5th Parliament · 2nd Session
It is anticipated that by September, 1914, the normal output will be reached, provided no unforeseen difficulties arise.
Fifteen thousand annually during the next four or five years.
It is considered the existing factory will be capable of supplying all requirements for some years to come.
– Some time ago Senator Ready desired that some papers relating to the seizure of thirty cases of butter from the Launceston and NorthEastern Co-operative Dairy Company, Launceston, be laid on the table of the Senate. The papers have been laid on the table of the Library, and I ask the honorable senator to read them there.
Motion (by Senator Long) agreed to -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate a return showing -
The value of all plant acquired by the Commonwealth while works were being carried out on the day-labour principle.
The value of all plant owned by the Commonwealth in the construction of the Trans-Australian Railway.
The value of plant not in use since the abolition of the day-labour principle by the present Government.
Motion (by Senator Mullan for Senator Maughan) agreed to -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate a return showing the full strength (with details as to armaments) of the British Naval complement (exclusive of Australian and New Zealand warships) now in commission in the Pacific.
Debate resumed from 15th April(vide page 25), on motion by Senator Oakes -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to : -
To His Excellency the Governor-General.
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– Such a long time has elapsed since we listened to the fervid eloquence of Senator Oakes, and the cautious and sage-like utterances of Senator Keating, that an individual like myself might be easily excused if the ring of their words had almost disappeared from his mind. Yet so fervid were some of the statements that I still hear them ringing in my ears. In paragraphs 1 and 2 of the opening speech the Governor-General is practically taking farewell of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and is about to depart from our midst, and the reasons given for his departure are those of ill-health and other private matters. I do not think we have any right to pry into the private matters that may have influenced His Excellency to, at such a period as this, go away from Australia to quieter regions than he might consider those of the Commonwealth at the present time. I am sure that every member of the Opposition is sincere in his regret that the climate or conditions of Australia should in any way impair the health of a gentleman whose stay here has been so agreeable to all the citizens of the Commonwealth. I am going to take what may be regarded as a rather irregular course. The custom is to deal with the opening speech paragraph by paragraph. But for reasons of my own, and perhaps also for the convenience of the other members of the Senate items 3 and 4 dealing with the test Bills that the Government are apparently making an attempt to force through both Houses of the Legislature may be left to a later stage of my remarks in connexion with this extraordinary Speech. Paragraph 5 contains a rather surprising statement from the GovernorGeneral as the mouth-piece of the Government to the effect that the report of the Premiers’ Conference will be laid before us. I suppose we are expected to infer that the Senate will receive from this document sufficient information to justify the meagreness of the policy which His Excellency’s Advisers have so far laid before us. During the election campaign, and subsequently through the press and in other ways, the Government have continually assured us that they were going to bring forward a very substantial policy when they had the opportunity. Yet here we have them bringing before us - what? The report of the Premiers’ Conference ! Where is that report? I have not yet received a copy of it, and cannot tell what it will contain. Seeing that the Government have proclaimed its existence by means of the Speech, and that the Senate has had an adjournment of considerable length, every honorable senator ought to have had a copy of it long ago. Even if we had it, what has it to do with the policy of the Government of the Commonwealth ofAustralia ? Have we reached a stage at which the Federal Government must go to an outside body for a policy to bring before Parliament - and not a constitutional body either? I have made similar statements to this on previous occasions, and have been criticised for making them, but though I have the greatest respect for every Premier and Government of the Australian States personally, I do not see where they come in, so far as the policy of the Federal Government is concerned. Yet paragraphs 5 to 11 of the Speech seem to refer to nothing but the Premiers’ Conference. We have had Premiers’ Conferences before, and we have had other Governments. We have had Prime Ministers actually sitting on the doorstep of the Premiers’ Conference waiting for a courteous hearing, but we have never been told before that we are to take our policy from any Premiers’ Conference that may sit in Australia. Paragraph 6 makes another extraordinary statement to .the effect that the Government have some idea of a policy with regard to the taking over of the State debts, and that the Prime Minister and Treasurer have conferred with the Premiers of the States on the matter. I can imagine the Treasurer and Prime Minister doing a thing of that description. The right honorable member for Swan years ago made the statement that he had often been compelled to eat dirt, an,d I imagine from this paragraph in the Speech that the right honorable gentleman, in company with the Prime Minister, is still prepared to eat dirt if necessary to retain office.
– He prefers to eat trust funds.
– I believe the members of the present Administration have been indifferent to almost everything. I can imagine the right honorable member grovelling before such an august body as the Premiers of Australia and other State Ministers when going before them with a statement, that he had prepared. I have had his statement carefully read to me, and expected to find something in it, but there was nothing in it. It practically says, “Here is what I have done. If it does not satisfy you, for the love of heaven tell me what will !” I can imagine the smile of derision on the faces of the Premiers when they saw the Federal Treasurer in such an abject position.
– I understand that he apologized for the first speech, and went back and delivered a second.
– Yes. He was prepared not only to apologize for his first statement, but to adopt any suggestion that the State Premiers or Treasurers might make, and then go back and prepare another statement himself. In fact the right honorable gentleman was prepared to do anything. It is degrading o not only to the Commonwealth Parliament, but to the people of Australia that their Ministerial representatives should be brought down to the position of having to kneel to the Premiers, Treasurers, and other Ministers of the States in connexion with the policy that they propose to introduce. The Commonwealth has not only been authorized, but has almost been directed by the Constitution to take over the State debts. It has also the alternative of taking over an equivalent or proportionate amount from each State, and we know that the Constitution has actually been amended to enable the Government to take over all the indebtedness of the States to date. Seeing that the Government have actually received that authority from the people direct it is their duty to take the debts over, no matter what the opinions of any State Government may be, although of course it will be all the better if it can be done with the full consent of the States themselves.
– What has the honorable senator been talking about for the last half hour ?
– I have been talking about the manner in which the Premiers of the States had been ap- ‘proached by the honorable senator’s colleagues. They did not go to the Conference as men who were taking the responsibilities of government on their own shoulders. They rather went as men pleading to the State Ministers to give them some assistance or ideas that they did not possess themselves. Even though they went to the Premiers’ Conference and discussed matters with State Ministers, they have not finished anything. There is no finality about the business. We are in exactly the same position as we have been in since the Act amending the Constitution in respect of the State debts was passed.
– They are going to have another meeting by-and-by to fix things up.
– They are going to meet the Treasurers to fix things up because they are so incapable themselves. Then I suppose they will meet the AttorneysGeneral, and when they have met them-
– They will meet their wives.
– Very probably, and will get as much wisdom perhaps from them. It is the duty of the Commonwealth to take over the State debts, and the Commonwealth Government should go about it in their own way. If there was any obligation on me to assist the Government to carry out this obvious duty I would give them my advice, but as they apparently prefer the opinions of the State Premiers and Treasurers to those of members of this Parliament, I will leave them “in their own soup,” to quote the elegant expression already used by some of them. * Nothing has really been done, nor is anything going to be done, concerning the State debts until a fresh Government comes into office, because it is notorious that this is a Government of no results. They have done nothing up to the present, and are not likely to do anything in the future. I make bold to say that the great majority of the electors of Australia hope they will go out of office without doing anything. They say they have not had time, or if they had time they say, “It is not opportune,” and so they keep deluding the people.
– As in the case of the cost of living.
– They do not trouble about that question.
– They made enough noise about it at the last elections.
– The people listened to them, and believed them on that occasion, but the longer they stay in office the less trust the people have in their promises. The right honorable the Treasurer and his colleagues also had a long consultation with the Premiers’ Conference on the subject of banking. If any member of the Senate, of the Government, or of the Premiers’ Conference looks carefully at paragraph xiii., of section 51 of the Constitution, he will find that under it the Commonwealth was to take over banking. The paragraph does not say general banking, or savings banking, but it covers -
Banking, other than State banking; also State banking extending beyond the limits of the State concerned, the incorporation of banks, and the issue of paper money.
It will be seen that State banking is exempt. There is a peculiar feature connected with State banking. I can remember that, when in the Federal Com.vention the question of banking wasraised, the only State in the Commonwealth that had a State bank was South Australia. That State then had a small State bank which was crippled, restricted, and confined as much as possible by the Conservative element in the South Australian Parliament of that time. It was a mere semblance of a State bank, and could only lend money to the producers of South Australia in certain proportions and under certain conditions. I admit that since then it has been liberalized ‘ to some extent, but even now it is so restricted that it is not of as much value to the people of the State as it was intended to be by those who were responsible for its establishment and who supported it. It only issues debentures and lends out the money so received at a little higher interest, than is paid for it. It was for the protection of that little State bank of South Australia that the words to which I have referred were inserted in paragraph xiii., of section 51 of the Constitution, and an exemption was made of State banking other than that extending beyond the limits of one State. But there is nothing in the paragraph restrictingthe operations of the Commonwealth in connexion with banking, savings, banks, or anything of the kind. If thepeople of Australia at the inauguration of Federation meant that the Commonwealth should take over and control banking, are we now to suppose that they meant only general or commercial banking, and that the Commonwealth was not to have anything to do with the savings of the people? Is that the opinion of the people now ? I do not believe it is. At the inauguration of Federation all the Savings Banks in the different States were not Government Savings Banks. Any one who knows the history of savings banking in Australia must know that it was only after the Commonwealth began to move in this direction that the Savings Bank in South Australia got the security of the Government of the State behind it. The same may be said of Tasmania, and we know that in New South Wales there were two savings bank institutions in operation there. It was only within the last few weeks that they were amalgamated into, one institution, and were guaranteed the security of the State. In the case of all the institutions in the different States there was competition, irregularity, and lack of a State guarantee. It was because the framers of the Constitution were aware of this that they inserted paragraph xiii. in section 51 of the Constitution. They were of opinion that it was better, in the interests of Australia, that the Commonwealth should control and direct the Savings Banks throughout Australia. When the Commonwealth Bank was established, we know the opposition that was displayed, not only to the general banking, but to the savings banking, and everything else in connexion with it. We know the names and reputation of those who were opposed to it. We know that those same gentlemen are to-day members of the present Government, or supporting that Government, and that they never had any sympathy with the general or savings bank branch of the Commonwealth Bank. One reason why the Commonwealth can more effectively control and manage the savings of the people is that we have taken over, in the Post and Telegraph Department, an institution which can materially assist in the conduct of this business. The Savings Banks in the different States were connected with the Postal Departments of those States, and when those Departments were taken over by the Commonwealth, it should naturally have followed, as the most economical and best thing to do. that, the Savings Bank branches should have been taken over at the same time. General banking and savings banking by the Commonwealth Bank had many opponents amongst the supporters of the Government, who did all they possibly could to defeat it. Not being able to do so in this Parliament, they went outside and influenced their friends in the State Parliaments to do as they did. That is why the Treasurer, the Prime Minister, and the Premiers of the different States, with their henchmen, are prepared now to do what should have been done long ago. If they had any sympathy with the best interests of the people, and loyalty to the Constitution, they would long ago have seen that the State Governments did their business through the general branch of the Commonwealth Bank. They have shown their opposition to the establishment of that institution by refraining from doing so.
