7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Accommodation on Ships - Food Short ageonthenorth-westcoastof
– Thereseems to he in the minds of the general public an idea that one of the special grievances of the seamen now on strike relates to the accommodation provided for the men on board ship, and that an improvement of that accommodation would tend to bring about an early settlement of the trouble. Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether that is so?
– ‘The honorable member intimated to me that he proposed to mate this inquiry, and I have since been examining the records. I find that on the last occasion that I met the representatives of the Federated Seamen’s Union in conference, prior to their going back for the second time to the compulsory conference under the President of the Arbitration Court, the general secretary of the union, Mr. Walsh, as shown in the records of the conference, made this statement with regard to the accommodation for the menon board ship -
With regard to one of the most important matters, that dealing with accommodation, Admiral Clarkson has promised to see that our wishes are carried out. He has gone so far as to ask me for a list of all snips requiring Alterations, and the extent of such alterations, and when he becomes possessed of full information on the subject he will see what can be done, so that we can look upon the accommodation question as practically settled.
That statement was made by Mr. Walsh, andI find that, later on in the conference, I said -
I think you should narrow down the main issues, reducing them to four. 1 think that possibly, in view of the promise that Admiral Clarkson has given you, the accommodation question might be set aside.
The general secretary, Mr. Walsh, replied -
We realize that is practically settled.
I therefore say to my honorable friend that the seamen, and those speaking in their behalf, do not put up that issue as one for settlement at all, and that I regard it as being, in the language of the general secretary of the Federated Seamen’s Union, practically settled.
– ‘Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to the urgent necessity for providing food supplies for those residents in the north west of Western Australia, and particularly at Wyndham, and will the Government make an effort to try to relieve the position there?
– Speaking from memory, I believe that our attention was drawn some time ago to the matter, but the position has intensified during recent weeks. I have notbeen informed as to what the actual situation is, but my honorable friend may rest assured that those parts of the Commonwealth which are suffering most keenly will be the first to receive attention in any efforts that we make.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that rifle clubs throughout New South Wales are unable to hold their usual shooting competitions because the usual funds are delayed, and no arrangement has been made for granting railway passes ?
– I am not aware, but will make inquiries and advise the honorable member.
Appointment of Fourth Class Clerks
– The Acting Prime Minister promised me yesterday that he would ascertain from the Public Service Commissioner whether there was any objection to laying on the table of the Library the file relating to the appointment of ten fourth class clerks in the Taxation Department. An appeal was taken to the High Court by one of the fifth class officers interested in the matter, and I understand that the decision of the Court has been overridden, so that the matter is one of urgency. Has the Acting Prime Minister made the promised inquiry?
– In accordance with my promise, I sent to the Department for the information, but have not yet received it. It may be forthcoming before questiontime has passed.
Report as to Inferior Rifles.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence seen an article published in Monday’s issue of the Sydney Sun with reference to the alleged inferior quality of rifles being turned out at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, and making certain statements with regard to the employment of avowedly Industrial “Workers of the World men in that Factory ?
– I have not seen the article.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence seen a paragraph which appeared in this morning’s issue of the Argus stating that it is not the intention of the Defence authorities to class as returned soldiers the members of the Pay Staff who accompanied Senator Pearce to England in January last? I desire to ask whether that statement is to be regarded as an official announcement that returned soldiers’ badges are to be issued only to men.who.have seen service?
– On Friday last, I stated in the House that the matter was being further considered. I have seen the paragraph in the Argus to which the honorable member refers, but have not been furnished with any official information from the Defence Department, so that I cannot answer the question.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence state whether the Government intend to issue medals to all who were engaged in the Avar, together with clasps which, following the system adopted by the Imperial authorities, will indicate the engagements in which the recipients took part?
– I stated on Friday afternoon, in the course of a rather lengthy answer to a question on the same subject, that it was the intention of the Government to issue war medals with clasps showing the various engagements in which the recipients took part.
Sir Robert McC. Anderson ; Signing of Shipping Contract : Position of High Commissioner.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether Sir Robert McC. Anderson has been appointed to a position in connexion with the shipping policy of the present Government; and, if so, will he inform the House of the nature of the appointment?
– I am not aware that the gentleman referred to has been appointed to any position, but I shall make inquiries on the subject.
– Having reference to a published statement that Mr. Larkin, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, has signed contracts in London for the building of two ships, will the Acting Prime Minister state what is the position of the High Commissioner* in this connexion. Is the High Commissioner being ignored; and, if so, is it because he refuses to be a pawn in another man’s game?
– I know no man more ready and better able than the honorable member to misconstrue press information, especially when it is directed against the Government. I have seen the statement referred to, but am not acquainted with the facts as to whether the actual contract is to be signed by the High Commissioner or by the High Commissioner and Mr. Larkin. It seems to me, however, to be natural that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) should ask the officer who has been associated with him in the investigation of this problem to deal with it up to a certain stage. I should judge that, in all probability, the High Commissioner, as the official representative of the Australian Government in England, will ratify the contract, whatever Mr. Larkin may do; but I shall inquire as to the actual facts.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation yet in a position to make his promised statement regarding the Anzac tweed industry ?
– I am not yet in a position to do so, hut I shall try to get the information.
– If a number of gentlemen of the city are willing to subscribe an amount that will give the returned soldiers a fighting show to make good at the Anzac hand-woven cloth, and will be content with a small interest to be paid only during the time the industry shows a profit, will the Acting Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, promise that a sufficient supply of good yarn will be forthcoming from the Government mills?
– This, of course, is a matter on which I should be glad to have another opportunity of consulting with the Minister for Repatriation before answering such a question.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories inform the House of the policy of the Government regarding reafforestation, and state whether any steps are being taken to plan/ spruce for the purpose of making paper pulp?
– About two years ago I engaged an expert from the United Kingdom, and a sum of money was appropriated for his work. My intention was that he should give an opinion upon reafforestation work in the three Territories. Unfortunately, through illness he did not come. The only report is on the Federal Territory. In regard to wood for paper pulp, what has been done has been sprucely done, though nothing has been done for spruce.
– In view of the fact that the Poet Laureate of Great Britain has failed, so far, to write an ode commemorating the restoration of Peace, will the Acting Prime Minister consider the advisability of relieving the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) from his official duties for a period of twelve months in order that he may devote his time to that task?
– Order! I call the attention of the House to the fact that it is not in order to ask questions of a frivolous eli1 fi r £ic t Gr .
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister - and, I assure you, Mr. Speaker, .that my question is serious - if he will consider the advisability of offering a substantial prize for a competition for a suitable poem to commemmorate Peace? That would allow both the Postmaster-General ‘and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) to compete.
– I awaited your ruling, sir, as to whether this question was a serious one. I assume that you, like other members of the House, were deceived by the honorable member’s apparent earnestness.
– I had the honorable member’s assurance that his question was intended seriously.
– In Parliament we are obliged to accept assurances, however deceptive they may be. My experience has been - and I speak not as a competitor past or prospective - that prize poems are not generally spontaneous creations that last, and I do not think that any good would result from adopting the suggestion of the honorable member for Brisbane. But if it is the desire of the House that an international competition between the two honorable members referred to should be arranged for the education and edification of members generally, my money will be placed on the Postmaster-General.
– I have read that alternative routes for a railway ‘to connect South Australia and the Northern Territory are being examined on behalf of the Federal Government. Will the Government entertain an offer by a contractor to build a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek along the route favoured by South Australia, standard rates of wages to be paid, and the payment to be either in Government bonds or by means of a land grant, the contractor receiving every alternate block along the route? If so, I will undertake that such an offer will be forthcoming.
– Such a proposal has not been under consideration. A land grant proposition was submitted to the South Australian Government some years ago, and in connexion with it the State Parliament passed, an Act in 1902, but the negotiations proved abortive. The policy of the Federal Government to date has not been to build railways on the landgrant system. Doubtless, when the time arrives for the Government to’ come to a decision regarding the construction of this line, any such proposal from a contractor will be considered. At the present time, some routes are being examined by the Department of Works and Railways. Mr. Bell made a general examination of five or six routes, and the matter of a particular route, having due regard to the agreement entered into with the State of South Australia, is under consideration to-day.
– On account of war conditions, a regulation was introduced by the Government to prevent the transfer of land. It affects transfers which had been arranged before the commencement of the war. , Do the Government propose to repeal that regulation atan early date, so that deferred transfers may be completed ?
– At present the Government has no intention of rescinding that regulation.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister be good enough to define the attitude of the Government in respect of certain internees in Australia? Are the Government taking any responsibility in regard to proposed deportations? Will the Acting Prime Minister tell the House what are the factors which determine whether a man shall be deported, or allowed to remain in Australia?
– Some time ago there was laid upon the table of the House the re port of a Committee that inquired into the question of internees and enemy aliens generally, and also the determinanations of the Government regarding the recommendations of that Committee. The statement then made defines the attitude and intention of the Government with regard . to the respective classes of enemy aliens in Australia.
– Has that statement been printed?
– I understand that it has. I believe it is on the table, and in the possession of honorable members. The Government take full responsibility for the policy they announced, and for the machinery which has been created in order to carry out their decisions.
– A charge of 2 per cent, on butter and 31/2 per cent, on cheese is madefor the purpose of defraying the cost of administering the Pool. As the cost of administration is considerably less than that percentage, will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House of the destination of the difference between the actual cost and the percentage charged?
– The balance will be ultimately distributed amongst the various factories supplying the Pool in proportion to the butter they contribute.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, in order to compel action by the Federal and State Parliaments, he will consider the advisability of taking a referendum of the people in conjunction with the next Federal elections upon the subject of an amalgamation of the following Commonwealth and State Departments, namely, Taxation, Electoral, Agents-General, and High’ Commissioner, Immigration, and Savings Banks, with a view to operating those Departments on economical lines, and effecting a saving of, perhaps, £500,000 per annum ?
– My honorable friend must have “swotted” a good deal over that question, because it embraces a num.- ber of very important considerations. My own view has been clearly expressed, and it is also the view of the Government, that a number of the amalgamations to which the honorable member refers must take place if the people of this country are to be satisfied in the near future. I am doubtful whether a referendum is the proper way to deal with the matter.
– It would be carried unanimously.
Mr.WATT. - Not unanimously, because certain State Treasurers might vote against some of the propositions. I doubt whether the machinery proposed by the honorable member is the way to solve the problem, but I take this opportunity of expressing the view that one of the great lessons which the Australian people have learnt from the war, irrespective of party, is that there must be a recasting of the constitutional relations of the Commonwealth and the States in the very near future.
– While we were in Rouen theArmistice was signed. There was general rejoicing, and the men in camp were given practically a free hand as to how they behaved themselves. A band was collected, and the parade ground was made the scene of festivities occasioned by the important event. During the morning the National Anthem of every Allied nation was played there. The Australian anthem was called for, because the “ diggers “ wanted the country from which they came to be recognised, but the only anthem the band could think of to satisfy the Australians was “ Australia will be there.” Will the Acting Prime Minister seriously consider the question of offering a prize fora suitable anthem which will be sung right through Australia and recognised as the National Anthem of the country, so that on such occasions as the one to which I have referred we shall not have to rake up a ragtime . melody as our national song?
– The germ of poetry seems to have got hold of a large number of honorable members opposite.
– They are at it every day upstairs. .
– The Government being in such safe hands, I suppose they have nothing better to do.
– ‘That is where “ Bill “ was trained.
– With great respect, I discredit that statement, as I understand that long before the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) became a member of Parliament he fed upon the classics, and learnt far more about the elements of poetry than ever any of his colleagues imagined. Probably he hid that light under a bushel. The question of a new National Anthem for Australia is not in the policy of the Government. We did not put it to the country, and we do not feel as if we should embody it in our propositions without a referendum to the people. There is no question to which a mandate should apply more clearly. I think it would be far better if the whole of the Dominions of the King kept to the main British National Anthem, thus preserving, declaring, and demonstrating the solidarity of the Empire in every way.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories been called to the statement made in Sydney last week by ex-Judge Heydon, that under the terms of the Constitution Canberra is now legally the Federal Capital, although the Parliament is meeting in Melbourne? Does the Minister agree with ex-Judge Heydon’s interpretation of the Constitution, and, if he does, when are we going to move toour constitutional home?
– I am afraid I can neither agree with nor dissent from what has been said by the gentleman referred to, because I have not heard his opinion nor has my attention been drawn to it. I do not think there is any doubt that under section 125 of the Constitution the Seat of Government has to be determined by Parliament; it must be within territory granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, which territory must be in New South Wales; and the site must not bewithin 100 miles of Sydney. Meanwhile, according to the same section, we have to sit - and sometimes stand - in Melbourne until we move to the Seat of Government. Of course, we cannot go there until Parliament has provided the necessary accommodation. The position as regards the question of going on with the construction of the Federal Capita] will be declared in due course during the session.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories turn a deaf ear to all suggestions to build railways in South Australia, or other parts of the Commonwealth, and bend the whole of his energies in the direction of having the Federal Capital at once removed from Melbourne to Canberra?
– I shall be glad to devote my energies in both directions. There is an obligation on the Commonwealth to construct a railway to the Northern Territory, and the fulfilment of that duty is under consideration at the present moment. As regards the other matter, I assure the honorable member that we must recognise the obligations imposed by section 125 of the Constitution. The subject caused a good deal of debate up to five or six years ago. Nothing was done in the matter, except debate, until 1908. Then came the Act. The possibility of pushing on with the Capital was interfered with by the breaking out of the war, because a good deal of expenditure is required to get on quickly with the work. The matter has been under the consideration of the Cabinet recently, and in due course an announcement will be made to the House of the intentions of the Government.
Mr. Dethridge ‘s Report
– Is the report of Mr. Dethridge on the wharf labourers’ dispute yet available?
– My honorable friend has me somewhat at a disadvantage, as I do not know what answers were given on that matter last week.
– Merely that it was hung up.
– Not hung up - under consideration.This Government does ‘not hang up anything. It maturely deliberates on matters before it decides what to do. I shall inquire whether the report was dealt with by the Cabinet in my absence.
– Is it the intention of the Government this session to introduce a Bill to amend the Naturalization Act to remove the anomaly which prevents the naturalization of an illiterate person?
– It is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill dealing with naturalization, but that is not one of the provisions which it is proposed to include. I know there have been one or two cases of hardship in administration in old-age pension matters arising from the point, but it was impossible to get over the difficulty. It could be overcome by an amendment of the Old-age Pensions Act. There is a good deal to be said for not naturalizing persons who are unable to speak or write the English language. That is the reason why the provision referred to is in the Act.
– Will the Postmaster-General apply some of the Post Office surplus, as disclosed by the recently published balance-sheet, to giving relief to some of the small bush mail contractors, and affording greater facilities to the people in the outposts of civilization?
– So far as I can, I shall endeavour to do so, having regard to the good government of the Department and my responsibility to the general taxpayer.
– Is the Acting Prime
Minister in a position to make a statement regarding the payment for the recent large purchases of Australian wheat, and when future dividends may be expected by scrip holders?
– I am not in a position to say at this stage that the mode and dates of payment for the £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 worth of wheat sold by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) have been definitely settled. They still form the subject of daily cablegraphic communication between the Australian Government and the British Exchequer. As soon as I can determine when, how, and under what conditions we are going to get that money, I shall bring before, the Cabinet the question of further payments to . the wheat-growers.
– Can the Minister for Works and Railways inform me whether, on the site that is proposed for the Note and Stamp Printing Offices, labour is being employed at the present time?
– Does the honorable member mean in connexion with the construction work referred to the Public Works Committee?
– I am not aware of any labour being employed on such construction there.
– Will the Minister make inquiries?
– Is it the intention to complete only part of the buildings shown on the plans, or the whole of them ?
– The land was acquired by the Department of Home and Territories, and the plans show the building proposed to be erected at the present time. But, to assist the Public Works Committee, a complete design was drawn, not with any view to an immediate construction, of the whole, but merely to show that if in the future it was desired to utilize all the ground, it would be possible to do so. The building proposed to be erected now will serve the purposes for many years to come.
– That is only one-third of the whole.
– It is all that is proposed to be gone on with now, but the plans show what can be done in the future if occasion requires. This is not an unusual practice, for it has been done in the case of the other reference to the Committee.
– I ask the Minister not to discuss the matter any further. It anticipates a debate on a motion already before the House.
Country Postal and Telephone Facilities.
– I have received intimations from two honorable members of the House that they desire to move the adjournment of the House, in order to discuss two definite matters of urgent public importance. One is from the honorable member for Maranoa (Mt. Page), who desires to discuss the wrongful distribution of soldiers’ badges to persons not entitled to receive them. The second is from the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who wishes to call attention to “ The grave disabilities experienced by the residents of the country districts of Australia owing to - (a) the closing of many country post-offices, and the reduction of many postal facilities; (b) the absence of adequate telephone facilities in many country districts.” As I received first the intimation from the honorable member for Grampians, his notice is entitled to priority over the other.
Five honorable members having risen in their places.
.- In common, no doubt, with many other honorable members, I received a very courteously worded letter from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster), in which he said -
I would esteem it a favour if you would oblige me by reading my report for the year 1917-18 when it comes to hand, as I require your assistance and sympathy in my endeavour to complete the re-organization of this vast and important Department. Such is not a party matter, but one of vital importance to the nation.
Like others, I have taken great interest in the honorable gentleman’s report, and, in compliance with, his request for sympathy and assistance, I have devoted very considerable time and attention to its study. I have the highest possible admiration for this work of literature and art, and I have no doubt that already it is wending its way to every capital city in every civilized country in the world, where, I feel sure, by all postal authorities, statisticians, philosophers, and statesmen it will be as much appreciated as it is in this House and by myself in particular.
Representing, as I do, a country district, and coming into very close contact with country residents, I naturally turn, in the first place, to see what statements of facts are given in the report in regard to country mails and telephones. I speak in no terms of sarcasm when I refer to this report as a most valuable” document. Personally, I have the greatest possible admiration for the the work the Postmaster-General has done in the Department during his years of office. I consider him the best Postmaster-General that Australia has ever had, though there may be those who differ from me in that regard.
– He is the only Postmaster-General the honorable member has ever known.
– He is the only one I have known, and all I can say is that I never want to know another. I have carefully read nearly the whole of the eighty pages of the report in my search for information regarding what has been done in the past, and what is likely to be done in the future regarding country mails and telephones. I should here like to apply a little quotation which, poetical as it is, will appeal to the literary mind and instinct of my friend the Postmaster-General. He will remember that Prince Henry, when he saw the bill that had been rendered to Falstaff, in which 5s. 8d. was charged for the excellent wine called sack, and one halfpenny for bread, exclaimed -
O, monstrous ! but one half -penny worth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack!
Sack, I understand, was a most excellent wine; indeed, it was regarded by some as the wine of life. In our country districts, however, the residents are not looking for the “wine” which has made the postal buildings in the great cities so conspicuous, but for a very little “ bread,” in the shape of country mails and telephones, to enable them to live in comfort. What do we find? Out of 80 pages of most beautiful literature in the report issued by the Postmaster-General, the only matter devoted to country mail services and post-offices covers eleven lines, including the following : -
It is asserted that money . is being saved by cutting down country mail services - such is, however, not so.
That is simply a question of assertion.
In 1917-18 we spent£11,526 more on such services than in the previous year. It is true that in some cases reductions resulted, due to abnormal increases and the difficulty of securing satisfactory tenders.
As we are not told how much money was spent in the previous year, or whether in that year the expenditure was higher or lower than in the year before, the statement that £11,500 more was. spent on country mail services is of no value as a guide in the discussion of this matter. If money has not been saved by cutting down country mail services, why, in the name of heaven, have they been cut down ? That is the problem to which this House might expect the Postmaster-General to give some attention.
– The reason was to stop waste.
– There is a much greater waste, which I ask the honorable gentleman, in common with the heads of all the other great public Departments, both Federal and State, to stop; that is, the waste of population, and waste of human energy brought about by the continual dragging of people from country districts to the cities.
– How does the Postal Department do that?
– Before this debate closes the honorable, member will have plenty of information on that point. I do not think that those who are in charge of the destinies of this country realize the position, or know the facts bearing upon it.
