2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, without notice, what are the intentions of the Government with regard to affording the Senate a further opportunity to discuss the scheme for the classification of the Public Service?
– As I stated last week, in answer to Senator Smith, it is the desire of the Government to give honorable senators who have not addressed themselves to this subject an opportunity to do so as early as possible. In accordance with the promise then made to that honorable senator, and to the Senate, I wish to notify that if the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill be disposed of during the afternoon, I propose in the evening to move the adjournment of the Senate, when those honorable, senators who have not discussed this matter may do so.
– Will the honorable -and learned senator allow the Senate to register a vote on the question ?
– That is a matter for the Senate to consider.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, without notice, whether the Government intend this session to bring in a Bill relating to a Meteorological Department ?
– Since the Conference was held at Adelaide, the Government have been in communication with the Governments of the States with the object of getting the necessary information to enable them to submit a Bill, if possible, during this session. So far as I know, no replies have yet been received, but a fairly full answer to a similar question was given by the Minister of Home Affairs in another place, and may be found on page 665 of Hansard of this session.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
These questions are under consideration, and will be submitted to the Council of Defence at its next meeting.
asked the. Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
What is the additional estimated cost of having the steamer Metric England overhauled at Brisbane instead of Sydney, if any ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
So far as the mere cost of overhauling is concerned, the difference would probably be in favour of Brisbane, where the Government make no dock charges. It would not be possible to give any comparison of the cost of effecting the necessary repairs unless the vessel were overhauled, and prices obtained at both places.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
If any communication has recently been received from the Imperial Government on the subject of Australian legislation designed to exclude Asiatics and other coloured people?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
No, not since1901.
– I ask the indulgence of the Senate while I make a brief explanation. When reading last week’s Hansard at my home, I discovered that certain views were attributed to me which I do not hold. I find from references made by Senator Givens that I am supposed to condemn a certain religion. I absolutely abstained from making reference to religion when I spoke on the question of Home Rule for Ireland, and I take this opportunity of saying that I have been misrepresented. I hold no objectionto any particular religion. I am descended from Roman Catholics, as well as Protestants. I have a second cousin who is a nun, and I entertain a very kindly feeling towards Roman Catholics. I have not said or implied that Home Rule means Rome rule.
– Arising out of that, sir-
– No discussion can take place on a personal explanation.
– I should like to make a personal explanation too.
– In making a personal explanation the honorable senator can only explain how he has been misrepresented.
– I am not at all anxious to speak, sir.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 15th September, vide page 2377):
Clause 3 agreed to.
– I notice an item of £65 for a jetty at Brisbane. Such an item has not previously appeared on any Estimates, and I desire to know whether it is the intention of the Government to take over the jetties and wharfs in the various States. The Government ought to explain why this vote of£65 is required, and if it is proposed to take over the wharfs and jetties of the various States the question ought to be raised in another manner.
– This vote is required for the construction of a jetty at Brisbane for berthing the Customs launch. At present private wharfs are used for this purpose by the courtesy of the proprietors, and it is thought that the Customs House should have a wharf of its own.
– I think that the Committee ought to be furnished with some information concerning the proposed expenditure of . £1,909 on the Sydney Customs House.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The work is in progress. The money was voted last year, but Was not spent. This is only a re-vote.
– Had they no Customs House in Sydney?
– If the honorable senator will look at the schedulehe will see that this vote is required for additions to the Customs House, and not for the erection of a new building. The money was voted last year, but was not spent. Contracts were let, and the work is in progress.
– It will be recollected that the Minister of Defence made some extraordinary statements about some items which had to be voted for one purpose, but which he intends to spend for another purpose. I should like to know what military officers are responsible for the Defence Estimates, how they were framed, and whether they were seen by the Council of Defence. Has any attempt been made to arrive at uniformity as to the various requirements and suggestions made by the Commandants of the States? How is it that so many sums are to be re-voted for rifle ranges and drill halls? I should have thought thatmost of the rifle ranges that are necessaryhad been provided long ago. I also have to complain that all kinds of items aremixed up together. We have votes for additions to barracks, fortifications, rifle ranges, and drill halls and it seems to me to be very undesirable to lump subjects together in that way. I should like to see them separated.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia. - Minister of Defence). - The particulars in connexion with the first item under the heading New South Wales, “ Fortifications, barracks, rifle ranges, and drill halls, £1,239 occupy several pages of the specification I hold in my hand. I will give the Committee a sample. Extensions are required for the quarters of the married non-commissioned officers at Chowder Bay. There is also an amount to form a trench at the Armstrong rifle range. The rest of the particulars include such things as lanterns and lamps for drill halls, and so on.
– What officers certified that these things were urgently required?
– The Commandant of New South Wales first made his requisition, which went before the board. The board went through the items, and agreed to the expenditure as being necessary. The late Minister of Defence approved in the first instance, and I also approved before the schedule -was laid on the table of the other branch of the Legislature. It will be impossible for me to read all the items, but I have every information down to the minutest particular.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- Let us take, for example, item number 4; New South Wales new works, “ Fortifications, barracks, rifle ranges and drill halls,£4,479,” of which£360 is a re-vote. A number of other rifle ranges and drill halls are particularized in the schedule. Why not particularize the whole lot under one heading?
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence).- The items make up a very long list. I will mention one by way of sample. It relates to the drill hall at Kogarah, and is to provide a new set of shutters, with appliances.
– What are the particulars with regard to fortifications?
– Part of the expenditure relates to the quarters at St. George’s Heights, Sydney, and is to provide bathrooms for the married men’s quarters. There are other items in connexion with the fortifications at St. George’s Heights, and the fortifications at South Head battery, where two additional rooms have to be provided in connexion with the laboratory. These items are put down to fortifications because they relate to a fortifiedposition.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales)’. - I do not take exception to the amount of money we are asked to vote, but I object to the way in which the items are presented. For instance, fortifications, barracks’, rifle ranges, and drill halls are lumped together in item 4 of subdivision 1 of division 2, New South Wales, and the expenditure is , £4,479. The Minister has been unable to show that a single item relates to fortifications exclusively. It would be much more convenient to have the items placed before us in a more collected form. For instance, we should be able to ascertain how much money is to be spent on fortifications alone. We should also know the amount to be spent on barracks and rifle ranges. Expenditure on various rifle ranges is spread over a considerable number of headings. It appears to me that there ought to be a single heading containing the expenditure in a certain direction. The present method has a tendency to mystify honorable senators, as they do not know exactly how the money is to be spent. We do not want the whole of the details in respect of fortifications at South Head, Sydney. If the amount is , £5,000 it can be put down under that heading. But when we are asked to vote£100 here, £200 there, and £300 in another place for repairs to various fortifications we are puzzled to know the particular directions in which the money is going. The same objections apply to barracks and drill halls. The fault is in the way the Estimates are presented. I have no doubt that the Minister, if he gives consideration to the matter, will be able to devise a way in which the information can be placed before us so as to avoid unnecessary jumping from item to item, in order to get a grasp ofthe directions in which money is being spent.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - In going through the Estimates, I was struck with the same considerations as have been mentioned by Senator Gould: I could not, from the way in which the items were put down, form any accurate idea as to what was going to be spent on any particular line. I thought it wouldbe a great deal better if the amounts to be spent on fortifications, barracks, drill halls, and rifle ranges were set out under separate headings, details of which could be furnished if inquiries were made by honorable senators. If I have the constructing of the Estimates next year, I shall take care that due attention is given to the point of view that has been presented.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I should like to have answers to two questions which I put to the Minister. It must be borne in mind that these works are being paid for. out of revenue, and I take it that the various Commandants will feel it to be their duty to obtain as much money as they can to be spent in their various States. Is any attempt made to secure uniformity in the way in which the Commandants present their requirements ? If not, a Commandant in one State actuated by motives of economy may ask for very little money, whereas a Commandant in another State may ask for a great deal. I venture the suggestion that some of these works are not urgently required. I cannot conceive it to be possible that out of eighteen items no less than twelve are necessary for rifle ranges. Are we to understand that the people in these localities have been doing without rifle ranges in the past.’’ Are the members of rifle clubs increasing? I do not think so.
– They are.
– Is there more drilling than there used to be ? The schedule would suggest to a stranger the idea that we are just starting a new Defence Department.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - Senator Dobson’s first question is as to whether there is a uniform system of dealing with the requirements of the Commandants. I reply that there is. In the first place, each Commandant is instructed to economize as far as he can, and not to put down any item of expenditure that is not urgently required. Secondly, the whole of the proposalsmade by the Commandants are considered by one board. It is not as if the New South Wales Commandant could put down what he liked, and that that must necessarily go upon the Estimates. The whole of the requisitions are considered by a central board, which goes through them in a uniform manner. In respect of rifle ranges the reply is that it is the policy of the Government to do all we possibly can to encourage rifle shooting in this country. In New South Wales more, perhaps, than in the other States, sums of money have been asked for, in order to furnish the necessaryfacilities to practise rifle shooting, and we are only too pleased when we think the demands are reasonable to grant them. In Victoria, comparatively little has been asked for in this direction. There is only one item - that for the Williamstown rifle range. In South Australia there are a few items of the kind, and in Queensland rather more.
Wherever citizens are willing to form themselves into rifle clubs and practise rifleshooting, we are only too glad to set asidea reasonable sum of money in order to provide the necessary ranges. The Government are pleased to observe that rifle clubs are increasing in New South Wales.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). -
There is a sum of £600 set down for a grant to rifle clubs for rifle ranges in New South Wales, and this, I take it, means a grant for several ranges. I see in the same division that £320 is provided for a rifle range at Richmond, and also £350 for a rifle rangeat Bathurst. I should like some information, for instance, as to the new range at Richmond. We might be informed whether there has been a rifle club there before, or what is the strength of the local corps.
– For the information* of the honorable senator, I may say that in many cases private property is at present utilized forrifleranges, and, as the owners require the clubsto give up possession, the difficulty is to getsuitable sites elsewhere. Under the circumstances, it has become an absolute necessity for the Government to acquire land for the purpose. At Bathurst rifle matches are held regularly, and at Richmond and Windsor there are large forces, who very naturally desire to have ranges of their own. At Singleton, for which £850 is set down for a rifle range, the annual meeting of the Northern Rifle Association has hitherto been held at the goodwill of private land-owners, and the association for the last two or three years has been under notice to quit. It is only in consequence of a promise made that a range would beprovided by the Government that the meetings have been allowed to continue on the present range. The rifle club movement has never taken the hold on the people of New South Wales that it has on the peopleof Victoria, and, therefore, the latter have had to be catered for to a greater extent than the former. I understand that the policy of the Government is not only to encourage volunteers and partially-paid forces but also to establish rifle clubs; and the Government and Parliament will haveto face additional expenditure on this score in New South Wales, because we are all agreed that it is necessarv to teach the people to shoot. As to the drill halls, the largest is that at Newcastle, for- which £1,000 is asked as an instalment towards a total cost of £2,000. Newcastle is the head-quarters of the Northern Defence Forces, and from that centre are controlled defence affairs right up to the Queensland border. There are six companies of partially-paid volunteers in and around Newcastle, where, however, there has never been a proper drill hall. The consequence is that when daylight parades are impossible, a night parade has to be undertaken in the absence of those facilities which are necessary to secure efficiency. No doubt, in the money now asked for, is included the cost of necessary administrative officers at the head -quarters of the Northern district.
– A rental of £300 per annum is now paid for the building, used as a drill hall at Newcastle, so that the proposed expenditure will result in an actual saving.
.- The old court-house was given to the local forces for the purpose of offices, but it was subsequently determined to transfer the buildings to the Post and Telegraph Department; and no doubt it is since then that expense has been incurred in the hire of a drill hall. I claim to have a very fair knowledge of defence matters in New South Wales, and I can assure honorable senators that the drill halls at Armidale, Mudgee, and elsewhere are absolutely necessary if the Defence Forces are to be as efficient as we hope thev will be.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - Senator Stewart is quite right in his assumption that the item of £600 is for grants to various clubs - in fact, it is for grants to all the clubs - in New South Wales at the present time. This is a matter controlled by regulation, under which a grant is given according to the number of men enrolled, the lowest being about .£20 for a strength of forty men. There is no favoritism, at all shown in this matter.
– Of what material are these drill halls made?
– They are built of brick, stone, or wood, according to the material most plentiful in the neighbourhood
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). - There is an ‘item of £416 for the purchase of land near Colah Railway Station. Is this for a rifle range, or for fortifications to protect the railway station ? I know that this is a revote, but I think honorable senators are entitled to some explanation.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - My information is that this line is required for defence purposes in connexion with the city of Sydney, on the northern side. This is a revote, and I have given all the information in my possession.
– The Minister will observe that rifle ranges, barracks, and fortifications are mixed up in the votes for Victoria, just as in the case of New South Wales.
– If the honorable senator desires, I can give him the information in regard to all the items, which, I believe, in the case of Victoria, amount to about forty.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). - There is an item of £459 for the erection of a store for unserviceable and obsolete stores in Victoria. Would it not be better to put these stores up to auction, rather than undertake what appears to me a ridiculous expenditure on a building in which to keep them ? The obsolete stores may not be worth the cost of the building.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - When I saw this item I was struck with what I conceived to be a stupid way of spending money. The fact is, however, that obsolete stores accumulate in small quantities at a time, and they must be kept somewhere until they are sufficiently numerous to sell. Instead of having obsolete stores scattered throughout the various centres in the State, it is thought to be a better plan to have one place where they can be kept until the Department feels justified in having a sale.’
– Does the Minister mean for the whole of the Commonwealth ?
– We are now only dealing with Victoria. ,
– Then a similar store will be wanted in each State ?
– In Victoria the Department is very short of store room, and it is deemed desirable that this central store should be erected, to relieve the pressure.
– Is it absolutely necessary to build quarters for the ranger at the Port Melbourne Rifle Range at a cost of £350?
– That item is to enable the ranger to reside on the range. I am informed that that is considered most necessary at so important a place, and there are no quarters at present.
– I should like some information as to the proposed expenditure of ,£5,000 on a rifle range at Brisbane for the metropolitan troops in Queensland. On these Estimates, the first instalment of ,£1,000 is proposed towards this work, and a foot-note shows that the total estimated cost, exclusive of land, is ,£5,000. What sort of a range is it that means a cost of .£5,000 exclusive of land? Had the land been included in this expenditure, we might have been able to understand the proposal ; but ,£5,000 seems an enormous sum as compared with proposed expenditure on rifle ranges elsewhere.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I can inform the honorable senator that this is the estimated cost of the range, exclusive of the land.
– Is not the estimate excessive ?
– I do not know why it is estimated that the range will cost so much. We have not yet arranged for the land. A year or two ago a site was chosen, and a great deal of trouble arose in connexion with it. Colonel Bridges is at Brisbane at the present time inspecting a number of sites. We anticipate that a new site will be offered to the Department between Brisbane and Ipswich, and it is thought that it will be more suitable than a. site suggested near Sandgate.
– Is there a hill to be removed on the land?
– 1 cannot say. I do not know how the amount is made up.
– The estimate cannot be compared with those for other ranges.
– I find that this amount is for a special range for rifle practise and rifle competitions for the whole of the forces of the State. The officers of the Department say that ,£5,000 will most likely be required for the purpose.
– How many butts can be erected for ,£5,000?
– I cannot be expected to go into details of that kind.
– I understand that the proposed range is to be on the lines of the Williamstown range.
– Yes ; a riflerange for the whole of the forces of theState.
– The Minister ‘has explained that this sum of £5,000 is to be expended in the construction of butts and other conveniences incidental to a rifle range, and it is exclusive of the cost of the land. Do the Government possess the land at the present time?
– Then we are being asked to vote money to put up butts on land for which the Government have not yet got a title, and the Defence Department does not yet know where this land is situated.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia- - :Minister of Defence). - We do not yet know) what land we are going to get. We have made no provision in this Bill for thecost of the land, because in the first placewe anticipate that we may get a site from the State, for which we will have to pay little or nothing. In the next place, withrespect to another site suggested, it is possible that some trouble will arise whichmay end in a lawsuit. We do not know what the land will cost, and that is why no provision for it is made in this Bill.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).. - This is the second time in the consideration of this schedule that I have had todirect attention to the fact that the Government are asking us to vote moneywhich we are not in a position to spend.
– We hope to be in a position to spend this money before theend of the year.
– The Governmentare here only asking for authority to spend’ the money.
– Is it the functionof Parliament to sign blank cheques for Ministers to operate on ?
– It has been since thehistory of Parliament began.
– This Senate is supposed to exercise some control over publicexpenditure. The Minister of Defence, without the slightest concealment, and with a candour which is almost brutal, informs the Committee that the Government propose to spend a portion of the .£5,000 on land” over which they have yet no control.
– Negotiations on the subject have been going on for a long time, and the matter is now almost right for settlement.
– Does the honorable senator think that a special meeting of Parliament should be called to authorize the expenditure of this money when the negotiations on the subject have been completed? As an old parliamentarian, he ought to know better.
– Senator Dawson is sufficiently old as a parliamentarian to know that it is not orderly to speak when some one else is in possession of the Chair. To any one who’ views this matter in a businesslike way, the correct course would appear to be to strike the item out.
– Would the honorable senator give no executive power to the Ministry ?
