7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.W. ElliotJohnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know the decision of the Govern ment regarding the remission of fines imposed on- deceased soldiers. I have already Asked two questions, and . had a notice of motion onthe business-paper on the subject.
– The information is being given in reply toa question on notice.
– Is the Acting Prime
Minister aware that -the Senate of the United States of America is considering a motion by Senator Lodge to the effect that no further communications be sent by the Allies to Germany except to demand unconditional surrender? Is the honorable gentleman prepared to . allow this House, bearing in mind that this is . a self-governing dominion of the British . Empire whose soldiers have played agreat and valiant part in winning this war, to consider the advisability of affirming a amotion to the effect that, in our opinion, no further communications should he sent by the Allies to Germany except to demandthat all of her submarines and other ships of war, -and all her armies, shall unconditionally surrender to ‘the Allied Forces ?
Mr.WATT. - The Government hasno official information of the motion -which has been moved in the American Senate, though, in common with other members of the public and of this House, I have seen a brief account of it. There is a distinction between the American Senate and this Legislature. The American nation cannot make war except with the consent of the Senate, which, as the honorable member doubtless knows, conditions the actions of the Executive in peace and in war. Then, the American -Legislature is an absolutely sovereign body, which we are not. There are many other differences, but those two are the main ones. The adoption of the suggestion that the honorable member has made in perfect good faith and right spirit would not, I think, make any easier the task of the statesmen of the Empire who are dealing with these matters. The Government, knowing something of the actual war situation, which it is not permitted to disclose, does not propose at fhis stage to invite the House to discuss the matter, but later we may be in a position to do so.
-Will the Acting Prime Minister tell us why he offered to payhalf of any allowance made by the States to the dependants of deserting soldiers? I understand that three families connected with soldiers whose whereabouts are unknown have made applications for relief to the Victorian Government, and that’ the honorable gentleman has said that the Commonwealth Government will pay half the cost. I should like the Minister to explain what it is proposed to do in these eases, and whether there may not be cases in which the whereabouts of a soldier, is unknown, because he no longer exists, or is a prisoner of war in a “foreign country?
– I think Iintimated last week, in reply to a question from the other side, that the Government’s views on this matter had been extensively -outlined in a communication with the State concerned. I could not off-land, and without reference to the files, repeat what we have, said, but if the honorable member will give notice of the question for to-morrow, I shall see that he is told why our offer was made, and the basis of it.
– Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government has commandeered the city of Sydney’s electrical supply? “Will the Acting Prime Minister tell the House the reason fortius, and whether the same thing has been done in all the- capitals of the Commonwealth ?
– I am not aware that the city of Sydney’s electrical supply, has been commandeered, but if my honorable friend will give notice of his question for to-morrow, I shall then be prepared with an answer.
– Will the Assistant Minister for the Navy state whether a permit has been given for the sale of the steamer Illaroo, and her transfer from the Australian . register ? In viewof the present shortage of tonnage in Australia, will the honorable gentleman -give the reasons for the granting of this permit?
– I have no knowledge of the sale of the steamer, or of her transfer from the Australian register. I hardly think that she has been sold, but I shall let the honorable member know to-morrow.
– As there are . thousands of taxpayers living in outlying parts of Australia to which there is not frequent mail communication, will the Acting Prime Minister, in future, when there are important announcementsto be made like that relating to the compulsory contribution to the War Loan, make them sufficiently early to enable these people to know of them in time to comply with the law?
Mr.WATT. - I shall consider the suggestion. The principle is a right one, though I cannot bind myself in regard to all future actions.
– Has . a request reached the Postmaster-General from the temporary employees in his Department for uniforms to be supplied to them? If so, has he given the matter consideration? If not, will he give it favorable consideration ?
Mr.WEBSTER.- The matter has been considered. The request cannot be complied with,.
Mothers of Soldiers Born out of Wedlock.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether he regards with complacency the fact that the mother of a soldier killed in action is, in one case of which I know, absolutely destitute because, since her son was born out of wedlock, she is not entitled to receive a pension. This woman is fifty-nine years of age - just too young to obtain an oldage pension and too old to work. Will the Minister consider the advisableness of issuing an amended regulation to permit of mothers of soldiers killed in action, and who were born out of wedlock, receiving a pension like other mothers who have lost their sons ?
– I will bring the honorable member’s question under the -notice ofthe Minister for Defence.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will lay upon the table of the’ House any representations that may have been made to him by trustees and other . persons administering trusts in the direction of endeavouring to induce the Government to submit a measure which would enable them to meet the compulsory war loan provisions while keeping within the four corners of their deeds of trust?
– I amnot aware that any such representations have been made to me. There may be communications on the subject in the Treasury, but speaking from memory a regulation covering the matter has already been passed. I shall see that the honorable member obtains the information he desires.
Payments to Farmers
– In order to provide necessitous farmers with funds to enable them to cope with the approaching harvest, will the Treasurer take into consideration, as a matter of urgency, the making of a further instalment to those whose wheat is in the pools for 1916-17 and 1917-18?.
– I think that the payments already made on account of the pools to which the honorable member refers are as large as can be safely made in the existing circumstances. I shall refer the honorable member’s suggestion to my colleague who has charge of the Australian Wheat Board’s activities.
– Has the Acting
Prime Minister taken any cognisance of a speech made by Dr. Mannix before the Catholic Young Men’s Association as reported in to-day’s press ? If so, does he contemplate taking any action . in regard to the disloyal utterances contained therein?
– With great respect I must deprecate the practice of asking without notice questions of far-reaching significance. I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question.
Extension of Time
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government to extend the time for receiving subscriptions to the Seventh War Loan in respect of which £37,000,000 has already been raised, so that the outside public will not be penalized for their failure to contribute within the time originally fixed for the closing of the loan?
– I am unable, at present, to announce whether the war loan will be extended for a few days. The Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has just arrived on special summons from Sydney, and I hope to have an opportunity during the day to investigate with him the exact results of the loan up to the present hour. I may be able to tell the House later in the sitting whether or not an extension of time will be made.
– Bearing upon the question just asked by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston), I would remind the Acting Prime Minister that he promised last week to make an early announcement as to the date to which the time for making these payments would be extended. There has not been time for trustees and directors of companies to- meet in order to determine how they are going to raise, as a contribution to the war loan, six times the amount of. their income tax. “Will the honorable gentleman tell the House to what date he intends to extend the time within which compulsory contributions may be made?
Mr.WATT.- It seems to me that the question put by the honorable member, although” phrased differently, is precisely the same as that asked by the honorable member for Barker.
– No; it is a different question.
– Then I have misunderstood the honorable member. “ I take it that what he desires to know is whether people who have not been able to put their money into the loan will be granted further time before the compulsory provisions of the Bill are enforced against them.
– That is one part of my question.
– That is a matter which I cannot at present determine. I should like to point out, however, that the community has had far longer notice than some members of the community allegethey have had with regard to the application of compulsion. When the House met after the recent recess, the honorable member was unfortunately absent owing to illness, but at that time the Government explicitly announced in a Minis terial statement, which was printed by order of the House, that compulsion would be applied, and the date and hour . of the closing of the loan were then announced. The only point not specified at that time was as to the nature of the compulsion and the extent of the penalty, but the fact that compulsion was to be applied was announced by the Government, and was discussed in the House.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Recruiting state whether he has noticed certain repulsive pictorial incitements to bloodshed that are posted in various conspicuous places, and notably on public buildings in and around the 6ity of Melbourne? To one of these special reference was made last week by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie). Will the Minister take steps for the withdrawal and destruction of these odious publications?
– The order for the printing of the poster in question was given before the war situation had reached its present stage, and we are considering the advisableness of withdrawing it. If the position were less favorable than it is to-day, it is just possible that the poster to which the honorable member has referred might bring home to eligibles the methods of the enemy whom we are fighting.
– Will the Treasurer state whether the Government intend to pay a maintenance allowance to old-age pensioners in charitable institutions ; and, if so, at what rate and when ?
– At the Treasurers’ Conference, held some six or seven weeks ago, the Commonwealth, for the first time, came toan agreement with the States as to these payments. I am unable offhand to speak of when they will be made, or of what the amount will be, but I shall endeavour to furnish “the honorable member with the information tomorrow.
– In view of the fact that a number of honorable members were unfortunately unable to attend the official opening of the Postal Institute yesterday, and that, although the. newspapers have fairly and fully reported the honorable gentleman’s speech, none of them report in full the poem with which, the honorable gentleman favoured the audience-
– Yes, the Argus did.
– I was going to ask the honorable gentleman if he would favour each member of the House with a copy of that poem as a record?
– Probably honorable members’ would wish to know who was going to pay the cost.
Compensation to Contractor
– Has the attention of the Acting. Minister for the Navy been drawn to the statement in one of the daily newspapers that his Department paid £25,000 on a claim by a contractor, and that the Comptroller of Accounts said that £7,000 would have been ample?
– The article referred to was evidently written under a. misapprehension, altogether, andI have asked for a full statement, which I” shall publish, probably to-morrow. There is no record in the Department that any officer recommended £7,000 as a final payment in connexion with the claim made. There was a dispute over certain items, which, resulted in a law case, and an official recommended that there should be paid not more than £7,000, pending the other items being looked into. However, the honorable member shall have a full statement to-morrow.
– Is the case referred to that of Cone, in connexion with the fitting up of transports?
Preference to Returned Soldiers
-In. view of the fact that tenders for mail contracts are now being considered by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales, and seeing that this kind of work is. very suitable for returned disabled soldiers, and that the Postmaster-General is not disposed, to give these soldiers preference, except when all other things are equal, will the- Minister for Repatriation ascertain whether the two Departments can confer as to whether the benefits of repatriation may be extended to these soldiers, and special consideration given to them in this: connexion?
– I will put the suggestion before the Minister for Repatriation, and inform the honorable member as to the result.
-I desire to know from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) whether the censor’ has acted “ off his own bat “ or under instructions,, in deleting from the policy of the. Australian Peace Alliance, paragraph, e, words referring to disarmament, with a view to total abolition, and clause i, which refers, to “ organizations of workers and other associations with the definite view to. ending war.”
– I know nothing about the matter.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) ascertain why a cablegram and letter from the president of the Miners- Association of Australia to the president of the Miners Federation of Great Britain were censored, if they were censored? I previously asked the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) this question, and was informed that it came under the Department of Defence.
– I shall make inquiries.
Mr.SAMPSON.- Does the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) consider the enlisting . of recruits for reinforcements as urgent now as it was previous to the receipt of the information as to the peace offer from’ Germany and the present news from the Front ? If so, will the Minister see that an early’ date is fixed for the closing pf the ballot, so that the Government may consider the situation?
– It is not our intention to relax our efforts in obtaining recruits until something more definite is known in regard to the situation in Europe. We are proceeding with the ballot, and we hope to have the whole of the lists of eligibles completed within the next week or two. The ballot will then be taken unless we have the news we are all waiting for, that Germany has unconditionally surrendered.
Railway Passes for Parents
– I am informed that there has appeared in the Argus a statement to the effect that the Government are. making provision to issue return railway passes to all parents of Anzacs who are coming to Australia on furlough. I should like to know whether that statement is correct?
– I am not aware, but I shall make inquiries.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), request the Cabinet to consider the granting of a bonus for the manufacture of paper in the ratio of £1 for £1 on condition that the Government receive half, or other proportion, of the profits of such . manufacture?
– As to the broad question of whether we should seek to encourage the manufacture of paper by the offer of a bonus, it is,I think, one that is at present under the consideration of the Board of Trade.I should not like to commit myself in any way to a proposed ratio of £1 for £1.
– That is £1 for £1 by way of assistance to the people who put their money into the enterprise.
– I thought the honorable member meant £1 for £1 in relation to the cost of production, which would be a fairly generous deal. I shall see that the suggestion is considered when other phases of the question are being dealt with.
Shortage of Forms
– In a shire which had a very large quota to find, the Agricultural show was held yesterday, and the opportunity was taken to ask me to make an open-air appeal on behalf of the war loan. A substantial amount was raised, but I understand that there were not enough forms to thoroughly complete the transactions. The amounts, however, were recorded,; and I should like to know whether the Treasurer will see that these are included in the contribution’ of the shire ?
– I do not think I shall have much difficulty in inventing a system to comply with the honorable member’s request.
New South Wales Meat Board
– On the 20th September, I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions: -
Will the Minister expedite the answers?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– On Thursday last, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked me -
The answers are -
The honorable member also asked -
The answers are -
– With regard to the matter of spinal beds for military hospitals which the honorable member- for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) mentioned in the House on the 4th instant, I find that since this question was raised the district authorities at Sydney have expressed the opinion that twelve beds of this kind would be useful at the present time. For obvious reasons, equipment is not usually issued except on demand by - the medical authority in charge, and in this case the officer concerned had not requisitioned for the supply. Following upon this expression of opinion, instructions have been issued that the spinal beds required shall be supplied.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the fact that geometrical drawing is a compulsory subject at the Royal Military College examinations this year for the first time, and that students who have not studied this subject during their course and desire to compete at the examination this year will obviously be at a disadvantage in consequence of their not having had any reason to think at the beginning of the year that this subject would be made compulsory, will the Minister for Defence take steps to have this disability removed, so that such students will not be penalized?
– The- answer to the honororable member’s question is as follows : -
It is incorrect to state that geometrical drawing is to be a compulsory subject for the first time at the approaching examination for admission to the Royal Military College.
Its inclusion in the list of compulsory subjects was approved by the Minister in 1916, and District Commandants, and ‘ the schools throughout the Commonwealth were duly notified of the change. It was a compulsory subject for the Entrance Examination held in 1916, and it is not understood how any candidate could have formed the impression referred to by the honorable member.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Min ister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
He further states that the effect of the appointment was not to give Major Carroll the rank of major in the Commonwealth Military Forces, and would not have done so even if the consent had been given - by the Commonwealth Government and not the Queensland Government.
Major Carroll is . therefore not entitled to claim any promotion as a matter of right in consequence of his service in South Africa.
The 29 officers out of the 240.mentioned above who received promotion other than honorary promotion were dealt with as special cases under the second paragraph of the Cabinet decision of the 30th April, 1902, and it is not considered that Major Carroll’s service was of such a distinguished nature as to warrant his being selected for special preferment from amongst the other 211 officers, and, therefore, no action will be taken to reopen this case, or to alter the decision already given.
Deductions from AllowancesRemissionof Penalties.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Approval has been given for the -remission of all monetary penal- ties awarded in the case of all members of the Australian Imperial Force who, after embarkation and subsequent to 1st July, 1918, are killed in action, or, whilst still members of the Australian Imperial Force, die as the result of wounds received in action, or from the effects of war service.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Regarding the forthcoming examination for Government employees in the General Division, to enable them to qualify for the Clerical Division, will such examination prejudicially affect the chances of men who are now on active service abroad, and who, had they remained here, would have been eligible to enter for examination ?
– The examination will not prejudicially affect Commonwealth officers on active service. Any such officer who passes an examination for transfer to the Clerical Division after his return to Australia will be regarded as having passed the first examination held during his absence, and will be paid the salary he would have received had he been transferred as a result of that examination, plus subsequent increments that would have accrued under the clerical scale. His relative seniority will also be preserved. If honorable members will indulge in a Greek chorus of comments and interruptions while answers to questions are being read, I shall have to resume the practice of merely laying the answers on the table.
– Complaint has been made about the interruption of Ministers while they are answering questions. I ask honorable members to refrain from making audible comments while answers are being read.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Catholic denominations should be detailed for duty on each returning transport, but, owing to the fact that chaplains- of the Australian Imperial Force overseas are not always available, it became necessary to- employ clergymen for this duty selected by the senior chaplains, Australian Imperial Force, of the denominations concerned.
These clergymen receive no pay or allowances for duty on transports, and do not wear uniform, but are granted’ subsistence whilst on board in return for their services. Their employment terminates on disembarkation in Australia.
The Chaplain-General of the Roman Catholic denomination has intimated that he cannot at present fill existing vacancies for chaplains of his denomination for service abroad, owing to the shortage of clergymen, due to sickness and other reasons., thus preventing the return to Australia ofRoman Catholic chaplains of the Australian Imperial Force whose return lias been approved. He has also stated that he cannot recommend the appointment of clergymen selected in London for transport duty to be chaplains in the Australian Imperial Force, as he is not in a position to judge their qualifications.
Only one clergyman ‘of the Protestant denomination (Anglican) has been employed on a returning transport during the last twelve months.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Conditions of Employment
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has furnished the following replies : -
The huge volume of work which, is being, handled by this Bank in connexion with war transactions, and particularly the War Loans, naturally necessitates the staff working under high pressure. The staff of the Bank are, however, thoroughly loyal, and derive considerable satisfaction from the knowledge that they are directly helping in. war work. 1.(a) The time allowed the staff of the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney and Melbourne is half-an-hour, with a further ten minutes’ grace. (b) No. (c) No. (d) No. (e) Yes, in the absence of a large proportion of the men at the Front.
