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 issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral divisionof Parramatta, in the place of the Right Honorable Sir Joseph Cook, resigned, and that the dates appointed were: Date of nomination, Wednesday, 30th November; polling day, Saturday, 10th December ; and the return of the writ on or before Wednesday, 21st December.
The following paperwas presented : -
Imperial Shipping Committee - Rebates, Ac., Interim Report and Correspondence with reference to.
Ordered to he printed.
– With a view to relieving the minds of his followers, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has determined who shall fill the Treasuryship, and what other allotments of portfolios he has made.
-The matter will be considered in due course.
Mr.RILEY. - Has the Prime Minister arranged with the honorable member for Flinders (Captain Bruce) a date on which he may give the House an account of his stewardship in connexion with the Geneva Conference?
– I have not arranged a date with the honorable member. There is nothing to stop him from making a statement this afternoon, though possibly he may not be ready to do so. If he is not, then, as I propose to-morrow to make a statement in regard to shipping, the matter must stand over for another day.
– Has the Postmaster-General submitted a report regarding what was done at the recent Conference at Madrid?
– A report was laid on the table, and ordered to be printed, some time ago.
– As there is a good deal of mystery surrounding the decision about arbitration of the Conference with the Premiers, will the Prime Minister inform the House and the country what really took place, and what it is intended to do in the way of altering the status of the Arbitration Court, or in other directions ?
– On Friday I laid on the table a copy of a resolution agreed to at the Conference, which sets out quite clearly the intention of its members. In pursuance of an understanding arrived at, the State Premiers have now been supplied with a draft of a Bill necessary to give effect to the resolution. It is necessary that legislation be passed by each of the State Legislatures, surrendering certain powers over industrial disputes to the Commonwealth Parliament, and by this Parliament, accepting the surrendered powers, and giving effect to them along the lines agreed upon.
– Is there a regulation which compels telephone subscribers in country districts to pay an increased charge if the line is used before 9 a.m., or after 6 p.m.? If so, will the PostmasterGeneral have that regulation altered?
– I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know what the position is.
– Is the Minister for
Trade and Customs aware that, under the new regulations governing the exportation of fruit, not more than 5 per cent. of an estimated quantity of 150,000 cases of pineapples available will be canned for export ?
– I understand that it has been provided that canned fruit may be put up only in 30-oz. cans; but, on investigation, it has been found that an exception must be made in regard to pineapples, because the fruit must fit the tin, and smaller sizes will have to be permitted. Action is being taken to that end.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he in a position, after consultation with the Cabinet, to state whether a decision has been arrived at with regard to the appointment of a Royal Commission, presided over by a Judge to inquire into the charges made against officials administering the War Service Homes Branch of the Repatriation Department? If so, what is the decision?
– As the matters referred to are being inquired into by the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts, the Government do not at present see any necessity for the course suggested.
asked the Trea surer, upon notice -
– The information, so far as it is at present available, is: -
I shall furnish the information in respect to the Defence and Navy Departments as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he can inform the House when the earlier Wheat Pools are to be wound up, and what isthe cause of the apparent delay in connexion with them?
– The oversea realizations and adjustments of the 1915-16 Pool were published in the daily press of 1st November. Adjustments of later Pools are now being made by the’ Australian WheatBoard, but it is not possible at present to indicate when these will be available, as the transactions are numerous and of considerable magnitude, necessitating careful analysis. It is the function of the Australian Wheat Board to adjust between States realizations of oversea sales and interest in connexion therewith. Each State makes its own local sales, and incurs all necessary local expenditure, such as rail freight, handling charges, &c. The declarations of final payments to growers must be made by the individual States.
Application for Assistance
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether the application being made by the New Guinea Copper Mines Ltd. to the Federal Government for financial assistance to complete the railway between Dubuna and Laloki mines has been finalized?’ If so, what are the terms of such assistance?
– The application has not yet been finalized.
Reported Oil Discoveries
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1.Reports have been received that indications of oil have been found in certain parts of Australia. The Department has not received any report in regard to oil discovered in the Mandated Territory. Reports in regard to the survey for oil in Papua, have been tabled in the House from time to time.
Director of Lands
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Are any pensions, civil, military or naval, stopped when such pensioners enter any State or public hospitals or any other charitable institutions? If not, will he ask Cabinet to consider whether old-age pensioners should be treated in the same generous manner?
– Commonwealth civil, military, or naval pensions are not stopped when the pensioner enters a hospital. When a Commonwealth invalid or old-age pensioner enters a hospital, no payment is made to the hospital for the first twenty-eight days, the whole of the pension being paid to the pensioner. For the period beyond twenty-eight days it has been the practice for several years to make payment to the hospital. I shall give further consideration to the matter.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Whether he will state what action has been taken by his Department to secure all the information possible with regard to the Spahlingen treatment of tuberculosis?
– The Department has, through the High Commissioner, been in touch with the British Ministry of Health at various times since the Spahlingen remedy was announced, but the information so far received has been scanty and unscientific. A further request to the High Commissioner was made early in September to forward allparticulars available, and to refer also to certain medical men who had personally inquired into the remedy. No reply has yet been received to this request.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, Etc
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 11th November, vide page 12720) :
Proposed vote, £823,506.
.- There are a few matters which I desire to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise). Whatever economy the Government may intend to practise, I am not willing that it should be at the expense of the Postal Department, which, more than any other, was starved during the years of the war. If by my vote and influence I can assist in bringing about a reduction in the expenditure on Defence, in order that the money may be realized for postal purposes, it will afford me much pleasure to do so. The first matter to which I desire to call attention, is that of the provision of private letter-boxes at post-offices. I find that in both town and country trouble is being experienced by the public in obtaining this convenience. Recently there reached me the following letter, which well describes the position in some country towns : -
Mallala, 15th October, 1921
Dear Sir, - At a public meeting, held at Mallala, under the auspices of the Vigilance Committee, it was unanimously decided that I should write to you re the matter of installing private letter-boxes at our local post-office.
It is now over two years ago when more than thirty of our citizens made application to have private letter-boxes, and up to the present nothing has been clone in the mutter. The Post Office Inspector who comes around always says that there arc no metal fronts for the boxes available, and this has been going on for two years now, very much to our discomfiture. Our mail arrives by the train of an evening about 7 p.m., but is often late; the post opens for a few minutes for delivery, and if a person is not there just at the right time the door is closed, and the expectant receiver of letters has to go home without his mail. Often, to make sure of getting our letters, we have to wait at the post-office for half to three-quarters of an hour while sorting is going on. Oftentimes with a big mail the office is not open until 8 p.m.; at another time with a smaller mail the delivery is closed at 7.25 p.m.,- so we are in a quandary as to when we should get to the office. I am telling you this to show you how inconvenient our present system is. With letter-boxes, however, we could get our mail at any time after the sorting had taken place.
We shall be extremely pleased if you can inquire into the delay of supplying Mallala with the needed convenience, and do us another good turn, as you did with the telephone charge reduction.
On behalf of the public and the Vigilance Committee,
Geo. A. Morphett, Hon. Sec
It will be seen that the people of this town have been waiting for two whole years for private letter-boxes, and many country towns are similarly situated in regard to the arrival of the mail trains in the evening. Of course, on some of the lines the trains are mixed, and there is much uncertainty as to exactly when they will arrive. This means that people may have to wait outside the offices for a considerable time, or return next morning. And as is said by the writer of the letter I. have quoted, the private letter boxes would be a very great convenience to people in the country.
I should say, in justice to the Postal Department, that since I placed this matter before the Deputy Postmaster-General in South Australia he has issued instructions that the office shall remain open for half an hour after the arrival of the train for the sorting of the mails. We are thankful for that concession, and I have no doubt that the local officer, who I know, is obliging and efficient, will willingly work that extra half hour ; but if the provision of private boxes would render that unnecessary, it seems a pity that they are not available. That is an instance of a country grievance, but apparently there is a similar cause of complaint in the cities. In the Age of 26th October, the following letter appeared : -
For two months or more I have been trying to obtain a private letter-box at the General Post Office, and every time I inquire I am told there are none vacant, but if I put my name down on the waiting list I may be able, to get one. I’ve done so without success, and am informed the waiting list is a long one. We hear a lot about the ‘ unbusinesslike methods of the Postal Department and its great deficiency, yet here is a source from which an adequate revenue would be returned, and yet the authorities are too apathetic to provide it. Cannot they be stirred to action? - Yours, &c.,
I emphasize the point made by the writer that the private letter boxes are a source of revenue. I think the rental varies from 10s. to 30s. per annum, according to the size of the box. I do not profess to be able; to estimate accurately the actual cost of erecting these boxes, but I am safe in saying that it would not average more than 15s. If that estimate be approximately correct, the provision of as many private letterboxes as are asked for seems to me a good business proposition. The Minister may reply that before that revenue can be earned a certain expenditure must be incurred, and that he has not the necessary money available. It does seem a pity that Government business should be conducted by such red-tape methods as to prevent the Department from handling profitable business when it is offering. The inconvenience being experienced at Mallala is being felt also at Truro. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) stated on Friday that some country towns in his electorate had been waiting for two years for private letter boxes. It would not be impossible for the metal faces required for these boxes to be made at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow; thus employment would be given to a number of men who are now out of work. I know that a different lock is required for each box, and that firms like Yale and Chubb specialize in the manufacture of them.
– If they can’ supply the locks, the metal face is such a simple article to produce that they might as well supply the complete article. If the Ministry desire that Government Departments should supply the requirements of other Departments and are not afraid of getling into conflict with private enterprise, here is an opportunity for a Government Factory which is not fully occupied to be utilized in providing material that is otherwise unobtainable.
– The Government are afraid of creating a precedent in matters of this kind.
– Then we must hope for the advent of a Government who will be more courageous and prepared to enter into any venture which promises profitable business.
Another grievance which is being experienced in my electorate in common with all parts of Australia is that whenever the State Railway authorities decide to economize they start in the country districts. I do not know whether the Labour Governments in Queensland and New South Wales are guilty of this unfairness, but the Liberal Government in South Australia are. On the Truro-Nuriootpa and Eudunda-Roberts Town lines the daily train service has been reduced to a tri-weekly service. Truro, which is one of the oldest towns in South Australia, and has had a daily mail for over sixty years, has now only three mails per week. This reduction of service affects also Stockwell, another old town, St. Kitts, Dutton, Sandleton, Stonefield, and other places out from Truro; some of them have had a daily service for years, and they feel they are suffering an injustice. I introduced to the Deputy Postmaster-General in South Australia an influential deputation from Truro and Stockwell, and I believe their request is now under consideration by the Minister. I am repeating the facts in his presence in the hope that his answer will be favorable. So far, when a tri-weekly service has been substituted for a daily service, the Department has refused to financially assist in any way the running of a road mail in order to compensate for the loss of the train mail. But I hope that the Minister will consider what has been said, and provide an early remedy. I quite realize that should this concession be granted. on a line here and on another line there, the Department would be inundated by requests from all quarters for a similar concession. I am also aware that as the railway carriage of mails is paid for on a poundage basis, the cost to the Postal Department is the same whether the mails are sent once a week or six times a week. The departmental officers say that they are paying the full amount for the conveyance of the mail, notwithstanding the reduction in the number of trains, and that it is no fault of theirs that these particular towns are, unfortunately, not receiving as good a service as formerly. The State member, for the district, Mr. Crosby, and I waited on the Commissioner of Railways in South Australia and asked him to reinstate, a daily service, hut the best he could offer was to run a motor tricycle over the line on the off days if the residents of the towns would pay 12s. 6d. for each trip it made. However, the townspeople do not feel disposed to do this while other towns of smaller importance have a daily train and a daily mail.
Dr. Sprod, of Mannum, has waited on the Postmaster-General in regard to the establishment of telephonic communication between the various townships on the Murray Flats, and I have approached the Minister, and the Deputy Postmaster-General upon the same subject. There are a number of small towns on these flats, which, unfortunately, have no telephonic communication with Mannum, where a hospital has recently been built. Honorable members who represent South Australian constituencies know that these flats are quite cut off from the metropolis of the State by the Mount Lofty Range. The settlers on the flats are very isolated. and an undoubted advantage would be conferred upon them if they could have telephonic communication with Mannum. A proposal has been placed before the Department, which, I believe, I am safe in saying the officers will be willing to carry out if the money is forthcoming, to connect Cambrai with Mannum, via Millendilla. Sanderston, and Appamurra. This line would not only link up these towns, but also bring Black Hill, Sedan, and other places further north, if they so desired, into touch with Mannum. There is also a little town called Summerfield, to the west, and if it were connected with Mannum, via Appamurra, another large area would be linked up. I urge the Minister to carry out this particular work, which would be of great benefit to the settlers on the Murray Plats. They have made a heroic fight in what has proved to be sometimes a very dry area, and their wants are often neglected.
There are other lines in my district for which I am asking. I want a line from Koonunga to Kapunda, and I want Korunye and Redbanks connected with the main trunk line to Adelaide. Another proposal of a much larger description should have the support of the departmental officials, because, if carried out, it would relieve the very heavilyloaded traffic between Morgan and Adelaide, which serves all the Upper Murray district in South Australia. I refer to a direct line from Truro to Kapunda. This work, if carried out, would afford direct communication between Kapunda and many towns in the Barossa district, such as ‘ Angastown, Tanunda, and Nuriootpa, and out to the Murray Flats, including such places as Sedan, Cambrai, Mannum, and Swan Reach.
– What funny names you hare in your State.
– They are nearly all native names which, I am glad to say, we have preserved in South Australia. I am mentioning all these localities, because I know that they are carefully noted from Hansard by the departmental officers.
Another matter with which the Minister is conversant is that of having a Sunday morning mail between Murray Bridge and Adelaide. As some of the influential townsmen of Murray Bridge waited on the Minister when he was last travelling from Adelaide to Melbourne I need not labour the question other than to mention that if arrangements could be made to send letters forward to Adelaide on the Melbourne express on a Sunday morning it would enable the people of Murray Bridge to reply to the Adelaide mail received by them 011 the Saturday, which would be a great facility to them. I have forwarded a petition upon the matter to the Minister. It contains the signatures of practically all the business men in the town. I bring this matter forward again, hoping that some action will be taken.
I am grateful to the Department for the services I have been able to obtain in South Australia since I came into this House. I am a political opponent of the Government, but I am honest and frank enough to admit that they have helped many people in outside districts to get telephone communication. I have proved this in my own case and I propose to mention some of the lines that have been built in order that country people who read Hansard may know that there is not full justification for the claim made by many persons that the country is always neglected to the advantage of the city. So far as new postal buildings, in South Australia are concerned, the metropolitan area has obtained the lion’s share; but, on the other side of the ledger, I must mention the fact that in my own district the following lines have been authorized and completed: - Monteith to Murray Bridge, Cadell to Morgan, Dutton to Truro, Calomba to Mallala, Long Plains to Mallala, Rockleigh to Monarto South, Bagot’s Well to Kapunda, Rowlands Flat to Tanunda, Eba to Morgan, and Mount McKenzie to Angaston. I am not sure whether the line between Mount McKenzie and Angaston has yet been completed. When I last made inquiries at the Department in regard to it, I was promised that the work would be started by the 28th of last month. Another completed line is that between Tweedvale and Forest Range. I am thankful to say that Paracombe, and also Teal Flat, have been provided with telephonic communication, and a line is to be erected between Black Hill and Wongulla as soon as the poles have been supplied by local residents. Both my predecessor and I battled -for a long time for this line. I think the Department has acted wisely in deciding to erect it, since the greater portion of the Murray flats will thus be afforded ready communication with Angaston and the fertile country in and around Tanunda and further away to the north.
I have occupied sufficient time in putting these matters before the Minister, and I express my thankfulness for what I have obtained. I hope the Defence Estimates will be cut down sufficiently, so that the Postmaster-General may have additional funds to enable him to continue the good work of the last eighteen months in connexion with the erection of telephone lines in country districts. The honorable gentleman said that to do all that he wanted to do would involve the raising of a loan of £7,500,000. 1 do not anticipate that such a loan will be raised, but I hope that honorable members will not fail to cut back the Defence Estimates, remembering that if that is done. we shall have a good chance of obtaining from the Post and Telegraph Department better facilities for our rural districts. Our surest line of defence is the development and settlement of the country, and one means of obtaining that is the granting of the postal and telephone facilities so necessary to all new country districts.
.- I presume that when the general Estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department are before us we shall be able to discuss the whole of its services. There undoubtedly has been, during the last two years, a very great change in the administration of the Department. Many of the regulations, which were anything but liberal, have been rescinded, and I think the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) has made an effort to be far more liberal than was his predecessor in the treatment of country districts. I do not propose to go into details, since an opportunity to do so will occur later on; but, as a member of the Country party, I feel I am correct in assuring the Minister that while we have been very pleased with the liberalizing of tlie regulations, we at the same time desire still more than he has given us. There can be no doubt that for many years the Department has been to a great extent starved, and money for developmental purposes has not been forthcoming. During the last two years, however, there has been a change, and we now have the PostmasterGeneral stating that he requested that a much larger sum should be made available for the purposes of his Department. I hope that in the future larger sums will be placed at its disposal, but I trust that, when it is, no portion of it will be spent in undergrounding cables in provincial towns. That sort of work might well be left over for decades. I felt shocked when I discovered some few years ago that in certain country towns in Victoria the undergrounding of cables was being carried on by the Department.
