9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the unprofitable experience of fruit exporters last year, is the Prime Minister taking any action to bring about a reduction in the freight on fruit for the ensuing season?
– The Gowerament has been trying formany months past to effect some reduction in the freight, on: fruit sent from Australia to the. Home macket.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whatsteps ifanyhas been takento further the promiseofthe ex-Minister for Defence that consideration would be given to the question of including,within the provisions, of the Superannuation Act member of the: Defence-. Force?
-A schemetocover those members, of the Defence Forcewho aro not includedin the scope of the Superannuation Act is at present under the. consideration of the Government,
askedthe Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The. answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The following papers were presented : -
Invalid and OJd-age Pensions Act - Statement for 1922-23.
Royal Australian Naval College - Annual Report, 1922.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (PubliscService)Act-Deter minatiomby the Arbitrator - No. 10 of1923- Australian Postal Electricians UnionNo.13 - Common wealth Telegraph Traffic and Supervisory Officers Association.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Croydon, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Norfolk Island Act-Ordinance of 1923 - No. &. Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) .
Balance of proposed vote - £58,948.
Mr.NELSON (Northern, Territory) [II.7]. - I have heard a great deal in. this Chamber about the necessity for assisting the primary producers. In my opinion, a better method of assisting the cattle-raising industry could be adopted thanthe grant of a beauty on the ex- port ofmeat. The bounty can be only collected after the producer has. found a market for hie product, and that being so, it is imperative that the Government should find markets for it. I am of opinion that these markets tan befound if the matter isdealtwith systematically I have here a letter from the East, and I Will read sufficient of whatitcontain to show that markets are available, in Eastern coantaries for the products of the pastoral industry. This letter is the outcome of negotiations with. an. Eastern firm, with a view to opening up a market for Australian meat, and particularly meat produced in the Northern Territory. At the time the negotiations were opened, the Government had a freezing works in the Northern Territory, and. if was anticipated that its use would be of considerable benefit to pastoratiste. in. enabling them to put their meat on Eastern markets. Subsequently the. Government closed the freezing works, and centered into an agreement with a private concern without making any provision whatever for the cold storage, necessary to encourage the export trade. The writer of the letter says -
Can you contract 100 tons for the Government ; 75 tons for others, monthly? I have been in conversation with one of tha Army Service officers, who is also a director of the Supply Board, and ho told mo they wore very dissatisfied with the quality of meat being supplied at the present time. He wanted to know from me what possibilities there were to encourage the Sopply Board to make a contract with an Australian firm to supply their requirements in frozen meat direct as against their present system of letting a contract for supplies to a localfirm.
The Government should take this matter up seriously, becauseI believe it would mean a trade of from 500 to 600 head of stock per month, and that would only be the nucleus of a very considerable trade with Eastern ports. The writer of the letter further says -
There is a big business in this. It will not only mean an army contract, but others such ‘as the police .force, which, is nearly as big .as the .army, the prisons, the hospitals, &c. At the present time a contract is let to a local firm that imports live-stock, and slaughters here as required. That is not satisfactory, as the cattle arrive in very poor condition, and there is no feed to fatten them.
Were it not that the Government has closed its freezing worts this trade could be .undertaken at once with very beneficial results to’ the primary producers of the Northern Territory. If the Government will not carry on its freezing works in the Northern ‘Territory it should let some one else do so.
I should like to refer., in connexion with a proposed vote of £3,000 for the maintenance of destitutes and lepers, to a matter of considerable importance. Honorable members, are probably -not aware of the inhuman treatment meted out to lepers in the Northern Territory. On an island not far from Darwin a station for lepers has been established. There are from ten to fifteen persons of hoth sexes at that station. It is located on a low-lying island in the harbor that is infested with mosquitoes and sand flies. These lepers are just tipped on to the island and left there. There are Chinese, half-castes, and others, and they are interbreeding. At low tide they can easily get ,to the mainland, and they frequently do ibo, and may thus convey the dread disease from which they suffer throughout the Territory. I am told that .the offspring of lepers, no matter to what (extent the parents have been affected by the disease, are io all intents and purposes free from it, but it reappears in , the third generation. If this is so, the disease may be spread throughout Australia. ‘ It is inhumane on the part of the Federal Government to establish a -station of this kind, and then leave it absolutely uncontrolled. I understand that a visit is paid about once a month by a medical man from the mainland, but beyond that there is no supervision. It is the duty of the Government to attend to this matter at .once. The difficulty of proper supervision arises at present from the fact that apart from the quarantine doctor, whose work is confined to duties connected with his Department, there is only one medical nian in the Northern Territory. On the Estimates are two amounts of £550 and £100 for the Government Medical Officer, who has ako a monopoly of the ‘medical practice of the entire Territory. He must find it unprofitable to attend to the lepers on the island seeing that he has a more remunerative practice on the mainland. It is obviously the duty of the Government to insure proper supervision over the leper station. It is not sufficient to place a sum of £3,000 on the Estimates and then leave the unfortunate sufferers to -attend to themselves.
The treatment of bali -castes is another problem in the Northern Territory. Young girl’s in employment are brought in contact with the public through the employers, away from the influence of the matron of the compound, and invariably before they are sixteen years of age they are returned to the compound in a state of pregnancy, and often diseased. The matron has made numerous appeals to be allowed to segregate the half-castes and give them domestic training. Better handling of the half-caste boys is also necessary. ‘The Public Works Department and other Government services in the. Territory could be effectively utilized for the training of these boys. The only solution of the half-caste problem that I can suggest is the training of both sexes until they are old enough to inter-marry. The present system practically condemns the half-caste girls to a life of prostitution, and Government neglect condones it. The report of the .matron of the compound should receive more consideration, and, as she has vast ‘experience of the natives, and understands the requirements of the half -castes particularly, her advice should be acted upon.
Another desirable reform is the introduction of definite regulations governing the employment of natives. I assure honorable members that Mrs. Harriet BeecherStowe, who, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, exposed the herron of negro slavery in America, would shudder if she could know of -the conditions imposed upon the natives in the Northern Territory. The system of employment is to collect natives regardless of sex, and take them .to -various works. They are given clothes while they are at <work, -and when the job is finished they are deprived of them and sent back to the bush. Should a cattle man decide to annex a black boy’s lubra he does so by force. J ‘have known of a boy whose lubra had been stolen by a white man, to track the abductor until he came upon his camp at night, and then to recover the woman. He was then chased by horsemen and captured, chains were hung round his neck, he was tied to the stirrups, dragged alongside the horse for miles, and finally flogged. Those are the abuses that are possible under the present administration of the Aborigines Act. I admit that Mr. T. J. Beckett administered the Act in a most humane spirit, but because he was fearless and had the courage to inform the Administrator of abuses and of reforms that would be to the benefit of the natives and prevent cruel treatment by their employers, his position was abolished. His was not an isolated case. Any official in the Northern Territory who has the courage of his convictions, and dares to condemn the prevailing order of things soon finds that he has lost his position.
On the Estimates is an item of £350 for the printing of the Northern Territory Gazette. “We hear a lot about the Treasurer’s desire for economy, and I propose to show where a further saving could have been made if honesty prevailed in the administration of Departments. Some time ago tenders were called for the printing of the Northern Territory Gazette. Two were received, one from an office with an obsolete hand-setting plant, and the second from an establishment with a linotype and complete uptodate plant necessary for the economical and efficient production of a newspaper. The price tendered by the latter was £200, and by the obsolete printing establishment £350, and on the advice of the Administrator the higher tender was accepted. It was impossible for the successful tenderer to do as good work as his rival, but the latter had had the courage to expose many anomalies and shortcomings in the, Northern Territory Administration. For that reason only a contract Avas let for the printing of the Gasette for £150 more than the price at which it could have been more efficiently produced in another office. Personal considerations should not influence the Administration; efficiency should be the governing factor: The unsuccessful tenderer was prepared to offer a most substantial guarantee, but a vin-
Mr. Helton. dictive Administrator ,had decided that he should not get the contract, and it seems to be the invariable practice of Ministers in Melbourne to be guided by the Administrator. I use the word “ vindictive “ deliberately, and I refer honorable members to tine report of a Queensland Royal Commission, comprising three Judges, which unanimously found some years ago that the gentleman who is now Administrator of the Northern Territory was tyrannical and vindictive. He is not the type of man who can best promote the development of the Territory, and I think the Government might seriously consider the abandonment of the present system of administration. I advocate the substitution of an Advisory Council. The Territory might be cut ‘ into four divisions, each of which should elect a representative to the Council. In this way a full measure of representation would be given to all interests in the Territory. The expense of that system would be far less than the present cost of administration. The Government is paying the Administrator a salary of £1,500 per annum and expenses, and it proposes to create a Land Board at a cost of £2,000 or £3,000 pei’ annum. I claim that it would be in the interests of the Northern Territory if the position of Administrator were abolished and an Advisory Council established, of which the Government Secretary should be chairman. At its inception, the Council should comprise four members, and I do not suggest that the representation should be on a population basis. I am not wedded to the democratic principle of representation where the development of a big unpopulated area like the- Northern Territory is involved. Full representation should be given to all interests, irrespective of the number of people in each division. Of course, as the Territory advanced, and population increased, the representation should bc adjusted accordingly. I hope that in the interests of the development of the Northern Territory, Parliament will seriously consider the appointment of such a Council, which would be cheaper and more effective than the present system of administration.
Parliament should direct also that intending settlers in the Territory shall be exempt from taxation for a number of years. That would not involve a very great loss of revenue, because at the present time the receipts are small. I put forward this suggestion solely as a means of encouraging development. That concession was extended to the settlers in New Guinea, and I think was made retrospective for a number of years. The same principle should be applied to the Northern Territory, but the exemption should be for a definite period only.
The abolition of trial by jury” in the Northern Territory has fomented trouble and discontent, and will continue to do so. The withdrawal of a right that was wrung for the English people from King John, and has been enjoyed by Britishers ever since, is provoking dissatisfaction, and may possibly lead to something worse in the near future. I have seen witnesses taken into the Court house on several days preceding a trial, and rehearsed in the evidence they were to ,give against a white man. I can prove beyond dispute that this has occurred. Without a jury, in. the name of Heaven, what white citizen is safe if the authorities can manipulate black witnesses in this way, and rehearse their evidence before the trial takes place? It should not be necessary for me to appeal to Parliament to restore to the Territory trial by jury, which is a fundamental right in a British community.
For many years the Administration has grappled with the problem of providing shipping to meet the requirements of settlers, and so far every attempt to establish a satisfactory service has proved abortive, not because it is impossible to do these things, but because of the unfortunate state of the administration of the Northern Territory. The vessels are engaged in service for practically five months, and lying idle for the remainder of the year. Other boats of considerably less tonnage consistently ply their trade all the year round. The Rachael Cohen, which has been obtained by the administration - and I hope it is not another coffin ship - is fifty or one hundred years bid. I doubt very much whether that craft is seaworthy. An adequate shipping service is essential for the .proper development of the Northern Territory, and this is certainly not the type of boat to give the best service. Owing to the lack of facilities, and the perpetual bungling of the Department, I have known settlers’ teams to be on the banks of a river for three months awaiting the arrival of boats. No settler can afford to have a man and a team of horses idle for that period. The settlers, in despair, depart. The boat comes along and dumps the supplies on the river bank. The wet season arrives, the river overflows its banks, and away go the whole of the stores. These occurrences are well-‘ known to the Administration, but no intelligent suggestion has been made by them to remedy this state of affairs. The’ system of administration has been tried and found wanting. An Advisory Board would not have full executive powers, but would be purely a medium of communication between the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth Government. The advice of such a Board would be of considerable advantage to this Parliament.
The mining industry in the Northern Territory can be successfully developed. The experience of every civilized country in the world is that mining ‘towns grow in a night like mushrooms. No item appears on the Estimates for the encouragement of mining. To the Northern Territory, Administrator that industry is a back number. The largest low-grade gold propositions in Australia are in the Northern Territory. The Minister, acting through this Parliament, will not allow persons to exploit the large mica fields and coal deposits there. Fourfifths of the area of the Northern Territory has been taken up in 1,000 square-mile blocks under oil and coal licences, and the licensees have not the slightest intention of working- or exploiting their leases. They hope that some one else will sink a bore or exploit the possibilities of adjoining blocks. If oil is struck, they will amass wealth by virtue of the other man’s operations. For two years this position has obtained. I recently asked the Minister, ‘ in view of the great importance of coal to the Northern Territory, and of the noncompliance with the conditions of the licences, if he would cause them to be forfeited so as to enable proved coal-fields to be immediately worked. He replied that the Government were obtaining the services of a famous geologist to report on the indication of oil and .coal deposits in the Northern Territory, and that until such time as he had reported, the licensees could ignore the terms of the licences. These conditions, which are at present operating in the Northern Territory, are condoned by the present Government. A guarantee has been given to the Government that actual deposits of coal will be disclosed immediately the licences axe declared void. I trust the Government will appoint an Advisory Board to. remedy the present disastrous system of administration in the Northern Territory.. I regret that time will not. permit of me speaking longer. I have still quite a lot to tell this Committee.
Progress, reported. declaration of urgency. -
Mr. Bruce having declared the Estimates to be urgent,
Question - That the Estimates of expenditure are of an urgent nature - put -
The House divided.
Majority … …13
Question’ so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the time allotted for the consideration of. the Estimates shall be -
For I. - The Parliament, and II. - ThePrime Minister’s Department, until 4 o’clock p.m. this day.
For III. - The Department of the Treasury, until 6 o’clock p.m. this day.
For IV. - The Attorney-General’s Department, until half-past8 o’clock p.m. this day.
For V. - The Home and Territories. Department, until half-past 10 o’clock p.m.. this day.
For VI. - The Department of Defence, until half-past 2 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
ForVII. - The Department of Trade and Customs, until half-past 4 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
For VIII.- The Department of Work and Railways, until half-past6 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
For IX.-The Postmaster-General’s. Department, until half-past10 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
For X. - The Department of Health, and XI. - War Services payable out of Revenue and. up to and including the reporting of the Resolution to the House and the adoption of the Report, until noontomorrow.
– This is the “gag.”
– The honorable member for Hume is out of order.
– It. is, a dastardly pro position.
– The honorable member for Yarra is, also out of order.
– I repeat that it is a dastardly proposition.
– The honorable member must not repeat statements which are out of order.
– The time allowed this year for the consideration, of the financial proposals, of the Government has: been generous. In comparison with thetime allowed in previous years it has. been exceptional. The Government felt, that it was desirable that honorable members should be giventhe fullest opportunity to consider the Budget statement, and, to express their views upon it. The. stability of the Commonwealth depends upon the financial proposals agreed to by, Parliament. Consequently the Government did not curtail the Budget debate,, or enforce any restrictions on, honorable members in regard to it The actual period occupied in discussing the Budget, this year was roughly, thirtytwo hours. Last year the timeoccupied was fifteen hours three, minutes. In the preceding year Parliament took fifteen and a half hours to discuss, the Budget statement. Honorable members will see, therefore, that this Budget and the financial proposals it covers have been discussed for just double the period’ occupied op the two occasionsto which I have referred’. The whole of the financial proposals and the general policy of the Government may be discussed on the first item of the Estimates. Honorable, members on. both sides of the House have availed themselves of this opportunity,, and have delivered lengthy speeches on our financial situation, and on the administration; of the variousDepartments. Now that than discussion is ended, it, is necessary to deal with the Estimates in, detail. While the Government recognises that honorable members would not occupy time unduly in this discussion, it felt that the Estimates should now be agreed to, so that the Departments may know the amount; available in the coming year for their administrative expenses’. Accordingly, Ministers have allotted a certain time for the discussion of the proposed expenditure in each Department. The timeso allotted is generous when compared with the time similarly occupied in previous years-.
– Why does not the right honorable gentleman say that he wants to catch his boat on the first of the month ? Be honest !
– Will the Prime Minister resume his seat. I shall insist on the preservation of order, and I trust that honorable members will not compel me to resort to extreme measures.
– You, sir, have never had a more difficult task.
– Will the Prime Minister let us get on with the business?
– Last year five and ahalf hours were occupied in discussing the details of the Estimates, so that the time allowed this year is fair and reasonable. It will give honorable members ample opportunity to deal with the specific matters, which arise out of the Estimates.
Mr. CHARLTON (Hunter), [11.52.).- Not only are the members of this House astounded at the attitude adopted by the Prime Minister, but I feel certain that the general public also will be. shocked. This motion has been brought forward for one reason-. It is to. permit the Prime Minister to close Parliament. before he goes abroad. On several occasions, I have informed the right honorable gentleman, on behalf of the Opposition, that he. can go abroad, and that we will give him a pair if he will allow the business, off the country to. be continued in, his. absence. That is a fair attitude to adopt. In place of meeting the position fairly and squarely, the Prime Minister has comsuited, his supporters,, who seem to. he a docile lot,, and they have evidently agreed to this proposal. So we have the spectacle of the right honorable gentleman, asking this House to bludgeon theseEstimates through. He. is adopting guillotine methods. We are asked to vote £60,000,000 between now and tomorrow morning. In. order to camouflage the. position, the Prime Minister has stated that full latitude, has been given to honorable membersin debating the Estimates and the Budget speech. The right honorable gentleman knows and so do most honorable members on the other side of the Chamber, that the most effective work with respect to the Estimates is done in Committee.
– Hear, hear !
-Those honorable members who do not know this will soon find that it is so. Honorable members deal with matters in a general way when discussing a Budget speech. They voice their views so that other honorable members may consider them, and determine how they will act when detailed proposals are before them. Many matters- in the Estimates require careful consideration by this Chamber. Several honorable members have indicated that they are not satisfied with proposals made in the Budget. I refer particularly to the Government’s immigration policy. Under the motion proposed by the Prime Minister we are asked to conclude our discussion on this important matter by 4 o’clock to-day. It is now noon. Can this Parliament by 4 o’clock,, consider fairly, and; come to a decision on, such an important matter as the re-organization of the Immigration Department?
– That is only one matter.
– That is so. We have to complete our consideration of two Departments by that time. It is proposed that we shall deal with all the Departments in the same way. Will honorable members be willing in this way to vote huge amounts of money, and to allow the waste that is going on to continue? The Government has made no provision for re-organizing the Immigration Department. Many honorable members admit that re-organization is badly needed. Complaints are made in the public press nearly every day that we are obtaining the wrong class of settlers. It is generally admitted that we have no proper arrangements for the supervision of immigrants, and that the methods of selection are most unsatisfactory. In spite of that, we are to be asked to agree to the expenditure of large amounts of money on immigration, without any undertaking that improved methods of handling the situation will be adopted. I do not wish to speak at length on this motion, because much better use could be made of the time in discussing the items of the Estimates.For that reason I shall ask my friends on this side of the House not to debate the matter at length . It is to be understood that; on behalf of the Labour party, I am making an emphatic protest against this proposal. As it is, we shall not have sufficient time to deal with immigration matters.
– Has not the subject been debated for days?
– It has, and in consequence of that debate, honorable members should be given an adequate opportunity to decide what should be done. We have reached the period when money must be voted for immigration purposes. The general debate led us nowhere.
– We have debated the subject, and nowwe shall have time to decide what to do.
– The honorable member knows that this matter merits our most careful consideration. In the time allowed by the Prime Minister we cannot give that thorough attention that we ought to give to the subjects which willcome before us. If honorable members want certain items reduced or removed from the Estimates altogether they must give reasons. Very little opportunity for that is afforded by this motion. The acceptance of this motion will really prevent honorable members from properly carrying cut their duties. The only reason for asking us to spend £60,000,000 between now and to-morrow morning is that the Prime Minister may close Parliament before he leaves these shores to attend the Imperial Conference. When the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) wished to attend the Imperial Conference, he made arrangements for Parliament to continue sitting. Why does not the present Prime Minister do that? Is he afraid of his colleagues? Surely he does not suggest that they are incapable of carrying on the affairs of the country during his absence. If so, he thinks very little of the Treasurer, who is supposed to be his right-hand supporter. Surely the Treasurer could control affairs if he had a pair for the Prime Minister. Are there no other honorable gentlemen in the Ministry who are capable of leading the Government during the absence, of the Prime Minister? What about the Attorney-General ? What about our old friend, the Minister for Trade and Customs? Are they not capable? Yet it is not to be. The Prime Minister has made his declaration, and apparently he intends to give effect to it, and close this Parliament. The Estimates are the most important business with which Parliament has to deal. During my membership of this House I have no recollection of the guillotine having been used in connexion with the Estimates.
– Oh, yes it has.
– The Government know that when those Estimates are passed to-morrow morning it can close Parliament until next June.
– -We are not taking the Appropriation Bill through now.
– Once the Estimates are passed the Government can carry on. I realize that I am occupying valuable time in debating this question. Possibly I should not speak at such length. I wish to obtain a vote on many important matters which will come before us in the Estimates. It is necessary, however; that this party should register a most emphatic protest against the manner in which the Government propose wantonly to expend public moneys in certain directions. Though I shall curtail my remarks, I wish it to be distinctly understood that the Labour party is thoroughly unanimous in entering this protest against the attempt of the Government to bludgeon these Estimates through the House without proper consideration. The general discussion on the. Budget does not in any way assist us in dealing with particular votes, seeing that there is no opportunity then to move amendments. There is a heavy public debt, and it is generally admitted that there ought to be reductions of expenditure in certain directions. Honorable members who support this motion are shirking their duty to the country, and for this they are responsible to their constituents. We on this side have a clear conscience. The onus and responsibility for the action of the Prime Minister this morning rests on him and his supporters. In the last Parliament the discussions on the Estimates saved the country half-a-million of money, but today we are deprived of the opportunity to reduce them by1s. It is absolutely impossible to effectively deal with the Estimates with the guillotine hanging over our heads. If the whole two hours is taken up in the discussion of one item, then not only that item, but all the other items in the Division must be voted on at once. Is this responsible government as we know it ? I venture to say that it is - as we know it, but it is a new departure in “responsible government.” The people of Australia expect their representatives to give their time and attention to the work of the country, and that work includes the curtailing of expenditure as far as possible. We shall in the time at our disposal do our utmost to focus attention on certain questions, and we hope that the common sense of honorable members on all sides will lead them to support any proposal we make if they think it a just one.
– It is right and proper, in the face of the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and its consequences, that those who are unable to accept this policy as desirable for the country should enter a protest against what is proposed. This I do. It has been my good fortune to be a member of the Commonwealth Parliament since its inception. I have seen many Governments in power, and was a member of a Government which possessed an overwhelming and homogeneous majority, being supported by a party held together by the most perfect bonds of discipline. When my then Leader (Mr. Fisher) was in England, I was left in charge. But even that Government,notwithstanding that it had a majority in both Houses of this Legislature, ‘ never attempted, as this Government is attempting, to weaken the functionsand interfere with the rights of the representatives of the people. Such a motion as that now before us is without parallel in the history of the Commonwealth, and I never heard of such procedure in the House of Commons, the Mother of Parliaments. The right of members to discuss and control the public expenditure is the foundation of the people’s liberty. Without that right, what is responsible government? While we control expenditure, we control the Government; we hold in out hands the affairs of the country, and can direct the course of public policy. The Prime Minister insists, I understand, that this afternoon two Departments of the Estimates must be disposed of. He has told us how many hours and minutes were occupied in discussing the Budget. Although the right honorable gentleman is a newcomer in this assembly, he cannot be utterly ignorant of the fact that on previous occasions any attack made on the financial proposals of a Government has been on the Estimates. The Budget is a sort of preliminary canter, and, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said, anything practical must be done on the Estimates. The Budget debate is mere criticism, availing much or little, but in itself effecting nothing. One hour spent on the consideration of the Estimates is more profitable to the country than twenty hours spent on discussing the Budget. Ministers claim that they took office to restore responsible and representative government, to give the people’s representatives the opportunity to control the public expenditure, which, according to the Treasurer and his supporters, had been taken away from them by previous Administrations. The present action stamps the Government and its supporters for what they are. For my part, I shall oppose “this motion. Here I can do nothing; but where I can do much I shall do it.
– I do not complain of what the Government is doing, for the time will come when we on this side will have an opportunity to get somebody eke “ in the neck “ ; and I can imagine some honorable members squealing when that day comes.
– We will not do as this Government is doing.
– I hope we shall.
– I rise to draw attention to the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), so that they may not pass without challenge. The right honorable gentleman has pointed out to the House, and the country, that a longer time has been devoted to the discussion of the Budget this session than on any previous occasion. That is not our fault; in any case, the Prime Minister has a mutual responsibility, seeing that he adroitly allowed his followers to occupy time, and thus drag out the debate. Having done that, he proposes to make the time devoted to the more important Estimates the shortest on record.
– No, no; only five hours were devoted to the Estimates last year.
– I am not complaining. The last thing I would do would be to complain. I take what is coming, and hit back when I can - that is my motto. I can quite understand the Prime Minister taking up his present attitude. My Leader (Mr. Charlton) has suggested that there are honorable gentlemen opposite who could take over the control of the Government in the absence of the Prime Minister, and that Parliament could well proceed with business while he is away. But my Leader is wrong. Parliament could not be carried on in the absence of the Prime Minister. Irrespective of himself, there is no ability on the front bench; in his absence the Government does not exist. His following has no capacity of thought, speech or action; it is only through the Prime Minister that it can speak, and in his absence it cannot live. Previous Governments have always had at least one or two members capable of taking command. On the occasion to which the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) referred just now, he was left on the front bench - I was left on the back bench. In his absence the right honorable member, when Prime Minister, could rely on you, Mr.
Speaker, on the present Prime Minister, and also on the then member for Richmond (Mr. Massy Greene). The present Prime Minister is not in that happy position, and we can onlyextend to him our hearty sympathy. No man now associated with the Prime Minister is capable of conducting the business of the country, and so he has no alternative but to close Parliament while away. Well, we can only enter our protest, and this we do. We shall speak as long as we are permitted, and when the knife falls, we perish !
– It is interesting to hear., on the floor of the National Parliament, such expressions as have fallen from the lips of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). He has shown us almost the acme of “hypocrisy - he has shown us what “ speaking with the tongue in the cheek “ really means.
– The Treasurer hasused an unparliamentary term, inattributing to an honorable member the virtue, or the guilt, of hypocrisy.
– I withdraw the word. When the right honorable member for North Sydney, who has spoken with so much heat, was leader of theGovernment, he introduced his Budgets, not in the first month of the year, as this Government hasdone, giving Parliament an ‘opportunity to examine the details of the expenditure, hut, on one occasion, in the eleventh month of the financial year and., on two ‘Occasions, in the twelfth month. He practically said to honorable members, “ The whole of the money has been spent, and now you can talk as long as you like.” So far as I can ascertain the right honorable gentleman is the only leader of a Government, in the whole history of this Parliament, who spent huge sums of money which were never authorized by the House.
– Address yourself to the Prime Minister, who was Treasurer when the right honorable member for North Sydney was Prime Minister.
– The present Prime Minister wasnot Treasurer when the right honorable (member for North Sydney was leading a Labour Govern- merit. However, on the present occasion there has been the most- prolonged debate on the Budget that ever took place in the Commonwealth Parliament. Practically thirty hours have been given to the discussion, and honorable members know that Ministers deliberately refrained from speaking in order that the opportunities of honorable members should not be curtailed. Then, again, it is proposed to devote twenty-four hours to the consideration of the Estimates, and to this the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) strenously objects.
– I have a recollection of the honorable gentleman similarly objecting last year.
– I then wished the Estimates to be postponed, and, failing that, I let them pass. I remind honorable members that last year we voted on the Estimates £2,000,000 more than is proposed on the present Estimates, and in five hours and seventeen minutes. The arrangement proposed by the Prime Minister will be approved by the general community as quite proper in the circumstances, and as insuring to every Department a definite allotted time to enable its items to be debated. It’ is suggested that this has never been done before. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) says that such a thing is unheard of in the history of Parliament. I have noticed every time the honorable gentleman speaks that he has the most conveniently short memory of any man I have ever heard of. When the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was Treasurer in the right honorable gentleman’s government an exactly similar motion was put in this Chamber, and was withdrawn only to enable the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) to make a statement. I have explained the true position, and it is just as well that the House and the public should know it.
.- The Treasurer has charged honorable members on this side with hypocrisy, and he has given the best possible example of hypocrisy in his own speech.
– The honorable member may not refer to a phrase which, on exception being taken to it, has been withdrawn.
– I will say that the honorable gentleman talked with his tongue in his cheek. When the Government, under the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), put the Estimates through in the last Parliament in five and a half hours, no one protested more strongly than did the present Treasurer. He stood in the Country party’s corner, and exuded wrath because the Government were rushing through votes for the expenditure of public money. He accused the ex-Prime Minister of lack of consideration and of nearly every political crime in the calendar. He charged his present leader with the same things. Many of his gibes were directed against the present Prime Minister. He is now backing up the right honorable gentleman in the course to which he previously objected, in order to let him get away to the Old Country, where he will do no more good than he did at the recent Conference with State Ministers. It is said that thirty hours have been spent on the Budget debate. I can say, perhaps with greater freedom than others, that that is not a long time to spend on the Budget, because I did not myself occupy a minute of that time. I admit that when a number of speeches have been delivered on a Budget there is a good deal of repetition, and some time may have been spent in that way: I have never attempted to waste the time of Parliament, and I frankly admit that at certain times a Government is justified in limiting a debate. I admit that the guillotine may sometimes be fairly applied to curtail a general debate. I make the admission, because if I were on the Government side I would so apply it, and what I would do on the Government side I will not protest against from this side. But we are here dealing with an entirely different proposition. I sat silent through the general debate on the Budget, because I felt that what I had to contribute to a discussion on the finances of the country might, perhaps, be better left until we were actually voting the money to be expended. Now the Government propose to give honorable members twentyfour hours to discuss the Estimates. We are asked to rush through Estimates of expenditure at the rate of about £3,000,000 an hour. Any honorable member who knows anything of the Estimates will agree that it would not be possible to take even a division on each of the items in twenty-four hours. How can the Government say what par- ticular items honorable members wish to discuss? The estimate for one Department might fairly be passed in ten minutes, whilst it would not be unreasonable to occupy the whole twenty-four hours in discussing the Estimates of another Department. If the Government proposal is agreed to honorable members will be1 denied the opportunity to carry out their obligations to the people. I said that the proposal of the Prime Minister is a dastardly proposal, and was called to order for that, but I should like to use even stronger words. The fundamental function of Parliament is to control the finances of the country. We are asked to vote £60,000,000 of money within twentyfour hours. It might be a reasonable thing for the Government, in dealing with an ordinary debate, to say that so many hours should be given to members of the Opposition, and so many to members on their own side, and let the members on either side who desired to speak divide the time allotted. But that kind of thing cannot be done in dealing with the Estimates. If the twenty,four hours which the Government propose to. devote to the consideration of the Estimates were spread over three days, honorable members might discuss them intelligently and cast intelligent votes upon them. “ But the Government proposes that honorable members shall sit for twenty-four hours on end to pass the Estimates, and there is not a member of. this House who is physically capable of doing justice to the Estimates in such circumstances. We shall have the press commenting upon members asleep on the benches, and then criticising Parliament for rushing the Estimates through. Whatever justification the Government may have for limiting a general debate, there is none for applying the guillotine to the consideration of the Estimates. What is proposed is the passing of the Estimates by exhaustion. The Government have had no policy worth while to put before the Parliament, and all they want is tt> have the Estimates passed in order that they may close Parliament for the next six months,’ and let the Prime Minister get away to the Old Country. What have the Government to smother up to account for their desire to rush the Estimates through in the way proposed? Never in the history of Parliament has the guillotine been applied to the Estimates. If the Estimates went .through’ in five and a half hours on a previous occasion it may have been because Parliament .was satisfied that they were all right.
– What proportion of the £60,000,000 included in the Estimates of expenditure will, be debatable ?
– I do not know. I know only the items I desire to myself discuss. Does the honorable member know ( the amount covered by the votes upon which he desires to speak? Has he any responsibility in this House?
– There are certain votes which I should like to discuss.
– No one. can say how long the discussion upon particular votes should be. It is impossible to put a footrule over the Estimates. I have seen criticisms of the Opposition for permitting millions of money to be voted in a few minutes, but in those cases the proposed votes have been carefully examined before hand. The Opposition does not oppose merely because it is in Opposition, and if it has allowed votes representing millions to be rapidly passed it was because it was satisfied that they were all right.
– The Estimates were rushed through last year because we were going to the country; and many, members had returned to their homes when the Estimates were reached.
– I remind the Treasurer, not only of his own criticism of the last Government for the way in which they rushed the Estimates through, but also of the fate which befell that Government The same fate may befall the present Government. The Prime Minister may pretend to be a strong man and another Mussolini, but he appears to be strong only because, he has a slavish following of honorable members who will stand anything from him. Honorable members opposite went to the country fighting one another, and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) described the Budget of his present Leader as something abhorrent.
– The honorable member’s .time has expired.
.- My Leader, in speaking on this motion, suggested that the time taken up in discussing it would necessarily be deducted from that the Government propose to place at our disposal for the consideration of the various items of the Estimates. With that spirit of conciliation and moderation which makes the honorable gentleman the power he is in this House, he invited some of us to withhold further criticism of the motion now before us. I do not view the position quite in the same light. I conceive it to be my duty to meet abuses when they arise. This motion represents an abuse and invasion of the rights, not to mention the privileges, of the members of this House that ought to be met and fought at every stage. If the public do not understand or appreciate our point of view, it should not be our fault. I do not agree that in the day to come, when we will have, opportunities to give effect to our purpose, we must indulge in reprisals on the lines pursued by the Government. If I were a member of a Ministerial party twice as strong and much less composite than the party opposite, I would not advocate the policy which is bringing the present Government into discredit. .We have had a general discussion on the Budget. 1 do not know that any honorable member on this side was given the special privilege of speaking twice upon it, but I do know that many honorable members on this side did not speak upon it at all. I am one of those who, by reason of the representations made to us, refrained from discussing the Budget. I did not say a single word in the general discussion, relying upon the promise that ample time would be given to debate the details of the Estimates. It is an offence against the intelligence of honorable members for the Prime Minister to say that the limitation of debate is proposed on the ground that the Estimates are an urgent measure, and that a reasonable time is to be . allotted for their discussion on that basis. Ho knows, as does every other member of the House, that it is not a question of the urgency or other wise of the Estimates, though it would be absurd to say that they are urgent, the real purpose being that the right honorable gentleman may desert his place in this country and in this Chamber to go abroad upon a mission which, by comparison with the interests involved in the Estimates, is a very minor matter. The Prime Minister ironically interjects, “ Hear, hear,” as if what I am saying were the acme of absurdity. I believe that- the’ right ‘honorable gentleman sincerely believes that he can serve the interests of this country better by taking counsel with persons abroad than by remaining in Australia and attending to his duty as’ a responsible Minister of the Crown; but I do not agree with him. While the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) was speaking the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), continued to say ironically, “ Hear, hear,” when it was pointed out that apparently the honorable gentlemen seated behind the Government cannot -be trusted tlo carry on the business of the country in the absence of the Prime Minister. He might gracefully have remained silent, because if ever there was a party which showed its incapacity, lack of initiative, and determination not to accept one atom of responsibility, it is the party now sitting behind the Prime Minister. Not one ray of light has the Minister for Works and Railways let in upon any discussion in this Chamber. Last year he sat in the Corner, claiming to have a measure of courage and independence, and to be in sympathy to a large extent with the Labour party’s views and aspirations. He was the sworn enemy and critic of the Government of which the present Prime Minister was a leading light, but. as soon as his palm was touched by a gift from the enemy he became the Prime Minister’s most docile and silent follower, acquiescing in everything he does, and endeavouring to heap ridicule upon those persons with whom he professed to be in sympathy when he was an independent member of the House. And so it is with other members of the Cabinet. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) introduced two Bills to the House, and the Prime Minister said, “For God’s sake, say t no more,” and we have not seen those measures since. Now, apparently because they have formed no ideas, or if they have formed any they have not the courage to express them, honorable members opposite are satisfied to so parcel out the discussion of the items on the Estimates that the House may be able bo go into recess in time to enable the Prime Minister to catch a steamer for the other side of the world. If he must go, let him go. We cannot stop him. Honorable members opposite have, as they are so very fond of boasting, “ the numbers.” The Nationalist party went to the country as a strong body - not a composite party, but an independent party - and came back without the numbers. The Government obtained their numbers by association with those gentlemen of the Country party who had done their hardest to drive a dagger into their hearts when they were engaged in a contest before the people; but as “soon as they saw that their safety and seats depended upon accommodating themselves to the views they had attacked, they did it, and to-day they are able to make the proud boast that they “have the numbers.” The things of which they have divested themselves, and in respect of which they have left themselves naked, and unashamed, are the principles which they advocated before the electors. That is the reason why honorable members opposite have “the numbers” - that is the process by which they obtained them. Do not we, in our protest to-day, represent at leasthalf the people of Australia? If it is contended that we do not, add to the numbers represented by members of the Opposition those represented by the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) who made his protest today; the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), who made his protest last night, and those other honorable gentlemen who have expressed their opposition to the closing of Parliament, and it will be found that the Prime Minister is deserting his post in flat opposition to the expressed opinion of a large majority of the people. Against that procedure I shall make my protest at every opportunity; I shall not wait until 4 o’clock this afternoon. I shall not consent to this arbitrary arrangement by the Prime Minister of what we should do, what we should say, and what we should think. The right honorable gentleman is young in politics, and his experience is slight. He has a pliant and passive majority behind him, but he has yet a lot to learn, and the first lesson must be that, having made a long and tedious speech, and having taken all the time he required, and expected everybody to listen to him as though he were expounding the Gospels - having uttered those words of gilded wisdom, he has not said the last word that can be said on public matters of importance to the people of the Commonwealth.
