7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know whether the advertisement in to-day’s Argus, with the Commonwealth Coat of Arms printed at the top, in which the National Service Bureau calls for labour to go to New South Wales, was issued by the officials of a Commonwealth Department, and, if so, of which Department?
– There is a Commonwealth Public Service Bureau, but I imagine that the advertisement to which the honorable member refers - I have not seen it - is a State advertisement, and no concernof the Commonwealth.
– It is headed “ Commonwealth of Australia.”
– The honorable member had better give notice of his ques tion.
– As by the action of the Treasurer my proposal that invalid and old-age pensioners should get full payments under the War Pensions Act has been made law, I wish to withdraw my notice of motion concerning it.
– Are all the Bills with which the Government intends to proceed during the present session now on the notice-paper? Is the statement in today’s newspapers that the Government proposes to finish its business this month correct? Shall we have an opportunity to fully discuss the Budget proposals?
– I have not seen the newspaper paragraph referred to, but I stated on Friday that the Government intends to dispose of ite financial proposals first, and that will be done as far as possible. Ifthe honorable member wishes to know whether there will be a discussion of the Estimates, my reply is that honorable members will not be able to discuss the Estimates seriatim in the immediate future, but it is hoped that ample opportunity for such discussion will be given later. I take occasion to say that the Government hopes that the House will, while exercising its right to criticise Government proposals, confine that criticism within reasonable limits of time. The Minister for Trade and Customs has given notice of two new measures, neither of which is a party measure, nor to any serious extent controversial.
– What about the Treasurer’s proposal for a special tax on certain persons?
– That is part of out financial proposals. There are no other measures that we intend to introduce at this juncture.
– Is it intended to reintroduce this session the Active Service Marriage Bill?
– The Government intended to introduce such a measure last Parliament, but all the churches took grave exception to such legislation, conceiving it likely to open the door to grave abuse, and to lessen the sanctity of the marriage sacrament. However, in view of the very many and grave reasons which have been urged by those interested, why some measure of relief should be granted, the Government is again approaching the question; and I shall he able to give the honorable member, and the House generally, some information about the matter later.
Port Stephens and Newcastle
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that telephonic communication between Port Stephens and Newcastle has been cut off? In view of the importance of having quick communication in regard to shipping, especially in time of storm, will the PostmasterGeneral consider the advisability of re-establishing this service?
– -I have had no intimation to the effect indicated by the honorable member. I shall, however, make inquiries, and, if the service has been cut off, endeavour to have it restored.
Employment of Eligibles
– Is it a fact that there are hundreds of men of military age employed at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory on work that returned soldiers would like to do?
– I am not aware that such is the case, but I shall make inquiries, and give the honorable member a reply if he will place the question on the notice-paper for to-morrow.
– Does the Government intend to introduce a Referendum and Initiative Bill, and, if so, when?
– This is not an urgent question, but it is one we all have at our hearts. No; never!
– ‘Have the Government made up their minds in regard to the appointment of Commissioners to control the Commonwealth Bank?
– The matter is still under consideration.
Soldiers Settled in Victoria.
– -Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, at his earliest convenience, present . to the
House a list of returned soldiers who have been repatriated on land in Victoria?
– I shall refer the matter to Senator Millen, who is in charge of repatriation, and see to what extent the honorable member’s proposal is practicable.
– In reference to the two Bills of which the Minister for Trade and Customs has given notice to-day, I should like to know whether the Government will also consider a suggestion that a bounty be offered for the discovery of petroleum oil in Australia, as well as for oil extracted from shale?
– I shall .be pleased to give ‘all the information possible when the measures are before the House.
– That may be too late.
– In view of the statement by the head of the Government, that’ Ministers will answer only urgent question! without notice, I hope honorable members will see that the questions they put in that way are really urgent.
– I desire to ask a question involving a matter of great public importance. I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it has been brought under his notice that a lady named Mrs. Hughes, the president of the Australian Women’s National League, is reported to have made representations to the Imperial Authorities gravely reflecting upon the loyalty and good faith of the majority of the Australian people in regard to the late conscription referendum, and, if he finds that the facts aire as I have stated, whether he will consider the advisability of restraining this lady under the War Precautions Act?
– May I ask, sir, whether you called upon the Prime Minister after I put my question, because I am not sure whether he made any reply?
– I called upon the Prime Minister, but he did not’ rise. I point out that it is optional with Ministers whether, without notice, they answer questions or not.
– I desire to ask a question on an urgent matter, namely, the cost of living. I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether any limitation has been placed upon the inquiry of the Inter-State Commission, or whether any request has been made to that body as to the length of time-
-Order! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. The question is obviously not of so urgent a nature that it cannot wait for a reply in the ordinary course by being placed on the business-paper. The Prime Minister has already notified that questions, except those of an urgent nature, will not be answered unless they are put on’ the notice-paper. Therefore, notice should be given of all such questions.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
New South Wales to the breach of the Act, if any. The list of shareholders held by the Government was given as a confidential document, and its contents cannot be disclosed.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. I have no knowledge of any such circular letter.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Exact information as to the interest coBt to the Commonwealth of the £3,500,000 loan cannot be given at present, as the mail containing full particulars of the expenses of flotation was lost at sea as the result of enemy action. The Treasury is in cable communication with London on the matter, and expects to have full particulars shortly. The expenses of flotation per cent. will be approximately the same as those of the loan of £4,000,000 issued in June, 1916. Assuming the expenses to be in the same ratio in each case, the interest cost per cent. to the Commonwealth of the £3,500,000 loan will be -
The loan of £3,500,000 is redeemable in 1922- 1927, not 1920-1922.
Assuming the expenses tobe in the same ratio as the expenses of the loan of £4,000,000 of June, 1916, the interest cost per cent. to the Commonwealth of the £4,500,000 loan will be -
Four days in the case of the £3,500,000 loan; five days in the case of the £4,500,000 loan.
Honours and Decorations
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The awards are first published in the London Gazette, and it is open to any newspaper to make extracts therefrom. The list in Question has not yet been promulgated in the Commonwealth Gazette, but will shortly appear, and will, as in former cases, contain the names of all on whom decorations have been conferred, irrespective of their rank.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will give the following information to the House: -
A list of all the prices fixed for goods and commodities since the commencement of the war;
the various changes of prices that were made?
– The information is being obtained, and will he supplied as early as possible.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:
The names, addresses, and occupations of the persons who have lodged oppositions to the grant of the patent in question are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1.Did the Argus newspaper submit the manifesto of the New South Wales strikers to the censor before it published such manifesto in its issue of 1st September?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory - Ordinance No. 8 of 1917- Liquor.
Public Service Act -
Promotionof C. L. Westbrook, Department of the Treasury.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 214.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Debate resumed from the 24th August (vide page 1468), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the War Loan (United Kingdom) Act 1914-1916 and the War Loan (United Kingdom) Act 1915-1916.
[3.261. - I said all that I need to say on this Bill on the 24th August, which honorable members can see by referring to Hansard, page 1467, but it may be convenient if I explain the position again. The necessity for doing what we are asking to be done now was overlooked by one of my predecessors. The War Loan Act of 1914 for £18,000,000, and the War Loan Act No. 2 of 1915 for £6*500,000, authorized the raising of £24,500,000 in the United Kingdom for war purposes. The moneys so raised were to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and the amount raised prior to the 30th June, 1915, namely, £14,100,000, was paid into that fund; ‘but later on it, was decided that it would be better to pay the moneys raised under the Loan Acts into Loan Funds. Consequently the War Loan (United Kingdom) Act 1916 directed that the unraised balance of the £24,500,000, namely, £10,400,000, should be paid into Loan Fund. Parliament appropriated the £14,100,000 which had been paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund in the ordinary revenue Estimates, and this Bill makes the necessary appropriation for expenditure of the £10,400,000 paid into Loan Fund.
– The Bill does not propose any further borrowing.
– No. The borrowing has been done long ago. This Bill will merely legalize the keeping of ithe accounts in the way that is now adopted.
.- Honorable members were not aware that this Bill did not propose to authorize the borrowing of more money, and that it was merely to rectify a matter that had been overlooked by a previous Treasurer. I would like to know, however, whether, if the money is paid into the Loan Fund, it is possible to make it available for other purposes than war purposes.
– It is not possible to do so.
– I understand that the Treasurer proposes to take the £14,100,000 from Consolidated Revenue Fund and pay it into Loan Fund. Can the Treasurer inform the Committee what rate of interest we are paying the British Government for these loans, and also whether the interest from war loan bonds is free of income tax in England as it is in Australia ?
– The Budget statement shows that the amounts we have borrowed from the Imperial Government total £47,500,000, and the indebtedness of the Commonwealth onthat account is £47,774,269. The first loan of £1,200,000 was issued at 95, and carried 3½ per cent. interest. The second was issued at £99, carrying 4½ per cent. interest, and the third, at par, carrying 5 per cent. interest. There is Parliamentary authority to borrow £2,000,000 more from the Imperial Government, which has agreed to lend the amount.
– At what rate ?
– Ido not know. The Imperial Government finds the money and charges us the rates at which it borrows.
– Is the amount of £47,500,000 free of income tax in England?
– I do not think it is. I may get definite information for the honorable member later.
.- The Committee would be grateful to the Treasurer if he would inform the House of the exact arrangement existing at present in regard to the flotation of loans abroad.
– That information is contained in an answer which I furnished to-day to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). As some of our mails have been sunk, we have not received all the information we ought to have.
– Owing ‘to questions not being answered orally, other honorable members are not in the same fortunate position as the questioner.
– Did not the honorable member urge the institution of this new practice ?
– Yes ; but I desired the questions and answers to be printed and distributed to honorable members everyday. I believe tliat is the practice in the House of Commons. I shall peruse the reply given to the honorable member for Capricornia, because I hope that the method of floating loans and paying the interest on them is more up to date and less costly than it was. I suppose the interest is paid to the London bond-holder through the Commonwealth Bank. Does that institution charge the same rates as the Bank of England and the London and Westminster Bank, which used to charge the Commonwealth so much per million pounds for paying out the interest half-yearly?
– The Commonwealth Bank is the only agent we have in London now.
– Does this Bill cover loans to the State Governments for the purpose of carrying on public works ?
Question resolved in the affirmative. Resolution reported.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Webster do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through its remaining stages.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the raising and expending of the sum of £1,862,000 for certain purposes.
The Bill to be founded on this resolution will authorize the expenditure of £1,862,000 on Commonwealth public works. In the Budget speech delivered on the 8th August last, the public works proposed to be carried on during 1917-18 out of loan were estimated to require £2,742,725. The amount referred to in the Budget has been somewhat reduced, the sum now proposed to be expended being £2,649,919. To this has been added the sum of £200,000, being capital required for the working of the “plant and stores suspense account to be established under the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917,” which will be fully explained Avhen the item is reached.
The total amount estimated to be required for 1917-18 is, therefore, £2,849,919. It is not necessary, however, to ask Parliament for the whole of this amount, because under appropriations made by previous Loan Acts there are available sums amounting to £987,919, leaving £1,862,000 to be provided under the present Bill. Under loan appropriations previously passed for some of the items in this Loan Bill there is available at present £1,138,841, but of that amount it is estimated that only £987,919 will be expended in 1917-18. This total of £987,919 is made up of the following items: - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, £622,000; railway from Pine Creel: to Katherine River southwards, £20,000; construction of conduits for laying wires underground, £167,239; land in Federal Territory, £75,680 ; land forpost and telegraph offices, £3,000; and London offices, £100,000. After deducting the amounts from the appropriations already passed, there is a balance of £150,922 still available, under former appropriations, for all but two of the items I have just detailed. It is anticipated that this balance of £150,922 will not be expended during this financial year.
– Why are we asked to vote it if the Treasurer does not expect to spend it this year?
– We are not askinghonorable members to vote that amount again. But for those previous appropriations remaining unexpended we should have asked for an appropriation of £2,849,919, whereas we are asking for the appropriation of only £1,862,000.
It has been stated by some critics of the financial proposals of the Government that loan works provided for under this Bill should not have been proceeded with at the present time, seeing that the Government propose to spend, in addition, £1,257,617 out of revenue on ordinary public works. As seated in the Budget speech, however, the Government was of opinion that to stop these works would mean a large withdrawal of employment, which in this time of war would accentuate our difficulties. The view of the Government wasthat to continue these works at a moderate rate of progress, and so provide employment, while at the same time avoiding this year as much additional taxation as possible, would be in the public interest. These are the reasons which have influenced the Government in its financial policy. I do not propose t.o enter into details of the various items.
– What is the item in regard to plant and stores suspense account?
– It will be explained by the Minister for Works and Railways. I may say, however, that in connexion with public works the Commonwealth, like every State, requires a large quantity of valuable machinery and other assets. On the completion of the works for which they were originally obtained, they are no longer required for them, and it would be unfair to make them a permanent charge against such works. It would be unfair to make the cost of plant a permanent charge against the first work on which it was used. We, therefore, are making provision to allow machinery and other plant used in connexion with public works to be valued when it has ceased to be employed on a particular work. This valuation is placed to an account, and the work itself credited accordingly. The system obtains in Victoria and in other places, and it would be impossible to carry out a large public works business properly without it. Sometimes very expensive machinery is needed for the construction of a very small work, and it would beunfair to saddle such a work wilh the whole cost of that machinery, which, when the work was finished, would be used for other public works.
– The cost of plant will be debited against other works when used oh them.
– When other works are started, the cost of the plant is charged against them.
– Can you say why we should borrow money for what is apparently a mere matter of bookkeeping?
– There must be an appropriation. The valuations might lie in the account for a good time, and an appropriation and a fund are needed. However, my honorable colleague, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Watt), who has had a long experience of this system, will be able to explain it to the Committee in greater detail. As I do not propose to discuss items which will be dealt with by the Ministers under whose control the expenditure will be carried out, I shall content myself with having placed the plain facts of the case before the Committee.
.- A few weeks ago, when we were discussing the Works and Buildings Estimates, I and other members took exception to the asterisks, daggers, double daggers, and other signs scattered through them, drawing attention to various explanatory notes. We said that it was not clear whether we were, or were not, voting for the construction out of loan money of works which have hitherto, in the great majority of cases, been paid for out of revenue. I pointed out that, whereas the works appropriation from revenue last year was £5,519,717, and the expenditure £4,301,530, the proposed expenditure out of revenue this year was only £1,257,617. It was objected to our criticism that it was holding up public works, and, of course, we had no intention of bringing that about. My desire then was to point out what I now draw attention to again, that instead of the Government reducing expenditure - personally I believe that certain public works expenditure must continue - there was really no reduction, and that presently additional or supplementary estimates would be introduced to make further provision for their works policy.
– I ask the honorable member to let the motion go, and to discuss the Treasurer’s proposals when the Bill is before us.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and read a first time.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I presume that on this motion we can discuss all the items in the schedule?
– Such a discussion would be more appropriate when the Bill is in Committee.
.- The payment for public works with borrowed money is a new departure.
– There may have been one or two small exceptions. An item to which I direct attention is the £45,000 set down for the Flinders Naval Base.
– It will not be in order to discuss, on the motion for the second reading, the items of the schedule. Only general principles and policy may be debated now; the discussion of items should be deferred until the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Treasurer may borrow £1,862,000).
.- I take it that I shall be in order in discussing now all the financial proposals of the Government.
– I suggest that the Committee should pass the clauses of the Bill and have the discussion on the schedule.
– The next clause covers the schedule.
– I think that I should say a few words on this clause. This may be the last opportunity, for some months to come, for the discussion of the financial proposals of the Government. This afternoon the Prime Minister, in reply to a question asked by me, said that it was not the intention of the Government to allow the detailed discussion of the Estimates in the near future, but that it would first dispose of its financial proposals on the notice-paper. We have dealt with one of these already this afternoon. We are now being asked to provide money for public works, and the Treasurer intends, I understand, to propose a special income tax, to apply to one section of the community only. When the Minister for Trade and Customs has dealt with two bounty proposals, and the Repatriation and Defence Bills have been passed, we shall probably have a long adjournment.
I am glad that members heard the Prime Minister’s reply to my question. The procedure recently adopted in regard to the answering of questions on notice is one of which I do not approve. Only the member who asks the question gets an immediate reply; honorable members at large have to wait nearly a week for the Hansard report. The time saved by merely handing the answers to the Clerk without reading them is very little, and by no means counterbalances the inconvenience suffered by members.This afternoon it would probably not have taken five minutes to read the answers to the questions on the notice-paper. If Ministers are not to read their replies to questions, copies of these replies should be printed or typewritten, and one supplied to every member.
– Order !
– I shall not refer to the matter further. The Prime Minister indicated that it is the intention of the Government to close Parliament without a general discussion of the financial proposals of the Government.
– Not to close Parliament, but to have a short adjournment.
– An adjournment for about a month.
– This discussion is altogether irregular.
– The usual practice is to take the general debate on the financial proposals of the Government on the first item of the Estimates.
– But the Estimates will not be submitted to us for some time to come. There is to be an adjournment,
Parliament to be called together again by the President and Speaker, which, of course, means at a time to be appointed by the Government. Ministers have Supply for this month, but they must get Supply for October.
– If we are not soon to have the Estimates dealt with, we might as well be in Russia.
– It behoves honorable members to scrutinize carefully the proposals now before them. However, perhaps it would meet the wish of the Committee if I were to postpone my remarks until we get to the schedule.
– I recognise quite as fully as does the Leader of the Opposition the imperative necessity there is, before a long period has elapsed, for dealing with the whole financial position and proposals of the Government. There never was a time when it was more essential that this Parliament should exercise its undoubted privilege and duty in this respect than it is at present. The Leader of the Opposition will recollect that, when we were debating the Estimates of expenditure on public works out of revenue, representations were made to the Government by himself, myself, and others that we should have an opportunity to deal with the whole of the financial proposals at an early date. The Minister for the Navy then intimated to the House that, if we would allow the Estimates to go through an opportunity would arise in connexion with the Bill that we are now* debating. I should say that the Leader of the Opposition, like every other honorable member, if he chooses to exercise it, has the Tight, on this Bill, to discuss the whole financial position of the Government, and all the ‘ financial proposals of the Government, of which this Bill is one. However, I think such a course would, on this occasion, be highly inconvenient. In ordinary practice, the general debate on financial proposals is a matter of arrangement between the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition; and the usual ‘ arrangement is that, on the first item of the Estimates, the whole of the financial proposals will be considered. Under ordinary circumstances, I should join with the Leader of the Opposition in pressing for as early an opportunity as possible to debate these proposals, but the circumstances at pre sent are not ordinary. The Government have recently come into power, and Parliament and the Government are faced with some of the most serious financial problems that ever came before the people of Australia.
– The present Government have been in power for six months.
– It would have been quite unreasonable to expect the Treasurer, at the time he made his Budget speech, to come before us with a cut-and-dried scheme for the solution of the very difficult problems in regard to borrowing, and, generally, in regard to public economy. The Treasurer was, I think, very properly anxious to make an early financial statement, so that he might place the House in possession of the actual facts relating to the financial position; but it could not have been expected that he would then come down with a fully-matured system of public economy.
– We have heard nothing yet of economy.
– Nobody will recognise sooner than the Treasurer that though he has not yet had time to deal with the whole financial position of Australia, we may reasonably !expect him, at a later stage, before the House adjourns for a lengthy term, to deal explicitly with the future financial position. What the Government desire now is to be clothed with the necessary authority to go on with immediate public works out of revenue, and to pass their taxation proposals. Then we shall have what, after all, is the only opportunity the House has, not to prevent the carrying out of the Government’s proposals - because the Estimates are always discussed after the proposals are sanctioned-
– The honorable member will recollect that the Estimates for the last financial year were discussed as an afterthought one evening.
– That is one of the unfortunate things that occasionally happen in the practical working of Parliament. ,
– I thought you were turning over a new leaf!
– We cannot always be turning over new leaves, and, in spite of efforts to the contrary, we always, meet with the same result - the Estimates are always before us towards the end of the session. I ask the Leader of the Opposition not to press for what would inevitably be a premature discussion, but to wait until the Treasurer has had time to bring more matured financial proposals before the House. I was not present when the Prime Minister answered the Leader of the Opposition to-day, but I understand that the Government propose to go. on with these immediate authorizations for the expenditure of public moneys on public works, and in other necessary directions, and that then there shall be a short adjournment, the House to meet again some time in the beginning of November.
