7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and road prayers.
Mr.MAHONY.- When will the Minister for the Navy be prepared to give the House the cost of recaulking and carrying out other necessary repairs to the Commonwealth ship Cethana?
– As soon as I get it.
– It is reported in today’s Argus that the Acting Prime Minister made a confidential statement to his party yesterday. Will the honorable gentleman inform the . House ‘ whether there is any truth in that report, and if there is, why the members of this party should not know what he has told his own party?
– I read the Argus report to mean that I had made a statement of importance to my party, to whichI do not take exception, though most’ of the statements made are of importance. If, however, the impression has been conveyed that I have given to my party confidential information which is being withheld from the Opposition, I wish honorable members to understand that it is not so. At a later stage, if I am permitted to divulge information which cannot be made public, I shall have no hesitation in giving it in private to all members of the Parliament.
– Not necessarily to-day? .
– No; at any later stage.
– In cases where the Defence Department has reduced payments to the wives and dependants of soldiers, contrary to the wishes of the Minister, will the deductions be made good to those wives and dependants ?
– Since I answered the. question asked yesterday by the honorablemember for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith), I have had a further conference on the subject with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). It was represented to me by some honorable members - particularly by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) - that the answer given did not contain an exact description of the practice. The Minister for Defence contends that it was an exact and correct description of the practice. I shall ask my honorable colleague to be good enough to prepare a statement that I may give to the House next week, showing exactly what is done in all classes of cases, so that any misconception may be removed:.
– I ask the honorable gentleman whether, when he is conferring with the Minister for Defence, he will deal with the question of returning to the wives and children of soldiers, other than deceased soldiers, the deductions made contrary to the altered rule which he has announced.
– The only alteration of rule of which I am aware is in connexion with deductions from the funds of deceased soldiers. If the honorable member will give me an explicitidea of the kind of case to which he refers, I shall see whether it is’ covered by the statement I have made.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been called to a paragraph which appeared in the Melbourne Herald’ of the night before last, in which it is reported that a naturalized American seaman was kept hand-cuffed and leg-ironed for a week on the forecastle of a vessel on which he was serving, because the captain would not give a bond demanded by the Customs Department, and the Department would not allow the man to land until such a bond had been given? The affair seems rather an extraordinary one.
– I have not seen the report, but if the honorable member will f urnish me with a copy of it, I shall make an inquiry into the case.
– When does the
Acting Prime Minister think he will be in a position to make a statement to the House as to the policy of the Government in reference to the Arbitration Court?
– When the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) has completed his inquiries in connexion with the recent judgment, he proposes to bring to Cabinet the whole question of the amendment of the arbitration law arising out of that judgment, and of other needs that may have become apparent. That I expect to be done within the reasonably early future, but I cannot fix any date for it.
– Has the Acting
Prime Minister read the speech delivered before the Congregational Union by Mr. E. W. Greenwood, M.L.A., who states that the one man standing in the way of wartime prohibition is the honorable gentleman, because he has refused to allow this House an opportunity to deal with the motion in the name of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) ? I ask if the Acting Prime Minister will now consider whether the House may not have an opportunity to consider that motion.
– The statement referred to conveys an unmerited compliment to me, but, like many of the other statements in the Argus report of the meeting, is incorrect. Whether theHouse will be afforded an opportunity to discuss wartime prohibition, is a totally different matter. I prefer not to yield to the desire of certain persons who wish to get into the spot light at the present time.
– I remind honorable members that it has been laid down repeatedly that questions founded on newspaper statements are not in order, and should not be asked unless the honorable members responsible for them are prepared to vouch for the accuracy of the reports.
Negotiability - Contributions of Society offriends.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister consider the advisability of making the scrip of the seventh war loan marketable as soon as the first deposit has been paid ?
– I think that questions affecting the procedure in relation to our stock, which now totals such a huge amount, should not be asked without notice. The practice relating to stock dealings is well established and known, and I would not take any new step regarding our stock until I had consulted the financial advisers of the Government.
Mr.CONSIDINE.- Has the Acting Prime Minister received a copy of the circular which has been sent to every member of the House on behalf of the Society of Friends in Sydney, who ask that any contributions they may make to the war loan, either voluntarily or under compulsion, may be applied to other than war purposes ? Is it the intention of the honorable gentleman to acquiesce in that request?
– I have receivedthe circular referred to, but have not yet had time to consider it. If the request contained in it is what the honorable member says, it will not be acceded to.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he can make Cabinet arrangements which will permit of the Minister for Recruiting being in his place to answer questions relating to the misdeeds of bis Department? It is very inconvenient that honorable members cannot address questions to “him.
– The Minister for Recruiting is generally in his place when the House meets.
– I think he is a shirker.
– That is a characteristically insulting observation, . and because of it I decline to answer the honorable member’s question.
– I think that he is a shirker, and a mean shirker at that.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw his reflection on the Minister for Recruiting,
– I do so.
– In view of the possibility of an early peace, and the known want of certain commodities in Australia, has the Government taken any steps to ascertain our needs and their respective urgency, with a view to replenishing the stocks of commodities from British sources as soon as the declaration of peace will allow?
– I do not know what steps the Minister for Customs (Mr. Jensen) and his officers have taken in this direction, but if the honorable member will give notice of the question, the matter will be duly considered.
– In view of the published statements that the public are invited not to post to soldiers daily newspapers, but to send only weekly newspapers, may we understand distinctly that weekly newspapers will be accepted and have a fair opportunity of being delivered, or must all newspapers be sent through the Australian Comforts Fund ?
– The Imperial authorities have informed us that it is not advisable to post single newspapers to the soldiers at the front. They would prefer the public to adopt the method of sending newspapers through constituted bodies, such as, for instance, the Australian Comforts Fund. We have no power to refuse the Imperial request, and it must be obeyed.
Palestine Head-quarters Staff.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence make inquiries to ascertain if a photograph recently published in Sydney of General Chauvel and his, staff is accurate in showing that of thirty-three officers on the Head-quarters Staff in Palestine, only five are Australians ?
– I shall make inquiries.
Repayment of Allowances
– In his consultation with the Minister for Defence, in regard to the dependants of soldiers, will the Acting PrimeMinister arrange for the withdrawal of those harassing notices which demand large repayments from the wives and widowed mothers of soldiers who have been punished at the Front?
– I do not think that while I am in conference with my colleagues I should be asked to give an undertaking regarding individual cases, with the circumstances of which I am not familiar. Any reply I made might bind the Government to a course of action that the Department of Defence would not approve. The honorable member may, with confidence, leave the matter with me until we see how the conference with the Minister for Defence results.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state what action, if any, the Government intend to take in regard to the recent disloyal and untruthful statements of Dr. Mannix ?
-When the honorable member asked a similar question on Wednesday I suggested that, in fairness to me, notice should be given. The honorable member has not done that. I am not prepared to state at this moment what steps the Government will take in regard to Dr. Mannix, but we have the matter in hand.
– Will the Acting Attorney-General supply honorable members with an advance copy of the full text of the judgment given by Mr. Justice Powersin connexion with the Commonwealth Public Servants case before the Arbitration Court?
– The judgments are always published in the Arbitration Court reports, but delay is occasioned by the fact that the judgment must be obtained from the Judge in revised form and then printed. I understand that when the judgments are published they are sent to honorable members. In this particular instance, without promising to obtain advance copies for all members, I will endeavour to get one copy for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports as soon as possible.
– Is it a fact that the circulation of a book known as Stead’s War Facts has been prohibited under the War Precautions Act, and, as the book is merely a collection of statements from Stead’s Magazine, do the Government propose to prohibit the circulation of the magazine? Why is this action being taken ?
– I have no knowledge of the matter, but I shall make inquiries.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister say whether it is true that if a person puts down on the counter his contribution to the War Loan he cannot get the scrip in negotiable form until six months later?
– 1_ do not think that is so, but I will inquire and inform the honorable member.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table a precis of the correspondence between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government of Victoria having reference to applications for relief by families of soldiers whose whereabouts are unknown?
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made of the authorities concerned, but they are not yet complete.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
-. - This question involves much more research than I have had time to give to it, but, if the honorable member will repeat the inquiry on Wednesday next, I shall endeavour to have an answer ready.
asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that an elector of Dampier electoral division has received a telegram from the Acting Prime Minister, dated 20th August, in which the following occurs: - “Government policy fully explained to you by Government Metallurgist Adviser, Sir John Higgins, some time ago,” will the Acting Prime Minister state when and how Sir John Higgins was appointed to the position referred to?
– Mr. J. M. (now Sir John) Higgins was, in 1914, appointed by the Attorney-General Honorary Metallurgical Adviser to the Commonwealth Government.
asked the Minister for
Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government afford the House an opportunity of discussing, and arriving at a. decision with regard to, the alleged action of the Defence Department whereby a number of Roman Catholic priests and members of other Roman Catholic religious orders have been brought overseas at the public expense under the guise of chaplains in returning troopships?
Mr.WATT- The Minister for Defence informs me as follows: -
I have instructed the Adjutant-General to notify all Chaplains-General that chaplains are not to be appointed to transports coming to Australia in future unless they have served in the Australian Imperial Force or have previously resided in Australia. In these circumstances, I do not think any good would be served in discussing the matter as suggested.
asked the Assistant
Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
It is not correct to term the Albert a gunboat. She had, for at least twelve years, been usedas a tug and for other purposes by the Ports and Harbors Department, Victoria. The boilers were sold with the vessel. 2. (a) Yes.
asked the Post master-General, upon notice -
– I have not had sufficient time to collect the data required from the various States, and I ask the honorable member to postpone the question.
– On 16th October, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) asked me -
Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government have commandeered the city of Sydney’s electrical supply? Will the Acting Prime Min- ister tell the House the reason for this, and whether the same thing has been done in all the Capitals of the Commonwealth?
I am now able to inform the honorable member that the Commonwealth Government have not commandeered the electrical supply of the city of Sydney. What the honorable member doubtless has in mind is the War Precautions (Electricity) Regulations, which were made on the 18th September, 1918, in order to give the engineers of the different electrical undertakings authority to discriminate in the matter of the supply of electricity where they were short of power.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Poynton) Tead a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund Act - Report by the Auditor-General on the Accounts of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund, 31st May, 1916, to 6th April, 1918.
Railways Act, By-laws Nos. 6 and 7.
– As on the resolution in Committee of Supply I gave all the details regarding the Bill which honorable members desire, I shall content myself with merely moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.-I am anxious not to delay the passage of the Bill, but I wish to refer to two or three matters which were not dealt with last night. One is the contribution of the Commonwealth under the River Murray Waters Act of 1915. Honorable members know that, under that scheme, the Commonwealth undertook to contribute about £1,000,000, and the States of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia are to contribute certain proportions of the money required. The Act provided for the appointment of a Commission composed of a representative of the Commonwealth, as chairman, and representatives of each of the three States interested. Some time during 1915 a party left Murray-bridge to take part in the laying of the foundation stone of the first lock. I think we should know what progress has been made with that work; also, whether any other locks are being built, and whether the Commission hasbeen appointed. I have not heard of any representative of the Commonwealth having been permanently appointed to the Commission, and as for the last three years the Commonwealth has been liable for an expenditure of £1,000,000, and as £99,000 is asked for in this Bill, we have a right to ask the Minister for some information regarding the project. One of the most important needs of Australia is the conservation of its waters. Those who were in South Australia in November last had the opportunity of seeing the tremendous quantity of water that was flowing down the River Murray, and there is no doubt that it would be a good thing to conserve what is now going to waste. The agreement, which was ratified by the River Murray Waters Act, provides for a scheme which will irrigate millions of acres, and’ render the river navigable for a greater part of the year than is now possible. As this may be the last opportunity we shall have of dealing with this matter, I would like to hear from the Minister a definite statement regarding the progress which has been made in connexion with the scheme.