This information will be published shortly, when the Bank’s balance-sheet for the period under mention is issued.
Fines of Pastoralists
asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the recent decision of the High Court, will the fines inflicted by Mr. Justice Higgins on certain pastoralists, viz., Mr. HedleyEdols, Mrs. Kelly, and Mr. Wallace Hunter, be enforced?
– Particulars of the cases referred to are being obtained, and I hope to be in a position in a few days to give the honorable member a definite reply.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 253.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 252.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, Etc
In Committee of Supply:
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed, until after the consideration of Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.
Proposed vote, £165,865.
– It has been the invariable practice in recent years to postpone the consideration of the General Estimates in order that the construction of works may not be postponed. The total amount included in these Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, is £454,951, which is £802,666 less than the provision made in the- year 1917-18, when the total amount estimated to be payable from revenue upon Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, was £1,257,617. The policy followed in framing the Estimates was’ to provide for the completion of works already in progress, and only in cases of urgent necessity was provision made for works not already in hand. By this limitation, the Estimates now submitted are £541,000 less - than, the amounts which the Departments originally- asked to be provided this year. Seeing that the amount asked for is now confined almost to works that were in hand on 30th June last, it is to be expected that the bulk of the expenditure will take place in the earlier months of this financial year. Therefore, in order that there may be no break in the continuity of the work in hand, Parliament isnow asked to pass the Estimates covering the whole year. The principal items of expenditure are as follows: -
Ministers will be in charge of their respective Departments, and will be prepared to give any information they possess which is asked for in respect to the various works appearing in the schedule. I hope that the Committee will facilitate the passage of these Estimates within a reasonable time, so that no break in the continuity of some of these important works may occur.
.- Honorable members, in voting for these Works and Buildings Estimates, should know what they are voting for. Expenditure is proposed for “ the establishment and equipment of research divisions, laboratories, and experimental stations in connexion with the Institute of Science and Industry,”, and a number of new works are set down under the heading of “ Quarantine.” These proposals should have the scrutiny of the Committee. I wish for information regarding the proposed expenditure on laboratories, and also regarding that on isolation hospitals for seamen. These are being provided in New South Wales and in Queensland. The Navigation Bill - the Committee work of which in this Chamber fell chiefly to the present Prime Min ister (Mr. Hughes) and myself on the Government side, and the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) for the Opposition - took power to deal with sailors who are practically a menace to the health of the passengers on the vessels on which they are employed. The steam-ship owners have agreed that this is necessary, and isolation hospitals are being provided accordingly. There is here a revote of £3,480 for New South Wales, and of £531 for Queensland, with an additional £130 for “ new service “ in Queensland. I wish to know whether there are isolation hospitals for seamen in the other ports of the Commonwealth, where they are likely to be required.
As to the £3,000 set down for research divisions, laboratories, and experiment stations for the Institute of Science and Industry, I ask the Minister whether those who vote for this proposal will be taken to have agreed to the Bill which is now before the Senate. In my opinion, it would have been better to extend the present laboratories, which are used in connexion with Customs work, and to make them more available to manufacturers and others than to set up a new machine, which, so far as I know, has yet donevery little. I do not say that it is incapable of doing a great deal in the future; it may not yet have had a proper opportunity. I wish to know where the amount set down in the Estimates is to be expended, and whether the laboratories are to be in addition to that at the back of the Customs House in Melbourne, and that connected with the Quarantine Department at Royal Park, Melbourne. It seems inadvisable to duplicate expenditure. Besides those laboratories, we have that in which serum is being made, which is doing very necessary work at the present time.
The sum of £16,980 is set down for the Sydney Telephone Exchange. Of £22,598 to be spent in New South Wales in connexion with Postal Department work, £16,980 is to be spent in Sydney. Of course, the expenditure may be more needed there than elsewhere. The sum of £1,600 is set down for the construction of “ parcels post and postal sorting and postal stores building “ in Melbourne, and £18,190 for the extension and alteration of the Melbourne General Post Office.
– That is for alterations to the ground floor of the Elizabeth-street building.
– I regret that the title- “ General Post Office,” which, so long as any of us can remember, has belonged to the Elizabeth-street building, has been transferred to the new building at the corner of Spencer-street and Bourkestreet.
– r-To utilize the new building as much as possible, and because conditions are better there than they were in the old building, I moved as many officers as I could into it. The law requires that the building in which, the Administrative Branch is housed must be called the General Post Office.
– The new building is certainly a magnificent one, and provides a great deal of accommodation. If there is enough room there, it would have been better to transfer still more officers, with a view to avoiding expenditure at Elizabethstreet. _
Another item upon which I wish information is that providing for the ‘ ‘ erecting of new buildings and re-modelling old Parcels Post . Building for telegraph operating room.” Is that the room that was used by the Customs Department in connexion with the parcels post, to which there was an entrance from Little Bourkestreet ?
– The premises referred to lie between Elizabeth-street and the Little Bourke-street office. They are the central portion of the block, the other section being used for other purposes.
– We should have had some information from the Treasurer as to how much of the work which last year was provided for in these Estimates has now been transferred to the Loan Estimates. Apparently a great deal of work has been transferred to the Loan Estimates. The construction of lighthouses, which was previously paid for out of revenue, is now being paid for out of loan money. I hope that the Minister will give the Committee some information on this and the other subjects that I ‘have mention Bel
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth) 4:.2~].-I ask the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) a question affecting the administration of one of the biggest works to be carried out by his Department - that is, the Arsenal.
– That work is provided for in the Loan Estimates.
– This question affects the administration of the whole Department. Since the House last sat I have been given certain papers which, to my mind, make it important that the matter should be cleared up at once. A Melbourne newspaper has printed the statement that “Mr. J. K. Jensen has been appointed to proceed to England vi& the United States of America for the purpose of studying matters relative to the business management of the proposed Australian Arsenal.” The mere fact that a man has the same name as a Minister is promptly made the ground for insinuation, and I have here a draft question which I would not like to put without these covering words. It asks, “ Whether this gentleman has been appointed ? If so, how long has he been in the Government service ? What are his qualifications for the position, and what positions has he previously filled?” Of course, similarity of name is nothing; what is important is a man’s qualifications. I ask the Minister to show that if this appointment has been made, it is one that should have been made in the public interest.
raised a question in regard to the proposed vote for isolation hospitals for seamen. These works were previously authorized, and are proceeding towards completion. In three of the States provision has been, made in connexion with the quarantine stations for dealing with seamen who have to be isolated. 3
– Including Victoria?
– No. The Director of Quarantine, with the Minister, has under consideration the question of the provision to be made in this State. The matter has not been lost sight of, and its importance is fully realized. These are not new commitments, the amounts having been previously authorized.
As to the proposed vote of £3,000 for the establishment and equipment of research divisions, laboratories, and experiment stations, I would point out that any vote- given upon it cannot affect the question as to the way in which honorable members should vote on the Bill providing for the establishment of an Institute of Science and Industry.
– It might be said tha* since we voted for this item to provide for new laboratories we should vote for the Bill to provide for the establishment of the Institute with which these laboratories will be associated.
– This is a general vote in connexion with the establishment of that Institute. It has not yet been determined where any particular experiment shall be carried on. This is merely a general item.
– Is it not a grant in advance of the passing of the Bill for the establishment of the Institute?
– It is necessary that this provision should be made. Expenditure is going on from time to time in. connexion with theundertaking.
– That expenditure is provided for in the general Estimates.
– Quite so, but this item should appear in the works and buildings estimates. As to the fear which the honorable member expressed, that large sums might be expended in duplicating work already being carried on in the State, I might say at once that we have no intention of doing anything of the kind. The proposal is that the Institute of Science and Industry shall not duplicate the work of the State Bureaux,but shall rather co-ordinate that work, and take advantage of and assist the existing State institutions. The Institute of Science and “Industry will cooperate with the universities, experimental farms and colleges, and other State institutions throughout Australia. We shall take advantage of their work, and shall not add to them any unnecessary scientific establishments.
– Where does the Government propose to erect these laboratories?
– That question has not yet been definitely determined. It is one with which the Institute itself will have to deal. Honorable members will recognise that a grant of £3,000 would not permit of the establishment of an extensive laboratory. This sum might be made available to assist State institutions. It is a general vote to meet the purposes of the Institute to be established under the authority of a Bill now before Parliament.
– If that Bill is not passed, this vote will lapse, I presume?
– I cannot say that it will lapse. An Advisory Committee has been carrying on scientific work, and has done exceedingly well.
-Does the Minister mean that?
– It is, of course, a matter of opinion, but I think the Committee in question has done exceedingly good work.
– Is the Minister judging by results ?
– By the character and quality of the work done.
– Then the Minister can know nothing about it.
– I can only judge by the work done by the Committee.
– We should either have a big Federal movement or none at all.
– It should be based on the principle of co-operation with the States, so as to carry out efficiently work that the States cannot undertake. That is the proposal. No one will claim that the Committee that has been sitting for some time could properly take the place of a well-equipped Institute of Science and Industry. It is only an advisory body, and I do not claim that it has been doing work equal to, for instance, that carried out by either the United States of America or Canadian Bureau of Agriculture. It has merely been laying the foundation for the work of the Institute.
– But it is most successful in spending money.
– I do not know every detail of its expenditure, but I believe that it has been money spent in the right direction.
– Can the Minister give one instance of useful work done by the Committee?
– I should not be in order at this stage in discussing the whole principle involved in the establishment of an Institute of Science and Industry ; but I may say that the Institute will be carried on upon the basis of co-operation with the States. Wherever possible, it will utilize, and not duplicate, State agencies. It will not duplicate their activities, but will undertake work with which, by reason of their limitations, they cannot possibly deal. Tasmania, for instance, with its small population, cannot deal completely with the scientific work involved in coping with the pests that affect that State. And so with Queensland. In all the States there are big problems of the kind which should be dealt with from an Australian stand-point.
– Queensland is dealing with such problems, and doing more than the Commonwealth is.
– We are asking nowfor power to do more of this work.When the Scottish Commission, which comprised a fairly competent body of experts, investigated our conditions, they reported on our scattered State Departments of Agriculture, and spoke favorably of the establishment of an Institute upon the lines now contemplated. They pointed out that many pests and stock diseases were not peculiar to any one State, but were common problems in respect of which Australia, as a whole, was interested, and they urged that a Central Department should be established to deal with such matters.
– The Minister should give the Committee an assurance that this money will not be expended unless the Bill providing for the Institute of Science is. passed.
– I cannot, without making further inquiries, give such an assurance. I ask honorable members not to question this vote, which will be applied to laboratory purposes in connexion with the Institute.
– There can be no doubt that we want more knowledge as to the best methods of dealing with pests, but we require to be satisfied that this expenditure in war time will not be incurred in overlapping the work of State institutions already in existence.
– Having regard to the importance of our primary industries, it is more than ever necessary in war time to check the spread of the diseases and pests that threaten them. This expenditure should be regarded as in the nature of insurance.
– Accordingto the Minister the States are doing nothing in this direction.
– I have not said anything of the kind. What I have said is that, because of their limitations, the States are not in a position to do all that isrequired. The problem is an Australian one, that should be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government, working in complete harmony with the States.
– But the Commonwealth Government are duplicating the machinery of the States.
-On the contrary, we have not yet set up any machinery inthis respect.
– I joined with the Minister some years ago in an effort toestab lish a Bureau of Agriculture. At that time, although there was no war in existence, we could not secure £50,000 for the purpose, but now, in war time, it is proposed to spend millions in this direction.
Mr.GROOM. - It is not intended to spend millions. I have been trying since 1901 to establish such an institution. Victoria, Queensland, and the other States were anxious to help in the work ; and it is only quite recently that hostility in certain quarters has developed.
– It is amusing to think that in those days you laboured and could gain nothing.
– I laboured then, as I am labouring now, and I hope togain something. This is not a party political question, but one thatvery seriously affects the well-being of Australia. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) well knows the difficulties we have in Australia with these pests. In 1907, when the then Minister for Customs ‘(Mr. Chapman) and myself were in Queensland, one insect pest was brought under our notice in connexion with sugar cane as being specially destructive, and we were asked to establishsome bureau or institutefor investigation as soon as possible. Then, again, there are large areas in Queensland quite capable of growing any of the temperate fruits, but hundreds of trees have had to bedestroyed because of the fruit-fly pest. These and other pests are not peculiar to any State, but are to be found all over Australia ; and if we can combine and co-operate with the States, with a view to the best expert investigation, it will beproductive of great good to the Commonwealth. This patricular vote is in connexion with the establishment of an Institute.
– You implied that if theBill were not passed, the vote would lapse.
– Legally and technically, I cannot say thatthe vote will lapse ; but it will hot be expended on the specificpurpose of establishing laboratories unless an Institute is established by the authority of Statute. At present, we have only an Advisory Committee, with various sub-committees; and this is entirely inadequate, although I do not agreethat that Committee has not done good work. If we do not tackle this problem properly, it will be better not to tackle it at all. I give the assurance that this vote is intended, and will be expended, only for the works and buildings of the Institute when it is established.
.-I do not think there is any difference of opinion as to the necessity for the establishment of Institutes of Science throughout Australia in order to stimulate our primary as well as our secondary productions; the only difficulty is in regard to the way in which we are to set about the work. If this proposal means merely the appointment of a certain number of University professors, who are to make academic research work, without that being put to any practical test, it will be money thrown away. We are constantly told about the need for legislative authority to take certain action in coordination with the States ; but when these proposals become concrete and effective, we find that work is simply being duplicated at great increase of expenditure by the Commonwealth.
– To what is the honorable member particularly referring?
– I am referring to many instances of duplication of work done by the States - duplication caused by the appointment of. Boards to. deal with various aspects of trade. However, I do not wish to go into that question now, because I shall have an opportunity later on ; at present, I merely wish to refer to the fact that we are handing to bureaucracies work which Ministers themselves ought to do, as responsible to the taxpayers. I am glad to hear the Minister say that this money will not be expended until authority is given by this House for the establishment of a permanent body.
– He has not said that.
– I understood the Minister to say that this money will remain in suspension untilsuch time as authority is given for the establishment of an Institute. When this machinery is in operation in all the States, it is the duty of Parliament to’ see that there is real co-ordination under one large scheme, and that work done by any academic bodies is practically tested in respect to both primary production and manufacture. Such an Institute should be in sufficiently close touch with the operations of manufacture to be able to gather all the necessary information. The work of co-ordination with the States should be undertaken before any Bill is brought before Parliament.
I know that we cannot discuss the Budget on the present occasion; but it is just as well to remember the great increase of general expenditure during the war. While we applaud the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) for cutting down the expenditure in various Departments, as indicated in the Budget speech, no one can say that that reduction goes far enough in this war period. We, as a Parliament, which is talking economy, should first set our own house in order, as an example to the people. So far as I can see, on looking at the general Estimates, the only drastic reductions are in connexion with new works, with the result that very important undertakings, which would be reproductive, and amply supply interest and sinking fund, have been put on one side, while, in the various administrative Departments there is not only no reduction but, in many, an increase. This is quite beyond my comprehension during this period of war. According to the Estimates, our works expenditure has dropped from £2,673,000 in 1914 to £454,000 in 1918. We all know that expenditure on the 1914” standard could not be continued under present circumstances,* and we are prepared to submit to great reductions in connexion with new works, and to lop off all expenditure not of a purely reproductive character. While the States are constructing railways out of money secured through the Commonwealth, in order to open up country and increase the production necessary for our present sustenance, and also for the demands after the war, we, as a Federal Parliament, are practically at a stand-still, so far as the extension of telephone works throughout the Commonwealth is concerned. We find that the expenditure on new works has dropped from £1,257,000 to £625,000, a reduction of more than one-half ; yet, in nearly every one of the administrative Departments, there is increased expenditure. In the Prime Minister’s Department, for instance, in 1914, the expenditure was £149,000, whereas now it is £204,000, notwithstanding the fact that the Treasurer has adopted a process of devolution, and delegated large expenditure to other Departments. It is a question whether the Prime Minister’s Department, which has reached such huge expenditure, is at all necessary within the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter now.
– I merely wish to show by illustration how the constituencies of country members suffer by the increased expenditure by administrative Departments, while the expenditure on absolutely necessary and reproductive works is reduced to vanishing point. The Prime Minister’s Department has been built up because of the various utilities that have been undertaken by the Commonwealth during the last two or three years.
– The honorable member cannot discuss that matter now.
– I am merely endeavouring, by illustration, to show how the country is suffering by reason of this curtailment of new works, in the face of increased expenditure in some of the administrative Departments. For instance, in the Treasury the expenditure has increased from £217,000 in 1914to £507,000 in 1918.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity later on to discuss these matters on the Estimates. If I permit him to continue on his presentlines, other honorable members will claim the same right.
