7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.20 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what business the Government propose to deal with before the adjournment, and when that adjournment is likely to take place, so that honorable members may make their arrangements ?
– For the answer to the first part of the question, I refer honorable members to the noticepaper. We intend to-day to introduce a Bill to provide for the payment of a bounty upon the production of crude shale oil, and another to amend the Wood Pulp and Rock Phosphate Bounties Act. Of those already before the House, we shall deal first with the Loan Bill, now under consideration in Committee ; then with the Public Works Committee Bill, and the Committee of Public’ Accounts Bill, both, I think, non-controversial; with the Naturalization Bill, which is a non-party measure, and should not give rise to much discussion; with the consideration of the Senate’s amendments in the Railways Bill; and with the Defence Bill.
In regard to the second port of the question, it is the intention of the Government to ask the House to meet next Tuesday at 3 o’clock,, and next Wednesday, Thureday, and Friday, &i> 11 o’clock, so that, if possible, we may complete our business next week. That business will be the Repatriation Bill, the . measure providing for incerae taxation, including the taxation of single persons who are not otherwise exempt, and possibly a measure outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech; to provide for the creation of a Minister for Repatriation. It is proposed to adjourn only for a few weeks,
– When shall we be asked to meet again ?
– Some time in November.
– Will the Prime Minister make known to members, or lay on the table, the names of those persons who form the Boards controlling the dealing in various commodities, such as the Wheat Board1, the Wool Board, the Metal Board, and those intrusted with arrangements affecting jam, sugar, and hops ? .
– I shall, be glad to do so.
– Will the Prime Minister take into consideration the extreme age of a man who, at eighty-five years, has been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment with hard labour under the Unlawful Associations ‘ Act, with a view to reducing his sentence?
– Although the question is, perhaps, not an urgent one, I shall answer it without notice, because it relates to the administration of justice. My colleague, the Postmaster-General , has already brought the case under my notice. I do not know whether the man has been convicted under a State or under a Commonwealth law, and I am sure that the. honorable member will not ask me to say more now about the case than that I shall look into it.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) has given notice of his intention to move for the disallowance of a regulation under the War Precautions Act affecting the legal rights of persons who have taken action to redress what they consider a grave injustice. Will the Prime Minister provide an opportunity for the discussion of the motion? I understand that the regulation has a retrospective action,, and practically takes away the rights, of persons who have initiated actions in the Courts.
– I tbowgbt that: this Blatter had been’ disposed- of by a reply which I gave te- the honorable member for East Sydney. I told him that the regulation, in itself, would, be inoperative in the case in which he is interested,, unless I acted on it ; thai, if I did not take away this man’s, rights, he could not be prejudiced by it. I promised, moreover, that if I found it necessary to take away his rights, I would: give an opportunity for the discussion of the motion. If I do not interfere, there w31 be no necessity for such discussion.
– Wilt the PostmasterGeneral take into consideration the somewhat inequitable treatment of the monitors ‘in the telephone service in the suburbs. They are under the. obligation to report for duty from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day, and therefore never have a. free evening. Will the honorable gentleman be good enough to take the fact into consideration, and see if he can do something fox them?
– I shall give the matter immediate attention, and if relief is possible, I shall provide it.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy whether he has seen a published statement by an Admiral giving information as to how German wireless messages may be intercepted, and, if so, whether he proposes to take any action.
– Yes. I read the notification with some surprise and immediately called for an explanation.
– In order to remove a slur that has been cast on the Melbourne City Abattoirs, and which, is keenly resented by the Melbourne City Council, I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy whether he can inform the House where the livers, diseased with hydatids, that were supplied by Mr. Angliss to the Navy for consumption on board transports, were obtained. The Melbourne City Abattoirs deny that they were . responsible for any of these livers, going out, and they wish the matter to be cleared up.
– Answering this very old . question, I should like to say that the information I have dearly indicates that part of the supply of diseased livers came from abattoirs controlled by the Melbourne City Council. The remainder came from private abattoirs, which also had been, or should have been, inspected under the State health laws.
– Is Mr. Angliss the owner of the private abattoirs ?
– Yes; there is no secret about the matter.
– Will the Postmaster-General supply the House with a list of the isolated bush towns in which he is laying down the telephone conduits, to which reference was made last night ?
– I have been waiting an opportunity to do so.
– Some time back I asked the Minister for the Navy a question relating to naval men called upon to fill the place of strikers. The right honorable gentleman replied that he could not answer hypothetical questions. As one unionist to another, I now ask him whether he will give sympathetic consideration to the case of a man named Barry, who was called upon to do duty on board the steam-ship Sulla, under the control of the Department of the Navy, and who at the time was also discharging his own duties. By reason of the fact that he felt himself unable to do this particular work, he has been dismissed. Will the Minister consider the propriety of that policy?
– I am under the impression that there is on the noticepaper a series of questions concerning that, case.
Acquisition of Land
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories state when he proposes to pay some of my constituents in the Federal Capital Territory for land that was taken over two years ago, or whether he intends to pay them at all?
– In the six or sevencases covered by the honorable member’s question, there was a slight doubt as to whether we were compelled to complete the transactions, which were entered into by my predecessor in office, Mr. King O’Malley. Having looked into the merits of these cases, I thought the landowners should be paid. I applied to the Treasurer for the money, with the result that the Cabinet decided to-‘ recognise the transactions as if they had been made by this Government. On the money being forthcoming we shall settle with these landowners.
Regulations Under War Precautions Act - Deregistration of Unions,
Mr. SPEAKER reported that he had received from the honorable member for Yarra’ an ‘ intimation that he intended to move the ad journment . of the House, to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The issue of the regulations under the War Precautions Act.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
gave notice of his intention to move that a certain regulation be disallowed, thinking that the placing of such a notice on the notice-paper would prevent the regulation becoming operative until the motion had been dealt with. He was, however, wrong in that conclusion. A notice of motion to disallow a regulation has to take its place in the ordinary list, and my experience is that- it is seldom that we have an opportunity to discuss any notice of motion standing in the name of a private member, and no such motion is ever carried unless the House is practically unanimous.
Three regulations under the War Precautions Act have been issued to-day. One of these relates to the deregistration of unions. It is regulation No. 212, and it provides that -
After Regulation 29 of the War Precautions (Supplementary) Regulations the following Regulation is inserted : - “ 30. (1) Where the Governor-General is satisfied that any association or organization of employees registered under any Commonwealth or State Act relating to arbitration ‘or the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes has, or that members thereof or of any branch or section thereof have, since the making of this regulation ceased work or become engaged in a strike or cessation of work the Governor-General may by notice in the Gazette declare that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the registration of the association or organization shall for all purposes whatsoever be deemed to be cancelled and the members of the association or organization shall cease to be entitled to the benefit of any award ap- 1plicable to the association or organization, or, where the declaration applies only to one or more branches or sections of the association or organization, the registration of the association or organization shall as regards the members of that branch or section of those branches or sections be deemed for all purposes whatsoever to becancelled, and the members of that branch or section or those branches or sections shall cease to be entitled to the benefit of any award applicable to the association or organization. “ (2) Within seven days after the publication of the Gazette of any such declaration application may be made to the AttorneyGeneral by or on behalf of the association, organization, branch or section to which the declaration relates for the cancellation of the declaration, and if, after the AttorneyGeneral has heard the representations made by or on behalf of the association, organization, branch, or section, the Governor-General is satisfied that the association or organization, or the members thereof or of the branch or section, as the case may be, did not cease work or become engaged in a strike, or cessation of work, the GovernorGeneral may by order cancel the declaration made by him; and the declaration shall thereupon be deemed to be and to have been of no effect.”
The whole object of this regulation is to place on the unions, or branches of unions, the obligation to prove their innocence, thus inverting the ordinary processes of law, and what has been understood to be the foundation of justice in the community. First of all, a union is declared guilty, and is then called upon to prove its innocence. N/o one knows better than the Prime Minister the struggles that these organizations have had to obtain an award in the Arbitration Court. They have to wait for long periods before their cases can be heard, and I think I am safe in saying that years may elapse before an award is obtained; and now it is sought to sweep away all these rights and privileges because somebody thinks that something has been done that ought not to have been done. When the War Precautions Act was introduced by the present Prime . Minister, as Attorney-General, he, as reported on page 369 of Hansard, of the 28th October, 1914, said-
The Bill is. one that the present circumstances call for. It has been drafted to meet certain conditions lately arising, which the laws of the Commonwealth and the proclamations issued by the Governor-General have been insufficient to deal with. The Bill confers upon the Commonwealth power to make orders and regulations of a far-reaching character, and, as honorable members may see in clauses 4 and 5, is mainly directed to preventing the leakage of important secrets, to secure the safety of means of communication, railways, docks, harbors, or public works, and to deal effectively with aliens, and, in certain circumstances, with naturalized persons. Its aim is to prevent the disclosure of important information, to give power to deport, and otherwise deal with aliens, to interrogate and obtain information in various ways, and to appoint officers to carry into effect any orders or regulations which may be made under the Bill.
I was a member of the Government which introduced that measure, and I declare deliberately that not a member of that
Government expected that it would be used during an industrial crisis. I do not think there was one honorable member of the then Opposition who dreamt that the Bill, and the regulations framed under it, would be used, not for the purpose of settling industrial disputes, but for the purpose of creating them; yet some of the regulations are standing in the way of a settlement of the present industrial crisis.
– The Bill was meant for the “ other fellow,” was it?
– The Bill was never meant for the purposes to which it is now being put, and in support of that view, if time permitted, I could quote the words of the present Prime Minister, the Minister for the Navy, who was in Opposition at the time, the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Glynn), and others. It was never intended that we should be governed entirely by regulation. Another of the regulations, No. 213, which was foreshadowed in the press, but which I do not think has been put into force yet, gives the Government power, through the Governor-General, to alter the awards of the Court. The other day, when the Prime Minister, through certain of his officers, applied for an order that preference should not be operative at certain ports in Australia, His Honour took exception to the position assumed on behalf of the Government. His Honour, in effect, said that if he gave a decision against the Prime Minister the Prime Minister might turn round and exercise the power which the regulations gave him ; in other words, His Honour said that the Prime Minister placed him in the position of the man who had to do this thing, and asked what would his position be if the Prime Minister took a contrary view after the Court had given its decision. That, I think, is a fair interpretation of the attitude assumed by Mr. Justice Higgins.
– And very improper, tool
– It was- absolutely proper. If the Government have power to intervene, let the Government do so, and not endeavour to shelter themselves behind a Judge of the Arbitration Court. In point of fact, the Government are holding a threat over the head of a Judge, and no Judge worthy of the name would continue in the position if he knew that any decision he gave could be vetoed, amended, or revoked by the Government of the day. The Court has to decide whether the organizations were entitled to the preference granted in a proper legal way, under an Act passed by this Parliament. If the present Government and their supporters desire to amend the Arbitration Act, and to take away from the Judge the power to give preference, they ought to introduce an amending Bill in a straightforward way, so that we may have an opportunity of discussing it. Of course, honorable members opposite are all-powerful to-day, and are able to intervene on the side of the strong as against the weak; and they can endeavour to crush the workers, and take from them those rights for which they have struggled for so many years. But the Government and their supporters must not forget that there will be a “ to-morrow,” so far as the present industrial trouble is concerned. During the whole of the industrial crisis I have not said one word to accentuate it, or . make it more difficult of settlement. But now we have the Government issuing regulations with the object of de-registering unions which have struggled for years to obtain awards from the Court. We must not forget that organizations in other parts of the world have held that Arbitration Courts will be used by the “ fat man,” as against the worker; and certainly the present action of the Government tends to confirm that opinion. One regulation dealing with- the woollen’ industry has, in my opinion, been brought forward for the purpose of trying’ to bring the shearers into the present trouble. Up to now the shearers have not moved in this connexion, but I noticed in a newspaper report the other day of some Court proceedings in Sydney that they had been asked to come out on strike. The shearers here have not taken any action.
– They have in Queensland. There they have been out for a long while.
– Not the whole of the members of the Australian . Workers. Union in that State. A small section of the shearers in Queensland may have been on strike. The regulation which the Government has issued admits that small sections do at times take action against the advice of the main body. The> executive of the Australian Workers Union has deliberately opposed amy disturbance of the present industrial conditions, but I do not know anything more likely to provoke a dispute than the framing of this regulation. It is practically trailing a coat along the ground, and inviting, the shearers to tread on the tail of it.
– Will the honorable member read the regulation?
– Yes. This document is headed “ Amendment of the War Precautions Regulations,” and proceeds -
After Regulation 40c of the War Precautions Regulations the following regulation is in- . serted : - “ 40D. Any person who by word, deed, or otherwise - (a.) Interferes with, impedes, prevents, or hinders shearing operations or any work connected therewith, or incidental thereto, or the loading, carriage, unloading, handling, or storing of wool, or . . .
– It is intended to deal with carters of wool.
– It intends to deal with shearers. If it is not intended, to deal with shearers, why are they mentioned ? If it. is1 intended to deaL with, carters only, why is it not confined to them ? My opinion is that this has been done by the Government with the1 full intention of getting the shearers to go out on strike, in order to widen the area of the present industrial dispute.
– I thought that the Government were trying to get the men to gq back to work.
– They’are doing no such thing. They are taking this actionf or the purpose of provoking trouble. Nothing has happened in connexion with shearing that justifies the gazetting of this regulation.
– Is the honorable member not aware that those who shear early have been asked to hold their wool, because of the difficulty of getting it into the stores ?
– Apparently the honorable member was not listening when I read the early part of this regulation. It proceeds ; -
A third regulation, dealing with wharf labourers, says: -
After Regulation 40b of the War Precautions Regulations the following regulation is inserted : - “ 40c. Any person who, by word, deed, or otherwise -
Interferes with, impedes, prevents, or hinders the discharge, loading, coaling, or despatch of shipping, or the performance of any industrial operation connected therewith or incidental thereto, or
Interferes with, or impedes, any person or body of persons engaged in, or dissuades, prevents, or hinders any person or body of persons from becoming, or continuing to be, engaged in, the discharge, loading, coaling or despatch of shipping, or the performance of any such industrial operation,, shall be. guilty of an offence.”
There is a case now before the Court having reference to a carter who was driving a lorry-load of wall-paper, and, as alleged by the newspapers, was told not to take it to its destination. Its- destination was not a transport,, and the wallpaper had nothing to do with the war. The man who said “Don’t take that” was alleged to have broken , a regulation under the War Precautions Act. Apparently the Court said that the wall-paper did not come within the purview of the regulation under which the prosecution was instituted, and the case was dismissed, but the representativeof the Government asked for , a case to be stated1, with a view to taking proceedings in a higher Court, probably with the object of Weeding the union of all its funds if it attempts to fight the case. It is very- easy for a Government, with the whole of the wealth of the community behind it, to smash an organization by taking cases from Court to Court, in the hope that in the end the workers will be defeated, and it is quite possible for this to be done under these regulations.
Great exception has been taken to the administration of the censorship regulations. We were informed yesterday, in reply to a question submitted, that the Argus was allowed to. publish the manifesto of the Strike Committee in Sydney, while the LabourCall was not permitted to do so. I am anxious to know whether the Argus has been dealt with1 under the War Precautions Act, or why the censor should prevent one newspaper from publishing what the Argus was allowed to publish. There is an additional censorship regulation, to tighten it up, I suppose; and it reads as follows: -
Regulation 28 is amended by inserting the following new sub-paragraph (4) : - “ (4) Any proprietor, printer, or publisher of any newspaper or periodical, and any author, printer, or publisher of any book, circular, or other printed publication, in which a report or statement is spread or made in contravention of this Regulation, whether contrary to the instructions of the proprietor, author, printer, or publisher, or otherwise, shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.”
A speech was delivered in another place on Thursday last by Senator Gardiner in connexion with the present industrial dispute, and though the newspapers controlled by my friends opposite gave full publicity to the remarks of Senator Millen, the representative of the ‘Government in the Senate, they did not give much publicity to the remarks of Senator Gardiner, and I understand that when permission was sought to publish a reply in the Labour Call, it could not be obtained.
I wish to place on record two sentences given utterance by Mr. .Justice Higgins in dealing with the Government’s application for the deregistration of the “Waterside Workers Union. I am quoting from the Argus of the 3rd September. Mr. Justice Higgins, speaking to Mr. Starke, who represented the Commonwealth Attorney-General, .said: -
Are you in a position to explain why the Prime Minister does not deregister the organization under the new regulation under the War Precautions Act?
Mr. Justice Higgins was aware of the existence of ‘this regulation, that we have received officially only to-day. Later on Mr. Justice Higgins said - 1 confess that I should like to act as a Judge should act, without a sword hanging over the Court, that ‘if he does not comply with an applicants wish, the applicant may do it himself.
That was an unfair position in which to place the Judge of the Arbitration Court. If the Government were honest in their desire to see the law administered fairly, and if they had any intention at that time of doing ‘that which. this regulation gives them power to do, it was their duty to have taken such action without appealing to the Court. The Government have n® right to govern ‘this country -by regula tion. When the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine)- was discussing the War Precautions Bill on 28th October, 1914, he said -
Clause 5, especially, deals with particular measures requisite for the maintenance of effective defence and security, such as the prohibiting of aliens from embarking, the preventing of persons from disclosing information, and from communicating with the enemy. With regard .to all these things, Parliament will be prepared to give to the Executive the fullest powers required.
Every honorable member on this side is in hearty agreement with that statement;, but we object to the War Precautions Act being -employed for purposes which have absolutely nothing to do with the war. Honorable members opposite may say that the Act is in existence, and they will use it as they like.
– It was intended by the honorable member’s party for use against the “ other fellow.”
– It was intended for use against enemies’. I defy anybody to say that the Labour Government intended to use the Act against employers as a class, as it is being used by the present Government against employees as a class. The workers were never intended to be brought within the scope of this Act ; but the present Government have stretched the War Precautions Act for the purpose of intervening in an industrial dispute, and not with a view “ to the settlement of the trouble. The honorable member for Flinders continued -
But I feel a good deal of apprehension about the first part of clause -4. I know what theGovernment probably desires to obtain by it, but the method proposed for giving effect to that intention goes to a -length which I think has never been gone before; and the matter ought, therefore, to be considered. The clause, says the Governor-General may make regulations for securing the public safety and defence of the Commonwealth. That provision is absolutely unlimited. It invests the Executive. Government of the day with the most complete power to legislate, whether Parliament is or - 13 not sitting, on any matter touching the actions or conduct of any member Qf the, community.
That is the reason why I object to the use of these regulations as they are being used at the present time.
– The honorable member is -urging’ that the same regulations shall be used to reduce the cost of living.
– That would be a fair use to make of them, because we should be protecting the interests of the . whole of the people; but <if honorable members opposite object to the “War Precautions Act being put to that use, let them say so. I thank the honorable member for Wannon for hig interjection. He desires the Act to be employed against the strikers, but not against the food exploiters. The Act may not be used against the profitmonger, who, according to the Prime Minister’s description, gives £50 to a patriotic fund, and robs the people of £5,000 by an increase of prices, but it may ibe used in an endeavour to smash, down the unions.
– On a point of order. When the Leader of the Opposition objected to the War Precautions Act being used in connexion with the strike, I asked if he took the same objection to’ its being used to reduce the cost of living. Thereupon the honorable member asserted that I had said that the Act should be used for the purpose of dealing with industrial disputes. Is that statement in order?
Mr.SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson). - The honorable member for Wannon was doubly out of order - firstly, in interjecting, and secondly, in interrupting the Leader of the Opposition on what was not a point of order.
– When Parliament has no opportunity of dealing with these regulations, the Government should not use the powers conferred upon them by- the War Precautions Act in a direction which was never intended by Parliament when the Act was passed.
– The Leader of the Opposition has complained of certain regulations issued by the Governor-General, and has given some reasons for his disagreeing from the action taken by the Government. He has said a great deal about those regulations, but he has not been accurate in one single citation of facts. When he deserted that firm ground of generalities upon which he and his friends stand so securely, and sought to thread his way through the maze of facts, he became lost. He asserted that we had no right to resort to regulations, and in almost the same breath he upbraided me because I sought the remedy duly provided by Statute, and had dared to go to the Court appointed by this Parliament, when I had power to, act under the very regulation which he condemns. How, then, can I escape censure ? When I do the very thing that the honorable member says I should, like any other citizen - resort to the Court - my action brings on me the sharp censure, not only of the honorable member, but also that of the Judge of the Court. As to the latter, I shall not refer to it further than to repeat what I said in the Argus of 4th September, when I expressed my regret that the Judge of the Court had sought fit to animadvert on the exercise of the powers of the Governor-General, which are clearly outside the scope of the Court? With the exercise of the Executive’s powers of government the Judiciary has nothing at all to do. A Judge is to interpret the law and decide on its merits the case that is brought before him. It is not for him to inquire into the motives of those seeking the protection of his Court, nor to declare that he will not give relief because the litigant has power to redress his own wrong. It might be said in many an assault case that the plaintiff had power to redress his wrong, but would any magistrate reprove a man for coming to the Court for protection instead of taking matters into his own hands ?
I deny that any of the regulations are improper or unnecessary. On the contrary, they have been more or less effective in protecting the community which, during five or six weeks, has suffered through a large section of the workers deserting their posts. What do the regulations do? Regulation 30, to which allusion has been made, provides that on and after the 29th August any union that may strike - and mark you the unions were practically all on strike at that time, and had then been on strike for four weeks - shall be deregistered, but can, if it likes, show cause why it should be re-registered. After a strike had been in existence for four weeks we said, “ If any more unions come into the field, we shall deregister them. We cannot allow you to hold up the community and threaten a general strike.” The object of the regulation was to deter unions from striking, and it has been fairly successful. What union has suffered under this regulation? Not one. The only action taken subsequently to the issue of the regulation was my application to the Court for deregistration under the Statute, which in no way arises out of the regulation, and which I could have made at any time previous to its issue.
