9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs make available the various reports of the Tariff Board so that honorable members may have them for their guidance when dealing with the general tariff?
– I can only repeat the statement I made yesterday, that the request will he carefully considered. No doubt before the discussion on the tariff is ended the full information required by honorable members will be available.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received the report of the Western Australian Disabilities Commission. If so, when will it be published ?
– I expect to receive the report at an early date.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has taken any steps to issue a proclamation under the amended Immigration Act in order to deal with the influx of aliens 1
– No. I have made many statements in the House in regard to alien immigrants and the numbers arriving from different countries. The statistics I have quoted show clearly that the steps which the Government took for the purpose of limiting the numbers of such immigrants in accordance with the country’s power of economical absorption have been successful, and that the numbers have been considerably reduced.
– I ask the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee through you, Mr. Speaker, if he will inform the House when the committee’s report upon power alcohol will be available to honorable members?
– The committee is now at work upon that report, and will present it to the House as soon as possible.
– I desire that order of the day No. 2, general business, for the resumption ofthe debate on my motion relating to the establishment of a shipping service between Hobart and Melbourne shall be discharged from the notice-paper.
– I indicated to the honorable member yesterday that there is a regular procedure for achieving what he desires. Sometimes a member is able to arrange with the Government for the postponement of intervening business so that a particular item may be discharged if that be the will of the House. Of course, what the honorable member desires may be done by leave, with the unanimous concurrence of. honorable members.
– Then, by leave, I move -
That order of the day No. 2, general business, be read and discharged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay upon the table the agenda for the sixth session of the Assembly of the League of Nations, and J. suggest that it can be conveniently discussed in conjunction with the report of the Australian delegates to the fifth assembly.
Ordered to be printed.
The following paper was presented: -
Ordered to be printed.
Assisted Migrants - Refunds - Cost of Department - Statistics - New Agreement
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
Commonwealth Immigration Department since its inception?
– The information asked for by the honorable member is being prepared, and will be supplied as soon as possible.
Cases ofr. Pierce and J. H. Pike.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the Table the correspondence relating to the cases of E. Pierce and J. H. Pike, returned soldiers and temporary employees of the Postal Department in Tasmania, recently dismissed and subsequently re-engaged?
– I am obtaining the files from Tasmania, and will afford the honorable member an opportunity to peruse them.
Wool, Cotton, Skins and Hides
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, uponnotice - 1.What was the value of raw wool exported in 1922-3, and in 1923-4?
– The information, is being obtained.
Iron and Steel Manufactures
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The representations of the honorable member will have careful consideration.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 3rd September (vide page 2225).
– Will the Prime Minister urge the Auditor-General to submit his annual report to Parliament as soon as possible so that it may be available to honorable members when considering the Estimates ? I should like the right honorable gentleman to expedite also the presentation of the annual report of the Public Service Board. Last year, when the consideration of the Estimates was nearly finished, one copy of the report was made available, and it contained some paragraphs which evoked severe criticism. I hope that this year the report will be in the hands of honorable members before they are called on to approve of the estimates of expenditure for the current year.
– The Auditor-General’s report has not reached the Government, and I do not know what stage its preparation has reached. I shall bring the honorable member’s request under the notice of the Auditor-General, but I assure him that that officer does everything possible to expedite the presentation of his report to Parliament. The honorable member’s remark, in regard to the Public Service Board’s report, also will receive attention. Both reports will be made available at the earliest possible moment.
– In the Governor-General’s office, the High Commissioner’s office, and the office of the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America, the amounts set down for contingencies exceed the salaries. That appears to be an anomaly which I ask the Prime Minister to explain.
– The figures appearing in this schedule represent Supply for two months, and are equivalent to one-sixth of the amount set down under similar headings in the Estimates for the financial year. By reference to the Estimates the honorable member can see the total amounts expended upon contingencies in the last financial year, and the anticipated expenditure in the current year.
-The settlement of claims for compensation for damage done by the enemy has been under consideration ever since the war, and from time to time I have approached the department to try to get certain cases settled. I am glad to know that certain claims in respect of vessels that were torpedoed are being considered ; but many claims - some of them affected by prize court decisions - are awaiting adjustment and settlement, and it seems difficult to get an improvement in the position. I suggest to the Prime Minister (MiBruce) that some of the claims are sufficiently important to justify an officer of the department being sent to South Africa or to England to assist in bringing about a settlement. I have been told that the difficulty is that correspondence is not answered, and that our representations to bring about finality are subjected to great delay in South Africa and elsewhere. A grave injustice is being done to some people, who are threatened with the .possibility of double payment with accumulated interest. I know that the Prime Minister realizes the importance of this matter, and I hope that an endeavour will be made to settle it.
– I agree with the honorable member that this matter is important, and also that great inconvenience has been caused to a number of people because of the delay in settling their claims.
The claims, of course, are very complicated and difficult to settle. Some of them are dependent upon the interpretation of the Treaty of Versailles. I am hopeful that the matter will soon reach finality, because negotiations are at a point where it will be possible to expedite a settlement. It is grossly unjust that there has been no settlement in many of the cases brought under my notice by Ihe honorable member, but I think that he appreciates the great difficulties with which the whole matter is surrounded. There is another aspect to the claims made by persons who suffered loss during the war. The British Government some time ago set aside an amount for the settlement of the claims of British citizens, but no provision was made for the claims of citizens of the Empire generally. This Government, however, has given consideration to this matter, and has recently appointed a board consisting of Mr. IT. C. Lockyer, Major Brown, and Mr. Yandell. They have been definitely appointed to consider these claims, »nd when they have arrived at a just and equitable settlement, the Government is prepared to undertake the responsibility of cleaning up this matter.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to the long-drawn-out case of .Kidman and Mayoh in respect of that firm’s shipbuilding contract. It is many years since that contract was let, and there has been much litigation about it, which I know the Government could not avoid owing to its arbitration provision. I urge the Government to make” a special effort to bring this matter to finality.
– I can assure the honorable member that the Department has not been responsible for the delay. We have pressed for finality, but the other party has raised legal objections at every stage. It finally sought leave to appeal to the Privy Council, but that leave having been refused, the case now stands on appeal in our own courts.
.- I should like some information from the Attorney-General respecting the Commonwealth Investigation Branch. Where are the police officers stationed, how many of them have been appointed, and what are their duties? Is this force the same as was appointed by the previous Prime Minister after the Warwick egg incident? This item amounts to about £9,000 per annum. I should like to know why this country should be burdened with this expense.
– The Treasurer, when he used to sit on the corner benches, bitterly opposed this vote.
– That is so. At that time he had great sympathy with the man who threw an egg at Warwick. But now that he is Treasurer he allows this item to remain. I should like to know how many of these investigation officers are in Queensland. As far as I know the Commonwealth investigations in Queensland, regarding pensions and other matters, are carried out by the officers of that State. There is, therefore, no necessity for the investigation branch at all.
. -Last year, when I spoke on warship construction, I brought under the notice of the Government the fact that, in Balmain, Sydney, a motor garage had been built for the late general manager of the Commonwealth Dockyard, at Cockatoo. It was built of government material, and by dockyard labour, and I was informed that the cost was charged up to warship construction. I claimed, on that occasion, that wrongful charges against warship construction accounted for much of the increased costs. As the late general manager has left for England, it is very likely that the garage now belongs to the owner of the property on which it is erected. This, matter affects the prestige of not only the employees at Cockatoo Island, but also the Australian ship-building industry. There are very mysterious circumstances surrounding the construction of this motor garage, and for that reason I ask that the officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch be instructed to make an inquiry to ascertain who paid for the materials, where they came from, and in whosename the garage was built?
. The vote for the Commonwealth Investigation Branch simply shows how utterly unnecessary was the recent protracted sitting in order to pass a bill for the appointment of peace officers. We already possess officers who could carry out the necessary duties. In fact, they did carry them out by serving certain summonses. It seems to me that we have added another branch to the Commonwealth Service. I do not suppose that one single peace officer has been appointed under the legislation that was passed the other night. We already have a police force. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), at one time graphically said, “ From the acorn grows the mighty oak, and from a small egg grew the Commonwealth police.” There was no necessity for the House to sit all day and all night a week ago to pass a measure to appoint peace officers, for the Government already employs high-salaried officers who could have done the work for which the peace officers were supposed to be needed. It is obvious that the Government’s action last week was designed as an election placard.
– The question asked by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has been answered every time the Estimates have been before the House. The question generally asked is, whether the “ investigation office “ comprises the police force that existed during the war years. The definite answer has always been given that none of the war-time police officers have been retained as such since the force was disbanded about four years ago.
– Not under another name?
– Not under another name. Not a single member of that force is retained as a Commonwealth police officer, and the investigation office has nothing to do with ordinary police duties. The number of officials employed in that office is set out in the Estimates. In Queensland there are only three, every one of whom is necessary. We have a numbers of acts, such as the Customs Act, the Immigration Restriction Act, and acts relating to taxation and currency, that necessitate investigations by these officers. These officials investigate complaints arising in the different departments administering those acts. Before this branch was established inquiry officers were attached to some departments, and the control of investigations in one branch has resulted in economy and efficiency, and in the recovery of more revenue than the branch costs.
– Do they investigate overdrafts ?
– Is the honorable member serious? They have to investigate all matters arising in connexion with taxation and other acts, and are doing useful and necessary work. I shall make inquiries into the matter referred to by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton).
