7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– As the subscription list for the Seventh War Loan, to which the compulsory clauses of the War Loan Subscriptions Bill apply, . closes next Tuesday, will the Minister publish information in the form of examples to show to what extent the individual members of the community will be required to subscribe to the Loan?
– I have asked that tables bo prepared showing the maximum requirement of the Bill. These tables are now being checked, and I hope that they may be ready for circulation through the press to-morrow morning.
– Is the honorable gentleman aware that a large number of income tax payers do not yet know the extent and”” nature of their obligations under the Bill? Will he give the House the assurance that those who do not subscribe fully through their lack of information
– Through their lack of patriotism.
– No! Through lack of information. Will the honorable gentleman give the House the assurance that those who, through their lack of information, do not subscribe before Tuesday night the amount expected of them will not be penalized until they have received an intimation from the Income Tax Commissioner as to the extent of their obligations?
– It is likely that full information respecting the exact effect of the Bill has not yet been circulated to every part of the country, but the tables to which I have referred will, I hope, be published in to-morrow’s morning newspapers. . They will show the maximum obligation of each taxpayer. I cannot at this stage give any assurance of immunity for those who do not fulfil their obligations under the Bill.
– Tens of thousands of persons will not get information concerning the provisions of the Bill until after Tuesday next.
– In view of the lateness of the publication of details concerning the obligations of individual taxpayers, will the Treasurer consider the advisability of extending the time for sub- . scriptions to the Loan ? I am certain that such an extension would immeasurably increase its success.
– It is always dangerous to give opportunities for delay in connexion with war-loan subscriptions. I am not prepared at this stage to make any promise, but I am considering with the advisers of the Government and the financial institutions that are accepting obligations in connexion with the Loan the question of the closing hour and day.
– As the Minister for Home and Territories is not in favour of a Royal Commission to inquire into the administration of the Northern Territory, can he see his way clear to visit the Territory himself during the next two or three months, so that those who wish to do so may lay their grievances before him ?
– One must take into account the ratio of the business to be attended to towards the length of time that would be required for a visit to the Territory. I should be glad, if a favorable opportunity offered, to go to the Territory. The honorable member’s request, however, arises out of a failure - temporary, at all events - to bring about an adjustment of the wages question. I cannot say at present that I shall be able to go to the Territory to deal with one particular matter alone.
– I ask the Acting
Prime Minister if anything can be done to expedite the erection of silos and other stores for wheat throughout Australia. Complaint is constantly being made of the delay in the erection of storage accommodation by the Governments of the States. The Commonwealth is providing the money to pay for these stores. Could it not exert pressure to expedite their erection?
– It is not the fault of the Commonwealth administration that the work has been delayed. On every occasion, when a State has asked for the assurance that the money required will be available, that assurance has been given immediately. We are ready to provide money as soon as the States can proceed with the work. Apparently there have been internal and local difficulties. Senator Russell has authorized experiments with a view to ascertaining whether a cheaper and more quickly-erected store than a silo would make, a suitable substitute. I shall take an early opportunity to ascertain the results of these experiments.
Engagement of Victorians
– Has the Treasurer yet completed his inquiry regarding the position of workmen who were engaged in Victoria for certain New South Wales coal mines?
– The inquiry which I am making in accordance with my promise has not been completed. I have obtained a good deal of information which shows that the responsibility does not rest quite where, at the start, I imagined it to rest, and I have this week made representations to the Victorian Government on the matter, but their reply has not yet been received. As soon as I get it I shall acquaint the honorable member with the facts.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister come to any decision regarding the men still unemployed in the tanning and wool-tops industry?
– At my suggestion, the honorable member was good enough to forward to me, in letter form, his exact proposition, and I at once sent it on to the chairman of the Wool Committee for consideration; but I have been too busy to confer with Sir John Higgins on the subject yet, though I may get a chance to do so to-day.
– A deputation saw me this morning regarding the position of the Anzacs who have been sent away from France since February last, owing to the fact that they were wounded, sick, or unfit for duty. Will they be given the same leave and privileges as the Anzacs who are now returning?
– I regret that I am not able to answer the question now, but I shall make an inquiry of my colleague, the Minister for Defence, and I hope that I may be able to reply to it later in the day.
– Has the Minister for Works and Railways any further information regarding the state of affairs on the east-west railway? Is it realized that this is not an ordinary strike, but a complete interference in time of war with the traffic of one of Australia’s main lines of communication, and that, although no serious naval or military disability has occurred so far in connexion with it, we may at any moment be confronted with a very grave situation.
– I have frequently directed attention to the fact that in asking a question a member is not in order in making any statements beyond such as may be necessary to explain his meaning; that speeches in the guise of questions are not permitted. I ask honorable members generally, when asking questions, to refrain as much as possible from making statements. The business of the House would be seriously interfered with were I to allow honorable members, who rose to ask questions, to make what were in reality speeches.
– The Government, when this surprise strike occurred, at once realized the seriousness of the situation. Last night the Commissioner of Railways was in conference with the representatives of the men for some considerable time, and he is directing his energies towards doing all that is possible to bring the men back to work and have traffic resumed not later than to-morrow night.
– I think that the representatives of the union are aiming at preventing any extension of the strike.
– That is so.
– The whole line is being held up by one German.
– We realize that the passenger mail and goods traffic between “Western Australia and the other States is being held up, the railway being now practically the only means of communication between the west and the eastern States, but the Commissioner is doing every thing possible to bring about a resumption of the railway service to-morrow night.
Mr.WATT.- May I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), who, unfortunately, lost his chance to present at the proper time a petition that has been intrusted to him, may be given an opportunity to present it now.
Mr. HECTOR LAMOND presented a petition from certain residents of Hurstville and surrounding district, praying that the threepenny tickets for admission to picture shows of children under twelve years of age be exempted from taxation.
– (By leave)- For the convenience and information of honorable members who may have been too busy to read the press announcements on the subject, some of which have not been too clear, I wish to make the following statement of the arrangements for the reception of the French Mission to-day. It is desired that honorable members will cooperate in carrying out the following programme: - On arrival at Federal Parliament House steps 5,000 children will be assembled, who will sing the French National Anthem. General Pau will then inspect the Guard of Honour, and afterwards receive a short address of welcome by a girl pupil on behalf of the children. The children will then sing the National Anthem, and give three cheers for the Mission, and the party will proceed up the ramp to the north wing of the Library, where General Pau will be introduced to His Excellency the Governor-General. General Pau will introduce the members of the Mission to the Governor-General. The Governor-General will introduce the Acting Prime Minister, President, and Speaker, and the Leader of the Opposition to General Pau. During the conversation which will then take place between the Governor-General and General Pau, the Minister for Defence will introduce the
Acting Prime Minister, the President and! Speaker, and the Leader of the Opposition to the Mission. The GovernorGeneral will then retire. The ActingPrime Minister will introduce his colleagues to General Pau and other members of the Mission. After a short conversation the Mission and the Ministers will adjourn to the Queen’s Hall, and the assembled senators and members will be introduced to General Pau and the Mission.. It is desired that members of both Houses will assemble in the Queen’s Hall on the House of Representatives’ side, in front of the Queen’s statue.
– I desire to withdraw the following motion which stands in my name on the notice-paper -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Commonwealth should give effect to the motion - that the Commonwealth should forthwith takeover the inspection and effective control of produce passing from State to State - passed by the House on the 15th April,. 1915.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) a question in relation to the evaporated fruit industry. It seems to be hopeless to expect any shipping to convey evaporated fruits to England at the present time. Those who undertook the evaporating work, in order to get the fruit-growers out of their trouble, incurred rather serious obligations. They have obtained 75 per cent, payment, leaving 25 per cent still due. The evaporated fruit is all stored ready to be shipped away; and I desire to know whether it would be possible for the balance of the amount, or some portion of it, to he granted to the evaporators? Their season will commence very shortly and in order to save the. crop of the second year, it will be necessary for them to continue their obligations, even if they cannot ship to England, in the hope of a. market in the far north of Australia ?
– I have not a clear recollection as to the exact nature of the financial arrangement made in connexion with the evaporated fruit industry.
– The fruit was soldi to Great Britain.
– I know, and I understand that there was to be an assured 7d., or something like that to come. As to the advance I do not know the conditions. If the honorable member will put his suggestion in writing I shall have the matter immediately inquired into.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - This, I think is a convenient opportunity to make a short statement on the question of economy in parliamentary printing. On the 25th September, the Acting Prime Minister addressed the following letter to Mr. President and myself:
I desire to inform you that the Commonwealth Government is taking steps to control the use of paper, and proposes to reduce consumption where possible in connexion with governmental activities.
In this connexion, the following suggestions have been submitted : -
The free issue of Hansard to be curtailed and strictly limited to a few absolutely necessary cases.
The daily notice-paper to contain only questions on notice, Government notices, and such notices as disagreement with the Speaker’s ruling, motions of no-confidence, and private members’ notices appearing the first time.
The Printing Committee to be asked to take urgently into consideration any future recommendations for curtailing the use of paper in connexion with the business of the House.
The question of such matters as reprints of members’ speeches to be reviewed.
I shall be glad if these suggestions can receive early consideration.
Mr. President and myself took that matter into consideration, and addressed the following reply to the Acting Prime Minister on the 4th October: -
Dear Mr. Watt,
We have takeninto consideration the representations made in your letter of the 25th September, No. 18/616/21, regarding the reduction of consumption of paper where possible in connexion with parliamentary work. In reply to the suggestions submitted, we may point out -
Free Issue of Hansard. - Some months ago we took action, to restrict as far as possible the free issue of Hansard, and very considerable savings in that direction have already been made.
Daily Notice-paper. - It is not possible, with - out very great inconvenience, to curtail the amount of paper used in the daily notice-paper, but whatever can be done in this direction will have our full consideration, and every effort will be made, consistent with efficient working, to meet your wishes in this matter.
Printing Committee. - We will bring under the notice of the Printing Committees in their -respective Houses, which usually act as a Joint Committee, the necessity for curtailing the use of paper in connexion with the printing of papers which come under their authority.
Reprints of Members’ Speeches.- Your final suggestion for the review of the question of the reprinting of members’ speeches does not come under our purview or authority, as it is entirely under the control of the Treasurer.
I have obtained two or three reports, one from the Chairman of the Printing Committee (Mr. Mc Williams), with whom I conferred on the subject. It is dated 10th October, and is as follows: -
In reference to your suggestion that further savings might be effected by the Printing Committee
During the last year (since joint sittings of the Committee of both Chambers were inaugurated) the Printing Committee has resolutely retrenched in this direction. In fact, very little printing is now ordered by the Committee; practically the only documents printed are those which are printed by order of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, and over which the Printing Committee has no control.
I shall bring your request before the Committee at its next meeting, and can assure you that we will do our utmost to meet your views in this direction.
In continuance of the efforts of the Presiding Officers to reduce, as far as practicable, the present cost of parliamentary printing, and with special regard for the rapidly increasing cost and shortage of paper, a circular has been addressed, on our behalf, to various recipients of the weekly issues of Hansard, with a view to ascertain whether, in the present circumstances, it is desired by them that the supply should be continued. Up to the present date, nearly 800 recipients have expressed their willingness that it should be discontinued, and the Government Printer has been instructed accordingly. By this means a saving of £500 per annum in the cost of printing alone has already been made, and it is likely that a considerable addition will be made to that amount. A much larger saving has been made by an alteration in the quality of the paper upon which Hansard is printed, the total amount saved by these two measures of economy being, approximately, £1,500. It will he recognised that this amount represents a considerable saving in the expenditure incidental to one Department of the Parliamentary Service. But, although at the present time, there is urgent and pressing need for economy in expenditure, the need for economy in the use of paper is, for reasons with which honorable members are acquainted, at least equally important, and it is this latter consideration which has largely dictated the measures which the presiding officers have taken in regard to the circulation of Hansard. The supply of Hansard at the instance of honorable members is unaffected by these arrangements, and will be continued as hitherto unless honorable members desire otherwise. The official report of the proceedings of this Parliament is for the purpose, among others, of accurate public information, and is* the only report which reaches the various States of the Commonwealth. It should be mentioned that its gratuitous circulation, unlike that of the State and other Parliaments - which has been largely automatic - is based entirely upon applications, and that there are at the present time almost 1,000 subscribers.
With further reference’ to the question of economy in printing in connexion Avith the House, about which I made an announcement on the 3rd instant, I desire to state that the practice of the Department has always been to effect whatever savings experience shows to be possible, the result being that very few further savings are now practicable. I may mention, as an instance, that a few months after the Parliament met in 1901, the printing of Bills on vellum for presentation for Royal assent was discontinued, and, by the substitution of paper, a saving of about £100 per annum was effected, and the necessarily heavy charges involved in the extra handling of the type were also saved. In addition, by making of uniform size the pages of type of Bills, Estimates, and Acts, a very considerable saving was made - at first Bills had to be re-set as Acts, and the pages of the Estimates had to be re-made up to a different size - these operations costing ‘a large sum of money in the year. The number of copies of papers printed was reduced in 1916 to the lowest possible limit consistent with meeting probable requirements. Only recently a further saving was effected by the discontinuance of members” files of Bills, and by a reduction of the number of bound copies of various volumes supplied to members and bo the Departments.
Some time ago the question of making a saving in the printing of the noticepaper was considered, and, with the concurrence of honorable members, it is now proposed, so long as Government business has precedence at every sitting, to issue a complete copy of the notice-paper only once in three .weeks, viz., on every third Thursday, that being “ Grievance” Day. For other sitting days, only questions, Government business, and new notices of ‘ motion by private members will be printed in full. Hitherto this change has not been made, mainly on account of the difficulty in regard to anticipating debate, but in order to obviate any possible inconvenience resulting from the proposed arrangement (which it is estimated will result in an annual saving of about £100), honorable members are requested to retain their complete copies for ready reference.
Papers laid on the table are frequently set up in type before presentation to the House, and I have, as honorable membersof course are aware, no control over the printing of such papers, nor can I intervene when papers are ordered by the House to be printed, except to regulate the number of copies to be printed so as to avoid any waste where possible, or to* exclude expensive printing of plans unless they are absolutely necessary or are specially included in any resolution of the House.
With regard to the Public AccountsCommittee, I have received the following reply from the Secretary, with whom I had an interview on the subject: -
In connexion with the printing of evidence for the Committee, alteration was made in the procedure some two years past, viz., that onlytwo, in lieu of three,” copies of evidence were printed, the revised copy being deleted.
Evidence taken by the Committee is not printed for publication, only such copies being obtained as are necessary for the Committee’s, use.
Inquiry was also made at the time regarding the typing instead of’ the printing of the evidence, and it was ascertained that printing: was the cheaper.
I thought it would be interesting to hon- *orable members to know that the question of economy has not been lost sight of sofar as the work of Parliament is concerned, and that it was also advisable toacquaint them with what has been done in this connexion.
– I understand that the free issue of Hansard is to public libraries, schools of art- and similar institutions, and to newspapers. Are those the free issues to which you, Mr. Speaker, referred in the first part of your statement?
– There is a circulation register, and communications have been addressed to all those in receipt of free copies. Such institutions as those to which the honorable member refers would be included in the voluntary discontinuance list.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) noticed complaints in the public press that, owing to the restricted issue of copies of the Bill providing for compulsory subscriptions to war loans, the public are not able to obtain them, and are, therefore, not aware of the details of the measure? Is this restricted issue due to the attempt to economize in paper?
– I have not noticed the comment in the press, and was not aware there was any unusual restriction on the printing of Bills. However, I shall have immediate inquiries made.
– Is it not a fact that, for the reprinting of their speeches, honorable members have to pay the charge that is fixed by the Government Printer - that they always pay the amount which the Government Printer says covers the cost? Will the Treasurer, before taking action to curtail this privilege, inform the House as to the reasons?