Then there is the regulation providing for the cancellation of preference. I have not time now to quote from my articles on preference in the Case for Labour. The considerations in collective bargaining between employers and employees are preference to unions in return for a continuous supply of labour. But are the unionists who have deserted their posts and their duty, and whose places have been filled by others who are carrying on the business of the country, to be allowed to say, “Put these men out. “We are ready to come back now”? “Would it be fair, either to the community or to those who have come to its aid, to accede to such a request? My honorable friend cares nothing for the welfare of the community in this matter. For the past five weeks the country has been throttled, and not one voice from his party has been raised in protest, not a single action taken by any of them to aid it. He said something about the application of a regulation to the Australian Workers Union. He declares that I issued a regulation with the intention of directing it against that body. I emphatically deny and bitterly resent the assertion. The motive actuating the Government in issuing this regulation was the very opposite of that suggested by the honorable member. We desired to strengthen the hands of the Australian Workers Union executive, and assist it to keep its members at work. Had the other unions acted as the Australian Workers Union has, we should not have had this trouble. That union is a pattern for the unions of Australia. It was bound by an agreement and an award, and it has loyally observed both. I wish that I could say that for the unions with which I have been connected. To the officials and executive of the Australian Workers Union the people of this country owe a debt of gratitude. They have saved it from being plunged into a veritable inferno. I have struck a blow for discipline, and in support of the executive of the Australian Workers Union, by threatening with the keen edge of the law a number of Industrial Workers of the World in the back parts of Queensland, who were trying to drag out on strike members of that union, whether they would or would not. In Queensland, where they are shearing at the present time, the members of the Australian Workers Union - the real working men, not the talkers - would, if a poll were taken, declare that they are glad of what the Government have done. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) said that the Industrial Workers of the World were playing the game of the employer. Well, I have stopped them from playing that game, and, I hope, any other to the detriment of the country. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) said that the regulations were not intended to be applied to civil conditions. I do not understand the distinction that he would draw. They were intended to be applied to the circumstances created by the war, and to all matters arising out of the war. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), when on this side, opposed the War Precautions Act provisions even more vindictively than he has since done on the other side. He said then -that they ran the whole gamut of power. Did he not anticipate what the High Court has since declared - that they cover the whole sphere of law ? Well, here is a grave civil dispute, in effect a revolt against law, an attempt to prevent the country from carrying on all operations necessary for its protection against the enemy and for its industrial- and general welfare, and he says we stand aside and do nothing. One would ‘imagine that the regulations had been turned against the unions and that we were beating them with rods. What are the facts? Although great power has been vested in the Government under the War Precautions Act, I defy any one to say that we have abused that power. My honorable friend said that we have not turned if against the employer. But the truth’ is that it has been used against the employer much more harshly than against the employee. We have used it to fix prices, to commandeer products, and to prevent employers from doing many things we conceived to be inimical to the State. All I have done in regard to employees has been to cancel the preference clauses in the awards of unions that were still recalcitrant after the strike had lasted five or six weeks. It was only yesterday that the preference of the
Burnie and Devonport branches was cancelled. A week ago the waterside workers enjoyed preference in all the ports of Australia. The law gave them this, and by their agreements with their employers they were bound to supply all necessary labour. They have refused without cause to do so. By what right then do they still claim to enjoy that privilege which by their own unprovoked action they have doubly forfeited. We have no reason to apologize for our actions in this matter. Rather may we invite the attention of the public to the fact that we have maintained a firm and proper stand against the attempt to wrest the reins of government from our hands. I am certain that the community is glad that we have done this, and tens of thousands of workers to-day are glad that we are in office. Many of the men who were brought out on strike are wishing to God that they could get back. My honorable friend said that he had done nothing to fan the strike. . Nor have 1. I have been connected with too many strikes to try to fan discontent; strikes need not to be fanned, but to have the hose played on them. The men who are on strike must pay the penalty for what they have done, though, after all, it is not a very heavy one. They cannot throw the community into turmoil and escape scot-free. They have deserted their posts, and others have taken up their work. Those who have thus served the community ought to, and shall, be protected.
.- The attitude of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hughes) is one of the most pathetic that could be conceived. He claims that he made an application to the Court for the deregistration of his old union, the Waterside Workers’- Federation, so that the ordinary processes of justice might be relied on to do what, under a regulation, he could have done without such an application. If the right honorable gentleman had the Court available, why did he frame the regulation ? As a matter of fact, the regulation wa3 framed to enable him to deregister the union. He is now the champion union smasher. He knew that he had the power to go to the Court, and apply for deregistration, but he preferred to transparently threaten the Court with this regulation as with a bludgeon. No self-respecting Judge could have adopted an attitude other than that of Mr. Justice Higgins, who said, “ The Prime Minister asks me to deregister a union although he has power under regulation to do it himself. Am I to conclude that if I refuse, on the evidence presented, to grant deregistration, he will deregister the union by virtue of the power given him by the regulation?”
Undoubtedly, the Prime Minister is a star actor. He would have cut a successful figure on the stage. I have seen him, trembling with emotion, the tears rolling down his face, declare that if he’ could not stand in with the Labour movement he would go out of public life altogether. Yet to-day he is using his abilities to play the game of tiie employers and of the enemies of Labour. Those who have opposed Labour all their lives, and wish to destroy unionism, and the power of Labour in combination, sit behindthe right honorable member with satisfaction. ‘There is a smile on their ‘countenances because they know that he is playing their game better than they could play it.
– “ There is more joy in Heaven.”
– The honorable member is a typical representative of the Employers Federation. There is more joy among the Liberals over the capture of the Prime Minister than there is in Heaven over the return of the sinner.
The Prime Minister spoke of the prerogative of the Governor-General to pass regulations. Mr. Justice Higgins, he says, acts improperly in criticising an act of the Governor-General. That was absolute hypocrisy. It is not the GovernorGeneral - not even the party -opposite - but this dictator, the Prime Minister, who frames these regulations.’ This country is being ruled by a dictator. He moves a little clique, which, in turn, influences the party opposite, and it, being in the majority, governs the Parliament.
There is no vestige of responsible government in Australia to-day. We have instead government by regulation. The War Precautions Act, which was designed to deal with conditions arising out of the state of war, isnow being used to destroy legislation on our statute-books which was passed in the ordinary way. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act makes provision for the cancellation of the registration of unions. As the Prime Minister has stated, under that Act, if a union disobeys the law, any interested person may make application to the Court for its deregistration. Such an application would involve an appeal to a Court of Justice, the taking of evidence, and something like a reasonable inquiry. The- Prime Minister;, however, comes .along with his bludgeon in the shape of this regulation, under the War Precautions Act, and proposes that, a union may be deregistered without any inquiry by a Court of Justice. On the mere ipse dixit of this dictator, a union may be struck off the register.
The right honorable gentleman has spoken of the sins of the men on strike. He has said that they should no longer’ enjoy preference of employment, and that the Government should, stand by the “loyalists.” I have heard him in a Strike Conference say to men who protested against returning to work with these so-called “loyalists,” “Do not talk such buncombe to me. You know perfectly well ‘that it would be easier to find the cross of Christ at the bottom of hell than it will be to find a non-unionist in your industry after you have been back a week. Go back to your work, and get rid of these non-unionists when you go back.” That is what he has told the unionists time after time. “ Drop bricks on their heads, destroy their ‘tucker bags, tear up their clothes.” These tactics have been employed, and the Prime Minister has been a party to them.
– He has never said’ that.
– He has been a party to the whole of -that sort of thing. The Treasurer knows nothing about the tactics of the Prime Minister as a strike leader. When unionists have protested against having to return to work with blacklegs, he has been a party to “ dealing” with the so-called loyalists. The conditions were much the same as they are to-day. The New Zealand Government was- organizing strike-breaking bureaux, as the Prime Minister is now doing. They were defending blacklegs, as the ‘ Prime Minister is now doing. To-day, however, we have seen him on the floor of this’ House, trembling with emotion as he championed the cause of the employers. He has gone over to the Employers Federation - to the enemies of labour - and is now the champion of everything which during the greater part of his- lifetime he has most vigorously opposed.
The Prime Minister also told us this afternoon that these regulations under the War Precautions Act had been put in operation against the employers. “ Why,” said he, “ I have done much more against the. producers than the working man.” In this respect he sang quite a different tune from that which he has been singing ever since the war began. He has been saying, again and again, to the employers that but for the action of the Government in creating pools to deal with their produce, they would have lost everything; and that by reason of his actions the producers have secured benefits which they could not have obtained in any other way. To-day his story is quite the opposite; he asserts that these regulations have been put in operation against the employers of labour.
– Was not the honorable member himself Chairman of a Food Prices Board for a time ?
– I was, until the Prime Minister came back from England and destroyed the- work of the Board. After having mercilessly denounced those responsible for the high cost of living in his referenda pamphlets, he is now the champion of the exploiters of this country, and refuses to protect the people against the outrageously high prices that prevail.
This regulation, which deals with the dispute. in the shearing industry, and with the wharf labourers’ dispute, attacks one of the vital principles of British liberty - a principle which, so far as I know, has never before been denied in any part of the British Empire. It attacks the right of peaceful picketing. It has always been the right of a British working man in the case of an industrial dispute to approach a fellow workman, and to inform him of the existence of the dispute, so that he may not accept employment in ignorance of it. This regulation, however, has been introduced to stop even peaceful picketing, and we have seen a unionist haled before the Court on a charge of informing a blackleg carter of the existence qf an industrial dispute.
Even this does not complete the work of the dictatorship. The Acts Interpretation Act provides that every regulation shall be presented to Parliament within thirty days of its gazettal, and that within fifteen sitting days of its issue either House of Parliament, may disallow it.
Under the present dictatorship, however, this Parliament is prevented from taking steps to disallow any regulation. If a member, complying with the law, and the forms of the House, gives notice of his intention to move for the disallowance of a regulation, the Government, by its control of the business-paper, can put that notice at the bottom of the list, and so prevent the Parliament exercising its power under the Acts Interpretation Act. In this way the whole of our legislation is reduced to a dead letter. The conduct of the Government in governing the country by regulation - behind the back of Parliament - and its refusal to allow the Parliament to exercise its undoubted right to disallow any regulation, is one of the most disgraceful features in the parliamentary history of not only Australia, but the whole of the British Empire.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the issue of these regulations is both improper and unnecessary. Honorable members opposite consider that when a body of unionists cease work they are entitled to do anything within the law to drive the men back to their employment. The deregistration of unions in this way, however, is calculated to have the opposite effect. The representatives of the men at present on strike have been negotiating for some time for a settlement. Five weeks had elapsed from the beginning of the strike when the Government announced its determination to issue regulations providing for the deregistration of unions. That announcement has had the effect of adding fuel to the fire, which before was only smouldering, and the unions are not now so ready to negotiate for a settlement as they were. The worst possible result is likely to follow the action of the Prime Minister in practically coercing the President of the. Arbitration Court, and compelling him to deregister these unions.’ The learned Judge himself saw that that would be the result. I admit that the Prime Minister has had much experience in dealing with industrial affairs, but Mr. Justice Higgins has perhaps had an even wider experience. He knows the psychology of the working man just as well as does the Prime Minister. Every one knows that this trouble had been smouldering for some time before it broke out.
– The Treasurer, who interjects, said this afternoon that the War Precautions Act was brought in for the one purpose of using it on “ the other fellow,” and that now that it was in existence it was a very good weapon to turn against the other side. During this war, the “ other fellow “ has been getting at the worker all the time. The workers have naturally resented such treatment, and small sectional disputes have occurred. No steps have been taken by the Government to get at the bottom of these industrial troubles. Where wages have been increased 5 per cent., the cost of living has been increased to the extent of 50 per cent. And so this trouble has broken out. It is a good thing for the community that it has occurred at the present time. . If the unionists had waited until the close of the war, and the return of the 300,000 men now at the Front, we should have found those soldiers joining with them in the fight for better industrial conditions, and I think the dispute would have been of more farreaching consequence.
The Government should not take a biased view of these industrial troubles, but should consider them from every stand-point. Industrial trouble exists, not only in Australia, but in Japan. The Japanese workers, amongst the most ‘ down-trodden in the world, are on strike to-day for better industrial conditions. We all know, also, what has occurred in Russia, and the Government should recognise that the industrial upheaval in Australia is but a reflex of what is occurring in other lands.
Every power possessed by the Government should be brought to bear to settle these disputes on conciliatory lines, and not on the lines so far followed by both the Commonwealth and State Governments in dealing with the present strike.
– They will only postpone the trouble; not settle it.
– Quite so. I recognise that the majority of honorable members opposite have never had to work for their living for 7s. a day of eight hours.
– The bulk of us have worked harder than the honorable member has ever done.
– I doubt it. In speaking thus against the deregistration of unions by regulation, I am actuated by a desire to serve the interests of not only the unions, but the general community. There are 100,000 men in the union with which I am connected. Of that number 60,000 have ceased work; the remainder arestill helping to carry on the industries of this country. The 60,000 men on strike are prepared to go back to-day provided that they receive an assurance that the conditions which existed before the strike occurred will be continued.
Mr.Rodgers. -Why, then, did they go out?
– That is their business, just as the men represented by the honorable member consider it their business to increase prices to the extent of 20 per cent, or 30 per cent, without consulting the consumers. If the supporters of the Ministry desire government on equitable lines, it is for them to show the way. The de-registration of unions in this way will probably mean that the 40,000 men in my union who are still at work will come out. In that event, other industrial organizations, such as the Australian Workers Union and other big unions, which have no part in the present trouble, will be drawn into it. It is not the duty of the Government to precipitate trouble and cause revolution, but rather, by every pacific means, to suppress the prevailing unrest.
– This speech would be good enough in a union club room. “ ut is of no use here.
– I am merely giving honorable members a warning. They do not know much about industrial ethics, and it is time they learned something of them. It would be infinitely more to the credit and prestige of the Government if they showed themselves true to their professions, and did all that was possible to win the war and preserve industrial peace and equity in the community - if they showed that they could conduct the affairs of the country far better than, in their opinion, they could be conducted by the Labour party. My advice to honorable members opposite is that they should exercise what influence they have over the Ministry to have these regulations rescinded, and to show that the Government are prepared to meet the workers in a proper way. No good can result from putting into effect regulations of this kind, and it would be in the best interests of the community if the Government were to reconsider their position. In . yesterday’s Herald there was an article which dealt with the Seamen’s Union, and it affords us an example in point. The employers told the -Court that in the Seamen’s Union there is no preference to unionists; and, as bey . never have had such preference, the deregistration does not affect them. The Prime Minister knows that in the Seanienls Union, as in other big organizations, the members regulate this matter for themselves. If the Government are determined to pursue their present course we shall have another 200,000 or 300,000 persons added to the 100,000 or 150,000 already involved in the industrial disputes. That is a condition of affairs that no one desires to see; and I repeat that it is the duty of the Government to rescind the regulations.
– Australia, to-day is a country governed by . regulations, whichare turned out like sausages, not in dozens or fifties, but in hundreds. Pages 822 to 833 of the index to the Commonwealth Statutory Rules for 1916- contain over 200 regulations. Whenever any Bill pertaining to defence or war precautions has been introduced, I have always insisted on art assurance that the civil law shall not be dominated by the military law. That assurance I always received from Mr. Andrew Fisher when he was Prime Minister; and on the first occasion when I had a public quarrel with the present Prime Minister, I asked for a similar guarantee, without which I was not prepared to allow any clause of the Bill then before us- to pass. On that occasion the Prime Minister, who was Attorney-General, became angered at the delay caused, as he thought, by the debate, and asked me why I could not take his word as the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister in charge of the measure. I answered him that I could not take his word because he had come and lied, tricked, and’ deceived us at the Trades Hall Council. Thereupon the right honorable gentleman rushed out of the chamber, and brought, in Mr. Fisher, who immediately gave me the assurance I desired. But I unhesitatingly state here, as I have from every platform, that all the promises and assurances given by Mr. Fisher in this regard have since his departure been wilfully broken, because there is not £ single regulation under the War Precautions Act that does not override the civil law to-day. When I asked the present Prime Minister under what law three persons, two of whom were women, had been arrested and punished, he said that it was under both the State law and the Commonwealth law. The Commonwealth law, of course, consisted of one of these War Precautions Regulations; and that case only proves what I have said, namely j that Australia to-day is governed by regulation, and by a, man who is. dictator by the kindness of the great Liberal party which supports him. In my opinion, no regulation should become law until it has been read out in this Chamber, and honorable members afforded the right to debate it. If honorable members do not wish to debate any regulation, and the consensus of opinion in the House is in its favour, the people outside will know that it is a fair and just one. But what do we find at the present time? In 1916 alone there were some 200 regulations issued, and some of them of such importance that if they were introduced as ordinary legislation they would entail days of discussion. When it was suggested that the Act and the regulations had been used towards one class only, the Pirime Minister asked whether any one could deny that he had used the law against the employers in the way of fixing prices. Was there ever a greater force than this fixing of prices? How do the’ people outside know what ‘the fixed prices are? When I suggested that a simple printed announcement of the fixed prices of bread, sugar, meat, flour, and so forth should be placed in every post-office, along with the name and address of a Commonwealth officer to whom appeal could be made in case of any overcharging, all the reply the Prime Minister could give ‘ me was a reference to the Commonwealth Gazette. I know no person, either inside this House or outside, who knows the fixed prices of food; but I do know that the law is continually broken, and if this is by a wealthy man nothing is clone to him. Can anything be more infamous than the supplying of diseased meat, such as occurred in Melbourne? But my reference to that matter only excited the jeers and laughter of honorable members opposite. The abat toirs belong to the Melbourne ‘City Council, and I accuse the Department of trying to shield Mr. Angliss.
– I am afraid that the honorable member i3 travelling away from the question of the regulations.
– I am now referring to one of those employers whose prices have not yet been fixed; and there has been much arrant hypocrisy displayed in this connexion. What was the Prime Minister’s reply when I brought the question of high rents under his notice? He said he could quite understand that, if a man had a house worth £500, and spent another £500 in doing that house up, he should have an increased rental. That is quite right; but who ever heard of any landlord such a fool as to spend an amount of money equal to the value of the house in improvements, especially in the case of a house let to working people ? Nothing has yet been done in the way of protecting the people from the high rents that are being charged. But the greatest infamy of which I accuse the Prime Minister is the introduction by regulation of the moratorium, in order to screen himself from Mr. Smith, and to keep that gentleman from going into Court to get justice. That case was postponed by Mr. Justice Hodges from the 18th October to the’ 20th ; then, at the instance of the Prime Minister’s counsel, it was further postponed until 1st February. But in January the moratorium regulation was issued, and Mr. Smith was called upon to prove that the Prime Minister of Australia had enough ready cash to meet the debt. The result was that justice was denied to this gentleman.
– What has that case to do with the regulation under discussion ?
– The motion does not refer to any specific regulation.
– I am informed that the legal men who were representing the Prime Minister are not content with the instructions given, and that the case has been settled, the Prime Minister to pay £500 of the £1,000 owing, and to agree in the future to take no advantage of the present moratorium, or any other moratorium under the War Precautions Act.
This country is really ruled by a dictator, and I feel certain that the men who are now supporting him in his efforts to crush the workers will regret their action.
This Parliament will become known as a Parliament that was ruled by a dictator supported by the remnants of the Conservative party £.nd a portion of the Labour party, who have forgotten their pledges as Labour men.
.- I congratulate the Government on the issue of these important regulations at this very critical time in our history. The welfare of the public has been seriously endangered by the organized unions. I believe that the great majority of the members of these unions are truly loyal to the best interests of the community, but they seem to have practically got under the control of a dangerous section. The result is that we have witnessed the spectacle of union after union downing tools and refusing to work, thus causing enormous losses and general public inconvenience. Nor do they stop short at jeopardizing the welfare of the people of Australia, for they actually menace the brave men who have gone abroad to fight our battles. The transport of war material and those things which are necessary for the sustenance and welfare of our troops is being ruthlessly interfered with. .The Government came into power as a Win-the-war Government. We hear frequently from honorable members opposite the question, “ What are von doing to win the war?” For one thing, Ministers have set themselves up against the lawless element in this community; they have taken a step which renders it less likely that unionists will enter the present industrial conflict lightly, because the members of trade unions will know that in the issue of these regulations there is a certain element of danger to unionism^ and this fact will make them careful. If anything will help to win the war it is the creation of such a position as to make it dangerous for those who seek to act against the welfare of Australia, as a whole, to play that game. I am perfectly satisfied that the Government and the party behind them have the indorsement of the great mass of the people of Australia in regard to the issue of these regulations. When we are at death grips with the enemy of the Empire at the other side of the world, it is simply suicidal to allow conditions to exist that will permit one section of the community to set the whole system of organized go- vernment at defiance, and claim that they, and not the elected representatives of the people, are to govern the country. Last week the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) told us plainly that organized unionists were determined to win the present fight without reference to this Parliament. No more damaging statement could have been made. For centuries we have been building up a system of constitutional govern1 ment, and we pride ourselves upon the fact that every person who has to obey our laws has had a voice in the making of them, but our friends opposite want to bring about a condition of affairs by which a comparatively small section of the community will determine the conditions of labour and compel the ostensible Government of the country to bow to their will. I applaud the Prime Minister upon his utterance this afternoon, when he pointed out that the labour unions were setting themselves against the constituted authority of this land. I believe they are being driven into that position! not by the bond fide members of the organizations, but by the incantations of a dangerous foreign section to which the others have lent an ear. The issue of these regulations will bring the members of the unions back to their senses. When they realize that they are setting themselves against the welfare of the community, and against the welfare of our soldiers on the other side of the world, and that power rests with the Government, and not with their organizations, they will yield to pressure.
We on. this side of the House are determined to stand for law and order against the dangerous element whom honorable members opposite represent, and the great mass of the people are behind us. When Ministers once put their hand to the plough and demonstrate that they are th«» Government” of the country, and that those who seek to flout their authority will suffer, they will have the plaudits of the community. When the history of this crisis is written it will be shown that the issue of these regulations was one of the first steps taken towards the reestablishment of constitutional government in Australia. What would have happened if the regulations had not been issued ? Hundreds of willing workers have come to the rescue of the Government, prepared to do more in a day than the strikers who are accustomed to the work were doing. The desire of the unionists is that they should be permitted to go out. on strike whenever they chose, and go back at their own sweet will, and as soon as they go back they are to demand the ejection of every loyalist who has come to the assistance of the Government.
– Hallelujah !
– The honorable member may call “ Hallelujah,” but the man who does so in the present circumstances is a dangerous man to the community.
– Declare us to be an illegal association.
– I am not prepared to say how far the Government are entitled to act in regard to honorable members in this chamber.