– We did not get that information in the House. A paragraph appeared, I think, in the Argus, and I assumed the information there given to be what the Government intended. I can assure the honorable member that we always get our information first in the newspapers.
– I do not take it. that the Prime Minister conveyed the idea that Parliament was going to adjourn indefinitely.
– The Prime Minister did not say anything definite.
– He did what a wise Prime Minister always does.
– In any case, it will be a long time before we can discuss the Estimates.
– I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that, whatever his rights and the rights of others may be in this regard, it would be inconvenient, without some arrangement between parties, to have a general Budget discussion at this time. For this and the other reason I have stated, that further time ought to be allowed for the Government to bring down a matured general financial policy, it would be well to allow the debate to stand over. Otherwise, I feel as strongly as does the Leader of the Opposition, that, as soon as practicable, the House ought to have an opportunity to fully discuss the financial proposals of Ministers.
– We all remember the protests made on this point by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) when we were dealing with works to be constructed out of revenue to the amount of £1,251,000. I certainly understood then that we should soon be able to discuss the financial position. We are now engaged on a Bill involving the expenditure of about £1,800,000, or a total, under the two proposals, of £3,000,000 odd.
– It was certainly assumed on that occasion by the House that this Bill would afford an opportunity to discuss the general financial position; still, there may be reasons for our not availing ourselves of the opportunity.
– When we come to deal with the Estimates we shall be told, if we seek to have a general financial review, that we have already practically assented to the expenditure for the current financial year.
– The debate ought to be a matter of arrangement between the two sides of the House.
– That is so, but I am sorry that the honorable member did not hear the reply of the Prime Minister today. I certainly understood that we were not to be allowed to discuss the Estimates, for some time, and that Parliament was to adjourn, not to meet again until some time in 1918,
– That is not the idea.
– The Prime Minister told us that the .consideration of the Estimates was to be indefinitely postponed - that they would not be considered in the immediate future.
– I regret to have to intervene, but if’ I permit this discussion , to continue we shall have a repetition of what happened a few days ago. The matters now being discussed are not matters for the Committee, but for the House; the Committee can consider only what it is instructed by the House to consider. The House has instructed the Committee to consider the passage of this Loan Bill for certain purposes, which are indicated in the Bill itself. I have asked other honorable members to confine themselves to the Bill, because, whether the Government propose to do this, that, or the other, is for the House, and not for the Committee, to consider. I ask honorable members to confine themselves to the Bill.
– May I take it that on the first item of the schedule we may have a general discussion ?
– If it is the wish of the Committee. I intend to put the schedule as a whole, and then honorable members may discuss all the matters in that schedule.
– I do not know whether the Committee will consent to the schedule being taken as a whole.
– I wish the Committee to thoroughly understand the position. The clause now before us provides that the Treasurer shall have authority from this Committee to raise a loan for certain purposes; and, as I have said, those purposes are indicated in the schedule. All those purposes will be open to discussion, and every member will have the fullest and freest opportunity possible to discuss them at length. To discuss something that is not before the Committee is entirely irregular, and can only leadto such a conflict with the Chair as I wish to avoid.
– Are not some of the items in the schedule also contained in the Budget?
– I do not know. Officially, I only know what is in this Bill.
– As you, Mr. Chanter, have said we shall have an opportunity on the schedule to discuss every item in that schedule, I shall take that opportunity to discuss some of the items.
.- I have no desire to. dispute your ruling, Mr. Chanter, but I shall take every opportunity to uphold the privileges of the members of this House. The proposal before us is to borrow the sum of £1,862,000, and this loan forms part of the financial proposals contained in the Budget. First of all, I object, to the piecemeal way in which the Government are introducing the Works Estimates.
– That is a matter for the House.
– Quite so; but the system into which we are drifting takes away from honorable members the privileges which they enjoy as custodians of the people’s money. Apparently, the Prime Minister proposes to expend this money, and afterwards to give us an opportunity to discuss the expenditure; and to this I object, because, with the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), I hold that we ought to have an opportunity for the fullest discussion before the money is expended.
– The honorable member must see that these are matters for discussion in the House.
– When the Government get their Loan Bills and their Estimates through, they can tell honorable members to go home. If I trespassed against the Standing Orders it is because I desire that this Parliament shall not adjourn until something has been done in regard to public expenditure. The method now pursued seeing to me to be an immoral one. If I were to express myself as I would like to do, I would be called to order, and very likely removed from the chamber; but do I understand that full opportunity will be given on the first item for the discussion of the various items in the schedule?
– The honorable member will have full opportunity of discussing every item in the schedule.
– I am pleased to hear it. Honorable members should have the fullest opportunity of discussing expenditure. We in this Parliament are supposed to be statesmen, but no one can be considered a statesman unless he looks ahead, and it is our duty to look ahead at this critical time in the history of the Commonwealth. The cut-and-dried way of passing Loan Bills might suit a Parliament in Western Australia, but it will not suit the National Parliament, and if the Treasurer proposes to introduce that method here I shall do all I can to stop it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
.- There are several items of expenditure in the schedule to this Bill that should be subjected to inquiry by the Public Works Committee, shortly to be appointed, before they are finally authorized. For instance, in connexion with Naval Bases we have the items £213,000 for labour and material, and £122,000 for machinery and plant and expenditure, representing an aggregate expenditure far greater than the expenditure that is permitted on works that canbe carried out without being first inquired into by the Public Works Committee. We can gain some particulars as to this expenditure from the Loan Estimates. For instance, under the heading of “ Naval Bases “ there are such items as barracks and other buildings, £10,000; officers’ residences, £8,000; gunnery and training schools, £5,000; workshops, £15,000; wireless telegraph station, £500; store-houses, buildings, offices, &c., £5,000; water, power, light, and drainage, £20,000; general works, including furniture and fittings, £2,000. I presume that these items are included in the £213,000 for labour and material and £122,000 for machinery and plant upon the schedule to this Bill. The Minister for Works and Railways will know from the records in his Department that, by resolution of the previous Parliament, some of these works have been referred to the Public Works Committee for consideration and report, and that, owing to the dissolution of the last Parliament, the Committee in question had no opportunity of completing its inquiry or of stating its opinion as to whether the works should be carried out or not. Therefore, in his reply I presume the Minister will tell us whether it is his intention to refer these works to the new Public Works Committee. I am anxious to know whether he will take it for granted that by agreeing to this schedule Parliament will authorize the expenditure set out in it, to be undertaken without the necessity for any previous inquiry into the works upon which the money is to be spent.
– The fact that the money will come from Loan Funds instead of from the Consolidated Revenue Fund will not alter the position in regard to the necessity for inquiry.
– There will be little need for inquiry if the Minister will take the passing of this Bill as authority for the expenditure of the money.
– This Bill is certainly the authority for the expenditure.
– Then I understand that the Minister will take this Bill as authority from Parliament to instruct his officers to proceed with the works set out in the schedule.
– This Bill authorizes the Treasurer to expend the money.
– My experience is that expenditure on naval and military works has been of such a loose character that Parliament cannot afford to allow works to proceed simply on the recommendation of the Departments concerned. I know that the members of the last Public Accounts Committee, including the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. John Thomson) can indorse many of the statements that I am making. Parliament will be neglecting its duty if it allows naval and military works to be authorized by it without any prior investigation by a Committee appointed for the purpose.
– That is a serious charge against the Defence Department.
– I have made the charge before. I do not wish to be a participant in the voting of money to be spent ad lib. without any inquiry, and I consider that the Government will make a mistake if they do not make provision in the Public Works Committee Bill that proposed expenditure on naval and military works, estimated to cost over £25,000, unless the works be of a secret nature, must first be investigated by the Public Works Committee.
Another item to which I wish to call special attention is this: “Railway - Completion of construction line and new bridge on Queanbeyan line, and additional water-way on Queanbeyan to Canberra line, £8,300.”
– Is the honorable member dealing with the schedule generally? I wish to move an amendment on the first item.
– A general discussion is allowed on the first item of the schedule.
– The wording of this item is indefinite.
– It is pub in that way for the purpose of mystifying the Committee.
– This line is supposed to run to what is termed the business site of the Federal Capital.
– It is called the “ business site,” but there are only rabbits there.
– I have said before that if this expenditure is incurred on a surface railway, and a bridge across the Molonglo leading to what will be, in the dim and distant future, the business centre of the Federal Capital, it is a wicked and wilful waste of public money, and I hope other honorable members will join with me in having the item struck out of the schedule. The excuse has been offered that the line is necessary to bring the people who are farming in the Federal Territory in contact with the railway.
– Here is the Victorian element coming out again.
– It is not the Victorian element. If we were living in normal times, every honorable member would agree with the honorable member f or
Eden-Monaro that the building of Parliament House and other public buildings should be taken in hand. In such circumstances, I could understand a light tramway being built in order to convey material to the spot where the work of construction was being carried on, but here it is proposed to build a railway from the present terminus from Queanbeyan to nowhere, to oblige nobody, and to help no one. I maintain that it is a wicked and wilful waste of public money.
– The honorable member stands alone in his opinion. The experts are all against him. As a member of the late Public Works Committee, he ought to know that the railway is almost completed.
– The rails have not been laid.
– The rails have been purchased, and the cuttings have been made.
– In my opinion, it would be well to store some of the material and postpone the work. If there were any utility in carrying out this work, I could understand its being proceeded with; but as a practical man. I am surprised to hear the honorable member for Eden-Monaro supporting this proposition.
– The honorable member cannot get anybody to back up his opinion.
– A number of witnesses before the Public Works Committee testified that the construction , of this line at the present time can be of no possible advantage.
– Two-thirds of the total cost has been already incurred, and a large amount of the balance of the money is already committed.
– I am not blaming the present Minister. No doubt, he is inheriting a legacy from his predecessor, and he has my sympathy.
– I have tons of these legacies.
– Why did not the honorable member bring this criticism against the previous Ministry ?
– This expenditure has been incurred without the sanction of Parliament.
– Did not the Public Works Committee recommend the construction of this line of railway?
– Not this line. I voted against every class of line in that area.
– Did not the Public Works Committee recommend the construction of a light line?
– The decision of the Committee was that if Parliament decided to proceed with the construction of the parliamentary buildings, it would be essential to lay a light line of railway or tramway in order to supply the construction works. But we did not propose to cross the Molonglo River, and incur a big expenditure on a bridge.
– The bridge is built.
– Then the work has been done without the authority of Parliament. If Parliament had consented to the construction of this line, I would have no objection to offer, but no such authority has been given. A former Minister and a few of his officers decided to buiid the line, for which the Commonwealth is required to pay £8,300, and the work will be of no use in the development of the Territory. The building of the Federal Capital in years to come will involve enough expenditure without our wasting money on works of this kind.
– If we again have the farce of a Public Works Committee, I hope it will not include strong partisans.
– I see an item of £8,000 for the purchase of land at Fairy Meadow. I hope that the Minister will explain why the former estimate of £1,500 has how risen to £8,000. Is this the result of an arbitration decision?
– Do you accuse the Minister of paying £8,000 for land he ought to have obtained for £1,500?
– I wish to know if the sum of £8,000 was fixed by arbitration. I understand that the New South Wales Government made some protest against the Commonwealth taking over this land, and made a large claim. The land will be used for the establishment of Commonwealth cement works, and for that purpose it is very suitable, for it comprises hills of limestone and shale, and has a fairly good water supply. There are other items in the schedule which I shall deal with when we reach them.
– Say a word about the Naval Base at Flinders.
– I am anxious that all naval and military works shall be brought within the purview of a Committee of men solemnly charged by this Parliament to investigate all proposed expenditure, and take evidence on oath, so that decisions may be arrived at after proper consideration. No doubt when the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) speaks on this schedule, he will inform the Committee of some of the things that were being done at the Flinders Naval Base when the Public Works Committee arrived there, and the honorable member will agree with me that naval and military works, instead of being excluded by Order in Council from investigation by the Public Works Committee, are the very proposals that ought to be investigated by such a body. If that policy had been pursued in the past, hundreds of thousands of pounds would have been saved to the Commonwealth. A good deal of the money spent at Flinders might as well have been thrown into Westernport Bay. The Minister for Works and Railways is asking for £300,000 for naval works and establishments, and I hope he will inform the Committee fully how he proposes to expend the money.He will have a difficulty in justifying some of the expenditure authorized by his predecessors.
-I am not going to attempt to justify it.
– Probably the Minister will again be obliged to tell the Committee that the construction of these works has proceeded so far that discontinuance of operations would involve the Commonwealth in ahuge loss. In connexion with the Naval Base there has been an expenditure of public money that can serve no good purpose.
– I desire to take this opportunity of seeking information from the Minister for Works and Railways, or the Minister for the Navy, in regard to the proposed expenditure of the item of £400,000 setdown in the schedule for fleet construction. In connexion with past expenditure of the kind, no accurate detailed information has been procurable. Hitherto a certain sum of the money voted for fleet construction was placed to the credit of the High Commissioner in London for the purchase of materials. If the manager of Cockatoo Island dockyard required a certain quantity of material, he sent a requisition to the Naval Board, and if approved by that Board, the requisition was forwarded to the High Commissioner. The High Commissioner placed the order with the British Admiralty, and if the Admiralty were able to supply it from their contracts, we received the material from them at contract rates. The Admiralty then lodged a demand note with the High Commissioner, by whom the account was paid, and a voucher was forwarded to the Treasury through the Minister for External Affairs in order to allow of the adjustment of the amount) placed at the disposal of the High Commissioner. There the matter ended. Evidence given before the Public Accounts Committee showed that there are at Cockatoo Island no documents by which it is possible to ascertain the cost of the imported material or the quantity used in connexion with any particular work. It is, therefore, impossible for the Naval Department or the Treasury, or the AuditorGeneral, to say what any particular work has cost. Suppose the manager of Cockatoo Island dockyard ordered 100 tons of steel plates. There would be nothing in the order to show whether the whole, or what, portion of that material was intended for, or had been put into the Brisbane or the Torrens. The manager never sees any invoices of material purchased abroad, and neither he nor anybody else in the dockyard is able to say what was the cost of the material put into any particular vessel. The Public Accounts Committee inquired in vain of the Auditor-General, the Treasury, the Department for External Affairs, and the Naval Department, for information as to how much material was put into the Brisbane,and the cost of it. The only particulars we could get of the cost of the vessel were based on an estimate made by the British Admiralty on the prices obtaining at the time of furnishing, plans. Therefore, any subsequent estimate of the cost of the Brisbane is misleading, because it is not based on accurate detailed information. The Manager of the Dockyard never sees the invoices for materials purchased abroad, but he does know the cost of everv article bought by him locally. Honorable members will realize that the system I have described is most unbusinesslike. We should know what every work has actually cost, and whether the material used has been purchased to the beet advantage. I believe that it has been so purchased, and has been forwarded by the Admiralty with expedition. But no business firm could carry on with such a loose system as that which now obtains. We wish to know the cost of every vessel, but that is impossible unless we know the cost of the material.
– Cannot the manager of the dockyard estimate the coat of a vessel according to her tonnage?
– He might form an estimate, but he could not give the actual cost.
– At the present time, having regard to the varying rates, no one could estimate the cost on the tonnage basis.
– Quite so. But the manager of the Dockyard should at least have invoices showing the cost of material. The Public Accounts Committee recommended that when invoices for material were supplied to the High Commissioner by the Admiralty or their .contractors they should be sent out in triplicate, just as is done in connexion with many private businesses. One copy should go to the Manager of the Dockyard, one to the Navy Office, and the third to the Treasury. Each office could then check the other, and it would also be possible to check the amounts placed on the Estimates and passed by Parliament.
– Do they not keep stocksheets at the dockyard?
– We need some inquiry, then.
– I feel satisfied that Ministers will recognise the necessity for, and the fairness of, our proposal. If we go on building vessels, as we hope to do, we ought to be in a position to show the actual cost in each case. I am not raising the question of whether ships built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard cost more than they should do. The whole point is that when we enter upon these commercial undertakings we should conduct them with something like commercial accuracy and ability. At the present time that is not being done.
I again direct the attention of the Government to this matter, and ask them to remedy the evils as they existed when our Committee inquired into the management of the dockyard. I urge them to make such provision as will enable Parliament and the country to know the cost of material used, not only in the dockyard, but in other Departments. We should know whether the estimates made as to prices and quantities have been exceeded or otherwise, and how the final cost compares with the original estimate. If the Government take steps to enable this information to be supplied we shall be able to carry on these commercial enterprises in a business-like way, and the country, knowing that it is getting something for its money, will be better satisfied. I hope that when next we are asked to make appropriations of this kind the Government will be able to show that the sins of the past have been corrected, and that we are on the way to carrying out our ship-building and other business in a more satisfactory manner.
.- The honorable member for Cowper (Mr. John Thomson) has referred to a very important phase of the operations at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I desire to discuss the position there generally since it appears to me that the present is a very opportune juncture at which to call the attention of responsible Ministers to the necessity and advantage of certain improvements. We are asked, under this Bill, to agree to an appropriation of £180,000 in respect of Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Of that amount £100,000 is under the control of the Minister for the Navy, and £80,000 relates to operations under the control of the Minister for Works and Railways. A few days ago I asked in this House a question regarding the position at Cockatoo Dockyard, bub received a rather indefinite answer. I would urge upon Ministers administering that great enterprise that its position at present is perhaps more unsatisfactory, from the stand-point of value for money expended than is that of any other Department of Commonwealth activities. That is a very strong statement to make, but I would remind the Minister for the Navy that two years ago the Committee of Public Accounts made an exhaustive inquiry into the affairs of the dockyard, and that the evidence then given, although somewhat emphatic in certain respects, really set out the position in a much milder light than actually existed at the time.. ‘ The Committee made a unanimous report, and if the full facts in regard to much of the evidence had been put forward, the public, I believe, would have been even more astounded than they were by the disclosures we made. I have no reason to believe that since that report was made, two years ago. the position has improved. On the contrary, it seems to have gone from bad to worse.-
Let me read from the report two scraps of information which we supplied as to the cost of work carried on at the dockyard when we made our investigation. The manager, in the course of his evidence, gave some illustrations of the difference in the cost of certain work at Cockatoo Island under day labour as compared with the Admiralty piece-work system. He said -
The coat of riveting steam drums and water pockets of a boiler is 40s. per 100 at Home, on piece-work, as against 70s. per 100 on day work here. The cost of flanging boiler ends, on piece-work, at Home, is ls. per foot. Here, on day labour, the cost is 6s. per foot- and so on. In all probability in the greater number of departments of- work at Cockatoo Dockyard we are receiving only 10s. worth of work for’ every £1 we pay in wages.
– Does the honorable member make allowance for the difference in wages here and at Home ?
– Ample allowance. Let me tell the honorable member that the wages earned in Government dockyards in the Mother Country compare very favorably with those made’ here.
– In many cases they are higher.
– Quite so. In any event the comparison is not to the disadvantage of the employees in the Government dockyards at Home.
– In some of the Departments here there is a good deal of sweating going on.
– Not much. The sweating is done by the employees as against the taxpayers of Australia. I am prepared to admit that the bulk of the employees at Cockatoo Dockyard, if they were entirely free agents, would, in all probability, give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage. There is there, however, a minority composed of very objectionable elements, and I would go so far as to say that at the present time they are, in many respects, absolute traitors. Led by these the men have gone out on strike. What they have struck for heaven only knows. They themselves do not know, nor does the Parliament. I hope the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Works and Railways will consider the suggestion I have to make. We have now a fitting op portunity to bring about a different condition of affairs at the dockyards. A section of the Committee of Public Accounts made the following recommendation: -
The undersigned ‘members of the Committee are of opinion that the adoption of the Admiralty systems of piece and premium- work, on a scale in accordance with recognised rates of pay in Australia, would produce the best results in connexion with the industrial output at Cockatoo Dockyard, and give increased remuneration to energetic and capable workmen.
That recommendation was signed by four of the nine members of the Committee. It is, in short,a recommendation in favour of piece-work,and if the work at the dockyard is to be carried out with anything like economy and efficiency, such a system is absolutely inevitable. Nothing else will do.
