3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, if there is any reason why the despatch from the Board of Trade with regard to the proposed navigation law should not be laid upon the table of the Senate ?
– It will be laid upon the table of the Senate probably during the present sitting.
– I beg to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, whether he can tell the Senate, or, if not, whether he will ascertain what salaries are paid to the partially employed telegraphists mentioned in the return tabled yesterday, and also whether those officials come under the minimum wage provision of the Public Service Act?
– I have not the information at my command, but I shall be very pleased to obtain it and supply it as early as possible, perhaps to-day.
– I desire to make a personal explanation regarding a matter which appears in the Age of this morning, and in which certain remarks are attributed to me. Yesterday morning my colleague, Senator Chataway, had to get up in his place and deny some remarks which had been attributed to him. I must say that I . was quite unaware that the event’ mentioned by him had taken place, so that I could not have requested the honorable gentleman to “ nurse the baby.” I believe that they apply to a young Australian. At present he is unable to defend himself, but if he follows in the footsteps of his father I have no doubt that at a later time he will be able to take his own part. I hope that in future, when a reference of this kind is made, it will be made to the right person. I should be the very last person to make such remarks about any one as have been attributed to me. In fact, that is not in my line. I hope that this explanation will satisfy honorable senators and the gentleman named.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
If he will lay upon the table of the Senate copies of the affidavits made by marine surveyors in England on the condition of the s.s. Afric, as laid before the Court of Marine, Inquiry at Melbourne, on11th March?
– We are in communication with the authorities with regard to these papers. Of course, if we secure them we shall be only too pleased to lay them upon the table.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 12th March, vide page 8925):
Parliament - Senate Rooms : Accommodation for Papers : Personal Attendance.
Divisions 1 to 10 (The Parliament),£5,514.
– On the proposed vote for the refreshmentrooms, I wish again to call attention to the want of accommodation for our papers. Every day I hear some honorable senators complaining of the lack of accommodation for that purpose, and seeing that there is plenty of spare room in the building, I think that the House Committee ought to take some steps to meet our views. All the accommodation each senator has in the Senate Club-room is a small box, which he has to clear every other day, and from the want of another locker we mostly throw old papers into the waste-paper basket. Honorable senators really have no place in which to put old papers, and therefore they are compelled to throw them away. I often am very much inconvenienced by the want of room. I cannot lay my band upon a document when it is wanted. I very often am put to a lot of trouble, which, if suitable conveniences were provided, would not be necessary. Upstairs there is a big room, which is reserved mostly for dinners. We do not have many dinners in that room, and there is plenty of space round its walls for a large number of boxes and desks to be provided. I ask the Government to take the matter seriously into consideration. Of course, it may be claimed that there is plenty of accommodation for senators’ . papers, and that those who sat here before our day were quite satisfied with it. But I would point out that those gentlemen merely played at legislation, while we are very much in earnest about it. Their field of work was extremely limited, while ours ranges over the entire Commonwealth, and, indeed, beyond it. In addition to that, they all lived in Melbourne, and each of them, I suppose, could have an office in his own dwelling, whereas the majority of the senators come from other portions of Australia, are mere pilgrims, so to speak, and cannot provide themselves with an office in the house where they happen, to be staying during the session: I hear a great number of honorable senators complaining of the want of accommodation, and I desire, if I can, to elicit an expression of opinion on this matter from the Committee. As I know that nothing short of an adverse vote will have any effect upon the Government, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, !1 Refreshment Rooms, j£i02,” by £i.
– I think that this question ought to have been raised in connexion with the Department which has control of the question of the Federal Capital site, because what Senator Stewart has said clearly points to the fact that we can never be properly accommodated here. His speech was one of the most powerful and pathetic appeals I have heard made to the Government to urge on the early settlement of that question.
– It is settled, and it is only a matter of shifting to Dalgety.
– The honorable senator is a little more confident about that than are a great many other persons. I indorse what Senator Stewart has said as to the extreme inconvenience which arises from the want of accommodation for our papers. During the last few months we have been particularly loaded down with papers in connexion with the Tariff. The more methodical of us have desired to keep many of those papers in’ something like convenient order, but it is -absolutely impossible, to do that with one little locker, which would make only a fair-sized pigeon’s nest. As every one knows, the accommodation is quite inadequate to enable any one charged with the duties of a representative of the people to keep his papers in order. Not infrequently I find that- the “attendant has been unable to place my letters in the locker. He can just poke them into the little slit in the door where they get jambed. While this is a magnificent show building, the accommodation really available for work is limited. So far as my knowledge goes, there are no rooms that can be taken iri hand without seriously disturbing the purposes for which they are intended. I do not suppose that Senator Stewart would like to monopolize the room to which he has referred solely for the purpose of providing accommodation for honorable senators:
– Why not?
– I thought my honorable friend gave in his adherence to the idea that it would be a great injury to ‘destroy the principal purpose for which the room is intended.
– It would not benecessary to destroy that purpose at all.
– There is the Queen’s Hall for dinners.
– We can do away with the dinners. /
– Anything but that f.
– I entirely join with Senator Trenwith in that protest. The room referred to fulfils a purpose, and it is sometimes required for meetings connected with public business. Whether that room were retained for its principal purpose or not, there would certainly have to be a room available for such. uses. It must be remembered that we are only tenants of this building.
– We may be here for years.
– The Government would not ‘be wise in incurring great expense - even if the owners of the building permitted it - on architectural alterations. Anything of that kind would be merely a make-shift. Honorable senators really cannot expect to have proper accommoda-tion provided for them until the Federal Parliament is sitting in its own House.
– I have already taken some hand in regard to this matter, and have presented a petition from members of the Senate to the Government with reference to it. I understood that something would be done to assist us. The petition was presented before Christmas. What we require is a place in which our letters and. papers can be kept, and be available for ready reference, apart from the accumulation of Parliamentary documents. Whilst the Tariff was before the other House, I suppose that nearly every honorable senator received on an average about twenty letters per day.
– More than that.
– I. am trying to keep strictly within the limits of accuracy. Personally, I had more every day. I believe that the contractor who was consulted required £50 to make a piece of furniture that would provide better accommodation for honorable senators. It seemed a considerable sum to spend on a little plain woodwork, with some beading, and a few fittings. But at the same time, if the thing is necessary, .it should be obtained. When I want a particular paper, I have to turn out the whole box. There are many papers which a senator does not wish to destroy because he knows that they may be required at a moment’s notice. Only last night, if I or Senator Stewart had . destroyed certain letters, it would have been impossible to bring forward a matter which was discussed. Whilst this building looks magnificent from outside, you find when you acquire a little better acquaintance with it that it is nothing but a mass of corridors.
– It is all corridors and draughts.
