4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the following papers : -
Lands Acquisition Act 1906 -
Bellbird, New South Wales - Commonwealth purposes : Notification of the acquisition of land.
Parramatta, New South Wales - Commonwealth purposes : Notification of the acquisition of land.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are - 1 and 2. The Government will deal with each case on its merits as necessity arises.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are- 1 and 2. Approval has been given to the establishment of a Wireless Telegraphy Station at Thursday Island or Cooktown to communicate with Port Moresby, and action has been taken for the preparation of the necessary material and apparatus. It isproposed later on to establish a station at Brisbane.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Australia will take rank as being the last place in the world to have wireless telegraphy.
– Thanks to the blunders of the late Government.
The PRESIDENT announced the receipt of a message from the House of Representatives, transmitting a copy of a message from the Governor-General, recommending that an amendment be made in this Bill, and informing the Senate that the House had made the amendment recommended, and desired the concurrence of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the message being at once considered and all consequent action taken.
-Iwish to throw out a suggestion for the consideration of yourself, Mr. President, of the Government, and of the officials of the Senate. Whenever it is necessary for the Government to move this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, we are confronted with the possibility of having to deal with amendments received from, the other House, of which we have had no previous knowledge. The decision at which the other House arrived, however, must be known some time on the previous evening.
– This is an amendment suggested by the Governor-General.
– My suggestion still stands good. Seeing that we shall have to work under extraordinary circumstances during the present week, I ask the Government to consider whether it is not possible to take steps to furnish honorable senators, who receive every morning by post copies of the notice-paper and other official documents, with information in regard to amendments which we are likely to have to consider during the course of the day.
– I admit that the request of the Leader of the Opposition is quite reasonable, and I will give instructions that, as far as possible, the action recommended by him shall be taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee :
– The message from the House of Representatives includes a. copy of the Governor-General’s message, in which His Excellency returns this Bill to the House, with a suggestion, made under section 58 of the Constitution, that an amendment shall be made in clause 13.
Clause 13 -
Amendment recommended - Omit “or,” and insert “of.”
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– What does the amendment amount to?
– The interjection of Senator Lynch is quite reasonable. The Committee might have expected that the Minister in charge of the Bill would explain the object of the amendment, and why it is sought to be made. Probably, however, it is so simple a matter that he did not think it necessary to explain it. Having a copy of the Bill in my hand, I can. see at once what is meant, but it is not fair to the Committee that we should have no explanation when we are asked to follow this rather unusual procedure.
– The amendment is so simple, and so obviously necessary that I did not think any explanation was required. Honorable senators who turn to the copies of the Act which have been distributed, will find that the first line of section 13 says - “ If it is alleged that the owner or any ship “ and so on. The amendment omits the word “or,” which obviously is a mistake, and substitutes the right word “of.” I may add that I was almost in the same position as the Leader of the Opposition. I did not know until I came here to-day that it would be necessary to move the adoption of such an amendment.
– The concluding remark of the VicePresident of the Executive Council makes it all the more emphatically necessary that the Committee should be informed as to the exact effect of an amendment of this character. If the Minister himself was unaware until he came into the Chamber just now of what the amendment was, surely he cannot reasonably ask us to make it until it is explained to us. I rose principally, however, to draw attention to one circumstance as to which an explanation may be required. The form of the GovernorGeneral’s message seems to be unusual. As it was read, it appeared to me to intimate that His Excellency had transmitted this measure to the House of Representatives with a recommendation for an amendment which we are asked to accept. Why was not the message addressed to the Senate and the House of Representatives?
– To which House was the message addressed?
– To the House in which the Bill was originally introduced.
– In the event of the Governor-General finding it necessary on any occasion to suggest an amendment, should not his message be addressed to both Houses of the Legislature? This is not a measure in respect of which the Senate’s powers of amendment are restricted.
– Following the precedent set on a previous occasion, the message was sent to the House in which the Bill originated.
– The only opportunity of dealing with such a matter is in Committee, and I ask Ministers to assure themselves that no course is being taken on this occasion which might hereafter be construed into a justification for not recognising the legislative powers of the Senate in co-ordination with the House of Representatives in regard to such matters.
– I was rather misled when Senator Keating commenced to draw attention to the nature of the Governor-General’s message. I thought at first that inadvertently an error had occurred. But looking over the message. 1 am inclined to think that the usual course of procedure has been followed. The message of His Excellency is addressed to the House of Representatives. The message which we are considering is not that of his Excellency, but that received from the House of Representatives, informing us of the receipt by that House of a message from the Governor- General. That course seems to be in entire conformity with the second paragraph of section 58 of the Constitution wherein it is set forth that -
The Governor-General may return to the House in which it originated any proposed law so presented to him, and may transmit therewith any amendment which he may recommend, and! the House may deal with the recommendation.
That course appears to have been followed, and therefore we are now dealing with a message which comes to us from the other branch of the Legislature.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Department of Prime Minister - Northern Territory : Development : Mail Services : Parliamentary Visit - Defective Telegraph Poles - Wireless Telegraphy, Queensland - Land Tax and Land Settlement - Direct and Indirect Taxation - Quarantine Officers, Queensland - The Tariff - Public Service : Wages in General Division - Receiving Post-offices - Defence Department : Pay of NonCommissioned Officers - Commonwealth Literary Fund - PostOffices, Queensland - Cadets : Attendance at Drill - Military Officers : Pensions.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
This is one of those Bills which are rendered necessary on account of the delay in the passing of the Estimates. If honorable senators will compare the amount covered by this Bill - £561,826 - with the amount appropriated in any previous Supply Bill, they will see that it only appropriates that which is necessary for carrying out the ordinary services of the Commonwealth. In previous Supply Bills other amounts had to be included, such as an item of from £200,000 to £250,000 for the Treasurer’s Advance, and sumswhich were rendered necessary by the taking over of the Northern Territory, the payment of interest, and the reduction of Treasury Bills. This Bill, however, only appropriates what is necessary for paying the salaries and wages of the officers of the Commonwealth, as the last Supply expired on 30th November. The Supply which we now ask for is based on the Estimates for the current year. As we can hardly expect the Estimates to pass before Friday, and the amount included in this measure has to be available before that date, honorable senators will recognise the urgency for its passage, that is if we are to fulfil our obligations* If they will refer to the schedule on page 2 they will find that the Bill appropriates for the Parliament £2,585 ; the Department of Prime Minister ,£3,323 - it creates this new Department for which no provision was made on previous Estimates, but the Estimates for other Departments are reduced in consequence - the Department of the Treasury £10,670 ; the Attorney-General’s Department, £3,420 ; the Department of External Affairs, £20,553; the Department of Defence, -£150,190 ; the Department of Trade and Customs, £27,645 ; the Department of Home Affairs, £24,160; and the Postmaster-General’s Department, £^309,280; arid for refunds of revenue, £10,000, making a total of £561,826. I do not think there is any necessity for me to make any comparisons in connexion with previous Supply Bills.
– Up to what date will this measure carry the Government, that is, on the ordinary rates?
– It is a Bill to grant Supply to the Government for the month of December. The first Supply Bill for this financial year was passed in the expiring days of last session, and appropriated £1,315*976 for a period of two months ; the second Supply Bill appropriated £1,038,016 for a period of one month, and the third Supply Bill appropriated £1,049,534 for a period of two months. I am provided with a statement showing the proportionate amounts for the different Departments, but I do not think that it is necessary to quote them at this stage. Every honorable senator must recognise, I think, that our obligations to the public servants are of such a character that we have no right to delay the passage of this measure.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) (2.54]. - The Senate is invited to assent to the proposition that it should grant six months’ Supply for the year, that is, without having a serious opportunity of con sidering the financial position. I have so frequently raised my voice against the procedure which the present Government are not initiating but following, and the effect of which is to deprive the Senate of a reasonable opportunity to consider the finances of the country, that I do not propose to do more than to mention that I, at any rate, had not overlooked the fact. While individual senators admit the necessity for reform, the Senate has always shown a disinclination, probably for party reasons, to insist that it should be afforded a ‘fair opportunity to consider the finances. That being so, I think that I need not refer to the matter at greater length. The Bill initiates a departure to which I desire to draw attention, and that is the creation of a new public Department. This is, I think, a step in the right direction, but I want to suggest to the Ministry,, and they probably know it very well, that it is hot intended that this movement should end where it begins. They evidently have in contemplation some more ambitious proposal than this one to create the Department of Prime Minister, because the same member of the Ministry controls both the Prime Minister’s Department and the Treasury. It is the same man doing the same, work and exercising the same responsibility, but on the present Estimates the expenditure which is to take place under his control appears under two separate headings. What is the reason for this? The Government ought, I think, to tell us what they contemplate. Bearing in mind what is before us now, and statements which have been made elsewhere, the creation of an additional portfolio seems to be contemplated. If this measure is intended as the first step in a new line of conduct, I think the Minister should tell us fully what they intend to be the ultimate outcome of the departure. I suggest that they might bring before Parliament a Bill dealing with the subject. Ever since Federation, we have had, in addition to the port.folioed Ministers, certain honorary Ministers in connexion with every Government - appointments which have been acquiesced in, but in connexion with which there has always been a little criticism. I venture to think that the .fact that honorary Ministers have been appointed by every Government without an exception indicates the necessity for such appointments. If the present Government do desire to move in this direction, they will find in me a sympathetic critic. My short experience of office brought home to me these facts. I am thoroughly convinced that the Prime Minister ought to be relieved of the responsibility of administering any Department. In my judgment, he has quite .enough to do in discharging the duties attached to the office of Prime Minister, without seeing to the affairs of a Department of State. First of all, he has to be the spokesman for the Ministry in any matters which require Ministerial direction; he has to exercise more or less supervision over all Departments, and, in addition to that, he has to supervise the conduct of parliamentary work. Then, in any public movement with which the Ministry desire to be associated, it is the Prime Minister who is most severely taxed. Any man who conscientiously and fully discharges all the duties to which I have referred, has very little time indeed to give to his own Department. The result is, I venture to say, that in nine cases out of ten it is run outside its policy, not by the Prime Minister,, but merely by the permanent head. I suggest that if the Ministry do contemplate the creation of an additional office, they ought to make such adjustments and present such proposals to Parliament as would enable the Prime Minister to occupy his position unchallenged, without being tied to the administration of any Department of State. I desire now to deal with a few matters of public interest. First, I wish to direct attention to the failure of the Government, after being in. office for eighteen months, to present any policy in connexion with the Northern Territory. Both before and after it was taken over, members of all parties- agreed that it should be taken over because of the necessity of doing something to promote its development. Yet, after having been in office for eighteen months, and having control practically for a year, we are on the eve of terminating the session without any policy for the development of the Territory being presented, for our consideration. Even if the Government did come down at the last moment with some plan of development, it is impossible for the Senate to give anything like serious or adequate consideration to it. Did we take over the Northern Territory merely to relieve South Australia of certain expenditure ? Did we take it over so that it might lie as idle to-day as it has done during the last twenty-five years ? Or did we take it over because we believed that a time had arrived to take developmental steps which would ultimately lead to its ‘ occupation and settlement by a prosperous people ? The supporters of the Government may view with equanimity this dereliction! of duty, but having regard to the important interests involved, I think that in no instance has a Government been so remiss ashas the present Government in its failureto deal with this highly important subject. I may refer to the few things which theGovernment have done so far. They have sent out a number of gentlemen, more or less qualified, to report upon the Territory.. Their reports will not be without some use,, but I venture to say that nothing they canreport will be of assistance to us in theconsideration of the first problems of development with which we are confronted.. Not only have the Government failed to do anything so far to develop the Territory, and failed to prese.it a policy for its development to Parliament, but in their administration they are certainly not helping the people resident there. I have recently received a letter from- a gentleman* who has been living there for very many years, in which he makes the extraordinarystatement that the people of the Territory enjoyed twenty years ago greater postal facilities than they are getting to-day… With regard to one. especially, the Government have, recently made a proposal to> cut down even the scanty facilities at present enjoyed. There was originally a fortnightly mail service from Camooweal to Borroloola. A fortnightly mail in that part of the Commonwealth is regarded asa luxury, though to us as a postal facility it would be considered scanty enough. But even that fortnightly mail service is now being made a monthly service, and this,, in spite of the fact that the stations to which the mail travels have considerably increased1 the number of white employes engaged upon them. A few years ago the work of these stations was done almost exclusively by natives of the Territory. To-day, my informant tells me,, there are six white men employed where there was only one twenty years ago. He goes on to state that originally there was a mail service provided by a subsidized steamer running from Port Darwin to Borroloola. The steamer made a trip once in every three months, and received a subsidy of, I think, £1,2.00 from the Post and Telegraph Department. Notice is now being served of the intention of the Department to discontinue that subsidy. The notice was to expire at the end of December, but as the result of some representations made to the Postal Department by, I believe, the External
Affairs Department, it was decided to continue the subsidy for another six months. 1 direct attention to an especially unsatisfactory feature of the matter. My informant is engaged in the pastoral industry, and points out that he is now ordering from one of the larger cities of Australia the supplies, which he counts upon getting -.six months hence, and he does not know show it will be necessary to have those supplies forwarded because of the uncertainty in regard to this service. It may be urged that the Post and Telegraph Department is not concerned about anything but the conveyance of mails, and I confess that the Postal Department is very unfairly handicapped in being charged with a service of this kind, the cost of which should have been made a charge upon the Consolidated Revenue. It is, I think, unfair to charge the Postal Department with the cost of a service like this, which is clearly necessary for developmental purposes quite outside of the conveyance of mails. What I am directing attention to is that if . the Postal Department thought it desirable to cut down this vote because the service rendered to the community in the carriage of the mails is not worth the money which is paid, the Government should have seen to it, and should have decided that they would not at this particular juncture so seriously handicap settlement by withdrawing a facility enjoyed fpr twenty years, even if it were necessary to charge the cost of maintenance of the service to the External Affairs Department, which is immediately concerned. I ask the Government now to consider the matter, with a view .to making a declaration that this subsidy will not be withdrawn, not merely within six months’ time, but for a very much longer period, so that those who are dependent on the quarterly trips of this vessel will be able to proceed uninterruptedly with their work as they have done in the past. One effect of the withdrawal of this steamer from the service referred to will be that 300 miles of road carriage will be added to the journey to be traversed in forwarding supplies to a very large area of pastoral country. Honorable senators who have any knowledge of what 300 miles of road carriage means will admit that it must seriously handicap the people of this Territory which we are so anxious to develop.
– Will it mean carriage by camels?
– I cannot say that; hut it will mean, not merely 300 miles of road carriage, but 300 additional miles of road carriage. The people of the district referred to have been getting their supplies from Port Darwin round by Borroloola, and if this vessel is withdrawn from the service, they will have to get them via Camooweal from the nearest Queensland railway terminus. I am not quite certain of the distance to Camooweal, but the withdrawal of this boat will add 300 miles to the present road journey, which cannot be less than 300 miles, so that what these people will be asked to do will be to bring their supplies over 600 miles of road carriage. That will represent so heavy a handicap that I hope I can appeal successfully to the Government to declare that the subsidy shall continue until they have had an opportunity to thoroughly revise the whole system of mails in the Territory, and to consider every circumstance necessary for the successful occupation of the country.’ There is another matter to which I shall briefly call attention, and which I referred to on the last Supply Bill ; that is, the inspection, or lack of inspection, of telegraph poles. Honorable senators may remember that, from information published in the press, I brought under their notice a mishap by which the life of a line repairer was lost. The local coroner at the time passed stringent comments upon the failure, of the Department to take what he regarded as very necessary precautions to secure the safety of these men. The Go’vernment then said that an inquiry would be made into the whole of the circumstances, not merely of that particular accident, but the whole question of the examination of telegraph poles. I “should be glad if, during the discussion of this Bill, the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in the Senate would state what has been done in regard to this matter. For the credit of the Post and Telegraph Department, it should not be allowed to rest where it is. The statements made in connexion with the accident to which I referred were so serious as to justify the belief that if similar negligence had been dispayed by a private employer, a charge of manslaughter would have been launched. That being so, in order toclear the matter up, and for its own credit, the Post and Telegraph Department should introduce a more effective system of inspection, and I am sure the Senate ‘will appreciate a full statement from the Minister concerned as to what the Department is doing in connexion with the subject. ‘
– It would be useless to protest against the action of the Government in refraining from divulging their policy even up to this late hour of the session. We have repeatedly protested, as. honorable senators on the other side have done when they were in Opposition, to the late period of the session at which the Estimates are submitted. This session they will probably be later than ever. We have over £20,000,000 of expenditure to deal with, and as so far one half of the money has been expended, we shall have practically no opportunity to discuss the financial proposals of the Government. As the Minister representing the Postmaster-General is in his place, I wish to ask what steps it is necessary for an honorable senator to take in order to secure a reply to a question which can be relied upon. On Thursday, 16th November, I asked the following questions upon notice -
To these questions, I got the following reply from the Honorary Minister, Senator Findley -
The Minister, in his reply, said that he expected that he would be able to make an announcement upon the subject within about a week. Since then, I have regularly asked the same question every week. I asked it on Friday last, and received the reply that the Minister had no more information. I asked the same question yesterday when the Senate met, and the reply I got was that there was no more information. About half-past 4 yesterday afternoon, I saw’ from a statement appearing in the evening paper that the answer for which I was seeking was given in another place to a question asked by an honorable member, without notice. The question was asked there in the morning some hours before I asked the question of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this Senate. When I got his reply I was astounded. I went to see him on the matter, and he told me that he Had no other information. I have seen the PostmasterGeneral, and he distinctly states thathe never received any request. He told me that to-day. Are we in the Senate to put questions of great importance to our States and to have them shuffled over for three weeks, when an honorable member in another place can get up and ask the same question without notice, and receive a reply?
– How long is it since the honorable senator asked the question first?
– I asked it three weeks ago, on the 16th November. Every week since, I have repeated it. Yesterday, the answer for which I had been seeking was given to a similar question put in another place, without notice. I do not think that the members of the Senate should be treated by Ministers in that fashion. What the Minister of Defence told me yesterday the Postmaster-General distinctly denies today.
– No, he does not.
– He did. I am prepared to go with the honorable senator to him, and I do not think he will back down before me.
– Whom does the honorable senator suspect?
– It is between the Ministers concerned. Senator Pearce told me distinctly yesterday morning, in answer to my question, that he had no more information to give. The Postmaster-General told me that he had the information on last Friday.
– Who had the information?
– The PostmasterGeneral had it.
– I did not have it.
– The PostmasterGeneral said that he would have given the information on Friday in another place. He said he had had no request from the Senate - only on account of the House sitting continuously, he was not in a position to give it, and that he gave it on Tuesday as soon as he possibly could.
– We Had a halfholiday on Friday.
– I asked the question on Friday morning, and I asked it again this week as soon as the Senate met. I was met with the same reply, and, under our Standing Orders, honorable senators must accept the reply given by Ministers, and whether it is good, bad, or indifferent, we can make no comment upon it.
– It must have been indifferent this time.
– It was very indifferent, and it shows some neglect of duty somewhere. It is, I take it, the duty of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in the Senate, to answer properly questions respectfully put with respect to the work of that Department. I do not think that any one could cavil at the way in which I asked my question. I have asked very few questions during this session, not more, I think, than six. This is a question I was urged to ask, and there was no other way of getting the information, except through the representative of the Postmaster-General in the Senate. I have told the person who asked me to make the inquiry the answers I received, and what will now be my position?. It will be held that I did not ask the question properly, or that the Minister refused to give me an answer. To put myself on sure ground, I went to see the PostmasterGeneral this morning, and he distinctly told me that he did not know anything at all about the matter. Yet I was assured by the Minister of Defence that he had absolutely forwarded my question to the PostmasterGeneral.
– That statement was absolutely correct, too.
– Then there must be a mistake somewhere. In future, when honorable senators ask questions of Ministers in a respectful way, I trust that they will not be put off for two or three weeks-
– Who asked the question elsewhere?
– Mr. Finlayson,, who had been absent in Brisbane for a fortnight. I suppose that while he was there he learned that I was being asked to obtain information upon this particular matter. Upon his return to this city he was able to walk into the other branch of the Legislature and obtain in a moment the information for which I had asked in vain.
– The Ministry give information to a political supporter which they deny to a political opponent.
– At what other conclusion can I arrive.
– Did the PostmasterGeneral say he was not aware that the honorable senator had asked a question upon this matter three weeks ago?
– I do not know that’ he said that. He could not look up the files.
– As a matter of fact, the honorable senator knows that that could not be so, because the PostmasterGeneral supplied him with the answer to his previous question.
– The reply that was given to me yesterday was that no further information was available.
– And it was absolutely correct, so far as I am concerned.
– Then who is to blame? This is a matter which interests every honorable senator, irrespective of the side of the Chamber upon which* he may sit. When honorable members seek information in reply- to a question placed upon the business-paper, that information should be forthcoming here before it is given elsewhere in answer to a question asked without notice. The Minister representing the Postmaster-General refused to give me information
– That is not correct. I told the honorable senator that I had no information.
– But the information I desired had already been given in another place.
– I was not aware of it.
-If the Minister had not the information he should have obtained it.
– As soon as it was available in the Department, it should have been forwarded to the Minister to supply to the honorable senator.
– According to the statement pf the Postmaster-General, it was available on Friday last, and if the Department had discharged its duty, I should not have been complaining to-day. I hope that in future, when questions are asked upon notice, some little attention will be paid to them.
.. - I do not wish to say much in reference to the late hour at which the Estimates will be submitted for our consideration this year. That tale has been repeated so often by honorable senators that we are heartily sick of the sound of our own voices. Every Government seems to be tarred with the same brush. They delay the submission of the Estimates till the last hour of the session, when honorable senators are not in a fit frame of mind to discuss them. But there are on° or two matters which are of even greater importance to the people of this great country to which I should like to direct attention.
If I interpret the verdict of the last general election aright, a mandate was given to the party which is now in power to break up the land monopoly which undoubtedly exists in Australia to a much more serious extent than it exists in any other country with which I am acquainted, and to reduce the disproportion which obtains between direct and indirect taxation. That clear, definite, and distinct mandate was given by the electors to the Government which is now in power. In addition, the electors gave it a majority which placed it in power in one House for a term of one Parliament, and in the other branch of the Legislature for a. period of two Parliaments. The country was so conscious of the value of the policy offered to it by the Labour party, that it gave it an opportunity to put that’ policy into practice - an opportunity that no Government ever had before, and that no Government will probably ever have again. What has been done? An attempt has doubtless been made to break up the big estates. A comparatively small tax has been imposed, with an exemption of £5,000, and as a consequence a few estates have been sold. But those of us who take an interest in land settlement, know that it is just as difficult to obtain land in the Commonwealth to-day as ever it was. I think we are all agreed that what Australia needs above everything else is population. We require people for defence purposes. We want to become, as far as possible, independent of the protection of the Mother Country, and we can achieve that position only by adding largely to’ our population. That being so, it behoves every man who has the welfare of his country at heart, to see that there is land available for the thousands of immigrants who would come here from Europe if land were obtainable. As a matter of fact, it is exceedingly difficult to secure land in any State of the Commonwealth, with the exception of Western Australia. I heard Senator Barker interject a little time ago. Will he tell me how much cheap land is available to immigrants in Victoria ?