I have in. my possession some figures issued by Mr. Knibbs, at the request of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott), giving the population for the last ten years in each of the States, and showing the proportions living in the cities and suburbs, as compared with the numbers living outside the cities. Ten years ago the metropolitan population of Victoria was 573,255, as against 703,767, living outside the metropolis. The balance was about 130,000 in favour of people living in country districts. In 191S, the latest figures which Mr. Knibbs was able to supply to my friend, the metropolitan population had increased to 723,500, while the number living in country districts was only 707,258, showing that there were 16,000 more people in Melbourne than in the country districts of Victoria. In South Australia, ten years ago, the metropolitan population was 1S4,393, as against 208,504 for country districts. In 1918, the metropolitan population had increased to 235,751, as against.209,957 for country districts. I do not lay upon the Postal administration the whole of the blame for this tendency to drag the people from country districts, but it is the duty of every man who desires to see his country great to endeavour to stop every leak through which the population may drift from country districts into the great cities. There are many serious influences at work which bring about this result ; but if there is one thing above all others which induces people who have a choice in the matter to leave country districts and live in the cities, it is the feeling of discontent that men, and women even more so, have at the isolation of country life. A great deal of this feeling of isolation is due to the fact that people are unable to secure adequate telephone facilities, by means of which they can communicate on business or social matters with their friends at any time, and that they are unable to get regular and frequent mail services. Any step taken to cut down postal facilities to which people are accustomed has one result, and that is to make them discontented with country life. Sooner or later wives will persuade their husbands, or for some reason or another men will find it necessary ot advisable, to leave the country and live in one of the cities. The absence of reasonable mail and telephone facilities in country districts is largely responsible for the drift of population towards our principalities. I do not wish to weary the House with figures, but I have shown what is the actual position in this respect in two of the most important States of the Commonwealth. For some years, there has been evidence of a drift of population from the rural districts to our principal towns and cities, and that drift has increased considerably during the war period. The Postmaster-General asserts that no saving is effected by cutting down country mail services. If that is so, why are they reduced?
The report published by the honorable gentleman is a magnificent production. It deals with the General Post Offices in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, and the other State capitals, and makes special reference to the provision of a diningroom for employees at the General Post Office in this city. All these parts of the report have my warm approval. One part of the report is headed “ False Economy,” and I naturally expected to find under that heading some explanation of the action of the Department in cutting down country mail services. I have looked in vain, however, for any such explanation, and I propose to give the House a few instances of what has been done by the Department in the way of reducing the postal and telephone facilities of the people. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) yesterday received a letter from a resident of Springfield, Mount McDonald, New South Wales, which he has handed to me, and from which I make the following quotations : -
I am enclosing herewith a notice received yesterday from the local .Postmaster, notifying the intended curtailment of office hours. You will note that it provides for only four hours each day, excepting Wednesday, and the four hours so cut up that one engaged in ordinary farming and grazing pursuits would have considerable difficulty in striking the post-office within the working hours.
That complaint is general throughout the rural districts. Country telephone offices are nearly always closed at 8 p.m., ai:d all day on Sundays, when they might be more generally used by farmers and others, and their value is therefore considerably reduced.
– What is tho object? Nothing is saved by closing these offices every evening and on Sundays.
– No saving is effected ; so that I think this practice on the part of the Department might well come under the heading of “false economy.”’ The writer of this letter has paid for his telephone service, and he goes on to say -
The position is this with regard to contributors to the revenue by way of private tele- ?hone connexions, that we agreed to pay a cerain fee for a given service. Practically the whole of that service has been withdrawn, except tho payment in advance of the prescribed fee. Had Ben Hall, Gilbert, Dunn, and other public mcn - heads of their respective Departments in their time - hit upon this plan of robbery, what a time they would have had. They would then have managed without the sleepless nights, inseparable from their calling, to say nothing of the saving that would have been effected in powder and bullets, and also the possible chance of a direct hit.
The next letter from which I propose to quote was addressed to me by Mr. J. Field, of Riversdale, near Avoca. He comes from one of the oldest families, and is much respected. He writes -
I have received notice from the Postal Department that the mail service for Riversdale is to bc discontinued after 18th instant (July). This will cause a great inconvenience to myself and the other residents here, the nearest mail service being at Avoca, fully 4 miles away. There has been- a mail service here the last 40 years and more. The last post-office keeper here received £8 a year. I got £1 first, and £2 last year, but was agreeable to look after it for nothing. . . . The mail contractor passes our gate daily, and we have a box fixed on the road close to it, so he need not stop his car or go out of his way one step as he throws the bag in; it would cost the Postal Department nothing to continue the service as before. We consider we are entitled by the taxes paid by us alone to State and Federal Governments, to be given this consideration at least. We would be pleased if your support is given us in this matter to sec we have a daily loose-bag thrown out at the gate for the convenience of the eight families served by the mail.
These people had a mail service for forty years, and yet they cannot even secure today the concession of a loose-bair
– Are they on the mail route ?
– Yes, on the main road from Avoca to Natte Yallock. Those who have spent most of their lives in the city as a rule do not realize what a country post-office means to the people within a radius of 4 or 5 miles. In addition to the facilities which it affords for communication with outside centres, it is the daily meeting place for all in the district who are socially inclined, and anxious to- hold sweet communion with each other. What would civilization be without reasonable opportunities for social intercourse? I protest against the closing of these country postoffices, and hope that action will speedily be taken to remove this cause of complaint. I have here a letter addressed to me by Mr. Packham, the secretary of the Newbridge branch of the Victorian Farmers Union. Newbridge is a town on the Loddon, and I recommend it to any of my friends who desire to spend a pleasant holiday. Mr. Packham writes -
Your letter of 1st instant to hand re telephone service at Llanelly. Wo have not heard anything further from the Department in reference to our application for connexion with railway station. We are disgusted and disheartened, and have almost given up hope of anything being done in the matter. On behalf of this branch, 1 wish you success in your undertaking.
The convenience for which the people of Newbridge ask is only a small one from the stand-point of the Department, but it is of great importance to these people.
– I have more letters dealing with such matters than even the honorable member has received.
– I have no doubt that my honorable friend, another representative of the Farmers’ Union in this House, could produce a thousand letters complaining of the reduction of mail and telephone facilities. Here is a letter ‘ which I have received from Mr. A. T. Edwards, of Glenorchy -
There is great dissatisfaction expressed by residents over the present mail system. Formerly we had a mail daily twice to and twice from Glenorchy, but during the war this was altered to one mail only each way.
Representations were made to the Department, and the reply received was that it was considered that the present mail service to and from Glenorchy was satisfactory. Glenorchy is not a mere hamlet, but a town of considerable importance.
– There are many larger towns that have not a daily mail service.
– That is no justification for the reduction of the mail service in this case. I come now to a complaint relating to the township of Emu, which is situated betweenSt.Arnaud and Dunolly. I have been trying for some time . to secure for this township telephone communication, and feel very much hurt at the failure of the Department to provide it. Here is a letter that I have received from aresident on the subject -
Wehave heard nothing about our application for a public telephone at Emu, except the correspondence through you. We have had another instance of the great need for it again last week. Mr. Hugh Cameron, of Dalyenong - it is most likely you know him -
I was acquainted with him for thirty years - was taken to St. Arnaud Hospital with influenza. His friends wired his brothers on Tuesday, but not coming for their mail that day, they missed getting same, and knew nothing of his condition until Wednesday, and he died on the Thursday. The point I would like to bring before your notice is, had there been a telephone at Emu, St. Arnaud could have called some one to go out to Dalyenong to tell them of the state of their brother. This is one of the many instances which has lately occurred at Emu. Thanking you for your trying to get this matter fixed up,
I am, yours sincerely,
Hon. Sec. Emu Progress Association.
I think I have quoted sufficient grievances to satisfy honorable members that we must have a radical alteration in the administration of the Postal Department.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.– This is a very belated attempt by the honorable member to draw attention to the difficulties experienced by people who are living in country districts in getting adequate postal facilities. These griev ances have not arisen suddenly. The disabilities of country people in this respect throughout the war have been tremendous, but we have heard nothing from the ‘honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) during the last few years; he has been a docile and dumb supporter of the Government. I wonder to what extent the present ardour of the honorable gentleman is due to the fact that the Victorian farmers are beginning to assert themselves, as they should have done long ago. What the honorable member has said this afternoon is in distinct contradiction of the resolution which he and his fellow members of the National Caucus unanimously carried, expressing hearty approval of the admirable manner in which the Government were administering the affairs of the country.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) on having brought this matter before the House. People in countryconstituencies are suffering great disabilities on account ofthe recent action of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) in curtailing telephonic facilities. The four principal things which contribute to make life in the country tolerable ‘are railways, postoffices, telegraphs,’ and telephones.
– And bank overdrafts.
– The bank overdraft puts energy into us. As the representative of Calare, I have received from the Postmaster-General’s Department thirty notices stating that the hours of various post and telephone offices will be curtailed. The departmental officials might have shown a little more judgment in arranging this reduction ofhours. Farmers and graziers . are engaged in the field all day long. They may return to their homes at noon for lunch, but between the hours of noon and 1 p.m. the telephone offices are closed. They are in the field again till 6 and 7 o’clock, but the telephone office is closed at 5 o’clock. The Department should endeavour to arrange that the offices shall be open at suchhours as will serve the convenience of the settlers.The office at Gregara will be open between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon, and between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. The office at Mount McDonald will be closed at 5 o’clock, find if >a man at that place wishes to communicate with another at Gregara he is unable to do so, because when his office is open the other is closed.
It is high time that some of the trunk lines were completed. There is a trunk line between Cowra and Blayney which is used also by the smaller centres. I have been delayed for two or three hours at Blayney until all the messages on the trunk line have gone through. If the Department would erect separate lines to deal with local business, a very desirable expedition would result. I admire the Postmaster-General for doing his best to economize. Up to a certain point he has done very well, but he seems to think that the purpose of the Postal Department is to make hig profits and pay them into the Treasury. If he can make his Department pay, he may rest satisfied; there is no need to make profits at the expense of the country people. I find that in the year ended 30th June, 1917, the Department was run at a net loss of £117,146. In. 1918 it showed a profit of £564,527. That profit wiped out the previous deficit of £117,000, and left a net profit for the two years of £387,381, after paying interest on capital. Analyzing the profit, I find that £168,896 was made by the postal branch, and £121,844 by the telephone branch. Telephone exchanges, including the small country systems which are being curtailed, showed a profit of £77,276. I am not disposed ito sweat employees in small country offices.’ I know that often they have to do the telephone work in conjunction with their other duties. But if they are underpaid, increase their salaries out of the profit of £564,000. According to the PostmasterGeneral’s report, there are 7,144 allowance offices. If the Minister were to give to each officer in charge, of those establishments an average increase of £10 per annum it would mean an increase in expenditure of £71,440. That would be more than covered by the profit made by the small local exchanges. I remind hon- orable members that when the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) was Postmaster-General, he informed the House that the Postal Department was being run at a loss of £500j000, the whole of which was incurred in the cities. In order to recover that loss, the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) has increased the telephone charges in country districts. Having regard to the fact that the country offices were paying, any increase in charges should have taken place in the big centres in which the loss was being incurred. For twenty-six . years I have lived in Blayney, a town in New South Wales, with a population of about 2,000 persons, and I know the disabilities that country folk experience. These people are “being charged increased rates in order to make the Postal Department pay. It does pay; the deficit has been wiped out. We do not desire that the Department shall be operated for the purpose of making big profits.
For a number of years provision has been made on the Estimates for improvements to be effected at certain country post-offices. I know that the war interfered with the work, and for that reason we did not worry the Postmaster-General. At Cowra the post-office is so small that the officials are cramped, and in summertime are almost baked by the heat. An amount for the improvement of that office has been on the Estimates for years, and’ I urge the Government to proceed with that work. Many country offices are in the same condition, and I am determined to compel the Government to do something to relieve the postal and telephonic disabilities of country districts.
.- The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is to be commended for having brought this matter before the House. The time of Parliament is not wasted in making a plea for greater consideration for the people resident in country districts. To some extent, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) has done well in making the Postal Department self-supporting. I have always urged that every business Department of Government should be made self-support- ing, and I recognise that the Minister, during his time in office, has done his best to bring about that result. In doing so, however; some hardships have been inflicted on country residents, and I am sure that when the Minister is made aware of them he will see that just grievances are rectified. Very many changes have been made in connexion with the operations of the Postal Department in rural areas; some, no doubt, were absolutely necessary, but others have greatly inconvenienced the people. In many cases the postal delivery has been suspended. That has happened to a number of districts in my electorate. One .district had enjoyed a postal delivery at least thirty years, and although there has been no diminution in population, the Department suddenly discontinued the delivery. I do not think the Postmaster-General is justified in cutting off the facilities in the country in order to economize; in any case,, the actual economy resulting from the stoppage of the mail delivery is not very great. As the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) has pointed out, the last report of the Department showed a good surplus of revenue over expenditure, and, therefore;, it does not seem necessary to restrict postal facilities to the extent that the Minister has done. The PostmasterGeneral might consider whether he is justified in cutting off the mail deliveries in districts that have enjoyed that convenience for upwards of twenty gears. If we were justified in having a delivery for all those yeaTs, there can be no reason for curtailing the facilities in that directien now.
There has been a great difficulty during the war im obtaining the material for telephones, and probably there is great difficulty to-day; but the fact remains that the telephone services in country districts are not all that could be desired. Many things clone by the Department in connexion with telephones do not meet with the approval of country residents. It has been pointed out by other speakers that during certain hours if is impossible to get the use of some telephones. “We, as a Parliament, must realize that the people in country districts are remote from centres of population, and practically isolated. They are the pioneers of the country, and everything should be done to give them every possible facility to bring them into closer touch with the larger centres of population. Nothing is more needed in country districts than telephone connexion, particularly in cases of sickness. Residents may have to send miles for a doctor, .and there may be a difficulty in getting the use of a telephone just when it is required. We should endeavour to make the telephones available at all times, so .that in cases of sickness people can sum mon a doctor at once. If that is done, the doctor can often, with his car, be on the spot before a messenger would have reached him. I give the PostmasterGeneral credit for economizing, but this is_ one of those matters where he has, perhaps, overdone it, or gone a little further than he intended. He does not realize the difficulties under which country people are labouring in consequence of his policy of economy. Representing a country district as he does, I am sure that he only needs to be appealed to to look into this matter and see if anything can be done in justice to these people.
Another question arising out of the policy of economy is the treatment of the officials in the post-offices. Many postal officials have complained to rae of late years that they are overburdened with work and cannot stand the strain much longer . I am assured that many men in the postal service .aire on the verge of a breakdown owing to their close ‘application to their work. We do not want that sort of thing. We only want men to do what is fair. If we consider the legislation we have passed in this chamber during the last seven or eight years, we must realize the great amount of additional work that has been cast on the postal officials. The payments for old-age, invalid, and war pensions, and military pay have -to be made by the postal officials, in addition to the work which they formerly did. It is evident, therefore, that a big extra burden has been placed on them. Whilst we ought to economize, and I give the PostmasterGeneral credit for what he has done in that direction, do not let us go to the other extreme of practically sweating our employees.
I wish also to bring under the notice of the Minister the position of those conducting semi-official post-offices. I doubt whether they get the remuneration, -to which they are entitled. A certain scale of payment was fixed for them, which may have been raised slightly lately, but in most cases the amount of remuneration always appeared to me inadequate for the work performed. In view of the increased cost of living, which means a good deal to these, people, something should be done to liberalize their allowances. They ought to have a fair increase of salary commensurate with the increase in the cost of living. It is not fair to expect our public servants, who give their time in the public interest, to maintain their positions on the salaries which obtained when living was 30 or 40 per cent, cheaper than it is to-day. I urge, the Postmaster-General to take all these matters into consideration with a view to doing justice, as I know he will endeavour to do, to country residents and postal officials.
– I am pleased to have the opportunity of speaking on this motion, although it came somewhat as a. surprise to me to find the business of the House taken out of the hands of the Government by one who took such a keen delight in expressing his appreciation of the Government. However, the opportunity’ is a good one to say several things that ought to be said. I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) a little while ago whether, when the Budget was being considered, he would favorably consider the placing of a sum on the Estimates for the purpose of giving better facilities to the people in the country. I think that is the attitude we ought to take up. Apparently, the policy of the Government is that the Postal Department must pay; but any one who takes an interest in Australia must realize that there is an obligation on this Parliament to provide facilities for the people who are pioneering the back country. In no other country in the world would Parliament neglect to grant those facilities ; but, from the first day the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) stepped into that office, so far as the back country in my electorate is concerned, we have had nothing but trouble. I cannot understand, I do not know whether to call it the assurance, or the audacity, or the senility, with which the Postmaster-General sent a circular letter to me telling me that Western Australia is a country with no complaints.
– It is quite true.
– It is absolutely untrue, because for the past four years I have been .doing nothing else but bring complaints before the honorable member. I wish to show the House something of the honorable member’s administration. It is the duty of the Government to try to ameliorate the conditions of the pioneers. I have instances of the way the Department has treated men who are 40, 50, or even 100 miles out in the bush. In one instance, the State spent £250,000 in constructing a railway, roads, and water supply to open up a new territory. It would have cost the PostmasterGeneral £5,500 to give those people a telephone. He refused it. If an accident or sickness occurs, they have to send from 50 to 100 miles for a doctor. If a breakdown in, the machinery takes place, days must elapse before they can send to the city to obtain new parts. Wo have had trains running on that line once a day; but the Postmaster-General refused to have mails carried on it until the State offered to carry them for nothing. I received this telegram: -
Premier Western Australia agrees carry local mails to and from stations between Wongan Hills and Mullewa free for time being, pending preparation new agreement. Instructions being issued accordingly. - (Signed) Oxenham.
We had to carry the mails free on that line for the purpose of getting a mail service, say, three times a week.
I wanted a telephone for a place called Belka, 10% miles from Bruce Rock. The railway was there, the posts were there to put the telephone wire on, and the permission, of the Railway Department was obtained. It would have cost the Postal Department £340 to give the ser- vice, but they told us that only if we made them a present of £310 might we get it. In another instance, away out from Carnarvon, amongst the station people, who were quite prepared to meet the Department and put up a deposit, they were told that they would have to provide .a deposit of £6S2 10s. 10d., which was equal to ten times the estimated deficiency That is the way they got their telephone.
I have had letter after letter with regard to mail services. In one instance the people were told by circular letter that if they subscribed £S odd each per annum they would have a monthly mail service. In another little country district where there was a deficiency of £40 a year on their service, they were told that if they contributed £20 a year they could have the service continued.
– No wonder there is a surplus !’
– Surplus or no surplus, surely that sort of thing is not necessary. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) pointed out the trend of population to the big cities. It is inimical to the best interests of the country to have the people crowding into the cities. It is the wealth produced in the back country that keeps the cities going, and we all feel that some concession should be made to the man who goes out back; but he does not get it. All the consideration is for the man in the city. The position is quite different in regard, to places which get one or two mails a day. Surely the people I am speaking of should be allowed to have a fortnightly or monthly mail without all these obstacles being placed in their way.
To show the desire of the Department to drag every little thing they can out of those who go into the bush, let me give the case of a man on a station about 60 miles south of Port Headland, and near the Port Headland-Marble Bar line. The Department have to carry the mails on that railway and pay the freight. This man had his private bag. There was no post-office near, and he would have to send in> every week and meet the .train to get his mail. He, naturally and fairly, pays £1 ls. a year to have a private mail bag, but the Department charges him £3 3s. also for the freightage on his mail, although it carries the mail further along to the next place without any ‘ extra charge. People in the cities get their mails without paying freight on them, but this man, who has to send 14 or 15 miles to pick up his bag. and return with it in time to catch the train on its return journey, not only pays £1 ls. a year for his bag, but is charged £3 3s. extra for freightage. There have been many instances of the same nature brought under my notice.
– It is really additional taxation.
– It is, and absolutely unfair taxation. The Government subsidizes a mail-boat to carry mails around the coast, but immediately a man goes into the interior and begins to produce some wealth, he is asked to pay a special tax. The ltd. stamp should carry a letter to any part of this country. If there is to be a distinct and determined policy on the part of the Government that the Postal Department shall pay, then it is the duty of this Parliament to insist that a. special vote be granted to the Minister for the purpose of providing for non-paying services. I have spoken to many honorable members on the Opposition side on the subject, and the great majority of them would strongly support a vote of that kind. When I discussed the matter with the Minister, he poohpoohed the idea.
– It is often done by the States in connexion with railways.