– I have no desire to go into a full discussion of the expenditure of the administrative Departments; but it is only fair that I should be permitted to give two or three instances by way of illustrations.
– The honorable member would not be out of order in alluding to these matters, but he is now discussing them in detail.
– I only desire to mention one or two. The expenditure of the Department of Home and Territories has increased from £169,000 to £203,000 ; of Trade and Customs, from £551,000 to £711,000; and on the Northern Territory, from £417,000 to £436,000. The expenditure in these and in quite a number of other Departments clearly shows that those responsible have not a due appreciation of perspective, and have failed to apportion adequate amounts in directions likely to be of the greatest utility and benefit. I know that there are many works that might easily be postponed or cancelled. I have asked the Minister questions in regard to the cost of certain works at Canberra - the construction of a bridge and the running of a railway into the Capital City.
-That work was done some time ago. It is not provided for on these Estimates.
– I do not blame all the present Ministers for the huge increased expenditure, and I will not say that Ministers could not give satisfactory replies in regard to the expenditure on some items to which criticism might be directed. But to illustrate what has been taking place during the war period, I will quote the expenditure on the Federal Capital. The Public Works Committee investigated fully the lay-out of the Federal Capital site, the proposed creation of certain ornamental waters, and the construction of railways. The Committee reported against the making of lakes to conserve water for ornamental purposes for an indefinite period, probably twenty years, but no sooner was the report submitted than expenditure was illegallycommenced in constructing the banks for the ornamental waters.
– That is not being done now.
– I am merely illustrating how illegal expenditure is incurred, and how this Parliament has no opportunity of reviewing the disbursement of money drawn from the pockets of the taxpayers under different taxation Statutes.
– When was that work done ?
– Not during the last twelve months. After the fullest investigation the Public Works Committee recommended that a temporary railway should be built through the centre of the Capital only if the building operations were to be proceeded with. The stoppage of building operations rendered the railway absolutely unnecessary ; yet, notwithstanding that fact, and in defiance of the Public Works Committee, the Director of Construction and Design, acting under the authority of a former Minister for Home Affairs, has started the construction of a railway in accordance with his original plan. That expenditure is quite illegal.
– Is it continuing now?
– The sum of £5,000 is provided on these Estimates for the completion of the railway.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. Nothing like that sum will be required to complete the line.
– A further £5,000 is provided for preservative works. The Minister should obtain at once a report on the railway project in order to satisfy himself that it is not absolutely unnecessary.
– The work is practically finished.
– It is not quite completed, and it may be necessary to spend a little money on it to protect it from damage by floods. I thinkwe are entitled to hear from the Minister a statement as to what is to be the total expenditure in connexion with the Federal Capital, the nature of such expenditure, and the extent to which it is possible to still further reduce disbursements on unnecessary works.
– Only £5,000 is provided for preservative works, and of that sum £3,000 is to pay for a testing machine that was ordered several years ago.
– Something like £18,000 is provided for expenditure at the Federal” Capital during the next twelve months. I know that all the money is not for new works, but I contend that a large reduction of expenditure might be made if a thorough inquiry were made with a view to setting aside any work that is not necessary for the preservation of undertakings already commenced, many of which ought never to have been started, and will not be of any value for many years, even if the construction of the Capita] is proceeded with.
In regard to the Northern Territory, we should hear a statement as to the results of the boring operations, the quality of water that has beenstruck, and the value it is likely to be in the development of the country; also as to what extent the new railway that has been constructed is a paying proposition, and how much stock it has carried to the freezing works; and, generally, what progress is being made in the settlement of the Territory asthe result of our huge expenditure there. The same expenditure continues year after year without any definite policy that will place one additional person upon the land. There is no reasonable chance of any development of the agricultural or mineral resources of the Territory under existing circumstances; I have always held; that a huge expenditure on public works in the Territory will be necessary before there will be any inducementf or people to settle on the land.
– What sort of people ?
-They must be people from overseas. Australians will not leave the more favorable conditions in southern Australia in order to brave the discomforts of the tropical north. The development of that huge Territory is the biggest problem ever placed before any Parliament in the history of the British race, and we must do ourbest to solve it.
– The Administrator sends his own family south every year.
– I do not propose to discuss the White Australia policyat this stage. We have in the Territory an area of 520,000 square miles, and unless we can expend huge sums of money on a developmental policy all our administrative expenditure is wasted. When it is impossible for us, during the war, to expend money on a big public works policy that will result in settling people on the land and developing the mineral resources of the Territory, it is the duty of Parliament to reduce the administrative expenses to a minimum. But, instead of a reduction, we find that there has been an increase in administrative costs during the last three years.
I am sorry that the Estimates are before us in a piece-meal fashion. This Committee should have an opportunity to discuss the whole question of finance as disclosed in the Budget.
– The Committee will have that opportunity after this measure is dealt with.
– I know that, but at a time when we are spending between £80,000,000 and £90,000,000 in connexion with the war, and when the ordinary expenditure is increasing by leaps and bounds, the Committee should have an opportunity of discussing the whole matter of receipts and expenditure as detailed in the Budget speech, and we should also have an early opportunity of dealing with the ordinary Estimates, so that we might cut down certain forms of expenditure, in order to make money available for expenditure on new works that would encourage the opening up. of the country. In connexion with Australia House, for instance, we are asked to vote money for a building that has already cost something like £1,000,000, and requires a large annual expenditure for upkeep. At the same time, all the State Agencies-General are carrying on and expending money in the same lavish way as before the war. In connexion with Australia’s representation abroad, there is three or four times the expenditure that is necessary, and, notwithstanding that we are in the fifth year of war, no effort at curtailment has been made. I ask the Minister if it is. not possible for him to make a statement as to what negotiations have taken place between the Commonwealth and the States with a view to a reduction of expenditure in connexion with Australia’s representation abroad. The Commonwealth Government have had ample opportunity to bring pressure to bear on the various State Governments in order to bring about an amalgamation of the various departments of representation in London, and the housing of them all within the one building that has cost the Commonwealth so much money. We know the Commonwealth has advanced money to all but one of the State Governments for the carrying out of their public works policy; That arrangement should have been entered into cordially by every State Government ; unfortunately, the New South Wales Government rebelled.
– I may tell the honorable member that there are hardly any Australians employed in our agencies in London.
Mr. SAMPSON. I am surprised to hear that. During the war the Commonwealth has had ample opportunity to enter into negotiations with the State Governments to reduce the expenditure in London, and because of the financial stringency they could have brought pressure to bear on them in order to compel them to come to terms in regard to this very necessary reform.
The Committee is entitled to know in what respect and to what extent there is a duplication of Commonwealth and State services. We know that there is a duplication in the Taxation, Statistical and Electoral. Departments, and also in connexion with the Savings Bank. The Commonwealth and the States operaterival institutions; this means increased administrative expense and: a heavier burden on. the taxpayers. The war period has been the most opportune of all times in our history for compelling the States to come to terms with the Commonwealth in the interests of economy. I hope that the Minister will be able to enlighten the Committee to a greater extent than he has done so far in regard to these Estimates as to the extent to which there is duplication ofCommonwealth and State services, and the possibilities of a reduction of expenditure in the various administrative Departments and also as to a greater extension in country districts of interest-paying works.
. -If there is one thing more than another that the Committee should do during this strenuous time of war, it is to economize as much as possible. But as a Queensland’ representative, I object to the economy being exercised at the expense of Queensland, and for the benefit of Victoria and New South. Wales. I. suppose that the revenue of Queensland is not more than half that of Victoria, yet in these strenuous times expenditure in Victoria amounting to tens of thousands of pounds is proposed, whilst the expenditure in Queensland is to be reduced to £1,700. Is there any fairness in that? If there is to be economy, let it be applied all round, and I, asa Queensland member, will not complain. But I do complain when the Government cut off all our reproductive services. For years we have been promised telephone communication between Charleville and Brisbane. We were told that provision for it would appear in these Estimates, yet in themI do not find any reference to it. Charleville, which is in the south-west of Queensland, is an important centre for cattle sales. It is situated on the principal stock route from the Gulf country and the Peninsula to New South Wales and Victoria. The whole of the expenditure upon these Estimates for new works and buildings in Queensland amounts to £1,700.
– There is a sum of £4,630 for quarantine buildings and stations for Queensland and the Northern Territory.
– Most of it will be spent in the Northern Territory.
-For Postal buildings in Queensland the sum of £2,297 is provided.
– I was informed by the Postmaster-General that no provision had been made for new works.
– Nearly all the “works included in these Estimates are commitments from last year.
– I would like some information in regard to such items as “ Malvern Telephone Exchange (new service), £1,900,” and “ Construction of Parcels Post and Postal Sorting? and Postal Stores Building, Melbourne, £1,600.”
– The building of a new telephone exchange at Malvern was commenced during the last financial year. The contract price was for £4,658. The unexpended balance of £3,296 appears this year as a re-vote, and for a new service in connexion with that exchange £1,900 is required. The building is “almost completed. The other item of £1,600 is a re-vote to provide for expenditure on the parcels post building which was commenced last year.
– Will the Minister also explain the item “Extension and “altera-, tions to Melbourne General Post Office, £18,190,” including £15,791 under the heading of “ New Service “ ?
– In connexion with that item, there is a re-vote of £2,399, representing the unexpended balance of the preliminary amount authorized last year, and £15,791 is the amount which is necessary to complete the building.
– I am asking for information because when I get back to Queensland my constituents will ask me why so much money has been spent in Melbourne and Sydney, while Queensland cannot get the services it needs. There is another item of expenditure in Victoria, in which £21,170 is asked for the erection of a new building and the re-modelling of the old Parcels Post building for a telegraph operating room.
– That is a work which is essential for the. conduct of the Department.
– Is it essential in war time ?
– It must be carried on.
– The Treasurer has issued a warning to the people that they must not put up any buildings, or make anyadditions to buildings, without ‘his consent.
– Even State Governments are forbidden from carrying out works.
– I doubt whether the Commonwealth .has the power to enforce that prohibition against the State Governments.
– That is a matter for the State Governments to fight out. While the Treasurer issues this warning, the Commonwealth Government are prepared to spend £21,170 upon the erection of a new telegraph operating room In Melbourne. .1 do not think that is a fair pro.positon. The Government should economize all round.
Until the new building of the Institute of Science and Industry is erected, what do the Government propose to do with the staff? Last year we voted £6,000 for this Institute, and this year we are asked to vote £20,000 for it, when every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth is .as heavily taxed as possible, and in the face of the Treasurer’s declaration that the burden must be still further increased, the Government come down with a proposal for the creation of a new Department. They preach economy, and yet they throw their money about in this reckless manner. .The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) has referred to the growth of Departments. We have as many civil servants now as there areblowflies in the sheep of Queensland, and if we proceed with the establishment of a Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry, I suppose there will be moreexperts to deal with the blow-flies or cane beetles than there are blow-flies or cane beetles to be dealt with. If the Government will not take a pull, the House should compel them to do so. We all know that our Customs Houses are working at very low pressure; in fact, so far as some Queensland ports are concerned, at no pressure at all. Yet we still maintain the Customs staffs which” were necessary in busy times. Economy could be effected in that direction, and if the Public Service Commissioner will not do it the House should take the matter in hand. ‘
– You cannot get rid of a Government servant.
– I know that we cannot get rid of Government servants, but we can ref use to pass their salaries. In 1884, when Sir Thomas Mcllwraith was Premier of Queensland, he sent for the heads of the Departments, and told them what he- expected the revenue would yield, and asked them to cut down their expenditure in order to bring it below that figure. They spent a week upon the task, and returned to him with estimates of expenditure showing a reduction of some £8,000 or £9,000. He said to them, “ Has it taken you all that time to hatch out that much? I will show you what to do with it.” Thereupon he took his pen, and ran it through the items providing the salaries for the heads of the Departments. In this way he saved at least £80,000. When these gentlemen found that they were likely to lose their billets, they very soon came along with a supplementary recommendation acquiescing in what the Premier required. That is what this House should do with some of these Departments that are growing so quickly. How many times have we heard Ministers come down to the House in the earlier days of this Parliament saying that they desired the establishment of such and such a Department, which, they pointed out, would not cost more than £4,000 or £5,000 per annum.? In my foolishness I have acquiesced and agreed to vote the necessary money. But what did we find? For a Department requiring £5,000 in the first year, double that amount was required in the next year, treble the amount in the third year, and then eight times the amount in the fourth year. It will probably be found to require £500,000 at the present time. These Departments get what they ask for, and they are still growing. Surely the Government, instead of establishing an Institute of Science and Industry in war time, should practice a little of the economy that they are asking the public and the State Governments to observe. For many years past the Queensland Government have done good work in the direction of tackling the prickly pear and Texas fever problems. They have sent experts to America, and obtained all the information it was possible to gain. They are still battling against the ravages of the blow-fly pest, and I understand that in some of the districts it is being overcome. Why is it necessary in war time to duplicate the machinery already in existence? I suppose that the proposal will be to quadruple it in peace time. It is all very well to do this sort of thing if one has certain friends he wishes to put into good positions, but once a Department is established, there are sub-Departments created immediately, and they grow and grow.
I should like to know how many clerks, senior clerks, accountants, and other officers there are to be in the Bureau of Science and Industry. If the vote is increased from £6,000 to £20,000, they will all have a right royal time for the next twelve months. Officers have been peregrinating about Australia, but what they have done no one knows. A private employer who sends out a traveller on his business requires from him statements about what he is doing.
Mr.Rodgers. - We might as well have a full-dress debate on the Bureau of Science and Industry and the trade and commerce proposals.
– I hope that we may. The Bill providing for the Institute of Science and Industry is still before the Senate, and may remain there for a long time.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Government Departments should be run on business principles ?
– My experience is that a Government has no time for those who will run’ Departments economically and on business lines. A private employer offers his manager a bonus on the reduction of his working expenses without impairment of efficiency, but a Government does the reverse.It says to an officer, “ The bigger the staff you get together, the larger will be your screw.”
– The honorable member is a piece-work advocate.
– I would not accept day work if I could get piece-work; but if the piece-work system were applied to Government employment, there would be a great number of public servants out of work. “ I ask the Minister to ascertain why the same staff is being employed in Queensland . in the Customs Department how as was employed prior to the war. They are getting outsiders into the Bureau of Science. In Brisbane, they are tumbling over one another to get into these cosy berths, where they can sleep like a lizard in a log, coming out to sun themselves in fine weather. We shall hear of them only when they are drawing their screws. In Queensland - I speak of that State only - there is a duplication of machinery. Until recently there was a botanist from the Melbourne University there, Dr. Jean White, but she discontinued her investigations of the prickly-pear pest to get married.
The Governmenthas an opportunity now such asitnever had before, and will never have again. Under the War Precautions Act it can do anything that it likes. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) referred to the duplication of Commonwealth and State Departments. There is too much duplication. A great deal could be saved by amalgamating the Taxation Departments of the Commonwealth and the States.
– A million and ahalf.
– The Commonwealth Government should compel the State Governments to consent to the necessary amalgamations.
– It could do so only for the duration of the war.
– When the people saw howsatisfactory the arrangement was, they would not give it up. The Electoral Departments should be amalgamated, and so should many others. I am willing to give the Government every assistance in saving money, even though the State authorities may not always concur.
We are asking the people to economize , and we should set them an example. Instead of doing so, we are at present spending money wholesale. The sum of £16,000 is set down for erecting a new building and remodelling the old parcelpost building in Melbourne. Surely that work could wait until after the war. Then there is the new Postal Institute, for the opening of which the PostmasterGeneral composed a set of verses. They get all the good things in the cities; the people in the bush are treated very differently from the city populations. But whileI favour economy, I feel that reproductive expenditure mustnot be stopped, and that the public conveniences must be maintained. I have been told on reliable authority that in Queensland - and doubtless what happens there hap- pens in the other States, too - every trunk telephone line pays handsomely.
– Until recently the revenue from the country telephone lines was making good the deficiency on the city telephone lines.
– Yes; and on the SydneyMelbourne line. Economy should be carried out properly. The saving should not be all at the expense of those out back. The pastoral and agricultural interests are the backbone of our prosperity, yet when people in the country ask for postal and telephonic services they are met with ob stacles, although telephone extensions and the like are readily granted in the big cities, where the telephone is used as much for the discussion of social affairs as for the transaction of business. Those in the country deserve more consideration, and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), as a country representative, knows their needs, but he is the worst PostmasterGeneral that we have ever had.
– No; thebest.
– Mr. Sydney Smith was the best.
– He did more for us in the country in a few months than has been done by any other Postmaster-General. He was the first to introduce bush telephones and telephones on the condenser system.
– We shall all be in the city soon. None of us will be able to live in the country.
– The country will all go back to the blackfellows.
– The sooner the big pastoralists give up a lot of Queensland country, and let others come in, the better.
Mr.Falkiner. - Does thehonorable member wish to increasehis holding ?