– The evidence shows that.
– The great bulk of the evidence taken by the Committee pointed emphatically in that direction, and I believe that a great many of the men - perhaps the majority of them - would welcome the change.
– A change to piece-work! ‘
– Tes, or to something approximating to the piece-work system.
– Is piece-work possible there?
– The system recommended in the minority report of the Committee, as just read by me, is followed in the Imperial Dockyards. If it is possible there, it is possible here. We had a good deal of evidence to the effect that it would be advantageous both to the management of the dockyard and to the men themselves - that is to say, to the capable, honest men who are prepared to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage.
I remind the Committee again that the employees at Cockatoo Island Dockyard are on strike. There are amongst the employees a lawless element that, in my opinion, ought to be weeded out at the earliest opportunity. That opportunity now presents itself. I believe that the bulk of the employees would desire nothing more than peace and the opportunity of carrying on their work without all the trouble and agitation for which a very small element in the dockyard is responsible. If Ministers are wise in their day and generation, they will accept this opportunity, which the men themselves have afforded, to put the work at Cockatoo Island Dockyard on an efficient “basis - a basis that will give peace and full value for the money we are paying by way of wages.
.- There are one or two items in the schedule that I desire to discuss. When the Estimates for additions, new works, and buildings were under consideration, I drew attention to the item “ General Arsenal, machinery and plant,” which, it was indicated, was to be provided for out of loan. We have in the schedule to this Bill provision for works and buildings for a general arsenal, including the erection of residential quarters, in respect of which there is a proposed vote of £100,000 “ towards cost.” There is nothing to show, however, whether the total estimated cost is £1,000,000 or £500,000’. This item raises the whole question of the building and location of the arsenal, v I understand that the Public Works Committee arrived at three distinct decisions in regard to the location-
– Under the terms of the reference to the Committee we could not go outside the Federal Territory. We had to select the best site within the Territory.
– And even with that limitation the “Committee arrived at three different decisions.
– No; the honorable member is thinking of the Small Arms Factory site.
– It was understood that the arsenal would be adjacent to the Small Arms Factory.
– And three different sites have been selected.
– There has been a good deal of chopping and changing. The position in regard to the site of the Small Arms Factory reminds one of what took place in connexion with the consideration of the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill. One day we found certain persona exempt from the taxation for which the Bill provided, and on the following day we found they were liable. The Government were never sure of what their supporters would do. The site of the arsenal has been changed several times. The new Works Committee will differ in part, and may differ wholly, from the ‘last Public Works Committee. ,.
– Do we need a Works Committee at all ?
– Evidently it is intended to appoint a hew Works Committee, because the Prime Minister has introduced the necessary Bill. I was originally of the opinion that the Committee was not needed, but the experience that we have had of it and of the Public Accounts Committee justifies the appointment of both. It may happen that the new Works Committee will, recommend another site for the arsenal. A committee consisting of Colonel Owen, Mr. McKay, the general manager of Walkers Ltd., of Maryborough; Professor Payne, the Professor of Engineering at the Melbourne University; Major Gipps, and Mr. Bell, the chemical adviser of the Government, after visiting India, went to the Federal , Capital, and then recommended a certain site.
– When the honorable member was in charge of the House he promised that Parliament should be given an opportunity to deal with this matter.
– I left office nearly twelve months ago, and am not responsible for what has happened since then. If an arsenal is needed, the work should be proceeded with; but we should know what it will cost.
– Over £2,250,000.
– That is including the provision of workmen’s houses.
– That will be a paying proposition.
– I understand that the workmen will pay rent for the houses which they occupy. According to the Works Estimates, the arsenal itself will cost only £510,000. We should be told by the Government exactly what it will be necessary to expend to provide an arsenal which will manufacture the arms and ammunition which we shall require. We should have that information before voting the £100,000 for which we are now asked.
Another item in regard to which I desire information is the proposed expenditure of £45,000 for the Perth General Post Office. I regret that the Government has not printed iri this schedule, as in the Works and Buildings Estimates, statements of the completed cost of every work mentioned.
– The Public Accounts Committee recommended some time ago that that should be done.
– I was not aware of that. For years past there have been footnotes to theWorks Estimates, giving the estimated total cost of proposed works where the vote for the year was only “ towards cost.”We all know that £45,000 will not pay for the Flinders Naval Base, but we do not know what the total cost of the work will be, nor have we that information in respect of the Acetate of Lime Factory.
– We were told last year that it would cost £40,000, and this year that it would cost £80,000.
– The total cost is shown on page 290 of the Works Estimates.
– I do not wish to increase our printing bill, but I think that it would be well to print footnotes to a schedule such as this under discussion, giving such information as that for which I am asking.
– The Public Accounts Committee recommended that the estimated complete cost should be shown in a separate column.
– That would he a good arrangement. Ministers will find that the more information they give to honorable members the more easily will their proposals pass. It is the feeling that something is being hidden that provokes criticism. As a Minister, I was always ready to supply information. I should like to know why there are two votes for the Acetate of Lime Factory - £34,000, to be spent on the factory under the administration of the Minister for Works and, Railways, and £20,000, towards cost of machinery and plant, to be spent under the administration of the Defence Minister. There may be a good reason why one Department should purchase the machinery, and another install it, but we are entitled to an explanation.
I desire information, also, regarding the proposed expenditure of £271,000 for the construction of telephone conduits, and the laying of wires underground. Last year the expenditure on this work was £176,000. I do not object to the work. It is well known that the bulk of it is carried on in the big cities. In the long run it will probably mean a saving of money. I hope that Ministers will furnish the information for which I have asked. I do not think that anything has been spent on the Acetate of Lime factory.
– The factory will be finished within a month or two.
– It must be understood that I am not pressing for information that is confidential, and cannot be divulged.
.- I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. John Thomson) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) in reference to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee which investigated matters on. the island, and I am sure that these honorable members have not put the case at all too strongly; and I urge the Minister in charge to carefully consider what these gentlemen have said. I notice that in the schedule a number of the works are to be charged to loan account - works which in the past have been paid for out of revenue - and to the change I have no objection at all, because, in my opinion, many liabilities have been, in the past, met out of revenue that might more appropriately have been met out of loan account, with proper sinking fund arrangements. However that may be,I have just a little doubt whether this is the time for expenditure of the kind proposed. Many of the items are practically new works, and if they were not undertaken we could not have any serious trouble in regard to unemployment. Apart from that, there are certain works in the listwhich, if started to-morrow, could, I very much doubt, be finished off as quickly as if they were postponed for a little time. For instance, there is the Arsenal, which it is proposed to erect at Canberra. Is this a time to tackle such an enterprise?
– When would be the proper time? When the enemy is at the door?
– It is very hard to say. If the Arsenal can be built efficiently now, and will be of service to the country, I, of course, shall raise no objection to the proposal.
– The Government claim that the House is already committed to the Arsenal being erected at Canberra.
– did not understand that, and I very much doubt whether satisfactory progress could be made with it for years if the work were entered upon to-morrow. Of course, this is a work regarding which the Government may not be able to afford us much information, for military or other reasons ; but, in any case, I do not know whether the best site has been selected. In matters of such serious national importance, and involving such large amounts, every care should be taken to find out the best places in Australia fortheir accomplishment. I know that amongst honorable members there is an idea that, as far as possible, all Federal works should be within the Federal Territory. While I agree with that as a general principle, there may be special exceptions; and, if there are special exceptions, they cannot anywhere be found more than in the region of defence.
I should like to say a word or two about fleet construction; and in this regard I think the Minister ought to tell us if any of the £400,000 has really been spent ; and, if so, what we have got for the money. Fleet construction may mean the building of some small craft, or, it may be, a cruiser like the Brisbane; and we certainly should have more information in this connexion. We ought to be shown that the proposed expenditure is absolutely necessary, especially in the case of new works. The Commonwealth is getting into a very serious financial position ; and we ought not to go on spending millions without strong reasons. The time is coming when it will not be a matter of deciding on what works we shall spend money, but on what works we can do without expenditure, if we are to treat the taxpayer fairly and equitably. For all these reasons I submit that we have a right to know, as far as circumstances will permit, the reasons for the proposed works.
.- We ought to have some information as to the cost of the Brisbane.
– That was built long ago.
– That is so; but we ought to know the cost, as a guide to whether the work is now carried on at
Cockatoo Island as it should be. As a Protectionist I should like to see all this kindof work done in Australia, but there is an obligation on the part of those employed at Cockatoo Island and elsewhere to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. The Sydney cost £385,000, and the Melbourne cost £405,000; but in the case of the Brisbane the estimated cost was £610,000, while, so far as we can gather, the actual cost has been more like £1,000,000. At any rate, the cost of the Brisbane must be over £800,000, though no one can give the exact figure. From the report of the Public Accounts Committee we learn that two launches were required, that tenders were called for the construction of one, and a contract was made for £5,000 with Robinson Brothers, of Melbourne; and we have the curious fact that the Naval Dockyard at Cockatoo Island could not, and did not, supply a sister ship, with not the slightest difference in construction, for less than £12,800. That amount did not include proportionate charges for interest, depreciation, or supervision; it is further stated in the report of the Public Works Committee that Messrs. Robinson Brothers lost £1,000 over their contract. If that be so, it means that the first vessel cost to construct, with all charges included, £6,000, as compared with £12,800. When we see such statements in the report of the Public Accounts Committee, it makes one very dubious as to the total cost of the Brisbane. I sincerely hope that in the case of the Brisbane there is not a repetition of the facts in connexion with the launch Gresswell and other vessels, because, if so, there is no encouragement to carry on such works in Australia by the Government. We are told that in the case of the Brisbane some of the plant had to be imported, probably after the war had started; but the report of the Public Accounts Committee tells us that the work of preparation on the vessel was commenced in 1912, and that she was to be completed in December, 1914. The war broke out only at the latter end of 1914; and if the vessel had been laid down and the work carried on as it should have been at Cockatoo Island, all the material ordered must have been on the way before the outbreak of hostilities.
– It was not here.
– If it was not here it should have been afloat, and there could be no possible excuse for pleading the higher cost of material in the case of the Brisbane. Then, again, I refer honorable members to a recommendation made by the manager of the dockyard, and practically adopted by four members of the Public Accounts Committee. The report states that when it came to a comparison between the relative merits of the daylabour system and piece-work, or the bonus method, of the British dockyards, the Cockatoo Island output by day labour showed to very great disadvantage. Why should that be? No one desires to reduce wages in Australia lower than a good living figure ; and I notice that no fewer than four members of the Public Accounts Committee recommended that there should be piece work on a scale in accordance with the recognised scale of wages in Australia. This, of course, safeguards the wage-earner; and no one would begrudge the additional cost if a fair return be given for the money.
There are other matters in the report of the Public Accounts Committee that I do not wish to dwell on unduly. It is stated, for instance, that in these dockyards there are no fewer than fifty-one arbitration awards, Stateand Federal; and we are told of the great difficulty there is in working under these awards. In some yards there are men who are timber workers, and men who are steel and iron workers, and, however trifling theamount of timber may be that is required to keep possibly fifteen or twenty iron and steel workersworking, a timber worker and a timber carrier has to be found to provide it. This, of course, all adds to the cost.
– That does not apply to Cockatoo Island dockyard.
– It is so stated in the evidence of the general manager, and a man worthy of such a position is worthy of some regard. It is our duty to see that whatever is constructed for the Commonwealth is built at a reasonable cost, for if this kind of thing is allowed to go on we are not doing our duty, and it will be the greatest argument that the enemies of Protection could use against those who believe that we should manufacture locally all that we possibly can of Australia’s requirements. They will be able to point out the difference between the cost of departmental manufacture in Australia and the cost of importation. This will do vital harm to the establishment of new industries. If we can stop it we shall benefit Australia and the workers in Australia, as well as those who are willing to come here and establish new industries, to whom, at the same time, we should also give such an amount of Tariff Protection as will enable them to make a successful start.
.- I regret that we are called upon to deal with the items in the schedule attached to this Loan Bill, without having the opportunity of considering the whole of the Estimates, and the financial position generally, but if we pass these items we agree to all of the expenditure that the Government propose to undertake from the moneys which will be raised under the authority of the Bill. If honorable members do not take steps to show their disapproval of any proposed item of loan expenditure upon this schedule, the Government will claim that Parliament has approved of all the proposals contained in the schedule, and that the works set out in it should he proceeded with at once. There has been too much of that sort of thing in the past. I consider that Parliament should be given the opportunity to come to a determination in regard to several matters of importance involved in the schedule. Atthe same time, I do not agree with some of the remarks made by honorable members opposite in regard to the Treasurer having delayed the consideration of the general financial position. This is the first time since I have been in this Chamber in which the Estimates have been brought down in anything like a reasonable time.
– The Estimates are useless without the opportunity of discussing them.
– In the Estimates the Government have submitted they show the expenditure to which they are committed. The honorable member took no objection to the action of previous Governments in regard to the arsenal. A distinct pledge was given by Mr. Fisher, and later by the present Prime Minister, then later on by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) when he was in charge of the House, during the absence of the Prime Minister, that there would be no expenditure upon an arsenal until Parliament had approved of a site. There were long debates on the proposed site at Canberra, and that pledge was given, yet during the recess £40,000 was advanced by the- then Treasurer (Mr. Higgs) without Parliamentary authority, and work upon the arsenal was started, and the country and Parliament were committed to an expenditure upon an arsenal at Canberra. The worst feature of the whole matter is the basis of the Government’s claim that Parliament was committed to the expenditure. In a statement issued by the Minister for Defence on the 14th March, 1917, relative to the proposed Federal arsenal, these words occur -
Parliament, by its vote on the Estimates 1915-16, endorsed the establishment of an arsenal, and the choice of a site in the Federal Territory.
Mr.Atkinson. - Parliament did not have a say inregard to the matter.
– Those Estimates were passed all right.
– At any rate, I hold that, Parliament did not stand committed to the site at Canberra. Distinct pledges were given that full opportunity for discussing the question would beprovided, but the expenditure was incurred without that opportunity being given.
– There has not been a suitable opportunity, although thematter has been before Parliament on several occasions.
– The question of whether the arsenal should be commenced at Canberra was the subject of a special motion in this Chamber, and there was considerable objection taken to the proposal. Apart altogether from the economical stand-point, it is right that this House should have the opportunity of deciding such an issue. I do not consider that the Minister for Defence was right in saying that Parliament was committed to the Canberra site. Certainly a determination should be come to at onceifthe Government intend to go on with the work, but I hope that they will not do so. There is no reason for haste in regard to the matter. Neither is there any reason for Ministers to give evasive answers in order that the information may not reach the enemy. The report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the establishment of an arsenal had full publication, and I cannot see why honorable members should not be allowed to know at least as much as was published in the report of that Committee.
– The enemy probably knows more about the matter than this Parliament does.
– That would not be very difficult, seeing that this Parliament knows very little about the matter. Honorable members are kept in the dark as much as possible. At any rate, we should know something more from the Government before we consent to this expenditure. There, has been a great deal too much “ dilly-dallying “ in regard to the establishment of an arsenal. Parliament should come to a determination upon the point as soon as possible, and in order that a decision may be arrived at, it is my intention to move to reduce the item in the schedule. I propose to go into details when dealing with the items. I have had special opportunities for gaining information upon the point. Let me deal with the estimate of cost. Mr. Murdoch, the Government Architect, was a witness examined by the Public Works Committee in regard to the question of the erection of the arsenal at Canberra, and in response to questions put by me, he told the Committee that about 5,000 men would be employed at the establishment. I put the question, to him, “Assuming that there are 2,500 married men, 1,500 single men, and 1,000 boys employed, what will it cost to house them?” Mr. Murdoch went away, and came back with a’ rough estimate that the cost of providing houses, water supply, sewerage, schools, hospitals, libraries, and all the conveniences of a* township of from 15,000 to 20,000 people, would be £1,750,000. I mention this in order to let - honorable members know that they will be dealing with an expenditure of over £2,000,000 in connexion with the arsenal at Canberra.
– Anybody can raise £1,000,000 with which to build houses that will let at a fair rental.
– I do not propose to go into full details. Apart from the fact that pledges were given that this expenditure would not be incurred without honorable members having full opportunity to debate it, in my opinion it isa. wicked waste of money.
We have had the statement made that it is not proposed to remove the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow, with a loss of £300,000 capital which has been incurred on the Factory there, but in a report issued by the Committee that was appointed to deal with the question of the arsenal, I find the following: -
The question of the removal of the factory to Federal Territory and incorporating it with the arsenal arose. It was argued that this was the most suitable time for the settlement of the question, inasmuch as the removal would he effected before any further expenditure was effected at Lithgow.
This report shows that the Government . of the day were desirous of removing the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow to Canberra, which would mean .that the £300,000 capital spent at Lithgow would be lost. I suppose that a similar amount would need to be expended ,at Canberra in order to house the machinery. I am not satisfied with the work done at Lithgow. It is just as disgraceful as that which is done at Cockatoo Island.
– It cannot be as bad.
– It is just as bad, when rifles are sent out so badly made that we might just as well send our boys to the Front with their’ hands tied behind their backs.
– What is the difference in- cost between the rifle manufactured at Lithgow and the rifle manufactured in Great Britain?
– The main point is the quality of the steel.
– I would not mind if the rifles cost £13 each, as I believe they do, if they were of good quality; but I have a report in regard to them, dated 1914, which shows that of 300 rifles sent to Western Australia, over. 100 had to be returned to the armoury. “ They would not fit the cartridges, the rifling was broken at the centre, the rifling was broken at the end.” Those were the comments. I do not suppose that all the bad rifles went to Western Australia.
– Have they not greatly improved since that report was m,ade?
– I believe that there has been a great change for the better since Mr. McKay has been put in charge. I know that Mr. McKay would not stay there for: ten minutes if he had had Ministerial interference in regard to the employment of his men. That has been the curse of our public enterprises in the past. The managers we have had at the factory would have done good work if they had not been interfered with, and had been given control of the establishment. But as soon as a manager dismisses men whom he finds obnoxious an appeal is made to a member of Parliament, who carries the complaint to the Minister, and ultimately the manager is told to reinstate the men. The result of that policy is that the manager begins to allow things to drift.
At Flinders Naval Base, I saw a huge excavation for which there was no justification. Piles were being driven, and when I asked the reason for the excavation, I was told that the piles could not be driven through the sand. I made such a noise about that excavation, and the members of the Public Works Committee can bear me out, that every remaining pile was driven without shifting a yard of sand. The cost of that excavation was 9s. 4½d. per yard, and I guarantee that any contractor would have done it for 2s. per yard. That was one of the worst jobs that ever came under my notice. The engineer in charge now is a man in whom I have every confidence) but he will not be able to give good results unless he is given full liberty to choose his own foremen and sub-foremen. If he has to submit to the interference which has been the lot of most engineers and managers in the past, he is bound to be just as big a failure as they have been. At a later stage, I shall move to reduce the vote for the Flinders Naval Base by £1,000 in order to afford the Committee an opportunity of expressing its opinion of the need for economy in public expenditure.
I may seem inconsistent in urigng increase in expenditure in one Department, and a decrease in all other Departments, but the policy of the PostmasterGeneral compels me’ to do so. The Postmaster-General’s Department is allotted a huge sum of money ‘for the construction of conduits, but is doing nothing to help production. The Government are giving assistance to promote wheat production; they have made vast arrangements for the disposal of our wool clip; and are offering to facilitate the export of fruit, jam, and sugar. The Government realize the absolute necessity,, owing to the huge expenditure in which the Commonwealth is becoming involved) for increasing production in every direction. The man who goes into the back country deserves consideration, but he is not getting it from the PostmasterGeneral.I do not blame the PostmasterGeneral entirely, but I blame the Government because a sum of £100,000 or £200,000 ought to have been placed at the Minister’s disposal for the purpose of aiding the back country.
– Does the honorable member agree that if the Postal Department is to subsidize any section of the community the Government should provide the amount out of general revenue?
