1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and. read prayers.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD presented a petition from the President of the Trades Union of Painters, Sydney, praying the Senate to request the House of Representatives to place painters’ and paperhangers’ brushwareon the list of special exemptions.
Senator GLASSEY presented a petition from 57 farmers and cane-growers of Mossman and District, in the State of Queensland, praying the Senate to take action against the collection of excise duty on sugar manufactured prior to 8th June, 1901.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the Table
Estimates of Expenditure for year ending 30th June, 1 902 ; unci arrears for period ended 30th Tune, 1001 ; also Additional Estimates of Expenditure for year ending 30th June, 1002.
Bill received from the House of .Representatives and read a first time.
Resolved (on motion by Senator DRAKE’ -
That such of the Standing Orders be suspended us would prevent the Supply Bill from passing through all its stages during the same sitting of the Senate.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time,
This is the last of the Supply Bills for the financial year, and with the previous Bills it Will make up the total amount of expenditure that is asked for. According to the Estimates which are in the hands of honorable senators the ordinary votes for the current year amounted to ?3,792,233 j the ordinary votes in ‘ respect of arrears to ?312,023, and the ordinary votes on the additional Estimates to ?12,383, making a total sum of ?4,116,639. To that sum is tobe added the amount of the Treasurer’s advance ?100,000, making a grand total of ?4,216,639, but the total amount of supply which has been granted, and which is now asked for is only ?4,158,S50. A sum of ?57,788 which was included in the Estimates is not asked for. That covers the item for the Inter-State Commission which was withdrawn, the item of ?500 for a federation memorial at Corowa which was not voted, and the item of ?300 for a coronation service which also was not voted. I am not aware of any items in this Bill which call for special remark. If there is any item on which any honorable senator should desire special information I have no doubt that I shall be able to supply it.
– I should like to get an explanation about one or two items. The first is an item of ?221 for -
Expenses of representation of Commonwealth at Historical Science Congress, Rome, and in procuring information from Historical Record Offices, Europe.
This may be a very desirable expenditure on the part of the Commonwealth, but so far as I know we have not received any information on the subject. It seems a very large sum to have spent on such an investigation, unless there was some serious justification for the expenditure. When it is compared with the expenditure of ?158 on Dr. Maxwell’s report on cane sugar, and the expenses of Mr. Justice Dash wood, which amounted to only ?70, in making inquiries about the pearling iudustry, it seems very excessive. Then again there is a vote for “Expenses of representation of the Commonwealth at the International Conference on Workmen’s Insurance at Dusseldorf, Germany - ?50.” I should like to know something about that. Why is the Commonwealth going to this expenditure 1
– Let us deal with it in committee.
– I call the attention of the Postmaster-General to the matter now so that he may obtain information in the meantime. Then on page 7 of the Bill, under division 27, there is an item of ?468 in connexion with the department of Trade and Customs. It appears to be a sum of money given as compensation to certain individuals, and it would be interesting toknow why these gentlemen require to be compensated by the Commonwealth, and what services they have rendered. Dealing with the Postmaster-General’s own department, on page 20, division 130, there is a sum amounting to ?600 a year included under contingencies. The vote includes an amount of some ?50 monthly which is given to Mr. Lambton for advising the Postmaster-General. This gentleman appears to be employed by the department, in addition to Mr. Scott, who, I take it, constitutionally should be the Minister’s adviser when he requires one. Then under division 131, sub-division (2), contingencies ?1,619, 1 find, looking at the Estimates and the schedule of work given in connexion therewith, that a sum of money is set aside to be paid to postmasters for winding clocks and cleaning out their offices. It seems to me that a postmaster might very well wind up his own clock without compensation, and also might clean out his own office.
– Does the honorable senator ask for that in Melbourne ?
– I do not mean that a postmaster individually should clean out his own office, but it might be done by bis staff, who might also wind up the office clock. In connexion with sub-division (3), of division 131, there is a matter concerning which I should like some information. It is, in respect of gratuities to shipmasters. I thoroughly approve of the practice, and do not cavil at the expenditure, but I want to know whether these gratuities are paid to all ships that carry mails, and whether any member of the public is entitled to have his letters sent by any ship simply by writing his name on the envelope? ‘ In Western Australia considerable doubt exists as to the public rights in this matter. The information should be given, inasmuch as a large sum of money is set aside for compensating foreign and coastal shipmasters for carrying these letters. Again, under division 133 of the same department, there are sums of money paid by the Commonwealth in connexion with the guarantee for the cables to New Caledonia, and for loss on the cable business in connexion with the Victorian and Tasmanian subsidy. I never heard of a guarantee in connexion with the cable to New Caledonia. I do not doubt that the expenditure is perfectly justifiable, but there are many honorable senators who, like myself, have never heard of it, and I should like to have some information. I mention these matters now because it is, convenient to give the Postmaster-General an opportunity for obtaining the information required. One cannot expect him to have it all at hand.
– There ‘ is a question to which I desire to call the attention of the Senate, and which I regard as of some moment to this Chamber. The question is - When are we likely to have a second paid Minister in the Senate 1 I have said before, that we ought to have a second paid Minister, and I have been waiting for some announcement to be made by the Government that they have arrived at what
I should regard as a very wise, prudent, and, indeed, necessary decision. In my judgment, the Senate has not been treated in the way we might have expected at the hands of the Government. Probably the apathy on their part in connexion with the matter arises from the fact that there has not been a very strong demand on the part of the Senate itself. Considering that the Senate contains half as many members as the House of Representatives, and has practically the same work to perform, with the exception of the task of initiating financial Bills, we are entitled to more representation in the Cabinet.
– How does the honorable senator -propose to remedy what he complains of 1
– That matter rests with the Government. I may reasonably reply, as was said by an eminent statesman in England - “It is time enough for the physician to prescribe when he is called in to deal with the case.” But as a member of the Senate I am justified in expressing my decided dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs. I think we are all agreed that the Senate would be very much poorer intellectually, and from the point of view of experience, if we had not the benefit of Senator O’Connor’s services. But when a man of his experience and ability - a man of such undoubted tact and judgment - holds merely an honorary position in the Cabinet, it is justifiable that we should complain-that the Senate is not treated fairly. I take my stand entirely on that point. Of course, I would not say a word by .way of detriment of the Postmaster-General, but it is too much of a sacrifice to ask Senator O’Connor to hold a Cabinet office without a salary, and expect him to devote his time and attention, and to exert himself as he has been doing, with only a private member’s salary. I sincerely hope that honorable senators will express their views in regard to the dissatisfaction that prevails, in order that the Government may be induced to consider the question. There is no use in mincing matters, and it is time that we made this demand, so that Senator O’Connor may be enabled to devote his time to the business of the Senate, without being compelled to go away from time to time to attend to his profession, in order to earn a livelihood for himself and his family. Taking into’ account the enormous amount of work that has to be done by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and that the Senate discharges practically the same functions as the House of Representatives, except in regard to the initiation of financial Bills, it is unreasonable to expect this Chamber to carry on its business with only one paid Minister in the Cabinet. I sincerely hope that the matter will receive early attention, that the Senate itself will express its opinion of the present anomaly, and that, before long, we shall have’ two paid Ministers in this Chamber.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I should like to ask the Postmaster-General whether he will give the Senate some information about the position of the Victorian and Tasmanian cable subsidy1? I. see that the amount upon the Estimates is debited to all the States. It comes to a considerable sum.
– I rise for the purpose of supporting the suggestion - or, perhaps I may call it, the complaint - -made by Senator Glassey with reference to there being only one paid representative of the Cabinet in this Chamber.
– Would Senator O’Connor do any better if he were paid ?
– That is a most extraordinary question for a lawyer to fisk. We know perfectly well that payment to a lawyer is like fuel to a fire. If you have no fuel you have no fire, and if you have no money you have no law. Every one can see that Ministers in another place are simply running over each other. The whole weight of the business there appears to fall on two or three, and the others are having a sort of perpetual holiday. We claim that the Senate is not in the position of an ordinary Legislative Council. We are chosen by the great body of the people, and, indeed, we are more representative of the people as a whole than are even the members of another place. Every Bill that passes through another place has to run the gauntlet of the Senate, and we are compelled by our position to exercise a scrutiny with reference to financial matters that hitherto, so far as I know, has not fallen to the lot of any second’ Chamber. The burden of the work in this Chamber, during the last twelve months has been ‘very severe, and we know that Senator O’Connor has acted as the second Minister of the Crown in the Senate without fee or reward. All that he receives is his salary as a Member of Parliament - namely, £400 a year. I do not think that is sufficient even for an ordinary common or garden variety of member like myself, much less for an honorable gentleman of the great talent and assiduity of Senator O’Connor. The business of the Senate might not be better conducted if Senator O’Connor were paid than” it is at present. But we have no justification for insisting that a man shall be continually in his place here and take upon his shoulders all the work which undoubtedly falls upon a Minister of the Crown at any time - and of which during the present session Senator O’Connor has had far more than a share - for nothing. The Senate should take the matter into its most serious consideration. I do not know that it would be proper for me to suggest that this should be a matter of interest to honorable senators all round, because if there was a prospect of a second paid Ministerial office in the Senate, it might whip up honorable, senators considerably. There might be a kind of friendly rivalry as to who should prove himself most competent for the position. We know that a number of honorable senators are members of a certain profession, and that they are all particularly eager for a position which will bring them emolument. I do not blame them. When they see only one position of pay on the Ministerial side, they are not as anxious to sit on that side as they would be probably if they saw two or three. Speaking seriously, I think the business of the Senate would be advanced by the presence of a second paid Minister here, and I hope that the Government will take the matter into its consideration and do the right thing by appointing a second paid representative here.
-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I do not see how these very desirable results are to be achieved, except by an increase in the number of paid Ministers, and an increase in the total emoluments to be devoted to that purpose, because we know very well that Ministers who are members of the House of Representatives cannot be moved here.
– Could not one of their portfolios be transferred to the Senate ?
.- Perhaps the holder of the portfolio might not be willing to part with it.
– All I desire is that Senator O’Connor shall receive a salary as a Minister of the Crown.
-I should imagine that a question of this kind is so eminently interesting to Senator O’Connor that it would have been desirable to have heard his own views upon it. It may be that Senator O’Connor’s friends desire to present him with that which, he does not require. I do not pretend to know. Whether honorable senators are speaking outof the fulness of their own generous feelings, or whether they are speaking from any source of inspiration, I cannot tell.
– There is no source of inspiration whatever.
– I do not see how this matter is within the range of practical politics at the present time. There are certain matters connected with this Bill to which I desire to call attention. One is a matter to which I drew attention when the last Supply Bill was before ns. I complained then, and thought the matter would have been remedied. I refer to the continued practice of putting down large sums of money as salaries to the volunteer regiments of New South Wales, when, as a matter of fact, no salaries are paid. It is known by the department that the moneys put down month after month in this way are not salaries, and it is nothing but an affront to the volunteer services that this practice should be followed, and that men who give their services without fee or reward should be ticketed down in these Bills month after month as receiving payment. Money is so set out in this. Bill in regard to each of the four volunteer regiments and some of the corps, and it has been stated in this way over and over again. By the time that this measure has passed, the Senate will “nave voted £1,900 in respect of salaries for each regiment, when, as a matter of fact, there is not one penny of salary in the whole amount. The whole sum is in respect of capitation. It represents money devoted to clothing the men in uniform, for the repair and keep of arms, rent of orderly rooms, printing and advertising, and various other expenses ; and I object most strenuously to what is nothing better than malpractice. There is another matter to which I wish to refer. In committee, I propose to move that the House of Representatives be requested to omit the sum of £33 13s. id. out of the vote required for the Seventh Infantry Regiment, New South Wales, such sum being one-twelfth of the pay and allowances for an adjutant, no adjutant having been attached to that regiment for the last 30 months. The money is being used at the present time to pay an officer in Melbourne, and it is little better than a misappropriation of a statute grant to devote sums voted to a regiment to an entirely different purpose. I refer to item No. 72, in which a sum of £364 is set down for salaries and contingencies for the Seventh Infantry Regiment, New South Wales. The adjutant’s pay and allowances amount to £404, and one-twelfth of that sum is £33 13s. 4d. I propose, therefore, tomove that the House of Representatives be requested to omit that payment for one month. Money has been applied in this unexpected and, in my opinion, improper manner in the past ; but the past cannot be recalled, and I propose that this amount shall be eliminated. It is absolutely wrong that money should be voted for regimental purposes, and applied to some totally different purpose in another State. What kind of book-keeping shall we have in connexion with the affairs of the States and the Commonwealth, when moneys are voted time after time for one State, and applied to another. This is a singularly glaring instance of that practice. I object to vote money for a regiment in New South Wales when it is to be used really in paying an officer on the headquarters staff in Victoria. I shall take advantage of the present occasion to make some general references to defence affairs, and particularly to an extraordinary regulation issued by the Governor-General in Council.
– Is it a fact that the honorable and learned senator appointed an officer to act as adjutant ?
– I do not wish to introduce matters of a personal character, but as this question has been raised I think I should say that under the law of New South Wales, if that law is still in force, it is wholly within the competency of an officer commanding a regiment to make any inter-regimental appointments which he considers are proper for the service. The appointment in question does not carry any pay. It was made by the officer commanding the 7th regiment, one of the officers of his own regiment being selected for the position and allotted certain duties, which he was perfectly competent to discharge. Such an appointment can be made by every regimental commander who is without an adjutant. Apparently the regulation to which I refer was published in Orders in May, but the date of the regulation by the Govern or-General in Council isnot given in the public document from which I quote. The regulation refers to the retirement of officers on reaching certain ages. Let me say that it has not the slightest reference to myself or to any officer of my regiment, so that I am not bringing the matter forward because it is a personal grievance or a grievance connected with me even in a remote way. Under the law of New South Wales the existing regulation, No. 24, 1887-1890, has been in force for a number of years. It provides that -
Officers who are above 00 years of age will be called upon to resign their commission unless they be specially recommended by the officer commanding the volunteer forces as capable of retaining their appointments with advantage to the public service.
The regulations issued at the instance of the Government say that retirements are to be made, not at 60 years of age, but at from 45 to 60. An officer may be called upon to retire under those regulations fifteen years earlier than the age at which the local Defence Act says he would be liable to be called upon to retire. What doesthe Constitution say with reference to such matters affecting transferred officers of transferred services? I quote from sub-section (3) of section 84 -
Any such officer who is retained in the service of the Commonwealth shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights, and shall be entitled to retire from office at the time, and on the pension or retiring allowance which would be permitted by the law of the State if his services with the Commonwealth were a continuation of his service with the State.
And the next sub-section states -
Any officer who is at the establishment of the Commonwealth in the public service of a State, and who isby consent of the Governor of the State, with the advice of the Executive Council, thereof transferred to the public service of the Commonwealth, shall have the same rights as if he hud been an officer of the department transferred to the Commonwealth and were retained in the service of the Commonwealth.
It is not necessary that I should go through the laws in force in each of the States dealing with the Defence force to show what is actually provided for in each. I take the instance of the oldest State and the largest Defence force, and I have conclusively shown two things : That according to the law in New South Wales at the time the military service was transferred to the Commonwealth, officers were entitled to hold their commissions until they reached 60years of age. Whether that was or was not a proper age to fix does not matter for the purpose of my argument. Here is a regulation which has been in force in New South Wales for twenty years, and suddenly the Federal Government issue a regulation contravening it, yet they do not pretend that it is issued under any Act of Parliament. There is not a word to indicate that the regulation dealing with the retirement of officers of the Defence Force, and which is now being acted upon in a wholesale manner throughout the Commonwealth, is issued under any Act or by any lawful authority. If the Commonwealth had a law on the subject it would be very simple, but it was done by the Government without reference to any Statute whatever, andwas simply an act of autocracy. It does not profess to be lawful - it is unlawful ; and these officers are being called upon to resign absolutely contrary to the law. No doubt they could maintain actions in respect of the illegality done them, but that would be of no advantage to them, and I do not suppose they will attempt anything of the kind. But merely because they refrain from attempting to maintain at law their undoubted statute rights, does not make the action of the Government proper. This brings me to the larger question of the muddle into which the Defence Force of Australia has been allowed to drift by the present Administration, though they have been in office for eighteen months, all but a fortnight, and defence was one of the chief grounds upon which the Federationwas established. So far as my knowledge goes, defence was put forward on all possible occasions as one of the chief grounds for federation. The federation movement which culminated in our present Constitution was really initiated in 1890 by the late Sir Henry Parkes, who may be said to have been instigated by General Edwards, a British officer visiting Australia, and who had some kind of phantasy about a Chinese fleet coming from somewhere, anchoring under the windows of Government House, Sydney, and claiming a huge ransom from the city. It is clear that the federation movement was initiated by the desire for federal defence, and in what position do we find ourselves to-day.? AVe have a Ministry who have been in office for eighteen months, and we have not sworn in one soldier for the defence of the Commonwealth during the whole of the time, for the good reason that there is no Act under which he could be sworn in. The Commonwealth, except by a round-about process of considering the troops in -the different States, does not possess a soldier to-day. There is no law by which troops trained in one State may be employed in another, or even taken to another for the purpose of training. We could not have a camp at Albury, for instance, formed partly of New South Wales and partly of Victorian troops, because if we took Victorian troops into Nev South Wales they would be under no law. That cannot be disputed. Throughout the Commonwealth the force is at present in a condition of topsy-turveydom. It is positively melancholy to get into the company of officers of the Defence force of Australia, because there is nothing but a jeremiad sung in one’s ears from morning till night. It would be difficult to find in any part of the country a set of men so thoroughly disheartened, and so thoroughly out of love with the work they are supposed to do, and which they have been called together to perform as the members of the Defence force of the Commonwealth, so-called. Half the regiments have no adjutants, and have had none for any length of time one likes to mention. We made a great song about the splendid effect of sending men to gain experience in Africa upon the battle field, and what happened 1 As soon as they came back recruiting was suspended, and even the men who have returned from South Africa have not been allowed to enter the Defence force. Hundreds of our men have been coming back from South Africa, and they cannot join the Commonwealth Defence force because during the last six or seven months recruiting was suspended. Today in the permanent and partially-paid forces recruiting is still suspended. It was allowed for one month, but with that exception recruiting has been suspended in the partially-paid or militia forces of Australia for the last nine months. If there is any truth in the proposition that federation was desirable for purposes of defence what have we been doing within the past eighteen months 1 We have been doing worse than nothing.
