8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had received a return to the writ issued for the election of a member to serve in the House of Representatives for the electoral division of Kalgoorlie, in the place of the Hon. Hugh Mahon, indorsed with a certificate of the election of George James Foley, Esq.
Mr. FOLEY made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Air Navigation Bill.
Aliens Registration Bill.
Appropriation Bill 1920-21.
Commonwealth Bank Bill.
Comonwealth Electoral (War-time)Re peal
Industrial Peace Bill (No. 2).
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill.
Land Tax Bill.
River Murray Waters Bill.
Sugar Purchase Bill (No. 2).
War Precautions Act Repeal Bill.
Navigation Bill (which had been reserved for the signification of his Majesty’s pleasure).
– Honorable members will recollect that at the last sitting of the House I intimated that Mr. Thomas Woollard, the Clerk-Assistant, proposed to retire from the service of the House on his attaining the statutory age. That gentleman relinquished his position on the 31st of last month, and consequent on his retirement I made the necessary recommendation for the following changes to be made in regard to the officers in attendance in the Chamber: -
Mr. Clapin to be Clerk Assistant.
Mr. Hubert to be Second ClerkAssistant.
Mr. McGregor, who some time ago resumed duty after serving as an officer of the Australian Imperial Force, to be SerjeantatArms and Clerk of Committees.
These, and other changes, will not add to the total number of officers, but have rendered possible a very necessary rearrangement of duties. When the House of Representatives first met there was a Second Clerk-Assistant, but, later, on the promotion of the occupant of that office, Mr. Speaker Holder said he did not propose at that time to fill the position of Second Clerk-Assistant, as he desired to try if the work could be efficiently performed with only two Clerks. In view of the fact that the sessions of the House of Representatives are very much longer, and the work of the Department much greater than it was anticipated at the inauguration of Federation would be the case, I think the time has now arrived for the appointment of a Second ClerkAssistant to be again made. The present Clerk and the Clerk-Assistant are of the same age, and, in the event of their retiring at the same time, the House would be at a disadvantage if an officer who had had no previous experience at the table were to be appointed Clerk of the House. I may add that in the State of New South Wales there is a Second Clerk- Assistant in the Legislative Assembly.
Other officers of the staff have also been recommended for promotion as a result of these changes, and Mr. Frank Clifton Green, Clerk-Assistant; and Serjeant-at Arms of the House of Assembly, Tasmania, has been appointed Clerk of the Papers and Reading Clerk. Several of the applications for this position were from officers of other Departments who possess high qualifications and have distinguished military records; but, after exhaustive consideration, the choice fell on Mr. Green, who, in addition to his other qualifications and good military record -including the award of the Military Cross - has the great advantage of experience as an officerof Parliament. Honorable members will be interested to know that we have now on the staff of the House ex-officers of the Parliaments of Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, a combination which is of obvious benefit in dealing with the work of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
In reference to the financial aspect of the alterations made, I may state that, excluding the salary of an officer formerly paid under the non-clerical branch, the annual cost of the clerical staff will be ?4,310, as against the annual rate of ?4,370 at the initiation of the Parliament - including a salary of ?1,200 then paid to the Clerk by the Victorian Parliament - showing that the cost of the salaries of out clerical officers is now ?60 per annum less than it was twenty years ago. The present is only the second occasion on which promotions have been made in the staff, and the total amount of the increases in salaries is more than counterbalanced by the fact that, notwithstanding the great increase in the work of the Department, our small clerical staff is actually one less in number than when it started.
I have just learned that my recommendations would be given effect to.
. -(By leave) - I have a statement to make concerning the business to be submitted to Parliament. It is the intention of the Government to ask honorable members to confine’ their attention, during the remainder of the session, to the consideration of the Tariff; and, though circumstances beyond our control, and, indeed, beyond that of the Parliament, may compel the consideration of other matters, Ministers do not now propose to submit any new measures.
As honorable members are aware, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), as the representative of Australia, attended at Geneva the first assembly of the League of Nations, and although it was sought to raise the question of mandates, the assembly was induced by him - he having the support of the representatives of Great Britain - to refrain from doing so. The formal mandate to Australia has now been issued, and the Civil
Administration is either now proclaimed or is in course of being proclaimed. The Proclamation has been submitted to His Excellency for signature. There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer. The Government of Great Britain has issuedto the Prime Ministers of the various Overseas Dominions an invitation to attend a Conference to be held in London in June next. I intend to-morrow to make a statement in regard to the questions to be discussed there, in order that the House may have the fullest opportunity of expressing its opinion on these and all matters’ incidental to the Conference.
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER presented a petition from certain electors praying for the abolition or reduction of Tariff taxes that press heavily on production.
Petition received and read.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Economies Royal Commission - Final Report of the Royal Commission appointed to consider and report upon Public Expenditure of the Commonwealth of Australia, with a view to effecting economies; together with statements by the Government and by the Minister for Defence.
Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Hungary, together with Protocol and Declaration, signed at Trianon, 4th June, 1920 (with map ) .
Treaty of Peace between the Allied Powers and Turkey, signed at Sevres, 10th August, 1920 (with map).
Taxation - Commonwealth and State Land and Income Taxes - Collection by one authority and uniform form of return - Report of Board of Inquiry; also Minority Report.
Ordered to be printed.
Air Navigation Act - Regulations - StatutoryRules 1921, No. 33.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act -
Awards and Orders mode by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and other documents in the following cases: -
Australian Postal Linesmen’s Union. (Dated 18th December, 1920.)
Commonwealth Legal Professional Officers’ Association. (Dated 17th December, 1920.)
Commonwealth Postmasters’ Association and the Australian Post and Telegraph Association. (Dated 27th November, 1920.)
Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association. (Dated 17th December, 1920.)
Line Inspectors’ Association, Commonwealth of Australia. (Dated 18th December, 1920.)
Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service. (Dated 17th December, 1920.)
Audit Act -
Transfers of amounts approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council - Financial year 1920-21 - Dated 20th January, 1921, 2nd March, 1921, and 16th March, 1921.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 30 and 49.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 259.
Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 99.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1920.
Customs Act -
Proclamation (dated 20th January, 1921) revoking Proclamation (dated 8th January, 1919), relating to the Exportation of Goods per parcels post.
Proclamation (dated 2nd December, 1920), revoking Proclamation (dated 14th January,. 1920), relating to the Exportation of Goods toGermany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria.
Proclamation (dated 16th February, 1921), revoking Proclamation (dated 23rd October, . 1914), relating to the Exportation of Wool.
Defence Act - Regulations amended: - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 239, 242, 250, 252, 253, 254, 255, 260, 267, 268, and Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 15, 16,24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 34, 35. 36, 40, 41, 44, 53, 54, 55, 59, 60, 61, and 62.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 269.
Distillation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 38.
Electoral Act (Commonwealth) and Electoral Acts (South Australia) - Regulations relating” to Joint Electoral Rolls in South Australia - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 32.
Electoral Act and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 261.
Entertainments Tax Assessment Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920. No. 218.
Excise Act - Regulation amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 37.
High Court Procedure Act - Rules ofCourt - StatutoryRules 1920, No. 162 - Rule re Sittings, dated 1st February, 1921.
Immigration Act - Return for 1920.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 258.
Industrial Peace Acts - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 264.
Land, Mining, Shares, and Shipping Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 251.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under at -
Branxholm, Tasmania - For Postal purposes.
Dee Why, New South Wales- For Postal purposes.
Fremantle, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Gordon, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Kalamunda, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Nedlands Park, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
West Guildford, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Applications for Relief - Statement showing Relief granted to Taxpayers, 16th February, 1918, to 12th September, 1920.
Naturalization Act - Return of number of Persons to whom Naturalization Certificates were granted during 1920.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 72, 73, 100. 101, 131, 145, 155, 156, 157, 163, 190, 210. 211, 219, 229, 230, 231, 232, 248, 249, and Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 1, 21, and 56.
Norfolk Island -
Ordinance of 1921, No. 1 - Executive Council.
Census Regulations 1.921.
Northern Territory -
Ordinances of 1920 -
No. 7 - Lunacy.
No. 10 - Taxation.
No. 11 - Examination of Engine-drivers.
Ordinances of 1921 -
No. 1 - Early Closing.
No. 2 - Affirmations.
Ordinances of 1920 -
No. 6 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 2) 1919-1920.
No. 7- Supply (No. 1) 1920-1921.
No. 9 - Census.
Patents Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 137.
Patents Act, Trade Marks Act. Designs Act. Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Act, and Treaty of Peace Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 61.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos.158. 166. 173. 181, 182, 191. 202, 212, 213, 225. 226. 227, 240. 244, 245. 246, 262. 265. and Statutory Rules 1921. Nos. 5, 6, 8, 9 18, 10. 20, 23, 42, 43, and 52.
Public Service Act - Appointments, Promotions, &c. -
G. Apperley, Postmaster-General’s Department.
J. G. Berry, Postmaster-General’s Department.
L.O. Brown, Prime Minister’s Department.
M, H. Tait, Postmaster-General’s Department.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 237, 238, 241, 263, 266, and Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 29, 57. and 58.
Railways Act - By-law No.19.
Seat of Government -
Ordinances of 1920 -
No. 2- Rates.
No. 3- Stock.
Ordinance of 1921 -
Service and Execution of Process Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 136.
Trading with the Enemy Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1921, No. 47.
Trading with the Enemy Act, Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act. and Treaties of Peace (Austria and Bulgaria) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 10..
Treaties of Peace (Austria and Bulgaria) Act - Regulations- Statutory Rules 1921. Nos. 45 and 63.
Treaty of Peace Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1921, No. 13.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 46.
War Gratuity Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 217.
War Precautions Act and Land, Mining, Shares, and Shipping Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 93. 95, and 172.
War Precautions Act Repeal Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 257, and Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 3 and 14.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under at -
Ashfield, New South Wales.
Auburn, New South Wales.
Banksia, New South Wales.
Bathurst, New South Wales.
Bowral, New South Wales.
Bur wood, New South Wales.
Carlton, New South Wales.
Chatswood, New South Wales (2).
Collie, Western Australia.
Coogee, New South Wales.
Corowa, New South Wales.
Cremorne, New South Wales.
Goulburn, New South Wales (2).
Granville, New South Wales.
Hamilton, New South Wales (4).
Kogarah, New South Wales.
Leichhardt, New South Wales.
Lismore, New South Wales (3).
Longueville, New South Wales.
Manly, New South Wales.
Mascot, New South Wales (2).
Milton, New South Wales.
Moss Vale, New South Wales.
Parramatta, New South Wales (3).
Penrith, New South Wales.
Port Kembla, New South Wales.
Stockton, New South Wales.
Toongabbie, New South Wales.
Waratah, New South Wales (4).
Waverley, New South Wales.
Weston, New South Wales.
Willoughby, New South Wales.
Woonona, New South Wales.
Woollahra, New South Wales (3).
Revocation and Partial Revocation of Noti fication of Acquisition of Land under at -
Islington. New South Wales (2).
Tighes Hill, New South Wales.
Waratah, New South Wales (3).
Weston, New South Wales (3).
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 256.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) (by leave) agreed to -
That unless otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at three o’clock on each Wednesday . afternoon, at half-past two o’clock on each Thursday afternoon, and at eleven o’clock on each Friday morning.
– (By leave). - I desire to inform the House that at a meeting of the Australian Country party held yesterday, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) was elected secretary, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) Deputy Leader, and myself Leader of the party.
– During the recess the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works furnished to His Excellency the Governor-General an interim report in connexion with its inquiry into the Kidman and Mayoh shipbuilding contract. In view of the very definite findings of the Committee, steps have been taken by the Government to recover from the contractors the amounts paid to them in respect of the said contract. I now lay the report on the table of the House, and move -
That the paperbe printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether any determination has been arrived at in regard to the request made to the Department to shorten the seventy days’ annual training now required of Senior Cadets?
– I would refer the honorable member toa statement made by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and published in the press, in which it was announced that the consideration of this matter was deferred pending the return of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) from England.
– In the Melbourne newspapers of the 11th and 12th ultimo, the Treasurer was reported to have said that he was as surprised as any one to hear that Mr. Fleming had joined the Country party, and that the honorable member had given no intimation of his intention so to do. I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he ever made any such statement?
– I believe that what purportedto be an interview with me was published in the newspapers about the time mentioned by the honorable member. All that I know of that interview is that a reporter met me on the steps of the Treasury as I was leaving for home and plied me with the usual questions. I parried those as best I could, and I remember my last words to the reporter were - “ I have nothing whatever to say about Mr. Fleming’s retirement.” The rest is due to a very enterprising reporter.
– Seeing that theGovernment is represented on the Australian Wheat Board,i desire to know whether it is a fact that over 1,000,000 bushels of wheat have been sold to Germany at7s. 9d., or 7s. 6d. f.o.b., while the people of Australia are paying 9s., and, for fowl feed, 10s. 6d. per bushel?
– I am unable to supply the information for which the honorable gentleman asks. It is true that the Commonwealth is represented on the Wheat Board, but . my honorable colleague, Senator Russell, not myself, attends that Board. So far as I know, no wheat has been sold to Germany f.o.b. - it has been sold c.i.f.
– But that will work out at 7s. 6d. f.o.b.
– I shall tell the honorable member all I know, though it is not very much. Because freights have varied, and are varying, very considerably, and as the whole of the wheat has not been shipped, but as, I understand, only a comparatively small portion has been despatched, it is impossible to say what the f.o.b. equivalent of the c.i.f. price is of the wheat sold to Germany. But I may remind the honorable member of a statement I made, which appeared on Saturday, showing that the average price that this wheat has been sold at is more than the price which the people of this country have been asked to pay.
.- I beg to present the interim report from the Committee of Public Accounts on the transactions of the War Service Homes Commissioner with Mr. J. T. Caldwell. I move -
That the report be printed.
.- I should like to move an amendment, in view of what appears to be a desire to hide the evidence given at this inquiry. As the representative of Melbourne, I asked for copies of the evidence, and this I did at the request of no fewer than three legal firms in Melbourne. However, the Chairman of the Committee, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), refused to comply with my wishes; and I now urge on the House that, in the interests of justice, this evidence should be printed so that it may be available in case any prosecutions should arise. I must say I was astonished at the refusal of the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee to supply me with the evidence.
– I could not give the evidence to the honorable member, because it belongs to the Parliament. The evidence will be laid on the table of the House as soon as it is available. The honorable member ought to be sure of his facts before he makes an accusation against the Committee.
– The honorable member should not get out of temper simply because he has been overwhelmed in another matter. This evidence was given in public, and, as a member of the House, I maintain that I am entitled to see it.
– The whole of the papers will be laid on the table. I am only carrying out the instructions of the Committee.
– I have no objection to the evidence being printed.
Amendment (by Dr. Maloney) agreed to -
That after the word “ report,” the words “ and evidence “ be inserted.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
– Is it correct, as reported in the press, that Admiral Grant, who attended the recent Naval Conference at Singapore, reported, through his secretary, to the Naval Board, instead of . to the Minister for Defence? Is it a fact that this report was overhauled by the Board before the Minister saw it - that the Board superseded a Minster of the Crown ?
– So far as I know, that press report is not correct.
– In view of the result of the recent Conference held in England concerning the adjustment of double income-tax payment, I desire to know whether the Treasurer proposes to introduce the legislation necessary to carry out the conclusions then arrived at ? The British Government has already done its part, and I wish to know whether we are prepared to do our part in order to give the necessary relief ?
– Naturally, legislation of that kind will form part of the financial proposals for next year. There can be no doubt as to what these proposals will be; so far as I can see at present, they will be to fall in with the arrangement which has been made.
– That means legislation.
– The legislation will be submitted as part of our financial ° proposals next year.
– Is it a fact that the Acting Minister for Repatriation appointed a committee to inquire as to applications made by returned soldiers for the purchase of homes already erected; and, if so, has that committee reported, and what does the honorable gentleman intend to do in the matter?
– It is a fact that a special tribunal was appointed on the representations of certain honorable members of this House. It is also a fact that an interim report has been received, and definite action taken on it by the Government. That action has been publicly announced.
Mr. GREGORY presented the report of the Public Works Committee, together with the minutes of evidence, relating to the shipbuilding contract of Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh.
Ordered to be printed.
– The Governments having weathered all the storms of attack lately, will the Prime Minister kindly inform us how he made the Age climb down?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson). Order ! That is not a proper question to put to the Prime Minister.
– Is the Prime Minister now prepared to lay on the table of the House the .contract made between the Imperial Government and the Zinc Producers Association of Australia for the. sale of zinc concentrates? The Prime Minister will’ recollect that I asked several times, when the House was last in session, for that document to be tabled. I should like to know whether there is any reason why it should not be made public now?
– If the honorable member is iu possession of information to the effect that that contract has now been settled, I can only say that no such information has reached me. I will place myself in communication with the other party, or, if necessary, with the British Government^ in order to ascertain if the matter has been settled, and, if so, a copy of the contract will be laid upon the table. I have had no information since I last had the honour of replying to the honorable member upon the subject.
– In view of the fact that an arrangement ‘has been made between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Bank to prevent competition between the State and Federal Savings Banks in that State, will the Treasurer endeavour to arrange a conference between the Commonwealth Bank and the State Savings Bank in South Australia, with the view to arriving at a similar arrangement in that State, and thus prevent a continuation of the waste of money that is now taking place?
