensive staff of officers on the site?
– I have not seen the pressannouncement referred to, but for many months no works worth talking of have been going on at the Federal Capital. I have not control of the staff there, which is under the administration of the Department of Home and Territories, but it isshortly to be transferred to the administration of the Works Department, as contemplated by a former Government. When that has been done, I shall be able to deal with the matter.
– Last- session the Treasurer, when I asked whether the Government would take into consideration the desirability of placing the administration of the Commonwealth Bank under a Board, gave the usual reply that the matter was under consideration. I ask the right honorable gentlemanwhether the consideration to which he referred is finished, and whether he can. tell the House of any definite determination regarding the matter ?
– In replying. to the honorable member I must have meant that the matter was under the consideration of the Treasurer. I may say now that the matter is to be considered.
– Towards the close of last Parliament the Attorney-General promised to ascertain why the price of fertilizers had been increased.. Has anything been done in the matter?
– I do not remember giving the answer to which the honorable member has referred, but I have been giving a good deal of consideration to the manufacture of phosphates in this country out of phosphatic rock deposits and the transport of phosphates from other countries. Probably the honorable member refers more particularly to the Mount Lyell deposits.
– Not particularly.
– I can only say that the Government have this question under consideration, and I should be glad to learn from the honorable member some further details as to the actual increases. in prices and the extent to which they press heavily on the producers.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories tell me whether the 2,000 sheep that were bought some time ago and taken into the Northern Territory for experimental purposes are still alive and what the increase has been 1 “
– The number ‘ of sheep that arrived at Bitter Springs, which was their destination, was 1,700, and the latest report shows that about six weeks ago they numbered 2,000, also that the wool was better and that the lambing percentage has been better.
– Can the Minister give us some idea as to the total amount of travelling allowance received by the Administrator of the Northern Territory during the last two years?
– I cannot do so on the spur of the moment, but the amount is a fairly large one, because Dr. Gilruth, has been in Melbourne for the last eight or nine months. Under the new arrangements finalised yesterday, by which he has been appointed during the period of the war, the travelling allowance has been reduced from £2 2s. per day to fi per day in the Territory and 30s. per day while the Administrator is absent from the Territory on official business.
– That is in addition to £1,750 and the £500 entertainment allowance that he received.
– Yes, but those amounts were fixed originally at the time of the appointment.
– This is a reappointment.
– The appointment is simply continued for the period of the war. Dr. Gilruth will get six months’ leave after the war. That is the period usually allowed to civil servants on retirement.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories furnish the House with the cost of the report furnished, by Mr. Oliver on the water supply for the Federal Capital and with information as to the estimated value of itf
– I have not ascertained the cost; that depends on factors which I cannot yet determine; and as I have merely read portion of the report I cannot, as a layman, answer the second portion of the honorable member’s question. Later on, perhaps, I shall be able to give the necessary information.
Unions most favorable. Willing to assist. Any scheme for building ships for Australia’s trade will be supported by unions unanimously.
In view of this telegram, will the Prime Minister communicate with the Labour authorities in Tasmania, in order to see whether there is any reason why wooden shipbuilding should not be commenced immediately 1
– The question of shipbuilding is a national one, and is not in any way provincial. The same opportunities will be given to the State’ of Tasmania as are afforded to any other State. In this matter, I do not wish to anticipate what I propose to say later on in regard to shipbuilding. I may add that the Labour organizations of Tasmania should have been represented at a congress which took place recently, and sat for several days. ‘That they were not is entirely their own fault, and not mine.
– The Government consider that the practice of putting questions without notice should be confined entirely to matters of an urgent character, of which notice cannot be given. i ask honorable members to, in future, put their questions on the notice-paper, because the Government will not answer any questions without notice except those relating to matters of urgency.
– The questions to-day have come from your side of the House.
– My remarks apply to honorable members on both sides of the chamber.
– Yesterday the Prime Minister promised to make a statement in regard to sugar as well as other industries.
– My answer to the honorable member was given before he rose to submit his question.
– In view of the urgent need for oil, will the Minister for Home and Territories make inquiries into the position of the oil deposits in Papua?
– Let the honorable member give notice.
– I may be compelled to give notice of my question, but I cannot be prevented from asking it. I would like the Minister to make a statement in regard tothe amount expended in connexion with the prospecting for oil in Papua, and as to when we are likely to get some results from it.
– I can give the inforformation which the honorable member requires, because I am in possession of the facts and figures; but it will, perhaps, be convenient to furnish the information to-morrow.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Referring to the resolution passed by Parliament on the 29th April, 1915, as follows : - “ That this House resolves it is expedient and urgently necessary for the Government to at once establish horse-breeding stations in order to create and maintain a full supply of suitable horses required for military and other public services.” - What action has been taken, or is to be taken to give effect to the said resolution?
– In reply to the honorable member’s question, I have to say that this question was carefully inquired into by a conference comprised of men representing the agricultural societies, racing clubs, and remount! authorities, who advised that a comprehensive scheme of horse-breeding should be formulated in order to raise the standard generally of horses throughout Australia, and thereby increase the economic wealth of the country and put thehorse supply for military requirements in a satisfactory condition. The advice of the Grown Law authorities is being sought as to the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth to adequately deal with certain of the recommendations of the conference. Certain action recommended to be taken by State authorities has been referred for the consideration of the several State Governements. One of the recommendations was the establishment of an experimental stud, and the mares for this are now being selected and three stallions have, already been obtained.
Detentions - Treatment of Returned Soldiers - Delivery of Letters at the Front: Delays - Separation Allowances - Soldiers’ Life Assurance -Permanent Defence Forces: Number at Front - Leave.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether in view of the present alleged unsatisfactory position of returned soldiers the Prime Minister will arrange so that they shall receive soldiers’ pay until they are permanently settled on the land or provided for in some other occupation? -
– The question as to action to be taken in the case of returned soldiers after discharge is now under the consideration of the Government, and is being dealt with in connexion with the general question of repatriation, which will shortly be submitted for the consideration of Parliament.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice - .
– The information is being obtained, and the honorable member will be informed as early as possible.
asked the Minister1 representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Having regard to the regulation granting to members of the Australian Imperial Force in camp evening leave on two nights a week, and week-end leave from half-past 1 p.m. on Saturday until Sunday at midnight, whereby members living in the suburbs of Melbourne can visit their homes on each occasion of such leave, will he grant leave to members of the Force who reside in country districts, for three whole days, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday ,at least once in every three weeks to enable them to visit their homes?
– I hope to be in a position to answer the honorable member’s question to-morrow.
Candidates and Medical Fees. - Return as to Ages of Single Men.
asked the Prime Minister. upon notice -
With reference to candidates desiring to obtain employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, will the Government take into consideration the question of refunding the fees charged for medical examination, at least in those cases where candidates fail, on the ground of ill-health, to obtain positions?
– All candidates nominated for permanent appointment to the Commonwealth Service are required to undergo medical examination, th© fee for which (10s. 6d.), is paid by the candidate direct to the examining medical practitioner, except in two cases - where- the medical officer is a permanent officer of the Commonwealth Public Service - the fee in these cases being paid to revenue. It is not considered that the medical fees of candidates Should be refunded by the Commonwealth.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government have a return prepared and presented to the House showing -
the names of all single men between the ages of 18 and 45 employed by the Government within Australia in permanentor temporary employment;
the ago of each employee;
the class of service and salary or wage attached ;
the list of single men to include the names of all employees married since the declaration of war?
– The preparation of such a return would take considerable time, and involve a good deal of expenditure. In view of the action to obtain the following information, it is considered unnecessary to secure the particulars indicated by the honorable member. The Departments have been instructed to furnish statements in respect of employees (permanent and temporary) showing -
I may mention that the names, salaries, and ages of permanent officers of the Public Service are contained in the annual list published in the Commonwealth Gazette.
Employment of Retired Civil Police
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether satisfactory arrangements have been made to prevent the reduction of the mail service to Great Britain owing to the withdrawal of the P. andO. Company’s ships from the Australian trade ?
– Not yet; but the matter has received, and is still receiving, the closest attention.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in determining a claim for a war pension, he will have the provision eliminated relative to the earnings for the year prior to the enlistment of the deceased soldier?
– The matter is being considered.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will have provision made to enable dependants of deceased soldiers who are in receipt of the old-age or invalid pension to have the full war pension granted ?
– The matter is being considered, and is having my personal attention.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of thedeclared necessity for the exercise of thrift and economy in order to win the war, the Government propose to take any action to prohibit, or to restrict, the operations of the alcoholic liquor traffic?
– The Government has, in framing its policy, given the most careful consideration to all phases of national and private economy.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Interest return to investor: - (a) Not including redemption, £5 5s.03/4d. per cent.; (b) if redeemed in 1920, £5 5s. 4d. per cent.; (c) if redeemed in 1922, £5 5s. 3d. per cent.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are-
Sydney, 85s. per ton, with a war premium of 20s., i.e., 105s. per ton.
Melbourne and Adelaide, 90s. per ton, with a war premium of 20s., i.e., 110s. per ton.
Outside Australia, 65s. per ton.
Note. - 240 gallons to the ton.
I should like to add that the Government is fully impressed with the necessity for the discovery of commercial oils in Australia, and this matter is now engaging our very serious attention.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– As the majority of the unions interested are organized on a Federal basis, it was considered that in:vitations to these, and such others as were suggested, would meet all requirements. It may be mentioned that the first conference involved an expenditure of over £700 for the expenses of the delegates. The interests of each State are being safeguarded.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the Bouse or in the Library the papers in connexion with the appointment of a presiding officer at Marmal, in the Wimmera Electoral Division, together with the petitions relating thereto ?
– The appointment of Presiding Officers at elections is, by law, vested in the responsible Divisional Returning Officers, who, subject to the general directions issued for their guidance, are entitled to exercise discretion in the selection of individuals.- It is not customary to place papers of this nature on the table of the House, but I shall be pleased to allow the honorable member to peruse the documents relating to the matter.
The following paper was presented: -
Debate resumed from 11th July (vida page 51), oh motion by Mr. Lamond -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be agreed to by this House : - May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- As honorable members know, it is a timehonoured practice to indulge in. a rather lengthy debate on the Address-in-Reply, particularly when honorable members have come back from an election. On this occasion, however, so far as the Opposition is concerned, we desire to allow the Government, which was elected as a Win-the-war Government, to bring forward the measures they no doubt have prepared, so that the people may have an opportunity of judging whether Ministers are able to make good their professions on the public platform. Before resuming my seat I desire to compliment the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply. We are anxious to get on with the business, and to see the Bills foreshadowed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall ascertain from His Excellency the Governor-General when he will be prepared to receive the Address-in-Reply
– I should like to make a very short statement in relation to sugar, shipping, and wool.
-Is it the pleasure of the House that the Prime Minister have leave to make the statement referred to?
– Mri Speaker-
– Is the honorable member objecting?
– Yes. I wish to understand the position before the question is put. I desire to know whether, if leave be granted, honorable members will be precluded from making any remarks on the subjects dealt with in the statement of the Prime Minister? The right honorable gentleman had an opportunity to make his statement on the AddressinReply ; and it would appear that he is taking this opportunity, and in such a way, that no other honorable members will be able to discuss the questions he deals with; and unless we have some opportunity of discussing the matter I object.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Prime Minister have leave to make a statement?