– The draughts are almost sufficient to kill a man with a cast iron constitution. I direct particular attention to Senator Millen’s case. I “think that he, as leader of the Opposition, ought to have a room for himself, just as have Ministers, the President, and the Chairman of Committees. The leader of the Opposition, in the other Chamber, has a special room, and surely Senator Millen ought to have accommodation for keeping his papers and transacting his business.
– If Senator Millen had a room for himself the other leaders of the Opposition, Senator Neild and Senator Macfarlane, would also want special rooms.
– I do not mind my honorable friend having a little bit of fun, but this is really a serious question. I hope that the House Committee will take the matter into consideration. We do not ask for the expenditure of a large amount of money. I. do not believe that the members of the Senate have asked the Government to spend £5 on accommodation since I have been a senator. The piece of furniture that we require would not cost more than ,630 or ,£40, and, after all, it would belong to the Commonwealth. If ever we have a Parliament House, belonging to the Commonwealth, the article would be removed with our other property.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [11.22]. - I wish to say a word with reference to the accommodation provided for the papers of honorable senators. Certainly, whatever can be done, should be done. I own, that recently, during the Tariff debate, I have been placed in a very awkward position. I have received com munications and have written replies promising to give attention to matters at the proper time. But when the proper time has arrived my papers have been in such an unhappy condition owing to lack of accommodation for them, that I have not been able to find what I wanted to enable me to keep a pledge given by me as a public man. That places me in a very awkward position. I am not careless with regard to my papers. I fold them and indorse them as a clerk in . an office does ; then put a band round them, and put them away carefully. Yet it seems impossible to keep one’s papers in order. The difficulty has been increased by our practice of skipping from one division of the Tariff to another. The order in which items have been taken has been frequently altered. Sometimes a letter which one receives alludes to three or four items of the Tariff. When the first item is dealt with one makes use of the letter, and puts it back in its place for future use. But owing to the lack of proper accommodation one is unable to find it again. It is most unfortunate, and I feel very keenly the difficulty in which I have been placed, because I have positively been driven by the stress of the inconvenience referred to into the position of failing to keep a promise which I made as a public man. The amount of work that one has to do here is certainly very heavy. As an old business man, I have never before tried to transact as much business without clerks to help me, and proper pigeon holes in which to place documents. It is impossible for any member of the Senate who desires to keep in touch with his correspondents to do it under existing circumstances. Of course there is one thing to be said in favour of our practice of senators meeting in one large room ‘instead of having different rooms’ as is the case with the members of another Chamber. Our practice results in promoting a feeling of camara derie amongst the members of the Senate which I do not think obtains to such a degree elsewhere. That is a very happy thing, but nevertheless the lack of accommodation is very inconvenient, especially in relation to one’s correspondence. Even in the room where we do meet there are only four ink pots and blotting pads for the use of thirty-six gentlemen. But I do not see how the accommodation! can- be enlarged without altering the furniture. I am a member of the House Committee, and must take my share of blame if any one is to be blamed. But though this building is a splendid aggregation of corridors there are very few rooms in it. I do not know what can be done without providing additional rooms, which would be practically impossible. In the United States provision is made for the members of Congress to occupy a building where the members have offices and sleeping accommodation - one room each for members of the House of Representatives, whilst the Senate being half as numerous, each senator has two rooms provided in the building which they occupy; the two buildings being of equal size, and situate to rear of the Legislative chambers. Without setting up a claim for two rooms for each member of this Senate, I do say that if we ever have a Federal Capital and Federal Parliament Houses, I think provision will have to be made for a building to accommodate members of Parliament. It will then be much more convenient than it is at present for members from distant States when attending to their duties at the Seat of Government. At the same time I think that members should , pay interest to a sinking fund for the suggested accommodation. When one comes to Melbourne he is likely to find that owing to a rush of visitors, on account perhaps of a cricket match or the races, there is a difficulty in finding accommodation. A member really does not know whether he will be compelled to become a distinguished occupant of No. i boiler, Yarra Bank, or something of that sort.
– -I do not think that the honorable senator should discuss accommodation of future Parliament Houses, or any matter apart from the question now before us.
– I own that I do not know what can be done to improve the accommodation, unless it be the provision of additional cupboards. I am very much in agreement with Senator Stewart with reference to the very unhappy method of dealing with, newspapers. The accommodation for them is most unsatisfactory. I never saw anything so bad anywhere in my life in a public building, as the newspaper accommodation in the Club-room. I know that several attempts have been made to rectify these matters - I am not censorious, and must take a share of the blame - but I have begun to look upon the condition of affairs as chronic.
Senator Lt.-Colonel GOULD (New South Wales) [11.31].- As the debate proceeds there seems to be a tendency to increase the requirements of honorable senators, because I have just heard it suggested by the last speaker that it would be a. matter of great convenience if each honorable senator had an office, and office accommodation to himself. I quite agree that it would be very convenient’ and comfortable, but is it a reasonable proposition to put forward in view of the expense that would1 necessarily be involved? Exception has been taken to the want of accommodation so far as rooms are concerned. It is said that conversation goes on in the Club-room,, and that therefore it is very difficult for a man to collect his thoughts, write, or deal with business there. The members of the Labour Party in this Chamber have had allotted tothem a room, which .was provided by cutting off the end of one of the corridors, so that the members of the party to. which Senator Stewart belongs have an opportunity of getting a little peace and quietude for writing. There is another room upstairs used by a large number of honorable senators for the purpose of typing their correspondence, writing, and doing other work, where they can be free from interruption by the conversation of others.
– I have known both rooms to be occupied by Committees.
– It is now suggested that a room near the Clubroom downstairs might be utilized, but we are the tenants of the Victorian State Government, and one of the conditions imposed is that a room should be reserved for the use of members of the Legislative Council.
– A very reasonable reservation.
– It is,, and it puts that room on one side altogether. It is said that it is not often used. That may be so, but still it is required by the State people, and we have no right to complain. Then there is a room upstairs, which one honorable senator says is used only for lunches. That room is the only one available for the use of Select Committees or Royal Commissions. It is absolutely necessary to provide accommodation for that purpose. If the room is taken away I do not know where we can place Committees or Royal Commissions. Senator Mulcahy interjected just now that’ he has seen the second room upstairs occupied by a Committee, so that when two Committees are sitting both those rooms have to be used. Every effort is being made to accommodate honorable senators to the fullest possible extent that the construction of the building will allow. If more rooms were available, they would assuredly be placed at the disposal of honorable senators. I know that Senator Millen, as leader of the Opposition, must feel it a great inconvenience at times not to have a room to which he can retire, but there is no room to give him. I had inquiry made a little while ago, to see if it would be possible to cut off some corridor io make another room, but. I found it impracticable. With regard to the question of the minor,’ but still very important, conveniences in the shape of lockers and boxes for honorable senators, every honorable senator is at present accommodated with one medium-sized locker in the Club-room, and there are lockers underneath. There are a large number also in the basement Whether they are fully used or not I do not know.