– None at all.
– Yet the honor able senator has done absolutely nothing. In Victoria, land monopoly is a disgrace to civilization. I do not blame the State Labour party for this result. They have done their best to break up that monopoly. In the State Parliament, the Labour party have never had an opportunity to deal with this evil, but in the Commonwealth Parliament they have that opportunity. Some day the country will want to know why that opportunity has not been availed of. Let us turn our eyes for a moment to New South Wales. Will the representatives of that State tell me that it is easy to get cheap land there within easy access of railways - the kind of land that European immigrants require? I know that it is not. It is very difficult to get land of that character in Queensland, where more Crown lands are available than are available in New South Wales. In South Australia, what is the position?
– There are millions of acres available forsettlement.
– As a matter of fact, South Australia is almost as barren of land which is suitable for settlement as is any State of the Commonwealth. Let us turn now to Western Australia, a State which is granting settlers homestead blocks of 160 acres free of charge. I was told the other day, by a representative of that State, that these lands cannot be obtained nearer to a railway than from 10 to 30 miles. It is not right that immigrants should be asked to come from the Old Country to Australia, where millions of acres lying unused are held by land monopolists within the rainfall area, and that we should force those immigrants to settle in the back country 10, 20, or 30 miles from a railway. These are my reason’s for saying that the Labour party in this Parliament have failed in their duty in this connexion. The mandate which they received was to break up large estates. These estates have not been broken up. Some honorable senators may urge that the Labour party are “ cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d “ by an exemption of £5,000. That statement is quite true. But they were not “cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d” in regard to the amount of taxation which they were empowered to impose. If the land tax which is now levied is not sufficient to break up the big estates, it is ourbounden duty to see that those estates are broken up, because the prosperity - nay, the very existence - of Australia, depends upon our ability to attract a larger population to our shores.
– Has the honorable senator ever made a definite suggestion for improving the existing condition of things ?
– I am making a suggestion which is not only definite, but one to which this Parliament may give effect if it so desires. I am discharging my duty as an Australian citizen, and as the representative of an Australian State. We had an opportunity to do this thing, and we have not done it. That opportunity may not again offer itself to any Government within, the next fifty years. With regard to the general question of taxation, it has been one of the cardinal principles in the policy of the Labour party that direct taxation should be substituted at as early a date as possible, and as largely as possible, for indirect taxation. No doubt, an attempt has been made to institute direct taxation in the Commonwealth. We are now deriving about £1,500,000 per annum from a land values tax. But, as against that, we are getting nearly £14,000,000 sterling from taxation through Customs and Excise. The total estimated revenue from taxation during the current financial year is £15,500,000. Of that, £ j 4,000,000 will be derived from Customs and Excise, and £1,500,000 from direct taxation. In other words, 90 per cent, of our revenue is derived from Customs and Excise, and 10 per cent, from direct taxation. Here, again, the Government and the party behind them have had an unique opportunity of altering the- incidence of taxation. They could, if they liked, reduce the receipts from Customs and Excise to, say, a total of 70 per cent., and, increase the revenue from direct taxation to possibly 30 per cent. But, instead of that, there seems to be no inclination to interfere with the revenue from Customs and Excise. The Government, unfortunately, for various reasons, find that they require a large and ever-increasing revenue. The expenditure is going up by leaps and bounds To obtain money through Customs and Excise taxation is easy. The people do not know that they are paying it. Therefore, they do not grumble. That is the best means a politician can use for raising cash. Well, I admit that, if the people are to be deceived - if this money is to be taken out of their pockets simply because they do not know that it is being levied from them - it is a wise policy to pursue. But it is a policy in direct opposition to all the principles which have been laid down by the party to which I belong. Our principle has always been direct, as opposed to indirect, taxation. I do not need to tell the members of the Senate that Customs taxation falls most heavily upon the very poorest section of the people. The poorer the people are the more they contribute to the revenue through the Customs in proportion to their incomes. In this connexion it is almost amusing to observe what has occurred in New South Wales. The senators from that State probably know the details better than I do, but my recollection is that, under a recently enacted income tax, there is a general exemption of £300 a year and a further exemption for each child in a taxpayer’s family.
– That would not benefit the honorable senator or me.
– I would ask the honorable senator to be serious. We are discussing a question which I think vitally affects the welfare of Australia.
– That is a serious question in Australia. If we all followed the honorable senator’s example, it would be very serious.
– If the honorable senator cannot be serious, he might at least allow me to proceed. It is very curious to observe the action of the New South Wales Government and Parliament in this connexion. If I remember rightly, a short while ago they were just as clamant as the Governments of the other States that the Customs and Excise taxation should be kept on as high a level as possible, so that they might derive a large revenue from that source. Here we find the Government and Parliament of that State willing to allow heads of families a remission of income tax by a general exemption of £300, and a further remission, where the income exceeds that amount, for each child. Yet they fail to note this fact - that the poorer a man is, the lower his wages are, and the bigger his family, the more he contributes in taxation through the Customs. I say that the time is ripe for a radical reformation in our system of taxation. As far as I am concerned, I have no use whatever for Customs taxation for revenue-producing purposes. If a. Tariff does not create industries, sweep it away. Let us either have Free Trade orsuch a Tariff as will stimulate industrieswithin our own borders. Our present Tariff is not Free Trade; it is not Protectionist ; therefore, it must ‘ be what isknown as a revenue Tariff ; and that is the most iniquitous kind of Tariff of all as far as the great mass of the people are concerned. I think that the policy of Australia, with which a vast majority of the Australian people are in accord, is a policy of Protection, a policy which will give us such a Tariff as, instead of pouring hup sums of money into the public Treasury, will create industries within the boundaries of Australia. Is our present Tariff doing that ? I do not think that any man who examines the figures, and compares them with those of years that have passed, can say anything but this - that in our Tariff we have one of the most effective revenueproducing machines to be found in any part of the globe. In Free Trade Great Britain, the direct taxation is, I think, between 50 and 60 per cent. of the whole. Ours is only 10 per cent. In nearly every civilized country of which I know anything, the proportion of direct, as opposed to indirect, taxation is much greater than in Australia. I find that the estimated revenue from the Tariff for the present year approaches very closely to £14,000,000 sterling, or about £3 2s. 6d. per head of the population. In 1906, the revenue from the Tariff was £9,500,000. So that the Customs and Excise revenue has increased at least 45 per cent, in five years. The population during the same period has increased 10 per cent. I think that that is abounding evidence to every man who cares to consider the subject dispassionately that our Tariff is not protective. The evidence of that fact is overwhelming. Imports are pouring in toan immense value. They are going up by leaps and bounds. Yet no attempt has been made, or is likely to be made, by the present Government so to arrange our Tariff as to create industries rather than produce revenue.
– The people are not here to man the. present industries.
– If the policy which the people of Australia gave the present Parliament a mandate to carry out had been carried out, the people would be here, and the industries would be here. But, instead of doing what we were told to do, we have been drifting away on to unimportant side issues, neglecting those great vital questions which affect not only the present welfare of Australia, but probably her very existence as a nation. No matter what may be any one’s views about immigration or the manning of industries, or anything of that kind, that is a policy, or want of policy, with which no good citizen of Australia can possibly agree. We are all united on this point - that we want more people here. We want as many industries within our borders as we can possibly have. We want to be as self-contained as it is possible to be. We are all agreed upon that point. Then why do not we try to carry that policy out? Why do we not pass such legislation as will break down the land monopoly which is strangling Australian progress from end to end of the continent ?
– Did the honorable senator move any amendment on the Land Values Assessment Bill?
– If I had moved amendments, not a single one would have been carried. Would not the honorable senator have treated my amendments in the most flippant fashion ? Would he not have looked upon me as a person who was hostile to the Government, and, therefore, as one whom it was desirable to sit upon or stamp upon, or treat in some such fashion? The honorable senator knows just as well as I do that I could not have carried a single amendment, could not have altered a single line or word or letter in one of his Bills.
– The honorable senator never will if he never tries.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council was a member of the Government. It was for him, and for his colleagues, to try. It is not for a private member of Parliament to do this kind of thing. He cannot do it. It was not possible for me. The Government have their men behind them.
– I thought the honorable senator was in the party.
– I am.
– Oh, are you?
– I am; but iti appears to me that the honorable senator and a number of others, although they have not left the party, have at least deserted the principles of the party, or some of them. That is the position. If the honorable senator wants me to talk straight to him he has got it. They are nominally in. the party, of course, but, as a matter of fact, they have deserted several of its cardinal principles, as 1 think the people of Australia will very soon discover.
– The people are only waiting an opportunity to let the honorable senator’s party know it.
– The honorable senator is also waiting for his opportunity. I may tell him candidly that, while I have no particular faith in the present Government, I have very much less faith in any Government in which he is. likely to be.
– I have not seen much evidence of any faith on the part of the honorable senator in any Government.
– If I may use a phrase which may be regarded as rather vulgar, 1 am between the devil and the deep blue sea. The devil is on my right, and the deep blue sea is on my left. Between them there seems to be a disinclination to do anything of any particular value, as far as the people of the Commonwealth are concerned. I put a few questions to the Vice-President of the Executive Council the other day with regard to the intentions of the Government as to the land tax and the Tariff, and the reply of the honorable senator, given in his usual flippant fashion, was that the immigrants to Victoria had come here because of the land tax. Yet everybody who has cared to inquire into the question knows that there has been no breaking up of big estates worth mentioning In this State. I do not believe that 10 per cent, of the immigrants who came here the other day are able to buy land on such terms as it is obtainable, in Victoria above every other State in the Commonwealth. For the benefit, not only of those who are listening to me, who know it just as well as I do, and refuse to take any action, but also for any of the people outside who care to read Hansard, I repeat that land monopoly, notwithstanding the tax which has been imposed by the Federal. Parliament, remains practically undisturbed, and until it is moved to a much greater extent than has been done already, nothing profitable in the way of land settlement is possible in any State. I do not except even Western Australia.
– What do you propose to do?
-I suggest the breaking up of the land monopoly, the getting for the people the community-created value of the Commonwealth.
– Would you lower the exemption?
– Undoubtedly I would lower the exemption.
– I suppose that you mean that you would abolish the exemption.
– I hope that the Federal Conference which will sit very shortly at Hobart will see the necessity of lowering the exemption.
– There is very little chance.
– If that is the case so far as breaking up the land monopoly of Australia is concerned, every Labour man sitting here may just as well leave the Chamber, and go back to his work whatever it was before he came to Parliament, for all the value he will be to the Commonwealth in promoting land settlement.
– The honorablesenator has been away to the Old Country, and knows nothing about the matter.
– Unless that exemption is reduced, and the taxes increased, all our talk about extended land settlement in Australia is mere vapour and pretence. That is my opinion, which I will continue to express here if my lungs keep sound, and my vigour is maintained. I shall certainly say it elsewhere.
– And you were in the Labour movement before some of the others were born.
-I am not making any reference to that.
– He is one of the most recent converts. He never knew anything about the matter until the last few years.
– There are some of my honorable friends here, and I believe that I might apply the remark to Senator Henderson, who know very little about it now. They may have been in Parliament for100 years, and their age, so far as I can discover, is only evidence of their want of knowledge.
– Are you suggesting the process of mental petrification?
– Decay. I believe that Senator Henderson had a much better grip of these questions ten or fifteen years ago than he has to-day.
– I have quite as good a grip of them as you have. I have forgotten more than you ever knew about them.
-I can quite understand that the honorable senator has a great faculty for forgetting. In fact, he gives us evidence of that every day in this Chamber, but side discussions of this kind are not going to benefit the people of Australia, to promote land settlement, or to create industries, or to remedy the disproportion between direct and indirect taxation. It is the duty of the Labour party, I hold, to carry out its programme when it has the opportunity.
– So it is.
– It may not have the opportunity in the next Parliament. It may, as I have said, never have an opportunity such as this.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Hear, hear.
– I know the honorable senator’s mind just as well as if it were written in a book, and I could read it. What he thinks is this, “ If the Labour party is only game to carry out its policy, it will fall flop, and we will come into power.”’ My opinion is that if the Labour party had been game to carry out its policy a year ago, it would have remained in perpetual power, because the benefits of that policy would have been so apparent by the time the party was in danger that the people would never have dreamt of driving it out of office. But it has been half-hearted, timid, sheepish in its attack on these great and vital questions. Land monopoly remains practically undisturbed.
– Oh, no.
– We have read in Scripture about the siege of Jericho, how the bands went round, and played, and played, and played, and how at last the walls fell. But we have had a lot of band playing in Australia with regard to land monopoly.
– The flute is going now.
– The flute and other instruments have’ been played, but land monopoly .is rearing its insolent head just as much as it has ever done in the history of the Commonwealth, lt is simply sniggering up its sleeve at. the weakness, the impotence, and the lack of courage displayed by the Labour party. The Labour party is not game to catch hold of the nettle, and deal with it.
– We have given the landlords enough for a time, anyway.
– We have not given them anything. They are simply laughing at us. They expect that, at the next election, they will gain a majority in the House of Representatives, and that at the election after that they will get a majority in the Senate; and that then they can sweep away the legislation which the Labour party has brought in. That is exactly what the land-owners, and those who are associated with them, are thinking. They are not living in fear and trembling of the party at present in power.
– Some members of your party are thinking that, too.
– I do not know what they are thinking, but I know what the honorable senator is thinking.
– And you are sharing that opinion, too.
– I did not say what I think about it. I simply stated what honorable senators on the Opposition side were thinking. If Senator W. Russell imagines that the land monopolists are trembling in their shoes because there is a Labour party in power, he is very much mistaken. They have gauged the way of the Labour party. They know that there is a great deal more of sound and fury in their platform than there is of actual effort. I think that they are amply justified in their conclusion.
– We have a tax that realizes £1,400,000.
– Does the honorable senator know that the communitycreated value in Australia which passes into the pockets of private individuals every year totals from £20,000,000 to £25,000,000? Yet he is satisfied to let such a stream of wealth as this, which belongs of right to the people of Australia, pass into the pockets of private individuals. Not only is he content to do that,, but he is also content to enter the homes of the poorest people of the Commonwealth, and almost crush them to the earth by means of in direct taxation.
– You know that that is not so.
– That is the result of the policy followed by the honorable senator.
– Nothing of the sort.
– This neglect of our duty, this neglect of the interests of the great mass of the people whom -we were sent here to represent, is staring, not only him in the face, but also the party with which he- is associated. We ought to attack these problems seriously. We are engaged in a siege in which, if we are now repelled - and the probability is that we shall be repelled - we shall not have the opportunity of renewing the attack with the same advantage on our side-, perhaps, during the lives of many who are here. Let us take the opportunity when it is in our hands. Let us use the weapon which the people of Australia have committed to our trust. Let us, in the interests of the people, break up land monopoly, and have such a Tariff as will not be a mere revenueproducing machine, grinding the- faces of the poorest people, but will create industries throughout the Commonwealth. To do this is possible for the Parliament which is in existence. The party which is pledged to carry out this policy has a large majority in each House. ‘ It is empowered by the people to carry this policy. I ask the party, in the name of the progress, the future development, the safety of Australia, to tackle .these questions manfully, and settle them, as it has the power, if it had the will, to do.
Senator ST. LEDGER (Queensland) £3-57]- - I desire to draw the attention of the Ministry to a grievance under which some of my constituents suffer, and that is the rate of payment to the medical officers who administer the quarantine law. I do not intend to name any particular case, because, more or less, the grievance is general. I may mention a particular case to the Minister, but the cases are on pretty much the same footing. Queensland is the gateway by which the traffic from the’1 East - the home of some dangerous diseases - passes along the eastern coast of Australia. Prior to Federation, Queensland set up a very strict quarantine law, and administered it every effectively. I believe that the care and vigilance with which Queensland watched this traffic, both before and since Federation, have, on more than one occasion, prevented the possibility of these diseases getting transplanted to our soil. It is to be hoped that the Government will show a keener appreciation of the work which the medical officers are doing. If honorable senators will refer to the Estimates, they will find that the allowances to these officers, who have most important duties to perform, are, in many cases, such that the Commonwealth ought to be ashamed of them. The passenger traffic which comes down the coast of Queensland from the East is very large; it is growing, and needs increasing watchfulness, because many of the diseases which come from that quarter are for a long time hatching. They may be in the ships which touch our coasts, and therefore require extreme vigilance and care in those stages. That has to be done, in the first instance, along the coast of Queensland. Seeing that, since the institution of the Commonwealth, it has been almost immune from epidemics of diseases from the East, and that that result has been due to the vigilance and the activity of the medical officers, especially in Queensland, I hope that the Government will recognise the importance of the work which they have done by paying them at something like a rate commensurate with the important duties which they perform on behalf of the Commonwealth. I may take advantage of another opportunity to call attention to particular cases to illustrate my remarks. There is another proposal which amounts to a grievance, and which, if not nipped in the bud, may become a scandal. It has not yet reached that stage, but it is a grievance proposed to be inflicted upon the whole of the Commonwealth. It has been reported in the newspapers, and the Minister’s name has been mentioned in connexion with the matter, that during next recess, at a favorable opportunity, a second parliamentary tour will be arranged for the purpose of enabling certain members of this Parliament to visit the Northern Territory.
– Will the honorable senator not .go up?
– I certainly shall not. I did go once, and that was quite sufficient for me, and, I believe, for every member of the Senate who availed himself of the same opportunity to visit the Territory. If there are any new members of this Parliament who desire to go to the Territory - and in the first place, let me say that I do not see what they can gain by going there-
– What did the honorable senator gain by going there?
– The honorable senator can tell the other members of the Parliament all. about it.
– The point to which I wish to direct the Minister’s attention is that only new members are entitled to ask for the trip now. I further say, speaking from experience, that I do not believe that any new member of this Parliament who may visit the Northern Territory in connexion with an organized parliamentary picnic is going to acquire any information which will be of use to the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator ought to be ashamed of himself to speak of “ picnics.”
– I frankly confess that I gained ‘very little information during my visit. The only gain to me as a senator representing Queensland was that the original impression I had formed as to the proper course to adopt for the development of the Northern Territory was confirmed by such information as I received. I said so here, and to that extent my visit was perhaps beneficial.
– Was the honorable senator on a picnic when he went to the Northern Territory?
– Well, I did not stay long. I got out of it as quickly as ever I could.
– But the honorable senator was there on a picnic?
– 1 was there for a day or two looking into certain official reports, and acquiring official information, and especially information from the residents of the place ; and, as I say, my original impression as to the right course to adopt for the development of the Territory was confirmed.
– The honorable senator came to the conclusion that the railway should be made from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek ?
- Senator Vardon is quite wrong. I am very often found fighting side by side with the honorable senator ; and if he will wait for a minute he will see what my position in this matter is.
– The honorable senator wishes- to drag the railway into Queensland. I knew what was coming.
– Certainly. I wish to point out that I have the impression that a line to be truly for the benefit of the Northern Territory, and really developmental, should be brought from Pine Creek right into Queensland territory as soon as possible, and the further it was kept away from Queensland territory, and the longer it was kept solely within the Northern Territory, the worse it would be for the Territory, and the greater would be the incubus upon the Commonwealth. That impression was confirmed by the information I received from every European resident of Port Darwin with one exception. That leads me to say that if the Government will persist in the proposed parliamentary picnic or, if. honorable senators please, expedition or party of exploration to the. Northern Territory, I suggest that, out of consideration for the taxpayers, it should be confined to new members, if they desire to take part in it.
– I have not been to the Northern Territory. Does the honorable senator think that I should be excluded ?
– I have said that, if during the recess the Government will go on with this proposal for a parliamentary exploration party to the Northern
Territory, the personnel of the party should be confined, in the interests of the taxpayers of Australia, strictly to new members of this Parliament.
– What does the honorable senator mean by new members?
– Members who entered this Parliament since the last general election.
– What about other members of this Parliament who have not previously visited the Territory?
– It was their fault if they did not go on the last occasion. Personally, I do not think there is the slightest necessity for any expedition of the kind, whether the party be composed of new or of old members of this Parliament. Let me say that, if the expedition is to be carried out, the party should not proceed the whole of the way to Port Darwin by sea, but should go overland .through Queensland. If the party goes through Queensland via Camooweal, every member of it, whether new or old, will understand why honorable senators from Queensland, and particularly myself, have emphasized the fact that, especially in connexion with railway communication, Queensland must be regarded as the first base for the -development of the Northern Territory. I suggest then that, if the expedition is to be carried out, one of the essential conditions should be that the party should go first to Townsville, and from there by rail to Cloncurry. It will not take them more than a day to go from Cloncurry to Camooweal, which is near the eastern border of the Northern Territory. The Government can make arrangement to have the party met there from the other side and taken from the Queensland boundary to Port Darwin. The members of the party, if taken over that route, will recognise the reason for the policy of development, which has been advocated so often, by a railway keeping as closely as possible to the Queensland border, and entering Queensland territory as soon as possible. This is scoffed at by one Minister representingWestern Australia, and by another representing South Australia. But let me say that if it is proposed that the new expedition shall go by sea to Port Darwin, and’ then a few miles inland to the AdelaideRiver to the Catherine, and a few other places, we already have official reports and reports from personal observations by a large number of members of this Parliament upon the country that will be visited-
If we are to have further information with respect to the Northern Territory, the proposed expedition should open up new ground.
– If the honorable senator will promise to go with the expedition, we will arrange a tour which will last for twelve months.
– I do not wish the Minister of Defence to tempt me in this matter, or to try to make a bargain with me with respect to the policy I shall advocate. If he wishes to make such a bargain, let me say that if the Government will direct that the proposed exploration party shall follow the line of route I have suggested, I should be inclined, in my present state of mind, to consent to join the expedition, the Government taking proper precautions to see that we did not get lost, and were returned safely to this Parliament. It occurs to me that possibly I am too rash, and that an expedition might be specially organized with a view to losing me somewhere in the Northern Territory, and thus depriving the Commonwealth of my services. I think that there is no justification for the proposed expenditure in this direction, and I hope the proposal will not be presevered with. I do not care a snap of the finger for a gibe that I speak in this matter from a Queensland point of view, but I do contend that if the Government are to have another parliamentary expedition, it should go over new ground. Whether honorable senators agree that the expedition should travel through Queensland, or confine itself to the Northern Territory, it is essential that both Houses of this Parliament should know the character of the country, and it is essential for the development of the Northern Territory that we should shortly have some definite information as to its capacities and natural resources, and the best course to follow in developing them from the land as well as from the sea.