– The statement I wish to make amounts to a .mere capitulation of facts, and will be very brief. I desire first of all to address myself to the sugar question. - The Commonwealth has entered into an agreement’ with the State of Queensland - the main points of which are perfectly well known to this House and the country - under which the Commonwealth has to take from Queensland all sugar produced within that State at a price of £21 per ton, 94 per cent, titre. The agreement is for a term of twelve months, and postulates certain fixed conditions obtaining during its currency. They are that the price shall’ be £21 per ton, that the wages, and conditions of labour shall be as prescribed by the tribunal which gave its award before the agreement: was entered into, and that refined sugar shall be sold to the public at 3£d. per lb. The honorable member for Indi mentioned yesterday the effect of the agreement upon manufacturers, espe cially manufacturers for export. I wish to announce that the Government have made an arrangement which will enable manufacturers for export to obtain sugar at the same price as they paid last year; so that their position in that respect’ is in no wise altered. Honorable members know that the practice in regard to export has been to grant a rebate equivalent to the amount of the import duty. That, however, was varied during recent years, the rebate being fixed at an arbitrary amount of £4, which was the mean of the import duties spread over foreign sugar, plus” home-grown sugar used for export purposes. It is on this basis the present arrangement has been made. Jam manufacturers therefore will enter upon the forthcoming season in exactly the same position as they occupied last year. I shall explain later precisely how this will affect the Commonwealth in relation to its agreement with Queensland.
I desire now to make a statement with regard to the wool clip. As honorable members know, the greater part of last season’s wool clip was sold to the British Government at a flat rate of 15£d. per lb., plus 50 per cent, of the profit, if any, on such of the wool as was sold for other than military purposes. That arrangement has been satisfactory, and although I am not in a position now to announce definitely how much money will be returned to the pastoralists, I wish to announce, in order to remove a misapprehension that is in the minds of many wool-growers, that 10 per cent, will be paid on a day to be fixed next month. In regard to the new season’s clip, honorable members who have given the matter any thought must have realized that unless we had succeeded in financing the next clip Australia would have been faced with a position of financial chaos, if not disaster, and that the disposal of the clip has been a matter of very serious concern to the Government. I am glad to be able to announce that the Government have now completed arrangements with the British Government under which the latter will take the whole of the Australian merino and cross-bred clip at the same price and upon the same conditions as last’ season’s clip. I think the pastoralists of the Commonwealth are to be congratulated on that arrangement.
There is one other matter of the utmost possible importance to which I wish to refer, and I can deal with it only in the broadest possible outline. I refer to the position of the Commonwealth in regard to the export of ite products overseas. Honorable members are aware that Germany is relying for victory in this war upon its submarine campaign, and it is idle to deny the gravity of the position arising therefrom. The losses of vessels are very great, and are not limited even by the sufficiently startling’ returns which we read each week. The campaign has other effects than the sending of vessels to the bottom of the ocean, amongst others, it deters a very large percentage of neutral tonnage from venturing out of port. The effects of the submarine campaign upon this country are most serious. I shall mention but one instance, which, if the people will consider it, will bring home to them, perhaps, better than anything else can do, what war means to the economic and industrial welfare of this country. One of the terms of the contract made between the Commonwealth and the British Government was that the latter should move 600,000 tons of wheat per month from Australia. During the month of June, not one bushel of wheat was shipped from this country to Britain. Were I to speak for hours, it would be impossible to conjure up a picture more striking than is limned by this bald statement, viewed in its proper perspective. The need for shipping grows with each passing day. Our products are heaping up here in Australia because of the damming of the channels along* which they formerly found their way to market. Happily, there is a prospect of our being able to ship a not insignificant quantity by way of America. The Government is endeavouring to marshal its resources for the transport of wheat, flour, and such other products as are now permitted to enter Great Britain for shipment to the western -coast of America, to be taken thence overland to the Atlantic, and so to Great Britain. We hope in that way to make much better use of our shipping,’ as each vessel will have a shorter mileage to steam per ton of produce carried, and the utility of the fleet at our disposal will be very substantially increased. This, however, will relieve the position only to a relatively small degree, and the realization of the . fact has compelled the , Government to attack the problem of ship- building in deadly earnest. We know that even under the most favorable conditions the quantity of shipping that can be constructed in Australia will be but a small part of what is needed to transport our products. But we believe that with the hearty co-operation of labour, and the adoption of those methods by which alone modern industry can succeed, we may within a reasonable time add materially to the tonnage at our disposal. The result of a conference with the representatives of fifty-two branches of organized labour interested in this project has been most gratifying. We have been met in a spirit which leaves nothing to be desired. The Government asked, as a basis for the establishment of shipbuilding, guarantees for (1) the continuity of industrial operations, (2) the dilution of labour, and (3) the adoption of piece-work under certain conditions. After long discussions, affording ample opportunity for careful consideration of the position, after the remission of questions to the unions, and the making of further explanations, so that each particular point was hammered out in detail, the conference- yesterday carried the following resolution : -
That this conference, after hearing the Prime Minister’s reply to the reports and decisions of the unions on the questions submitted, and while respecting the unions’ decisions thereon, is strongly of the opinion that the best interests of the unions concerned would be served by adopting the proposals of the Government.
The conference has now disbanded. The delegates are returning to their unions, determined to recommend the adoption of the proposals of the Government, and in anticipation of their recommendation being accepted, we shall take all steps necessary for the immediate launching of the enterprise. The acceptance by the unions of the proposals of the Government will, however, be a condition precedent, lacking which nothing will be done. The material that will be used in the building of the ships will, with very few exceptions, be produced and manufactured in this country, sothat the industry will be purely Australian. I do not wish to create the impression that this is the only or the final solution of the question. The Government realizes that upon the maintenance of a steady stream of products to Great Britain must for many months depend the safety of that country, and will exhaust every means at its disposal to insure an adequate supply of tonnage. The British Ministers, living in the very maelstrom of war, are doing their best, notwithstanding the avalanche of criticism directed against them by men who have not their tremendous responsibilities. They have shown a strong desire to help Australia, and a keen sense of appreciation of our efforts to co-operate with them.
By the purchase of our wool clip, our financial and industrial situation has been enormously relieved. The financial position of the Commonwealth would have bordered upon the impossible without the £40,000,000 that has been paid by the British Government for our wool. As far as I can see, however, there is no solution of the difficulty of exporting beef and mutton. There is a solution - though it may not be altogether satisfactory - for the difficulty of the fruit-growers. The local market will consume a fair quantity of the fresh1 fruit produced, and there is a possibility of preserving the rest. But we can hardly hope to find refrigerated tonnage for our normal quantity of export meat, while our cool storage depots are already full to the brim. The contract that we made with the British Government for the export of rabbits is thus brought, temporarily, at all events, to an end. We cannot put’ any more meat into cold storage, and what is now there will be taken out so slowly that the pastoralists must for some time maintain their flocks and herds upon the hoof. The wool having been sold, I do not know that the growers of sheep need be cast down by the prospect, though the situation of the cattle men is, of course, different. Insulated tonnage is scarce at the best of times, and has now become as rare as diamonds. It may be that the compulsory increase of our flocks and herds will prove to be of very great advantage to Australia.
There is accumulated in this country cargo sufficient for fifteen refrigerated steamers and 548 general cargo steamers, and the number of vessels available to lift it is to that almost as a mole hill to Mount Everest. These facts illustrate our dependence on the Empire for our economic, financial, and national existence, and, at the same time, go to show better than anything else how Australia can help to win the war. They show, too, how helpless Australia is by herself to do anything, even to exist. There are things about which we may not speak, dangers grave beyond the power of words to express, but these things . about which we can speak show clearly what .the war means to us, and how necessary it is that all sorts and conditions of men in Australia, employers and employees, rich and poor alike, should adjust themselves to their present environment, so that each man may do his duty.
The honorable member for Corangamite asked me if there is any chance of getting cheese away. My slumbers are disturbed nightly by just such questions as that. Is there any chance for exporting wine, eucalyptus, mutton, and many other things? I can only repeat that while the number ‘of genera] cargo-carrying steamers is severely limited, the number of those possessing insulated space has come down almost to zero. What I have said is not to bp regarded by the pastoralists or others as the final and irrevocable determination of the problem. It is a statement of the present position, which is growing worse every day. America is making heroic efforts, as Great Britain has been doing all along, to meet with construction of shipping the destruction of the Hun. But it requires no specialized knowledge to understand that it is easier to destroy than to build up, and that those engaged in the work of destruction start with a tremendous advantage in their favour. And the situation must grow gradually worse. We can only face the position with resolution, do what is possible to ease it, and pray that on sea and on land our Forces may soon press home their attack and snatch victory from the palsied hands of the foe.
Another matter to which I wish to refer relates to the question of the storage of those products which we are not able to transport oversea. In normal seasons, during the month of July all ‘ the wool stores are empty. The position to-day is quite different. There are hundreds of thousands of bales of wool now in the stores, and next month the new clip will begin to trickle in, and from then on the new storehouses which we have secured will become full, and more than full, of the new wool. This problem, however, is a comparatively minor one when compared with the problem that faces us with regard to wheat. That is much more urgent and difficult. By next February, unless there is an outlet found other than those we can see now, we shall have 6,000,000. tons of wheat in Australia. Tomorrow I am to meet the State Premiers in order to finally arrange the details of a wheat storage scheme. I hope that the matter will be settled to-morrow, so that a system of silage construction may be begun without delay. It is a matter of extreme urgency, and should not be delayed in any circumstances.
I have not had an opportunity of discussing with the Tasmanian representatives the proposition for drying apples, but the Government have called a conference of fruit-growers, which will meet during this month, with a view to organizing the fruit industry on such a basis as will enable it to dispose of its product to the best possible advantage during ‘the coming season. The conference will consider the possibilities of marketing fresh fruit throughout Australia. We shall endeavour by judicious organization to get every fruit-grower the best possible price for his product of fresh fruit by preventing irregular competition between one grower and another and the cutting of one another’s throat. An endeavour will also be made to deal with such fruit as cannot be so marketed by drying, canning, and by jam making. In this connexion I was very pleased to be able to announce, as I did at the beginning of my speech, that arrangements have been made whereby sugar can be obtained at such a price as will enable the manufacturers in this country to compete with those in other countries in the matter of export trade.
– As I am to meet the State Premiers to-morrow, I do not wish to have it said that the House did not have an opportunity of considering the matter of silo storage. I, therefore, suggest that it direct its attention to the question, in order that I may be armed with the best advice and counsel when I meet the Premiers, and so that I may get the job settled. If honorable members have anything of a useful nature to say in connexion with any of the matters upon which I have touched, I hope they will take this opportunity to say it, so that the Government may have the fullest advice on these matters.
-Order! There is no business before the House. Does the Prime Minister desire to get the leave of the House to make a further statement?
– On a point of order, I suggest that the Prime Minister should move a motion, which the House might discuss.
– I understand that this matter is open to discussion or to objection.
-The matter is no» open to discussion without a question before the Chair. There is no motion before the House.
– I object to this procedure. It is apparent that the Government have no ‘business to go on with.
– That is not true. If I move “That the statement be printed,” the matter is open for debate.
– No statement has been read, and there is no document to be printed. The Government have no business on the notice-paper to proceed with, and, finding themselves in a difficulty, we have an invitation for a general discussion.
-The honorable member cannot debate the matter. The question before the House is .whether the Prime Minister have leave to make a statement.
– I do not wish to make any further statement. I thought possibly honorable members might have some suggestions to offer.
Sitting suspended from 8.45 to 7.46. p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
.- As a matter of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I desire to know under what standing order you left the chair this afternoon without calling on Orders of the’ Day, notices of motion.
– It is usual for the Speaker to temporarily suspend the sittings of the House at any time when requested to do so by the Minister in charge of business, and that course has frequently been followed without question. On this occasion, as on many others, the sitting was suspended at the request of the Prime Minister, and such a request, in the circumstances, is not usually refused by the House.
