8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr.CHARLTON.- Is the Prime Minister to-day in a position to reply to the question -which. I asked yesterday about tie intention of the Government in regard to the giving of assistance to the people of Russia, to ameliorate the appalling conditions in that country, due to drought?
– I can do so only generally. Ministers recognise, of course, the responsibility that is cast on all Governments of civilized communities to do whatever may be possible. The honorable member yesterday asked that we should make available flour or wheat.
Mr.Charlton. - Or money.
Mr.HUGHES. - The Government qua Government owns neither flour nor wheat, but we have suggested to the Government of Great Britain that it should make available the whole,, or a large part, of the meat purchased by it from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand. That meat is now lying in cool stores in England, and we have asked the British Government ‘if it is prepared to co-operate with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand in thus assisting the Russian people.We have also communicated with the Government of New Zealand on the subject. A reply cannot be received for a day or two, but when the House meets next week I shall state what it is proposed to do. We are ready and anxious to do what we can. The question is being considered from many sides,. but we thoroughly recognise the need for doing something.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether, in connexion with the dismissals necessitated by the so-called economies, he will postpone action, particularly in regard to married soldiers, until at least after Christmas, in every case where that is possible?
– Yes. I am making arrangements whereby the married men to whom we have unfortunately to give notice maybe kept on until the 31st December, so far as that is possible.
Compensation to Dr. Jensen - Unemployment
– In view of the finding of Mr. Justice Ewing in regard to the Gilruth administration, and the dismissal of Dr. Jensen from the position of geologist to the Northern Territory, will the Minister for Home and Territories favorably consider an application from Dr. Jensen for compensation for wrongful dismissal from the Service?
Mr.POYNTON. - The dismissal was made before I took office, but Dr. Jensen made seventeen or eighteen, charges against the Administrator and the administration of the Northern Territory, and the verdict of those who inquired into them - I think that the inquiry was by a Commission - was that in every case he failed to substantiate those charges. I know of nothing to justify the payment of compensation to Dr. Jensen.
– Is the Minister for Home and Territories in a position to state whether anything is being done to relieve the unemployment in the Northern Territory?
– I am in communication withthe Works Branch, with a view to ascertaining if it is possible to start works to relieve the unemployment, and I hope to have something definite to state within a day or two.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Repatriation whether the statement which hasbeen made on alleged good authority thatSir James McCay has been appointed Director- General of War Service Homes is correct? Has the Government made, or does it contemplate making, the appointment?
– The statement is incorrect. Sir James McCay has neither applied for,nor been promised, the position, and he informed me to-day that he does not propose to be an applicant for it.
– Is the statement only partly true?
– It is wholly without -foundation. No person has been promised the position, nor is the Government committed in respect of it.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act- (Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1021, No. 212.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Corio, Victoria -.ForDefence purposes. ‘
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, in New South Wales, at Auburn, Kogarah, Lewisham, and Merewether.
– I lay on the table the proposed draft of the agreement between the Amalgamated Wireless of Australia and the Commonwealth Government, covering the alternative proposal to which I have referred many times in this Chamber. This draft has not yet received the approval of the Board, but I lay it on the table so that if the item in the Estimates dealing with wireless is discussed, honorable members may know vin broad general terms what is intended by the company and the Government. I have already laid on the table the alternative agreement for a relay scheme.
– Is this the proposal you intend to discuss?
– There are two schemes, the direct and the relay scheme.
– What provision have you made for their discussion? Is there an item in the Estimates which will afford the necessary opportunity?
– There is an item dealing with existing wireless on which eis matter can be discussed. I shall endeavour to meet the convenience and wishes of honorable members, and if they axe not satisfied that the method I suggest will give them an ample opportunity of discussing the matter, a special, motion will be submitted.
– I think that the method suggested will give honorable members ample opportunity, of discussing the matter.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to the threatened explosives industry ? Is it the intention of the Government to support’ a. black-labour product of South Africa as against that of white workers of Australia ?
– My attention has not been called to the threatened explosives industry. It is not the intention of the Government to support a black-labour product of South Africa as against that of white workers of Australia.
– Have the Commonwealth Government received any communication from the Dutch authorities in Java with regard to the supply of inferior material contracted for by an Australian State Government, the contract in regard to which the Dutch authorities were forced to cancel? This contract, which ran into several thousands of pounds, which has thus been lost to Australia, has since gone to Germany.
– The honorable member mentioned this matter to me last evening, and I have had the files searched in order to ascertain if the Commonwealth Government had received any communications on. the subject, but so far I am in receipt of no information which can lead me to give an affirmative answer to ^ the honorable member’s question. However, I shall have the search continued. The honorable member has raised a point of the utmost importance to Australia, and upon which I am able to speak with some degree of assurance. It is within my own knowledge that an Australian firm supplying bolts and nuts to the East supplied bolts of different calibre from the nuts accompanying them. The case the honorable member has mentioned is not an isolated one. I am sura the honorable member would say that it is not an isolated one in his own experience. Last night he mentioned leather goods to me. We ought to be able to trade with the East in leather, but the samples sent away were calculated to bring - discredit upon the name of the Commonwealth. I shall have further inquiries made, and I hope the House will agree with me that we cannot afford to » allow such things to take place. The Eastern market is ours if we like to cater for it in a sensible and business-like way. Therefore, we should not allow private firms to bring the Commonwealth’s name into disrepute.
Communications from Senator Pearce.
– Has the Prime Minister received any communication from Senator Pearce, the Commonwealth representative at the Washington Disarmament Conference, and has he communicated to Senator Pearce the wishes of this Parliament ? r>
– Almost daily communications ha.ve been received from Senator Pearce setting out what is being done at Washington, and the exact stage the negotiations have reached. The only message sent from this country, other than by way of acknowledgment of messages received, conveyed to Senator Pearce certain resolutions passed by a Trades Council which the honorable member for
Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked me to send forward. Those resolutions were accompanied by an extract from the speech I made in this House in reply to the honorable member. Senator Pearce is carrying out in the spirit and to the letter the desires of the Commonwealth Parliament, so far as they have been expressed or can be ascertained. As honorable members are aware, the Washington Conference is being carried on other than in its Committee stages by open diplomacy, and our representative is keeping us fully posted as to what is being done. If honorable members wish to know what has been done by the Conference on any particular point, I shall be only too glad to inform them if I am able to do so.
Effect of Reductions
– Can the Acting Minister for Defence tell the House the number of men whose services have been dispensed with so far in consequence of the recent reduction of the Defence Estimates for Additions, New Works, and Buildings, and the number of men he expects to be obliged to dismiss under the so-called economy that has been effected ?
– I regret to say that it has been found necessary to notify 400 men on the temporary staff that their services must be dispensed with because there will be no money available to pay them; but I sincerely hope that there will be no need for. further dismissals. If there is, however, . they must occur among the Permanent Forces. The 400 men who will be obliged to go are practically all returned soldiers. It was the policy of the Government to employ returned soldiers on the temporary staff.
– Why not dismiss some of the “ brass hats “ ?
– There are no so-called “ brass hats “ on the temporary staff. As the reduction affects the temporary staff only, it cannot apply to what the honorable member terms “ brass hats.” I regret that these temporary hands, who are chiefly returned soldiers, have had to be put off. I believe that the majority of’ them are married -men, but, if possible, these will be kept employed until after Christmas.
– Seeing “that both Houses have passed the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, and that in about a fortnight’s time practically all “the Estimates will have been passed, will the Prime Minister give instructions to the various Departments intrusted with construction work to expedite their operations, so that unemployment may be lessened? At present, large numbers of men are out of work, and many returned soldiers are being discharged.
– I shall do so.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that more than one of the State Premiers who attended the recent Conference has made statements to the effect that the right honorable gentleman has been making assertions which are at variance with the truth as; to the decision of the Conference in regard to arbitration ? In the circumstances, will he make available as soon as possible the official report of the Premiers’ Conference so that the public may know who is the “fibber”?
– I shall be very glad to do so, although I must confess to a feeling of profound regret and disappointment that there should be in the minds of my honorable colleagues any doubt as to who is the sinner in this matter. So far as I know, it is not a fact that more than one Premier has expressed a doubt as to what was intended in regard to the proposed amendment of the arbitration laws. I have not had an opportunity to look very carefully into the statement made the day before yesterday by Mr. Barwell. As far as I know, the draft Bill sent to the several State Premiers carries out the letter and the spirit of the resolution of the Conference. The explanation perhaps is to be found in quite another direction. It is not I who have failed to observe the spirit of the resolution passed at the Conference; the Premiers themselves possibly did not appreciate exactly what that resolution meant
Dismissal of Employees - Building Programme - Erection of War Service Homes in Goldfield Towns.
– A few weeks ago I asked the Assistant Minister for Repatriation whether he was in. a position to state the principle upon which officers employed in the War Service Homes Branch of his Department were being dismissed. Is he yet in a position to supply me with the required information?
– It was not a few weeks ago, but a few days ago, that the honorable member inquired whether I could supply him with the conditions under which the services of officers were being dispensed with owing to the curtailment of the activities of the War Service Homes Commission. That curtailment has been brought about by the fact that last year we had available nearly £8,000,000 for the purpose, whereas this year only £4,000,000 is available. All Deputies have recently been instructed to observe the following procedure in carrying out reductions of staff: -
Following No. 2, the services of members of the classified staff should be terminated in the following order: -
In any case, and irrespective of the foregoing, the services of non-returned soldiers should be terminated before a returned soldier is retrenched. In the case of females, the following order will be observed in making retrenchements: -
This instruction provides that temporary officers are first to be dispensed with. This is in accordance with the policy adopted in the Public Service when retrenchments are necessary. Temporary employees of the Commission, such. as clerks, typists, &c, are entitled to recreation leave as prescribed by the respective Arbitration Court awards. The : men employed on jobs are not entitled to, or eligible for, recreation leave, and in those circumstances, time clerks, like other casual employees, are not granted leave for recreation purposes. They will all, however, share in the bonus scheme provided for officerswhose services have to be dispensed with by reason of restricted operations. In addition, the Public Service Commissioner has been asked to absorb as many of the men who have helped in this work so that employment may, if possible, be obtained for them.
– In view of the fact that for some months every application to the War Service Homes Commission for information as to when a soldier may expect to get his home is met with the reply that the Deputy Comptroller is unable, until he receives further instructions, to supply such information, I desire to ask the Assistant Minister for Repatriation how long it will be. before a soldier will be able to ascertain what his prospects of obtaining a home are, and some suggestion as to the date on which he may expect his application to be finalized?
– Definite steps have been taken to avoid the doubts and ambiguities that have occurred in the past. A special tribunal known as the Adjustment Board has been created to determine the order of applications on a priority list. Every soldier will be notified either at the time of his application, or on the completion of the list, of his number on the list, and when his application is likely to be complied with. Every State has had its full quota fixed on a monthly basis according to the number of enlistments, and provision has been made for commitments of last year, as well as for carrying on the new programme. Every soldier applicant . will know what is his number on the list, and will be given a careful estimate of the time within which he may expect his home to be erected. In order that the determination of the matter may not rest solely upon officers of the Department, the soldiers themselves have been invited to nominate a panel from which a direct representative may be selected for appointment to the Adjustment Board, which will be presided over by an independent chairman. The Commission still awaits the nomination of the panel.
– Has the attention of the Assistant Minister for Repatriation been directed to the view expressed on the eastern goldfields of Western Australia that it is not the intention of the War Service Homes Commission to grant any applications for the purchase or erection of soldiers’ homes there?
– I have not seen any such statement. Only recently i had an opportunity to confer with the Premier of Western Australia, and he emphatically expressed his approval of the principle adopted by the Commission that War Service Homes shall be built all over the State instead of in concentrated areas.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in connexion with the Washington Conference, methods of open diplomacy are applied only to the question of the limitation of naval armaments, while the Far Eastern question, or, as the newspapers term it, the Pacific problem, is being discussed behind closed doors ? If so, will Australia’s representative be in a position, on his return, to communicate to the public of Australia the discussions which took place with regard to that question ?
– I do not know whether it is a fact that while negotiations regarding naval disarmament are carried on by open diplomacy, negotiations relative to the Pacific question are earned on behind closed doors. I have noted certain statements in the press; but have no other information. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I have already said, by way of answer to an inquiry by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), that I shall be pleased to place at the disposal of the House any information that my honorable colleague gives me. The only qualification to that statement is that information which the Conference regards as being of a confidential character cannot be made public unless and until the Conference so determines. It would be impossible to carry on negotiations in any other way.
Mr.BOWDEN.-Can the Minister for Works and Railways inform us what steps have been taken to finalize the plans for the permanent Parliament House at Canberra ?
– The conditions of the competition for the design of the permanent Parliament House have been referred to the Advisory Committee, who will go into the whole question. Of course, the honorable member is looking to the ultimate object of the designs, but what I am more concerned with at the present ‘ time is the preparation of the plans for the temporary Parliament House.
New South Wales Adjustment Board - Charges by Mr. J. T. Caldwell.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation inform the House when the Adjustment Board for New South Wales is expected to commence operations?
– Yesterday, or the day before, I informed the House as to the composition of the Board, which is now waiting for the soldiers to nominate their representative. They have been asked to submit a panel of three, and have been urged by the Central Executive in Melbourne, and by myself, to expedite matters. Immediately the names have been submitted, and an appointment made, the Board will commence operations. The date fixed is the 1st December, and it would have been earlier had the soldiers’ organization nominated their representative.
– That applies to all the States?
– To all the States.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– (By leave.) - The question just answered suggests that an explanation should be obtained from the Joint Committee on Public Accounts in respect of certain correspondence relating to an inquiry which that ‘Committee made some time ago. The person immediately concerned was Mr. J. T. Caldwell, who mentioned that ho had some important correspondence. He was asked, during the course of his examination, why he did not produce it, and he said that it was in possession of the honorable member forCorio (Mr. Lister). After some little difficulty, the Committee obtained it from that gentleman. It was examined ‘by myself, the Secretary to the Committee, and, probably, by individual members also, for it was made available to all. It consisted, for the most part, of a series of letters addressed to various members of Parliament, and containing somewhat rambling and wild statements of the character that honorable members receiveby the bushel from people with alleged grievances. There was nothing in the letters that we considered worth placing on record. The Committee followed up some of the suggestions made by Mr. Caldwell in certain directions, but found nothing whatever to justify the slightest idea of corruption or irregularity in regard to the whole transaction.
So faras the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) is concerned - and this is in reply particularly to question No. 3, asked on behalf of the honorable member for Corio to-day - the Committee wish me to say that throughout the whole of this business the attitude and action of the honorable gentleman was correct and honorable in every regard. If he erred at all, it was, in my opinion, in showing undue consideration to the person who tried to inveigle the War Service Homes Coramission into a transaction in regard to property over which the would-be vendor has acquired no rights whatever. Before sitting down, I wish to lay on thetable of the House the correspondence referred to in the question asked to-day.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information will be supplied, but its preparation will necessarily occupy a considerable amount of time,. Arrangements have been made for the information furnished in regard to Victoria to be printed and distributed amongst members. The same course will be followed in regard to the information now asked for.
Officers and Men Returned to England.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table all papers connected with the four German sailing ships interned (including the Suzannie Vinni), and their chaptering to Scott Fell and Company?
– I shall make arrangements to lay these papers on the table of the House as desired by the honorable member.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice- r
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– I promised the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) on the 7th October last, in reply to a question by him, that I would obtain from the three States concerned information as to the area of land which it is estimated will be made available for irrigation purposes as a result of the completion of the River Murray scheme. The following is the information which I have obtained in this connexion. I may state that the figures given do not include any of the areas in the three States which are at present being irrigated from the waters of the River Murray or its tributaries : -
The acreage in respect of the State of Victoria includes areas which will be supplied by water from the reservoirs on the Goulburn River, which works are not included in the1 River Murray scheme.
The area in respect of the States of New South Wales and South Australia relates to land which will be irrigated from waters made available as a result of the completion of the Hume Reservoir and the Lake Victoria storage.
In regard to the State of South Australia, proposals have been put forward for the reclamation of Lakes Albert and Alexandrina, near the mouth of the River Murray. Should such works be put in hand an additional area of 115,000 acres of irrigable land would thus be made available. This portion of the river, however, is not covered by the works included in the River Murray agreement.
Mr. Speaker announced the receipt of the following Message from the Senate : -
The Senate returns to the House of Representatives the Bill intituled “ A Bill for an Act relating to Duties of Customs,” and acquaints the House of Representatives that the Senate has considered Message No. 91 of that House, dated 16th November, 1921, in reference to such Bill.
The Senate does not again request the House of Representatives to make the amendments indicated in Requests Nos. 13, 18, 22, 23, 30, 39. 42, 44 (as to part). 47, 48. 49, 52, 72, 75 (as to part), 80, and 86.
The Senate has agreed to the modifications made by the House of Representatives in Requests for amendments Nos. 10, 21, 25, 35, 30, 37, 38, 44 (as to part), 46 (as to part), 53, 57, 65, 73, 74. 75 (as to part), 83, 87, and 92.
The Senatehas resolved to press its Requests for amendments Nos. 11, 31, 32, 33, 34, 56, and 85, and again requests the House of Representatives to make such amendments, as shown in the annexed Schedule (No. 1).
Requests for amendments Nos. 26, 41, 43, 82, and 91, which were not made or were modified by the House of Representatives, have been dealt with by the Senate as shown in the annexed Schedule (No. 2), and the Senate requests the House of Representatives to further amend the Bill as now indicated in such Requests.
-I desire to direct the attention of the House to the constitutional question which the Senate’s message (No. 97) raises. On receipt of a message from the Senate the formal question usually proposed from the Chair is “that the consideration in Committee of tie message be made an order of the day for tomorrow;” but as the matter is one of great importance, affecting the constitutional rights of this House, I will not submit any question until one has been moved on the floor of the House, as I am of the opinion that the Senate, in pressing certain requests for amendments in the Customs Tariff, has exceeded the rights conferred on the Senate! by section 53 of the Constitution. The right of the Senate to press requests for amendments in connexion with the Tariff has never been admitted by the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives, “having regard to the fact that the public welfare demands the early enactment of the Tariff,” on two previous occasions “refrained from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations,” as stated in its message to the Senate dated 4th September, 1902, and again in its mes sage dated 28th May, 1908. I therefore leave it to the House itself to determine what action shall be taken regarding the Senate’s message.
– I was not aware until I came into the House that you, Mr. Speaker, proposed to take this action, but I admit thegreat importance of the issue you have raised, and, in the circumstances, I move -
That the consideration in Committee of the Senate’s message be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
I suggest that that will be a suitable time to discuss the constitutional issue.
.- I understand that the Senate’s message raises the constitutional issue to which you, sir, have referred in a different way from that in which it has arisen on any former occasion, and I suggest to the Government that the legal advisers of the Crown ought, for the assistance of honorable members, to reinforce the Prime Minister, or the Minister in charge of this Bill, with information on precedents before the House is called upon to decide so important an issue. I make that suggestion to the Government in all good faith, because I believe that there is at stake in this matter one of the most important constitutional issues that has been raised since we have had a Federal Union.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Watkins) adjourned.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 27th October, vide page 12236) :
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division 1, The Parliament, namely, “The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
Division 1 (Senate), £9,349
.- As an instruction to the Government to bring in a. Bill to amend the law relating to the fixed allowances of members of Parliament and Ministers, so as to enable a reduction of at least 20 per cent, to be made, I move -
That the remainder of Division 1 bo postponed.