– They are all filled.
-Colonel GOULD. - If honorable senators require to keep the whole of their parliamentary papers; books, and reports in this building, there will not be accommodation for them. One honorable senator with all his Hansards, Votes and Proceedings, and other documents, would require an’ enormous amount of space which I do not think should reasonably be expected to be given. Of course there are Hansards and Votes and Proceedings kept in the Club-room for general use, and they no doubt suffice. I shall refer the question of additional lockers to the House Committee. I did contemplate in response to a previous request having additional lockers provided, but when I found that it would cost from A4° to £>5°> when the impression was that it should cost only £10 or ^15, I thought it time to pause. If honorable senators will be content with lockers without doors, locks, and keys, there will be a much better chance of providing accommodation at a reasonable cost. If honorable senators express a desire for- special accommodation, and the House Committee assent, steps will of course be taken to provide it!, whether it costs ^50 or,. if necessary, £too or £200. Everything is being done that can possibly be done to promote the comfort and convenience pf honorable senators. A scheme for the ventilation of the chamber is now being carried out, and will be in active working order early next week. That involves considerable expense, so that honorable senators cannot say that things are being neglected. I will instruct the Secretary of the House Committee to call a meeting at an early date, and invite honorable senators to submit all the matters which they think urgent, and which the Committee may reasonably be asked to entertain. In that way I hope that the accommodation which honorable senators may reasonably require will be given to them.
– The greatest difficulty I find is in being unable to sort my papers through having no divisions or compartments in which to keep them, lt would be a great convenience to me if my box below could be divided into three compartments, and each of my boxes in the Club-room into two. I could keep the top division for letters and pamphlets, the next for bills and papers for immediate use, in another all reports of Royal Commissions or of public officers, and underneath general papers. It would be a still greater convenience if the drawer underneath my seat in this chamber were enlarged. It is so shallow that if I put in my Bills, Constitution, and Standing Orders, I cannot stuff in a magazine which I want “to quote from, and of which I. have to take great care. There is a deeper box further along which I have always coveted. It would be a great comfort to me if this drawer could be deepened to accommodate Bills, Estimates, Standing Orders, and any document or paper which I required for immediate use in the chamber.
– I am disappointed that something has not been done in the’ direction asked for in the petition presented by Senator Sayers some time ago. There is a great deal ‘ of difference even now between the accommodation in the Club-room possessed by different senators. We have a tier of three boxes, but some honorable senators have beer fortunate enough, by being here a longer time, to have a large box at the bottom of that tier.
– The honorable senator can get one of those.
– It is utterly impossible, unless the bottom boxes are cut into three, or are made common boxes. If those who have the boxes on the floor of the Club-room feel inconvenience, how much more so .must others of us who have to- use continually one little square box ? It is true that the Labour Party have had the end of a corridor made into a room for them, but the members of the Opposition have upstairs a room which is certainly not the terminus of the corridor. The President was therefore not quite fair in reminding Senator Stewart that he had gone to the trouble of providing room accommodation at the end of a corridor for the Labour Party, when that was only done to put party accommodation on something like an equality. I hope the President will point out to the House Committee the difference which I have mentioned between the accommodation possessed by honorable senators in the Club-room. I trust that everything possible will be done to give greater accommodation to those who are at present most inconvenienced.
– I am afraid that I shall strike a discordant note in the debate. I wish to say that, in my opinion, the remarks which have been made are calculated to establish a permanent public opinion that honorable senators are, or desire to be, a very pampered class. I know that Senator Neildis indulging in exaggeration, but I was amused to listen to his description of what he has to suffer from lack of accommodation, ending with the suggestion that it was quite possible that, in a city of the size of Melbourne, he might find it necessary to sleep in a boiler. It seems to me extraordinary that thirty-six honorable senators should find themselves seriously inconvenienced by lack of accommodation in a building which, so far as I know, is by far the largest, most capacious, and most convenient Parliament House in Australia.
– It is not the most convenient.
– I have not been in one that was more inconvenient.
– Speaking from my personal knowledge, I know of no other Parliament House in Australia that is so convenient. I do not suggest for a moment that I am a tidy man, and I have no doubt that Senator Dobson is infinitely more precise and methodical, but I have to say that, personally, I have experienced no great difficulty with regard to accommodation for my papers. I believe that what is really at the bottom of the trouble of which honorable senators complain with regard to the accommodation for their papers, is the fact that an enormous waste of money is going on in the Commonwealth in the printing of papers with which honorable senators’ lockers are filled, and nine out of every ten of which are seldom opened and hardly ever read, and are ultimately consigned to the waste-paper basket after an attempt has been made to find room for them in the lockers for some months. With respect to the room accommodation, we have beentold that the members of the Labour Party have a separate room set aside for themselves. It has occurred to me that, perhaps out of a spirit of comradeship or a desire to be friendly with honorable senators belonging to other parties, they spend most of their time in the general Club-room. I do not wish to remind them that they have a special room, but that would be an answer to any who complained of insufficient accommodation in the Club-room. Personally, I want no more room accommodation than is provided in the Club-room.
– But honorable senators opposite have a special room.
– If there is a special room provided for honorable senators on this side, I have never made use of it. The Club-room, which is a very large and capacious room, is sufficient for me, and those who require more accommodation of the kind can avail themselves of the. other rooms provided. Another complaint is that, owing to the buzz of conversation in the Club-room, honorable senators cannot write, but I have noticed that they do not find it impossible to write in this chamber when an honorable senator is speaking, and when the buzz of conversation is very much more noticeable than it is in the Club-room.
– Some men cannot write if a conversation is going on around them.
– And they cannot read a difficult Bill.
– Senator Dobson surely might find a better time and place to do that part of his work. If honorable senators are seriously interested in the provisions of a Bill, I think that they could find other opportunities to study them than the few moments they may have to spare in this building. I think that some honorable senators are asking too many privileges, rights, perquisites, and personal attendance, involving general expenditure. I would much sooner see the hat go round and subscribe for honorable senators who want more accommodation and personal attendance for which the taxpayers of the Commonwealth have to pay.
– Who requires personal attendance?
– I am sure the honorable senator does not desire that I should refer to honorable senators by name.
– I think the honorable senator ought to do so. I object to his making a general statement of that kind, because so far as I am concerned I want no personal attendance, and I have no wish to be included in the group of those who do.
– I am very glad to hear that. Senator Stewart must be included in the same group with myself. I will say that, practically speaking, every member of the Senate who travels from Melbourne to another State makes use, every time he travels, of the services of a personal attendant at some one else’s expense. That is a practice to which I have always objected.
– That personal attendant is a member of the permanent staff, and is not employed solely for the purpose to which the honorable senator refers.