– I answer Senator Dawson by asking why Ministers do not ask for the whole of these votes in one big item. The object of submitting votes in detail is to give members of Parliament an opportunity to say which they approve of and which they do not approve of. I think it would be correct for the Committee to strike out any item of proposed expenditure concerning which Ministers are unable to give any more satisfactory information that has been given with respect to this vote. One hesitates to do that, because one (Joes not desire to hamper the Executive; but if these Appropriation Bills are to be brought down in this way, ,we may be called upon to mark our objection to the practice by moving a request for the omission of such items. I have a very great deal of reluctance in permitting an item of this kind to pass. It appears to me that the proceedings of the Committee are being reduced to an absolute farce when we are asked to approve of expenditure in connexion with an item which the Minister in charge of the vote knows nothing about.
– I think that some explanation can be given in connexion with this vote. There are at the present two rifle ranges in the neighbourhood of Brisbane. One, which has been used for a considerable time, was the property of the military authorities prior to Federation, and it has since been declared to be dangerous. The other range is on private property, the owner of which has given rifle clubs the right to .put up butts.
The position is that the military authorities have now no safe rifle range for Southern Queensland anywhere near the metropolis. The acquisition of a site at Nudgee has been under consideration, but the land suggested there for the purpose of a. range is portion of a Crown grant for charitable institutions made some thirty-five or forty years ago. The trustees’ of this land have raised objection to any portion of it being taken for the purposes of a rifle range. Honorable senators will understand that it would cost a considerable sum of money to purchase this land, and it would also cost something to construct a range on it if-that site were selected. On the other side of the city of Brisbane, near Woolston, there is a piece of land which, years ago, was gazetted as a rifle range. This land is accessible to the marksmen of the metropolis, and also to marksmen as far away from Brisbane as Rosewood, and, possibly, Toowoomba. The selection of a site at this place would make a difference of thirty-six miles in the distance which marksmen coming from the Ipswich side would have to travel, as compared with the distance which they would have to travel if the land at Nudgee were selected for the purpose. The military authorities are now making inquiries in connexion with the matter.
– We have an officer in Brisbane to-day, looking into the matter.
– If he reports in favour of the site already reserved for a rifle range, a considerable sum of money will have to be spent in the construction of the range, which is intended to be the chief rifle range for the State.
– Will it cost £5,000?
– It will cost a considerable sum of money. Rifle ranges cannot be constructed for nothing. I can assure the honorable senator that the present range cost a considerable sum. though it is now declared to be dangerous. When the site is decided on, it is reasonable to suppose that the military authorities will desire to construct the range as soon as possible. Marksmen at present have to practise on a range which is not considered safe, or on a range constructed on private property. I am sure that honorable senators agree that it is not desirable that the military authorities of the Commonwealth should be under a compliment to private individuals to provide them with sites for rifle ranges. When the Department has secured a range of its own, it will be able to effect permanent improvements on it. If the necessary land is acquired within the next few weeks, it is reasonable to suppose that the Department will make every effort to construct the new range at once. I take it that the Government will not spend any more of this money than is found to be necessary for the purpose.
– Did the honorable senator ever know of a Government that did not spend all the money voted byParliament ?
– Did not the honorable senator ever hear of such a thing as a lapsed vote?
– Yes, but always with a request to re-vote it.
– I am sure Senator Millen must often have known instances of lapsed votes, and I understand that it is the duty of the Auditor- General to see that such money is returnedto the consolidated revenue. If this money is not voted, and the Government secure the necessary land for a range, it will have to lie idle, whilst those in Southern Queensland, who are interested in rifle shooting, will have to continue to use a range which has been declared by the military authorities to be unsafe.
– I do not think there is anything veryextraordinary in the fact that the Minister of Defence is asking permission to spend this money. The phrase that we should give facilities to our people to learn to shoot straight has become Hackneyed, but unless they are given something’ in the shape of targets to shoot at, we cannot hope that they will” be able to shoot straight. I remind the Committee that unless the land for this rifle range is secured the money will not be spent. They have no intention, I suppose, of hanging the targets in the air. They will have to secure a site, and if it is not secured during the present year the money cannot be spent. It would be very foolish for the Department not to have the right to spend the money if necessary. After the explanation which has been given, the Committee will act rightly in agreeing to the item. It is very foolish, I think, for any one to say that the Minister has no right to come here in these circumstances and ask for a vote.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).Iam sure that the Committee is thankful to Senator Turley for his explanation re garding this item. From his remarks I gathered that the land it is desired to improve for a rifle range is Crown land.
– I believe it is Crown land at Woolston.
– If it is Crown land, there is a strong probability that it may be given to the Government.
– I expect that we shall have to pay for the land.
– I suppose it is worth only £1 an acre.
– I am notobjecting to any expenditure on rifle ranges. I shall not vote to diminish the opportunities which our volunteers, partly-paid, or riflemen have to make themselves acquainted with the use of the rifle. I am merely trying to submit the business aspect of the case. We are asked to sanction an expenditure of £5,000 for the improvement of land which has not been secured, and by-and-by we shall be told that we must vote the money for the purchase of the land, because the Government have not only entered into a contract for it’s purchase, but have spent this grant of£5,000. Practically we are asked to vote not merely £5,000 for the provision of a range, but an unknown sum for the purchase of the site. Would any honorable senator, when acting in a business capacity, consent to sign a cheque for the erection, of a house on a piece of land when he did not know how much that land was to cost him? This is the most unbusinesslike proposal I have ever seen submitted to a legislative body. I have not approached the consideration of this question from a State stand-point. We are asked to place in the hands of the Government a sum of £5,000 with a certain knowledge that next year they will come down and go through the farce of asking us to vote a sum for the purchase of a piece of land, and telling us that it must be voted.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The position which has been taken up bv the Governent, and which was taken up by the late Government, is a right and proper one. A new rifle range is required in this localitv, and if it is wanted it must be paid for. The Government are not justified in putting down a sum in a haphazard way for the’ purchase of a site when they do not know what it mav cost. If we had put down in these Estimates a sum for the purchase of a site. Senator Millen would have been one of the first to complain and ask, “ What is the land going to cost?” And when we had told him that we had not decided where the rifle range was to be placed, and that, therefore, we could not say what the cost would be, he would have asked “What business have you to put down this item ; you are deceiving the Committee.” We are not deceiving honorable senators; we state frankly and fairly that we anticipate that for the butts and so on in connexion with this rifle range the sum of £5,000 will most likely be required, but that we cannot give any idea of the probable cost of the land. At the present time we have two sites under consideration. The site chosen by the late Minister would cost a very large sum, because it would cut into a special grant for an orphanage, whose managing authorities have stated that they would oppose its purchase for that purpose tooth and nail. If that site were selected, the probability is that we should have on our hands a big law suit, which might involve us in the expenditure of a very large sum. It has been represented to me that between Ipswich and Brisbane there is a piece of land which would answer our purposes admirably. Many years ago it was set aside as a reserve for rifle purposes. It is anticipated that it would not cost the Commonwealth more than £1 per acre, which, of course, is a very reasonable price. Its suitability for this purpose was pointed out to me by no less a person than the Hon. A. J. Thynne when he was here not long ago, and I promised to have the matter looked into. Colonel Bridges is now in Brisbane to examine that or any other site he can hear of. It was hoped thatthe site would be obtained last year, but it was not, and the money has to be re-voted. Last year the Parliament was committed to the expenditure of £5,000 on a rifle range for Brisbane, in exactly the same circumstances as exist to-day. It is almost certain that within a very short period we shall have a site, and directly it is secured the land will have to be prepared. It is now covered with timber and scrub, and a good width will have to be cleared before the butts can be erected. I should like to be in a position to proceed with the work as soon as possible, because the men in Brisbane are placed at a very great disadvantage in not having a proper range. We wish them to have a thoroughly up-to-date range. We believe that we can get a site at a reasonable price.
Unless the Committee, has no confidence in the Government, and thinks that this money will be thrown away, it had better agree to the item, as it did last year. It would have been of no use for us to put down a sum for the purchase of land, because we do not know yet what it will cost. By agreeing to this item, honorable senators will commit themselves to the purchase of a site, and also to a larger expenditure than £1,000.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).I do not think that the Minister of Defence has enlightened us much on the proposed expenditure of £5>ooo on this rifle range. The purchase of the land is a matter of secondary consideration, and probably the Government are quite justified in the position which they have taken up in that regard. It is simply ridiculous for any one to imagine that the cost of clearing the land and providing the butts would amount to£5,000. Ifwe agree to this item, what will it mean? The vote would provide 250 butts.
– And clear the land, too?
– Yes ; unless the land be such as is found in Gippsland. This is only a rifle range for Brisbane and suburbs.
– No, for as far out as Toowoomba and West Moreton.
– Well, taking a radius of too miles from Brisbane, are we warranted in providing 250 butts?
– There will not be 250.
– How many butts will there be?
– We should have to provide moving targets, sheds, and accommodation for the riflemen.
– This is a ridiculously large amount to vote for the purpose. New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia have not had anything like that sum expended on rifle butts in their respective. territories. The land, which has been used as a rifle range, does not need to be cleared.
– It has to be abandoned.
– Why ?
– Because it is unsafe.
– That is exactly the position in South Australia. The road to the powder-magazine goes right through the rifle range, which is quite as unsafe, I take it, as the existing rifle range at Brisbane is said to be. Tha Minister knows that men and cattle have been shot at the Adelaide rifle range. I do not mind £1,000 being spent on a “rifle range for Brisbane, but I strongly object to the expenditure of .£5,000 for that purpose. If Senator Millen will move to omit the footnote, he shall have mv support.
– The foot-note will not bind the honorable senator to anything.
– It will. We are asked to vote ,£1,000 on the understanding, gathered from this foot-note and from the statement of the Minister, that the total cost, exclusive of land, is estimated at £5,000. If Senator Millen will move to omit the words “ first instalment towards cost “ from the item, and also the foot-note, he shall have my support, because I do not think we are warranted in voting more than £1,000 for this purpose. .
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I do not’ see what benefit would accrue from striking out the foot-note. The question is, whether a rifle range at Brisbane is required. We are told that the present one is dangerous. That means that every time the range is used the Government renders itself liable to an action for damages, and the riflemen are open to prosecution for manslaughter if they kill any one. We are informed that the work may cost ,£5,000, and that ,£1,000 is required this year. It is only fair that we should vote that amount and leave in the footnote. If it is struck out it can make no difference, because if the Government find that the money voted is not sufficient it will come to, Parliament for more money next year. This is the best way to let us know the probable ultimate cost. I am quite sure that if a new range is required in South Australia, the same treatment will be meted out. I shall give every assistance to the Government wherever there is any necessity for constructing such works in any State.
– I may point out that section 13 of the Acts Interpretation Act provides that marginal notes and footnotes are not deemed to be part of an Act.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania).- As the senator who asked for information on this question, I must admit that the replies given by Senator Turley and the Minister have thrown much light upon it. At the same time, I do not like the foot-note.
I agree with those .honorable senators who think that it would’ have been better if the item had read “ ,£1,000 as an instalment towards the cost of a rifle range at Brisbane, part of an anticipated expenditure of £5,000.” I can quite understand that it is necessary to–have a large rifle range if it is to be of any use for annual rifle meetings. As one who believes in the encouragement of rifle shooting, I think that each State should have a large range to accommodate the riflemen who congregate at the annual matches. If it is considered by the officers that the cost of such a range at Brisbane would’ be anything like £5,000 I should not object to it. But even the Minister has led us to believe that ,£5,000 will not be necessary. It would be far more satisfactory if the foot-note were omitted, relying upon Parliament to agree to any further expenditure that was necessary. I quite accept the Minister’s assurance that no more money than is actually required will be spent, and I do not propose to vote against the item.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - Some honorable senators appear to be under the impression that simply because there is an estimate of £1,000 for a work which will probably involve the expenditure of £,$,000, the larger sum will be spent. I assure them- that there is no necessity for that to be the case. The money will not be spent unless it is required. Last year, Parliament voted a sum for drill halls, gun, and waggon sheds im South Australia. The amount was ,£1,000 as an. instalment towards a total cost of ,£3 ,200. But we found, during the year, that we could do the work for ,£1,840. We saved the.) rest of the money. We frankly say that this is an instalment, and if we can do with less than the amount mentioned we certainly shall.
– Those who are objecting to the method in which this money is being voted are acting quite rightly and those who take exception to the. criticism misunderstand the point. There is a right way of proceeding in regard to expenditure on public works. If ,£5,000 were asked for the construction and equipment of a rifle range would any one say that Senator Guthrie was not entitled to question whether that was an extravagant sum ? We are now asked to vote a sum, which involves a large further expenditure, in what appears to me to be an extraordinary and irregular way. If the item had read “ as an instalment towards works estimated to cost ,£5,000 “ we should have known exactly what was intended. But at present we do not know whether the sum is extravagant or not. We are not objecting to Brisbane being provided with a rifle range, but we have a right to expect from the Minister ample information with regard to the work.
– It seems to me that in this matter we are bound to support the Government. It is just as well that we should be given an idea of the probable total cost of works towards which we are asked to vote instalments, and I commend the Government for having given us the information. I should also like to have some information as to the item ,£139, which includes the cost of “ two whalers “ for Cairns.
– It seems to me that Ave have had a storm in a tea-cup. Exactly the same procedure as is now being followed was adopted last year in connexion with a vote towards the cost of a drill hall at Newcastle, in Estimates prepared by a Government which was supported by my honorable friend Senator O’Keefe. There must be an estimate of all works proposed to be carried out. The money spent may be a little more or a little less. The Government have adopted the only business-like course, and I commend them for so doing.
– I should like to have some information as to the item “ Wireless telegraph station, with flagstaff, Naval Forces, Moreton- Island, ,£9.” I understood that wireless telegraphy was to be entered upon in a systematic manner by the Federal Government, but apparently the Defence Department has anticipated action by the Post and Telegraph Department. The amount of money is small, but there is a principle involved. We recently passed a Wireless Telegraphy Act, which, as I understand, makes it penal for any one but the PostmasterGeneral to establish a wireless telegraph station. It seems to me, therefore, that we have placed it out of our power to vote a sum of money to be used’ by the Defence Department for such purposes.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The item referred to by Senator Walker is a re-vote for the purpose of purchasing two whale boats for the Naval Forces at Cairns. The work referred to by Senator Matheson was authorized last year, and taken in hand. The sum of money now to be voted is to finish it.
– What is the system that has been adopted, and what is the cost?
– If the honorable member will put a question on the notice-paper I shall be happy to give him the information, but I am sorry to say that I do not know just now.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I have a question to ask as to the item, “ Cable and cable storage tanks for electrical communication between Goode Island and mainland, ,£428.”
– That was explained -last year; this is a re- vote.
– That is no reason why I should not ask for an explanation. This proposal may prejudge the suggestion to fortify Goode Island, a matter which has only recently come under my notice. The armament is at present all on Thursday Island, and it has been proposed to shift it to Goode Island. Nothing has been settled yet ; and it seems to be undesirable to pass this vote until it is perfectly certain that Goode Island is to be fortified. Another point is that probably a wireless telegraph station would be infinitely cheaper than the proposed cable.
– About ,£7,000 was voted for this work last year, and only a small balance remains unspent.
– When money has already been spent, there ought to be some indication of the fact on the Estimates ; otherwise, the Government would appear to be trifling with the House.
– This is plainly marked as a re-vote.
Senator TURLEY (Queensland).- Will the Minister explain what is meant by the item of .£74 for fire service at Perth, Karrakatta, Fremantle, Geraldton, and Albany?
– My only note as to this item is that the work is now well in hand. This is apparently only a re-vote of some kind.
Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania). - I do not observe that any provision is made in connexion with the rifle range at Hobart ; and I should like some information on the matter. That range has been found to be dangerous, and, in order ito remedy the defect, I understand that the Department desire to acquire some land at the back. I am glad to find that no provision is made for acquiring this suggested additional land, but I should be glad to hear the view of the Department as to the proposed removal of this range.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - This is one of those cases in which, if the Government had put down a certain sum of money, we should have been told that we had no idea how it would be spent. The question is whether the present range shall be abandoned, and another one acquired, involving additional expense of which we can at present form no idea. Last year, when the Estimates were prepared, this question was in such a state of chaos that the then Minister really did not know what amount to provide. The present range is, I understand, somewhat dangerous, and it is desired to acquire a little more land, in connexion with which all the plans have been prepared. My desire is to keep the present range, and purchase the necessary additional land; but, after interviews with people, some of whom take that view, while others think that a new range ought to be obtained, I have, like the late Minister, allowed the matter to stand over, in order to see whether a new site can be found. The Government will certainly keep to the present range unless the State offer another equally as good, free of cost, and also bear the expense of fixing the targets, and placing it generally in a proper condition. The Commonwealth will not go to any expense by abandoning the present site unless the State complies with the conditions I have just indicated.
– Does the Minister mean that this shall be done at the State’s expense ?
– Yes, if we hand over the present range to the State.
– Is that to be done in the case of the range in Queensland ?
– There is no Government range in Queensland at the present time, and the circumstances are quite dissimilar.
– Will the Government of Tasmania be able to sell the present range ?
– If an exchange be made, the Government of Tasmania will be handed the present range, and will probably be able to sell it for many thousands of pounds for the erection of suburban residences. The Commonwealth Government will not hand the present range over, and then go to considerable expense in refitting, a new range elsewhere. I understand that the people interested in this matter in Hobart- are looking round for a new and suitable site now, as they have been doing, for a considerable length of time; and a. decision will have, to be come to verv quickly, or I shall acquire the additional area required to place the present range in a safe condition.
– Will this additional land be acquired without the consent of theState Government?
– Of course. Notice may be given under the Property forPublic Purposes Acquisition Act to acquirethe land without consent.
– And why is that not done by the Commonwealth?