– As I have no desire to come into conflict with the Chair at this early stage, I shall not apply to the Treasurer the words of his accusation against the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), but I cannot help thinking that the Treasurer’s criticism of the ex-Prime Minister applied equally to himself. It is very interesting to hear the Treasurer abusing the right honorable member for North Sydney, and vice versa. There is a good deal in what each says of the other; each is right on most occasions. But to-day the right honorable member for North Sydney has more merit oh his side than has the Treasurer. I should like 4o recall to the Treasurer’s mind a very interesting speech he made last year in circumstances similar to those of the present moment. The right honorable gentleman has a very short memory, but in the last Parliament he applied to a proposal, similar to that which the Government are adopting to-day, words of condemnation much stronger than have been uttered this morning by the Leader of the Opposition, and the honorable members for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and Batman (Mr. Brennan). On that occasion, the honorable member for Cowper, from his seat in the Corner, delivered a well-merited rebuke to the Government of the day. He was then in a position to express the opinions he held; he is no longer able to do so, he must do exactly as he is told, like any little school-boy threatened with punishment if he does not behave himself and learn his lessons. That speech was very apropos of the present situation. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) had moved a motion that the debate on the Budget and Estimates should be postponed until after the elections, and he was very eh>quent in his argument that the Estimates’ should not be bludgeoned through the House in a hurry. I have never heard the word “bludgeoned” used more often than it was by honorable members in the Corner at that time. And the then Leader of the Country party, the present Treasurer said: -
The amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has for its object the postponement of consideration of the Budget until after the election. The Chamber is now thoroughly disorganized, and is practically moribund. Many honorable members have already left to catch their trains for distant States. Yet, in a denuded Committee, itemized expenditure, amounting in all to £62.000,000, has come forward for debate. Such a position is not fair to this Committee, or to the taxpayers, or to the public at large. On a similar occasion three years ago, when the Government of the day wore preparing for an election, although there was a Government majority qf about twenty members, the Treasurer did not “ push “ the Budget debate or rush the Estimates thorough in a couple of days. The Government secured three and a half months’ Supply and went to the country; and then, upon the re-assembling of Parliament, they introduced the Budget. T)-e same course might well .be adopted now. Honorable members are weary after an allnight sitting. Not one of us desires to sit again throughout the night, but it appears to me that that course will be absolutely certain if the Government force us to continue. In such an event we will not be able to give fair and reasonable consideration to the ways in which this huge sum of money is to be spent. I urge the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) to consider the request of the honorable member for Wimmera.. His amendment has been moved only in order that our position might be made plain. The honorable member for Wimmera will be quite prepared to withdraw his amendment if the Government will acquiesce in his proposal. And, thereafter, honorable members of the Country party would willingly permit the necessary Supply Bill to pass through all stages, practically without discussion; and, as there are still a few more Bills to be more or less formally dealt with - but to which wo would not be able to afford reasonable consideration if an all-night sitting were again inflicted - the Government would do well to signify their acceptance of the suggestion. Almost all the members from distant States have either left Melbourne or have booked their berths to depart to-morrow. Such of the business as still remains to be disposed of, apart from the Estimates, could be facilitated. And, altogether, I commend to the Government the example which they set themselves on the eve of the last general election.
The honorable gentleman protested on that occasion against the rushing of the Estimates through the House, and another honorable gentleman sitting with him in the Corner said:
Year after, year, the Estimates have been bludgeoned through) but we succeeded two sessions ago in extorting from the Government a distinct pledge that such a procedure would no longer be followed. It is a burlesque on parliamentary procedure and a political debauch to deal with the Budget and the Estimates under these conditions.
This is a political debauch on the part of the Prime Minister to bludgeon the Estimates through this House. He said previously that he would allow two days , for this discussion. That arrangement is now to be destroyed as, according to him, the Estimates must be through by 4 o’clock to-morrow afternoon.
– The honorable member’s time ha0 expired.
.- I desire to emphasize the Labour party’s protest against the disgraceful method which is being adopted by the Government to bludgeon through this House Estimates providing for an expenditure of public funds amounting to £61,896,098. This procedure is extraordinary, in view of last night’s arrangement, that the Opposition should curtail their speeches. In my case, the time of debate was shortened from one hour . and thirty-five minutes to half-an-hour. The supporters of the Government should hide their faces in shame. The Government may expect from me as a private member uncompromising hostility in debate. It has outraged all canons of political decency, and in return will receive that treatment such disgraceful conduct merits. They are depriving members of this House - the responsible representatives of the people - of the opportunity to challenge the various items of the Estimates, and to receive an explanation why certain expenditure is proposed. The Government’s action tends to destroy the reputation of Parliament, and to impair the influence of responsible government.
– The time allotted to this discussion under the Standing Orders has expired.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2.15 p.m.
In Committee of Supply:
Balance of proposed vote, £58,948.
.- This is an important vote. Seeing that Parliament is no longer a deliberative assembly, we should consider whether we are justified in spending this money. In two more weeks Parliament is to be closed. Yet we are asked to vote £60,000 for the expenses incurred by this supposed custodian of the public weal. It has often been claimed that Parliament should have full control of the public purse, and that it should sit as frequently as is consistent with the requirements of the nation. It cannot be considered that Parliament, by sitting eleven weeks in two years, is fulfilling its purpose. The last Parliament closed in October, 1922 ; ten months have gone by, and Parliament may not meet again until next June. Notwithstanding the serious problems - some of which arose out of the war - which confront this country, Parliament is to be so remiss in its duty as to close down without the slightest justification. The finances of this country are in a very unsatisfactory condition, and require the closest attention of honorable members. Yet the Prime Minister’s request that Parliament shall close in a fortnight is to be granted. In that fortnight honorable members are asked to do the equivalent of four weeks’ work. We have been, sitting for additional days almost ever since Parliament opened, in order to cram as much work as possible into the short period allowed to us. That is against the best interests of the country, and does not result in efficient legislation. Honorable members cannot do their work efficiently when Bills are rushed through Parliamentlike meat through a sausage machine. Many Bills have been passed ; many are still on the paper, and others must arise out of the Budget. Why are we asked to facilitate business in this unreasonable way? Why are we to expend £60,000,000 of the country’s money without proper consideration ? It is simply to meet the desires of the Prime Minister. So far as I am aware, nobody else believes that Parliament should be closed. Generally speaking, when honorable members address their constituents, they say that Parliament is the watch dog of the people, and that it should keep an eagle eye on the expenditure of the country. It was also said that Parliamentary recesses should not last too long. How are we to give attention to the affairs of the country when Parliament is closed, and when honorable members are denied the right to give proper consideration to our expenditure and see that no unnecessary expense is incurred ?. People are groaning under the heavy load of taxation that has been heaped upon them. They want relief. For that reason we should scan carefully every line in the Estimates, but we are practically told that we must keep our mouths closed. Parliament is no longer a deliberative assembly. That was shown by the vote of the majority of honorable members this morning. They agreed that Parliament should close after only eleven weeks’ work. I do not say that members of Parliament do no work during recesses. I do say, however, that we are not justified in spending forty-one weeks of the year away from this House. It must be clear to honorable members that, at this time especially, we should exercise every care in our expenditure so that all ‘ possible relief from taxation may be afforded the people. It is idle for the Prime Minister, or any other honorable member, to talk about us having had a free discussion of the Budget. It is the right of all honorable members to give expression to their views on a Budget. That does not solve the difficulties. It is not possible for us, in the time at our disposal, to deal in detail with the items in such a way that we can effect economy. It is our duty, but no opportunity is given to us, to reduce expenditure, and to use the pruning knife when the circumstances warrant. The majority of this Committee, at a meeting held elsewhere, have decided to limit our discussion. I believe that that action was taken to stifle discussion for fear certain disclosures would be made which would not please honorable members. Every reason exists for suspicion that motives such as these have influenced honorable members. We shall not be able to’ say all we think on the matters that come before us, because time will not permit it. The right honorable the Prime Minister is not justified in permitting present conditions to continue in many Departments. I cannot deal with details at this stage, because I should be out of order. If an opportunity were open to me to discuss the details of the matters I have in mind, I should not be addressing the Committee as I am. Honorable members know the great need there is for re-organizing various Departments, but they are prepared by their vote to allow the expenditure of thousands of pounds under what they realize to be unsatisfactory conditions to go unchallenged.
– To which matters does the honorable member refer?
– The honorable member for Kooyong cannot put me out of order in that way. He knows that if I go into details I shall go outside the bounds of the debate.
– That is the trouble.
– I would not be making this speech at all if the prospect of a proper and reasonable debate were before us.
– The Standing Orders control the debate, and the honorable member knows that his party agreed to the Standing Orders.
– Standing Orders should be used in a proper way. No one can say it is fair or right to use the guillotine to prevent full consideration of the Estimates. I remember that last year, in consequence of consideration given to the defence vote by members of this party, a reduction of £500,000 was made. No one will deny that. In my opinion, at least £2,000,000 could be saved in these Estimates if reasonable time were allowed to discuss them.
– Why can we not save that money now?
– Because time will not permit the elucidation of the facts. Honorable members opposite, having decided elsewhere to keep their mouths closed while in this Parliament, and also to keep the mouths of other honorable members closed, they must answer for the consequences. What is worrying me is that we are carrying a very heavy load, and yet it it proposed to spend millions without proper consideration. Money is being wasted in many directions to-day. Honorable members have only to read statements in the press every day to know what is going on. Statesmen and leading men, not of the Labour party, who have travelled, remind us of the wasteful expenditure which the Government supporters are docile enough to sanction, merely in order to enable the Prime Minister to go to England. There are in the Committee at least a dozen members who would like to express their views on particular items in the Estimates, but are precluded from doing so.
– A great deal more time has been given to the consideration of the Estimates this year than was given last year. ,
– The honorable member is a political “ new ‘ chum,” if I may be allowed to say so, and would be told quite a differ- ent story by his predecessor. On the last occasion the Government had suddenly decided to appeal to the country, and many members had left Melbourne. A motion was submitted by the Country party to defer the Estimates until after the elections, and it was supported by the Labour party. Where are those members of the Country party now?
– That was an indica-tion that members were putting their own personal interests before those of the country.
– Exactly ; nobody knows the position better than the honorable member, who, in the last Parliament, was just as anxious as any one for economy.
– I was, and I shall vote for any reduction the honorable member may propose that I think reasonable.
– I believe the honorable member would, though I am afraid he will not have the opportunity. We are asked to pass this vote in two hours, although there are many items which require discussion.
– Yet the honorable member is wasting time in generalizing!
– The public will not regard me as wasting time in making these remarks. I am here to look after public interests.
– So am I.
– Then, we regard our duty from different stand-points. Finance is government - the very essence of government - and honorable members ought to have the fullest freedom in the discussion of the Estimates. Without consulting the House in any way, the Government takes advantage of the powers it possesses, and decrees that certain business shall be concluded by 4 o’clock to-day. That is the hour at which the House usually rises on Fridays, and no motion has been submitted to make Saturday a sitting day. Certain honorable members, however, on the Prime Minister’s suggestion, have agreed to other arrangements. In all my political experience I have never known such action to be taken. In caucus, the Go vernment and their supporters have decreed that we shall sit right on until Saturday at noon. I cannot imagine any decision that should be more revolting to men with any conscience. It is deplorable that such a step should be decided in a private way.
– Had the honorable member no intimation beforehand that the Government proposed to do this?
– The only intimation I had was that another sitting day might be proposed.
– The honorable member knew that we proposed to sit on Saturday..
– But we did not know that the “guillotine” was to be applied in this way. When the Prime Minister and myself were discussing the subject of procedure the other night, the right honorable gentleman said, “ I propose to submit a motion to have Saturday made a day of sitting.” To that extent the idea was in his mind, but the proposal made to-day is quite another matter.
– All I said was that I proposed to sit on Saturday; I did not speak of a motion.
– May I recall to the right honorable gentleman’s mind that, when he told me what he proposed to do, I said that I should have to oppose it, and that he replied that he had expected I would do so? Obviously, I could oppose only a motion. ‘ The usual method is to move for an additional sitting day. The Prime Minister, if he desires the House to sit on Monday, will have to submit a motion to that effect.
– Why not sit on Sunday ?
– I am surprised that honorable members opposite did not propose to sit on Sunday, or make the hour 12 midnight, instead of noon, so as to escape the Sunday.
– If we got down to “tin tacks” we might finish by 11 tonight.
– If we did get down to “ tin tacks “ we should be able to do nothing. That may be the attitude of the honorable member, but I am here to represent the country. The idea of an honorable member, new to Parliament, suggesting the closing of Parliament merely to allow the Prime Minister to go to England ! I feel pretty sure that if he, or any other honorable member, were to contest his seat on that question he would be badly beaten. In the next two weeks ill-digested Bills will be rushed through one after the other, with the inevitable result that amending measures will be necessary in the future. Surely Parliament does not regard its duty so lightly? It can be said with some force that the exacting work imposed on honorable members seriously affects their health. Who is to blame? Usually we sit three days a week, but latterly we have been sitting five, and now we are asked to sit right on into the sixth. Three days a week is ample when we take into consideration the nature of the work. 1 know there is a general impression outside that the duties “of a member of Parliament are confined to the Chamber, but that is not so, for we have to work every day in the interests of our constituents and the country. What will be the result if we are called upon to sit six days a week? Of course, it is easy to suggest that the extra work does not matter much, seeing that we shall shortly be in recess, but the mischief is done while we are here overtaxing our strength in an unwholesome atmosphere. I have learned from personal experience that mental work is very different from manual work. In my younger days I could do a hard day’s manual work, and rise fresh the following morning.; but that is not the case with such work as we are called upon to do here. If we have to expend our mental energies, why not do it under reasonable conditions, so that we may give of our best? When we are overworked, we have not the clarity of menial vision that is necessary in a deliberative assembly of this kind. We should do everything in our power to insure that our efforts are efficiently applied, for the problems that face us require the gravest consideration. Honorable members are too prone to think that, because their party is in power, all they have to do is to give the Government loyal support. The result is that Bills are introduced, suggested perhaps by departmental officers, and passed into law without proper consideration. We are too easily led by other persons who may not themselves have given proper consideration to the measures introduced here. We are here for the purpose of probing proposals made by the Go vernment to the bottom, and seeing that legislation is passed in the interests of the country. That duty can only be performed if ample time is given honorable members to deal with every matter brought forward. ‘ It cannot be done if the business of Parliament is rushed through as now proposed. It is idle to censure the Government unless we are prepared to do our part.
– The honorable gentleman’s time has expired. Before I call upon the next speaker, I should like to say that in accordance with the reference to the Committee, the time allotted for the consideration of the Estimates for the Parliament and for thePrime Minister’s Department extends until 4 o’clock. I think in the circumstances that it would be better if I were to put to the Committee the proposed votes for these two Departments at the same time, so that items included in the Estimates for either might be discussed in the time at the disposal of honorable members. This course would not preclude any amendment upon items in the Estimates for the Parliament.
– I object to the adoption of that course. It has always been the practice, in considering the Estimates, for the Committee to take Department after Department, There is now no justification for putting the proposed votes for two Departments before the Committee at the same time. I confined my remarks to the first Department, that of the Parliament, and I say we should dispose of that Department before the vote for another is put to the Committee. Notwithstanding the action of the Government, we are not going to permit the guillotine to be used against us in that way.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have not proposed anything of the kind. The honorable member has misunderstood me.
– The Prime Minister has linked up the first two Departments, and only the first two, in the Estimates, but the Committee should not be guided by that. We should deal with one Department at a time, and the discussion should be confined to that.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I had no idea of curtailing the debate in any way. My object was, on the contrary, to widen the scope of the discussion, and to enable honorable members to speak on either of the two Departments which have to be dealt with by 4 o’clock. As there is objection to what I proposed, that ends the matter, and the- proposed vote before the Committee is that of The Parliament.
– The ‘ Government certainly have no objection to honorable members discussing at this stage items in either the first or the second Department in the Estimates. Those Departments have been joined because it has been almost the universal practice in dealing with the vote for the Parliament to allow it to go through without further debate after discussion on the first item. It was because of the very great difficulty of allotting any time for the discussion of the vote for the Parliament, in view of the practice which has prevailed in the past, that the first two Departments were put together.
.- I wish to register my emphatic- protest against the action of the Government in guillotining the Estimates in order that the Parliament may close up at a time convenient for the Prime Minister. We are asked to pass a vote of £60,048 for the Parliament for the present financial year, although it will function for only about eleven weeks in that time. The Parliament was called together for a few days in the early part of- this year only because it was necessary to comply with a provision of the Constitution. To suit the convenience of the Prime Minister, and in order that the composite Government might find out where it stood, Parliament was then closed again, and we had another recess. Now, with all the business that has accumulated, the Government proposes to rush the Estimates through by use of the guillotine, to close Parliament again, and let the affairs of Australia go hang. New problems arise almost every day that require consideration by Parliament. Unsavoury things are constantly occurring, which should be the subject of discussion in this Chamber, but, instead of keeping Parliament in session, to do the work ‘ for which money is now being voted, we are asked to slum and muddle through the measures which the Government throw upon the table, and then close up Parliament, to enable the Prime Minister to go on a holiday trip to Great Britain. The Treasurer and the Prime Minister contended that the Government was almost paternal in its generosity in giving so long a time for the discussion of . the , Budget, but that has nothing to do with the Estimates. No vote could be recorded against the Budget as a whole, but in the Estimates there are innumerable items, some of which should be struck out altogether, some added to, and others reduced, and until honorable members have an opportunity to hear argument on the items, these adjustments of the Estimates cannot be properly made. In the last Parliament the Treasurer contended that the Estimates should not be made a party measure. When the honorable gentleman was not speaking satirically and somewhat venomously in criticism of the last Budget, he was urging that the Estimates should not be forced through by the use of party machinery. He was eloquent in the country at the time of the elections upon the necessity for restoring constitutional government and the control of the purse by Parliament. He repeated the parrot cry “ Finance is government and government is finance,” but the honorable gentleman now joins with the Prime Minister, not only in making the Estimates a party measure, but in using the guillotine to force them through, in so short a time as to prevent the light of day being turned upon some items that are being smuggled through.
– Will the honorable member name one of the items that are being smuggled through.
– If we are given proper time in which to discuss the Estimates, we shall endeavour to point out such items. The Government claims to be using the guillotine as a legitimate parliamentary weapon to force the Estimates through, but its use in the way proposed is against the spirit of the Standing Orders. The provision was made in the. Standing Orders for the application of the guillotine to meet a practice which had grown up in the past of “ stone-walling “ business by honorable members who spoke sometimes for five or six hours. Will any honorable member on the opposite side contend that these Estimates have been stonewalled,” or that time has been wasted in the debate on the Budget? If they do make this contention, let me say that, as in nearly every case a speaker on this side on the Budget was followed by one on the other side, they are as much responsible for what took place as we are. It is most improper to apply the guillotine to the Estimates. To ask this Committee to sit continuously from 11 o’clock this morning until noon to-morrow, and in that time to vote away £60,000,000. of the taxpayers’ money, is preposterous. One particularly questionable part of the timetable submitted by the Prime Minister is that for the Defence Department, one of the most contentious sections of the Estimates, . in which hundreds of thousands of pounds is being wasted. It is to be discussed between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. to-morrow. Those are the hours when honorable members will be most tired, and the Government proposal is as brutal as the military system which the Government are bolstering up with the amounts shown on these Estimates. I suppose that the Estimates will be disposed of according to the time-table, but honorable members opposite will find it difficult to explain to their constituents their action in closing the mouths of the representatives of the people in regard to the disbursement of public moneys. The erstwhile Country party is now part and parcel of the National party, which represents “ big business “ and its methods, and I hope that next time its members go before the electors they will have the decency to describe themselves as Nationalists.
.- For the last three-quarters of an hour we have listened to the solemn complaint of honorable members opposite that they are allowed no time to make complaints, I have been waiting to hear from them of what items in the Division before the Committee they desire to complain. If there are items which are being “smuggled” through - in black print upon white paper - it is full time we heard about them. If the speeches which have been delivered on this Division are to be regarded as a model, I shall owe an apology to the Committee for venturing to call attention to some items in the Division of ‘Parliament which call for consideration. There is an item on the Estimates for “temporary assistance, including typists for members.” I suggest that more typists should be provided for members while the House is in session. With the present staff it is difiicult for members to handle with reasonable promptitude and efficiency the large quantity of correspondence which .they receive. The telephone service in the building is very unsatisfactory. It may be that the demands upon the telephones are too great; but I suggest that there should be direct lines from this building to the exchange^ because frequently members have to wait for connexion with the exchange through the switch. I have no doubt that the switch attendant does his best; but is anything gained by carrying all lines through the switch ? The loss of time that results through the absence of direct lines means serious inconvenience and impaired efficiency.
– I move -
That the vote be reduced’ by £1.
I take this course as a protest against the premature closing of Parliament, and the insufficient time allowed for the consideration of matters of the gravest public importance, including the expenditure of over £60,000,000 of public money. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) objects to honorable members on this side of the Chamber daring to occupy time in a general discussion. It is impossible in the short time allowed to us by the Prime Minister to discuss items in detail, and we are compelled to resort to a general discussion in order to voice our protest against the autocratic action of the right honorable gentleman and his servile followers. The honorable member for Kooyong mentioned the difficulty that members have in attending to their huge correspondence in the time at their disposal. That, in itself, is a reason why Parliament should not be asked to sit day and night to suit the convenience of the Government. I hope that, by this amendment^ we shall have an opportunity of letting the people know that their representatives, who are paid a reasonable salary to attend to the country’s affairs, are being gagged by the Government. If I were sitting on tie Ministerial side, my allegiance to my party would be strained to breaking point if the Government attempted to close my mouth, as the present Government have closed the mouths of their supporters. The present protracted sittings, and the proposed curtailment of the session are unprecedented in the history of this Parliament. All the talk we have heard about waste of time is, so much camouflage. The Prime Minister has taken care that there shall be no opportunity to waste time. Although the High Commissioner’s office is controlled by the Prime Minister’s Department, I think it is fitting to discuss it in connexion with the Estimates for Parliament. I hope that the Prime Minister, while he is in England, will find time to discuss with the High Commissioner the question of immigration. 1 do not know whether it is the duty of the High Commissioner to keep a watchful eye over the class of immigrant being sent to Australia; but if that is part of hi? responsibility he is not carrying out his job, because many of the immigrants who have arrived during the last few months are not likely to be an asset to this country. Very many criticisms have been published throughout Australia regarding some of the new arrivals. I do not know whether the whole of the High Commissioner’s time is occupied in attending banquets, but if he is responsible for the selection of immigrants the Commonwealth is not getting much value from his services in that regard. Included in the Parliamentary Estimates are many items which could profitably be discussed at some length, but I would not object to a limitation of the debate on this Department and that of the Prime Minister if the time allotted to the discussion of other Departments with wide Ramifications were not to be so seriously curtailed . If honorable, members on this side are of my opinion, when the larger spending Departments are reached, they will walk out of the chamber. We are not allowed a reasonable time in which to criticise the items of expenditure. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), I know, would like to discuss many items in these two Departments, but his mouth is closed.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member for Bass would probably like more time in which to discuss the Estimates than is allowed.
– W© have plenty of time for discussion.
– Does the honorable member believe that he can .fool the people in that way! When he attends a meeting and his audience does not care to -hear dry details of policy he can amuse them with a song or monologue, but he will not be able to explain to his constituents the action of the Government in limiting the discussion of the proposed expenditure of £60,000,000. The people of Australia are groaning under the burden of heavy taxation, and they will be looking to the national Parliament for a fair and reasonable explanation of the items on the Estimates. What chance shall we have to explain to our constituents why the expenditure of any particular Department has been inflated, reduced, or dispensed with altogether? This Parliament is composed of men who have come from the four corners of Australia to frame a national policy and the laws under which the people have to live, and under which they are to-day paying dearly, and no barrier should be placed in the way of a reasonable criticism of the Estimates.
.- Seeing that the schedule involves two Departments, and that the time allowed for their discussion will expire in about forty minutes’ time, I ask the Chairman whether honorable members are entitled to deal with the two Departments?
– The Leader of the Opposition objected to the two Departments being debated at the same time, and the .Prime Minister agreed that they should be debated separately.
– I am afraid there is a misunderstanding. The Leader of tha Opposition objected to the two Departments being considered together, and before the Chairman gave a definite ruling, I said that the Government did not object to the two Departments being discussed ‘ together.
– It is impracticable to take one item at a time. The Opposition, by their tactics, are curtailing the consideration of the Estimates, and if they persist, the time for discussion will expire before there is any opportunity to speak on either Department. If the Opposition throughout the Estimates intend to pursue this policy they must take the responsibility. An explanation will have to be made outside that cannot be made here. I ask the Chairman to rule whether it is competent to discuss both items ?
– The question before the Chair is the vote for the Parliament.
– Then I must take my chance with the next Department.
.- Statement after statement has been made by honorable members of the other side as to what they intend to do in the interests of the country. But they do not take us into their confidence. They hold a meeting and decide what is necessary. We also held a meeting, and decided what we should do in the interests of the country. We wish to give the honorable member for Wakefield an opportunity to voice his opinions upon the various items of expenditure. We feel that it is an outrage on the country that the honorable member for Franklin should not be able to express his opinion upon general matters affecting the interests of Tasmania. He no doubt wishes to discuss the disastrous results of the Navigation Act.
– The Arbitration Court causes the trouble.
– The honorable member will be unable to speak on that subject. It is highly important that honorable members should discuss these Estimates. We speak not for ourselves but for those who are silent behind the Government. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) could give an interesting and passionate speech on the subject of bananas, but his remarks will be curtailed when the axe falls. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) is more conversant with the Northern Territory than is any other person, but his information will be suppressed and his voice silenced. Honorable members on the other side are hiding their light under a bushel. How interesting it would have been to hear the honorable member for Indi on the subject of bacon. The honorable member for Kooyong, under the heading of “ Parliament,” spoke of typists and attendants, but we feel that, until 4 o’clock, no subject is more important than that of Parliament. What trouble I am preventing ! The Prime Minister will have no Department to defend. He will not be able to enlarge on the great value of his Department.We shall haveto miss the pearls of wisdom the Prime Minister had for us. The cost of living allowances for the
Senate staff have increased from £454 to £469. One of the primary factors of the increase in the cost of living is the increase of prices thoughout the country. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. ‘ Pratten) is probably putting better labels on the jam he sells. Possibly he is supplying a better quality of jam than formerly. Possibly he intends to sell the quality that he gave to His Majesty the King and Mr. Lloyd George on the occasion on which he received a letter of commendation from them. The honorable member may remember that the price of jam was never so high as when our country was struggling for its existence.
– Why does not the honorable member talk about something he understands? He knows nothing about jam.
– I have read in Who’s Who about the honorable member, and found out many of his good qualities, but I will leave that subject. The child endowment allowance for the Senate indicates that the population within the precincts of Parliament House is increasing, but that is one of the matters beyond the control of the Government.
– Is the honorable member in favour of reducing salaries?
– I am not. I am no more in favour of reducing the salaries of honorable members, or allowances generally, than the honorable member is in favour of reducing the priceof his bacon. If the honorable member desires to make any remarks on that subject, he must make them before 4 o’clock. At that time the guillotine operates. The right honorable the Prime Minister says he must carry the Estimates through and finish the business he wishes to place before Parliament in time for him to go to England for the Imperial Conference. It has been said that he may be offered a title in England. Some people think that he ought not to take it if it is offered. Whatever course he adopts will be the best in his own interests, and in the interests of Australia, for the two interests coincide. An allowance of £1,100 is provided for the Speaker of the House of Representatives and £500 for the Chairman of Committees. Our present Speaker is one of the most worthy recipients of that emolument. The Chairman of Committees is to receive no increase this year. An increased sum is provided for child endowment for the House of Representatives staff. The salaries bf the more humble class of attendants at Parliament House should be increased. Senior messengers get only £212 a year, and junior messengers from £182 to £196 a year. In consequence of the increasing cost of living, Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards are awarding higher wages. An institution such as this is should set an example to private employers.
– The cost of living allowance goes on to the amounts the honorable member mentioned.
– How do we know that? We have to assume it.
– I appreciate the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson). If he does not address honorable’ members he at least makes interjections which are helpful. The cost of living allowance for the whole of the Sergeant-at-Arms’ staff is only £20 more this year than last year. That is an insignificant amount. This parliament is paying ignominious wages to some of its officers. It ought to pay better wages than outside institutions. The Committee should instruct the Government to . increase the wages of the attendants. The men should receive at least 1.0s. more a week. These men are required to keep themselves well clothed and keep their bornes and families respectable. We should treat them generously, and not shamefully, as we are doing. Every honorable member should utter a protest against the continuation of these paltry wages. I cannot remember any occasion on which “ The Parliament “ has occupied such a prominent place in the consideration of the Estimates. Honorable members feel that they must speak their mind now, for they will have no opportunity to do so after 4 o’clock. The guillotine is a magnificent institution. It can always be handed over to .one’s friends when the need arises. Precedents are being established now which, may be mostvaluable in the future’. Honorable members on this side of the Committee will be able, if they so desire, to do as they are being done by. Some of my Christian friends on the Opposition benches do not agree with the policy of “an eye for an eye.” They think we should not indulge in reprisals.
– Will the honorable member connect his remarks with the item now under notice?
– I do not think there is any need for me to do that, sir, because I intend to say no more.
.- I confess that I had some doubt about whether sufficient time had been allowed for the consideration of the details of our various Departments. After listening to the debate I am satisfied that more than sufficient time has been allowed for the first Department. I know that honorable members of the Opposition have the interests of the country at heart. I believe that they are actuated, in their present procedure, by a desire to serve the best interests of the country. They have made serious complaint that insufficient time has been given for the careful examination of the details of the Estimates. The Leader, the Deputy Leader, and several other honorable members of the Opposition have addressed the Committee to this effect. I am quite satisfied that these honorable members have carefully scrutinized the details of the proposed expenditure in this Department to see that there is justification for every penny of it. So far the only suggestion made by the Opposition is that we should reduce this vote of £60,000 by £1. Evidently the whole effort of the Opposition is directed to saving £1, in the interests of the country.
– That is very “ cheap!”
– It is a fact. There is an amendment before the Chair that the item be reduced by £1.
– For what purpose?
– I know what the purpose is. The fact remains that the whole effort of the Opposition is directed to a reduction of the vote by £1, whatever the object may be. Surely I am right in assuming that those gentlemen, who have given such careful consideration to every item in the Department, would have offered some criticism if they could have done so! Not one member has directed his attention to any particular item.
– The honorable member forgets that we are entitled to discuss Parliament generally.
– Surely; but I assume that those gentlemen opposite, who have the interests of the country at heart, know that this vote has to go through at a certain time. Surely they would not waste their time in general fulminations against the Government if they thought that, by directing their attention to any particular item, they could save one penny ! The fact that they have devoted themselves to a general attack on the Government, forces us to the only possible conclusion that, after careful consideration, they can take no exception to any item. Honorable members opposite are constantly saying that we on this side have to answer to our constituents. Well, we all know that. I have to answer to my constituents, and to my constituents only. Not one member opposite can say the same. They know perfectly well they have somebody else to answer to. I am satisfied to go before my constituents and justify my attitude in regard to a matter of this kind. We have been told that Parliament is to be closed for a certain time. That course has been deliberately decided upon by the Government, and assented to by their supporters, myself included, for reasons that appear to me to justify my action. When I take that stand, I am told that when I go before my constituents I shall be punished; but I am quite satisfied to abide by their decision. We are told that the Prime Minister is practically “ sneaking “ business through the House in order to go on a “ holiday trip.” Do honorable members who use that phrase believe it to be true ? Do they think that this visit of the Prime Minister to the Mother Country is anything in the nature of a holiday trip; or do they believe that, rightly or wrongly, the Prime Minister is going Home on a most important mission, from my point of view, at least, and from the point of view, I believe, of every member on this side of the Chamber ? The mission with which he is charged is fraught with the gravest consequences to Australia. Do honorable members think that the Prime Minister can go on such a mission without undertaking an immense amount of hard work ? Will he not be working from the time he leaves here until he comes back to give an account of his mission ?
– Working hard in speaking at banquets !
– That is an unworthy interjection. If the honorable member honestly spoke his mind, he would say that the Prime Minister is going away in the interests of Australia, and not to enjoy himself. In these circumstances, I believe that it is in the interest of Australia that Parliament should close.
– I am not going to give my reasons. I have come to that conclusion for reasons that satisfy me. No doubt members of the Opposition would dearly love to have Parliament kept open.
– Not in the interests of the Commonwealth, but in the interests of the party to which they belong. I frankly confess I am unable to take the charitable view taken by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) in the delightful speech he delivered yesterday evening.
– What does the honorable member mean by saying that we would like Parliament to be kept open in the interests of our party?
– I have too good an opinion of the honorable member’s intelligence to attempt an explanation. He knows perfectly well what I mean.
– I assure the honorable member that. I do not.
– Then I shall be very glad, in a chat during the small hours of to-morrow morning, to tell the honorable member exactly what I mean. Had honorable members adopted the wise course of discussing items to which they took exception in this first vote, and disposing of them in a few minutes, there would have been two hours left in which to debate matters of more importance. The great bulk of the items which make up the £60,000,000 is undebatable seeing that the votes must pass.”
– It is a question of voting, not £60,000,000, but only £16,000,000.
– Whatever the sum, it does not/ affect my argument. Th« great bulk of the items does not involve matters of debate. There are certain matters in which we are variously interested, but they have largely been discussed in general ‘ terms during th< Budget debate. I often find myself ii agreement with the Leader of the Oppo si ti on, , and when he was s*eaking. ‘. interjected a promise that, if he mad any proposal that I considered reasonable, I would support it. The bulk of the time allotted to this vote has been occupied with the complaint that there is no time to deal with debatable items If a man who is given a job to do, and told that he has only an hour in which to do it, and if instead of taking off his coat and tackling the work, he sits down and, during a smoke, complains for threequarters of an hour that it is ridiculous to ask him to do it in the allotted time, I would call him a fool.
– I rise to a point of order. We have only five minutes left for the discussion of these votes, and the Prime Minister’s Department involves the question of immigration and other matters of vital importance. I myself had intended to speak for at least one hour–
– What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– I am coming to it. As I say, I had intended to speak for at least one hour on the question of immigration
– What is the point of order ?
– Under the motion of the Prime Minister - assuming it to be regular and in order - which. I do not grant - we have only five minutes left. My point of order is that the honorable member for Fawkner, in discussing the action of some gentleman who sat down to have a smoke in contemplation of a “ job,” is discussing a matter totally irrelevant to the question before the Chair.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have listened patiently, but in vain, to hear the point of order. There is no point of order.
– Then, let us go on; wo have only three minutes left.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Batman is out or order.
– I rise to a point of order-
– There can only be one point of order raised at a time.
– The Chairman is taking up the whole time allotted to the discussion of this vote. There are only two minutes left.
– I shall not say more than that this so-called point of order taken by the honorable member for Batman-
– I rise to a point of order, which, I think, Mr. Bayley, you will sustain when it is fairly understood. You, having given a decision, or purported to give one - I did not grasp whether you really did give one. But assuming for the sake of argument that you did so, I submit that it is totally irregular for the honorable member for Fawkner to address himself to that point of order now, especially as the time for the discussion of the votes for the Prime Minister’s Department and Parliament has only one minute to run.
– The honorable member for Fawkner must not refer to the point of order raised by the honorable member for Batman, and dealt with by the Chair.
– I was referring to the “ so-called “ point of order; I was not speaking to a point of order.
– I ask your ruling, Mr. Bayley, whether the honorable member is in order in continuing to refer to a “so-called” point of order? In view of the fact that a ruling was given, it was a point of order.
– I was not aware that the honorable member for Fawkner had so spoken. The time allotted for discussion of these votes has expired.
Question - That the vote for The Parliament be reduced by £1 (Mr. O’Keefe’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the balance of the proposed vote for The Parliament - £58,948 - be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative-
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £398,597.
– (Mr. Bayley). - The time allotted for the consideration of the votes for the Parliament and the Prime Minister’s Department expired at 4 o’clock. The vote for the Prime Minister’s Department must be put now, without discussion.
Question - That the proposed vote “ Prime Minister’s Department,” £398,597, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affrmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £3,574,218.
.- I move as an amendment-
That the division, No. 22, “ Invalid and Old- age Pensions Office, £84,588,” be reduced by £1.