– Excepting Tasmania, where a Labour Government do their banking with the Commonwealth Bank.
– There are Departments in some of the other States that are doing the same thing, but, as a general rule, and in some of the States particularly, they have shown direct hostility to the Commonwealth Bank. They now come along, however, and say, ‘ ‘ Mr. Treasurer, we object, and always have objected previously, to the Commonwealth Bank having anything to do with the savings of the people. If you will give up the Savings Bank business, we are prepared now to do what we should have done long ago, and will deposit our surplus cash in your bank, and make a great- institution of it.”
– Whilst the party opposite were attacking the State Governments in connexion with the Savings Bank business, they expected those Governments to assist them in connexion with the general banking branch of the Commonwealth Bank.
– We were not attacking them, but were carrying out the duty we were directed to discharge by the people of Australia.
– It was a direct attack upon the States’ Saving Banks.
– I have already stated that when the Commonwealth Bank was established, and the Commonwealth Savings Bank branch agreed upon, a number of the Savings Banks in the different States were not State institutions at all. Senator Millen knows that. I have given instances of it. It was only when the Commonwealth Government did their duty that those opposed to the Commonwealth taking over banking of any kind roused themselves. What did they do? In Victoria the State Government increased the interest paid by the State Savings Bank, and increased the salaries of the officers. Those officers and th© general public of the State have to thank the last Commonwealth Government, and not the State Government of Victoria, for anything they have gained in that “way.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - The State Government liberalized the institution in South Australia also.
– Of course they did, and they gave the Savings Bank there the guarantee of the State which it never had before. Previously that institution was an outside affair, and all the control the Government had in connexion with it was the appointment of a certain number of its directors. The people of South Australia had no Government guarantee for their deposits in that bank. The late Commonwealth Government did everything they possibly could to give the States a fair deal in this matter. At the very inauguration of the Commonwealth Bank the State Governments were offered, if they were prepared to come in and assist the Commonwealth and do their duty under the Constitution, the use of all the money they already had control of. They were offered 75 per cent, of all new business in each State, and were offered an equal call with the Commonwealth institution of the remaining 25 per cent. I have already mentioned that the Commonwealth Government, in taking over the Post and Telegraph Department of the different States, had the best facilities for _ the carrying on of the Savings Bank business which had previously been conducted in the post offices of the different States.
– If the Commonwealth Government could have taken over the Savings Bank business with the postoffices, why did they not do it?
– They did what the Constitution permitted them to do. They established a Savings Bank in connexion with the Commonwealth, but the Constitution did not give them the power to compel the State Governments to fall in with their proposal.
– And the competition of the Commonwealth Bank was not good enough to get the money.
– Who is it that is keeping up the competition ? It is the Governments of the States, although they know that the work can be carried out more economically by the Commonwealth than by any of the States.
– They admitted that at the conference.
– They could not help but admit it. Here we have six different institutions in the various States, with six boards of management. Those six institutions could be carried on with one head office in the Commonwealth. We have six boards of management spending money in erecting buildings and in other ways to carry on a business which could be more economically carried on by the one institution established by the Commonwealth. Every honorable senator knows that, and the Premiers themselves know it, but their jealousy of the greater powers of the Federation and their alliance with those who have been opposed to the conduct by the Commonwealth of both general and savings bank business makes it impossible for them to .see any good in the Commonwealth Bank. In summing up I say that it was the duty of the States to assist the Commonwealth by transacting all their business through the Commonwealth Bank, and it was in the interests of the people of the different States that they should have handed over to the Commonwealth - under conditions that we set down - the Savings Bank branches. Had they done that a saving would have been effected to the people, there would have been greater prosperity in Australia, and the Commonwealth Bank would have been a greater success than we can ever hope it will be under existing conditions. I am looking eagerly forward to the time when the people will wake up and realize what is best in their own interests - the time when they will condemn these State jealousies rather than commend them.
Here we have another instance of the Government going to the Premiers’ Conference
– It was nearly as bad as the Hobart Labour Conference.
– But there were intelligent men at the Hobart Labour Conference. They drafted a policy for Australia that is a national policy, not one of a parochial colour.
– Had they any authority to draft that policy ?
– They had every authority inasmuch as they had the people behind them. But the Treasurer and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth attended the Premiers’ Conference and said, “Well, gentlemen, we are in a quandary. We do not know what to do. There are several engineers and railway managers in Australia wrangling about what the uniform gauge ought to be. We have not the ability to decide the question, and we have not the courage to ratify what has already been done. What shall we do, what shall we do?” Do not honorable senators recollect that some years ago the battle of the gauges was fought in this Parliament?
– We did not deal with the most difficult aspect of it, namely, the financial aspect.
– The Opposition are prepared to deal with that. A statement was made in connexion with it some years ago. Honorable senators know that the battle of the gauges was fought here and that the Commonwealth is at present constructing 1,063 miles of railway on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. They also know that we have a guarantee from Western Australia that the State will build another 400 miles of railway on the same gauge. The Premiers’ Conference was not competent to deal with this matter. Its members said to the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, “ We can only accept your recommendation. What is it?” Thereupon the Treasurer replied, “Well, gentlemen, I think the best thing we can do is to refer it to the Inter-State Commission.” Neither the Government nor the State Premiers felt themselves competent to dealwith it.
– The Government are making the Inter-State Commission their lumber room.
-Yes. They are putting all their old rubbish there to be stored up. They have no idea of doing things at all. Their one idea is to push them on to “ father.” To my mind, the question of the railway gauge to be adopted by the Commonwealth was settled long ago, and I cannot understand this particularparagraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. When one looks at it, ono does not know whether it is the uniform gauge, or the financial aspect of the matter which is to bo referred to the Inter-State Commission. Then I would ask, “What qualifications have the InterState Commission for investigating the question of a uniform railway gauge?” With the exception of Mr. Swinburne, I do not know that any of the other members of that body possess engineering knowledge, and even his knowledge is of a limited character. Although the Commonwealth has decided to adopt a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, the Government are referring this question to a body of men who know very little about it. So far as this conversion of the different States lines to a uniform gauge are concerned, the Government ought to have a policy of their own. It should not be necessary for them to consult the Premiers’ Conference, or the Inter-State Commission, or even the Judges of the High Court. They ought to have a policy of their own, and they ought to come boldly forward with that policy. In paragraph 12 of the Governor-General’s Speech, we are informed that -
It is intended later in the year to bring forward proposals for meeting the financial issues which will then claim the serious attention of both Houses.
Everything is to be done later in the year.
– What the honorable senator is afraid of is that there will not be any “later in the year.”
– We are tired of listening to Ministers exclaiming, “ Wait, and you will see what we will do.” We have been waiting now for twelve months.
– They are like Micawber, waiting for something to turn up.
– The longer they can wait, the longer they will wait. I repeat that the Commonwealth has already a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge; and, in respect of the financial aspect of this question, I say that the late Government were always prepared to make a statement of their policy in that connexion. The ex-Treasurer has earned a financial reputation that will take him out of any difficulty, whereas the present Treasurer has earned a reputation that will lead him into every difficulty.
– What financial proposals did the late Government make for dealing with the gauge question ?
– No question of that description arose while the Fisher Government were in office. It arose only when the transcontinental railway was in course of construction. The present Ministry will find that the Opposition always have a policy, and are always prepared to support that policy. They do not rush to an outside body for assistance in connexion with it.
– What is the honorable senator’s policy in regard to the financial aspect of the gauge question ?
– Does the Minister of Defence want to borrow it? That is what his party have done many times previously. I would be afraid to trust them with a threepenny bit.
– It would be a counterfeit if the honorable senator did.
– It would probably have a hole in it, so that the Minister would never do anything with it beyond hanging it on his watch-chain. Then we are told that the Government intend to do great things in connexion with our navigable rivers - the Murray and the Darling. They had not a policy even on that matter, financial or otherwise, but they exclaimed, “ For God’s sake, let us get out of the difficulty. Let us pass this question on.” So they passed it on to the Inter-State Commission, which has more work before it than it will be able to do in a thousand years-
– Can the honorable senator show me any authority for his statement that that matter has been referred to any body?
– It has been referred to the Inter-State Commission.
– Where does the honorable senator find that information?
– In the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
– The honorable senator is absolutely wrong. That document contains a definite statement that a Bill will be introduced into this Parliament for the purpose of dealing with the matter.
– And it will be introduced on the recommendation of the Inter-State Commission. The Government cannot adopt any other course. Everything else has been referred to that body. The Inter-State Commission is to carry on the government of Australia. Then the Government also approached the Premiers’ Conference on the question of immigration. They went there and said, “ There is a great outcry in the press in regard to immigration, and the Labour fellows are complaining that we are flooding the country with immigrants. What are we to do ? Can we do in co-operation with the States anything which will relieve the Commonwealth Executive of blame? Do, for God’s sake, tell us, so that we may get out of all our difficulties.” Then they made certain suggestions with a view to the selection of suitable immigrants. They are going to get suitable immigrants to come out here, and the Commonwealth is to assist to bear the expense. It is a very peculiar thing that immigrants are corning out. They are being brought out by the States.
