7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair, at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– The other day, in reply to my question whether the Government had in any way approved or indorsed the candidature of any of the gentlemen nominated to represent the division of Corangamite, the Acting Prime Minister said “ Not yet.” I ask him whether the Government have now arrived at a determination on the subject?
– My previous answer was a well-considered one, and it still applies.
– Doubtless, the Acting Prime Minister is aware that there is a great scarcity of potash, from which the fruit-growers have suffered. I should be glad if the honorable gentleman would bring under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), or the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), or the High Commissioner, the advisability of having potash sent to Australia as soon as possible.
Mr.WATT. - I shall see that the suggestion is considered.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister yet obtained from the Commissioner of Taxation a ruling as to the incidence of the new Entertainments Tax?
– No. The Commissioner is consulting the Crown Law Officers to see how far he is entitled to levy on the forms of entertainment to which attention has been directed.
– Ithas been reported to me that a rumour is in circulation in the Internment Camp in New South Wales, that all interned alien enemies are to be deported, and there is a sinister suggestion of that kind in public circulation as well. I should like to know if the Government have any proposal in that direction, and, if so, what its nature is?
– I had not heard of the. rumour until the honorable gentleman mentioned it.I have indicated before that the Dominions willdoubtless think it wise to follow the policy adopted by Great Britain in matters relating to interned enemy subjects. That policy has not yet been determined. This Government will carefully consider the whole questionbefore taking action.
– Last week it was stated that the embargo would, be lifted off race meetings. Does that statement apply to both registered and unregistered meetings?
– I understand that it applies to all race meetings.
– On the 9th October last I asked the Acting Prime Minister whether the Australian copper producers would be allowed to sell their output in the Allied markets in the event of the British Government not purchasing the copper after the31st December. He replied, “It will be time enough to consider whether we should proceed to sell in the Allied free world when it is known that Britain will not buy our copper on favorable terms.” I ask the honorable gentleman whether he does not consider that the time has arrived when we should be given a definite answer to the question?
– The honorable member, in addressing to me a number of questions about the sale of copper, because of the interest in the matter in his electorate, appears to think that the subject is an easy one to settle. Has questiony implythat all we have to do is to offer our copper to Italy, France, Belgium, or America, and they will buy it. I am making inquiries as to whether it is possible to sell in the Allied free world, though I am doubtful whether it would give us any advantage if we could so. sell. Iam not forgetting the matter, because it is one of great moment. Tin and copper are held up by reason of the alteration in conditions arising out of thearmistice.
– Has the Acting Minister forthe Navy any further statement to make in reference to the Honda Isle?
– The Dart has made what is considered a thorough search, but has found no trace of the vessel other than some wreckage -some benzine cases, among other things - which it is thought came from her. The departmental view is thatthe Banda Isle was lost at sea. .
-Has the Government come to any determination in regard to the holding of an inquiry as to state of the Barambah before she left Australia? Have arrangements been made for the taking ofpreliminaryevidence?
– I understand that the Acting Minister for the Navy will deal with the matter.
– Is it a fact that negotiationsarenow taking place between theGovernment and the British- Ameri can Oil Companyand the Anglo-Persian Company ? If so, are these negotiations in reference to the granting of leases to those companies, and in that event will the Minister give the House an opportunity of discussing the matter before leases are granted?
– Offers were made by the companies mentioned, and they are being considered. They have neither been accepted nor rejected. I told both companies what the position was. Another policy which is under consideration) and may be more fruitful, covers development in connexion with the British Government. The matter is being pushed on.
Mr.FENTON.- Is it through the Commonwealth Government that all the moneys are to be supplied to the State Governments for thecarrying out of that part of the repatriation scheme which has to do with land settlement ? Are all the States to be supplied by the Commonwealth with money to carry out repatriation schemes,and, if so, can the Treasurer state what amount will be advanced to them ?
– The Minister for Repatriation has explained on more than one occasion that the Commonwealth has undertaken to finance the States in connexion With land settlement. I cannot say definitely that all the States have come into the arrangement; I think that Queensland is standing out. The amount that will be spent cannotbe stated at this stage. It will be a substantial sum, whether we spend it, or whether the ‘States spend it. If the work is tobe done, it will cost a lot of money.
– Do the Government propose to send a member of the Cabinet to London, toarrive there about the (date of the departure for Australia of the PrimeMinister and the Minister for theNavy.. If so, will the Acting Prime Minister give the House the opportunity of discussing the proposal of the Government to have a Minister permanently or temporarily residing in London?
– Since I replied to a similar question submitted last week from this side of the chamber the position has not altered. If information which we receive from the other side of the world will enable us to act in the matter before the House rises, I shall make an announcement of the Government’s intentions, and the House can take what course it likes.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the cable companies hav.e already increased the cable rates on remittances from relatives in Australia to soldiers in England, and will he take action to. see that the companies revert to the rates which prevailed prior to the signing of the armistice?
– The honorable member was courteousenough to inf orm me that he intended to ask this question, and consequently I have been able to make inquiries in regard to the matter. The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company states that there has been no alteration in its cable rates to England, and the Commonwealth Bank has stated that it has made no increases in regard to charges for soldiers’ remittance messages to Egypt.
– Can the Assistant Minister for Defence tell me the amount per head paid to shipping companies for privates, non-commissioned officers, and officers, and the amount paid in connexion with the Llanstephan Castle for privates, non-commissioned officers, and officers ?
– The honorable member was good enough to inform me that he intended to ask this question. It is a matter which concerns the Navy Department, but it is understood that no victualling rates are specially paid by the Commonwealth. These amounts are included in a flat rate, which is arranged by the Admiralty with the shipping companies for the transport of troops. The rates at present are: - Officers; £55; non-commissioned officers, £27; and privates, £23. The rates paid in connexion with the Llanstephan Castle were: - Officers, £40 ; non-commissioned officers, £22; and privates, £17.
Employment of Unionists
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made of the Military Commandant at Adelaide, and as soon as his reply comes to hand I will inform the honorable member. .
Remission of Sentences - Reappointment of Returned Officers - Forfeitures of Pay of Deceases Soldiers and Sailors - Deductions from Pay.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the signal service rendered to the Empire by Australian soldiers, and the termination of hostilities, and also the approach of the Christmas season, will the Minister exercise his clemency and grant a free pardon to soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force who have been imprisoned, and remit all fines and penalties imposed?
– The offence of desertion is a most serious one, and pending the period of demobilization it cannot be lightly regarded by the authorities of the Defence Department. After peace has been declared the Government will give consideration to the claims for clemency for those soldiers who are undergoing punishment for being absent without leave, desertion, and other similar offences while on active service.
– On the 15th November the honorable member for New England (Lt. -Colonel Abbott) asked the following question : -
In view of the glorious victory of the Allied armies, to which the members of the Australian Imperial Force have, in large measure, contributed, I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether lie will take into his earliest consideration the question of recommending the remission of sentences and the pardoning of those members of our Forces who have been found guilty of desertion, of being absent without leave, and of other similar charges, while on active .service ?
I invite the honorable member’s attention to the reply which has just been given by the Acting Prime Minister.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice - » Will the Minister add to the file now in the Library relating to the re-appointment of returned officers in the A.I.F., the cable messages from General Birdwood, T.1992 of 15tb February. 191.8, and also cable T.3172 referred to in the cable message T.32I5, without which the file is apparently incomplete ?
– Cable T.1992 belongs to another file dealing with the reduction of battalions iu the Australian Imperial Force. In his cable of 20th February, 1918, referring to the absorption of officers in that Force, General Birdwood referred to cable T. 1992 as an indication that the difficulty of absorbing officers, due’ to the shortage of reinforcements, was increasing. ‘ The reference to T.1’992 was explained in a marginal note, but the precis prepared for the honorable member also contained in the third paragraph a reference to the reduction of battalions. The cable itself is a secret one- dealing, with another matter, and it was thought that the marginal note and the reference in the précis were adequate to explain its bearing on the file* Cable T.3172 should read T. 3174, which is on the file.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With reference to the amendment of the War Financial Regulation No. 305 (clause 1), Re- gulation 13b, will the Government, having recognised the claim to consideration of dependants who have suffered as a result of forfeiture of pay of deceased sailors or soldiers as from 1st July, 1918, give further consideration to this matter in the direction of making this regulation retrospective to the commencing of hostilities in J914?
– This matter was fully considered by the Cabinet, which decided that forfeitures would only be remitted in the case of members who died subsequent to 1st July, 1918, and whose accounts had not been finalized.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that a number of soldiers’ dependants have had deducted from their allotments amounts overpaid to them as separation “ allowance, and that much hardship has thus been inflicted on entirely innocent persons ?
– The answers to the hon- .orable member’s questions are as follow: -
Revenue and Expenditure
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What is the total amount of (o) salaries, (6) wages, and (o) other expenditure by tlie Government in the Federal Capital Territory for the financial year ended 30th June, 1917-18?
-Detailed information is being obtained, and the desired particulars will be given as soon as inquiries now in progress are completed.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Payments to Organizers
– On the 20th November the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) asked the following question: -
In what capacity were the following persons employed in connexion with the Seventh War Loan in Queensland, and what amount did each receive for his services: - Messrs. G. M. Dash, W. J. Smout, H. E. Saunders, H. E. Moore, John Adamson, A. C. Elphinstone, W. Maxwell, Private Markowiez, Sergeant-Major Aidan Furay, Sergeant A. H. Robinson, Hon. H. C. Jones, Corporal Eric Raff?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Mr. G. M. Dash was employed as organizing secretary of the Queensland- Central War Loan Committee, which controlled the war-loan campaign in Queensland. The salary paid to Mr. Dash, viz., £20 per week, was the same as that paid by the organization which previously employed him. Mr. Dash was engaged for three months.
All the other persons named in the question were employed as travelling organizers. Each, organizer received £10 per week, which amount covered both salary and all travelling expenses. The periods of service and total payments were: - Private Markowiez,10 weeks, £100; Corporal Eric Raff, 9 weeks. £90; SergeantMajorFuray,9 weeks, £90; Sergeant Robinson, 9 weeks, £90; Mr. A. C. Elphinstone, 9 weeks, £90; Mr. W. Maxwell, 9 weeks, £90; Mr. H. E. Saunders, 8 weeks, £80; Mr. H. E. Moore, 8 weeks, £80; Mr. W. J. Smout, 7 weeks, £70; Mr. John Adamson, 6 weeks, £60; Sergeant Hon. H. C. Jones, 4 weeks,. £.40.
– On the 27th November the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) asked the following question : -
Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that returned soldiers employed in the Naval Guard, wliose services have recently been dispensed with, are given 30s., or an order for that sum, with which to purchase a civilian suit of clothes; and does he not think that it is a mostinadequate provision?. Will he consider the advisability of increasing it, to enable the men to purchase a decent suit of clothes?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The policy of the Department of Defence is -
No men on discharge from the oversea Forces are now given an order for a suit or any monetary allowance therefor. A suit is supplied to such men as are entitled thereto. Suits are supplied from stock, and are made up from all-wool material manufactured at the Government Woollen Cloth Mills.
No plain clothes suits are supplied by this Department to home service troops on discharge, it being assumed that the plain clothes which were in their possession on enlistment are still available. Those discharged on account of reduction of establishment or disbandment of units, however, are permitted to retain the underclothing issued to them by the military authorities.
– On the 28th ultimo the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) brought under my notice the following extract from a letter dated 24th idem, said to have been written by a returned soldier, regarding the treatment of soldiers at the Quarantine Station, Sydney, and I promised to have the matter looked into:- . . Well, fancy us landed back in Australia again, and in such style. Things are serious, though, here at North Head, and a good many chaps are pretty crook. Personally, I spent most of my time working my nut to get something to eat.
We had an awful time on the Medic.Nearly 200 patients were lying on the dirty troop deck, or in hammocks, while the old boat was rolling so much that the movement made one’s head ache worse, while all we had for meals was dry stale bitterbread, cut thick, with a scraping of doubtful butter.
We have a good army of about thirty sisters now, and they are doing their best to make our lives happy; but they find it hard to make bread out of stones.
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
It would appear that the writer of the letter received by the honorable member is among the patients who have been landed at NorthHead. The statements relating to the 200 patients on the troop deck evidently refer to the conditions before the arrival of the vessel, concerning which I have not sufficient information, at present to be able to offer any comment. The statement that things are serious at North Head evidently refers to the fact that there were a large number of cases landed, some of which were seriously ill. This, as has already been reported, is a fact. Altogether over 400 patients have been landed from the Medic, many of whom had to be classed as seriously ill. The latest report received was to the effect that the Medic patients were improving, and the daily statement shows that this is so. The writer of the letter is evidently a patient, and it is necessary to keep patients on light diet. This might be the reason why he feels that ho is not getting as much as he wants to eat. It is difficult, in the absence of more definite information, to give a very complete answer; but I am confident, from personal inquiries, that all hospital patients have as much food as is necessary in each particular case. As to the condition of food supply on the Medic, which is referred to in the second paragraph of the quotation, no information is at present available.
– On the 27th ultimo the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 29th November, 1918, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) asked the following question: -
As there is a lackof complete arrangement between the doctor of the college, the Board of Surgeons in Sydney, and -the Naval Board on the question whether Cadet Midshipman Rubie should be allowed to return to the Naval College, I ask the Acting Minister for the Navy if he will permit the boy to be examined by a first class specialist, who will not merely read the reports of the case, but will see the boy, with a view to finding out whether he should be returned to the college ?
I now desire to inform the honorable member that I have discussed this matter again with the Naval Board, who, while sympathizing with the boy and his parents, rely entirely upon the opinion of the Director of Naval Medical Services, based on the report of the surgeon who actually saw the boy in the fit, and are of opinion that, in the interests of the Navy and the boy himself, he should not be re-appointed to the college.
– In answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) I now submit the following return showing the payments made to postmen for furnishing electoral information in each of the divisions of New SouthWales: -
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act- Orders of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration,and other documents, in connexion with plaints submitted by the -
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers Association (dated 8th November, 1918).
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers Association and Commonwealth Postmasters Association (dated 8th November, 1918).
Australian Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association (dated 8th November, 1918).
Australian Letter Carriers Association (dated 8th November, 1918).
Australian Letter Carriers Association (dated 8th November, 1918).
Commonwealth General Division Telephone Officers Association (dated 21st November, 1918).
Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia (dated 8th November, 1918).
General DivisionOfficers Union of the Trade and Customs Department (dated 8th November, 1918).
Postal Sorters Union of Australia (dated 7th November, 1918).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Ballarat, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 297, 298, 300.
Papua - Ordinanceof 1918 - No. 14. - Pearl, Pearl-shell, and Bêche-de-mer.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 29th November, vide page 8593) :
.- When this schedule was last under consideration, the Leader of the Opposition dealt with a number of items that had cost a considerable sum of money at Flinders Naval Base. He referred particularly to the expense of carrying water by train from Mordialloc, which is the nearest point at which the Yan Yean supply can be tapped, to the railway station at Cribb Point, whence it is distributed to the Base. The honorable member pointed out that sufficient use had not been made of the enormous roof area at the Base, and of the numerous tanks in existence there, in order to supply the officers who live there, and the employees who are engaged at the Base from time to time. There is no doubt that for the last two and a half years the roof space at the Base has provided a catchment sufficient to supply the requirements of a large number of men. One fact which came under the notice of Committees which visited the Base was that no use was made of an enormous cement tank which had been constructed to hold the oil supplies when vessels of the Fleet are stationed there. That tank has been full of water for the last two years, the object of keeping it full being, I believe, that the tank is thereby kept in a better state of preservation. But I should think that any ordinary cement tank would not deteriorate in quality if quantities of the water it contains were used, and it seems tome that the authorities might have drawn water from that tank. At any rate, the vast roof area of the Base buildings should have been utilized in order to reduce the cost of bringing water from Mordiallocby train. I am glad to know, however, that that expenditure will soon cease. The Department will be incurring a new expenditure of something like £4,000 per annum by supplying the Base -with water from the New Upper Bunyip scheme, but that outlay is amply justified. The officers and cadets at the Naval depot at Williamstown will be removed to Flinders in the course of three or four months, and with water laid on from the Upper Bunyip scheme, the Base at. Flinders will have a very fine supply, independent of Yan Yean and any roof catchment.
– I suppose the large tank to which the honorable member referred was builtin order to allow oil to be thrown on the troubled waters.
– Where that tank is situated the waters are never very troubled, and I should like at this stage to correct a misapprehension on the partof honorable members when they speak of Hann’s Inlet. Their remarks would lead one to believe that they are speaking of the whole of Westernport, or, as the Naval authorities term it, Port Western. The latter is undoubtedly one of the finest ports in Australia. Hann’s Inlet, as its name implies, is only an inlet’ from the Port, and sometimes there is very little water in it, but it has been described by Admiral Henderson as admirably adapted for the accommodation and repair of submarines anddestroyers.
– Where did Admiral Henderson mentionthat matter?
– I understand that he did mention it. We are told by experts that at Hann’s Inlet we can secure by dredging what is known as still water, which is absolutely essential for a sub marine and destroyer base.
-We could get still water in any paddockalong the shore that we cared to dredge. We might have done better by going into such a paddock.
– But you will not find a splendid port adjacent to such a paddock as there is at Hann’s Inlet. Iam quite in agreement with the criticism of honorable members and the press in regard to the waste that has occurred at Flinders. It took place largely in the initial stages of the work, but at the present time there is but little waste going on. As to the blame for the wastethat has occurred, I hold that the Minister who authorized it, and the Naval Board who recommended the appointment of certain individuals in the initial stages of . these works, should be held responsible. I am not going to blame any minor officer. I would go to the very top, and place the responsibility upon the Minister who appointed the first Director of Naval Works; while to an even greater degree the Naval Board are responsible for the early appointments that were made at both the Flinders and Henderson Naval Bases. They are largely responsible for the mistakes that have been made, and which will cost the people thousands of pounds. The money might just as well have been thrown into the sea.
Even at a later date, Ministers have been disposed to approve of ornamental schemes. I have frequently wondered at the audacity and the. spendthrift capacity of the Minister who authorized the creation of an ornamental plantation around the naval reserve at Flinders. The reserve was well covered with native trees. These,however, were cleared away to the extent of a chain inside the fence, and ornamental trees were planted. Even if the work had cost only £5, it would have been a waste of money; but the clearing alone must have been an expensive job. Both the responsible Minister and his officers should have realized that any expenditure on ornamental work during war-time would be an absolute waste of money. Nothing can justify the expenditure of even one penny in respect of this ornamental plantation.
– When did this treeplanting take place?
– It has taken place during the last two or three years.
– There has been some tree-planting, but I have seen comparatively little ornamental work down there.
– The clearing that was made some two years ago is now so overgrown that one cannot see the ornamental trees that were planted there. I should not be surprised if they had all died.
– Some pines were planted, and they are doing well.
Mr.FENTON. - Travellers on the railway line between Bittern and Cribb Point, which skirts portion of the Naval Base property,cansee a live pine only here and there.
– A man is employed to look after the trees in the avenue.
– It is some two months since I passed through, but the clearing was then fast reverting to its natural condition. I dp not think the Minister will attempt to justify this expenditure on ornamental work.
– The tree planting took place two or three years ago - long before I came into office.
– I am not blaming the Minister, who has only recently taken charge of his Department. I point to this kind of expenditure in the hope that I shall prevent any recurrence of it.
I wish now to draw attention to the expenditure of some £8,000 on the purchase of the Fairy Meadow Estate, in New South Wales. So far as I can judge, the property is not worth £8,000.
– Then the honorable member does not know a good property when he sees one.
– I am referring to the property acquired in connexion with the proposal to establish cement works. When the Public Works Committee reported that it was of value for cement-making purposes, the New South Wales Government and the owners of the property suddenly discovered that it was worth more than they had thought. We should have fuller particulars as to the acreage and the nature of the country for which this large sum of money is to be paid.
I understand that the construction of the Arsenal has been postponed for the time being. Wherever the Arsenal be constructed, the steel -works section of itf mustbe of far-reaching importance to the Common wealth. Although our views in regard to the requirements of an ordinary naval and military Arsenal may be considerably changed as the outcome of the war, there can be no doubt that steel works, owned by the Commonwealth, and conducted on proper business lines, would be of immense value, to thepeople of Australia. I had hoped that a great steel works would shortly be established and controlled by the Government, The work’s at Lithgow and Newcastle are not sufficient for our requirements, and a Commonwealthowned steel works would be valuable for the construction of girders and steel plates used, not only in connexion with ship building for naval, but also for mercantile purposes, and also for ordinary building. I am satisfied that the Commonwealth could tura out such steel manufactures for much less than private companies are charging today. The time is fast approaching when the Government will need to have large steeland engineering works, capable- of turning out various manufactures, if only to check the increased prices exacted by manufacturers. Some years ago there was a lengthy discussion in this Parliament in regard to the cost of manufacturing harvesters, and the Victorian Government allowed the manager of the Newport Workshops to construct one.