– I should like to say a word or two upon some subjects which have been touched upon in the national speeches to which we have just listened. In the first place, I wish to say that I hope members of this Parliament will be given an opportunity of visiting the Northern Territory. I say this, not because I am a new member, but because I previously have not had an opportunity of visiting the Territory. As an Australian and a member of this Parliament, I recognise that I have certain responsibilities cast upon me. I have endeavoured, so far as time would permit, to visit every portion of Australia that I could visit, and I desire to avail myself of an opportunity to .visit the Northern Territory. I wish to be in a position to say that I have seen such parts of Australia as can be visited. I believe that with a knowledge of different parts of the Commonwealth I shall be more useful to Australia as a member of this Parliament than I was prior to making myself personally acquainted with those parts. I wish to support Senator St. Ledger’s suggestion that only new members of this Parliament, or members who have not yet visited the Northern Territory, should be permitted to join the proposed expedition. The reason, briefly, is that I am anxious to prevent Senator St. Ledger from carrying out his suggestion that possibly he might be induced to go with that expedition. He has suggested that if the party is to go through the back-door of Queensland he will favorably consider the question of availing himself of the opportunity to accompany the expedition. I do not believe there is ‘ another member of the Commonwealth Parliament who would be mean enough to propose to doublebank a parliamentary picnic. Seeing that one honorable senator has announced that that, is his intention, it is very desirable that he should be debarred from giving effect to it. I hope that we shall not be prevented from going as far into the interior of the Northern Territory as the time at our disposal will permit. I believe that any honorable senator whovisits that Territory will be better fitted to deal with the problems which confront us in that portion of Australia than he will be if he remains in Melbourne during the recess. I wish now to say a few words in reply to one or two statements made by Senator Stewart. With certain principles which he enunciated I am heartily in agreement. But I think that he ought to be more careful in his use of language which reflects upon others who have done as much, if not more, for Protection than he has done himself. I particularly resent his attack upon Senator Barker. That honorable senator and myself have worked incessantly to persuade the Government tobring forward a comprehensive measure of Tariff reform. Had Senator Stewart been present during the early part of the current session to assist us with his eloquence and his determination, possibly we might have been more successful than we have been. That honorable senator declared that Senator Barker had done nothing. I wish to say that for the past twenty-five years, both inside and outside of Parliament, Senator Barker has done everything that it was possible for a man to do to secure an effective protective policy in Victoria. When I was a little boy I can recollect that he not only distributed leaflets and circulars on Protection, but took the public platform upon every opportunity which offered to further the Protectionist cause in this State. To chide such an individual with having done nothing for Protection is unworthy of any honorable senator.
– He has done nothing here; that is what I meant.
– Does the honorable .senator expect a man to enter this Parliament, and to rule the whole roost in eighteen months? I believe that during the past session Senator Barker has rendered more service than has Senator Stewart. However, I hope that in the- future these little differences will be forgotten, and that Senators Stewart and Barker will t?e found fighting together for a Protective policy for Australia. I agree with Senator Stewart that the indirect taxation of the people of the Commonwealth is far in excess of what it ought to be.- When the last Tariff was under consideration, I shouldered the responsibility of voting against a purely revenue-producing duty upon some fifty or sixty different items. I do not say that the present Tariff is not a protective one. I believe that, to a large extent, it is a beneficial Tariff, and, recognising that we have only a small population in Australia, I appreciate the difficulty of establishing every industry within our borders. My own view is that those commodities which can be manufactured in Australia in sufficient volume to supply our home market should be subjected to an impost which would absolutely exclude the importation of similar commodities from other countries. To-day an amended Tariff has been put forward - a Tariff which, I believe, will be protective in its incidence. But I have no hesitation in saying that the proposals embodied in it do not represent such an amendment of the Tariff as Australia and the Labour party are prepared to accept. It may be true that the Labour party as a party has never indorsed the policy of extending protection to the manufacturer unless it was to be associated with the new Protection. But no limitation has ever been im posed upon any of its members who desired to advocate Protection in season and out of season. Every day witnesses ari extension of the Arbitration Court and Wages Boards systems. I say, first of all, “ Let us establish Australian industries, and I shall then be prepared to fight the manufacturers for good conditions on behalf of their employe’s.” I know perfectly well that there are many manufacturers who ought not to receive any protection whatever, because of the contemptible way in which they treat their employes. But I decline to be influenced by the actions of individuals. I hope that Senator . Stewart, now that he has returned from the Old Country full of vigour and fight, will be able to join the Barker and Russell party, which was included in his violent denunciation. If he does that, perhaps even the Labour Government will be inclined to give to Australia what she desires, namely, an effective Protectionist .policy’. At the same time, I hope that they will stand by their pledge to the workers of this country, and see that when, an increased measure of protection is granted to our manufacturers, the ‘real wealth, producers shall also participate’ in the benefits which follow from it. There is just one other matter that I desire to mention. We all know that the cost of living in Australia has increased during the past few years. I recognise, too, that the Public Service Commissioner in his dealings with the members of the clerical division of our Public Service, has been absolutely fair. But a condition of things has now been reached under which there is not a single artisan in the general division of the service who is in receipt of the recognised ruling rate of wages. It has been said that these men receive certain privileges. I recognise that that is so, and that those privileges serve to enhance the wage which they are paid. But I would rather see all those privileges abolished than that these artisans should be paid less than the standard wage. I believe that Ministers have done their best to amend the existing state of affairs. Owing to the awards of Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts, there are, in some branches of our Public Service, temporary hands who are in receipt of 9s. 6d. per day working alongside equally competent menwho are engaged by the Public Service; Commissioner, and who are in receipt of’ only 8s. per day. At the General Post Office, Melbourne; there are instrument1 fitters who are employed temporarily, and who aire paid 9s. 6d. per day, whilst in South Australia, men doing exactly the same class of work are getting only 8s. per day. Why it should be considered that a less wage is required to maintain a South Australian or a Western Australian than is needed to support a New South Welshman or Victorian, I cannot understand.
– Unskilled labour is better paid in South Australia than it is anywhere else.
– 1’ think that no adult should be asked to join the general division- of our public service in any capacity at less than the standard wage. 1 admit that the temporary hands are receiving fair play at the hands of Ministers. In conclusion, may I express the hope that a comprehensive policy will be put forward in respect of the development of the Northern Territory, and that ere long Australian manufacturers will be effectively protected as the result of the action of the Labour Government, whilst at the same time, the workmen of Australia will enjoy their fair share of that protection.
– Several times I have brought under the notice of the Senate the illiberal manner in which those persons who are in charge of receiving post-offices throughout the country are paid. Their remuneration ranges from £1 to £8 per annum. Only the other day, I was speaking to a man in’ the north of Victoria, who has to receive 2,500, and to distribute 5,000, letters a year, in addition to transacting all the other business connected with a post-office, and whose sole remuneration is £4 per annum. 1 hope that the Government will take this matter into their serious consideration, with a view to assisting these people, who do a great deal of work for a very inadequate recompense. This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition called attention to the question of the soundness, or otherwise, of telegraph poles, and to a fatality which recently occurred as the result of one of those poles being defective. I had an opportunity lately of going through evidence and a report dealing with the question of telegraph poles. The evidence was taken by a committee which sat ten or eleven months ago. The matter was brought under the notice of the authorities by a workman, Mr. W. A. Brown, and the committee was appointed, at his request. He made seven or eight different charges, two or three of which were of a personal character, whilst the others affected the public interest. A number of witnesses were examined. Mr. Brown spent two or three years in collecting evidence beforehand. He was put to considerable expense, and the evidence was of a striking nature. The Department, however, refuse’ to recoup him for the trouble and expense to which he was put. lt was alleged that, as he had only proved one charge, he was not entitled to recompense. I have run through the evidence and am of opinion that he proved four or five of the charges up to the hilt. I consider that he has been unfairly treated, especially as a good deal of the evidence was distinctly in the public interest. If one or two of his’ recommendations had been adopted, and his allegations had been looked into, the fatality which took place would not have occurred. With regard to the proposed trip to the Northern Territory mentioned by Senator St. Ledger, I have to say that, as far as I have seen, not much benefit has accrued to the public interest from such excursions. We have had a number of them. Piles of reports have been printed in relation to the Northern Territory, going minutely into all the circumstances connected with it. I venture to say that not many of the members who take part in the trip will have read those reports. I do not think that it is fair that members of Parliament, who are well paid, should go away on excursions entirely at the public expense. They may derive personal benefit, but the whole cost of such expeditions should not fall upon the taxpayers who do not get any sufficient return. I trust that Ministers will inquire into the case that I have mentioned in regard to the telegraph poles and see if something cannot be done.
– - Had it not been for some remarks made by the last speaker I should not have taken part in this debate, as I am suffering from a cold. I think that his remarks as to a trip to the Northern Territory on the part of members of this Parliament not being advantageous, were all nonsense. I have not visited the Northern Territory. Probably I shall not go if an opportunity is afforded. But I am satisfied that if I did go, I should be much better prepared to legislate in regard to the Territory than I am at present. I remember the occasion when I visited YassCanberra and Dalgety at the public expense. So did Senator McColL I came to a certain decision. I was convinced that a certain course was the right one. Had 1 not been to Yass-Canberra I should not have been in a position to give so decided an opinion, and the Federal Capital would not have been situated in the right place. Every one of my Labour comrades was against me on the point. But now they are all with me, especially those who sit on. the Treasury bench. J think that it is a wise thing to give members of Parliament an opportunity of seeing the country for which they have to legislate. My honorable friend Senator Stewart, when he deals with the single tax, is like an unbridled horse. ‘ Nobody can control him. He goes wherever he likes. The honorable senator has recently been on a trip to the Old Country. I do not say that he went at the Government expense. I know that he did not. Some honorable senators did, and I do not blame them. T withdrew my name from the ballot, and should not have gone if I had been chosen. I think, however, that it ill-becomes any member of this Parliament to disparage those who went to the Old Country, nor do I think that we should discourage those who are willing to go on excursions to parts of the Commonwealth for which they may have to legislate. I might have said something to the members of the Government in regard to postal affairs in .South Australia, especially in reference to those officers who have been cruelly treated by the Public Service Commissioner. But there is some hope that, through the medium of the Arbitration Court, justice may be done to them. I am rather disappointed at what the Government have done in this matter. I think they should have gone to the root of it, and seen that justice was done to the public servants.
– May I say a word by way of correction? Senator Russell, no doubt unwittingly, said that I visited Yass-Canberra at the Government expense. I went at my own expense.
– I did not say that the honorable senator went at the Government expense.
– Yes, the honorable senator did say that. It was an error.
– I certainly did not wish to misrepresent the honorable senator.
– I know that.
– What I meant to say was that I went to Dalgety and Yass-Canberra at the Commonwealth’s ex pense, and I added that Senator McColl went ; but I did not wish to imply that he went at the public expense. The difference between us, however, is that I stuck to my opinion and Senator McColl did not.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not, when making a personal explanation, introduce fresh matter.
– Regarding the subject of the proposed trip to the Northern Territory, introduced by Senator McColl-
– I did not introduce the subject.
– The honorable senator referred to it, and I wish to refer to his reference. I hope that the Government will grant facilities for members of this Parliament to visit the Territory which the Commonwealth has taken over. Unless some of us go there and see it for ourselves we shall know very little of its needs. Recently the Government gave members of this Parliament an opportunity of visiting Papua. A considerable number went ; others did not. If any one thinks that he can visit a country like Papua or the Northern Territory, as if he were going on a picnic, he is mistaken, and will certainly be disillusioned on trying the experiment.
– It is no picnic.
– It certainly is not. I went to Papua, and I can say confidently that only a man in fairly robust health ought to go there. The trip involved severe walks into the interior. There are no railways there, and one who wishes to see the country has to take “ shanks’ pony.” The Northern Territory is similarly circumstanced. It does not matter what the Age newspaper may say, or what Senator McColl, chiming in with the Age, may say. I hope that as many honorable senators as possible will join in any trip that may be organized to the Northern Territory, in order that they may be personally acquainted with it, and may know what its . requirements are. We shall thereby be better fitted to deal with any proposals that may be brought before the Senate. Who, may I ask, pays Senator McColl’s expenses when he travels about this country ? Does he not use the railway pass provided by the Commonwealth? If he uses his pass when he is travelling for the public good, does he not also use it when he is travelling on private business?
– He does not use it on private business.
– I know that he travels on his pass for that very object, and for him to join in with those critics who complain about others visiting parts of the Commonwealth for which we have to legislate is a piece of hypocrisy. I cannot sit here silently without uttering my protest against such criticism. I hope that honorable senators will not hesitate to accept any invitation which may come from the Government in regard to a visit to the Northern Territory. I have never been there, but if I can spare the time I shall be glad to go. I am anxious to learn what the country is like. I hope” that many of us will take an opportunity of going, no matter what the Age newspaper or Senator McColl may say about us.
– I should not have participated in this debate had it not been for some remarks made by Senator Stewart, in which he declared that there was no land available for settlers in South Australia.
– That statement was due to his lack of knowledge.
– I think it right to give the honorable senator a little information, because what he said was rather a libel upon my State. I have always regarded the Federal land tax as a class tax, and, therefore, I opposed it. Senator Stewart asserts that it has not accomplished what it was intended to do, and he, therefore, wishes to lower the exemption. In my State it was never required for the purpose that he has mentioned. The quantity of land held in large areas there is only about 400,000 acres.
– We have a single estate in Queensland almost as large as that.
– I have no objection to whatever the honorable senator may choose to say about Queensland, but he should not have included the whole of the. States in his animadversions. I have here a copy of a Bulletin issued by the South Australian Government, dated August, 1908, before the Federal land tax was imposed. It was issued by authority of the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Adelaide. It contains the following statement -
Government land may be obtained on perpetual lease or an agreement to purchase. In the former case the rental will vary from i of a penny to 4s. per acre.
That is very cheap -
If taken on purchase, the price will be from 2s. 6d. to about £S per acre, which can be paid in sixty half-yearly payments, with a low rate of interest added. In either case the maximum to be held by one person is not to exceed £s>°°° worth.
Miscellaneous leases of twenty-one years’ tenure may be taken of sites for shops, &c, and in a few cases for grazing and cultivation, at a rental to be fixed.
Land for grazing may be taken, capable of carrying 5,000 sheep, at a low rental, and in dry areas 10,000 sheep.
Pastoral areas in outside country can be had for twenty-one or forty-two years, at rentals of from is. 6d. to £1 per square mile.
Large estates in farming districts are purchased by the Government, subdivided, and offered in suitably sized blocks, for profitable occupancy. The price at which farmers can get blocks on these lands varies according to quality ; but must be sufficient to recoup the Government the cost of purchase.
Re-purchased lands must be taken on agreement to purchase, up to ^2,000 worth unimproved value, improved blocks and grazing land up to £4,000 worth. The purchase-money must be paid in seventy half-yearly instalments (the first ten payments will be interest only, which will be 4 per cent, on the purchase money. Purchase may be completed by paying balance of purchase money after holding the land nine years.
Then follows this passage -
Lands will soon be available for selection in Port Lincoln district, 147,000 acres : east of Murray Bridge, 111,000 acres; east of River Murray, 120,000 acres; Kangaroo Island, 352,000 acres. Land east of River Murray, 415,000, and at Hynam, near Naracoorte, south-east, 38,600 will be available about November next.
Since then surveyors have been engaged to open up the west coast of South Australia. To-day it has pretty well 3,000,000 acres which are open for settlement. Not only that, but a railway has been constructed along the west coast for the purpose of opening up this land, and additions are being made to it. This* will enable a still larger quantity of land to be taken - land which, though it is admitted to be of second-class quality, will, with a sufficient rainfall, and the use of fertilizers, produce very good crops. This is information which, no doubt, Senator Stewart will be glad to receive, showing that the Federal land tax was not needed for breaking up big estates in South Australia. There was land available on very easy terms to any person, and a great quantity of this land is available eve:i to-day. I do not wonder, therefore, that in that State the Federal land tax is a failure in that respect. I am glad to hear from Senator Stewart that a further reduction in the exemption should be made. I imagine that that is the policy of the Labour party, and I suppose that in due season there will be little or no exemption from the land tax. I did not intend to contribute to this debate ; but, as the honorable senator seemed to be ignorant in regard to one State, I thought that I would give him some information.
– I am very pleased tint the question of the Northern Territory has been raised, because I am anxious that as many members of Parliament as possible should take part in the proposed trip. If I am well at the time, I shall take advantage of the opportunity to travel to gain information.
– Keep your mind open when you are in the Northern Territory.
– I always da In my opinion, the route to be taken by the parliamentary party to the Northern Territory should be considerably deviated from that suggested by Senator St. Ledger. I think that the proper course would be for the party to proceed to Port Darwin via Western Australia, so that those who come here from time to time to legislate may know something of Australia. Senator Stewart, and several other senators who talk on Australian subjects, know so little about Australia that the value of their remarks seems to be absolutely nil. If, for instance, Senator Stewart were taken from Melbourne to Port Darwin into the Northern Territory, he would see what Australia really is. The only knowledge which he has of Australia at present is gained from the progress which he makes from time to time between Melbourne and Queensland. It is advisable, therefore, that the Government should make such arrangements as will afford to members of Parliament who are absolutely ignorant of a great deal of the territory of Australia an opportunity of seeing that part which is so closely connected with the Northern Territory. It must do a considerable amount of good in many directions. It will give some honorable senators a knowledge which they do not possess. There are several of us who, has ing travelled round the continent, know exactly what we mean when we speak of it; but there are others who have no knowledge of the surrounding country. It would, I think, be a very great benefit to members of the Senate if they had an opportunity of proceeding by a route that would permit them to see thousands of miles of country of which they know absolutely nothing, and whose potentialities are quite unquestionable. On our return to the Senate, we would know what we were talking about, and would not make, for instance, the very glaring mistake which Senator Stewart made to-day in reference to the land question, which Senator Vardon has pointed out so clearly. It has shown conclusively to the honorable senator, as to all others, that there are many things which he has yet to learn
– - I have received information on several matters concerning the Departments which I represent here. Senators Millen and McColl have raised the question of defective telegraph poles. I have ascertained that the Department has asked all the States for reports on defective poles, and issued a circular in very definite terms requesting that more care should be exercised in connexion with the examination of the poles, with the object of preventing officers from undertaking risks in the future. Senator Millen has also asked a question regarding two Northern Territory mail services. The Camooweal and Borroloola - an overland service - was a fortnightly service until January last, when it was reduced to a monthly service on account of the higher price asked by the contractor and the smaller revenue. The Department say that the mail service was reduced from a monthly one for twelve months from 1st January. The service is now being reviewed, and I promise to bring Senator Millen’s remarks under the notice of the Minister, and no doubt they will have some effect when the service is again dealt with.
– The object of my remarks was to suggest that the Department’s policy is not the only policy to consider.
– That comes in again in regard to the Port Darwin and Borroloola service, which, as Senator Millen says, is a boat service. It was a quarterly service until recently, when it was proposed to discontinue it on the score ‘of expense and the small return. The External Affairs Department made some representations to the Postal Department, and it was decided to continue the service for six months. It is now the subject of negotiations between the two Departments. It has been pointed out by the External Affairs Department that these services are necessary for developmental purposes. Of course, the Postal Department has always taken the attitude that it should not be called upon to carry out developmental services.
– Not lately. Senator PEARCE. - Right through. 1 am told that the two Departments are now conferring to see whether a developmental vote can be placed on the Estimates for the External Affairs Department, so that the Postal Department shall not be burdened with a number of services which are really developmental, and honorable senators shall not have an opportunity of pointing to the Post Office as a badly-managed concern because it shows a great loss. Senator E. J. Russell has referred to the rates ofpay in the general division of the Public Service, and stated that not one individual in the general division is receiving what is regarded as the standard rate of pay outside. There was a certain amount of correctness in his statement, but it is not quite accurate. I have had occasion to go into this trouble, and know from a rather trying experience what are the actual facts. The Public Service Commissioner does not fix a minimum which is equivalent to the standard rate outside.
– Why not?
– I am not able to get into the Commissioner’s mind. He fixes a minimum which is in some cases below the rate paid generally to artisans ; but it is not a fact that not an individual in the general division is receiving what is regarded as the standard rate of pay outside, because a number of persons in that division are getting more than that rate. ‘ The general division is always graded, and increments are given which bring the salaries up to the. maximum. In the Defence Department, for instance, the maximum is higher than the minimium rate outside - it is higher than the union rate. The trouble arose out of the fact that the minimum is lower than the standard rate outside. As regards artisans and others in the general division who are not under the Commissioner, the Minister of Home Affairs,the Postmaster-General, and myself have raised the minimum in each case to the minimum ruling outside. The trouble then arises that the men who are under the Ministers get the same standard rate as is paid outside, while some of those who are under the Commissioner get less than that rate. Some of them get the rate, and others get more: The position has frequently been pointed out. Recently the Government made representations to the Commissioner, and pointed out to- him that it is unadvisable that our minimum should be lower in any case than the standard rate outside.
He is considering our representations. As honorable senators know, he can refuseto accede to our request, and if he does, we shall have to decide whether it is our place to take other action.
– The Arbitration Court will come in very handy.
– Yes; the men will have the right to appeal to that Court.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould: - Senator E. J. Russell spoke about the minimum being less than the recognised rate which is paid outside the Public Service. Are a minimum rate and a maximum rate recognised by different tradespeople?
– Outside the Government service, there is a standard rate. Whenever the Public Service Commissioner has been called uponto deal with this question, he has pointed out that a man in the Public Service can rise to a maximum higher than the minimum rate paid outside. A union recognises a minimum wage, and will not permit its members to accept work for less than that wage; and the difficulty is that a man who is a member of that union must become a non-unionist if he wishes to enter the Public Service when the minimum fixed by the Public Service Commissioner is less than the minimum recognised by the union. The course we have followed has been, in the case of men working under the Government - but not under the Public Service Commissioner - - to pay them the minimum rate fixed outside the service. These men have been informed that they are to be placed in exactly the same position as the employes of private employers. If the minimum wage outside is raised in their employment, their minimum rate will be raised accordingly ; but they must not expect to have, in addition, the advantages enjoyed by a member of the Public Service, since they are not compelled to put up with their disadvantages. I think it would be far more satisfactory if the Government were, in all cases, to accept the minimum fixed for outside employment.
– No deductions, and no privileges.