– Most decidedly. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) says that all these services should pay; but I do not agree with him. How can new country be opened up by means of a railway line if the line is expected to pay at once? In the early stages of a railway, where development is proceeding slowly, the line will not pay. What pays is the addition to the general wealth of the community. It is the people in the cities who profit by the development of the back country.
– Exactly; and they should be made to pay for it.
-It is only last year that the Sydney metropolitan telephone service paid. In 1915-16 there was a loss of over £100,000 on the Sydney telephone system alone. I do not find fault with the administration generally, but I hope that this discussion will do some good, and that the Minister will realize that the whole Parliament is desirous of giving concessions to people in the bush. It is only right, when the Budget is being prepared, that money should be procured in order to provide the facilities that have been clamoured for during the past four years, and give to the producer some of the benefits of civilization.
– I am waiting anxiously to hear what the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) has to say. I totally disagree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that the Post and Telegraph Department should be a paying concern. It is not intended to be a big business Department, but to extend the benefits of civdlization to the people in the back-blocks. People in the cities complain df they do not get three deliveries a day, but every week of my life there are brought under my notice intimations from the Department that services in the country are to be cut down. Between Araluen and Moruya, for instance, there has been a daily service for the last fifty years, but now it is proposed to be cut down to three times a week; and this is not an isolated case, for my experience is that of every country member. It is a foolish policy to wring money out of the people on the outposts of civilization in order to show a departmental surplus.
– How can we wring money out of people where services do notpay, and where money as lost ?
– Money can be wrung out of people by asking them to make contributions of £2 or £3, or even as low as £1, towards the cost of the services which otherwise are cut off. I have known the Department pull the telephone wires off posts because the people in the district would not contribute fey way of subsidy. It cannot be charged against the country workers for the Postal Department that they ask exorbitant pay for their services, because it is not unusual for some of them to even do the work for nothing, and many in charge of small offices work for eight or ten hours a week for a remuneration of £4 or £5 a year.
A man with a small station or farm, who has a telephone, uses it mainly to communicate with his agent in town regarding prices and so forth, but even in such’ cases the time during which the telephone may be used has been curtailed, so that there is no communication when the man returns to his home after 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening. Under such circumstances it is no wonder that we have the people coming from the country into the towns, as shown by the figures quoted by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). When I was in charge of the Department, and I could not afford posts, I caused the wires to be attached to trees and fences, earning for that the title of the “bush telephone”; and every means ought to be adopted to keep these people in the back-blocks in touch with their fellow creatures. Of course, I know that the Department is too big for any one man to manage every detail, but I do. blame the Postmaster-General for not seeing that all these matters are attended to by his officers. Then we have this stupid system of centralizing everything in Melbourne; indeed, if things go on as they are we shall be compelled to come to Melbourne to buy a stamp. Perhaps when we get to our legal home at Canberra we shall secure better administration, even in the matter of postal and telegraphic facilities.
– I like the word “legal”!
– I would not be in order, but I could prove that we, as a Parliament, are illegally in Melbourne to-day, and presently I may propose, in order tq test the question, that we put in our attendance at Canberra. Perhaps the greatest shock that the report of the Postmaster-General gave me was in connexion with the big surplus shown. As a matter of fact, there ought to be no surplus; if people pay for facilities the money ought to be used in improving the services, which I may say are not as good as they were ten years ago.
– If that money were so expended, the Department might be still self-supporting.
– Some honorable members suggest that the charges should be increased, but we all know that in normal times, in every country’, penny postage in three years or so has resulted in a greater aggregate revenue than twopenny postage. It is not increased charges, but the volume of business, that earns the revenue.
– But the expenses increase.
– Not in proportion. The truth of what I am going to say can be found on reference to the case of Canada and other countries when the charge for postage was reduced. I know, of course, that under war conditions there has been difficulty in obtaining material, and I am pleased to congratulate the Postmaster-General on his efforts to meet the position. I do hold the honorable member responsible, however, for cutting down the services. If this sort of thing goes on, we shall find Australia in the position of some recently discovered country with no inhabitants beyond the fringe of the coast. Honorable members may laugh or sneer, but thisis a serious matter. We know that in the country districts the arrival of the mail is an event bringing, as it does, newspapers, and keeping up a- connexion with the great centres of population. The Postmaster-General is certainly responsible for the insane idea of building up a surplus by means of cutting down conveniences. , During the last five years the services have been reduced, and the charges increased materially, and the latest move is to abolish the lettergrams which were established, T believe, by Mr. Agar Wynne, when he was Postmaster-General. Under this system telegrams of forty words for one shilling can be sent during the slack hours of the night, and delivered with the letters next morning, and this is certainly a great convenience. It is the policy of the Department I complain of. I do not blame the Postmaster-General for individual acts, but for not controlling the policy, which appears to me to be to cut down facilities at the expense of the country people especially.
In past years, under good conditions, mail contractors’ services were cut down to bedrock, and very often those employed do not get a living wage for carrying the mails. When chaff rose from £2 10s. to £10 a ton, and other fodder in proportion, it was pointed out that the men so employed were deserving of some consideration; but, although for months past I have been in communication with the Department on matters of the kind, nothing is done. It is absurd to tell men who are working for the Government at a loss, perhaps, of £2 or £3 a week, to look at the great surplus that has been heaped up. The Minister has to consider not so much the people in the cities, as those in isolated places, and where postal officials are very -poorly paid. Of such people he has had more experience, perhaps, than any man in the House, and, therefore, I appeal to him to treat them as they ought to be treated, for they are the real backbone of the country.
– I have no objection to raise to the course adopted by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) in bringing this subject before the House. My life for the past four years has been practically devoted to a maximum of work and a minimum of talk, so that I have had very little to say in the House on . postal matters.
The speeches made to-day, when analyzed, are contradictory in themselves. Honorable members suggest additional facilities, and urge the carrying on of unprofitable services, and yet, at the same time, they desire the Department to be run on business lines. So far from the position in postal matters being worse today than it was formerly, there are concessions that never were enjoyed before. In the days referred to by tie honorable member for Eden-Monaro ‘ (Mr. Austin Chapman), mail services had to pay, or were not granted, whereas to-day the Department bears 50 per cent, of any loss incurred. The same may be said of the telephone branch, and, in some cases, as much as 60 per cent, of the loss is borne by the Department. It will be seen that the statements made in this connexion are not borne out by the actual facts.
Some honorable members, as I have said, urge that the Department ought to be so administered as to pay, though the degree to which it should pay has not been indicated. If I were to follow the advice of some honorable members, it would be quite easy for the Department to slip into a deficit of £2,000,000 before we were hardly aware of the fact. It ought to be remembered that the bigger the concessions granted to sections of the people or to individuals, the less there is left to do justice to others and the community generally. My policy has been to administer the Department in such a way as to observe the Constitution of Australia; that is to say, I have tried- to give uniform concessions to all sections of the people.
The ‘constituency of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who has spoken so emphatically . to-day, has received more concessions than have been received by all the other electorates in Western Australia.
– Why should that be so?
– I am merely stating a fact, and, of course, the honorable member represents a big country electorate.
The honorable member for Grampians said a good deal about depopulating country districts, and about the drift of people to metropolitan areas, but I contend that nothing has had a greater tendency to bring about that result than the relaxation of the residential clauses in the land laws of the various States. It has permitted men to concentrate blocks, taken up by families, into large holdings, so that agricultural districts are again reverting into the old condition of affairs when the land was held by few individuals, returning little revenue to the Postal Department.
Continual re-adjustments must take place in administering the Department. Mining centres, which used to be thriving townships, have vanished, and the mail services which they were given in their prosperous days have had to go also. No honorable member would contend that I should continue, for the benefit of a few’ people and for the sake of getting a few shillings in revenue, a mail service which would have to be provided for a township. To do so would mean depriving other localities of equitable treatment. Wherever a large number of men have been employed at a forest saw-mill, postal facilities have been provided. But in time the forest is cut out, and the one or two people who remain as settlers on the cleared land cannot expect the same service as was provided for the saw-milling community. These two cases demonstrate how necessary it is to have constant readjustments.
The man who is intrusted with the administration of the Postal Department, and is prepared to respond .to every appeal mad© by honorable members regardless of what it may mean to the future of the Department or to the future of Australia, will become popular. He will make a name for himself. But at whose expense? He can only do it at the expense of the general taxpayer. I am not seeking that popularity. I am simply endeavouring to do what is equitable and right between all parties. The equity of every regulation framed is properly assessed, and, when once it is gazetted, I endeavour to do what any Minister, who has regard for his Ministerial oath, should do - I try to carry it out equitably and fairly as between all parties concerned. There is no other course open to a PostmasterGeneral, unless he is prepared to make “ ducks and drakes “ of the policy of his Department.
I wish to’ put a question to those gentlemen who’ are my critics, friendly, I admit. If the position that existed in the years 1913-14 and 1914-15, when there were deficits of over £500,000 each year, had gone on for the four years of war, can they imagine what reductions would have been necessary ? They would have paralyzed the whole of the facilities of the Department. Otherwise a tremendous increase in rates would have been necessary to meet the constantly growing deficit that formerly characterized the balancesheets of the Department. The situation was saved by exercising economy - not by reducing country services, but by the application of clear and scientific economy in every way, by knocking off waste wherever it was discovered, and by lay- ing down a better system for the future. Had that not been done honorable members would have been called upon to vote on a Bill to increase the postal rates to a very large extent; or their constituents would have been called upon to submit to a serious reduction of the facilities which they are now enjoying. I have avoided that possibility. I say it, with all modesty. However, one does not know what the year is going to bring forth until the figures are totted up. I do not know how the figures will tot up this year, but I am hopeful that whatever saving is effected, it will be placed at my disposal for the provision of services which I deem to be essential for the wellbeing of the Department, and the welfare of its employees.
– Is not the Post and Telegraph Department the one to which Ministers look when they wish to effect a saving ?
– There is no other Post Office in the world, to my knowledge, that renders the facilities at the price at which they are given in Australia today ; . no other that gives the concessions which are given in Australia to-day; no other that has not shown each year a profit on the working of the Department. All this talk about the principle underlying departmental administration in post-office management does not “ cut any ice “ when comparison is made with the practice and custom of the world.
– We are not discussing that matter ; we are discussing country services.
– I am discussing what is proper administration in a Department of this kind. I have listened to the remarks of honorable members, and I have answered them in my communications to them. I say what I mean in my letters without any ambiguity ; and even if honorable members prefer to do so, there is no need for me to occupy the time of Parliament in replying to every little matter . they choose to bring forward on behalf of their electors.
During the war, there has been abnormal expenditure in the Postal Department, amounting to considerably over £1,000,000. That was paid out of revenue, but not by cutting down country services. It is true that country services are being curtailed, but that is done in order to preserve other services for the people. Honorable members grumbled because I worked officers all day at a pittance; but when I seek to reduce their hours to something practicable, to something that will enable them to devote the time off to some other purpose, and so that the pittance may be more like an adequate reward for the services they give to the Department, I am told that I am endeavouring to rob the community of some facility.
– Cannot people use the telephone after hours if they pay special fees?
– Of course, they can do it at any time. Honorable members forget that a little while after I took over the control of the Department, I extended the closing hour of the telephone centres in farming districts from 6 o’clock p.m. to 8 o’clock p.m. in all offices that could show a reasonable business within those extended hours; but it is all forgotten. During the pre-war time, honorable members came to my predecessors, and pressed for all kinds of concessions. Some of them ought never to have been granted. They have not paid a tithe of what they cost. There are cases in which I have been asked to continue a receiving postmaster at £5 a year, when he is no longer delivering letters to any person but himself. That is not an uncommon, occurrence.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The help of the States for detailed allotment to towns, districts, and institutions would bo valuable; but, as stated, arrangements have not yet been made.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Can the Minister furnish the House with a rough estimate of the amount due, or to accrue, to the Wheat Pool on sales of wheat made to various buyers, so as to enable the wheatgrowers, whose finances are involved on the value of their scrip, to estimate whether there is any, and if so what, surplus likely . to be available after payment of the overdraft so frequently announced by the Wheat Board?
-my colleague, the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell), who is Chairman of the Wheat Board, will make a statement on this subject when moving the second reading of - the Commercial Activities Bill in another place.
Grants - Faulty Rifles and Ammunition
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will take into consideration, now that the war is over, the placing on the Estimates of an amount equal to that provided before the war by way of grants or prizes to rifle clubs and associations of the Commonwealth to encourage returned soldiers and others to attend rifle practice, and maintain the highest degree of efficiency?
– This matter will be considered in connexion with the Estimates for 1919-20, now being prepared.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government inquire fully into the matter with a view to terminating such control ?
– The American Paper Combine is unknown to the Government. I may, however, state that a contract was made by the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, in 1917, with Messrs: Carmichael and Company, Sydney, for the carriage from Powell River, Canada, of 26,000 tons of paper. Of this quantity, owing to the urgent necessity of sending vessels to the United Kingdom with foodstuffs, the steamers owned by the Commonwealth Government carried 15,325 tons.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the great increases in prices since the fixation of prices has been practically removed, will he request the Cabinet . to issue instructions to their Departments to assist any State that is introducing legislation to prevent profiteering in order to bring about a coordination between the Commonwealth and the States?
– Any application f rom a State for assistance, coming through the proper channels, will be given full consideration by the Government.
Conduit Works - Manufacture of CB. Telephones - Allowance to Mail Contractors.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneraL upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The problem of relief to mail contractors in drought areas is a complex and difficult one, as the degree of alleged loss varies in every case, involving analysis which would be costly and intricate. When I am able to present a concrete case to Cabinet I will not delay in so doing.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he have inquiries made, and supply a comparative statement for the information of the House, showing in parallel columns the pensions with allowances of all kinds paid to soldiers and sailors and their dependants by the Governments of Great Britain, the United States of America, Australia, and New Zealand?
– An endeavour will be made to obtain the information desired by the honorable member, and to furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the serious situation that has arisen in regard to the present price of leather in Australia, will he say what conditions are at present operating in connexion with the export of hides and leather?
– The Collector of Customs in each State has been instructed that permits for the exportation of both hides and leather may be issued, provided the leather inspector recommends exportation, and the Collector be satisfied by statutory declaration in each instance that such hides and leather as it is desired to export have been offered at current market rates to and declined by local manufacturers who use the class of leather or hides concerned.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will make provision to exempt from future taxation income derived from personal exertion by sailors and soldiers who served in the recent war?
Mr. POYNTON (for Mr. Watt).This matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
– On the 31st July the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) asked the following question: -
It is reported in the press that woollen and other goods no longer required by the Defence Department are being distributed to the various charitable institutions in Melbourne. In view of the fact that no such distribution has taken place in some of the other States, notably Western Australia, will the Assistant Minister for Defence see that a similar allocation takes place in all the States, on a proportionate basis?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Standing instructions that blankets and garments of no further use for military purposes were to be distributed free to charitable institutions in all States have been in existence since 1911, and have ‘been re-promulgated from time to time since.
The Military Commandant, Western Australia, has been called upon for report on the assertion that no distribution has been made in that State.
– On the 1st inst. the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) referred to the matter of the recognition of the services of officers and non-commissioned officers who were engaged in what is known as “ conducting work.” I am now able to state that -
The conditions of issue of medals are controlled by the Imperial authorities, and approved by His Majesty the King.
The honorable member may rest assured that full consideration will bo given by the War Office to all question’s.
The conditions of issue of the British War Medal have not yet reached Australia. They will be published as soon as they arrive.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) asked the following question: -
Will the Assistant Minister for Defence consider the advisability of presenting a badge to women who went to the Front, and who were in the war zone, as something to indicate that, like the men, they have risked their lives?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The only women who proceeded to the Front with . the Australian Imperial Force were members of the Australian Army Nursing Service, who are entitled to, and issued with, the returned soldiers’ badge, under the same conditions as other Australian Imperial Force personnel.
Members of the Australian Army Nursing Service who satisfy the conditions prescribed will receive the War Medals issued to other Army personnel.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following question: -
Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that some of those Australians who were abroad at the beginning of the war, and rushed to England to enlist, are now returning, and are not being given the same privileges as if they had enlisted here? One told me that he could not get even a pass to take him from the port wherehe landed to hishome.
I promised to make inquiries, and am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information: -
Eeturning Australians who have been serving with the Imperial Forces are usually in possession of a “ repatriation document “ issued by the Imperial authorities prior to their em-barkation, which gives full particulars, including destination, of the individual. On production of this form, the Defence Department issues the necessary railway or steamer warrant, also, in some instances, “ sustenance money.” Railway or steamer . warrants are also provided for dependants travelling with the soldier.
Similar railway privileges to those granted to returning members of the Australian Imperial Force are also granted by the State Government Railways in such cases. If the individual referred to by the honorable member will apply to the Defence Department, his case will be inquired into.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th August, vide page 11299):
The War Precautions (Active Service Moratorium) Regulations ….
– I move -
That after paragraph 9 the following paragraph be inserted : - 9a. - (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in these regulations, any Court may, upon the application of the mortgagor or purohasermade not less than one monthbefore the date to which the payment of -
the principal money securedby a mortgage, or
the purch ase money (or any instalment thereof) payable under an agreement, has been postponed under these regulations (in this regulation referred to as “the prescribed date for payment”) make an order, on such terms and conditions (if any) as the Court thinks fit, extending the date for payment of the principal money, purchase money, or instalment, as the case may be, for a further period of not more than twelve months, and may fix the intervals of time and rate at which interest is payable during such further period.
In this regulation “the Court” means the High Court, or the Supreme Court of a State, or a County or District Court, or a Local Court consisting of a special or stipendiary magistrate.
An application under this regulation, other than an application to a Local Court, may be made on summons, which must be served on, or by motion, which must be notified to, such persons as the Court considers entitled thereto, or ex parte in any case in which, by reason of special circumstances, the Court considers such procedure to , be just and equitable; and an application to a Local Court may te made on summons, which must be served on all persons affected by the application at least sevenclear days before the day appointed for the hearing of the application.
An application under this regulation shall not he granted unless the Court is satisfied
that the obligation to repay the prin cipal sum, purchase money, or instalment, as the case may be, by the prescribed date for payment would involve serious hardship to the mortgagor or purchaser;
that the conduct of the mortgagor or purchaser in respect of dealings with the mortga.geo or vendor has not been such as to render him undeserving of the benefit or protection of this regulation; and
that the granting of the application would not seriously embarrass the mortgagee or vendor.
The jurisdiction conferred onthe Court by this regulation may be exercised by a Justice or Judge of the Court sitting either , in Court or in chambers, or, in the case of a Local Court, by a special or stipendiary magistrate.
The Court may make all such orders in the matter of the application, including any order as to costs, as, having regard to the objects of these regulations and the circumstances of the case, it deems proper:
Provided that the costs of the application shall bo borne by the applicant unless, from the circumstances of the case, the Court thinks fit to order otherwise.
The order of the Court upon any such application shall be. final; and no order or direction, whether interlocutory or final, in the matter of any such motion, and no other proceeding under this regulation, shall be appealed against, questioned, or reviewed in any manner whatsoever, or be restrained or removed by prohibition, injunction, certiorari, or otherwise howsoever.
Where, in pursuance of this regulation, a Court has made an order extending for any period the date for payment of any instalment payable under any agreement, the Court may, by the same or a subsequent order, extend for a like period the date for payment of any subsequent instalment payable under that agreement, and fix the intervals of time and rate at which interest is payable during that period.
The effect of this amendment is to provide that in cases of hardship arising under the active service moratorium regulations an extension may be made by the Court in favour of any person entitled to make application. ‘This provision is similar to one made in the general moratorium regulations.
– In what respect does the amendment differ from the original provision ?
– Under regulations 3 and 4 of the second schedule the time for the payment of any principal moneys secured by a mortgage of land contracted by a member or the female dependant of a member of the Forces before the date on which he became a member, or before 1st January, 1916, whichever last happened, is postponed so that the payment falls due six months after the cessation of the war, as declared by the GovernorGeneral by proclamation, or six months after the discharge of the member of the Forces, or his death, before discharge, whichever last happens. This new regu- lation will give power to grant a further extension, so that in case of hardship an extension for twelve months may be allowed.
Amendment agreed to.
Second schedule, as amended, agreed to.
.- I should like to be permitted at this stage to ask the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) whether, under the amendment which has just been made in the second schedule, it will be necessary for an application for an extension of time to be heard in open Court.
