8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers. .
– An advertisement appears in to-day’s Argus,inwhich it is stated that -
On and after Monday next, coal vendors may supply householders with coal, in quantities not exceeding 10 cwt., within a period of twenty-eight days, providing they have previously obtained from all such persons certificates, in writing, to the effect that the quantity or quantities of coal received by them. together with the amount to be supplied, docs not exceed a total of 10 cwt. during any period f twenty-eight days.
I wish to know whether householders desirous of buying coal must obtain official certificates, or will it be sufficient for them towrite a letter! Many persons are unable to buy more than a cwt. of coal at a time under any circumstances.
– I can ascertain what the exact requirements of the regulation are, and shall let the honorable member know later in the afternoon.
– In view of the great discontent in the Permanent Military Forces caused by the new scale of pay, will the Minister take action toremedy the grievances of those who complain?
– I am aware that discontent exists in the 2nd Military District, and last night I sent an officer of the Pay Department to Sydney to inquire into the whole matter. . I think there has been some misinterpretation of an instruction there, because it is only from the 2nd Military District that we have had complaints.
– The position is the same in Victoria.
– Complaints have not been received from Victoria to anything like the extent that they are coming from New SouthWales. I think there must have been a misinterpretation of the regulations governing payment under the new scale, because it is complained that married men are now receiving less than formerly, whereas the regulations provide that a married man who is not satisfied with his pay under the new scale may demand payment under the old scale.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
– By leave, I move -
That leave of absence for three months be given to the Chairman of Committees, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter), on the ground of ill-health.
As honorable members know, our Chairman has recently suffered the bereavement of his life-long partner, and is very much broken in health. I am sure that the House sympathizes with him in the calamity that has overtaken him, and will gladly extend to him its sympathy and every consideration within its power.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I am unable to say. The Government have not yet had an opportunity to peruse the report.
– It has been published.
-I saw statements in the newspapers, purporting to contain excerpts from the report, long before the report reached any member of the Government. I hope that it will not be long before the report can be made availaible to honorable members.
– I understand that it costs a good deal of money to refine sugar, and I ask, therefore, whether, as the price of refined sugar is now so high, housewives could not be allowed to obtain unrefined sugar for less than 6d. per lb., that is, the brown sugar to which we have become accustomed ?
– I am afraid that there would be an outcry if that sugar were put on the market to any great extent.
-If it were cheaper, I, for one, should be glad to use it.
-It would not be any
– I was interested to read the statement of the chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, published in this morning’s newspaper, to the effect that recently more sugar than usual had been distributed. Where that sugar is going is, I think, a matter that needs looking into. I shall be glad to bring the honorable member’s suggestion under the notice of the proper authorities.
– I desire to know who will select the delegates to the conference which it is proposed to hold between the employers and the employees? What bodies are to select the delegates?
– I do not precisely know, but I should say all the representative bodies of the interests to be served. For instance, I should say that the employees will select some delegates, and the employers select others. I do not know what other interests there are, but the great public interest has always to be served. However, the whole matter will have to be carefully considered, and I suggest that the honorable member place his question on the notice-paper, so that I may be able to give him a considered reply.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement in the Argus of to-day, referring to certain comments made by Mr. Piddington in Sydney yesterday as to the basic wage of Commonwealth employees? I have here a clipping from that newspaper, showing that evidence was given in certain cases that the wives of Commonwealth employees have to restrict their children’s appetites.
– They cannot do that!
– Then they have to restrict the satisfaction of their children’s appetites - a state of affairs which, in a country like this, is most discreditable. Are the Government prepared, so far as their employees are concerned, to allow a charge of this kind to rest, or will they at an early date consider the justice of giving these people a living wage?
– I am afraid I am not able to answer the question, because there is no definite information in the excerpt referred to, but only a general statement made by certain people in the community as to the dire effects of the present condition of things. I am afraid that there have been complaints of the kind from the beginning of time; it is, indeed, the problem of the ages, and a continuous one, as to how to so arrange and adjust our human affairs that no one shall be in want. Any man who can make a contribution to the solution of that problem is under obligation to do so. May I add that I have seen many strange statements made before the tribunal of which Mr. Piddington is president. The other day, for instance, I saw that a workman had. declared that he could not live properly without silk socks.
– That is a burlesque.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– It is a burlesque put up by the employers.
– It is a burlesque, and the less we have of such nonsense the better for all concerned. No doubt there are cases of deprivation, and it is the obligation of the Commonwealth, and of every body of men in the community, to alleviate them if it be possible.
– Can the Minister for the Navy say whether any suggestion has been made regarding the appointment of Sir William Birdwood as next Governor-General?
– I have no information whatever. I do not know what is to be the future of the popular General ; but, so far, no information has reached me of any such appointment.
– Is there any foundation for the rumour that the touring of the Commonwealth by Sir William Birdwood is fitting him for the High Commissionership ? Is he a “ starter “ ?
– I have no d6ubt that that worthy gentleman could fill many positions, and in his time will play many parts.
– May applications now be submitted for the gratuity payable under the War Gratuity Act? Further, to what officer may applications be addressed, and are printed forms provided for the purpose of facilitating the business?
– Applications may be made at once, and the sooner they are made the better. There are printed forms at the post offices and other public places, and they must be distributed as widely as possible. The sooner applications are in the better it will be for the Government, and the better for the people concerned.
War Service Homes Department in South Australia.
– I have received an intimation, from the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The establishment of a War Service Homes Department in the State of South Australia.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I desire to make clear that, in bringing under the notice of honorable members the establishment of a branch of the “War Service Homes Department in South Australia, I am not doing so “with any idea of opposing the building of homes for soldiers, but because I believe that the inauguration of the Federal Department in Adelaide will lead to a waste of public money, and will make it more difficult for soldiers to secure homes for themselves. I realize, of course, that if action is to be taken it must be taken very early, for the reason that already applications have been called for the filling of quite a number of positions; and honorable members know full well that from the moment when an individual has been, appointed to a Government position, and he has dipped his pen in departmental ink, nothing under the sun will ever shift him. We have in South Australia a system, to which I shall presently refer, for the building of soldiers’ homes; but I desire first to direct attention to what is proposed to be done by the Federal authorities. The Commonwealth Government, obviously recognising that in South Australia there was already in operation a system for the con struction of houses for soldiers, appointed. Captain Bell, of theRepatriation Department, as Deputy Commissioner. At first,. I considered that that was a very good and economical arrangement. Working, as it did, in conjunction with the State Bank, it entailed very little, if any, increased expenditure to the Commonwealth. Later, however, Colonel Baker, who had been originally Deputy Commissioner, was appointed to represent the architects, Messrs. Kirkpatrick Brothers. This arrangement, however, continued for only a brief period. A Mr. Duckmartin was sent over to represent the architects, and he has since been replaced by Mr. Milne, an Adelaide architect, to represent Messrs Kirkpatrick. The very latest situation is that a Captain Earle has been appointed Deputy Commissioner. Following his establishment in office, and having taken premises in Franklin-street, the Deputy Commissioner invited applications for the filling of a number of minor positions. Honorable members will perceive, by the following list, that it is intended to establish a Department of considerable strength : -
The list does not include the salary of the Deputy Commissioner or touch on the outlay upon rent. It is fair to suggest that the Department will cost more than £7,000 per annum; and we know that when ‘it has been established it will extend its scope and influence from this comparatively small beginning. I would raise no objection, in fact, it would bo my duty to assist and support the project, but that there is already in existence’ in South Australia a Department which is efficiently and satisfactorily meeting requirements. The South Australian Government, in 1916, passed an Act for the building of soldiers’ homes, and since that period they have been carrying on with remarkably few complaints; generally, indeed, the Department has given very great satisfaction. Since the inception of this activity the State Bank has built and bought, and paid off mortgages upon houses, representing a total of 3,574 dwellings. In addition, there are about 600 houses in the course of construction, and their total approximate cost is £381,060. The average cost of each house built in South Australia has been £577 10s. lid.; that includes cost of land. The material in every instance is brick and stone. I invite honorable members to inspect photographs of some of the homes, which are on view in the Queen’s Hall. They will note that the dwellings are of four and five, and, in some instances, more, rooms; and that they vary in appearance, all of them being modestly attractive. The lowest wall of any of the houses yet built measures, from floor to ceiling, 10 feet. The total amount spent by the State Government in building, to date, represents £2,064,139. The Act provides that the sum of £700 can be expended in the buying of land and the building of a soldier’s home. Honorable members will agree, I am sure, that the price compares more than favorably with that for similar work, carried out in any other part of the Commonwealth. The South Australian Government have also very wisely purchased large areas of land, which have been specially town-planned, as the basis of future garden cities. These localities before very long will’ rank among the finest assets which any State could possess. The areas are laid out with ample recreation reserves, and the streets are already planted with trees. The houses in the town-planned areas will cost only a little more than £500 each.
– Does the Commonwealth Bank assist in financing the State Government project?
– No ; the State is raising the money from its own resources. The advances are made for a term not exceeding fifty years and carry interest at the rate of 4£ per cent, per annum. Those are a great deal better terms than the Commonwealth authorities are offering. In addition, the State Government provide that soldiers’ homes shall be free of all rates and taxes, including water rates, for the ‘first period of five years. Assistance of that nature, it must be admitted, amounts to a very considerable allowance.
– And the State is getting no financial backing from the Commonwealth?
– None whatever. Instead of receiving financial assistance, indeed, the State has now to face active competition in carrying out its work on behalf of South Australian soldiers.
– That is to say, the State authority is still continuing to build these homes ?
– Yes, both for soldiers and for soldiers’ widows. The maximum amount of rent required from those assisted is 7s. per week; the amount varies, of course, with the size of the house. The average rent which a widow is required to pay for her home, which is given to her for life, amounts to 5s.
– I take it that both the State and Federal Departments are competing in respect to land, material, and labour.
– Yes, that is one of the chief points which I have in mind. An advance of £600 is repayable by equal monthly instalments of principal and interest as follows: -
South Australia ought to be very proud Ot those terms, and the system ought not to be jeopardized by the establishment of a competing Department by another Government; because the moment the Commonwealth establishes a Department in South Australia for the building of homes for soldiers, it is only natural the officers of that Department will push matters for all they are worth to justify themselves, which means that they will be out to buy land and secure contracts for the building of houses. Thus they will considerably increase the cost of land and building material, thereby creating difficulty for the State in carrying out its work. The establishment of a Commonwealth Department for the building of soldiers’ homes in South Australia will have a bad effect on the soldiers.
– What are the Commonwealth officers doing in South Australia now?
– They are making preparations to build homes for soldiers; but what soldier is likely to accept the conditions of the Commonwealth War Service Homes Act, liberal as it is, in preference to the South Australian system?
– But the honorable member has not stated the whole case.
– No ; I intend to explain it further. The Commonwealth Act extends its advantages to classes of men not embraced by the South Australian Act. The latter is restricted to men in receipt of a salary of not more than £300 a year. And the Commonwealth will build houses for practically any returned soldier.
– Is not that an improvement ?
– I admit that it is an improvement on the South Australian Act. The Commonwealth Act also includes munition workers. However, the State Government, through their efficient Department, which has been established for twenty years, are prepared to administer that portion of the Commonwealth Act which makes provision for the classes of persons not covered by the State Act. There is no justification for creating a new Department simply to cover the classes of persons not covered by the South Australian legislation. It ought to be possible for the Commonwealth to act in cooperation with the State Governments, and, if necessary, appoint one officer to act conjointly with the State Bank in order to carry out the work of building houses for munition workers and others and soldiers in receipt of a bigger income than £300 a year.
– Is not the Commonwealth Office in South Australia a branch of the Federal War Service Homes Department?
– It is; but, as there is already is operation in South Australia a State system of building soldiers’ homes, there is no need for the creation of another Department in that State for this purpose. We ought to be able to co-ordinate the work, and avoid the unnecessary building up of a new Department.
– Would it not be the better form of co-ordination to allow the Commonwealth Government to control the whole of the work throughout Australia ?
– The honorable member’s interjection raises another issue. On an appeal to the electors, both the South Australian Government then in power and the Opposition pledged themselves that if they were returned to power t hey would establish a system of home building, and the Government, which was returned to power, carried out its pledge, and now feels it an obligation to carry on the work which it undertook. In any case, if the State Act were repealed, and the whole of the activities of building soldiers’ home3 were handed over to the Commonwealth, the soldier who builds in the future in South Australia will be placed at a disadvantage as compared with one whose house has already been built by the State Government. In South Australia we have already felt the competition of the Commonwealth. Contractors are beginning to withdraw their contracts ; in fact, one contract has already been withdrawn because the claim is made that since the Commonwealth have come into the business, the cost of bricks and material and so forth, has increased beyond the prices on which their tender was originally based. One contract now under consideration deals with the building of 1,000 houses. The contractors are now finding out that they cannot carry on their contracts at the present prices.
– Have the State Government the same right of land resumption as the Commonwealth has, at reasonable rates?
– The State legislation authorizing the resumption of land for public utilities does not cover the acquisition of blocks for soldiers’ homes, but the State Government purchase the land in the ordinary way, and find no difficulty in getting plenty of it at reasonable prices. If a soldier wishes to build a house in a particular locality, such as Park Terrace, Unley, where land is considerably higher in value than elsewhere, the State Bank will assist him in effecting the purchase if he is prepared to put down a little of his own money. The State Government do not insist on all the soldiers living in these garden cities they are building; they are prepared to build elsewhere, wherever a man thinks it advantageous for him to live. I do not submit this matter as a carping critic. If the Minister doubts what I say, I ask him to send a reliable officer to South Australia to make an investigation; and, if as the result of that visit the officer is satisfied with the manner in which the State are undertaking this work, then let us have common-sense co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the State iu this regard, and avoid the expense of building up a new Department. I am sure that if these inquires are made, the Minister will find that it will be beneficial to the soldier and the taxpayer alike not to create a new Department in South Australia for the building of soldiers’ homes. I submit this matter to-day because it is urgent that it should be dealt with before applications for the advertised positions close. Otherwise, these officers will be appointed, and there will be great difficulty in getting them out of their positions. I hope that the House will give the matter the serious consideration it deserves, in the interests of the soldiers; and I confidently appeal to my honorable friends in the Economy corner.
– Does the same thing apply in all the States?
– No. Some of the States are not undertaking the work of building soldiers’ homes. If the Commonwealth is doing this work in New SoUth Wales and Victoria, there is no need for the States to step in, but where the States are already doing it, the Commonwealth should not interfere. Where, however, the States are not building these houses, let the Commonwealth do so.
– I wish to supplement the remarks of the honorable member for Ade laide (Mr. Blundell) by making a comparison between the styles of houses built in South Australia and those built in Victoria. I have inspected many of the latter, and if the Minister for Repatriation will send to Adelaide a competent expert from his Department, I shall be guided by his decision as to whether the State authorities there are. not making a better job than is being made in the other States. The State Bank in South Australia is operating on eighteen different designs of houses. I have here a sample plan which shows one large bedroom 15 feet 6 inches by 12 feet, a second bedroom 12 feet by 11 feet, a drawingroom 13 feet by 12 feet, a dining-room 15 feet by 14 feet, a kitchen 12 feet by 11 feet 6 inches, and a bathroom, laundry, and conveniences. I ask honorable members to compare the sizes of those rooms with the sizes of the rooms in the houses we inspected in Victoria a few days ago. In every one of the South Australian houses, there is a clear height of 10* feet from floor to ceiling in each room. I believe that the height in Victoria was 9 feet, but it is being raised to 10 feet. The South Australian blocks of land would average at least one-third larger than the blocks on which the houses in Victoria have been built.
– That is because of the difference in land values.
– Land values may be partly the explanation, but a good many of the houses in Adelaide are within 2 miles of the General Post Office. .
– We could not get land for this purpose within 2 miles of the Melbourne Town Hall.
– The houses we inspected in Victoria were 6 or 7 miles from the General Post Office, and there ought not to be a very great disparity in values between land 2 miles from the Adelaide General Post Office and land 6 miles from the Melbourne General Post Office.
– There is no comparison between the populations of Adelaide and Melbourne.