– No. I have enough to satisfy me. I should like to see a few thousand more men with money come from Victoria. They are the men we want. Itis the Victorians who have made Queensland. They are doingwell there, but they have won what they have made, and I hope that more will come.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
. I cannottake advantage of this opportunity to make any general remarks; that will be possible on another occasion; but I wish to direct attention to an item which should be carefully scrutinized. It is that in which £3,000 is provided for the establishment and equipment of research divisions, laboratories, and experiment stations in connexion’ with the Institute of Science and Industry. This is a new item. It has not appeared in this particular form before; but last year there was expended a sum of £6,961 under the camouflage of” Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry, including expenses of AdvisoryCouncil pendingestablishment of permanent Institute.” In regard to salaries, contingencies, and other items, a sum of practically £7,000 was expended. Fortunately, this Advisory Council, which managed so successfully to- expend that sum of money, has furnished a report, and that report has indicated to all practical industrialists and to the business men of the. community that the money was absolutely thrown, away. I do not wish to make any personal reflection upon the University professors who are associated with the Advisory Council: They are all eminent academicians in their own particular sphere, but on the subject of practical, scientific research and assistance to industry they have failed.
– And always will.
– No doubt. That being so, when the. Government come down, with a. proposal that this AdvisoryCouncil shall be granted, this year £20,000 to continue a work which represents so much waste of money, I, for one, must strenuously oppose the granting of any such sum. The money could be expended to infinitely greater advantage in. other directions. I? the Institute of Science and’ Industry is established, I take it that the Advisory Council will be swept aside. The fact remains, however,, that we have on the general. Estimates an. item of £2.0,000 in respect of: the Advisory Council, and on these Estimates7 one of £3,000 for the Institute of- Science and Industry. We should have from theGovernment an assurance that if the Institute is established the item of £20,000 in respect of the Advisory Council will not be expended. If, on the other hand, the House, in its wisdom, does not see fit to pas3 the Bill providing for the establishment of the Institute, then the £3,000 that we are asked to vote here in respect of it should not be expended by the Advisory Council.
– If that Bill is not carried the proposed vote of £3,000 will lapse, so far as works and buildings are concerned.
– That is satisfactory. We shall have a complete opportunity to deal with the proposed vote of £20,000 for the Advisory Council.
– The Institute, when established, will take the place of the Advisory Council.
– It would not be reasonable at this stage to- discuss the establishment of the Institute; but if the Bill ‘ providing for it. can be. construed as: likely to bring about, a duplication of State efforts, it will meet with strenuous opposition.
– The honorable member will find that” it is on the lines of the Bureau of Agriculture Bill which he introduced in another place.
– In another place I’ cordially urged the necessity for establishing a bureau to effectively deal with industrial science. Having regard to the experience of the United States of America, and other nations, I am convinced that such an Institute, properly directed, would be of the utmost advantage. With scientific industrialists directing it the Institute could be made a source of great benefit to- the community. I hope the idea of the Government is that the Institute- shall coordinate the work of the various State scientific institutions. I strongly urge that the item which involved an expenditure of £7,000 by. the Advisory Council last year shall, m any circumstances, disappear from our Estimates.
– We must provide, for a. staff for the Institute.,
– I hope the Institute will be staffed by a different class of people.
– We must have an appropriation’ for salaries.. The proposed vote of £3.000 is for works and buildings.
– If. the item of £20,000 is to be applied to the purposes to which it was devoted by the Advisory Council last year r I shall strongly oppose it. I “shall object to any further waste of money.
.- It is not my intention; to repeat the arguments of honorable members- who have preceded me with regard to the proposed votes for new works and buildings. My complaint takes quite another form. I do not approve of a reduction in theamount of money being expended or preposed to be- expended on public works. It is unwise to economize in the expenditure of money providing for the employment of men, aud for the development of the country. The so-called economy proposed by the Government in connexion with, the Works . Estimates this year amounts to only £170,000. Last year,, although a sum of £1,257,000 was voted for new works and buildings, the actual expenditure amounted to only £625,000. The estimated expenditure this year is £454,951, which is about one-third of the estimate lor last year, and the difference between the estimated expenditure for this year and the actual expenditure for last year is, roughly, £170,000. I do not think it is wise economy. That economy is needed isfreely and frankly admitted. Economy, however, is required in respect not of those things which make for the employment of the people and the development of the country, but of Government luxuries that we can do without.
– What are they - works ?
– There are not many works that we can afford to do without. It would be unfortunate if we adopted the principle of economizing by stopping the work of the country.
There has been circulated to-day a new regulation under the War Precautions Act which provides that -
It shall not be lawful for any person, firm, company, society, club, association, or organization, or any Public Department of a State, orany authority constituted under the law of a State, to undertake, without the written consent of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, the construction or erection of any -
That is a very drastic regulation. It means that the Treasurer can veto building operations carried on throughout the Commonwealth, not only by the Federal Government, but by the States, as well as private individuals, municipalities, and associations. Even private individuals might be interf ered with in the erection of homes. We daily have evidence in the newspapers that building operations, particularly in the direction of private homes for the people, are very necessary.
– In what regulation is there any reference to the building of homes?
– I want a declaration from the Government as to whether or not this regulation would prevent the construction of homes. Building operations throughout Australia should not be interfered with unless there are very satisfactory reasons for doing so. At the present time such operations are being penalized to a very serious extent. No individual would readily undertake the expenditure of money on building at the present time, the cost of labour and material, particularly ironmongery, being very high. Here, however, is aregulation which practically puts a stop to building operations throughout Australia.
– The regulation does not include homes.
– It seems to prevent any person spending more than £250 on any building or alterations without the consent of the Treasurer. It is proposed to reduce the expenditure on works to the extent of £170,000 this year, and to prevent expenditure on building operations by private individuals; indeed, the Government are even proposing to interfere with the right of the States to carry out such works. That is economy of the wrong kind. In the Estimates are a number of items on which, I think, we can economize, and I hope to have the opportunity of showing where economy can be. exercised. There is no doubt that economy must be exercised, but my contention is that economy at the expense of the work of the country is false economy - that it will not help us to meet our obligations, but, rather, make us less able to carry on the affairs of the country.
Another complaint, already voiced in part by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), has particular reference to the Postal Department. Out of a total vote of £78,664 it is proposed to vote for postal buildings in New South Wales £22,598, and in Victoria £46,902.
– All in the cities !
– Nearly all in the cities. In Melbourne and Sydney there is to be expended £69,500 out of a total of £78,000. In Queensland the proposed expenditure is £2,297; South Australia, £697 ; Western Australia, £4,559 ; Tasmania, £1,270; and the Northern Territory, £341. Melbourne and Sydney are apportioned £69,500, while the rest of Australia gets £9,100. The comparison is worse still if we take into account new services. Out of £44,000 for new services,Victoria gets £34,000; New South Wales, £6,570 ; Queensland, £1,732; South Australia, £14-I do not know what South Australian members think of that; Western Australia, £535; and Tasmania, £1,195. It will be seen that Victoria is to get £34,000 out of a total of £44,000.
– Say Melbourne - not Victoria !
– I leave it to Victorian country members to point out the fact that Melbourne practically swallows the whole of the postal building vote;I am concerned about Queensland. We have been trying for this last ten years to obtain increased facilities at the postoffice in Brisbane. For years I have been trying to assist the representatives of Oxley, present and past, to secure a postoffice in South Brisbane, where it is urgently required. I have been interviewed on the subject, and have done my best to secure assistance in relation to country post-offices, which are a disgrace to the Commonwealth in some of the country parts of Queensland. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) knows how urgently post-offices are required in his district, and yet Queensland is to have only £1,200 out of £78,000.
– Where is the money to be spent - in Brisbane?
– Not a penny of the £l,200goes to Brisbane - it is a disgrace ! We used to be troubled in Queensland with what was called “ The Queen -street Ministry,” the interest of the members of the Ministry seeming to be centred on that thoroughfare in Brisbane.
The point I wish to emphasize is that Queensland, unfortunately, does not seem to have much influence in the Government. I am admitting that the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom), who is our sole representative in the Ministry, may do his best, and I give him credit to that extent; but this seems to be a Victorian Ministry, for Victoria, particularly Melbourne, apparently, has the “ pull.” What is at the back of my mind is that the influence of Sydney, and to a, much more marked extent, the influence of Melbourne, on the affairs of this Commonwealth, is increasing at an alarming rate.
– The honorable member is under a misconception.
– If there is one reason why we should get this Parliament out of Melbourne, it is that it may be removed from this influence, with benefit to the country as a whole. Queens.land and the other States will always be at a disadvantage so long as the Seat of Government is situated in Melbourne. New South Wales may be at a less disadvantage than other States, but it is at a disadvantage under the circumstances. The country districts of Australia will not get that consideration to which they are entitled in regard to buildings, or anything else, so long as the Parliament has Melbourne as its head-quarters, and the sooner we get to Canberra the better it will be for them.
– The honorable member asked the question whether the building regulation applied to the building of homes. It applies only to the classes of building specified in the regulation.
– I am glad to have that assurance. I was hopeful that this Government did not intend to stop building operations, especially so far as regards homes, because that would be most unfortunate at the present juncture.
In pursuance of my argument that it is false economy to cut down expenditure on buildings, I desire to refer to one item of expenditure out of loan.
– I am afraid I cannot answer any questions regarding that on these Estimates.
– I merely wish to make a passing reference. The item of expenditure to which I refer is that of the Acetate of Lime Factory at Bulimba. This is not in my electorate, so I am not looking at the matter from any personal point of view. I happen to know that, in the production of acetate of lime from molasses, there are various by-products of considerable value, particularly at the present time. I am not going to complain of the expenditure on the Factory; my complaint is that there is no intention disclosed to increase the expenditure so as to secure the advantage of these byproducts. Not many honorable members have had an opportunity to visit the Factory.
– I think you will find that the by-products are being utilized.
– I had the pleasure some time ago of visiting the Factory in company with some visitors from the south, and I listened with the greatest- of pleasure, and a bit of personal local pride, to the complimentary remarks made in regard to the quality of the brick and wood work. On another occasion, when “passing the Factory on a steamer in company with some other visitors from the south, I called their attention to the good work there displayed. I am certain that no more satisfactory job has been turned out by anyCommonwealth or State Public Works Department.
– How much did it cost over theestimate ?
-I cannot give any figures ; I should be very glad to know the facts. However, the brick and wood work is a credit to the Works and Railways Department. I do not know who the supervisor was.
I am told that one by-product that is escaping just now is alcohol, that would be eminently useful for power purposes. We are faced with the fact that power alcohol is increasingly in demand, and has, as a fact, revolutionized transportation, not only by road and river, but by rail and in the air. It will be seen that we have to develop our resources of power alcohol, and, asI have said, Iam informed that immense quantities are escaping at the present time from this Factory.
– Is the alcohol wasted?
– It was, some time ago. I am told that the expenditure necessary to effect the saving would be very light ; andif by some addition to the amount provided in the Estimates we can secure at least this one by-product, a very satisfactory advantage will have been gained.
– The alcohol can be obtained,but it cannot be denatured.
– The extraction of this alcohol, properly denaturedso as to make it useful for commercial purposes, opens up a field of exploitation of immense advantage to the Commonwealth.
Mr.Greene. - The matter is being very carefully investigated.
– I am very glad to know that. The manager (Mr. Brodribb) seems to have a very keen eye for the utilization of every part of the raw material,and if heis given a fair chance his expert and technical knowledge will enable him, with the assistance of the Government, to securefor us a number of articles of which we can make great use. But until provision is made for the extraction of them we shall be deprived of this advantage. I wish to impress upon the Government the necessity for paying attention to this matter.
Can the Minister advise the Committee as to whether any progress is being made with the establishment of cement works at Fairy Meadow? Some time ago the Public Works Committee reported favorably upon the proposal to construct at thai place a factory for the manufacture of cement for Commonwealth purposes. An area of about 56 acres was acquired, and an additional area of 250 acres was recommended for subsequent purchase. On the LoanEstimates appears an item of £8,138 forthe purchase of land at Fairy Meadow. I am aware that there is difficulty in getting machinery at the present time, especially the special class of machinery required for ‘the manufacturing process recommended for this factory. I do not know whether any further steps are being taken in this matter, whether the machinery is on order or whether the Government expect to place an order. But from what we know ofthe possibilitiesof the construction ofbuildings in reinforced concrete, the time is approaching when an immense quantity of cement will be required for future operations, and the Commonwealth can, by the erection of the cement factory at Fairy Meadow, secure to itself a very satisfactory and almost unlimited supply of cement for its own purposes, and at the same time save considerably on the present prices.
– The Government may have the same experience at Fairy Meadow as they had in regard to the shale deposits on which the brick kilns at Canberra were erected.
– If the brickmaking proposition had been referred to the Public Works Committee, we might have discovered the mistake before itwas too late. The Public Works Committee wassatisfied in regard to the lime deposits at Fairy Meadow, and I desire to know whether anything is being done or whether the project is in abeyance. If the work has been held up,I think it is regrettable,because it ought tobe proceeded with vigorously.
.- At the present time the Government cannot he too drastic in cutting down expenditure so long as the cutting down is done in the right places. To my mind it is most remarkable and regrettable that the Government seem to have applied their energies in that regard in quite the wrong way. I agree with the honorable members who have deprecated the swelling of our already numerous army of civil servants; indeed, if the increasecontinues at the present rate it will be difficult to find any adult member of the community who is not a civil servant.
– Does the honorable member advocate the wholesale dismissal of those men.?
– I do not advocate any such panic legislation or administration. We have no right to cut down the normal staff, but I do protest most vigorously against the creation of a new and altogether abnormal staff in the present circumstances of the country.
– Does not the honorable member realize that a large number of the increases have been absolutely necessary ?
– There is no doubt that certain increases are due to war activities, and are absolutely necessary. I have no objection to them.
– The honorable member must realize, also, that by reason of Arbitration Court decisions and ordinary increments which would not be stopped in any case, the amount we have to pay in salaries has been increased considerably since 1914.
– I quite realize those circumstances, but others have been created by the Ministry which, I think, run us into a very considerable amount of expenditure that could very well be obviated.However, the pointI rose to speak upon was the cutting down of expenditure that would show a profit. It is most remarkable that in instances where a profit could be shown the Government should refrain from spending money, and, indeed, take a course of action that ordinary common sense and business principles would show to be entirelywrong. I agree with the honorable members who have urged thenecessity for developing those services to the communitythat are especially included within the activities of the Postmaster -General’s Department. But whilst I agree that a considerable amount of attention should be given to the country districts, there is a great possibility of profitable expenditure, even within the cities. To mention one instance, the Commonwealth has been erecting a new General Post Office in the city of Perth. The building has been urgently required for many years, and is being rapidly brought to the stage at which it will be able to give effective service to the community. But the Government are stopping short of the completion of the building, and it is undoubtedly a mistake to do that when the officials of the Department have already shown that the further expenditure would be likely to return a profit. Two more stories must be added to complete the building.
– Are they included in the present contract?
– No, but it has been shown by the officers of the Department that the building of those extra stories would be a profitable investment for the Government.
– That idea is exploded now, because the State has refused to acquiesce in the proposal.
– There are other tenants who could have occupied . the space that would not be required immediately by the Commonwealth at quite as profitable a rent as would have been paid by the State Government.
– The honorable member does not advocate building for lettingpurposes.
– Not in ordinary circumstances; but on this building a temporaryroof will be placed, and all the buildingmaterial and conveniences at present there will be removed. In the course of a few years that roof will require to be taken off, and the two additional stories added. Surely the Department is adopting a most unbusiness-like attitude. I feel sure that if the expenditure that is required to complete the building were undertaken it would give a profitable return to the Commonwealth. . When one notices the many remarkable directions in which money is being lavished at the present time, I think the completion of a building which has been in hand for some years is a reasonable proposition in any circumstances; and it is especially reasonable in this case, because the proposition is one that would be financially profitable to the Government.
.- I do not propose to delay the Committee long, because we shall have an opportunity, when dealing with the Loan Estimates, to go more fully into the expenditure incurred by the Government on many projects. The items shown on the Estimates now before the Committee are fairly small, but some amounts are provided for naval works, the Federal Capital, and the Institute of Science and Industry. I do not object to the lastnamed project, because the reply given by the Minister to the (honorable, member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) is satisfactory to me. I hope that, when the Bill conies before the House, we shall have ample opportunity to discuss the project fully. It is well to try on every occasion to point out extravagances, in order that they may be obviated in the future. I have in my hands a photograph of some’ filling work that was done in connexion with one of the avenues at Canberra. I think that, when the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) was Minister for Home Affairs, he stopped that work, and only a small amount of money is provided on the Estimates now before us for preservativeworks in the district. I wish honorable members to realize, however, to what projects the country is being committed. This avenue is one of about a dozen to be constructed in connexion with the formation of the Capital city. The photograph shows an embankment about 25 feet high, and, although the avenue is only 40 feet wide at present, it is ultimately to be 200 feet wide, and, approximately, 1,000 feet long. Then, of course, the country on both sides must be filled up; in fact, mountains must be levelled down to fill up the valley.