Provision is made for the sum of £7,900 for the purchase of land for lighthouses, but as these lighthouses are usually placed only on extreme points of the mainland, or islands, or upon coral islets, where land is practically valueless, the item calls for some explanation.
– I think that it includes the purchase of land for stores and workshops.
– If land is being acquired in populous centres for the establishment of workshops for the manufacture of the requirements of the Department, of course my argument is stopped at once.
– After the River Murray waters agreement was ratified and assented to, a Commission was appointed consisting of the Commonwealth Minister for Works for the time being, who presides over its deliberations, and is appointed for the period during which he occupies the position of Minister for Works, but not exceeding five years; Mr. T. Hill, the Engineer of the Works and Railways Department, who is Deputy President of the Commission, and advises the Minister on matters of a technical character; Mr. H. H. Dare, who represents New South. Wales; Mr. J. S. Dethridge, who represents Victoria; and Mr. J. H. O. Eaton, who represents South Australia. A report upon the operations of the Commission during the year ended the 30th June last, has been laid on the table of the House, and has been ordered to be printed’, but has not yet been circulated. Under the agreement ratified by the River Murray Waters Act, the Commonwealth was to contribute npt more than £1,000,000 towards the cost of the works to be undertaken, and the three contracting States - New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia - were each to contribute £1,221,000, Of course, the Act passed by this Parliament does not limit the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to contribute more in the future, if it so decides.
– Before extra money could be paid by the Commonwealth, an amending Bill would be necessary?
– Yes, fresh authority would have to be given by Parliament. The scheme contemplated is the provision of a system of storage works on the Upper Murray; a storage basin in Lake Victoria, which is situated in New South Wales, not far from the boundary of South Australia; the construction of some weirs and locks from Blanchetown, in South Australia, to Wentworth, these are estimated at about nine; weirs and locks from Wentworth to Echuca - these are estimated at about sixteen or seventeen in number; weirs and locks from the junction of the Murray and Mumimbidgee to Hay; or, alternatively, locks and weirs from the junction of the River Darling with the River Murray up-stream in the River Darling. The New South Wales Government has decided in favour of the Murrumbidgee. According to the agreement: the Government of South Australia is to construct the weirs and locks within that State and to Wentworth, and the Victorian Government and the New South Wales Government are to carry out similar works on that portion of the Murray River which runs between the two States. The New South Wales Government is to build the locks and weirs on the Murrumbidgee. The Commission has been pressing on with these works, realizing their importance; but, at the beginning, the scheme was nothing but a piece of paper, and it has been the duty of the Commission to lay down working procedure, settle the terms and conditions, and the methods of payments, and adjust various matters calling for attention under the agreement. As the result of a conference I had a fortnight ago with State Ministers, I believe that all these preliminaries will soon be concluded. The Commission is urging the State Governments to proceed as rapidly as possible in the submission of the general scheme, and considerable progress has been made. The Blanchetown lock was started before the agreement came into operation, but was included in its scope. All these weirs and locks are to be paid for out of the contributions of the Commonwealth and the contracting States, and the sum of money which appears on these Estimates is the Commonwealth share of the payment due to South Australia in connexion with the Blanchetown works, that State having submitted a claim for £176,000 for money spent upon the construction of that lock and general surveys and investigation.
– The claim should not be so large for one lock.
– In theclaim, a large amount is included for plant. The matter is now being adjusted among the various contracting States and the Commonwealth. South Australia has since incurred fresh expenditure. The amount asked for also . includes payments due to Victoria and New South Wales. Unfortunately, the construction of the lock at Blanchetown has been delayed through no fault on the part of the constructing authorities in South Australia, because there have been excessively heavy rivers for three successive years, flooding the . works. Last year, nothing could be done at Blanchetown for eight months. The whole of the coffer-dam was flooded. However, the engineers are now pressing forward with the work, and they have it well in hand. Since the Commission has been established, the South Australian Government, as the constructing authority, has submitted plans and specifications for, and the estimated cost of, the large and very important works which will be necessary at Lake Victoria, and which will enable very considerable quantities of water to be stored and made available for the whole of the down-stream requirements.
– Available for South Australia only ?
– That is the intention of the agreement.
– They are getting all their end of the agreement, and there is nothing for the other States.
– The honorable member is hardly fair in making that statement. As a matter of fact, the three States are working in complete harmony and fairness to one another. They are all doing their best to carry out the agreement according to the spirit and intention of the contract made between them. It was specially provided that this should be one of the first works to be constructed. The agreement says -
The intention of the contracting Governments is that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the Lake Victoria works shall be completed within four years.
The plans and specifications have been carefully looked into. They have been before the Commission several times. Special visits have been paid by the expert engineers of the Commission, so that the scheme could be thoroughly examined on the spot. It was only last week that the final visit was made, and the scheme will be ready for complete submission to the next meeting of the Commission. In the meantime the States of New SouthWales and Victoria have had their surveyors at work. Although they have not yet submitted to the Commission, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, their requests in regard to weirs and locks, and to the Upper Murray storage, it does not follow that nothing has been done. Both States have been actively at work in investigating sites for that storage, and also sites for locks and weirs lower down the river. As far as possible, the work is being carried out expeditiously, in order to get the scheme under way.
The amount of £99,000 appearing on these Estimates is the Commonwealth Government’s contribution towards the actual and estimated expenditure on works and investigations, pursuant to the River Murray Agreement, for the year 1917-18, and the period prior thereto, as well as for the current financial year. The total amount which it was. estimated would be required during the financial year 1917-18 - including an expenditure of £188,000 incurred by the three constructing authorities prior to the date of the appointment of the Commission - was £420,000, the Commonwealth Government’s quota being £90,100. Owing to the fact that the Commission’s investigations into the expenditure incurred prior to the 31st January, 1917, were not completed during that year, the moneys which the four contracting Governments were asked to furnish were not drawn upon during the year 1917-18. It was necessary to send accountants over to South Australia to see that the claim submitted came within the terms of the agreement. The Commission’s estimate of expenditure for the year 1918-19 was £209,000, but as it was estimated that a balance of £168,000 would be available from moneys asked for in connexion with the previous year, the total amount which the four Governments were asked to contribute during the current year was £41,000, the Commonwealth Government’s share being £8,900. The total amount that the Commonwealth Government has been asked to provide for the years 1917-18 and 1918-19 is £99,000.
– Are the States paying their share?
– Yes. The procedure adopted is that when an expenditure is incurred, the Commission makes a requisition upon the contributing authorities, who, under the terms of the agreement, contribute their quota proportionately. The arrangement is that the request for the payment of these contributions shall be made only when the necessity arises. This sum of £99,000 will be available to the Commission when it makes its requisition upon the Commonwealth for a pro rata contribution contemporaneously with its request for contributions from the
States. The Commission realizes the importance of the task with which it has been intrusted., and is making every effort to advance the work as speedily as possible.
.-I desire to refer to a matter of some importance, bearing’ upon the administration of the Department of the Navy. This morning I put to the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) a question, upon notice, in which I inquired whether a boiler was taken out of the Albert and sold separately before she was disposed of. The Minister replied that the boilers were sold with the vessel, and that the price for the Albert, as a whole, was £806. I wish to say, as clearly and distinctly as I can, that this statement is absolutely incorrect. A boiler was” taken out of the Albert.
– What the honorable member means to say is that he has been informed that my reply is incorrect.
– I do not make a definite statement of this character without knowing what I am talking about. I challenge the Minister to inquire into this matter. I repeat that a boiler was taken out of the Albert and was sold separately. The answer I received was really not a reply to my question. This boiler was sold to a certain firm at a ridiculously low figure, but, subsequently, as the Minister informed me yesterday, another boiler of very much the same type was purchased at a cost of £475 to place in the Commonwealth vessel, the Cethana, which was recently built for us in the United States of America.
– What was the condition of the boiler taken out of the Albert ?
– It was quite equal to the boiler purchased for the Cethana. The latter boiler had been taken out of the old tug boat Magic,’ which has been in Sydney waters for many , years. It was removed from the Magic some time ago, and had been lying in one of the rivers running into Port Jackson for some time before it was purchased by the people from whom the Department obtained it. The boiler taken out of the Albert was certainly old, but not older than that purchased for the Cethana. I am not going to be sidestepped by what is really no reply to the question that I put to the Minister. I shall say no more. I leave the matter in the hands of the Minister, believing that he will do the rightthing. I ask him to make the most searching inquiries into the transaction, which has cost the country a good deal of money, and I repeat that I am not making this statement without knowing what I am talking about.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) made an inquiry as to an item of £7,984 for lighthouse purposes which appears, under the heading of the Department for Home and Territories, in the schedule to the Bill. The item is in respect of land on the Brisbane river that has been acquired for central workshops and various other matters in connexion with the lighthouses of Queensland. There are lighthouse workshops in the various States. I” can say no more on the subject at this stage, since negotiations are pending as to the price to be paid for the land acquired. An offer of £8,000 was made yesterday, and this item is to provide for the purchase.
– I have to remind honorable members that although I have not so far intervened, it is quite contrary to parliamentary practice to discuss the details of a Bill on the motion that it be read a second time. The discussion of details properly belongs to the Committee stage, and on the motion for the second reading the debate should be confined to the general principles of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
– While the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) was dealing with the question of the conservation of the waters of the River Murray, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie) interjected that South Australia seemed to be obtaining all that she required in connexion with the scheme, and that Victoria’s interests appeared to have been left in the background. It is generally admitted that unless that part of the scheme which applies to the upper reaches of the Murray is carried out, those portions of it which relate to lower down the river cannot be successful. The scheme is undoubtedly one of very considerable importance to large areas in Victoria and New South Wales. I do not know whether we can do anything to push on the Victorian section1.
– Under the Act all the States are in the same position. The reservoir in South Australia also conserves water up stream.
– Victoria has done more in the way of irrigation than has any other State of the union, and all dealings with the Murray waters are of the utmost importance to Victorian irrigationists.
– What about the navigation of the river which South Australia was promised at the inauguration of Federation should be looked after?
– The scheme is designed to assist navigation ‘ as well as irrigation, but it seems to me that the interests of Victoria and New South Wales have been neglected to a large extent.
– That is hardly correct. Those two contributing authorities are doing their best to advance the scheme so far as it relates to Victoria and New South Wales, but have not anything well enough advanced yet to submit to the Commission.
– Who is to blame for the delay?
– It is due to the necessity of making a full investigation so as to be sure of the foundations before a big scheme is entered upon.
– Some of the States appear to be able to get ahead with their part of the scheme.
– They have spent money out of their own pockets, in advance, under the terms of the agreement.
– How much of this item of £99,000 is to be expended on conserving water in the upper reaches of the Murray ?
– Only so much of it as is required in the making of investigations. No part of it will be expended on construction work. I understand that the States mentioned by the honorable member are now preparing a scheme for sub-“ mission to the Commission.
– This contribution of £99,000 in respect of last year and this year is but a small part of the total amount of £1,000,000 which the Commonwealth has agreed to provide. Some effort should be made to push ahead with the scheme as it applies to Victoria and New South Wales. The Commonwealth, being a large contributor to the cost of this national work, it should, I think, make some effort to spur on the State Governments. In passing the River Murray Waters Bill we were anxious that the best use should, be made of the £1,000,000, for which it provided, in the shortest possible time. As the scheme progresses, settlement will follow and production must increase. One wonders why work is carried out fairly expeditiously in one State while it is delayed in another. The very key of the scheme is the conservation of water in the upper reaches of the Murray, and I protest against any further delay.