.- I should like the Government to provide funds so that the Meteorological Department can obtain weather records in the new wheat areas now being opened up in Western Australia. Many requests recently made to the department have been ‘refused, although the expense entailed would have been very small. As the records will be of great value in the future, I hope the Government will be a little more liberal in this matter than it has been hitherto. A huge wheat area, is being opened up in Western Australia, and it is being found that further to the east, in what we thought was impossible country for wheat culture, there are many millions of acres of valuable wheatgrowing land. Nature has provided huge granite outcrops, by means of which water is being conserved. The outcrops are used as catchments, like the roof of a house, and troughs and dams are provided for the storage of the water. I earnestly hope that everything possible will be done to provide the data I have requested.
– During the past week I have received three letters from different parts of my electorate complaining that persons are lodging objections with the electoral officer against people who have been in the same place of residence for long periods. In one centre six objections were lodged against the enrolment of persons who had not left the same place of residence for seven years. Will the Minister instruct the Electoral Department to keep an eye on these gentlemen, who, if they continue to harass the electors in this way as a preparation for the next election, should be treated as they deserve. If there is one way in which constitutional government can be safeguarded, it is by taking steps to ensure that this trickery in connexion with the electoral machinery does not continue. If the Minister wishes, I will provide him with the names of the electors to whom. I have referred, and with declarations by them that they have lived in the same houses for many years.
I hope the men and women who are doing this sort of thing will be appropriately and severely dealt with.
.- I wish to support and emphasize the remarks pf the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) regarding meteorological records. The amount of money proposed for this purpose is not great, and the widening of the service to the extent asked for would involve very little more than a book-keeping entry. The development of new lands such as those in Western Australia should be coincident with the taking of correct records of rainfall. The honorable member for Swan has pointed out that Western Australia is not blessed with rivers, but is endeavouring to make the best use of the rainfall, which, in some districts, has hitherto been unrecorded. I hope the Minister controlling the Department will not allow this request to be disregarded.
– I support the request for more liberal treatment of the Meteorological Department. I come from an agricultural State of big areas, which are subject to quick changes of climate. Every year the Commonwealth Meteorologist makes requests for additional money, and he complains that in the past he has been starved for funds. In one of his reports he asked for about £2,000 for urgent printing, but the money was not provided by the Government. He also makes the following observation : -
Having regard to the limited resources at the disposal of the Bureau, the seriousness of the position may be judged by consideration of the subjoined particulars of the extent of recent great floods in Queensland and New South Wales: -
Thus millions of pounds’ worth of stock and valuable human lives are periodically endangered in the floodable areas, and are from day to day liable to calamities involving economic loss utterly disproportionate to the small amount necessary for the proper functioning of the Bureau’s flood-warning service.
This is not a very spectacular department, and that, perhaps, accounts for the curtailment of its funds by the Government, which is, however, lavish in expending the people’s money in directions less justifiable. In Queensland, hundreds of settlers are placed on land for which there is no proper data as to rainfall and climatic conditions. If the people had due warning of impending floods and climatic changes, they would be able in many cases to prepare for them. The Government last year appropriated £32,973 for the meteorological service, and that sum works put at slightly over ls. for every £100 of estimated revenue, as against 2s. 2d. provided in 1913. The amount provided has fallen from 4£d. per £100 worth of agricultural, pastoral, and farmyard production in 1913 to 3id. in 1925. I hope that the Government will treat the Department more generously in the future. I have had a number of requests from my constituents for additional meteorological services, and when they have been referred to the department the reply has invariably been that it is doing the best it can with the money available, and that the Government has promised to give the request consideration. There has been much talk on this subject by Ministers, but nothing has been done. I ask that something definite should be done promptly.
.- I desire to refer to the erection of the solar observatory at Canberra. It was my intention to bring up the matter whilst the Loan Bill was under consideration, because in that bill an amount of £29,000 is provided for the erection of the observatory, but, unfortunately, my occupancy of the chair prevented me from doing so. I understand that the observatory has been made possible by a gift of scientific instruments by a private donor.
– A number of donors.
– I do not wish to prevent the expansion of this phase tff the Government’s activities, but it appears to me that, unless very great care is exercised, we may find ourselves committed to a large expenditure upon an enterprise for which there is at present very little need. I have not heard any reason advanced for the establishment of this observatory at Canberra. My principal fear is that expenditure in this direction may lead to a lessening of Government assistance to observatories in other parts of Australia. I have yet to learn that those which are established in the various States do not adequately deal with the astronomical requirements of the Commonwealth. For example, very fine work is being done by the Perth Observatory, which is the only one that >s capable of carrying out astrographic work. These observatories are dependent upon the goodwill of the States for the continuance or expansion of their activities.
– They ought all to be taken over by the Commonwealth.
– That is my belief. At the present . time, each observatory has to battle along with what it can wring from more or less impecunious States, and their work is hampered accordingly. Already the expenditure upon this solar observatory has been fairly considerable, and we may find that deserving institutions that are doing excellent work and enjoy a world-wide reputation will be starved for funds, whilst the men who have spent a lifetime in developing their activities will be discouraged instead of helped. Expenditure on this new enterprise will thus have the effect of thwarting the good work that is being done elsewhere. On sentimental grounds it may be urged that it is very desirable to beautify the Federal Capital by having in it an institution of this character. I consider,, however, that other more worthy objects ought first to be given consideration. If the Government is anxious to promote astronomical research, it should co-ordinate the work of the existing observatories and encourage the men who have done yeoman service for 30 or 40 years under very disadvantageous conditions. Those men are entitled to look to the Commonwealth Government for assistance to enable them to secure a greater realization of their hopes and a better reward for their labours. The Institute of Science and Industry has largely hindered and thwarted the scientific work that is being carried on in Australia. Is there pressing need’ for an observatory at Canberra? What special service will it perform that cannot be performed by the existing observatories? Is this expenditure really justified ? I should like the Minister to satisfy me on those points.
– Within the last three months new electoral rolls have been distributed in the State of New South Wales, and I understand that an order has now been issued from head-quarters for the printing of fresh rolls. If that is carried out, it will be a scandalous waste pf public money. If it is found necessary to add fresh names to the rolls, a supplementary roll should be issued.
– The New South Wales rolls are not very up-to-date.
– They have been distributed within the last three months.
– Were they then up to date?
– Yes. The department should be asked to furnish reasons for the printing of a fresh roll.
– The rolls at present in use in Victoria were printed in 1924. I have recently made inquiries, and am given to understand that, wherever practicable, the new rolls will close about the middle of this month. The returning officer in my electorate expects to have his rolls in the hands of the printer by the middle of October, but events may transpire which will necessitate greater expedition than that. It is as well to have our general roll as nearly up-to-date as possible when an election takes place. Names can be put on the supplementary roll up to the date of the issue of the writ. Those rolls are not issued until a few days before the elections, when, for electioneering purposes, they are of very little value. I do not think that the complaint of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) will carry very much weight. It is quite likely that the New South Wales rolls closed at least three months before the date on which they were issued, so that they were then six months old. If they were fairly up to date at that time the expenditure necessary to bring them right up to date will not be very great. All the names will be in type, and it will be necessary only to make the required additions. The amount provided for the Electoral Department this year - £129,000 - is greater than last year’s expenditure of £114,000, but is not sufficient to defray the cost of an election, which, on the average, amounts to approximately £80,000.
Every year I find it necessary to complain of the large sum that is spent by the Commonwealth in renting buildings for the housing of its officers. I am, of course, aware that when the transference to Canberra takes place a number of departments that are now occupying rented premises will be housed in permanent buildings at the Capital, but even so it will be necessary to expend a fairly considerable amount in the renting of private buildings here, unless the Government is prepared to build its own offices. At the present time, if an honorable member wishes to consult different departments he has to travel all over the city. Had the recommendation of Mr. Murdoch, the Commonwealth Director-General of. Works and Chief Commonwealth Architect, been acted upon, a building would have been erected on the site on which the Herald now stands, and it would have housed the whole of the Commonwealth offices for a number of years. The £88,000 that is now being paid annually in rent would meet not only the interest, but also a considerable proportion of the expenditure on a Commonwealth building which would enable the whole of the departments to be concentrated at one spot. That work should be undertaken by the Commonwealth at the earliest possible date. I ask the Government to take this matter into consideration with a view to effecting a saving.
– I shall deal seriatim with the points raised by honorable members. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) referred to the omission from the electoral roll of the names of electors.
– My point is that the work of removing names is being done systematically. In one place the names of six electors, who had not left the district for seven years, were removed.
– This is a serious matter. The same thing has happened in my electorate. I know of a case in which a man, his wife, and daughter, who had lived in one place for twenty years, had their names removed from the roll, whereas, the names of their two servants, who had resided in the district for a short period only, were allowed to remain.
– Should not the person responsible for those removals be punishable?
– This is a very difficult question. Under the Commonwealth Electoral Laws, the Commonwealth Government subsidize postmen, to the extent of one half-penny, for every elector whose name they cause to be placed on or removed from the electoral roll.
– In the case to which I have referred, the postman was not responsible. The removals were due to the influence of some person who had been visiting various centres, presumably for that purpose.
– If the honorable member can mention some specific case, I shall have inquiries made; such practices should not be permitted. This is a matter which affects all parties in this House.
– Any organizer guilty of such an offence should be punished.
– I agree with that sentiment.
The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) referred to the printing of a new electoral roll for New South Wales. I agree that this is both a big and a costly undertaking, but I point out that a new roll is necessary for the reason that the one recently issued is very much out of date, its publication having been delayed because of the State elections: the staff of the printing office could not do the ‘ work. After the election, the work was expedited and the roll issued, but it was then, to a great extent, out of date. In a matter of this kind the Government must accept the recommendation of its responsible officers. The Electoral Department pointed out that, in ordinary circumstances, a Federal election would take place early next year, and that it would be unfair to leave the compilation of the roll until the end of this year; that if the new roll were not taken in hand forthwith, it would be necessary, later, to issue a supplementary roll which would probably be half as large as the main roll. Honorable mem bers would all object if, when the election was imminent, the roll was found to be not up-to-date.