We have been making a perfect hash of the whole Defence force from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. It is positively melancholy to see how regiments have been well nigh decimated through the suspension of recruiting. Some little time ago a very popular mounted regiment was short of at least half of its officers, and it has not had an additional officer from then until now. Officers are required to go up for examination for their commissions and promotions. They go up and pass, but they cannot get appointments. With one or two unusual and unexplained exceptions there have been no officers appointed or promoted throughout Australia for the last six or eight months, and even where officers have retired their very retirements are not gazetted. The whole thing is chaos from beginning to end, and it is pitiable that we should be asked to vote a large sum of money making a total expenditure of about £800,000 for the year for a Defence force that is to-day simply a thing of shreds and patches. I thought it my duty to say this, because it seems to me that unless some attention is called to it, the thing will continue to drag along as it has been dragging for some time past. It is a very large expenditure which Parliament is asked to grant, and which the people of the Commonwealth have to pay, and they are entitled to expect the value of their money. But they have not the value of their money, and they cannot have it.
– Have they more men than officers ?
– I think the honorable senator knows they have.
– They are all colonels in New South Wales.
.- There are not nearly so many in New South Wales as in Victoria. I think there are 38 in Victoria, whereas we have but seventeen or eighteen across the Murray. But that is neither here nor there, because many of the officers we hear so much about in newspaper paragraphs are on the retired list and not actively at work to-day.
– Does that apply to Victoria ?
– Certainly. If there are more colonels than there are regiments, it stands to reason that those in excess of the number are on the retired list. There are a good many things connected with the unsatisfactory position of the forces, which I should like to notice, but I do not wish to take up more time. It appears to me that we must vote for this measure, but I shall certainly move the reduction to which I have already referred. I cannot resume my seat without again complaining of the utter mismanagement shown by the putting down of capitation allowances as salaries for volunteers.
– Are the defence forces of the Commonwealth under-officered or over-officered ?
– They are under-officered. I am not referring to the head-quarters’ staff. It is not my duty and perhaps it is not competent for me to say how many officers there should be on the general staff. I say nothing whatever about that, but I can say that the headquarters’ staff in New South Wales has been so heavily stripped to supply officers for the head-quarters’ staff in Melbourne that it is scarcely able to cope with the work thrown upon it. With reference to the retirement of officers at 45 years of age and upwards, who will say that a man is too old to discharge the duties of captain at the age of 45 years 1 In a small force, such as we have in Australia, the opportunities for promotion are much less numerous than in a large force such as exists in the United Kingdom, and consequently men arrive at older ages before they reach the higher ranks of the local service than is the case in the Imperial service. We are cutting down the English age standard. We are assuming that men are not as healthy and stalwart in Australia as in England. For instance, under this regulation a volunteer colonel retires at the age of 60 years. I am satisfied that he should go if need “be, but why he should retire at that age in Australia, when a man of that rank can remain until he is 67 years of age in England, I do not know, except on the supposition that a man is less robust in Australia than in the old country, and I do not think that that is the case. It is positive nonsense to say that a man is unfit to discharge the duties of captain of a company when he has reached 45”years of age if he is in good health. That the Government should require to turn a man out ‘of the force at 45 years of age, as is being done, seems to me to be a cruel thing, and an unwise one, because the force will lose the services of a large number of experienced men, and the advantage that comes from the presence of a man whose experience should be, and no doubt is, of value. I am not speaking of officers alone. I have the strongest possible feeling about the retirement of non-commissioned officers - sergeants who forfeited their Imperial pension rights to give service to Australia, and who are being booted out into the street at three days’ notice, because they have reached a fancy age which has been fixed on, under no statute law, but at the sweet will of the Ministers who have for the last eighteen months neglected their duties in connexion with the defence of the Commonwealth. They came into office with a Bill already prepared for them by the commandants. They hacked that Bill all to pieces until its authors would not own it and brought in another. After its second reading was passed, what happened? A week afterwards the Minister came down with five pages of amendments entirely altering the scope and object of the measure, and, as if it were not enough for him to destroy his own bantling, he withdrew it a few months later, and at the end of eighteen months there is not as much as a shred or a patch of a measure for the defence of Australia before either House of Parliament.
– Peace has been declared, and we do not want an army.
.- “In time of peace prepare for war.” If we are only going to make defence preparations after war has been declared, then God help the Commonwealth ; we had better not have any forts, guns, or soldiers, but simply trust to the mercy of those with whom we may be brought into collision. It is an unpleasant thing to have to speak in this way, but I think that the duty rests upon Members of Parliament of drawing public attention to what they regard as a public wrong. I regard the action of the Government as a, public wrong to every man, woman, and child in ths Commonwealth, to the owners of property, small and great alike. It has been a matter of ministerial shunt and irresponsibility, until finally we have this remarkable document officially published without a date ordering the dismissal of officers at ages aa low as fifteen years below the stated age in the regulations under which they were enlisted, and repudiating rights that were supposed to be conserved to them by the Constitution Act of the Commonwealth.
Senator DRAKE (In reply). - I have to thank Senator Matheson and others for having during the debate given me notice of matters to which they propose to draw attention in committee. There are only one or two of the subjects referred to which, perhaps, could not properly be discussed in committee. Amongst them I should include the remarks of Senators Glassey and Stewart with regard to the representation of the Government in the Senate. On behalf of the Vice-President of the Executive Council and myself, I thank them for their sympathetic references to that subject. But they are aware, I think, that with seven Ministers in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate, the representation in the Senate would under ordinary circumstances be sufficiently strongfor all purposes. We have to remember that if that division is not considered satisfactory, perhaps any other division that might be named would be unsatisfactory to another place. Perhaps an allotment of six Ministers to the other House and three to the Senate might be considered unsatisfactory from a certain point of view.
– We have two Ministers here, and one of them is salaried.
– I cast that on one side, because I am perfectly sure that no honorable senator thinks that the VicePresident of the Executive Council would be one bit more effective and powerful than he is if he were drawing a salary.
– But is it fair?
– It is really a matter of numbers.
– Some of them are doing nothing there.
– We must bear in mind that while there has been a great amount of work in this Chamber, there has also been a considerably larger amount of work to be transacted in the other House. If we attempt to draw a comparison between the two Houses I think we shall come to the conclusion that the representation of the Government in the Senate has been equal to the occasion at all times. Perhaps it is regretable that it should be left to me to say that I think the conduct of business here has been such that we have nothing to fear by comparison with the other Chamber.
– The Senate has been most attentive and most astute.
– That being so, I cannot see that there is any ground for complaint on that score. At some future time there may be a different arrangement made, but honorable senators are well aware that each Minister, whether honorary ornot, represents a constituency in the House in which he sits, and no change could be made unless by making an alteration with regard to the representation. In some States the Legislative Council is a nominee House, and no such difficulty can ever occur, because a Minister can be nominated at any time to the Council; but representing, as we do here, constituencies, I think it is perfectly clear that it is not possible to reinforce the representation of the Government in the Senate, and if it were possible it could only be done by depleting the representation of the Government in another place. With regard to the Defence Force Senator Neild has pointed out, correctly no doubt, that the recent regulation as - to the retirement age will be regarded as a hardship by some of those who have been called upon to retire. Under each State Act there is authority to make a provision of that kind so that the recent regulation is in the first place legally made. The Senate will agree with me, I am sure, that in this matter of retirements difficulties will always occur. It is a most delicate subject to deal with, because no matter what age of retirement may be fixed upon it will invariably happen that you will be dispensing with the services of some men who perhaps are just about in their prime, and at the same time you may be retaining some whose services might very well be dispensed with. You are bound sometimes to hit upon an age that will compel the retirement of exceptionally bright individuals, who could do good in the service long after that age. On the other hand, there is a general consensus of opinion that you must fix upon some age for retirement. There has been a demand for retrenchment in the department, and it has been put in such a form that the Government have been compelled to” promise a very large reduction. In carrying out thatpolicy it is inevitable that some cases of what I call hardship will arise. With regard to the department generally, I think that Senator Nield has been unjust to the Government, especially to the Minister for Defence, who brought forward in another place a Bill for the regulation of the defence force, at a very early period of the session. During a very long debate on its second reading, a great number of suggestions were made for the amendment of the Bill. It hadmade very little progress at a time when there was a universal demand that nearly everything should be put asidein order to deal with the Tariff. It was because the House of Representatives was occupied with other work that it was impossible for the Government to go on with that Bill during the session. Therefore the department is in the position of having to administer its affairs under six State Acts.
– But the Government never intended to patch up that Defence Bill.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that we do not propose to pass such a Bill as will be acceptable to Parliament, at the earliest possible moment ?
– The Government never intended to pass the original Bill.
– Many amendments of the original Bill were given notice of, but the desire of the Government is to bring in and pass a Bill that will put the defence forces on a proper and substantial basis.
– Is there any chance of that this session ?
– The Government are bound to cany on the Defence force under the separate State Acts ; and, having given a pledge that the Estimates should be reduced by £130,000, it has become necessary to retrench severely. I am quite with honorable senators that it is to be regretted there should be that necessity, because there is always a danger in connexion with retrenchments of this kind that later on a large amount of money will have to be expended to make up. That, however, depends upon how the retrenchments are carried out ; and I think that honorable senators will agree with me that the Government are making every effort to carry out the retrenchment, so as to save the amount of money they have promised, without any injury to the Defence forces.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read the second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1, 2, and 3 agreed to.
– I should like to ask how it comes about that the salaries vary from month to month? For instance, for last month the salaries for the Senate were £432; this month they are £410. The salaries for the House of Representatives last month were £600 ; this month they are £582. It is the same with the salaries of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff.
– It happens that some months the payments are larger than in others. This month the amount on the Estimates is necessary to make up the balance of the sum required for the whole year, and will be just sufficient to pay salaries up to the 30th of June.
– I wish to ask how it is that officers connected with the Senate are paid at a lower rate than those connected with the House of Representatives ? This is an anomaly, considering that the one set of officers do exactly the same kind of work as the other.
– I am in a position to answer that question. The Estimates” originally presented to Parliament, and of which this schedule is a sequel, were framed before the Presidentand the Speaker had been chosen.I do not know who framed them, but I believe they were framed on the model of the Victorian Parliamentary Estimates. I hope that the next Estimates presented to Parliament will show an equalization of salaries in this respect.
– In regard to the officers in the large hall between the two Chambers, and whose duty it is to look after the doors, I should like to bring under notice a matter concerning which I took some action last winter. I find that these gentlemen occupy a very cold chamber, of really no chamber at all, and that there is no proper accommodation for them. It is very desirable that some improvement should be made. The places they occupy at present are quite unfit for occupation during the winter, and I am certain that the amount of expenditure that would be required to put the place in proper order, and make it warm and commodious during the cold season of the year would be very small. I remember bringing this matter before the President and the Speaker last year, and I also mentioned it to some of the members of the Joint House Committee. I bring it up again in the hope that some change will be made in the direction of putting the place inproper order. The officers in question are on duty from morning to night, and sometimes, in the case of late sittings, are there for very long hours indeed. The accommodation for them at present is quite insufficient ; indeed, I go further, and say that it is positively cruel.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - At present the Queen’s-hall is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Speaker. I think it ought to he under the jurisdiction of the Joint House Committee, which is common to both Houses. The reason why it is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Speaker, and why the Estimates for the House of Representatives provide for the salaries in question, I have given before - that the original Estimates were framed on the basis of the Estimates for the State of Victoria, when the hall was under the jurisdiction of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. I hope, and have good grounds for believing, that that practice will be altered in the future, and that the hall will be placed under the jurisdiction of the Joint House Committee. When that is done I trust that attention will be given to the matter which has been mentionedby Senator Glassey ; but until that is done the committeehas no jurisdiction.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I wish to ask a question about the refreshmentrooms. On the Estimates the sum asked for was £325. The sum actually spent has been £1,050. I find that £500 was spent for goods. Will the PostmasterGeneral explain whether they were wet goods or dry goods, or what sort of goods they were ?
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - I am in a position to answer that question. Of course, in starting a new refreshment department, we had to buy everything. The Parliament of Victoria naturally enough took away all their saucepans, crockery, silverware, linen, and everything else that was required to carry on a refreshment department, and we had to start by buying everything that waswanted. For that purpose £500 was voted. The goods are an asset : we have them now. Of course they have been deteriorating to a certain extent, but the item is non-recurrent, and will not appear again. I think that is a sufficient explanation.
– In reference to the Pacific islands, and the item of £934 for the mail service, I was just looking through the paper which has been circulated with reference to the contract between Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. and the Government of the Commonwealth. This contract provides for two services. One is for an additional mail service to the Pacific islands, for which Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. are to receive £2,000 per annum, and the other is a sum of £400, which is to be paid to Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. on the understanding that they only employ white labour. The last clause in the agreement is a most curious one. It is clause 11, and it sets out that “whereas the contractors are possessed of certain lands and properties in the New Hebrides” which amount to about 100,000 acres; they declare that they stand possessed of these properties in trust, and will lease them at 1s. per annum for 50 acres “ on such terms and conditions as the Minister for External Affairs may from time to time approve ; “ and, later on, that they will “ execute such conveyance, assignment, or assurance “ of their lights in the properties as the Minister may direct. I should like to ask the Postmaster-General how it is that the contractors who are possessed of certain freehold properties hold them in trust for certain persons who are unindicated. I wish to know who the people are for whom the contractors hold these properties in trust, how those people came to be possessed of them, and how the Minister for External Affairs can control the properties ? It seems to me that there is no consideration set out in this agreement as to the persons for whom Burns, Philp, and Co. hold this land in trust.
– The consideration is the agreement to pay Burns, Philp, and Co. this increased subsidy. Burns, Philp, and Co. are possessed of land in a number of the Pacific islands, and the new agreement provides that the Federal Government shall give them a subsidy in order to enable them to run a more frequent service, and shall facilitate the introduction of settlers in the islands upon the lands which Burns, Philp, and Co. own. Under that last clause in the agreement, Burns, Philp, and Co. undertake that when immigrants go to the islands they will lease properties to them, and upon the immigrants fulfilling the conditions, will transfer the land to them. The Minister for External Affairs is given control, in order that he may insure that Burns, Philp, and Co. cany out their agreement with regard to the settlement of the land, the object being to procure European settlement in the islands, with the view to their future occupation by people of a European race.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - The Postmaster-General, not intentionally,I am sure, evades the point concerning which I want information. Who are the owners of the properties? Burns, Philp, and Co. are stated not to be the owners any longer, but to hold the land in trust.
– Those people are not named yet ; the future immigrants.
– Burns, Philp, and Co. hold the properties in trust, and will lease them to people who may take them up at a rental. The agreement says that Burns, Philp, and Co. will - execute such conveyance, assignment, or assurance of all their right, title, and interest in and to such lands and properties to such person or persons and in such manner as the said Minister may direct.
As matters stand at present, at the expiration of this agreement, or previous determination of it, they will have to transfer these properties to such person or persons as the Minister may direct. Under these circumstances, Burns, Philp, and Co. are not the owners, and I want to know frankly whether the Federal Government are the owners of the land.
– Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. are the owners, and they declare that they hold this property in trust for certain immigrants unnamed, who will he nominated by the Minister for External Affairs upon their arrival.
SenatorM ATHESON.- They agreed subsequently to transfer their rights, not to the immigrants, but to some persons to be nominated, whether tenants or not. If it were only to tenants I could understand the honorable gentleman.
– No doubt what the Minister for External Affairs will do will be to name persons who have become settlers in the islands.
– I took exception previously to the expenditure of money on the settlement of the islands of the Pacific in view of the fact that we have so much of our own country to settle. The explanations which have been given by the Government lead me to think that the whole transaction is a bigger blunder than most people believed in the first instance. The PostmasterGeneral, on a previous occasion, said that he did not justify this expenditure as being in respect of a mail contract. If that is so, how is it that the money is to be expended in this way % Have the Government any understanding with Burns, Philp, and Co. that they shall employ only white labour?
– We have not an understanding, but an agreement.
– Have the Government any agreement that the settlers on these lands shall employ only white labour ?
– Then we are going to expend the taxpayers’ money in subsidizing Burns, Philp, and Co. in order that settlement may take place on their property - a settlement assisted by the black labour which we have been endeavouring to discourage. It will be a big backsliding from the cry of a white Australia if Commonwealth money is to be used to subsidize settlement on the islands in order that black labour may be employed.
– Not necessarily for that purpose.
– Any one who knows thehistory of the islands of the Pacific is aware that black labour is employed on themto a great extent, and that it will be employed until the black population dies out. It is not a legitimate way of doing business to subsidize Burns, Philp, and Co., ostensibly for carrying mails, when it is intended by this expenditure to enlarge our sphere of influence. Have we not a sufficiently large sphere of influence in this great continent of ours? I think the system is,. wrong, and ought to be stopped. I shall protest on every occasion against the expenditure of money in this way, either for mailservices or for encouraging people to settle on these lands. Are the Government satisfied that Burns, Philp, and Co., have a right to the land ? It is said that they acquired it from the A.U.S.N. Company, but from whom did the A. U.S.N. Company obtain it ? Did they annex it in theusual way, or did they pay anything for it ? These are questions which should have been inquired into by the Government before they made any agreement with Burns, Philp, and Co.’
– As I said before, this cannot be justified as apostal service, because in the present undeveloped state of the islands there will be comparatively little postal business. But this service is subsidized for commercial purposes. I think it is a good thing, and I do not think it derogates in the slightest degree from our ideas in regard to a white Australia. It is a good thing to get as many of our own people as we can, without injury to Australia, settled in the islands. No doubt, the result will be a gradual springing up of trade between Australia and the islands, and eventually a postal business, although the latter is quite a secondary matter at the present time. We have our own Tariff”, and we can keep Australia white without interfering with the employment of natives in their own islands. It seems to me that to trade with people who employ natives in their own islands is very different from bringing coloured labour into Australia. I fail to see how we can take up the position that, because we desire that labour in Australia shall be white, coloured people all over the world shall not do any work, or that we shall not trade with them. I fail to see that there can be any objection to coloured people growing any produce they can in their own islands. Let us encourage them to stop there, and not to come to Australia.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- The more the Postmaster-General endeavours to explain this most extraordinary transaction, the more indefensible it appears to be. I was under the impression, but it turns out to be a delusion, that the business of the Postmaster-General’s office is to look after our postal affairs. We now discover that the department is to be utilised in the promotion of trade with certain islands of the Pacific.