.- I also should like some information from the Minister about the £99,000 for the Murray waters scheme, and also the £25,000 for the -Prime Minister’s Department in London. In regard to the Murray waters scheme, nothing has been done, so far as I know, except the boring at a few sites in order to get a proper foundation. If a suitable site has not been found yet, surely we do not require to raise £99,000 for boring operations? I do not agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that the dam or weir in the upper reaches of the Murray or its tributaries, is the keynote of the scheme. We can do South Australia a lot of good by ‘the conserving of water in Lake Victoria; and, at a time like this, money should not be raised which it is not within the power of the Government to spend. According to the official statement, the taxpayers last year contributed £3,900,000 more than was expended, and that money, with much more, amounting to millions, is now lying in the Commonwealth Bank. At a time like this, the Murray waters scheme might be left in abeyance. It is a well-known fact that irrigation in Victoria and New South Wales is a failure.
– What are you talking about ?
– I am giving some facts that Victorians do .not like. It is well known that millions of money have been written off in Victoria for irrigation.
– Not millions.
– As a matter of fact, irrigation on the Goulburn is being carried out in districts which, if they need irrigation, show that the bulk of Australia is uninhabitable without it. Irrigation is being applied in districts with a rainfall of from 19 to 22 inches - a class of country which, as I was told by Mr. Meade, is not irrigated in America. In New South Wales, the Yanco scheme is a ghastly failure, only kept alive by the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds on works that are not required, such as concrete underground drains to carry the water from the township, and so forth.
– Are Mildura and Renmark failures?
– Mildura, outside dried fruits, has been a horrible failure; its only possible success depends solely upon the fact that for every pound of raisins we throw 3d. into the pool of the Trust which the Government should have wiped out of existence long ago.
– What has irrigation to do with dried fruit?
– The fruits have to be grown before they can be dried.
– What about the Wool Pool?
– The Wool Pool is doing well and going strong; and if it were not for that Pool, our finances would be in a very shaky state.
– Your finances!
– Apart from these expert interjections, I think that, while it may be judicious to bore in order to find out a suitable site for future uses, irrigation in Australia has not been a pronounced success; and we might well, in this time of war put the money to some better use. As regards conserving the water in Lake Victoria, and making the Murray River navigable to South Australia, that I think is a fair proposal, of which South Australia should have had the advantage long ago. When Federation was brought about one of the main reasons that induced South Australia to come in was that the Murray would be made navigable, and that freight, consisting of produce, which ought to go to South Australia, would not be diverted by the differential railway rates to Melbourne and Sydney.
.- I agree somewhat with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that the keynote of the Murray waters scheme is the big million acre feet scheme on the Upper Murray.
– Where is the place?
– The Department has been trying to make up its mind for about three years.
– Is it on the Mitta Mitta?
– It is at the junction of the Mitta Mitta and the Murray, not the site originally put into the Bill.
– It was found that there they could not get a granite foundation, and, according to the agreement, another had to be found.
– The selection of the site apparently about to be chosen is going to have the effect of wiping out many acres of the best land on the Upper Murray. We have, as already pointed out, a supplementary expenditure in South Australia. The water from Lake Victoria cannot go anywhere else except into that State; and if the whole scheme is going by the board because of the expense of the big reservoir on the Upper Murray, and because it is found that more good land will be lost than gained, it seems we are going to spend a lot of money on the Lake Victoria scheme which will benefit South Australia alone.
Another point is that, owing to this scheme hanging over the people in the Upper Murray and Mitta Mitta districts for some years, they are not putting in improvements, holding that, if they are to be eventually drowned out, they should bo paid for their land in order that they may find homes elsewhere. This has been pending month after month, and year after year; and it is time the different Commissioners came to an understanding as to where the storage is to be. There seems to be a certain amount of jealousy or feeling amongst the engineers, each of whom is anxious to put his name at the bottom of a tremendous scheme. But, instead of such a scheme, might it not be possible to have smaller storage places which would do exactly the same work, and not wipe out the land to which I have referred. The people concerned are, as I say, suffering hardship at the present, because they cannot look ahead more than a year or two. There are other considerations, such as the shifting of railways, and the fact that men may he cut off and left on angles of land, and, perhaps, have to travel many extra miles to market.
I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) talking about the failure of irrigation in Victoria.
– The truth is nasty, is is not?
– As a matter of fact, during the past few years irrigation has been an immensesuccess in Victoria. What would have happened to the honorable member’s sheep during the drought years if it had not been possible to place them on Cohuna and similar lands ? Is it only a story that his firm paid £16 an acre forland at Cohuna on which to put their sheep ?
– Never ; the only lucerne we got was from Maitland, and it was produced without irrigation.’
– At any rate, whether they were the sheep of the honorable member or of some one else, that rent was paid per acre for grazing sheep, and hundreds of thousands would have died in New South Wales if it had not been possible to place them on irrigated land in Victoria, and Australia is to the extent of millions of pounds better off to-day.
– The writing off to which the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) referred was done in the pioneering stages of irrigation in Victoria.
– It was only a few hundred thousand pounds.
– Not worth mentioning, I suppose?
– If the honorable member for Hume wishes to cry “stinking fish” in regard to the Yanco scheme, and reflect on the knowledge and capability of the State Government, he may do so, but when he proclaims that irrigation is a failure in Victoria, in face of the fact that it has been a gigantic success, to the extent of saving the State, it is time a man in my position remembered that, while an Australian, he is also a Victorian.
If the Upper Murray scheme is to be carried out, the people will be told what they may expect, and I trust that when it is finally decided to wipe them out, they will be compensated fairly and generously for giving up their homes.
– That is the success of irrigation -compensation for land!
– The honorable member belongs to a class which believes in big, dry areas, and it is very hard for him to get rid of his prejudices.
– Now you are talking like a shearers’ agitator!
– If so, I shall rise in the good opinion of honorable members opposite. If this Upper Murray scheme is not to be gone on with, we must remember that the money spent on Lake Victoria is exclusively for the benefit of South Australia, and we should be wary in spending Commonwealth money in the interest of one State only.
– I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Indi strike that last note. This is not a South Australian scheme.
– I did not say it was.
– I did not say the honorable member did say so; but this is an Australian scheme, conceived in a truly Federal spirit, and based on equality of contribution. The contracting States, so far as I can see, are working together to give effect to the intention of the Agreement, and it is necessary that South Australia should get the first benefit. Underthe Agreement we have to take over the Blanchetown weir, and in 1917-18 the South Australian Government sent in a claim for £176,571 in connexion with expenditure on the weir and general investigations. This was contemplatedby the Agreement.
– The Commonwealth quota of contribution is only one-fourth.
– That is practically so. It is definitely arranged under the Agreement that the work at Lake Victoria shall be completed within four years ; and two years have elapsed; ‘ I was made chairman of the Commission in March, and on 27th May we sent a request to the constructing authorities. The Commission approves of the submission to the constructing authorities of the schemes proposed, and on that date we wrote as follows : -
That the three constructing authorities be urged to expedite submission to the Commission of a general scheme of works, provided in clause 23 of the Agreement, and that their particular attention be invited to -the advisability of putting in hand, at the earliest possible moment, those works, the period for completion of which has been limited by the agreement.
We specially called their attention to our desire to get on with this work, so that the terms of the Agreement might be complied with. The Lake Victoria scheme has been carefully scrutinized by the engineers in Melbourne, and at a later scrutiny on the spot, certain suggestions and modifications’ were made. Only last Wednesday the engineers returned from their final inspection, and their- report will be submitted at the next meeting of the Commission.
– What is the position with regard to New South Wales ?
– Their constructing engineers have been investigating different sites in conjunction with the Victorian engineers. This work is being advanced considerably, and we expect to get at an early date a request, in accordance with the Act, from Newt South Wales and Victoria jointly, regarding the Upper Murray scheme. I agree that it is not fair to keep long in suspense persons living in an area under investigation; but I am informed that the Victorian Government is doing its best to terminate as soon as possible the anxiety to which reference has been made.
– With all respect to South Australia, is not their end of the scheme the tail end?
– The scheme must be regarded as a whole, its object being to conserve to the fullest extent possible the waters of the Murray and its tributaries, and to provide for irrigation and navigation. Of course, the more water that ‘is stored up stream the greater will be the’ supply down stream. I do not wish to say that one part of the scheme is more important than another. The whole matter is the subject of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the contracting States, and it is provided that one portion shall be completed within four years, and the other within seven years. We are urging the constructing authorities to carry out the work agreed upon as’ expeditiously as possible. The £99,000 about which the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) has asked is the Commonwealth quota.
– When will it be expended ?
– At the present time the claims of the States from the date of the Agreement to 31st January, 1917, amount to £188,245. Since then a large expenditure, amounting to many thousands of pounds, has been incurred by the three constructing authorities. The balance of the work in connexion with the several schemes is well advanced, and our estimate of the amount we shall be required to pay will be pretty near the mark. ‘ The money that we are using is loan money; the people are not being taxed to contribute to this work.
– Are you not raising more than you need ?
– No. The. estimate of what will be required is based on our expectation of the claims to be submitted. The Commission does not make requests for money until the payments have actually to be made; it does not hoard up money.
– That seems to have been done last year, because the Government then obtained £4,000,000 more than was expended.
– Although the amount of money which has been referred to was asked for by the Commission, it was not taken from the States and the Commonwealth, as it was not expended. We were perfectly justified, in asking for an appropriation of the amount that was likely to be expended; but, having got the money, we were not absolved from the obligation of trying to keep down expenditure as much as possible. It is to the credit of the Government that, although it had so large an amount of money at . its disposal, it deliberately exercised economy, and avoided expenditure. The amount that we are now asking for is only what the Commission reasonably expects to -be expended this year.
– What about the £25,000 for the Prime Minister’s Department in London ?
– I shall obtain an explanation of that item from the Acting Prime Minister.
The Commission is doing its best to carry out the scheme intrusted to it, and it is strange to hear the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) finding fault with an irrigation policy. Every country that undertakes new measures is bound at first to meet with setbacks and reverses; just as every pioneer of settlement has his reverses. Many of those who to-day are living in prosperity are profiting by the experience gained by the reverses of those who preceded them.
– Has irrigation been a failure in India under efficient officers?
– No ; but when the Chaffey Brothers came to Australia, and tackled an entirely new irrigation problem, dealing with an Australian river and Australian soil and climate, their first effort resulted in some losses. Yet, to-day those who have seen Mildura and Renmark know how tremendous are the possibilities of irrigation in this country. My own trip down the Murray was a revelation to me of those possibilities. We had the assurance of those who settled on the irrigation areas, and who- have been connected with them from the jump, that they are a success. Population is thickly settled on areas which, without irrigation, would be practically unoccupied. Lower down, those near the river- are engaged in dairying.
– The same expenditure would enable you to put a farmer on the land and give him a picture show as well.
– That is not so. I had an opportunity of seeing what the South Australian Government is doing on the river for the repatriation of its soldiers. Little communities of fifteen, twenty, or thirty soldiers are scattered along the river; and not far from Murray Bridge there is a school where seventy soldiers are being trained in irrigation methods. I have no doubt that the Murray River, scheme will in the future create a great productive asset for Australia.
– I do not object to the scheme as a whole.
– No doubt the- honorable member in his speech sounded a proper note. He suggested that failures have occurred, and that it is wise, when making experiments, to study the experience of other people.
– I was chairman of the Commission of engineers and lawyers appointed by the States concerned which, in 1917-18, drafted the River Murray scheme; and, so far back as 1887, I personally wrote to an official of the Indian Government for reports on their irrigation methods, to assist projects which were to be carried out by the States. The Lake Victoria reservoir has been planned in the interests of the three States which are partners in the scheme. They and the Commonwealth agreed to construct reservoirs equal, or to bring the storage up, to the total capacity for irrigation of the Murray. About 600,000 acres have been provided for by the existing storage, the Waranga Basin, and the Burrinjuck Dam. It was contemplated to increase the possibilities of irrigation by the construction of new storage at Cumberoona and at Lake Victoria. At the former place, however, they found in 1915 that, although they had gone down about 197 feet, they could not strike a granite foundation. There is an apportionment of the waters of the Murray between the three States that signed the agreement, and it is felt that the construction of Lake. Victoria reservoir will help the upper States by conserving the discharges that come to South Australia.