– I am waiting, now to see whether another site can be obtained as good as the present site. We donot desire to stand in the way of the Tasmanian Government or people, who would, like to see the present range cut up for residential purposes ; but the Commonwealth must be given another and equally suitablesite. A number of sites have been offered, but all have been found to be unsuitable. Noaction will be taken for a few weeks in» order to allow of a further effort in thisconnexion. When the people interested’ find a site which they think suitable, I shall send over a competent officer to inspect it.
Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania).- The explanation by the Minister, which sets out the view of his predecessor, is quite satisfactory so far as it goes ; but the present range is unsafe; and to put it right will involve the expenditure, not of a small sum, but possibly of a considerable sum, for the acquisition of land at the back. If that ideabe carried out it will mean the separation of one of the principal suburbs of Hobart from the city by means of a stretch of land which will cut off communication like a great wall of China. The Minister evidently wishes the State to provide an absolutely safe range; and to do that might involve expenditure which would more than represent the value of the present rangegiven up by the Commonwealth.
– The present range has never been paid for by the Commonwealth.
– I have no doubt it will be paid for at some time, at its fair value. As I have already said, the provision of a new and absolutely safe range, with the proper aspect for shooting, might involve the State in an expenditure beyond the value of “the land which it would get in exchange.
– What has that to do with the State. which will not pay for the land ?
– I know that under the present financial arrangements there is a disposition to shift the responsibility from one to another. There is, as I say, no provision in these Estimates for acquiring the land necessary to make the present range safe.
– Neither is provision made in the case of the Brisbane range.
– The Minister of Defence now says that if the State will find another site, as good or better than the present site, the latter will be given up.
– I only ask for a range equally as good.
– At any rate, an unsafe range cannot be permitted close to the city, and the people most interested are satisfied with the “idea of making an exchange. If by an exchange the State is involved in more expense than would be represented by the value of the present range, will the Minister find the extra money?.
– I shall foot the bill to the same amount that I should be put to in order to make the present range safe.
– I know that at some time in the future an arrangement will be made to pay for transferred properties, but if we ask the Tasmanian Government to finance the purchase of another piece of land, the chances are that the range will remain in its present unsafe condition.
– The Minister of Defence argues as though the Defence Department had never been transferred. My attitude is that the Commonwealth Government should take the initiative in putting an end to the present state of affairs. The Tasmanian Government should not be asked to spend years in. searching for a rifle range as a substitute for the present one ; that work should be undertaken and carried out by the Commonwealth Government. I have listened with the greatest amusement to the statement of the Minister that “ we” - meaning the
Commonwealth Government - “ will not give up the present range until we are given an equally good and valuable, range in its place.’ ‘ We all know that the Commonwealth Government hold the land, but it is one of the transferred properties for which we have not yet paid. The Minister refuses to expedite the transfer of a site to the Commonwealth, in return for a site which we hold, but have not paid for, and, so far as I know, will not pay for for some years to come.
– I have said that I am willing to accept transfer whenever the State Government is in a position to offer another suitable site.
– That is not the point.
– The matter has been delayed at the request of the State Government.
– As a member of the Senate, I do not regard that as a satisfactory explanation. The matter is now under the control of the Defence Department of the Commonwealth, and I see Jio reason why the present or any other Minister of Defence should sit down, quietly and say that he can do nothing, because he is waiting for a State Government to take action. The explanation given might be satisfactory if the Department of Defence had not been transferred to the Commonwealth. Preceding Governments have allowed this matter to stand over, and it is high time that the, present Government took the initiative, and decided not to wait until doomsday for action by the State Government.
– I said that the whole matter would be settled in a very short time.
– I hope that it will be, seeing that the Defence Department has full power to settle it at any moment. We are dealing in these matters with per capita expenditure. I should like to refer the Minister, who has been talking about expense, to the fact that while there is a total sum> of ,£3,1.96 down for expenditure on defence under the control of the Department of Home Affairs in Tasmania, I find that for Western Australia, a State which has almost the same population, there is a sum put down of £25,223, with- an informative foot-note which shows that the total expenditure proposed in that State amounts to .£87,700. When I see such per capita expenditure proposed for another State, I am surprised to hear the Minister of Defence talk in a grudging spirit about the expenditure proposed in Tasmania.
– I never did anything of the sort.
– I may possiblyhave misunderstood the Minister’s attitude, but I thought that in discussing the question of a rifle range, the expense was referred to by the Minister.
– No, it was not.
– I think it was. T regret I have missed the opportunity to draw particular attention to the proposed expenditure of £87,700 in Western Australia. Seeing that we have to contribute towards this expenditure,, I urge the Minister to go in and spend any amount of money in Tasmania, as that is the only way in which we shall be able to get any return for the money we spend for other people.
– The remarks made by Senator Clemons have struck me as extraordinary in the discussion of the question of defence. The honorable and learned senator speaks of per capita expenditure in a particular State as if that expenditure were in the interest only of that State. Surely the question of defence is one which affects the whole of the Commonwealth? It might be necessary to incur the largest expenditure for defence at the least important place in the Commonwealth.
– The most vulnerable place in the Commonwealth is probably Tasmania.
– That is not the tone in which the honorable and learned senator discussed the question. He advocated the largest possible expenditure in his State, because, he said, that would be the only recompense that State would get for its share of expenditure in other States That is a very narrow, not to- say ‘an improper, way in which to discuss an important question of this .kind.
– The honorable senator is an excellent judge of propriety.
– Then, with reference to the item immediately before us, Senator Clemons spoke in a most querulous and ill-tempered manner, it seemed to me, with reference to it- He said it was the duty of the Commonwealth to make the present rifle range at Hobart safe. So far as I can understand, the Commonwealth did not make it unsafe.
– If the honorable senator had come into the Chamber earlier, he would have known better what he is talking about.
– It was unsafe when the Tasmanian Government selected it for the purpose of local defence.
– We did not use Mauser bullets in those days.
– It was taken over by the Commonwealth in an unsafe condition. The Minister has very fairly said that he will give attention to the matter, and is determined within a few weeks, if no other site is furnished, to take steps on behalf of the Commonwealth to make the present range safe.
– Hear. hear.
– The honorable gentleman has said that if the State Government that is now seeking for a change will assist him in acquiring another site, without entailing unnecessary additional expense on the Commonwealth, he is prepared to fall in with their views. It is proper, in discussing a matter of this kind, to give the Government credit for fairness when they display it, and the honorable gentleman has properly said that if it is found that the proposed new site is more suitable than the present one, and the expense involved in acquiring it is greater than the value of the present site, the Commonwealth Government will be prepared to bear the additional expense. I think that Senator Mulcahy should be quite’ satisfied with that statement.
– The Minister did not say that.
– The honorable gentleman distinctly said that the Commonwealth would be prepared to bear the additional expense up to the amount that would be involved in making the present site safe.
– Hear. hear.
– The Minister desires to have a site as good as the Commonwealth would obtain in the present site at the expense for which the present site could be made a good site.
– We desire that heshould get it, but the matter has been awaiting settlement for years
– The Minister says that he does not intend that it shall await settlement for years. He has said’ that if it is not settled within five or six weeks by the Tasmanian Government finding another site, he proposes to act independently on behalf of the Commonwealth-
– I thought, when this item came up for discussion, that some Tasmanian senator would have made reference to the information given us in this morning’s newspaper. We find that one of the most serious grievances which, in the opinion of the Premier of the State, Tasmania has against the Commonwealth Government, is the tremendous expenditure on defence in that State.
– The time to discuss that question is when we are dealing with the general Estimates.
– Is this in order?
– I am dealing with defence expenditure proposed in Tasmania.
– Did the Premier of Tasmania refer to new works?
– I am not concerned with whether he referred to new works or not. I am not dealing with expenditure proposed in Tasmania under the Department of Home Affairs for defence. This gentleman has brought it as a grievance against the Commonwealth that we are spending large sums of money in that State on defence, and he says that while we are doing this there is not a single volunteer in Hobart. If that statement is correct, why should we vote any money for a rifle range there?
– We are prepared to discuss the matter at the proper time.
– I think this is the proper time. We are discussing now a proposed vote for a rifle range for Hobart. The statement made by the Premier of Tasmania, a gentleman who should be veracious, is that there are no volunteers in Hobart; and, if that statement is correct, there is no necessity for a rifle range there, and Tasmania can be saved this expenditure. Seeing that the Tasmanian Premier makes the lavish expenditure on defence in that State a grievance against the Commonwealth, why should we accentuate the grievance by voting any more money for the purpose ? This, it seems to me, affords us a good opportunity to do Tasmania service by preventing further expenditure on defence in that State.
– Does Tasmania pay for all this?
– Tasmania pays her proportion of the expenditure.
– Tasmania has not complained.
– The Premier of Tasmania has complained. I ask the Minister to say whether the statement that there is not a single volunteer in Hobart is correct?
– Hobart is not Tasmania. Does the honorable senator see any item in the schedule for Hobart?
– I understand that the first item in this vote is for the rifle range at Hobart.
– It is utterly inadequate, if it is.
– Honorable senators from Tasmania have themselves raised the question of the Hobart rifle range, and have suggested the purchase of a new range, because the present one is not safe.
– Does the honorable senator think that the fact that there are no volunteers in Hobart is a reason why there should not be a rifle range there ?
– No; but when the Premier of the State makes it a grievance against the Commonwealth that we are spending unnecessary sums of money on defence in that State, and in the same speech declares that there is not a single volunteer in Hobart, the statement is one which can be appropriately discussed at this juncture.
– The ill-advised utterances of the States Premiers should not influence us.
– I desire to know whether this utterance has been ill-advised. The practice indulged in by the State Premier of Tasmania, and by States Treasurers in all the States, of accusing the Commonwealth Government of unnecessary expenditure, is very objectionable, and when we are given an opportunity to nail their taradiddles down, we should take advantage of it. I believe that the statement to which I have referred is not correct. I believe that a rifle range at Hobart is necessary, and that the expenditure proposed on defence works in Tasmania is not lavish or unnecessary expenditure.
– Who said it was?
– The Premier of Tasmania.
– He did not refer to this expenditure.
– He does not differentiate; he refers to the whole of the expenditure on defence in Tasmania.
– The honorable senator is totally misrepresenting him. Nothing he said had any reference to these votes.
– He referred to defence expenditure, and we are now dealing with defence expenditure. Surely it will be admitted that provision for rifle ranges, fortifications, drill halls, and gun sheds comes under that category.
Senator MULCAHY “ (Tasmania). - I wish to get back to the point from which this discussion started. I do not think that the Minister quite understands the position. The question is whether, in finding an alternative site, we may have to give more for that land than we should be likely to get for the old site. If we buy an alternative site for less than the value of the site which will be given up by the Commonwealth, I presume that when the valuation of properties is handed in Tasmania will receive only the value of the Sand. Assuming that the present site is worth £5,000, it may cost us £6,000 or £7,000 to acquire a new site, and if it does, what will be the attitude of the Minister as regards the difference between the two sums? If he will tell us who is going to finance the business he may be able to relieve our minds. I wish to get the site of the rifle range changed by the most ready means available. I think that the State Government will be satisfied to take the chance of the present site- being sold, and the proceeds being used for the purchase of another site if the balance required be found by the Commonwealth. If the honorable gentleman prefers to consult his colleagues before replying to my question I shall have no objection, but I should certainly like to get a definite statement on that point.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania). - It may seem strange that there is any necessity to spend public money on a rifle range for Hobart if, as Senator Pearce says, there is not a single volunteer there. But no doubt he can recall the fact that last year, owing to friction between the General Officer Commanding and the local forces, a portion of them were disbanded. I understand that it will not be very long before they will be put on their old footing.
– Steps are being taken now, and there is an item on the Estimates for that purpose.
– It may be mentioned that, like the Brisbane rifle range, that at Hobart is used as a central range. Although Tasmania has not a large population, still, until a few years ago, it compared favorably with any State as regards the number of young men who took up rifle shooting. There was always a large attendance of rifle shots at the annual competitions, which, of course, took place at the capital. I take it that it will not be very long before these competitions will be resumed. That is, I think, a sufficient reason for a better rifle range being secured, and a sufficient reply to the question raised by Senator Pearce.
– Senator Pearce’s remarks with reference to the statement of the Premier of Tasmania might have some point if this Bill provided for an expenditure of money in connexion with a Tasmanian rifle range. Senator Mulcahy originated this discussion by asking my honorable colleague what course he intends to follow in completing the proposed exchange of sites. The correspondence on this subject has extended over a period of about fifteen months. In common with other representatives of Tasmania in either House of the Parliament, I have taken -some interest in the subject. The rifle range which is now used in Hobart has been used for a great number of years, and is known as the Southern Tasmanian rifle range. It is located just outside Hobart. It occupies some of the most desirable building land in the suburb of Queenborough. It was perfectly safe until the employment of the more modern rifle and bullet. It was only during the construction of a road on the top of a range of hills at its rear that it was found to be unsafe. The road-makers found that the bullets or splashes from them came up close to where they were working. Persons who had built residences on the slopes of the adjacent hills also found that there was some danger from the same quarter. But on a thorough investigation being held, it was ascertained, I think, that there was very little, if any, danger, except when recruits, or cadets, or the stokers from the war ships were firing. Senator O’ Keefe remarked that this rifle range is on a parallel -with the Brisbane rifle range. It is more. During about three months every summer a number of the men from the fleet practise there. It has been found, in many instances, I believe, that when “stokers’ teams” go down from the warships, the bullets do not always approach as near the targets as the residents would wish. The question of the unsafeness of the range was brought under the notice of the Department some time ago. The residents of Queenborough, and particularly the local governing body, are very anxious that it shall be removed from that locality, because they think that it is unsafe, and militates against the expansion of the city in that direction, and of course the development of their town. They asked the Government some time back to try to find a more suitable site. The rifle range came over with the Department when it was transferred, and I take it that whatever compensation is to be made hereafter to Tasmania in connexion therewith will be based on the valuation at the time of transfer. I think I am putting it rightly when I mention that any exchange which may be made now will not affect the amount, that will hereafter be paid or credited to Tasmania in respect of the transfer of the property. Let me state in concrete form what the Minister, in effect, said. “ Assuming,” he said, “ that the rifle range is valued at ,£5,000 for the purposes of a transferred property, and that in order to make it safe for use I should have to spend £2,200, making a total cost of £7,200 to the Commonwealth, if I now get in its place a rifle range which is worth £6,000, I am prepared to spend the balance of the money up to ,£7,200, ff necessary, to make it safe and effective.” The State Government, in having this land revested in them, will derive a very considerable benefit, because I think all who know the locality well will agree that its value as a transferred property would bear a very small proportion to its value as a property which could be cut up into building allotments.
– It might be worth £4.000, or .£5,000.
– Under these circumstances, the State readily recognises that it is likely to gain a good profit.
– No profit.
– The State considers, I think, that it will make a good bargain, and die Town Board of Queens- borough desires that the rifle range should be removed. Three sites were’ submitted to the Department for inspection. An inspector was sent over to make an inspection. (His report was circulated, and I understood that it was the intention of the Department - as a suitable site had not been offered - to go on with the resumption of certain land behind the present site in order to make it thoroughly safe. But that intention has not been given effect to, because an official request has been made that moretime be allowed in order that a further search may be made round Hobart with a view to ascertain if a suitable site cannot be found. I understand that the Minister has deferred to that request, and that he will consent to accept whatever site may be offered if the report of the expert who is sent to examine it is favorable. If, of course, the report is unfavorable, there will be nothing for the Minister to do but to go on with the resumption of the land at the back of thepresent range. The present range is still” being used. There has been no cessation of its use on the part of those who have been accustomed to practise shooting there.
– Then nobody hasbeen killed yet?
– No; but one of’ the residents in the neighbourhood has complained that he has found splashes and” bullets in his garden and around his house. There may be some danger, if we are tobelieve all that is said, of the Commonwealth being involved in an action, either on account of some one being wounded or some life being lost through a stray bullet. We are not proposing to spend an, money under this Bill, but the matter referred to by Senator Mulcahy relates toa projected exchange of the present range for a safer one in an equally accessible position.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I wish to say a few words upon the irrelevant and violent attack that has been made uponthe Premier of Tasmania by Senator Pearce. I consider it to be a very unfair attack. The Premier of Tasmania needsno apologist in this Senate, but ought to be defended from misrepresentation; and’ I venture to say that he was very badly misrepresented by Senator Pearce. I know what the Premier said with regard to theDefence Forces, and I believe, as a senatorrepresenting Tasmania, that he was fairly representing what, in his opinion, is thepresent condition of the Defence Forces of the State. He said that the efficiency of the forces was not so satisfactory as it was prior to Federation, and that in spiteof that fact they cost a little more.
– He is reported to have said that they cost three times as much as previous to Federation.
– Ten times as much, he is reported to have said, in the Melbourne newspapers last week.
-The Minister ought to have learnt by this time not to place a hasty dependence on what is said by the Melbourne or any other newspapers. It should strike him that it is absurd for it to be reported that the Premier of Tasmania - who may be assumed to know something about the finances of his own State - has made* such a statement.
– He also said that there is not one volunteer in Hobart.
– The Minister ought to know the present condition of things with regard to the volunteers in Hobart. I believe that the Premier was practically right in what he said as to that point.
– Does the honorable and learned senator assert that there is not one volunteer in Hobart?
– No; but I do say that the Premier was fairly right in saying that the condition of the Defence Forces at the present time is not so satisfactory as it was prior to Federation. In fact, I believe so myself. I believe that he was also accurate in saying that the cost is greater. That is practically the whole cif what he said.
– Does the honorable and learned senator indorse the statement to which I referred that there are no volunteers in Hobart?
