8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs -
– Inquiry is being made with a view to obtaining the information sought.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in connexion with the Government’s offer of a bonus for the discovery of payable oil in Australia, he will have a regulation or Ordinance dealing with the same gazettted, so that the claim for such bonus, wholly or in part, made by a prospector or an original discoverer of an oil-bearing area may receive consideration.
-Full particulars asto the conditions governing the payment of the reward of £50,000 for the discovery of petroleum oil in commercial quantities in Australia have already been published in the issues of the Commonwealth Gazette of the 2nd January and 23rd September, 1920.
Linesmen, South Australia
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Exemption of State Loans
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– No arrangements have been entered into with the State Governments in respect of the exemption of interest on State loans from Federal income tax. There seems to be some doubt as to the legal position in this matter; but up to the present the Com- monwealth has not taxed interest derived from State investments.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– The Government has not been informed that the first meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations to be held at Geneva, on 15th November, 1920, has. been abandoned. It would appear that the Conference to which the Premier of Belgium is reported to have referred is one quite distinct from the Assembly of the League of Nations.
Refusal of Loan
– On the 19th August, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked the following questions : -
A promise was made to communicate with the Queensland Government in reference to the matter, and I am now in a position to furnish the further following information : -
The State Government advises as follows by wire: - “ Land of freehold tenure is made available to soldier land settlers under the following conditions: -
Applicants must be approved by Land Settlement Committee of Queensland War
Council. Applicants must (1) possess practical experience; (2) know the district or have lived in the district and have relatives or friends where land is situated; (3) no advance shall exceed 75 per cent. of approved valuation of holding and improvements, if any, and stock,implements, machinery, plant, and fruit trees, if any, included in purchase. Maximum advance shall not exceed £1,200, and as to first £625 of this advance, no advance shall exceed amount of fair estimated value of holdingand improvements, if any, thereon, exclusive of such stock, implements, machinery, plant, and fruit trees; and as to £575 balance of said maximum amount,no such advance shall exceed rate of 15s. in £1 of fair estimated value of holding and improvements, if any, thereon, exclusive of such stock, implements, machinery, plant, and fruit trees.”
Telegraphic Communication with Queensland.
– On 13th October, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) asked the following questions : -
I promised the information would be obtained, and am now able to furnish the following reply : -
No further information can be obtained as to what extent proposed line would assist in development of the Barkly tableland.”
– I give notice that tomorrow I shall move -
That the Government be censured for their failure to make provision for the payment of 6s. per bushel cash at railway sidings for this season’s wheat.
– (By leave.) - I wish to make a. statement to avoid seeming discourteous to the Leader of the Opposition. Under ordinary circumstances the Government would have moved the adjournment of the House-
– It ought to be done now.
– But we have already had some half-dozen motions of censure this session.
– Only two.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister this matter could well go over for determination until tomorrow, particularly as the motion relates to a matter which, in its nature, is not urgent.
– It is very urgent.
– I can conceive of no urgency other than for reasons of i local character. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will acquit me of want of courtesy if I suggest that in the circumstances the best thing is to leave this matter over for consideration until the return of the Prime Minister to-morrow.
– (By leave.) - I moved the adjournment of the House three or. four weeks ago to discuss the matter which I propose to raise again « to-morrow ; ‘but it was impossible to take a vote on it on that occasion. Many honorable members of other parties feel as strongly on this subject as do members of the Labour party. A definite pledge or promise, or, as the Prime Minister said once, threat, was made at Bendigo in regard to the wheat. It has been suggested that the motion :a to be moved because the Victorian election is close -at hand, but I am merely following up my action of a month ago, when the date of the election had not been fixed. I do not think that the debate on my motion will be long drawn out. It could be short and sharp, and followed by a vote which would determine whether the Government has done right or wrong. I realize that in the absence of the Prime Minister his deputy is in a difficult position. If the Government intend to treat the motion, as they ought to do, as one of censure, the only logical course for them to pursue is to move the adjournment of the House. The motion could then be discussed to-morrow in the presence of the Prime Minister. It cannot be discussed in his absence, and I take it that the duty of the Government is not to proceed with any business until it has been disposed of. They should take the ordinary course, and adjourn the House now until to-morrow.,
Mr. Gregory. What is the use of wasting time?
– There is no waste of time involved. This should be treated as a iona fide motion of censure. It is incorrect to say that already during the session half-a-dozen such motions have been submitted, but a motion of censure will be proposed in connexion with every failure on the part qf the Government to do its duty.
– I desire leave to say a few words.
– Order! I would again call the attention of honorable members to an unfortunate and irregular practice which has arisen of late, and which, if developed, is likely to bring the business of the House into a state of chaos. Leave is asked, generally by a Minister, to [make a statement, and, as a matter of courtesy, is usually granted. The Minister has. no sooner completed his statement than another honorable member asks leave to make a statement, and honorable members naturally desiring to be uniformly courteous, as a rule, do not object. This usually takes the form of a reply to the original statement by the Leader of the Opposition. I would point out, however, that if other honorable members are to obtain such leave, we shall constantly be having an irregular debate, just as we have now, with no question before the Chair. This procedure is contrary to all the procedure and practice of Parliament, and I hope that honorable members will realize the unwisdom of a practice which, if encouraged, must set at naught all rules for the orderly conduct of business. If the honorable member for Darling (Mr.
Blakeley) desires leave to make a statement -
– I ask leave to make a statement.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to make a statement ?
The following papers were pre sented : -
Public Service Act - Promotion of J. D. Chettle, Prime Minister’s Department.
War Gratuity Act: - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 154.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 15th October, vide page 5718):
.- As this proposed vote relates to the House of Representatives, I should like the attendance of the honorable the Speaker (Sir Elliot Johnson). Several of us wish to discuss matters relating to the powers of the House Committee and the Library Committee, and one does not like to make statements concerning them in the absence of Mr. Speaker.
– Mr. Speaker will shortly be here.
– In connexion with the work of the Chamber, Committees are appointed for various purposes, and I think we should be enlightened as to their scope and power. As a member of the House Committee, I desire to know what powers and privileges that Committee possesses. I wish to know what control it has of the various matters with which it has to deal on behalf of the House. If Mr. Speaker and the President have absolute control, I have no objection to offer, provided that the House is so advised, and holds them wholly responsible for the administration of these details. But when Committees of the House are appointed, I think honorable members look to them to see that their privileges are conserved and convenience studied. Now that Mr. Speaker is present, I should be glad if he would let us know where, according to precedents, the duties of the House Committee and Library Committee begin, and where they end. I understand that the Library Committee has recently passed a resolution in regard to the salaries of officers who come within their control. I do not think they have the power to increase or reduce the salaries of attendants; but, if they have, the House Committee should have the same power. As a member of the House Committee, I hope that no such authority rests in these Committees. The salaries of parliamentary officers should be dealt with either through the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, or in some other way, so that honorable members may not have to address themselves to such questions. At the same time, if, as amember of the House Committee, I am to be a mere dummy, I shall at once resign from that Committee.
– And I shall resign from the Library Committee.
– Unless we have certain powers enabling us to deal with the work properly appertaining to the House Committee, I am not prepared to remain for five minutes a member of that Committee.
Another matter to which I desire to refer is my failure to take part last Friday in the division on the motion moved by the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Mc Williams) to reduce the first item of the Estimates by £1 as a direction to the Government to cut down the Estimates by £1,000,000. I have no desire to offer any excuse. My failure to take part in the division was due to a blunder, for which I accept the full responsibility; but I wish to put myself right as a member of this House. Those who know me will readily admit that I am not one of those who, having entered into a fight, will endeavour to sneak out of it; and I want to assure honorable members that it was because I did not hear the bells ringing for the division that I failed to put in an appearance. I read with much indignation in the newspapers on Saturday morning a statement attributed to Mr. Speaker, that, while I was talking to him in his own room, he had distinctly heard the bells in the anteroom ringing for the division. I was in his room at the time, but I did not hear the bells ring.
– If Mr. Speaker heard them ringing, he was right in saying that he heard them.
– What would one expect a gentleman to do in such circumstances? It was an important division.
– “What does the honorable member want Mr. Speaker to do - to say that he did not hear the bells ringing?
– K0 ; but if on such an occasion I were talking with the honorable member, or any one else, and heard the bells ringing for a division, I would at once draw attention to the fact.
– I suppose Mr. Speaker thought the honorable member did not ‘wish to take part in the division.
– I put it to honorable members that a similar experience might befall any one of them. There are no bells in Mr. Speaker’s room, but ‘ the bells might have been ringing in his anteroom while I was talking to him ; and if ho says that he heard them, I am satisfied that he did. We were discussing matters relating to the House Committee, to which I do not wish to refer here, and I certainly did not hear the bells ring. I should like to ask honorable members what they would have done in the circumstances. I notice by the newspaper reports that the Speaker himself was paired on this occasion with a member opposite.
– I did not know I was paired.
– It shows that he took more interest in the division than the honorable member did.
– But one would have assumed that, hearing the bells ringing for a division on a matter affecting our party, when I was discussing with him our party arrangements in the building, and speaking to him as a member of the Committee, he would say to me at once, as a matter of courtesy, “ The bells are ringing for a division.”
– Would you regard that ae his duty ?
– It was no duty of his, but there are very few members in this House, no matter what side they sit on, who would not have drawn attention to the fact that the bell in an ante-room was ringing either for a quorum or a division-
– Has not your party a Whip?
– The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) acts in that capacity for us, but the division took place without the members of our party realizing that I was not present. My leader, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), knew where I had gone, but assumed I was present until too late.
– It is very odd when you want a member of another party to act as Whip for you.
– The honorable member knows I did not want anything of the kind. I am not appealing to the instincts of the honorable member, but to the instincts of the average member.
– Average members do not miss divisions as you do.
– I shall not pursue the subject. I hope some statement will be made to show what the powers of the Sessional Committees are, so that members may know where they stand, and that I for any part may know whether to remain on any of them or not. I do not care to accept responsibilities as a member of a Committee unless I know what the powers and duties of that Committee are. If the control and power are given to the Speaker of this House and the President of the Senate, I am quite prepared to abide by anything they do; but while we have Committees, the scope of their powers and duties should be understood by honorable members, so that we may be able to get along without friction.
– With regard to what appears to be an imputation upon myself by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) of a lack of courtesy, in not notifying him that the division bells were ringing on ‘ Friday last, I can only say that I am surprised at the honorable member’s statement. I certainly could not know by intuition that the honorable member did not hear sounds which’ were distinctly audible to myself. In any case, it is no part of my duty to tell any honorable member that a division bell is ringing, though I would certainly have done so as a matter of courtesy had I had any reason to believe that the sound of the bells was not audible to the honorable member for Dampier. The honorable member came into mv room to see me about certain other matters, and when we were in conversation the bells certainly did start ringing.
– He was not thinking of your duty so much as of your well-known courtesy.
– I could not assume that the honorable member did not hear a bell which was distinctly audible to myself. When Isay “distinctly audible,” I do not mean that the bell was ringing very loudly. As a matter of fact, it is rather subdued in tone, because it rings in only a very small area in the vicinity of my room, and not in my room itself. Every honorable member was, of course, aware that a division was expected about that time. The bells rang quite audibly to my ears, at any rate for a while, but afterwards their sound was less distinct, and it is quite conceivable that the honorable member, with his back turned to the door, and speaking to me, did not really hear it. While the facts may exonerate him from blame for non-attendance at the division, it does not, I think, give him sufficient warrant for accusing me of lack of courtesy in not telling him that the bells were ringing, when I would naturally assume that he could hear the sound as distinctly as I could myself. I can conceive a situation where a reminder of the kind might not be desired, though I do not suggest it was so in this case. When the matter was reported to the Committee, the Serjeant-at-Arms immediately made inquiries in the neighbourhood and found that the bells had been ringing. When I say I distinctly heard it ringing, I do not wish by that remark to convey any imputation of untruthfulness whatever to the honorable member.
– But you said you heard them distinctly.
– I did, but the honorable member may not have heard them. The reason why I heard them distinctly may be that I am accustomed to hear that bell. The honorable member is accustomed to hear louder bells in other parts of the building, and that fact would probably account for his not having heard this one. Had I known that he did not hear the bell, I should have reminded him that it was ringing. I hope the honorable member will absolve me from any intentional discourtesy to him, and from any desire at all to place him at a disadvantage through his presence in my room. I am sure that honorable members who know me will absolve me from any such intention.
I am not prepared to express an opinion as to what powers the various Committees of the House are clothed with. Various Committees have been appointed in connexion with the House and the Library, but their duties and responsibilities, sofar as I have been able to ascertain, have never been defined. Section 14 of the Public Service Act provides -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act-
All appointments or promotions of officers of the Senate, and all regulations affecting such officers after their appointment, shall be made by the Governor-General on the nomination or recommendation of the President of the Senate.
Nothing is said there about any Committee of the Senate.
No mention is made there of a Committee.
There is no mention in any of those paragraphs of any of these statutory powers being conferred upon Committees; but, so far as I can see, the powers of the Committees are quite wide enough, outside of those questions, to embrace any other matters affecting either Houseor the two Houses jointly. Under the Public Service Act, matters affecting appointments, promotions, and regulations affecting officers of Parliament are reserved for the exclusive statutory nomination or recommendation of the President and the Speaker separately in respect of each House, and jointly in respect of both Houses.
– Has that ever been varied in practice in the past?
– I was just coming to that point. So far as the
Library is concerned, I have always made it a practice, as Chairman of the Library Committee, to follow precedents established by my predecessors in office, and submit for the concurrence of the members of the Committee proposals in relation to appointments, promotions, and salaries. I think it is always a wise policy for the Presiding Officer to fortify himself with the advice of those with whom he is associated on the Committees, even although the Committees have no statutory power of nomination or recommendation.’ It was only quite recently that I discovered that the Committees had not that power; my attention having been called to section 14 by an officer of the Bouse, in consequence, I think, of a query by the Auditor-General in regard to same action that had been taken on one occasion. In order to satisfy my mind as to the actual ,position, I sought an opinion from the Solicitor-General, who informed me that the President and the Speaker are solely responsible, under ihe terms of the Act, for all appointments, promotions, &c, in the Library. The Committee may make a recommenda-1 ion, but, in Sir Robert Garran’s words, “ it has no statutory status whatever,” and no practice, however long continued, can deprive the President and the Speaker of their statutory powers, and they can ignore a recommendation of the Library Committee if they please. The terms of the appointment of the Library Committee give no indication of its duties or powers, and even a joint sitting is not provided for in the motion in the House of Representatives, though it is <n the Senate. I spoke to Sir Robert Garran again this morning on the subject, and he confirmed the position as already explained. That opinion- applies to all the Committees. So far as the House of Representatives is concerned, the Speaker is the only statutory authority provided for in regard to such matters. In the Department of the Senate, the- President only is clothed with statutory authority. And in regard to- questions of -appointments, promotions, and salaries of -staffs of the joint Houses, the President -and the Speaker conjointly have the sole statutory power.
– Do salaries come within, the control of the President a.nd
Speaker, or are they governed by awards of the Arbitration ‘Court?
– They are controlled by the President and the Speaker; but the President and I, after consultation, came to the conclusion that, as employees of Parliament have not the same facilities for appealing to the Arbitration Court as are enjoyed by outside employee’s- engaged in similar occupations, it was only a reasonable policy, in their interests, that awards made in regard to similar officers of the general Ser vice should apply also to officers of the Parliament. In the revision of salaries we have been guided by that view.
– Do I understand that officers of Parliament may approach the Arbitration Court?