The honorable members for Swan (Mr. Gregory), Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and Capricornia (Mr. Forde), referred to the work of the Meteorological Department. The Government recognizes the need for the establishment of more recording stations throughout Australia. In this connexion, I point out that while the Estimatesmay appear to show a reduction, in reality the amount made available for the ‘department has been substantially increased. Previously, the Meteorological Department or the Home and Territories Department had to pay for the transmission of all telegrams, but to-day the Postmaster-General’s Department bears that expense, which this year is approximately £75,000. The Government has giventhis matter careful consideration, and in every way possible is endeavouring to extend the usefulness of the department.
– Why not make greater use of wireless telegraphy?
– Wireless messages cost more than those transmitted by land lines. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) referred to the establishment of a solar observatory at Canberra. Some time ago the scientists of the world, in conference, selected three sites onwhich they recommended that solar observatories should be erected.
These scientists suggested that the Commonwealth should establish a solar observatory, adding that Mount Stromlo, at Canberra, was ideally situated for the purpose. The Government gave careful consideration to their recommendation, and in view of the fact that it had received a magnanimous offer to supply the instruments for the observatory, and that the only cost to the Commonwealth would be that in connexion with the erection of the building, it decided to accept the offer. There are only two other observatories which perform work of the nature of that to be undertaken at the Canberra observatory.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) raised the question of the housing of Commonwealth officials. With his view that Commonwealth departments should all be in one group, so far as possible, the Government is in hearty accord. This question has already been considered by the Government, but in view of the pending transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra, involving the transfer also of a large number of Commonwealth officials, it considered that the present time was not opportune to erect additional offices. When the transfer to Canberra has been effected, it may be found that the present difficulties will have been overcome. If not, the Government of the day will have to consider the advisability of extending the existing accommodation.
.- Under the heading “Defence Department,’’’ I desire to draw attention to the anti-Australian policy persistently and deliberately adopted by the Navy Office. Honorable members have not forgotten that the department, some time ago, ordered two cruisers from overseas. Not content with that shameful action, it persists in following the same course in other expenditure. Some time ago the department arranged to obtain from the British Government a vessel - the Moresby - for use in the survey of Australian waters. Before leaving England, alterations costing £72,300 were made to the vessel in a British dockyard. Those alterations were merely for the purpose of fitting the vessel for the Australian climate and providing accommodation for the ship’s complement, and could have been performed in Australia.
– At what cost?
– I do not know, as no opportunity was given to Australians to submit a tender. It is scandalous that work which could have been done in Australia should have been deliberately given to dockyards on the other side of the world when Australian workmen were unemployed. That £72,300 which was spent in Great Britain would have provided employment for hundreds of men in Australia. This action is further evidence of the anti- Australian policy of the Navy Office. Every opportunity is taken to send work out of Australia. If an officer is required for one of the higher commands, no Australian is considered to be good enough, but one must be brought from the Old Country. I ask honorable members whether they stand for these things, or whether they are prepared to deal effectively with the men who deliberately pursue that policy?
– When were the alterations to the Moresby carried out?
– Only recently. The vessel was at Thursday Island last week, and has not yet arrived in Sydney. Those honorable members opposite who speak of preserving Australian industries should consider their attitude towards this important question, and decide whether they will insist on practical assistance being given to Australian industries by the naval authorities.
– Why do not the trade unions of Australia place Australians, instead of foreigners, at their head ?
– I inform the supposedly gallant gentleman who has interjected that of the trade unionists in Australia 98 per cent, are British. For many years I was an officer of a trade union, and came into contact with many fellow unionists; yet I never met one leader among the unions who was not a Britisher, possessing the instincts of a Britisher, or who was unwilling to do the best possible for Australia. - Mr. Maxwell. - Unfortunately, things are different now.
– Immediately honorable members opposite are attacked, and their anti-Australian attitude revealed, they raise the cry of “ bolshevism,” or “ the Empire is in danger.” The first duty of honorable members is to safeguard the interests of the people of this country. For those interests honorable members on this side, as well as the trade unionists of Australia, stand. Honorable members opposite will be given the opportunity to show where they stand.
– Did not honorable members opposite say, in 1920, that they would be returned to power at the next elections?
– The honorable member was not here then, and knows nothing about it.
– The statement appeared in Ilansard.
– There are many statements in the honorable member’s New State Magazine, and before the consideration of the bill is concluded I shall take the opportunity to read some of them to let the honorable member’s constituents know the anti-Australian attitude which he adopts. .
– Order! The honorable member must be aware that that is out of order.
– I admit that it was, but I was drawn away from the subject by the honorable member’s interjection. It is evidently the policy of the Naval Department to send work required to be done for the Navy out of Australia, whilst there are hundreds of Australians looking for work. That is not a laughing matter, but a very serious one for those out of employment, and those dependant upon them. I ask the Minister for Defence to say whether. in the interests of Australians, his department should not adopt the policy of giving preference to Australian workmen?
.- I wish to ask two questions of the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse). Is there, or is there not, in existence a properlyconsidered scheme of defence providing for all possible contingencies so far as they can be foreseen? No one expects to be publicly told what it is, if there is such a scheme. It must, of course, be confidential, but I have been informed that no properly thought-out general scheme of defence, into which the different activities of the department could be fitted, has been drawn up. If that is so, it is obvious that much of the work of the department must be going on unsatisfac torily, and in an unrelated way. I know how keen the Minister for Defence is in the administration of his department, and he will recognize the importance of my question, and that if there is no such general scheme it is absolutely necessary that one should be immediately prepared. Another question to which I should like an answer is: what provision is being made with regard to developments of chemical warfare ? When, on a previous occasion, I asked a question on this matter I received, only a very brief reply. I am not one of those who believe that all future war preparations can be met with aeroplanes and gases, but it is obvious that these will be very important factors in future warfare. The study of chemical warfare is pursued to a great extent in the Old Country, and an immense amount of information on the subject is now available. I understand that a great perfection of plants for the manufacture of poison gases has been brought about. These gases had previously to be manufactured at terrible risk to the chemists engaged in the work, but I believe they can now be produced in perfect safety and in considerable quantities. Whether we are provided with any of these up-to-date plants I do not know. I think the reply to the question I previously asked on the subject was to the effect that steps were being taken to provide gas masks for the forces. These are, of course, very important from the point of view of defence against chemical warfare, but similar importance should be attached to provision for offence in this kind of warfare. We should have plants necessary for the manufacture of the requirements of chemical warfare, and the necessary training of men who will study the developments of science in this direction in order that our own laboratory staffs may always be on the threshold of further developments, and we may be in a position to take our part in this kind of warfare should the necessity arise. I see no vote in the Estimates suggesting that adequate provision for this purpose is being made. If the Minister has any diffidence in submitting a proposal for this provision he may be assured that if he makes a statement on the subject to Parliament honorable members will be prepared to back him. It is of no use to spend large sums of money on defence unless adequate provision is made to deal with this phase of it.
– I take advantage of this opportunity to ask what is to be done with the Randwick Rifle Range. I understand that it is not now used, and that rifle practice is confined to the Liverpool Rifle Range as much as possible. If that is so, I cannot understand the delay in the cutting up of the Randwick range for residence purposes.
– The department is now making arrangements with the Government of New South Wales in the matter.
– I do not know the reason for the delay, but I hope the Minister will be able to make an announcement on the subject to-day. There has been similar delay in connexion with the Paddington Barracks site. It is a very valuable site, and something should be done with it.
– That matter is practically settled.
– I am glad to hear that. I hope that the municipality concerned will be informed as soon as possible of the intention of the Government in regard to the Randwick Rifle Range.
.- I think that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) cannot really be serious when he says that the Naval Board wilfully sends away from Australia work involving an expenditure of up to £70,000. I am quite sure from what I know that that is not the case.
I wish to ask a question about the Royal Australian Naval Volunteers Reserve, for which there is only a small vote on the Estimates. In England , owing to the wastage, particularly of officers, the British Admiralty had to call upon some 6,000 or 7,000 yachtsmen from Britain, Canada and New Zealand in order to fill vacancies on ships engaged in minesweeping and submarine controls. There is a great potential force in Australia in the yachtsmen of the various coastal cities’. In a time of hostilities I guarantee that in Sydney I could gather together at least 3,000 skilled men for mine-sweeping and submarine controls. The matter of a volunteer naval reserve was regarded very keenly some time ago, but interest in it appears to have dropped, and I think I know the reason for this. Whilst in London recently I conferred at some length with the First Lord, Admiral Beatty, on this subject. He is very keen that we should have in Australia a very large potential reserve of officers for mine-sweeping and submarine controls. I know that Captain Hardy and Admiral Sir Percy Gaunt were also very keen on the subject. ‘ If we had a unit of say, twelve small boats, each of which could take out 20 or 80 yachtsmen for instruction in minesweeping, fleet manoeuvres, the dropping of dept’h charges, signalling, and so on, a great advance might be made, and there is no reason why we should not by this means have 4,000 or 5,000 men skilled in this work ready in time of hostilities. Admiral Beatty agreed with me that perhaps we might use our reserve destroyers for this work. By the use of these boats we might, say for a month in every year, give hundreds of these men the actual training they require, which would be very different from giving them drill in a dry shed on a Saturday afternoon.