– What is the objection to it?
– Such work is necessary in our cities, but having regard to the urgent demand for improved facilities in country districts, it would be far better to provide people in distant parts with telephone facilities than to expend money on undergrounding telegraph and telephone lines in towns with a population of 4,000 or 5,000.
– I have directed that no money shall be spent in undergrounding lines except where it is absolutely necessary to do so. In some cases such work is really necessary, and results in economy. I held a different view and found fault with the expenditure of money in the way mentioned by the honorable member, but my officers mentioned one or two cases where it was cheaper to uuderground the lines. I, however, have given an absolute direction that unless it is really necessary the money is to be expended in extensions of lines, and not in undergrounding cables.
– That is not the way to economize. The proper way, according to some honorable members, is to cut down by one half the expenditure of the Department in our big cities. o
– There are two methods of economizing, and when the general Estimates are before us I hope to be able to show the Committee directions in which economies can be effected. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews)’ knows, there is a big demand for automatic exchanges in Melbourne, as well as in other State Capitals. Expenditure in that direction is fully justified, according to the evidence I have been obtaining, for the simple reason that ‘such conveniences must be supplied, and should and must be made profitable services. The telephone systems in our cities now should pay expenses and interest on capital employed. There is a huge demand for increased telephone services in the various capitals, and since the public must pay for them the necessary expenditure should prove sound. I would urge the Minister to see that every care is taken in the expenditure of these large sums of money, that full value is obtained. The cost of all the material and paraphernalia required for telephone purposes has increased, I think, to the extent of nearly 200 per cent, over pre-war prices/ In the installation of automatic telephone exchanges, care should be taken to make the various systems interchangeable. In setting up an automatic exchange, in, say, one of the suburbs of Melbourne, the Department should see to it that the design will enable advantage to be taken of offers from English and other firms, and that any plant installed will work in as part of the one general metropolitan, system. If that were done, no one firm would get a monopoly. The Public Works Committee urged that the calling of tenders for such plants should rest with the Commonwealth Supply and Tender Board. In making that recommendation, Ave had no doubt of any kind as to the departmental Tender Board, but to prevent the possibility of anything in the nature of a monopoly we thought that all such tenders should pass through the Supply and Tender Board.
Although I represent a- country constituency, I am quite content that large sums should be expended in providing these metropolitan services. It should be good business for the Department, but the Minister will agree with me that, having regard to the keen desire for the settlement of the country, every effort must be made to provide cheaper facilities for residents of rural districts. I wish the Department to help ‘the people by supplying them with information to enable them to erect lines that will be less ex- pensive than the standard lines. When I am informed, for instance, by the Postmaster-General that even where the posts have been already erected, to supply S miles of an ordinary telephone line of two light wires costs £400, it is clear that it is quite impossible for the people in many country districts to meet such a huge cost. In the earlier stages a much cheaper line would be sufficient, and the standard line might be supplied when local development justified the expense. I know that officers of the Department are very desirous to help in this direction, and if some instructions on the matter were given by the Minister much good would result.
– A short time ago the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr, Gibson) came with a deputation to me to make the same suggestion, and I requested my officers to give me a report on the “subject.
– I wrote on similar lines to the Minister many months ago, and I am very anxious that something in this direction should be done. When we look at the figures of the last census, we cannot help recognising the danger of so many people migrating from the country districts into the city. I am satisfied that no greater boon can be given to settlers in outside districts than the supply of cheap telegraphic and telephonic facilities. Telephone communication is of the greatest value to outside districts in cases of sickness, or accident to life, or to machinery in harvest time. I can inform the Committee’ that east from Carnarvon for 150 miles or 200 miles the people themselves assisted in the erection of telephone lines into the interior, and I had a letter some time ago from a gentleman, who pointed out that as the result of the erection of one of these lines two lives were saved, one the wife of a settler, and one a settler who had met with a very serious accident. The lines to which I refer, apart from the advantages they have conferred, have become paying lines.
Another matter to which I refer is wireless telephony. I understand that the Department desires to retain control of wireless telephony. They recently, I believe, erected something in the nature of a wireless telephone between Camooweal and Powell’s Creeek.
– In the expectation that the owners of stations would put up small plants to connect, but we have had a very poor response from them - practically no response.
– I may be wrong, but it is my belief that the fact that there has not been a satisfactory response is due to the fact that the Department insists upon controlling the business. I do not desire that the Department should lose all control of wireless telephony. It should insist that no wireless telephone should be erected except under licence and in accordance with . regulations gazetted by the Department. But I think we should encourage the brains of the world to assist us in this matter. I should like to see Amalgamated “Wireless and other private firms getting amongst the people and informing them how plants might be operated, and how much they would cost. Amalgamated Wireless has supplied me with information on the subject, and they can supply a plant which any ordinary artisan with a little special knowledge and experience could handle. There is an oil engine on most stations, and the motor power could thus be provided or could be provided from the power of a motor car for the working -of a plant that would cover 100 miles or 200 miles. Honorable members will recollect the magnificent demonstration of wireless telephony thai was afforded in the Queen’s Hall a little time ago. We want the best machinery in the world in these matters, and I personally would let private enterprise take up the business under departmental regulations. * I am satisfied that inexpensive plants can he provided which can be effectively controlled by the people erecting them. If the system were widely extended, it would overcome many of the difficulties of out-back settlers. It would provide them with a boon which could not have been dreamt of a few years ago. I am afraid that if the Government insist upon retaining complete control, things will be allowed to drift in the ordinary departmental way, and we shall not get any “ forrarder.” I wrote .to the Minister six months ago urging him to give this matter serious consideration. His reply at the time was that, in his opinion, the Department should retain control. I want business men to get into this enterprise, and endeavour to sell their machines to the people. I am satisfied that the result would be beneficial. The Minister must have had letters sent to him showing that lives have been lost through the difficulty of getting into touch with medical assistance within a reasonable time. . Only a little time ago a case occurred in which it was mentioned that it took a fortnight to drive a woman from her home in some remote place in the Northern Territory to the nearest railway station. It is the pioneers who are opening up remote districts to whom the utmost consideration should be given. I fear that the officers of the Department will not take the responsibility upon themselves of pushing a new scheme such as this in the way in which Amalgamated Wireless and other private firms would do. T am not here to canvass for Amalgamated Wireless. I mention the name only because I have received a number of communications from the firm, which I believe is a live one. Beyond that I know nothing of it, and care less. My ‘ desire is only that private firms should be encouraged to come amongst us and give us of their best in these new undertakings. We have heard recently of the wonderful work which was done in connexion with the Geneva Conference in the way of wire; less messages sent to and from Great Britain, and from Great Britain to other parts of the Continent. We have the news now that wireless messages are being trans- omitted from Great Britain to Australia. I am satisfied that wireless telephony has come to stay. It will be a wonderful aid to the development of the interior if it can be successfully carried out and commercially established.’ Such efforts as the responsible officials of the Department have made, ‘experimental^, have rather left the impression in my mind that wireless telephony has been demonstrated to the people in the bush as useless. I refer to the inextensive experiments conducted at .Camooweal. However, I have had many inquiries concerning the possibilities of wireless telephony among the settlers of North-.West Australia. Those isolated people are very anxious to ascertain whether something practicable cannot be done.
With respect to the inauguration of the aerial mail service, while thanking the Government and the Department for having established the service from Geraldton to Broome, I am bound to add that, fdr the aerial service to be really effective and nationally justified, consideration must be given, not only to the matter of rapid mail transit, but to the great question of defence. The Government should endeavour to link up the whole of the northern coast-line of Australia. That is to say, the service should be extended from Derby to Darwin, and thence to some point in Queensland to be decided upon by departmental experts. The greatest value of the aerial service to Australia must be in the matter of defence. Those conducting the aeroplane mail will be in a position to furnish information, and to supply photographs, and the very fact of their being the nucleus of an air defence scheme around and about the Australian coast must appeal to any Australian citizen. As a matter of fact, the question of defence comes first.
The Postmaster-General will be. justified in pushing on with the installation of automatic telephone exchanges. Costs have increased enormously. The cost of the South Melbourne Exchange, for example, has been stated to approach £90,000. Departmental officers should be impressed to secure the automatic plants, if possible, at reasonable prices; for, by the time interest and sinking fund have been paid, the ‘charges will be found to be fairly high. Every care should be taken, in the preparation of 0 tenders, to see that no one firm is given a monopoly. Thus only can the plants be secured at the cheapest possible rates.
.- My many years’ experience in a State Legislature has brought, me into close touch with State railway considerations, and I have been impressed with the value of a settled policy in regard to running these systems. In my view, the various State Governments, when appointing Railways Commissioners, should lay down a policy so that the responsible officials should know whether it was desired that the railways should be run on a paying basis or purely as developmental instruments. That all-essential matter of policy having been formulated, the Commissioners could go ahead, and would know exactly how to conduct their business. A some’ what similar procedure might well be laid down for the guidance of the Postmaster-
General. The Minister filling that office is always in the position of having to go to the Treasurer for every penny he requires. It would not be good policy, of course, to permit Ministerial heads to spend as much money as they desired, but the Government should primarily accept responsibility for propounding a policy for the guidance of the post and telegraph services. The Postmaster-General should know whether he is to be expected to run his huge Department with the object of making it a paying concern, or with a view to the development of the continent, purely and simply. If the Department were to be conducted as a paying concern, it should be demonstrated at once that the cities, having by far the best service,, should be required to pay the most, even in proportion. I do not wish to set up country interests as against those of the city; but, were it not for pioneering and developmental activities out-back, our big cities would not be in the affluent position that they are in to-day. Without doubt, city people are well catered for by the Postmaster-General’s Department, and they should not grumble at having to shoulder the cost.
Efficiency in the postal service is a very desirable thing. It means contentment. We can make the out-back in Australia more habitable by making the people more contented, and there is no better means to that end than a good postal service. I have lived in the city and I have lived out-back. I have been on the Western Australian gold-fields since their settlement, and I can say positively that the places on those gold-fields that have had few postal facilities, and no telegraph or telephone lines, have never prospered. The reason why they have never prospered is because they have never had a fair chance. The district from Menzies to Mount Ida, a distance of 80 or 90 miles, has been denied proper postal facilities; it has a mail only twice a week, and no telephonic or telegraphic communication. That district has progressed hardly at all since it was first settled. If that district had had the same chance as Bullfinch and other places, where telephone and telegraph lines and railway lines were rushed in, it would have prospered as they have prospered. It would have attracted capital. British capital would have been employed there, and it might have been the means of opening up a gold-field. Another place which has suffered through the absence of proper postal and telegraphic facilities is Lake Darlot, which is 89 miles from Leonora. This has never been connected by wire with any post-office, with the result that it has remained what is popularly termed “ a one-horse place.” From my mining knowledge, and from my local knowledge, I can assert positively that that place would be flourishing to-day if it had been provided with postal facilities. 1 suggest that when the Postmaster-General’s policy is being discussed by the Cabinet a proposal on the following lines should be considered. If there are three or four men on a small pastoral holding, say, 40 miles from a township, the Postal Department can hardly be expected to run a special wire to connect them with civilization, but the settlers might be permitted, if they cared to do it, to run a telephone line along their fences. When I was a member of the State Parliament I assisted Mr. Hugh Mahon to induce the Government to allow a wire to be run along a fence to connect the Sturt Meadows Station, in the Leonora district, with the telephone system. Officially every obstacle was placed in the way. It was said that when the weather was wet and stormy, and when adverse atmospheric conditions prevailed, the system would be a failure. These pessimistic prognostications have not been realized. If people right throughout Australia were permitted to run these telephone wires along their fences it would’be a very great advantage to them. It would mean only a slight alteration to the top wire of the fence, and the raising of it over gates, &c. A man connected with a post-office in this way can obtain important information regard- , ing market fluctuations. Cattle may be selling at Kalgoorlie and bringing a fair price. Every one wants to get as much money as possible for his stock, and I think every member of this Committee desires that every man should get the best possible ‘ reward for his industry. The man on the telephone can be informed directly by the post-office, or indirectly through the postoffice, what the state of the market is. He can send his stock to market, or withhold them, as circumstances warrant. A man without a telephone line has to compete under unfair conditions with the man who has a telephone. It can be arranged that people connected with the telephone system can ring up the post-office at night, even if it means leaving a switch in, as is done at Leonora. People in the city have an, opportunity of getting their children educated. In practically every State the child of the poorest person has a right, by merit, to go from the primary school to the University. That sounds very well, but it only applies to city children. The distinction that is made between city children and the children out-back is not democratic in the matter of education. If any one goes into the out-back and says that all children have a right to go from the primary school to the University he will be laughed at, and the resident will say, “ It is all very well to tell us that, but our children have none of these facilities. I agree that it is a good thing for a child to enter the State school and finish at the University with a profession. I do not want my child to be a workaday boy. - I do not want my girl to be an’ ordinary drudge. I am going to ask you, if you yourself were concerned, would you bring your children out here? That is why I do not bring my own children out here.”
– Some of the children in my own Division do not get much chance either.
– I am not acquainted with the details of the Victorian education system, but I know it is the boast of most of the Australian State education authorities that children may pass right on through the primary schools to the University, and that if children are denied the opportunity of direct instruction they may have it by correspondence, as in my own State. I repeat that if we are to make the out-back districts popular we must see to it that the people living there are granted reasonable telephonic and telegraphic services. These should be provided even if it means the expenditure of a slightly higher proportion of the total vote as compared with more closely-settled districts.
– Parliament has never yet refused a vote for the Postal Department.
– But, unfortunately, honorable members of the Committee have not had an opportunity of dealing with this matter.. It is purely one of administra tion.
– Then the honorable member cannot blame the Committee.
– I am not; but the Committee should indicate what it regards as the best policy for the development of the country districts so far as. telephonic communication is concerned. I hope the Minister will note what I have said, because I speak from many years of experience of the difficulties in the remoter portions of the Commonwealth.
I have no desire to work the parish pump, but I should like to bring before the Minister the position with regard to the contemplated linking up of the trunk line along the transcontinental railway to Perth. Although there is opposition to this proposal in my own Division, I think it is the best course the Government could adopt, because the iron -poles, which are necessary to resist the ravages of white ants, are already erected along the railway line, and all that is needed is to connect up the wires. There is telegraphic connexion along the south line from Norseman through Belladonia to Eucla, and this could be connected with the transcontinental railway line at a point 60 miles north of Eucla. “When the trunk line work is done I believe it would be a good policy, at least for a few years, to allow the old line to remain. Many settlers who have been in the district for many decades, and are doing well, would need it as a means of telephonic communication. I trust, therefore, that the Postmaster-General will allow the old line to be used at stated intervals by the settlers and prospectors. Commonwealth money has been spent in the settlement _of a large number of soldiers between Esperance and Norseman and between Esperance and Eucla, and as these men are an asset to the” State they should have reasonable facilities. Between Norseman and Esperance, a distance of 120 miles, there is a stretch of mallee farming country as good as can be found in any other part of the Commonwealth.
– What is the rainfall?
– It averages about 9 inches, which is somewhat better than the average in the mallee country of Victoria. Communication has not been established . before because many State people decried the value of the land, and the Commonwealth Government used this as an argument to delay going on with the work. It was a good argument. Settlement was retarded and the proposed railway was not proceeded with. But the most qualified land and other experts available were given a free hand to make investigations in connexion with that area, and as a result of their inquiries the present Government - the members of which had always been opposed to that line - authorized its construction. Within a few years there will be a wire along that railway line, and there will then be only a stretch of 60 miles from Norseman that will not be connected by telegraph or telephone. If the Government eventually decide to undertake the construction of that line, I trust the Committee will give the proposal their support, because it will be the means of encouraging a large number of settlers to take up land in that locality. There are quite a number of men at present working in the Kalgoorlie mines, some of whom I worked with, who are quite willing and anxious to go on that land, and I trust that when the Department moves in the _ direction I have indicated no opposition will be shown to the proposal. Those who are at present located there are working under very adverse circumstances, and Norseman is the nearest market in which they dispose of their products. In December last, and since then, I have seen farmers carting, their produce to Esperance, a distance of 75 miles, and droving sheep 80 miles. On leaving their holdings these men do not know what the market will be like when they reach their destination; but others, who sell in the Kalgoorlie market, which is nearer, know the ruling prices beforehand, and sometimes receive almost half as much again for their sheep. The people on the land to which I have referred would not be sol unduly handicapped if a telegraph or telephone line was at their disposal. The arguments I have adduced in connexion with the portion of the State I represent apply also to other States in the Commonwealth, and I trust that when the policy of the Department is being considered due attention will be given to those who are developing territory in isolated centres, so that further encouragement will be given to people to settle on the land and thus increase production.