– This vote is not from the postal revenue. It relates to the Department for External Affairs.
– In any case, it appears to me that the taxation which is collected from the people of the Commonwealth ought to be spent within the Commonwealth. When we have a surplus, and when, so to speak, our cup is overflowing, weshall be in a position to look outside our boundaries, and to assist in the development of other portions of the globe. The New Hebrides belong to France.
– No ; there is a dual control.
– My information is that they are French islands, under the French Government, governed by French ideas, and very largely owned by Frenchmen.
– They are jumping the claim of the Presbyterian Church.
– It seems to me that a modern reading of the old Writ is, “ The earth is the Australians and the fullness thereof.” The world is big enough for all of us without stretching out our hands here, there, and everywhere for additional territory. My objection to this vote is, that it is an absolute waste of money. We are not in the position to spend money outside our own boundaries. There is any amount of developmental work to be done within the Commonwealth, and I want to know why we do not confine our attention to it. I have asked for certain papers and correspondence to be laid on the table. I am anxious to know who approached the Government with reference to this additional subsidy; whether Burns, Philp, and Co. made advances to the Government, or whether the Government made advances to them. I have not the slightest doubt that the transaction will be a very profitable one for Burns, Philp, and Co., but I cannot see how the Commonwealth will benefit, and the Commonwealth is my particular care. Burns, Philp, and Co. are quite able to look after themselves, but it seems to me that the Commonwealth is not quite in that position. We are told that there will be a development of trade as the result of this expenditure. Surely there are other people in the world with whom it would be more advantageous for us to trade than with these miserable, wretched, poverty-stricken South Sea Islanders, who cannot buy anything from us, and from whom we want nothing. In addition to the work of development we have an immigration scheme connected with this proposal. Burns, Philp, and Co. have 100,000 acres of land on these islands, which I understand are like sands on the sea shore - as countless, and about as small. Some of them are very contracted, and not one acre in twenty is fit for settlement: It appears to be that Burns, Philp, and Co. are offering land to people who choose to go there. Each settler must be possessed of at least £200. I have no doubt that that sum will be spent in going to the islands and in living there, and that, in the end, each settler, instead of being better off than he would have been if he had remained in Australia, will be in a very much worse position. I object to the funds of the Commonwealth beingused, either directly or indirectly, to assist people to leave Australia. We should do everything in our power to attract people here, and keep them here when we bring them. If we would only confine our efforts to the development of our own territory, instead of dissipating them in an endeavour to improve other people’s territory, it would be very much better for the Commonwealth. It would’ be interesting to know who made the first advances with regard to this new scheme, and I trust that the Postmaster-General will be able to give us some information on the point.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I think it is a pity that this small vote should be cavilled at more particularly as at the present time an effort is being made to secure for the Commonwealth the occupation of the whole of New Guinea, and only a short time ago the English Government were petitioned to protect Australian interests in the New Hebrides. Unless we take some steps ourselves, the English Government will take no trouble in the matter, and the French, who for many years have been extending their influence in what were once British or Presbyterian Church settlements, will continue their operations until possibly they form in the New Hebrides another New Caledonia, and settle their convicts there to our detriment. I regret that honorable senators should cavil at this small expenditure for the development of a trade which will benefit Australia.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I agree with Senator Stewart that this appears to be a most extraordinary arrangement. According to the PostmasterGeneral, Burns, Philp, and Co. are to be paid a subsidy of £2,000 a year for ten years in order that 100,000 acres of land which belong to that company may be settled. I do not think the money of the Commonwealth should be applied to any such purpose. If Senator Drake had stated, as I hoped he would, that the 100,000 acres had become the property of the Commonwealth Government, and. for some high political reason it was thought desirableto encourage communication betweenthose islands and the Commonwealth, I could have understood it. To pay a subsidy of £20,000 to a shipping firm to enable them to develop their own property is the strangest form of developing Australia I have ever heard of. But it is quite on a par with what one might expect from the management of Federal affairs as carried on in Sydney.
– The Postmaster-General was asked a question just now by Senator Higgs which rather interested me. The honorable and learned senator left thequestion entirely unanswered, and I should like to ask it again. Senator Higgs inquired whether Senator Drake had any information as to the title of this 100,000 acres of land which Burns, Philp, and Co. propose to let to intending settlers. I have no wish to embarrass the Postmaster-General, but I should like to be informed if he knows anything about the title - if it has ever been examined, and if it is worth anything ?
– I must apologize to Senator Higgs, because I did not hear him say a word upon the subject. I am not aware of what the titles to these lands are. I have not examined them ; but I have not the slightest doubt that any persons going to the islands to settle there, and taking their £200 with them, will ascertain for themselves what their title will be. The agreement quoted at all events goes to this extent, that Burns, Philp, and Co. pledge themselves that they will give a title, and I suppose . that they would transfer such a titleas they have to any occupant of their land. This however, is a mere incidental matter, and one or two honorable senators speak as though the Commonwealth were entering into some sort Of land speculation. Senator Matheson would appear to be satisfied if Burns, Philp, and Co. transferred their interests to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth ran the service. Our communication withthese islands in the past has depended upon the action of Burns, Philp, and Co. in sending a steamer to them about once a month. They represented to the Commonwealth Government that if the Government were prepared to bear some portion of the expense they would put on two steamers and enter into an agreement to call at the islands much more frequently than they have hitherto called, and to callregularly at some islands which in the past they have been in the habit of missing. What we ave getting really is an extension of our communication with those islands, which will give an opportunity to people in Australia who may desire to trade with them to visit the islands, and to know at what particular time they must start in order to get to them.
– Were the company subsidized by the Queensland Government to the same extent ?
– They were subsidized by New South Wales, but not, I think, to the same extent.
– And by Victoria also.
– I thank Senator Sargood for the interjection. New South Wales and Victoria subsidized the service to the extent of £2,000 per annum. The company agreed to substitute white labour for coloured labour, which they had been previously employing, on consideration of’ receiving an additional £400 a year. I presume no one will object to the Commonwealth Government paying £400 a year extra to enable it to carry out its settled policy of a white Australia, and to secure that a steamship service, starting from Australia and depending upon an Australian subsidy, shall be worked by a white crew.
– What is to be the rent of the 100,000 acres of land ?
– I am endeavouring to explain that the conditions of the agreement, and the* rent of the land has nothing to do with the matter. We propose to give Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. a subsidy of £3,600, and they agree to run a more frequent service, and to call regularly at a larger number of islands than they have hitherto called at in order to give the people of Australia, who may desire it, an opportunity of trading with these islands on the Pacific. With regard to the land, I do not know how much there is. “
– It is part of the consideration on the honorable and learned senator’s own showing.
– I do not regard it as part of the consideration. The more frequent service is the consideration for the subsidy.
– Has there been much demand for this more frequent service ?
– There has been a considerable demand. There has. been dissatisfaction expressed in the past in more quarters than one at the inferior and insufficient means of communication between Australia and these islands.
– What is the white population?
– I do not know. I hardly think it necessary for the consideration of this question that we should have a census taken of the inhabitants of the Pacific Islands, nor do I think it a matter of very great importance to know what is the extent or value of the land which Burns, Philp, and Co. have acquired in these islands. They have acquired land, and they are inviting people to go there and take it up. These clauses in the agreement are practically an assurance of the bona fides of the company. They desire to develop the islands, and if settlers are willing to take up their land they may do so upon very easy terms.
– I think this item ought to be postponed until we have more light thrown upon the subject. The more we discuss the matter the more indefensible the item becomes. The Commonwealth apparently has no hold whatever on these islands. It seems to me that Burns, Philp, and Co., have a very big slice of land there, and we are being asked to vote money merely to help them to develop their own property. If there was any desire to secure possession of the islands for the Commonwealth, I could understand a move being made to annex them straight away, -and if that were done we should be spending money upon Commonwealth property. As the matter stands, we have no hold upon the company, and the settlers may be removed within a few years, and all the improvements upon the land go into the coffers of the company. I do not know whether Mr. Philp has secured this subsidy in order that’ he may drop his adverse criticism of the Government, but it looks very strange for such a hostile critic of the Government to be given public money in this way.
– He gives good value for it.
– That is what we do not know. We are paying pretty handsomely, but no one seems to know anything of what we fire going to get in return, and, least of all, the Minister. I repeat that I think the item should be postponed until we get some better reason for it than has been given so far.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I have, reluctantly, to move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item, Department of External Affairs, “ Mail service to Pacific Islands, £934.”
I do so, in the first . place, because the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction in this matter of the settlement of the islands in the Pacific. I do not think we have anything in our “ Thirty-nine Articles “ that would justify us in spending Commonwealth money for the purpose of settling people on the land in the New Hebrides. It is claimed that the rent which Burns, Philp, and Co. receive for their property has nothing to do with the matter, but honorable Senators who read of the agreement come to some time ago will remember that it was justified to the public on the ground that the Commonwealth was extending its sphere of influence by establishing in the islands a number of independent farmers and settlers, who would receive this land from Burns, Philp, and Co. at a very low rent. If we are to take up the function of settling people on the land, Senator Drake will surely recognise that we have yet in Queensland room for some 10,000,000 of people to settle upon the land. I sympathize with the honorable and learned senator in not being able to give all the detailed information we require, but that sympathy only backs up the contention of Senator Glassey that we should have in the Senate more than one paid Minister and an honorary supporter. My firm conviction is that the only persons who will derive a benefit from the expenditure of the money are Burns, Philp, and Co., who are to be subsidized because they employ white labour on their boats. There is not a firm in the Commonwealth that patronizes black labour to a greater extent than does that firm. It employs probably a majority of the Japanese engaged on Thursday Island in pearl-shelling, and yet honorable senators expect to get support for their “ white Australia “ cry from the firm. The New Hebrides, in my opinion, are not yet fit for settlement. Ibr three months in the year white men cannot do any work, so detrimental is the climate to their health. The trade to be encouraged is only a trade in bananas, copra, and other commodities of that kind. There is absolutely no occasion for its encouragement. As regards the danger from French settlers and the prospect of convicts escaping to Australia, we know that convicts do come over from New Caledonia, but they are’ generally caught by Queensland officials when they land. Very few of them have attempted to come to Australia, so that there is a minimum of danger in that regard. If the Postmaster-General cannot justify this as a mail service, why does the expenditure appear in the schedule as tor a mail contract 1 The committee ought to be told how many letters have passed between the Commonwealth and the islands. It is also important that it should have some information about the title to the land. The settlers-are being encouraged to go to the islands on the understanding that the Commonwealth Government is at the back of the movement. The Postmaster-General seems to think that settlers will investigate the title to the land for themselves. They have little legal knowledge, and little opportunity of getting legal advice. They will make no investigation of the title. They will be told by Burns, Philp, and Co. that the Commonwealth Government are looking after their interests, and that they may have the utmost confidence that they will be fairly done by.
– I regret that I am not able on the spur of the moment to give the ‘details of this matter. I had no reason to suppose, when we met this afternoon, that I would be asked to give any details, or indeed, that the vote would be challenged. When the last Supply Bill was being considered in committee the question was brought up and discussed. Senator Stewart, too,-has on the business-paper a motion asking for the production of all correspondence on the subject, so that full information will be placed in the hands of honorable senators as soon as that motion is agreed to. I suggest that the committee should not insist upon discussing the details on this occasion, as other opportunities will arise. If the documents are received in time I shall be able to give the details of the services that Burns, Philp, and Co. have undertaken to carry out. The Government considered the matter very carefully, and came to the conclusion that the amount of the subsidy asked for by Burns, Philp, and Co. was not unreasonable in view of the services that they proposed to give. Senator Higgs has asked rae how I can justify this as a mail service in view of the very small quantity of postal matter that has been carried. He knows that in Queensland we have two coastal mail services that cannot be justified on the ground of the work performed for the Postal department. We pay the A.U.S.N. Company a subsidy of £17,500 a year fora service up the coast from Gladstone to Townsville. We knew very well that we could get letters and postal matter carried for less than that, but we adopted the policy which was followed in every State. That was to give postal subsidies to these companies in order that they may run services to enable passengers to get from one part of a State to another, and to enable goods to be sent to and fro. I shall instance the more recent ease of the Gulf mail contract. We are under contract to pay the same firm of ship-owners a subsidy of £6,000 a year for running a service from Cooktown or Townsville to the Gulf. It was initiated because the people at the Gulf were at one time almost in a state of starvation. No steamer was being run, the people in the Gulf were nearly out of flour, and there was a great demand - which Senator Higgs will remember was voiced by a member of his party from the Gulf - that the Government should make a contract at once with a steamship company in order that they might be able to carry food supplies to the Gulf. We entered into a contract with the company to run that service for three years for a subsidy of £6,000 a year, although it was known very well at the time that it was not required for the Postal department’. We could have sent’ all mail matter across the continent viti Georgetown to the Gulf, but what was wanted was a commercial service to carry passengers and goods. That practice has been followed in every State. I am not prepared to justify its adoption. In my opinion the Postal department should only be Galled upon to pay that which is required for postal services, and where a subsidy is necessary for other purposes, it should be defrayed from some other fund. In this case, it is a small service, but the money has to be voted under the head of External Affairs. In the future, we may be able to do things differently by asking a vote for commercial purposes. But at the present time all these subsidies are charged to the Postal department, and the service is considered to be very necessary and desirable. When we came into office we were bound, under the Constitution Act, to adopt the service which had been maintained by New South Wales and Victoria, and we agreed to pay Burns, Philp, and Co. .an extra subsidy of £400 a year for substituting white labour for black. We are not looking to that company to carry out our idea of a white Australia, but we are insisting that in carrying out the contract they shall use white labour only. We consider that the increased service was sufficient to justify us in giving them the additional subsidy, on the basis of what had previously been done by New South Walesand Victoria. Under these circumstances I hope that Senator Higgs will not press his motion, because I do not think that delay in the passing of the Supply Bill will serve any good purpose at this stage.
– I regard this as a storm in a tea cup. Evidently honorable senators do not know the facts of the case. The New Hebrides do not belong to Prance, as Senator Stewart stated, but they are under the dual control of the British and French Governments. For the past ten years the Presbyterian Church has been persistently urging on the Government the desirability of having a steam service from Australia to the New Hebrides. It was pointed out by the Presbyterian body that they had spent about £70,000 in developing their interests in the Islands. From time to time they approached the Government for the purpose of securing the establishment of steam communication between the New Hebrides and Australia. Some honorable senators seem to run away with the idea that all the land in the New Hebrides is owned by Messrs Burns, Philp, and Co. That firm, however, only own a portion of the land, and they merely point out that settlers can obtain from them a certain area at a certain price. Is there any harm in that ? If an intending settler likes to avail himself of the offer he can do so;, but if he prefers not to do so he can approach the agents of the French Government, or the French Company represented by Mr; Higginson, who no doubt can accommodate settlers. There is plenty of land. The amount of money which the Government are spending on the establishment of mail communication between the mainland and the New Hebrides is too small to be worthy of much attention. Honorable senators do not complain because the Government have established subsidized steam communication between Australia and New Zealand. We have nothing directly to do with the Government of New Zealand, yet we subsidize the cable service and the steam service. Why should we not also subsidize a line of steamers travelling between Australia and the New Hebrides t
– The New Zealand service pays us commercially.
– How does the honorable and learned senator know that the New Hebrides service does not pay us commercially 1 But if it does not, are we always to look at matters of this kind from the point of view of whether they pay ? Senator Ewing himself is an advocate of the construction of a line of railway between Port Augusta and Western Australia, which would never pay during the life-time of any member of this Senate. In this matter the Government have acted properly. Instead of being criticised, they should be supported and encouraged for the action they have taken in the matter ; and I support them heartily.
– I feel certain that if honorable senators were aware of the whole history of the contract in question, especially in its earlier stages, when New South Wales and Victoria alone subsidized the mail service to the New Hebrides, they would realize that the Government have taken a reasonable course, and one which is completely justified. I wish, in the first instance, to refer to a remark made by Senator De Largie. He intimated that this transaction bore some suspicious resemblance to an attempt to propitiate the Premier of Queensland2 Mr. Philp, but Mr. Philp has absolutely nothing to do with the firm of Burns, Philp, and Co. Some years ago that firm was founded by the two gentlemen whose names are embodied in its title, but at the present moment Mr. Robert Philp has not one single share in the company, nor has he had a share in it for years past.
– What about his relatives 1
– We have been told that this contract has been made with the view of propitiating Mr. Philp. I reply that that is a gratuitous assumption, and is based entirely upon an error.
– What authority has the honorable senator for making that assertion ?
– The absolute authority of personal knowledge; and I think the committee knows that I am not addicted to making statements unless I know that they are true. I say with absolute knowledge that Mr. Philp is not a member of the firm of Burns, Philp, and Co., and has not been for some time past. With regard to the 100,000 acres, if what I understand be correct, the land is practically available for those who go to the New Hebrides almost free of cost. I believe, too, that the Postmaster-General was thoroughly justified in his remark that the arrangement with regard to the land was subsidiary. In fact the 100,000 acres in a block would have been made over as a present to the Commonwealth Government if they had had power to possess themselves of the land. The Government had no such power ; but the land is there, and if any settlers go over, they will be able practically to take possession of it. The terms as to rent will be of an eminently satisfactory nature. Senator Higgs has affirmed that the only people likely tomake profits out of this affair are Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. But if honorable senators know anything about the expenses of running steamers they must be aware that a small sum such as this goes a very little way towards meeting the heavy expenditure involved. Australia owes a great deal to the firm of Burns, Philp, and Co. The recognition of British authority in the Pacific is a good deal owing to the enterprise of that firm. Not that they undertook this business from motives of philanthropy ; I do not say anything of the sort. In a pure spirit of business enterprise, and with the wish and hope of making money, they embarked in the Pacific trade. I can also tell the committee that hitherto the results have been on the wrong side. I know that as a fact. The firm has been to the front from the very first in matters connected with the development of the Pacific and of New Guinea. Certainly they have well earned their footing, and are justly entitled to any little profit that may arise in the future.