– The immigration is slackening off now that there is a Liberal Government in power.
– Yes. Under the Fisher Government there was no necessity for this fuss about immigration. Immigrants came here then as fast as they possibly could, because they knew that there was in power a Government who would do them justice if they got into any difficulties.
– They could not get vessels to carry out the immigrants.
– No, but now the immigration is beginning to slacken off. There is a Government in the Commonwealth, and there are Governments in many of the States, that take very little interest in the people when they come here. They have been unable to get able-bodied men and women to come, and now they are bringing out boys and youths. Any one going about the streets of Melbourne this morning could see batches of these immigrants. Although I can see very badly, I saw about five youths in one group, seven in another, and three or four in another. I saw batches of young immigrants walking about the streets of this city with haggard faces, wondering where they were going to get employment. These were youths in point of years, but men in point of physical ability. It is the same old story: “We will bring boys and youths out here, every one of them being able to do a man’s work. We will give a boy or a youth 10s. a week, and as soon as he becomes a man he will get the sack, and we will get more out.” Is that the kind of policy which the present Government, in conjunction with the Premiers’ Conference, are prepared to advocate for Australia? The immigration policy of the Labour party is to make the Australian conditions so satisfactory that men here will write to their friends in the older land, and say to them, “Come out here, where you can get a better living than at home.” That is the immigration policy which we think is justifiable, so far as Australia is concerned. But what a miserable thing it is to bring out boys able to do a man’s work, to give them a boy’s wage, and when they want a man’s wage to get out more boys ! I ask the Minister if that is their immigration policy, and if it is then I am ashamed of the Government, the Premiers’ Conference, and the whole lot of them.
In the opening Speech there is a paragraph in reference to combines. I do not know whether the matter was considered at the Premiers’ Conference or not, but it looks as though it was. We are told that legislation is to be introduced to control combines. For the last five or sis. years our opponents have been declaring that there was nothing of the kind in this country. If that is so, what is the use of their introducing legislation to control combines ?
– The AttorneyGeneral admitted years ago that there were combines.
– Yes; the Attorney General is a sensible man, only his astuteness is smothered up by the stupidity of other men. We find that even the present Government are prepared to rush legislation in connexion with trusts and combines. Even the newspaper that supports them is to-day declaring that in Australia there is a dangerous trust or combine, although in a contemporary yesterday there was an article written by an ex-member of the Senate declaring that it was a mere Labour party cry. I want to know what the opinion of the Government is. Do they believe in what was stated long ago by Mr. W. H. Irvine and Mr. Glynn? Do they believe in what Was stated yesterday in the Argus by exSenator Chataway, or do they believe in what was stated in the Age? Do they believe that there is a combine in Australia, and that the same description of combine has fleeced, not only the consumer, but the producer in the United States and other States on the American continent? The combine has carried on the same practices there, and if they get an opportunity they can do so here. I Want to know the policy of the Government. A Bill is to be introduced.
– Later in the year.
– I thought it was to be introduced immediately. But no matter when it is to be introduced the Leader of the Government here ought to have an idea of what it is to do. Is it to be an amendment of the Commerce Act or an amendment of the Australian Industries Preservation Act? What is it going to be?
– I rise to order, sir. In view of a ruling which has been given in another place I wish to ask you, for future guidance in debate, if Senator McGregor is in order on this motion in dealing with the question of trusts and combines when that question is the subject of an Order of the Day on the noticepaper. I desire to know whether we are to have a free and unfettered debate, to discuss general questions, or to deal with questions which are not specifically mentioned in Orders of the Day or notices of motion.
– I did not understand that Senator McGregor was referring to, or even anticipating the discussion of, the proposals dealing with combines and trusts which are already on the notice-paper. A glance at the noticepaper will satisfy anybody that the proposals deal with an amendment of the Constitution, and not with any legislation which might be passed under the Constitution as it now exists. But even if it could be held that the honorable senator was anticipating the discussion on the proposals I would not rule him out of order, because it is one of the bestknown practices of Parliament that the debate on the Address-in-Reply gives to every honorable senator an opportunity in his speech to range over any legislative and administrative matters which may be properly considered in Parliament at all.
– Matters relevant.
– Relevant or irrelevant, so long as they are concerned with the matter of government either on its legislative or its administrative side. And as the AddressinReply always takes precedence of every other question, nothing else on the noticepaper can deprive any honorable senator from utilizing his right in speaking on any subject which comes within the purview of a debate ou the AddressinReply. However, on this matter there need be no doubt, because our Standing Orders sufficiently provide for such a contingency. Standing order 408 says that the debate must be confined to the present question, while standing order 414 reads: -
No senator shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion ; nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the notice-paper.
Provided that this standing order shall not prevent discussion on the Address-in-Reply of any matter, and provided, further, that if a period of four weeks shall have elapsed since any notice of motion or Order of the Day was first placed on the notice-paper, and no debate thereon shall have been initiated, the rule as to anticipating discussion shall have no effect in relation to such motion or order.
Tb.e-p.art of that standing order which at present applies is that which distinctly provides that no standing order preventing honorable senators from anticipating a discussion shall have any force or application to an honorable senator speaking to the Address-in-Reply. Therefore I rule that Senator McGregor is perfectly in order.
– I am sure, sir, that your ruling will be assented to by every member of the Senate; it has been the practice in the past, and I believe it to be a common-sense rule. I was discussing paragraph 11 in the Governor-General’s Speech which relates to combines, and asking the members of the Government to say whether their proposed legislation is to take the form of an amendment of the Commerce Act or an amendment of the Australian Industries Preservation Act; in fact, to tell us what form it is likely to take. Since the inception of this Parliament the members of the Labour party have always supported legislation of this description. They have always supported a Government who were prepared to bring in legislation for the protection of the people of Australia. But at the same time they declared that such legislation was no remedy for the evil of trusts or combines, and that the only effective way of dealing with them when they became destructive was by nationalization. The States have the power to carry that out, whereas the Commonwealth has not. The members of the present Government go to the State Conference and say, “Are you able to do it?” and the members of the Conference answer, “ No. Even if we are, we have not the inclination. It is a matter to be dealt with by the Commonwealth Parliament.” Consequently the Government are thrown on their own resources at once. A great deal of misrepresentation has been indulged in as regards the members of the Opposition. It has been stated repeatedly that we are opposed to every kind of combination or trust or amalgamation of business. We are opposed to them when they become injurious to the people of the Commonwealth, but not until then, and then we are prepared to deal with them, and always have been, if we can get the power. You, sir, know that the members of this party have always declared that the great American trusts, the great British trust, the great trusts of every description which have become destructive in the countries where they operate are the forerunners of the very policy of the Labour party, and that is to bring under Government control large industries that are likely to be made monopolies either by individuals or by trusts or monopolies. That has always been our policy. We have never declared that every trust or combine is a menace to, or will rob, the people.
– That is why you are so good to the Tobacco Trust.
– I thought the honorable senator would mention that question. He is always “ in the smoke.” The Tobacco Trust has received no more consideration, so far as its destructive character is concerned, than has any other trust in Australia. No trust that becomes a menace to the best interests of the community will receive any quarter from this party.
– Your party said it was a menace to the people prior to 1910.
– Do we say now that it is not?
– During your three years of office you said nothing about it. That is the whole trouble.
– The honorable senator knows that when we were in office we had not the power.
– Not even to inquire?
– An inquiry was made long ago and a case established. The honorable senator is so young in politics that he might be regarded as ohe of the “Babes in the Wood.” He knows that a Commission sat, and that members of this party were on that Commission. He knows what evidence was taken and what has been done up to the present, but he also knows that we had no power to deal effectively with the trust at that time. Thirteen years ago the Tobacco Trust was in course of formation and was treating its employes scandalously. A Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the matter, and immediately the Commonwealth obtained control of Customs and Excise, the Tobacco Monopoly began to wake up. It built commodious and convenient places for its employes and gave them the very best wages. By so doing it silenced one section of the community. Its employes are not calling . out now because they are well treated.
– ls that the reason why you do not touch the trust?
– No; it is the reason why the employes in that industry are not making the same noise that they did twelve or thirteen years ago.
– Nor are they making a noise in the sugar industry.
– I have been in Queensland later than the honorable senator has, and know more about that subject than he does. It would be better for him to stick to tobacco.
– I wish you would be as silent on this motion as you have been on the question of the Tobacco Trust of late years.
– When did we ever have the opportunity of doing anything? I am stating the case as it actually is. Although the Tobacco Monopoly may be charging the honorable senator more for his smoke than it ought to, still it is paying its employes decent wages, employing them fairly constantly, and giving them good conditions. Consequently they are not making a noise. It is for the general public, who are suffering from the monopoly, to kick up a row. Even if they did the honorable senator would not help them, but we would. However, it does not matter what the honorable senator does. These reforms will come as surely as the seasons, in spite of the Government and its supporters. The only effective way of dealing with a monopoly, trust, or combine that is dangerous to the people is for the Government to take it over and work it in the interests of the whole community.
I see we have now got away from the Premiers’ Conference in the Speech, because I come now to a reference to the Tariff, which has been referred to the Inter-State Commission. Apparently when the Government have not got the Premiers’ Conference to help them, they fall back on the Inter-State Commission. That body will do everything, and the Premiers’ Conference will do the rest. Those two bodies are the rearguard and vanguard of the Commonwealth Government. I see by this paragraph with regard to the Tariff, chat the Government hope that something will be done. They are always hoping. The Conservative party have always been hoping for the last fifty years that things will remain as they are. That is their condition at the present time, and their hope for the future.