.- I have no personal complaints to make concerning the administration of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise). I know his resources are somewhat limited, but I wish to again bring under his notice the shocking condition of the present Post Office in Elizabeth-street. It is a disgrace to have a tin shanty attached to what should be one of the finest buildings in Melbourne. I understand that that temporary structure at the northern end is returning about £500 per annum.
– I understand, also, that the lease is only a temporary one, and is subject to building alterations. Is there a member of the Committee who believes that the residents of Sydney would permit such an eye-sore to remain in the centre of that great city? It would pay the Government to add another story to that structure, and accommodate in the additional space the different Government Departments that are at present renting properties in various parts of the city and suburbs. I doubt very .much whether any honorable member could compile a list of the properties rented by the Commonwealth in Melbourne and the suburbs. I could not do so, and I intend asking the Minister for Works and Kailways (Mr. Groom) ii he will supply particulars of all the properties at present rented in Melbourne. I have been informed by a reputable architect that if the Melbourne Post Office were completed accommodation could be found for a majority of the Departments now occupying rented properties. If that were done, how much more convenient it would be for carrying on the business of the Commonwealth than running to Carlton, South Melbourne, Flinders-lane, and elsewhere in search of Commonwealth officials. I am sure the Postmaster-General would be proud to realize that such a desirable alteration had been made during his régime. Surely it is not unreasonable to suggest that the Melbourne Post Office should be made similar to the Sydney General Post Office.
– The Perth General Post Office is being brought up to date.
– And for that our thanks are due to Mr. King O’Malley. That is the only city where the two principal points *f interest in the community - the railway station and the post-office - have been brought together, and the buildings on the block of land which was acquired have been returning, I believe, approximately, 5 or 6 per cent. If Mr. King O’ Malley ‘s idea had been carried out in connexion with the Sydney General Post Office, the Government would have been richer by at least £1,000,000 on the present value of the property, and Sydney would have had the finest Post Office block in the world.
I understand the difficulties of the Postmaster-General in regard to telegraph and telephonic connexion, and, personally, I think, that it would have been better to utilize the wire required in duplicating the service between Sydney and Melbourne in other directions. In no spirit of captious criticism do I make these remarks; but I would like to again impress upon the Minister the desirableness of making everything appertaining to telephones .in Australia. With the exception of certain metals which cannot be obtained here, I do not know of anything that we cannot produce; and we ought to supply those who assist in maintaining the State with the services they require at the lowest cost, particularly when they are so willing to pay. It was said by one man that if one liked to bribe an officer of the Department a telephone service could be secured. I have absolute proof of that, and when it was brought under the notice of the Department it acted quickly, strenuously, and rightly. An awful stigma would re3t on the Postal Department if, by the payment of money, some people could obtain telephones, while others, who had been longer on the waiting list, were not permitted to have them.
– If you have an example of that, it should be made public.
– It was made fairly public, and I believe the official in question was dismissed. I desire the PostmasterGeneral to impress upon the Government the urgent necessity to proceed with telephone extensions. In that way unemployment would be alleviated.
I was much surprised, when visiting Rabaul via the Solomon Islands, to find that, although the postal rates in Australia have been increased, the rate under the English flag in the Solomons was only1d. to every part of the world. I believe that the position in that regard in the Solomons is unique. I possess envelopes which show that in the late fifties the postage rate from San Francisco to Australia was only½d. One can understand that an increased postal rate was necessary under war conditions, but I hope the Postmaster-General will adopt, so far as he is able, any improvements which may have been suggested to Mr. Oxenham as a result of his visit to the Postal Congress. Knowing what an enthusiastic Australian the Postmaster-General is, I am sure he will not need any urging on my part in that direction.
An item that should receive passing notice is the estimated increase of £208,000 on the actual expenditure last year for the carriage of overseas mails. The expenditure estimated last year was £130,000, and the amount actually expended was only £114,000, showing that the Department was economical in that respect. The present estimate is £323,000, which represents a very large increase over the actual expenditure for last year. The contracting company is, I understand, a branch of the old Shipping Ring, vhich is practising its infamy wherever it can. I should have imagined the amount this year would be less, because our own ships are soon to be available for the carriage of mails. I believe that the arrangement with the Orient Company is for one year only.
Mr.Wise. - It is terminable at twelve months’ notice.
– May I suggest that it would be just as well to give the company notice at once, because within the ensuing twelve months our own ships would be here?
– We shall have the first here before Christinas.
– I am glad to hear it. I voyaged recently from Western Australia, and General Lassetter drew my attention to the infamous practice of the Orient Company of crowding 100 employees into a space where there was accommodation for only 64. The company wanted to crowd 150 employees into a certain space, but the stewards resented this, and threatened to strike. Not a steward leaving a port in England ever had a sit-down meal. The company’s object was to make more space for passengers who would pay well. The charges were high, being up to £70 for steerage, and £114 for second-class passages. I strongly resent the company asking any human being to live under such conditions as it expected its’ employees to submit to. I have always defended the Orient Company as against the Peninsular and Oriental line of steamers, and therefore I specially resent the company charging so highly for the carriage of mails. For a long time we ceased making the Peninsular and Oriental liners our mail steamers. That was largely due to their insisting on carrying coloured labour. The records of the infamy of that company are contained in the London Times and in the Hansard of the British Parliament. When Mr. Ritchie was head of the Board of Trade in Great Britain, he stated in the House that the time might come when he would be compelled to prosecute the Peninsular and Oriental Company criminally, and he made that statement while one of his fellowCabinet Ministers was a director of that company. Seeing that the company allowed only 60 cubic feet of sleeping space per seaman - only a doublesized coffin - honorable members will understand why the British Government threatened the company so severely. I suppose the Orient Company has now joined the Shipping Combine, and is out to get as much as it can from this or any other Government, so I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he should, if not at once, within the next few months, give the company notice to terminate its contract. I do not propose to criticise the administration of the Postmaster-General at the present time, because I recognise that the money has been spent, and that the honorable gentleman must do his best to get his Estimates through. I recollect the good work clone by his predecessor ; indeed, it would ill-become me not to specially praise the energy which Mr. Webster put into his administration. He worked so hard that he made it difficult for any one to follow him. Yet, knowing the capacity and energy of the present occupant of the office, I hope that he may equal his predecessor. I again remind him that the Melbourne post-office is now an eyesore, and that he would save a large sum of money which now goes in unnecessary rents if he could get the Minister for Works and Railways to agree to a concentration of office accommodation, which would enable Commonwealth work to be done more conveniently, expeditiously, a-nd economically.
– I was surprised and disappointed to discover that there is no provision in the Estimates for the improvement of the sanitation of the General Post Office, Brisbane. The present condition of the building is deplorable, and in the hot weather constitutes a menace to the health of the hundreds of Commonwealth employees who are housed there. Members of the, Public Works Committee and Public Accounts Committee who have attended meetings at the Post Office can verify my statement, i understand that the Estimates originally submitted provided for the improvement that is needed, which has been strongly recommended by the officials of the Department, but that this provision was cut out because of the present financial stringency. I appeal to the honorable gentleman, however, to get the work done as soon as possible. The citizens of Brisbane desired that it should be taken in hand before the present summer commenced. It is unnecessary to enlarge upon this matter, but, in my opinion, the work is most necessary, and to save money by not proceeding with it is not a justifiable economy.
– When speaking on Supply last week I drew attention to several cases in which, although departmental letters had explained that the delays in the construction of works were due to the scarcity of material, private persons had had no difficulty in securing such material. In one case, the Department had undertaken to erect half of a telephone line connecting two places 20 miles apart, local persons erecting the other half. The latter had no difficulty about getting the material they required, and did their portion of the work, but when I asked the Department why it had not proceeded with its half, I was told that no material was available.
– I have asked the New South Wales Office for a specific reply, to the cases mentioned last week by the honorable member. I think that the letters which he then quoted were badly worded, and that instead of having been told that material was not available, he should have been told that material was not available from that under order, and that there were no funds with which to order more. In a letter sent to me in connexion with a service asked for in my district, the latter was the statement made.
– Certainly, the replies I received were most puzzling, and put the Department in a” most ridiculous position.
– I quite agree with you.
– This is the sort of thing that causes considerable annoyance in country districts. ‘ In reply to a communication sent by me to the Department on 21sb March, I was informed on 13th May that tenders would shortly be invited for the erection of a certain telephone line, and on the strength ,f that information the persons interested set themselves to perform their part of the contract, cutting poles, and depositing them along the route of the proposed line. Then, on 1st November, I got another letter from the Department, intimating that the “work of erecting this line cannot be proceeded with at present, owing to the necessary material and funds not being available.” The cutting and delivering of the poles has occupied a great deal of time and energy, and I suppose that when the Department has the funds and material for carrying cut the work, some inspector will condemn the. poles - which, of course, are now lying exposed to the weather - as unserviceable, and the work that has been done private hands will have been done to no purpose. This is not an isolated case.
– It discloses a scandalous state of affairs.
– Undoubtedly. The Tarcutta district, where this line is needed, is an important and well-settled portion of my electorate. Individuals there were practically told that they could proceed with their share of the work, and months after they had done their part they discovered that the Department was not in a position to do its share. I do not propose to mention further cases now, because I realize from the speech made the other day by the Postmaster-General that there is very little hope of an improvement until a drastic change has taken place. The honorable gentleman’s speech showed the existence of a very serious state of affairs. He told us that the sums voted for the post-war years have been much less than those voted for pre-war years, and that, consequently, the arrears of work are very large. During the post-war years the votes for telephone services have averaged about £430,000 a year.
– As against a previous average of £1,011,000 a year. It must also be remembered that material now costs four or five times as much as it did.
– Thus we are going from bad to worse,
– This is the first year since the war that the vote has been as large as pre-war votes, bub there are now three or four years of arrears.
– I understand from the Postmaster-General that an expenditure of about £7,800,000, spread over- three or four years, is needed to make up arrears. o
– It is well to know the exact position, and to be told where the trouble lies. What we now wish to know is what remedy will be applied. It was a revelation to me to hear that the proposals of the Department had been cut down by the last Treasurer, because I heard him. declare several times in this chamber - my statement may be verified by reference to Hansard - that never during his term of office had he cut down any sum asked for by the Postmaster-General. Yet the Postmaster-General told us last Friday that when he asked for £2,500,000 for his Department, he sot only £1,500,000, so that that £1,000,000 was pruned off his estimates of expenditure. The arrears of work in his Department cannot be made up in that way. Apparently there is a triple control of the PostmasterGeneral’s spending. He himself has told us that the Department of Works and Railways must be approached to learn whether a particular work is being carried on, or how it is progressing; and the amount that will be available for expenditure depends on the Treasurer. To me the position seems a desperate one. Instead of being able’ to send some word ‘of encouragement to the people in the back country, we have to tell them that funds are not being made available to give them ‘the communication which they need. I should like to know whether the Postmaster-General, when the Treasurer told him that he could not have within £1,000,000 of the amount that he asked for, suggested that that sum might well be saved out of the expenditure of the Defence Department. If that were done, I venture to say that not only this House, but the community generally, would be behind the PostmasterGeneral. If we simply accept the word of the Treasurer as final, we are refusing to do simple justice to the people of the country districts.
– Who is the Treasurer?
– I should like to know. There is another aspect of the question. During -a recent noconfidence motion we heard a great deal about economy. I shall not refer in detail to what then took place; I shall not express any opinion whether the “gun was loaded “ or whether the action taken was only so much “ piffle,” but I am led to believe that subsequently there was a departmental move made with a view to ascertaining whether the cutting down of expenditure could be accomplished. I do not know whether there was an inquiry in reference to the Defence Department, but I am informed that, within the last few weeks, there has been as regards the Postal Department. At any rate, I know that on several occasions when I asked for certain officials of the Postal Department I was told that they were at an economy conference. If such a conference is being held, I hope and believe that both the Postmaster-General and this House will strongly object to any “ economy “ in postal matters. If there is any lack of funds, and if, in order to make up arrears of postal works, there must be an expenditure of £7,000,000, spread over three or four years, the Postmaster-General should come to the House with a definite concrete proposal to cut £1,000,000 or more out of the Defence vote and devote the money to those works. Outside the little coterie of people - the economy gang, the Taxpayers Association, or whatever they are called - I do not think there is a member of this House or one person in the community who expects the Post Office to show a surplus. I have always contended that this Department ought not to be expected to be even a paying one; it is one conducted for the benefit of the people.
– It certainly should not be starved!
– And it should not be expected to show a surplus. During the regime of the exPostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) there was a surplus of something like £700,000, and this, instead of being applied to postal services, was paid into the Consolidated Revenue. That, in my opinion, is false economy - the worst kind of false economy. We speak to-day about the development of the country districts, the evils of centralization, and all the rest of it, and we know that every day there are people leaving the country for the cities because country life is not made attractive.
– One postal service a week in the country andtwo services a day in the city!
– With our two services a day in the city, and all other conveniences right to our hand, I often think of the position of the man out-back with his one mail a week. If people in the country desire a service twice a week, they are told that they cannot have it unless they themselves provide the cost. We are simply perpetuating conditions which mean the depletion of the country districts, and there will soon be very little of that “ backbone of the country “ of which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) so often speaks. I appeal to the Postmaster-General to take a firm stand. No, doubt a Treasurer thinks he is doing his duty when he says there must be a cutting-down here and there; but if the pruning-knife is to be used, let it be in regard to some other Department. The ex-Treasurer always boasted that he had never yet used the pruning-knife in relation to the Post Office; yet the Postmaster-General told us on Friday that the right honorable gentleman had reduced by £1,000,000 a proposal for an additional expenditure of £2,500,000 upon postal works.
– Do you believe that the exTreasurer never used the pruning-knife in relation to the Post Office ?
– I have nothing to guide me to the contrary; in any case, the ex-Treasurer is not here for us to castigate. I am glad that the Treasurerelect (Mr. Greene) is present, so that he may realize that if he follows on the same lines as his predecessor he will find at least one Minister, in the person of the Postmaster-General, who will refuse to submit.
– You are not suggesting that the Postmaster-General should “ chuck up his job “ if he does not get the money he desires ?
– Apparently, the honorable member cannot conceive of any Minister doing that; but if he himself ever attains Ministerial rank, I hope he will not place sordid money consideration before the interests of the country. The tone of the PostmasterGeneral on Friday was very despairing, but I sincerely hope that we have seen the last of the everlasting cutting down of the postal vote. The cities cannot complain if more money is spent in the country, because the cities cannot prosper unless the country districts are flourishing; the worst thing that could happen for the cities would be a lack of development in the interior.. The arrears of postal works are appalling, and it would seem from the Postmaster-General’s remarks that things are to be allowed to go from bad to worse.
.- I desire to thank the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) for the explanatory statement he made on Friday. It is a very laudable idea to give statements of the kind, because they enable us to grasp the facts from the Ministerial point of view. The Postmaster-General has been very clear, and I, for one, appreciate the fact. As to the £750,000 for the construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones, I should be one to “ economize “ by increasing rather than reducing the amount. I regard it as false economy to reduce expenditure on what is an undoubted necessity in the development of the country. It might have been a good thing if the Estimates for this Department had been the last to be considered. The Washington Disarmament Conference is progressing favorably, and if the conclusion of it should prove as satisfactory as the commencement seems, we might have been able to make a decent reduction in our Defence expenditure, and devote the money so saved to postal services.
– Wipe out the Defence vote !
– I am not ready to do that until other people join me, but I think we may be able to reduce the vote in the light of international events, turning the sword into the ploughshare and the spear into the pruninghook. This would mean taking money away from the Defence Department and devoting it to a Department the working of which tends to the real and peaceful expansion of the country.
– You would even howl economy then!
– I may refer to the “howling” of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), who on Friday accused the Country party of “ defaming “ Australia. The honorable member seemed greatly perturbed because the direct representatives of country districts sit as a party in this chamber. He also accused honorable members in this corner of crying “ stinking fish.”
– Is this connected with the Postal Estimates ?
– The honorable member for Illawarra said that we defamed Australia because we dared to ask for economyas direct representatives of the class which raises three-fourths of the wealth of this country. Have we not a right - a duty - to criticise all expenditure ? The honorable member referred to the prosperity of the country as indicated by the numbers of people attending races and subscribing to art unions. If we visit the ruins of ancient Rome we can see the remnants of the Coliseum, where the people gave themselves over to games and pleasure, and history teaches us that the decadence of Rome dated from the time when she commenced to give herself up entirely to activities of that kind. When Australia owes so much it is not to our credit that so many people should be spendingmoney on race-courses, at places of amusement, and in art unions. I visited a circus a few days ago, and saw the building crowded with people who had paid 5s. and 6s. each for seats. If money can be spent so freely in that direction more money should be available for the true development of the country.
– The honorable member should set an example.