– I think the arrangement is that honorable members pay for the reprinting of their speeches. I understand that the control is in the hands of the Treasury, though I was not aware of that fact when I wrote the latter portion of my letter to Mr. Speaker.
– I may say that, for nearly fifteen years, I have not had a speech reprinted, so that the restriction will not affect me.
– That is a lesson in modesty which historians will doubtless note. One reason for restriction in the use of paper is that of general economy, and the other is to save paper, because of the enormous and increasing difficulty in getting sufficient supplies of all classes of paper for public requirements.
– One of the best ways of economizing in paper is to cut down the full-page advertisements in the press.
– We are engaged in dealing with the very difficult and thorny problem of the restriction of newspaper supplies at the present time. We have appointed a controller, who is now dealing with that matter, and I have no doubt he will come through with success.
– Will the Government consider the advisability of increasing the bonus for the making of wood pulp or, by a £1 for £1 subsidy, give financial assistance to any company that will endeavour to make paper in Australia?
– This week a proposition in connexion with the manufacture within the Commonwealth of paper from pulp has been made to the Government, and has been sent on for examination by the Board of Trade. In respect of that matter, as well as a number of other important matters, I wish to express the opinion that this great war extremity is, and ought to be, Australia’s opportunity.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister make a statement to the House on Wednesday next showing the actual position with regard to all exports from Australia, sold under special contracts in Great Britain, giving the prices gained by the Australian producer, the exporter, the people in England who refine minerals for the Government, and the middlemen generally, in order that the facts and figures may satisfy the Australian public that the British Government, and not the middleman, is getting the advantage of our sacrifices ?
-Does the honorable member refer to all products?
– To metals mainly.
– The supplying of that information would mean a very great consumption of paper.
– I have asked for this information three times, and in three different places.
– I know of no reason why the information cannot be prepared.I am doubtful whether it can be supplied as fully as the honorable member desires by Wednesday next, but I will see that the information is compiled and given to the House at the earliest opportunity.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House whether it is true that one of the fourteen ships built in America for the Commonwealth, and at present in dry dock in New South
Wales, has had to be fitted with a new boiler and funnel, and to be re-caulked fore and aft?
– I suggest that when this week’s number of Hansard is issued the honorable member should read the answer given by the Acting Minister for the Navy to a similar question yesterday.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways state the reason for so much delay taking place in connexion with the commencement of the construction of workers’ homes at Lithgow ? If there are any obstacles in the way, what are they?
– There has been no unnecessary delay in connexion with this project. The report of the Public Works Committee was presented to the House only the week before last, and before the work can be proceeded with, it will be necessary, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act, for the House to, pass a motion stating that, in its opinon, it is expedient to proceed with the work. It is intended to give notice of that motion as soon as possible. In the meantime, a little delay is occurring owing to negotiations with the Lithgow municipal council as to the terms on which the council will extend water supply and sewerage services to the area to be built upon, and will undertake the making and maintenance of roads. In order to expedite negotiations, an officer of the Department was sent to Sydney on Wednesday to arrange terms with the council. I assure the honorable member that there will be no unnecessary delay in making a commencement, as the Government are anxious to proceed with the work.
– Are the Government sure, in their own minds, that the storage of wheat in silos will destroy or control the weevil’ pest, or that any scheme before the public at the present time will attain that end ? Is there not a danger of encouraging the farmers to build up hopes that will not be realized?
– I speak with great diffidence before a number of experts on weevils in this House, and I do not think it would be fair to say that the Government, as such, have an educated opinion upon this subject. I, however, have some vague and fugitive impressions about the matter after much conversation with the authorities concerned, and I believe that, although the weevil problem is not yet scientifically mastered, a great measure of safety will be assured by the proposal for the storage of wheat in silos. As honorable members know, the Government have been successful in securing the services of Dr. Maxwell Lefroy, one of the most eminent entomologists in the world, whom we expect to give sustained attention to the problem and to master it, so that there may be no mistake in what the Government are proposing to do.
– Following upon the question I asked last week as to whether the Government intended to take steps to send a vessel in search of the missing boat’s crew from the J ohn Murray, the Minister for the Navy handed me a precis of a statement by the Naval Secretary. In it this passage occurred : - “ It is a matter for the decision of the Commonwealth Government whether they will provide funds for this purpose.” I have arranged with the Chief Secretary of Victoria to make the steamer Dart available for a search if the Commonwealth Government will provide the funds. The cost would not exceed £500 per month. Will the Acting Prime Minister undertake to provide the funds in order that a systematic search may be made in the Pacific for the three missing men?
– I am not acquainted with the exact facts in regard to the loss of the John Murray, or as to what subsequently happened to the survivors. I will take an opportunity of conferring with the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) and the honorable member for Henty later in the day.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the very pleasing, although somewhat belated, declaration of the Prime Minister in England, as reported in the press this morning, that he does no1; speak for Australia on an important matter, may be taken to be solely the result of the. Prime Minister’s experiences in England, or whether any representation has been made by the Government to the Prime Minister, which has been an incentive to a declaration of that kind
– Speaking after a very hasty perusal of the report to which the honorable member refers, I do not think that the interpretation given by him to the cabled version of the Prime Minister’s utterances is correct.
– His utterance was very chastened.
– Characteristicallychastened. No communications have been addressed to the Prime Minister by his colleagues in Australia which would cause him to modify in any way his utterances on the other side of the world. We regard him as the mouthpiece of Australia upon all war aims.
– Will the Minister for Price Fixing cause a complete statement to be made available in the House, and through the press, of the gigantic oversea meat contracts and prices, so that it may in some measure help to stabilize the market, of which, apparently, the great meat contractors are at present taking advantage by reason of unfavorable weather conditions.
– I will consult with the Minister for Trade and Customs, under whose . immediate control the meat contracts are, as to whether the information can be made available to the House.
– Having regard to the correspondence which I have had with the Acting Prime Minister as to the discouraging effect of the present wartime profits tax upon new industries, has the honorable gentleman taken into consideration the advisability of an amendment of the Act which will remove such discouragement?
– On many occasions since the previous sittings of the House the honorable member has directed the attention of the Government to the necessity for consideration of this matter. We have been considering it, and the results of our deliberations were announced in the Budget. A more detailed explanation of them will be given when the amending Bill is introduced. I believe that I shall be able to satisfy all honorable members who desire the legitimate taxation of war-time profits, and, at the same time, the lifting of the burden from the new industries which we are endeavouring to establish.
– In view of the reconstruction of the Commonwealth Button Fund, will the Acting Prime Minister consider the advisability of placing all funds collected by the organizations concerned under the control of the Commonwealth Audit Department; also, is it a fact that two persons who were rejected by the vote of the subscribers were afterwards elected vice-presidents by the committee, thus completing the election-card dodge which had been operated at’ the election of the committee?
– I know some of the facts in regard to the somewhat dramatic incidents in connexion with the Commonwealth Button Fund. If the honorable member will give notice of his question, I will endeavour to obtain the other facts.
– Does the Minister for Recruiting really think that the placarding of the city and country towns with a horrible poster of a gorilla dripping blood over the world is likely to have a good effect in inducing eligibles to enlist; also, are the other posters which are to be placarded of the same horrible character ? In view of the great shortage of paper, is there not, in connexion with these representations, a waste of some hundreds of tons of glazed paper?
– I will give consideration to both the honorable member’s questions.
– Last year the Prime Minister promised, and this year the Acting Prime Minister has repeated the promise, that early this session balance-sheets in regard to the commercial undertakings of the Government, more particularly the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, would be presented to Parliament. I would like to know whether the Acting Prime Minister has authorized the preparation of these balance-sheets, and whether honorable members will -have the opportunity to examine them? As the Government propose to undertake further similar enterprises, honorable members should be able to get some idea of the cost of running these concerns.
– In accordance with the. promise made to the honorable member I have been gathering information for the proper presentation of balance-sheets in connexion with commercial undertakings of the Government. Some figures in regard to them appear in the Budgetpapers, particularly those relating to the Commonwealth steamers, but the whole of the figures are not as recent in their compilation as I would like. My idea has been to enable honorable members, as far as they may desire, or think it proper to do so, to examine how each enterprise is progressing, and ascertain whether it is a losing or a paying concern. I am at present conferring with the Minister for Defence in regard to publishing the balance-sheet of the operations of the Small Arms Factory. It is doubtful whether publication should be given to the number of rifles which is being turned out, and the other defence matters dealt with in that establishment.
– They need not be shown in the balance-sheet.
– If a balance-sheet professes to show what is done at the Factory it must give the output of rifles and the cost of each gun turned out.
– Do .not publish anything of service to the enemy.
– It would be a scandal to keep certain things secret.
– Non-publication might be harmful in its effects. On the other hand, the publication of certain information might be more harmful than helpful. I am anxious to furnish honorable mem bers with as much information as possible in connexion with the Government enterprises.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister take the precaution to instruct the accountants who are intrusted with the preparation of the balance-sheets to make the same provisions for different funds as are now ‘made by public companies?’ I have seen quite recently an interim balance-sheet of the Commonwealth steamers, but as it omitted two very important items, insurance and depreciation, which every shipping company must, and does, allow, it was impossible to ascertain the genuine net effect of the operations of the line.
– As a matter of fact, insurance was included.
– The honorable member has asked for something which is perfectly legitimate, namely, the inclusion of all proper factors that should appear in a balance-sheet. I was instrumental in finalizing the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth steamers, to which the honorable member has referred, and it included insurance, but not depreciation; because the ships had only operated for eight months before the balance-sheet closed, and as a reasonable set-off against depreciation there was an enormous appreciation in the value of the’ ships bought by the Prime Minister. We could easily have, doubled the value of the vessels.
– Companies do not take present values into balance-sheets; they only take cost prices into account.
– When you buy at lower than present values you do not write up those values in your balance-sheet, but you certainly do not write them down.’ I have discusssed the whole question with shipping men, with whom the honorable member is acquainted, in order to ascertain how far they feel justified in working down to what may be regarded as a post-war valuation for vessels purchased during the war. They are endeavouring to arrive at such a figure, so that, if there should be any collapse in tonnage values, their . balance-sheets will not need any startling rectification. However, I can assure the honorable member that we are anxious that all factors that should be taken into consideration shall be properly accounted for in the balance-sheets of Government enterprises.
– Can the Treasurer say what result has accrued from the purchase of rain-making plants, and whether they have been successful or not ? If they have been successful, will he give the residents in drought-stricken portions of Australia the benefit of the establishment of such plants in their localities?
– If the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I will give him the information; he will be astonished at the results which have been achieved.
– On Wednesday last an aeroplane passed over Melbourne dropping leaflets in connexion with the war loan.- At the time I was in conversation with a returned Anzac, whose practised ear picked up the vibration of the machine some minutes before mine did, but when the aeroplane hove in sight he almost collapsed. It has occurred to me that there are probably many returned soldiers whose nerves may be unstrung in the same way, and that possibly it would be better to stop the flying of these machines for such purposes, or keep them at such a height that they will have no effect upon these men. Will the Acting Prime Minister confer with the Minister for Defence upon this matter?
– No one is particularly anxious to further distress men who have been subjected to the horrible effects and shocks of war, but it is perfectly plain that every community will have an increasing number of aeroplanes flying, whether they be carrying mails or passengers. That is a matter for the future to decide. At present the distribution of leaflets by aeroplanes is one of the most helpful forms of advertising the war loan, and at this stage I do not wish to stop them from carrying out this useful task.
Relief of C and CI Men.
– In England there is a number of members of the Australian Imperial Force who have been classed by medical Boards as C and 01, that is to say, they are unfit for further active service out of England. They have seen very severe service in France, but they are still retained in England by the military authorities. Is it not possible to have them returned to Australia, where there are thousands of men who, although unfitted to go to France, could be formed into a battalion to go to England and replace these C and CI men, whose relatives would like to see them again?
– The question has opened up issues with which I am not at all familiar. I do not know how many hundreds or thousands of members of the Australian Imperial Force who are classed as C or 01 men would have to be released if I answered the honorable member’s question in the affirmative. There are great difficulties in regard to shipping, and there are many other problems connected with a thing of this magnitude. However, I shall confer with the Minister for Defence and see what is possible in the circumstances.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories give the House any information in regard to the production of oil in Papua ?
– There are seven bores in Papua, the deepest of ‘which is down to a depth of 1,800 feet, and oil has been struck; but the problem is whether it is likely to be obtained in commercial quantities. Out of about 2,000 square miles of territory which have been fairly well tested, the oil-field has been located over an area of about 130 miles long by 10 miles wide. Seepages are marked on the map as being known to exist in various parts. It is now a question of capital. The expedition with which the field can be developed depends upon the amount of money that can be applied. There was delay in connexion with the rotary and percussion machinery, owing to the difficulty of adjusting certain parts, but I think that this has been effectively overcome. An expert has been engaged to go to Papua and superintend the commencement of boring with the rotary and percussion machinery.
Director of Design .and Construction: Railway Line over Molonglo River.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Will he furnish a list of the works at the Federal Capital Territory upon which Mr.
Griffin, the Federal Capital. Director of Design and Construction, and his staff have been engaged during this calendar year; also (a) a list of the works which will occupy his attention during the coming year; (b) the estimated cost of Mr. Griffin and his staff during this year; (c) the estimated cost for the coming year ?
– I will obtain the information for the honorable member, and lay it upon the table in the form of a return.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Will he furnish a list of fees (if any) paid to Mr. Griffin, the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction, for professional services outside the Federal Territory, and particulars of the same ?
– I will obtain the information for the honorable member, and lay it upon the table in the form of a return.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– I will obtain the information for the honorable member, and inform him at a later date.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The general question of the supply of oil is engaging the attention of the Government, and will receive special consideration when dealing with the offers referred to.
Is it a fact that recently lucerne seed has been imported into the Commonwealth, and that seeds foreign to lucerne were mixed with it?
What steps have been taken to protect the farmers against the introduction of foreign noxious weeds in this way?
Is it a fact that the imported seed is grown by black labour, and is being sold at a price considerably below the average ruling price for locally-grown seed?
Whether tests have been made to prove that the imported seed gives poor results when compared with that locally grown?
Whether the Minister will consider the advisableness of imposing a duty of one shilling. (1s.) per bushel on imported seed?
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Jensen).The information desired by the honorable member will be obtained.
SUPPLY BILL (So. 2) 1918-19.
Censorship : Labour Press - Russia and the Bolsheviks - The Labour Party and Supply Bills - Australian Imperial Force: Anzacs onfurlough: Hobart as Port of Call: Reception of Returned Soldiers : Neglect of Soldiers’ Farms and Refusal of Discharge : Stoppage of Pay to Dependants of A.W.L.’s: Use of Uniforms - Repatriation: Settlement on Land and Industrial Employment - Federal Territory : Construction of Railway : Bridge over MolongloRiver: Afforestation: Works Expenditure - Mr. Hughes and Protection : Speeches in England - Empire Trade Policy - Industrial Organization : The Tariff : Metal Industries : Zinc Producers Association : Copper : Blythe River Iron Mine - Control of Investments - Northern Territory : Finance- Navy and Defence Departments : Administration and Expenditure : Small Arms Factory : Arsenal : Naval Bases - Borrowing from Great Britain - The War: Settlement of Peace Terms: Pacific Islands - Country Post, Telegraph, and Telephone Facilities.
In Committee of Supply : Consideration resumed from 10th. October (vide page 6839) of motion by Mr. Watt-
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1918-19 a sum not exceeding £4,537,700.