– I think that we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I do not know how’ far the- Government are entitled to take cognizance of disloyal utterances in this chamber. I compliment) the Leader of the Opposition upon his mild presentation of his case this afternoon. There was nothing objectionable in his speech. Its only defect was that there was no point in it. The honorable member did not give a single case of injury that the issue of these regulations would inflict on any union. In the absence of such evidence, what is there to complain of? The Prime Minister’s reply was very effective when he pointed out that even unionists are glad of the formulation of the regulations, because it prevents them from falling into the error of joining in a strike which may be disadvantageous to the country as well as to themselves.
In regard to the general question of regulations, T am entirely in accord with the Leader of the Opposition, but the honorable member is particeps criminis. He was a member of a Government which issued more regulations than any other Government we have had in the Commonwealth, yet now that he has come into the position of Leader of the Opposition, which he adorns so well, he objects to the issue of regulations. I am quite in accord with him when ‘he says that too much is done by the issue of regulations. This policy is gradually taking away the power of the House, but in this particular instance there has been every justification for the issue of regulations. If they had not been issued the crisis would have grown and developed, and no one can tell how far the unions would have gone. The sympathetic chord had been struck, and unionists were saying, “ We must go into the strike whether we have any interest in it or not,” and the issue of the regulations was the first thing that brought them to the realization of the fact that they could not pursue that policy without endangering the position of their organizations. It brought them to their senses. The Government are to be commended for having done something substantial in the direction of winning the war, because so long as practically open warfare between two sections of the community is permitted to continue here, unrestricted by any Government action, Australia must be powerless to play its part effectively in the war which is being waged in Europe.
Mr. BLAKELEY (Darling) [4.181.- When I was first elected to this House I thought, innocently, that I would be sitting in a Chamber which would govern the destinies of Australia, but I have since learned a great deal, and I find that the Prime Minister and the Government Printer govern the country, while we, in this House, have very little to do with it. In his usual violent fashion, the Prime Minister gave us a dissertation this afternoon on trade unionism and his connexion therewith. One refreshing feature of his remarks was that he made no mention of the Junta, or the Teuton hand, or German gold. The position that he occupies today, with some of his colleagues, is that of bringing about a system of non-unionism in Australia. From time to time honorable members opposite have talked of walking delegates, and have spoken of the tendency of every worker to strike st every possible opportunity, and it would appear that those of them who in the past have been defenders of ~ unionism, and who have pub themselves before the people as prophets sent to lead the workers, are now pliant tools and creatures in the hands of capitalism and the commercial interests. Honorable members opposite were elected to win the war, and so far the only effective thing they have done has been the inculcation of a spirit of scabbery in the working classes.
– What about scabbing on the soldiers ?
– Is the honorable member aware that in the processions in Sydney, every Sunday, hundreds of returned soldiers march?
– I saw only thirty marching
– Are those thirty sc,abs?
– They are under a delusion.
– Order! I ask honorable members to discontinue interjecting.
– The men who took part in the processions are men who have returned from the Front, . many of them bearing the scars of battle, and they are opposed to the operations of the Government in connexion with this strike. They do not believe in scabbing, or in the Government giving protection to scabs. The system in operation in Australia to-day, the Pinkerton system, owes its origin to America. There, at the beginning of the Pinkerton system, strikes were broken by the refuse of America, a motley collection of the scum of all nationalities. To-day, in Australia, all the garbage of the country is engaged in the same operation. There are the employing classes and the tools of the employers - the unfortunates who are in the hands of the pastoralists and banking institutions, at whose behest they have gone to Sydney to protect the rights and privileges of the class they serve.
– It cannot be said that the honorable member has no imagination.
– I am speaking of what I see all about me. I know perfectly well that nothing will give <he honorable member greater pleasure than that regulation 213 should achieve its object. Had the Australian Workers Union been de-registered, the award nullified, and sufficient scabs procured, the pastoralists would have saved £4,000,000 per annum. How many men could be bought with that amount on the slight chance of the pastoralists being successful in their desire to smash the unions? The trade unionists of Australia do not require the protection of bae Prime Minister and the National party. We are not afraid of what the National Government may do to the working classes. They may take preference from the unions, de-register them, and prohibit them ,as unlawful associations, and they may put their members in gaol, but those actions will not achieve the Government’s purpose. We shall establish preference to unionists despite all that the
Government may do by regulation.’ The Prime Minister may violently wave his hands, and issue regulations in sheaves, but we take no notice of him; in our strength and might we can defy him and his supporters.
– Where do the majority of the non-unionists get their living ?
– Where do the honorable member and his> class get their living ‘I The means of livelihood is produced by the unionists and stolen by the class to which the honorable member belongs. As the Prime Minister hd* pointed out, the Australian Workers Union has been one of the unions in Australia which has never broken any agreement into which it entered. It h,as been honorably bound by every award delivered by a Court; but upon the flimsy pretext that somewhere in the back country of Queensland the Industrial Workers of the World propose tq hold up the shearing industry, the Prime Minister has issued an ultimatum, full of threats and intimidation, which was sufficient to make any unionist go on strike. Instead of improving the situation, the Prime Minister’s action was likely to create a trouble even bigger than that which exists to-day. But despite the regulation issued by the right honorable gentleman, the Australian Workers Union continues working. Of course, the £4,000,000 that would be saved to the squatters by the de-registration of the union and the annulment of the award, is a prize worth fighting for.
– After listening to the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, it seems to me that the unions in whose behalf the Leader of the Opposition has spoken can have very little concern in his protest, because they are likely to lose very little -which they value. As a unionist and a believer in unionism, I must confess that it is impossible for this country to continue the pretext th,at we believe in arbitration.
– Does the honorable member believe in organized scabbery ?
– I do not. Nor do 1 believe in the scabbing on soldiers at the Front, which is being upheld in Australia to-day by many Labour leaders.
– Why does not the honorable member get into khaki ?
– I have tried hard enough to do so. I am amused to hear the everlasting sneers from honorable members opposite at the Win-the-war party. Had the party now led by the honorable member for Yarra attained to power at the last elections, we should have to-day, not responsible government, but revolution. What the Nationalist party has not done to win the war is to pass in its organizations, week in and week out, resolutions against sending soldiers to assist those already at the Front.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– As this refers to a matter under the control of the Library Committee, and not the Treasurer, I, as Chairman of that Committee, ‘have had a statement prepared on the subject, which will furnish the information desired by the honorable member for Echuca. The statement is as follows: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notipe -
– The answers to the ; honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister,. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are, as follow : -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Island, Sydney, went on strike after having been working for about three hours?
– The General Manager, Cockatoo Island, Sydney, states he has no knowledge of any such occurrence.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government wa? prepared to give favorable consideration to a suggestion that the prisoners in the internment camps should be utilized in place of the unionists on strike?
– No such suggestion has ever been made.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that the imports into thu United States of America from Australia for 1917 show a decrease of £900,000 in value, as compared with those for 1914, the Government has further considered the advisability of appointing a commercial representative to the United States of America?
– The Government have already decided to appoint representatives in the United States of America and in other countries.
Reinstatement of Employee : Smoking and Use of Intoxicating Liquors
asked the Minister for the ‘Navy, upon notice -
Garden Island, Sydney, who was discharged about a month ago for stealing, is now again, employed by the Government?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr. J. H. CATTS (for Mr. Mahony) asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Yes. 2. (a) The Prime Minister’s Department;
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The arrangements for making fortnightly payments of salaries are now so . far advanced that it is expected that the altered system will come into operation within the next two or three months.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister invite his Government to consider the advisability of encouraging the industry of growing wattle bark and producing extracts of wattle, by adopting the bonus recommendation of the Inter-State Commission, or by other means?
– The Inter-State Commission recommended a bonus of £1 per ton on locally-grown wattle bark used in Australia for tanning, but the recommendation does not provide for an import duty in addition to the bonus. Under the 1914 Tariff proposals, the industry is protected to the extent of £1 10s. per ton on all bark imported into Australia. The question of further encouraging the industry will receive consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is the statement correct that hundreds of eligible mcn of military age are employed by the Defence Department in the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, carrying out work that could well lie done by returned soldiers, many of whom are at present unemployed?
– There are men employed at the Small Arms Factory apparently eligible for active service and not debarred by the Department from enlisting, and instructions have been issued that, in future, only returned soldiers, rejected volunteers, and persons outside military age are to be taken on. Employment will be found at the Small Arms Factory for any returned soldier offering himself who is considered suitable.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In view of the fact that observations were made last week by the Vice-President of tha
Executive Council alleging inaccurate statements concerning the soldiers’ vote on the conscription referendum, will the Prime Minister place on the table of the House all communications (or vouched copies thereof) to and from responsible persons overseas relating thereto from the time the first ballot was taken till the date of the publication of the result by the Chief Electoral Officer?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
If the question refers to communications relating to “ inaccurate statements,” the answer is that no such communications have been received by, or sent to, responsible persons. If the reference is to the communications to and from responsible persons relating to the soldiers’ vote on the conscription referendum, the answer is - It is undesirable to table the correspondence. Such could not be done without disclosing the results of the voting in detail, which disclosure would not be consistent with the letter or spirit of the Act and regulations. The general position is as follows: -
No correspondence passed between the responsible persons, viz., The Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth and the several Returning Officers, dealing with the votes of the Forces on the conscription referendum, except in regard to the conduct of the scrutiny in the presence of responsible witnesses, and the transmission, checking, and verification of the figures which the Returning Officers were required by paragraph 18 of the Referendum (Special Voting) Regulations 1916 to furnish to the Chief Electoral Officer.
The total vote in favour and not in favour is set forth in the following statement: -
Commonwealth of Australia.
Military Service Referendum Act 1916.
Referendum, 28th October, 1916.
Votes recorded under the Referendum (Special Voting) Regulations 1916 by -
Members of the Forces employed on active service outside Australia, London centre.
Members of the Forces employed on active service outside Australia, Rabaul centre.
Returned members of the Forces not enrolled as doctors of the Commonwealth.
Note. - (a) and (b) include men employed on ships of war.
The Returning Officers responsible for the scrutiny and counting of the votes of members of the Forces on the conscription referendum taken on the 28th October, 1916, were as follow: -
London.- Brigadier-General R. McC. Anderson.
Rabaul. - Brigadier-General S. A. Pethebridge.
New South Wales - Mr. J. G. McLaren, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for New South Wales.
Victoria. - Mr. R. H. Lawson, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Victoria.
Queensland. - Mr. R. H. Allars, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Queensland.
South Australia. - Mr. O. H. Stephens, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for South Australia.
Western Australia. - Mr. J. E. Cathie, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Western Australia.
Tasmania. - Mr. S. Irwin, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Tasmania.
The civilian witnesses selected by BrigadierGeneral Anderson who were present at the scrutiny in London, and who certified as to the accuracy of the count, were -
New South Wales. - Mr.O. C. Beale.
Victoria. - Mr. T. Baker.
New South Wales.- Mr. D. P. Dickson.
South Australia. - Mr. B. Moulden.
Queensland. - Mr. J. A. Robertson.
Victoria.- The Hon. R. B. Rees.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.HUGHES.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The following papers were presented : -
Railway Industrial Dispute in Northern
Queensland - Telegrams between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, the Premier of Queensland, and other persons.
Prisoners’ Camps in Germany - Correspondence respecting the Use of Police Dogs. - (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
Bounties Act - Return of Particulars for 1916-17 of Persons to whom Bounty Paid, Amount Paid, Goods, &c.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 192, 220, 221.
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired under, at Blackboy Hill, near Midland Junction, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of crude shale oil.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Wood Pulp and Rock Phosphate Bounties Act 1912.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta-
Minister for the Navy) [4.38]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I do not think there will be much opposition to this- measure. The Public Works Committee Act requires the appointment of the Committee in the first session of every Parliament, and as the Committee was not so appointed, the Bill is necessary to enable it to be appointed now so that it can get to business.
.- When the original measure was before us, I was of the opinion that the Committee would not serve any good purpose, but Ithink now that both the Public Works Committee and the Committee of Public Accounts have done good work, and that the best thing the House can do is to pass this Bill to allow the Public Works Committee to be appointed.
.- The Minister (Mr. Joseph Cook) should have told us why the Committee should be appointed. This is a time for considering the cutting down of expenditure, and I shall record my vote against the Bill, because I feel that retrenchment is needed. I . hold the opinion that the Committee is not required.
– That question is not raised by the introduction of this measure.
– The Committee cannot be appointed unless we pass the Bill. The Minister shouldtell us what works it is necessary to refer to the Committee.
– And what the last Committee cost.
– Yes. The Government has shut up everything at Canberra, so that things are going to rack and ruin there, and the appointment of a Works Committee at the present time would be like putting a fifth wheel to a coach. We should set an example of economy by refusing to appoint the Committee.
– These will be proper arguments to address to the House when a proposal to appoint a Committee is made.
– The Minister assures me that this is the wrong time to take action, but I trust that he will furnish the information for which I have asked. The only effect of appointing the Committee has beenthat certain members have fancied themselves experts because, by the examination of expert witnesses, . they have gained a little knowledge on certain subject’s. Were I spending money on the building of a house, I would rather call in an architect than accept the views of laymen who had gained information in this way.
– No works can be undertaken until the House has been given full information concerning them.
– What is a job on the Committee worth?
– In my opinion, it is a reflection on Parliament to propose to appoint a Committee that! is not required, and without a statement concerning the works with which it! is to deal.
– Section 15 of the Act, which, like this Bill, was initiated by the honorable member for Parramatta, exempts naval and military defence works from the investigation of the Public Works Committee. As most of the works for which we are now making provision, either in the Estimates or in the Loan Bill, are for .Defence purposes, I hope that the Minister will promise that they, shall be .referred to the Committee. His short experience in the Navy Department must have convinced him of the need for such investigation. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro would be the first to object to departmental proposals, especially from- the Army and Navy Departments, if they came before Parliament without having been inquired into. Some defence works were submitted to the last Works Committee, and were under consideration immediately prior to the dissolution of Parliament. I presume that the investigation then proceeding will be continued by the new Committee. I hope, too, that the Act will be amended, so that all works whose cost is, estimated to exceed £25,000, except, of course, such, as are of a secret character, must be referred to the Committee. During the investigation of a proposal for the choosing of a site for the arsenal the last Committee had put. before it a good deal of secret information, and that, of course, was never divulged. But even if the Minister does not propose any amendment of the Act such as I suggest, I hope he will see that all works, whose cost would exceed £25,000 shall be submitted for investigation.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) is in a humorous mood to-day. The Act provides for the appointment of the Public Works Committee in the first session of every Parliament, and as that was not done in the first session of this Parliament, the Bill is needed to enable .the Committee to be appointed this session. I agree with the honorable member that this is a time for retrenchment, but I would point out to him that the last Works Committee saved the country hundreds of thousands of pounds by recommending that certain proposals referred to it should not be gone on with. The Minister for the Navy saved the country much useless expenditure by introducing the measure which provided for the appointment of the Committee. When public officers know that the Works Committee or the Accounts Committee, will investigate their proposals, they compile their Estimates more carefully than they would compile them for the information of the Minister.
– Did the last Committee investigate the proposal to rebuild the Geraldton Post-office?
– No ; that matter was not referred to it. According to the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) the construction of the proposed arsenal will, mean an expenditure of £2,250,000. Surely such an expenditure should not be undertaken without an inquiry.
– Have there not been several inquiries into the proposal?
– The inquiries that have taken place have had to do merely with the location of the site. No expense has yet been incurred in the construction of the Arsenal buildings. We have on the Estimates an item of £45,000 for the erection of a post-office at Perth. I do not know whether that work is now going on, but I think it should have been referred to the Public Works Committee.
– The matter was dealt with . before the Committee was appointed.
– No big work should be undertaken until it has been inquired into by the Public Works Committee. That is the practice followed in New South Wales and other States, and I think that our money is well spent on such investigations.
.- There are one or two features of the principal Act that call for amendment; and I should like to know whether we shall be afforded an opportunity, in considering this Bill, to submit such amendments. They are of a non-controversial character.
– I think not. This Bill is merely intended to make the Act effective, so far as the appointment of a’ Committee this session is concerned.
– Quite so. The Act provides that no public work exceeding the minimum expenditure for which it provides shall be commenced until the responsible Minister presents to the Parliament the necessary plans and papers, and receives the instruction of the House, whereupon it may be submitted to the Public Works Committee for inquiry. On several occasions while the Parliament was in recess, certain questions were submitted, quite illegally, I think, to the Committee for investigation. It would be wise for the Government to take power to submit to the Committee, while Parliament is in recess, works which they intend to push on, if approved.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is now going outside the scope of the Bill. The principal Act provides for the appointment of the Committee in the first session of the Parliament, and this Bill is merely to rectify the omission to appoint a Committee in the first session of the seventh Parliament.
– I wrote to the Prime Minister some time ago, suggesting certain amendments of the principal Act which I thought would be advantageous. I then expressed the opinion that the number of members might well be reduced to seven, at the most; and I also referred to the advisableness of the Government taking power to remit questions to the Committee while Parliament is in recess. - Since I cannot deal with such matters on this Bill, I shall not further occupy the attention of the House.
.-I should not have risen but for the remarks made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) as to the necessity for the appointment of this Committee. We have in this House men who are familiar with building construction, and who should be able to perform valuable service on this Committee, inasmuch as their practical knowledge would enable them to elicit from departmental officers what is actually proposed in the plans and specifications prepared by them for various works. The honorable member knows very well that many public works have been carried out in New South Wales which would have been far more satisfactory had they been inquired into, first of all, by a Public Works Committee. I feel sure that the country will lose nothing by inquiries of this character. I lo.ok forward to the day when the whole of the expenditure of the’ Commonwealth will be more closely scrutinized than it is at present. It is well that . the members of this Parliament should have the fullest information as to the requirements of the people, and as to the character of the public works proposed to be carried outI hope that this will become a National. Parliament in the true sense of the word.
– Order ! This dis- ‘ cussion is quite irregular. The Bill is simply to provide for the appointment of a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works during the second session of the seventh Parliament. The Committee was not appointed in the first session, and this Bill is merely to correct that error. No other amendment of the principal Act is involved.
– On a point of order, sir, surely honorable members are entitled to give reasons why the principal Act should be amended.
– This Bill does not provide for the amendment of the principal Act, except to legalize the appointment of the Public Works Committee in the second, instead of the first, session of this Parliament.
– Are we not entitled, sir, to show that the Committee is not necessary, and that, therefore, this amending Bill is unnecessary?
– The principal Act provides for the appointment of the Committee in the first session of the Parliament. That was not done, and this Bill, is simply to rectify the omission. Honorable members will be in order if they confine themselves strictly to the giving of reasons why the Committee should not now be appointed, but the debate is developing into a discussion of the principal Act, and as to whether or not that Act is desirable.
– I owe you an apology, sir. When I rose I was looking at something to the effect that the Government had robbed the people of about £70,000-
– I think the Government have taken a step in the right direction in introducing this Bill. It would be well for the Commonwealth if more of our public expenditure were subject to revision by a Parliamentary Committee.
– I propose to refer very briefly to the point raised by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) as to the necessity for the appointment of this Committee. The honorable member desired to know what the Committee had cost, and what good result had followed upon its work. In order to allay ihis anxiety, and to afford information to the House, I shall quote a few figures. The Committee cannot be appointed until the principal Act is amended. If there is no necessity to appoint it, it is unnecessary to amend the Act. I shall occupy only one minute in satisfying the inquiry madeby the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. The honorable member suggests that the Government would be studying economy if this Bill were not passed.
– These remarks would be perfectly in order on a proposal to appoint a Committee under this Bill, but not on the proposal before us.
– I shall not occupy more than two minutes, during which, I am sure, I shall satisfy the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and possibly prevent honorable members from being led to vote against this measure. During three years the cost of the Public Works Committee was £6,991. 17s. 4d., and during that time they, by their recommendations, saved the country £684,728; that is, the schemes submitted and recommended by the Committee were carried out at a sum less by that amount than the estimates originally submitted. That, I think, is sufficient justification for the appointment of a Public Works Committee at the earliest opportunity, with a view to future savings.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman) is to be congratulated on raising this question, seeing that the Govern ment he is supporting is pledged to economy. In season and out of season the Government and their supporters declare that there are no public works to be proceeded with, and if that be so, why is a Public Works Committee necessary ? If the honorable member for EdenMonaro divides the House on the question, I shall support him. I cannot think that the Government are not in earnest when they tell the people of Australia, in this House and through the press, that economy is their policy. Almost every morning we find the Argus . preaching economy; and that newspaper is at the back of the Government, while the Government, later on, is at the back of the newspaper. As I say, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is to be congratulated on bringing this matter forward, particularly so as he is sitting behind the Government.
.- It comes very easily from the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), -who has not to look to a public work for his sustenance, to suggest that it is time to stop all public works. The honorable member for Maranoa cannot have been listening to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story), who has pointed out the great economy that is effected by a body of experts appointed to check public expenditure. For years the honorable member for Maranoa has suggested that people should not take their destinies in their own Hands, but should rely on a Government prepared to carry on public works, and” thus provide employment. The honorable member for Boothby has shown clearly that there is every reason to appoint a Public Works Committee.
.- In view of the fact that there can be no public work of any magnitude undertaken for some time, it would be well to postpone the appointment of this Committee, because as soon as a Committee of this kind is appointed it begins to incur expense. Under the Public Works Committee Act, it is necessary that all work to cost over a certain figure shall . be referred- to the Committee from this Parliament for investigation, but in its actual working we have found that the Committee does not wait for any reference, and that is the cause of a great deal of trouble. Under the circumstances it would be just as well to defer the appointment of the Committee.
.- 1 congratulate the Government ou the introduction of this Bill, because any Ministry pledged to a policy of economy must take some step of the kind in order to obviate1 extravagance. In the various States it has been proved that before the appointment of such bodies there was much unnecessary expenditure. A Public Works Committee is able to sift any proposal referred to them, and to present the full facts to Parliament, the members of which then know exactly what the estimated cost is, and can form a judgment as to whether or not the work should be undertaken. The appointment of the Committee is opposed on the ground that it will mean additional -expense; but if the Act is strictly followed, no works can be considered by the Committee unless . referred to it by Parliament at the instance of the Minister .concerned. With that safeguard, there can be no danger of unnecessary expenditure. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) and others will have the opportunity to voice their opinion on the floor of the House, as to the reference of any particular proposal, whereas, without a Public Works Committee, the Government could proceed with any works they choose. A Committee of this kind is absolutely necessary to save the country from unnecessary expenditure.