I ask the Committee to agree to the amendment as an instruction to the Government to increase the pension to £1 per week. The proposed increase of 2s. 6d. per week is totally inadequate to counterbalance the substantial rise in the cost of living that has occurred. The present Government, controlled, as it is, by plutocratic influences outside, can find hundreds of thousands of pounds . to pay away in bounties and can give £900,000 per annum to the commercial interests in the form of reduced postal charges. If members of the Government have humane instincts they will realize that the aged and invalid who have pioneered industry in the Commonwealth are entitled to an amount at least sufficient to keep body and soul together. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes); because of his affluent circumstances, can afford to sneer at the old-age pensioners.
– Did I sneer?
– Inferentially the honorable member did by claiming that the pensions should not be increased, but that taxation should be reduced. Old people and invalids who have been broken on the wheel of industry are entitled to more liberal consideration than they have received from the present and past Governments. The amendment will test the sincerity of such members as the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), who always posed as the champion of an increase in the pension when he knew very well that there was not much possibility of its being granted. I hope those honorable members opposite who have expressed the be lief outside this building that the pension should be increased to £1 per week, will vote as their conscience prompts, and not as the party machine dictates.
.- Has the Treasurer any control over the capital expenditure of the Notes Printing Board ? Some time ago a proposal to erect a new building for the Notes Printing Office was referred to the Public Works Committee. Unquestionably new buildings are urgently needed. The conditions in the building now occupied are very bad, and would not be tolerated if they were used by a private manufacturer. The Public Works Committee recommended that a new building which would fully meet the requirements of the Notes Printer, should be erected at a certain cost. Since that recommendation was made, a more palatial building has been commenced at a contract price considerably in excess of that for which the Committee thought a suitable structure could be erected. Has the Treasurer any control over such expenditure ?
– I rise to a point of order. Should not the discussion be confined to the amendment before the Chair ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Honorable members may address themselves to either the amendment or the main question that the vote be agreed to.
– I think that the capital expenditure of the Notes Printing Office should be controlled by Parliament.
Can the Treasurer give the Committee any information in regard to the agreement which has been negotiated between the States and the Commonwealth in regard to the collection of taxation ? I ask the Government . to announce their attitude towards a number of returned soldiers who were given employment in the Taxation Department, and who may be turned adrift through the transfer of tax collection to the State authorities. A responsibility rests upon the Government to provide employment . for those men. They made a great sacrifice in the hour of the country’s need, and, if not to-day, before Parliament adjourns we should have some pronouncement from the Government to the affect that their interests will be safeguarded.
.- I desire to associate my party with, the amendment moved by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). “We are desirous that a vote shall be ‘taken on each item, and I do not, therefore, intend to to take up more time than is necessary. I must, however, again protest against the attitude adopted by the Government in rushing the Estimates through without giving honorable members an opportunity of debating the expenditure proposed in connexion with the different Departments.
– When the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) raised a point . of order a few moments ago, I overlooked the fact that we were in Committee. On reflection, I recall that the practice in Committee differs from that, in the House. In Committee, when an amendment has been moved, honorable members must address themselves to the amendment.
– If an amendment is moved when the proposed vote of a Department is first put, honorable members will have little opportunity to discuss certain items.
– That can be done when the amendment has been disposed of.
.- 1 desire to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), because I recognise that the proposed increase in invalid, and old-age pensions is quite inadequate. Honorable members should put their political feelings aside and record their votes in support of the amendment. The Government have an accumulated surplus of £7,475,000, and there is nothing to prevent them from utilizing £2,000,000 of this amount to increase the weekly pension by 5s. On many occasions the members of this party have moved in this direction, -and I sincerely hope the amendment will have general support.
– I understand that provision has been made in the Estimates for an additional payment of 2s. 6d. per week to invalid and old-age pensioners, who now receive 15s. weekly.
– A Bill is to be introduced to liberalize the conditions.
– Yes. I feel compelled in this instance to support the amendment moved ‘by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). Members who were in the House in 1918 will remember that I opposed the payment of a pension to the late Chief Justice of the High Court Sir Samuel Griffith, for reasons which to me seemed quite sound. On that occasion I said that I would not be a party to being generous in that way before being just to those who had stronger claims on our generosity. I regret exceedingly the speech delivered by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), who is usually so logical in his statements, and who thinks so clearly. I was astounded at the arguments he adduced in support Of his contention that an increase should not be granted. One reason which he submitted in support of his argument was that in other parts of the world less generous provision than exists in. Australia is made for the invalids and old people. It is no satisfaction to one who is living just below the “ bread-line,” and .who asks for an increase that will take him just above it, -to be told that there are people in other countries even worse off than he. Another argument used by the honorable member for Boothby was that any money available to provide an increase in old-age and invalid pensions ought rather to be spent in developing the resources of the Commonwealth. I, for my part, would refuse to spend a penny in the development of Commonwealth resources while there were those having a claim upon us who were living below the “ bread-line.” Invalid and old-age pensions were first granted in 1910, when the rate was fixed at 10s. per week; and I have been informed by the Commonwealth Statistician that it would now require 17s. lOd. to purchase what 10s. would buy in 1910, so that when we have granted an extra 2s. 6d. per week we shall be paying 4d. per week less than we paid in 1910. I desire to direct the Treasurer’s attention to an amending Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act passed in September, 1921, to enable the blind people of Australia to obtain the full invalid pension, provided the amount, plus their earnings, did not give them more than the basic wage of £4 5s. per week’. In making provision for increased pensions I ask the Treasurer to see that the necessary amendment is made in the Act, so that blind folk can secure the advantage of the increased rate. For the “last thirty years, I have taken a keen interest in the blind people of Australia. I have always, through sympathy, been able to appreciate to some extent, at least, their limitations, but since I became a member of the brotherhood of those who walk in darkness, I know more fully what those limitations are. I am anxious that everything possible should be done to put them on an equality with those who are not so handicapped. The blind man in possession of his other faculties is able to take his place as a citizen and assume the obligations of citizenship, and I trust that in the near future these men will get the full benefit of the pension whatever their earnings may be. If that is done they will be placed on terms of equality - so far as that is possible - with their fellow citizens who are not -so handicapped. Under the existing Act only those permanently incapacitated by sickness or by blindness are eligible for the pension, if their incapacity occurred whilst in Australia, or they were brought to the Commonwealth before they were three years of age. In some instances this limitation works very hardly. For instance, at the Blind Institution on St. Kilda-road, there are two old men, one of whom is sixty-four years of age, and came to the Commonwealth when four years old. He has been in the Commonwealth for sixty years and is still working at his trade in the Institution, but because he did not come to Australia before he was three years old he is ineligible for a pension. The other man, who is now fifty-five years old, has been in the Commonwealth for thirty-eight years, and he, too, is ineligible for the same reason. In order to meet such cases, the Act should be amended so that a blind person who has come to the Commonwealth after reaching three years of age, should, if he continues to reside in the Commonwealth for twenty years, become eligible. That condition would be sufficient to prevent persons from coming here to derive benefit in this way. Because I realize that anything short of an increase of 5s. per week is inadequate I intend to support the amendment.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Trea alize the position in which invalid and old people are placed, and have attempted to deal with the matter in the most sympathetic manner possible. We are not merely providing for an increase in the rate, but for the first time since invalid and old-age pensions have been paid, a determined effort is being made to remove the anomalies which have been found to exist in administering the Act. When an amending Bill is introduced next week I shall be able to deal more fully with the question, and explain how the conditions are to be made more liberal. The present proposal involves an additional annual expenditure of £1,250,000. This is a recurring expenditure, and our finances must be adjusted in order to meet the annual cost. In ratio to the cost of living, the proposed increase in pension will be the largest since 1909-10, when the first old-age- pension legislation was introduced in Australia. At that time the pension was 20s. per fortnight. The Act was amended by the Labour party in 1912. At that time the pension of 20s. was 3s. 3d. less than the equivalent in 1909-10. A pension of 23s. 3d. would have been necessary to meet the increase in the cost of food, clothing, and housing. In 1916 the rate was increased to 25s. a fortnight, but, on the basis of 1909, the pension should have been 28s. 3d. to meet the increase in the cost of living. It must be remembered that the Labour party had been in office for five out of the six years from 1910 to 1916.
– Does the Minister think it is fair to continue this debate considering that the guillotine has been applied ? 1 1 expected him to act decently.
– Honorable members opposite have raised this question.
– We have moved an amendment, without discussion.
– It ia not a party question.
– The Minister is making it a party question.
– In 1919, the rate was further increased to 30s. a fortnight, but in ratio with the increased cost of food, clothing, and housing since 1909, the pension should have been 33s. lid. The Government now propose to increase the rate to 35s. a fortnight. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures of the cost of living show that the present equivalent of the pension of 20s. in 1909-10 is 34s. 3d. per fortnight; yet the Government propose to increase the pension to 35s. I ask honorable members not to support the amendment. The Government j intend to give immediate relief to meet present-day conditions by increasing the amount of the pension, and by rectifying practically every anomaly. Before the end of the session it is proposed to appoint a Royal Commission to examine the whole incidence of old-age and invalid conditions. Next session the Government intend to consider its findings and, if practicable, to bring forward a measure to deal with unemployment, and to make liberal and assured provision for the aged, sick, and infirm. I ask the Committee to support the vote.
.- I am not in accord with the Minister on the subject of old-age pensions. ‘ For some time I have been in close association with those who derive a benefit from pensions, and every Sunday for over three years my wife and I visited the benevolent institution at Geelong to try to bring a little ray of sunshine into the lives of sixty or seventy of its patients. The old-age pension should be substantially increased. The pensioners, since 1914, have not re?ceived a sufficient increase in ratio to the cost of living. The present pension is by no means adequate, and it leaves the recipients nothing but a bare existence. Even then they need the support of people who are charitably disposed to them. If the Government can afford to grant large subsidies to industries, they should be prepared to grant an amount that will make the evening of life happier and easier for the aged pensioners. I support the amendment to increase the pension to £1 per week.
Question - That Division No. 22 ‘’ Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office, £84,588 “ be reduced by £1 (Mr. Coleman’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I shall comply with the honorable member’s request.
– I draw the attention of the Treasurer to a very grave injustice that is being done to certain members of the Public Service under the Superannuation Act, which was passed last year. A Board was appointed, and it has given a ruling in respect to military staff clerks to the effect that the definition of “ service “ for these clerks means service since the passing of the Defence (Civil Employment) Act 1918. The effect of this ruling is that their term of service is regarded for purposes of superannuation only, as five years, although some of the clerks have been permanently employed in the Service for the last thirty-four years. ‘ One of them, whom I know personally, joined the Postal Service many years ago, and was transferred to the Defence Department on passing an examination, but under the ruling to which I have referred this officer is regarded as having only five years’ service. In every other respect, the officers are treated on the same basis as members of the Public Service generally. I believe that the ruling is unsound, and, if it is, the Treasurer should have the matter rectified. If it is not an unsound ruling, the Act should be amended, as Parliament never intended that there should be differential treatment for these particular officers. They are working side by side with other clerks in the Department, some of whom reached the salary of £320 before the war. The latter, automatically received an honorary commission, and were classified as officers. In these cases the term of service is computed, not from the time of the passing of the Defence (Civil Employment) Act, but from the time they received their commission. Thus, we have all the clerks with honorary commissions enjoying the full privileges of superannuation. If military staff clerks are over the age of thirty years, they are required to take all the units of pension to which they are entitled as at the rate for age, whereas if it were not for the ruling they would be allowed to take four units at the rate for the age of thirty years, .and the balance of their units at the rate for age. These latter are the rates ruling for those who have had ten years’ service. I shall mention a few concrete cases in the Department, and I can supply the names of the officers if the Treasurer wishes to have them. The first case is that of a major, who is fifty-six years of age and has thirty-three years’ service. He is entitled to seven units. His contribution is £2 ls. 5d. a fortnight; but if he were a clerk his contribution, according to the ruling, would be £3 16s. 8d., instead of £2 ls. 5d., making a difference of £1 15s. 3d. a fortnight for the nine years he still has to serve. The increase m the contribution for the nine years would amount to £412 8s. 6d. I now take the case of a captain, who is forty-six years of age and has thirty-one years of service. For his seven units he contributes £1 2s. lid. a fortnight. If he happened to be a clerk, he would have to pay, under this ruling, £1 13s. 2d., a difference of 10s. 3d. a fortnight for a period of nineteen years, making a total of £253 2s. 6d. more than he would have to contribute if it- were not for this ruling. The next case is that of a major, aged forty-seven years, with twenty-five years’ service. For his eight units he contributes £1 8s. lid. If he were a clerk, he would pay £2 Os. 6d., a difference of lis. 7d. a fortnight, and for the eighteen years he has still to serve the increase would amount to £270 18s. A captain aged forty-three years, with twenty-two years’ service, contributes for seven units, for which he pays £1 Os. 8d. a fortnight: A clerk without a commission would be required to pay £1 7s. lid. for the same number of units, or an additional 7s. 3d. a fortnight, and in the twenty-two years of remaining service the extra payment would amount to £207 7s., apart altogether from interest on the money. Let me point out the grave injustice being perpetrated in the case of a clerk aged fifty-five years, who has been in the service for thirty-four years. He is entitled to seven units, costing £3 8s. 7d. a fortnight. If he were ‘an officer or an ordinary member of the Public Service, he would have to pay £1 18s., a difference of £1 10s. 7d., making a total increased payment of £397 lis. for the remaining ten years of service. Immediately the decision of the Board was announced, this clerk dropped three of the seven units for which he had been contributing, because he could not afford to pay for all of them. There are only a few hundred. men affected by this ruling; but justice should be done to them at once. My reading of the Act leads me bo think that a wrong interpretation has been placed upon it, but these men are forced to contribute to the Superannuation Fund at the higher rate, and the Department is taking no steps to remedy the injustice, although representations have been made through their own departmental officers. The basis of the technicality that has been raised is that all the men to whom I have referred had to be re-attested every three years, after the first five years, and because of that they are not regarded as having been permanently employed. The decision of the Board is that they became permanent officers only on the passing of the Defence Civil Employment Act five years ago, but I can find nothing in the Superannuation Act to say that service must be permanent.
– Hear, hear!
– I shall be glad to have the opinion of my legal friend, the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). These clerks, some of whom have been in the service for over thirty years, have to all intents and purposes been permanent officers, and in no sense temporary or casual employees. They had to be reattested solely on the question of their health. The ruling is manifestly unfair. There is a section in the Act referring to invalidity and incapacity, and under it these clerks would suffer a great injustice. If an officer with more than seven years’ service becomes incapacitated he is entitled to draw his full pension”, and his widow becomes entitled to half the pension, with 5s. a week for each child under the age of fourteen years. But the military staff clerks cannot receive that benefit. I am astonished that such a palpable injustice was not rectified as soon as the ruling was given. Either the ruling should be tested, or a Bill should be brought down to rectify the position. It was never intended that this distinction should be made. On the transfer of those men to the Public. Service they retained all their existing rights, and those rights are recognised with this one exception. I feel so strongly in the matter that I feel inclined to move that the vote be reduced as an instruction to the Government to put these men on a proper footing. If the Treasurer will assure me that he will have this done, I shall not divide the Committee, but otherwise I shall. Some of these men have even surrendered the units for which they undertook to pay; and that is solely because of the unfortunate position in which they find themselves.
– Have any representations been made to the Government on their behalf ?
– I understand that representations have been made to the Government through the ordinary Departmental channels. These men are somewhat reluctant to call in the aid of members of Parliament ; and, in any case, they have their own association to look after their interests. I may say that the moment they came under the Public Service Act they received a notification that the privilege of medical attendance - which the ordinary public servants do not get - would be withdrawn. This I regard as miserable and petty on the part of the Government. It also shows that these clerks are placed on the same basis as other public servants when taking away a benefit. They should, therefore, . be put on the same footing with regard to superannuation.
.- When demands for the Federal land tax are sent out, the taxpayers are given thirty days in which to pay, after which period a fine of 10 per cent. is collected. Can the Treasurer see his way to alter this regulation so that the taxpayer may be given a longer period of, say, sixty days? Many of these people live in distant places where there is a letter delivery only every two or three weeks, and sometimes more infrequently. This fine of 10 per cent. works out at anything from 90 per cent. to 300 per cent. of the tax, according to circumstances; and, of course, this is a serious matter to the taxpayers.
I should like to read a letter which I have received in reference to the operation of (he entertainments tax in the country districts of Tasmania, and to ask whether something cannot be done to relieve the situation ? The letter is as follows : -
The entertainment and amusement tax has had rather a disastrous result upon country life. It. has been a custom, as you know, in the outlying districts, upon the organization of entertainments, for each party to pay. These entertainments are technically liable to tax, but the returns and compliance with the regulations were so burdensome and irritating that these entertainments are being abandoned, and country life in the winter in this State (Tasmania) has become more drab than ever. I know of specific instances of the above, notably at St. Patrick’s River, where the formerly frequent functions are now a thing of the past. The young men ride their bicycles to the city, and the girls are clearing out to domestic service, also to the city.
I suggest that the Treasurer somewhat relax the law so far as country districts are concerned. Those of us who have had experience of assisting at country entertainments know the difficulties under which the promoters work.
.- I referred last night to some hard cases that have cropped up under the Superannuation Act, and I should like to now make some further reference to them. The Act has proved to operate very harshly in the case of the widows and children of a few public servants, who, after agreeing to take certain units, unfortunately died between the proclamation of the Act and the date on which the first contribution had to be paid. As a result, their widows and children have been left in a most unfortunate position. The Board considers that it cannot legally pay anything to those people who are suffering from a double misfortune, in as much that they have lost their breadwinners, and are now dependent on charity. The position arose by no means through the neglect of the deceased public servants of their dependants. Had ‘these men remained in the State service, from which they were transferred, they would have enjoyed the benefits of the State Superannuation Acts. On their transfer, all their State rights were safeguarded, and those who came from States where there was no superannuation came, of course, automatically under the Commonwealth Act. I am hot personally acquainted with any of these people, of whose misfortune I happened to hear quite incidentally. I have, however, had some experience of a State superannuation, andI know that in New South Wales, where cases of the kind occurred, a remedy was applied. I understand that the Government has the matter under consideration, but, as yet, has not decided to take any action sooner than, perhaps, a year or two hence. The people affected are few in number, and the expenditure involved, if justice be done, can be only small. Further, I impress upon the Government that, by dealing liberally with these people, no precedent can be created, for similar circumstances cannot again arise. The Government should either agree to indemnify the Board for payments which equity demands shall be paid to these people, or the Government should itself act. I feel sure that the instincts of humanity will prompt the Government to do something for the widows and children of old and faithful servants. It must be remembered that the Commonwealth Superannuation Act was long promised and long delayed. For that I blame no one, but only say that if the delay had not occurred this misfortune would not have overtaken these people.
.- I am glad that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has called attention to the position of the military staff clerks under the Superannuation Act. By the ruling of the Superannuation Board these clerks are placed in an abnormal position, . of which, I am sure, many honorable members have no idea. The military staff clerks are employed in the terms of the military regulations, and become members of the Permanent Forces, attesting at the outset for five years, and then re-attesting. I understand that the observance of that regulation has been neglected, and many have been irregularly employed, some for over twenty years. This irregularity is not at all a fault of the clerks, but is due to the Department. They were under the Defence Civil Employment Act 1918 until that Act expired twelve months or six months after the end of the war, when they reverted to the position of members of the Permanent Forces. It has now been ruled by the Board that they became permanent employees only when they were brought under the provisions of the Defence Civil Employment Act, and that, therefore, they have not had the ben years’ service necessary to bring them within the operation of the Superannuation Act. The ruling of the Board consents primarily section 35 of the Superannuation Act, which provides that “ any employee who has been in the Service for at least ten years,” and has attained the maximum age for retirement,, shall, on retirement atany time after the passing of the Act be entitled, bo a pension in accordance with his salary. The important words are “ any employee who has been in the Service for at least ten years.” “ Employee “ is defined, in section 4 as a person who is employed in a permanent capacity by the Commonwealth, and who, with certain exceptions, is by the terms of his employment required to give his whole time to his duties. “Service” is denned as “ service under, or employment by the Commonwealth.” I understand that the Superannuation Board agreed that these clerks are ‘ ‘ employees “ ; that is to say, that they are now employees in a permanent capacity. The Board, however, has ruled that they have not been in the Service for at least ten years. “When we turn to the definition of “ service “ we find nothing requiring that the service shall be in a permanent capacity as is required in the definition of “ employee.” It appears to me that there is a great deal to be said for the view that persons who now are employed in a permanent capacity by the Commonwealth, and who have been in the service of the Commonwealth for at least ten years - that is to say, who have served under the Commonwealth for at least ten years in a permanent , or any other capacity - fall within the terms of section 35. I suggest to the Treasurer that he obtain the opinion of the Solicitor-General, or such other opinion as he may think proper. If that opinion should uphold the ruling of the Board, I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that consideration be given to the introduction of an amending Bill to do what I feel satisfied must have been the intention of Parliament when this Abt was put through.
There is one other matter to which I desire to refer briefly, and that is the issue of amended assessments by the Taxation Department. That Department from time to time issues amended assessments in ‘cases in which it thinks that further taxation is payable. Until the amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act was passed last year, there was no time limit placed upon the issue of amended assessments. In the case of war-time profits tax and land tax I think that that is still so. The result is that taxpayers are placed in a very difficult position, on account of the reconsideration by the Department of earlier decisions. I propose to give one example, which will be found on refer ence to the Commonwealth Law Reports, to show how this practice operates. A citizen of Melbourne, who was a merchant, bought a quantity of wheat scrip, and after a time re-sold it, making a profit of £1,850. In order to ascertain his position in regard to the payment of income tax, he went to the Department, where he saw a responsible officer, and inquired whether he would have to pay income tax on that amount. He was told that he would not. “ Well,” he said, “I can spend it freely?” The answer was, “ Yes.” “ But,” he said, “ I want to make sure of my position. What can I do?” He was advised to attach to his income tax return a memorandum informing the Department that he had made this profit but had not included it in the return. He adopted that course and was assessed for income tax on a sum that did not include this item of £1,850. He then felt free to spend the money, and did so. Two years afterwards the Department reconsidered the matter, changed its mind, and issued an amended assessment. He protested, but uselessly. The matter was the subject of litigation in the High Court of Australia. That Court held that the first opinion of the Department was wrong and that its latter opinion was right. He had to pay the tax and the costs of the appeal. I submit that that is not a proper position in which to place any citizen of the community. A system of legislation and administration which leads to that result ought to be revised. Let me give another example. A firm in this city, a number of years ago, placed the whole of its position before the Commissioner of Taxation in relation to war-time profits taxation, and obtained from the Commissioner a letter stating that no war-time profits tax was payable in respect of the profits of the firm. The head-quarters of this firm were in France. It remitted its Australian profits to France when the exchange was about 30 francs to the £1. Either last year or this year the Department changed its mind in this case also, and has been seeking to obtain payment of war-time profits tax from, this firm. That is a tax of, I think, 75 per cent, of the excess profits. . The money was remitted to France, where it was liable to taxation at a similarly high rate. To get that money back from France, when the exchange is about 70 francs to to the £1, will result in a tax upon it of at least 150 per cent. That is unjust. I am sure that if the Committee has followed the facts it will realize that this system of administration requires some revision. In my professional life I have a great deal to do with the taxation laws of the Commonwealth, and I know the anxieties under which citizens labour at present. Recently certain trustees ‘ paid estate duties on an estate worth about £100,000. They have realized and distributed the assets of the estate to beneficiaries in England. They ‘ sought to obtain a definite and binding statement from the Taxation Department that they had completely satisfied .the taxation requirements of the Commonwealth. Under the present law it is impossible to obtain any decision that is safe, certain ‘and binding in that respect. If the Taxation Department subsequently changes its mind it can descend upon these trustees personally and make them pay the extra tax. I urge upon the Government the necessity for amending the taxation laws of the Commonwealth in the direction of providing that, after the tax has been paid, and a certain period of time has elapsed - in the absence of fraud or nondisclosure of. material facts - the matter shall be regarded as settled and closed. Where there is fraud or non-disclosure of material facts the revenue should be protected. There is in the last Income Tax Assessment Act a section which provides that there shall be no further assessment after a named period, except in cases where the Commissioner considers there has been fraud or non-disclosure of material facts. It will be observed that that still leaves the matter in the hands of the Department. It ought to be possible, under our law, for the taxpayer to obtain some finality. In the Local Government Acts, of, I think, the whole of the States, there is included a section which provides that a purchaser of land may go to the clerk of a municipality and obtain from him a statement showing the amount of rates owing upon land which he proposes to buy, and the municipality is bound by that statement. I suggest that a similar provision be inserted in the taxation legislation of the Commonwealth, providing that, after the lapse of a reasonable period, a certificate may be obtained by the taxpayer from the Department showing that he has com- pletely discharged his taxation liabilities, and that that should be final and binding, except in. cases of fraud or of nondisclosure of material facts.
– I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1.
I move this amendment as an instruction to the Government to amend the Superannuation Act to provide for the inclusion of benefits to lighthouse keepers and other public servants, who have been transferred from the State service within ten years of the passing of the Superannuation Act. My reason for moving this amendment is that I have received from Rockhampton correspondence regarding certain lighthouse keepers, who have ‘retired from their positions in the Commonwealth Lighthouse Department because they have reached the age limit. They are not provided for under the Superannuation Act. I think honorable members will agree that on Australia’s coastline of 11,000 miles there are a great many men who lead an extremely lonely life in lighthouses. At times they are not visited by boats for upwards of twelve months at a time. In many cases they are unmarried men, and they live in almost complete solitude for months at a stretch. The coastal lights of Australia were taken over by the Commonwealth on 1st July, 1915. Consequently, the officers to whom I have referred had not been in the Commonwealth service for a period of ten years at the time of the passing of the Superannuation Act. Act cording to section 84 of the Commonwealth Constitution, any officer who was taken over by the Commonwealth at Federation “shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights and shall be entitled to retire from his office at the time, and on the pension or retiring allowance, which would be permitted by the law of the State if his service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of his service with the State.” The obvious intention was that no officer should suffer because of his transfer from the State to the Commonwealth service. In 1922, the Commonwealth Superannuation- Act was passed. It provides that any officer who was retired on account of his age within two years of the passing of the Act shall receive the benefit of the Act, provided he had been ten years in the Commonwealth service. A section of the Act reads - 36. (1) An employee who, on or after the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and twenty, and before the passing of this Act, has been retired, or permitted to retire, and who at the time of bis retirement -
– It is really a question of the interpretation of the word “ service.”
– That is so. “Service” . is denned to mean service in the Commonwealth. These men spent upwards, of thirty years in the State service, and were taken over in 1915 by the Commonwealth Department. They have given faithful, continuous service in the interests of the people of Australia. It is not their fault that they were transferred from the employment of one Government to that of another.
– They retained all their rights of length of service in every other particular.
– That is so. There is in Rockhampton a man who, for twenty years was in the State service. He was taken over in 1915 by the Commonwealth Lighthduse Department. He gave faithful service to the Commonwealth for a few years, and then was retired. He is denied any pension under the Superannuation Act because he was not in the Commonwealth service for a period of ten years. That is not his fault. Because of the red-tape methods that are usually adopted by the Government Departments, he is being excluded from the benefits of the Act. I suggest to the Treasurer that, if necessary, an amendment of the Act should be brought down to meet such cases. I know of another case in which a lighthouse-keeper’s widow, a resident or Rockhampton, and well known to me, is destitute. She asked that a pension or allowance be granted to her under the Superannuation Act, but although her husband bad been thirty years in the Lighthouse Department of the State of Queensland when the lights were taken over by the Commonwealth, she could not obtain anything because he had not been ten years in the employ of the Commonwealth when he died. She has written an appealing letter to me to bring the matter under the notice of the Government. I have done so, but with no result so far. I now ask the Minister to reconsider the matter. The lighthousekeeper is deserving of the greatest consideration. The official report for the Western Australian coast illustrates the loneliness of many of these lighthouses. It states -
The northern lighthouses are visited by the Government steamer once a year. This should be carried out at least three or four times a year. Should it be necessary for women or children to leave the stations at other times, a passage is taken to the nearest town by a passing lugger, which is not suitable for a woman to travel in, with or without her children, unaccompanied by her husband. These luggers also have no accommodation.
That illustrates the kind of life these men have to lead, and surely they should be granted a superannuation allowance when they reach the retiring age, even though they have not been ten years in the Commonwealth service. The following extract regarding the crew of the lightship which formerly marked the Proudfoot Shoal, also indicates the hardships of a lighthouse-keeper’s life -
A light-vessel was formerly maintained near the Proudfoot Shoal, but was withdrawn on account of the keepers becoming mentally impaired, and that few vessels were sighted from it. When it is taken into consideration that men were left on this light-vessel for periods of at least twelve months, with only a month on shore following that period of isolation, this must not be considered remarkable.
It is a disgrace to Christianity that men should be treated like that. As they are isolated owing to the nature of their occupation, as they have to remain at their post to signal to vessels passing round the coast, and as they are cut off from civilization and all the pleasures that make life congenial to people in the big centres of population, “they should not have to suffer the further disability of being denied a pension or retiring allowance.
– Do they have to work under those conditions now ?
– Yes. The extracts I have read are . from last year’s report. Those who will be retiring before 1925, and who will not have served ten years in the Commonwealth Service, will not receive any benefit under the Superannuation Act of 1922. I ask the Treasurer to give favorable consideration to my request. Iwrote to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) regarding the Rockhampton case, because the Lighthouse Department is under his control, and he said he would discuss the matter with the Treasurer. I hope the Treasurer will have an amendment of the Act made so that these men, or their dependants, may receive the benefits of the Act. The Act should also be made to apply to the widows of lighthouse-keepers who have died since the passing of the Act, or who may die before 1925. I know of destitute widows who, when they applied for an allowance or pension, received the usual cold official letter stating that, as their deceased husbands had not been in the Commonwealth service for ten years, they could not benefit under the Act. I ask the Minister to reconsider this matter.
.- I regret that I must restrict my time to five minutes, in order to give the Treasurer five minutes to reply. That illustrates the absurdity of the Government trying to pass these Estimates in such a brief period of time. I would like to deal with certain matters relating to the Commonwealth Bank, which are of great importance to my constituency and the rest of Australia, hut I cannot do so. I could quite easily indulge in a tirade against the Government. I must content myself with reading a letter which I have received from the honorary secretary of the Australian Telegraphists Union in Perth. It is dated 5th June, 1923, and says-
I have, : by direction of the Westralian Branch Committee of the Australian Telegraphists Union, to address you on the subject of the Superannuation Act, and the manner in which it has affected the dependants of some of our late members, with pension rights, in contradistinction to the way they would havebeen treated had they come compulsorily under the provisions of the Act, and not under a West Australian State Act.
In a general sense the Superannuation Act provides (section 38) that where an employee, having ten years service, dies between 31st December, 1920, and 5th January, 1923, a pension is payable to his widow and children. This applies in all States. However, later on (section 51 to 58), the Act makes special provision for employees with pension rights, apart from, and existing prior to, the Superannuation Act, to transfer or convert their rights, or to come under the Act for the limited purpose of a pension for their widows or children.
This part of the Act was evidently designed to prevent employees being entitled to two pensions upon retirement, and it was thought wise to provide that persons with pension rights already in existence must convert same, or only come under the Superannuation Act under certain conditions. This is only just; but as section 38 of the Act provides that all employees dying after 31st December, 1920, and before having an opportunity of taking advantage of the Act, should leave a pension for his widow, it is thought to be only right that this should apply alike to those who had pension rights as well as to others.
However, section 51, which was designed to prevent payment of two pensions to one person, has had the effect of nullifying clause 38 as far as officers with previously existing rights are concerned, and has affected widows and families of our late members, who had long and meritorious service, in an adverse manner, simply because the employees died before they had an opportunity of coming under the provisions of the Superannuation Act.
In Western Australia, all officers who joined the Service prior to 1st January, 1901, are entitled to a’ pension at sixty, and during the prescribed period five such officers died. Their names were: - P. McKnight, supervisor; A. J. Besley, telegraphist; D. W. Thomas, clerical assistant; W. F. Cole, telegraphist; andG. T. Marks, clerical assistant. Had these officers not been entitled to a pension under a Western Australian State Act, their widows and children would have received benefits, but, as it is, their dependants get nothing.
Representations have been made, and we are informed it is proposed to amend the Act in the direction desired. As there are only five such cases, and there can never be any more, seeing that the time limit has expired, we trust that you will use every endeavour, by strongly supporting such an amendment, to have these Western Australian widows placed on an equal footing with widows in other States whose husbands may have died during the prescribed period, and who had no pension rights.
I remain, yours faithfully, (Signed) J. W. Smith,
P.S. - I herewith enclose copy of letter received by us from Mr. Ross, President of Superannuation Board, stating the probability of the amendment mentioned.
Enclosed with that letter was the following communication from the president of the Superannuation Fund Management Board to the Western Australian branch of the Telegraphists Union : -
I desire to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 2nd instant, on the question of the rights of widows of deceased employees to pensions under section 38 of the Superannuation Act.
The question as to whether section 38 of the Act applies to the ‘Widows of employees who, during their service, had pension rights, has been very fully considered, and I am sorry to say that I cannot agree with your contention that both from the spirit of the Act and from its legal aspect the right extends to the widows of employees with pension rights.
I agree with you in the view that the widow of an employee with pension rights, who receives no consideration in respect of the death of her husband, should receive the same treatment as the widow of an employee without pension rights who dies in the. Service.
The matter has not been lost sight of, and the question of amending the Act in the direction desired is now under consideration.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) F. Ross,
I know every one of the men referred to in the letter, and have worked with them for fifteen or sixteen years. I, like them, was entitled to a pension at sixty years of age, but I abandoned it for politics. They have done excellent work for the Post and Telegraph Department and the Commonwealth of Australia, but because they were entitled to a pension under the State Act, the anomaly now exists that they are not entitled to a pension at all.
– Regarding the question raised by the honorable members for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), Capricornia (Mr. Forde), and Kooyong (Mr. Latham) regarding anomalies in the operation of the Superannuation Act, I can say at once that the Government has no desire to perpetuate such anomalies. If they are being perpetuated by a fault in the Act, that fault was unobserved by the last Parliament when it dealt with that legislation. I assure honorable members that the Government will at once obtain the opinion of the Solicitor-General, and, if such anomalies are possible in the interpretation of the Act, will take steps to remove them and place the public . servants mentioned on the same footing as others.
– Cannot the Government introduce an amending Bill ?
– Unfortunately these anomalies were not brought under my notice prior to this debate. Although I am the Minister in control of the Superannuation Board, I have no knowledge of the grounds on which the Board has acted. From the remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong, I gather that it is largely a matter of interpretation, and can be solved to a large extent without making an amendment of the Act. If an amendment is necessary the Government will consider very favorably the representations. The Western Australian cases are in quite a different category, and it may not be necessary to amend the Act to make it applicable to them.
Regarding the collection of land tax, which was referred to by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), the Commissioner already has discretionary power in that regard, and has assured me that he tries to meet, as far as possible, the circumstances of different cases. I am sure he will deal most sympathetically with all matters brought before him. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) has referred to the position, under the Superannuation Act, of widows and orphans of Commonwealth servants who have been transferred from the States. I cannot see that the Act can operate in the way suggested in respect to the widows of public servants who died quite recently. That interpretation can apply, it seems to me, only to public servants who died before 31st December, 1920. An examination of the number of cases that would be affected by any further retrospection of the Act has actually been undertaken by the Superannuation Board. The matter will not be lost sight of.
– In view of the assurance given by the Treasurer that, if necessary, amending legislation will be passed, I ask leave to withdraw my’ amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the proposed votebe reduced by £1.
I move this amendment as an indication to the Treasurer that this Committee desires him to bring in immediately a Bill to provide for pensions for widows with children dependent upon them. As a result of the operation of the “ gag,” I cannot speak to the amendment and advance reasons why it should be carried.
– Although the Government cannot accept the amendment, it is willing to refer the matter to the Royal Commission on National Assurance, which will be appointed before the session closes.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by £1 (Mr. O’Keefe’s amendment) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £118,550.
.- I understand that the item, “ Investigation Branch “ includes an amount for the Commonwealth Police. I thought that Force had ceased to exist..
– So it has.
– What is the necessity for investigation officers?
– I shall explain that item.
– It requires explanation. I do not know why investigation officers are required. We know how the Commonwealth Police Force was created, and the extent of the expenditure on it. I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance that that Force has ceased to exist. One item, showing a salary of £300 for an inquiry officer, needs explanation. No honorable member knows what are the duties of that particular officer, and I doubt whether the Minister has that knowledge. An explanation is required in that case. Taking the total salaries for the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, the amount is more than it was last year. The expenditure this year is £6,997, and last year it was £6,534. The increase this year is over £400, and honorable members should know the reason for it. Another item relates to cost of living allowances under the Arbitration Court awards - basio wage allowance, including child endowment; and adjustment of salaries. The total salaries are shown as £6,997. It may he a necessary item, but I should like an explanation of it. I do not know the nature of the duties of the investigation officers. Included in the vote for another Department was an amount of £1,500 set down for a couple of officers not under the Public Service Commissioner; and I venture to say that only the Prime Minister himself knows anything concerning them.