– Neither is there any comparison between the prices of the land, nor the solidity of the houses erected in the two cities. I call the attention of honorable members to photographs showing the finished work that has been put into the houses in Adelaide. Of the houses which have been provided, half have been constructed and the others have been purchased. I call attention to the fact that as soon as the Commonwealth Bank’s officers stepped into the business of buying houses the value of similar houses rose within a week nearly £100 each, and as the honorable member for Adelaide said, the presence of two big competing parties for buildings led to an increase in every item of building material. The State Bank, as the agent of the South Australian Government, was engaged for eight or nine years prior to entering upon this work for soldiers in building houses for civilians. So that its officers have had a great deal of experience of housebuilding. During those eight years, and also during the last three or four years, since they have been building soldiers’ cottages, they have employed continuously a number of small contractors. From the beginning the Department weeded out any contractors who showed a tendency towards “jerry” building, and only kept those in whom it had the utmost confidence - men who could be left to complete a house from foundation to roof, with absolute confidence on the part of the authorities that no bad work would be put into it. That is the reason why the State Bank has been able to erect these houses at an average cost of £577 10s. lid each. There is no comparison between that cost and the cost of houses built in other States.
– Much depends upon the date on which the houses were built.
– All the soldiers’ homes have been built since the 15th November, 1917, when the Act came into operation. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) has rightly said that the entry of the Commonwealth Bank upon the scene has led to every contractor withdrawing from the service of the State Bank. They have said, ‘’‘“We have two strings to our bow now, and we shall get better prices.”
– Have they done so?
– Yes! Unless this competition is discontinued, the South Australian Government will have no alternative but to withdraw from the work.
– There are three governmental construction authorities now. That is preposterous.
– I thought the honorable member believed in competition.
– I desire competition, but not three construction authorities.
– The honorable member for Dampier does not believe in a firm competing against itself, but that is, in effect, what is being done to-day. In regard to the objection that the State Bank does not build for soldiers receiving an income of more than £300 per annum, I know that the State Bank is prepared to submit to-morrow to the Minister for Repatriation an offer to build all the houses he requires at a charge of only per cent, for supervision.
– What is the honorable member’s policy in regard to soldiers who have no money?
– My policy is to do one thing well at a time, instead of starting impossible things. The charge of half per cent, for supervision covers everything. There are no architect’s fees, neither are there any agreements, registrations or anything else to be paid for. I appeal to my honorable friends on the Public Works Committee to say whether a charge of half per cent, for the supervision of such work is not a very small one.
I wish now to make a few observations in commendation of the attitude of the State Government. It undertook this work in fulfilment of a pledge made long before the Commonwealth scheme was suggested’, and, in accordance with that pledge, ‘ it charges interest on deferred payments at the rate of only 4$ per cent, per annum, which ds considerably less than what it has to pay for its money. If this competition between the Commonwealth and the State is to go on, with the result that prices of building material continue to go up, the State Government will not be able to continue the work. It is a question whether the Commonwealth should not find the money for the State Government of South Australia just as it is findings the money for the erection of war service homes in the other’ States; but on this point of overlapping and competition am satisfied that I shall not appeal in vain to the opinion of the House. I ask honorable members to examine the photographs of buildings erected by the South Australian Government and to carefully consider the whole question. I have only to say in conclusion that I feel fairly confident that the Minister for Repatriation does not desire to continue this unjustifiable competition.
– I am rather glad that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) has brought forward this question, since the position of the Department will stand the test of investigation. I shall deal first of all with the comparison which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard’ Foster) made of the cost of war service homes here and of those built in Adelaide by the State. He touched the spot, although he did not seem to realize it, when he said that the price of land ‘ in the suburbs of Adelaide is much cheaper than in the metropolis of Melbourne. I think there is a difference of about £100 between the cost of the war service homes built in Melbourne and those erected in Adelaide, and it will be found that the higher cost of land in this State fairly well accounts for the difference.
There is a good deal to be said in favour of the building scheme which is carried on by the State Bank of South Australia. The scheme, however, was never intended to apply to the building of soldiers’ homes. It was originated someyears ago to provide for the erection of homes for workmen who were not in receipt of more than £300 per annum. Under that scheme a deposit of something like 40 per cent, is required, and the authorizing Act fixes the rate of interest at 4£ per cent.
– Returned soldiers have not to pay a halfpenny by way of deposit under the State scheme.
– The honorable member is mistaken.
– I introduced the Bill in the South Australian Parliament, and I ought to know what its provisions are.
– At all events, .some time ago it was suggested to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) that the Commonwealth should finance the State Bank of South Australia in the building of homes for returned soldiers, since it had undertaken rather more than it could carry out in connexion with the State housing scheme. His reply was that he could not, having regard to the limitations imposed by the State Act. For instance, we erect homes for soldiers, soldiers’ dependants, sailors, and nurses, as well as for munition workers and war workers.
– The South Australian Act covers all, with the exception of munition workers and war workers.
– That being so, it still leaves a number unprovided for. We have to-day applications for the erection of no less than 893 houses in South Australia. Of these applications, 375 have been approved.
– How many of the applicants aTe in receipt of more than £300 per year?
– I do not know. Oan we support a scheme which is limited to persons in receipt of not more than £300 per annum?
– But the State has offered to do the work at a charge of i per cent, for supervision.
– I do not dispute that. Honorable members must realize that it would be impossible for the Minister to support a scheme adopted by one State which differed from that in operation in another.
– Why not, if it is a better scheme?
– I venture to say that the South Australian scheme is not better than our own. Under that scheme, when houses are built for persons in receipt of more than £300 per annum, deposits are insisted on.
– The statement that a deposit is required of returned soldiers is incorrect.
– Then the Minister must be misinformed.
– He. is. A telegram to the South Australian Government will prove that my statement is correct.
– I have received from the Repatriation Department, since the honorable member spoke, a statement, in which it is said -
Another important circumstance contributed to the decision to open a branch office. Under the South Australian State Housing Scheme, the Government advances money for the purpose of home construction at the rate of 4* per cent, per annum, where the applicant receives a salary not exceeding £300 per year. .Where the salary of the applicant is in excess of £300 per annum, 5 per cent, interest ia charged, and the applicant is required to furnish a deposit 6£ at least 40 per cent, of the value of the property.
Is that correct? t
– So far as it relates to persons in receipt of more than £300 per annum, it is correct.
– We fix no limit to the income of a returned soldier, and we charge 5 per cent, interest, because we cannot obtain the money for less. In charging 4i per cent., the State Government are making a loss. The Minister for Repatriation will be very pleased to meet representatives of South Australia on this question, and to arrive at a settlement.
– I am satisfied with that statement.
– We started building operations in Adelaide iri October last. We opened a branch on the 8th August, 1919. That branch office remained open two months, when it was closed. In consequence of the agitation for the building of war service homes - 893 applications for houses being received - and the State authorities making no effort to amend their Act to bring it into line with our own-
– Everything could be adjusted by an amendment of the Act.
– The Minister would be only too glad to meet the South Australian authorities, and to advance money to the State. They have applied to him for money, but, because of the want of uniformity between their housing scheme and that of the Department, he does not feel justified in advancing it.
– The Department could have utilized the State organization to do the work, but instead of doing so it placed two sets of authorities in the States in addition to the State authorities.
– It is all very well to blame the Commonwealth, but I am sure that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has done all that he could to arrive at an arrangement with the States. He told me that it would be mole to the advantage of the soldiers, under certain conditions, to do so, because the States got money at 4$ per cent.
– And look at the character of the houses built by the State authorities!
– Some of them are not so large.
– None of them are so small as those here.
– I think it will be found that the difference between the cost of the South Australian homes and that of the Victorian homes is due to the difference between the cost of land in the two States. If a deputation representing the State Bank and the Government can come to Melbourne, the Minister will meet them, and try to arrange for a housing scheme to be carried out under their supervision.
.- The House is indebted to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) for having in a very temperate manner brought this matter before it. He has a first-hand knowledge of the facts, being the Minister responsible for the South Australian legislation. My only concern in this matter is in preventing duality of control. Apparently in this case, as in so many others, immediately the Commonwealth takes a step forward it treads on the heels of the States, the State and Commonwealth authorities trying to do the same work. On a previous occasion, in connexion with the pensions, I made a firm protest, and took what action I could to prevent the establishment of two Departments, and I again tell the Minister that whenever it is possible , to prevent the duplication and overlapping of Commonwealth and State Departments, I shall consistently’ try to prevent it. I can see ahead of us a thundering debt, which will be piled up as the result of huge programmes for naval construction and other defence work, and’ unless the governing authorities of Australia set to work to define their respective domains, and keep within those domains, the financial drift will be hopeless. It behoves every member of the House to take a definite stand against duplication of effort. In my opinion, the Commonwealth, had it conferred with the States at the inception of the war service homes scheme, could have come to an arrangement with them which would have satisfied both parties. Recently I travelled with the Western Australian Minister responsible for the building of homes. He thought that he had concluded an arrangement with the Minister for Repatriation, but shortly afterwards he got a message calling it off. The Commonwealth Bank is going to carry out in Western Australia tie construction work which it sanctions. Thus there will be two separate building authorities, two staffs competing for the limited amount of building material available.
– And for the limited amount of labour available.
– Yes, and the Australian soldier will be faced with two sets of conditions, one better than the other. It is woeful that, after so many protests in this chamber, this lack of business cooperation should continue. I shall not vote for a duplication of effort by the Commonwealth where work is being carried out effectively by a State.
.- I wish to draw attention to what came under my notice a few days ago in Western Australia. Like the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), I have a great objection to duplication, but in Western Australia I saw, not duplication, but triplication.
– The only way to stop that is by the adoption of Unification.
– That would be to go to an even greater absurdity. I have seen so much of Commonwealth administration that I would be sorry for a distant State that had to intrust all its interests to this Parliament. In Western Australia a Department was formed many years ago for the construction of workmen’s homes. I have never been in favour of either the Commonwealth or a State carrying out work of that kind on the day-labour system. But the establishment of the Western Australian Department has had the good effect of keeping contractors from putting their heads together. Where you axe not tied down to one system without competition, .you get good results. I believe that in South Australia they had a similar Department. In the West there are architects, clerks of works, and the full staffs necessary for the carrying out of building operations. When the war service homes scheme was agreed upon, the Commonwealth put a staff of its own into Western Australia. It is necessary to have a Deputy Controller in each State to administer the affairs of the War Service Homes Department, but I see no reason why negotiations for the carrying out of building operations should not have been concluded with the States. The Western Australian Department is at present building workers’ homes, and could construct war service homes. Now, the Deputy Controller of the Commonwealth Department is building houses for soldiers in certain parts of the State, and the Commonwealth Bank employs another staff doing similar work. I went round with the Deputy Controller, and saw some very fine work that has been done by his Department. I was quite satisfied with the. work that he showed me; but when at Geraldton I was informed that at Mullawa an application for a soldier’s home had been approved, but nothing was done for five or six months, and then, suddenly word came from the Commonwealth Bank that the whole matter was to remain in abeyance for some time longer. Then, at Geraldton, the Commonwealth Bank purchased land on which a war service home was to be erected, but a few weeks prior to the date arranged for the marriage of the young fellow who was to occupy it, word came from the Bank that the work was not to be proceeded with for some time. When I returned to Perth, I got the Deputy Controller to take the matter in hand, and to give a decision regarding it. When the Repatriation Departmenttakes work out of the hands of the State, those in the cities may be well catered for, but the requirements of those in the country cannot be met, because the Commonwealth Department has not a staff to do country work, whereas the State Departments have officers in different districts, and are able to carry out work anywhere without undue delay.
– Under the supervision of experienced men.
– Yes. The Deputy Controller has no officials in the country, and, therefore, applications for war service homes coming from soldiers in the country are inordinately delayed. I do not think that the Government should put up houses in out-of-the-way places, where, if they were left untenanted by the soldiers for whom they were built, they would be of no value at all; but in districts having a recognised settled future, the Department should erect houses without delay, and the Government should be more ready to give assistance to persons living in the country than to persons living in the cities, so as to prevent the drifting of population to the cities. I do not say that the big city constructions should not go on, but the other work is, to my mind, of more importance. The duplication of effort by the Commonwealth Bank and the Deputy Controller should be stopped. We do not want the Commonwealth Bank to send officials to Western Australia.
– Has the Western Australian Government received any assistance from the Commonwealth Bank?
– I do not know; but in this case, the Commonwealth Government finds the money.
– If it has, that may be the reason why the Bank wishes to have a hand in the matter. We are responsible to the soldiers, not to the State authorities, in respect of these houses.
– The Commonwealth Bank, having satisfied itself as to the security for any advance, should allow the work to be carried out by the War Service Homes Department, instead of using officers of its own. I hope .that in the future there will not be the delays in the building of war service homes that there have been in the past.
– I hope that the Government will not agree to the suggestion of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell). In common . with other honorable members, I would, if I could, abolish duality of effort. There are many reasons why the Commonwealth should not hand this work over to the States. The Department in South Australia was brought into existence for the specific purpose of providing homes for workers with a- certain wage; and I have information to the effect that this Department has not proceeded with the work at anything like the speed expected. Whether that was because there is an unsympathetic Government in power I do not know, but they have done very little in the matter of workmen’s homes. We are told that if there are two authoritative bodies seeking building material, it will have the effect of raising prices; but even if the States do the work, the volume of demand on their part will have the same effect. It is a fact that in South Australia now there is a greater scarcity of building material than in any other State; and, as I say, it does not matter how many Departments undertake this work, the volume of the demand will create difficulty. I am strongly of opinion that the Commonwealth should undertake this work. Of course, I regret that there should be any duplication, but if we make this special arrangement in the case of South Australia we shall have the other States, perhaps, asking for variations. The Government made a. great mistake in introducing the Commonwealth Bank into this business, for the Bank, when it had control of the finances, bungled matters. I undertake to say that a house, constructed under the supervision of the Commonwealth Bank will cost 10 or 20 per cent, more than a house built by another authority.. Under the circumstances, the Commonwealth Bank should be withdrawn from this work in every State; and I wonder that this has not been done before. We did have & hint that it would be done.
– It has been done.
– I am glad to hear that statement. I have always held that where the States Departments can be used with advantage they should be used, but in the present case I do not think that any advantage would accrue.
– I suggest that there should be a Government agent in absolute control in each State.
– There is always a difficulty in an arrangement of that kind. If we hand over this work to the South Australians, oan we believe that there will not be a considerably increased staff necessary 1
– The staff is there already.
– But an increased volume of work must mean an increased staff, and there will always have to be supervision exercised by the Commonwealth.
– That would be cheaper than separate Departments.
– That remains to be seen.
– In South Australia,, over 3,000 homes have been constructed with the present machinery.
– That was for State purposes, and not for the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth is looked on by the State Governments as a good “ milch cow.”
– South Australia need not grumble, seeing that no payment has been made for the job at Port Pirie. I should deduct the money from the Commonwealth per capita allowance.
– That is what I should do. There is much trouble caused by the overlapping of the State and
Federal authorities, and even by the overlapping of one Department over another. It seems that one Department dislikes doing work for another, and, if the work is done, it is at an increased cost. I do not say it is impossible for the Director of the War Service Homes to make arrangements in South Australia, for example, but I do not believe that such arrangements would give such satisfaction as would control by the Government.
I have heard much of what has been done in Victoria in regard to war service homes, and certainly the work has been much better than anything that could have been done by the States. The building of these homes has caused an extra demand for material, but if they were not being built, other houses would have to be provided by the people. If other States follow the example of South Australia, we shall find the war service homes being erected under five or six different systems. I agree with the suggestion that a conference should be held, for it is quite possible that the outcome might be beneficial, though I have my doubts. My advice is that the work be handed over to the State, but that the conditions shall be set down in black and white to insure that the Commonwealth shall notbe used as a “milch cow.”
– In October last, in my place in the House, I registered my strongest protest against the triplication of work in connexion with the war service homes. First, there were the StateSavings Banks, which had experience and all the necessary machinery for the work; next, there was the sub-Department established in the Expatriation Department itself; and, thirdly, there was the Commonwealth Bank, whichcreated a war service homes branch. I protested against the extravagance involved, and for reasons which I then stated. In 1918, when the War Service Homes Bill wasbefore us, there was, with much approval, inserted section 50, by which the Minister was specially Authorized to make arrangements with the several State Savings Banks for the purposes of the Act. The Minister in charge of the Bill commended the splendid work done by these banks in the mat- ter of workmen’s homes andso forth, and indicated that it was his intention to negotiate with them with the object of their undertaking the work; indeed, he said he was already in negotiation with them. Those negotiations were consummated in the following June, and, as a result, the State Parliaments passed Acts enabling the State Savings Banks to undertake this work. In Victoria - and I presume in the other States - the State Treasurer introduced the necessary measure, and indicated what had been definitely settled between the State and the Commonwealth. For some extraordinary reason, however, the Repatriation Department took up the position that they could not carry out the agreement; and it is believed that this was because of the determined pressure of the Commonwealth Bank. The business of the State Savings Banks hadbeen entered upon by the Commonwealth Bank, and the latter viewed with a degree of dismay the undertaking of this work by the State institutions. The Minister,for some reason, yielded to the representations of the Commonwealth Bank, which immediately created a war service homes branch. The Savings Banks of the States were carrying out this class of work at an administration cost of 10s. per cent.; nevertheless, the Commonwealth Bank took up the work.