– Their last balancer sheet shows a profit.
– Of course the firm of Burns, Philp, and Co. is one of the largest in Australia, and is making a large and substantial profit ; but the islands’ trade - and here again I know what I am speaking about - has been carried on at a very considerable loss, not only to Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Go., but also to other Australian private firms. I think that Senator Sargood is well aware of the truth of what I say.
– I know that I have lost money in it.
– The New Hebrides Company, in which many Melbourne people put money, was also engaged in the trade, as was likewise the firm of McIlwraith, McEacharn, and Co. In one way and another there has been a good deal of Melbourne and Sydney money spent in attempting to develop Australian trade in the Pacific. I have no hesitation in saying that whatever hold the British have over the islands that are not now under the British flag, is largely owing to the enterprise which has been shown by various Australian firms - an enterprise which hitherto has involved them in nothing but loss. I am quite certain that when we have time and opportunity to go into the matter more fully - say when the principal Estimates are considered - it can be shown that the Pacific Islands business hitherto has resulted in considerable money loss, and that honorable senators will recognise that the small amount which is now involved in this Bill is not worth disputing.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - The Government must congratulate themselves on the unusual fact that they have such a strong supporter in Senator Pulsford in this instance. I am a ware that this is not the first time he has supported them, but when he does so it is always in the same direction - when the great importing industry is at stake. I am surprised also at the enthusiasm of Senator Zeal, who in the past has not been such a strong supporter of the Government as he might have been. I want to point out what are the objectionable features in a subsidy of this description and for thepurpose proposed. The avowed purpose is to encourage communication between the New Hebrides and the Commonwealth of Australia. How long is it since the different States of the Commonwealthindependently spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of the people’s money - some of itwas borrowed and has not been paid back - in order to bring people into the Commonwealth? How long is it since people who, like myself, were not possessed of very much money, came here in that way ? Yet now that they are able to afford £200 we are subsidizing a company to take them away from the Commonwealth, and to establish them somewhere else for the purpose of encouraging a great importing industry. I should like to point out to the PostmasterGeneral that the comparisons which he has endeavoured to rake up in respect to his position are not justifiable. The honorable and learned senator has stated that shipping companies are subsidized by the Queensland Government for the purpose of maintaining communications between different portions of that State. But the resources of that State are well known to the authorities there, and in granting those subsidies they knew they were seeking to increase the importance, the population, and the wealth of their own State. In this case the position is different. Senator Drake has told us that, no matter what may be the rent, area, or character of the country, we are justified in granting this subsidy. If a shipping company informed us that there were two or three rocks in the Pacific Ocean upon which the seagulls built their nests, and with which it would be a good thing for the Commonwealth to have steam-ship communication, should we be justified in subsidizing it to establish that communication? If we did we should place ourselves in a ridiculous position. I do not say that the Government have failed to make all the inquiries necessary, and that they are not fully justified in making this proposal, but they should be able to justify their position to us ; they should be able to show that the development of the New Hebrides may be of advantage to the Commonwealth. That is all that honorable senators are asking them to do. Senator Pulsford made an attack upon an honorable senator who suggested that Burns, Philp, and Co. might be subsidized in order to lesson the opposition of a member of the family. The honorable senator in question did not say anything about a member of the family, but will Senator Pulsford deny that Robert Philp was not at one time a member of that firm?
– I said thathe was one of the founders of the firm.
– Will Senator Pulsford deny that in Australia instances have occurred in which members of firms who were in Parliament have thought that it would be more to their advantage to be out of those firms than in them 1 How do we know that there is anything to prevent that sort of thing in the present instance? It is our duty to investigate every circumstance in a transaction of this description. I do not say that this is the best time to do so. It is necessary only to have a very limited discussion upon a Supply Bill, but when the Estimates come before us the Government should be compelled to furnish the Senate with all information upon the point. I am very glad to see that some honorable senators are adopting the only means at their disposal to make such information available, and when the proper time arrives I hope that the representatives of the Government in the Senate will be in a position to give full details in connexion with questions of this kind. Honorable senators are quite justified in the action they have taken up in this matter, but I do not think it would be wise to delay the passage of the Bill upon this ground.
– I do not think that the cool and collected remarks of Senator Zeal have thrown very much light on the question. Indeed, I did not know what the honorable senator was talking about.
– That shows the honorable and learned senator’s want of sense.
– So far as I am concerned he conveyed no real ideas on the subject. The real gist of the question is not whether we approve of the contract which has been made with Burns, Philp, and Co., because we have taken over that contract in taking over the Postal department ; the question is whether the Government have shown any justification for the expenditure of another £2,000 on the extension of the. contract. I have nothing to say about the £400 proposed to be voted to Burns, Philp, and Co. on the understanding that they will substitute white for black labour ; but clearly the Postmaster-General’s duty is to show either that the Commonwealth is receiving some commercial benefit out of the transaction, that a number of our own countrymen, with whom we desire to keep up communication, are resident in the islands, or that the postal service contemplated will realty pay. It is the duty of the Postmaster-General to do one of these three things, and unless he can satisfy mc that the matter is worthy of a further grant, then, notwithstanding the eloquence of Senator Zeal, I shall vote against the item.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - In response to the suggestion of the PostmasterGeneral, I shall ask permission to withdraw my motion, but I wish to give him notice that at a later stage - probably when some other Supply Bill is before the Senate - I shall table a similar motion. In the meantime, the honorable and learned senator will be able to arm himself with all the facts, and other honorable senators will endeavour to do the same.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I wish to obtain some information from the Postmaster-General in reference to the next item -
Expenses of the Governor-General’s establishment, £’5,000. 1
This item, I believe, has not appeared upon any other Supply Bill, and the time is opportune for an explanation as to the way in which it is to be expended. Will this amount appear annually in a Supply Bill, or does it represent- an extraordinary expenditure ? On turning to the Estimates for the financial year just closing, I find that a sum of £2,000 is provided for printing, stationery, travelling, telegrams, and other incidental expenses of the Governor-General’s establishment. I would ask the Postmaster-General whether that item is included in the proposed vote of £5,000 ; and, if so, what expenses are included in the additional £3,000 ? It is right that the committee should know whether this £5,000 for the up-keep of the Governor-General’s establishment will be asked for by the Ministry in respect of future occupants of the office. Surely it is time that the Government came to some definite conclusion as to what the office of the Governor-General is to cost. A little while ago we voted £10,000 as a special grant to the Governor-General, who is also in receipt of a salary of £10,000 per annum. Here we have a further sum of £5,000 provided for, while provision is made for £2,000 upon the Estimates. As this is the last Supply Bill for the present financial year, it is well that we should have a definite statement of what has been the actual expenditure upon the Governor-General’s establishment - whether the Government intend to make this a recurring vote, and also what it covers. I take the opportunity of saying that, if these sums represent the total amount provided for the up-keep of the GovernorGeneral’s establishment, while in addition the occupant of the office receives a salary of £10,000 per annum, the expenditure is excessive. A little while ago we were informed by the press that the GovernorGeneral had to pay his own travelling expenses, the cost of telegrams, and also the cost of stationery required for Executive Council meetings. A sum of £2,000 appears, however, upon the Estimates to cover that expenditure, and, therefore, the statement in the press must have been inaccurate. I would ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is prepared at this moment to give us some indication of what are to be the actual allowances for the up-keep of the establishment, and whether the Government have come to any conclusion as to the necessity for the maintenance of two establishments, one in Sydney and the other in Melbourne. After the expression of opinion in this and another place, they must have come to the conclusion that Parliament will be satisfied with the maintenance of only one establishment, and that the people themselves do not want two.
– The £2,000 upon the Estimates for official printing, stationery, travelling expenses, telegrams, and other incidental expenses of the Governor-General refers solely to official expenses that come under the heading of the Federal Executive Council, and it has nothing whatever to do with this vote. The £10,000 voted by means of the Bill which has been passed was, as the Senate will remember, intended to recoup His Excellency for expenses incurred in connexion with the Royal visit.
– And which expenditure will not occur again.
– Quite so; it was purely exceptional expenditure, and I may mention incidentally that it is a well-known fact that His Excellency incurred considerably more expense than that. This vote is for the purpose of paying expenses in connexion with the upkeep of Government House, Melbourne. The salary of £10,000 paid to the Governor-General is not supposed to include expenses connected with the upkeep of Government House. His Excellency was invited to take up his position as Governor-General, and was given a very big and expensive house to live in. It would be utterly unreasonable to expect him to pay the expenses of its upkeep out of his official salary As honorable senators are aware, it was proposed to ask Parliament to vote a sum of £8,000 yearly for the up-keep of Government House, but the Bill providing for that did not pass. Then it became necessary to pay accounts in connexion with Government House, and it is for that purpose that this vote of £5,000 is asked. Senator Pearce has asked for details of the payments, and I can give the committee a list of accounts that have been paid, and of accounts rendered and at present unpaid. The list of accounts unpaid is not complete, because certain claims are still coming in, and we can only give an estimate of what they are likely to amount to. Probably this list will give honorable senators an idea, of what it means to maintain a big house like the Government House in Melbourne. I give the accounts paid and unpaid under the same headings : - Gas, paid, £948 14s. lid.; unpaid, £81 8s. 6d. Electric light, paid, £174 17s. 7d.; unpaid, £335 2s. 8d. Fuel, paid, £210 0s. Id.; unpaid, £156 10s. 7d. Orderlies (including forage, shoeing, uniforms, &c), paid, £102 14s. 2d.; unpaid, £604 1 ls. 5d. Hire of crockery, marquees, breakages, &c., paid, £53 4s. 3d.; unpaid, £79 18s. 9d. Flags, paid, £73 7s.; unpaid, £16 16s. Printing, stationery, and newspapers, unpaid, £775 1.5s. lOd. That makes a total of amounts paid £1,562 18s., and unpaid £2,050 3s. 9d., making the total of paid and unpaid accounts ‘rendered up to the present time £3,613 ls. 9d. As I have said, there are some other claims to come in, and the list will give the committee some idea of a class of expenditure which is to be covered by this vote of £5,000. It will be seen that it covers purely and solely expenses connected with the upkeep of Government House, Melbourne.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).Government House, Melbourne, seems to be a very expensive establishment. I find that fuel and lighting cost between £1,800 and £1,900 a year. That seems to me to be altogether too much, and I think we might very well establish our Governor-General in some less pretentious building. Unfortunately the people of Victoria, before the Commonwealth Parliament swooped down upon them, seem to have launched out into extravagance of every character. We’ are met here in a building, the interest upon the cost of which, I suppose, amounts to something like £30,000 a year, and we have another very expensive building in that provided for the Governor-General’s establishment. It would appear ‘to be almost impossible to economize in these matters. Senator Drake did not specifically state whether the Government has come to any decision as to what sums are to be paid to the Governor-General, or on account of the Governor - General, in future. We are not so much concerned about -what has passed, as we are concerned about the future. The Governor - General’s salary is £10,000 a year, and is the Commonwealth to be expected, in addition to finding him a house, to pay for his fuel, lighting, orderlies, newspapers, literature, flags, and so forth ? We really desire to know the extent of our liability. I presume that is what honorable senators are after - at least, it is what I am after. I desire to know what this office is going to cost the country in salaries, expenses of government house, printing, and all the other items. It seems to me that the bill for printing is altogether out of reason. The expense of printing required for the GovernorGeneral appears to cost more than that required for the Federal Parliament, apart from Hansard, and that is altogether extravagant.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I also am disappointed that the PostmasterGeneral should have confined his remarks entirely to the past. It is necessary that we should have some understanding as to the future, because this office has cost us during the past year some £27,000. I say that with a population of 4,000,000 we cannot afford to pay £27,000 annually for this office.
– We shall not have to .do so.
– I do not know. I suppose twelve months ago Senator Sargood would have said that the office would not have cost £27,000 this year, and we have no means of knowing that there will not be another ducal visit within the next twelve months. We are practically a primitive people, with no great wealth, and £27,000 annually for this office is very much in excess of what the people of the Commonwealth can afford. I do not say that that amount covers the whole of the expenditure in connexion with the office during the past year. I think there are items in the list of details supplied by the Postmaster-General which the Commonwealth should - not be called upon to pay. It would be better, if the salary is insufficient, to ask that it should be increased, than to ask that we should pay for orderlies’ uniforms and printing to this extent. £775 annually for printing is a very large amount, and I should like to know what it covers. We are supposed to be the guardians of the public purse, and I am satisfied that if I presented a bill like this to Senator- Sargood or to any other honorable senator, he would want to know all about it. We are in the same position. We want to know all about it, and we desire to know what is going to be done in the future. Are we to expect that in the future we shall have to grant £17,000 for this office, and that if any one who requires special entertainment comes along we shall be asked to grant a further £10,000 to recoup the occupant of the office for entertaining him ? I repeat that £27,000 a year is altogether beyond what the people of Australia should be called upon to pay for the ornamental head of the Commonwealth, and the Government at this juncture should give some idea of what they propose shall be the expenditure in the future.
– The ordinary expenses during this year have been the official salary of £10,000, and the expense of the up-keeping of Government House. That I presume will be the basis of a clearunderstanding for the future. We provide a big Government House for the Governor-General, and we must keep it up. I do not think it would be a fair thing to invite a gentleman to come out as Governor-General, promise him an official salary of £10,000 a year, and then expect him to go to the expense of keeping up the establishment we provide for him. We decide the character of building he is to occupy, and it would be entirely unreasonable to expect him to maintain it out of his official salary. The list of accounts I have read does not by any means exhaust the expense to which His Excellency is put in connexion with the maintenance of Government House. I daresay that if the truth were known we should find that very little of the official salary of £10,000’ will remain to His Excellency after defraying the expenses to which he has been put in maintaining Ms position. I take it that, as the result of the action of Parliament this session, there will, in future, be an understanding that the official salary shall be £10,000 a year, and that Government House shall be maintained for the Governor-General. That is to say that ordinary expenses, such as ave comprehended in the list I have read ‘ will be met by the Commonwealth Government. There is nothing in the list I have read which cannot be said to be legitimate expenses of Government in the maintenance of Government House for the Governor-General.
– We are not supposed to provide uniforms, are we 1
– We provide a Government house for the Governor-General, and surely the Commonwealth would not refuse to supply him with a couple of orderlies.
– It would be more satisfactory if a salary were paid sufficient to cover such expenditure.
– That would come to the very same thing. I do not think it an unreasonable item connected with the ordinary up-keep of Government house. There must be orderlies in connexion with the maintenance of a big establishment like that. I am inclined to think that in the palmy days of Victoria the expenditure to which the Government of that colony were put in connexion with the Governor’s establishment was not very far short of that’ connected with the establishment of the Governor-General.
– It was a great deal more.
– Senator Zeal tells me it was a great deal more. Honorable senators may consider that expenditure excessive, and may think that it does not justify a large expenditure now, but we must compare one thing with another. Why talk about the abnormal expenditure of the Governor-General just as though the community had never heard of such expenditure before? Why talk about 4,000,000 persons not being able to afford the expenses of a Governor-General t That is not a view we should allow to be published to the world. We may be a small community, but we certainly have a territory quite capable of supporting the expenses of a Governor-General on a scale, at all events, somewhat equal to that which is maintained in other countries. I do not think that federation can be accountable for any great increase of expenditure in that respect. We certainly have to maintain a Governor-General ; and we know that several of the States have taken action to limit the expenditure of the State Governors. I trust that no trouble will be made over this item.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I wish to know from the Postmaster-General how the item of £500 for the Federal flag and seal competition is to be distributed 1
– This sum was offered to be competed for by persons who could draw designs for a federal flag and a federal seal. An enormous number of designs for a flag were sent in from all parts of the Commonwealth, and displayed in the Exhibitionbuilding here. Some of the designs were very neat, and others exactly the reverse. A committee of experts was appointed to decide which design was the best, and they selected one which, I believe, experts still say is the most suitable If we had been entirely free to adopt a flag that would be beautiful to the eye, no doubt the committee would not have made the selection they did. I believe certain that conventions have to be observed. A flag has to be designed that will be distinguishable at a long distance, and it must be of certain colours ; and, of course, none of us would have consented to the absence of the Union Jack from our flag. The selected design was sent Home, though, I believe, another one was sent at the same time, but it was made perfectly clear which one was recommended by the committee. No communication on the subject has yet been received from the old country.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I submit that there has been rather a waste of money in this matter. It was easy for the Government to ascertain that a design for a flag would have to be submitted to the Home authorities, and that a flag which would suit a landsman might be considered absolutely inadmissible by a sailor. That information could have been easily ascertained by the Government from any intelligent member of our naval defence force. In this instance, as in many others, the Government have shown very great recklessness in dealing with public funds. They employed a number of well-intentioned people without any knowledge of heraldry to draw up a most important seal. _ No amateur could possibly design a seal that would be satisfactory to any person who has studied the question of seals, and taken an interest in heraldic matters, and no one but a trained person could possibly advise or judge on the subject of seals. Can the PostmasterGeneral give any information about the expenses of the representation of the Commonwealth at the Historical Science Congress in Rome, and in procuring information from historical record offices in Europe 1 And can he let let us know the sort of information that it became important to the Commonwealth Government to secure from those offices at the big expenditure of £221?
– Mr. Bladen, of the Sydney Public Library, was proceeding to England, and he was asked to attend this congress, with the view of getting the latest information that might be useful in founding a Commonwealth Public Library. The amount of the expenditure is, I think, not excessive considering the very important information that he probably will be able to place at the disposal of the Government and the Library Committee. The remuneration that was given to Mr. Bladen was a firstclass fare to London, and the sum of £100.
– Surely the Government could have got that information without paying anything ?