– It is wonderful how they get there.
– It is very difficult to get rid of weeds that have been established for generations. They have been declared by different Parliaments to be noxious, but they still grow up in quiet corners where the hoe and the scarifier cannot reach them. The Tariff then is to be considered by the Inter-State Commission, and it is hoped that something will be evolved to the advantage of the Government. There is a great deal more to that effect, but nothing real or tangible. There is no indication that in the near future the Government will do anything to protect Australian industries against unfair competition from other parts of the world.
– The Government cannot do less than you did in your three years.
– The honorable senator does not know what we did. He should take some little time from his continual pleasures to read Hansard. If he does so, he will find that we passed some very substantial measures during our three years of office, and were prepared to do a great deal more. I shall say nothing on the question of defence, preferring to leave it to an ex-colleague of mine who knows a great deal more about the subject than I do.
– Or than any other man in the Commonwealth.
– I did not like to say that, for fear of offending somebody. I will merely put it that the honorable senator knows more about the subject than I do, and that ought to satisfy all my confreres, because I know a little about everything, and not much about anything. The Government propose to bring forward great schemes in regard to the Northern Territory - a subject which they cannot refer to the Inter-State Commission. They say they have completed the survey from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. Why, it was the last Government that passed the Act for that purpose, and put the work under way. The present Government have only carried on our policy. The most important step that they appear to have taken in connexion with the .Northern Territory is the discharge of certain officers appointed by us. There is no partiality or preference about the present Government towards anybody to whom the last Government gave a show. If they want, officers, they want them to be of the right colour, the right kidney, and the right opinion; and, consequently, they are prepared to cast off any officer whom they did not appoint themselves, or who, by any stretch pf imagination, may be thought to hold opinions which do not exactly coincide with their own. That is what they have done in the Northern Territory; and yet they talk about favoritism. There has also been a kind of survey of a line from Oodnadatta to the Katherine, and to the Queensland border. We are also told that something is to he done in the way of carrying out the recommendations of the Commission appointed by the last Government to inquire into Northern Territory matters; but as, apparently, the Government have no legislative measures to bring before Parliament in connexion with the Territory, we must, I suppose, let the subject pass for the present. I come now to the subject of the transcontinental railway, which, we are told, is progressing. It is progressing because it got a good start. It was started on right lines by our Government; but now matters are becoming confused. When the present Government and their supporters were before the country, they were viciously opposed to anything in the shape of day labour. It was the policy of the late Government to carry on all their work by day labour, if possible, although, incidentally, they had to let contracts, as must always be the case. The present Government, however, told the people that the day-labour system was a most extravagant way of doing work. They said, “ “We do not believe in day labour. We would rather be robbed by the contractor than by the working man. The contractor is able to get more work out of the worker than we can, and, consequently, the work can be done cheaper.” They have already made a commencement in that direction by letting a contract at the Port Augusta end of the transcontinental line to Mr. Teesdale
Smith. I am sure that no one on this side of the chamber has any animosity towards that gentleman. He is a contractor, and, like all the other contractors that I have ever known, he is prepared to take advantage of any individual or Government when the opportunity occurs. That has always been the creed of the contractor. I have not risen this afternoon to blame the officers of the Commonwealth Railway Department for anything that has been done regarding the transcontinental railway. I am here to condemn the Government for shielding themselves behind their officers, and endeavouring to make the people believe that they were Simon Pures led into difficulties without their knowledge. It is the duty of every member of a Government to be on his guard to act in the best interests of the people. There are peculiarities in connexion with this matter. Members of Parliament and the public have heard a great deal about it. I do not intend to go into all the details. I am going to confine myself to the peculiarities which are always the most interesting feature of any- matter. In the correspondence presented to Parliament it is stated that Mr. Deane said that he had sent experienced men over to South Australia to examine the works and, presumably, to take contracts. “ Experienced men.” According to the information that was furnished to Mr. Fisher - and I was there at the time - the only person sent over there was a man who, in a telegram from Captain Saunders to the Government, was called “ Fauldingham.” I am dealing with the peculiarities of this matter, and I say there was no such man ever sent to South Australia as a Mr. Fauldingham. 1 do not know whether there was a mistake made by a telegraph operator or anybody else, but as soon as I heard the name “Fauldingham “ I said, “ There is something fishy about this.” I know most of those connected with railway construction, and I know of no’ one in the business named Fauldingham. But I did know a contractor in Melbourne at one time named Falkingham, and I knew that he had a number of sons. I knew also that statements had been made in another place respecting the capacity, ability, honesty, and decency of a certain engineer, and that one of the sons of the late Mr. Falkingham wrote to that engineer for a job.
The engineer knew him too well, and refused to give him the job. It appears to me very peculiar that the individual who gave condemnatory evidence concerning that engineer before Mr. Justice Hodges, and who applied for a job and was refused employment, should be the only individual sent over by the authority of the present Government to South Australia to look at the works. One of the Falkinghanna was sent over there. I am not usually suspicious, but it looks peculiar and as if there was a conspiracy somewhere, and that those connected with the conspiracy were the Government, Mr. Deane, and Falkingham. I think that an explanation of some kind should be given of this peculiarity. I know that Senators Gardiner and Rae have been over in South Australia, and have seen the country where this contract has been let. I have been there myself. I was over this country fifteen or sixteen years ago, and I am satisfied that Senators Gardiner and Rae will agree with me when I say that rising on that tableland the character of the country is such that there are only a few boulders on the top of the soil, none of which you could not kick out with your foot. A peculiarity of this contract is that in country like that the contractor is to receive 4s. 6d. a yard for cuttings, a.nd when he deposits the spoil l-J- chains from the mouth of a cutting he is to get an additional 2s. 6d. a yard, or 7s. a yard in all. I have worked on various railways, and probably there are other members of the Senate who have done the same. I have seen cuttings of this description carried out. There is no man who has had any experience of construction work on a railway who would not be prepared to do that work for two-thirds of the money that Mr. Teesdale Smith is getting for it.
– It could be done with machinery for one-half the money.
– I am not saying what it could be done for with machinery. I can give honorable senators who do not know this kind of work the. prices paid to men for similar work. After all, it is only ordinary muck shifting. So far as side drains are concerned, they are usually 4 ft. 6 in. wide at the top, 18 inches deep, and 1 foot wide at. the bottom. I have carried out miles of this work myself at 4s. 6d. a chain, when the spoil was just thrown out, and 6s. a chain where it was wheeled into a bank formation. There are 9 yards and 1 foot in each chain, and that price represents 6d. per yard for throwing the stuff out, and 8d. a yard for wheeling it into the formation.
– It is a poor compliment to their leader that there should be only five or six members of the party opposite in the chamber to listen to him.
– That need not trouble the honorable senator.
– Where is the honorable senator’s party ? - [Quorum formed.’] I have no hesitation in saying that there is no place where an embankment has to be made by side cutting where the work is not let on piece-work, and the men who do the work do not get more than lOd. to 10½d. a yard for it. Yet here we have the Government paying 7s. a yard for some of these embankments. That will give the public some idea of the preference which the present Government are prepared to give to some people. I am sure they would never be willing to give any unionist in Australia so soft a thing as they have given to one of their own kidney at the present time.
– What are they giving Timms for the big tank he is sinking ?
– They are only giving Timms, for the much more difficult work of sinking a tank, 2s. 7d. a yard, and he considers it a very good price. I wish now to refer to a statement appearing in the newspapers as coming from the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs. He said he got a statement from Mr. Bell, the Engineer-in-Chief of Commonwealth” Railways, showing that, in Queensland, bridges, side drains, and side cuttings are always carried out by piecework. The Minister assumed from that that the day-labour principle was not adopted in connexion with such work. I have worked under contractors, and on the day-labour principle. I have worked for Chapman, for Fry Brothers, contractors, and others. I have done side cuttings, side drains, and such work for the prices I have mentioned. I worked for the South Australian Government on the railway from Hergott to Oodnadatta, and I carried out contracts, sub-contracts, piece-work, or whatever honorable senators choose to call it, on that day-labour job. I desire that honorable senators who do not understand work of that kind should have some idea of what it really is. The work of constructing side drains can be done very rapidly, and only a man or two are required for a mile of such work. It is not necessary to employ a ganger, either on a day-labour job, or a contract job, to look over men who are doing that kind of work. In carrying out such works, day labour is the most advantageous method to adopt, whether for the contractor, the Government, or the men employed. So that there is really nothing in the statement drawn from Mr. Bell by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, I could say a great deal more in connexion with the peculiarities of the contract that has been let by the present Government, but I have no desire to unduly occupy the time of honorable senators.
I said that I would leave till the last what appears to me to be the most debatable portion of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. That is contained in paragraphs 3 and 4, referring to the test Bills. I have not very much to say, even upon them, although a good deal may be heard about them before this debate is concluded. I should like to say that, whoever has been the chief adviser of tlie Government in carrying out, attempting to carry out, or pretending to carry out a policy of this description, fie has not been their best friend, or the best friend of the people of Australia. I am not going into the merits or demerits of preference to unionists. I have plenty of material to enable me to do so, but that is not my present intention. I intend to speak only of these Bills as test Bills They are measures of less consequence to the people of Australia than would be the simplest piece of legislation that could be introduced by any Government.
– They are about on a par with the new postage stamp.
–Even the new postage stamp is of more importance than are these two measures. Yet those measures are to be used for the purpose of wasting the time of this Parliament for years. Let us suppose that the same rate befalls them in this Chamber as befell them on a previous occasion. Let us further suppose that the GovernorGeneral is appealed to, and that he grants a double dissolution. What will happen ? Parliament will have to meet again, and those Bills will again have to be passed, by the other Chamber; they will then be transmitted to the Senate, whence, after they have been dealt with, they will be returned to the House of Representatives. If the disagreement continues, the GovernorGeneral may then cause members of the two branches of the Parliament to sit together, and the debate upon the Bills may proceed for an indefinite period before a vote is taken upon them. So that the best interests of the Commonwealth are to be sacrificed for a party issue of this description. If any GovernorGeneral were so oblivious to the welfare of the people of this country as to countenance the wasting of two or three years of the time of this Parliament in wrangling over a party matter of that description my opinion of him would be of a very indifferent character. But no matter what may happen, honorable senators upon this side of the chamber are prepared for any contingency. They always have been. An appeal to the people has no terrors for them. But I warn the Government of the delay that is bound to follow the adoption of the policy which they have put before the people of Australia.