– That left much ill-feeling.
– It did. In addition, as I say, the Repatriation Department itself created a sub-Department to carry on the same work. Colonel Walker was appointed Commissioner, and he was duly provided with a staff of architects and other officers; but they had not been very long at work when much friction and irritation arose between the Commonwealth Bank and the subDepartment.
– Is the matter settled yet?
– I do not think so; and it is not likely to be settled. It is the clear duty of the Government to insist that the Commonwealth Bank shall withdraw from all participation in the matter of the war service homes. The Bank ought to stick to its own business, and, certainly, war service homes do not come within its purview.
– Has there been any Ministerial explanation of the abandonment of the original arrangement?
– I have not heard of any public explanation, and the incident is a very regrettable one. I do not wish to indulge in an attack upon the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen). I realize the magnificent work which he has performed ; but whatever may have been the motive which forced him from his original attitude, and permitted the Government to consent to this flagrantly extravagant arrangement, resulting in triplication of work, I urge that, even at this late hour, the Commonwealth Bank be called upon to cease its operations in this direction. Its activities have aroused an infinite number of complaints on the part of soldiers themselves. I have received no end of letters complaining of delays of a most unconscionable character, respecting the operations of the Bank. Occasionally I have forwarded these letters to the War Service Homes Commissioner, asking for a reason for such delays. All he has been able to say is, “I have no control ; I refer you to the Commonwealth Bank.” It is a disgraceful state of affairs. In connexion with the work of the Commonwealth Bank, in having undertaken duties which it did not understand, and for which it was never equipped, it prepared and issued certain plans and specifications in regard to the homes it proposed erecting, and these were condemned in no measured terms by the Institute of Architects in Sydney. The whole trouble has arisen because the Commonwealth Bank has insisted upon undertaking duties which it had no right to handle. I congratulate the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) upon having brought the subject before the House, and I .congratulate him - as representing the South Australian Government originally concerned - upon the work so splendidly achieved in that State. It is an object lesson, which speaks for itself ; and it indicates the wisdom of the previous views of the Minister for Repatriation when he stated that the State machinery was. the proper machinery, of which the Commonwealth should avail itself for the purpose of constructing soldiers’ homes. Economy and efficiency would be best consulted along those lines. Here we have a magnificent example, anda verification of the ideas voiced by myself, as well as by a number of other honorable members, when the section of the Act concerned was originally under dis cussion. We then commended the intentions of the Minister for Repatriation, and I now urge that he should see his way clear to insist that the Commonwealth Bank have nothing further to do with the construction of homes, and that, in the interests of reducing expenditure, he will permit the States to carry on. Of course, there must be some degree of supervision on the part of the Repatriation Department respecting the work done by the States, but that is a matter for easy and ready adjustment. Only a mere skeleton staff need be kept by the Commonwealth Department for supervision purposes. If the Commonwealth had availed itself of the State institutions from the beginning, in regard to the construction of . soldiers’ homes, the work would have been carried on most actively, effectively, and economically.
.- One of the causes for all this trouble, I dare say, is that the Commonwealth Bank, having started a Savings Bank branch, is out to do certain work along the lines of the State Savings Banks, in the matter of the Credit Foncier system. I do not know whether the functions of the Commonwealth Bank are to be enlarged by pending legislation, “but some arrangement between Commonwealth and State Savings Bank institutions would be welcome, whereby considerable duplication might be ended. The Commonwealth Bank has engaged a firm of architects, which is to get so much for house designs submitted, and a percentage for supervision of building. It is a very pushing firm, working in association with a pushing institution, namely, the Commonwealth Bank. I have been wondering whether the architects have not pushed the Repatriation Department into fields of activity in which their services were not called for.
– They have pushed them out altogether.
– Whether that be so or not, it is certain that if a man is appointed upon a commission basis he will get as much work as possible, whether in this State or another. If these architects have the drawing up of very many specifications for a considerable number of houses in South Australia, it will be merely and naturally adding to the income derived by them by way of commission.
– I understand that these architects are not now engaged by the Commonwealth Bank.
– That is news to me. I take it that the Commonwealth authorities have the right to resume land. In this connexion, I desire to cite an individual case. A working man had purchased a block of land within a suburb in my constituency. He was about to build, when the Commonwealth authorities - I presume, the Repatriation Department - commandeered that block. They notified the owner that they intended to make use of it for a soldier’s home. He had no grave objection to offer to that, of course, but was compelled to wait for months, and even after going to considerable trouble he could secure no information with respect to the intentions of the authorities. In exasperation at last, he said, “ If you are going to take my block, please take it quickly, and pay me at once, because I want to buy another block in the same neighbourhood on which to build, and meanwhile the price is going up.” He has at last been offered the price which he originally paid for his block, and he finds himself faced, with the position that if he requires to purchase in the same locality he must pay considerably more. Why should he be penalized because of the long delay of a Federal Department ?
– Similar things have happened in my constituency, at Carnegie.
– I think it will be found that the architects, in conjunction with the Bank, are pushing matters with regard to soldiers’ homes, and are coming into competition with the State Savings Banks. I can testify to he magnificent work undertaken by the latter authorities. With regard to the triplication of activities, as disclosed’ by the motion, I can only say that it is cruelly unfair to taxpayers, and is penalizing returned soldiers themselves. Let the best authority carry out the work in the best interests of the soldiers and the community.
..- I accept the suggestion of the Minister (Mr. Poynton) representing the Minister for Repatriation. I shall wait upon the South Australian Government, and place the position before them, and then,, if the present state of affairs continues there will, at any rate, be no blame attachable to the Minister who has made the proposition.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commissioner states that the detailed particulars desired are being compiled.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When will the House be given an opportunity to discuss the question of the continuation of the Wheat Fool?
– As soon as the state of public business permits of this being done.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether he will make available to members the report of the inquiry into island administration recently made by Messrs. Murray, Lucas, and Hunt?
– It is proposed to lay the report on the table of the House at an early date.
asked the Price Minister, upon notice -
Whether he can inform the House when the recommendations made in the first report of the Economies Commission, and which the Prime Minister announced the Government had decided to act upon, will be given effect to?
– Steps are now being taken in the direction indicated.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The Government is maintaining for a limited period any recently released internees who are destitute, pending their repatriation to Germany.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
If he will inform the House -
How many charges have been made against the firm of Robert Reid and Company, Australian importers and warehousemen? 2.Will he give the whole list of charges made against the firm in Queensland, and the verdict of the jury in each instance?
Will he give the decision of the Judge in connexion with such charges?
– I have made inquiries in the Department into this matter, and find that no charges have been brought against this firm for the past seventeen years.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It has been along established practice not to disclose any such information.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
I may add that under the new agreement these men are now in the pay of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
– The “proposed” agreement.
– No, the agreement which is now in force, commencing from the beginning of this month. I hope to be able to place it on the table.
– This is the first intimation to the House of any agreement being in operation.
– Order ! This debate is quite out of order.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether the Government has any settled policy for allowing technical officers to personally exchange ideas with technical officers in other parts of the world, to keep in touch with the constant improvements in telegraphy and telephony?
– There is no settled policy, but when the necessity arises responsible officers are sent abroad to inspect the systems of other administrations with a view of adopting those improvements which are suitable to Australian conditions.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What steps have been taken to give effect to the recommendations of Major Goucher in his report in November, 1918, upon the training camp at Liverpool?
– No recommendations were made by Major Goucher in this respect. This officer was detailed to report on certain allegations regarding a camp of training at Liverpool, and his report showed that these statements were grossly untrue.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-^-
Who are the directors of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company?
– I will ascertain and let the honorable member know.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On Thursday, 29th April, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked -
As there is still considerable misapprehension as to who. are eligible to obtain tweed from the Geelong Woollen Mills and the Anzac Tweed Trust, will the Assistant Minister for Defence cause information to be circulated so that the persons entitled to the concession will be able to take advantage of it?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Tweed Made at the GOVERNMENT Woollen Mills, Geelong, fob RETURNED Soldiers.
The Department of Defence has made arrangements with the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League of Australia in the several States to distribute the whole of the Government Woollen Mill’s output of civilian tweed, which is approximately 40,000 yards per month. ‘ The only persons entitled to obtain the tweed from the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia’, are returned soldiers and nurses who were on active service outside Australia with the Australian Forces. Not more than one suit length in the case of a soldier, or in the case of a nurse, one costume length will be supplied, to any entitled applicant during the currency of the contract, which runs for twelve months.
Priority of application is the governing factor in determining the order in which demands are to be met, irrespective of whether or not the applicant is a member of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia.
Anzac tweed is hand-woven tweed made under the control of the Anzac Tweed Trust by returned soldiers. The material, when available, is supplied to any tailor on application.
In order to meet the convenience of the public any one may select a pattern at the factory provided a recognised tailor makes the purchase on that person’s behalf.
Application for the tweed should be made to the Secretary, Anzac Tweeds, 346 Queen: street, Melbourne.
The following papers were presented : -
Industrial Troubles on Melbourne Wharfs. - Copy of Report of Royal Commission (Mr. Geo. J. Dethridge).
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, at Parramatta, New South Wales.
. -I move -
That in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that -
Every returned soldier, sailor, or nurse, who has fought in the fighting line, and who is married, or about to be married, or the widows of those who paid the supreme sacrifice of death, shall be entitled to the use of a house for a rental of ls. per month during the lifetime of such husbands or wives, or, in the case of their death, leaving children, until the youngest child shall reach sixteen years of age.
Such Anzac welcome homes shall be built, where possible, in healthy garden suburbs, where high position, healthy surroundings, and cheap, reasonably-priced land can be obtained, and, where needed (and electricity is. obtainable), tram lines shall be laid down. (3)In order to prevent exploitation, the Commonwealth Government shall enact that compulsory purchase shall be made law on the basis of the land tax valuation of the State and Commonwealth, or either of them, with costs for disturbance to the owners.
On the death of a husband and wife, without leaving children, or where orphans are left, on the youngest reaching’ sixteen years, such Anzac home shall be let or sold, and the assets used to liquidate the Anzac Home Advance Fund.
All Anzachomes shall be of varied stan dardized plans, varying in size according to the number of children.
In order to finance the Anzac homes, the Federal Government be empowered to issue notes similar to the Guernsey Island market currency notes, and ear-marked as the Anzac Homes Currency Notes, guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government, by the value of the land and houses, and also by the increased future value known as the unearned increment. These notes to be issued and legalized as currency without interest., and issued as required, and when any assets are returned by rents or sales, &c, the value of such assets shall be cancelled in Anzac Homes Currency Notes of equal value in order that in the course of time, assisted by the yearly contribution of State and Commonwealth Governments, the whole issue will be destroyed - the homes remaining as a permanent asset.
The principal portion of the motion is paragraph 6, which shows a way of financing the homeswe ought to give to the dependants of our soldiers without any ultimate cost to the Government or possible chance of loss. The example set in the early part of last century by the people of Guernsey Island by the issue of currency notes for the building of their market is known all over the world to-day. At the time they wanted a new market it was very much more difficult to borrow money in the Home market than it is to-day; but fortunately for the Guernsey islanders they had a very clever man among them holding a position corresponding to the present-day Governorship. He asked the islanders if they had any bricklayers, stonemasons, and carpenters among them, and when they replied that they had, he said to them, “ Why do you not build the market yourselves?” The thought planted by that able gentleman soon bore fruit. The body which corresponds to our modern municipality called a meeting of the citizens, and they agreed to accept currency notes for the work they put into the building. About 4,000 or 5,000 of these notes were issued in this way, and immediately the market was completed on land which the community owned, the people made a holiday, and all the street merchants were compelled to leave the crowded thoroughfares of St. Helens and occupy stalls in the market. Once a year as many of the currency notes as had been received in the shape of rents from the stalls, as well as any contributed by the municipality - using the modern term for the sake of convenience - were publicly burned, and in ten years’ time the whole of the notes had been burned, and the market was the community’s own rent-producing property for all time. 1 ask leave to continue my remarks on some future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Election of Constitutional Convention
Debate resumed from 29th April (vide page 1623), on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that as early as practicable a Constitutional Convention should he summoned for the purpose of considering the need, substance, and form of any amendment of section 51 of the Constitution, and that such Convention shall -
Upon which Mr. Kerby had moved, by way of amendment -
That in paragraph 1 the words “ a Constitutional Convention should be summoned” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ legislative provision should be made for the summoning of a Convention and that the words “ of section 51 “ be left out.
That in sub-paragraph (a) all the words after the words “ consist of “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ an equal number of representatives of each State.”
That paragraph 3 be left out.
– I shall occupy the attention of honorable members for only a few minutes in dealing with the amendments which I submitted when this question was last before the House. The urgent necessity for a Convention to consider the amendment of the Constitution has been stressed by previous speakers, who have pointed out that it is absolutely necessary that the Commonwealth should have control over all Australian trade, commerce, and industry. In the House yesterday questions were asked in reference to the forty-two cases which are at present listed in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and the probability is that if the Commonwealth Parliament had had absolute power to legislate with respect to industrial matters we should not have had anything like that number of cases awaiting the attention of the Court. As I said last week, the States are carrying on in a very selfish manner. Each State practically is working wholly and solely for its own interests, and this is undoubtedly to the detriment of the rest of Australia. I am convinced that after going into the question thoroughly the proposed Convention will recommend the division of the States into smaller provinces, which would undoubtedly do away with a lot of State jealousies that at present exist. It would enable us also to overcome to a certain extent the difficulties of centralization. Each province would be made responsible for the administration of its own domestic affairs. The provincial councils, as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) mentioned, would be given power to construct nar row gauge railway lines within their own boundaries, but if their finances permitted, they would no doubt have broad gauge lines. An amendment of the Constitution which would give the Commonwealth Parliament full control over railways would rid Australia of the breakofgauge difficulty, which is one of its greatest curses. If the Commonwealth Government had complete power over the railways, I am convinced that one of the first steps taken by it would be to remedy that evil.
The recommendations of the Convention will have to be ratified by the people of Australia, and we can only hope to secure for those recommendations the indorsement of the electors by educating public opinion as to the reasons for them and their urgent necessity. The first of my amendments, if carried, will bring this proposal into the region of direct legislative action, and will greatly facilitate the calling of the Convention. T move the omission of the words “ of section 51 “ in clause 1, because I think we are all agreed that the Constitution generally requires to be amended. It is useless to attempt a patchwork amendment, and we can hope to have a practical amendment only after the Constitution as a» whole has been considered by the Convention, and recommendations have been made by it. If my second amendment be carried, the motion will provide that the Convention shall consist of an equal number, of representatives of each State. I make this proposal because I do not think it desirable to tie down the Government to any particular, number of representatives for each State, I have purposely proposed to omit the words in the original motion which provide that the members of the Convention shall be elected “ according to the principle of proportional representation,” since their retention would look like an attempt to induce the Government to recognise the principle of proportional representation, which has not yet been thoroughly debated. When I mentioned this matter on a previous occasion the, honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) inquired why I proposed to omit those words, and I referred him to the fact that, as the result of the recent election, according to a letter written by him, 13,568 electors in my own division were not represented. The third amendment which I propose will not be necessary if my first amendment be carried. The urgent necessity for an alteration of the Constitution, so as to give the Commonwealth power to deal with Trusts, combines, railway communications, and the nationalization of monopolies, has been recognised in previous attempts to secure the approval of the people for an amendment of the Constitution. While we have dual control in each State, the position of affairs must remain unsatisfactory. We are hopeful that by an ‘amendment of the Constitution, which will give the Commonwealth full power to deal with all national questions, leaving only matters of domestic concern within the jurisdiction of the State Parliaments or provincial councils, we shall aid in the development of Australia, and be able to overcome our social and industrial unrest.