When’ I moved an amendment to the Budget with a view to instructing the Government to reduce the expenditure by £2,817,108, the amount of the estimated deficit, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the ex-Treasurer (Sir J oseph Cook) said that ample opportunity would be given to members of the Committee to deal with the individual items of these Estimates, and that the Government would gladly welcome suggestions for economy in respect of either statutory or ordinary expenditure. I have carefully perused .the Estimates, and T intend to move for a reduction of expenditure in certain Departments, but I agree with the contention of the Prime Minister that economy should begin with ourselves, and we should be prepared to show the public that we do not wish to economize at the expense of the other fellow without making any sacrifice ourselves. The remarks I made in regard to the estimated national income this year have been already borne out by the figures that have been published. According to the Budget speech, the exTreasurer expected to receive in Customs revenue in the first four months of the year £8,710,333, but the collections actually amounted to £8,277,672, disclosing a shortage of £432,661, and for the last month alone the revenue was £904,346 lower than in the month of October, 1920. According to press reports and statements made in the House later, the Government are still optimistic regarding the Customs revenue, but I am unable to share in their optimism. I reiterate what I said to the Committee previously - that our importations, upon which the Customs duties are levied, have decreased by nearly 40 per cent. It is notorious that last year huge shipments came to this country which were the result of delayed orders, and it stands to reason that the volume of the imports will be smaller this year; but, even if the volume were the same, the value would be smaller, and by a simple sum in arithmetic we arrive at the result that we must get less Customs revenue this year than last. Further evidence is not wanting that the limit of the purchasing power of our people has nearly been reached. The postal revenue is not coming up to expectations, there being, so far, a shortage of £01,000.
– Does the honorable member take the estimate for the whole year and divide it by three, or is he quoting figures given by the Minister?
– I am adopting the figures of the Minister, and am using the returns for the corresponding period la3t year as a guide. When the Prime Minister was speaking of the deficit, he said that he had been fortunate in securing a windfall of £S3 5,000, because the Australian Government was being paid that amount for the maintenance of certain troops in Europe, but as the maintenance of our Expeditionary Forces was paid for out of loan, this money, should not be regarded as revenue, but should be restored to loan fund.
– What amendments does the honorable member propose to move?
– I intend to move the postponement of Division 1.
– As an instruction?
– To enable the remuneration of members of Parliament to be discussed. If my motion is carried, the vote will amount to an instruction to the Government to bring in a Bill to amend the Parliamentary Allowances Act.
– The honorable member cannot do what he proposes. He cannot now discuss the Parliamentary allowance, because to do so would be to anticipate the discussion of Order of the Day No. 9, private members1 business, for the second reading of a Bill brought in by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse). The remarks that he 13 now making are therefore out of order.
– May I ask, Mr. Chairman, in view of your ruling, if it will be impossible for honorable members to deal with the Parliamentary allowance at any time during the session because of the presence on the notice-paper of the Order of the Day to which yon have referred.
– So long as that Order of the Day remains on the noticepaper, it will not be competent for any honorable member to deal with the Parliamentary allowance, or to anticipate in any way the discussion of the Order of the Day.
– Then a member litis only to put a motion on the Business Paper to block discussion.
-It is for honorable members themselves to make up their minds what they will put on the noticepaper. The Standing Order is imperative that the discussion of matter therein set down shall not be anticipated.
Mr.Watt. - May I suggest, with great respect, and with no desire to question your ruling in any way, that, although it is for honorable members to say what they will put on the noticepaper, it should not be possible for one honorable member to embarrass the whole House. There must be a way out. In this case, I think that if the Order of the Day were discharged, that would enable the matter to be discussed. Of course, I am aware that the business on the noticepaper is under the control of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse). Your ruling is that we cannot deal with the parliamentary allowance so long as the order remains on the business-paper.
.- If the honorable member for Swan will withdraw his Order of the Day I will move the postponement of the second item, and leave it to honorable members to judge for themselves the reasons for the motion. That will get over the difficulty.
– Is the honorable member in order in proposing to evade your ruling, Mr. Chairman?
– I do not propose to evade the Chairman’s ruling; but there is no reason why we should not discuss this question and take a vote on it. The Committee might very well divide on it.
– The proposal might come very well from a man who is not drawing the £1,000 a year, but it comes badly from one who is doing so.
– I opposed the increase of the allowance to £1,000 a year, not because I thought the amount too large, hut because I did not like the method which was being adopted. I would not have minded had we informed our constituents that we intended to increase our allowance; and I propose to discuss the matter very fully with my constituents when I present myself for re-election. I think I am justified in asking the Committee to give consideration to this matter, with a view to enabling the honorable member for Swan to move for the discharge of his Order of the Day.
.- I hope that the Committee will not agree to the postponement of the item. Thebusiness on the notice-paper is no concern of this Committee. We should not postpone the consideration of any of the Estimates. Their consideration has already been postponed too long. We, on this side, object to the postponement of the item.
.- I suggest to the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that the method he proposes is not a regular or a satisfactory way of dealing with the question which we wish to discuss. The ruling of the Chairman places the Committee in a difficulty. The honorable member for Swan has charge of an Order of the Day the presence of which on the notice-paper prevents this Committee from dealing with a certain subject. The Committee cannot order the discharge of this business from the notice-paper; only the House can do that, on the motionof the honorable member for Swan. I desire an opportunity to vote for the reduction of the parliamentary allowance to £600 a year, which was the former figure; but we should proceed regularly in the matter, and not deal with this important issue by a method which might correctly be described as a subterfuge. The electors have a clear vision on this question, and members here should be able to vote on the main issue properly stated. If the honorable member who is in charge of the Order of the Day will move its discharge, and the House will agree to his proposal, we shall be free to discuss the parliamentary allowance.
– The House will not consent to the proposal.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) must move in the House, not in Committee, for the discharge of the Order of the Day. It is for him to say whether he will move in that direction, and for the House to say whether it will agree to the discharge of this business from the notice-paper. The Committee can do nothing in the matter, and I deprecate attempts to deal with a subject of such importance as the parliamentary allowance by a side-door method. I do not know whether a motion for the reduction of the allowance would be carried; but m embers who desire to vote for an allowance of £600, £800, or £1,000 should have a direct opportunity for doing so.
– May we have a chance to vote for an allowance of £1,500?
– If the honorable member and his party were on the other side of the chamber they might have such an opportunity ; but I do not think that, sitting where they are, their chance is worth much.
– Honorable members have already had an opportunity of dealing with this subject.
– Yes ; but men sometimes have second thoughts.
– I submit that the honorable member is not in order in discussing a measure now on the business- paper.
– I was not doing so.
– I did not understand the honorable member for Balaclava to be discussing the Bill of which the honorable member for Swan has charge. He was saying what course should be pursued in order that members might have an opportunity to discuss the parliamentary allowance. He correctly pointed out that the business-paper is under the control of the House, not of the Committee. If the Order of the Day is to be discharged, it must be done by a vote of the House. I am powerless in that regard. I am empowered only to obey the Standing Orders, administer them, and interpret them to the best of my ability. This I have done. The Standing Orders forbid the discussion of an Order of the Day being anticipated by any motion in a Committee of this kind. In the House the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) could secure leave to remove the Order of the Day from the business-paper or to discuss the matter in any other form. It would be entirely a matter for the House, and in any case it is not a question for decision by this Committee.
– I was endeavouring to avoid the merits of the question, and confine my remarks as best I could to the question of procedure raised by the motion of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). I suggest to that honorable member now that he will get a suitable opportuniy of having the question dealt with in the House. If the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) seeks the permission of the House to withdraw his Bill and the House consents, well and good. If not, honorable members will be no worse off than they are now. I can indicate a dozen items in the Estimates upon which an instruction respecting parliamentary allowances, if the Committee desires to convey it to the Government, could be given.
– Am I to understand that honorable members are compelled to accept the figures in these Estimates without any opportunity of reducing them?
– I gave no such ruling.
– Will it be competent for any honorable member to move that the allowance to honorable members of the House of Representatives be reduced to £600 per annum?
– It is not competent for any honorable member to submit such a proposal at this stage. I have already pointed out that there is an Order of the Day on the business-paper for the second reading of a Bill dealing with the matter of parliamentary allowance. The matter is in the hands of the House. As this Committee is not above the House, a question which is in the hands of the House cannot be dealt with in any way now.
– That means we must accept the estimate as it stands, until the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) withdraws his motion for the second reading of his Bill, or until other steps are taken to get rid of that Order of the. Day. But cannot I move to reduce the item on these Estimates providing for the payment of the allowance to members by 40 per cent. ?
– There is no such item in the Estimates. Item 1 under Division 1, “ The Senate,” has been agreed to, and the question now before the Committee is “ that the balance of Division 1 be agreed to.” It is competent for any member of the Committee to move a reduction upon any item included in the balance of the division.
– I would like to ask the Government to afford an early opportunity of considering the Bill for which I am responsible. It has been kept at the bottom of the business-paper for a considerable time. If this opportunity be given, the difficulty of honorable members will be overcome, and the will of Parliament in regard to the allowance paid to honorable members can easily be ascertained.
.- I move -
That item 2, “The Chairman of Committees, £500,” be postponed.
– Is the Committee dealing with divisions or items? I understood that Division 1, “ The Senate,” had been agreed to.
– No. In the usual course Item No. 1, “ The President, £1,100,” was submitted to the Committee to permit of a general discussion. That discussion having been concluded, and the item having been agreed to, I then submitted to the Committee the question which is now before it, “ That the balance of Division 1 be agreed to.”
– I am not in favour of postponing items or balances of divisions for mere fun, because it is tantamount to saying to ‘the Government that we are taking charge of the business of the Committee.
– That is not myobject.
– I do not say that it is the object of the honorable member, but as I wish to have a better opportunity of dealing with the problem of members’ allowance, I shall vote against this motion, although my views on the main question may coincide with those of the honorable member for Dampier. I think that we should get on with these Estimates as quickly as possible, and take a later and better opportunity of dealing with the question which the honorable member has raised.
Balance of proposed vote agreed to.
Division 2 (House of Representatives), £15,173; division 3 (Parliamentary Reporting Staff), £12,388; division 4 (the Library), £5,639; division 5 (Australian Historical Records), £3,200; division 6 (Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works), £3,453; division 7 (Joint Committee of Public Accounts), £1,514; division 8 (Refreshment Rooms), £1,911; division 9 (Water Power), £35; division 10 (Electric Lighting, Repairs, &c.), £900; division 11 (Queen’s Hall), £754; division 12 (Parliament Gardens), £771 ; and division 13 (Miscellaneous), £3,009, agreed to.
Department of the Prime Minister.
Division 14 (Administrative), £100,407
– I would like to have tested the feeling ofthe Committtee inreference to the salaries paid to honorable members by moving to reduce the item, ‘ ‘ The Speaker, £1,100,” by 20 per cent. I thought that the Committee was agreeing to items, and not divisions.
– The Committee has already agreed to the divisions under “ The Parliament.” It is now dealing with the Department of the Prime Minister.
– The trouble is that it is very difficult to hear what is being said.
– I move, now-
That the total vote for the Department of the Prime Minister, £416,798, be postponed.
If this motion be agreed to the Government must regard it as an instruction from the Committee that the various activities now under the control of the Department of the Prime Minister should be transferred to the control of such other Departments as the Government deem most expedient, and that the administrative office now attached to the Department of the Prime Minister be retained only for the purpose of dealing with Imperial, international and inter-State communications and other matters with which the Prime Minister should be concerned. The prime Minister’s Department was created during the financial year 1911-12. Prior to that, the Prime Minister merely had an office in the Department for External Affairs, and his staff consisted of a secretary, at £420 per annum; two clerks, drawing £575 per annum; a senior messenger, at £117 per annum; and a typist, at £72 per annum. Contingencies cost £1,150. A good deal of discussion took place in 1912 upon the proposal to create the Prime Minister’s Department. Mr. Andrew Fisher, who was then Prime Minister, explained that in the early days of Federation the Prime Minister had nearly always held the portfolio of Minister for External Affairs, and was thereby enabled to keep in direct communication with the Imperial and other authorities abroad concerning outside affairs. A complete record of all external communications was kept in the Department of External Affairs, which was then under the control of the Prime Minister; but when Mr. Watson became Prime Minister, andtook the portfolio of Treasurer - as did Mr. Deakin, who followed him. as Prime Minister - a re-arrangement was entailed. Matters which had previously been controlled by the Prime Minister, who was also Minister for External Affairs, did not apply so closely to the Treasury Department.
– Which brief have you? That of the Age, or that of the Argus?
– I have no brief for either journal. The difficulty I have pointed out led Mr. Fisher to re-arrange the Departments and establish a Prime Minister’s Department, in which the whole of the official recordscould be kept. At the same time, he incorporated with the new Department the administration of the office of the AuditorGeneral and the office of the Public Service Commissioner, matters which should be under the direct control of the Prime Minister. The Parliament agreed to Mr. Fisher’s proposal to establish this Department.
– On a point of order, is the honorable member in order in reading his speech?
– No. The standing order dis tinctly forbids any honorable member reading his speech. I would ask the honorable member for Cowper to kindly send me a copy of his amendment. In the confusion of voices, it was impossible for the Chair to hear what the honorable member was saying.
– It was also impossible for honorable members to know what divisions were being put through.
– I am neither a lightning calculator nor a mathematical machine, and it is impossible for me to memorize all the figures in these Estimates to which I desire to refer. In the first year of its existence a sum of £2,300 was voted for the Prime Minister’s Department, and the ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who was then in Opposition, objected to even that expenditure.
-Order ! I must again appeal to honorable members to maintain order. I hope I shall not have to do so again. Complaint has been made to me that it is impossible for Hansard, owing to the confusion of voices, to hear the honorable member addressing the Committee. Owing to the fact that so many honorable members are conversing in loud tones, I, personally, find it quite impossible to hear what the honorable member is saying. If honorable members find it necessary to converse loudly I ask them to retire, so that the business of the Committee may proceed in an orderly and decorous way. I would point out to the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who has been good enough to supply me with a copy of his motion, that since it provides for the postponement of the whole of the Estimates relating to the Prime Minister’s Department he must now confine his remarks to a statement of reasons for the proposed postponement.
– That is what I am attempting to do. The ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), in a speech delivered in this House on 7th November, 1912 - he was then in Opposition - said in referring to the creation of the Prime Minister’s Department -
I see no sense in calling into being a new Department if itwill not lead to economy being effected elsewhere. . . . But unless some increased efficiency will result from the change, or a corresponding saving will be effected in other Departments, it is difficult to see why this new Department has been created, especially when we recollect that there are a couple of Honorary Ministers in the Cabinet who are able to assist Ministers who may be overburdened with work. In this new Department, I notice such items as “ writing paper and envelopes, including cost of printing and embossing thereon,” “ incidental and petty cash expenditure,” and “ temporary assistance,” appear. I observe, too, that the number of clerks has been increased by three. “ Temporary assistance “ is to cost £200.
The right honorable gentleman in those days took exception to the employment of three temporary assistants which, apparently, was going to cost £200; but to-day there are fifty-three clerks in the employment of the Department apart altogether from those whose work is ‘associated with the various new Commonwealth activities covered by it. In 1912 the vote for contingencies amounted to £200 ; to-day we are asked to vote £16,140 for that purpose, exclusive of £5,774 for the cost of motors. These figures do not include any expenditure upon the administration of the new Commonwealth activities which have been brought under the Prime Minister’s Department. I propose to show the extent to which this Department has grown.
– Is the honorable member discussing the Estimates of the Department or the motion for their postponement?
– I would remind the honorable member that he is now discussing the Estimates of the Department as a whole, and not the motion for their postponement.
– I am trying to give the Committee the reasons why I think it desirable to postpone the consideration of the Estimates of this Department.
– If I permitted the honorable member on this motion to enter upon a general discussion, other honorable members would claim the same privilege.
– When I proceed to deal with the various items I shall adopt a different line of reasoning. I should like to point out the difference between the Prime Minister’s Department of eight years ago andits position to-day as a reason for the postponement of the consideration of the proposed vote.
– The honorable member has moved that the total proposed vote of £416,798 be postponed. To that motion he has madean addendum, but the actual discussion of the individual items cannot be allowed on a motion for their postponement. It will be open to the honorable member to discuss them if he chooses to withdraw his motion. It is, of course, for the honorable member to determine his own line of conduct.
– I should like a vote to be taken on the question of whether the items shall be dealt with seriatim, or as proposed by the Government. That really is the object of my motion, and it seems to me to be necessary, in support of my proposal, to refer, not in detail, but generally, to the growth of the Prime Minister’s Department. If you, sir, rule that I am out of order in pursuing that line of argument, I shall at once resume my seat so that a vote may be taken on my motion and the temper of the Committee ascertained in regard to it.
.- It is very difficult to deal with this motion in the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), but I desire to assure the Ministry that it has not been submitted with the object of embarrassing the Government in any way. Every honorable member, I am sure, is anxious that efficient administration shall be secured, and that every division in these Estimates shall be carefully scrutinized. May I ask, Mr. Chairman, that the Estimates shall be dealt with in divisions, instead of the total vote in respect of each Department being put from the Chair ? I understand, for instance, that although the Estimates relating to the Parliament comprise some nine or ten divisions, only three questions were actually put by the Chair. I had intended to move certain amendments, but in the confusion of’ voices was not aware that the divisions to which they related had been declared passed. I hope that each division will be put separately.
In asking that there shallbe a change in the administration of the Prime Minister’s Department wehave no desire to embarrass the Government. We think it impossible for the Prime Minister, having regard to his multifarious duties, to give to all the administrative functions of his Department the attention which they demand. I am satisfied that many of the items covered by the Estimates relating to his Department should be dealt with by other Ministers. We find in these Estimates such items as “ Mail Service to the Pacific Islands,” “ Immigration,” “ Commonwealth Shipbuilding,” and “Port
Pirie Wharf.” Will any honorable member say that Commonwealth shipbuilding should be under the administrative control of the Prime Minister, or that he should have to deal with matters relating to the Port Pirie wharf ? We also find in the Prime Minister’s Estimates a branch relating to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. We know that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) is attending to most of the work relating to that dockyard, and its administrative control should be in his hands.
– On a point of order”, I wish to know whether the honorable member for Dampier is entitled to discuss questions of policy on a motion for the postponement of the consideration of the Estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department ?
– The honorable member has not, so far, been discussing any question of policy, but has simply been giving reasons why the consideration of these particular Estimates should be postponed. I may say, in answer to the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), that if the Committee so desire, the Estimates can be put item by item. In the absence of any such expression of opinion, they certainly will be put in divisions. In regard to the Estimates relating to Parliament, I followed the ordinary course of calling on the first item, and of allowing upon it a general discussion. That general discussion having been concluded. and the first item agreed to, I put the remainder of the division separately. Honorable members had, therefore, a full opportunity to submit any amendment that they desired to bring forward. Every item in the Estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department will be open for discussion.