– I have placed no obstacles in the way of officers appealing to the Arbitration Court or any other Tribunal which Parliament has appointed to deal with such matters. The present position is very unsatisfactory. In my opinion, neither the President nor the Speaker is competent to form a judgment as to -what are fair and reasonable rates of pay for officers and employees of Parliament. Nor is any ordinary Committee of Parliament fortified with the necessary knowledge to do so. Such a decision requires a careful examination of all the conditions and circumstances in comparison with the conditions under which men in similar occupations outside the parliamentary service work. An investigation of that kind can best be made by some permanent officer who is acquainted with that class of work, and the President and I contemplate asking the Public Service Commissioner’ to lend us the services of an efficient and experienced officer to advise us in regard to the Parliamentary Service, pending a possible alteration in the Public Service Act, by which all Parliamentary officers will be brought under the control of the Commissioner, as far as classification and salaries are concerned, leaving them in al! other respects under the control of the Presiding Officer of each House. The existing situation is very unsatisfactory. No matter what the Presiding Officers may do, some dissatisfaction is bound to result. For instance, some anomaly in the conditions of employment in the Library or in the Department of the House of Representatives may be brought under the notice . of the Speaker, who, in endeavouring to set right that anomaly, after consultation with the hoad of the Department concerned finds that he is creating disorganization in other Departments. As soon as one link is disturbed the whole chain gets out of gear, and the Speaker is met with protests from quite unexpected quarters regarding the effect of his action upon the seniority and right to promotion of other officers in other Departments of Parliament. The matter has then to be reconsidered, and a. further adjustment made, but that, in turn, only leads to further dissatisfaction, requiring still more readjustments. This process is being continued throughout the year. I am safe in saying that there has never been a week while the House has been in session when I have not had before me questions of salaries, promotions, and seniority in one form or another. The whole subject is a veritable Chinese puzzle, and I should be glad to be relieved of the unpleasant duty an’d responsibility of constantly making these adjustments. My one desire is that everybody shall be fairly and adequately paid for the work he does; but even in that desire I arn confronted with difficulties. If I were the sole authority in the building I would know exactly what to do, but the trouble is that, as soon as I endeavour to adjust the conditions of employees of the House of Representatives, my decision affects similar employees in the Department of the Senate. Naturally, the President of the Senate will resent my taking any action of the kind which, involves a disarrangement of his staff without having previously consulted him in order to arrive at a uniform policy for both Houses. This difficulty cropped up in the early days of this Parliament between the then Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder, and the then President of the Senate, Sir Richard Baker. Any advantage conceded to employees in the House of Representatives was immediately made the basis of a claim for a similar concession to the employees of the Senate. The employees of the two Departments played against each other in turn, until an understand ing was arrived at as a result between the Presiding Officers that, in order to avoid continual complications and preserve a fair relationship between the different staffs, all decisions affecting the officers of both Houses should be the subject of consultation between the Speaker and the President.
– How does the remuneration paid to employees of the House compare with wages paid outside ?
– I have been making some inquiries with regard to that matter. I have tried to secure information from Public Service officials, but the trouble is that, with the exception of employees of other Parliaments, there are no classes of employees in the Service so placed as to afford comparisons upon a fair basis with employees in this House. The nature of the work is different; the hours are different; and the circumstances, generally, differ.
– I mean, with regard . to the payment of a living wage.
– Again we are faced with difficulties, in the matter of the number of different awards made from time to time. So far as I can see, we can only be guided by awards which have been made in connexion with the Public Service.
– I .had in mind that in New South Wales a standard wage has been fixed.
– That is so, and . a different standard has been fixed in Victoria.
– How do the salaries of employees in this House compare with the standards fixed in New South Wales and Victoria ?
– With’ the Victorian standard they compare very favorably. Only within the past two or three weeks there has been another award made in New South Wales, which excludes certain parts of the State; but the Public Service has, I understand, been expressly excluded from that award. As far as has been possible, endeavours have been made to adjust the salaries paid in this building in keeping with the terms of the most recent awards affecting the Federal Public Service; and those salaries will be subject to alterations from time to time as awards are varied. It is quite possible that there may be further variations in the cost of living. The cost of living has increased since the rates to the lowerpaid officers of the House were enhanced. 1 made inquiries only this morning from Mr. Knibbs upon the subject of the cost of living, and he informed me that, since the award was made, there certainly had been an increase in the cost of living. I am waiting now for further particulars from Mr. Knibbs, with a view to giving consideration to a request which has been made by the cleaners, through the heads of Departments concerned, for a further addition upon the increases already given.
– What is the wage of the lowest-paid employee in this House?
– The lowest wage paid to male employees is £182. There are only two or three employees, however, who receive that sum. Beginning with the housekeeper, I will furnish the particulars of salaries paid to employees of this House. The housekeeper previously received a salary of £265. His present salary is £280. The next officer was receiving £216, which salary has been increased, under the present Estimates, to £250. The next in order on the messenger staff previously received £200 per annum. His salary is now £212; and, together with his bonus, the total which he receives is £232. There has really been an increase of £32 in the case of each of the messengers over and above last year’s pay; that is, with increased salary and bonus combined. The next messenger previously received £184. His salary is now £196 ; and, with his bonus of £20, he is now receiving, in all, £216. The other two messengers previously received £168. Their salaries have been raised to £182, plus thebonus of £20 each, bringing their salaries up to £202.
– It is intended, then, to pay them a bonus ?
– Yes ; they are getting it, I understand, with their fortnightly salary, so that the total amount received is £202.
– Of the junior messengers, one. receiving £196, is to get a bonus; also the two at £182?
– Yes, so that the lowest sum, including bonus, paid to any messenger in this House is now £202. These amounts hold good until the end of December next when the question of bonuses, I understand, may again be reviewed by the Arbitration Court. But, whatever may be the result of that review, the amounts paid to employees of the House will not be less than they are now receiving with their bonuses. That is to say, the lowest wage of the present messengers will amount to £202 if the bonuses remain as at present. If the bonus is increased by any new Public Service award, the amounts received will be subject to revision.
– Are the Arbitration Court awards followed?
– So far as is possible, they are. In regard to cleaners, an award was made. They were previously receiving £158, and a bonus was given in addition. Upon this point I am speaking from memory, and subject to correction. But Mr. Justice Powers later reviewed these wages and award, and discarded the bonus while increasing the ordinary rate of pay to absorb and extend it, and we have brought the cleaners’ wages up to the amount specified in the award. In the course of his decision Mr. Justice Powers pointed out that the cost of living did not appear to be merely a temporary matter which was liable to be altered at any time; he added that he saw no possibility of the cost of living coming down immediately. He thought, in the circumstances, that it was not advisable to grant a bonus, but to permanently increase cleaners’ salaries. Their wage, therefore, was increased from £158 to £182, in the terms of this award.
– That became a fixed salary?
– Yes. In the fixed salary of £182 there was embodied the bonus, with something more. That is the amount which the cleaners are receiving at present. There are only three of them, but it is fair to say that one of the three really earns a little more, because he attends to members’ luggage and other matters for which he receives an additional sum to his remuneration as cleaner, which augments his salary to some extent.
– Do these men get the bonus ?
– I have only just explained fully that they get now a fixed increase instead of the bonus, in terms of the award. Of course, if the Arbitration Court awards them a bonus, the bonus will be paid to them. The amount of their salaries, therefore, is subject to any arrangement as to the payment of a bonus which the Court may award from time to time. But if the bonus be paid to them in addition to their salaries, what will immediately happen? The messengers, who at the present time receive £182 per year with the bonus, and who are supposed to be promoted from the ranks of the cleaners, will then possess no advantage over the cleaners, and fresh complications as to status, seniority, salary and promotion will at once arise.
– In another place, there are no such officers as cleaners. Upon the Senate side of the building, they are all messengers.
– We have cleaners here.
– They do the work of messengers.
– No. So far as the cleaners are concerned, I have an application from them under consideration at the present time. I have already had a preliminary consultation with the President of the Senate upon the subject of salaries.
– Does the President of the Senate have a voice in the fixing of the salaries of officers and attendants of this House?
– Perhaps the honorable member did not catch the explanation which I made earlier in my remarks. I then pointed out that the salaries attaching to employees of both Houses must bear some relation to each other. If the salaries granted to employees of the Senate were raised by the President without any reference as to what the ‘Speaker of this Chamber proposed to do in regard to the salaries of employees of this House, naturally there would at once be a protest by the employees of the House of Representatives, and vice versa. A demand would at once be made by officers of similar rank for similar treatment. Whatever was done in one House would be used as a claim for the same thing to be. done in the other branch’ of the Legislature, and thus we should have continual trouble in adjustments and re-adjustments. To avoid that as far as possible, consultations are held between the President of the Senate and the Speaker of this Chamber, with a view to arriving at agreements as to what shall be a basis for each House. But if there should be a difference of opinion between the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate in regard to such matters - and there may not be, and frequently is not, unanimity - difficulties immediately arise.
– I would remind the honorable member that his time has expired.
.- ‘ In regard to the non-hearing of the division bells upon Friday afternoon last by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), I think it is up. to me to acknowledge that he is hard of hearing. I hope that he will excuse me making the information public, but as a medical man I have not failed to observe this fact repeatedly in this chamber. That, I think, will dispose of the matter altogether.
Upon th« present occasion, I shall not trespass unduly upon the time of honorable members, because I spoke upon this question on Friday last. If my information be correct - that the employees of this Parliament are grouped into five separate Departments - the position is a ridiculous one. There are five Departments, I am informed, to control some seventy-five officials - that is one Department for each fifteen employees. There is an old Eastern, adage which is very true, and of which I am reminded at present. It is that “ That officer rises quickly to eminence who basks in the sunshine of the presence of his superiors.” In other words, the man who is always under tho eye of his superior officer has a better chance of rising- in his profession or calling than has the man who is never seen by the head of his Department. The system which at present obtains in this House must, in justice to our officers, bo altered. It is ridiculous that men who are sent here as representatives of the people should be asked to act upon Committees when those Committees can only play a fool’s game. I speak more particularly on behalf of the Library Committee. If matters relating to the powers of that Committee are not settled in a more sensible way, either by means of a resolution of this House, or by the passing of legislation dealing with them, and if my colleagues will resign from that Committee as a protest, I shall certainly resign with them.
At this point I desire to make it perfectly clear that I have nothing but respect and regard for the actions of Mr. Speaker in reference to the Committees’ of this Chamber. I wish that I could say the same in regard to another gentleman to whom I alluded on Friday last. Subsection 3 of section 14 of the Public Service Act provides -
The officers of the Senate, the officers of the House of Representatives, the officers of the Parliament Library, the officers of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, and the officers of the Joint House Committee shall be deemed to constitute separate Departments under this Act.
My information, therefore, that the employees of the Commonwealth Parliament are grouped under five separate Departments is strictly accurate. I am not quite sure of the number of officers who are employed in the building, but, from a perusal of the Estimates, I gather that the total is seventy-five. Is it not the acme of folly that there should be five separate Departments to control seventy-five officers of this Parliament? There must be some way out of this condition of affairs. It was never intended by this democratic Parliament - for, with all its faults,’ it is a democratic Parliament - that one gentleman, if he so desired, should have the power to block everything.
– It is a Comedy of Errors. .
– Bad laws, if administered by good men, may be much better than good laws badly administered by men who are not honorable. I understand that grave dissatisfaction is being experienced by every Committee appointed by this Chamber. That dissatisfaction has now reached such a point that if something be not done, and done quickly, to remedy the existing condition of affairs, these Committees will resign as a protest. If my colleagues upon the Library Committee resign their positions I shall feel it my duty to resign with them.
– Mr. Speaker will feel very much annoyed if the honorable member resigns from the Library Committee, because he is chairman of that body.
– I have nothing but respect for the actions of Mr. Speaker in regard to every matter which has been brought before any Parliamentary Committee with which I have been associated.
– The honorable member objects to being a rubber stamp?
– Yes ; but not a rubber stamp because of any desire on the part of Mr. Speaker, but only because of a desire on the part of a certain gentleman who shall remain unnamed.
– I should be very sorry to lose the companionship of the honorable member under any circumstances.
– I thank the honorable member for his flattering reference. I voiced my protest upon this matter very strongly on Friday last, and I shall not delay honorable members by referring toit at greater length now. I have nothing but contempt for the practice which is at present followed in regard to the powers of our Parliamentary Committees. Thisis not the first Library Committee of which I have been a member. In the State Parliament of Victoria the President of the Legislative Council and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly always carried out their duties in a gentlemanly and humane way. I have had some experience on our Library Committee, and I can say that it has never arrived at such an impasse as at the present time. If any honorable member feels it his duty, by way of Bill or otherwise, to propose that the House Committee shall act, first with Mr. Speaker, and then with Mr. President. I shall gladly support him. I understand that certain action is being taken in another place, and I commend that as a good example to follow.
.- The position of the vario>us Committees of this House is by no means satisfactory. Certain honorable gentlemen are appointed to these Committees in Parliament after Parliament, and yet they have practically no voice in the control of the employees, or in other affairs of the House. All that these Committees are asked to do, apparently, is to approve of some expenditure or action by others. This Parliament creates and provides for the payment of the Public Service Commissioner, and yet, to-day, according to the statement of the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) we cannot control the few employees about the premises; who are left to the whims of others. It is tune that Committees were either abolished or given the power to act as they think best. Surely this supreme Parliament, as we claim it to be, ought to be able to manage the few servants in this building. In a little trouble which occurred a while ago, all the correspondence which passed, I take it, from the President or the Chairman of the House Committee, was signed by the Secretary as on behalf of the Joint House Committee. To this I distinctly object, for we, as a Committee, knew nothing about the matter. There has been only one meeting of the Joint House Committee since the beginning of this Parliament.
– And then the prices of food in the refreshment room were raised.
– Which we were simply asked to approve. The whole position is farcical, and unless some change is made, and the position altered, although I have been on various Committees during the last twenty years, I shall positively refuse to act in the future.
.- I have no desire to reflect on the honorable gentleman who occupies the position of Mr. Speaker, . but, in my opinion, the members of this Chamber should, through their delegates on the Committees, have some say as to the wages and conditions of those who attend to our wants here. It is an invidious position in which honorable members find them selves in this regard. If an injustice is being done to any person who assists us with our correspondence, or attends upon us in any other way, we ought to be able to exercise some control through the House Committee. The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), in his explanation to-day - though whether intentionally or inadvertently I do not know - said that one of the workers in receipt of £182 per annum, or something less, I think, than £3. 10s. per week, is able to supplement his income by attending to honorable members’ baggage, and so forth. I hope that neither Mr: Speaker nor. the President of the Senate is prepared to make that a basis for fixing the wages of the employees of this Parliament; - that there shall not be taken into account any gratuities they may receive for services rendered to honorable members.
– I was not making any reference to that matter at all, but to actual payments made to the cleaner, out of the Consolidated Revenue, as extra payment forspecial work.
– Instead of increasing salaries, bonuses are given.
– I know; but the honorable member for Lang mentioned that this employee had means of supplementing his salary.
– I said that he was paid, in addition, for certain services.
– Nevertheless, the impression was left on my mind that besides his salary he received certain gratuities from honorable members, for doing, I suppose, the work he is paid his salary to do.
– I think the honorable member has entirely misunderstood both my intention and my statement. I had no such idea in my mind at all.
– However, that may be, the salary paid to this employee is by no means adequate, for, as I say, it means less than £3 10s. a week.
– It is a shade over £3 10s. a week.
– It is not too much - in my opinion, it is not sufficient.
– We, taking advantage of the fact thatwe can raise our own salaries, have voted ourselves £1,000 a year, and certainly those employees who have to face the same difficulties as ourselves in rearing and maintaining their families, but in an accentuated form, should be given adequate remuneration.