– Does Senator Millen suggest that that makes theposition any better? Are we to have a permanent staff of personal attendants?
– The honorable senator is suggesting that some special expense is incurred in connexion with the journeying of honorable senators to and from the trains.
– As Senator Millen should know, the time of one or more of the permanent employes of Parliament House is largely taken up in attending to honorable senators’ luggage when they travel .
– And very properly so too.
– I think it is very improper, but it is, of -course, a matter of personal opinion. It is another instance of a growing desire on the part of members of the Senate to increase their own privileges, and, practically speaking, to increase their perquisites. It is paralleled by another practice to which I have always objected - the desire not only to have every letter they write and every wire they have to send stamped at some one else’s expense, but to take away stamps to quite a large amount, as some honorable senators do, for use in their correspondence.
– Surely the honorable senator cannot say that honorable senators generally desire to increase their perquisites when they make a request for decent accommodation for their letters and papers.
– Has Senator Mulcahy lived such a pampered life when elsewhere that he finds the conveniences provided in this building insufficient for him ?
– We have spoken of the lack of accommodation for our papers.
– I have ample accommodation for my papers.
– Because the honorable senator never keeps any papers.I have seen him tearing them up by the dozen without opening or looking at them.
– Senator Dobson is not in a position to make such an assertion about my conduct of my personal affairs. I might ask him what he has done with all the papers put in his locker and supplied to him since he has been a member of this Parliament. I have no doubt that he has consigned 99 per cent, of them to the waste-paper basket.
– I have kept a great many.
– Then I venture to say that the time will soon arrive when the honorable senator will require the whole of the accommodation of this building for himself. I only wish personally to say that I think there is no ground for the suggestion that in a building like this additional room andlocker accommodation is required.
– I hope that the honorable senator who has moved the request will now see that he has achieved his object, and will recognise the wisdom of withdrawing it. This is a matter within the domain of the Joint House Committee, and any honorable senator who desires to bring under the notice of that authority the inadequacy of the accommodation provided might very well in the first instance make his representations to the Chairman of that Committee. I know that there is ground for the complaint that the provision for papers made in the Clubroom of the Senate is inadequate. Some honorable senators desire to keep more papers than do others, and some keep the whole of their parliamentary papers in this building. This was recognised some lime ago; and additional lockers were supplied on the basement. To what extent they are availed of I do not know, but I am able to say that I keep a good many papers in the basement. It has been pointed out that although this building presents a very fine exterior appearance the interior accommodation it provides is not in keeping with t hat exterior.
– It is a wilderness of tesselation.
- Senator Stewart having received the assurance of the Chairman of the Joint House Committee that the matters referred to will be considered at a meeting of the Committee, and that honorable senators are invited to submit their representations to that Committee, should be satisfied and should not press his request. There is only one other matter to which I should like to refer, and that is the matter mentioned by Senator Clemons, because it is possible that outside there might be some misunderstanding as to the exact position. The honorable senator referred to the fact that members of the Senate when journeying from Melbourne to one or other of the States have the services of a personal attendant. I know that he did not wish to convey an impression which I am afraid would be given abroad.
– That there were thirty-six of these persons?
– Not that.
– I did not mean that, and my remarks could not bear that interpretation.
– I wish to point out a circumstance which might very well be overlooked. There is a number of honorable senators who travel between Melbourne and South Australia and New South Wales practically every week during the session. They arrive here near the time when the Senate is assembling, and leave here on Friday afternoon just after it rises, at 4 o’clock. In order to catch the Adelaide train they must arrive at the station at twenty minutes to 5 o’clock, and, in order to catch the Sydney train they must get there at about 5 o’clock. Now, to enable those honorable senators to remain at their duty here an arrangementhas been made that one attendant shall go round to their several residences, pick up their luggage, and take it to the railway station. They are not, as might be inferred, taken down to the railway station in vehicles, but find their way there either by foot or by tram. This plan has been adopted to convenience honorable senators, and enable the Senate to have its full strength from the first to the last moment of its sitting. If honorable senators had to go out to the dif ferent suburbs to pick up their luggage, they would have to leave here at 2.30 or 3 o’clock, and, consequently, the Senate would not have its full strength for the rest of the sitting.
– Is that the only alternative? Does the Minister mean to say that an ordinary man could not leave here and make arrangements for himself?
– The honorable senator might, as he belongs to a club near by.
– The honorable senator often arrives here in the morning just prior to the beginning of a sitting.
– I always make my own arrangements, just as an ordinary traveller does.
– I have reason to believe that the honorable senator, when he leaves to catch his steamer, can on the way call at his residence to pick up his luggage, but that is not the position of every other senator. His residence is situated between the Senate and the wharf.
– As a rule, he clears out about an hour before every one else.
– That sort of personal interjection is inaccurate, unnecessary, and in very bad form.
– There are some honorable senators whose residences are situated at some distance from the railway station and the Senate. They arrive here on Tuesday or Wednesday at about halfanhour or an hour before the time for the assembling of the Senate.
– From Adelaide they arrive at about 10 o’clock.
– Under normal conditions, those honorable senators have all they can do to get from the station to Parliament House, and snatch a little lunch, before the Senate meets, and, in the meantime, their luggage has been taken out to their residences.
– On the last trip of the Loongana, Tasmanian senators barely got here in time to be present at the beginning of the sitting.
– The expense which is involved in carrying out this arrangement is not very much, considering the convenience which it is, not to honorable senators individually, but to the Senate as a body. It enables some honorable senators, on arrival here, to come almost straight to the Senate, and remain here during nearly the whole of the sitting. As they generally arrive and leave at about the same time, one man can do that little work of assembling their luggage at the railway station.
– The senators from Tasmania and South Australia arrive before or at about 10 o’clock in the morning.
– Not always. But even if that were so there is no reason why any discrimination should be made. The matter is comparatively small, but as it was submitted to the Committee it might have created a very false impression in the minds of the public. I am sure that the honorable senator did not intend to create that impression. I think it will be realized that it is not for the convenience of senators personally, but for the convenience of the Senate as a body.
– Perhaps the Minister will draw attention to the fact that the train from South Australia only comes’ in less than an Hour before the Senate meets.’
– Normally the Senate meets at 2.30 p.m., and not at 11 a.m.
– I wish to inform Senator Stewart that the Clerk of the House Committee has drawn my attention to the fact that the vote from which the . money would come to provide the desired accommodation is not contained in this division of the schedule but in the first division which has been passed without a request.
– I . have no wish to obstruct the progress of the Bill ; but it appeared to me that I was making the request under a proper head. Does the vote under the head of the Joint House Committee refer to nothing but to refreshment rooms, sir?
– If the honorable senator will consult the Journals of the Senate he will see that the first division is that to which expenditure on furniture, repairs and maintenance is debited.