– In seconding the amendment, I desire to congratulate the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Kerby) on his action in moving along the lines he has indicated. The temper of the House, I believe, is distinctly in favour of the summoning of a Convention as quickly as possible. Bub it is one thing to agree to’ a general principle, and quite another to1 agree to a motion laying down a number of conditions as to the way in which the Convention shall be constituted, the number of representatives of each State, and the method of their election. That, it appears to me, is quite uncalled for at the present stage. The Government, in the Speech of His Excellency the GovenorGeneral, at the opening of the Parliament, intimated that they intend to introduce legislation that will provide for the summoning of a Convention to devise ways and means of amending the Australian Constitution, and of bringing it more up to date, in the light of our twenty years’ experience of its operation. That being so, if we simply affirm the general principle, and, in the terms of the amendment, express our opinion that legislative provision should be made for the summoning of this Convention, it will be a sufficient indication to the Government of the temper and the desire of the House. Proposals for amendments of the Constitution have been considered by this Parliament on a number of occasions. We have had almost innumerable opportunities of dis cussing the question again and again. Several Governments have tried to secure for this Parliament greater freedom of legislative action. They have endeavoured to obtain from the people of Australia authority to legislate along certain definite lines, but, so far, all such attempts have been unsuccessful. Only recently an appeal was made, but without success, to the electors to grant to this Parliament power to deal with the high cost of living. We are all individually feeling the pinch. The purchasing power of the sovereign is not nearly what it was a few years ago, and men and women receiving low rates of pay must have a very difficult task in making ends meet. I hope the Government will, at an early date, grant to’ the House an opportunity to discuss the creation of a Convention, and I hope that we shall all bear in mind that the question of the steadily increasing cost of living is pressing more heavily on the community than any other subject. The increase is due, as we know, to different causes, and I hope the peoplewill recognise that the Parliament should not be hamstrung, but should have ample power to deal with that particularly distressful phase of our social life.
During this debate, the desirableness of having a number of small States or provinces has been urged, and valuable contributions to that phase of the subject have been made by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), and the honorable ‘ member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who have both given a great deal of attention to this evolutionary feature of the life of the Commonwealth. There are at present Statesthat are unwieldy in so far as administrative control is concerned. Although in the matter of population they are not very big, yet from the territorial standpoint, they are too large to be conveniently controlled from any one centre. It would be advantageous to the Commonwealth, as a whole, if the division of some of the States into smaller areas were taken in hand. We should forget for the time being the old boundaries that exist, particularly as between New South Wales and Victoria. I have also in mind the north-west ‘portion of this continent. We have there a very large territory rich in minerals, and rich from a pastoral point of view, which could be converted into a veritable mine of wealth for the whole community, if an opportunity for its development were given, and there were greater concentration on the work of developing it. The small handful of people in Western Australia - the population of that State is only some 320,000 - has something like onethird of the continent of Australia under its guidance and control. We cannot expect a small population to finance the various undertakings necessary for the development of such a huge territory; but where there is natural wealth in the form of minerals and vast pastoral resources, action to exploit it should be taken on a broader line than has hitherto been followed. I believe that if a new State or province were created - I do not mind what name is adopted - that would lead to marked development. I do not say that the whole of the expense of that development should be borne by the taxpayers of Australia generally. Having been for some years in this Parliament, I know how many pressing problems face honorable members ; and I do not forget that other parts of Australia besides that to which I am referring are calling for development. Undoubtedly, however, the creation of a new State or province in the north-west of Australia would have a beneficial effect upon the development of that part of the continent.
Reference has been made to the need for the unification of our railway gauges. This is a matter that has been the subject of various conferences of Railways Commissioners. Many estimates have been made of the cost of giving the railway systems of Australia a uniform gauge. It was estimated some years ago that the cost would be £8,000,000; but since then our railway mileage has increased so greatly that now it would probably be from £20,000,000 to £25,000,000.
– Four times that.
– The honorable member may be thinking of the cost of giving to all the lines in Australia a uniform gauge. I am referring to the cost of giving a uniform gauge to the main State lines only, so that the traveller might journey without changing his train from Rockhampton right round to Fremantle or Geraldton. This is a matter that the proposed Convention might very well discuss.
– Is it practicable to give a uniform gauge to the main State lines only, seeing that lines of varying gauges connect with them?
– I do not think it is absolutely impracticable, though the question is one for a civil engineer to speak on. I know that the attention of railway engineers throughout the world has for some years past been directed to the obtaining of a method to solve difficulties such as the honorable member has in mind, and I am convinced that, before long, a satisfactory solution will be found.
There are in the world at present Federal Constitutions of different kinds. Our own Constitution differs markedly from both the Canadian and the South. African Constitution.
– The Canadian Constitution would be the better one for us to follow as an example.
– That is my opinion. Although the South African Constitution is more recent than ours, and much more recent than that of Canada, I prefer the Canadian Constitution. In South Africa I had an opportunity to discuss with provincial and Union members of Parliament some of the difficulties in the working of the South African Constitution.
– Will the honorable member give us an idea of them?
– When I was at Pretoria, a Labour member told me that, after many years, the Transvaal province had been able to place on the statute-book a measure for improving the working conditions of miners on the Rand; but it had to be submitted to the Executive of the South African Union, that is, to the Union Cabinet of the day, for approval or rejection; and I believe that amendments were insisted on by the Executive which were distinctly opposed to the wishes of the provincial Parliament.
– Was the provincial Parliament within its powers in legislating on ‘the matter? ,
– I understood that the question was’ not one of legislative ability. The amendments were framed in such a way as practically to prevent the provincial Parliament from achieving its ends. The impression was also left on my mind that the provincial Parliaments of South. Africa often find themselves subject to limitations similar to those which are placed on this Parliament by our Constitution.
– The honorable member, must be aware that similar difficulties have arisen under the Canadian Constitution.
– I do nob say that the Canadian Constitution is the last word in Constitutions. My statement was, in effect, that its principles are more adaptable to our circumstances than are those of the South African Constitution.
When ‘ dealing with constitutional reform, one is tempted to refer to the Imperial relationship, and to consider whether there should be closer co-operation with the Mother Country; but I shall not speak on that subject this afternoon. Many valuable works have been written upon the relations of the Mother Country with the Dominions, dealing with the subject from the stand-point of British interests, and from th« stand-point of Dominion interests. The question bristles with difficulties, and cannot be disposed of in a few sentences.
I wish fro say a word or two in support of the amendment. I am convinced that the alteration proposed in clause 1, asking that legislative provision be made for the summoning of a Convention, is sufficient indication to the Government of our desire to hurry forward the consideration of constitutional reform. Further, if we limited the scope of the Convention’s review to section’ 51 of our Constitution, we should be making a mistake. That section enumerates the powers that have been transferred to the Commonwealth, and upon it our legislative work is based. Bub an alteration of it might require an alteration of other parts of the Constitution, which could, not be considered by the Convention unless the motion were altered as proposed by the honorable member for Ballarat. As a representative of one of the less populous States, I am a supporter of equal State representation, and I am glad that the mover of the motion (Mr. Austin Chapman), who comes from the most populous State, has provided for its retention. If we limit the number to five or ten representatives, or to fifteen or twenty, in a motion of this kind, we shall be acting unwisely. We cannot at this stage have any idea how the forces outside Parliament - in the State Parlia ments and in the general community - should be represented, nor can we say what should be the number of representatives.
– If you are in favour of a Convention, surely you can take your cue from the Convention that framed the Constitution.
– At this stage I do not desire to pledge myself to any definite number, because, subsequently, sound reasons may be advanced for an increase or a decrease. But, after all, I am only dealing with a detail.
In my opinion, we ought not to affirm the principle of proportional representation. There are honorable members who feel very keenly in regard to proportional representation, for and against. The question has been debated at different periods here within my own knowledge, and many determined efforts have been made to introduce the principle in various ways. For us, at this particular moment, to accept the principle as applied to the election of a Convention, without any really satisfactory statement as to how and to what sections of the community it is proposed to extend it, would be very ill advised. I do not wish honorable members to misunderstand me. It may be necessary to grant to various sections of the community representation, but if my memory serves me rightly - although it is weeks since the motion was submitted - the mover did not give us any very clearcut ideas as to which sections of the community were to be granted proportional representation. After all, the main purpose of the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) is to secure an expression of opinion from this House in regard to the calling of a Convention. He desires a Convention called as quickly as possible, and we should leave details for the consideration of Parliament when we have before us the proposals of the Government. Honorable members will then have an opportunity to make their presence felt, and to remove any clauses they may deem objectionable. 1 have no fault to find with the proposal for a Convention, but when honorable members weigh the matter carefully, I think they will ‘agree that, if we affirm the principle of a Convention, and leave the details for consideration when there is a Bill before us, we shall amply meet all requirements.
– I am opposed to the motion and to the amendment, and I intend to indicate a further amendment before I sit down. I am opposed absolutely to the delegation of any of the powers of this Parliament to an outside body. The Convention may be, or may not be, composed ofpeople from outside this Parliament.
– How does the motion delegate the powers of Parliament? The Convention will be elected by the people.
– People outside this Parliament, who will be seeking election to this Convention, know less of the shortcomings of the Constitution than do those of us who have been members of the Parliament from the beginning, of for a considerable time, and have had to legislate under those short-comings. On a number of occasions this Parliament has tried to pass measures of national moment, and has found its efforts futile because of lack of power. We are all familiar with the fact that the High Court has at times ruled that we have not the power which those who framed the Constitution at the beginning firmly believed they were giving to the Parliament. Who should be more fitted to amend the Constitution, or frame a new Constitution, than those who are not familiar with those failures ?
– I desire a convention of men whom the people choose.
– Surely the honorable member will not say that we are not here on the expressed approval of the people. He himself was elected by the people-
– Who showed great discrimination.
– The honorable member speaks for his own electorate, and no doubt he is quite satisfied that they are good judges. However, as I say, I emphatically protest against the delegation of the powers and privileges of this Parliament to any outside body, and I regard the proposal as somewhat in the nature of a want-of-confidence motion in ourselves. A question of this kind should be taken up and boldly grappled with by Parliament itself.
– You must trust the people.
– I have such implicit confidence in the people’s judgment that I am not going to tell them, as the motion does, that we think they have done wrong in choosing the members who are in Parliament at the present time. The people deliberately elect Parliament from time to time, and I am not one to say that we are not capable of doing the work we were sent to do. The Constitution itself shows the way by which the people can be appealed to on a referendum if it is desired to amend the Constitution, and I cannot see why there should be a Convention to do what we have absolute power to do as the Constitution now stands. There were referenda in 1911 and 1913, and if the proposed amendments had been secured then they would have gone a long way - practically the whole way - to make the Federal Parliament supreme.
It would be going over old ground to deal with all the limitations in our Constitution ; but if we look at some of them it is almost unthinkable or unbelievable that the people could so long suffer under them,; they are a reflection on those who tolerate them. The working people of the country are very largely blamed for the industrial unrest and the strikes which take place, but at present, so long as an industrialdispute is confined within the limits of one State, there is no Federal power to interfere.. That is a situation which no sensible people should tolerate. A dispute exists which may be doing great national harm, but so iong as it is confined within the boundaries of one State there is no power for the Commonwealth authority to step in.
– Let us have a Convention to alter all that.
– What is wrong with the power already in the hands of the people ? The remedy which this party proposed in the Referenda of 1911 and 1913, if it had been indorsed by the people, would have been such as to give the Federal authority the right to interfere in an industrial trouble.
– But the people rejected the propositions, because they were put forward by a party Parliament, and not by a representative Convention.
– That is casting a reflection on the people, in that it suggests that they were not able to look at matters from a non-party viewpoint.
– The people have been educated to look upon things from a party angle, and we want to alter that.
– I have a better opinion of the people. The honorable member will not say that it would not be a good thing if this Parliament had the power to endeavour to settle an industrial dispute, even though it were confined within the limits of one State.
– I would be glad if we could take action in a non-party spirit.
– If it is a good thing to do so at all, it would not much matter whether the action emanated from one party or another. I have such faith in the people that I am positive that if the necessary alterations in the Constitution were brought under their notice for ratification, they would certainly do the right thing.
– In the Referenda of 1911 and 1913 the proposals were put before the people in a strong party spirit.
– I have heard (honorable members opposite say that the Referendum taken at the last election was on all fours with the questions placed before the people on the two previous occasions. Some honorable members on this side have been criticised because we advised the people to vote “No.” I do not say that the questions were identical. But that does not affect the fact that if honorable members opposite say that the questions were the same, they are at least inconsistent in having asked the people on the last occasion to vote “Yes,” and, previously, to vote “ No.”
– The Leader of the Labour party, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), supported the proposals in December last, while numbers of his colleagues were advocating the negative.
– And what did the honorable member do?
– I supported them, as I have always done.
– I wonder what is the honorable member’s opinion of those of his present colleagues who supported the Referenda proposals of 1919, but opposed those of 1911 and 1913, because they emanated from the Labour party. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) was an advocate of the “ Yes “ vote last December. What were his views in regard to the previous Referenda?
– I knew nothing whatever about them, and I never met anybody who did.
– Then, at any rate, I am pleased to learn of his present conversion, no matter at what time or stage it may have taken place. The honorable member admits that he is converted to the necessity for making the Commonwealth Parliament supreme. I appreciate his attitude; but why does he advocate a Convention in order to do that which this Parliament should do?
– I do not consider that the public will accept propositions for the alteration of the Constitution until they have been approved and put before the people by a non-party Convention.
– There could not be a nonparty Convention.
– Yes; one elected on the principle of proportional representation.
– I do not see how a Convention can become nonparty merely because the delegates have been elected by the people. Honorable members are here to-day as the outcome of an election by the people; but this is not a non-party Parliament. If the honorable member for Grampians should be chosen as a delegate to the Convention, and the honorable member for Yarra were also a delegate, am I to understand that each honorable member would leave his party feelings behind him?
– Yes; we would be the best of friends, as we are now, for that matter.
– I cannot take the honorable member seriously. If there is to be a Convention consisting of members of this Parliament, who will say that they will leave their party prejudices here?
– Is not the Constitution above party prejudice?
– Exactly. There cannot be a Convention elected upon non-party lines, for the reason that the delegates will be representative of all parties. They are bound to enter the Convention with their own ideas concerning how the Constitution should be altered; and there will be just as much of party spirit surrounding the proceedings as is to be found in this Chamber day by day.
– The people will select delegates who are not animated by party spirit.
– The logical conclusion, then, is that there will be no members of Parliament in the Convention.
– Yes, plenty; good men chosen from both sides of this House.
– Then it will be a party Convention. But if it is to consist of gentlemen outside of Parliament, in order that there shall be no party spirit introduced, I, for one, shall object to this Parliament delegating its powers to an outside tribunal. Who, throughout this land, could be better acquainted with the shortcomings of our Constitution than members of the Federal Parliament, who have for so long worked under it, and must be intimate with its faults?
– Outside delegates would be freer to express their views than some honorable members of this Parliament.
– Then, would the honorable member have no members of Parliament among the delegates ?
– Outside delgates would be unfettered. The Convention could be diluted with members of Parliament among a larger body of outside delegates.
– That is my principal objection to the motion. Even if there were a dilution, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) suggests, there would still be party spirit. If this Parliament is to hand over its duties and responsibilities to an outside body, we, in effect, will be moving a want-of-confidence motion against ourselves. The great mistake made in framing the Australian Constitution was in following the lines of the American Constitution, which places the central authority in a subordinate position to the local authority. The people of South Africa followed different lines in framing their Constitution; they made the central power the supreme authority, and I do not think there is any member of a legislative body in Australia, State or Federal, but would say that the Commonwealth Parliament should be the supreme authority in Australia in every way. Recognising this great outstanding principle, the Labour party two years ago got together and framed proposals to overcome the present untenable position, and their proposals were outlined a few nights ago by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony).
– Those proposals amount to Unification.
– They are not Unification, but they certainly trend in that direction. It is thought to be unpopular now to advocate Unification, but I remember hearing the late Hon. Alfred Deakin asking the people to agree to Federation, and the principal argument he used was to point out the absurdity of having ‘so many State Parliaments to administer the affairs of 5,000,000 people. The promise was held out to the electors that if they- would agree to Federation the expense of the upkeep of fourteen Houses of Parliament would be saved. Practically something in the nature of Unification was promised as an incentive to the people to vote for Federation, and I believe that thousands of persons agreed to Federation bearing in mind the distinct promise that the stupid scheme of maintaining fourteen Houses of Parliament would not be perpetuated. The Labour party have propounded a scheme by which our Constitution may be altered so .that the Federal Parliament may be the supreme authority, as .the central Legislature should be, and in order to give effect to it I propose to submit a further amendment to the motion after the amendment moved by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Kerby) has been disposed of.