– That is so. I think that would be far more satisfactory, and certainly men in the Public Service would not then have any just cause of complaint. Senator McColl raised the question of the rates of pay of persons in charge of receiving post-offices. This is a very difficult question to deal with. We have heard Senator Stewart speaking of the expenditure of the Government increasing by leaps and bounds, but it must be borne in mind that the receiving post-offices are very numerous, are scattered throughout the country districts, serve comparatively a very small number of people, and contribute to the revenue an almost insignificant amount. If honorable senators look up: the particulars, they will find that the amounts paid to persons in charge of receiving post-offices are, in many cases, far in excess of the revenue derived from those post-offices. Of course, the persons in charge of these offices are not required to give very much of their time to the work. At some time during the day they have to collect whatever letters may have been posted, and send them on. The work is very light, and the pay consequently small. If honorable senators were to contend that, in all these cases, we should increase the payments made, no matter what the revenue might be, the result would be that the Post and Telegraph Department would refuse to supply these conveniences, as they would not be justified in doing so at the increased rate of expenditure. I have left my reply to Senator Sayers- to the last, in the hope that he would return to the chamber. He has been absent from it during most of the afternoon since he spoke. The honorable senator was rather rough on myself in his complaint that he did not receive the information for which he asked in regard to the erection of wireless telegraph stations in Queesnland. On the 1 6th November, the honorable senator asked for the names of the sites on which the Government propose to erect wireless telegraph stations in Queensland. Senator Findley was at the time acting for the Postmaster-General, and the departmental reply was furnished to the question. It has been the ordinary practice of the Departments, when they are not immediately in a position to supply information asked for, to give it later on, when they are able to do so, and send it to the Minister in charge of the Department. In the absence of Senator Findley, I am representing two or three different Departments, and I have a very big Department of my .own to look after. It is obvious, in the circumstances, that I cannot keep track of questions asked weeks ago, and personally hunt up information in reply to them. When information of the kind referred to is asked for, it is obviously the duty of the Post and Telegraph Department, as soon as they are in possession of it, to send it to me. I can assure honorable senators that when that is done, I give it to the honorable senator who has asked the question. After having asked his question repeatedly, and having been told there was no further information available, Senator Sayers put the question again on Friday last, and was told that there was no further information available Up to Friday last, the Postmaster-General had not come to a final decision on this matter. I am now informed that, on Friday, the PostmasterGeneral had come to a decision upon the matter. I was not aware of that at the time Senator Sayers asked his question, and I told Senator Sayers what was an absolute fact, that, so far as 1 was concerned, no further information was available. On Saturday morning, when I received the Hansard proofs of what I had said on Friday, I at once extracted Senator Sayers’ question’ and my answer to it, and sent the extract on to the Postmaster-General, as I invariably do with every question asked me on which I am not in a position to furnish the information, sought. From that time until I received’ the answer I gave to-day, I had received no information’ in reply to the honorable senator’s question.
– On the honorable senator’s own showing, the Post and Telegraph Department failed to send the information on to him.
– That is so; or else my letter to the Postmaster-General miscarried. Senator Sayers made the statement here to-day that the PostmasterGeneral had told him’ that he had not been asked by me to furnish the information. In answer to that, I repeat my statement that, on Saturday last, I extracted the question from the Hansard proof, and sent it on to the Postmaster-General ; and if he did not receive it, that was not my fault. My impression is that the Department did receive i4 and when the question was asked to-day, I was supplied by the Department with1 the answer which I gave. That is the only explanation I have to make in connexion with the matter. I think I am justified in saying that Senator Sayers had very flimsy grounds for making, as he did, a general charge that Ministers in the Senate have shown a disposition to refuse honorable senators information in answer to questions put by them. I say advisedly that there has not been a. single occasion, when a question has been asked of me that I could not immediately answer, on which I have not sent it on at once to the Department concerned and asked to be supplied with the information required.
– There are some circumstances connected with the case which justify Senator Sayers in calling attention to it.
– Certainly the honorable senator Was justified in calling attention to the matter ; but I complain, and his words are open to that construction, that he at once jumped to the conclusion that I had deliberately laid myself out to prevent him from getting the information for which he asked. I feel that I should have been furnished with the information before I was, and I shall take the first opportunity of bringing the matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General. I shall ask that he take steps in his Department to see that when these matters are brought forward in the Senate, I shall be furnished with a reply to questions asked as soon as the information required is available.
– I have been partially satisfied by the Minister’s explanation of the difficulty arising from the fact that artisans in the employ of the Commonwealth Government are not getting the union rate of wage. There are not many farriers in the employ of the Commonwealth Government in New South Wales, and that is all the more reason why the Government and the Public Service Commissioner should immediately have brought their pay up to the rate fixed by the award” that’ was given in connexion with the rates paid to farriers outside the service. I may be told that men in the Government employ are entitled to certain privileges, but it should be borne in mind that they have probably given their services for several years at a wage below the rates paid to journeymen in the different trades outside the service. If we take the case of carpenters, for instance, the Commonwealth minimum rate is £140 a year, but owing to briskness in that particular trade, one can safely say that for a considerable time past the minimum outside has been considerably over £3 per week, or £156 a year.
– The Commonwealth minimum wage for carpenters employed directly under a Minister is the same as the minimum wage outside the service.
– I recognise that a. distinction is made between employe’s under the Minister and employes under the Public Service Commissioner. Serious dif ficulties will arise if the Commonwealth Government set a bad example by paying lower rates of wages than private employers are compelled to pay under an award of an Arbitration Court or a Wages Board. The master farriers of New South Wales are compelled to pay their employe’s a certain minimum wage fixed by an award of a Wages Board after considerable trouble and deliberation, and yet a few hands in the employ of the Commonwealth Government are not given the same wages, simply because it is said that they have privileges which are not enjoyed by tradesmen outside the service. The seriousness of the matter should at once be brought under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner by the Government.
– They cannot do anything with the Public Service Commissioner.
– Put all your sins on the Commissioner.
– I am not suggesting that anything should be done to the Public Service Commissioner. I have never met the gentleman, but I assume that he is a man of ordinary common sense, and that, if a Wages Board in New South Wales has, after considerable trouble and expense, on inquiry into the cost of living and other circumstances, increased the wages of farriers, for instance, up to a certain amount, which would only involve an increased expenditure of a few shillings per week for ten or a dozen hands in the Public Service, he will see that his duty is to pay such men exactly the same as private employers would be compelled to pay them under the award. We cannot expect that there will be peaceful working in the Commonwealth Departments unless a disposition is shown by the Government or the Public Service Commissioner to adopt the rates of pay secured by the different organizations and unions for workers outside the service. It may be said that men in the employ of the Public Service have certain privileges in the way of holidays, for which they are paid, and other advantages which outside workmen do not enjoy. But I say that a great employer like the Australian Commonwealth can well afford to set a good example in the treatment of its employes. So far as farriers, carpenters, and other skilled tradesmen are concerned, I “hope the Government will recommend the adoption of rates of pay in accordance with the decisions of Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts. If this course is not followed, members of organizations and trade unions employed in the Government service will be faced with I the alternative of retaining their positions in the Public Service or giving up their membership of their various unions.
– There are not many resignations.
– I do not suppose that there are any. I suppose that, like most sensible people, men in the Public Service will exhaust every means to bring about a desired end before compelling the Commonwealth to lose their valuable services.
– They do not care to lose a good and permanent billet.
– If they are in good billets, no doubt they give good work in return for what they are paid, or they would not be there. I would ask Senator Fraser whether he thinks that a man who is giving his services for less than 70s. a week is not giving a fair return for the money he is getting; is not that little enough for any man to live on? Men in the Public Service should have better employment than men in private employ. This country demands fair conditions for men in the Public Service. I hold the Government responsible for every officer in the Public Service, including the Public Service Commissioner, and the moment an award is made by an Arbitration Court or a Wages Board, it is, in my opinion, the plain duty of the Government, as well as of the Public Service Commissioner, to see that the rate of pay of their employes is the same as that given to men in private employment.
– No more and no less.
– I do not care how much more the Government employes may receive. I know that Senator MilJen is very anxious that the Commonwealth Government shall pay no more for services rendered than is paid outside. He holds the view that a man in the Public Service is in a secure billet, and should be paid as nearly the minimum rate of wage as possible. A serious position has arisen in certain unions. Men who have been members of those unions for a number of years, and have also been employed in the Public Service for a long time, are now, because the Public Service Commissioner refuses to comply with an award of an Arbitration Court or a Wages Board, compelled to sever their connexion with one or the other. That is not a fair position in which to put men in the employ of the Commonwealth Government. These men are called upon to accept a wage less than that fixed by an award of an Arbitration Court or a Wages Board.
– The Commonwealth is bigger than any union.
– I am not speaking of this from the point of view of urging that any union should exercise an undue influence.’ I am putting it as it might be put to any fair-minded employer of labour when I ask that the minimum rate of wages paid should be equal to the minimum rate fixed by an award of an Arbitration Court or Wages Board. ‘ The Government have tardily passed a measure, under which public servants will be permitted to appeal to the Arbitration Court for a redress of their grievances. But whilst waiting for that measure to become law, I hope that Ministers will bring under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner the necessity which exists for insuring that when an award is made in respect of the means of any trade outside the Public Service, the wage prescribed in that award shall be paid to persons in the employ of the Commonwealth who are performing similar work.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.16].- After listening to the remarks of Senator Gardiner, one can only conclude that his idea is that a trade union should be regarded as the superior body, and the Commonwealth Public Service as the inferior body, and that, because the former objects to a man joining the Public Service at less than the standard wage, the Commonwealth ought to give way. I feel sure that the honorable senator must recognise the absurdity of that position, if he will only reflect upon it for a few moments. In the first place, we have appointed a Public Service Commissioner to grade the positions in our Public Service, It has been said that the remuneration, of certain members of the service is ‘less than the remuneration fixed by the Arbitration Court for private employes doing similar work. My reply is that the men in our Public Service enjoy certain increments which eventually cause them to receive a much higher rate of pay than they would receive if they were remunerated in accordance with the award of that Court. When a man enters the Public Service, he generally steps into a permanent position. He has regular work, regular pay, and regular holidays, so that his position is by no means an unenviable one. If the Public Service Commissioner expected men to work for less than the wage ruling outside in the particular branch of industry to which they belong, without offering them any compensation whatever, the position would be a singularly unfair one. We have appointed Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards to determine the wages which shall be paid in various industries, and we have a right to assume that those tribunals have taken into consideration every circumstance before fixing those wages. But neither the Arbitration Court nor Wages Boards decree that a man in private employ shall receive an increment every twelve months, or that he shall enjoy a holiday upon full pay. It is true that he may take an extended holiday if he chooses, but it he does so, he risks his position being filled during his absence. In such circumstances, how much better is it to subscribe to the conditions which obtain in our Public Service? If men are not prepared to observe those conditions, the only other course open to us is that which was indicated by the Minister, namely, to pay them in accordance with the awards of the Court.
– I think that would be preferable.
– But it must not Be forgotten that a man in the service of the Commonwealth is assured of regular employment, whereas a person outside the service may secure continuous employment for several years, and then suddenly be discharged. The officers of our Public Service thus enjoy a security of tenure. I agree with the honorable senator that the Commonwealth ought to be the best employer in the country. The conditions which obtain in our Public Service ought to be such as will attract the most skilled and conscientious men. I believe that it does attract those classes of men. Whenever a position in our Public ‘Service becomes vacant, are there not plenty of applicants for it, and good men, too? Any man who wishes to secure employment is only too glad to get into that service. Consequently, he will - if his union will allow him to do so - accept a slightly less wage than the standard wage which obtains outside. I would further point out that we are the trustees of the public, and that it is our duty to see that the public get a fair deal. Because the money for the payment of our officers does not come out of our own pockets, have we a right to pay them more than they are entitled to? If Senator Gardiner were a private employer, he would give his employes the rates of pay and conditions of employment which are prescribed by the Arbitration Court. Consequently, he ought not to endeavour to persuade the Government to assume a different attitude. They must bold the balance evenly as between the man who gives his service to the Commonwealth, and the people to whom that service is rendered. To my mind, a little give and take would overcome a number of difficulties which are experienced from time to time. I come now to a matter which was mentioned by Senator Millen, namely, the postal facilities in some portions of the Northern Territory. Whilst it is perfectly true that in a number of places we are carrying on postal services which are not directly remunerative, it must be recollected that we have a vast country to develop, and that we need to be rather ahead of its development than behind it. The Northern Territory has a population of less than 1,000 white persons, although it contains an area of 550,000 square miles. We must face the problems which there confront us, not by saying that we shall spend only so much money as we get out of the Territory - if we adopt that policy we shall never develop it - but by offering inducements to people to settle there. One of those inducements should take the form of providing means of communication and mail services between various centres. I hope that the Government will not hesitate to spend any sum which may be reasonably required to develop the Territory. We must develop it. Do not let us haggle over the expenditure of money which will tend to settle it, and ultimately to make it a revenue-producing instead of a revenuespending department. The Opposition, I think, are prepared to back up the Government in any attempt to effectively develop it. Coming to the question of wireless telegraphy, I note that the Minister has promised that this system of communication shall be established at the principal centres throughout Australia at a very early date. When one is travelling the world, one cannot help being ashamed of our backwardness in this connexion. When crossing the ocean, one finds small islands at which wireless telegraphy is installed; but until one gets into very close proximity to Australia, this country might as well, from the stand-point of communication with it, be thousands of miles distant. I am aware that the Government say that they have been hampered by .the action of their predecessors in this matter. I admit that the negotiations of the previous Government did not work out in the way that was anticipated, but it is quite up to the present Ministry to get a move on, with a view to letting the world know that Australia is seized with the necessity of installing wireless telegraphy throughout this continent. In New South Wales a wireless station has been established at the Hotel Australia by private enterprise. It is surely up to the Commonwealth Government to get rid of this silent reproach on their lack of progressiveness. There is no need for me to mention how valuable wireless telegraphy is as a life-saving instrumentality. There should be communication between ships and the mainland. Most of our merchant vessels are already equipped with wireless apparatus, and it only needs the Federal Government to erect stations to make the service effective.
.- Recognising that this is almost the last opportunity available for criticising the actions and sins of omission of the Government, I cannot allow the occasion to pass without saying a few words concerning questions that have been brought under my notice by certain sections of the community. I am sorry that the Minister of Defence is for the moment unavoidably absent, because I wish to indorse some statements which have been made by previous speakers in connexion with the principle of payments in the Government Departments as contrasted with payments by outside employers. There are, for instance, in connexion with the Defence Department, certain anomalies regarding the payments made to sergeantmajors.
– Will they not be able to appeal to the Arbitration Court ?
– No; they are debarred under the law, and, moreover, they have taken an oath of allegiance, which, prevents them from taking advantage of the means of redress which are open to other citizens. I know of young men of the age of twenty-one and twenty-two who are coming into the service of the Commonwealth as sergeant- majors, who are single men, and who have not resting upon them the responsibilities that apply to their married confreres. They are receiving £156 a year. Side by side with them, however, there are men serving in the same ranks, doing the same work, and doing it better than the young men, because they have practically given the whole of their life to the service of the country. Yet they receive only the same pay as men who have just come into the service. .That is an anomaly that ought to be rectified. I do not say that the men who have recently joined under the new Defence scheme are receiving more than they are entitled to get, but I am certainly of opinion that consideration should be given to men who have been ten or twelve years in the service, some of whom are forty-four years of age and over, and who have families of five or six dependent upon them. Surely these men should receive more consideration than those who are mere neophytes in the art of war. I know that it will be said that what I am arguing involves differentiating between married and single men, and between those who have been a considerable time in the service and those who have just entered. Nevertheless an anomaly does exist which ought not to continue, and I felt bound to voice the views which have been presented to me by certain sections of employes. I also have a word to say in regard to the administration of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. There are men and women in our midst who have rendered good service to the State as authors. Some of them may not have done very much manual work, but those who have spent their lives as prose writers and poets have assisted largely to mould the thoughts of the people. I do not think that the Commonwealth has treated them as generously as it should have done, through the meagre allowance that is made by means of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. A case has been brought under my notice. It is that ot an individual who I know enjoyed in the past the esteem and respect of the people in the community where he dwelt. Owing to one of the fickle turns of fortune’s wheel, and through no fault of his own, he has been practically left stranded, and is now one of the flotsam andi jetsam of life. He has done something with his pen for the literary life of Australia - something to advance this country in the eyes of the literary world, and to uplift and ennoble its people. . I allude to the claims of the Rev. Mr. Zillmann, who, I think, has been treated harshly, and whose case should be regarded as a proper one for the receipt of benefits under the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Senator McColl alluded in rather scathing terms to what has been designated as a holiday jaunt to the Northern Territory. Personally, I have no interest in the proposed visit to that part of the country. I do not intend to go, and therefore I can speak dispassionately. If I had an opportunity of going, I should avail myself of it with the greatest pleasure. I feel certain that if I went, I should return a much better man, and better equipped to deal with problems affecting the Territory, which may have to be handled by this Parliament. 1 regard it as almost a duty for those who have to legislate to make themselves cognisant with the conditions of , life prevailing in various parts of the Commonwealth. It is our duty to form opinions as to the directions in which the Northern Territory can be the best developed. There can be no doubt that, in the course of time, valuable mineral deposits will be found there. We ought to know the nature of the country, and what must be done to open it up. 1 should not be surprised if a new Eldorado were discovered there in the course of time. Honorable senators ought not to be deterred from making this visit by such influences as have affected Senator McColl, who has been brought to heel by the whip cracked by a section of the daily press. This proposed visit has been classified in the columns of one journal as a picnic. Articles have been written with the object of inflaming the jealousy and cupidity of certain persons in the community, who do not happen to hold the positions of, and to have the responsibilities attaching to, members of Parliament,. As Senator de Largie has said, this protest was a piece of pure hypocrisy. Senator McColl knows perfectly well in his own mind that these facilities Tor honorable senators to travel in various portions of Australia, whether individually, or en masse, are at present afforded.
– Surely it was a fair subject of debate as to whether this was a proper expenditure of public money.
– I admit that, but I do not like to see a member of this Senate standing up with his tongue in his cheek obeying the dictates of a section of the daily press for the simple purpose of getting the kudos which those newspapers will award him for his indorsement of what they have written. I have also a word or two to say regarding the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I regret that certain of our postmasters and postmistresses, who are carrying out work for the Department in outlying portions of Australia are not receiving adequate remunera tion for the services which they render. The Minister contends that the amount of business transacted in these offices does not warrant the payment of rates that may be termed adequate. I consider, however, that cases which have been brought under my personal notice require immediate rectification.
– Not in Victoria, surely ?
– I know of a postmistress in Victoria, who, in my opinion, is being paid absolutely inadequately for the services rendered.
– Has she made her case known to the Department?
– I understand that she has done so, and I feel sure that, under the sympathetic administration of this Government, she will receive assistance. I have felt bound to bring under the notice of Ministers, cases as to which information has been supplied to me. I feel sure that the Government desire to do justice, and that they will look into grievances that are brought under their notice, with a view of doing what is fair and right to all sections of the service, no matter what positions they occupy, and no matter in what sphere they are labouring.
– On this occasion, as almost always when a Supply Bill comes before the Senate, honorable senators have taken advantage of their right to criticise not only the administration, but the legislative action of the Government, just as if we were dealing with the Estimates-in-chief. Several criticisms have been replied to by the Minister of Defence in regard to the Departments which he represents in this Chamber. But there are several other matters on which I desire to say a few words. The first criticism indulged in by the Leader of the Opposition was in connexion with the creation of a new Department under the Prime Minister. Of course, he agreed with the action which has been taken.
– If it is going further.
– And he associated it with some intention in the near future to create additional Ministers controlling Departments which may now be a burden on some Ministers. I dare say that a great many senators, as well as members of the Ministry, have recognised that difficulty. But up to the present time we have not discussed the matter to any. serious extent, and have not yet come to a conclusion, though I dare say that the time will come when the work of the Commonwealth will grow so much that such a course of action will be absolutely necessary. The next complaint from the Leader of the Opposition was in connexion with the Northern Territory. He considers that the Government should at once set about spending money indiscriminately, and making what the “ Jubilee Plunger “ would call a “ splash “ straight away.
– I did not ask the Government to spend anything, but to disclose a policy.
– I dare say the honorable senator did not mean it in that way, but it appeared to me that he complained of a certain amount of dilatoriness on the part of the Government. The Ministers who have been controlling the External Affairs Department - the late Mr. Batchelor, and the present Minister - have done everything possible to get together information that would assist in the formulation of a policy which would be to the advantage of, not only the Northern Territory itself, but the whole of the people of Australia. It must be remembered that when a man buys a farm it takes him some time to ascertain what it will be best adapted for - the growth of wheat, or mixed farming, or anything else. The development of the Northern Territory needs very much greater thought than does the simple process of purchasing a farm and going into that industry.
– Do you intend to awaitthe result of your operations on the experimental farm before you do that?
– No. The honorable senator need not be alarmed. Is it not legitimate to ascertain the best place in which to establish the experimental farm, and what areas are available for certain kinds of settlement? That is the kind of work which is carried on, andas soon as results of a material character are obtained a policy will be formulated. In the meantime everything is being done to hurry things up.
– Did not South Australia do anything? Had you not all the information which that State had collected ?
– Yes. If I had a lot of information on farming from the honorable senator I should require to refer it to a reliable agriculturist before I would think of taking action upon it.
– Were there no reliable agriculturists in South Australia?
– It is exactly the same in connexion with State information which may have been obtained in the past. It has to be verified, because our action in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory will have to be of a more vital character than any action which could be taken by any one State. Perhaps I might refer now to what has already been dealt with by the Minister of Defence. In connexion with postal matters we hear all round that something ought to be done to develop the country through the Postal Department. I am very pleased to say that some members of the Senate have, at last, come to the conclusion that it ought to be a Department which should render services to the people of Australia in some proportion to the requirements, and that where subsidies axe required for other kinds of development that should entirely rest with the States. In every State it would be quite easy for a postal service to be created, which would assist in the development of a portion of the State, and relieve the State of its obligations to a considerable extent.
– Yes, but there is no State Government in the Northern Territory.
– Will the honorable senator leave me to deal with the question? 1 know what is in his mind, because I am a kind of thought-reader. So far as the States are concerned, the duty of the Post Office is to give the public mail services which will be equal to all reasonable requirements, but with respect to the Northern Territory, and other Territories under the Commonwealth, an arrangement should be made between the External Affairs Department and the Postal Department. That is what was in the mind of Senator Millen. It is in the minds of the PostmasterGeneral and the Minister of External Affairs, as well as of the Government, that something in that direction ought to be done. If it is necessary, as has been stated, that a subsidy should be granted to a steamer going from Port Darwin to Borroloola, it is not the Postal Department which should be entirely responsible for that. It should only be responsible for the postal service required. If, for the purposes of development, a subsidy is necessary, it should be borne to a certain extent by the External Affairs Department. All these matters are under the consideration of the Government, and, in due time, I hope that a satisfactory solution will be arrived at. The next matter I come to is the prolonged complaint of Senator Stewart in connexion with the attitude of the Government towards Protection, and also that great question of land monopoly. He rises in his place as if he were the only man in Australia, or, indeed, in the world, who had an earnest desire to do justice to the people of the Commonwealth, and bring about its welfare. So far as the Protective policy of the Commonwealth is concerned, I, as a member of the Ministry, have the same earnestness in that direction as I had when I first came to this Parliament. Our Protective policy then was much more definite than is that of Senator Stewart.
– You are not doing anything, anyway.
– With regard to land monopoly, the honorable senator must be aware, because he was here, that we did pass a progressive land taxthrough this Parliament. What is his complaint about? He has never, in the past, or even now, told us where the fault lies. He has only told us that we should reduce the exemption of£5,000.
– And raise the tax.
– I am not going to say anything about the necessity of raising the tax now, or at any future time, but I do say that the policy of the Government has been, is, and, I hope, will be for some time, an exemption of £5,000. If any one goes from one State of Australia to another, and looks at the conditions of settlement throughout the country, he will find that, owing to the varying climatic and other conditions, the majority of the settlers find it very difficult to develop the country and make a profit for themselves with much less than a land value of £5,000. What does it mean? If you get 5,000 acres of land, which is worth only £1 per acre, it is only fitted forgrazing. Senator Milleri can tell the Senate that a man will not make a very great success of 5,000 acres of grazing land. He wants all that area to make a living. In the same way, if a man goes to Bacchus Marsh, Warrnambool, Mount Gambier, and other places, he cannot get land at less than £50 to £100 per acre. We must come to the conclusion that an area of 100 or 50 acres of such land is not more than sufficient to yield a living, such as a citizen of Australia should enjoy. Does Senator Stewart want to reduce the settler in Australia to the same state as the crofters in Scotland, who have 4 or 5 acres, and can only get enough oatmeal to make porridge or brose for themselves from one end of the year to the other? We do not want that condition of things to come to pass in Australia.