– I regret that the Prime Minister is not here, as 1 should have liked the Committee to receive from him some assurance that the suggestions we have been making in regard to the administration of his Department will be taken into consideration. Our desire, at this stage, is not to deal with individual items, but merely to secure an alteration in the system which has grown up since the war, and to relieve the Prime Minister’s Department, as far as possible, from the administration of the big working activities of the Commonwealth. The Minister in charge of the Committee (Mr. Groom) knows that in all the State Governments the Premier is relieved of administrative work of thi3 character. The same policy was adopted in the earlier history of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member is now discussing the merits of these Estimates. He must confine his attention to the motion for their postponement. I am fortified in that ruling by a decision given by Mr. Speaker in 1914, that “ on a motion to postpone business, the business which it is proposed to postpone cannot be discussed.”
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move -
That the vote be reduced by £1.
I submit this motion as an instruction to the Government to arrange for the placing of various activities at present conducted by the Prime Minister’s Department under the Departments to which they most properly belong. I should like, however, to draw attention to the increased expenditure in the Prime Minister’s Department during the last ten years, quite independently of the new activities that have sprung up. There is expenditure I have called “ unaffected,” expenditure by the Prime Minister’s Department that would be incurred whether that Department was in existence or not. I allude to such expenditure as that on Royal Commissions, the League of Nations, the Prince of Wales’ visit, the Prime Minister’s visits to England, and so forth, which cannot properly be laid at the door of the Department. The following table shows the growth of the Department: -
The figures for the year 1915-16 are not available. ‘The unaffected expenditure of £1S0,000 in 1920-21 was due to the visit of the Prince of Wales. To be fair to the Prime Minister, I ought to say that in 1916-17 the Department ^assumed control of the High Commissioner’s Office, the Governor.General’s affairs, and the Council of Defence, when the Department of External Affairs was merged in the Department of Home and Territories. Amongst the activities now controlled by the Prime Minister’s Department are the control of the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America, the shipping and mail service to the Pacific Islands, Commonwealth Shipbuilding, Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, Port Pirie wharf, immigration, and Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The cost of the administration of each of these activities, 1 wish to make clear, is either not included at all, or is shown under the heading of unaffected expenditure in the comparative list I have already given. In the ten years covered by the table salaries have risen from £1,875 to £16,382, contingencies from £1,150 to £16,140, motor cars, which came into use in 1913-14, from £500 to £5,500, and unaffected expenditure from £1,125 to £64,000.
– Do such increases apply to the Prime Minister’s Department only?
– I am merely endeavouring to show that these activities could be better carried out by some other Departments. For instance, the Trade Commissioner in China is under the Customs Department, whereas the Commissioner in the United States of America, whose work is much the same, is under the Prime Minister’s Department. Of course, there are certain ‘activities which very properly come under the Prime Minister’s Department; but they are entirely different from the business activities. The whole machinery of Government would, I think, work much more smoothly and better if the Prime Minister were free from all administrative work, and able to devote himself to a general oversight of the Government.
The following table shows the increase in the cost of administration of certain sub-Departments at present under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department: -
– Do you object to the increase in the number of the audit officers ?
– I am merely pointing out that increases which have taken place account for the additional expenditure. If the Minister has any explanation, the public, as well as honorable members, would be glad to hear it. For several years there have been Acting Public Service Commissioners and Inspectors to the number of five or six. This undoubtedly makes for lessened morale in the Department, and prevents the adoption of a definitepolicy, such as would be followed by a Commissioner who was assured of his office in the same way as a permanent Auditor-General or a Supreme Court
Judge. There was no expenditure on advertising the resources of the Commonwealth in the earlier period, but that is now set down at £2,000. That is the one item connected with the High Commissioner’s Office to which I have no objection; indeed I should like to see a much larger sum devoted to this purpose.
The items I shall deal with separately, but in the meantime I should not only like a vote to be taken on my proposal, but also would be glad to hear an expression of opinion from the Prime Minister as to whether there is any possibility of handing over the various activities I have referred to, to other Departments more suited to control them. If this were done the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) would, as I say, be left free to exercise a more general supervision over the administration of the Government - free to deal with those pressing problems which arise continuously in the Commonwealth.
– W,e might be able to dispense with the right honorable gentleman altogether 1
– I would not say that. However, as I have said, I should like an expression of opinion from the Government on the point I have mentioned, if not a vote of the Committee on my motion.
.- The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has, I think, done good service to the country by calling attention to the tremendous growth of the Prime Minister’s Department. For myself I have watched the rapid increase in size of that Department with mixed feelings of amusement and concern. I can remember when it was started under the régime of Mr. Andrew Fisher as a very humble and unpretending establishment. Bub the then Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr. Shepherd, as most of us know, was a shrewd gentleman in his own interests, and he persuaded Mr. Fisher that it was only due to his dignified and important position that he should be running another Department as other Ministers do. The Department^ of course, was going to be a very little one, and its establishment was sanctioned by the House. As soon as it was created, however, the Department began to grow, and now it has assumed Brobdingnagian dimensions. Honorable members who have had any business to do with the Department of late years must realize that it is exceedingly difficult to get anything definite done at all; probably because there is such a tremendous staff to do it. I do not know what all the officers of this Department manage to do - perhaps they type letters to one another - but, generally speaking, they have not added to the efficiency of the Commonwealth Service as a whole, although I admit that there are able officers amongst them. But I wish to refer particularly to an instance of great hardship to the permanent officers of the Prime Minister’s Department in regard to an appointment for which the Prime Minister. I believe, is entirely responsible. At the head of his Department at the present time is ‘a gentleman who a few years ago was quite unheard of in the Public Service of the Commonwealth. But by some means with which. I am unacquainted he became associated with the Prime Minister abroad, and proved very useful to him. There is no doubt that this officer, Mr. Percy Deane, has been a very useful and effective servant of the Prime Minister; but he was entirely outside the Publice Service until some time in 1916 a notification appeared that he was to be appointed private secretary to the Prime Minister (Class D, Professional Division), at a salary of £408 per annum. Before he could be appointed to that position the Public Service Commissioner had to be referred to, and I wish to ascertain whether that was done. The Commonwealth Public Service Act provides that -
The Professional Division shall include all officers whose duties require in the persons performing them some special skill or technical knowledge usually acquired, only in some profession or occupation different from the ordinary routine of the Public Service, and whoseoffices the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Commissioner, directs to beincluded in such division.
A later section reads -
If at any time in any special case it appears expedient or desirable in the interests of the Public Service to appoint to the Administrative Division or Professional Division some person who is not in the Public Service, the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Commissioner upon a report from the Permanent Head, appoint such person accordingly without either examination or probation, and also, if he think fit, without requiring compliance with the provisions of Part IV. of this Act.
No such appointment shall be made until the Commissioner has certified that, in his opinion, there is no person available in the Public Service who is as capable of filling the position to which it is proposed that the appointment shall be made.
I desire to know from the Prime Minister whether, when he required a private secretary, the Public Service Commissioner was asked if there was any person in the Service competent to fill the position. Hitherto such positions have always been filled from the Professional Division of the permanent Service, and I am anxious to know why it was necessary for the Prime Minister to go outside that Service in order ‘to appoint a gentleman just because he had been useful to him during his visit to London. At any rate, Mr. Deane was appointed private secretary to the Prime Minister; but that was not the end.- Later the position of secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department was rendered vacant by the appointment of Mr. M. L. Shepherd a3 official secretary in London. I suggest that Mr. Shepherd was deliberately moved out of his position as head of the Prime Minister’s Department in order to make a position for Mr. Percy Deane. Mr. Shepherd was given an increase of 100 per cent, in his salary to induce him to go to London. It is said, indeed, that when he was first approached with the offer of the London position he was quite unwilling to accept it. He was offered £1,500, and he refused the position. Then he was offered £2,000, and he agreed to accept that with certain additions, such as an allowance for loss on the sale of his furniture, though he certainly sold the furniture to very considerable advantage owing to the circumstances of the market. I believe that if Mr. Shepherd had asked for some remuneration to compensate him for deprivation of the use of the Government motor car in which he travelled to and from the golf course every Saturday, he probably would have received that also; in fact, he would have been given anything so long as he would agree to vacate his position, and enable the Prime Minister’s protege, Mr. Percy Deane, to step into the vacancy. Here is a remarkable thing about this appointment: The closing day for all applications is usually Thursday, and some - little time elapses between the closing date and the filling of the appointment. It is significant that the applications for the position of Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department closed on a Wednesday, a Cabinet meeting was held on the following day, and an announcement appeared in the press on the Friday morning that on the Thursday the Cabinet had appointed Mr. Percy Deane to the position. I suggest that the Prime Minister has been guilty of gross nepotism. Not only was Mr. Percy Deane appointed to this position in this particular way, but he was appointed at the maximum salary of £1,250, instead of at a commencing salary of £1,000. A young man with practically no experience, although probably with ability of a certain kind, having made himself useful to the Prime Minister, was appointed over the heads of a large number of permanent members of the Commonwealth
Public Service. It is noteworthy also that the officer who was second in charge of the Department was a gentleman whose abilities were recognised by the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration in 1918. In recognition of the exceptional abilities he possessed, he was actually selected to fill the position of permanent head of the Navy Department, but he was not ap- pointed. Honorable members will, perhaps, recollect why; it was not through any lack of qualification on his part. I refer to Mr. J. D. Maclaren, who is now permanent head of the Department of Home and Territories. He is an experienced and- highly capable officer, and was second in command of the Prime Minister’s Department, but over his head a young and untrained individual was appointed at the maximum salary. I am perfectly certain that the position of Secretary to the Department could have been well filled and the work efficiently performed by Mr. Maclaren, but the Prime Minister makes no secret of the fact that he is good to those who serve his purposes. Mr. Percy Deane had served his purposes well, and the consequence is that the Commonwealth is saddled with him for all time, and he is appointed over the heads of a large number of men who I believe were quite as capable, if not more capable, of filling the position. I think I am entitled to ask for an explanation of this appointment. If it is not forthcoming, it will be necessary for me to move that this officer’s salary be reduced, at any rate, to the ordinary commencing amount.
– Quite likely the suggestion I am about to make will be criticised by the press, but that prospect does not worry me. I think that, in this Parliament, we should follow the practice of the British Parliament by having Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. The Ministerial head of every important Department should have a lieutenant in this Parliament who would act as understudy to him, and share his work. I make that suggestion without proposing any increase in Ministerial salaries. I may be reminded that there is a Minister for Defence, and an Assistant Minister for Defence; a _ Minister for Repatriation’ and an Assistant Minister for Repatriation.
– In each case the Minister is in a. different House from that in which the Assistant Minister sits.
– I admit that, and I hopeto have an opportunity at a later stage of emphasizing the view that the Minister for Defence should be a gentleman with a seat in this Chamber. I put forward as worthy of consideration the suggestion that, without any increased cost to the country, there should be a further division of Ministerial labours. There comes a time in the history of every man, be he ever so great, when he cannot keep pace with the work he has to perform; the feat goes beyond human intelligence and endurance. I say without egotism that had the then Prime Minister accepted a suggestion made by me in 1914 that the two Houses of Parliament should be divided into Coimmittees to assist the Government to keep an oversight over the vast war expenditure, the country would have been saved millions of pounds. No single man could possibly keep absolute control of the public funds at a time when such vast sums were being expended. For a long time one Minister presided over the Department of Defence and the Department of the Navy. It was absolutely impossible for one man to intelligently and thoroughly control both Departments. He had to depend absolutely on the advice of his experts, and accept it whether it was good, bad, or indifferent. Without wishing to disparage officers of either Department, I remind the Committee that, during war time, hundreds of thousands of pounds were wasted in connexion with defence and war expenditure, and no doubt in other Departments, too, very considerable sums of money were thrown away. That, of course, happens to every country in war time. Even in Germany, whose whole population was under regimentation, vast scandals occurred during war time, and millions of pounds were lost by fraudulent practices on the part of members of a supposedly honest public. At the present time we have in the Public Works Committee and the Committee of Public Accounts two bodies that are rendering valuable service to Parliament and the country. Those Committees should have been in existence long before the time when they were established, and a further dividing up of the talent of the House into Committees for the exercise of certain functions wouldbe of advantage to Ministers and to the taxpayers. A stricter oversight of the expenditure is required than it is possible for individual members to give. The Department of the Prime Minister has grown to dimensions which no one anticipated, and we have all been looking for a reduction in it. I do not wish tobe disrespectful to the members of the Government, or to any member of the Ministerial or Country party, but I say that for several years we have had practically a one-man Government, and members opposite could have altered that state of affairs had they seen fit to do so. A change has been long overdue. Without proper oversight of the finances we cannot have true economy; and, further, we shall never get real economy until there has been a revision of the Commonwealth and State Constitutions.
The TEMPORARYCHAIRMAN (Mr. Atkinson). - The honorable member may not now discuss the subject of constitutional amendment.
– We need a Committee to deal with the Estimates before their presentation to Parliament.
– I believe that Congress appoints a number of Committees to deal with finance and other questions. I understand, too, that a member of Congress is not under the obligation of making or reading a speech, ‘but may hand it in in writing or typewritten to the presiding officer for insertion in the official record - a time-saving arrangement.
– What about the cost of printing?
– At any rate, the reporters are saved a good deal of worry, and good literary productions, such as would be expected from the honorable member for Perth, may occasionally be published.
– The Prime Minister himself could fill Hansard under the American rule.
– Perhaps so. For many years past we have had need for some change of system. Ministers require assistance. In the Mother of Parliaments there are under-secretaries.
– Would you allow them to vote?
– Yes. They would be members, as in the House of Commons, where they have certain duties - replying to questions and taking charge of Bills - by the performance of which they relieve their principals. We could follow the British example in this matter with great advantage. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) has several times suggested that the House should be divided into Committees to supervise expenditure, and to make recommendations to the Ministry or to Parliament. The man never will be ‘born who can have every item of departmental administration under personal supervision. It is because this is impossible that the intentions of Ministers are often not carried out. I think that we should devise some new method for preventing the waste that now takes place, and should relieve our public men of many of the burdens which they now carry, so that their lives might be pleasanter and longer. Too many of them have gone prematurely to the grave. By doing this we should benefit the country.
– I hope that the Committee will give favorable consideration to the suggestions of the honora’ble member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) ; but, chastened as I am by many rebuffs and disappointments, I am afraid that reasons will be found why his salutary, though belated, counsel should not be followed. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has drawn attention to the growth of the Prime Minister’s Department; and had I known of his intention to do this, I could have arranged to supplement his speech in regard to the many omissions which were due to his lack of intimate familiarity with the working of the Department. I agree with a good deal that was said by both honorable members, though in the position which I hold, I am largely the creature of circumstances. It is all very, well to say that in 1909, or on some other arbitrary date, the Prime Minister’s Department was of small and humble proportions, and went about its business ordering itself lowly and reverently towards its betters. That time is past. During the six years of war we were swept along on a whirling tide of circum stances that not only changed this Department, but overturned financial institutions that seemed as though they might last for ever. Honorable members must look at my Department in the light of what happened during the war. Certain responsibilities gravitated naturally to it, because, with all due deference to my honorable colleagues, there was a singular readiness on their part that the work should come to me. I have done it as well as I was able. Now that the war is past, many of the activities of the Department exist, but in a rudimentary or vestigial form, which serves to mark things that are gone. Yet, as it stands, the work of the Department is far too much for one man. Let me state my own experience, and ask the Committee what is to be done in order that the Prime Minister, whoever he may be, may have freedom to study the course of the ship of State, without being pressed down with a weight of details. The war is no longer being waged, and it is within the discretion of honorable members to determine whether certain activities which were then assumed shall be retained. For instance, shall we retain the Commonwealth Shipping Line? If honorable members say not, one of those activities will disappear. The administration of that business has not given me, so far as details are concerned, one-fiftieth of the work that has been imposed on me by less ambitious ventures. The control of the Line has been left in the hands of its manager. I have had, of course, to defend it on the floor of the House, and to answer questions about it, and it is fortunate, in one sense, that I have been connected with the business from its inception. A man who was compelled to meander practically through to the beginning to understand the reason of this or that development would be at a great disadvantage. Commonwealth shipbuilding has been handed over to the control of the Minister for Home and Territories. For a number of years I have been nominally AttorneyGeneral; but for three or four years my colleague, the Minister for “Works and Railways, has been doing the work of the Department. I attach my signature only to such documents as require the signature of the Attorney-General. The permanent head of the Department consults me on matters of -what might be called general policy, but the detailed work of the office does not come before me. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that the direction of external affairs should, by reason of its nature, be in. the hands of the Prime Minister, and; that he should do nothing else but that and the ordinary Prime Minister’s work.. I entirely agree with that view. It is impossible that any one else should have access to those highly confidential matters, some of which are not disclosed to any one but the Prime Minister. They come to me and are not handed to my clerks, but are put away in a safe. Other matters, of course, fall into a different category; they are certainly confidential, but are not so dangerously confidential that the disclosure of their contents would imperil the safety of the State. These documents pass along a narrow channel, and are seen by two persons other than myself. It would be almost impossible for a man to be Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and not control, or practically control, a Department of External Affairs. To the responsibilities of such a Department have now to be added the activities that come from the Mandated Territories, which, of course, are matters for an External Affairs Department. I am nominally Attorney-General, but the work of that Department is done, as I have explained, by my colleague the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom). I do not suppose that in a week I spend ten minutes on any activity other than those covered by the Prime Minister’s Department and those which would be covered by a Department of External Affairs.
As honorable members know, owing to the resignation of my right honorable colleague the member for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook), the Ministry will have to be reconstructed, and in the re-allotment of portfolios I intend, with the approval of the House, to allot to myself the portfolio of Minister for External Affairs, and to confine my attention to the work attaching’ to that office and to the work which ordinarily attaches to the office of Prime Minister.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong has suggested that underSecretaries should be appointed to enable Min- isters to take a general survey of their Departments and consider matters of policy, and so relieve them of the necessity to attend to that multitude of details which oppresses them. Take a day in the life of a Prime Minister. It is made up to a very large extent of interviews with a hundred and. one people. This afternoon,, by the grace of God, I am to see two representatives of the aborigines of Australia. Just now I have had to put off a big deputation which has come from all over the country to see me in regard to anti-dumping. In a moment or two somebody else will come along to see me. Prom early morning till evening that is the way in which most of my time is occupied, but it is work that has to be done in a democratic country. If the head of the Government is not accessible to every citizen, it is a negation of democratic government. It is the worst charge that can be laid against one who claims to be the head of a democratic Government to say that he is a recluse who .surrounds himself with a guard and an entanglement of red-tape, through which those who wish to enter his sanctum must meander. Honorable members come freely to see me at my office1. It is these frequent draughts I get at the fountain of eternal youth that enable me to- carry on.
– Why did not the- deputation on anti-dumping come to interview the Minister for Trade- and- Customs?
– I do not know.. There is something about me that attracts deputations. I am a sort of political flypaper. Deputations come to me storming; they attach themselves to me; they go away singing soft and joyous lullabies.
I am very glad to find that I have this power of soothing people.