.- I desire to say a few words in regard to the censorship of the Barrier Daily Truth and the Labour press generally. In the Mining Standard of 29 th August there appeared an article setting forth that a cablegram had been sent from the council of the Mining Association of Western Australia to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, as follows : -
Mining Association of Western Australia urges upon Imperial Government vital importance of granting bonus of £1 per ounce on all gold produced within the Empire; also Strongly recommends suspension of all taxation by Imperial and Dominion Governments on gold mining. Further, that greater security of tenure be assured to mining properties’.
That cable was followed by a letter to the Imperial authorities. The Barrier Daily Truth published a leading article commenting on this message, and adversely criticising the reasons advanced by the
Mine-owners Association in support of its request for a bonus. Amongst the reasons advanced were the following: -
The Barrier Daily Truth referred to the effrontery of the gold-mining companies of Western Australia in claiming a bonus Of £1 per ounce because certain of their employees had left the mining industry to fight in Europe. The mining companies did not ask that any additional advantage be given to the men who had left their employ to volunteer for service abroad, but they coolly sought a bonus for themselves. They also claimed this bonus on the ground that the labour now available in the mines of Western Australia was, according to the employers, inefficient and specially expensive. In commenting upon the case made out by the gold mine-owners of Western Australia for this special treatment, the Barrier Daily Truth, on 2nd September, wrote -
Private Swaddling answered the call of the Empire, and his wife and six children were tossed into a Sydney gutter. “ Response to the call “ is not much of an argument when the serf uses it; of course, the mining “guns” may be more successful. But “ get “ the impudence of the fashion in which this appeal is framed : Those who did not go to the Front want to be paid compensation upon such of their property as has gone. Never mind the widows and orphans of the “ skilled miners.” Heed not the dependants of the hopelessly maimed. Pay the compensation to the late proprietors of these chattels. The right of interests vested in the slave must follow him even to the bayonet’s point and the cannon’s mouth. But the proprietor of the right must not follow the slave there to prove his claim. Nothing like that ! To come from this attempt to make direct profits out of the blood of the servile class shed in the trenches to the diminished value of the men who are available is a descent from “the sublime to the paltry, if we take the value as that paid to the slaves themselves.
For publishing this comment the printer and publisher was haled before the Court, and the Police Magistrate who tried the case said -
If I thought the article was written deliberately to prejudice recruiting, I would go to the full extent of my power under the Act. As it is, I will treat it as a first offence. Defendant is fined £50, with £4 10s. costs, in default six months’ imprisonment.
The magistrate admitted that he did not think the article was deliberately written with a view to prejudice recruiting, but because it exposed this attempt on the part of the proprietors of the” gold mines of Western Australia to exploit the public of Australia and the Empire generally the publisher was fined £50.
This action on the part of the authorities supports the argument I advanced when we were dealing with the motion for the censorship of members’ speeches.. I pointed out that we had to consider, not so much the words actually employed in the motion as the construction that would be placed upon them by the authorities. In this case, an attack upon the Western Australian gold mine-owners is construed into an attempt to prejudice recruiting. Other Labour newspapers which endeavour to expose similar attempts to exploit the public will be treated in like manner. We are harking back to the condition of affairs that prevailed in England when Britain was at war with France, and when, as Sir Thomas ErskineMay has show, to advocate a change of Government was construed by Judges as sedition. May points out, further, that societies of supporters of the Government were at this time formed for the purpose of employing spies and informers to hunt up evidence of supposed “ seditious offences,” and that “ every unguarded word at the club, in the market-place, in the very taverns, was reported to credulous alarmists and noted as irrefutable evidence of alleged disaffection.” That is practically the position in Australia at the present time. Labour newspapers dare not criticise the employing class in . Australia lest they be haled before a Court on a charge of publishing statements calculated to prejudice recruiting. We are getting back to the conditions that prevailed in England when Lord Abercromby told a jury that to advocate manhood suffrage was “ disaffection,” was sedition, and was “ unquestionably tantamount to a total subversion of the Constitution.” There is very little difference between the condition of affairs prevailing in the Old World in those days and those prevailing in Australia to-day when legitimate criticism of attempts to exploit the patriotism of employees who volunteer for active service is construed as being something detrimental to recruiting. No doubt prosecutions of this kind will be extended. One wonders what kind of country Australia will be in the near future when on the one hand working-class publications are heavily fined for daring to differ from the employing classes in their efforts to exploit the Empire, and when on the other hand we find in the press such statements as the following, which appeared in the Brisbane Daily Standard of 4th October : -
Spread in Europe. - Cause of Bulgar Peace. - “ Doctrine of the Day,” - Disclosure by
A message from Salonica says that Mr. Dominic I. Murphy, the United States ConsulGeneral at Sofia, has arrived there. He states that as a result of a Crown Council held 23rd September, King Ferdinand appealed to Berlin and Vienna for immediate help, which Austro-Germany refused. King Ferdinand then appealed’ to the Entente, because he realized that in order to keep his throne and life it was imperative to have a foreign military force in Bulgaria, where revolutionary teachings are already making progress among the extremists. Bolshevism was ‘the doctrine of the day at Sofia. The workers and soldiers held meetings, made laws, and demonstrated by the palace, when they frequently alluded to the assassination of the ex-Czar Nicholas.
The decadent Saxe-Coburg dynasty is to be propped up by the Allied bayonets, and the Bulgarians are to be forced to maintain that dynasty, which a few weeks ago the Allies were fighting, while here in. Australia working-class organizations and newspapers are prosecuted for publishing articles reflecting on the employers of Australia. The Saxe-Coburg dynasty which the Kaiser himself hesitated to assist is being propped up by the Allied bayonets, although the Bulgarians themselves wish to get rid of it; the foreign legions in their midst have been used to prop it up. I saw nothing of this cable message in the Melbourne daily newspapers, although I searched for it. I found it in a country newspaper hidden away amongst other matters, and I also found it in the Brisbane Daily Standard. It might have appeared in some of the newspapers of the other States, but I have not seen it in any Melbourne newspaper. The daily newspapers tell us that Bulgaria is again out of the war because its people revolted against the rotten Saxe-Coburg dynasty, and when the Kaiser and the Austrian
Empire would not help that dynasty, the Allies intervened to maintain it. The position there to-day is that King Boris rules instead of KingFerdinand, just as in Greece Constantine, the intriguer leaves the throne, and his son now reigns in his stead. Something similar occurred when Roumania went out of the war, but there the reigning dynasty was maintained by the Central Powers.
– The honorable member must take his share of the blame, since he supports a Government that allows Labour newspapers to be prosecuted for making an attack upon the class and interests which he represents, the pretext being that such attacks are detrimental to recruiting.
– Not at all.
– If this case had related to the pastoral instead of the mining industry we should have found the honorable member as silent as the grave, as voiceless as the tomb. In the New York Tribune of 19th May last there appeared the following comment upon the treatment of the Bolsheviks in Finland by the Germans. I remind honorable members that the New York Tribune is a prowar paper.
– It is a good paper.
– It says-
Ithas fallen to the lot of Germany, in this case, to stand on the side of humanity and righteousness.
Does the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) still say that the New York Tribune is a good paper?
– It was a good paper once.
– The newspapers supporting the Allies have never ceased to denounce the callousness and cruelty of the Germans, and to describe Germany’s conduct of -the war as the personification of military barbarity. But when it is the Bolsheviks, . the working-class people of Finland, who are ground under the heel of military tyranny and oppression, Germany is applauded by the allied press for carrying out the work of humanity.
– Is the honorable member’s quotation from the New York Tribune or from some other paper ?
– I have quoted an extract from the New York Tribune of 19th May last, which was reproduced in the Australian Worker. Germany, when crushing down the aspirations of the Finnish Bolsheviks, is on the side of humanity and righteousness. The honorable member for Grampians, in supporting a Government that imposes heavy fines on the conductors of newspapers published in the interests of the working class, because they adversely criticised employerswho endeavour to reap undue advantages by exploitation of the services of former employees now on the other side, “making the world safe for Democracy,” no doubt considers that he is acting in the cause of humanity and righteousness. To-day the press of Australia is engaged in a campaign of vilification of the Bolsheviks and in the suppression of information as to the happenings in Russia at the present time. With a view to giving the public something authentic, I asked the Acting Prime Minister recently whether he could inform me as to what really are the relations at present existing between the British Empire and the Russian people. He replied that he was not at liberty, or in a position, to give the information asked for. Yet the press and public men in this country are constantly vilifying the Russian workingclass movement.
– Vilifying the murderous Bolsheviks!
– It is like the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) to talk here of the murderous Bolsheviks. When the murderous Czar was on the throne, and there was a heartless massacre of some 6,000 people on “ Bloody “ Sunday, when, in a peaceful procession, petitioners were on their way to the Winter Palace, and there was not a single armed person in the crowd, machine guns were turned on them, and they were massacred in cold blood, we heard no
Word of protest from the honorable member for Kooyong. He was too busy waving the flag, and saying, “ Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right.”
– The honorable member is quite right there.
– Does the honorable member for Barrier blame the present Federal Government for that massacre?
Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 242 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, -I ‘was replying to an interjection by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) in regard to the alleged bloodthirsty actions of the Bolsheviks . in Russia and Finland. I was pointing out that, under the regime of the Czar, far worse atrocities had been perpetrated - if any atrocities have been perpetrated by the Bolsheviks - than have ever disgraced any working class regime. If honorable members will take the trouble to peruse a work published this year by the greatest living authority on Russian affairs, and one of the most respected men on the side of the Allies todayI refer to Mr. E. J. Dillon- they will find there is a stronger indictment of the late Czar’s regime than they can find of any regime in any other part of . the World.
– Is it not a fact, that the Democrats of Russia themselves are the bitterest enemies of the. Bolsheviks?
– It is not a fact, and the honorable member is in no better position than I am to judge of what is taking place in that country. We have been told in the cables published in our daily newspapers that -the Bolshevik Administration has declared war upon the Empire. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has denied the accuracy of that statement. Yet these same newspapers continue day after day to misrepresent the working-class movement in Russia. Nobody here can say what is taking place in that country, or what has occurred there, for the simple reason that the fragmentary information which reaches us necessarily comes from more or less tainted sources. All that we know is that a proletarian Administration is to-day in power in European Russia. We cannot definitely say what that Administration is doing. All that we know is that the Soviets, who occupied the musman region, were recognised by the Allies, and fought side by side with them against the aggression of Germany. We have been told that the Soviets have been overthrown in that. region, and that the Allies overthrew them. Whether that is so or not, no man here can say. In my opinion, the condition of affairs existing throughout the civilized world is nothing more or less than a tremendous tragedy. When we look abroad we find that almost the whole of humanity is locked together in a terrible war. As a result of this awful conflagration the working classes of Bulgaria recently rose in revolution against the Bulgarian Czar, and after vain appeals for assistance had been made to the Austrian Emperor and the German Kaiser, the ruling authorities there decided in favour of peace. Everybody must rejoice that Bulgaria is now out of the war. My only regret is that all the other nations are not out of it. I hope that Turkey and the other belligerents will follow the example set by Bulgaria.
– Unconditional surrender.
– If they follow the example of Bulgaria they will rise in revolt against the dynasties of those countries.
– The honorable member forgets that in Bulgaria a son of the former king has been placed upon the throne.
– According to the cables published in the Daily Standard, which I read in this chamber, King Boris reigns in Bulgaria by virtue of the support of Allied bayonets, just as King Con.stantine’s son reigns in Greece by virtue of the support of Allied bayonets. Similarly, the Central Powers were careful not to disturb the ruling dynasty when they successfully over-ran Rumania. In my opinion there is too much consideration exhibited for dynasties and not sufficient consideration for the interests of the people.
– Too much consideration for dynamite as well.
– The honorable member does not want dynamite - what he needs is hot water. He had better consult the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) on the matter. Viewing the situation to-day from the stand-point of the working man, we ought not to be rejoicing that King Boris reigns in Bulgaria instead of King Ferdinand.
– Who does rejoice about it?
– The honorable member does. Prior to the suspension of the sitting I pointed out that the honorable member is supporting a Government which does not hesitate to impose heavy fines on newspapers if they dare to comment upon the aims of Western Australian mining magnates who desire a bounty of £1 per ounce upon their gold output, because, forsooth, their former employees have left them to fight for the Empire, and because their present employees are less competent and demand higher wages on account of the increased cost of living. When the Barrier Daily Truth commented causticallyupon this action on the part of the mine-owners it was fined £50 under the War Precautions Act forhaving published an article prejudicial to recruiting.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The speech just delivered by the honorable member for Barrier is a most extraordinary one. In the first place, he assured us that the news from Russia, which is published in our daily newspapers, is utterly unreliable, and he also affirmed that nobody in Australia is in a position to know what is transpiring in Russia to-day, notwithstanding that the leading newspapers of the world have their correspondents there. Yet, the moment he touched upon the Bulgarian situation, the honorable member was, apparently, ready to believe all that is published in the press here in regard to it. If the honorable member’s statements are calculated to mislead people outside this House, I am delighted to know that they are not likely to mislead honorable members. The honorable member talks satirically about the freedom of the people here, alleging that they are not permitted to publish their views in the press. Does he not realize that this country is at war, and that, in the absence of a censorship, a person might make a statement on the hustings which might be interpreted to. mean something entirely different from that which he had intended?
– Therefore, they should be shut up.
– In this Chamber, we do not take the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) seriously, because we know him. But people outside do not know him, and consequently it would be dangerous to allow his uncensored statements to be broadcasted. There was a time when we dared not utter words which were likely to offend other nations. But men like the hon orable member for Batman have never realized the seriousness of this war. He cares not one iota for Australia. He cares not one iota, as he himself has told us, for the Empire.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire that those offensive and false words shall be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Batman . complains that the honorable member for Denison has misrepresented him, and, therefore, I ask him to withdraw the statement to which exception has been taken.
-I withdraw it. I am sorry if I have misinterpreted the utterances of the honorable member for Batman. I never can understand what the honorable member means. When I putmy own construction upon his words I am called to order. He will not stand up to the statements which he makes in this House. Hence I simply drop him for the present.
Let us analyze the position which obtains in Australia to-day. We are able to go down to the Yarra-bank and say almost anything about the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). We are able to indulge in the strongest language in regard to our public men. Men need not be too careful, either, about telling the truth. I have heard statements made in the Sydney Domain which were absolute lies, and which I could prove to be lies. I heard one man say in the Sydney streets, “ If you wish to achieve success for the workers in Australia, destroy that building. Take the nut off the piston-rod of the engine you are working, and knock the end out of the cylinder.” I attacked the author of those statements, and spoke for an hour and a half in replying to him. Some of his followers attempted to pull me off the platform, but they did not succeed, and I gained the applause of many of those who had been previously led by this individual, who was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. We have been told by the press that the Bolsheviks of Russia have declared war against Great Britain. I am not going to say whether the representative of the Bolsheviks in Australia should occupy a seat in this House. But I call attention to this fact in order to demonstrate the amount of freedom that we enjoy. Here is the accredited representative of the Bolsheviks associated with a great political party in Australia, occupying a seat in this Parliament, notwithstanding that the Bolsheviks have proclaimed that they are at war with the Empire. ‘
– That is a lie.
– I must ask the honorable member for Barrier to withdraw that statement.
– With the greatest pleasure I withdraw it, and substitute the statement that it is a terminological inexactitude.
– I read in the newspapers an announcement to the effect that the honorable member for Barrier was the accredited representative of the Bolsheviks here. Is there any other country in the world which would allow the representative of a Government which is at war with them to sit in its Parliament ? That circumstance in itself demonstrates the measure of freedom which is enjoyed in Australia.