I gained the impression from the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley that he takes exception to the employment in the Australian Navy of naval officers from England. The honorable member is quite wrong in the view he takes of this matter. Without these men we really could not carry on. We must be under their tuition until we get upon our own feet. Judging by the remarks of Admiral Sir Percy Gaunt there would appear to be a feeling in some quarters, a.nd I make no charge against any member of the Naval Board, that Australia has adopted a wrong policy in having a navy of its own. I suggest that the Minister might very well drop a hint in the right quarter that we do not appreciate remarks of that kind from anybody. An Australian Navy is the policy of our people, and we are determined to adhere to it. When the Concord was visiting Australia, I heard criticism of that policy frequently, not on the ship, because I was never aboard it, but through people who had been aboard, and who said that some officers thought that Australia was making a mistake in having a separate Navy. I repeat that we do not appreciate such criticism of the accepted naval policy of the country.
Another matter of considerable importance is the frequent resignations of high officers in the Defence Department. Major-General Sir Brudenell White, BrigadierGeneral Lloyd, and BrigadierGeneral Blarney have resigned from the general staff in the last two years. This is a serious loss of strength, and I ask the committee to consider where these defections will end. The department is being deprived of the advice and experience of men of high attainments, and without a competent general staff the efficiency of the whole of the Forces must deteriorate. Would it not be worth while to pay to such men a small retaining fee, and give them the right, when called upon by the Minister, to sit on the Council of Defence?
In America and Canada I investigated aviation very closely, and found that extraordinary success in saving life had been achieved by the use of what is known as a seat-pack parachute. Some remarkable escapes have been effected by this device at very great altitudes. For instance, an aviator may be 8,000 feet or 10,000 feet above mountains, when the petrol pipe becomes broken and the engine stops, but by using this parachute he is able to make a safe descent. It is made of silk, and the pilot sits upon it in the cockpit. If he is in danger of crashing, he has only to jump out of the machine, pull a string, and the parachute becomes inflated. Airmen do not like using the device, because they consider it looks childish, but it has been so successful that in America its use has been made almost compulsory. I suggest that in the Australian civil aviation services its use should be compulsory, and that in the Military Air Force also the device should be employed. If the Minister has not already madeinquiries with regard to it, I hope that he will do so.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence to a grave injustice that is suffered by men who are rendering probably the most valuable service that the department is receiving. Last year the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) introduced a new classification for warrant officers, who were, up to that time, the most wretchedly paid men in the Ser vice. I frankly admit that that classification did a large measure of justice to “them, and, so far as I can learn, it gave satisfaction to all but one section. I brought this grievance under the notice of the former Minister last year, and I believe that he would have granted relief had he not been compelled to leave office through illness. Prior to the new classification coming into force, all the warrant officers received, annual increments, but under the new scheme class 2 warrant officers, the lowest grade, were put on biennial increments. The class 1, and. every other grade in the Service, still receive annual increments, and no reason for discriminating against class 2 officers has been given. A Class 2 warrant officer who joined in 1919 would, by annual increments, have reached his maximum of £6 2s. 6d. in November of last year. Under the new classification, with biennial increments, he is still only enjoying his second increments; his salary is now £5 10s., and he is losing £39 a year.
– That was not intended.
– I am sure it was not, but that is what is happening. The Class 1 officer receives a maximum salary of £8 a week. There is a salary distinction between Classes 1 and 2, and it is not fair to further distinguish between them by a different system of increments. I urge the Minister for Defence to investigate this matter, because, so far as I know, it is the only cause of dissatisfaction to what is recognized to be the backbone of the service. I marvelled for many years that the department was able to retain the services of such good men on the wretched salaries they were receiving, but so much has been done to improve their lot that this unfair discrimination against one grade of the service should be removed.
– If I remember rightly, the period of service for Class 2 warrant officers is six years, and the three increments, instead of being granted in the first three years, are spread over the whole period. When that arrangement was made, there was no intention to do an injustice to that class, or to give the men less under the new classification than they would have received under the old. This House and the department recognized that the warrant officers were underpaid, and the purpose of the reclassification was to give them more adequate remuneration for the excellent service they were rendering. Another disability suffered by warrant officers is that they are more or less at a dead-end. Under the present Defence Act, only Duntroon graduates are eligible for appointment as officers. I am very loath to depart from that system, because I recognize that the officers on whose ability the lives of many men depend in time of war should be highly trained and skilled ; but I ask . the Minister to give careful consideration to a suggestion that a certain number of the best warrant officers should be given training at Duntroon for one or two years. They need not do the purely educational work, .but they could receive a special training in military subjects, which would qualify them for promotion to commissioned rank. One reason for the present difficulty in getting warrant officers of high calibre is that when they have reached Class 1 they are at a dead-end for the rest of their lives. If we can remove that handicap, the service will benefit in that it will get a better class of warrant officer, and a more contented body of men, because they will know that if they possess the requisite qualifications they can step into the commissioned ranks, and possibly reach the highest rank. In the Navy, a system is in force which permits a man of especial ability to rise to any rank. Some of the best boys on the Tingira are sent to Jervis Bay for training, and there are other ways by which men can rise from the lower ratings to the quarter-deck. I believe in that system. The Australian Army and Navy should be democratic forces. We are losing good men, who would prove efficient officers, solely because, not being able to pass- the very high entrance examination that is prescribed for men over nineteen years of age, who desire to train at Duntroon, they are unable to get a commission. ‘ Certain anomalies in connexion with quartermasters also require rectification. Those men should be given substantive rank instead of honorary rank. Indeed, I doubt the legality of the appointment of quartermaster as a substantive rank. These positions were created’ for men who had won commissions on the field - some of them had risen’ as’ high as the rank of lieutenant- colonel- but for whom there was no vacancy in the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth. They are entitled to hold honorary rank, but it is not always the one they gained in the field.. That, too, is a grievance. For instance, a man who came back from the front with the rank of lieutenant-colonel mav receive an honorary commission as major, but he will rank below a substantive lieutenant. A man who was a lieutenant-colonel in the field, and ‘ has often presided over courts martial, and knows the procedure thoroughly, may, as quartermaster in the Defence Forces, be asked to sit upon a full court martial. The court may be presided over by a junior officer, and the quartermaster, who was a lieutenantcolonel on active service, is junior to a substantive officer who has recently graduated from Duntroon. If that anomaly is to continue it would be preferable not to summon quartermasters to sit on courts martial, where they are unnecessarily humiliated. When I had to relinquish my portfolio I was considering this matter, with a view to giving to these few quartermasters, who did such splendid work in the field, substantive rank in order that they might take their proper place alongside their brother officers.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) asked for some information regarding munitions. His desire for information could be best satisfied by a visit to the munition factories and chemical laboratories at Maribyrnong, where wonderful progress has been made. I have often wondered why so few members have taken the trouble to inspect those works in order to learn what is being done, by the Defence Department in regard” to munitions. Chemical warfare, as far as scientific research is concerned, is one of the most expensive investigations that can be undertaken, and, in view of our limited finances, I do not think that we would be justified in making extensive investigations for chemical warfare.
– Where did the honorable member gain that idea?
– The British Government is expending millions of pounds per annum in an investigation of chemical warfare. With our limited finance we could not possibly attempt to undertake anything of that nature.
– We shall- doubtless, get the benefit of the results of Britishresearch.
– We depend upon the Mother Country for the scientific investigation of chemical warfare. We should have in our mobilization stores an adequate supply of gas masks to supply the number of soldiers that we can put into the field.
– The present gas masks are quite inadequate for the new gases.
– It is possible that gas masks in use to-day will be quite inadequate in two years’ time, because of the discovery of new gases. The British Government has secured a thoroughly effective gas mask for the Navy, but not for the Army. The naval mask has what might be termed a large snout on it which is apt to get in the way of a rifle, and so is not suitable for the military. The supply of munitions and chemicals for use in warfare are serious questions which the Defence Department must investigate.
The honorable member referred to the advisability of having a definite scheme of defence. Our Defence Council, which is in touch with the Imperial Council of Defence, has laid down a scheme that it considers is necessary for the defence of Australia, but not even the most sanguine of us will admit that that scheme is at present being carried out in its entirety. All the branches of the defence forces recognize that the Navy is the first arm of defence. This is admitted by the military, air force, and munitions units. For that reason this Government undertook to purchase two cruisers and two submarines. The present system of training is not very adequate, but it has given wonderful results considering its limitations. The department should revise the home-training scheme. All that is being obtained from the present system is a register of the names and addresses of trainees. Of course, there is a certain amount of training of officers in the keeping of store and other military records. It would be very much better for the trainees, instead of training on Saturday afternoons and other odd times, to spend the whole twelve days of training at one camp.
I noticed the other day that there was a reference to the Public Works Committee of the proposal to utilize Osborne House for; the training of youths for the Navy. The Government, before removing the training depot from Syd ney to Melbourne, should consider the matter very carefully. Ever since federation the head-quarters of the Navy have been in Sydney, and there the fleet has been stationed. The head-quarters of the military department have always been in Melbourne. This was a very wise arrangement between the States, and I trust that it will be adhered to. The training ship Tingira is, I believe, 60 years old, and I recognize that some other arrangement must be made for the housing and training of the youths. The training on board ship has been almost abandoned by the Royal Navy, and is now taking place at training bases on the land. The Government should consider the advisability of obtaining land in Sydney for training purposes in order to keep the youths in proximity to the ships and the naval head-quarters.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) referred to the expenditure authorized by a certain Minister on the survey vessel Sylvia. I was the Minister responsible for that expenditure. The Sylvia was a British ship. The Admiralty was asked if it would supply a vessel for ten years to survey the Great Barrier Reef. It replied that it was prepared to lend us a vessel, provided that we paid for the alterations necessary to convert it into a survey ship. We could not very well say to the Admiralty, “ Send the ship out here, and we will do the repairs ourselves.” The scientific and special work on this vessel was carried out in the British naval workshops. I was hopeful that the Admiralty would have given us the ship, but, having given us so much post helium equipment, it evidently decided not to hand the vessel over to us altogether.