I was endeavouring to point out the work a Prime Minister is asked to do. While he is expected to be in his office receiving deputations, it is also- his duty to be in the Chamber. I had to tell both deputations this afternoon that my place was here while my Estimates were under consideration. Do not forget that I have been subjected to grave censure by the press of this country which, at times, criticises me for being absent from the Chamber. My absence cuts off from them a well from which they drink perennially. Without me what would they have to say 1 Therefore, for the sake of the press, I must be here. But I must also be in my room to listen to what Ministers and others have to say. I must know what every member of the Cabinet is doing, because all sorts of questions are fired at me on the floor of the House; and I am responsible, along with my colleagues, for everything that is done. How can a man do all these things if, in addition, the detailed work of an. intricate and difficult Department is thrust upon him ? I have to communicate with all the State Premiers on a hundred and one things that are inseparable from the office of Prime Minister, and are quite apart from those matters which properly come under a Minister for External Affairs. I complained some little time ago - although my complaint fell upon stony ground - that the manner in which the Commonwealth treated its Prime Minister was a reflection upon itself. It is the office and not the man that has to be considered. The man is a passing quantity; the office remains. I do not think that the salary paid to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth is anything like sufficient.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– The other day I was dining with four men, one of whom controls a big softgoods warehouse in Flinders-lane and another of whom owns a newspaper. The warehouseman asked me, “ What salary do you get? “ I told him as well as I was able, that is to say, I told him what I actually received, and not what I was supposed to get. He said, “ Each manager of my subdepartments gets more than you are paid.” And the newspaper proprietor said, “My editor receives a higher salary than you.” My reply could only be, “I agree that that ought not to be the case.” In every other Dominion the Prime Minister is provided with an official residence. That is not provided here. I do not mention these things by way of complaint; I do not care two straws whether anyaction is taken in the matter by Parliamentor not. The mere question of the amount of the salary does not affect me one way or the other. But it is wrong in principle not to pay the Prime Minister a proper salary.
As the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has said, it is physically impossible for any Ministerto do the work of the Prime Minister’s Department withoutassistance. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) spoke of the Secretaries of the Department of the Prime Minister, first Mr. Shepherd, and later Mr. Deans, and what he said was not precisely commendation. He suggested that I have erred grievously in appointing a young man, who had not grown grey in the service of the Commonwealth, over the heads of olderand better men.
– Hear, hear!
– If I make mistakes and come down here and urge that it is because I have men under me who are not competent, although the length of their public service may be very great, will honorable members accept that as a valid excuse? Ability is so rare, and men of first-class capacity are so difficult to obtain, that when I see one, it matters very, little to me whether he is in the Service or not - I want him. It is not possible to carry on administration in any other way. Ifa Minister must not get the best man available, but must put up with one who has passed through the Public Service machine in a certain well-ordered procession, his Department cannot be expected to be carried on in a business-like way. Mr. Deane has been appointed as Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister because he is well worthy the appointment. To-morrow, he could get a position outside at a far higher salary than we are paying him. Indeed, he has been offered such a position. I do not propose to say a word about what the honorable member for Perth said, when he suggested that Mr. Shepherd had been appointed to the London office in order to make room for Mr. Deane, except to declare that it is quite untrue. Mr. Shepherd carried out his duties as Secretary to the Department of the Prime Minister absolutely admirably. Mr. Deane is of a different type, and also his services have always been and remain, invaluable.
In a few days I shall be in want of a private secretary. I have been looking for one all over this country, and I cannot get one. In this regardIappeal to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mc Williams), and to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). I appeal particularly to the former, because at the time I have in mind he was Leader of the Country party, and put before me a request for a private secretary. He said that he wanted a man he deemed to be suitable, and not one who might appear suitable to myself or to the Public Service Commissioner. I ask whether honorable members propose to push a private secretary on me who suits the Public Service Commissioner, or whether he should be one that suits me. I cannot work with a man who merely suits the Public Service Commissioner; I have to get the work done, and I do not care whether the man who can do it has been ten years in the Public Service or ten minutes : the point with me is whether he can do my work. I ask honorable members to say whether they do not approve of my getting a man for the position wherever he comes from.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I have no one in my mind; and, as I notice that honor- able members appear to be taking a great deal of interest in what I am saying, I ask them to send along their nominees or, if they are themselves applicants, to call early. I shall be glad to see them. Before I turn from this part of the question, let me add once more that it is essential, if the work of the Prime Minister’s Department is to be done effectively, that he should have the assistance, not of a private secretary, but of some one in this House, whether he be called an Assistant Minister or an Under-Secretary. Without such assistance, the work cannot be properly and effectively done. I am willing to divest myself of all these matters about which complaint has been made; but there remains a residuum of work which cannot fairly be carried out by one man, who is held responsible for everything that happens in relation to them, unless he has assistance. Complaint has been made with regard to the growth of this Department. I have not at present at my disposal the figures with which I hope to be able later on to supply the Committee. I can only offer some general remarks by way of rejoinder. As each item is reached, I hope to be able to deal with it; but, speaking generally, I think that the Prime Minister’s Department has grown in a perfectly natural and legitimate way. I am quite willing that it should be divested of those extra governmental activities and functions that belong to, and ought to be distributed amongst, other Departments. I not only agree with that proposal, but shall lend my support, both by voice and vote, to any effort to give effect to it. There remains the fact, however, that the Commonwealth has developed. The Commonwealth of to-day is very different from the Commonwealth of 1901 or 1902. For the rest, I shall be prepared to give the Committee information on the various items as they are reached. I hope that the Committee will note what I have said ; and as it would appear that, on the whole, honorable members agree with me, I trust that they will not hesitate to say to what extent I may go in the directions I have indicated, so that I may know that in what I do I have their approval.
.- I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) sees eye-to-eye with the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) in this matter. The right honorable gentleman states that during six years of a whirlwind tide various offices and sub-Departments now under his control came into existence. No one will deny his contention that they had, perforce, to be created; but now that the whirlwind has passed, it is time to deal with these accretions. The supreme desire of my Leader and myself is that we may properly magnify the position occupied by the right honorable gentleman. We think that his time is far too important to be occupied in receiving deputations and dealing with matters relating to services which should not be under his control.
– Supporters of the Country party keep him busy.
– All sections of the community should have access, within limitations, to Cabinet Ministers in relation to matters of public importance. The right honorable gentleman has said, rather humourously, that there is something about himself that seems to attract. He appears to be a sort of political fly-paper. That ought not to be. We cannot help feeling that since so many subDepartments have been brought within the control of the Prime Minister’s Department, some of them must either be neglected or left wholly in the hands of some outside persons, thus offering opportunities for mismanagement. Some services included in the Estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department properly come under the right honorable gentleman’s control. For instance, I should say that the Executive Council is propertly included in the Prime Minister’s Department, but that the Audit Office is not. The Audit Office should be controlled by the Treasury. The Public Service Commissioner probably should be controlled by the Prime Minister’s Department, and so should the votes relating to the Governor-General’s Office, tile High Commissioner’s Office, and the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America; but “ Shipping and mail service to Pacific Islands “ should be under, the Postmaster-General’s Department. Then, again, immigration should be dealt with by the Department of Home and Territories, and Commonwealth Shipbuilding should be controlled by the Department of Works and Railways, or some other suitable Department. The Commonwealth Line of Steamers ought to be controlled, not by the Prime Minister’s Department, but by the Department of Works and Railways, and the Cockatoo Island Dockyard should be directed by the Minister for the Navy. Why all these services should be, as at present, under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department I am unable to say. I am pleased that the right honorable gentleman has admitted that some of them should not be. The head of the Government of the day is too important a man to be held directly responsible for the efficient administration of such services. Under a proper system of government he is, of course, indirectly responsible for all public services; but he cannot reasonably be expected to give to all such matters the personal attention which they should receive at the hands of some responsible Minister. I shall support the motion.
.- I agree with the Leader of the Country party and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) ; and in the event of a division being taken I shall vote for the motion. No personal considerations are involved. A public servant naturally endeavours to get as high a salary as possible; but it is the duty of every honorable member to prevent favoritism. Mr. Deane and Mr. Shepherd would not be receiving their present high salaries but for the fact that they have been basking in the Prime Minister’s sunshine.
– If they can do his work they are pretty capable “men.
– If they can stand his infernal temper they are good men.
– That remark would apply nearer home.
– I am not specially blessed in that regard, nor is the honorable member. There ‘are men who have grown grey in the service of the Commonwealth, and whose intelligence is beyond that of either Mr. Shepherd or Mr. Deane, who until lately did not receive anything like the salaries now paid to those officers. One of the gentlemen to whom I refer has a European reputation, and his name is known in the Statistical Department of every country. No one can question his intellectual attainments. Then there is the Auditor-General, grown grey with the honours of years of service. Neither of these officers is in the immediate sunshine of the Prime Minister’s presence. I suppose shame alone compelled the Government recently to increase the salary of one of them. As a private member I have endeavoured to bring before the House a notice of motion which has a bearing on this question; but owing to the rush of business have found it impossible to do so. I think I am the only private member who, since the commencement of the war, has been successful in carrying a motion under the heading of “ private members’ business.” That motion was one congratulating the late Czar of Russia on the granting of Home Rule to Poland.
– The honorable member also carried a motion relating to the initiative and referendum.
– Yes; and I shall always be grateful to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) for the assistance he gave me in that matter. The notice of motion to which I referred a few moments ago reads -
That, in view of the need of economy and the necessity of preventing extravagance, it is the opinion of this House that when any appointments are made in recess which carry salaries of £500 and upwards, such appointments shall be only temporary until indorsed by vote of Parliament, and further indorsed by the electors at the next general election, also that all such appointments must be adequately advertised.
That sets out in a condensed form the opinion of nine out of every ten people who pay for the government of this country. It seems to me that even the question of our parliamentary allowance might be dealt with in that way. The people would not dream of granting within a few years an increase of £1,000 a year to an officer of the ‘Commonwealth. What stimulus or incentive is there to the proper ambition of a public servant if he knows that ‘a colleague is able to obtain rapid advancement by reason of the fact that he is with the Minister or high official of a Department every day? As to Mr. Shepherd, I am sure we shall not forget the insult which he gave to Sir Bertram Mackennal when that eminent sculptor presented a work to this Parliament. I suppose if that piece of statuary had been ‘ executed on commission, it would have cost anything from £3,000 to £5,000; yet, owing to Mr. Shepherd, Sir Bertram was not even thanked. Indeed,’ the statue was hidden away in a cellar. To be perfectly just, I must say that, as soon as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) heard of this, he sent the thanks of the country overseas to the sculptor. For some thirty years, as a public representative, I have endeavoured, both in the State Parliament of Victoria and’ here, to have instituted what I call “ division day,” on which a member may have any motion he desires voted on without debate. My object in the earlier* days, in the State House, was to see how many members were prepared to support a given policy if it were incorporated in a Bill. However, I have been unsuccessful. But so long as I represent the people who have to pay, so long shall I continue such motions as I have on the notice-paper of this Chamber. My efforts may prove useless, though, on the other hand, they may prove to be the scattered seed of fruit. I see that the provision made for the GovernorGeneral, like many other items, is divided into two parts, and this does not at all tend to clearness. The Estimates are, no doubt, well indexed; but we find the same matters dealt with on two separate pages, with separate amounts on each; and I think some change ought to be made in this respect.
X do not know whether the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) intends to push his motion to a division; but I am given to understand that the Prime Minister has intimated his willingness to remove from the control of his Department certain of the activities mentioned this afternoon. If that be so, I commend the right honorable gentleman for his display of common sense. With so many Ministers and Assistant Ministers, this distribution of work might easily be effected, and the Prime Minister given greater freedom to devote his mind to matters pertaining more to his office. There is, for instance, that deputation from Newcastle, which I might ave had the honour of introducing to the right honorable gentleman in place of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), but that I considered that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) was the most fitting man to undertake the duty. That deputation, owing to the engagements of the Prime Minister, was not able to see him at the first appointment, which had to be postponed until to-night. There is quite a chance that the right honorable gentleman may not be able to meet the deputation this evening, though, dealing as it does with the question of dumping, it is one of the most important that could approach him.
.- I notice an item of £600 as the salary of a “ publicity officer,” as to the duties of whom the Prime Minister this afternoon gave us no information. I would like to know what particular duties this officer performs. It may be that he is necessary in the Department; ‘but, if so, the fact ought to be made clear to us. I notice items running to over £10,000, to meet the costs of Royal Commissions. In my opinion, Parliament is allowing itself to drift very much in this connexion. Too much of the responsibility that the Government and honorable members ought to bear is thrown on expensive Royal Commissions, the reports of which, once tabled, we seldom hear anything further about. If the Government, and honorable members also, were to take their proper position, and not leave so much to such bodies of inquiry, it would make more for efficient and economic administration. The items to which I refer provide for the expenses of
RoYal Commissions, on taxation, uniform railway gauge, pilfering on wharfs, the affairs of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the basic wage, and so forth. Surely the Government is capable of dealing with such a matter as that of the uniform railway gauge, by means of some arrangement with the States? As to taxation, clear views have been expressed in this House, and we, as elected representatives, together with . the members of the Government, ought to. take the responsibility of coming to a decision. I sincerely hope that in the future “there will be “fewer Royal Commissions; the cost seems to be growing enormously.
– I understand that the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has moved a reduction in this division by fi. I understand that that was done with a view to obtaining from the Committee an expression of opinion upon the question of taking from the Prime Minister’s Department a number of those activities which at present are congregated in it. The Prime Minister has made a statement as to the intentions of the Government which, I believe, is entirely satisfactory to the Committee, and I presume, therefore, that it is not intended to press the amendment to a division.
– The state of the Committee is such that it does not appear likely that a division will be taken. I am the only member of the Country party present, and I shall not call for a division.
.- I assume that the item of £50 for “ Historical memorials of representative men “ refers to the portraits in the Queen’s Hall. I might suggest, with all due respect, that some of them are not exactly portraits of representative men in any sense, but my object in referring to the item is to draw attention to what I regard as a very grave omission. One of the most representative men that Australia has ever produced was the late Lord Forrest, and up to the present time there has been no attempt to place his portrait in the collection to which I refer. The Government might very well spend to> much worse advantage the sum necessary to place a good portrait of the decesased statesman among those already hung on the walls of Queen’s Hall. I think the collection would be quite incomplete without such a portrait.
.- I notice that £7,429 was expended last year on the Royal Commission on Taxation, and that an amount of £6,000 is provided for the current financial year. I do not know how long we shall have to wait for the final report of the Commission, but the Government should do something to expedite it. A good deal is dependent upon that report. Both the Prime Minister and the ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) have told us that the Government were waiting the receipt of the final report before attempting to draft an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Throughout Australia there is a demand for the amendment of that Act at the earliest possible moment. The amount of exemption is far too low, the allowance for each child is not sufficient, and cooperative societies and other ‘ bodies are paying double taxation. We have had an interim report from the Commission, but it appears to be considered not sufficiently complete to form a basis for an amendment of the Act. If Parliament goes into recess before amending the existing law not only the taxation for the current year but also that for the following financial year will be collected under the present Act. Parliament will probably not re-assemble until late in the year, and, before amending legislation can be passed, returns for the year 1922- 23 will have been sent in, and taxpayers will have been assessed on the present basis of taxation. It is not fair to the people that the present anomalies should be allowed to continue. I do not know what the Government mean by providing another £6,000 for the Royal Commission. Is it intended to continue taking evidence for another twelve months?
– That amount would include provision for the expenditure since 30th June last.
– I desired the Government to take some action in regard to the more pressing amendments that are necessary. If it be impossible to amend the law to the full extent that is required, surely we can by a short amending Bill deal with the many anomalies that have been made apparent to us, pending a, more complete revision of the
Act. I am not complaining of the1 Commission’s investigation, but of the delay in amending the present unsatisfactory law. I impress upon the Government the necessity for taking early action to give relief to taxpayers.
Another item relates to unification of railway gauges. The Government expended £6,287 last year, and anticipate expending £10,000 in the current year. What work has been performed I do not know, but I understand that a Royal Commission of experts has been investigating the problem. If all this money is being used solely in connexion with the investigations of an advisory committee, it seems a very big preliminary expenditure, and it is about time that we approached the practical part of the problem. We should decide whether we are able to proceed with the unification of the gauges or allow it to remain in abeyance until such time as money is more plentiful. There may be some good reason fas the expenditure proposed by the Government, and I rose only for the purpose of eliciting information concerning it.
.- The Prime Minister invited honorable members to express their opinion as to how far he ought to proceed with his proposals concerning a re-adjustment of the office of Prime Minister. If we do not accept his invitation he will be left in doubt as to the opinion of honorable members. It is indisputable that the office of Prime Minister is overloaded. A great deal of the work performed by the Prime Minister now is in connexion with activities which have been imposed upon the Department by the war. During the war period the Prime Minister was practically a dictator. I think that was the case in the United Kingdom also; and indeed it is necessary during war time that the Prime Minister of a country like Great Britain or the Commonwealth should be practically a dictator.
– The Prime Minister’s special knowledge made it possible for him to be so.
– Does the honorable member regard it as a necessary evil? I think it is merely an evil.
– It is certainly necessary, and I think even the honorable member for Batman will admit hat the Prime Minister, with all his faults, has carried out his duties in a remarkably successful way.
– I will never admit that, and I need only quote the speeches of the honorable member for Capricornia to prove the contrary.
– The honorable member may be able to quote such speeches in relation to a period during the war, but I must say that since the war we have learned a very great deal, which indicates to us that there were times of which we then had no knowledge when the Empire was in very grave danger, and when the Prime Minister had to take certain action, which proved afterwards to be very necessary, and entirely in the interests of the Commonwealth .
My opinion is that the Federal Parliament has undertaken certain activities which properly belong to the States and should remain with them, and we shall never fulfil our duties successfully and properly until .we shed those State activities and confine ourselves to the Federal idea. I am quite in accord with the Prime Minister’s proposal that the Prime Minister shall confine his attention to external affairs. There is no doubt that the right honorable gentleman receives a great many despatches and documents which are confidential. Therefore the office of External Affairs should belong to the Prime Minister’s Department, and I believe that the right honorable gentleman will have enough to do if, in future, he attends to external affairs without attempting to carry on certain other activities, such as the Commonwealth Shipbuilding Department, if Parliament should decide to continue it. If we1 read of what is taking place at the Washington Conference, and bear in mind what was told us by our delegate to the -League of Nations (Captain Bruce) regarding matters in which Australia is very much interested, we must admit that the Prime Minister will have sufficient to do in attending to external affairs alone. I quite agree that the Prime Minister should have some assistance; he should have an understudy. Indeed, I think, it would be a good thing if all Ministers had understudies to help them.
– Would the honorable member like to understudy the1 Prime Minister? ‘
– I shall discuss that matter with the honorable member privately, but I have no doubt that I could get along with the Prime Minister as well as with any other honorable member, because I know his temperament. And I concur in his contention that he should be permitted to select his private secretary from any part of Australia. There may be in a Department a man who is a most excellent shorthand writer and typist, and have all the qualifications necessary to make a good secretary, but he might not be able to work harmoniously with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister could not, perhaps, work with him. This is a matter of temperament, and every Minister should be permitted to select his own private secretary. Without reflection on the officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, one can say that the Service does not contain all the able men in the country. It is very well that a boy who can pass the clerical examination may be appointed to the Service, but the training which he gets subsequently may not fit him for the position of Secretary to the Department of the Treasury, or to be head of some other Department.