– Does the honorable member propose to have that photograph put in Hansard?
– I do not think that the Minister will get the censor to work again, as happened in ‘the case of my speech of Friday last.
– “Was the honorable member’s speech ‘censored in Hansard?
– No; but it was m the press. However, I intend to persist in what I am saying, and I take this opportunity of pointing out the enormous expenditure that is ahead of us, and the necessity for the House exercising 1ihe greatest care before it passes Estimates which make provision for it. Two years ago, when the Public “Works Committee was investigating the proposal to build an Arsenal in the Federal Territory, the departmental engineers estimated’ that it would cost £25,000 to build a railway to the site. To-day the estimate for building that railway is £62,000.
– Is not the site different?
– If a man in business proposed to build a factory, and engaged an engineer to pick out a good site and estimate the cost of establishing railway communication with it, what would ike think of an engineer who, after first estimating that a railway to the site would cost £25,000, revised his figures two years later and said, “ We cannot build the railway from that spot; we must build one 4 or 5 miles further away “ ? Surely Government officials should work exactly as do men working for private individuals.
– Was the estimate of £25,000 for a railway to the Tuggeranong site?
– Yes ; but the engineers now find that, on account of the grades, the railway cannot follow the route upon which they submitted that estimate. They should have ascertained that before.
Something in the nature of an inspired paragraph appeared in the Argus on Tuesday in regard to the maintenance of work at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow. There is provision on these” Estimates for works in connexion with that Factory, and I wish to repeat what I said the other day in regard to what I can only term a scandal - the fact that after four years of war it is only within the last six or seven months that the establishment has produced the mark 7, Imperial service rifle, and has never produced a machine gun or a shell. However, we are not permitted to talk about these things. We should have an Arsenal capable of producing rifles and guns as well as private enterprise can turn them out, but the cry of secrecy is always raised when one endeavours to talk about these questionsThe ostensible object is to prevent knowledge of our operations reaching a foreign Power, but that foreign Power knows perfectly well what we are doing, and it is absurd to think that we can keep those operations secret. We are told that we are not to know the number of men who are employed, otherwise a foreign Power will know what we are doing. Of course, there may be certain processes and certain features about the work of an Arsenal that we ought to keep wholly to ourselves, but we should be informed as to the real facts concerning the output of an establishment such as the Small Arms Factory is. It will help people to realize that, so far, Australia has not done its duty in these matters. We have been promised time after time that a balance-sheet of the operations of the Small Arms Factory would be prepared to enable ‘ honorable members to ascertain whether decent work was being carried out in that establishment, but we cannot get the information. Is it due to the fact that officials in the Department cannot prepare one? According to the Budget papers, the expenditure on the Factory last year was £342,701. That is not capital expenditure. It merely represents the working expenses of the estatelishment. The receipts are put down at £309,000. I do not believe that 30,000 rifles were produced last year; but, assuming that number to be the output, it gives an average of about £10 per rifle, whereas when Parliament was first induced to agree to the building of the Factory, it was said that working under Australian conditions rifles could be produced for £3 9s. Id. each. From what I can gather, they cost anything from £11 to £13 per rifle in the first couple of years after the Factory commenced operations. I have been able to secure information that ‘has not been available to many other honorable members. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) were taken into my confidence, and helped me to approach the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). The result was that an inspector was sent to the Small Arms Factory, and there was a big improvement in the work turned out there; but it has to . be realized that the Minister for Defence, who appoints this inspector, also controls the Factory. I am sure that we would get far better work done and far better value for our money if similar establishments were removed from the control of the Minister for Defence. The Defence Department could give instructions as to the class of small arms or munitions it required, and the order could go to a Factory under the control of some other Minister. The trouble with the present system is that if an inspector begins to find fault with the management of a Factory or with the class of goods produced in the establishment, he is lodging complaints against the administration of his own Minister. The . Defence Department would be better served if the control of these, factories could be transferred to some other Minister.
We shall deal more fully with the work which is being carried out at the Naval’ Bases and at Cockatoo Island when we are discussing the loan Estimates, but the Minister should make inquiries into certain ‘ matters in connexion with these works. Altogether £720,000 has been spent on the Henderson Naval Base, including £120,000 for land purchase. Would the Minister for Defence, who has recently paid a visit to the Base, dare to defend the expenditure of £600,000 on the work which can be shown to have been carried out there? The Public Works Committee, which inquired into portion of the work at Cockburn Sound,- pointed out that the reclamation work, certain parts of which were simply a matter of blowing down limestone and sifting sand, was costing more per cubic yard than the Fremantle Harbor Works, under exactly the same day labour system, were paying, although they had to blast rock, dredge it, and dump it into the sea 4 miles out. The Public Works Committee recommended that unless the Government could employ large steam navvies in sufficientquantity - I think about a ‘dozen were required - the work ought to have been stopped.
– Those machines have been ordered, and some of them are now on the way from America.
– I am glad to hear it. The way in which work is being carried out is no credit to the departmental engineer. I have very high regard for Mr. Settle, who has recently been appointed to take charge of that work. He is keenly desirous of doing his work well and economically, but he cannot do it unless he is provided with the proper class of machinery. I suggest the stoppage of these works, more particularly when there are so many young fellows here who ought to be away. It would cause some of them to starve or clear out of the country. If the Government had adopted the policy that President Wilson pursued, many men like the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) would have had to do so. It would have been a good thing for Australia, and more to its honour.
– I am pleased to see one of President Wilson’s new converts.
– He converted me the moment he followed that policy after the war broke out, and I am sorry that the honorable member was not living in America at the time. I am sorry that our Government, instead of going to the country and asking for the power which they knew was absolutely essential for them to have for the sake of the honour of Australia, did not pursue the policy which President Wilson adopted.
I am very much afraid these extravagances to which I have drawn attention are likely to continue. According to the Budget statement, £1,122,000 has been spent on the Cockatoo Island dockyard. All this huge expenditure is proceeding year after year. The Public Accounts Committee has drawn attention to its extravagance. Later, another Committee reports, and this is what it said in regard to the cruiser Brisbane -
At the date of transfer of the Cockatoo Island establishment from the New South Wales Government, H.M.A.S. Brisbane was in course of construction, and it was stated that the sum of £30,000 had already been expended. Although the Brisbane was commissioned on 31st October, 1916, the accountant at the island has only within the last month been able to arrive at the approximate cost, which is now stated to be £746,459. Obviously this does not include the full cost of the ship to the Commonwealth, as no charge has been included either for depreciation of plant or for interest on capital. We have ascertained that a ship similarly fitted could, at thattime have been purchased from the Admiralty for £331,000.
The Brisbane has cost 100 per cent. more to build on Cockatoo Island than she could have been purchased for - that is, 100 per cent. more without any charge for interest or depreciation.
These matters will come up again for discussion on the Loan Estimates, and the Ministry should then be prepared to tell honorable members what reforms they propose. We should be given the absolute assurance that all Government trading concerns shall be debited withinterest on outlay, depreciation, and the other ordinary and proper over- head charges of such establishments, so that fair and equitable comparisons may be possible. However ugly the facts may be, we should know them. We should know exactly what it costs us to build our war-ships and to manufacture the various things that we are making. I hope that when the Loan proposals are before us the Government will submit a clear and definite scheme for dealing with our trading concerns, and that we shall be told what it is proposed to do with those who are responsible for the very serious losses that have occurred in the past.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £175,000.
.- Practically the whole amount set down for the Postmaster-General is to be spent on the extension of telegraphs and telephones. Has the Minister a statement of the works that are to be undertaken ?
– The amount now asked for is considerably less than has been voted in previous years - indeed, almost dangerously less. My commitments on contracts let last year for which, owing to delays caused by the war, we have been unable to get necessary material, amount to £190,000. Actually we are asking the Committee to do little more than to re-vote what was not spent last year. I view the future with a certain amount of fear. We may be able to carry on without giving; new services’,’ but our business is growing rapidly - last year the telephone business increased by 10 per cent. - and we may before long find ourselves against a dead end, and unable to meet the wants of the public. I hope, however, that the Treasurer may be able to help me when material is obtainable, and that I may be able to enter into contracts which will at least keep our services in decent order. At present we can do nothing more than maintenance work. I am determined that the services that we have shall be kept in decent order.
– You are getting £265,000 out of the Lean Fund for works.
– There is an amount for the Perth post-office and £220,000 for telephone conduits. The estimated cost of the Department for this financial year is something over £5,500,000, and its estimated revenue about £6,000,000.
– Does that include what will be received from the extra postage ?
– No. The extra postage that is to be charged as a war tax will not increase the revenue of my Department, although I shall” have the trouble of collection and accountancy. None of the extra postage on letters, newspapers, or packets will come to the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Of this proposed vote of £175,000, over £100,000 will be required in respect of the plant for the automatic exchange in Sydney, without which that great service cannot go on, and for the telephone exchange at Malvern. That being so, there is not much left for other works.
– Although a representative of a city constituency, I believe that the telephone facilities provided for country districts are not what they ought to be. Whenever I visit a country district I, in common with other representatives of city divisions, am charged with being unmindful of country interests. This complaint, however, is not well founded. City members are willing that the best possible telephone facilities should be provided for rural districts since the telephone is one of the absolute necessities of modern civilization. I appreciate the desire of the Postal Department that the telephone service should pay; but I fail to see why it should be expected to yield a profit. The provision of adequate telephone facilities in country districts is of greater concern than the making of a profit.
– Does the honorable member know that we are already bearing 60 per cent. of the loss on many country telephone lines?
– I believe that is so.
– Which pays the better - the country or the metropolitan service?
– The metropolitan service. It finds money to subsidize country services.
– I accept the PostmasterGeneral’s statement; but even a casual visitor to a country district will recognise that increased telephone facilities are necessary. Country residents are not allowed to provide a service which they think would be sufficient for their requirements; they must conform to a Departmental condition.
– But for those conditions lines might be erected which would not give the expected service-, and endless trouble would arise.
– While that may be so, country people would be satisfied with a service that did not come up to the maximum requirements of the Department. Newspapers voice the cry that we hear, in rural districts, that our public expenditure is, for the most part, for the benefit of city constituencies. The Postal Institute, which was opened yesterday, will undoubtedly improve the service, but in connexion with that and many other outlays, we are charged with catering for city requirements, and overlooking country wants. I should certainly like a better telephone service to be provided for country residents. I am well aware that the Postmaster-General, who is himself a representative of a rural division, has given this matter consideration; but I hope he will look into it further. Many city residents who complain of a slight increase in the telephone charges would be prepared to double the present rate rather than be deprived of the service, and if the telephone is absolutely necessary in the closely-populated metropolitan areas, how much more necessary must it be in scattered country districts? The telephone to-day in every country is an actual necessity of civilization, and I think the Postmaster-General, in the very near future, should ask the Treasurer to provide him with more money with which to extend the telephone service in country districts.
– The Treasurer is to blame for failing to give the Postmaster-General the money he wants.
– I admit it.
– The newspapers from time to time publish statements about the waste of public money here and there, and are pleased to refer to the present Administration as “a spendthrift Government.” They compare the expenditure over a period of two or three years, with the object of showing how greatly it has increased, but they do not show the increased services which the people have obtained as the result of this additional expenditure. The Government ought not to be afraid of newspaper attacks, but should push on boldly with country telephone extensions.
– Even if I had the money for such work I could not go on with it at present, since we cannot obtain the material.
– I hope that during the next twelve months the whole question of country telephone extensions will be carefully considered. My experience is that honorable members who represent city constituencies are not unmindful of the needs of country residents, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will see that in the near future there is a more liberal extension of the telephone service in country districts.
– There is a good deal of force in the views expressed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mt. Mathews), and there can be no doubt that greater consideration should be given to the requirements of rural districts. On every hand there is a demand for economy, and as a rule the general public are outdone in this cry by members of Parliament. Last year £399,000 was appropriated for “ telegraphs and telephones,” but the actual expenditure amounted to only £203,000, so that- the Department did not expend £196,000 out of the amount voted - for these services last year. This year the estimated expenditure is £175,000. Whether the Department intends to expend the whole of that amount I do not know, but I do not hesitate to assert that nine-tenths of it will be spent in Sydney and Melbourne. I am a thorough believer in the exercise of economy under existing conditions, but as the Minister has said, it would be obviously unwise not to go on with works already in hand. It is a curious fact, however, that the unfinished works to which this proposed vote relates are, for the most part, in progress in only two State capitals - Melbourne and Sydney. The unfinished works in the other capitals are apparently so small that practically no provision has to be made for them. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) has referred to the position of Queensland in this regard, and as a representative of a South Australian constituency I urge that if there is to be any more “ cutting down to the bone” it should be applied all round, and not to a few of the States. If we allow the bulk of this expenditure to take place in only two capital cities it will be a reflection on the representa- tives of other State capitals. I have not gone through the Loan Estimates, but I dare say we shall find that they, too, are loaded up with proposed votes for works in Sydney and Melbourne. It seems to me that even in time of war the policy of the Department is that if there is any money to spend it shall be devoted to works in the two capitals I have named, and that the rest of Australia may go hang.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence
Proposed vote, £78,786.
.- This item has apparently been considerably reduced from £190,000 last year to £78,000 odd this year, but a considerable portion of it has this year been transferred to Loan Fund. It must not be forgotten that a large sum was paid last year for the Cordite Factory in respect of reserve of cordite for small arms ammunition and for new equipment and materials for the Flying School, so that the saving may not be so great as appears. In the case of the Cordite Factory, the vote last year was £50,000, whereas this year it is only £20,000. In some cases of transfer to Loan Funds there are footnotes showing the page on which the transfer may be found, but in other eases no such information is given. In the case of £7,000 for “ additions and extensions to Cordite Factory,” a reference to the page in the Loan Estimates is given, but as to the reserve of cordite and the Flying School there is no such reference. If such information were given in all cases it would enable honorable members to see how much saving, if any, there is.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Navy.
Proposed vote, £35,300..
.- Honorable members will observe that in the t division we have just passed there are two items to be paid for this year out of Loan Funds, namely, machinery and plant for the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, £200,000, and wireless telegraphy, £30,500. At a time when we are piling up loans such a transfer is merely absurd, seeing that it is merely shifting the liability from one pocket to another. However, I understand that the vessels specified here - including a Customs motor launch for New South Wales, a wooden Customs launch for Queensland, a fumigatingbarge for the same’ State, a light-ship, and so forth - are real ships, and I use that term because people are beginning to talk about “ dream “ ships.
– There is another class - “ green “ ships.
– Yes, ships built of green timber that have to be caulked from stem to stern and from deck to keelson. I may mention that even lighthouses, in a future item, have been transferred to Loan .Funds, and this is just as absurd as in the other cases. This would, I think, be a fitting opportunity for the Minister to make a statement in regard to shipping.
Mr. POYNTON (Grey- Assistant Minister for the Navy [8.8]. - I understand the honorable member to be referring to what has been termed the new policy of mercantile shipbuilding. Honorable members are aware that contracts have been made for fifty ships altogether, or, to be accurate, _ fifty-one, for I have recently made arrangements for an additional vessel at Cockatoo Island. Of these vessels, twenty-seven are of steel and twenty-four are of wood. The steel ships are 5,500 tons dead-weight capacity, while the wooden ships are 2,300 tons, and some 2,600 tons. At present six of the steel ships are in course of construction, and one, the first, will be launched at Williamstown by, I think, the end of the year. We have a large quantity - several hundred tons - of the material already riveted, and a start will be made on the assembling of the second vessel almost immediately. At Walsh Island there are three steel vessels laid down, and the first of these will be launched about February next. At Cockatoo Island one of the vessels, a collier, will shortly be finished, and a mercantile ship will go on what is known as the Adelaide slip. There aTe now employed, directly and indirectly, on this shipbuilding some 1,200 men.
– That is a “ flea-bite.”
– I admit that the number of men employed is small compared with what there will be in the future. But we must remember that when the work was started on the mercantile ship, only forty men were employed, and that at least six months is occupied on the preliminary work, seeing that a ship has to be constructed practically in wood before a hole is drilled in the steel.
I am pleased to say that the results up to date, so far as the labour is concerned, are very satisfactory indeed. The only difficulty that we have, and it is in consequence of the war, is that we have to pay a very high price for steel. . In this connexion, however, we do suffer in comparison with the cost of steel in the Old Country. According to the last report of the Board of Trade, it is estimated that the price of rebuilding the ships after the war is over, to replace those lost through submarines, will cost £103,500,000 in the Old Country, on a basis of £29 per ton. I may say that I have let contracts here at prices which it may be interesting to compare with those placed in other parts of the world. Here there is an arrangement as between the three Government yards at Williamstown, Cockatoo, and Walsh Island that the price paid at all shall be that at Williamstown; that is to say, if the cost be £28, £29, ot £30 at Williamstown, that is the price paid at all the Government yards.