– If Senator Pearce knew anything about the condition of the Defence Forces in Tasmania, he would be aware that there was serious trouble last year with regard to the volunteers. The question is not yet wholly settled. If the honorable senator took that interest in the Tasmanian Defence Forces that he wishes us to assume that he takes, he would know that the present Ministry has failed to carry out the promise, made by the previous Minister of Defence, and has left out of the Estimates a vote which ought to have been put in, and the omission of which has been objected to in both Houses of this Parliament for the last three years. It has been objected to, not only by me, but by almost every Tasmanian representative. Yet it remained for the present Government to perpetrate the same blunder the other day. It had to be pointed out by the previous Minister of Defence.
– I did not refer to that matter, but to what appears in to-day’s newspapers.
– What item did I leave out of the Estimates affecting Tasmania ?
– I will mention it when the Appropriation Bill comes before us.
– The honorable senator is making a general statement, but he will not give me the details.
– I am referring to an omission in the Estimates alluded to in another place, and when the Appropriation Bill comes to the Senate I shall have something to say about it.
– Why not mention it now ?
– Because this is’ not the proper time.
– Then the honorable senator has no right to refer to it now.
– I say again, with regard to the attack on the Premier of Tasmania, that it was unwarrantable and in very bad taste. He needs- no apologist, but it is desirable that the Premier of a State should be saved from misrepresentation. As far as I understand what he has said, I believe that every word of it is justified.
– Does the honorable and learned senator believe that the expenditure on defence in Tasmania is ten times what it was previous to Federation ?
– No- I know what the Premier said ; I was in Tasmania when he spoke.
– Does the honorable senator believe that the Premier is correctly reported in the official organ, the Hobart Mercury?
– He may have been misreported, but I indorse every word that I believe he said.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - Senator Clemons charges me v.i*h having misrepresented the Premier of Tasmaria, but, as a matter of fact, I was particularly careful to quote him as reported in a Melbourne newspaper to-day. I am not a thought reader, and cannot find out what the Premier actually said’, if the report is not true. What I did was to ask the Minister whether the report was accurate. Senator Clemons champions the Premier, not in regard to what he is re- ported to have said, but in regard to what the honorable senator believes hint to have said. I leave it to the Committee to say whether or not I have misrepresented him.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - It is amusing to hear Senator Clemons saying that in consequence of something that I have done a line has been left off the Estimates, affecting the Tasmanian Forces, and’ that in consequence they are in a fearfully disorganized state.
– I said nothing of the sort.
– But the honorable senator did. He absolutely refused, however, to tell me what line I have left out, I have not the slightest knowledge of having done anything of the kind. So far as I know, I have left out nothing in any way affecting the efficiency of the Tasmanian Forces. The amusing part of it is that when I ask him to give me particulars he says he will not until the Appropriation Bill is under consideration. He says it would not be in order to do so now. Then why did he discuss the matter?
– What I said was that the Minister did not put in something that was promised by his Predecessor; and if he will read the debates in the other House he will see that that statement is true.
– If the honorable and learned senator will not tell me what item has been left out I cannot answer him. As to the statement of the Premier of Tasmania, I only know what has appeared in the newspapers. The Premier was reported last week to have said that the cost of the Defence Forces of the State was ten times as much as it was prior to Federation.
– Ten times?
– Ten times. My colleague in the House of Representatives had to answer a series of questions on the point. The Premier was also reported to have said the Defence Forces were less efficient than they were before Federation. If the reports in the newspapers are not accurate I cannot help it. I will read the paragraph published in to-day’s paper -
The Premier, when seen in reference to military matters, stated that before Federation defence cost Tasmania £17,000, and it now costs £45,000. There was, he said, practically not a volunteer in Hobart. There was a large staff drawing big salaries and heavy travelling expenses, but virtually unemployed.
Of course, the word “ practically “ may mean more than it seems. But the fact of the matter is that at the present time there are 142 volunteers in Hobart.
SenatorClemons. - What is the newspaper from which the Minister is quoting ?
– The Age, of today. On the present Estimates, we have made provision for the number of volunteers to be increased to 389. I think we have done all that is absolutely necessary at present. Senator Mulcahy wants to know exactly what I propose to do in regard to the rifle range. We have a range that is valued at £5,000, and on which it is estimated £1,000 will have to be spent to make it quite safe. The Government of Tasmania desires us to adopt another range that will be absolutely safe. I am quite willing to give the Government for anew range the present range plus the amount that would have to be spent to make it safe. If that is done the Department will be in exactly the same position as if we spent the money on the present range.
– Provided1 the new range is accessible.
– Yes ; if it is not we will not accept it.
Senator TURLEY (Queensland). - I should like the Minister to give some information as to the item of £10,000 for the extension of the Melbourne Post Office. When is it proposed to commence the work ?
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The information I have is that the estimated cost of the proposed extension is £30,000. The amount now submitted is the first instalment towards the cost of building the basement and ground floor portion of the ultimate extension northwards, covering about one-half of the present unoccupied portion of the site. The additional accommodation provided will be absorbed by the mail branch, including provision for the registration, inquiry, and stamps business. The work will include the erection of temporary iron and wood telegraph office at the north-east angle, and the pulling down of the present brick telegraph office and rebuilding it at the north-west angle of the site, at the corner of Elizabeth-street and Little Bourke-street. I suppose it is intended to call for tenders and commence the work immediately this Bill is passed, and to place a further sum on -next year’s Estimates for its continuance. The desire is to pass these Estimates, so that we may commencehe works, especially in view of the fact that there are numbers of unemployed. As I have said, it is intended to first proceed with the basement and the ground floor, which can be utilized immediately they are finished.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I had intended to bring an important matter under the notice of the Government at a later stage, but the item referred to by Senator Turley affords an e.qually suitable opportunity. I desire to show what the effect of this per capita expenditure is, and, possibly, to ask the Minister some questions in regard to it. We are now asked to spend in the State of Victoria the sum of £10,000 per capita on the extension of the General Post Office. Although I mention this particular item, it is only as an illustration ; the point I wish to raise would be equally forcible in regard to any of the States. When we are asked to vote these sums, the assumption we are bound to make is that the undertakings are going tobe profitable. I understand that this and other estimates are not placed before us until the officials of the Post Office have satisfied themselves that the expenditure will show a profit.
– Does the honorable senator really believe that?
– As Senator Millen will see at once, it is a great strain on the imagination, but I am asked to believe, for instance, that the construction of a telephone line between Melbourne ana Sydney will be a source of profit. If the item under discussion, or any other item, is not going to be a source of profit, I suppose it is a fair assumption that we ought not to vote for it. On the other hand, I wish to direct attention to the pockets into which any profit will go. If I understand this matter rightly, the profit over and above, say, interest on expenditure and the cost of carrying on the service, will go to the State concerned. In other words, the expenditure on the General Post Office in Victoria will be charged per capita, but the profit, if any, will go to Victoria.
– I do not think that in the Committee stage this question ought to be discussed. I referred to it on the second reading, and gave an explanation.
– The Minister did not give us any explanation, but merely told us where we could find one.
– Does the Minister - deny that any profit which arises from this proposed expenditure in Melbourne, will go to the State of Victoria? I take it that the Minister agrees with me in that view.
– But if there is a loss ?
SenatorO’Keefe. - Then all the States will have to share that loss.
– Precisely. All the States will have to bear their share of this expenditure, but the profit, if any, will not go to the States who subscribe the capital, but to the State in which the money is spent.
– That has nothing to do with the question before us.
– It has a great deal to do with the question.
– We can do nothing practical iri the matter.
– I can ajsure the Minister that I intend to move that an item, which we have not yet reached, shall be struck out, so that, at any rate, I am going to try to do something. I am not sufficiently well informed on this particular item to feel justified in making any attempt now, but I shall do so later, for what I take to be the good and sound reasons I have given. I have grave doubts as to the justification for placing a great many of these items amongst new services and new expenditure. Does the Minister propose to justify the classing of this proposed expenditure of £10,000 as new expenditure? If he does, he is, of course, only following the example set, I think wrongly, though most people think rightly, by a Treasurer in some previous Government. Unless Senator Playford can justify the classing of this item as new expenditure, we are not justified in voting the money of any other State towards the cost of the work; and on a later item I shall certainly call for a division in order to test the question.
– If the honorable senator is correct he ought to attack every item, because the same principle applies throughout.
– The same principle does largely apply throughout, and it is for the Minister, and not for me, to justify the position. It is for the Minister to say for what good and satisfactory grounds this item is to be regarded as new expenditure and charged against the States per capita, while, under the book-keeping system, the profits, if any, will go to the State in which the money is spent.
– If the same principle applies, why not move the amendment now ?
– The same principle does not operate in every case, but only when there is a transferred service in which a profit may be made. For instance, we have just dealt with the Defence Department, in which no profit can be made, and in regard to which we cannot quarrel with the debiting of the expenditure per capita.
– Is there a profit on the postal business in any State?
– There is undoubtedly a profit in both New South Wales and Victoria.
– On ‘the contrary, there is a big loss on the postal business in Victoria.
– I think the Minister of Defence is wrong.
– There is a loss of over £40,000 in Victoria owing to penny postage.
– I am speaking from memory, but I am sure there is a large profit made in New South Wales.
– Not at all.
– There is a profit in South Australia.
– Whether there be a profit or not, we must assume that the moneys we are asked to vote represent a profit-making investment. I Remind the Minister that if these proposals were put before us, as representing opportunities for losing money, it would be our bounden duty to vote against them - we vote for them only on the clear assumption that a profit will be returned.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania). - There are one or two items connected with the Post and Telegraph Department which bring to mind a discussion which took place when the Estimates were before us last session. I refer Lo what appears to be the excessive cost of providing post and telegraph offices in small country towns in different parts of Australia. It was then pointed out that a system, which seems to have obtained before this service was transferred, was apparently being continued. In small towns, where post and telegraph’ offices could be erected f°r £5°° or £600, quite adequate to the needs of the population, there is frequently expended £1,000 or £1,500. I am sorry that I missed an opportunity to refer to the new works in New South Wales which have just passed under review, but I ask the Minister to give us later on some fair explanation of the cost of post and telegraphoffices in that State. We are now considering the Department as administered in Victoria, and I particularly call attention tothe item of £2,500 for a post office at Warracknabeal, on which, I may say, I intend to divide the Committee. The sumproposed seems out of all proportion, whenwe consider the very small number of officials required to do the postal work in that town. Warracknabeal may be in the centre of a big district, but surely less than- £2,500 would build a post-office equal toall legitimate requirements. Then I should’ like the Minister to give us some information as to the item of £1,200 for a postoffice at Moonee Ponds. Is that for anentirely new office, or for additions to the office already there?
– The office there is acontract office.
– There is another item of £800 for a post-office at Leongatha, and I should like to know whether that town is sufficiently large, or is the centre of a sufficiently large and important district, to justify such am- expenditure. Would not a less sum suffice for the legitimate requirements of Leongatha? Thereis also a re-vote of £797 for a post and’ telegraph office at Sorrento, which is neither a very important nor a very large place. It seems to me that a practice to which exception was taken last year is being repeated this year. Where it is proposed toerect a new post-office, no matter how small the place, the business to foe done, or the revenue likely to be earned, the fact that it is a Government work is apparently held to justify needless extravagance. We know that that has been the tendency in many parts of Australia in the past under State control, and it appears that the same tendency continues to operate under Commonwealth control. Although many of the items in thispart of the schedule appear to me to betoo large, I propose to divide the Committee on only one, and that is the item of £2,500 for a post-office at Warracknabeal.. Although this expenditure is to take place in Victoria, as it is to be distributed per capita, honorable senators from other States are entitled to question it.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The information that I have from the Post and Telegraph Department concerning the Warracknabeal Post-cffice is that the present building is altogether unsuitable for a large postal business. It is in bad repair, and has been constructed on defective foundations. It is proposed to re-use all available material from the present building in the new erection. I am informed that there is a good deal of work done at this post-office, and that seven or eight employes are engaged in it.
– Including boys;. most of them are boys.
– I am not aware of that. I am informed that considerable business is done there, that the present building is unsafe, and, consequently, we cannot repair it. The honorable senator also criticised the vote of £1,200 for Moonee Ponds.
– I merely asked for information concerning it.
– The information I have on the subject is that the business at present is carried on by a contract postmaster and staff, and the office is producing a revenue of £1,810 per annum. The late Postmaster-General personally visited Moonee Ponds, and minuted the papers as follows : - “ The accommodation provided in the contract post-office is altogether inadequate for such an important centre. I, therefore, approve of a suitable building being provided, arid an official office established.” Then the honorable senator referred to the Leongatha Postoffice, and I find it is pointed out by the Postmaster-General’s Department that Leongatha, is, perhaps The busiest contract office in the State of Victoria. The present accommodation is inadequate for the large business carried on there. The revenue derived from the post-office at this place for the year ending 30th September, 1903, was £1,201.
– £800 suffices there, and £2,500 is asked for Warracknabeal.
– I accept the advice of the authorities of the Department that the sum asked for is required. They consider that £2,500 is not too large an amount in view of the work which is done at Warracknabeal.
– I think that in this Appropriation Bill there is a tendency displayed to centralize expenditure in the capital cities. There is an item of £30,000 for Melbourne General Post Office, and a large sum is set down for telephone services and other facilities for the benefit of the capital cities, whilst the country districts that are in need of facilities cannot be said to be generously dealt with. I find that Warracknabeal is a very important farming centre. It has a population in the town itself of 2,000, and there is a large farming district surrounding the town. It possesses a Lands Office, Court-house, two banks, agencies of insurance companies, two flour mills, a cheese and butter factory, three friendly societies, six hotels, municipal buildings a hospital - to which an infectious ward is to be added at a cost of £1,200 - five churches, agricultural and pastoral societies, and so on. I do not think that the sum proposed in the schedule is unnecessarily large for a post-office at a large farming centre. Although the population of the town is at present only 2,000, it is likelv to be very largely increased in the near future. That is an aspect of the case which we should bear in mind in considering these votes. If honorable senators desire to reduce the expenditure proposed in this Bill, it would be better to take something from the large sums proposed to be spent in the capital cities, when we find that so little expenditure is proposed for country centres that are really in need of postal facilities.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania). - I move -
That the item, Department of Home Affairs, Posts and Telegraphs, “ Warracknabeal, £2,500,” be reduced by £500.
That, in my opinion, will leave a very large margin. £2,000 should be quite sufficient to build a post-office that, will accommodate ali the requirements of Warracknabeal for some years to come, even though the place should grow much faster than its most sanguine friends at present anticipate.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I trust that the Committee will not carry the amendment. Some reasons should be given for it. We have had a mere assertion that the vote proposed is too large, but we have had no information given as to the size of the town of Warracknabeal, and the amount of postal business done there.
– I asked for information, and the Minister gave none as to the revenue derived from the post-office at Warracknabeal.
– There is no proof that the sum proposed is excessive for the purpose for which it is intended. If the Committee accepts the amendment we shall, I think, place ourselves in a peculiar position. The officers of the Post and Telegraph Department have satisfied the Postmaster-General that a post-office at Warracknabeal is necessary. The officers of the Home Affairs Department have been satisfied that an office which will cost £2,500 is required there. How can we act in opposition to this expert advice unless we have proof that the information on which the departmental officers have based their conclusions is insufficient or misleading? We should not cut £500 off this vote, -in a slapdash fashion, without regard to whether we are acting wisely in so doing. We have no information before us condemning the proposed vote, but in support of it we know that this item has had to run the gauntlet of the two Departments to which I have referred.
– Then we might just as well not criticise these votes at all.
– We are justified in criticising them to elicit Information.
– And if we still think we are right we should not take action ?
– If we contend that a proposed vote . is’ too large we should give some proof in support of our contention. We cannot set a mere assertion on our part against the opinion of the experts of the Post and Telegraph and Home Affairs Departments.
– I feel that what Senator Pearce has said would’ lead to the conclusion that, if honorable senators question any of these items, all the Minister has to do is to get up in his place and say that the officers of the Department say that the expenditure proposed is necessary, and we must immediately affirm it.
– So we should, unless we can disprove it.
– I do not take that view. Great weight should certainly be attached to the views of the officers of the Departments. We have no means of ascertaining their views, except by the fact that a certain sum is inserted in the schedule to the Bill. That, in my opinion, is not sufficient, and the Committee would depart from its duty if it accepted the mere statement embodied in the schedule as proof, not merely that the officers of the Departments have so recommended, but that their recommendation is absolutely well founded. I listened to all that the Minister said, and gained no information whatever from the honorable gentleman. I do not know the population of Warracknabeal.
– There are 2,000 people in the town itself.
– I am glad to have that information, although the Minister did not furnish it. I know nothing of the post and telegraph necessities of this place, but I do know that when last year a sum of £600 was put down for certain additions to the post-office at Mount Gambier, an important place in South Australia, possessing twice the population of Warracknabeal, and the centre of a flourishing and rich district, the vote proposed was criticised, amongst others, by Senator McGregor, who said that it was not sufficient for the purpose. That vote was set down on the recommendation of the officers of the Post and Telegraph Department, and the experts of the Home Affairs Department, after inspection, agreed that £600 was all that was necessary to make the additions required. Senator McGregor on that occasion questioned the opinion of the officials as embodied in the amount appearing in the schedule to the Appropriation Bill, and as a consequence of that, and under a promise I made to him, the item of £600 was passed, though he said it ought to be more. I took the opportunity of visiting Mount Gambier* and making some inquiry, because I recognised the extent of the business which was done, and the necessities of- the place, and subsequently further inquiries were made. Other plans were drawn out, with the result that an additional enlargement was arranged for, or a rearrangement of the offices was determined upon. I am not sure whether the point was decided by the last Government or not - my impression is that it was - but this Government have adopted the result of the second inquiry, questioning the opinion of the experts in the first- instance, and have inserted in this Bill an additional sum of £600, making the vote £1,200. There is an illustration of the advantage of not swallowing wholesale the items in the schedule, but of questioning the opinion of the experts. The only way in which we can give an intelligent vote is bv getting the information on which the departmental officers- have acted. Senator Smith has told us that the population at Warracknabeal is about 2,000, and I ask the Minister to give some information about its postal and telegraphic needs, and the amount of business done there. Otherwise I shall vote with Senator O’Keefe on the ground that, by comparison with the expenditure of £1,200 on the post-office at Mount Gambier, we are not justified in voting twice that sum for Warracknabeal.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - Senator Symon has instituted a very unfair comparison. At Mount Gambier we had an old post-office to be added to, at a cost of ,£1,200. In that case it was not necessary to pull down the old building.