– A Minister who requires the services of a secretary should go first to the officers in his Department.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. We are fortunate, for example, in having a very able man in the position of Secretary to the Teasury, and his Department is well staffed; but I would make it possible for outsiders to apply for these high positions, and I think that there might be examinations of a standard as severe as that required for the obtaining of diplomas of law or medicine which heads of Departments should have to pass. We should have as wide a choice as possible in filling these positions, though, of course, the public servants should have their claims for promotion carefully considered, and other things being equal, should have the preference.
I agree with the Prime Minister that the manner in which his office is treated by the public leaves a great deal to be desired. Prime Ministers in other parts of the world have a house provided for them, but here no one seems to have thought of such a thing. That is because the honour and prestige which should attach to the position of member of Parliament has gone. The adverse criticism of the daily press has lowered the dignity ofa member of Parliament in the eves of the public.
– The press has tried to do that, but unsuccessfully.
– The press has succeeded in taking from the position of member of Parliament the honour and prestige which should attach to it.
– The position is what each member makes it.
– Is it not a fact that credit is given to the careful chauffeur, the courteous tram conductor, the skilled engine-driver, the learned lawyer, the able doctor - in fact, to any one who meritoriously exercises his talents for the benefit of the public ; but that no one has a good word to say for a member of Parliament? What the press say of up I shall not repeat. I have been in politics for a very long time; but were I to-day choosing a career, I would hesitate, much as I desire to serve the public, before adopting that of a politician, because the daily criticisms of the press have caused the people to look upon politicians as men of no account.
– Does the honorable member think that the public takes much notice of the press?
– Fortunately, we have our own personal friends, who continue to return us to Parliament in spite of adverse criticism. If the press has fault to find with any particular member of Parliament, let it name him, and show where he is to blame. It should not characterize a group of members - and I have known it to be done - as a “ corrupt gang.” And I would suggest to our adverse critics,who desire the very best men in the community, to enter public life, that they should not besmirch the institution of Parliament by describing in black colours members of Parliament collectively.
– There is an important difference between vulgar abuse and slander, and that is why the abuse of the press has taken very little effect on the public mind.
– I would treat the Prime Minister in a manner worthy of his position; and, if given an opportunity, I would move that a suitable house be purchased for a residence for him.
– At Canberra he will have a house.
– Since the inauguration of Federation, we have had seven Prime
Ministers, and I presume that we shall have about the same number in the next twenty years. Fortunately for himself, the friends of Mr. Hughes have put him beyond the reach of want, and we may well believe him when he says that it does not matter to him personally that he should be provided with a suitable house. But it is the duty of the Commonwealth to see that its Prime Minister is properly housed, and I hope that it will not be long before we obtain a proper house for him in Melbourne or its suburbs, until Parliament is moved to Canberra, where, as the honorable member for Oxley has interjected, a house will, no doubt, be provided.
I do not know that the right honorable gentleman asked for the opinion of the House on any other matter.
– He touched on the reconstruction of the Ministry.
– I am convinced that the Prime Minister will do his best in that matter, and will be ably assisted by his colleagues. I do not agree with our critics in Collins-street that it would be well to reduce the number of Ministers.
– What does the honorable member think of the appointment of under-secretaries ?
– I have said that I think it would be a good thing for the Commonwealth if Ministers had undersecretaries who could assist them by dealing with details, putting before them the main facts and circumstances of a case.
I hope that we shall soon get rid of a number of the activities which we took over during the war, and confine our administration to the exercise of the powers set out in section 51 of the Constitution.
– In view of the explicit statement of the Prime Minister, I should like to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– The amendment having been withdrawn, is the whole administration of the Prime Minister’s Department open to discussion?
.- No. Honorable members must confine their remarks to the items in Division 14. The Committee is taking the Estimates division by division.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) asked that special consideration might be given to obtaining a permanent memorial of the late Lord Forrest. The £50 that is being voted this year for historical memorials is to meet definite commitments from last year; but I am satisfied that every honorable member would agree that our historical collection will be incomplete until it contains a picture of the late Lord Forrest.
As to the amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act, about which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has asked several questions, the Government hope to deal before the session closes with various anomalies, in the light of the information contained in the report of the Taxation Commission; but I cannot now say that an amending Bill will be passed.
The amount set down for the unification of gauge is to cover the fees and travelling expenses paid to some highly talented gentlemen who were brought to Australia to consider, as a Commission, the question of unification. They have finished their labours, and have been paid, and it is hoped that the whole of the expenditure incurred in the investigation, together with the cost of printing, will be within the amount set down.
– The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) will, I think, give general satisfaction. It has been felt for a very long time that it was impossible for things to continue as they were.
– No one has felt that more than the Prime Minister.
– As to deputations, one often gets a wire asking that a deputation to the Prime Minister be arranged for; but if I find that the matter is one which can be dealt with by the Minister for Trade and Customs, or by the Minister for the Navy, or some other Minister, I arrange for a deputation to him instead of to the Prime Minister. Now-a-days, a Prime Minister is called upon at intervals to visit England, to take part in Conference with other leaders of the Empire, and much confusion must then arise if activities which should be spread over three or four Departments are all within his control.
I think the Prime Minister was perfectly justified in selecting his own private secretary. When I was Leader of the Country party, and it was decided chat a secretary should be appointed to the party, the Prime Minister said to me, “Remember that this is your own man. You are not confined in your choice. Appoint whichever man you like. I advise you to appoint one in whom you have confidence.” Those remarks apply also to the appointment of private secretaries to Ministers. It would be preposterous to expect that each new leader of the Government should be expected to repose in a man, passed on from one Prime Minister to another, that confidence which is so essential in regard to the conduct of intimate personal correspondence. A prominent member of the Public Service approached me, when Mr. Deane was appointed, but I said to him what . 1 am now saying, that it would be undesirable to force on the Prime Minister a man in whom, perhaps, hecould not repose confidence, to do his private work. In the same way, the official secretary of a Department may not always be of that type of man to whom a Minister could intrust his confidential work; but, in the circumstances, I think that Ministers should be left to choose their own private secretaries.
– The Minister might be able to select a suitable man in a Department.
– Certainly. If there is already in a Department a man who would suit the Minister he should get preference, but discretion in the matter should be left to the Minister.
The statement made by the Prime Minister to-day has entirely altered the direction of this discussion. There were some honorable members who were strongly of opinion that it was high time some of the activities of the Department of the Prime Minister were shed; for example, it was thought that all matters relating to shipping should be transferred to the Department administered by the Minister in control of shipping. On several occasions, when I have been about to submit a question in the House, I have gone to the. Minister in control of shipping and asked him whether I was to ask my question of him or of the Prime
Minister. The same difficulty has been experienced in regard to the administration of the various pools.- It is absolutely impossible for any man to give to all these matters that surround these Government activities that attention which is so essential for their success. When Mr. Fisher was Prime Minister I remember the late Mr. Batchelor, who was at the time Minister for External Affairs, feeling a little hurt when I suggested that the Prime Minister was the only man who could deal effectively with external affairs. It was upon my remark the discussion arose which eventually resulted in the transfer of the conduct of external affairs to the Department of the Prime Minister. It is absolutely essential that all matters relating to diplomacy and all the correspondence that passes between our Government and the Imperial Government, or the Governments of other countries, should be filed in the Department of the Prime Minister. I am glad to hear that the Prime Minister proposes to transfer the various activities under his control to the various Departments to which they are more closely related. When the Prime Minister went to England his departure must have created a considerable amount of chaos in Cabinet among the various Ministers who had to take up the different threads, and carry on the work of administering the various concerns, of which they could not be expected to have that intimate knowledge which a Minister administering them from beginning to end would have at his command. The distribution of these activities shouldlead to considerable economy. Overhead charges must be enormously reduced by attaching these activities to the Departments to which they rightly belong. The total increase in the cost of administering the Department of the Prime Minister is becoming alarming, and must be considerably reduced; and if the re-adjustment of the different activities does not effect savings other steps must be taken to bring about reductions. The expenditure on Australia House is absurdly large for the return we get from it. Many of us read recently a statement made by a member of the Victorian State Parliament who has just returned from a visit to England. His description of Australia House was anything but creditable to it.
– The honorable member will have a later opportunity of dealing with that question.
– I express my greatpleasure at the statement made by the Prime Minister that there will be a return to departmental responsibility, and that the bunch of business which has accumulated in the Department of the Prime Minister will be immediately distributed to the respective Departments to which they more properly belong.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 15 (Executive Council), £261, agreed to.
Division 16 (Audit Office), £63,899
.- I would like to hear an explanation in regard to the increase in the personnel of the Auditor-General’s Department.
– The total increase in the staff is nineteen. The AuditorGeneral says that five of these positions have been created as necessity arose. No addition can be made to any branch of the Public Service without running the gauntlet of the Public Service Commissioner’s Office. A Public Service Inspector has to be sent to the office for which an additional appointment is sought to be made, and he must certify that the additional officer is required to enable the work of that office to be done. The work of the Commonwealth Departments is constantly growing. This is due, of course, to the increase in population and to other causes. Very often a Department cannot overtake its work without paying overtime.
– The Audit Office has been starved for years.
– I shall come to that point in a. moment. A Department is very often in the position of having to choose between paying overtime or making additional appointments. It is sometimes cheaper to put on additional men than to pay overtime. However, these arethe facts which are brought under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner before he gives his certificate that the circumstances warrant the appointment of an additional officer.As the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has very properly said, the Auditor-General’s Office has not been given the staff it required. There is a great danger in under-staffing an office upon which devolves the duty of certifying that the whole of the moneys authorized by this Parliament are properly expended and accounted for.
– Audit officers are the financial police of the Commonwealth.
– They are, and unless their work is faithfully done wo might easily lose a great deal of money. As I have already said, the Auditor-General states that five of the new positions have been created as the necessity arose; that is to say, they were filled during the last financial year on the certificate of the Public Service Commissioner. The AuditorGeneral also says that twelve other appointments were made in order to enable temporary assistance already employed in connexion with stores audits to be dispensed with, and that the remaining two officers were appointed because of the increased volume of work in the office. No branch of our accounts affords greater opening for fraud than does the auditing of stores, but the temporary men who have been engaged on this class of work in the past have now been replaced by permanent officers. This has necessitated no increase in expenditure. The temporary men who were doing the work have been put on the permanent staff. It is not in the interests of the Commonwealth to have temporary men engaged in the work of auditing stores.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 17 (Public Service Commissioner), £31,574
.- I would also like information in regard to this division. The Acting Public Service Commissioner, in his annual report, refers to the unsatisfactory position which arises owing to the fact that he is merely Acting Commissioner, and that the inspectors under him are also filling acting positions. Why has it been impossible to appoint a Public Service Commissioner, and why should there be so many acting inspectors ‘i To have men filling acting positions must lead to poor and inefficient service.
– For a considerable time past the Government have had a Public Service Bill before Parliament, which it was hoped would have been passed into law before this, but which has not yet passed through the Senate. In view of the alterations the Government proposed to make by that measure, it was not deemed desirable to fill the position of Public Service Commissioner. Accordingly the Government appointed a gentleman as Acting Public Service Commissioner, and as a consequence all those under him have moved up a step, and have become acting officers in their several positions.
– ‘For how many years have we had an Acting Public Service Commissioner?
– I think that we have had an Acting Commissioner for about five years. Honorable members are aware of the tremendous pressure under which the Parliament and Ministers have been working, and although we have been trying to push on with the Public Service Bill as rapidly as possible, it has not yet been passed by another place.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division IS (Governor-General’s Office), £6,277, agreed to.
Division 19 (High Commissioner’s Office), £63,588
.- In a previous reference to the High Commissioner’s Office I drew attention to the large increase that had occurred in its personnel in the course of the last eight years. In 1913-14 there were thirty-four permanent employees, and temporary assistance cost £1,100, while salaries amounted to £8,445, contingencies to £13,412, and cost of cables and telegrams to £1,650. This year it is estimated that there will ‘be ninety-two permanent employees, and no provision is made for temporary assistance. We are asked to vote £12,338 in respect of salaries, £48,000 for contingencies eliminating temporary assistance, and £1,000 for cables- and’ telegrams, as against £4,107 expended on cables and telegrams last year. I would direct the attention of the Committee to the wide discrepancy between the estimated and actual expenditure, and particularly to the item of contingencies. Last year £47,557. was expended on contingencies, and this year, under that heading, we are asked to vote £48,000. In the financial year 1918-19. when one would have expected that the High Commissioner’s Office would have more work to do owing to the fact that so many of our soldiers were then in London, the amount expended on contingencies was £32,046, as against the estimated expenditure of £48,000 this year. A review of the figures discloses that the expenditure of the office has been steadily increasing. The first striking increase is in the salary of the Secretary to the B!igh Commissioner, which has been raised from £1,150 to £2,000, while, in addition, there are other commitments in respect of compensation for furniture, to which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) has already referred. I intend later on to submit an ‘amendment that will deal with not merely the salary of the Secretary to the High Commissioner, but the whole division. Before doing so I wish to draw special attention to the growth of “ contingencies.” From the figures which I quote in reference to that item the cost of temporary assistance is eliminated. It would appear that a certain number of temporary employees have been appointed to the permanent staff, so that the number of permanent officers has risen from twenty-three in 1920-21 to ninety-two. In 1913-14 the amount voted for contingencies, eliminating temporary assistance was £13,412; in 1916-17, £12,192; in 1918- 19, £32,046; and in 1920-21, £47,557. In reference to these items the Economies Commission obtained from Major-General Ramaciotti a report in which he summarized his opinions regarding the High Commissioner’s Office. In this he stated that-
The organization of the High Commissioner’s Office and staff must necessarily depend upon the activities of the Commonwealth Government, particularly as to immigration and trade. Until the policy which is to guide these activities is settled the organization cannot be placed upon a definite and satisfactory footing.
He added that at the time of making his report there were sections and officials, the justification for whose retention, from the point of view of the then existing requirements, had ceased; but that they were being kept on in expectation of an imminent policy which would demand their knowledge and activities. This was an expensive course, and could not be followed indefinitely. Judging from these Estimates, it would appear that that policy is not only being followed, but has now been definitely adopted. A number of those who were previously on the temporary list have now been added to the permanent list, so that the staff, as I mentioned a few moments ago, has been increased from twenty-three, in 1920-21, to ninety-two. Major-General Ramaciotti also complained of the method in which the Estimates were presented, in that they did not disclose the number of persons actually employed. He recommended that the item of “ contingencies “ should include the “ temporary “ staff in only the fullest sense of the word - that it should cover only those engaged to meet a special necessity, and whose services would be dispensed with as soon as that necessity had lapsed. It would appear that this recommendation has been carried out in one sense, but that no attempt has been made to reduce the staff. It is simply proposed to put all the temporary employees on the permanent staff. It is apparently proposed further to expend money in sending those persons to Australia from time to time for the purpose of obtaining information and knowledge of local conditions. Many of the temporary officers in the High Commissioner’s Office at the time of this report were mat merely not Australians, but had not been to the Front. Many of them were quite ignorant of the conditions which obtained in Australia. It is reasonable to assume that a considerable proportion of the temporary officers who have now been added to the permanent staff have never been in Australia, and we ought to consider whether it is not desirable that, as far as possible, the High Commissioner’s Office should be staffed only by Australians.
– We were told the other day that interchanges were to be made.
– I should like to ask whether such a policy ought to be adopted. If it is necessary to have in charge officers who have knowledge of Australian conditions, surely it would be better to send men from here to Australia House rather than to engage men in London and pay their expenses to Australia in order that they may gain knowledge of local conditions.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– In the light of a return furnished by Major-General Ramaciotti, it appears that the cost of the High Commissioner’s Office in’ London is made up as follows: - Salary ‘and allowance of the High Commissioner, £5,000 per annum; staff, £71,209; contingencies, £57,956; interest on Australia House at 5 per cent., £41,663, or a total of £155,828. If from this be deducted1 £7,582 collected as rent, we have a net expenditure of £148,246. The Economies Commission stated in their report -
The information supplied by Major-General Ramaciotti in regard to the manner in which the building is occupied indicates that economy is not considered. He says that too many rooms (each of a high rental value) are occupied by the staff, too many occupied by one person in each room, and too many rooms de luxe. He recommends that the staff, which is now scattered over eight floors, should be concentrated, if possible, on two floors. Such action would avoid the loss of time now taken up in travelling Within the building, and would render supervision less difficult, and would also make available for other purposes what must be some of the most valuable floor space in the world. Major-General Ramaciotti has furnished a return (Appendix B), which accompanies his report, giving particulars of the space occupied in Australia House. A perusal of this return is sufficient to show that his remarks under the heading of accommodation are justified.
These figures are taken from Major Ramaciotti’s report as at 22nd May, 1920 ; bub there are others for the present year. The capital cost of Australia House as at 30th June, 1921, was £969,373, and we have voted £34,000 on these Estimates, making the total cost at the end of the present financial year £1,003,373. Interest on this sum at 5 per cent, is, approximately, £50,000. The salary of the Comptroller is £286 ; municipal and other rates, £12,250; and upkeep, £15,250, making a total of £77,786. That sum, less £23,395, now estimated to be collected as rent, leaves the actual charge at £54,391. That is what it costs per annum to provide accommodation for the Australian representation in London. The above statements of fact show that very little attempt has been made to carry out the recommendations of the Economies Commission. The rents have been increased during the last year from £19,176 to £23,385, but whether that is accomplished by saving in space by concentrating the work or by increasing rents is not known. This sum of £54,391 practically represents the rent we pay for the building in London. The items for contingencies are increasing each year, the secretary’s salary has been nearly doubled, and nearly all the temporary employees have been placed on the permanent list. I understand that the Prime Minister when in England attempted some measure of economy ; and I mow -
That the total vote for the High Commissioner’s Office, £03,588, be reduced by £10,000, of which £500 is to be deducted from the Secretary’s salary, and the balance of £9,500 to be deducted from such items, and in such manner, as the Prime Minister deems most expedient in the interests of economy and efficiency.
– I shall put that motion to the Committee in the form -
That the total vote for the High Commissioner’s Office, £63,588, be reduced by £10,000.