- Senator Clemons ought to know that the public is only too ready to fasten upon an utterance such as his and to point out how luxurious in their habits are the senators. All that I complained of was the insufficient accommodation for letters and papers. I did not want additional or bigger or more luxurious rooms or anything of that kind. I merely wanted better accommodation for the papers which it is absolutely necessary that I should have if I am to do properly the work I” was sent here to do. I venture to say that through the hands of every hon orable senator there pass during the course of a year a larger mass of correspondence - including a number of documents, many of which are of great importance - than are received by many a professional man. Yet all the accommodation we have on the ground floor is one small locker. Down stairs there is another locker to which’ we cannot run every minute when .we want a paper. If I had a house in Melbourne I should have a room fitted with pigeon holes and boxes for keeping these things in their proper order. I want more accommodation here for my papers. On this side there is a room which is taken up by the Inter-State Press, and which might very well be devoted to’ the uses of the Senate, I believe that on the other side there is a vacant room which might be occupied by the Inter-State Press. I direct the attention of the Chairman of the House Committee to that fact.
Request, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed vote agreed to.
External Affairs : Repatriation of Kanakas.
Divisions 11 to 16 (External Affairs De partment), £10,378.
– I should like to get some information from the Minister , concerning the item of £500 for the repatriation of Pacific Islanders. I desire to know whether it represents the last item of expenditure in regard to the deportation of the kanakas to their respective islands, and also how much has been spent in that direction up to the present time?
– For the year 1906-7 the expenditure was .£8,015, which was made up in the following manner : - Passages to the islands, £2,165; coastal fares, £3,241 ; salaries to officers, £1,114; towards maintenance of islanders whilst awaiting shipping to Brisbane and other Queensland ports, £686 ; and miscellaneous items, £809. Up to the end of the last financial year 3,553 islanders had been returned to their homes. Those desiring to be taken to Fiji instead of to their homes have not their passages paid. The estimated expenditure for’ 1907-8 is £6,^00, and it is anticipated that when that sum has-been expended the whole process of repatriation will have been completed.
– Have they to pay their own fares’ to Fiji?
– Yes, because we only provide for their repatriation. If they went to Fiji they would have to pay their passages.
– A beautiful state of things - to bring them here by force and fraud and then make them pay their fares from a country out of which they are forcibly thrust.
– If they wanted to go to Honolulu or Vancouver, surely we would not be expected to pay their passages there !
– It is a national brutality.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 17to 20 (Attorney-General’ s Department), £2,375, agreed to.
Home Affairs : Electoral Office : Meteorological Branch.
Divisions 21 to 29 (Home Affairs Department) - “ Transferred “ £23,149, “ Other “£24,239.
Senator Colonel NEILD. (New South Wales) [12.13]. - On the item of £1,281 for the Electoral Office, I desire to ask the Minister whether the matter about which I wrote to him a week or ten days ago has yet received attention? I dare say that he recollects what I. refer to.
– I do. On the same day I received the letter of the honorable senator I sent the matter on to the Acting-Secretary of the Department with a request to call attention to it.
– Has the honorable senator received a reply ?
– No ; but if the honorable senator will mention the matter to me again before we adjourn to-day, I may be able to furnish him with a reply. I sent on the matter for immediate attention. Of course, he will realize that it is very difficult for a Minister in our position to keep in touch with all departmental affairs.
– At the beginning of the year the Commonwealth established a Meteorological Department, for which we are now asked to vote the sum of £4,000. Is that sum required for a period of two months, and, if so, how does it come to be so large?
. -Inone sense the honorable senator is quite correct in saying that the Meteorological Department has only just been started. Since the 1st January of this year six State Depart ments have been absorbed, and really the activities of the Federal Department have only been called intoplay since the beginning of the second part of this financial year. This sum of £4,000 is required for a period of two months, namely, £1,000 for salaries and £3,000 for contingencies. The provision on the Estimates for the whole year comes to £6,317 for salaries, and £9,679 for contingencies - making a total of £15,996. One-sixth of that would be between £2,000 and £3,000; but a sixth is not the proper proportion, inasmuch as the bulk of the expenditure has been incurred since the 1st January, and not since the 1st July last.
– Does this sum include the cost of material and instruments? .
– The sum of £9,679 includes postage, printing, and embossing paper, account and record books, and so forth. It also includes expenditure for temporary assistance, fuel, lighting and water, meteorological instruments, and allowances to country observers.
– Does the Department pay the Post Office for telegraphic reports, received and sent ?
– There is a provision for postage and telegrams, but the ordinary weather telegrams are sent in accordance with a code, and by special arrangement with the Post and Telegraph Department.
– In connexion with the vote for the administration of the Electoral Act, I refer the Minister to the item contingencies in division 22 - £400. I wish to know whether any provision is here made for reimbursing candidates for expenditure which they have had to incur as the result of the defaults of officers of the Departments ?
– No ; none of the money included in this item covers anysuch provision. Whatever provision is made in that regard will be separately set out in supplementary Estimates.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Treasury : Government Printing Office : Administration : Allowances for Commonwealth Work : Employment of Boys : Minimum Wage.
Divisions 30 to 33 (Treasury Department), “Transferred” £2,404,” “ Other “ £2,338.
– In reference to the vote for the
Government Printer, £850, can the Minister give the Committee information as to the salaries to be paid, £100, and the contingencies £750, which make up the amount?
– -The pro-, vision for contingencies, £700, is a proportion of the proposed contingencies for the year, £4,306. The contingencies are made up of paper and parchment, £1,500, repairs to machinery, including lubricants, £50, type .£50, bookbinders’ material, &c., £3°°’ lighting and fuel £600, cartage £189, distribution of Hansard and parliamentary papers £1,250, postage and telegrams ,£50, office requisites, exclusive of writing paper and envelopes, £10, writing paper and envelopes £10, account, record, and other books, including cost of material therein, £15, other printing £75, petty cash expenditure £50, insurance of plant, machinery, and stock £163. That is the total provision for the year. The £750 now asked for is the proportion of that required for two months. The salaries, £100, asked for in this Bill are also a proportion of the total vote. They are made up of allowances to linotype engineer and Government Printer for services rendered, and wages and overtime.
– How much is the Government Printer to receive?
– One hundred and fifty pounds for the year. The total is set out in the Estimates-in-Chief.