– Does that include interest and wear and tear to machinery?
– It includes everything. The manager at Williamstown is, in my opinion, an exceptionally capable man, and in a newspaper interview he stated that the work done at Williamstown, although it had to be started with raw hands - and even boilermakers have much to learn when they are first placed on the hulls of steel ships - is quite equal to that done at any yard in the Old Country or in the United States of America, under similar circumstances. The report of the Commission appointed by the English Board of Trade .shows that to make good the losses in mercantile steel shipping in the United Kingdom to the end of 1917, will cost £103,500,000. The total loss of the world’s shipping . was 13,000,000 tons deadweight. ‘ A certain amount of shipping has been constructed in the meantime; but, after giving credit for this, aud adding interned ships which are now in use by the Allied authorities, there is still a shortage of 5,500,000 tons. But that does not tell all the tale. Under ordinary circumstances, the normal increase of the world’s shipping construction is about 5 per cent. If there had been no war, and the shipping had increased at the normal rate, there would have been at the end Of 1915 27,000,000 tons; -at the end of 1916, 28,000,000 tons; and at the end of 1917, 29,000,000 tons. That is at the normal increase of 4 per cent. 1
– A lot of those ships would have been scrapped.
– The scrapping of obsolete vessels is allowed for. At the end of this year there would have been in existence, but for the submarine campaign and war influences generally, 31,000,000 tons. Instead, the total world shipping at the end of 1917 was -21,000,000 tons, showing a shortage of about 33 per cent. When I tell honorable members that the total British steam shipping at the same date was only about 11,000,000 tons, they can realize what the loss in tonnage has been.
In order that construction might be spread over all the States, and that as many keels as possible should be laid - because the output depends upon the number of slips in operation - I found it necessary to make contracts with private firms. Of course Government shipyards do not construct for profit, but private concerns must get a return for the capital they have invested. After a thorough investigation of the subject, and a consultation with the Acting Prime Minister, I came to the conclusion that we could not get private shipyards to undertake shipbuilding unless we made some arrangement as to the maximum profit they should derive. Finally, it was suggested that they should receive 1 per cent, on the turnover. But the trouble I apprehended was that the higher the cost of the ship the more profit the builder would derive, and in that way there would be an incentive to increase rather than keep down the cost of construction. After some difficulty I arranged a scale of payments which has the very opposite effect, and it applies to the two big firms which have undertaken the construction of eight steel ships. The scale of profit starts on a basis of £26 per ton. If a ship is turned out at that price, the builder will make a profit of £13,000, or a little over 1 per cent., and the ship will cost the
Commonwealth £156,000.. As the ‘cost per ton increases the profit decreases, until on a ship which cost the maximum -of £33 per ton - and all constructing costs are subject to inspection by the departmental officers - the builder will receive no profit at all. I claim that this scheme will have a tendency to speed up construction whilst keeping costs down to a minimum. Honorable members may be curious as to how our maximum cost of £33 per ton for privately constructed ships compares with American prices. Prior to entering into this agreement, I cabled to America for information as to the rates paid there for a similar class of construction, and the reply was $190 to $200, or £38 to £40 per ton. I assume that that is the average price. British estimates of costs in connexion with the restoration of British tonnage to the pre-war standard are based on an average cost of £29 per ton.
– How do the costs of raw material compare?
– Of course the cost of raw material in England is much higher than it was before the war, but not nearly as high as it is in Australia. Steel plates in England cost £11 10s. per ton, as against £30 in Australia. Steel sheets in England cost £16 5s. peT ton, as against £49 10s. and £54 10s. in Australia. The advance in the price in England is largely due to the increased cost of labour.
One of the most pleasing features in connexion with the shipbuilding scheme is the interest that the workmen are taking in it. It is true that one organization, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, has refused to enter into agreement with the Commonwealth, but there are thirtyone organizations connected with the scheme, and nearly all the men are on piece-work. Honorable members may see at Williamstown what is being done by the men on the piece-work system. Mr. Curchin assured me to-day that the cost of labour is very satisfactory; his only complaint is of having to pav £30 per ton for steel plates. Of course, we cannot avoid that, because, even if we attempted to get the steel from England and shipping were available, it would cost us more than £30 per ton landed here. We would have been further ahead with our construction if we could have obtained the steel ordered from America for the first six ships. We had great difficulty in getting supplies there, and, unfortunately, owing to some bungling in the United States of America, the material that was required for later stages of construction was shipped first, and that required for the early stages of construction was delayed. Of course, we have not lost time in assembling the parts, but we have not been able to go straight ahead with our construction. Up to date, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has been able to roll all thicknesses of plates we require down to § inch. Since I have been in charge of the shipbuilding scheme the company has installed a new plant at a cost of about £50,000, and Mr. Delprat informed me by letter last week that the company is now in a position to roll plates of all thicknesses from ¼ inch upwards. For the future we shall have no doubt about being able to get all our supplies of steel from the works at Newcastle. All structural steel, such as ribs and angles, is being obtained from Newcastle now.
– Surely the company will supply the steel at cheaper rates later.
– I do not know what the company will do later. Only this afternoon I decided to ask the company to reduce the present margin of profit; but I do not know what the answer will be.
– Apparently, we are turning out ships at the same price per ton as they are costing in England, notwithstanding that the price of raw material in Australia is double.
– The costs I have mentioned relate to dead-weight tonnage. There is about 1,000 tons of steel plates and roughly 600 tons of other structural steel in the vessel being built, with a deadweight carrying capacity of 5,500 tons.
-Taking the cost of ships in Australia, and comparing our price of raw material with that obtaining in Great Britain, it would appear that the Broken Hill Proprietary are charging an extortionate price. Is it not possible to have that price brought down, seeing that the Commonwealth Government are the only purchasers?
– I have already explained that they are charging a very high price, and I am arranging to interview the Broken Hill Proprietary people in order to see whether we cannot get a reduction. It must be realized that there is only one steel works turning out this class of steel.
– But there is only one customer for that steel.
– A little later on I hope to give the House further particulars, but I can say that everything is proceeding very satisfactorily in regard to steel ship construction and in relation also to three firms which are building wooden vessels. I believe that we can show a record that will be quite as creditable as that of any other country in regard to shipbuilding.
– The Minister’s statement is the most satisfactory that we have had upon this subject, and perhaps the most pleasing feature is the fact that obvious efforts are being made to have these ships built in Australia, of Australian materials, and by Australian workmen. That policy should commend itself to every party in Parliament. Many of the supplementary parts required in vessels - compasses, binoculars, and scientific instruments- are not immediately available in Australia, but if sufficient inducement is given they can be manufactured here.
– They can be manufactured in Brisbane.
-A firm in Brisbane was the first to manufacture prismatic compasses in Australia for the use of the military, and I am glad to say that a little consideration was freely extended to it by the military authorities, with the result that it proved that it could manufacture an article superior to that which had been previously imported for the use of the Defence Department, I have the testimony of the military authorities as to the absolute reliability and suitability of the compasses manufactured by this firm. I know that the same people have made an offer to the Ship Construction Department to tender for’ the supply of all the scientific instruments required. Unfortunately, the Controller was in such a hurry to secure the articles that he could not afford to give the firm time to enable it to arrange its plant and secure supplies of material. I would like the Minister to see whetherhe cannot look far enough ahead to give firms in Australia an opportunity of supplying these articles. I presume that there are other people who would take the matter up if the opportunity offered.
– Hear, hear ! They have made similar representations to the Department.
– If these people can manufacture the articles at a price they can secure the opportunity of doing so. I showed the papers to the honorable member for Moreton last week. They were asking very high prices.
– They may do in the early stages, but until they get their plant going and discover their actual working costs, they can hardly give a safe tender.
– They lost on their first contract.
– I merely ask for the Minister’s favorable and sympathetic consideration of this request.
– I shall give it.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Mr. Poynton do prepare and bring in a Billto carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, and passed through all stages.
Mr. WATT (Balaclava- Treasurer and
Acting Prime Minister). - (By leave) - The forecast I gave last night of the subscription to the Seventh War Loan is approximately correct. In round figures £37,000,000 has been contributed, which is £3,000,000 short of the requirements. From many points of view this substantial yield is very gratifying, and the Government recognises that this result has been largely due to the splendid services of the organizing committees in every State and the banks. After consultation with officers of the Treasury and the Commonwealth Bank, I have decided to keep the War Loan open until Monday, the 28th October. This will give the District Committees an opportunity of completing their quotas, in cases where they have not already been reached. It will enable trustees and others similarly situated to make their financial arrangements, as in some cases the time has proved too short. It will also give a brief final chance to citizens to study the compulsory Bill and its effect upon their individual cases. If after this further opportunity the Government finds it necessary to apply compulsion to this loan, I now wish the people to understand that it will be directed, in the first place, against those who have not contributed to war loans past or present, and in the second place to those who have not contributed proportionately to their means.
Motion (byMr. Watt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Post and TelegraphRates Act 1902-1913.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– (By leave)-I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure embodies one of the methods proposed to make ends meet during this financial year, namely, by the imposition of increased postal rates. The proposal is to charge the following sums in addition to the postage now existing : -
Newspapers posted (without condition as to the number contained in each addressed wrapper) by registered newspaper proprietors, or by newsvendors, or returned by an agent or newsvendor to the publishing office,½d. per 20 ounces on the aggregate weight of newspapers so posted by any one person at any one time.
Other newspapers,½d. per newspaper.
Letters,½d. per letter.
Letter cards, single,½d. each; reply,½d. each half.
Post cards, single,½d. each; reply,½d. each half.
Packets, as prescribed, consisting of any of the other postal articles specified in the first column of part II. of this schedule, id. per packet.
The Bill deals only with articles posted within the Commonwealth for delivery therein. It is not intended to increase similarly the charges for the carriage of articles oversea, because the GovernorGeneral in Council already has authority to impose extra rates for such deliveries, and this will be done by Order in Council instead of by Statute. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department estimates that the proposed rates will bring in an additional annual revenue of £790,000, after allowing for the decrease in the number of articles carried that will occur as the result of the increase in charges. As the additional revenue can be collected for only about eight months of the present financial year, the amount expected to be received by the 30th June next is £516,000.
Postage is usually regarded as a legitimate source from which to obtain increased revenue in times of stress. This is shown in the fact that in very many countries postage rates have been substantially increased during this present war, notably in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and India. I propose to furnish to honorable members at a later stage a list of the other countries of the world in which increases have been made. In the United States of America postal charges have recently been substantially increased, and in France legislative authority has been given for similar increases.
– Will the revenue received from the increased rates go into the ConsolidatedRevenue of the other countries you have mentioned?
– It will in some cases; I cannot speak of all. In view of the necessity for obtaining additional revenue, the Government think that there should be no objection to the proposals now made, seeing that the money will be drawn more or less from all classes of the community.
There will be no special war stamp, such as was originally contemplated. We find that we can effect our purpose without one, and without adding to the inconvenience of the public.
I feel that the people of Australia, in view of our huge and increasing obligations, will cheerfully accept the extra impost that we are forced to place on them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Limitation of Debate
Debate resumed from 9th October (vide page 6753), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That notwithstanding any provisions in the Standing Orders to the contrary, there be forthwith adopted the following Standing Order, namely: - 262a. (I.) On the reading of a message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation in connexion with any Bill, on the calling on of a motion for leave to introduce a Bill, or on the consideration of any resolution preliminary to the introduction of a Bill, or at any stage of a Bill, a member of the Government may declare that the Bill is an Urgent Bill, and, on such declaration, the question “ That the Bill be considered an Urgent Bill “ shall be put forthwith - no debate or amendment being allowed - and on such motion being agreed to without dissentient voice, or being carried by an affirmative vote of not less than twenty-four members, a member of the Government may forthwith, or at any time during any sitting of the House or Committee; but not so as to interrupt a member who is addressing the House or Committee, move a further motion or motions specifying the time which (exclusive of any adjournment or suspension of sitting) shall be allotted to all or any of the following:: -
Upon which Mr. Kelly had moved -
That after the word “adopted,” line 3, the words “for the duration of. the war” be inserted.
.-I do not propose to debate the motion at any length. In my opinion, the Government is making a mistake in proposing it, because there is no need for curtailing members’ speeches. Ministers may plead that they are busily occupied with war work, but it must be remembered that every Minister has handed over a great part of his duties to Committees and Boards of various kinds. We were told, when this Ministry was formed, that we were to have a return to responsible government, but no Ministry has exercised less responsibility than this. No Ministry has had the assistance of so many persons in various walks of life outside Parliament; estimable men, of wide experience, but men absolutely without responsibility to the electors. Ministers cannot plead that they have little time for atten-tion to parliamentary duties. Take the question of wool tops, which- the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) says is burnt into his brain. It has been handed to Sir J ohn Higgins and the Central Wool Committee. So with a hundred other governmental activities. Ministers could meet Parliament during several additional months’ of the year, and provide opportunity for the discussion of their various measures. Their proposal is calculated to drive us to the press for the discussion of public affairs, which will mean that Parliament will lose its standing, and the country will be governed by the newspapers issued from the offices in Collins-street, Melbourne; King and Hunter streets,’ Sydney; and the other cities of the Commonwealth.
– Will our “ screws “ cease then?
– Probably not, until par- .liamentary institutions have come to be deemed by the public at large,, as they are now by a section of it, a mere excrescence. Many persons think that Parliament has outlived its usefulness. Members like the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) are By their Conservatism increasing in the community what is known as the Industrial Workers of the World element. Parliament is passing nothing in the way of democratic legislation; it is adopting the habits and cus- toms of tyrants. Why should we not meet during four or five months of the year to discuss the measures of the Government? At the present time legislation is too hurried. A little while ago the Ministry introduced a Bill to impose a tax on eligibles. It was driven through the House, members not being allowed to discuss it freely. Had a full discussion been allowed, probably the Government would not have proceeded with the Bill. As it was, it became law, but has never been put into operation. Then, when the Loan Bill was before us, and the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) proposed that the Government be instructed to issue no more loans with interest free of taxation, the “ gag “ was moved after the proposal had been under discussion for about an hour, and the Government proposal was carried. A few months later the Government adopted the suggestion of the honorable member, and now the interest paid on war loans is subject to income tax. The Government may pass this motion, and they may or may not put into operation the proposed new standing order. Iam inclined to think that the guillotine will operate before the session closes. If it does, we shall have a great deal of slip-shod legislation, which either will not be put into operation or will have to be repealed by subsequent Parliaments. I protest against what is being done. The passing of this motion will be one of the things for which the public will punish the Ministry at the next elections.
.- I enter my protest against the proposed standing order. Before proposing the drastic curtailment of debate, Ministers should show that members are abusing their freedom of speech. It is for the other side to prove that the tactics of the Opposition are preventing the passing of legislation and the transaction of the business of the country. That has not been done. No reasons have been given in support of the proposal.
– They are too obvious.
– Let the honorable member tell the House what piece of legislation has been delayed by the Opposition, or what Estimates this party has blocked. He cannot show any.If he could, it would be a reflection on the Government, because it has a majority with which it can do what it chooses. The Standing Orders empower the Government to deal with tactics that are not reasonable and fair. Were I to exceed my rights I should be dealt with under the Standing Orders. Ministers have at their command a majority sufficiently large to enable them to carry their wishes into effect.
– That is not the way we govern.
– What is proposed is ten times worse than what is already in existence. Under the new standing order it can be determined by a vote of the House how many members shall be allowed to speak on a question, and how much time shall be allowed for the discussion of any measure. All that will be necessary will be to declare the business urgent, whether it be a Bill or a set of Estimates. The time that shall be allotted for the discussion of a proposal is to be fixed, and thus members are to be prevented from giving expression to the views of those who sent them here. I warn Ministers not to go too far. Proposals like this may have a boomerang effect. The time may not be far distant when “those now in office may be no longer enjoying their snug positions. The whirligig of time may place some other party on the Treasury bench. What will honorable members opposite say then if this standing order is applied to them? The proposed standing order directly restricts the freedom of debate, and makes Parliament a mere machine for churning out legislation. The last speaker referred to the measure for the taxing of the single eligible men of Australia, which was rushed through this House despite the protests of the Opposition. Had it been given the consideration it deserved, it would not have been passed ; and the result to-day is that the Government are afraid to put it into operation. They are going to repeal it.
– They are not.