– During the war there was a small Commonwealth Police Force established, but it was disbanded several years ago. The Commonwealth had passed numerous laws administered by various Departments, and there had been growing up a small’ investigation branch in several Departments. The Government therefore decided to concentrate all the investigation officers under the control of the Attorney-General’s Department. We look to the States for the enforcement of our laws, but when it comes to the investigation of different matters connected with Commonwealth Departments, we always require our own officers. There is a good deal of investigation work to be done in the Home and Territories Department in connexion with immigration, and last year no fewer than 1,275 investigations had to be made for that Department. Complaints made regarding Customs administration have to be looked into, and investigations are necessary to prevent fraud in connexion with pensions.
– The police do a lot of that work.
– They do some of it. Last year there were 330 cases for investigation. Numerous inquiries are made with respect to the enforcement of our penal laws, and many inquiries of a private and personal nature are made on behalf of Australia House as to the where- abouts of certain individuals. I think there, were eighty-two applications of this nature last year from Australia House. Even the State police have asked us to make inquiries on their behalf, and in all ninety-five inquiries of this nature were made. The total number of investigations carried out by the branch during the year is 2,S53, and this resulted in the recovery of revenue to the extent of £9,791, or more than the salaries of the officers. In addition to the recovery of that revenue, information was supplied to the Customs and other Departments which led to the recovery of an additional £6,121, making a total of £15,912. By concentrating the investigations in one branch, efficiency . and economy have resulted. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) drew attention to the fact that the salaries chad increased from £6,010 to £6,947 ; but that increase is entirely due to the regular increments under the Public Service regulations. There has been a large decrease in the vote for contingencies. The expenditure for contingencies last year amounted to £7.903, and the estimate for 1923-24 is £7,857.’ The work that has been done by this branch has been most helpful. »
– I understand that, instead of giving the investigation work of the Commonwealth to the State detective offices, Commonwealth servants have been appointed to do it. There are many cases in which it would be undesirable for the Commonwealth to have to seek favours from the States in investigating suspected breaches of Commonwealth laws.
I draw attention to the necessity for providing better accommodation for tha High Court, particularly in Melbourne. In Sydney a building is being erected by arrangement with the State authorities of New South Wales. The provision in Melbourne is quite inadequate and inconvenient. On some occasions the Court has to work under bad conditions; it should have every facility and convenience in carrying out its important labours. So far as I am aware, there is no provision yet proposed for the High Court at Canberra, and apparently it is not intended that the Court should begin it3 career there simultaneously with this Parliament.
– We are now negotiating with the Victorian Government for a Court-house in Melbourne.
– I am glad to hear that. On page 81 of the Estimates, the Reporting Branch of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department is dealt with. The figures cover the remuneration of reporters who, I understand, are engaged largely in reporting the proceedings in the . Courts. That work was formerly done by private individuals, and I should like to know whether the establishment of a separate Reporting Branch has led to any saving. There is also an item of £6,000 for “ Tribunals under the Industrial Peace Act.” There has been only one tribunal dealing with the coal industry, and it does not appear to have been a conspicuous success, if we may judge by results. It would be interesting to know how £6,000 is to be spent in the coming year on this tribunal.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
.- The dilatoriness, if I may call it, of the members of the Government and the National party, in addressing themselves to the important question now before the “Committee, in the limited space of halfanhour, reflects very little credit on them. Before the dinner adjournment some reference was made in Committee to what are euphemistically known as the ‘investigating officers” in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. This is a recurring expenditure. Honorable members on my’ side of the House have long had, something more than a suspicion that these are our old friends, the Commonwealth Police, appearing under the new trade name. 1 am satisfied that that is so. To-day, as heretofore, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) explains that these men are merely civil officers engaged in altogether harmless, and, indeed, profitable, investigations on behalf of the Customs and other Departments of State. As a matter of fact, those of us who still have a lively recollection of the history of the last decade remember with pain that it, was the pleasant custom of the Government during the war to send those gentlemen to public meetings to take notes of what was said by those who differed from members of the Government on international questions. Occasionally, this pleasant practice “was followed by prosecution in the law Courts on the charge of sedition or disloyalty, or some sufficiently flexible charge to enable the Government to satisfy its predilection for persecuting those who differed from it politically. Our old friends the investigating officers still appear. I happen to know that within quite recent times, certainly since the Attorney-General has declared in his place in Parliament that his Department had no such officers, those gentlemen were still to be seen at public meetings endeavouring to make evidence against public men, or, at least, making interesting records for the archives. If those persons are not paid by the Commonwealth, by whom are they paid ? I say deliberately that I have little doubt - because there is a strong prima facie case in this regard - that those investigating officers, or gome of them, are private detectives, still used, as in the days of old, by the Commonwealth Government for the purpose of keeping an eye on public men in the discharge of their public duties.
– It is quite incorrect.
– Does the honorable member say that my statement is wrong? If so, who are these men, and who pays them? I find that, in the case of the Attorney-General’s Department, it is not, apparently, a mere matter of £118,550 that we have to dispose of within the hour devoted to the Committee for the discussion of this important part of the Estimates. After all, it is not a mere matter of money or of the amount of money. Running through the whole list of items one finds a large number of important matters of principle and policy, any one of which might very properly, and very profitably, have to itself the consideration of the Committee for several hours. One of these is the policy of conciliation and arbitration. Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) proposes by force of arms to close down this National Parliament in a couple of weeks’ time, all he has done on this subject is to make a speech which outlined the policy of the Government, and, incidentally, tended to show that he knew very little about it. Apparently, there is to be no legislation during this session on conciliation and arbitration. I cannot allow the right honorable gentleman to forget so soon some of the things he has said on the question. Quite recently, from his place in Parliament, referring to my Leader (Mr. Charlton), he said -
The honorable gentleman did not devote himself in the least to the industrial question itself, or to the troubles from which Australia is suffering owing to the duplication and overlapping of authority in the industrial field, but he merely offered a few remarks with- regard to State instrumentalities, and contended that the trouble could be overcame by the Commonwealth acquiring full industrial power.
In other words, he contended, as the very basis of conciliation and arbitration, that the Australian power should be a free instead of a strangulated power. The Prime Minister, in his speech, which, as I have said, was obviously ill-informed, paid no tribute whatever to the work that has been done in connexion with arbitration by that great Judge, Mr. Justice Higgins, who for so many years presided over the Court. The right honorable gentleman said not one single word of recognition of the outstanding public services of that gentleman, “nor did he seem to realize that, at the moment he was speaking, some 568,000 persons were working under awards of that Court throughout the Commonwealth. Instead, referring to the alleged duplication of that and other tribunals, he said, with cheap criticism -
We have the most appalling overlapping of jurisdiction in the whole of our industrial legislation, and no man knows where ‘he is.
Unquestionably the Prime Minister does not know where he is in connexion with conciliation and arbitration -
The Commonwealth Parliament is hamstrung under the Constitution, and has no real power.
I shall show in a moment that the declaration that the Commonwealth is hamstrung, and has no real power, is really a Labour phrase. That is just exactly what we, perhaps, in somewhat extravagant language, have told the people of Australia in connexion with the various referenda. “ Our position is almost a hopeless one. Three attempts have been made to induce the people to accept this change “ ; that is, to give the
Commonwealth full industrial power. The Prime Minister concluded -
Rather than achieve nothing, and come hack to the position in which we have been (or many years, of asking the people to sanction a change, to which they would not agree, we made an attempt to come to an arrangement with the States by which we could define areas within which the Commonwealth and the States would each have full industrial power.
I have made these quotations to call attention to the fact that they are, if true, a dreadful indictment against the right honorable gentleman himself and his political friends. He has spoken of the three attempts that have been made to give to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration an enlarged and truly national industrial power. There is no need for the right honorable gentleman to despair in this regard. If, as one would assume from the terms of his dolorous speech on the subject, he really wishes to extend the ambit and power of the Court he has only to whisper as much across the table to my friend, the Leader of the Opposition. Once political parties are agreed on the matter here, I venture to say that there will not be the slightest difficulty in securing, by means of a referendum, and rapidly at that) an amendment of the Constitution in regard to industrial powers. The thing is half done already. The Country party has “come to heel” as docile associates of the National party. This is a composite Government. The “ looters “ - as the Country party described the Nationalists, have joined hands with the “ paralytics “ - as the Nationalists described the Country party. The members of these two parties, at all events, can be relied upon to give solid support to anything agreed upon by the Government; and, as the Labour party over quite a long series of years has been endeavouring to emancipate the Commonwealth Parliament in regard to many things, including arbitration, if the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) really meant what he said, his ideas could easily be put into effect. Nobody, however, really believes that the right honorable gentleman desires to amend the Constitution in that way. It is only fair to say that there were in this Parliament in the past men of standing, although not associated with the Labour party, who believed that conciliation and arbitration could never be a useful indus. trial engine until the Commonwealth Parliament had power to legislate fully upon it. One of those is the right honorable gentleman who now occupies the Speaker’s chair. He made a declaration from his place in Parliament to that effect. Another is the present Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir William Irvine, who then was the honorable member for Flinders. These men, belonging to the Nationalist party, with the clear Australia vision which has characterized the Labour party in this regard for so many years, have publicly declared more than once that the industrial situation can never be clarified until the shackles or manacles -^whichever one chooses to call them - have been taken from the Commonwealth Parliament. The Prime Minister has outlined a proposal in regard to which he is not going to legislate, as he will be too busy tripping elsewhere, and on which he is not going to trust his colleagues to legislate, because he does not regard them as being capable. I do. I think that the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) knows more about the subject than the Prime Minister. If he could only break- down his natural modesty, conjure up his native courage, and assure the Prime Minister that he will not tolerate being placed in a back seat, something might be done. The proposal, if you please, is to make a selection of a certain group of industries, which are called Federal industries, and are peculiarly Federal in their character; such, for instance, as shipping and shearing. -It has been suggested that coalmining might possibly be included in the list, and that the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in respect of all other matters should be effectually and finally removed. That, of course, in itself involves an amendment of the Constitution if it is going to cure the duplication, so far as it exists, of which the Prime Minister complains. If there be not an amendment of the Constitution, then either the overlapping will remain as at present, or, alternatively, an arrangement can be made with the representatives of the States that there shall be no overlapping, legislation being passed by the States to that end. That, of course, could be done at the present moment without Commonwealth legislation of any kind, if the State3 could be induced to do it. With an amended Constitution, however, the Government proposes to ask for unlimited power over Federal industries, and power to regulate industry, which, amongst other things, would presumably include the power to regulate prices and so on. This, as the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has said, necessitates that where power is given to legislate in industrial matters it should be full power. Under such a power this Parliament might determine wages directly, or it might utilize Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration, or Wages Boards, as it pleased. That, at present, is impossible. The Government’s proposal has no chance of success, because the Premiers, with the exception of the Labour Premier of Queensland, are Statebound and show no inclination to agree to an arrangement under which the Commonwealth would have complete industrial power over any industry. That is the first practical objection. The second is that the Labour party and those for whom it speaks would not agree to it. The Premiers would not agreeto it because, from their point of view, it would go too far. Labour would not agree to it, because it does not go far enough. Labour certainly would not be so base as to agree to any further abrogation of Commonwealth powers with regard to industry. The proposal of the Commonwealth Government is to take the manacles off the Parliament in order to put it into hobbles. It proposes to take away from the Commonwealth Parliament more than it proposes to give to the same Parliament. It is a retrograde proposal, and is antinational. It is a movement to which I and my fellow members of the Labour party would not for a moment agree. Let it be understood that it is proposed to give the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration jurisdiction over adistinctly limited number of industries - not industries which are necessarily the only ones of a Federal character - but industries listed arbitrarily by the Government, or its representatives or nominees. Such a proposal holds outno hope of solving the practical difficulties with which we are faced at present in regard to arbitration. The grant of power contained in the Constitution relating to conciliation and arbitration is couched in terms apparently short and simple; that is, the grant of power in relation to conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. Tomes none the less have been filled with legal argument in regard to every word of that power. It is not an easy task, by any means, to name the industries to deal with which the Commonwealth would propose to invest the Court with power. A new shadowland is to be created; new debates, new arguments, and - if I may take some consolation from this fact - new avenues for disputes and litigation. The lawyers, who, we are allowed to believe, disport in these fields, will lose no sleep because of. the proposals of the Government. I had hoped that I would have an opportunity to discuss in detail the matters which I have opened up by these few merely preliminary remarks. I understand that, in precisely two and a half minutes, there will have happened in regard to this debate that dreadful thing which used frequently to happen during the course of the French Revolution; and happened, I am quite certain, in connexion with many people who deserved it much less than do the members of the Government. But I must cut short my unfinished fragment, as the time at my disposal is now limited to two minutes, and as I have a duty to perform, I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1, as a protest, in the first place, against the failure of the Prime Minister to deal with the industrial problems which he outlined early in the session, and as a further protest against the continuation of these private detectives, disguised under the name of “ investigation officers.”
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I want to draw your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the outrage of a proposed expenditure of £118,000 being dealt with in an hour.
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I desire to express my views on this question. I have many matters which I desire to bring before the Committee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is not in order in speaking at this stage. The time allowed for the discussion of the Estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department expired at 8.30, and the chair has now no option but to put the question.
Question - That the proposed vote (AttorneyGeneral’s Department, £118,550) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
The Home and Territories Department
Proposed vote, £617,678.
.- Under the Lands Acquisition Act, the Crown has power to resume property for’ public purposes, and I wish to refer to the resumption of certain city properties such as dwellings and business premises in my electorate for the purposes of the Postal Department. In one case, the Government resumed a business property which had been occupied by the tenant for twenty-nine years. The owner of the property, had given the tenant a verbal undertaking that he should have the use of the premises at a fixed rental for life. The tenant, who had a very fine business, was given notice by the Crown to quit the premises. I admit that the Act makes no provision for such a case, but compensation is given where property under written lease for even two or three years is resumed. I endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to’ obtain compensation for this person. Under the Landlord and Tenants Act, when notice to quit premises is given, the tenant is not required to pay further rent, but the Government maintain that’ they have power to .enforce the payment of rent to date of quittance of premises. I have a similar case of two elderly sisters, who occupied a shop and dwelling for twentytwo years. One was a cripple, and their only means of support was obtained from the business. They are in humble circumstances, and cannot afford to start a similar business elsewhere. They feel that they should be given compensation.
– I call attention to the want of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The Government’s action in these cases is tantamount to persecution. These people have asked me to state their case to the Government, but I might just as well appeal to a, marble statue in Fitzroy Gardens. Although the Act does not provide for such cases as these, I urge the Honorary Minister (Mr. Atkinson) to give consideration to them, and if nothing is done, at least, at some future date, to alter the Act and make it more in accord with the spirit and wish of this Parliament. I personally interviewed the former owners of these properties. One of them informed me that he had never given written leases, and the other, a man named Brown, corroborated the statement of the two sisters. He told me that while he remained the owner of the premises their rent would not have been raised, because they were good tenants, and, considering their circumstances, he did not think it would have been right to increase the rent. He is a man who would never think of breaking his Word. I hope that honorable members will assist in preventing a repetition of such callous treatment. The Government should act in these matters in such a way that ordinary citizens would commend rather than condemn them. I am quite sure that if the Labour party were in power they would make a sufficient sum available to enable the Government to act according to humanitarian principles in all such cases. Although I was not born in Australia, I have more feeli ing for these elderly people than this Ad ministration of Australian-born men whohave been treating them so harshly. I hope that the Government will show a proper Australian spirit, and not turn these women out into the streets.
.- Honorable members are allowed a week’s free board and lodging at Canberra each year.
– Do not “ stone-wall.”
– I do not intend todo so. There cannot be many honorable members on the Opposition side anxious to speak or they would be in the chamber. This provision was made to give honorable members an opportunity to inspect the new Federal Capital, but I see no justification for making the vote an annual one. Board and lodging can be obtained in Canberra for a week for £3 39, after the first free week, but it cost me more that that to stay there for five and’ three-quarter days. I hope that the Minister will see that the vote is immediately stopped.
I call attention to the proposed grant of £200 to the Hermannsburg Mission Station, which was established on the Finke River, in 1887. The station comprises 1,000 square miles of excellent country. When the war broke out the payment was stopped, because it was suspected that ‘the man then in charge was a pro-German. When members of the Public Works Committee were visiting the district, the Minister for Home and Territories wired to ascertain whether we thought tha subsidy should be renewed. For several reasons we replied in the negative. One reason i* that the station was not being worked as it should be. It comprises, perhaps, the finest country south of the Macdonnell Ranges, and, although it is well-watered and splendidly adapted for cattle-raising, only 1,000 head of cattle are carried. We met there 180 of the laziest blacks to be found. During our trip, spreading over three and a half months, we were among natives practically the whole of the time, and this mission station was the only place, where we were advised- to remove loose articles from our motor cars, lest the natives might steal them. The Government may now be in possession of more recent information, but I maintain that before the vote is agreed to we should have the strongest evidence that it is needed, and that it is wise to pass it.
There is an item of £2,000 for the establishment and maintenance of nursing homes in the Territory. A nursing home is being erected at Alice Springs. The stone-work has been erected, but the wood-work cannot be proceeded with owing to lack of funds. There is a distance of 970 miles between the hospital at Oodnadatta, in South Australia, and Maranboy, in the Northern Territory. Owing to the slump in cuttle, the Australian Inland Mission has been unable to carry out the wood-work for the hospital at Alice Springs.
– I call attention to the want of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I hope that the Government will make a grant to this hospital on the basis of £2 for £1, and will advance the money immediately. A committee at Alice. Springs has asked the Australian Inland Mission to undertake the erection of the building. If a woman in that district becomes ill, it may be necessary for her to travel 300 miles on a camel in charge of an Afghan or a blackfellow to obtain medical assistance. This is not the treatment we should mete out to the pioneers who are blazing tracks for other people to safely tread, I particularly stress this matter, because, if the Australian Inland Mission is able to send its nurses there, it will be of the utmost advantage to the residents,
On last year’s Estimates there were several amounts for the part payment of the cost of mail services between Alice Springs and Powell’s Creek, between the Katherine River and Maranboy, and between Alice Springs and Arltunga. Will the Minister see that those services are not discontinued or curtailed in any way 1 The people concerned do not have a mail more than once in every four or six weeks.
.- I am glad that at last I have an opportunity to speak on the vote for this Department. I showed every consideration to the Government when the first item in the Estimates was under consideration, occupying only half-an-hour out of the hour and thirty-five minutes to which I was entitled. On the second occasion, I was given only a minute and a half, and I did my best with it. Once more I endeavoured to catch the Chairman’s eye, and succeeded, and again I had a minute. On the fourth occasion, I met with no more success. My desire is to protest in the strongest terms against this outrage on the principle of responsible government. We have been considering the Estimates only since a quarter past 2 o’clock this afternoon, and, up to the present, we have voted, practically without debate, over £4,000,000. As a representative of the people, I shall take every opportunity to voice my protest against this indiscriminate voting of moneys. This indecent haste on the part of the Government is to be strongly condemned. Honorable members on this side desired to challenge the policy of the Government in regard to immigration, but were not allowed to say a word. When we reached the Department of the Treasury, it had been my intention to bring under the notice of the Minister the case of the dependants of two returned soldiers who have been unable to obtain any redress for what is truly a serious injustice in relation to their pensions. Of course, I understand that I cannot, at this stage, refer to the matter, but I desire to say that I have been unable to secure any satisfaction for these persons by appeals to the Minister ; while in Par liament, which is the only place in which I can voice their grievances, I am denied the chance to do so. This is to be deplored, especially when those concerned are the dependants of men who did a good service for this country. However, as to the manner in which the Estimates are now being dealt with, I shall take good care to let the people of Australia know how their rights are being abrogated here by an alleged Nationalist Government. This vote for the Home and Territories Department involves an expenditure of £609,506, which must be passed by half-past 10 o’clock, at which time the Lord High Executioner drops the guillotine. There is a proposed expenditure of £64,000 for Papua. The other evening I addressed myself to the affairs of the Mandated Territory, and I take the present opportunity to exercise the privilege - for it seems to be a privilege - of expressing my views on the administration of Papua. This Territory has been our special care almost since the advent of Federation. Before that period it was controlled by the State of Queensland. Papua differs in a very real sense in its relation to Australia from that of the Mandated Territory. Those who are responsible for the Papuan administration have proved themselves capable and worthy of the confidence reposed in them. In Judge Murray, Mr. Murray, and Mr. Staniforth Smith, we have men who have done excellent work, and have upheld the good name and prestige of Australia. They are all experienced, well-informed men, who ‘ thoroughly understand their job; and last year it was my good fortune to visit Papua, and observe some of the excellent results of their work. In my opinion, the amount we are asked to vote to-night is not nearly sufficient if we are to develop New Guinea, with its rich potentialities, and, therefore, further time than is now permitted should be given us to consider our duty in this respect. The gentlemen I have mentioned are doing their best to promote the interests of the native population, and certainly they deserve better financial support. This Possession is distant from _ the Seat of Government, and distant places are apt to be overlooked. I’ trust that, during recess, honorable members will have an opportunity to visit Papua, and place themselves in a position to thoroughly appreciate the circumstances of this administration . If we . had only had sufficient foresight to transfer one of Papua’s officials to the Mandated Territory, it would have materially assisted the administration there. I again protest against the manner in which these Estimates are being forced through, and express my determination to see that the Ministers of all Departments and Government supporters are kept awake during the whole of the night to do their part, and to share the disadvantages and discomforts of an all-night sitting. I hope my words will result in more consideration from the Government than we have received up to the present.
– I indorse the request of the honorable member for Bass that assistance should be given to the Inland Mission, so that the hospital, just beyond Alice Springs, may be completed. That mission is one of the finest examples of disinterested Christian services in the cause of humanity that. I have ever come across. It is entirely unsectarian. Its object is to carry light and comfort to the sparse population of that vast area. It will by its efforts, as time goes on, have the effect of saving the Government considerable expenditure, which would have to be incurred if we did our duty to the great northern country. In the mission-house there is a map of the interior dotted with red stars, showing the stations at present being conducted, and black stars indicating missions to be undertaken in the future as settlement extends. Beltana was the original headquarters, and the mission has extended the length of the railway line, right through Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, Macdonnell Ranges, and up to Darwin. Then, from a point 250 miles below Oodnadatta the mission work runs through the vast country towards the Queensland border and beyond. This is a splendid achievement from every point of view. These magnificent women, trained nurses and devoted souls, have left the great centres of population with all their attractions, and have given their lives to those pioneers who are blazing the track of civilization through the ‘interior. I trust the work will command the sympathy of the Government, and that the assistance asked for will be provided.
.- I should like to draw attention to the reduction of- expenditure on the Meteorological Department. . Last year I wrote to the Department concerning the establishment of a station at Mullewa, the centre of a large ‘ pastoral district in “Western Australia. I was informed that if I waited until this year, I would find that the whole of the small amount of money set aside for Western Australia would be devoted to that object. At the beginning of the new year, I wrote a letter to the Commonwealth Meteorologist. I received the following reply: -
In reply to’ your letter of 30th July, respecting the establishment of meteorological stations at Mullewa and Morowa, Western Australia, I regret to state ‘that the greatly reduced amount set down in the printed Estimates for 1023-24 for the meteorological branch will not permit of the establishment of any additional official meteorological stations in the Commonwealth during the current financial year.
The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) the other evening told us that he had a surplus of over £1,000,000. Yet in this most important branch, upon which our primary industries depend so much, there is not an additional shilling to bc spent in the Commonwealth . Last year the expenditure on this branch was £80,911. The proposed vote this year is £62,889. That is an exhibition of the most foolish parsimony. I want to know where the members of the Country party stand on this question. I brought this matter up the other evening, and was greeted with “Hear, hears “ from Country party members. I want to see in which way they vote to-night. All over Western Australia, but particularly in my electorate, vast areas are being cleared, and made ready for the plough. There is an area, at least 50 miles wide by 150 miles long, which men are clearing. New settlement is springing up, and the settlers desire to know what the rainfall has been in certain years in order to determine what’ they may safely plant. Applications also have been made from long-established centres in my. electorate. In the farming portions of that electorate, a good deal of feeling exists in regard to this matter. What are the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) going to do? I should like honorable members to know what some of the present Ministers thought last year in regard to the cutting down of the expenditure on this branch. I quote the following from page 762 of last year’s Hansard -
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman ) -that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “the stoppage of reports rc weather, &c., directly affecting the pastoral, agricultural, and shipping industries.”
There should be no necessity to make an appeal of this kind to a Government that owes its very existence to the support of the Country party. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), now Minister for Trade and Customs, in moving the motion, said -
Notwithstanding what has been said from the front Ministerial bench this afternoon, I make no apology for moving the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the stoppage of the weather reports. I endeavoured to movein this direction last week, ‘because I considered that it was a very urgent matter, and J do so to-day because I want more assurancethan wc ‘have so far been given in this connexion. Something must be done forthwith.. Questions upon this subject were submitted ten days ago -by the Leader of .the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) and myself.
Dr. Earle Page is now Treasurer, and he is responsible for cutting down this vote by £20,000. A great deal of space is taken up with the speech delivered by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman), but I desire to read to the Committee the remarks then madeby the present Treasurer. The honorable member said -
I hope that further inquiry will be made by the Minister in regard to the circulation of weather reports. The geographical position of many centres makes them far more important, from a meteorological point of view, than their size and population might suggest.
That is the very point which I am trying to drive “home to-night. He went on to say -
Under the curtailed scheme, districts in which there are only a few residents may.be deprived of the service, although it is of vital importance that the earliest possible information from those centres as to flood reports should be available in other districts.
Since I have been a member of this House I have looked vainly in the columns of the daily press for weather reports from Western Australia. It is a frequent thing to see the statement, “No report.” As far as the Meteorological Branch is concerned, Western Australia apparently does not exist. This is a very grave matter. No matter what explanation may be given by the Minister, he cannot get away from the intimation I have received that during the present year not another station is to be established in the Commonwealth. He cannot deny, either, that thousands of square miles of country will be opened up during the current year for the growing of wheat, and that those areas will be denied this scientific information. I have very much pleasure in moving -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1, as an instruction to the Government to provide adequate funds for the issuing of the necessary weather reports and the establishment of a sufficient1 number of meteorological stations throughout the Commonwealth.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
. - I hope that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) will withdraw his amendment when he realizes that the expenditure on weather telegrams is not to be cut down. On page 107 of the Estimates there is a proposed vote of £28,000 for payment to the Postmaster-General’s Department for the transmission of meteorological telegrams within the Commonwealth. The amount provided last year for that purpose was £52,000, and I presume that fact has placed the honorable member under the misapprehension that there has been a reduction of £20,000. As a matter of fact, that is not so, because an arrangement has been come to with . the PostmasterGeneral’s Department whereby similar service will be rendered this year at half rates. It will thus be seen that £28,0U0 this year will give a better service than did £52,000 last year. There is no intention to reduce this very useful and necessary service,
– There are to be no more meteorological stations established in the Commonwealth during the year.
– The honorable member certainly did say that the Commonwealth Meteorologist had informed him that no new stations were to be established, because the money for such had not been provided. As a matter of fact, the expenditure is practically confined to the transmission of telegrams, and the establishment of stations does not cost anything. The honorable member’s contention, therefore, is not a sound one.
Earlier in the day the honorable mem ber for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) urged the reinstatement of the jury system in the Northern Territory, giving as a reason that the natives had been rehearsed in the evidence they were to give at trials. Mr. Justice Ewing, in a report, mentioned a case in which natives who were to give evidence were rehearsed for some days before the trial. That happened about the year 1913. The Government, however, did. not abolish the jury system for that reason, but because they could not obtain convictions for cattle stealing and similar offences.
– How does the Minister know that there are any guilty persons there?
– It was considered, on the evidence adduced, that the juries ought’ to have convicted in many cases in which they refused to do so. The jury system was abolished in October, 1921, when Law Ordinance ,No. 13 was passed. That Ordinance said that indictable offences against any law of the Territory other than those for which the punishment was death were in future to be tried by a Judge without a jury. The Government sees no reason to depart from the prevailing practice. If circumstances should warrant such action later on, the Government will reinstate the jury system.
.. - The Minister rose to reply to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) on a very important point. He will now require to explain his explanation. He evaded the point by talking all round it.
– That is incorrect. I dealt directly with a definite question.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie read an official letter, and invited the Minister to reply to it, but the Minister ^refused to do so. What has the Minister to ‘say to the following official letter sent by the Deputy Commonwealth Meteorologist in reply to a request by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie -
I regret to state that the greatly reduced amount set down in the printed Estimates for 1923-24 for the Meteorological Branch will not permit of the establishment of any additional official meteorological stations in the Commonwealth during the current financial year.
That was a reply to a question, asked officially of the Department, whether additional stations, one of which was promised last year, would be established in certain parts of Australia. The official reply to the request was that it was not proposed to establish any more of those stations in the Commonwealth during the current financial year. No matter how the Minister may talk round the subject, he cannot escape from the statements made in that letter.
– The portion of the letter quoted by the honorable member is only a small part of what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie raised.
– It is not a small part of it; it is the whole of it. By his attempts to explain away the position, both in his speech. and by interjection, the Minister is making confusion worse confounded. I ask him, are the statements in the letter right or wrong? I received a letter, in reply to a request made by me last year for the provision of more of these stations. When honorable members of the Country party were talking about the injustice to country districts! by closing the weather-reporting stations, I wrote’ a letter on the subject to the Department. The official reply stated -
The reduced amount provided for the current year does not allow of any further additions to the number, and consequently the request, in common with similar requests from other centres, cannot be acceded to at present.
These are official replies from the Depart. ment. After the receipt of that letter, I asked the Treasurer, ob notice–
Whether, in view of the widespread desire in country districts for an increase in the number of daily reporting weather stations, he is prepared to provide additional funds for this purpose ?
He stated, in reply, that the matter would be considered in connexion with the forthcoming Budget. Notwithstanding the fact that we now have the Estimates before us, we are still receiving official replies to the effect that no provision is made for any additional expenditure in this direction. I do not say that the conditions in my electorate are different from those in any other electorate. In every country electorate there is an outcry for an increased number of these stations. When their number was reduced by the previous Government some time ago, no one was louder in his condemnation than the present Treasurer (gr Earle Page),’ and some of those honorable members who are now, associated with him in the Government. A letter which I have received recently will show the Treasurer that there are still people in the country who are looking to him, in view of the speeches he then made, to. provide the facilities asked for. The following is part of that letter: -
I was under the impression that it was the expense of the telegrams in connexion with these reports that. was being used aa an argument against them. I am hopeful that, according to tho tone of your letter, the Trea surer, being a country member, wl1) realize the necessity of such reports, especially hi view of the reported huge revenue received from postal services.
That -is typical of many letters which could be quoted to show that people in country districts are expecting the Government, m view of the condemnation of the previous Administration by its members, to do something in this regard, The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) knows that this is a live question in country districts. It is net too much to ask that the Treasurer, and others, should act up to tha criticisms which they launched against the previous Administration. 1 need not go into the merits of the question. We all realize the necessity tor the stations in country districts. They are an important part of the lives of the people.- There are indications of widespread antagonism in the country to those who promise these things but do not grant them. In illustration ot this feeling, I might point to the Daylesford election which was held yesterday, when the candidate who went to the electors under the banner of the Country party was placed well at the bottom of the poll. That is an indication of what members of the Government may expect when next they appeal to those who elected them to this Parliament to do something more than their predecessors did. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie provides an opportunity for honorable members on the other side to let the Government see that unless it does’ something it may expect serious consequences later. They should consider the amendment, speak upon it, and let the Government know in no uncertain way by their votes that these stations, which are important to the people in the country, should be provided.
.- I desire to say a word with regard to the electoral proposals of the Government.
– On a point of order, I submit that while an amendment of a proposed vote is before the Chair, honorable members must confine their remarks to that amendment.
– The amendment proposes to reduce the total sum provided for the Department. That total appears at the end of the Estimates relating to the Department, and . any member who has not addressed himself to the departmental vote as a whole may do so.
– I want to- impress upon the Government the desirability of carrying out, as early as possible, the proposals for combining the Federal and State electoral systems. I know that this subject has been discussed at the Conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and I ask the Minister whether the arrangements made have been carried out to any extent, and . whether there is a prospect of an early fulfilment pf the desire that these Departments shall bc combined.
So far as the amendment is concerned, it appears to me that we have been treated to a storm in a teacup. I was aware of an apparent large difference between the amount expended upon meteorological stations last year, and the proposed vote for this year. Knowing that it was a very important matter to the country generally, I consulted the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) regarding it. His explanation was quite simple, and I discovered that, so far from there being a reduction, there was an increase.
– The honorable member tries to oppose everything that I endeavour to obtain for my part of Western Australia.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is saying something quite unworthy of him-
– The honorable member did the same in connexion with the Wyndham Meat Works.
– And which would be quite unworthy of me.’ I am as fully seized of the importance of this matter as is the honorable member, and if I thought that any reduction was being made in this vote I should strenuously oppose it, and range myself alongside him. The amount provided last year for meteorological stations was £47,452, and this year it is £29,150. The reason is that the PostmasterGeneral has reduced the cost of telegrams to press rates or half the preexisting rates, so that the £29,150 represents £58,300 under the old system. If we can obtain an ‘ increased service at a reduced cost, so much the better. I know that the actual expense of establishing weather stations is ‘ little or nothing. A rain gauge and instruments are provided to the attendants. These cost practically nothing, the whole expenditure being incurred in the trans mission of telegrams. Under these circumstances, the vote is quite sufficient, and the amendment should not be carried.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the establishment of new stations in Western Australia?
– I am in favour of the establishment of any necessary stations.
– Then he should vote for the amendment.
– I do. not profess to know whether the particular station referred to by the honorable member is necessary or not. The establishment of stations is nOt, included in this vote; it is merely for the transmission of meteorological information. There is a want of recognition of the extra services which are being provided in the country districts by the Postmaster-General. A solar observatory is apparently to be established this year. I wish to know whether the staff mentioned in this item has been appointed, and where and under what conditions this solar observatory is proposed to be erected. From the reports in the press, I presume it will be established at Canberra.
– On a point of order. I submit that the honorable member is not in order in discussing any question except the amendment before the Chair.
– The question before the Committee is that the proposed vote for the Department of Home and Territories be agreed to. To that an amendment has been moved. The honorable member’s point of order was overruled by a previous occupant of the chair, but in view of standing order 226, which reads -
In Committee, members may speak more than once to the same question, and when an amendment has been proposed from the Chair, shall confine themselves to such amendment,
I rule that honorable members must confine their remarks to the amendment.
– I believe the difficulty could be. overcome if the honorable member who has moved the amendment would temporarily withdraw it. That would allow members to speak on items which appear before that which it is proposed to amend.
– It is open to the mover of the amendment to temporarily withdraw it, if any honorable member desires to discuss a previous item.
– On a point of order. I wish to know whether, after the amendment has been dipsosed of, I shall be entitled to proceed with the discussion on the solar observatory?
– After the amendment is disposed of, and providing it is before 10.30 p.m., when the question must be put, . the honorablemember will be in order in discussing any items on this vote.
.- The amendment is important, and vitally concerns the country districts throughout Australia. The Minister, when referring to the Meteorological Department, said that no curtailment of services was proposed, but one has only to refer to the objections raised in this Parliament last session to realize that there was a. serious curtailment of the services of that Department.
– They have been restored.
– They have not been restored.
– The Minister is saying what is not correct.
– Mr. Chairman, I ask that the honorable member withdraw that remark.
– I. did not hear the honorable member’s remark. Interjections are disorderly, and the Minister should not take notice of them.
– Will you, Mr. Chairman, ask the honorable member for Hume to withdraw his remark?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Did the honorable member for Hume use the expression of which the Minister complains ?
– According to the information which is contained in a letter I have in my possession, I cannot see how the Minister justifies his statement.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Did the honorable member make the remark of which the Minister complains?
– I thought the Minister made an. incorrect statement.
– The honorable member has not withdrawn his remark; he is quibbling.
– I ask that the Minister withdraw the statement that I am quibbling.
– I do not think the language complained of is unparliamentary.
– The Minister in his speech stated that there was no curtailment of the weather services. The present Minister for Trade and Customs in the last Parliament ably dealt with this matter. He said -
If the gentleman who has been responsible for cutting off the weather reports is to he the judge as to whatwill be an efficient service, we have come to a pretty pass. But apparently the policy generally adopted is, “ If we want more money, Jet us tax the primary producer, the man on theland in isolated back-blocks.” I want to know who has been responsible for cutting off these reports. . . . According to the Treasurer there has been no saving effected. The Government seem to be run by the Departments. Officials tell Ministerswhat they are to do, and Ministers do what they are told tillthere is a row in the House. Then they run back to their officials and ask them to review their instructions. What is the nature of the substantial alterations which we are now told are to be made? The stoppage oftheseweather reports in the first placewas a scandal.