– We do not want that arrangement.
– I think it would be an excellent thing if what was done in Queensland by my predecessor could be done in South Australia also.
– It is not likely to be.
– I am afraid the honorable member has not made himself acquainted with the advantageous characterof the bargain as it affects the States, or he would not be so much opposed to it. I invite him to look into the details of that arrangement. If he does so he will see that the States have everything to gain and nothing to lose by it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation if he has any objection to laying upon the table the report of Mr. Stinson in regard to War Service Homes and the evidence taken in connexion with his inquiry?
– The operations of the tribunal of which Mr. Stinson is chairman are not yet concluded. The tribunal was asked to deal with very urgent cases, and did so. An interim report has been submitted. When the inquiry is completed the whole of the information, if desired, can be laid upon the table.
– In view of the fact that the Nairana has arrived to take up work in connexion with the Bass Straits mail service, can the Postmaster-General say how long the present contract has to run?
– I will furnish the honorable member with a reply.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government have come to any decision in regard to. filling the office of High Commissioner for Australia in London, and, if so, who is the proposed appointee?
– We have come to a decision,but it is that kind of decision which does, not necessarily involve a satisfactory answer to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question.
Dismissals from Cockatoo Dockyard: Shipbuilding.
– I have received from the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) an intimation that he proposes to move the adjournment of the House, in order to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The wholesale dismissals of workmen from the Naval Dockyards, Cockatoo Island, and matters in connexion with the administration of the dockyards and shipbuilding generally. ‘ ‘
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I regret the necessity for having to move a motion of this description to-day, especially upon a matter affectingthe welfare of so large a number of Australian residents. The action of the Government, or the Naval Board, or whoever was responsible for the sudden dismissal of a very large number of men from their employment at Cockatoo Dockyard, came as a shock, not only to representatives of the Labour party in this House, but also to many honorable members who are sitting behind the Government. This action seems to have been taken in the most heartless and ill-considered manner possible. . The employees at Cockatoo were engaged upon work which was expected to continue for a lengthy period, but, without a word of warning, a notice was sent to the Dockyard from the Naval Board that nearly 2,000 men were to be discharged. I telegraphed to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), who. I understood, was in charge of Naval affairs and controlling the Dockyard authorities, and I received a reply, not from the Minister, but from an official, which, without intimating that the Department was prepared to give any explanation, referred me to the Treasury. As a parliamentary representative, I protest strongly against such treatment. My wire to the Minister warranted the courtesy of a reply, if not from him, at least, in his absence, from the Department. But the officials merely intimated to me that my communicationhad been referred toanother set of officials in another
Department. However, after a good deal of sparring in connexion with the matter, we found that, although the Minister for the Navy was not prepared to make ‘any explanation ‘to me - his silence was that of the grave - the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) jumped into the arena and said that the explanation for the dismissals lay in the fact that the whole of the money voted for new naval construction had been exhausted. I want to point out, in the first place, that it could not have been a sudden discovery that all the money for new naval construction hal been exhausted. Every month a statement is f forwarded to ‘ the Naval Board showing exactly what work has been done in the various naval yards - Cockatoo Island. Garden Island, and elsewhere-rand in that way the Minister for the Navy ought to have known what his officials clearly must hE ve known, namely, the amount of money which had been expended out of any particular vote. In fact, for months past the Department must have been aware of the position of the various funds. Yet ii » warning was given +,o the men. At almost a moment’s notice they were suddenly thrown out on the Street. In my opinion, they were at least deserving of some notice of the intention of the Government.
As the dismissals were not confined to men engaged in. new naval construction work, but embraced all classes of workers, the only case put up on behalf of the Crown, namely, the contention of the Treasurer as to the lack of funds, must fall to the ground. Hundreds of men pre discharged who were engaged upon merchant ship construction, upon ordinary maintenance work, and upon repair work generally, but according to the Treasurer ample funds were available for this class of work.
– lj there anything novel in that?
– There is something novel in it to me, although possibly it might not be novel foi honorable members opposite to throw men out of work in tins heartless fashion.
– Does not the honorable member know that men are always coming and going at the dockyards ?
– Yes, men engaged upon casual work, but some of -the men of whom I am speaking have not been engaged upon casual work. My complaint is that men who have been employed at Cockatoo Island for thirty or forty yeans, who were engaged, not upon new naval construction, but in assisting in the preparatory work for the construction of the projected 12,500 tons merchant ships, have been thrown out of work in such a heartless fashion. It could not have been for lack of funds, because the Treasurer admitted to the representatives of the men in Sydney that ample funds were available for the purpose of proceeding with the work of merchant ship construction. I also complain on another ground. At Cockatoo Island, as is the case with all dockyards where large numbers of men are employed, there is always liability to accidents, and a number of men have met with accidents while employed there. They were entitled under the State and Commonwealth laws to certain financial compensation - in this regard their legal position was undoubted - but they compromised with the Government, and, instead of receiving monetary compensation for their injuries, accepted a lighter form of occupation in the yard with the promise of permanency. These men have also been thrown out of work in a ruthless fashion, although, so far as the industrial turmoil outside is concerned, they are on the scrap-heap, because, owing to -the injuries they have received, they are utterly unfitted to” follow their occupations in competition with others. Therefore, the Government are not only acting heartlessly, but are also breaking a moral agreement they entered into with these men. Had the men gone to the Courts upon their legal rights they would have been granted monetary compensation for loss of limbs or other injuries sustained, but, believing that the Government would act in an honorable way, they compromised with them, and now they find themtelves thrown out of work. I can supply ti e Minister with the names of very many men who hi,re been affected in this way.
In view of the fact that the Treasurer has told us that ample funds are available for new merchant ship construction,’ I would like to point -out that there are thousands of tons of material - frames, plates, angle bars, &<. - lying at Cockatoo
Island in readiness for merchant ship construction. There is a vast amount of preparatory work to he undertaken in handling that material, so that when the Commonwealth are prepared to proceed with shipbuilding it will all be ready to go right into its place. Eventually this would lead to economy. Men could be employed economically and well on that class of work, and, on the Minister’s own statement, ample funds are available therefor. Why, then, does not the Minister make provision to employ men at that particular work ? There is another very serious aspect of the matter. After years of experience on the island, an expert shipbuilding staff has been built up. Previously, Australia had been handicapped by lack of men with the necessary training and experience to make the industry successful; but as an outcome of shipbuilding activities during the war years, we have now a trained staff, together with expert workmen. However, the action of the Government means that these experts will be scattered. Some of the very best men on the’ island, in regard to whom no action has been taken by the Government to retain their services, will, be snapped up by private firms and lost altogether . to the Commonwealth industry.
The Government suddenly stepped in and stopped work on the Adelaide. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) stated in Sydney that he would not make money available to proceed with work on that vessel. Why will he not do so? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is reported to have stated in Sydney, according to the Evening News of the 11th March last, that the Treasurer might make a Treasurer’s advance against the vote that Parliament would be asked to make for shipbuilding. Thus, it is explained, the Treasurer had power, if he liked to make funds available, to permit the work to proceed on the Adelaide; and the men need not have been discharged. The Treasurer told a deputation of the men in Sydney that he did . not intend to make any money available for further work upon the Adelaide. What is he going to do with the Adelaide? Does he propose to leave her io lie and rot in Sydney Harbor?
– No; absurd !
– Then what does the Treasurer propose to do with her? She is. lying there as a spectacle for the people of Sydney.
– Nothing has been altered. She has been lying there for two years.
– Why ? When her keel was laid, in 1917, she was launched within eight months. That period compares favorably, in respect of similar work, with the work of any naval shipbuilding yard in the Empire. The laying down of the keel and the launching of the hull within eight months implies very rapid work. For those engaged upon this new industry in Australia to be able to compete so well with the Old Country, and create an actual record, speaks volumes for the efficiency of the men at Cockatoo Island. However, after the hull had been launched, she was left tied up to one of the wharfs. By the instruction of the Naval Board the whole of the activities on the Adelaide were stopped. The purpose was a very good one, I am bound to admit. At that period the whole of our transports were returning with troops, :at the conclusion of the war. These craft had to be refitted and handed over to the original owners;, they were urgently wanted for oversea and Inter-State commerce. The whole of the men available at Cockatoo Island were therefore put on to the task of reconditioning. The outcome of all this was, however, that for about nine months only three men wore actually employed on the Adelaide. She remained for about eighteen months with practically no work whatever being carried out upon her. _
– What about lack of requisite machinery?
– There was “tons” of work which could have been proceeded with on the Adelaide. The administration, no doubt, had acted rightly - and I do not complain - in taking the men off and placing them on the reconditioning of transports. But to blame the men for the delay in the construction of the Adelaide, in view of the facts known, is so much nonsense
– Is it a fact that there were putty bolts in the Adelaide^
– No;, that is another story, which I propose to tell on another occasion. The allegation does not apply to the Adelaide. For two years the
Adelaide lay untouched. That is the reason for the delay in her completion. As work on the transports was ending, the responsible official of the Naval Board gave instructions to the dockyard authority to proceed with the completion of the warship; and, as the men became available, they were put on to the Adelaide, so that there would be no dismissals or dislocation of the highlytrained staff. Suddenly, however, came the word to stop. From whom, or whence, or why, I do not know; but work ceased. It was. necessary to proceed with it ; it is necessary to-day. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said money could be made available. I accept his word. The Treasurer can do as the Prime Minister has suggested. Why does he not make money available from the source indicated? The warship is lying unfinished in the harbor. She is needed as a fully equipped and commissioned unit. We never know bow soon we may want that vessel; and notwithstanding all the sneers and hints that she is already obsolete, it will be found that she is one of the most modernand up-to-date vessels of her class afloat to-day.
– With respect to the honorable member’s quotation of remarks alleged to have been made by myself, I do not know whether he makes a point of them; but I am quite sure that I never made them. I do not know that quotation is very relevant. I do not think it matters much.
– What does not matter ?
– I am sure that I never said anything in the remotest degree like it.
– I did not say that the Prime Minister said what the Sydney Evening News reported him to have said. I stated that he was so reported. The Treasurer could, as a matter of fact, make money available from his Advance Account. Will the Prime Minister deny that?
– I do not deny it. Whatever Parliament desires can be done. The only limitation is in respect to finance.
– The Government have the power to do what is necessary. We are told that the funds for new naval construction have been exhausted, and that, therefore, work on the Adelaide has been stopped; yet the Governmentare going on with the Moonbah; and every honorable member knows that the money is being provided out of the Treasurer’s Advance. In the same way, pending a parliamentary vote, money could be made available for the completion of the Adelaide. Therefore, it was unnecessary to discharge the men who have been discharged, and the Minister responsible for their dismissal should explain his action. The Treasurer admits that money could be made available, and the Minister for the Navy will not deny that the Adelaide is needed, and will be, when constructed, a good, up-to-date vessel. Why, then, have men been discharged before he? completion if it is not that Ministers desire to create an army of unemployed? I should be sorry to think that; but the facts are forcing me to that opinion.
I wish now to say a few words about the keep-it-dark, secret inquiry at Cockatoo.
– Rubbish !
– It is notrubbish . I wish to know all about it, and the people of Australia will wish to know all about it. A Board of Inquiry was suddenly appointed to investigate the serious allegations concerning the Cockatoo and Garden Island establishments. Rumour says that thousands of pounds worth of material have gone astray.
– Hundredsof thousands of pounds worth.
– It has been said, too, that private companies were charging against the Adelaide and other warship? material and time put into their own work A Board of Inquiry was appointed secretly. We are supposed to know nothing about it. However, we f ound out about it, and, desiring to assist the Government in maintaining purity of administration, I suggested that a representative of the men should be present during the inquiry to help in the investigation. If anything wrong hasbeen happening, no one should be in abetter position for helping to discover itt han the workmen concerned. But when I made the suggestion to the Chairman of the Board, a Mr. Deacon - another of these newly-appointed Naval gentlemen- I was curtly informed by him that the matter had nothing to do with me, or with the men, and that he was conducting the Inquiry. Thereupon I intimated to him rather forcibly that I should have something further to say about the matter.
– He should have remembered that it is your dock.
– It is a pity that I have not more say in the management of the dock. It would be better for the country if I had.
– Surely you, as an Australian, should have more to say thana man who has been here only a few months.
– This Mr. Deacon, whohas hardly been a dog-watch in the country, told me, who have been in Australia all my life, that the matter has nothing to do with me. But it has everything to do with me and with the people of Australia.
– What qualification has Mr.Deacon for conducting the inquiry?
– I have ascertained thathehas been in Australia only a few months, and has had no experience in the conduct of an inquiry such as this, and has never been on a Board like the present. As a matter of fact, the manner in which he is conducting the inquiry is a standing joke on Cockatoo Island. My suggestion was made to assist the investigation, and I was practically insulted by this imported “cockie” for making it. As an Australian, I object to this, as any other Australian would.
Extension of time granted.
Serious allegations must have been made to Ministers to cause them to appoint the Board. Will they not tell us what the charges were, and who made them? We wish to know more about the matter. We wish to know, also, why the Board refused to allow a representative ofthe men to assist them in clearing up things, and in showing whether there is oris not anything wrong. If there is anything wrong, the person responsible should pay the penalty, and in the public interest the matters should be cleared up. They can be cleared up only by an open inquiry, not by keeping things dark. As representing the workmen, I say, clearly anddefinitely, “ We have nothing to be afraid of, and welcome an inquiry. We are prepared to do everything in our power to assist the Government in clearing up matters.”
– I represent more of the men at the Dock than the honorable member does.
– If the right honorable gentleman stands for Parramatta again, not many of them will vote for him. That may be one of the reasons why he is going to take the High Commissionership. Smith’s Weekly is a newspaper that circulates throughout Australia, and in its issue of 2nd April it publishes a serious statement. If there is nothing in this statement, let us know. If there is nothing wrong, what is there to be afraid of ? But if anything is wrong, let the person who is responsible bear the blame. Under a big-type caption - “ What is wrong at Cockatoo?” there appears this statement -
Tracked to Jervis Bay.
Material belonging to the dock has been traced to Jervis Bay. As it could scarcely have been conveyed there by workmen, there is every reason to believe that one of His Majesty’s Australian ships was employed to transport it to the southern port.
That is a serious statement, which should not be allowed to go unchallenged -
At any rate, some of it was recovered from private houses in and round the district, includingNowra.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) might listen to that. I do not say that the statement is true - because I do not know whether it is true or not - but in the interest of the purity of administration it should be clearedup. A lot of the work at Jervis Bay is under the control of the Naval Works Branch of the Department of the Minister for Works and Railways, and this is most significant: The gentleman holding the highest position in that branch in New South Wales - out of consideration for his family I do not wish to mention his name, and I do not know if he is still in the office - was prosecuted, and, on 1st February last, was committed for trial, on the serious charge of stealing material from Cockatoo Island. Nothing further was heard of the case until, after making inquiries. I learned that, at the instance of the Common wealth authorities, the prosecution had been stopped.
– Does the honorable member say that after the man was committed for trial the Commonwealth authorities stopped the prosecution?
– It is not impossible, because they could enter a nolle prosequi.
– That is so, and a nolle prosequi was filed at the instance of the Commonwealth authorities. That is the statement 1 make, and it was published in the Daily Telegraph of Sydney. This man held one of the highest positions in the Naval Works Department inNew South Wales. Some explanation is needed of the stoppage of the prosecution of the serious charge against him. I have no desire to persecute any one, but if this man is innocent, let the people know it, and do not allow him to remain under the stigma of having been committed for trial upon a serious charge.
– A number of poor men accused of paltry offences were tried and convicted.
– I should mention that it is freely stated that the official to whom I have referred is related to a very prominent member of the Naval Board.
– That is a serious allegation to make.
– It is true. It is stated that there is a relationship existing between this man and a prominent member of the Naval Board. That is the statement I stand to. Let honorable members contrast the action of the Government in dealing with this man with their action in the case of ordinary men working on the Island, who may pick up a piece of scrap which they may consider handy for some purpose. It may not be worth a penny, but the man is immediately grabbed by the policeman at the gate and placed under arrest, is haled before a Court, and dealt with. At the very time that the official to whom I have referred was committed for trial, and at the very same Court, other men were charged, dealt with, and fined. One man who, I hasten to say, was not a workman but a foreman civil engineer, was fined £15, whilst in the case of the “boss cockie” and head of the lot, the prosecution is stopped. The Government may have a good explanation to offer, but if so I am anxious to hear it in order that I may do no injustice to this man.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall leavemy statement at that. I trust that theGovernment will take immediate steps to see that all these matters are cleared up in the interests of the purity of administration of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seathas succeeded in making a case that isjust about complete for shutting the whole dockyard up until we can begin again under better conditions. If justification for closing up Cockatoo Island docks could be given we have had it to-day from the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). There is nothing right at the docks,and everything is wrong. The officersare incompetentand dishonest, and all sorts of things are going on that shouldnot be going on. If the honorable member’s statements are correct, the best thing we can do is to suspend operations until the whole matter is cleared up.
– What about the dismissed men and their wives andfamilies ?