– I am setting a better example than is the interjector. When I asked the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) if he had pluck enough to go on the land, he said that all the best of it had been picked out ; then he referred to the grandeur of the pioneers of Australia. There is plenty of pioneering to be done to-day by men who have the courage to take up virgin land, and I do not think the honorable member, who is so fond of tonguewagging and pen-thrusting, and who is so ready to write or talk in support of any party with which he is identified, has any right to defame those who are urging the development of the country. Even if we have the audacity to suggest certain economies at a time when the Treasurer proposes to spend more than he receives, is it unreasonable that we, representing the people who produce three-fourths of Australia’s wealth, should have a place in this House and speak in the interests of our constituents ?
The provision in these Estimates for postal works and buildings should be increased, but it may be possible to economise in the working of the Department. I think it must lack system. The time has arrived when a programme of main trunk telephone lines should be mapped out, and from them branches could be radiated easily and cheaply as the country develops. Hitherto telephone lines seem to have been constructed in a haphazard fashion, and we should now set about devising a more thorough and farsighted system. True economy can be effected in that way. Honorable members who represent country constituencies will recognise that it would have been a distinct advantage to the country as a whole if we had had a clearly defined programme of telephone line construction with a view to ultimately serving the whole country effectively and economically. I have nothing more to say in regard to these estimates of works and buildings for the Postal Department, but I may have occasion to make some remarks upon the general estimates for the Department. The slight improvement made during the regime of the present Postmaster-General has met with approval throughout the country. Lack of funds has retarded a greater progress, which, I believe, he would have been glad to make, and the only thing for which I blame him is that, having regard to the statement made by the late Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) in this chamber that the Treasury was open to the PostmasterGeneral, the latter did not bludgeon the Treasurer more than he did. Bearing in mind Sir Joseph Cook’s statement, the plea of the Postmaster-General that he lacked money was rather weak. He should /have exposed the late Treasurer if he would not honour the promise he made in this chamber. The time has passed when lack of material can be urged as an excuse for not carrying out postal works. Plenty of material is procurable now, and there are lots of telegraphic and telephonic facilities that have been promised and should be proceeded with. I hope the Committee will make available sufficient money to enable the Postmaster-General to carry out these much-needed works, for that will be economy in the truest sense.
– I am pleased to hear honorable members in the Corner saying that they want to expend money. This attitude is in very pleasing contrast to their recent talk about economy. Ofcourse, they never wanted to economize; they were merely raising a cry which they thought was popular.
– Why did the honorable member vote with us?
– Because I desired to put the Government out.
– Why ?
– Because they are no good. The honorable member and his colleagues arranged to keep the Government in office. It is a duty of the Opposition on all occasions to put the Government out, whether they are right or wrong. Of all the crimes perpetrated against the country the howling for economy is the worst of all. Supported by the press, honorable members of the Country party made an attack upon the Government because they would not economize. They went so far as to attack the Government on account of its proposed expenditure in the Postal Department, and the daily press was so vile as to attack the Governmentone day for spending money in the Postal Department, and condemn it on the next day for not spending it. And honorable members in the Corner, unfortunately, followed the press. Outside of this Chamber there is an organization of men who call themselves the Taxpayers Association, and they have made such an effort to interfere with the affairs of this Parliament that onewould think that they were the representatives of the people instead of being merely a few self-appointed critics. They attacked the Government on account of the proposed expenditure on the Postal Department. The president of the organization, Knight, is recognised as a bit of a crank, but he is well-established in business, and he has a telephone connected to his home and his place of business. Por his own gain, however, he seeks to prevent the expenditure of money on telephones for others so that possible competitors against him in business may he at a disadvantage. These men who are howling for economy have everything they want, but they seek to prevent their competitors from getting the same facilities. That is the attitude of Knight and his associates. They made fortunes out of the war by selling goods at high prices, and they now desire a return to prewar prices so that their purchasing power may be greater, and at the same time they seek to deprive their competitors of business facilities. That is a mean attitude. Another individual who howls against the expenditure on the Postal Department is the president of the Employers Federation. He should be the last man in the world to complain. He has all the facilities which the community can provide, and he refuses to allow his fellow citizens the same advantages. A lamp-post would be a fitting place for such men; yet they are lauded to the sky as being of benefit to the community. They and the press should be condemned. In my younger days I wondered why so many pressmen were challenged to fight duels and killed. I understand now, and I feel that it is a pity that duelling is not still in vogue, so that some more of them could be shot. I will not join with any members of this Parliament in condemning the Postal Department. Past Postmasters-General have done their best. The departmental officers have tried” to do likewise; but they were never allowed sufficient money to carry out the works which were absolutely necessary. During the last eight years, even after they had been refused money for certain works, they have been called upon by the Postmaster-General during the financial year to see if they could not economize still further. The result is that we have to-day a telephone service that is a disgrace to a civilized community. As an illustration of the depth to which the telephone service has sunk, I shall read a letter which I have received from a lady in business, and which is typical of about twenty others which have come to me during the past six weeks. The writers are not supporters of mine. They are all in business, and desiring to be profiteers - if they are not profiteers already. They should have as much right to profiteer as have Knight and Ashworth, and the proprietors of the Age and Argus. They are as much entitled as is anybody else to all the facilities which the Government can give. The letter states -
Some time ago I called on you, and you acted on my behalf in reference to an application for a telephone to be installed at above address, and at the time they gave the same reply as had already been given to me, that “ shortage of cable “ was the cause of the delay., It is twelve months since my application went in, and after repeatedly writing to the Department, on 3rd November I received the same stereotyped reply that they could give me no information as to when the work could be started, as the position in regard to shortage of cable was unchanged.
There are hundreds of people in Melbourne to-day who want to be connected with telephone exchanges, yet the Department cannot provide them with this facility. It is nob fair to a man opening a new business. He suffers, and his competitors, who enjoy all the advantages of telephonic communication, keep howling for economy in order that the newly-established business may be deprived of advantages they themselves enjoy. Every honorable member who has spoken has told the PostmasterGeneral that he ought to get all the money he needs for the extension of telephonic facilities. Even the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) says he would give the Department more than is provided on the Estimates. But, of course, we must take that statement with a grain of salt. I do not think the honorable member would be in favour of voting more money for the Department if it were to be expended elsewhere than in his own electorate. I really cannot understand the position. Sir Joseph Cook, when he was a member of this House, told us that he, as Treasurer, had never refused money for the Post Office. If that be the case, the PostmasterGeneral must be the culprit, and I know, as a matter of fact, that he has repeatedly called upon the officers of his Department to economize still further.
– Is that so?
– It is so ; . but I also know that it was because there was no money forthcoming.
– That may be. It is a case of keeping within the vote.
– Exactly. Like myself, the Postmaster-General is paid for being abused. If one letter out of 3,000,000 goes astray, the next day there is a screeching communication in the Age or the Argus, or in one of, those papers which are published once a week or once a fortnight, demanding that he and every one in the Department should be sacked. As a matter of fact, a newspaper issued this morning attacks the Department for not spending money in order to produce a certain effect, but I guarantee that the Department would have been attacked if money had been spent for that particular purpose. In dealing with the Postal Department, it would be better if we rid ourselves of all ideas of party interests, and informed the press that the people’s representatives and not the newspapers are to control the Department. I get a lot of humour out of life, but I get most out of the attacks on the Postal Department. If it were not so serious a matter I could enjoy them all day long. The Department is attacked at one time for doing something it is compelled to do, and the next moment it is attacked for not doing something it ought to do. However, I merely rose to expose the howl for economy by those who do not want it unless it is brought about at the expense of others.
.- During this debate we have heard a great deal about the manner in which the Post Office was starved during the war. The Department might be forgiven for having withheld facilities from the people during that period when there was a scarcity of funds, but now that the war is over there is no reason why the provision of facilities long deferred should not be taken in hand. It is most unjust to penalize people by depriving them of postal facilities. No one denies that the strictest economy is warranted at the present time in all Government Departments, but the efficiency of the Postal Department should not be made to suffer as the result of practising lit. I supported the Government upon the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) because I felt thatthe drastic step he proposed was not warranted, and that as we dealt with the several divisions of the Estimates we could better achieve our object - that of effecting economy. The Prime Minister has already promised a certain amount of relief in this direction, but I believe that we can do still more as we deal with the Estimates.
There has been a great influx of people into the Henty electorate during the last few years, and very many houses have been built, yet the postal facilities do not seem to show any advance on what they were years ago. I have had a good deal of worry from my electors because of the inability or neglect of the Postal Department to provide those postal conveniences necessary in any civilized community. A fine site was purchased near the Oakleigh Railway Station, on which the Department promised to build a post-office. I conveyed that information to the Oakleigh Council, but when I looked through the Estimates I found that no provision had been made for the building. Consequently, I have now to convey to my constituents the fact that there is not sufficient money available to erect this postoffice.
The Postmaster-General has frequently said that it would be advisable to raise a loan for the provision of postal works. I think every honorable member would stand behind the adoption of such a policy. In such circumstances the responsibility for the non-provision of postal services rests upon every individual member. I do not know how a private business conducted on the lines adopted by the Postal Department would get on; I am afraid it would have no customers. But, unfortunately, owing to the absence of competition, the people simply have to put up with the annoyance caused by the “ put-off “ policy practised by the Department.
I agree with other honorable members that the Postmaster-General always receives deputations in the most courteous manner and furnishes very candid answers, making no attempt to mislead by promising what he knows it is impossible to provide; but the people want to know who is responsible for the fact that his hands are tied. The officers of the De- partment are also very courteous and considerate to honorable members, because they recognise the work they have to do on behalf of their constituents, but they always declare that the responsibility for the starvation of the Department rests upon Parliament, and that it is here in this chamber where the much needed funds to put the Department on a sound basis should be provided. I do not know whether the hands of other Ministers are tied in the same way. They seem to have full control of their Departments. Surely we ought to be able to afford some relief to the Postmaster-General, and avoid the necessity for his having to go cap in hand to the Treasurer for funds, or to the Minister for Works and Railways for the carrying out of works. The Postal Department should not be regarded as a source of revenue for the needs of other Departments. Every penny it earns should be put back into it for the purpose of providing facilities for the public.
As a representative of a city constituency I endeavour to help by my vote or support any honorable member representing a country district to get all the facilities which are required by people out back. Particularly do these people require speedier means of communication with the big centres of population. Yet in the cities men and women who have established businesses as chemists are told that it is impossible for them to get those telephones which are absolutely essential in the conduct of their establishments. Surely we can overcome this difficulty. Again, a branch of the State Savings Bank was obliged to wait nearly eighteen months before it could get this convenience. These delays are troublesome to honorable members. Day after daythe same reply comes from the Department - that there are no funds available to meet the ever -growing demands.
The Postmaster-General is always most courteous when requests are made to him by honorable members, and he knows only too well the necessities of the Department, and I hope that he will now take a firm stand and exercise his rights as a Minister administering an important Department. Ifhecannot do this, honorable members will have to take a hand in the matter or ceasemaking complaints. I protest against the action of the Department in failing tomake provision on the Estimates for a new post-office at Oakleigh, and I protest against the lack of provision for telephone connexions for business places generally. The officers of the Department are anxious to provide them, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will take the necessary action to secure them.
– I have been waiting patiently for one of those honorable members who are exceedingly vigorous in their demands for economy to move a reduction of some ofthe items in theEstimates relating to the Department of the PostmasterGeneral.; ibut in the presenceof the honorable gentleman (Mr. Wise) they immediately surrender. Unless a new policy is adopted inregard to the Postal Estimates, there can be no hope of overtaking the arrears of work. Prior to the war, speaking f rom memory, the works expenditure of the Departmen t was something like £1,500,000 per annum.
– For the four years preceding the war, the average was£1,011,000 per annum.
– For the next four years it fell to the extent of about one-half.
– For the four years of the war the average was £430,000 per annum, notwithstanding that the cost of material had increased by as much as 400 per cent.
– There was, at all events, an increase of 300 per cent. in respect of many items, while the Minister tells us that the increase in some cases went up to400 per cent.
– That is so; while the average works expenditure for the four years of the war was£430,000per annum, in one year the amount wascut down to £2.70,000.
– That must have left the Department tremendously in arrears, while, on the other hand, the legitimate demands made upon it ace increasing enormously.It is a good thing for the country that they are increasing. There is no way out of the difficulty except by borrowing for certain departmental works, and providing a sinking fund. The borrowings should be short-dated, according to the character of the work to be undertaken.
– The Treasurer(Sir Joseph Cook) made that suggestion in his Budget statement.
– And the suggestion had previously been made. I appeal to the Government toconsider it, and I hope they will adoptsuch a policy. In my own electorate there has not been one penny of wasteful expenditure. This year I nnderstand that the PostmasterGeneral cannot undertake the construction of more than ten out of forty necessary telephone lines in the whole division of Wakefield. A lotof these are 10 per cent. propositions. It would therefore,be profitable iro borrow money to provide for them.
– That is to say, the revenue from them would give a return of 10 per cent.?
Mr.RICHARDFOSTER. - Yes; land when my honorable friend becomes Treasurer, by adoptingthe policy I have just suggested,he will make areputation for himself in his new office, just as he has made a reputation for himself as Minister for Trade and Customs by piling more burdens on the people. When he retires from the ‘Customs Department he will leave behind him a legacy of revenue,and not of debt. I nope that, if he goes to the Treasury, he will formulate some scheme to provide for increased postal and telephonic facilities for country districts. If he does, hewill be remembered for all time, more particularly in the outlying parts of the Commonwealth.
I am not going to repeat what has been said a thousand times; but I hope that some such system will be at once introduced. I want to see proper postal and telephone facilities in our cities ; but I am a thousand times more- concerned with the giving of proper postal’, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities to the pioneers who are going out-back. “We have-not yet done with pioneering in this country, and it is the duty of Parliament to consider the outs-back settlers. The scheme I have referred to will alone, enable us to- give satisfaction.. While, we have upon us the burden of the war debt, the revenue should, without much- difficulty? provide for a solid sinking fund, although- it might not be- able to meet the. demand that is con- tinually increasing if all postal works- are to be paid for out of revenue.
.-I think we. all sympathize with the EostmasterGenearal (Mr. Wise) in the fact, that he is unable to obtain from the Treasurer sufficient money to complete the- necessary works associated with, his Department. Some little time ago I was waited upon by certain persons with regard to the position of the returned soldiers who have been temporarily employed in the Postal Department, and whose services, for reasons of economy, have been dispensed with. I am told that at the present time, in our large city post offices, a number of the employees are- very much overworked, and that many of the mistakes which occur every day are directly attributable to that fact. There is at times such a rush of work that mistakes must inevitably occur. My information is that it would be interesting’ to. obtain a return showing the number of letters a nd mail packages which are mis-sent, and mis-sent, it is alleged, owing to the rush of work and the fact that there are so fewmen to cope with it. I do not know whether or not it is true, butI am informed that instructions have been given to officers in the Department that letters mis-sent and returned to the office are not to be stamped “ mis-sent,” but simply to be forwarded to the officer in charge, whoever he may be. If that is so, it is time that the whole matter was. reviewed, because serious delays take place every day in connexion with our mail services. About a fortnightago, a lady waited on me at my office in Geelong, and asked rae to make inquiries regarding the non-receipt of certain money which she understood had been passed for payment to her by the War Gratuity Board. I made inquiries, and found that the money had been posted as far back as the middle of January of this year; and that the letter containing it had remained at the local post-office until a fortnight ago, instead of, being returned to the Dead. Letter Office: In consequence of this neglect the lady was under the impression that somebody had obtained wrongful possession of the money, and that she was not likely to recover it. The Department explained that the letter had beenlying in the office during all this time owing tothe fact that the lady had changed her address, and that the officials were not to blame. I should like to know who is to blame. The address on the envelope was quite legible, and it would have been an easy matter to trace the addressee. This is but one instance of the delays that occur all over the Commonwealth.
I cannot understand why votes passed by Parliament for necessary urgent works in connexion with the Department of the Postmaster-General remain unexpended from year to year. Last year, for instance, £850 was voted for the purposes of the telephone exchange at Geelong, and’ the Department was so magnanimous as to expend out of that amount the sum of £8. This year an item of £1,192 appears in these Estimates for the same purpose, and if it is expended in the same ratio as last year’s vote about £11 will actually be spent. I have also a. genuine complaint to make with regard to the condition of pillar-boxes in Geelong. I have made representations on thissubject, both in writing and also by letter, to the PostmasterGeneral.
– They want painting?
– They want painting badly. The lettering on them is almost undecipherable. Tenders for painting them were invited, but rather than spend £40 the Department is allowing some forty or fifty of them to rust. For want of paint the hinges on these postal pillars in some cases are rusting. I have inspected some of them. The officers of the Department recognise that they should be attended to, and have recommended accordingly, but for some unaccountable reason the Department has allowed the work to be hungup. The result is that those who deposit letters in these postal pillars do not know when they will be cleared. Even if it is not the desire of the Department to study the interests of the people of Geelong, it should at least be prepared to expend £40 or £50 in keeping its property in good order.