– If the Upper Murray storage is not built the Lake Victoria reservoir will not operate.
– I think the .honorable member may rest assured that it will be built. Other storages were in contemplation, because, although the agreement actually mentioned Cumberoona as a site, it was not, as a site, actually decided upon. It was regarded at the time as the storage of the biggest capacity, ‘ but the construction of another storage at the present site wa? borne in-mind as a possibility. That is the reason why Cumberoona has not been decided upon as a storage up to the present time. There has been ‘ undoubtedly a delay in the construction of the works. It was thought that the Lake Victoria storage might be constructed within four years of the date of the agreement.
– Will Lake Victoria hold water?
– It holds water at the present time in a temporary dam built by the State Government at) the cost of £5,000. I think it was held that Lake Victoria, with a depth of 13’ feet, would have a discharge that would increase, without locking, the navigable period by four months.
– Has any allowance been made for seepage?
– Loss by both seepage and evaporation has been taken into account. For instance, the Waranga Basin has a surface area of about 19 square miles and an average depth of 17 feet, but seepage and evaporation mean a loss of about 7 feet annually. The Burrinjuck scheme, on the contrary, will have a weir 240 feet high, and an average depth of 160 feet over several square miles, and, owing to the great depth, the loss by percolation and evaporation will be exceedingly small. The Lake Victoria storage will have an average depth of 13 feet, and in regard to it every possible factor was taken into consideration. I haves mentioned Waranga Basin merely as an illustration of what happens in a shallow storage.
– There will be a greater evaporation at Lake Victoria than at Waranga Basin.
– I think the evaporation at Waranga Basin is only about 3. ft. 6 in.
-The figure I gave was for both seepage and evaporation.
– The evaporation must vary in different climates.
– Yes, but the figure I mentioned was the estimate given by engineers. Lake Victoria was regarded as one of the reservoirs that were essential to the apportionment of the water to the States. Therefore it must not be regarded as a special reservoir for South Australia.
– But it will be so if the rest of the scheme is not proceeded with. Mr. GLYNN.- It will be proceeded with. It was thought that there might be some reservoirs in the Tumut River district that might add considerably to the irrigation possibilities of the Murray, but Cumberoona and Lake Victoria were regarded as the two works that probably would be proceeded with at once and be more easily constructed. As soon as the reservoirs are constructed, there will be absolutely no loss of water in connexion with navigation. The reports of the engineers show that the water required for irrigation will be sufficient in itself to maintain a navigable depth, because the irrigation water will be delivered along the stream.
– Apparently South Australia is ‘ more interested in navigation than in irrigation.
– No matter what may be the varying interests of the States, they have arrived at an agreement on a basis recommended by the engineers after an exhaustive inquiry.
– Did the Minister say that the water used for irrigation would return to the river ?
– I had the good fortune to be present at nearly all the conferences, and in order to settle this question of alleged loss by irrigation the engineers were asked to prepare a special report. After an interval of twelve months they reported that the water required to maintain a navigable depth will not materially affect the water available for irrigation. The engineers say that there will be no diminution of the water required for irrigation if locks to the number mentioned in the agreement are constructed.
– That destroys the value of the locks as storages.
– They were never regarded as effective storages. The weirs are not the real storages unless used for diversions.
– It isevident that some honorable members have not read the various reports.
– There have been so many of them, I do not think one could find the time to read them all.
.- At the time the Murray Waters Agreement was made there was a’ general consensus of opinion that the right thing was being done, and I am sorry that any sort of captious objection should be raised now. There are difficulties, which I” think every honorable member should recognise, as there always are when three or four different bodies have to co-operate. The delay that has taken place in regard to the Murray Waters Agreement arises largely from the fact that three Statesand the Commonwealth are closely interested in the scheme. That it will be fruitful of enormous good in the future I am satisfied, in spite of what the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner), has said. The fact is that in Victoria we are just on the verge of having a sufficiency of rain, but we do, unfortunately, have droughts, and the practical result of irrigation in the northern parts of Victoria, more particularly in the electorates of Echuca and Wimmera, has been to demonstrate that by a judicious system of irrigation certain areas can be made to carry an enormous population.
– Is not the Wimmera system more for stock than for irrigation 1
– In my electorate the bulk of the water conservation is for irrigation purposes, but the money written off in the first instance was largely in regard to expenditure upon works undertaken in my constituency which were recognised to be of an experimental character. Many false moves were made, and if the district had been made to carry the whole of the expense it would have succumbed .under the load of debt.
– A tremendous sum was written off for pastoral improvements in South Australia.
– I think that over £1,000,000 was written off in connexion with irrigation in Victoria. However, that loss was the “result of unfortunate moves which did not prove successful. The districts individually could not be expected to pay the cost. I deprecate the carrying on of public -work during the continuance of the war. Expenditure of that character should be reduced to a minimum, and in respect of this Murray waters scheme the Government have said that that has been done. We must accept that statement in good faith, because we are without definite knowledge as to what contracts have been entered into. We know that works which have been commenced must be carried through. I am inclined to think that the Government are making laudable efforts to reduce expenditure on public works, but I wish there was some evidence of their intention to reduce expenditure in connexion with the general control of Departments. I am grieved sorely to see the ever-growing expenditure, and the increase of staff incidental to departmental working. If the Government wish to popularize themselves, and to satisfy the people of the Commonwealth, they must economize in that direction. The report of the Royal .Commission on the Navy administration shows that there is abundant room for an enormous improvement in that Department, and I am satisfied that the same remark applies to other Departments.
– Indicate any spot where an improvement can be made?
– The Minister’ asks me to enter into details; that is for the Minister to do. The cause qf the extravagance in Departments is more deeprooted than many people think. The fact is that the permanent heads really control these matters, and Ministers who are in control for only a short period are not able to exercise sufficient supervision.
– That is the fault of Parliament.
– Allow continuity of service by Ministers.
– So far as I am concerned, the present Ministry may remain in power for all time. However, we cannot overlook the fact that there is a growing departmental expenditure, and the general public will not be satisfied, until the expenditure ceases to grow, and the Government give evidence of their determination to effect economy. I respect the Government as a whole, but if I see a weak spot in their administration it is my duty to point it out. The weak spot of the present governmental system is that the parliamentary heads do not exercise a sufficient measure of control, and it is in the interests of the permanent heads to continually swell the importance of their Departments. There is great need for a very much improved audit system. The fact that the Auditor- General’s Department has to deal with expenditure that is twelve months old, is, in itself, a cause of trouble and inefficiency. I am glad to know that the Government recognise the urgent necessity for keeping down ‘ the expenditure on new works. I am not able to mention works that should not be proceeded with, because we do not know the precise stage at which different works have arrived. Some of those which are at an advanced stage must be carried to completion. I hope that the Government -will persevere along the lines they are now following, and in every possible way, during the continuance of the war, will cut down expenditure on works, particularly new works.
.- I wish to make a few remarks regarding the Murray Waters scheme. I had an opportunity of knowing something about the cost entailed in carrying outthe Melbourne water supply, ‘and also different schemes in New South Wales No one can foresee what expenditure will be entailed in carrying out the River
Murray waters scheme. When a lock or a weir is built, the first heavy rains generally show that it does not fulfil requirements, and extensive alterations have to be made. Such happenings cannot be avoided. I do not think that departmental officers deserve the castigation that some honorable members have dealt out to them, probably more for the purpose of getting press support than in the interests of the country. What I wish to bring particularly under the notice of the House is the need for curtailing expenditure upon Naval Bases and upon the proposed Arsenal until peace is proclaimed. Great changes have been taking place in ship construction and in the manufacture of explosives. Chemists are now producing explosives of a much greater destructive character than were previously in use. At the time that Admiral Henderson came to Australia and drew up a scheme for our naval requirements, there was a competition between the great nations in regard to the size of Dreadnoughts; but now we find that submarines are far more destructive. As a matter of fact, the methods of naval warfare have been considerably altered. It is certainly necessary for any country to prepare against the contingency of war. Even if the nations do resort to arbitration, it is only those Powers which will be prepared to resist encroachment who will secure the best terms. We know that in private life powerful firms secure the best terms in arbitration proceedings: and, even in industrial arbitration, if all the employees in a particular industry are in one union, they can secure terms more in keeping with their wishes. The changes brought about by the war must be a guide to our present operations. For instance, submarines will not require the dredging of channels at Naval Bases to a depth of 45 feet, and the destroyers of the future will be built more on lines of speed than on lines of size or depth. We should pause before we think of constructing Naval Bases to accommodate Dreadnoughts which may not be required. Prior to the war, no one would have imagined that we would have to fight our enemies under the seas or in the heavens. The war has taught us that submarines and aeroplanes, which cost practically nothing in comparison with the heavy expenditure that is necessary in the build ing of Dreadnoughts and their upkeep have proved to be most destructive weapons. If our defence policy of the future is to consist largely in building submarines and aeroplanes, the cost of our preparation for war is likely to be considerably reduced. But our submarines will have to be distributed along the coast in small Bases, so that they will not have to travel long distances. I have had the pleasure of inspecting a submarine.It was like the inside of a clock; it was mechanism from stem to stern. It has very little storage capacity, and it is surprising how men can move about in one. As a progressive people we ought to have the latest and most improved methods of destruction; and we are justified in asking the Government to be careful, in view of the present changing conditions in the matter of spending money on building Naval Bases or on the purchase of machinery for munition making. The same remarks apply to the Cordite Factory and similar establishments. Chemistry has made wonderful advances during this war, and with the pleasing knowledge that the war is slackening off, possibly leading to the submission of peace proposals, and seeing that for the next twenty years there is little probability of a recurrence of any great conflict between the nations, it will be in the interests of this country to slow down in the expenditure on munitions and instruments of war and Naval Bases. We are spending millions of loan moneys, for which we are paying 51/4 per cent. We are handing down the cost of the war to our children, and not attempting to bear our share of it. If more attention was paid to the use of loan moneys, it would prevent a good deal of the lavish expenditure on luxuries which is now so much apparent. The Government might seek to prevent the importation of industrial explosives in the future to enable the requirements of our mines to be made in Australia. In the meantime, I ask Ministers to listen to my reasonable request that, before they indulge in further loan expenditure on Naval Bases and on instruments of destruction, and machinery for the manufacture of munitions, they will give serious consideration to the altered conditions brought about by the war.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I am very pleased to learn from the Minister that it is the intention of the Department to push on rapidly with the Murray River waters scheme. As has already been said during this debate, we have included in the proposed loan expenditure several items which, even if passed, might well be held in abeyance pending greater necessity being shown for the work for which they provide. Of all the. items in the schedule to this Bill that relating to the conservation of the waters of the Murray has certainly the greatest claim for immediate expenditure. The question of the locking of the Murray has already been threshed out in this Parliament. The States and the Commonwealth have arrived at an agreement, but unfortunately a considerable time has been occupied in discovering a suitable site at which to provide for the storage of something like 1,000,000 acrefeet of water.. It might ‘be advisable at this stage to refer briefly to the possibilities of irrigation on the Murray. That river is the greatest we have in Australia, and with its banks and valleys offers the vastest possibilities of irrigation in the Commonwealth. _ Many exaggerated statements have been made as to its potentialities in this regard, but in the reports submitted by the Inter-State Commission we have a gauge of the total capacity of the river, and of what this scheme will mean in the advancement of irrigation in Australia if it be carried out in its entirety. It is, of course, impracticable to impound the whole of the Murray waters. At certain periods the floods coming down are so heavy that they cannot be dammed to their fullest extent, and necessarily large volumes of water must escape into the sea. It it were possible, however, to impound- and utilize the average flow’ of the catchment of the Murray we should be able to irrigate 4,500,000 acres. At the present time we have an area of something like 350,000 acres of irrigation cultivation or utilization in Australia, so that we can quickly estimate the extent to which our irrigation areas could be enlarged if the whole of the Murray waters could be harnessed and utilized. That, as I have said, is impracticable. .The scheme which has been prepared comprehends, so far as the engineers can forecast their ability to im pound these waters, pretty well the full storage capacity that can be reached for many years to come. If we were to carry out in its entirety the Upper Murray scheme for impounding 1,000,000 acre-feet of water, and also the Lake Victoria scheme, which would impound an additional 500,000 acre-feet, we would be able to extend our irrigation areas from something like 350,000 acres to 1,500,000 acres. No part of Australia offers such facilities for the successful settlement of returned soldiers as do the irrigable areas of the Murray. The areas already under irrigation in Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales, however, are so large that it would be almost dangerous to establish any further irrigation settlements along* the river without making provision for an additional supply of water to be available during periods of drought. In these circumstances thisscheme ‘becomes so urgently necessary that the Government should make every effort to push on with it. The storage works should be built as quickly as possible in order -that we may be able to settle our returned soldiers on the Murray River frontages and valleys. There is a good deal of misapprehension even in regard to the possibilities which the Murray flats- afford for their settlement. We understand that it is practically assured that a satisfactory site for the storage of the waters of the Upper Murray can be found, but even if the work of ‘building that storage basin were proceeded with to-morrow several years would elapse before the 1,000,000 acrefeet of water so impounded would be available for irrigation purposes. It will thus be seen that, unless this scheme be expedited, it will not be possible for some years to settle more than a “comparatively small number pf returned soldiers on the Murray flats.