– I shall notmiss that. I am the culprit in this matter. Let there be no mistake aboutthat. Moreover, I am as interested in the docks as is the honorable member for Dalley, as there are many of my constituents working at the docks. All that I have to say with regard to the latest statements of the honorable member, is that I have just heard of them for the first time.I did hear that there were certain irregularities alleged over there, and the moment those things came to the ears of the Government a departmental inquiry, and not a purely naval inquiry, was set going. We were asked at the Treasury to nominate a competent accountant who would, be capable of investigating these matters. The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) selected a man, the Treasurer selected another, and the Naval Board selected a third, and those three men have been making a preliminaryinquiry. Honorable members may rest assured that these matters will be sifted to the bottom. If there have beendishonest practices at the dock, they mustbe stopped at once.
– The right honorable gentleman is not going the rightway about it. Why not have an inquiry inthe open light of day ?
– It may be in the open light of day. .
– That is what we want.
– We shall first see what this preliminary skirmish of ours suggests. We have so far had only innuendoes in the the newspapers, alleged statements, and rumours. That is all that the honorable member has given us to-day. He tells us that rumour says this and the other thing.
– Rumour is sometimes right.
– Very likely; butuntil we have something more we cannot proceed. We cannot investigate rumours by Royal Commission. The fullest and most searching inquiries will bemade into all these things. Honorable members mayrest assured that nothing will be left undone to trace home any wrong-doing, and to visit it with the proper consequences.
– May I ask the right honorable member what was the nature of the irregularities that led to the preliminary investigation ?
– I am afraid I shallhave to leave that to the Minister dealing with shipbuilding. I know but little about it, and he, no doubt, will be able to tell us more on that side of the question.
– Then why is the right honorable gentleman” butting in”?
– Because of the main point of the indictment of the honorable member for Dalley. He wants to knowwhy the money was stopped, and why men were discharged from the island. As I remember the circumstances, I received a request from the Navy Department for £120,000 additional to the estimate that was passed by this Parliament. I asked for some explanation of the request, and Iwas told that the money had run out for work on the Adelaide and the Moonbah. Honorable members will recollect that each year for some years past, there has appeared on the Estimates an item of £30,000 for new construction. That vote is supposed to last for the year. Honorable members will please note the factthat the money comes from revenue and not from loan. I found when I came to investigate the matter, that at thevery moment at which this request for £120,000 was being made to me, my Department had a credit to the vote on its books of £75,000. What happens is this: When we get a yearly vote like that to which I have referred, we issue quarterly warrants making available a fourth of the total sum at the beginning of each quarter. I found that, up to the end of February, during only eight months of the financial year, every penny of the year’s vote had been spent.
– Without authority.
– Not every penny without authority, but every penny in excess of three-fourths of the total vote made available.
– If money is made available only every quarter, how could they expend a quarter’s vote beforehand ?
– As I understand the matter, this is what occurred. Honorable members will recollect that a great deal of repair work was being carried on at the dock in the reconditioning of transports and work of that character. The volume of that work had fallen off since the troops have returned, and the transports are done with. There was, therefore, less work on the island than there was during the war, and what has happened has been that, instead of letting men go off as they were accustomed to do when the volume of repair work decreased, the manager, for some reason or another, crowded them all on to the Adelaide. That, I believe, is the cause of the trouble.
– Who told him to do so?
– I believe that nobody told him to do so.
– That is what we are trying to find out through the Committee of Inquiry.
– That is one of the things which the Committee is inquiring into.
– Ask the Naval Board.
– The Naval Board have been asked, and they say that they did not authorize him to do this kind of thing. Of course, the honorable member knows more about these things than does anybody else. He seems to know every detail of what goes on at Cockatoo Island.
– Why should I not?
– The honorable member knows all about it, and he informs the newspapers every day concerning what is going on at the island.
– It is quite right that, when the honorable gentleman cannot manage the affair, the honorable member for Dalley should step in and manage it.
– I am showing the right honorable gentleman how to carry out his job.
– I am always a learner, even from Messrs. Mahony and West. I am concerned about making the country aware of the facts, and I say that I was asked to find money which this House had not voted. I declined to do so. I found that the vote for the year had been exhausted in eight months. It occurred to me that there was no particular urgency for the completion of the Adelaide.
– How does the right honorable gentleman know that?
– If I am to make my statement, I shall do so; but I do not wish to be subjected to the honorable member’s catechism?
– On what do you base the statement you have made?
– I was going to say. This is the only bit of new construction we have in hand, no other new Navy construction havingbeen authorized. It did occur to me that, as this boat has been three or four years on the stocks, and as £100,000 intended to complete her will be available during next year, or maybe when the new Naval Scheme of Defence has been settled at Home, it would then be quite time enough to consider the completion of this cruiser. I want to say, with regard to the Adelaide, that I have no sympathy at all with the criticisms of the vessel which have appeared in some of the Melbourne newspapers. A great mouthful is made of the fact that she will cost over £1,000,000. If we were building the Australia in London to-day, instead of costing £1,900,000 as she did, a similar boat to-day would cost well over £4,000,000. The cost of Naval construction has more than doubled at Home. It has only doubled here yet, so far as we are aware. There is, therefore, no reason to gird at the probable cost of the Ade laide, and to talk of costly construction. In my judgment, the construction has not been costly, and I believe it has been efficient. It is time that people stopped decrying, as some are wontto do, everything that we undertake in Australia. We can build ships here, I believe as well as they can be constructed anywhere else.
– And as cheaply.
– And as cheaply. The Adelaide will not cost one penny more than it would cost to-day in the Old Country.
The explanation, therefore, is very simple. I heard, with the very greatest regret and sorrow, that 1,600 men had been simultaneously discharged.I did not know that 1,600 men were going to be turned off at once, and in that respect somebody is to blame. It oughtnot to have been possible for such a body of men to have been cut off from the works as suddenly as if a bolt from the blue had fallen. They should have been given reasonable notice.
– They were discharged because of a telegram from the Naval Board.
– The Naval Board had no right to authorize the carrying on of work for a minute longer than the funds available would allow.
The point to be cleared up is who proceeded to spend this money without authority. Having spent the whole of the vote, they had no other coursebut to turn away these men when there wasno more money available for their payment. I wish it to be understood that while I am at the Treasury I will notbe bludgeoned by any Department, by any officials, orby any persons in that way. We have the Estimates as passedby Parliament, and we are making agreat effort just now to confine our spendings within those Estimates. It is not possible, however, to do so, and I shall have somethingmore to say before verylong concerning that aspect of the matter. There are some items which I cannot control - obligations whichmust be met, even without waiting for the authority of Parliament. One ofthese is the increase inwages and salaries granted by the Courts - the payment of the basic wage, and matters of that kind -approved by this House, but for which no Estimates have been framed. The payment of the basic wage alone will run intosomething like £800,000 or £900,000. There are other items of the kind which Imust meet; but when Parliament places on the Estimates a sum of money to provide for the construction of a vessel or for the carrying out of some other work it is my duty, as far as possible, to keep that work within the compass which Parliament has set for it.[Extension of tine granted.] This, then, is the explanation : I was faced with the position that,at a moment’s notice, on my own initiative, I was to increase by 25 per cent. -‘the vote passed by Parliament. I absolutely declined to do so.
– What is the Treasurer goingto do about the men out of work?
SirJOSEPH COOK. - I am going to tell the House. It appears to me that a mistake has been made on the island in respect to the two vessels under construction. When the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) and I went over to investigate this matter, we found thatwhereas the manager had been operating the Adelaide with about from 450 to. 500 men, he suddenly, in November last, jumped up the number to 800, then to 900, later on to 1,000, and finally to 1,100, until the whole bubble burst. That is exactly what happened. It would have been infinitely more sensible, if the manager wanted to concentrate the men on a particular vessel, to have concentrated them on the Moonbah and got her off the slips, since, until the Moonbah islaunched, astart cannot be made with any of the other work awaiting attention.
– TheTreasurer knows, ofcourse, that it was impossible to put onthe Moonbah more men than were employed on it.
– The honorable member appears to know that; but I do not. The honorable member, I believe toldthe public of New South Wales that wehad turned down a contract with the CityCouncil which would have provided plenty of work for these men.
– Hear, hear!
SirJOSEPH COOK.- The fact is, and every one on the island knows it, thatwe could not have put the men on the City Council’s work for at least nine months.
– Men on the island say it is not bunkum, but the truth. The engineer of the City Council says it is the truth, and so does the manager of the island, but the honorable member says it is bunkum. I am afraid we shall have to take the opinion of these responsible and competent gentlemen, who know all about the matter, in preference to the statements of my honorable friend. To begin with, there are no plans or drawings in existence in connexion with the work to which he has referred, and the machinery for that job would have to be imported from the Old Country.
– Patent rights would also have to be arranged.
– Patent rights would have to be adjusted.
Several honorable members interjecting,
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson). Order! I would remind honorable members that there is a time limit to this discussion, and that each honorable member can speak for only fifteen minutes.
– I do not think I will say any more, in view of these interruptions.
– Tell us about any money that can be made available.
– Nothing can be done to make money available until the Moonbah is moved off the slips. That, I understand, can be done for £6,000, and I have made that amount available. As soon as the Moonbah is launched the slip is to be widened to accommodate the larger vessels to be built. When that is done a start will be made with the construction of these other vessels, in respect of which there are already assembled something like 5,000 tons of material. For that there is money, and the sooner the work can be done the better; but I do not know that all our talk here will facilitate it by even one minute.
– If the Government can employ men in that way, why are they not doing so?
– We are.
– No men are being employed on the material for the big merchant ships. Men could be put on to prepare that material. The Treasurer says he has the money available for the purpose.
– There is money for the payment of any man who can be usefully employed.
– Then why are these men not employed?
– I donot know. I am not the manager of the dockyard. The honorable member appears to know more about the work of the dockyard than does the manager himself. I can only say that instructions have been given to get the Moonbah off the slips at the earliest possible moment. The sooner that can be done and the slip widened so that the assembling of material for the big vessels can be proceeded with, and as many men put on as can be employed in that way, the better for us all. I heartily wish we could do something speedily to bring back some of these men. I deeply regret what has occurred. I take my share of the responsibility in so far as the curtailing of money is concerned, butI have adopted that course in an honest attempt to try to keep the spending of the various Departments within the Estimates passed by this House. As for anything else I accept no responsibility. In conjunction with other honorable members, I can only express my deepest regret at the inconvenience, trouble, deprivation, and perhaps, in some cases, the suffering, thathas been caused by the unnecessary and, in my opinion, wrongful sudden discharge of these men. I hope that they will soon be employed.
.- I understand that, several honorable members desire to discuss this question, and I would therefore ask the Treasurer to move for an extension of the time limit.
– I am prepared to agree to the time allotted to the debate being extended until 6.30 p.m.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the time allowed for the discussion of this motion be extended until 6.30 p.m.?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– The aspect of this question which I wish to discuss, and which comes within the scope of the mo tion, is quite distinct from that of, the construction of naval vessels. It relates to the general policy of Government shipbuilding. I do not wish to traversefrom its very inception the history of the programme which has been mapped out by the Government. Honorable members are well acquainted with the fact that the Isherwood type of vessel has beenbuilt at two places at least in Australia, namely, in Melbourne, and at Walsh Island, near Newcastle. The Walsh Island dock is State-owned - it is not the property of the Commonwealth. But, immediately the Commonwealth Government outlined their shipbuilding programme, the Government of New South Wales expended considerable sums in establishing a proper dockyard, in order that they might participate in that programme. Upto the present time the Government of that State have expended upon plant and machinery installed on the Island noless a sum than £500,000. They have constructed six ships there, which, from the point of view of quality, will compare favorably with those built in any other portion of the world. Admittedly the work has been faithfully performed. It was undertaken in the belief that the Commonwealth Government intended to continue its policy of shipbuildingwith a view to thoroughly establishing the industry in Australia. Quite recently orders for the construction of some of these vessels were given to private firms: At Williamstown three ships have already been turned out, whilst at Walsh Island half-a-dozen, or thereabouts, have been constructed. But, for some reasonor other, these private firms have ben obliged to forgo their contracts, so that three ships which were to have been built by private enterprise are now to be built at the dockyard in Melbourne. I mention these facts merely for the purposeof showing how wide of the mark isthe statement made by the Treasurer inreply to a deputation which waited upon him in connexion with this matter.Upon that occasion, he said that the whole of this shipbuilding should be carriedout by private individuals. He madethat statement at a time when privatecontractors had failed to carry out thecontracts which had been intrusted tothem by the Government of the day.A request has since been made that the
Commonwealth. Government should keep faith with the Government of New South Wales by allowing the latter to undertake the construction of at least one of these vessels.
– I saw a statement the other day to the effect that the ships built in New South Wales were costing more than those built at Williamstown.
– I have heard that statement contradicted by the men who were engaged in the building of those vessels. I do know that some of the ships, which were supposed to have been built elsewhere for a little less than they could be built at Walsh Island, have since had to be sent to the latter place for repair). It is idle to consider the expenditure of a pound or two more per ton upon ships if theresult of that expenditure is in any way doubtful.
In my judgment, the Government are under an obligation to keep going the shipping industry at Walsh Island. Only some two or two and a half years ago a proposal was made by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company for the purchase of that island, with a view to the establishment of the shipbuilding industry there upon its own account. The company intended to proceed immediately with the construction of twelve vessels. At that time, however, so intent was the Prime Minister upon extending his shipbuilding programme and upon hastening the construction of vessels that, at his request, the New South Wales Government refused to part with the island. Yet, immediately the first contract by the State Government has been concluded, they are told that there is no more work for them to do, notwithstanding that the Prime Minister himself was instrumental in preventing them from disposing of the island to the company which I have mentioned. Personally, I have never favoured the adoption of the Isherwood type of ship.In the days of keen competi tion, the royalty which these vessels will carry so long as the Government owns them will mean all the difference between a profit and a loss.
– Oh, no.
– I think it was a mistake to adopt the Isherwood type of vessel.
Mr.McWilliams. - The honorable member does not meanthat the type is not a. good one. He merelyobjects to the royalty?
– We cannot build the Isherwood vessels without payinga royalty upon them.
– Those vessels can be turned out cheaper than other vessels, even after paying the royalty.
Mr.McWilliams. - Is the type of vessel all right?
– Any honorable member who will compare the life of an Isherwood ship with that of a cross section ship will recognise the advantages possessed by the latter.
– Does not the payment of the royalty cease when the Isherwood vessels have been built ?
– Has the royalty to be paid each year?
– The royalty is payable upon the tonnage of the vessel only at the time she is built.
– I was under the impression that it was payable after that. Inany circumstances, I am opposed to the construction of the Isherwood type of ship because of its disabilities as compared with a vesselwhich is constructed in cross sections. I think that the latter is a cheaper proposition in the end.
I come now to the proposal of the Government in regard to the building of bigger ships. It has been decided, I understand, to build immediately two of these vessels at Cockatoo. I know that a number of similar ships are being constructed in England.
-There are five vessels being built in England; but they have nothing whatever to do with the ships which are to be constructed here.
– Exactly. The Government scheme is that a certain number shall be built in Australia.
– The original scheme provided for the building of six of these vessels in Australia, and of five in England. It is now proposed to build two here.
– The Public Accounts Committee, amongst its other investigations, has inquired into the question of shipbuilding in Australia, and has made the following recommendations : -
I come now to the crux of the Committee’s recommendations, which reads -
Williamstown dockyard should be enlarged, and the lay-out re-arranged, in order to give the best results.
Cockatoo Island dockyard should, in our opinion, be reserved for naval shipbuilding. Naval and mercantile shipbuilding, are two distinct branches for which staffs have to be trained and maintained separately in the large dockyards of Great Britain, where both kinds of shipbuilding are carried on. In Australia we think it better to separate the two classes of work into different yards, thus enabling the staffs to concentrate on the particular branch allotted to . it. As Cockatoo was intended primarily as a naval establishment, and has been equipped with that object in view, it seems unwise to add commercial shipbuilding to its activities. The dock might, however, continue to be utilized when ‘available for docking merchant vessels. Cockatoo dockyard requires -re-organization. There are too many supervisors, and there is too little supervision. There is much friction among the staff, and discipline is very lax.
The construction of a variety of ships should be avoided. Standardization will reduce cost -and facilitate construction. If variationbe unavoidable, then each yard should be kept as much as possible to a particular type.
Walsh Island seems best adapted for the construction of large ships.
– Where is Walsh Island ?
– It is at a place where more Customs and Excise revenue is collected than is collected in the whole State of Tasmania. It was in conformity with the policy of the Federal Government that this shipyard was established, and the work there has been carried out to the letter and up to date. We have the report of a committee of inquiry showing that it is the best yard at which to construct those large vessels ; and all that is requested now is a share of the work that is going ; but that is refused by the’ Government, though it would be sufficient to tide the concern over the trouble. First, of all, the State Government was requested not to sell this yard to any private company; but to reserve, it for Commonwealth shipbuilding; but when that request is acceded to, the order goes forth that no more ships are to be constructed there. That, I really think, amounts to absolute repudiation. Even if this is a State dockyard, the men employed there are just as much Commonwealth taxpayers as any other employees in the State.
.- This is a question which seriously interests myself and other representatives of the metropolitan area of Sydney. Certain allegations have been made, not only in this House, but in the press, and by the public at large, in reference to Cockatoo Island dockyard, which, ifthey are true, call for severe censure on the management. It appears to me that it was an ill-advised action to dismiss 1,600 men at five minutes’ notice.