– But the House was not asked whether it would, or would not, agree to the suspension of the sitting. Is that not required by the Standing Orders?
– No. The Speaker may leave the chair at any time, and that is often done without any vote of the House. By way of illustration, I would remind honorable members that there is no standing order providing for the luncheon and dinner adjournments, but the chair is automatically vacated when the usual hour arrives.
In Committee of Supply :
Finances : 1916-17 - Parliamentary Control of Estimates - Conduct of Government Business - Manufacture of Military Requisites - War Indebtedness of Australia to Great Britain - Wheat Storage - Repatriation of Soldiers - Transport of Products to Europe: Use of Coastal Steamers - Rabbit Trade
– We occupy to-night a somewhat extraordinary position, since we are inviting honorable members to agree to the Estimates and pass an appropriation Bill in respect of the financial year which has just closed. This is my first experience of the kind, but the course we are proposing must betaken in order to conform to the requirement that an Appropriation Bill covering the Estimates in chief for the whole year shall be approved by Parliament.. During the financial year 1916-1917, to which these Estimates relate, we had a number of Supply Bills. Three different Treasurers have asked the House to deal with such measures during the twelve months, and every penny of expenditure for which these Estimates provide has already beenvoted. That being so, although honorable members may avail themselves of this opportunity to discuss any question of importance relating to these Estimates, I would remind them that they have had such an opportunity on at least four or five different occasions during the financial year, when Supply Bills have been submitted.
– How many millions has the Treasurer to readjust!
– There are no adjustments to make. The whole of the revenue and expenditure has been dealt with, and the moneys have all been spent with the full authority of Parliament. Interim financial statements having reference to the year just closed were put before honorable members on the 6th March, 14th June, and 11thinst. The Budget papers have also been presented, and as the end of the financial year was upon us before we passed the lastSupply Bill, information given to honorable members has been much more complete and up-to-date than that relating to any other financial period of which I have any knowledge. In these circumstances, and since we have had at various times a good deal of discussion regarding the expenditure for the financial year to which these Estimates relate, I think it would be wise for honorable members to reserve their criticism for future proposals rather than to discuss finances that have already been dealt with. With these few observations I believe I shall be doing what is right, and what is in accord with the wishes of the Committee, by simply moving - That the Estimates be agreed to.
– Is it the wish of the Committee that the Estimates be taken as a whole ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
.- I desire to enter my protest against the way in which the Estimates are being and have been dealt with by this Parliament for several years past. It seems to me that to bring down the Estimates for the consideration of honorable members after the financial year covered by them has closed, and, as in this case, after the Parliament responsible for them has actually expired, is a very loose way of transacting public business. We are supposed to be the custodians of the public purse.
– But these are the Estimates of a previous Government.
– I am not dealing with any particular Government in this case, but I hold that, as custodians of the public purse, we certainly ought to have some control over the expenditure of the Commonwealth. Under the loose system which we are following, the Government of the day, and not members of Parliament generally, have complete control over the finances. Private members have very little opportunity to take exception to any proposed expenditure, or to make any proposition in the direction of economy. I am not directing my remarks particularly against the present Administration, since they have only recently come into office, but this objectionable practice is becoming more and more pronounced, and I wish to know what we, as representative men, are going to do. Are we going to allow this practice to continue, or do we intend to assert our rights, and to insist upon the Estimates being dealt with at the proper time?
– Are the officers of the Department responsible for the delay?
– No. The Estimates for the year commencing 1st July, 1906, were laid on the table of the House on 33st July of that year. In that case they were submitted in good time. The Estimates for the financial year beginning on 1st July, 1907, were submitted en 8th August, 1907; those for 1908 on the 14th October, 1908 ; those for 1909 on the 12th August of that year; those for 1910 on the 7th September of that year; those for 3911 on 26th October of that year; and the Estimates for 1912 on 1st August, 1912. The Estimates for the financial year beginning 1st July, 1913, were not dealt with until 2nd October of that year; and those for 1914 were dealt with on 3rd December - when practically six months of the year to which they related had expired. The Estimates for the year beginning 1st July, 1915, were dealt with on 9th May, 1916, or only a month before the expiration of the financial year; while the Estimates for 1916-17 are being dealt with to-night, after the financial year to which they relate has actually closed. The whole of the expenditure for which they provide has been made without Parliament being afforded an opportunity to discuss it. It may be said that this delay was in consequence of the war-
– Because of the political situation.
– Then there must have been a political situation extending over the last three years.
– I shall try to put the matter right. I agree with the honorable member’s view. ‘
– I believe that the Treasurer will make an effort in the direction I have indicated, but I am going to enter my protest lest he should be tempted to continue this very objectionable practice. Since the outbreak of war in 1914, there might have been some legitimate excuse for delay in dealing with the Defence’ Estimates. We have been passing through abnormal times, so far as Defence expenditure is concerned; but- will any one say that the war is any justification for the failure of the House to deal with the Estimates of the ordinary Departments ? Such a contention cannot be substantiated. The Finance Committee has had before it the evidence of experts in connexion with this very matter, and has been told by them that the ideal system would be to deal with the Estimates in the first month of the year to which they relate. Under that system, Supply Bills would be unnecessary. These, experts told us that heads of Departments should be required to supply draft Esti-mates to the Treasurer not later than April in each year, so as to afford him opportunity to cub down where necessary, and to make what;- alterations are required between then and the end of June. If that practice were followed, there would be no need for Supply Bills, which, under the present system, are put before us every two or three months, and serve only to delay the transaction of public business. They also add materially to our printing bill. In these days, when iti is necessary to economize, I know of no place where economy could be practised with better results than in this very House. It is unfair that millions of pounds of public money should be expended without members of Parliament having a chance to make their voices heard as to what reductions should be made, and as to whether or not the votes asked for should be granted. I shall not take up ‘the time of the Committee in dealing with this subject further, but I felt that I should be failing in my duty if I permitted these Estimates to be passed as a whole without entering my protest. If the Treasurer does not alter this state of affairs, he may expect to come in for some very severe criticism at the hands of honorable members on both sides. Members are just about tired of having their rights whittled away in this .manner. It is the duty of the Treasurer of the day to submit his Estimates within a reasonable time, so that honorable members may have ample opportunity .to decide what is best in the interests of the country, from a financial point of view; and I hope that such a course will henceforth be followed.
– One often hears of the old adage of Satan reproving sin.’ The honorable member for Hunter, who has just resumed his seat, has been one of the most vigilant attendants at the back of the Labour party for many years, but this is the first time for years that he has thought fit to lay down any thoughtful and careful rules as to how the finances of this country should be dealt with.
– I entered the same protest twelve months ago.
– The only saving feature in the honorable member’s speech is that he absolves this Government from anything of the kind complained of. I can remember, however, during the last ten or fifteen years, sitting on those benches opposite and observing that the members of the Labour party, who ought to have been present at the back of their Government when millions of pounds were being passed, were, most of them, in the billiardroom, in the library, or playing bowls in the garden.
– - While you go away fishing !
Several members interjecting,
– I shall not proceed if the mob opposite is allowed to interrupt in the way they are doing.
– I appeal to honorable members to allow the honorable member for Parkes to make his remarks in silence.
– I take exception to ihe honorable member for Parkes alluding to honorable members on this side as a “ mob,” and I ask that the word be withdrawn.
– I can quite understand honorable members opposite trying to substitute noise for votes.
– I rise to a point of order. I say that the honorable member is not in order in alluding to honorable members on this side as a “mob.” I regard the term as offensive, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– If the honorable member for Hunter regards the remark as personally offensive, I must ask the honorable member for Parkes to withdraw it. t
– I shall withdraw the word “ mob.” and substitute “flock,” because. my imagination leads me to the idea of sheep.
– I take exception to the honorable member substituting the word “ flock,” which I regard as unparliamentary, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I do not think that the word “flock” is unparliamentary
– I Was saying that I can easily understand that, when honorable members opposite find themselves now lacking in votes, they should try to substitute noise for numbers. I can only say that this sort of conduct on their part, whether it comes under the head of “mob” or “flock,” will not in any way prevent me from saying what I intend to say. I have been in this House sixteen or seventeen years.
– You do not attend very well ! ‘
– If the honorable member had, like myself, to travel 1,200 miles each week, he would seldom be here. I have often asked if this was a pot-house or a Parliament, and I must say that to-night it seems nearer the pothouse.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark. I have been, as I say, seventeen years in this House, and I have seen Labour Governments, year after year, introduce Estimates that have previously passed through the Caucus. On such occasions every member of the Labour party has been practically gagged from saying anything against the proposals; and I have seen millions and millions of money passed with only one Minister present, and two or three honorable members behind him, while the rest were either in the billiard-room or playing bowls in the garden. Yet to-night we have “ Satan reproving sin,” and laying down for the first time in his life wholesome rules which should be observed by Treasurers. These are very good rules indeed ; some very good schemes have come from Satan; but at the same time we desire to know the source of the maxims that are placed before us. This afternoon we had a homily from the honorable member for Cook on a variety of things, and the Government were ridiculed for not having any business to put before the House. This was the result of what I shall not call a trick, but a piece of legerdemain, which no doubt honorable members opposite thought very brilliant. The idea was to put the Ministry in a difficulty in con.sequence of their having no legislation to submit; and it was simply a wellconceived piece of very transparent conjuring. The Government very naturally thought that when the Address-in-Reply was before us honorable members opposite would have the courage to say in the House what they had been telling the people outside. However, not one of them has had that courage or stood up to say one word against the Government or their policy ; their sole idea was, by this little ruse, to put the Government in a difficulty before the public. The Ministry was perfectly justified in assuming that the Labour party would, as it always has done, waste three or four weeks in criticising the Government) of the day. Now I suppose honorable members opposite imagine that they will be able to say to the people in the parks on Sunday, “ See what the Government have done; we have brought them to a pass in which they have no business to put before us.” As a member of some years’ standing, I think the Government were justified in assuming that the Labour party were going to waste time, as they have wasted it in previous sessions, over the AddressinReply.
Last night the Leader of the Opposition took occasion to charge me, as I have been charged for the last fifteen years, with not attending Parliament as regularly as he does himself. There is this distinction between the honorable gentleman and myself - that I live in another State and have occupations of other kinds than Parliament, whereas he has lived at the Seat of Government all his time, has made a profession of politics, and has nothing else te think about. That is my answer to the honorable member. I challenge him to compare my at tendance for many years with that of any Labour member from any State but Victoria. It ill-becomes the honorable member, who is supposed to set an example in courtesy as well as in politics, to the members of his own party, to harp on an old song of this sort which has really nothing in ib, and only casts . reflection on himself, seeing that he lives within a couple of miles of Parliament House, and has made a business of politics for all these years. I repeat that I consider that the Government would be perfectly justified if they were to move the adjournment of the House for a fortnight. The measures they have intimated their intention to place before us, including one connected with shipbuilding, and another with repatriation, represent schemes that require a great deal of thought on the part of Ministers, and are open to much honest and candid criticism in the House. If the Government were to allow themselves to be misled by the transparent ruse attempted this afternoon, and were to bring forward any of their measures in a state so incoherent and unfinished as to lead to . greater trouble than would otherwise have to be met, they would lack political courage.