– The procedure will be exactly the same as under the general moratorium regulations. Application may be made by motion in Court or by summons in chambers for an extension of the time of payment for a period of twelve months on the grounds of hardship.
– But will it be necessary in such a case to be heard in open Court?
– It will be open to an applicant to proceed by way of motion in Court or by way of summons in chambers.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [4.48]. - Are. we to understand from the Acting Attorney-General that an application for an extension of the time of payment cannot be heard by a police magistrate in Victoria?
– That is so.
– Has not a police magistrate in Victoria the jurisdiction of a stipendiary magistrate in the other States?
– In South Australia, for instance, what is known as the Local Court is presided oyer, not by a Judge, as in the case of the Victorian County Court, which has a similar jurisdiction, but by’ a stipendiary magistrate.
Mr.FENTON. - If it is competent for a stipendiary magistrate in certain States to deal with such applications, why should we not empower police magistrates in Victoria to deal with them?
– Because they have a different jurisdiction. The South Australian Local Court and the Queensland District Court have the same jurisdiction that the Victorian County Court possesses.
Preamble agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the Bill be now recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 3.
In Committee- (Recommittal) :
Clause 3 consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Standing Orders suspended; reports adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I am not satisfied with the explanation made by the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) regarding the Court to which applications for extension of mortgages must be made. In Victoria the County Courts sit only at certain periods and in widely-separated centres, and many mortgagors who desire extensions will be required to travel long distances in order to attend the County Court at places like Ballarat, Bendigo, and Hamilton, whereas if the Bill made provision for these applications to be heard before a police magistrate the facilities would be greatly (increased. When reading the schedule, I was of opinion that a stipendiary magistrate in any State was equivalent to a police magistrate in Victoria. The Acting AttorneyGeneral stated, however, that a stipendiary magistrate in South Australia isa magistrate possessing powers equal to those of a County Court Judge in Victoria. Of course, appearance in a County Court is much more expensive than appearance in a Police Court. In Victoria a police magistrate has charge of a certain circuit, and in most towns of any importance mortgagors will be able to readily submit their applications to a police magistrate, who, as a rule, is a person well trained in common law. By requiring that these applications be heardin the County Court, we shall involve in considerable expense a. large number of comparatively poor people who may desire to have their mortgages extended. I ask the Acting Attorney-General to further consider this matter, in order to see if he cannot have an amendment made in another place to provide that in Victoria, at any rate, a police magistrate shall be able to hear the applications of men who have borrowed money and desire an extension of their mortagages.
– Probably all the applications will be dealt with by affidavit before the County Court Judge sitting in Chambers.
Mr.FENTON. - If persons in remote districts are required to take their applications before a County Court Judge, they will be compelled to incur considerable expense and loss of time.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) that, if these applications are restricted to County Courts, . and the applicants must attend in person, great inconvenience and expense will be entailed. But if the whole of the work can be done by affidavit, and without personal attendance, my objection is removed. In a district like Wimmera, County Courts sit in only a few widely-separated centres, at which it will be expensive and inconvenient for many applicants to attend. Many persons would rather suffer the hardship of having their mortgage called up, and being obliged to make a new arrangement, than attend personally in open Court, and disclose their whole business. Will the Minister give the House an assurance that applicants need not attend personally?
Mr.Fenton. - In any case, what is the objection to allowing these cases to be heard before a Police Magistrate?
– I agree that the Police Magistrates of Victoria are highly trained men, and fully competent to deal with any question of this kind.
– They are not all above suspicion.
– Their reputation is beyond suspicion.
– Justices of the peace sit in Police Courts.
– Provision could be made for these . applications . to be dealt with by a Police Magistrate exclusively. It is competent for applicants for an oldage pension to have their applications heard by a Police Magistrate, who forwards his recommendation to the Commissioner. A similar consideration should be extended to those who desire bo apply for an extension of their mortgages. If the Acting Attorney-General will assure the House that it will be competent for persons to make applications by . affidavit, . and that they will not be required to attend the Court in person, my objections on the grounds of publicity, inconvenience and expense will be answered. If, however, personal attendance is necessary, applications should be heard before a Police Magistrate sitting privately.
– Ordinarily speaking, mortgages and matters of that kind are outside the jurisdiction of Police Magistrates. We are seeking to get the cheapest possible tribunal capable of dealing with these cases. We have already provided that -
In this regulation “ the Court “ means the High Court, or the Supreme Court of the State, or a County or District Court, or a Local Court consisting of a Special or Stipendiary Magistrate. . . . . the jurisdiction conferred on the Court by this regulation may be exercised by a Justice or Judge of the Court sitting either i,n Court or in Chambers, or in the case of a Local Court, by a Special or Stipendiary Magistrate.
If an applicant wishes to go into Court and appear personally before a Judge, he can take advantage of the County or District Courts, which sit fairly frequently.
– But in widely separated centres.
-In. Victoria and in Queensland, the County Court Judge sits in Chambers all the year round, and if a man so desires he may take out a summons before a Judge in Chambers and have the case dealt with on the affidavits and documents.
Mr.Sampson. - His personal attendance will not be necessary
– Not unless be is subpoenaed. As a rule, the machinery of the County Court is very simple. When a summons is taken out, the application is heard on the affidavits and documents, whether or not the applicant is in personal attendance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time. “ It is certain that henceforth the most powerful nation will be, not that which possesses the most extensive territory, nor that which has the largest population, but that which is most industrious, most skilful, best educated, most capable of utilizing all the means and forces that science can place at man’s disposal,and which enable him to triumph over matter. The greatest producer amongst nations may become the foremost power . of the world.” Those words are taken from a report of a French Commission on technical education, which was issued in 1863. In a recent article in an English magazine those words were quoted as particularly applicable to the present conditions of the United Kingdom. They are equally applicable to the present conditions of Australia. In these post-war days, we are strongly urged to increase the production of the Commonwealth. We are assured that the burden of national debt will press heavily upon us, and that the only way to increase the standard of living and meet our national obligations is to increase our production. It is in the belief that science can aid in increasing production that this Bill is introduced. National prosperity depends upon two things - our possession of natural resources, and ability to use them to the fullest extent. The natural resources that Australia possesses are well known.
There is a wide variety of climate, . and great diversity of soil. Mineral deposits are scattered throughout the continent. Almost any plant useful to man can be grown somewhere in Australia. What we should aim at are the utilization and conservation of our resources to the fullest extent possible, and their preservation from destruction by pests or diseases of any kind. Our capacity to use the natural resources which the Almighty has placed at our disposal depends upon two things - the education of our people to engage in industries, and the possession of knowledge. The highest knowledge should be available, so that we may employ it in connexion with all the industries that we establish here. There is an increasing spread of technical education throughout the Commonwealth. The States are more and more taking up the development of agricultural education, and the general policy of Australia, through the States, is to educate and train the students in our schools more and more, and to increase more and more the practical and scientific side of education. But in ad-‘ dition to that, knowledge in its highest scientific form must - be applied in connexion with industries. That knowledge must be obtained by means of a properly constituted organization, which will enable the introduction as quickly as possible of the latest inventions and discoveries, the latest information regarding experiments connected with plant life and diseases affecting animals and plants, and the latest processes . in connexion with manufactures. The object of this Bill is to establish in Australia an institution which will assist to bring scientific knowledge, information, and experience to bear upon the practical development of production and manufacture. That is, generally speaking, the object of the measure.
A glance at the figures showing the production of Australia will indicate what this means to us. In 1916 our production represented a value of £270,427,000, made up in this way:Agriculture, £60,207,000 ; pastoral, £89,940,000; dairy, poultry, and beefarming, £26,949,000; forestry and fisheries, £5,505,000 ; mining, £23,621,000; and manufactures, £64,205,000. How can production be increased and existing industries be preserved? Australia has large numbers of sheep, cattle, horses and pigs. It is our duty, not only to preserve these flocks and herds, but to increase them. They are liable to devastation by disease. The latest number of the Journal of the Institute of Science and Industry states that the tick pest alone represented a loss of something like £7,000,000 to the Common wealth. If by some scientific means we can combat diseases of that kind-
– Have we not been trying for years in Queensland to find a remedy?
– I hope Queensland will go on trying; but success has not yet been achieved. It is our duty to see if that heavy loss cannot be prevented. What we save by prevention- is added to our wealth, and this applies to various forms of industry. It is well known that there is a large destruction of sugar-cane in Queensland by pests. The fruit-fly has affected various part3 of Queensland, and put whole orchards out of cultivation. There are pests that affect the plant life of other States. Whatever can be saved by the aid of science will add to production, and enable us to bear the burden which we must inevitably face after the war. Almost every civilized country is now organizing some sort of Institute of Science, or increasing its Department of Agriculture, or some other branch of its governmental activities, in order to encourage research and promote the application of science to industry. The United States of America Department of Agriculture was constituted as far back as 1862.
– That is largely a State matter.
– It is essentially Federal, but itacts in complete cooperation with the State Departments. By working in complete harmony, the authorities in that country secure the highest form of efficiency. Since its establishment, that Department has acquired immense prestige and influence. Its activities cover the whole field of agriculture, and it has become the world’s greatest institution for the protection and advancement of that great industry. Its expenditure in 1916 was £5,608,308. It paid in salaries to its officers, £2,087,358. It is estimated that its total expenditure has . been recouped to the nation ten times over in the form of increased primary production.
– All these big things happen in America!
– I am glad to say that there are some big things in other parts of the world.
In Canada, with a population of not more than 8,000,000, there has been established a large and influential Department of Agriculture, which disburses annually over £1,000,000. Competent Canadian authorities estimate that the work of that Federal Department has returned millions per annum to the nation in the form of increased production.
In the United Kingdom, for some time, things scientific were not as fully encouraged as they might have been, especially in connexion with agriculture. In 1916, the money voted for the British Board of Agriculture amounted only to £341,648, and for salaries to £146,118. But on 23rd June, 1919, it was announced in the press that the Imperial Government had established a Bureau of Agriculture, and proposed to spend £2,000,000 on agricultural investigation and research. This shows how the British authorities appreciate the value of the application of science to industry, and the necessity for expending money upon research and investigation.
This subject is not altogether a new one in the Commonwealth of Australia, as those who were in the first Parliamentknow. In the first Federal campaign in 1901, the necessity for the Commonwealth to take some action in this direction was advocated on the public platform. In the House of Representatives, on the 28th June, 1901, Sir John Quick moved -
That, in the opinion of this House, a National Department of Agriculture and Productive Industries, on the same lines as that of the United States of America, ought to be organized and maintained in connexion with the Government of the Commonwealth.
Other members advocated the same idea, They included the then honorable member for Indi, now Mr. Justice Isaacs My own father advocated it on the platform before he came into the House; and other members expressed the same view. On the 3rd November, 1904, the following motion was carried : -
That, in the opinion of this House, in order to promote the primary industries of Australia, a Federal Department of Agriculture ought to be established at an early date.
That proposal later on received the support of the Reid-McLean Government. The Deakin Government, in 1907. prepared a Bill, and a special memorandum was drafted setting out its purposes. This memorandum was issued on 31st May, 1907. On 31st March, 1908, at Gympie, the Bight Honorable Andrew Fisher, in his policy speech, expressed the opinion that we needed an Agricultural Bureau for the investigation of various matters, and the dissemination of information concerning them. The Bill came before the House in 1909, and again in 1913.
These facts show that the idea underlying this Bill is not of recent growth, but that such a measure has long been realized as a necessity.
– We carried the Bill to establish a Bureau of Agriculture.
– Yes, in this House, in 1913 ; and I am showing that all parties were’ practically unanimous on the principle of investigation and research work in connexion with the Department of Agriculture.
– But, from what we know, this Bill is altogether different from that previous measure.
– The honorable member will realize that the condition of Australia in 1919 is not the same as it was in 1907; the whole country has moved, and there have been enormous developments and expansion; but, in the maim, this Bill covers the same ground as regards primary production. It is to be hoped that this Parliament will grow with the nation, and be prepared to meet the growing need and necessity of the Commonwealth.
This is essentially a practical measure. Honorable members know that many discoveries in science have been made in pure research work having no utilitarian object in view. In a recent work there is enumerated the practical inventions now in operation which were not the result of a deliberate intention to discover them, but are the Tesults of investigations in pure science. Amongst these may be enumerated wireless telegraphy, the telephone, the aeroplane, radium, antiseptics and antitoxins, spectrum analysis, and the X-rays. But the object of the Bill is not to create an institution and appoint men to engage in research work without a utilitarian objective. Certain specific problems exist, and experts- will be engaged in scientific work with a view of finding a solution of those problems for the benefit of Australia. Australia will have to face its own problems, and have them solved by its own men. Other nations are similarly engaged, and their problems may or may not be the same as our own. We have to train our own men in our own scientific institutions to assist inhandling Australian problems from a scientific point of view. It is not right and proper that the opportunities here should be so limited that young Australians trained here should be compelled to go to different parts of the world and engage in scientific pursuits, with the. result that they are probably lost to this country.
– Some may come back.
– That is so, and may enrich Australia by reason of their travels. At the same time, we have our own local problems.
– . Surely other countries can help us to solve them.
– That is quite true; and Australia’s duty is to do its part from its own point of view in helping the world in the solution of our own and the world’s problems.
Science is not parochial. If there is anything international, it is science; and scientific men, as a rule, pay very little regard to national boundaries. If this institution is to fulfil its purpose, it must keep in touch with institutions in other parts of the world, and cause to be brought to Australia the latest knowledge applicable to industrial production.
– I hope it will, at the same time, send men abroad.
– It ought to do that. The United States of America institution of the kind has its representatives travelling constantly, and engaging in research work all over the world. That is an institution on a very extensive scale, and it may be some years before the Australian institution develops to the same extent.
I should like to give a few illustrations supplied to .me by Mr.. E. A. V. Richardson, Superintendent of Agriculture in Victoria, to show the practical value of such a scientific institution in enriching the country. During the past twenty years many thousands of varieties of seeds and plants ‘have been introduced into the United States of America, and many of these have resulted in the establishment of industries, the money-earning value of which amounts to many millions per annum. These introductions have been made, bv the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction. Among many of the introductions that might be mentioned as of commercial importance are the Durum wheats, Swedish barleys, Russian oats, special dry and cold-resisting varieties of lucerne, Sudan grass, grain sorghums. These are now extensively grown in the United States of America, and have added greatly to production. As the agricultural interests of Australia develop, the introduction of new varieties of cereals, forages, and grasses wild become increasingly important. ‘Competent authorities estimate that millions of pounds annually have been added to the agricultural production of the country by the breeding of new and improved strains of wheat, barley, oats, sugar beet, longstaple cotton, flax, potatoes, and forage crops. Plant-breeding investigations have been unusually successful. Fungoid and insect diseases cause immense damage to farm crops, e.g., smut in wheat, Irish blight in potatoes, and various diseases of fruit trees, and takeall in wheat. In these cases the life his tory of the parasite has been worked out by the plant pathologists, and these diseases can now be effectively controlled; and it is estimated that the benefit reaped by the agricultural industries runs into millions of pounds. The essential point is that the control of these diseases was only possible by the scientific study of the life history of each pest. That is the only way, aud this must be done by trained scientific investigators. Enormous loss occurred in the United States of America, caused by preventable diseases. The losses to the live-stock industry by preventable animal diseases in the United States of America exceeds £28,000,000 annually. The amount lost prior to the establishment of the Bureau of Animal Industry was estimated at nearly double this sum. Dr. Mohler, head of the Bureau of Animal Industry, says that the losses due to cattle tick in 1906 were estimated at £20,000,000. In 1916, the estimated losses were £8,000,000, and 52 per cent, of the tick-infested country has been completely cleared of cattle tick. Similar work has been done in the repression of hog cholera, tuberculosis, and pleuro-pneumonia. ‘ In 1907, the losses through hog cholera amounted to £14,000,000. In 1916, the losses were reduced to £5,000,000. The work of the Bureau of Animal Industry has resulted in an annual saving to the live-stock industries of ten to twenty times the money expended by the Bureau. Here, in Australia, the annual losses in live stock through pleuro-pneumonia, contagious abortion, tick and worm nodules in cattle, blowfly, fluke and braxy in sheep, run into millions per annum. These diseases do not recognise State boundaries; and if a better method of control could be evolved, the saving to the livestock industries would be enormous.
The Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station has been conspicuous by its application of science to the dairy industry. It is demonstrable that the added wealth of the State of Wisconsin each year, as a result of the activities of the experiment station, is many times the whole appropriation made by Wisconsin for higher education. Of the seven tests widely used in dairying, six have originated or have been improved at the Wisconsin Station.
The Babcock Fat Test, invented in 1890, furnished a simple means of paying for milk on the basis of quality, and for detecting fraud. It is stated that it saved the factory system of buttermaking from ruin.
I do not wish to weary the House with more- illustrations, for the enormous practical value of investigations of the kind must be obvious to honorable members, meaning, as they do, greatly increased production and added wealth.
– The tale you are telling would make the House believe that the States have done nothing.
– I am not disparaging the good work that has been already done in Australia, and I shall deal with that phase of the question presently.
Notwithstanding the fact that during the past twenty-five years the progress of settlement in Australia has necessitated the utilizing of immense areas of country much poorer than that which has been hitherto cultivated, we find that not only has the average yield of .wheat per acre been maintained, but that it has actually been considerably increased. Taking the averages over five-year periods, we find that for the past five years the average yield of oats per acre has actually decreased by 10.3 per cent., as compared with the quinquennium 1886 to 1890. The average barley yields have increased only 6.3 per cent., and maize by 3.3 per cent., during the past twenty -five years.
But what of wheat? Despite the bringing under crop of enormous areas of poor land with a low rainfall, the average yield per acre during the past twenty-five years has actually increased by 33.4 per cent. Now, as wheat is the only crop on which scientific attention has been directed, these facts are certainly very significant. The increased results in wheat have been brought about partly by the increased use of superphosphate, but in no small measure by the work of a Cambridge University graduate, William Farrer. Working as a specialist in New South Wales, Farrer fixed a new variety of wheat that was destined to become the most popular variety in Australia, and greatly increased the yield in the Commonwealth.
– Does the Minister think it necessary to tell us the value of research work 1
– I think it is advisable to lay these facts before the House, and the test of their value will be seen in the vote given on the Bill.
– Will you tell us why you wish to superimpose this institution on the institutions of the States ?
– I shall deal with that matter presently, and I feel sure of the support of a man so deeply imbued as the honorable member is with the necessity for agricultural research work. I should now like to give an illustration of what has been done in Australia by Professor Lefroy, a representative of the British Wheat Commission, to show the value of the services of a highly -trained, scientific man in problems of the kind. Owing to the great shortage in shipping to Australia during the war, the immense quantities of wheat lying at the seaboard have been subjected to the ravages of weevil. At one time it appeared as if the losses that would result from this pest would run to several millions sterling. No effective method of dealing with weevil in large stacks had been known prior to 1916. Professor Lefroy visited Australia on behalf of the British Government, and devised a practical method of treating grain by sterilizing it at a temperature of 140 degrees for three minutes. This treatment killed all the weevil and weevil eggs, but did not affect the milling qualities of the grain. This treatment is now being effectively applied to the whole of the grain stored at the ports, and has resulted in the saving of large sums of money. May I give another illustration ? This, I am sure, will appeal to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), because the young man to whom I refer - Dr. Hargreaves - as a native of Ipswich, Queensland, a scholar of the Grammar School there, arid a student of the Melbourne University, who is now engaged in South Australia. After very careful scientific investigation he was able to demonstrate that weevils in stacks of grain could be destroyed by covering the stacks with malthoid, and asphyxiating them with a mixture of nitrogen and carbon di-oxide. This simple discovery has been applied to weevil -infested wheat stacks in South Australia and Victoria, with the result that damage amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds has been avoided. It shows the value of applying science. That was the work of a young Australian, a State school boy, who worked his way up to the University by gaining scholarships.
– Will he be employed by our Institute?
– The Institute will employ the best men available. It is estimated that stock diseases cause an annual toll of several millions of pounds to Australia. Many of these are preventable. In others the nature of the disease has not been definitely ascertained. There is a fine field for investigational work as to the nature and control of these diseases, and if the diseases could be controlled the live stock industry of Australia would benefit to the extent of several millions annually. These are the diseases in stock to which our scientific men may apply themselves: -
Tick, contagious abortion, pleuropneumonia, worm nodules in cattle, blowfly and braxy in sheep.