– That- was at the instance of the Royal Commission which was inquiring into the question.
– But the State Government had to give theirconsent. I may say that that Royal Commission obtained some most valuable information in regard to this class of machinery; and the manager of the Newport Workshops prepared for the Government an estimate of the cost if he were given an order to tam out a certain number of machines.
– All this did not reduce the cost of the harvesters ?
– Because, unfortunately, we had a succession ofGovernments who did not properly grip the question. The rural producers are being charged high prices for machinery and other material they need; and, strong Protectionist as I am, I urge that a curb should be put on manufacturers whoendeavour to extract exorbitant profits in this way.
– Why not take over the industry?
– Where an industry cannot be taken over altogether, it is wellto have such works, so that on the shortest notice different machines may be turned out, and thecost compared. It is true that in some of the States industries have been nationalized with great benefit to the people.
The statement by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has removed some of my objections to this loan schedule. I should have liked to say something about the Murray Waters scheme, and to point out that beforewe spend large sums of money, we ought to know that the key of the position has been satisfactorily settled. A newspaper report tells us that the Victorian Government are prepared to accept the advice of their officers and to have the main storage dam on such a part of the Murray as to result in some of the most productive and fertile country in that part of Victoria being flooded. Of course, the assent of the New South Wales experts has to be obtained to this selection of a site, but it certainly seems to be a wrong procedure when some of what should be subsequent work is proceeded with before the site of the main storage dam has been fixed.
– Victoria has never been very strong about the scheme at any time.
– And we have wondered whether South Australia desires the scheme for irrigation or navigation, though we think it is mostly for the latter. It is important to know how much water is to be drawn from Victorian streams, and what proportion of water is to beobtained by Victoria after the scheme is settled. We in Victoria are not so much concerned with navigation as. with the question whether we are to be deprived of waters. At any rate, the main storage scheme has yet to be settled, though the Commonwealth Governmentare handing money out to the various State Governments concerned. It appears to me that if this money is not wisely spent, it will be absolutely wasted, in view of the fact that we do not yet know what kind of scheme is to result.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) has put some questions based on a newspaper report, and I promised to obtain reports thereon from the Director of Naval Works. In the first place, I should like to point out that some of these works to which the honorable member referred were undertaken at a time when he was responsible,in conjunction with his colleagues in the Government, and he ought to be able to make a better defence of them than I can. However, I do not wish to raise the question of the rightness or wrongness of acts in the past, but merely to state the present position.
– I do not mind being made responsible for anything done by the Department of which I was the head.
– At the same time, it is an elementary principle of responsible government that the Cabinet as a whole must take the responsibility for a series of works of the kind, and the Minister must share the responsibility for the corporate acts of his Cabinet. The honorable member’s questions were based on a report of a number of statements, some of which are inaccurate, some unfounded, ‘ and some misleading.
– Is there any truth at all in them?
– I shall presently show the honorable member. The Director of Naval Works, I may say, is not responsible for all that has been done at this place.
– Hear, hear !
– Nor is the present Minister responsible. These works were formerly carried out by the Naval Department under various officers, and the present Director of Naval Works has turned his attention and. energy to securing economy and efficiency. Honorable members who have sat on various Committees of Inquiry, and have examined that gentleman’s work, will agree that he has done his best in the public interests. In regard to the works referred to in the Age, the officers of the Public Works Department are not responsible, since they were carried out by officers of the Naval Department. The first allegation made in the newspaper statement to which the honorable member referred is -
Purely ornamental works, carried out as part of a discarded scheme of “ beautification,” are returning, or have already returned, to a state of nature.
What has been done has not been discarded, and there is an employee down there now looking after the place. The Director of Naval Works reports-
– What did this work cost?
– I have not got the cost.. The Director of Naval Works reports -
The purely ornamental works whichhave been carried out in the past have not been discarded. They are of a minor character in front of the buildings. They will be enlarged from time to time as the base develops.
The newspaper goes on to say -
A typical instance of an expensive alteration in the plans originally adopted is furnished in the selection of a site for the infectious diseases hospital, and the construction of a road leading thereto. The road,about a mile and a half long, was formed and made with bluestone and ironstone on top of spawls, at a cost of £1,750, including the cost of attempting to make it previously with unsuitable, materials. Along one side of the road a footpath was partly gravelled, and along the other side a shrubbery was planted. It was then decided that the hospital site was in the wrong place, and the road has been abandoned and the shrubbery is fast becoming scrub. Similarly a “ serpentine road,” as it has been named, partly graded, levelled, channelled, metalled, and rolled, and, for no apparent reason, is being allowed to revert to a rabbit warren.
To this the Director of Naval Works replies
The present approved site for the general hospital affects only 400 yards length of the road, which has already been formed to the original site of the hospital. The road which is referred to as being one and a half miles long, not only gives access to the hospital, but also the official residences. Strictly speaking, the greater part of this road is primarily for the residences, and the road to the original site to the hospital was a branch from it. An attempt to make a portion of this road previously with unsuitable material, refers to the trial length of road which was laid with local ironstone gravel obtained on. the site. This ironstone gravel proved after a trial to be unsuitable. Had it proved suitable, a great saving in the construction of the roads would have been effected. The trial was well worthy of the small cost involved.
The so-called “ serpentine road,” refers to the approach road to the official residences, from which the road referred to above branches to the hospital site. It is incorrect and altogether misleading to state that this road is being allowed to revert to a rabbit warren. Nolabour is being spent on the road, of course; but it is not nnder use. and no harm is being done to the road.
A reference is also made to the boundary fence, which is said to be “ a standing joke,” but, as a matter of fact, the boundary fence of the Naval Base at Flinders is an ordinary post-and-wire fence, and is in good condition. It is incorrect and untrue to state that hundreds of pounds have been thrown away on an 8-mile avenue of trees, as all the trees planted over the whole 8 miles were obtained, without cost, from the State Plantation Department, the only cost being involved in the planting. The only treespurchased were special trees for the avenue at the Base, and these were purchased at a total cost of £17 10s. I am sure that honorable members will not adversely criticise the attempt to ornament the place by the planting of suitable trees.
– Are they growing ?.
– Yes.. There is a. man at the Base part of whose duty it is to look after them.
– The greatest expense was in the clearing of the scrub for the planting of the ornamental trees.
– We have had a long discussion on the question of the water supply. The newspaper paragraph contains the statement-
All the fresh water required is brought down from. Mordialloc. . . . There are about thirtybuildings, including a drill hall measuring 200 feet by 100 feet, and it is obvious that, except in abnormally dry weather, which is rarely experienced in these parts, tanks attached to the buildings would supply all the present requirements. A number of 1,000-gallon tanks are said to be stowed away unused.
The answer from the Director of Naval Works is -
The question of water supply in connexion with the commencement of dredging operas tions at the Base was fully considered, and it was found to be cheaper to utilize existing water supply by extending the pipe down to the dredging jetty than to provide tanks, with all their down-pipe connexions, to the existing buildings. With regard to the water supply for the buildings, I have not seen, nor do I now see, any reason for altering the method of obtaining the supply which has been in operation for so long a time, especially in view of the fact that the water supply which is being provided by the State Eivers Commission was expected to be in operation this year.
Honorable members are aware that the buildings referred to are scattered over a very large area, and the wharfs are at some distance from them. It would involve considerable expense to make the water from the roofs of the buildings available for the dredges. I raised this question myself some months ago, and it was pointed out to me that to obtain the tanks necessary, and guttering, and downpiping to lead into the tanks, and piping for the distribution of the water from the buildings, would involve considerable expense, which would not be justified in view of the fact that we are about to obtain a supply from the State Rivers Commission.
– Does the Minister say that the buildings are not supplied with guttering and down-piping?
– They may be. I do not for a moment undertake to say that I know whether the buildings being constructed by the Works and Railways Department throughout theCommonwealth are all supplied with guttering and down piping.I must act upon the reports of the officers of the Department. The Minister who tries to be an expert for every branch of work in his Department will run the country into needless expense, and will probably make a hopeless mess of his job.
– Does the Minister say that his officer told him that the buildings were not supplied with guttering and down piping?
– No, I do not say that he did. I refer to the cost of connecting the supply from the roofs with the different places at which the water was required.
– The Minister used the word “guttering.”
– Perhaps I did, but I am speaking of the cost of distributing the water from the buildings throughout the area. In view of the fact that we will shortly have a water scheme connected with the’ State’s water supply, the director advised that it would not be right to go to expense to make use of the supply from the roofs of the buildings, and I acted upon his advice. With respect to the statement that there are a number of 1,000 gallon tanks stowed away at the Base, I am informed that there are not, and that the statement has been made without any foundation. The newspaper article refers to another complaint in these terms -
One of the most serious allegations made is in connexion with the burning of useful tools and material, A few months ago, it is stated, about 150 by no means worn-out shovels and picks, complete with handles, a number of obsolete rifles, and some rubber boots were gathered together in a heap and burned.
The Director states that this is an absurd statement. Honorable members know that at the conclusion of every big job there are a lot of tools which have become absolutely useless.
– That will be found in every private contract.
– That is so. The Director says -
The shovels, picks, &c., were the property of the Navy Department, and were lying there for years awaiting condemnation. These were lately condemned, and, according to the usual policy, destroyed, consideration being given to utilizing any part that could be used.
With respect to the allegation that rifles were burned, the Director’ informs me that no rifles at all were destroyed. In view of its expressed desire that we should foster and encourage native industries, the next allegation in the newspaper article is of considerable interest. The statement is made -
Much has already been written about the unsuitable suction dredge that was constructed at the Base to assist in the work of dredging a channel through the wharf, which was deliberately built high and dry above the water. The dredge is derisively known among the workmen as “ the jam factory,” probably because of its ramshackle appearance.
The article continues in a similar vein. On this matter the Director reports -
At the beginning of the operation of this dredge, there was some trouble, but it was put to rights at the contractor’s expense. The dredge is doing good work now, and is considered a suitable machine. The remarks about anchors being lifted, show want of knowledge of dredging.
– What will be done with this dredge when she has finished her work at the Naval Base ?
– The honorable member is getting on to another point now.
– It is a very important point.
-It is, but the present Director of Naval Works had nothing whatever to do with this matter. If I find that unfair charges are made against officers of the Department of which I am Minister, it “is my duty to correct those misleading statements, and give the public fair information. This dredge, as a matter of fact, was constructed by a Victorian firm, which has the reputation throughout the Commonwealth for splendid workmanship. This firm previously constructed another dredge, which did its work excellently, and, so far as the acceptance of the contract for this dredge was concerned, whoever was Minister responsible at the time, was, in my opinion, perfectly justified in accepting the tender of a firm having such a reputation. There was some difficulty in operating the dredge at first, but the trouble was remedied at the cost of the contractors, and the. dredge is now working satisfactorily. So I say that the newspaper statement on this subject is misleading and unfair to a great Australian firm, who are doing their best to give the Australian people the best workmanship possible.
– What is the explanation of the wharf which was constructed on dry land?
– That is a matter of past history, which has been investigated by the Public Works Committee, and there would be no profit at this stage in entering upon a discussion of it.
– The Minister should make no mistake about that. Apparently every one knows of these things but the members of this House.
– The honorable member will permit me to say that it is certainly not the fault of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory)if the members of this House do not know all about that matter.
– I say that they shouldknow it through the Minister in charge of the Department.
– The honorable member for Dampier brought this matter before the notice of the House long before I took office as Minister for Works and Railways.
– Why did not the responsible Minister bring the matter before the House?
– I am not here to say why Ministers who preceded me did not do certain things. I am at present answering certain allegations thathave appeared in the press.
– This is an important matter.
– It is, but it is a matter which has been investigated by the Public Works Committee, and referred to, I think, in its reports.
– Not the dredging.
– No, I was referring now to the construction of the wharf. I do not say that that can be justified. A mistake was apparently made there.
– When the Minister becomes aware of a mistake and keeps the information to himself he is to blame.
– I disclaim responsibility for that doctrine. This is a matter which was reported to the House long ago.
– Never by a Minister.
– Whether the honorable member’s statement is correct I cannot say. But I decline to accept responsibility for matters which were brought before Parliament some years ago, and to which it is alleged no answer was then given. Then allegations were made in regard to punts and pipes. In reply to these the Director of Naval Works says -
Galvanized pipes were bought second-hand. They were the only pipes procurable at the time, and show -little or no wear. The statements in regard to the punts are not correct. The punts are now working satisfactorily.
Then the allegation was made -
There are two motor launches at the Base, one a hired boat and the other a Government possession. The former is used for towing and other practical work, while the latter is reserved exclusively for conveying three ot four officials from place to place.
In reply, the Director states -
The Government launch is not entirely used’ for conveying two or three officials. It is used for necessaryofficial -supervision, towing andstores, and general utility. The use of the launchby everyone without authority was stopped, and its nse regulated by proper direction.
The article further alleged -
Opposite the officers’ quarters a miniature botanical garden has been laid out. Loads upon loads of soil have been carted there, and ornamental paths, with a foundation and a surface capable of carrying a ten-ton vehicle, . havebeen made for the officers merely to walk on.
Inreply the Director says -
These allegationsrefer to roads and footpathsround single officers’ quarters. The statements are absurd. The only soil taken has beenfrom excavation or formations of adjoining roads, which have been utilized for necessaryfilling round quarters.
Than there is an allegation that -
Some time agocarpenters and others were put onto construct a “ conservatory “ at the house of one of the officers.
The Director says -
No conservatory was ever built.
It is also alleged -
Near the officers’ quarters a storm-water drain was dug about 8 chains long and 3 feet deep. Earthenware pipes were laid down and jointed, and one day the ganger in charge ordered that the pipes should be broken up and left in the trench,which was subsequently, with great haste, filled in. The drain had been putdown in the wrong place.
The Director of Naval Works cannot understand towhatstorm-water drain these statements refer. As to the main sewer, it is alleged -
Variations of the original orders given to the men on a job are frequently made. In laying the main sewer from the back of the sailors’ quarters to the sea, some of the pipes had been laid and cemented before it was discovered that the trench was not deep enough, unless water could be made to run up hill.
In reply the Director says -
No main sewer wasever deepened because it was laid to run up hill as alleged. Such astatement is utterly without foundation.
The finalallegation was -
Duringa period of about a year practically all work was suspended at the Base, but the full clerical and official staff was kept on the same as when 500 to 600 men were employed there.
In reply theDirec tor says -
This statement is entirely without foundation. The staff was reduced from time to time as the works werereduced.
Before allegations of this kind are published in the press - allegations which are unfair alike to the public and to the officers concerned - it would be better if inquiries as to their accuracy were made of the Department.
– They make good “ copy,” do they not ?
– But they are unfair both to the public and to the officers concerned, when they are put forward as statements of fact.
– Would the Minister advise the adoption of a similar course in respect to statements made about the Labour party ?
– Certainly; however, I am not dealing with politics just- now. The public are entitled to know the f acts, and if inquiries were instituted in respect of matters of this kind, before such allegations were published, much misunderstanding would be avoided, -whilst that course would be much fairer to the officers concerned.
.- The statement made by the Acting Prime Minister in regard to the work tobe carried out under the loan proposals ofthe Government came as a great relief to honorable members. In connexion with all future undertakings, I think we are justified in demanding that we shall be supplied with a complete estimate of their ultimate cost before any expenditure is incurred upon them. It is absolutely unfair to honorable members that a work, the total costof which will be £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, should be initiated on a vote of £20,000 or £30,000. Whenever any new proposal is submitted for our consideration, the Minister in charge of it should be compelled to tell us exactly what are the intentions of the Government in respect of it.
– It used to be the practice to set out the ultimate cost of any work in a footnote attached to the Estimates.
– Yes. Take the proposal to build an Arsenal by way of illustration. I am one of those who believe that the Commonwealth alone should control the manufacture of munitions.
When it is known that the ultimate expenditure upon the building of an Arsenal will be something in the vicinity of £3,000,000, the House should be made cognisant of the fact before the work is started. Some time ago, I brought under the notice of honorable members a statement made by an officer before the Public Works Committee to the effect that it would cost £i,750,000 to accommodate the employees who will be engaged at the Arsenal - to provide them with ali the conveniences of a township, such as water supply, sewerage, lighting, &c. Tb-day this would cost £2,500,000. It must be apparent, ‘therefore, that the ultimate cost of this undertaking will be approximately £3,000,000. Up to date, there is not one person who- has supplied a report in connexion with this proposal who can be classed as an expert. The way in which the site for the undertaking has drifted to a point 7 miles south of Canberra ia very significant. Honorable members will doubtless recall the occasion when Mr. Griffin’s Federal Capital design was- accepted. A little later, the Works Department built up a plan of its own - a composite plan - which was. founded partly on Mr. Griffin’s design, and partly on a design of its own. Under Mr. Griffin’s, design, it will be recollected that the civic and business centre of the Capital was to be located on the north side of the artificial lakes, facing the parliamentary buildings. It was, unquestionably, a beautiful site. But the Department desired the civic and business centre of the Capital to be situated on the south side of the lakes. Later on, when a proposal to build additions to the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow was being inquired into by the Public Works Committee, the Director of Works told that body, that he could erect a new factory, which would not only house the additional machinery proposed to be purchased for the Lithgow Factory, but also the plant which was already installed there, for leas than the additions at Lithgow would cost. It was then suggested that this factory should be established on the south side of the Federal Capital city, a site which, undoubtedly, would tend to create a business centre south of the lakes. Subsequently an Arsenal
Committee was appointed, which recommended the location of the factory on a site 7 miles south of Canberra. We are justified now in having the best expert advice that it is possible to obtain before work of that sort is started. I pointed out here, last year, that, when the war is over we shall know exactly what class of munitions we require, and be able to get the best expert advice to aid us. What is more, we shall be able to buy the best and most uptodate machinery that is being scrapped now in all the big factories, for, perhaps, 100 to 200 per cent, less than it would cost us to-day. There is no urgency requiring us to purchase immediately. I wish honorable members could only realize the blunders that have taken place in the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. Years ago, when Sir Thomas Ewing was Minister for Defence in this Chamber, he initiated that work, and Admiral (then Captain) Clarkson was sent to the Old Country to report. He was able bo visit the factories in Great Britain and America, and obtain special information; but, so far as I can learn, he has never been consulted in any shape or form in regard to the Arsenal project. When the Small Arms Factory was initiated, Captain -Clarkson visited America, and purchased a plant from Messrs. Pratt, Whitney and Company. This was erected’ under a special working guarantee, and Parliament was informed that under Australian conditions we could manufacture rifles for £3 9s. Idi. each. If overhead charges and interest on capital were added, I am satisfied that £12 or £13 per rifle would not cover the actual cost. I would not care so much for that if, when the money was expended, the output had been up to the mark.
– Do you mean to say that . the rifles were no good?
– I do not say that of all of them ; but some were so vile that we might as well have sent our boys to the Front with their hands tied behind their backs as armed with some of the rifles turned out from that Factory. When I was in Perth, certain information reached me, and I informed the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), and the honorable member for Melbourne. (Dr. Maloney), who were there at the time.
– Is there full proof of that last statement of yours?
– Yes; I do not say these things unless I am sure of them. I examined the matter fully.
– Are those responsible still working for us?
– Not in that instance. The then manager has gone back to tlie Old Country. However, when I explain the details, honorable members will see that the difficulty exists, even with the present management. On the occasion in Perth to which I was about to refer, I was able to obtain a report, of some 300 rifles sent over to Perth, over 100 of which had to go back into the armoury. The big majority would not fit the cartridge, and in others the rifling was broken. I saw three with the forearms smashed in two like bits of rotten carrot. I saw two with the bolts so loose that you could release the clip at any point of its transit. I also heard of fifty rifles that went to Claremont, of’ which nineteen were useless.
– What year are you referring to?
– I have the papers including the official report, regarding the 300 rifles. The other members I have mentioned went with me to Colonel Bruche, who was then Commandant at Perth.. I said, “If I .had a rifle, I could explain matters better to you.” The Commandant telephoned to the Chief Clerk for a couple of’ rifles to be sent in. I picked’ .up one, and said, “ This . is just as. bad as the one I saw.” Its bolt was so loose that you could release the clip at any point of its transit. The Department has since been making excuses by saying it was the bolt out of another, rifle ; but it is very peculiar that this -should occur with a new rifle in the Commandant’s own office. I came over here, and put the matter before Senator Pearce. He sent Colonel Dodds over to Perth, who brought back all the parte I have mentioned; at our suggestion, he sent Lieutenant Hart to Lithgow to pass the rifles before they were sent out.