– Does the Minister say that the whole place had not to be gutted and re-arranged? That is practically rebuilding.
– At Warracknabeal a post-office has to be erected because the present building is in a bad state of repair. I cannot tell Senator Symon what revenue is received, because the officer in attendance is not provided with that information ; but he is- quite satisfied, as is the Department, that it would be a waste of money to attempt to repair the present building, and that the best and cheapest course is to take it down and use the old material as far as possible. It is contended by the Department that this expenditure is clearly warranted. Although Warracknabeal may not have a large population, still it is the centre of the Mallee country, and a place to which a great many mails are brought to be sorted. The revenue is not less than £1,000, if it is not as much as ,£2,000, and eight or nine hands are employed.
– Are they post and telegraph officials, or are they mostly messengers ?
– It is impossible for me to give that information. My honorable friends may be quite sure that the Department was as economical as possible in the framing of these Estimates. In the case of the Mount Gambier Post-office the economy of the Department was carried so far that they put down on the Estimates only half what ought to have been asked for, and afterwards had to double the outlay.
– No; we put down what we were advised by the experts was sufficient. We questioned their figures, and then we increased the amount-
– In this case it is proposed to reduce the item by £500.. If we find that we can get the work done for less than the amount asked for the whole of the vote will not be spent. From personal experience, I can say that the Department of Home Affairs, with its officials*, is very careful in making its estimates, and cuts down the expenditure as far as possible.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania).- I rise to ask Senator Playford what duties, if any, the Inspector-General of Public Works has to perform with regard to these matters. I understand that when the post-office at Hobart was finished, he made his appearance and inspected the building, although the clerk of works had been there daily for two years, and the work had been passed* by the architect. When it is proposed to erect a post-office or other building at a cost of, say, from ,£1,500 to .£3,000, would it not be just as well to get thisskilled officer to give us some advice before
Ave are asked to vote the money for thepurpose, and involve the Commonwealth in. What may prove to be an unnecessary expenditure? I ha’e had considerable experience of these items, and from my own knowledge of a’ locality could say whether a £500 or ,£1,000 school or post-office ought to be erected. From my general knowledge, I should say that .£2,500 would be a most generous sum to vote for a postoffice at Warracknabeal. In all these cases, the architect would do well to form his plans in such a way that a building could be added to as the -business extended. If Warracknabeal is situated in the centre of a large district, and the business should’ increase, there is no reason why additionsto the building should not be made five or seven years hence. I should think that an expenditure of ,£1,500 would supply therequirements of this district. In TasmaniaAve can build in wood for about ,£50 a room, and in brick for about ,£80, ,£90, or .£100. We could put up halfadozenliving rooms for ,£600, a long room for £200 or ,£300, two or three offices for £150 each, making a total outlay of lessthan ,£2,000. Even if eight officials are employed at Warracknabeal, and there isa good deal of mail sorting to be done, T cannotunderstand why £1,500 should not provide a very good post-office. I ask the Minister to say whether the services of the Inspector- General of Public Works could be employed usefully in a matter of this sort ? Because it is quite likely, as has often happened, that advice has beengiven by some politicians to the townspeople in ibis form, “ You had better ask for enough ; you might just as well have £2,500 as £2,000.” I am quite sure that in some instances bad advice will be tendered simply for the purpose of getting as good a building as possible in the township; and in the case of alarge building, a skirled officer might be sent to see whether the expenditure proposed was absolutely ne- cessary.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - What Senator Dobson has said is a slander on the Department which first asked for this accommodation to be supplied. Surely the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of a State in which a new post-office is proposed to be erected, or in which additions or repairs are required to be made to a building, would never ask for more accommodation to be supplied than was absolutely required?
– Yes, they do that very frequently.
– I do not think they do. I do not believe that the Deputy Postmaster-General in Victoria would care about having a magnificent palace erected for a post-office in Warracknabeal. His first inquiry would be, “ What is the amount of work to be done there?” His next consideration would be, “What accommodation ought to be provided for the doing of that work?” and his third point would be, “What further accommodation is required to meet the convenience of the public.,’ Then his requisition would be sent to the Public Works branch, and the InspectorGeneral would see that the plans and specifications for the new work were of such a character that they would carry out the wishes of the Department. I know that the Department cuts down and economises as far as it reasonably can. It is absurd to expect the Inspector-General of Public Works to visit the different States, and to examine every little post-office.
– I referred to the cases of big post-offices.
– The Post andTelegraph Department has to say what its requirements at a place are, and the Pub lic Works branch carries out its wishes in that respect.. The latter has not a word to say as to what the requirements are, because that is quite outside its function.
– What are our functions in the matter ?
– The function of my honorable friend in the matter is to. criticise. A critic has about the easiest billet there is. As Pope said -
A man mast serve his time to every trade,
Save censure - critics are all ready made-
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - It is quite true that critics are ready made, but critics do not want making when business is put before them in this way. What easier thing can there be than to criticise here. Criticism is forced upon us. I cannot say whether this important countrv town is entitled to an expenditure of £2,500. It is impossible for mc to, and apparently the Minister cannot, say that it is.
– No; I do not pre- tend to know, and no man in my position could say.
– It would be farcical if it were not serious that we have in charge of the Bill a Minister who comes down here, not for the’ first time, and says, “ I do not know anything about the proposal. Just sign the cheque. It is all right. The officers of the Department are absolutely conscientious, and not by any possibility could they err.” If honorable senators will mentally cast their eyes over the country towns of Australia, what will they find written up in bricks and mortar? Monuments to the tendency of departmental officers to lavish expenditure. I am not impugning their good faith, but unconsciously they get into the habit of making our public buildings as lavish as possible, and the only thing to restrain them in the accommodation they provide is the amount of the parliamentary vote. If we like to vote £5,000 in this case, I have not the slightest doubt that they would delight the heart of Warracknabeal and their official feelings by erecting’ a very noble building. But the question is whether £2,500 is a reasonable sum to pay for the accommodation of those who have to work in the post-office. I do not know whether it is or is not, nor does the Minister. We do not know whether the eight employes are boys or men, or whether the number includes four telegraph messengers.
I am not in a position to attack the amount. For all I know, and for all the Minister can tell me, it ought to be not £2,500, but twice that . sum. The difficulty is to find out whether we are justified in passing these votes for works, the necessity for which has not been shown.
– The Committee has done it in connexion with a number of items.
– I admit that, but to what a position arc we reduced if that is considered to be an argument for passing this item ? I intimated with regard to other items that I had about exhausted my’ capacity for agreeing to votes without sufficient information; and unless the Minister is prepared to tell us more about this item than he seems to know at present, there will be nothing to do but to vote against it.
Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania). - I can sympathize with the Minister in having to defend items as to which he can have no personal knowledge. But all the same, he is responsible, and his colleague, who is in charge of the Department which these works concern, ought to have supplied him with the necessary information. Surely it ought not to be difficult to show the amount of mail matter that goes through the Warracknabeal Post-office, and the amount of telegraph business transacted. The amount seems rather large for the purposes of a post-office, for what is little better than a country village.
– Warracknabeal is a very important country centre.
– I do not like to vote for a reduction, which after all may not be sufficient. Surely we ought to be able to build a post-office in a country town for something like £2,000. We have no information as to the character of the building, the material of which it is to be constructed, or anything of the kind.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I find, on referring to the report ‘ of the PublicService Commissioner that at the Warracknabeal Post-office there are employed a postmaster, two telegraph operators, a junior postal assistant, and four telegraphmessengers. The salary of the postmaster is £260 ; the two telegraph operators receive £200 each ; the junior postal assistant receives £60; and the messengers receive respectively £42, £35, £41, and £32.
Question - That the item, Department of Home Affairs, Post and Telegraph, “ Warracknabeal, £2,500, “ be reduced by £500 - put. The Committee divided -
Ayes … … … 11
Noes … … … 15
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I. should like to have some information as to the revenue of the Cairns Post Office, and the number of officers employed. It is proposed to spend £2,500 on the office, the total estimated expenditure being £3,000.
.-The only information that I can give is that which is furnished to me by the Department. I will read it: -
The Portal Inspector reports that the accommodation in the present building for the public is totally inadequate, being merely a portion of 8- feet verandah blocked in, and part of original walls of main building opened and counterinserted. Behind the counter apartition 7 feet high blocks all light that could otherwise enter lrom counter shutters when open. The space for handling mails is very limited, in fact, the place is blocked when the mail is being sorted. The public lobby, the telephone exchange, silent cabinet, officer in charge table, and telegraph office are all under skillion roof, and in summer months working under such conditions must be very trying to the staff, which for the greater portion of each day consists of from twelve to fourteen officials. The mail room is positively dark, the only daylight available being from small windows in back skillion. It is proposed to utilize the present building as a residence for the Postmaster.
The revenue is £6,500 ; there are thirteen hands employed, and their salaries amount to £1,460 per annum.
– I draw attention to the discrepancy between the expenditure on the Cairns office, where thirteen officials are engaged, and where the revenue is £6,500, with that on the Warracknabeal office, where only eight officers are employed, and the revenue is comparatively trifling. Yet £2,500 is: to be spent at Warracknabeal, and only £3,000 at Cairns. I shall not object to this expenditure, but I express a fear that the officials have been too economical in the case of Cairns. If it were possible to do so I should be inclined to move that the vote be increased. It seems a monstrous piece of cruelty to ask thirteen officials to work in premises which will cost only a beggarly £3,000, when at Warracknabeal eight officers, including four boys, work at an office which is to cost £2,500.
– There is always a certain amount of satisfaction in being able to say, “ I told you so,” and we cannot blame Senator Milieu for indulging in that pleasure. The honorable senator has, however, missed one very important point. The Minister of Defence informed us that the postmaster at Cairns will reside in the old premises, which means, of course, that quarters will not be provided for him in the new office. In the case of Warracknabeal, however, we are told that the new post-office includes a residence for the postmaster. When these facts are taken into consideration, it is seen that the two offices are practically on the same plane. The fact that a residence for the postmaster is not being provided at Cairns, means a difference of at least £500 in the cost, so that the office at that place may be taken to represent a cost of £3,500 as against £2,500 at Warracknabeal.
– I am sure the representatives of Queensland accept with pleasure the congratulations of Senator Millen on their extreme modesty in not asking for a larger building at Cairns. I think, however, that the postal officials at that place will be satisfied if they get a building in which they will be able to properly carry on the work. During the parliamentary trip to Queensland, several members of the Commonwealth Parliament saw the post-office at Cairns, and must have been convinced of the impossibility of satisfactorily conducting the business in such a building. The post-office at Warracknabeal is to be a brick building, whereas that at Cairns will be of wood, and, consequently, can be provided at a consider ably reduced cost. At Cairns the postal business of a very large centre is conducted. From that town are distributed the mails for the whole of the Gulf country from Normanton, through Croydon, up the Chillagoe line, and right on to Herberton and Georgetown.
– Why is the office built of wood?
– Because, I suppose, such a building is considered sufficient for the purpose. Most of the public buildings in that part of the Commonwealth are constructed of wood, and, I suppose, cost much less money than brick buildings elsewhere. For my own part, I do not know that buildings of wood are not just as good or better than brick buildings anywhere.
– Can the Minister explainwhy the post-office at Kadina is to cost £1,600, which is much more than is provided for other post-offices in, this division? We might have some information as to the relative size of Kadina, and the importance of the postal business there transacted.
– If there is a prosperous town in Australia, it is Kadina. Every honorable senator will agree that while Cairns, in, the matter of a post-office, has been justly done by, Warracknabeal has been generously treated; and Kadina, with a population of over 2,000, is much larger than the latter place.
– There is a population of 2,000 at the mines outside Kadina.
– I am excluding the population at the mines. Kadina is a central and flourishing town, which is progressing rapidly, and is within a short distance of the mines to which Senator Guthrie refers. In comparison with Warracknabeal, there ought to be £3,000 spent at Kadina on the post-office, and I am greatly astonished at the moderation of the Governmentofficials in this respect. We have here ground for the statement that we may fairly question the basis on which this and other items in the schedule are framed.
– I see that £500 is set down for the improvement of the post accommodation at Millicent. But this work has been completed for a considerable number of weeks. An inducement was given to the contractor, in the shape of a bonus, to construct the work within a certain time before the winter, and what I have to complain of is that the additional accommodation has not been made available for the public. The nights are inclement throughout the southeast of South Australia, and yet the people, in spite of the fact that the accommodation has been provided, are kept waiting in the streets for their letters ; and, on this point, I should like some explanation. The whole of the south-east of the State is badly provided with post-office accommodation.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I did not know that this work had been completed, and the officers, by whom I am advised, have no explanation to offer in regard to the inconvenience complained of. I have no doubt, however, that if the matter be brought before the postal authorities, it will receive attention. One room, I understand, has been added to the post-office, and there must be some reason why it is not being used. I shall be glad to give Senator Guthrie the information later on.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). - I ask the Minister to take a note of the complaint, and to at once make inquiries why the improved facilities are not made available for the public.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - Under the Western Australian items, £13,200 is set down for the purchase of sites for post-offices, which, in the absence of , any information to the contrary, we may assume will cost from £600 to £700 each. I should like to knowwhether these sites are limited to the buildings proposed under the same heading.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - In this matter there is a re-vote of £205, and the new service item of £13,200 is to provide the cost of sitesalready acquire, and to purchase other sites, including that for the Fremantle Post-office; I think the principal portion of the £13,200 is required for the latter office, which will stand on a most expensive site.
– The Minister may be right in his explanation, but I am bound to pointout that there is a separate item of £2.500 for the Fremantle Post-office. A foot-note to this item indicates that the total estimated cost of the land and buildings is £20,000, though the Minister encourages us to think that the £13,200 includes the cost of the land for this post-office. Does the Minister still think that the £13,200 covers the purchase of the land at Fremantle?
– I have no hesitation in saying that it is an outrage on our sense of economy to propose that £20,000 shall be expended on a post-office at Fremantle. I do not suppose that any honorable senator ever heard of such an expenditure in any town of the same size or importance throughout the Commonwealth ; and I intend to move that this item be reduced. The other States are asked to invest a large portion of this £20,000 in what may be a profitable undertaking for Western Australia. They are to find the greater part of the capital, while the Westtern State is to get all the profit. As a Tasmanian representative, I cannot assent to this extravagant investment for the benefit of Western Australia.
– This vote was agreed to last year.
– I am not going to agree to it now, and I move -
That the item, Department of Home Affairs, “ Fremantle Post Office (towards cost), £2,500,” be reduced to £1,500.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - This item was fully explained when it was under discussion last session. The present post-office at Fremantle was built in close proximity to the sea jetty by the State Government in the early days, when the outlet for the port was the sea. Later developments have made the river the harbor, and moved the centre of the business portion of the city a distance of a mile and a half from the present post-office, which now stands practically on the outskirts of the town. To make provision for a postoffice in the business portion of Fremantle at the present time necessitates the purchase of land, which has been greatly enhanced in value as the result of the development of the place?
– Is the land bought yet?
– I do not think it is.
– What proportion of the sum proposed will be required for the purchase of the land ?
– I think that £7,000 or £8,000 will be required for that purpose.
– There is a sum of £13,200 down for the purchase of land.
SenatorPEARCE. - I think that sum is intended to cover the purchase of various sites. The total estimate tor land and’ buildings at Fremantle is £20,000, and of that amount I think that £7,000 or £8,000 will have to be spent on the land, if the post-office is to be situated within the business area of the town of Fremantle. It is now a town of considerable size, and has a population of about 25,000. It must be borne in mind that the value of the present post-office and the land on which it is situated will be a set-off against this expenditure, because if it has not been transferred the Commonwealth will not require to pay for it, and if it has been transferred it can be sold. In reference to the vote of £13,200 for the purchase of land’, I think it has been recognised that in the growing towns of Western Australia, postoffices will, at no distant date, have to be provided, and an initial step has here been taken in making provision for the purchase of sites. This, in my opinion, is a good business proposition, because land in many of the rapidly-growing towns of Western Australia will, in a year or two, be very greatly enhanced in value.
– Are there no Crown allotments in those towns?
– There are; but if they are required for Commonwealth purposes they must be purchased from the State Government in just the sameway as land purchased from private individuals.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I very much regret that Senator Clemons should have brought under review, in connexion with his amendment, the principle recently adopted of distributing the expenditure in connexion with these votes upon a. per capita, as against a State, basis. The honorable and learned senator has told us that he has moved a reduction as a protest against the adoption of that principle. I think that he has made a serious error in so doing. The question whether these votes should be charged on a ‘her capita or a State basis involves a principle which ought to be discussed, quite apart from the merits of any particular proposal for expenditure.