– Whatever freedom we have is not because of you, but in spite of you.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has taken up a most extraordinary attitude in this Chamber. Last night he made a speech which was unquestionably calculated to mislead people outside. He stated that honorable members upon this side of the chamber were willing to support the Government in doing something which Was unparliamentary, which was subtle, and which was never before attempted here. What is the position? Is it not a fact that when previous Governments have desired to obtain Supply they have submitted a Supply Bill at a time when they knew it could be rushed through this House? There was no greater offender in that connexion than the Treasurer of the Government of which the honorable member for Yarra was a member. I well remember an occasion when word was passed round that the Government must obtain Supply on a particular afternoon. Ministerial supporters were given to understand that they were not to talk, but sit tight, and allow the Supply Bill to be passed, because the Treasurer of the day desired it. But what happened ? One of the members of the Ministerial party, in the person of Mr. Carr, kicked over the traces, and made a speech. The result was that quite a number of honorable members missed their trains that afternoon.
I propose now to make a statement, which I hope will go out to the country side by side with the speech made last night by the Leader of the Opposition, because it will conclusively demonstrate the unfair character of his criticism.
– You are very low down to do what you are doing now. It is unmanly of you.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) has caused me to do a thing I never do - draw the attention of members and of the constituencies to the absence of a member from the chamber. The representative of the Leader of the Opposition is here.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is assisting to entertain the French Mission.
– I made no complaint about the Leader of the Opposition being out of the chamber, because I knew the cause, and I would not have mentioned it but for the honorable member for East Sydney. If the Leader of the Opposition, were present, I would say what I am about to say now, because I propose to quote only facts. On Friday, the 23rd May, 1916, according to Hansard, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), as Treasurer, at thirty-nine minutes past 3 o’clock in the afternoon, moved -
That a sum not exceeding £2,752,388 he granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1917.
This was his speech on the subject -
As honorable members desire to catch their trains, I shall not make a lengthy speech. I have no mental reservations on this matter. The Bill will cover a period of two months, to the end of August, and I ask honorable members to observe that the items have been cut down to the lowest limit.
The honorable member then resumed his seat. When was the information given to the House that we heard so much about last night? We were expected simply to sit and pass the measure, because if there was any discussion members were likely to miss their trains. The then honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Carr) rose and said, among other things -
We are now being hustled and bustled in order that the darkness of recess may once more cover the Government, who have proved faithless in regard to these obligations.
That came, not from a member of the Opposition, but from a .supporter of the then Government, sitting on this side of the House. The present Leader of the Opposition was a member of that Government. Yet, last night, because the gallery was full of his constituents, because leading trade unionists were looking on, he uttered a tirade of abuse of those who left the Official Labour party when he had not the courage to leave it himself. He made that statement last night to depreciate us and the Government in the eyes of his audience and in the estimation of the people outside. A man clothed with the responsibilities of the leadership of the Opposition should “not try to deceive any body of people. He should simply lay before the House the facts as they are. If he did that, nobody in this House would object to his criticism. He implied that it would not be possible to allow the Works and Buildings Estimates to pass through at the same time as the Supply Bill. On the occasion, in 1916, which I have quoted members gradually left to catch the Inter-State trains, and the “honorable member for Capricornia got his Supply Bill through. Not only that, but in a few minutes, when there were hardly any members present, the Works and Buildings Bill, totalling £662,085, was “passed. Hansard shows no explanation offered by the then Treasurer of how that money was to be spent. How can these gentlemen who have such short memories expect to gull the public with speeches such as the one we heard last night from the Leader of the Opposition ? Why do not honorable members opposite - men with brains, men with great ability, intellectual men - elect a leader like the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), or the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) ? Those gentlemen would be seized of the gravity of the position they held, and would not think of descending to the tirade of abuse to which the present Leader of the Opposition treated us last night. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition was not present to hear the remarks I have just made, but now that he has come in, I hope he will endeavour to be fair. I trust he will display that characteristic fairness that we all knew him* to .possess during the whole time we were associated with him. If he rises to the occasion and shows himself to be a man his constituents will respect him. There is no need for him to try to mislead anybody. It is not necessary for him to state that we were thrown out of the Labour party with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The people know that. It will not do him any good, or advance the interests of this country, nor will it stop any expenditure. I welcome criticism such as we get from the honorable member for Hunter. There is something in it. He builds up all the time! He is constructive, but the Leader of the Opposition pulls down every time. Not a suggestion has come from him for the good of this country since he has occupied his present high and honorable position. I hope the honorable member will be more careful next time, and be more sure of - his facts.
I find that returned men injured at the Front come back here, are examined by the doctor, and then given their discharge. Many belong to friendly societies, and, as they have” not quite recovered, go on the lodge funds. That is hitting up the lodges very severely. It is a great” tax on the funds of many of the friendly societies, and I urge the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) to try to do something to prevent it. Let the country pay for these men for a time, instead of throwing them on to the lodges, which have had a hard struggle to remain financially’ sound (luring this terrible war. Nobody is more able to go into the question effectively than that honorable gentleman, because he has played an important part in the working of the Australian Natives Association, and, as a prominent member of that body, he must know the great struggle that the friendly societies, particularly the Australian Natives Association, have had to meet their obligations.
I do not know the route that the boats bringing back the Anzacs are traversing, but a prominent citizen in my constituency writes to ask if one of the vessels could be allowed to make Hobart its first port of call. 1 should like to. see that done, so that the citizens of Tasmania p.ould give these heroes the first welcome back to our country. If the vessels are coming round the Cape, it will be quite easy for them to call at Tasmania first. One thing is certain, that the heroes will be given a right royal welcome.
Until recently, a very hearty welcome was given to returning soldiers in my constituency immediately they came back. They went first to the Defence Department, and went through necessary forma there in such quick time that they were, able in a very little while to receive a citizens’ welcome in the nearest town hall. For some reason this has been cut out, and, I am informed, returning men have to remain from 9 o’clock to 2 o’clock at the Department before they can get away. By that time they have no desire for a public function. All they want is to meet their own friends who have waited so long to give them a welcome home. I appeal to the Assistant Minister for Defence to see if something cannot be done to restore the old arrangement.
The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) referred last night to what was being done at the Federal Capital site. I visited the site recently, and found that a railway line, not a tramway, had been constructed there at a cost which could not. have been less than £6,000 a mile.
– Who authorized that?
– I do not know,’ but the line is half finished. A low-level bridge has also been built over the Molonglo River. Some authorities say that it will stand a flood ; others not. As a layman, my opinion, for what it is worth, is that it will go at the very first flood that comes down, because it has been heavily decked to hold it together. I came to the conclusion that the top deck and the beams on the piles are so heavy in proportion to the piling that” the engineer who designed the bridge hoped by bracing the top deck and the girders to hold the bridge together on each side. The bridge ia not finished, and is in position to bring about a big washout if the waters come down.
– It is to complete a work already authorized, costing about £20,000.
– I do not know who has been responsible for it, but some explanation should be given in regard to this matter. If the line is going to cost £6,000 a mile, it is worth looking after, especially as the river is subject to floods.
– Where does it cross the river ?
– Not very far from Duntroon. The constructional work has been put in hand, but the rails are not yet laid. I mention this matter because I think the Minister might be led into trouble unless he* knows what i3 going on. up there.
Another matter to which I should like to refer is the afforestation policy in the Territory. This work is excellent, and the trees are growing wonderfully. I saw thousands of flourishing trees of various kinds from all parts of the world, and the hills are now becoming quite green.
– Are they good commercial trees?
– Many of them are, especially the American red pine, which, I think, will be a valuable asset to Australia in the near future if it will grow under the different climatic conditions. I was delighted to see what was being done, and I hope it will be continued. The importance of this policy was brought home to me when on a visit to the Old World some years ago. I saw there country which once had been fertile land, but which, as the result of the destruction of timber, was then nothing but a barren waste. The area in the Capital Territory has been wirefenced, and as the grass has grown luxuriantly I think there is danger of fire, which would, of course, destroy the timber reserves. I know, of course, that if cattle were grazed on the area they would probably destroy the trees.
– Why . not put sheep on it?
– I would suggest; to the Minister that something should be done to try and protect the growing trees from the danger of fire, because in that reserve we have a splendid asset, which within twenty years should be returning a profit to the Commonwealth. I should like to see this policy continued. Some of the railways of France are being absolutely maintained as a result of this policy of afforestation applied to land adjacent to the lines.
– Eighteen million acres were under afforestation in France until the war broke out.
– As a result of the erection of rabbit-proof fencing there is, as I have said, a fine growth of grass everywhere, and I should think the time is not far distant when Yarralumla will be up to its former carrying capacity- 56,000 head of sheep besides a good number of cattle. This is the other side of the picture.
I hope the Minister will give earnest consideration to the work that is being done in the Capital Territory. As a layman, much of it appears to me to be of no value at the present time. Some excavations have been made, and embankments built up, starting anywhere and ending nowhere. In my judgment, if ever the capital is to be built, we should start from within and work outwards, doing only that work which is absolutely necessary to make the area habitable, and not put up embankments here, there, and ‘ everywhere, and construct imaginary lakes.
– If the honorable member saw a picture of the Territory in its initial stages, he would wonder what was going to be put there, and this was in the scheme of one of the best landscape architects that America has produced.
– That may be so, but are we in a position to go on with this expenditure?
– I told the House last night that not a single penny is being expended on constructional work.
– I did not say the work that was going on.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I am sorry I have not the time to reply to the attack of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) on the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), except to say that the Leader of the Opposition is well able to take care of himself, and to add that when he asked last night for information he was carrying out the true functions of his position, and if, when I brought down the Supply Bill to which the honorable member for Denison has referred, he did not then ask for information, he was not fulfilling his duty.
– And on the occasion referred to, I think we had been debating the Budget for about a month.
– Very likely. I am sorry the time does not seem to be quite opportune for dealing with a very important . matter. Honorable members have all had their minds a little bit drawn away from their parliamentary duties by the excellent recep tion given this afternoon to the French Mission. It was a most touching and brilliant spectacle, in which,- I am sure, we were all glad to take part. I sincerely hope that the cordial relations that, up to the present time, have existed between Australia and France will become more cordial and permanent. As a. young country we are not able - at least I do not think we are - to throw our ports open as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) would, to all the productions of France. As a Free Trader believing in the absolutely unrestricted freedom of exchange in commodities, he would, I venture to say, break down our Customs barrier; but, though we are not able to do that, we can reciprocate with France in regard to some commodities. There are some people who, no matter how high the Tariff was, short of prohibition, would still buy French goods on account, perhaps, of their excellence and design.
– Their artistic merits generally.
– I thank my literary friend for his interpolation.
This brings me to some utterances made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I notice in the public press that at a meeting of the National Labour party recently, advantage was taken of the opportunity to pass a motion condemnatory of what was termed a bitter attack made by me on the Prime Minister personally. But I made no bitter attack on the Prime Minister. I may have made a strong - perhaps it might be considered a bitter - attack on his policy and his speeches in the Old Country. To-day the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) told us that the Government looked upon the Prime Minister as the mouthpiece of the Ministry on all questions concerning the war. I regret that the Government should take that re- sponsibility, because the Prime Minister’s utterances are so inconsistent, contradictory, and abusive, that it is impossible for a Government, members of which have made themselves acquainted with his views, to hold themselves responsible for them. In his reply to a question which I asked, the Acting Prime Minister said -
The honorable member has had considerable experience of legislative life, and some experience of Cabinet practice, and ought to know that every Government shares or carries the responsibility for its leader’s utterances.
– That is an elementary conception of parliamentary government.
– It may be elementary; but it will be noticed that the Acting Prime Minister did not say that they were glad to share the responsibility for the Prime Minister’s utterances. I want again to say that I made no bitter attack on the Prime Minister. I merely pointed out that the Prime Minister in London was, as an ex-Free Trader, converted to Protection, stigmatizing Free Trade as the sickening folly of doctrinaires, pacifists, and pro-Germans. I complained that those were not utterances that should fall from the lips of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth; and by to-day’s mail I received confirmation of the view that his speeches in the Old Country are not doing Australia any good. After Mr. Hughes had made the speech to which I referred, the Radical Council, at a meeting in the House of Commons, carried the following motion at the instance of Mr. Lees Smith, M.P., seconded by Mr. Chancellor, M.P. : -
The committee wish to draw the attention of Radicals throughout the country to the speeches of Mr. Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia, who has become the spokesman of the party of a fanatical Tariff war, which would be a death-blow to a league of nations. Mr. Hughes does not speak for the Democracy of Australia, where he. is now discredited, and his interference in British party politics is a gross breach of the hospitality of this country.
Mr. Hughes defended himself, and, if I remember rightly, he was in his usual vein when dealing with opponents. He said-
He could not fathom the minds of those who accused him of abusing the hospitality of this country by interfering in its domestic politics.
The Radical party, after hearing Mr. Hughes’ speech, carried another motion in the following terms : -
We regret that Mr. W. M. Hughes, in his reply to the Radical Council, has not offered any explanation of his offensive personal attacks upon British politicians. As he has now become the instrument of those reactionary elements in this country which are well known to be the enemies of Democracy, it is necessary to point out that ho does not speak for the people of Australia, where he is discredited. His conduct in using his position as a guest of the nation to play the part of a bitter partisan in British politics is a gross abuse of the hospitality of the country, of which no other visitor from the Dominionshas been guilty.
The Government appear, according to the Acting Prime Minister, to have made no protest against speeches of that nature; but it will be seen from the press to-day that the Prime Minister is altering his attitude.
– He has seen your letter.
– I would like to quote the whole of that letter, so as to put it on record in Hansard; but honorable members may find it in the Age of 15th July last. The Argus, which often criticises the honorable member for Capricornia, declined to print that letter.
– Don’t say that! I read it, at any rate, and it was a good letter, very well written.
– However, Mr. Hughes now states -
I cannot speak for Australia, but I speak for myself, and I say this, that, while I live and have any influence in the counsels of Australia, Germany will not get a single bale of Australian wool.
– Tall talk !
– Very tall talk. But the Prime Minister has altered his views, as may be seen by consulting the Argus of 5 th October. Speaking of Germany, Mr. Hughes then said -
I cannot speak for India, but I can for Australia, and one thing is certain, whatever other nations or parts of the British Empire do, Australia has neither the desire nor the intention of resuming her relations with Germany. Australia can get on well indeed without Germany’s “goods of high reputation,” but Germany cannot get on without wool and metals. Australia can sell her raw material, wool, metals, &c, to Great Britain and the Allies, and she will most certainly do so.
The Prime Minister claimed to speak for Australia then. Now he alters his tone, and says he cannot speak for Australia, but that he speaks for himself. That goes to show that the criticism in the Old Country is bringing the Prime Minister to a better sense of proportion.
Why is it that we cannot get from the Acting Prime Minister or from any member of the Government a statement of their Empire trade policy? Thewar, if we take the most hopeful view, may possibly end within six, or even three, months.
– Even the Mother Country must confer with all the other Allies before she can define a fiscal policy.
– Accepting what the honorablemember suggests as a wise policy, namely, that Britain must consult her Allies before arranging her fiscal “policy, I am brought back to the Prime Minister again, where he stated -
We are a family of nations, who should trade with each other, but without turning a hostile eye on the world.
– It is one of the terms of the alliance that no arrangements of a fiscal character shall be settled without consultation among the Allies.
– Then what use is it for the Prime Minister to talk about the necessity for a League of Englishspeaking Nations, and to refer to the fact that we are a body of sister nations who should be a self-contained Empire ?
– He was trying to exercise an educational influence on the Allies.
– Then why should not the Prime Minister be consistent? He is supposed to be preaching Protection, yet he says he does not pirn his faith upon tariffs. There is another speech of the Prime Minister, delivered in London, wherein he said -
We ought to make provision to insure the development of the Empire so far as to assure a supply of the essential raw materials. No policy is better calculated to help the great mercantile marine, for it means the carriage of raw materials here and the carriage back of manufactured articles.