During this discussion it has been said . by some honorable members that irrigation in Australia has been a failure. In Mildura on the Victorian side of the Murray, and Renmark, on the South Australian side, we have two of the most successful irrigation settlements in any part of the world. We have about 14,000 or 15,000 acres of land in the Merbein and Mildura districts, carrying a population of from 7,000 to 8,000 people. In other words, every two acres of land there is supporting an individual. Even in the United States, where irrigation has been brought to the standard of scientific perfection, no better results can be shown. The same may be said of Renmark. Settle- ° ments of returned soldiers have been established between Mildura and Merbein, and our returned men are also being settled in the Swan Hill, Nyah, and Cohuna districts. Returned soldiers may be placed with better hope of success on irrigation settlements that have already been established than would be possible if they were settled in separate communities. If left to themselves,- their spirit would probably be affected by their war, experiences, and a morbid atmosphere might be created. Then, again, in many instances they would not have had the experience necessary to success. I hold that we should settle them on areas adjacent to successful irrigation districts, where they would be able to obtain- the advice and assistance of experienced men.
I have no desire to labour this question. I propose only to urge upon the Government the absolute necessity of pushing on with all possible speed the construction of these storages. Under the presidency of the Minister, I believe many meetings have been held, and that the urgency of the work is being emphasized by him. I should like the honorable gentleman to further investigate the possibility, of extending the storage capacity of this scheme by utilizing the lakes, depressions and swamps adjacent to the Murray itself. Having regard to the” limited quantity of water available in this, the greatest river in Australia, we should utilize every possible means of storage in order that its waters may be conserved for irrigation purposes during the dry periods of the year. “We have depressions and lakes lying close to the river on the New South Wales, South Australian, and Victorian sides, and the Government should consider how far the storage capacity of the head works on the Murray and at Lake Victoria could be extended by filling the swamps and depressions adjacent to the stream. I hope ‘that the Minister will regard this as one of the most important matters of his administration, and that he will lose no time in pushing on with the work, which is easily the most far-reaching of any enterprise that could be undertaken in the Common- wealth at the present time. It does not affect only one State, and I am not speaking in the interest of any one State of the Union. The Burrinjuck scheme promises to provide for a large population, and this, together with many settlements in the Goulburn Valley and also on the South Australian side of the Murray, has proved what can be done by means of irrigation in Australia. We ought to congratulate ourselves on the fact that, after forty years of disagreement and conflict, as between the States, the Commonwealth Government have succeeded in bringing about a satisfactory settlement in regard to this all-important question, which will mean an extension of irrigation to the extent of 1,250,000 acres within the three States I have mentioned. It involves an expenditure of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 which, judiciously spent, would mean doubling the present agricultural production in those States. Seeing that some of the irrigation areas are sufficiently successful to enable 2 acres to support one person, honorable members can see what an enormous increase of population and rural production, and what a stupendous increase of wealth, will be made possible in the most successful portions of the irrigated area. I should like an assurance from the Minister, as chairman of the Board, that all the resources of his Department will be utilized to enable the- work to be carried out as speedily as possible, not only for the sake of the production of wealth in Australia, but in order that our returned soldiers may find along the Murray valleys,- adjacent to existing successful settlements, great areas on which they may settle and prosper.
– And it is most important to arrive at a decision, because plenty of people holding land near the Murray are not making any improvements.
– That is quite correct. Even if the work is started at once, it will be some years before it can be completed. But it might be possible for the Minister, on the advice of his engineers, to push on, for instance, with a portion of the Upper Murray works as well as the Lake Victoria scheme, which would not require the same length of time for completion as the scheme at the head waters of the Murray. They could thus make water available much sooner than by the ordinary processes of development and construction under the Department at normal times. I trust the Minister will be able to give, us a further assurance that he will carry on the work as rapidly as possible in order that we may be able to make use of this great wealth which has been too long neglected, and which will mean such a certain increase in the necessary production of the Commonwealth.
– We axe scarcely any further advanced with this scheme than when I made my first appearance in this Chamber twelve years ago. We were promised at that time that this great question would be considered, although the States had not come to a definite agreement on it. There was a good deal of talk at the time about the riparian rights of the States, but that difficulty seems to have been got over.
– It is got over only during the currency of this scheme. It will have to come up again at a later date.
– My chief regret is that the whole scheme has been protracted. We have never had anything really definite about the claims of the different States regarding their riparian rights. On one occasion New South Wales claimed both banks of the Murray, and even the flow from the Victorian rivers into it, so far as regarded that part of the Murray which abuts on New South Wales and Victoria. I am not aware that the “Ma”- State was so impertinent as to demand any rights over that portion of the Murray which flows through South Australia, but its claims at that time had much to do with delaying the’ settlement of the problem. When Mr. Fisher, as Prime Minister, made a definite promise here as to the amount that would be paid by the Common wealth, I felt that the matter was settled at last. Although a city man, I quite appreciate the necessity for locking the Murray for any irrigation scheme that may be promulgated by any of the States, but the whole business has been in the air so long that the people whose lands abut on the Murray, land- that will be taken over or submerged, are not willing to spend any money in improvements. There was a similar case in Victoria when what was known as the Trawool scheme on the Upper Goulburn was proposed. Owners of property in the township of Yea, a fairsized place, would not nail a paling up on a fence, or put a lock on a door, or a new pane in a window, because they expected the scheme to be. gone on with at an early date. Consequently, Yea retrogressed so much that it has never recovered the position it held’ when the Trawool scheme was first mooted. I hope similar results will not follow this scheme, but I am afraid they will, because no comprehensive undertaking has been placed before us, and even the Board of Control has not been properly settled. Two years ago I heard the names of certain gentlemen mentioned for the position of chairman, but I have heard nothing since. What is the use of continually having on our Estimates sums for the Murray water scheme unless something effective is done? Neither of the Ministers associated with this question has told us anything definite. One may appeal- to them for a definite statement, but I suppose the result would be just as big a blank as the past history of this project shows. There are honorable members who represent those por- tions of Victoria abutting on the Murray. There are, for instance, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie), the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer), and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), gentlemen who, perhaps, are quite competent to deal with the question so far as their own particular constituencies are concerned. This, however, is not a question 6f divisions, and not merely -a Victorian, hut an Australian, question, on which the House ought to be better informed than it is. If we carry our mind’s eye right along the Murray, through Indi to Echuca, down to the border of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, we can conceive enormous advantages that might accrue to New South Wales and Victoria at certain points. Further, we can conceive that some towns might benefit by such a scheme while others would be injured. The difficulty is that we do not know whether anything is to be done, or exactly what the Government are now doing; and I am rather surprised that the gentlemen I have mentioned, who are experts, have not placed their views before the House and debated the proposal more strongly. I have been waiting for some time to hear, for instance, the honorable member for Echuca give us the advantage of the knowledge he has doubtless garnered during the many years he has represented that part of the State, and endeavour to explain to us the exact position.
– On one occasion I spoke on the subject for nearly an hour and a half.
– If the honorable member’s words were as convincing on the Murray question as they are on general questions, I do not wonder at their having little effect; but my complaint is that we have not heard from him often enough on this particular subject. The honorable member for Indi might be placed in the same category, though he is rather new to the House.
– Both of those honorable members made very helpful speeches today.
– That may be, but their speeches were not in the direction of castigating the Government for its remissness.
– There is no need for that; the Government have1 done (everything necessary, and the honorable members mentioned look at the matter in a Federal spirit, not through the atmosphere of politics._
– Servile followers of . any Government never get what they ought to get.
– We do not understand that point of view on this side of the House.’
– Perhaps not ; it is possible that my powers of explanation are not sufficient to make any point clear to the Minister. At any rate, I am surprised that those three honorable members’ have not endeavoured to induce -the Government to be more emphatic in its statements.
– This does not depend on the action of the Federal Government, but on the action of the State Governments first.
– The trouble is that the onus is always thrown on the States. The Federal Government promised a certain amount of money in order to carry this big scheme into effect, and some action by the Government is neceessary to prevent the whole project lapsing. Apparently, the Government are not insisting on the States carrying out their part, and I suppose this arises from the old plea of the necessity for economy in war time. But it is just as foolish as most cries of the kind. This is .supposed to be a strong Government with strong supporters, and the project should be proceeded with utterly irrespective of what the Age, the Argus, or any other newspaper may say. Are the Government afraid of the news- papers - afraid of the claptrap that has been appearing during the last few weeks alleging enormous and unwarrantable expenditure, and demanding economy ? Why, the Age newspaper is only playing with the feeble-minded, public outside in the hope that they will consider the question from its stand-point. The articles can have no effect whatever on the true Australian- who desires to see Australia advanced in the way it should., I am surprised at the Government taking any notice of such writings. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in one of his statements, explained in some degree the cause of the extra expenditure’ in many Departments as brought about by the war; but he ought to show, on behalf of the Government, why the expenditure has been necessary. The newspapers merely place the expenditure before the public, and do not offer any information as to why it has been incurred.
Victoria is more concentrated in regard to population and railways than any other State, and it can and will derive great benefit from this scheme. There is no doubt-that if it be carried out the newspapers will charge the Government with extravagance; but the newspapers would do that even if the very life of the people depended on the expenditure. However, as the years have gone on, the newspapers have lost their hold on the people. The Labour party beat the newspapers,and surely what the Labour party did, this strong - or reputedly strong - Government can do! The time will come when we shall have teeming masses - of population working on the land in Victoria if proper facilities be given, and irrigation is one of the first. I feel sure that if the Government come down with a scheme to open up the shores of the Murray to a riparian population, the whole of the country will be behind them, in’ spite of the newspapers. I look forward to a time, in the not distant future, when Victoria will be able to maintain a population of 10,000,000 in affluence; but that can only be if this and succeed- ing Governments approach projects of this kind with a firm determination that they shall be carried out. It was almost ridiculous to hear Ministers striving, two at a time, to explain the question of the Murray works to the Committee, and, of course, we had a different version from each. Ministers have no right to try to impose upon honorable members in that manner. They may strain our kindly feelings too far. Are we to have finality on the question at all ? To lock the Murray is the only means by which the repatriation of our soldiers can be comprehensively brought about. We are hoping shortly to hear of the end of the war. Before our men departed for the Front the average of their working days amounted to only about eight months in the year. When they return they will not- tolerate those conditions ; and, if they are to get their dues in this respect, it will be the men who have stayed at home - fathers and brothers and other kin - who will have to suffer by getting still less work during each year.