The Minister was congratulated on that statement by other members of this House. The then Honorary Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie), who represents the Minister for Home and Territories in this House, in reply, said -
The only action originally taken by the Government in this matter consisted in giving instructions to the Meteorological Department that, this year, they must cut down their expenditure to an amount strictly within their allowance, which amounts to £52,000.
That indicates that the Government were curtailing the expenditure on the Meteorological Department by reducing the number of flood-warning stations and weather stations. Since my election to this Parliament, I have urged the Government to establish in the country districts flood-warning stations, but I have met with little success. A station is urgently required at Emerald, in Central Queensland. It is desired that the postmaster of that town should be frequently advised of rainfalls during the rainy seasons from Springsure, Boguntungan, Capella, Clermont, Sapphiretown, and Rubyvale. In the neighbourhood of those places flow the Nogoa River, Theresa Creek, and Retreat River. The first four places mentioned have already been connected with Emerald by telephone, and as a telephone extension has been made to Sapphiretown and Rubyvale, weather reports could bi’ sent from there to Emerald with very little trouble. If adequate notice of approaching floods was not given to the settlers, hundreds of sheep might be carried away. My desire is that the local Emerald postmaster should advise the various selectors in the flood areas by telephone, there being a telephone line running along the Nogoa River for a number of miles; or, as an alternative, if the local secretary of the Graziers Association was advised by telephone by the postmaster, he could spread the news throughout the district. The country within a radius of about 10 miles of Emerald is subject to floods at all times. Although no falls might be recorded locally, or at the junction of Theresa Creek with the Nogoa River, the rainfalls in the Capella and Clermont districts might cause disaster among selectors down the Nogoa River unless they were advised. On the occasion of the last two floods in that district thousands of sheep were lost. The postmaster at Emerald should be advised several times a day during rainy periods. The Deputy Commonwealth Meteorologist (Mr. R. F. Griffiths) has stated, in reply to representations made to him, that the establishment of a, floodwarning station at Emerald with the desired reporting stations “ will depend upon whether funds will be available for the purpose out of greatly curtailed votes for this- branch shown in the printed Estimates of 1923-24.” I maintain that it is against the best interests of the settlers that there should be any curtailing of these services.
– We have told you a dozen times that no service has been curtailed.
– The facilities asked for have not been provided, and should bo granted by Ministers who call themselves Country party representatives. They were ready enough to advocate the granting of facilities of this nature before they joined the Nationalists, but now that they have an opportunity to do something of a practical nature for the benefit of people on the land they are found wanting, I regret that in the brief time at the disposal of honorable members there will not - be an opportunity to deal with the Estimates in detail. The erstwhile Leader of the Country party, the Trea surer (Dr. Earle Page), said that it was a good thing to “ switch on the light,” but now that members of the Country party are in power, they are prepared to sacrifice all that they previously advocated, because they have joined up with Flinderslane representatives.
– I am somewhat surprised that honorable members opposite have not accepted the explanation of the Honorary Minister (Mr. Atkinson). If they will look at the Estimates, they will see that there has been an increase rather than a decrease in the very necessary river gauges and rain-gauge reports. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has been referring to statements made by the Minister for Trade and Customs last year.
– I rise to a point of order. I call your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that this debate is being proceeded with under the limitations imposed by. standing order 262a. When the time allotted for debate on this section of the Estimates expires, no opportunity will be available to me for raising a point of order.
–Mr. Chairman, I wish to raise a point of order.
– The honorable member cannot raise a point of order ou a point of order. At 10.30 p.m., ipso facto, the debate on this Department ends. The question, therefore, arises whether I may raise a point of order mme pro tune. I remind you, Mr. Chairman, that we are proceeding under very strict and arbitrary rules of debate. I submit that a delicate and . difficult point of order cannot be stated if honorable members are not disposed to give me a hearing.
– I am surprised at the Chairman allowing this.
– That interjection is a reflection upon the Chair.
-Will the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) please state his point of order?-
– It must be perfectly obvious that two honorable members cannot speak at the same time. The standing order to which I have referred states—
When Estimates of Expenditure are being considered a member of the Government may at any time declare that the Estimates are of an urgent nature, and, on such declaration the question, “ That the Estimates” Of Expendi- ture be considered of an urgent nature,” shall be put forthwith - no debate or amendment being allowed - aud on such motion being agreed to without dissentient voice, or being carried by an affirmative vote of not less than twenty-four members-
And that; Mr. Chairman, is the crux of the position on which I am going to ask you in a moment to rule–
– I submit that there is no point of order in this matter.
– The position is intolerable. I have never previously been subject to interruption of this kind.
– I call on the honorable member for Batman to resume his seat.
– You cannot do that, Mr. Chairman, when he has not stated his point of order.
– I hope, Mr. Chairman, that you do not intend to preclude me from stating my point of order.
– A division was taken on the question of the limitation of the debate, and there were thirty-five “Ayes” and twenty-three “ Noes.”
– That has nothing to do with my point of order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Yes, it has. I call on the PostmasterGeneral.
– Pardon me. Let the
Postmaster-General resume his seat. There are proper ways of dealing with honorable members. Means are provided by the Standing Orders.
– I call the honorable member for Batman to order.
Honorable Members of the Opposition. Why?
– Order I
– I am prepared to bo orderly if that is what you want, Mr. Chairman.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN . Will the honorable member take his seat?
– The honorable member who has risen to interrupt me should take hisseat
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Postmaster General has the call.
– How can he? Two honorable members cannot have the floor at once.
– That is arbitrary. What is your ruling, Mr. Chairman?
-I have given my ruling.
– If you will allow me, sir, I shall conclude–
– I ask the honorable member for Batman to resume his seat.
– Of course that suits the honorable member for Fawkner.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat?
– I shall do my best.
– Would I be in order in asking what your ruling is, Mr. Chairman ?
– I move, Mr. Chairman, that your ruling be disagreed with. I think that is quite a reasonable proposition.
– Why has not the PostmasterGeneral resumed his seat?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The motion of dissent should be put in writing.
– The PostmasterGeneral will have to take his seatwhile I am writing out my motion.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The time for putting the question has now arrived.
– Do you rule, Mr. Cook, that the vote must be taken before the dissent from your ruling has been dealt with ? I submit that no question can be put from the Chair until it has been decided whether your ruling is right or wrong.
– I have given no ruling as to whether the question should now be put.
– Then I shall have to re-write my dissent.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by ?1 (Mr. A. Green’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 12
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Question - That the proposed vote (Home and Territories Department, £617,678) be agreed to- put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 11
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department or Defence
Proposed vote, £3,425,829.
– I move -
That the proposed votebe reduced by £1, as an indication to the Government that, in view of the declarations that are constantly being made by experts that the military is no longer the first line of defence and that in future the safety of the country will depend on the aerial and submarine services, there should be a complete reorganization of our defence system in order to avoid useless expenditure of public money. The time has arrived when the question of defence should be faced in a proper manner. “We are still proceeding along the same old lines and following a system which the recent war proved to be quite out of date. We have made the military the first arm of defence, and have” expended the greater part of our defence vote in that direction. A lot has been said regarding the compulsory military training provisions introduced in 1910. Those provisions should be discarded. The drill is of such a character as to be of no use. To-day we do not so much require to have men who can “ eyes right,” “quick march,” or “stand at ease,” as men who can shoot, and. who can use a pick and shovel. I am reluctantly compelled to admit that, notwithstanding the lessons of the recent war, we have to make some provision for our own defence. I dissociate myself from those who are always urging that provision should be made for what they term adequate defence, ostensibly for the purpose of protecting our own country, but in reality for the purpose of making it possible to send our forces overseas. I do not approve of that. In view of the circumstances that exist throughout the world to-day, however, provision should be made for the defence, if necessary, of Australia. The branches to which Australia has to look are the aerial and submarine services.
– Would not the honorable member make it an adequate de- fence?
– I want it to be made adequate, and I shall point out how I think that should be done. I believe that those are the main branches of defence. Then, if Australia were attacked, the fight would have to take place at sea, and not on shore. An enemy must be prevented from landing troops in Australia. With our big coastline, we need to possess an aerial service. While that is patent to everybody, Australia is expending its money inthe old way, not recognising that the preparations for defence should be carried out on different lines. I well remember the discussion that took place in this House prior to the close of the last Parliament, which led to the reduction of the Defence Estimates by at least £500,000. The expenditure last year was £3,409,167. The proposed vote this year is £3,425,829. There appears to be a tendency to slightly increase the expenditure, whereas if the service were properly organized, it should be decreased. Australia cannot afford to expend £3,500,000 on defence unless it is absolutely necessary. A Board of Inquiry should be appointed, composed not entirely of military men, to ascertain the best means of def ence - if we must provide for defence in these troublesome times - and what expenditure is necessary to establish it and put it into operation. Then we should know to what expenditure we ought to commit Australia. In view of the fact that it costs much less for aeroplanes and submarines than for big war-ships, such as we are dismantling, and for a land force, we should probably save £1,000,000 and yet provide a better defence for Australia if she were attacked.
– What about the protection of the trade routes.
– The smaller craft and submarines would provide an ample defence for Australia. We should be self-contained, but, unfortunately, we are not. That is one of the greatestdisabilities under which Australia labours. If our trade routes were dislocated, we should probably find ourselves short of ammunition. That subject should be investigated. It is a big ques tion, and worthy of consideration. By voting huge sums of money year after year for defence, without knowing definitely whether it is wanted, and upon what basis we are working, we are doing wrong. We should retrace our steps. A sum of £2,500,000, in addition to this proposed vote is being placed to a reserve for defence purposes. That practically means that there will be at the disposal of the Government this year for defence purposes a little under £6,000,000 when the Estimates have been passed. The strange thing is that that sum of £2,500,000 does not appear on the Estimates. It is mentioned, only in the Budget speech. A report issued by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) states -
The Present Influence of International Affairs on Australian Defence. - The chief factor affecting Defence considerations at the beginning of 1922 was the Armaments Conference at Washington. The agreements reached by the nation’s representatives there assembled gave promise of relief from the heavy burden of defensive preparation, and induced the retrenchment of activitiesreflected in the Estimates for 1922-23. But the bright hopes then raisedhave not been completely fulfilled. The League of Nations, also, to which all eyes arc turned in hopeful expectation, has not yet attained that influence in international affairs which would justify prudent and responsible authority in neglecting those precautionary measures of defence that are requisite to a nation which aspires to worthy ideals, and seeks, not outside aggression, but an unmolested developmentwithin its own borders.
That gives the pessimistic view. In season and out of season some honorable members talk of danger. I am thankful that I have never in this Parliament raised my voice against another nation. At times I have had to sit here, with my feelings very much disturbed, because some honorable members have adopted an. attitude of antagonism to other nations, particularly to Japan. We have been told, time after time, that we must protect the Pacific, and that Japan has aggressive designs on Australia. This afternoon I read a report in the press of a statement made by the visiting Japanese scientists who are now in Sydney, and who will be in Melbourne next week. They deplored that so many wild statements had been made respecting Japan’s intentions, and said that Japan had lived up to the Washington Conference decisions.
– So she has.
– In fact, those gentlemen’ said that Japan had done more than the Washington Conference decisions required.
– That is perfectly true, and I said so in my speech.
– I believe that the honorable member did. These gentlemen tell us that Japan is prepared to reduce her armaments still further. All she wants is an amicable trade arrangement with Australia. She is prepared to admit that we have a right to manage our own internal affairs. Honorable members could not have anything better than those remarks from - these representative men. Such statements make us wonder why our public men so constantly attribute hostile motives to other nations, and seek to compel us to expend large sums for defence. That sort of thing only gives prominence to war. We should be prepared tospend money for defence only.
– The honorable member says he is willing to prepare for defence.
– I am reluctantly compelled to admit that.
– That is allthat my report suggests.
– I do not agreewith the honorable member. I understand, from this statement that the Minister proposes to expend whatever he thinks to be necessary. We should have our defence position thoroughly investigated. I am hoping for a world’ s peace.
– So is every one.
– At the same time, I am not foolish enough to think that we need make no provision to defend Australia. If £2,500,000 is sufficient for the purpose, why should we spend £3,500,000 ? If we could save £1,000,000, it would be a great consideration. We are asked to spend £2,500,000 in addition to the amount provided on the Estimates. This report by the Minister proceeds-
Pending the outcomeof the Conference, the Government proposes to set aside an amount of £2,500,000 as a reserve for defence purposes, and meanwhile Naval, Military and Air Force activities wilt proceed practically on thesame lines, as, were intended during 1922-23.
Where are we? This £2,500,000 is not on the Estimates. For all we know, the Government may decide to spend it during the recess. We have no promise that they will consult Parliament before spending it. We should have an assurance on that point.
– The Prime Minister promised that he would not commit Australia to anything without consulting Parliament.
– He did not say he would not spend this money without consulting Parliament.
– I take it that that £2,500,000 will be used for the purchase of new material.
– The Committee has no information on the matter. The Government should take Parliament into its confidence.
– I hope it will.
– -The Prime Minister definitely stated that he would not commit this country to any more expenditure until he had consulted Parliament.
– That is correct The trouble is that we have passed the Budget, which included provision to place this £2,500,000 in reserve for defence. The Prime Minister may say that that entitled him to spend the money.
– Oh no.
– What does the Minister’s report say?
– The honorable member is reading into it something that is not there.
– I contend that the last paragraph I read justified my remarks.
– The Prime Minister has promised that this House will have an Opportunity to express itself.
– So it will, if the Prime Minister keeps his promise;; but I have heard so many things promised in this Chamber and have seen the opposite done. The Prime Minister might say that the Committee having passed this amount to be placed to the credit of a defence reserve account, he was justified in spending it. The Minister, during recess, might decide to carry out certain defence work, and use this money for the purpose. I do not know that we could find fault with him if he did. We are making practically £6,000,000 available to the Minister. Last year the Committee had a keen debate on defence affairs. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who was then Leader of the Country party, took a prominent part in the discussion. It was contended at that time that either the Military College at Duntroon or the Naval College at Jervis Bay should be abolished. It was pointed out that it cost us £1,000 for each cadet who went through these colleges, “Will anybody argue that it is in the best interests of the country that both these colleges should be continued?
– The Defence Council had a long conference on the matter and could come to no conclusion.
– That is ona of our troubles. Every time an inquiry is conducted into military matters, men connected with the Defence Department - . generally officers of high standing - are appointed to the Committee. This work is the livelihood of these men, and they will do all they can to keep military affairs in the forefront They make many suggestions to the Minister, and they complain if the Defence Estimates are reduced. That kind of thing makes us go on as we are going. Our defence affairs should be fully investigated by a competent and unbiased authority, to see whether we are getting value for the money we expend. Of course, the military authorities would advise the Minister to continue the two colleges.
– They magnify the position.
– Would the honorable member abolish the Duntroon College and concentrate at Jervis Bay?
– Certainly, that is the best place. If Duntroon College were closed, many of the workmen employed up there would be able to get cheap homes. Quite a little township is organized at Duntroon, and it appears to be of no real benefit to the country. The heads of the Military Department urge the retention of these colleges. It is a case of selfpreservation with them. I do not blame them, Parliament should investigate the matter and eliminate waste wherever possible. Our defence expenditure should be reduced to the lowest possible figure consistent with safety. The Estimates that we have before us are framed, in the first place, by the heads of the Military De partment, and each branch of the service attempts to make its own section appear to be the most important. In regard to our aviation corps, I draw attention to the following paragraph in the Minister’s report : -
There is no doubt that air transport will take its place in the near future as normal commercial public utility, and the increased speed of communication between cities and towns, far-distanced as they are in Australia, will assist, not only the general development of trade, but must inevitably become a factor in ameliorating the conditions under which so many of our settlers now labour.
It is fully realized that, whilst civil aviation is of high potential value, it, at the same time, is also a method of enormously amplifying service air power in case of necessity. It has been said that service aviation must be the spear-head, civil aviation the shaft of our air effort, and this aspect is receiving close attention both in the siting of the various routes that have been approved and in the courses of instruction that are provided for pilots, both civil and military.
That emphasizes a point to which I think we are not paying sufficient attention. Our Defence Air Force could be used to a very much greater degree for civil purposes.
– We are doing very well so far.
– We are doing something, but I believe we could do a great deal more. I think that we are not doing right in subsidizing private companies to carry mails. Our aviation forces should be connected in some way with the Post Office, and should be used to a greater extent than at present to carry mails to remote parts of the country, such as the Northern Territory. The pilots could be trained with a view to rendering dual service. In time of war they could be withdrawn from civil duties and sent out to sea to meet any approaching enemy.
– They are regarded now as reserve men.
– I know that, but we should keep them employed rendering useful service to the community, in times of peace. Throughout history, defence expenditure has been a waste of money. The general public have rarely obtained any return from it. Here is an opportunity for us to make a branch of the service useful to the country.
– That is all right so long as you have sufficient men to permit of your sending a few back to a base every little while for intense training.
– That is what I desire.
I have previously quoted a number of authorities in support of my opinion.
Here is another which has only recently been received from Mr. H. W. Wilson, M.A. The paragraph from which I make the quotation is headed “Australia Needs Aircraft and Long Range Submarines.” Mr. Wilson says: -
The serious fact which the Empire has to face is that the day of the universal command of the sea is past. Such a command as the British Navy exercised between 1700 and 1918 is gone. Under that command the Empire grew up; what may happen now is difficult to foretell. . . . The full effect of aircraft on war has yet to be realized. . . . Australia’s safety demands that she shall have powerful aircraft and long range submarines of the new type (M class, built during the war and since developed), carrying heavy guns. But frankly I do not believe that if Japan is treated justly and courteously Japan will make war.I have many Japanese friends, and I have now nearly twenty years’ experience of Japanese military and naval thought, so that perhaps my testimony on this point may not be valueless.
I could go on quoting numerous authorities to the same effect, and I ask whether, in view of all this expert evidence, we are justified in spending £3,600,000 on defence without knowing whether the money will be spent to the best advantage. I point out that honorable members may vote for my amendment with a view to bringing about a re-organization of our defence system without in any way interfering with the programme of the Government. If the amendment is carried, it will instruct the Government that our defence must be re-organized in sucha way that we may know where we are. If our system is properly re-organized,I believe it will be found that we can save £1,000,000 on defence alone, and still have a more effective defence for Australia than we have at the present time.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed]
.- When the Budget was under discussion I refrained from taking part in the debate in order that members of the Opposition, who naturally claim the right to criticise more than supporters of the Government have any desire to do, might have an opportunity to do so. I thought that I would be able to say a few words when the items of the Estimates came before us. The first duty of every Australian is to see that his country is defended. It is useless for us to expect to be a great nation unless we provide for the adequate defence of the country. I do not desire that honorable members shall gain a false impression of what I mean. 1 speak of defence, and not of the establishment of forces which might be used aggressively when we received any call, however unimportant. I appreciate the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and I can go with that honorable gentleman a long way, but I cannot admit that at the present juncture honorable members would be justified in supporting his amendment which would bring about a reduction in the Defence Estimates for this year. When the Labour party was in power, in 1910, it instituted a defence system, and very properly took a great deal of credit for what it had done. The party then submitted a very far-sighted and sound policy, for the time. We were then living in an era of peace, when there was little or no thought of any great conflagration breaking out in Europe. If the National Parliament of this country was justified in passing big defence votes at that time, I say that it is much more justified in the present condition of the world in passing the votes necessary for the adequate protection of the Commonwealth. I do not pose as a military expert, and one can only, in such matters, be guided by the opinion of those whose views should carry weight. I think it is generally accepted in Australia, as well as by most authorities of other countries, that the best defence for this island continent would be a competent air force anda submarine fleet. Our position today in regard to defence is by no means reassuring. I do not say that we are in any imminent danger of attack by any foe. I hope we never shall be, but we should certainly be prepared for any emergency that may arise. It is well known that we have in Australia no guns which would reach a cruiser 5 or 6 miles off our coast.
– We should have them.
– We should, and we should have also the necessary ammunition for long-range guns. It has been said on very good authority that were the guns we have now in Australia to be utilized to - their full capacity, the whole of the ammunition we have in dumps would be fired away inside of two or three hours. We cannot afford to allow such a state of things to continue.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.”]
– I do not advocate the expenditure of a vast sum of money to make provision for defence. What should be done, in my opinion, is to accept the advice of men best qualified to tender advice in regard to our future requirements for defence. We cannot overlook the fact that we must make provision for the defence of the country. Although I am not favorable at all to the creation of a big standing army in Australia, “I recognise that it is absolutely essential to the safety of the country, that we should have a. very efficient nucleus of a force in order that we may be in a position to train the. men who may ‘be called upon to defend the country should it be attacked. The Leader of the Opposition has taken exception to a portion of the .surplus being held in reserve for defence expenditure. I should like to point out that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has very definitely stated that he is not going to commit this country to any expenditure outside that provided for in the Defence Estimates without first consulting the House and the country. I point out also that, comparatively speaking, very little even of the votes we are now discussing can be expended before the decisions of the Imperial Conference will be made known. I hope we shall then be in a position to reduce our expenditure on Defence.
Reference has been made to the desirability of amalgamating the Military College at Duntroon and the Naval College at Jervis Bay. There is much to be said in favour of that course. Those of us who are not experts must be guided by the advice of those who are, but I think that if such an amalgamation could be brought about considerable economy would be effected, and the buildings at Duntroon could be used in the early years of the occupation of Canberra as a habitation for honorable members and the staff of Parliament.
I hope the Government will recognise the need for bringing before the House in sufficient time to allow of its passage this session a Bill for the permanent employ - -ment of the men in the Air Force. Although I did not take part in the debate upon the Air Force Bill, I was strongly opposed to certain clauses in it; but I hope that another measure will be introduced shortly which will remove the present uncertainty regarding the future of the Force. It is desirable also that immediate action should be taken to provide accommodation for the housing of the valuable aeroplanes given by Great Britain to the Commonwealth, which at the present time are deteriorating through exposure to the elements. Very many machines are serviceable, if not for fighting purposes, at any rate for the Civil Aviation Branch, to which we must give increasing consideration and support. I hope, therefore, that the erection of the hangars at Point Cook and the Laverton depot will be commenced without delay. The Government should make better provision also for the men and officers employed at Point Cook. The accommodation at present is not what it should be. If we are to have an efficient service proper provision should be made for the housing arid comfort of the men.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in his contention that submarines should be Australia’s first line of defence, and I trust that when the Government have purchased the necessary submarines they will station them at a suitable base. Experts have expressed the opinion that Corio Bay is naturally one o£ the best places for a submarine base to be found on the Australian coast, and that very little expenditure, if any, upon buildings would be required. In Osborne House the Department already has a fine building which has been used in the past for naval purposes.
At Swan Island are employed a number of labourers who, I understand, are receiving less, than the basic wage. The Commonwealth should be a model employer, and I cannot conceive how the
Department can justify the payment to its employees of a wage less than the minimum which any private employer in the district has to pay. Many of them are handling explosives- -a dangerous occupation - and yet are receiving only l1s. or 12s. per day. It has been said that they are only temporary men, but, if that be so, it is an added reason why they should receive the basic wage. I hope that the proposed defence vote will be agreed to without any reduction.
.- I rise to support the amendment. A glance through the Estimates for the Defence Department convinces one that the Commonwealth is spending much more money than it need do upon some branches of defence. Honorable members on this Bide of the Chamber have frequently pointed out that the old system of training infantry is obsolete, but the Department seems to be continuing in the same old rut, and maintaining highly-paid officers to give training to soldiers which, on active service, will be useless. I cannot support any expenditure on armaments beyond what is absolutely necessary for the defence of Australia. If we desire to know what the defence of Australia necessitates, we must not be content to rely upon the advice of highly-paid military officers, who are concerned in maintaining their own positions and status, and must be biased to some extent by their environment and personal interest. Expert evidence should be collected, but it should hot be adjudicated upon by military officers Only. It is necessary that we have an independent judgment upon these important issues. If we were to apply a lot of the money which is now devoted to defence to the provision of better lines of communication, such as the construction of improved roads for motor transport and railways, and developmental works that will add to the material wealth of the nation, and enable its population to be employed in such manner that the rearing of healthy offspring will be possible, we would be doing something effective for the defence of Australia against possible aggression. We should also develop those industries which, in the event of war, can be adapted to the manufacture of munitions. The Government professes to be very much concerned about the defence of Aus tralia, but it did a very foolish thing when it disposed of the Geelong Woollen Mills. The preceding Nationalist Government practically closed up the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, and for a long time many of the employees were out of work, because the Government had decided that there was a sufficient reserve of rifles in stock. The Labour party does not advocate the expenditure of money in piling up implements of war, which may become obsolete and useless; but we pointed out that the factory at Lithgow could be adapted, at very little cost, to the production of farming implements and tools. We were told, however, that the Nationalist Government had no intention of competing with private enterprise. Thus a Very effective means of defending Australia, and increasing the usefulness ofthe factory was lost. The proposed expenditure upon the Military College, at Duntroon, and the Naval College, at Jervis Bay, is unnecessary. If we had time to elicit information from the Minister for Defence, we could prove that a lot of the proposed expenditure will be useless, and is being incurred only for the purpose of keeping a large number of military officers in good positions. “ Calamity howlers “ of late have been making serious allegations that Australia is not in a position to defend herself. Their remarks under this heading are practically an invitation to a certain nation to come and attack us.
– Does the honorable member think for a moment that other nations are unaware of our position?
– Whether they are or not, these statements about the alleged defeneelessness of Australia are ah insult to the people. But, of Course, it is all part and parcel of the military System, and there is a definite end in view. The same influences were responsible for the great war in 1914. Had the Social Democrats of Germany been able to capture the German Reichstag prior to 1914 the war would not have occurred. They were a growing party, and the aggregate votes cast for their candidates were greater than those secured by candidates of any other party in Germany, but because the franchise Was jerrymandered they werenot in a majority in the Reichstag. Successive Governments had to depend upon their votes, and -when the German Chancellor brought down his huge Naval Budget, representing the beginning of Germany’s competition for naval supremacy, the Social Democrats, by withdrawing their support, caused the Naval Estimates to be thrown out. Bub the influences behind Krupps took other means to achieve their purpose. They secured the control of a semi-inspired Government newspaper in Paris. Immediately that newspaper published a series of scare articles, and induced the French Government to add another year to the period of service for their conscripts. This policy caused considerable uneasiness in Germany, and after five or six weeks the German Chancellor after producing extracts from this paper in Parliament, was able to get his Naval Estimates through without a dissentient vote. This game is going on all the time. It is part of the military system. Militaristic advocates point first to the weakness of their own country, as in our own case, and invite the attention of hostile nations, and then, having made the people thoroughly alarmed, they are able to secure parliamentary approval for the expenditure of huge sums of money for military and naval defence purposes, when, as a matter of fact, the preparations, in many cases, are for the means of offence. Another matter to which I desire to direct attention is the action of the Defence Department in publishing advertisements in the educational journals of at least two of the States - New South Wales and South Australia- inviting teachers in country districts to secure recruits for the Australian Navy, and offering a bonus of £1 for each recruit obtained through their agency. The teachers are advised that the publication of the notice is sufficient authority for them to constitute themselves agents to shanghai the youth of Australia, willy nilly, into the Aus* tralian Navy. As honorable members know, next to . the parents, the schoolmaster . or school-mistress exercises the greatest influence upon the youth of any country. It is probable, of course, that a number of lads may desire to enter the Navy, and probably, also, their parents would have no objection. On the other hand, many parents strongly object to the idea of a naval career for their lads. This might be the very last calling which they would like to see their boys adopt, and it is abominable that the influence of school’ teachers should be exercised to direct any boy’s attention to the Navy as a profession. When the romance has gone out of the life, lads engaged by the Navy will find it very difficult to get out. I do not want to say anything against the teachers. In their ranks are numbered some of the best men and women in Australia. Members of my own family are in the Education ‘Department of my State, but my point is that the teachers should not be authorized to- become recruiting agents for the Navy. I wonder if this principle is going 10 be extended. I wonder if recruits arts to be secured in the same way for that other and very dangerous arm of defence, the Australian Air Force, for which, I imagine, it will be difficult to secure recruits.
– That is not our experience. Candidates are rushing to get into the Air Force.
– Well, the principle is entirely wrong. The teachers should not be bribed in this way to secure recruits for the Australian Navy. With the exception of, perhaps, the amount that may be necessary for organization, I am opposed to expenditure for Air Defence. The amount in the Estimates for this purpose might, with more advantage, be devoted to the development of aviation on the civil side. Men engaged in that important work would be doing this country a real service by helping to open up and develop out-back areas. At the same time they would be receiving valuable training in the air, and, if ever the occasion arose, they could be employed for air defence. They would be just as effective as if they had been trained on the military side.
. Mr. Watkins- -
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– Before I endeavour to offer some slight criticism on the Defence Estimates, I think it necessary to refer in some measure to the views expressed by honorable members opposite. both in this chamber and elsewhere, but more particulary in regard to the statements made here. The Leader of the’ Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said that Australia regards the Military Forces as her first arm of defence, and that the Government also hold a similar opinion. But on looking at the figures, I find that the amount allocated to the Naval Forces is nearly double that allocated to the Military Forces. The claim of the Leader of the Opposition that our Military Forces are regarded by the Government as the first arm of defence is not borne out by the proposed expenditure. The Leader of the Opposition also stated that Australia should be defended principally by air-craft and submarines, but the latter can only be considered in conjunction with the naval policy of the Commonwealth, which is in a state of uncertainty until the result of the Imperial Conference is known. Whatever we may do in regard to naval defence must be in co-operation with Great Britain. Our small Navy, although high in efficiency but small in personnel and in ships, cuts very little ice in naval affairs, but in association with the British’ Navy assumes greater importance. Until a definite naval policy has been adopted, it is essential to strengthen this particular service, and to disregard the views expressed by amateur strategists and wouldbe naval know-alls.
– Is the honorable member referring to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) ?
– I am not referring to any one in particular in this chamber. If any honorable member announces himself a naval or military expert, he mustprove that he possesses the requisite qualifications. The necessity for the defence of Australia is apparent to every one. We have to defend Australia if we intend to hold itand to give effect to our White Australia policy. I wish to direct attention to the report of the InspectorGeneral of the Australian Military Forces, Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Chauvel, who during the Great War commanded the largest force of cavalry that has ever been under the direction of any one man. During the Palestine campaign Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Chauvel proved his great ability, and his opinion should be taken before that of an amateur strategist. He says -
It is hardly necessary for me to point out that such hopes have not been fulfilled. Nevertheless, the people of Australia have accepted, and still accept, the denuding of their defences with a complacency which would be difficult to comprehend were it not that the factors inducing such complacency are well known. These factors are, shortly, as follow -
The very isolation of Australia, so far from being a cause of security, is to-day a source of danger, and the experience of the late war, particularly in the maintenance of sea communications,has shown that Australia must bo self-contained in every possible way in order that she may be able to hold her own for some months at least in the event of attack,
In England I was attached to a camp battalion, where troops from Australia were quartered and trained until sent across to France. The personnel of that particular camp consisted of 2.000 men and 130 officers, and it was considered necessary that the men should have a minimum of at least sixteen weeks’ training before they could even be sandwiched into a trained battalion in France. To send men into action untrained is nothing less than deliberate murder. Such a man has not a chance, and is not only a danger to himself, but to every one of his comrades. I asked the Leader of the Opposition whether he thought men could go into action untrained, but he evaded my question. Bravery is of little account when untrained men are opposed by modern arms. There are enormous numbers in India and in China, but those countries are practically defenceless because their . people are untrained. Non-commissioned officers, who are the backbone of an army, must be efficient and well trained to enable them to give effect to the orders of those higher in command. If troops which are an untrained rabble, have no hope in life of fighting against trained men–
– Is it not a fact that the training given under our compulsory military system was found quite unsuitable for modern warfare?
– That was so to a great extent. Even sergeants and sergeantsmajor had to undergo instruction before they could obtain commissions at the Front. The training proceeded continuously. But it appears to be the opinion of honorable members opposite that we should not have even the nucleus of a training battalion, so that a few men might keep themselves acquainted with what is going on, and abreast of military developments and equipment. The fourth reason given in the report for the drastic retrenchment that has been carried out is -
An equally erroneous impression that the 300,000 men who comprised the Australian Imperial Force arc still available.
On this aspect the Inspector-General says -
Four years have elapsed since the Australian. Imperial Force was demobilized, and it is nearly nine years since it was first raised. Its value, as a potential reserve is therefore fast diminishing. In any case, the following figures speak for themselves: -
Of the 320,683 all ranks who embarked from Australia only 140,762 were discharged as medically fit at the termination of their services, and at least 20 per cent. of the rank and file were over the age of thirty-one years on date of enlistment.
In any case were 300,000, or even 140,000 men available, they would be of no value without the necessary armament and munitions.
The fifth reason stated in the report is -
The universal feeling that thelate war was a “ war to end wars,” and, as it was won, there is nothing further to fear.
Sir H. G. Chauvel remarks in this connexion -
Loth as the people of Australia arc to abandon’ this idea, it must be obvious to those who study the world conditions of to-day, or who have any knowledge of the world’s history, that, until some other means than war are definitely established to provide for national aspirations and the overflow of surplus populations, it is still necessary for every nation to be prepared to defend itself against aggression.
Those are the five points emphasized in the report which has been made public recently. The writer is a gentleman who has kept himself quite up to date. In view of the necessity for training men, I regret that the Minister has seen fit to cut down the Defence vote on the military side. The report of the Inspector-General shows that he has been hampered in his work and has not been able to keep the staff efficient on account of ‘shortage of funds. The report by the Minister for Defence indicates the same thing. The Inspector-General states that on account of the “stinginess” and meanness in last year’s vote, no field artillery practices could be held. The field artillery is a most important arm of the service. The Minister refers to munitions in his report. He says -
Unfortunately the financial situationhas not permitted, so far, the remedying of the Unsatisfactory conditions of the military forces in the matter of essential munitions, equally for the coast defences as for the field army. Although Australia received from the Imperial authorities the post bcllum equipment of the Australian Imperial Force, the guns and ammunition -
arc insufficient for divisional units;
do not provide anything for nondivisional units [i.e., corps and army troops) ;
do not provide any reserve of.ammunition for the field army;
do not provide any ammunition for the existing armament of coast defences.
It is hoped, however, that something may be done to at least partly relieve this situation in the near future.
This is a terrible state of affairs to men who have the welfare of Australia at heart. It is specially dreadful to some of us to think that if an invader were to come here we would be limited- -as we were on Gallipoli - to three shells per gun. When our soldiers went to the western Front they realized what it meant for us to besuperior to the Germans in artillery, and they knew that we must be so before we could gain our objective. It is awful to think that the Minister should make such an admission as he does in his report. This Committee should vote such a sum as will provide proper ammunition, but nothing is provided in the Estimates for ammunition. Last year only £22 was voted for that purpose. In’ regard to field artillery, the InspectorGeneral mentions that the Lewis gun and machine gun was used a little last year in field practice, and that that increased the interest of the men. We do not make any machine guns or pistols in Australia, and they are very necessary for the Army.
– The honorable member has had a fair spin. This discussion has to finish by 2.30 o’clock. He ought to give somebody else a say, and not monopolize the time.
– I shall have finished by 1.30 o’clock. I shall now come to what I believe to bo the sixth reason which the Inspector-General had, but could not mention, because ha was making a report to Parliament, and was. unable to take sides with any party political, or for that matter, enter into any political discussion. I will supply the sixth reason why the Australian DefenceForce is in its present deplorable condition. The small military force that we have is deficient in equipment, and the Navy has been denuded to such an extent that its stores are not up to even the normal standard. We have no munitions in Australia that are worth while. The reason is because of the weakness of the Labour party in pandering to the expressed desires of antiAustralians that are in ourmidst.
– That is wrong, and the honorable gentleman knows it is wrong.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member entitled to call members on this side of the Committee anti-Australians. I take strong objection to that remark, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– I did not. say that honorable members on that side of the
Committee were anti-Australian. I referred to the weakness of the Labour party in pandering to the expressed desires of anti-Australians that, are in our midst.
– If an honorable member makes a remark that is objected to he must withdraw it. I hope he will obey the Chair.
– Of course, if honorable members on the other side object - -
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! If the honorable member makes a remark that other honorable members consider objectionable he must withdraw it-
– I withdraw it. Honorable members opposite will have many more opportunities to object to my remarks before the next few minutes are over.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must not threaten.
– The Labour party has made machinery which will admit to its ranks communists who are allied with Russia, and who are serving the ends of a war-mad dictator. It has also devised machinery to admit to its ranks selfconfessed revolutionaries, such as the person who was recently elected president of the Australian Labour party in Sydney.
– Order !
– On a point of order, is the honorable member referring to the subject under discussion?
– I am showing how our Defence Forces have been denuded and rendered inefficient by the action of certain honorable members opposite. Another thing which prompted them to act against the interests of Australia was the decision of the Perth Conference, by which the Labour party attempted to make a disgraceful peace with the enemy by crying out that we were done, by showing the white feather, and by waving the white flag to Germany.
– On a point of order. I object to those remarks. I was a delegate to the Conference and I consider that the honorable member ‘a remarks are incorrect and misleading* I ask that they be withdrawn.