– I am sorry I was not here when the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was speaking ; but I was unavoidably detained. I do not know to what particular item the honorable member directed the attention of the Committee, or in what particular he desires information. Taking the High Commisisoner’s Office as a whole, I should like to make a few general observations. I have read some statements quite recently made, not by honorable members in this House, but by people outside, in regard to the High Commissioner’s Office, and the work done by that official and his Department. It has been said that both, the building itself and the work carried out therein are unsatisfactory - that the expenditure is excessive, and that we suffer by comparison with other Dominions - and it has been sought to show that the expenditure can with advantage be reduced. First of all, let me say a word about the High Commissioner himself and the building called Australia House, of which I speak with some knowledge. I have had recent and ample opportunities of refreshing my recollections of London, and of seeing the building and comparing it with others, and I say that there is not a finer in London. It is incomparably the best Dominion building in Britain; there is none to challenge comparison; it is in its architecture, and in its construction, a building in which we may take a legitimate pride as worthy of this great country. It was in itself the best advertisement Australia ever had until our Army advertised this country in a manner which produced a profound impression on the nations of the whole world, and particularly on Britain. The upkeep of this noble pile of buildings necessarily involves a considerable sum of money. For some time after it was opened much of its floor space was unused, and every effort has been made from time to time to secure the co-operation of the States, and gather them together under one roof, as I think every Australian thinks it is proper should be done. In those efforts we have succeeded to a very large extent, and the majority of the States now have their offices there. The convenience of this arrangement to Australians visiting London is obvious; the effect of the building as an advertisement is heightened, and naturally the expenditure is reduced very consider ably. The new Secretary to the High Commissioner, Mr. Shepherd, has introduced, since his arrival at the beginning of the year, many valuable re-“ forms. The administration has been put on a business-like footing, and the rentals received for the various parts of the building not used by the Commonwealth itself are very considerable. The advantages of Australia House -as a showroom are as obvious as they are unrivalled. I have read some flippant and silly observations about the building, and those vast galleries in which people are supposed to lose themselves. I may say, however, that when in London I had the advantage of seeing there an exhibition of Australian fruit, an exhibition which was of the greatest possible value to the primary producers of this country. There is not a better means of displaying the resources of Australia than is offered by that vast ground floor of Australia House. If we had not that building it would be necessary for us to hire at great expense some other building suitable for displaying our products. There is not too much floor space. Recollect that this building has only become available in its entirety during the war. Little by little we have put it on an organized footing, and we are now beginning to reduce the expenditure by letting offices and shop sites that are not used by the Commonwealth itself. Mr. Shepherd has done a great deal in that regard. In addition, he is re-organizing the staff, and he has made many important improvements. He has, for example, laid down the policy, as a result of a consultation with me, that employees who have been for more than three years absent from Australia must return to the Commonwealth and be replaced by other officers from this country. The education that young men in the Commonwealth Service will receive in this way will be most valuable. There was a very great danger of the officials of Australia House becoming anglicized, and looking at everything through the eye-glasses of Great Britain rather than through the spectacles of Australia.
As to the expenditure on the maintenance of Australia House and its staff, let me first of all deal with the High Commissioner. Ever since we have had a High Commissioner it has been customary for honorable members, when dealing with, the Estimates, to rise and make disparaging remarks about that officer, whoever he happened to be. He fell very far _ short of that lofty standard of excellence which in their own minds the critics conceived by seeing the halo of the High Commissioner about their own heads. But such excellence is beyond the capacity of ordinary men. The advantage to Australia of being properly represented cannot be measured in. terms of money. Lack of effective representation would be reflected in diminished trade, inability to seize those opportunities that from day to day are open before us, and loss of prestige. When we compare the representation of Canada with that of Australia in England we are struck at once with the manner in which the Canadian advertises his country in contrast to the manner in which we do not advertise ours. The Canadians realize, as all Americans do, that the way to get business is to advertise. The way of advertisement is hard, and it is not for the poor to travel successfully along that road. The Canadian has his High Commissioner and his Trade Commissioner, and for every £1 that Australia spends1 on its representation in London Canada spends £3 or £4. Our High Commissioner receives a salary of £3,000 and an allowance of £2,000. Speaking from an experience of what it costs to live in London, I say, without hesitation, that no man can do justice to Australia, advertise this country as it should be advertised, and move in those circles in which it is necessary that he should move as an equal amongst equals, on the salary that is allotted to the High Commissioner at present. That payment was fixed in the days when £1 would buy as much as 36s. will buy now. A man cannot on the money we pay live in London at the present time and occupy the position that the High Commissioner, should occupy if he is to effectively represent Australia. For the information of honorable members, let me sketch a little picture of what it cost me to live in London, and I may do this with greater readiness because this country had hot to pay Id. for my upkeep. My general expenses in London, including the rent and maintenance of a house, &c, were defrayed by the British Government, and I think I am stating a very conservative figure in saying that from £100 to £120 a week would be a fair estimate of my disbursements for those ordinary expenses that are included in the household budget. I say nothing at all of those other expenses which are incidental to the life of a man moving in good London society. How is a. man to meet those costs on the salary we pay the High Commissioner ? He will have to entertain as I had to entertain. I gave two or three luncheons, which cost from £50 to £70 each. My staff was quartered at the Savoy Hotel, where their expenses were about £40 per week. Food alone, without including the cost of a room, cost from £2 to £2 10s. per day. The High Commissioner must entertain, because in London most business is done as the result of luncheons or functions of the , kind. I am not at my best on such occasions, but I ate luncheons to the glory of God and the honour of Australia to the best of my ability, although my achievements fell far short of what could probably be done by some of those gentlemen of rotund abdominal capacity whom I see before me. If the High Commissioner is to be censured, pay him a decent salary. If he fails in his duties, turn him out and appoint some other man; but no man can serve Australia as it should be served and move as a figure worthily representative of this great country at the salary which we pay. If I were not a member of the Government I would move that the salary of the High Commissioner be increased by £3,000 to commence with. It is one of the curses of government that one is hampered continually by convention, and is unable to burst through the coils of red-tape that hamper him..
I come now to the staff at Australia House, apart from the High Commissioner. Is it contended that the salary paid to Mr. Shepherd is too high? Ifnot, what are the items of expenditure that we are to cut down? I desire the Committee to tell me. I have come fresh from London, where it was my unpleasant duty to reduce the expenditure in one Department by £3,000; I did it by a summary announcement that the number of employees should be reduced by 50 per cent., and the salaries of the remainder by 50 per cent., before 2 o’clock. And it was done. But having done a morning’s work like that, I found I had exhausted the possibilities. One cannot continue all day “ sacking “ people in that reckless fashion, and if I am asked what items of this expenditure are to be cut down, I say frankly that I do not know. But I have every confidence in the ability of Mr. Shepherd to administer that Department. We are sending to London as High Commissioner a man who has been amongst us for a lifetime, and, as an indication of his capacity to administer his Department, honorable members propose in anticipation of his arrival to reduce the estimated expenditure by £10,000. Later, no doubt, they will censure him if he does not succeed. . That is not the method to adopt. If we are to have a High Commissioner at all, let him be paid a salary compatible with his position. We hear a good deal about reducing salaries. No doubt that is a very fascinating pastime when it is applied to other people. I have known lawyers to denounce extravagance, but I have never heard them say one word about reducing their fees. That comment applies not only to the profession of the law, but also to that of medicine. We are waiting for those halcyon days when the doctor will lie down with his patient - no, I withdraw that - when medicine shall be without money and without price, but that day. is not yet. Let me point out to the Committee that the cost of living in London is much greater than it is in Australia. A public servant in this country is much better off than a public servant in Australia House at the same salary. Indeed, a man can do better on a salary of £1,500 in Australia than he could on a salary of £3,000 in London. If honorable members see an item in regard to which they desire information, and that information when given is not satisfactory, let them deal with that item; but when they tell me to cut down this proposed vote by £10,000, I say candidly that I do not know where to start. I shall not take upon myself the responsibility of interfering with a Department over which the High Commissioner presides. If we have confidence in the appointee we should allow him to administer the Department and make such suggestions for a reduction of expenditure as he thinks proper. If he is not capable of doing that, he certainly ought not to have been appointed.
– ‘Why is it that there are ninety-two persons employed this year, as against twenty-three last year?
– There are 102 persons fewer this year than there were last year.
– Then why i3 the cost of living bonus as much this year as it was last?
– The cost of living in London is higher than it is here.
– But the bonus is paid only to the permanent staff, not “to the temporary employees.
– A bonus has to be paid under the Whitley scheme.
– Whether a bonus is paid or a higher rate of wages given is immaterial.
– We have to follow the English law.
– I am informed that the Whitley scheme did not apply in full last year, but that it does now, and that that accounts for the .payment being relatively higher this year.
– We have to comply in London with British laws, just as the office of a foreign company here has to comply with Australian laws.
– Yes. We must pay the standard rates prevailing in London. Expenses which were not incurred in 1914-15, but are incurred now, are municipal and other taxes, amounting to £12,250; upkeep of Australia House, £15,250; cost of living allowance, £11,500; these amounts totalling £39,000. The cost of the staff which was previously shown under the heading of “ temporary assistance” is this year shown under the heading of “ salaries,” but the aggregate number of persons employed is smaller by 102. There is no change in the conditions of their employment. They were employed under the High Commissioner Act, when their payments were shown
Hilder the heading of “ temporary assistance”; but it is considered that the classification adopted this year is more correct, as, although they are in another category than the permanent officers, the officers are employed under conditions differing from those of ordinary temporary employees in the Commonwealth Public Service. Their employment may be terminated at any time by the High Commissioner. In 1920-21 the provision for salaries was £7,758, and for temporary assistance £10,677, a total of £18,435. The provision for this year is merely “salaries, £12,338,” a decrease in expenditure of £6,097. Under these circumstances I think that the honorable member should not press his amendment. We have reduced salaries by £6,097, and the staff by 102. We have let much of the empty office space and the shops, and are putting things on a business footing.
– In my opinion the investment in Australia House of an amount of about £1,000,000 has not been turned to the best account, though it is difficult for members to criticise the expenditure there, because we do not know the conditions. Last year, when the Estimates were under consideration, I appealed to the Government to get something like a business statement from the High Commissioner at least once a year. We have not had such a statement, and we do not know what is being done, or what advantages accrue to Australia through our heavy expenditure in London. I thought that there might be information obtainable from annual reports by the High Commissioner, but to my astonishment the only report obtainable from the papers office was one made by Sir George Reid, many years ago, a brief and inconsequential affair, which dealt chiefly with a few social engagements in the year to which it related, and was worth nothing as a guide to the criticism of expenditure. I do not agree with the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) that a reduction should be made in a big lump sum, though in the absence of information, neither he nor any one else is able to say what particular item should be reduced. During the war, perhaps a dozen members visited London, and I imagine went to Australia House, but we have not had any information about lt from them. If I went to London, I should want to see it from top to bottom.
– A member of the New South Wales Parliament, who has just returned, says that it is the best managed of the several Australian Government offices in London. He controls one of the biggest businesses in Sydney.
– I do not think much of his opinion, in the light of what the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said.
– He was there after the Prime Minister’s visit.
– The retrenchment I made was in the staff under the control of the Navy, not in that under the control of the High Commissioner.
– I do not agree with the Leader of the Country party that £500 should be taken off the salary of the secretary to the High Commissioner. Many persons have much to say against Mr. Shepherd, ‘ who, though not a genial personality, is a man of capacity, but as he has already introduced considerable reforms making for economy, and as a new High Commissioner has just been appointed, I am prepared to wait another year before taking action. But at the end of that time we must demand a proper statement of what is being done.
– The upkeep of Australia House now totals £27,786, and it is anticipated that this year we shall receive rents from it amounting to £23,000.
– Is rent charged against the High Commissioner for the offices that he uses ?
– No. He is charged with the upkeep of the whole place, and when the rents received have been deducted the net cost to Australia will be only £4.786 next year.
– Does the amount charged for upkeep cover interest on capital cost?
– By no means. Interest on capital expenditure would require £50,000.
– The Leader of the Country party has quoted from a report on Australia House furnished by General Ramaciotti, and I understand that complaint is made in that report that the offices of the High Commissioner, which could be concentrated on two floors, are distributed over six, which, naturally, must tend to inefficiency.
– When I left London there were only three floors to Australia House. I would not like to say that another three floors have not been added since then.
– I hope the Prime Minister will be able to assure the Committee that in the future an annual report will be furnished by the High Commissioner to this Parliament.
– I will see that it is done.
.- I would like the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to tell the Committee how many State Governments are making use of Australia House, which was designed to accommodate all the State AgentsGeneral.
– I think there are four State Governments whose officers are housed in Australia House.
– Speaking on the immigration question, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) gave us an example of how things are managed in London. He told us that Australia was speaking there with seven different voices.
– That was so before the Commonwealth was vested with control over immigration.
– In addition to the fact that Canada spends more money and has, fortunately, had as High Commissioner a wealthy man who was able to spend a great deal out of his own pocket, the Dominion is in the fortunate position of being able to speak in London with one voice. Australia should concentrate all its efforts in London, and all the States should be represented by one good staff. It would lead to economy. I cannot approve of the proposal of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) to carve £10,000 off this vote in an indiscriminate fashion. The common-sense way of effecting a saving is to see that Australia speaks in London with one voice only.
.- If honorable members are not fully acquainted with what is happening in Australia
House, or with the purpose that building serves, the fault is due to the fact that we are not furnished with definite reports upon the way in which the money we vote for the office of High Commissioner is spent. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) tells us that if we commence cheeseparing here the result will be seen” in a falling off of trade. I am inclined to doubt the right! honorable gentleman in that regard. I fancy that a real “live wire” man living in a cottage in the suburbs of London would influence more trade for Australia than would any High Commissioner who confines his activities to the precincts of the Savoy. Our High Commissioner should not be expected to ape some brokendown “ swell “ in the Old Country. The people of Great Britain realize that in the depression that follows a great war there is every need for economy, and I do not think they will have greater regard for Australia because its representative can generally be seen in the Savoy or some other such palatial establishment. I am sure that a good live representative of the Commonwealth would do more good to Australia thanwould any flashing of our wealth in a building that is said to be so much in advance of other structures of the kind in London. The right honorable gentleman comes here with thirty-odd years of parliamentary experience, and tries to bluff the Committee in regard to this item on the Estimates, but when he is crossquestioned in regard to details, he admits he knows nothing about them.
– He did not add three stories to the building which your Leader did.
– The Leader of the Country party was quoting from a report by General Ramaciotti. The Prime Minister referred to the cost of living in London, and explained that the excessive cost of administering Australia House was due to payment that had to be made in accordance with British law, but. in any case, it merely serves to bring the salary of an officer in London to the relative position of that of a public servant in Australia. I shall support the amendment.
.- The Prime Minister has made an eloquent and interesting defence of the expenditure upon the High Commissioner’s
Office, and I am pleased that he has given some information in regard to the good work done there, although I disagree with him in respect to some of his statements which, to put it mildly, were somewhat humorous. I do not think the Committee will accept as correct his statement that most of the business done in London is effected at a luncheon table, or at some function. If such is the case I am not surprised that we have not had proper value for the money we have spent upon this Office in the past. Last year when the Estimates for the High Commissioner’s Office were under consideration I asked the Committee to reduce the expenditure to the amount provided in the previous year. On that occasion practically no information was given to the Committee. I agree with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) that a report should be rendered annually to this Parliament, which would enable us to criticise or justify the expenditure on Australia House. In the absence of such a report it is difficult for an honorable member to say that any item in this division could be reduced. My chief complaint is against the way in which the amount voted last year has been exceeded. Indeed it seems futile for this Committee to seek to carry an amendment to reduce the vote by £10,000 when those who are in charge of the Office in London are permitted to spend £10,000 more per annum than is provided for them. Last year we voted £53,974 for this Office, but we find from these Estimates that the actual expenditure was £73,514. The Prime Minister has given us no explanation of this excess. I do not know whether he was responsible for it when he was in London, whether the work he required to be done necessitated the employment of temporary hands at an additional expenditure of £10,677 on temporary assistance and typists, the principal item, of increase on last year’s vote. Where expenditure has exceeded the amount authorized to such a large extent an explanation ought to be vouchsafed by the Minister in charge, even if no question upon the point is submitted by an honorable member. If we are to permit officers at the other end of the world to spend such a vast amount of money without authority from this
Parliament it will be impossible for honorable members to control expenditure. The practice of spending money without authority from Parliament is common in many Departments, particularly in the Department of the Prime Minister. Parliament apparently has no control over the public purse. For the reasons I have given, and principally because we have not the information before us to guide us as to whether we are justified in voting for this huge amount or not, I shall support the amendment.
.- I desire to state briefly the attitude1 I intend to take up with regard to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). In the first place I do not think that we can reasonably lop off a lump sum of £10,000 from the vote for the High Commissioner’s Office. This is a division of the Estimates where we could very well deal with items. There are probably items which I would be willing to reduce, but I cannot bring myself to vote for a. general reduction of the proposed vote for the whole division. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) has referred to the fact that money authorized to be spent last year has been exceeded, and for this reason he says he will support an amendment to reduce the total vote for the Office. But there are many causes which have led to increased expenditure during the last few years. There is, for example, the high cost of living. Last year we voted £7,000 to pay the cost of living bonus in London, but our expenditure in this direction was actually £11,973. That increase of £4,973 was unavoidable. The amount is fixed under the law of Great Britain, and must be paid. Even if we had voted only £10,000 for the purpose, and the legislation of Great Britain demanded that £20,000 should be paid, we should have to comply with that demand. In. the circumstances, therefore, this Government cannot be blamed for the increase. I come now to another item, that relating to municipal rates, which has increased by £3,000. In respect of those two items we have additional expenditure amounting to £8,000, which no Government could have avoided. It is not fair to say that because the actual expenditure last year was some thousands of pounds in excess of the amount voted, we should determine upon a lump sum reduction in respect of this year’s Estimates. It is only reasonable to make allowance for commitments that have been forced upon the High Commissioner. Last year we expended £73,514 on the High Commissioner’s Office, and we are asked this year to vote £63,588 for the same purpose, or a reduction of £10,000, despite the increase in the two items to which I have referred.
– Does the honorable member think that Australia House is worth the expenditure?
– As I have not been to the Old Country I am not able to express an opinion on that subject. I am not prepared to express a definite opinion on any question with the facts of which I am not fully seized. As against this proposed expenditure of £63,588, we must make allowance for £23,000 received by way of rentals from the Governments of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania, whose AgentsGeneral are housed in Australia House. It is anticipated that the Agent-General for Western Australia will also at an early date, occupy offices in that building. That “set off” against the expenditure does not appear on these Estimates
– Nor do these Estimates make any reference to the interest on the capital expenditure of £1,000,000 on Australia House.
– Quite so. Whilst there may be some items for the reduction of which I could vole, I cannot see my way to support a lump-sum reduction as proposed by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page).
– Who is now showing a want of consistency ?
– I certainly am npt. We are now dealing with salaries, and when I was submitting, on behalf of the Labour party, an amendment for the reduction of the Defence Estimates by £500,000, I made it perfectly clear that we as a party were not prepared to vote to reduce wages or to take any action which, apart from the Defence Department would throw any men out of employment. If honorable members of the Country party would show me where the expenditure on the High Commissioner’s Office could be reduced without any interference with the employees, I should join with them in endeavouring to obtain a reduction. That, however, can be done only by dealing with individual items. The ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who has just been appointed High Commissioner, has had many years’ experience as an administrator, and should be able to see that everything in the High Commissioner’s Office is in proper order. I am confident that he will do justice to his position, and I agree with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), that we should give him an opportunity to show what he can do during the next twelve months. It is said that a new broom sweeps clean, and I am convinced that if any “ sweeping out “ is necessary in connexion with Australia House, Sir Joseph Cook will see that it is done. I cannot vote for a lump-sum reduction, and, therefore, shall vote against the amendment.