– So long as they receive good wages they will not growl about how much work they do.-
– No man should receive money unless he works for it. The Murray works have not been advanced as should have been the case. For that we cannot blame the States, because they are restricted in their powers. It has been stated that there is to be still further restrictions with respect to the borrowing capacities of the States. That will restrict their spending capacity. South Australia has been most selfish, .in its demands with regard to the Murray question - just as selfish as it was, in fact, concerning the transcontinental railway.
– What about our generosity in giving you the Northern Territory ?
– That was beautiful generosity. Nothing in the history of Australia has been on a par with the gift of the Territory. It has been like the Old Man of the Sea on our backs.
– It was a very fine arrangement between a South Australian Commonwealth Minister and the Commonwealth Government.
– Well, I have said nothing as bad as that about it. But it has appeared to me that the chief objec tion to the settlement of the Murray problem has come from South Australia.
– It came from Victoria.
– That was not so, because immediate benefit would be conferred on Victoria. I admit that under the scheme suggested at one stage, South Australia would not have received immediate benefit, but, with regard to the present proposal, the same cannot be said. If progress is not to be made more rapidly with respect to the Murray than has been the case in the past few years, it is idle to place these amounts on the Estimates. The honorable members for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), Echuca (Mr. Palmer), and Indi (Mr. Leckie), particularly, should take the responsibility for pushing the Government on in relation to this great project.
– The honorable member is trying to pacify his own mind in making, that statement.
– I am afraid that we have not to scratch very deep in this House to find that, with most honorable members, it is the interests of the ‘States represented which dominate their feelings. The representatives’ of Victoria will insist that the Murray waters scheme shall be proceeded’ with at once, and they intend to see that the Government shall not be deterred by the false cry of economy.
– Are you an advocate of still further increased taxation?
– I look upon taxation in this light, namely, that if the country is to get the benefit of certain expenditure, it should be taxed; and there should be no limit to taxation if resultant benefit is to be conferred. I think that any business man would agree with me on that point. To say that, because we -are at war, this and that cannot be done is nonsense. If money is spent in Australia, and benefit accrues from the expenditure, it cannot be lost. I hope that something will be done to bring to a completion the great Murray River waters scheme.
.- Last night I drew attention to the urgency for the conservation of the waters of the Murray, and asked the Minister to make a statement on the subject. I do not regard this scheme from a provincial stand-point; I look upon it as. providing one of the finest opportunities for the repatriation of our soldiers. Wild suggestions for sending returned men to the Northern Territory and to other out-back places have been made; but the conservation of the water of the Murray will provide good opportunities for placing men on the land. Although the scheme has been in existence for three years, little has been done. That is proved by the fact that only about £9,000 has been expended on it. I hope that, as a result of the speeches that have been made today, the Minister will urge the three Governments concerned to push on with ‘ the necessary work as quickly as possible.
There are several items in regard to which I wish for explanations. I wish to know the justification for the acquirements of land at Fairy Meadow, New South Wales, for the establishment of cement works. This National Government is not committed to all the Socialistic scheme’s of the Administration which preceded it, yet it has “paid £3,000 for an option on an iron mine. ,
– You cannot put the blame of the iron mine project on a previous Government.
– No. We bave promised that, while the war continues, we shall not attempt to take from Labour anything that it has won ; but a National Government, supported by Labour and Liberal members, should not enter into new Socialistic schemes, although it may be compelled to carry on enterprises initiated before it took office. It is the connexion of Governments with so many industries that is causing most of the industrial trouble which tends to drive capital out of the country, capital being a shy bird which is apt to fly away very quickly. Should any large amount of capital be withdrawn from Australia, those who vote for the members of the present Opposition will be the first to feel the bad effects that will follow. Revelations that have been made to me concerning the brickworks at Canberra convince me that a Government cannot carry oh business Enterprises so satisfactorily as private persons can.
– What is the difference between the Government owning steamships and the Government owning an iron mine?
– I do not think that the Government should own either. But the honorable member knows how speculative a business is mining. I protest against further socialistic enterprise by this Government.
Last night I drew attention to the huge sum voted year after year for the Cockatoo Island Dock establishment. For the last four or five years we have been spending on the dock hundreds of thousands of pounds annually. When is this expenditure to end ? We are now being asked for £200,000 for “ machinery and plant, yard and floating plant,” and for £60,000 for “ naval engineering and other works “ at Cockatoo Island. The dockyard has already cost something over £1,000,000; and a report recently presented by the Accounts Committee, of which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) was Chairman, shows that it is impossible for work to be done there at anything like reasonable prices.
– The dock is in about the worst place in Australia that could have been chosen for it.
– Furthermore, the method of administration makes economy impossible. The general manager has pointed out that he cannot carry out works economically.
– That is because of the Arbitration Court awards.
– And because of the instructions he receives. He wrote to the Minister saying that if he were permitted to employ a certain number of workmen on piece-work, he could save hundreds of thousands of pounds; but he was refused permission to do so.
I propose to add to the item providing for the construction of conduits and for lighting wires the words “ and for the construction of telephones generally.” I have pointed out, on previous occasions, how badly the people in the back country are treated, and how much they need better postal, telephonic, and telegraphic facilities. I should like the PostmasterGeneral to see that some money is made available to secure these for them. Some time ago I made an application for the establishment of a telephone some 90 miles east of Carnarvon. It was proposed that the line should go through a number of pastoralproperties, and the people interested offered a guarantee of 10 per cent. on the outlay for the next seven years, which was all that the Department asked for, and also to cart the material to where it would be required. There has, so far, been no answer from the Department approving the application. In another district, where £250,000 has been spent on a railway to open up the country, . the Post and Telegraph Department has refused to spend a few thousand pounds to establish, a telephone line along the railway.. When we ask people to go out into the backblocks, we should try to secure to them some of the advantages of civilization which are enjoyed by the residents of “the more ‘thickly populated centres. I have no hesitation in saying that if the post and telegraph systems of the ‘States had not been handed over to the Commonwealth, the State authorities would have made far better provision for people in remote districts than has been made by the Commonwealth Government.’. “No 0118 desires that there should be unnecessary expenditure at the present time; but if money is to be found for the telephone system, it would be better expended in giving facilities to people in the bush than in laying conduits in . the big cities.
I happen to be chairman of the Public Works Committee, and I wish to direct attention,’ not only to the action of the Government in preventing the reference of works to that Committee which should be referred to it in accordance with the Public Works Committee Act, but also to the action of the Postmaster-General in dividing a work into two sections, with the object of avoiding an inquiry into it by the Public Works Committee. A large sum of money is shown on the Estimates for alterations at the General Post Office, and a further sum is set down for alterations in connexion with - the telegraph office. It is idle for the Postmaster-General to suggest that this expenditure is not required for one work. The division of the work is merely a subterfuge, to enable the PostmasterGeneral to evade the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act. A Minister of the Crown should be the first to see -that the provisions of an Act of Parliament are carried out in their entirety. If the Public Works Committee Act is not a good measure, it is the duty of the Government to immediately amend or repeal it. I understand that the Post master-General contends that the alterations referred to involve technical work, which gentlemen not possessing technical knowledge arc not able to’ deal with. It would appear, hovever, that the honorable gentleman is himself able to de;il with it, and perhaps from his recent literary efforts we may judge whether he possesses the technical knowledge required.
Although inquiries by the Public Works Committee involve a certain amount of expense, and sometimes a good deal of trouble to officials of the Government Departments, there is not the slightest doubt that the work of that Committee has resulted in the- saving of an enormous sum of money to the people of Australia. The members of the Committee have been able to expose some very wasteful expenditure in connexion with many public- works. The GovernorGeneral in Council has exempted from inquiry by the Committee all works for water supply and water storage in connexion with naval works. I am unable to understand why water- supply required for naval works should be exempt from inquiry by the Public Works Committee. In Western Australia it has been proposed to bring water from Wungong. Creek for 20 miles to the Henderson Naval. Base; and how any inquiry into that proposal could be of advantage to the enemy, it is impossible to conceive. There has been a large expenditure in the building of barracks at the Flinders Naval Base, and the members of the Public Works Committee were able to show that brickwork carried out there by the Government cost,, for labour alone, over £15 per rod. I have not the slightest doubt that a contractor could have got the same work done for from £7 10s. to £8 per sod. I find that the Naval Stores buildings, and a long list of. other works, are to be exempted from reference to the Public Works Committee; and I repeat that the Public Works Committee Act . should be repealed, or its provisions should not be evaded by subterfuge.
To show honorable members the way in which big savings have been effected by the recommendations of Committees, I may say that a few years ago the Wood Powellising Commission was appointed, of which I was chairman. That Commission recommended to the Government that the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway should be laid with 8-ft. instead of 9-ft. sleepers, as proposed by the Department. As a compromise, and only, I think, as a compromise, a great portion of the line was laid with 8-ft. 6-in. sleepers. The New South “Wales railways were originally laid with 9-ft. sleepers, but to-day they are all laid with 8-ft. sleepers. The economy that would have resulted from the laying, of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway with 8-ft. sleepers, rather than with 9-ft. sleepers would have been enormous, because, in addition to the saving on the sleepers, there would have been saved the cost of 1 foot of ballast throughout the 1,000 miles of that railway. The alteration from ©-ft. to 8-ft. 6-in. sleepers saved an enormous expenditure on the sleepers, and will save 6 inches of ballast throughout the greater portion of the length of that railway. That is a Tesult of the recommendation of the Powellising Commission.
One result of the labours of the Public Works Committee is that officials of the Works Department show far greater care in making recommendations to Ministers than they did previous to the appointment of the Committee. I am satisfied that the work of that Committee has saved the Commonwealth an enormous amount of money up to the present time.
– Why exempt military and naval works from reference to the Committee? There need be no secrecy about them.
– Every time we have had anything to do with the Defence Department, and more particularly in connexion with the Arsenal, it has been suggested that it is essential that no outside person should know anything of what is being done. The whole world knows that we are building an Arsenal, and it is preposterous to say that we should not make public how many men are being employed on the job, lest the enemy should know what our proposals are. No doubt when the Arsenal is in operation there will be certain processes which should be kept secret. But it is absurd to say that there is any need for secrecy in regard to the general lay-out of the Arsenal, the expenditure upon the work, and the number of men employed. I have found that the Defence Department has very much less regard for the expenditure of money than have other Departments. The Defence Department does not care what a job costs, solong as it gets what it wants and its officers can proceed at their own sweet will. More light should be thrown on the undertakings of the Defence Department than has been possible in the past. On the other hand, there are certain Government undertakings that ought to be kept secret. For instance, information in regard to the dredging of approaches to Naval Bases should not be made public, and I do not think that any Committee would inquire into confidential work of that kind. But, generally speaking, there is no necessity for secrecy. I contend that the investigations by the Public Works Committee have resulted in a saving of many tens of thousands of pounds, and I do not think it is right that a Minister qf the Crown should try to evade the Public Works Committee Act, or that the Government should, by exempting certain works, prevent that examination which, in connexion with other projects, has proved so beneficial.
– The statementmade by the honorable member for Dampier in regard to the evasion of the Public Works Committee Act is not in accordance with the facts. The two propositions to which he referred are separate and distinct. One is nearing completion ; the other is not yet started, and may not be carried out. Therefore, it is not true that the two proposals are related or mutually dependent. The allegation that there has been an attempt to evade the requirements of the Public Works Committee Act is not justified. My desire to improve the intolerable conditions that have prevailed for so long in connexion with the Melbourne General Post Office urged me to adopt a course which would give relief at the earliest possible moment. It is that course of which the honorable member has complained.