– That was on the instructionsof the Naval Board.
– If there is one way in which revolution can be bred, it is by such action as that to which I refer. If the. management of the dockyards cannot see more than five minutes ahead, and provide sufficient funds to meet current expenditure, it is not worthy of the trust reposed in it, and should be displaced. In my opinion, the dismissals at the dockyard started at the wrong end. I have never met Mr. Clark, who, according to report, is a most competent man ; but when we come a little further down to the foremen of the various branches we realize the need for close investigation of the methods they employ in carrying out their work.
– Surely, that is Mr. Clark’s responsibility?
– Whoever is responsible for the present position is worthy of censure and dismissal. We hear in Sydney, and throughout Australia generally, most serious statements made in regard to the manner in which the work is carried out at the dock; and a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire as to their truth or otherwise. If the allegations, as the result of such inquiry, prove to be true, then those responsible should be penalized; on the other hand, if the statementsarenottrue,thepeoplewho make them should be penalized. These rumours do harm, not only to the dockyard, but to Australia as a whole. Australian tradesmen compare more than favorably with tradesmen anywhere else in the world ; and it has been proved time after time, especially since the commencement of the war, that we can build ships here more cheaply than they can be built in either the Old Country or America, as a comparison of the cost per ton will show. These rumours, I again urge, ought to be proved or disproved, and punishment meted out to those who deserve it. It was said in this House at the beginning of the session . that there were. men at Cockatoo earning, on an average, £20 per week.
– As a matter of fact, the whole of the work referred to does not amount to £1,000 in the total cost of the ship.
– The statement as to men earning £20 per week was made by a member of the Opposition.
– That is not so; it was made by an honorable member on the Government side.
– At any rate, we know that Australian workmanship can compare with that in any other part of the world; and, that being so, we ought to be patriotic and support those undertakings which employ large numbers of men. By continual criticism of the administration of such works we bring discredit, not only on particular enterprises, but on Australia as a whole. I have heard a man say that he was given a position on the island, but that he walked around for three days without getting any job to do. In such a case the foreman in charge of the gang is surely responsible ; on the other hand, if that man’s statement is untrue he is not fit to be employed there.
– Who was that man?
– Do not give any names unless a Royal Commission is appointed.
– My sympathies all go out to the returned soldiers, and there are some very hard cases amongst some who were recently dismissed. Some of these men are partly maimed, and have a small pension, but were re-employed at the dock from which they enlisted. At the same time, there are men with most disloyal sentiments in their minds, with Sinn Fein tendencies, who-
– You ought to be damned well ashamed of yourself!
– I must call upon the honorable member–
– Oh, of course, I apologise. He is a damned disgrace to. his party! The honorable member opposite cannot discuss the subject without introducing sectarianism.. I am as good a Protestant as he is, any day.
– Order !
– Well, I apologise, and say I am sorry.
– I do not think I said a word against any religious body, . or any honorable member’s religious belief.
– You certainly implied something of the kind.
– I do not think that Sinn Fein represents any particular church.
– Who are these men? That is the question.
– Order ! Allow the honorable member for Parkes to proceed.
– There is employed at the dockyards another class of men who came to the assistance of the Government at the time of the 1917 strike. These were the loyalists of the dockyard.
– “ Scabs !”
– What has happened to them?
– They have been put off.
– They have not; they have been kept on, while “ dinkum “ soldiers have been put off.
– That is not so.
– It is so; it is preference to “ scabs,” not to soldiers.
– The honorable member for Dalley isnot in order.
– I know I am not in order; but what I say is true.
– I am always prepared to give preference to returned soldiers, and I hope those to whom I now refer will be given consideration. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), by means of a question, has raised the matter of re-employing some of the dismissed men in assembling maferial at the dockyard, of which I understand * some 5,000 tons are now lying there. If it is possible for the Treasurer to act on the suggestion, it would be a desirable thing to do.
– It is not for me to consider that ; I have nothing to do with it.
– Then I hope the Minister who is responsible will take the matter into consideration. I personally make no allegations against the management of the dockyard, but merely draw the attention of honorable members to the rumours which are floating about, particularly in Sydney, and which continually come under the notice of representative men. The truth or untruth of these rumours should be established, and the responsibility placed upon the proper shoulders.
.- The remarks of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) are sufficient to indicate to every honorable member that somebody is to blame for the discharge of such numbers of men from their employment at Cockatoo Dock. Those who know the circumstances of the commercial and industrial life of Australia, are aware that an attempt was made some time ago to bring about a strike of the seamen; but, although the press used its columns very extensively for that purpose, the strike failed to take place. One would almost imagine that the Government had been hand-in-glove with that project, inasmuch as, at the very time that the seamen’s strike was to have been brought about, so many men were discharged from the Government workshops at Cockatoo Island, and the labour market was flooded in consequence. Watching closely, as I do, all these movements, I feel that there is no other conclusion that I can come to. At any rate, it is certainly within the realm of reason. Alderman Lambert, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, and his fellow aldermen, knowing that certain complicated machinery was required in connexion with the electrical plant, of the Sydney City Council, heard that it could bc made at Cockatoo Dock. They knew that there was a shortage of work there, and so alive were they to the possibilities of giving employment to Australian workmen at the dock, that they visited the place to find out for themselves whether that machinery could be made there. It is to their credit that they made a searching inquiry, and were able to tell their fellow members of the City Council that the dock was in a position to perform this particular work, instead of its being -sent to America. Tenders had been called for it in various parts of the world, and I believe the lowest came from America; but, fortunately, a good many of the aldermen of the Sydney City Council are good Australians first, and they decided to keep the work, if possible, in Australia for “Australian workmen. They tried to ascertain, from the dock authorities the possible cost of the work; but they did not ask for any concession or privileges. They simply asked whether the dock could do this work, which was urgently required to enable the citizens of Sydney and suburbs to obtain electricity for light and power purposes, seeing that the demand in that progressive city had grown so greatly as to far exceed the existing facilities. The City Council thought it was within the bounds of possibility that the Government would permit the necessary machinery to be made at the dock; but, to the surprise of every one, it was intimated indirectly that a gentleman of the name of, I think, Hall, had decided that no persons employed by the Government in these national workshops were to be allowed to do anything to encourage the Sydney Council to have the work done there. I cannot understand why such an intimation should he given to an official connected with the dock; but I am assured that he was told that he was in no way to encourage those who wanted to carry out a policy which would have been so beneficial in every way to the people of Australia. I should like to know why Australia’s national workshops* cannot be given the opportunity to supply the requirements of the Australian people or of Australian public todies. I am credibly informed that the machinery which the City Council required, and which the dock was able to manufacture, was something in connexion with turbines. It is known that turbines cannot be made in all the engineering shops of Australia ; in fact, I do not think one has been turned out in Australia yet.
– Yes; at Cockatoo Dock.
– I was about to mention that fact. No turbines have been turned out in Australia except at Cockatoo Dock, where the Government actually spent money on special machinery to enable them to be. made. That machinery is very complicated, as some of the parts of the turbines are very small, and very nice machinery is required to turn them out. I believe the necessary machinery was installed at Cockatoo, to enable a new turbine to be made for the steamer Loongana, which runs between Australia and Tasmania. So much influence was brought to bear that Australia’s national Workshops could ‘ be used for that purpose, but when the Labour Mayor and Labour aldermen of the city of Sydney - and here comes in the crux of the question - wanted similar work to be done at the Cockatoo Dock for the city of Sydney, they were told that they could not avail themselves of the national workshops for the benefit of the people.
– It is a different kind of machinery altogether.
– It is an electroturbine.
– Our great statesmen now tell me that the electro-turbine is a totally different machine: Will they inform me what is the difference between a turbine that drives a water propeller and one that drives a wheel so that electricity can be created? These are the smart people that have the direction pf our affairs, but they cannot contradict my assertion that the man who can make an electro-turbine can make a water turbine.
– Last session, when I wanted the wig and gown abolished, and the silly mace removed from the table, I hoped I would get a sane Parliament, but when such stuff as that is thrown at me, I am forced to the conclusion that this is not a sane Parliament.’ My only desire is to get public work done at the National workshops in order to keep the people employed at a critical period in the history of Australia, when every citizen should do his level best to keep the wheels of industry moving.
– They were doing the same class of work for the Brisbane .City Council at the dock only recently.
– Where has the same class of work been done for the New South Wales Railway Department?
– If the Minister for the Navy, wants to put conundrums to me, I will answer them after I have finished my speech, and if he desires any education, I am quite prepared to give it to him when the House is not sitting. I do not know whether the Minister is aware that such an instruction as I have indicated was sent to the dock officials. If he is aware of it, he is not fit to occupy the position of Minister of such a Department. He must know as well as I do that there is a great dearth of employment in Sydney, and he should know that the Sydney City Council was prepared to pay the Department whatever price was agreed upon for the performance of the work at the dock. The members of the Sydney City Council are good Australians, and want to provide employment in Australia for our own workmen’. Any Minister who blocks work of that sort should be put to some other job, because he is not fit for the position he holds. The Treasurer has told the House that there has been a great bungle over the discharge of the men from Cockatoo. He said that he shares the responsibility so far as the money is concerned, but that he takes no * share in the responsibility for discharging the men, or for the position that has been created. That position was created by those in charge of the Navy Department.
– The Naval Board are the people responsible.
– Somebody is certainly answerable. . Ever since I have been a member of the House, I have taken up the position that the Minister must be the head of his Department. We have been running to blazes so far as the constitutional carrying on df business is concerned. There may have been some justification during the war for some of the , actions of the Government; but now that the war is over, all those of us who are democrats - and that applies particularly to those who sit on this side of the House - should endeavour to secure a return to true constitutional government, with Ministers held responsible for their actions. If they do things that are not in accordance with the Constitution, or which injure any section of the community, they should be kicked out of office, just as any private employer would discharge a man who did not perform his duties properly in his own establishment. That is the idea- which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) was partly driving at in the motion which he intended to move to-day. I only wish he had moved it. I would have seconded it, in order to give the House an opportunity to know something about the financial position, and the conduct of affairs at Cockatoo Island.
– This matter has a bearing on the finances, because the Treasurer has told the House that money was set apart for the Navy Department
– The Treasurer attacked the Naval Board very severely.
– I do not know how the Naval Board ever got into its present position of authority. I do not object to a board of management for the Navy Department, but I do object to the Naval Board giving to officers of the Department directions on matters of policy, which should come only from the Minister. A Naval Board may be a good thing, but I strongly protest against its assumption of Ministerial control. I am constantly receiving letters “ By direction of the Naval Board.” To my mind, the direction should come only from the Minister. If, it did, the Minister could be held answerable for it.
-Order! The honorable member has reached his time-limit.
– I desire to make a brief statement in reference to one officer mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). Against that officer proceedings were instituted in the inferior Court in Sydney. The case was heard, and the officer was committed for trial. The matter was then entirely in the hands of the Crown Law officers, and they, after consideration of the facts in their possession, ‘advised that a continuation of the proceedings was not justified. The evidence showed that the material found in the possession of this officer had been purchased by him, and the Crown Law officers advised that the further proceedings should be abandoned. Obviously we had to accept their advice. i
– Does not the AttorneyGeneral look into these matters for himself?
– The officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department advised that a prosecution could not be successful.
– All I have to say is that the officer who was charged is a very lucky individual’.
– His suspension was cancelled, but his services have since been dispensed with. He is no longer in the employment of the Commonwealth Government.
– Why did you dispense with his services?
– Action was taken on the advice of the Director of Naval Works, who was revising his staff.
– If there was no case against the officer it. was an injustice to discharge him.
– Independent of these charges there was a necessity for revising the staff. . Recently we had to take back into ‘the Department a returned soldier. Thus we had more officers than we required, and by a re-arrangement of the staff the services of the officer who had been mentioned were dispensed with.
– .What was the charge against him?
– I have not the papers with me, but the charge involved his being in unlawful possession of certain property of the Commonwealth, The evidence showed that that property was acquired by him by purchase from a branch of the Commonwealth Service.
– A Government servant buying material from the Government?
– That is so.
– Buying in secret !
– In regard to the charge preferred against him, there was not sufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution. I think it is only just to the officer to state these facts, which show that the proceedings were properly withdrawn on the advice of the Crown Law authorities.
– Will the Minister lay on tho table the whole of the papers in connexion with -the case?
– That matter is in the Attorney-General’s Department, but I will promise’ to look into it. This case is entirely a Works Department matter ; Lt has nothing to do with the Navy Department. I assure honorable members that there has been no discrimination and no preference in connexion with this charge. It has been treated in a proper manner by the Crown Law officers, who had entire charge of the case, ‘and advised upon their own responsibility.
– The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) is adopting an extraordinary attitude. Serious and definite charges are made against his Department, and, although we are anxious to near the other side of the story, the Minister declines to speak.
– I will be glad to make my statement, but I do not wish to prevent other honorable members from speaking.
– “Will I lose my right of speech if I sit down in order to allow the Minister to make his statement now?
– The honorable member will.
– I do not wish to do that, although I am anxious to hear the other side of the story.
– I will be only too glad to speak as soon as the opportunity arises. I do not wish to shut out any honorable member.
– This matter has been brought before Parliament so frequently that the Minister ought, to be in possession of sufficient information without waiting to hear what other honorable members have to say. I was surprised that the Minister, instead of speaking at once, put up the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to speak for him. The Treasurer, in his light and airy fashion said, “ Shut up the docks.” That is all very well, but what about the thousands of employees who have families dependent upon them? Some of those people have been driven to the doors of starvation. Other people advise us to buy the ships abroad, because, they say, we can buy them cheaper than we can build them locally. What is to become of Australia if we adopt that policy? What is to become of the iron industry? Are we to send the raw material abroad and buy it back in manufactured form for ten or twelve times as much as we receive for it, as we do with our wool? I hope we shall set our face against any policy of that kind. Where are we to buy the ships - from China or Japan? From the figures in our possession we know that we can build ships in
Australia ais cheaply as they can be built in any other country in the world at the present time. Why, then, should we deny our people the opportunity to work? Is it a fact that although 1,600 workmen were dismissed from Cockatoo Island, the services of nine assistant managers were retained, notwithstanding that it has been suggested by responsible men and the press that there were already too many managers there, many of whom were imported men, and did not know their job? I know it is difficult to prove some of the allegations which are being made, but will the Minister tell us something about the supposed sale of the Sea Lark, which, it was said, was disposed of for something like £2,500, although at the time there were on board Government stores in excess of that value? Let the Minister tell the House whether it is true that one night, in Sydney Harbor, a motor launch grounded, and that when assistance was taken to the boat many hundreds of pounds worth of Government stores, supposed to have been taken from the Sea Lark, were found on board? I believe that if a Parliamentary Committee went to Cockatoo Dock that statement could be proved. Many months ago I voiced some of the complaints which have been mentioned to-day, but I could get no redress of any kind. What about the company which is said to have been registered, and of which many of the men connected with Cockatoo Dock are supposed to be members? Last year I called’ attention to the fact that the Government were taking work away from the dock and giving it to a private company. My statement was denied, but the Minister cannot now dispute that after- 1 made my statement that work was returned to Cockatoo Dock. The state of affairs there is scandalous. Of course, people do not make broadcast the charges of which one hears because of the difficulty of proving them. In the interests of the country, as well as of those who have charge of matters at ‘ Cockatoo Island, the Minister ought to clear up all these allegations. It is said that £250,000 worth of Government stores have disappeared from Cockatoo Island, and we must have a very peculiar system of control if the accuracy or otherwise of that statement cannot be proved. I know that at Jervis Bay hundreds of pounds of material was missing which was subsequently discovered in the houses of different people. We ought to know how it got there. The same deal should be meted out to the men in high positions as to the humble individual who has to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. There ought not to be one law for the rich and another for the poor: Let this House 9end a Committee of Inquiry to Cockatoo, and within twenty-four hours some of these allegations will be cleared up. I personally will undertake to prove something. A star chamber inquiry is being held at Cockatoo now, and evidence is being taken in secret; but is the evidence that is desired likely to be obtained when the nien who .can give it know that their bread and butter is at stake, and that they may be victimized? To my own “knowledge, which is fairly extensive, some curious things have been happening at Cockatoo Dock, and the rumours which are abroad ought to be investigated. I am astounded that any honorable member should’ suggest the closing up of the docks. I am a good Protectionist and a good Australian, and any man who urges that the dock should be .closed, and that we should purchase our ships abroad instead of giving employment in our own country, has no right to be in this Parliament, or even in the Commonwealth. If we adopt that policy, what shall we do with our iron works, and where are our primary producers to find a market, or our people to find employment? Is the sama policy to be advocated in connexion with everything we produce in Australia - wheat, for instance? Because there is a slump in the price of materials on the other side of the world, are we to buy abroad and throw our own people out. of employment? I hope this House will discountenance that doctrine. I frei keenly on this matter. I have no particular interest in Cockatoo Dock, and I will not defame anybody who is employed there; they should get fair play, both managers and men. The Minister, as the responsible head of his Department, is the man to whom we are looking for a satisfactory explanation. I congratulate the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) upon having raised his voice in this House, and for standing up for these men, many of whom are in dire distress. I object to this star chamber committee business. Is it a fact that three gentlemen are over in Sydney now taking evidence in secret?