– I think that this is an outrageous expenditure.
– This does not seem to me to be at all a favorable opportunity for the discussion of that great principle. The Senate and the otherbranch of the Legislature should be afforded an opportunity to discuss the question. There would appear to be some grave doubt as to the constitutionality of the system recently adopted by the late Treasurer. Sir George Turner altered the system previously followed without consulting Parliament, and he informed honorable members in another place that, although he had consulted the Crown Law Officers, they were unable to give him any definite advice on the subject. Referring to the provision in the Constitution dealing with the matter, the right honorable gentleman said -
The provision to which I refer has puzzled me a very great deal, and although I have consulted the law advisers of the Crown in regard to it, I have not been helped very much by their opinion..
I find that Mr. Hughes, the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, inter-, posed at a later stage with the question -
Has the right honorable gentleman any reason to believe that the Crown Law Officers regard his action as unconstitutional?
To that question, Sir George Turner replied -
No, it was difficult for me to say whether it was constitutional or otherwise.
A matter of this kind should not be determined by the discussion on any particular item in this Bill. I should welcome an opportunity given to the Senate to express an opinion as to the method on which these votes should be charged, but Senator Clemons should not force the Committee to express an opinion on the subject by recording a vote on an amendment to a particular item appearing in this Bill.
– The question whether the expenditure on these buildings should be charged as new expenditure is not a matter of very great importance, when we consider that if it is not so treated the States will be credited with the amount when the transferred properties are paid for by the Commonwealth. Exactly the same result will be brought about, and we are merely anticipating that result to some extent by the adoption of this method of charging new expenditure.
– This should be treated as new expenditure only when we have a common purse.
– I do not think the question is so important as it might appear at first. I find that Fremantle has nearly as large a population as Launceston.
– It has a larger popu-. lation. It has a population of 25,000.
– The population of Launceston is about 24,000
– I do not think that if it was proposed to build a new post-office in Launceston, £20,000 would be considered too large a vote to cover the building and also the cost of the land required.
– The value of the existing building and land at Fremantle must be taken as a set-off against this amount.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.That is so, and in the circumstances £20,000 for the building and land is not too large a vote for a post-office at an important place like Fremantle.
Question - That the item, Department of Home Affairs, “ Fremantle Post Office (towards cost), £2,500,” be reduced to £1,500 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania). - I desire to obtain from the Minister, if possible, some information concerning the revote of £205, and the vote of £13,200 for the purchase of sites for post-offices in Western Australia. When speaking to the item of £2,500 towards the cost of the Fremantle Post-office, Senator Pearce indicated that very probably a large proportion of this item of £13,200 might be required for the purchase of sites, when a convenient opportunity arose to get them cheaply. If a large portion of the amount is to be spent in that way, I, for one, shall not take any exception to it, because I believe that it would initiate a very good system.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - This sum of £13,200 is required for the purpose of buying sites, including that for the Fremantle Post-office. We do not know exactly what we shall have to pay for the land, but we know that it will be a very large sum indeed. The balance is required so that the Government may be in a position to buy sites at a reasonable rate whenever opportunity arises. Honorable senators must trust the Government to spend the vote in a judicious way.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- Can the Minister of Defence give the Committee an estimate of the cost of the building for the Fremantle Post-office? So far, no one knows what it is to cost. A footnote says that the total estimated cost of the land and the building is £20,000. But we have heard from Senator Pearce and the Minister that at present it is uncertain what the land will cost. Senator Pearce estimated that it will cost £7,000, but of course he does not know what the amount will be. We ought to know what the building is to cost. Surely that amount has been ascertained.
-I wish to know whether the new post-office at Fremantle is to be built on the site of the old one.
– No ; on a new site.
– It seems rather extravagant to vote £10,000 for a postoffice for a place like Fremantle, with a population of about 20,000. By the time the site is purchased, and the building is erected, I suppose that this post-office will cost about ^30,000.
– Are we to understand that the estimated cost of the site for the Fremantle Post-office is included in the item of ,£13,200 for the purchase of sites ?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - There seems to be some confusion’ in regard to the items, and it is caused, I think, by the footnote. The total sum put down on this portion of the Estimates for the purchase of post-office sites is .£13,200, including, a site for the Fremantle Post-office. The item of ,£2,500, to which we have agreed, is a re-vote towards the cost of that building. I do not think it can be stated accurately what the cost of the land or building will be. I do not know that a site has been decided upon, and, of course, until the form of the site is known, the plans of the building cannot be drawn, and therefore it is impossible to estimate accurately the cost of the building.
– The estimated cost of the building is ,£10,000.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I am not going to repeat the remarks I made this afternoon with regard to the proposed expenditure on telegraphs and telephones; but since I spoke I have made, an estimate, which may perhaps be interesting, of the amounts which are being appropriated in this Bill for the various States, excluding any votes for the Defence Forces, because the Defence Department is not a profitmaking one. I propose to deal merely with the votes for post-offices. Seeing that the expenditure is to be charged per capita, it is practically an investment of capital by all the States of the Commonwealth in different States on the condition that the profits accruing therefrom shall go, not proportionately to the States that subscribe the money, but to the respective States in which the money is expended. The figures work out in this way : New South Wales,, .£84,000; Victoria, £57,000; Western Australia, .£48,000; South Australia, ,£26,000; Queensland, £24,600; and Tasmania, ,£11,000. Queensland, as Senator Turley says, suffers, and so does Tasmania. That is no unusual position for those States to occupy under this Federation.
– So does South Australia.
– South Australia is not so badly off as are the two States Ihave mentioned. When I consider these figures of expenditure in conjunction with other figures, into the details of which I shall not enter now, but which arise from the bookkeeping sections of the Constitution, I feel that it is my bounden duty., in the interests, not only of my own State, but of every other State that suffers, to object to such expenditure as this. I shall not labour the point further, but shall content myself with moving the reduction of the item “New South Wales portion of trunk telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne, ,£19,000,” by ,£9,000.
– I have a prior amendment to propose. I move -
That the item, Postmaster-General’s Department, New South Wales, “ Construction and extension of telegraph lines, instruments, and material, £12,000,” be reduced by £4,000.
If honorable senators will look at the footnote, they will observe that ,£4,000 is for work necessitated by the erection of a new telephone line between Melbourne ‘and Sydney.
– That is what the amendment that I intended to move referred to, but I thought it best to move the reduction in regard to the New South Wales portion.
– A reduction must also be moved with regard to the vote for the construction and extension of lines, which is directly concerned with the proposed trunk line. I maintain that the work is an absolute luxury. It is not essential.
– Telegraphic business is concerned in the item.
– I am proposing to reduce the vote by ,£4,000, which sum is necessitated by the proposal to erect the trunk line. I wish to have that specific amount” struck off. I repeat that the work is not essential in any sense of trie word, and there is no proof that it will pay. The amount provided for the work in these estimates, consisting altogether of £[34,000, falls short of the total amount which will have to be expended by some £[16,000, of which no mention whatever is made on these Estimates. That, is to say, £[16,000 will have to be spent later on to complete the work. I take these figures from the loan Estimates placed before the House of
Representatives by Sir George Turner. Every one knows how accurate Sir George Turner’s figures were in matters of expenditure, so that what I say cannot be challenged on that ground. I have nothing whatever to say about the proportion of expenditure between States. I do not attack this vote on that ground in any sense.
– Of course -the honorable senator does not; a Western Australian senator would not touch that aspect.
– I do not see the drift of the interjection. My reason is this : There are a large number of works in connexion with telephones in all the States that are absolutely essential. Amongst others, as I pointed out in my secondreading speech, there is the question of the erection of a common battery switchboard in Melbourne. That is an essential work for the convenient working of the telephone system of this city. Such a switchboard has been in operation in Sydney alone of all the capital cities of Australia. ‘
– Who supplied it?
– The Commonwealth.
– As a matter of fact, the money was down on the loan Estimates of Sir George Turner, and the work has since then been paid for by the Commonwealth.
– And charged against New South Wales.
– I do not care about that; it was paid for.
– It was ordered before the Commonwealth came into existence.
– The fact remains that a common battery switchboard is essential to the proper working. of the Melbourne telephone system, and to the Adelaide system also. I will not speak of the other States capitals, because I wish to confine myself to official documents. I have authority for making that statement in the official document issued in connexion with the loan Estimates. On this point, I will read a cutting from a newspaper dealing with the question. It is dated the 9th of the present month, and is taken from the Age or the Argus, I am. not sure which ; but the point is of no importance, because this is not a party question. It says -
The serious condition of the Melbourne Telephone Exchange, and the need for an improved service, has been impressed on the attention of the Postmaster-General. When money is available, Mr. Chapman will have a new switchboard secured, and the entire service remodelled. Thework is, however, so costly that he hesitates toput it all in hand at once. Certain changes in management have been made some months ago, with such satisfactory results that the officials, now claim that there have been fewer complaints during the first quarter than ever before.
I say that that completely justifies theground that I take up. Such a switchboard is essential to -the working of the telephonesystem of this State, which is paid for by the* subscribers, who get a most inefficient service, because Mr. Chapman says the Commonwealth cannot afford to undertake the work. Yet the Government is prepared to spend this large sum of £34,000, supplemented by £16,000, on an absolutely non-essential work. T maintain that thisis one of the grossest pieces of extravagance the Commonwealth Government has ever had the audacity to place before Parliament.
– Does the honorable senator include the Fremantle Post-office iri that statement?
– The comparison is perfectly absurd. That vote has beenpassed, so that I need, not comment upon it.
– Compare the trunk telephone line with the transcontinental railway.
– What is the use of trying to draw a red herring acrossthe trail in that fashion? What has a railway to do with a gross piece of extravagance in the telephone service, when the telephone system of this State and ‘of other States is almost useless, without up-to-date and proper apparatus? It is not even as; though every service in connexion with thePost and Telegraph Department were complete. A number of works have been commenced in Victoria and New South Wales, but are not yet completed, and there is nochance of their being completed, because of this tremendous extravagance in other directions. I will take one item after the other, and point out what is deficient. Item No. 1 : Under the heading of “ Telegraph and Telephones. New South Wales,,” is a vote of £12,000 for construction and1 extension of lines and instruments and material. Leaving out the amount of £4,000,. which I have proposed to omit, the remainder is £8,000. The loan Estimates of Sir George Turner show that £23,000 will have to be spent before that work is completed. In Item No. 2, we have a vote of £r 2,000. The loan Estimates show that £57,000 will have to be expended before that work is complete. Item No. 3 is “ Towards establishment of metallic circuits in connexion with the telephone system “ in Sydney - £[9,000. To complete that system, £[100,000 will have to be spent That fact is taken from the loan Estimates. Then there is an item of £[4,000 for the construction of conduits in Sydney and suburbs. The entire sum required to complete that work will be ^[28,500.
– How much has been spent in the meantime? Those loan Estimates are ancient history.
– They are dated I9°3 - two years ago. Of course, I can only quote the total amounts mentioned there, but I undertake to say that nothing like £[100,000 has been spent in New South Wales on metallic circuits, which are essential to the proper working of a telephone service in a city like Sydney, where there is an electric tramway system. In the case of Victoria, we have a sum of £[25,000 for the construction and extension of telephone lines, instruments, and materials. For the completion of that system £[92,600 was put down on the loan Estimates. I <3o not think that the work is anything like complete. There was. for instance, a proposal to construct conduits for the telegraph and telephone system. That is a work that is recognised to be absolutely essential. It should be carried out as soon as possible.
– Not essential.
– Not essential where there are no electric trams.
– It was stated in the official document to be absolutely essential to carry out the work.
– Is the honorable senator discussing the division under consideration ? .
– I am justifying the reduction of the vote by £[4,000, by pointing out that other essential work requires to be done. I can only justify my amendment by showing that the money is required for other works. Conduits for telegraphs and telephones are being instituted at the present moment, in small sections, but the amount required for that purpose is £[54,653. I maintain that all these different works ought to be thoroughly and satisfactorily completed before we dream of touching a piece of extravagance like a telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney. It is maintained that the line will pay. I have already pointed out what is the basis upon which it is expected to pay. It is expected, that there will be thirty-five talks, each lasting for three minutes, for 300 working days of the year. That is to say, it is estimated that every twelve minutes some fresh person will make use of the wire, and hold a conversation. I maintain that, at 6s. 6d. for three minutes’ conversation, it will be impossible to justify that estimate. Senator Givens has handed to me a paper which he has asked me to quote on this subject. It is a communication addressed to him by Mr. R. T. Scott, Secretary of the Post and Telegraph Department. It points out that it will be absolutely impossible for any one in Sydney or Melbourne, or any intermediate place, to hold a conversation over the line, whilst another conversation is in progress. The question was raised during the second reading of the Bill as to whether two or three conversations could be carried on at the same time over the line. Mr. Scott writes that that will be absolutely impossible - that only one conversation can be carried on at once. That disposes of any possibility of an increase in the amount of business in that direction.
– I think that Senator Matheson is quite unwittingly taking a course totally unjustified by the actual circumstances. He wishes the Committee to understand that this trunk telephone is a luxury, whereas it is nothing of thekind. On the contrary, the experts of the Post and Telegraph’ Department, whom he is prepared to be guided by in some respects, have furnished evidence” that this expenditure will be a substantial paying investment from the very beginning.
– Where does the honorable and learned senator find the “ evidence “ ?
– The estimates of the experts are the evidence. Where there is a reasonable prospect of profit held out by the Department, the officers of which are justified from their experience in submitting proposals in order to cope with the volume of business between the two States, surely we ought to pay some regard to their recommendations. In Victoria, of which State alone I shall speak, this trunk system has been applied to places like Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo, which are recognised as populous centres ; and in each case the expenditure has been more than justified bv the results. The trunk line to
Geelong, a distance of fifty miles, was constructed in 1889.
– What is the charge? That is the essential point.
– Not at all. The first year’s revenue from this trunk line was something like £129, which has gone on increasing until at the present I believe it is about £1,600. The experience of Geelong has been more than repeated in the case of Ballarat and Bendigo; so that in Victoria alone the system has justified itself as a profitable investment. I am aware it may be suggested that there will be a diminution in the telegraph business between Sydney and Melbourne; but that has not been the experience in the case of the cities I have mentioned. The diminution in the telegraph business has been of the most nominal character, the trunk telephone service having created its own special business and revenue.
– The estimate of profit allows for some diminution in the telegraph business.
– But experience shows that the diminution is comparatively small. When there is a profitable investment, founded on experience, it is surely a dog- in-the-manger policy to refuse to take advantage of it. It is our duty, as far as we can, to offer the utmost facilities for the transaction of business as between the various centres of population, and, as these trunk lines are recognised as efficient means to that end, we ought not to hesitate to extend their operation, particularly when the estimates show that at the outset the return! would be 5 per cent., and ultimately equal to 10 per cent. The revenue from the trunk line between Ballarat in 1899 was £811 17s. 3d., and in 1904 it had jumpedto £1,821 9s. 3d.
– What is the charge for the conversation?
– I am not in a position to say what the charge is, and I do not regard it as an element in the question. The honorable senator may rest assured that the postal authorities, recognising this as a purely business transaction, will make the charge as small as possible consistent with a profitable return. The revenue from the trunk line between Melbourne and Bendigo in 1900 was £50511s., whereas in 1904 it had risen to £1,259 10s. 2d. The revenue from the line between Melbourne and Geelong in 1889 was £129 2s. which had increased by 1904to £1,66111s. 2d. Could any evidence be more conclusive, or afford clearer justification for expenditure in a similar direction between two great centres like Sydney and Melbourne? I ask honorable senators to disabuse their minds of the improper suggestion by Senator Matheson that this proposed expenditure is a piece of extravagance intended to provide a luxury. I am now in a position to say that the charge on the trunk line to Geelong is10d., to Ballarat1s. 2d., and to . Bendigo1s. 6d., for a conversation of three minutes.
– Look at the difference in the distance !
– And also the difference in population and magnitude of business.
– On the figures I have given, I contend that the proposed expenditure is justified. At the same time, I quite agree with Senator Matheson as to the absolute necessity of a common battery switchboard for Melbourne; but we must content ourselves with dealing with the proposal now before us.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - Senator Clemons furnished the Committee with some figures as to the amountswhich are expended in the various States, but he was very careful not to point out the differences in population. I do not say that it is a particularly powerful argument on this particular item to consider the apportionment of expenditure in each State, But, in view of the later utterances by Senator Matheson, it is desirable to deal with this aspect of the case. According to Senator Clemons, £84,000 will be expended in New South Wales, and £48,000 in Western Australia. As the population of New South Wales is, roughly, five times that of Western Australia, the latter State, instead of receiving £48,000, ought to get about £16,000 or £17,000. If we put the figures at £18,000, we see that Western Australia is receiving £30,000 more than she is entitled to on a population basis.
– What has that to do with my argument?