– Order ! At the other end of the chamber there is a continuous hum of conversation, which prevents honorable senators from hearing what the speaker is saying.
– Thank you, sir. As we want the mechanics, labourers, and other individuals connected with our industries to get double the wages which are paid in some of the sweated countries in the world, and three times the wages which are paid in other countries, so we also want our settlers to be in a position to get ten times the value out of this land that, speaking generally, farmers and settlers in other portions of the world obtain from their land. Consequently, to reduce the exemption below £5,000 would be to defeat that object. Whether it may benecessary or not in the near future to increase the tax on land held above £5,000 in value I am not in a position at present to say.
– Hear, hear ! Thatis the right direction to go.
– I think it will be the duty of Senator Stewart, and every other honorable senator, to wait until he sees what effect this progressive land’ tax will have on land settlement in Australia. Some honorable senators say that there are no large estates coming into the market. Senator Vardon, for instance, has quoted South Australia as a country where a progressive land tax was never required. I wish to point out to him and others that even there this progressive land tax has had a very marked effect. Every one who knows anything about the State is aware that estates have been offered and purchased through the imposition of the land tax.
– One estate.
– What about Bundaleer, Booboorowie, and Moorak estates ? Even before the land tax came into existence there were land-holders offering very large estates to the Government. They knew that the shadow of the tax was coming over them, and so they were prepared to get rid of their land.
– The good seasons did that.
– The honorable senator says that a progressive land tax was never required in South Australia. Does he know exactly how much the land tax has brought in? For the people of the Commonwealth it has produced, approximately, £r, 400,000.
– More than that.
– Say £1,500,000.
– I shall say nothing of the kind. That is approximately the amount. The amount in South Australia was £138,000. If Senator Vardon, or any other honorable senator considers the proportion of South Australia towards the rest of the Commonwealth, which is one-eleventh, he will find that that State is paying exactly its proportion of the land tax. So that a land tax was just as necessary in South Australia as in any other State. Senator Vardon referred to Queensland as a State where a land tax might be advisable, because there were many large estates there.
– I did not say that.
– Does the honorable senator and other honorable senators know that, although the population of Queensland is much greater than that of South Australia, the amount of land tax paid in Queensland is much below the amount of the tax paid in South Australia? The amount paid in Queensland was only £115,000. So that any argument which Senator Vardon may have advanced to show that there was no land monopoly in South Australia is all moonshine.
– I never made any reference to Queensland.
– Never mind; I can make reference to Queensland, because Queensland senators have spoken on the same question, and Senator Vardon might benefit very much by the information that Queensland is paying less in land tax than is South Australia. That, to my mind, is evidence that land monopoly existed in South Australia, and no one who has been’ through that State could deny it if he kept the open mind to which Senator Fraser is so fond of referring us. Senator St. Ledger found great fault with the Government in connexion with the administration of the quarantine laws of the Commonwealth, as affecting the medical profession in Queensland.
– Not grave fault. I mentioned the complaint which has been made.
– If the matter was not of great consequence, the honorable senator should not have referred to it, because no member of the Senate should waste the time of the country in discussing a matter which is of no consequence. Assuming this matter to be of some consequence, I wish to inform the honorable senator that the members of the medical profession in Queensland are treated in exactly the same way as are the members of the same profession in every other State, with the exception of Victoria.
– Then they are all badly treated.
– The honorable senator is making a statement that he has no grounds for. Either he does not know what he is talking about, or he is trying to mislead the Senate. Every medical man engaged in connexion with quarantine work, in Queensland is engaged in a classified port, and before he made his application for employment in the work he knew the payment he was to get for his services. If . he did not think it was enough, he should not have applied for the position.
– That is the doctrine of the sweater.
– It is not sweating, because the value of the services rendered has been fairly estimated, and the doctors knew what they would be paid before they sent in their applications for the work. In Victoria a practice has been followed of paying so much per vessel. If the same practice were followed in Queensland, and the amount per vessel paid in Victoria was paid in some of the Queensland ports, the Queensland officers would find that they were doing the work for very little, if anything at ali.
– Would the honorable senator be prepared to work in Queensland for the pay given in Victoria ?
– The honorable senator must be aware that if the same pay were given in Victoria as in Queensland there would be complaints in both States. The Government have continued the practice adopted by the State Governments prior to Federation. In connexion with the matter referred to by Senators Gardiner and Blakey, I may be allowed to say that before Senator Gardiner spoke the Minister of Defence clearly explained the attitude of the Government in connexion “with the standard wages fixed in each of the States by Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts. The Senate was informed of the difficulty that has arisen between officers under the Public Service Commissioner and public servants who are not classified under him. Honorable senators were told that the Government had considered the matter, and had made a communication to the Public Service Commissioner, who, at the present time, is considering that communication. With respect to the farriers whom Senators Blakey and Gardiner may have had in mind let me say that we have just passed legislation which will enable them, if they have a grievance, to get it adjusted under the Public Service (Arbitration) Act, by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Some honorable senators may be under a misapprehension in regard to legislation of this kind. Hitherto we have had only the ordinary conciliation and arbitration legislation, which, under the restrictions of the Constitution, could be applied only when a dispute extended beyond the boundary of one State. But it should be borne in mind that, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth Parliament has complete control of its own. public servants, and it does not matter in what State they may be, they will have the power to come under the Conciliation and Arbitration measure which we have just passed to have their grievances adjusted. I hope that if any of them have grievances they will seek that means of remedying them, in order to secure fair play for themselves and for the Commonwealth. I do not think that the other matters which were referred to during the debate were of sufficient importance to warrant me in occupying more time in dealing with them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
Clause 4 agreed to.
– You, sir, have just put the vote for the Parliament to the Committee, but you have overlooked the “ Abstract “ at the beginning of the Schedule. I do not know what the practice has hitherto been. I do not think that the form referred to is of any use, so far as the Bill is concerned, though it may be useful to honorable members. But a difficulty might arise if we passed it now. You, sir, were ignoring it, and going on to the next page, whilst I think that the Abstract should either be dealt with or postponed. If the Committee approves of it at this stage, it may approve of a certain amount which honorable senators might subsequently seek to amend in detail. I take it that it would be well to postpone the Abstract, as we postponed the clause dealing with the issue and application of the amount asked for.
– I do not remember that the point mentioned by the honorable senator has been raised before. There may be something in the objection taken, and I shall therefore put it to the Committee that the Abstract be postponed.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council was good enough to reply to certain observations I made upon the new departure proposed in making a separate Department for the Prime Minister, but he did not answer the most specific question 1 submitted. It was that, -seeing that the two Departments of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are still to be under the same Ministerial head, what exactly is the object of separating the accounts of those Departments? 1 could understand the accounts being placed under two different heads if a new Ministerial position were to be created. If there is no motive of that kind, I see no necessity for this departure.
– In reply to the honorable senator, I may say that, prior to this arrangement, the Secretary to the Prime Minister was under the Department of External Affairs, and consequently was not under the direct control of the Prime Minister himself. It has been advisable to create this Department of the Prime Minister, so that he may have a secretary under his- immediate control. There are other Departments which might be advantageously transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department,but I am not at present in a position to say exactly to what extent that course will be’ followed.
– I submit that the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council is little short of grotesque if it is put forward as a serious reason for the creation of this Department. He has urged that, as the Prime Minister had as his secretary an officer who was primarily attached to the Department of External Affairs, .and, as he very properly wished to have a secretary under his own control, it was decided to call a new Department into being. ‘ But what would have been easier than to transfer this officer from the Department of External Affairs to the Treasury Department?
– He would then have been under the control of the Secretary to the Treasurer.
– Why should he not be? What is really desired is to give this officer the status of an under-secretary. It seems to me that his case resembles the case with which we dealt yesterday when the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill was under consideration. An ‘attempt is being made to confer upon this officer a certain status without Parliament being told fully and frankly what is intended. I thoroughly believe that the Prime Minister should be free of all departmental responsibilities, other than that cf exercising a general supervision over all Departments. I cannot regard the explanation of the VicePresident of the Executive Council as a satisfactory one. In the circumstances which have been outlined by him, the correct thing to do was to create an office of “ Secretary to the Prime Minister,” and to have made provision for it upon the Estimates. But to bring an officer from the Department of External Affairs, and to create a new Department for him, is practically to do what the historic Chinaman did when he burnt down a hut in order that he might have roast pig.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [6.17].- In this Bill, £3,173 is set down for Audit Office salaries, and £150 for contingencies. Are we to understand that the Audit Office is to be placed entirely under the control of the Department of the Prime Minister, and that it is the only office which is under that Department at the present time ?
– With the exception of the Executive Council.
– And where is the salary of the Secretary of the Executive Council provided for?
– Under the Executive Council itself.
– I agree with the contention of Senator Millen that any new Department which is to be created ought to be created with the full knowledge of Parliament, and that the exact responsibilities attaching to it should be fully set out. Honorable senators would then .have an opportunity of estimating whether the departure proposed! was a wise one. As time goes on, no doubt, the work of the Commonwealth will increase, and it will become necessary for additional Ministers to be created. But toprovide for additional Ministers, a special Act of Parliament will have to be passed. Personally, I think that the number of salaried Ministers we have at present isvery small as compared with the number to be found in other Governments which* have no more work to perform.
– The Minister representing thePostmasterGeneral was good enough toreply to some observations which I made inregard to the curtailment of postal f acilities in the Northern Territory. Whilst I agree generally with what he said, and was therefore pleased to hear his pronouncement onthe subject, it seems to me that he hasmissed the real object which I had in view in bringing forward the cases vhich I cited. My object was to obtain from him a declaration that, until the Government submit a policy for the development of the Northern Territory, they will give an assurance to its people there that there will be no further curtailment of these facilities..
– They have an assurance for twelve months, and also for six. months.
– My correspondent,, whose word I can accept, points out to methat he is now ordering supplies which will carry him on to the end of next year.
– He need not be frightened.
– It is all very wellfor the Vice-President of the ExecutiveCouncil to say that he need not be frightened, but what will be his position, if, after shipping those goods to Port Darwin, he finds there is no means of forwarding them to his place at Borroloola, on theMcArthur River? These people require to look months ahead. Is my correspondent to send goods to Port Darwin only to find that the mail subsidy has been withdrawn, and that he cannot get them forwarded from there to Borroloola? Let the Minister say definitely that the Government will not disturb existing arrangements until the whole matter has been fully considered, and. Ministers have evolved a policy in respect, of the Northern Territory.
– The matter will bebrought before the Postmaster-General.
– We ought to have an assurance’ that none of the present facili ties will be withdrawn until after next year. Then persons resident in remote portions of the Territory will be afforded an opportunity of making their arrangements in regard to next year’s supplies.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [6.26].- I wish to ask the Minister whether he is taking steps to let it be clearly understood that cadets whose duty it is to attend drills will be compelled to do so, now that he is in a position to deal with them. Some persons entertain the idea that the system of compulsory military training will be a failure owing to the neglect of the Department to take proper measures in this connexion. I should like an assurance from the Minister that it is intended to insist upon a full observance of the law as laid down in our Defence Act, so that the public may realize that we have not embarked upon a scheme which is likely to be rendered ineffective.
– Undoubtedly the Government will prosecute cadets in all cases where it is manifest that they desire to evade the provisions of our Defence Act. At the beginning of the new year, we intend vigorously to prosecute those who do not attend parade.I wish now to reply to the statements made by Senator Blakey, who alleged that a number of noncommissioned officers who have served for a period of years in our Defence Forces are only receiving the same rate of pay as officers who recently joined those forces. As a matter of fact, what happened was this : When we engaged 200 non-commissioned officers to start our new defence scheme, the minimum pay of non-commissioned officers, was £137 a year. The officers whose cause Senator Blakey championed were then in receipt of less than £156 per annum, and their pay was increased to that amount. Thus, the new-comers were engaged at £156 per annum, whilst the pay of the other officers was automatically increased to £156 per annum. How the latter have been damaged in any way, I cannot understand.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - They have the advantage of seniority as promotion occurs.
– Of course. Out of the whole of our non-commissioned officers only three who have more than fifteen years service are getting less than £183 per annum, and all are receiving more than £156 per annum. The reason that some of them are getting less than £183 per annum is that they declined to accept promotion in cases in which a transfer to another portion of the State was involved.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Some time ago I asked a question of the Minister of Defence concerning the importation of English officers for our Military Forces. The reply was very satisfactory to me, but, nevertheless, I think that the Department ought to do something to afford Australian officers a better chance of promotion. The exchange officers who come to this country from England remain here from twelve to eighteen months. When they go away their work is practically undone by other officers who take their place. It would be much better if the English officers remained here for, say, four or five years, to instruct our army. That remark especially applies to the engineering section. Undoubtedly officers with Australian experience are more adapted for giving instruction to our troops than are freshly imported officers. I shall not say very much upon the question, although I could say a good deal. It is unjust to young Australian officers that they should be crushed out of the chance of promotion, as they certainly are to-day. I trust that something willbe done so that officers who come from- England may be attached to the army for a number of years, and so ‘that the work which they are called upon to perform, especially of an instructional character, may be of more permanent effect. The position of Director of Military Training has been held by three different officers during the last eighteen months, all exchange officers. Such rapid changes in control cannot be good for the efficiency of that Department. Some of the officers who come to Australia regard the visit merely as a break in their soldiering career. They look upon their connexion with the Australian Forces as in the nature of a holiday. I do not think that they should come for such a purpose. They should be regarded as being attached to our army for instructional purposes. At present much of their time is occupied in doing work that could be better done by clerks.
.- A few days ago, the Minister, in reply to a question of mine, stated that the Government had under consideration the question of the payment of. pensions in connexion with the Military Forces. I should like to know whether theMinister is now in a position to inform us whether the Government have arrived at any determination, or whether they are likely to arrive at a determination shortly, so that Parliament can be informed before the session terminates ?
– Replying to Senator Keating’s question first, I have to say that it must be obvious that, at this stage of public business, the Government have not had time to deal with such an important question as the establishment of a superannuation scheme. This is one of the questions that is being reserved for calm consideration during the recess. We expect to go into it thoroughly. It is a very large question, involving considerable financial obligations. It will be carefully considered, and any decision that is arrived at will be made known on the reassembling of Parliament. Dealing with the question raised by Senator McDougall, as to officers who are brought to Australia from England from time to time, the present position is that we are enabled to arrange exchanges with the War Office. We send Australian officers to England for training and instruction. They remain there for a year, or possibly two years. For each officer sent we get from the War Office an officer in exchange, who takes up the duties in Australia of the officer whom we send to England. Our officer meanwhile takes up the exchange officer’s duties in Great Britain. Obviously, it would not do to fill up the position of the officer whom we send to England by- promoting the next man below him. Otherwise we should do an injustice to the officer who was abroad. We send an officer Home for the purpose of enabling him to make himself more fitted to render valuable service to the Commonwealth, and he would be penalized if his position were filled up in his absence. By arranging an exchange his position is kept open for him when he comes back to Australia. The English officer then returns to Great Britain and takes up his old duties. But a more serious position has arisen from the fact that we have to send and are sending officers to England for a longer term than we can obtain exchange officers for. They go to the Staff College, where the term is two years, after which they have one year’s regimental training. It is manifest that an officer whom we send to the Staff College is not at the disposal of the War Office. Consequently the War Office will not send us exchange officers for them. We have at present in England undergoing instruction no fewer than eight officers for whom we have no exchange officers. Honorable senators know that the number of permanent officers under the Commonwealth is extremely limited. We are endeavouring at present to arrange - as is done by Canada and New Zealand - that if we cannot have exchange officers to take the place of those whom we send to the Staff College, we shall have the loan of officers from England to fill their places temporarily. Such an arrangement will not interfere in any way with the promotion of our own officers. Australian officers, it must be remembered, are repeatedly promoted in their absence if they pass the necessary examinations. Our officers are examined on the same papers as are used for examining officers in the British Army. The consequence of that arrangement is that we have recently had officers examined in Canada, and they have been promoted while they were there. Therefore an officer is in no way hindered in has promotion by being sent abroad for instruction. As regards officers doing work in offices, I would remind Senator McDougall that, in time of peace, there is a large amount of work to be done that can only be done by military officers in offices. There is work that no clerk could be expected to do. Those who do it must have military training. There are positions in connexion with the Military Board and with the Central Administrations of the States that must be done by military officers. If an officer who is sent to Australia from England is better fitted for that class of work than for instructional work, he is employed accordingly. With every officer who comes to Australia from England we have a confidential report as to the work for which he is best fitted, and we endeavour to give him that kind of work. As I have said, and desire to repeat, this system of exchange does not in any way interfere with the chances of promotion of our junior officers, which at present are, I think, most satisfactory. If Senator McDougall will look up the lists for the last twelve months he will find that officers have been promoted at a far more rapid rate in Australia than in any other part of the Empire. Obviously, as our service is expanding so rapidly, a young officer is afforded excellent opportunities. The road to promotion during the last two or three years has been far more easy than it used to be. I do not think there can be any complaint on that score. Officers who choose to fit themselves for better positions, especially engineer officers, have an excellent chance. There are positions in our service worth £500 a year that are going begging, simply because we have not officers properly trained to fill them. There is a scarcity of engineer officers in the service. We cannot get suitable men for the positions we have to fill. We are taking on a number of subalterns, but a few years must elapse before they will have the necessary training to qualify them for filling the higher positions which are available.
– The reply of the Minister of Defence is satisfactory so far as it goes, but, nevertheless, I know there is dissatisfaction amongst Australian officers today concerning the manner in which they have been treated in the matter of promotion. I have evidence which I could lay before the Minister on that score. 1 simply ask him to remove that dissatisfaction as far as he can.
– In connexion with the vote of £1,000 for Quarantine, I wish to take advantage of the opportunity of calling attention to the answer given to me by the VicePresident of the Executive Council when we were dealing with the first reading of this Bill. I drew attention to the position of the medical officers charged with the administration of Federal Quarantine in Queensland. The answer I got from the Minister was, “ If they do not like it, they can lump it.”
– Or words to that effect.
– I think that that was the absolute sense of the words used. I ask honorable senators to contrast the unsatisfactory character of that answer, given concerning a number of professional men who are charged with highly responsible duties, with the humility, the lengthy explanations, and the courtesy extended by the Minister to requests from the other side of the Chamber. Contrast the insolence of the Minister, as I may almost call it, in regard to these professional men, with the deference shown by him when requests are made from time to time regarding other members of the Public Service. It is open for me to move a request for the reduction of this item by £1, but I shall not do so at this stage. I should be doing less than my duty, however, if I were to allow such an answer to pass with out directing attention to its almost insolent character.
– As regards any interpretation which Senator St. Ledger, or any other honorable senator, has placed on any remarks I made on this question, or any insinuation that there was an idea of sweating on the part of the Government, I have only to say that they must be labouring under an hallucination, because nothing of the kind was ever intended. I endeavoured to give as plain an answer as possible to the inquiry.
– Yes, “ lump it or leave it.”
– There was no “ lump it or leave it “ about the matter at all. After the Quarantine Bill was passed the Chief Quarantine Officer, Dr. Norris, visited all the places concerned in Queensland in common with other places in Australia, made the necessary inquiries, and fixed the scale of remuneration which he thought would be reasonably fair. At Thursday Island, which is really the key to the position in Queensland, there is a permanent medical officer, as there is in every other State. So far as I can learn there has been no complaint from the medical officers. They knew the work which had to be done at the different quarantine stations, and they also knew the rate of remuneration before they accepted the appointments. If they found afterwards that there was any difficulty in connexion with the position, or that they were not being paid a fair remuneration, or that they had been overworked or sweated in any degree, I think it was their duty to make representations to head quarters.
– They are frightened to make representations to this Government.
– The present Government encourages everybody to make his grievances known. The days have passed I hope, in Australia, when any public servant, whether he be in the Professional, Clerical, or General Division, will have any fear of making representations to head-quarters. These medical officers have not made any representation to headquarters, and it is very strange to me that Senator St. Ledger should delegate to himself the duty of making a complaint. I suppose he has communicated with some of the officers, or has interviewed all of them and obtained their opinions. But I think that it would have been much better if they had communicated with head-quarters. I am sure that if it can be made out to the satisfaction of the Government that they are being unfairly treated they will receive as fair consideration as the officers in any branch of the Public Service.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the last word has been said with regard to the salaries, the hours of duty, and the conditions of labour generally of lettercarriers. This important body of public servants is very anxious to know whether Parliament, before compelling them to have recourse to the Arbitration Court, will schedule the rates of pay and the conditions generally. The idea of the Arbitration Court is that it shall only be resorted to in the last extremity - that is, after all efforts at arriving at a fair basis between master and men have failed. Is the Government prepared to still further consider the claims of the letter-carriers, or has its foot been put down, and they are to be compelled to go to the Arbitration Court ?
– Is not the Public Service Arbitration Bill the answer to that ?
– Not necessarily.
– These men have been asking for redress for months, and that is the Government’s answer.
– The lettercarriers have been asking for months, and I hope that they will continue to ask, for redress, because the Arbitration Court is only to be resorted to in the last extremity. A Royal Commission has reported against the conditions under which these public servants labour. Is that report to be disregarded ? If it is to be disregarded, then, apparently, ‘all the money and the labour which these men and the Commonwealth expended in making an exhaustive examination into the affairs of the Post and Telegraph Department is, if not altogether Wasted, at least’ partly wasted. If the Arbitration Court is the answer to the claim of the men, and the answer to the representations of the Royal Commission, I must say that I object to it. The Royal Commission was appointed after a very great deal of agitation, and after much information had been presented to both Houses of Parliament with regard to the difficulties under which the Department laboured. The generally accepted idea was that, whatever the Royal
Commission reported, in reason, of courser would be accepted ; and now I suppose that Senator Millen, if he were to put it in his language, would say that the Government is attempting to snuffle out.
– Is it not both an accurate and picturesque picture of the position ?
– I do not know. It seems to me to be somewhat applicable to the situation. The Government seems to be ingloriously seeking ‘shelter under the wing of the Arbitration Court. The lettercarriers’ organization has addressed a circular to the members of this Parliament, and what they want to know particularly is whether it is going to do anything in regard to putting into operation the recommendations of the Royal Commission, or whether they will be dragged before the Arbitration Court just as they were dragged before the Royal Commission.
– We should have to take them from under the control of the Public Service Commissioner before we could do anything for them.
– Parliament has no right or authority to do such a thing.
– Parliament can do anything it pleases.
– Not now.
– Parliament is above the Public Service Commissioner and the Arbitration Court. If it can do nothing why was the Commission appointed ? Why have some of its recommendations been adopted if Parliament and the PostmasterGeneral can do nothing? What is the use of having a Postmaster-General if the Public Service Commissioner is the supreme head?