Afterwards I received a letter from the foreman in the Factory, who had read my remarks in’ Hansard, bearing out my statements. Sir Joseph Cook also got an anonymous letter at the same time, which he handed to me, and that also bore out what I said. The writer stated that when Lieutenant Hart went to the Factory hundreds and hundreds of rifles which were there ready to be sent out had all been condemned, and “were then in the assembling room in an effort, to save something from the wreck. That was about fifteen months, ago. Since four months after the war started, we never sent a rifle out of Australia, and it is only in the last eight months that we have made the Mark VII. Imperial service rifle, the type in use in the Old Country. When the Public Works Committee visited the Factory we advised that two shifts should be worked. Mr. Wright, the then Manager, ‘stated that if the Government would give him a few more machines, it would be possible to start the manufacture of machine guns there. We were at Lithgow recently, and we saw they had a Lewis gun there, but I do not believe they have ever turned out a single machine gun from, that Factory. The whole - trouble is caused by political interference with the works. If we get a good manager, and give him power, I have no doubt that the Factory will do good work, but there has been political interference there almost from the jump. In face of what I have said, it is not right to allow the same Department to spend something like £3,000,000 in establishing an Arsenal, where we may have the same trouble and chaos as has occurred in the Small Arms Factory.
I have already said a good deal in this Chamber about the Naval Bases. I told honorable members about the wharf being, built on dry .land at Westernport - how the engineers erected a huge wall round the foreshore, built a wharf back from the foreshore on dry land, and then made a huge excavation in which to drive their piles. ‘ They said they could not drive the piles in the. sand.
– Is it intended for a wharf or an observatory?
– I have never heard of a dry wharf before, and was wondering if it was intended for a dry dock. I made a mistake the other night in saying that, after the matter was pointed out to the engineer, the hugeexcavation had been discontinued. The Minister informed me since, as his officers have since been down there, that that saving was not effected, because the whole . excavation was made, but that it was not made for the full size of the wharf, which is shaped like an L. When I was there I distinctly saw the piles driven through the sand. If engineers are troubled with shifting sand they can get rid of any difficulties the sand may create by using a water jet. I am convinced that that huge excavation was made for the sole purpose of providing labour. It was admitted by the Department, in answer to my questions, that the cost of removing that sand, which should have been from 1s. 6d. to1s. 9d. per yard, was actually 9s:. 4d. One member asked one of the men, “How much a yard is this work costing?” and he replied, “I do not know how much a yard it is costing, butI can give you a fair idea how much it is costing a bally shovelful.”
– Who was responsible for all this?
– I want to get to the point of responsibility for the starting of these works, because the same sort of thing as has gone on at Westernport has also happened at Cockburn Sound. There has been a decided change in the administration of these works during the past two years. The present Director of Naval Works came out specially from England, and I believe, if he is given the freedom that the present Minister gives him, he will do really good work for us. One can form a very fair judgment on these matters asa member of the Public Works Committee. The Director has had great experience, and is well able to make recommendations in regard to big works of this sort. I asked when the Naval Board and the Minister approved of these works, and the reply would lead one to understand that that approval was fixed up by the Minister and the Board after plans hadbeen approved. I have before me the sworn evidence of Mr. Settle, where he says there were no working details prepared. He states-
I, do not say that no plans at all had been prepared, because Messrs. Coode, Matthews, Fitzmaurice, and Wilson had prepared and submitted a schemeto the Naval Board, and the work that was being carried out at the Henderson Base was generally in accordance with that scheme. It was, however, merely elementary work, such as would form part of any scheme that might be adopted..
That was early last year. If honorable members will consult the Budget figures they will see what is looked upon as. elementary work from a Ministerial point of view. The expenditure on the Henderson Naval Base up to 1917-18 - carrying us up to almost eighteen months ago - was £580,000. If we subtract from that £100,000 paid for land in the neighbourhood, it leaves a sum of £480,000. We might as well, at the same time, acquaint ourselves afresh with the figures concerning the Flinders Naval Base. The expenditure up. to June, 1918, was £471,000.
– There was some engineering there, but it was political engineering.
– Yes. Mr. Settle continues -
Therewere no working details prepared. Messrs. King Salter, Swan, and Metcalf and Company also prepared and submitted a scheme to the Naval Board while I was on the highseas on my way to take up my . present appointment.
After Mr. Settle had been appointed Director of Naval Works, Mr. King Salter and Mr. Swan were asked to prepare plans for a Naval Base at Westernport, and it was while Mr. Settle was on his way out that those gentlemen started upon the preparation of those plans. In his evidence before the Public Works Committee, Mr. Swan stated -
In March, 1916, the Naval Board instructed Mr. King Salter , and myself to report on the scheme that had been prepared by Messrs. Coode, Matthews, Fitzmaurice and Wilson, and to say in what way we considered it might be modified to suit the requirements of the Board and the service generally. Mr. King Salter concerned himself principally with the lay-out and arrangements of the works in the dockyard proper, for the docking, repairing, and fitting out of ships. My part of the work was- to. revise the- plans- in such a way as to meet, with Mr. King Salter’s lay-out scheme,, and, further, to propose the form of construction which- the works should’ take, and generally to revise- the scheme in- order to meet Mr. King Salter’s requirements. We had very little time to prepare this scheme, as- Mr. Settle was due to arrive in about August, and it was expected that we should, have” our report in the hands of the Board before his arrival. We just, managed’ to accomplish our task. . . . When Sir Maurice- Fitzmaurice visited this site he- pointed out. there werecertain features upon which he could not give, a definite opinion until further investigations had been made, including such matters as trial test holes. …
Those gentlemen, in March, 1916, were asked to prepare plans for the Henderson Base. It is absolutely clear, then, that no plan was approved, until after Mr. Settle came out here; and his plans were then, approved by the Naval Board and afterwards by the Minister. I am mentioning these facts because of the misleading replies given by the Department, and I think honorable members should know more about the details of expenditure, and know, when work is started, approximately what it is going to cost. It should be understood’ that it is only since Mr. Settle came out; after plans had been prepared by Mr. King Salter and Mr. Swan, and by Mr. fettle, that the latter’s plans were approved by the Naval Board and- by the Minister-; and there are now complete plans to go upon-.
With regard to the Flinders Naval Base, the impression has gained ground that Admiral Henderson desired the establishment of a .big Base there. Such was not the case; it was merely a subBase for destroyers and submarines.
– Did any of, the plans necessitate the undoing of any of the work which has been already done ?
– It would be impossible to find, prior to Mr. Settle’s arrival, the value for some £70.000 or £80,000 spent. The work done at Cockburn Sound included a small section of railway of about 2£ miles, and a large number of work-shops and stores. Some trial holes’ had also been sunk. I shall give honorable members some progressive figures with regard to the expenditure on the Flinders Naval
Base. In. 1912-13, £14, 000 was spent;, in 1913-14, £18;000; 1914-15, nearly £38,000; 1915-1.6, £11.4,000;. and in H916-17, £143,000^ was spent.. Those figures- represent the annual expenditure for each of those financial periods. Last year, when the reclamation work was got into full swing, £148,800. was spent.
I urge that we should go slow at present. There are already s&me American shovels being used, which have done fairly economic work, but have not been as good as the Director or the Public Works Committee had1 expected. But there have been other cranes used on the work also. It was costing 3s. 2d. per yard, including all overhead charges, on the day -labour system. At Fremantle Harbor, also under the day-labour system, the Engineer-in-Chief stated to the Public Works Committee that he was doing Wasting under water, dredging, and dumping the material out to sea, all at a cost of- 2s. 9d.-, including overhead charges. There has been difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of the American shovels-, but with these supplied this work should be done at a cost of very little over ls., per yard. I strongly hold that the work should go slow until the machinery is obtainable, so that the Commonwealth may have full value for its outlay upon the Base.
– What is the cost with those shovels?
– It is about ls. 8d. per yard with the. large steam navvies. We are justified in asking the Minister (Mr. Groom) to go slow until tlie best machinery has been, secured.. I know that he has dope all. that is possible in hastening its arrival. When the scheme is completed at Fremantle, it will cost more than £10,000,000. Of course, we require to find work for a considerable amount of labour, but it. must be remembered that money is not inexhaustible. For that reason I ask that these works be delayed. .
There appears to be no regard for economy at Flinders Base, because I have heard that the Government intend to have a flying school there, notwithstanding that we have already a flying school at Laverton, and I cannot see the necessity for two such establishments. It is clearly intended to have a school at the Flinders Base, because one witness before the Public Works Committee said that it would be rather dangerous to have overhead wires there on account of the training for aviationwork. Then, again, when the work was started, I do not believe that it was ever intended that it should be in Hann’s Inlet. Admiral Henderson in his report stated -
Naval Barracks, including Torpedo School, to be erected on the foreshorebetween Sandy Point and Stony Point.
That is not in Hann’s Inlet, but at the outlet, where there is oneof the finest harbors in Victoria, where it is possible to get 40 feet of water within 200 feet of the shore.
– Why did not the Government put it there?
– I do not know. The then Director has gone, and I do not want to say much about that aspect of the matter now, but I believe the work was started at both Bases just before an election, for the purpose of gaining favour, and it has been kept on. I am sorry to say this, because I did not intend to mention it; but I say that the Minister responsible for these things should not have an opportunityof repeating them.
In regard to Flinders Base, it will be noted that Admiral Henderson stated that only a small wharf should be constructed.
– Did Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice say anything about Hann’s Inlet ?
– I have not his report by me, so I cannot say for certain.
– I fancy he did favour it.
– I believe he did approve of it.
– I think Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice gave his paternal blessing on all these proposals.
– It is hardly fair to say that.The work had been started when he was askedto report on the scheme, and probably he did not think fit to condemn it. Dealing with wharfage accommodation, Admiral Henderson said that, if desirable, suitable hulks might be used, but the structures must not be coppered, and we have erected a wharf 1,000 feet long. And referring to torpedo practice, he stated that the Naval authorities should obtain the necessary legal powers to close part of the harbor for the purpose of Whitehead torpedo practice and adjustment.
– Torpedo practice could not be carried out in still waters as at Hann’s Inlet.
– Of course, there would not be much submarine practice in a dredged harbor, where the deepest water would be 18 feet. I have mentioned these matters, because evidently there has been a desire to make the Flinders sub-Base a much more ambitious proposal than Admiral Henderson intended.
– That part of the scheme dealing with the aviation training has been added, and it is the most useful.
– I have heard from Naval officers that it was intended to establish an aviation school there, and I think it would be a mistake to have two aerial training schools in Australia so close together.
– Order! The honorable member has reached his time limit.
Extension of time granted.
– I thank honorable members: for the privilege, but I am nearing the end of my remarks. So far as these bases are concerned, the policy for the first three years was largely one of drift and incompetence, but that has been considerably altered of late. Still, there is a danger of a similar policy of drift in other quarters.
If honorable members will turn to the Budget papers they will notice that enormous sums have been expended at Cockatoo Island Dock in Sydney. The initial cost of that great work is something over £1,000,000, and every year applications are made for a couple of hundred thousand pounds for additions. We ought to cry a halt until we get further information about the whole scheme, and obtain some idea as to how much.it is going to cost. I am not an expert, but in my judgment a grievous mistake was made in endeavouring to establish a dockyard at a place like that. I never saw a workshop so laid out, and I am sure if will cost an enormous sum of money to blast away the rock in order to give the dockyard officials reasonable facilities to carry out their work satisfactorily.
– It was a rotten deal.
– Every year enormous sums are being asked for in connexion with this dockyard, and although I do not say we should stop this year - that might cause delay on essential works - I think there should be a thorough investigation.
I am satisfied that the Government made a great mistake when they . exempted these works from inquiry by the Public Works Committee. There are those who scoff at. the work of that Committee, but I am sure that, although it” may have cost a few thousand pounds, it has saved the country a hundredfold ‘ that amount. There has been some- circumlocution and overburdening of officers owing to the fact that the Public Accounts and! Public Works Committee have at times been dealing with the same. subject, but I am satisfied that if the House defined the duties of the two Committees, so as to prevent overlapping for the future, the work of both bodies would be of very great value to Parliament and to the country. Most of the works under the Defence Department have been exempted from inquiry, and I think, that, in regard to some of them, this policy is the correct one. For instance, I would not permit information concerning the dredging of a channel into a harbor or a naval dockyard to be made public in any shape or form.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– These are the works exempted by Order in Council from examination by the Public Works Committee, no matter what may be their estimate of cost : Naval magazines ; oilfuel storage tanks and depots; water supply, and water storage’; all works and buildings- in connexion with submarine bases; torpedo stores and workshops; naval barracks ; naval training schools ; naval stores- buildings; dry-dock pumping stations; electric generating stations; dredging of approved channels to naval bases ; and wireless installations.
– Did not your Committee examine the. Flinders Naval Base?
– Only the barracks; these exemptions were made later. We found that the day-labour system employed in connexion with the building of barracks at Flinders had made the brickwork there cost £15 8s. 7d. per rod, although the work was worth only about £7 10s. per rod. Buildings which it was estimated would cost £110,000 cost actually £179,000. The increase in cost was due partly to the war, but chiefly to the interference of a previous Minister. If you put a good engineer in charge of works, he will try to get them carried out economically and well; but if, when the officer in charge dismisses a man, and that man goes to his member, ‘and the member goes to the Minister, and the Minister issues the instruction that the man is to be put on again, and this happens time after time, the officer in charge begins to let things drift, and they get into the wretched condition in which they were at the Flinders Base.
I again appeal to the Government, in order to make provision for the settling of our soldiers on the land, to push on with the Murray River Waters scheme. 1 .have during the past few years urged the need for this, although it is not a matter affecting either my electorate or my State. I am aware that because of the heavy rainfall of late years and the consequent flooded state of the Murray, it has been impossible to do the boring and other preliminary work necessary to the fixing of sites, but I hope that not a moment will be lost in making a start, and that returned soldiers will have preference in the allotting of blocks in the areas made available.
The Government has promised to do a great deal for the settlement of soldiers on the land. The States mav not be able to finance this work as they would desire, and it is necessary, therefore, that this Government should economize as far as possible. I should like to see economy in the general administration “of the Departments. The Estimates show many new appointments, and the granting of big increases of salary to men who thought it their duty to remain in Australiaduring the war rather than go to the Front. I desire that economy shall be practised, so that there may be more money available for the assistance of our soldiers who have made such great sacrifiecs for their country.
– I am in accord with the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) as to the value of the work done by the Public Works Committee and the Committee of Public Accounts. I had two years’ experience as a member of the Public Works Committee, and know that the reports of that body gave much valuable information to Parliament, while its members were able to draw attention in a semi-authoritative way to instances of wasteful expenditure. It is not the desire of any honorable member to curtail expenditure on public works. We all wish to have works necessary for the development of the country pushed on as far as possible. Our difficultyis to determine, during a period of financial stringency such as this, what expenditure should be curtailed, or, perhaps, stopped. Proposals for expenditure on naval and military works demand special consideration, because such expenditure is unreproductive, being in the nature of a premium for an assurance against possible dangers. We must ask ourselves to what extent we can afford to ignore these dangers, or to take the risk of them. I have already expressed the view that the happy conclusion of the recent war assures us protection for some years to come. No one can imagine that any nation, or any two nations, will for many years lightly engage in war. Ordinarily, a nation does not engage in even a defensive war without serious and full consideration, and a war of conquest such as would affect Australia is unthinkable for some time to come. Therefore, expenditure on naval and military works, in addition to being unproductive, seems, at the present time, useless and. wasteful. There is no danger, either immediate or for many years to come; and the promise of an association of nations for the mutual protection of their interests in the Pacific should for long be a sufficient guarantee to Australia. I understand the relief of the members of the Corner party on the Ministerial side when the Acting . Prime Minister made his statement last Friday. Notwithstanding that statement, we are asked to pass a Loan Bill to authorize the borrowing of £1,242,194. The Government ask us to give them the power to borrow the money, and to trust them not to spend it.
– Perhaps the Minister in charge intends to strike out some of the items in the schedule.
– We have not been told so.
– What item would the honorable member strike out?
– On Friday, the Acting Prime Minister was very clear as to what was going to be done. He said that he was authorized to announce that the Government did not propose to do any more work at the Henderson Naval Base other than was considered protective and necessary, pending report.
– He also stated that expenditure had been going on there for practically six months of the current financialyear.
– I know that nearly six months of the present financial year have run, and that any curtailment would therefore affect only the expenditure of the next six months. But we have had no statement as to the amount by which it is proposed to reduce the schedule. On Friday, the Acting Prime Minister said that the Government had been endeavouring for the past fifteen or sixteen months to ascertain whether the Admiralty was able to advise Australia as to whether the Henderson programme should be modified or retarded. Various cables had been exchanged between the Naval Board and the British Admiralty upon this question, and tentative advice had on several occasions been tendered. That advice had on more than one occasion been to the effect that they should push on with the first stage of the HendersonNaval Base programme; to postpone at the present time all preparations for the second stage of that Base work; and to continue the Flinders Base, and complete it. It is remarkable how accommodating the Government has become.
The Acting Prime Minister says that they have been in correspondence with the Admiralty for about fifteen months; but on the 7th of last month, when I asked the cost of Admiral Henderson’s report, I was told that it was £5,869, and when I asked, further, if it were proposed to invite theImperial Government to select a naval expert to visit Australia at an early date to advise the Government as to future work on the Naval Bases, and, if so, to what extent would the Government be financially responsible, the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) said that it was not proposed to invite the Imperial Government to select a naval expert; that the knowledge of the naval officer who was to be appointed as First Naval Member would be at the disposal of the Government, as would be also the advice of the British Admiralty. On Friday last, the Acting Prime Minister told us that the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) now advises the Government to suspend all work at the Henderson Naval Base except protective work, guard dredging, and salvage work, until the new adviser is able to visit Australia and report. Less than a month ago, the Government said that they did not propose to obtain the services of an expert; and yet, according to the Acting Prime Minister, for fifteen months they have been in correspondence with the British Government and the Admiralty as to whether work on the Naval Bases shall be proceeded with or postponed. He also told usthat they had communicated with the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), asking him to find out whether the visit of a naval expert could be obtained.
– Has not the war ended since the honorable member’s question was asked ?
-What has happened is this: There were sufficient members on the Government benches to join with those who were sitting on this side of the chamber for the purpose of curtailing the expenditure proposed in this Bill if the Government were not prepared to modify it. It was the fear of the consequences of submitting the proposals to a vote that brought about the modifying statement of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt). The honorable member for Boothby knows this well.
– No, I did not. It is news to me.
– If it had not been for the opposition of the Ministerial Corner party, there would have been no suggestion by the Acting Prime Minister to modify the Government proposals.
– In the case of a democratic Government, is it not the right of the party to assert some control over the Bills brought forward?
– I do not think it is so much a democratic Government as it is an accommodating Government. It appears to be very willing to placate honorable members of the Corner party when they get a bit noisy. I must say that it seems to be an easy matter to placate them.
Expenditure on these Naval Bases and on the Arsenal should be discontinued. It is unnecessary and wasteful at such a time as this. I am amused when I see how enthusiastic the Government are in providing for naval expenditure, when a few years ago they were utterly and absolutely opposed to the idea of having any Australian Navy, or of making any provision for one.
– The honorable member knows that his statement is quite wrong.
– I thought it would be denied. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), speaking in the Sydney Town Hall in 1907, said -
Our duty is to offer a Dreadnought and give a greater subsidy to the Old Country. We are hearing much about “ nailing our colours to the mast.” Well, I nail my flag once and for all to an increased subsidy.
However, in 1917 the right honorable gentleman had made some progress, because he said -
The issue is whether the Commonwealth shall render substantial, assistance to the cause pf English sea supremacy, or whether it should concentrate its resources upon an attempt to build an Australian Navy. . . . It can be conclusively shown that there is no possibility of Australia being ableto construct and man a navy strong enough to resist even the weakest of the navies of the Powers.
Lord Forrest, of happy memory, said in 1903-
I do not think it advisable that we should have an Australian Navy, and although it may come in the future, I do not desire it should come in my time.
Yet, afterwards, we had the spectacle of the right honorable gentleman passing Bills authorizing an expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds for building the very same Navy to which he had objected.