– When on a former Supply Bill, I mentioned that there were officers in the employ of the State Government who .were doing responsible and very intricate work for the Commonwealth,- I was told that whilst the’ Commonwealth Government’ was prepared to give them some recognition for their services, the State Government would not permit, these men to take the money, so that it had to be handed over to the State Treasurer.. I want to know if any allowance is being made by the Commonwealth Government to the Government Printer, and whether he receives that money direct from the Commonwealth, or whether it is handed over to the State Treasurer? If the Government Printer, who is in receipt of a salary of £800 a year from the State Government, receives the Commonwealth allowance whilst other officers do not, it is obviously unfair. The State Government takes up the posi- tion I understand that the time he occupies upon Commonwealth work is time that would otherwise be occupied in connexion with State work. I have previously called attention to the unsatisfactory .way in which this huge Department - mainly belonging to the Commonwealth from a property point of view. - is carried on.
– The honorable senator has done it all before.
– And I shall continue to do it in the interests of the Commonwealth. I want to awaken the interest o’f honorable senators in the way in which this office is being conducted, and how the expenditure is mounting up year in and year out. When I make a complaint I am told that when the Federal Capital is established we shall be’ able to remove all our property., amounting in value to £40,000, to the Capital city. I am quite sure that if the property involved belonged to honorable senators personally they would take far more interest in it.
– We have had a complete answer about the whole matter.
– We have not- yet had a satisfactory answer. Even in connexion with the employment of boys at the Government Printing Office, when I asked whether they were in the employment of the Commonwealth, the reply of the Minister - furnished by the Government Printer - was that boys of twelve and thirteen years of age preferred to work from halfpast four in the evening until five the next morning, with only half-an-hour’s spell for supper, rather than be engaged on day work. We were asked to believe that the boys liked accepting this kind of employment for 7s. a week. A few nights ago there was in the vicinity of this Chamber a little boy who ought to have been in bed, but he was kept running about with
Hansard proofs. I asked him how old he was. He said he was sixteen. I asked him when. He said “Last December.” The reason why he said he was sixteen was that I called attention to the fact some - time ago that there was a State law prohibiting the employment of boys under the age of sixteen in any industry in Victoria.
– Does the . honorable senator know that the boy was not sixteen?
– I would take an affidavit that he was not more than fourteen.
– The honorable senator should not call the boy a liar simply because he thinks his age was not sixteen.
– I called the attention of several honorable senators to the boy, and asked them how old they thought he was. Various senators expressed their opinion, but not one thought that the lad was more than fourteen years of age. Probably the poverty of the parents of this boy impelled him to say that he was sixteen years of age. I am satisfied that there are boys who are getting from 7s. to 8s. a week doing most responsible work in the Government Printing Office. I know, too, that there is nearly £40,000 worth of Commonwealth property there, and that no one has any responsibility in connexion with its wear and tear.
– Does the honorable senator know that responsible work is being done in the office for 7s. a week?
– I do.
– I do not think that the honorable senator knows anything about it.
– I spent many years of my life in a newspaper office, and know that the work which these little boys are doing in the Government Printing Office -namely, reading copy which the Hansard staff send over - is responsible work. That kind of work in the daily newspaper offices of Melbourne is performed by men. In the Age, Argus, and Herald offices it is done by men who receive £2 5s., £2 10s., and sometimes £2 15s. a week. What is more, there is always an incentive held out to these assistant readers, that in the course of time they will be promoted to be readers. The lads at the Government Printing Office ought not, under a State Act, to be employed when they are less than sixteen years of age. The Government Printer shelters himself behind the plea that the Wages Board Determination fixes the wages for boys doing that work at 7s. a week. The Board’s determination does nothing of the kind in respect of night work. It was never anticipated that any employer would employ boys to work long hours at a sweating wage at responsible work of this kind.
– These remarks should be made to the State Government. Why should we be bothered with them ?
– Whether the honorable senator cares to be bothered with them or not, I am going to have my say with reference to this printing office. It is a public scandal that the office is allowed to be conducted in such an unsatisfactory way.
– And that the Commonwealth is being permitted to set a State Act at defiance.
– The honorable senator is right. These boys are under the age and are beingsweated. There are also men in that office being sweated. In the replies furnished to questions which I submitted to the Minister, the Government Printer said in effect - “ Wages Board or no Wages Board determination, I am to be the sole judge of a man’s capabilities, and he is to be paid what I think he is entitled to receive.” If any private employer openly defied an Act of Parliament in that way, there is not an honorable senator but would raise his voice in protest.
– Is the Government Printer not complying with the Wages. Board determination?
– In certain respects he is not, and in effect claims to be the sole judge of whether a man is capable or not.
– So he ought to be if he adheres to the minimum wage.
– He does not adhere to the minimum wage in all respects. There are men in the Printing Office over the age of twenty-one, on the machines, doing Commonwealth work, who as feeders are entitled to 36s. a week, but who are getting under that sum.
– Are they employed on Commonwealth printing only ?
– Not wholly, but there are some men in that office employed almost solely on Commonwealth work. There is little or nohope for the boys employed as assistant readers.
– Have we a contract with the office, or do we pay them per piece?
– The Lord only knows. If any honorable senator asked how much the production of the evidence and reports of the Tariff Commission cost the Commonwealth, the Government Printer would perhaps be able to tell him in round figures, but if he asked how much money was involved in paper, and what amount of time was expended in composing the evidence, and printing it on the machine, I warrant that the Government Printer would not be able to say.
– The Minister of Home Affairs gave us the fullest information.
– The honorable senator is the most easily satisfied man in regard to Commonwealth expenditure, but
I wager that he is more painstaking and inquiring in connexion with his own. I. am speaking of an office that I know something about. I worked there myself at periods and have an intimate knowledge of the manner in which it is conducted - a manner most unsatisfactory so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. Every other Commonwealth Department is officered by Commonwealth employes, but here is an office carried on by the State Government Printer, whose first consideration is the State. I have been told that he naturally hastens on the work required for State Departments, and that the Commonwealth work–
– Why not? He has no obligation or responsibility to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth work to him is a secondary consideration.
– To listen to this discourse, would it not be wise to have a quorum? [Quorum formed.”]
– The chief consideration of the State Government Printer is for the State which employs him. His first duty therefore is to get out the work required for the State as expeditiously as possible. Then the Commonwealth is considered. Not infrequently, because of that clumsy and unbusiness-like arrangement, much of the Commonwealth work is done after the ordinary day’s work is supposed to be over, with the result that the Commonwealth has to pay overtime rates for it.
– It is done promptly and well.
– If it were a fair arrangement the State should pay an equal proportion for the overtime work, but I am told that it does not. As far as possible any overtime charges from a State viewpoint are avoided, but little or no consideration is shown for the Commonwealth in that regard. Men are engaged working overtime, and of course are paid overtime rates, Why the Government should hesitate about leasing a suitable building forthwith - there are many suitable in close proximity to the House - and transferring to it all the Commonwealth machinery, type, and appliances from the State Government Printing Office, where for years and years there has been more or less friction and dissatisfaction, passes my comprehension. If the Commonwealth Government moved in that direction, we should have an up-to-date office worked on business lines. It would be much more economical and much more satisfactory, not only to the employes and to the other Commonwealth Departments, but also to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, who are paying too much for the printing done at present in that unbusinesslike office.