I have the same cause for complaint that many other honorable members have with regard to the telephone services. I need not elaborate the arguments which have been used as to the necessity for extending telephone servioes in country districts. I have a letter, bearing yesterday’s date, from the Department of the Postmaster-General, relating to a line the need for which was brought before the authorities before I entered this House. Since then I have repeatedly brought the matter under the notice of the Department. Last year, as the result of representations made by me, the Department decided to call for tenders. Tenders were sent in, but the persons interested ultimately received the usual stereotyped reply. I made further representations recently, and in this letter bearing yesterday’s date I am furnished with an answer practically the same as that given me some twelve months or eighteen months ago. The letter reads very well until one reaches the concluding paragraph, in which this statement is made -
The erection of the line would be contingent on funds and material being available. The terms quoted are subject to acceptance within three months. If the residents decide to accede to the terms set out, they should notify this office to that effect, and await advice from the Department before taking any action in the direction of supplying the required contribution.
As a matter of fact, the intimation that the residents were prepared to accept the terms laid down was’ sent to the Department months ago, and until now they have heard nothing further about the matter. They are tired to death waiting for the Department to make a move. In the interests of people who do not enjoy the advantages of city residents, I urge upon the Postmaster-General the necessity of doing something to make life more comfortable than it has been or is for many of these people.
I should like to indorse the remarks which have fallen from the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron). I have visited Brisbane on a number of occasions.
– It is a long way up the stairs at the Post Office there, is it not ?
– It is; and when one gets to the top he is glad to get away again very quickly. The conditions referred to by the honorable member for Brisbane are a disgrace to the Department, and I hope that something will be done immediately to improve them.
.- The Government cannot fail to be impressed by the widely-expressed opinions of honorable members concerning the way in which the people of country districts have been treated for a very long time past. So far as Queenland is concerned, I am satisfied that the Deputy Postmaster-General has done his utmost with the limited funds at his disposal. I have made special inquiries, and I find that on the Estimates there is an amount of £150,000 as Queensland’s quota of the funds available. Seeing that the Post and Telegraph Department has been starved for many years past, this amount is utterly inadequate, and I urge the Government to make available another £100,000 at least.
– Does the honorable member mean for his own electorate?
– No, I mean for Queensland. I should say that, so far as the Commonwealth as a whole is concerned, an additional amount of not less than £750,000 is required. Of the £150,000 allotted to Queensland, £93,000 is set down for material and £57,000 for wages and other expenses. As quite a number of main telegraph and trunk telephone lines are to be constructed, the amount of the Queensland vote which will be available for small works, to cover extra postal deliveries, or the construction of a short telephone line, will be comparatively trifling. Considering the small amount which was spent last year, better provision should in all fairness be made to meet the requirements of the people. There are two important works in which the Post and Telegraph Department is concerned which were referred to the Public Works Committee, and their construction approved by that body. I refer first to the proposals for automatic telephone exchanges at Newmarket and Albion the cost of which is estimated to be £90,000. So far as I can see, only £3,000 is provided on the Estimates for the purpose, and even though that amount should be spent this year, it seems safe to say that another three years will elapse before anything like the amount required to complete these works will be available.
– Unexpended votes disappear from the Estimates.
– I think that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) should instruct his Deputies to speed up works for his Department. It should not be forgotten that already about half the ‘ year has passed before the Deputies have any opportunity to spend any df this money. There are only six months of the financial year in which to spend votes made available. The PostmasterGeneral should give his special attention to the matter) and see that his officers are given the opportunity to do the best possible within the limited time left for the expenditure of the money. The other important work to which I refer is the trunk telephone line between Brisbane and Sydney. That has been approved by the Public Works Committee, but I do not see1 that anything is to* be done in connexion with it this year. I know that there is a great cry for economy just now, but it is certain that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is the wrong one in which to practise it so far as new necessary works are concerned. It has been starved for so long that the time has arrived when considerable amounts should be spent to bring its services reasonably up to date. I am not particular whether the money for which I am asking is taken out of the Defence vote or the vote for Canberra, but it is quite certain that the Treasurer must find more money for the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– Though I have looked carefully into the Works Estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, I have been unable to find that any money has been allocated to Oxley. The people of that district willingly waited during the war period, realizing that that was not the time in which to spend money on postal matters; but I wish to remind the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) that many promises have been made to them in the past. In some places, land was selected for the erection of post-offices or telephone exchanges, or buildings in which to carry on both these branches of the work of the Department. In the city of South Brisbane, which is one of the leading cities of Australia, there is no post-office worthy of the name. The Department pays about £2 per week rent for a building in Stanley-street, South Brisbane, and I challenge any member of the Committee to drive down Stanleystreet and find it.- It is a disgrace, not only to the Postal Department, but to the Commonwealth, that postal officials should be housed in such a building, and that the public should be asked to conduct their postal business in it. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) expressed the hope that something would be done to make the lot of the people on the land better. Almost every day we hear some honorable member deploring the fact that people are leaving the country and crowding into the cities. I have the honour to represent a city constituency, and all I can say is that, if the people of the country districts are worse off than are the people of Oxley, their plight must be a sorry one indeed. Three things are necessary in order to induce people to settle on the land. They should be given good roads, good educational facilities, and good postal facilities. Possibly two of these matters may not be considered within the scope of the Federal authority, although the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) would be very pleased to see the Commonwealth undertake the business of the construction of main roads. However, unless we do our share and give the people at least decent postal facilities, we cannot hope that they will remain .in the country districts. Queensland appears to be unfortunate in having the best Deputy Postmaster-General in Australia. When instructions are sent up to Mr. Templeton that he is to out expenditure, he does so. He cuts to the bone, and in some instances cuts away a little of the bone itself. The other Deputy PostmastersGeneral accept these instructions, but they do not act upon them. Representatives of Queensland in this Chamber have from time to time seen large sums of money voted for constructional works in other State, but in this regard Queensland remains the Cinderella amongst the. States. I am hoping that the present
Postmaster-General will prove to be the Fairy Prince who will come to the rescue. We cannot expect the people of Australia to take pride in their country if its Government buildings are not worthy of its importance. I have mentioned South Brisbane as one place in the Oxley electorate which does not possess a decent post-office; and I may also mention Wynnum and Manly, two of the most prosperous outer suburbs-, or, indeed, towns, in the electorate, distant about13 miles from South Brisbane. There is a post-office for Wynnum and Manly which does not by any means fulfil requirements . The people there were told, prior to the war, that it was only a matter of a very short time before a post-office and telephone exchange would be provided for them, but they are still waiting for these conveniences. At almost every meeting of the local Council some reference is made to the tardiness of the Postal Department in this connexion. In the Sherwood end of the electorate, from Chelmer right to Oxley, there is no adequate post-office and no telephone exchange. Although the people in that part of the electorate have petitioned year after year for the erection of a local exchange, ‘it has been denied them. The result is that they are required to pay on the mileage system, although the number of persons asking for telephones far exceeds the regulation number required for the erection of a local exchange. Because the Department will not erect a building and establish an ex- change there, the residents are penalized to the extent of thousands of pounds. A similar condition of affairs exists at Yeronga.
I wish to refer now to the matter of dual control. I suppose that honorable members representing other constituencies are as well aware of the difficulties in this r espect as I am. There are places where the postal business is insufficient to warrant the establishment of a post-office, and the State Railway Department has been asked, and has consented, to carry on the work of the Post Office Department, subject to the condition that postal business must not interfere with railway business.
– It is a very good arrangement in many cases.
– It is nota good arrangement, because when a train comes into a station the post-office is closed, and people cannot receive letters or transact postal business until the railway business is disposed of. I am not now speaking of country districts, but of places within 5 or 6 miles from the Brisbane General Post Office-. I should like this system of dual control done away with wherever possible.
– It is very convenient in the country.
– That is so, butI am speaking of suburbs within a few miles of the Brisbane General Post Office. I realize, with other honorable members, that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) is not altogether to blame for the lack of facilities afforded by his Department. Since the Treasurer has to pay the piper, he naturally thinks he has the right to call the tune. What is wanted, however, is a Postmaster-General who will make up bis mind exactly what he wants, will fix his minimum, and then, if the amount is not forthcoming, will refuse to accept the responsibility of administration, and will hand in his resignation. So long as the Postmaster- General - no matter who - continues to accept dictation from, the Minister guarding the purse strings, and meekly agrees to get along with what is doled out to him, there are bound to be continual complaints from one end of Australia to the other concerning lack of service facilities.
.- The recent advances in rates for telegrams, although they have operated to the disadvantage of private individuals, and have provided the usual preference for business interests, have failed to evoke much commentorcomplaint in this Chamber. With all their consideration for constituents out-back, and despite all their talk about the conflict of city and country interests, members of the Country party have conspicuously avoided remarking upon this particular example of favoritism. Until the rates were increased a private citizen could send a twenty-word telegram between one State and another for ls. 4d’.. Business firms could despatch acode telegram, of twenty words; for ls. 8d. To-day a private message of twenty words costs ls. 8d., but the business message of twenty code words still costs only1s. 8d. “Business” has not been drawn upon to add revenue to the country; the “man in the street “ has to pay. An extra sixpence has to be paid nowadays upon the first 100 words of a press “ wire,” and 4d., or thereabouts, for each additional 100.. Compared with the private telegram, a press message receives the favour of a concession. Of course, I do not blame the Postmaster-General for any limitation of departmental activities , owing to the lack of fund’s ; still’, the PostmasterGeneral, as administrator, must take the blame and responsibility for such unfair discrimination as I have indicated. I may add, at once, that so long as the present Government remains I do not look for anything else but discrimination in favour of vested interests. I do not presume to censure, theparty in power for specially catering, for the wellbeing, of. the- interests which placed them in power. I hope and expect that the party to which I belong will do likewise if and whenour turn comes; To-day, however, the position is that “ business “ is getting the cream and the rest of the community the skimmed milk.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health
Proposed vote, £40,000.
.- I desire to direct attention to. the menace to health that exists in some parts of Australia, particularly in Queensland. In view of the danger I thought I could look for a large increase in this vote. It will be necessary to take stringent measures for the public safety.
– That vote only relates to quarantine buildings.
– Every Government up to the present has. been most unjust in its treatment of those unfortunate people who are immured for the time being in quarantine. That some- system of quarantine is necessary no one will gainsay. It is our first line of defence against the admission of any disease into the country. I have always objected to the practice! of. treating individuals in quarantine according to their positions in life. It seems to me that a person in quarantine is punished because he. belongs to a poorer station in life than another person. Persons, quarantined are not imprisoned for a crime. The object is to preserve thegeneral health of the community.
– Call it “isolated,” not “ imprisoned.”
– The point is that people are immured through no fault or criminality on their part, and! should be treated equally. I had experience of quarantine at the North Head, in Sydney. I was placed there owing to a case of small-pox occurring on board a ship on which I was travelling. To my horror, I found that decent women, whose only fault was that they travelled second class, were not provided with even a hot. bath.
– How long ago?
– A few years ago. All they had were small baths about 10 inches deep, which were really provided for the purpose of washing clothes. I sent a very warm telegram to the Minister, after calling a meeting of the saloon passengers. I asked the saloon passengers if they would allow a certain number of their baths to be apportioned’ to the women who were travelling second class. To their credit, they allowed four out of the twelve baths provided’ for thenr to be used in the way I had suggested. We were met by the Department in an idiotic way. The Department raised numerous objections, and the Minister was made to put forward an idiotic statement that the people in whom we were interested had hot shower baths which they could use. That was a lie. There were no hot shower baths. I sent back a telegram to the Minister, “ Your informant in Department is not only inaccurate, he is idiotic. There are no hot shower baths in the whole of the quarantine grounds.” The children who mixed with the contacts - of whom I was one - were sent to the schools in Manly until I succeeded in stopping the practice. It is. inconceivable that such idiotic things could be done. The only medical man. who carried out preventive or antiseptic measures was the Japanese doctor on board the steamer.
– I remind the honorable member that the Committee isnot dealing with the administration of the Health- Department,, but with the Works and Buildings Estimates.
– I am advancing an argument in favour of the provision of better buildings for quarantine purposes. Is it a proper thing to allow one’s wife- or daughter to be quarantined in a place where there is no provision for a hot bath?
– The honorable gentleman can deal with the administration of the Department under the General Estimates.
– I feel sure that you, Mr. Chairman, would be the last person in the world to differ from me in the opinion that a person immured in quarantine should not be treated as a prisoner, and that no differentiation should be made between one class of person and another. I think we ought to have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.] I want to see that every one immured in quarantine is treated properly, and that second-class and steerage passengers are not treated in the infamous way they were treated when I was at North Head, Sydney.
– How long ago was that?
– About nine years ago.
– Many improvements have been made since then.
– Does the Minister (Mr. Greene) say that nothing wrong was done at the Western Australian quarantine grounds during the war? I do not suppose the Minister visited the station and saw the buildings and the different accommodation, or that he went into the question as to the food served to the steerage, second-class, and first-saloon passengers. I know that his predecessor did not go into those questions until I drew his attention to them. I am not saying anything detrimentally of the present Minister for Trade and Customs or of the head of the Health Department, for whom I have the greatest respect. Quarantine, as carried out atthe present time, is, in my opinion, a danger to a large population like that of Sydney. It is idiotic to have a quarantine station so near to such a large city. There is only the thickness of a galvanized-iron sheet between the quarantine station on the North Head and the comparatively populous town of Manly. If the Government cannot see its way in the near future to change the site of this station, it will probably be the cause of a devastating epidemic of disease breaking out in New South Wales. If the Minister will have the signs painted on the various parts of the quarantine grounds translated, he will find that there are some remarks there which are certainly not complimentary to the Government for its treatment of the unfortunate individuals who have been quarantined. A late Minister in this Parliament, the Honorable Mr. Mahon, was treated in a very scandalous way in quarantine, when he was not so well-off as in later life, because he travelled second-class.
– He was treated in a scandalous way after that.
– He was, indeed. Possibly I may be able to elucidate from the Minister some information that I desire to get. What bathing facilities are provided now in quarantine? Are there hot baths in all the quarantine grounds? I desire to make a distinction between the hospitals and the general quarantine grounds. My question refers to the accommodation provided for the general use of the contacts.
– As far as I know, there are hot baths in all the quarantine grounds.
– I think the Minister is much like me - not quite sure.
– These buildings are scattered over the whole continent.
– I cannot say definitely, for instance, if there are hot baths provided at Darwin.
– I was at North Head three years ago, and great improvements were being made there. Improvements are continually being made in all the quarantine stations. On these Estimates, for instance, there is provision for £4,560 for a bathing block at Fremantle.
– The Minister will recognise that these facilities are essential, and that they should not be reserved for one particular section of those unfortunate people who, through no fault of their own, are immured in a quarantine station for a certain period. Will the Minister see that these privileges are extended to steerage as well as to saloon passengers from a vessel that is ordered into quarantine?
– I can promise to bring the matter under the notice of the Director of Quarantine (Dr. Cumpston), and see how far this policy is being carried out.
– But will the Minister see that all these people enjoy the privileges of decent citizenship - that there will be no dividing line between the steerage and first and second class passengers t I am sure that, as a good churchman, the Minister would not for a moment suggest that all the worshippers who enter his church have not the same right to hear the gospel. Therefore, in the name of humanity, I ask him to see that people ordered into quarantine are provided with decent accommodation, decent food, and have good facilities for bathing. This is essential in the interests of the health of the community. If necessary, I would vote to double the amount set down in the Estimates for quarantine stations, because I realize that the absence of proper facilities constitutes a grave danger to the Commonwealth. When I went to Rabaul, via the Solomon Islands, recently, the steamer on which I travelled called at three ports of entry, at only one of which was there a medical officer. Every honorable member knows that when a port is declared a port of entry ships are entitled to go there under certain restrictions, and if there is not a duly accredited medical officer available, there is no one in authority to declare whether a ship is infected or not.
– I am sorry to intervene again, but the honorable gentleman must know that this is a matter which he should mention on the general Estimates.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman, i shall not transgress further. The United States Quarantine Station in the Philippines acts as a sentinel against the admission to Australia of Eastern diseases, but, unfortunately, the quarantine regulations governing Australian ports of entry are not at all satisfactory. The buildings at the first Queensland port after leaving Thursday Island are not by any means a credit to Australia, and, as I have said, the station at North Head, Sydney, is far from satisfactory.
.– I should like to bring under the notice of the Committee the position with regard to the Serum Institute at Royal Park, Melbourne. Recently, with a number of other honorable members, I visited the institute, and found that the employees were very much cramped for room. They were obliged to occupy the corridors for the packing of serum.
– There is provision on the Loan Estimates for the expenditure of £22,000 on buildings there. ‘
– I am pleased to know that the authorities intend to extend the premises. The staff have done splendid work, and I am sure that money voted for the extension of the buildings will be money well spent. Under Dr. Cumpston’s able management the institute and staff are a credit to the Commonwealth.