.- Apparently the honorable member for Parkes is very sore about what I said last night, and has apparently not slept well after the few well merited remarks I made regarding him. If the honorable member really feels very sore, I should not mind apologizing for what I said, but I do not think that he was justified in the remarks he made as to the members of the- Labour party playing billiards and bowls. I think that my record will bear inspection, not only for regular attendance here, but for attendance in the Chamber during the whole of the sittings. It is well known that the honorable member is the worst offender in this regard, and cares moro about earning fat fees at the Law Courts than he does about his parliamentary attendance. As a matter of fact, it took the honorable member all his time to win his selection, and he would not have won it but for the aid of the Minister for the Navy and the Ministerial telegrams sent on his behalf. And this is the man who presumes ito lecture this House! We all know, however, that he talks with his tongue in his cheek. He has the audacity to talk about my being supposed to teach my followers manners. When it comes to a question of manners, we, of course, look to the honorable member for Parkes. As to bowls and billiards, we know that the honorable member’s favorite sport ‘ is to go fishing in golf stockings. I do not care what I said last night, because I think that be deserves it. It is true that I was not so fortunate in choosing my parents as was the honorable member, and I did not have the advantage of a university education, but, nevertheless, I think that! my public record will compare with his. If I have made a profession of politics, and, as he says, live on the game, I have given my constituents as good value as has any other member of this Parliament. That, however, is a matter about which I do not! boast, though I must say that it ill-becomes a gentleman, cultured though he claims to be, to start sneering at others as the honorable member has done to-night. However, we on this side are anxious to win the war. I should like to know what the honorable member for Parkes is anxious to do. I should say that, instead of being a member of the “ Win-the-war “ party he is really a member of the “ wagthejaw” party.
If these Estimates are ready to-night, why were they not ready at a quarter-past. 3 this afternoon? -Is this business tonight an afterthought on the part of the Government? Ministers were supposed to be ready with win-the-war legislation, and yet they have to fall back on these Estimates, which every on© knows could be passed in five minutes, as similar Estimates have been passed on other occasions. There is, of course, no objection to passing them, because every penny has been spent, and we can do nothing further with them now. Honorable members have said that this is the first, occasion upon which the step proposed tonight has been taken, but I think similar circumstances have arisen previously. The honorable member for Parkes will remember that in 1902 or 1903 we passed Estimates for the year ended the 30th June, 1901. That was on account of the exceptional circumstances arising out of the first Tariff debate, the session having lasted sixteen or seventeen months. So far as I am concerned, the Treasurer can have the Estimates without delay. I do not desire to hamper the Government in this respect. I am anxious to see the legislation that they propose for the purpose of winning the war, and when it is introduced I shall deal with it to the best of my ability.
– The suggestion made by the honorable member for Henty last night and the honorable member for Hunter tonight is one that should commend itself to the attention of every member of the Committee. 1 have not been in Parliament as long as the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Parkes, but if my memory serves me correctly every Commonwealth Government has .handled the Estimates in precisely the same way. The Estimates are kept back as long as possible, and generally about the last week in the session there is an all-night sitting, and honorable members are told that if they do not pass the Estimates and send them to the Senate before the next day the Senate will adjourn, and the public servants will not be able to get their money. We have an allnight sitting, and a few hours are allowed the Senate in which to pass the whole of the Estimates, and then we are invariably met with* the statement, “ What is the good of crying about matters now, when all the money has been spent, “ At this time every pound of expenditure should be carefully weighed. We know that there is an economic stress all over the world, and that it is worse than useless to expect to borrow money from England. It is not creditable on the. part of any Premier or Prime Minister to approach England for big loans at a time when the Mother Country has to finance practically the whole of the Allies, and I am sorry to read that one Australian Premier is in England to-day simply cadging for loans. A community like Australia should be ashamed to add to the difficulties of the financial situation in the Old Land. However, what is past is gone, and I do hope that we shall have an opportunity of dealing with the next Estimates in a proper manner. This is not a matter which concerns any one particular party or member, and I hope that we shall have an adequate’ opportunity of dealing with all proposed expenditure in the same thorough fashion as would obtain in any business concern. To-day, if ever in the history of the Commonwealth, all details of expenditure should command the attention of honorable members.
MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) [8.20]. - I propose to say a few words about the Estimates for 1916-17, and if I were allowed to do so I should like to refer to those of 1914-15, because they included expenditure that had never been discussed by Parliament. First of all, I wish to reply to the ‘flattering remarks made by the honorable member for Parkes. The honorable gentleman charged honorable members with playing billiards and bowls. He ought to have added that sometimes honorable members are seen in the bar. This is the first time that I have ever heard any honorable member speak of his fellow members in that fashion, and the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes reflect no credit upon him. A billiard table has a straight cushion, without any indentation to accommodate big stomachs; that is why he does not play billiards. And he cannot play bowls because he has not seen his feet for years. The remarks of the honorable member were not warranted. I always thought that he conducted his politics on a higher plane than such personalities, and I believe that he will apologize for what he has said.
The Estimates for 1916-17, like all others, are supposed to be a true reflection of the expenditure by the Government. As a matter of fact, they are not. We were told that the expenditure by the British Government on behalf of the Commonwealth for the maintenance and equipment of our troops at the Front was about £33,000,000, of which we had repaid £8,500,000, leaving nearly £24,000,000 still owing. At a meeting recently I made a statement that the Commonwealth owed the British Government on this account. £50,000,000 or £60,000,000.
– I do not think that statement was correct.
– I tell the right honorable gentleman most emphatically that he cannot prove correct his statement that the Commonwealth owes only £23,500,000, to the British Government. The position of Australia in. regard to the Forces sent abroad is different from that of Canada. From the moment the Canadian Government places its troops on the transport until their return, the British Government pays the whole of the expenditure. Australia, on the other hand, enlists, trains, equips, and transports troops to the Old’ Country, maintains them there and at the Front, and for every article used, and every bullet and shell fired, the Australian people have to pay. We have been told that the costof maintaining the soldier abroad is approximately 6s. a day. I ask honorable members to cast their minds back to the South African War, in which the British Government maintained in the field about 250,000 men. The whole of the manufacturing resources of the Mother Country were utilized at high pressure to produce commodities for the troops in Africa, and the greatest mercantile marine in the world was hard pressed, at a time when there were no enemy ships abroad, to transport those commodities. Yet when I asked the Assistant Minister for Defence what percentage of the material and equipment used by our troops was manufactured in Australia, he answered, “Almost the whole of it.” It is impossible for that statement to be correct. We have sent from Australia as many men as the British Government had in South Africa during the Boer War. And we know that there is not enough khaki manufactured in Australia to keep one division supplied.
– How does Great Britain manage to keep 2,000,000 men in France ?
– Because Great Britain to-day is one vast factory producing munitions and equipment for the troops. Not 5 per cent. of the requirements of Australian troops abroad is being manufactured in Australia. Therefore, we know that the expenditure by the British Government in connexion with Australia’s representation at the Front, instead of being only £33,000,000, as we have been told, may have been nearer £130,000,000.
– The Commonwealth pays for all the expenditure.
– All the Commonwealth has paid to date is £8,500,000.
– Yes, but we owe the balance.
– How much do we owe ?
– About £23,000,000.
– I say we owe nearer £60,000,000.
– Why not say £100,000,000 1
– I believe that the sum is nearer £100,000,000 than £23,000,000, because it is impossible to maintain Australia’s Army abroad with-‘ out a huge expenditure by the British Government, and that expenditure is not being met by Australia at the present time. Why are we not told the facts? When the honorable member for Capricornia was Treasurer, I asked him what was our indebtedness in this respect, and he said about £8,000,000. That figure rose later to £14,000,000. When the honorable member for Grey was Treasurer, I asked him the same question, and his answer was £18,000,000; later, the figure rose to £22,000,000. I ask the present Treasurer, and he does not know. The people of Australia should know exactly what have been our disbursements on account of the war up to the present time. Why do the Government keep the people in a fool’s paradise ? For eight years after the South African War the Australian Governments were still repaying to the British Government money expended in their behalf during that campaign.
– We paid very little to the British Government in. connexion with the South African War. The Imperial Government paid almost everything.
– I can assure the right honorable gentleman that since I have been in this House money has been voted in Australian Parliaments to recoup Britain for expenditure on Australian troops during the South African War. I mention this matter merely to illustrate my point that we do not get a true statement of the finances. General Anderson was intrusted by the Commonwealth Government with the responsibility of looking after the interests of Australia in England, and I do not suppose we could have sent a better man. I do not pretend to be able to assess how much we owe on account of the war, but common sense teaches me that the amount stated by the Treasurer does not nearly represent the expenditure incurred in our behalf. If we desire to have a true statement of expenditure, it is the duty of the Treasurer to cable to England for particulars. I am not charging the Treasurer or officials with remissness. I acknowledge the ability of the Treasury officials, and the interest that they take in the discharge of their duties, and I admit that the Treasurer possesses vast experience in financial administration. But he must know that we are not in possession of a statement of the expenditure made by the British Government on our behalf.
– We have not got an account from the British Government yet, but I hope that our indebtedness to them, is not so large as the honorable member seems to think it.
– The people of Australia should know what amount was spent by the British Government on their behalf up to the end of the last financial year, and I ask the Treasurer to cable to the Home authorities for an approximate statement of that expenditure. I am aware that we cannot expect to obtain absolute accuracy, but we should be told as nearly as possible what is the amount of our indebtedness.
– It is probable that the British authorities themselves do not know what we owe them ; that, for example, they are unable to say yet what the expenditure on items like big-gun ammunition has been. >
– We have had three, if not four, divisions in the trenches, and we know that when ammunition has been fired continuously for twenty-four or forty-eight hours .to demolish the defences of the enemy, an extraordinary expenditure must have been incurred.
– Honorable members know as much as the Government know in these matters.
– I am willing to believe that, but we ought to know more. I am not charging the Treasurer with keeping anything back; I say that it is his duty to obtain the information for ‘ which we ask.
– We shall try to get more information.
– Notwithstanding the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes, I say that the honorable member for Hunter did right in demanding information. Any member, whether a financial expert or not, has the right to ask for information of this kind in the interests of those whom he represents. I trust that, within the next fortnight, the Treasurer will endeavour to obtain from the British Government as near an account as possible of their expenditure on behalf of our Forces. He will be remiss if he does not do that.
.- I understand that to-morrow a Conference is to consider the. erection of stores for the protection of wheat, and I ask the Treasurer to realize the desirableness of having this matter handled solely by the Commonwealth Government. There is afoot, 1 believe, a movement to enable the States to do the work separately and individually, but it would be regrettable if they were left to compete against each other for supplies, and if uniformity of method, which is’ desirable, were not attained.
– The States are responsible. They borrow the money from the Commonwealth.
– The States should not compete with’ each other for the advantage of those who have to supply material. The Commonwealth should handle this matter, and, as this Government have formulated a scheme, for the efficiency of which they are responsible to the public of Australia, I hope that they alone will handle it.
– Honorable members have been entertained this evening with complaints against the evil practice of deferring the consideration of Estimates, because this prevents members from devoting the vigilant attention to the Government expenditure which is necessary in the public interest. No doubt, the honorable member for Hunter was perfectly correct in what he said, but so long as I have had a seat in Parliament, here and in South Australia, it has been the practice to make these complaints, and I am tired and sick of hearing them. The delay this year has been due largely to the political circumstances which brought about the last election. It is often a difficult matter for Ministers to obtain Estimates from the Departments, and the preparation of Estimates is sometimes delayed because urgent political business is being pushed on by a Government for party purposes.
– Is that a good reason for delay ?