Wo dare not subject the manufacturers and the employees of this country to unrestricted competition from abroad. Any preference that we may give to Great Britain, or to any part of the Empire, must be upon the distinct understanding that manufactures in those parts shall have been produced upon a standard, as to wages and conditions, generally coequal with that which exists in this country.
Are we to wait until the war is over before Parliament deals with the Tariff? The Acting Prime Minister said to-day that this war is Australia’s opportunity - meaning that, because the war is on, and there is a lack of shipping, our manufacturers can produce goods, and should extend their industries. I suppose, too, that Mr Watt assumes that if manufacturers establish those industries in Australia they will go on after the war successfully. I emphasize that, unless we alter our Tariff, those industries, if they become established, will surely collapse. No manufacturer would take the risk of establishing an industry during the war unless the Government came down with a scientific protectionist Tariff. We have no right to wait until the war is over. The Government have brought forward an Excise Tariff which is almost oppressive ; one which, being upon the distilling of spirits, may not disturb many people, seeing that the general feeling throughout the community is rather against the liquor trade, but it may be an unjust and oppressive Tariff, for all that. I hope to insist, at every opportunity, against any delay in bringing forward a Tariff for the protection of Australia’s secondary industries.
We should cultivate the most friendly relations with that brave, chivalrous, enlightened and witty nation, the French; and we should give their manufacturers, who are prepared to be humane and generous in the treatment of their employees, the benefit of any preferential Tariff. But we should set our faces against the sweater, be he British, French, or American. If ever the world is to have its “ Parliament of Man “ there must be some development along those lines. The people must protect the fair employer in their own homeland, and must penalize the sweater as heavily as possible, whether he be at home or in another country.
Mr.GLYNN (Angas - Minister for Home and Territories) [3.42]. - I desire to utter a few words supplementary to the remarks of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) with respect to the Federal Territory railway. The vote dealing with that railway was originally an amount of about £25,000; and, when £15,000 had been spent upon construction, the question of the reduction of the Estimates for the Federal Territory came before the House. The only item kept upon the original Works Estimate for 1917-18 was that of £7,500 to complete the railway. The reason was that the completion of the line was looked upon as a preservative work, seeing that four out of the seven miles had been constructed. It was realized that its completion would be incidental to the general development of the Territory ; and, since to leave it as it was would result in no revenue, no traffic, and probable waste, it was decided, after full discussion in this chamber, to sanction the vote for the completion of the work.
– What is the use of the railway, and what is likely to he its use for the next fifty years?
– Some doubt was expressed as to that, even by the Government. The matter was fairly put before the House, and it was thought that by extending the bridge across the Molonglo, where work had been begun, it might conduce to added development. It was considered that it might assist settlement in the Territory by bringing the rail terminus nearer to the place of discharge or delivery for the goods of farmers and others. I do not say that it was the wisest step that may have been taken, but that the feeling was that it would be better to complete the work.
Under the Works vote, ordinary expenditure was cut down from £166,000 in 1915-16, and £124,000 in 1916-17, to something like £25,000; and this year there has been still further reduction. At the present time there are no works being gone on with in the Federal Territory, except those incidental to development. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) fairly put the. position as regards general development. Take afforestation, for instance. I deemed it my duty to secure expert opinion upon such a delicate matter as the planting of various trees for commercial and other purposes. I was advised from one source to put out a certain number of the Californian redwood trees, and, with respect to those, I received advice from two quarters - from one that they should be planted, and from the other that they should not be planted.
– I planted some to test them for you.
– The honorable member, from his experience as an experimenter, was rather favorable to the planting of these trees. I thought it my duty to obtain the best expert advice on the subject, and “the gentleman whom I consulted said, “ As you have some 80,000 or- 100,000 of the trees ready for planting, it is a pity not to make an experiment with them.” He advised the planting of 60,000.
– The tree is a wonderful one if you can get it to grow properly.
– Yes; but the rainfall of the Territory is only 23 inches, whereas that of the real home of this tree is 50 inches, and the slopes of the Pacific on which it grows enjoy perennial moisture. When one has no personal experience, reliance must be placed on experts, and I thought that the best thing I could do was to get full reports from those best capable of giving an opinion. I got a report from Mr. Campbell, a Victorian expert on afforestation and a specialist in city beautification. I thought it wise to get the opinion of Mr. Johnson also. He is another Victorian expert, and I received reports from both gentlemen. These and other recommendations, when compared, left me somewhat puzzled, the conflict of opinions not being confined to Parliament.
– Was not Mr. Johnson growing this tree in the State plantations ?
– I do not know. From what I have heard of him, I believe him to be a very good man, and before requesting his assistance, I had interviews with other officials of the Victorian Departments. I also got Mr. Corbin, who is Professor of Forestry in the Adelaide University, and well acquainted with the forests of the State, to give me advice. He is a specialist on method and development. I laid down some heads of development that I wish to have pursued, and obtained a special report on the subject from Mr. Corbin. In this way from these experts I think I got the best advice to check the various opinions received, and this justified an expenditure on systematic afforestation this year, £5,000 being voted for the purpose. A commencement has been made, and the other day I had the pleasure of ascending the heights of Stromlo, in company with that great French Commander, General Pau, and showing to him the fine panorama which God has given to us for improvement. About 500 acres are prepared for planting, and the trees - pinus insignis - put in during the last two years are a great success.
– What has been the total expenditure on forestry in any one year ?
– Up to about twelve months ago the expenditure on afforestation totalled about £14.000. I am not going upon the lines of the past, which in all respects may not have been what should have been followed.
– Did the Minister on his recent visit to the Territory observe the possibility that a bush fire might destroy all the trees planted there?
– The provision of fire’ breaks is a necessary part of systematic afforestation. The best thing I can do is to have the reports of the experts on afforestation circulated among honorable members.
Let me now put the position of the Northern Territory. At the time of its transfer to the Commonwealth, the obligation actually taken over, including both railways, was £6,029,603, and excluding redemption but including deficiency on the Port Augusta railway, there was a. deficit of £241,792 for the year pre ceding the transfer. Since then the deficit on ordinary and works expenditure has been gradually decreasing. For the total period since transfer to the 30th June, 1917, it amounted to £1,376,383, irrespective of interest. In 1911-12 the deficit was £75,534; in 1912-13, £177,946; and in 1913-14, £202,461. That year I made retrenchments which reduced the deficit to £132,202, but in 1915-16, when I was not in office, it increased to £148,716; and in 1916-17 was £179,935. The position could be putin a more favorable light, but I do not quite accept some of the official figures bearing on it. For illustration, last year the total receipts in respect of the Territory including Customs and Excise receipts and Post and Telegraph receipts, which are under the administration of other Departments, and in a sense need not be directly considered in relation to the Territory, amounted to £132,535, and the expenditure to £203,340, showing a deficit of £71,805; but that does not include certain revenue received outside the Territory. I have said enough, however, to show that we are not neglecting financial considerations. Not only are we hoping to develop the resources of the Territory, but we are at the same time reducing the annual difference between revenue and works and ordinary expenditure.
– I know that both the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) took over from their predecessors certain works which had been com mencedwhen they assumed office. I am not convinced by the statement of either Minister that the works that have been referred to this afternoon can be called preservative works. The laying down of a railway, or the building of a bridge of considerable dimensions in the Federal Territory-
– The honorable member has been told that the work was commenced before.
– That maybe; but this is the time when we ought to save money.
-The work is practically completed.
– -Then, the dual control of some works by the Minister for Works and Railways and the Minister for Home and Territories does not seem to answer.
– There is not dual control in works of construction.
– It is said that there are dual staffs where one would do.
– We have put an end to that.
– And there must be an end put to many other things.
– If it exists, yes; but, if it does not exist, no.
Mr.FENTON. - It does exist.
– The honorable member should specify the cases.
– If some remedy has been applied, I am glad to hear it, because a remedy was long overdue. It is not very satisfactory to have an officer and staff forecasting work and preparing plans, with high salaries-
– The honorable member knows that Mr. Griffin is under a contract.
– But there is no reason why he should have a big staff.
– He has not.
– If the Government desire to save money, they can pay Mr. Griffin the balance of what is due under his contract, and let him go, for, in view of our present expenditure, it will be years before we shall be able to face any on the Federal Capital. Although I protestedagainst the selected site, I had, before the war, almost come to the con- clusion that it would be as well if Parliament were removed there as quickly as possible ; but we are now involved in such huge expenditure that it is impossible to proceed with works other than those that may be termed preservative. If it can be shown that the proposed works will be reproductive, I shallbe in favour of their being carried out, but, otherwise, they ought to be stopped. It would be just as well for the Government to make inquiries as to whether there is not still dual control of kindred works ; and I hope that more attention will be paid to this in the future than there has been in the past.-
In asking a question to-day, I tried to inform the Minister that, in matters of Defence, and particularly matters affecting soldiers and their dependants, we are, according to official statements, up against a dead end. When members receive requests from dependants and prefer them to officers of the Department, we are informed by them that they are systematically and legally turning down cases that ought to be dealt with most liberally. Through these officers, and under Acts or regulations, the Government are permitting the intolerable injustice of imposing a fine on the poor unfortunate wife of a soldier at the Front, simply because for some trivial offence he has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment and had a deduction made from his pay. Wives and children have had to suffer losses amounting in some cases to £50 and over.
– We have been informed by the Government to-day that that business is coming before the Cabinet.
– I am glad to hear that the honorable member has been making inquiries, because I remember that the Minister requested that a question on the subject should be deferred. There must be reform in this, and in many other directions, otherwise the best recruiting scheme in the world will not get volunteers. Nothing is proving so prejudicial as the treatment of the soldiers and their dependants, and if there be no reform in the immediate future I shall be very insistent in regard to cases of the kind.
.- It seems most extraordinary that, after the debate we have had, and the complaints that have been made, we are asked to give the Government Supply to the end of January, and this, apparently, without any protest from honorable members. Are we to allow the Government to carry on until after the end of the year with nothing said in regard to the expenditure of the various Departments or the treatment of our soldiers and their dependants ?
– It was arranged last night that, this Bill should be through by 4 o’clock to-day.
– That will not be the case so far as I am concerned. The present position is intolerable.
– It is a pity youdid not raise your protest at the time the arrangement was made.
– Arrangements which a Minister may make with other honorable members have nothing to do with me.
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) must conduct his business with the sanction of the House, and yesterday he took the only way open to him.
– After the speeches we have heard, and the reports from Commission after Commission appointed by the Government to inquire into the administration of various Departments, we see no effort at reform. The House should insist on having knowledge of how the money we are voting is to be expended ; we should demand more light on various matters of administration. What is going to be done in regard to the report on the Navy Department, or in connexion with the Board created to report in connexion with the Defence Department ?
– Surely thehonorable member knows that a Business Board has been constituted, and has been in control of the Department for the last six months.
Mr.GREGORY . - And after their report, who is going to pay the penalty? Is nothing to be done in that regard
– I do not think that one man has been dismissed.
– Nothing has been done; those responsible for the mismanagement are allowed to continue in their places. It is just like the administration of the transcontinental railway. To-day, when we find the only means of carriage between the east and the west blocked, we are told day after day that Ministers are “ considering the position.” It is intolerable that one or two individuals should be able to destroy the whole commerce of Australia.
– What remedy do you suggest?
– Force ; we ought to have had force long ago. The demonstration at Parliament House to-day proves to us that the heart of Australia is all right. Nothing could have been better than the response of our boys to the call of the Old Country, not to speak of the wonderful work of the women in the early stages of the war. Yet we have the disgraceful fact that tens of thousands of fine, strong, stalwart .men are kept in their positions by the Government. There is nothing more discreditable than the answers to questions we receive from Ministers. In answer to one put by me to-day, suggesting that balance-sheets be presented to the House in connexion with the various trading concerns of the Government, more particularly the Small Arms Factory, we had the old special pleading reply that, in the opinion of th«> Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), the information, if supplied, would enable other countries to know what we are doing here. Evidently all these matters have to be kept secret, and yet we know that the administration of the Small Arms Factory is disgraceful.
– There are . very few men in the Public Service who know how to make out a balance-sheet.
– If they do know, they, apparently, ‘ are not permitted to make them out. That Factory has been operating for a long time. Admiral Sir William Clarkson was sent to Great Britain and America to obtain an uptodate plant. On his recommendation the Government obtained from America a Pratt- Whitney plant, which was specially guaranteed. It was established at Lithgow, and as there has been no stint of money in connexion with the working of the Factory, we felt satisfied that, no matter what the rifles turned out might cost, they would be reliable. I- should be wrong if I said that every rifle turned out in the Factory was bad, but I do say that rifles were distributed from the Factory to the troops that were so defective that a man might as well have been sent into the trenches with his hands tied behind his ‘back as to have been armed with one of them. I produced in this chamber the official report on 300 rifles which were sent to Western Australia, and of which over 100 were sent back to the armoury because, in some cases, the cartridges would not fit them, others with the rifling defective, and in other cases the fore ends snapped in two. The honorable members for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), and Herbert (Mr. Bamford) were with me when I brought this matter under the notice of Colonel Bruche, and, subsequently, of the Minister for Defence. The result was that an officer was sent to Lithgow. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) received an anonymous communication, which he showed to me, and I also received a letter from a man who was in a responsible position in the Factory. The purport of those letters was that when Lieutenant Hart arrived at the Factory, hundreds of rifles, which were ready’ to be sent out, were condemned, and the management was trying to save something from the wreck. Since the first four months of the war, we have not sent a rifle out of Australia, and only within the last seven months have we made the Mark VII. rifle, which is the Imperial service pattern. The Lithgow ‘ Factory has not yet produced a machine gun, and, although £500,000 has been spent in Australia on the manufacture of shells, not one shell has been sent abroad.
Now the Government tell us that there must be secrecy in connexion with a proposal to spend millions of pounds on an Arsenal at a site in the wilderness which would be eminently suited for a monastery. God knows what sort of brains was possessed by the man who suggested that Tuggeranong should be the site of an Arsenal. Two years ago the Government Architect said that an expenditure of £1,750,000 would be required to house the employees of the Arsenal. Having regard to the increased price of labour and materials, that sum would be equivalent to over £2,500,000 to-day. The Government ask us to pass further credits for a work of that sort, without the matter being discussed by Parliament.
– Did not the Public Works Committee recommend this site?
-The Public Works Committee has nothing to do with the establishment of the Arsenal. The construction of a railway to the Arsenal site has been referred to the Committee; but we have no right to express any opinion as to whether the site is suitable or unsuitable. As chairman of the Committee, I have not allowed one question to be put to witnesses regarding the suitability orotherwise of the site. That is a matter for Parliament to determine. I feel satisfied that the Committee will unanimously recommend that the railway should be constructed to the Arsenal site, because it would be useless to have an Arsenal there without railway communication. But the Government should appoint a committee of three sound, practical men, with a gentleman like Mr. McKay at its head, and allow them a free hand. They should not be tied as was the previous Arsenal Committee, which was given certain instructions, and could only report upon the relative merits of certain sites. Admiral Clarkson has pointed out - and his view has been indorsed by every person who has had the opportunity of visiting Lithgow - that the majority of the machines employed in the Factory are automatic. In the Old Country and America, boys are employed to work them, and in Germany and Belgium, girls. This officer, who had been sent to England’ and America for the purpose of inquiring into this project, urged that a factory of this kind should be established near a large centre of population, where it could draw upon a constant supply of that intelligent boy labour which is so essential for the economic carrying on of its operations.
The Government desire to get Supply this afternoon. I am quite prepared to let them have one month’s Supply, but not a vote which will make them independent of Parliament for the next four months. This House should insist upon a more complete control of the expenditure of public funds than we have had in the past. It is not fair to this Parliament that money should be frittered away and wasted, and that the Administration should be so callous to the claims of those who have already made great sacrifices, and indifferent toevery principle of morality. Report after report has been made showing extravagance in different Departments, and I wish to know who is responsible for it. If I refer particularly to the Navy Department, I hope the Acting Minister (Mr. Poynton) will not think that I am querulous in regard to his administration. These abuses have been occurring for months and years. I and other honorable members on this side have drawn attention to the scandalous things that have occurred in the past.