The solution of any one of these problems would bring about a saving to the community that would more than pay the cost of the projected Institute for the next decade. I will not trouble the House with a list of the diseases affecting plant life, but those honorable members who represent country districts know the ravages of these diseases.
– There is a limitless field for investigation in that regard.
– There is no more informative illustration of the application of science and research to production than is to be found in connexion with the investigation into the disease of phylloxera. Honorable members are all well acquainted with the ravages of that disease. It is well known how the vines were destroyed in France, how a diseaseresisting vine was found in the United
States of America which restored the prosperity of the vignerons in France, and how we in Australia were glad to take advantage of the researches of that country in order to establish our vinegrowing industry upon a proper footing. Between 1862 and 1884 no less than 2,500,000 acres of vines were destroyed in France - the total damage being £400,000,000. I am showing what scope there is in Australia for this class of investigation. In the first place; it is not intended by me or by the Government to cast any reflection upon the good work already done in Australia by the various Departments of Agriculture, or the experts employed by them. The work done is worthy of all praise. No scheme for a Federal Bureau can anticipate success, unless it works in complete harmony and co-operation with the State Departments, taking the fullest advantage of what they are doing, and confining itself mainly to what ought to be a national function, namely, investigation and research on the scientific side.
We may classify the work of the Bureau of Science and Industry and that of State Departments under three headings: - First, research and investigation; second, education; and third, administration. These three things are essential, and in a Federation where there are divided powers, part belonging to the Commonwealth and part to the States, it is necessary to organize the functions of both authorities, according to the original intention of the Constitution, and see that the Commonwealth utilizes the agencies of the States in complete harmonious cooperation for the good of the whole of the people of Australia. There are many duties which properly belong to the Commonwealth. Quarantine, dealing as it does with all diseases affecting plants and animals coming from abroad, is a Commonwealth function. The Postal Department, which can carry information all over Australia, is a Commonwealth Department. The Meteorological Department, which in the United States is a branch of the Bureau of Agriculture, is also a Commonwealth Department. There are also Commonwealth. Territories to be administered. In the Customs Department, another Commonwealth activity, there is scientific work to be done in the way of analysis, and we are particularly fortunate in having in that Department one of the best analytical chemists obtainable anywhere.
– Will he be employed by this Institute?
– I hope the Commonwealth will always find the fullest scope for his activities and abilities*
– I am pleased to hear it, because he is one of lie best men in his profession in Australia.
– There is also Federal control of exports and imports. Those are Federal activities. Let us take, first of all, the administrative work of scien tific investigation. It is the function of the Quarantine Department to prevent diseases coming into Australia, but When it comes to a question of eradicating an established disease and employing officers to inspect orchards, we have what is essentially a State function. The States have the organization for carrying out that work, and, generally speaking, there is no necessity for the Commonwealth to attempt to carry out local administrative Work. That can. effectively be ‘Carried out by the various States through the institutions which they have already established. When we deal with educational work, obviously, as the States have all the educational machinery, such as agricultural colleges, universities, high schools, and even primary schools, where a good deal of foundation work can be done, that also is essentially a State function. But when we come to research and investigation work, which is carried out either’ in laboratories, or in the field, or in experimental stations, we have a branch where there is need for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. The’ States already have experimental stations, so that there is no need for the Commonwealth to unnecessarily duplicate these establishments. There is necessity, however, for the Commonwealth to take Up research work, a sphere of usefulness which is essentially Federal in character. For the moment I am dealing only with diseases in plant and animal life. I have already referred to those which are of a national character. They do not affect any one State. They affect all States. In Queensland, the investigators ate faced with the whole series of problems which no one State with harrow resources at its disposal oan hope to deal with effectively. I say this without any reflection on the work done by the officers of the States, but their efforts have, so far, not been fully effective, because they- are attempting to do work of great magnitude affecting the whole of the States. How can a little community like Tasmania be expected to bear the whole burden of investigating scientific problems that affect not only that State but every State? It is here that the Commonwealth plight to step in to assist .the States, and take over the control of national research work, employing the best .brains of the community and doing everything possible to get the best results. That is where the work of this Bureau will lie.
In 1911, the Scottish Commission visited Australia, and those who were privileged to meet the Commissioners know that they were men of very great experience and marked ability. They were given facilities to examine the agricultural possibilities of Australia, and they visited all the leading institutions of the States. In fact, they had the opportunity of regarding the operations of those institutions from a Federal stand-point, and their report, which is too little known to us> was an invaluable publication. I propose to quote one extract from it> ‘because it bears upon our problems. It is like looking at them from an outside point of view. It is an independent judgment of what we are doing here, and .of what we ought to do. This is what they said–
Research- In comparison with research work carried out in Scotland, where the subject has not received the attention which it deserves, the extensive arrangements which are made, and encouragements which are given to experiment and investigation in Australia, are gratifying and surprising. Pleasant also is the universal enthusiasm discovered in the directors of experiment stations, and, indeed, in all connected with the work of development. It appeared to us, however, that aconsiderable amount of overlapping was going on, that in general there was a want of co-ordination and co-operation, that the policy of allowing each State to attempt to attack the solution of each agricultural problem by itself was not the most economical. There are many problems which are common to the whole of Australia, or to the greater part of it, and it would appear that time and money would be saved by placing some of the work of research in the hands of a Federal Department. For example, every State is afflicted with various stock diseases. In Queensland, thlere is “ tick fever “ ; and in another, “ dry bible”; in another, there is “coast disease”; and so on. A strong and well-equipped Federal Department would seem more likely to cope with such diseases than the weaker and less well-equipped States Departments. The prickly pear, again, is not a State monopoly, but may, through time, spread over most of the country; and here again is an argument for Federal control, which would not absorb or limit the energies of the State Departments, but concern itself with a broader and a wider field.
– Their earlier complaint in regard to overlapping would only be intensified.
– Not at all. They point out the necessity for co-operation and co-ordination. The honorable member sees that.
– I do not.
– It is the opinion of men looking at the matter from the outside, and I venture to say it is a very correct and fair statement of the problem we are faced with in Australia to-day.
I do not wish to dwell upon the work already done by the present Advisory Committee. With all due respect to the critics of that Committee, I remind honorable members that it was only intended to be a very temporary body, and that it was never imagined it would continue in existence so long, because it was thought that the Institute would have come to fruition earlier than it has. That Committee acted in a voluntary capacity.
– Not the professors.
– Yes, almost entirely; their work was voluntary. A comparatively small sum of money has been paid in the shape of fees.
– Why does not the Ministermake provision in the Bill itself stipulating the fees to be paid, and not leave it to regulations?
– We can deal with that matter in Committee. I am dealing with the whole thing in a general way.
– What does Dr. Gellatly nowreceive?
– He receives £1,250 a year. I would point out that the Advisory Committee has had no laboratories of its own, and that it was intended to be of only a temporary character. It does not possess a scientific staff, and is largely dependent upon the part-time services of officers who have other duties to perform. I feel it my duty to express the obligation of theCommonwealth to the men who have done this work.
– What work?
– The work of the Advisory Council.
– Will the honorable gentleman state why provision is not made in the Bill for an annual appropriation of the salaries of the Directors ?
– The appropriation will be made by Parliament.
– What will be the approximate cost of this Institute?
– I am not in a position to give the figures. I would remind the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) that over forty special committees have been working in association with the Advisory Council, and that a number of useful reports have been issued. We are under a great obligation to those who have done this work for the Commonwealth.
I now desire to deal with the details of the Bill itself. The real purpose of the Institute is disclosed in the powers and functions of the Directors, as set out in clause 13, which reads -
The powers and functions of the Directors shall, subject to the regulations and to the directions of the Minister, be -
the initiation and carrying out of scientific researches in connexion with, or for the promotion of, primary or secondary industries in the Commonwealth ;
the establishment and awarding of industrial research studentships and fellowships;
the making of grants in aid of pure scientific research;
the recognition or establishment of associations of persons engaged in any industry or industries for the purpose of carrying out industrial scientific research and the cooperation with and the making of grants to such associations when recognised or established;
the testing and standardization of scientific apparatus and instruments, and of apparatus, machinery, materials and instruments used in industry ;
the establishment of a Bureau of Information for the collection and dissemination of information relating to scientific and technical matters; and
the collection and dissemination of information regarding industrial welfare and questions relating to the improvement of industrial conditions.
It will be seen that the main object of the Institute will be to carry out scientific research work in connexion with the primary and secondary industries of the Commonwealth. It has been said that the Bill is wider in its application than is the measure relating to the Bureau of Agriculture. I admit that it is wider, and rightly so, because of the rapid advancement of industry in Australia. Our manufactures are increasing, and it is very important that science should be applied to them. New industries such as the steel works are being opened up, and the application of science to the mining industry is also essential. It should be our object to help in every way the secondary as well as the primary industries of Australia. One of the first duties confronting the Institute will be the solution of the big problems affecting our great primary industries, but there is no reason why, at the same time, scientific research work should not be carried on in connexion with our chief manufacturing industries.
– The Institute is to have wide powers.
– And it should have wide powers to meet our growing necessities.
The Bill provides for the establishment of a Commonweath Institute of Science and Industry, which will consist of three Directors, with an Advisory Council of
Science and Industry in each State. Of the three Directors to be appointed, two at least must be men of scientific attainments. The appointments are for five years, and the Directors are to be eligible for re-appointment. The Institute is to be a corporate body entitledto hold property, and it is to be hoped that it will be endowed by private benefactions, just as similar institutions in other parts of the world have been. I read recently that the Japanese Institute of Science had been very considerably assisted in that way.
– Why not make the Institute a grant of prickly pear land?
– One of the problems with which the Institute will have to deal is that of the prickly pear pest. The Advisory Councils are to represent science and the principal primary and secondary industries in each of the States.
– What will be the position in regard to the local State Bureaux?
– They will not be interfered with under this Bill.
– They will be overlooked by the Advisory Council.
– Not at all. The honorable member is under a misapprehension as to the functions of the Advisory Councils. They will, from time to time, bring under notice problems affecting the industries of each State, so that there will be an opportunity for the States to link up and have difficult questions affecting their primary and secondary industries dealt with by the Institute.
– The whole of the existing State machinery will be duplicated under this Bill.
– That is not so. The Advisory Councils are not to be administrative bodies capable of interfering in any way with State functions.
I have detailed the general purpose and functions of the Institute, and other questions that have been raised can be dealt with in Committee.
– The honorable gentleman ought to tell us why provision is not made in the Bill for the payment of the salaries of the Directors.
– They are to be fixed by the Governor-General in Council.
– Why? They should be fixed by Parliament.
– It is. the exception and not the rule to fix salaries by Statute.
– Under the Judiciary Bill we fixed the salaries of the High Court Justices and the salary of the Public Service Commissioner is fixed by the Publip Service Act.
– So far as the general body of amendments is concerned, salaries are not fixed by Statute. That statement applies, for instance, to the salaries of the Government Meteorologist and the Government Statistician.
– The salaries of the InterState Commissioners are fixed by the Inter-State Commission Act, and the salaries of the High Court Justices are fixed by the Judiciary Act.
– The position of the members of the High Court Bench is very different from that of the Directors of the Institute of Science and Industry. The High Court Justices hold their position under the Constitution. Their salaries are not appropriated . annually by Parliament, and they are quite independent of Parliament.
I have only to say, in conclusion, that the intention of the Bill is that there shall be complete co-operation as between the Commonwealth and the States. We desire to secure complete co-ordination of effort, so that the best results may be obtained. With this object in view, it is expressly provided in clause 14 that -
The Governor-General may arrange with the Governor of any State for any of the following purposes: -
the utilization for the purposes of this Act of State Research Departments and Laboratories and Experimental Stations and Farms;
the co-operation in industrial and scientific research with State Government Departments, Universities, and Technical Schools; and
the co-operation with educational authorities and scientific societies in the Commonwealth with a view to -
advancing the teaching of science in schools, technical colleges and universities where the teaching is determined by those authorities;
the training of investigators in pure and applied science, and of technical experts; and
the training and education of craftsmen and skilled artisans.
I urge honorable members to assist the Government in passing this Bill, which has been too long delayed. It is a national measure, designed to provide for the exercise of national functions by the Institute. At the same time, the Institute will work in harmonious co-operation with the State authorities, in order that the best results may be obtained by the application of science to production and manufacture.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 31st July (vide page 11176), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, namely : - Erection of Commonwealth Note Printing Offices on the site recently acquired in Victoria-parade, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
Upon which Mr. Charlton had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “ Offices “ be omitted.
.- In the course of the debate on this motion it has been urged by several honorable members that the Note Printing Offices should be established at Canberra. I do not think that there should be any attempt to prejudice or prejudge the work of the Public Works Committee in dealing with this matter. I want honorable members to realize that, even if this amendment were carried, it would not affect the Committee’s inquiries. The Committee, in any event, would feel justified in calling evidence relating not only to the construction of the building, but to its location, believing it to beits duty to report as to the most suitable situation in which to establish it. The Committee will be pleased to call any witness who, in the opinion of honorable . members, should be examined as to the most convenient place, from the point of view of the requirements of the Commonwealth, in which to establish the offices.
Me.. Charlton. - Does not the motion instruct the Committee to inquire regarding’ a specific site ?
– Although the reference is specific, the Committee would feel that they had absolute power to report to the House that the site was not suitable. If the evidence showed that the building should be erected in Sydney, instead of in Melbourne, they would report to the House accordingly.
– The site is suitable.
– The foundations are laid.
– That is not so.
– The Government have bought the land; what is the use of inquiring about the site?
Mi-. GREGORY. - A little time ago the Government referred to the Public “Works Committee the proposal to establish large ordnance stores at Leichhardt, near Sydney. The Committee visited the site twice, and studied the means of access by sea, rail, and road. We made investigations as to whether there were other sites that would be more suitable. Had we formed the opinion that the wrong site had been selected, we would have reported to the House to that effect. So iu this case, if the ‘Committee thought that the site selected was not a proper one, we would express that opinion to the House.
– All the Committee can do is to condemn that site. The Committee’s inquiry will be confined to- one site. They cannot go about the country looking for another.
– The Committee would certainly not do that. We would call evidence regarding the suitability of the site.
– If the House instructed the Committee to consider Canberra as a possible site, they would have to do it.
– Of course ; but,, even then, it would not be necessary for us to go to Canberra, because we know that there is plenty of land available, and all we should have to consider would be whether Canberra is a suitable place for the location of such a building, having regard to the facilities for the distribution of. notes throughout the Commonwealth, labour, raw material, and so forth. We would report to the Parliament as to the advisability of placing the offices there. If this reference were made to the Committee, we should be only too pleased to call evidence regarding the fitness of the selected site, and would report according to the weight of testimony.
– What steps did the Committee take to get evidence about other sites?
– Evidence will be taken from the Treasury officials a.nd the factory management as to which site would be the most suitable for the purpose of the Note Printing Offices. Nothing should be done, which will tend to prejudice the Committee in their work. I think I may say without egotism that the’ reports of the Public Works Committee to date have saved the country many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and have caused heads of Departments to be much more careful in connexion with proposed public works than they have been in the past. Directly and indirectly, the Committee has saved the country an enormous sum of money. But one provision of the Act under which the Committee was constituted has been ignored. Sub-section 6 of section 15 provides -
After the receipt of the report of the Committee the House of Representatives shall, by resolution, declare either that it is expedient to carry out the proposed work, or that it is not expedient to carry it out.
That provision has been a dead letter.
– Any report received from the Committee since I have been Minister for Works and -Railways has been submitted for the approval of the House. I submitted the Lithgow housing scheme to the House.
– That report was the one exception. All reports should be submitted to the House, and then honorable members who regarded a particular report as unsatisfactory would have an opportunity to voice their objections. The House should insist upon that provision being observed. I assure the House that, when reference is made to the Committee, we regard ourselves as having full power to report regarding the suitableness or otherwise of any proposed site. If we thought that the Note Printing Offices should be in Sydney, instead of in Melbourne, we would not hesitate to say so.
-Would the Committee go to Sydney and take evidence regarding the suitability of sites in that city?
– Yes, if justification were shown for such a course. Much would depend upon the evidence obtained from the officers of the Commonwealth Bank, the Treasury, and the Note Printing Offices. I cannot say how the Committee would act upon that evidence, but I do assure honorable members that we would feel that we had power to call evidence regarding all practicable sites, and report if necessary that the building, instead of being on the site- suggested by the Government, should be placed elsewhere.
– Notwithstanding that the reference is specific?
– Yes. That has always been our practice.
– Can the honorable member quote an instance in which the Committee has inspected and called evidence in regard to sites other than those suggested ?
– In connexion with the Leichhardt Ordnance Stores the Committee took evidence upon the specific point as to whether the suggested site was or was not suitable.
– Did the Committee inspect other sites?
– No; but we had evidence from an officer in the State Railway Department that no other site near Sydney offered the same facilities of access. We questioned other witnesses upon the same point. Had not the Leichhardt site impressed itself upon us as being suitable for the purpose, we would have reported adversely upon it.
– If the Note Printing Offices are to be a permanent Government establishment why should they not be placed at the Federal Capital?
– That is not the issue now before the House. The time for discussing a question of that sort will be when the report of the Committee is submitted.
– The claims of Canberra might escape the notice of the Government.
– If this House desires that the building shall be erected at Canberra and nowhere else, it should make a resolution to that effect. The members of the Public Works Committee have always regarded themselves as the servants of Parliament, and have endeavoured to bring forward reports that would give information and guidance to the House. I hope that nothing will be done to prejudice the work of the Committee.
.- The motion and the information given to us by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) practically bind the House to the proposition to erect Note Printing Offices on the site formerly occupied by the Turn Verein, in Victoria-parade, Melbourne. Even as late as to-day statements have been made to me that work in connexion with the proposed building is in progress.
– I have received a report from the Director of Works this afternoon, and it shows that that statement is not correct.
– I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance.
– That is not quite the truth. I visited the site this afternoon.
– No work is in progress.
– The fact is that this work has been already referred to the Public Works Committee. Before the proposal was referred to the House at all the Committee inquired into it, and now the statement is made that work in connexion with the proposed buildings has been started.
– I have the assurance of the Director of Works that that is not so.
– Had the Public Works Committee inquired into this work before it was referred to them by the House?
– I accept the honorable member’s word. If these inquiries are to be made by the Public Works Com- mittee before they have been instructed by the House to do so, the motion of reference is largely a farce. If this is the practice that is being followed, the sooner members of Parliament know of it the better.
– The honorable member was a Minister in the Fisher Government when Mr. King O’ Malley sent the Public Works Committee to Canberra without waiting for the reference from Parliament.
– When I was a Minister, I stuck closely to my own Department, which kept me fairly busy. Any Minister who applies himself closely to the requirements of his own Department has not much time to note what other Ministers are doing. If, while I was a member of the Government, a Minister set the Public Works Committee upon inquiries, before the proposal was referred to that body by Parliament, I was not aware of it. In any case, that is not the proper procedure. The Minister should have told the House that he was submitting this motion in accordance with the Public Works Committee Act, but that, at the request of the Government, inquiries had been already made by this Committee. That would have been the fair way to treat Parliament. In connexion with the latest shipbuilding deal, we were told that Parliament would have an opportunity of discussing the purchase of additional ships after tie transaction is completed. I do not think that this is the proper occasion to stipulate where the proposed Note Printing Offices shall be situated. I am willing to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that the name of any proposed site shall be omitted from the motion of reference, although it is quite possible that, by that omission, we may give the Committee a free hand to travel all over Australia in search of a site. Perhaps some limitation should be imposed.
– The honorable member knows that if the Committee went to Brisbane, they would recommend that the Note Printing Offices should be established there.
– I do not know what the Public Works Committee would re commend ; but, judging by the actions of other Committees that have been appointed by this House, I believe they would do their best to give Parliament the opportunity of choosing the most suitable site. The time to decide upon the site will be when’ the Committee’s report is presented.
– It is to be a Commonwealth building; put it at the Federal Capital, instead of wasting money inquiring into a site at Fitzroy.