– The honorable member may indicate his amendment, but I am afraid it will be necessary for him to get some other honorable member to move it, because after having spoken to the motion he cannot again rise and submit his amendment.
– The amendment which I would submit is as follows : -
That all the words after “ practicable “ be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following: - “a referendum to alter the Commonwealth Constitution be held to provide full sovereign power under its Constitution and to empower the Commonwealth Parliament to create any number of provincial legislatures as may be necessary for the good government of the people.”
– That is Unification, pure and simple.
– The honorable member can call it what he likes, but we propose to follow the lines of the
South African scheme, and to make the Commonwealth Parliament supreme. The honorable member might just as well call the South African scheme a Unification.
– So it is.
– It is on the same lines as our. proposal; at- any rate, the South African Parliament is not hamstrung at every - turn as the Commonwealth Parliament is. To-day the honorable member for ‘ Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) spoke about the duplication of machinery in the building of soldiers’ homes. It is not the only instance in which this duplication occurs. We have two taxing Departments, State and Federal. No intelligent people in any part of the world would continue in the way in which we manage our affairs, with so much duplication of machinery for administering them. The system proposed by the Labour party would end all this,
And would make the Commonwealth Parliament supreme. The central authorities would also have power to create any number of provinces as might be necessary for the good local government of the people. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) would call it Unification, but it simply means that the National Parliament would do the work of the nation - much work of a truly national character which is now done by the State Parliaments would be the sole responsibility of this Parliament - and that there would be a .devolution of power from this body to local bodies for the exercise of control in local affairs. Such at scheme would give better local government and greater satisfaction to people in a local sense, and at the same time greater satisfaction to the people from a national point of view, because there would be only one Parliament dealing with national affairs. The Commonwealth Parliament would have the power to -grant to each province a uniform written constitution setting out the powers and duties of each local legislature, and, of course, such a constitution, could be amended from time to time as necessity arose. Honorable members may call our proposal Unification if they choose; it does not matter what name, they give it; the great outstanding feature of it is that the Commonwealth Parliament would have unfettered power to do things we have often tried to do, and have been pre- vented from doing, and to deal with questions of a national character, the responsibility for which at present is a doubtful matter as between the Commonwealth and the States. Perhaps the honorable member foi1 Ballarat would temporarily withdraw his amendment to give me the opportunity of moving mine.
– I- shall be pleased to do so.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I thank the honorable member for giving me the opportunity of moving my amendment. I move -
That all the words after “practicable” he left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following: - “a referendum to alter the Commonwealth Constitution be held to provide full sovereign power under its Constitution, and to empower the Commonwealth Parliament to create any number of provincial legislatures as may be necessary for the good local government of the people.”
.- I have pleasure in seconding the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), which, provides, in effect, that at the earliest possible moment there shall be a referendum of the people with a view to altering the Federal Constitution on the lines laid down in the policy of the Labour party. Every honorable member, and the great majority of the people, must appreciate the necessity for a radical alteration of the Federal Constitution. Our experience of it is that it creates drawbacks and stumbling blocks at every turn. At various periods there has been expressed by the people an emphatic desire to have certain legislation passed by the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Some of the legislation so demanded has been actually passed, but has been held to be ultra vires. No sooner has it been carried than it has bumped up against the Constitution, and in this way the wishes of the people have been thwarted. In this way the young nation is kept back.
– The people have on several different occasions rejected proposed amendments of the Constitution.
– Proposed amendments have been rejected on three different occasions, for the simple reason that party spirit has been engendered, and the people have been completely misled by means of ride issues raised by interested 1878 Amendment of the [REPRESENTATIVES . ] Constitution. politicians who have no desire for any alteration of the Constitution.
– Is that not an argument in favour of the election of a nonparty Convention ?
– The honorable member knows as well as I do that it will be quite impossible to secure a non-party Convention, but he sees only one side of the question, and, therefore, his argument is consistently reiterated. It is an undoubted fact that an alteration of the Constitution is needed. Every member of Parliament who has had any experience of its workings feels the necessity for amending it.
I come now to the question as to the means by which . the Constitution should be altered. The honorable member for Eden -Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) proposes the election of a Convention to make recommendations. The original Federal Constitution was passed by a Convention, and, without desiring to reflect in any way on the personnel of that Convention, I would remind the House that as the outcome of its labours we have a cumbersome instrument of government which at every turn stifles the activities of the National Parliament. I am convinced that the same result will follow from any future Convention summoned to deal with the Constitution. The Government of the day, comprised as it is of men most of whom have been in this Parliament from its inception, ought to know in what respect the Constitution has failed. They ought to know what they want, and should be prepared to state boldly what alterations should be made. The Nationalist party, the Country party, and the Labour party should each be prepared to say what alterations they consider necessary in order to give effect to the principles for which they stand. They should put their policy- to the people by means of a referendum, and stand or fall by it. It is quite possible that men will be elected to this Convention with but little experience of parliamentary systems and the working of parliamentary machines, with the result that the alterations recommended, although arrived at possibly in the best of good faith, will be of little real benefit, and, if adopted, will’ leave us with a Constitution practically as cumbersome as that under which we are governed to-day.
The proposed Convention, I make bold to say, is undemocratic. With all respect to State Righters, I claim that to have in that Convention -ten representatives of each State would be undemocratic.
– Are a few thousand people in one small State - a. few thousand people living within certain geographical boundaries^ - each to have a vote equal to every .ten votes cast by the people of a large State?
– Then the honorable member is opposed to the principle of one man one vote.
– On the contrary, I am arguing for its recognition. The Convention should be elected on the basis of one. vote one value. It should be based upon the principle of adult suffrage favoured by the Australian Democracy.
– Regardless of the different interests.
– Does the honorable member refer to vested interests? We members of the Labour party have no regard for vested interests in dealing with a national question. This Convention will have to do with great national principles, calculated to make or mar the Commonwealth. The petty vested interests of some particular commercial activity or institution in an embryo state in any of the smaller States should have no more voice in the election of this Convention than has an ordinary individual, whose only interest is that of good citizenship.
– When New South Wales is divided into provinces, the honorable member will be a representative of one of the smallest States in the “Union.
– I am not approaching this question from the point of view of State rights. New South Wales may be divided into ten provinces, if by so ‘doing we shall conduce to the« better working of the National Parliament, and democratic New South Wales will not complain.
In the proposal which the Labour party put forward, we stand for the abolition of the Senate, which is practically the most undemocratic institution in the world. ‘
– The honorable member’s reference to the Senate is not in order.
– Under the” Constitution, each State- returns six members to another place, so that the representation of a small State is equal to that of a State which has three or four times its population. The voting power of a small State thus works out as being worth three or four times that of a large State. Another principle for which we stand, and which, I think, every honorable member who desires to have responsible and democratic government in Australia must support, is the repeal of that provision in the Constitution which requires that a proposed amendment of the Constitution, in order to become law, must be carried by a majority of the voters in a majority of the States. That provision means that in the three most populous States of the Commonwealth New SouthWales, Victoria, and Queensland - an overwhelming majority might approve of a proposed alteration of the Constitution, yet because in the three smaller States - Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia - small majorities were recorded against the amendment, it would be defeated. It would be quite possible for a proposed amendment of the Constitution to be accepted by a majority of at least 100,000 of the voters of the Commonwealth, and yet because of this requirement to fail.
– We must trust the people.
– But this Constitution requirement trusts only a section of the people. It allows of certain interests being so manipulated, particularly in the smaller States, that legitimate desires of the people can be frustrated. We, therefore, stand for the abolition of the Senate and for the abolition of this requirement in the Constitution.
Doubtless everybody realizes the necessity for decentralization. Some of our honorable friends say that the proposals of the Labour party really amount to Unification, and that we want to centralize everything. Analyzed in its fulness, however, our proposal will be found to make not for centralization, but for the best methods of decentralization possible in Australia.. It seems to me that it is unnecessary to have a written Constitution except to guarantee to the people that no Executive Government, and no organization, military or otherwise, shall ever take from them the right of the native-born to exercise the franchise. Beyond protecting and guaranteeing to the people one or two principles of that kind, the Federal instrument of government should be as free and untrammelled as possible. We all know that the High Court, which is part of the Constitution, has involved the industrial world in a lot of trouble. The same may be said of other features of the Constitution. In placing the hoop-iron bands of a circumscribed Constitution around the aims, aspirations, ideals, and ambitions of a young and growing nation, we are playing with fire. When a people cannot get what they want through legitimate constitutional channels, they will take it by other means. That is a consideration that we must always bear in mind. We should have a Federal Constitution under which the Commonwealth Parliament would be supreme in respect of all national questions. We should give the Federal Parliament authority to delegate to provinces created with due regard to community of interests the necessary administrative and legislative powers for carrying out purely local affairs. If the Commonwealth Parliament were given truly national powers, we should have an end to the farcical railway system under which, because of differing State policies, travellers have to step from one train to another on reaching a State boundary, owing to the break of gauge. When the people know that they have constitutional powers to give full parliamentary expression to their hopes, ideas desires, and ambitions, they will become contented, prosperous, and happy, and the foundations will be laid of a mighty nation. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) spoke of trusting the people. We, too, say, trust the people. But to appoint a Convention to deal with the Constitution behind their backs is not to trust the people. The Convention may be composed of legal gentlemen whose proposals for the amendment of the Constitution will be couched in phraseology hardly to be understood by laymen. And then a hundred different interpretations will be given to them on various platforms, and no one will know what he is being asked to vote for.
– The electors will vote for men.
– Then the voting will be strictly on party lines.
– No. Let the electors vote for good men.
– What the honorable member might consider a good man, politically speaking, I might consider a very bad one. Honorable members have spoken of the undesirability of dealing with the Constitution in a party spirit, but the object they have is to amend the Constitution which governs our political activities, and that postulates a convention composed of men who will approach their task with political prejudice. I urge the House to seriously consider our proposal. If it were adopted, the day would not be far distant when, to use the words of the advocates of Federation, we should, as one people with one destiny, be giving expression to our wishes in one grand national Parliament,.
.- I regret that I must oppose the amendment,, because whatever its merits, it possesses a fatal defect, in that it prevents the consideration of constitutional reform by a Convention representing the people - a Convention to be elected on the principle of proportional representation.
– That would mean a presselected Convention.
– I scout the idea that it would be a press-elected Convention. ,
– The Age would wish to select the Victorian representatives.
– The honorable member knows more about that than I do. The object of the amendment seems two-fold, namely, to prevent the calling together of a Convention, and also to provide for a referendum, the terms of which, as in the past, would be fixed by Parliament after a long and bitter party struggle, in which the majority had gained its own way. I think that we are all agreed as to the need for reforming both the Commonwealth and the State Constitutions, and this debate may be regarded in some way as a sequel v,o the most interesting discussion which we had earlier in the afternoon, when, by the honorable members for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) and Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) and others, attention was drawn to most glaring cases of folly, waste, and inefficiency, due to the clash of Commonwealth and State control in regard to the erection of war service homes. What was said during that discussion made a deep impression upon the House. Every thinking man and woman in Australia is aware that one of the greatest evils from which this community suffers is the conflict of Commonwealth and State authority. The people are being oppressed by the excessive expenditure which results from the wastefulness caused by the overlapping of these two sets of authorities. What we have to consider is how best to put an end to this, and here I am reminded of Wordsworth’s immortal lines -
The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending we lay waste our powers.
We might well say that Governments are too much with us; late and soon, ‘ Getting and spending [they] lay waste our powers.
The revenues of thisgreat and prosperous country are being eaten up by Government expenditure and interferences, and the energies of our people are in consequence “ cribb’d, cabin’d, confin’d.” We must put an end to this conflict of officials, and must ask ourselves what is the best practical means ‘of doing so. It is not to be done by the vain repetition of the methods of the past. As the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has shown, the referenda of 1911 and 1913 utterly failed to secure the results that were wished for. I shall not dwell on the merits of the proposals they contained ; but what was the cause of their failure ?
– The States Rights party was too strong.
– I am an absolutely impartial critic of those referenda, because I never read a word of the proposals that they contained, and never met any one else who had done so.
– Did you vote on them ?
– I do not think so, but if I did, I probably voted like everybody else - on party lines. No other course was open to the electors, because the terms of the referenda were finalized by party managers in party Houses. If this is to be done again, the efforts of this most honorable House and the other Chamber, which is so often in our thoughts, but must always be nameless, are doomed to failure. Proposals for the alteration of the Constitution are not likely to receive the endorsement of the people unless made by a Convention possessing its confidence.
– You oppose the amendment because it comes from the Labour party?
– No, but because of its defects.
– You admit that it has good qualities.
– I always endeavour to see the merits of any proposal that emanates from honorable members opposite. I notice that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has excluded from his amendment all reference to the Convention as representative of the people of Australia.
– This Parliament is a “ Convention.”
-On that point I am compelled to differ from the honorable member, and I fear that there are still some germs of the party spirit in this Chamber on the present occasion. I do not think that wc can expect the people to have as much confidence in this Parliament, as a body to consider the amendment of the Constitution, as they would have in a Convention specially elected for that purpose. We are as a man ploughing the sands of the seashore if we expect such a work to be successfully performed alone by honorable members ‘of this Parliament.
The next question is how this Convention should be elected. I listened- with the deepest interest to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Kerby), the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and the honor- able member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), and none seemed in favour of the principle of proportional representation. The honorable member for Ballarat referred to a letter which was published over my name in the daily papers some time ago. In that letter I drew attention to the fact that, owing to the present ineffectual method of election,, it appeared that while some 13,568 voted in his favour, 13,567 voted against him.
– I remind the honorable member that at the present moment he is not speaking to the amendment, but really to the main question, on which he has already spoken. I take the opportunity to remind honorable members that if they speak on an amendment after having spoken to the motion, they must confine themselves strictly to the amendment. The honorable member for Werriwa had not spoken to the main question, and, therefore, was entitled to speak both on that and the amendment.
– I regret having exceeded the bounds of decorum. When I wrote that letter I had not made the acquaintance of the honorable member for Ballarat, but, since having done so, I am amazed to find that his majority should have been so small. During the whole of the discussion this afternoon on proportional representation, I do not think any honorable member has really addressed himself to the principle and practice of that system.
– How will it apply to an election for the Convention?
– I am grateful for the interjection, and as briefly as possible I shall explain.
– The honorable member cannot do that, but must confine himself to the terms of the amendment.
– I shall endeavour to do so, merely saying that if honorable members would restrict their questions and interjections to the amendment, it would make my task much easier. There are two amendments running in my mind at the present moment.
– There is only one amendment before the Chair.
– Then I ask that honorable members generally should also remember the fact. At this late hour of the afternoon, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.25 to 8 p.m.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
In order that honorable members may better understand and appreciate the advantages of the agreement set out in the schedule to this Bill, it will be necessary for me to say something on the part played by oil in modern economic and national life. Just as the first half of the last century was called the steam age, so the time in which we now live may be fairly called the petrol age. To-day, as from the beginning of the machinemanufacturing era, the welfare of nations depends largely on fuel. But whereas formerly the fuel on which manufacturing nations relied was coal, they have now a choice between coal and oil. The effect of the oil engine upon civilization is most marked. It may be said that the internal combustion engine has effected as great a revolution as did the steamengine. If honorable members will try and conjure in their minds a picture of a world without oil. without oil-engines in any of their manifold forms, they will see a world very different indeed from that in which we exist. If they look upon these two pictures of what was and what is, they will be struck with the absolute dependence of the nations upon oil. They will be impressed by the extent to which the civilized world has adjusted itself to the motor with the internal combustion engine in some one or other of its various forms. That which we call civilized life depends to a very large extent upon adequate supplies of oil. It is vital to us, as to all nations, that we should have not only an abundance of fuel - both coal and oil - but that Ave should have it cheap. It may be said that every increase in the price of fuel is a tax upon industry, and affects wages, which in turn affects the standard of living. Not only is oil the very spirit of the life of industry, but in war, as well as in peace, its power is pre-eminent. The last war was a petrol war. Those millions of men could not have been fed; that great Front, stretching thousands of miles, could not have been maintained; munitions could not have been carried; aeroplanes and tanks’ would have been inanimate things without oil. That complete dependence upon oil which is the lot of all nations is in Australia intensified by our geographical position. To us, oil is essential for our defence. When we consider our isolation, our vast coast-line and our wide spaces, we see at once that without a swift-driven navy, without means of transporting men rapidly, without cohorts of aeroplanes, our position is untenable. And yet it has happened quite recently that, notwithstanding our complete dependence upon oil for national defence, such small quantities of oil have been available as to have absolutely prohibited the navy from moving had an emergency arisen. Oil is vital to us, and, indeed, to 4 all nations. As every honorable member must know - and I merely remind them of facts which are as patent as the facts of night and day - the supply of fuel of all kinds is limited. It is said - I know not how true it is - that the supply of oil is not likely to outlast the increasing demands of the next few decades. It is certain that the demand for oil has increased portentously, and that it now plays a part in the national and economic life of nations second only - if second - to that of coal.