.- I should like to hear from the Minister (Mr. Greene) a statement as to the exact position of the Serum Institute. I agree entirely with the statement made by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley). The institute has filled a longfelt want in Australia. The fact that it is able, practically, to produce the whole of the sera required for certain diseases is a very great advantage to the Commonwealth, for it has placed medical men in a much better position to combat the spread of infectious diseases. A great deal of the prejudice that exists concerning the institute would, to a large extent, be dissipated if the Minister would place on record a detailed statement as to the work which has been done there, the profit made, and the extent of the institute’s operations.
– I have not the particulars asked for by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), because I thought this matter would be mentioned when the Committee were dealing with the vote on the Loan Estimates of £22,000 for certain extensions of the serum and health laboratories, and it was my intention then to make a full statement of the position. Speaking from memory, I think that over the whole of its operations the Serum Institute has made a profit sufficient practically to repay to the Commonwealth the whole of the capital cost and working expenses. That is to say, the institute, as it stands to:day, owes us nothing. At the same time, it has supplied sera to the medical profession at a cost lower than that at which they could have been obtained elsewhere, and in times of national emergency has made sera available to the State authorities, if not actually free, at all events at a very low price.
– What period is covered by the Minister’s statement?
– I cannot say definitely, but I think it is about four years since the institute was established. It i3 proposed to establish throughout the Commonwealth a number of country laboratories at: which the medical profession will be able to have tests made quickly. The honorable, member for Cowper will, I am sure, admitthat this should prove valuable in the diagnosis of diseases.
– At my instigation a resolution to this effect was carried at the last Medical Congress in Brisbane.
– These country laboratories will also be centres for the distribution of the sera produced at the central laboratory in Melbourne, and from this point of view I anr certain that we shall make a distinct advance in the health administration of the Commonwealth. It is only a beginning, I admit. Unfortunately our financial position is suck that we cannot progress as rapidly as we might wish, because I feel confident that there is a vast field, hitherto untouched, in the way of preventive medicine which may be usefully covered in the immediate future. I feel sure that what is being done is on sound lines, and that the money proposed to be expended will be a wise investment as far as the health of the community is concerned. I believe that the lines upon which we. propose to operate will insure to the Commonwealth laboratory a return in fees and from increased sale of sera sufficient to cover tha increased normal cost. We should not attempt to cover the capital expenditure, but: I feel, sure that, the country laboratories will return practically the whole of their maintenance costs. I feel sure: that when we deal wilh the proposed expenditure later - although it. represents an increase - theCommittee- will realize that, in the circumstances, it is fully justified. When the Loan Estimates are under consideration I shall make a definite and detailed statement concerning the whole position, and honor- able members will then be able to judge for themselves as; to the extent to which the institute has benefited the Commonwealth.
.- I desire to preface my remarks by indorsing everything that has been said by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) concerning quarantine stations, of which I have had some experience. There is no doubt that the accommodation provided for the second and third class passengers was very indifferent. It is; of course, some years since I had the pleasure of visiting that locality; but I trust that since that time the much-needed improvements have been made.
There has been some correspondence between the Department and the Chamber ofCommerce at Townsville in regard to the lighting of the Palm Passage through the Barrier Reef, and iu reply to communications forwarded by the Chamber the usual stereotyped reply has been received.
– The honorable, member is now discussing the question of lighthouses.
– I have perused the Estimates, and I believe this is the proper place to discuss the matter.
Mr.Greene. - Lighthouse services are dealt with on page 399, and as that vote has not yet been discussed the honorable member had better reserve his comments.
– The Minister controlling the Department is now present, and I would like to have this opportunity of bringing the matter forward. There are many passages in the Barrier Reef through which ships may pass during the day-time if carefully navigated, and Palm Passage) which is 7 miles wide, could, if well lighted at particular points, be navigated at night. If this were done it would be a great convenience to ships coming from North and South America! or through the Panama Canal.
– Is the honorable member introducing this matter in connexion with Quarantine services?
– No; I am discussing it now because I think it is the proper time.
– I cannot permit, the honorable member to discuss Lighthouse services under this vote, as similar consideration would have to be extended to other honorable members.
– If I cannot discuss it now I shall have to do so later, and probably at greater length.
.- If the proposed vote for the Serum Institute had been increased by £20,.000 instead of about £3,000, I wouldhave supported it, as there has been no greateradvance in the direction of protecting the health of the community than in connexion with serum treatment. Speaking with some knowledge of an institute that uses ten times more than any Collins-street doctor, I desire to say that as the serum is supplied at a minimum of cost, a large number of patients are treated. It is the greatest medium in the prevention of disease that to my knowledge has ever been introduced in any public effort to promote the health of the people.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence (Military)
Proposed vote (postponed from 30th September, vide, page 11645), £1,134,251,
Upon which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) had moved by way of amendment -
That the vote be reduced by £500,000.
.- Is the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) prepared to make a statement concerning the intention of the Government in connexion with this vote before we proceed to debate it ?
– I should first like to hear what honorable members have to say.
– I understood that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) gave an assurance that the Government were prepared to reduce this vote by £500,000, and if the Minister made a. statement at this juncture the debate might be shortened.
– If the honorable member is in favour of reducing the amount he should say where he considers reductions can be made.
– I am quite prepared to do that. I believe a majority of the members of the Committee are in favour of reducing this vote by a large amount, because the time has arrived to dispense with compulsory military training.The recent war has proved conclusively that there is no occasion to train youths from an early age, because men can be trained in a very short time with highly satisfactory results. Some of the best men who went to the Pront did not receive any training until shortly before they left Australia, and many were not trained ait all until they were on the transports. The same can be said concerning many British troops. The members of Kitchener’s Army were untrained until they were called up for service, and, notwithstanding this, they were able to stand up against the fierce offensive which was launched against them. The members of the party to which I belong are not opposed to reasonable defence expenditure; but we do not consider the training of boys the best policy to be adopted. We do not know exactly what expenditure is anticipated, because the amounts are shown under different headings.
– There is an amount of £440,000.
-That is only one amount, but there are others. We all earnestly hope that there will be no more wars, and that the proceedings of the Washington Disarmament Conference will terminate in such a way that unnecessary expenditure in this direction will be largely curtailed.
– The honorable member is very optimistic.
– I may be; but I am hoping that the time is fast approaching when the principal nations of the worldwill be able to settle ‘their difficulties other than by force of arms. An expenditure of nearly £500,000 has been set aside for compulsory training, and, apart from the unnecessary outlay, which we can ill afford, we have also to remember the great difficulty experienced in getting the boys to attend the necessary drills. Complaints have been made by area officers in my district of the difficulty in ‘this direction, and boys have to be placedin camps because they have not attended the requisite number of drills.
Mr.Considine. - Compulsory training encourages the anti-military spirit.
– That may be so, but the cost is heavy, particularly when taxpayers are advocating reduced expenditure.
– Did not the Labour party introduce compulsory military training ?
– Yes; but the war has shown that the training of youths at an early age is unnecessary, and experienced instructors have said that it is much easier to train men. The Labour party advocated compulsory military training with a view to defending Australia, but that necessity does not now exist, because we have in our midst hundreds of thousands of men who have not only Deen fully trained, but who have had experience of actual warfare. I understand the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) intends to refer to the expenditure incurred at the Naval College at Jervis Bay, where youths are trained, and when their studies are completed there are no positions for them.
– Then what is the use of having the Military College at Duntroon ?
– The honorable member is now referring to naval expenditure.
– I am dealing with the question of defence generally. As the proposed expenditure in connexion with the Jervis Bay College is dealt with elsewhere, I shall confine my remarks at this stage to the Military College at Duntroon. For every young man trained in the Duntroon College an expense of. £1,000 a year is incurred, and there are two masters to every boy. That is an absurd position. After we have trained these young men, and to some extent spoiled their lives for a few years, what is the result? We cannot find positions for them, and we have returned soldiers all over the country who are unable to secure employment. It ought to be obvious that the training of these lads at the Military College is an absolute waste, seeing that we have plenty of people in Australia who have been on active service. The College should be discontinued, and the men employed there as instructors should be found other avenues of employment in the Commonwealth Service. Instead of having a Naval College at Jervis Bay, naval training should take .place on H.M.A.S. Australia. The Committee is entitled to know what the Government propose to do before the Defence Estimates are passed, and honorable members will be justified in prolonging the debate until that information is forthcoming.
– Otherwise, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) would tell us we had lost our opportunity.
– Exactly. I believe the vote of this Committee would be in favour of a heavy reduction in the Defence vote. There is no fear of war for a number of years. I believe a rifle has been sent to
Australia for every man who went overseas during the war, so there should be plenty of weapons. We have also been presented with batteries of artillery, waggons, and flying machines.
– What about the ships they wanted to scrap?
– We have some of them in Sydney Harbor. I notice a large sum on the Estimates for a flying school and equipment for air defence. Before we spend money in this direction, we should ascertain the latest developments, with the idea, if necessary, of obtaining the most up-to-date aerial craft. But my contention is that this is a time when we should not spend. I am waiting to hear the results of the Geneva Conference. I have great faith in the League of Nations. Australia should stay’ its hands in the matter of defence expenditure when there is a possibility of averting future wars. The Labour party will do all it can to prevent any great outlay on new military works, or on the purchase of warlike equipment.
.- I would like to have learned from the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) what are the Government’s intentions. We have had a statement from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to the effect that they intend to reduce public expenditure by something like £500,000. But it would be of great assistance to the Committee, and would expedite business considerably, if we had the details of the Government’s proposals. Possibly the Government do not know what to do, or have not sufficient courage to accept the responsibility of saying emphatically that certain expenditure must be cut out. The Minister is not treating the Committee fairly if he depends upon the opinions of honorable members as to what should be done.
– We have the right, as private members, of expressing our opinions.
– Yes, but the Government should know in what direction the Defence Estimates can be cut down. Is it that they know nothing about the question, and are depending upon honorable members to show them their duty? I venture to say that it is only because of the amendment submitted by the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the Government have come forward with the statement that the Estimates will be reduced by £500,000. Though a tardy decision it will, nevertheless, be welcomed by the Labour party, and by the whole of Australia. I hope the result will be a reduction of considerably more than the sum mentioned. It is extraordinary and alarming that, while the world is crying out for peace, and the League of Nations is attempting, if possible, to avert war in future, and while we have one of the greatest Conferences known to civilization sitting in Washington to-day, the Australian Government arenot content with the Defence expenditure of last year, but want even more. We see in the proposed Defence vote an amount of approximately £350,000 more than the expenditure for 1920-21. On the Central Administration there is a proposed increase of £12,000, and on the Munitions Supply Branch an increase of £25,000. And so one might go on.
– Have you taken into consideration that there has been a complete re-arrangement of the staffs, and that that has thrown under certain items expenditure which heretofore has appeared under other items?
– There is a proposed increased expenditure amounting to £647,000, and, after allowing for a decrease of £290,000, we still have a proposed increase over last year’s expenditure of £350,000. I protest against Australia being run by a body of men who are being allowed to hang on like leeches to their very good jobs. I do not propose to go down the long list of colonels, majors, and other administrators with their high-sounding titles, and with all their braid and brass buttons. It is about time we ceasedto conduct our Defence Department according to war standards. Instead of the officers being demobilized, as the men have been, we find too large a number being kept in their very nice positions at high salaries.
– We are dealing with works and buildings, not with administration.
– I thought we were discussing the general question. I shall come back to that aspect at a later stage. Dealing with new works for Defence purposes, I would say that, with the excep tion of, perhaps, adequate provision for the housing of material throughout Australia, there is no necessity for the heavy expenditure proposed in the Estimates. For the supply of heavy guns and a reserve of gun ammunition the sum of £142,947 is set down. That is a decrease on the vote of 1920-21, but it is nevertheless too large an amount. The Labour party wants the Committee to call a haltin expenditure of this nature. Much of it is probably wasteful, and much, I hope, useless. With the Disarmament Conference sitting in Washington, and with the general clamour for a reduction in expenditure on Defence, it ill-becomes Australia and this Parliament to vote millions for warlike expenditure.
– Are all the countries in the world effecting that economy?
– The League of Nations has acted most effectively in regard to Germany, and it is a great pity that similar pressure has not been brought to bear on other nations. The world would benefit if Great Britain, America, and Japan could be forced to cease building up their armies and navies. Germany, although it lost the war, is in a much better position to-day than its conquerors. Germany has now rid itself of its army, and the huge expenditure involved by military and naval defence for thirty or forty years. I trust that the Washington Conference will bring about a cessation in the building of armaments. In the meantime, Australia should not divert into warlike expenditure huge sums of money urgettly needed for railways and other public works which would develop the country. .
.- I had expected the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), upon the resumption of this debate, to inform the Committee to some extent as to what proportion of the £500,000, by which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) promised the Estimates wouldbe reduced, would relate to the Defence vote. It is fortunate that the Minister in charge of this division of the Estimates is himself a very distinguished soldier. There are many items in these Estimates which I do not understand as,for instance, £17,460 for vehicles, harness, saddlery, accoutrements, and other equipment; £281,000 for a reserve of rifles; £142,947 towards a supply of heavy guns and reserve of .gun ammunition, and so on. I should like the Minister to explain to us why it is that, at the end of the greatest war that the British people have ever had, at any rate from a purely military point of view, there are not materials of this sort to burn, instead of it being necessary to replenish our stores with them. For months past advertisements have been appearing in the newspapers of auctions for the sale of saddlery., clothing, and so on, and it is extraordinary that we should be asked now to vote money for the purchase of materials of which there must be enough and to spare, if not here, certainly in Great Britain. There must, for example, be many hundreds of batteries of guns lying idle. I voted for a reduction of the Estimates of Expenditure by £2,800,000 odd in order that our expenditure might be made to balance our income for the year, and in that I think I did rightly. The Committee, however, by a small majority defeated that amendment, and, now, to be consistent, I must vote for such reductions as may, if agreed to. amount to something like the total I have just named. Therefore, I propose to support the amendment now before the Committee to reduce the vote by .£500,000. But if the Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) will show us, as I hope he may, that the Government, by making reductions here and there in this particular vote, will reduce their proposal by £300,000 or £400,000, or some such amount as will be evidence of the honest intention of Ministers to economize, ! shall be willing to accept that evidence of good faith. If that be done, tile object of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) will be practically secured, and I shall not then feel bound to support his amendment.
– I propose to deal only with the Estimates for’ Additions, New Works, and Buildings under the control of the Department of Defence; I shall not deal with the proposals for expenditure under “the control of the Department t£ Works and Railways, which I shall leave the Minister in charge of that Department (Mr. Groom) to explain. Let me take the various items as they occur in Division 7. First, we have the amount -of £17,460 set- down for war-like stores, including machine guns, vehicles, harness and saddlery, accoutrements, and other regimental and personal equipment. Of the amount so set down, £7,580 is to meet liabilities as at 30th June on London orders placed during the last financial year, the balance being for the purchase of rifle grenades and minor items. These rifle grenades are the last thing in trench warfare. If we are to have a Defence Force it must be armed with the most modern appliances. However small our Force may be, it should have everything of the newest and most up to date. Rifle grenades are of the greatest value in defence -operations.
– Suppose you have no one to shoot - what then ?
– It is to be hoped that we shall have no one to shoot. But should we not be prepared ?
– Are these grenades simply for reserve purposes ?
– They are for reserve purposes in connexion with the ammunition supplies.
– Will they not deteriorate ?
– It is saia that they will not. For field artillery and engineers, towards the cost of providing vehicles, harness, equipment, and stores, £25,743 is asked, of which sum £12,845 is for liabilities as at 30th June on London orders placed during the last financial year, and £12,898 is towards the cost of machines, equipment, &c, for five mobile workshops and minor items. In the field these mobile workshops were placed on large chassis, and could be moved about like motor cars. We do not propose to mount them in that way, but they -are to be mobile in the sense that it will be possible bo send them to different parts of Australia to be set up. At the present time, if guns at Per;th or Albany have to be repaired, “they must be brought to Sydney or to Melbourne, because those are the only places in which there are workshops where they can be repaired.
– The sum of £12,898 will not buy much machinery for such repairs.
– The experts and officers say that this proposal will effect eventually an enormous saving in the cost of transport.
– If the repairs oan be done with a £12,000 plant, that is to be found in a garage in Perth.
– Guns cannot be repaired in a garage.
– With a £12,000 plant you will not be able to do any big repairs.
– The next item is armaments and stores for fixed defence, £5,532. Of that sum £3,532 is for liabilities as at the 30th June last on orders in London. The balance of £2,000 is for alterations to the trunnion bearings of carriages for breech - loading, 6-inch, mark VII. guns. The trunnion bearings are thos6 which carry the guns when fitted into their carriages. The sum of £1,800 is provided for these alterations and £200 is set down to provide Worm wheels, &c, for elevating these guns. Item 4, “ Arm racks, armourers’ benches and gymnastic apparatus for drill halls, £450,” is to meet the requirements of the great number of drill halls throughout Australia. Item 5 is, “ Appliances, tools and gauges for inspection branch, ordnance, ammunition, and small arms, £530,” and the whole amount represents liabilities in London. It would be very easy for the Government and for me to cut out item 6, “ Reserve of rifles, £281,000,” but we do not wish to do so. If, however, honorable members insist that there shall be reductions, we do not know but what it may be necessary to take that course.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that £500,000 could be cut out of the Defence votes.