– I propose to suggest a remedy. Nothing much is to be gained by continual growling. What we need is a way out of the difficulty. Members know that now and again the consideration of Estimates will be held up for perhaps two days, merely to wring a promise from a Government, and that after such a “ stone wall “ millions have been voted in a few minutes. What is the use of holding up our hands in holy horror at the delay on the present occasion? Those who support a Government naturally support its Estimates, while an Opposition naturally debates every item in them, in order to delay public business. That is part of the political game, which is as old as the hills, and which, I suppose, will be continued in the future. Personally, I cannot see that anything is to be gained by holding up Estimates, except for the purpose of getting information regarding any particular item that may be challenged. This Government is pledged to do all it can to secure economical administration in the interests of the war, and I believe that Ministers intend to fulfil their promises. I remember an occasion on which a group of members supporting a State Government went to Ministers and said, “You must reduce your Estimates to a certain sum, or we shall not support you.” A Government will take more notice of action like that than of anything else. It is useless to complain about delay in the submission of Estimates if members are not prepared to take any practical step to secure reform. For twenty-five years Mr. Joseph Hume, in the House of Comm’ons, did nothing but challenge the Estimates of the Government; but Mr. John Bright, who sat beside him, said that it was a useless waste of time. He was of the opinion that it was only by bringing pressure to bear directly on a Government that reform could be secured. It is for those who support a Government to see that the administration of affairs is sound and economical. I do not say that any demonstration is required at the present time. My object is to expose the humbug of the system of complaining ineffectually. In my opinion, the country does not suffer much from delay in the consideration of Estimates, though it does suffer when a party pledged to economy does not see that the Government gives effect to its policy. The responsibility is on the Ministerial supporters, rather than on the Government. As a former member of the Labour party, I know that the members of the Caucus never ‘worried much, about the Estimates. They were content merely to bark; the consideration of ways and means was with them of the last importance. Another parliamentary humbug is for members to urge a Government to exercise economy in administration, and then to ask for increased expenditure on some particular object which they favour. The inconsistency of such action is obvious. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports stated in his constituency that we owe the British Government something like £60,000,000 on account of war expenditure. In saying that, the honorable member was talking of something about which he had no knowledge, and might as well have named £200,000,000, or any other sum. It is generally believed that we are indebted to the Old Country in this connexion for from £28,000,000 to £30,000,000; but it must be a difficult matter for the Home authorities to furnish precise information regarding our indebtedness at any particular time. However, I agree with those who say that we should have information from them on this subject as soon as it can be obtained.
.- The country should know that these Estimates belong to the last Parliament, and have been introduced to-night merely for the purpose of creating discussion, because the Government have absolutely no business to place before Parliament. They have nothing whatever to do with, this Parliament. They cover the expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1917. Every penny in the schedule has been expended long ago, even before this Parliament came into being.
Ministers have strutted up and down the country with patriotic shibboleths and platitudes, and waving of flags, and have talked of what they were going to do in order to win the war and assist Great Britain and the Allies. They have had two months now since” the elections, and they have held their party meetings, and their Cabinet meetings, yet they put before Parliament a Governor-General’s Speech which the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. a supporter of the Government, describes as merely empty phrases ; and when they found that- the Opposition were not prepared to waste the time of Parliament for two weeks in discussing a placard of fine words, they had nob a shred of business to put forward, and so these dead Estimates were brought forward in order to fill in or waste time.
– Sit down and see whether that is so.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that if I sat down dozens of the supporters of the Ministry are ready, to stand up’ and talk hour after hour in order to waste time. Why did the honorable member for Parkes get up to-night with his personal diatribes against honorable members of the Opposition, except it was for the express purpose of bringing honorable members on this side to their feet to take up the time of the country. Even then the honorable member had the impudence. to talk about legerdemain, and another honorable member talked about hypocrisy. All this business is make-believe.
If the Government had other matters to go on with it would not affect the country to the extent ‘ of twopence, and it would not give Ministers a moment’s consideration if these Estimates never saw Parliament. They have been brought in simply because they practically run the whole gamut of Government expenditure and administration, and provide honorable members on both sides of the chamber with the opportunity to talk about anything under the sun. When the Address-in-Reply was suddenly accepted it was the business of the Government to come forward with their measures for winning the war.
Where is the Bill for the repatriation of our soldiers? We were told that the Government were breathlessly waiting to put forward some great scheme for the repatriation of our soldiers.
– Notice of the Bill has already been given in another place.
– The- Bill has to come to this House, and it could be introduced here just as well as in the Senate, and if it is a measure to provide ways and means, in other words, if it is a money Bill, it cannot be introduced in the Senate.
– Let the honorable member be fair, and place himself in the position of Senator Millen. If he had elaborated a scheme of such great length, and at such infinite pains, would he care to have his Bill introduced into the Parliament by some other person ?
– The right honorable gentleman now tells us that the dignity of Senator Millen would be impinged if the Bill were introduced by some one else. Apparently the repatriation of our soldiers is a very secondary matter.
When the Address-in-Reply was adopted at 3.15 o’clock this afternoon, the Government did not have a single item of business to go on with, but how was the House adjourned ? Not in a straightforward way by a Minister moving that the House suspend its sitting for three or four hours, but by the Prime Minister going to the Speaker and whispering in his ear, and bv the Speaker saying, “ I shall leave the chair until 7.45 p.m.” That meant a waste of over three hours.
Although the Government had no business to proceed with, there was business on the notice-paper; there was a matter dealing with the payments to farmers. Some honorable members on the Government benches profess to be very concerned about1 the farmers. The honorable member for Wimmera is anxious to see that the farmers are paid 4s. per bushel straight out for their wheat when it is handed over to the Government. That matter could have been debated during the hours that were wasted this afternoon, but the Prime Minister, with the connivance of honorable members opposite, who wish it to be thought that they represent the farmers, deliberately avoided the discussion of problems which face, the farmers.
– Are you wild because your scheme could not be carried out?
– My scheme will come before this Parliament. There are means of giving honorable members the opportunity of voting on such matters.
– What is the scheme to which the honorable member refers?
– The honorable member will see it on the notice-paper. It shows how much interest the honorable member takes in the business of- Parliament when he does not know what business is on the notice-paper. He is a very accommodating follower of the Government when he does not wish to know what is on the notice-paper, and is willing to follow Ministers, no matter whether they proceed with business or not, or whether they conduct things irregularly or not.
– There are some things in Parliament that are important, and there are some that are unimportant.
– Then the honorable member is one of those things that are very unimportant. When the Government found themselves with no business to proceed with this afternoon it was the duty of Mr. Speaker to call the next Order of the Day.
– The honorable member cannot discuss any action taken by Mr. Speaker.
– In passing the salary for Mr. Speaker may I not criticise his actions ?
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing so.
– The privileges of honorable members are to be taken away,, yet apparently the actions of Mr. Speaker are not open to consideration.
– The honorable member must make no innuendoes. No privileges have been taken away from him.
– I submit that when the Government have no business to go on with, the proper procedure is for Mr. Speaker to call on the next item of business on £he notice-paper, as is provided for in the Standing Orders.
– I have asked the honorable member .not to discuss ‘that matter. It can be raised in the House, but not in Committee.
– Where are all the measures for winning the war ? Have these Estimates, belonging to the dead Parliament, and every penny of which has been expended, anything to do with winning the war ?
– Let us get the item off ‘the notice-paper.
– This business was not on the notice-paper. When Mr. Speaker came to the assistance of Ministers this afternoon, and suspended ‘the sitting, the Government went scurrying round in order to find something on which, a discussion could take place, and after digging down into the vaults they found these Estimates belonging to the last Parliament, and ascertained that the Standing Orders would permit them to ‘bring them along and allow sixty or seventy honorable members to attempt to flog some life into them.
– Does it not strike the honorable member that he is demonstrating to the people outside the trick honorable members of the Opposition tried to play this afternoon, and is showing now that there was no sincerity in the step taken by them?
– The honorable member knows that if I sab down, and no other honorable member of the Opposition said another word on these Estimates the discussion would be carried on by honorable members sitting on the Government benches. Have we not seen honorable gentlemen opposite searching through the pages of these dead Estimates in order to find some item on which they could found speeches? They are ready to come to the assistance of the Government, and talk and talk, in order to make the country believe that business is being done, when really there is no business before us.
This so-called “ Win.the-War “ Government has no business to bring forward for winning the war, or for helping soldiers and the widows and dependants of soldiers. The country is absolutely full of grievances from one end to the other. At War Council meetings in Sydney every week we have lists of discharged soldiers of various occupations, for whom no work can be found. These men are walking about the streets in idleness, yet the Government have no business ready. Honorable members of the Opposition were prepared to remain silent, and allow the Government the opportunity to bring forward business in order ito test the sincerity of Ministers, and ascertain if they had any measures ready to help the soldiers, but we are told that it was a trick on our Dart when we did not propose to talk empty nothings for a fortnight.
– Is there nothing being done for the soldiers about whom the honorable member is speaking?
– Nothing adequate is being done for them.
– Nothing adequate, although your party has been in power for two solid years !
– All that the socalled ‘’ Win -the- War “ Government have done has been to upset what was done previously. The Labour Government set up a ‘Board of Repatriation trustees, and proposed to provide some millions of money for them to go on with.
– They proposed to find £250,000.
– They proposed to find £10,000,000 immediately from the taxation of war profits, but after the upset over the Conscription issue, and the alteration of parties in this House, the present Government have held up since the middle of last year the work of the repatriation of Australian soldiers. A Board of trustees to deal with repatriation was set up by the Labour Administration, of which the present Minister for Defence, Senator Pearce; the Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes; and the PostmasterGeneral, . Mr. Webster, were members; but, because Senator Millen wishes to abolish this Board, and to act as the Board himself, nothing has been done for the last six or seven months in connexion with the scheme. The Government now confess that they are not ready to do anything with respect to repatriation.
To further emphasize the fact that they have no business ready for our consideration, I would remind honorable members that the honorable member for Parkes to-night stated that the Government should adjourn - the House for a fortnight.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member said that the Government would not be blameworthy if they adjourned the Parliament for a fortnight.
– That is so.
– He admitted that the Government had no business ready to submit to us.
– I said that “if” they had no business ready.
– The honorable member knows that the fact that the Go,vernment have invited us to deal with these Estimates, which are thirteen months old, shows that they have not one item of business ready for us, and he suggests that, if that is so, they had better adjourn the Parliament for a fortnight. This Parliament, the members of which have been called together from one end of this continent to the other, is to be adjourned for a fortnight to enable the Government to prepare some business for its consideration. As a matter of fact, the Government have no proposals for winning the war. They have no business ready to meet the urgent conditions that exist ; no business ready to provide for the proper treatment of our disabled soldiers, or for the widows and dependants of men who have gone to the Front ; nor have they any business ready to provide for reasonable pensions for our soldiers. The Government are paying some of our disabled men the magnificent pension of 7s. 6d. a week. They have nothing ready to remove any of these grievances. They desire honorable members on this side of the House to give them suggestions as to what should be done. They would have us talk for a fortnight in order that the Government might carefully note our suggestions. At the end of that time, this so-called Win-the-War Administration would bring in their legislation on the lines suggested by the Labour party, the members of which they told the people were Huns and in the pay of Germany.
What was the last act performed by the Prime Minister this afternoon? When he found that there was no business to go on with, he said, in. effect, “I have to meet a Conference to-morrow in regard to fruit. Let us have a discussion. . Let the House give me the benefit of its opinions on the subject, so that I may have something to go on with when I meet the Conference to-morrow.” Was there ever a more abject confession of the emptiness of the Government’s professions than is to be found in the situation which is now before us!
The Prime Minister, by leave of the House, made a statement in regard to the sale of wheat, and other questions. He did not read from any paper; but, in his dilemma, it occurred to him that such statements were often read, and that he might move in this case’ that the paper be printed. In that way, he thought it would be possible to have a discussion which would extend over a few hours.
– Force of habit, resulting from what he did when he was on the other side.
– The Prime Minister’s ingenuity and resource must be very poor indeed if mere force of habit can alone help him out of such a difficulty.