– The Commissioner allowed the Government to do it. That is the position.
– This is something most extraordinary.
–They dare not act without his consent.
– If I were an Eastern despot, I would have the Commissioner’s head off, metaphorically speaking, of course, in about five minutes. I think that if the Government cannot move without his permission, the sooner it gets out of the way, or he is put out of the way, the better for the people as a whole.
– Or both.
– Of course, the honorable senator wants both removed, but I should be content with the removal of the
Commissioner. In their circular the lettercarriers say-
On behalf of the letter carriers of the Commonwealth we desire to ask, that prior to being brought under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, that Parliament shall schedule the salaries, hours of duty and conditions of labour generally of letter carriers.
In support of our contention we beg to submit that it devolves upon Parliament to perform this duty, having regard to the fact that the person to whom Parliament delegated this power having signally failed to equitably adjust these matters as is evidenced by the recent report of the Royal Commission on Postal Services. Furthermore, we would direct your attention to the fact that during April, 1904, a majority of the then Parliament determined against placing the Commonwealth Service under the Arbitration Act, and it appears to us an invidious position, having regard to the fact that the Parliament is in possession of an adverse report on the rate of pay and conditions prevailing, for that body to say at this late date that we must haverecourse to the Arbitration Court without Parliament placingon record the fundamental basis of what is a fair and equitable rate of remuneration.
We submit that the method adopted by the Commissioner is undemocratic, inasmuch that it discriminates between the classes and the masses for example the maximum salary of the clerical division (5th class) has recently been increased by the amount of £40 increasing the maximum salary from £160 to £200. Democracy applied admits; of no distinction, we. claim that the general division maximum should be increased by a like sum by which the letter carriers would be entitled’ to a maximum of£178 per annum.
The circular contains other matter, but I do not think it necessary to read it to the Committee. What the men want, I suppose, is, in the first place, that Parliament shall give them what they consider a fair thing. They do not want to go to the Arbitration Court unless they are com- pelled. If Parliament will not agree to that, then, of course, the sooner they know their position the better.
– The trouble is that, before Parliament could do that, we would have to rip up the whole position. First, we should have to depose the Commissioner.
– We could do that easily.
– It is not necessary to do that, because the Public Service Act could be amended.
– I think that the men ought tobe told exactly how the matter stands.
– I heartily indorse the statements of Senator Stewart.. Time after time, I have re- ceived complaints from letter-carriers, but
I suppose that it is of no use to say anything now that the Public Service Arbitration Bill has been passed. I do not imagine that the Government are likely to alter their views. We on this side tried all we possibly could to induce the Government to bring in a Bill dealing with the letter-carriers, but they refused to do so.
– They gave them the right to go to the Arbitration Court.
– The men asked for bread, and the Government gave them a stone.
– That is what I said in my second-reading speech. I do not intend to dwell any more on the subject. The Bill has been passed, and its supporters must take the responsibility. Some time ago, I referred to the state of a great number of post-offices in Queensland ; some of them I had seen, and others had been described to me by correspondents. In March last, when I was at Herberton, my attention was called to a building in which I think it is inhuman to ask men to work. Such a building would not be allowed to continue to exist for twenty-four hours in any part of the State of Victoria. I solemnly pledge myself to the truth of the statement I have made concerning this building. I did not, when I first dealt with the matter, mention any particular place, but the Postal Department called my attention to the speech I had made, and asked me to justify it by giving them some specific examples: Within three minutes after I received the departmental letter, I had posted an answer to it, giving the facts and naming the place. To my note, I got a reply, which I shall read to the Committee. There are holes in the building I have referred to which a person could put his arm through, and from the place at which telegrams are written it is possible to see all that is done in the office. The operator in charge of the telegraph instrument is compelled to work under an iron roof, without any ceiling. Shame would be called upon any Government if men were asked to work in this part of the country in, such a hovel.
– They would put a firestick to it.
– The building referred to was erected by the Government of Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, that Senator Sayers supported. They were responsible for the iron roof without a ceiling.
– The honorable senator is referring to something which took place a great many years ago. This is the reply 1 got from the Postmaster-General’s Department -
Melbourne, 29th November, 1911.
With reference to the representations recently made by you in Parliament respecting the condition of post-office buildings in the Cairns district, and to your letter of the 14th inst. intimating that you had in mind the post-office at Herberton, I beg to inform you that inquiry has been made, and the report received indicates that the circumstances warrant the erection of a new post-office building at Herberton on the site which has been acquired. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Brisbane, reports as follows in regard to. the matter, viz. : -
In 1910 I visited the northern part of Queensland, and wherever the necessity for additions or repairs was noticed, action was taken accordingly
The Herberton building is an old one, and business there being on the decline at the time, I considered it my duty to defer proposing a heavy expenditure on a new office structure until the prospects pf the place could be better ascertained.
I may add that this case has been noted for consideration when the draft ‘ Estimates for 1912-13 are being prepared.
The Department asked me for particulars about this building themselves, and that is the reply I got from them. I take it from this letter that the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Brisbane visited this post-office, but I very much doubt it. In any case, I should like to ask him to live in the building for one week. It is suggested that there are not many people at Herberton, but since he visited the place the railway has been opened, and Senator Givens can bear me out that there is now a large settlement of farmers around Herberton. The business done in this building is at least large enough to justify the employment of three or four men, but the state of the building is a disgrace to a civilized community. If any private employer of labour in Queensland were to house his men in such a building, he would be Hounded down from one end of Australia to the other. Yet we have the Government proposing in this letter to me to leave the matter over until 191 2 -13. We have public inspectors of buildings in order to compel private employers in such matters to treat their employes fairly.
– The honorable senator will notice that the Department does not promise to do what is necessary in this case even in 1912-13. They promise only to consider it then.
– That is so. They apparently have no regard for the inconvenience to which people are put in having to occupy such a building in a warm climate. In winter, it is cold enough, because all the winds of heaven can blow through it.
– They want a little fresh air up there.
– They have plenty of fresh air. If such a building were used as a post-office in Sydney or in Melbourne, there would be a deputation of a hundred people waiting on the Minister, and the building would be at once condemned, or, as Senator Barker has said, a firestick would be put to it. I was specially asked to inspect this building, and when I did so, I said that no Government should ask men to work in such a building, where the only protection afforded against the rays of the sun is a thin sheet of galvanized iron. In this cooler climate of Victoria, public officers are properly housed in buildings that are lined and ceiled. I do not complain of that, but I ask why officers working in Northern Queensland should not be treated in the same way. We have established an Arbitration and Conciliation Court for the settlement of the grievances of public officers, but what remedy could the men employed in this building get from that Court? I solemnly repeat that everything I have said about this building is correct. The letter I have quoted is dated 29th November, and I am informed in it that the Department intend to delay the consideration of the matter until 19 12 -13. It would be a shame and a lasting disgrace to any Government to do so.
– I suppose that a new building would not cost very much?
– No; it would cost very little. We fritter away more here in little paper shows than what this building would cost. Herberton is in a good timber district, and the timber that would be required could be obtained very cheaply. It is an old tin-mining field, but the district all round Herberton is now being rapidly settled by farmers. I hope that before these votes are dealt with the Minister will be in a position to assure the Committee that something will be done in this matter, and that the people concerned will not have to wait for two years for any improvement in their conditions. If a private individual attempted to carry on busi ness in such a building, the Government Inspector of Buildings would condemn it at once, and he would be compelled to
Meet a new one. Surely Parliament will not refuse to comply with the law which it makes itself. I see the PostmasterGeneral in the gallery, behind Ministers ; I dare say that he knows all about this matter, and I hope that we shall get some assurance that the improvement of this building will not be put off for the next two years.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that when I was in Rockhampton last I found that the Rockhampton Post Office, which is a very fine building, was in a condition, internally and externally, which was a disgrace to the Department. I found that the Post Office in Townsville, which is also a fine building, was not in a very much better condition. I made inquiries as to what the Department was doing in the matter, and the answers I got were very unsatisfactory indeed. These buildings are ornaments to the towns referred to, and were built by the State Government, having in view the growing importance of those towns. I ask now whether the Department has done, or purposes to do, anything to put them in a decent state of repair, or in the condition in which they were when they were transferred to the Commonwealth? No business man in Rockhampton or Townsville, having an establishment of anything like the same importance, would permit this building to get into such a shabby condition, externally and internally, as those fine buildings are in.
– The Rockhampton building is almost new.
– That is so ; yet for lack of repairs and attention, both these buildings are in part going to ruin, and if not soon attended to, it will cost thousands of pounds to restore them to the condition in which they were when taken over by the Commonwealth. Every officer in the Postal Department in Rockhampton and Townsville is aware of the fact I have stated. I believe that our inspectors have reported upon the buildings, and yet nothing is done to preserve them. I ask the Minister to give us an assurance that something will be done to put these buildings into a proper state of repair.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Coun
Senators St. Ledger and Sayers of the rotten condition of things in Queensland. Could any one imagine that a post-office so substantially built, and so recently built, as that at Rockhampton, could have been allowed to get into such a dilapidated condition in such a very short time ? With respect to the post-office at Herberton, referred to by Senator Sayers, I should like to say that if it was built by the Queensland Government some time ago-
– rOver twenty years ago.
– And they did not put any lining in it, they did not show much consideration for their officers. If they did put lining in it the white ants must have destroyed it. In the circumstances it is unreasonable to come here today and accuse the Federal Government, and particularly this Government, in connexion with the matter. I will tell the honorable senator what the present Government are doing. If Senators Sayers and St. Ledger had paid attention to what has been going on around them, they would know that the Postal Commission, in its report, stated that an expenditure of £2,000,000 is necessary to put the Postal Department into a state of efficiency, and that that expenditure had been rendered imperative owing to the neglect of past Governments. What have the present Ministry done? They have placed upon the Estimates for the current financial year ‘one item of £600,000, and another of £700,000, for the purpose recommended by the Commission, and it is intended that a similar amount of £700,000 shall be voted next year. Queensland is a. State of the Commonwealth, and if her post-offices are in such a dilapidated condition-
– I want the VicePresident of the Executive Council to give me a straightforward answer, otherwise he will not get this Bill through.
– Some time ago an officer of the Postal Department was deputed to visit Herberton, Townsville, and other places, in order to report upon the conditions of affairs which obtained there. In his report he stated that the postal business in Herberton had declined.
– Did not the honorable senator read the letter himself? What more does he want? In regard to the complaint about the letter-carriers, I am sure that the present Ministry have done all that they can for the letter-carriers in the various States.
– All that the Public Service Commissioner would let them do.
– Their influence upon the Public Service Commissioner has been of a substantial character. Not long ago their maximum pay was £i32 per annum. It ranged from £60 to £132. Then it was raised to £138, afterwards to £144, next to £150, and finally to £156 per annum. Yet honorable senators complain of the action of the Government.
– Who raised it?
– Who could raise it? The Public Service Commissioner raised it. He did so because of the additional work which the letter-carriers have to perform, and because of the increased cost of living. The Government have also given these officers the right of appeal to the Arbitration Court for the redress of any further grievances under which they may labour. Consequently, we may fairly claim that we have done something, and I may add that we intend to do more.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has made a very long speech, and has endeavoured to confuse quite a number of things. I put before him a specific case. I visited the Home Affairs Department the other day, where I was informed that, although it had the control of the building of post-offices, it had nothing to do with them as post-offices, as they passed into the hands of the Post and Telegraph Department. The complaint that I am making is that the whole building is insanitary, and unfit for human habitation. It was erected something like thirty years ago, and we all know what a weatherboard building is like after it has stood for that period. It has simply outlived its usefulness. All’ that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has told us is that the Department may do something.
– The Department promises to consider the matter twelve months hence.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has merely given me the usual Ministerial answer, but I ami satisfied that if he represented the State of Queensland he would be pressing this matter on the attention of the Government as hard as I am pressing it. I recognise that there are hundreds of buildings 1 throughout the Commonwealth which are in a bad state of repair, and I am not so unreasonable as to expect the Government to put all of them in order immediately. But the post-office at Herberton would be a disgrace to any country in the world. Is Parliament going to allow this matter to be shelved for another two years?
– I should not think so, after the honorable senator has made these representations.
– But the only answer I have received is that this year a certain sum has been placed upon the Estimates for the purpose of bringing the Postal Department up to a state of efficiency, and that a similar amount will be voted next year. I would like the Vice-President of the .Executive Council to say, “ In the name of humanity, if this building is in anything like the condition you represent, we will put another in its place.” I would point out that since the departmental officer reported upon it in 19 10, the lands around Herberton have been thrown open for settlement. Within the past twelve months 500 or 600 settlers have established themselves there, and a railway has been opened to that centre. The officer knows nothing whatever of these facts. Surely in an outoftheway place like that, the Government ought not to adopt the attitude of saying that unless there is a great increase of business they will do nothing. Would such an answer be given by a merchant or a manufacturer if his employes were working under insanitary conditions and living in a hovel? I venture to say that any inspector would condemn this building. Would a manufacturer or a merchant answer a request by his employes for improved sanitary conditions by saying, “ My business is not paying just now, but two or three years hence, when it is paying better, I will give you satisfactory conditions”? Certainly not. He would be required to provide sanitary conditions at once. Yet, when I beg the Government to do something, what sort of answer do I receive? The Vice-President of the Executive Council has mixed up Townsville and Rockhampton-
– Senator St. Ledger spoke of the post-offices there, and I must consider his representations.
– I brought forward a specific case in response to the challenge issued by the Department. Having done so, I can obtain no reply from it. Will the Government call for another report, and if the case proves to be one of urgency, will something be done to replace the present structure by a new one? If I cannot obtain satisfaction before the Estimates-in-
Chief come under review, I shall have to vigorously fight this matter.
– I desire to point out to Senator Sayers that the Works Estimates were passed some time ago, and if the condition of the Herberton Post-office is as bad as he has represented it to be, his representations ought to have been made when those Estimates were under consideration.
– The PostmasterGeneral is just behind the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and he may be able to give him some information upon the subject.
– But the PostmasterGeneral cannot tell in a minute whether an amount has been placed upon the Estimates this year for a post-office at Herberton.
– The letter which I have read to the Committee states that the matter will be considered two years hence.
– If the PostmasterGeneral, to whom I am bound to make the representations which have been made here by Senator Sayers, is prepared to order another inspection of the postal accommodation at Herberton, that course will be adopted. I have no reason to doubt that the building is in the condition described by Senator Sayers ; but, on the other hand, I have no reason to doubt the statement of the officer who reported upon it. If anything can be done, I am sure that the Postmaster-General will ‘be glad to do it. I recognise that this is a case in which the new Postmaster-General might exhibit his humanity and generosity.
– I am under the impression that the PostmasterGeneral may be able to give the Vice-President of the Executive Council some additional information on this matter. The letter which I have read to the Committee practically admits all that I have said, but urges as an excuse for the inaction of the Department that there are not now as many people living at Herberton as there were previously. But since that letter was written, some 500 or 600 settlers have established themselves upon the surrounding lands, and a railway has been opened to that centre.
– I have communicated with the PostmasterGeneral, and he agrees that inquiry should, be made. If it be ‘found that there is anything in the statements made, something will have to be done as soon as possible.
– I am satisfied.
– Senator Sayers may be satisfied with the answer of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but even he must have overlooked the terms of the letter which he has laid before the Committee. I am afraid that, like other members of the Opposition, he is inclined to be too kind towards the Government. Here is a letter from the officer at the head of the Post and Telegraph Department in which it is stated that inquiry has been made and a report received, showing that circumstances warrant the erection of a new office. How many more reports do the Government, want ? The permanent head of the Department admits that the reports justify thework. That is the position presented to the Ministerial head of the Department.
– After the Estimates were framed this year.
– If Senator Lynch thinks it necessary to come so adroitly to the aid of the Government, let me point out to him that what they ought to do is not to promise to make a further inquiry into this matter, but to promise to do the work required. Instead of that, we have nothing but a statement from the Minister that in twelve months’ time the Government will consider something. How much longer do they want to consider this subject? The case is as clear as noonday. The officers have reported. I do not blame the Government for waiting for a report from their proper officers. They would be blameworthy if they did not. But the reports have been received. We will assume that they were received after the Estimates had been tabled. Under those circumstances, the business-like course would havebeen for the Ministerial head of the Department to say, “ We will make provisionon next year’s Estimates for the work to be carried out.”
– Hear, hear ! That is all right.
– The Minister might have saved the last hour’s debate if he had made that statement earlier. There is no earthly reason why he should not have met Senator Sayers’ request with the simple statement that the work would be provided for.
– I have the PostmasterGeneral’s promise, and I am satisfied. 1
Schedule and postponed abstract agreed to.
Postponed clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7th December (vide page 3862) on motion by ‘Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– Taking a broad view of the question of banking, and of Federal legislation on the subject, I wish to say at the outset that I am strongly of opinion that certain questions should be above party. Amongst those questions I put the Federal note issue, the electoral law, the transcontinental railway, and the Commonwealth Bank Bill. Unfortunately, our experience of the present Government is that they do not pay much attention to suggestions from the Opposition.
– That is unfair.
– I hope that, on this occasion, the Vice-President of the Executive Council will listen to what I have to say.
– Hear, hear!
– We cannot forget that the Senate represents the States, and that we are now faced with the possibility of an interference with the banking arrangements which the States have hitherto had. We cannot but lay emphasis on that fact. I hoped that special financial provision would have been made for the Federal Bank which it was proposed to establish, but we find that no provision has been made for placing the institution upon a sound business footing. I consider that after the first twelve months have elapsed the bank should have paid all its preliminary expenses, and should be able, out of its profits, to lay aside a certain amount for a reserve fund.
– The honorable senator thinks that the bank will make profits?
– I think it is possible for the bank to make profits.
– The honorable senator knows what a good game banking is.
– I think that the bank should put 50 per cent. of its profits to a reserve fund in each year, and I should recommend that it should put 5 per cent. aside every year to cover bad and doubtful debts. Our experience in banking shows that it is well to make in advance provision for such occurrences, otherwise the profits in any one year may be absorbed by the bad debts incurred during the year. Personally, I wish that the Government, instead of starting the bank with loan funds, had been prepared to put aside £250,000 as an instalment towards £1,000,000 by way of capital for the bank. That would have placed the institution on a sound business footing. Under present circumstances, we are treating it in a favoured manner. The Commonwealth is to pay the preliminary expenses. That is not a business-like thing to do. I think that the bank should be able to pay its own preliminary expenses in the first year, and that it should thereafter make fair profits. As to the system of management, the proposal of the Government is simply to leave the institution in charge of a general manager, who will control the whole business. My opinion is that we should have a board of management consisting of five persons, all of whom have had considerable mercantile or banking experience in various parts of Australia. If this is to be a truly Australian bank, its board and manager should have some knowledge beyond that which can be acquired in the State or city in which the head office happens to be. A great authority on banking, George Rae, who was for forty years manager of the North and South Wales Bank, lays great emphasis on having a board of management for such an institution. He says -
So far from the control or management of a bank being a thing which any one can understand at sight, there is perhaps no business more difficult of ready grasp. i have given a long business life to the practice and study of it, but do not look upon my education as even yet complete. Every now and again i still come upon something new - some fresh “ wrinkle “ - some side light which goes to enlarge or qualify, sometimes to upset, old and cherished impressions, and to divest experience of finality.
-the-bye, had a brother in Sydney in days gone by - I refer to Mr. John Rae - gives a quotation from a wellknown old book written in 1580 by John Lyly, a dramatist, who refers to the unwisdom of relying on possibly a single person to look after any particular business. He says -
Not unlike those which, at the instant and importunate sute of their acquaintance, refuse a cunning pilot and chuse an unskilful mariner, which hazardeth the ship and themselves in the calmest sea.
When I was a young man employed in a bank in London, one of the standard books in those days was Bullion on Banking. It turns out that “Bullion” was another name for Mr. Rae. I may tell tho;se who have not yet read Rae’s Country Banker that they will find it almost as interesting as any novel which they could pick up, because it gives instances of various persons who come to a manager to urge what a splendid thing it would be for the bank if it would only do what they wanted. He instances these cases in a most interesting manner, and one can almost imagine that he knew some of the persons who came to him for assistance. In fact, one of the greatest attributes which a good manager can have is to Be able to say “no” without giving offence. I am one of those who think that there are, at all events, three objections to the proposed bank. I think, first, that it should commence with a paid-up capital, and should not have to raise capital by debentures or by a Government loan ; second, that there should be a board of control with power to appoint the general manager and, subject to his recommendation, the other officers ; and, third, that the Savings Bank branch is not called for by the public, and, if established, will, I fear, promote friction between the Federal and State Governments. With regard to the first objection, I think it is desirable that the bank should be treated as a non-political entity, and should show that it is worthy of support by its management, paying its way, including the rent of buildings and taxes, like other banks have to do, and thereafter putting annually, say, 50 per cent, of its profits to a reserve fund, 5 per cent, for bad debts, and handing the balance to the Government as a return on the investment. The balance of net profits should be paid annually or half-yearly to the Treasurer by way of return on the Commonwealth’s investment. If the bank’s capital is to be £1,000,000, I think that the money should be advanced from time to time as it is required. On the point that it professes to be a bankers’ bank, it seems to me that, in time, £1,000,000 will be far too small for such a bank. I have already said, I think, that the board of management should be composed of men who have had experience.
– Would your proposed board be composed of public servants?
– Far from that ; but I shall explain later what I propose in that regard. The first directors should, I think,, be appointed by the Ministry. They should be eligible for re-election, one retiring each year, and the board should suggest three names to the Government, which names could be considered by them in conjunction with any others to fill up the vacancy, and the board should elect their own chairman or Governor each year. To call the general manager of the Commonwealth Bank “the Governor” strikes me as a sort of imitation of the Bank of England ; but I shall show in a few minutes how very different the constitution of that bank is. With regard to the Savings Bank, probably some honorable senators are not aware that nearly every third person in the Commonwealth keeps a Savings Bank account. The total number of such accounts kept by the various State Savings Banks approaches 1,500,000. It is natural, I suppose, that the States are not anxious to lose the control of these banks. Some years ago, a Royal Commission was appointed in New Zealand to report on a State Bank, and their report recommended a combination of a private and a State Bank. The Bank of New Zealand is practically such a bank. Many years before the time 1 refer to, when the Government of New Zealand were somewhat in difficulties, they got permission from the then manager of the Bank of New Zealand to draw for so many months something like £200,000 a month to get over the situation, pending the floating of a loan. Years elapsed. Mr. Seddon, the Prime Minister, forgot what the arrangement was, and he came to my friend the general manager, and said to him, “ You are aware, of course, that we have an arrangement with your bank that at any time we want it we can have £200,000 a month.” But the manager said, “ Mr. Seddon, you are under a wrong impression. That was a temporary arrangement. It was not intended that at any time you liked you could come here. You seem to think that you can get £200,000 a month for months and months. That would be over £2,000,000 a year. No bank could be expected right off to be able to do that without inconveniencing its ordinary business.” Mr Seddon took rather high ground, and my friend resigned his management. He said, “ I have had considerable experience of banking. I have been the general manager of a bank, and I have a certain reputation as a banker.