– I desire to supply the Committee with such additional information as has come to my knowledge. I have first of all to add more floors to Australia House. In explanation of my previous statement, I would point out that those floors are below ground, and that as I am one of those who always wing their way upwards, since “Excelsior” is my motto, I have never visited those floors. As bearing directly on the point upon which information is desired I have to inform the Committee that whereas the upkeep of Australia House costs £27,000 per year, and the rentals received are £23,000 per annum, there are, in addition, book -entry rentals, totalling £33,653, which are charged against the Customs, Public Trustees, Pensions, War Gratuities, Navy, Produce, Immigration and Settlement Departments, and the High Commissioner’s Office proper, including the Exhibition hall. In estimating the cost of the management of Australia House, that sum of £33,653, representing bookentry rentals charged as between the Departments, should be taken into consideration as well as the sum of £23,000 received in actual cash by way of rentals from the State Agents-General and others who occupy premises.
As to Major-General Ramaciotti’s report that considerable benefit would arise from grouping the offices of the High Commissioner’s Department on one floor, I have here a report by Mr. Shepherd that that has now been done. Mr. Shepherd states that, generally speaking, the result of the re-organization will be the grouping of the staff of the High Commissioner’s Office proper on the entrance floor, with the administrative staff on the first floor. I turn now for a few moments to some remarks made by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). The honorable member directed ‘ attention to two items on page 30 of these Estimates. The first of these, item 7, “ Cost of living bonus, £10,700,” is in excess of the amount voted last year, but is £1,273 less than the actual expenditure for last year. It has already been explained that although there is a reduced staff the Whitley scheme is now in force, and, consequently, the living bonus covers a wider range. The honorable member went on to point to an item in the same subdivision, “ Temporary assistance and typists.” in respect of which £1,000 was voted for 1920-1921, whereas the amount actually expended was £10,677. The honorable member asked what guarantee we had that the same thing would not occur again. The explanation is that the item, as originally submitted to the Treasury, provided for an expenditure of £10,000, but that a. prudent Treasurer cut it down to £1,000. That vote did not enable us to pay the salaries of the officials, and, therefore, £10,000, as originally estimated by the Department, had to be expended. The answer to the honorable member’s inquiry as to whether the same thing may not occur again is to be found on page 29 of these Estimates, where we have the item, “ Clerks, typists, storemen, messengers, telephonists, and assistants (salaries under £300 per annum), £7,910.” We have taken that item from the bottom of the subdivision on page 30 and added it to the subdivision relating to salaries on page 29, so that the answer to the honorable member’s inquiry is that we shall live well within our means, so far as that vote is concerned.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) asked how many State Agents-General now had their offices’ in Australia House. The Agents-General of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania now occupy offices there, and I am in communication with the Government of Queensland and the Government of Western Australia, who I hope will also come in. I do not know that there is any more, information that I can give the Committee. If there is I shall be pleased to supply it. I hope the Leader of the Country party will accept the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If there is any item to which he wishes to direct our attention let him do so. We shall look at it carefully, and if we can effect a ‘ saving in respect of it we shall; but we cannot take the responsibility of making a lump-sum reduction. We have just appointed a new Secretary to the High Commissioner, and a still newer High Commissioner. Both these gentlemen Ave must assume to be competent. We know them very well. Something has been said about Mr. Shepherd, but nothing against his capacity as an administrator. He is a very capable administrator. I do not know any one who can administer a Department better than he can,. He produced to me, while I was in .London, evidence of very substantial reforms in Australia House. The discipline, for instance, is far better. I dp not profess to be a martinet, but I like discipline, and want to see every one working. On many occasions I went through Australia House at most unearthly hours in the morning, and I “was going to say that, to my horror, I found all the officers at work. I think honorable members may safely leave these Estimates as they stand. I give them the assurance that the High Commissioner will be ready to supply Parliament with an annual report which will set out fully information on those points upon which they desire to be informed. I shall supply him with a copy of the speeches made during this debate, and will ask him to take particular note of the wishes expressed by honorable members.
.- I rise to add another couple of stories to this building, and to quote from MajorGeneral Ramaciottis report, in which he recommends that the staff, which is scattered over eight floors, shall be concentrated, if possible, on two.
– I am quite sure he is wrong; but go on.
– Does the Prime Minister say that the report is wrong?
– No, I am alluding to the number of floors.
– Mr. Ramaciotti’s report says -
Such action would avoid the loss of time now taken up in travelling within the building, and would render supervision less difficult, and would also make available for other purposes what must be some of the most valuable floor space in the world.
– Thathas been done now, in any case.
– Yes, I noted what the Prime Minister said. Personally, I have not seen Australia House, and, like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), I do not like, in such circumstances, to talk too freely; but if I had seen it, and had travelled from the top to the bottom, I should certainly be able to say how many stories there were, even if I had viewed the building at an “ unearthly “ hour in the morning. Complaints have been made that Australia House is too elaborate; but, with the faith I have in the future of Australia, and knowing full well the importance of our being well represented and advertised overseas, I think that it should be elaborate and worthy of this great Commonwealth. Certainly, the kind of representation that we have had in the past, with a number of “ tin-pot “ Agents-General scattered about Victoriastreet, is not the right kind of representation. These Agents-General compete one against the other, not only in the matter of immigration, as I mentioned last night, but in other matters. There is competition in London amongst the States in the sale of their primary products; Victoria competes against New South Wales, and so it goes on all round. That state of things ought to have been swept out of existence long ago. Australia should do as Canada does - speak with one voice in London. While it is not within the province of this Parliament to sweep the Agents-Generals’ Offices out of existence, I believe that if the peoples of the various States knew what has gone on, they would take that step now.
– The Agent-General for Western Australia has been of more value to his State than have all the High Commissioners.
– Possibly; I am not speaking against any individual AgentGeneral, but advocating the principle of this country speaking with one voice overseas.In the marketing of our primary products we should aim at quality above all things, and, standardizing our grades, sell through one agency. Even if Australia House is an elaborate building - and it should be for the money it has cost - I do not object to the expenditure incurred.
As to the protest by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) against the reduction of this vote by a lump sum, and their request that we concentrate on the items, I think it would be wiser to take the former course, and leave the High Commissioner and others, who know more about the details, to say how the total shall be made up.
– Then the saving will be made on the salaries of the fellows who do the work under the high officials.
– That should not be done. At the same time, I hope the proposal of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) will be agreed to, leaving the details to those administering Australia House.
.- The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) may congratulate himself upon initiating a discussion which has given much valuable information, not so much to members of the House as to those who watch our proceedings from outside. We have learnt from the Prime Minister that one of the essential qualifications for the Australian representative in London is that he shall be a great gastronomical expert. Apparently, the reason for doubling the salary of the Official Secretary is to compensate him for the impairing of his digestion, as a result of his representative duties. The discussion, so far as it has gone, has shown us that those representatives of Australia who are most intimately concerned with Australia House know least about it. We had an illustration here to-night in the guessing competition as to how many stories there really are in the building. Like every other honorable member who has taken up the time of the Committee, I candidly confess that I know nothing about it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) informed us, as one reason why the increased expenditure on salaries should be sanctioned, that it cost the British Government, for the living expenses of himself and his staff in London, from £100 to £120 a week per head. We now can understand the resentment with which the Prime Minister received the announcement! cabled to him of the resolution carried by the Country party urging his immediate return, even if it be true, as the right honorable gentleman said, that in Australia £1,500 is worth more than £3.000 in London.
I notice that, as usual, the increases of 100 per cent, in salaries are for the people at the “top of the tree.” Apparently, the individuals who do the routine work in the office do not suffer from the handicap of the “ increased cost of living “ ; the clerks, typists, storemen, senior messengers, and others, by some mysterious law of Providence, or rule of economics, do not suffer from the same disadvantage as do the more highly-paid individuals. One would think that if the high cost of living in London, as compared with Melbourne and Sydney, was so great that the Secretary’s salary had to be doubled, the same rule would apply equally to those who are paid lesser salaries, and who share the distinction of being employed by the Commonwealth. Of course, that impression is corrected by the Prime Minister’s statement as to the necessity of Australia’s representative, or representatives, to go through a perpetual round of festivities in order that business shall be done by Australian merchants. In other words, the Australian representative in London is a more or less highly-paid commercial traveller, whose duty it is to market the products of Australia; and, in order to do that, it is necessary for him to. be an expert in gastronomy. Apparently, it is feared that the exmember for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook), who has been appointed High Commissioner, will not be able to cope with the heavy demands on his digestive organs, and so, as a. preliminary training, he is, according to an intimation I have received, to be given a farewell “ flutter.” Knowing that, I can understand the Prime Minister’s statement; but the people outside, who, in the last analysis, bear the whole cost of this superstructure of government, with its many ramifications, has not heard one word in justification, or in mitigation, of the expenses in- curred by this representation. To airily move that £10,000 shall be taken off the total vote, and the detailed reductions left to the High Commissioner, is all very well, but we know from our experience of the new High Commissioner in a Ministerial capacity in Australia that the first suggestion made will be to cut down the salaries of the lower paid men, in spite of the high cost of living. The saving will certainly not come off Mr. Shepherd’s salary, the High Commissioner’s salary, or the salaries connected with the agencies utilized for booming the business interests of this country ; in the old-f fashioned way that the honorable members in the corner, who are responsible for this amendment, stand for, it will come off the wages or salaries of the less fortunate section of those employed. Therefore, I shall vote against the amendment.
.- Very few honorable members seem to have any knowledge of the expenses that are inevitably incidental to an establshment in London such as Australia House. I have never seen the building, but in my youth I passed the site many thousands of times. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) could not have given any consideration to this matter before he proposed to reduce the expenditure on the High Commissioner’s Office by £10,000, because there is no individual item from which £10,000 can be deducted. It is suggested that Australia House shall be made the centre of Australian commercial affairs. I do not think it is possible to get all the Agents-General of the States to accept accommodation in Australia House. They have their separate offices in Victoria-street and elsewhere, and they do not advertise themselves as representatives of States; the plates outside their office doors bear the word “ Australia.” Every Agent-General considers himself a representative of Australia, and they will not readily surrender their dignity by shifting their offices to Australia House, becoming subordinate to the High Commissioner, and virtually taking the positions of commercial agents. When creating the office of High Commissioner, we endeavoured to follow the Canadian example, but we have never been able to get an Australian to represent the Commonwealth as Lord Strathcona, the first ‘ Canadian High Commissioner, represented his Dominion. He was a very wealthy man, and his interests in Canada were so large that he could afford to spend from £200,000 to £250,000 out of his own pocket to maintain the prestige of his official position in London. That information was given to me by Mr. Copeland, at one time Agent-General for New South “Wales, who was sorry for Sir George Reid, our first High Commissioner, because his salary was not sufficient to put him on anything “like the same social footing as Lord Strathcona occupied. The latter was able to advertise Canada in a way that no Australian High Commissioner could afford to advertise the Commonwealth. If Australian representation in London is to be made effective, the expenditure must be increased rather than decreased. If we are parsimonious in dealing with* that office, we shall derive no benefit from it; but if it is to achieve what this Parliament desires it to achieve, we must face the prospect of it becoming more costly. I hope the amendment will be withdrawn ; but, if it goes to a division, I shall vote with the Government.
.- The fact that I have recently been in London, and have had an opportunity of seeing Australia House and what is taking place there, compels me to say a few words in regard to the amendment. In the first place, I should like to clear up a little misconception as to the actual load of expenditure we are carrying in respect of Australia House. The actual cost of the building has been £1,000,000, and I think the Committee is under the impression that Australia is at the present moment carrying a dead-weight debt of £50,000 in respect of interest on the capital cost. But the Prime Minister has correctly pointed out that ah income of £23,000 from rents goes a long way towards offsetting the interest bill. It must be borne in mind that Australia House accommodates a great number of the activities of the Commonwealth. Attached to it is a very large Customs Department, which occupies a certain amount of space; a buying branch for all the different Departments in Australia, particularly the Department of Works and Railways; a branch of the Defence Department, engaged in clearing up war records, graves, and other matters; and a branch of the Navy Department. These different branches inside Australia House occupy a good deal of floor space, and by a bookkeeping entry they are assessed as paying £33,000 per annum in rents. If we had not Australia House and these branches sought accommodation elsewhere, we should still have to bear the greater part of that expenditure for rents. We are carrying some dead-weight debt from year to year in respect of interest on the capital expenditure of £1,000,000, and the cost of upkeep, but it may be fairly estimated as being not more than £20,000, and possibly less. I went all over Australia House, and I think I can clear up the uncertainty which seems to exist regarding the number of floors. I do not speak with the same confidence as did the honorable member for Wimmera, who, relying upon a Pelman-trained memory, or something of the sort, said that if he were shown through the building he would be certain as to the number of floors, but my recollection is that there are six floors above ground and two below, making eight in all. The actual activities of Australia House are very great, and it is well to remember the detail work that has to be done. There is, for example, a branch of the Customs Department. We have passed a new Tariff, and very stringent provisions have been made in regard to invoices, the declarations that are to be made on them, and the details that must be given to enable goods to be cleared into Australia. * That throws a very big burden of work upon the London end of the Commonwealth Administration. The greater number of the clerks employed at Australia House’ are engaged in clearing up the aftermath, of the war - finalizing war records, the identification and marking of graves, and other matters affecting the Australian soldier. The third big department in the building is the buying branch of the Works and Railways Department. That department carries out very big works in accordance with the Estimates approved by this Parliament, and a great deal of the purchasing of material has to be done in London. That, and the buying for the Department of the Navy, is controlled from Australia House. These activities must involve a certain amount of expenditure, and absorb some of the money which the Committee is asked to vote.
In regard to the representation of Australia in London and the benefit likely to accrue from it, it is a little difficult for me to deal with this question, because, in my opinion, there is only one factor that counts in the least, and that is the personality of the High Commissioner. If we have a first-class High Commissioner, a man who can appeal to the imagination of the English people as the Ambassador of Australia in the heart of the Empire, he will become known from one end of England to the other, and will have a great influence in forming British opinion of the Commonwealth. Another side of this representation is in respect of the city of London itself. For the future development of Australia we shall require to raise money, and to that end make people interested in the Commonwealth, and have such faith in its future as to invest their money in it. Apart from that, there is the fact that many of Australia’s war loans and other loans fall due between now and 1930. If we have a really good, strong man representing us in London, one who can state Australia’s case, convince the British people of this continent’s unrivalled potentialities, and assure investors that a good investment is offered to them,, and that their money will be safe, we shall have no trouble in renewing our loans. I am prepared to say that a really first-class representative in London during the next few? years could probably save Australia millions of pounds in connexion with the renewal of loans, underwriting conditions, and, conceivably, also the rate of interest. If we have a really good High Commissioner, the advantages of Australia House and the importance of its activities cannot possibly be over estimated. On the other hand, if we have a weak man who , does not truly represent Australia, every penny spent on Australia House other than that necessary for the detailed work I have mentioned, would be absolutely wasted, but I venture to suggest to the Committee that with the possibilities we have in Australia, it is worth while to take the risk. Let us hope that we have the right man now - in regard to him, I say nothing - and that in future also we shall have the right man. If that should be so, Australia House will justify itself, and be well worth the expenditure we are incurring in regard to it.
Turning now to the detailed management, there must be economy if we are to have true efficiency, and there are considerable signs that the affairs in Australia House are being put in order. Reference has been made to the scattering of the offices over the whole pf the floor space. That is a bad way to work any office, but the more serious aspect of it in this case is that in this way floor space which has a very great rental value is unnecessarily occupied. Rents from such space, if occupied by tenants, would contribute considerably towards a reduction of the standing charges. I went through Australia House, but I was not one of those who went there to reform, it, although I think the occupants had rather a grim suspicion when I first appeared that I was another of those people. I ,may tell any honorable member who may be thinking of visiting Australia House that he may expect to be looked upon as another visitor sent to put the place in order. I had noi such task, nor have I the ability which some persons seem to possess of knowing whether a place is efficiently managed by merely putting one’s nose in at certain doors. I do not know whether Australia House is or is not properly run, though I understand that they are drawing the Departments closer together, and are doing away with much waste space. I had many conversations with Mr. Shepherd, then Acting High Commissioner, who went to Geneva with pie. He is undoubtedly very desirous of putting the place in order, and of organizing it on an efficient basis. For the comfort, of the economy party here, I may add that the impression left on my .mind by my conversation with him was that they need not fear reckless expenditure or over staffing, but that it is more likely that he may carry his instructions too far, and stint the expenditure needed for the proper discharge of the functions that Australia House is established to perform.
It has been suggested that part of the saving of £10,000 might be made by reducing Mr. Shepherd’s salary. The, question of personality should not be introduced into the consideration of this proposal. I am clearly of the opinion that to get the sort of man we need for the job with which the Secretary is faced, which, means the controlling of all the detail work under the High Commissioner, leaving that functionary free to give his mind and attention to matters oE general policy and the larger questions of administration, we must pay at least £2,000 a year. I hope that it may not be thought from what I have said that I cast any reflection on Mr. Shepherd. I had close personal relations with him during a period of five weeks at Geneva, and as I said the other day, no one could have given me more loyal and continuous support than he gave. He did everything in his power to assist me in the work to be done. His position in regard to the Geneva Conference was an extraordinarily difficult one. He did not ask to be sent to Geneva, but was told to go there, and, being a civil servant, he had to go. When I met him in London after I had received my appointment, he greeted me without the least sign of offence; indeed, I can say that he seemed extremely pleased that I had been appointed, and he did everything he could to put me in .touch with the questions with which we had to deal. As to the suggestion that this vote should be reduced by £10,000, I say that it would be grossly unfair to the new High Commissioner to let him arrive in London to find that he must at once set about reducing his expenditure by that sum. I do not think that the reduction could be made without completely destroying the present organization. The total vote for Australia House is just over £60,000, of which more than £27,000 goes in upkeep, leaving about £33*000 for financing the various activities of the place, including those of the various Departments that I have mentioned.
– This vote does not provide for the Navy officials, the Works and Railway officials, and the Military officials, all of whom are paid for out of other votes.
– I asked a question on the subject before commencing these remarks, and was told that that was not so, though having seen something of the activities there, I am inclined to think that they can not all be charged against Australia House. Indeed, I cannot conceive how these activities can be carried on for an expenditure of £33,000, and therefore I am a little doubtful of my information. Certainly, if the amount available were reduced to £23.000, the position would be hopeless. Even if the staffs that have been mentioned are charged to other votes, which I am inclined to think must be the case, notwithstanding the answer given to my question, I am still of opinion that £33,000 odd is not too much for the running of Australia House generally. If it is properly run, every penny of the vote we are discussing will be needed.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 20 (Australian Commissioner in the United States of -America), £12,625; division 21 (Shipping and mail service to the Pacific Islands), £49,167 ; and division 22 (Council of Defence),’ £1,000, agreed to.
Division 23 (Immigration), £88,000
.- As I stated last night when, speaking on the item in the schedule to the Loan Bill for providing for the passage money of immigrants, it is my intention to vote against the amount now before the Committee. 1 do not intend to repeat the able arguments which were used then by members of the Labour party for opposing expenditure on immigration at the present time, il have only to say that we are of the opinion that, as the number of unemployed in Australia to-day is so great, and as land is not being made available for those who desire to settle on it, it is not in the interests of this country that we should spend money on immigration.