– I do not quite agree with the honorable senator. Of course we could get a copy of the printed record of the Congress, but that does not supply the information which is required. There would be no necessity to send delegates to any congress if we could get everything which was to be had by reading the printed reports. We get tons and tons of printed reports, which are carted to some obscure room in the building, and never looked at by any one. Mr. Bladen attended this Congress to procure for the Government all the information that is likely to be useful, and no doubt he will submit a report for the guidance of the Library Committee. Considering that we shall be shortly taking steps, I suppose, to establish a Commonwealth public library, I think that the expenditure is justifiable.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - The explanation of the Minister casts a most unmerited slur on the gentlemen in charge of the great public libraries in Melbourne and Sydney. What possible information could Mr. Bladen secure in Europe that was not already known to and thoroughly digested by those gentlemen ?
– But he is attached to the Public Library in Sydney.
– If it was necessary to get information for the guidance of the Government in. constituting a great Commonwealth library, surely there are other gentlemen in charge of libraries in the Commonwealth whose advice on this subject could have been got for nothing ?
– We shall get their advice as well.
– But the question is, was this advice necessary, and if so, was it worth£221 1 I am absolutely astonished at the explanation of the Minister. If there had been any recondite subject - forinstance, some question relating to the early history of the colonies, which required investigation in some State archives - then one could understand Mr. Bladen being sent Home ; but any librarian in Australia could have given sufficient information to enable the Government to inaugurate a Commonwealth public library. I hope that Senator Drake’s explanation of the item for the expenses of the representation of the Commonwealth at the International Conference on workmen’s insurance at Dusseldorp in Germany, will be more satisfactory.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I also protest against the payment of the expenses of Mr. Bladen. This is only another instance of a public official who is sufficiently influential to get the expenses of a European visit paid by the Government. I suppose he was one of the gentlemen who wished to see the Coronation ceremony, and he thought it would be an excellent thing for him, and probably for the Commonwealth too, if he could attend the Historical Science Congress as the representative of Australia, and be paid his expenses. We are not likely to get any benefit from his representation there. We are told, that he will get information that will be valuable in establishing a Commonwealth library. What we need in that connexion is a little common sense, and that can be easily obtained in Australia without sending all the way to Rome for it. If no more skill is displayed in establishing the Commonwealth library than was shown in forming the parliamentary library in Victoria, then a great portion of the money that the Commonwealth will spend on books will be absolutely misspent. Our library contains thousands of volumes which are of no earthly use to a Member of Parliament, and many volumes are absent from its shelves which ought to be there. It is filled with perfectly useless literature. It was not necessary to send to Rome to get hints as to how to avoid the repetition of such mistakes.
– I should, perhaps, have mentioned before Senator Stewart drew upon his imagination, that in the first place the Commonwealth had been asked by the Italian Government to send a representative to the Congress at Rome, and Mr. Bladen, who was going to England, offered, if half of his expenses were paid, to go to the Congress and, in addition, to visit the historical record offices in Europe with a view of obtaining information on the subject. I join with Senator Stewart in hoping that the Commonwealth, before establishing a national library, will take reasonable means to ensure that there shall be no repetition of mistakes which have been made in connexion with other libraries.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I wish to have some information with regard to Judge Dashwood’s report. Has it been handed to the Government, and, if so, what is the tenor of it ?
– I do not think the report has been received yet. In regard to the expenditure of £50 in connexion with the representation of the Commonwealth at the Conference of the Workmen’s Insurance at Dusseldorf, I may say that the matter of workmen’s insurance is one in which Senator Neild has taken a great interest. The Government was invited, and considered it desirable, to be represented. Sir John Cockburn, who was formerly Agent-General for South Australia in England, and who has taken a great deal of interest in all subjects of the kind, was asked if he could attend, and consented. The very moderate amount of £50 is intended to cover his expenses.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I agree that the amount in question is very small for the services of such a man as Sir John Cockburn. Our representation at the Historical Science Congress at Rome is costing us £220. The Postmaster-General will realize, when comparing the two items, that it is “possible for the Commonwealth to get information at a cheap rate, and that it is undesirable to pay largely for what can be obtained for next to nothing on the spot.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I observe that under Division No. 15, Department of Home Affairs, the salaries for the administrative staff were, last month, £292. This month the amount has jumped up to £1,000. Some explanation should be given.
– The amount includes some increments that have not yet been paid. The £1,000 completes the amount asked for on the Estimates. Nothing will be paid except on account of salaries which are in the Estimates. Before the permanent appointments were made, officers were borrowed from the State, services and employed on the staff on the understanding that if they became appointed as federal officers the States would be recouped at the end of the year. Those matters have to be adjusted, and the amount asked for now is to complete, the amount-on the Estimates. The salaries paid will be exactly on the basis of the Estimates.
– What about contingencies. Under Division No. 17, the contingencies are £675, whilst the salaries earned are £70.
– That includes stationery, travelling expenditure, fuel, lighting, water supply, and incidentals. The total amount asked for is £1,050. That appears on the Estimates, and the sum in this Bill is to make up that amount. Probably all the money will not be spent.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - There seems to be a most peculiar state of affairs in connexion with the Department of Home Affairs. First of all, there is an administrative staff consisting of fourteen persons. It is difficult to know what they have to do, because most of the matters dealt with by Sir William Lyne’s department are, as far as I know, provided for in connexion with subdepartments. For instance, the electoral office and the office of the Public ‘Service Commissioner are elsewhere provided for, and each has a vote for salaries and contingencies. By splitting up the department into five subdivisions, and by having votes for contingencies for four of these subdivisions, a total sum of £4,855 is made up for contingencies in this one department. That seems to me to be excessive. These contingencies seem to be exactly the same in connexion with each division. They consist of stores, stationery, printing, fuel, light, water, travelling exjpenses, and incidentals. I do not expect I that the Postmaster-General can throw j much light upon it. He cannot be ex- pected to know all about the departments. I But the subject should receive consideration from the Government, and steps should be taken to reduce the expenditure in this direction. o
– I am glad that Senator Matheson does not expect me to be able to give him full information upon these matters. The Home Department is a very important one, and some of the details in connexion with it must be provided for separately. Some of the sub-departments were started at different dates. It will be seen from the Estimates, for instance, that the Public Works branch is only now in process of formation. My colleague, Sir William Lyne, may be trusted to bring these matters together. I do not offer any pledge, but probably in the future, the Estimates may be arranged in some other form, so as to give fuller details. It should also be remembered that, in many respects, these Estimates have had to be based upon the same form as the Estimates in the States with regards to the departments affected.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - There is an item of £5,000, paid to recoup the various States for the salaries of professional and clerical officers employed by the Commonwealth. Can Senator Drake give us details of these payments ?
– Those payments entirely concern public works. I have not the details. Up to the present time, public works in connexion with the Commonwealth have been carried out under State officers. If we wished to build a post-office for a certain State the Minister for Home Affairs would arrange with the Public Works department in that State to carry out the work. Of course that would necessitate the employment by the Federal Government of officers in the employ of the State, and we have to arrange to recoup the various States for a certain proportion of the salaries of officers whose services we have been utilizing.
– I should like to say a word or two in regard to the Public Works department. As the Postmaster-General has said, it is being built up suddenly - -
– I think I said “ gradually “; at least that is what I meant to say.
– I was venturing to suggest, with all humility, that it might be built up too rapidly. Provision is made in the Estimates for an Inspector-General and superintendents for the different States, and if I am to pay any attention to the numerous interviews which newspaper reporters have with the Minister for. Home Affairs, that honorable gentlemen seems to object to being connected with anything with which he has not the sole control. In order that he may have control over his own works he seems to think that he should have separate officers and a separate establishment altogether. I do not take that view. If we launch out upon the expenditure of money wherever there is an opportunity of doing so our Estimates will be increased to such an extent that there will be an agitation for retrenchment.. We have taken over the erection and repair of post and telegraph offices and customs houses throughout the Commonwealth, and it must be clear that as a result of this the States Public Works departments have a considerable amount “of time on their hands. TheMinister for Home Affairs seems to think, however, that he must have an officer in each State under his sole control. If we continue, as I hope we shall do, to use the States Public Works departments, and arrange with their experienced staffs to erect our public buildings, those officers surely will be under the sole control of the Federal Minister while they are being paid to attend to that work, and is it reasonable to suppose that the State authorities . will interfere with them in any way? They will be paid by us while they are doing this work, and amenable solely and wholly to the Minister for Home Affairs. Therefore, the suggestion that the Minister should have offices under his own control is not a justifiable excuse for appointing separate officers and creating a separate department. If the Minister can arrange, where possibly an officer may be required to work half time for the State and half time for the Commonwealth, to make that officer a federal servant, while a fair proportion of his salary is paid by the State in question, I shall have no objection to that being done. But do not let us have £1 spent in this way, when it is simply a fight as to who shall have control. I have been watching the Public Works department, because it is there where money is spent, where political influence comes in, and where extravagance often j runs away even with a conscientious Minis- Iter. Let us commence slowly if the com- mittee like, but not launch out upon an extravagant department. I recollect that in the Public Works department of Tasmania dozens of temporary clerks, so to speak, were employed, and continued to hang on to the service until there was absolutely no work for them to do. The Commonwealth and the States should work together. A post-office is for the use of the people residing in the State in which it is built, and it can make no difference to the people whether it is erected under the supervision of State or Federal officers as long as the Federal Minister has control of the men while he is paying them. I hope that my honorable friend will keep his eye on this department, and that no expenditure will take1 place which might properly be avoided.
– If Senator Dobson had known what I am about to tell him, his speech, perhaps, would, have been slightly different. The system of dual working does not pan out very satisfactorily. I am in a position to say in the most authoritative manner possible that in one of the States the Minister for Home Affairs authorized an expenditure of £4,000 by the State authorities, but that instead of spending that amount they have actually spent £11,800. The plan of asking the States Governments to make disbursements on behalf of the Commonwealth does not work very well. One of the States has just rendered an account in respect of disbursements made on behalf of the Commonwealth, and in addition to the amount expended it has added the nice little commission of 10 per cent. That commission has not been paid, and I do not suppose that it will be. My own impression is that it would be just as well to have an officer of the Commonwealth to look after these works if we are to be “ rooked “ in this way. It is all very well to ‘say, as Senator Dobson has said, that it is a capital plan to have our works carried out by the States authorities, but if they will expend £11,800 on a work for which the Commonwealth authorizes an expenditure of only £4,000-
– There must be a proper explanation of that matter or else some one is very much to blame.
.- No doubt. But where we have dual control, and no proper oversight over work, that sort of thing is always likely to occur. It is difficult to apportion responsibility. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the expenditure of the £11,800 to which I have referred happened in New South Wales, although as a matter of fact it did not. The department there is fortunately, or unfortunately, a very large affair, with a multiplicity of heads of different divisions, and it is possible for large sums of .money to be expended “by accident.” I suppose the item to which I have referred was an expenditure “by accident,”but I should prefer to guard- against such accidents. I am not a believer in the idea that attempted cheapness is always most satisfactory. If Senator Dobson were carrying out some large works of his own he would desire to have an efficient clerk of works supervising them, for he would know that the occasional overseeing of the architect would not be sufficient.
– Undoubtedly ; .but we have these officers in each State.
– These officers have local duties to perform, other than these kind of duties by way of excrescence. The two cases to which I have referred are quoted by me upon the authority of the Minister for Home Affairs’, who informed me of them to-day in the course of a conversation. No obligation of secrecy was imposed upon me, and I think I was justified in repeating them as evidence that dual control, which seems to have some friends in this Chamber, may not by any means prove to be the most satisfactory in the long run.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - I think that Senator Neild has taken a very intelligent view of the position, as compared with Senator Dobson, in saying that dual control is not always satisfactory. If Senator Dobson had studied the conflict which often takes place between departments in each State, he would have known that the system of dual control is not a wise one. There may be instances in which it will be absolutely necessary for the Commonwealth to utilize State officers as far as possible, but where it is justified by the proposed expenditure, it will always be better for the Commonwealth to have its own officers supervising its public works. A Commonwealth work might be entered upon in any State at a time when the State officers were engaged upon works in which the State was greatly interested, and it would be impossible for them to look after the federal undertaking. But if the Commonwealth have their own officers, where there is a sufficient amount of work to justify their employment - and I do not think they will have them in any State where the amount of work to be carried out would not justify their employment - it will do well. Each State will have ultimately to pay for the carrying out of these works within its own dominions, and the Commonwealth is only looking after the interests of the States, as well as those of its own, in adopting the course to which reference has been made. I hope that no objection to a policy of that kind will be advanced in the Senate.
– I think it will always be necessary for the federal department to maintain, at all events, a supervisory staff. To some extent it will be possible to make use of the services of the State officials, and in that way we shall be able to combine the economy which would result from the employment of State officers with the security against extravagance, which certainly must be insisted upon on behalf of the federal department. I am not prepared to say exactly what are the intentions of my honorable colleague with respect to this matter, but it must be perfect!)’ clear that when -the Commonwealth is expending large sums of money upon federal buildings it must have some very effective control over that expenditure. We are now in almost an experimental stage with regard to these matters, but I nave no doubt that ultimately my colleague will establish a system which will give complete federal control, and, at the same time, cause our works to be carried out in the most economical way.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - In connexion with Division No. 20 and the item £1,725 for new expenditure, I desire to refer the committee to a subject I brought up when the last Supply Bill was before us. I hope that to-day time will admit of my getting a vote upon the question, and of the Senate determining a principle. This amount forms part of a larger amount of £6,366 of new expenditure under Division No. 20 on page 22 of the Estimates of Expenditure, and includes in part a sum of money which has been set aside in connexion with the rent of some offices which have been taken in Macquarie Street, Sydney, for the Federal Government - a building which was called “ Marli.” The rent to be paid annually for this building is £500. The estimate of repairs amounts to £1,200, the cost of furniture has been £976, and the telephone rent is £52. 39 b
That is all shown on the Estimates, and these amounts total £3,728. No provision has been made in the Estimates for- light, fuel, and the high pressure water used for elevating the lift. These services have undoubtedly to be paid for, and though the items do not appear on the Estimates, the cost of “Marli” is swelled by the amount which it will be necessary to pay for them. The object with which these offices were taken was apparently to transfer certain departments of the Government to Sydney during the recess. That has been admitted by Mr. Barton on several occasions, and I believe also by other members of the Government. In my opinion, that is an intention oh’ the part of the Government which should be frustrated, and I propose to-night to move the reduction of the vote by £1, accompanying the request by a message to the other House explaining our reasons. This expenditure is absolutely extravagant. -I do not see that it can be justified from any point of view which is likely to appeal to the committee. Honorable senators are aware that three buildings at the corner of Spring and Collins streets, in Melbourne, at the present moment accommodate the departments of the Prime Minister, the AttorneyGeneral,the Minister for- Defence, and the greater portion of the Department for- Home Affairs. All these departments are accommodated in these offices in Melbourne, and the rent paid is £730 a year. This rent is paid to the State Government of “Victoria, who will defray the cost of repairs. No expenditure for annual repairs will arise in connexion with the occupation of these offices. If by an expenditure of £730 we can accommodate the complete staffs of four departments, it is obviously a waste of money to pay £500 annually in rent alone for empty offices in Sydney, for that is practically the position at the present moment. We are told now that certain members of the Government propose to move only a portion of their staffs to Sydney, but I submit that it is not the intention of the Parliament of the Commonwealth that the head-quarters, or any portion of the staff of the Ministerial offices, should be removed to Sydney at all during the recess. We do not find it contended by any person that after the establishment of the federal capital any one of these branch offices should be kept up either in Melbourne or in Sydney. Mr. Barton has never asserted that to he the intention of the Government, nor is it suggested even by the Sydney press. I find that the Sydney Morning Herald, in dealing with this question, makes* no claim whatever to have separate offices in Sydney after the federal capital is established. This is what that paper says -
Let both Houses ami the Government set about deciding the question of the site of the capital as soon as possible, and of dealing with it in such a way as to expedite the time of the meeting of Parliament there. Then we shall have but one seat of Federal government, one set of Federal offices, one Federal staff, and no reason for doubling Federal administration expenditure by having two seats of government in occupation at the same time.
When we find the public as represented by the newspapers, and the Government as represented by the Prime Minister, taking this very reasonable view of the subject, I absolutely fail to see what justification there can be for contending that while the Parliament sits in Melbourne there should be duplicate offices kept up in Sydney at a vast expense. It is not an imaginary view of the intentions of the Government that I have set up, because I find that Sir William Lyne was interviewed the other day by a representative of the Sydney Morning Herald, and the result of that interview appears in the issue of that paper for the 9th June. Sir William Lyne said -
I propose, when the House is in recess, to live as much as possible in Sydney, because it is my home. I shall have one or two officers here to deal with matters I can dispose of by telegraph to the Under Secretary, who will remain in Melbourne. It is proposed in the Estimates to extend telephone communication between Sydney and Melbourne, and I can take advantage of that,
From that honorable senators will be able to appreciate the expense to which the Commonwealth will be put if Sir William Lyne is allowed to gratify his luxurious tastes, and live in. Sydney. This is a matter of very great importance to the public. We have in the loan Estimates a sum of £50,000 set aside for the inauguration of a telephone system between Melbourne and Sydney. That is a sum of money which the Commonwealth can ill-afford to spend at the present time. In the explanatory documents accompanying the loan estimates, we are in- formed that it will be necessary for 35 conversations to be held per day in order to make that telephone system pay. I ask the committee what possible chance there will be of 35 people having 35 conversations per day by means of that telephone line, if it is used by Mr. Barton, Sir William Lyne, and Mr. O’Connor in the endeavour to conduct whatever business they have to do? The proposition is one which I think no member of the Federal Parliament will care to- contemplate for an instant. : In addition to that, it is obvious that the public service must suffer. Persons very often find it impossible to complete their business with the secretary of a department, and they have to see the Minister. What is a person to do who comes to Melbourne, the seat of government, during the recess to conduct business with Ministers and their secretaries? Is he to spend Ms time travelling between Melbourne and Sydney in order first to interview the responsible secretary of a department and then the Minister? The thing becomes ridiculous when one investigates the condition, into which it will throw the public service. Mr. Philp represents Townsville. I think if I asked Senator Glassey he would tell me that Mr. Philp, during the recess, never dreams pf returning to Townsville and endeavouring to transact the affairs of the country from that point.