– I am not, like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) concerned about whether the offices should be on the Melbourne or the Batman side of Victoria-parade. When the report comas up, we should certainly know how many employees are engaged in the industry, and what likelihood there is of getting workers of that class at the Federal Capital. Any member starting a manufacturing business would ascertain where he could get the class of employees he wanted. In Engla’nd, certain industries are centralized in certain districts on account of local conditions being better, and on account of skilled labour being available. Cotton manufactures are carried on largely in Lancashire, woollens largely in Yorkshire, laces and curtains in Nottingham, and the industry at Which I worked before I entered Parliament is centred largely in the Lancashire district. That is an aspect of the question which the Committee ought to inquire into.
– We should vote for the amendment to give us a wider scope.
– I am going to vote for the amendment for that reason. I want the Committee to inquire as to the best, site, although I do not say that they should travel all over Australia. Tho Minister, by interjection, said that the land had already been acquired in Fitzroy, but I have no doubt, knowing the locality, that if the Committee decide on another site this land will fetch as higi a price as the Government have given for it.
– K believe an attempt is being made to use influence to allow the German Club to restart. Under no circumstances should that be permitted.
-The honorable member’s statement is the first I have heard of it. I do not know if the land has been seized as Germanproperty, or whether it has been- acquired under the Lands Acquisition Act, but the Committee need have no fear of the Government being outof pocket through putting the offices in any other place. I should also like the Committee to make perfectly plain the un desirableness of the situation of the existing factory. What is the matter with it?
– We cannot tell you yet.
– Then the Committee has been inquiring already, has it?
– How can we tell you until we do inquire?
– I presume the honorable member means officially. Is the only objection to the present situation of the factory that it is inaccessible for the employees? Is it from 300 to 400 yards beyond Spencer-Street ? Is the machinery deteriorating because of the proximity of the gas works? Is the situation altogether bad for the purpose?
– Who has been giving you information?
– No one. I am asking for it. Does the objection come from the employees because it is not a nice place to come from after dark? Do they think Fitzroy is a much safer locality? Only a few weeks ago, the honorable, member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked for an escort, from Parliament House of . an evening. We should have information, not only as to- the desirability of shifting the location to Canberra, but also as to the necessity- for leavingthe present situation. If there is a building- there that will serve the Commonwealth with a little additional expenditurefor a few years, it would be wrong for any member to vote £44,000 for a new building on another site.
– . There are very good reasons for leaving the present site.
– I shall be glad to hear them. I suppose the Victoria-street site is worth, atthe very least, £20 a foot. Parliament should know, in order to ar rive at a decision, whether a new site is necessary, and, if it is, where the building should’ be put. Members should be given an opportunity to vote for the most suitable site, without being- restricted to a particular locality.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- I wish first to make some reference, by way of replying, to the case put forth by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory).
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Dampier very rightly pointed out that the Public Works Committee inquires fully into works referred to them by Parliament, and always asks questions as to the suitability of the site for any proposed building. I quite agree with the honorable member in so far as his remarks had reference to the particular site under discussion; but one of the difficulties I have felt, as a member of the Committee, is that we cannot carry our investigations beyond the site submitted. That was so in the case of the site selected by the Government, or the Department, for the Ordnance Stores at Leichhardt. We questioned the expert witnesses as to the site, but it was not within our jurisdiction to ask them whether, in their opinion, there was any other more suitable or less expensive.
– Does the honorable member say that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who is Chairman of the Public Works Committee, is wrong when he states that the Committee is not confined to the site referred ?
-I say that the honorable member for Dampier is quite wrong if he intends to convey the impression that the Committee can investigate any other site than that referred to it. As I have said, I feel, as a member of the Committee, that this is a restriction. The Government should simply inform the Committee that there is a desire to erect a certain building, or carry out a certain work, and leave it to the Committee to make exhaustive inquiries, with liberty to examine experts both, inside and outside the Department, and give
Parliament the advantage of a thoroughly impartial, investigation. As. a matter of fact, the site for a building is selected before the reference is made; and although the Committee may find it most unsuitable, it has power to do nothing more than draw attention to the fact. When the Committee does this, the Governmentor the Department may pay no heed to the expression of opinion, on the ground that there is power to report only on the actual work referred. As an illustration of this, we have the case of a previous Public Works Committee which inquired into the proposal to erect a telephone exchange in Sydney It was found that the site was so unsuitable, indeed ridiculous, that proper entrances could not be provided for either employees or goods. Very properly, the Committee condemned the site; but it had already been selected by the Department, and the work went on. These facts clearly show that the case submitted by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) cannot be substantiated.
Then there is the question of whether employees for the Note Printing Offices could be obtained at Canberra; and this furnishes a reason why we should support the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). The amendment, if carried, will give the Committee power to inquire whether, adjacent to Canberra, housing accommodation can be obtained; and whether, at Queanbeyan, thereare people in sufficient numbers ready and willing to take work in the establishment.
– In all public works at Canberra, we have always been able to employ the necessary labour.
– And so it will be in this case; and if there is anylingering doubt on the point, the Public Works Committee ought to be given power to go into every phase of the matter, and fi nd out exactly what the capabilities of Canberra are.
However, there is involved a. much bigger question. Is this Parliament going to keep the compact that was made with New South Wales at the initiation of Federation ? New South Wales, in common with other States, entered Federation on clearly defined lines as laid down in the Constitution, which provides, amongst other things, that the Capital shall be in . the mother State, but not within 100 miles of Sydney. This Parliament has decided on Canberra as the Federal Territory, and the people of New South Wales expect these definite undertakings to be carried out. Every building of a purely Commonwealth character erected anywhere but at Canberra is only another obstacle to the establishment of the Seat of Government at the Federal Capital. In the case of Canada, Ottawa was chosen in 1858, and seven years later, in 1865, the Dominion Parliament was meeting there. No suggestion was made that that compact should not be honoured; and if that could be done in Canada, why cannot we keep faith with New South Wales ? After nearly twenty years of Federation, we seem as far from the establishment of a Federal Capital as when we began; indeed further, because obstaclesare always being put in the way.. Ex-Judge Heydon, who stands very high in New South Wales as a constitutional authority, the other day, at a public function in Sydney, expressed the opinion that, constitutionally, this Parliament should be sitting at Canberra to-day ; and, speaking as a layman,. I take it that if the point were tested, we should be told that our meeting in Melbourne is illegal. There is another phase that should be seriously considered. Other States entered into Federation on the faith of certain promises.
– A north-south railway.
– South Australia was not promised a north-south railway when she joined the Federation.
– These national questions should not be dealt with in a narrow spirit; and any compact made should, if anything, err on the side of generosity in the fulfilment. South Australia was relieved of the burden of the Northern Territory.
–I think the honorable member is out of order in going so far afield, and I must ask him to confine himself to the terms of the motion.
– Here is a proposition to erect a building in Melbourne; and I am endeavouring to argue that it is another obstacle in the way of placing the
Federal Capital at Canberra. Surely I am entitled to show that New South Wales is the only State which is debarred from having the Federal compact carried into effect?
– The honorable member will be right in connecting the Federal Capital with the motion before the Chair, but he was talking about South Australia.
– I am showing, by contrast, how badly New South Wales has been treated when Parliament is prepared to do the honorable thing in regard to every other State.
– The honorable member may proceed on those lines, so long as he connects his remarks with the motion before the Chair.
– Not a quibble was raised by New South Wales when Tasmania received a grant of £900,000 from the Commonwealth. The people of New South Wales said that if Tasmania needed assistance, and the Commonwealth could give it, they were prepared to extend liberal treatment to the smaller State; but New South Wales does not receive fair or honorable treatment in regard to the carrying out of the compact to have the Federal Capital established at Canberra. Is it necessary to say anything about Victoria ? Is it not apparent to every one that this State gets everything? Parliament has been sitting in Melbourne for nearly twenty years, and honorable members seem quite content. Probably it suits them to sit down and let things remain as they are. It may suit their business arrangements. However, above all other considerations stands the question of honour, honesty and fair dealing. Within the lastfew months we have just emerged from a great struggle over a “ scrap of paper “ - over a broken treaty. In no uncertain language, we in Australia have condemned Germany’s action in tearing up a scrap of paper. But what are we doing ourselves? Do we intend to honour the Federal compact? Is the Federal Constitution to be regarded as another “ scrap of paper “ ?
-The honorable member cannot discuss the whole question of Federation.
– I will leave the matter at this: Are we prepared, as a National Parliament, to carry out the solemn contract made with New South Wales? The people of that State demand that it shall be carried out, and we who represent them contend that no further buildings of a Federal character shall be erected except at the Federal Capital. I heartily support the amendment, and hope that it will be carried, so that members of the Public Works Committee may have full opportunity to inquire whether or not Canberra is the proper place to establish the Note Printing Offices.
.- I do not propose to follow the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) ir.to a discussion of the broad question of the propriety of the present attitude of the Government towards the Federal Capital. That is a subject upon which we could comment for hours. The matter before us at the present time is a comparatively small one, although it may be very important. The Minister (Mr. Groom) who has charge of the motion has proposed that the question of erecting a particular building on a particular site shall be referred to the Public Works Committee; and inasmuch as that site, and the building on it, will involve an expenditure of about £50,000, it naturally occurs to those who advocate the early movement of Parliament to the Federal Capital to wonder whether it is wise to spend so much money in Melbourne on an establishment which may ultimately be determined to be more suitably located in the Federal Capital. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has moved an amendment that the words involving the site of this building shall be taken out of the motion, in order to leave the question to be referred to the Public Works Committee a broader and more open one. I confess that I feel very much like that character in Pilgrim’s Progress called Mr. Facing Both Ways, not because I have two opinions on any particular point, but because in this matter I think it is possible to see a good deal of merit in both attitudes. I can quite understand the attitude of the Minister in feeling that he ought not to merely direct the Public Works Committee to say -whether there should be such a building, allowing them to roam all over Australia to determine where it should be placed. On the other hand, I can quite sympathize with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), who does not wish the Committee to be pinned down to a particular site which can be measured ‘ in feet, and which the members of that Committee can see for themselves and form an opinion upon, as to whether it is suitable. I do not think that the Public Works Committee is bound to that site. I have known plenty of cases in which Public Works Committees, having had railways routes referred to them, have sent in reports to Ministers’ saying that they could not approve of those routes, because they considered that the welfare of the country would be far better served by building railways running along other routes. The truth lies between the two courses.
I think the Government ought to pay the very numerous supporters of establishing the Federal Capital the compliment of saying, “ We shall not spend such a large sum of money when we are, perhaps, within a few years of going to the Federal Capital.” Ministers have not told us what they can do with this particular building if it be left on their hands five years hence, when we go to the Federal Capital. I am sure . the House generally will not approve of such a large expenditure unless it can be shown that the Government have in their minds some means of utilizing the building afterwards, with profit. I suggest that the general question of the building should be referred to the Public Works Committee, and that, in the meantime, premises suitable for the purpose of this particular work should be rented in Melbourne.
– They have bought the land.
– I understand that they have bought the land without getting the House to approve of referring the question to the Public Works Committee; and I gather that work has al ready been carried out on the site.
– No work is being done in connexion with the building to be referred to the Public Works Committee, but a portion of the premises already on the land has been electrically wired for the girls who are at work there.
– I am glad to hear that nothing has been done in connexion with the building proposed to be referred to the Public Works Committee. It would have been an affront to the House if the Government had started any part of the work in anticipation of the approval of the House. Ministers know very well that this is a very vital question. I have seen a document signed by forty-three honorable members of both Houses in favour of a rapid removal to the Federal Capital. Whether the end aimed at by those honorable members will be achieved is another question, but when the Government know that such a strong and widespread feeling exists in the Parliament, they should not persist in perpetuating the spirit which the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) showed when he spoke of the Federal Capital as “a dream.” Two years ago we had considerable trouble in getting the then Treasurer to consent to expenditure of £10,000 for merely continuing the tree-growing on the Capital site, yet now it is proposed to spend £60,000 on a building for a Commonwealth activity, which may, within five years, be removed to the Capital site. I do not propose to enter into a discussion upon that matter, but it is very much involved in debating the motion and the amendment before the Chair.
– It is bound up in this debate.
– It may be; but we can discuss it by-and-by. The honorable member knows what view I shall take. I quite agree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that there is a great obligation to carry out. We have fulfilled our obligation to South Australia, entered into quite apart from the Constitution, and we have done so to the very letter, because we recognised that our reputation was involved.
– I have not seen the North-South railway running yet.
– I ‘do not say that the whole of our obligation- to South Australia hae been carried out, but some portions have been fulfilled. On the other hand, we have done nothing at Canberra, except planting trees, and the obligation in regard to the Federal Capital is in- eluded in the Constitution. It is not a matter for agitation or excitement; it is rather a legal question; but it would be a compliment to the supporters of the Government who come from New South Wales and Queensland to defer the expenditure of such a large 6um of money until the other and broader question is settled. It is not as if it were proposed bo erect a building of a permanent character which must never be removed. It is simply a question of putting down certain printing machinery. Surely it is possible for the Government to rent a substantial building in Melbourne in which to carry on the work, and at the same time pay honorable members the compliment of saying, “ We .shall not settle this question until the larger one has come before the House.” The amendment is unnecessary.
– The best thing to do is to vote against the motion.
– I am not talking now of what is the best thing to do. I am talking of the necessity for the amendment.
The Chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr. Gregory) has told us it is quite open to the Committee to decline to recommend this particular site on the ground that there is a more suitable one elsewhere.
– I do not think the Committee has that power.
– I have seen it done in connexion with railways over and over again.
– So have 1 where there were alternate routes referred.
– No; not in regard to alternate routes, but where a particular route has been referred. As Minister, I have received reports from a Public Works Committee saying, that it could not approve of a particular route, because it considered it preferable to go elsewhere. I have accepted such a report as a negative one upon the particular -route referred, and I have, at once, had inquiries instituted into the other recommended by the Committee. I have referred that route preferred to the Committee, and it has utilized the evidence taken previously, and merely approved of the altered route. There was no difficulty about that, and without the assistance of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter, if the Public Works Committee should say that it does not approve of the particular site submitted, and recommends another to the Minister, there will be no difficulty. I have only to say, in conclusion, that since the ‘Government have the support of so many representatives of Queensland and New South Wales, they” should pay them, and also representatives of Victoria, the compliment of saying, “ We will not spend this large sum of money upon the erection of offices which we may have to shift by-and-by to another part of Australia.”
– During the career of the Public Works Committee, repeated difficulties have arisen in regard to the terms of various references which have been made to it. While I had the honour of occupying a seat upon it, we had’ quite a succession of such experiences. The Committee had finally to take up a definite attitude, and to decline to make inquiries into matters that were not referred to it by the Parliament itself, or by the whole Cabinet when Parliament was not in session. In quite a number of cases references were made to the Committee by the Minister in charge of the Department concerned, and much trouble ensued. The Committee finally established a precedent that has some application to this case. It was asked to inquire into a proposal to erect a telephone exchange building on a certain site in Sydney, but, on the ground that it was unsuitable, refused absolutely to recommend the construction of the building on that site. While that decision has some application to the present case, it does not apply all round, since Parliament, in this instance, is invited to make a specific reference to the Committee. The Committee, under the terms’ of the motion, is to inquire into “ The erection of Commonwealth Note Printing Offices on the site recently acquired in Victoria-parade, Fitzroy, Melbourne.”
Under the terms of this reference, the Committee must confine its inquiry to the question of the erection of the offices on this one particular site.
– The Act does not compel them to do so.
– But the terms of the reference are direct. The Chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr. Gregory) has said that, so far as he may speak for its members, they will not consider themselves bound by the exact terms of the reference. I submit, however, that the Act cannot be floured in that free and easy manner.
– We would not need to flout the Act. We could simply say that upon the evidence the offices ought not to be erected in Melbourne.
– The safer course would be to set out in the terms of the reference itself what the Committee may or may not do. Parliament knows what it wants. The Chairman of the Public Works Committee, and also the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith), so far as one may judge from his rather ‘ambiguous speech, desire that the Committee shall have power to report, not only as to the erection of the building itself, hat as to the most suitable site on which to erect it.
– I listened very carefully to the honorable member’s remarks, and I would remind him that while the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) does not intentionally desire to mislead the House, the information he has given as to what is going on at the site is not in accordance with the facts.
– I have it here in the handwriting of the Director of Works that the position is as I have said. He has also informed me verbally that no work is being done on the site, in connexion with the scheme. The only work that is being done on the site relates to the occupation of the existing building.
– The building as to the erection of which the Committee is to inquire is to form part of one big scheme. The plans submitted by the Minister show that the particular building now to be erected represents, perhaps, only one-third of the complete scheme. The building now on the site, and the building now to be erected, dovetail into one complete scheme.. It is therefore, somewhat misleading . for the Minister to say that no work is being done in connexion with the scheme.
– No work is being done in connexion with this particular ‘reference to the Committee.
– But work is going on in connexion with a part of the one complete scheme:
– I visited the site this afternoon, and saw work going on there.
– Certain work is being done in connexion with the occupation of the old building at present on the site.
– Eight or nine men have been employed in fitting the existing building to form part of the whole scheme. The Public Works Committee should be asked to inquire, not only as to whether the particular building covered by the proposed reference ought to be erected on the site named, but whether any part of the scheme should be proceeded with on this site or elsewhere. Parliament is asked, 110i only to agree to a reference to the Committee as to the erection of a particular building, estimated to cost £40,000, but to commit itself to the additional expenditure involved in altering the existing building and in linking up the two structures with other new buildings to be erected later on. On more than one occasion property has been purchased without reference to the Committee, which is being asked in this case, as it has been asked in previous cases, to inquire into the erection of buildings on a site already acquired. The Chairman of the Public Works Committee has been most pronounced in pointing out, with others, .to this House how unfair it is to limit the Committee in its inquiries as to the erection of public buildings by proposing that they shall be erected on a site that has already been purchased for the purpose. The acquisition of the site, as well as the erection of the building, are part of the one complete scheme, and the whole matter should be referred to the Committee for inquiry.
– Was not the question of the purchase of the land referred to the Committee?
– No.’ Either this is a patchwork or a complete scheme. If it is a complete scheme, then it includes not only the erection of a building, the plans for which have been laid on the table, but alterations to the building now on the site as well as the purchase of that site, and the question as a whole should be referred to the Committee. The Government, however, have already acquired the land referred to in the motion. They are carrying out alterations to the building now on it, and they ask the House to approve of an inquiry by the Committee as to the erection of another building which is to form part of one complete scheme. Is that an honest way of dealing with so big a question? The whole thing is so interwoven that it cannot be separated. If the Committee reported that the offices ought not to be erected on the site named in the motion, we should be in the unfortunate position of having acquired land for a purpose for which the Committee did not think it suitable. There is also the position that money is being expended on the alteration of the existing building, and that if the scheme as a whole is not gone on with, that expenditure will prove useless.
Neither the Parliament nor the Public Works Committee is. being fairly treated. Protests have been made over and over again against the practice followed by the Department of purchasing lands and tying down the Public Works Committee to an inquiry . as to the erection of buildings on those particular lands. The amendment will serve a useful purpose if it leads to a determination that when the Public Works Committee is directed to inquire into a proposed expenditure on public buildings it shall not be tied down to any work already done by the Department concerned in connexion with the alteration of existing buildings or the purchase of sites. The Minister has not advised us whether it was necessary to ask the Committee to take action before Parliament had been consulted, but it is a fact that the Committee has already had this matter under its consideration.
– And its report is nearly ready.
– I have not heard that, but it may be presumed that the Committee having heard some evidence on the subject has formed certain opinions with regard to it.
– On whose authority has it been taking evidence?
– On the authority of either the Minister or the Cabinet. It was distinctly laid down when the Public Works Committee was established that it should come under the direction and control of Parliament.
– And that is the only authority that should be recognised.
– Quite so. We find, however, that the Committee has already taken evidence regarding this work, although it has not yet been referred to it by the Parliament. The case is therefore to some extent already prejudged. Is the Minister for Works and Railways aware that the Committee have already had this matter under consideration?I am not objecting to the character of the evidence they have taken, but it seems as if the project is being carried out in such a haphazard and spasmodic fashion that it is time the proposition was withdrawn and started afresh.
– Does the honorable member think that the Committee should investigate sites in the various capitals, or only in Melbourne and Canberra?
– Confine the inquiry to Melbourne and Canberra.
– I am entirely in favour of the amendment that the Comnittee should have opportunity and freedom to recommend whatever site they think is best. But I say without hesitation that if the building is to be erected in Melbourne, the proposed site is eminently suitable for the purpose. It might be advisable to consider whether the building would not be better placed in Sydney, where the head offices of the Commonwealth Bank are situated.