– I candidly admit that I am rising at this period of the debate out of compliment to my honorable friend who has just resumed his seat, and in conformity with the practice which requires that the representative of the Government should follow the Leader of the Opposition. I should have preferred - bearing in mind the peculiar composition of this Chamber - that it had been open to me to take part in this debate when it had developed a little more fully.
– We ought to give the Minister a second innings.
– It is not often that I find profound wisdom in a suggestion by Senator Rae, but I do on this occasion.
– Could not the Minister have put up one of his colleagues 1
– No. I have already pointed out that I have risen out of compliment to the honorable senator himself, and because I regard it as due to his p’osition. But honorable senators will recognise that, placed as I am, it would have been more to my advantage if I had been free to speak after others had spoken. All I can do under the circumstances is to make the best of a very bad job-
– The Minister will have a very full hand if he replies to the attack of the Leader of the Opposition.
– All I can do is to make the best of a very bad job, the bad job being that honesty compels me to say that, regarded as an attack, or a criticism of the Government, the speech of the Leader of the Opposition has not furnished me with that material that I expected at his hands. In the first place, I thought that some reference would have been made ‘to the administration of the Government during the recess. That is quite usual when a Parliament reassembles after a holiday.
– The Minister of Defence did not wish me to refer to the postage stamp ?
– No. My honorable friend referred to enough trivial matters. I thought that he would have referred to some big ones.
– I could not find any.
– I intend to mention a few. Before doing so, however, I am obliged to refer to some matters which, though interesting in themselves, are not of major importance at the present time. We all know that Senator McGregor has a reputation as a humorist to maintain, and I am disposed to think that he was intent upon maintaining that reputation this afternoon when he reminded his friends and opponents alike that his gift in this direction is just as strong as ever it was.
– The honorable gentleman did not wish me to cry about nothing.
– I did not desire the honorable senator either to cry or laugh. In the first place, the Leader of the Opposition cast some reflection on the sincerity of the Government in their desire to remit big national issues to the nation itself. He seemed to suggest that we were not desirous of terminating the present position by an appeal to the people. Having impugned the sincerity of our professed desire to place matters in the hands of the electors, he went on to refer to the scanty programme which had been submitted for this session. He laughed it to scorn, and said that we had nothing to put forward. Did it not occur to the honorable senator that, as we are desirous of getting to the people at as early a date as possible, it would not have been sincere on our part if we had come down here with an elongated programme of work for the current session. The reason that the programme is scanty is because we do not propose to invite this Parliament to undertake a lengthy programme of business until the electors have had an opportunity of speaking.
– Then why did not the Government bring down the two test Bills only?
– One of the offences charged against the Government is that our programme is scanty. Now Senator Rae declares that it is not scanty enough.
– According to the Minister’s own argument.
– The Government take the view that the only matters they are entitled to ask. Parliament to consider in the circumstances are those which are surrounded by such conditions as will compel immediate attention.
– The same argument applied to the Speech of the GovernorGeneral last session.
– How could it apply to the Speech of the GovernorGeneral last session, seeing that that Speech was a long document containing many proposals with which we invited Parliament to deal ? It soon became manifest, however, that, no matter what measures were brought forward, this Chamber would not allow us to pass them. Not only by its acts, but by the words of honorable senators, this branch of the Legislature clearly indicated that the particular measures which formed the policy of the Government would not be allowed to go through.
– Then every time that a Government introduces legislation of which this Chamber does not approve, there must be a double dissolution ?
– The honorable senator is quite mistaken. But perhaps he will allow me to deal with the test Bills in my own way. I propose to leave them till the last. I come now to the next matter to which Senator McGregor referred, namely, the Premiers’ Conference. It seems to me that he either misunderstood the nature of that Conference, or that he wished us to take up a blustering, brow-beating attitude towards the Premiers of the States. He said that it was degrading that the Commonwealth Government should have gone to the Premiers’ Conference for a policy. There was absolutely no justification for such a statement. I challenge anybody to show, from anything which happened at that Conference, that the Government have drawn any inspiration from that body so far as their policy is concerned.
– Everything proves it. The Government got both their inspiration and their facts from it.
– We will see. I do not wish to speak harshly to my honorable friend, the Leader of the Opposition, but he cannot have given this matter serious consideration, otherwise he would not have made the statement which he did. The only matters which were discussed at that Conference were matters concerning which this Government had a policy. The purpose of the Conference, so far as Commonwealth Ministers were concerned, was to ascertain whether it was possible to carry out the working details necessary to give effect to that policy.
– The Government have not revealed that policy yet.
– I am now dealing with the matters which were dealt with at the Premiers’ Conference. I say that the Governor-General’s Speech gives a clear indication of the policy of the Government in regard to the matters which were discussed at that Conference. Some honorable senators speak as if the Premiers’ Conference had no right to meet. That these gentlemen, the representatives of the people of the different States, should confer together, and should also consult Ministers of the Commonwealth on matters in which State and Federal interests meet, and sometimes overlap, is, in their eyes, a grievous wrong. For instance, the Leader of the Opposition spoke of a uniform railway gauge. Can anybody say it is wrong that the State and Commonwealth Governments should confer upon that matter? He affirmed that the Ministry had no policy in regard to the gauge question, and he wanted us to take up a browbeating, blustering, bullying attitude towards the Premiers. He declared that the late Government had adopted the 4-ft. 8-i-in. gauge. That is perfectly true; but I would ask, “ How much further are we towards securing a uniform gauge because of anything that they did?” As the re sult of some information which they obtained, they decided that a 4-ft. 8-^-in. gauge was a desirable one for Australia.
– Was not that the outcome of a conference of railway experts?
– Yes; and they had no more justification for meeting and for making recommendations than had the State Premiers. The late Government decided to adopt the 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge on the transcontinental railway line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. But how has that decision helped towards the unifying of the railway gauges throughout Australia? We can pass here to-day, and in the other branch of the Legislature to-morrow, a resolution declaring that we will have a uniform railway gauge of 4 ft. % in.” for the railways of Australia; but it will not help the matter forward by a single inch.
– There “is one way in which the Commonwealth can do it.
– There is only one way in which the thing can be brought about, and that is by the Commonwealth and the States acting in co-operation. In the Constitution there is no power given to the Commonwealth to take over the State railways.
– We could amend the Constitution.
– My honorable friend says that we could amend the Constitution and empower the Commonwealth to take over the railways of the States. Well, put that proposition to the people first.
– I am dealing with the Constitution as it is.
– And as the Constitution is now, the thing could be done under the defence power for strategical purposes.
– The honorable senator must not believe that by merely affirming that a thing is necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth it can be done. I venture to say that if the Commonwealth attempted to take over the railways of the States - and first of all it is not even entitled to take them over-
– To secure a uniform gauge ?
– No. The power in section 51 reads -
The control of railways with respect to transport for the Naval and Military purposes of the Commonwealth.
We could not proceed under that power to make the lines of a uniform gauge.
– You are quite right, and that is a valuable argument, inasmuch as it knocks out all your argument in regard to the referendum.
– Here is a sample of the argumentative methods of my honorable friend. He is satisfied that on the railway matter I am perfectly sound, which, of course, disposes of Senator McGregor, Senator Rae, and other honorable friends opposite, but he still thinks that he has caught me in some other direction. Just at present 1 do not wish to enter into a constitutional argument with my honorable friend. I prefer to stick to this railway matter wherein he rightly admits that I have fairly got Senators McGregor and Rao in a cleft stick with regard to the want of courage in determining a policy.
– Not at all.
– You can determine your policy and say what you want to do, but you cannot do it without the co-operation of the States.
– You do neither one thing nor the other.
– Do you think there would be any objection on the part of the States if the Commonwealth found the money ?
– There would be a very strong objection to the unifying of the gauges. Take the railway gauge of my own State. You propose to alter that gauge, which will take a considerable time. There will be a very strong objection on the part of people living on spur lines to the change of gauge that will be necessary until you have altered the whole system of the State. There are more than financial difficulties to be faced. There is, first of all, a tremendous engineering undertaking as to how to bring about the change with as little” inconvenience as possible to the people concerned. Then comes the financial problem. You can adopt a gauge. Senator McGregor says that his bold, daring Government did adopt a gauge. They did, but they did not say anything about how they were going to get that gauge established. There are big financial problems, not to be met by the mere easy suggestion that the Commonwealth should find the whole of the money.’ Now, it would not be fair if the Commonwealth did that. If it were to turn round and take the financial responsibility of altering the lines in New South Wales to another gauge, the effect of , that would be obvious.
– The Commonwealth never suggested anything so foolish.
– No; but Senator O’Keefe did, when he asked me a question just now.
– No, I did not. T asked if there would be any objection on the part of the States if the Commonwealth found the money.
– There would be a very strong objection on my part to the Commonwealth finding the whole of the money. It is a question as to how much the Commonwealth shall find, and how much we can reasonably ask the States to find, and in what proportions the States shall contribute. These are all problems which have to be threshed out somewhere.
– Still, it will be the same people who will find the money.
– I venture to say that these same people do not #view the matter in that light when you call upon them to find the money, not necessarily on a population basis, but on some other footing.
– A State whose gauge is not altered should certainly pay something towards the cost of altering the gauges elsewhere.