– His remarks referred to a different scheme from that which was adopted in 1909.
– I knew that there would be explanations. Can honorable members explain the following remarks, which were made in 1909 by the present Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) : -
We should watch very carefully the movement for the development of a purely Australian Navy to be controlled independently of the British fleet in Australian waters, for, apart from the question of the enormous expense involved and the certain increase of taxation, there was a certain section of this community who encouraged this development because they hated and decried the British connexion, and cherished the notion that at some distant date the navy of an Australian Republic would be turned against the British fleet in Australian waters.
– I wonder what section he was referring to ?
– I wonder, also, because the honorable gentleman is now a member of the section which, by all the means in its power, is encouraging the development of this very same Australian Fleet. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) said -
Concerning the Government policy with regard . to torpedo boat destroyers. . . . The Prime Minister’s proposal springs simply from a desire to euphemistically introduce the Australian Navy project - a project as futile as it would be inefficient. An Australian Navy would be of no service whatever to the people for defence purposes . . . the only means open to us of protecting Australia from invasion overseas is to contribute, and to contribute largely, to the Imperial Navy.
– Do they say it to-day ?
– Of coursethey do.
– Does not the honorable gentleman see that the members of our party are capable of great progress ?
– I congratulate honorable members on the progress they have made in the development of Australian national ideas. There are other honorable members opposite who at the same period of political history were talking in a similar strain. There was only one party in Australia far-seeing enough to give us the magnificent results achieved.
– And that was the Liberal party led by Mr. Deakin.
– Whether honorable members have repented or not in regard to their past sins, I congratulate them upon the fact that the House is now unanimously of opinion that Australia should provide for its defence by sea and land.
– Then why is the honorable member opposing the building of Naval Bases?
– I object to the expenditure on Naval Bases for two reasons. Firstly, the money is required for more urgent purposes, and at this time” of financial stringency we ought to curtail to the most severe limits every possible avenue of expenditure that is not reproductive. Secondly, military or naval expenditure can only be justified by an anticipated danger to Australia, whereas the result of the war has removed for ten years at least any possibility of danger from invasion or local trouble.
– Furthermore, the cost of construction is far greater at the present than it would be in normal times.
– From a business point of view, it would be foolish to continue these works at the present time.
– But the Government are not proceeding with the works.
– Before the honorable member entered the Chamber I was pointing out that if it had not been for the opposition shown by honorable members in the Ministerial corner and honorable members of the Opposition, the Government would have gone on with these works, and that they have only been induced to modify their proposals because of the opposition of honorable members. The statement made by the Acting Prime Minister on Friday last was a complete justification of the attitude taken up by honorable members on both sides of the Chamber who objected to, expenditure in this direction. I am pleased that the House has realized how necessary it is to go slowly iri these matters.
– Has the honor.able member’s party weakened in regard to the principle of compulsory defence?
– I believe that at the Perth Labour Conference there was a modification of theprevious attitude to an extent which I entirely indorse, namely, that before men should be invited to take part in military operations they should have the privileges of citizenship extended to them. The two matters are synonymous.
– In opposing that principle, did not the honorable member argue for consistency with the party’smanifesto, and was he not told that it was not his duty to be consistent, but that he should take orders from outside?
– The honorable member is evidently referring to something which the Brisbane Worker told me to do. Apparently he has not seen my reply, otherwise he, would have known that I told them that I reserved to myself the right of independent judgment; that when the time came it would be soon enough for them to attempt to dictate to. me as to what my dutywas ; and that in the meantime I was to be the determiner of my own fate.
There is another dangerous feature in connexion with this expenditure for naval purposes. According to page 70 of the Budget papers, we have spent £5,230,671 out of revenue upon the Australian Fleet. However, last year we abandoned the principle of providing for the Fleet out of revenue and spent upon it £355,397 from Loan Fund for Works; and this year we propose to spend upon it £500,000 from War Loan Fund. When the Estimates come before us this very reprehensible departure should receive the attention of honorable members. The people of Australia have been invited to subscribe money for war loans for the purpose of carrying on the war, and yet £500,000 of the money subscribed is to be devoted, not to the purpose of carrying on the war, but to the Australian Fleet. Altogether the Commonwealth have spent £6,086,068 on the Fleet. The Government have provided for expenditure this year on Naval Bases an amount of £2,0.87,800, comprising £1,467,000 out of war loan, and £425,000 and £195,000 out of loan fund for works. Of course, that sum includes £500,000 for the construction of the Fleet. The Government have given no indication as to what will be the reduction in the Loan Bill as aresult of the modified scheme which they have announced.
– No amount has Been stated; but the Government have stated that a mark-time policy will be adopted.
– All that the Acting Prime Minister has said is that there shall be a reduction in the expenditure. He toldus that for fifteen months the Government have been corresponding with the British Admiralty, which had advised them to proceed with and complete the first stage of the Henderson Base. On that work we have already spent from. £500,000 to £750,000, and a further expenditure of £5,000,000 is required to complete its first stage. The British Admiralty advised us to complete the first section, complete the Flinders Base, complete the Sydney Base, but to stop work on all other Bases. Now the Government say that the latest advice from the Admiralty is to stop work at the Henderson Base, complete the Flinders Base, and entirely suspend all other operations. That is an eminently satisfactory statement, and is exactly what those of us who have been complaining about Naval Base expenditure have asked for.
– The latest advice was given after the recent turn of events.
– We asked for a suspension of operationsbefore events took their latest turn. While the war was raging, and when the outlook was blackest,we suggested that the time was not opportune for proceeding with those works, and thatwe ought to consider how, when the war was over, and its lessons had beea learned, we might develop them along the cheapest and most effective lines. I go further, and say that, now the war is over, we must consider, not only how to make the best use of the lessons it has taught, and buy up machinery cheaper than we could have purchased it a few years ago, but also whether there is any urgent need to proceed withthese works at the present time, or, indeed, for the next ten years. A much more statesmanlike proposal than the expenditure of £2,000,000 on naval works in the current financial year would be the utilization of that sum. in developing Australia, establishing new industries, and providing employment for the returned soldiers. If we discontinue that expenditure we shall, in the next ten years, have an aggregate sum of £20,000,000 to apply to the development of Australian industries. [Extension of time granted.]
It is very evident that, as a result of the war, the German Fleet will be available for distribution amongst the Allied nations. Indeed, I have already read in the press references to the number of ships that certain nations are likely to receive as their share of the German Navy. Ithink it is quite likely that Australia will be regarded as. having some rights in that respect. Indeed, I think the Commonwealth can put forward a very sound claim for consideration ; and I do not see any reason why we should propose to continue building war-ships, in view of the possibility that we may get two or three German ships when the distribution amongst the Allies takes place. I mention this matter rather diffidently, because I know that we all stated emphatically that we did not enter the war with the expectation of getting any spoils. But it is certain that the German ships will not be given back to Germany; somebody must get them, and Australia has as much claim to a share of them as has any other nation. Therefore, I think that, instead of spending money on the building of ships, we ought to make a claim for a couple of the captured German, vessels.. It would be rather a happy thing for the Australian Fleet if its splendid record during, the war were capped by the hoisting of the Australian flag over a couple of enemy ships. I hope that the Government will suggest, through theMinister for the Navy, who is in England, that we have no objection to a couple of German ships being added to the Australian Fleet.
.- I join with others in congratulating the Acting Prime Minister on having announced the intention of the Government to suspend some of the important Naval works for a time. That decision will mean the saving of a considerable sum of loan money until further investigation has been made into the Bases. It does not, however, remove the responsibility of: the various Administrations that have been in charge of those works since their commencement. In my opinion, the present Minister for the Navy ought long ago to have consulted with the British Admiralty as to the advisability of continuing these works on the lavish scale on which they were started. One has only to read the history of Naval Base construction in Australia to realize that most of the money has been expended without the authorities having any settled plan. In 1911, Admiral Henderson laid down a scheme for the construction of Naval Bases throughout the Commonwealth in a certain order, and also for the building of war ships. On the basis of that report the then Director of Naval Works laid out a tentative scheme, in accordance with which work was. started at the Henderson Base, at Cockburn Sound. Admiral Henderson recommended that there should be two primary Bases, one in Sydney, which was to be put in hand first, and a second at Cockburn Sound. There were to be also a number of subsidiary Bases, and a long way down on the list was a sub-base to be established at Flinders. On the authority of the Naval Board; I believe, the Flinders Base was taken out of its proper order, because of the desire of the Board to remove the Naval depot and yards from Williamstown, and to the proposals recommended by Admiral Henderson were added gunnery and torpedo schools, and other establishments. The construction of the Flinders Base was carried on at a- too rapid rate, with the result that the buildings were completed before the Naval Board was in a position to occupy them. We know that a great deal of wast© took place in connexion with the construction of the Base. The Acting Prime Minister intimated on Friday that, on the advice of the Admiralty, the Government intend to complete the Flinders Base, but I am of opinion that that work, which will cost about £150,000, should not be put in hand until the fullest investigation has been made by the qualified expert, who is to report broadly on the whole system of Naval Base construction,. and also on the details of the works to be carried out at each Base.
To return to the history of the Henderson Base, the Public Works Committee has had an opportunity of studying the whole of the ‘circumstances of the Base at Cockburn Sound. In 1913, the Liberal Government secured the services of an eminent engineer, Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, who, after a thorough investigation, confirmed broadly the scheme laid down by Admiral Henderson, but recommended a revision of certain details. However, the work continued on the old plan, and nothing was done by the Naval Board to lay out a definite plan of operations, or to prescribe the order in which the works should be completed. It was not until early in 1916 that two officers of the Department, Mr. Swan and Mr. King Salter, were asked to plan a lay-out of the Henderson Base for ship -building, and also for the accommodation of the largest -vessels in the Australian Fleet. In the same year the present Director of Naval “Works; Mr Settle, came to Australia, and, after a study of all the available data, he recommended a revised list of works to be carried out as the first instalment of the Henderson Base. No blame for the lack of scheme, system, or .perspective can be laid at the door of the present Director of
Naval Works. Upon the basis1 of Admiral Henderson’s scheme, upon which had been superimposed the recommendations of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, Mr. Settle submitted proposals which were referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation. That scheme contemplated an expenditure of about £5,600,000, and although Admiral Henderson’s report had been presented as far back as 1911, it was the first scheme that looked ahead, and laid down in a business-like way a series of works to be carried out in their proper order, with due regard to their relative importance. This shows the haphazard and inefficient manner in which this huge expenditure has been carried on. We had to wait seven years for the presentation of a business-like scheme which enumerated in order of their importance and utility the various works that should be constructed. We now learn . that whilst this scheme was before the Public Works Committee, the Naval Board submitted to the Admiralty plans and specifications which had been prepared by Messrs. Swan and King Salter in connexion with instructions issued! prior to the appointment of the ‘ present Director of Naval Works. It was always intended that these works should, be carried out under the advice of the Admiralty, and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) immediately upon his- arrival in England should have investigated the whole question of the construction of Naval Bases. He knew that Messrs. Swan and King Salter’s plans and specifications were in the hands of the Admiralty, and that the present Director of Naval Works, in giving evidence before the Public Works Committee, had. said that, for his own satisfaction, he should like the rival plans - those prepared by himself and those prepared by Mr. Swan and Mr. King Salterto be submitted to the . Advisory Council of- the British Admiralty, from which the best advice . could be obtained. The Minister has been in England for six or seven months, and during that time expenditure has been going on in connexion with these works. In my opinion, when he arrived in the Old Country he should have regarded it as his first duty to- consult with the British Admiralty, instead of waiting for the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to give him the impetus to the making of an investigation.
– Even so, the British Admiralty authorities have said in all their cable messages that they have not had time to make a full investigation of the plans.
– We now find that the work is to be suspended. Has that decision been arrived at by the Government with or without the advice of the Admiralty ? Throughout the inquiry made by. the Public Works Committee I took, the view that operations should be suspended until we secured the advice of the Admiralty, and, as a member of the Committee, I moved to that effect.
– The Acting Prime Minister last week read all the cablegrams that had passed between the Admiralty and the Government. ‘
– Then it is on the advice of the Admiralty that the work is to be hung up? The question is whether that advice should not have been obtained long since. I have referred to these facts with the object of showing the extent to which this important work has been carried out without any settled plan, and on ja scale of extravagance foreign to efficiency and to the proper discharge of a great public duty.
I hope it will be possible for the Government before the present session closes to bring before us the . Estimates in Chief, so that we may have a further opportunity’ to ‘ discus’s the public expenditure of the Commonwealth. The Acting Prime Minister has told us that already the provision made on the Estimates for the first five months of the financial “year has been exhausted. If we are to wait another three months for the Estimates, two’thirds of the financial year will have expired before we shall have had an opportunity to deal further with the expenditure. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister’s proposal to bring down a Supply Bill on which we may discuss the public expenditure may not be persisted in, but that we shall have the Estimates in Chief brought before us without further delay. If we have an opportunity to review them before it is too late we shall have little difficulty in showing where substantial savings can be made.
In connexion with the proposed construction of an arsenal there was another series of Ministerial instructions and votes without any settled plan to go upon. The precis of the cablegrams that hav6 passed between, the Imperial authorities and the Department of Defence show quite plainly that the establishment of the Arsenal was first suggested for war purposes. It was hoped that we should be able within twelve months to supply shells. It has been difficult, however, for Australia to take its’ part with other Dominions in the manufacture- of munitions of war, owing to the great distance which separates us from the Old Country. By the time that specifications reached us from the war authorities at Home the class of shell to which they related might have become obsolete. It has been impossible for us to play that part in the manufacture of munitions of war that countries more contiguous to Great Britain have done. The Arsenal, however, was to be established in order that we might manufacture certain classes of munitions, and this huge expenditure was to be undertaken upon information gained by tue visit of the Arsenal Committee to India. During the war experience of the highest value in regard to munitions was obtainable. Various developments took place,, but India, it was thought, was the country to which the Arsenal Committee should go in order .to be able to report upon the best’ class of arsenal to establish in Australia. While there are some uptodate arsenals and munition factories in India, we must recognise that at best they could supply only a pre-war standard of manufacture. It was impossible for the Committee to obtain there the uptodate information we could, have secured had we waited a little longer. It is, therefore, gratifying to learn that it has been decided to suspend the Arsenal building operations, ‘and that when we do proceed with the work we shall have had a visit from the highest British authority on the subject, and will have the be.«t advice for our guidance.
I propose now to refer to a work that is closely associated with the project for the settlement of returned soldiers or. tlie land. I allude to the locking of the Murray and to the building of additional storages in connexion with that river. ‘ I have here a report issued by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), who, I’ believe, is trying to do all he can to push on with the undertaking; but the results so far achieved are very disappointing. The delay that has occurred in the locking of the Murray and the’ construction of certain storage works, is most unfortunate. It was in 1913 that the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), then Prime Minister, made an agreement with the States concerned for a Commonwealth subsidy of £1,000,000 to enable them to build large storages on the Murray, as well as to lock the river and some of its tributaries.
– After a start had been made the work had to be delayed for two years, owing to the flooded state of the country.
– Why have not some of the minor storages been constructed? The Lake Victoria scheme, providing for the storage of 500,000 acre-feet of water, should have been completed by this time.
– That is a “very big undertaking. The engineers have been carrying out- tests and preparing- designs, and ave only now ready to submit the work to the Commission.
– There should have been a greater driving power behind the work. Unnecessary delay has taken place. South Australia is the only State in the group which lias done anything in the way of providing water storage.
– Floods have interfered with South Australia’s work. Because of starting when she did with these works, the cost has been twice a.s much as it would otherwise have been.
– There is always the possibility of floods. That is a risk we have to face. In the Minister’s report only two of the twenty pages are devoted to the proposals for constructional works, and nothing is said as to the possibility of an early start being made with this big scheme. We are not told how long it will be before any storage water is available for irrigation. The report is most disappointing. The agreement was made in 1913.
– But the Act was not assented to until 15th November, 1915, and until the Commission was appointed we could not be held responsible.
– That does ‘ not detract from my argument. Both the Commonwealth and State ‘Parliaments should have passed the necessary legislation without a moment’s delay, so that the work might at once be undertaken.
– An expert had to be obtained from the United States.
– It is difficult to say whether it was really necessary to secure the services of an expert from the United States. We have experienced men in Australia. In any case, we find that, although five years have elapsed since -the agreement was made, the site of the scheme for the storage of “1,000,000 acrefeet of water at the head of the river has barely been selected.
– The two. State Governments concerned are now engaged upon that work.
– They are still being asked by the Central Commission to submit their scheme of works. The successful settlement of our returned soldiers on the land depends more largely upon this scheme than upon any other. For the first time the Commonwealth is taking a hand in this class of settlement and the distribution of the Murray waters, and yet we find continuous delay. If the ‘ States are responsible for the delay, I hope that the Minister will give us the benefit of any information he has regarding it, so that we shall be in. a position to ask the people a little later on to amend the Constitution iu .the direction of giving us power to carry out these important works. We know that before this agreement was come to, land settlement on the Murray and its tributaries had, according to the Water Commission, reached the maximum of safety, and it was not quite* safe to supply water to new irrigation settlements. The urgency of the work has become more andmore insistent. Would it be possible for the Minister, before this Loan Bill is passed, to give the House an assurance as to when these works are to be undertaken, when we shall be able to draw waters from at least some of the storages, and thus enable soldiers’ settlements to be established ? In South Australia, I believe, it has been found possible to establish new settlements, and in Victoria and New South Wales, where some soldier settlements are being successfully established, there is probably room enough to settle all the soldiers who care to undertake this class of agriculture. If we can only store the water and settle people on the same basis as at Mildura, on the one side,and Renmark on the other, we have room for the settlement of half-a-million people under this scheme alone.
The Minister, as chairman of the Commission, should impress on the constructing States the necessity of pushing on with these storages, which can be completed at a very much earlier date than the main storage on the Upper Murray. A driving power is required behind the present Commission to stir it up; and unless something is done, the great areas lying adjacent to the Murray, so suitable for irrigation, and of such proved success - though extension is impossible, because of the insufficient supply of water -will not be available for the settlement of any great number of soldiers.
The Minister, I think, ought to give some intimation to the House of what works will be undertaken in the first instance, and the general lay-out of the scheme. As a matter of fact, in regard to this work, we are in the same position that we were in eight or nine years ago in relation to Naval Bases and other works of magnitude. We are asked to vote the whole of this money without any scheme or plan being placed before us as to what the works are, and the order in which they are to be carried out. We have not been told how long it will be before the first supplies from the storages may be drawn for the purpose of irrigating new settlements. The report before us contains some twenty pages, the first seven or eight of which are devoted to the history of the question, and then follow about a page and a half on the construction of new works, the remainder being taken up with an elaborate table of gaugings on the various rivers. The main thing that would give the report any value is absent; that is, a thorough studied and systematized scheme of construction, showing the works and the order in which they are to be carried out, and informing us as to the earliest moment at which a new supply may be obtained for the purpose of irrigation settlement on the river.
. -These Estimates are rather belated. We remember how the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) had a word to say to the State Treasurers when they came south looking for money. He told them that they would have to “ draw in their horns,” and see that no great public works were gone on with, because we had to assist in winning the war by curtailing expenditure in certain directions in the different States. Now, in this grave and strenuous time, the Commonwealth Government ask for an enormous sum of money out of loan for the purposes which have been discussed this afternoon.
If there is one thing more than another that the Governments, State and Federal, should do, it is to provide water in the arid portions of this great continent. Providence has endowed us with plenty of water if we only had the nous to conserve it. I have been a member of the House since the inception of Federation, and during the whole of that time we have impressed on every successive Government the necessity for conserving the natural waterways in the different States, and thus giving an aid to agriculture and closer settlement. For many years this Murray waters scheme, like a hardyannual, has been before us, and each Treasurer and Government has agreed that something should be done. Australia has been federated for a little over seventeen years, and, so far as water conservation is concerned, we are now exactly in the same position that we were in the day Federation was consummated. In that period millions of gallons have flowed under the bridges, and nothing has been done to conserve it. One day the honorable member forWimmera (Mr. Sampson) asked a question on the subject, and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) rose with an air. of eloquence, and, in flowery Deakinese, told! him all about the beauties of the country, the smiling fields, and all that, and wound up with the information that the Government were collaborating–
– It ia a pretty picture, but I do not remember drawing it.