– I cannot quite appreciate the attitude that is taken up by some honorable members in regard to the Bill before us. We have had proposals for large loan expenditure, and there have been animated debates in regard to the construction of an arsenal, naval bases, and other works of the kind. Unless we are going to sit down and wait until the war is over, and we know exactly the future political situation in Europe, we must proceed with works such as I have mentioned, _ not extravagantly, but in such a way as to show that we have a continuous policy . We often hear of the necessity for some check on expenditure by Government officials; and a Public Works Committee is about one of the best checks that we could have. I hope, however, that, in regard to some of the works, we shall not be told that they are of a secret nature, and may be carried out at the instance of the Governor-General in Council; and I do not. anticipate anything of the kind. Certainly the British Government did not take up that attitude in regard to the great naval works on the eastern coast of England. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) seems to be pleading for economy in the abstract, but I do not think that any Australian is prepared to mark time until the conclusion of the war. That being so, some Committee of the kind is necessary to inquire into the expenditure on works such as I have indicated.
– Such works are exempt under the Act.
– That is not so.
– The Government are exempting them.
– I do not think so ; but, of course, there may be reasons for exempting some works from inquiry, while there are other works which necessitate inquiry. We may be asked, What is the use of a Committee of Public Works consisting of members of Parliament who may have no university education, and not be lawyers trained in the sifting of evidence, or engineering experts ? However, it is sheer rubbish to say that such a Committee is not a proper tribunal for inquiries of the kind contemplated. My public experience for nearly twenty-five years, both State aud Federal, leads me to the opinion that the most useful men in the country are those gifted with practical common sense, which they apply for the benefit of the community. So long as we have members sufficiently intelligent to sift evidence, and form opinions as to the various experts examined before them, we have as competent a tribunal as we can hope for. One gentleman, now deceased, who was a large employer of labour, and recognised as one of the shrewdest men in business, told me that he often had to consult one, or, it might be, two or three experts, and his plan was, after hearing them, to form his own judgment. That is doubtless what every practical nian does; and we should be making a great mistake if we sought to economize by refusing to appoint a’ Public Works Committee. When I was Minister for Home Affairs, I regarded that Committee as one of the most useful pieces of machinery in connexion with the Parliament and the Government.
– Hear, hear! The Committee had work to do then.
– With such a Committee in existence, a Minister, after he has consulted his colleagues, has the opportunity to refer a work for inquiry to a body of men in whom he can have confidence. In the absence of a Public Works Committee, Ministers would need to create some sort; of tribunal for the purpose of securing information to guide them in the expenditure of money on public works. I support the Government in this matter. The House will commit a grave error of judgment if it declines to re-appoint a Committee which, in the past, has done excellent, if not perfect, work. Considering the handicap under which if carried on its work, and the number of pro jects into which it has inquired, the Committee has justified its existence, and has undoubtedly saved the Commonwealth a great deal of money.
.- In view ofthe arguments that have been put up in the House this session for economy in public, expenditure, and the chorus of approval that met my remarks last evening, when I said that if there was any expenditure of public money that demanded inquiry more than another it was that proposed for defence works, I cannot understand the objection to the re-appointment of a Public Works Committee, which can inquire into such matters. The first general report of the Public Works Committee points outth at from the date of its appointment to the 31st December. 1915, matters were referred to it for inquiry and report of an estimated cost of £2,429,824, and inquiries were completed, and reports presented to Parliament upon works of an estimated cost of £689,052. The second general report shows that, during the second year of the work, of the Committee, it completed inquiries as to works of an estimated cost of £1,423,874. This expenditure of money could not go on without the possibility of very serious leakages. Members of the Committee quite frankly admit that they are not experts, but as ordinary plain men without expert knowledge they claim that they were able to save a considerable sum of money. For instance, the departmental officers had recommended the building of a storage and regulating reservoir on the Upper Queanbeyan . River at a cost of £100,000’. The Committee turned that proposal’down absolutely, and saved that expenditure, which, had the Department’s proposals been adopted, would have been in progress now. It was proposed to carry out a sewerage scheme for the Flinders Naval Base at a cost of £9,500. The Committee, after inquiry, recommended an expenditure of £7,500, representing a saving of £2,000. The Committee also saved £10,000 on <the proposed additions and alterations to the Customs House, Sydney, on the departmental estimate of the cost.
– And spoilt the job.
– No; this is not the time t’o go into the merits of that work. But, on a more suitable occasion, I should be pleased to enter into a discussion with the honorable member, or any other honorable member, as to the virtue of the recommendation of the Committee in regard to that building. In discovering a new source of water supply for the Flinders Naval Base the Committee saved £61,000. The proposal in regard to the city railway at Canberra was for an expenditure_ of £378,972. The Committee, by its alterations and recommendations, reduced this amount to £280,000, a saving of £98,972. An expenditure of £912,421 on ornamental waters at Canberra was recommended. The Committee suggested alterations to save £440,000 on that work alone.
– And not a penny of it was spent, or was ever intended to be spent at the present time.
– What is the cost, of the Committee to the country?
– I think that the cost of the Committee’s inquiries was £6,000. Another element to be considered is the knowledge and experience that members of this Parliament gain by being members of Committees. They get an insight into departmental workings. Their control over the expenditure of money on public works1s of immense advantage to the country.
– Fitting them for Cabinet rank.
– If the Public Works Committee and the Committee of Public Accounts, and other Committees, are stepping-stones to higher rank, members of those Committees are better fitted for their positions when they obtain higher rank.
– An expenditure of £6,000 is a small item if it has educated members of the Public Works Committee.
– It shows how expenditure on education can secure very substantial results for a very small outlay. I believe that the Commonwealth is exceedingly well served by thedepartmental ‘ officers. We have in the Works and Railways Department men of special qualifications and eminent ability, but they are not infallible. The Works Committee had repeatedly to turn down the proposals of departmental officers, and make such alterations and recommendations as saved the country hundreds of thousands of pounds. . Officers have no responsibility in regard to expenditure. Their business is to get the works done. The finding of the money is a secondary consideration. I must say that I believe they endeavour to save public money to a certain extent.
– I ask the honorable member not to pursue that line of argument.
– My point is that a Public Works Committee is a safety valve on public expenditure, because departmental officers, especially naval and military men, would simply run away with money if there was no check upon them. The most salutary check, and the greatest assistance to the Minister controlling public works expenditure, is to have a Public Works Committee to guide and protect him.
– I was in some doubt as to whether my ears were hearing aright the words of the honorable member who expressed such happy readiness to co-operate with honorable members on this side of the House, until I realized that he was speaking, not so much as a member of the Opposition - which has always, upon more unimportant details, refused pointblank to co-operate in any way with any honorable members supporting the “ Hughesite composition “ - but as a member of the Public Works Committee, and as one who had received a considerable technical education in that capacity, and was looking forward to still greater advantages of the same kind. He told us of the education of the Committee, and incidentally of the marvellous effects its members have had in stimulating the zeal and knowledge of those technical officers of the Public Service who are receiving salaries of £1,000 a year downwards because of their expert knowledge.
– Some of them waste thousands of pounds.
– If so they should not be in their positions. But if they are wasting thousands, what right have we to apprehend that the wrong which they have committed is to be righted because it is supervised by a number of estimable gentlemen in this House who, whatever else their merits or demerits may be, have certainly not the same technical . knowledge as is possessed by the gentlemen they supervise 1 I am not going to traverse the statement of the honorable member to the extent of congratulating the Public Works Committee upon not having effected very much harm in the past, inasmuch as, generally speaking, it showed the utmost zeal in having referred to it works which might possibly in the ordinary course of affairs be up for public scrutiny some time about 1930; because I recognise that even if the Committee has done nothing else at the cost of £6,000 - where that £6,000 has gone I would not be so mean as to inquire - it has educated its members, and these members again offer themselves as the humble instruments of this Parliament to inquire into all sorts of projects which may eventually be’ close to consummation !
– This is the* man who voted for the Bill to create the Committee.
– Always when a man seeks* to interfere with a plum tree bricks are thrown at him from all directions.
– Sit down, and I will withdraw the Bill.
– If the honorable member would do that no one would be better satisfied than I.
– I will put all the plums in the basket.
– That is the trouble. A measure of this sort enables the Ministry to put the plums in the basket, but do we want them put there ? At the time when the original Public Works Committee Bill was introduced, a Government was subsisting - I will not say carrying on - with a majority of one, in this House. I believe-
Several honorable members interjecting,
– There have been five interjections while the honorable member was attempting to begin a sentence with the two words “I believe.” Honorable members must cease interjecting, and allow the honorable member for Wentworth to make a connected speech.
– Honorable members who were members of the Public Works Committee are naturally somewhat apprehensive. Some are in a position of some security. Many are in a position to beat their breasts and say how zealous they are, and how ready to have further matters referred to them. I do not object to the interjections. My purpose is to assist the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in the interest of public economy. But I put my objection to this proposition upon broader ground. I am always the first to admit error, and I believe that in the Bill introduced by the Government in 1913 there was this “cardinal fallacy - the result of slavishly copying State Acts - of imagining that Federal works are on all fours with the works of the States. As a matter of fact, there is the widest possible difference between them. Federal works , are governed by policy, not by expectation of yield-
– Order ! The honorable member is now discussing the policy of having a Public Works Committee. That subject is beyond the scope of the Bill, the purpose of which is to rectify the error made in not appointing the Public Works Committee in the first session of this Parliament.
– If the original measure were before the House I should be entitled to state reasons for its rejection. We have now before us a proposal to rectify the Act in a certain particular, and I shall not traverse Mr. Speaker’s ruling. Is there one amongst the various works enumerated by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) that should not be the responsibility, not of men merely seeking technical education, but of men who, by virtue of their actual technical knowledge, exercise responsibility to the Commonwealth? I do not care whether it be town planning or the designing of a post office, the man who plans or designs should take responsibility under a Minister of the Commonwealth, for what He has planned or designed. If we have a Public Works Committee to which planners and designers may refer their works - sometimes against their will - we are simply providing a sure shield of part-trained intelligence, behind which official incompetence may safely shelter. That is my answer toevery instance mentioned by the honorable member for Brisbane. ‘ What happens if an error is found in connexion with one of these undertakings? Instead of the House being an impartial judge, and investigating the matter at issue as submitted, there are in the chamber a number of gentlemen whose reputations: are at stake by reason of their having, indorsed the proposition. Those gentlemen have travelled about the country, making it worth the country’s while to spend £6,000, that they may inquire intoworks, and they come into the House, not as impartial witnesses, but beating their own breasts in protestation that they have not been wasting the public money. That is the very negation of departmental responsibility.
– How much more does that argument apply to a man who, without expert knowledge; directs a public Department?
– The honorable member draws attention to the fact that a Minister may possibly be untrained. I ask the honorable member not to prejudice- his future by interjections of that character ! We all, including the Works Committee, have committed faults, and thisHouse will commit another fault if it permits this Works Committee to continue. The honorable member for EdenMonaro has indicated a way by which these costly inquiries can be obviated, and I support him. Honorable . members who are seeking seats on the Committee will do their best to dissuade the House from the excellent reasons put forward by thehonoraible member, but I ask the House whether a single member of a Works Committee is fitted either by training or temperament to undertake responsibility in connexion with works of a military or naval character. We require the most carefully educated brains that the professions can give for the proper conception and direction of such operations.
– Does the honorablemember overlook the work already done at Flinders?
– I do not. But, if wedisagree from the work of any public official, let us not provide a cloak behind which he can hide, but dismiss him. I am very glad to know that members on both sides of the House regard this as a non-party proposition. This discussion started with a look of pleasant anticipation on the faces of candidates, and as it proceeded that look changed, first, to virtuous indignation, then to apprehension, and now to abject misery. However, putting persiflage aside, I do say that the Committee, as proposed to be constituted, is a farce. Lt cannot (be in any way a safeguard of the public purse. I regard it as being rather a menace, if only in a small way, and, for that reason, I will support the plea for economy put forward by the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
– I have some regard for a Public Works Committee, but I cannot overlook the fact that all naval and military works will not come under the scrutiny of such a body, and that much expense and loss has been incurred in the past through the lack of that supervision. Anybody who will inspect the Naval Base at Cockburn Sound will acknowledge that the money spent there might just as well have been thrown into the sea. On one stormy night 40 feet of the wall was washed away. In that structure material that was supposed to be limestone was used, and the water into which it was thrown immediately assumed a milky appearance - an evidence that the material was dissolving.
– And they are cutting down the expenditure at the Federal Capital in order to spend the money at Cockburn Sound.
– We could build the Federal Capital with the waste that has taken place, and will take place, in connexion with Naval Bases. Many years of exposure to the weather had made this stone fairly hard on the surface, but, once the material was broken, it was absolutely useless. I dare say that one-third of the work done at Cockburn Sound was absolute waste. The Minister for Works and Railways, who has visited Cockburn Sound, will admit that what has been done there is an infamy.
– The matter to which’ the honorable member is referring is beyond the scope of the Bill.
– I am only making these remarks as an argument against the appointment of a Works Committee while naval and defence works are placed beyond its scrutiny.
– The Bill merely amends the principal Act to make it possible to move for the appointment of the Public Works Committee i this session, and later a motion will be made for the appointment of the Committee. When such a motion is made, the honorable member’s remarks will be in order ; they are beyond the scope of the present Bill.
– I am endeavouring to reply to the statements of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly). He said very truly that high officers - and we have some drawing as much as £1,000 a year - are responsible for great waste in the carrying out of public works. They should not be shielded by -the report of any Committee. We know that there has been great waste in the Federal Territory, though I do not accuse the Works Committee pf having indorsed it. Colonel Miller, who had the title of Excellency, and used to fly the Union Jack over his house when he waa at home, was in charge of the Territory. We know that a lady appeared on the scene, and wanted certain alterations, and t’hat hundreds of pounds were spent unnecessarily. I am sure that the Committee did not know what occurred. If it had done so, it might have recommended the dismissal of this” officer. Mr. Blacket was appointed a Commissioner to investigate the administration of the Territory, and devoted his time, energies, and intellect-
– The matters which the honorable member is now discussing are beyond the scope of the Bill, which merely amends section 3 of the principal Act to enable the Committee to be appointed during the present session. The appointment of the Committee will be brought before the House on another occasion, and the reference of works to the Committee will also form the subject of separate motions, when the honorable member’s remarks will be in order. Mr. Speaker has ruled several times to-day as I am ruling.
– I respectfully draw your attention, sir, to the fact that Mr. Speaker” allowed the honorable member for Wentworth to range over the whole question of the advisability of appointing the
Committee. Section 3 of the principal Act not only requires the appointment of the Committee in the first session oi every Parliament, but fixes the number of the members of the Committee.
– The honorable member may not discuss now a ruling of Mr. Speaker.
– My point iB that all subsequent speakers have a right to the privilege given to the honorable member for Wentworth.
– My ruling is that the discussion must be relevant to the Bill.
– If we throw out the Bill, we prevent the appointment of the Committee, and therefore argument to show that the Committee is inefficient and unnecessary must be relevant.
– I have merely ruled that the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, who was discussing what took place at Canberra, were not relevant to the Bill, and have stated that the appointment of the Committee is not now the question before the House. Under the principal Adb, the Committee should have been appointed in the first session of this Parliament, and the Committee not having been so appointed, the Bill has been introduced to allow it to be appointed this session. The constitution, functions, and character of the Committee are not now in issue. Honorable members, of course, are at liberty to give reasons for and against the Bill; they cannot be permitted to go into the past history of ihe Works Committee.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman) desires the House to vote against the second read; ing, and therefore it is surely permissible to give reasons why the Bill should be passed.
– I have not prevented any member from doing that. Such argument is in order. But the reasons advanced must not go beyond the scope of the Bill.
– I assure you, sir, that you were in error in stating that Mr. Speaker has repeatedly ruled on lines similar to those’ on which you have ruled. I was proceeding to point out that Mr. Blacket, after investigating the matter thoroughly, reported that there had been a great deal of waste at the Federal Capi tal, which neither the Works Committee nor any other Committee had checked. I have alluded to Colonel Miller. Another Colonel in the Department is Colonel Owen, who has not won by examination any of the distinctions which he possesses.
– I ask the honorable member not to go into that matter.
– I maintain that when it is proposed to construct buildings for the public use, every architect in Australia should be allowed to send in designs, and the architect whose designs are chosen should be appointed to supervise the carrying out of the work. Our public expenditure should not be left to a clique of highly-paid officials who keep better men from rising. A man I know of in this State has not been considered good enough because he is an Australian native, and was educated in a cheap school. I do not think that the Committee ought to be appointed at the present time, if this War Ministry is 201ng to exercise economy and keep down expenditure. Naval and military works are not to be referred to the Committee. What, then, is the use of having it ? I understand that the Government is going to close down on other public works, though it must know that when the country has all its workmen employed it can more easily obtain revenue than when men are unemployed. As under all the circumstances the appointment of the Committee would be a waste of money, I shall vote with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
.- I understand that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Heitmann) made disparaging references to £he last Committee. He said that the Henderson Naval Base has apparently been constructed of bottles. Now, the honorable members for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) and Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) were members of the last Committee.
– The personnel of the last Committee is not now under discussion.
– I do not wish to discuss it, but I feel it my duty to point out that certain members of the last Committee would’ certainly not have helped to construct a breakwater with bottles. Those who are to be appointed to the
Com mil tee are no more likely to be addicted to drink than th”ose who preceded them. My objection to the appointment of this Committee at the present- juncture is that the membership is either too small or too large. There are two outstanding facts to which we may well give consideration in dealing with this Bill, The first of these is that only works connected with naval and military requirements are to be undertaken by the present Government at this juncture, and that they can be carried out without reference to the Public Works Committee.
– If the House does not desire them to be inquired into, well and good.
– Naval and military works are exempt.
– There is a breach in the Cabinet. The Committee is to inquire into any proposed1 expenditure of public money on public works. Those works may be divided info two important branches, the first consisting of ordinary public works, and the second those connected with the Naval and Military Departments. Naval and military works will not be referred to this Committee.
– Some of them will be.
– And many of. them will not. I oppose the appointment of this Committee. I have at all times done so.
– Did not the honorable member try to get on it?
– No. I intend to support the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) in his opposition to the Bill. Prom the very first t have objected to the appointment of such a Committee. This Government was formed for the sole purpose of winning the war, and to practise the most rigid economy. In these circumstances, I strongly object “to the appointment of this or any other Committee. There is only one proposition that could possibly win me over to this” Bill, and that is that the Government should so widen the membership of the Committee that it! will embrace every member of Parliament outside the Cabinet.
Speaking quite seriously, I regard the appointment of the Committee as being practically a waste of public money. There is no real justification for it, or for the appointment of any other Committee of the kind. It will have nothing to do. The Government do not intend that it shall do anything.
– We do. If the honorable member does not want the Committee, let him say so.
– That is what I am trying to do.
-Order I I ask honorable members not to interject.
– I may say without any breach of confidence that even at the meetings of our party, I have objected to the appointment of a Public Works Committee. The Win-the-war Government have said that this is a time for the observance of economy and thrift. Let them practice what they preach.
– Even if this proposal be rejected, the principal Act will remain, and the only result “will be that the Government will not be allowed to go on with any public work the cost of which will exceed £25,000.
– I respectfully disagree with the right honorable member, and if a division is called for, shall vote against the second reading of the Bill. The one clear fact is that there are no proposed public works for this Committee to con/sider. There is to be no expenditure upon public works outside naval and military undertakings. That has been stated by the Government, and therefore there is. no business for this Committee to deal with.
– Then the Committee will cost nothing.
– I never knew a Committee that could not find something to inquire into - that was unable to find ample justification for its existence. The only public works expenditure that is to take place while we are in recess is that upon naval and military works, and that is not to be referred to any Public Works Committee.
– Some of it is.
– I repeat that there is no justification for the appointment of this Committee-, and that a Government which professes to exercise economy and thrift in the administration of public Departments should not bring forward such a proposal at the present juncture. I am prepared to vote against it.
– I would remind honorable members who have been flagellating this proposal of what will be the effect of the rejection of the Bill. They seem to imagine that if they reject it the Public Works Committee will go by the board. While that is so, the point to be remembered is that something else will also go by the board. The Public Works Committee Act will still remain on our statute-book, and it clearly provides that the Government may not carry out any work estimated to cost more than £25,000 unless and until it has been investigated and reported upon by the Public Works Committee. In these circumstances, therefore, the honorable member, for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), who started this discussion, is really proposing to make it impossible for the Government to go on with works of any magnitude since there will be no Committee to which they may be referred. He will not destroy the . Committee requirement. That can be done only by repealing the principal Act. The only effect of throwing out this Bill, therefore, would be to paralyze the works arm of the Government. If honorable members think that would be a wise procedure, well and good ; but I hope that they will clearly understand what the rejection of this Bill would mean.
I shall not argue the matter at th’s stage except to say that in my candid, opinion, looking back over a long period of years, Public Works Committees in the several States have done excellent work. I believe I shall be correct in saying that they have saved millions of money in the States since they were first inaugurated. That is my own opinion, and the opinion of others well able to judge. Whatever defects such committees may have - and they make mistakes, like any other body of men - I believe on the whole their work is good and has resulted, in many cases, in checking large and unwise expenditures and in insuring the spending of public moneys in an efficient and’ judicious manner. I hope honorable members will permit us to make this little correction, which should not have occupied the attention of the House for more than two or three minutes, but which, I very much regret, has provoked a long debate.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 34
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Notwithstanding anything contained in section 3 of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, to be appointed during the seventh Parliament of the Commonwealth, may be appointed during the second session of that Parliament, and shall be appointed as soon as. practicable after the commencement of this Act.
– I move -
That all the words after “ Works,” line 4, be left out, wi,th a view to insert in lieu thereof “ shall not be appointed during the currency of the seventh Parliament.”
My reason for submitting this amendment is that I do not consider the appointment of a Public Works Committee necessary.
– May I suggest to the honorable member that his amendment amounts to a simple negative ?