– He lives at Toowong,, a suburb of Brisbane.
– Supposing that he lived at Townsville, I do not think that the people would tolerate its Premier residing there during the recess, and carrying on the business of the country from there.. Again, if Mr. Peacock, the late Premier of Victoria, had returned to Clunes during the recess, and endeavoured to carry on the business of the country from there through the telephone, I do not think that the State would have stood it for an instant. Why should the Commonwealth be expected to put upwith the Ministers returning to Sydney, which is not the seat of government, and endeavouring for months at a time tocarry on its business from there 1 As, nodoubt, exception will be taken to my expression, that Sydney is not the seat of government, I shall quote a legal authority on the question -
Of course while Parliament is in session the administrative work must be carried on in Victoria, and for that time Victoria is the seat of government. There is no provision as- to what shall be the seat of government when Parliament is not sitting. The object is that, there being no fixed seat of government, it shall be carried on whereever the public convenience is most suited. In the absence of express provision it seems to me that that is a necessary consequence.
I do not think that one could cite a more logical or well-reasoned opinion of where the seat of government is than the one I have read.
– Whose opinion is that?
– That is the opinion of the Prime Minister. I submit that the public convenience is not most suited by any proposal to carry on the government from Sydney during the recess.
– What will the honorable senator do when he becomes a Minister?
– If ever I reached the responsible position of Prime Minister I should be entitled, if this arrangement holds good, to carry on the business of the Commonwealth from Perth just as we might have the Minister for Defence carrying on the business of his department from that unfortunately very distant city.
– He says he is going to do it.
– The honorable senator is only providing me with further reasons why we should request a reduction, so that the other House and Ministers may clearly understand what our views on the subject are. I have been obliged to press the matter at the present moment for a very good reason. An undertaking was given by the Prime Minister that no steps should be taken to pre-judge this question until it had been submitted to Parliament ; and when I asked here the other day whether the Government were prepared to stand to that pledge in his absence, I found to my amazement that Senator O’Connor was not aware, and apparently the Ministry were not aware, that it was ever given. These were the Prime Minister’s own words -
There is no fixed seatof government either in Melbourne or Sydney or anywhere else, but the seat of government is, as the lawyers put it, at large. What is to be done at the conclusion of the session is a matter that needs no settlement at the present time. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. We shall decide this matter when the occasion arises, and before we close the session, so that honorable members who may disagree with the course we propose may have an opportunity of expressing their opinion.
It is quite clear that that undertaking of the Prime Minister has been overlooked. When we find the Minister for Home Affairs stating definitely his intention to carry on the business of the Commonwealth in Sydney, and in a palatial building which has been acquired at a rental of £500 a year, it is absolutely necessary that some steps should be taken to impress on the Government that that is not a desirable course for them to pursue. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item - Department of Home Affairs, “Works and Buildings, subdivision (1) - Rents, repairs, and maintenance….. £1,725,” by £1.
The reasons that I propose to ask the Senate to give to the House of Representatives for suggesting that reduction are as. follow: -
– I thought that the objection previously taken by Senator Matheson would have been met by the information that he tells us he has obtained since that time, because it is perfectly clear now that any fears he might have entertained that it was intended to carry on the administration of the Government from. Sydney during the recess are not well founded. The Minister for Home Affairs has told him that all he proposes is at the close of the session to take one or two officers with him to New South Wales in order that he may be able from there to discharge the same duties as he has been discharging during this long and arduous session in Melbourne. His Under-Secretary and the rest of his staff will remain here, where the work of the department will be practically carried on. I regret that the honorable senator has brought forward this matter, because it places a hindrance in the way of the growth of that friendly feeling between the States that we all so much desire. The people of Victoria certainly desired very much that Melbourne should be the permanent seat of government. An arrangement was come to at the Premiers’ Conference, and under the Constitution, until we have a capital of our own, Parliament is to sit in Melbourne. The people of Victoria have gone to a great deal of trouble, and also expense to accommodate us. They certainly have treated us very well indeed, but I do not think they would object at the end of a long session to Ministers returning to their own States to live there for a month or two - it may be three months. Let us remember always that we are a federation, and that the Ministers are taken from the different States. Is it unreasonable to expect that they will desire, at the end of a long session, to visit their own States, and spend a little time there ? Any Minister who takes the slightest interest in the working of his department must desire that at such a time a continuity of the policy of his office shall be maintained. He can insure that continuity if he is permitted to live in his own State, and by telegram or otherwise direct the movements of his department. By that means he will insure more consistent administration than if he left his department to be run by another Minister. New South Wales is principally concerned now, but another State may be concerned at another time. I have been in Melbourne for more than thirteen months, and surely it is not unreasonable that I should ask to be allowed at the end of the session to go back to Queensland for a month or two1? If we are expected to stop in Melbourne all the year round in order to administer our departments, we shall be entirely severed from our States ; and the advantages that we expected to result from this form of government will be almost entirely lost. Of course, it may be said that a department might be carried on by another Minister. But unless it is absolutely necessary, is it not more desirable that-a Minister should be put in a position to carry on the administration of his department during his temporary absence ? Senator Matheson drew from Queensland an illustration that was entirely inappropriate. For as long as I remember the Premier of Queensland has resided in a suburb of Brisbane, and, in the recess he visits his constituency just as a private member of Parliament visits a far distant constituency. A State has a unified form of government, but the Commonwealth is a union of the States which are all represented in the Cabinet. Surely it is only a fair thing that every Minister shall have as much opportunity as can be given to him to live in his State during the recess if that can be arranged ? I think it would be a very good thing if every Minister had an opportunity of visiting each State, because in that way he would become better acquainted with the circumstances of the States. In each State there is an office of some kind for the accommodation of the Minister of a transferred department, but in the case of the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Home Affairs, there is only the building in Sydney, of which we are speaking, except, of course, the offices in Melbourne, in which a Minister can transact the business of his department.
– Supposing that all the Ministers go to their own States at the same time?
– That is not likely to happen. There will always be a certain number of members in Melbourne, even during recess. It would not be reasonable to ask the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Home Affairs to spend their time in Melbourne when Parliament is not sitting. I think that a Minister owes a duty to himself, as well as the Commonwealth, to keep in touch with his own State. Therefore, it is very reasonable that the two Ministers I have mentioned should have a suitable office in Sydney for that purpose. I do not know whether the rent of the building is very excessive. Senator Matheson draws a comparison between the rent of the Sydney office at £500 a year and the rent of the Melbourne offices at £750 a year. I do not know where the honorable senator got his information from. I believe the matter stands in this way : That the State Government acquired the property, and have gone to the expense of making the alterations, The amount of the rent I do not think has yet been settled, but it will represent a certain percentage of the cost, whatever it may be. Surely honorable senators are not going to split hairs about a few pounds for the rent of the place, in view of the importance of seeing that at this stage of our career we do nothing that will have the effect of alienating the feelings of any State in the Commonwealth. The great State of New South Wales has, perhaps, some reason to feel that in consequence of the unusual and unexpected, length of the session the Commonwealth Government have been located in Melbourne to an extent that was not anticipated at the time the people of New South Wales agreed to come into the Federation.
– That is so.
– I do not think that any? one in any of the States anticipated that we should have a session extending into the second year.
– Blame the New South Wales members for that.
– I do not want to blame any one. We have had a session which will probably extend to fifteen months, the consequence of which has been that the Common wealth. Government has been located in Melbourne for a very long period. I can quite understand that the people of New South Wales are surprised and feel a bit hurt about this. Is this a time to raise a question about the expenditure of a couple of thousand pounds, including the year’s rent, which is to be spent in order that the two Ministers who come from New South Wales may be allowed to live there and carry on the business of their departments for about a couple of months during the recess? I urge that it is not -wise, at a time when we know that there is a little friction between the States, over minor matters - a friction which, believe, will soon disappear - to raise a question about so small an expenditure, which probably means - very little to a community of 4,000,000 of people, but which means a great deal to the people of New South Wales. So far as concerns gratifying luxurious tastes, if a desire on the part of Ministers to spend a few weeks at home at the end of the session can be so described, I would say that I look upon it certainly as a pleasure, and also as a duty - as it is the duty of those who represent other States in the Commonwealth - to endeavour, as soon as the session is over, to go back to my State, meet the people who sent me here, and say that, though, unfortunately, owing to the extraordinary length of the session, I have been away so long, I desire it to be understood that I continue to belong to the State which I represent.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - It is not often that I am found supporting the Government, but on this occasion I certainly cannot support the proposal of my honorable friend, Senator Matheson. The Postmaster-General has stated, in favour of maintaining the offices in Macquariestreet, Sydney, many reasons which are quite as strong as the reasons advanced by Senator Matheson for doing away with them. But let me give a few other reasons, which have not been stated. As to the question of cost, Senator Matheson makes a great complaint about £500 a year. Perhaps the honorable senator would be interested to know the percentage of the rental upon the value of the offices in Macquariestreet. It happens to be 5 per cent, on the estimated value - that is, the valuation upon the Government books. Now, what are these gigantic premises ? The building is so small that it only has two rooms on a floor. There is a passage down one side of it, and the rooms are off the passage. There is room in a corner for a lift, the cost of which are included in the alterations! As. the building happens to be five or six storeys high, a lift is rather a necessity in these luxurious days. I have made inquiries, and find that the arrangements aresuch that the building does not need any structural alteration for the purposes of thelift, which will be placed in a corner wherepreviously there was a circular staircase. The arrangements made are that when the occupancy of the’ building by the Federal Government terminates, the lift can betaken out and the stairs replaced.
– What will be donewith the lift then 1
– My honorable friend can comfort himself with the knowledge that a lift has a money value. There are always numbers of buildings being erected in Sydney in which lifts are being continually placed. Therewill be no difficulty in finding a buyer for the lift when the time comes. What does, this rental of 5 per cent, amount tol It amounts as near as possible to one-third of a farthing per head of the population of New* South Wales. and the total cost for the fitting up and furnishing, as given by the Postmaster-General, comes to a fraction over a farthing per annum for each member of the Commonwealth. Is it worth while to make such a great fuss about swallowing such an exceedingly small camel? There are some purposes for such a building which have not yet been stated. When Ministers have gone to visit that unimportant town on the shores of Port Jackson, called Sydney - a place that happens, so far as the annual value of its property is concerned, to be the second city in the Empire, standing next to London - and they have had to receive deputations and hold interviews with various persons, there have been no premises in connexion with the federal administration which either the Prime Minister or the Minister for Home Affairs could use. There is no place in Sydney in which Members of the Federal Parliament can meet, or be interviewed, or receive deputations. To my personal knowledge representatives of New South Wales in the Federal Parliament have had to receive persons desiring to -see them on public business at all sorts of undesirable places. I have known deputations to be received in hotel rooms and in the show-room of a business establishment. People having business to transact with Ministers of the Crown and Members of Parliament have been put to considerable inconvenience, because there has been no federal office in Sydney where business could be done. The same remark applies to other capital cities. I take it that in each of the capitals of the States accommodation will have to be made for the transaction of the public business of the Commonwealth. This can be done in an inexpensive manner, and I shall not be found grumbling at any rational, proper, and adequate expenditure for the purpose.
– Axe there not two or three spare rooms in the enormous Sydney Post-office ?
– No; there are no spare rooms in the Sydney Post-office.
– I know that the Post-office in Sydney has been largely increased, and a number of additional rooms have been constructed to meet the requirements of the service. The amount of business that has to be done in some of the States is not perhaps properly appreciated by gentlemen whose experience has necessarily been limited to the transaction of smaller affairs. I hope I do not say that offensively to any one. At times we all have our eyes open by learning what we did not know before. For instance, the statement made to-night in regard to the expenditure on Government House must have been an eye-opener to some of us. In like manner an investigation into the large amount of business transacted in some of the States would convince some honorable senators that there may be reasons for such expenditure as is now before us even if one be absolutely opposed to anything in the way of luxuries. In regaid to the expenditure on the Sydney and Melbourne offices respectively, honorable senators may not be aware that there is a considerable difference in value between rents of buildings in the two cities. Why that is so I do not know ; but I am told, on very excellent authority, that for such a building as Marli £350 would be the outside rental in Melbourne, whereas £500 is not an unusual rent for such premises in Sydney
– If the lift is not to be taken over by the landlord the cost of constructing it should be added to the rent.
-Col. NEILD.- The lift can be removed when the Commonwealth vacates the building though I think it exceedingly likely that the landlord will be glad to take it over if it is maintained in good working order. I have given reasons for thinking why in each of the State capitals there should be some adequate public offices for the transaction of Commonwealth business. This establishment in Sydney will, I hope, be fitted up in a substantial manner, so that repairs will not amount to much. I hope the furniture will not be luxurious, but common-sense furniture, that will stand wear and tear. I do not think the people of the Commonwealth will object to an adequate home being established for the Commonwealth in a great . centre. With reference to the opinion quoted from Mr. Barton, I imagine the quotation was from a speech made in another place, and it was certainly not an opinion given in writing under the terms of the Constitution. On the other hand doctors differ, and the VicePresident of the Executive Council, Senator O’Connor, who, like Mr. Barton, is a King’s Counsel, gave a deliberate written opinion that was published through the length and breadth of New South Wales, and used for the purpose of inducing the people of that State to vote for the Commonwealth Bill, and that, opinion set out in the clearest manner that, under no circumstances, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Bill, could the seat of Government ever be anywhere but in New South Wales. I am not saying that the opinion given by Senator O’Connor is correct, but I am setting it against the verbal ipse dixit of the Prime Minister when, I suppose, he was in a tight place in the other Chamber, and desired to get out of a difficulty. As the Postmaster-General has said the people of New South Wales have had some reason to feel disappointed with many matters connected with the Commonwealth. I suppose that each State has felt some disappointment. But the people of New South Wales have had to give up more than the people of any other State. New South Wales is the one State that had to give up a public policy which has been dear to the majority of its people for many’ years, and was never reversed at any public election that ever took place. Under the circumstances, the people of that State have a fair right, when there is this clashing of opinion as to the strict interpretation of a clause in the Constitution, to say that in their capital city they should have some visible evidence of the Commonwealth Government in the shape of some building that should be regarded as a centre for the transaction of Commonwealth business. The renting of the building at the corner of Spring and Collins streets from the State Government of Victoria does not represent the whole of the expenditure in connexion with those offices. One building after another has been taken in, the stables have been pulled down, and rooms have been erected there, and still it appears that there is not, sufficient room foi- Commonwealth officers. I have only been there once, and I cannot judge whether the place is crowded or not, but I assume that Ministers, with the cry of retrenchment everlastingly in their ears, are not -.keeping rooms idle at the corner of Spring-street. I am assured that there is not room there for the housing of all the clerks necessary for the transaction of Commonwealth business, and this very building in Macquarie-street, Sydney, is now being used by officers connected with the electoral department, who can transact their business there as well as they could anywhere else. It is clear, therefore, that the building is at present put to a practical and definite use. Let me remind honorable senators also that this building in Macquariestreet has some sort of historical interest. It was the first bit of property the Commonwealth of Australia possessed, though it was leasehold property, I admit. It was rente:! for the Commonwealth Government before the Federal Parliament ever met, and was used before the federal elections took place. I remember that, until that building was taken, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia was to be found in a little dark room under the stairs in the Treasury,’ in Sydney, a most indecent arrangement for a Commonwealth boasting itself to be so magnificent. Premises of some kind were found to be an adsolute need, this building was taken, and no one ever raised a -word against it until the other day.
– Nobody knew of it.
– I think it was pretty well known. A large number of Members of the Federal Parliament visited Sydney at the time of the Ducal visit, and their cards of. invitation and other little etceteras of the kind were distributed from the Federal Government offices in Macquariestreet, Sydney. I do not think the motion will be taken seriously, and we may as well, by agreeing to the vote as it stands, show that there is no desire on the part of one State to peck at and quarrel with another in. the manner referred to by the PostmasterGeneral.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I think Senator Matheson has done service to the Commonwealth in bringing this matter, forward, because the defence of the item that we have heard from the PostmasterGeneral and Senator Neild shows that there is something more intended than merely providing an office for the head of a department and his UnderSecretary. The exhibition of Sydney spread-eagleism we have just heard from Senator Neild points to the fact that there is an attempt to be made on behalf of Sydney to assert a claim which the honorable senator tells us Senator O’Connor says it has to be the seat of government during the recess. If that be not so, most of the speech of Senator Neild was thrown* away. It appears that the first attempt to bring that about is this- proposal to provide offices at a rental value of £10 per week for Government departments during the recess. I should not object to the proposal so much if all the States were to be served alike, and if the Government, for instance, were to propose that the Defence department should run a federal office at Perth during the recess.
– Is there not an office for the Defence department in Perth 1
– There is an office for the State commandant, but there is no office for the Federal Defence department. Senator Neild looks upon these offices in Sydney as a sort of recreation club for federal representatives from New South Wales - a place where they are to wait upon Ministers with deputations, and where they may gain a certain amount of kudos from their constituents by parading before them in the centre of New South Wales. I remind the committee that members representing other States in the Commonwealth have to come to Melbourne if they wish to bring a deputation before Ministers, and I see no reason for making any exception in favour of representatives from New South Wales. Senator Neild a few weeks ago was righteously indignant because some Minister used a room in this building as a bedroom. The Minister’ had some justification, after listening to a long speech from the honorable senator, for desiring to have a room somewhere near the building in which he could rest. Senator Neild looked upon that as a very important matter, but he is prepared to accept this proposal for the establishment of federal offices in Sydney for the use of himself and others at a cost of £500 per annum. The Commonwealth has gone to a great deal of expense in fitting up federal offices at the corner of Spring-street and Collins-street for the purpose of administering the various departments from Melbourne. All that New South Wales can claim is that when the federal capital is chosen it shall be in that State, but not in Sydney, and not within, 100 miles of Sydney, and whatever claim New South Wales may have to the seat of government, Sydney has no claim to it. Until the seat of government is chosen, I shall give no vote in favour of administering any Commonwealth departments from Sydney. I consider that, until the federal capital is established, Melbourne is the seat of government, and if my constituents desire to ventilate grievances, by means of a deputation or otherwise, they can come to Melbourne and we can make arrangements by which they will be able to wait upon Ministers here. We are not to have the convenience of being able to wait even upon the Minister for Defence in Perth. If we wish to interview him we must come to Melbourne, and I fail to see why .any exception should be made which will enable the people of New South Wales to wait upon Ministers representing that State in Sydney. As for Ministers visiting their constituents during recess, every one knows that Ministers are very seldom to be found at their offices during a recess. The working of the departments is left practically to a secretary and staff, and Ministers will find ample opportunity to visit their New South Wales constituents and do any necessary political work. They must remember that, though they represent New South’ Wales constituents, since the)7 have accepted office in the Federal Government they are the servants of the Commonwealth, and the people. of Western Australia, South Australia, and the other States have an equal right to, and an equal claim upon, their services with the people of New South Wales. It will be an injustice to the States of Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia if their people have to pass the seat of government and hunt about Sydney to find the Minister for Home Affairs.