– The honorable gentleman did draw it, and I asked him why he did not tell those concerned to get an aeroplane. His retort to that was that there was “ quite enough gas about”; but I reminded him that aeroplanes were not driven by gas, but with another motive power. And motive power is what is required in this House. What is the use of telling a hungry man about beautiful fields of wheat in South Australia, or beautiful bullocks growing up on the Peninsula in Queensland ? It is tucker that the people want, and not painted pictures and town planning.
– How do you propose to apply the motive-power - with the boot?
– No ; I shall leave that to the honorable member.
– Will you help?
– I am always ready to help. It is time we stopped fooling the people by telling them what we intend to do ; it is time we did something. We all know that the main thing in the settlement of the arid portions of Australia is water; it is our chief asset. Before there were artesian wells in Queensland there were, not hundreds, but thousands, of miles uninhabited. To-day, with the artesian flow, this country is what is called in Queensland closely settled. Pioneers went out, and were assisted by the pastoral financial institutions; and where, thirty years ago, there was not a white man, we find the country not only covered with habitations, but covered with fenced-in big flocks and herds. I look on every hoof in Australia, not as the asset of an individual, but as a national asset. I am not jealous of any man having big flocks and herds, because the more stock such men have, the more prosperous the country, and the more prosperous the country the better off the working man.
– They are part of the real wealth of the country.
– That is so ; and each and every one of us is helping to produce that wealth. It seems most remarkable that the statesmen of Australia should always be in the back ground in regard to the conservation of water. We have some of the bestagricultural and grazing lands to be found under the sun, and in close proximity to the great water-ways.
– In most of the oases is this not, as the Constitution stands, a State matter?
– We are all of the English-speaking race,and we have no foreign Governments to contend against; the boundaries between the States are not natural boundaries, but, since Federation, only border lines. If it is for the welfare of the nation, surely we are not such “ State frighters “ as not to allow either the Federal or theState Governments to do the country a good turn ? If the States will not take action, it behoves the Federal Government to do so. If this scheme is to make New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia prosperous, I, as a Queenslander, am quite prepared to forward it - to promote in every possible way the settlement of those immense areas. There is a great cry at the present time about, the need for settling returned soldiers on the land. My experience of the settlement of people on the. land has been that, where the attempt has been made, the land has settled the. people. The places chosen for such settlements have been such that the settlers required the heart of a lion and the knowledge of a professor of science to make their settlement successful.
– And a good banking account.
-Yes. So long as the money lasted the settlers were all right, but when the money was used up they left the land. Many years ago the Queensland Government went to a. great deal of trouble to assist the settlement of people on the land, either as individuals or in groups. They supplied settlers with stock, and material for houses, and permitted them to draw acertain amount each week from the Public Treasury.
– And the bank never suffered any loss.
– But thereby hangs a tale.
– And a very melancholy tale, too.
– That is so. The bank did not lose, because certain people helped the bank out of its difficulty.
– I refer to the Queensland Agricultural Bank.
– I am speaking of an attempt at group . settlement tried by Sir Horace Tozer before the existence of the State Agricultural Bank. The Government of the day were adverse to the proposed settlement, but they -still did all that it was possible for a Government to do to make it a success, mainly because of the efforts of one man, the Hon. A. H. Barlow, who was a member of the Ministry. His ambition in life at that time was to induce people to leave the cities and settle upon the land. The Salvation Army assisted the settlers, and they stayed on the land so long as there was any money to draw. As soon as the money was done, they were done, too, and they went back to the cities. They did not blame themselves; but they did blame every one but themselves. After the 1891 strike, a nunrber of young, virile men, of whom I was one, had a grievance against the Queensland Government, and desired to leave Australia. They considered that Australia was not good enough for them, and not big enough for them, and of all places in the world, the place to which they wanted to. go was South America. We were in love with the utopian scheme of co-operative settlement, and honorable members are aware that love is always blind. We were prepared to go anywhere to carry out such a scheme. We believed that it would lead to the millennium. I put; into the scheme £60 that I had worked very hard for, but at the jump-off my wife refused to go with me to South America. She had more sense thanI had, and I havenot been sorry since that she refused to go to Paraguay at that time. This idea of settling people cooperatively on the land is not new. After the 1891 strike in Queensland a co-operative village settlement was started there on the Alice River. If the whole of Western Queensland had been searched for the purpose, a worse place could not have been selected. We would not listen to scientists in Government positions, who condemned the site chosen. Like the old pioneers who blazed the track in the western country, the settlers decided that the settlement should be formed alongside the biggest waterhole in the district. They considered that so long as there was plenty of water they could not fail to be successful. Iwas working on the railway line at that time, earning 8s. a day, and I put 4s. of that amount into the co-operative settlement, with the idea of finally joining the settlers.Things went on all right until the first shearing season came round, and then some of their skins began to crack. They found that they had hard work, and that there was no money coming in, though there was plenty of good, rough tucker. At a meeting of the settlers one night it was decided that the best thing to do was that half the number should leave the settlement and go to work shearing at different sheds, and then come back and the other half would take up the work of shearing the next year. The first half left, but, like Noah’s dove, they never came back. From that time on the settlers drifted out of the settlement until there were only seven left. Sir Samuel Griffith, the present Chief Justice of the High Court, was Premier of Queensland at the time, and he did all he could to assist the Alice River settlement. He used to write articles on the subject for a newspaper called The Boomerang, edited by ex-Senator Drake. He was in sympathy with the movement, and so long as the settlement continued he assisted it in every way he could. He gave the settlers horses, drays, pumping gear, and pipes, and all he got from them from start to finish was abuse. That was my experience of settling people on the land who had not grown up accustomed to the conditions of land settlement. If there is a wrong way to do a thing, honorable members may be sure that a man from the city settled on the land will take that way. Some of those who joined the Alice River settlement thought that the best thing they could do was to enclose the area with a pig-proof fence. Any one with any sense at all would know that there is more work than anything else in a pig-proof fence, and, besides, there were no pigs to keep out of the settlement.
– It was a beautiful fence.
– It was a beautiful fence, and it is there to-day. It was constructed of split gidyea and boree. There was only one thing wanting to make the settlement a real Garden of Eden - and it was a Garden of Eden . until that one thing was supplied, and that was when a woman appeared on the scene.
– Only one?
– She was the forerunner of many others ; but trouble began in the settlement with the advent of the woman. Notwithstanding all their difficulties, seven men stuck to the settlement until the finish, and I stuck to them. I used my 4s. per day in another direction, and as I was in a position to help them, I stuck to them till the last. I believed that they were trying to give effect to right ideas, but they had not the brains to carry them out. Though seven continued at the settlement, they were not happy or contented until they secured the freehold of the land they occupied . They harassed the soul-case out of me to move the local member to take action in the State Parliament on their behalf.
– We have all had the same experience.
– Of course; it is human nature. I am only telling honorable members the sort of thing which has happened all over the world. These men got their freeholds, and the ink was not dry on their deeds before there were plasters on them, and a monkey was perched on each gate going into the settlement. Honorable members can realize what happened from that out. It is all very well to sit down in an office, and write articles to a newspaper to tell people what they should do on the land. I remember that one gentleman, a resident of Barcaldine, in every issue ofhis newspaper said that the western plains of Queensland should be the granary of the world. He used to reprint extracts from American newspapers to show what the Americans were doing with dry places in the growth of wheat, and used to ask why we could not do the same in Central Queensland. One day I went into his office and said, “ Look here, Campbell, there is only one way in which you can prove that what you are always writing in your newspaper is a fact.” He replied, “What is that?” I answered, “ Go and do yourself what you advise others to do. You can get any amount of country from the Government merely by asking for it. You can get good, rich land at a rental of½d. per acre; and in five years you can obtain the freehold for 2s. 6d. per acre.” He acted on my suggestion, and took up a selection. During the first year, he put about 50 acres of it under wheat. We experienced a phenomenal season. Never before had there been such rains in western Queensland,and never have there been since. The consequence waa that Campbell had everybody in the district looking at his beautiful wheatfields in the middle of the bush; and the following year, numbers of men, including station-owners, rushed in with the plough. . But from theyear that Campbell put in his plot, there has never been an acre of wheat grown in western Queensland. In the same way, I fear that our soldiers’ settlements will not be the success that many ofus wish them to be. “
– Especially at £40 per acre.
– The only place where I know that £40 an acre is paid for land in Queensland is in Queen-street, Brisbane.
– That amount is being paid for it at the soldiers’ settlement at Beerburrum .
– That is a very small area, indeed. I desire to see the Commonwealth Government conserving the water that is available by tapping our bigwaterways. The only asset we have in Australia is that of water. If we wish to make soldier settlement a success in Austr alia, we mustprovide them with water,a nd with plenty of it. Without it, they foredoomed to failure. I have been connected with stock-raising for the past twenty-f our years, and I claim to know something about it. But if I ventured to embark on a business in Melbourne what chance of success would I have? None whatever.
I realize the troubles which the Government are encountering in connexion with their repatriation efforts. But they are doing their verybest, and the country ought to be thankful that we have at the head of the Department a man like Senator Millen. I do not know of another man in Australia who would go into the matter as fully as he is doing. He is giving it his undivided attention, but Iknow that, nomatter what he may do, or how he may do it, he will be the best abused individual in the Commonwealth.
– Order! Thehonorable member’s time has expired. [Extension of time granted] .
– The way to help the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) is not to prod him as we would prod a lazy bullock or a lazy horse. We must recollect that he has to carve out his own machinery in the Department, and personally I think that he is doing it all right. In regard to vocational training, he is accomplishing marvellous work, and the Housing Bill which he intends to introduce will be , a splendid measure. But no matter what he may do, he is sure to be the victim of carping critics. I know of ho case which has been brought under his notice in which relief has not been given. The only thing I am sorry for is that the Department will prove not only his political grave, but the grave of many of hissuccessors.
The Government will be well advised to knock off the works at the Naval Base in Western Australia altogether, because it is of no use to shut our eyes to the fact that if there is any danger at all for Australia it will come from the East.
– Fremantle is as near to some of those points of danger as Sydney is.
– That is not the way they will come. Thank God, we have the British Fleet. That is what I am depending on.
– That Fleet will need bases.
– There isthe British Naval Base at Singapore. However, the whole thing is now in the melting pot. Many years ago I feared the danger I have referred to, but of later years I have not feared it so much, particularly after the events that have just taken place in connexion with ourNavy in Home waters. One port I should like to see developed, and on which I would not care how much money was spent, because it is aport that will always be necessary, is Port Stephens, I do not want honorable members to think I am pushing Queensland’s barrow in this matter. Apparently nothing is being done, atPort Stephens at all. If there is one thing more than another that will heed revising in many directions it is our naval defence programme. A man does not need to be a statesman or a naval expert to know that thetwo principal features in future wars will be the aeroplane and the submarine - that is, for defensive purposes. The dreadnought and the cruiser will form the big offensive arm in years to come, just as they do to-day ; but the practical defence of our shores will be carried out by aeroplanes, mine fields, and submarines’ ….
We are spending a great deal of money now on certain Bases, although we know thatafter the war the whole scheme of naval defence may have to be changed. There is not the same necessity for hurry now that there was previously, because there will not be any big naval demonstration by any Power within, say, the next ten years.
– It would be a good thing if a proportionof the £11,000,000 earmarked for the Henderson Base were allotted for Fleet construction.
Mr.P AGE. - I do not believe in being niggardly when it is a question of making ourselves secure. The very first thing we should do is to make Australia secure, and if we spend this money judiciously we shall be doing the right thing.
Those of us who have read anything about the war know that most of the big guns and ammunition, and even the smaller field guns, have become practically obsolete during the last four years. Many of the guns with which our forts are manned are obsolete.It is of no use to spend a lot of money on machinery for making obsolete guns at the Arsenal. The biggest change the world has ever seen is going to happen in regard to big armaments and munitions. If we spend all this money on the Arsenal, and then findthat the whole scheme has to be scrapped, weshall be acting very foolishly. At Woolwich Arsenal I have seen machinery put up, and the whole of it taken out and scrapped before two years had passed. That was in peaceful times. If the building must be put up, I say, put it up, but let us not spend large sums on what is called up-to-date machinery, because in twelve months’ time the whole lot may be obsolete. I know, as a fact, that some of the machinery that has been ordered for the Arsenal is already obsolete. After the war we shall have a chance of obtaining up-to-date machinery at half the present cost. If there were any immediate necessity to go on with the equipment of the Arsenal, I should be quite prepared to vote the Government the money; but there is not.
.- I draw attention to the item, “ Land for laboratory at Royal Park, Melbourne.” I take it that this is an evidence of a predetermination on the part of the Government to go on with the establishment of the Bureau ofScience and Industry, before theBill creating it has been passed.
– This is for a laboratory for the manufacture of serum. It will be under Dr. Cumpston, the Director of Quarantine. I have that on the assurance of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene).
– Is the vote for quarantine purposes alone?
– Is it connected in any way with the establishment of the Institute ?
– It is quite independent of it.
– That is the first explanation the Committee has had of the item. I would not have takenexception to it of itself; but I was anxious to ascertain if it was in any way associated with the new Institute.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Before commencing a discussion on the items contained in the Bill, I ask the Minister (Mr. Groom) if he can give the Committee any idea of the estimated proportion - I would not expect the exact amount - by which the total of £1,242,194 will be reduced as a result of the undertaking given by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt).
– It would be quite impossible to give those figures at this stage. The matter will have to be inquired into by the Director of Works..
– We should be furnished with some estimate. It would afford some little satisfaction to those who recognise that the resources of the country should be directed, as far as possible, to increasing production, and lending those direct aids to production and industry which do not seem to come from the huge expenditure of Federal moneys. I do not hold that Federal expenditure should be measured by State expenditure; but. looking upon the two sources together, I am bound to point out that most of the direct services in this country which have a bearing upon production, and upon facilities for production, are rendered by the States. And I point out, further, that we are shortly about to come to an end of the financialarrangement between the Commonwealth and States, by whichthe latter will be required tosurrender their per capita grant.
– I think more honorable members should hear what is about to be said regarding the per capita contribution. There ought to be a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stage of the Bill to be passed without delay.
– I wish to state one or two reasons why the House should not agree to the motion. The other day I drew the attention of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to the position which this measure occupied on the notice-paper. I mentioned that several weeks ago we were asked to pass this Loan Bill as an urgent measure. The Acting Prime Minister said, in reply, “ The honorable member will know that we brought in a Supply Bill, and that that has rendered any urgency in connexion with this Bill unnecessary.” But when, by interjection, I reminded the Minister (Mr. Groom) of that this evening, he demurred. If this Bill were urgent - if the Minister could say that its passage was urgently necessary - I would not object to the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– The mere fact that the honorable member let us pass the schedule this evening indicates that he himself regards the Bill as urgent. As Leader of the party on his side to-night, the honorable member acquiesced in the whole position, and now that he has helped us to this stage he is blocking the Bill.
– I am not attempting to block the Bill. The general situation has been entirely altered since this measure was introduced. When the Minister was asked if he could indicate how much of the money to be voted would be required, he could not furnish an answer. He had not the faintest glimmer of an idea whether there would be required the sum of £1,242,194, or whether £500 000 would be sufficient. My object in opposing the suspension of the Standing Orders at this stage is to warn honorable members that it will be a very serious mistake to pass a measure such as. this without paying attention to the altered needs of the situation. There are items, for example, affecting the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook). I want to know why the Minister for the Navy is not here. Heis away in London. I quite agree that there is an excellent substitute on the Ministerial benches, but the misfortune is that that substitute is not permitted to take the position of Minister for the Navy. He is not given the responsibility.
– He is doing very well.
– Within his circumscribed horizon, he is.
– And he hits out very well, too!
– Yes, but a Royal Commission, which was appointed to go into the administration of the Navy Department, furnished a report, and’ recommended certain things. The Commission pointed out a number of matters calling for attention. For example, it recommended that there should be a manager of naval works, and that Mr. King Salter should be appointed to the position. Cabinet considered that question; but, instead of allowing the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) to decide, the Government said, “ This matter must be deferred until the return of the Minister for the Navy.” You, Mr. Speaker, must have seen a letter from the honorable member for Capricornia appearing in the Melbourne Age, entitled “The I.W.W. Government,” in which attention was drawn to the fact that the Minister for the Navy was in the Old Country, and that the Government were imitating I.W.W. methods in going slow, and that they had deferred almost everything of importance in the report of the Commission until the return of the Minister for the Navy. The Navy Department is in a chaotic condition, apparently, yet all these reforms are to be postponed until the return of Sir Joseph Cook.
– Does not the honorable member know that the Minister for the Navy is busy in London, collaborating with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– I refuse to be drawn off the track in that manner. I know that the most amicable relations exist between those two honorable gentlemen, for we have been told so by a cable signed “ Hughes and Cook.” And, by the way, the Age now informs’ us that it has consulted its correspondent in London, and that in a few days we shall have his version.
– Meanwhile, you ought to apologize.
– T do not intend to. Rather, I prefer to make a remark about the Argus.
– I think the honorable member is digressing from the motion.
– I apologize, sir; but I am sure that you will agree that it does not matter whether we pass this Bill or not; the Government and Government officials will spend the money. They do not want an Act of Parliament.
– If we do not shortly pass this Bill scores of men will be thrown out of employment.
– During the period when this Bill was hung up no men were thrown out of work. That may happen, however, if the Government do the right thing in stopping unnecessary expenditure, and then fail to do the right thing in seeing that people thrown out of work are placed back in employment. As for anything that this House may do, the Government care not a snap of tie fingers. They care nothing for newspaper criticism, or for criticism by honorable members. They get their Bill passed. To come forward now with a preposterous motion to sus-‘ pend the Standing Orders to permit the passage of this Bill without delay forces one to ask - Where is the urgency?
– The Government delayed it. themselves for weeks.
– That is so; and it was only brought forward a few evenings ago to conciliate the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) and a few others who were kicking up a row about the War Precautions Act and its regulations, and the War-time Profits Bill. The Government wanted to prevent the “ little Amen corner” over there from getting out of hand - the “ Win-the-war Bolsheviks.”
– There is only one kind of “ Win-the-war Bolsheviks “ ; that is, the Win-the-class-war Bolsheviks.
– I admit, that I did wrong in applying a term which I .know that the honorable member objects to when it is used in such a comparison as I have just made.
– I do object. The Bolsheviks have enough to carry without that.
– Nothing that the Minister for Works and Railways has said in favour of the motion to suspend the Standing Orders should weigh with honorable members for a single moment. But I do not remember that he said anything, though I presume he has reasons, audi at other times he is loquacious enough. Indeed, I think I once described him as a “ Vicar of Bray,” and I was not very far wrong.
– And you have been braying ever since.
– The Minister, at all events, did not bray very much when he moved! the suspension of the Standing Orders; and I want to know the reasons in support of the motion. Is he anxious to get this Bill through without delay in order that we may discuss the War Precautions Bill ; or is he desirous that we should hear the statement, promised to us by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), after consultation, as the Argus puts it, to express the views of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) ?
– -Does the Argus put it that way?
– Well, just prior to elections, articles appearing in the Argus are usually described as having been written, after consultation, to express the views of the Argus, by David Hewitt Maling; though, if I may be permitted to remark, articles written by Francis W. Lydiard, and characterizing members of the Labour party as Sinn Feiners, Bolsheviks, pro-Germans and German agents, are not thus described.
– What section of the Bill is the honorable member referring to now?
– Does the Minister desire to get this Bill through in order that we may discuss the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill? If he does, I venture to say that that measure should not be considered by us until we have had an. opportunity to go into all those letters written to the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Melbourne Argus, and the Age. Is the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) anxious to get along with the War Loan Subscriptions Bill? If he is, that is not necessary, because I hope we are not going to raise another loan for, at least, six months; and, even if we do, I submit we ought not to pass that Bill. Or, again, are the Governmentanxious to get on with the Defence Bill and the Naval Defence Bill that they should ask the House to agree to ithis extraordinary motion to suspend the StandingOrders? Weknow that the Caucus of the Cabinet met to-day, and decided not to go on with those proposals.
– Unfortunately, Cabinet did not meet to-day.
– The Minister, I understand, is not always taken into the confidence of the CabinetCaucus. We do know, of course,that there is a Caucus within the Cabinet, and that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr, Watt) has his favorites. I can quite imagine, judging by his speeches, that he would first confer with the more Conservative members of the Cabinet, thatis, if there is any possible choice between the Conservatives and Liberals in the Ministry - though I should think, from the benign appearance of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) that he still has some Democratic tendencies.