– The ,£150 on the Estimates-in-Chief to be paid to the Government Printer of Victoria is not paid direct by the Commonwealth to that officer. It is paid to the Victorian State Government, and we hope and desire that the State Government will pay it to the Government Printer ; but so far we understand they have not done so. With regard to the general arrangement between the Commonwealth and the Victorian State Government in regard to Commonwealth printing, we have a provision on the EstimatesinChief for “ wages to compositors, proportion of salaries of the State classified staff at the Government Printing Office, Melbourne, and for bookbinders, machine men, warehouse assistants, labourers, and others.” An account is taken of each man’s time in respect of both Commonwealth and State work, at the end of the month an adjustment is made, and the Commonwealth pays its proportion, the State paying its own. The Commonwealth also undertakes to provide a portion of the stores and other requirements of the Government Printing Office, based upon its proportion of the work done. There is another provision upon the EstimatesinChief of £500 for the whole year to be paid in gratuities to State officers engaged in excess of office hours. That money is paid direct by the Commonwealth Treasurer to the State officers, by arrangement with the State Government. I noticed the other day that some of the officers of that Department waited in a deputation upon Mr. Bent, the Premier of Victoria, and that he promised that officers who had complied with certain conditions as to term of service in the printing office, and were carrying out certain work, should henceforth have their salaries raised. Under present crcumstances, I think the arrangement as between Commonwealth and State is satisfactory, inasmuch as we get our work expeditiously and very well done.
– It would be much better done if we had an office of our own.
– The honorable senator should remember that there would be the difficulty of transferring that office hereafter, when the Commonwealth Parliament is removed to the permanent Seat of Government.
– If you move in the next five years you will have little or no property to shift, although it cost £40,000.
– Senator Findley’s importunity is beginning to arouse a little interest in me as to the mysterious doings in the Victorian Government Printing Office. The honorable senator says it is a fact that the Government Printer is paying less than the rate of wages fixed by the Wages Board.
– In some directions.
– If it is true in the case of only one boy, it is wrong. Is the Minister prepared to admit or deny that statement? Can he state whether the Government Printing Office charge the Commonwealth for each job individually completed for us?
-Then a lump sum must be paid for the lot.
– I explained the arrangement just now. An account is taken of each employe’s time, and at the end of the month it is known exactly to an hour or less how long he was engaged upon Commonwealth or State work. The Commonwealth pays itsproportion of the wages. It also, as I explained, provides a certain proportion of the stores and requirements of the office.
– Whilst the Minister’s explanation is clear enough, it does not indicate a very satisfactory arrangement. Is any charge made against the Commonwealth in proportion to the rent or cost of the printing office?
– I do not think so, but we provide a portion of the stores, proportionate to the work done for us.
– I am not sure that a much better plan than the present could not have been devised. If hands are employed there at less than the Wages Board scale, it can only be referred to as a sweating shop. If the work is carried on in the way indicated by Senator Findley, the Commonwealth Government is to some extent a partner in the concern, and cannot escape its responsibility by saying that all it does is to foot the bill. A portion of the money paid by this Government goes to pay the wages which, if Senator Findlev’s statement is unanswered, are below the rates fixed by the Wages Board. This
Government has a moral and business right to make representations to the Government Printer upon that point. If the Government Printer liked to extend the system which he at present adopts of paying less than the recognised rates of wages - as he could do - surely there would come a point at which this Government would protest? Failing any notice of their protest they could transfer the work to some one else. I venture to say that there are a dozen firms in Melbourne that would jump at the chance of securing the Commonwealth printing work on the terms on which it is done by the Victorian Government Printer. I suppose that no one supervises the keeping of the time sheet’s, and though I have no doubt that they are kept honestly we can easily understand that through want of supervision a little laxity might creep in. I think the responsibility is on the Government to inform the Government Printer of Victoria that all work done for the Commonwealth is to be done by hands receiving wages fixed by the Wages -Board, since any lower wage would be a sweating wage.
– Lower wages are not paid. That assurance was. given to the Senate by my honorable colleague on the authority of the report from the Victorian Government Printer.
– My remarks have been based on the assumption that Senator Findley’s statement is correct. When it was first made it was denied, but when it was reiterated the Minister admitted that it was true of a period some time ago, but said that an alteration had been made. I understood Senator Findley to-day to again say that boys are employed in the Victorian Government Printing Office at lower wages than those fixed by the Wages Board.
– I said that the Wages Board never fixed any wage for the night work of boys employed as assistant readers, and the Government Printer has shelteredhimself under the plea that the wage fixed for day work must be the wage paid for night work as well.
– I wish to know whether any one is employed in the Government Printing Office at wages less than those fixed by the Wages Board.
– The Minister for Home Affairs has reminded me that the Vice-President of the Executive Council recently informed the Senate that, although it may not have been so in the past,everything is all right now.
– Then it must have been made right within the last few days.
– The statement made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council was made more than a few days ago. The obligation is upon the Government to see that .work done for the Commonwealth is’ paid for at rates regarded by the proper authority as equitable. It is hypocrisy to pass legislation insisting that private employers shall give fair wages and conditions if we are careless as to the wages and conditions of those who are working for ourselves.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Trade and Customs : Sunshine Harvester Works Employes : Application to Arbitration Court : Reimbursement of Expenses.
Divisions 37 to 45 (Trade and Customs Department), “Transferred” £42,998, Other “ £8,806.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [12.49]. - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the proposed vote, Division 37, subdivision i, “ Central Staff, salaries ^940,” by ^,’100.