– The Minister for the Navy will pardon me if I do not take his instructions.
– I do nob desire to give the honorable member any instructions.
– The honorable gentleman has told us that our action in voting against the second reading of the Bill will have the effect of stopping public works.
– And I say so still.
– I know that all the public works about my electorate have been stopped, and that all works except those connected with the Navy and the military are not to be proceeded with. I agree with the Minister for the Navy that some of these latter works cannot be referred toa Public Works Committee, and I presume he makes that statement because he knows that works of the kind have been proceeded with without any reference.
– That has been done.
– Where ?
– In the case of some of the buildings at the Naval Base in Victoria.
– If this amendment is carried there will, of course, be no Public Works Committee.
– And there will be no public works, because the original Act will remain.
– If there are to be no public works except those connected with the Navy and the Military, where is the necessity for a Public Works Committee? I submit the amendment on the broad ground that this is a time for retrenchment and economy, and that a start ought to be made within this Parliament, and not outside. I am not in any way criticising the personnel of the Committee, because that has nothing to do with the question before us, and I presume that the House will select the best men. Good work has been done by the Public Works Committees of the States, but they stand on another footing. Most of our works have to be carried out whether they will pay or not, because they are works of necessity, whereas in the
States it has to be considered whether the works will be reproductive. According to published statements, which I have reason to believe are correct, there are no works for the Committee to inquire into, and, that being so, it is a farce to appoint a Committee. Why not wait until worksare proposed, and then appoint a Committee if” the Minister concerned assures the House that the services of such a body are required? Under such circumstances I would take the Minister’s word, and he would have my support. There are many items of expenditure that we need not incur, and the expenditure in connexion with the Public Works Committee is one of them. The public are crying out about the expenditure by the Government, and I dare anyone to say that we can continue to pay the taxation proposed at the present time. The Treasurer tells us that he has difficulty in making ends meet, and surely we shall not start paying interest with borrowed money. We shall have 200,000 or 300,000 men coming back from the war, and for >these land and employment must be found.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to7.45 p.m.
– At no. other time in the history of Australia have retrenchment and public economy been more necessary. The people are being taxed more than they can keep on paying, and yet the outlook is that we must impose more taxation unless we cut down expenditure. The people outside say that when we talk of economizing we should start in our own House. I believe that they are right, and being of opinion that a Public Works “Committee is not necessary I have submitted my amendment.
– The clause uses the word “ may,” and the amendment, which proposes to use the words “ shall not,” is a distinct negative. The honorable member’s object will be obtained by voting against the clause.
– Do you rule the amendment out of order?
– Anticipating that decision, I have prepared another amendment.I move as an amendment -
That all the words after “Works” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ shall not be appointed until after both Houses of the Parliament have, by resolution, decided that an inquiry shall be instituted in regard to some proposed public work.”
If there are public works into which the Government think some inquiry should be made by a Public Works Committee I have no objection to the. appointment of one.
– There can be no inquiry by a Public Works Committee into any work until it has first been referred to the Committee by resolution of the House.
– I am aware of that. My amendment merely proposes that we shall delay the appointment of a Public Works Committee until there is some work for it to do. We should not -first appoint the Committee and then look for work for it to inquire into.
– There are some works awaiting immediate inquiry by a Public Works Committee.
– I cannot see any objection to postponing the appointment of this Committee until there is work for it to do.
.- Provision is already made in the original Act to meet the anxiety of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman).. The Public Works Committeeis a no-work-no-pay Committee. This Bill is merely complying with the provisions of the original Act, which requires the appointment of the Public Works Committee in the first session of a new Parliament. No work can be inquired into by the Committee until it ha3 been remitted to it for inquiry by resolution o* Parliament. If Parliament does not pass on any work to it, there will be no expense, in the shape of fees, to its members. Parliament in its wisdom provided for such a period as this. In a time of war, when there should be economy, the Committee cannot create work for itself. In fact, the honorable member in moving his amendment is merely emphasizing the wisdom of Parliament in making that provision.
– I am in favour of the proposed public works being proceeded with, and in favour of inquiries. There has been so much suppression on the part of the present Government, so much denial of investigation, denial of free speech, and denial of facts relating to the administration of the affairs of the country, that it would be better to have additional Committees rather than to have a suppression of Committees, especially when they . are charged with the task of investigating any of the activities associated with the administration of the Commonwealth. I sympathize with those honorable members who preached economy from every platform, and told the public there was to be a serious diminution in expenditure on public works. I quite appreciate their attitude in objecting to the creation of such machinery as can only be precedent to the carrying out of a public works policy. Yesterday, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) urged that all public works should be stopped with a view to forcing men to enlist for military service oversea.
– I spoke of all works other than military or naval works.
– The honorable member knows that naval or military works cannot be investigated by the Public Works ‘Committee, except by grace of the Government.
– They can be investigated by that Committee, and they are investigated by it, unless they are specially exempted by the Governor-General in Council.
– It cannot be too often stressed that the Governor-General in Council means the Government - nothing more nor less. The amendment suggests that Parliament should first decide on some proposed public works before a Committee is appointed to inquire into them. I can see the line that the honorable member is taking. If the appointment of the Committee is delayed, the Government will have the opportunity to review their action in five months or six months, and they may come to the conclusion that a Public Works Committee is not required. I cannot, however, support that line of action.
The Government have already, shut down on too many public works. They- have initiated a policy which is designed to throw men out of employment. The idea of the honorable member for Echuca is really prevailing with them. I pointed out during the elections that if they were returned to power the unemployed problem would be accentuated.
– The honorable member is travelling outside the scope of the clause.
– The clause proposes to amend section 3 of the Bill, which deals with the appointment of a Public Works Committee, and surely, in discussing whether the appointment of the Committee shall be postponed for six months or until some public works are referred to it for inquiry, we are entitled to go into the very basis of the matter and discuss the whole policy of appointing a Committee? The honorable member for Echuca considers that by the shutting down on public works there will be more money available for war loans, but the restriction of public activities will not create more wealth. The only method by which moneys can be provided for carrying on the war is by a thorough-going policy of wealth production throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth.
– All this has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– I must oppose the amendment. I am in favour of the appointment of a Public Works Committee, because the nine members of the Committee will be hustlers for some work to do. As they will be paid so much per day for each sitting, they will naturally be desirous of adding to their emoluments. I understand that the Government have arranged that there will be six members from the Government side of the House on the Committee. The idea is a very good one, because there will thus be six hustlers for emoluments inducing the Government to go in for a public works policy.
– The honorable member is travelling beyond the clause.
– I am giving reasons why there should be no postponement of the appointment of this Committee.
– The honorable member is dealing with the principal Act. That measure is not before the Committee.
– If a Public Works Committee is not appointed, there will be no lever behind the Government urging it to find work for the Committee to do.We have several important works ahead of us. The Commonwealth is pledged to build a transcontinental railway from north to south. The question of the construction of strategic railways, so urgent when Mr. Fisher was Prime Minister, has been postponed. If the Committee is appointed with six representatives of the Government side upon it, there will be so many hustlers urging the Government to provide work for the Committee that it may result in some of these great national works being taken in hand.
– The honorable member does not suggest that any members of Parliament will hustle for the purpose of getting fees ?
– I said that we should appoint men who will hustle for work. The carrying of this amendment would’ be a complete discouragement of the Government from proceeding with public works. They are doing serious enough damage now by their slowing down, but it would be a mistake to carry this amendment and thus encourage them in a further slackening of effort in regard to national works to which Parliament is pledged, and which are urgently required in order to find employment for tens of thousands of men. For this reason I must vote against the amendment.
– On looking into the amendment which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro gave me in substitution for the one which I ruled out of order, I find that it comes within the same category as its predecessor. The one purpose of the clause under consideration is to enable the appointment during this session of Parliament of a Committee, which, according to the principal Act, should have been appointed during the first session of this Parliament. The clause does dot open up for review the whole of section 3 of the principal Act. It does not interfere in any way with the provisions of the principal Act in regard to the personnel of the Committee or its powers, or the manner of referring works to it. Therefore, I am of opinion that this amendment is out of order.
– Shall I be in order in moving an amendment that the Committee shall not be appointed during the current, financial year ? Or, if that, too, is ruled out of order, will it be competent for me to move that an appointment be made in the third session of this Parliament ?’
– Neither of those amendments would meet the honorable member’s requirements. I suggest that the honorable member might effect his purpose by moving the deletion of all the words after “ Works.” That amendment, if carried, would have the effect of killing the Bill.
– I shall move to that effect. ,
– On a point of order. Clause 2 deals with the time when it shall be valid for Parliament to appoint this Committee. The original Act provided that the Committee should be appointed in the first session of Parliament. The Bill proposes that the Committee shall be appointed during the second session of this Parliament. I submit that an amendment to allow of the appointment of the Committee at a later time than the second session is in order.
– If the honorable member desires to dispute the ruling I have given, I direct his attention to the Standing Orders, which require that dissent must be stated in writing.
.- The passage of this measure is being surrounded with a very unnecessary amount of mystery and difficulty. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) seems to be under a misapprehension as to what will be the effect of the Bill. The first part, of the honorable member’s speech was a long and strong protest against any further public expenditure. In that contention I am entirely with the honorable member. In war time we should stop all these great public works at once. I know that the honorable member, for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) and other honorable members on the opposite side are in favour of unlimited works expenditure on the false economic ground that it will give employment to the people. But it is a necessary condition of all public expenditure that it shall be useful and opportune, and that the community shall be likely to get some good return from it. With the general protest, which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has entered against public expenditure I quite agree, but such agreement is not inconsistent with support of the Bill. The passage of this measure is very necessary, even in the interests of the honorable member. He is anxious that the proposal with regard to the arsenal at Canberra shall be brought forward for consideration, but the Public Works Act makes that quite impossible unless the Public Works Committee is first appointed.
– Did not the Minister say that he would not refer naval and military works to the Committee ?
– My argument is no6 dependent on what any Minister said. The arsenal cannot be brought under the consideration of the House un-; less this Bill is passed. The Act makes it a condition precedent to the carrying out of any work that it shall be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– That does not apply to military works.
– It applies to all works which are not specially exempted, and the House would have something to say if any attempt were made to escape the criticism of the Public Works Committee by absolving any works from its scrutiny. The honorable member is putting the cart before the horse, because he is trying to defeat the measure which is a condition precedent to the Government proceeding with one public work which he is strongly advocating. This measure cannot in itself involve any expenditure, because under the Act no member of the Committee can receive a fee until work has been referred to the .Committee by Parliament.
– Is the honorable member in order in discussing the fees paid to members of the Works Committee ?
– The honorable member would not be in order in discussing that matter.
– I am not discussing the fees- paid to the’- members of the Works Committee. I was pointing out that- one of the grounds on which the honorable member opposes the Bill is that it involves expenditure in the payment of fees to the members of the Works Committee. The original Act, however, does not provide for the payment of fees until works are referred to the Committee, and no fees will be paid unless works are so referred. There is need for the Bill to bring into existence a body of men to whom proposals for the construction of public works may be referred for investigation. I speak with some authority on the subject, having had for three years the control of the public works .of the oldest State in Australia, in the course of which time I had a great de^.1 to do with the Works Committee of New South Wales. I was responsible for the measure which created that Committee, and for some amending measures. I do not hesitate to say that the New South Wales Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works has saved the State millions of pounds, and I submit, as a reason why the Commonwealth Public Works Committee should again ‘ be appointed, that it will save the Commonwealth, a great deal of money.
– I understood you to rule, Mr. Chairman, that honorable members were precluded from discussing the general policy of the original Act, and I ask, therefore, whether the honorable member is in order ?
– The honorable member for Parkes pointed out that the payment of fees to the Committee is not involved in the passing of this Bill, and I have made the same statement to the Committee. The whole purpose of the Bill is to permit of the Committee being appointed this session. I ask honorable members to confine themselves to the question.
– Without the creation of a Public Works Committee no large public works can be dealt with by Parliament, and the passing of the Bill will not involve expenditure.
– I have brought forward three amendments, which you, sir, have ruled out of order; but you suggested one which I accepted, namely, to strike out all the words after the word “ Works.”
– Does- the honorable member desire me to put that amendment to the Committee ?
– -Is the honorable member in order in moving a fourth amendment, seeing that he is entitled to speak only twice on a clause?
– An honorable member may speak twice on a clause and on every amendment. I suggested to the honorable member that if his object be to destroy the Bill he could effect it in a certain way, and I now put before the Committee the amendment that he wishes to make.
.- This is really a validating Bill. The Public Works Committee ought to have been appointed in the first session of this Parliament, but as that session lasted only one day the matter was overlooked. The Bill will enable the Committee to be appointed this session. I compliment the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) on his strenuous pertinacity. I question whether what he proposes will stop expenditure and create economy.
– It will stop expenditure in which he is interested.
– A threat to stop works in my district will have no effect on my actions here.
– The Minister cannot stop public works in my district.
– I did not say that I shall stop works in any district. I said that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, if he succeeded in what he proposes to do, would prevent the construction of works in his electorate.
– Is the Minister in order in stating that my action will stop the carrying out of works in my electorate, thus threatening me because. I am taking an independent stand ? Such threats will have no effect on my actions.
– That is not a point of order.
– By way of personal explanation I wish to say that I made no threat. What I stated was absolutely true. If the Bill be not passed, it will be impossible for the Government to undertake any large public works, including those in which the honorable member is particularly interested.
– Is the Minister for the Navy in order in interrupting my speech with a personal explanation ?
– The Minister rose immediately after a point of order had been dealt with to make a personal explanation arising out of what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro had said. I permitted him to do that, as he was entitled to do it under our rules.
– It is a new thing to me to learn that a speaker may be interrupted in this way, and I protest against such an interruption. I am sorry that you could not see your way to accept the original amendment of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. In my opinion, Parliament is losing control of public expenditure. Whether this Government remains in power for. a short time or for a ‘long time, it can command my vote on any proposal that will have the effect of giving work. It is not because I wish to stop the carrying out of public works that . I support the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I support him partly from admiration for his pertinacity, and partly because I desire a more common-sense method of dealing with the construction of public works. What is the use of investigations if, when it is discovered that money is being wasted, nothing is done to the officials responsible for the waste? The honorable member for Echuca, I understand,’ would stop all public works in order that there may be more money available for investment in war loans. However desirable the honorable member’s object may be, he must recognise that a country cannot have any money to spare unless it’s people are employed.
– But the men are all out on strike; they will not work.
– There are some exceptions. Our taxation will fall very heavily upon householders. It may even take a farthing out of the “ last shilling.” The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) said that this Bill would not involve any expenditure. As an old parliamentarian, the honorable member, who was a Minister before many members entered political life, and filled his office with credit, must surely realize that as soon as the Committee is appointed it will involve expenditure.
– Not unless the members travel.
– Is there not a secretary to be provided for?.
– His office is already in existence. -
– I could not understand the attitude taken up by the honorable member in regard to naval and military works. A committee of public men that was competent to inquire into ordinary public works expenditure should be fit to deal with naval and military works, except the highly technical matters involved in the higher branches of military science. I am satisfied that no committee of public men would have sanctioned some of the expenditure that has been incurred at the Henderson and Westernport Naval Bases. Had such works been inquired into by a Public Works Committee, I believe that a great saving of public money would have been effected. I shall support this amendment.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Austin Chapman’s) be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 42
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I desire to assist the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), since I have every sympathy for a man who is prepared to sacrifice his constituency to his country. I therefore move -
That after the word “ appointed,” second ‘ occurring, the words “ at the end of the session “ be inserted.
The Minister for the Navy declared that the debate that had taken place on this Bill was a shameful waste of time. Does he still indorse that statement?
– Every one does.
– I am glad to have that assurance. Will the Government tell us what they would do but for business of this character which occupies the time of the House? The Minister for the Navy objects to this discussion as a shameful waste of time. It would appear that when anybody rises on the Opposition side to speak against a proposal of the Government, he is, in the opinion of honorable members opposite, wasting the time of Parliament and the country.. I draw attention to the fact that the Government are evidently anxious, not so much that this measure may be passed as that the business shall be disposed of and Parliament allowed to go into recess.
– I must ask the honorable member to confine, himself to his amendment.
– The honorable member for Parkes has pointed out that no public work can be undertaken which involves an expenditure of over £25,000, unless it is referred to the Public Works Committee. Does the Minister for Works and Railways agree with that remark? That gentleman was first the opponent, and then the most intimate friend, of a gentleman in the. country who desired to do some particular work. The gentleman I refer to-
– That has nothing to do with the honorable member’s amendment.
– I am merely endeavouring to controvert the arguments that were advanced in support of this measure - arguments which, apparently, were in order.
– The honorable member has confined the discussion to his amendment.
– Quite so; and I am endeavouring to show that the operation of this measure ought to be postponed until the end of the session. I contend that the argument of the honorable member for Parkes is not a valid argument against the delaying of this measure.
– That is outside the scope of the honorable member’s amendment.
– Since I cannof think of anything to say that would be regarded as in order, I shall resume my seat.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I move -
That this. Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is in the same category as the Public Works Committee Bill, though it does not relate in any way to the payment of members or to. expenditure other than that incidental to the work of this very useful body. This Committee has already presented reports, and has done most valuable work.
– Is there any work for the Public Accounts Committee to do?
– There is plenty of work, and, I should say, useful work, waiting for the Committee. I should like to pay my tribute to the services rendered by this Committee during the last Parliament. Without fee or reward of any kind the members travelled throughout the length and breadth of Australia
– Why are the members of this Committee not paid in the same way as are the members of the Public Works Committee?
– I thought that the honorable member was “ out “ for economy. ‘
– I wish to know the reasons for the difference.
– I feel I am quite unequal to the task of furnishing reasons at this time of night, after what we have just gone through. I submit the Bill, and hope it will be passed without delay.
.- I could never see any valid reason why the members of the Public Works Committee should be paid while the members of the Committee of Public Accounts receive no fee at all, although the work done is equally valuable, and as much travelling has to be done as by the other Committee. I understand that the members of the. Committee of Public Accounts visited all or most of the States, and I think that, under the circumstances, they should be reimbursed, as are the members of the Public Works Committee. If members of Parliament do special work for the country, and are out of pocket as a consequence, they ought to be paid.
– We cannot provide’ for payment under this Bill.
– The Government ought to bring in a measure to place the two Committees oh an equal footing. Next week we shall be called upon to elect the members of these Committees.
– I- think the honorable member is going a little beyond the scope of the measure.
– I shall merely suggest that the Government ought to endeavour to place both these Committees on an equality.
Dr. MALONEY (Melbourne) [8.56.1.- If there is a division on this motion T shall vote as I did in the case of the Public Works Committee Bill. My own view is that, if an honorable member accents a position on a Committee, he should receive his travelling expenses, and travelling expenses only. If fees are to be given in addition, then the Committee ought to be formed from outside, or be a composite body, with accountants, architects, engineers, and other experts represented. This Bill, in my opinion, is quite right in not providing for any payment, but, if I remember rightly, this difference between the two bodies was originally due to a mistake. Iti will be observed that the two Bills are almost identical in wording, and I think both Committees should be placed on the same footing. I do not say that it is my opinion, but the view is held by some people that the payment of members for acting on Committees of the kind is the thin end of the wedge to the conferring of benefits on members of this House. The members of the Public Works Committee, unlike those of the Committee of Public Accounts, receive, when travelling, a fee of 30s. a day in addition to their travelling expenses, and that, I think, the public will hardly approve of. There is an anomaly here, and, though a change was repeatedly promised by Mr. Andrew Fisher, when Prime Minister, the promise has never been carried out. This is a “ Win-the-war “ and “Economy” Go vernment, and now there is a chance presented to them to practise their principles.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 12th September, vide page 1963) :
Schedule (Department of Works and Railways, £963,300).
Upon which Mr. Gregory had moved -
That the item “ General Arsenal - Works and Buildings, including erection of residential quarters - towards cost, £100.000,” he reduced by £1,000. …
– There are many honorable members who have the idea that the proposed arsenal should be established in the Federal Territory, and that a Small Arms Factory should be associated with it, and their arguments lead me to assume that they would attempt to remove the existing Small Aims Factory from Lithgow. As I am the representative of that locality, and as I assured the electors of the town that I would protect their interests so far as I possibly could, a certain amount of responsibility rests on me to secure the retention of that Factory. Many arguments can be advanced for this. The climatic conditions are ideal at Lithgow. The present Ministry was returned to power on the understanding that they would exercise the strictest economy, but no economy would be exercised in tearing down an establishment that has been built up at enormous expense and in spending from £250,000 to £300,000 in re-building it at Canberra. No good reason has been advanced for spending money in the establishment of a new Factory when that which is already in existence is doing its work most satisfactorily. The effect of the removal of the establishment upon the town of Lithgow must also be given careful consideration. When the Factory was first started there were about 300 men employed, but there are now 1,800 men at work in it, and the great bulk of them have their families living in Lithgow. It would be a huge iniquity to the residents of that town if the present establishment were torn down and shifted to Canberra, because, when the men went to work at Lithgow, they were given to understand that they would have continuity of employment, and many of them established and built homes there. In these circumstances, it is rather unreasonable for honorable members to talk of taking away the Factory, and ,1 seek an assurance from the Government that it will still remain in operation at Lithgow, although an arsenal may be erected in some other locality. Such an assurance would make the people of my electorate feel much more satisfied. At present they do not know how they are situated. They do not know that they may not be asked, within the next few years, to remove their goods and chattels to some other part of the Commonwealth.