There was, for example, the work being “ carried on at the Flinders and Henderson Naval Bases. The Naval Board has had to take the responsibility of all the gross extravagance connected with it; but the work was started without the approval of the Board. The former Public Works Committee visited Flinders Base, and saw evidence of most astonishing incapacity in connexion with the construction of a wharf. Instead of the engineer driving the piles in the sea as is usually done, he first excavated the site, made a huge wall with the spoil, for the purpose of preventing the sea coming in on the work, and then drove the piles on the land side of the wall. I suppose that Westernport contains one of the finest harbors in Australia, and 1 have no desire to dwell at the present momentupon the method which was adopted there of having to dredge for 3 . miles up a river in order to get a decent landing place. I wish to confine my remarks to the wharf. When the Public Works Committee visited the Naval Base they saw an enormous excavation 600 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 20 feet deep, in which piles for the wharf were being driven. When I queried the method which had been adopted the engineer in charge told me that he could not drive the piles through the sand. Any one who visits the Naval Base to-day will see the completed wharf, half having been built in this huge excavation, and half without the removal of any dirt. They had to put a reinforced concrete facing to the edge of the excavated ground.
– What was the cost of removing the dirt?
– I cannot give the actual cost of removing the dirt, but for work which should have cost about1s. 3d. or1s. 6d. per cubic yard the Department have admitted a cost of 9s. 41/2d. per cubic yard. Nothing more disgraceful has occurred in Australia in the shape of throwing public money away. The Department actually had a pump installed for the purpose of getting rid of the seepage from the excavation. It was no concern of the Public Works Committee,but when I attacked the engineer over the matter further work on the excavation was suspended, and the balance of the wharf was built without the removal of any more earth. I believe that my action was the means of saving at least £10,000. For over three years work’ had been in progress at Cockburn Sound, before any plans had been approved. On top of all this,we have other works piled up all from the same source, and all due to the administration of one man; and yet the Government are quite prepared, as we ascertained to-day from an answer given by the Acting Prime Minister, to adopt the same old system of secrecy. “We are to be given no information about the building of the Arsenal, no matter what it is to cost, £2,000,000 or £4,000,000, because possibly the Germans may get to know what we are doing. We have not sent a rifle out of the country since four months after the outbreak of the war; we have not manufactured a single machine gun, nor sent away a single shell.
– The whole world knows that we propose to build an Arsenal.
– Of course it does; but if we are tospend this money, is it not wise to have a proper investigation into the matter before anything is done? If experts will say that it is quite right to build an Arsenal at Canberra so that the operations may be carried out in secret, well and good; but let those experts have a free hand in coming to their decision, and do not let them set to work upon a commission from the Minister for Defence, practically tying their hands as to the nature of the report they must submit. We should certainly have an Arsenal in Australia, and though I do not believe in Socialism, I think that it should be controlled by the Government. In the manufacture of guns and other warlike material it is our duty to see that the machinery employed is the very best obtainable. At the same time, we should see to it that operations are carried on without waste, particularly at a time when we are called upon to do so much to assist in the production of wealth in this country. I am certain that if the Arsenal is established in the Federal Capital Territory money will be frittered away. Every article that will be required - all supplies, coal, iron, steel, and every requirement for the manufacture of explosives - will have to be conveyed long distances to the spot. Labour will have to be taken there from distant localities, and we shall create a second Broken Hill right at the doorsteps of the Federal Parliament House, a proposition quite remote from the idea that prevailed when we set about the building of the Capital.
The proposal to build an Arsenal there is altogether wrong, and before more money is spent on it the light of day should be thrown upon it.
The demonstration in front of this building to-day has shown us that the heart of the people is all right. Yet it seems to me that there is something wrong somewhere. I have received letter after letter from men who went away in the early days of the war. One letter I received was from a man who was No. 3 among the West Australian recruits. He left his farm in charge of a mate, went to Gallipoli, was wounded there, was sent back to Egypt, deserted from the hospital, got on aship, and returned to Gallipoli, was again wounded several times, went to France, was gassed there, and was sent back to Australia on furlough. When he returned he found that his mate had left the farm after the expenditure of six years of labour and £2,000 of capital upon it, and sold everything. Thinking that he would have a chance of recovering something from it he asked for his discharge, but he could not obtain release. He has to go back to the Front again. Another case is that of a married man with two children, whose two brothers have also enlisted. He left his farm in the care of a neighbour on. the share-farming system, spent four years at the Front, came back on furlough, and found that his farm had been neglected, that the fences were falling down, that his horses were running wild, and that the undergrowth was springing up again. He also asked for his discharge, but was informed, as the Minister has replied in every case, that, although the Minister regretted it, it was absolutely impossible to give relief because he was wanted at the Front. At the same time, in every Department are to be found great big strapping fellows who are kept in employment by the Government. It is absolutely disgraceful. It is not fair to these men who have done so much for us at the Front, and it should . not be tolerated by Parliament. Supply ought to be refused until the Ministers tell us that they will deal fairly with those members of our Forces who went away in the early stages of the war. A little while ago a young fellow came back wounded, and was given a job as a recruiting agent, but as there was very little recruiting being done he was retired. At the same time he was told that there would be a possibility of securing a job at the Base Hospital. He got word that there was a job available there, and he dared to put on his uniform and go to the Defence Department. The officer whom he wished to see was not there, and as he was returning to the train about noon - it was on a Saturday - a military policeman got hold of him, put him in gaol, and left him there until midday on Monday.
– Where did this happen?
– In Perth. He was left in gaol until 3 o’clock on the following Monday. The matter was brought before the House, and the Minister should have looked into it. Recently, a returned soldier, named Ray Clarke, who had won the Military Cross, and on being invalided home to Perth, was discharged, applied for permission to wear his uniform on the occasion of his marriage. That simple request was refused, although Lt.Colonel Logan, who merely accompanied the troops to England and returned to Perth, is to be seen in the streets day after day wearing his uniform and colourpatch.
– We also have £4-a-week military clerks walking round the town in military uniform as officers.
– Quite so. How long is .this state of affairs to continue? A few days ago, I put a question to the Minister as to a sergeant in the Base Records Office. He entered the Department on the recommendation of the Clerks Union, and I ‘am informed had no, previous experience. Before joining the Department, he was employed in a shop. He was placed on duty in the Base Records Office, however, and is to be seen walking about the streets of Melbourne in uniform. So far, no returned officer has been considered fit to take his place. While I was in Perth, I learned more in a month as to the wretched manner in which the Department are treating returned soldiers than I should have learned here in two or three years. I was brought into actual touch with men who have been at the Front, who had made their sacrifices, and had come back thinking that a grateful country would do something for them. They had, however, been disappointed.
We have been devoting night after night to the discussion of matters that might well have been left in abeyance. Had the Government desired it, I would have helped to apply the closure to the debate on the censorship motion, in order that we might have more time to deal with the important questions awaiting our attention. I desire that the debate on the Budget may be at once resumed, so that we may lose no time in urging the Government to take certain action which I think would be to the best interests of the country. What opportunities shall we have to bring these matters before them if we grant them to-night the Supply for which they ask? This method of procedure is unfair to the Parliament, to the country, and to those who have made their sacrifices for us. If there is one thing more than another that fills me with absolute dismay, it is the thought that, at a time like this, and having regard to the enormous sacrifices that the Old ‘ Country is making - having regard to the thousands of millions of pounds she is spending in her efforts to destroy the terrible German menace - Australia, with all its wealth, should be going to her for financial assistance. She has assisted all our Allies, lending money here, there, and everywhere. She has bought our produce. There are to-day 2,000,000 tons of wheat lying here for which the Old Country has already paid. If she ever gets it, Heaven only knows in what condition it will be! She has paid tens of millions of pounds for our wool and other produce, and yet not only are we unable to pay for the upkeep of our soldiers at the Front - we owe the Imperial Government at the present time £39,000,000 in that respect - but we are borrowing money from her. We are borrowing for ourselves, and also for the’ States, in order that they may continue their wretched policy of extravagance. - [Extension of time granted.] - But for the kindliness and thoughtfulness of the Old Country - a kindliness and thoughtfulness paid for by the blood of our men at the Front - where should we be today? How glorious has been the response of the manhood of Australia to the call of Empire. How glorious have been their actions on the battle-field, and it is because of them that the Old Country has stood by us as she has done. It is a standing disgrace that either the Commonwealth or any State Government should be allowed to go to the Old Country to borrow money, except it be for loan conversion purposes. Having regard to our enormous wealth, does it not seem scandalous that we should be going to the Old Country for money? The position is very much that of a rich old gentleman with a profligate son, whose property in various countries has been injured or destroyed by storm and revolution. Despite these adversities, the old man has helped friends in different countries in financial difficulties, and his profligate son comes to him week after week for more money to devote to riot and extravagance. Our position is very much that of the profligate son. Surely, in’ a time of stress like the present, we ought to be able, and should be compelled, to finance ourselves.
My desire is to prevent the passing of Supply to-night. I take this stand because I object to many of the actions of the Government. I desire to see many changes in the method of handling a number of our industries. In the Age of last Saturday, there appeared a report of a speech made in the Old Country by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in which he stated what he desired to do here in reference to the organization of our industries. I have not the report at hand, but his speech, if I remember rightly, was such as to lead the people of Great Britain to believe that the people of Australia themselves determined the method of organization that should be adopted in relation to all our industries. That is quite incorrect. In every instance that has come under my notice, the Prime Minister has endeavoured to bludgeon people and huge organizations into the acceptance of the economic methods proposed by him. In this connexion, I would point out what he did in connexion with the zinc industry. A resident of Sydney, named Scott, who owns a zinc mine some 200 miles from the city, and has spent about £10,000 upon it, desired permission to sell his ore to the Japanese Government. He applied to the Commonwealth Government for permission to do so, and was referred to the chairman of the Zinc Producers Association. He wrote to the chairman, who told him that it would cost him £500 to join the Association, that they would charge him 1 per cent, for dealing with his ore, and would claim the right to make all contracts for him for a period of fifty years.
– Was this in Australia or in Germany?
– This is in Australia, and it is one of the means adopted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to induce people to organize for their industrial protection. This man was also told by the chairman of the Association that if he did not think his mine big enough to justify his joining the Association they would see what they could do for him. The man wrote at once to the Department to say that he had not £500 to spare, and that if ho had he would prefer to put it into his mine rather than to pay for the privilege of joining the Association. He said, further, that, as a British subject, he demanded the right to control his own property. If the Government had any objection to selling the ore to Japan, there, so far as he was concerned, was an end to the matter; but if they had not he did not intend to permit any organization to control the output of his property for one year, let alone for fifty years. He received in reply an absolute refusal. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), who represented the district, had enlisted, and he asked me to take up the matter.
I took the matter up and asked that certain papers connected with it should be laid on the table. From these papers I was able to find out how this Zinc Producers Association was formed. It was formed on the suggestion of a .Mr. Higgins, who has been very prominent in connexion with many of the regulations affecting the formation of organizations. He Avas responsible for the blunder that occurred in connexion with the export of molybdenite in the early stages of the war. He is now chairman of the Wool Board, and has been very prominent in connexion with all these matters. A circular Avas sent out to the big producing companies to attend a conference at the Attorney-General’s” office. When the representatives of the Broken Hill Proprietary and the Mount Lyell Proprietary, the two biggest metal organizations in Australia, said that they desired more time to consider how the proposal would affect .the interests of their shareholders, Mr. Higgins told them that he would urge the Attorney-General to use the strongest powers, he possessed rather than that the scheme for the formation of the Association should fail. Mr. Mahon was then acting as Attorney-General, as Mr. Hughes was a’t the time in England. He informed the representatives of the producing companies that they must accept the proposal in the letter and in the spirit in which it was proposed, and they were given forty-eight hours within which to consent. That is how the Zinc Producers Association was formed. In the Association all the big companies have one representative, and Mr. Higgins is the representative of the Government on the directorate.
Mr. Higgins has been instrumental in having Treasury regulations prepared affecting the formation of companies. This is a time at which it is fitting and proper, that the Treasurer should control the registration of companies to see that the investment of money is not illdirected. If I were Treasurer of the Commonwealth I Would not for a moment permit the investment of capital, for instance, in picture shows or racecourses, or in any business that would not assist the production of the wealth of the country. But the Government have gone quite beyond that, and have made all sorts of ridiculous inquiries. I can give honorable members an instance or two. A man wrote to me from Sydney to say that he had bought a New Zealand patent of very great value, and the price for the option was £2,000 and a share interest on the formation of a company. His application to the Treasurer to be allowed to form a company was refused on the grounds that they would not permit £2,000 cash to be paid. He wrote to ask me whether I could help him in any way. I wrote a warm letter to the Department, telling them that, in view of what was being done here, Tammany would blush if they knew the opportunities that they had missed. Later on this man got his permit. Another application came from persons interested in the Light of Asia Mine in Western Australia, but nearly three months elapsed before the application was granted. The Department required to know the nationality of the vendors, and why they wanted any cash. This application was made in connexion with an option in the case of a mine from which gold to the value of £100,000 had been taken, and on which there was >a milling plant and a winding plant. The permit was withheld for nearly three months, and in the interval the men who were giving theoption won £6,000 of gold out of the property, and so reduced the value of the option.
I ask honorable members to consider what is likely to be the natural outcome of this kind of treatment of persons who wish to get companies started. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) will know the many difficulties that were placed in the way of the starting of companies while he was in charg& of the Treasury, because of the conditions, insisted upon by the Prime Minister (MrHughes) - not by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), . whom I absolve in every way in connexion with this matter.
-. - The honorable member’s statement is not correct. MrHughes never interfered at all. As a. matter of fact only three companies were started while I was Treasurer. There were wild-cat schemes proposed which I refused during the time I held the office.
– I am aware that a lot of difficulties were put in the way. I should like to know who in the Treasury Department is able to judge whether a mining venture is a wild-cat scheme or not. I was for nine years administering a Mines Department, and I should never dare to accept the responsibility which was forced upon the honorable member for Grey as Treasurer.
– I turned down one application where it was proposed that three shares should take 52 per cent.
– I can mention one case of a mine which was to be floated in 100 shares. Seventy of the shares were to be for the public at £30 per share, and thirty shares for the vendors. They asked no cash, and every penny they received was to be placed to the credit of the company to be expended upon development alone. The honorable member for Grey, as Treasurer, approved of this proposal, subject to a condition that the thirty shares should be placed in reserve until six months after the war. Any one with any knowledge of mining knows that these shares might have a value in six or twelve months and none at the end of the war. I am glad to say that when I pointed out the absurdity of this condition the honorable gentleman altered it.
I was talking of the Zinc Producers Association, and the efforts made by the Department to prevent companies being registered unless everything was clean and above-board. But let me inform honorable - members that the articles of association of the Zinc Producers Association enable the directors to lend money without security. They enable the directors to pay gifts or commissions to any person who may not, - directly or indirectly, do ‘anything to the advantage of the company, if, in the opinion of the directors, it is in the interests of the company to pay such gifts or commissions. Oan any member of this Committee say that he has ever seen articles of association of that description ?
– That is graft, pure and simple.
– -Well, I have the records, which I can show honorable members at any time. I can produce the original articles of association of the Zinc Producers Association registered here in the Supreme Court of Victoria, and which have the approval of the Government. This is the organization that is given supreme control of the zinc metal industry of Australia.