– The honorable member must withdraw his objectionable statements.
– I take it that the remarks must be personal to the objector before I can be requested to withdraw them.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Will the honorable member obey the Chair?
– Possibly honorable members opposite may make remarks which are objectionable to me.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member to obey the Chair.
– I withdraw my remark, but I suppose the Labour party will object to1 my next remark also. During the time to which I refer the Labour party allowed itself to be used as a skirt behind which the biggest mob of coldfooters Australia ever had hid them- selves v©3
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I must ask the honorable member to. withdraw that remark.
– I hope the honorable member will not withdraw it. Let him stick to it.
– I have no doubt that honorable members opposite are annoyed.. They know that my remarks are true. They are objecting to the truth, because they do not care to hear it. At that time the Labour party “ turned down “ the soldiers who were abroad.
– I take strong objection to that statement. I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I often object to remarks made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), but 1 do not ask him to withdraw them.
– Well, I ask that the honorable member’s statement be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Richmond should refuse to withdraw.
If he does withdraw he will only say something worse.
– If I withdraw-
The honorable member keeps offending the Chair. I ask him to withdraw his last remark.
– I withdraw. Honorable members opposite talk about the anti-Labour party, and they also talk about the anti-Country party. I think it may be well said the Labour party is anti-country in more senses than one.
.The defence question is one which affects every man, woman, and child in this country. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the time has arrived when there should be a re-organization of our policy of defence, and it should take place in Australia, and nob at the Imperial Conference. England expects that the people of Australia will shape and maintain their own defence policy, and that is the commonsense view to take of the matter. The fact that the military arm of our Defence Force is to cost, roughly, £38,000 more this year than last year, indicates one direction in which we can economize, and there are many in which we might economize without endangering the safety of the country. I am one who- believes that we should launch out in the building of submarines and aeroplanes, and certainly we should proceed with the manufacture in this country of arms and ammunition. It would be of very little use for us to attempt to defend this country were an invader to land here if we had not arms and ammunition. It must be clear to every honorable member that if this country is invaded within the next year or two the war will be fought, not on land, but in the air and on the sea. Laboratories throughout the world are to-day staffed* with the best scientists, who are endeavouring to discover the most deadly weapon that could be used in the way of poison gas. Future hostile operations - I will not speak of them as warfare, but as cold-blooded murder - will be conducted from the air, and whole nations may be destroyed with poison gas. We are doing nothing in this direction, and we are doing nothing in the direction of manufacturing big guns, arms, and ammunition. I think it was the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) who said that the guns in our fortifications have a range of not more than 5 or 6 miles. They are practically obsolete. It is our duty to see that our forts are armed with up-to-date guns. In addition, we should proceed with the building of aeroplanes and submarines. I am not a military expert, of course, but my bush instincts lead me to believe that if Australia were well supplied with an air fleet and submarines, and our forts were armed with the biggest guns that could be procured, we should be pretty safe from any attack. For the last thirty years we have been hearing from the press and from prominent citizens that it is only a matter of a year or two before Japan will attack us. Japan has not attacked us so far, and I see no indication that she is going to attack us. I am one of those who believe that we shall never quarrel with Japan.
– Unfortunately, that was said of Germany right up to the declaration of the last war.
– There is no analogy between the two cases. There is practically only a subdivision fence between France and Germany, and the last war was the result of a land invasion. We are separated from Japan by many thousands of .miles of ocean, and I ask the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) does he think that Japan or any other nation could afford to leave her shores open to attack through the back door and transport all her forces thousands of miles overseas, to invade a continent like Australia?
– That is a different question. The honorable member said that he accepted the statement- of Japan that she has no intention to make war on Australia.
– I did not say that. What I said was that, so .far Japan has given no indication that she is going to attack us. Neither is she, nor is any other nation in the world.
– Japan has been very friendly.
– Japan has been extremely friendly to Australia. During the Great War she escorted our transports overseas, and as Japan has remained friendly to us, why should we turn round and say that we must be prepared to meet Japan in war?
– If a man had said that during the last war he would have been deported
– Undoubtedly he would. I do not believe that Japan, or any other nation, possesses sufficient ships to transport the land forces that would be necessary to take Australia. I question whether any two nations in the world could muster sufficient ships to transport 200,000 men with big guns, ammunition, horses, foodstuffs, and everything else that would be necessary to carry on a land war in this country. I say that such a thing is beyond the bounds of possibility. If there is an invasion of Australia, without a doubt it will be from the air. We have been told by many of the experts during the last twelve months that great scientists have been at work, and that America, France, and also Great Britain are in a position to manufacture some of the most deadly gases that it is possible for the mind of man to conceive. If that is so, we should be taking action in that direction. If it is a good thing for other nations to set scientists to work to devise the deadly weapon of poison gas, we should do the same. If a nation hostile to Australia has a supply of deadly gases with which to destroy this country, where shall we be? Most honorable members opposite are fairminded men, and I confess that I was astounded at the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). He made the charge against the Labour party that it is anti- Australian. I am an Australian born. I say that Australia is the best country in the world, and I want to live in no other country. I suppose I had as many relatives fighting in the war as the honorable member, who. unfortunately, lost a leg, for which I am very sorry. His remarks were absolutely uncalled for, and they will not assist the Government or the Opposition to frame a policy for the defence of this country. If we are not all Australian-born we are Australians by adoption. I will not abuse any honorable member on the other side because he holds views on defence which are different from mine. I respect every man’s . opinion. I am president of the Labour party in Victoria, and it is one of the greatest parties in this young country. The Labour party of England is one of the greatest parties in Great Britain to-day. There are in that party some of the finest intellects in the British Empire. Will the honorable member for Richmond say that the gentlemen who form the Labour party in the House of Commons are antiBritish? He would not bo game to say that. If he would not be game to attack the British Labour party as being antiBritish he has no right to come here and say that the Australian Labour party is anti-Australian.
– I do not think the honorable member is quite fair. The honorable member for Richmond did not say that the Australian Labour party was antiAustralian; he said that it has pandered’ to people who are anti-Australian.
– As the honorable member for Richmond withdrew the remarks to which exception was taken, they cannot now be referred to.
– I should think that the honorable member would withdraw those remarks. He should go further, and apologize for them. I remember that when Mr. Andrew Fisher was Leader of the Labour party in Australia, the Tories of those days proposed to make a present of a Dreadnought to Great Britain. They considered that that was the way in which we should take our share in the defence of Australia. Mr. Fisher and his party, in 1910, said, “ No. Australia is going to be defended in a proper way, and Australia will build its own Navy.” We did so. The men who pretended in those days that they were the true blues, the only pebbles on the beach, were the men who laughed at the proposal of the Labour party for the building of an Australian Navy. I remember that Sir Joseph Cook, the present High Commissioner, referred to the Australian Fleet as a “Mosquito Fleet.” It is a most remarkable thing that, later, it was one of Australia’s vessels that destroyed the Emden, the enemy ship that no other ships could capture. The Labour party is given no credit for that. This party has played a clean and honest game, and has pursued a clean and honest course so far as the defence of this country and the welfare of Australia is concerned. It will do so until its last man is dead. It is, therefore, quite uncalled for that any honorable member should get up here, and say that we are anti-Australian, and that we sheltered the cold-footers. We did nothing of the kind. I know to what the honorable member was referring. He was referring to the fact that the Australian Labour party opposed conscription, the defeat of which enabled the men whom he called “ cold-footers “ to escape military service. If there is one thing of which I am. proud it is that the Australian people defeated conscription on two occasions, and while there is breath in my body I shall resist compulsory military service. Australia should be kept free of the military discipline that is imposed unfairly upon the men of older countries. Those who have been at the war know that any soldier in England, France, or America who dared to protest against the tyranny of some petty officer was gaoled, whilst pacifists were treated worse than criminals. We do not desire that sort of thing to occur in Australia - it does not fit in with the democratic ideas of our people. Give the Australians a fair and honest chance and they are the best people in the world. No finer body of men ever donned a uniform than the Australians who went to the war. Those who say that men cannot be trained for active service in a few months do not know what they are talking about. The men who lei it Australia spent some weeks on the water, a little time in Egypt, and then were rushed to Gallipoli, where undoubtedly they were badly handled. They were thrown into a hell compared with which the charge at Balaclava was insignificant, yet they accomplished their task as only Australians could.
– Those nien had had four months training in Egypt in addition to the training they received in camp in Australia.
– I admit that; but if they had been trained in camp for four years they would not have been any better than they were after four months. I do not think there are any Australians who are not. prepared to defend their country, but we on this side of the Chamber recognise that the Commonwealth has a debt of almost £1,000,000,000, and we should therefore cut down defence expenditure as far as may be consistent with safety. We cannot continue piling up millions of pounds of debt; we must call a halt at some time. It may be possible to save a few hundred thousands of pounds in the Defence and other Departments of the Estimates. We have responsibility on our shoulders for steering the ship of State to a haven of safety, and the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition that we should re-organize our- Defence policy is sound. If tha Government cannot do that this year, they should, at least, take into consideration the advisability of doing it next year, so that we may get the most effective defence at a minimum cost.
– In two rather long speeches, which I made earlier in the session, I expressed my views regarding the Air Force and the Navy, and I shall not dwell upon those subjects this morning; The Leader of the Opposition- asked what form Australian defence should take. I understand that the Imperial Conference will advise Australia upon that matter, and until we hear from the Conference, through the Prime Minister on his return, we can do nothing but tread water. Treading water is costing us a lot of money; but I do not see how we can avoid that. We have a large personnel, wages are high, and the cost of food is very great Those three facts largely account for the amount appearing in the Defence Estimates. The ‘ ‘ man in the street “ wants to know what Australia is getting for the expenditure. The answer is> “Not much, beyond a highly efficient personnel.” That is the opinion of the Admiral and others who can speak with authority regarding the Royal Australian Navy.
Australia is to be congratulated upon having a man like Colonel Brinsmead in charge of civil aviation, and the Government are deserving of thanks for having placed on the Estimates a sum of about £60,000 to subsidize aviation. I am in favour of using commercial air pilots for defence if they can hove an intensive course of defence training before going on tq the air routes, and come back periodically for refresher courses. Airmen who had not had intensive training would not be of much use for defence’ purposes.
From time to time I have placed upon the notice-paper questions regarding naval affairs, and the reply in every instance was far from satisfactory. I have received dozens of answers, and nearly all sidestepped the questions. The Minister i» perfectly innocent of any intention to deceive, but honorable members will recollect the Gunner Yates’ incident, in connection with which Sir Granville Ryrie explained that he had been “ sold a pup “ by somebody in his Department. I warn Ministers to be careful or otherwise they, too, will be “ sold a pup.” The replies they have given in the House were not honest, and it is time that some member protested. For instance, I asked the Prime Minister, first without notice, and later upon notice, whether the Commonwealth would follow the - lead of the British Government in subscribing towards the great Victory fund for. repairing Nelson’s old flagship? The reply I received- was- that the fund was’ being raised by public subscription, and that the British Government was doing nothing to help it. Everybody who takes an interest in the matter knows perfectly well that the Admiralty subscribed £25,000 towardsthe fund ; yet the Prime Minister was told by his Naval Adviser that the British Government is not doing anything in that regard. That is one instance of an unsatisfactory reply to a question. Here is another : I asked the Treasurer -
Whether the Government will consider the advisability of collecting Federal taxation from officers and ratings in the Royal Australian Navy, as is done in the Royal Navy, by the necessary deductions being made in the ship’s ledgers, and paid to the Taxation Department by the Naval Board, the accountant officers of the ships being responsible for such deductions ?
That is a very simple way of collecting this taxation. The reply I received was-
Tes.’ There is, however; nothing to indicate that this course would be agreeable to the taxpayers concerned, and there certainly has been ho demand from them for the intervention of the Naval accountant officers in the manner suggested.
Yet, in 1922, the Welfare Committee, composed of officers and men, and appointed to consider all grievances in the Navy, specifically asked that this course should be followed. I could relate a dozen other illustrations, all of which occurred within the last two or three weeks, of equally unsatisfactory answers, and I could name the man who writes the replies for the Minister. I am fed up with this sort of thing. I am giving this warning to Ministers because if they are not careful they will fall in. What is the use of an honorable member asking questions if he is not to receive honest answers? I have almost discontinued asking questions, because the replies I have been getting have not been fair’. I asked some time ago whether it was a fact that recruiting for the Navy was slackening. The reply was, “ Yes. But recruiting shows signs of improvement.** On the Estimates is a sum of £41,000 for the transhipment of bluejackets from England to Australia, whilst the cost of maintaining the training ship Tingira .is £60,000 per annum. Why cannot we recruit men in Australia? Because the Department does not go the right way about it. Why not institute a more vigorous method of recruiting, and emulate the British system of displaying on railway stations and book-stalls handsome illuminated posters, showing the white ensign, where they would attract the notice of lads who wanted to go to sea and fire their imagination. There is plenty of material in Australia from which to recruit the naval ratings, for love of the sea is inbred in the British race.
I receive many letters from time to time from retired Royal Navy ratings who during a long term of service have become skilled as turret officers, submarine experts, fire control officers, and so on. They have had to retire at the age of thirty-nine years and are living in Melbourne, Sydney, and other capital cities, upon small pensions. They are dying to get to sea for a fortnight or longer every year, but, so far as I can ascertain, there is no means by which they can be kept up to the mark in the respective branches in which they have made themselves skilful, so that they may be ready when called up by Order in Council upon the outbreak of hostilities. There should be some means of allowing these men to go off to sea and keep uptodate in their special branches. I can understand the reason for protests by honorable members opposite at the limitation of the time available for the discussion of these Estimates. I have a great quantity of material of much’ interest to honorable members, but I cannot make use of it because my time is all too short. On 3rd March last I asked the Minister if, against the event of tha mobilization of the Australian Citizen Naval Forces, adequate -stocks pf uniforms and accoutrements were held in reserve; and if, against the event of hostilities breaking out, complete sets of all stores were held in readiness for immediate supply to the ships. The official: reply was -
Reasonable stocks are held in reserve and no difficulty is anticipated in obtaining supplies.
I should like to know what is meant by the term “ reasonable “ stocks. If events developed as rapidly as in 1914, could all the reserve be fully equipped immediately ? In view of the disposal of the Geelong Woollen Mill, and the closing-down of other Government factories, what about uniforms and accoutrements ? It is well known to everybody that reasonable stocks are not in store and available for our Forces in the event of an outbreak of hostilities. Then, again, I asked the Minister, for Trade and Customs whether the long-established custom in the Royal Navy of selling tobacco duty free to officers and ratings could not be followed in the Royal Australian Navy, and under the same rules and restrictions as apply in the Royal Navy. The Minister’s reply to that question was to this effect -
There is no power to remit duty payable on goods consumed in Australian waters.
Could not the Government provide the necessary power required, as this provision is more closely related to the general contentment in a sailor’s life than is, perhaps, understood by people on shore. This, too, was the subject of a “ welfare “ request in 1922. I asked the Minister whether under regulation No. 12, men compulsorily retired from sea-going duty on account of age and invalidity and not absorbed in auxiliary services, would be given preference in civil employment, and whether the regulation was still in. force. The Minister’s reply was: “ This is not a regulation, but an instruction.” Well, I have here the book - “ Royal Australian Navy - Permanent Naval Forces, Sea-going,” and in it is “ regulation” No. 12, dealing with engagement, promotion and retirement of men. Where is this going to end ? I now direct the attention of the Minister to the position of the Army Instructional Corps. There is general dissatisfaction among the men in regard to living allowances.
In the Public Service married men get a living allowance of £1 a week, with an additional 5s. for each child. In the Defence Department the allowance is only 10s., and 3s. 6d. for each child. This matter should be looked into. I have had conversations with Ministers on this subject, and they admit that the request of the men for better ‘treatment is- reasonable. The men in the Army Instructional Corps discharge important duties in the- training of our citizen troops; and I assure the Minister that they are very, dissatisfied. I trust, therefore, that he will look into the question. I know it is a matter of finance, but if possible this discontent in the Service should be removed. I warn the Minister to give serious consideration to the questions I have raised, otherwise he will get “ landed “ just as General Ryrie was “ landed.”
.- I regret that the time available to honorable members for the discussion of the Estimates is so limited. The Defence Estimates should receive the fullest consideration. I take this opportunity of expressing my disgust and disappointment at the action of the Government in restricting discussion on this important Department. A scrutiny of the items in the Defence Estimates reveals the fact that the pinning knife could be very effectively applied, especially in regard to Central Administration, for which the sum of £25,898 is provided, mainly, I suggest, for the retention of highly-paid officers. The Government propose to spend an additional £553,000 this year on defence. Against this, I enter my emphatic protest. We could more profitably apply ourselves to the development of this great country, and in this way more effectively insure its adequate defence. For example, we might quite justifiably set aside £1,000,000 this year for the development of the Northern Territory, because the unpeopled state of that portion of the Commonwealth constitutes a grave menace to our safety. The construction of railways, and the building of roads, which could be utilized in the event of war, would encourage settlement to open up the’ Territory, and, incidentally, improve our position there from a defence point of view. The cultivation of cotton, flax, tea, and many other products should be encouraged. The Government appear to have a complete disregard for the urgency of peopling our empty spaces and developing the country. I venture to say that no expense would be spared by the present Government in exploiting to the fullest possible extent the discovery of, say, poison gases for use in future warfare, and the destruction of tens of thousands of lives of our enemies, but when it is a question of providing facilities for pioneer settlers, or the setting aside of a sufficient sum of money, with a- view to arresting disease, and saving the lives of thousands of our own people, the Government fail to appreciate their responsibility. They have set aside £500 as a grant for the Roads Boards in the Northern Territory, out of a total of £3,000 to cover road construction, culverts, bridges, &c. For civil aviation the vote this year is only £87,000, a reduction of £12,000 on the ‘ expenditure of last year. We should do all that we possibly can by means of subsidies -to encourage civil aviation, which must play a very important part in the development of our outback areas, and, incidentally, provide a sufficient number of skilled pilots whose services could be utilized, if necessary, by the Air Force. The Government deserve to be severely censured for having disposed of establishments that would be of vital importance in time of war. I refer, of course, to the harness and saddlery and accoutrements factories and the Commonwealth woollen cloth mill. If it is necessary for the Government to retain a factory for the output ‘of small arms, it must be equally necessary to retain control- of factories for the manufacture of equipment for our Forces. Much has been said lately about the menace of Japan. Certain distinguished visitors to Australia from that country have assured us through the press that Japan is not looking with envious eyes upon Australia, and that she is prepared to honour the spirit of the Washington Conference by reducing armaments. Is it not the duty of the National Parliament to take a lead in these matters? We are talking too much concerning war and defence, but it would be more humane on our part if we were to com- mence an earnest crusade to bring about the world’s peace. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that he abhors war. We need a display of earnestness in the direction of international disarmament. On previous occasions I have urged the necessity of closing down the Duntroon Military College, which at present is costing £33,000 a year, and combining the work done at that institution with that carried on at the Naval College. The Government has failed, however, to effect this very necessary economy, and is still making provision for the maintenance of two separate colleges.
.- Recently at the veteran’s annual dinner in Perth I made inquiries concerning some of the men, and I was given to understand that they were granted an allowance, but it is insufficient to enable them to live in a reasonable degree of comfort during their remaining years. Owing to the increased cost of living the allowance is now quite inadequate, and an increase is well merited. Their numbers are rapidly diminishing, and as many of them have rendered distinguished service in the past the matter is one to which I trust the Government will give immediate attention. ;Mr. SCULLIN (Yarra) [2.17a.m.].- I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) to the dismissal of the men from the Defence factories. The matter was brought forward last year, when we were paying very generous compensation to military officers who were being compulsorily retired. A definite promise was given by the then Minister for Defence which met with the approval of honorable members on both sides of the House. After some considerable debate on the third reading or the Defence Retirement Bill the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) drew attention to the claims of the men dismissed from these factories, and the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Massy Greene) said -
If, on examination, we find, as I think we can, that by an alteration of the factory regulations furlough pay, or so much as would have accrued at the period of the determination of service, may be given, I shall see that it is done
I also asked a definite question on the subject -
– If the period to ‘bc served is eight years, and a man has served four years, I shall try to arrange that he shall be paid proportionate compensation.
– And in those cases in which men have served tcn years but have not reached the age of sixty years, compensation will be paid for the years of service. x
– So far as I can do so, I shall arrange for that.
The last Minister for Defence was defeated at the elections, and the secretary of the union and I subsequently waited on the present Minister, who said he would give sympathetic consideration to the suggestion. I believe that he was quite prepared to carry out the promise of his predecessor, but when the matter was brought before Cabinet it was turned down. A great wrong has been done to these men, who, in the first place, were engaged on the distinct understanding that if they remained eight years in the Service and reached the age of sixty years, they would receive furlough pay. Those who reached that age and retired received furlough pay, bub those who were compulsorily retired because of the closing down of the Factory - for which, of course, they were in no way responsibledid not receive anything. I may instance the .case of a man who was employed at the Factory from its inception, and who was dismissed, when he was fiftynine years and nine months of age,_ because they were shortening, hands. Hewas dismissed seven or eight months before the Factory actually closed, and did not receive one penny in furlough pay. That is certainly one ‘of the hardest cases; but it ‘is typical of many others. When we were discussing last year the compensation to be paid to the retired military officers, and treating them most generously, I drew a comparison between their treatment and that given to the Defence Factories employees. Four military officers were retired who had only two months to serve, and they were granted fourteen months’ full pay as compensation. A group of ten - consisting of one colonel, four majors, and five captains - received £10,000 in compensation because they were compulsorily retired, whereas, had they been retained, their salaries would have amounted to only £4,000. I believe the total cost involved in this instance would not exceed £4,000.
– There are four men in the Geelong Woollen Mills who are in a similar position.
– Yes. There are men iri the Harness Factory, the Geelong Woollen Mills, the Clothing Factory, and in the Small Arms Factory who were engaged on the distinct understanding that they would be entitled to furlough pay if they remained in the Service until sixty years of age. I am asking not that they shall be paid the full amount, but that they may be granted an allowance on a pro raid basis according to a definite promise given by the exMinister for Defence. When a promise is given by a Government it is usually honoured by the succeeding Ministry. This is an important matter, and one which I commend to the serious consideration of the Government.
,I am sorry that the limited time at my disposal prevents me from dealing with the serious question of the defence of Australia. I have already made my position quite clear, as during the discussion on the Imperial and Economic Conferences I said that. I did not believe in Australia being unprotected. Australia’s defence is a matter which should be considered by a body of experts, whose opinions should then be discussed in this ‘chamber. I am sorry the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) spoke as he “did, because I do not think he was just to a good many of those who were his comrades in the field. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. J. McNeill) has said that a lot of his relatives went on active service. The only eligible relatives I had were two nephews, one of whom went to the Front, and is lying in Polygon Wood.
– I did not mention individual cases.
– The honorable member spoke of a conglomeration of the Democratic forces of the community. He should remember that the working section of the community contributed the bulk of the men who served in the fighting” units. He will admit, I suppose, that the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) stated that there was no intention of forming a sixth division. He knows how valuable the Aussies were, and that it was the inten tion to raise additional forces, but not to support those who had already gone. Notwithstanding that the ex-Prime Minister declared that it was not intended to form a sixth division, I can prove that Captain Blackburn, of South Australia, in a letter that was published in the papers, asked that the band instruments which were given to the sixth division, and were in the custody of the Young Men’s Christian Association, should be handed over to the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League in South Australia.
– It was much the same in Tasmania.
– Yes; the colours of the division were what was known as “ eggs on end.” There were some in Australia who would have sent every available man to the Front, and after them the women. Reference has been made to the need for munitions, but we were not in possession of stocks to any extent before the war, nor was defence then spoken of. Is it suggested that’ an effort would be made to land forces in Australia or to bomb our cities without us knowing what was going on ? One seldom endeavours to protect one’s property unless there is occasion. Ib Australia at present menaced ?
– Attacks usually come suddenly.
– The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce)) in discussing the Imperial Conference, said that Earl Grey informed Mr. Andrew Fisher that Germany was going to strike in 1914. I have already quoted his statement.
– A lot of people did not believe that.
– ” Jackie “ Fisher foretold the war.
– Yet, it was said that Great Britain was unprepared.
– Surely a debate on a subject such as this is not to be curtailed. If I am out of order, you must blame the Minister.
– The honorable member must resume his seat. The time allotted to the discussion of the Defence Estimates has expired.
Question- That the proposed vote be reduced by. £1 (Mr. Charlton’s- amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority , . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question- That the proposed vote,. “ Defence £3,425,829,” be agreed to- put The Committee divided.
Majority … … 13.
Question so resolved in the affirmative-
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade, and Customs
Proposed vote, £776,494.
. -I am sorry that at this late hour I have to deal with such an important subject as the great sugar industry. I recognise that this industry is of vital importance, not only to Queensland, but to Australia, and I feel that I must put certain phases of it before honorable members in the interests of the sugar-growers of the northern State. I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by£1
I move this amendment as an instruction to the Government that the embargo on black-grown sugar should be for five years, with a view to stabilizing the industry, . thus, creating additional employment and perpetuating the White Australia policy. I hope, in the course of my remarks, to be able to adduce evidence to convince honorable members that such a step will be in the best interests of the sugar industry, and of the people of Australia generally. I do not wish to deal with the question in a party spirit. I recognise that it is above party politics. It is not with any view to gain political kudos that I submit my amendment. To place that beyond all doubt, I intend to read to the Committee some of the letters I have received from sugargrowers’ associations in my own electorate, and in other parts of Queensland, asking me to take this step. I am pleased that the Queensland sugar-growers accepted the sugar proposals offered them by the Commonwealth Government, because, nothwithstanding the many defects, they recognise that they were better than the only alternative at the time - that of handing the industry over to the tender mercies of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. In a press statement I said that it would be better for the growers to accept the Commonwealth Government’s proposals at the time, with a view to liberalizing them later on, than to turn them down, altogether. When they were first made it seemed that they would be turned down, but on the advice of the officials of sugar-growers’ associations, the Queensland Premier, and others, it was agreed that it would be in the best interests of the growers to accept the Government’s proposals under protest. It was made clear by the growers that, although they accepted the proposals under protest they were not satisfied. When honorable members have heard the letters I intend to quote, they will see that the growers,’ although accepting the proposals, are not satisfied, and that they would particularly like the embargo on black-grown sugar to be extended to five years.
– Why this special pleading for wealthy citizens of Queensland?
– That remark shows the honorable member’s ignorance. It is typical of the. Country party’s attitude. The honorable member has a quite mistaken idea. Many sugar-growers in Queensland are poor, struggling men. They are trying .to buy the farms they have undertaken to purchase. A great number of workers in Queensland, and in other parts of Aus tralia, depend upon the sugar industry. Although it may be said that some of them earn under contracts 23s. per day, the industry is a seasonal one, and the work of these men lasts only for from two to five months in the year.
– The honorable member himself quoted Queensland as paying higher rates in wages than any other State.
– That is so; but I was not then dealing with the sugar industry only. These observations were made in reply to an interjection that Queensland is being ruined because a Labour Government is in power there. I showed that Queensland’s exports have increased while those of other States have decreased, and that the- output from Queensland factories, per employee, is greater than that of any other State. As Queensland does not export sugar, her prosperous position in regard to exports cannot be attributable only to prosperity in the sugar industry.
– The speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) was merely a fairy story.
– It was, and I can prove “ it. These are some letters I have received from sugar-growers and workers in the industry iri various parts of Queensland. The. first is from Mr. W. D. Moore, honorary secretary of the Bucca branch of the United Cane Growers Association, dated 6th August, 1923 -
I am instructed by my association to inform you that they consider the sugar policy of the present Commonwealth Government of little . use to the industry as far as stabilizing it is concerned, because a two years’ embargo only applies to the cane now planted, and, of course, that planted since last crushing would only get one crop taken off. So you sec it gives no encouragement to get any land ready to plant.
My association is of the opinion that an embargo should be given it for five years, so that it could be applied when sugar could be imported for less than wc can produce it with white labour; if an embargo cannot be put on for all time it should be at least for five years, for the following reasons, namely : - Because from starting to fall the scrub, burning off, planting, and getting the crop ready to harvest will take at least two years, and the same applies now to the land under the plough in many cases. And then a two years’ embargo only applies to one crop after planting it, and, as a rule, we count on a first and second rattan, and very often the second ratton has to stand over, so from starting to get land ready to plant and taking off the three crops will about cover n period of five years. ,
Now, sir, the reason given ought to show any fair-minded person that a two years’ embargo is useless to the industry so far as putting it on a sound footing goes.
The members of my association are very pleased that’ you are going to move for a five years’ embargo, as it will be a very good way of showing where the Queensland members stand - whether they stand by tho election pledges about the sugar industry or just plain party members.
Here is another from C. M. Gibson, secretary to the Qunaba Cane Suppliers Association, dated 24th July, 1923 -
They also consider that the minimum price should be £27 per ton for 94 net titre sugar for the above-mentioned period.
The next is from J. .11. Wrench, of the Isis Sugar Growers Association, dated 23rd July, 1923-
I received the following from Mr. W. Hiscock, honorary secretary of the Millaquin Cane Suppliers Association, dated 25th July, 1923: -
The Millaquin Cane Suppliers Association, representing over 200 growers, are unanimous that it is necessary, to put the sugar industry on a sound footing, that the sugar embargo should be made for five years at £27 per ton net. We hope you will mow in this direction.
Here is another from Mr. W. Hiscock, secretary to the Bundaberg District Council of the United Cane Growers Association, dated 24th July, 1923 -
The Bundaberg District Council of ihe United Cane Growers Association, representing over 600 cane-growers in the Bundaberg district, are absolutely opposed to Mr. Bruce’s proposals in their present form, and we as cane-growers consider that it is vital and necessary to the sugar industry, to put it on a sound footing, to have the embargo extended to five years n.t £27 per ton net.
I received the following telegram from Mr. MacKenzie, secretary to the- Proserpine Farmers Association: -
Proserpine Farmers Association request that you move in direction of having embargo placed on ‘sugar for five years at £27 per ton net when sugar resolutions come before House for confirmation, so that vote of all parties can be taken regarding stabilization of sugar industry and maintenance of White Australia policy.
This is a telegram from Mr. J. Clayton, president of the Childers Mill Cane Growers Association : -
My association urgently requests you urge Parliament to agree embargo on foreign sugar for four years at least.
I have received from Mr. George Dawson, honorary secretary of the Oakwood Boo.loongie branch of the United Cane Growers Association, a letter in which he says-
It is the opinion of my branch that while the embargo for two years is far from satisfactory, the industry was compelled to accept, as sole reliance on an import duty would not adequately protect the cane growers. . . . We consider that the granting by the Commonwealth of a five years’ embargo on black-grown sugar only a fair deal, and if the industry is to. be encouraged to expand and develop, something more than a year to year arrangement will have to be provided.
I could read numerous other letters, but as my time is limited to half-an-hour, I must cut a lot out. I have one here from Mr. A. Anderson, secretary of the South Bingera and Electra branch of the Cane Growers Association, reading as follows : - :
At . a well > representative meeting of the above association, it was unanimously agreed that this association support you in moving for a five years’ embargo.
I have another letter from Mr. J. C. Batt, honorary secretary of’ the Mullett Creek Cane Growers Association, who says -
The Mullett Creek cane growers accept Commonwealth Government proposals under protest, but strongly urge for five years’ embargo and £27 per ton net.
I have received also a telegram from Mr. Cutcheon, the secretary to the Proserpine Chamber of Commerce, to the same effect. I think that these letters prove that it would be in the best interests of the industry to give a five years’ embargo. In some districts sugar cane is not harvested until thi-ee years after planting. Much depends upon the season, and in the Bundaberg and Childers districts the rainfall is not as reliable as it is further north, and it takes longer for the cane to mature in those districts. It is clear, therefore, that a two years’ embargo on black-grown sugar would not afford adequate protection to the industry. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W.
M: Hughes) took a very keen interest in the sugar industry, and I believe that he was well-intentioned towards it, but the National Union prevented him from carrying out his wishes. He said in a recent speech in this House -
It is impossible to run an industry like the sugar industry from hand to mouth from year to year. Stability is essential. The growers must know where they are before they plant. It is perfectly absurd to have an embargo for two years.
The right honorable gentleman in a speech he made said that if the question came before Parliament he would move for the extension of the embargo by at least an additional year; hence honorable members will quite understand my action to-night. The sugar industry is one upon which over 100,000 people are dependent. It is the real bulwark of the White Australia policy. It was worth £9,500,000 last year to the Common wealth. It gives employment approximately to 25,000 men. There is invested in it capital to the extent of £16,000,000. PoUr thousand men come from the south to Queensland every year to work in the industry. The wives and families of these men live in the southern States, and their wages are expended largely in those States.’ Many thousands of pounds’ worth of farming machinery and implements, as well as clothing and other products from the Victorian factories, are imported’ to Queensland every year from the south. The vessels, that bring raw sugar to the south return to Queensland with goods from the factories of Melbourne and other places in the southern States. Moreover, through the sugar industry we are building up a great White Australia industry, which flourishes in a part of Australia in which no other industry would flourish to the same extent. It is interesting to know what a Royal Commission appointed by the Federal Government iri 1911 said in this connexion. The Commission reported-
Unsettled areas in the tropical parts Of Australia are not Only a source of strategic weakness, . they, constitute a positive temptation to Asiatic invasion. The ultimate, and. in our opinion, the effective justification of the protection of the sugar industry lies beyond the question of industry or wealth or’ protection. lt must he sought in the very existence of
Australia as a nation
That statement is significant. The Commission recognised that the industry does more for the ‘ development of the north of Australia, and to safeguard it as a wh’ite man’s country, than does any other industry of which we can think. I know that the present Prime Minister recognises the importance of the industry. The first agreement in connexion with it was made in 1915, and the price of £18 per ton was fixed under that agreement; in 1918 the price fixed was £21 per ton, and in 1920 the price was £30 6s. od. , per ton. The present Prime Minister said in this House, in referring to the agreements -
There has been a tremendous amount Of misunderstanding, particularly with regard to the effect of, those agreements upon the consumers Of sugar. There is- a. generally accepted idea that they were designed ‘solely for the benefit of the man who grows sugar, and that. they have placed him in the position to make an enormous fortune at the expense of the unfortunate sugar consumers of Australia. That view is absolutely and totally wrong. These agreements, which have been id existence now since 1916, have been of immense benefit to the consumers of sugar in Australia. . . . During the three years that the last sugar agreement was in operation it conferred a very great benefit upon the people of this country.
The right honorable gentleman plainly recognised the .importance of this industry, but why did he not put his expressions of sympathy into effect by renewing the Sugar Agreement ? I said that I would advocate and fight for the renewal of the agreement, but Unfortunately the powers that be are against us on the Labour side of the House, and the agreement has rot been renewed. The honorable mem? ber for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) said in a recent speech in this House:-
About twelve months ago I was in Queensland with the ex-Prime Minister, Mr. W. M. Hughes. I travelled with him to my electorate, and heard him speak at Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, and. one or two other places. In each of his speeches Mr. Hughes said, “ I will give you an extension of the agreements for five years at the same price as you receive now, namely. £30 6s. 8d., provided I get a majority in Parliament after the elections.”
Mr. Hughes did not get a majority of Nationalists in this Parliament, but the Nationalists and Country, party together constitute the majority in this House. They are the Government. The exPrime Minister said, according to the honorable member for Herbert, that if the Nationalist Government received a majority, the Sugar Agreement would be renewed. As the agreement- is not being renewed the inference is that the minority party - the Country, party- - in the composite Government prevented the Ministry from carrying out that promise. Instead of the agreement, the Prime Minister has proposed that the industry should establish a Pool free from the control of the Commonwealth Government, and buy raw sugar for the 1923-24 season at not more than £27 per ton of 94 net titre f.o.b. mill, and -
The Pool to provide sugar for the purpose of manufactured goods for export at a price equal to the current world’s parity.
The price for raw sugar for the 1924-25 season to be determined after investigation by a tribunal,, and to be ‘ based upon the cost of efficient production in reasonably good districts and under normal conditions; such price not to exceed £27 10s. per ton.
What if the cost of production is more than £27 per ton ? Let us examine how generous the Government were when they made that offer. I am not blaming the growers for accepting it; on the contrary, I advised them to accept it as being better than the alternative of handing the whole business over to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company -
On the 25th of July Java whites were £28 19s. per tarra ; Cuba whites, £31 19s. ; American ‘ granulated, £31 15s. Add duty and other charges amounting to about £12 per ton. and you will see that the cost of raw sugar landed in Australia would be £40 19s., £43 19s., and £43 15s. respectively.