The question as to whether or not the Notes Printing Offices should be established at Canberra is one for the Committee to consider. I am not prepared to argue in favour of any particular site. It is not right for Parliament to say where the building should be erected, and thus practically instruct the Committee as to what their decision should be. If we expect the Committee to guide Parliament we ought to give them a free hand, so that a report which will be of assistance to us will be arrived at from a purely unbiased attitude, and after a full investigation of the facts. It is conceivable that these buildings might be placed much more advantageously at some place other than Melbourne. That is a point for the Committee to investigate; but, under the terms of this reference, they will be limited in their inquiries.
– Does not the honorable member think that Parliament should say to the Committee whether a building of this kind should be grouped with other administrative’ offices, or whether it should be placed in some other locality.
– I think that the time for Parliament to decide that matter, and express its opinion, is when the report of the Committee is before it, presuming, of course, that the Committee have had an opportunity to investigate the suitability of each practicable site, and give a definite report thereon. Then Parliament, in dealing with that report, and making a resolution, will say whether or not it approves of the Committee’s recommendation. That is a reasonable and proper method to adopt. I was associated with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) on a former Public Works Committee, and we had referred to us the proposed Arsenal ; but the reference in that instance limited the Committee to the selection of a site within the Capital Territory. Some of us believed that Canberra was not the proper place at which to place an Arsenal. I thought then, and still think, that it was the most unsuitable place for the purpose.
– What line did the Committee’s report take?
– We reported that, within the Federal Territory, the site at Tuggeranong was the best for the purpose.
The placing of limitations upon the inquiry of the Committee is not fair to that body, and does not give Parliament a proper guide in the selection of sites for our important public works. Parliament desires the best results from the inquiries of the Committee, and it is obviously impossible to get them if the Committee is limited as is proposed in connexion with the matter now under consideration. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) meets all the circumstances of the case inasmuch as it allows the Committee absolute freedom to recommend where, in their opinion, this building should be erected. I suggest, however, that the Minister should be honest with Parliament, and stop the work that is now in progress until Parliament has decided whether the whole, scheme is to be placed on the selected site in Melbourne or elsewhere.
– What are we discussing ? I will read the motion, because honorable members either have not troubled to read it, or have allowed their remarks to stray very wide of the subject -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, namely : - Erection of Commonwealth Note Printing Offices on the site recently acquired in Victoria-parade, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
To that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has moved an amendment to eliminate the reference to any particular site. The site has been purchased, and the men are at work on it today. I asked the Minister (Mr. Groom) this afternoon if any work is being carried out on the site in Victoria-parade, and he answered in the negative. Yet I am assured by honorable members on the Opposition side that a gang of men is at work installing electric light in the building that is already there. What for? Obviously for a continuation of the work which is being referred to the Committee. It is an affront to Parliament when a Minister deliberately sidetracks honorable members as I was side-; tracked this afternoon, when in answer to a direct statement he said that no work was being done on the site.
– I gave the correct facts to the House, and the honorable member knows it as well as does any other honorable member.
– I heard the Chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr. Gregory) state that the Committee could do this, that, and the other thing, and inquire as to the suitability of every site. I maintain that under the terms of this reference the Committee cannotinquire into the question of sites. All the Committee are asked to do is to inquire into the matter of placing a building on one particular site.
– The Committee can report against the site.
– The Committee are to be instructed to report upon buildings only. Are they responsible to the Minister or to Parliament?
– To Parliament, of course.
– The site for the proposed building its a matter of policy, and what right have the Committee to decide such a mutter? What right has the Chairman ofthat Committee (Mr. Gregory) to say it is the policy of the Government not to go to Canberra now or at any other time? Ifthe motion is carried without the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Hunter, the Committee will have only one function to perform, and that will be to decide upon the question of buildings. It is a remarkable fact that the Chairman of the Committee should make a speech and not even tellthe House that the Committee have been taking evidence upon this matter. Let the honorable member tell the House upon whose instructions, and by what authority, the . Committee took evidence. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) is a member of the Public ‘Works Committee. I ask him Was he present when evidence -was taken by the Committee upon this subject? The honorable member will not answer. There is a cloak of secrecy thrown around the whole proposal. I ask him another question: Were the members of the Committee acting in an honorary capacity when they made this inquiry, or do they propose to draw fees for what were unofficial meetings?
– Ask a further question.
– I ask upon whose instructions the Committee made this inquiry? The Government have overrun themselves. During the last three or four years they have become so accustomed to ignoring Parliament that the Minister in this case has taken, it upon himself to instruct the Committee to make an inquiry. Whether or not honorable members favour the removal of this Parliament to Canberra, who amongst them will deny that the ‘commencement of these works in Melbourne is another, link in the chain to bind the Commonwealth Parliament to this city? The Chairman of the Public Works Committee’ arguedthat even under the terms of this reference the Committee would havetheright to say what site should be selected.
– The Committer will have no more right to do that than they had to . start the inquiry at all.
– I ask the Chairman of the Public Works Committee upon whose instructions the Committee undertook this inquiry?
– Upon the instructions of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) ; and I assure the House that no member of the Committee has drawn fees in connexion with the inquiry.
– I do not object to members of the Committee drawing fees, because they give to the House very valuable information. But if this inquiry was unofficial, as the honorable member for Wimmera said, members of the Committee have no right to draw fees.
– Who said that the inquiry was unofficial? I said it was for Parliament to direct the Committee whether the proposed offices should be on a site where other administrative buildings are situated - either at Canberra or Melbourne - or whether the Committee should choose a site in any part of the Commonwealth.
– What didthe honorable member understand when he took part in this inquiry ?
– My own opinion is that the only power the Committee have under this reference is to recommend a building on the site selected, or to declare that the site is not suitable.
– In the motion, isthere any reference at all to the site?
– If the site is not suitable, the Committee have power to say so.
– Do the members of the Committee think that they (have any right to decide whether this building shall be erected in Melbourne or at Canberra ? That is a matter of policy.
– That is a matter for this House to decide.
– I remind the House that some years ago a similar question arose, and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly),, and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce . Smith), and others took part in a very interesting discussion. Mr. Fisher, when Prime Minister, proposed to refer to the Public Works Committee the proposed duplication of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, and the contention was raised that other sites should be considered, so that the best one should be chosen. Mr. Fisher had not done what the present Government have done, namely, started the proposed work and employed men upon it before even referring the matter to Parliament. He had not done anything like that to affront this House. But he fought our contention that the Committee should be given a free hand in regard to recommending a site. First of all, he maintained that the Committee could make whatever inquiries they chose upon the question, but eventually he recognised that the proper thing to do was to leave the Committee free to go where they liked.
– And we reported in favour of Canberra.
– As everybody knew they would do if they gave the matter fair consideration.. Before I record my vote on this amendment, I should like to know whether the Minister will give any information to the House regarding the total expenditure to be incurred on the proposed works. I was shown a plan of the building, and was informed that the proposal that is to be referred to the Committee represents only a section of the building.
– Only one-third.
– If so, the total cost is going to run into a large sum. Is it proposed to make it a magnificent edifice of four stories ?
– The proposal is in accordance with the plans and specification that have been laid on the table.
– Is this proposal only one-third of what is ultimately intended?
– No. I have already answered that question.
– Will the honorable member answer the question now ?
– I will answer at the proper time.
– Surely I am entitled to an answer ?
– Yes, at the proper time.
– If the Minister does not give me an answer, I will give him some trouble. I have put a fair question to him. He has placed on the table a plan showing a certain building, and it is contended, by men who know, that those plans indicate an ultimate building three times as large and three times as costly as the one that the House has been told about. Is that a fact?
– It is not correctly stated by the honorable member.
– What is the cost of the building to be?
– Will, that be the total, cost of. the; whole thing ?
– Yes,, of. what is referred to. the Committee.
– I am informed that it will cost £125,000 at least. Does the Minister know that the building will cost over £100,000 before it is complete ?
– I have. already told the honorable member what I know and what is a fact - that the work to be referred to the Committee will cost the amount specified
– I am. talking, about the plan.
– The details and estimates are on the table of the House.
– I have not got them.
– That is the honorable member’s fault, not mine.
– The Minister should be able to answer the question,whether the building will cost £44,000 or £125,000.
– It will cost the amount I have already stated - £44,000.
– That will be for one-third of the complete structure.
– That is the cost of the work that is to be constructed and that is to be referred to the Committee.
– The Government are cavilling at what it will cost to house Parliament at Canberra, although Mr. Vernon, the Government Architect, told the honorable member for ‘ Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) some time ago that buildings could be provided at Canberra sufficient to enable the Parliament to meet there within eighteen months for £200,000. Mr. Griffin, when asked by the honorable member for Parkes and myself whether that estimate was correct, said it would cost about 25 per cent, more, or a total of £250,000. The Government say that that expenditure is too large for them to keep the compact with New South Wales.
– It is a “ dream.”
– It will be a nightmare for them if they do not look out. Although they baulk at that expenditure, they are prepared to spend £125,000 on a side building here.
– What would be provided by the £200,000 at Canberra..
– The kernel of Parliament House and the public- offices.
– That means public buildings only.
– The Constitution provides regarding Canberra’ -
Theseat of government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that question on this motion..
– I wished to point out that all the conditions but one have been carried out, and that the construction of the Federal Capital in New South Wales was the condition on which New South Wales came into the Federation. When the Constitution Bill was first referred to the people, New South Wales refused to assent to. it. .
– Was that the true Federal spirit?
– It remains for Victoria to show the true Federal spirit. The honorable member is one of the biggest provincialists here. These interjections from prominent Victorians show what is behind this question to-night. They are coming from the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson). Is it because they are anxious to put a building up in Victoria-parade? Is it not rather because they know that this motion puts another nail in the coffin of Canberra? The thing is as plain as daylight. It is sheer hypocrisy on the part of honorable members to talk about the expenditure on the Federal Capital. Why not accept the fair compromise offered by the honorable member for Parkes? If it is necessary to get away from the building now occupied by the Government Stamp Printer, because it is not fit for the work, and too dangerous, and the accommodation is not sufficient for the employees,’ why not put the machinery into a building rented for the purpose somewhere in Melbourne ?
– Asthe production of paper money will decrease now that . the war is over, must not theaccommodation requireddecrease also?
– I do not wish to go into that question. If the Government are wedded to Melbourne, surely there are buildings which can be rented here. I see no reason why they should not try Sydney, where the head office of the Commonwealth Bank is situated. Let a suitable building be rented until we know whether the compact regarding the Capital is to be kept. If it is kept, this building will be required at Canberra. Why duplicate it now? It is only humbugging Parliament.
I shall . support the amendment, because the freest discretion . should be given to the Works Committee. I . am surprised that the Chairman of the Committee (Mr. Gregory) . should come here to-night, not exactly to hoodwink Parliament, but to suppress information that Parliament should have. The Committee is the servant ofParliament, and its chairman is its mouthpiece; yet the chairman makes an apologetic speech, which suitsthe Minister and the Government, but does not tell Parliament, . until he is taxed with it, that theCommittee has already begun its inquiries. Is . not Parliament entitled toknow what the Committee is doing ? It is nothing short of a scandal that this sort of thing should be done. We do not want to look with suspicion on the work of the Committee, but if it is going to suppress information from Parliament, what reliance can we place on the information it brings before us? The Chairman of the ‘Committee and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. . Sampson) hold very different opinions, and have given very different statements ‘about what has happened. The honorable member for Wimmera is afraid to say whether he was present at the inquiry or not. Is that why we elected him to the Committee? Is he afraid to tell the Parliamentthat elected him whether the inquiry was held or not ? Will he tell me now whether it was held, when it was held, and what evidence was taken ? The honorable member is silent.
We have a right toknow whetherthe Committee hasalreadytaken steps to inquire into the matter,and by whoseinstigation and instruction.
– By no authority at all.
– The Committee has been given no authority. I shall raise the question whether it was an official or unofficial inquiry.
– The chairman has practically said that it was unofficial.
– The honorable member for Wimmera will not admit that. I want to pin the members of the Committee down tothe facts.
– Hadthey a right to take anyevidence?
– I want to know where their authority came from. The question is too serious to laugh at, although it is amusing to see the ‘Chairman of the Committee : and the honorable member for Wimmera differ. What right has the chairman to arrogate to himself the power todetermine the policy of the Governmentwith regard to the site on which the building . should . be erected?
– He didnot do that.
– The chairmansaidhehadtherightunder thereference,withoutanyamendment beingmade,to to say where the building shouldbeerected.
– Nothing ofthe sort.
– That is whatI understood the honorablemember to say. He now states that it rests with Parliament -to decide the matter on the evidence placed before itby the Commit- ttee. Yet, when he wasasked for information, he suppressed facts from Parliament.
Mr.Finlayson. - Try the honorable member for Denison.
– -Was the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) present at the meeting of the Committee? He is a Tasmanian. The Tasmanian members got £900,000 as a special grant for their State. I would remind the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) that thatgrant, and the taking over ‘of the Northern Territory from South Australia, were not in the Constitution in black and white, as the compact regarding the Federal Capital is.
– But you got a good asset from us. The trouble is that you do not know how to utilize it.
– That is beside the question; but the compact regarding the Capital was put into the Constitution for the special purpose of bringing New SouthWales into the Federation, because New South Wales turned the Constitution down when it was first referred to the people. Will the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) turn up Hansard of 5th May, 1915, when we discussed the Lithgow question on a reference by Mr. Fisher, and reconcile the position he took up on that occasion with the position he takes up now?
– He is friendly.
– I know it ; but he does not want to go as far as I do; and if he has suggested a commonsense way out for the Government, the Government might well accept it.
Naturally, I would like to see the Capital riveted by the erection of public buildings at Canberra: but Canberra is not ready for this building now. I am not asking that it be put there at once. Before we can put it there, we must make the Government understand that a large number of members of this Parliament are determined to have the Federal compact kept. Over 40 of the 111 members of the Parliament have already signed in favour of immediate removal to Canberra.’ Although I am strongly in favour of - that, I do not contend that the Government should put this building there until we have received their assurance that the Capital is to be erected there. These offices must be Where the Capital is. On the other hand, it. is absolutely a hare-brained scheme to spend £125,000 on a building here which will probably be to let in four or five years’ time, because if the compact in the Constitution is kept, we must be at Canberra by then. The Minister has often stated here, in different circumstances, that the land at Canberra belongs to us. We have not to pay hundreds of pounds per foot to buy land there. We have resumed much of it at £5 an acre. The proposal made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) shows a reasonable way out, for it would enable buildings to be erected, machinery placed there, and give reasonable conditions of employment. It is an affront to Parliament to decide a great question like this, and then pretend to ask our consent. I should not have minded if the Government had taken the matter into its own hands and erected a building, thus flouting Parliament altogether, for there would have been something determined and honest in such action. There is no doubt that work has been started, and the Minister must have been badly advised on this point. There is a gang of men there now putting in electric lighting, thus committing Parliament to the’ undertaking. Judging from what was said by the chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr. Gregory) tonight, it would be just as well to ignore the Committee, for he buttressed up the Minister’s statement, and forgot - that is a charitable view - to tell Parliament action had already been taken. This entitles us to look on the Public Works Committee without that confidence we have felt in the past. The Committee is the servant of Parliament, which relies on its reports, and if information be suppressed I shall look with a good deal of suspicion on what it may report in the future. It is not the business of the Committee to do what will please the Government, but to give information to Parliament, and leave Parliament to decide. I believe that the Government have taken a wrong step, and unless they retrace it in some way I shall certainly support the amendment.
– I intend to support the amendment. As a member of a previous Public Works Committee, I remind the present chairman (Mr. Gregory) of a decision we arrived at in 1917, as disclosed in a report dealing with the extension of the postal stores building, Harbor-street, Sydney.
We were at that time confronted with the same difficulty in reference to the site, which had already been purchased by the Government, and the Public Works Committee were to inquire only as to the cost or kind of buildings to be ereected. For the information of honorable members I will read an extract or two from that report on the question of the acquisition of land -
In connexion with this matter, it is noted that, although the site was acquired on 30th June, 1014, the proposal for the erection of the building was not referred to the Committee “until 14th December, 1916.
Apart from the question of loss of interest on capital, when sites are acquired any considerable time in advance of their use for Commonwealth purposes, it is considered most inadvisable that the Committee should run the risk of being in any way influenced in its decision as to the erection of any building by the fact that an expensive site has already been acquired by the Commonwealth for such building.
In most cases there should be little difficulty in obtaining an option over any site suggested for a building forming the subject of reference to the Committee, and, in any case, the Commonwealth is amply protected by the provision of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906 from any unreasonable demands which might be made in respect of land required for Commonwealth purposes.
The following is the opinion to which I should like the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman) to listen : -
In the opinion of the Committee, however, it is quite as important that full inquiries should be made, and Parliament duly informed, of any large expenditure on land, as it is in the case of works, and it is strongly recommended that in the cose of any proposal for the acquisition of land for Commonwealth purposes, where the estimated cost of the land would exceed £25,000, or the estimated cost of a site for a building, plus’ the cost of the building proposed to be erected thereon, would exceed £25,000, the matter should be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report prior to acquisition.-
– If that is correct, there was no right to buy land until the matter had been submitted to Parliament.
– During that investigation the Committee found that it was necessary to go down about 40 feet in order to make an artificial foundation, and they regarded the site as quite unsuitable; but the Government had paid a big price for it, and the Committee had to keep to the terms of their reference.
I disapprove of the Government entering into land purchases in any city in which they already have land suitable for the erection of buildings required. This is a question which has been the subject of investigation by the Public Accounts Committee in recent times. In connexion with the housing of public servants in the capital cities, the members of the Committee inspected various sites in various cities, including Melbourne. In this city the Government already possess the Victoria Barracks site, on St. Kilda-road, with a ground space of, I think, 84,000 square feet, a frontage of 135 feet to St. Kilda-road-, and two large frontages of about 450 feet to other streets. The only building on this land is a temporary iron building, used by the Victorian Police as a sort of riding: school. There are other areas of land on the General Post Office site and the Customs House site. At a time when every pound and every shilling counts, I object to the Government “ over-running the constable “ by purchasing sites when they are already possessed of suitable areas. I cannot accept the suggestion from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith)’, because I am much adverse to paying rent to landlords when we have land of our own.
I’ shall not enter into the question raised in regard to the Federal Capital, for no doubt that will form a lively subject of discussion either in this Parliament or the next. I do not agree with the cry raised by representatives of New South Wales in their hurry to get to Canberra. I remember that on one occasion when the Public Works Committee recommended a building should be erected on the Federal area for the purposes of the Small Arms Factory, there was a howl of indignation from almost the whole of the members who are now nearly “ breaking their necks “ to secure buildings there. I should like to know why there has been this sudden conversion.
– The electors are taking an interest in the matter now.
– One of the most iniquitous features of the framing of the Constitution was the insistance by New ; South Wales that the Capital should be in that State.
In the case of the Post-office Stores to which I have already referred, I so . far disagreed with the Government that I, as a member of the Public Works Committee, voted against their erection on the site referred to us, and Senator Keating, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), and the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), also members of the Committee, voted in the same way. I took that course because I considered the wrong site had been selected ; and I am quite consistent to-night in voting for the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). If the Government had paid regard to the recommendation of the Public Works Committee in 1’917, We should not be in our present position, for both site and buildings would have been referred to the Public Works ‘Committee. It is reckless expenditure to spend nearly ‘£60,000 on a site for the Note Printing Offices when there is already land available in Melbourne’, which is as much entitled to Federal institutions of the kind -as is any portion of New South Wales.
with regard to the purchase of sites for contemplated buildings.. There is no risk in purchasing metropolitan sites in any capital city of Australia. If the Public Works Committee, does not like this particular site, its duty is. to report against it. The Government will be able to dispose of it without very much fear of loss.
Like the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith), I find myself with two attitudes on this question. I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable, member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton)., in the hope that it will be carried ; but I shall vote against the proposal to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee at all. I shall give no vote in favour of establishing in the ‘temporary Seat of Government buildings that must eventually be transferred to the permanent Seat .of Government. We hear talk outside about economy. What sort of economy is it to spend £45,000 in putting up a building when, if we keep the pledge made to the people of New South Wales twenty years ago, and which was promised to be carried out within ten years, the necessity for that building will no .longer exist?