– This matter is before me at the present time, in an application to further increase the salary.
– It is certainly a matter to whichhonorable members might very well devote their attention. Ijoin with other honorable members in disclaiming any desire to reflect upon Mr. Speaker or anybody else whomay have charge of these matters. I claim, as an honorable member of this House, that this is our responsibility.
– Ido not think it is. I do not think we could alter the position if we tried.
– Only by altering the Public Service Act.
– Mr. Speaker and Mr. President could sell this establishment to-morrow if they wanted to, and nobody could make any charge against them.
– As I understand the position, our employees are not under the Public Service Act, and, therefore, have not the privilege of approaching the Arbitration Court with the statement of their grievances.
– They are controlled under the provisions of the Public Service Act.
– But Mr. Speaker has distinctly stated that the Presiding Officer of each House has full statutory authority over employees of the Parliament.
– In respect of appointments and promotions and regulations affecting the staff.
– Then the Arbitration Court is not available to them?
– I do not know whether it is so in regard to general matters, in the same way as it is available to others in the Public Service.
– But not with regard to salaries?
– Well, that is the point I wanted to get at.
– In a point that was raised a little while ago, the Presiding Officers pointed out that, under section 14 of the Public Service Act, certain things ought to be done.
– What I am concerned about is that the Speaker has told us that he and the President of the Senate take full responsibility for all increases in salaries, and alterations in working conditions, and matters of that kind. That means that the employees of Parliament have not the . same privileges as outside workers, for they cannot approach the Arbitration Court and state a case for increase ofsalaries or redress of any other griev ances. Neither are they paid overtime, although I suppose they get other privileges with regard to holidays. On the other hand, they have to remain here as long as the House is sitting. If we decide upon an all-night sitting, they have to be in attendance, and get no extra payment. No matter how good the working conditions may be, the employees of the Parliament are put to the same expenditure as are other employees of the Public Service, and they are not paid anything like an adequate wage under the present conditions of living. It is all right for us. We have looked after ourselves.
– You are as badas Prowse and Gabb. You are always talking about the “ salary grab.”
– No; because I thought that that was a most statesmanlike act on the part of honorable members. It is the newspapers that refer to it as the “ salary grab.” The honorable member knows quite well that I never had any doubts on that question, and I have never heard of any discontent among the people I represent concerning the increase we voted in our own salaries; but I said at the time that I hoped the lesson would not.be lost upon the workers outside. It is the duty of those who claim to represent the working class, as a class, to insist that those who wait upon us and attend to our wants get at least decent living conditions and decent wages, especially as we took such good care to get well ahead ourselves of any increase in the cost of living.
– I want to say a few words upon this matter, because I am a member of the House Committee. The question that has been raised will have to be dealt with at Some time or other. I have been a member of the House Committee for six or eight years, and I doubt very much whether the Committee has any power whatever. We may talk as much as we like. As a matter of fact, to all intents and purposes this building and everything associated with it belongs to the President and Mr. Speaker. It is idle for honorable members to laugh. This Parliament has no power over the matter. If it had, is it likely that the present condition of affairs would have been allowed to go on for so long ? If we have power to do anything, it is time the Government formulated a scheme to deal with the whole of the Joint Committees in an effective manner. I got into terrible trouble once for advocating that an official on this side should get the same pay as an official on the Senate side. The other day a man started as a cleaner over there at £202 a year. It is not a penny too much, but on the House of Representatives’ side he would get only £182 a year. I want to know the reason for thisdifference. A cleaner on this side would not do less work. As a matter of fact, he would do more, because there are more members to create work, and yet he would get £20 less. We have two returned’ soldiers on this side; they have been here for twelve months, are working efficiently, and yet they are getting £20 a yearless than the man on the Senate side. This position should not be tolerated, yet it is. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) made some flattering references to his majesty the Speaker. All I can say is that I never can get a meeting of the House Committee on this side.
– That is not because members have not been summoned, but because they do not attend.
– Well , I do not remember one.
– We have not been able to get a quorum. I have waited ten and sometimes fifteen minutes for a quorum.
– I have never had a notice summoning me to a meeting. The Joint House Committee deals with certain matters affecting both Houses, but so far as this side is concerned, I understood it was comprised of members of this House, and if so I have never been summoned to one meeting.
– Members are summoned as members of the Joint House Committee.
– Has the Joint House Committee authority to deal with matters affecting the House of Representatives ?
– Yes; both Houses.
– I have never yet known a question to be decided by this Committee. The moment I have tried to get matters affecting this side dealt with, our Czar has said, “We cannot deal with that here; you must refer it to the Czar on the other side.” I listened very attentively to what the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) said in reference to the request put forward on the other side of this building, that any increase given to the House of Representatives’ attendants should also apply to Senate attendants, but I contend that a man who is working on this side has an equal right to receive whatever increased rate of wage is paid to a cleaner on the other side of the building. I want to know how the difficulty can be obviated.
– I would also like to know.
– Does the honorable member admit that he does not know how it can be obviated?
– It can be obviated by placing the parliamentary attendants under the Public Service Act, so that they can have their wages and classification settled by a proper tribunal.
– But, does the honorable member know how to obviate the difficulty under the existing system ?
– If that is so, the sooner arrangements are made by which it can be obviated the better it will be for the servants of this House. I am not too keen on placing them under the Public Service Commissioner. They suffer many injustices now, but I think they would suffer still more under him. Certainly their grievances can be ventilated now, but under the Public Service Commissioner they would have very little opportunity of bringing them under the notice of honorable members. We ought not to toleratea system which will give one man more pay than another who is doing the same class of work, particularly when the increased wage is given to a new servant who has yet to learn his duties. Is it fair that a cleaner on the Senate side, who started work a fortnight ago, should get £20 a year more than is paid to cleaners on this side of the building who have been in their positions for two years?
– I am inclined to think that the honorable member has been misinformed, and that the servant he refers to is employed in the capacity of messenger.
– The cleaners on the other side of the building are called messengers.
– They are messengers who also do the work of cleaners. On this side of the building the messengers do the work of messengers only, and are not called upon to do cleaners’ work.
– I am not asking that the, wages of the other man should be reduced, but that the pay of the cleaners on this side of the building should be increased and brought into line with the wages paid on the Senate side.
– If we increase the pay of the cleaners all the other men above them will naturallyask for increases, and the question of seniority will crop up at once.
– That is quite nessible ; but we can deal with that difficulty when we reach it.
– I am dealing with it every day.
– Surely this matter has been sufficiently well ventilated.
– This question is always cropping up. It is annoying to a member of the House Committee to be asked why certain things are not done when the members of that Committee know that they are powerless to do anything. Nothing is more productive of disruption than the unfair treatment of one section of employees. Recently, when a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria was overlooked in the matter of the appointment of the Chief Justice of the State he made the remark that an injustice of that sort would make a man say, “ I will do just my bare work, and that only.” I do not blame men for doing just their bare work when they find that others who are doing the same class of work are getting better pay. It is the responsibility of the Government to bring in a comprehensive scheme for the management of all those associated with this building; otherwise honorable members will be constantly bringing forward matters which ought not to occupy our time when we have so many other important questions to consider.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Prime Minister.
– Last week we heard several honorable members express the desire to strike out certain items in this expenditure when the Committee came to deal with the Estimates in detail. Although they were not willing to reduce the total vote, they assured us that the items of expenditure would be dealt with very severely. Honorable members should be given an opportunity of proving that what they said last week was not cant and humbug, and of making their position clear to their constituents by showing that they are really in earnest in this matter. It is the desire of quite a number of honorable members to exercise some control over the various spending Departments of the Commonwealth. We were assured last week that the matter of reducing expenditure and dealing with the items in detail was not a party matter, and that every honorable member would be able to vote according to his convictions. The history of the Prime Minister’s Department is worthy of some detailed consideration. It was established eight years ago, when the present High Commissioner was Prime Minister, and at that time the total sum provided On the Estimates was £11,795. Nearly all the members of the present Government strongly objected to the formation of that Department, and pointed out that other subDepartments would come into existence. It was also stated that these subDepartments could be better handled by some other Minister. Despite the fact of these protests we find that year after year the expenditure is continually growing. If the expenditure was necessary, one would not complain; but we have to consider whether the various activities which are conducted by the Prime Minister’s Department should not be placed under different control, and where they rightly belong. During recent years the Department has been dealing with sugar, wool, wheat, shipping, the administration of Papua, mining, and price-fixing. All these branches of governmental activity have been dealt with by the Prime Minister’s Department, and. the continuance of this has brought about a state of affairs which does not permit the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), to efficiently and expeditiously supervise and control the proper work of his own Department. The Prime Minister’s Department should be for the purpose of co-ordinating the work of the various
Departments, keeping in touch with State Governments throughout the Commonwealth, and with the Imperial Government on questions of Imperial policy. Since I have been a member of this Parliament I have often wondered why the question of sugar, for instance, could not be controlled by the Department of Trade and Customs, where it really belongs. The Minister in charge of that Department is thoroughly an fait with the whole question of sugar. He has two mills in his own electorate, and a considerable number of cane-growers have supported him for quite a number of years. Probably nowhere in the Commonwealth could we find any one more capable of dealing with the question of sugar in its various aspects than the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). At present only a portion of the work i3 handled by that Minister, while the bulk of it is controlled by the Prime Minister’s Department. The same may be said in regard to the embargo on the export of sheepskins. The practice adoptedin the past may have been necessary dur-, ing the war period, because certain negotiations with the Imperial Government, particularly in regard to wholesale purchases, were necessary. But the war has been over for nearly two years, and it is now time such commercial activities should be handled by the proper Department. A month or six weeks ago, a conference of. all those associated with the export of sheepskins was called by the Prime Minister, at which the Minister for Trade and Customs was not present.
– Does the Prime Minister not control every Department?
– I am merely endeavouring to show that, irrespective of what ability a man may possess, it is impossible for him to have a grip of the different subjects in every detail. By a flash of intuition possibly a right decision is sometimes arrived at, but frequently the wrong procedure is adopted. The same may be said concerning’ wheat, which is a question that is to form the subject of a censure motion to-morrow. These are ordinary commercial activities, and if the work had been undertaken by a Department that was not overloaded with responsibility we might have had a more satisfactory settlement before to day. During the war period it may have been necessary for the Government to exercise certain control over metals, but now the war is over this question should be dealt with by the proper Minister. According to the information before us, the Prime Minister’s Department handles also the question of shipping and mail services to the Pacific Islands, Commonwealth shipbuilding, Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, Commonwealth Shipping Board, and the Port Pirie wharf. A few moments’ reflection will show that questions such as these could be more profitably dealt with by another Department, where the officers are not dealing with the relations between the various Governments, but with work such as questions like these entail, and where trained administrative staffs are in existence to deal with these matters. In connexion with shipbuilding and the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers,’ we have to consider ‘whether the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) and the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) could not handle the work more expeditiously and efficiently. The matter of providoring is one item’ alone in which single control by one authority could secure great savings. There is also the question of handling dock-yards and standardizing the whole of the requirements in connexion with the construction and handling of ships. Surely this work could be more expeditiously carried out by officers intimately associated with the business.
– What money would be saved if a transfer were made?
– We could save a great deal. In connexion with shipbuilding and other activities of the Government, we find draughtsmen mentioned over and over again under different headings. Mr. Allard’s report on the Public Service of New South Wales shows what may happen under the system that I am criticising. He mentions, among other things, that a firm bought boilers from one Department of the Service at £540 each and sold, them to another Department for £750 each, although the officials of each Department should have known what was being done, because tenders were publicly called for.
Many of the officials who are now under the Prime Minister should be transferred to the Departments of the Navy or of Home and Territories. That would certainly allow a reduction of staff, and would give an opportunity for other economies in the saving of stocks, more efficient storekeeping, and the standardization which it would make possible. The Commonwealth Government line of steam-ships must be supplied with coal and oil, and so must our war ships; and, unquestionably, supplies could be best arranged for and managed by one set of officials acting both for our Navy and for our mercantile marine. “We shall never have a properly equipped N”avy unless our mercantile marine is worked in connexion with, and as an adjunct to, it.
– If the transference of officers which you advocate were made, how much would be saved, and what officials would be ‘dismissed?
– If not a man were dismissed, considerable saving could still be effected by reducing the stocks which it would be necessary to carry, in having supplies always to hand, and by standardization. Mr. Allard’s report shows that there is no reason why Government Departments, which now use a variety of patterns and types of machines, should not standardize their requirements, and then buy in greater bulk and at a lower rate.
– The honorable member loses sight of the fact that the Supply and Tender Board has been appointed.
– I shall deal with that when we come to the Treasury Estimates. The Board should do good service, but I notice that this year only £1,520 is to be spent on it, whereas last year £11,950 was spent.
– I thought that the honorable member belonged to ‘ the Economy party.
– Yes; but the economy which I desire does not mean the mere sacking of men; it means the proper marshalling and management of the resources of the country. Sir Arnold Gridley, who during the war was Controller of Electrical Power in Great Britain, is now visiting Australia. He was able by standardization, grouping, and proper management to generate with £800 worth of coal 2,000,000,000 units of electricity, by utilizing materials that would otherwise ‘have been wasted. It is estimated that in Great Britain a saving of something like £100,000,000 can be effected by the substitution of sixteen power-stations for over 600 which were used during the war. We should be able to effect similar economies here. No’ one man can properly conduct all the activities with which the Prime Minister is now charged, and it will be of great advantage to the Commonwealth for business which properly belongs to other Departments to be transferred to those Departments.
Because the Prime Minister is continually mixed up with matters that are not properly under his administration, the business of his Department is not being expeditiously performed. Some three months ago I asked in. this House whether Australia would be represented at the Pan-Pacific Scientific Conference which was to be held at Honolulu in about three weeks’ time, and was informed that the matter was to be considered, although any representative that might be appointed should then have been en route to Honolulu. The New South “Wales and Queensland representatives at that Conference have returned; but I have not heard of an Australian representative. The importance of the Conference was admitted by British, American, and Australian newspapers, and no country has a greater length of coastline washed by the waters of the Pacific than has Australia. “We were not represented at the ‘Conference because the Prime Minister was too much engrossed with other work.
– He was too busy to go himself.
– It was not a Conference for the Prime Minister to attend.
– It was not necessary for the Prime Minister to go; but an invitation was sent to his Department, and Australia should have been represented.
– Bad we sent a representative, it would have been said that he had gone away on a picnic.
– That would not have been my complaint
The pressure of work upon the Prime Minister prevents him from attending promptly to his duties as AttorneyGeneral. I am desirous of ascertaining whether, in the view of the Attorney-General, a rifle range at Coffs Harbour may be used on Sundays; but during a period of seven months I have not been able to get any definite statement.
The Dominions Royal Commission made .certain proposals regarding forestry. The Western Australian Government sent a representative to the Imperial Forestry Conference, which has just concluded its sittings, but the Commonwealth did not send one.
– We made an arrangement with the ‘States whereby their representatives should represent the Commonwealth also, we sharing with them in the expense.
– I am glad to hear that.
What has been done in regard to the proper tabulation of the natural resources of the Commonwealth in accordance with the request of the Imperial Government that there should bc such a tabulation in respect of each of the Dominions? Nothing at all.