To show how the world’s consumption of oil has increased, I propose to quote some figures. In 3910 the world’s consumption of crude oil was about 32S,000,000 barrels; in 1914 the total quantity had grown to close upon 400,000,000 barrels. In 1919 it was estimated at 600,000,000 barrels! The position in Australia may be shown by the following figures relating to residual and refined oils: In 1910 we consumed 25,725,000 gallons; in 1914-15 our consumption was 43,000,000 gallons; and in 1918-19 it was 51,000.000 gallons. Roughly, the world’s consumption of crude oil doubled in ten years. In the same period our consumption of the residual and refined products increased in the same proportion. Those figures show beyond all doubt that the world is becoming more and more dependent upon oil, and that the tendency in that direction is as marked in Australia as elsewhere.
I said just now something about the part which oil played in the defence of Australia. I propose to quote some figures to show to what extent our Navy is dependent on oil and the extent to which the Commonwealth and the Government are consumers of oil. In 1910 the Navy consumed 1,000 tons; in 1914 it increased to 10,000 tons, while in J 919-20 we are consuming 50,000 tons. These figures speak for themselves. And when we consider the price at which we bought oil in 1910, and the price at which we are buying to-day, honorable members must be impressed with the gravity of the position and recognise the need for some immediate remedy. “Clearly, the necessity for securing ample supplies of fuel oil - that is to say, the oil used for generating steam in vessels of the Navy so constructed as to permit of fuel oil being used in place of coal - is obvious. Since it goes without saying that’ oil is vitally essential to this country for defence pur- poses, and for other purposes also, I want to turn now to the question of supplies of oil, which is, as I have termed it, literally the spirit of the life of industry and the means by which this nation maintains its first line of defence, namely, the Navy. What are the sources of supply? Where are they? Who control and own them? First, as to the sources: There are two, namely, shale oil- and well oil. Shale oil, of which we have had some experience in this country, can be dismissed in a few words. The quantity of shale oil produced as compared with the volume of oil consumed in the world is so small as to be for all practical purposes negligible. In this country, despite the offer of a bonus of 2¼d. per gallon in September, 1917, to Australian companies producing crude oil from shale, because the bonus previously offered was not considered sufficient, the production of oil from shale in Australia is only about 2,800,000 gallons per annum, whilst we consume ( of oil and its derivatives 52,000,000 gallons per annum. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), speaking in 1917 on the Shale Oil Bounty Bill, said -
X doubt whether the extraction of crude oil from shale is the wisest course to follow for the production of oil in Australia. . . . Most honorable members will agree with me that it would have been sufficient to make available £35,000 a year or thereabouts to encourage boring operations.
We may then put shale on one side as a source from which we can hope to derive supplies of oil adequate to meet our requirements; whether it be for fuel oil, benzine, motor spirit, or oil for lighting purposes.
At present we have no oil wells in Australia or its Territories. I shall later touch shortly this aspect of the question. But, as I have said, we have as yet not discovered oil in Australia. The chief sources of liquid oil throughout the world to-day are the United States of America, Mexico, Russia, Persia, Roumania, and the Dutch Indies. For all practical purposes, with the one exception covered by this Bill, all these supplies are controlled by a few very great foreign companies, of which the Standard Oil Company is the chief. I suppose that we have all said a great deal about the Standard Oil Company in our. time. I know that I have done so. Its power is very great. To what extent these great companies - and I shall quote them, so far as I have been able to compile a list, in a moment or two - work together under any arrangement I cannot say. But we have to look at the facts, and I think that they speak in a manner that none but those who are wilfully blind can misunderstand. It might be perfectly true if those great companies told us that there were no arrangements by which the world has been parcelled out for the supply of oil, or no arrangement as to competition either in price or in any other way, between them - I mean no arrangement binding at law or cognisable by the Courts, for it will probably be found that such arrangements, if any, are what is known, for some obscure reason, as “gentlemen’s agreements.” But it is, I think, pretty obvious that there are arrangements of some sort which, in fact, bring about the result I have suggested, and present effective competition.
The principal oil companies in the order of importance in the world to-day are: The Standard Oil Company; the Royal Dutch “Shell” Group; the Anglo-Persian and Burmah Oil Companies, which I bracket together, because their operations are interlocked; the Mexican Eagle Oil Company, now controlled by the “ Shell “ Group ; the Mexican Petroleum Company; the Union Oil Company, of California; the WatersPierce Company, of Mexico; the Texas Oil Company, and Nobels’, of Russia. In addition to these, there are three large Roumanian companies, which are controlled, one by the Standard Oil Company, one by the “ Shell,” while the other, before the war, was controlled by the Deutsche Bank. I am unable to say who owns this now. ‘ There are a number of companies, of a subsidiary nature, of whom one hears a great deal, but they do not own oil wells. The- companies to which I have referred by name are the companies which actually own the great oil wells of the world.
The companies that supply Australia’s requirements are, mainly, the “ Shell “ Company, the Standard Oil Company, and the Texas Oil Company. I want honorable members to follow a few figures I intend to give, because they are very interesting. The “Shell” Company supplies nearly all the fuel oil and a large proportion of the benzine consumed in Australia. The Standard Oil Company supplies most. of the kerosene- and practically all the lubricants. As I have said, whether the trade is divided in this way by mere- happy or unhappy chance, I am unable to say; but the facts are as I have stated them. Of 5,811,824 gallons of residual oil, that is to say, fuel oil, imported for the year ending June, 1919, all but 40,000 gallons were supplied by the “ Shell “ Company, whereas of 7,440,097 gallons of lubricating oil imported, less than 100,000 came from the “.Shell” Company, and the rest came from the United States of America. Of 16,672,963 gallons of kerosene and other- refined petroleum burning oils imported, 14,548,123 gallons came from the United States of America. It is very clear, therefore, that we are dependent upon three companies, two American and or.s Dutch, for our oil supplies, lj is evident, also, that under some arrangement, or bv mere blind chance, we are supplied from one source with all lubricating oils and kerosene, arid from another with all fuel oils and benzine. It is perfectly obvious that the result must be that, whatever price they like to charge us, Ave must pay. ‘ I shall show exactly how that affects the Navy. and how it has affected the consumer.
The position as so far set out is this : Oil is an essential of modern life. Broadly speaking, those nations are most prosperous that use the most oil. The United States of America consumes 6,000,000 tons of benzine a year, or about six times the total pre-war consumption of the United Kingdom and all Europe. America is the most prosperous nation in the world, and she is prosperous because she has recourse to machine production, and ‘machine production is more and more becoming production by machinery driven by internal combustion or oil engines. It is most important to note this fact, foi- it shows that oil is the key of industrial success.
We depend here for our existence as a nation on oil for fuel for our Navy. We depend on oil for our industries, and for those means of production which we must have. When I was in France, twelve months ago, one of the most striking signs of the times was the tremendous number of .tractors adapted for farming. The oil engine has’ revolutionized or is revolutionizing the industries of the world. During the Avar tens and hundreds of thousands of tractors were put on the land in order to provide food for the fighting millions. Oil was the spirit of their life. With oil the millions made
Avar, with oil they tilled the land, and with oil they- drove battleships, merchantships, and submarines. I have shown that six or seven great companies Own the means by which the great mass of the people of this world must live. We are in this position : We must have oil for our defence and for our industries. We have no oil of our OWn and no assurance of adequate supplies from overseas. All the supplies we do get come from foreign nations and from companies whose actions, I suppose, are governed by commercial “principles, and will sell or refuse to sell, as the mood, or the opportunity, or the inducement, suggests. The position can hardly be said to be satisfactory. We must have oil, Ave have none here, and cannot rely on getting it from abroad. It must not be forgotten, either that foreign .oil when it comes here must be refined oil. We have neither crude oil nor a refinery for treating it.
This brings me to a point’ I said I wo.uld touch upon. We firmly believe - I do, at any rate - that we shall find oil in this continent or in one of our Territories. I hope that I am’ not one of those unreasoning optimists who sees things just as he wants to see them, but I believe there are abundant signs for those who have faith that Ave are going to find oil. But when Ave have found it, it will b« useless to us unless Ave can refine it. If Ave found oil to-day in New Guinea, we could not use it until it was refined,- .and it will take two years to build a refinery. Crude oil cannot be used, so that if for no other reason, Ave ought, to immediately provide means for refining oil. At present we have neither any guarantees of oil from abroad, nor supplies of indigenous oil, nor means of refining.
The first essential is that we shall have effective guarantees of adequate supplies of oil, and the second is that we should put up a refinery to deal with them.
I wish to deal now very shortly with another phase of this question - the price of oil. I have said that we must have adequate supplies of oil, and, what is obvious., both for our national and industrial needs, that we should get them as cheaply as possible. In a moment or two I. shall show what it costs us to buy oil for the Navy. If we are to be a great manufacturing nation, we can only be so on the basis of machine production. Whether it be in the primary or the secondary industries, our production must be based on machine production, and on systematized and organized effort; and at the basis of all modern production some kind of fuel is essential,’ and oil is one of the most convenient and effective forms of fuel. Now let us take the prices, and see how they have increased during the past few years. The average . price per unit of quantity as declared at Customs was for -
Residual oil is the oil we use for the surface ships of our Navy. Solar oil is used for submarines. Now I come to the prices on the Australian markets -
These figures all relate to the refined products of oil. We come now to the base from which all these spring - the crude oil. Taking first what is referred to in the oil trade as the bellwether of oil, Pennsylvanian crude, we find that its price has risen from less than $2 in 1914 to $6 in 1920. There has been a rise of $2 in the last twelve months, and a sharp rise in the last few months. I hope honorable members will not forget that six companies own these oil supplies. I have mentioned the names of eight, including the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and one of them is the Mexican Eagle Company, which is controlled by the “ Shell “ group. Whether all are related or interwoven I cannot say. But the fact remains that this essential to the life of modern man is controlled by a few great corporations, who regulate the price we pay. I shall show what this means to us as a nation, quite apart from what it means to individuals in the community. In 1910 the Australian Navy paid £3 5s. to £3 10s. per ton for its oil. In 1914 the price rose to £4 5s. and £4 10s. In 1920 the price was £9 10s. to £10. As we are buying 50,000 tons per annum, we are now paying per annum over £200,000 more than we should have had to pay in 1914 - or nearly as much in one year as honorable members are now asked to agree to provide for the establishment of a refinery in Australia, assuring to Australia 200,000 tons of crude oil per annum, which will supply more than is required for the needs of the Navy and for half the motor and lighting requirements of Australia. I repeat that we are at present paying for the oil we need for the Navy over £200,000 more per annum than we were paying in 1914. I do not say that we are paying more than a fair price. I do not know what is a fair price for the oil. If I am asked whether the increase in the price of petrol or crude oil is due to the augmented demand for oil or to profiteering by the great oil companies, I say I do not know. The demand is phenomenal. In America it is such that it is fast overtaking the visible supply, and it is a matter of less and less importance to that country whether she can find a market oversea for her oils or not. She has a huge ‘home market. But whether that demand is responsible for the present price of oil, I cannot say; but what I do know is that the price of oil to-day is determined by the demand and by the six or seven great oil companies. I leave it to honorable members and the country to determine which of these two factors is the greater in the matter of fixing the price. I deal with the facts, which are pretty obvious, namely, that we require oil, that we must have adequate supplies, that we must get them as cheaply as possible, and that we have no means of getting them at all, and certainly no means of getting them cheaply.
As I said a little while ago, the United States of America alone uses about 6,000,000 tons of benzine per annum, or about six times the pre-war consumption of the United Kingdom and Europe. I have pointed out what I think it was very proper to point out - that America is, perhaps, the most prosperous country in the world - and there is a vital connexion between these two things. -Canada, with far less need to erect refineries than we have, has fourteen of them, seven having been erected since 1914, and these have a total capacity of 1,500,000 gallons per day. Canada has fourteen refineries, Australia not one! It is very obvious that immediate steps ought to be taken, as is provided in the Bill, to insure ample supplies of crude oil and to establish a refinery to deal with them and such other indigenous supplies as may be found in Australia or in the Territories. This Bill is a measure to ratify an agreement for that purpose made with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
I do not know that it is necessary to dwell at any great length upon the position which the Anglo-Persian Company occupies in the world. Its history is pretty well known. It is crowned, so to speak, with a halo of romance, and we may derive some satisfaction from our knowledge of the connexion of the founder of the company, Mr. W. K. D’Arcy, with Australia. He was one of the directors of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company. Some twenty years ago he acquired interests in Persia, and spent a large fortune in endeavouring to develop the oil-bearing regions there. He lost much money, but managed to interest far-seeing and enterprising men in his schemes. The pioneers had a chequered career until in 1904. Lord Fisher, that most remarkable man, who was First Lord of the Admiralty, and who was one of the first to foresee the part that oil would play in the life of the world and as a fuel for the Navy, concluded that without oil that arm of defence was likely to be ineffective, and looked around with the object of securing within the British Em- pire sources of supply. He was mainly responsible for preventing the Persian concessions from falling into German hands. Honorable members will recall the Kaiser’s dream of a railway from Berlin to Bagdad. The East ° was to be his, with all its greatness and all its richness. Thanks to Lord Fisher, the company, which was then struggling, found its feet, and in 1909 it was formed into what is now known as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. In 1913 a Bill was introduced into the House of Commons under which the British Government became officially responsible for the progress of this company, and on the outbreak of the war they acquired a controlling interest in it. The position now is as follows: - The capital of the company is £20,000,000, the issued capital is £17,500,000, made up of £5,000,000 worth of 5 per cent, debentures, £5,000,000 worth of 6 per cent, participating preference shares, and £7,500,000 of ordinary shares. .The debentures carry no voting powers, the preference shares carry one vote per share, and the ordinary shares two votes per share.* The votes number 20,000,000, of which the British Government hold 10,001,000 on account of 5,000,000 ordinary and 1,000 preference shares. The balance of the shares are held as follows : - The Burmah Oil Company - a purely British company - holds 2,500,000, less a negligible number which are held by the heirs of Lord Strathcona and Mr. Knox D’Arcy, its founders; and the British public own 4,999,000 preference shares. The investment of the British Government in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company cost them £5,000,000, and is roughly estimated to be worth £50,000,000 on the open market to-day. This company has been developed entirely by British capital and British enterprise. It is controlled by the British Government, “which holds a majority of its votes. It has no relation, direct or indirect, with any of the companies I have mentioned or with any other company. The Burmah Oil Company is one of the companies which was formed in Burmah by British capital, and was itself the company which assisted the infant Anglo-Persian Oil Company to its feet. The latter company owns, in Persia, Timor, Mesopotamia, Africa, Trinidad, Borneo, and other places, extensive oil fields. It is estimated that the Persian fields alone are as large as the combined fields of the United States. It has a fleet of tank steamers in being of 230,000 tons, which is to be built up to 500,000 tons, and this fleet will be worth £15,000,000. Here, then, is a company purely British in its origin, in its development, in its capital, and in its control, which possesses the most extensive oil fields in the world. It has a fleet and oil wells which make it perfectly independent of all shipping rings and oil corporations. It is willing to make an arrangement with the Commonwealth Government to erect a refinery here, and to supply this country with 200,000 tons of crude oil per annum at current rates until such time as we find oil in Australia or its territories. When we find it, and in proportion to the quantity in which we find it, the company’s oil will be retired and our oil will be refined at the refinery. In this refinery, the capital of which is set down in the schedule at £500,000, we are to take up £1 more than half of the shares, in order that we may exercise exactly the same control as that which is enjoyed by the British Government. We shall be entitled to half the profits accruing from the enterprise’, we shall be assured of ample supplies of fuel oil for our Navy, and we shall give employment to a very large number of men, either immediately or in the immediate future. We shall also be ready to refine our own oil when it is found.. From, this 200,000 tons of crude oil it is estimated that we shall get per annum 40,000 tons of benzine, 33,300 tons of kerosene, 9,045 tons of lubricating oil, 72,000 “tons of fuel oils, 4,500 tons of wax, 9,000 tons of pitch. These commodities, other than fuel oils, will be sufficient to supply about onehalf of our total requirements; while in regard to fuel oils the supply will be more than sufficient. The agreement is, for all practical purposes, an analogous one to that entered into by the company with the British Government, excepting, of course, that it is of an incomparably narrower scope. But so far as Australia is concerned, and to the extent that we put our capital into the undertaking, our position is analogous. It will give us the same control over this refining company that the British Government has over the Anglo-Persian Company. The agreement is with the Anglo-Persian Company for ‘ the purpose of forming a refinery company which will be registered in this country and in this State. The net effect will be that the Commonwealth Government will have a half share in the enterprise, the Anglo-Persian Company will have one-half of the remainder - that is to say, a ‘quarter share - and the British Government will also have a quarter share. This Anglo-Persian Company is now a company which is truly Imperial in the best sense of the term. It is a company whose supplies are scattered throughout the Empire, and whose capital and resources, as well as the enterprise to which it owes its development, are entirely British. This company, controlled by the British Government, comes to the Commonwealth Government and asks us to become a partner with it in this venture. If the inducements were much less attractive than they are, I should be one of the first to advise honorable members to accept it. But being in the position we are, and asked by a company such as this, British in essence, controlled by the British Government, it would be incredible folly for us to reject this offer. For an expenditure of £250,000 we are offered a partnership with this great company, whose experience in much wider fields absolutely insures success in this enterprise. I remind honorable members that it is the Anglo-Persian Company’s knowledge and experience that we are buying, under this agreement. It is not proposed to interfere in any way in the management of this refining company, but we shall have the right to prevent it’ from selling its refined oil to any foreign buyer without our consent. We shall also be able to insure a sufficient supply of oil for our naval requirements, and have authority to veto any proposal likely to interfere with the status of the company. In addition, if at any future time further capital is to he called up, this may only be done with the consent of the Commonwealth Government; and in any case the relative positions must be maintained so that the Government will always hold a majority of the shares.