We learn that it is now proposed to form a copper association. I was asked, on behalf of the Whim Creek Copper. Mine, to write for a permit to export ore to Japan. If the Government have any objection to the export of copper ore to Japan I have nothing further to say. When the Government order that this ore shall be sent to Port Kembla to be smelted, surely they have a duty to perform to the owners of it? Before saying that they shall not send their ore out of Australia, it is incumbent upon themselves to insure that the producers shall get decent treatment here. This particular company spent about £80,000 in the erection of a plant, which it was anticipated would successfully treat the carboniferous ore - the oxides. That plant was a failure. It is costing these people 30 per cent, more to- get their ore .treated at Port Kembla than it would cost them to get it smelted in England. If they could send it to
Japan, they believe that the profits would enable them to erect a plant of the character that is required to economically treat it. If that could be done between 700 and 800 white workmen would be profitably employed there. That is what we want. If we intend to hold this country, we must settle a white population in the northern portion of it. If. we do that, we shall be conferring the greatest possible benefit upon Australia.
At the present time we have a little coterie in Melbourne comprising the zinc producers, the copper producers, and the tin producers, and they are getting absolute control of bur production. God, knows why the Government want to acquire an iron mine. I have been through the papers dealing with the option which they have secured over the Bythe River deposit, in Tasmania, because I desired to learn what amount of insolubles was contained in the ore. But I was unable to get any information save that the Government have already paid £3,000 for the option, and may have to pay an additional £97,000 for the purchase of the mine. I know that Mr. Higgins is to get £10,000, which he is distributing for the good of the people-
– The Acting Prime Minister has denied that the Government have bought the Blythe River mine.
– They have paid £3,000 for an option over it. I understand that an application for its forfeiture was made just prior to word being sent over there to protect the property.
– Does the honorable member know that Mr. Higgins did. not get a penny out of it?
– I do not know it.
– The honorable member has made a very cruel statement about him.
– I have said nothing about him. I was referring, when interrupted, to the scholarships which he is instituting. But I have my doubts in regard to every person who is interested in this venture. I have been told by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that an application for the forfeiture of the property had been made only a few months before word was sent over to Tasmania to protect it..
– Did the honorable member for Franklin say that the mine is no good?
– No. But how long has it been the policy of the National Government to purchase mines?
– Surely they cannot go further without the consent of this House?
– We have merely secured an option over the property, and there is good reason for doing that. It is in the interests of the nation.
– What is the reason for securing the option?
– We have not been told that. Instead, we have the vague statement that it is “ in the interests of the nation.” If the Commonwealth Government desire to own an iron mine, the Western Australian Government will give them for nothing a far richer and better one than that at Blythe River. I refer to a deposit near Derby, in Western Australia. I will undertake to say that that mine will give far better assay values than will the Blythe River deposit in Tasmania.
– I think that the Japanese desired to get the iron mine in Western Australia to which the honorable member is referring.
– It is really a marvellous deposit of iron. It is almost free from phosphorus, containing only 11/4 per cent. of it. I endeavoured to ascertain what expert examination has been made of the Blythe River mine, what are the assay values of its ore, and whether it was right for the Government to purchase an option over something of which I am sure this House will never approve.
I trust that the Supply Bill will not be allowed to pass until we have an announcement from the Government as to what they intend to do in the direction of aiding returned soldiers. It is true that we are giving them liberal treatment in the way of sustenance allowance, but we most certainly ought not to pauperize them. Single eligibles in the various Departments should be displaced with a view to providing employment for returned soldiers who have done their duty to this country, who are possessed of a decent education, and who are able to efficiently perform the work that is required of them.
. - I desire to address myself to the question of payment to the dependants of men at the Front who are absent without leave. I know that according to military law these men have been found guilty of an offence. But even if they were criminals, surely their wives and dependants cannot be held responsible? We have been told that it is not the duty of the Defence Department to continue to pay sustenance money to the dependants of men who have been guilty of so-called desertion. But it is the duty of this country to look after the dependants of every soldier who has gone to the Front, no matter what he has done, because but for the war his dependants would never have been in the position in which they find themselves to-day. There can be no excuse for the Government withholding sustenance money from the women and children in our midst whose husbands and fathers have gone to the Front, and are to-day absent without leave. If those men had continued in their civil avocations, their dependants could have sued them for maintenance. As they are on the other side of the world they cannot be proceeded against under the law. After hearing the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Col. Abbott), I am willing to believe that many men who have not suffered in the fighting are absent without leave, being really wasters. I quite believe that themen at the Front will insist on their being punished, but the Government are punishing, not them only, but their dependants in Australia. But I have also heard of dozens of oases of men who have been in the trenches for over twelve months and are not responsible for being absent without leave. I have heard of eases of men who looked as if they were deserting to the enemy, but who were not, because they had not only wandered away, but had wandered back again, under the effect of the stress of war on their brain and nerves. Surely it is a crime to punish men like that, and a much greater crime to punish their families? Any- Government that punishes the dependants of either class is not carrying out its real duty to those left behind. I blame, not the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) but the Ministry. No one Minister should have the power to decide that the dependants of any soldier shall be allowed to starve. . The Minister for Defence is endeavouring to throw the onus on the State Governments, but why should they shoulder it? Their avenues of taxation are now restricted owing to war conditions, and it is not right to throw on them the cost of keeping the dependants of men absent without leave at the Front. I am surprised at the Ministry defending such a proposal. Not one member of this Ministry can say individually, with justice, that dependants should be punished for what the breadwinner has done at the Front. I know of quite twenty heartrending cases.
Charitable associations have not the money nowadays to give the relief needed, because the calls in other directions on the charitable public have deprived them of much of the funds they used to handle. Even the churches have felt the pinch severely, and the revenue of sporting clubs has, in most cases, dwindled to nothing. Friendly societies are in the same position -as the churches, and the Government know that neither the State Governments, benevolent institutions, churches, or friendly societies can support these people. The last we heard was that the Government had offered to pay half if the State Governments would find the other half. Some of the State Governments have rightly refused on the ground that the onus should be on the Federal Government of paying for anything that is the outcome of the war. Votes for public works have been restricted, and in practically every State but Queensland the money voted for charity and education has been reduced. Seeing that it is the same people that find the money, it is not statesman-like to argue over the question whether the State or Federal authorities shall pay.’ It is agreed that the people of Australia should pay, and, as the Commonwealth has the largest area of taxation and the easiest methods of collecting revenue, it should discharge the obligation of providing for the wives and families of these men, not a mere pittance, but enough to place them in the same position as they were in before their breadwinners went away. The Commonwealth can deal with each man concerned on the merits of his own case, but it should not deal with any dependants on the merits of “the case of their breadwinner. I know nearly a. dozen cases where the men before they went away were sturdy workers, good husbands and fathers, and kept their families properly. When they left, the purchasing power of their money was considerably greater than it is to-day. Now, through conditions of war, for which they are not responsible, their dependants are in want.
We might as well blame a lunatic for being a lunatic as blame a great many of these men for being absent without leave.
– Some of them may be dead.
– I do not know if that is so, but I know one man who had been in the trenches for fifteen months. His company went over the top one day. Some of his comrades met him as he was coming back. Instead of staying in the lines afterwards, he wandered 18 or 20 miles off to a French village, and was there for five days. When found, he did not know much about anything. Those put in charge of him could see that he was, temporarily, almost witless, and were not very careful of him, with the result that he got away again. The man in charge of the guard was reduced for letting him go. It was seven weeks before they got him again, and during that time he had been with the French people. He has been given three years for being absent without leave and for breaking guard. He has a wife and three children. Before he went to the war he was most attentive to his family, a hard worker, and an able tradesman. His wife and family to-day are living at the mercy of charity. There are thousands of such cases, and, as evidence that the present Ministry recognise that the people of Australia are responsible, they have suggested that the States ought to pay for them.
– I think the arrangement was that each should pay half.
– Yes, I understand that was the compromise suggested.
– I do not think it has been accepted yet.
– This is one of those matters in which, according to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), I am playing to the gallery; but there are so many of them that I do not know what to do. I know that many honorable members have had heavy calls upon their pockets in connexion with such cases, but my pocket is limited, and I can only do my best. I do not think it is fair that honorable members should be called upon to do this for men who have been fighting for their country. I tell the Government again that cases like this do more to pre-‘ vent recruiting than any statements made by members on this side of the House. I suppose, however, the Government will not look at the matter in that light, but I am taking this opportunity of insisting that something should be done.
Another matter about which I should like to say something is the great question of peace. We are daily hearing of the possibility of peace, and, no matter what our political opinions may be, we are waiting with bated breath to learn the outcome of the present situation. We have been told that nobody must say anything that might embarrass negotiations for a peace acceptable to our Allies, and I want to know if it is a fact that the Government indorse the remarks of those who demand that the war must go on until the possession of the whole of the Pacific islands captured from the enemy are assured to Australia. Any man who holds that view, and gives expression to it, must, I say,embarrass those who will be called upon to sit at the peace table.
– But we have got the island’s.
– The honorable member knows what I mean. I say that any demand that the islands shall become Australian dependencies will embarrass peace negotiations more than anything that Industrial Workers of the World advocates could do. The efforts of the Dominions in connexion with this war have been fully advertised, and, naturally, some respect will be paid to their wishes. We had the pleasure to-day of welcoming members of the French Mission, whose visit to this country is evidence of the fact that our Ally, France, fully appreciates what Australia has done, and, of course, will give some consideration to Australian views upon this great question of the Pacific islands, which some people are demanding shall become a dependency of the Commonwealth.
– Do you object ?
– There are many things which I might say on this subject, but I might be censored. I do not want to be particularly nasty, butI do say that, so far as I am concerned, the Germans might as well have them in the future as some other country. I will leave it at that. The honorable member need not pursue it any further. He knows exactly what I mean.
– You are wise to leave it at that.
– Do you not think it would be safer for Australia to hold the islands?
– Not if our demand for their retention will keep this war goingon, and embarrass the peace negotiations. Any one who has read the secret treaties of 1915 must know that they embarrassed the Allies in 1916.
– Are there any secret treaties ?
– Yes. Yesterday’? cable news bore out my statement, for we were informed that, after the war, Beyrout, in Syria, is to be a French dependency, and that one of the conditions laid down in a secret treaty in 1915 was that France was to have the suzerainty of that portion of Asia Minor. ‘
– Then it is not a war of defence?
– That, at all events, was not one of the conditions leading to the war in 1914. We understand now that Asia Minor is to be cut up, and certain territorial re-arrangements are to be made in Italy, France, and other countries. I say that these secret treaties must embarrass those who have to consider the terms of peace, and if we, in Australia, demand that the islands shall be retained, we will further interfere with the negotiations; but I shall avail myself of every opportunity to say that ‘ we have no right to exhibit greed for territory, or false pride of what we may have done.
– That is a very improper imputation.
– If I have hurt the honorable member’s feelings, I am sorry; but I am not in a fighting mood, and I have no intention of disturbing anybody. Even if the islands were retained they would be useless.
– They would be of great service to the enemy.
– We have been told that if they revert to the enemy the Germans will build naval bases there in order to strengthen their position.
– Just as they were doing before the war.
– That is absurd. If we get a peace laid down on the basis of
President Wilson’s Note, these things will be impossible in the future, and I say that this demand for their retention is greed for territory.
– I think it isa question of saying more for the enemy than for ourselves.
– Well, the honorable member can look at it that way if he likes. If a peace could be secured which would insure that there would he no more standing armies, except those necessary for policing purposes to subdue so-called dynamitards and their ilk, there would be no need to (demand that Germany should not receive her islands back. President Wilson’s conditions of peace laid down emphatically that Germany should have no right to construct naval bases in the islands of the Pacific. If peace were based upon President Wilson’s conditions, there would be no need to worry whether Germany might ever construct ‘ naval bases in the islands, and there would be no necessity to demand that Germany should not get her islands back.
In arriving at a basis of peace, also, it should be laid down that no private capital be invested in the manufacture of munitions of war. What did Germany do with respect to. constructing naval bases during the period in which she held control of those islands? If, after having paid her war indemnities, and having observed all the other peace requirements, Germany said, “We want our islands back to provide us with necessary raw material,” we would have no right to embarrass those around the peace table by saying, “ We demand that Germany shall not have her islands back, but that we shall have them.” If President Wilson’s conditions of peace cannot be secured, it will mean that Germany will not have been vanquished, in which case we would not get those islands. Our own Naval Bases may be useful in the future for mercantile purposes; but if President Wilson’s conditions are to be observed, our present Naval Bases will henceforth be of no use to us as such.
With respect to repatriation, I know the difficulties which the Minister administeringthe Department has to face. The gentleman who occupies that office is generally inclined to do well, and I do not know of any other gentleman on his side of politics who would do better in the same office. The difficulties are great. There are several points of administration with which I disagree. For example, it is not fair to spend up to nearly £4,000 in the case of one returned man who is suited to go on the land, if, at the same time the Department is not prepared to expend as much, if necessary, in placing another returned soldier in a position to earn his living as a carpenter. Quite possibly, the man upon whom £3,000 is to be spent to give him a start on the land has fought no better than, if as well as, another returned man upon whom nothing like the same amount is proposed to be expended.
There is another consideration, that, by placing returned men on the land and spending large sums of money in establishing them, the cost of land throughout Australia is increased; but the value is not enhanced. It is not fair to spend £3,000 in insuring one man’s well-being unless the Department is prepared to disburse as much in giving other men a start in different avenues of employment.
– We are not spending that; the State is.
– It is no use our saying we have no control. The money has to be provided by the people of the Federation. Looking upon myself for the moment as a Victorian, and not as a citizen of the Commonwealth, am I to be expected to agree that the Victorian Government, with the assistance of the Federal Government, shall select specific men for special favours and leave others unattended to? That is what occurs today.
– Undoubtedly; one man is much better treated to-day than others.
– Of course, that is true.
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M.
Chanter). - The honorable member’s time has. expired. .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Glynn and Mr. Poynton do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Glynn, and read a first and second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
– I move, in order to test the feeling of honorable members in connexion with the administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, as it affects the residents of country districts -
That the amount set down in the Schedule for the Postmaster-General’s Department - £1,275,570- be reduced by £1.
I take this action because of the acute dissatisfaction, both within and without this chamber, with the administration of postal matters. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, and probably long before I entered it, country representatives have been expressing disapproval of the curtailment of postal facilities, and have been complaining that, instead of helping country residents, the Postal Department has put obstacles in their way. I am continually receiving communications from all sections living in my constituency, containing complaints about the action of the Department in asking for personal contributions to supplement departmental expenditure, in order that postal facilities, such as they are, may be continued. Only yesterday, I received a letter from the council of the municipality of Wilcannia, asking me to present to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) a petition against the discontinuance of the Wilcannia-Ivanhoe mail service. I was informed that the petition was being largely signed by the residents along the mail route, and by the citizens ofWilcannia. The council thanks me for past favours, and entreats my efforts once again on their behalf. Ever since I entered Parliament, I have been continually writing to, or interviewing, the PostmasterGeneral regarding grievances suffered by my constituents. Their complaints come, not from the men working in the Broken Hill mines, but from station-holders and station-workers, and small men on the land throughout my electorate. The petition which I have presented to the Postmaster-General shows that last year the Department called upon residents along the line to contribute £26 towards the mail service, and they are told that this year they must find £56. They ask, very pertinently, what, at this rate of increase, will they be called upon to pay in 1919. Services have been curtailed throughout the country under the plea of economy being ne cessary. At this period, postal facilities are more than ever necessary and desirable, because so many are anxious to hear of their relatives atthe Front. Yet this is the time that the PostmasterGeneral chooses for the curtailment of services, telling country people plainly and bluntly that if they will not put their hands into their pockets, and consent to be specially taxed, they will not be permitted to enjoy the usual conveniences of civilization. No Government claiming to have the interests of the people in the back country at heart would act in this way, penalizing those who have separated themselves from the city, with its enjoyments, comforts, and conveniences, to live in and develop the interior. I know what country conditions are, because I have lived in the country and driven a five-furrow plough. In the back-country districts one is absolutely nut off from civilization, and it is only fair that there should be a regular and proper supply of newspapers and letters to keep the people in touch with the world.