– There .is a departmental inquiry in progress.
– Will the Minister promise to lay the evidence on the table of the House?
– Would the honorable member promise anything like ‘that without seeing the evidence?
– Is the Minister going to be the sole judge? If anything is wrong, honorable members of this House ought to know of it.. We are the custodians of the public purse, and we should know if anything is going to be done, and if anybody is going to be shunted or ‘prosecuted. “Dr. Maloney.- There should be no smothering up.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– And I can assure the honorable member there will be no smothering up with me. But how can I promise to place on the table something I have not seen ?
– Will the Minister tell us why this committee is sitting in secret?
– Because it is a departmental inquiry, and the honorable member knows that departmental inquiries are frequently instituted in matters of this kind. I was on halfadozen myself before I became a Minister.
– I say that every member of this House is entitled to know what is going on, even if it is a charge against the humblest workman in the establishment. It is charged against the Cockatoo Island workers that they are going slow. In my opinion, there has been some desperate work done there. On a former occasion, I made a statement in this House that some of the men were getting £20 and £30 a week. I do not know whether .they were earning that sum, but they were paid it. Nothing was said about my statement then.
– Did I not show the honorable member a balance-sheet to prove that it was not SO
– The departmental sheet did show that, but
I am told that some contracts were, let, and that some of the men were paid for day labour, sp that we. werepaying double. I do not know whether these things are true or not, but it is time we got some information, and I can assure the Minister that if he went through the dock himself and questioned half-a-dozen men and gave them an assurance that there would be no victimization, ‘he would get some startling evidence.
– Why did not the Minister allow us to have a representative of the men on the Board? . We could have helped him if he had done that.
– I know the Minister is getting into a troublesome position, and I do not blame him, but I say that he will subject himself to blame if he does not take some definite action. It is a very serious thing that there should be any rumour about hundreds of thousands, of pounds worth of material having disappeared.
– There are men in gaol in Sydney, big men, too, for that matter. I do not know whether they arefriends of the honorable member or not.
– If they got rid of a lot of the Government material, then they ought to be in gaol.
– But the honorable member has been saying that I have not done anything.
– I am not saying that at all. I say that the Minister should have given us some information.
– How these Nationalists love one another !
– I am not “ pitching “ into the Minister at all. I am merely saying what I think. I drew attention to this matter last year, and was told then that I ought to mind my own business. It is remarkable that the Minister should now tackle me. Why, does not he rise in his place to answer some pf these charges? .
– I will do so at once if the honorable member will sit down.-
– I do not want to lose my opportunity of speaking my mind on this thing. I ask him now definitely to inquire and see if there is anything in. this story about the purchase of the Sealark; if there is anything in the story about the Induna or anything in the story that a number of people are interested in this shipping company, that has been registered, and is said to be doing work at the dock, and that we have been paying’ double-r-contract prices and day labour - for some of the work.’ I do not deride any man for getting big wages. It is a good thing if men can earn big money.
– I court the fullest inquiry in this House or anywhere else into my administration of the Navy Department, and I know some honorable members here are quite capable of judging because they watch me very closely indeed. I invite them, to say what they think of my . administration. I do not want to misrepresent the’ honorable member who said last year that the Naval ratings were seething with discontent, but I invite the fullest inquiry.
– Who said that?
– I do not know. One honorable member did. All I can say is that if honorable members will inquire, they will find that such- is not the case. Other acts of administration have been carried out by me to the best of my ability. And, after all, how long have I been responsible for one of the biggest Departments in the Commonwealth : eight years, ten years, twenty years? No. I have been in charge for just eight months. I thank the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) for having brought this matter forward, because it gives me the opportunity I looked for in order to say something upon it. I realize my responsibility as a Minister. Unless I had some proof, I would not presume to lay any charge against the humblest man employed in the dockyard, and I am. endeavouring, to the best of my ability, and with the help of the Naval Board - which courts the fullest inquiry- to obtain all the information possible in connexion with this matter. I do not profess to be an expert - no Minister can be on everything - and so I must rely upon the advice of the experts in my Department. They have given me most loyal service, which I fully appreciate. The committee that has been appointed is a departmental Committee of Inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of certain allegations into affairs at the dockyard, and when the complete report is submitted to me, it will be made a subject-matter for- Cabinet consideration. Certain statements were made some time ago, and, as a result of inquiries, we ascertained that a man in a big firm in Sydney was systematically defrauding the Department. He is in gaol now. Whoput him there? The Government, who prosecuted him for his crime. That is something.
– Where did you get the information upon which you acted?
– In much the same manner as I am endeavouring to obtain information now - within the Department.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) said something about the Sealark that was news to me, and I can assure him that I shall institute an inquiry at once to see whether his statement is correct or not. The honorable member told us he wished to be fair, and so he did not make any definite charges. He referred to a rumour, and I shall be glad to authorize an inquiry to ascertain the facts.
I should like now to . say a few words with reference to the statement made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) about tenders for electroturbines. I understand that these turbines have been designed for the generation of power for the city of Sydney, and I have been credibly informed that to-day a firm is completing tenders, to the value of about £200,000, for the construction of the same sort of machinery, although the honorable member says it cannot be made in Australia. I am speaking subject to correction, but I remember reading astatement that the work can be done in Sydney.
– I do not know.
– Nor does anybody else.
– Not long ago I saw a Sydney company’s prospectus, which stated that they were going to do this work. Cockatoo Island dock is a shipbuilding establishment constructed for that particular purpose, and the construction of electro-turbines, I understand, requires a certain number of highly skilled men but very few unskilled workmen. In addition, certain patent rights are owned by a certain company, and I believe it would be very difficult indeed to get them for Cockatoo Island dock. I have also been informed that it would take nine months at least to equip the establishment for this special machinery. Fancy installing machinery for this special work with all the overhead charges, and then using it only once. Would that be sound business ?
Now, with reference to the discharge of the men. I am glad that no honorable member holds me personally responsible, because no one regrets more than I do that the men had to go out. I am endeavouring to find out who was responsible for that. The committee of inquiry is assisting me to do so. I have not in my possession at the present time sufficient information to make a direct charge against the General Manager.
– Does the Minister believe that the committee of inquiry will find out who was responsible?
– I hope that they will do so, because some one is responsible. Had the instructions of the Naval Board as issued from Melbourne been carried out this would never have happened.
– Can the Minister produce those instructions ?
– From 6th July, 1920, until the 7th December, 1920, from 408 to 865 men were employed on naval construction, but as other work, such as the re-conditioning of transports and building- of other ships, ceased, the General Manager, instead of discharging -the men engaged on that class of work, put them on the construction of the Adelaide, with the result that we find that the number of men engaged on naval construction increased from 408 men on 6th July, 1920, to the numbers as follow: -
This increase took place notwithstanding that the attention of the General Manager had been drawn to the fact that the rate of expenditure had risen to such an extent that the amount allotted for new naval construction would be exceeded before the end of the financial year. This is disclosed by the following minute : -
At the monthly review of expenditure on Cockatoo Island .it was found by the Naval Board in January, 1921, .that the rate of expenditure had risen to an extent which would result in the amount allotted to new naval construction being exceeded before the end of the financial year.
The general manager’s attention was at once called to this fact, hut, notwithstanding this, the. high rate of expenditure was not only maintained, but actually increased, and . the funds (becoming exhausted, it eventually became necessary for the Naval Board to take drastic action and order a cessation of work on the two vessels .concerned - the Adelaide and the Moonbah.
In tobe face of the instruction from the Naval Board, and with the knowledge that the money was not available, some one is responsible for permitting this to continue. I am endeavouring to find out who that some one is.
– Did not- the Naval Board tell the General Manager how much money was allotted?
– The General Manager is advised through his accountant as to how much money is available each month. The Finance Member of the Naval Board informs me that that advice is given.
– Does the General Manager forward to you quarterly or monthly reports upon the progress of the work ?
– At my request all Departments furnish me with quarterly reports of work in progress. In fact, immediately I took charge of the Department, I expressed the desire to be informed as to how things were going on, and as to the financial condition of all the branches. To this end I said that I would like to have statements furnished periodically. Those statements have to be furnished to me.
– So that you would be apprised of everything that was going on ?
– Yes, provided that I had been so apprised; but I was not advised of this matter, nor was the Naval Board.
– But you have just admitted that you were apprised.
– Not at all. The honorable member is known as a reasonable man, and it is useless for him to attempt to twist my meaning. It would neither do him any good nor do me any harm, because I cannot be held personally responsible, seeing that I have done everything that any one would ex’pect of a Minister in charge of a Department. For that reason I court’ the fullest inquiry. When a Minister gives an order; and it is transmitted to the proper quarter, where it is supposed to be carried out, can he be held responsible if it is nob carried out, so long as he brings all concerned to task immediately he hears that it has not been carried out ? That is the course I intend to follow, and as soon as I can ascertain who is responsible for the present state of affairs at Cockatoo Island, he will be made to suffer as he deserves to suffer. I. do not think any member would expect me to undertake the task of watching every man working in every branch of a great public Department. How could I do so? A system has been laid down which I shall endeavour to work to the best of my ability. I have not been absent from my. office one day, except when in other States on departmental business. I have worked holidays and Sundays. The control of coal supplies was added to my responsibilities, giving me a great deal more work to do than I anticipated, and people of all classes have thanked me personally for the manner in which the task was undertaken. Could it be of any avail or interest to me to condone any fault?
– In January last”, when you found that the money was running short, did you not get into touch with the Treasury officials?
– I did not find it out in January; I wish I had done so. But as soon as I discovered that the money was running short, I made an endeavour to ascertain whether I could get hold of any somewhere else in my Department for this purpose.
– Did you not consult the Treasurer?
– I am not in a court of law. The Treasurer has told’ the House all the facts of the case. That is why I welcomed his speaking to-day from the Treasury point of view. I have nothing to hide, and -nothing to fear.
I am pleased that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) has mentioned a most important subject, the employment of returned soldiers. My aim since I have been in the Department has been to employ a returned soldier every time I have had the opportunity to do so. One of the finest men it is possible to get in the service to-day is working in the Department in close association with me. He did splendid work at the Front, where he was wounded, and now he is doing good work here. The same principle is followed right throughout the Department.
Extension of time granted.
The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) will probably take over the control of shipbuilding, and have charge of Cockatoo Island in the near future, but I shall confer with him, and see what we can do for the men who have returned from war service maimed. Honorable members can rest assured that we will do our best for them. I shall also see if it is possible to do any thing for these returned men at Garden Island, because I realize we are under an obligation to them.
– What about the men who have been injured in the course of their work at the island?
– Yes ; that is also a question which needs looking into.
– What about sacking the “ scabs “ and putting the soldiers and these other men in their place?
– The honorable member may rest assured that I shall do, what I have always endeavoured to do since I have been in this House, and that is justice to every person with whom I am connected. Since I have been in charge of the Department, I have made if, a r>r notice to know no one in it individually, but just to look at matters as they are submitted to me, and then give my decision as to the man who is to be employed. I regret it if I have spoken at great length on this important question; but, as the’ honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has said, it requires sifting to the very bedrock, and this will be done so far as I am concerned.
.- I also desire to protest against the manner in which the men at Cockatoo Island were discharged; but, at the same time, I would like to point out that, at the moment of their dismissal, there appeared in the press an announcement that the cruiser Adelaide had cost nearly £1,000,000, and had been on the stocks for several years, the insinuation being that the responsibility for this rested upon the men. In fact, it was hinted that this was the reason for the stopping of work.
– The Department did not give that reason.
– I am not saying so. The true facts are that the cruiser Adelaide was under construction during the war, and because it was seen that it could be of no assistance during the war, it was placed alongside a wharf at the docks, and work was concentrated on the fitting of troopships. Work was entirely suspended on the Adelaide.
– But did she cost the money?
– I shall explain the position. As the war proceeded, the Navy found out the weaknesses of different classes of ships, and many weaknesses were found in cruisers of the Adelaide type. As a consequence, many things which had been completed on the Adelaide had to be altered, and very often when the alterations were effected the Naval Board would come along and say, “ That will not do; this has to be altered.” As a consequence, they have kept on altering the Adelaide from time to time, and, of course, naturally the cost of construction has gone up.
– All the time the over-, head charges went on.
– That is so. I have given notice of a question as to how many alterations have been made on this cruiser; what they have cost; and the necessity for them; and when that information is secured, it will be seen that it is not the men working on the Adelaide who have been to blame, but that the continuous alterations were solely responsible for the additional cost. Time after time, when certain portions of the work had been completed, they were altered.
To-day it is almost a new ship, as distinct from the.original design. Sometimes after an alteration has been made the original design has been reverted to. When we find a Naval Board so incompetent as to keep on was’ lng the people’s money in this way, there is ample justification for this House to condemn their actions and see that in future they do not interfere with a vessel’s design, but will allow it to be completed, and thus give the workmen a fair chance.
The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has made a statement that information was laid by constables against a high official on Cockatoo Island, upon which a prosecution in an inferior Court took place, and that, despite the fact that certain material from the island had been found in this official’s back yard, which evidence, when placed before the lower Court,, caused his committal for trial, there was no prosecution in a higher Court.
– He produced the departmental receipt for the material.
– That is all moonshine. The Department has no right to sell to an officer. It is all camouflage to say .that he got a receipt. Why did he not produce it in the lower Count? If he had done so he would not have been committed for trial.
– If he was able to produce a genuine receipt, why did he not proceed against the Government?
– Quite so, and why did they not re-employ him? It is all very “ fis!hy.” The Minister will have to make a very different statement to this House to induce it to believe otherwise. Another man, who was discovered taking away a little bit of wood in his basket, was charged with stealing the wood, committed for trial, found guilty, and dismissed.
I do not wish to say anything to prejudice the employment of these men again, but if the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) could ‘get together with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), I am sure they could be re-employed in another week or two. Owing ‘to the high cost of living the workers at the island could only live from week to week, and now they are out of employment while steel plates are ready to be assembled for the building of large ships at.. the island. Apart from any criticism, to-day I appeal to the Minister to look at the matter from a humanitarian point of view, and to see if these men cannot be started again. It is unfair to blame the men for the overhead charges, or for the expense incurred in connexion with alterations. There are too many highlypaid inspectors and officials; and surely the men cannot be held responsible for the outlay incurred in that direction. The officers and men are there to do their work, and if they do not perform it satisfactorily their services should not be retained. I trust the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) and the Minister for the Navy. (Mr. Laird Smith) will earnestly consider the advisableness of reinstating the men next week, so that the Adelaide may not be allowed to remain in her present unpainted condition, as she is an eyesore to thousands of people who cross the Harbor daily, and is a reflection upon the Commonwealth Parliament, the Government, and the workmen. I ask the Government to complete the work - I believe the vessel is now up to date - and thus prepare for the construction of the larger ships, as that will be the means of absorbing a large number of men who are at present unemployed. I trust the Treasurer will endeavour to find sufficient money to keep the men engaged until the Estimates for the next financial year are passed.
.- The information that has been given to the House by Ministers this afternoon shows that there has been sufficient ground for a searching inquiry into the administration at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. In the first instance, there appears to have been no justification for 1,500 men being thrown on an already glutted labour market in Sydney without the slightest notice or warning, and it seems that this action has been taken in an endeavour to show a spiteful attitude towards the Treasurer because he said he would not find any more money. Whoever is responsible ought to be made to pay very dearly for his action. We have been informed that a departmental inquiry is being held to ascertain who is really responsible for the present state of affairs; and that the Board of Inquiry includes a representative of the Naval Board, who,, naturally, will not say that the Board which he represents is open ‘to censure. The Department of the Treasury is also represented, and it is not likely that the officer from . that Department will blame the Treasury. There is also a member representing the Ship Construction Branch, and he will not hold ~his Department or Minister responsible. In these circumstances, it seems very unlikely that the blame will be placed on the right shoulders/ We are endeavouring to establish the shipbuilding industry in Australia, and, in doing so, are meeting with opposition from one of the greatest combines in the ‘World. Lord Inchcape and his followers are only too . ready to scathingly criticise the Commonwealth shipbuilding policy, and naturally the position which has recently been created will be given great publicity, not only in our own newspapers, hut in others circulated in other parts of the world. Circumstances such as these will do more damage to Australia than many others that might be mentioned. The fact that £75,000 which ought to have been expended between March ‘ and June was disbursed before February by some one, apparently without the knowledge of the Treasurer - because the Treasurer said that his account showed a credit of £75,000 - surely needs some explanation.
– I still have it there.
– The credit still remains, and apparently some one in another Department has spent it. There must be something wrong if vouchers covering the expenditure have not been submitted to the Department. There is in this fact striking evidence of mismanagement, as some one has apparently spent a large sum of money without the Minister’s knowledge. I could not quite understand the statement of the Minister for the Navy (Mr-. Laird Smith) when, in reading from a document, he said that in January the Manager was informed that, if he went on spending at the present rate, the vote would .’be exceeded before the due date. The Minister at the same -time said he did not know the vote had been exceeded until he was informed that the money had been spent. There has been mismanagement, and the result is that the persons who have paid the penalty have not been those who were responsible. The officers are still employed; but 1,500 men who, as we know, live practically from week to week, are out of work and have to bear the consequence of same one else’s blunder. If ever there was an occasion for a searching inquiry it is in connexion with the administration of Cockatoo Island Dockyard. It has been stated that some men have been earning £20 per week, and, if that is so, all power to them; but they were on piece-work and would have to
Motion (by Dr. EARLE Page) agreed to-
That the time for the discussion of the motion be extended by one half-hour.