– Something of that sort: is needed, but I charge the Minister with being unfair to the country and generous to the cities. Let honorable members consider the loss on the telephone service to Sydney. If any service should be compelled to pay its way, surely it is one in a city area where the people have all the comforts and conveniences of civilization. If a telephone service is asked for in the Never Never country, even though the people undertake to pay interest and loss on working expenses, and to assist the Department by carrying the poles, and doing other work, the Department says, ‘’ We have no money, and cannot do the work,” but the Minister can find £271,000 for conduits about the cities.
– And £45,000 for the Perth Post Office.
– That building was started long before the war, and I suppose the Government find it necessary to proceed with its construction. The telephone services in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth have involved the Department in large losses. In New South Wales the loss for the year before last was £146,000.
– I am not responsible for the year before last.
– The loss of £115,000 last year was not a very great improvement. I do urge upon the Government the necessity for an alteration in the policy of the Department in regard to town and country.
In the Estimates generally, we require economy, and any work carried out at the present time ought to be of a reproductive character. I should have gloried in seeing in this schedule an item of £500,000 for the purpose of locking the Murray River. I do not know much about that work, but I should have liked to see the Government energetic in regard to it, because, if the claims made in regard to the locking of this river are correct, we ought to be able to settle 30,000 returned soldiers along its banks.
– If the honorable member will investigate this matter, he will find that £500,000 could notbe spent within six years on the Murray River works.
– But the Government could push on with the works. They can find £100,000 for an arsenal which will take years to complete.
– That work is in abeyance.
– The sum of £40,000 was provided by the Treasurer for expenditure by the Minister, and the Budget papers show that a certain expenditure was incurred last year.
– That expenditure was in connexion with the purchase of machinery for the manufacture of shells. The machinery will be an asset.
– I believe thatexpenditure on machinery was wise, more especially as the Government were, to some extent, responsible for the previous expenditure by various companies and individuals. Except in regard to works of a reproductive character, the Government ought to go slowly in the matter of public works expenditure. There have been marvellous developments during the war in the manufacture of munitions, explosives, and submarines. When our Naval Bases were started, they were designed on the supposition that submarines would foe of from 200 to 500 tons burthen. Now submarines of 5,000 tons are being launched. The knowledge that is being gained in regard to these matters may prove that the expenditure now being incurred on our Naval Bases is wasteful. We must make haste slowly in connexion with the construction of our Naval Bases. I know that, the departmental officials are always urging upon the Government that these works are necessary, and should be proceeded with; but I do not believe that they are necessary at this time. If, as I hope, the Allies have a complete victory, and peace is assured thereafter for many years, we shall be able to proceed slowly with our defence works, and to have the advantage of the most expert advice in the world. I have not much regard for some of the experts we have in Australia.
We sent to India, for the purpose of getting information in regard to the establishment of an arsenal, a number of men, not one of whom had ever been in the firing line, or could be classed as an expert on arsenal construction. Not since Admiral Henderson visited us have we had in Australia an expert cf such eminence that we could rely upon his knowledge and advice in the expenditure of these huge sums of money. I have great faith in the engineering branch, but out officers are wrongly imbued with the idea that heavy expenditure is necessary at the present time in connexion with the Flinders Naval Base. The Government are asked to provide £600,000 for buildings alone. If the Government continue that sort of expenditure, they will find themselves obliged to go slow in the matter of the repatriation of our soldiers. I shall not; agree to a policy of that kind, and if I had my way I would shut down every one of these works that does not tend to promote production, so that we may have plenty of work for the soldiers when they return in a body after the declaration of peace.
I am anxious that there shall be economy in connexion with public expenditure. and if necessary I shall divide the Committee on my amendment. I shall not make any motion at this stage, because I have no wish to stifle the general discussion. Before concluding these general remarks I wish to thank the Treasurer for having brought the Estimates before Parliament so soon after the close of the last financial year. His action is a welcome innovation. I am glad we have had an opportunity of getting a grasp of the financial position, and of the Government’s proposals so early in the year. I am only sorry that the Treasurer is not able to tell us how he proposes to raise the money for all these works.
.- I also desire to congratulate the Treasurer on having introduced his Estimates so early in the financial year, but the introduction of the Estimates does not fulfil the Treasurer’s obligation to Parliament. I understand that the Estimates are not likely to be disposed of before the House adjourns for a lengthy period, and that will mean that they will not be dealt with until the financial year has nearly expired. On previous occasions I have protested against this practice. The only reason offered for deferring the discussion on the Estimates is that we are at war, but the war has no bearing on the ordinary Estimates of the Departments. It is useless to introduce the Estimates and place the Government’s proposals on the table so that honorable members can see what expenditure is to be incurred, if we have no right to criticise the expenditure before it is actually incurred. Parliament has no control at all over the public purse under such a system. This practice has been adopted by every Government that has been in office since the outbreak of war. The Government take it for granted that, they are justified in placing the Estimates before Parliament, and then asking us to adjourn for several months, and perhaps in July, after the financial year has terminated, we shall be invited to approve of the Estimates of expenditure that has been already incurred. The time of the Parliament is wasted, and the country is put to unnecessary expense, when- we are called upon to deal with Estimates after the expenditure for which they provide has been incurred. We should be able to deal with the Estimates within a reasonable time of their being placed on the table. ,1 give the Treasurer credit for what he has done since taking office, but, unless he enables this to be done, his work will go for nothing.
I concur in some of the statements that have been made in regard to the Naval Bases. I do not think the country is getting the best return for the money that is being expended on the Flinders Naval Base. That, to my mind, is largely the fault of administration. When the work was first undertaken we found that, instead of being controlled by one Department, some of it was being carried out by the officers of the Department for Home Affairs, and some of it by the Department of the Navy. The two Departments were clashing. Each set of officers considered they were entitled to control certain works, and the position was very like that which has arisen in some of our unions in regard to drawing a line of demarcation as to the work to be performed by each Department. In that way, I believe a lot of money was wasted. Such works should be under the control of one Department. I do not know whether this matter has been remedied.
– No; the division is continued in this Bill.
– The work at Naval Bases should not he under the dual control of the Department of the Navy and the Department for Works and Railways.
– It is not.
– If the Minister has remedied this trouble, then he has taken a step in the right direction.
– The Department for Works and Railways is controlling all works.
– The control of works at Flinders Base is under the one hat.
– I am glad to hear it.
– Are all naval works now under the control of the Works Department ?
– We have placed them under the control of the Director of Naval Works.
– Are not some Defence works carried out by the Defence Department ?
– Some minor works are.
– Although the Minister for Works and Railways tells us that all works are now under the one head, 1 find in the schedule to the Bill an item relating to machinery and plant for the Flinders Naval Depot under the Department for the Navy, while there are certain works under the control of the Works and Railways Department.
-. - That is inevitably so. It is the practice in England, as well as here. Civil engineering is carried out by the one Department, and constructional work by the other. The Department for Works and Railways carries out all construction work.
– And civil engineering work is still under the Department of the Navy?
– Some of it is, as, for instance, the Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– Does the Minister think that cannot be avoided?
– We cannot avoid such a separation of the work.
-Speaking on the spur of the moment, I do not think it can be avoided, except to a limited extent.
– The Department for Works and Railways is really in the position of the contractor for these works.
– Quite so. Coming to the question of the cost of Naval Bases, I hold the view that our engineers should prepare plans and estimates of the complete work in every instance, and that when we are called upon from time to time to appropriate moneys for the purpose we should have before us figures showing the estimated cost of the complete work, the amount already voted and the amount expended up to date. Economy is absolutely impossible when we are asked from time to time to vote large sums for the construction of various Naval Bases without any information as to the estimated cost of the complete work and the amount already expended. The present system leads to a good deal of wasteful expenditure.
I notice that no provision is made on these Estimates for the Naval Base at Port Stephens. There is an item of £25,000 for the purchase of land there, but that matter has already been arranged. The establishment of a Naval Base at Port Stephens is most important ; it was strongly recommended by Admiral Henderson, but practically nothing has yet been done in that direction. There has been a good deal of preliminary work, but I fear that it will count for little, because it has been so long neglected that much of it will probably have to be done over again. In addition to that, the country has been put to the expense of keeping men there to look after the machinery. This work should be pushed on. It is just as necessary as is the Flinders Naval Base.
During this debate much has been said in regard to the excessive cost of works. Apart from what has been said as to the labour cost, I hold the view that much of the additional cost of our public works is due to lack of supervision. Very often when we obtain a good and efficient officer, who secures for us a full return for the money expended, he is, for some reason or other, dismissed. Take, for instance, the officer who was in charge at Port Stephens. He was a stranger to me when he went there, but I have been told by many of the men who worked under him that he was a firm man, who insisted or getting a return for the money expended, and would not suffer any loss of work because of drink. He so commended himself to the workmen under him that he obtained from them more work for the money expended than did any other officer; but because of some misunderstanding between himself and his superiors, this gentleman, who had done such excellent service, was dismissed. This calls for some inquiry.
– Some of them do not want competent men.
– That is so. When we get a competent man, who secures full value for the money expended and the labour employed, we should keep him.
– More especially when we are up against men who adopt a very different standard.
– Yes; it is very doubtful whether we have in the Department of the Navy officers who are as good as we might expect them to be. The man to whom I have been referring proved himself an excellent officer, but because he could not see eye to eye with some of his superiors he was dismissed from the Service.
I come now to the manufacture of rifles at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, concerning which the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) spoke so disparagingly. For many years the Jesuits obtained from that factory were very disappointing. I cannot say whether the position to-day is satisfactory, since we do not know what has happened during the last eighteen months or more; but I do know that two things contributed to the high cost of the rifles at first produced there. It was shown in the course of inquiry that, at the outset-, the steel supplied for a lot of the rifles was faulty, and that, consequently, many rifles had to be condemned. The Factory was not responsible for that, nor were the workmen. The steel was supplied by the Home authorities.
– That was some time ago.
– It was; but it was largely responsible for a number of rifles being condemned, and consequently for the higher cost of the output. The Public Accounts Committee made certain recommendations in regard to the Factory, and certain changes were made’. We found that there was a want of co-ordination between the different departments in the Factory; and while I do not wish to do an injustice to an absent man, I must say that the first manager, although he might have been an expert in the manufacture of rifles, was not, in my opinion, the best man to manage Australian workmen.
– I think the first manager was primarily responsiblefor what occurre d.
– That is the man to whom I was referring. I think that he was largelyresponsible for what happened in the Factory. Since the Committee of Public Accounts inquired into the working of the Factory, a considerable improvement has perhaps taken place. I cannot speak authoritatively on the point, but I believe the position has improved. I am told that the rifles are costing less than they were; and I hope that we shall be able to produce a thoroughly serviceable rifle for much less than the output of the Factory first cost us. I have heard that the rifles produced by the Lithgow Factory are equal to any on service to-day, and I trust we shall be able to produce them at a reasonable cost.
The honorable member for Dampier made some reference to the Postal Department. I take no exception to the construction of conduits for undergrounding telephone wires in our cities; but I consider that while the Government are providing for large expenditures in the metropolitan areas, country districts are being neglected. My experience - and I suppose it is the experience of most honorable members - is, that during the last few years country people have been deprived of many facilities.
– Especially during the last few months.
– That is so. Allowance offices have been closed, telephones have been cut off - -
– And hours cut down.
– Quite so. I put a question to the Postmaster-General today as to the cutting-off of the telephone communication between Port Stephens and Newcastle. Those who know that part of our coast will recognise that it is essential that there should be a rapid means of communication between Port Stephens and Newcastle. We had for some time a telephone line between the two points, and it was very useful for reporting the movements of vessels. In rough weather, ships often take shelter at Port Stephens, and with telephonic communication it was possible to speedily advise Newcastle of any such occurrence.
The Department, however, has cut off the telephone, and has informed shipping people that they can use the telegraph line. As a matter of fact, a steamer on several occasions has gone from Port Stephens to Newcastle in less time than it has taken to deliver a telegram between the two points. This is very unsatisfactory. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to reconsider the decision of his Department. It is important from the point df view of the safety of life that this telephone line should be restored. A vessel might be in difficulties off Port Stephens, where there is no means of saving life ; but if there was telephonic communication with Newcastle, prompt action could be taken to send relief from that point. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to at once restore this line.
.- The honorable member for Dampier is opposed to the Government proceeding at once with the construction of the proposed arsenal, but, in my view, this Government and some of its predecessors are to blame for allowing the project to hang fire so long. No country can protect itself while it has to import guns, explosives, and other munitions of war. I am pleased that there is an item in the schedule to provide for the commencement of the proposed arsenal, which I regard as a most important national work. When the Works Committee was inquiring into the matter, it was suggested that it might be possible to locate the proposed arsenal at Lithgow, but we found that there was not a suitable water supply there. In the Federal Territory, however, at Tuggeranong, the Murrumbidgee River provides a splendid water supply. A weir across the river would impound water suitable and sufficient for all the purposes of the arsenal. The site there is a beautiful one, and the land belongs to the Government. A railway has been projected -to junction with the New South Wales system,’ and the land would be easy to build on, because it is fairly level. The site is only 9 miles from ‘the site of the Capital, but between it and the Capital are two ranges of hills, which would prevent) noise c-r smoke from affecting the Capital. It is proposed to set aside a large piece of land for a township of workmen’s buildings. Over 5,000 persons will be employed at the arsenal, and, therefore, a large sum will be required to house them, ‘but the Government will receive rent from those who occupy the houses it erects. At Tuggeranong there is a good water supply, bricks are available close at hand, and generally the site is suitable. The committee of experts who have visited the Indian factories say that this site is in every way the best they have seen. We are bound to provide all the work we can for our returned soldiers, and an arsenal will provide light employment for a great many disabled men, because so much of the machinery is “practically automatic, requiring no great skill or effort to work it.
– The engineers will not allow any but their own members to work the machines. The trouble at the Small Arms Factory has been largely due to that.
– At the Small Arms Factory a number of youths are attending to machinery, but for the making of tools, mechanics are needed, and skilled men are justified in requiring that only trained men shall be employed. If the honorable member for Dampier moves to strike out the item, I shall vote against the amendment. It would be a national disaster to abandon the project.
The honorable member for Perth has suggested that the engineers and others > employed at Cockatoo Island Dock should be put on piece-work. If the Government attempts that, I am afraid there will be trouble.- If Mort’s Dock can be run profi’tably by a manager and half-a-dozen foremen without) piece-work, paying the same wages as are paid at the Government Docks, and compete successfully in the open market with other ship-builders and marine repairers, piece-work should not be necessary in the Government establishments.
– Mort’s Dock competes only with other Australian firms which are forced to observe the same conditions.
– If the Government desires to avoid trouble, iti will not insist upon piece-work.
– There has been too much avoidance of trouble in the past.
– Engineers are much in demand, and therefore cannot be compelled to accept piece-work.
– They would make better money at it.
– A man by using up all his energy might, during the first few weeks, make more under the piece-work system, but after a very little while the management would say, “ We are paying too much, for this work, and will cut down the rates.”
– I know men who have given up Government work because they could not go slowly enough.
– My practical experience in the Arbitration Court convinces me that the engineers cannot be forced to accept piece-work. The employers say that the men can do 50 per cent. more work on piece-work, but they will not pay for it at that rate.
– Does the honorable member favour piece-work or day work ?
– I favour day work.
– Why did not the honorable member build his mansion at Narrabeen with day labour ?
– I did. Everything there was done by day labour.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Some honorable members have raised the question of piecework ; but, as I have already pointed out, if any attempt is made on the part of the Government to introduce piece-work, trouble is likely to arise.
– Because the men will not have it; it is an old-established principle in the engineering trade that the men shall not work piece-work. Such a system may be all very well for riveters, and so forth; but the engineers will not have it in this or any other country.
– You might explain why.
– Surely a surgical operation is not necessary to make the honorable member understand ? Then, again, as to the card system, the Government will not introduce it in Victoria if they want to keep out of trouble.
– Then why is it established in theWorker office ?
– I do not want any interjections from the honorable member. Apparently, an attack has been made on the day-labour system, and in that connexion an attempt made to belittle the working men of this country. That is not an uncommon attitude on the part of some honorable members, who seem to take a delight in belittling their own race and lauding up the people of other countries. There is no doubtthat small arms can be made more cheaply by cheaper labour; but, so far as I have seen at Lith gow, the men do their full duty with the up-to-date machinery at their command, and if there is any fault it must be on the side of the management. As elsewhere in the world, the first year or two of a factory of this kind must show a money loss; and we, as a Parliament, ought to stand up for our country and our country’sgood name. As to piecework, the New South Wales Government are now, and have been for a number of years, manufacturing their own locomotives. The time was when it was said that locomotives could not be manufactured in Australia; but the biggest engines in the Commonwealth, including those which take the expresses from Melbourne to Sydney, are made in the Eveleigh workshops, and at a cheaper rate than they could be contracted for in Queensland or the Old Country. All this is done under the day-labour system.
– It is not quite clear that the debit for interest and overhead charges are the same here as elsewhere. We, in Victoria, appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter at Newport, and a doubt was left in regard, to these two items.
– However that may be, the evidence, I think, shows that the men in the employ of the Government of New South Wales do a fair thing. They have the best of machinery, and turn out the best of work; and the same ought to be the case in the matter of shipbuilding.
– The Australian workers are the finest in the world.
– That is so; nevertheless, there are honorable members who always try to belittle the Australian as a man ready to loaf.
– Some of them do loaf - not the majority.
– The same sort of thing can be found in every other country, and we ought not to single out our workmen in this regard. I hope that the Government will push on with naval construction. The dock-yards, I understand, are now equipped with the best of machinery ; and we ought to push on with the production of defensive shipping, in view of the immense coast-line we have to patrol. The Minister for the Navy ought to see that a start is at once made on the cruiser Adelaide, the material for which, I understand, is almost at the dock, where a splendid slip is waiting. In this connexion, ample employment ought to be found for our returned soldiers. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr: Gregory) has urged that we should practise economy in the way of public works; but this ideacan be carried too far in view of the fact that we wish to provide employment for our returned men, and that such employment can most readilv be found in a vigorous public works policy.
– We want the returned mento go on the land, if they will.
– As usual, the honorable member wishes “ the other fellow “ togo on the land. Instead of spending millions in placing unsuitable men on the land, we ought to find them employment in avenues with which they are familiar. I hope that the Government will not listen to the’ cheese-paring cry about cutting down the expenditure onpublic works.
– When we are at work at Cockatoo you grumble, and when nothing is doing you still grumble !
– What is the Minister for the Navy doing to push on with the Federal Capital and to find work within the Territory? I put that question tothe Minister for the Navy as a representative of New South Wales’, and all the representatives of that State ought to see that the Federal compact is carried out. The people of New South Wales contribute more to the revenue than do the people of any other State.
– Is that what you have stayed in Sydney for a month to consider ?
– I have been doing some good work in Sydney. The Commonwealth, according to the Bill before as, has spent £145,000 on land in the Federal Territory, and to that I have no objection, although I shouldlike to see a start made with the building of the Capital.
– Why was the competition for the building design withdrawn ?
– Designs have been called for all over the world for the parliamentary buildings, although I venture to say that within the Commonwealth we have men quite competent to prepare plans. How can a man in America, Germany, Russia, or elsewhere draw the plans for a Parliament House in a country of the climatic conditions of which he has no knowledge whatever? I understand that the competitive plans have all been sent in, but that there is now some trouble about the adjudicators. Surely we can find men in Australia capable of deciding such a matter as this? If, as in the case of the Federal Capital, all the land in Melbourne, Sydney, and the other great cities of the Commonwealth had been reserved to the State, there would have been no need for borrowing money for any purpose whatever, for there would have been the immense rentals coming in. Such a chance as is now presented by the land conditions of the Federal Territory ought not to be neglected, andI hope theGovernment will push on with the work, which cannot fail to prove remunerative. At the present time the Commonwealth is paying hundreds of thousands of pounds in the way of rentals in Melbourne and elsewhere. There seems to be a feeling amongst certain honorable members that the Federal Capital is only a dream.
– I wish it were - a nightmare !
– I hope it will turn out a reality. I shall support the Government in their proposal to proceed with the construction of the arsenal and all other public enterprises which will provide work for the people.