– The Prime Minister did not say that £500,000 could be cut out of the New Works Estimates. This £281,000 is for the manufacture of 17,000 rifles at the Lithgow Factory. Am I to understand that honorable members opposite wish that factory to be closed, and 600 men thrown out of work ?
– The rifles made here are costing double what they could be bought for in England.
– That is so, but if we do not manufacture our rifles here the factory must be closed. These rifles can be bought in London for £7 3s. 9d. each, whereas they cost us £16 4s. to manufacture at Lithgow. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) said that many rifles could be brought over from England, and asked why we should make them here. If that is the honorable member’s idea, he believes that the factory ought to be closed.
– How many rifles are there in Australia?
– I cannot say the exact number, but I suppose we have 200,000 or more; at any rate, we are supposed to have sufficient to fit out five infantry divisions and two light horse divisions. The reports show us that we are nearing our reserve of rifles, and that, of course, is another reason why it may not be so essential to keep the factory going.
– I know one seaport town in the Commonwealth that has not a rifle.
– That may be so.
– Are there not millions of rifles in England ?
– And the authorities there would be glad to give them away!
– These are all arguments for closing down the factory and putting the present employees amongst the unemployed.
– Could they not be employed doing something else - making telephone instruments, for example?
– That is another question. The remarks I am making apply equally to the Maribyrnong Explosives Factory and the factory at Footscray.
– The explosives made here could be used in mining.
– Probably so, but we are not proposing to close the factories. Honorable members are clamouring that money shall not be spent on defence, but they are dumb when a word is said about cutting down the factories.
– We have the courage of our opinions, whereas the Government have not in regard to defence.
-May I take it that honorable senators opposite are urging us toshut down the factories ?
– We are urging you to strike £500,000 off the Defence vote. Will you do it?
– I shall tell you presently.
Item 7 is £77,328 “to be paid to the credit of trust fund, small arms ammunition account, for reserve of small arms ammunition,” and it is proposed to obtain during this financial year 30,000,000 rounds of .303, at £11 16s. per 1,000, representing £354,000. This ammunition is manufactured in our own factories. The cordite is manufactured at Maribyrnong, and the cases and cartridges at Footscray, and, incidentally, there is the Acetate of Lime Factory at Brisbane, from which the material has to be brought to Footscray. Then there are what are described as 600,000 bandoliers, at ls. each, representing £30,000. These are not bandoliers to wear, but are really holders for the cartridges. Then we propose to obtain 5,000,000 rounds of .22- inch ball, at £1 10s. per 1,000, representing £7,500. This ammunition is for the small rifles used by the cadets in their miniature shooting.
– This item is connected with the universal training.
– Could this training not be done away with?
– The honorable member may think it unnecessary to train Australian youth to shoot straight, but it would have been a bad thing for this country if our soldiers had not been able to do so. Rifle shooting, like everything else, must be learnt in youth, because very few of us can learn after attaining manhood.
– Youth is the time to inculcate militarism all right !
– The honorable member evidently does not desire to have any spirit of militarism. We also propose to obtain 1,000,000 rounds of Webley ball for ordinary .455 cartridges at £6 per 1,000, representing £6,000, and 15,000 tracer cartridges, .303, at £13 per 1,000, or £195. These tracer cartridges are fired from aeroplanes, and they leave a- red track of flame, as it were, which can be seen, and they are most essential for the man operating a machine gun from the air. These cartridges act like a sighter, the operator being able to watch each bullet as it flies, and correct his shooting. Item 8 is £142,947 “ towards supply of heavy guns and reserve of gun ammunition.” A. committee, consisting not only of senior permanent military officers, but of officers of the Citizen Forces, have stressed very strongly the necessity for this item “if we are to defend Australia at all. I am one who, although hoping and trusting that this provision may never be necessary, does not feel satisfied that it may not.
We have read in the press recently very promising reports of the proceedings at the Disarmament Conference in Washington. It was opened with a magnificent speech by President Harding, and the -proposals submitted by Secretary of State Hughes for the reduction of armaments were encouraging indeed.. We hope and trust that something will evolve from the Conference which will diminish the possi-bility of war, but can wo say definitely that that will happen?
– Does not the Minister think that this expenditure might be deferred until the result of the Conference is known?
– No. When we know that some good is resulting from the Conference, we can carry out economy in defence expenditure. If we scrap our small Defence Force now, and the Washington Conference and the League of Nations prove futile, in what position shall Ave be in the event of war? Honorable members may have read in the newspapers a statement that if the Washington Conference fails, in spite of the proposal submitted by the United States Secretary of State, there will be more likelihood of war than ever. We have seen, also, newspaper cables headed, “Lions in the Path,” and a statement that Japan is not satisfied with something, and that Great Britain is dissatisfied about something else. Does it not occur to honorable members that the Conference may fail? We hope that it will not, but I defy any .one to say definitely that it will put an end to war, or prevent us from being attacked.
– If the Conference is a success, will not this expenditure be wasted ?
– On the other hand, if it is not a success, arc we to scrap our Defence Forces and chance the result?
– The honorable member is prepared to chance it because he does not care very much what happens to Australia.
– I have, as much responsibility as. has the Minister.
– The Conference of senior officers to which I have already alluded reported that the possession of an adequate war equipment, including essential arms < and armament of all description, as well as equally adequate supplies of ammunition for them, is an indispensable condition for enabling an Australian Army to take the field, whether in Australia or overseas. This amount is provided towards remedying our munition deficiencies.
Turning now to Division No. S, the first item is the Woollen Cloth Factory, for which £45,000 is provided.
– We cannot cut that out.
– I notice that each honorable member looks at these works from a broad, national standpoint ! The honorable member for Corio, in whose electorate this Factory is situated, says that we must not interfere with the proposed expenditure there. This amount of £45,000 is provided for the purpose of increasing the worsted plant at the Factory, because we have a difficulty in producing enough material to supply the various services whose clothing is made of cloth produced at the Factory.
– If the Government decide not to proceed with compulsory training, they will not require so much cloth.
– That is so, but I doubt if Parliament will agree to that. Cloth is being made, not only for Defence uniforms, but also for the Postal Department, the Police, the Tramways Board, and other Commonwealth and State Departments.
– For everybody but the civilian.
– Returned soldiers get it; why did not the honorable member qualify!
– Because I was qualifying to wear another uniform with which the Government supplied me.
– Of the item of £18,350 for machinery and plant at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, the following are the details: - Power plant and condensing plant, £2,600; improvements in. steam boating, £2,000; additional fuel oil storage tanks, £5,000; additional machinery and plant, £5,000; motor lorry, £1,400; motor lorry trailer, £350; motor shop trucks, £2,000.
Item No. 3 is an amount of £196,839 for machinery and plant for the supply of munitions. The details are as follow : - Engineering factories, &c. - Machine gun and pistol manufacture : power plant extensions, £20,000; installation of plant, £20,000 ; purchase of plant, £6,000 ; expenses of tools for Small Arms Factory, £3,000; total, £49,000. The whole of that is for Lithgow Small Arms Factory. At Maribyrnong £2,000 is provided for labour, materials, &c, for overhauling and cleaning machinery. There is £40,000 for cartage, freight, &c, on machinery from overseas. Inspection Branch. - Gauges - For small arms ammunition, £150; for small arms (rifle), £4,000; for small arms (machine gun), £5,000; for guns and carriages, £5,500; for gun ammunition, £500 ; total, £15,150. That seems to be a large amount, but I assure honorable members that if we are to manufacture ammunition and small arms iu this country efficiently we must have these- gauges, and they are very delicate and costly instruments. Appliances for proof at rest of gun ammunition, £1,200. Fuze manufacture and filling. - Plant and installation of plant, £5,000; tools of plant for manufacture and filling, £5,000; total, £10,000. Safety and welfare provision for factories, £500. High explosives and chemical factories. - ‘High explosive factories - T.N.T., £10,3S4; shell-filling plant (H.E. and shrapnel), £6,160; toluene and benzine Bowser storage, £2,000; total, £18,534. Chemical factories. - Quinan stoves, £1,040; gun-cotton preparation, £1,500 ; detonator filling plant, £6,430; aeroplane dope plant, £4,000; total, £12,970. General and experimental. - Fuze-filling plant (air conditioning plant), £8,350. London liabilities, £39,125.
Item No. 4 is an amount of £4,070 for the Acetate of Lime Factory, of which the details are: - Purchase and installation of vacuum pan, with condenser air pump and motor, £2,550; two pumps, Worthington, steam (spares), £110; dryer, with motor, £1,075; six motors (spares) (2 of 2 h.p., 1 of 3 h.p., 1 of 5 h.p., 1 of 7* h.p., and 1 of 10 h.p.’), £335; total, £4,070.
Item No. 5 is £20,000 for reserve stores at Lithgow Small Arms Factory. The details are - Rifle steel (balance of Hoskin’s contract), £14,170; rifle steel (balance of Eagle-Globe contract), £450; 6cabbards, “ leather, £500; tabin bronze, £700 ; hygrometers (2), £100; miscellaneous, £3,000; rifle steel from Ministry of Munitions, £3,680; small stores, £188; steel for Vickers’ gun barrel, £600 ; total, £23,388. This total has been reduced to a round figure of £20,000.
Item No. 6 refers to reserve stores for the Cordite Factory, the details being as follows: - 500 tons of acetate of lime, £35,000; 100 tons of cotton waste, £5,000; total, £40,000.
Item No. 7 refers to experimental fuze manufacture and filling, the details of which are as follows: - Material, labour, &c, for fuze manufacture, £4,500; material, labour, &c, for fuze filling, £1,770; total, £6,270.
Item No. 8 refers to recoupment of advances, £250,000, for the Small Arms Ammunition Factory. Last financial year, when this factory was taken over from the Colonial Ammunition Company Limited, thepurchase of stocks and additional raw material was effected from the Small Arms Ammunition Trust Fund. This amount is for the repayment of advances to such Fund.
The Colonial Ammunition Factory was taken over by the Government, and this amount is to. recoup the Trust Fund, which was established for the payment of what was owing for the plant.
Item 9 refers to rifle ranges, the estimate being £2,300, to cover the construction of miniature rifle ranges at various drill halls throughout the Commonwealth.
These are all the items that come under the control of the Department of Defence. The items on the next page come under the jurisdiction of the Department for Works and Railways, and the Minister for that Department (Mr. Groom) will deal with them.
I would not look to honorable members of the Opposition for support, even if these Estimates were cut down to any extent whatever.
– You would not get it.
– I know it well. There are honorable members in the Opposition whose better judgment and true feelings would not allow them to vote to make our men of Australia impotent in the case of, say, a raid on Australia’s shores, if they were left to themselves; but they dare not vote otherwise, because outside forces are ever impelling them to do as they are doing. Therefore, even if these Estimates were cut down to an infinitesimal amount, some honorable members opposite would not agree to them under any consideration. There are others who, of course, would vote for any motion or amendment having for its purpose the dragging down of the Government.
– Hear, hear!
– I knew that the honorable member would say “Hear, hear!” There are others whom I would not expect to vote for these Estimates.
– The honorable member has reached his time limit.
– I was not aware that the Minister in charge of a division of the Estimates had any time limit.
– The Minister in charge of a division of the Estimates is not limited as to the number of speeches he may make, but is limited to the amount of time allotted to any other honorable member. He is at liberty to make a second speech.
– Then I will proceed. Honorable members opposite say that these Estimates are extravagant, but they would not vote for them even if they were cut down to an absolutely ridiculous amount. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), for instance, would not vote for them if they were cut down to sixpence.
– I would not give you a penny for Defence.
– I know that, because ‘the honorable member is out in the open, and we know where he stands. He is a cheerful, optimistic oldBolshevik, and does not profess to be anything else. He cares little for the protection of Australia and would welcome with open arms Lenin and Trotsky and their Soviet regime.
– Their dictatorship would be preferable to that of the employers.
– I would not expect to get support from honorable members opposite, no matter to what extent these Estimates were cut down.
– We will accept full responsibility before the people for any votes we cast.
– That is nothing to boast about, because honorable members must accept that responsibility whether they like it or not.
I cannot believe that our friends in the Country party, to whom honorable members opposite look with furtive glances when they are talking about what they describe as “extravagant” estimates, will ally themselves with those reactionary forces of I.W.W.’ism, Bolshevism, and revolution, which impel honorable members opposite to vote for the scrapping of the whole of the defences of Australia. I could not imagine a more grotesque alliance than one between the Country party and such forces as I have described. I do not believe that those who are descended from the old pioneers who made Australia - fighting droughts, fires, and dingoes - would assist honorable members opposite to scrap our small Defence Force and render our brave men impotent should our shores be attacked, which no one can say they will not be, within the next few years. They would not, I am sure, ally themselves with those who would have our men standing absolutely helpless while the same fate overtook this country as overtook little Belgium.
For the benefit of honorable members on this side of the chamber - what I have to say will not affect honorable members opposite - I may state that, in order to carry out the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the Estimates would be reduced by £500,000, I have made arrangements to cut down the Defence vote by £250,000. It would not be fair to expect me to say how much will be cut off any particular item. I have worried my staff day and night in an endeavour to obtain something definite so that I might be able to come here and say, “ We can cut off this or cut off that.” But it is impossible to do so. Reports must first be secured from various officers. Engineers must state what certain works will cost and what is likely to happen by cutting out certain projected expenditure. Nevertheless, I give the
Committee my word that the Defence Estimates will be cut down by £250,000. Not all of it will be taken out of the votes for new works, but the greater part of it will be. A portion will be saved on the general Estimates.
– Have you any idea about the savings which can be effected in compulsory training?
– A portion of the expenditure on compulsory training will be cut out.
– Will the proposal for a seventy days’ camp be cut out?
– There is no such proposal. There is no provision for a seventy-days’ camp.
– If we are not to have a seventy-days’ camp, then how many days of continuous training will our men have to undergo?
– There are different periods of service for different forces, but none of them are to do more than sixteen days’ training. Those figures include camp and home parades.
– The seventydays’ camp proposal has been “ knocked on the head “ ?
– There will be no seventy-days’ camp.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has made rather slighting references to military officers which I cannot help taking in part to myself. He has spoken of “ All these generals and colonels - these ‘ brass hats ‘ with their fine uniforms.” and has asked whether they need to be paid. Senior officers are not made in a day, a week, a year, or even ten years. The training of a lifetime is necessary to make a capable staff officer. If we have not good staff officers, then Heaven help us. The only reverses suffered by us on the other side were due to faulty staff work. Every soldier knows that faulty staff work always leads to disaster. It is impossible to have good staff work unless we have efficient staff officers who have been in training all their lives. I may not be much of a politician, but I understand the fighting business from A to Z, and I say unhesitatingly that efficiency as a staff officer is secured only as the result of the training of a lifetime. Proof of that is to be found all over the world. With well-trained staff officers and good staff work an army’s operations are successful. Without such qualifications disasters occur. The men we have on the staff here are worthy of the positions they fill. Our staff offioers to-day do not exceed the number that we had. when the honorable member for Darling’s party was in office. Then everything, from their point of view, was all right. No larger sum is now being expended on the permanent soldiers of Australia than was spent on them - even allowing for the difference in the purchasing power of the sovereign - when the honorable member’s party was in office. The Labour party then sought to take to themselves all the credit for. the introduction of compulsory training, and for providing an efficient Defence Force.
– There are members of our party who were in Parliament at that time and who dispute the honorable gentleman’s statement. Has he the figures?
– I have not the figures at hand, but I know that my statement is correct.
– Tell us how many generals were in the Australian Defence Forces at that time, and give us the number we have to-day.
– We had not many generals at that time, because their services were not required. When the war occurred we had to provide for more generals.
– Officers were promoted to such rank during the war, and the Department has now to provide good jobs for them.
– The Deputy Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Charlton), for whom I have the greatest respect, and whom I regret is not present his evening, has said over and over again when referring to the Defence Estimates, “ Why make this provision for the destruction of human life? In view nf the fact that we have the League of Nations operating, and that the Washington Conference has been convened to consider the question of disarmament, why make such preparations for the destruction of life?” We are not preparing to destroy life. On the contrary, our desire is to make some preparation for the preservation of the lives of the people of Australia. We want to protect our families and our properties. It is the very life of the country that we want to preserve.
– That was the plea of the Germans for thirty years.
– They were unable to preserve their country. Would the honorable member have us unable topreserve Australia ? Would he sacrifice Australia for the sake of saving a few paltry pounds?
– I have just as much pride in Australia as has any man.