I decline to remain here if I am supposed merely to obey whatever the Prime Minister thinks proper to say.” I saw the correspondence. My friend resigned the position; he was offered an appointment elsewhere, and he only took it temporarily. At the present time he is general manager of a large mercantile company, at the same salary - £2,500. There is an instance of a man of independent character who was a general manager before, and who at the present time is getting as good a salary as he received when he threw up the appointment. I am afraid that persons forget that if the proposed bank is a purely State Bank it may be brought into such a position that its ordinary business will be interfered with through the necessities of the Government. I am speaking of what I know from personal experience. I think it well now to refer to the constitution of various banks. The Bank of England is generally called by some persons a State Bank. It is a private corporation, but it has close connexions with the Government, inasmuch as it keeps the Government accounts, and its notes have been declared a legal tender. Mr. Gilbart, who is another great authority on banking, and who was general manager of the London and Westminster Bank for many years, mentions that the Bank of England was first projected by a Dr. Hugh Chamberlain. But the plan actually adopted was proposed by Mr. William Paterson, a Scotsman, who was afterwards the founder of the Bank of Scotland. The Bank of England started with a capital of £1,200,000, and in the following year Paterson founded the Bank of Scotland with a similar capital, only that it was pounds Scots in place of pounds sterling. A pound Scots, I may mention, is twenty pence, and the consequence was that the capital of the Bank of Scotland was only £100,000. The Bank of England is a bankers’ bank, but it is not a State Bank, and the Government is not responsible for its liabilities. I have already mentioned that the original capital was £1,200,000. Up to 1816 its capital had .gradually increased, and it remains the same to-day - £14,553,000. The board consists of a Governor, who must hold £4,000 of bank stock, a Deputy Governor, and twenty-four directors, each holding £2,000 worth of bank stock. A quorum is thirteen, and of that number one must either be the Governor or the Deputy Governor. We hear a great deal nowadays about the crisis of 1893, and we are told every now and again that, had* not Sir George Dibbs made the notes of the ‘ banks in New South Wales a legal tender for six months, many of the bankswould have smashed. I think that that is quite true; but, after all, what does it mean? What is the history of the Bank of England? It suspended its cash payment in 1797; in 1819 payment in goldwas restrained by Act of Parliament; in 1839 it took a loan of £2,500,000 from the Bank of France; and in 1844 the Bank Act was passed, by. which the bank has two departments, namely, an issue department and a banking department. Its notes are legal tender. Three times since 1844 the Bank Act has had to be suspended. Had it not been suspended, there would have been a tremendous smash in Great Britain. By the suspension of the Act, the Bank of England got the same assistance from the State as the banks in New South Wales received in 1893. As an old banker I maintain that it is very cruel of personsto speak as if we were not relatively in as good and sound a position financially as was the Bank of England when it had that great advantage over us. When the demand for notes is in excess of the amount of gold required, the Act can be suspended, and the notes declared a legal tender, although not convertible into gold. As many persons have not heard of the Bank Act of 1844, I think it is as well to give a short summary of its provisions. It was called an Act to regulate the issue of bank notes, and to give to the Bank of England certain privileges for a limited period, which has been extended from time to time. Section 1 establishes an issue department; section 2 provides that securities to the value of £14,000,000, including the debt due from the Government to the company, are transferred to the issue department ; and section 4 says that the silver bullion must not exceed onefourth part of the gold and bullion in the issue department. Section 5 reads -
On any other bank than the Bank of England ceasing to issue its own notes the Bank of England may be authorized by order in council to increase the securities in the issue department and issue additional notes, provided’ always that such increased amount of securities specified in .such order in council shall in no case exceed the proportion of two-thirds the amount of bank notes which the banker so ceasing to issue may have been authorized to issue under the provisions of this Act, and every such order in council shall be published in the next succeeding Government Gazette.
Section 8 requires the bank to allow to the public £180,000 yearly out of the sum payable to the bank for the management of the public debt. That is a matter which many persons do not understand. The bank is paid from time to time a large sum for managing the public debt of Great Britain, but against that it has to pay this £180,000 a year for the privilege of having its notes declared a legal tender. Section 9 provides that if the securities in the issue department increase beyond £14,000,000 the bank must allow the public the profits of increased circulation of the notes after deducting expenses. The form for the issue department gives, on one side, the notes issued, and, on the other, the Government debt, other securities, gold coin bullion, and silver bullion, and it is dated and signed by the cashier. There is a very singular thing here to which I propose to direct attention. In 1844 the total authorized issue of notes by the banks was £36,523,350, of which the Bank of England had only £14,000,000. But, as the various banks lost their issue, the Bank of England’s authorized issue increased, so that to-day its authorized issue against securties amounts to £18,450,000.
– I thought the Bank of England had notes in circulation to the value of £28,000,000?
– I am dealing now with the authorized issue without coin. For every note issued over the amount I have mentioned - £18,450,000 - the bank must hold coin.
– To the full value?
– Yes, to the full value, for every note beyond the authorized issue referred to. I have some figures here which I think will be found interesting. I mentioned that there were 207 private banks, 72 joint-stock banks in England, 19 joint-stock banks in Scotland, and 6 in Ireland. But now the number has been diminished. The following is a summary of present fixed issues : -
At the present time the banks are allowed to issue notes, without having coin to the extent of £28,000,000. Honorable senators may ask how it is that at this time a smaller amount of notes can be issued against the securities than then, when the banking business is so very much larger now than it used to be ? The explanation is that since 1844 cheques have been very much more used in business than they were formerly.
– Is that for the Bank of England only?
– No. The following table, relating to the Bank of England, will be of interest -
It will be seen that the bank held in reserve £25,823,000, so that the total value of the notes issued amounted to £54,621,000. The gold and bullion held amounted in value to £36, 17 1,000. That is to say, that the coin reserve on 6th December this year was equal to £125 for every £100 worth of notes in the hands of the public. But, including the notes held in reserve by the bank, the proportion of coin held represents; £66 for every £100 worth of notes issued. For an issue of £10,000,000 of our notes, the Government require to have coin of the value of only £4,750,000, or a coin reserve of47½ per cent., as against 66 per cent, in the Mother Country. Those of us who take a little interest in banking consider that Parliament has been very liberal to the Government in requiring a coin reserve of only 47½ per cent. for our note issue, and yet it is now proposed that the coin reserve shall be reduced to 25 per cent. I should, perhaps, explain that the Bank of England calls its reserve the “Rest.” It is not a fixed amount, as profits go into it and dividends are taken out of it. I give a short extract now from the Insurance and Banking Record for last month, referring to the Commonwealth Banking Bill -
Supposing the bank to be started, its first step would naturally be the transfer to its ledgers of the cash balances now held at its credit by other banks, as set out on page 3 of the Budget statement. Excluding the current account balances, the amount on which the Treasurer is receiving interest from those banks is ^1,631,500. Assuming that the Treasurer is able to float at par his loan of ,£1,000,000 at 3£ per cent, for the “ capital “ required, the sum which the bank will require to earn during the first year before it begins to make any “profit” may be stated thus : -
I may say that I do not altogether agree with ‘ that, for the reason that the £1,000,000 will be given only as the money is required.
– Besides, the statement quoted charges interest against the bank and loss against the revenue.
– The honorable senator must remember that the bank will have to pay 3^ per cent, interest.
– If the bank has to pay, how will the revenue lose?
– But interest has to be paid on the debentures. I have said that I am not tied to that statement. The quotation proceeds -
While we may be sure that the last item will increase steadily year by year, it is possible that the large outgo quoted above may be slightly mitigated by lending some of the money gathered in. But it will certainly not find its outlet in ordinary banking advances unless the bank starts its competition by initiating a scale of rates that will not stand the test of experience. The Labour papers have proclaimed that money will be obtainable by “ needy and deserving industrialists” at i per cent, above the rate which the bank will allow on deposits. If so, the initial deficit will take many years to wipe out.
However loudly the Ministry may protest that the bank is to be kept free from any political influence, it goes without saying that once it is started the service will be a hotbed of rank nepotism. It may probably be subject to the principle of “ spoils to the victors,” and experience ruthless disturbances of the staff whenever there are administrative changes. If this is not the result it will be directly at variance with all historical precedent.
This is taking it for granted that we are going to have one man controlling the management of the bank. It must be admitted that human nature is such that he is likely to be influenced in making appointments by personal preferences. It is very different where there is a board of directors.
– That would only mean that there would be more friends to provide billets for, according to the honorable senator’s argument.
– I have dealt with the Bank of England, and I now propose to consider some of the Continental banks. The first bank to which I propose to refer is the National Bank of Belgium. The capital of this bank consists of 50,000 shares of £40 each, paid-up, £2,000,000, of which 23,481 shares are called “ inscribed shares,” 26,519 shares are called “ shares to bearer”; total, 50,000 shares. The chairman of the Council of Administration is named “ The Governor,” and the council consists of the Governor, the ViceGovernor, and five directors. The annual report is signed by the said council, and is accompanied by a report of the Council of Censors, which consists of a president and five additional censors, as well as a “ reporter.” I may mention here that the censors are really examiners, very much like inspectors, who report as if they were outside the bank upon everything that comes under their notice. Apparently two censors retire annually. They are appointed for three years, and are eligible for reappointment. The censors report at some length on the balance-sheets and profit and loss accounts, and show in detail amounts payable to Government for advantages enjoyed by the bank. I quote this extract from a report of the censors -
We informed you last year that the work which the bank carries out gratuitously for theGovernment and the country increased very considerably the general expenses.
This amount is appreciably higher than thatreceived by the Treasury in 1909, the averagerate of discount having been, in 1910, 1 per cent., higher than in the preceding year.
The Savings Bank and Superannuation Funds, amounting to about £9,000,000, are guaranteed by the State. The bank notes in circulation exceed £36,000,000, and the coin and bullion exceed £8,000,000. The reserve fund exceeds £1,500,000, and the rate of dividend to shareholders for 1910 equalled £16 12s. per cent. The aggregate figures oil each side of the balancesheet exceed £188,000,000. The Government business is a great factor. Bill discounting is also a great feature ; the average currency of bills discounted was forty-seven days in 1910 ; number of bills 4i593»2I8, for £169,134,110. I may mention that the bank premises are valued at £834,292, as against a capital of £2,000,000, which is a very much larger proportion of capital than any bank in Australia would think of having locked up in premises. There is such a common impression abroad that banks are so much more profitable than they really are that I would like the proposed Commonwealth Bank to be given a fair show, in order that the public might be disillusioned^ -
It was during the last quarter of the year 1910 that the rate of discount rose from 3J to 4^ per cent., then to 5 per cent., without there being any direct profit for the bank; this movement has had an influence on the reserve of specie of the bank, and appreciably improved the condition of the exchange on foreign countries. The amount of the notes in circulation increased, in 1910, by £2,360,000; on the other hand, the reserve of specie increased by more than £1,760,000.
The Council of Censors pointed out to you last year that the present condition of the country with regard to monetary affairs ought to be the object of the most searching study ; it gives its entire approval to the steps taken by the governing body of the bank, with a view to improving this condition, which is so harmful to the interests of the nation, as much as possible. The modifications proposed bv the governing body as to our internal management, with a view to the improvement of the allowances or commencing salaries of officials or workpeople, have had our entire approbation ; we have been happy to assist in improving the condition of so active and devoted a staff. The normal donation of the provident fund of the officials was increased in 1910 to the sum of £10,714, representing about 10 per cent, of the total amount of the allowances and salaries of the staff.
The Savings Bank and Superannuation Funds guaranteed by the State - various securities - amount to £9,173,518. The notes in circulation on 31st December, 1910, amounted to £36,181,366, the product of the discount exceeding 3J per cent, to £76,951, the share of the States in the profits for the half-year to £52,708, and the reserve fund was increased to £1,537,240. The dividend payable for the second half-year of 1910 was £166,000. These figures give us some idea of the magnitude of the operations of an institution which is not a State Bank.
I come now to the Bank of Italy -
On the roth August, 1893, a Bill was passed and became law, by which the National Bank of the Kingdom of Italy, the National Bank of Tuscany, and the Tuscan Bank of Credit were consolidated under the name of “ The Bank of Italy.” The authorized capital was limited to 300,000,000 lire, divided into 300,000 shares of 1,000 lire (£40). As a lire equals a franc, the authorized capita] was £12,000,000. But in 1903 the paid-up capital was £9,000,000. The authorized note circulation at the time of consolidation had to be gradually reduced to 630,000,000 lire, or £25,200,000, to be represented by a reserve of 40 per cent, in metallic money, of which three-fourths must be gold and the balance in bills of exchange on foreign countries bearing first class signatures. The circulation tax was fixed at 1 per cent., calculated on the average rum bv which the circulation should exceed the reserve.
That is to say, if £25,000,000 were the circulation, 40 per cent, of a reserve would amount to £10,000,000, and on the £15,000,000 in excess of the reserve 1 per cent, would amount to £150,000 per annum.
Stockholders furnish the entire capital of the bank. The shares are registered. Ownership is acquired by transfer upon the books of the bank. The bank recognises but one owner for each share.
What we call an annual meeting is called the Bank Assembly, and it meets annually in May.
The assembly, consisting of shareholders, appoints the comptrollers, the administrators of the branches, and the censors, who are entrusted with the supervision. The regents elect “ the Superior Council, and each district seat annually delegates for that purpose three of its regents. It holds its meetings at least once a month in Rome. All matters affecting the bank are submitted to this council, especially those appertaining to the issue and withdrawal of bank notes, the fixing of the rates for discount and loans, the declaring of dividends, the verification of balance-sheets, appointments and dismissals of employes, &c. The Superior Council selects a committee of six members, which, in co-operation with the President of the Council and the DirectorGeneral, exercises a more direct supervision over the bank’s business, particularly touching subjects of disputes and extraordinary discounts. The comptrollers, designated by the Assembly of Shareholders, exercise, either directly or through the censors, control over the administration, with a view to having the rules and regulations faithfully observed. They examine the balance-sheets, and give their advice as to the amount of the dividends. The censors supervise the district seats, and exact from the directors such information as they deem useful for the discharge of their duties. They enter the result of their observations in a special book, and communicate to the censors a report upon their supervision. The general management is thus constituted : - One director-general, two vicedirectorsgeneral, one secretary. All are appointed by the Superior Council, but the nominations of the director-general and vicedirectorsgeneral must be approved by the Government. The director and two vice-directors-general form a directing committee, which considers all concerns. The director sits in the Superior Council, and has a consulting vote in that body. He has the management of the bank’s affairs subject to the authority of the Superior Council. The administration of the district seats has great importance in the Bank of Italy, as these establishments supply the members of the Superior Council. Each district seat is managed by a council of at least eight regents, and at most twelve censors, with a director in executive control. The regents and censors are appointed by the General Assembly of Shareholders for a term of six years. Half the number is renewed each three years. The Regents’ Council has charge of the administration of the seat, and sees that the orders of the Superior Council are carried out. For the examination of commercial paper it employs the assistance of a Discount Council of ten or twenty members chosen from a double list presented by the director. Those branches that are less important than the district seat are administered each by a director and supervised by five censors. A Discount Council gives advice regarding the paper to be admitted at the branch. The bank, besides, has correspondents, who undertake to transmit to the nearest office paper, presented for discount, and to attend to the collections of matured paper.” The Bank of Italy has charge of the State’s Treasury service since rst February, 1895. In «11 the provinces it receives the payments for accounts of the State and its Departments, and makes the payments to its creditors. This service is gratuitous. The taxes levied on the banks are very heavy, that is to say, on the Bank of Italy. They are as follows : - Tax on general ; property. i,575’,2g6 lire; tax on circulation, S<536>397 lire; tax on- negotiation of the shares, 288,505 lire ; tax on the verification of weights and measures, 9,655 lire; stamp tax, 19,297 lire; State control, 57,600 .lire; tax on- factories and lots, 116,688 lire; tax for the chambers of commerce and the communal chambers, 7,764 lire; total, 7,611,202 Ike (or ^304,000).
As the latest work I have had access to bears date 1.896, there must be later returns available. The work from which I quote, namely,’ A History of Banking in All Nations, says -
The restrictions imposed upon the circulation and1, the extravagant taxes with which it is burdened weaken the bank and thwart the beneficial effect which they exercise in other countries. The legal tender quality of the paper money is a mere- euphemism, as Italy is under a forced currency rule, which means that the notes are a non-convertible paper money, like the scrip of Greece or the Argentine Republic. . . .
The banks have allowed’ their own credit to “be merged with the Government’s credit ; and, above all, enfeebled: and demoralized by their past, they cannot exercise that regulatory action upon the coin and scrip circulation which is the fundamental mission of banks of issue.
So much for the Bank of Italy. I come now to the Bank of Germany -
The German Imperial Bank was created in 1876, really the Prussian Bank, reconstituted on changed conditions, and vested with so-called “ juridical personality.” It paid-up capital in 1905 was ,£9,000,000, and its reserve fund ^3,268,000. By the balance-sheet for 1894 the net profits then . were divided as follow : - (a) For the Empire, 3,903,320 marks;
for the shareholders, 3,312,537 marks, or, say, ^195,166 and ^165,626 respectively. The Imperial direction of the bank is exercised by the Chancellor of the Empire, and, subject to him, the Imperial Board of Directors. The Chancellor, or his representative as appointed by the Emperor, directs the entire administration of the bank, both issuing orders for its business operations to the Imperial Board of Directors and branch institutions, and also fixing the rules and working instructions which govern the bank officials. The board of directors, thus subject to the Imperial Chancellor, is the administrative and executive corps of the bank, as viewed from outside, or as representing the bank in public. The board’ consists of a president and the requisite number of members, and passes its resolutions by majority of votes; but its whole proceedings are subject to the prescription and instructions of the Imperial Chancellor. The president and members of the board are appointed by the Kaiser for life, upon recommendation of the Federal Council-. The Imperial Bank is bound by the signature of the Imperial Board of Directors, namely-, by that of two members of the same. In 1905, the bank note circulation was ^187,000,000 created, less ^104,000,000 on hand, or, say-,, ^83,000,000 real circulation. The dividend in 1905 was £6 15s. per. cent.
That is equal to £553,500.
The partners numbered 18,578, and the- bank had 440 branches.
I now come to the Bank of France -
The bank has fifteen regents and three censors’. Five regents and the censors are- from the manufacturing and commercial classes, and three of the regents must be chosen from among the officials of the Treasury General Disbursement Office. The regents are elected for five- years, the censors for three years; and are eligible for re-election. The governor and two under.governors are appointed by the chief of the State. The governor must possess 100 shares, and each under-governor fifty shares. They take their oath of office from the President of the Republic, The governor’s salary is 60,000 francs (.^2,400 per annum) ; and each deputy governor’s 30,000 francs (^1,200). The bank pays the salaries, and also provides residence and. furnishings. The- general council is composed of the governor, under-governors, the regents, .and the censors; the governor being chairman. The censors have only advisory votes’, acting as comptrollers’ of the bank. It is ‘a bank ‘ of issue. Paid-up- capital, 182,500,000- francs (say ^7,3.00,000). The reserve fund amounts’ to £1,700,000, and the notes in circulation amount to ,£180,603,000. ‘ “
There are 107 branches. In 1905, the dividend was £5 8s. 46. per cent. ‘ One or two quotations in regard to this bank will be of interest to the Senate.
– Do the managers of the Bank of France constitute a board of directors?
– The regents are the managers. The censors are really examiners.
On March 18th, 1871, the bank was left isolated and without any means of protection amidst the most desperate insurrection of history. It had in its vaults, in bonds and cash, more than three milliards (3,000,000,000) belonging to the public. Everything was to be feared from an unrestrainable mob given over to the worst passions.
It is really a most interesting fact in the history of the Bank of France that it negotiated the great indemnity that had to be paid to Germany at the conclusion of die war -
The Marquis de Ploetic took a bold stand in this emergency. The attaches of the bank, who had been organized in accordance with military discipline during the Siege of Paris, kept guard night and day, with absolute devotion over the institution and the wealth confided to its honour. It is just to mention that relations of some satisfactoriness between the bank and the Commune were singularly facilitated by the course of one Citizen Beslay, whom the Commune had placed at the bank as its representative. This Beslay, an erratic and visionary individual, but an honest man, foresaw the fearful consequences of a pillage of the bank, and opposed himself energetically to all the attempts that the Commune made to introduce ils men into the establishment. The Communistic Government, which was without resources, extracted from the bank several millions, and used the money to provide for its pressing wants. It comprehended that if the bank should be emptied there would be no funds obtainable to feed the insurrectionary hordes, which would thereupon hold its leaders responsible for their distress. Accordingly, the bank was spared. The withdrawals made by the Commune aggregate in round numbers only seventeen millions. The period whose history we have briefly traced was the culminating stage of the Bank of France. Never before, in any country, had there been afforded a like example of an institution exercising such power, inspiring such implicit confidence, contributing so decisively to the recovery of a people that seemed crushed, performing more than its duty with impressive grandeur and simplicity. “ The bank,” said M. Thiers, in a memorable speech, “ has saved the country because it is not a State bank.” This remark was eminently true. In that supreme struggle a State bank would not have been able to resist the exactions of the Government, and its credit would have become confused with the credit of the State. When the Bank of France issued notes secured by Treasury obligations, it added its own guarantee to that of the State, and the paper circulated consequently at par. If the bank and the Go vernment had been one and the same, the bank’s signature would have been no reinforcement of the States, and the paper intended to have been taken on trust would have been valued at just what the State’s credit was worth. The experience gained by the Bank of France in 1870 and 1871 is conclusive demonstration of the absolute necessity of assigning the responsibility for issuing paper money to independent institutions, subject to such conditions of supervision and regulation as should incontestably be administered by the Government. This experience has not been without important practical results. On the occasion of the latest renewal of the concession of the German Imperial Bank it was especially invoked by the German Government. The French may rightly take pride in that signal display of appreciation by their former foes for their chief financial institution. . While the Bank of France continues to be by far the most important of French financial institutions, it is not the sole arbiter or the sole dispenser of credit in France. Side by side with it, and competing with it, always ready to discount paper as credit institutions, are other banks that have grown and attracted large deposits which they procure on extremely low terms, thanks to the liberty that they enjoy under quite different conditions than those by which the Bank of France is restricted. They offer a formidable opposition to the banks, demonstrating that the bank cheque is able to contend victoriously against the bank note, at least in normal times. But when periods of trouble supervene and depositors withdraw their money from the ordinary banks, the Bank of France comes to the front with its inexhaustible resources to supply all needs. Its operations, common-place enough in common-place areas, become energetic and decisive in emergencies of economic and political distress. Then the bank is the rock to which all the nation clings. The bank-note is accepted in France the same as gold, and even as, in some respects, better than gold. Yet this marvellous instrument is not without its faults. The absolute security that the bank gives to the holders of its notes, and the aid that it lends liberally to other banks, and the world in general, have lulled the public into a kind of sleepy routine. Capital is no longer sought, but flows into the savings banks, which are managed by the State. Capital thus diverted, not only takes certain risks, but assumes great responsibilities, instead of fertilizing the country for commerce and industry. Certainly, the Bank of France cannot be reproached with having fulfilled its mission too well; but one may, nevertheless, regret that it operates too much to exempt commerce and banking from the struggle for life. This criticism is not addressed to the bank, but to public spirit. For the rest, it may well be wished that France might preserve ‘for ever the old institution that has served her solong and so beneficially.