– If there is, as Senator Rae admits, a financial problem which concerns both the States and the Commonwealth, what possible harm is there in consulting the States ? Not only is there no harm in that proceeding, but it becomes absolutely essential that those who represent the States shall get face to face in conference to thresh out the thing. The more one looks into this matter, the more, if he wishes to get at the truth, he discovers that it is a manysided problem. It is not to be disposed of by mere accusations of want of courage, by mere denunciations of the holding of a conference, or by anything of that kind. It is only going to be solved first of all by a very close business and professional examination of the points in issue, and by bringing together, to some harmonious conclusion, the various interests which are represented by, at any rate, five of the States on one side, and the Commonwealth on the other. There never will be, in my judgment, a unifying of the railway gauges of Australia until it is brought about as the result of the joint effort and the co-operation of these two forces.
– No one objects to a conference with the States.
– Senator McGregor took an hour in denouncing the fact that the present Government had gone to a Premiers’ Conference to discuss the question of unifying the gauges.
– For . going there without a policy.
– -The only policy we can put forward is to say, “ We believe that the thing ought to be done. We are quite prepared to discuss the views, the terms, and conditions on which it shall be done, and the share of the responsibility which will be borne by each party, and to meet you in every possible way we can.” That is a business-like attitude for a Government to take up. The first question was to find whether the States were willing to join us in doing the thing. It is of no good to go to a conference and say, “Here we have a cut-and -dried thing; we propose to tear up the gauge in Victoria and put down a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge.” It is of no good to say to New South Wales, “We are going to destroy your railway system, and to put another gauge down.” All that we can say to a conference is, “We believe that the time has come when we should take in hand the question of bringing about a uniform gauge for the railways of Australia. Having met together, and there being a general recognition of the advisability of having a uniform gauge, the next question to be considered is, are we to determine and thresh out the various points of conflicting interests?” What the Government did recently was just what any other body of sensible men would have done.
– The advisability of having a uniform gauge in Australia was conceded twenty-five years ago.
– The principle was conceded, but the late Fisher Government never moved a hand to bring it about.
– They were too’ busy with other matters.
– That is an admission that my statement is correct, that they did not do anything in this matter.
– We went on with the east-west railway.
– That did not unify a single yard of railway between Melbourne and Sydney. What my honorable friends did was to adopt a gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in., and to talk about it. The only practical step which has been taken by a Government is the very one which they are disposed to denounce here. If nothing else had been considered by the Premiers’ Conference, that question alone would have justified the upholding of it, because it was one of the matters which it was highly essential should be discussed. It brought the States to an agreement - one which they had never joined in before - as to the desirability of unifying the gauges.. There has never been any agreement on the matter except that sort of doctrinaire agreement which my honorable friends and I have joined in ou the platform. We now have an official agreement entered into by the properly constituted spokesmen of the several States, joining with the Commonwealth Government, and saying, “This is desirable; we accept it as a desirable principle, and we will now set to work to thresh out the problems, so as to ascertain exactly what is the next step to take.”
– The Premiers’ Conference cannot bind the State Parliaments.
– No, no more than the present Government can bind this or any other Parliament. Of course you cannot bind Parliament. Let me now take another matter .to which Senator McGregor referred, and respecting which he seemed to think that we were so absolutely wrong in conferring with the States. I refer to the question of the rivers.
– I never said that you were wrong. I refer to the measly way in which you went about the business.
– I do not quite know what my honorable friend said. He denounced the holding of the Premiers’ Conference as absolutely unconstitutional. He denounced us for going near the Pre.miers. Now there are certain matters with which you have to confer with the. States, unless you are prepared to ask the people of Australia to give you full power by an alteration of the Constitution to wipe the States out of existence. With regard to the rivers, it is of no use to talk about what you would or ought to do, because you have no power to act, nor can you, from your constitutional power, do what is desired unless you have the co-operation of the States as well as for financial reasons, and because they are the owners of the land.
– Did not the States agree in 1908 to a settlement of the river question, and then break away from it?
– Suppose that they did?
– Then you are no nearer to a settlement to-day.
– An agreement was made I are told, and was broken, therefore we should not bother to make any other agreement in future. In other words, we are told, “ Sit down. South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales have been quarrelling over this matter for years, and therefore we must throw up the project, and, accepting the counsels of despair, say that nothing can he done.” Because my honorable friends opposite failed in the past, are we to assume that we shall fail all the time. What does Senator Senior want done? Nothing. Here are these magnificent water-ways, which every one admits constitute one of the finest, assets that Australia possesses, and, because of a want of common action between those who are interested, practically nothing has been done. What has happened recently is that three States have come to an agreement. One recognises quite well the tremendous financial responsibility which will be involved in carrying out the agreement. We also recognise that, owing to the changes of local politics, there is a difficulty in getting three States to arrive simultaneously at a common ideal.
– And to keep on moving at the same time.
– Yes. Now the Commonwealth comes along and says, “ Here is a big national duty, and a great national advantage, and we think it is within our competency - there is no legal obligation upon us - in the interests of the people of Australia, if we can, by associating ourselves with that movement, and sharing some of the financial consequences of it, to give it such a start that it cannot bc stopped.” That means, first, a conference with the Premiers. Will honorable senators on the other side seriously contend that it is either unconstitutional or derogatory to Federal Ministers that, in these circumstances, having a cognate object in view, they should seek to confer with the States in the hope of attaining that object?
– You have done no more than confer yet.
– Did my honorable friend expect that we would build the weir and lock the river in a night? South Australia has played with this question for years, and done nothing. The States have been quarrelling amongst themselves, and the interests of Australia as a nation have been lost sight of.
– South Australia has done more in this matter than has the State you represent.
– I will say the same thing about my own State, where nothing practically has been done. When the present Government see an opportunity of joining with the States which are most directly concerned, and giving a good push forward to a distinctly big national undertaking, some fault is found because there is no mention in the Constitution of a meeting of State Premiers. The thing is too ridiculous for serious consideration. Another matter discussed at the Conference and concerning which we are told that we have no policy, waa that of banking. The Government have a policy on that question and put it before the people at the last election as plainly as any party could do. The candidates under the Liberal banner told the people that they were out to bring to an end the duplication of savings bank business. We always held - and if we wanted any justification for our attitude I could obtain it from Senator McGregor’s speech this afternoon - that there was no justification for setting up under Federal auspices a duplicate of the excellently managed Savings Banks already in existence in the States.
– The Constitution is the authority for dealing with banking and currency.
– The Constitution does not say that the Commonwealth is bound to establish a savings bank where there are already State Banks doing the work. No one disputes the legal authority, or the Commonwealth Bank would not be in existence, but there are dozens of things which the Constitution authorizes us to do which have never been touched yet. The question was whether it was an advantage to the people to exercise the Commonwealth banking power in the direction of duplicating machinery already in existence.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - If there is to be one control the question is whether it should be provincial or national.
– My unqualified belief is that in dealing with Savings Banks what the honorable senator calls provincial, and which I prefer to call State, control is infinitely ahead of Federal control. Whether that is so or not, no one can deny that at the last election this party put forward its views very clearly and generally on that subject. We could not give effect to our policy in that matter without having a conference with the State Premiers. The question was one for mutual arrangement, if it was to be carried through at all.
– How does it concern the State Premiers ? The matter has nothing to do with them.
– The States have a lot to do with their own Savings Banks, and we are out to get their business for our Commonwealth Bank as distinct from the Savings Bank. The States to-day do not bank with the Commonwealth Bank, but we want them to do so. My honorable friends opposite failed to bully them into placing their business with the Commonwealth Bank, and we had a perfect right as business men to point out to the States the advantages of banking with the Commonwealth, and invite them to give us their business.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - There is nothing to stop them banking with the Commonwealth.
-Why did not the last Government get their business, when it was to the advantage of their bank to get it?
-Colonel O’loghlin. - It was because of petty State jealousies.
– My honorable friends failed to get the States’ business because they tried to bully and bluster them, and insulted them at every point in the negotiations. To give effect to the policy for which our party stood, it became necessary to confer with the State Premiers, and there was no way of meeting the State Ministers all together except at a Premiers’ Conference. At that Conference, whether the policy of the Government was right or wrong, it was agreed to fall in with our proposals.. It was not, as Senator McGregor would suggest, a case of the Federal Government going there to obtain inspiration for a policy. We submitted a policy, and the Conference fell in with it.
– Sir John Forrest said he was going there to get a policy for the next election.
– We went there prepared to discuss with State Ministers the details of the question, as we had to do, because this matter was not to be disposed of by a mere intimation that we desired to do this, that, or the other.
– Why do not the Government close up the Savings Bank branch of the Commonwealth Bank if they think it is of no use ?
– What is to be clone with the money that we hold in our Savings Bank if we decide to go out of the business? All these things are details that escape my honorable friend’s notice. Some one has to provide for the liabilities that we have accepted. The money is not lying idle, and therefore some arrangement had to be made so that if the Commonwealth went out of the business the States, being left inpossession’, would honour our obligations.
– Sir John Forrest said the Government could not do away with the Commonwealth Savings Bank while the political situation remained as it was.
– It did not need the genius of an old political hand like the Treasurer to discover that the present composition of this Chamber was an obstacle to the passage of a repealing Bill. At any rate, our first idea was to arrive at an arrangement with the people whose business we wanted, and we set out to do it in the only proper way.
– We are looking for another test Bill.
– The honorable senatorhas a very good chance of getting it. He said we reached no finality, but left everything for the future. He declared that we pushed everything on to the Premiers’ Conference, or the InterState Commission ; but while he was speaking I tried to direct his attention to a paragraph in the Speech intimating that a Bill to deal with the banking business would be introduced. Paragraph 7 says -
My Advisers have, in conference with the State Premiers, undertaken to bring before Parliament at an early date certain measures io give effect to agreements there arrived at, and accordingly a Bill will be presented for abolishing the dual control of the savings of the people existing at present, and making such arrangements with the State Governments as will greatly strengthen the Commonwealth Bank, increasing its resources and enabling it to be of immense service to the people of the Commonwealth in connexion with the management of their debts, and, it is hoped, new loan negotiations.