The farmers of Australia should carefully note that the Government had no business to put before the House to-day; that they suspended the sitting for three or four hours because they had not one shred of business to put before honorable members, and that there was on the business-paper, in the name of a private member, a notice of motion dealing with the immense wastage of wheat which is now going on and the enormous losses being inflicted upon the farmers, as is shown by the Farmers and
– Order ! The honorable member is now anticipating a motion on the business-paper.
– He was just getting on to the mice.
– That interjection shows the mental calibre of the honorable member for Calare. We know that the daily newspapers will not expose the hyprocrisy of the Government’s “ winthewar ‘ ‘ policy. They are owned by the capitalists who provided the money for the Government’s party campaign at the last elections, and they will shield the Government all the time. ‘ They will hide these facts, and go on excusing the shortcomings of this Administration. They do that day after day. But we have in the galleries some few people who have witnessed the spectacle of this socalled “ Win-the-war “ Government meeting the House without an item of business to put before it. I rose only to put this fact pointedly before those members of the public who are able to listen to me and to those who read Hansard. My desire was to let them know that this Government not only refuse to deal with important matters affecting the farmers of this country, but that, after all their talk of winning the war, after all their flapping of the flag and their resort to patriotic shibboleths, they have not one proposition to submit for winning the war or for helping those who are fighting our battles at the Front, or the dependants they have left behind them.
.- If honorable members required any proof of the hollowness of the Opposition cry, they have had it in the speech to which we have just listened. It is evident that the trick which they sought to play this afternoon has been countered to some extent by the’ introduction of these Estimates. No one knows better than does the honorable member for Cook that, although the expenditure for which these Estimates provide has been dealt with by way of Supply Bills, it is necessary that the Estimates-in-chief should be passed, and that they should be followed up by an Appropriation Bill. It matters not whether such business be done now or six months hence; the fact remains that it must be done, and the Government are to be commended for introducing these Estimates to occupy our attention while they finalize their proposals. I invite honorable members to consider the hypocrisy of the cry of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. It was only yesterday that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech outlining the work of the session was submitted to us, and I have repeatedly known the debate in this House on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to extend over several weeks. The honorable member for Cook had something to say regarding the question of repatriation. I have a very vivid recollection of the honorable member’s departure for Canada some time ago. He went away, and left to his mates in the party the work of dealing with repatriation. That being so, the less he says as to his anxiety to transact such business the better.
Some question has been raised as to who prepared these Estimates. As a matter of fact, three different Treasurers have had something to do with them. They were brought down in the first place by the honorable member for Capricornia. Later on I had a share in the handling of them for three months, and subsetquently the present Treasurer came into office, and took them over. When I took office as Treasurer I foresaw that there was likely to be a shortage in the returns for the financial year which closed on 30th J une last, and that we should not be able to make ends meet, save by the exercise of rigid economy and the free use of the pruning knife. When a Treasurer leaves office before his Estimates have been dealt with, it is somewhat difficult for him to ascertain the degree of retrenchment for which he has been responsible. But when I vacated the Treasury I’ was careful to ask the Secretary, Mr. Collins, to furnish me with a return showing the reductions made in the Estimates while I was there. I have all the details of the reductions made by me, but it is sufficient for me to inform the Committee that I reduced the Estimates to the extent of £2,150,000, and this notwithstanding that I increased by £200,000 the amount provided for pensions, and made provision for an expenditure of £750,000 in connexion with repatriation. Shortly put, these Estimates have been reduced to the extent of something like £3,000,000 since they were originally introduced by the honorable member for Capricornia. I find that, although the financial year nominally closed with a surplus of £1,678,000, there was actually a deficit of over £1,300,000, since we brought forward £$,000,000 from the previous year.
Let me now refer to some of the taxation which was imposed while I was in office. The Income Tax Bill, although mutilated to some extent by the Senate, has been responsible for a fair increase in revenue, the returns from that source jumping from £3,900,000 to £5,600,000. Then, again, the revenue from probate duties rose from £626,000 to over £1,000,000 last year. The loss of revenue has occurred chiefly in “ connexion with Customs and to a small extent in connexion with Excise. The falling-off in Customs revenue during the ‘ financial year was largely attributable to the submarine campaign. If ships cannot come here, there must necessarily be a fallingoff of Customs revenue. Some honorable members have complained that the entertainments tax has not realized as much as was anticipated. The responsibility for that fact, however, rests with the House itself. The schedule to the Bill providing for the tax was ruthlessly cut down by honorable members. They were not even satisfied with the exemption of 3d. and 6d. tickets, but practically extended the exemption up to tickets of ls. each. As the result of their action considerable revenue has been lost, many of the cheaper picture shows having reduced their charge from ls. to 9d. .so as to avoid the tax. It is interesting to note the amount that we have received in taxation, the bulk of which has been imposed for war purposes. The income tax represents over £5,000,000; the land tax over £2,000,000; the probate duties over £l,000-,000; and the amusement tax over £110,000. This return from the amusement tax is only for a half year, so that iti may be doubled in order to show the total revenue. These figures all taken together represent a total of about £9,025,000. We have now to briefly look at the commitments for the war for last year. In round figures our war loans represent £130,000,000, of which £80,000,000 was raised in Australia, and the balance in England. On this indebtedness the interest amounts to £5,850,000, and a 1 per cent. sinking fund means another £1,300,000. The war pensions for this year will amount to about £1,000,000, and repatriation to £750,000. In these figures we have indebtedness which must be met by taxation, and what I desire to show is that our direct taxation up to the present has met our commitments in connexion with the war. The figures I have just mentioned total about £8,900,000, and our direct taxation amounts to £9,025,000.
– Are you including the whole of the land tax revenue ?
– Yes. I have already shown that we came out on the wrong side of the ledger by £1,323,000. I had, however, provided for a war profits tax, which, on the best estimates I could obtain, would have produced about £1,500,000 in the two years 1914 and 1915. Before the elections I urged the Government to pass a War Profits Taxation Bill, because I felt that otherwise we should come out on the wrong side. Besides, it is not fair to those who have to pay the tax to delay the measure, for it means that we shall have to come down on them for three years’ taxation, which will be all the more difficult for them to meet.
I have heard several people complain of the amount spent on the war, and it was quite common to hear it said during the elections that we had “ done enough.” In this connexion, it is interesting to know what is the charge on the people of the Old Country as compared with the charge on the people of Australia. Quite recently it was announced in a speech by Mr. Bonar Law that Great Britain is spending £7,000,000 per day, or £213,000,000 per month, and this, with population of 50,000,000, means 2s. 9d. per head for every man, woman and child. In Australia our expenditure is £4,500,000 per month, or £147,942 per day, which, spread over a population of 5,000,000, works out at 7d. per head, as against 2s. 9d. at Home. In other words, England is spending, in order to win. the war, four and three-quarter times as much per head as we are in Australia.
– Does that include money lent to the Allies?
– Yes. On a previous occasion I referred to our commitments for the future, which will have to be met by very heavy taxation. Last year, at any rate, the whole of our public works were constructed out of revenue, representing an amount of about £4,714,000 up to the 30th June, 1917. In the previous year £2,000,000 was spent on public works out of loan, but last year the whole expenditure was out of revenue. Last year we spent for war purposes out of revenue £8,400,000, so that there is a good margin to work upon if necessary. It is quite evident to me that it will be impossible to carry on our public works out of revenue, and all works, except those of the most urgent character, will have to be closed down. There is one phase of the war, and of the financial position in . Australia, that is truly remarkable. Prior to the war in 1914, the accumulated deposits in the savings banks of Australia amounted to something like £84,000,000, whereas about two months ago, as shown from figures supplied by the Commonwealth Bank, they stood at about £100,000,000, showing an increase of over £16,000,000. Then the deposits in the Associated Banks in 1914 were £163,000,000, whereas the latest figures show that they now stand at £183,843,000. These increases amount to about £36,000,000, and show the savings of the people during the period of the war, notwithstanding the fact that we have withdrawn from the savings of the people some £80,000,000on loan. For war purposes defrayed from loan money there is something over £20,000,000 lying to our credit in the Commonwealth Bank, and if I mistake not, there is about £22,000,000 due to the Imperial Government for what they have done for our troops at the Front. In this connexion I understand that the Treasurer has made an arrangement to pay so much per mouth. I desire, however, to refer to the haphazard methods adopted in the past for arriving at an estimate of our indebtedness to the Imperial Government; and a little incident that came under my notice throws some light on the matter. When I went to the Treasury, I noticed in my predecessor’s statement an item of £1,900,000 which was said to be the amount due to the Imperial Government for moneys expended on our Forces up to the 30th June, 1916. I could not get any data to satisfy me, and I cabled to London, with the result that I found that the indebtedness, instead of being £1,900,000, was £8,500,000. This, I think, bears out what I say as to the haphazard, lax way of estimating the expenditure on the other side. In my opinion, there ought to be a bigger effort made to repay this amount to the Imperial Government, who, I am sure, are doing this work very willingly.
– The figure quoted represents the accumulations from the beginning of the war.
– Yes; and there is another accumulation which may place us in a false position. Already the accumulation is estimated at £22,000,000, and there is a further estimated accumulation for deferred pay, which is not referred to in any of the figures given to us by the Treasurer.
– Oh, yes, it is.
– That may be; at any rate, it will represent a good many more millions. It is well for us to understand exactly what the financial position is, and I suggest that, instead of keeping the £20,000,000 lying in the bank and earning no interest, it would be much sounder finance to reduce the Imperial, debt. There is much that I should like to say in regard to what England is doing in connexion with the war, but I do not wish to occupy further time. I feel confident that there will have to be stringent economy in Australia in regard to public works and other expenditure, and there must also be heavy taxation. The complaints that have been made against the Government this afternoon about the nonintroduction of legislation are, in my opinion, unreasonable. Much of this legislation is of a very technical character and requires the very closest scrutiny; and I believe that when the measures for repatriation and other purposes are introduced they will commend themselves to honorable members. .
.- In one respect the Government is not doing all that is possible to win the war. It is evident, from the statement made by the Prime Minister to-day, that Australia is in a serious position in regard to the shipment of frozen meat, rabbits, wheat, butter, and other commodities, and it seems to me that the Government have not done as much as they could have done to utilize some of the large steamers engaged in the coastal trade. We are all anxious to make sacrifices to assist the Old Country and to feed our Allies, but we are allowing to continue on the coast large steamers such as the Canberra and the Katoomba, some of them of 8,000 and 9,000 tons, when smaller steamers could handle the coastal trade, thus freeing the bigger vessels for the transport of our products to the Old Country.
– There is not enough shipping on the coast to-day.
– I know that there is not enough; but if we are to make sacrifices to win the war, surely the shipping companies should make sacrifices too.
– There is not enough shipping to carry coal to keep the railways going.
– I am speaking of large ships that could be utilized to carry commodities overseas. Throughout the Commonwealth vast quantities of commodities are stored, waiting for bottoms to transport them to the Old Country.
– I think the honorable member will find that the Department of the Navy has been investigating this matter.
– I hope the Department will not occupy a year in investigating it. Both the local producer and the consumer abroad are in a bad position, and it is the duty of the Government to make the best possible use of every steamer on the coast.. I understand that New Zealand has almost depleted its coast of shipping by sending all the larger ships overseas with produce. There are at least seven or eight steamers on the Australian coast which could be utilized for that purpose.
– We cannot spare another steamer.
– If they had all been sunk we should have to spare them. I know that the withdrawal of these ships from the coastal trade would not be pleasant to the shipping companies or the travelling public, but in these days we must put up with many unpleasant things. We have to assist the consumer abroad, and also our own primary producers.
– The inter-State trade is very large.