– First they say they will, and then they say they will not. At all events, it was placed upon the statute-book by the Government, backed up by the majority, and yet the Government are afraid to-day to put it into operation. One never knows what may happen in regard to legislation proposed by the Ministry. We have on the businesspaper Bills that must seriously affect the financial position of Australia
Are they to he rushed through without adequate discussion? Is legislation to be carried without reasonable debate merely because it is declared by the Government and their supporters to be of an urgent character? Only two or three members of the Opposition will be allowed to speak on any measure declared to be of an urgent character. Surely we ought not to legislate in such a way for a country that is passing through a time of crisis. We should carefully consider all the business put before us- We have confronting us to-day the most serious problems. If we are to have this limitation placed upon the discussion of measures in this House, how are we to properly consider the great after-war problems with which we shall have to deal ? How can we hope, for instance, to deal adequately with the great question of Australia’s trade relations with other countries, which must receive our attention as soon as the war is over? Are such questions to be disposed of after a discussion extending over a few minutes? I am convinced that if the Government and their supporters were to give serious consideration to this standing order, they would recognise the danger of it, to not only the Parliament, but the people. I urge the Government, in the interests of the Commonwealth, to withdraw the motion, since the existing Standing Orders are quite ample to provide for the proper conduct of business in this Chamber.
.- There is an old adage that “desperate diseases require desperate remedies.” I have no hesitation’ in saying that this is a most desperate remedy, and that we have a right to ask ourselves whether the disease to which it is to be applied is so desperate as to call for it. My own personal experience in this House satisfies me that there is no necessity for such a standing order. Under it, it will be possible for a majority of the House to decide that a Bill is urgent, whereupon it may be rushed through with less debate than takes place in connexion with measures of perhaps less importance. My experience of this House is short, “but I have given close attention to the measures which have been put before us since I was returned to Parliament, and it seems to me that the great defect of this proposal is that it will lead to questions of special importance receiving less attention than is given to measures of minor significance.
– The Government have the “ gag.””
– We do not use the “gag.”
– The late Lord Forrest moved the application of the “gag” early in the life of the present Parliament.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) chooses to describe as the “ gag “ what is known as the motion that “.the question be now put.” I heard that motion moved three times in one evening, and if ever in the history of parliamentary debate it ‘ was appropriately moved it was on that occasion. The Government have power to bring a debate to a speedy conclusion by moving “ That the question be now put,” and I think that is quite sufficient without the introduction of this new standing order. .Honorable members at the present time are allowed to make two speeches each extending over half-an-hour cm any question in Committee, and one speech of an hour and thirty-five minutes’ duration on a motion for the second reading of a Bill. I have listened to several speeches extending over an hour and thirty minutes, and I think’ the Government would do well to curtail such lengthy addresses.
– That is what they are proposing to ‘ do by means of this standing order.
– Not at all. The present proposal is to limit the time that may be devoted to. the discussion of a Bill, which is altogether different from a proposal to limit the duration of speeches. I should have no objection to every honorable member speaking to questions of the utmost importance that we may have to discuss in the near future. I should like to hear Ministers discuss them.
– And discuss the PostmasterGeneral’s poetry?
– The Postmaster-General is a good man.
– He is, and I do not wish to be drawn aside by utterly irrelevant remarks traducing’ the political character, of one of the best men in this Parliament. I have only to say that I shall vote against this standing order, firstly, on the ground that no necessity has been shown for its introduction at the present time, and, secondly, because, if it is necessary to curtail the length of our debates, this standing order will not provide the best means of doing so.
.- I spoke against the motion submitted by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), and I am also opposed to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly), which provides that the proposed standing order shall be only for the duration of the war. It seems to me that some of the acts of the Ministryduring the progress of the war will require more discussion than will some of their acts after the war is over. This is an entirely wrong proposition. No necessity has been shown for the passingof such a standing order. What is the history of this Parliament in respect of last week? Any one member of the Opposition could have prevented the Treasurer from making his statement on the Compulsory War Loan Bill on the day on which he obtained leave to introduce the Bill, but no one raised any objection to his doing so. Then again, the Bill to amend the Entertainments Tax - one of the most monstrous taxes ever proposed in any Parliament, placing as it does a heavy impost on the poorest section of the community - was also dealt with last week. After it had been disposed of, the Acting Prime Minister, at about 9.40 p.m. on Thursday, brought down a Supply Bill providing for an expenditure of £4,500,000, and suggested that it should be passed that night, and that the Works and Buildings Estimates, so far as works out of revenue were concerned, should be disposed of before we rose on the Friday. After some discussion it was agreed that we should’ take the Supply Bill only on the following day. No honorable members on this side “ stone- walled.” If there was any “ stone-walling “ it was on the Government side, and by Ministers themselves, who hung up their own Estimates. With the dozen or fourteen members of the Opposition who were left here after the Inter-State trains had left, there was ample opportunity, had we so desired, to indulge in “stone-walling”; but there is not one ofus but has assisted the Government to carry on the work of Parliament. This motion, if carried, will not have the effect intended, but most likely quite the opposite effect. The Government’ have not yet announced whether they ‘intend to accept the amendment, but even if they do accept it my opposition to it remains the same. We need at least the time allowed us by the existing Standing Orders to discuss the questions that come before us. The hon orable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is quite correct when he says that honorable members have not availed themselves of the full time allowed at present, and the Government would be well advised to postpone the motion. If debate proves too prolonged, the Government can exercise the powers of closure they now possess, and there is no necessity for either the motion or the amendment.
.- No doubt a great deal of time is wasted in this House.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - The honorable member must not reflect on the House.
– I am opposed to both the original motion and the amendment. Representatives who are sent here by constituencies are entitled to air their views in the chamber, and not in the party rooms. Last session we passed the War-time Profits Bill, although we had no proper opportunities to consider its provisions. From time to time the discussion of it was dropped in order to pass’ other measures, and so provide work for another place, and as we never knew when it would come on for discussion the result was an ill-digested measure. There was one clause dealing with the definition of “ capital “ which was most wrong and harmful.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that measure.
– It was a hasty and ill-advised measure, and this session it is necessary for the Government to amend it. The Bill to impose a bachelor tax provides another instance, and a third result of an absence of full, free discus- ‘ sion was the decision with regard to interest on war loans - a most silly proposal.
– I would remind honorable members that they must not go into matters outside the scope of the motion. An, honorable! member may mention Bills, but to discuss the merits of them is absolutely out of order.
– It is hard not to be able to mention the reasons for one’s opposition to the proposal before us.
– Those Bills have nothing to do with the motion. Such a proposal as is now before us was not in operation, and the closure was not used in connexion with those measures.
– The honorable member may be quite right, but we all know those measures were rushed through. If I cannot state the reasons which influence my vote on the present occasion I shall simply say that I am opposed to both the motion and the amendment.
.- Like my leader (Mr. Tudor), I am going to vote against the amendment. If ever there is a period when members of Parliament should have full opportunity to express their views it is during the period of the war, when necessarily there is legislation quite new to both Parliament and to the country. I am sure that Mr. Speaker, if he had the opportunity, would say that he has had no trouble so far as honorable members on this side are concerned ; at any rate, not a member has been removed from the chamber since the war began. In Great Britain-
– I rise to a point of order. Is not the honorable member “ off thetrack,” too?
– I am listening to the honorable member who is addressing the House, and if he transgresses I shall call him to order.
– In the British Parliament some of . the members have used very strong language, and, in certain instances, have been removed ; but that, as I say, has not occurred in this Parliament. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) remarked that most of the matters that come under our consideration are very serious, and that is quite true. For instance, there are the taxation proposals; and out of regard for those whom one honorable member has described as the “ victims,” these proposals ought to be discussed fully and freely. There are great differences of opinion as to war taxation, even between city constituencies and country constituencies.
– The honorable member will not be in order in going into that subject; the question before us is simply the question of the duration of the proposed standing order.
– This is such a tyrannical proposal that it is very difficult for a man of liberal views to keep within bounds; indeed, it makes him question whether he is really in a Parliament. If the Government desire to keep this House in such a temper as to prove of assistance in the work of legislation, they ought not, especially during war time, to attempt to persecute honorable members in this way. As has already been pointed out, there is no justification for such a proposal; no concrete case has been cited showing any necessity for it. A Parliament of men should have sufficient spirit to resist the temptation to smother discussion on questions of great importance to the people. Are we a Parliament of pigmies, or what are we ? If we are men, we ought to have sufficient Backbone to resist tyranny of this sort I cannot think that after this debate honorable members opposite can seriously agree with this motion - this unwarrantable proposal. When the present occupants of the Government benches were in Opposition, their utterances against the Government of the day were almost intolerable, under circumstances less serious than those of the present time. If I were asked for a good electioneering cry for honorable members on this side, I could suggest nothing better than that the Government should introduce a motion of this kind during war time, for nothing Would appeal more to the people than an attempt on the part of the Government to bludgeon those who differ from them. In all my experience of Parliament I have never known an Opposition more anxious than the present one to assist the Government, and a motionof this kind is a stigma on the Parliaments of Australia. It will go forth to. the world that this Parliament is prepared to smother freedom of speech on the part of the people’s representatives. What are the Government measures which come before us ? When they are introduced they are so many pieces of paper, the meaning of which the Government themselves hardly know, and it is not until they have been criticised by the Opposition that the possibility is presented of passing measures that may be of some use to the people. When the Leader of the Opposition rises in the Imperial Parliament, the Government are anxious to know what the members on the front Opposition bench think of the proposal before the House, and until the view of the Opposition is obtained no measure is regarded as having a possibility of becoming law. That is the quintessence of legislation by Parliament. Although honorable members on the Government side considerably outnumber the Opposition in this House the votes cast for the Government at the last election -were only a few thousand in excess of those cast for the Opposition. Why, therefore, should the voices of hon- orable members on this side be stifled every time our views offend the susceptibilities of the Government? There must be some . ulterior motive behind this motion. The Government do not desire common sense and reason to reign supreme; and they are afraid that by our criticism their measures may be made to appear ridiculous. No other construction can be placed upon this drastic, uncalledfor, and unnecessary standing- order. The purpose of our Standing Orders is to give every honorable member the same privilege and the same opportunity of expressing his opinion on all questions that come before the House. The proposed standing order aims at defeating that purpose, and I hope that the supporters of the Government will never allow it to come into operation. When the people have an opportunity of knowing what, the Government have proposed, they will call the National party to account. Political history in Australia has shown that when any Government become tyrannical, and deprive those sitting in Opposition of their privileges, the people visit upon them the punishment they deserve. Disraeli at one time refered to “ Her Majesty’s Opposition.” We are His Majesty’s Opposition, and as such are part and parcel of this Parliament. It is absurd to propose that three members on each side of the House shall be allowed to speak for only ten minutes each on a matter of grave importance affecting, for instance, the taxation of the country. When the Labour party first entered this Parliament, the annual expenditure did not total more than £10,000,000 or £12,000,000. To-day the ordinary Estimates total £30,000,000, and we are spending huge sums of loan money in addition. If.,- when any measure is brought forward, the explanation of it does not satisfy honorable members, they are entitled to criticise the proposal and ask for fuller information. Why should the people be asked to obey a law that may not represent the will and intelligence of Parliament? It has been laid down in the British Parliament that ‘ Liberal laws the people obey ; laws that are tyrannical the people will not obey.” As long as I have breath in my body I shall oppose any proposal that will deprive the representatives of the people of their right to express their opinions in
Parliament. What will Parliament be if we cannot do that? The hostility of some honorable members on the Government side towards honorable members on this side would lead them to adopt any extreme measures. Last week two honorable members on the Government side were in such a temper because we, who were formerly their colleagues, asked questions which they did not like, that they could hardly speak. I feel ashamed that there are men in this Parliament who would support a motion of this kind during war time. If the Government are not entirely bereft of reason -they will see that there is no necessity for this motion, and will undertake that nothing is done to deprive the representatives of the people of their right to express their opinions.
– I draw attention to the fact that this serious proposal, to curtail the liberties of honorable members is being dealt with in the absence of a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
.- At all times, and not only during the war period, the Government should have control of the business of the House, but that control should not be attained by depriving members of their proper privileges and their right to debate all questions that come before the House for consideration. It has been said that this motion proposes a drastic means of dealing with the prolongation of debate, especially when measures are urgently required in the interests of the country. I think that the motion in its present form is calculated to deprive members of their privileges, and the House of the proper consideration of measures of importance, and might easily lead to the Government becoming largely the controllers of the House, and taking possession of the privileges that belong to the House. Nevertheless, too much time is occupied in debate, and in the interests of the country we should have some limitation of speech. The Government should have more control of the business of the House, but any proposal to that end should be so framed as not to deprive members of their right to debate a question. The motion stand- - ing by itself is fraught with a good deal of. danger. I see plainly that it will be possible for the Government to declare any measure urgent, and require that the vote shall be taken within twenty-four or forty-eight hours. The allotted time Will be occupied by a few members speaking for the full period allowed by the Standing Orders, and when the guillotine is applied probably the bulk of the members will have been deprived of the opportunity of making their contribution to the debate. Thus the people may lose the opportunity of getting the well-digested legislation that would be the result of a full expression of opinion from all sides of the House. I think that an economy in time can be effected by an amendment which I shall propose, without a drastic interference with the right of honorable members to address themselves to a question. In the present constitution of the House there is an overwhelming majority on the Ministerial side, and if the Government, acting under this proposed standing order, were to place a time limit on a certain debate, Mr. Speaker, following the usual practice, would call upon honorable members from each side of the House alternately. Thus honorable members sitting in Opposition would have the same share of time as the much larger number of members on the Ministerial side, and many of the majority members would be deprived of the opportunity of participating in the debate. That would not be fair. After the next election there may be quite, a different distribution of parties. But we should regard this proposal not as a party matter, but as one affecting the privileges of the House, and we should all unite in order to deal with legislation,, especially war-time legislation, in a way that will best serve the interests of the people. The amendment which I intend to move will reduce by half the time allowed to each speaker. The Standing Orders at present limit certain speeches to 1 hour 85 minutes each ; other speeches to 1 hour each, and speeches in Committee to halfanhour. I propose, by reducing those times by 50 per cent., to give twice as many members an opportunity of contributing to any debate upon which the Government impose the time limit. I do not propose at this stage that this limitation of individual speeches should be applied to all debates. It is a matter for consideration as to * whether there should be a further general reduction of the time now allowed by the Standing Orders for each speech, but the amend- ment I intend to propose will apply only to those debates which will be affected by the suggested new standing order. I think the amendment would immensely improve the motion that is now before the House, would help to preserve the privileges of honorable members, and would enable the bulk of those who wish to contribute to a debate, to do so.
We must give consideration to” the fact that the Government would not declare measures to be urgent unless there was very good reason for doing so. An amendment of the Standing Orders in 1905 gave the Government the opportunity to apply the closure to a debate and also to silence any individual member. There have been occasions when that standing order has been applied drastically, but we know that Governments have learned certain lessons from its operation. I believe that no Government would exercise its. right to apply the closure unless there was big justification for it, and Ministers would only attempt to declare a measure urgent after a very grave consideration of the consequences that might follow their use of this power too lightly, or too frequently. I do not fear the consequences of allowing a responsible Government to make use of the opportunity to declare a measure urgent so long as it is found possible at the same time to safeguard honorable members from being deprived of their right to make a proper contribution to the discussion.
– The honorable member’s proposed amendment would not accomplish that object.
– If the proposed standing order is adopted in its present form, some honorable members, by using the full time allowed to each honorable member to speak, would exhaust the whole of the time allotted by the Government for the debate on the measure ; but my amendment would at least enable double the number of honorable members to speak in ihe time available.
– That depends upon the time the Government allow for the consideration of a measure.
– Certainly, if the Government fix one hour for the conclusion of a debate, it will enable not more than two honorable members to speak ; but no one would imagine a Government fixing such a short limitation for an important measure. If a debate is carried on to an inordinate extent, the Government may fix an early hour for the conclusion of it, just as they may now apply the closure; but I conclude that they will follow the House of Commons practice, and declare that a debate must close within twenty-four hours, or forty-eight hours, or on a day in thefollowingweek. However, the Government cannot take away the privileges of the House. Honorable members have, first of all, to vote on the motion when the Government bring it forward ; and I do not thinkthat honorable members of the Opposition will find honorable members onthis side of the House allowing any Government to get up and declare measure after measure to be urgent, and” secure a majority of honorable members to support them in’ doing so unless reasonable time is afforded for the conduct of debate. I think that, with a further limitation on speeches, we will have better speeches. They will be more condensed, and thus will be more valuable contributions to the debates. In fact, the proposal should tend to improve our legislation. At the same time, my amendment will afford honorable members an opportunity to express their views and make any representations they may wish to make according to the particular interests they represent. I am not in favour of the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly). I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that measures brought forward duringatime of war are of such importance that we should have just as much opportunity of discussing them as we would have in time of peace. Instead of seeking to defeat the Government’s proposal, it should be our endeavour to improve it so that the object sought may be attained, while at the same time the privileges of honorable members are not too seriously curtailed.