– There is the same complaint from every country constituency in Australia.
– That is so. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), the last time I mentioned the subject, assured me that I would have two-thirds of The members with me. I do nob claim any monopoly in making these complaints, but I do say that we treat the Postmaster-General with too much consideration; people outside are not given half the consideration that this House gives to the Postmaster-General in his vagaries with the Department. The honorable gentleman talks about economizing, and yet he publishes a pamphlet in face of the paper shortage.
– Are you sure that it is not a “ shingle “ shortage ?
– The honorable member who interjects belongs to the same party as does the PostmasterGeneral, and is, perhaps, the best fitted to judge whether it is a “ shingle “ shortage or not. Personally, I think the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) suffers a great disadvantage in being politically connected with the PostmasterGeneral. No other body claiming to be a representative assembly of the people would tolerate such a travesty as the Postmaster-General’s attempt to administer his Department.
– If all the Departments were administered as well they would be better than they are.
– I ‘am afraid that remark is entirely inconsistent with the honorable member’s attitude on a previous occasion when I brought this subject before the House. When the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) is sending communications to the President and Speaker deploring extravagance in the use of paper, and suggesting that Hansard and other printed matter be curtailed, is the time selected by the Postmaster-General to issue a pamphlet giving the general public the benefit of his experiences in office. It is also the time when the muse moves him.
– “ Muse “ ?
– Yes, although it may also be amusing. The PostmasterGeneral is moved by something or other to circulate his poetical feelings amongst the community. As one who has received the. results of- the PostmasterGeneral’s efforts to express himself in verse, I regard poetic expressions as poor consolation to those constituents of mine who complain so loudly about the curtailment of postal facilities.
– You submitted two petitions yourself yesterday, and now you are barking !
– Recommendations to my constituents to try the hot-water cure before breakfast will not help them to get their mails more regularly.
– It might put them in a better temper.
– It might prolong their lives, but it would not assist in securing postal facilities.
– It might relieve your liver, too!
– I am endeavouring to relieve my liver in another fashion now ; and if the honorable member ‘ for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) paid as much attention as I do to his constituents, he would be on his feet voicing their complaints.
– You have a tougher job. I have a majority, and you have yet to win one.
– The honorable member has a majority all right. He reminds me of the fact that I have had an interesting experience in looking up the records of honorable members who entered the House on a minority vote. I find that the fact that they did this, in the first instance, was very efficacious in securing /them continuous majorities afterwards.
– Yes, they worked hard.
– I am afraid that if that is .so the experience of the honorable member will be to find his majority turned into a minority.
As I have done before, I claim, whether honorable members agree with me or not, that the Postal Department is a necessary utility for the public, and should be maintained whether it pays or not.
– That is not for the Postmaster-General to determine.
– I am not saying that it is, but it is a matter that concerns the honorable member himself, and all who support the Government.
– I would attack the man responsible.
– I am attacking the Postmaster-General’s Department; and if honorable members who represent country constituents are not the docile followers of the Government they have been said to be, they will see that an alteration is made in the direction suggested by the honorable member before we adjourned last June.
– We were called “ dumb dogs “ last night.
– That may be; anyhow, I am not calling honorable members opposite “dumb dogs” now.
– You would like to hear them bark.
– I am not much interested whether they “bark” or keep silent, so long as the muzzle is removed. People out back have enough trials to bear in trying to secure a living out of the land, and it is imperative that postal facilities should be afforded to them irrespective of whether the services pay.
– So they are in scores of cases - hundreds of cases.
– Only yesterday I presented a petition to the PostmasterGeneral which showed that, in the particular instance mentioned, the people had been called upon last year to pay £26, and this year £56, and they very politely asked what would be the problematical amount next year.
– The Government is finding 60 per cent, of the loss in spite of that.
– The Government should find the whole of it if necessary. In the case of the Department of Justice, the State does not require that the police shall arrest a certain number of persons so as to make the administration pay its way. The postal service is just as necessary, irrespective of whether it pays or not.
– I think the Department of Justice is a very applicable illustration - you understand about that.
– I do, but you do not.
– Of course, nobody understands anything except yourself.
– I am referring to your particular interjection. I do understand justice, and it is in the cause of justice that I am on my feet at the present moment. The Postmaster-General knows nothing about the Department of Justice, or even about the Postal Department, except in so far as it affects his poetic effusions.
– That remark shows your character.
– I rise to order. I ask whether the two honorable members are in order in keeping the Committee here to listento a personal altercation?
– The honorable member for Barrier is not entitled to wander indefinitely, and I ask him to confine his remarks to the matter of his proposed amendment.
– If the Temporary Chairman would give me the assistance I naturally expect the thread of my remarks would not be broken.
– If the honorable member would try not to be side-tracked by the interjections of other honorable members he would make the conditions easier for himself and for the Chair.
– You, sir, have had longer experience of the PostmasterGeneral than I have had, and know the difficulty of trying to make him do what is right. I have no desire to detain honorable members longer than is necessary. Honorable members on the Government side have kept us here to listen to their complaints, and the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) even went so far as to say that we should refuse Supply to a Government which would not give certain undertakings.I do not wish to do that, but I do know that throughout New South Wales and the other States there is seething discontent with the administration of the Postal Department.
– That is not true.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Postmaster General must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark, and say that the honorable member’sstatement is incorrect.
– The facts are as I have stated, even though the PostmasterGeneral is oblivious of them. Because of the correspondence that comes to honorable members, we are obliged repeatedly to see or write to the Postmaster-General to bring these grievances under his notice.
The honorable gentleman knows that I have made” frequent representations to his Department in regard to telephonic communication between Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Tilpa, Ivanhoe, and other centres, and it was not until my electors explained to . me at a public meeting the possibility of establishing a telephonic service along the existing telegraph lines by the installation of condensers, and I had communicated that suggestion to the Department, that the service was established. The complaints which have been made over and over again by honorable members prove that there is grave dissatisfaction with the postal administration. Before the House adjourned in June last honorable members on the Government side attacked the Postmaster-General’s administration, and the Acting Prime Minister agreed to confer with the Minister as to the possibility of finding some remedy for the complaints. I have waited in vain the outcome of the conference. The only way of testing the feeling of the Committee with regard to what I consider the maladministration of the Postal Department as it affects country residents is by moving to reduce by ?1 the amount provided in this Bill for title Department.
– With much of. what the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has said I agree. My remarks will not apply to the present PostmasterGeneral any more than to his predecessors. It is the principle, or lack of principle, of which I have complained every time the Postal Department has been under consideration in this House.
The honorable member for Barrier was on the right track when he said that the balance-sheet of the Postal Department should not be taken into consideration when we are dealing with the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic service of the back-blocks. Of course, those services do not pay. Does any one expect that they should? Does any one believe that the people who go into the backblocks should not have fair telegraphic and telephonic conveniences? For a long time I have been in communication with the Department in regard to one portion of my electorate, where the postal service is worse than it was fifty years ago, when there was not a railway service in the State of Tasmania. I hold that the present system of blackmailing local residents when they ask for services is rotten in principle. We are always urging the people to leave the cities and go into the country. Does any one suggest that, the people in the cities should pay portion of the cost of the two or three mail deliveries which they enjoy daily? At a saw-mill in the back-blocks, miles away from the nearest nurse or medical man, the telephone is an absolute necessity in the interests of humanity. Unfortunately, serious accidents happen in the milling districts, but if by means of a telephone the people can communicate with a medical man, and be told what to do until medical aid arrives, many valuable lives can be saved. Has any one the right to say to those people : “ Before you can have telephone communication you must put your hands in your pockets, and out of your poverty make good any amount by which the earnings fail to meet the interest on the cost of construction?” The principle is altogether wrong, and I am certain that the PostmasterGeneral knows it to be so. What is beating him, as it has beaten every one of his predecessors, is a system by which the bookkeeping account regulates the postal services in country districts. It is time that system was discontinued, but I do not see that any good can result from pressing, in such a small Committee, the amendment which the honorable member for Barrier suggested.
– It is not our fault that more members are not present.
– Of course it is not. The time is particularly opportune for the honorable member to bring for ward this matter, because tenders are now being accepted for a three years’ service all over Australia. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to tell us now that the postal services in the back-blocks will not ‘ be reduced,and thatthe people will not be asked to make up any loss of revenue. I was one of the half-dozen members who opposed the introduction of penny postage. I do not object to penny postage, but I hold the opinion that the postage rates should not be reduced until the backblocks have proper means of postal communication.
-Yet the Government propose to introduce a postage tax.
– The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) is thoroughly justified in asking for an increase in the. postal rates, but that increase should be accompanied by the display of a little generosity towards the people in the back-blocks. It is true that some only get a letter occasionally, but to them the daily papers are a source of intense anxiety. They may have boys at the Front. They want to see the news of the outside world, with which they have little means of communication. They have few of the benefits that the congestion of civilization offers in the big centres. For fifteen years I have been waiting to see in office a PostmasterGeneral in thorough sympathy with those who are living out in the back-blocks. The best man we have ever had in the position was the first Postmaster-General with whom I was brought into contact. I refer to Mr. Sydney Smith. He did more for the country residents of Australia by giving them postal facilities than has been done by any of his successors. I have every sympathy with the speech delivered by the honorable member for Barrier. There is scarcely a sentiment which he has expressed to which I have not given utterance here for many years past, but I ask him not to press for a division. I urge him and others who feel as I do to wait until the Estimates are discussed, when we shall have the opportunity for a full-dress debate, and can urge upon the Postmaster-General those principles for which he and I stand this evening, I hope, with such effect, that there will be an end to the blackmailing efforts displayed towards country people, by telling them that they must put their hands in their pockets before they can get postal services.
– As a rule I do not reply to general complaints by honorable members concerning individual cases that may be interesting them at the moment. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has brought forward two cases. It was only yesterday that he submitted two petitions to me dealing with those cases. If that is his idea of giving a Minister the opportunity to investigate matters which he claims should receive attention, if that .is his way of treating those who are responsible for the administration of the Department, and if it is his method of letting the country know how he thinks the Department should be administered, all I can- say is that it does not savour of British fair play. I represent a large country constituency, which ia probably more settled than most country electorates of the same size. When I came into this Chamber there was no postal concession for country districts. If the service, mail or telephone, did not pay, the Government made no concession in regard to it for years after Federation was established. With other country members, I urged successive Ministers to act more liberally to the man in the back-blocks.
– That was not the case before the Federal Government took over postal matters.
– Yes, it was. In those days there was no country telephone service, and there were no balance-sheets. No one knew what was being spent. Postoffices were being built by political influence, and in some cases did not return in revenue one-fifth of the interest on the cost of construction. Since then, the Federal Government have undertaken to liquidate 25 per cent, of ‘the estimated loss on both telephone and mail services. Two or three years afterwards, when the finances were flourishing, honorable members compelled them to give still further consideration, and the percentage allowance was increased to 50 per cent.- Since the war began, and since I have had the honour of administering the Postal Department, I have on my own initiative extended that allowance by 10 per cent, in each case, in order to give country people fl fairer opportunity of getting those services which I know are essential to settlement. There are services that should not be granted under any consideration, services which would cost hundreds of pounds and yet return practically shillings in revenue. These services cannot be granted because, if it was the policy of the Department to establish them at great cost, it would have less money to devote to the establishment of services which were more warranted, and would injure people who are better entitled to consideration. The whole problem is one of finance. Mail services are costing 100 per cent, more, and in some cases 300 per cent, more, than in pre-war days, and this extra cost has to be made up by the Department out of the rates that were in existence prior to the war. Telephone material has increased in cost. Wire which was £12 per ton is now £82 per ton. The cost of poles, crossarms, and everything else, has gone up, even by 80 per cent. Labour costs practically 25 per cent. more. Yet honorable members ask me to endeavour to give facilities equal to those which were given when the pre-war rates existed. I ask them, as reasonable men, to remember that there are war conditions here which have to be met. I have my responsibility, the Treasurer has his, and he controls the purse. Rightly or wrongly, he says to me, “ The finances are stressed. You must do with, so much.” It is not a question of whether it will injure this or that. I have taken the trouble to compile a history of the whole of the main operations of the Postal Department for the past three years.
– It is a very valuable document.
– I compiled it for the information of honorable members. I did it in order to save the time of the House, and if possible to allay complaints from different honorable members by letting them know our difficulties and the direction in which economies have been effected. I tried to show them that I was endeavouring on the one hand to give the best services I could, and even more services, and on the other hand to practise economy in -directions where waste had been discovered. Our expenses are going up year by year. Each time mail tenders are called for, they -are higher. Those which are coming in to-day are higher. Of course, this House is supreme, and if it decides that people should have country services, willy-nilly, whether they give any return or not, or whether they give a small return, with a big loss, then in these days of great expenditures money will have to be found by way of subsidy to provide for these services. I have heard the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) again and again in this House deliver the same kind of speech that he has made this afternoon. He makes them no matter who holds office asPostmaster-General. I think I may reasonably appeal to honorable members to recollect the conditions under which we are labouring, and to have regard to the fact that each year of war adds to the disabilities and anxieties of the Department. I ask them to, at least, give me that consideration, and not to expect what they might have done in pre-war days. I cannot to-day give new telephone extensions or extend telephone lines, not only because I have not the money at my disposal, but because there is no material. It is a question, not of whether I would provide these services, but of where I could get the material to supply them. As to the question of mail services, equitable consideration must be given to the whole of the country mail contracts and the whole of the people to be served. I must strive to do with the money at my disposal the greatest good for the greatest number. No honorable member can say that he has ever failed to receive at my hands, not only an acknowledgment of a letter of complaint, but a thorough investigation of his claim. Where a proposed work! cannot be carried out, I invariably give the reasons against it. In many cases I havebeen able to carry out works that havebeen urged by honorable members, and even the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) admitsthat recently, despite the difficulties confronting us, we found a way of giving relief to a certain district in his constituency.
Mr.Considine. - Only when the people to be served showed how it could he done.
– In any case, the relief was granted by the Department.
– The money wasted on the Spencer-street postal buildings would have kept one-half of the country post-offices up to their full strength.
– The walls on one floor havebeen torn completely out to provide for an institute.
– That is not so. Nothing has been pulled down. I prevented the erection of internal walls which it was proposed to build, and so saved about £12,000.
– Some internal walls were pulled down.
– On one floor a few that were built before I took action have been pulled down so as to provide for modern conditions. As to the institute to which the honorable member refers, I would point out that it is designed to give us better-qualified officers and a higher standard of service. We could not make a better investment. The institute is to be opened on Tuesday next at noon, and I invite honorable members to be present and to see what has been done. But for the action I took, the floor now devoted to the institute would have been occupied by men who are now accommodated on other floors.
– What about country post-offices that are falling down?
– I am not going to reply to interjections by an honorable member whois out solely to advertise himself and to. harass the Government I shall, as far as possible, give every consideration to country districts. Hundreds of thousands ofpounds have been saved by economies in large centres of population, and in this way I have been enabled to maintain country services which otherwise would have been abolished. If the amendment is to be regarded as a reward for my effort to do my duty honestly in times of trial, then I shall take it for what it is worth. I shall continue to do as I have done - I shall go on doing what I believe to be right, caring nothing for the critics who desire merely to serve their own political ends.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment;report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following paper was presented : -
Defence Act - Regulation amended. - Statutory Rule 1918, No. 240.
House adjourned at 6.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181011_reps_7_86/>.