That is one matter in which finality was reached, so far as it is possible to reach it in regard to a subject that requires parliamentary sanction. The Government have done all that it is possible for them to do, and I have shown the result, yet the honorable senator had nothing but abuse for us and for the- Premiers’ Conference. Without saying whether our views on the question are sound or not, I can safely say that, as the result of that Conference, and the attendance of Federal Ministers thereat, there has been arrived at upon this particular subject an agreement which puts the Government party in a position to submit to Parliament a Bill to give the agreement legislative effect.
asked why we had brought in any measures at all this session, seeing that we expressed so great an anxiety to get to the people at an early date. The only measures mentioned in the Speech for submission during the session are those which arise from the agreement arrived at at the Premiers’ Conference, and cannot be delayed if faith is to be kept with the several States who made the agreement, and one other matter to which I shall refer later as being equally entitled from its urgency to be considered even before the anticipated election. Senator McGregor said that we were going to refer the Murray waters question to the Inter-State Commission. I tried to correct him at that time, but he would not let me.
– It is part of their business according to the terms of their appointment.
– It is nothing of the kind. It is only part of their business if the Government care to refer it to them. It was part of their business to look after the control of traffic on the river, so that there should be no. preference there, just as it is part of their business to see that there are no differential rates on the railways. But the InterState Commission have nothing to do with the question of whether the States and the Commonwealth shall share the financial responsibility of carrying out certain works for the conservation of water on our big Inter-State waterways. It was in this matter that an agreement was arrived at. The Government propose not to send the matter to the Inter-State Commission, but to introduce a Bill to give effect to the agreement. A number of honorable senators opposite have sufficient knowledge of the requirements of Australia to realize that any Government which brings into effect a scheme to conserve a large body of water in our main waterways will have done something of which Australia will be proud and justly thankful.
– Will the honorable senator explain where the Commonwealth responsibility comes in for putting locks on the Darling or Murrumbidgee in New South Wales any more than on the River Yarra in Victoria ?
– The obligation is not constitutional. The Government would move in this matter, not for the purpose of spending money on any particular river, but because more than one State is concerned in these big waterways, and a great financial responsibility is involved. They recognise that the Commonwealth may reasonably take a hand in a large national undertaking of that kind from which .it is anticipated that unlimited advantages will flow.
– Will it not be a precedent for Queensland or some other State to ask for a subsidy for irrigation works within its own borders ?
– We are not dealing with a waterway that is confined to one State. That makes the matter entirely different. If the honorable senator has been around a camp fire on the Darling he will know the arguments that go on as to whether the water coming down belongs to New South Wales or Queensland. They would keep men out of their beds all night to argue that question, but I do not think such difficulties -arise in the case of the noble stream on which the City of Melbourne stands.
– I was thinking more of works which Queensland might construct on the Darling.
– I understood that the honorable senator was anxious that the Commonwealth, if it proposed to go into .these big national undertakings, ‘ should assist Victoria to build weirs on the Yarra.
– No. Are not the Government establishing a precedent for any State to ask the Commonwealth to subsidize purely State irrigation works?
– No precedent is required for such a request. All these obligations will coane along, and the Government of the day will have to take the responsibility of saying whether it will share them or not. In the case of the Murray waters, the Government thought it was a matter in which it might not only reasonably take part, but take a leading part, in order to stimulate the movement and push the scheme forward. One of the difficulties in the exercise of many of the powers conferred on the Commonwealth by the Constitution is that members of the Opposition invariably seem to think that any suggestion coming from a State is an insult to the Commonwealth. Senator McGregor spoke about the Commonwealth grovelling to the States, and going on its knees to the States.
– They are purely figures of speech.
– They indicate the thoughts in the minds of honorable senators opposite, from the time when Mr. Fisher first had an opportunity of attending the Premiers’ Conference in Tasmania, down to the present day. Even this afternoon the recent meeting between Commonwealth and State representatives has been denounced as hopelessly degrading. The national life of Australia does not mean government by this Parliament alone. There are many governmental agencies, and I believe the most effective government of the people will be achieved when all these agencies work in harmonious co-operation.
– We all say “ Hear, hear!” to that.
– But the honorable senator never loses a chance of throwing an insult at those agencies which are as important in their spheres as the Commonwealth Parliament is in its larger one.
– The honorable senator knows that in past Conferences the Staterepresentatives have been very bumptious in their attitude towards the Commonwealth.
– I have known people that have even called Senator Rae bumptious. I know that they are entirely mistaken, and I want Senator Rae to take a little more lenient view in future of the State Governments when he hears them described in ‘those terms. Senator McGregor twitted the Government because of an announcement in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that the InterState Commission is considering the Tariff. The honorable senator seems to find a great deal to amuse him in that. I am never more happy than when I see my honorable friend amused. I do not quite know whether his quarrel with the Government was because they have placed upon the Inter-State Commission the obligation of inquiring into Tariff matters. If it was, I may remind the honorable senator that the Government of which he was a member stood committed to practically the same thing. They also proposed at one time to refer the consideration of Tariff questions, if not to the Inter-State Commission, to a special Tariff Board created for the purpose.
– At what time? The late Government’s programme was to deal immediately with the Tariff.
– At the last election. But what was it three years before that? I am going to put Senator Rae into the witness-box this afternoon in connexion with this matter.
– The honorable senator should not make such an assertion as he has just made without giving some proof of it.
– I can refer to three years of inactivity in connexion with the Tariff of the party opposite, and I ask whether Senator Russell is prepared to go before the people and say, “ For three years I held my seat in the Senate, and never moved hand or foot to bring about Tariff reform, but the moment a Government is in office that takes a practical step to bring about Tariff reform I denounce them.”
– The honorable senator’s statement is absolutely incorrect, because Senator Russell did make some efforts in this chamber.
– I know what the honorable senator’s efforts were - blank cartridge.
– -Nonsense. I am not a Liberal.
– The Minister’s statement was incorrect all the same.
– I know the frantic efforts which Senator Pearce made to run up a higher Tariff. I used to sympathize with the honorable senator’s painful efforts as a Free Trader to pile up Protectionist duties. I was about to say that Senator Rae once did me the honour to notice a public statement of mine. When I say that he did me the honour to notice it I mean by that that the honorable senator found fault with what I had to say. I had made the statement that the party then, unfortunately for the country, in opposition had decided to adopt some form of Tariff Board or tribunal such as the Inter-State Commission for the purpose of an inquiry into Tariff questions. Senator Rae drew attention to that statement and said that the Liberal party had not a monopoly in that connexion, because, as a matter of fact, his party also was pledged to such a proposal, and he referred his audience to a statement by Mr. Hughes on the point. At that time it was generally understood and admitted that the Labour party were prepared to put the question of inquiring into the necessity for Tariff alterations before some tribunal of that character. What we have done is exactly on the same lines and carries out the same idea.
– The honorable senator has mentioned Senator Rae as his authority, but I have never heard of a statement of the kind on behalf of the party.
– I think that when Mr. Hughes spoke on the subject he spoke with some authority. If Senator Russell denies that it was ever intended to refer an inquiry into the Tariff to the Inter-State Commission or a Tariff Board, I am prepared to accept the denial for himself.
– I deny that the proposal was made by the Opposition as a party.
– I know ib.at the statement was made in Sydney at a dinner given by the Chamber of Manufactures which I attended, and at which
Senator Pearce was also present. Mr. Hughes there made a statement as to what the party were going to do.
– Mr. Fisher made the statement of what the party were going to do, and it was that the Labour Government intended to deal with the Tariff.
– That was when my friends were talking on the eve of the election, when they were shivering for the salvation of their political souls, but at a time when they were in office and in a position to do things they advocated submitting Tariff questions to some non-political tribunal.
– On what occasion was the statement made?
– On an occasion when I enjoyed with Senator Pearce a very excellent lunch given by the Chamber of Manufactures in Sydney. I have been surprised to hear that any doubt should be thrown on my statement, because I know that members of the Labour party who could speak with authority expressed themselves in terms of approval of the idea of having an examination into Tariff questions, not by a political Commission, but by some permanent and non-political tribunal, with a view to framing a Tariff on the evidence so secured. What we have done in that regard will, 1 am sure, appeal to the common sense of the people of Australia. No one who has in this, or any other Parliament, gone through a Tariff session, can for a moment question the assertion I make that Parliament is the most impossible place in which to determine the details of a Tariff.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator.
– I am satisfied that if we could speak to each other quietly, without fear of publicity, my honorable friends opposite would agree that an examination of the Tariff is as rauch in the interests of one party as the other. All that we have done in the matter has been to set the Inter-State Commission at work to look into the details of the Tariff, and no one will question the capacity of that tribunal for the task. We are told that by the action the Government have taken they are going to tie the whole thing up. I may tell Senator Russell that it is not going to tie up the Tariff for three years.
– I may tell the honorable senator that this is the first time I have heard him champion an inquiry into the Tariff by a competent and impartial tribunal.
– I do not know of any tribunal that has yet inquired into the Tariff that I should call impartial.
– There was an inquiry by a Tariff Commission, and we know the support the honorable senator gave to their recommendations.
– I would not insult the members of my party by saying that any of them are impartial.
– What support did the honorable senator give the Tariff Commission ?
– I say that the Tariff Commission was a partial tribunal, and the partiality of its members was shown by the fact that upon almost every item the Protectionist members submitted one report and the Free Traders another.
– If it were not for the honorable senator’s party we would have a decent Tariff to-day.
– Seeing that the party with which the honorable senator is associated was three years in office, with handsome majorities in both Houses, there can be no denying the statement that but for his party the Tariff would have been settled long ago.
– Hear, hear ! That was the mistake of our lives.
– Then the honorable senator’s quarrel is with the members of his own party, and not with me.
– That may be so, but the honorable senator should not suggest that the whole party supported the Labour Government in that matter.