.- It seems to me that the phrase the gladiators of ancient Rome made use of, ‘ We who are about to die salute thee, Caesar,” is appropriate. The Caesars are on the Ministerial side. The gladiators are on this side, fighting for a little more freedom of speech. Whether we shall die or not, politically, the future alone can show. As long as I have speech, I shall continue to object to the curtailment of the very limited powers we now have. The Government which is asking for this additional power has allowed work to accumulate day by day which should be done by Parliament, and it must accept the blame for any congestion that may occur. I am perfectly certain that if the people had the initiative referendum and recall there would be no need for this motion. The existing Standing Orders would be quite sufficient. It is the duty of Parliament to clear off every motion on the notice-paper. There are many awaiting discussion by this House, yet I can say without contradiction that I am the only private member who has succeeded in carrying a motion here since the war began. The very idea of having a day set apart for private members’ business is a farce. The Government would be far more straightforward and honorable if they would say to the people, “Your members can bring forward no private business.” Couch this motion in whatever language one likes, even if it be amended as the honorable member for Wimmera proposes to amend it, it will be understood by the people of Australia to mean a further limitation upon the already limited amount of business in which the Govern - ment permit private members to take part. One factor that causes so much debate is the absence of control by the people. The wide spaces of Australia do not tend to cause excess of talk during debate. If honorable members spoke in three separate languages our proceedings would occupy a greater time. If, for instance, the Postmaster-General made one of his famous speeches, and it had to be translated into another language for the benefit of honorable members, and then a second time had to be translated into another language, our debates would be greatly prolonged. Three languages are spoken in the Swiss Parliament. If one memberof that Parliament makes a lengthy speech, and the representative of a German-speaking State claimed to have it translated, as he has the right to do, and then a representative of one of the. French Cantons made the same claim, as he has the right to do, the proceedings would be unending.
– I think it would be becoming if we had a full House to hear the honorable member. [Quorum formed.]
– Our Standing Orders have never been considered or debated except the portions dealing with the prayer and the closure. They have been temporarily adopted by the House. This Parliament has existed for seventeen years, and has not yet found time to give consideration to its Standing Orders. How does the Swiss Parliament get its business done ? ‘ In a common-sense way. It meets at 8 o’clock in the morning. The roll is called, and any member who is absent is fined. It adjourns from 1 o’clock to 2 o’clock, and then sits till 3 -o’clock or 4 o’clock, after which it adjourns till the following morning. It goes through its business because the people outside control it, and its book of Standing Orders contains hardly a fifth of tile pages to be found in our volume. We think it necessary to elect a gentleman to the high position of Speaker - you, Mr. Speaker, have always had my admiration for your splendid work - and to elect another gentleman as Chairman, to see that the rules of debate are observed. We now propose to add a whole page to the already overburdened book of temporary Standing Orders which contain those rules. Why is it that Switzerland can do without a rule of this kind ? The only difference between the winter and summer sessions in Switzerland is that in the winter time the meeting is at 9 o’clock. In Switzerland absent members are fined, and the people have the power of recall and initiative. They can compel members to do their work.
– What is the amount of the fine?
– I think about 16s. It is the duty of members to put on the business-sheet those motions which their patriotism has inspired. There is this argument that might be advanced in support of the proposed new standing order : that it will lead to more work being done. The burden of parliamentary life, however, is not so much that imposed by the sittings in this chamber as that imposed by the work that has to be done outside, and during the recess our work is heavier than -when Parliament is sitting, because one can frequently get a matter attended to, or an injustice righted, by asking questions of a Minister in bis place in the House, when, in recess, two or three weeks of correspondence Would be necessary.
I cannot support either the amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) or the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) that the proposed rule shall have force only for the duration of the war. I would prefer that the rule, if imposed, should be limited to the duration of the war; but I do not think that it is likely to be continued after the war, and I urge honorable members to reject it altogether. I am, I think, the only private member who since the war began has carried a motion. My motion had reference to the promise of Home Ride- for Poland made by the late Czar. No member could take a rule like this’ before his constituents and say, “ We want to shorten the speeches in Parliament co that we may lessen our sittings.” If he did his constituents would reply that Parliament should sit more days in the year to attend to its duties properly.
The proposed rule provides for an affirmative vote of not less than twentyfour members on the question that the Estimates of Expenditure, a Customs or Excise Tariff resolution, or a motion shall be considered urgent. Now, this House is , composed of seventy-five members.
– It is often hard to get a large number together.
– If the constituents had the power to recall members they would remedy that state of affairs. One member of this Parliament was absent during four Parliaments for a number of sittings equal in the aggregate to no less than four sessions, yet he did not fail to draw his full salary. Twenty-five members make only one-third of the total number, and, in my opinion, there” should be an affirmative vote of not less than thirty members on any of the questions referred to in the proposed standing order. Still, the Government has power to do as it likes. It could, if it thought fit, rob every man and woman of the franchise. I wished to have the franchise fixed in the Constitution, so that it could not be taken away.
– What about the referendum?
– I shall not be happy until this is provided for under the Constitution. Surely no honorable member would agree to follow the bad example setby the House of Lords, where three is considered a sufficient quorum for a House of 600 members. Our quorum is twenty-five, and we certainly should not go below that number in any affirmative majority that we may decide upon.
– With an affirmative majority of twenty-four, and Mr. Speaker in the chair, there would be at least a quorum present.
– Yes ; and of course there would be the members on the Opposition side. Had the people outside a voice in the matter, such as the Swiss people have, there would never be need to draw the attention of Mr. Speaker or the Chairman to the want of a quorum. If there were not a complete majority of members present, the officers of Parliament would call for a quorum, and, if it could not be obtained, the absent members would be fined.
– I object to the proposed standing order being made a war-time measure. I do not think that the guillotine procedure is needed, either in war time or in peace time. The Government has already sufficient power in its hands. There are in the House members who take advantage of the Standing Orders to make long orations on every subject under the sun; but such garrulous persons can be dealt with by a standing order which provides that a motion, without notice, may be made that a member who is speaking be not further heard. That question has to be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate. That standing order allows any member to be silenced if he becomes a nuisance.
– Would the honorable member like to put it into force?
– There are some members to whom I would like to apply it. The Government is not worth its salt that does not intend to be boss of the show, and a Government should be prepared to exercise its powers in regard to any member who tried to block business. About 10 o’clock on Thursday night last the Government asked us to vote £4,500,000 before rising. That was not a fair request. But had the guillotine rule been in operation - -
– The honorable member is now addressing himself, not to the amendment, but to the motion, to which he has already spoken.
– The Government have ample power under the existing Standing Orders to closure a debate, and if business is urgent I think they have a right to apply the “ gag.” It would be most unfair, however, to confine the discussion on a Bill of importance to a period of three or four hours. This proposed limitation of debate will not give honorable members an opportunity to air their eloquence or to discuss a question as it should be discussed. Under the existing Standing Orders the closure is applied to a motion for the first reading of a Bill, to a motion for the adjournment of the debate, to a motion in Committee that the Chairman report progress, to a motion in Committee that the Chairman do now leave the chair, and to a motion to reinstate on the notice-paper any business. Surely the Government do not want any greater power. If I were Prime Minister I should not hesitate to move “ That the question be now put “ in regard to any measure that I did not wish to have debated.
– This will effect the same purpose in an easier way.
-If you kill a man, what does it matter how you kill him? Many of those who vote for this motion will commit political suicide. Tyrants bred the Labour party. I am convinced that the Democracy of Australia will speak with no uncertain voice concerning the tyrannous action of the Government in introducing this new standing order. Some of the supporters of the Government will find themselves wearing very cold pants after the next general election. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) says that tyranny smashed the Labour party. If that is so, tyranny will smash the Liberal party. After the next general election many now supporting the Government will be out of Parliament, and those who are returned will be in Opposition. If, however, honorable members opposite have made up their minds to carry this motion, and so to commit political suicide, I can say no more than “ My blessing be upon you.”
Amendment (by Mr. Kelly) negatived.
Amendment (by Mr. Sampson) proposed -
That after paragraph VII. the following new paragraph be inserted: - “VIIa. In debates on matters to which time has been allotted under the provisions of this standing order, the provisions of standing order No. 257a (speeches of members) shall apply with the following modifications : - In the House, the time limit to a speech shall be half-an-hour in the cases in which one hour and five minutes is allowed by. such standing order No. 257a, and forty-five minutes in the cases in which one hour and thirty-five minutes is so allowed; in Committee, the time limit to a speech shall be fifteen minutes in the cases in which thirty minutes is so allowed.”
– The amendment is not seconded.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Order of Business - Mr. J. K. Jensen: Appointment as Secretary to the Commonwealth Arsenal - Appointments at Williamstown Shipyard - Caseof Cadet Rubie - Correspondence - S . S . “ Albert ‘ ‘ - Australian Peace Alliance : Censorship - Spanish Influenza - Northern Territory: Audit of Accounts.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) what business the Government propose to bring on and to finally dispose of to-morrow?
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) asked a question this afternoon with reference to the appointment of Mr. J. K. Jensen to the. position of secretary to the Commonwealth Arsenal, and inquired whether he was related to the Minister for Trade and Customs. He is not related to him. I promised to furnish a reply on the motion for the adjournment of the House, and I am able now to make the following statement;. -
Mr. J. K. Jensen was appointed as secretary to the Commonwealth Arsenal because it was considered that his training as an officer of the Department peculiarly fitted him for the duties of the position. He was first appointed to the Defence Department in 1898, and, after a term in the Victorian Ordnance Stores, was transferred to the Records Branch at Central Administration. Shortly afterwards he was specially chosen to proceed to the United States to assist Sir William Clarkson (then Engineer-Commander Clarkson) in connexion with the contract held by Messrs. Pratt and Whitney for the supply of rifle-making plant for the Small Arms Factory, as well as to procure and study all information necessary for efficient factory organization. He was subsequently appointed accountant and chief clerk to the Small Arms Factory, being primarily responsible for the accountancy and industrial side of the establishment. He was again brought back to the Central Administration when the war broke out, and was placed in charge, under the secretary, of all matters connected with the administration and organization of the Government factories, and the industrial matters connected with the Department.
– I desire to clear up a misapprehension on the part of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), who made a statement the other night with reference to Mr. Curchin, the gentleman in charge of Government shipbuilding. The honorable member spoke of that gentleman as having brought from England some of his relatives, and placed them in positions in the Williamstown shipyard. I wish to state emphatically that the officials referred to are not relatives in any sense, nor are any of the men who came out from England related to one another.
I desire also to clear up a point in connexion with the statement made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly), who the other night referred to a boy who had been rejected at the Naval College on account of his having had an epileptic fit. The honorable member stated that the Secretary to the Naval Board, Mr. Macandie, had sent him a letter which was incorrect, and had misled him. I have made inquiries, and I find that on the day the letter was written by the honorable member to the Secretary - a letter to which the honorable member said he received a reply within two days - the Secretary was with me in Sydney at the launching of the Adelaide.From Sydney we went on to Newcastle, and were away, I think, ten days; so that it will be seen, at any rate, that the blame is not attachable to that gentleman.
– But what if somebody used the Secretary’s signature. Some officials have their signatures on rubber stamps, and the blame, if any, may rest upon a person who used such a signature on behalf of the Secretary.
– A third matter to which I have to refer is connected with some remarks by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) about the Albert, of which the following is the history: -
The Albert was a tug belonging to the Department of Ports and Harbors of Victoria. The Navy Department had a claim on the services of another tug, which ‘had been transferred to the State Department some years ago, and, in satisfaction of this claim, the Albert was accepted, free of cost, by the Navy Department, as a tug was required for duty in connexion with dredging at Flinders Naval Base.
Before the Albert was accepted, she was surveyed by a Board of technical officers, who reported that an expenditure of £4,500 would render her quite efficient for the service required. The vessel was accordingly sent to Cockatoo Island, Sydney, under her own steam, for overhaul; but when the ship was opened out, and the boiler removed, it was found that a new boiler and considerable repairs would be required. The Naval Board would not approve an expenditure in excess of what the original report of survey stated would be necessary, and as the vessel could not be put to any useful purpose without a considerable expenditure, tenders were invited, and she was sold to the highest bidder for £806.
The Department has no knowledge of how the engines of the vessel were disposed of by the purchaser. No letter has been received from Mr. Kelly making any inquiry about this vessel.
– Who purchased the Albert ?
– I have not that information; but it will be seen that no blame is attachable to the Navy Department.
.- This afternoon I asked the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) a question with reference to some fresh vagaries on the part of the. Censor. The Australian Peace Alliance is an organization of about a dozen bodies, including, amongst others, the Clerks Union, the Federated Storemen and Packers Union, the Peace Society, Victorian Socialist Society, the Society of Friends, the Women’s Political Association, the Plumbers and Gas Fitters Union, and the Australian Union of Democratic Control. These are banded together for the purpose of promulgating the idea ofpeace as opposed to war from a general stand-point. This organization, in pursuance of its objects, has issued its platform, in which, amongst others, clause e advocates, or proposes to advocate, that “ Great Britain shall propose as part of the settlement of the present war a plan for the drastic reduction of armaments by consent of all belligerent Powers with a view of their total abolition.” The Censor, in dealing with that pamphlet, allowed all the words of that clause to stand except, “ with a view to their total abolition.” Then in sub-clause i of the same clause there appeared the words, “ the organization of workers and other associations with a definite view to ending war.” The Censor caused the whole of that to be struck out. I fail to see, and I think honorable members on both sides will agree with me, that there is anything in the phraseology of this platform, or in the words ordered tobe eliminated, calculated to “ help the enemy,” “prejudice recruiting,” or “involve the safety of the Commonwealth” - the phrases which are utilized by the Censor when he cuts out what he regards as objectionable portions of documents or speeches from time to time.
– There seems to be nothing objectionable from any point of view.
– That is what I say. The Peace Alliance was formed long prior to the war, with a view to inculcating love of peace generally. We have been told that the object, or one of the objects, for which this war is being waged is to render future war impossible - that it is a war to end war.
Mr.Watt. - Some speeches are all right in the afternoon, but are no good at night, and some proposals about peace are good at certain times, and not good at others. There are two hints in this interjection.
– I am dealing with the other “hint” the censor got.The Acting Prime Minister will admit, if he examines the platform of the Peace Alliance, and reads the words which the censor has struck out-
Mr.Watt. - Why not show me some of these things, and not make long speeches about them here?
– I should expect the Acting Prime Minister to know, without being told, what comes under his jurisdiction. Of course, the honorable gentleman cannot know everything, but honorable members have repeatedly drawn his attention to the escapades of the censor. I do not think that the words struck out of this pamphlet would come under the parliamentary ban. I fancy that an honorable member on either side could speak in advocacy of all the planks of the Peace Alliance platform, and not have his remarks objected to by the Crown Law authorities, or find any action taken by Mr. Speaker to have them eliminated from Hansard. Why is it that the censor is not given some direction as to the procedure he should adopt - some definite lines to go on? Why is not some Minister made responsible for the censor’s actions, so that the censor may be checked ? There is no redress for censorship of the kind to which I have drawn attention. People who desire to promulgate their views in the direction of peace are at present harassed by the censor; and we know that the regulations concerning outside matters have been considerably tightened up with a view to giving the censor more power. Nobody could say that this pamphlet, or the words eliminated, could affect the issue of the war one whit; it merely inculcates peace sentiment, which should be encouraged and not suppressed by the censor.
– Not now.
– If not now, why should he leave in some of the words I have quoted and cut out others? There does not seem to be any. sane principle guiding the censorship.
– There are some things in the pamphlet which should have been cut out before those quoted by the honorable member. It is something like the man who cut the tail off the dog and threw away the wrong piece.
– I do not know anything about such surgical operations, but I do not think it would be out of place if the censor were curtailed. The Acting Prime Minister must admit that, in this instance at least, the work of the censor has not been guided by any fixed principle. If the Acting Prime Minister, or the Cabinet generally, would take some measure to control the censor, or give him some definite line of action, honorable members would know where they were, and would not be repeatedly troubling the House.
– I draw theattention of the Acting Prime Minister to the danger of what is known as the Spanish influenza. I hope he will see his way clear to cable to Capetown and ask for particulars of the latest treatment that has been found efficacious there.
– That has been done already.
– May I ask that the information will be widely published in the press, so that the. people will know how to treat the malady, either independently of a doctor or until medical aid arrives.
– When an honorable member asks a question in the House he is. entitled to an answer. The Audit Department on three separate occasions has failed to give an answer to my question as to the date of the special audit of the accounts of the Northern Territory. The Department has replied that there has been a continuous audit. That is not the information I seek. I desire to know when a special audit of the Northern Territory accounts was made, independent of the local auditors, lt is of no use to me to be told that. a special auditor is in Papua or floating about the summer seas, and will reach Darwin in time. I expect an answer from the Government, just as, if I were a shareholder in a bank and asked a director for information, I should expect him to get it from the manager. If I cannot get from the Government the date of that special audit I shall have to make independent inquiries and follow up statements contained in letters I have received from Darwin.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181016_reps_7_86/>.