As the world’s parity is based on Java “ whites,” let us take’ the co3t of imported sugar at the prices quoted on the 5th June, 1923, about the time when the Prime Minister went to Queensland. The f.o.b. quote for Java “brown” was £28 10s. per ton. Add to that the cost of refining, shipping, freight, Belling fees, and duty, &c, amounting to £23 10s., and the landed cost was £52 for refined sugar, representing a retail price of about 5-Jd. That is what the community would have had to pay if sugar had been imported from Java at that time. Cuban “raws” on the same date were quoted at £29 15s. f.o.b. Refining, shipping freights, Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s managing costs, processing, and selling, would have amounted to another £25 15s., making a total of £55 10s. per ton, or a retail price of 6d. per pound, which shows that the present price offered by the Pool, 4Jd., at which the growers are prepared to supply, and in return ask that they get a five years’ embargo on im ported sugar, is very reasonable. The price of sugar in England until recently was 8£d. per lb., and it is now 7£d. The price in America was 6d., and is now 5d. per lb. I admit that there has been a slight drop in the price of sugar abroad recently. Java sugar, about the end of July, was about £22 per ton. Duty and Other charges would bring the price to £37 ls. 8d., or about the same price as Queensland sugar; but by buying Queensland sugar you are supporting a great Australian industry. If that policy is good for the secondary industries it is good for the sugar industry.
I desire to deal briefly with ‘the price of sugar during the control period. Up to 1915 it was 3d. per lb.; from January, 1916, to 26th January, 1920, it was 3 1/2d per lb. ; and . thereafter, until recently, it was 6d., although it would never have been more than 4£d. but for the purchases made abroad. From 1915 to 1920 Australia spent £16,750,000 in importing sugar, exclusive of duty, and the price for these importations was £9 7s. 6d. per ton higher than that paid to the local producer under the present agreement. What would that money have meant if it had been spent in Australia ? It would have brought prosperity to thousands of people. Surely there is something more than sentiment in the White Australia policy. If that money had been .expended in .this country, would it not’ have been a great boon, not only to Queensland, but also to the whole of the Commonwealth? Australia has paid, on an average, only 4d. per lb. for sugar during the last ten years, whilst during the war America paid in the vicinity of ls. Id. ; Italy, ls. 6d. ; France, ls. 6d. ; and Java, lOd. Britain paid prices ranging from 7d. to ls. 2d., and in May of this year refined sugar was £66 per ton in England, or 8id. per lb.; it is now £46 13s. 4d. per ton. The sugar industry in Australia during the period of Government control saved the consumers approximately £17,000,000. The sugar accounts supplied to Parliament by the former Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) showed that the foreign “raws” imported from 191:5 to 1922 inclusive totalled 475,947 tons, and the average -rate per ton gross was £37 19s. During the same period the Australian “ raws “ purchased totalled 1,412,000 tons, at the average rate per ton gross of £25 17s. lid. Mark the difference. Had the whole of Australia’s requirements of sugar been purchased on the world’s markets at world’s parity, Australia’s sugar bill would have -.amounted to £71,000,000, instead of -£54,000,000 for Australian “ raws,” including £5,000,000 worth of foreign “raws,” as was the case. Those figures show a saving of. £17,000,000 to the Australian consumer as a direct benefit from the local Industry. The Federal Royal Commission on the cost of living in Australia reported that a man and his wife and three children would consume, on the average, 5^ lbs. of sugar per week. With sugar at 4$d. per lb., it would cost such a family 2s. Id. per week for sugar. A reduction of Id. per lb. would mean a reduction of only 5d. per week in the household account. Rents and other charges were increased much more than the price of sugar, but they provoked less outcry, because the wealthy interests which denounce the sugar industry give no opposition to high rentals and profiteering.
We have been told that the depression in the fruit industry is due to the increase in the price of sugar. It is not.
– Yes, it is.
– I addressed a meeting at Benalla at which a motion in favour of the renewal of the Sugar Agreement was carried unanimously.
– The more we pay for sugar, the less we get for our fruit.
– The honorable member must blame the jam manufacturer and not the sugar-grower. Under the agreement which was so bitterly opposed he obtained the sugar he requires at 4£d. per lb. as against 2d. in 1914. Comparing pre-war prices with those of to-day, the price of plum jam has risen from 4d. to 7d., and canned pears from. 4.8d. to 7.9d. per lb. Jam contains 50 per cent, sugar. The increase in price of sugar is accountable for less than Id. per lb. of the increased price of jam, and £d. per lb. of the increase in the price of canned fruit. That leaves 2d. and 3d. respectively due to other causes. Australian manufacturers of jam for export obtain sugar at £28 per ton, less 5 per cent, for cash within seven days, or £26 12s. per ton, as compared with the wholesale price of £42 and the retail price of £36 13s. 4d. They get a rebate of £14 per ton, and preferential treatment under the British Tariff of £4 5s. 7d. per ton, oh the sugar contents of their jams for using Empire-grown sugar. The British jam manufacturer has to’ pay something like £48 10s. per ton, and in May last, paid considerably more. The Australian manufacturer pays £21 10s. after all rebates are taken off jams for export to England. Only 32 per cent, of the total production of fruit in Australia is processed. The remainder is eaten in the raw. Therefore, if sugar were given to the jam manufacturer for nothing, there would still be depression in the fruit industry.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), for whom I have a great respect, visited Queensland and went into a sugar district as a prospective buyer of land. Of course, every one he met who had land to sell made out a good case. The honorable member said that he found that land-owners were wanting £100 per acre for sugar laud. Some of the Mildura improved land, where fruit is grown, is priced as high us £300 per acre. Bacchus Marsh land for lucerne growing is £120 per acre, and land at Maitland brings the same price. Moreover, the sugar land which was shown to the honorable member for Fremantle must have- had a crop on it. Allow 17% tons of cane to the acre, and S tons of cane to produce a ton of sugar. The 17£ tons of cane, at an average price of 50s. per ton, would produce £43 15s., and the sugar from an acre of land is worth £54 at present prices. On that land there must have been also improvements, buildings, and manures. The honorable member said that in the years 1918 to 1922 inclusive the average price of sugar in Java was £27 per ton. That, of course, was bleached sugar. He said also that in 1920 the price of Java sugar was £57 per ton. The absolutely authentic figures, as revealed by various offers, quotations, acceptances, &c, are that Java raw sugar, on 18th October, 1918, was £20 12s. 6d. per ton, and, on 19th November, 1918, £21 per ton. The average price for 1918 was £19 13s. Id. per ton. Add the £6 per ton duty, to the average price of raw sugar, and £6 per ton for freight, landing charges, and commission, and the lauded price for Java sugar for that year was approximately £31 per ton. The Australian price was £18 from 1915 to 1918, and then £21 pelton. In 1919, the price of raw sugar in Java varied from £25 to £7S 7s. 6d., and Mauritius sugar was £80 per ton. The average price of Java sugar was £47 3s. lOd. per ton. If to that is added duty, freight, landing charges, and commission, the landed cost price in Australia was £60 10s., as compared to the price of £21 per ton for Queensland sugar during the same period. In 1920, Java sugar varied from £22 to £119 per ton, an average of £67 lis. per. ton. The average landed price in Australia was £S1 Ils. The price for Queensland sugar was £21 for part of the year, then £30 6s. 8d. per ton. In 1921, Java prices for raw sugar were from £16 5s. to £42 per ton, an average of £29 4s. per ton. Add freight, landing charges, commission, duty, &c, totalling £12, and the landed cost in Australia was £41 4s., as against £30 6s. 8d. for the Queensland product. In 1922, there was a drop in price. Java sugar varied in price - from £15 15s. to £20 10s. per ton, an average of £18 lis. 6d. “If all charges and duty were added to that, the cost landed in Australia would have been £30 lis. 6d., as compared with £30 6s. 8d. for Queensland sugar. From my intimate knowledge of the sugar industry, I can assure the Committee that the workers are not profiteer-: ing, and that the growers are not obtaining anything more than a reasonable return. The average contract rate for cutting cane is 23s. per day, and the average wage in the mills is 2s. per hour. The mills only work for periods of from two to five months, the industry being seasonal. The statistics I have quoted prove that the falling off in the fruit industry is not attributable to the increase in the price of Queensland sugar; and I sincerely hope that the Government will stabilize the industry by giving a five years’ embargo.
– I support the complaint made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) regarding the impossibility of getting straight-out answers to questions which honorable members ask of Ministers in the House. That also has been . my experience, and I want to give honorable members some idea of how business is being conducted by this Government. Some time ago a certain firm in Tasmania secured* through the Commonwealth Government, a contract with the Government of the United States. The amount involved was a substantial sum, and the balance ;lue on the contract, £8,062, has been in; the hands of the Commonwealth Government for the last two years. Repeated demands have been made by the contractor for payment, but, so far, he has been unable to get a settlement. In fairness to the new Comptroller of Customs it must be said that he has intimated to mo his intention to do all he possibly can to expedite the settlement.
– What was the nature of the contract?
– It was a jam contract. The matter .in dispute is now being dealt with by the Crown Law officers, though I fail to understand why a straight-out contract at so much per lb. should be referred to the legal branch of the Attorney-General’s Department.
I should like now to direct attention to the unsatisfactory position in connexion with light and harbor dues. The Government have taken ‘ over all . the lighthouses and lights, with the exception of harbor lights. In Tasmania, certain of these lights have been made automatic, with the result that in the case of two lighthouses six families formerly engaged in caring for them have been discharged, and the dwelling-houses attached to the lighthouses removed. I have no objection to this course, which I realize is dictated by economy, but it is extraordinary that, since the Commonwealth Government have taken over control of lights and lighthouses, the light dues on a 1.2,000-ton vessel visiting Hobart amount to £250, compared with £25 when the lights there were under the jurisdiction of the Hobart Marine Board. If the Commonwealth Government have effected economies in expenditure on lighthouses and lights, why this great increase in light dues? This is a matter which, I think, deserves serious, consideration, because of its effect upon shipping. Thousands of tons of shipping have gone out of Australia since’ the war. I think it is a well-established fact that increased port charges are having a damaging effect upon our shipping trade
I did not intend to touch upon the administration of the Navigation Act, but I suggest that the Government should not proclaim certain sections of the Act, due to- come into operation on 1st October, until a report has been furnished by the Select Committee which is now inquiring into the administration of the Navigation Act as it affects Australian trade.
– I direct attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed. 1
– Reference has been made in the debate to the unsatisfactory position of the fruit-growing industry, and t suggest that, to give relief, the Government should agree to pay a bounty on the export of apples. Hitherto the apple-grower has never had one penny piece from the Government; but assistance has been given to the grower of soft fruits. If the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) is anxious to help the fruit-growing industry he should treat growers of apples in the same way as those engaged in the meat industry in Queensland have been treated, by giving them £d. per lb. bounty, and the export of all, apples should have the same.
– The Ministry should endeavour to insure cheaper freights.
– Under present conditions I cannot see how freights can be: lowered. Arbitration awards and the Navigation Act are an effective barrier. The- only way in which the Government can- help the industry is by the payment of a bounty. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) had a good deal to say about sugar. I desire to put the position of the fruit industry in its relation to sugar costs in Australia. One-half the soft fruit produced in Tasmania is made into jam, and I remind the honorable member that in a tin of jam there is over 200 per cent, more sugar cost than fruit cost. The more we have to pay for sugar the less the fruit-grower can get for his product. Mr. Forde. - The proportion pf sugar in a lb. of jam is 50 per cent.
– Sixty per cent.
– I know what I am talking about. A 2-1L. tin of jam contains 50 per cent, of fruit and 50 per cent, of sugar, but sugar costs the manufacturer 3 1/2d per lb., and the fruit Id. per lb. The honorable member cannot get away from this important fact. The jam manufacturer has to pay £30 18s. per ton for his sugar, and only Id. per lb. for his fruit. Thus the sugar cost of a tin of jam is 200 per cent, above the cost of the fruit. It follows, therefore, that the more the manufacturer has to pay for his sugar, the less the fruitgrower can get for his fruit. The Minister for Trade and Customs informed the members of the Fruit, Council in Melbourne this week that there had been a loss of £500,000 on the Fruit Pool. The price of sugar was largely responsible for the loss.
– The honorable member is quite wroug
– I trust the Minister will carry out his promise to the Fruit Council and assist the growers, because, there is no section of producers which has suffered more during the last four or five years than the apple-growers. One grower who sent twenty-five cases of apples to England received only 7d., and in another instance a returned soldier exported twenty-five cases of apples, which realized £5 5s. in London, but after expenses were paid he received only 1.3s. 9d. Out of that amount he had to meet the costs of orchard, materials, cases, and cover the cost of his own labour.” The account sales in connexion with /this case have been submitted to the Minister. I could quote hundreds of instances of men who had similar 1 experience during the last season. The vessels carrying the fruit to Great Britain, including those of the Commonwealth Government Line, have landed it in a very bad condition in consequence of the faulty refrigerating chambers. I trust the Government will take these facts into consideration and assist the growers in every possible way.
– This fiery, ferocious, old gentleman who has just resumed his seat appears to blame everything, including the price of sugar and the faulty refrigerating chambers in Commonwealth and. other ships’, upon the inadequate price received for apples. What has sugar to do- with these particular items ? The honorable member sees no prospect nf saving the industry unless cheap black labour is em-, ployed on vessels carrying his products.
I understand the honorable member is a member of the Select Committee inquiring into the operations of the Navigation Act. He comes here and airs his opinions, based on information which is not in possession of other honorable members.
– I do not.
– You do.
– Will the honorable member for Bourke Address the Chair.
– I am not doing what the honorable member suggests.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. If we had an impartial Chairman he would rule that interjections were disorderly, and would five me the right to address the Chamer. I desire to say one or two words in connexion with the Navigation Act. Various Departments are under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), one of which is the Department of Navigation. TheCommittee of which the honorable member is a member is inquiring into the operations of the Navigation Act. This matter has also been investigated by the Tariff Board, and, perhaps, it would please the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) if I quoted certain paragraphs from that report. The honorable member for Forrest, and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), are advocating the employment of black labour,, and would like to see vessels of the Peninsula and Oriental Company, and the British-Indian Steam Navigation Company carrying our produce, thus preventing our own men from earning a decent wage. The following is a paragraph in the Tariff Board’s report: -
Many bitter complaints have been made to the Tariff Board that the working of the Navigation Act is acting detrimentally at present to the best interests of Australianindustries, both primary and secondary.
It was stressed whilst the Government professes to do all in its power to encourage decentralization, and the peopling of our distant parts, yet it indorses the policy of the Navigation Act, which more than any other legislation discourages the settler on our coasts far removed from industrial centres.
It was also urged that the oversea merchants are assisted in their trade againstour own producers by the fact that our present method of administering our shipping laws places heavy freights on our own products whilst overseas goods are carried for much lower freights.
Apparently departmental officers are responsible for the administration of our’ shipping laws, and everything isdone without reference to Parliament,
– They have to administer according to the Act.
– I thought the honorable gentleman was complaining that theywere not doing that.
– I have not said anything of the kind.
– Then the honorable member supports the action of the Board. Another paragraph reads -
The Board has no hesitation in reporting that the present Navigation Act is working very detrimentally against the best interests of the primary and secondary produoers.
I do not object to the Board furnishing a report if it thinks it worth while to submit information, but if, in its opinion, the Navigation Act is operating detrimentally to the best interests of the country, should it not give reasons’?
– Has it not mentioned the freights?
– Not in this report.
– Is it not statedthat it costs as much to send goods from Adelaide to Perth as from Europe to Western Australia?
– Yes, but the freights are not given. The Board merely issues a bald statement), but does not give any reasons. Information has been obtained from different sources, but it is noticeable that the members of the Board do not approach the representatives of the Seamen’s Union. Here is another paragraph -
Inquiries made by the Board showed that the cost of shipping certain goods from South Australia to Western Australia was greater than the cost of shipping them from Europe to Western Australia. Again, it was frequently -stated to the Board that the freight on butter from Queensland to other States was much heavier than from New Zealand to Australia.
That is quite true. That was the position before the Navigation Act was in operation. That Act, therefore, cannot he to blame. Why is not Parliament informed of the facts upon which this information is based?
– Has not the honorable member heard of a shipping combine?
– Yes, I am coming to that. The report goes on to say -
Much of the benefit conceded by the Tariff is lost through the additional cost in freight on Australian goods, and our primary producers and manufacturers will not be able to obtain the full share of the markets they are entitled to until some other methods can be adopted to provide a service that will not place our shippers at a disadvantage.
If such action can be taken whilst preserving the present benefit to Australian seamen the Board believes that our Australian producers and manufacturers will receive material advantage.
That is all right for a general statement, but why is not Parliament furnished with the facts? In addition to stating that the Act has had a disastrous effect, reference is made to Arbitration Court awards. Why has the Board not entered into other phases which have an important bearing on this question?
– The Board has dealt with the position very fully.
– Do you think so?
– Will the honorable member for Bourke address the Chair?
– I am merely making my speech in my own way, and surely I am entitled to do that.
– Order !
– Between these little interruptions and interpolations, perhaps I shall be able to proceed.
– I ask the honorable member for Bourke to resume his seat.
– I do not want to be interrupted. What have I done?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Will the honorable member for Bourke resume his seat?
– I shall do nothing of the kind.
– I ask the honorable member to obey the direction of the Chair.
– We are getting damned well sick of this.
– I have not said anything offensive, and I intend to speak. You can do what you like.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must resume his scat.
– I am not going to do that.
– I think we should have a quorum.
– There cannot be a call for a quorum when the Chairman is on his feet. I again ask the honorable member to obey the Chair.
– You can do what you like. You can send for Mr. Speaker and tell him about it.
– I am loth to report the honorable member.
– And I am sorry to interrupt your speech. What are you objecting to, Mr. Chairman?
– If the honorable member will resume his seat I shall tell him.
– I shall do nothing of the kind. What have I said that is offensive to anybody?.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have not stated that the honorable member has said anything offensive or out of order. I have asked him to resume his seat while I make a statement.
– You will make me angry presently. I will not sit down. If any one else wishes to speak, he may do so. I am going to walk out.
.The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has taken a considerable interest in the sugar industry, and I give him credit for the manner in which he has brought it before the people of Australia, and before this Parliament. I hope that the honorable member will use his influence in the party room, and bring the members of his party to his way of thinking. The Labour party had an opportunity to assist the sugar industry when the Tariff Bill was before this House. The Hughes Government brought down a proposal to protect the industry through the Customs to the extent of £11 6s.8d. per ton. Owing to the action of the Labour party that proposal was defeated.
– You know that the growers want a renewal of the agreement ?
– I am not dealing with that point at the moment. I am recounting a little ancient history for the benefit of honorable members. At present the sugar-growers would prefer an extension of the embargo. They have accepted the proposed agreement, but they would ‘ like the embargo to be for four years instead of two. If the industry had been protected by a duty of £11 6s. Sd. a ton as was proposed an embargo would not have been necessary with the world’s price of sugar as it is at present. The embargo is of very little use. I look upon it more as an insurance against loss by the Government than anything else. If the Labour party had been anxious to help the sugar-growers it had the opportunity when the Tariff was before this Parliament.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) moved an amendment which provided for an agreement.
– For an agreement, not for the agreement.
– I remember the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition very well. The Chairman of Committees ruled it out of order, and therefore it was not possible to discuss it.
– He thought it was rather dangerous looking.
– I think a few more Ministerial supporters should be in the Chamber to hear these remarks. [Quorum formed.]
– While I approve of the manner in which the honorable member for Capricornia] is advocating the interests of the sugar industry, I am sorry that I cannot give my support to the amendment he has moved. I cannot think that he moved it quite disinterestedly. I am inclined to think that he is trying to make political capital.
– You heard the letters I read from the sugar-growers in my electorate.
– I received a letter to-day from the chairman of the United Cane Growers, who said that they were amply satisfied.
– The honorable member foi- Capricornia might have selected a more appropriate occasion on which “ to bring this matter forward . It must bc clear to him that as the agreement has been accepted by the growers and the Queensland Government, and has practically been completed, his amendment can do very little good. The honorable member has dealt with this subject previously in the House. Ho knows how difficult it is for the ton members from Queensland to get all their own way with the Government. If the Government gave way to the Queensland members it would very soon be in trouble with members from other States, it is impossible for the honorable member to do any good by his amendment, even if it was possible to “carry it by a vote in this Committee. It can only create serious difficulties. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) delivered a most interesting and informative speech on Thursday evening. I regret that his remarks on sugar were sadly astray. He had been misinformed. I cannot think that the honorable member went out of the southern part of Queensland in search for information about the sugar industry. He admitted that his knowledge was gained from hearsay. The honorable member is a business man, and he must know perfectly well that it is impossible to find a sensible man who would attempt to borrow money at 15 per cent, to buy land at £100 per acre. If the honorable member had visited the districts where this land at £100 per acre was said to be, he would probably have found that it was highly improved with fencing, wells, and dams, and that it had a residence upon it, . with ‘ possibly a crop ready to harvest. Under such conditions £100 per acre would not have been too much. If he had gone in search of unimproved land hecould certainly have found it at less than £25 an acre. I regret that the honorable member made the remarks he did about the sugar industry, because they were misleading to the public. Unfortunately the conditions surrounding this industry are misunderstood in these southern States. I do not believe the honorable member intended to do it injury. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) has also made some remarks to which I must refer. I assure him that the people engaged in the sugar industry have no quarrel with the fruitgrowers of Australia. The fruit industry in Queensland have no complaints. Recently I asked in this House a series of questions of the Minister for Trade *mid Customs, and I find that less than 20 per cent, of the fruit grown in Australia is manufactured for export. I think the questions, and the replies, which I will read, answer the points raised by the honorable member for Franklin. They are as follow: -
It is quite apparent, therefore, that so far as the cost of the sugar content of jam is concerned, it is comparatively trifling, and certainly would not interfere in any way with the sale of jam. I think the public will understand that the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia to-night were not made with the sole object of assisting the sugar industry.
– They were, absolutely.
– I believe they were made to embarrass the Government, and could not therefore benefit the sugar industry, otherwise I would gladly support the amendment.
.- I think that by this time the Government must realize the harm they are doing to the country by limiting the debate on the Estimates in the way they have done. I wish especially to deal with the regulation issued by the Minister for Trade and Customs imposing restrictions on the exportation of the fauna of Australia. I am inclined to think that the Department is not fully seised of the harm which thisregulation is doing. If the Minister will go into the matter further he will realize this. In proof of my statement I propose to read some correspondence which passed between myself and the Minister on this matter. On the 29 th March there was published in the Commonwealth Gazette, No. 23, a regulation prohibiting the exportation of certain birds. It was noted by bird dealers in South Australia, and I was approached by them. They are not very numerous, because as honorable members are aware, their’s is not a very flourishing business. The regulation imposes very great hardship upon those engaged in that business. I have not very much knowledge of the . birds of Australia, but I believe that the restrictions placed upon their export are more drastic than they need be. I received a letter from a bird dealer in Adelaide on the subject, and I interviewed the inspector of game and fisheries in South Australia. I want to make it clear to the Minister that the exportation of game and birds from South Australia is regulated by the Game and Fisheries Act of that State. I have not only seen the inspector of game and fisheries, but have had conversations with a son of the curator of the Adelaide Zoological Gardens. This gentleman is honorary zoologist to the London Zoological Museum, and has gone to the Old Country. The Minister will realize from the information I am in a position to give that the opposition to the regulation is not merely a factious opposition. When the regulation was promulgated, the bird dealer to whom I refer wrote to me, and I forwarded extracts from his letter to the Minister in the following terms: - 12th June, 1923.
Hon. Austin Chapman, M.H.R.,
Minister for Customs.
I desire to bring under your notice what is urged to be an injustice entailed upon the dealers in birds, &c, by the Proclamation No. 75, published in the Commonwealth Gazette, No. 23, of 29th Marchlast, having relation to the export of birds. In doing so it would, perhaps, be best for me to quote you a letter I have received on the subject from one of the largest exporters of birds in South Australia : - “ This proclamation prohibits the export of a large number of birds on the unprotected list - in this State, which we in the past have been able to export. “ All birds and animals exported by me are forwarded under permit issued by the Minister of Industry. The Chief Inspector of Fisheries and Game also personally inspects all birds and accommodation provided for them at the time of shipment, and his approval, is necessary before they ore allowed to leave. “ I have on hand at present £200 worth of fresh material for making cages for export trade, and nearly £100 worth of new, thoroughly, clean, and disinfected boxes ready for next season’s shipment. “ On all my shipments I accompany the birds to the place of destination, and an attendant is also engaged. A limited number only are put into each cage, and are well looked after, the mortality amongst them being practically nil. I also import and accompany birds from South Africa and other places under the same conditions. Mr. Seth Smith, of the London Zoo, was greatly impressed with the conditions under which my birds traveland the health in which they are , landed. The London press has also favorably commented on all of my shipments. “ I have orderson hand now for the shipment of birds in the coming season for the London Zoo, and ifI cannot export them my loss will be a severe one. I trust that, in view of the above facts, you will place this matter before the Minister on my behalf,- pointing out to him how harshly this proclamation will affect genuine dealers desiring to carry on a bona fide business in this direction, and request that I be allowed to continue my shipments of birds under permit and inspection as in the past. I am dependent on this business for my living, and if the proclamation is adhered to, my living will be taken away and my trade ruined. “ Might I also point out that thousands upon thousands of ducks and quail are shot and killed annually in Australia, and yet the proclamation will not allow live birds to be exported. Many of the birds covered by the proclamation have been proved to be terribly destructive on farms, orchards, &c.”
I have also been interviewed by others interested in the export of animals and birds, and the consensus of opinion is that the objected to proclamation will do untold harm.
The stationinaster atKunba, on the west coast of South Australia, avers:- “ There arc thousands of Ring Neck Parrots (Pt. Lincoln); they do great damage to the wheat in stacks and on trucks, boring holes, in the bags, and in consequence a lot of wheat is lost between here and Pt. Lincoln.”
Mr. Minchin, who is proceeding to London as Honorary Curator to the London Zoological Gardens, states : - “ My experience is that the Blue Mountain and Pt. Lincoln Ring Neck Parrot infest the whole of the west coast, and does great damage to the fruit craps, and is a. great trouble to the new settlers in those areas. The Chief Inspector of Fisheries and Game in Melbourne informed me that when he was here in April last, he was surprised to find how numerous and destructive the Pt. Lincoln parrots were on fruit, &c, also the Blue Mountain parrot on fruit. As an example, at the Government Forest all fruit is bagged on the trees to protect it. Many farmers said they were partially protected, and asked me to let the authorities know that they rivalled theRosella in destruotiveness.” He also referred me to letters sent by Mr. L. R Scammell to Mr. Rodgers, late Minister for Customs, on the 17th October, 1922, and Mr. A. G. Rymill on the 27th September, 1922.
I would esteem it a favour if you would have these letters brought before you, and give consideration to the matters contained herein.
– Are those parrots the only birds that are being exported by the dealer to whom the honorable member refers? .
– No; he exports all kinds of birds, but none the export of which is forbidden by the Game and Fisheries Act of South Australia. Messrs. Rymill and Scammellsivly Influential men in theany. They are interestedin the fruit industry, and they complain that these birds are a thorough pest. The Minister for Trade and Customs should have known that. He replied to my letter to the effect that he was having inquiries made into the matter. It was an urgent matter, so far as the bird dealer was concerned, because trapping takes place in August, September, and early in October, as that is the best time for shipments to be made to the Old Country. A week or so ago I brought a letter from the bird dealer and a covering letter from the inspector of gameand fisheries to the Minister, and I received the following reply from him, dated 2nd August: -
I am in receipt of your letter of the 12th inst., forwarding extracts from communications received by you.
Adverting to your letter of 12th June, . I beg to forward herewith for your information list showing names of gentlemen who have been appointed to the Victorian advisory committee to assist this Department in’ connexion with applications which may be received for permits to export Australian birds and animals. Action is being taken for the appointment of similar committees in other States. With regard to future applications which may be received for permits to export birds and animals which are on the prohibited list,this Department will be guided by advice from the State Advisory Committees. It has been decided that the exportation of such birds and’ animals for purely commercial purposes will not be permitted.
That is to say, the request was turned down, apparently on the advice of the Advisory Committee for Victoria. The members of that Committee are the following : - Representing the University and learned societies, Sir Baldwin Spencer; deputy, Professor Agar; Zoological and Acclimatization Society, Dr. Colin Mackenzie; deputy. Mr. A. Currie; Museum, Mr. J. Kershaw; deputy, Mr. G. Hill;Field Naturalists and Allied Bodies, Mr. F. Barnard; deputy, Mr. Menzies; the Ornithologists, Union, Dr. J. A. Leech; deputy, Mr. A. J. Cameron; National Parks Committee, Mr. W. F.
Gates; deputy, Mr. Croll; Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Mr. Latham; deputy, Dr. G. Horne. I suggest that the majority of the organizations represented on the Advisory Board in Victoria, with the exception of. . Ihe Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which justifies its existence, are really associations, of enthusiasts who quite miss the practical side of. the question. Birds exported from Adelaide are inspected on the boat, and their i cages examined. The bird dealer who has communicated with me does not require to have his birds counted in London. He can sell at sight, because the mortality amongst the birds he exports is practically nil. There have been shipments -of birds from other States which, when they arrived at Adelaide, have shown great neglect in the accommodation provided for the birds. Some persons export birds by giving the butcher or the cook on board a boat a few pounds to look after them on the voyage, and they are sold for’ what they will fetch on arrival in the Old Country. That kind of thing should be prevented. I have .been informed that the Game and Fisheries Department in South Australia see that al] necessary care is taken in the export of birds. The Advisory Committee in Victoria, can do no more in this matter than the Inspector of Game and Fisheries is doing in Adelaide. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to agree to accept the recommendations of the South Australian inspector.
– Have you the white cockatoo in South Australia ? It is a very great pest.
– I suppose the honorable member refers to the sulphur crested cockatoo. That bird is mentioned in the correspondence, and galahs are also referred to. I .should like the Minister v to look further into this matter. He must realize that his regulation flies in the face of the authorities in South Australia,, and is ruining the business of at least . one nian there.
Mr. LATHAM (Kooyong) [4.17 a.m.J. - The ‘ honorable member for Adelaide nas raised an important question. It is desired to prevent cruelty in the export of birds and animals, because other animals than birds are. covered by the regulation. The State authorities have no power to control the export of anything, but in most States make provision for the protection of birds and other animals against cruelty. It may be, as the honorable member for Adelaide has said, that conditions are all that could be desired in South Australia, but the matter has to belooked at generally. Recent experience has shown that further precautions than those adopted in at least some States are required, and there is, therefore, good ground for Commonwealth interference in the matter. Another aspect of the subject is that Australia is being denuded of certain rare birds and animals. Not long ago four birds were seen in New South- Wales not far from Sydney, which had not been seen in the vicinity for about twenty years. Their discovery was reported in one of the bird journals. No more was heard of them until it was known that two birds of the species had appeared in New York. Surely that kind of thing shows the need for rigid control. Some of our animals are very rare,- and scientists say that some may hold secrets which may be of the very greatest value to humanity. One name mentioned by the honorable member for Adelaide was that of Dr. Colin Mackenzie, who has conducted extensive researches relating to Australian animals. He is my authority for the statement that a great contribution may be made to science and human well-being by a proper study of Australian animals. Some of these animals are being exported, and their export should be rigidly controlled. I agree with the honorable member for Adelaide that birds which are pests may be freely exported. It has been suggested that a disinterested committee should be appointed, which would not look at the subject from only one point, of view.
– -As the birds and animals are being, destroyed, they might as well be exported.
– I understand that it is proposed to form committees in other States so that full local information will be obtainable. I agree that birds and animals that are a pest in this country may well be exported under humane conditions.
I desire to say only a few words about sugar. During the war the Commonwealth had power to fix prices, but that power no longer exists. It appears to be assumed that the Commonwealth lias power to arrange for the purchase of sugar, and ‘to control the retail prices at which it may be sold. The Commonwealth has no power to enter into agreements in time of peace, the purpose of which, is to control the wholesale or retail price of any article. It may impose a Customs duty or an Excise duty, or grant a bounty, but otherwise it can exercise no control. In view of the decision of the High Court in the recent wool tops case, any persons relying upon the supposition that the Commonwealth has power to make an agreement to control sugar, .and to regulate its sale at certain prices, may find that they are making a very serious mistake.
– During the long recess I travelled 4,000 miles in my electorate collecting information regarding the requirements of my constituents. I had intended to speak* at length upon the need for more lighthouses on the Western Australian coast, but I shall not attempt to deal with the subject in the seven minutes remaining before the guillotine will operate. There is a stretch of 625 miles of. Western. Australian coast, from Cape Leveque to King Sound, without a light, and I ask the Minister to contrast that with the manner in which the Dutch East Indies are lighted. There is no other coast in the world so badly lighted as the north-west coast of this continent. I protest against the Government curtailing the time available for the discussion of the Estimates to such an extent that, although I have travelled 8,000 miles to gather information, I am unable to bring important matters before the Committee. When I spoke in the Budget debate I intended to deal with the matter of lighthouses, but as my notes were rather lengthy, the Treasurer suggested that I should defer my remarks, and promised that I should get an opportunity later. This is the opportunity - seven minutes to deal with highly important and technical subjects. The Government, deserve the most severe condemnation for forcing the Estimates through the Committee without allowing an opportunity for my constituents to have their views properly represented.
– I join in the protest made by the hon orable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). There are at least half-a-dozen items ‘ in this Department concerning which I would have sought information from the Minister had an opportunity been afforded. But what chance have I to deal with these matters when I know that the guillotine will operate in a few minutes? j-‘he procedure adopted by the Government is a damnable outrage on the rights of the people. I do not think it will be repeated, because the people are not fools or blind, and they will not stand this sort of thing more than once. The Government, and the party behind it who are responsible for taking away the rights of the people’s representatives, will sooner or later “ get it in. the neck.”
– The honorable member spoke for an hour and a half on the Budget
– I did not; but does the honorable member suggest that an hour and a half is too long for a member to speak in a session that has extended over ten weeks? If I had occupied the full time which the Standing Orders’ allow me, what right would the honorable member have to complain ? Do the people who send us here expect us to have our right of speech taken from us because the Leader of the Government, m pursuance of his intention to represent Australia at the Imperial Conference, fails in his duty to the people of the Cornwealth ? If there is no other man on the Ministerial side strong enough to lead Parliament during his absence, if the right honorable gentleman does not trust his Ministerial colleagues, and, therefore, thinks it necessary that Parliament shall be closed before he departs, he should have convened Parliament at least eight or ten weeks earlier. During this short session, I have exercised my right of speech only in regard to subjects which I knew were of special importance- to the people. What chance have I of getting the information that I had intended to seek- in behalf of my constituents? I wanted particularly to question the Minister regarding a matter that vitally affects the people who sent me here, and who, though small in number, have rights under the Constitution.
– The time allotted for the discussion of the Estimates for this Department has expired.
– I again make emphatic protest against this procedure. I am satisfied that the people of Australia are Watching these proceedings, and that this will be the last Parliament that this Ministry will see. It’ is a damnable shame that the representatives of people -should be “gagged “ in this manner.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by £1 (Mr Forde’s amendment) -put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . -13
Majority . . 13
Question soresolved inthe negative.
Question - That the proposed vote (Trade and Customs, £776,494) be agreed to- put. The Committee ‘divided.
Question so resolved intheaffirmative
Proposed voteagreed to.
Proposed vote, £834,849.
Mr.LACEY(Gr-ey.) [4.45a.m.]-I move -
Thattheproposed votebe reducedby£1
I desire to move this amendment as an instructionto the Government to (provide housing accommodation at reasonable rates for the Commonwealth Railway em ployees at Port Augusta and along the trans-Australian line. I wish toadd my protest to those already uttered concerning the action the ‘Government are taking in dealing with matters of vital importance to Australia in the way that they are. We have been sittingcontinuouslyfor . eighteen hours merely because the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce)., who is onlyone of seventy-six jnembers of theCommittee,desiresto visit Cheat Britain. We arenotdoing justiceto ourselves or tothose whomwe represent an dealing “with important proposals in this scandalousway. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green)has travelled thousands of miles to ‘obtain information tosubmit to the Government in connexion with the ad- ministration of thisDepartment,but owingto their actionhe hasbeenpractically debarredfrom doingso. I wish to direct the attention ofthe Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart.)to the conditions existing onthetrans-Australian railway, Where amajority ofthe employeesare living intwo–roomedhumpies which are “totally unfit for human habitation. During the summer months the heat is intense, the high winds which prevail bring clouds of dust, and in the winter the cold in severed Thehouses constructed by the Department cannot be compared with those occupied by railway employees in South Australia,and ifthe men working along the line increase their accommodation attheir own expense they arenot allowedto remove any additions if they should leave the locality.When travelling over the trans-Australian line we were informed . that the housing conditions Would improve after we , passedRawlinna, but when we arrived at that station we weremet by adeputation, the members of which complained bitterlyoftheconditions under whichthey are compelled to live. Theseemployeesare charged11s. 6d. per weekrent,and in some of the settled portions of South Australia better housesareavailableat 10s. perweek. I have been informed thatthe housescost £450toerectand thattherent charged isequalto6 percent.onthe capitalvalue. If thehouses costthatpriceto construct the material must have been purchased at peak prices. Suitable housescould be provided for £100 less ‘than these ‘cottages oost to ‘build, : andthe rent should be on that basis. Mostof them areconstructed of weatherboard,and . the inside partitions consist ofsingle matchboard of the cheapest type. Theemployees are strongly protesting against thehigh rents charged for (the unsatisfactory accoiamodation (provided,and it isthe duty of theGovernment to effect animprove- ment. Inotherplaces onlytwo rooms are provided, irrespective ofthesize of families, . and if honorable . memlbe-cs oppositew ere acquainted -withthe conditionsunder which menand women and tittle children have to livethey wouldsupportthe amendment.Suitable wooden houses could be constructed inPort Augusta, and sent along theline forerecti on atthe diff erent stations. Men cannot heexpected to renderthe best servicewhentheir housing conditions are so unsatisfactory, and I trustthattheGovernment will act in thedirectionI have suggested at the earliest possible moment.