It is impossible at this stage for me to anticipate all the points - I can hardly call them objections - that may arise in honorable members’ minds, so I shall not endeavour to do so. I would not be in order if I attempted to deal with .the schedule, item by item, but I may inform honorable members that I have been through it very carefully. In fact I am responsible for its present form, and as Attorney-General I declare that it amply safeguards the interests of the Commonwealth. It provides, inter alia, that the Government may resume the works after a period of fifteen years have elapsed, but whether the Government will be inclined to do so or not, I am unable to say. I do not know that very many of us would care to pierce the veil of the future to that extent, for I have no doubt some honorable members feel that fifteen years hence they may be in a place where oil would be regarded as an embarrassment of riches. In my opinion, the agreement is a good business deal for the Commonwealth. It is one of those schemes that are long overdue, but long overdue as it may be, the proposal is a clear indication that the war has made this country known in places where, perhaps, it was not heard of before. This great firm, with others, is coming to Australia. Some are coming for one reason and some for another, but apparently they all realize with us that Australia is a good place to be in. I have told the representatives of these firms that we have our troubles here just as other countries have, but that nevertheless Australia is a good place for all men to live in. These big English firms understand the trend of the times, and evidently they are satisfied that Australia presents to them opportunities which are not to be found in other countries. I have much pleasure iri moving the second reading of the Bill, and I strongly advise honorable members to assent to it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply:
– In the absence of the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), ‘ I desire to place before honorable members the Supplementary Estimates for the year 1917-18, and to give the following particulars in relation thereto : -
The Supplementary Estimates for the year 1917-18, now submitted, are for the purpose of obtaining an appropriation of Parliament to cover the expenditure made out of the Treasurer’s Advance during that year. As has frequently happened in previous years, a considerable time has elapsed since the closing of the year’s accounts and the passing of these Estimates by Parliament. Honorable members are aware that the preparation of the Supplementary Estimates is postponed’ until the accounts of the year are finally closed, and a suitable opportunity has often to be awaited before they can be placed before Parliament. In regard to the present Estimates, the year closed on the 30th June, 1918, and the final audit of the accounts was not completed until the 17th December, 1918. These Supplementary Estimates were available for presentation to Parliament last year, but it was not practicable ‘ to place them before the House for consideration.
Pull particulars of the expenditure included in these Supplementary Estimates were contained in the Treasurer’s finance statement for 1917-18, which was presented to the House on the 19th December, 1918. With regard to the total amount of £601,982 required under Ordinary Services, £206,398 is for war expenditure and £395,584 for the usual requirements of .Departments. Most of the items explain themselves, but there are some which, perhaps, call for comment. Generally speaking, it may. be said that owing to war conditions and the greatly increased prices which have obtained during the last few years, it has been difficult to forecast the expenditure as accurately as in normal times.
One item for which additional appropriation is required, under the Prime Minister’s Department, is the administration and the working expenses of the Port Pirie wharf. The vote is being in- creased from £2,000 to £13,882. Against this expenditure, however, the collections of the wharf amounted to £20,715, so that this service has been conducted on a payable basis. There is an increase in the amount to be voted for the High Commissioner’s Office of £12,977. This extra expense is almost wholly attributable to war conditions.
Tinder the Department of the Treasury, a large sum of £38.177 is required above the amount originally estimated for Taxation Office contingencies. The increased taxation has necessarily made heavy and unavoidable expenditure in this branch. 1 should mention, however, that against that sum, owing to permanent appointments not being made a3 early as anticipated, there was a saving in the original appropriation for the salaries of the taxation officers of over £9,000.
There is also an increase of £49,000 for interest on transferred properties under the Department oi Trade and Customs. This- increase is in respect of lighthouses taken over by the Commonwealth from the States. An additional amount of £28,410 has been provided for rent of buildings. Of this amount, over £21,000 was paid to the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, on account of office accommodation for Commonwealth Departments. This sum included a considerable amount for fitting up of offices and arrears of rent from the time the Departments first occupied the offices.
In the Postmaster-General’s Department -an additional ‘ amount of £24,547 is being asked for. That sum comprises a large number of items, none of which call for special remark.
Under War Services, £172,078 has been provided to cover war pensions in excess of the amount originally estimated, namely, £2,600,000, and £23,186 is required for the War Pensions Office. That sum is in addition to £37,168 originally voted.
In regard to the Supplementary Estimates for Additions, New Works and Buildings, the total amount asked for is £2,088, and is required to cover several small items not foreseen in the original Estimates. It will interest honorable members to know that of the amounts originally voted for the payments out of revenue in 1917-18 the following amounts were unexpended: -
The amounts now asked for total just over £600,000.
– You stated previously that it was impracticable to present the Supplementary Estimates before the end of last year. For what reason ?
– They were ready last year, but we did not have an opportunity of submitting them.
– Because the House was not sitting.
– Yes. I have given all the particulars, and now move -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1917-18 for the several services hereunder specified, viz.: -
.- I think this is the eighth or ninth occasion on which the Supplementary Estimates have been submitted after the money has been expended. Honorable members know by experience that this has been the practice for many years, and it destroys the arguments used on political platforms that certain amounts under the item “ Contingencies “ have been expended before a statement has been submitted to Parliament. Any honorable member who has been a Minister for five minutes knows that it is impossible to spend even 5s. without a voucher. In passing the Supplementary Estimates we are not agreeing to the expenditure, because we have not had an opportunity of voicing our objections, but there are some items which I would like to comment on. The money has already been spent, and we are now only validating the action of the Government. In dealing with the ordinary Estimates, although the period which they cover will expire in eight or nine weeks, it is still possible to criticise some of the expenditure, but it is useless criticising the disbursement of money which has already taken place.
– Where are the Supplementary Estimates for 1918-19?
– They are yet to come. I wish, however, to deal with a matter mentioned by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), and I regret that the honorable member for Adelaide? (Mr. Blundell) is not in the chamber. This afternoon I had occasion to interject concerning the gantries or grabs erected at Port Pirie. That plant was installed there on the distinct understanding - I think the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) was Treasurer at the time - that the South Australian Government would defray the cost. When I stated that the South Australian Government should pay for the cost of installing that plant, the honorable member for Adelaide interjected, “No; you will never get a penny for it.” South Australia, having entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth, should be compelled to pay.
– Who said that it would not?
– The honorable member for Adelaide said that the Commonwealth would not get a penny.
– The agreement was made between the Commonwealth and the Vaughan Government in South Australia, of which the honorable member for Adelaide was a member.
– Yes; and it should be compelled to carry out the agreement. The Minister knows that two years ago the then member for Henty (Mr.Boyd), the honorable member for Capricornia, and I drew special attention to the matter, and I said that as the plant had been placed there, the South Australian Government should pay.
– It has proved immensely profitable.
– That has been denied by other persons who should know.
-Admiral Clarkson stated recently that it not only saved time, but was a mighty fine investment from a monetary point of view.
- Mr. Boyd, when a member of this Chamber, stated that, with the members of the Melbourne Harbor Trust, he visited Port Pirie for the specific purpose of examining the plant and ascertaining if it would be advantageous to erect a similar plant in Melbourne. No one would doubt the. business ability of such men as Mr. McPherson (the State Treasurer), Mr. Henry Meeks, and Mr. Appleton, on whose recommendation the proposition was turned down.
– Three weeks ago a vessel at Port Pirie was discharged in 24 hours; it would have taken 4 days in Melbourne.
– The increased despatch is equal to 100 per cent.
– I am not so much concerned with that phase of the question ; but I am pointing out that the Commonwealth Government entered into an agreement with the State Government of South Australia, under which it was agreed that the latter would defray the cost, which amounted to £70,000 or £80,000.
-It was £77,000, I believe.
– It was under £80,000.
– At any rate, we have a right to get that money. The fact that we are getting something from the wharf is of no consequence, because we own the wharf and we had to pay for it. We paid so much for the gantries and so much for the wharf, and if we are getting any revenue, we are receiving it from the wharf and not from the gantries.
– You are receiving splendid profits from the gantries.
– We have a right to demand payment, and I say deliberately that the South Australian Government is not taking a “ broad national view “ of the question. Representatives of other States have a right to demand that such agreements shall be kept.
The East-West railway was constructed on the distinct understanding that the Western Australian Government would build a line on the 4-ft. 84-in. gauge from Kalgoorlie to Perth. But the position, eighteen months or two years ago, was that passengers had to wait at least nine hours in Kalgoorlie before they could proceed to Perth. If the West Australian Government repudiated their agreement, that is no reason why the South Australian Government should act similarly.
– The South Australian Government wanted to purchase the wharf, but I refused until the plant had been paid for. We have the key of the situation.
– I commend the Minister for his action. I would not have raised this point had not the Minister mentioned it and the honorable member for Adelaide interjected to the effect that it was not the intention of South Australia to pay.
.- As I am the only member of the Economy party at present in the chamber, I think the responsibility is on my shoulders to speak to the motion, although I do not know whether it is my duty or not to stone-wall it. I am prepared, however, to give the Minister the benefit of the doubt, and allow the motion to go through without further opposition.
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield) [9.261. - It is a revelation to me to hear the statement made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) in answer to an interjection by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell). I do not know if there is a complete understanding with the present Government, and I do not know if the Minister is aware of the fact that South Australia has repudiated the agreement.
– It is a question of valuation.
– The Minister heard the interjection.
– I do not think this is the first occasion on which the honorable member for Yarra has raised this question, and, inferentially, cast a reflection on a State that has always been extremely honorable, and an example to others. The mechanical coalhandling appliance at Port Pirie is not perfect, because it should have been electrically controlled. At the time of its installation, it was impossible to obtain the necessary electrical plant, so it had to be an improvized plant, or, in other words, constructed out of a scrap-heap. The installation of the plant was a matter of vital interest to the Commonwealth Government, as well as an advantage to’ Port Pirie, because in the absence of such a plant the Broken Hill Proprietary Company could not have supplied the Imperial authorities with lead for war purposes. That statement has been made deliberately.
– And South Australia took advantage of the situation.
– I do not think South Australia desires to take any advantage. It is a pity that this great city does not benefit by the experience of Port Pirie, and erect a modern mechanical plant to handle its coal requirements on an economical and effective basis.
– I was not present during the whole of the time the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) was speaking, but I understood him to say that passengers travelling by the transcontinental line were compelled to wait at Kalgoorlie for some eight or nine hours.
– I stated that the Western Australian Government agreed to construct a line from Kalgoorlie to Perth on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge if the Commonwealth undertook to build the East- West line. Mr. Scaddan, when Premier, agreed to that, and it is on record.
– When that agreement was entered into, it was a definite undertaking that the Commonwealth Government would construct the line within a given period, and that they did not do-. 1 am sure ‘ of my facts, because the Western Australian Government at one stage raised loan money specially and expressly to build the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle section on the 4 ft. Si in. gauge, but that money was diverted to other purposes owing to the delay which took place in the construction of the railway. That is a matter of history, and I am simply repeating it for the information of honorable members. The delay in Kalgoorlie is, after all, really a blessing in disguise, because even under the most advantageous conditions existing to-day it takes sixteen hours to run from Kalgoorlie to Perth. Taking into consideration the arrival time in Kalgoorlie, and allowing a fair hour for connexion and possible delays to the East-West train, you could not leave Kalgoorlie before. 11 a.m., which would mean that if you went straight through you would arrive at Perth at 3 o’clock in the morning.
– Of course, it would be absolutely impossible to start from Port Augusta at a different time!
– I am dealing only with the Western Australian side. It is not a simple thing to lay down a definite time-table for the line under the existing conditions with the speed limited to 30 miles an hour instead of the 45 or 50 miles an hour anticipated. Naturally the running time between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie is so much greater.
– The whole fault is with the States; they will not alter their timetables.
– They have altered their time-table within the last few days, with a view to making it much more comfortable and suitable. The South Australian railways have altered their timetable, so that instead of leaving Port Augusta at 5.30 in the morning on the journey from the West, and the passengers having to turn out at 4.30, they now remain till 7 o’clock, have their breakfast, and leave Port Augusta at S a.m. That is a much better and more sensible arrangement. The solution of the whole difficulty will come when the line itself settles down more and is ballasted. The original estimate and scheme for the line did not provide for ballasting. When the line is ballasted and it becomes possible to run trains over it at a decent speed, the running time will be cut down, and passengers will be able to arrive in Perth at a suitable hour.
– It is very amusing to hear the excuses put up by South Australian members for not paying their taxes. One honorable member said that those gentlemen were smiling when they spoke. They say the tiger smiles before he chops up his prey. I am afraid the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) is like the tiger. When he smiles, look out for squalls. He complained about the ma chine at Port Pirie being a scrap-heap concern. The South Australian people were glad to get that scrap heap concern at whatever it cost, but directly the. Commonwealth wants the money the South Australian Government makes all sorts of excuses, and will not pay it. In fact, it has not paid a copper up to date. The honorable member for Wakefield has not explained why the South Australian Government has not paid the Commonwealth that money. Because it is a payable concern now, the South Australian authorities want us to cut it out, and then sell them the machine.
– Nothing of the kind.
– What else are they doing? The South Australian Government made a contract to do certain things if the Commonwealth’ did certain things.
– South Australia has never broken a contract.
– When the Commonwealth did its part, the South Australian authorities began to make excuses; they said it was not the machine they wanted; that they wanted an electric motor; that they did not want a gas engine; and that they did not want steam power. They wanted something that would do the work. The Commonwealth supplied them with a thing that did the work, and now they do not want to pay for it. There isthis to be said, however, that even if the South Australian Government does not pay for it, the Commonwealth Government was under an obligation to supply the Imperial Government with lead, and whether it is a payable concern to-day or not does not matter, so long as we succeeded in what we set out to achieve. So far as that is concerned, I am quite satisfied even if the thing is a dead loss. I am told that fully 80 per cent, of the lead used by the Allies came from Broken Hill,and that there were always boats available for Port Pirie, when they were not available for anywhere else. Still, the least the South Australian people can do is to pay their taxes. The honorable member for Wakefield says that, the South Australians are always willing to fulfil any bargains they make. They unloaded one undertaking on to the Commonwealth to a nice extent, and so far as all the good the Commonwealth has got out of the Northern Territory deal is con.cerned, I would vote to-morrow to hand it back to them, giving it to them free of debt, and letting them make a fresh start with it. That is what I would do if the South Australian Government would take it back.