– Is not the Herald doing survey work out here?
– Since vessels of the Royal Navy were first stationed in Australia, the Royal Navy has had a survey ship on the Australian’ coast. The previous vessel was the Fantome, which is now replaced by the Herald. This vessel does survey work for the Royal Navy, and not for the Royal Australian Navy. Under the circumstances, the Naval Board could not- do otherwise than accept the offer of the Admiralty and pay the amount involved.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- The Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) no doubt recollects the arrest by the police of a Citizen Force trainee at Moonee Ponds. I wrote to the honorable gentleman, on behalf of the lad’s father, protesting against that action. It would have been better if the department had awaited the opportunity for an area officer to take the lad in charge. This lad was walking down the street, when he was tapped upon the shoulder by a policeman, who marched him off to the watch-house and locked him up for a couple of hours. A message was sent to the area officer advising him that the lad was detained, and that they could take charge of him. That was done, and he was taken in some kind of conveyance to Broadmeadows Camp, where he was compelled to put in a certain number of days’ training to make good his deficiency. The occurrence has converted the family of the boy into bitter opponents of our defence system, and this feeling of hostility has also spread amongst their friends and relations. “We are not all able to exercise over our boys the control that we think is necessary. Admitting that some lads are recalcitrant, would any father in this chamber care to have his lad arrested by a policeman in a public street and put into a lock-up? Even those who are now in favour of compulsory military training will become very luke-warm towards it if that procedure is allowed. The Minister may say that such a thing occurs only once in a community. In Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale indignation has spread amongst the whole of the community. I most bitterly resent this action. I communicated with the Defence Department, and received the reply that in the special circumstances it was not thought that anything extraordinary had been done. If our lads are to be treated as ordinary criminals, it is time that compulsory military training was abolished. Whether they are or are . not constituents of mine, I shall not stand by quietly whilst such a practice is being followed; by voice and vote I shall do all that I possibly can to prevent it. The area officers and the heads of departments may have satisfied the Minister that there is nothing wrong with this procedure, but I can assure him that our citizens will not tolerate the police laying their hands upon any lad and sending him to prison to await the arrival of military officer’s for conveyance to a detention camp. It places a black mark against the record of a lad, as it can be said of him in the future, “ You have been in gaol.” What a brand that is to place upon ‘the son of a reputable citizen ! . The Minister played an honorable part in the war, and I cannot conceive of his having imbibed so much of the old-time military spirit that he will tolerate action of that kind by his department. Although he has seen fit to condone the action of his officers in this case, I hope that he will issue the order that iri future lads are not to be placed in a lockup.
I desire, also, to direct attention to the effect on the roads of heavy traffic to military establishments in different localities. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) this morning hinted that if honorable members wished to learn something of what was being done in the direction of providing munitions in Australia they should take a trip to Maribyrnong. I believe that such a visit would be an eye-opener to many honorable members. The Defence Department frequently finds it necessary to transport heavy plant and machinery to the sites on which they are to be erected. On one occasion I obtained a small money grant to place in decent repair a road in the Maribyrnong electorate that had been cutup by wagons belonging to the Defence Department in transporting goods and machinery to the cordite factory. The traffic has been intensified a hundredfold since that date, and roads leading to this and other factories have been- considerably cut up. I should like to know whether there is an’ arrangement under which the’ Defence Department and the Works and1 Railways Department have agreed to bear half the expense of keeping roads in a proper state of repair. Gordonstreet, in my electorate, has been very much cut up, and I understand that the Defence Department is prepared to contribute half the cost of having it properly constructed, the Footscray City Council to find the remainder of the expenditure. That is a fair arrangement. If money is not at present provided on the Estimates, will the Minister endeavour to induce the Treasurer to set down a certain sum so that these roads may be put in passable condition? It is well known that cartage can be done at a cheaper rate over good roads. Instead of allowing the present state of disrepair to continue for another twelve months, action should be taken at once to bring the roads up to a proper standard.
.- I desire to emphasize the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) regarding the damage that is done by military vehicles to public roads. Recently a deputation waited upon the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) in regard to this very matter. The Government should accept the responsibility of at least repairing the injury that is caused as the result of military operations. Complaints have come from my electorate for three or four years, but the department has not given redress. The roads there are formed on sandy country in such a way as to suit the traffic of the district, but the heavy military wagons cut them up considerably. A grave injustice is thus being done to the people whopay the rates. The Defence Department should not quibble about bearing its share of the expense of keeping the roads in repair. This matter should not be considered in conjunction with the general roads grant; it should be recognized by the department as an obligation.
.- I should like to know what steps are taken to insure proper supervision of drill halls in outlying training areas. Some months ago my daughter and I, in the district in which she lives, heard a great deal of noise coming from a drill hall. I left her, and went across to ascertain the cause, but upon my approach the noise immediately ceased, and a couple of youths came out from the drill hall and walked away. They had been engaged in the pastime of endeavouring to stick bayonets in the rafters. When I entered the hall I found that a bayonet was stuck in the floor, and when I pulled it out one of the boys sheepishly walked away. Round that drill hall were eight or a dozen rifle cabinets, each containing from ‘ six to eight rifles. Those cabinets are supposed to be kept locked. The doors of seven of them had been broken, and the rifles taken out, and strewn about the room, while the boys were playing with the bayonets. I asked them where the area officer was, and they replied that they did not know. I mention this case because it came under my personal notice. Honorable members can conceive of boys in such circumstances taking rifles and ammunition, and causing considerable damage. An instance of this nature occurred when I was on active service. At Merricourt, one of our soldiers was wounded, and as it was known that the shot had not been fired by the Germans, inquiry was made, when it was ascertained that shots had been fired indiscriminately by some one who did not realize the danger associated with the careless use of firearms. It was true that in that case no one was killed, but the consequences might have been much more serious. It should not be possible for boys to obtain rifles or ammunition belonging to the Defence Department. I suggest that a little more supervision should be exercised over the drill halls.
.- With many others in the community, I deplore the fact that many of our most efficient naval and military officers, especially those on whose training the Government has incurred considerable expense, leave the Service to accept civil positions. There must be some reason for the resignation of men like General Blarney and others, who have had successful careers in naval and military colleges, and proved their efficiency as officers. If we are to have efficiency, the service should be made sufficiently attractive to retain the best qualified men.
The treatment of non-commissioned officers was referred to by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden). Those ofus who have had military service abroad know how necessary to the efficient working of the army are the noncommissioned officers. While the officers must be highly trained, and possess a. knowledge of the technicalities of modern warfare, they rely largely on the assistance of properly trained and efficient non-commissioned officers.
– The service cannot do without its sergeant-majors.
– Some of these noncommissioned officers, who have proved their worth in the field of battle, and have, since their return to Australia, received appointments as sergeant-majors or warrant officers, have been deprived of the opportunity to qualify for commissions in the Defence Forces. They must be discouraged when, in the performance of their duty, they have to instruct, in the very rudiments of military exercises, officers who have undergone a course of Duntroon.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that, after four years at Duntroon, the officers do not know the rudiments of their profession?
– I have been told that many of these Duntroon officers hardly know what orders to give on the parade ground. I admit that their apparent lack of knowledge may have been due to nervousness. Much of the work of training has fallen to the non-commissioned officers, and it is only fair that they should be given the opportunity to rise in the service. Where men have proved themselves to be leaders, we should make it possible for them to attain to the highest rank in our Naval or Military Forces.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) respecting the damage done to roads by traffic going to and from the Defence Department’s depots. On many occasions, I have brought this matter before the Minister. Some roads in my electorate are affected. In the borough of Queenscliff, in which a’ fort and Swan Island are located, considerable damage is caused to some of the roads by the vehicles belonging to the Defence Department; in fact, almost the whole of the traffic on some of the roads is that in connexion with the Defence Department, or is from outside the district. Moreover, the bulk of the land in the borough is Grown land, from which not one penny is obtained by way of rates.
– Is that the fault of the Federal Government ?
– Yes. The Government should either maintain the roads, or contribute rates to the local authorities to enable them to keep the roads in repair.
– What does the honorable member mean by Crown land ?
– I was referring to land held by the Defence Department for military purposes. In the borough of Queenscliff, there is one road which has
Defence Department property on both sides. As the department pays no rates, the council has to keep the road in repair, notwithstanding that the damage to the road is caused by Defence Department traffic. At the present time, the rateable value of the land in the borough is less than £4,000, and the rate 2s. 9d. in the £1, the highest rate of any borough in Victoria. Grants for the maintenance of roads in such cases have been made previously, and should be again made in these cases. Some years ago, I took up the question of the road from the Laverton railway station- to Point Cook, and I am glad to say that the department recognized the justice of the claim that it should contribute to the upkeep of that road, and made contribution accordingly. The same thing should be done in connexion with other roads similarly situated. At the special request of the borough of Queenscliff, I urge that something be done immediately to transfer to the proper authorities the responsibility for the upkeep of roads which are seldom used by the ratepayers, and I hope that early and favorable consideration will be given to the request.