– -It’ will no longer exist .if we adhere to the decisions of this Parliament.
– That is so. 1 well recall the debates which took place when Sir George Reid asked the people of New South Wales to .accept the Federal Constitution. He had made an agreement with the State Premiers .that the Federal ‘Capital was to be situated in New South Wales, and when members of the :State House .asked him what guarantee the people of New South Wales ‘had that that compact would be carried out, he told them that they could trust implicitly in the honour of the statesmen of Australia who had made it. He said that men like Sir George Turner, the Hon. C C Kingston, and other State leaders were men of honour, who, when they gave their promise, would- keep it; ‘and on -that promise deliberately made and supported in this way, the people of New .South Wales entered into the Federation. Yet. twenty years have gone by, and still in this Parliament there is strong passive resistance to the carrying out of a pledge which is actually embodied, in the Constitution. Those who believe that the pledge should be honoured should see to it that no further expenditure occurs in Melbourne on works that’ properly belong to the Federal Capital. Of course, there are certainFederal buildings that must be situated in each State, but there are great offices occupied by the Defence Department in Melbourne, in which there were thousands of men employed at administrative work in connexion with the war. Are we to keep these offices occupied for all time by the Defence Department? It is time we heard of real economy in this regard, and time some use was made of these buildings for other Commonwealth Departments* One can hardly go along any street in Melbourne without finding a block of buildings in which a Commonwealth office is situated. We ought to review our position in regard to the accommodation of many of our activities. At a time when the huge administration in connexion with the war is to be curtailed, room might be found for other- Departments in offices which are to be vacated by the Defence Department.
– Ministers are not paying any heed to the honorable member’s remarks.
– The only way in which to impress Ministers is by the votes of honorable members. While honorable members are prepared to vote year in and year out for more and more expenditure in Melbourne, sending up the land values in this city in every direction at the expense of the Commonwealth, instead of enhancing the value of the Commonwealth land at Canberra, we shall have this sort of thing going on. I shall vote against any proposal to put up a permanent building in Melbourne which will not be needed here when the Seat of Government is removed to Canberra. The proposed building is one which is closely associated with the Treasury. In Washington, the Bureau of Engraving is within easy walk of the Treasury, and is under the direct eye of the Minister controllings the finances.of the United States of America. Our offices should be under similar control, and if in two or three years we go to Canberra, the building now proposed to be erected in Melbourne- will be worthless unless theCommonwealth can find other- activities to make use of it.- However, we have the right to expect that there will soon- be- vacant offices in many buildings at present occupied by the Defence Department. At any rate, if the present building is not suitable for the purpose to which it has been put for the last seven years, during which we .have been turning, out more paper money than I hope we shall see turned out during the next seven years, there ought to be other premises in Melbourne quite suitable for the purpose.
We have a right to complain that money is being spent on the site of this proposed building, which will be of no use if the Public- Works Committee or this Parliament turns down the present proposal.
– The work which is being carried out on the site has no connexion with this proposed work.
– Then I have no need to say anything further upon that point.
I contend that we should either abolish the Public Works Committee, and place responsibility on the Minister for Works and Railways, or insist that all works should go to the Public Works Committee, with that body absolutely free. It is not free if a Minister has already spent money in putting up offices that are ultimately to form part of the building. It is not -as free to deal with the. merits of the case as the. law requires. The law is that the Minister shall come to the House and explain a proposition, and then it is for the House to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee. I want to know who has been administering oaths to witnesses. In New South Wales there is a law against- any person going around administering oaths and taking evidence. If in this matter the Public Works Com- mittee has been taking evidence on oath, it is getting pretty close to the border line ; it is professing to have an authority to summons people to give evidence on oath which it does not possess. If it has taken evidence which is not given on oath, I hope that it will not present that evidence to the House as ordinary evidence taken on oath. If that is done, it is a very serious thing. The report would mislead Parliament as to the character of the evidence given.
However, my point of view is not affected by these things. I shall not give my vote for the erection of any public building, of a permanent character in connexion with the Capital in the temporary seat of government. I object,- on the grounds of economy, to the building of new offices in Melbourne while there are huge, unoccupied buildings all over the city. I object to the purchase of sites in new centres while there are large, unoccupied areas in a central situation, which ought to be made use of by the Commonwealth before going further afield.
.- The debate has given us one of the finest exhibitions of mental gymnastics that I have experienced in my short sojourn in this Chamber. Many of the statements made astonish one. Indeed, they are astounding. With a suavity not usually shown by him, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) this afternoon attempted to “ bulldoze “ the House as to what had actually taken place.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. At any rate, the honorable member attempted to mislead us - I do not say that he did it deliberately - when he said that the Committee over which he presided would have the power to decide with reference to the site of this building.
– Do not be foolish. I said nothing of the sort. If the honorable member had read the Public Works Committee Act, he would know that the Public Works Committee merely reports to Parliament.
– I know that the honorable member said that the Public Works Committee, would go into the question of the site.
– It has the power to take evidence relating to the site and report to the House.
– Then, by a great mental gymnastic feat, the honorable member arrived at this position: that notwithstanding what is placed before the Committee, the site referred to is not the one submitted to it. I could understand the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) doing that mental somersault, because he has the necessary legal training, although he might not be so successful at physical acrobatics. But the most extraordinary development to-day is that it appears the Public Works Committee is doing work for which it has no authority. Indeed, it is said that but for the little hitch which. occurred on Friday last, the report of the Committee would have been ready this week. As a matter of fact, it is very nearly ready now.
– What authority has the honorable member for making that statement?
– The’ honorable member for Denison will have ample opportunity to tell the House the truth as to what has taken place in regard to this inquiry. We have heard interjections from the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), who are also members of the Public Works Committee, but they have been silent as to what has actually taken place.’ We can- only infer from their silence that an inquiry has been held. Personally, I have no doubt upon the matter. There has been an inquiry. Whether or not it has been held in the proper way, I do not know. A good deal of misapprehension exists as to the work which is now in progress. From what I can see of the plan when the whole building is’ finished, if Parliament allows it to be finished, there will be one huge block, in which will be the premises that are now being altered. The Minister (Mr. Groom) has denied the statement made by an honorable member that on the site at the present time work is going on that will dovetail in with the scheme which forms the subject of this reference. On the site at the present time men are fitting up an electric plant, knocking holes in the walls of the existing building, and putting in new doorways. There are also some cement and other building material on the job. If the alterations now in progress are ultimately to dovetail in with the work covered by this reference, then the Minister was incorrect. in his statement.
– I am officially informed that no work is being done in connexion
Kith this reference.
– We know that work is going on at the site, and we believe that it will ultimately fit in with the work to be done under this reference. Just as the Public Works Committee, anticipating that this motion would be carried, has commenced its inquiry, so the Department of Works ‘and Railways, acting under instructions from some one, is making alterations to the existing buildings, anticipating, apparently, that the erection of these offices will be recommended by the Committee. These two revelations are, to say the least, astounding. I have no doubt that the anticipatory work of the Committee will bear fruit should this reference (be agreed to, but I submit that no more Commonwealth buildings should be erected in Melbourne. No provision should be made in any other part of Australia for offices that it will be necessary to erect at Canberra. We have to make a start somewhere, and the more we expend on Commonwealth buildings here, the stronger will be the reason for delaying the establishment of the Federal Capital. I am not concerned with the means adopted to secure the Federal Capital for New South Wales. The means adopted were, to my mind, immoral. They were certainly not such as should have been adopted to determine the site of the capital of a nation. But since it has been decided that the Capital shall be established at Canberra, we should avoid any duplication of Commonwealth buildings.
I should like the Minister to inform the House what work is now in progress on the Victoria-parade site, whether that work will fit in with the building covered by this reference, and why the Public Works Committee was instructed to proceed with the taking of evidence before the matter had been referred to Parliament.
.- I have been listening with much interest to the discussion on this question, and it appears to me that honorable members generally must feel, as I do, that we are at a time of immense and unequalled prosperity; that public works are not being denied to any electorate, that we are anticipating enormous surpluses in the future, and that we are living in a sort of fairyland, instead of the position in front of us really being so obscure financially that land which has been purchased for. post offices and other public buildings in various electorates has to remain unoccupied because of the grave crisis before us. That is the actual position all over Australia, and yet we find that at the behest of some one, the law is broken, the Constitution is set aside, and the Government suddenly start upon a scheme involving an expenditure of not merely £46,000, but, judging by the plans, something in the neighbourhood of £200,000. Indeed, when that estimate is exceeded in the normal course of affairs we shall probably find that the Commonwealth has been committed to an expenditure of £300,000 on the erection of a building in Melbourne without any reference of the matter to Parliament.
There is a law governing this matter which says that before any work of this kind is undertaken it must be referred to Parliament. That law has been set aside, in fact, if not in the letter, by the Department actually acquiring for a specific purpose a site in Melbourne before Parliament has been asked to decide, through its Committee, whether it is right or not for these offices to be erected here. I do not blame the Minister (Mr. Groom) altogether for that, because, in connexion with the erection of public buildings, a very loose and, I think, ineffective practice has been in existence ever since the establishment of the Federation. The practice is to provide on the Estimates for the acquisition of a piece of land for a certain purpose, and on the following year’s Estimates for the erection of a building upon it. Under this system we lose interest on the money spent in acquiring these lands by allowing them to remain idle for a. year. In this case, however, the money required for the acquisition of the land, I understand, was not on the Estimates.
– The land, I believe, has not been paid for. I am told that there is trouble with the trustees.
– At present, there is trouble with more tha’n the trustees. The Minister would be well advised now if lie would follow the suggestion of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) and make some shift to get along until the Government have come to a decision with regard to the Federal Capital.
Honorable members may think that in opening my remarks I. was speaking with some soreness, because of constant refusals to carry out past obligations to my electorate. I come from New South “Wales, but I regard myself sitting in this House as an Australian; not ais a New South Welshman. I am one of those honorable members who have refused to sign a requisition, to the Government to immediately establish the Federal Capital in New South Wales. My reason for refusing to sign that document at present is that, until the Government have disclosed their Budget - in other words, until we know how far we are from the financial precipice - I do not think it is right, or patriotic, or Australian; I do not believe it is New South Welsh, to ask the Commonwealth to run itself right over that precipice in order to carry out a bargain that should have been carried out before the war started. While I hold that view strongly enough to make me, as a representative of New South Wales, refuse to sign that requisition, I view with absolute horror the easy way that the Minister tas of starting an expenditure of £200,000 in the capital of Victoria. I resent that. I have treated the Government fairly in abstaining from the New South Wales move, which might have embarrassed them; but I think that they are not treating the House fairly if they ask it to commit itself to an expenditure of £200,000 on the erection of another public building amongst the administrative offices in Melbourne. I shall vote for the amendment if it goes to a division; and, if it is carried, I shall then vote against the whole reference. That is the only course now open, to us. I most strongly urge the Ministry to come down at the earliest moment with their Budget statement, and let us know where we really are with our finances in general.
I should like to exchange courtesies, if I might, for a moment or two with the members of that very excellent and esteemed public body, the Public Works Committee. Nothing gave me greater pleasure’ than the statement so frankly and readily made by the Chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr. Gregory) that, in connexion with this inquiry, they had been working in an entirely honorary capacity, though we had a heated contradiction almost immediately following from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson). I hope my friend the Chairman of the Committee will stand by the opinion that he has pronounced, and will see that, as this inquiry which he and other members of that Committee have taken part in is entirely illegal, it must be equally honorary. Their desire to acquire information does them infinite credit, and. I believe they will be satisfied with that credit, recognising that as in this work they are without the law they must also be without the profits.
.- I rise to. support the amendment. I find, from the plan, that the land concerned has a frontage of about 130 feet by a depth of 247 feet, and that the Government proposal is to occupy less than half the .ground, the other’ portion being occupied by the hall formerly occupied as a German club. If the House passes the motion, there will be really nothing for the Works Com- mittee to do, because on that Committee there is sufficient influence to agree as to the site at once. There is no doubt about that. The existing building has four floors, and is of a very plain character. There is nothing in the elevation to the lane or the street that the Committee could disagree with. They could decide at once upon their recommendation. I have looked through the quantities, and have come to the conclusion that £44,000 is rather a high price for a building on ground 30 by 100 feet, but I assume that the bills of quantities are correct. The motion now before the House appears to be nothing more nor less than an attempt to involve Parliament in heavy expenditure, because if we refer this matter to the Public Works Committee, and that body makes a recommendation, we cannot escape the expenditure. It is time members of this House stood up for their rights, and in regard to this matter decided that the Government should not be allowed to go on with the proposal. This building should be erected at Canberra, where the three main essentials, electric light and power, water supply, and sewerage are already provided. The position at Canberra reminds me of the conditions during the constructional period of the Panama Canal. The “French authorities, who first undertook that work, adopted obsolete methods, and in an unheathy climate provided hospitals for sick people. They would never have finished that huge undertaking if the American- authorities had not come to their assistance, and they first of all provided for the workmen a water supply, the necessary power, and sewerage to meet all requirements. Ail these essentials are now available at Canberra, and the expenditure incurred can. I believe, be made reproductive, and Teal economy be effected if steps are taken to erect Commonwealth buildings on the Capital site. The place is now habitable, and it is absurd to regard further expenditure there as wasteful. Surely no honorable members will say that the will of the people is not going to be respected. It is no use now finding fault with those who fixed upon that area as the Capital site. It is too late now to do that. The endeavour of the Government has been to prevent the House having an opportunity to discuss this question. They did not refer to the Committee the question of site; the Committee were given no power to express an opinion on that subject. All the Committee can do if this reference is made is to look at the plans and quantities, and ask tha architects of the Public Works Department for any assistance that may be needed in working out the probable cost of the building. To an honorable member like myself, who understands building operations, it is easy to see that no wasteful expenditure is proposed. The suggested building is a simple one of four stories, and the sanitary arrangements are to be in accordance with the principles followed by sanitary engineers. If the House agrees to the motion in its present form, the Committee will sit for a few hours, and in about three or four days will be able to submit their report on the- proposal. I deplore the fact admitted by the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, that an inquiry into these buildings was made by the Committee before the reference from Parliament. When the Public Works Committee Act was passed, the intention was that any proposed work should be considered by Parliament before any expenditure was incurred. The reason for the institution of the Public Works Committee in New South Wales was that sums of money were placed on the Estimates which did not represent the actual estimated expenditure for proposed works. When Sir Henry Parkes was Premier, a sum of about £750,000 was placed on the Estimates for the proposed Sydney waterworks, and I favored what I considered, and what the engineers ultimately found to be, a much better scheme. I said to Sir Henry one day, “ Your scheme will cost, on a rough estimate, over £2,000,000.” He replied, in his usual quiet manner, “ Never mind; if I were to tell Parliament what these works will cost, Parliament would never pass them.”’ I warn the House that the ultimate cost of the works that are now the subject of this reference will be £95,000. I hope I shall have the opportunity to fight all these proposals until Parliament decides that permanent Commonwealth buildings which are not local in character shall be erected in the Capital Territory. I visited the site in Victoria-parade to-day, and inside the hall of the existing building saw an immense quantity . of planks for scaffolding, and 5,000 or 6,000 running feet of 6 x 6 timber. These planks are to be used in the work of erecting concrete walls. All the scaffolding is covered up, so that it cannot be seen from the street. I am informed that the intention is to strengthen the floors in order that they may be able to bear the vibration of machinery. Already, workmen have commenced to cut two doorways into the adjoining building, and they propose to cut other apertures for windows, and to install electric light. The hasty way in which this work is being carried on is causing suspicion. However honorable members may regard the Federal Capital question, the time has come when every member should be made to declare whether he is in favour of the terms of the Constitution being carried out. When I was asked to become a member of the Federal Capital Committee in New South Wales. I declined, and said, “You are all friends of the National party, which has never done anything but concentrate all expenditure in Melbourne.” Why is that done? Because many Victorian members would not retain their membership of this Parliament if it were shifted to Canberra; it would not pay them to travel that distance. They are determined to keep this Parliament in Melbourne as long as they can. There is a powerful influence at work to prevent the spirit of the Constitution being observed, and to the business of the Commonwealth being conducted without interference by the Melbourne press, which today controls the destinies of Australia, to the detriment of our people. It expresses nothing but the narrow provincial view, and represents the same spirit that animated the “ little “ Australians who fought against Federation. I ask Honorable members to deal with this matter in a national spirit.
– In a national Sydney spirit.
– It is not desired that the Capital shall be in Sydney. Members talk about decentralization, but they endeavour to get everything concentrated in the big cities. One of the best moves ever made in the interests of decentralization was the making of a constitutional provision that the Federal Parliament should be kept away from the State capitals. By transferring the Federal Parliament to Canberra and thus opening up that Territory we would be doing something practical in the interests of decentralization. Metropolitan land values are too high altogether for the welfare of our people. How can shopkeepers hope to supply cheap food while they are required to pay enormously heavy sums in weekly rentals? ‘ I am not in favour of the alternative suggestion to remove the note printing establishment to Sydney. That city is expanding altogether too much to-day. It is becoming more and more the capital of Australia. I altogether deprecate the conduct of the Government, and I hope we shall never see the like of it again. Its procedure has been, more than immoral; that word is not strong enough to express my feelings. The Government have been undermining the will and authority of Parliament by prompting an inquiry before securing parliamentary authority. Public money should never be expended until a Budget has been introduced and the item concerned has been duly authorized by the LegislatureProper expenditure is never waste. Money saved is revenue gained. If the project in question were merely a matter of £44,000 the procedure of the Government would not be quite so bad; but the proposition will represent an ultimate expenditure involving at least £90,000. As we love Australia, we should see that no expenditure of public money other than is amply justified for the efficient government of the people is permitted. I do not regard as economy the principle of striking sums off the Estimates on every pretext. Money is required to carry on the services of the country, and to insure good government; but when a Government endeavours to perpetrate a dishonest action-
– I shall withdraw that remark, sir, and say that if I had a legal opportunity I would describe the procedure of the Government as dishonest. Had a sum of £44,000 been placed on the Estimates for the transfer of the note printing branch this House would never have passed the line; but the proposed expenditure has been sneaked in after a manner which is certainly not creditable to the Government. The principle on which we should base our attitude in regard to works of a permanent character in connexion with Commonwealth administration is that no expenditure in such a direction should be permitted outside Canberra. It would not be necessary to resume land at Canberra. It is ready for us to build on. The Commonwealth Government should not assist the land-owners of Melbourne to get higher prices for their holdings. Land is too dear in Melbourne now, and the Commonwealth Government should not step in and make it more expensive by purchasing sites here. We should display a better spirit than that. I understand that the proposed site at Fitzroy is not paid -for because the trustees disagree with the amount the Government are offering. There are German interests concerned. The Government, although they are fond of talking about German interests, have gone to German owners of property to. buy land to build a printing office on.
– This association sent thirty boys to the Front.
– I am not saying anything about what the association has done, but I am convinced that very few members here are pleased with the action of the Government in the matter. Except a few members who want to live next door to Parliament House, every one in this chamber, if he expressed his- honest conviction, would say that Parliament should go to Canberra. It would be in the interests of the country, and make for better legislation, if we went there as soon as possible, because Parliament would meet, there in an atmosphere that we cannot get in any of the big cities.. Holding these -views, I should be a traitor to the interests of Australia and to my constituents if I did not take the course I intend to take now. I honestly believe that what
I am doing is the right thing for Australia. I hope the House will throw out both the amendment and the motion, and give the Government an opportunity to put electric light into the building they already have, and strengthen the floors. That would make it a place in which’ note and stamp printing could very well be done.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sampson) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Customs Act 1901-1916.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The business to-morrow will be the second reading of the Customs Bill, with which we want to proceed directly into Committee, and then take it through its remaining stages. The next business will be- the Institute of Science and Industry Bill, after which we shall follow the order of the notice- paper.
.- A number of temporary clerical hands in the Department of Works and Railways are workingunder an award of the Arbitration Court. When travelling, they have been accustomed to get travelling expenses and overtime, because that is the award of the Court. The Department, or the Minister, however, has read’ into that award the direction that temporary men are not entitled to those privileges. That, I submit, is an injustice inflicted on a large number of Government employees, and is breaking the spirit of the award . Ifpermanent men are entitled to those advantages, surely casual hands are equally entitled to them.
– I shall inquire into. the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 August 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190807_reps_7_89/>.