Recently I asked a question concerning the manufacture of aluminium, but because the Prime Minister’s Departmentwas so busy with matters that do not properly belong to it, the ‘reply was given that little or no electricity is needed for the manufacture of aluminium. I had understood from the Minister for Trade and Customs that if we could find good deposits of aluminium ore, the Defence Department would carry out a big hydroelectric proposition at’ the Clarence Gorge. According to the Chief Electrical Engineer of the New South Wales Public Works Department, the statement that the quantity of electrical power required in the production of aluminium is relatively small is. incorrect. Writing to me, he says -
The first aluminium works that I visited were at Kinlochleven, in Scotland. where 50,000 horse-power .is developed, and where they turn out anything from 8.000 to 10,000 tons of aluminium per annum, the power required being at the rate of a little over 5 horsepower per ton per annum. Greater power is used in other works in Germany, Sweden, and America.
The standard authority on this subject says -
Various electrolytic processes must be mentioned which have resulted in the cheap production of certain metals which can be made by other means only at great expense. The classical example is the electrolytic production of aluminium, which is now certainly the most important electro-chemical industry. In the processes of Hare and Heroult, the electrolyte is a fused solution of alumina (as solute) in the double fluoride of aluminium sodium (as solvent). Carbon anodes are used, while the melted aluminium metal in the bottom of the pot forms the cathode. The temperature is 900 C. The alumina is decomposed by the current, and fresh alumina is added at intervals to the bath. According to J. W. Richards, the production of 1 kg. of aluminium requires 22 K.W.M.
To test the feeling of the Committee regarding the transfer of these officers to the branches or the Departments to which they properly belong, I move -
That the vote be reduced by fi.
– Incidental reference has very frequently been, made to the High Commissioner’s Office during the past three or four months, and I have more than once voiced the complaint of visitors who have spent a considerable time in the Old Country and have been exceedingly disappointed by the failure of officials at Australia House to give them the assistance which they looked for. Australia House is reported to be anything but an attractive and useful centre working in the interests of the Commonwealth. The reports I have heard have not been prejudiced, but have been very sincere statements of regret that Australia House to-day is not answering the purpose for which it was intended, and is not justifying the enormous expenditure incurred in its construction and administration. I have heard these reports from soldiers whose political sympathies are with honorable members opposite, as well as from soldiers whose sympathies are with honorable members on this side of the House. They are unanimous in the complaint that there is a deplorable lack of energy and enterprise in the direction of usefully advertising this country. That ought not to be. I have a very shrewd suspicion that the Government know, and have known for a long time, that this condition o’f affairs exists. If so. the Committee ought to know where the weakness lies, and the trouble should be remedied at the earliest moment. It has been said that only a very small proportion of the employees in the High Commissioner’s Office have any knowledge* of Australia, of Australian products, and of trade possibilities with the Old Country. That ought not to be. There ought to be a substantial representation of Australia in the High Commissioner’s Office. There should be stationed there officers with a complete knowledge of Australia. There should be specialists who know something of Australia’s possibilities and productive wealth, and who by their very presence would help to advertise Australia from a trade point of view. I am told that such officers are not to be found in Australia House. A constant supply of fresh men from Australia should be sent there. Officers should be sent Home for a few years and then replaced by men equipped with a thoroughly up-to-date knowledge of Australia. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) only last week promised that, if desired, particulars would be given in regard to every item in the Estimates, and I want detailed information about the expenditure on Australia House.
– I call attention to the want of a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– What proportion of the staff at Australia House consists of men who went there from Australia? What proportion has been picked up in the Old Country? How long have they held their positions, and what are their conditions of employTrent? Are they employed permanently
Lt- temporarily? I desire to know whether the staff of that section of Australia House whose present duty it is to look after Australian interests and the disposal of Australian products, consists of men who are familiar with our producing conditions and have a thorough knowledge of the products that we desire to put in increasing quantities on the Home market. I should be glad if the Treasurer would also give us a statement showing the number of employees in Australia House, and their distribution in regard to different interests. Is it proposed to attach to the staff, officers whose duty it will be to develop our trading conditions? I do not think there is a special section attending to trading interests, and, if that be so. I desire to. know whether there is any -attempt to utilize the staff of Australia House in co operation with the Agents-General, so as to promote Australian interests. Will the Treasurer also tell us whether Australia House is fully occupied? Are those portions of it which are not required for the purposes of the High Commissioner fully leased so that there is , no dead weight attaching to it?
I desire now to refer to the division “ Australian Commissioner in United States of America, £10,890.” Will the Treasurer tell the Committee whether this enterprise, so far as it has gone, has shown any sign of justifying the expenditure upon it, and whether it is intended to appoint in addition to the Trade Commissioner a High Commissioner in the United States? Will the Treasurer inform the Committee what information the Government have up to date in regard to the success of the Trade Commis.sioner there, and whether there is any promise of greater success in the future ? The United States of America is a vast country, and I do not think we are likely to have any practical results from the appointment of one man to represent us there, I am not opposed to expenditure in these dirctions if there is a possibility of a return, but if these offices are being established from a trade point of view it seems to me that, instead of having one man located in one centre, we must have a dozen men to cover the different areas.
The next matter to which I desire to refer relates to Commonwealth shipbuilding. Having regard to the careful husbanding of the finances, this is a subject on which the Committee should have some information. In the matter of construction, judging by the reports submitted to us, some really good work has been done. In the past, for special reasons, the cost of construction, relatively, has been satisfactory. One reason, I believe, is the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), very wisely, secured an understanding - and it seems to have been effective - with the trade unions involved that certain conditions should be observed during the currency of certain contracts for ship construction. For a time the resultant costs of construction per ton as compared with costs in other parts of .the world were eminently satisfactory, but the Committee ought to know whether that satisfactory condition obtains to-day.
– The Government have stopped shipbuilding operations.
– If what I have heard is true, I am very glad that they have. The Prime Minister sought a renewal of those conditions, and I believe he has said that without a renewal he would not proceed. I hope he will stand to that. We have no opportunity to form an opinion simply by a quotation of estimates, because we do not know the class of ship and the class of work involved in respect of certain estimates that have been published. It may vary extensively, involving an additional cost of 20, 30, or 40 per cent., according to the type of ship, so that quoting to-day a certain price for dead-weight tonnage construction and another tender to-morrow, we cannot possibly form any idea as to whether the latter is a satisfactory tender unless we know all the conditions of the varying kind of ship that is to be constructed. I hope the Treasurer will note that point; but, apart from that, the cost of construction in the Old Country and in other countries has receded very considerably in the last few months, and’ if we are not going to get on even terms, or as nearly as possible on even terms, in regard to cost of construction, we ought to call a halt. Take the position of Inter-State shipping in Australia.. If Inter-State shipping in Australia were left to the Inter-State shipping companies, the people would be ina pretty bad position, because they have not the tonnage to deal with more than threefourths of the trade under present conditions. The reason why the Inter-State shipping companies are not restoring prewar tonnage is that they are business men, and know that it will pay them infinitely better to wait until shipbuilding costs recede very considerably than to build at the present high-water mark of costs. Subsequent events have proved that, even to-day, they can buy tonnage at a very big percentage less than they can construct.
– Yes ; but old ships.
– N otold ships, either.
– The Minister must know that the cost of shipbuilding at Home and in America is a good deal less than it was six months ago.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company are asking us to build three ships for them now.
– Then, will the Minister let us know what the position really is?
– Has the cost of construction receded at Home?
– The papers say it has.
– Wages have not gone down, and material has not gone down.
– In the shipping notes it is reported again and again that the cost of construction has gone down considerably, and that it is still expected to fall.
– Recently we had an offer to build a ship of a particular type, and I cabled to Mr. Larkin, in England, giving him particulars, to find what price that ship could be built for there. The price quoted to him came out considerably higher than the price quoted here.
– Then, will the Minister explain why the shipping companies in Australia, wealthy companies, companies that have the money, do not build ships to replace those they have sold?
– Because they cannot get the plant and machinery.
– That is not the reason. The reason is that they will not risk it
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– Australian ship-owners do not, or will not, involve themselves in the cost of supplying tonnage up to pre-war figures, because they know it will pay them handsomely to wait until the cost of shipbuilding goes down. The Minister infers that it has not gone down yet.. At any rate, it is expected to come down, and’ it is the biggest certainty in the world that it will come down, as everything else will.
– The price of ships has come down.
– Yes; but it is difficult to buy new skips. Australian ship-owners know their business, and have refrained from building ships, which they want badly, because they could not run the Inter-State shipping if it were not for the Commonwealth withdrawing its oversea vessels to assist the Inter-State shipping. That is the position to-day. It is putting the Commonwealth in a very awkward position for the future. If they are waiting, and the Commonwealth withdraws its oversea vessels, which have been making a lot of money, and puts them into a trade where they will barely pay expenses of running-
– That is an argument for building more ships.
– But who is to do it?
– The Commonwealth.
– And why should not the ship-owners, who have the Inter-State trade in their hands ?
– Because they have not the same interest in the country that the Government have.
– The point I emphasize is that if the Commonwealth does it when nobody else will, then, when normal conditions come, the Commonwealth will have to compete at a very great disadvantage. Incidentally the reduced profits of Commonwealth shipping are, to some extent, the result of the Commonwealth having to withdraw its ships from oversea work, and from the big profits they were making, in order to come and assist ‘the Inter-State trade. I wish the Government to tell us their policy in this regard, and to state whether they are justified, on the very top of the market, when everybody knows that there is going to be a slump in every industry, in going on with ship construction, particularly if the industrial unions will not give a fair deal. If they do not, I hope the Prime Minister will keep the promise he has made to the House two or three times, and that he will not build another ship until they do.
.- The Prime Minister’s Department seems to be one of those which grow with lightning rapidity. People often say that if the Government start a Department it will become a huge affair in a very little time. This Department started in a small way eight or nine years ago, and has certainly developed to very large dimensions. No doubt the war had a good deal to do with its rapid extension. I cannot see much use for it. I doubt if it ought ever to have existed. I see nothing that it did throughout the war that could not have been just as well done by other Departments, with the addition of proper experts, at the time.
– It ought not to be a regular administrative Department.
– It ought not. There is, strictly speaking, no portfolio of Prime Minister. The Department was started by Mr. Fisher, and there was really no reason for its creation. Strictly, it ought not to be there. However, it is there, and I should like to know from the Treasurer whether it is to be reduced. Now that the war .is over, are many of its activities and many of ‘the matters with which it deals now, and which, more or less, fit themselves properly into other Departments, to be taken away from it, or done away with altogether] Is the Prime Minister’s Department to be cut down to a small affair again ? Last year the vote was £199,000, and the expenditure £309,000. This year the vote is £304,000, and if the expenditure is to exceed the vote in the same proportion it. will reach £500,000 before the twelve months are out. Now that the war is over, there is no need to extend the Department. It ought to be contracted, and, if it does contract, the staff ought to be reduced. I suppose the present staff are all members of the Public “Service, and, if work cannot be found for them in the Prime Minister’s Department, they will have to be farmed out somewhere else. That is all right, but, when their term is up, there will be no need to appoint successors to them, whereas, if the Department continues in its present form it must grow. It will expand, but, if it were not there, the Commonwealth would be doing just as much effective work through the other Departments. If it remains, it will be ‘carrying a lot of people who are quite unnecessary. It has been stated, by interjection today, that if we did away with the Department we should not save anything. I think we should save a good deal, for, if it were not for the Department being in existence to-day, all the work would be done with very much fewer hands through the other Departments. There would not be the same circumlocution and duplication in many ways, and we should certainly save a good deal of administrative expense.
An item of £13,000 appears for the “ upkeep of Australia House.” Last year the vote was £9,000 and the expenditure £12,600 odd. What is exactly involved in the upkeep of that establishment? Surely it has got into its stride? One would think that the cost of upkeep would not be on the increase. Last year £320 was estimated for rent, and the expenditure amounted £1,535. For the current year the Estimate is £450. I should like to know what that item represents. Why is the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department to be advanced to £1,250 when the salaries of other departmental heads are increased only to £1,000 or £1,100?
– That was dealt with in the recommendations of Mr. Gibson.
– He recommended a salary of £1,250 for that position, and for some of the other positions he recommended higher amounts than the Government have actually placed on the Estimates. For instance, he recommended that the Secretary to the Treasury should commence at £1,500 and advance to £2,000.
– I had forgotten that recommendation. At any rate, I ask the Treasurer to let the Committee know whether some contraction in the Prime Minister’s Department may be expected. At present it seems to be handling a number of activities that could be better controlled by other Departments.
.-I, too, regret that the Prime Minister’s Department is being taken as a whole.
– We can still deal with any item.
– I understand that one can move to reduce the total vote for the Department, but not any particular item.
– Oh yes, you can.
– I am glad to hear that, because there are various items which call for explanation. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) referred to the fact that the vote for last year was £199,000, and the expenditure £309,000. That increase is so startling that it re quires some explanation, not only of the increase [itself, but also of the extraordinary blunder that must have been made in estimating the expenditure of the Department. If in any ordinary commercial concern that was at all worried as to what its outgoings would be, the expenditure actually exceeded the estimate by 50 per cent., a crisis would be at hand. That increase in expenditure should be explained to the Committee. I do not credit the suggestion that we may get another 50 per cent. increase on the estimate for the current year. If that does happen the position will be disastrous, because the expenditure will then be in thevicinity of £450,000. I assume that the Pacific Islands will be administered by the Prime Minister’s Department, and, having regard to the obligations we have undertaken in respect of them the expenditure provided for on these Estimates is very small. The Committee should know exactly what is to be done in regard to those Possessions, and whether they are to be made selfsupporting, and from their own revenue pay all administrative expenses, or whether the cost of their administration is to be met out of the revenue of the Commonwealth. The item for contingencies should be looked at carefully. Whilst it was estimated last year at £12,000 the actual expenditure was £18,000. If honorable members will take a careful survey of the Estimates they will notice that increased expenditure on contingencies is an unhappy habit that all Departments have developed. Invariably the estimated amount is exceeded, and a further vote becomes necessary. Some word of warning ought to be uttered that these additional amounts will not be voted without full inquiry as to the responsibility for the original underestimate. This practice creates a suspicion that the Departments are trying to hoodwink Parliament by placing on the Estimates the minimum amount, and trusting to luck to get a further vote when the original estimate is exceeded. The item for the maintenance of motor cars, including wages and expenses of chauffeurs, should bo explained. My experience has taught me that this is an item that one must watch, otherwise it will eat up a large sum of money. Last year, the House voted for this service £1,250, but the expenditure totalled £3,831, whilst the estimate for this year is £3,500. I, personally, have on my shoulders responsibility for a garage containing between thirty and forty cars, and I know that, unless there is extraordinarily careful supervision, there is nothing that has the same power of eating up money as has a garage and all the accessories of motor cars. Amongst other items in regard to which we should have some information is the estimate for the Basic Wage Commission, which has already cost £11,494. A further expenditure of £10,000is provided for on the Estimates. When we are spending money at that rate we ought to have some statement as to the progress that is being made, and the indications of whether or not a useful purpose is likely to be served. There is an item of £1,450 as a payment to the International Agricultural Institute at Rome. Is that recurring or non-recurring expenditure? It is hopeless for the Committee to try to deal with all the items in this Department. It is only possible to concentrate on a few which honorable members regard as hopelessly extravagant, and take a vote upon a proposal to reduce them. That is the only way in which we shall be able to do any good.For the travelling expenses of Commonwealth Ministers £1,000 is set down. Everybody will agree that Ministers should be recouped all expenses they incur while travelling on the business of the country.
– We want the Ministers to travel.