– Last year, when we were considering an amendment of the Superannuation Act, the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) made the definite statement that the relatives of any deceased members of the Naval auxiliary services, and also ratings who were discharged, would, in future, receive deferred pay and retiring allowance. In July last, I asked the Treasurer whether any claims of this nature had been met. The Prime Minister, on behalf of the Treasurer, answered that regulations to deal with the matter had been approved. He added that there were no funds available for the purpose, as the Estimates for 192’4-5 did not make provision in the direction indicated, but that the Treasurer had given approval for the savings effected during the year on the Navy Estimates to be utilized for the purpose. .1 should like to receive an assurance from the Minister that the claims have been finalized, and that the necessary provision has been made in this year’s Estimates. I am referring to the case of men who elected to take deferred pay instead of availing themselves of the benefits of the Superannuation Fund Act.
.- I should like briefly to reply to some of the questions asked by honorable members. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) raised the question of what is to be done with the Randwick Rifle Range and the Victoria Barracks, Sydney. An agreement between the Federal and State Governments relating to the Victoria Barracks is ready to be signed, and that matter is therefore practically settled. The disposal of the Randwick Rifle Range is still a matter of discussion.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) mentioned a number of matters connected with the Navy, and one important matter concerning the Air Force. The honorable member pointed out the advantage of the use of parachutes. They have been a very great success in America. A number of them was ordered some months ago, and they should be delivered shortly.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) asked two or three very pertinent questions. He was anxious to know whether any scheme of mobilization has been drawn up. It should be quite unnecessary to say that a very complete scheme, based on the experience gained in the late war, has been drawn up. The honorable member asked whether any provision has been made in connexion with the use of gas and chemical warfare. One must recognize that in future wars every possible means of disseminating, not only poisonous gas, but disease germs, and causing destruction by fire will probably be practised by both sides.
– It is a disgrace to humanity.
– It is. Every effort is now being made by the Defence Department, under the advice of the British Government, to establish a small laboratory for the purpose of testing and keeping gas masks in order. The type of gas mask considered necessary is based on the conclusion that chlorine will, in most cases, be the principal poison gas to be guarded against. It is estimated that a supply of masks for the service, without taking into account those required for civilians, such as police and members of fire brigades, would cost £750,000. An officer is to be sent to England within the next few days to gain the necessary experience to enable us to keep in order the gas masks, of which we have a limited supply, though the number is being increased every year. These gas masks require very careful and expensive overhaul every three or four years.
– Do they not become obsolete ?
– Not for ten or fifteen years. It has been decided by experimenters that chlorine will be the base used in the manufacture of all offensive or defensive gases.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) revived a very difficult question, and that is the extent to which the Defence Department should contribute to the maintenance of roads used for military purposes. This has been a contentious matter for many years between the Federal Government and State and municipal authorities. It is said - and it may be true - that military vehicles cause more destruction to roads than do any others. The whole question is now under discussion between the two departments ‘ concerned, the Defence Department and the Works and Railways Department, for the submission of a recommendation to the Cabinet.
A number of very interesting personal cases having been brought under my notice by honorable members during the debate, I give them my assurance that they will be looked into. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) referred to a case in which a complaint of injustice was made, and the honorable member for Maribyrnong dealt with the case of lads who refused to go through their drill. I agree that it will be well to look into all these cases, and see whether some remedy cannot be discovered for the grievances which have been mentioned. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) directed attention to a small matter, and if he will privately inform me of the name of the person concerned, I shall have the case looked into.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) raised a very important question. Honorablemembers on both sides have written to me on the same subject. I am glad to be able to inform the committee that arrangements were made at the last meeting of the Cabinet by which some system, the details of which have not yet been settled, will be brought into operation under which the men, who have been referred to, including 18 or 20 of the naval reserve, will be dealt with as if they came under the Superannuation Act.
I suggest that it is very desirable that honorable members should inspect the work done by the Defence Department, particularly in connexion with armaments and the work of the Air Force. Such inspection would be most enlightening to them; and I shall be very glad to place at their disposal for the purpose - if I were unable to accompany them myself - the services of an officer able to explain all the procedure, particularly in connexion with the manufacture of armament and requirements for chemical warfare.
.- I have a few remarks to make on a subject of great importance to the State I have the honour to represent. At the beginning of the session, I put a motion on the business-paper asking that the Commonwealth Government should provide an adequate weekly shipping service for passengers and cargo between Hobart and Melbourne. As the Government has decided to give no further time to the consideration of private members’ business, except the time allowed on grievance day, I am deprived of the opportunity to obtain a direct vote on my motion. On the last occasion upon which an opportunity was afforded to deal with private members’ business, I had about three minutes in which to formally move the motion. I could not then submit the information upon which I hoped to secure support for it. The motion having been moved, it became on order of the day, and was placed at the bottom of Government business. There it would have remained until the end of the session, and I would have been unable to get a vote on it. While the motion remained on the business-paper, I would, under the Standing Orders, have been prevented from referring to the subject with which it dealt. That is the reason why to-day I asked and obtained the approval of the House for the discharge of the order of the day from the paper. I have now an opportunity to deal with the motion, though not to take a vote upon it, because I recognize that, were I to submit an amendment for that purpose, honorable members opposite, who, in ordinary circumstances, would probably support me, would, as loyal Government supporters, feel called upon to vote against it. I take advantage of this opportunity .to put before the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the committee, the reasons which prompted me to put my motion on the business-paper. Last year, and the year before, when I. brought up the same proposal, it was contended by the Government that it had not sufficient information on which to base an opinion, and that the necessary information would be obtained by the Navigation Commission. The reports of the commission have been in the possession of the Government for some time past, and it must. know whether what I propose could be carried out or not. There can be no further reason for delay in the matter on the ground that the Government is not in possession of information as to the trade likely to be secured by such a service as I suggest. The statistics of the actual present trade, and the estimated trade in future, I have obtained from the Hobart Marine Board, and the Government Statistician of Tasmania. There could be no more reliable sources of information. It is estimated by these authorities that the earnings of an up-to-date passenger and cargo service trading once a week between Melbourne and Hobart would be, for cargo. 76.000 tons per year, at an average rate of £1 per ton ; and 2,500 passengers, at an average fare of £5. This would represent a trade worth £88.500. The following letter was received from the Hobart Marine Board: -
In reply to your letter of the 16th inst., 1 am directed by the Master Warden to submit the following information: - For the twelve months ended 30th June, 1924, the steamers Kowhai and Lyn,nah, trading between Hobart and Melbourne, discharged at Hobart. 41.270 tons cargo; and took on at Hobart, 34,836 tons cargo. Total, at an average, say, from 17s. to 20s. per ton, £76,106. In 1014. when a weekly passenger and cargo steamship service connected Hobart and Melbourne, about 2.000 passengers landed at Hobart. It is thought that, as the population of Hobart has increased considerably since 1014, this number could bc increased; Estimate: 2,500 passengers, at £7 or £S return fare.
These figures have reference to a direct shipping service between Hobart and
Melbourne, and do not. include the trade from Melbourne to Launceston, and from there to Hobart by train. They do not include, either, any estimate of cargo carried by small sailing craft, about which it is difficult to secure reliable information. The Marine Board estimated the return fare at an average of between £7 and £8, but in order to. be on the safe side I shall quote a more conservative estimate. The State Government Statistician (Mr. Giblin) said -
The earnings on the cargo may be taken approximately at the general cargo rate of 20s. per ton. For the passengers, the Marine Board suggest a return fare of £7 or £8. That seems to me much too high for an average of first and second-class passengers, higher than first-class rates via Launceston. I should put £5 as the average. The earnings would be : -
In regard to the cost of such a service the Hobart Marine Board, the members of which include men who have been connected with shipping for the greater part of their life, estimated the cost of running a vessel of the class of the Westralia at £130 per day, or £47,450 per annum. If that cost is deducted from the estimated revenue of £88,500, there would be apparently a profit of £41,000. I do not say that that profit would be realized, but the Marine Board and its officials should have a fair idea of shipping costs. A vessel with a service speed of 12½ knots could do the return trip between Melbourne and Hobart once a week without working overtime, leaving Hobart at, say, 6 p.m. on Saturday, and arriving at Melbourne at 6 a.m. on Monday; departing from Melbourne at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, and arriving in Hobart at 6 a.m. on Thursday. That schedule would allow ample time in both ports for the loading and unloading of cargo. Probably the Government will contend that if this service were likely to be profitable, private companies would have instituted it ere this. My answer to that argument is that it suits the shipping combine, known as the Tasmanian Steamship Proprietary Company, which was formed by Huddart Parker and Company and the “Union Steamship Company, to confine to the north of Tasmania the traffic with Melbourne, because if neither the combine nor anybody else runs a direct service from Hobart the combine must continue to carry all passengers to and from the north of the island. Of course, those unfortunate people are obliged to bear the burden of railway fares to and from the northern ports and suffer inconvenience and loss of time. That inconvenience, especially to women with families, is very great, particularly in transferring from the train to the boat, or to the tender and thence to the N air ana when that vessel is not able to go alongside the wharf at Launceston. Tasmanian members have very bitter and unfortunate experiences of that kind. The shipping companies run a weekly service in the summer and a ten-day service in the winter between Sydney and Hobart, and apparently find it profitable. For many years a weekly service was maintained between Melbourne and Hobart, because vessels like the Manuka and the Moeraki and others which were once on the American run called at Hobart en route from Melbourne to New Zealand.