– This vote is to be spent not on a scheme for settling immigrants, or for providing for their absorption, but merely to pay salaries, office accommodation, publicity costs, and the like. Last night we were asked to vote £162,000 towards the cost of passage fares for immigrants; and, comparing this vote with the item in the Loan Bill that we were then discussing, it will be seen that for every £1 spent in assisting immigrants to come here we are asked to pay lis. for publicity and administration, a disproportionate amount. I say again to the members of the Corner party, who’ appear to be on a campaign of economy, that this is expenditure which cannot be justified. I have no objection to the bringing out of the proper kind of immigrants, if provision is made for settling them when they come here. I would :be prepared to vote for a much larger expenditure on immigration, were it proposed in connexion with a proper and comprehensive scheme of land settlement. [But 1 am opposed to the bringing of immigrants here haphazard, and then casting them adrift. That is the way to kill immigration, because every immigrant who comes here, and is disappointed, will prove a bad advertiser of Australia. If we induce persons to come here under the impression that this is a paradise, where one has only to apply for land to get it, those who are attracted by our advertisements will have a rude awakening, and most of the victims of the system will give accounts of the country which will not benefit its reputation. Instead of getting us a good name, every immigrant who is forced to return, as many have returned already, will give the country a bad name.
I want to see a proper system, of immigration established, because this country certainly needs immigrants of the right kind. Some such system must be established if we are not to defeat the end at which we are aiming. “We should not proceed any. further on the present lines until we are prepared to carry out a proper policy. An’ immigration policy will succeed only when we bring out men who know something about working on the land, and who will be able to go on it with every assurance that their efforts will prove successful. But while we have a condition of affairs in Australia when there are hundreds of applicants for every block of land available, the people who come here will be disillusioned, and instead of advertising the resources of the country, when they write to their friends in the Old Country, they will do the very opposite, and warn their friends not to come here. The amount now proposed to be spent will not do anything towards bringing about a proper system of immigration. It is only a make-believe scheme. In any case, the expenditure of lis. om office expenses for every fi spent on passage money for approved immigrants is; altogether out of proportion. Those honorable members who are sincere in their efforts to bring about economy must surely object to the expenditure of so much money in advertising, office expenses, and publicity work. I hope that steps will be taken either to reduce this vote, or to wipe it out altogether.
.- I would like some information in regard to the exact way in which this money is to be spent in Landon in connexion with immigration. I believe in immigration, but only in accordance with a settled and well defined policy. A year ago, LieutenantColonel Amery, who was then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, pointed out that the proper place for the expenditure of money upon immigration was in Australia in making preparation for the thousands of exService men who would be available to come here if that work were done. In fact, he said very definitely that, unless this preparatory work was undertaken, the Overseas Association would, not be willing to recommend the despatch of immigrants to Australia. In the circumstances, I would like the Minister to explain what is to be done with the £83,000 we are asked to provide on these Estimates for attracting immigrants. I would like to know the exact nature of the London activities. Failing some satisfactory statement of the position, I am inclined to vote against the expenditure. I shall support any immigration scheme that is practical. I am always willing to support the expenditure of large sums of money on big developmental schemes if they are properly planned and carried out. We are told that the Premiers’ Conference has arranged for the Commonwealth to finance and select immigrants at the London end, and for the States to find them land on which to settle, and also to provide developmental works. I am prepared to support a scheme like that, or local schemes for such purposes, such as that proposed by Sir joseph Carruthers for a million farms for a million farmers. When the late Mr. Storey was going to England, he was asked by me to submit a proposition to the Imperial Government which would have permitted . of the absorption of at least 50,000 immigrants on the northern rivers of New South Wales. I am solidly in favour of such schemes, but J think the Committee should have an exact statement of what is being done at the London end in connexion with immigration.
– When we were discussing the provision of £162,000 on the Loan Estimates, for passages for approved immigrants, I spoke at some length on the immigration’ policy of the Government and explained that, as the result of an agreement arrived at between the State Premiers, a year or so ago we had substituted unified control for that futile heptarchy that governed, or misgoverned, this important activity to which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) referred last night. It was agreed that the Commonwealth should take control overseas of immigration, and be charged with the duty of advertising Australia and securing and selecting suitable immigrants and providing for their transport to Australia. In their turn, the States were to deal with the immigrants at this end. The Commonwealth agreed that it would only accept as many immigrants as each State indicated it could absorb. I said yesterday that the numbers which the States had expressed their willingness to receive was so disappointing that the Commonwealth Government felt it their duty to point out the need for doing something more. The difficulty to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) alluded last night - the question of what is to be done with immigrants when we get them here - was considered at the last Conference of Pre miers, and it was agreed that the remedy would be to deal with the whole question in a comprehensive way. Hence the resolutions to which the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has referred.
So much for the policy. I now come to the machinery by which we are endeavouring to give effect to it. We have created in England an organization which is most efficient. There is now only one authority representing Australia and advertising it. It appoints agents all over the United Kingdom, and canvasses among likely immigrants, determining their suitability and arranging for their transport. When I was in England, I satisfied myself that the Department was carrying on its work efficiently. We are providing £48,000 on these Estimates for salaries, administration, and other expenses in London. We are also providing £40,000 for salaries, administration, and other expenses in Australia, the complementary half of the complete organization. The London office is under the control of Mr. Percy Hunter, a most competent man, with wide experience of immigration under the New South Wales Government, a journalist of great experience and a man of tremendous energy, possessed of great powers of organization. Mr. Hunter has a competent staff under him, and is carrying on his work well. If we are not getting more immigrants it is not because we cannot get them, it is because the States are not in a position to absorb any more. We could double, treble, or even quadruple, the stream at any time; but it would be useless to bring out people unless the States were ready to receive them. On that account a new agreement has been arrived at with the States, and it is hoped that this will enable us to receive that great stream of immigrants which is only waiting the opportunity to come here. The organization at the Australian end is under the control of Mr. Gullett, a man with wide experience, who was a journalist and afterwards a war correspondent. He is a most competent man, and honorable members can satisfy themselves as to what is being done by going to him direct and asking him for information, which, I am sure, he will be glad to give to them. There has been established a New Settlers’ League. The movement has been taken up by representative citizens all over Australia. The object of the League is to prepare the way for settlers, to welcome them, to assure them they are not strangers in a strange land, and that they “have come amongst friends, to aid them to secure employment, and generally to create in this country an. atmosphere favorable to the immigrant, and to get into touch with employers, particularly those in the country districts, who need labour. I am satisfied that the work of immigration has been carried on well, and I invite honorable members who have any criticism to offer of the organization in London or in Australia to let me know that to which they take exception, so that I may be able, if possible, to answer it, and if not, to put matters right. I can give the Committee, if it desires, a statement of the items which go to make up the expenditure of £40,000 on the Australian organization. In the first place, we have salaries amounting to £6,500. The principal salaries are those of the Superintendent, Mr. Gullett, £1,500, and Mr. E. N. Robinson, £750. This officer is responsible for the preparation of samples, advertising matter, cinematograph films, lantern slides, photographic plates, articles for. use abroad, and so on. Then we have the salary of the Immigration Officer, Mr. Fullagar, who receives £600 a year; and the Secretary and Clerk in charge of records, who receives £345 a year; £1,300 is provided for temporary assistance, £256 for office requisites, and £1,457 for travelling expenses. There are also items relating to records, postage, telegrams, furniture, telephone services and petty cash, an item of £5,000 in respect of organization for the New Settlers League, and £2,200 for freights and charges on material forwarded overseas for exhibition purposes. All these go to make up the total of £40,000. In London there is a very extensive organization and a numerous staff. Honorable members may think that a man and a boy ought to be able to do the work. On one of my bad mornings I perhaps expressed the same view, but I have satisfied myself that it is wrong. I am convinced that the office is carrying out its work well. Much depends on the success of the scheme to secure immigrants, and we must be prepared to pay for it. The amount of the proposed vote is small compared with the immense sum. that will be spent if the Premiers of the States agree to the scheme I have suggested. All have expressed their willingness and anxiety to fall in with it. Already we are negotiating with the Premier of Western Australia, and the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is acting as an intermediary. I am hopeful that before long we shall have a concrete scheme, so that we may be able to bring in new settlers in a steady and ever-incr easing stream.
– Does an accredited agent of the Immigration Office in London come out with each ship-load of immigrants?
– Not at present; but I am informed that it is proposed that that shall be done.
.- he reason why I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) whether an accredited immigration agent came out with each party of immigrants was that in 1911, when I had the good fortune to visit London at the time of the Coronation celebrations, I visited the Crystal Palace, where the various Dominions were then making what showing they could to induce people to emigrate. Canada, South Africa, and our sister Dominion of New Zealand made a splendid display. I, with other Australians, was naturally interested in ascertaining what Australia was doing in this respect. To our dismay we found that the exhibit in the Australian building was far from what it ought to have been. As a matter of fact,so little of its floor space was utilized by the Commonwealth exhibit that one of the largest furniture houses in London was given permission by the officer in charge to place its exhibits of furniture in that building in order that the empty space might be filled up. I felt keenly on the subject, and in company with several other Australians waited on Captain Collins, then Secretary to the High Commissioner, and told him what we thought of what had been done. His excuse was that the High Commissioner had only a limited amount of money placed at his disposal by the Australian Government, that there was a wool exhibition at Roubaix, and that such money as had been made available had largely been spent there in proving to the French and other Continental wool-buyers what we could produce in the way of wool.
– That was a good show.
– An excellent one, but it is regrettable that Australia should have been so poorly represented at Crystal Palace in the great year of 1911. There was a scenic railway running around the grounds, its object being to give the people an idea of what was to be seen when travelling through the Dominions. I boarded the train, and remember well what I saw whenI reached that portion of the route that was given over to Australian scenery. There was a mural painting depicting Burke and Wills dying in the Australian desert! That was the sort of advertisement that was provided by men who were sent specially to England to induce Englishmen to come out to this wonderful country. Another picture showed the landing of Captain Cook. That was an historic pageant showing a number of Australian blacks mingling with a crowd of British marines. Oh the vessel by which I returned to Australia in 1911 there were about 250 passengers in the third class. One day the captain informed me that some of the passengers had suggested that I would be a suitable person to tell them something of Australia. I agreed to do so, and repeatedly after dinner I would go to the third-class dining saloon, and, standing on the table, would speak to these men and women of things Australian. They were very anxious to know what sort of a country it was to which they were journeying. They had been handed pamphlets such as were so aptly described last night by the honorable member for Wimmera, but of the actual conditions obtaining in Australia they knew little. They wanted to know, amongst other things, what was the cost of clearing land. One man questioned, me on that subject, and I pointed out to him that we had mountain, plain, and scrub lands, and that it was necessary that he should be more specific. Strange to relate, he then asked me whether I knew anything of the district of Cooyar, where the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) had a farm at the time. I knew the country, and could give him some idea of the cost of clearing the land there.
Honorable members will now understand why I asked the Prime Minister whether on each vessel bringing immigrants to Australia an accredited agent of the Department would be placed. It may not be feasible to send an officer all the way out from England, and possibly an officer of the Department in London would not be in touch with conditions existing here. I therefore suggest that the Australian Immigration Office should co-operate with the London office, and that officers should travel from Capetown to Fremantle, or, in the case of vessels coming out via” Suez, from Colombo to Fremantle, and should be provided «with the latest information. They should know the conditions existing in the various States, and should be able to advise an immigrant whether he should land at Fremantle or come on to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane. It is unnecessary for me to enlarge on this subject. I hope that if the matter has not previously been considered, attention will be given to it by the Prime Minister and those who are connected with the Immigration Department.
– I quite agree with the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley). The information I have obtained from Mr. Gullett is that it is proposed to do what the honorable member suggests. A great deal will depend upon the officer who is sent out with immigrants. When I was returning from the Old Country a few weeks ago, I had an opportunity of speaking to 1,100 men, women, and children in the third class. They asked me to talk to them, and I was glad to tell them what I knew concerning this country. I told them, not of the Australia of which we read in books, but of the real Australia. I told them that a man could be very hard up here; I told them how hard up I had been, and what, in my opinion, were the opportunities for a person who was prepared to work. I found those people were very ready to listen, and I think it did them good to be told the facts concerning this country. I shall take an opportunity of discussing this matter with Mr. Gullett. My own opinion is that everything depends on the officer who is selected to travel with the immigrants. There are men who have lived in Australia all their lives, but do not know Australia. They have lived only in o’ne or other of our great cities, and know nothing of the country’s vastness or its possibilities, but information such as the honorable member has referred to is invaluable, and I shall do what I can to see that it is supplied.
– I object to the proposed expenditure of £88,000 on advertising Australia for immigration purposes. If we were to devote our activities to an effort to make this country what it ought to be for those who live in it to-day - if we were to endeavour to make it a country where immigrants on arrival would have reasonable opportunities - there would be no need to spend £8,000, to say nothing of £88,000 on advertising it. “ The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said that this money will be necessary if the arrangement he is trying to make with the States materializes. We have no guarantee, however, that the arrangement contemplated will ever be finalized, and I have no doubt that if we vote this money, all of it, or some of it, will be spent before the end of the financial year. My attention has been called to the fact that £162,000 is to be spent in assisting immigration at £38 for each immigrant, which means 4,200 persons, and, in order to obtain these, we are going to spend £88,000 in advertising. I am sure that if an advertising agent went to a business man with a proposition of that kind he would be promptly turned down. I rose more particularly to protest against one phase of immigration. The Prime Minister has told us that there is an organization known as the New Settlers League in Australia, which is being subsidized by the Government to the extent, I believe, of £5,000. Does the Government exercise any authority over the personnel of the League? Prom what I see in New South Wales and other States, it is mainly comprised of gentlemen whom I suspect to be anxious for cheat) labour. I notice that some in New South Wales are advocating a scheme of immigration on the Canadian system, that is, to give a company authority to construct a railway and to take alternate blocks for immigrants along the route.
– The League cannot be used to get cheap labour here, in view of our Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts.
– I am not accusing the Government of assisting any movement with a view to cheap labour, but status is being given by the Government to people who advocate such schemes. I remind honorable members that Sir Joseph Carruthers, in New South Wales, has a wild scheme for the immigration of 1,000,000 farmers, who are to be placed on farms at £32 each. That is not the sort of proposition to put before immigrants. I object entirely to the gentlemen who comprise the New Settlers League being permitted to dabble in our immigration policy, because I suspect that they are only acting in their own interests. The Prime Minister mav talk of the Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts; but if the labour market becomes glutted, and we have tens of thousands, instead of hundreds, of unemployed, these Boards and Courts will prove to be of very little avail. I wish it to be clearly understood that whatever my suspicions are of the New Settlers League, I do not accuse the Government of any desire to participate in any sinister movement. For the reasons I have given, I shall oppose the spending of every penny on immigration until the people already in Australia are given employment, and those who desire land have it provided for them.
.- I cannot allow the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) to go unchallenged. There is no idea of bringing immigrants and putting them on land costing £32 per acre.
– I never said there was any such idea ; I was speaking of a. scheme in New South Wales involving £32 a farm.
– In Queensland we have 419,000,000 acres of land, of which no less than 400,000,000 is still Crown lands. It is not as if these lands were held by large holders, for much of it is not utilized at all. When I was in the Queensland State Parliament I asked how much land there was in Queensland untenanted, and I was told that there was then 137,000,000 acres. It was only by inducing squatters, whose tenure had just ceased, to go on to these untenanted lands further out at a small rental on thirty or forty years’ terms, that the land could be utilized ; and the land these squatters left was cut up into 10,000, 20,000, and 30,000 acre blocks, which were quickly taken up on lease by others. There are large areas of land in Queensland the leases of which are nearing termination, and there are millions of acres the leases of which have already terminated, and are held under occupation licence. Years ago in Queensland, 20,000 and 30,000 acres, and in some instances, 100,000 acres, were cut into farms, and reserved for immigrants, who were given at first assistance up to £800 each, but which was subsequently increased to £1,200, on the basis of £1 for £1 on. the first £200 they spent on improvements, and, after that, 15s. in the £1. The men who took up those lands all did well. In my own electorate there are 13,700,000 acres, large areas of which have been selected by the second and third sons of Victorian farmers, whose efforts are meeting with great success. There is one country industry in Queensland of which very little is known in other parts of Australia. The Queensland Government have distributed sufficientseed to plant 40,000 acres of cotton alone, and at the present time there are over 20.000 acres planted. The cotton crops in America and elsewhere are practically a failure, largely because in America they are attacked by a kind of worm; and I may say that the wages paid in America for picking cotton are just as high as the wages paid for agricultural work in Australia. I am sure that in Queensland large numbers of immigrants could find employment in cotton and maize growing, and dairying, if a proper arrangement were made by the Commonwealth Government with the State Government, to throw the land open for selection, and have it ready for the new arrivals. In many parts of Canada people cannot work on the land for five to seven months out of the twelve on account of the snow, whereas in Queensland work can be carried on from one year’s end to the other. If the plan adopted years ago in Queensland were now followed, and experimental farms established, the new farmers would be able to get all the necessary instruction, including the purchase of stock. There is room in that State for thousands and tens of thousands of people in the dairying industry, and’ in cotton and maize-growing. On the Upper Burnett there are 4,000,000 acres available, and this land has been waiting for years for settlers. All that is required is a reasonable arrangement with the State Government. The great drawback is that for the lust four or five years the State Parliament, instead of granting freeholds, have insisted on the perpetual lease’ system, which is greatly objected to, because it means periodical revision of rents, which may be based on the return a man is making out of his land, so that those who work the hardest might he the most penalized. This has retarded the progress of Queensland; but, as I say, all that is necessary is some arrangement with the Governments on terms acceptable to both vendors and purchasers.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In regard to the next items on the Estimates - CommonwealthShipping and Commonwealth Lino of Steamers - I ask whether it is proposed to go straight on with them, or whether it will be possible to proceed with the other Estimates, which it is urgently necessary we should pass. I suggest that honorable members ought to have time to fully debate the difficult shipping matters without holding up the rest of the Estimates.
.- The request that has been made means a lot to very many workmen. Two ships are to bo built at Cockatoo Island, and the Prime Minister said recently that he did not feel inclined to proceed with them until the House had come to a decision with regard to the policy of shipbuilding.
– That is so.
– In the circumstances, it is not fair to the men employed at Cockatoo Island to tie up these works indefinitely. The shipbuilding policy should be discussed atonce, and a decision reached thereon. I think I may fairly ask that this discussion be proceeded with to-morrow, so that if the House decides toproceed with the construction of these ships the men concerned may have employment.
– There is something in what the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) says. I suggest that we compromise by postponing the consideration of the shipbuilding proposals to-morrow, and proceeding with those of the Treasurer. We can then discuss the shipbuilding policy on Tuesday. The discussion of this matter could not be concluded to-morrow; it will probably occupy more than one day.
– Does the Prime Minister promise definitely that the discussion on shipbuilding will be reached on Tuesday?
– All right.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat 10.48 p.m
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211124_reps_8_98/>.