– As to tihe Federal Capital, I think that all the sane people of Australia realize that it is impossible to proceed with the building at the present time. Any money we have to spend must be spent in other directions, and the discharge of the compact with New South Wales must wait, in view of all the circumstances. All the money that can be raised in Australia is required for defence purposes, and I compliment the Government on their proposal to proceed with the arsenal and other necessarv public works. In this connexion there seems to be great differences of opinion, even amongst members of the last Public Works Committee. We are informed that that Committee have chosen about three sites in the Federal Capital for the arsenal, and I suppose any other Public Works Committee that may be appointed might select still another site. The cornmonsense of the community will, however, decide that there must be some site in the Federal Territory suitable for an arsenal, and it does not matter whether that site be half-a-mile or 2 miles away from a given centre,
The main thing we have to keep in mind is that we must ge,t on with the building itself. It is useless to say that the Small Arms Factory has been a failure. I am ready to believe that mistakes have been made tit that factory. But does any honorable member who has gone into business claim that he has never made mistakes? The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) who has built his house on the day-labour principle, probably did so because he knew perfectly well that he could alter his plans if he found that he had make mistakes. No business can be conducted without mistakes. An immense amount of machinery has had to be scrapped because of mistakes. So I am ready to admit that mistakes have been made in regard to the Small Arms Factory. But we can amend those mistakes. I believe that we are making good rifles at Lithgow to-day, because the mistakes have been amended. We did turn out a certain number of rifles not up to the mark, but we have got to that stage now when we can make good rifles, and continue to make them. In establishing our arsenal we have to ascertain what mistakes have been made, not only here, but also in other countries. In an enterprise with which I am connected we decided to build a new chimney stack, and we employed the best architect we could find in Melbourne, but when his plans were submitted to a prominent builder it was found that’ they were fortyfive years old. We remedied that mistake, and -the chimney stack was built on proper lines. ‘
The Commonwealth must save all that it possibly can in regard to enterprises that are not required at the present time, but it must go on with everything that makes for the defence of Australia, so that the country may be self-contained from a defence point of view. Though w© may not go on with the naval programme - I think that we should - we must have naval bases for the British ships that come out here to defend us,’ so that they may be docked and repaired. This war has taught us that we must have larger docks and larger naval provision. Because we commenced’ to build at one place, and find that we chose the wrong place, and because we built two years ago for ships of a certain size, and it has been found necessary to lengthen the docks in order to accommodate vessels of larger size, that past expenditure must not be regarded as a waste of money. The foundation work is still there, and we can extend our. docks for larger ships. Every dockyard in the world has had to be extended in the last few years. We must be prepared for what may happen after the war, and, above all things, we must make Australia self-contained. Already we have been able to make cartridges for rifles very successfully. We have experimented, and we have made mistakes. Such things occur in every country. Very likely Germany has scrapped more stuff than we have any idea of.- Let Us take the position of Great Britain. Nearly all of the vessels that were considered first class a few years prior to the war are rendered useless to-day, on account of the increase in speed or- gun power. There is always a certain amount of scrapping going on. I trust that the Government will see their way not only to proceed with the arsenal, but also to enlarge the Small Arms Factory. Wo doubt it is very difficult to get machinery for the arsenal, but it is far better to get it now, and be prepared for the future than to wait until after the war. We do not know what may happen, and if we are to be left in Australia without an arsenal, or a place for the manufacture of shells, we shall be in a very awkward position. We should not spend our money in building a Federal Capital in the interior. We should so “spend it as to develop Australia, and make it selfcontained in the matter of defending itself should the emergency arise.
.. - I am pleased to discover amongst the socalled Nationalists a gentleman who is promulgating one phase of an Australian policy. If there is one thing the Government is neglecting, it is the preparation for the defence of Australia on Australian soil.
– Not according to this Bill. ‘ .
– The Bill is doing it at a snail’s pace. How long will it take to build an arsenal with the £25,000 provided on this Bill for machinery?
– Does the honorable member think that we can get more under pre> sent conditions in the twelve months’
– Does the honorable member think that we should have the full estimate shown?
– I think that it should have been done long ago. The Minister should explain when thiswork will be completed.
– Why did you not do it when your party was in power?
– Because we have had men at the head of affairs in Australia who are not Australians, and have not the interests of Australia at heart. Not only should we proceed with this arsenal at once; we should also imitate Germany in some of the arrangements she made for defending her soil. It is impossible for any country to establish a Government arsenal which will be sufficient to provide all the munitions to defend it in time of war. Wars now require the organization of the whole of the resources of the nation against those of the enemy nation. In this war it has been found essential for each nation to utilize every machiue shop” in the country for the purpose of making munitions. Alongside, the establishment of an up-to-date arsenal, which should provide Australia with all her peace requirements for the training of her soldiers, and some contribution toward the placing of the defence of the country on a proper footing, it is also necessary that every machine shop in the Commonwealth should be encouraged to adapt its machinery to the same purpose. Every machine should be expected to do a certain amount of this work. The Government should fix the prices, and each shop Bhould be called upon to turn out a certain minimum amount of munitions each year. Thus, on the outbreak of war the whole of the resources of the country would be at the disposal of the Commonwealth, and the whole of the output of the private establishments could be added readily to the output of the Government plant. Very little is being done in this direction.
What are we doing in regard to shells ? We are told that Australia cannot produce shells. Some un- Australian influence has blocked shell manufacture. Australia can produce absolutely everything. We have heard the same story throughout the whole of our existence. Australia could not do this, and Australia could not do that. It is not long since we were told that Australia could not make boots, or could not make clothing. The people who prevent Australia from doing almost anything are those who imagine or promulgate the idea that Australians can do nothing. We are told that Australia cannot defend herself. Australia can defend herself.
– Against whom?
– Against any enemy that attempts to interfere with us here. The more specific answer to the honorable member is - against any enemy or potential enemy whose interference our Defence Act is designed to prevent. But we want people in Australia who have the idea of defending Australia, and not the idea of making it merely the tail end of the British Empire, to be sacrificed without any concern for Australia’s integral welfare. There should be some balance of our duty to Great Britain and the Empire, and to Australia’s own national existence.
– That is not very grateful talk at the present time.
– What does the honorable member mean by “sacrificed”?
– I will tell you. Recently I met an officer engaged in training some of our lads in a military college. There were a couple of powerful Japanese warships close by at the time, and I made a remark objecting to them. I object to them now. We have an Australian Navy, and its place is in Australian waters if warships are required, and not at the other end of the world, while Japanese vessels are brought here. When I made this remark, this Englishman said, “ Oh, it does not matter. When Japan wants to take this country, she will come here and help herself. Do you think that Great Britain is going to bother herself about this little outpost of the Empire?” This statement was made in the hearing of several honorable members. This from a man who is training our boys. He imagines that his institution is some tag end of an institution for producing officers for the British Army. That view and that spirit, I am sorry to say, is representative of a considerable body of opinion in this country.
– Why retail “piffle” of that character now ?
-It is not “piffle.”
– It is outside the scope of the schedule.
– When honorable members challenge me to give reasons for my statements, I have to give them.
– It is improper to say what the honorable member has said.
– It is not improper. It is time some one stood up for Australia. It is a pity that the people do not know a little more of what is going on. We are not allowed to inform the public as to the way in which the vital interests of the Commonwealth are being neglected.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the schedule.
– For years I have been urging that we have not been doing enough to prepare for the vitalnecessities of Australian events.’ I wish that the scope of this schedule was sufficient to allow me to deal with this matter, but before this Parliament closes, if the opportunity is afforded by the business before the House, I hope to be able to deal with the matter more fully.
On a recent visit to the Federal Military College with other honorable members, I discovered that there was a large electric power plant on the Federal Territory, which cost a very considerable amount of money, and which is run mainly for the purpose of supplying light and power forthe college. It is costing about £5,000 per annum.
Mr.BruceSmith. - It is costing £9,000.
– That may be the total annual cost of the power-house, but £5,000 is set down for the cost of lighting the Military College itself. On the occasion of a recent visit to a German internment camp at Holdsworthy, New South Wales, I found that the internees had a small but efficient plant to light the whole camp, which I should say is at least equal in extent to the buildings at Duntroon. This plant is being operated at an almost nominal cost.
– The plant at Canberra is designed to meet the needs of the future in regard to both power and lighting of the Capital City.
– There is no need to now operate a plant worth £150,000 to supply one institution with electric light.
– That scheme was developed to supply the Capital. Incidentally it is mainly supplying Duntroon Military College at the present time.
Mr.J. H. CATTS.- It seems a gre.at pity that some lesson cannot be learned from . the arrangement at Holdsworthy with a view to supplying Duntroon College with electric light at a considerable saving on the present cost. I am told that the huge plant at Canberra could be closed up and a considerable saving effected until required for general purposes were it not for the work of lighting Duntroon College. There is very little else for its product to be used upon for the time being. It would pay the Commonwealth to install a small plant for the purpose of lighting Duntroon, and avoid the cost of operating thp larger plant.
– That plant will be available for supplying light and power to the arsenal.
– Quite so. But we could save operating expenses at present. I think we should effect a general saving on the whole scheme if we were to adopt the proposal for obtaining hydraulic power from the Cotter River. Even if the machinery at present installed at the’ power-house had to be scrapped the hydraulic scheme would mean a large ultimate saving to the public.
– We might do there what has been done in Tasmania.
– We have not at Canberra the great lakes that are supplying the Tasmanian scheme.
– There is ample water power at the Cotter River to supply electricity for the whole of the works at the Federal Capital formany years to come.
– We have in this Parliament a number of recently discovered electrical experts.
– The honorable member has overlooked the advice of some of the experts who recommended the Cotter River scheme in the first place. Any layman visiting the Federal Capital City can see that a huge mistake was made in placing the power-house in such a position that it is an eyesore and an obstruction to the view of the city. An officer who could make such a blunder is capable of any mistake.
– I do not think that the position would be so bad if the city were in being.
– It is an absolute disfigurement, and judging by the mistakes which are obvious to any visitor to the Federal Territory, the Government would be well advised to unload some of the officers responsible for those works and make a fresh start, so that the Commonwealth might get better value for its expenditure.
While I am on this subject I shall mention a small matter which may be indicative of the system which the Government employ in the construction of public works. Upon a recent visit of inspection to the Randwick Military Hospital’ with the Hospital Advisory Committee, some worksthat had recently been carried out there were brought under my notice. A special epidemic ward has been built on a small sand hill a couple of hundred yards from the main hospital. The structure is a wooden ward raised on little brick piers. Apparently the bricks were simply laid on the sand, and as the wind has blown the sand from under the piers, the bricks have toppled over, leaving one side of the building without the support originally planned for it. The. building is U- shaped, and between the two arms is an asphalted yard. The water from the roof runs into the yard and thence under the building. This ward has been placed alongside an old brick pit, an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, which will find their way into the epidemic ward and then carry the germs all over the city* To complete the chapter of thoughtlessness in the arrangement, between the brick pit and the epidemic ward is the hospital morgue. I found also that eight convalescent wards, each 25 feet in length, had been built. The specifications provided for a verandah 6 feet wide. When the buildings were completed it was found that the officer who had actually carried out the construction had made the verandahs 8 feet wide. This extension would have been a great improvement because it would have allowed of 6-feet beds being placed on the verandahs. But the inspecting officer came along and said, ‘ ‘ This width of verandah does not correspond with the standard that has been adopted in other military hospitals. Therefore 2 feet will have to be cut off the verandahs.” Accordingly workmen were engaged to reduce the verandahs from 8 feet to 6 feet in width.
– The honorable member’s statement is hard to credit. Where did the information come from?
– I obtained that information on the occasion of Wy visit to the Hospital with the Advisory Committee on 9th May last.
– When was the building erected ?
– It had been completed not long before my visit.
– The man responsible for cutting those verandahs down has probably been promoted since.
– I found also that the medical officers in charge of the hospitals are not consulted in regard to these buildings.
– Does the honorable member intend to connect his remarks with the schedule ?
– Yes. A system that will produce mistakes such as. I have mentioned will, if applied to the expenditure provided for in the schedule, be very detrimental to the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. But these works have passed from the control of the Defence Department to the Works Department.
– I am glad to hear that. And I ask the Minister to see that the officers, in charge of these hospitals are consulted in regard to the locality and design of these buildings. A great deal of good would result from a consultation between the works officers and the medical officers.
The schedule contains an item for an acetate of lime factory. This incidentally brings to my mind the fact that there is a large lime deposit under the control of the Commonwealth in the neighbourhood of Canberra, and at this period, when it is almost impossible to obtain lime for manufacturing cement for buildings throughout Australia, it seems a great pity that the potentialities of this Commonwealth . property should be lying dormant.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Manifold) expressed the view that the compact with New South Wales in regard to the creation of the Federal Capital should be left in abeyance for the time being. I object to the present piece-meal method of construction. Amounts are set down in the Estimates, from time to time, for this factory and that factory, and, apparently, these establishments are planked down, without regard to the general plan for the construction of the Federal Capital city. If the compact with New SouthWales is not honoured, it will be the only State in the group whose pre-Federation conditions have not been fulfilled. To keep faith with Western Australia the Commonwealth could spend millions of pounds on a transcontinental railway that will be a white elephant for years to come; yet the Federal Capital, which will pay interest on expenditure, and be a business proposition from the very commencement, has become the shuttlecock of politics. What is to become of the £2,000,000 already expended in the Capital Territory? It is impossible to stop the whole of these works at once. There is at Canberra a great nursery, which is producing hundreds of thousands of all sorts of Australian timbers and shrubs ; and an establishment of that kind cannot be closed down summarily without destroying the work of years past.
– That work is being continued.
– It is a very valuable work, too.
– It is, and it is a great object lesson to many people who have no idea of the value of Australian timbers and the ease with which they may be cultivated in this way. The schedule includes several sums of money for the purchase of land. We have in the Federal Capital area sufficient land to provide for the whole of the returned soldiers who will be prepared to go on the soil. The number who will desire to go on the land will not be very large. All classes of good country are to be found within the Federal Capital Territory. Irrigation settlements could be established along the rivers. Much of the land has been tested for fruitgrowing, and has been found to be almost perfect for the production of various fruits.’ Group settlements could also be established, under Government supervision. Scandals have occurred in nearly all the States in connexion with soldier landpurchase schemes ; but here we have land of our own, on which, free from any scandal, we could provide for every returned soldier who wished to go on the soil. Another consideration is that every penny expended within the Territory in such a direction would improve the value of Government property and add to the general revenue-producing assets of the country.
I sincerely hope that the Minister will be active in the prosecution of these defence works. I believe him to be one of the active spirits in the Ministry. Unless the dead weight against him proves to be too heavy, I think we shall have good results from his control of the Department of Works and Railways.
– Every member of the Government is active.
– The honorable member is charitable enough to say that; it is his business to do so.
– But it is true.
– Some members of the Ministry are active in the wrong sense.
– That is only a matter of opinion.
– They are not sufficiently active in pushing on with the development of Australia’s resources. Attention to these defence works is absolutely necessary. They must be carried out; and at a time like this, when men are out of employment, public works of this essential character should be proceeded with. I hope the Minister will see that when the financial year closes none of these votes will remain unexpended, but that the works for which they provide are well advanced towards completion.
– There are two matters to which I desire, briefly, to allude. In thefirst place, I would direct attention to the amount allocated to the Postmaster-General’s Department in the schedule to the Bill. Hitherto, too large a proportion of the expenditure of the Department has taken place in the large cities of Australia. Whether that expenditure has been judicious or not, I cannot say; but I do know that residents of country districts are suffering no small measure of inconvenience owing to the non-provision of telegraphic and telephonic facilities. I sincerely trust that the PostmasterGeneral will see that a fair proportion of this money is devoted to the erection of telephone lines in rural districts. For some considerable time, application after application has been made to the honorable gentleman for telephone lines in various parts of the country; but in each case the reply has been that those to be served must either provide a certain proportion of the cost or undertake a certain amount of the work.
– Even then the Department will not always erect, these lines.
– Residents of country districts cannot be expected to comply with such demands. They are justified in the belief that they are as much entitled to fair and reasonable treatment as are those who live in the metropolis of the Commonwealth. The country people are the producers of Australia, and are entitled to more consideration than they receive. There are cases where lives could have been saved had it been possible, by means of a telephone, to communicate with a medical man, and thus to secure his prompt attendance. I hope that the Postmaster-General will give “attention to the telegraphic and telephonic needs of small country centres. Even where such centres consist of only five or six residents, those five or six residents, in many instances, hold large areas of land, and are great and important factors of production.
The next matter to which I desire to refer is i<he criticism that has been levelled at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) said that the production of the .Factory had been retarded to a certain extent, and that rifles produced by it were not up to the standard. He also asserted that they cost, approximately, £14 each. That, in my opinion, is an excessive estimate. I believe the cost to be somewhere in the vicinity of £7 each, but a rifle of quality must cost money. If we want only a popgun we can get it perhaps’ for 2s. 6d. or 3s. The’ inference which the honorable member drew was that the Factory employees were slowing down. My answer to him is that they are just as vigorous in their work, and just as earnest in the desire to Assist the Government to bring the war to a speedy and successful close, as are any section of men in the community. They have not adopted the go-slow policy, nor do they intend to do so, and they should receive more consideration than they have at the hands of the Government.
Some time ago the employees of the Factory applied for a variation of their award. Their representatives conferred with a representative of the Minister for Defence and with the Minister himself, with the result that in the end the Department agreed ‘upon certain increases. It was arranged that those receiving 9s. 6d. per day should have their wages increased to 10s. 9d. per day, that those receiving 10s. lOd. should be paid lis. 8d. per day, that those receiving lis. lOd. per day should be granted an increase of 6d. per day, and so forth. These increases were to take the form of a war bonus, and were to come into operation as’ from 1st July last. Subsequently the men received a letter from the Department asking for an assurance that if the increases were granted they would endeavour to increase the output, as the cost of the rifles was excessive, and the number being turned out was not in accordance with the capacity of the plant. In reply, they gave the Minister their assurance that they would continue to do their* best to, if possible, increase the output. On 17th July the Department wrote acknowledging the receipt of this assurance, and stating that when the Minister received a similar assurance from the Amalgamated Society of Engineers he would announce his decision, and that the increase would be made retrospective as from the 1st July. Notwithstanding that promise, the men have not yet received the increase, and the fact that they are still doing their best to improve the output of the Factory should convince the honorable member for Dampier and others that they are not of a vindictive character. In these circumstances I do not think it is possible for any one to say much against the men employed in the Small Arms Factory. Some time ago there appeared to be cause for some trifling complaint in connexion with the Factory, but for this the men themselves were not responsible. The fault lay with the management. If we had bad management - if we had a supervisor who was not capable of handling the men in a proper way - then it was only reasonable to expect trouble. After certain individuals had been removed from the Factory everything worked most smoothly, and the position to-day is, in my opinion, quite satisfactory. There is no room for any adverse criticism of the employees, since they are just as capable of doing a fair day’s work as are the men employed in any other industry. If they are to manufacture rifles at a higher rate of speed, it is only reasonable that they should receive the promised increase. I am prepared to say that if those increases be forthcoming the men will endeavour to the best of their ability, to increase the output and the effectiveness of the Factory. I hope that the Minister will take this matter into consideration, and give the employees of the Factory the increases to which they are certainly entitled.
.- I regret that the Government have not been able up to the present time to give any striking evidence of a desire on their part to curtail expenditure. I am not disposed to criticise very harshly the schedule we have before us, but it does appear to me that there should have been a more determined effort to limit the extent of public works to be carried out during the continuance of the war. The winning of the war is the one essential. The more nublic works we engage in the more labour we require here and the less will be the number of men available to serve the country’s interest in that place where they can best serve it. The first consideration should be to make our position in this land secure, and, having done that, we should be justified in going on with public works expenditure. Another argument which may be used is that any public works undertaken at the present time will probably cost at least 25 per cent, more than they would under normal conditions. It is impossible for us to lose sight of the present labour difficulties. Theystagger the imagination. What guarantee have we, in passing this schedule authorizing the Government to expend nearly £2,000,000 on public works, that we shall get the works carried out? The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) said that in Australia we can produce anything, and I am glad to find myself in agreement with him on the point. We can produce anything, but at what cost? Every thing hinges on that question. When a large section of the workers continually demands higher wages, and, when it gets what it asks for, makes that a basis for still further demands, our public works must cost a great deal more than they should. Therefore, we may reasonably expect the Government to hold its hand in the expenditure of this money until conditions are more favorable. That is a common sense position to take. Three items, providing for the resumption of land at Cockburn Sound, Port Stephens, and elsewhere, aggregate £80,000. I am not prepared to say whether the expenditure is justified, but when the country is at war, and it is necessary to appeal to the people to contribute as largely as they can to loans, and to bear a heavy burden of taxation, we should as far as possible avoid extravagance.