– The Navigation Act cut them out.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. The Navigation Act may have had some influence in that way, but according to shipping men of long experience, including Captain Evans, whofor many years was Speaker of the Tasmanian Legislative Assembly, and at one time represented Huddart Parker and Companyin that State, the opening of the Panama Canal, and the diversion of the Australian trade in another direction, were mainly responsible for the decision of the companies to discontinue the running of steamers between Melbourne and New Zealand, calling at Hobart en route. If, however, the discontinuance of the service be entirely due to the operation of the Navigation Act, what relief is to be given to the people of that State 1 When the Minister for Trade and Customs was asked if the Government would suspend the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act so far as they affect the carriage of passengers between the mainland and Tasmania, he said that the Constitution forbade the granting to any State, or part of a State, of facilities or concessions that were not enjoyed by any other State or part of a State. Apparently the Government has not the slightest intention of suspending the coasting trade sections, even so far as they apply to passengers.
– It is impossible to discriminate outside the provisions of the Navigation Act.
– The act empowers the Minister to grant permits for oceangoing ships to carry passengers to Tasmania, but we have been told that the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient companies, whose vessels call at Hobart sometimes, will not apply for permits. Even if they did apply, and the Government allowed passengers to be carried on the “apple” boats, Tasmania would not get very much relief. I am asking for a weekly service throughout the year.
– If the “ apple “ boats could carry passengers, they would’ confer a great advantage upon the State.
– Such a service would be of some advantage, but those ships call at Hobart during only three or four months of the year.
– The busiest period.
– I admit that they call during the tourist season, but I am concerned not only with the tourist traffic, but also with the passenger and cargo business throughout the year. The justification for establishing a weekly service between Melbourne and Hobart is greater than it was when I placed my notice of motion upon the business paper. Hitherto the people of Tasmania have thought that they might get some relief through a relaxation of the provisions of the Navigation Act, but now they are told by the Government that that is constitutionally impossible. Therefore, the claim for the establishment of a Government service of the kind I have indicated is strengthened, and, «a3 this matter is of such vital importance to the southern half of the State, the Government should earnestly consider the proposal. Even though the service entailed a slight loss, Tasmania has a right to ask for it. As one of the six States of the Federation, its people are bearing their share of the expenditure upon the maintenance of non-paying services between outlying portions of the Commonwealth and the adjacent territories. Tasmania’s isolation is nearly as bad as was that of Western Australia, and in some respects much worse, because magnificent vessels have for years past traded between Melbourne and the west. It was the cry of isolation that enabled the late Lord Forrest to persuade this Parliament to expend £27,000 for the survey of the route of the transcontinental rail way, and later the total amount for its construction. The building and main.tenance of that line entails a very heavy loss on the taxpayers of Australia. I am not complaining about it, because I believed that the line should be built. I have never voted against any proposal that I thought necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth. But Tasmania pays its per capita share of Commonwealth losses. I shall quote figures to show the loss on the Commonwealth railways for the financial year ending June, 1925. The receipts on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line amounted to £254,291, and the expenditure to £405,796, leaving a deficit of £151,505. The expenditure on the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line was £172,557. The receipts on the Northern Territory railway amounted to £29,106, and the expenditure to £136,711, leaving a deficit of £107,605. The receipts on the Queanbeyan-Canberra line were £3,641, and the expenditure £1,995, leaving a profit of £1,646. The total loss on the Commonwealth railways was therefore £430,021. Those railways are running to bring the outlying parts of the Commonwealth into touch with the larger centres of production and population. They give the people facilities such as the people of southern Tasmania might reasonably expect to be given to them. In addition to the loss on the railways, subsidies were paid for the carriage of mails and trading between the Commonwealth and outlying territories. The subsidy for the mail service to Papua, Solomon Islands, and New Hebrides was £52,834; for the steamship service between Melbourne and Darwin, £4,500; for the coastal shipping service, £5,785 ; and for the Papua coastal trade service, £2,000; totalling in all, £65,119. In round figures, Tasmania contributes its per capita share of a total loss of £500,000 on Commonwealth railways and mail services in order to maintain communication and trade between the capital cities and the outlying parts of the Commonwealth and adjacent territories. The Government should immediately establish a shipping service between Melbourne and Hobart. It is quite possible that the Loongana or the Nairana could be procured for this purpose. The Nairana, during the summer months makes three trips a week between Melbourne and Launceston, and is laid up in the winter months. The Loongana takes her place and trades between Melbourne and Launceston, while the Oonah trades between Melbourne and Burnie. The northern part of Tasmania is very well catered for by the private shipping companies. The port of Hobart is one of the finest in the world. His Majesty’s ship Hood was able to lie alongside a wharf in the heart of that city. While I hope that one day the Government will take the entire responsibility of maintaining an adequate shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland, I urge the Government to establish immediately a service between Melbourne and Hobart. This is absolutely necessary for the comfort and convenience of passengers travelling to and from Tasmania. The combine which has a grip of the whole of the Tasmanian shipping trade finds that it pays just as well, or better, to confine its trading to the north of Tasmania and to make the southern people travel there by train. I hope that the Government will seriously consider my request.
– I wish to state for the information of the committee that the Standing Orders specifically state that the discussion of a motion on the noticepaper must not be anticipated, and that the ruling has been given on several occasions that a motion is regarded as still on the notice-paper on the day upon which a motion for its withdrawal has been moved. The reason why I did not rule against the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) was because of the peculiar circumstances surrounding his case, and the short interval of time that had elapsed since the Government decided to curtail the time given to private members’ business. I make this explanation so that at no future time may these proceedings be taken as a precedent.
-I have no desire to criticize the speech made by the honorable member for Denison. I have examined carefully the position of both Tasmania and Western Australia, and am more convinced than ever that the conclusion which I,together with others, came to after inquiry, is correct.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I must ask the honorable member not to continue on that subject. The matter under discussion is the Department of Trade and Customs.
– I wish the honorable member for Denison to know that the present shipping disabilities of Tasmania are due largely to the operation of the Navigation Act.
I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to the inadequacy of the lighting on the Western Australian coast. Although I have no direct complaint to make respecting theupkeep of lights there, it appears to me that a great deal of cheeseparing has been associated with lighting facilities. The Minister will know that the automatic lights on that coast are in danger of running out, and one need not remind him of the seriousness of such a happening. I received a communication the other day that the keeper of the lighthouse near Albany had no means of communication with the mainland because the cable was broken.
– That matter is being attended to. I do not know whether the cable has yet been repaired.
– Lighthouses should be supplied with wireless and wireless sets. . All time and life-saving devices should be used in the interests, not only of lighthouse-keepers, but also of the general community. There is no possibility of wireless communication being broken. The north-west coast is inadequately lighted, and I should like to see a larger sum voted this year to provide better and essential facilities for trading on that coast. Cheeseparing in connexion with the lighting of the coast would be a very foolish policy to adopt.
.- I ask the Minister (Mr. Pratten) to place upon the table of the House reports of the Tariff Board relating to the items that are contained in his new tariff schedule. It is but fair that honorable members should have the opportunity to peruse those reports. When the Tariff Board was appointed the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) made it very clear that not only would the Tariff Board, after inquiry, submit a report to the Minister for his guidance, but also1 that such report would be available to honorable members, so that they might know what had actuated the board and the Minister in arriving at any de- cision. We shall shortly be called upon to discuss the tariff schedule.
– We should not be asked to discuss the schedule until we have had an opportunity to peruse the reports of the Tariff Board.
– I agree with that contention. What knowledge have we as to the considerations that have guided the Tariff Board or the Minister? What is the use of having a Tariff Board if honorable members do not derive any benefit from its inquiries? It will be idle for us to attempt to deal with the new proposals unless we are given the fullest possible information regarding them. The Minister knows the amount of time that he was compelled to devote to the preparation of the schedule, and he should at least enable honorable members to study the new proposals in the light of the information that can be gleaned from “the reports of the Tariff Board.
– I take this opportunity to ventilate a complaint that has been sent on to me by a thoroughly honorable and reputable business man in Sydney, who has extensive dealings with the Sydney Customs House. Merchants in Sydney complain bitterly about the delay that they experience in having their goods cleared. For some unexplained reason they are sometimes unable to clear their goods for upwards of a week. It is said that the staff is not sufficient to cope with the volume of work. The irritation that is being caused to merchants is not a credit to the department. I hope that the Minister will take steps to ensure that adequate assistance will be provided, so that the work of the department may be facilitated. It is a large revenueproducing department, and it should not be denied a sufficient number of clerks to enable it to carry on its work.
.- Every year nurserymen in my electorate experience delay in getting seeds forwarded to them from Melbourne after their arrival in Australia. That delay sometimes runs into as much as five weeks. I brought before the Minister the -other day a case in which delay was occurring, and he had the dispatch of the goods expedited. It should not be necessary for us to be continually writing to the Minister upon matters such as this.
I hope that he will issue the instruction that goods must be forwarded as soon as possible after their arrival.
.- The case that has been so well put by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) has another side to it. Time will not permit me to traverse the whole of his arguments, but for the information of honorable members generally, I may say that the Melbourne-Hobart-New Zealand service was discontinued in 1916, during which year the average number of passengers carried by the Wimmera was six saloon and nine steerage from Hobart to New Zealand, and eleven saloon and seven steerage from New Zealand to Hobart. The cargo carried averaged 78 and 54 tons respectively. The passenger support given to this fine vessel between Melbourne and. Hobart was only nominal. I remind the honorable member that the Commonwealth now pays £30,000 per annum for the carriage of mails to Tasmania, and there is an adequate cargo service between Melbourne and Hobart given by the Kowhai and the Luttana. Those vessels do not always have their accommodation fully occupied. The Tasmanian Government on one occasion established a cargo service between Hobart and Melbourne. According to the Tasmanian Gazette of 8th July, 1924, the loss on that line amounted to £30,869 in. the year 1921-2, and £50,913 in the year 1922-3. Finally, the State Government disposed of its vessels, on the ground that they were unable to obtain a sufficient amount of cargo to justify the expenditure that was being incurred. The proposal that the Commonwealth should embark upon an enterprise that the State Government has abandoned appears to me to be absolutely unjustified. The provisions of the Navigation Act allow this government to permit passengers to be carried under certain circumstances, “out application for such a permit must first be made.