– The honorable member would be absolutely satisfied if this money which we propose to spend on the defence of Australia could be tipped into the rapacious maw of the Australian Workers Union. I do not think that honorable members on this side will be fooled by the cry of the Opposition that we are making these preparations for the destruction of human life. Such a statement is idiotic. Australia is one of the outposts of the Empire, and honorable members know what happens to an army when its outposts fall. In such circumstances the army itself is in danger of meeting with disaster. And so with us. We are one of the outposts of the Empire, and we desire to make such provision as will enable us, amongst other things, to repel a raid. Is it desirable that our brave men in the event of a raid should be impotent - that they should be unable to repel the raider because they have nothing with which to fight? Do honorable members opposite realize what a raid might mean? They have read of the atrocities which have been perpetrated in other countries.
– I suppose the honorable member does not care whether a raid takes place or not. No one can deny that such an experience might befall Australia, and I say to honorable members opposite that they should at least give our Forces a chance of being able to repel a raid. They say that the League of Nations will prevent war. We hope that it will; but it may not. The Washington Conference may prove successful, but even if it is, disarmament probably cannot be brought about for several years. If, on the other hand, the Washington Conference is not successful, if instead of achieving the object for which it has been convened the nations represented there disagree, we shall be nearer war than ever we were. The problems of the Pacific will have been focused there; the searchlights of the world will have been thrown upon them, and if a disagreement takes place we may be subjected to an attack with appalling suddenness. Is our army to be unequipped to meet such an emergency? Our men are brave enough to repel an attack if they have the necessary munitions; but if they have not, then, in the event of an unexpected attack, it may go hard with Australia.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that he will reduce by £250,000 the Defence Estimates relating to new works and buildings?
– The reductions will relate chiefly to the Works Estimates, but some of them will be associated with the general Estimates.
– By how much will the honorable gentleman reduce these Estimates?
– I cannot say exactly, but the Military Estimates will be reduced by £250,000. I ask the Committee to be satisfied with that assurance. I have gone very carefully into this matter and have worried my staff to give me concrete examples as to what can be saved here and there. That, however, is impossible. We can only give the Committee the assurance that of the £500,000 by which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has promised to reduce the Estimates, £250,000 will consist of reductions in the Military Estimates. Those reductions will have nothing to do with the Navy.
– Where will the other- £250,000 come from ?
– That will be for the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), and other Ministers to sav. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) may make afurther statement, in which he will be able to give that information to honorable members.
– Would not the British Government have given us as many rifles as we wanted?
– The honorable member, I hope, realizes that what he says suggests the closing down ofthe Small Anns Factory at Lithgow.
– Most decidedly, we should save over £200,000 there.
– There are reasons why that would not be advisable. W.e need to be self-contained in these matters.
– Is it because our men might not be armed? Surely we could have got the necessary arms.
– The honorable member, as a military man, knows that unless we had heavy guns and ammunition we should be helpless against a force possessing artillery. We must have artillery for our defence.
– Could not guns have been obtained in any quantity for nothing ?
– I do not think that suitable guns could be obtained for nothing; we must have everything of the kind up to date.
– If the seas were controlled by some other power, how should we get heavy guns and ammunition ?
– We need to manufacture our own heavy guns and ammunition. A great deal of the money asked for in these Defence Estimates is to supply the machinery necessary forthe manufacture of big guns. I mentioned one large item for freight and cost of machinery for making big guns. We must make big guns as well as rifles.
– Where are the Government going to make them ?
– Chiefly at Maribyrnong. There is to be an arsenal there, and workshops will be fitted up for the purpose. We must undertake this work sooner or later in Australia if we are to provide effective defence. If we find that somereal result in the way of national disarmament will follow from the Washington Disarmament Conference, I shall be the first to admit that we may reduce this expenditure. But I ask honorable members not to agree to reduce it in the way proposed until we see whetherthere will be a real necessity for defence or not.
– We say that the Government is wastingmoney on defence under ordinary conditions.
– I have worked out what the estimated expenditure for new works for the military amounts to, and I find that it amounts to ls. 9d. per head of the population. That is not a verygreat sum to expend in preparation for a serious emergency. I do not say that I really believe there will be a raid or an attack upon Australia. I do not believe it. I believe it is highly improbable, but I cannot say that it is impossible, and no one can da so. If there is the slightest risk of anything of the kind,. it would be a suicidal policy for us, before we know whether war is to be prevented in the future or * not, to say that we shall scrap the small Defence Force we have in Australia.
– We say that it is impossible to -provide for defence, and at the same time to develop the country.
– We have done it up to the present in spite of the heavy expense of the great war.
– We have not developed the country.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that Australia has been standing still all these years?
– It has not been developed to anything like the extent to which it ought to have been developed. .
– Does the Minister propose to make a reduction of £250,000 on the Defence Estimates simply because the Prime Minister has promised a reduction of £500,000 on the Estimates a» a whole, or because it can be done without jeopardizing the safety of Australia?
– I believe that we can make the reduction without jeopardizing our safety. That will be largely because five months of the current financial year have already passed. After making close calculations we find that by the time plans and specifications are drawn up, and tenders for buildings and manufactures are ready, it will be possible to save the amount referred to.
– Because the Government cannot, spend the money this year, the honorable gentleman tells us that they are saving it.
– I say that we can save the amount I have mentioned. ^
– What the Minister has said involves no real reduction.
– What would honorable members have?
– I am surprised that the honorable gentleman should jeopardize the safety of the country for the sake of £250,000.
– We can save this money without jeopardizing the safety of the country.
– Then the Government are asking £250,000 too much for defence.
– At the same time, I say that we cannot possibly agree to reduce these Estimates by £500,000, as proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). Such a reduction would jeopardize the safety of Australia. I ask the Committee, therefore, to reject the amendment. I ask that, after the great sacrifice made by the men of Australia in the late war, honorable members should not do anything which would make that sacrifice in vain. The boys who lie on the other side would turn in their graves if they found that, after they had made the supreme sacrifice, we in Australia are prepared to jeopardize’ the safety of their native land, and the welfare and wellbeing of the widows, families, and sweethearts they have left to mourn their loss. Over 60,000 of them on the other side gave their lives for the Union Jack, and are we going to say that we shall jeopardize the safety of the land for which they fought? I say that we will be recreant to our trust to the dead if we do. I do not like to think of a time when we might be under some other flag than the Union Jack. We might well have been under some other flag to-day had it not been for the bravery of our men, 66,000 of whom laid down their lives. Perhaps there are some who can contemplate with equanimity our going under some other flag. I cannot do so. I think we are doing well under the Union Jack, and I think we should be loyal to that flag. If we are going to endanger the safety of this country by recording a vote which will render our men impotent should we be attacked, we are not worthy to live under that flag, and may let some other flag fly over us. I again ask the Committee to vote against the amendment.
– How does the Minister propose to make savings in these Estimates?
– I have already said that I cannot refer to particular items, but I undertake definitely to say that £250,000 will be saved out of the Defence Estimates.
– Will the Minister say why and. when the Colonial Ammunition Company’s business was taken over? 1 see there is £250,000 down for that.
– It was taken over a few months ago. The reason was that it was considered necessary in the interests of the country that the Government should have absolute control of the ammunition factory, and that we should manufacture our own ammunition. Up to the time the business was taken over, we simply paid the company so much for ammunition. We have now taken over their factory, and are manufacturing ammunition for ourselves. We thought it better to do so in the interests of Australia.
– Was the company not supplying satisfactory ammunition ?
– I believe it was, but the Government thought it a better arrangement to take the factory over.
– That was an extraordinary thing to do without authority.
– I do not know to what authority the honorable member refers. We took it over, anyway.
– At any rate, something has been accomplished by the amendment moved from this side of the House to cut down the proposed Defence vote by £500,000. The Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) has decided that he can now reduce the Defence Estimates by £250,000. Upon the last occasion, when speaking in this chamber, he failed to give the slightest hint that anything of the kind could be done; indeed, the idea was ridiculed. Now, the Assistant Minister informs honorable members that, because the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has announced that there can be a saving of £500,000, one-half of that sum can be cut out of the Defence vote.
– That is all the thanks I get.
– I admit that one should be thankful for small mercies. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) uttered a pertinent in- terjection when he asked whether the proposed reduction was clue to the fact that the Prime Minister had made the request, or because the Assistant Minister considered that the safety of Australia would not be imperilled by cutting off a quarter of a million money from the Defence Estimates. The Assistant Minister says he has not gone through his Estimates.
– I said nothing of the kind. I have done nothing else but go through them.
– The Assistant Minister said he did not know which item, or what phase of expenditure, could be cut down.
– Because no one can say, as yet.
– Honorable members are informed that they cannot be shown at this stage how and where the £250,000 is to be whittled off. In the circumstances, how can the Assistant Minister give an assurance to the honorable member for Fawkner that Australia’s safety will not be imperilled by the economy ?
– I know that certain amounts can be cut down, that certain votes can be reduced with perfect safety; but the details have yet to be worked out.
– Even so, the interjection was a poser, and the Assistant Minister did not like it. Clearly, he does not know whether Australia’s safety will be imperilled. But, because the Prime Minister has spoken, the Assistant Minister, without being able to point to anything specific, says he can knock off £250,000. The significant point is that if, at the behest of the Prime . Minister, Defence Estimates can be so pared down, they ought not to be impossible of reduction to the extent indicated in the amendment moved from this side of the House.
– Does the Assistant Minister think that another vote of the Country party would have the effect of knocking off an additional quarter of a million sterling?
– I do not think a vote of that character would frighten the Assistant Minister for Defence, because he knows full well that, whenever a crisis of that kind develops from the Corner, something always happens to save the Ministry. It was amusing to listen to the appeal of the Assistant Minister to members of the Country party. He does not desire the amendment to be carried, so he warns honorable members in the Corner of the dangers of I.W,W’ism., Bolshevism, and that sort of thing. And he says, “ Don’t you dare to vote for them.” But the appeal has fallen on deaf ears. Members of tha Country party have sufficient sense to ridicule it. The amendment should stand on its merits. Honorable members should not be influenced by appeals to passion or prejudice. The Assistant Minister has said, with the utmost assurance, that the safekeeping of Australia will not be in doubt. There was nothing in his speech to indicate that there would be any danger if the Defence Estimates were reduced to the extent indicated in the amendment itself. The trouble is that the amendment emanates from this side of the House; and, therefore, even if it were capable of being put into practice, the proposition is not acceptable. Some good has come of it, however, for it is obvious that nothing would have been done, and that Australia would have been committed to unnecessary expenditure upon defence to the extent of £250,000. The Assistant Minister repeated- to-night, in effect, a statement which he made some time ago, namely, that the best way to insure peace is to prepare for war.
– I never said that.
– Not necessarily the same words, but that was the sentiment expressed. The Assistant Minister obviously holds the view that the best way to keep Australia free is to pile up armaments.
– I advise the. honorable member to stick to what I said.
– The fair thing now would be for the Government to withdraw the Defence Estimates until after the Disarmament Conference.
– The honorable gentleman is afraid that his party will bebeaten to-night.
– The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) is evidently afraid of the vote on this question. He has good reason to be afraid, after the speech that he made. If anything could convince one of the injustice of these Estimates, it was the Minister’s speech. Personally, I do not know why the Minister took the trouble to go through the item. He took the Committee over two pages of the Estimates, but instead of giving any explanation or justification of the figures, he merely explained how the .totals were made up.
– The Minister told us what his departmental officers had told him.
– Exactly. He simply went into the-items in greater detail than he had done previously. If only the people of this country could realize that all the items mentioned on one page of the Defence Estimates, with about three exceptions, are additional, what would they say? It is proposed to pile up additional defence activities years after the war is over. The Minister has said that if only the men who died in the war could hear the words , that have been uttered from the Opposition side of the House, they would “ turn in their graves.” What a distortion of the facts that statement is ! If anything could cause those men to “ turn in their graves,” it is the violation of the promises that were made to them before they went away. Government supporters said that it was “ a war to end war.” The Minister, I suppose, was one of those who, made use of that statement.
– Suppose we did say it, and suppose it is wrong. Who is to be blamed?
– What the Minister meant to imply when he said that the men’ “would turn in their graves “ was that they would feel that they had been deceived if anybody condemned further war activities. They laid down their lives with the statement ringing in their ears that “ It is a war to end wars - the last of the wars.” If the Minister did not say that, certainly his Leader said it from hundreds of platforms. If there was one thing more than another that was impressed on the men who went to die war, it was that they were engaging in a war to end wars.
– This sum is not to he spent for the purpose of causing war.
– It is to be spent on new factories and new machinery, in order to turn out the armaments for future wars.
– In order that we may not be attacked.
– What was the good of saying it was a war to end wars if, immediately after the war, we make preparations for more wars ?
– It is not a case of making preparation for more wars. We are making preparation to defend ourselves if we are attacked.
– I am not deceived by that statement. I am disappointed to an extent, but not to the extent that I anticipated anything else. The “ war to end wars “ was part of the propaganda indulged in at that time to enlist the sympathies of those poor fellows, and to incite them to take part in the war. The people who engaged in the propaganda never for a moment thought that the war was going to be a war to end wars. So far from the men “ turning in their graves,” they would be disappointed to-day to find that there is this year an increase in the cost of Australia’s war activities. The Minister indulged in another bit of special pleading. He said, “ Suppose we cut down these activities at Lithgow ; do you want that, and to throw all these men out of employment?” My answer to the Minister is that there need be no throwing of men out of employment by discontinuing the manufacture of small arms and weapons of war. That work could .cease, and the men could still be fully employed manu- ‘facturing the things that the Committee was talking about to-day, such as telephone instruments and other necessary equipment for the development’ of the country.
– The Government do not believe in competing with private enterprise in these matters. The honorable member’s Socialistic schemes do not appeal to us.
– According to the Minister’s views, so long as the scheme is undertaken for the destruction of human life it is all right, even if it is Socialistic and interferes with private enterprise.
– Does the honorable gentleman believe that munitions of warshould be manufactured only by the State?
– My complaint is that the Government are carrying on this kind of work to a greater extent than is necess*ary to-day. The men employed- in making munitions ought to be engaged in doing more necessary work for. the development of the country. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) told the Committee that he applied for £2,500,000 and only got £1,500,000. He said he could not get the material for telephone instruments and other purposes. Yet men are employed in turning out implements of war for the destruction of human life.
– For the preservation of our lives.
– I say for the destruction of human life.
– The expenditure is not so large as it was before the war.
– The Minister for the Navy surely has not read the Estimates.
– The expenditure is not so large as it was before the war, when the purchasing power of the sovereign is taken into consideration.
– There are the items - Small Arms Factory, £18,350; munitions supply, machinery, and plant, £196,839; and Cordite Factory reserve stores, £40,000. These make a total of about £250,000 on half a page of the Estimates. . This expenditure is all in connexion with new activites that have sprung up practically within the last few months.
– £250,000 is the amount that the Defence Estimates are to be cut down by.
– It is not necessary to go far to ascertain where £250,000 can be saved in this Department, because most of this expenditure which I have mentioned is new. Let honorable members look at the vote for the
Duntroon College, where, I am told, there are about 80 students and 150 or 160 officers.
– The honorable member is wrong.
-I have not seen the figures lately, but I think my statement is about correct.
– There are 81 students and 181 other people.
– I think the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) referred to officers when he really meant the general staff.
– At all events, there are about two persons employed for every student receiving instruction.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that the Committee is not dealing with administration, but with works and buildings.
– These new buildings are necessary because of the large staff employed at Duntroon. The Minister has just said that my statement is not correct. I hope he will take an early opportunity of presenting the exact figures to the Committee, but I understand an official answer already appears inHansard bearing out the. statement I have just made. What is true of Duntroon is true of other activities of the Defence Department. There is mismanagement and maladministration on every hand. The Minister has told us that he went into the question of revising the Estimates.With whom but the people who are most interested in piling up this expenditure? It is not likely the Minister would get advice in the matter of cutting down expenditure from gentlemen in the Defence Department whose particular function it is, or at all events they conceive it to be, to pile up expenditure, and in that way provide for their own aggrandisement.
– To whom would you go if you were administering a Department if not to the officers in that Department ?
– In this case I would go into the matter myself.
– That is what
I have done.
– Then it is a pity the Minister did not go to Duntroon.
– I have been there dozens of times.
– Does the Minister then agree that there is economy in administration when it is necessary to employ two persons to look after each student?
– There are twenty-nine on the Instructional Staff. These include professors in the several military subjects and other branches of instruction.
– But my statement as to the number of persons employed at Duntroon is correct.
– It includes gardeners and all attendants, as well as the honorary chaplains.
– All these people are there because there are eighty students. The fact that there are students in residence at Duntroon is a pretext for their employment. In my criticism of the Defence Department t have never attacked any of the officers personally. I do not blame them. . I blame the Government and the Minister administering the Department. It is human nature for the officers of a Department to make it as important as possible, and in this respect the officers of the Defence Department are not singular. These military gentlemen, or, as they are frequently called, these “brass hats,” naturally want to increase the importance of their positions; but the blame for inflated and unnecessary expenditure must rest upon the shoulders of the Minister. I do not know of any one who could get up and make a better military speech than the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie). He fills the bill to the very letter. He can talk about his “dogs of war,” and you can almost imagine you can hear the bayonet clanking at his side.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211115_reps_8_97/>.