– Does the honorable member believe in the Commonwealth meeting its just liabilities?
– Most of the land at Port Stephens, for the purchase of which money is being asked, was taken over by the Government nearly two years ago.
– Where the Government has incurred obligations it must meet them. Honorable members opposite seem to favour any proposal that will increase the burdens of the taxpayers. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) gave us a dissertation on labour conditions. He argued against anything in the way of speeding up.
– No, you are wrong there.
– The honorable member was opposed both to contract work and to piece-work, but I understand that when recently he had a house built for himself it was done by contract.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn. I have said that the house was built with day labour.
– Then I withdraw the statement, belcause I do. not wish to do the honorable member an injustice. I cannot see the wisdom of opposing piecework. Under that system the labourer is paid for what he does, and an inducement is offered to men to do their best. Under the present system, the slowingdown process, the do-as-little-as-you-can policy, is being adopted everywhere. This can be proved by facts and figures. It has been stated over and over again by men in responsible positions that under the piece-work system expert workers receive much more pay than under our present system, though possibly inefficients may earn less. The Government will have to employ a large amount of labour to carry out the proposed works, and it should give the men it employs . the opportunity to demonstrate their skill and to profit by it. The slowing-down process is the curse of the civilized world.
– I should like to have the honorable member under the card system.
– It is a marvellous tiling that the Labour party, when they employ labour, insist on the card system, In view of the results obtained in New South Wales, I hope that the Government will favorably consider the advisability of applying the card system to Commonwealth Public Works.
I regret that the postal expenditure is increasing so largely. Many insignificant savings, affecting prejudicially those in the country districts, have been put into effect, and yet the Postal Department is spending more money this year than it has spent in previous years.
In regard to expenditure on an arsenal at Canberra, and similar expenditure elsewhere, I do not think that it is justified. The Small Arms Factory has proved disappointing, the production of rifles being smaller than was expected, and the Brisbane, I understand, cost something like £600,000, while her sister ships, which were built in the ‘Old Country, cost only about £400,000. I have nothing to say against the proposal to locate the arsenal at Canberra, but I deprecate expenditure on the project at this time, because the war will be over before any good results can be obtained from it, unless the Government adopts a speeding-up system such as has never yet been applied to our public works.
– Look at the way in which this Government is winning the war.
– I should like to know how the honorable member is helping to win the war. It is a good thing for this country that this Government is in power at the present time. Were we, at this critical stage of our history, under a Government subject to the influence of that dangerous section of the community which is now so prominent, the country would be mined.
– While conditions in regard to the war and in regard to labour are as they are, the more works the Government puts in hand the more trouble there is in store for us. I am a loyal supporter of the Ministry, and I urge it to be careful in expending the money which we are now about to vote.
.- I listened with interest to the remarks of the last speaker (Mr. Palmer), but I do not agree with him that the Government has not practised economy in its works proposals. The honorable member failed to notice, however, that that economy is being practised in States other than Victoria. He objected to the Government paying its just debts to land-owners in other States, and did not notice that the bulk of the expenditure for new works is to take place in Victoria.
– The sum of £900,000, which is a third of the whole proposed vote, is for works in Western Australia and South Australia.
– I have no desire to discuss the question from the States point of view; I am merely drawing attention to what the honorable member for Echuca said when he condemned the expenditure in every other State but his own. My abjection to the Estimates is that they go in too much for economy. I do not think it will help to win the war if we throw the fathers of our soldiers out of employment, and make the people generally discontented. I agree with the honorable member for Corangamite that the Naval Bases should he proceeded with. I have no objection to the expenditure on the two most costly bases, but I must point out that all work has been stopped at Port Stephens, and now there are only two men left in charge of the machinery. This is in spite of the fact that Port Stephens is, perhaps, the most vulnerable point in the Commonwealth, considering that the first place attacked by a hostile fleet would be where it was possible to establish a coaling station. Altogether, I think there has been spent about £20,000, exclusive of the resumption of land, at Port Stephens, and yet this is the only base at which further expenditure has been stopped. The Tesult must be that the work already done will depreciate, and result in anything but economy. As a matter of fact, the Government has even cut the telephone connexion between Port Stephens and Newcastle, although Port Stephens is the haven for all ships in bad weather on the eastern coast. This was described by the admiral, who chose the site, as the most suitable for a Naval Base on this coast. There is a deep-water harbor capable of accommodating the biggest ships in the world; and it would provide a Naval Base for the whole of. the coast, right up to North Queensland. I trust that “ the Government, if they bring in any supplementary Estimates, will provide^ for the completion of this work, especially when we remember that the cost will be comparatively small. From what the Postmaster-General said, to-day, in reply to a question, I understand that the matter of telephone communication will be looked into; and I can only hope that, for the sake of £50, he will not isolate a lighthouse on this most dangerous portion of our coastline. The ship-owners are told that if vessels get into trouble there, all communication must be by telegram, although, as the honorable member for Hunter stated earlier to-day, a steamer on one occasion beat a telegram between Port Stephens and Newcastle.
– I quite agree that this is the time to practise economy, but the question arises, what is economy? I can show the PostmasterGeneral a way in which, he could practise economy, and that is in extending telephonic and telegraphic facilities in the back parts of the country, so as to induce settlement. If people in the country desire telegraphic or telephonic communication, they are put to all sorts of trouble, and asked to provide a guarantee ; and if that guarantee is called upon the chances are that most of the original people have left the neighbourhood, and one or two have to bear the burden. Where there are areas of land that would prove productive, the Federal Government should do all that is possible to assist settlement.
– Only conduits and the placing of wires underground are provided for in the Estimates.
– Rather than spend money on conduits, it would be better to open up the country in the way I suggest. The resulting revenue might not go into the Federal Treasury, but it would ultimately go. into the State Treasuries; and in this country there is only one people and one set of taxpayers. This matter has been often discussed, but the time has arrived when we should do more than talk. For ten years the need for these facilities have been pressed on the Government, with no tangible result, although, as we know, the finances are getting into such a state that production, and still more production, must be the watchword. I hope the Postmaster-General will take a broad view, and allocate a fairly large sum of money towards’ the extension of these facilities in the country, although this may, for a time, temporarily inconvenience the city. The construction of these conduits may be good business, but, nevertheless, there are many proposed works in the cities that could easily be deferred, and we ought to know what is the policy of the Postmaster-General in this connexion.
– The suggestion that the proposed vote for public works is too large, because we are at war, is peculiarly puerile just now, when we consider that the major portion of the amount is really for war purposes. Out of a total of £1,862,000 I note that £1,371,680 is particularly for war purposes. For Naval Bases we are asked to vote £440,000, for the arsenal, £239,680 (including £114,680 for land), and the remainder is for Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the lime factory, the construction of the Fleet, and the purchase of land for defence purposes. Honorable members who suggest a limitation of the expenditure overlook the fact that, while it may not be for immediate defence purposes, it is a premium against future contingencies. Particular reference has been made to the Arsenal at Canberra as an item that might, perhaps, be omitted or delayed. I suggest to the honorable member for Corangamite that his statement in this connexion is not quite correct. He said that the Public Works Committee had recommended three different sites, but, as a- member of the late Committee, I can tell him that we turned down the first site selected by the departmental officers for the Small Arms Factory, and recommended in its stead the site known as No. 2. However, the site selected for the Arsenal was reported favorably on, and’ is in a different portion of the Territory. There was only one report presented by the Public Works Committee on the question of the Arsenal; and I wish to repeat the statement I made on that matter in the House in May of last year.
The Public Works Committee took rather exhaustive pains to discover a good site in the Federal Territory, and I am profoundly convinced that the Tuggeranong site is the best for the purpose in the area, but that is as far as I can go. I do not think that it is the proper site for an arsenal. I do not think that the arsenal should be located anywhere in the Federal Territory. Certainly, it should not be so close to the political centre of the continent. There is no obviating’ this glaring and outstanding fact, that’ wherever we put the arsenal, it will be the peculiar objective of an enemy. An enemy choosing to invade Australia would naturally seek to strike at the nerve centre of our defence. If he could capture, demolish, or restrict the operations of our arsenal, he would have the whole continent at his mercy. The Tuggeranong site is about 60 miles in a direct! line from the sea. Aviation both on the sea and on the land has made such progress that 60 miles would be a matter of no difficulty to an airship or a seaplane.
– Could an enemy start a fleet of seaplanes from on board ship? v
– Half-a-dozen seaplanes would be sufficient. One would do the work if it could hit the establishment.
– What would our submarines be doing?
– At any rate, the arsenal should be in a place which is as difficult .to. get at as possible from the sea or by land. The Tuggeranong site is safe enough from attack by land, because it’ is well protected.
– If the arsenal is sufficiently far from the sea to protect it from seaplane attack, how will we get the munitions distributed to the different centres ?
– There will be no difficulty in that respect. The main qualification for an arsenal is that it shall be located so as to be conveniently accessible to all parts of the continent, and so that munitions of war can find their way easily, and with the least possible difficulty to any threatened point. Who can suggest that Canberra is in such a central position as will enable it to easily distribute the munitions of war manufactured there to any part of Australia ?
– What would be a central position ?
– My suggestion is that the arsenal should be built on the strategic railway that will have to be built later on to connect Port Augusta with Sydney, or Adelaide with Brisbane.
– If we build the arsenal first, and the railway some day, the establishment will, in the meantime, be out in the desert.
– The trouble with the honorable member and others, and with many people outside is that, in this respect, they do not look far enough ahead.
– The American idea is to have smaller arsenals.
– The honorable member is anticipating a remark that I hope later to make.
– In India, they are altering that system after having had experience of it.
– The main thing is to get a proper site whether there is railway communication to it at present, or whether iti is provided later on. At any rate, we should have a central point from which railways will radiate to all the parts of Australia that will require special a’t’tention from a defence point of, view. The back country of New South Wales, on the Murray River, or on the Darling River, which will provide a good water supply - an absolute necessity for arsenal purposes - will be safe from attack by sea or land) and will be central for the whole of the Continent. The point mentioned by the honorable member for Kooyong cannot be too strongly stressed. Nothing ‘ but harm and danger can come to any country in which everything that is absolutely essential for its defence is so located that one blow staggers the lot. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has mentioned that India is reversing the policy of having a number of small factories, and is concentrating in one big centre; but India is also following out what the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) has suggested as a proper policy for Australia, that of not depending on one arsenal only, but of also making arrangements with manufacturing firms to have a certain amount of machinery always ready to be turned off the ordinary manufacturing processes to the manufacture of munitions. The report of the Arsenal Committee sent to India deserves very considerable attention, Mr. B. T. McKay is well known as a man of eminent qualifications, and his opinion is of the highest value. Other members of the Committee were Professor Payne, Mr. Marcus Bell, Major Gipps, and Colonel Owen, of the Works and Railways Department.
– Not one of those gentlemen can be said to be an expert in the manufacture of munitions.
– None of them has had the opportunity of gaining experience in the manufacture of explosives, but I do not think that that is a disadvantage. On the other hand, I think that that is a qualification, because their business experience enabled them to decide what was the best thing to do, and where would be the best place to build the Arsenal. I received their report with a considerable amount of hesitation, because, as a layman with a limited experience, I was not inclined to agree with their ‘ conclusions. They suggested a concentration policy, drawing everything into the Arsenal, wherever it may be established, and they approved of its establishment at Tuggeranong.
When the proposal was made to duplicate the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow the Public Works Committee recommended that the duplication should be a* Canberra. The manufacture of rifles can easily be separated from the manufacture of other munitions, and I see no reason why it cannot be carried on both at Lithgow and at Canberra. It would not be a disadvantage to have a healthy competition between the two places. There is opportunity for two good factories to be kept going. At any rate, it would enable us to decide whether the location at Lithgow or the disadvantages of Canberra prevented us from turning out better work at oneplace than the other. In the establishment of an arsenal we must include the erection of smelting works and steel works, the manufacture of guns, also the manufacture of carriages, and the manufacture of shells. So far in our limited defence of Australia we have met with no diaculty in having rifles manufactured at Lithgow and ammunition manufactured at Maribyrnong, and in getting the two together wherever they are required in any part of Australia. Therefore, how can it be suggested that there is any serious danger or disability in having the Arsenal distributed instead of concentrated ?
– Would there not be the disadvantage of uneconomical management ?
– I do not think that that would be a very important matter, because every branch of an arsenal is self contained. We must have a competent manager over each Department. The man who manages the manufacture of gun carriages would be obviously incompetent to manage the manufacture of rifles.
– Is the honorable member in favour of making Canberra a Sheffield ?
– No, I am not in favour of establishing the Arsenal at Canberra. I do not think the Federal Territory is the place for it.
– It ought to be where there is coal.
– There are many disadvantages at Canberra for the establishment -of factories to turn out big guns and shells for those guns. It is proposed to spend millions of money in building handsome structures at Canberra’, a splendid Parliament House, a residence for the Governor-General, and public buildings.and so on, yet 7 miles away we propose to build the one thing that will jeopardize, unnecessarily and uselessly, the whole of that expenditure.
– Of course, those trade experts never considered that aspect of the question.
– I do not think that the Defence people ever consider such matters when they are spending money. The less liberty they are allowed in the expenditure of public money the better it is for the country. I suppose that most of the Naval and Military expenditure in this schedule will be spent without any supervision so far as this Parliament is concerned. The Public Works Committee is supposed to inquire into the why and wherefore of every public work over £25,000 in value. Yet under a clause in the Public Works Committee Act, all the naval and defence expenditure may be exempted from inquiry by that Committee.
– That is a pity, because there were some experts on the last Committee.
– I do not say that; but if any proposed expenditure requires scrutiny by a Public Works
Committee, it is that on defence and naval works. The Minister for the Navy knows that as well as I do.
– What is the good of me saying anything ? You will not take any notice of me.
– And the converse is true. What is the good of us saying anything when Ministers just sit there and smile ? The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) tried to create some enthusiasm in regard to the expenditure in the Postal Department. The honorable member will do everything except vote to reduce the amount, and thus give practical proof that he means what he says. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) was very earnest in urging reasons for a reduction in expenditure, but he is not prepared to vote to reduce the items by a single penny.
– The honorable member was prepared to sit down when the Minister said he wanted the Bill.
– Yes. The Minister smiled at the honorable member, who promptly sab down, and was ready to apologize. In another respect, I, do not agree with the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Manifold). He says that we must proceed with the construction of the Arsenal. In the near future, Australia will have to realize that it must be self-contained in the manufacture of war material. One can only imagine with horror what would happen to the Commonwealth if we made no attempt to manufacture our war material. The enemy has only to cut our sea connexions, which is a very simple thing to do, and our oversea supplies being cut oft, we are immediately left undefended. I believe that Australia can be absolutely selfcontained in the manufacture of war material ; but it is not necessary that we should spend enormous sums of money just now in establishing institutions which, after the war, may be absolutely useless. For instance, defence by sea has assumed altogether a different phase during the last three years. While it is true that battleships and cruisers are still effective for certain purposes, the defence of Australia in the future will depend more on submarines than on any other class of ship.
– Who says that?
– That is my opinion.
– What about cruisers and destroyers?
– They are certainly a most useful and necessary part of the defence scheme, because our first line of defence may be 1,000 miles from the sea-board.
– There were fifty or sixty ships in the Jutland battle, and not one was hit by a submarine.
– Submarines did not operate to any extent in that battle, because the destroyers were too busy. Today the British Navy is unable to approach the German coast, not because of German battleships, but because of the mines and submarines.
– The submarines cannot stop the Navy ; it is the mines that keep the German coast intact.
– I ask honorable members to consider whether the sea defence of Australia could not be very effectively managed if in each of our ports - not in a few ports as under the present system - we had six, or a dozen, or even a score, of submarines?
– Did the honorable member read the other day that the Japanese Government is building a 32,000-ton Dreadnought ?
– Yes. The ships being built by all the nations are bigger than ever; but they are not for defence, but for offence.
– And offence is very often the best form ofdefence.
– I invite honorable members to consider whether a fleet of submarines in each of the ports of Australia would not be a very much more economical and effective proposition than a fleet of big ships - economical because the cost of construction would be small as compared with the building of large ships, and effective because very few enemy ships would venture to attack ports which were defended by mines and submarines.
Another reason why I think we should not proceed with the building of the Arsenal at the present time is that after the war we shall have to re-cast the whole of our ideas with regard to warfare. When the war is over, we shall have all the experience of other countries to guide us as to the best policy to follow, and we shall be able to get as much machinery as we shall need for the manufacture of munitions at a very reasonable cost. Much of the machinery that is in use today will be practically useless to other nations, and they will be anxious to unload to any buyer. Much of themachinery in the munition factories in Great Britain, America, and France will be purchasable when the war is over, and I know of no better commencement that we could make than by securing some of that machinery as our initial arsenal plant. I do not suggest that we should buy all our machinery abroad, because I believe that we can manufacture some of it in Australia. Honorable members who have an intimate knowledge of what took place in Australia when we tried to manufacture shells some months ago, will readily admit that the adaptability shown by our mechanical engineers with the machinery then at their disposal was a credit to them, and a surprise to most people. I suggest that we can afford to go slow in the matter of arsenal expenditure.
– We have had enough of the “ go-slow “ policy in this country.
– In the erection of the Arsenal we should do well to go slow, because after the war we shall be able to avail ourselves of the experience of the world in a way that we cannot do now. In a report read in the House this afternoon, we learned that the Commonwealth Government asked the Imperial Government for the services of a man to manage a certain branch of the Defence Department, and the Imperial Government replied that they could not spare such a. man.
– Do not be toosure that there will not be fresh trouble in trying to settle this war.
– I do not overlook the danger of trouble when the present war is over, nor do I overlook the danger from the East, which sometimes sits on my mind like a nightmare.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I disagree with the remarks of the last speaker (Mr. Finlayson) iri regard to the necessity for a go-slow policy in connexion with the Arsenal and other defence works. If there is one obligation imposed upon Australia it is that it shall be self-contained in regard to defence, and I urge upon the Government that, instead of going slow in this matter, they should go as fast as they can, so that we may at any rate be able to make our machine guns, and munitions, and shells, locally, and with a view to the production of larger armanents later. The objection of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) to having the Arsenal established at Canberra does not seem to be based on a consideration of the practice that would he followed if war came to Australia. It is true that at the Arsenal ammunition, rifles, and cannon would be built, but not all our requirements in that respect would be made there. The Government would distribute throughout Australia men trained at the arsenal in munition work, so that all the big engineering establishments could be converted in avery short time into munition factories. To say that the whole of the munitions and arms required for the defence of Australia should come from Canberra is an absurdity to anybody who knows anything about manufacturingon a large scale. I trust that the Government will proceed as fast as they can with the establishment of the Arsenal on uptodate lines. At the same time, I disagree with some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Manifold) about the mistakes that are being made. The honorable member seemed to think that we shall continue to make those mistakes, and that the fact that we have made them in the past does not matter. We should know what officers are responsible for the blunders that have taken place, and they should be punished. We are not doing any pioneering in Australia. We have for our guidance the experience of other countries, which have been engaged in these operations for centuries, and we should not expect to make the mistakes that they made in the first place. We should be able to proceed straight ahead in the light of knowledge gained by the experience of the whole world.
The same argument applies to the naval bases. To say that Australia, with its vast coastline, can be best defended by submarines, is to speak entirely against the experience of this war. The submarine has proved to be merely the commonest destroyer, and I do not think that I have heard of more than a few isolated cases of submarines having been of any value against capital ships, or other fighting ships of a class higher than themselves. When the enemy comes to Australia, the chances are that he will not come with submarines, but with capital ships, and we must have capital ships to meet his.