– We have rail communication between the States, and we must be prepared to tolerate the best communication we can afford in the circumstances. If the Government are in earnest they will compel the shipping companies to utilize their vessels in whichever way is best for the Empire and the Allies. The Australian shipping companies have been immune from war dangers, and have been making extremely large profits.
– Did not the honorable member understand from the Prime Minister’s statement to-day that the Government intend to use Australian shipping in a direct service to America?
– The Prime Minister may have meant the utilization of the Commonwealth line of steamers; but I am referring to large ships now trading on the coast, and which, in my opinion, are not being employed in the best possible way. I offer theseremarks in no carping spirit.
– As there seems to be a popular misimpression abroad, I think I should explain that the Department of the Navy has nothing whatever to do with this matter. The control of shipping has been relegated to a Shipping Board, controlled, I believe, by Senator Russell.
– An officer of the honorable gentleman’s Department presides over the Board.
– I understand that one of my officers is a member of the Board, but further than that I have no direct connexion with it. The Government is looking into the shipping problem very particularly ; and I believe with the honorable member for South Sydney that if investigation proves that there are on the coast ships that. could be spared for oversea transport purposes, they should be utilized for the carrying of our produce to Europe. But, whilst one may lay that down as a sound principle to work upon, the practicability of it has to be established by an examination of all the factors which make up the problem. The main thing is to ascertain how much space is being wasted at the present time on and about our coasts. On that point various opinions have been expressed.
We are told in many authoritative quarters that there is not enough shipping on the coast to keep our own industries going.
– That is quite true.
– But we have to make some sacrifice.
– It seems to me that one way of winning the war is to increase the stability of this country as well as other portions of the Empire, and I do not know that we shall increase the staying power of the nation by throwing its industries out of gear if that can be avoided I admit that the paramount question at the moment is the feeding of the armies at the Front, and the people of the other countries which are allied with us. Next comes the problem of increasing all those agencies which mean resource and staying power in the form of wealth of some kind or other. The extent to which shipping can be spared is the subject of serious inquiry by the Government, and I hope the honorable member for South Sydney may be proved to be right, and that it may be found on examination that a great deal of the coastal shipping can be utilized in the overseas trade. But there are two sides to the question, and I am afraid the honorable member will find that if our own industrial concerns are to be kept going reasonably, not generously, a great deal of the shipping which he imagines can be so readily sent away to other countries will be required on our coast. I am not dogmatizing on this matter. It is a problem which we should approach with an open mind, and act only after consideration of all the facts concerned. The Shipping Board is investigating the matter very seriously with a view to ascertaining if it is possible to accomplish the objects which the honorable member has in view.
– I am desired by the Farmers and Settlers Association of South Australia to place before the Committee the views of that body in regard to the proposals referred to to-day by the Prime Minister for the storage and protection of wheat from mice and weather. The Prime Minister stated that he would like to hear any statements honorable members had to make before the meeting of the Conference to-morrow, so as to obviate any criticism later, when he had done his best,. Three of the wheatgrowing States of the Commonwealth have determined to enter upon the bulk handling of wheat, and in order to protect their wheat in the immediate future they intend to construct silos that will be capable of utilization in connexion with the new scheme. I have no word to say against bulk handling for those three States which have resolved to adopt that system, but on behalf of the Farmers and Settlers Association of South Australia, and also on behalf of the South Australian farming interests, I assure the Committee that 90 per cent. of the farmers of that State are absolutely opposed to bulk handling. Therefore, if the provision of silos, for the better protection of wheat in the near future, is to be approved by the Conference to-morrow, the South Australian farmers desire to be exempted from such an arrangement. I know that the Vaughan Government included bulk handling in its policy, and that up till the time of the last Conference South Australia joined with the other three wheat-growing States in advocating the provision of silos. But this scheme, supported by the Vaughan Government, was defeated in the South Australian Parliament, and it is the opinion of the Farmers and Settlers Association, after taking voluminous evidence, that 90 per cent. of the South Australian farmers are opposed to bulk handling, and, therefore, to the provision of silos for the protection of their wheat.
– Have they taken into consideration the labour difficulties ?
– They have considered labour and every other phase of the question, and whilst bulk handling might be appropriate for Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia, in which States the bulk, if not the entire, shipping is done at two or three ports, it is not appropriate for South Australia, which has ports at intervals of 10 or 12 miles all along its coast line. We have no desire to condemn bulk handling, so far as it applies to the other three States. For many reasons the bulk handling of wheat is not desired in South Australia. I therefore ask the Treasurer toput this proposition before the Prime Minister. It is not usual to provide silo accommodation for more than one-third of a normal crop. But if wein South Australia are allowed to erect mice-proof grain sheds instead of silos, we can, for what it would cost to provide silos for one-third of the crop, adequately and effectively protect the whole crop. I hope that consideration will be given to that matter at the Conference to-morrow. There is in the various station yards of the State nearly enough iron to cover the sheds that are needed.
– How would the? sheds bemade mice-proof ?
– By erecting round them fences of galvanized plain iron, 2 or 3 feet high. There are a few such sheds now in South Australiain which wheat is in splendid condition, and the amount saved by keeping it in that condition would more than pay the cost of the sheds.
.- I wish to say something regarding theposition outlined by the Prime Minister this afternoon. He told us that something like 548 general cargo steamers are needed to lift the general cargo now stored in Australia, and about fifteen insulated ships to take away the vast amount of produce now in cool storage here. During the electoral campaign every Ministeralist promised his constituents to do all in his power to maintain the industries of Australia, and to see that every pound of wealth which it was possible to produce would be obtained, and the same promise is given in the Governor-General’s Speech. To-morrow a conference is to be held to devise means for saving the wheat crop, and a huge sum is to be spent to that end. The cost of reconditioning the wheat this year, and the loss already sustained, would altogether pay for the erection of sufficient silos to hold the whole of next season’s harvest. But while the Government is willing to make provision for the protection of the wheat, it is doing nothing to help those interested in butter, rabbits, and other perishable produce that has to be kept in cool storage. The Prime Minister airily told the pastoralists and graziers that they would be all right, because they could keep their produce on the hoof. But those to whom I referred are not in that position. And the Prime Minister has not said that he will do anything for them. The rabbiting industry is now a very large one. In 1908 about 7.000,000 pairs of rabbits, worth £336,000, were exported; in 1914-15 the exportation was about 10,000,000 pairs, worth £531,000; and in 1915-16, 11,000,000 pairs were exported, worth £724,000. During two months of this year something like £4.00,000 worth of rabbits and hares were exported. The =rabbit industry is linked with other industries which are even more important, and these, as well as it, will suffer if more refrigerated space is not provided. I have taken interest in the rabbit industry for the last ten years, not from the exporters’ or employers’ point of view, but from the point of view of the man who catches rabbits.
– Does the honorable member know what we have been doing lately ?
– I obtained some information from the Prime Minister this afternoon in this chamber, and was also supplied last month with information at his direction. In my opinion, if the Government is going to make provision for the storage of some commodities, it should do the’ same for all other commodities, without discrimination.
– If the honorable member considers the matter fairly, and compares what has been done for the storage of rabbits with what has been, done for the storage of meat, he will see that the rabbit industry has been treated fairly. As a matter of fact, we are carrying about £500,000 worth of rabbits now.
– In June last I pointed out to the Prime Minister that the rabbiting industry, so far as the provision of carcasses is concerned, would practically cease at the end of the month if the Government did not take action, and that other industries were similarly situated. What I foretold has come about. I said that it was necessary that the Government should take steps to provide refrigerated space, leasing buildings in the different capitals, if necessary, and installing the proper machinery. On the 21st June, I received, by direction of the Prime Minister, a letter in which this statement occurs -
The Prime Minister is now in correspondence with the Imperial Government in regard to the stocks of frozen rabbits now accumulated in cold storage, and has urged that action be taken to relieve the position.
It is understood that many of the packing firms have given earnest consideration to the question of providing additional refrigerated storage, and, in view of the fact that the position will be relieved if the Imperial Government find it possible to provide space for their purchase of rabbits, it is felt that to undertake building cool chambers at this stage might not prove a remunerative undertaking.
That statement does not tally with what the Prime Minister said to-day. We have been told that private firms are taking steps to provide the necessary space, but if that be so, no one knows anything about it except the Prime Minister. With the exception of a small amount of space held by the Rabbit Combine, there is none left in Australia, and no steps are being taken to provide more.
– The Government of Victoria is extending the accommodation.
– Yes, but not to any great extent, not enough to keep the rabbit industry going for two months.
– Is there a Rabbit Combine 1
– Yes; and whoever is responsible for the machinery which is being provided to deal with the export of rabbits does not occupy an enviable position. For six months the leading men in the” rabbit business lived in Melbourne, and about two months ago the result of their labours here was made known. There is now a combine which absolutely controls the export of rabbits in this country. Any one may pack, but the export of rabbits is controlled by the combine. I will not say that the combine has worked the Government, but it has so impressed those in charge of this matter that it has got practically all that it wants. They have got control of the whole industry, and have cornered the refrigerated space to the detriment of other industries.
– As the result of this, are not rabbiters getting as much as £10 and £12 a week ?
– That is being said.
– It is true that some men have made as much as that.
– In one case a man earned as much as £14 a week from a refrigerating depot, but he was employing six of his children in trapping, and they were working from 5 o’clock at night till 8 o’clock in the morning.. ,
– Child slavery !
– Yes, child slavery. The refrigerated space in Australia is today bursting with rabbit’s, butter, and meat, and the Government is not -giving effect to its promise to maintain its industries, and to reduce the cost of living. It refuses to provide more space to keep going the industries that need it, and it has taken no steps to bring about the reduction of prices. Immediately it was returned to power, the cost of butter was increased by something like1d. per lb. Although there are thousands of tons of butter in cool storage in Australia, the Government does not intend to tread on the corns of its friends by reducing the price of butter to the people of Australia. The price-fixing machinery in Australia to-day is a farce.
– Is it a farce? Then this is another of your party’s farces.
– You have altered the machinery. The price-fixing machinery is so constructed now that the pro- ducer and the consumer do not benefit, but the middleman scores. I have some figures here in regard to the profits made by the Rabbit Combine. They are as follows : -
Rates being paid to Packers by the Federal Government. 19s. per box containing 12 pairs, large blues, firsts, free on boat. 17s. per box containing 12 pairs, young blues, firsts, free on boat. 15s. per box containing 12 pairs, small blues, firsts, free on boat. 17s. per box containing 12 pairs, large blues, seconds, free on boat. 19s. per box containing 15 pairs, graded skinners, free on boat.
The companies pay first month’s storage at city works, after which the Government pay the storage until they are shipped. ,
When shipped, warrant is issued by Export Department. Companies then immediately receive cash on pack.
Cost of Handling (based on Cost of Handling First Large Blues).
Companies’ cost of handling,1s. 3d. per box; one month’s freezing storage,1s. 3d. per box; labour, 8d. per box; total, 3s. 2d. per box.
Commission, Freight, Cartage, do.
Commission, 6d. per box; freight,1s. per box; cartage from rail in city to stores, 3d. per box; total1s. 9d. per box.
Average rates paid to trappers, 9s. per box. total, 13s. l1d. per box.
Price paid by Government to Packers. First blues, per box, 19s.; profit made by packers of first blues per box, 5s.1d.
So it will be seen that the middleman is doing quite well out of the transaction. We in Australia do not eat good rabbits. Those placed on the Australian market for home consumption are the rejects, and the rabbits for which the consumer in Melbourne pays 2s. per pair are worth 6d. per pair to the manwho catches them, and something like 3s. per box to the man who handles them. The gross profits of all grades of rabbits run out approximately on the following lines: -
Gross Profits on all Grades (based on Average of 9s. per Box for all Grades, Large and Small) .