Reference has been made to the amount required for conduits, and questions have been asked as to whether that amount will provide for the connexion of new services during the year. It will not.
Included in the amount of £220,000 are two sums of £64,000 and £66,000, which are required to pay for contracts already let. Some of the material has already arrived, and the remainder of it is expected to be shipped at any time. Unfortunately the initial placing of the orders was unduly delayed, and the war has further hindered the delivery of the material. The Department urgently requires new cables, not for the purpose of installing new services, but to relieve congested aerial lines which are in such a condition as to make it impossible for any new wires to be laid. Thus honorable members will see that £130,000 isrequired for those two contracts. A further sum of £42,000 is needed to lay the cables and complete the conduit work. The conduits and the labour necessary to install the cable on hand, and that which will be recovered when the new cable is laid, will cost £44,000. When we lay new cables of a larger size we are able to lift smaller cables that are no longer capable of giving the necessary service in their present position, and to relay them in some other system. Where undergrounding takes place, the aerial lines will be dismantled, and will be used to give relief in other places. In no case will any of this work enable the Department to give one more connexion, but we shall be able to give a more perfect service than is possible with the present congestion. Therefore, . this expenditure is urgent in order to keep the Department up to date and to provide the public with a decent service for the money they are paying. The amount necessary for new services is already included in the general amount on the Estimates, and that is for services which have been already approved. We have many applications on hand, and they are causing considerable worry to me and the Department, because we have not the material necessary to grant services as liberally as we should like to do. The business of the Department increased last year by 10 per cent., and it is necessary that a service of this kind should be catered for, not only to serve the public, but . also to strengthen the revenue, and give to the Department the return which it is entitled to expect. I offer this explanation in order to remove from the minds of honorable mem bers any impression that the sum included in this Bill is to provide for new services. It is merely for the improvement of services on existing lines.
-The allocation of so much money as is provided in this Bill for public works would, even in normal times, justify a much more careful inspection than the items appear likely to receive to-day. The fact that these various amounts are passing with so little observation by the Committee indicates the extent of the demoralization that has overtaken this Parliament, and the unusual control that is being exercised by the Ministry over members generally. But seeing that we are now in a very serious financial position, and that the war has practically altered our entire outlook for many years to come, it is the duty of Parliament to scan the proposed expenditure with much more care than we are giving these proposals at the present time. . I do hot believe there is any necessity for a panic, and I do not want to see a wholesale slaughter of public works, but I would like to make a distinction, and would say that, while works which are reproductive and immediately necessary ought to be carried out, other undertakings which are not urgently necessary, and are not of a reproductive character, should not be proceeded with. The money proposed to be spent on them could very well be allocated to much more necessary purposes. We have large sums set aside for Naval Bases, the most important of which is the Henderson Base in my own State. Perhaps I am rather foolish in my own interests if I suggest that such work going on there could very well be curtailed, but while it may be necessary to continue that work I want to feel assured that we are getting 20s. worth for every £1 we spend. I am not sure - in fact, I am certain - that such has not been the case in the past; and I am not sure that that is the position at the present time.
– How could you secure that?
– Perhaps I can give an illustration of- what I mean.
– Do you not think that the Westernport Base works could be stopped altogether?
– I am speaking of the Henderson Base, and perhaps I shall refer to the other Bases before I close. Before the war the Henderson Base work was urged upon the Commonwealth Government by the Imperial authorities as being urgent. The” Imperial officers knew - as some of us did not know, but surmised - that war was inevitable within a few years, and so they urged the construction of the Bases in order more effectively to meet the threatened danger. But the war’ has actually taken place, and the naval and military situation has been so altered that we would be wise - and perhaps the Imperial authorities would advise this course - if these works were slackened for a little while, or until, at all events, we knew precisely how the money could be spent to the best advantage. As far as the Henderson Base is concerned, expenditure has been going on for a considerable time, and the representatives of that State have been frequently warned from responsible quarters that there were no definite plans that the men employed there were simply muddling along, wasting time and money, and that, as a matter of fact, a great deal of the work was absolutely useless. I was told this, not once, but many times. I began to wonder what was wrong; so on one occasion when the Joint Committee on Public Accounts held an inquiry in connexion with the Cockatoo IslandDockyard, and when it was our duty to’ call before us the then Director of Naval Works, I endeavoured to find out whether the Director was in any degree responsible for this state of affairs which had been so frequently reported to me. When, therefore, he came before the Committee, I went to some trouble to discover what his credentials and experiences were, and I propose now to read to the Committee some questions which I put to him, together with the answers which he gave -
What position did you hold at Rosyth? - I was one of the engineers in charge of a section.
What particular section were you in charge of? - Not only one section, but several sections. I was on the Base proper in connexion with arsenal matters, but I was only there a few months. I think I was there nine months, when my health broke down.
What particular sections were you in charge of? - The work there was commencing, and I was appointed as one of the engineers, and sent for from Bermuda, from the West Indies, to take up work at Rosyth.
That is what I want to know - what particular work were you in charge of atRosyth? - When I was at Rosyth, engineers were coming in from all places, sent for in reference to taking up work there, and, as I have said, I was only there a short time, when, owing to the climate, my health broke down. I came away from a hot climate to a cold climate, and was invalided from Rosyth.
I will ask you again, Mr. Fanstone, what particular section or sections were you in charge of at Rosyth ? - I had, asI have already said, taken up several things there in a general way. I was on the Base proper, and connected with the explosive magazines.
Were you in a position of any responsibility at Rosyth? - Yes.
What was it? - In connexion with the designs and preparing for the work.
In connexion with the designs, what position of responsibility did you hold in connexion with the designs? - The responsibility of my own work in connexion with the designsdesigning for the Base and for the magazines.
Had you any men working under you? - I would like to explain that the system operating at Rosyth was the system that is going on at ray own Bases. It is this: I have an officer in charge, who has a number of engineers on his staff. They are in charge of different sections. I have, for instance, one engineer in Western Australia on marine and data work. That data work is supplied to other engineers for preparing designs, and we are working on these designs in Melbourne here to-day: In each case the work is prepared for you, and you go on with your work. What I have read does not give honorable members anything more than an impression of the efforts made to get this man to say what his experiences and qualifications were. He hummed and hawed; he hesitated, and he evaded; and as honorable members will see, at the finish he had not stated what position he had held at Rosyth, and what, was his experience. This induced me to ask for the file in connexion with his appointment. I propose now to read two letters to the Committee from the. file. The first letter is dated Sydney, the 8th July, 1911. It reads as follows: -
Dear Sir, - With reference to my application for the post as Director of Naval Works, and so as to give your Board the greatest assistance and information on Naval matters as is carried out in the Imperial Service, I, on reaching ray home, looked up several plans and drawings prepared and designed by me,.
The words “ by me “ are crossed out. and carried out under my direction - which the Board may be pleased to see if you consider my sending them are in perfect order, and again which I will ask you kindly to return in due course.
Again thanking you, I am, dear sir,
– I understand that this man is on a bed of sickness. At any rate, he is not in the Service now.
– I am treating this as a public matter. The individual does not concern me in the least. I am speaking of Mr. Fanstone’s appointment as Director of Naval Works. I hope that is understood. I did not know the man until he came before me as a witness.
– What purpose can the honorable member serve?
– I am pointing out how moneyhas been wasted in the past, the necessity for a change in administration in. the future, andthat some men who have been to a large extent responsible for this waste of money and for the muddling in this Department are still there.
SirRobert Best. - Mr. Fanstone is not there now.
– But who is responsible for his appointment? However, I wish to get on with the point that I was endeavouring to make. This is the letter in which he accepted the appointment : -
Brisbane, 17th July, 1911.
Dear Admiral Sir William, -
In compliance with your wishes, and as directed by the Naval Secretary by wire, appointing me your Naval Director of Works from the 1st proximo, I beg to thank you most heartily, and also the Naval Board, for the honour conferred and the. interest taken, and also to assure you of my great ambition to serve yourself and the Naval Board faithfully, worthy of the Naval profession.
Again thanking and assuring you of my sincerity,
I have the honour still to remain,
It is most incredible that an illiterate fool of this character, who could not produce a single testimonial in the whole of the series to show that he held positions of any responsibility was appointed by those who were entrusted with the. responsibility of administering the Department.
– Who appointed him?
– He was appointed by one member of the Naval Board. The rest of theN aval Board indorsed the appointment, and the Minister approved it. But any one with threepenny worth of common sense who looked at thisman’s own letters, and the recommendations he had sent in, would have realized at once that he was a humbug, and totally unfitted for the position to which he was appointed. The result, as I say, is shown intheway in which the work was carried on under his control. There was no plan:; there was no scheme laid down when he was in charge. On the 18th May, 1913, the Henderson Base was opened by the then Minister with a great deal of eclat during an election campaign, when we were given to understand that everything was going on beautifully. It has since been ascertained by a Committeeof this House that even then no definite scheme and no plans existed upon which the men were working, and that it was merely a piece of political acting to meet the outcry of the public.
I come now to the Westernport Naval Base. Any one who goesround there and looks at the character of the workin progress will wonder what on earth it all means. Westernport is a magnificent sheet of deep water, but the site selected for the Base is awayup at the end of a wretched billabong, almosta gutter at low water, and the particular spot selected for the buildings is opposite a muddy flat, which will have to be dredged out entirely before even a rowing-boat can go up to them.
– It will provide plenty of work in Victoria.
– Undoubtedly it will provide a great deal of work. They might as well have put the buildings in a paddock 2 miles back from the shore, and brought the water up to them, in the style of Robinson Crusoe, when he was trying to float his first canoe. At Westernport the same wholesale waste of money has been going on ; there is the same lack of plans, lack of system, and lack of supervision. In this respect I want to speak of an incident that took place there. An- acquaintance of mine, a practical man well known to many of the workmen employed at the Base, paid a visit to it during the old regime, when work was supposed to be going ahead in boom style. He walked around and came to the place where men were taking out a very nice slope. He could not ascertain why they were doing it. To this day no one knows why that excavation was made by which well-formed ground sloping gently to the water was transferred into a muddy flat, the whole of which will have to be covered by some road-making material before it can be made use of. He stood looking at the men for some time, and then walked up to a couple of them and said, “ Hullo, you are having a good time here.” One of them replied, “ Oh, yes ; not too bad.” Looking about him he then remarked, “I wonder what this will cost per cubic yard?” One of the men stuck his shovel in the ground, and looking towards his mate, asked, “Bill, what do you think it will cost per cubic yard?” Bill looked up and said, “I don’t know what it will cost per cubic yard, but I should say it would run into a bob a bshovelful.” That was the sort of thing which went on, not only at Westernport, but elsewhere, in connexion with the money which the country has to find for so-called Naval Bases. How much it will cost to make a Naval Base at Westernport at the site selected God only knows. But the best thing we can do is to cut the losses absolutely, and to make over the buildings there either for a lunatic asylum or some similar purpose.
I was one of those honorable members who at first thought that we were justified in building a Federal Capital somewhere in virgin country which would provide this Parliament with a worthy habitation for all the hundreds of years that we hope Australia will keep her head above the threatening waves of the outside world. But the position which has been created by the war is so serious that the only course open to this Parliament is to leave the Federal Capital severely alone for another fifty years at least.
– Keep this Parliament under the influence of Victoria for another fifty years?
– If we go to Canberra we shall merely be under the influence of Sydney instead of the influence of Melbourne. The present Federal Capital site should never have been selected. It was the result of intrigue, and of certain State influences that were brought to bear. Canberra is a cold, bleak place in the winter, and it is as hot as is anywhere else in the summer. Its water supply is deficient - oertainly it is not what it ought to be in the case of a big city.
– Its water supply is equal to the water supplies of Sydney and Melbourne combined.