– It has nothing to do with the argument of the honorable senator, but it has a great deal to do with my argument. I think, however, that I can make it apply even to the argument of the honorable sena tor, who is objecting to this trunk lineon the ground that it is a luxury. I shall not quarrel with the use of that term by a gentleman who possesses a considerable vocabulary, but I contend that, so far from being a luxury, the line will be a considerable convenience. If there is one justification for the State monopoly of anypublic service, it is that the State can render the service to a large number of people at a minimum cost. Indeed, that is the only justification for State control ; and having charge of the expenditure in this Chamber, we are entitled to see that these conveniences are distributed as fairly as possible amongst the people of the various States, not because they are the -people of those States, but because they are citizens for whose convenience we have to provide. The population of Melbourne and Sydney is about 500,000 each, with a considerable scattered’ population in the towns between the two cities. T could not, on the spur of the moment, estimate what that scattered population may -be, but it raises the total number of those who would be convenienced by the trunk line to something over 1,000,000. Is that large population not to be considered, when we are giving to Western Australia ,£30,000 more than she is entitled to on a population basis?’ Surely it is carrying criticism to an extreme point when we say that a population of over 1,000,000 is to be denied a convenience, for which they will be called upon to pay just as we now pay for telegraph and telephone services. As to the distribution amongst the various States, this ill-used Western Australia - one of the representatives of which always poses as the champion of economy in other States - would, in 1903-4, have gained .£25,000 in money expended within her borders if the estimate be made on a population basis, and last year the figure would have been ,£54,000. It appears to me that, from the very conditions, Western Australia must continue to receive every vear a very handsome bonus from the rest of the States. The one State which loses is that of Victoria, and it is not difficult to understand why. Victoria is comparatively small in area and fairly settled, and having constructed a large number of its public works prior to Federation, it requires less expenditure on development to-day than does Western Australia. But it is absolutely unfair and unreasonable to ask us to shut our eyes to the fact that the other States’ are contributing large sums for the convenience of the people of Western Australia.
– I never asked honorable senators to shut their eyes to anything of the kind.
– All honorable senators for Western Australia do not object to this expenditure.
– I am not saying that they do. I am not raising, the question whether the sums spent in Western Australia ought or ought not to be charged on a per capita basis, but merely’ drawing attention to a fact. When Senator Matheson opposes the extension of this convenience to a large number of people, because of the expense, I may reasonably remind him of the large expenditure io his own State, contributed by the rest of the Commonwealth. The question of the Victorian switchboard has nothing to do with the matter before us. If a switchboard is essential, let it be provided.
– “Hang the expense !”
– Not so; but the Commonwealth is not reduced to such a position that if the board be absolutely necessary, we cannot afford to purchase it.’
– Mr. Chapman says we cannot afford it.
– Sometimes the honorable senator does not accept Mr. Chapman as an authority.
– I accept him as an authority on this occasion, at any rate.
– The question of whether this trunk line should be constructed is one which we can decide quite irrespective of the fact that a switchboard may be required for Melbourne.
– Except that, if the trunk-line is provided; there will be no money for the switchboard.
– Does the honorable senator apply that argument when he seeks to saddle us with an annual loss on a transcontinental railway ?
– I never suggested that the Commonwealth’ should be saddled with any annual loss.
– The honorable senator asked us to sanction a proposal which would have resulted in an annual loss much greater than the capital cost of this work. Perhaps the honorable senator can tell me the official estimate of the loss anticipated on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, as the figures are too great for me to remember? I know that the annual loss on, that railway, estimated to continue for ten years, amounted to a sum sufficient to have constructed this telephone line several times over. When I find that the honorable senators who plead the poverty of the Commonwealth as a reason why this telephone line should not be constructed are those who have asked us to launch out into an expenditure of several millions on a railway, I may be pardoned if I question their professions of economy. The questions to be considered in connexion with this matter are whether the number of people likely to be convenienced by the construction of the line, and the revenue to be derived from it, justify the proposal as a purely business transaction. Honorable senators who are supporting the proposal may reasonably ask those who oppose it to disprove the “double contention that the number of people who will be convenienced by the construction of . this work and the revenue likely to be derived from it justify the passing of this vote.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania). - Senator Millen argues that because the departmental experts who have reported on this work believe that it will pay interest on the cost of construction it should be immediately undertaken as a business proposition.
– That is not my argument at all.
– I understood the honorable senator to argue in that way, and certainly that was the argument used by Senator Best.
– If that is not the argument, there is no argument in favour of the proposal.
– It was my argument.
– And it is a very good argument.
– It would be a good argument if the Commonwealth Government followed the old practice of the States of paying for the construction of these works out of loan money. The Federal Parliament has, I think, wisely determined that necessary public works shall be constructed out of revenue, and that being the case, we are asked to provide £34,000 out of revenue for this line. If we were taking this out of loan money-
– It would be all right.
– No, it would be all wrong. But if we were borrowing money for the construction of these works, so long as it could be shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that they would ba reproductive, it .would be all right. But. while we are pursuing the better system, of constructing necessary works out of revenue-
– We must not indulge in profitable investments ?
- Senator Best is a. little premature. Within the next year- it is proposed to take £34,000 out of: revenue for this purpose, and there will be that amount, Jess available for the establishment of services in the remote districtsof Australia, where the people are in great, need of postal and telegraphic facilities.
– The honorable senatoroverlooks the fact that this means increased* revenue year after year.
– For New South Wales and Victoria.
– Senator Best knowsas well as I do that this work is in thenature of a luxury. There is already telegraphic communication between Sydney and Melbourne, and honorable senators, must know that only a very small proportion of the people of Sydney and Melbourne, and the towns along this line, will1 be convinienced by it.
– Will the honorable senator apply that argument to the lines between Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo?
– The honorablesenator can apply his argument iri his own way. I know that many requests havecome from remote places in Australia for a very small expenditure to secure the establishment of post-offices, and necessary postal and telegraph facilities, and ;thesystem pursued by the Commonwealth Government is, that unless the people making these applications can show that theworks for which they ask will pay, thev are denied these necessary facilities. I” was for several months in correspondence: with the Post and Telegraph Department to secure the establishment of a waysidepostoffice for the convenience of a community of some seventy or eighty settlers, at a total cost of £10 a year. The establishment of that convenience was delayed month after month, because the person who offered to run the post-office would’ not reduce the charge proposed to £5 a year. There are honorable senators herewho have been as many years in Parliament as I have been months, and they know that it has not always been contended that post-offices and similar public conveniences should be looked upon as money-making concerns.
– It is no detriment if they are.
– Of course not. I dare say that the present Minister of Defence has often urged tha a number of people opening up a new settlement should beprovided with conveniences of this kind, even though they may not pay from the start. Because expert opinion estimates that this line will pay, it is. contended that we should immediately take from our annual revenue a sum of £34,000 for this work, and that means that there will be so much less available for expenditure on tnecessary facilities for remote places.
– The honorable senator’s argument is that all the small places should be satisfied before the big centres get anything.
– No, but while the States are crying out about Federal expenditure, and the Federal Government are trying to keep it down, in view of the comparatively small number of the people of the Commonwealth who will be convenienced by the construction of thus work, I think it might well be allowed to stand over for a year or two.
– Suppose the honorable senator were offered an investment which would repay itself in ten years, what would he do as a private individual ?
-I should put money into it if I had it. But I submit that we have not the money to put into this work. If we followed the old system of floating loans for the construction of these public works this would be good business. Fortunately, we are not going in for loan expenditure, and we are not in a position at present to spend money out of revenue nn a work of this kind. I shall support the amendment, and when we come to the item of £19,000 for the New South Wales portion of the telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne, I shall move that it be struck out as a protest against what I believe to be unnecessary expenditure.
– It seems to me that the argument presented by Senator O’Keefe is that the Government should be carefulto look round for unprofitable works, in order that they might go on with them first.
– The honorable senator knows that that was not my argument.
– That is a construction which might be put on the argument presented by the honorable senator. The probability is that this expenditure will return a profit.
– To whom?
– To the Commonmonwealth.
– To the credit of New South Wales and Victoria.
– Suppose that were sothough we know it is not - and there was no loss to the Commonwealth. We must remember that the Commonwealth Government monopolizes this form of public service, permitting no other person to undertake it, and that a large number of persons require its performance and are prepared to pay for it.
– We have no proof of that.
– A large number of persons require its performance, and are prepared to pay for it. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth can perform the service without any loss, and with a likely prospect of profit, it seems to me that this is a work which we ought to undertake from business considerations, and in fulfilment also of the duty, which the Commonwealth Government owes to the people. Senator O’Keefe said that but a very few persons would be convenienced by this line. If the estimate made that the line will pay be correct - and we have every reason to believe that it is - it implies that a very large number of persons will actually speak over this line. But it does not follow that the advantage will be only tothose who speak over the line. If the line should lead to an accession of business throughout the Commonwealth, as it may well do, those who speak over the line may represent but very few of the persons who will be actually benefited by its use. If Senator O’Keefe were the proprietor of a very large manufacturing business, and by being able to speak over this line, and thus quickly ascertaining some circumstances in connexion with his business, could set 10. 50, or 100 men to work whom he would not otherwise employ, it could not be said that he was the only person benefited by the use of the line. There are a hundred ways in which one can easily conceive that the advantages of this convenience will ex- “ tend far beyond the persons who actually use the line. I think that to follow the practice of calculating how the different States will be benefited by these works is a very unfederal way of dealing with them. As Senator Millen has put it, there are, and will be for many years to come, many reasons why some States which have a small population must have a large expenditure in connexion with conveniences of this sort. The reason is that they are extensive in area and sparse in population, and the proper object of the Government is to extend such conveniences as it monopolises as- far as possible over the Commonwealth. Senator Clemons mentioned Tasmania. As a Tasmanian, I am delighted to hear of anything being done for that State which can be done. It is a very small place, and has been settled for a very long time. It is reasonable to assume that it has conveniences of this character more generally distributed over its area than have newer places, and therefore it requires to-day very much less than they do. But I do hope that this proposal will be carried.
– But Sydney and Melbourne are not new places.
– No ; and they are not asking for an expenditure that will not return a revenue.
– They are asking for one convenience on top of another, for they already have a telegraphic service.
– They are asking for a convenience which they require, which is necessary for cities of their magnitude, which exists in other parts of the world similarly situated, for which they can pay, and in connexion with which a profit will be returned. I would suggest to the honorable senator that the readiest way to get the £10 for which he was so assiduously looking is to encourage the Government to embark” in undertakings of this kind that will return a profit which may be distributed in connexion with districts such as he has in his mind.
– I think that this question ought to be discussed purely on its merits, and without any regard to the per capita basis of distribution. At the same time, the position of Tasmania should be laid before the Committee, because it is a very unfortunate one in regard to this particular question. Senator Trenwith has just pointed out that the Commonwealth is, to take the revenue and the profit from the undertaking. I hope that the line will be profitable, though I do not think we have yet quite enough information on that subject. Assuming that it will be profitearning, we start on this basis : That Tasmania, will have to find one-twentieth of this expenditure of £34,000. Victoria and New South Wales, however, will collect the revenue from; the line; that will not go into the Treasury of Tasmania.
– We are asked tospend £11,000 in Tasmania at a time when we are asked to spend £84,000 inNew South Wales. In such proportion asTasmania may contribute to the £84,000, New South Wales will contribute to the £11,000.
– If the honorablesenator* will remember, I set asi.de the question of the per capita payment. Tasmania entered the Federation knowing very well that some States had -expended far more per head on telegraphic, postal, and other works than it, with a smaller area, had found it necessary to do. We knew that we should have to bear a share in theworks already (^undertaken and carried’ out, and that we should have to continue to take ‘a share therein, because we regard the telephonic and telegraphic system as belonging to the Commonwealth,, and_not to the States individually. But, inasmuch as we do not intend to borrow the money - and I think our finances will be all the better if we do not - we have to consider whether works of this kind might not be postponed for a little time. If this telephone line, which it seems to be perfectly justifiable to erect between two cities with a population of half-a-million each, and is desirable, if not necessary, for business, is carried out, Tasmania will have topay a large proportion of the expenditure, probably £1,500, which is a serious item to that State in the present condition of its finances. I contend that we should halt before we plunge into the expenditure, and’ see if it is absolutely required.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - It is a great pity that this question has been approached as it has been by many honorable senators, and that comparisons have been drawn between the expenditure in one State and the expenditurein another, not only on this occasion, but in connexion with other Bills. The proposal ought to be approached simply on its merits, without any question about which State is to benefit by the expenditure. I- really do not see that that affects the issue at all. Looking at the proposition from the business point of view, Senator Best has drawn a comparison by a reference to the profits derived from the trunk lines to Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo. The volume of business must always depend upon the charge. For instance, to Geelong, one has to pay a fee of lod. for a conversation of three minutes. It is perfectly obvious that a person will willingly spend icd. in conversing for that time with Geelong, when a telegram containing sixteen words would cost him 9d. Then the charge for a three minutes’ conversation is is. 2d. to Ballarat, and is. 6d. to Bendigo. In all these cases, it is obvious that it is advantageous to use the telephone. One can easily understand that the business of these lines increases year by year, as their advantages are discovered. But when you come to a question of paying 6s. 6d. for a three minutes’ conversation, it is a very different matter.
– How many words could a person send by telegraph for 6s. 6d.?
– A person could send sixteen words for a shilling.
– Compare that with a three minutes’ conversation, and remember the saving of time there would be.
– I maintain that this through telephone line will only be used by extremely rich persons, who can afford to pay high fees where profits amounting to thousands of pounds are involved.
– It may save a man the expense of going from Sydney to Melbourne, or vice versa.
– This telephone line will be used by Government officers, who will not pay, by the rich banks, the rich insurance companies, and the rich shipping companies.
– That is no crime.
– I never suggested for a second that it is a crime.
– Their money is as good as that of anybody else.
– Undoubtedly ; but their number is extremely limited. There are not many rich companies ‘ making those profits who could afford to pay that fee for a communication. It is perfectly ridiculous on the part of the honorable senator to talk about the hundreds of thousands of persons living in Sydney, and also in Melbourne, because not one of them will ever dream of using this line as a means of communication. I grant, readily, that the populations of Sydney and Melbourne are what he represents them to he ; but, so far as they are concerned, this line will be like caviare to the million - they will never dream of using it. What will happen in the meantime? I approached the proposition from the point of view that it was ridiculous to go in for this class of work while essential works were left incomplete. I do not think that even Senator Best, with all his desire to secure this through telephone will deny that a common battery switchboard is an essential work in Melbourne. It is well known that the telephone system here is absolutely incomplete, and that if owned by a private individual, without a common battery switch-board, it would be called a swindle, because the service is incomplete and unsatisfactory. It is on these grounds that I object to this vote. The telephone system in Melbourne is used by the bulk of the population, whose interests should be considered. These are the reasons why I advocate the supply of their requirements, and oppose an extravagant expenditure. This through telephone is to be erected solely for the convenience of a few rich persons, who are not prepared to guarantee the loss. It was distinctly stated by one honorable senator after another, in the debate on the second reading of the Bill, that it was impossible to get a guarantee against loss from the rich companies who were going to derive a benefit from the Federal expenditure. That is unanswerable. When we pressed for the names of the persons from whom a demand had come for the work we were told that there was no evidence that it had been demanded by any one.. No evidence can be adduced to satisfy us that there has been a public demand for the line. It is being thrust upon the Commonwealth simply as a convenience for Ministers. In my second-reading speech I made no secret about my view.
– A public demand is not always a safe thing to act upon.
– I quite agree with that remark, but it is. equally clear that, unless a public demand exists, it must be an unnecessary work. In reference to long distance telephones, I read in a newspaper only a week or two ago that an installation had been put in between Glasgow and London, with most disheartening results; that, owing to the charge, it was found that subscribers did not care to make use of the system, and though I cannot quote an authority for the further statement I am about to make, I believe It is a fact that the telephone system between London and Paris does not pay either.
– Two different languages.
– The question of language will be no obstacle to the use of the telephone by business people, because business men will always be able to communicate in French if they have business with Paris, and vice versa. I am afraid it would be a waste of time to object further to this vote, therefore I must be satisfied with having placed on record my protest against a most extravagant and premature expenditure at the present moment.
Question - That the item, , PostmaslterGeneral’s Department, New South Wales, “ Construction and extension of telegraph lines, instruments, and material, £12,000,” be reduced by £4,000 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania). - I move -
That the item, Postmaster-General’s Department, “ New South Wales portion of trunk telephone line, between Sydney and Melbourne, £19,000,” be leftout.
I move this amendment as a protest against the construction of a work, which I regard as an absolute luxurythat will only be enjoyed by a very small proportion of the people, whilst the £34,000 involved in it will mean that a number of settlers in the remoter parts of the country will have to wait longer for services which are absolutely required.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).There is a considerable amount of money to be spent in each of the States on conduits for the purpose of placing telephones underground. In many cases that work is necessitated by the construction of electric tramways, whose wires interfere with the telephone and telegraph wires. I trust that the Government will take good care that where private companies are permitted by State Acts to construct electric tramways, the rights of the Commonwealth are conserved. The onus of such expenditure as this should be thrown, not upon, the people of the Commonwealth, but upon the companies who receive franchises to carry on electric tramway enterprises. If it were not for the fact that electric tramways exist in some of our cities, the telephone and telegrap wires might be carried overhead at a relatively low cost as comparedwith the underground system. The time will arrive when the rights of the companies that own electric trams in Western Australia arid Queensland will terminate. Possibly they may be renewed.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The Commonwealth has protected itself most completely, in the Post and Telegraph Act. against such interference as Senator Guthrie has mentioned. We prevent other persons from bringing wires within a certain distance of ours, and, if necessary, we can compel them to remove wires-. But the reason why we wish to place our wires in conduits underground is not on account of interference by wires charged with electricity that are controlled by private companies, or even by the States Governments, but is that by reason of the increase of telegraph and telephone business our wires have become so numerous that it is a great deal better to put them underground. We have never been compelled to do so because of interference by other electric works. We have taken good care to protect ourselves in that respect.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I draw attention to the vote of £1,500 for machinery and plant for the Government Printing Office. I understood that our work was being done in the State Government Printing Office. How is it that we have to pay for machinery ?