I cannot see a single item in the schedule to justify the motion; but at this stage I do not desire to emulate the example of a member in another place, who, on the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders in regard to a certain Rill, read the whole measure for the information of senators. Nor do I intend to take the items one by one, and ask the Minister whether there is anything inany of them to justify the motion. Ifeel so circumscribed by the motion that it will be very much easier for me to deal with this subject on the motion for the third reading without the possibility of geting into trouble with Mr. Speaker.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
. -I do not know whether the Minister explained the intentions of the Government in regard to the expenditure upon the Naval Bases and the Arsenal, but I think the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) last Friday announced that the Government intended to considerably curtail expenditure on the Henderson Base, which is estimated to cost anything from £10,000,000 to £11,000,000, until the views of another expert from England has been obtained. I think, however, that the Acting Prime Minister did not intimate that the Government intended to get another expert to report upon the Arsenal. The last report on that subject was from a Sub-Committee.
– We propose to get a report on that matter, too.
– A report from a separate man altogether ?
– I presume that the Acting Prime Minister can give the House no idea as to the reduction of expenditure upon the Bases until the Government have received the report of the expert ?
– Are we to understand that until such report is. obtained, the expenditure will be reduced to a minimum upon the Henderson NavalBase and the Arsenal ?
– And that the Arsenal railway will not be gone on with ?
– I refer to the railway and other work in connexion with the Arsenal.
– Do I understand, then, that the Government will stop the whole of the work until they have received another report from an expert?
– The Arsenal works will besuspended.
– I understand that, so far as the Henderson Naval Base is concerned, only such work as is necessary to preserve existing work will be proceeded with?
– That means that dredging work and the construction of retaining walls must be kept up, so as to prevent damage to the whole scheme.
– Salvage works only for the. Henderson Base will be continued.
– With regard to the expenditure on land for quarantine requirements, and land for lighthouse purposes, when the measure was before us it was stated the land for lighthouse purposes was in the, large cities, to enable the Department controlling lighthouses to do its own work.. I take no exception to that ; nor do. I. take exception to expenditure on land for quarantine purposes, because I think that the Quarantine Department deserves the greatest praise from the people of. Australia for having kept this country practically free of the terrible epidemic of Spanish influenza. We can quite understand what this discipline meant, especially to the Anzacs: returning to Australia after four years of service, and it is very gratifying indeed to know that the measures designed to protect Australia from the scourge have been so successful. We all earnestly hope that the back of the epidemic will soon be broken in other countries, so that the risk to Australia in the future will not be so great as it has been during the past few weeks.
With regard to the conservation of the Murray waters, a matter which I raised when the Bill was last before us, I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), that it is necessary to complete the head works instead of proceeding with the work down the river. It has been estimated that the Murray works will bring over 1,000,000 acres under irrigation, but we have to consider the use to which such land might be put. The popular product of Murray irrigation settlement, at least so far as Victoria is concerned, is dried fruit at Mildura, and soft fruits in the Goulburn Valley.
– A lot of the land is under lucerne also.
– I am aware that a substantial area is under lucerne, but the bulk of the land is used for fruitgrowing, andI know that the people engaged in this industry complain that the value of the product.to-day is only about half what it was in pre-war time, owing to the sugar difficulty. Prior to the war they were able to get from £17 to £18 a ton for their apricots.
Mr.Rodgers. - They can get that now.
– Yes, but owing to the heavy frosts in the Goulburn Valley, Tatura, Lancaster, Kyabram, Shepparton, and other places, the apricot crop is only about one-tenth of what waa expected two months ago. In pre-war times growers- could get the full amount of this sugar rebate inregard to all jam exported, and in my opinion they are entitled to the full rebate to-day.
Mr.Rodgers. -Can you tell us what is the cause of the sugar difficulty?
– There should be no difficulty whatever. I am not saying one word against the sugar, industry. The people of Australia acted wisely, I think, when they decided to keep Australia white.
– But they do not want to pay for it.
– They have a right to pay for it inside Australia in order to protect those engaged in the industry; but those who manufacture jam for, export should receive the full amount of rebate, as in pre-war times, so that the growers may get fair value for their products. The sugar content ofjam is easily ascertainable. The Customs authorities know exactly the amount of sugar in a certain quantity of jam.
This year the apricot crop will be about one-tenth of the normal crop, and the quantity of strawberries that will be gathered will be small, the dry weather having prejudiced crops in districts where the land is not irrigated, and frost having done damage in the irrigated districts:
– What is the. difficulty in the way of giving a rebate?
– I do not know. For some years past - the arrangement dates back to when I was a Minister - the Government has been the sole importer of sugar, and handles the Queensland crop.
– It controls the price of sugar.
– Yes. The jam manufacturer at the present time pays £27 per ton for sugar, and gets no rebate. New Zealand is not a big fruit-producing country, and does not compete with us in the matter of jam, but South Africa and other places are likely to be competitors of Australia as manufacturers of jam. Our jam-makers cannot pay fair prices for fruit if they cannot get a rebate on their sugar. An article, which appeared in the Fruit World of 1st November, shows how the prices of our various fruits have steadily declined, as the original rebate on sugar has been gradually reduced from £6 a ton to the vanishing point. The locking of the Murray is being undertaken to make land available for farming’, especially intense culture under irrigation, but without a rebate on the sugar used for the making of jam it is doubtful whether it will be profitable to grow fruit for jam-making, and fruit is the chief crop of an irrigation settlement. When we adopted our White Australia policy, fully 75 per cent, of the population was in favour of it. The adoption of that policy affected chiefly the sugar industry, and that industry had consequently to be helped. Nevertheless, we should not have discontinued the rebate that was allowed to certain users of sugar. I believe that this year we shall have to import about 50,000 tons of sugar, our normal annual consumption being about 260,000 tons. Manufacturers who use imported materials are permitted to manufacture in bond, and I do not see why jam should not be manufactured in bond when imported sugar is used, a rebate being given when local sugar is used.
– In every other part of the world but New Zealand sugar is dearer than it is here.
– The question is, are our “ jam manufacturers being charged a fair price?
– I do not think that they are, and unless the Government acts wisely in this matter, the money expended on the locking of the Murray to provide irrigated areas for the growing of fruit for jam-making will be largely thrown away.
.- I represent a constituency which produces a large quantity of fruit, and the feeling is growing there that the fruit-growers are suffering from the action of the Government in refusing to allow a rebate on the sugar used by the manufacturers of jam for export. I expect that great good will result from the locking of the Murray. It has been the policy of both Victoria and New South Wales to encourage the production of fruit by the extension of irrigation, and the success of our attempt to settle our soldiers on the land will depend largely on the fruit industry. Consequently any action tending to discourage the production of fruit will prejudice the success of our irrigation works. The value of irrigated land will seriously decrease if one industry is bolstered up at the expense of another.
– Would the honorable member interfere with a Queensland industry to expand a Victorian industry?
– No; but Australia is being bled white in the interest of the sugar producers of Queensland. The artificial conditions attached to the production of sugar are destined to kill the jam-making industry. We will have to consider seriously how far we are justified in allowing one State of the Commonwealth to benefit at the expense of the other States. What purpose can be achieved by voting a large sum of money for the purpose of locking the Murray River and increasing irrigable areas if we adopt a policy which will render irrigation a failure from a fruit-growing point of view? An acre of fruit trees should bear four tons of fruit, and four tons of sugar are required to manufacture four tons of jam. Before the war sugar was protected by a Tariff of £6 per ton. Now it is not allowed to be imported, and the price is £2*6 per ton. Before the war, the cost of sugar for export jam was £12 per ton. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) says that there is no cheaper sugar to be found in any other part of theworld than is to be found in Australia. Suppose we admit, for the sake of argument, that his statement is correct; what is the objection to allowing a return of the pre-war conditions, when sugar could be imported for the purpose of jam making, and a rebate of the duty was allowed on the exported jam?
-Do you think that the people of Australia are getting too much fruit now?
-We can produce much more fruit than is capable of being consumed locally, and the only avenue for dealing with the surplus is to export it in the form of jam.The jam makers have been able to carry the burden during the war because of the huge war contracts; but now that these will be no longer available, owing to the cessation of hostilities, it is a matter of impossibility to export jam at a profit when the price demanded by the Government for sugar is paid. The sugar purchase is just another evidence of the fallacy of Governments attempting to run business concerns.Such enterprises have always proved a failure. This will also be a failure, and, at the same time, will ruin the jam-making industry.
-Yet the honorable member voted for the War Precautions Bill.
– My vote will be to urge the Government to remove the embargo on the importation of sugar required for the manufacture of jam for export.
– And against the importation of jam at the same time,
– The honorable member might just as well remain silent, because I do not propose to answer interjections. If, on the one hand, the Government seek to encourage the production of fruit by the expenditure of the large sum of money proposed in this Bill, why should they, on the other hand, impose conditions which make it impossible to dispose of the fruit profitably? The fruit-growers are placed in a difficult position. Apricots sold at £15 to £18 per ton before the price of sugar was increased in 1916-17. The price has decreased to £10 per ton.
– There was a combine at work.
– I do not think so. It has been discovered by exhaustive inquiry that the profit of the jam makers is about 2 per cent. on the turnover. In similar circumstances, the price of peaches has dropped from £16 to £18 down to £8 to £10. In order to enable jam making to be carried on the increase in the price of one commodity had to lead to a corresponding reduction in the price of another. In this connexion also the hurden had to fall on the primary producer.
Mr.Corser. - What about the producer in Queensland?
– Queensland has received more than, a fair share of consideration .
The whole of the Commonwealth has been penalized in order to maintain Hie sugar industry. When it was carried on under kanaka labour, fair prices were paid for the commodity produced, but the only way in which it can be carried on under white labour conditions is by the adoption of fictitious prices, and the imposition of a general tax on the community at large, and other industries.
– What is the honorable member’s remedy?
– Whatever regulations may be made in regard to the sugar consumed in Australia, my suggestion is that jam-makers should be permitted to import the sugar they require from the most favorable market, and apply it to the most profitable purposes. It will not lead to a reduction in the quantity of Australian-grown sugar used. If the full price which is now demanded by the Government has to be paid, the fruit will not be turned into jam, and exported, but will become a waste on the market, whereas by permitting the importation of sugar, and allowing a drawback of the duty paid, more fruit will be used and turned into jam ; this, in the aggregate, meaning a very large sum of money for general distribution.
– What proportionwould require the rebate later on ?
– I do not know the proportion of jam consumed locally, and the proportion exported, but certainly an increasingly large quantity of fruit is being grown for exportpurposes.
We would not be justified in settling people on closer settlement areas for the production of fruit if it were not for the promise made inferentially by all Governments who have encouraged this class of settlement, that if fruit were produced, they would create conditions suitable for its export, and it cannot be exported except as jam. If the price of sugar is fixed so high that the fruit cannot be made into jam, and exported at a profit, it must go to waste. In previous years large quantities of fruit went to waste because it could not be dealt with profitably, but, at the present time, we cannot afford to allow a large and valuable product to go to waste, more particularly through the creation of artificial conditions which could be avoided. I think the majority of honorable members on the Ministerial side will join with me in asking that the quantity of sugar required for converting our fruit into jamfor export purposes should be permitted to come into Australia duty free.
– We cannot deal with that matter in this Bill.
– I know that, but we have a right to expect from the Acting Prime Minister a pronouncement that if a. large sum of money is. voted for the locking of the Murray River, it will be on the understanding that the conditions willbe such that the jam produced from the fruit raised as a result of those works canbe exported, and the fruit, industry fostered.
A large number of persons are. being adversely affected by the sugar conditions, and the circumstances surrounding the purchase of that commodity by the Government. The Government, having determined that no sugar may be imported except through themselves, have constituted a monopoly. That position is resented by the people, and if the Government wish to consult the interests of their party and of the country they will alter the existing. conditions without delay, because the matter is one of urgency. I do not know that I should be justified in speaking about it at this stage were it not for the fact that the fruit harvest is coming in, and if existing conditions be continued thousands of pounds’ worth of fruit, which could be exported as, jam, will be wasted, and a large sum of money, which otherwise would be circulated in the community, will be lost. I ask the Minister in charge of the Bill to make a statement as to whether the Government can see their wayclear to depart from the present suicidal policy of Government control.
– If we removed that control the price of sugar would rise to7d. per lb.
– That, surely, is not the case. The Government have established a monopoly in sugar, and have fixed an abnormally high price in order to encourage the Queensland producers. I consider the policy that is being pursued as suicidal, that it is calculated to destroy one of the greatest hopes of Australia in fruit production, and will interfere very largely with the project for locking the Murray. If that work is carried out, thousands of acres will be irrigated, and profitably employed in fruit growing, but if the present artificial conditions are to be continued there will be. no hope for the great and growing horticultural industry.
.- I should like to express my hearty appreciation of the adroitness and ability with which the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) succeeded in connecting up with this Bill the price of sugar and the fostering of the jam industry. Whenever there is a rumpus in connexion with fruit the first person attacked by the fruit industry is the jam manufacturer. He thereupon kicks the sugar industry of Queensland, which in turn memorializes the Commonwealth Parliament. As regards all these various malefactors it is very hard for one to arrive at a definite conclusion; but as a humble observer of this question, and a consumer offruit in moderation, I find that one can go 10 miles into the country in a motor car and get from the orchardist fruit at such prices that one almost falls dead when on going to purchase similar fruit over the counter in a city shop he is asked a price four times as high. It may be that the difficulty of the orchardist is due to some inefficiency in. distribution, and not altogether to the malefactions of the jam manufacturers, or the sugar combine, or the Commonwealth Government..
I wish to refer to an economy which, if it had been effected in the ordinary revenue of the country, would undoubtedly have made this Bill less heavy than it is. The. matter is one of considerable- interest to art students, and possibly to some historians: It is well known to those who have perused the press recently that some commenthas been aroused in the public mind by the action of Mr. President and Mr. Speaker, in their capacity as Chairman and sub-Chairman respectively of a Committee of Art, in having their portraits reproduced for the benefit of pos.terity and the admiration of the world. I only wish to suggest to you, sir, that perhaps it would be well to review that very large and generous resolution of the Committee which deals with these things in order that the portraits of Mr. President and. Mr. Speaker might be omitted from this national undertaking: I think it is necessary to have the portraits of the Prime Ministers–
– Under what item is the honorable member discussing this matter?
– In order to bring myself within the Standing Orders, I prefaced my remarks with the observation that if the economy I was about to suggest were effected in the ordinary revenue, we should be able to reduce this Loan Bill by a considerable amount.
– I see no reference in the. Bill to anything of the nature referred to by the honorable member.
– No, sir, and I think it is a very sad omission.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the Bill.
– I do not propose to discuss the matter any further. I leave it within your own modest powers, sir.
-I may inform the honorable member that not only has that nothing to do with this Bill, but that his statements are inaccurate.
– I desireto refer to the Government’s action in very properly excluding from this Loan Bill a number of works which can best be deferred, until the war is completed. I would have preferred, if it were possible, to see the Flinders Base also excluded, but I understand that it is quite impossible to do that at this stage. I think that the Admiral who made recommendations as to the establishment of Naval Bases near the commercial ports of Australia had no policy placed before him by the Government, and no intimation as to what, in their opinion,, was the danger against which Australia might in future have to contend. He was asked merely what he would suggest in regard to. providing bases and organization for a fleet to. be established, and what the size of the fleet should be. Of course, that is obviously the wrong way to set about buildingup any defence force, which is only the arm of foreign policy, and subject thereto. Admiral Henderson had been retired. Possibly he had reached a time of life when he would be less likely than a younger man to consider new problems in the light of new conditions, and any man of hisage, having served honorably and with distinction in the British Navy, until retired from it by reason of his age, would naturally say to himself, “ We will do in Australia as we do in England in similar conditions.” In England, however, there is no commercial port big enough to take in both the commercial shipping using it and the Navy wanting to use it. at the same time. The result of the size of the British Navy, the smallness of the British commercial ports, and the very heavy use of such ports by mercantile shipping, is that everywhere along the coast, where there is a mercantile centre like Southampton there is. near it a naval base like Portsmouth. The only deviation from this has been in the big bases established within the last ten or fifteen years in Scotland’ as a direct answer to the German naval menace. But as far as the natural centres of distribution and mobilization are concerned, the commercial ports available can hardly accommodate the commercial shipping using it, and new naval ports are, therefore, provided alongside. We are extraordinarily fortunate in the size of our ports. We have in Port Phillip a bay capable of almost unlimited use by shipping.
– How would the naval vessels get in at the Heads ? What depth of water would they have to draw ?
– That is the kind of question with which we are constantly met in Australia. If nature has not done everything for us, we say, “ How can we get over the difficulty?” We can get over it just as it is overcome elsewhere. Let us consider the very point raised by the honorable member when he asks, “ How could these vessels enter the Head’s?” How does the Navy Department expect its vessels to get into the new naval port at Flinders? One could almost walk dry shod across the new naval port at Flinders before the present works were carried out. The naval authorities have been dredging out the mud there, and have literally been making a port. The tide in the fairway was so great that for the kind of vessels to be accommodated a special place had to be created where still water could be obtained. With that, indomitable determination which is the glory of our race, we have not only surmounted this difficulty, but we have gone out to look for it! And this with a great harbor immediately available capable of accommodating, with some adjustments, not only all the mercantile shipping of Australia, but all the Navy Australia is ever likely to possess.
I do not say that the Ministry can do more than they have promised to do in connexion with this Loan Bill. They cannot. They have gone too far at Flinders; but I would like them earnestly to look into my suggestion that this difficulty with regard to the creation of new naval bases close to commercial ports is due to the process of slavishly following in the footsteps of England, where the practice has . been brought into existence, first of all, by the impossibility of- the two services using the same port, and, secondly, by reason of the proximity of foreign naval fleets making the constant night use of the military port a matter of essential urgency. I should like the Ministry to look into that side of the question. If they do, and if they refer it to the adviser, who is afterwards to be established here, they may find grounds for effecting considerable economy.
, - The position put by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) in regard to the Murray waters proposal would , be fairly acceptable if honorable members could only realize that it is only a one-sided view, and I venture to occupy a few moments in putting before the House the other side, so that we shall be able to arrive at a decision from a national, and not from a local standpoint. The honorable member would lead one to believe that the only industry in Australia deserving encouragement and consideration is that of fruit production.
– The honorable member is not entitled to make such an assertion.
– The honorable member may bully the honorable member for Wide Bay, who is a mild individual, but he will not bully me. In regard to his suggestion as to the sugar industry, I should be very much surprised if the honorable member, or those who think with him, proposed that we should go back to conditions that obtained in the production of sugar in the earlier days. It is only within the last very few years that the production of sugar in Australia has been equal to the local consumption. We have just now, and through exceptionally good seasons, been able to reach that happy condition. That has been brought about to the advantage of Australia by the introduction of a system enabling white labour to be employed in the production of sugar - an experiment never before tried in any country, and one that has proved surprisingly successful. Even the strongest and most vigorous supporters of the employment of white labour in the sugar fields scarcely anticipated that it would be so phenomenally successful as it has proved to be. There we find white labour employed in the tropics in a class of work that, in every other country, is carried out by coloured labour, and it ia being carried out more successfully from a financial, and every other stand-point, than in the countries where coloured labour is used. That, of itself, however, would not be sufficient. What is more, is that this policy has meant the populating of a large -fringe of coastal territory in Queensland, which otherwise would not have been occupied, but would have been to-day a roaming ground for blacks. This development of the sugar industry in Australia has resulted in the settlement of quite large areas in Queensland, and those areas are continually expanding to the advantage of the whole Commonwealth.
The sugar industry has only received that encouragement towards its development which, in the fiscal policy of the Government, is recognised as the legitimate protection necessary for its expansion. That same policy of Protection which guided us in the establishment of the sugar industry, will guide us also in the establishment of other industries. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) desires Protection for the jam industry, even though other industries go without. If the honorable member desired Protection for the fruit-growers, I should be inclined to support him to an extent ; but the expenditure of this money on the locking pf the Murray will, it is hoped, lead to the irrigation of large areas eminently suitable for fruit culture. It is not at all wise to suggest that the production of fruit is dependent on jam-making for its success. I have had the pleasure of visiting Mildura and Renmark, and know what those places are capable of producing. They can grow fruit of a qualitynot surpassed by that of any imported fruit. I suppose the honorable member would be the last to. suggest that we should withdraw the fiscal protection we give to dried fruit; yet I could put up a good case as to why we should do so.
– To what part of the Loan Bill is the honorable member referring ?
– The honorable member is not Chairman of Committees just now.
I had the honour to be a member of a Fruit Commission which visited the districts to which I have referred to inquire into the production and distribution of dried fruits. We found very attractive country producing very fine qualities of fruit that is appreciated wherever known ; but we also found that the prices were not settled by the man who grew it, but by a combine of men who marketed it.