.- As there are several others who desire to speak to this motion, I do not intend to delay the House for more than a few moments. The fact that there has been such an embroglio in connexion with this matter, and that 1,600 men have suddenly been thrown out of work, certainly, needs some explanation. It is incredible to think that the money available for these works in the current financial year has been exhausted without the Department being aware of it. It is inexcusable in the light of the fact that two years ago the Economy Commission, in conducting its investigations, directed special attention to the conduct of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The report of that Commission states -
Evidence supplied by highly placed and reliable officers indicates that in many branches no attempt -whatever is made to check unnecessary expenditure and extravagance. There is no administrative control, and no one. considers the question of cost.
The Sydney Morning’ Herald, .commenting on the position, continues -
A statement in regard to the Stores Branch showed .that stock-taking took place on 30th June, 1916, hut the stock-sheets showing the result only left the dock in March, 1919. They showed deficits amounting to £52,SS6, and surpluses of £42,807, making a net deficit of £10,079 on a .total stock of £117,071. It was advisable that the construction of the Adelaide should be reviewed, as, with the gift ships received from Great Britain, the Commonwealth would have more vessels than she would require. That is exactly what has occurred. Our Fleet is too expensive to keep in commission, so at present a big portion of it has been placed on the reserve.
In the light of the Commission’s report more than usual care and supervision should have been exercised concerning what was actually taking place. On this occasion there seems to have been less than usual. In view of the conditions, existing at the Cockatoo Island dockyard, it is quit© conceivable that something similar may transpire at any moment in any other public Department. It is particularly regrettable at a time like the present, when money is so difficult to obtain, and when productive undertakings are hampered owing to the absence of capital, that we should have proceeded with the construction of the Adelaide, which is, we understand, already obsolete. We should, two years ago, have devoted attention to more productive works and thus proceeded in some more gradual method of finding employment for these men.
– Who said that the Adelaide was obsolete?
– It has been frequently stated. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) said that the great cost was largely due to the fact that the Department was constantly replacing obsolete portions of the ship. It is very necessary at this juncture that we should get full value for every expenditure’, and there are many directions in which the capital employed could have been more profitably spent. I merely rose to submit this phase of the question, because other speakers seem to have overlooked it.
.- Honorable members will be generally dissatisfied with the nature of the replies vouchsafed by Ministers to the charges of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) and of other honorable members.. In all my experience I do noi think I have heard weaker explanations than those of the Treasurer’ (Sir Joseph Cook), the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. ‘Groom). I do not think one could find a more striking example of Ministerial ineptitude than is revealed by the combined replies of those Ministers. I do not propose to reiterate the facts as given by the honorable member for Dalley and other honorable members, but I desire to make a few remarks in criticism of the attitude of the Treasurer and his colleagues. I wish at this moment to thank the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) for having moved for an extension of time to permit this important matter to be further discussed. Indeed, it is of such importance that it deserves an even longer period for debate than has been allotted. While thanking the honorable member, I desire to take the opportunity to offer my personal congratulations upon the honour which has been conferred on him by the members of the party to which he belongs.
At a time when there is a tremendous amount of unemployment in Sydney, 1,600 or more men are suddenly thrown idle through what is admitted to have been a bungle; and the public naturally places blame and responsibility on the shoulders of the Government. Employees at Cockatoo Island have been rendered idle practically without notice, and without any provision having been made to absorb them in other avenues of employment. One would have thought, at any rate, that if it were deemed necessary to dispense with the services of so many men, engaged as they were in work of such importance, requisite steps would have been taken by the Government to see that those who were discharged were absorbed in other work. However, the Government appear to have made no effort to fulfil that obvious duty. The Treasurer says that some one has blundered, but that he is not that person. He states that Parliament voted a certain amount of money, and that that vote having been expended, it was impossible to continue work. I do not agree that the Treasurer is taking up a proper attitude. He says he is not entitled to spend more money than has been authorized by Parliament. Parliament, when it passes an appropriation, does so on the basis of a message from the Governor-General. That message is the outcome of advice tendered by His Excellency’s Ministers; and I suppose that in the particular matter of the allocation of moneys such advice usually comes from the Treasurer himself. It is quite possible that the right honorable, gentleman ‘underestimated what was a proper amount of expenditure for the Department involved in the matter under debate. After all, it was only an estimate, and it was an estimate which this House had not the power to increase. Consequently, the responsibility - almost the sole responsibility - for the fact of the amount not being greater lies with the Treasurer himself. It may be that the amount recommended was too small. At all events, the sum was expended long before the financial year had ended. Assuming that a sufficient amount was asked for by and granted to the Treasurer, that Minister is. responsible in that ho has not kept proper supervision over the expenditure of the different Departments. It is quite new to me to learn that some particular officer can spend the whole of a vote long before the financial year has ended, and that the first thing a responsible Minister may know of the matter is that the money is all gone and a large number of men have had to be thrown out of employment. One would expect that either the Treasurer himself or the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) would have some system by which a report would be tendered, say, monthly, to the Minister direct, as to the progress of expenditure in relation to particular votes. The responsibility, to my mind, rests upon the Treasurer in the first place, either in that in the original estimate he did not calculate what was a proper amount to be allocated, and thus made his estimate too low, or that, having made his estimate on a proper footing, he did not insure adequate supervision by way of obtaining progress reports upon the expenditure of the amount in question. There should be some system.
– There is a system.
– To whom do the reports come?
– My responsibility is discharged when I issue warrants at stated periods for certain amounts; the warrant passes from me to the Minister in charge of the Department concerned. I cannot follow these votes through all the ramifications of the public Departments in Australia.
– I am speaking with some experience of administration when I say that the expenditure of particular Departments should be reviewed, for example, monthly. There should be some Minister directly responsible to this House who knows “the progress rate of expenditure in connexion with large votes in various Departments ; and the situation should never arise in which- it could be suddenly made known, in January or February of a financial year, that the whole of the year’s vote had been expended, and a great industry dislocated, so that large numbers of men arc thrown upon an already glutted labour market. It should not be possible for that kind of thing to happen without some responsible Minister knowing what is coining. If it can happen, however, there is something wrong; and it is for thi3 Parliament to see that a system of administration is adopted which will enable the Treasurer, or the Prime Minister, or the responsible Minister - whoever he may be - to keep his hand upon the pulse of things and know, roughly at all events, the progress rate of expenditure on any and every particular vote. But because such a system has not been adopted and practised by the Government, this position has arisen, and honorable members have to listen to occupants of the front Treasury bench informing the House that they know nothing, about the , matter, but that some one has blundered. We have to listen to them saying, ““We knew nothing at all until we read about it in the papers, and until we found great unemployment and suffering among the women and children in Sydney.” And yet, all that is to be done is to institute an inquiry to ascertain who is responsible. “Weeks hare passed, and no Minister can tell us to-day how -this trouble, came about. At the same time 60me secret investigation is going on. Who are the investigators ? What is the tribunal which has been set up to decide on whose shoulders the responsibility rests ? As far as Parliament is concerned it rests on the shoulders of one or other of the three or four Ministers. There appears to be divided responsibility in respect of control, and there are four Ministers involved, namely, the Treasurer, the Minister for the Navy, the Minister for Works and Railways, and the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton).
– I have nothing at all to do with the construction of those ships.
– I accept the Minister’s denial ; so that responsibility remains with the three other Ministers mentioned. They - have appointed a committee to undertake an inquiry in#secret; and who are the members of this Committee? Officers immediately responsible to themselves. There is an officer representing the Minister for the Navy, another representing the Treasurer, and another is representing the shipbuilding.
– Yes ; the Department of the Minister for Home and Territories.
– That is so. Is it likely that those officers can throw the responsibility on Ministers? It is not feasible. Does any honorable member doubt that the motive for the inquiry is to find a scapegoat? The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), when I interjected in the course of his remarks, concerning whether he was trying to make a scapegoat of the manager at Cockatoo Island, said, “I hope so.”
– I did not.
– I am prepared to rely on Hansard.
– I said the responsible person.
– I referred to the manager.
– I did not hear the honorable member refer to the manager when he interjected.
– The Minister expressed the hope that somebody at Cockatoo Island would be found responsible.
– I hope somebody will be found.
– Yes; and they have seats in this House. There is no need to go to Cockatoo Island for them.
– The honorable member has just made the ridiculous proposal that the Treasurer should administer every Department, and trace every vote through every Department.
– I have not suggested that; but that there should be some system by which the Treasurer would be able to secure information at regular intervals concerning the rate of expenditure of large votes, in different Departments. There should .never again be such a sorry situation as that which has now developed, wherein the Treasurer says, “ The vote for Cockatoo Island was spent before I knew anything about it.” And now he is chasing about the country with a secret board of inquiry to find the culprit. There is something radically wrong .
– Quite true. This morning’ there was a sum of £75,000 standing to the credit of that vote in my books.
– Then that is a grave commentary* on the general administration of the Government. There is something wrong, and the fault (lies not with some unfortunate individual at Cockatoo Island, of whom it is. endeavoured to make a scapegoat, but with the general financial administration of the Government.
Extension of time granted.
The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) said that in January the manager of Cockatoo Island was given certain: advice which, if I summarize it correctly, was to the effect that if the present rate of expenditure were continued, he would exceed the estimate.
– Hear, hear!
– It is quite a common thing for an estimate to be exceeded ; indeed, an estimate is never the exact amount spent. If it was desired that the manager should so distribute his expenditure as to make it cover a certain period, he should have been told so in definite language. Actually he was invited to exceed his estimate, because he was not told not to go on.
– Not only should he have been told that, but he should have been told that he must not exceed the warrant authority of the Treasury.
– He was told that.
– If he were told it then it was at a period when it was impossible to make the unexpended vote stretch out over the balance of the year.
– There is a standing order that no member of the Navy Department must exceed the warrant authority of the Treasury.
– Then who is the officer who has done so 1
– That is what I wish to find out.
– Perhaps it is one of the workmen who have been dismissed. Is there not some one in Sydney who is higher in authority than the manager of the Cockatoo Island dockyard ? It must be obvious that the explanations of Ministers are entirely unsatisfactory.
I have dealt sufficiently with the two points which, to my mind, are salient. If you go through the Estimates you will fmd that many of the Departments have exceeded their votes..
– The War Service Howies Commission for one.
– Yes, and many others. lt is a common occurrence. All who have been Ministers know that votes are often exceeded. Frequently an’ amount double the estimate is spent. An estimate is not the absolute limit of expenditure. Consequently, responsibility for what has taken place in this case should not be thrust upon some subordinate who cannot come here to defend himself, and I hope that the House will see that that is not done. It would be disgraceful if,’ because a thing of this sort happened through the ineptitude of Ministers, or the mistake of some one in the Government, a subordinate public servant should be made to suffer, and perhaps lose his position.
– I entirely agree with you.
– I am glad to know that; but the interjection is not quite in accord with some that have been made during the debate. I hope, too, that the Government will see that steps are taken to compensate those persons among the 1,600 men who have been dismissed, to whom the undertaking was given, although sometimes indefinite in form and not reduced to writing, that they would have continuous employment. I hope that they will be compensated, or that they will be given continuous employment.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This debate is disappointing to a great many of us who, from 1914 onwards, have fought continuously, and at last successfully, for the appointment of an expert Committee to investigate the administration of all the Departments. At that time the Naval Department was in a state of chaos, and the Economy Commission made it one of its first duties to investigate the administration of- that Department, and to frame recommendations concerning it. I should like to know from the Government whether those recommendations have’ been carried into effect.
I have now only sufficient time to draw attention to -three point*. We have the allegations of honorable members opposite, and some admissions from the Government, which suggest that there is still a want of proper system in that Department. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has told us that the Department had a Treasury warrant authorizing the expenditure of £300,000, with the intimation that the money was to be spent throughout the whole financial year. Then all at once it was discovered that the whole sum had been spent in eight months. ^ The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird . Smith) says that he is endeavouring to discover who is to blame. Under a proper system of management that should be discovered in five minutes. A warrant authorizing expenditure goes from the ‘Treasurer to the Minister, and from him to the Accountant of the Department, and there should be monthly reports and statements of balances in re- gard .to the several works in hand. If that system had been observed, this unfortunate mistake should not have been made. It should not be difficult to discover who is responsible for the blunder that has occurred. Then it is alleged that material of a value running into very big figures is missing. With a proper system, such as is observed in every well-ordered business concern, that would be impossible. If the stores were properly controlled and issued, and, when issued, followed to their ultimate use, it could be seen at a glance whether an issue had been applied to the particular purpose for which it was” intended, and there would be a check against loss or misappropriation.
We were promised a proper costing system, and I should like the Minister to say whether such a system has been provided for. If it has not, I cannot understand the reason, nor can I understand how honorable members who have condemned this enterprise root and branch, now say that we can build ships as economically as they can be built elsewhere. We have been promised by Ministers half-yearly reports upon Government industrial enterprises. I hope that the Minister for .Shipbuilding (Mr. Poynton) will soon, present his next half-yearly report, so that we may know just where we stand. It has .been claimed that shipbuilding has been a success during the past few years. We cannot form a proper opinion from the experience of abnormal times. The Minister has submitted reports and comparative statements, but I should like to have up-to-date information, because the country is being committed to an expenditure of many millions, and we should know where the money is going and whether we are getting 20s. of value for every £1 spent. This is not a party question. All honorable members should insist on proper and adequate returns at Tegular and short intervals. The Government should know each month what the progress df a work is, what the expenditure has been, and whether estimates are being exceeded. Without this close application we shall need to review the whole question again. I understand the Government to say that the investigation into these matters will be thorough, complete, and impartial. There is a departmental inquiry at present being conducted, but I take it that it is simply a preliminary inquiry to advise the Minister. I hoped that, without the intervention of this House, the Minister would have ordered a searching and independent inquiry. I await an assurance on the point, because I am watching public expenditure in this direction very keenly indeed. I know something about it, and I say , that this House should scrutinize continuously all these industrial enterprises carried on by the Government. Let me say that I hope that the Government will keep politics out of them. If a Government enterprise can succeed as well as an outside independent, enterprise, and it rarely does, it can only be when politics in every sense” are rigidly excluded from its operation. As soon as politics get in we have want’ of discipline, chaos, and confusion, and it is rubbish to tell the world that, under such conditions, a Government can do the work as well as outside enterprise, where the best brains and the be3t experience that money can buy are applied to the management.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers’ to the honorable member’s questions are: -
Orders for aircraft material, &c, to be obtained outside the Commonwealth are placed through the High Commissioner’s Office, London; but the services of the Contracts Branch of the British Air Ministry are utilized in connexion with the placing of orders, and tha inspection of equipment. The only Commonwealth Air Representative in London is Major
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he is in a position to inform the House of the nature of the negotiations with the British Ministry of Health regarding the restriction upon the importation of brisket beef ‘into the United Kingdom from Australia, and the result of those negotiations?
– In consequence of the existence in some parts of Australia of worm nodules in cattle, the British Government ever since 1911 have debarred the entry into England of forequarters of beef from Australia unless the brisket has been removed. This means the removal, including the shin, of approximately 90 lbs. of beef from each carcass. With a view to overcoming this disadvantage, and in the interests of Australian exporters, the ‘Commonwealth Government some little time ago nominated a representative to approach the British Ministry of Health on the subject. Negotiations took place, and a modification of the absolute prohibition of the importation of brisket beef was suggested, but the Imperial Government’s requirements in regard thereto were so stringent that, after discussing the position with meat exporters in the Commonwealth, it was unanimously decided that it would be better to submit to the embargo, and allow existing arrangements to continue.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following information has been furnished by . the Department of Defence : -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the following information: -
H.M.A.S. Brisbane. - Date laid down, date completed, total cost?
H.M.A.S. Adelaide. - Date laid down, estimated date of completion, cost to date, estimated amount required . to complete?
Will the Minister also give the reasons for the difference in the cost of H.M.A.S. Brisbane as compared with the estimated cost of H.M.A.S. Adelaide?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The reasons for the difference in the cost of H.M.A.S. Brisbane, as compared with the estimated cost of H.M.A.S. Adelaide, are as follow: -
Statement, showing actual cost of H.M.A.S Brisbane and. estimated and relative cost of H.M.A.S. Adelaide, is as follows: -
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 1st July, 1920.(vide page 2519), on motion by Mr.
That duties of Customs and duties of Excise (vide page 726), first item, be imposed.
.- The Tariff that will occupy the mind of this Parliament for some considerable time is unquestionably one of very serious importance. The whole incidence of the Tariff is, in my opinion, “totally unnecessary, except as an ordinary expedient to replenish the exchequer of an impecunious Government. It is one of those artificial stimulants that get a people “ no forrader.” I read in one of the newspapers recently a most interesting statement . to the effect that the Department of Trade andCustoms was seriously perturbed because ofthe slackening . off of shipments from the Old Country, and the fact thatthe revenue was therefore falling below anticipations. Whether that newspaper report was wrong ornot, I cannot say.