– They will take it back on those terms.
– Then .South Australia can have it so far as my vote goes, and I can vouch for fully 90 per cent, of the men on this side of the House voting to give it back to them free of debt. The Commonwealth will then know what it has to pay, whereas under existing conditions God knows what it will cost to keep the Northern Territory going. It is a veritable sink for expenditure.
– The Minister says they will take it back with the debt.
– No, I did not; I said we would accept the honorable member’s offer.
– There is no chance of South Australia taking it bacK with the debt. If ever they were glad to be rid of an incubus, they were glad to get rid of the Northern Territory.
We should not be too hard on the Western Australian Government regarding the East- West railway. They do all they possibly can at their end to facilitate the arrival and despatch of trains. Under existing conditions the Commonwealth Railway Commissioner is doing remarkably well. We should not hamper him or the State Governments, because when that agreement was made every State in the Union was prosperous, and revenue was coming in in bucketsful whereas to-day it is coming in only in pinpotsful
– The revenue to-day is not bad, if it were not for the war.
– We have to face the difficulty as it presents itself to us today.
– I would soon settle the war debt if I had my way.
– There are a few people in the Commonwealth who would fix up the war debt to-morrow if they had their way, but I notice that they have nothing to fix it up with themselves. It puts me in mind of the men out we3t when the Labour party first came into existence. Every man that was “ on the creek,” and had nothing in his tucker bags, was a red-hot Socialist and good Democrat, but once he had his kidneys lined, and was in a permanent job on a station, he would say, “ This Labour business is no good to me.” I have the greatest faith in the finances of Australia to-day, as I had when Federation was first consummated. I look upon this as the best country under the sun, both financially and for the people in it. People talk about what we have suffered, but we have not suffered one-thousandth part of what they have in other countries. We are the best-off place in the world. I was reading in an English paper to-day about the prices of things at Home, and comparing them with prices here. In the English provinces the ordinary commodities of life are unprocurable to the working people. We should not cry “stinking fish.” The finances of the Commonwealth, and of every one of the States, are in a very buoyant condition, and I am looking forward to the great Protectionist Tariff to bring in more revenue than was ever brought in by any Revenue Tariff or. Free Trade Tariff in any country in the world. It is going to do what a lot of people have always said a Protectionist Tariff would do. It will bring about prosperity, higher wages, ,better conditions of living, cheaper clothes and boots, and cheaper commodities generally. In fact, every one will be happy and smiling, and we” shall have three months’ holiday out of the twelve every year. Even with only nine months’ work, this will be an El Dorado.
– I rise to order. On what part of the Estimates is the honorable member speaking?
– I am speaking on the Supplementary Estimates, and I ask your protection, Mr. Chairman, from the honorable member for wooltops. It is no use making a noise about this money, because it was spent in the financial year 1917-18. I believe there is still another dose of supplementary estimates to come, but it is not of much use to talk about it. The only thing that concerns me is that South Australia should pay its taxes. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) said by interjection to-day that we were not going to get a “bob” out of it, yet the honorable member for Wakefield tells us to-night that South Australia always pays its debts. If I had my way, I would stop the £77,000 out of South Australia’s share of the 25s. per capita payments. The Government have a pull on the State by that means. I would make South Australia pay this sum for the mounting of the grab in that way, and then let them fight it out afterwards. If we wait much longer, there will not be enough population in South Australia to take it out of. Why the. people are deserting South Australia I do not know.
– Who told you that?
– On the last population figures South Australia should lose another member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1917-18, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c., a further sum not exceeding £2,088.
– I move -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1918-19, for the several services here- under specified, viz.: -_
These Supplementary Estimates are submitted for the purpose of obtaining art appropriation of Parliament to cover the expenditure made out of the Treasurer’s Advance during the financial year which ended on 30th June, 1919.
The practice is that the Supplementary Estimates are prepared as soon as the audit of the year’s accounts is finally completed, and the Estimates are presented to Parliament for consideration as soon as possible thereafter.
The Auditor-General’s report on the finances of 1918-19 was presented to this Parliament on the 26th; February last. The finance statement then submitted contained full particulars of the amounts included in the Supplementary Estimates now under consideration.
The total amount to be appropriated for ordinary services is £1,016,596, of which £61,532 is payable from Trust and. Loan Funds. The expenditure from revenue is made up as follows : -
Owing to abnormal conditions brought about by the war, and to the general and continued increase in the cost of services, the total of these Supplementary Estimates is larger than usual. Some of the items call for brief explanation.
Under the Prime Minister’s Department, additional appropriation is required in respect of cablegrams beyond the Commonwealth to the extent of £9,943. This increase is largely attributable to war conditions.
In the Treasury Department, the sum of £68,370 is required above the amount already appropriated for Taxation Office contingencies. Increased activities in the Taxation Office account for the extra amount required. The principal items are - Postage and telegrams (£6,444), office requisites (£3,190), and temporary assistance (£52,645). As a set off against the last amount, there was a saving under the salary vote of £32,240, owing to permanent appointments not being made before the close of the financial year 1918-19. There is also an increase of £9,604 under the . Government Printer for purchase of paper and parchment, and £50,071 and £23,274 are required under Treasury - miscellaneous, to provide a temporary credit under Trust Funds. Go- vernment Printer, and stamp printing accounts, respectively. These increases were mainly due to large purchases of paper.
Under the Department of the Navy, a sum of £50,000 is required for the payment to the credit of Trust Fund, Admiralty account. This amount is needed to meet expenditure on behalf of the Admiralty to the 3lst December, 1918, and is recoverable.
One hundred and two thousand six hundred and nine pounds were required above the amount originally voted for the quarantine service. This was very largely due to the influenza epidemic.
Under the Department of Works and Railways, an appropriation of £11,000 is required to provide a credit in the Trust Fund, Public Works Plant, and Stores Suspense Account. This was for the provision of stores and plant for works under the control of that Department.
In the Postmaster-General’s Department, an additional amount of £15,543 is required on account of contingencies. This sum comprises a large number of items, none of which call for special remark.
Under War Services, an extra amount of £300,000 is required for repatriation of soldiers. This is mainly on account of sustenance allowances.
Refunds of Revenue. - This amount - £143,242 - was wholly required for refunds of taxation revenue.
In addition to the items referred to, provision is made under the various Departments for war bonuses granted under Arbitration Court Awards, amounting in all to £52,281.
In regard to Supplementary Estimates for Additions, New Works, and Buildings, the total amount asked for is £44,434. The main items are: - DarwinKatherine River Railway, capital expenditure, £7,568; construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones, £20,123. The balance is made up of sundry small items.
Of the amounts originally voted for payments out of revenue in 1918-19, the following amounts were unexpended: - Ordinary services, £713,557; war services, £3,640; additions, new works, &c., £93,729; total, £810,926. The amounts now asked for total £999,498.
-Does the £52,000 for Arbitration awards apply to the Postal Department?
– It is to cover a War Bonus award.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1918-19 for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c., a further sum not exceeding £44,434.
Standing Orders suspended and resolutions adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That, towards making good the further Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1917-18, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £742,065.
– I desire to once more refer to the question of invalid pensions as these affect tubercular and similar cases. There are many unfortunate individuals in the community who, by reason of tubercular disease, are unable to follow any occupation. Many of thesehave been in hospitals for months or years, and only recently some were turned out of the Austin Hospital, at Heidelberg. Amongst those turned out are sufferers who have parents in receipt of wages which at one time were considered large, but are not so considered now. Unless parents who find themselves unable to support the sufferers turn them out into the streets, invalid pensions are not granted.
– I think that is hardly correct.
– It is a fact, and it is not the first time that suchcases as I refer to have occurred. In one case that has been brought under my notice, the parents are in receipt of a wage of £4 per week, and of their four or five children some are dependent, others semidependent, whilst the eldest is suffering from tuberculosis, and cannot earn a living. He left a sanatorium to return home, and’ because the parents are willing to give him a shelter he cannot secure a pension. The only way to obtain a pension, as I say, is for the parents to put the sufferer on the streets. If that be done, they have to sleep in the street, or be locked up, until a pension can be secured, and we all know that the business of getting a pension cannot be got through in three or four hours. I am sure that there is not a member in the House who has not heard of cases of the sort. For years I understood that the Commissioner had special powers to deal with such cases on their merits.
– I think the Commissioner has that power. I shall be only too pleased to inquire into any typical cases brought before me.
– The case the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) is referring to is that of a man, with both lungs affected, who was turned out of a hospital.
– I have had five similar cases of hardship brought under my notice in the last two months. Some years ago 8s. a day might have been considered a fair wage, but now 16s. is worth no more than 8s. was then. We still base the power of the parent to maintain his children on the rate of the old cost of living. It is no pleasure to me to be continually bringing these cases before the House, but there are so many that they cannot be neglected. It certainly is not according to the spirit of the Act that a parent should be compelled to throw his invalid children on the street in order that they may obtain a pension. If the Minister (Mr. Poynton) will promise that such cases will be considered in view of the present high cost of living I shall be satisfied.
– I promise to inquire into any cases laidbefore me, and see what can be done.
– In the case of one sufferer - a man twenty-eight years of age - I told him, in, perhaps, a brutal way, that in order to obtain a pension he had better sit down in the gutter and let the police arrest him.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that if a child is crippled the parents have to turn it out into the street before a pension can be obtained ?
– That is so, if the parents are earning anything like £3 10s. or £4 a. week. I have fought the matter out with the Victorian Deputy Commissioner, and I believe that all the Deputy Commissioners have endeavoured to deal with such cases in the spirit of the Act, but find it impossible. I took cases to Mr. Collins, when he was Secretary to the Treasury and the real Commissioner of Pensions, and also to his successor, but there seems tobe a disinclination to alter the decisions arrived at some time back. The present is certainly not a humane way of administering the Act.
.- Last night, when we were discussing the War Pensions Appropriation Bill, I pointed out the unfairness of sending soldiers to the Austin Hospital for Incurables while civilian patients were removed to make room for them. I gave all particulars connected with the civilian patients, and stated that forty had been removed from a ward into another part of the hospital, where I was informed the wards were insanitary. My anxiety was that justice should be done to both soldiers and civilians. The secretary to the hospital is anxious to have it made clear that the forty patients were not sent out into the street, as the newspapers made it appear, though I know some were sent out. I make this explanation in order that no stigma may rest upon the hospital.
– I wish to refer to an answer I received to-day to a question in reference to the administration of the Liverpool Camp in 1918. It is evident that the charge made by some honorable members that the officers of the Department are not entirely frank with the Minister is sometimes well founded. The question I asked to-day was -
What steps have been taken to give effect to the recommendations of Major Goucher in his report in November, 1918, upon the training camp at Liverpool?
The answer was -
No recommendations were made by Major Goucher -
That, I believe, is correct, but the answer goes on -
This officer was detailed to report on certain allegations regarding a camp of training at Liverpool, and his report showed that these statements were grossly untrue.
This is a camp for trainees, and in the course of a few months similar camps will be held at Broadmeadows, Seymour, and elsewhere. It is rather curious that at the time the scandal arose at Liverpool similar complaints were made as to the failure of the organization at Broadmeadows. In July, 1918, it was decided to hold the camp on 2nd September. There were, therefore, more than six weeks in which to make preparations. The number of officers and men was correctly estimated on 16th July. Yet when the lads reached the camp it was found that there were insufficient tents to house them. The tents were deficient in number and gear, some being without flies, and some without poles. Blankets were not issued until between 6.30 and 8.30 p.m. - they had notbeen received in time. The lads arrived in camp, after a wearisome journey, at 11.50 a.m., 12.15 p.m., and 3 p.m. No food was available for them until about 3 o’clock. There was no salt for nearly a week, ‘and meals were cooked without it. There was no issue of firewood, and the lads were sent to steal it. There were 63,000 lbs. of straw in the depot when the camp opened, enough for 6,300 men; yet no straw was available for the lads to sleep on for several days after the camp opened. No vegetables were available until the evening of the second day. Tent boards were not available, and the lads had to sleep on the bare ground, without straw, and only a blanket beneath them. Colonel Kirkland reported that it was not until the 14th - twelve days after the camp commenced - that the equipment was complete. After the camp the principal medical officer reported that during the whole of the thirty days’ training the tents had not been struck or the ground aired, and he ordered this to be done before another batch of trainees was brought there. Another report states that, without doubt, a great deal of sickness was caused by the want of proper bedding, flooring, and blankets. One lad died of meningitis - part of the camp was known as “ Meningitis Flat “ during the early days of the war - ten days after his return from camp. There was a similar scandal at Broadmeadows. Some honorable members, who have been through the rigours of the war, evidently look upon these matters lightly; but I desire honorable members to understand the objects ofthese camps and the conditions under which they are conducted. These young men. were taken out of comfortable homes, and out of the mines, and were subjected to disabilities which I have just indicated quite unnecessarily, and merely because of the failure of some responsible officers to do the work they were paid to do. The country is disbursing large sums by way of salary to men who are regarded as efficient, and yet the health and the lives of these trainees are jeopardized because of the failure of certain responsible officials to do their simple duty.
– When did this occur?
– In 1918.
– And is the incident only now being ventilated?
– Certainly not; but my purpose in calling attention to these matters again is to insure, if possible, that they shall not be repeated this year. The reply of the Department, when inquiries were made, was that there was nothing to worry about, and that the officer appointed to make investigations had reported that all was well. Yet the occurrences upon which that officer was’ required to report were exactly those I have just indicated. If our lads are to he subjected to treatment such as this, the sooner we close the training camps the better. We are sowing in the minds of the rising generation a hatred of military training and preparation. Conditions of discomfort and danger were natural enough in the emergencies of war, but they are not such as our young Australian trainees should be compelled to submit to in times of peace. This camp was in the vicinity of a great city, and such of the necessary facilities as were not available within the camp itself could have been speedily requisitioned. There was, in fact, no excuse for the camp being conducted as it was, and it is reasonably certain that that lad lost his life because of the failure of certain officers responsible to do their work as they should have done. As a matter of fact, they altered the date of the youth’s death one week, in order to place it a little further away from the day on which he left camp. Not only at this camp, but at Broadmeadows also, the health and lives of trainees were in jeopardy. Yet the officers responsible have not only been retained in the service, hut have escaped without reproof - indeed, with a whitewashing report. The whole circumstances indicate an utter disregard for the welfare of trainees and absolute neglect on the part of responsible officials. I hope steps will be taken to sec that the work of preparing for the camps is in future put in hand in ample time, and that it is placed under thecontrol of capable officers. And if there should be any further scandals I trust that those responsible will be no longer retained in the service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution, together with remaining resolutions of Ways and Means covering resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted,
That Mr. Poynton and Mr. Wise do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
The following Bills were presented by Mr. Poynton, and on his motion passed through all stages without amendment : -
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1917-18.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1917-18.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1918-10.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1918-19.
Mr. POYNTON (Grey- Minister for
Home and Territories) [10.21]. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn. -
In submitting the motion, I should like to thank honorable members for their courtesy in allowing the financial Bills to he disposed of so expeditiously.
– I was not in the House when the debate on the second reading of the Oil Agreement Bill was postponed.
– The resumption of the debate is set down for Tuesday.
– Perhaps I should not make the request, but I have arranged to go over to my own State on very important business, and shall not be back here until Wednesday, and I should like to ask whether it would inconvenience the Government toresume the debate on the second reading of this Bill on Wednesday instead of on Tuesday.
– I could not make that promise without consulting the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– Will the Minister submit therequest to the Prime Minister?
– I can undertake to do that.
– The Oil Agreement Bill deals with one of the most important matters that this House will have to deal with for some time. It concerns the oil industry of the whole of the Commonwealth. It is impossible for us to discuss the agreement until we have had an opportunity to read the Prime Minister’s second-reading speech.
– I will submit the honorable member’s request to the Prime . Minister, and see whether what he asks can be done.
– Once we confirm the agreement the matter will be fixed for fifteen years or for all time.
– The Prime Minister wished the debate to be resumed to-morrow.
– Any one who would ask that the debate should be resumed to-morrow would be simply insulting the intelligence of the House. However, I shall have an opportunity of . speaking on the Bill on my return from Tasmania.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 May 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200506_reps_8_92/>.