– I know perfectly well that we can get a water supply in the dead heart of Australia if we are prepared to pay the price for it. There are other sites immensely superior in that regard to the one which has been selected for the Federal Capital. But, altogether apart from that consideration, we are not justified at the present time in continuing to spend money there, and I am prepared to give a vote in the direction of putting an end to that expenditure indefinitely.
In conclusion, let me repeat that I regret very much that the Government do not appear to be seized of the gravity of our financial position. In the near future we shall have to cut much closer to the. bone than the Government are doing. We need to realize that the money we are spending upon these projects is not our own, and is more urgently required by the States than it is by the Commonwealth. For some years to come we shall have to carry a very serious burden in regard to the State finances as well as our own. That is a responsibility which we must face. As a Commonwealth it is our duty to see that the States are successfully tided over the strenuous period which is before us. We can only tax with safety up to a certain point, and already we have very nearly reached that point. If we are going to rise to the occasion, we must have a more definite lead from the Government in regard to the necessity for a drastic curtailment of public works and rigid economy in every Commonwealth Department.
.- I desire to make a few observations concerning our expenditure upon Naval Bases. I recollect that, some two or three years before the outbreak of war, Admiral Percy Scott drew attention to the fact that the submarine was likely to prove a very important weapon in Naval warfare. In this connexion, I recollect a story which he told of an incident which occurred at a big naval review. He was in charge of a submarine squadron, one of the vessels of which dived beneath a Dreadnought, and after diving back again; signalled to its leader, “ Have sunk a Dreadnought.” Immediately the reply came back, “You be damned!” That circumstance evidences the attitude of the Admiralty towards the submarine arm of the service. But the war has proved to us all what an extraordinary powerful weapon is the submarine, and in my opinion, we ought to suspend work at our Naval Bases and devote the money we are spending there to the building of submarines and aircraft. We have to recollect that the Admiralty which urged that bur Naval Bases should be proceeded with is the same Admiralty which made the reply to Admiral Scott that I have quoted. In this Bill provision is made for the expenditure of £340,000 upon Naval Bases, Works, Establishments, &c. Now our Naval Bases are to be built for the purpose of harboring Dreadnoughts.
– No; the honorable member is entirely wrong.
– I do not believe that we shall require round our coast anything like the number of Dreadnoughts, cruisers, and destroyers that some honorable members appear to think. We should be spending our money more wisely if we put it into the construction of submarines and aircraft. I doubt the wisdom of spending large sums of money upon an Arsenal. Regarding the railway which it is proposed to construct in the Northern Territory, I think that our financial necessities will make it imperative-
– To what railway is the honorable member referring ?
– To the Pine Creek to Katherine River railway. I am very much obliged to the Minister for Works and Railways for his interjection, because I remember that in speaking upon the Murray waters question he .distinctly stated that the taxpayers of this country would not have to pay - > -
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said that the money required for those works would not come out of revenue, but out of loan funds.
– Does the honorable gentleman think it right to lead the taxpayers to believe that no burden will be cast upon them because this expenditure is to come out of loan funds?
– I did not say anything of the kind, nor did I imply it.
– I think Hansard will show that .the honorable gentleman did make a statement to that effect.
– The honorable- member could not have heard me as clearly as. he usually does.
– It appears to be the policy of the Government to borrow huge sums of money, and to trust to posterity to repay them. When the Government representing the great Australian Labour party were in office, we constructed out of revenue many of the public works for which provision, is now being made out of loan account. If the requisite revenue was not forthcoming, the works had to remain in abeyance. I am surprised at the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) and the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) proposing to provide for so many public works out of loan money. We have been told that the object which the Allies set out to attain by this war was the establishment of a league of nations and the bringing about of a general disarmament. If we do not secure those results I shall consider the war has been fruitless. We were led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and other patriotic and belligerent gentlemen to believe that this was a war for the freedom of the world, and the freedom of the world can be secured only by the establishment of a league of nations to enforce peace upon swashbuckling little States and peoples who will insist upon going to war. The league of nations is, in fact, to “ police “ the world. Since we have in Australia, as in every other civilized portion of the globe, a police system which has taken the place of the bid method of settling individual disputes with a waddy, it seems to me to be quite reasonable that the civilized nations of the earth should join together to police the world and to enforce peace upon it. If that happens, as it ought to- do, what necessity will there be for these vast defence preparations which the Australian Government are making? If a league of nations is established - if Germany is disarmed and has to do away with its Navy - it ought to be unnecessary for us to spend large sums on Naval Bases. If Britain, France, Italy, the United States of America, Germany, Austria, and Russia were to decide to maintain a joint navy to police the seas and to keep the uncivilized peoples in order, they would not require a navy much larger than that of Britain, and the contributions made by each individual to its maintenance would be only a few shillings per annum). But out honorable friends opposite, who have- been talking of the. formation of a league of nations to secure the freedom of the world, apparently do not believe that such a thing is possible. They could never have believed it possible) although they pretended’ that the war was f or that purpose, since they come down to-day with a long list of’ defence works’ involving an expenditure of millions, and the Minister in charge of the measure says that the taxpayers, need not be disturbed- because no charge will be. made upon them in respect of such works, inasmuch- as– we are going to raise- the. money by loan. The honorable gentleman has not told the people, as they will soon- find out after the war, that they have to pay the interest on these loan moneys. Our interest bill, as the Minister ought to know, is rapidly growing. He has been so much occupied in trying to- keep his party together, and to bring about peace and harmony in the Ministerial Caucus meetings that he, perhaps, has- not gone into- the. matter.
– They are very humble; the honorable member need not worry about them.
– They must be- harmonious, although the honorable member for Perth (Mr-. Fowler), the honorable member” for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie) have shown much independence. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr.. Archibald) has. disclosed the “actual, state of affairs in; the Liberal Caucus. He has said, “ I have had! experience1 of two Caucuses* - the one is heaven, the other is hell.” The Liberal Caucus- is as heaven to him.
The policy of the Win-the-war party appears to be to- saddle posterity with a huge burden of debt,, and I object to a great deal of the expenditure included in the schedule on that account. Our interest bill will’ be nearly £15,000,000 per annum merely for war expenditure, very shortly. The income tax is to beincreased by 30 per cent.., and the estimated receipt from-, that source is £9,000,000. The Government loses sight of the very important fact that we are spending: probably £50’,000,000 of loan morley every year: All the business peopleare making’ money. You pay, I understand,. £3. or £4 for a pak’ of lady’s boots, and anything from nine: up to fourteenguineas for a sac. suit. Many of the> business- people are doing so well that they are paying these vast sums because! their incomes are large-. A man says, “ I do not mind” paying the extra income tax,, because I am making a lot of money/” but the business’ people are making these’ huge sums owing to Hie expenditure of large war loans./- It is a dreadful ad<mission on- the part of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to say that as. this expenditure is all coming, out of loan money the taxpayer need noi bother. When the. war loans stop the income of the people will be lowered’, and how then will we be able to. meet, the huge interest bill? I do not contemplate with any pleasure the prospect of tha Government borrowing money to payinterest on the war debt, following the example of the unfortunate State of Western Australia, which cannot meet its. growing, deficit..
The London office has cost over £800,000; and £25,000 is included in thisschedule to be spent on it. I presume ‘ it is in the Prime Minister’s Department, and possibly the Acting. Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) ils of the same opinion as the Minister for Works and Railways, that the taxpayers need not bother; as it is all to come out of loan.
– Did. he say that ?
– The honorable member will find words to that effect in Hansard. The Minister has denied it,, andi parliamentary courtesy demands that I. should accept his denial; .but I am inrclined to think my rendering represents the general policy of the Government. We were informed by cable recently that a carpet weighing, one ton had been bought for the Prime Minister’s room in the London Office. The Commonwealth ought to have a suitable building in London furnished in- keeping with our prestige. This is a great Commonwealth,, and we ought to have a good building artistically furnished.
– London is a city in which that kind of thing counts.
– Some of the wealthiest companies there work, in very dingyoffices.
– What a dingy place the Bank of England is!
– If you are the Bank of England, you can do as you like.
– That brings me to the object of the London Office. The Bank of England does an immense business, and is practically the national bank of the United Kingdom, but it carries on its work in a one-storied building that is the reverse of impressive. One is more impressed by the officer in uniform in.side. His apparel is nearly as gorgeous as that worn by the Knights of the Garter. The object of the London Office is to house our representative. What is he in London for? I imagine that he ought to combine business with a certain amount of social distinction. What business is being done by the London Office? The honorable member for Illawarra deems it necessary to have a large building for the purpose, presumably, of advertising Australia, bringing business to us, and bringing immigrants here. I would remind him that there is a Bill before the British Parliament to restrict emigration. The British Government are going to take power to stop any man, if the necessities of man-power demand it, from leaving the United Kingdom, and our Agents-General have protested against the terms of that measure.
– Do you propose to allow us to get this Bill through in time to let the South Australian members catch their trains?
– I do not know that I shall have another opportunity.
– There are the general Estimates.
– I am afraid they will be treated as urgent under the guillotine standing order. The Acting Prime Minister has been very nice and courteous to this side. This is such a change that it impresses us very favorably, but I am reminded of what was said by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) and the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). The honorable member for Perth was justified in calling attentionto the fact that very little attention was being paid to the vast sums which it was proposed to expend.
Although I do not remember the honorable member’s words so well as I remember the words of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) as to the taxpayers not bothering about this expenditure, because it is all coming out of loan, I think he suggested there is an irresponsibility on the part of members of this House that is deplorable. For the Treasurer to appeal to me to discontinue my remarks on the expenditure of some £2,000,000 by way of loan, on the ground that two or three members desire to go away to Adelaide, seems to prove everything that the honorable member for Perth has suggested. I would condone a political offence of a very serious character if I gave way on such a - I haveevery desire to be polite - flimsy pretext. What is the matter with the Federal Parliament is that, owing to the narrow view which some electors take, it is demanded of South Australian representatives that they shall live in Adelaide all the year, and not stay in Melbourne longer than is absolutely necessary. The same happens in relation to honorable members from Now South Wales. If one of these desires to move his residence to Melbourne it is resented by the electors, and the poor fellow is compelled to leave for Sydney every Friday, and return to Melbourne in the early part of the week.
– Put the Capital in a genial climate, and that will not occur.
– The result is that Commonwealth public affairs are perforce neglected by a large number of members, and I shall be doing a good service if, as aresult of these few remarks, South Australian members are eompelled to stay here over the week-end and spend their time in examining the items in the schedule. As to the suggestion of tha honorable member for Illawarra (Mr.. Hector Lamond) that the Capital should be placed in a genial climate, so that members might bc induced to live there, I am of opinion that the site at Canberra, at least in the summer time, is such a place. I do not agree with the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) in his criticism of the Capital. It is deplorable that honorable members have so short-sighted a view as to shut down on the expenditure there, whereas there ought to be a business-like method of developing the Territory, and carrying out the terms of the Constitution. “We know very well that the press in Victoria has an extraordinary influence on the people. The Melbourne Age has a good deal of beneficial influence, I admit, and I am prepared, with my friend the honorable member for Melbourne (Br. Maloney), to accord my due “meedof praise “ to that organ. The Argus, too, has an influence, but it is-
– Vile !
– I shall not use that expression, hut say that its influence is not conducive to good legislation. We ought to he in an atmosphere where the Age and Argus will have their proportion of Federal influence, and no more.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Will the Acting. Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) take into consideration the staffing of the various Customs Houses throughout Australia, and see if some reductions cannot be made? In the Customs House, Queensland, there are men practically doing nothing - kicking their heels around, and drawing their screws - when they could be usefully employed in other Departments where there is work for them.
– I heard the honorable member address a question on this subject to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen) the other day.
– And I cannotget any information.
– I undertake to confer with my colleague, and call for a report, with a view to seeing whether any reforms are necessary. If so, the honorable member may rely that the action taken will be effective.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181018_reps_7_86/>.