– Yes. This is a new item on the Estimates, but I think expenditure of this character should be considered on the basis of what is reasonable and useful. It is items of this kind, which, though small in themselves, in the aggregate inflate the Estimates to startling figures. The Audit Office shows an increase of £6,000 in the expenditure on salaries, but there is a compensating feature in a saving of £3,250 in respect of temporary assistance. Is there the same requirement for the services of the Audit Department as there was during the period of enormous war expenditure? Although the expenditure is reduced very little this year, it is mainly represented by large items rather than those detailed items that require the constant attention of an audit staff. I doubt whether the reduction that is shown is all that could have been effected under existing circumstances. In the Governor-General’s Department, £2,500 is set down for official telegrams and postage, although the expenditure last year was £4,207. Is that merely a recklessly optimistic estimate which we have no hope of realizing ? Although the war is over., the relations between the Mother Country and Australia are daily becoming closer, and there are more matters ofdetail to be dealt with by letter and cable. Therefore, I doubt very much whether the reduction that is estimated will be effected. In connexion with the High Commissioner’s Office there are numerous items to which I do not wish to refer in detail, but again there seems to be a rather optimistic estimate that temporary assistance and typists will cost only £1,000 this year as against an actual expenditure last year of £10,704. The estimate for last year was £4,500, which was exceeded by over £6,000. I should think that there must be this year a similar increase on the estimate. For advertising the resources of the Commonwealth, the estimated expenditure is £3,400, the same as the vote for last year. But surely advertising is an activity that will come under the control of the immigration authorities to a large extent when they are established?
– Yes, and decreases in some of the other items are accounted for in the same way.
– I suggest that advertising is one service that certainly should be transferred to the immigration authorities. It is beyond the power of anybody to offer any suggestion in regard to Commonwealth shipbuilding and the Commonwealth Government line of steamers. Whilst it may be necessary for these items of expenditure to be included in the Estimates, they can convey nothing to any honorable member.
– On the whole, these activities cost nothing.
– The point I want to stress is that these expenditures are incurred, and that we should be in a position toreceive the fullest information regarding the operations of. all such ventures as the Commonwealth Shipping line or ship construction branch. I suggest that, unless something is done to place before honorable members the fullest particulars, we shall ‘have to take a more emphatic course. By requesting complete information, I do not mean information such as the type of detail generally supplied concerning Government industrial matters. In regard to the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, for example, we have been furnished with an infinity of detail which must have cost considerable money, time, and trouble to compile. Yet, all those details afforded no real information after one had laboured through the mass in search of what was wanted. All Government ventures should be treated as would be any private undertaking. That is to say, the persons responsible should furnish a balance-sheet showing tue amount of capital put in by the Government, the assets held by the enterprise against that advance, and the profit and loss. We should be able to learn, at any time, what profit, if any, has actually been made by the venture in question during the financial period under review.
– I have extracted promises to that effect time and again, but they have never been carried out.
– The Government who will not regard such requests are heading for disaster. This year there has been put down a- sum of £3,000,000 with which to construct ships. We would constitute a feeble Parliament if - after having agreed to that amount being lent to the Government shipbuilding venture - we failed to secure full information when the time came to consider where our money had gone, what had been done with it, and what amount of return we might reasonably look for.
Another matter requiring imperative consideration is, as to whether great enterprises, such as those to which I have been alluding, should continue to be controlled by one or two men. In all these concerns there are. at the most, but two minds, namely, that of the Minister and of the responsible head of the Department; and it remains with the Minister, in the last resort, to determine the whole question of policy in regard to a concern which is bigger than almost any private enterprise in Australia. What would be the conditions if these ventures were privately financed and controlled? Would any private enterprise care to place the matter of policy and of management in the hands and at the mercy of one individual, so that success or failure would depend solely upon his brains, or lack of them ? If we are to continue to run a Commonwealth line of vessels and a Commonwealth shipbuilding enterprise as an ordinary trading or commercial venture, there must be a change of control, so that our Commonwealth money shall not depend for its safekeeping and wellbeing upon the mind of one man more or less adequately equipped to hold such authority and responsibility.
– And this matter of shipbuilding and ship running should not remain in the Prime Minister’s Department.
– It is a Question whether all these enterprises should not be placed specifically under a kind of Government Commercial Venture Department. However, I fear that, if I were to advocate that, it would be taken rather as a confirmation of the policy itself, and I am not attracted by that prospect.
I desire to refer now to the position of the Australian Commissioner in America.
– The Prime Minister promised the House a statement regarding his functions and status generally.
– I agree that we should be furnished with particulars defining, for example, the Commissioner’s actual duties and responsibilities, and that we should be informed, also, how far success- ful or otherwise his activities have been. Opportunity should be given Parliament to consider th.e, question of trade commissioners as a whole. To-day Australia is iu a very fortunate position in that whatever she can offer the world in the line of primary produce is. generally, readily absorbed. Here, though, I should not forget to mention that we are now witnessing the turn of the tide with respect to our lower grade wool. Our fortunate position will not continue indefinitely. Let us consider our great commodity which has so stood by. us, and is coming to our rescue more emphatically than ever, and which will be our salvation in the future. I refer to wheat. It is a matter of extraordinary good fortune that we should be in a position to dispose of our wheat, and obtain not merely a good, but a really high, price for it. I had considered that when the war was over it would be almost impossible for us to dispose of our wheat. I had in mind the extremely high prices ruling, and the fact that more land than ever before would be put under wheat. This was actually occurring in the Argentine, and in Canada, and the United States of America. Even the cotton lands of the southern States, valuable as they were for cotton production, were being put under wheat because growers were attracted by the prices which would be available to them. I had considered, therefore - and so had very many others - that so soon as the war was over there would be an enormous recrudescence of wheat-growing. I had thought that practically the whole of Europe would be sown for wheat again, instead of which, however, we have witnessed the outbreak of more wars, and have learned of even less production than during the worst of the war years. The whole of Russia’s supplies, for instance, have been cut off from the markets of the world, or the Russian fields have not been sown; but had Europe gone in for wheat-growing upon the enormous scale which was reasonably expected, we would not have been able to give our Australian wheat away overseas within a matter of eighteen months or two years from the termination of the war. That position, even now, is likely to arise some day; and we should not forget that, of all the wheatproducing countries, we are the furthest from the European market. It is imperative, therefore, that we. should try to open up the East as the great source of disposal for our wheat. With China turning every day more and more from a rice-consuming to a wheat-consuming country, Australia has probably a better opportunity than any other part of the world to dispose of her wheat in the East. There, however, we have not been watching our interests. We have not appointed commissioners or agents; and, if we do not soon do so, then, despite the fact that we are the nearest wheatproducing country and the most readily able to furnish supplies, our chance will have been lost.
– It does not cost us any more to send cur wheat to Great Britain than Western Canada.
– No; and there are parts of the Argentine which can ship at lower prices than we are able to do. But Canada is more able to reduce freightage in order to get her wheat to the coast than we are able to furnish ships to get our wheat out of Australia.
– When 1 was Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, some twenty years ago, I made specific inquiries, and learned that our freights were only about the same as ruled in Canada.
– As the Minister says, that was a matter of twenty years ago. I travelled through Canada some seven years ago, and had the facts of the position pointed out to me. Then, again, there is the factor of the opening of the Panama Canal; that great work was not in existence at the time of the Minister’s inquiries. However, I merely desire to raise the point at this appropriate opportunity, and to stress that we must consider the policy of furnishing Australian trade representatives, or commissioners, in the East. Even if it should involve additional expenditure, it is imperative that, in the near future, this question should be taken up.
I apologize for having gone into considerable detail upon specific items, but my purpose has been directed to pointing out the grave danger arising from careless underestimation. We should draw attention to some of the items, and utter a warning that we intend to look with a critical eye upon all suggestions that the Estimates be increased merely for the reason that, in the original furnishing of estimates, an underestimation was made. There is little reason or justification for underestimating. We should be able to look for some relief from this source by means of reduction rather than that we should have to consider increases solely because departmental officials have not provided a fair statement of estimated requirements.
– The salary tor the Australian Commissioner in America is set down - I note - at £3,000 in one line of the Estimates, and, in another, an allowance of £2,000 is provided. There is a similar sum in different columns, with respect to the salary of his secretary, and in regard to other items. This is a small matter which, I think, requires clearing up. Concerning the Commissioner himself, and his duties in America, the Government might well furnish a full statement of particulars: Who is this gentleman, and ‘what is he doing in America? What is the nature of his staff, and what is the establishment generally- costing? A friend of mine, who arrived in Australia a fortnight ago from America, said he did not know where to find the Australian Commissioner. Eventually, after considerable inquiry and search, ‘he discovered him in the eighth story of a building; but practically nobody knew where he was or what he was doing. What is the Commissioner doing for .the benefit of Australia? The cost of his establishment in the United States of America is set down here at £12,000. It is a large item. Is it justified, or is it likely to be justified ?
.- Without unreasonable delay Parliament should be acquainted with the future intentions of the Government concerning shipbuilding. It is of no use to carry on in an uncertain fashion, because that policy would only discourage people who have put large sums of money into the business. They did so because it was understood to be the policy of the Government to encourage and continue the industry in Australia. It has been remarked that the difficulty has been to build as cheaply here as in Great Britain. At present vessels cannot be built more cheaply in the United Kingdom than we are able to- build here. We understand that the policy of the Government is to encourage shipbuilding for the future, and that it is intended to deflect 25 per cent, of import duty in connexion with vessels to arrive for Inter-State service after a given date. Even if the cost of const-ruction in the United Kingdom, or in other parts of the world, were to drop, the outcome of this imposition, amounting to 25 per cent.-, would still favour the construction of shipping in the Commonwealth. We know that vessels are now required around our coasts, and that there is not sufficient tonnage available. If no ships of light draught are built or brought into Australian waters during the immediate future, then, during the next sugar season in Queensland, there will not be sufficient shipping to handle the commodity. There is a certain class of vessel of low draught which is suitable for this trade, but we have not sufficient of that tonnage available now. Something should be done now to insure our getting the sugar away from Queensland ports as speedily as possible after manufacture. There is no room to accumulate large stocks safely at the different ports in Queensland; and, if the sugar is left stacked there for any length . of time, it may be considerably damaged, if not utterly destroyed, by cyclones or floods. I am giving this information to the Treasurer because I think that, in matters of this kind, we should make provision in advance. I should like the right honorable gentleman r;> know what one firm alone has done as the result of entering into a contract for the manufacture of a certain class of steamers. Under the heading of “ Preparatory work,” they say -
To show how important it is that there should be a definite programme extending over a period of several years, I desire to point out that before we could do a single thing towards starting on’ the present contract for four ships for the Commonwealth Government we had to lay down slips, pile same, amounting to hundreds of piles, erect uprights and staging, manufacture machines, such as punching and shearing machines, hydraulic and manhole punching machines, bending machines, rolls, furnaces, bending blocks,scrieve boards, mould loft and plant, and machines of all descriptions. This has been done at an expense of something like £40,000. This is only on preparatory work, and has nothing to do with the actual building of the ships.
I am sure honorable members will see that if all this money has to be expended for the purpose of making these slips effective for the construction of vessels, the owners of the slips should be informed as soon as possible of what is to be the future policy of the Government. To make a success of shipbuilding in Australia it is absolutely essential to give confidence to both employer and employee; that the Government should have a defence programme extending over a period of years to encourage private firms to thoroughly equip, and enable them to compete in the open market with Great Britain, Japan and America. It would also help to steady the workmen . We have an assurance from Ministers in the imposition of an extra duty upon the importation of vessels that they intend that ships shall be constructed here. But we do not see any steam-ship companies taking part in the construction of the vessels which will be required by the Commonwealth within the next year or two. I ask the Treasurer whether he can say when the shipbuilding policy of the Government will be announced to the country, so that ‘the necessary preparations may be made, and these people may know precisely where they stand. If we give a guarantee to them which will extend over a definite period, we shall naturally get work done very much cheaper than we can get “ catch “ work done, such as obtains at present. In Newcastle, we are encouraging large steel works to produce plates for the construction of ships; and, naturally, if they are to incur an enormous expense to enable then* ‘to provide plates 6 feet wide, they should have some assurance that those plates will be utilized promptly within the Commonwealth. Otherwise, the money which they are expending to provide the necessary facilities to produce the plates will be practically unproductive. Recently I visited the steel works in Newcastle, and had a talk with tlie manager there. From’ him I learned that the cost of manufacturing these plates is a very considerable one, and that the company is trusting to the Commonwealth Government to put forward a shipbuilding policy which will warrant the expenditure which it is now incurring. That policy should be made public as scon as possible in order that shipbuilders may know exactly where they stand.
– In the Prime Minister’s Department, I notice an item which reads. ‘ Australian Commissioner in the -United States of America, £10,S90,” and I observe that this represents a decrease of £4,837 upon the vote for last year. Just as I entered the chamber, the honorable, member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) was making a reference to this particular item. I certainly think that the Com.mittee is entitled to further information in regard to it;, but I wish to go a step further. The Prime Minister intimated, some little time ago,, that a departure was about to be made, in regard to which I take the strongest exception. He proposes that there shall be a diplomatic representative of Australia at Washington, and I believe that his idea is founded upon action which has been taken by Canada, which Dominion has nominated a representative in that city. But whatever justification there may be for the appointment of such a Commissioner by Canada, by reason of its contiguity to the “United States- of America, and of the fact that a great many questions will arise as between those two countries, there can be no justification whatever for the appointment of a diplomatic representative of Australia to Washington. As a matter of fact the questions which will arise in that connexion, as between Australia and America, will be very few indeed. Such questions, if they have arisen in the past, have been settled in the most satisfactory manner through the Foreign Office of the British Government. Of course, the British Government have their Embassy in the United States of America - an Embassy which is fully equipped with all possible information, and which exerts a vast influence. Necessarily, it is in a position to deal with any questions which may arise as between Australia and America in an infinitely better way than we could deal with them. The experience of the past is such as to suggest to us the desirableness of continuing the existing system of diplomatic unity so far as the British Empire is concerned. I can quite understand even the possibility in the_ future of the Dominions agreeing amongst themselves to representation side by side with the British Embassy at Washington. That course may be desirable, working, of course, hand in hand with the British Embassy. All the Dominions may be so represented. But I do not say that that course is necessary, nor do I think that it is. I can, however, understand a movement amongst the Dominions in that direction. But for Australia to attempt to establish a diplomatic representative in America would be a grave mistake, and would constitute a serious departure from the diplomatic unity of the Empire.
– That is not intended, is it? It is merely a Trade Commissioner who has been appointed in the United States of America.
– I put a question to . the Prime Minister regarding this matter about four weeks ago, and he promised to supply the House with a statement as to the status and’ functions of the Commissioner.
– I did not know that. But I know that the Prime Minister has intimated his intention of introducing a Bill having for its object the appointment of a diplomatic representative of Australia at Washington. I protest against this step on the ground that it will be a wanton and unnecessary act in these days of economy. That, however, is a minor matter as compared with the more important consideration, which is that such a step would involve a departure from the diplomatic unity of the Empire, and would result in complications which we at present can scarcely realize. The possibility of Australia speaking with a different voice from that of the Mother Country would inevitably result in conflict. This is a matter which should not be decided with: any degree of hastiness. I desire, therefore, to be assured that there is not included in this item of £10,890 any money towards the establishment of a diplomatic representative in America. I would urge that, if this matter is to be dealt with at all, it should be dealt with by the Dominions at the approaching Constitutional Imperial Conference. Hitherto we have rejoiced in our ability to speak with a united voice so far as the Empire is concerned. But, if a departure of this kind is to be made, and if we are to cease conducting our diplomatic relations .through the Foreign Office of the Mother Country, we shall certainly embroil ourselves, and also the Empire, quite unnecessarily. I cannot conceive what can be the justification for such a suggestion on the part of the Prime Minister. There is, however, a good deal to be said for the appointment in other parts of the world of ‘Trade Commissioners, who would aim at the development of the commercial and trading interests of Australia. That is very desirable, and the functions of the Australian Commissioner who has already been appointed to the United States of America might well be extended, .so as to make them more embracing, with that objective in view. But when it comes to a matter of # the conduct of diplomatic relations on’ behalf of Australia, the position is entirely different.