Large, first blues, 5s.1d. per box containing 12 pairs.
Young kittens, 3s. per box containing 12 pairs.
Small, first blues, 5s. per box containing 12 pairs.
Small, seconds, blues, 3s. per box containing 12 pairs.
Graded, skinned, 5s. 6d. per box containing 15 pairs.
– Is there anything to prevent the rabbiters from combining and looking after themselves?
– Any one is free to pack rabbits, but the Federal Government have seen that no one but the Rabbit Combine can operate.
– You refer to the late Government.
– This has been done within the last three months.
– But did you operate and export before the Government took this step?
– No; but some firms which were not in the combine were operating, and, not being in the combine to-day, they have been forced out of business. The loss of the carcasses will be a very serious matter to Australia, especially in war time, when the waste of every pound of meat is a matter for serious consideration. The position is that the trappers are compelled to trap either for the carcasses or for the skins, and they are at the mercy of the combine. Of what use is it to trap for skins if they cannot get paid for them? It would be a good step for the Federal Government to take, even at this late hour, to fix a price for the man who catches the rabbits, and to provide refrigerating space, which will never be wasted in a growing country like Australia. Furthermore, the rabbiters should be allowed the same concession as the Rabbit Combine enjoys, both for carcasses and for skins.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the following resolutions be reported to the House: -
That, including the several sums already voted in the two last preceding sessions of Par- liament for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1916-17, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £15,142,905 : -
Additions, New Works, Buildings, Etc., 1916-17.
That, including the several sums already voted in the two last preceding sessions of Parliament for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1916-17, for the purposes of addition’s, new works, buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £5,515,684.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions reported and adopted.
Resolutions of Committee of Ways and Means, covering resolutions of Committee of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Glynn do prepare and bring in Bills’ to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages, without amendment.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages, without amendment.
– I would like to have leave to bring in some Bills now, with the object of getting them to the stage where we will be enabled to deal with the second readings on Wednesday next.
– I have no objection. The Prime Minister can give notice.
– By leave, I desire to move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to wheat storage.
– I am afraid that I cannot advance the matter any further, but I desire to know if I can have leave on Wednesday to bring in the Bill, and to carry it to the second-reading stage.
.- I have not the slightest objection to the Prime Minister obtaining leave to bring in this Bill, and to advance it to the secondreading stage on Wednesday, provided that he does not ask that the debate on the motion for the second reading shall be proceeded with until we have had an opportunity to examine the measures. The Prime Minister may have leave to introduce as many Bills as he pleases, and may move the first and second reading of those Bills on Wednesday, as long as the Opposition are afforded an opportunity to go into them before we are asked to proceed with th6 debate. I think that that is a fair offer. What Bills does the right honorable gentleman wish to go on with.?
– I am prepared, if the honorable gentleman likes, to confine the discussion; but, while some of the measures are controversial, others are only general in character. I suggest that the Opposition allow us to proceed on Wednesday with those which are non-party in character, and that the others should be allowed to stand over until the following day.
– If I may be permitted I should like to explain, Mr. Speaker, that I am perfectly willing that the
Prime Minister should, on Wednesday next, move the second reading of such Bills as are non-controversial in character. If other honorable members do not object, I shall not do so. I fail to see that any good purpose could be served by bringing honorable members here to-morrow merely to advance these measures to the firstreading stage, and then to adjourn.
.- I understand that we are discussing the question of whether leave shall be granted to the Prime Minister to transact certain business in an entirely irregular way.
– The leave asked for has been granted.
– The question has not been put to the House.
– Order ! This discussion is quite irregular, but I did not interrupt the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, as I took it to be the desire of the House that they should come to some arrangement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I now desire, by leave, to move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-16.
– The Prime Minister has asked the leave of the House to move that he have leave to bring in this measure. The question is that leave be granted.
.- It would appear that the Prime Minister wishes to obtain leave to submit these motions in order that the business of the House may be suspended to-morrow.
– Not at all; I am quite willing that we should go on to-morrow.
– The honorable member for Cook, who has been making speeches as to the Government having no business to go on with, now desiresto block Government business.
– The Minister for the Navy knows that if the Government were prepared to submit their business in a regular way it would be unnecessary for the Prime Minister to ask for leave to do something which he is not entitled to do under the Standing Orders. That is my answer to his interjection. The
Prime Minister said that this business could, by leave, be taken to-night to such a stage as would enable the Government to proceed with it next Wednesday without meeting the House to-morrow. I wish to put it to the Government, as I am perfectly entitled to do as a representative of a constituency in this House, that I have given notice of my intention to submit two motions. The notices of motion are onthe business-paper. If the business of this House can be arranged in such a way that the Government have nothing to go on with tomorrow, then I should be allowed tomorrow to move those resolutions, which deal with matters of importance tolarge sections of the people.
– But the honorable member has set them down for a specific date.
– Not at all. They are on the business-paper for consideration to-day, and should have been reached this afternoon when the Government had no business to put before us. But instead of Orders of the Day being called upon, as provided for under theStanding Orders, and thereafter notices of motion, the Prime Minister had a few words privately with Mr. Speaker, as the result of which he left the chair for three or four hours. That action deprived me of my right to submit the motions, of which I had given notice in the proper way. If the Government are going to deny to honorable members on this side rights to which they are entitled under the Standing Orders, then they need not expect any privileges from us. If the Standing Orders are to be side-stepped and twisted in order to prevent the consideration of business which I have put before the House, as I have a perfect right to do, then I shall do my best to see that neither the Prime Minister nor any other honorable member opposite receives at the hands of the Opposition any privileges for which the Standing Orders do not provide.
– What are the honorable member’s motions. He knows perfectly well that they deal with a matter covered by a motion of which I have given notice.
– My notices of motion, which relate to wheat, are already on the business-paper, whereas the Government have absolutely nothing on the business-paper in regard to that subject.
The Prime Minister asks what are the notices of motion standing in my name. The first reads - .
That the Commonwealth arrange for payment to the Australian Government Wheat Pool of. the estimated amount of damage sustained by all wheat after its receipt in good order and condition by authorized agents of the Government.
The second is -
That farmers should, upon delivery of their wheat to Government agents, be paid in full the net amount guaranteed by the Commonwealth; the financing, if necessary, to be provided by a special note issue made legal tender, to be retired as advances or settlements are made by the Imperial Government, or as the result of other sales made by the Commonwealth.
– “ Who is the friend of the farmer? - authorized by J. H. Catts.”
– “Who isthe friend of the farmer?” the Minister asks. They are certainly not those who have so much to say tothe farmers, but who take advantage of the powerful majority they have in this House, to prevent the discussion of business of importance to the farmers. The Prime Minister is aware that he cannot obtain leave to move these proposals of his to-night, if any objection be raised. I think I am entitled to raise an objection, and to prevent his obtaining a special privilege and using his position to block me, as a member of Parliament, from proceeding with legitimate and important public business properly before Parliament.
– I rise to a point of order. I was under the impression, Mr. Speaker, that you had put the first motion that I have leave to bring in a Bill relating to wheat storage, and that it had been approved by the House. That having been done, I proposed a second motion relating to a Bill for an Act to amend the Public Service Act. , The honorable member for Cook has been directing his remarks for some time to the question of wheat storage, which is not now before the House.
– The Prime Minister asked the leave of the House to introduce Bills, and that leave was granted. He used the word “ Bills,” and therefore, in putting the question to the House I distinctly said “ Bills.’: The right honorable gentleman then proceeded with motions for leave to introduce two Bills. The Bill now referred to by the
Prime Minister is a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
– I am under no misapprehension as to the question before the Chair. What I say is that the Prime Minister cannot get leave except by the unanimous consent of the House; if one honorable member objects, leave is not granted. The Prime Minister is asking for a concession at my hands, and I have a right to ask for fair treatment athis hands; he is asking for a concession that he is not prepared to extend to other people.
Mr.Finlayson. - You arenot disappointed ?
– I am not, because I do not expect anything in the way of concessions from the Government. In spite of everything that can be done, no concessions will be granted by the Government to this side of the House.
– Hear, hear!
– The Prime Minister says “ Hear, hear!” and yet he does not hesitate to ask for concessions for himself. If we refuse, we are told that we are blocking the business of the country. .
– So you are.
– That is not so; business is being blocked because the Government had no business on the paper to-day.
– I rise to a point of order. The position, as I understand it, is that the House has already granted leave to the Prime Minister to give some notice of motion for next sitting.
– I should like to point out that the question submitted to the House was that the Prime Minister have leave to introduce certain Bills which were not specified. The Prime Minister obtained leave to introduce one Bill, and he is now asking leave to introduce another Bill.
– The point of order that the Minister for the Navy sought to raise has fallen flat. Before leave is granted to the Prime Minister there ought to be some understanding as to the way private members’ business is going to be treated. People imagine when they return a member to this House that there are all sorts of opportunities afforded for righting many wrongs. But, as a matter of fact, the opportunities that an honorable member has to do anything in regard to public business are very limited indeed. (
– What between trips to America and one thing and another there is no time for anything !
– The honorable gentleman has had his share of the good things from the people of this country and at public expense, whereas my trip was paid for by myself.
– You went away on public business, I suppose?
– As much on public business as the honorable member did.
– Oh, I seel
– No doubt the honorable gentleman would like to be very nasty.
– Not at all.
– Because, if so, he can have this question fought out at any time he likes, when I shall retaliate to the best of my ability. But he will not prevent my doing the business I think I ought / to do in this House. This only shows how mean and paltry the Prime Minister can be, resorting to personalities when he has no business to place before us. As a matter of fact, when the question of private business was raised last night, the Minister for the Navy objected to private members having any time, whatever; and, although there was an opportunity to-day to make some arrangement, we have had no announcement on the subject. I submit that before concessions _ are granted tlo the Government by this side we ought to know how we are going to be treated in regard to business we desire to bring forward. Surely matters are not to be altogether one-sided. The representatives of nearly 1,000,000 people of this country should have some opportunity to submit business to this Chamber, and at present no such opportunity is afforded
– You have no business to submit to Parliament.
– I have business on the notice-paper.
– A little bit of vote catching, that is all .’
– The honorable gentleman may brand the business as he likes, but I am entitled to bring it forward. Whether the business is “vote catching ‘ ‘ or not, the honorable gentleman will have an opportunity of voting for or against the proposals on their merits. As a matter of fact, honorable members opposite are testing those very proposals now. Two of these proposals have for their object justice to our farmers, and the Government and their supporters are showing their opposition by preventing their submission.
– I must ask the honorable member to try to connect his remarks with the motion before the Chair, which motion concerns a Public Service Bill.
– I shall connect my remarks by saying that there is business on the notice-paper which ought to be taken, whereas the Prime Minister seeks to divert that business by asking leave to go on with other business for which he has no authority under the Standing Orders.
– Except the authority of the people. ‘
– I have the authority of the Standing Orders to go on with my business, whereas the Prime Minister has none, and now seeks to proceed with fresh business without authority. By preventing these motions on the notice-pa,per being discussed, as the Government are now doing with the Support and connivance of honorable members behind them, they are really giving their decision against the farmers; they are deciding that the farmers shall not be paid the 4s. per bushel guaranteed by the Government. We were told by the Treasurer yesterday that the Government had £20,000,000 at credit in the Commonwealth Bank, on which no interest was being paid, and yet the Government do not pay the farmers the full 4s. per bushel; The Government has had no use for this money for nearly twelve months.
– I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed on those lines.
– Let us go home if the honorable member intends to block business !
– Order 1
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 July 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170712_reps_7_82/>.