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - Linotypes and other machinery belong to the Commonwealth Government. They are used for the printing of our debates and other work.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - When the Minister of Defence, on the second reading, of the Bill, was dealing with the proposed expenditure on special defence material, he informed the Senate that, although we might pass the proposal to expend £140,000, it was not the intention of the Government to spend the whole of the money in the way set down in the schedule, but that the idea was to devote £10,000 to cordite, and £22,000 to rifles. I pointed out at the time that this method of dealing with the financial proposals of the Commonwealth was extremely unsatisfactory. I should now like, if possible, to obtain a pledge from the Minister that, if he intends to make any alteration in the allocation of the money voted, he will come before us with Supplementary Estimates, as was done on a previous occasion. I have taken some trouble to look into the matter, and I find that Supplementary Estimates were submitted for the year ending 30th June, 1904, consisting to a large extent of alterations in the original votes. Where money was not going to be expended in the wav authorized by Parliament, the special Bill, which both Chambers had an ooportunity to discuss, clearly defined the alterations which had been made. If that is the course which the Minister proposes to adopt on the present occasion, I do not think much can be said against it, because it is clear that the honorable gentleman, who has recently been given charge of the Department, has taken the Estimates over as he found them, and apparently has formed a different opinion on the subject from that held by his predecessor. But unless Supplementary Estimates are submitted, I maintain that our proceedings will be most unsatisfactory. The Senate may not agree with the proposals of the Minister.
Senator Playford. - No.
– I remember that Senator Best suggested that the alterations should be submitted in the form of a Bill, but the Minister did not acquiesce.
– There are two ways of carrying out what Senator Matheson desires. When it was suggested to me on the second reading, that I should introduce a special Bill in order to alter the allocation of the moneys, I did not answer, because it struck me that the matter might be more readily adjusted on the present Estimates iri another place. There is no trouble in obtaining a message from the GovernorGeneral, with a recommendation that certain alterations be made in the appropriations, and including those alterations in the Estimates for this year. Those altered Estimates would come before us in the ordinary way, and we should be afforded an opportunity to criticise and make suggestions. I did not wish to say definitely, that I would bring in a special Bill, seeing that the object could be attained in the way that I have described. What the Senate very properlv desires, and what I have promised, is, first, that the total amount shall not be altered; secondly, that I shall indicate the items I propose to strike out and the new proposals I intend to introduce. I stated that I would provide for a supply of cordite and rifles, and leave out the votes for accoutrements, saddles, and so forth, which I do not believe to be so neces’sary in time of war. The Senate will have an opportunity to see what I propose, and if they have the slightest objection, they can make their opinion felt by means of their criticism. I should not bring in a Bill to provide for the small alterations which will be proposed when, as I say, the object can. be attained by means of an ordinary appropriation. The Senate has the right to be consulted on the suggested alterations, and I promise that an opportunity shall be afforded.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - It was worth while raising the question in order to get this definite information from, the Minister. As a matter of fact, we failed to get any such expression of opinion when the matter was raised on the second reading, .and the proposals were left in what I considered an extremely unsatisfactory condition. I should be glad to know now, after the lapse of a week, what conclusion the Minister of Defence has arrived at in regard to the suggestion to substitute’ 9.2 guns for 7.5 guns at Fremantle?
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The honorable senator cannot expect me, in the course of a few hours, or a few clays, to arrive at a definite conclusion on a subject so important. What I have done is, first of all, to stop all expenditure at the Fremantle fort. There, the work being carried out was with the object of mounting 7.5 guns, and, of course, it would be of no use allowing operations to continue if there was any prospect of substituting 9.2 guns. The work at the fort, where the 6-inch guns are to be mounted, will, of course, go on, because there is no question raised in regard to that proposal. . The recommendation for the mounting of 7.5 guns came from the three officers who advise me, and I have considered it only fair to forward thiem Senator Matheson’s speech, and ask for a report. Further, I have telegraphed to England, asking the Secretary of the Defence Department, Captain Collins, who is at present in London, and who is an old naval officer, to make inquiries as to what progress has been made with the 7.5 guns which were ordered about the 15th! or 1 6th April last. When I receive the reply from Captain Collins, I shall know what steps to take. If the 7.5 guns are half finished, I suppose the work will have to go on, and we shall have to utilize them in some other way. If, on the other hand, little or no progress has been made with their manufacture, I shall verv possibly order operations to be suspended until a decision is arrived at one way or the other. In the meanwhile, I shall get the report from the officers to whom I have referred Senator Matheson’s speech, and lay the matter before the Council of Defence. Then, in all probability, I shall obtain the very -best advice I can from expert authorities in England, and, if I have any doubt in toy mind as to the calibre of gun that should be obtained, I shall ask the Colonial Defence Committee of Great Britain to report on the whole subject. All this will doubtless delay the work for some considerable time, and under the circumstances the ,£24,000 which is set down for the 7.5 guns and ammunition will be a saving on the present year’s expenditure. At any rate, the Government will be put in a position different from that anticipated by Senator Clemons, who endeavoured to make out that the votes on the Estimates would not be sufficient for the purposes named.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).I am glad that the Minister of Defence has taken steps to countermand the order given for the 7.5. guns. If the Council of Defence, or the other experts whom it is proposed to consult, should recommend 9.2 guns, there will be no necessity to procure them from England, seeing that there are two guns of the kind in South Australia.
– Those guns are no good ; they are in no way equal to the 9.2 mark x guns.
– The guns in South Australia are as good as any that are being manufactured to-day, although it may be necessary to make some slight improvement in the breeches.
– Those guns are not as good as the 7.5 guns for penetrating armour.
– Gunners in the Royal Artillery tell me a different story. At present the 9.2 guns lie buried in the sandhills in South Australia, and something ought to be done with them. If they are not wanted at Fremantle they ought to be mounted somewhere else. .
– We do not want such guns at Fremantle !
– Those guns were ordered by the South Australian Government, and when I was Agent-General in London in 1895 I tried to sell them to the Japanese Government. The Japanese Government, however; refused to take them, because they were not up to date.
– I do not think that the Western Australian people ought to refuse those guns simply because at present they are buried in the sand. They represent a large amount of money, and they are not out of date.
– Not absolutely out of date, but they are getting towards that condition.
– It is of no use keeping the guns in South Australia, not because they are out of date, but because, with a variety of armament, a variety of ammunition must be stored to a great extent.
– As little variety as possible is desirable in the armament, so that one class of ammunition only may be required.
– I am sure that if the Minister gets reports from the authorities on these 9.2-inch guns, it will be found that they are as good as anything that can be brought from England to-day.
– Has the honorable senator any objection to mention his authority ?
– I have an objection, but the authority is good enough for me.
– The honorable senator has been misled.
– How does Senator de Largie know that, when he has never seen the guns, and knows nothing about them?
– I have heard of them.
– They are Armstrong guns.
– They are Armstrong guns, and are in good order; their mountings are also in good order, and no objection can be raised to them. All I ask is that before the Minister orders 9.2-inch guns from England he will obtain a report on this matter. If he does I feel satisfied that it will be found to substantiate mv statement. “Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I think that Senator Playford may be congratulated on the way in which he proposes to treat this matter. I have no objection to any part of the programme which he has carried out or proposes to carry out in this connexion. I should like, however, to say that if the honorable gentleman eventually finds himself compelled to refer this matter to the Colonial Defence
Committee - and he could refer it to no higher authority - I should like to be allowed an opportunity to submit my case in writing, so that it may go forward with the other papers, because everything depends on the way in which cases of this kind are put. I have had the advantage, with the honorable gentleman’s permission, of reading the despatches of the Colonial Defence Committee, and I can quite see that there is certain information in connexion with Fremantle which has not been put before the Committee in the way in which I should put it. As the authorities of the Department hold very definite views on this subject they are not likely to put my views as strongly before the Committee as I should put them myself. I trust, therefore, that the Minister of Defence will see his way to consent to what I ask. In view of the attitude which the honorable gentleman has taken up on this subject, I shall not detain the Committee, but there are one or two facts which I desire to mention in con’nexion with matters which were alluded to in the previous debate on the Bill. I have ascertained that the fort at North Fremantle was originally designed for 9.2-inch guns, and could easily be adapted to the 9.2-inch guns I advocate.
– The design was altered when the 7.5-inch guns were decided on.
– The design was altered to a certain extent. The distances between the pivots or centres of each gun were not altered, but they would require to be altered slightly for the 9.2-inch guns I advocate. It would mean a difference of twelve feet between the guns, and of one foot in the contour line, neither of which alterations presents any insuperable difficulty dr , involves any large additional expenditure. So that so far as the capacity of the fort for taking these guns is concerned, there is no difficulty whatever. The next point which I believe the experts raise is that at 4,000 or 4,500 yards the 7.5-inch gun can penetrate 6 inches of Krupp steel. They say that no ship would develop its attack until it came within the striking radius of the 7.5-inch guns. I hold that that contention is simply put forward to strengthen their case. I cannot conceive it possible that any ship, knowing that its armour would be penetrated at 4,500 yards, whereas it could not be penetrated at 6,000 yards, would not stop at the range at which it was immune from destruction, and where with 9.2-inch guns it could shell the forts and destroy them.
– There would be a good deal of trouble involved in destroying these forts, and unless a gun were hit, the damage done would not be excessive.
– The honorable gentleman is entitled to hold that opinion. I have fortified myself with facts connected with the bombardment of Port . Arthur bytwo Japanese ships. I take this statement from ,a cutting from the Age of 26th October, 1904 -
The two armoured cruisers bought by Japan from the Argentine, namely, the Nisshin and Kasuga, have bombarded with their heavy guns, and have silenced the Russian forts eastward of the Golden Gate, which lies eastward of the Fort Arthur entrance.
I have turned up the record of these two ships in Brassey, and I find that they have 6 inches of Krupp steel armour, and are armed with 8-inch guns. These guns are not quite as powerful as the 9.2-inch guns I advocate, but with them they were able to bombard and silence the forts referred to.
– The honorable senator does not tell us what guns the forts were armed with.
– I do not, because I do not know; but it is perfectly clear that the forts were not armed with guns sufficiently powerful to damage these cruisers protected by 6 inches of armour, and that would apply to the Fremantle fort with 7.5-inch guns at a range of 6,000 yards. If the experts are going to maintain that a ship attacking the Fremantle fort will come inside a convenient range for the 7.5-inch guns, my case of course drops to the ground. But I can hardly conceive it possible that any intelligent naval officer would run such a risk. Then we are told that it is absolutely inconceivable that a foreign cruiser would waste her ammunition against a fort. If that be so, no foreign cruiser is going to attack Fremantle. If such a vessel cannot afford to spend her ammunition in silencing the guns of the Fremantle fort before she attacks the shipping, I” cannot conceive it possible that the expedition would go in that direction at all. The object of the expedition would be to destroy the shipping, and it seems to me that it is obvious that the attacking cruiser would be supplied with sufficient ammunition to carry out the object in view. I was anxious tosay these few words, because they deal with objections shortly raised by the Minister of Defence in his second-reading, speech, and I desire thai any person referring to the debates on the subject shall’> be able to consult my answer to the objections which the honorable gentleman raised.
-I understand that the item in connexion, with the Cerberus is to be withdrawn.
– I have no objection* to it being struck out.
– I move-
That the item, Defence Department, “Mounting 8-inch breech-loading guns on Cerberus^ £2,000,” be left out.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).Before the amendment is agreed to, I think, the Minister might inform the Committeewho is responsible for recommending that these guns should be mounted on a. ship that is not fit to go to sea. A grave error has been committed by the officers whoare responsible for recommending to theMinister that we should mount these gunson a ship that has been condemned as unseaworthy, and whose boilers are not fit to> get up steam. It is an absolute scandal that such a recommendation should be put before Parliament. I admit that the Minister has done right in advising that theitem should be struck out, but the officer responsible for this recommendation should” also be struck out.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I have not beenable to ascertain exactly who is responsiblefor this recommendation. As I was not responsible for submitting the item to Parliament, I have not been too curious toinquire.
– The honorablegentleman is responsible now.
– No, because I am agreeing to the proposal to strike theitem out. In speaking on the second reading of the Bill, I mentioned that these guns would not be required. I think that theitem can be explained by the fact that about twelve months ago it was understood that the Cerberus could’ be repaired and rendered serviceable for a few more years, and it was proposed that she should thenbe supplied with better guns. Twonew 8-inch breech-loading guns were- to be placed on board of her. Subsequently a thorough examination of the vessel was made, and the conclusion arrived at was that she was not worth repairing, and was practically only fit for scrap iron. By an oversight, the original recommendation for re-arming her with these guns was allowed to stand. It was overlooked, evidently, by my predecessor, and I have explained that it never came before me until it was submitted to Parliament in this Bill. When I saw it I at once made inquiries, and found that these guns were not required. The recommendation was made in the belief that the Cerberus could be put into fightingtrim, and it was overlooked when the idea of repairing the vessel was abandoned.. We have now, however, done the right thing in proposing to strike out the item.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). -Inthis connexion I should like to ask the Minister if there is any periodical survey of the ships belonging to the Commonwealth. It is absolutely necessary that there should be such a survey of the Commonwealth ships, and some responsible officer should report on their condition. I am informed that the Cerberus has been running with boilers in such a condition that it is a wonder that they did not long ago blow up, and blow every one on board the ship into another world. At the present time there is no periodical survey of ships belonging to the Commonwealth. I hope that the Minister will take steps to introduce a regulation providing for a halfyearly survey of all ships belonging to the Commonwealth.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - I do not know whether a periodical survey is made or not ; but I know that the officers applied to me for money for effecting the repairs, evidently after they had made an: examination of some sort. I know that one or two of the gun-boats are undergoing repairs. I shall ascertain whether periodical examinations are held, but I should imagine thai they are.
– They are not.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity of intimating that, now that the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill has been advanced to the report stage, it is the intention of the Government to give effect to a promise it has made on more than one occasion, to afford an opportunity to those honorable senators who have not addressed themselves to the classification scheme of the Public Service to express their views. In accordance with its appearance on the noticepaper, private business will take precedence to-morrow, and will, it is anticipated, occupy the attention of the Senate until the Suspension of the sitting for dinner. Immediately after the report on the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill has been disposed of, I shall move the adjournment of the Senate, not intending to take any other Government business after the dinner hour. That will afford to those who wish to speak on the classification an opportunity to address the Senate. In answer to an interjection which came earlier in the day, when I was intimating the course the Government intended to follow, I wish to point out that it is absolutely impossible for a substantive motion in regard to the classification scheme to be submitted. There is a motion on the noticepaper for a day far ahead, and it will be impossible by giving notice of a substantive motion, to anticipate a discussion thereon.
– So long as it did not clash with that motion, it could be done.
– I think it would lead to the consideration of all kinds of points of order. On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate to-morrow evening, it will be competent for honorable senators to address themselves to the subject, and so long as there is an understanding that they will do so, I trust that they will expedite the discussion as much as possible, in order that the Government may finally dispose of the classification scheme in the light of the criticisms which have been levelled at it in another place, as well as here. The Government will see that a suitable record is taken of all criticisms of the classification based upon the policy of the Public Service Act. It will also see that before the classification scheme is finally disposed of the Commissioner will be fully apprised of all such criticisms which have been levelled at it in another place and here. With that intimation, I earnestly hope that to-morrow evening honorable senators will assist the Government to bring to a satisfactory conclusion the discussion of the principles of the Act, in so far as they relate to the concrete expression of them in the classification scheme.
– Every honorable senator must have noticed this afternoon the inconvenience to which the leader of the Senate was put in having to continually leave his seat at the table in order to consult the officer’ sent here with information concerning the various items in the Estimates for works and buildings. It would conduce greatly to the speedy transaction of business and the convenience of the Minister if the officer were provided with a seat at the table.
– I do not see that it is an innovation to which any one could very well object, because seats are now provided at the table for the clerks and the members of the Hansard staff.
– There were three officers in attendance upon the Minister to-day.
– Yes, but that did not save the Minister the necessity of having to continually leave his seat at the table in order to consult them upon certain items, it is unreasonable to expect that a Minister can be conversant with every item in any set of Estimates. It would be offering no indignity to the Senate to allow an officer to sit at the table and give to the Minister all the assistance he requires. On the contrary, I believe it would add to the dignity of the Chamber to allow the officer to sit by the elbow of the Minister, rather than have the latter continually walking to and from the officerin his box. I do not know that an alteration of the Standing Orders would be necessary to permit my suggestion to be carried out. Of course, if the Minister did not need assistance the officer would not take a seat at the table, but if the Minister did require the assistance of the officer a seat could be provided at the table for him.
– I can imagine only two occasions when a Minister would be likely to require the assistance of an officer, and that is in connexion with the annual Appropriation Bill and the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, because it is utterly impossible for any Minister to have all the information necessary to give the many explanations asked for regarding the various items. The Secretary to the Minister has a book, in which he can turn up a particular item more quickly than the Minister can do. Therefore he is of great assistance to the Minister at a time when honorable senators are asking for information about items. There are only two occasions in a session when it might be advisable - and certainly it would be a convenience to the Minister - for the Secretary to be accommodated at the table. Instead of the Minister having to leave his seat at the table to consult the Secretary, and an honorable senator having to pause in his speech until the information has been obtained, it might be just as well if the Secretary could sit immediately alongside the Minister, and hand to him the information just as it was asked for.
– Or the Minister could sit alongside the Secretary’s box.
– It would not be so convenient for me to sit near the box, unless I had a table upon which to place my papers.
– There are very strong objections to bringing officials into the Chamber.
– I suppose there are. Perhaps on the next occasion I may be allowed to have a table near the Secretary’s box. That would obviate the necessity of the Secretary being within the Chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 September 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19050920_senate_2_27/>.