I do not propose to criticise the items in the schedule, except to say that I desire more information with regard to certain matters. I admit that those who have occupied seats in this House for some years probably have all these matters at their fingers’ ends, and that if I were an old member of the House I should know something about them. As it is, I think we should have some little explanation, and if the Minister had seen fit to furnish us with such an explanation at the outset, he would have avoided a good deal of criticism, and have saved honorable members a good deal of effort.
One item concerning which I should like some information is that of £90,000 in respect of the Commonwealth contribution under the Murray River Waters Act of 1915. I certainly do not desire to urge a “ go-slow “ policy in regard to that undertaking, but I am anxious to know what is being done. I was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria when the Murray Waters Bill was passed through that House, and I took a very keen interest in it. The big reservoir at the head of the Murray would be in my State electorate, and naturally, therefore; I was keenly interested.
If I remember the figures rightly, the Commonwealth, in giving £1,000,000 towards this scheme, is contributing something like one-fourth of the total estimated cost. It would appear, therefore, that the £90,000 provided for in the schedule to the Bill is part of a proposed total expenditure of £360,000 to be incurred now by the Federation and the three States interested in the work.
– £419,000 is the estimated total.
– The information I wish to obtain is whether this is to be the initial expenditure on the head-works of the Murray.
– No; it represents mostly down-stream expenditure and up-stream investigation.
– According to the latest figures I have seen, the investigation work has cost about £60,000, so that a very large portion of this amount should not be necessary for Upper Murray investigation. My information goes to show that if the Commonwealth and States concerned agree to build a great reservoir on the Upper Murray, they will make a big mistake. I know that engineers, like all other professional men, are anxious to have their name associated with ‘any very big work, and that this Upper Murray reservoir scheme would be the biggest thing of its kind in the world.
– It is estimated that it will be about the fourth largest in the world.
– It is to hold 1,000,000 acre- feet of water. In their investigations, so far, the experts have ignored the possibility of going up to the head of the river and building three or more small reservoirs, which would give the same results as the bigger scheme, and at the same time would have an advantage over it. If anything went wrong with the big scheme, then the whole - thing would go; but if one of four small reservoirs failed, there would be no loss of life, since they would be at the head of the river, far removed from populated districts, while the general scheme would not be interfered with, since three would still remain intact. The experts say that the best site they can find is the junction of the Murray and the Mitta. Borings, we are told, have shown it to be the best, with the exception of that near Jingelic.
– Except for submergence.
– I know the class of country that would be submerged at the junction of the Murray and- the Mitta Mitta, and I do not hesitate to say that if that site were selected, before a sod had been turned it would be necessary to expend £750,000 or more by way of compensation to land-owners. What is more, between 30,000 and 40,000 acres, comprising some of the best land in Victoria and New South Wales, would be submerged. Much of this land is worth £120 an acre; a fair average, I believe, would be £15 per acre. Not only would we have to bear the cost of compensating the owners of these valuable areas, but some of the best alluvial river flats in Australia would be put out of production for ever. The Commonwealth and the States concerned should hesitate before they enter upon a big scheme at the junction of the Murray waters with the Mitta. Yet another disadvantage of that site is that the construction of the big reservoir there would cut off a large number of people from their markets.
The objections that have been raised to the provision of smaller reservoirs at the head of the river do not seem to be valid. Proper investigations have not been made of the possibilities of such reservoirs. We have been told that , the catchment area there is insufficient; but those who have seen the rivers coming down as they have been during the last year would hardly be disposed to give any attention to such a suggestion. Practically the whole of the water for the Murray River scheme comes from the north-east of Victoria and part of Kosciusco. One of the advantages of providing reservoirs at the head of the river is that there would be practically no compensation to pay for land. The greater part of the country there consists of Crown lands, and £10,000 would probably cover all the compensation that would have to be paid. These works would also increase the value of the land, and lessen, to a large extent, its liability to flooding. In short, they would result in land that is now being used for grazing purposes being converted into valuable agricultural country fit for the production of maize, potatoes, or- any other class of produce requiring rich soil.
– And the cost of weiring would probably be less per acre-foot, would it not!
– I think the actual cost of the building of the weir, apart from the compensation to be paid, would be a little more per acre-foot at the head of the river, since it is further away from railway communication, and the transport of material would consequently cost more. I have seen ideal sites up there, however, and I would urge the Minister, before consenting to any scheme for a big reservoir on the Upper Murray, to insist upon the very closest investigation. If we construct one big reservoir beyond Albury, we shall make a big mistake, and destroy very valuable land.
– Before deciding anything, the Commission is going up the river as soon as the flood waters allow.
– That may be some time hence. If this money is to be expended downstream - alt Lake Victoria, or elsewhere in that direction - I shall have no special objection to the item, because it will be devoted to what is part of a complete scheme. The only point I raise relates to the question of site, and not to any objection to the scheme itself.
I am not going to criticise any more of these items, save that relating to the undergrounding of city telephone wires, which has already provoked considerable criticism. I should like to draw a comparison between the work of the Department in our cities and in our country districts. It seems to me that even if the Department proposed to gild the telegraph posts in our cities, it would be said to be a legitimate undertaking, but that when the Department cuts off the telegraphic or telephonic facilities which some little country ‘ districts have enjoyed, it is said to be performing a great national duty. I decline to remain quiet while my constituents are injured in this way. I decline to see the benefits of civilization taken away from them while money is being freely spent by’ the Department in cities that are already very well served. Throughout the country there is considerable dissatisfaction with the administration of the Postal Department. That feeling is growing and becoming more bitter every day. If the PostmasterGeneral will say that he has laid down the rule that before postal or telephonic communication is extended to a country centre a guarantee must be given by the residents to be served, we shall know where we are. If that, is the policy to be adopted, then I can only say tha* it is wrong, and that we should have an opportunity to discuss it, and to determine whether it should be applied to country districts.
– The States have never found it a right policy.
– No. It seems to me that the more facilities we supply to country districts the more we shall encourage people to settle on the land. We should endeavour to give the people of rural districts some of the comforts and luxuries of civilization which in this respect the people of our cities enjoy. Inthat way we shall be doing the country’s work by helping development. I hope that before this debate closes the Minister will be able to give us the information for which we look. I am confident that he can advance good reasons for most of the proposed expenditure, but I certainly should like more information concerning certain items in the schedule before I consent to vote for them en bloc.
– We have had what is practically a long secondreading debate on this motion, and it seems to me not altogether inappropriate. I did not think it wise, however, to intervene with an explanation of items that are scattered broadcast over the schedule. I think it will save the time of the Committee if Ministers give information within their power when we come to the respective items, all of which can be traversed seriatim. Criticism has been indulged in with respect to the Naval .Bases, the Arsenal, the Upper Murray scheme, and other items, but we have information which we think will be sufficient to induce the Committee to vote for the. whole of them. It will be far better, however, to give that information in particular rather than in general, and that is the course I propose to adopt.
.- I have every reason to indorse the remarks made by the honorable member for - Indi (Mr. Leckie) and others, who have condemned the cheeseparing policy adopted by the Postmaster-General in his treatment of country telephone and postal services. Some two or three years ago, when the present Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) was Leader of the Opposition, he led myself and about halfadozen more of his followers in a vigorous attack upon the present member for Darwin (Mr. Spence), who was then PostmasterGeneral, for doing the very thing which his colleague now proposes to do. The then Postmaster-General said he was going to double the telephone rates. He told us that his Department was being carried on at a loss of £500,000 a year, and that the whole of that loss was incurred in respect of city services, whereas country telephone lines were paying their way. In these circumstances, it seems to me that the item of £200,000 set down in the schedule for the provision of conduits for undergrounding the telephone wires in our cities should be. diverted to the provision of better postal and telephone services in country districts. The honorable member for Indi has properly told -us that it is our duty to make country life as attractive as possible in order that we may entourage sentiement and increase production. The Government propose to spend out of loan account £2,849,919 on public works during the year 1917-18, and of that amount only £258,980 represents expenditure on productive works. I agree with the proposed expenditure on productive works comprised in the items of £26,000 and £20,000 for the extension of the railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River southwards-
– Is that a productive work ?
– Yes. The . Northern Territory at the present time is the white elephant of the Commonwealth, and we must make it productive. We can hope to develop it only by the building of railways. We still have a distance of 1,034 miles to bridge between the Oodnadatta railway line and the Katherine River line. Mr. Knibbs in his- Tear-Bool: states that if we could only connect these two lines it would shorten the time occupied in conveying mail* between London’ and Adelaide to -something like seventeen days. Moreover it is highly necessary that we should develop the Northern Territory. It has. often been described as the backdoor of Australia, though it is the front door for the Asiatic nations of which the honorable member for Cook has been speaking. We must, therefore, fill up its waste spaces by developing the country. This we can do only by extending its railway system. Let us compare the length of railways there with the length of railways in other States. In New South Wales there are 4,444 miles of railway to serve an area of 309,000 square miles.
– But how does the population of New South Wales compare with that of the Northern Territory?
– The railways were made before New South Wales got her present population. Settlement always follows railway construction. That was the experience of Canada when the Canadian-Pacific line was made. That line was carried through country in which there was no population, and has made land which then was worth nothing worth now £7 or £8 per acre. Victoria has 3,963 miles of railway to serve 87,884 square miles of territory. The Northern Territory, however, has only 146 miles of railway to serve 523,000 square miles of territory. In Victoria there is a mile of railway to every twenty-two square miles of territory, but in the Northern Territory there is only one mile of railway to every 3,582 square miles of territory.
As to the proposal to expend £8,100 on the purchase of land in Melbourne for a site for a laboratory, I wish to say that it would be much better to put the laboratory at Canberra. If we are to make a city at Canberra we must place, our Government institutions there, and in -the Federal Territory we have land which can be used as a site for a laboratory at no cost to the Government.
There is put down £114,680 for the resumption of land in the Federal Territory. That, in my opinion, is a justifiable proposal. The Government contracted some time ago to purchase the land for which this money will be paid, and is bound to carry out its contracts. The land in the Federal Capital Territory has been dispraised by persons who do not know its value. I have gone through the Territory carefully, and have’ found that most of the land that the Governnent has resumed there enjoys a good rainfall, has been netted in, and the rabbits dug out, and is carrying at least a sheep to the acre. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) has suggested that it would be a good thing to use that land for the repatriation of our returned soldiers. At the present time it is cut up into 500 and 1,000-acre blocks, and many blocks are held by one man. In one case 26,000 acres are leased by one man. A. system of dummying prevails in the Territory. The land there should be put to better uses, and how could it be better used than by providing homes and farms for the soldiers who have served us so well at .the Front?
.- I desire to refer to the item -
Railway - Completion of Construction Line and New Bridge on Queanbeyan Line, and additional waterway on Queanbeyan to Canberra Line, £8,300.
The Committee will recollect that when we had some works proposals before us recently, I elicited from the Minister information as to the amount put down for preservative works. The Minister for Home and Territories informed us that £5,000 was to be expended in paying for material that had been purchased for the construction of this line. My objection to the line is that it is useless, not being required, and will yield no revenue. Moreover, it is being improperly and, I believe, illegally constructed. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) spoke at some length this afternoon about its uselessness, and I indorse every word that he said in that regard. Honorable members may not be aware that the determination of the route of a line from Canberra to Yass was referred for report to the Works Committee, and that the Committee, after taking evidence, recommended a route which deviated only slightly from that laid down by Mr. Griffin in his premiated plan. But the Committee also recommended that the work should not be. proceeded with at present, there being no need for it, and that a surface line of a temporary character should be made somewhere in the vicinity of the site fixed for the Parliament House and the public offices, for the conveyance of material to facilitate building operations. It will surprise honorable members to learn that, although the Commonwealth has a Railways Department, presided over by a competent EngineerinChief ‘and staff of officials, this railway is being constructed without reference to the experts whom we employ. I believe that Mr. Bell has not been consulted in regard to it at all. The Director of Federal Capital Design and Construction makes no claim to be a railway engineer, and admitted, when under examination by the Commission appointed, to investigate the administration of affairs at Canberra, that he had never superintended the construction of a railway. He has, however, taken upon himself the construction of this line, and the purchase of material for it. The proposal to construct the line has never been before Parliament, and has not received Parliamentary sanction. Mr. Griffin calls it a tramway, a constructional line, but on the occasion to which I have referred the Minister for Home and Territories explained that it would ultimately be part of the main line to Yass. When I say that the line is being improperly constructed,’ I mean that Parliament should have been consulted before it was commenced.
– The line is being constructed not under Mr. Griffin, but under the departmental officers.
– It is being constructed under Mr. Griffin, who, although eminent, possibly, as a landscape gardener and architect, has already proved that he is unfit to superintend the construction of a railway. I am informed that last year Mr. Griffin purchased a certain quantity of rails, fish-plates,- dog spikes, and other material for this line. Instead of making his purchases through the EngineerinChief or the officers of the Department, he’ bought the material on his own account. I am informed that the Railways Department could have supplied new material for the sum of £5,167 17s. lid., and that the sum paid by Mr. Griffin for material, which, according to the inspector’s report, consists of 284 tons of first-class rails, and 166 tons of second-class rails, with fishplates, waa £7,458 5s., or £2,290 7s. Id. more than should have been paid.
– I am having a statement prepared as to the effect of that purchase, and propose to lay the papers on the table if honorable members wish to see them.
– The Commonwealth -has lost over £2,000 because of Mr. Griffin’s action in purchasing this material without consulting the Engineer-in-Chief for Railways.
– Were the figures supplied by the Department or the Engineer-in-Chief ?
– I am satisfied that the information is correct.
– Did Mr. Griffin act on his own initiative, or was he instructed by the Minister to purchase the material?
– My information does not say. I do not think that Mr. Griffin would have acted without the authority of his Minister.
– Did the honorable member’s informant give the value of the material at the time the purchase was made?
– My information was that at the time the Department could have supplied better material than that which Mr. Griffin, bought, and the same quantity, for over £2,290 less. Mr. Griffin admits that he is not a railway man, and that fact is the ground of my complaint. This railway is being improperly constructed, because it is under the supervision of a man not competent, instead of under the supervision of officers paid by the Commonwealth. I venture to say that this railway is not only being improperly constructed, but is being illegally constructed. So far as I can gather, there was spent on this railway last year an amount approximately of £14,550.
– What is the length of the railway?
– About 3* miles. During the debate which took place on the previous Works and Buildings Estimates, the Minister for Home and Territories explained that £5,000 of a certain vote was to pay for materials purchased for the construction of this line, and I think it perfectly fair to add that amount to the £14,550. In the Bill before us, there is a further sum of £8,300 for the completion of this line and an additional waterway. I have made inquiries, and I understand that of this £8,300 some £7,500 is required for the railway, making a total of £27.050.
– Those figures are scarcely correct.
– If the figures are not correct, the Minister will be able to correct them when we deal with the item. My principal object to-night is to give the Minister and the Department an opportunity to correct my figures if they are wrong, and to place the true facts of the case before honorable members. If this railway, including the bridge across the Molonglo, is to cost £27,050, it is, as I say, being’ illegally, as well as improperly, constructed. The Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act of 1912-14 provides -
No public work of any kind whatsoever, except such works as have already been authorized by Parliament, or which arc authorized during the present session, and except works for the naval or military defence of the Commonwealth exempted by Order in Council from the operation of the Act, the estimated cost of completing which exceeds £25,000, and whether such work is a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, extension, or a new work, shall be commenced unless sanctioned as in this section provided.
It is difficult to blame any one Minister, because, in my opinion, the whole cause of the trouble is that the Minister first associated with the matter is no longer a member of this House. First of all, this work was under the direction of the Minister for Home Affairs, now represented by the Minister for Works and Railways; it was then transferred to the Minister for Home and Territories, and is now under the control of the Minister for Works and Railways. It will be seen, therefore, that we cannot blame any particular Minister ; but the Government are to blame for not being more frank and open with Parliament in connexion with this matter. It would appear that a Minister is actuated by a desire to shield his predecessor from the consequences of action, which, he, probably, would not attempt to justify. However, I have placed the facts before the Committee with a desire that the Minister will carefully note what I have said, and, before we finish with the schedule, give this House complete particulars as to the cost of the railway when it is finished. The honorable gentleman may also possibly inform honorable members why this work, has been allowed to be constructed without reference to Parliament. I do not desire to say anything more now; but when the particular item is before us, unless the Minister can give us some information which entirely contradicts what I have said, I shall- propose that it be deleted from the schedule.
– I have listened with great interest to the discussion, and have heard a great deal about public economy, but it would require a microscope to reveal any suggested economy in the speeches reported in Hansard or in the Estimates. The only economy I can see is in the cutting down of expenditure at one particular place, namely, Canberra. In every other Department the Estimates are swollen, and the expenditure greater than it was last” year.
– On public works £1,500,000 less is proposed to be expended than was the case last year.
– I fail to see that in the Estimates. Highly-paid officers have had their salaries increased, Departments ‘have been expanded, and altogether 1 fail to find any trace of economy except in one particular spot. I do not suggest any big expenditure at Canberra at this particular time, because I know the suggestion would be in vain; there is a strong element, especially in Victoria, opposed to any expenditure in that connexion. It would appear that in Melbourne there is a movement to kill the Capital; and in saying that I am voicing the opinion of thousands of people in this country. I say deliberately that the war is being used as a stalking horse, with a view to covering lavish expenditure in certain directions; in short, the Ministerial policy seems to be to tax and spend.
– There is no taxation worth speaking of proposed in the Budget.
-j- What about the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill, and the other proposals that we are to have? The proper policy should be that of retrenchment. My opinion is that we could do the Public Service work with about half the public servants we have at the present time. Half the public servants are engaged in writing minutes to the other half.
– The honorable member is travelling outside the schedule.
– I am drawn aside by interjections.
– The honorable member may assist me by not replying to the interjections.
– Does this Bill not touch public servants,- men supervising railways, and the (expenditure of loan moneys?
– It affects only expenditure on works in the schedule.
– I must bow to your ruling, though, to my mind> it is a most peculiar one. As I say, in my opinion the . policy of this country should be a policy of retrenchment - and not retrenchment in one place. Why is there no retrenchment at Flinders Base, or at Katherine River, or in other places where money is being spent like water?
– It has not. been spent like water at Katherine River.
– That is the voice of Victoria; it cannot help making itself heard in the endeavour to kill the Federal Capital in any way possible. Seventeen years ago inhere was a solemn compact made with New South Wales in reference to the Federal Capital. How much closer are we to-night to the possession of that Capital ? We are further off than ever. Let us keep the bond. We are now fighting a big war because a “scrap of paper” was torn up, and the effort of some members of the Government
– You first tore up the “ scrap of paper.”
– A Victorian dare not open his mouth on this subject !
– If Victorians are not opening their mouths they are trying to achieve their object in another way; and just now they are doing it very effectively with the aid of some of their Queensland “barracker.” At any rate, I am entitled to my own opinion that retrenchment is necessary, and not a policy of tax and squander. Compare the expenditure to-day with the expenditure of two or three years ago. The Minister for the Navy informs me that these Estimates are smaller than they were last year, hut I cannot see that that is so. What is the policy of the Post and Telegraph Department ? It is proposed to expend thousands on conduits. In six or seven cases in my electorate the Postmaster-General has said he will abolish small country mails unless the people are prepared to pay for the porterage, and he is also cutting off telephone lines. Personally I am prepared to support the cutting down of the vote for these conduits. I do not care how that will affect the Department - I shall vote for’ what I think is right. If members had the courage of their opinions they would agree with me in declaring that the Post. Office was never in such a rotten state as it is now.
– A large amount of the expenditure is for conduits in country districts.
-In what country districts ? In the country we cannot get posts, much less get our wires put underground. I notice that there is a good deal of expenditure in the PostmasterGeneral’s electorate of Gwydir.
– You are very wrong there.
– If we look through the Estimates we see Gwydir, Gwydir, Gwydir, .but very little about Eden-Monaro.
– That is not correct.
– Let the Postmaster-General tell us in what country districts these conduits are being laid down.
– I can give you a list.
– Tell me one from memory. You are interjecting from memory.
– I have a list.
– Tell me one.
– Order ! Interjections are disorderly.