– Before expending money elsewhere ought we not to put our house in order in Great Britain, so far as the High Commissioner’s Office is concerned ?
– Hitherto I have refrained from criticising our unfortunate position in regard to the High Commissioner’s Office in the Mother Country. That office is certainly no credit to Australia, and, indeed, has constituted a very serious difficulty. The utter inefficiency of that Department during the war period, so far as trade and commerce is concerned, was very marked. It was in a condition of such hopeless confusion that we were quite unable to get any business satisfactorily transacted there. My object in rising was to ask for an assurance from the Treasurer that this item for £10,890 does not include any contemplated expenditure in regard to the appointment of a diplomatic representative at Washington.
.- In dealing’ with this Department - now that the debate upon the want of confidence -motion has been concluded - I hope that honorable members will take an independent stand in regard to any items upon the Estimates which they may consider exhibit a lack of appreciation of the urgent need which exists for the exercise of the most stringent economy. I have no desire to embarrass the Government or the Treasurer, but I do think that, with the enormous responsibilities with which we are faced, it is our duty to reduce our expenditure as much as we reasonably can. I am no advocate for. foolish economy ; there are many ways in which we can advertise and build up this country, and it would be foolish not to spend money for that purpose. I may be wrong, of course, but. in mv opinion, I think that the Prime Minister’s Department should not be regarded as a general administrative Department. The Prime Minister himself has duties so multifarious that he cannot give that attention to his administrative work that Ministers of other Departments are able to give. It must not be forgotten that the Prime Minister’s Department is not really a Department, but merely a branch, which has grown up recently, and particularly during the war. Now it, perhaps, may be described as a huge administrative Department with many sub-Departments. There has not been that building up in connexion with this Department that there has been in connexion with the others, which have taken years to grow, and have produced specially-trained officers. For instance, under the Department for Home and Territories quite a number of sub-Departments have been gradually built up. and the same remark applies to other Departments : but in the case of the Prime Minister’s Department its growth has been sudden, and has not produced that wealth of experience we find elsewhere. In saying this I have no desire to reflect on any of the officers, beyond saying that they have not the advantage of that life-time experience which is at the service of other Departments. The other day the Treasurer asked for instances of where the Prime Minister’s Department had interfered with other Departments. It is a fact that, not content with the control of matters strictly within its purview under the Estimates, the Prime Minister’s Department and the Attorney-General’s Dement have continually interfered with other work. As an illustration, the question of the export of metals ought to be under the sole control of the Department of Trade and Customs; yet when I refer, in connexion with this matter, to the Minister for Trade and Customs, I am told that it comes within the scope of the Attorney-General’s Department. Why should the Attorney-General’s Department interfere in such a matter? Of course, I can understand the Minister for Trade and Customs seeking legal advice from the Attorney-General’s Department, but there should not be the present administrative interference. Then the Prime Minister’s Department has interfered with and used in this connexion the Australian Metal Exchange. A little while ago, some people desided to export scrap iron from Western Australia, and the whole of the subsequent trouble arose through the interference of the Prime Minister’s Department and the Attorney-General’s Department, though, of course, it is a matter for the Department of Trade and Customs. In the case of sugar, we find Colonel Oldershaw, an official of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, assuming control, although the Minister for Trade and Customs meets deputations and makes promises, not only to people outside, but to honorable members of this House? In reference to any commodity or works, there ought to be definite control of these matters by definite Departments. For instance, shipbuilding should be at once taken from the administration of the Prime Minister’s Department and placed under the Minister for Home and Territories.
It is understood that the Government propose to appoint Trade Commissioners; and, if these appointments mean what was indicated by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), then, of course, they should be under the control of the Prime Minister. If it is the intention of the Government to appoint a number of such Commissioners, Ministers ought to take honorable members into their confidence and explain how it is proposed by this means to build up the trade of Australia. I quite agree with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) that it is possible to create a big export trade with Eastern countries. Recently Mr. Walter Kingsmill, President of the Legislative Council of Western Australia, after a visit to the north and east, published a most interesting report showing the great possibilities in this direction.
– The other day Mr. John McWhae published a similar and very interesting report.
– If these Commissioners are appointed they need not be expensive men, but men of experience and reliability, who will keep in view the interests of Australia, and not merely build up a trade for themselves or their friends.
– I beg to draw attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– I impress on the Government the danger of appointing any representatives, either in America or elsewhere, with ambassadorial powers, for in such appointments there is an element of grave danger which may cause irretrievable injury to Australia and the Empire. However, we have no knowledge that it is really the intention of the Government to appoint Commissioners of the kind at the present time; and I only hope that they will not do so, for I should feel compelled to strongly oppose the proposal. With Trade Commissioners, pure and simple, some good could be done in building up the trade of Australia. If these appointments are made with discretion, and a proper scheme of advertising entered upon, particularly in the Eastern countries, and, perhaps, in other parts of the world, much good might be done. However, as I was saying, the Prime Minister’s Department is growing enormously. I understand the mover of the amendment will withdraw it so as to enable the items to be dealt with separately. There are one or two subjects which I think the Committee might deal with in a very drastic manner, and in connexion with which we should have some explanation from the Minister. It is my intention, at the proper time, to get the opinion of the Committee as to whether or not it would be wise to transfer some of the Government activities from the Prime Minister’s Department to that of some other Minister.” I have urged previously that this should not be the main administrative Department of the Commonwealth. I hope the Committee will agree, for instance, to place shipbuilding under the control of another Minister. Then there is the question of mail services, and the Port Pirie wharfs. There is no reason at all why these matters should come under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department. The’ Minister for Home and Territories has been dealing with shipping for a long time, and understands his work. I hope, therefore, that these matters will come under his control.
I do not wish to say anything concerning the High Commissioner himself, but I think we have not received anything like the satisfaction we are entitled to expect from the enormous expenditure incurred in that Department, the sum spent last year being over £63,000, to which must be added the salary of the High Commissioner himself. I agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) that we ought to get from revenue any money required for that office building.
– I think the High Commissioner’s Office was built out’ of revenue.
– That is not so. The honorable member will find the item in the Loan Estimates for this year. Undoubtedly there was heavier expenditure in the High Commissioner’s Office during the war owing to the necessity of looking after the interests of Australians at Home, and I make no comment as to the cost of temporary assistance; but we are now back to normal times, and the expenditure incurred by this office is greatly in excess of the value received.’ The High Commissioner’s Office, like the Agents’-General Departments, should be a fine trading establishment. The AgentGeneral for Western Australia, Sir J. Connolly, has been doing wonderful work in England.
– He is a very good; man.
– He is an ordinary, but solid and good business man, keenly alive to the interests of his State.
– And pretty pertinacious. When I was at Home I thought he was an excellent representative of his State.
– He is endeavouring all the time, to brine the possibilities of his State before the people of Great Britain. Unfortunately, I see no attempt on the part of the Commonwealth High Commissioner’s Department to do as well for Australia as a whole as the AgentGeneral for Western Australia is doing for his State. And that is what we want. I should expect a fortnightly letter from the High Commissioner telling the people of Australia about the possibilities of trade development in the Mother Country, and how far he was helping in that direction.
I notice the immigration vote is not included in this Department, and when we come to that vote I shall want to know whether the High Commissioner’s Office is going to work, in unison with our immigration officials. In my judgment, the High Commissioner ShOuld control them. He is the gentleman to whom we look for protection of our interests in the Mother Country. It is possible that an immigration officer might paint too rosy a picture of the conditions in Australia. The High Commissioner should be able to control and advise the Commonwealth Government if good work is being done in connexion with our immigration policy. I am greatly in favour of immigration, but I do not want it to be possible for any immigrant to be able to say honestly that he has been brought out here under false pretences.
– Thousands have been.
– Yes ; and when we get to the Immigration Department I intend to say a word or two with reference to an appointment recently made. I do not think the Government have selected a good man. They should not make any appointment as a reward for good and loyal political service. “We know what harm was done in the old days by immigration officers who .made specious promises to intending immigrants, with the result that they did us more harm than good. I hope the mover of the amendment will withdraw it, so that we may deal with various sub-Departments in the proper way.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment. My intention was merely to secure an expression of opinion from the Committee as to the transfer of certain activities from the Prime Minister’s Department, and, as my purpose will be otherwise effected by amendments on them, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m.
.- Last week, when speaking on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), I intimated that I thought the amount provided for the High Commissioner’s Office, London, could be reduced. Last year we voted £45,123 for this Office, but the actual expenditure exceeded the vote by £17,914, and I would very much like to hear from the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) the reason for this huge excess. In any case, in order to reduce the amount to what was placed on the Estimates last year, I move -
That the proposed vote “High Commissioner’s Office, £53,974,” be reduced by £8,851.
The High ‘Commissioner’s Office is costing more than double what it should cost, judging the value of the work done by the benefits accruing to Australia, and I am hopeful that the Committee will consent to this reduction as an intimation that the Office must be re-organized in accordance with the wishes of honorable members. The item “ Medical Officer, £S00,” I think, could very well be struck out, because, as apparently there are only twenty-three persons in the Office of the High Commissioner, there seems to be no need for the services of a medical officer. No explanation has been !given -in regard to the item of £5,000 for “ stationery, travelling, and incidental expenses.” This seems a largeamount, but this, again, is an item which, I think, could very well be reduced. Another item which appears excessive is “Upkeep of Australia House, £13,000.” Last week, I mentioned that Australia House had become, to a great extent, a place of amusement, and it is quite evident that, if we are to maintain for the benefit of our officials in London, and the few Australians temporarily there, a house at which they can obtain amusement, the cost of upkeep will be heavy, but this, again, is an item which, I think, could very well be reduced, particularly as it does not include taxation or the salary of the caretaker. There is another item of £3,400, for “advertising resources of Commonwealth/’ Does any honorable member claim that we are getting value for the expenditure of this money? In any case, I hardly see the necessity for spending £3,400 in advertising the resources- of the Commonwealth when we are informed that £100,000 has been placed in these Estimates for immigration, and that we are sending agents to Great Britain to advertise Australia with a view to securing more immigrants. In my opinion, the best place to advertise Australia, if we wish to encourage immigration, is in Australia. The people of the Commonwealth will always .be ‘willing to pay for efficiency, but I do not think that many of us can claim that efficiency has been displayed in the Office of the High Commissioner to the value of £53,974. I hope that the decision of the Committee will be an indication to Senator E. D. Millen that the opinion of honorable members is that the expenditure on the High Commissioner’s Office must be reduced. It is’ a task which ought to be undertaken by the High Commissioner himself, and I trust that the next gentleman appointed to the position will receive definite instructions from the Government that the expense of his Office must not he anything like what it is to-day.
– The speech of the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) is an example of what frequently faces one in a Committee of this kind. The honorable member knows all about the matter before he rises to speak, and, after moving for a reduction of the vote by over £8,000, directs his attention to certain items on which he considers there should be retrenchment, but about all of which he confesses he knows nothing.
– I certainly did not make that confession.
– The honorable member did make that confession. He said that he would like to know something about the £13,000 for the up-keep of Australia House.
– It is obvious that the item is to provide money to maintain a place of amusement in London.
– I was in Australia House as frequently as my friend was, and I did not see any of those amusements to which he has made reference; yet, because it happens that at some time or another a dance was held there, the place must be written down as having been given over to that sort of thing. Such criticism is very unfair, and has neither sense nor intelligence in it. The honorable member might just as well say that because a dinner is held occasionally in Queen’s Hall, this House of Parliament is given over to amusement, or is merely a place of refreshment. Such an assertion would not be fair, nor are the remarks of the honorable member fair as applied to Australia House. When I was in London, there was a steady stream of visitors to Australia House all day long, and this place, which was supposed to have been given over to amusement, was then filled with war memorials.
– They will not be there next year .
– No; but it does not follow that the space they occupied is in future to be used as a dance room. To declare that the incidental occurrence of a dance in the building, a mere once in its history, converts it into a place of amusement as a normal condition of affairs is not fair criticism. We have built in London a house which cost £1,000,000, and my conviction is that it is worth £1,000,000 a year to Australia, even if it does little more than exist as a building. No one can go through the Strand without stopping to look at it and inquire what it is, to whom it belongs, and all about Australia. Therefore, as an advertisement alone, it is worth an immense amount of money to us. It houses activities connected with the Customs Department, and our Naval and Military affairs. We have a Navy officer, who is the liaison officer between the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial Navy. Dr. Woolnough, one of the best officers who has been sent from our University, inspects our machinery before it is despatched to Australia. We must have officers to make inquiries concerning our naval requirements and keep in. touch, as far as possible, with what goes on at the Admiralty. These officers are necessary and useful, and are such as we should have in London.
May I remind honorable members that the State Governments are similarly represented, as they have their scientific men to advise what should be purchased. If honorable members are going to dispense with these officers, they had better start an agitation for the State Governments to act similarly, and so maroon Australia that no business at all will be done. These representatives are selected because of their special qualifications and service, but because they are out of sight and, generally, out of mind, some begin to think that they are perfectly useless, and are doing nothing but drawing their salaries. These men. are busily engaged throughout the year in performing useful work for the Commonwealth, and earn their money by working earnestly, laboriously, and sincerely in the interest of Australia just as if they were right under our eyes. The mere fact that we do not visit Australia House as we do other Departments does not prove that these officers are not performing useful work, administratively and scientifically. Australia House is an imposing structure, accommodating a number of activities, all of which are of use to the Commonwealth, and we could not dispense with these activities in relation to the Navy or Army without decreasing the efficiency of those services.
– We do not want to dispense with them; but we desire to ascertain how the building is let, and if all the States have offices there.
– Some of them have.
– Does the High Commissioner furnish an annual report?
– Yes. Honorable members can obtain all the information concerning the activities of Australia House in that document, and it would be much better if they perused the report, because we would not then have so much criticism. We shall receive in rents from various State Governments and from other tenants occupying rooms in the building during the year, £23,400. The estimated net cost of maintenance is £34,128.
– Is that inclusive of interest?
– Yes. It must be remembered, however, that if we were not occupying offices in Australia House we would have to rent accommodation elsewhere, the estimated cost ofwhich would be £30,000 a year. There is interest and other items connected with Australia House, and honorable members must make up their minds whether the expense of this agency in London, set against the whole activities of the Commonwealth, is worth, the money or not. For instance, every day Australia House is besieged by persons who go from Australia to London, and, on an average, there is a colony of 3,000 Australians in London.
– And I have had the opinion of some of those who have recently visited the building.
– No doubt the honorable member has; but I could quote opinions quite contrary to those which he would doubtless instance. These gentlemen have, perhaps, been to Australia House, and have not been treated in what they consider a proper manner. The honorable member could probably criticise the treatment shown to visitors in other Government Departments in’ Australia, because, occasionally, persons visiting Commonwealth Departments here do not always receive the courtesy and consideration to which they think they are entitled. It is so in connexion with the 3,000 Australians who are perpetually in London. I do not suggest that the same 3,000 persons are there the whole time, but on an average there are 3,000 Australians in England who go to Australia House in search of all kinds of information. It is quite possible that some visitors return without having gained all they desired.