It is my opinion that an arsenal could be established wisely and economically at Lithgow. Some honorable members seem to be ‘intoxicated with a recent development so far as Australia is concerned, and with the idea that Canberra is the only spot in the world which is suitable for the erection of an arsenal. They endeavour to bring forward evidence to show that Lithgow is a most unsuitable place for such an establishment. One’ argument advanced against Lithgow is th at there is not a sufficient water supply there, whereas the truth is that there is a good and abundant water supply there, as would have been ascertained by the Committee which investigated the matter if it had done its work properly. Experts have said distinctly that Lithgow is a most suitable place for this particular class of work. Nature is m shareholder in the industry that is in operation in the town, because within 15 or 20 miles of the Small Arms Factory there can be found most of the materials necessary for the manufacture of armaments, such as coal, iron, and cement, ingredients which will certainly not be found in proximity to the proposed site in the Federal Capital Territory. Therefore I claim that Lithgow is just as suitable a site for an arsenal as Canberra is, and that the people of Lithgow are just as much entitled to consideration as are the people at the Federal Capital. I am prepared to put up a fight for the establishment of an arsenal at Lithgow, as well as for the maintenance of the present Small Arms Factory there. Honorable members would be doing more good if they would endeavour to enlarge rather than seek to pull it down. Some honorable members seem anxious to rip it down immediately and shift it to the Federal Territory. If they would interest themselves in getting out of the mines some of the so-called Loyalists, who are taking the bread out of the mouths of the women and children of Lithgow, and shifting them to the Federal Capital Territory, the people of Lithgow would be gratified. I have to recognise that there are various obstacles to tha advancement of Lithgow. Not only will the employees at the Factory be inconvenienced, but there are business men in the town who went there, and invested their money on the distinct understanding that there would be no interference with the Factory. Now they do not know whether they will have to forfeit their money, and they are wondering what the outlook will be.
Lithgow is surrounded by hills, which would give it perfect protection in case of an enemy attack, better protection than can be obtained in any other spot in Australia that I know of, or have read of. I will take the late Lord Kitchener .as an .authority in preference to the men who have reported on the matter of the establishment of an arsenal elsewhere. He said that Lithgow was an ideal spot, and worthy of the consideration of any Government. If it Avas good enough for Lord Kitchener to recommend Lithgow, it ought to be good enough for honorable members of this House to recommend the retention of the present Factory, even if they cannot recommend an extension of it. No industry in New South Wales or in the .Commonwealth has had more continuity in its operations than the Small Arms Factory. There has been practically no industrial disturbance during the number of years that the Factory has been running, proving conclusively that the industry should be permitted to remain as it is, because immediately we begin to shift men about and put them into a climate to which they are not accustomed, they may become dissatisfied, and possibly there will be industrial dislocation. I mentioned last night that the rifles produced were equal in quality to the rifles that are turned out in any part of the world. They may have been defective the ramifications of the existing Factory $when the industry first commenced, but vast improvements have been made, and the rifles now turned out compare favorably with the great bulk of rifles produced in older countries. They may not be turned out as cheaply, but in a country where the cost of labour is so much higher than in other countries the cost of the production of any article must be proportionately higher, and it is that which has caused the increase in the cost of producing rifles at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. If my memory serves me aright, the late Government gave the assurance that the industry at Lithgow would not be interfered with while the war continued. It would be a suicidal policy on the part of honorable members to make any attempt to dislocate it, because it will take anything from two to five years to get a factory in decent working order elsewhere. In the meantime the whole industry will have been dislocated, a huge sum of money will have been spent, and weeks and months will have been occupied in getting a new class of labour into the industry, and training the men to conform to the rules and regulations which are in operation at the present time. Therefore, the Government will be well advised in leaving the Factory where it is. If the Government intend to erect other establishments of a similar character, they may do so, but in no circumstances should they interfere with the Factory that is already working so satisfactorily at Lithgow. The former honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Carr) made a good fight in this. House for the retention of the Factory at Lithgow, but he did not receive a great deal of satisfaction. Honorable members seemed to have become intoxicated’ with, the idea that every Commonwealth activity should be located in the Federal Capital. I do not know what reasons actuated them, but their one ambition and desire apparently was to remove the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow into Federal Territory. As to whether such a change would be beneficial to the community I cannot say. I am not anti-Federal, but no honorable member would come into this House and urge that a factory of this kind, in operation in his own electorate, should be shifted elsewhere. If industrial dislocation had taken place at Lithgow, if the men were uncontrollable, or if the climatic conditions were unsatisfactory, honorable members would be justified in advocating the removal of ithe Factory. But I have not heard one valid reason advanced for that step.
– What about the proximity of raw material ?
– All the raw material required for the Factory is obtainable closeat hand, but if the establishment is shifted to Canberra, I do not know whether the Government will have access to convenient supplies of coal, ironstone, and cement. Lithgow is on the railway, and no trouble is experienced in distributing the product of the Factory.
– Is the Factory at Lithgow easily defended ?
– Lithgow itself is situated in the midst of a group of mountains, and is absolutely protected. A more ideal spot for a small arms factory could not be found in any part of Australia. I should like the Minister to inform the Committee whether the Government propose to remove the Factory from its present site. If I can get an assur- . ance that they have no such intention, I can tell the people of Lithgow that their lease of life there is assured for a’ number of years.
– The present uncertainty should be removed.
– That is my contention. The present Government were elected as a Win-the-war Administration, and are pledged to exercise the strictest economy. It would be most unwise on their part to incur an unnecessary expenditure of £200,000 or £300,000 in removing the Small Arms Factory to the Federal Capital. The amount of money that would be expended on that transfer could be wisely devoted to other purposes, which would provide employment for thousands of men who are out , of work to-day. The removal of the Factory and the installation of the machinery on a new site would cost as much as the purchase of new machinery. Another consideration is that it would be impolitic to interfere with the existing establishment while the war is in progress. In any case, interference with the Factory will stifle a flourishing industry, and cause dislocation amongst the employees, who have now the advantage of five or six years’ experience in the production of rifles. The result would be that instead of the weapons costing £7 or £8 each, the cost of production would probably be £13 or £14, until the new establishment and staff have developed into proper working order. Many of the employees have large families, and some of them have commenced to establish homes at Lithgow and have paid deposits in connexion with the purchase of houses. In the event of the establishment being closed down, they will forfeit the money they have paid. Other men have commenced businesses in the town, and they run the risk of losing the money they have invested. Additional inconvenience will be entailed upon the men in shifting their families to another part of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately it seems that not only members of the Government, but also my own colleagues on this side of the House are in favour of the removal of the factory.
– Some honorable members on this side are, but I. suppose that if similar industries were in their own electorates they would be quite ready to plead for their continuance. I trust this matter will receive favorable consideration at the hands of honorable members on both sides.
– I have listened very attentively to every word spoken on the schedule, and particularly to the utterances relating to the amendment, but I am not yet quite sure what the purpose of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is.
– I only desire an assurance in regard to the site of the arsenal.
– If that is made quite clear to the Committee I think I can give the honorable member and those supporting him an assurance that will set their doubts at rest. In considering the arsenal proposal, which, as honorable members know, is a legacy from former Administrations, the Government had to deal with two points. Primarily, we had to consider whether as a matter of policy an arsenal should be proceeded with, and having determined that question, we had to decide as to the site upon which the arsenal should be erected. The item in the schedule deals only with the primary consideration. All the Government have determined up to the present moment is that there shall be an arsenal; the question of site has not been determined. I need not worry the Committee with the arguments that induced us to arrive at that conclusion. It would not be proper to elaborate them at length, but I am entitled to say, with the full concurrence of the Government, and particularly of the Minister for Defence, that at present the position of Australia is unsafe. I hope honorable members will not ask me to elaborate that statement, or think that I am dealing in mysteries. There are certain considerations which are understood by men of the world who stilt in Parliament and have access tic more or less confidential documents, and I think it would be better if we did not debate that question further. But honorable members on both sides will indorse the view held by the present and former Governments that the present position in respect of small arm equipment and ammunition is not at all satisfactory. Generally speaking, one might assume that a Committee of the whole House, knowing all the facts, would be unanimously of opinion that we should proceed with .the establishment of an arsenal with all reasonable speed, making sure, of course, that we are well advised and are not making any fundamental blunders. In regard to the question of site, as a private member I held the view which as a Minister I still hold, that the Government are not entitled to ram any site down the throat of Parliament. Upon this subject there are widely divergent views which have been properly expressed in this House. Both Lithgow and Tuggeranong have been mentioned as the only suitable place for such an arsenal. The Government have not yet dealt with the question of sit°. and before coming to a determination upon it we shall ask the concurrence of Parliament. That is a frank and free, if brief, statement, which I hope the Committee will accept, letting us now proceed with the rest of the schedule.
.- The discussion which I raised in connexion with this matter was entirely on the question of site.’ I feel aggrieved that the suggestion of the Manager of the Small Arms Factory, two years ago, that more machinery should be installed, to be housed in any way possible, so that the making of quick-firers, and perhaps 18-pr. field-pieces, /might be proceeded with, was not adopted. My object in moving th<s amendment was to secure the promise that the site of the arsenal should be determined by Parliament. I agree with what the Minister has said, and shall be prepared to accept whatever decision Parliament may come to on the question. With the permission of the Committee, I, therefore, withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Macquarie on the able manner in which he has placed the claims of his constituents before the Committee. Had the Minister replied to his question whether the Government intends to move the Factory from Lithgow to Canberra, I should not have risen to speak. It is due to the honorable member that he should be told whether the Government intends at a later period to remove the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow to Canberra. I have a vivid recollection of what happened last Parliament. At the time I was desirous that the arsenal should be built, because I agree with what has been said as to the need for it; but I pointed out that, I would not be a party to the removing of the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow to the site at the Federal Capital chosen for the arsenal, in view of the fact that so much money has been spent on the Factory, and that its removal would further increase the cost of producing rifles, which is still too great. This cost has been reduced considerably within the past two years, largely because there is now better co-ordination between the differentdepartments of the Factory. But in removing the Factory you will have to re-establish the present conditions, which would take probably two or three years, and this would mean considerable expense in addition to that entailed by the actual removal, and the getting of the new Factory into thorough working order.
– The whole matter is to be referred to Parliament before the site is determined.
– Did the Minister give the assurance that the removal of the Factory from Lithgow would be referred to Parliament?
– Lithgow ‘s position will not be prejudiced by anything we contemplate in connexion with the arsenal.
– When do you propose to bring this matter before Parliament?
– I cannot say at ‘the pre; sent time.
– I wish to make my position clear, because I strongly supported the ex-member for Macquarie in this matter. In view of the statement of the Minister that the present factory at Lithgow will not be prejudiced, I am prepared to leave the matter for consideration at a later period.
.- Although the statement of the Minister was explicit, as far as it went, I. was disappointed with it. He tells us that the Government realize the urgent need of an arsenal, but apparently the arsenal will not be constructed before the crack of doom.
– I doubt that the Melbourne Cup will be run before the matter is dealt with.
– The Minister states that Parliament will be consulted on the question of site, that the motion to refer proposed sites to the Works Committee will come before Parliament.
– I did not say that.
– The Works Committee has reported on the question of site.
– I understood from the Minister’s statement that there would be another inquiry in regard to the site.
– I did not say that.
– Is there to be an inquiry? Will the Minister answer that?
– Parliament will be consulted at some time in the future, but whether in the near or in the far future no one knows.
– Apparently nothing can be done for the settlement of the site until Parliament has been consulted. How much of the £100,000 that we are asked to vote can be spent? The construction of an arsenal has been under consideration for some time. The Government is neglecting, I might almost say criminally, the vital interests of the country. In July of last year it was decided by Cabinet, and publicly announced by the Minister for Defence, that the defence necessities of the Commonwealth were so urgent that it was necessary to immediately proceed with the military training of the whole manhood of Australia for home defence, which shows that twelve months ago we were in a critical position so far as home defence was concerned. The establishment of an arsenal has now been under consideration for a couple of years, and it may take a couple of years more before a decision can be arrived at regarding a site, because there will be a struggle between conflicting interests to secure the proposed large expenditure for some particular place.
I am astounded to hear the Minister say that the Government realizes the urgent necessity for an arsenal, and in the next breath that it has not yet decided the question of site. It appreciates the difficulties which confront us, but is taking no adequate steps to meet them. When are we to consider the question of site? We are told to-day by the Prime Minister that the House is to meet on an additional sitting day next week, and to sit longer hours, in the hope that its business may be concluded by the end of the week, with a view to an adjournment. The question of site cannot be dealt with until we meet again after that adjournment. This is playing with the matter. If we could freely and frankly discuss the dangers that surround Australia at the present time, and the public could be made to appreciate our position, the people would demand that the Government should do its duty by the country, but the electors are forced to live in a fool’s paradise, because the Government prevents from reaching them .the information which every man and woman in the country should have. I admit the difficulty of saying some of the things that we should like to say about the present international situation.
He would be a bold man who would affirm that the close of the Avar will be reached without a new alignment of the nations which are taking part in it. If the end of the war is preceded by a conference to” discuss the terms of peace, and .there is then no disagreement between those who are now allies, it will be the first time in history that such a thing has taken place. When after the first Balkan war a settlement of the interests in dispute was attempted, a quarrel broke out among States that had been allied, and the fight between them was fiercer than the original conflict. No one can consider, without fearing what may happen, the possibility of differences between the present Allies when the enemy which keeps them together has been disposed of. To safeguard the interests of this country we must be prepared for all contingencies. What are to be the terms of peace ?
– Is the honorable member going to discuss the terms of peace on the schedule to this Bill ?
– In dealing with a proposal for an arsenal, it is necessary to consider our position in connexion with the war. ‘ It is the pivotal point of our defence preparations.
– How long” will it take to build the arsenal ?
– Ten years.
– It will take quite as long as that at the present pace. The Postmaster-General, who makes such a light-hearted, but astounding,” interjection. was a member of a Ministry which in July of last year decided to train every min of military age. It had nothing to do with the present war. The decision to train every man in Australia must have been due to information of the most serious kind in the possession of the Government. Fidelity to our national interests has now been replaced by criminal disregard of our vital necessities. We are now told by the Postmaster-General that it will take ten years to complete the arsenal.
– The peace terms ought to be settled long before that.
– And if everything does not go well Australia will also be “settled” before then, and “settled’” without having an opportunity to strike a blow for herself. Should she ever find herself in that position of responsibility it will rest with the Government, who are playing with the very life and existence of the nation.
– Does the honorable member think it wise to pursue that line of argument?
– These matters ought to be discussed. They have been cloaked too long. I should like to know what secret diplomatic negotiations are going on, and what will be their effect on this country. We know nothing, however, concerning them. Australia is in a position of serious danger, and I am endeavouring to drive home that fact, in the hope that the Government will be induced to “ get a hustle “ on. As it is, they are simply asking the Committee to affirm the general principle of an arsenal. Their proposal is something very remote from the actual construction of the arsenal.
We have heard a lot as’ to the aims of the Allies, so far as the disposition of the map of Europe is concerned. We know that questions as to the adjustment of power - the balance of power - in the Pacific have also been discussed, but we are not permitted to know anything of the details. What is to be our position in (he Pacific at the conclusion of the war?
– We are going to retain all we hold in the Pacific, I hope.
– Do not letus jump to any hasty conclusions on that. That is one of the matters that should be considered by this Parliament. L am not so sure that what the honorable member suggests would be the best thing for us to do. This young nation seeks no territorial aggrandisement. The probabilities are that we have already as much territory as we can handle. We are told from various quarters that, because we do not properly occupy this continent of ours, we are breaking international rules. We are told that if some other country has an overflowing population, and we make no serious attempt to fill our vacant spaces, that other country has a right to insist that her people shall be allowed to inhabit portion of this continent. If that be so, to what extent is our position further endangered by the acquisition of still further territory, which it is impossible for us to develop ?
– The honorable member is discussing a good deal more than the arsenal.
– The honorable gentleman desires to hush all this up. All this has to do with the defence of Australia.. If we cannot defend Australia, how, then, can we hope to defend larger possessions? It is a moot question whether we should drive every other white power out of the Pacific altogether, or whether we should not have a buffer there. v The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Atkinson). - The honorable member is now going beyond the question before the Chair.
– I am pointing to the danger that confronts Australia; this question of the arsenal goes to the very root of the defence of the Commonwealth. What is the use of training cadets and soldiers if we have no arms with which to equip them ; no machine guns and no shell?
I said some things to which exception has been taken by honorable members opposite, and I have made statements outside to which strong exception has been taken. It is because I think the vital interests of this country are not being properly safeguarded by the party opposite that I have done so. In its neglect of the interests of Australia, in its practical refusal to put Australia in a position to strike a blow for itself against impending dangers that can be averted only by an act of Providence, I consider this Government is the worst we have ever had in this country. It is worse than any other State or Federal Government we have had.
– Why did not the Labour Government do these things when it was in power?
– Because we had the present Prime Minister at the head of it.
– But he was only one man.
– -And this Government, like the last, is only a one-man Administration. It is being directed by the Imperialistic Jingo section of imported Englishmen.
– The honorable member . does not know the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) or the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Watt), otherwise he would not make that statement.
– They are all in the same boat. They are so obsessed with the position of Great Britain in this war that they are not considering the position of Australia. They think that our position is wholly wrapped up with that of Great Britain. It is all for Britain, and nothing for Australia.
– The honorable member knows that we could not hold this country without Great Britain. ‘
– I know nothing of the kind. I do know that when Great Britain, with her tremendous mercantile marine, the like of which no other nation had, sent 250,000 men to South Africa, it was looked upon as the most colossal feat in history. If we had here from 300,000 to 500,000 well-trained and well-equipped men, no nation in the world could send to these shores an army that could hope to defeat it.
– The honorable member says so, and I suppose that settles it.
– I do not know as to that, but I would remind the honorable gentleman that Lord Kitchener, in his report, provided for a force of S0,000 men for the protection of this country. Who would have thought that Australia could raise upwards of 300,000 troops to send to the other end of the world ?
– The honorable member will have an opportunity, within the next seven days, to discuss these matters on the question of Supply.
– I tell the honorable gentleman candidly that I frequently feel that I have seriously neglected my duty to this country by omitting to continuously call attention to these matters. I would gladly go up and down the country pointing out these dangers to the people in the hope that they would bring some force to bear upon the Government to compel them to recognise their duty to Australia.
– The honorable member would carry the fiery cross?
– If I could tell the people, without let or hindrance, of the position, I would do so. But as soon as we adjourn, this Government will take the cowardly action of sneaking through a regulation under the War Precautions Act making it a penal offence for any one to make any public statement that does not suit the Ministry.
– We should be actuated only by considerations of public and national safety.
– It is not a case of “we,” but of one man doing all these things. The honorable member does not decide what regulations shall be issued under the War Precautions Act.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong.
– We have had some experience of the Prime Minister, and know him just as well as, if not better than, does the honorable gentleman.
– The honorable member knew him in his unregenerate days.
– We know that he is doing now just what he did before.
I wish that I could induce a body of honorable members to take the action that I think ought to be taken against this Government. If I could, they would be a long time in getting this Bill through, unless they satisfied us that they were going to do something that would meet the vital needs of the country. I am bitterly disappointed to learn that the site of the arsenal has not been settled, and that the whole matter is to be started de novo.
– The honorable member, for the last quarter of an hour, has been denouncing this Government for not consulting honorable members, and now that we propose to consult them we are told we are doing wrong.
– The right honorable member is very clever in trying to side-track honorable members, but he will not side-track me. He does not treat this matter seriously.
– This is the first time the Government have had a chance to submit this question to a Committee of Supply.
– When the Government want to put a few women in gaol they can speedily issue a regulation to enable that to be done; but when we come to the question of building an arsenal we are told by the Postmaster-General that the work is likely to take ten years.
There are two divisions of the Cabinet. The statement that the arsenal will not be completed for the next ten years just about expresses the views of the Imperialistic Jingo section of the Cabinet, which consists mainly of Englishmen - I say this deliberately - as to the defence of Australia. They seem to think that, as long as everything is going on all right in connexion with the war - as long as the last man can be baled out of this country to help Great Britain - there is no need to do anything for Australia. It is time that Australia woke up, and that we had in this House a few more Australians to see that adequate provision is made for the defence of its- integrity and freedom to develop its national character without outside interference.
.- I am disappointed with the attitude of the Government. I was hopeful that they would stand to their guns, and was prepared to assist them in obtaining the decision of this question to-night. The mere fact that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has moved this amendment should not have been sufficient to induce them to withdraw their proposal in regard to the arsenal, and to say that before anything is done towards building it the whole question of site will be gone over again. The Government have displayed great weakness. There are enough honorable members here desirous to have the arsenal started at once to give the Government a substantial majority. We can do nothing until we have selected a site.
– We can deal with the machinery problem.
– The Minister has said either too much or too little.
– He has said exactly the right thing
– To suit himself, possibly. What can be done towards building a.n arsenal until the site is selected ? Will the Government give Parliament an opportunity before the House rises to decide this question ? This is a very important matter; and we ought! to come to a decision at once.’ The machinery is a small matter compared with that of the building and the laying-out of the plant.
– It is very important that we should deal with the British ammunition authorities in regard to -the machinery.
– Machinery is a secondary matter, because the demand, so far as ammunition is concerned, is supplied. The Allies, as a fact, are making more munitions now than they can use; and we could get the machinery here in one or two years, whereas we could not provide a building in that time. Any further delay would be criminal, and we ought to know when we may expect to have an opportunity to decide the question.
– This year.
– Before December?
– So long as the matter is settled within a reasonable time, I am satisfied.
.- I confess I was disappointed to-night at what the Minister said, in view of the fact’, that we are to conclude our business for the time being next week; but as we now have a definite promise that the question of the site of the arsenal will be settled .this year - that is, within the next three months - I am satisfied. I quite agree that this is a most urgent matter, and that there has been too much delay already. However, as I say, I must be content with the promise of the Minister, and take it that a decision will be arrived at this year.
– Parliament will be given the chance this’ year.
– The Government seem in this matter of the arsenal to be pursuing a policy of procrastination - a policy of waiting and waiting for a more convenient season. Of course, there is some satisfaction in the assurance that the question will be settled before Christmas; but nearly two years have elapsed since a body of experts were sent away from Australia to visit arsenal . and shell works in other parts of the Em pire, so that they might come back primed with all the essential information for this enterprise. The last two years or eighteen months have, in my opinion, been absolutely wasted. Surely the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Defence must realize that, even if we started at once with the provision of an arsenal, years must elapse before there can be any material result. . If anything is needed for the defence of this country, it is steel works capable of turning out practically all the steel required for our military and naval purposes. Should any of our cruisers, or the battleship Australia, receive any damage in these waters, there are no works capable of turning out a plate with which to do the repairs. That is a very serious state of affairs, and those who can sit down calmly, after the delay that has already occurred, are guilty of criminal negligence. We are dependent on outside sources for guns of anything like decent calibre, and we know that, under present circumstances, we might any day be cut off from the rest of the world; and then the Lord help this continent ! But we ‘continue to live in a fool’s paradise, apparently convinced that we are quite safe. I sincerely regret that a Ministry which claims, above all things, to be a “ Win-the-war “ Ministry, should prove to be one of the slowest to take action in connexion with the defence of the country. The new arsenal will most likely be in somenew locality, and any one conversant with such matters must know that there will be required at once at least 1,000 workmen’s homes; therefore, the site ought to be selected as early as possible in order that proper provision may be made in this and other respects. All we are doing at present is to turn out a few rifles, and manufacture some smallarm ammunition; and since the alterations that have been made in the rifle, the manufacture of ammunition is not equal to what it was. I am glad to be able to say that up to four or five months ago we were supplying ammunition for all the Australians who had left our shores, in. addition to meeting certain demands in South Africa and in New Zealand. The report regarding the arsenal has been in the hands of the Minister for Defence for nearly two years, and the plans are all ready. The question of the site has been inquired into, and the present manager of the Small Arms Factory, who is a most practical man, and has had great experience in big works in Queensland-
– Those works are not on a par with an arsenal.