– The same people both grow and market the fruit from Mildura.
– They are not all the same people.
– Nine-tenths of them, at least, both grow and market the fruit.
– The honorable member must not speak too quickly. We had it on sworn evidence, which is available to honorable members in the records, from the President of the Fruitgrowers Association in the Angaston district, in South Australia, that the people there could grow currants of the best quality, and, supplying them at 3d. per lb., make a good living. Wie asked what the price of currants was at that time, and we were told that it was 5½d. per lb. to the wholesale houses.
– Although I allowed the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) considerable latitude, I had no idea that the debate would develop on lines altogether foreign to the Bill. I remind honorable members that we are discussing the third reading of the Loan Bill, and to go into all these matters of detail is not strictly regular.
– What I have in my mind is that, by this Loan Bill, we are providing a certain amount of money for the locking of the Murray, directly in order to provide water for irrigation of certain areas suitable for fruit culture. This expenditure is meant - and I support it for that reason - to assist Australia in the production of fruit of kinds eminently required here. So far from the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) being correct in saying that this irrigation scheme will produce such enormous quantities of fruit that there would he no market for it, unless it be made into jam, I point out to. him that Australia to-day is not consuming onefourth of the fruit, either green, dried, or preserved, that it would if the prices were at a reasonable level.
– Are not large quantities of spirits made out of the Mildura fruit?
– Yes, and it is most disgraceful that the best of grapes and the finest of fruits should be put into vats to be made into poison. This is a most unfortunate fact, but one which, I think, we shall get rid of in time. There is not a single variety of fruit grown in Australia to-day that is not at. least twice as dear as it ought to be to the consumer.. If the expenditure of this money on. the. locking of the Murray is going to produce such enormous quantities of fruit that the public will be able to get it cheaper, that will he worth the expenditure twice over.
– It is not the growing but the distribution that requires regulating.
– But the fruit must be. grown first.
There is no industry that more deserves encouragement than the production of fruit suitable to this country. Australian people are fond of fruit, but they cannot get it at a reasonable price:, and the reason is not so much that there is overproduction, or under-production, as that there is. enormous waste in distribution. It only needs more effective distribution, and the fruit-growers of Australia could produce unlimited quantities and find a satisfactory market. I suppose there is not a business in the country in which the overhead charges- are higher than in the fruit business.
– Does not the honorable member think that the secret lies in the preservation of fruit when it is cheap, and that to that end there must be sugar ?
– That is only true to an extent; fruit, like everything else, is best when in season, for once out of season it has lost its virtue and attractiveness. There is a certain advantage in being able to preserve fruit, and, of course, jam is a very essential product; but I venture to suggest that the oneeyed view that the honorable member for Echuca takes in regard to the sugar business is not worthy of him or of the industry that he is trying to protect. There is genuine community of interest between the sugar business and the jam business; and it is our duty to find out how to relate the two for their mutual support and advantage, rather than antagonize them in the way the honorable member is seeking to do.
– Relate them under artificial conditions !
– Order ! This is not a fiscal discussion.
– The honorable member for Echuca is not such a child in fiscal matters as to be unaware that every protective Tariff is an artificial interference with the natural order of tilings.
– I rise to order.
– I call attention to the fact that we are not engaged in a Tariff measure. We are on the third reading of this Loan Bill, and all the items in the schedule should havebeen discussed in Committee, if it was intended by honorable members to debate them.
– The items discussed are not. even in the schedule.
– If this sort of thing be permitted, honorable members might pick out any other items and go through the entire schedule, so that we would have the Committee discussion all over again. That is not the purpose of the third reading: Honorable members know as well as I do that, if further discussion of details was desired, the recommittal of the Bill could have been moved before the motion for the third reading; and I ask- that the discussion be confined to the general principles of the Bill.
– I am sorry to have annoyed the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), and. I shall now resume my seat.
.- I want to makea few general observations on tbis Bill. I cannot help wondering why we shouldrequire so many attendants at the doors of Parliament House, and why it shouldbe so difficult to gain admission to this chamber to listen to the proceedings. Sometimes I think that honorable membersare afraid that there may be toolarge an audience present. I haveobservedwith surprise the conduct of Victorian members on the Winthewar side inconnexion with this measure, which proposes the expenditureof £1,242,194 from loan. Their conduct would appear to indicate that they do not desire people tocome here to listen to the debate. I have been waiting for some expressions ofopinion from the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best). What has becomeof the honorablemember? Wehave not heard a wordfrom lim onthe subject of this expenditure, or from the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), who is supposed to belong to the economy party.
Mr.Boyd. -On what is that supposition based?
– On expressions by the honorable member long ugo that we should govern this country in an economical manner. What is the reason for the honorable member’s silence when this opportunity is afforded to Victorian representatives on the other side to promote the economy campaign?
– The honorable member will not catch them with chaff like that.
– I ask the honorable member ito discuss the Bill.
– Instead of wasting time.
– I object to that interjection, and ask that it shall be withdrawn.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), if he has : said something to which the honorable member for Capricornia takes exception, to withdraw it.
– May I, ona question of order, saythat, in my opinion, the expression used by the honorable member for Fawkner is not unparliamentary?
– Order! I ask the Acting Prime Minister to resume hisseat. For one honorable member to accuse another of wasting time is distinctly out of order, and has been so ruled on many occasions. If the honorable member for Fawkner didmake such an interjection, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw.
– I ask honorable members generally to refrain from interjecting. The practice only leads topersonalities, and these lead to disorder and to the use of expressions which require to be withdrawn.
– Irose to address you, sir, on a question oforder.
Mr.Higgs. - A frivolous point oforder, as the honorable gentleman has beentold by Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member is wasting the time of the House.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to withdrawthat statement.
– I withdraw.
– If I hear another interjection immediately after I have called the House to order, I shall deem it my dutyto name the honorable member responsible for it.
– I wish to say, with great respect, that I rose to a point of order, and, beforeI stated my point of order, you instructed me to resume my seat. An ordinary member of the House is entitled to the privilege of stating a point of order, and I claim that the Leader of the House, as well as an ordinary member, is entitled to that privilege.
-The Acting Prime Minister is entitled to the same privilege as is any other honorable member in raising a point of order. I remind him that at the time I asked him to resume his seat temporarily, I had called upon the honorable member for Fawkner to withdraw an expression towhichexception was taken. In such a case, the expression objected to must be withdrawn before anything else intervenes. That is the reason I asked the Acting Prime Minister temporarilyto resumehis seat.
– There is a way of disagreeing with the Speaker’s ruling which should be adopted.
– Order !
– If I have been a little disturbed by the raising of a frivolous point of order, you, sir, will excuse me.
– The honorable member, in casting a reflection upon the Acting Prime Minister, is distinctly disorderly. I remind him, also, that rulings by the Speaker are not to be made the subject of remarks immediately after they have been given.
– Very well. I shall return to my consideration of the circumstance that there is no response on the part of a number of Victorian representatives on the other side to the request that they should say something about this proposal to spend about £1,250,000 from loan for various purposes. I do not intend to go into details, but as one desirous to see this country governed in an economical manner, I hope I shall be permitted to say that I have reason for regret, and, indeed,’ anxiety, when I find honorable members on the Government side indulging in loud peals of laughter because they have been able to rush this Bill through a certain stage without further debate. I refer to their conduct when the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) recently resumed his seat. They appear to think that they have done a grand thing in stifling debate on this measure by taking some honorable members unawares.
– So far, the honorable member has not discussed the Bill.
– I am sorry; but may I not offer a protest against a measure proposing the expenditure of about £1,250.000 being rushed through this House without reasonable debate? If I find honorable members neglecting their duty, may I not say so?
– The honorable member may make a passing reference to the matter; but he may not make reflections on other honorable members.
– I do not wish to do more than make a passing reference to it. The items of expenditure provided for under this Bill include moneys for the Naval Bases, the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, -the Acetate of Lime Factory, and the Arsenal.
In view of the proposals in connexion with the Naval Bases and Cockatoo Island, may I be permitted to draw attention to a report received from the Royal Commission inquiring into Navy and Defence administration, is which reference is made to the gross maladministration of the Navy Department, and in which certain recommendations are included ? The Royal Commission in their report referred to the Accounts Branch, to Cockatoo Island, and a number of other matters, to which I might make passing reference. They referred to defects in Navy administration, and pointed* out how they might be remedied. The Government appointed a Sub-Committee of the Cabinet to deal with the report of the Royal Commission and their recommendations. What had the Sub-Committee to say! and what have the Government to say with respect to these recommendations? The Royal Commission discovered that the Naval Board is in such a condition that it should be reconstructed. Their report was presented on the 4th October, about two months ago, and I remind the House that the Naval Board, who will- probably have something to do with the expenditure provided for in this Bill, according to the Royal Commission, requires reconstruction.
– What happened to the report presented when the honorable gentleman was a member of the Government ?
– I hope that I may not be deflected from my line of argument by disorderly interjections from the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) ; T do not wish to come into conflict with the honorable gentleman, or with the Chair.
– I remind you, sir, that you said that if there were another interjection made, you would take a certain course of action, and I hope that you will take it. The Royal Commission recommended that the Naval Board should he reconstructed. What was the report of the Cabinet Sub-Committee, which included the Assistant Minister for the Navy, on that recommendation ? Defer the matter until the return of the Minister for the Navy. Then there is another recommendation that Rear-Admiral Clarkson should be appointed business member of the Naval Board. Surely that -is a matter of urgency. But what do the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.. Watt) and his colleagues do in regard to it? They say that they will defer its decision until the return of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook). When I asked whether, in all the circumstances, the Minister for the Navy should not be requested to return by the first boat, the Acting Prime Minister said, “No; we do not consider such action justifiable.” If the Minister for the Navy were engaged with the Prime Minister in carrying out important duties in London, or if he were being allowed to work in cooperation with the Prime Minister, the position would be entirely different.
– The honor able member is coming back to that matter.
– I am not going to be prevented by derisive laughter, or by scornful interjections, from drawing attention to the relationship which exists between “ these amiable gentlemen,” to use the Acting Prime Minister’s own words. I merely wish to point out that the matter is really a very serious one to the Commonwealth. Apparently, however, the Government, for reasons of their own, profess not so to regard it. They desire the. Minister for the Navy to remain in London, and. they have actually asked the Prime Minister to stay there, notwithstanding that these two gentlemen, if they were discharging their proper duties, would be here to see that these recommendations by the Royal Commission were given effect to as soon as possible.
The Government are asking for a vote of some hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Navy. I find here a proposal that Mr. Tracey, a paymaster, should be appointed finance member of- the Naval Board.
– What is the date of the document from which the honorable member is quoting ? We have altered that.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister paid ‘ so little attention to the Royal Commission’s report on the Navy Department that he does not know the date of it* We all recollect that he said he “ had read the report in a cursory way.” What has become of his close attention to duty ? This report was presented to the House on 4th October, and considered by the Cabinet on the 1st October.
– Does the honorable member agree with the recommendations made by the Commission ?
– I agree with a great number of them.
– Does the honorable member agree with the recommendation that the administration of the Department should be handed over to an independent Board, free from political control?
– No. Doubtless the Commission found such a deplorable condition of affairs in the Department that its members were forced to the conclusion that, politicians having made such a mess of things, it would be better to hand over the administration to a Board of business men.
– That is the chief recommendation of the Commission.
– Yes; but there are a number of other recommendations.
One can excuse the Royal Commission for having a poor opinion of politicians, because it- is impossible to pick up a newspaper without reading something in disparagement of them. When I was a young man, there was a certain amount of honour and prestige attached to the position of a member of Parliament. But to-day there is neither. When one presents his pass at a railway station, the people look at him in disdain, because of the poor repute in which politicians are held. I do not know of any single press organ which does not imagine that its editor could govern the country much better than can politicians. In such circumstances I do not wonder that the Commission which inquired into the administration of the Navy Department desires to take that administration out »f the hands of politicians and put it into the hands of a Business Board.
The Acting Prime Minister has been good enough to say that he has altered things since 1stOctober. In what way has he altered them ? I find that the consideration of nearly all the recommendations of the Commission has been deferred till the return of the Minister for the Navy. There is, forexample, a recommendation that the clerical section of the administration should be thoroughly re-organized.
Mr.Poynton. - That has already been done.
– Has it been done since some honorable members drewattention to the matter in this House ?
– No. It was decided within a week of the receipt of the Commission’s report.
– Then theGovernment donotknow their own mind, because on the 1st October - -
– If the honorable member would ask for information, he would get it - information which would throw light even into his dark mind.
– I find great difficulty in getting very much information from the Acting Prime Minister. Instead, I get from him only a number of side-stepping replies or attempts to be humorous at my expense. Take the question of copper as an example.
– Have I been humorous on copper ?
– I do not know where wo are to-day in regard to our copper producers.
– Nor do we.
-Doubtless that is because . the Government have sent cable after cable to the Prime Minister without obtaining any reply.
– Order! I can see nothing in this Bill relating to copper.
– TheBill has a good deal to do with it, inasmuch as it provides for the laying down ofunderground copper conduits.
Are we to understand from the Acting Prime Minister that, since the Cabinet decision to defer action until afterthe return of the Minister for the Navy, a staff committee to control all clerical appointments has beenconstituted ? If so, we must understand that the Government have no mind of their own. In this connexion their conduct resembles the tactics they are pursuing in regard to the Corangamite election. They are afraid to nominatea candidate or to indorse one.
– We will do that in our own way.
– The Government are trying to sneak in Lt.-Colonel Knoxby sending the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to speak at Colac.
– I do not see in this Bill anything even remotely relating to that matter.
– You have not told us about the. London Office.
-I am reminded that there is a large sum on the schedule for the London Office.
We appointed a High Commissioner, at a large salary, surrounded him with a big staff, and have spent nearly £1,000,000 on a palatial building to house him. We understand that the Honorable Andrew Eisner’s duties are, to some extent, social; but they are also of a business character. The proposal to spend another £25,000 on this palatial building in London, for the purpose of providing an office for a High Commissioner whose duties are of abusiness character, surely entitles me to review the position. Why is not the Honorable Andrew Fisher permitted to deal with matters of business concern, such as the sale of our wheat andmetals?
– What did you spend on the samebuilding when you were Treasurer ? This vote is merely cleaningup your work.
Several honorable membersinterrupting,
– Order ! An audible discussion is developing which is quite out of order.
– The disorderly interruptions of the Acting Prime Minister disconcert me for a moment. If the High
Commissioner is not to take up his position as a business representative of Australia, it is of no use to spend money on Australia House. If the Prime Minister is to deal with metals, wheat, copper, ships, and other things, there is no need for a High Commissioner. We know there is about Mr. Fisher, as there is about Sir Joseph Cook, a dignity that recommends him for distinction in that regard; but I sometimes wonder whether the Prime Minister, who is staying so long in London, proposes to stay there until within six months of the termination of Mr. Fisher’s appointment, whereupon Mr. Fisher will be given a six months’ holiday, and Mr. Hughes will be made High Commissioner. If that is the programme, we can understand why the Acting Prime Minister wants Mr. Hughes to remain in London, and why he is prepared to spend this money on Australia House.
– I do not want him to remain in London.
– If not, why did the Government ask him to stay?
– Because we thought the peace conditions demanded that he should stay. Personally, we should like him out here. He would deal with you pretty promptly.
– I only wish he would come. I am waiting to tell a story, when I can get him here, to which he will be unable to reply, because I have the documents.
– It would be a strange story that he could not reply to.
– There are some things to which he cannot reply satisfactorily. I said some time ago that he would probably stay in London until the end of the war. The war is now ended, and he will probably stay a long time yet. He is certainly not dealing satisfactorily with the sale of our copper.
The Acting Prime Minister and his colleagues are treating this Loan Bill in a very flippant manner, and Ministerial followers are neglecting their opportunitieo. If they pass the Bill authorizing the expenditure by way of loan of £1,242.194. they will have no reason to complain if the Government spend the whole sum. In that case I should like to know what answer they will make to their constituents. We on this side are small in numbers, and do our best, but we cannot do more than utter a protest. When we have uttered it, I presume we may be held to have done our duty.
I find here a number of items that would allow me to deal with questions raised by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) in relation to sugar and fruit. There is, for instance, the expenditure of money on the Murray Waters Scheme. I was, very much surprised that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), who knows the sugar question from A to Z, did not deem it his duty to reply to the honorable member’s assertions. It was left to the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) to defend the sugar industry. However, I shall not defend it at this stage.
There are other items which might allow me, if I were presumptuous enough, bo refer to the money which is being spent on the settlement of soldiers, but I do not think it is of any use. The Government intend to go to their doom, and will carry the “ Win-the-war “ party with them, so I suppose we had better let them commit political suicide.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27th November (vide page 8450) on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– Some honorable members consider this measure entirely unnecessary. Many think that, as the armistice has been signed, and hostilities have ceased, peace has arrived; but, according to legal definitions that have been read to us, peace can be considered properly finalized only when the peace terms are signed and credentials exchanged. There are many reasons why a measure of this character should be passed, but I am not surprised at the protests from some quarters.I give place to nobody in the desire to see personal freedom restored in Australia at it was established throughout the Empire in pre-war times, but some one has said that we iu Australia lack imagination, and I think there is some truth in the remark. We fail to realize the gigantic struggle that we have gone through, and in which all those Australians of ours who fought for. freedom and the Empire on the other side of the world played such a great part. It is felt by the Governments in all portions of the British Empire that it is impossible to step from a state of war into a state of peace, after a tremendous and exhausting struggle such as that which has just ceased, in a few hours, or even a few days. There are some people in Australia who assume that, now that hostilities have ceased, it is an easy matter to restore pre-war conditions.
One requires to carefully look into the situation to-day, and to weigh the tremendous issues involved. We should realize the great difficulties which stand in the way of getting back into our normal stride. Many of Australia’s industries have been thrown sadly out of gear. It may be urged that the war has not hurt Australia very much. True, we have not felt the pinch of hunger. Even the very. war loans have had a tendency to circulate money, and there is actually a general state of prosperity throughout the land. Nevertheless a state of war virtually still exists, and we, as representatives of the people, have our responsibilities. One does not expect much from an Opposition. It has no responsibility,and does not care. But there is a responsibility thrown upon the Government, and on those who support the Government, That responsibility is to squarely face the great difficulties which must now arise in the transition of our country from war to peace.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) referred, the other evening, to the desire of the Chamber of Commerce speedily to see business everywhere return to normal conditions. The suggestion is that the Government should leave trade and commerce alone now, and let the people run things for themselves once more. I am reminded that private interests are not necessarily national interests. We should be guided by national interests, as far as possible, in these difficult times. In this Bill the
Government are only asking for the retention of necessary powers for a further period of six months. That should be ample, and I question if it would be wise to accept and put into operation yet the views of the Chamber of Commerce. The British authorities have not seen fit to abolish the control of food and food prices. The whole situation is still regarded in England as serious - serious enough, at any rate, to warrant the continuance of full control. .If it is correct to say that the war will not have ceased until the terms of peace have been signed, there is justification for the Commonwealth Government in carrying on its control of a great many of those matters affected by War Precautions Regulations.
I believe in the Government fixing prices, and I say unhesitatingly that we are not going to achieve industrial peace upon a sound basis unless it be on a principle that when the worker has earned his wages lie should be protected from plunder. It is a difficult job to afford such protection, but it is the job of this Parliament and of this; Government, and it is one which must be fearlessly undertaken. As a people and a Parliament we are not generally frightened of difficulties.
I have no doubt but that we shall safely return to an era of industrial peace, because there is too much common sense in the Australian people to tolerate things otherwise for long. The argument of the Government that six months’ extension, as proposed under the Bill, will be sufficient,- should find favour from a sound business view-point. With regard to the moratorium, for example, while it may not so much affect big interests, those people who would be released from protection should be given reasonable time to look forward to that period when they must meet their obligations. Six months would not be too long a term. Without doubt, the end of the war came as a surprise. Nobody believed it would be possible for hostilities to cease with such dramatic suddenness, and just when they did. It all turned on the mild weather which existed at the Front at the time.
– It all turned on the Bolsheviks.
– I will deal with the Bolsehviks and all your tribe. It is desirable that the Government should exercise the power of censorship for some time to come. The good sense of the Government will induce them to move in the proper direction at the right time. At present we are not under normal conditions. We hear complaints about the rising price of all commodities, and I point out that the chief cause is the appreciation of gold, due to the fact that Australia, in common with every other Allied country, has been forced by war conditions to enlarge the paper currency. But for the alliance between the great banking institutions and the Governments of the various countries it would not have been possible for Great Britain and her Allies to come through this war so successfully. Bolshevism can do nothing in the way of finance. In Russia it has reduced the price of the rouble to about 6d., and if the Bolsheviks had their way here, we would have the value of the pound sterling down to about 3d. When the people of this country realize the danger ahead of them under any phase of Bolshevism, they will speak in no uncertain voice.