– They will find his secretary here.
– I fail to see why the people of these States should be content with interviewing the secretary of a department when the people of New South Wales are to be given an opportunity of interviewing the Minister.
– Does the honorable senator wish that the Minister should be here all the year round 1
– I desire that the seat of government should be here, and that the departments should be administered from Melbourne until the federal capital is established. If we are to provide a building for the Minister for Home Affairs at an expense of £10 a week in Sydney, do the Government propose to establish an office at Ballarat for the Attorney-General ? That would be on all fours with this proposal. I take it that Mr. Deakin would wish to be as near his constituents as Sir William Lyne, and there would be just as much force in the contention that the Government should provide offices for the AttorneyGeneral at Ballarat as that they should provide offices for the Minister for Home Affairs in Sydney. I shall vote for the motion submitted by Senator Matheson as an indication that I believe the seat of government should be in Melbourne until the federal capital is chosen in New South Wales.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I also intend to support Senator Matheson in this matter. I think it is very clear, from the apologetic character of the speech delivered by the Postmaster-General, that this arrangement is being entered into for no other reason than to smooth down Sydney a little. We have had a statement from one of the New South Wales representatives that- that State feels hurt. The honorable senator did not say why it felt hurt, or in what way it had been injured. He merely volunteered the statement that New South Wales “is hurt by something, and presumably it is because the Federal Parliament is sitting in Melbourne, and there is no immediate prospect of its being removed to the State of New South Wales. The honorable senator also told us that New South Wales had sacrificed more than any State in the union for federation, and that she had given up her traditional policy for its sake. I should not be justified in entering fully into that matter just now, but I may say that I heartily congratulate New South Wales upon being compelled to give up her traditional policy. Notwithstanding my honorable friend, Senator Pulsford, I say that that is the best thing that has happened to her during the last half century. We are not discussing that matter, but merely the question of whether we are to have a separate set of offices for two members of the Commonwealth Government in Sydney. ‘ If we are going to have offices in Sydney, why not offices also in Brisbane, and in all the other capitals ?
– I shall be happy to see the honorable senator at the Post-office in Brisbane.
– I know perfectly well that the Postmaster-General will be happy to see me at the Post-office, either in Rockhampton or Brisbane ; .and if he comes to Rockhampton, and I wish to introduce a deputation to him, I am sure I shall be able to wait upon him at his hotel, or I shall be able to get the use of a room from the municipal council. There will be no difficulty in providing accommodation to meet the honorable and learned senator. If we can provide such accommodation in a small place like Rockhampton, surely there ought to be ample means to effect the same purpose in a big place like Sydney. If this concession be allowed to Sydney, a perfectly good claim for the same thing may be made by the capital of every other State of the Commonwealth. I do not object to the Government proposal because of any jealousy towards New South Wales, or because I think Sydney has been badly treated. I do not think an arrangement of this character is likely to conduce to good Government. Why cannot Ministers of the Commonwealth follow the example of Ministers in the States. When a State Minister finds that it is necessary for him to visit his constituents, he asks a fellow Minister, who is not visiting his constituents at the same time, to act for him until he conies back.
Why cannot Commonwealth Ministers follow that arrangement ? The Postmaster- General said that would not do, because it would break the continuity of the administration. It would not do anything of the kind because a locum tenens never interferes with the policy of the department he is temporarily administering. He merely puts his signature to the necessary documents in order that the administration of the department may be carried on without a hitch. The great complaint against the Commonwealth throughout its entire area is that it has slowed down the wheels of administration. The administration of the departments has become centralized in Melbourne. If we have the administration of the Postal department located in Melbourne and its head resident in Brisbane, and nothing can be done by the permanent officials until he is communicated with, the wheels of administration will be slowed down still more. If the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs are to be accomodated in Sydney, why not accommodate the Minister for Trade and Customs with an office in Adelaide?
– He has his Customhouse at his disposal.
– Supposing that he did reside in Adelaide during the recess, and every matter had to be referred to that place, would it conduce to better or to worse administration? If a Minister desires to effectually control his department he must be on the spot.
– Would the honorable senator have a Minister in Melbourne all the year round ?
– There is no necessity for a Minister to be at the seat of government all the year round. It has never been claimed in a State that a Minister should remain at the seat of government all the year round. When the Minister is at the head of his department he should be at the seat of government, but when he desires to visit his constituents, or to go to another State, he should hand over his portfolio for the time being to a colleague. The Postmaster-General has said that it cannot be done in a Federation. The administration of. the Post-office is unified, and although the honorable and learned gentleman represents Queensland in the Senate, he is no more bound to that State than to every other portion of the Commonwealth. Supposing that the Minister for Home-
Affairs came from Tasmania, and desired to remove the administration of his department to Hobart, would honorable senators accept that position without cavil or objection 1 The whole thing hinges on some desire to conciliate public opinion in Sydney. The sooner New South Wales recognises that it is no greater and no less in the Commonwealth than any other State, the better it will be for everybody. The representatives of outlying States care very little for either Sydney or Melbourne. Those cities are nothing to us, except in so far as we desire to see every portion of the Commonwealth well governed. We cannot allow Sydney to arrogate to itself the position that it is superior to other portions of the Commonwealth, or to seek advantages which are denied to them. The cry of economy has been eternally dinned into our ears. Yet we have the Government spending about £1,000 a year on the renting of what I understand are useless offices in Sydney. If we were able to afford to rent such premises, not only in every State capital, but in every large centre of population in the Commonwealth, I should be very glad to agree to it, as it might be a great convenience in some ways, but as a matter of fact we are not able to afford such expenditure. I am very sorry that the arrangement for the renting of these offices in Sydney was made before Parliament had any chance of expressing its opinion. It was an improper thing for the Government to make the bargain until the money had been ‘ voted by Parliament. It is only proper that honorable senators who object to the expenditure should record their objection, so that the Government may be more careful in their future actions.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I do not think that New South Wales wishes to assume any position of superiority over any of her sister States. I am not si ware of anything having been done in that State to justify an impression of that sort. It has been said that the building in Sydney is partially a club for New South Wales members. I have never been in the building, and I am not quite sure that I know where it is. But from . what I have been told, it is being used for the purpose of getting up the electoral rolls. If it could be shown that it is required, and is useful, that would be a justification for its being rented. In New South Wales we do not want anything over and above our just dues. We do not wish to assume any position that is not rightfully ours. It is not desired to take anything which is not rightfully ours, or which is not equally given to other States. I am not prepared to justify any outlay in my State which I should not be equally prepared to justify in another State. The Minister for Home Affairs is rather fond of expenditure, and, if he is allowed a free hand, he will use it. I should like to have a little clearer justification than we have had for the renting of the building, for I. think £500 to be a fairly considerable sum. I do not find fault with any honorable senator for inquiring about the expenditure in New South Wales, but it must be remembered that at the inauguration of the Commonwealth, there must be a certain amount of latitude given, and buildings adequate to its requirements must be obtained in one place or another. I see no reason why a Minister should not be allowed to conduct his departmental business from the State in winch he may reside, when he has the good luck to be able to go home, which does not seem likely to be very often. I should be against this action unless it could be entirely justified. If it could be shown that no rooms were available in any Commonwealth building in Sydney, there would be some justification for the renting of this building in Macquarie-street, even at a cost of £500 a year. I admit that the information placed at our disposal has not been quite so clear and satisfactory as it ought to have been.
– I feel verv grateful to Senator Matheson for directing the attention of honorable senators to this important question, in order that, if they think it is a wrong step for the Commonwealth to take, they may knock the business on the head at once. I believe it is entirely wrong in principle, and certainly very dangerous in practice. In Queensland it has been, and is, the practice for a Minister, when he proposes, to visit any part of the State, to hand the duties of his department over to a colleague, and it is administered in his absence from the seat of government. I have yet to learn that any harm has come to Queensland or its residents from the pursuit of that practice. It can be followed by Commonwealth Ministers. From time to time the representatives of New South Wale1:: rise and speak about what; the people of New South Wales desire, and convey the impression to their audiences that they are voicing, not the opinions of New South Wales, but the opinions of the people of Sydney. They have come to the conclusion that Sydney is New South Wales. The fact stands out more prominently in this discussion than in any preceding one - that it is the desire of Sydney that the Minister for Home Affairs should for a certain length of time administer his department from that city. I should like Senator Neild to furnish some evidence that the people of New South Wales, outside Sydney, have made any demand of that kind. It is a wise thing, as Senator Drake says, that a Minister, as well as any other senator, should keep himself as much as possible in touch with his constituents, but does he really believe that by providing a special office in a State capital for a Minister to administer his department in he will realize his idea of a Minister getting in closer touch with his constituents ? I deny it. The idea of a Minister going from Melbourne in recess to get into touch with his constituents will be entirely negatived if he resides in a State capital. What he must do to get in touch with his constituents, especially if he is a senator, is to keep continually on the move, and not to stop too long in any centre of population in his State. I venture to assert that if the voluble representatives of New South Wales will permit the Parliament to have a recess of two or three months, Senator Drake will find that he will not be able to rest in one centre of population for more than two or three days, if he wishes to do justice to the State during that” time. It will be utterly impossible for him to travel through the State in anything like an effective manner in less than three months. Travelling day after day, without getting any rest, it will take a private member two months to do justice to his State. The principal reason why the representatives of Queensland have always complained of short adjournments, is because they are absolutely useless to us. It has been suggested by Senator Neild as a reason why there should be an office in each State capital, that a member of Parliament may wish to see a Minister, and that deputations may desire to wait upon a Minister. That is a repetition of the same old idea -that Sydney is New South Wales. I venture to say that there are other portions of. New South Wales than Sydney in which members of Parliament reside. I. know that the representatives of Queensland do not all reside in Brisbane. Senator Stewart is at home when he is in the central district of Queensland, and I am at home in the north. The PostmasterGeneral residing in Brisbane is of no more advantage to me than if he were living in Melbourne. Therefore, even as far as members and deputations are concerned, the Minister ought to be continually on the move from one centre of population to another. It is necessary to good administration that at the seat of government there should be a Minister, and if the Minister who is gazetted as the administrator of a department is not at hand, there certainly should be a locum tenens to attend to the work. I quite agree that the appointment of a locum tenens would not break the continuity of the administration. It is perfectly absurd to think that any locum tenens would break out in a fresh line, in the administration of an Act of Parliament, whilst the real administrator of the department was away attending to other business. Senator Drake may entirely disabuse his mind of the fear that those who object to the establishment of federal offices in Sydney desire to keep Ministers in Melbourne for the whole twelve months. We are. perfectly willing that Ministers should spend three or four months in their own States. We do not wish Ministers any more than ourselves to be in harness all the year round. We have had a dose of it this session, and certainly do not desire to subject Ministers to the same ordeal. Before I sit down I should like to ask honorable senators from New South Wales what the effect of their advocacy of Sir William Lyne’s policy is likely to be 1 The desire evidently is to snatch away from Melbourne the small advantage she may have gained from the establishment of the Federal Government here. But by taking this course they are strengthening the hands of the Victorians in doing exactly the same when the federal capital is established, and the administration of the Government is centred in New South Wales. If it is good for New South Wales to object to the little favours which Victoria is reaping now, it will be equally good when the capital is established in New South Wales for the Victorians to insist upon federal offices being maintained in Melbourne. If that is done the administration of the Government will be carried on alternately in different States according to whether the Parliament may be in session or recess. I certainly object to that practice. I should object to it if the federal capital were definitely established, and I object to it now.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - It strikes me that too much fuss is being made about offices being rented in Sydney. It is alleged by some honorable senators that the effect will be that during the recess the Home department will practically be transferred to Sydney. I do not view the matter in that light. If I thought that the department was likely to be transferred to Sydney during the recess I might strongly object ; but I do not think that state of affairs is likely to happen. In my opinion, when Parliament is not sitting, Ministers like the Prime Minister and Sir William Lyne ought not to be dragged to Melbourne to transact routine business. Especially is this the case in the winter time. If routine business is done close to their own doors, the affairs of the Commonwealth will not in any way suffer. The Postmaster-General has assured us that the ordinary staff will be located in Melbourne, but that Sir William Lyne will simply take a clerk or two to Sydney, in order that the routine work and correspondence may be attended to. The more important business may be transacted by wire ; and, if the Under-Secretary has some matter that requires the personal attention of the Minister, of course, the honorable gentleman will be within a few hours of Melbourne, and will make it his business to come over by the earliest train. Surely honorable senators do not wish Ministers to be kept here all the year round. We do not wish them to have no time for relaxation and recuperation after a long and arduous session. I do not like to see these jealousies existing between two States. Why should there be any jealousy between Sydney and Melbourne? It is perfectly just and reasonable that the Minister for Home Affairs, and the Prime Minister, when residing in- Sydney, should be accommodated with offices in which they may do their work close to their own doors. Sir William Lyne is a man who is now well advanced in years, and he suffers from rheumatism during the winter months. If we can save him the trouble and inconvenience of frequent journeys to Melbourne is it not just as well that his health should be preserved in that way ? He is a hardworking Minister - no man is more so - and we may rely upon it that if there were important business he would not hesitate to come to Melbourne. I cannot support the proposal to reduce the item in question, because I think that far more trouble than the matter is worth has been made in connexion with it.
– When this matter was brought forward previously in the Chamber, I spoke strongly in regard to it, and I intend to vote in accordancewith my opinion on the present occasion. It appears that Sir William Lyne is the chief mover in this matter. He says he only wants to have a clerk’ or- two over in Sydney. If he has his clerk or two, a little difficulty will arise after a few clays, and then he will want a secretary. The secretary will find that he cannot get on without the chief clerk, and that official will discover that he cannot do without the accountant, who will be unable to get on without the bookkeepers ; so that, in,about two or three weeks the whole of the department will be taken oyer to Sydney. I presume that Sir John Forrest will conduct the affairs of the Defence department in Western Australia. Sir Philip Fysh will also want offices in Tasmania j the Postmaster-General will follow the same course in Queensland, and the Minister for Trade and Customs will direct operations from Adelaide. So that when the Cabinet wants to meet, each member of it will have to travel hundreds of miles. A great deal has been said about the routine business of the departments being carried on from a distance. It has been alleged that no one can do this business except the Ministerial head. But at the present time the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence are at the other end of the world, and, so far as I am aware, their departments are being carried on all right, even with both Houses sitting. Apparently, the other Ministers can get on very well without their colleagues. If this practice is now adopted, it seems that when the federal capital is established there will be no one there during the recess, with the exception of caretakers and charwomen. Ministers will go to their State capitals, members will go to their homes, and the whole place will be deserted. We hear a good deal from New South Wales about the need for economy, and for reducing expenditure. I have no doubt that if the demand to spend £5,000 or £10,000 a year on offices in all the States had been initiated in Melbourne, there would have been a great outcry from Sydney.
– The honorable senator heard me repudiate such expenditure this evening.
– Then I trust I shall find the honorable senator voting with myself. I shall vote for Senator Matheson’s motion, and shall oppose any such expenditure on all occasions.
– I am not disposed to accept the strictures of the honorable senator who has just sat down, in face of the express statement of my colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs, that his intention merely is to take one or two clerks over to Sydney, in order to assist him in doing his own personal work in connexion with the administration of the department. I think we may accept his assurance, and I see no reason for believing, as Senator Styles seemed to think, that what is proposed is merely a cloak under which the Minister will transfer the whole of his department to Sydney. There is jio justification for that view. I must join issue with those honorable senators who tell us that a Minister can leave his department, because any other Minister who takes his place, and attends to matters of routine, will not alter the policy of the Minister of the department. If the business to be done were purely formal, surely it would not be necessary to call in a Minister at all. In the administration of a department like that of the Minister for Home Affairs, or my own, there are details which perhaps are known only to the Minister. When I speak of the continuity of administration, what I mean is that when a Minister remains in charge of his department we may be sure that the decisions given by him will be consistent one with the other. There is no break in that way. Whereas if another Minister takes charge of the department, in consequence of his not having so good a knowledge of what has gone before, we never know when he may give a decision which will contradict one which has previously been given, and which may involve the department afterwards in a considerable amount of trouble. Unless a Minister is going to be away for a long time - is leaving Australia, for instance - it’ is surely desirable where it can be done without any great expense, that he shall remain at the head of his own department ? That can be done in this instance if the committee accept the provision proposed to enable a Minister when away from the seat of government in his own State, by telegraph or by other means, to direct the administration at the head-quarters of his department.
– Is that to apply to New South Wales only 1
– I do not say that it applies only to New South Wales, but, as I pointed out before, Ministers in charge of transferred departments have office accommodation in al! the States. Something was said about the accommodation in the Sydney Post-office. I have been informed only this evening that the room formerly occupied by the PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales -is not occupied at the present time, and that is the only room in the building which is not occupied. When I was last there I instructed the Deputy Postmaster-General that if the pressure upon the accommodation made it necessary he was at liberty to make use of that room ; and until just now I was under the impression that it was occupied. Apart from .that, I can say that there is no room in . the Sydney General Post-office for the purpose sought to be served by this provision in the Estimates.