– The position is quite the contrary. The revenue has increased.
– The . revenue has increased very much, I admit ; but this statement appeared in the press, and I have not seen a contradiction of it. It was stated thatbecause of a shortening of certain freights - because ships were not coming out fully freighted - the Department of Trade and Customs was much perturbed. I think, that is true, and the perturbation of the Department seems quite natural when it is recognised that this increased Tariff is designed to bring in more revenue. It would be a misnomer toca 11 it Protection. It is the simplest and shortest cut to ‘the supply of money to the exchequer. No one can soundly reason that the imposition of additional protective duties was necessary. This Tariff certainlyhas had the effect of increasing the cost of livingto the wholeof the people of Australia, and it is unnecessary now . that the war is over, since the war itselfhas given the industries of Australia an immensely increased measure ofprotection. Other countrieswhich before the war hadextremely cheap labourno longer have cheap.labour. Wages in other countries have increased to such an extent as to afford us a verygreat deal . ofprotection.Increased freights to this country a.o* constitute a big measure of protection, and tlie great increase in the price of coal in other lands is an immense protection to Australian manufacturers. Surely it will bc a admh ted ihat in these several respects considerable and ample protection is given to our manufacturers.
The putting of a Tariff of this kind on the key industries of Australia is having the effect of strangling more important ones. Euclid has taught us, among many useful principles, that the whole i3 greater than its part. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) since the imposition of this Tariff has had to recognise that fact in detail, and I sub- mit that it applies all round. The honorable gentleman doubtless on appeal will be prepared to remove the duties on certain tools which are not made in Australia, and which are necessary to the manufacture of a greater instrument or piece of machinery such as an engine, which is more important than is the local manufacture of the tools necessary for its construction. In the interests of the greater he will be prepared to sacrifice to some extent the lesser. If the establishment of an industry here is being prevented by reason of the heavy duty imposed upon the machinery necessary to that industry he should be ready to remit that duty. The Minister has really conceded my point as shown by his practice and actions in respect of such matters. It will be admitted that the greatest of all Australian industries - an industry which accounts for 76 per cent, of the wealth of Australia -must be regarded from the aspect of the whole. Anything that would materially retard the progress of that whole is prejudicial to the interests of Australia. This leads me to the point that the Tariff which before the imposition of these duties was excessive is to-day absolutely burdensome to the primary producer.
It cannot be gainsaid that the primary production of Australia is the greatest asset which the country possesses. It is the only source from which new money may be obtained, to give stability to our national credit, and we cannot afford, therefore, to disregard its importance. We cannot shut our eyes to anything which is calculated to’ hinder the increase of “ our national wealth simply because our national responsibilities are increasing. But the effect of this new Tariff will be to inflict a further blow to the primary producer and generally to retard the progress of primary production in Australia. Of course, I know the cry which is always raised in regard to dumping. But, dumping or no dumping, the fact remains that a binder which was quoted at £80 . last year is quoted at £120 this year. It is very difficult to persuade the primary producer that.he ought to pay the £40 increase which is there represented, especially as £S0 was easily double the price which he was called upon to pay for the same implement fifteen years ago. Nevertheless, by reason of the operation of the proposed new Tariff, the price of a binder has been increased by £40. - Mr. Page. - That £40 does not represent the duty which is payable upon binders.
– But it is so represented by the seller.
– Mother Hubbard I
-No doubt the statement will seem amusing to some honorable members-‘-
– The honorable member is not now talking to farmers, but to men who understand the matter.
– Whatever the cause may be. the fact remains that to-day the farmer is compelled to pay for his binder £40 more than he paid previously, and that there is no way in which he can pass on this extra charge. We expect our primary producers to purchase costly made Australian machinery, and in this connexion I was very pleased to hear -the statement made by the honorable member f or Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) this afternoon. We are frequently told that no man is a good Australian who does noi purchase Australian-made goods. But I cannot help remarking that quite a number of people’ who claim to be good Australians, object to paying a reasonable price for Australian-grown wheat. Seeing that our primary producers are obliged to labour for seventy or eighty hours per week, whilst the employees in our cities and those who are engaged in the manufacture of agricultural implements work only forty-four hours per week, the deal, I contend, is not a square one. I observe, too, that the press is seriously perturbed in regard to certain sales of Australian wheat which “have been made overseas.
Whilst I “was with the Deputy ComptrollerGeneral of Customs in Western Australia the other day,’ a most remarkable incident occurred. A certain merchant, who was present, said to me: “Mr. Prowse, I should like to ask the Deputy Comptroller why there is an export duty upon flour.” I replied, “If you do so you will ask a very foolish question, because there is no export duty upon flour.” Thereupon he said, “I know a damned sight better.” I answered, “ Then you had better ask your question.” He did so, and the Deputy Comptroller-General, after looking rather thoughtful, replied, “But there is no export duty upon flour. Would you mind explaining what you mean?” The merchant then said, “ Well, only the other day a ship’s captain, who comes here, ordered 10 tons of flour. As soon as he arrived at the wharf he was told that the flour had been kept for him.” “Oh, thank you,” he said. “What is the price?” He was told that the price was £18 per ton for the wheat and £16 a ton premium, making a total of £34 per ton.
– He must have got into the Wheat Pool.
– The honorable member got into the Wheat Pool. The Deputy Comptroller of Customs was quite in the dark as to how such a thing could have occurred, but in a flash the explanation came to me. That explanation was that in February of the previous year the representatives of the various States, with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), conferred with the Australian Wheat Board, and notwithstanding that the value of wheat at the time was 8s. 3d. per bushel, they entered into an arrangement under which wheat for Australian consumption was to be sold at 73. Sd. per bushel. That was the concession which was made by one class to all other classes of the community. Immediately afterwards the price of wheat rose to nearly double that specified in the contract. For local consumption flour was thus sold upon the basis of 7s. 8d. per bushel for wheat, or £18 per ton, whilst the price outside Australia was £34. The farmers thus made a concession to Australian consumers of £16 per ton. Late last year that contract ended. The States representatives were called together to confer with the Prime Minister as to the quantity of wheat needed for local consumption for the ensuing year. It was computed that the quantity needed would be something in the region of 30,000,000 bushels, and they asked the Wheat Board again at what price they “ could supply 30,000,000 or 33,000,000 bushels. Just a few days prior, the Board had sold somethink like 300,000 tons f.o.b. in Australia at 10s. 6d. per bushel; but, as this was a decent order, their quotation Avas below ‘ the market price - 9s. a bushel. It was a concession at the time; nobody knew any more than was known in the previous year whether wheat would rise or fall. Can any honorable member who is a sport, or professes tj be straight, say that the contract should not be carried out?
-. - That same principle applies to other things, not only to wheat.
– I hope that the principle of the integrity of agreements will always apply.. The fact is that some £13,000,000 has been conceded to the consumers’ of Australia by the producers. With regard to the second 9s. deal, there has been a .certain fall, checked somewhat by the fall in freights ; but, after all, if I understand rightly, it was intimated by the Prime Minister to-day that, if the balance of the wheat was sold at 7s. 6d. now, the average price of the whole of Australia’s wheat, with the local consumption thrown in, would be in the region of 8s. 6d. Are the consumers to take the “ ups “ and not the “ downs “ in the deals ? I have not been in the habit, after buying a suit of clothes, of returning it to the tailor -when it becomes half worn; nor is it possible for me to buy a horse and return it to the seller if it gets a nail in its foot. In both contracts, taken together, the advantage must be in favour of the consumer. If the consumers of Australia desire to review the matter, and are willing to review last year’s contract, and give as the market price for what they had from us under the last contract, I venture to think the Wheat Board, on behalf of the growers, would agree and give the difference on the present year’s deal.
– With what paragraph in the Tariff are you dealing?
– I ani pointing out how these matters affect Australia very seriously. We have fearful congestion of population in consequence of the centralization policy in Australia. Nearly the whole of this sitting has been taken up in considering the case of men who are out of employment in another State. Loss of employment, is a serious thing, but we ought not to continue the spoon-feeding of one section of the community - we should not artificially build up, by means of the Tariff, factories in the centralized portions of Australia, which is naturally a primary producing country; for if we do we shall simply “kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” After all, Australia, for the greater part, is manufacturing for those people who are primary producers; and if we make it impossible for the primary producers to compete with other parts of the world by increasing the cost of their machinery they will have to cease producing, and where then, I ask, will the manufacturer find himself?
– And contributing to the* cost of wheat silos!
– These ‘interjections are not calculated or intended to help one in debate. The farmers owe the Commonwealth nothing, but the Commonwealth owes the farmers practically everything, as we will begin to discover as soon as the farmers are squeezed out.
If we are going to put loads on the backs and shackles on the feet of the primary producers, how are they to compete with other countries ? Under such circumstances the primary producers must come to the cities, which offer more attractions than the producing centres. Amongst the attractions are the limited hours of work, and the organization of employees and capitalists, who both cry out for cheap butter, cheap meat, and cheap wheat. The man on the land has to work from sixty to eighty hours a week; and is then asked to supply his produce at a cheaper price than it can be obtained, even, under tender, from any part of the world. This is not a square deal - it is not fair - and the time is coming when the levelling up must take place. It is the “maggot in the cheese” business; but the day is coming. We have only to look at statistics to see that the effect of Australian legislation, so far, has been to make the cities so attractive that not only has the whole increase in the population during the last twenty years gone into the cities, but people are actually drawn there from the country. It is evident that there is something wanting in the attractiveness of the country life. Can any honorable member, whether he be from the city or the country, say for one moment that it is not in the interests of Australia that the whole of the country’s natural resources should be developed in order to create the wealth necessary to meet our national obligations?
– Why do not the farmers co-operate and manufacture their own machinery ?
– They would then be confronted with the industrial organizations’ demand for a forty-four hour week, although they themselves are expected to work eighty hours, and give the artisans cheaper food than can be obtained from Argentine or India. Countries like Canada and America are making the country more attractive by removing Tariff imposts from agricultural industries, because it has been seen that unless something of the kind is done, the people find their way into New York and other large cities. The future qf Australia depends on the development of her soil; and, to again quote Sir Rider Haggard, prosperity will follow the feet that tread the . fields, rather; than those that trip along the pavements. U other countries have been able to encourage immigration by the attractiveness of their land policy, Australia should be able to do the same. The other day one honorable member told me that he knew of a million acres of excellent land available in his own State. I know of another million odd acres in another State, all ,good land ; but it seems to me that with the power centralized in the various capitals of Australia, we are going round in a vicious circle, and no encouragement is given to people’ to occupy these spaces. The people in the cities seem to think they are the only pebbles on the beach, that they can pay the national debt if only they can cut down the other fellow a little bit, and so long as the rural producer can afford, by working eighty hours a week, to buy from them. Yon cannot get over the Tariff wall which this Government is seeking now to build up, and look elsewhere for your trade, because you will then find yourself in competition with the producers of other parts of the world. In hitting the primary producer, you are killing your only customer. You should facilitate his operations and allow him to get ahead of you a hit if you expect to continue trade with him on legitimate lines. You should give him a fair deal because he is a brother of yours, and you should not expect to feed upon him.
– W!e do not expect to do that.
– But that is what Australia is doing. The leading papers of this city to-day are battling to get the wheat from the small, as well as the big, farmer in order to provide cheap bread for people. I think the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was quite right, in his statement the other . day in connexion with the proposed reduction of the 9s. guarantee for wheat. “ The States,” he said, “can do that if they like, because the wheat is theirs.” It is all very fine to say that with the other fellow’s property. You cut it down last year and saved £,11,000,000 on the transaction. It is yours now, this 30,000,000 bushels, and if you like to provide cheaper bread cut down the price. All I can say is that it is not going to be done at ,the sole expense of the producers. It was done last year; but now, if the producers are to get a fair deal, it must be done at the national expense.
– Is that how you tried to get square, by cutting down your salary f
– When a thing is my own, I deal with it as I wish. I do not like to cut down the other man’s property. I intend to defend my own, and in my judgment this is the right place to do it now. I like people to honour contracts or agreements in any and every case.
– Did I understand the honorable member to say that it is a fair thing to reduce the price of wheat, so long as the State bears the expense ?
– No, I never said anything of the kind.
– That is what I understood the honorable member’ to say.
– l’f the honorable member for West Sydney would like my view to be stated more clearly, I would point to the statesman-like attitude of the British Government in similar circumstances. They recognised that the agriculturist was entitled to get the market price for his wheat. Accordingly, they paid him market prices, and the wheat then belonged to the British Government. They said - ‘ ‘ It is ours now, but the price for bread is rather high.” They accordingly reduced the price to make the position easier for the consumer, and I believe placed £50,000,000 on the Estimates to cover the loss. That policy was not given effect to at the expense of the agriculturist, because he sold his commodity at the proper market price, and then bore his share of the loss equally with other citizens of the Mother Country. In Australia last year the entire burden was borne by the producer, for instead of getting the market price for his wheat, it was cut down to the extent of £11,000,000. It is unfair to ask any returned soldier who has been put upon the land to grow wheat to make a contribution to the Commonwealth in the form of cheaper wheat for home consumption. The thing is absurd. There is nothing statesman-like about i,t; but, nevertheless, that is what has been done in the past, and that is what the leading press are seeking to do again.
– All through the war the wheat producer leaned upon the Government for credit.
– I am sorry it is necessary to reply to that absurd interjection. During the war, owing to the lack of attractiveness in wheat-growing, the Australian producers reduced the area under cultivation by 4,000,000 acres, and in order to save the country - not to save the wheat-growers - they were given a guarantee by the various Governments of the Commonwealth. They never asked for one farthing either from State or Commonwealth Government. All that was done for them was returned with interest, and, therefore, it is absurd for any honorable member now to twit us with what was done for the farmer during the war period.
It is claimed now that the farmer must provide cheap food for a White Australia, and buy White Australian machinery manufactured under a high Tariff, with no Tariff upon wheat, and we do not ask for it. Give the producers as much as you pay to any one else. Call tenders for the wheat if you like, and let the Australian producer be a tenderer. Do not buy his wheat unless it is cheaper than the price at which it can be got elsewhere. That is all we are asking for, and that will be a fair deal. You will have to get over this little fence before you can induce me to vote for 35 or 40 per cent. Tariff on my machinery. You talk about defence. What greater defence can we possibly have than a robust rural population ? Nature makes it so. As a matter of fact, no country is strong without a great rural population. Look at the abnormal condition of Australia. It has no counterpart in the world, civilized or uncivilized. Twelve per cent, of the population of England live in London, which is not only the capital ofthe United Kingdom, but practically the capital of the world; 4 per cent, of the population of France live in Paris ; 2 per cent, of the population of Germany in Berlin; and 1.75 per cent, of the population of Russia in- Petrograd; while 50 per cent, of the population of the State of Victoria live in Melbourne. If we were only a manufacturing country there might be some justification for this centralization, but we are a producing country. By forcing people to carry food from where it is produced for consumption in the cities, we are adding to the costliness of living. There is a tendency to create artificiality, which not only increases the cost of living, but also weakens the nation. Through our centralizing policy we cannot establishfactories in . healthy surroundings in country districts where facilities offer, and where the food can be produced to feed the workers in those establishments without heavy handling costs. Under existing circumstances, nothing can be done in Australia unless the food* is carted to Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, or Perth, at great expense, thus adding to the costliness of living; while burdens are heaped upon the man who has to grow it in competition’ with cheap labour elsewhere.
Mr.RILEY (South Sydney) f9.18]. - I am delighted to know that the Country party have put up their champion to argue for cheap labour. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) condemns centralization, but yet, when the farmers want a president for an agricultural society they choose a man in the city. The New South Wales Agricultural
Society does not distribute its honours among men in the country districts. They would not be big enough. No; they go to the city and choose Sam Hordern, the biggest manufacturer, the biggest importer, and the biggest business man in the State. Do they hold their annual shows in the country districts? No. It shows the inconsistency of men who talk about decentralization whenwe find that they hold their annual shows in Sydney and Melbourne.
– In order to educate the people of the cities.
– It is in order to get the boodle. If they were honestly against centralization, they would hold their shows in different parts of the country. Their talk about decentralization is so much beating the air. One would think the honorable member for Swan was electioneering in the backblocks of Western Australia. The people of Australia are paying more to-day for wheat than are the people of any other part of the world.
– That is not so.
– Wheat can be bought in America at 6s. per bushel. I know why the Farmers’ party are supporting the Government. It is because they are getting 9d. per bushel for wheat for local consumption; because they want, and are getting, concessions. The people of Australia are paying more for everything bought to-day than they have a right to pay.
– How do you know that?
– Because I have to buy.
– Give the Germans a show!
– I did not hear the honorable member for Swan denouncing the Government for selling wheat cheaply to Germany, but if they sold it cheaply to the Australian people, to the people who provide the money for building the railroads which enable the farmers to go to the country and send their produce to market, it would be a different story. We have not heard a word . to-night from the, Farmers’ party against the Government selling the wheat cheaply to Germany.
– I have just read that there are millions of people in want in Germany. We must give them wheat.
– I do not object to feeding the Germans; but I do not want them to get any advantage over Australian people.
– The Australian people got a big advantage last year.
– And so did the farmersBecause of the war every commodity went up in price, and the farmers reaped the advantage as did other people, but the whole of the general public suffered.