– But the present manager of the Small Arms Factory had charge of about 500 workmen at Maryborough, where there is a very fine industry.
– Yes, from a general engineering stand-point; but otherwise, no.
– The PostmasterGeneral was a member of the Cabinet which assented to the appointment of the Committee of Inquiry, and the subject of their report is the most important of any we have been called upon to discuss. All we have, however, is a sort of preliminary promise from tie Minister for Works and Railways that we shall have an opportunity to decide the site before the close of the year. The Minister has not given us that information to which we are entitled.
– I have not had the chance.
– We expected more information, but all we have is a sort of half-promise.
– It is a definite promise that there shall be an opportunity to decide the site this year. I should be more satisfied if we could decide the question at once.
– It is a mere preliminary promise.
– It is explicit.
– A considerable number of us understood that the site had been practically fixed upon.
– The Committee, of which the honorable member himself was a member, could not agree as to the site.
– It did eventually.
– The honorable mem-, ber for Maranoa (Mr. Page) is rushing . to conclusions without due consideration. What that Committee was called upon to do was to investigate as to the most desirable site within the Federal Territory. When interrupted by interjections, I was about to say that one of the most practical men who gave evidence before this Committee was Mr. McKay, who visited other parts of the Empire in order to obtain information about an arsenal. He is the manager of one of the most successful works in Australia, that has turned out engines and similar things for the various
States. He stated on oath that, so far as he knew Australia - and he knew it fairly well - he knew of no better site for an arsenal than the one selected at Tuggeranong. I do not see why we should postpone the selection of the site, unless it is the intention of the Government to make further inquiries for a more suitable one. If they have their minds made up, let them nail their colours to the mast and submit the matter to the House, and if a majority of honorable members reject the site selected at Tuggeranong, it will be incumbent on them to make further investigation with a view to the adoption of -another site. But (she longer the selection of a site is delayed, the longer will the establishment of an- arsenal be delayed. If the matter is to come before the House for discussion in November, and honorable members then decide against Tuggeranong, will the Minister propose to set out in a haphazard fashion to select another site? If we have all these delays, we are flying in the face of danger, and we are not putting Australia in the position that she ought to occupy in regard to her defence.
– What is the remedy ?
– A site has been recommended. If the majority of honorable members are not in favour of it, then it must go by the board and we must proceed to make another selection. There must be excursions ‘by some Committee or another over nearly all Australia, because each State, and even the Northern Territory, may put in a claim to have possible sites investigated, and the consequent inquiries will occupy months; even when the matter again comes before Parliament, there will be further full-dress debates, so that, I suppose, two years will have been wasted before a decision is arrived at.
– Will the honorable member make another speech then ?
– ‘I suppose so, if I am not satisfied.
– The honorable member is never satisfied.
– The Minister gives us very little information to go on. A little more earnestness on his part would be acceptable to honorable members. An arsenal will be the centre of our defence system, and any delay in building one will prove most serious to the interests of
Australia. I have no desire to repeat myself, but what action does the Minister propose to take if in November next Parliament decides against the Tuggeranong site?
– Do not let us deal with riddles. When we come to the matter, I think the House will be satisfied that the Government mean business. The suggestion that I have put forward is the best method of dealing with it.
– I have no objection if it is only a matter of a postponement for a month, and the House comes to a decision to select the site at Tuggeranong; but if we do not agree to that site, there will be considerable delay. For that reason, I would like to see honorable members settle the matter to-night.
.- I regret that I have to persist in giving honorable members the opportunity to review an illegal act in regard to the railway from Queanbeyan to the civic centre at Canberra. I have already pointed out that this railway will cost over £27,000, and that the Public Works Committee Act provides that any work estimated to cost more than £25,000 shall be referred to the Public Works Committee for report before any expenditure is incurred upon it. Apparently the Government are willing to condone the action of an official or officials in the Works and Railways Department in defying Parliament; and if honorable members are prepared to support the Government in that regard, I have done my duty by calling attention to this matter, and in asking the Committee to divide upon it. The decision of the Committee will probably ratify the action of the Government. It is said that the work for which this money is to be borrowed is nearly completed, but that cannot be the case when £8,300 is required for the purpose. It is’ urged that certain material having been purchased it will be a waste of money if it is not made use of, but I suggest that if tlie material is in the shape of rails, fishbolts, and sleepers, it can be made use of in the construction of the railway that will be necessary to connect the proposed site of the arsenal at Tuggeranong with the Queanbeyan line. I hope that honorable members will decide to build the arsenal at Tuggeranong for reasons which I need not enter upon now, because the Government are anxious to get this Bill through to-night. I do not wish to delete the whole of the item in regard to the railway to the civic centre, because a certain portion of the vote is required for a waterway on the QueanbeyanCanberra line. I move -
That the item “ Railway - completion of con struction line and new .bridge on Queanbeyan line, and additional waterway on Queanbeyan to Canberra line, £8,300,” be reduced by £7,000. If this is agreed to, £1,300 will be left for the construction of the additional waterway.
– I appreciate the consideration that the honorable member has extended to the Committee by not taking up too much time, but I hope that he will not persist with his amendment and delay the passage of this schedule, which includes a large number 9f important public works. The question to which he has drawn attention is arguable, and it depends on the view which one takes of the works in the Federal Territory; but broadly (speaking, it is too late to effect any substantial saving in regard to this work. I was at the Federal Capital four and a half months ago, and the line was then in an advanced stage. I cannot assure the honorable member precisely where it stands now, but I know that a large quantity of timber, rails, fish-plates and other things associated with the carrying out of this work are already on the ground or in course of being laid. The cuttings and earthworks were in an advanced stage when I was there. This particular line stretches from the power-house to what is known as the civic centre. It is about 3J miles long. The honorable member has been misinformed as to the total cost of the line. The figures in my possession show that £17,000 was spent on the line up to 30th June last, and that £7,500 will be required to complete it. That makes a total of £24,500 for the 3£ miles, and thus it is exempt from the provision of the Act to which’ the honorable member has referred.
– What about the £5,000 under the heading of preservative works in the Works and Buildings Estimates?
– That item does not deal with this particular line. The Minister for Home and Territories will explain what it means. I know that Eis idea is that where certain work has been done it should be kept in a state of preservation so that its value may not be lost. That is a prudent policy. Whatever view we take as to stopping works, it would be bad economy to allow whatever has already been constructed to fall into disrepair. Salvage money should appear on the Estimates for the preservation of works already completed. Arising out of the maintenance of this railway there will be a little expenditure. The original purpose of the line was the conveyance of building material from that point to the civic centre. If works are being constructed there will be a fair amount of revenue on that section. If works are not being constructed the only traffic will be the internal- traffic of the workmen and the administrators living in the Capital and those dealing with land in the vicinity. It would be folly to stop the remaining expenditure by stacking up the few remaining rails, and not laying them, as was originally intended. The amount to be expended on the temporary wooden bridge is estimated to be £800, which, with the £7,500 for that section of line, makes the total of £8,300 appearing in the schedule. The honorable member must judge this work, as we must judge other works, not as to whether it was wise to start it in the first place, but, having started it, whether it would be wise to discontinue it. Often this problem arises in administration. A man may disagree with the original project, but he will complete it, because once having started the enterprise, it would be folly to discontinue it. That, I take it, is the position in connexion with this line.
.- I am sorry that the Minister -for Works and Railways has been unable to convince me. It is quite clear to me that this railway has not yet crossed the river. It might, and very probably would, be of some value if it were decided to proceed with the construction of the parliamentary buildings and public offices at the Capital, but, instead of taking the line across to the proposed civic centre, where it would be absolutely useless, it might be diverted so as to finish somewhere in the vicinity of the proposed site of Parliament House, where it would be of considerable use if that work were proceeded with. If the Minister will give me an assurance that the line will not be constructed across the Molonglo River opposite to the power house, I shall be satisfied that the money is not being altogether wasted. The fact of the case is that Mr. Griffin is determined that the first business settle ment shall take place on a certain spot marked on his plan for the civic centre. Whether such settlement will be convenient for the people living there, or whether it will be economical for the Government does not concern Mr. Griffin. Under cross-examination by the Public Works Committee, he admitted that if he were successful in carrying . out his design the workmen employed in building Parliament House and the public offices would have to walk a mile to work, which would necessitate their being paid every day for the resultant loss of time. That cost does not concern Mr. Griffin so long as he can get his civic centre started at the spot marked on his plan. I know that the only object of constructing this line is that men may be induced to settle on the side of the river opposite to where it would be convenient for them to live if they were employed in building the public offices, and in order that a certain form of settlement, which Mr. Griffin has decided to be necessary for the carrying out of his design, shall take place.
– Does the honorable member think that Mr. Griffin has ever done anything right?
– I have nothing to say against Mr. Griffin as Director of Design and Construction, nor am I opposed to his design. I have no objection to money being spent at Canberra. On the contrary, I desire that all money which can be spared for public works at the present time shall be spent there ; but this proposed railway will be a wicked waste of money. There can be no revenue from it. A few tons of hay grown on the plains to the north of the civic centre may provide a little freight, but there is no material anywhere near the civic centre that could be carried on the line1 for the construction of Parliament House and the public offices. I shall ask the Committee to express an opinion by their votes as to whether they approve of the illegal action which has been taken in proceeding with this work, and whether they absolve whoever is responsible for this mistake.
– Having been at the Federal Capital six weeks ago, I can bear out the statement of the Minister. Since the Minister’s visit the cuttings have been finished, and the line has been practically completed. I understand that this money is to pay some of the expenditure. that was incurred while the work was in progress.
– I understand that that is so to some extent.
– I disagree from the contention of the honorable member for Boothby. For this work Mr. Griffin is not responsible. He has carried out an instruction by a previous Minister that this work should be done, and, I think, quite properly. Mr. Griffin’s plan provides for the city being divided into two centres, the parliamentary centre and the civic centre, one on each side of the river. Mr. Griffin’s idea is that when men are employed in the construction of the parliamentary buildings and public offices, they should not be living in tents around Parliament House, but that decent” workmen’s cottages should be built for them in the civic centre, on the opposite side of the river. I concur in his view. When construction work is in full swing, the men will be there, not for a day, a week, or a month, but for a very long time, and for that reason it would be false economy to house them in temporary shanties such as are provided about the brick works. The question of Mr. Griffin’s responsibility does not arise. The Minister gave an instruction, and the work is almost completed. What good could be done by refusing funds for its completion ? Notwithstanding anything Parliament mav do to’ reduce the item, the Minister will be obliged to pay the debts which have been incurred, or he will receive a writ. The construction of this railway is quite justified, for upon the completion of a further 7 miles of line to the boundary of the Federal Capital, the Government of New South Wales will be obliged, by a contract entered into with the Commonwealth, to connect that line with Yass. The State Government are prepared to fulfil their part of the contract as soon as the Common wealth has done its share.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Postmaster-General, £104,000.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral, in accordance with his promise last evening, inform the Committee in what country districts money is to be spent on the laying of conduits?
– I desire to say a few words in reply to the criticisms that have been offered and the requests that have been made for information. The money to be expended this year on the laying of conduits for telephone services is to be provided for from loan. Last year I was asked by the Treasurer to carry out that work from revenue, and, accordingly, none of it was done from loan, although three years previously conduit construction was charged to loan account. If Parliament were to decide that I should continue this work from revenue at a time when revenue is limited, the very men who are objecting, to the work being financed from loan account would be prejudicing country interests, because it is obvious that the less money I receive from loan for this purpose, the greater must be the contribution from revenue, leaving less revenue available to supply the demands for country services.
The undergrounding of telephone conduits was started some years ago, and in several cities proved quite an easy and economical work. In Sydney the work was more expensive than anywhere else in the Commonwealth. In Melbourne and other capital cities we have been able to do the more expensive works in shorter time,, but, in Sydney, owing to the comparatively heavy cost of the work, we have not been able to proceed with the undergrounding so rapidly. Consequently there is more of this work to be done in the metropolitan area of - Sydney than in any other place in the Commonwealth. In South Australia nearly all the possible undergrounding in the city has been done, and no money is provided this year for expenditure in the metropolitan area. The whole of the money is to be spent in country districts.- viz., Unley, Kooringa, Jamestown, Kapunda, Murray Bridge, Millicent, Salisbury, Renmark, Brighton, and Glenelg. The expenditure in each of those districts will range from £800 to £3,391. When we underground telephone lines we reduce the cost of maintenance to one-eighth of the cost of maintaining aerial lines. Therefore, the sooner the great arteries in the metropolitan areas are undergrounded the sooner will money be available for the extension of services in the country. The curtailment of the undergrounding reduces the possibility of country extension. I am not a city representative ; for nearly twenty years I have represented a country constituency, and, while I occupy my present position, country services will not be prejudiced. When the general Estimates are under discussion I hope to show how economies have been effected by the reduction of excess services in capital cities. I have applied the pruning knife, and have cut out, not all, but a good deal of the dead wood. There was a deficit of £629,000 when I became PostmasterGeneral, but I hope that the accounts now under preparation will show a balance in favour of the Department, and this has been brought about by legitimate economies. No country service has been reduced beyond what was being paid for it before the war.
– The Minister may not go into that matter.
– In Victoria, undergrounding is to be done in Ballarat, Bendigo, Colac, Mortlake, Horsham, Warrnambool, and Geelong.
– What about Queensland?
– There has not been time since the Treasurer made known what amount would be available to determine the allotment for Queensland.
– Why is the Minister calling for once-a-week services where previously there had been threetimesaweek services ?
– I am not allowed to explain that now, but when the general Estimates are under discussion I hope to make a complete statement regarding the operations oi the Department.
.- As fresh contracts for country services will shortly be let, I hope that the Minister will not overlook districts in which there is only a twice-a-week service. He bas said that no reductions are to be made, But I have to-day given him instances of proposed reductions. People, who only twice a week can get news of their friends who are fighting at the Front, or even press reports-
– The honorable member may not go into that matter.
– As there remains so little time before tenders for the renewal of services will be considered, I ask the Minister to see that none of these outside services is cut down.
.- I was pleased to hear the statement of the Minister regarding the telephone ser- - vice. I wish to amend the item so that the Minister may be able to spend some of this money in assisting those in the back country who wish to have telephones.
There is more need for expenditure on telephone services there than in the cities, because where mails are irregular other ‘ communication should be provided. At the present time, districts which have offered to pay the full interest charges demanded by the Department to make good any loss on working, and to assist in the cartage of posts and material, have been informed by the Department that, owing to the scarcity of wire, due to the war, requests for extensions cannot be granted. Yet wire is obtainable for telephone systems in the cities and big. towns. No doubt, city representatives are in sympathy with those who live in the back country, and probably the Minister is, too, though he has not shown it in a practical way. I believe in giving all that we can to the “man out back. This is not a, matter of catching votes. In the districts that I have in mind it would be difficult to find 100 electors, whereas that number of votes can be secured in a mining camp or small town where there are telephone services. I hope that the Minister will agree to the addition to the item of the words “ also for country telephones.” That will enable him to treat the country districts with a certain amount of leniency. My experience of the Department’s actions differs from the statements of the Minister. Some time ago a guarantee of £150 a year was demanded for an all-night telephone service. T know of a case in which a service was established under such a guarantee, one man paying £100 to obtain communication with the exchange. Soon afterwards, the regulation was altered, and a guarantee of £250 was demanded. This is not the way in which the Minister is treating the city populations. I should have no objection to a system which required services to pay everywhere. I should not object to a twopenny postage to make the Postal Department pay. But if concessions are to be given, they should go to the country people rather than to the town populations. According to the departmental report, last year £116,000 was lost on the Sydney metropolitan telephone system; £56,000 on the Melbourne system ; and £34,000 on. the Perth system, and no special demand is being made upon them. I move -
That the item “ For the construction of conduits and for laying wires underground - £104,000 “ be amended by the insertion, after the word “ underground,” of the words “ and also for country telephones.”
– The question raised by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) as to what works should be constructed out of revenue, and what should be provided out of loan account is clearly one of limitations and definitions. All work of a capital character, with a definite life which can be assessed in order to determine interest charges or interest and sinking fund for the redemption of the asset at the expiration of its life, should be provided for out of loan. Telegraph and telephone lines, however, are a departmental asset, possessing no definite life. Their maintenance is provided for out of revenue, and they are kept up to an effective standard. At any given time a telegraph or telephone line, as the result of maintenance expenditure, should be of as high a standard as it was when first constructed. Such works are, therefore, properly a revenue expenditure. The reason why my Department has not hitherto been run as a business proposition is that we have never defined what is properly capital expenditure, and have never introduced a system of charging such to loan account works, which would be so charged in any ordinary business.
– And for many years the Department has been buying post-office sites, and building post-offices out of revenue.
– That is so. If the Department were conducted on business lines these charges would be properly allocated. If capital works were provided for out of loan in the way I have indicated, then with the revenue of the Department I could give country districts additional facilities, without having to increase rates. We have on the Estimates an item of £150,000 to provide for two automatic telephone exchanges, which are absolutely necessary if we are to provide an effective service.
– Where are they to be provided ?
– One at Malvern, in this State, and the other at Sydney. A sum of £150,000 is to be spent on these two assets, the plant of which will have a fifty years’ life, while the buildings will have a 100 years’ life. Is it a fair thing to provide out of one year’s revenue for such an asset? No business- firm would do so. The result of the present system,»however, is that I have to find the money out of revenue. If it were -taken out of loan, I should have that amount of revenue with which to give to backblock districts the concessions for which honorable members are asking. If the Department were placed on a proper financial basis, on the lines I have mentioned, we should be able to give a more effective and expansive service to the great and growing interests of Australia, without, having to increase rates and charges. As it is, I cannot hold out any hope to honorable members of the adoption of the amendment for the reason that telegraph and telephone lines are charged against revenue, since they are a continuous asset, in respect of which no definite life can be fixed.
– As a city representative, I am prepared to authorize the Postmaster-General to extend the postal and telephone facilities in country districts, even if it’ results in the Department showing a loss on ‘ its operations. We cannot expect telegraph and telephone lines in outlying districts to pay for the cost of construction and interest thereon. In the interests of the development of the country, and in order that_ residents of rural districts may have necessary telephone facilities, the Parliament should be prepared to make good any loss that the Department incurs in this direction. It is all very well for the Postmaster-General to say that the Department should be carried on upon a business footing, but he cannot hope to develop- the postal and telephonic services in country districts as they should be developed, and at the same time to show a profit on the working of his Department. I do not think this Parliament expects him to show a profit. We have a right to ask him to at least continue these facilities at their normal level, even if they show a loss. The Government could readily come to the rescue of the PostmasterGeneral if his country business shows a loss-
– By giving him a special vote.
– Quite so ; that is the way out of the difficulty. I believe that Parliament would be prepared to grant him a special vote to enable him to continue these services in country districts at their normal level. It is false economy to cut down services - to reduce a mail service of three deliveries a week to one delivery a week, or to cut off a telephone service, as in the case of the Port Stephens line, for the sake of saving £50.
– I have called for an inquiry as to the Port Stephens telephone line. I do not know what the facts are, and I think the honorable member should allow that matter to stand over.
– It is only one of many cases of the kind. °
– It is not.
– I am relying on the statements of various representatives of country constituencies that telephone facilities in their electorate’s have been reduced. I repeat that, as a city representative, I am prepared to support the making of a special vote to the Postal Department in order that country residents may enjoy reasonable facilities. As it is, the policy being pursued by the Department is a cheese-paring one, and will not result in any real saving. The Government should deal with this question in a business-like way, and agree to provide a. special vote to make up any deficiency in the returns from country services.
.- The Postmaster-General has given us a very interesting exposition of the difficulty experienced by a Minister who is unable to convince his colleagues in the Cabinet as to the way in which the finances of his Department should be arranged. I think he has the sympathy of ‘ every country representative. . The honorable gentleman has laid down a fundamental principle with which, I think, the Committee will agree - the principle that that class of capital construction work which has longevity on its side should, in the case of his Department, be provided for out of loan money. As it is, we have in this Bill items relating to telephone wires, the life of which, according to the honorable member for East Sydney, is very much curtailed by reason of the fact that, to use his own words, they are “buried alive.” I am pleased to notice that an important town in my- electorate is to be visited under this proposal, but I should have been better pleased had the proposed vote for undergrounding telephone wires in that town been set apart for extending tele-: phone lines in country districts.
When I entered this House I was very much interested in the question of country telephone construction, and arranged with the then Postmaster-General (Mr, Agar Wynne) to have an interview with the then chief constructional engineer (Mr. Hesketh). At that interview we went into the cost of construction, with the result that tremendous savings’ were effected. The Department had been in the habit of erecting poles up to 20 feet and 26 feet in length in outlying country districts where 12 feet poles would have been quite sufficient. That practice was altered as the result of the interview. We also had many lines erected on a contributory basis, the residents undertaking, where the timber was growing on their own land, to provide the poles and to erect them, the Department supplying wires, spindles, insulators, and instruments, and making a small contribution per mile to the cost of construction. Where farmers and their workmen could spare the time to construct a. line this system proved satisfactory, both to the Department and to local residents. Many miles of telephone lines were constructed upon that basis.