– The Government propose on the Loan Estimates to expend £12,000 on additions to the Sydney General Post-office.
– There is a big amount on the Estimates for additions to the Sydney General Post-office, and that is because although the room previously occupied by the Postmaster-General may at) some inconvenience have been left unoccupied, there is not sufficient room in that building for the transaction of the business of the department in Sydney. There is, therefore, no use in saying that there is the General Post-office in Sydney where these Ministers could be accommodated. So far as I am personally concerned, if I were in Sydney some arrangement would have to be made to give me a room in that building. I may say that before the transfer of the department I did not occupy the PostmasterGeneral’s room in the Sydney General Postoffice, but a very small room in which there was not much space for the table and chair when myself and another officer were in it.
– There is the Customs department.
– There is the Customs department, and no doubt if Mr. Kingston goes to New South Wales he will occupy rooms in the Customs-house there. If I went to New South Wales or Queensland, and a deputation desired to wait upon me, I should not ask them to come to my hotel, as Senator Stewart has suggested ; but I should ask them to come to the Post-office, as I should look upon the Post-office as being my official quarters. Why should not Ministers representing departments that were noD transferred, and in connexion with which office accommodation has not been provided in the different States, have some offices in which they can receive deputations? As it happens, the necessity for these offices does not arise except in the case of New South Wales, for the simple reason that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs, representing the departments which are not transferred, live in Sydney or the suburbs of Sydney, and will naturally desire to spend as much of their time at home as they can, when they can escape from Parliament. Senator Pulsford found that the information I was able to give was not sufficient, but he sat down without indicating in what respect it required to be supplemented. This building, it appears, -was rented and occupied before the opening of Parliament - if that is the weak point - and probably, according to the arrangements made for rent, from the 1st April. It was taken before Parliament was opened here, and consequently at a time when there was no reason why the Government should not be administered from either Sydney or Melbourne, and when it could in no sense be said > that Melbourne had become the seat of government. Previous to that the Prime Minister had a small’ room in the Treasury. Sir William’ Lyne occupied the room he had previously occupied as Premier of New South Wales, and I had the small room I have spoken of at the Post-office. Where the other Ministers were I do not know. Since then Ministers have been practically chained to Melbourne, and accommodation has been provided here on certain terms by the State Government of Victoria. The departments have been established here, and Sir William Lyne says that his department will remain here, and the business of the department will be carried on here. All he asks is that this building, which was taken before the Federal Parliament was opened in Melbourne, shall be retained.
– Was Sir William Lyne charged rent for the rooms he occupied from the 1st April to the opening of the Federal Parliament 1 Because, if he was, it would probably be at the rate of at least £250 a year.
– I do not know what arrangement was made as to that. This building was taken at that time for the carrying on of the business of the Federal Government, and it has been occupied since. Senator Matheson has repeatedly told honorable senators that it is empty and unoccupied ; but I am told that that is not so. I understand that the honorable senator is now asking, by the motion he proposes, that it shall be given up. I think that is a very unreasonable request, and to accede to it would very likely give umbrage to the people of New South Wales. I do not mention that as a strong ‘reason against the motion ; but seeing that these premises were taken before Parliament was opened, why should we now, when we are just at the end of the session, give up offices which would enable the Ministers to whom I have referred to spend some time in their own State during the recess, and at the same time carry on the business of their departments 1 I can give Senator Pulsford a little detailed information, if that is what he desires. I find that the total amount of rent asked for the year and a quarter is £625. Up to the present time £375 has been spent, and we are under a liability of £250. For repairs, maintenance, &c, the provision made on the Estimates is £1,215.
– Is that all? We could put up a building for that amount.
-I am sorry to see representatives from Victoria suddenly displaying such a cheeseparing disposition in a matter of this kind. On this account the disbursements up to the present time amount to £194, and the liabilities to £683. I find there is a note to that indicating that all claims have not yet been received, but this amount represents liabilities in connexion with certain alterations effected by the Public Works department. For fittings and furniture the provision made on the Estimates is £650. Out of that £186 has been expended, and I do not know exactly what the liabilities are. That amount may even be exceeded. The amount for the lift, £326, has been explained. For electric light and telephone, the provision made on the Estimates is £52. There has been £4 expended, and the liability is £48. The disbursements up” to the present time amount to £1,085, and the liabilities, so far as we know them, to £981 That makes the expenditure and liability up to the present time £2,066. That practically covers the whole expenditure, and as I said before, taking into consideration the fact that the rent, £625, is for a year and a quarter, the expenditure is shown to be a little over £2,000. I say again that in view of the great importance at this period of the history of the Federation of preventing anything like friction, and of allowing Ministers who belong to other States to visit their own States, and at the same time carry on the business of their departments, a vote of £2,000 is one which really should not present any difficulties to the committee. I hope Senator Matheson will not persist in his proposal. He has ventilated the matter very fully now, and I think it must be admitted that the expenditure has not been so- extravaganzas, in the first place, it was suggested it had been. The amount given is not very large for furnishing offices of this kind, and when they are no longer required, there is no doubt we shall be able to get back a great deal of the expenditure. The rent is, of course, a continuing item. We shall not be able to get that back, but a vote of £500 a year for rent, under the circumstances, is one which I think the committee should not decline to pass.
– Have the Government taken a lease of the premises 1
– I suppose they are taken on lease.
– Who is the owner 1
– What is the term of the lease ?
– I can give honorable senators the information if it is seriously asked for. At first we were told that this was a matter of principle, and honorable senators were going to vote upon it because they intended to object to any portion of the administration of a department being carried on away from Melbourne. It now suddenly appears that it is merely a matter of detail, as to how much has been spent upon chairs and tables, who is the owner of the premises, and how long they have been leased for. I do not think these details will influence honorable senators, and I ask Senator Matheson, now that the matter has been thoroughly debated, not to press his motion. I do not see how it can do any good to carry it. The honorable senator does not expect that it will effect any saving in the expenditure of public money. He has obtained what no doubt he desired, a full expression of opinion, and honorable senators should now allow the Bill to pass.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I intend, in this case, to support the Government. I look forward to Federal Government offices of some kind being established in the capital of each of the States, and I regard the objection taken to this vote as most parochial.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - From the history of the affair, it seems that the Commonwealth Government, so far as its accommodation is concerned, has had a very humble beginning. Its existence commenced practically under a stairs, and so far as Sydney is concerned, it has grown up to a five-storied building with a lift attached, and it is a cause of very great jealousy to the representatives of other States, because they have not a five-storied building with a lift attached in their State capitals. The question really is whether the Commonwealth is getting value for its money. I have not the least objection to the proposition that when a Minister goes to the capital of his State he should have reasonable accommodation for the purpose of meeting deputations and so on. But I do not think it is reasonable for the other representatives of a State to be provided at the expense of the Commonwealth with a place in which they can meet their constituents. To what use are the ten rooms in this building in Sydney being put ? At the early stage of our history would not a humbler building be quite sufficient? If the building in Sydney contains ten rooms, the weekly rent of each room is £1. The rents in Sydney must be very exorbitant if persons have to pay £1 per week for a room.
– Men pay £3 or £4 a week for a room there.
– Yes, in an hotel where they get every convenience and attendance.
– Oh no !
– Is all the building occupied, or is one-half of it waste ? If any representative of South Australia goes to Sydney, can he get accommodation in the building, or is it only available to the representatives of -New South Wales ?
– To all Members of Parliament.
– Then why not provide accommodation in Tasmania for the representatives of New South Wales or South Australia, when they go there t . The expense which has been incurred in making alterations and supplying furniture, shows that the intention was to occupy the building permanently. If it is really required, I have no objection to its occupation, provided that proportionate accommodation is made available in the capital of every State, but I do not think that I would agree to pay a rent of £500 per annum to provide accommodation in each State for members of Parliament, or even for members of the Ministry. The proper time to discuss this question at length is when we get the Appropriation Bill, and if we are asked why the objection is taken then we can point to the fact that it was taken on two previous occasions, and that the Supply Bills were allowed to pass because it was intended to raise the question on the Appropriation Bill. For these reasons, I hope that Senator Matheson will not press his motion at this stage.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - The Estimates need not necessarily come up for some time. This is the last Supply Bill for the current year, and once the money has been voted it will be a matter of indifference to the Government how or when the Estimates come before the Senate. I intend to call for a division, and get the matter settled once and for all. If I lose I shall have the verdict of the Senate in that direction, and if I win the country will get the benefit of the verdict.
– The Government have taken this building on a seven years’ lease, but the State Government have agreed to take it off their hands at the end of three or four years if it is so desired. I hardly think that any honorable senator would expect the Commonwealth Government in the meantime to sublet the building for a boarding-house. The building has been taken and furnished for this purpose, and it would be infra dig for the Commonwealth at this ‘stage to apply it to any other purpose for the sake of saving some money. I do not think it is quite right or Senator Matheson to say that a division will record the decision of the Senate one way or the other. For instance, among others, Senator McGregor, whatever opinion he may have on the subject, will not vote for a motion of this kind in respect of a Supply Bill. The money has been practically expended, and the Supply Bill is necessary in order to legalize the expenditure of money this month. This is not the best way of getting the decision of the Senate. It can be obtained when we come to deal with the Estimates without going to the extreme course of obstructing the passage of the Supply Bill. I hope that the motion will not be carried.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - One important point justifying the action of the Government has hardly been pressed home as it might have been. The Government came into existence on the 1 st January, and it was not until three months afterwards that the rooms were taken in Sydney. During all the early weeks of the Commonwealth’s existence the Ministers representing New South Wales - the most important Ministers - had not a foot of office room to call their own. The Prime Minister, we are told, had the use of two official rooms, and the Minister for Home Affairs had the use of his old Ministerial room and his secretary’s office. If the amount which the Ministers could have been properly charged by the State for the u se of four rooms could be put down I believe it would come to £300 a year, and their share of the cost of the charwoman and the messenger would bring the cost up to £350. In renting rooms at £500 a year the Ministers can hardly be accused of extravagance. The Parliament meets in Melbourne, and, to the surprise of every one, it sits for fifteen months instead of six months, so that the rooms in Sydney have not been wanted, as the Ministers iia the first instance might reasonably have supposed they would be. The debate has, I think, taken a narrow and parochial turn. After this long session every Minister is entitled not only to go to his home and there enjoy himself, but to transact business and to pick up many wrinkles which he could not learn if he remained in Melbourne. I do not think that the smaller States, with a twenty-second part of the population, have a right to receive the same’ consideration as has New South Wales, which contains a third of the population of the Commonwealth. Two of the most important of the Ministers live in Sydney, and they have a right to have there an office which they Gan call their own.
Question put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether a mistake has not occurred in connexion with the details he gave of the item of £5,000 for the expenses of the GovernorGeneral’s establishment. He said that it included a sum of £1,538 for gas and electric lighting. He will find that as part of the vote represented by £1,725 under the head of Works and Buildings in this Bill, there is a considerable sum on the Estimates for gas and electric lighting at Government House in Melbourne and Sydney. On page 3 of the papers distributed by the Treasurer on the occasion of opening his first Budget, my honorable and learned friend will find an item of £942 for Melbourne, and an item of £500 for Sydney included in the sum of £4,326 under the head of Department for External Affairs. That sum of money, I understand, has been voted on the Estimates in anotherplace. Therefore the total sum that the Government propose to ask us to pass for the electric and gas lighting of the two Government Houses for the period under discussion is £2,980. When the estimates of the expense of lighting Government Houses in connexion with the vote of £8,000 were placed before the public, we were told that the lighting of the two houses would cost £1,600, and yet we have a sum of nearly double the amount of the estimate voted. I should like to have an explanation from the Minister.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I have taken some trouble to find out what amounts have been voted on the Estimates, and the records of the other House, which I hold in my hand, show that I am absolutely right in my statement. If the Minister refers to the total on the Estimates for the department, he will find that it is £144,124. The total cost on the Estimates, as appears by the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, No. 180, is £142,134. That leaves a difference of £ 1 , 9 9 0 . The Inter-State Commission having been struck out, viz., £1,490, and £500 to provide astatue at Corowa being struck out also, that makes the difference of £1,990. But if the Minister will refer to the papers which have been circulated, he will find that the £4,326 includes the item to which I alluded, and is left untouched. I have taken care to see that I am absolutely accurate in this matter.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I want to ascertain how we stand with regard to the conveyance of Members of Parliament and others over the railways. I understand that the Queensland Government have refused to accept any money from the Commonwealth on that account. I should like to know whether that is the case.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- Can the Postmaster-General tell us when the Auditor-General is likely to have ready his report 1 I hope that he will not follow the example of the “Victorian Auditor-General, and submit his report when it is of no value to Parliament.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- The Postmaster - General may remember that when we were discussing the last Supply Bill I drew his attention to what I considered to be a great injustice to Customs officers. He said he would look into the matter, more especially with regard to the possibility of paying them overtime. I should like him to tell the committee whether arrangements have been made, or are likely to be made, within a reasonable time for the payment of overtime to these officers.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I must confess that I am disappointed with the( information supplied by the PostmasterGeneral. The facts are that a large number of civil servants employed in the Customs department have had to work an enormous amount of overtime. I personally know of a case where one man has worked at least 300 hours overtime in the Customs department. It is quite unsatisfactory that these officers should not receive pecuniary recompense. We are told that the officers are to get special leave. But when is .that to be given t The special leave has been deferred from tune to time, and is always in the distance. Up to the present time I do not believe that a single Customs officer has had leave of absence. Can the PostmasterGeneral tell us when the special leave is to be given to the officers 1 In Tasmania I know that it is not available, and has not been up till to-day. Is the leave which is promised to be a farce or a reality ? Are these men, who have been working in some cases from twelve to fourteen hours a day, going to have the leave which is promised to them deferred indefinitely, or can the Minister tell us when it is to be given *1
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - The hope expressed by the PostmasterGeneral is scarcely likely to be fulfilled. There is little or no diminution of the trouble in the Customs department in How South Wales, nor is there any prospect of the pressure being relieved. The very difficulty that Senator Drake objects to will be accentuated by giving leave to officers. If leave is given there will be fewer hands ‘to-do the work. To promise leave to the men is only to make will-of- the- wisp promises to them, which there is not the least likelihood of being fulfilled. I quite agree that, if a state of pressure is exceptional, and is not likely to be chronic - which I believe the pressure will be under this Tariff - the proper thing is to pay the officers. To pile up leave which is never likely to be granted, is simply to deceive the officers. Senator Clemons speaks of men who have worked sixteen hours a day. I know of men who have worked 24 and 30 hours at a stretch. Their bread and butter depends upon the work, and they have to put up with these conditions for the sake of their families. But it is utterly improper. No doubt the leave is promised in all good faith, and it is intended to be granted, but it never can be granted unless the troubles that exist in the department come to an end, and there is no prospect of that.
- Senator Neild has mentioned cases where some officers have had to work 30 hours atastretch. That is a revelation to me, and I do not believe that any member of this Parliament desires that officers should be kept on duty for such a period. I am inclined to the opinion which Senator Clemons has expressed - that it would be better to pay overtime to officers who have been kept at work after hours, and have the thing settled and done with. If the leave promised to them is to be deferred, a great injustice will be done.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I should like to hear some explanation from the Postmaster-General in connexion with Division 27, subdivision (3) -“ Miscellaneous, £468.” I can find no information in the Estimates about that sum, but, on turning to the Supplementary Estimates, I find an item set down as compensation for loss of office to the Commissioners appointed under the New South Wales Customs Regulation Act. Why are we to pay these gentlemen pensions ?
– The explanation is this Previous to federation the services of these Commissioners of Customs were provided for under a State Act of New South Wales. They were taken over by the Commonwealth, and have been serving the Commonwealth since then. It appears now that these officers were appointed by the State Government for a. definite term. Their position was taken into consideration, and it was considered fair in order to conserve theirrights under the Constitution that they should receive a payment which would carry them on to about the end of the year, the term of their engagement. They, therefore, get payment at the rate of about £100 per annum each up to the end of the year.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - The honorable and learned senator has not explained the necessity for dispensing with the services of, these officers. Surely if the Customs department could not employ them they might have been employed in some other branch of the Commonwealth service, in preference to some of the gentlemen who have been importedinto it from outside, and whohave had no previous experience of civil service wor
I speak upon the matter with considerable diffidence, because I do not understand the arrangements that were made in .New South Wales ; but it does seem unnecessary to pay these gentlemen £468, and still have to dispense with them.
– After the passage of the Customs Act of 1901, their services were not required by the Commonwealth, but they had been engaged by the New South Wales Government on the terms that their engagement was definite up to some time about the end of the year. Therefore at the desire of the New South Wales Government we have paid these gentlemen compensation to take them over the remainder of their term, and the amount will be debited to the State of New South Wales, at whose rc- - quest the arrangement has been made.
-(New South Wales).- I can throw a little light on this -matter. These Commissioners of Customs are not ordinary members of the Civil Service as the service is generally referred to. They are three merchants who sit as a board to settle Customs disputes. There is no such Board provided for under the Commonwealth Customs Act, and they could not be transferred to any other dspartment. Now that - that matter has been disposed of, in pursu- once of what I said on the second reading of the Bill, I move -
That the House of Representatives be re- quested to reduce the item, Department of Defence, “ Seventh Regiment Volunteer Infantry, salaries £322,” by £33 13s. 4d. “The reduction proposed is one month’s :,salary and allowances of an adjutant of the Seventh Regiment, there being no such officer. I have already spoken upon -the subject, and I ‘shall not take up time -.speaking upon it again. It seems to me highly improper that Parliament should vote a sum for a maintenance of a regiment, and that a portion of that money, amounting to £400 per annum should be diverted to some entirely different purpose. If the officer referred to is required on the head-quarters staff, his salary should be provided for on the Estimates for the head-quarters staff, and not on the Estimates for the regiment.
– I am not prepared at the present time to go into the details of this case, but I have no doubt it is one of a great, number where the services of an officer employed by a State have been temporarily availed of for Commonwealth purposes. I have no doubt that this officer ‘ has been temporarily transferred for staff purposes, and he will probably be returned to . his duties in the State when his services are no longer required on the staff.
Senate adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 June 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020617_senate_1_10/>.