There are many who go to Australia House to obtain particulars concerning Australia and its commercial interests, and altogether, the Commonwealth Offices are serving a very useful purpose in that respect. Honorable members must not lose sight of the fact that immigration is going on all the time, even when no special effort is in progress, because ships are continually bringing new settlers to Australia. All these people are dealt with at Australia House, and the fact that our officers there are conducting a publicity campaign, and facilitating the movements of these people, is one reason why the steady stream continues. We are now proposing to accelerate that flow, and instead of immigrants coming in driblets we hope, with improved organization, to considerably increase the number. We do not see or hear of all that is being done, but that is no reason why we should say that our representatives are not doing anything. .
– The complaint is that they are not doing these things.
– The Government are taking steps to re-organize the whole immigration question, and are sending to England Mr. Percy Hunter, who will be associated with the High Commissioner.
– A Nationalist organizer.
– He is not.
– Who is to be the new High Commissioner ?
– That is more than I can tell the honorable member, as I have not the remotest idea; but I trust that he will be a good man.
– If the Treasurer will allow me to select the High Commissioner I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.
– That appears to be a fair offer.
As to the upkeep of Australia House, I may remind honorable members that the cost of maintaining any institution in London is naturally very heavy. Included in the items under this heading electric light and power amounts to £2,500 a year. Other items are the supply of coke, £1,500 a year, wages £6,000, war bonus £1,500. The total is also made up of a multitude of small items which include rates and taxes house requisites, engineering and joinery repairs, electric clocks, automatic telephones, and there is an item of £30 for window breakages. I do not know what they have been doing to incur that expenditure; but that is a sample of the items for upkeep.
As to Australia House, and what we are doing there, I desire to make a general observation to enable honorable members to make up their minds whether the expenditure is justified. I believe it is.
– Or whether it could be put to a better use.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) has gone to Great Britain charged with the duty of attempting to re-organize it.
– Does not the Treasurer think that the new Commissioner should undertake the work of reorganization ?
– There may be something in that.
– Is Mr. Percy Hunter to be appointed the next High Commissioner?
– No. He is to attend to immigration matters solely.
– Will the Treasurer explain the item “ Medical officer, £800 “?
– That relates to a vacancy in the office that has arisen owing to the resignation of Dr. Norris, who has been in London for many years acting as medical referee for the Government, inspecting immigrants, and supervising the medical work in connexion with their despatch from London. It is not a new office. As to the general activities of the Department, I would like to remind honorable members of what is an undoubted fact that we spend a great deal less in this respect, considering our population, than any other country in the world.Honorable members know quite well that Sweden, and the Netherlands - very small communities - have their officers in Australia, and if they consider it desirable to be represented in an outpost of the world such as this it should surely pay us to have our officers in the great metropolis overseas. The same remark will apply to the United States of America; and Canada, again, has to my knowledge had a Commissioner in Australia for the past twenty years, and would not maintain a representative here if her people did not find that it paid them to do so.
– My amendment is not for the abolition of the office.
– No; it is to cut out the vote that keeps the office in existence. The honorable member would not ‘abolish the office, but he would not provide anything to keep it going.
– What is the size of the staff there?
– There are twenty-three provided for in these Estimates; but there are also the other activities that I have mentioned. We have a Naval staff and a Military staff in London. Colonel Buckley is our military representative, a business man of independent means, who was one of the best officers we ever had in the Defence Department here. He is a well-to-do man, but in London, as in Australia, he keeps at his post for sheer love of the work. There is not a harder worker in London than he.
– Who is the officer in charge of the publicity branch?
– Captain Smart. He was originally a journalist in Australia; I think on the Sydney Morning Herald.
– Is he connected with immigration or with election matters?
– He is concerned with immigration chiefly, and general publicity work. He has been in London for a good many years now, and conducts campaigns to assist immigration and the general advertising of the resources of Australia. Work of this kind is going on all the year round, and to assess its value aright it would be necessary to investigate its effects upon the relations between Australia and the United Kingdom, and the benefits it confers upon this community in all sorts of ways.
– Was the large sum spent last year war expenditure?
– Yes. Special war claims came in from time to time. We are getting back to normal, and expect that the amount set down for this year will carry us through the whole twelve months.
– The vote here this year is only £10,000 less than the expenditure of last year.
– Many of the war activities are charged to various accounts under Defence and Navy. The amount in the Estimates immediately before us provides for the activities of Australia House alone, for this year only.
It has been suggested that many of the matters dealt with by the Prime Minister should be transferred to the administration of other Departments. The Prime Minister’s Department is one that cannot be done without.
– Was it necessary in the first instance?
– I remember hearing you say that it was not.
– Perhaps so; but circumstances have been entirely altered by the war. Our status in the Empire requires us to maintain a Minister for External Affairs, as do also our responsibilities in the Pacific and our connexion with the League of Nations. It must not be forgotten that the Commonwealth started with a Department of External Affairs. That Department has been merged in the Prime Minister’s Department.
– With a lot of others.
– That may be so. Criticise him as you may, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has, during the past twelve months, since his return from Europe, saved this country many hundreds of thousands of pounds by keeping the industrial peace. That is an activity centred inhis Department. It is fortunate that we have had some one with his long experience of seafaring men to deal with our shipbuilding difficulties. In considering results, the troubles from which we have escaped by reason of what has been done by the Prime Minister should not be forgotten.
– The Prime Ministers Department is the External
Affairs Department proper, plus trading Departments.
Reference has been made to the Island mail service, the vote for which is increased this year by £18,000. That increase is due to an enlargement of the scope of the mail service and to increases in costs of running generally. Where should that expenditure be provided for if not in the Estimates of the External Affairs Department? The service is to provide communication with the Islands, which are to be administered by that Department. Take, again, shipbuilding, which does not cost the taxpayer of this country a penny. The items under that bead are merely advances to trust funds, and are balanced by the profits.
– If our shipbuilding were not a success, it would cost the taxpayer something.
– Of course, in that case there would be a loss to make good; but, so far, it has been a success. My recollection is that, according to the last figures presented, our shipbuilding, so far, has cost about £28 10s. per ton. To-night we have had two kinds of criticism of it. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) said, “ We must not build any more ships if we cannot build them as cheaply as they can be built elsewhere,” but another honorable membersaid, “ We must build ships anyhow, because without them we cannot move our produce.”
– He was thinking of the interests of Maryborough.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), like the honorable member for Wakefield and the honorable member who has moved the reduction under discussion (Mr. Bell), all take broad national views, especially when such views centre near their back doors. [Extension of time granted.”] I hope that the greatest economy will be observed in our shipbuilding, because I do not desire that our ships shall cost too much. We hove two shipyards, and we must do something with them.
– I would sooner have them idle than lose money on them.
– They have cost well over £1,000,000, so that we cannot afford to keep them idle, and must make the best use of them we can.
– If the industrialists are going to run the yards, it will be better to leave shipbuilding alone.
– So far, ships have been built as cheaply here as they could have been built elsewhere. I do not say that that will continue for all time, though I hope that it may. The amalgamation of our shipbuilding and the placing of it under one control is in contemplation. “We are” going to take the control from the Navy Department, and I hope that thereby a big saving will be effected. We intend to get the best commercial management, and there seems no reason why we should not be able to build ships as cheaply as they can be built overseas, though there is no reason for criticism on that score at the present time. I agree with those who say that the strictest commercial tests should foe applied to the work done. One of the chief things is to maintain industrial peace, which happily we have been able to do during the past two years. Efficiency, continuity of operations, and industrial contentment and peace are essentials. That we have been able to keep industrial peace is largely due to the Prime Minister, who has ways of dealing with industrialists when he can meet them face to face such as few other men possess.
– You are flattering him.
– I am not flattering him; I am speaking the truth. I have been with him on these Conferences, and I say that few men could do better with the industrialists of this country than he does. The results are to be seen in our shipyards to-day. We must, therefore, recollect that there have been advantages flowing from the Prime Minister’s dealings in these matters, and that they more than offset any disadvantages. I admit at the same time that the Prime Minister is always doing the work of three or four men. It is his way, but he does it efficiently and well. While there have been innumerable strikes during the past twelve months in nearly every other country, we have been kept almost wholly free from them. A great deal of the credit for that happy state of affairs is due to the Prime Minister.
As to shipbuilding, the salient points are these: We want ships. We have these two yards of our own, and we must do something with them. They are manned by efficient staffs, and, when they are amalgamated, I believe we shall still be able to produce ships in Australia as cheaply as elsewhere.
I come now to the question of agencies abroad, to which, perhaps, I ought to have referred when dealing with Australia House. I have only to say that, in this regard, again, we are very much behind the rest of the world. Take, for instance, America. One finds that nearly every small community has official representation there. When the Prime Minister and I passed through the United States of America, on our way Home, we found that Australia had no one to represent her there. One illustration will show the need of having some one on the spot. Our shipbuilding here was being held up for want of plates which we had purchased in America. When the authorities of the United States of America entered upon their shipbuilding business they cancelled our order for plates, and we were left without supplies to complete our ships. We had no one there to put our case. Our only means of communication was through the British Embassy, and the British Embassy had then, as it always has, tremendous commercial interests of its own, and as much as it could do to look after its own affairs. We found, on the other hand, that Canada had twelve of the best business men to be found in the Dominion operating all the time in the United States of America. In Washington we had not a representative; the position was the same in New York. Canada and every other country had agencies there, but we were entirely without representation. Honorable members must make up their minds as to whether these agencies pay. The experience of other countries is that they pay handsomely, and they are being multiplied all over the world. If it pays Canada to maintain an agency here at the Seat of Government, and to have a separate office in every State of the Commonwealth it should pay us to have at least some representation in a country like America.
– Did Mr. Braddon recommend the continuance of our trade agency in the United States of America ?
– I understood so, and everybody who has been there, including Mr. - or Sir Henry Braddon, as he now is - has done so. I venture to say in passing that, if ever a distinction has been earned by merit, it has been earned by Sir Henry Braddon. He says that we need to get into much closer touch with America than we have been. It is to our business, as well as our diplomatic and political advantage, to do so. The United States of America is one of the great Powers abutting on the Pacific. We have to get into closer touch with her, politically as well as commercially, and the closer the intimacy we can breed and perpetuate with her, the better for our future safety, as well as for our future prosperity.
Then, again, take the East. It has been well said that we are building here a Western nation with an Eastern trade outlook. I believe that to be true. The East in time will become, perhaps, our best customer for our raw products, and it is therefore of the utmost importance that we should have representatives in all these countries where there is business to be done. Honorable members must not imagine when they see, for this purpose, a proposed vote of £10,000 on the Estimates that there is no credit to be set against it. The credit may even be intangible; it may be impossible to locate it, but it is none the less there. If we create an atmosphere of commercial intimacy, knowledge, and commercial amity, that in itself is worth more than we pay, to say nothing of the tangible results which from time to time express themselves in our imports and exports. In all these matters we must make up our minds that the authorities in other countries are not fools. They know what is to their advantage, and we cannot do better than follow in the footsteps of the most enlightened nations of the earth, who are multiplying instead of decreasing these agencies. We have only to see that good men are selected for these positions. If a man is selected for any one of them, and he cannot make more out of it for the country than his salary and expenses, he is not worth much.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that our experience of having a Trade Commissioner in the United States of America shows that it pays to be represented there?
– Yes, over and over again.
– The commercial community frequently make the greatest use of him.
– They make use of him over and over again. The United States of America is a tremendously big country, and in travelling through it one finds that some of the big nations have agencies in nearly every State. It pays them to have them. We have, as I have said, only one in New York. We want in addition one in Washington, who would be able to look after, not merely the commercial and material side, but also our political interests.
– He would be an Ambassador.
– We need not discuss now whether he should be an Ambassador or not. There is work to be done in direct association with the British Legation at Washington, and in connexion with the Government at Washington, by somebody, whether you call him an Ambassador or not. I agree with the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), and hope that nothing will ever interfere with the diplomatic unity of the Empire.
– It will be a bad job for us when it is interfered with.
– I think so; but it does not necessarily follow that we are interfering with the ultimate unity and efficiency of our Empire diplomacy when we put our Australian view to the Government at Washington just as other nations making up the Empire are doing. Canada has, and has had for a long time, her representative at Washington. She proposed last year to alter his status and to make him an Ambassador, but I think she has deferred that proposal pending discussion at the Imperial Conference next year. Something should be done by us to establish an agency at Washington, in addition to one at New York. That is an imperative necessity of the moment, and it would pay Australia over and over again to assent to it, even if the cost should be very much more than our present agency.
– What will be the rerelationship between the High Commissioner’s Office and the new immigration scheme?
– The High Commissioner’s Office should control immigration. Whatever separate immigration agency is set up in the Old Country must, in my opinion, be under the ultimate control of the High Commissioner. It will be one of the activities of the High Commissioner’s Office.
– But is that to be the relationship ?
– Yes, as I understand it. We are sending over a special immigration officer, who will work in the High Commissioner’s Office and will be under the final control of the High Commissioner.
– The Treasurer is referring to Mr. Percy Hunter?
– Yes. The High Commissioner will be wise in giving a new man who knows his job his head, but, at the same time, the final control must be with the High Commissioner. If we can galvanize that section of our activities in the Old Country into still greater activity, it will be worth all the money we propose to spend in that direction. It is a vital necessity. As I have said before, we must people or perish. We have not enough people to hold this country or to meet readily and easily our financial and other obligations as they arise. To people this country should be the chief objective of any Government which holds office, and the moment it neglects that duty it should be removed from office.
I, therefore, suggest to my honorable friend who has submitted this amendment that he should allow it to stand over until next year. By that time the reorganizations already in process will have been made, and when the honorable member sees what has been done he will be able to criticise it. I have no doubt whatever he will have a very much better view of it than he has to-night.
– I think I am very mild.
– I think the honorable member is, since no man in his position can know all that is doing in Australia House. It has always seemed to me to be somewhat unfortu nate that Australia House is so far away. It is out of sight, and very often, I am afraid, out of mind. It is only when we see the cost of it on the Estimates that we begin to wonder whether it is doing anything.
– We have not yet had an encouraging stimulating report from Australia House.
-I hope we shall get one before very long. Meantime, I have been doing my best for the last three-quarters of an hour to supply the Committee with full information.
– The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has given us a really excellent description of the work that ought to be done by the High Commissioner’s Office. Unfortunately, all the reports we receive show that this work is not being done. The truth is that the High Commissioner’s Office has been made, to a very large extent, the plaything of party politics. The position of High Commissioner will become vacant in January next, and the gentleman who is to be appointed to fill it should have been selected weeks ago and sent to England. To him alone should be left the work of reorganization. The present Commissioner could be given leave of absence. We all regret very much to hear that his health is far from satisfactory. If it is such as it is reported to be by those who have recently been in his office, it is cruel to keep him there, and he should have been given leave of absence long ago. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), and the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) were in England for some time, and if any reorganization were necessary they could have suggested it. But it is not fair to Australia that the appointment of a successor to the present High Commissioner should be left until the last moment. I repeat that he should have been appointed weeks, if not months, ago. The gentleman who has to do the work in the office should be the man who is to re-organize it. Senator E.D. Millen may re-organize the office in a way that the new High Commissioner may disapprove of entirely, and he may set to work to re-organize it again. I therefore urge the Government to make that appointment at once, and let the gentleman appointed proceed to take up the work and re-organize the office. Heaven knows, and reports which have reached us show, that it is sadly in need of reorganization!
– What is wrong?
– I am referring to reports that come to hand from men who have been to England, and have returned in the last few weeks.
– Has anybody ever read a report yet?
– I have not read the last report, but I have read the preceding one, and he would be an exceedingly enthusiastic person who could get very much comfort from it. It is a known fact that the health of the present High Commissioner is not satisfactory. I yield to no man in respect for Mr. Fisher–
– You are not showing it, at any rate.