I recently submitted to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department a proposal to erect a line of 10 miles on these terms, but the answer I received was that if those concerned would supply the poles, erect them, and provide the wires, spindles, and insulators, the Department would provide the instrument, and would supervise the work of making an effective connexion. In other words, the residents to be served were to do the whole work, and the Department would simply have to supply an expert to complete the circuit. The Postmaster-General would do well if he would come out openly with a policy of country telephone construction. If he does so I venture to say he will receive the thanks of all country residents There never was a time in the history of country settlement when there was more anxiety to get into touch with all centres of communication, because almost every home is vitally concerned in the war. I am not permitted under this item to say that the Postmaster-General is restricting mail services, but if the restriction on telephone communication becomes as bad as in the case of the mail services, he will have all the country districts up in arms. There is an opportunity now presented to the honorable gentleman of going down to posterity as the friend of the back-blocks settlers; and if he is wise he will take advantage of that opportunity.
– It would appear from the restrictions placed on telephonic and other means of communication in country districts, thai there is a vast herd of. Germans, Austrians, and other enemy aliens in the central parts of Australia, and that it is deemed necessary to isolate them. The whole of the back country deserves much more consideration than it is receiving from this, or has received from any other Government; but this Government, with its cheese-paring system, recently introduced
– There has been no difference made during the last three years.
– There is the ‘ difference that owing to closer settlement, and the opening out of certain areas, there are more people in the country now than there were three years ago, and better means of communication are necessary.
– There is no difference in the conditions. The Department is now bearing 50 per cent, of the loss on new telephone lines in the back blocks.
– In one part of the Darling electorate there has been an agitation for a considerable time to have a telephone line constructed as a means of . communication between the Liverpool Plains pastoralists and settlers and the Western pastoralists. When a drought occurs in the western area it is necessary that stock should be moved to places more favorably circumstanced in regard to grass and water; and at present there is no telephonic communication of the kind desired. Such a line would give those interested in the raising of stock a means of getting into touch with those who have grazing land at their disposal, and supply a great public necessity. What accentuates the situation is that there will so shortly be a quicker means for the transit of stock, inasmuch as it will be possible to move them by train.
– The line is close into Mundooran
– How long does it take for a letter to travel ?
– When a man has 1,000 head of cattle or 20,000 head of sheep which he desires to move at once, he does not wish to depend on letters, especially in view of the ‘way iri which the postal services are being- cut down. Agistment must be arranged for by wire at present, and wires are not so satisfactory as a conversation over the telephone. The residents of this district have taken the matter up and endeavoured to get the Postal Department to negotiate with the Railways Commissioners for the use of the existing telegraph poles for telephone wires ; but that proposal has been turned down. The residents in the districts affected are quite agreeable to supply more than half the poles that are necessary. The line is estimated to cost. £312, and up to date something like £150 has been offered by those residents interested. Because of the policy which has been adopted by the National Government of starving the country districts the matter has been deferred until May next; but if the war is not over, or even if it is over by that time, it will probably be deferred For another twelve months. The people who live in the interior of Australia create a great deal of the wealth that is being exported from this country: and better means of comm’unication with them by telegraph, telephone, and mail is therefore in the best interests of Australia.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) mentioned that the people inland are very desirous of receiving news relating to the trouble overseas; I agree with that view, and if the PostmasterGeneral is not prepared to give them better consideration in the future he will have to bear the responsibility. There is probably no Department of the Commonwealth receiving more adverse criticism than -that of the Postmaster-General.
– That is not correct.
– I know no Department that is criticised so much. The criticism levelled at the Department of Home and Territories, and other Departments, is suggestive of a Sunday school or bible class when compared with that levelled at the Post and Telegraph Department. Something will have to be done for the - people in the interior of Australia. If the Government are in earnest in keeping their promises to the people who depend on them for efficient telephonic and mail communication, they must give them greater facilities. The Postmaster-General says the Department is bearing 50 per cent, of the loss upon telephone lines; but that is quite reasonable, as a great deal of the wealth comes from the country, and the conditions under which the people, live there are lost sight of until country members bring them forward. A good many members have no idea what those conditions are, and if there is a section of tEe community which deserves consideration in the shape of better services, it is the people who live out back.
.- I hope the Minister will take into serious consideration the special grant for country telephones suggested by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley).
– Is this another cry for economy ?
– Considering that the people in the country are supporting the people in the cities most of the time, economy might well be practised in the cities first.
– The subsidies that are now allotted to the country districts come out of the excess revenue earned by the metropolitan area, which is bearing 50 per cent, of the loss on country services.
– It is news to me that any subsidies are being paid to the country. I have a box full of refusals from the Deputy Postmaster-General, so far as telephone services are concerned. The other day. I asked the Postmaster-General if he would consent to an increase of the rates, so that the people in the country might be supplied with telephones. The farmer does not want anything for nothing, but is prepared to pay a liberal subsidy to the Department to obtain telephonic communication for his district. The people in the country sadly need some sort of communication, but the Deputy Postmaster-General in Queensland, at any rate,’ is certainly not in any way generous in that direction. People who go out into the bush have quite enough inconvenience to put up with; and seeing that the Government are out to encourage the primary producers, I hope they will give them some consideration, so far as telephonic communication is concerned.
.- I support the amendment, . and enter my protest, on behalf of constituents in the country against the way in which the facilities for communication are managed by the Postmaster-General. Not a day goes by on which I do not receive a complaint from some partor other of my electorate. When these complaints are forwarded to the Postmaster-General’s Department, with a view to getting the disadvantages remedied, we get a reply such as this, which I received to-day -
With reference to the communication, dated 27th June last, presented by you from the Wilcannia Municipal Council, relative to “.the hours of the local telephone exchange, I have to intimate that the cases of Moulamein and Wilcannia are not identical, inasmuch as the hours of the. exchange at Moulamein are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., whilst at Wilcannia they are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. only.
I forwarded that information to the Department myself, when asking that the hours at Wilcannia should be extended to 8 p.m.
– Order ! The honorable member is now dealing with administration.
– I am dealing with the desirableness of making telephonic communication between country centres better than it is now. In these times of stress, when economy is the order of the day, time and paper are wasted by the Postmaster-General’s Department when it returns to a man the information that he himself has forwarded to them.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing the administration of the Department. The amendment to add the words “ and also country telephones,” refers to the construction of telephones.
– I take it that the extension of telephonic communication by keeping the office open for another two hours would come under that heading.
– I have said sufficient to show the Postmaster-General that there is one grievance that might be remedied when the extension of telephonic communication is being considered. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) spoke about the advantage of telephonic communication in the matter of travelling stock. I presented a petition to the Postmaster-General with reference to that very matter. In one case in the back country, where telegraphic communication existed, the telegraph office has been closed and a telephone substituted. Protests haye been made by all classes of the community, but without avail. Every week complaints reach me from the Queensland border right down to the Victorian border, about the lack of telegraphic and telephonic communication, and the hardships to which people are subjected, and are forwarded by me to the Postal Department.
– I listened with astonishment to the PostmasterGeneral’s statement that there was no cutting-off of facilities in country districts.
– I said that they were not reduced below what they were in prewar times.
– That is what astonished me. I have particulars of numbers of cases- 1
– Of mail contracts ? I was referring to them.
– Cases of all sorts of facilities, and I certainly heard with astonishment that they had not been cut down. But for assurances from other members all round the chamber that”’ reductions had been made in their districts, J. should have been left wondering if the Postmaster-General was concentrating all his attention on my electorate. His trouble, when speaking, seemed to be something about a limitation and a definition. The “limitation” is supplied by the fact that the people in country districts have just about reached the limit of their patience, and I am afraid that the “definition” they give of the curtailment of facilities would not be parliamentary, or regarded by the Postmaster-General as complimentary if he heard it. When he says that these facilities are not being cut off I am driven to the conclusion that he does not know what is going on in his Department. I trust that he will look into the matter, and, if he examines the correspondence that is going daily into his Department, he will find that the facilities mentioned are being cut off. If it is not his intention that they should be cut off, I hope that he will use his authority as Minister, and stand by the declaration that he has made here to-night.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence (Military), £45.000; Department of the Navy, £550,000: agreed to.
Home and Territories Department, £148,600.
.- I move -
That the item “ Land for laboratory at Royal Park, Melbourne, £8,100,” be amended by leaving out the words “ at ‘Royal Park, Melbourne.”
My object is to protest against the establishment of Federal Departments in Melbourne. We are continuously weaving a kind of spider’s web of Departments in Melbourne, which is tying the whole of the administration of Commonwealth affairs to this spot. A previous Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Tudor) decided that this laboratory should be placed at Canberra, but the present Government have reversed that decision. If there is one thing more than another that should be established at the Federal Capital, it is the grouping of scientific institutions which will be essential to the carrying on of the research work of the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite, have previously advocated the establishment of an agricultural bureau. The best scientific experts of the world should be got together for the purpose of conducting tests that will enable our agricultural industry to develop on the most advanced lines. But the ‘idea seems to have been abandoned, though it must be taken in hand sooner or later. No better policy could be adopted than that of having these scientific institutions, when they are established, placed in close proximity to one another, so that the experts will be able to associate and discuss together various phases of the great undertakings under their care.
If it is desired that these institutions should be in the capital cities of the States, why should they all be in Melbourne? There is about £250,000 spent in Melbourne each year in the payment of officials and in the upkeep of offices concerned in the administration of affairs of the Commonwealth, and it is. this vested interest which compels the people of this city to fight like fury for the maintenance of the Federal Capital in Melbourne.
Mr.Watt. - The honorable member can take it away from Melbourne to-morrow so far as that is concerned.
– He knows that it is so much pretence. It was decided by the last Government that this laboratory should be established at Canberra.
– That is not the case.
-I am assured by the Leader of the Opposition that it was the case. I asked him if he had any objection to my. making the statement, and he said, “ No.”
– It was the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) who assented to the institution being placed at Royal Park.
– It is what I told the honorable member before. All bis time seems to be taken up in condemning what his own party has done.
– This is the first opportunity that we have had of discussing this matter, and I propose to take every opportunity of objecting to the continuous grouping of these institutions in Melbourne. When the Minister for the Navy was on this side of the House, there was no one louder than he in declaiming against the conspiracy to deprive New South Wales of the fulfilment of the compact that the Capital should be established in that State. I do not see why some of these institutions should not be established in Sydney. We have in the Cook electorate any amount of room, in the University grounds, for the purpose. But it ought to be established in Canberra. On the city plan there is provision made for a group of scientific buildings.
– We would give you the land in Queensland.
– I have . no doubt that Queensland would, but we have the land at Canberra.
– And the building, too.
– There is one building at Yarralumla.
– There is the other building which Colonel Miller had put up which could be used for a serum institute. I do not desire to delay the Committee, but I do most emphatically object to the Government continuing to build these institutions in Melbourne, which is part of the conspiracy to refuse to go on with the building of the Federal Capital.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs, £51,100, agreed to.
.- Will the Minister kindly tell the Committee, in a word, what the sum of £100,000 under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department is wanted for?
– It is required to finish the payments in connexion with the erection of Australia House.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to briefly draw the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence to some disabilities under which friendly societies labour with regard to the payment of funeral donations to the relatives of members who have been killed on active, service or who have died abroad. It is perhaps known that most friendly societies act upon the policy that those who give quickly give twice. In the case of the death of a member, a friendly society always likes to see that the widow is helped as early as possible. I have been connected with the Grand United Order of Oddfellows Society for years. We have always prided ourselves on the fact that we come to the rescue of the widow as quickly as we possibly can after the death of a member. It appears now that there is a good deal of difficulty in getting from the Defence Department certificates as to the death of members who have died abroad. I will hand in to the Assistant Minister a letter dealing with a specific case. I ask him to see if facilities cannot be granted to friendly societies to get death certificates at the earliest possible moment after the death of a member is made known to the military authorities. If he will promise to look into the matter in a general way, and into this special ^case, I shall be satisfied.
– I stall be glad if the honorable member will give me the letter and the specific case. This is not the first occasion on which this matter has been raised. In many cases there is a difficulty in getting a certificate . It is due, “ not to any delay on the part of the Commonwealth, but, in the case of missing soldiers, to the fact that specific findings have to be obtained from the Courts across the seas. The actual findings on which the certificate is issued are sent out to Australia. In other cases, confirmations of cabled information have to be received. I have had to deal with several cases. The difficulty arises, not only in the case of friendly societies, but also in cases where people want to get payments from life insurance companies. It is highly desirable in every case that a certificate should be obtained as early as possible. That is only fair to the widow and relatives. I assure the honorable member that I will again make representations on the matter and see if anything can be done, and particularly with regard, to the specific case he has mentioned.
.- In reply to a question, the Minister for Trade and Customs informed me that he was not aware that Queensland could supply the whole of Australia with bananas grown by white labour. I have seen the report of the Royal Commission on the Fruit Industry, from which he quoted a statement that 80 per cent, of the bananas grown in the northern part of Queensland were grown by Chinese. However true that statement may have been when the report was issued, certainly it is not true now. The major portion of the land worked by Chinese is now under cane. Practically the whole of the coast land of Queensland is suitable for growing bananas, and, instead of supplying a population of 5,000,000, we might, with a little encouragement, easily supply a population of 50,000,000. The production at present is confined principally to the southern portion of the State, where large areas are still available. Australia declared against cheap black labour. Yet we find that, during 1916, no less than 377,836 centals of bananas were imported into Victoria and New South “Wales from Fiji. In that colony labour is paid 6s. a week, whereas the banana growers in
Queensland have to pay, at least, 9s. a day. It has been asserted that the Fiji article is better than the Queensland fruit. I have made careful inquiries amongst agents and retailers, and they have told me that the Cavendish banana of Queensland is certainly superior to the Gros Michel of Fiji. I submit that in these circumstances the only question should be what alteration of the duty would be high enough to protect the Queensland article against that of Fiji. It is well known that we cannot export either our pines or our bananas, and it should therefore be made possible for our fruit to be placed on the same, footing as that of Fiji. It is an industry which is supporting hundreds of families, and one which I think offers, a splendid inducement to the Government, so far as the settlement of soldiers is concerned. In Queensland we have a very large extent of Crown lands, and probably the cheapest land to be found in Australia. There is a large area of this land, which is very suitable for fruit growing, and with reasonable encourage- ‘ ment in the way of a higher duty there is no reason why quite a large number of our soldiers should not be settled there.
I want to draw attention particularly to one or two statements I have received from growers. As a preliminary, I may mention that I have seen quite a number of letters in which growers state that they have had a return as low as 2¼d. per dozen. No grower can make a living unless he! gets a better price than that. There are just one or two statements I wish to read, because I think it is important that the Minister for Trade and Customs should know something as to the returnswhich are being obtained by the growers.
By Mr.r. B. W. Gipps, Fruit-grower, Buderim Mr N.C.L.
My net returns on 12,365 dozen bananas during 1916-17, as per account sales, amounted to £79 6s. 6d. This works out at1¼d. per dozen, or12s. 6d. per 100 dozen. The expenses of production and marketing worked out at 6s. 7d.per 100 dozen, as follows: -
Net profit, 71 pence per 100 dozen, or a little less than¼d. per dozen.
Signed this 6th day of August, 1917.
Witness - G. Burrows, Capt., j.P. ‘
Statement by Mr. H. Tootill, Fruit-grower, Buderim Mr
My returns, as per account sales, on 3,900 dozen bananas sent to Brisbane since January, 1917, amounted to £311s. 3d. This equals 15s.11d. per 100 dozen, or nearly 2d. per dozen. From this result the following expenses of production and marketing have to be deducted : -
Thus net profit is 9s.1d. per 100 dozen, or about1d. per dozen.
Returns for 100 cases bananas, containing 2,800 dozen, consigned to Melbourne, as per account sales, less freight, was £54 16s. 9d. This is 39s. 2d. per 100 dozen, or 4¾d. per dozen.
Expenses of production and marketing were as follows: -
Net profit, 18s. 3d. per 100 dozen, or nearly 2£d. per dozen. (Sgd.) Herbert Tootill, per W. Tootill.
Witness - G-. Burrows, Capt., J.P.
One marvels at the prices I have quoted when in Collins-street, he sees bananas marked eight for1s. The average production of fruit fruit in Queensland during the past ten years has been 1,232,120 bunches per annum obtained from 6,596 acres, or 187 bunches, equal to 45 centals, per acre. The production in 1916 has fallen off to the extent of 450,000 bunches as compared with 1907.
– That is because we are growing a lot of bananas on the Tweed River.
– I am glad to hear that and I hope the honorable member will support me in my endeavours to have the duty increased. At present, bananas are grown, in Queensland and in New South Wales, and in small quantities in Western Australia. If the duty is increased it is certain that those States will be able to supply the whole of Australia . without difficulty. At the present time it costs 5s.1d. to produce a cental of bananas in Queensland as against1s. in Fiji. The present Tariff is1s. 6d. per cental, and the growers of Queensland are satisfied that, in order to put them on anything like an equal footing with the growers of Fiji, it will be necessary to raise the Tariff to 4s. 1d. The steamers trading from Fiji to the ‘ Australian ports cut the freights down very low, becausebananas are the backloading they require. The freights are so cheap as to practically nullify the duty. These resolutions were passed at a conference of fruit-growers held in Brisbane recently -
That this conference of fruit-growers, after’ going carefully into figures relating to the comparative cost of- producing Fijian and: Queensland bananas is of opinion that to put the banana-growers of Queensland and New South Wales on an equitable footing with those of the Pacific Islands, a further Tariff is necessary.
That this conference of fruit-growers emphatically disagrees with that part of the report of the Inter-State Commission dealing with bananas, and published in 1915, for the reason that the conclusions arrived at are misleading, and in cases untrue.
The Prime Minister has said that he is prepared to blaze the track for the primary producers of Australia. The National Government could easily assist the banana growers of Queensland in this matter by increasing the duty on the imported article. We should hold our own market for our own growers. It should be a simple matter for the Government, through its numerous officers, to place such information before fruit-growers as would give them an opportunity of testing the different markets. At the same time, opportunity should be taken to inquire into the charges made by the various agents, because the growers are convinced that, in a number of cases, they are not getting a square deal. It is time the Government took this question into consideration, and I do not think they should study the interests of a few agents and growers of bananas by black labour in preference to the future progress of this very important industry in Australia.
Some sort of encouragement ought also to be given to the farmers to enable them to establish packing sheds, probably with cold storage attached. An improvement might be effected in the carriage of bananas on the Inter-State steamers. They are stowed near the boilers, and the heat generated ripens them unduly. The Government should make it compulsory to load and unload the fruit with trays. There -are the best of reasons why steps should be- taken to give, the farmers encouragement to embark upon cooperation in marketing .and distribution. The by-products of bananas are also worthy of consideration- We have evidence that figs, flour, and even whisky can be produced from bananas. Recently, I read a newspaper paragraph to the effectthat, at the St. .Louis Exhibition, a sample of whisky made from bananas was shown, and after analysis by the Department of Agriculture, was awarded a gold medal. ‘ All these matters are worthy the attention of the Government, but, in the meantime, an alteration of the Tariff is the most important consideration. Having regard to the fact that the banana industry means so much to the States of Queensland, New South Wales; and Western Australia, ‘the Government might well take the earliest opportunity of giving this very necessary relief.
I desire now to say a few words about pineapples and citrus fruits. Queensland is producing annually pineapples to the value of £S8,828. It is notorious that this fruit is often unprocurable in the southern .States, and the reason is that decent cold storage accommodation is not available on the ships. In. Queensland, last season, a lot of this fruit was simply dumped in heaps and wasted, because it was impossible to market it in anything like decent order. The shippers assert that there is cold storage accommodation, but the growers will not pay for it. On the other hand, the growers say that they would utilize such accommodation if it were available. One has to pay an exorbitant price for a Queensland pineapple in Melbourne or Sydney. Something might be done to assist the growers to make the most of this important trade, and place this favorite fruit within the reach- of the people.
The production of oranges last year was valued at £100,636, and I have a statement here which I would like to have inserted in Hansard, so that people who buy oranges may know that the growers, at all events, are not reaping huge profits.
– The middleman takes the people down all the time.
– This is due to faults in the system of distribution’. The growers do not want any gift, but are willing to help themselves if only the Government can give them some instruction in the matter of distribution. I notice that the fruit-growers of Victoria are doing something in the way of cooperation, and .the Queensland people are now waiting an opportunity to follow in the same direction. This is a statement made by Captain Burrows, a well-known fruit-grower of Buderim Mountain -
The expenses incurred in producing- a case of orange’s during 1917 were as follows: -
Timber, 9d. .per case; nails, packing, and branching, Id. per case; picking, 3d. per case; packing, brushing, grading, and cartage to rail head, 4d. per case; manuring (on a basis of 20 lbs. of dried blood per tree yielding 8 cases), 2d. per case; pruning (allowing 2 hours per tree, at 8s. per day of 8 hours’), 2s. per tree, equal to 3d. per case; spraying (1 barrel of lime sulphur to 100 trees), £3 5s.; wages, £2 8s.; benzine, ls.; together with a further spray of red ‘oil, £5 14s.; a total of £11 8s., equal to 2s. 3d. per tree, or 3d. per case; cultivation of orchard during the year (minimum statement of 8 days, at 8s. per day, equal to Id. per case) ; tramway freight to railhead, 4d. per case; total cost of production, bedrock statement, 2s. 6d. per case.
I make no allowance for rates and special tramway area rates, interest on purchase money, cost of farm implements, &.o., &c.
The average returns in Melbourne were 6s. 6d., less transit expenses, 3s. 6d. per case, giving a profit of 3s. per case.
Cost of production, as given above, being deducted, I received a net profit of 6d. per case containing an average of from 200 to 220 oranges per case. I have seen exactly the same grade and type of orange being retailed during this period in Brisbane at 18 fruits to the shilling. ,
I have put the statement in so that I may draw attention to the price asked for fruit in Victoria and New South Wales, and show that the growers are not getting big profits. My object is to induce honorable . members to take a little interest in this important matter, and to assist our fruit-growers. if only the Government will give the farmers a lead - that is all they asking for - so far as cooperative action is concerned, they will feel encouraged to go on. The matter is important both to growers and consumers, and I hope, therefore, that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) will take an early opportunity of bringing it before his colleagues, so that something may be done. A slump is threatened in the dairying industry, but the fruit-grow- ing industry will come to the rescue of the Commonwealth, if it receives anything like reasonable encouragement, and become one of the first industries of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.10 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170913_reps_7_83/>.