– “What about the New South Wales farmers last year? How much did the Government lend them to carry on?
– The farmers of New South Wales are doing well, and are not crying as the Western Australia people are doing. One would imagine, after hearing the honorable member for Swan, that his constituents were all in the Bankruptcy Court. I am pleased to hear that the farmers are doing well.
– The honorable member is about the only person who thinks it.
– Apparently, .we are to have a very, good Tariff. I stand for the building up of Australian industries as well as the establishment of a strong rural population. The honorable member for Swan claims that Australia is not a manufacturing country. Why is that so? It is because for too long we have been relying upon imports from- other countries. The time has come for .this Parliament to” take steps to make it a manufacturing country. The honorable member talks about drawing men from the country districts to the cities. Surely the men who come from the country districts to the cities have intelligence enough to know which are the better places, and when they find that the cities provide them with facilities for amusement, why should they bury themselves in the country for the sake of populating Australia when we are producing more food than we. can consume?
– When did you find that out?
Mr- RILEY. - If the honorable member would go to some mechanic’s institute in his district he would find out these things for himself. I understand that the Government are trying to make arrangements for ships to take away our wheat, but cannot get sufficient to do so.
It is stated that Australian butter is a glut on the London market, and that there is six months’ supply on hand. Yet the farmers say that they want to send more away. Had it not been for the Butter Pool established by the present Government the butter producers would have been receiving less than ls. 6d. per lb. for their butter, but because of the workings of the Pool they got nearly double that price last year, and now they are finding fault with the Government for not continuing it. There is a duty of 2s. 6d. cn wheat coming into this country. L am prepared to give the farmers that protection.
– We do not want it.
– Of course not, because the farmers have too much to sell; but if they had competition, they would want it. Because they can supply more wheat, butter bacon, and meat than this country can consume, ‘they want to export it, and then they ask for Free Trade for machinery to help the producers of the country. To help them to do what? To produce more, and have a glut of produce which they cannot get away ? They want free implements, but so far as I am concerned, they will not get them.
– Besides, what about the revenue?
– We must have some revenue. I suppose the Country party will object to the building of ships and the general shipping policy of the Government, although we must build ships to carry the wheat away.
– You would object . if they were built in the country.
– They are built in the country now, or parts of them are. The honorable member will not deny that en- gines for those ships are being built in Castlemaine. Ships have been built at Williamstown and Walsh Island with a view to carrying Australian produce to the markets of the world. Had it not been for the shipping policy of the Government, which has helped to get our produce away, the farmers would have been in a very bad way indeed. One honorable member complained about the Government’s shipping policy, and spoke about the virtues of private enterprise. Where was private enterprise during the war in Australia so far as shipping was concerned? If the Government had not taken the shipping over, the farmers would have been the sufferers. The same honorable member demanded freedom to do this and that. I heard that yarn when it was desired to introduce cheap labour such as Chinese and Indians.
– The honorable member does not want cheap labour, but he wants cheap wheat.
– Does the honorable member call wheat cheap at 9s. per bushel?
– When men have to work sixty hours a week to produce it.
– The honorable member is an insurance agent, and does not work on a farm at all. That is the sort of stuff we hear from men who claim to represent the farmers, but who really only farm the farmers.
.- If, as the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) interjects, the address to which we have just listened is a fair sample of a protectionist speech, then this so-called Free Trade party in the corner has not very much to fear. The debate so far has been conducted in a somewhat loose and frivolous manner. We are dealing to-night with principles of vital interest to the people of the Commonwealth, and, so far as this Tariff is concerned, of particularly vital interest to the primary producers. I have wondered what is the object of this good, solid lump of a Tariff. What is behind it all?
– Some revenue.
– If to obtain more revenue is one reason for its introduction, it is a very unsound form of taxation. A sound and fair form of taxation means the taxation of all for the benefit, of all, but taxation through the Customs means the taxation of all for the benefit of a few. I still ask, “What is behind this Tariff.” In introducing it, the Minister (Mr. Greene) quoted the following passage from the Prime Minister’s policy speech at Bendigo : -
The Government have carefully prepared a new Tariff. It believes it would prove satisfactory, to the manufacturers of the Commonwealth, and intends to lay this Tariff on the table of the House and give effect to it at the earliest possible moment after the new Parliament assembles.
At the last election the political parties that were behind the members who now occupy the Treasury bench were assisted very liberally indeed in cash and kind by many of the leading manufacturers of Australia. Is . this good thumping Tariff, which is tabled now that they have come out on top, a reward for services rendered at the last election ?
– If so, why are you supporting the Government?
– If the Government were dependent oh my support, they would not occupy, the Treasury bench very long. I have made no secret of the fact that in season and out of season’ I am going to do my best to shift them from where they are. I do not go behind their back and stab them when I make that statement. The Minister reiterated throughout his speech, and gave quotations intended to prove, that the Tariff would have the effect of cheapening tools of trade, particularly those used in primary production.. He quoted figures as to the price of machinery in the Argentine and New Zealand in order to support his contention. I hope that when he is replying he will answer the query which I now intend to put to him. Today the manufacturers of farm implements in this country are advertising, spending money, and conducting propaganda which are costing a good deal of money, in support of this Tariff. They are pleased with it. But if its ultimate result is to be to cheapen the. price of what they produce, surely the Minister does not mean to tell me that Mr. H. V. McKay and other farm machinery manufacturers are joining him in a campaign to reduce the price of farming machinery ?
– Does the honorable member think there would be any inconsistency in that?
– Well, I do not. That is where ‘ the honorable member isall wrong.
– The old-time cry was, “ Put on a little duty to enable us to start a factory so that we can get upon our feet,” but the whole history of the Tariff has been one of steady increase, each Tariff higher and still higher than the last. As the business and . the factories of these people outside grow, so does the Tariff grow, and always in the one direction. In the first place, they ask for a Tariff to enable them to become established, and the more soundly established they become the more insatiable is their appetite for higher duties. Is not the stock argument of the Protectionist that it is unfair to expect white men to compete with cheap coloured labour?
– And a very good argument, too.
– Do not honorable members opposite, and other high priests of Protection, realize that that is what the primary producer is doing all the time?
– We are giving him a white man’s market, 9 s. per bushel.
– I have heard a good deal lately about the yellow man’s market. Our primary producers are competing in the world’s market to-day, and have been doing so for many years, against the black grown wheat of India, and the wheat grown with the cheap Spanish labour of the Argentine, and the ignorant peasant labour of Russia, and, in addition, are being charged the highest shipping freights in the world. They have to sell their wheat, not only over seas, but also within Protectionist Australia, at black labour rates, and some honorable members on the Opposition side would deny them even those prices.
– We never did that. We, believe in a fair deal all round.
– Is 9s. per bushel a black labour rate?
– Upon what basis does the Australian manufacturer, that gentleman who is the particular care of a new-born alliance between organized capital and organized labour-
– I will admit that the boss manufacturer is as good a robber as the farmer.
– Upon what basis does the Australian manufacturer, in whom organized labour and organized capital are showing such, a remarkable interest,, audi for” whom they are acting as foster fathers, fix the price of what he has to sell? Does he- fix. it at the London price, less the, cost of getting it. to the market-?.
– He gets- all he can.
– Yes, and this Tariff will enable him to get a little more than 1]e, could in the- past. The poor struggling manufacturer, whom honorable members are so desirous of protecting, although he is getting cheaper coal, cheaper steel, and cheaper labour than can be obtained by any of his competitors in the outside world, does not fix the price of his commodity at what he can get in the world’s market. He does not believe in competing in the world’s market; he desires the creation of an artificial market in Australia, and he sells, not at the cost of production plus a fair profit, but at the price at which his overseas competitors can land their goods. If we impose an extra duty of £20 or £30 upon a machine, up goes the price, and organized labour goes to the Wage? Board or the Arbitration Court for a share of the spoils.
– As a party, are honorable members in the corner prepared to - force the Government to protect the farmer ?
– I will make my speech in my own way, and will not besidetracked by any honorable member. The Austraiian manufacturer fixes the price of his product at the import value. If the primary producer were to fix the price of what he has to sell upon the same basis, what would bc the price of wheat in Australia to-day? The price of wheat is, roughly, from 9s. to 10s. per bushel in the markets of the world. We will calculate it at the low price of 9s. in London. Upon wheat imported into Australia there is a duty, which, so far as I am concerned, may be struck out, for it never operates except in time of drought, as in the years 1902 and 1914, and then it is suspended so that it cannot operate. That is- what the Australian wheat-grower is getting from this grand policy of Protection. Take the price of wheat in London at 9s. per bushel, allow 2s. for freight, 2s. for duty, and ls, for insurance, wharfage rates and like charges, and the import value of wheat to-day becomes 14s. per bushel. If I had my way, I would- fix tie price of what I had- to sell upon the same basis as that upon which the Australian manufacturer fixes the price of the machinery which I use- in growing in,y wheat”. If that were done, the present price of wheat in Australia would be 14s. per bushel. But what the high priests of Protection desire is that the farmer should purchase from the rest of the community everything he needs at Protectionist prices, and feed the community with primary products at black labour rates. I could take these champions of the working class, these staunch advocates of the eight-hours system, into many country districts and prove to them that there were men and women working eight hours - yes, but eight hours before noon and eight hours after noon.
Reference has been made by interjection to the price of 9 s. per bushel for wheat. “What is the price of a 4-lb. loaf in Australia to-day? It is sold at from ls.1d. to ls. 3d. per loaf, and the average is, therefore, ls. 2d. Honorable members opposite are blaming the farmers, who are the producers of wheat, for the excessive price of bread. Do they know how much wheat there is in a 4-lb. loaf, or what the farmer actually gets out of it?Can any of these so-called experts, who know so much concerning the production of wheat, give that information? There is no answer, because they know that to them it is a difficult question. I shall tell them-
– We know that the Germans are getting cheaper food than the Australians.
– That interjection is incorrect, and the honorable member knows it. The amount that the farmer receives for the wheat in a 4-lb.. loaf is a little over 61/2d. ; it is less than 7d.
– That is not correct.
Mr.STEWART.-I am prepared to say that it is between 61/2d. and 7d.
– Can the honorable member prove it?
– Can the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) disprove it? If the Australian wheat-growers grew wheat and gave it to the millers free of cost, the consumers would still be charged 7d. for a 4-lb. loaf, Honorable members opposite cannot have high wages, and short hours for the mill hands, neither can there be high profits for the millers if there is to be a cheap loaf. They cannot have a baker in North Melbourne delivering bread in South Melbourne, or a baker in South Melbourne delivering bread in North Melbourne, and expect cheap bread. They know it is impossible to have numerous drivers, employed at high rates of wages for comparatively short hours, chasing each other around the suburban areas, and at the same time have cheap bread.
– We have been trying to remedy that, and the Government will not allow us.
– And your party ran away from the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler).
– Order! I have asked that interjections be discontinued, and that the honorable member be allowed to proceed. The debate on the Tariff is different to the discussion on other matters, as there is no time limitation, and every honorable member will have an opportunity of speaking fully to the question, and will be able to express his views as often as he desires. In these circumstances I appeal to honorable members to allow the honorable member addressing the Chair to state his ease without interruption, because interjections ultimately lead to disorder, which is very undesirable.
– I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and hope that the time which has been occupied by your speech will not be recorded against me. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), in introducing the Tariff, made a calculation concerning the extra population that we would have in Australia if all the iron and steel used in the Commonwealth were smelted locally, and said that if this were done our population would be increased by 300,000. In his search for arguments to bolster up this rotten policy he began to give a list - it is too long to read, but I will quote it if desired - of the main primary products we use, and endeavoured in some mysterious way to connect the consumption of our primary products, locally with the prosperity of the farmers. In his opinion, the quantity of wheat that these 300,000 people would consume would be 1,600,000 bushels. In his speech he advanced, the well-known Protectionist argument that the local market- was the best of all markets. If the Australian primary producers were able to fix the price of what they had to sell on the same basis that the Australian manufacturer fixes, the price of what he has to sell, that is a price far above the world’s market price, there would be something in his argument.
What does it matter to the average wheatgrower in Australia where his wheat is consumed if he is only to receive a certain price. What does it matter whether the wheat I grow is consumed in Melbourne
Or in London if I receive only 7s. or Ss. per bushel. That is a definite answer to the oft-repeated statement concerning tho local market. If the primary producer is given the right to charge above the world’s parity, I admit the local market is the better of the two. But the local markets are of no use to us if we are not going to receive a higher price for what we have to sell. During the war the position may have been different, but we are now living in normal times. ‘ I do not know what the average price of wheat will be this year ; but if some honorable members iu this Chamber had their way, God knows how low it would be ! As a basis of calculation, we can take the average price for local consumption, which last year was 7s. Sd. per bushel, and the average price received throughout the whole year, averaging the overseas price from January to December, was approximately 12s. per bushel, or a difference of over 4s. a bushel. If we had had the additional 300,000 people to which the Minister for Trade and Customs referred, they would have consumed on ‘his figures 1,600,000 bushels of wheat. In other words, we would have lost 4s. per bushel on this extra 1,600^000, making a total loss of more than £300,000.
– The honorable member does not mean to say that the greater the population the poorer the farmer will be?
– Under the conditions .existing in the Australian wheat market last year, yes.
– But consumers eat other « things beside wheat.
– The claim made in the calculation of the Minister included all classes of primary products, and he specifically quoted wheat. I am disproving that part of his argument in my references to the wheat-grower.
Mr.- McGrath.- I suppose the honorable member will deal with the Mildura fruit-growers ?
– Yes; they are very staunch Protectionists, because, through organization, they are in the happy position of being able to do what the Aus tralian manufacturer does. Although during the war they voluntarily sold their dried fruits in Australia at a price far below the world’s market price, in normal times the policy of . Protection benefits them. I would like to see tho same situation applied to all the primary producers. If I had my way I would organize them and take the same right - the same right as is demanded for the Australian manufacturer.
I have made reference to the “ cut “ that organized labour is going ‘to get out of the Tariff. I can quite understand honorable! members opposite going “ baldheaded “ for Protection. If I represented a city constituency I might be “ all out” for a high Tariff also. I wish to refer to the position in which organized labour finds itself in connexion with the Tariff, particularly in respect of the wages paid to labourers employed in’ machinerymaking in Victoria. The wage rates are fixed under the present Wages Board system.. That system has treated the Victorian workers very well, for the reason that the tendency of all awards has been ever upwards. I do not say, of course, that that tendency should have been in any other direction. But I have never yet heard of a Wages Board being called together to consider a reduction of wages or increase of hours.. I have that in mind when I state that the system has treated the Victorian worker very well. But while the worker is on a good wicket, the implement maker is on an even better wicket- Like the man who plays “ two-up “ with a double-headed penny, he cannot lose. If his employees go for an increase of ls. 6d. per day, and he is able to resist the claim, the victory is obviously his. But if the workers get their ls. 6d., does the manufacturer pay it? Not at all. He immediately calls in his . old price-lists and issues fresh ones to his country agents, in which he promptly passes the burden of the increased wage-sheet to the poor old back-bone of the country. If we could put id. or Id. or 2d. on to the price of our wheat to meet this extra charge we “ would be in the happy position of having joined the great family of those who are engaged in the modern economic pastime of passing it on; but we cannot do so. When the manufacturer increases the price of his product in. order to cover an addition to his costs,amounting to 1 per cent,or11/2 per cent., he puts on 21/2 per cent., or 8 per cent., or 5 per cent. So the game goes on ; organized labour cutting at organized capital on the principle that the profits made in an industry can stand higher wages, and organized’ capital always retreating and putting it on to some one else. In the policy of the party to which I belong there is specific reference to the Fanners’ fiscal plank in regard to tools of trade - “ Tools of. trade used in primary production madewithinthe British Empire.” That plank is there simply because we are asked to compete in the world’s market; and, since we are compelled, to. sell our products in the world’s market, we ask for the privilege of purchasing our tools of trade also in the world’s market Now, I said that I would give some of these persistent interjectors my fiscal creed, and I shall do so. But as the hour is late, I should be glad to be allowed to continue my speech to-morrow.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) pro- posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr.RILEY (South Sydney) [10.6] - Thursdays used to be given up to the discussion of private members’ business, but have now been taken for the consideration of Government measures. Under these circumstances, I ask the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), if he will allow the discussion to-morrow of the motion of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. J. Page).
– I ask the indulgence of the Government towards the bringing forward of my motion to-morrow. It deals with a very debatable question, which needs decision.
– The question is not even a contentious one.
– Not with those who favour the removal of the Parliament to Canberra. If the Government would allowus until the dinner adjournment for its discussion, we might take a vote then,and thus settle once and for all a very vexed matter.
. -We must pay attention to the financial position of the country. Unless we can insure a sufficient revenue, even Canberra must look “blue.” I suggest that we had better get on with the Tariff, which so profoundly affects the revenue, and leave over a question which, after all, is not particularly urgent.
-What has happened in regard to the proposed notice of motion by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) ?
– I know only what I have read in the press about it. I read that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) had addressed the honorable members opposite.
– I did not get a letter.
– Did not his leader receive one from the honorable member for Perth? It is, I suppose, “this confounded press” again. If the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I shalltry to get an answer for him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 April 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210406_reps_8_94/>.