I move this request in order to bring before the Committee in a more definite manner than by mere speech making the deplorable condition of affairs in connexion with a matter -which has been before the Senate on many occasions. I refer to the litigation undertaken by a union of persons employed in the Sunshine Harvester Works. I do not propose to discuss any litigation at present going on, but to refer to by-gone litigation in which the work people of certain harvester works were compelled to enforce the law through the inaction of the Customs Department. The law would apparently have remained a dead letter had it not been for the efforts of private individuals who formed a union amongst themselves, and took proceedings in the Arbitration Court. Litigation, which is now at an end, ensued, with the consequence that these humble members of the community have forced upon an unwilling Department the imposition of the obligations of the law. Certain procedure followed on the part of the Government that is now the subject of litigation, and to which I can make only very slight reference. There are proceedings going on in the Law Courts now to recover Excise duties stipulated for in an Act passed by the Commonwealth Legislature, and this endeavour to recover duties would clearly not be taking place had it not been for the by-gone suit to which I have referred. The union expended their little all and incurred obligations in excess of their funds in order to secure the enforcement of a law which the Department of Trade and Customs did not, anc would not, carry out or assist to carry out themselves. I move my request in the hope that if carried it will’ bring the Department of Trade and Customs to some sense of its obligations to enforce the law. In the circumstances the least the Government and the Department can do is to reimburse the workers to whom I have referred the money they have been out of pocket in doing for the Government and the Commonwealth that which the Government have been too supine to do for themselves. What is the Department of Trade and Customs ‘ established for but to carry out the provisions of the laws which come within the purview of the Department? For a year or more it would not carry out its statutory obligations, and these poor workers - and I am sorry to say they are poor, because of their miserable pay, and because a number of them have been discharged since they endeavoured to carry out the law - are made the scapegoat for the Commonwealth Government. It is a contemptible position for any Ministry to occupy. Instead of doing their duty they left it to humble members of the community who have dissipated their funds in the vain effort to secure justice. That they were right is doubly shown first by the decision of the Court in their favour, and secondly by the fact that the Government are now taking belated action to enforce the law. It is abundantly true that this union of workers acting iri the best interest of the whole community discharged a high public duty which the Government not only neglected but actually refused to discharge. It is the bounden duty of the Government to see that the money expended by the members of . this union is made good to them. It is their duty to come to Parliament and ask for a grant to discharge the legal expenses of those who did the work . which the Ministry did not, and would not, do. I say they would not do their duty in this matter because the records of both Houses of Parliament show that time after time appeals were made to the Government to see that the obligations of the Statute were imposed. Senator Findley, myself, and other honorable senators have stood up in this chamber and made the most urgent appeals to the Government to give the necessary assistance to see that the Statute was obeyed. There was always some excuse given for the neglect to take action. But since private individuals Have done what the Government professed themselves unable to do, they cannot for a moment longer maintain their attitude of worse than indifference. If it is right for the Government to maintain a suit for the recovery of these Excise duties it is equally right that they should pay the cost of the preliminary investigations in the Arbitration Court which were essential to the action they are now taking. They could not be taking the action in which they are engaged at the present moment had it not been for the action taken by the Harvester Employes Union.
– If they get £20,000 of Excise revenue they will have to thank the union for having moved them.
– Most decidedly. If the litigation now in progress ends in favour of the Government they will be unable to thank themselves, to preen their feathers and to say, “ How excellently we have carried out our obligations as an Administration,” but they will have to thank the employes of the harvester works for having performed the service which they neglected to perform.
– Suppose the employers had made the first move to test the efficacy of the Act, would the honorable senator say that they should be compensated ?
– No parallel can be drawn between an attempt to enforce the law and an attempt to evade it. The honorable senator asks me what I would do if the employers had tried to void the law. What I am talking about is the effort made to secure the enforcement of the law which is a totally different thing. Of course I should not come here and ask the Government to pay the cost of any firm that tried to escape the obligations of the law. I am asking that they shall bear the burden of the initial proceedings, the result of which is to be found in the litigation now being maintained at the cost of the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the luncheon adjournment . I intimated that I had further remarks to make in support of the request I have moved, but it has been pointed out to me that the train to South Australia will start at the expiration of two hours and as other senators wish to speak, and as I contemplate submitting a similar request on a later item, I shall content myself with asking the Committee to agree to a reduction of this vote for the Central Staff of the Department of Trade and Customs by way of emphasizing its opinion that the persons employed in the Sunshine Harvester Works should have made good to them the moneys that they have expended in doing that necessary preliminary legal work which the Government failed to do, which it has not been at theexpense of doing, but which was essential to the proceedings that it is now taking in connexion with the recovery of a large sum alleged to be due as Excise.
– I understand that Senator Neild has submitted this request for the purpose of indicating the desire of the Committee that the Government should pay certain legal expenses. It will be remembered by honorable senators that this matter has been discussed here ad nauseam.
– Not this aspect of it.
– Practically this aspect of the matter has been discussed here ad nauseam. The position which the Government took up with regard to the Excise has been stated fully by myself in response to inquiries made from time to time. The legal position was a subject of doubt, and, as my honorable friends know, it was determined that the whole issue should be referred to the High Court. When its decision is obtained the Government will announce exactly what it intends to do with regard to the subject-matter of this request and all other matters. It is quite impossible at this juncture to deal with this individual aspect of the matter. It must be dealt with comprehensively and as a whole. First there is the question of the amount which should be paid by the manufacturers as Excise. Secondly, there is the question as to the payment of fair and reasonable wages to the employes since the 1st January, 1907. And thirdly, there is the question which was raised incidentally by my honorable friend a little time ago as to the expense to which the employes’ union had been put. We as a Government gave the Senate distinctly to understand that when the decision of the High Court as to the true legal and constitutional position had been ascertained, the matter would be dealt with as a whole, and not in a piecemeal way as is now suggested. I appeal to Senator Neild that the position I have put is a fair and reasonable one, and that it is not a just thing on his part, particularly while the whole subject is sub judice, to suggest to the Committee that one aspect of it should be dealt with in the way indicated by his request. 1 ask honorable senators to accept the assurance of the Government. My honorable friend, as an old parliamentarian, will recognise that the Government could take up no other position at this juncture.. With an assurance that the matter will not escape consideration, I think I am only making a reasonable request when I invite him to withdraw his proposal and not to delay the passage of the Supply Bill, which he must know is urgent.
– I have a great deal of sympathy with the request of Senator Neild. Some time ago I drew the attention of the Senate to a statement which was made by the Minister of Trade and Customs at a dinner given in Sydney by the Customs officials. He was reported in the press as having said that it was not anticipated by the people that after the Federation was established the States would keep up their local Legislatures at the same expense and strength. He made some remarks which I submit were entirely out of place, and in my opinion derogatory to the dignity of a Federal Minister, as well as needlessly reflecting upon the conduct of the State Parliaments and State Ministers. The matters to which he referred are absolutely under the control of the States. If the Commonwealth Ministry or a single Federal Minister wishes to enlarge the jurisdiction or increase the influence of the Commonwealth, the way to achieve that object is not by raising a feeling of hostility between the States and the Commonwealth. In matters where the States are supreme no Minister for the Commonwealth, or for that matter, no member of the Federal Parliament should intrude.
– On this division of the schedule the honorable senator is entitled to discuss matters of administration, but not the utterances of a Minister on the subject of unification.
– In that case, sir, I have no more to say at the present time.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [2.25]. - I was compelled to leave the chamber a moment ago on a public matter, and in my absence the request I had moved went by the board. I shall bring the matter forward again at the earliest opportunity in connexion with any Supply Bill which comes to the Chamber.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Defence Forces : Horses : Salaries of Military Officers : Promotion of Officers, South Australia: Defence Scheme : Compulsory Military Training : Contingencies : Corps of Guides : Warlike Stores.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 March 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1908/19080313_senate_3_44/>.