– I want to’ know when this Parliament is going to carry out the compact with the State of
New South Wales. We have been here seventeen years. Is that not a fair spell ? But I find that the Government are still shutting down on expenditure on the Federal Capital. Is the money already spent to be left to go to rack, and ruin? Are the nurseries to be abandoned ?
– They are being kept up.
– I was told that the men were being taken away, and I have been told that one must be a Victorian to get a billet in the Federal Territory. Surely New South Wales is entitled to some consideration ? I remind Ministers that on the 26th May, 1915, the member for Lang (the Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) moved -
This motion, omitting the word “ undesirable,” was carried.
What right have Ministers to override the decision of Parliament? We had a Royal Commission to inquire into the expenditure at the Capital, and it made sweeping statements, but the Minister for Works and Railways has overriden the decision of that Royal Commission. It is the first time I have ever heard of a Minister overriding the report of a Royal Commission.
– Then the honorable member must have been asleep in the woods for twenty years.
– I have no desire to cross swords with the Minister, but a Royal Commission was appointed at great expense to inquire into the expenditure at the Capital, and yet the Minister acts in opposition to the report of that Commission. Where is the evidence upon which he has come to that conclusion ? The men blamed by the Royal Commission are still carrying on their responsible positions. I do not blame any Minister, but I maintain that the Government have a duty to carry out in regard to the Federal Capital. I do not ask that there should be any big expenditure, but I see no reason why we should not take the initial steps to accept one .of the plans that have been invited, and have been prepared. Surely we are able to decide which will be the best plan to adopt. I do not know th#.t the last speaker’s tirade against the railway is correct. I believe I know where his information comes from. But I ask the Minister to compare the cost of this railway with that which was built into the Territory by the New South Wales Government when rails and labour were cheaper. I do not think that we should always be attacking one man - the present Designer and Director of the Capital. I would not insult him by trying to praise him. He has a world-wide reputation and he is simply carrying out the instructions of his Minister. I do not understand why honorable members should make a “set” against him. It seems to me that they are trying to push him out.
– There is . a vendetta against him.
– I do not say that there is a vendetta against him. I know that the present Minister win give him fair play. I hope that he will see that a fair comparison is made in regard to the railway expenditure. If the expenditure is heavy it is because rails have risen in value. I do not think that we should always be giving the late Minister, Mr: King O’Malley, the “boot” because he is out of the House. We should try to give him fair play. He showed enterprise in carrying out his duties.
I do not see why we should have an expensive Railway Department. Presently we shall have a separate department for everything. The expenditure on the Public Service is going up to an alarming extent. Why send expensive men over from Melbourne to Canberra for a 3-miles extension ? I have a case in point - John Staunton’s. It is a matter of the expenditure of a few pounds on a fence in the Federal Territory, and has been before the Department for two years. The selector cannot get 1)aid by the Department half of the cost of a fence. I understand that the Department now proposes to send an inspector to see what the cost of the fence is, but I venture to say that his trip will cost more than the fence itself. The State officer in -the district could easily have supplied the information. There are men in tlie Territory whose land was resumed on the 1908 valuation who have not been paid yet. Here, again, we have an attempt to block the arsenal. This is no fad of mine, but we have had the Public Works Committee inquiring into the matter. We have sent a Committee to India at .’great expense, and we have consulted experts, and they have all said that Canberra is the best site for an arsenal. If an arsenal is required, why do we not make a start at once ? The matter is urgent.
Victorians have treated this Parliament very hospitably by providing us with this building and with Government House, and everything they, have done, has been in a most’ generous manner; but we have outstayed our welcome. Let us carry out our compact with the people of New South Wales. I am often accused of being the representative of the Federal Territory, but I am not. The people of the Federal Territory have no representative in this House.
– The honorable member is a very good substitute.
– The Minister for Works and Railways is a . very good substitute for the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn); who is now in the chamber. If I said anything unkind against that Minister’s own particular actions it would be an untruth. I believe that he is doing his best, but all .1 can say is that the results of his best are jolly bad. I do not blame him. He is affected by the environment of the officials surrounding him. lt is the officials who are running the country, and I cannot understand why honorable members do not make it known, and do not seek to. bring about an alteration. They do not, because the public servants have votes. We do not speak our minds as freely as we would if- they had no votes. Mine is like the voice of one crying in the wilderness. I find that £8,000 is to be provided on the Loan Estimates for the purchase of a piece of land at Royal Park for the establishment of a laboratory. Yet Mr. King O’Malley assured me that the Administrator’s residence at Canberra was fit for that purpose. Last’ week I readthat tenders were accepted for the building of a serum institute in Melbourne, at a cost of £12,000.
– It is absolutely necessary.
– Why should it be in Melbourne t
– If the honorable member knew the facts he would vote for the item.
– Having “ had experience of some of the honorable member’s facts, I am not disposed to take much notice of them again. The honorable member is inclined to pitch into Mr. King O’ Malley whenever he has a chance to do so, but I say that we should not pitch into a man who is away. He will get back here some day and have something to say to some of these gentlemen.
– Do not make any mistake. I want a fair deal as well as any other person, and I am going to get it.
– I do not say that the honorable member should not get a fair deal, but it is unfair, by innuendo or any other means, to try to push everything that is wrong on to an absent man.
– The gang who put him into the position is here.
– Let the honorable member “walk into them.” I undertake to say that the present Minister will not shelter behind any of his predecessors. If the railway to which reference has been made has been constructed without authority, the Minister will no doubt tell us; but let us have a fair comparison of the expenditure. Do not let us rely upon the reports of officers biased against another officer. When we come to set one official against another we have reached a very bad state of affairs in regard to the administration of the country. I amglad that wehave in office a Minister who, I believe, will put down that sort of thing. Notwithstanding the bias that he has shown in regard to some things, I am sure he will give the Federal Capital a “square go.” The people of New South Wales will not stand humbugging much longer. There is a feeling among them that they are not getting a fair deal. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. JosephCook) will wake up some day, and then some of the dreams of Ministers will prove very awkward. I ask the Minister for Home and Territories to pay the men whose land he has taken. They say in my district that he is a very nice man, and that he can write a very nice essay, but they want the money for their land. Instead of increasing the expenditure in many directions, and cutting it down in one spot only, we should apply the pruning knife to many items, and right through the Public Service. Items like the expenditure of £8,000 for the purchase of land at Royal Park for a laboratory could very well be omitted.
Let us not forget that seventeen years ago we made a solemn compact with the people of New South Wales, but we are further off the completion of that compact than ever. They are shutting down on the Federal Capital, and are blocking the arsenal, because some honorable members do not wish to have industrial centres near the Capital. If we do not have industries on the Federal Territory, how are we going to get population there ?
The state of things at Cockatoo Island Dockyard is a scandal. Before the present Minister assumed office, money was being wasted in thousands of pounds, and, unfortunately, . that waste . is continuing. It was initiated by the Labour Government’s “ go-slow “ system. The men are not to blame. I have looked into this matter, and have made certain representations to the Minister, who. I hope, is endeavouring to alter the system. The Dockyard is as big a sink for money as there is in this country. I see a large sum of money being voted in this schedule for ship building, and I know there is criminal extravagance at the Dockyard. The quicker the Minister gets on the track of the abuses that exist, the’ better, because very ugly things have been said. Unless some preventive measures are taken, I shall be obliged to read in the House some of the things that have been conveyed to me in letters I have received. Men have told me that if the Minister would protect them against victimization, they would tell him frankly of the things that are done there by the officers. The honorable member for Dalley knows the matters to which I refer.
– Hear, hear!
– If the Government desire to economize, let them apply the pruning knife all round, but let them make a commencement at Cockatoo Island. There is throughout the Commonwealth much wasteful expenditure which ought to be prevented. Every honorable member knows that the Public Service has outgrown our needs. Departments are being created for everything, and the Estimates show that each Department is increasing its expenditure this year. This state of affairs ought not to be. I am prepared to vote any amount for war purposes, because that money will be spent in the defence of our homes, but civil expenditure should be reduced instead of being increased.
– The Prime Minister says that we are not to deal with the Estimates before Parliament adjourns.
– There was a time when the honorable member would not have objected to the Prime Minister saying that. Now that the Prime Minister is on my side, of course, I support him. But I intend to call his attention to some necessary retrenchment. Members should have an opportunity of expressing by a vote their view that retrenchment should not take place only in one place, where there are no votes, and where the stoppage of work will mean the waste of thousands of pounds. Notwithstanding all that has been said, the officers of the Works Department, in many cases, did good work at Canberra, and all that work will be wasted if the present policy of discontinuing operations is persisted in. I hope that the Minister will see fit either to continue reasonable expenditure there, or to apply the pruning knife in other directions to at least half the extent that it is being applied at Canberra.
– I am quite prepared to withdraw any opposition to the Naval Bases, because honorable members do not seem inclined to support any reduction of the vote for that purpose.
– I should hope that they would not.
– But I intend to move an amendment to the item for conduits iby adding the words “ and telephones.” If that amendment is carried, it will be an instruction to the Minister that portion of the money must be spent for the provision of telephones in country districts. I understand that the Minister will agree to that amendment. I intend also to take a vote of the Committee in connexion with the establishment of the Arsenal at Canberra.
– In the Department of Works and Railways, criticism has been focussed principally on the item for the Arsenal. If the honorable member desires to move any amendment, he might do so now.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the schedule be taken in Departments ?
Honorable Members - Hear, hear!
Department of Works and Railways,
.- I move -
That the item “ General Arsenal - works and buildings, including erection of residential quarters - towards cost, £100,000,” be reduced by £ 1,000.
I wish the Committee to give a vote in regard to the site selected by the Government. I agree with honorable members that the manufacture of munitions of war should be controlled by the Government, and that some action should be taken at the present time to improve on the present condition of affairs. It is an absolute disgrace to the Government that, after the expenditure of large sums of money, the Commonwealth is manufacturing only rifles. With the plant established at Lithgow, supplemented by recent purchases, considerable work should have been done by the Government to manufacture other classes of munitions. What was there to prevent the Government undertaking the manufacture of machine guns during the last three years I So far, nothing has been done in that direction.The more one examines the work done at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, the more he feels that the establishment is deserving of condemnation. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) referred to the abuses at Cockatoo Island Dock. The honorable member for Cowper (Mr. John Thomson), who, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, had investigated the accounts at Cockatoo Island, quoted a report, prepared by a Committee the majority of whom were nominees of the last Labour Government, in which the faulty system and awful waste at Cockatoo Island were denounced.
– Order! The Cockatoo Island expenditure is in another Department.
– The House should take this matter of the arsenal into serious consideration, because the work will involve a cost of at least £2,250,000.
– What is the object of the honorable member’s amendment? Is it to stop building the arsenal ?
– No ; I will explain what I propose should be done. This work will cost about £2,250,000. At the present time, we have a Small Arms Fac tory at Lithgow, where capital to the amount of about £300,000 has been expended. There is now a good manager at that establishment, and considerable improvement has been shown in the working of the Factory, although the records show that the business of manufacturing rifles at Lithgow has been conducted in a manner reflecting disgrace on every person connected with the Factory. I have seen rifles from that Factory with the bolts so slack that there was one-sixteenth of an inch play, enabling the clip to be released at any point of its transit, and I have seen other rifles the forearms of which snapped like a rotten carrot. I have an official report showing that out of 300 rifles inspected in Western Australia over 100 had to be sent) back to the armoury for overhaul; and in company with Mr. Mcwilliams, Mr. Bamford, and Dr. Maloney, I waited upon the Minister, and informed him of what had been ascertained with regard to rifles
Bent to Western Australia. After our interview, Colonel Dodds was sent to Western Australia, and in his report to the Minister, he suggested a special examination of all rifles at Lithgow, with the result that Lieutenant Hart was sent to report upon the Factory. I have- a report from the Factory, which states that -
Hundreds of rifles which were ready to be sent out have all been condemned, and now we are in the assembling room trying to save something from the wreck.
There is, however, a splendid plant at Lithgow, erected under a special guarantee from Pratt, Whitney, and Company.
– Do you know the value of land there for workmen’s cottages ?
– Yes. Land has been offered to the Government at £44 per acre.
– Three and four families are living in one house at Lith-gow.
– That is because, for the last two or three years, there has been talk about moving the Factory, but I point out to the honorable member that over 100 of the workmen own their own homes there. Moreover, at Lithgow, there is a plentiful supply of cheap water and cheap gas, and nothing can be said against the . place on account of climate for the manufacture of explosives. As a matter of fact, there is no necessity at all to go either to Canberra or Lithgow to manufacture explosives. It would be wiser, before committing ourselves to this scheme, to get evidence from some expert instead of taking evidence from a man who gets his experience from the reading of magazine articles, and then poses as a military expert. We have had too mur:n of that sort of nonsense in the past. The machinery in .the Factory at Lithgow is magnificent, and the manufacture of steel is now being carried on there. There is also an ample coal supply within 500 yards of the establishment, whereas there is no coal at Canberra. When a couple of small sections of railway are completed Lithgow will be connected with Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, and by the transcontinental railway with Perth, so, geographically speaking, no other place is in a better position. The climate is about the same as at Canberra. .
I do not wish to delay the House unduly, but this is a matter of very great importance. I think the proposal to establish an arsenal at Canberra is opposed to all the ideas entertained originally with regard to the capital city of the Commonwealth. When Canberra was selected, we thought of it as the future social centre> the centre of learning, and the centre of t political thought; but if we decide to establish an arsenal within a few miles of the city, we will be creating a second Broken Hill almost on the door steps of Parliament House.
– It will be 9 miles away.
– No; it will be 7, and probably there will be tramway communication in the near future.
– Is it the question of the site that is troubling the honorable member!
– There are many objections. I regard the proposed expenditure as absolutely criminal. Had this proposal gone to a division twelve months ago, I am satisfied that a majority of the House would have voted against the removal of the Factory to the Federal Capital site. The Ministry of the day, however, dodged the question,
– Let us have a vote on the item. We are not trying to dodge the question.
– This is a big question, concerning which I feel very strongly. I wish honorable members to realize that we are at war, and that marvellous changes have taken place in the class of munitions and explosives used since the war began. The rifle we are manufacturing at the present time is entirely different from that which is used at the Front to-day, the change being due to the new explosive that is employed. The discovery of the value of molybdenite has led to great changes in the class of munitions used. After the war we shall have the best expert advice in the world available to us. As it is, we have none. We sent a number of gentlemen, who had never before been inside an arsenal, to gain information for us in India. I do not think the information they secured there will be of much service to us. After the war the very best expert advice of the Old Country will be forthcoming, and we shall know also what class of munitions we need to manufacture. We shall be able, further, to obtain the very be3t machinery, whereas to-day we cannot. My suggestion to the Government is that they should use the plant they have at present, supplementing it, perhaps, by some necessary purchases, and that they should erect temporary buildings at Lithgow.
– It is a shell plant.
– There is no reason why, with expert advice, we should not be able to manufacture machine guns. I fail to understand why something in that direction has not already been done. Only temporary buildings are required for the manufacture of shell cases and machine guns. Let us push on and do something solid. I am convinced that any business man with £40,000 at his disposal would very soon find the plant necesary to do the class of work we want to carry out. I strongly urge the Government to erect temporary buildings at Lithgow, and save the waste that this huge expenditure would involve.- I have no axe to grind in making this suggestion. I have not a friend in Lithgow, but I think that the proposed expenditure at Canberra at the present time would be suicidal.
Reported Mishap to Troopship - Prosecution under War Precautions Act at Darwin - Balance-sheets of Garrison Institute - Loading of S.S. “ Dimboola.”
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– It is rumoured that some mishap has occurred to the troopship Themistocles.
The Minister for the Navy will be able to say whether the rumour is correct or not, and an official statement by him would remove a considerable amount of fear and misapprehension on the part of relatives and friends of the men on board.
– I know nothing whatever about it.
– If the rumoured mishap has not happened - if the Minister has not official cognisance of such a thing, it is well that he should say so, and so allay public fear or misapprehension.
– I know nothing whatever about it.
– I have received the following lettergram from Mr. Nelson, secretary of the Australian Workers Union at Darwin: -
Much indignation here over Russian subject called Josef Slyshinsky being fined £50, and three months’ imprisonment, for posting unlawfully letter to person in Germany contrary to War Precautions Regulations. Facts Slyshinsky brother-in-law Russian Pole, prisoner of war in Germany, wrote to him on behalf of his sister. Letter addressed quite openly to German war camp, where prisoners kept. Contents of letter sever disputed. Nothing showing treason - never suggested same. Offence purely technical. Defendant wanted get information for sister from her husband. This explained Court when defendant pleaded guilty. No evidence called by prosecution. Russians and British here want Crown approached and sentence remitted. Punishment out all proportion. Nominal fine would have met case. Slyshinsky unjustly dealt with. Would be pleased if you would place same before Attorney and bring matter up in House.
Obviously, a fine of £50 and three months’ imprisonment for such an offence as this is outrageous. I hope the Minister representing the Minister will take the matter into consideration, and let me know, what can he done. I shall certainly refer to the matter later on, unless some reasonable decision is given.
– The honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard) asked for information as to the publication of balance-sheets of the Garrison Institute, the suggestion being that the balance-sheets were not available. I have obtained a report from Major Lockyer, Controller of Canteens, Victoria, stating, inter alia -
As a matter of fact, so far as I am aware, the Garrison Institute is the only organization in Australia which publishes in minute detail a monthly balance-sheet, with statement of ac counts covering -
These balance-sheets and accounts are conspicuously displayed each month outside each canteen for the information of the troops, and a copy is forwarded to the officer commanding. A separate set of accounts is prepared in respect to each canteen.
In addition, a printed price list is displayed on which is contained an invitation to the troops that “ any complaintas to price or quality ofgoods, or as to any other matter connected with the Garrison Institute, or any suggestion for its greater usefulness for the advantage of the troops may be addressed to the Comptroller or Deputy Comptroller.”
Whilst in this military district, I have had this printed invitation displayed at the canteens since January, 1916. I do not remember having received a single complaint or suggestion from any of the men in camp.
As regards the investment of profits in the war loan, the position is as follows : -
Certain funds, which represent our working capital, have been invested in the War Savings Fund, but they are available at call. The money isthe property of the troops, and is amply safeguarded in that respect. It is obviously impossible to safely work any trading business on such a margin as will insure that no profits be earned, and, further, when profits arc earned they should be applied to necessary requirements, and not spent merely because they are available.
– Some of them ought to be applied to the reduction of prices.
– No higher prices are charged than are absolutely necessary to carry on - .
Reserves are necessary for anticipated risks and losses, for deterioration of goods, and possible pillage, and other causes.
If the honorable member will compare the price-list posted up in each of the canteens with the prices prevailing outside, he will find it exceedingly reasonable. Major Lockyer adds -
We have erected from our funds a large number of canteen buildings, places of amusement, &c.; but, at the same time, we have pro vided the troopswith the best-quality goods at a minimum cost. This has been due to the expert assistance of civilian members of our committee of management, who have rendered voluntary service, with a result that our cost of management has been reduced to a minimum, and the savings effected by good management and efficient supervision very great indeed.
He also states that -
In each military district the administrative committee of the Garrison Institute not only includes civilian members of business experience, but representatives of the officers and men in each camp, and all concerned have the fullest opportunity of voicing any complaint, and of making any suggestions for improving the management.
Copies of the balance-sheet have also been forwarded, and are available for inspection by honorable members.
– Another report in circulation is that the Dimboola, which was said to be loaded by so-called loyalist labour, was found, after getting only a short distance on her way, to be in such an unsafe condition, through the incompetence of those who loaded her, as to be compelled to return to port. Does the Minister for the Navy know anything about that matter ?
.- It is marvellous what rumours are flying about. I should like to find out where some of them emanate.
– Is there nothing in the report I mentioned?
– Nothing whatever, so far as I am aware, or in the other. I was asked last week if the Themistocles had not sunk. She seems to be on the weekly list of sinkings. The last we heard of her she was all right, and on her way to her destination. That was only a few days ago, when’ she reported” all well.” These rumo.urs are cruel and cowardly, and one. can understand the anxiety of mind which they produce in people interested in the vessels.
– It is just as well that you should have the opportunity of officially denying them.
– I suppose it is, but I should very much rather find the miscreants who start them. They ought to be punished severely.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170912_reps_7_83/>.