I have pleasure in informing the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that it has been decided to establish in the near future additional lighthouses at Legendre Island, Escape Island, and Sandy Cay. I propose to allow one or two officers to go across to Western Australia and decide upon the sites. The optical apparatus has already been delivered. A sum of £2,000 is provided for the installation of wireless in certain lighthouses.
– What will that mean?
– So soon as the money is made available we shall commence to install wireless in some of the lighthouse’s around the coast. That course, I think, was advocated by my’ honorable friend last year. I remind the honorable member for Forrest that a sum of £^5,000 or £30,000 is included in the Loan Bill for the erection of new lighthouses. I can assure him that the three in Western Australia to which I have referred will be given particular consideration. At least one or two, if not three, will be erected.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) asked that reports of the Tariff Board should be laid upon the table. I am entirely in sympathy with him, but I know that the House will excuse my desire again to first thoroughly peruse the whole of the reports, some of which may contain confidential information. I realize that before any debate takes place upon the new tariff proposals honorable members should at least have the opportunity to see the reports in which they are specifically interested. If it is not found possible to lay upon the table the whole of the reports, those at least in which honorable members are particularly interested may be tabled. I am considering the advisability of printing some of the more important reports. I shall go into the question of cost, and I think that I shall be able to evolve a scheme that will prove satisfactory to honorable members.
I know that delays such as that referred to by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) occur in Customs House administration. I think it will be admitted, however, that they are confined to peak periods. There is no finer administrative officer in the whole of the service than Mr. Barkley, the Collector in Sydney. Generally speaking, the business of the Sydney Customs House is carried out in a clean, quick, efficient manner. I cannot see how delays can be avoided when a number of vessels enter a port simultaneously.
I shall inquire into the matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath).
.- In Division No. 118 appear the following items : - “ Graves of soldiers - contribution to Graves Commission for Commonwealth’s share of cost of care and maintenance, £16,500,” and “ Graves of soldiers in Australia, £500.” I have recently been informed by a parent that a number of graves of soldiers in Rookwood Cemetery are in an absolutely disgraceful condition. This Parliament annually votes sums of money for their care and maintenance, and the Government should see that neglect does not creep in.
– There is no excuse for it.
– I saw most of the cemeteries abroad, and found them wellcared for. That is one thing for which the parents of deceased soldiers should be very grateful. I hope that the Minister will see that those in Australia are properly attended to.
– I shall personally inspect the graves on Sunday week.
.- I desire to refer to a matter affecting a number of postal sorters. After some years of agitation they are to receive an increase of £8 per annum if they first pass an examination.
– What is the nature of the examination?
– Five hundred cards will be addressed by direction of an inspector, and the sorters will have to sort them into various boxes. Should the number of errors exceed 1 per cent., they will not receive the increased salary. I point out that some of these- men are between 50 and 60 years of age, and have been doing letter-sorting for from eight to eighteen years. No complaints have been made regarding their work. They would not object if the examination were conducted in connexion with their ordinary work, but they do object to the cards being addressed by the inspector, who may, if he thinks fit, include some for places of which neither he nor they have heard on more than a few occasions. Moreover, they contend that their opportunities for study are not so great as those of much younger men, and that, notwithstanding their years of faithful and satisfactory service, there is a danger of their being superseded by men now junior to them. Men in large country centres, such as Ballarat, Bendigo, New- castle. Toowoomba, and Rockhampton, are affected. They feel the position keenly. Some of them, if they were in the position to do so, would resign tomorrow rather than undergo what they consider to be an unfair test. I ask the Postmaster-General to discuss this matter with the Public Service Commissioners to see if the examination cannot be dispensed with in the case of these men with long service, or that they be given a test with’ ordinary mail matter.
.- While I appreciate the amount of workdone in my electorate in extending telephonic and telegraphic facilities, 1 point out that, on the basis of area, Western Australia is not getting proper .treatment. The Government is endeavouring to settle people on the land, but it fails to provide adequate telephonic and . telegraphic facilities. In connexion with some other matters, the allocation of grants has been made, not only on the per capita basis, but on the basis of area also. That principle should apply particularly to post and telephonic alterations. I repeat that I am not unappreciative of the Government’s efforts, but I should like the PostmasterGeneral to realize the great necessity for further facilities of this nature being provided in the areas to which I have referred.
– The question of the examination of postal sorters, referred to by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), has been before me for some time. I think that- the honorable member will agree that promotion should be dependent on the passing of some examination, that there should be some standard of efficiency. I gather from the honorable member’s remarks that he objects to the particular form of the examination. I assure him that I shall personally look into this matter at an early date, as I understand that the examination will be held shortly.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) should be the last to complain of the money spent in his State. If grants were made on the basis of area, Western Australia, being the largest State, would receive more than any other State; but having regard to its undeveloped condition, Western Australia is now getting more than any other State. That is due to the number of group settlements throughout Western Australia. The position -will be understood by honorable members when I tell them that whereas our expenditure in connexion with telephones in the districts referred to by the honorable member is approximately £16,000, the anticipated revenue is £500 only.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), when speaking on the Loan Bill a day or two ago, referred to the necessity for a new post office at Port Adelaide. I agree with the honorable member that the existing building at Port Adelaide does not meet the requirements of such an important city. Although this matter has been before seven PostmastersGeneral, the delay has not been caused by this or any previous Commonwealth Government, but by past governments in South Australia. At present I am negotiating with the Premier of South Australia (Mr. Gunn) for the purchase of a site that has been offered to the Federal Government, and I am hopeful that the matter will soon be finalized, and the erection of the new post office commenced.
In reply to the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), who made inquiry regarding the expenditure in connexion with the Postal Department, I point out that provision is made for a sinking fund of li per cent. In 1923, £23,000 was paid into that fund ; in 1924, £197,000; and in 1925, £269,500. The amount estimated for this year is £353,000. That makes a total of over £800,000, which I think will convince the honorable member that the department is being conducted on a sound financial basis.
.- On two occasions I have mentioned in this House the desire of the members of the Public Service in Papua for a reclassification of’ their positions. If honorable’ members will compare their conditions with those of public servants in New Guinea, they will realize that these men are suffering an injustice. Repeated appeals have been made to the Home and Territories Department for an officer to be sent to Papua to reclassify the Service; but although the Minister has promised on several occasions that that would be done, so far as I am aware, no one has yet been sent to do the work. I suggest to the Minister that he take- steps to honour his promise; otherwise I shall have to raise the question again;
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I promised the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) that I would obtain some information respecting the Cockatoo Island motor garage. The particulars with which I have been supplied are -
Mr. A. G. Crump, of Kogarah, holds the title to the property. Mr. Crump has stated that he hired the garage to Mr. King Salter, and that certain’ improvements were effected at his (Mr. Crump’s) expense, and by his own workmen. None of the foremen at Cockatoo, who would be employed in the construction of the garage, have any knowledge of any work being done by Cockatoo men.
– That is not correct.
– That is the answer of the officers of the dockyard and of the owner of the garage.
.- The Tariff Board’s report, which -to-day was laid on the table of the House, contains the statement, “ Attached to this report is a summary of the Board’s recommendations with respect to the tariff.” Although the report has been laid on the table, the summary is not attached to it. It is not altogether fair to honorable members that an important document of this character should be laid on the table incomplete.
– I appreciate the action of the AttorneyGeneral in inquiring into the statements I made this morning; but his reply is anything but satisfactory. My charge was, in effect, that Commonwealth material and workmen were employed to erect or renovate a garage built on private property on the mainland, for the then manager of Cockatoo Dockyard, Mr. King Salter. Seeing that honorable members in this chamber who support Cockatoo Dockyard activities frequently have to rebut charges that the work done there is too costly, I feel justified in asking that full investigations be made into allegations of this character. I have said before, and I say again, that there have been instances in which Cockatoo workmen and material have been used in different works and the charges unfairly debited to Cockatoo. Even during the last twelve months, charges of that description have been made. I am sure that the owner of this garage could not produce any evidence to show that private workmen from Balmain, or anywhere else, were employed to build it. I took the trouble to visit the garage some little time ago, and I assure honorable members that it is a substantial structure. Unfortunately, Mr. King Salter is in England, and we are not able to hear from him exactly what was done in connexion with its construction. It is only fair that the Government should make every inquiry possible to ascertain the facts. This is a glaring instance of the kind of thing that has been going on for a number of years, not only in connexion with Cockatoo Dockyard, but also in connexion with the Commonwealth Shipping Board.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) made similar charges to these last year, and after full inquiry I was able to assure him that the garage in question was built by the owner of the land, and that the alterations were carried out by him, and at his expense. It was impossible to find a foreman at Cockatoo Dockyard who had any knowledge of either material or workmen from the dockyard having been employed on work at the garage. There was not a shred of evidence in support of the charge. Seeing that he has repeated his statements, I suggest that it would be a fair thing for him to place at the disposal of the Government whatever evidence he has to support them. The Government has explored every avenue of inquiry open to it; but if the honorable member will make his evidence available, it will continue its investigations. I assure the honorable member that the Government does not approve of Commonwealth material or labour being used in the erection of garages on private property.
– I shall make available the evidence I have.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 September 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250904_reps_9_111/>.