.- I direct the attentionof the Ministerfor Works andRailways (Mr.Stewart) to the alterations being carried out in connexion withthe Adelaide Post Office. I realize that work has proceededtoo f ar toprevent any alterationnow being made inthe design,; but I am satisfied that . the Goverrnment have acted very unwisely, as they aredisfiguring abeautiful building in thecapital city ofan important -State. Commonwealthofficialsare making a “botch “ of the good work performedby competent men some yearsago. Speaking frommemory, Ibelieve the foundation stone of the Adelaide Post Office was laid by the DukeofEdinburgh an 18667or 1868. -Prior.tomydefeatatagneral selectionI waspromisedanopportunity ofinspectingtheproposeddesignbefore anything wasdone;but,unfortunately, theguillotinecame down onmeand ; I had no -opportunity, as a public man, of taking anyf urtheractioninthe matter. Itis the intention of the Department to erect twostoriesinthe centreof thebuilding in order to ‘meet the future requirements ox the ‘PostalDepartment, which,onthe evidence of departmental officials, it will not do. I do not blame the present Minister, as he is merely carrying out the policy of his predecessor.
– What is the objection?
– Architecturally, the Adelaide Post Office is equal to any building of its kind in the Commonwealth. It is constructed of cut stone, and now that it is found necessary to enlarge it to. cope with increasing business the whole symmetry of the structure has been destroyed. The Minister and the architects in his Department are of the opinion that the alterations will not affect the architectural beauty of the structure, but I cannot agree with them. Two additional stories are being erected in the centre of the structure, and when that is done a blank wall will be exposed above three-fourths of the street frontage which the building occupies.
– The Government might sell the space for advertising purposes.
– I asked the Minister whether that was the intention of the Government. He replied that he did not know that there would be any wall. He ought to study the plans. I protest against the erection of buildings of this kind in Adelaide, or any other city. I call honorable members’ attention also to the fact that the Government proposes to erect a flat-faced concrete structure on the vacant block of land next to the Adelaide Post Office. It has been said that that building will be in conformity with the architecture of the Adelaide Post Office, I have seen the plans and I deny that there will be any conformity whatever. Honorable members know the handsome Post Office at the corner of Bourke and Spencer-streets. I suppose the building in Adelaide will be something like that. The Adelaide Post Office should have been raised- another story. The Committee admits, in its report, that in ten or fifteen years an extra story may have to be added to the building now being erected. The present Adelaide Post Office had to be enlarged twenty or thirty years ago. At one time the police station was next to the postoffice. The police station was removed and the post-office extended. It is impossible to tell on the frontage of the building where the extension began, so well did the architects and builders of that day do their work.
Later the Commonwealth Government decided to erect a telephone exchange on the Franklin-street frontage. The building was constructed of cut stone. It is to be pulled down now and a concrete flat-faced building put in its place. Our architect-in-chief, Mr. Murdoch, seems to be a troglodyte. That is the only opinion I can form after reading the evidence he gave to the Committee. ,
– He is one of the finest architects we have.
– I do not doubt that; ‘ but he has not risen to the occasion in South Australia. This Parliament should direct him on the lines he ought to take. We should follow in the steps of our pioneers, who built the fine buildings we now have. I should.be ashamed to think that my grandchildren would hold me responsible in any degree for the public buildings now under construction. .
– On a point of order, I do not wish to stop the flow of the honorable member’s eloquence, but earlier, Mr. Makin, you ruled that I could not discuss an item on the general vote when an amendment had been moved to a specific item.
– I am glad that the honorable member has raised the point. Since I gave the ruling to which he has referred, I have found that I made an error - of judgment. I was under the impression when I gave the ruling that the amendment dealt with a certain item. I discovered subsequently that it- was an amendment to the total vote. It is obvious, therefore; that my ruling was incorrect. I apologize to the Committee in4 general, and to the honorable member in particular. It is only right that I should freely admit my mistake. I did riot make it without obtaining advice, but in the circumstances I shall take the full responsibility.
– I thank you for making that explanation. My object in rising, was not to prevent the honorable member for Adelaide from speaking, but to secure consistency in rulings.
– The Commonwealth Government should not erect buildings of “tha class now being built. I wish, for the sake of Australia’s reputation, that I could induce it to alter its policy. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dir. Maloney) has given notice of a motion to the effect that in future competitive designs for all public buildings shall be invited from . qualified architects. Some years ago I was instrumental in having a similar motion carried in the South Australian Parliament. It has not been acted upon, because no big public buildings have since been constructed. The Adelaide Post Office additions and the building alongside the Adelaide Post Office will be no credit to this Government and no adornment to Adelaide. In my opinion it will be a disgrace to the Commonwealth. Mr. Murdoch says that the craft of the stone-cutter is dying out. It must die out if the men who do this class of work cannot find employment. Are the buildings to be erected at Canberra to be of flat-faced reinforced concrete ?
– The power-house at Canberra is a very fine example of architecture.
– That is far more, than can be said of the new public buildings in course of erection in Adelaide. I invite honorable members to examine the plans of the additions to the Adelaide Post Office. The Post Office building which, this Government took over from the State of South Australia - like this building in which we are sitting - was erected when the country was not half as wealthy as it now is and when it had not half its present population. If it is proposed to build reinforced concrete buildings at Canberra, my advice is that we do not go to Canberra. The Commonwealth Government - and the Governments of all the States - lag far behind the Australian Governments of ‘ other days in the construction of public buildings. The House of Parliament in Adelaide’ - the Marble Hall - is a halffinished job, and if we expect to see it completed, we shall be like the man in the Northern Territory who went grey, and then bald, and afterwards died, while waiting to see an improvement that he desired. This Parliament House is not yet completed. Some time ago I made a proposition that the Commonwealth Government should induce the State Government to allow it to complete the building of the South Australian House of. Parliament, and make provision in it for housing the Commonwealth public services in Adelaide. It was too big a pro-. position for the Government. A suggestion was made that another story should be put on the Adelaide Post Office in a style of architecture which would conform with that already there. We were told that the tower of the Post Office would have to be pulled down before an extra story could be added. I invite the members of the Public Works Committee to look at our Bourke-street Post Office. It has a tower and also three stories. It was a mere quibble to say that an extra story could not be put on the Adelaide Post Office. When this Governmentadopted the policy of erecting flat-faced concrete buildings it sounded the deathknell for stone-cutters. We should reconsider that policy. . It is highly desirable that Governments should set an example to private builders and investors by constructing well-built cut-stone buildings for public purposes. We are told that reinforced concrete buildings are equal in appearance and durability to cut stone buildings. They may be equal in durability, but no one can say truthfully that they are equal in appearance. Every time I walk down King William-street in Adelaide - which is one of the finest thoroughfares in the world - I am forced to compare the efforts of our pioneer builders with the efforts of our builders of to-day, and the comparison is to the discredit of the modern workers.
– The modern idea is to erect buildings in ‘concrete and to face them with cut stone.
– That is not the modem idea. If it were I would not have to complain.
– The Commonwealth Bank in Sydney is a case in point.
– But that is in Sydney, and it shows what a lovely pull Sydney has. I have seen the plans of the alterations of the Sydney Post Office, and they are to be carried out in conformity with the original design of the building. In Adelaide, when the blank wall of the postoffice is erected, space on it can be sold for advertisements. I want to prevent a recurrence of this kind of thing. The Register office in Adelaide is a most modern building and reflects credit upon those who are responsible for it, but most of the buildings of big business firms are constructed of brick. Two of the most modem and handsome public buildings in Adelaide were conceived by a Labour Government. On the North Terrace, which is one of the finest avenues in South Australia, alongside the .University buildings, there is the public reading room and museum. There are there two of the finest structures in the State, and between them there is the museum, which is a flat brick building. On the other side there is a wing, which is a replica of the main building. That was put up by a Labour Premier. Honorable members when they go to Adelaide should look at the educational block of buildings, and when they do so, should take their hats oil to the late Tom Price, who was responsible for these buildings, and had right ideas as to the public buildings which should be erected. I raise my protest against the Commonwealth Government erecting buildings outside the city of Sydney that are not a credit to them.
I wish to make a reference to the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway. In the Treasurer’s Budget speech the statement is made that a total of £215,000 is to be expended on rolling-stock and other works for the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway. I believe that it is intended to practically refit that railway with new rolling-stock.
– That is so.
– I remind the Minister that this railway is built on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. It links up with other South Australian railways, and the Government propose to spend £218,000 on new rollingstock for it.
– So as to be ready for the Alice Springs railway.
– We have twenty engines at Port Augusta that are not being made any use of. They were built for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, which has a gauge of 4 ft. 8^ m. What is wrong about widening the gauge for the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta to 4 ft. Si in. if the Government are sincere about the conversion of our railways to the standard gauge ? If that were done the twenty locomotives I have referred to could be used. They represent nearly as much money as the Government propose to spend on new rolling-stock for this line. If it is the intention of the Government to build the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway they should start the work now. I see that the Premier of South Australia is talking of widening the gauges of railways south of Port Augusta to the 5 -ft. 3-in. gauge. This will be in direct opposition to the expressed will of the people of the Commonwealth. It will mean added expense, more loan money, and more taxation. We are told that we should reduce taxation, but before we can do so, we must put our house in order. We are working with a very bad team of six State horses and one Commonwealth horse. The Commonwealth horse goes all ways and each of the State horses follows his own track. The Government are taking over the management of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, and they should stock it with new rolling-stock for a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. They should show that they are big enough to realize that some day Australia will be a Commonwealth not only in name.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to direct the attention of the Minister to the work of his Department in the State of Tasmania. Work for the Department in that State is carried out under the State Works Department, and it seems impossible to get anything done without a very great deal of delay. I have great trouble in inducing the State ‘ Department to send inspectors in , connexion with Commonwealth works. The officials appear to be too busy with State matters to give proper attention to Commonwealth business. As the Government pay the State for the services of its officials, it should not involve greater expense to establish a branch of the Commonwealth Department of Works and Railways in Tasmania. A’ Commonwealth officer might be located in a central position - at Launceston, for instance - since four-fifths of the postal buildings are in the northern part of the island. There would be no necessity for a big staff; a competent inspector, and perhaps one clerk could do all the work that is to be clone. I ask the Minister to give this suggestion his very serious consideration, because the present arrangement is most unsatisfactory.
.This is a very suitable hour of the morning for the protest I am about to make against the parsimony of the Government at present in office. Their treatment of some of the most hardworking employees in its service is only what one would expect from a miserable sweater. I refer to the office-cleaners in the employ of the Commonwealth. Those, in this city are paid on a basis calculated on the determination of a Victorian Wages Board, which fixes £3 2s. 4d. for a week of forty-four hours. That works out at ls. 5d. per hour. The Government do not employ these officecleaners for forty-four hours per week. They employ them for only twenty-four hours a week, and pay them the miserable wage of ls. 5d. per hour or 34s. per week.
– Is this work their only occupation?
– It is. They have no opportunity to engage in any other occupation. Most of them are widows who have lost their breadwinners. They leave home about 5 o’clock in the morning to do office cleaning, and return to their homes to get the.ir children ready for school. They return again in the afternoon after office hours. They get twenty-four hours’ work per week, and are paid at the rate of ls. 5d. per hour. Under the determination of the Victorian Wages Board, if they were employed for only twenty-two hours per week, they would have to be paid at the rate of ls. lid. per hour. In order to avoid the necessity of paying these people casual rates, the Government employs them for two hours over the minimum, and at the rate of ls. 5d. per hour. It should not require any stressing of the matter to convince the Minister that this is not fair treatment for these women. There are not many of those women, and the sum that would be involved in the suggested increase would not be great. The Government should be a little more just to those who are probably the lowest paid workers in its employ.
– Have they not to supply some of the cleaning material they use?
– Possibly; but no complaint on that score has been made to me. No one will deny that these women are badly paid. Representations have been made by their union.
– I have no recollection of any such representations since I have been in office.
– I understand that representation’s have been made to the Department, and that the complainants have received no satisfaction. I do not like mentioning these grievances in Parliament, if they can be rectified in any other way, but I have been told that the cleaners could get no redress from the Department. There are plenty of private employers who’ would not take such a paltry advantage of their employees as the Government are taking of the women office-cleaners.
– I congratulate the Minister for Works upon the effort he has made in the House and in his Department to have, this Parliament removed to Canberra as soon as possible. Even before a motion had been carried in the- House, at the instance of the honorable member foi’ Dalley (Mr. Mahony), the Minister had given proof of his iona fide intention to do what lay in his power to have the Constitutional provision regarding the Federal Capital honored. This House has now definitely resolved that the GovernorGeneral shall be asked to convene the next Parliament at Canberra.
I am sorry that there is not on the Estimates- a small amount for the survey, or some other preliminary work, in connexion with the proposed railway between Kyogle and Brisbane. This line has been discussed between Commonwealth and State Ministers as part of the scheme for the unification of gauges. Recently the Minister for Works, whom I commend for endeavouring, by travel, to learn first-hand Australia’s requirements, made a trip through Southern Queensland and the Kyogle district, covering a portion of the proposed route. He saw some of the magnificent country that a railway would open up, and the terrible isolation of the settlers there, and he expressed surprise that such a fine territory should, be absolutely undeveloped. He was already strongly predisposed towards the line, and his trip influenced him further in its favour. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) and the PostmasterGenera] (Mr. Gibson), who accompanied him, were equally favorably impressed. I am disappointed, therefore, that there is not a sum on the Estimates to indicate that the construction of the line is to be proceeded with. I know that the Minister for Works is quite in earnest in his advocacy of the railway, but the five State Governments of the mainland are concerned in the question of cost. The Kyogle-Brisbane line is not to be merely a district utility; it is to be portion of a great- scheme affecting the whole Commonwealth in respect of defence and transcontinental communication. The States of New South Wales and Queensland have already expressed their approval of the line, but I should like to know more concerning the attitude of other States, particularly South Australia, the . Premier of which, Sir Henry Barwell, appears to be~ a most benighted individual, with a very limited conception of the national interests. I quite ‘ understand that the absence of any reference to the Hay-Port Augusta line is due to the difference of opinion amongst the State Premiers, again headed by Sir Henry Barwell.
The Minister for Works and Railways was mainly responsible for the main roads development scheme, which was recently approved by the House. I congratulate him upon that proposal, because the expenditure involved will be of inestimable benefit to country districts. Roads, particularly those in the country, play a peculiar part in our national life. They are free to all. Whereas one may travel by trains only at such times as are suitable to the general community or the Department, the road is Open to anybody at any time. And all may travel on it as they please - in a Rolls-Royce motor car, on horse, on a bicycle, or on foot. Roads make travel more convenient, and transport’ easier and more rapid. They are necessary, not only as great highways between cities, but also as the arteries of industry in the country, carrying produce from outlying hamlets to the towns and goods from the town shops to the settlers. A good road means less freighting, a saving of time, and an increase of comfort.
Anything that will add to the comfort and prosperity of the people should bc strongly supported by honorable members, and roads should be recognised as of great assistance to pioneers in the back-blocks, who are fighting so hard to make this country the success it should be. As a general rule, the city gets ali the plums in the form of expenditure, but the grant for new roads is an exception. The roads are not to be built in the cities, but are to be developmental in character, and to link up great country districts. I again congratulate the Minister for Works and Railways on the service he is rendering the Commonwealth.
.I direct the attention of the Minister for Works and Railways to the necessity of providing adequate accommodation for workmen engaged at the Federal Capital site. During the last two months the weather has been anything but pleasant, and a number of cases of influenza has been reported. Most of the men are housed in old military huts or .canvas .tents, and therefore their living , conditions are anything but satisfactory. If we are in earnest in connexion with the construction of Parliament House, the hostel, and other public buildings, it will be necessary to insure an adequate supply of skilled labour. To do this it is essential that suitable accommodation should, be available, not only for the workmen, but also - for their wives and children. . The contractor for the hostel has made the suggestion that suitable’ temporary weatherboard dwellings of three or four rooms could be erected quite handy to where building operations were being carried out for about £180 each. These would serve the workmen during the period of capital construction, and they could afterwards be removed. If this suggestion were adopted, the Government would not be embarrassed in their building operations by a scarcity of suitable* labour. I know that scores of expert tradesmen, bricklayers, carpenters, and other artisans would be prepared to go to Canberra and take up work there if they could depend upon having accommodation for their wives and children. This proposal is a practical suggestion, and well worthy of the Minister’s earnest attention.
The honorable member for Yarra- (Mr. Scullin) mentioned that the women cleaners in the employ of the Works and Railways and Postmaster-General’s Departments were not receiving fair treatment. Women employees in Commonwealth Departments who are widows, and have children, should receive the same consideration as male employees with children dependent upon them, and receive the benefit of child endowment. .
In the Governor-General’s establish-, ment, on page 271, there appears an item - £400 for telephones at, I presume, the Melbourne and Sydney Government Houses. There seems to be something wrong. Is it that the servants’ rooms, the garage, and outhouses are connected by telephones ? If the pruning, knife is to be applied to employees in the Public Service, we should also insist upon proper economy being observed in the GovernorGeneral’s establishments. The sum could very well .be cut in half. The GovernorGeneral is paid £10,000 per year, and he should be expected to pay his own telephone bills. Honorable members are expected to have telephone connexion from their residences, and to pay the ground rental and for all originating calls. It is not fair that the taxpayer should be saddled with this huge amount in respect of the Governor-General’s telephone services. There is also an item for china and glass at the Governor-General’s establishments. This, too, is quite unnecessary. If, through any. carelessness, breakages occur in the Governor-General’s household, the taxpayer should not be called upon to replace the broken articles. Another item, is £100 for fittings and furniture. Last year the expenditure under this heading was £196, making the total for the two years just under £300. We are entitled to some explanation from the Minister. Does this expenditure represent the removal of fittings or cupboards to suit the likes or dislikes of some of the Governor-General’s household? One other item, £2,550, is for non-recurring works at Melbourne and Sydney Government Houses. What’ does this mean ? Some explanation should be given. ‘
With regard to the Federal members’ room at the Commonwealth Offices, Sydney, I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister the case of the attendant, and to make an appeal on his behalf. This officer is most discreet and polite to the numerous callers seeking interviews with honorable members, and is , of very great assistance to the twenty-eight members and six senators from New South Wales. He is a returned soldier, and I know that his salary is inadequate. I trust that the Minister will take steps to have this officer’s position re-classified, and see what he can do to pay adequately an officer doing such good work.
.- I desire to direct attention to the apportionment of the money which the Government has granted for road construction. I may mention, by way of explanation, that when the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) visited Queenscliff a month or two ago he was taken over a road which connects Swan Island and’ the fort, to see for himself the damage that has been done by the very heavy traffic of the Defence Department. He was so impressed by what he saw that he felt that something should be done by the Government to help keep the road in a good state of repair. The borough is in an unfortunate position. It is very small in area, and the rateable properties are so limited that it is obliged to appeal to the Government for assistance in the maintenance of this road which, as I have said, is used almost exclusively by the Defence Department. The same may be said of another road in another shire of my electorate, namely, the road from the Laverton Railway Station to the Point Cook Flying School. This is also used almost exclusively by the Defence Department, and up to the present the Government have contributed nothing towards its upkeep. I understand that in connexion with the Queenscliff road the Government have previously i given a grant, but I am informed by a councillor of the Werribee Shire that there nas been no grant towards the maintenance of the Laverton-Point Cook” road. To make the position worse, there is, along the latter road, a considerable area of land owned by the Federal and State Governments, and, of course, it is not revenue-producing. Honorable members will understand from what I have said that the shire is very heavily handicapped indeed, particularly as the major portion of its revenue is swallowed up in the heavy : cost ofcontributing to theCountry Roads Board . towards the . maintenance of a section of the main roadbetween Melbourne and Geelong, one of the finest roadsin Victoria. I hope the Minister willsee that . someportion of the money voted by this Parliament ‘for Toad construction inVictoria is allocated to the roadsIhave mentioned.
– I . desire to ideal withthe question raised by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), namely, the accommodation on the EastWesttranscontinental railway,butbefore doingso I shouldlike to pay atribute to the Ministerfor Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart.) for having made it his business, almost immediately after his accession to Ministerial office, to travel over “the lineandbecome personallyacquainted with it. I ; also appreciatehis energy in fayingto push forward the work ofhousmg the menemployedon the line. Overseaspassengers landing atFremantle, and travellingoverthe transAustralian line tothe eastern States, naturally form a very bad impression, particularlyduring thehot weather, from what they see oftheliving conditionsalong the route. Being unaccustomed to the Australianclimatethey would notbe favorably . impressed with the little huts provided by the Commonwealth ‘Government for their railway employees.However, there has been an improvement sincethe present Minister assumed office., and although consideration has been shown to the single men there is stall roomfor further improvement. The honorable memberfor Grey : (Mr. Lacey) referred to the houses at Rawlinua, which area big improvement on those constructed at various other points. We have been informed that the cottages cost theDepartment £450 each to construct, and that the rental of11s.6d. per week is to cover the interest at 6 per cent. on the capital cost and water and sanitary charges. Considering the type of the houses, similaraccommodation could be ‘obtained in Melbourne or suburbs for verymuch less. Considering thecircumtances in which these people haveto live particularly the married couples, it wouldbe good policy on the part of theGovernment to allow them to occupy thecottaees rent free. The employees are naturallydissatisfied with the present conditions, and I trust that, at an early date, a marked improvement will be made.
I am indebted to the Minister for advising me that this would bea . good opportunity to deal with the question of lighthouses. During my trip to Kimber- : ley a few weeks ago, I wasstruck with the absence of lighthouses along the north-west coast of Western Australia.From. Cape Leveque, . which is the westernpoint on Kings Sound, upon which Derby stands, to Port Darwin, which is a distance of ‘625 miles, there is not a single lighthouse. Apartfrom the Australian Bight, where the traffic in theimmediate vicinity of the shore is very small, the distance I have mentioned is perhaps the longest on which there areno lighthouses. The risks are indeed great. I ask honorable members to examine the plan before me, and they will see that this particular portion of the coast of Australia is heavily indented. In thepilot book of the Australian coast, which is the master mariner’s guide, it is stated that this portion of the coast is the most indented of -any of our littoral. Along that coast, with the exception perhaps of the Bay of Fundy, the highest tides in the world prevail, and ordinary spring tides of . 2.8 feet rush . along the coast and create & current, in places, equal to 10 knots an hour. Some of the steamersbrading along that portion of the coastdonot average 10 knots, and it willtherefore be seen that if vessels are in the vicinity of thecoast their danger is very great owing to the presence of numerous islands. The number of shipwrecks has not been large because the trade on that portion of the coast is comparatively small, and the skilled master mariners in charge of the vessels exercise great caution. I have been in conversation with some of these men, who have made certain recommendations as to where lighthouses should be placed, which I shall now submit to the Minister. The lighthouses on the whole of the Western Australian coast number only nineteen, whilst the number on other parts of the Australiancoastis over 100. As the Western Australian coast isequal to one-third of our whole coast line,it will be seen thatthe lighting; is altogether inadequate.. It. may be.- said that, because vessels, pass, along, that coast, only occasionally,, lighthouses are not required,, but tha need. i& all the greater, because on the well-lighted’ portions of the coast the course is well known.
– Are. there, only- nineteen lights apart, from the leading lights, into the. harbors?
– Yes-. There are- onlytwo, ships a month- to- Port- Darwin, but the Government have provided ten lights between Cape Don and Port Darwin, which is a very short distance, while on the ether stretch- of 625* miles- which I have mentioned there is not one. There should’ be a- light on La Crosse Island,, at the: entrance- to tlie Wyndham- Harbor. We* are- told- Chat it was on Ea Crosse Island that De Rougement re.de-. turtles 0.fi course,, there, are turtles. there.. De Rougement’s veracity was. disbelieved when-,, he having mentioned” that on. his trip across the Northern Territory he did not, see anything ; but. an Australian who happened- to be in the, audience, asked,
Did you not notice the overland tele,graph line?”’ At that. De Rougement collapsed. A light, is necessary at. La Crosse. Island, where- there is considerable shipping at this time, of the year,, and vessel’s,, including those, of the; Common wealth Government Line, are. in danger if they arrive at night, as there is a. 10-knot current. Master mariners, have said that, even when their vessels are anchored, the swirl of the. tide is alarming, and the greatest precaution has to be taken to prevent dragging. If a light; were stationed at that point, they would be able to know their bearings. I do not profess to possess any nautical knowledge, but I have travelled up and’ down the. coast, occasionally for- many- years. There is a. 2’1-ft. rise and fall at the. mouth of Cambridge Gulf, upon- which- Wyndham is- situated. A lighthouse should also be built, at Troughton Island, another at Low Rock - probably a gas= buoy would1 do- there - and one at Corneille Island. Thais would enable boats1 to- go. through the Peneton Pass, Trough ton Pass, and- make- it unnecessary for vessel’s going from Wyndham to Derby to go out past the Holothura Bank, thus saving- 27 miles-. Ships, working up the; north-west coast have to. proceed with great caution at night owing to, the. strong currents’.. The* next suggested sites: are on. each side of what. is. known as. the Meda Pass, going Sato- Derby,,, one each on. The: Twins Island and. Hunter Island: There is a high- tide audi a. 10-knot rip through the Meda- and’ Escape Passes-, through, which. I have been when there has been a, wall of water 5 or 6 feet, high. At present, boats-, coming ta Derby at night must anchor outside King Sound!, but if? there: were, lights- at the islands; I have mentioned:,, they could proceed- to port, instead-, of losing probably/ twelve hours, waiting foc day/light, which involves a cost of £59:.
The tides at Ring’s- Sound, are- as bad as- at any place Known to man-. There, is a portion of King’s Sound which has l’ong been known as’ the “ grave-yard.” The divers, for pearl shell - like, all men. who work for the- recovery of precious- gemsfrequently take, great, risks, and, numbers of them have lost their lives by having had their air-line cut, A number of deaths have occurred in the. last few years. A light is required at the East Lancepedi Group, on the- route, to Broome-. If a light, were established- there it. would’ enable ships- to take the inside channel at night, ana? save thirty-six- miles- of the journey, by enabling them to. make. Derby without casting- anchor outside King’s Sound-. A light should’ be- placed at Legendre Island:,, off Port. Sampson,, to show the way to the very important port of Roeburne At- present, no light is; to be> seen until slips- get right round the point of the island. Several’ ships have been wrecked on that coast.. It. would- be impossible fca* an outsider to> get, along- the north-west coast, successfully-, even with charts’. Only a master mariner, who knows: the. coast, can travel; in- safety. The cost of installing these- lights- would not be, very great. I understand that the Governor Musgrave, which attends the lighthouses once in six months, will not attempt this, coast at certain periods. The. Government, could, install lights- that would not need attendants. The Governor Musgrave’ makes periodical visits to the- automatic, lights already established1, and Keeps- them- in order. The lights installed iia what is known, as; Mary Ann-. Passage- are ineffective. The light on the north side is» at Sandy Island, and on the south side at Airlie. Island, but a mile of the, channel half way between the lights is obscured- as the lights are out or range. A gas buoy should be placed at Sandy Bay, near Large Island. It would be visible for 10 miles, and it would cost very little. No white man cares to go to certain parts of the coast in this locality, between Derby and Wyndham. The country is in the possession of well-fed and fierce Australian blacks. At different times fifty or sixty men have landed on the rocks from pearling luggers which have been wrecked. They were daring men, but few of them have been heard of after the landing. The writer of the pilot book gives some particulars about the natives in these districts. On page 154 of the book, referring to the natives near Cape Londonderry, he says -
The reports of the treacherous character of the natives should be borne in mind.
Of Napier Broome Bay, he says-;-
The natives on the shores of Napier Broome Bay, and also on Eclipse and adjacent islands, were hostile at the time of survey.
That was in 1884. No missionaries have been near since then to teach them the white man’s idea of civilization. With respect to Bougaineville Island the book states : -
The country is inhabited by a suspicious race of aborigines, who appear to h&.ve no contact with white people. It has been unsafe to land singly or without firearms.
Bigge Island, west of Montague Sound, is mentioned and the inhabitants described as follows: -
The natives are a savage race, of good physique, armed with spears, clubs, and boomerangs, and remarkably agile. They appear to be unaccustomed to white people. Landing was resisted. No attempt should be made to hold intercourse with them in small parties, or without firearms.
Of the natives in the Maret group, it is stated -
Maret group is frequented by natives, and caution is necessary when landing.
These interesting remarks are made on Camden Harbor -
From a high hill on the southern shore of Camden Island most luxuriant and well-watered country was seen over the low southern shore, extending in an east-south-easterly direction towards the Glenelg River. Part of this rich land approaches within five miles of Camden Harbor. In the vicinity of Camden Island, the natives were hostile. A settlement, formed on its shores, was abandoned long ago for this reason.
Honorable members have heard something of Yampi Sound, in the Buccaneer Archipelago, because of the famous iron deposits there. Several pearlers who have gone out from Derby towards Yampi Sound have been wrecked, and on landing in the sound have been murdered by the natives. Sufficient has been said to show how necessary it is that these lights should be installed. This portion of the coast should be treated in the same way as other portions of our coast are treated, . and we should do what we can for the hinterland country. If the Minister for Works examines the chart I have on the table he will find that in the East Indies the Dutch people have all their channels and water-ways lighted like Bourkestreet, although many of the places have only a ship a month.
– I shall only be able to reply briefly to the points raised, because the time at my disposal’ is limited. The honorable member for Grey has moved that this vote be reduced by £1, because he says no provision is made for improving thehousing accommodation along the EastWest line. I inform him that an amount of £23,662 is provided -on the Loan Estimates for the construction of residential accommodation along the East- West line. I inspected Rawlinna with the honorable member, and know exactly what the position is. It is said that the houses erected there are not worth the money. All honorable members know that it is impossible, under existing conditions, to build, a very good type of house for £400, whether it be at a spot half-way along the East-West railway line or in the capital cities. What struck me about the accommodation was that there was no privacy. I have instructed the Railway Commissioner to erect a, paling fence round each cottage. That will cost a fair amount of money, but no extra rent will be charged for the added’ convenience. I do not deny that the accommodation at some of the stations on the East- West line is poor and of a. temporary character. That is largely because many of the stopping places are not yet permanently determined. Water is one of the main’ factors in this matter. Rawlinna is a per- manent station, and for that reason the accommodation there is better than in some other places. As soon as we establish permanent stopping places a better class of accommodation will be provided. With respect to the Kyogle-Brisbane railway, I can assure honorable members that the Commonwealth Government is anxious to cooperate with the State in constructing the line. Negotiations are going on at present. A very fine speech was made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie in explanation of the need for lights on our north-west coast. As an ex-sailor I appreciated very much what he said. Lighthouses are under the control of the Department of Trade and Customs. An amount of £140,000 has been provided this year for two new vessels for tending lighthouses. One of these will work on the Western Australian coast. I was glad to hear the reference to automatic lights. Already £250,000 has been spent in providing these lights, and. a saving of £11,000 a year has been made by removing the old type of light and replacing it with the new automatic light. I suggest that the honorable member state his case to the Department of Trade and Customs, which, I am sure, will give it the fullest consideration.
.- In view of the assurance that the Minister for Works and Railways has given, I desire to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
- Mr. Chairman-
– The time at which the vote on this Department must be taken has arrived.
Proposed vote (Works, and Railways £834,849) agreed to.
Proposed Vote, £7,997,131.
– I intended to say something on the Budget in regard to the Post Office Department generally, but I am confined now to the matters dealt with in the Estimates before the Committee. I shall not take up much time, as I know that honorable members desire to speak about postoffice’ and telephone construction. I am very glad that the criticism levelled against the Department I have the honour to administer has been very friendly. With regard to telephones, honorable members know that last year we spent something like £2,000,000 on constructional work. I want to pay a tribute to Mr. Poynton, who held the office of Postmaster-General prior to my taking over the administration of the Department. He set out to catch up with some of the arrears of construction, and he went so far as to widen ‘ the concessions to country districts generally. The present Government propose to further extend the facilities for communication in the country districts. Honorable members will recognise that this is a work of very great magnitude when they remember that we are spending this year some £4,000,000. If we had before us a proposal for the construction of a railway at a cost of £4,000,000 we would hardly expect to spend the money in one year. It is, however, proposed to spend the £4,000,000 on the Post and Telegraph Department’s operations during the coming year. That is almost double the amount expended last year. I hope honorable members . will recognise that this is a very big work, and will give a great deal of employment. The expenditure will cover only works that are absolutely necessary, and that represent only a part of the expenditure of £10,000,000, which will be completed in a future programme of construction for 1924-25. The public seem to think that . it is quite an easy matter to make connexions with the telephone service, but when it is explained that it costs as much per mile to lay down conduits and cables in the capital cities as to lay down a line of railway, it will be seen that it is not an easy matter to make some of the connexions for which people are clamouring to-day. The arrears are very great. Somethinglike 14,000 people are still waiting for connexion with the telephone service. Since the present Government came into office we have connected some 3,000 per month, which, I think, is a very great feat. It exceeds anything done by the Post and Telegraph Department before, and is an absolute record. I feel sure that we will shortly be making 4,000 telephone connexions per month, and we must do so if we are to give in a reason- able time the service which people are looking for. Some honorable members opposite have said that most of the money is being expended in city areas, and others have said that most of it is being spent in country areas, so the Department would appear to have struck the happy medium. I propose to explain what is being done in both city and country areas. The references made by the honorable members for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), Angas (Mr. Gabb), and, I think, Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) were particularly to the expenditure on buildings, and not so much to the amount of £2,980,000 which appeared in the Loan Estimates for telephones and telegraph works. What we are proposing to spend is £3,200,000 on telephones and telegraphs; £729,366 on buildings, and £82,400 on sites. In 1922-23 we spent £2,000,000 on telephone and telegraph works, and £182,818 on buildings. The allocation of the £3,200,000 proposed to be expended this year is as follows: - New South Wales £645,300 in metropolitan areas, and £701,200 in country areas, or a total of £1,346,500. In Victoria, £444,400 in metropolitan areas, and £326,900 in, country areas, or a total of £771300. In Queensland, £159,500 in metropolitan areas, and 322,600 in country areas, total £482,100. In South Australia, £185,700 in metropolitan areas and *£202,500 in country areas, total £338,200. In Western Australia, £56,100 in metropolitan areas and £132,600 in country areas, total £188,700. In Tasmania, £31,000 in metropolitan areas and £42,200 in country areas, total £73,200. These figures give a grand total of £1,472,000 for metropolitan areas, and £1,728,000 for country areas; 46 per cent, of the total expenditure will be in the metropolitan areas, and 54 per cent, in the country districts. I should say that this does not represent the whole of the money being expended in country districts for the reason that it is necessary to dismantle a good deal of work in city areas, and many switch boards, conduits and cables are transferred from city to country areas. The country districts get the benefit of this dismantled material with little cost to them. Taking that into consideration the actual amount which is to be expended in the country districts will be much more than the figures I have just given.
– Is the capital value of the dismantled material still debited to city works?’
– Yes, mostly. The material is simply removed to country districts. Honorable members will understand that the capacity of conduits and cables in the capital cities is in some cases soon outgrown by the. increased traffic and the dismantled’ material is quite useful for the country districts. With regard to cable material there has been a great deal of difficulty in the past in getting this material. In city areas, very many applications for telephones have been outstanding for a very long time. It is a very difficult matter indeed because of the lack of cables to make the connexions required. I have explained that the cost of laying down conduits and cables of 1,000 pairs of wires amounts to over £5,000 per mile, and many would-be subscribers must remain without connexions until such time as conduits are laid down, and the cable arrives from overseas. When we are in a position to do so, we shall, instead of connecting one subscriber, connect hundreds, or even a thousand, by a single cable. I must confess that the telephone system in the capital cities is very bad indeed, and the position in Sydney is probably worse than in any of the other capital cities of Australia. There the junction lines between the exchanges are not sufficient for the number of persons who want connexions between them. There” are only fifty junction lines for 500 people,- and if more than fifty wish to be connected at one time, the whole automatic exchange is thrown out of order. As a result we are to-day really spoiling the valuable machinery contained in the exchanges. We are making an effort to have additional junction lines placed in position at the earliest date. We are trying to give the community as soon as possible the service which should be given in the capital cities ‘ as well as in the country districts. Honorable members in discussing the Budget compared the amount of money spent in the capital cities with the expenditure in the country districts.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230810_reps_9_104/>.