It is possible that the Government will require further loans for repatriation purposes, and it is essential, in my view, that they should retain the power under our War Precautions Regulations to prevent anybody from attempting in any way to impair the financial stability of this country. There must be no preaching of repudiation from any quarter. Anything in that direction must be stamped out at once by regulation. The safety of this community is more important than the “ skiting “ of any lowdown politicians. There is no doubt about that, but unfortunately there is a class of politician abroad now so lost to any sense of honour that their only purpose is to keep a seat in Parliament even at the dictates of the wildest and most extreme section of the community. There is one important fact concerning the stability of our currency which I think honorable members opposite would do well to realize, and that is that any interference with .the currency affects, first, the working people of any community, so that the greatest enemies the workers can have are those who attempt to tamper with the currency. They only seek to lead the people down a blind, alley while they themselves sneak away with the plunder. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that during the next six months, and until we get back to normal conditions, the Government should take every measure, by means of regulations, to safeguard our financial stability. Any Government failing to do that ought to be impeached.
I could give many other reasons in support of the proposal to extend the operations of the War Precautions Act. I might refer to the position with regard to wool and metals, the control of which has been very beneficial to this country. In the Old Country the British Government, when confronted with extraordinary wartime difficulties, appealed to the patriotism of the ablest men in the land to assist them in solving the difficulties. Much the same course was adopted in Australia, and this country has been well served. I have no desire to lose the freedom that we have hitherto enjoyed, but we must realize that the Government are confronted with tremendous responsibilities, and, like intelligent men, we must face the situation and not dream dreams. I have already referred to the need of censorship in relation to finance in order to safeguard our position and prevent any talk of repudiation.
– See that all the moneylenders are protected.
– And the honorable member will see that the Sinn Feiners are protected.
– I thought that the British Labour party were protecting them.
– There is another reason why the Government should hold the powers they at present possess. I refer to the industrial conditions under which we are living. It would not be out. of place to review the situation as I see it from an industrial point of view. It is not one that the Government should treat lightly. I do not mean to say that there is any need for alarm, because I believe that the great majority of the workers are actuated by shrewd common-sense; but somehow or other the war seems to have upset many things, and I think militant industrialism should he carefully watched from a Government point of view in the interests of good government.
– That is why you want the War Precautions Act continued ?
– Yes. Make no mistake about that. I want it continued for one reason.
– To “ get “ the honorable member for Barrier.
– No; he is not worth powder and shot. The militant industrials and red-raggers are working on three lines. Their first aim is to destroy out present form of government, and to substitute for it a Bolshevik Government. The one big union proposal has nothing industrial in it; it is a masked battery, intended to force the revolution to which I refer.
– You know that they could not bring about a revolution in Australia.
– They can -have a good try.
– They will bring about a revolution in Hindmarsh at the next election.
– They were not successful there at the last election. In that division the majority of the electors are not in sympathy with the red-raggers and cut-throat revolutionaries.
The leaders and philosophers of honorable members opposite are declaring that the old Labour crowd is played out. They are working the Labour movement for the benefit of the young men. At all the meetings that have taken place during the past three years it is young men who have been conspicuous, and it is young men of the red-rag type who are getting control of the unions. What reform would they bring about? Australia will be a good country to get out of if ever their kind of Democracy is imposed on the country. They would extend the franchise to lads and lasses between the ages of- eighteen and twenty-one years. We know how light-headed and somewhat giddy persons of that age are. We know how their votes would go. The proposed extension of the franchise would put the extremists, the Ted-raggers, the revolutionaries, in power for ever. Even the Bolsheviks, who are now making so much trouble in Germany - if they ate each other I should not trouble much ; it would be the best thing that could happen - even they do not propose such an extension of the franchise. In Germany one cannot vote until he has reached the age of twenty-four.
– In England, before the war, there were 9,000,000 persons who could not vote.
– We need not worry about the position in England. The English trade unions will not swallow the rubbish that the extremists in Australia are talking. I recognise the common sense and intelligence of the great mass of the unionists here. Those who know something of the inner workings of unionism are aware that the sober, steady section of unionists do not go near the meetings. When they do turn up at a meeting, the extreme militant industrialists win only by . the skin of their teeth, after protracted debates lasting for hours. Part of their game for years has been to keep discussion going as long as they can. But the Government should be on its guard to see that the extremists do nothing to jeopardize the safety of the country, and until we get back to the industrial conditions that existed before the war - that is, in six months or twelve months’ time - Ministers must have the powers that aTe given to them by the War Precautions Act.
A great deal has been said about the misuse of these powers; but I have not seen any evidence of such misuse. I have known a Ministerial supporter to be pelted with stones by supporters of our friends opposite. That is an illustration of their Democracy. Powers like those given by the War Precautions Act should not be exercised by a Government in ordinary times ; and they should be intrusted only to Ministers in whom the people have confidence - shrewd men, who will not lose their heads. The present Ministers are of that stamp. If they were different, I would not give them these powers. The American people, who are as free as any in the world, have practically made their President a dictator; and in the times of our fathers, Pitt, who said that he could pull his country through, and did so, was intrusted with powers which he could not have exercised in normal times. The present are not normal times, and I am prepared to let the powers given by the War Precautions Actremain with Ministers until the times become normal.
.- When the War Precautions Act was passed there may have been a necessity for it in certain directions, but honorable members never dreamt that it would be used to the extent it has been. We were told that it would be used chiefly to deal with aliens, and with matters arising out of the war, and that it’ would have no considerable importance upon the domestic life of Australia. On that account many of us gave support to what was undoubtedly the most drastic legislation that has ever been passed by this Parliament. I do not say that it is not necessary for a Government to have large powers in time of war, but I maintain that the sooner we get back to normal conditions the better; and now that an armistice has been signed, and we anticipate the early demobilization of our troops, no one will contend that we ought not to revert to the normal conditions that existed prior to 1914. As a deliberative legislative body we have practically no power. Ministers can govern Australia by the War Precautions Regulations, and need not consult Parliament at all. We have had that form of government for a considerable time past, and we are now asked to continue it until six months after peace is declared. The cablegrams inform us that at the forthcoming Peace Conference it is hoped that the way will be paved to a further Conference in February next, and that it is hoped that that Conferencewill be able to lay down a general guiding policy, the details of which will be completed at a later period.No one has the slightest idea when that later period will be. It may be from two to six years hence.
Yet we are asked to expend this Act until six months after peace is actually signed. It is unreasonable for a Government to ask Parliament to give it the right to control Australia by means of the War Precautions Regulations until some time in the far distant future. It will not tend to the good of the country.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) thinks that it is necessary to give the Government this power, but wherever I go I meet people who were favorable to the passing of the Act, now holding the view that the purpose for which it was passed having disappeared with the cessation of hostilities, there is no necessity to allow a measure which is not giving satisfaction to the people to continue in force. The press condemn the censorship; business men and the general public condemn the interference with their liberties. The Act interferes with everything that is necessary in our everyday life. The business man is interfered with, the public are interfered with, the press are interfered with, and no benefit accrues to the general body of the people.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh contends that it is necessary to extend the Act in order to regulate prices, and other honorable members have claimed that the Act is necessary for the purpose of controlling prices. If the measure were repealed the cost of living would be much lower. The cost of every commodity is abnormal, and there appears to be no chance of getting prices back to the normal unless this legislation is repealed. That this is so is due to the fact that we have Boards dealing with everything we consume, and an analysis of the personnel of those Boards discloses that they consist of persons who are interested in the particular commodities; they control. It has been said that it is part of the policy of the Labour party to have Boards to distribute goods produced in Australia to the people, and thus cut out the middleman. We certainly believe in the introduction of cooperation, and that the producers should get the full benefit of their labour, but the present method of dealing with production is just the reverse of that policy.
Departments which, have been set up for the purpose of dealing with different products have really taken control of legislation. Parliament counts for nothing. It can do nothing for the welfare of the people while this Act continues in force.
The Wheat Board consists of persons who are interested in wheat. The’ same thing applies to the Wool Board.
– Who has been injured by the Wool Board?
– If the honorable member goes to the Newcastle district he will find who has been injured by the Wool Board. Ever since the Board was ap pointed the people in that district have been agitating to get the wool which comes from the North-Western District of New South Wales dealt with at Newcastle. There are sheds there which could have accommodated a large quantity of wool, probably the whole of the output of the district, but they have remained empty, while the Wool Board has built new sheds in Sydney at great cost to the country for the purpose of dealing with the wool that should have gone to’ Newcastle, and in order to obviate the necessity for sending an appraiser there.
– Did they ever sell wool at’ Newcastle before?
– They have not done so for thirty years.
– They have sold wool in Newcastle.
– At any rate, there is a difference between appraising wool and selling it.
– Exactly; and in these times, when we are practising economy in all directions and in every Department, it would have been easier to send an appraiser to Newcastle at a cost of train fares, than to build new sheds at Sydney and drag the wool 100 miles past empty sheds at Newcastle. The honorable member asks, “Who has been injured?” I tell him to go to Newcastle. The Chamber of Commerce has met there, and wool-growers from every part of the North-Western District of New South Wales have met there, and they have roundly condemned the Wool Board for its action. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. .Watkins) has raised the question in this House time after time, and he has interviewed Ministers in regard to the matter.
– I asked if any one had been injured: I did not ask if there were any complaints.
– The country has been injured. It is injured when thousands of pounds are spent unnecessarily on the building of sheds in Sydney, and in dragging the wool 100 miles past Newcastle. .
– That was done before the war.
– Even so, the Board was not justified in continuing that policy. It was appointed to economize and to improve conditions. The fact that we may have been moving along in a groove, and were not doing what was in the best interests of the country, was no reason why a Board specially created by this Commonwealth should continue on the same lines. During the war period an endeavour should have been made to save -every possible penny in order to relieve the burden on the people.
– The growers ‘ never sold their wool at Newcastle.
– It is a strange fact that the wool-growers, who are directly interested, should have sent representatives to a conference which I attended at Newcastle, and that they should have expressed the unanimous opinion of the growers of the north and north-west against the carrying of wool for appraisement past Newcastle. The conference carried a resolution, which was supported by the growers’ representatives, that the Commonwealth Government should bo asked to use their influence with the Wool Board to have wool appraised at Newcastle. Those facts are well known to some honorable members who were invited to the conference. Nobody can claim that, in this matter, the best course has been followed. A good deal more cost than was necessary was caused by that policy of centralization.
I turn now to the fixation of the price of meat. It would have been much better if the Government had never interfered with the price of meat. Their action in that regard was a huge blunder. Acting under the War Precautions Act they decided to fix the price at which meat should be sold to the carcass butchers, losing sight of the fact that the carcass butchers operate only in the capital cities. People outside of the metropolitan areas were not helped by that regulation. Immediately the regulation was issued, butchers outside the metropolitan area, and the consumers, had to pay a higher price. Butchers were- delivering meat in the Newcastle district at from Id. to 2d. per lib. below the prices fixed by the Government, but they were obliged to immediately increase their prices because they had to pay for their stock a price equivalent to that fixed for the carcass butcher. They did not ask for the price to be fixed; the growers did not desire it, and the consequence was that the regulation benefited nobody. Yet we are asked to continue an Act which will permit the Government to repeat blunders of that kind, and give them all the powers they have had during the four and a half years of war.
What is the feeling of the people in regard to the War Precautions Act? Many things have been done which should never have been permitted. Cartoons and articles which were offensive to a large section of the community were permitted to be published in certain sections, of the press. During the time of war, the endeavour of the Government should Have been to maintain good feeling amongst the people, but they permitted Mr. Critchley Parker to issue cartoons which had the very opposite effect, and, instead of helping, retarded Australia in playing its part in the war, Why did the censor permit such offensive matter to be published, whilst preventing the circulation of legitimate information regarding the war.
– Were those cartoons published for political purposes?
– I do not know; I am asking. The publication of that matter was permitted without any interference; yet we are told that the continuance of the War Precautions Act is necessary for the purpose of bringing about concord, and conserving the interests of the people.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) referred to the workers, and said that it was necessary that the Act should continue until such time as the clamour of the extreme section had died down. The honorable member never made a greater mistake in his life. If we . continue legislation of this kind, which takes away the liberty of the people, we shall merely increase that extreme feeling, because reasonable people are opposed to the War Precautions Act. It interferes with their rights too much. In very many places, people have not the right which they had before the war, to address a public meeting. I assure honorable members that, instead of the continuance of this Act tending to bring about a better feeling in the community, it will produce quite the opposite effect. We cannot hope to create better feeling if we cause the people to think that their liberties are being curbed, regardless of whether the country is at war or not.’
For all practical purposes, the war has . ceased; but the War Precautions Act will continue until peace is signed. That will be long enough, without asking for its extension for a further six months. The Government would be well advised if they decided to allow this Bill to remain in abeyance for a few months. By the time the House resumes its sittings in the new year, we shall be in a better position ‘ to deal with this question, for we shall have an idea of the period within which peace is likely to be signed, and of whether the Peace Conference has decided on the broad lines of a settlement, leaving the details to be arranged later. With that information in our possession, we should be better able to judge of the necessity for a continuance of the Act. There may be some activities which it is necessary to regulate, but the Bill makes no specific mention of anything. The Government are simply asking for a continuance of their existing power to deal with, anything and everything; and when we have regard to the fact that under the powers conferred by this Act, prices have been regulated in such a way as to compel the working people to pay more for the necessaries of life than they paid prior to the war, we may expect a big outcry against the extension of an Act which has been responsible for making the cost of living 40 or 50 per cent, higher than it should be. How are we to return to normal conditions? So far as I am aware, only one commodity nas not risen in price during the war.
– Sugar has been stationary at 3Jd. per lb.
– I had overlooked that item. All other commodities have increased in price with the exception of bricks in New South Wales. The price of them was not advanced, because the State Government control brickyards, and have been selling to the public the 40,000 bricks per day produced in excess of the requirements of the State. In 1911, the price of bricks was £2 5s. per thousand, and it has continued at that figure throughout the war. That was due to the fact that the production of the State “brickworks prevented) private producers from combining and increasing their charge,. Everything ‘else used in the “building trade is much dearer than it used to be. The price of timber, we know, has increased to a remarkable degree, and the price of galvanized iron, under the War Precautions Act, went up by leaps and bounds.
– It went up to nearly £100 per ton.
– Quite so; . but within a very short time after the signing of the armistice it dropped £27 per ton. That fall was not due to newly-arrived importations. There may be a. further fall before a consignment reaches Australia, and I venture to say that as soon as a cargo of galvanized iron is landed in Australia the price will come down to almost the pre-war level.
Under this Act the Government have the power to protect consumers. Why then, do they permit individuals to make huge profits at the expense of the general community? I could understand the Government saying to the House, “ There are two or three specific matters which we must have power to control under the War Precautions Act for some time to come, but, generally speaking, with regard to the domestic life of this country we are prepared to repeal so much of the Act as affects it.” Such a proposal would meet with the approval of the people. They would consider that they were about to get a fair deal, that competition would be what it was before the war, and that the purchasing power of the sovereign would get back to something like what it then was. The sovereign today will purchase only what could have been bought for lis. or 12s. in the prewar period. The Government, however, are asking Parliament to prolong the life of the Act for six months after the war. None but those directly interested will support such a proposal. The press of Australia is almost unanimous in decrying the continuation of the Act,- let alone any extension of it. Most of the newspapers urge that it should not be continued for a day longer, except for some specific object in respect of which its continuance might be justified. Notwithstanding this attitude on the part of the press, and its contention that under the Act it has been deprived of the privileges it enjoyed prior to the war of conveying news to the people, the Government are asking that the Act shall be continued for six months after the expiration of the war. No one can say how long we shall have to live under this form of Government if that request be agreed to.
– Judging by what is going on outside it is very oppressive!
– If the honorable member had to go to the country tomorrow he would find that the people regard it as being distinctly’ oppressive. He would find it impossible to get a public meeting to support this proposal. Every one recognises that the Act has outlived its usefulness.
– I saw to-day a letter from a man on the honorable member’s side asking that on some lines the Act should be continued for another four years.
– 1 have pointed out that there may be some specific matters in respect of which the continuance of the Actcould be justified, but its general application cannot be supported on any ground. Every one has been expecting its immediate repeal. If this Bill be passed, we shall have public meetings all over the country - meetings promoted, not by any one political party, but representative of every section of the community.
– To-night’s meeting was fairly one-sided!
– I know nothing as to that, but the honorable member will hear before long of meetings convened all over Australia to protest against such legislation.
– If the Act were allowed to expire to-morrow we should have requests from all over the country for the reenactment of much of it.
– I have just said that there may he some specific matters in respect of which its continuance could be justified.
– The trouble is that every one wants it to apply to a different set of specific matters.
– What justification can there be for the anxiety of the Government to carry this Bill at once? We shall meet, after the Christmas adjournment, in February. The peace terms will nothave been signed by that time. It may be twoor three years before they are signed’. I hope it will not be; but the Act is to remain in force until six months after the close of the war. Why should it be continued after the signing of the peace terms? In any event, it might be allowed to remain in abeyance until we are recalled in the earlier part of next year. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned..
Soldiers’ Widows as House-owners - Repatriation : Cloth - weaving - Sale of Australian Copper - Naval War Medals.
Motion (hy Mr. Groom.) proposed -
That theHouse do now adjourn.
– I recently asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation to have prepared a return showing the number of soldiers’ widows in all the States who have their own homes. In the early part of this year we were told that there were 900 soldiers’ widows who had no fear of the landlord’s knock. I want to stimulate Victoria to outrival New South Wales in this direction, since I think this State is more backward than any other in this respect.
– I shall make a note of the matter, and try to secure the information for the honorable member.
– It has cometo my knowledge that returned soldiers are speaking of the Department of Repatriation as the “Department of Repudiation.” The unfortunate returned soldier who is engaged in the weaving: of clothsuch asp that of whichmy coat is made - is blocked by the Repatriation Department. He has been compelled to sell the whole of his output to Messrs. Buckley and Nunn. Since the Minister promises to inquire into the matter, I shall not delay the House further.
.- At the risk of being deemed importunate, I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) if he will renew his efforts to secure for the copper producers of Australia some satisfaction with regard to thequestion I addressed to him some time ago? I then urged that if the British Government would not continue the present contract for the purchase of our. copper after the 31st instant, copper producers here should be allowed to deal with the matter through their own agents in other countries. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said this afternoon that he would endeavour to find out whether the Australian copper producers could sell to other countries: but he will pardon me if. I suggest that if he couldget permission for the. copper producers to sell their copper, the Australian copper sellers will look after the matter very satisfactorily.
.- On the 14th November, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked whether I would arrange that all officers and sailors of the Navy shall receive a special medal to show that they have been on active service, similar to the medal issued to the Australian Imperial Force. I am now able to inform the honorable member that arrangements are being made to issue such a badge to discharged members of the Royal Australian Navy.
– I do not, of course, in the badinage that I pass across the table at different times, accuse the honorablemember for Capricornia(Mr. Higgs) of being unduly importunate in regard to the copper situation. I know how pressing the matter is in many centres, and I am well aware that there is a big copper-producing industry in his electorate; and if he were not mindful of the interests of the men employed, and of the capital engaged in the industry, I quite acknowledge he would be unworthy of his position as a representative of the people. I ask him, however, to accept my word that the Government have left no stone unturned to attend to this position. It is not by any means an easy position, and we are not masters of the situation. Our proportion of the world’s copper production is relatively small. The American market dominates the situation largely, and in view of the metal situation generally, and the copper situation in particular, apart altogether from the termination of hostilities, I can assure the honorable gentleman that it is not easy for us, or for the British Government, to sea a way out. I am anxious not only to see that the temporary financial arrangements I have referred to on previous occasions are properly observed, in order to give the industry a chance of continuing into the new year, but to find an open door, if not through Britain, by Which the interest of those concerned may be protected. I can assure my honorable friend that I am not unmindful at all of the gravity of the situation. We have, in addition, the tin situation, which has closed around us pretty quickly and seriously ; and these two concatenated at the termination of the war. It means, of course, that we shall have to finance, or arrange to finance, for a portion of the time during which we shall conduct further negotiations. We hope to have more definite information in regard to both within a week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181203_reps_7_87/>.