– I am showing it. Why is it necessary to send a Minister Home to re-organize the office if everything is satisfactory?
– There is a new departure.
– Is that the reason ? According to my reports, the health of the present occupant of the office has, unfortunately, been such as every one in the House regrets. I yield to no man in respect? for Mr. Fisher as an individual. I held him in the highest respect when he was in this House, although sitting on the opposite side. There was never a member of the House who conducted himself in whatever position he occupied more creditably than did Andrew Fisher.
– He is the only man who did anything for me when I was in England.
– Yet he is doing nothing ! He is as white a man as ever drew breath.
– I admit it at once. His term of office expires in January. Surely if it is necessary to re-organize the office - say if you like that it is because new activities have come into it- the man who has to carry out the work when the appointment is absolutely falling due should do the re-organ- izing, in accordance with the views and objectives which he intends tofollow.
When I sought, on the first item, to obtain a reduction of £1,000,000 in the Estimates, I said I did not anticipate that any material reductions could be made when we were going through the Estimates item by item. I think we shall find it practically impossible to securea reduction.
– It has been done here.
– I saw it done only once, when Mr. J. C. Watson, sitting in this corner, succeeded in reducing the Defence estimates by one-half.
– He was sitting on this side.
– I think he was pitting on the cross benches. It was when the Deakin Government was in office.
– It was the Barton Government, and Sir George Turner was the Treasurer.
Mr.McWILLIAMS.- I was not in the House in the time of the Barton Government. I think Sir George Turner was also Treasurer in the Deakin Government. That is the only time in the Federal Parliament that I have known any material reduction to be made in the Estimates. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) says he intends to move for reductions. I hope he succeeds, but when he has been as long in the House as some of us he will realize that it is practically impossible to secure reductions in items, because when one man objects to an item another will support it, and vice versâ.
There is a general feeling that the people of Australia have not obtained, since the very first day that the High Commissioner’s Office was created, a fair return for the money spent on it in London, or from Australia House. That is my opinion, the opinion of a good many members of the House, and certainly the opinion of a great many people of all classes who have been to England and have visited Australia House. On coming back they have told us that Australia is not receiving a proper return for the amount that she is expending. There is very important work to be done in the way of immigration. For the first time since it has been inaugurated, a great work in that direction will be put, I hope directly, in the hands of the High Commissioner. His office should be the centre of the whole system for immigration in the Old Country. As the Government are undertaking an immigration policy, surely it it common sense to appoint the new High Commissioner now, and let him make his arrangements in accordance with his objectives.
– What would be the position of Mr. Fisher?
– I would give Mr. Fisher well-deserved, leave of absence on full pay until his term ran out. If the Government appointed a new High Commissioner at once, he could not complete his arrangements here and reach England much before Mr. Fisher’s term expires in the middle of February.
– It expires in January.
– Then, if the new man were appointed now, I doubt if he could get to England, after completing his arrangement.-: in Australia, much before the office became vacant. We all know that the High Commissioner’s Office will have to ‘be completely reorganized in view of the new work that it is proposed that it shall undertake. It is not fair to Parliament, or to the people of Australia, to allow it to be reorganized by a Minister who does not intend to remain there, with the risk of the re-organization not suiting the views of the new High Commissioner, who may have to start to re-organize it all over again. I know nothing about Mr. Percy Hunter, but I do, unfortunately, know something about Mr. Barnes, the other immigration agent who is going to England.
.- I support the motion of the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). I listened at the outset with particular attention to the speech of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook). Although the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) said that the Treasurer gave us a very good account of what should be done by the High Commissioner’s Office, the principal point in the Treasurer’s speech seemed to me to be the fact that it serves in England to-day as an information bureau for wealthy tourists. The Treasurer said there were a number of Australians holiday-making in England when the war was on, and afterwards, and that they found it very convenient to go to Australia House to obtain information. I have no doubt that our wealthy tourist friends do find it convenient, but I do- not think that is the purpose for which the High Commissioner was appointed or Australia House built. The Treasurer also said that the Government are sending Home a gentleman named Percy Hunter to deal with the question of immigration. That appointment is another illustration of the policy of spoils to the victors. Percy Hunter has been the chief Nationalist organizer in New South Wales for some time; in fact, the arrangement entered into when Mr. Holman and Mr. Wade formed the Coalition Conscription Government in New South Wales was that Wade was to get the Agent-Generalship, Percy Hunter was to be appointed Chief Organizer, and Cohen was to get a Judgeship. The same Percy Hunter, who has been a very good organizer for the National party, is now being sent to England at our expense, allegedly to be employed there as Immigration Agent. I do not know whether he is fitted for that position, but I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that the High Commissioner should control immigration, and be responsible for the immigration policy at the other end. Although I listened carefully to the Treasurer’s speech, I did not hear him give a satisfactory answer to the question I raised in the House the other evening, when I asked what was the necessity to spend £10,000 on the trip of the Prime Minister and the right honorable gentleman to England, to the Peace Conference, and to various other places, if we are getting value for the money, we are spending over there.
– That is surely ancient history.
– It is something that the people should be continually reminded of. The Prime Minister and Treasurer’s trip will never be recorded in history, because it is a matter of so little importance; but the spending of £10,000 in that way is a matter of national importance. The most noticeable thing I read of in connexion with the Treasurer’s trip was that he had drunk a cocktail while in America, “ and threatened to win the war with one hand and kneeling if he got another drink. The sum of £10,000 was spent on that trip, and £1,500 on Senator Pearce’s trip. I do not know what was spent on Mr. Watt’s trip, but I earnestly hope we shall hear something about that event tomorrow. Senator E. D. Millen is now on his way to Europe to attend a Conference, which, we are told, is not going to take place, and also to re-organize Australia House. If Australia House and the High Commissioner’s Office are to be reorganized, the work should be done by the High Commissioner. If the High Commissioner is doing the work for which he if paid, and if Australia House is serving the purpose for which it was erected, there is no occasion to send Ministers over there every twelve months. If it is necessary to send Ministers there every twelve months, there is no need to saddle the people of Australia with an expenditure of over £50,000 a year to keep Australia House going. I intend to vote for the reduction moved by the honorable member for Darwin ; but, as I should like to move for the total wiping out of two items prior to that, and cannot do so unless the honorable member’s motion is first withdrawn, I ask him to withdraw it temporarily, to enable me tosubmit an amendment.
– I ask leave to temporarily withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- There is an item of £300 for a publicity officer, being the salary for portion of the year only. I cannot see any necessity for paying a publicity officer to advertise the activities of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his Department. The right honorable gentleman is his own best publicity officer. What the other duties of the officer are I do not know, but the expenditure seems to me to be entirely unnecessary. I am not certain whether the officer is employed only at election time or permanently. In any case, I move -
That the item, “Publicity Officer, £300,” be omitted from division 13.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I see an item of £4,000 for “ relief of loyalist workers in connexion with the maritime strike.” I have never give any assistance or countenance to so-called loyalists. I would call them by another name if the Standing Orders permitted me to do so. I shall never give them any quarter, and I do not intend to assist the Government to spend even £1 of the people’s money on these loyalists, because such expenditure is an injustice to the men who were engaged in that industrial upheaval, and also the people generally. I shall always be opposed to any help being given to loyalists in any shape or form. I therefore move -
That the item, “ Relief of Loyalist Workers, Maritime Strike, £4,000,” be omitted from division 13.
.- I also am opposed to voting any sum for the inculcation of the principles of nonunionism in the minds of the people of this country. This item relates to a period when trade unionism in Australia was jeopardized by the actions of the present Government. We know perfectly well that the Government formed “ scab “ organizations all over Australia for the purpose of breaking up trade unionism - a futile endeavour as those who are acquainted with unionism in Australia must know - and it was done at the expense principally of unionists, because, after all, they are the people who bear the main burden of taxation. The present Government have made repeated attempts to smash unionism at the behest of the employers’ organizations. No matter how much money it may spend, no Government has the slightest hope of accomplishing that aim.
– Nobody desires to do that.
– The present Government have tried very hard indeed. They formed “ scab “ organizations in Victoria, and individual members of the Ministry travelled the country in advocacy of them. Similar bodies were brought into existence in South Australia, Western Australia, and New South Wales, and were heavily subsidized by the Commonwealth and State Governments. In New South Wales over £1,000,000 was spent by the Nationalist Government at the behest of the employers in endeavouring to smash trade unionism. Now the Committee is asked to agree to an item of £4,000 for the relief of “ loyalists.” Notwithstanding all the money spent by the present Commonwealth Government and other Nationalist Governments, and all the efforts which have been made by such Governments, both individually and collectively, trade unionism is probably in a stronger position to-day than ever before in its history. I object to any public money being spent on men who would “ scab “ on their fellow-workers by taking the jobs of men who were fighting for principles, and I protest against any Government spending money which should be spent by the employing class, if it is to be spent at all. The Committee should reject this item, because it is a blow directed at trade unionism generally.
.- I also oppose this item. The word “ loyalist,” used as it is here, is alone sufficient to incite one to opposition. To whom were the men loyal? Certainly not to their own class, and therefore not to their own interests. That is proved by. the fact that we hear of complaints by them that they have been pushed into the background by the very Government who made use of them. I hope that those honorable members who at one time were members of the Labour party will show where they stand in regard to unionism. Will they support this amendment, or have they so far fallen away from the principles which, as prominent trade unionists they held at one time, that they will vote for a financial grant to help individuals who proved false to their . own class ?
– Last year a grant of £33,000 was made for the relief of distress caused by the maritime strike.
– Do not forget that you “ gagged “ the Estimates through last year.
– The honorable member did not object to that item being “gagged” through.
– How could we help it?
– That was an item of £33,000 granted for the relief of families of unionist workers - the actual unionist strikers.
– That is too thin.
– It may be thin, but it is the truth; that is. all. This is an item of £4,000 by way of payment to these men, because they were dispossessed of their work as the outcome of an arrangement by which they all left the wharfs in order that the unionists might take their places.
.- To my mind, the payment of an item of this kind amounts to deliberate dishonesty. In their efforts to get men to fill the places of the unionists, and to break down trade unionism, the Government had to offer something a long way in advance of the claims which the unionists themselves had made before going out on strike. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph
Cook) now says that, because these individuals had to leave the wharfs, they are to be compensated. Thank God at any rate, that there are not sufficient men of this type in Australia to adequately take the place of striking trade unionists.
– This is a matter which, if I were in the honorable member’s place, I would leave severely alone.
– I am not prepared to leave it alone, and would not be even if it had to do with the disbursement of £1, let alone £4,000. I want no advice from the Treasurer. A recommendation coming from him has no interest for me or for the movement which I represent. I desire to register my protest against this proposal to make the taxpayers at large compensate beings who would have taken the. bread and butter out of the mouths of the wives and little ones of true unionists.
.- I have a fairly lively recollection of the history of this matter, and I think that this item of £4,000 ought to be paid out of the funds of the National party.
– Which really is the Employers Federation ?
– I remember how, on the steps of this very House, I and other Labour members met hundreds of these men. Some of them actually sought interviews with Labour representatives to put to them the justice of their claim. They held that they had been persuaded by the Government, upon certain promises, to undertake work on the wharfs. But, they said that, as soon as the Government found the position impracticable, and their stand untenable, they disregarded their undertakings. Thus, these so-called loyalists found themselves left in the lurch, penniless, and dependent upon charity. I was actually interviewed, together with others, on the steps of this House, by numbers of men who pathetically put their position to me. I pointed out, as was only natural, that we of the Labour party could scarcely be expected to feel very warm sympathy for those who had - to use that expressive but somewhat vulgar term - “ scabbed “ on their comrades in that great industrial upheaval, when all the forces of the Commonwealth Government were employed to support their friends against the recognised members of labour unions. But there certainly was a measure of justice in their claim, and I cannot help recognising it. However, I see no reason now why the unions, having so long supported their unemployed unionist comrades - save for that small measure of assistance to which the Treasurer has alluded, and which the Labour party succeeded in wresting from the Government - should now be called upon, as members of the community generally, to support the friends of the Government. I maintain that the Government party ought to make compensation themselves. They should look after their own friends, and pay them out of their own pockets, and not place the burden upon the taxpayers.
Question - That the item “ Relief of loyalist workers, £4,000,” be struck out, - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I desire to call attention to the item, “ Contribution to cost of Secretariat - League of Nations, £15,000.” I suppose honorable members will be surprised at my action in moving that this item be deleted. But whilst I agree with the ideal of a League of Nations, I cannot stand for the League as it exists today. If we had a League of Nations in the true sense of the term, and if it were taking effective steps to prevent future wars, to bring . about a reduction of armaments, or to abolish militarism and conscription in the different countries of the world, I should be found supporting it. But although we have fought the war which was to end wars, although we have a League of Nations which was intended to maintain peace in the true sense of the word, we find that the world to-day is in a greater state of turmoil than it ever was before. There are more wars raging to-day than were ever previously waged in the world’s history. I notice from the cables in the daily newspapers that at a recent meeting of the League of Nations the fact was disclosed that it did not possess sufficient money with which to pay its cigar bill.
– It was a pretty tall bill, too.
– Yes. It amounted to £3,200, I think. Believing, as I do, that the League is an ineffective instrument for the maintenance of peace amongst the nations, I object to the expenditure, and move -
That the item, “ Contribution to cost of Secretariat, League of Nations, £15,000,” be omitted.
.- I should like the Treasurer to tell us whether we are not committed to this amount. Is this the item to which the honorable member, for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) referred when he said that we would be posted as defaulters unless we paid it?
– This is the amount, and it has been paid.
– We had a right to pay it. I am sure the honorable member for
Calare (Mr. Lavelle) will admit that, having regard to the fact that we have entered the League of Nations.
– I object to useless expenditure, irrespective of whether the amount has been paid or not.
– Seeing that we joined the League, we have a right to give proper notice before withdrawing from it.
Amendment (by Mr. Bell) proposed -
That the proposed vote, “ High Commissioner’s Office, £53,974,” be reduced by £8,851.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- It will be noticed that the expenditure last year for “ stationery, travelling, and incidental expenses,” in connexion with the High Commissioner’s Office was £4,500. This year it is anticipated that it will be £5,000. I think that we might well reduce that item by £500. Then the total proposed vote upon the High Commissioner’s Office is altogether beyond what it shouldbe. We ought, therefore, to emphasize the fact that we desire economy to be exercised. Last year the upkeep for Australia House amounted to £9,000. I think that that amount may well be reduced by £4,000. Consequently I move -
That the item, “Stationery, travelling and incidental expenses, £4,500,” be reduced by £.500, and that the item, “ Upkeep of Australia House, £9,000,” be reduced by £4,000.
– I hope the Committee will not agree to this amendment. I have already given details of expenditure in connexion with the High Commissioner’s Office. We cannot help the cost of services rising. That is rendered inevitable by the increase in the cost of commodities.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I desire to say that if the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) had moved to reduce the vote for the High Commissioner’s Office by £500 I should have supported him; but I am not going to follow any honorable member who makes a proposal of the kind, and does not reasonably show from which items the money should be deducted. But I rose mainly to say that, personally, I am very dissatisfied with the information, or rather the absence of information, about the expenditure at Australia House. With the kindliest intentions, I say that, in regard to this expenditure, we have a special claim to know the fullest details. . As to the expenditure in any or every part of Australia, we can get the necessary information from the representatives of the States affected; but that, of course, is not so in the case of expenditure in London; and, therefore, the Government ought to give us every detail of the latter. It is well known to be the intention of the Government to re-organize the London Office, and I hope that my suggestion will be borne in mind.
Proposed vote agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201019_reps_8_94/>.