I now come to Switzerland. As far as I can judge, the only two Continental banks which are Government institutions pure and simple are the Bank of the Federation - that is, the Bank of Switzerland - and the Bank of Russia. Those are undoubtedly Government banks, and, therefore, the Senate may be interested to know what the author of this book has to say about them.
The Bank of the Federation - Banque de la Confederation Suisse - is a State bank, established under a special administration, and has a monopoly of note circulation. At least one-third of circulation must be covered by gold bullion or legal tender coin. The bank performs the Federal Treasury Service free of charge. Of net profits, 15 per cent, are set aside for the reserve, and of the balance of 85 per cent, one-third goes to the Federation, and twothirds to the Cantons. The reserve is invested in Swiss and foreign securities.
The law which came from the deliberations oi the Federal Council may be summarized as follows : - Under the title of Banque de la Confederation Suisse, a Slate Bank is established under a special administration. This bank has the exclusive right of issuing bank notes. The principal mission of ‘the Bank is the - regulation of the money market, and to facilitate transactions of payment ; it does the service of the Federal Treasury free of charge. The central office of the bank is at Berne; each Canton can demand the establishment of a branch or an agency of the bank within its territory. The Federal Government supplies the capital of the bank by an issue of consols; it is responsible for all the engagements of the bank. The bank and its branches are exempt from all Cantonal taxes. Its administration consists of the Bank Council and of local committees, which have charge of the supervision and control. There is also a managing committee and local managing committees, who have charge of the administration. The Bank Council consists of twentyone members, who are appointed by the Federal Assembly. The various parts of Switzerland must be equitably represented in this body. This council selects out of its own members a president, vice-president, and a select committee of five members, whose duty is the supervision and control of the bank. The president and vicepresident are ex officio members of the select committee. At the branches, the supervision is in the hands of local committees of five members at least, or ten members at most, who are appointed by the Bank Council for a term of four years. The managing committee has charge of the administrative and executive departments of the bank ; it represents the bank in business dealings, and has authority over the employes and the branch directors. The Federal Council appoints the president and vice-president of the managing committee. The branch management consists of two persons at least, whom the Federal Council appoints. They have charge of the business at the branches. The members of the Bank Council and the local committees receive gratuities for attending meetings, and are paid mileage. The Federal Assembly may also grant a fixed salary to the members of the select committee, or to some special members. The Federal Assembly exercises supreme supervision over the bank on behalf of the Federation ; and the two councils appoint each a commission of five members for a term of three years for this purpose. The two commissions audit the annual accounts and business statements, and prepare the reports, which must be submitted to “ the Federal Assembly for approval.
Notwithstanding the autonomy of the cantons, their representatives have readily come round to the idea of a central bank, which alone can have the strength to hold out in times of crisis, and to regulate paper-money circulation. Yet it is a question whether Switzerland has been wise in adopting the State bank. Doubtless a State bank can be conducted with much prudence and be as well managed for general service as a private bank; but this presumes a self-control, a loftiness of view, a practical wisdom, and h disinterestedness on the part of the State which ordinary experience fails to afford. In the case of a State bank, borrowers are disposed to consider the rate of discount and of loans in the light of a tax, and they are easily persuaded to claim relief. Moreover, the inclusion of political influences must be apprehended. These might warp the decisions of the management ; and accusations might arise that unjustified favours were shown to some, while adversaries were vigorously dealt with. Neither is it certain that discounts, when regulated according to administrative and bureaucratic methods, can be obtained as rapidly and on such good terms as if the bank were only guided by personal interests and the desire to earn dividends. However, this is only a minor aspect of the question. Leaving aside the question of the risks of war, which jurists, by common accord, declare to be higher for a State bank than for a private bank, there is no doubt that through the diffusion of Social^istic doctrines the Government might easily be-* come hard pressed to assume new functions and new attributes.
Equally, a State bank stands exposed to inflated issues of its notes. Every service which the State is called upon to render costs money, and the State is generally loath to obtain this by taxation. Sophisms will not fail to be urged for forcing the issue of paper money on the theory that the State hank only needs to print notes from plates. With the obligation to redeem the bank notes in coin, the danger in ordinary times, no doubt, is not great, as the surplus of paper flows back to its source; but the inevitable consequence of an inflation of circulation is forced currency, and possibly a temptation to reach this goal quickly. This is the great drawback of State banks.
Finally, the credit of a State bank becomes involved with the Government credit. In times of political crisis, the bank’s signature adds no value or new guaranty to the State’s, and we might repeat here the famous sentence of Thiers - “ The Bank of France has saved us because it is not a State bank.” In the critical phases in the life of a nation, the need of a powerful establishment under firm management is felt. An institution is needed which can discuss matters freely with the State, so that, charter in hand, it may say to the Government, “ You ask us for such and such service, which we consider compromising and dangerous for our credit ; we cannot render you this service.” The welfare of a nation may easily depend on such wise and patriotic resistance; and it is the height of imprudence to break down safeguards which may sometimes be inconvenient, but are always salutary.
I have already said I think that the only two banks which are really State banks are the Bank of Switzerland and the Bank of Russia. As a matter of fact, there are three banks which are bankers’ banks, namely, the Bank of England, the Bank of France, and the Bank of Russia. Of these three banks, the Bank of England and the Bank of France are private banks, while the Bank of Russia is the only State Bank that is a bankers’ bank, unless we add the Swiss bank.
I propose now to refer to the Bank of Russia. It was established in1860. Taking the rouble at 2s., its capital in British money is £5,000,000, and its reserve fund £500,000. It had 114 branches in 1906, and its aggregated balancesheet was £212,817,629. The State, of course, is responsible. The affairs of the bank, and the affairs of State, are intermingled. As a matter of fact, they are one now. There was a time, however, when they were not one. The balance-sheet bears the signature of the Governor of the State Bank. The Bank Almanac, of 1907, says -
TheBankisa Government institution, the capital being found by the Government, and all profits go to the Treasury.
The circulation of notes is £119,000,000. This is about the last quotation which I intend tomake-
In1860, the State bank was founded to invigorate commercial undertakings and to consolidate the note circulation ; and, to that end, it was provided with the afore-named capital of R 1 5,000,000, and a reserve of R3,000,000-
That is with a capital of £1,500,000, and a reserve fund of £300,000. backed up by all the resources of the State treasury. Its profits were to be devoted to the payment of the five per cent. Bills of Credit and the amount loaned by the State to the former credit institutions, as well as to establish a reserve against possible losses. It was forbidden to use individual deposits for State purposes. Idle funds in the hands of State or Provincial Department were to be kept on deposit with the bank. The bank was empowered to buy and sell State securities, but the total amount on hand should never exceed its capital stock. . . . All the executive officers of the bank were to be appointed by the State; but representatives of the nobility and of commerce were to be admitted to the directory, with a deliberative voice regarding certain transactions.
In order to emphasize the somewhat modernized character of the institution, there was placed at its head, not a public functionary, but an old banker, Baron Stieglitz, a business man whose fortune was such that it should have insured him the utmost independence of action, and who gave up his banking business to accept the position of Governor of the Bank of Russia. He devoted himself entirely to the work, but, unfortunately, it must be candidly said that he was not equal to the task. True, he was no bureaucratist, but still less was he a financier. He was an honest parvenu, humble and timid, very deeply im pressed with the importance of his office and the honour conferred upon him, but not sufficiently imbued with a sense of the responsibilities of his new position ; or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he looked at his duty only from one point of view, that of the Government under which he. held office. We may dismiss Baron Stieglitz with the remark that he quitted his position in thefall of 1866.
The Baron had as assistant, and afterwards as successor, m. Eugene Lamanski, the ablest financier and banker in all Russia; a bureaucratist indeed, but at the same time a man of education. He was very bold in his conceptions - to some of which we shall have occasion to allude later - but not consistent in their application. Was he the author of the new regulations of the bank? We believe not; but he was bound to submit to them. The current was then setting in another direction, and M. Lamanski would have asked nothing better than to be allowed to float with it. His aspirations and convictions, founded upon a thorough understanding of the situation, and upon ideas which were entirely modern, had to yield to official exigencies, and he bravely undertook to make of the bank an establishment modelled, as far as possible, upon European institutions of a like kind.
The State is responsible to-day, as it was thirty-five years ago, as it was also a century ago, for all the agreements of the bank.
– You did not say how the Bank of Russia got on.
– It is going ahead at the present time. I do not profess to know much about the American banks, but I have been supplied with certain figures. Without going into details, it may be mentioned that the National Monetary Commission reported that there were about 25,000 so-called National banks, of which 160 failed in 1893, and twenty-one suspended payment in 1907, the latter owing to the currency crisis through a lack of elasticity in currency legislation.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Were these State banks?
– They were called National banks.
– They were mushroom banks.
– They were wretched little banks. I dare say that some honorable senators have read a very interesting little book called David Harum, which gives an instance of a small bank with a capital of £10,000. In the Annals of the American- Academy of Social and Political Science, a cashier, referring to bank failures in the United States, writes -
The most usual causes of fraud are the following : - 1st. One man banking ;
Beware ! Take care ! 2nd. Corrupt practices ;
Beware ! Take care ! 3rd. Excessive loans to directors.
SenatorPearce. - Beware ! Take care !
– It is evident that there had not been an efficient system of inspectorship and auditing. The Canadian banks are, I am glad to say, in a very much stronger position than what are called the United States Banks. In 1890, Canada recast its banking system, and has an association of banks formed under an Act of Parliament. I understand that there are twenty-nine banks, with 2,200 branches, the leading bank being the Bank of Montreal, with a paid-up capital of £3,000,000, the same as the paid-up capital of the Bank of New South Wales. There are only two instances of a bank having failed in Canada for many years, namely, the Sovereign Bank in 1903, and the Bank of Ontario in 1906.
I now come to the trading banks of the Commonwealth. We are indebted to the Government for supplying us with a very interesting and instructive return, giving information respecting the capital, dividends, and reserve funds of the banks from 1885 to 1911 ; but 19 10 being the last completed year, I am leaving 191 1 out of the remarks I propose to make. It is taken for granted by me that the figures given in the return are accurate. I may mention, however, that, unless supplemented as I now propose to do, casual readers might draw somewhat erroneous conclusions, e.g., the dividends are calculated on the paid-up capital only, whereas I maintain the true position, from a dividend point of view, will be shown by adding the reserves to the paid-up capital. I am aware that some folks think this is erroneous, as the reserve funds represent only accumulated and undistributed profits. Even were that so, the present profits are now earned on the two amounts. But not a few persons are unaware that a substantial amount of the reserve funds consists of premiums on new issues of shares. Since1860, when I entered as a junior clerk in the Bank of New South Wales in London, I have seen the capital increased from £750,000 to £3,000,000, but only once, can I remember the new issue being at par. The Sydney Bulletin the other day, in a hit at me, spoke of me as having been a junior clerk in Sydney at one time. I was in London at the time referred to, and I did not come to Sydney as a junior clerk at all.
– I met the man in London who got the honorable senator’s job when he left the Old Country.
– On one occasion the premium was 100 per cent., and on other occasions from 25 per cent, upwards. Of the latest issue, £500,000 went to capital, £125,000 to reserve. Take the Western Australian Bank : Of its late issue of shares, £50,000 went to capital, £90,000 went to reserve fund ; premium equal to 180 per cent. Without wearying the House too much with figures, I now summarize as follows -
It will be noticed that the capital and reserve funds in 1910 only exceeded those of 1896 by £944,119, but the net return on aggregate funds rose from £2 7s. 3d. to £5 5s. per annum.
The capital showed a decrease of £3,793,143, but the reserve showed an increase of £4,737,262; net increase, as above, £944,119. 1885 represented highest average rate of dividends. 1896 represented lowest average rate of dividends. 1910 represented latest annual dividends.
Between 1891 and 1897 the reserve funds were reduced by £3,476,615 evidently losses written off.
There were twenty -one banks in 1891 doing business in Australia, and the same number in 1910, the only noticeable change being that the Australian Joint Stock Bank Limited has merged into the Australian Bank of Commerce.
Comparing 1910 with 1896, there evidently has been, in addition to loss in reserve fund, as above, £3,476,615, a loss on capital, thus -
– Will the honorable senator explain the enormous premiums on new shares, unless they are a very profitable investment ?
– The honorable senator must consider, also, the losses which have been paid before.
In the comparative statement supplied to Parliament it will be noticed that reference is omitted to sundry banks that ceased to exist, e.g., Bank of South Australia, Bank of Van Diemen’s Land, and Federal Bank. The figures given by me are, therefore, well within the total losses sustained by banks in Australia between 1891 and 19 10. The following is a statement of the bank dividends for 1910, calculated on the combined capital and reserve funds -
Honorable senators will see that the dividends vary from £7 8s. 4d. per cent. down to £2 17s. 4d. per cent., so that banking, after all, is not such a wonderfully profitable thing as some people imagine.
Mr. King O’Malley’s proposed constitution for a Commonwealth Bank bore a close resemblance to that of the Swiss Confederation, and consequently, in my opinion, was preferable to that in the Bill now before us. In his recent visit to Sydney, the Minister of Home Affairs, when interviewed respecting the proposed Commonwealth Bank, was wonderfully reticent for him, and, whilst characteristically interesting and amusing in calling himself the “ silent member “ of the Government, showed his firm belief in the bank’s establishment and great future, one of his expressions being reported thus: “This bank of ours is going to be the centralized institution of Australia. Its establishment will strengthen the position of the trading banks; there is nothing for those
Christian brethren to be the least apprehensive of any harm. It is just the other way round,” and “ She’s coming ! “ May I say, without offence, that if the proposed bank is expected in time to become the bankers’ bank, it will require a greatly enlarged capital. If it is to have a quasicontrol of the Commonwealth’s note issue, it should follow the Bank of England’s practice, and have a note issue department apart from the banking department. In that case, particulars should be furnished weekly or monthly of investments in addition to reserve of coin.
Personally, as already mentioned, I think the Government will act. wisely to avoid including a Savings Bank in this measure. I merely, at the present time, summarize the figures of the State Savings Banks as inJune, 1910 -
And of investments, Government securities amounted to £37,792,189, and municipal securities £3,198,879. I quote the following advertisement published by the New South Wales Savings Bank -
Government Savings Bank of New South Wales.
Head Office : Moore-street, Sydney.
Loans from 4 to 5 per cent. on city and suburban securities and broad acres, up to£25,000, with special repayment privileges.
It will therefore be seen that the Savings Banks of the States are doing a very large business. I now give a short summary of the whole matter. From the half-yearly report of the National Bank of Australasia Limited I quote the following : -
As is well known, it is an easy process to acquire business and make advances on securities which will, hereafter, either add to the strength of the bank, or cause great anxiety in their realization. This is the point where the ripe judgment of the skilled financier comes in, and where the fortunes of a bank may either be made or marred. It is thought in some quarters of the Commonwealth that carrying on banking operations by the issue of large amounts of paper money is an operation which may be lightly entered upon, and will produce general prosperity, but the experience of older communities, especially in countries where cautious dealings and prudent counsels prevail, directly controvert this. So long as a proper provision of coin is held against the issue of paper money all may be well, but the experience of the directors of that temple of finance, the Bank of England, conveys a warning which we may not disregard with impunity, and which, in the words of the President of the Bankers’ Institute in London, spoken in July last, to the effect that the failure of the directors of the Bank of England in past times to “ observe a due proportion between their paper issues and the bullion in their vaults, produced the crisis which in former years had been so severe and disastrous.” He further goes on to say, “ It would undoubtedly be a more satisfactory state of affairs if the whole of our note issue were based on gold “ ; but, he says, “ It would cost . “ - the Bank of England - “£550,000perannum “ to do this. It is to be hoped that our governing bodies will heed such a timely warning, and not flood our market with paper money, which, in times of stress, will remain with us after having displaced sterling coin, which will naturally leave us to pay our debts in those centres of trade where our paper money would not be accepted.
Whether gladly or otherwise, it has to be recognised that the bank has come to stay, and, that being so, it is incumbent on us to see that it is established on a thoroughly sound business footing. So far as I can remember, this is the first attempt in Australia to start a purely Government Bank - that is for general banking business, excepting Government Savings Banks, where business is sui generis. The bank will start with certain advantages over private joint stock banking companies, who have to get shareholders to subscribe capital, and run the risk of losing it. Such companies are, as a rule, started with the expectation of paying dividends of 5 or 6 per cent., or even more, after defraying preliminary expenses, but, in the Commonwealth Bank, the Government - representing the whole community - guarantees the necessary capital, obtainable, probably, at 3½ per cent, or3¾ per cent. In this connexion, it seems to not a few people that private enterprise in banking is somewhat unfairly handicapped, especially when one remembers how much the progress of Australia has been stimulated by the establishment of its joint stock banking companies for nearly a century; that is, since 181 7. We, in Parliament, represent the electors individually, and, to some extent, are concerned in seeing that the bank is conducted on proper business lines, and is independent, so far as is practicable, of political influence. I may be, wrong, but I think I see voidable dangers in the pro- posed constitution. According to the Bill, the Governor-General in Council, which means the Ministry for the time being, shall appoint “ The Governor and the Deputy Governor for seven years, subject to good behaviour.” What may constitute “good behaviour” is generally supposed to mean good moral conduct, but those of us who have had practical experience in banking are aware that not a few bank managers, who are unexceptionable as regards conduct, make foolish, and even reckless, advances. What has been may again be I therefore strongly recommend the Government, before it is too late to modify the scheme, and, whatever they do, advertise for applicants for the position of - socalled - Governor, or general manager, as I suggest the title should be - “Governor” is more appropriate in connexion with a State than with a private bank. In the Bank of England, the Governor and Deputy Governor are names given to the chairman and deputy chairman of the board of directors, and the Governor is appointed yearly, but is eligible for a second term only. Under the Bill, the “ Governor” will be a Czar, and may possibly prove a despot. Those under him will have no redress as far as the Bill prescribes, and, therefore, one need not look for men of strong independent character to seek employment in the service. It is unnecessary for me to labour this point. I presume the High Court could be appealed’ to by an officer who felt he had a legitimate cause of action. Then, again, when the Governor knows he has an assured position for seven years, and is eligible for re-appointment, and that should he be unfortunate in making advances to merchants and others - and such advances are not invariably supported by securities - he has no directors or shareholders to put a check on him, he may become unduly venturesome for the sake of - as he believes - attracting business. It is true the Auditor-General is to be supplied with half-yearly balance-sheets, but it will be quite exceptional for an AuditorGeneral to be a trained banker, and the Governor, if a clever man - not to say an unscrupulous one - may do a lot of mischief before any auditor could detect serious fault in the general management. The bank, according to the Bill, will, I fear, be little better than a Government Department, and, so far as I can judge, there is no call by the general public for its establishment. Indeed, Australia is so well supplied, and even over supplied, with banking facilities, in the shape of branch banks, that, on the Commonwealth Bank commencing general banking business, it will not surprise me if some of the less important banks amalgamate, with a view to reducing working expenses, and thereby, with considerable reluctance, reduce the staffs at present employed by them. In such a case it is to be hoped the officers whose services have reluctantly to be dispensed with will find employment either in the Commonwealth Bank, or elsewhere. In my opinion it is unwise, for at least two reasons, to give the bank power to issue debentures or inscribed stock, as proposed - such debentures or inscribed stock, having Government guarantee, will make two Government stocks quoted on the market. I think it is wise, in the interest of the Commonwealth, to have only one Federal stock, so as to make it more negotiable. Again, the Government itself, as already mentioned, should provide the £1,000,000 capital as the business of the bank requires it, and thereafter let the bank trade like any joint stock bank, on its own resources. If it can pay the Government 3^ per cent, or 4 per cent, on its paid-up capital, well and good ; but it should not only pay its own expenses from the start, and thereafter put aside, say, one-tenth, or even more, of its net profits annually to a re* serve fund until such fund equals in amount half of the paid-up capital ; but also, out of its profits, it should begin to provide for the prospective bad debts, because such will arise, even in the bestregulated bank. The staff of the bank should also, from the start, begin to provide, by a percentage on their salaries, for a provident fund on an actuarial basis! so that, in case of sickness or accident obliging retirement, or on an officer reaching a certain prescribed age, he will be entitled to a retiring allowance in proportion to his average salary, which allowance, perhaps, the bank would supplement. On an officer joining the bank’s service it should be conditional on his passing a medical examination, say, such as would permit a well-established life insurance company to accept the risk of insuring his life as a first-class risk. Whatever may be said by Parliament, the public, I am persuaded, will look upon a Government bank such as this as more or less political in character. On the other hand, depositors doubtless will feel easy in their minds, as the Government guarantees them against possible loss. It is merchants and others, under advance to the bank, who will not at times like having a semi-political bank as their creditor. In the proposed Savings Bank Department, clause 48 appears to me to be absolutely unfair, and even dangerous. I read it thus -
Where a person fraudulently represents himself to be a depositor and presents the depositor’s pass book, and complies with the rules of the Bank and thereby obtains any money belonging to the depositor deposited with the Bank by way of Savings Bank deposit, the Bank shall not be responsible for the loss sustained.
Will its establishment not rather tend to irritate the State Governments by entering into competition with their Savings Banks? This is a matter requiring serious attention. Until friendly co-operation comes about, perhaps it would be well to postpone the Savings Bank Department.
– I would point out to the honorable senator that he is reading his speech, and that a standing order distinctly provides that no honorable senator shall read his speech.
– I am merely referring to notes which I have prepared. In these remarks I am actuated by a desire that the bank, like other banks, should be placed on a sound basis from an orthodox banking point of view. It will start with certain advantages, including keeping the Government accounts, but I imagine even our extreme so-called Nationalizers will discover before long that banking, like other occupations, has its own risks, difficulties, and dangers, and is not the plain, easy sailing so many good folks seem to imagine nor yet so profitable. I want the Commonwealth Bank to be a good, safe bank. But I shall reserve further remarks for the Committee stage of the Bill, and conclude with a well-worn apophthegm from Ben Jonson : -
No man is so foolish but may give another good counsel sometimes; and no man is so wise but may easily err if he will take no other counsel but his own.
– I trust that I shall be meeting the wish of the Government by moving the adjournment of the debate.
– I cannot accept such a motion from the honorable senator, since having before moved the adjournment of the debate he has waived his right to the first call of the Chair. Of course, he has a right to speak at any time during the debate.
Motion (by Lt.-Colonel Sir Albert Gould) proposed-
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 3 p.m.
Business of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I should like to know from the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether it is the intention of the Government to attempt to get through the business of the session this week ? Judging from the willingness of the Government to adjourn the debate on the Commonwealth Bank Bill, they do not seem to be very particular about when the session closes. We shall shortly have the Tariff before us, and some of us may be inclined to speak upon it at as great length as Senator Walker has spoken upon the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– The Government are, of course, anxious to close the session as early as possible, and every facility will be afforded to honorable senators to conclude the business this week if that can be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at11.3p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 December 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111213_senate_4_63/>.