– I do say that Senator Russell cannot escape his own responsibility in the matter. When the party to which he belongs neglected to take action, and persisted in putting him in such a position that he was unable to carry out his pledges to his constituents, there was only one thing for the honorable senator to do.
– Join Senator Millen’s party ?
– No, but to make his displeasure manifest in a way which the honorable senator knows perfectly well.
– I did so in this chamber.
– Yes; I say the honorable senator fired blank cartridge in this chamber. If Senator Russell and those who thought with him, or who professed to think with him, had been as sincere as they professed to be on this Tariff question, they would have prevented the neglect of the Labour party in connexion with the Tariff.
– To leave moderate Protectionists in order to support Free Traders like Senator Millen would be a glorious change.
– It was not necessary that they should do that. They had, if they pleased, control of the party. The President, I am sure, recognises as plainly as does any honorable senator in this chamber that if Senator Russell and those who thought with him had been true to that plank in their platform, and as loyal to their pledges as they profess to be, they would have compelled their party to bring in an adequate Tariff.
– Could a private member introduce a Tariff in this chamber?
– No; but Senators Blakey and Russell and others of the high Protectionist faith could, by their votes, have made it .manifest that the party should deal with the Tariff, or they would leave the party.
– By our votes where?
– By the votes of my honorable friends in their Caucus.
– That has nothing to do with the Senate. We never had an opportunity to vote in connexion with the Tariff in this chamber.
– Because a lot of complacent Protectionists were satisfied that the Labour party should fool the electors on the Tariff question for three years.
– That is not so.
– Well, what did my honorable friends do? When did they ever make a demonstration, even here ? There may have been a few isolated occasional efforts, a few mild denunciations in which my honorable friends expressed their great regret that the party were not prepared to do something in regard to the Tariff. There was a sufficient number of my honorable friends opposite who profess the Protectionist faith outside to have made it quite clear to the Labour Government that if they did riot deal with the Tariff matter they would have them to reckon with.
– This is all ancient history.
– And it is very painful to some of my honorable friends. Let me now come to the matter of the Teesdale Smith contract, which is quite modern history.
– And very painful, also.
– I confess that there is one aspect in which it is very painful. I refer to the fact that honorable senators opposite have evidently laid themselves out to try to influence the public mind with the idea that there is something approaching corruption and something dishonorable in connexion with this contract, and yet they lack the courage to make a plain statement to that effect. Honorable senators heard yesterday the suggestion made by Senator Rae that Mr. Teesdale Smith, in consequence of his having received this contract, gave a substantial donation to the funds of the Liberal party. The honorable senator put this statement in the nature of an inquiry.
– I never inferred that tb© contribution was in consequence of his getting the contract, but that possibly his getting the contract was a consequence of the contribution.
– That is just what I complain of. The statements that are made are neither honest, frank, nor manly. If the Opposition have any accusations to make individually or collectively against the Liberal party, they should have the courage to make them. If their accusation is that there was gross carelessness, negligence, or bad business management–
– There was evasion of responsibility.
– That is no justification for the statements made here yesterday by Senator Gardiner when he harped upon the expression that time was the essence of the contract, and said that money was the essence of the contract. All these things are said for the purpose of poisoning the minds of the public, and with the object of conveying by innuendo or suggestion that there has been a want of common honesty in dealing with public money on the part of the members of the present Government.
– It is nearly as bad as what honorable senators on the other side said of the Labour Government in, connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act.
– I know what party fighting is, and I say that if honorable senators opposite have any accusation of that kind to make, and wish to suggest that anything in the nature of corrupt practice has been indulged in by the Government let them have the courage of their opinions, and accept the responsibility of saying so definitely. If they mean only to suggest that there has been evasion of responsibility, bad business management, or lack of business management, let them say so.
– No, it was preference.
– That is a perfectly fair thing to say if my honorable friend thinks it. What I complain of is that, as a party, the members of the Opposition are trying to create the impression outside that there is a want of common honesty on the part of honorable senators on this side. Only one interpretation can be put upon the statements that have been made, and that is that it is intended to make a charge of corruption against the Government.
– No, of preference.
– Of preference for the express purpose of helping a Minister or of helping a friend of his. We have first of all to consider whether this preference is shown from any corrupt motive or because of a lack of business capacity.
– I do not think it was shown from any corrupt motive.
– Senator ..Pearce has voluntarily admitted that he does not think it was from any corrupt motive, but I do not believe that there is any honorable senator present who will contend that there was anything corrupt about the matter. Still I say that it was impossible for any one to listen to Senator Gardiner yesterday afternoon, or to the interjections by Senator Rae, without coming to the conclusion that it was intended to suggest that there was some corrupt and absolutely dirty work in connexion with this contract.
– There was something peculiar in sending a fellow like Falkingham out there.
– Here is another statement. Falkingham was not sent there. There is the answer. If I send a man anywhere, I order him to go there and pay his expenses. This man went there with two other men, with a view to putting in a tender.
– Who were the other men ?
– I do not know. When the statement is made that we sent him, one can almost imagine that he can see Mr. Kelly in his office at the Department of Home Affairs, writing out a cheque for the purpose of paying this mail’s fare.
– Did he not go there at the desire of that Department ?
– I do not know whether he did or not, but I do know that he presented himself there as one who wanted to put in a tender if there were any contract work going.
– The Minister says that he was not sent?
– I do. When an honorable senator alleges that this man was sent, he conveys an impression which is a gross exaggeration of the facts.
– Is he the same man who presented himself to Brother Chinn for a job?
– I cannot say, because my relations with Brother Chinn are not as close as are those of the honorable senator. I say that it is unworthy of any honorable senator to suggest, merely for the purpose of gaining a party advantage, that corrupt practice has been indulged in.
– I think the blunder is more the result of stupid negligence than of anything else.
– But it is impossible to listen to the statement madeby Senator Gardiner, and still more so to the suggestion thrown out by Senator Rae, that there has been dirty money handled in connexion with this matter, without associating the charge with one of corruption. There is not a tittle of justification for that charge - if there is, I candidly invite honorable senators to make the accusation openly, so that we may know exactly where we stand.
– I will keep all my ammunition.
– I know that the honorable senator will do so, and I know that his ammunition will not be smoke less. I repeat that this man was withtwo other men who were looking out for contract work.
– Who were the others? There is no record of them.
– I do not know.
– He is the only man who is mentioned.
– I understand that he got into touch with some of the officers of the Department of Home Affairs for the purpose of ascertaining what contract work was offering, and they told him to go and have a look at it. In these circumstances can it be said that he was sent?
– What is the man’sname ?
– Falkingham, I think, but I do not know. Whether his name is spelt correctly or not, I assume that I am referring to the same individual as was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The peculiarity is that his name is very familiar.
– It may be that his character is even blacker than the honorable senator has endeavoured to paint it.
– Does the Ministerthink that the contract was a good business proposition?
– I will deal withthat aspect of the matter later on.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, in reply to an interjection, I was proceeding to deal with the question of whether the price paid under this contract was excessive or not. In considering that question, it is useless- as I think honorable senators will recognise - to indicate that certain prices havebeen paid for work in other parts of Australia in country which may or may not have been of the same character. It is idle to institute a comparison between things which are not comparable.
– Quite rightThere is only one method of making a comparison.
– These comparisons, while they may be indicative and useful, can never be regarded as final and conclusive, because an infinitevariety of circumstances will tend to increase the price of an undertaking underone set of conditions, while, under a different set of conditions, they will make the
Same class of work easier or more difficult, as the case may be. But I listened yesterday to certain very sweeping statements by Senator Gardiner, as the result of a visit which he recently paid to this locality. It was impossible for any one listening to him to form any other conclusion than that the work was extremely easy. He affirmed that he knew most of the railways in New SouthWales, and was familiar with the country through which they passed, and declared that he had not scon easier railway construction anywhere. That statement may carry some weight, seeing that it purports to be the opinion of a man who has seen for himself. But I wish to put against it the opinions of two other persons whose judgment is entitled to even greater weight than is that of Senator Gardiner. Whether this Chamber elects to accept Senator Gardiner as its authority or not, it must recollect that at the time this contract was entered into, the honorable senator’s advice was not available. The only advice then available was that of the officers of the Department.
– There was that of Mr. Deane.
– He was one of the officers of the Department.
– He has a very bad memory.
– He was appointed by the late Government.
– Did not the responsibility of the Fisher Government cease when they vacated office?
– Quite so.
– Then why does not the Minister of Defence accept his responsibility like a man?
– I am prepared to accept responsibility for anything that the Government have done. But when I was interrupted I was not dealing with the question of responsibility at all. At the time this contract was let, there was certain information before the Minister. Every Minister is bound to get information before he arrives at a decision. To whom does he look for that information? He does not look to Senator Gardiner for it - he seeks it from the paid professional advisers of the Department. What do they say on this matter? I wish to put in sharp contrast to the opinion expressed by Senator Gardiner yesterday the views of two officers of the Department - views which are more eloquent of the character of the country than is anything that I can say. In a report by Mr. Hobler, that officer describes the country as follows - The cuttings generally, so far as he has opened them up, which is to cutting 119, show that 103 and 104, though fair material on top, have hard cores of reefs of disjointed silicated sandstone, which is too hard to plough, awkward to bore, and bad shooting.
We have been told by Senator Gardiner that it would be the easiest thing in the world for a very small team, say, of six horses, to walk along these cuttings with aplough. He stated that the soil is so loose that when one walks over it, one sinks into it. Yet the opinion which I have just read is that of a responsible officer of the Department with some professional knowledge.
– Was that opinion given before or after the contract had been let?
– After it had been let, just as was Senator Gardiner’s opinion.
– Senator Gardiner could not give an opinion before the contract had been let.
– Quite so. I am endeavouring to bring before honorable senators the available information as to the character of this country, because it is upon that that we have to determine whether the price paid to the contractor was a high one or a reasonable one. Then Captain Saunders, another officer of the Department, has reported on this country as follows: -
The first two cuttings required blasting. Cuttings 103 and 104 containing hard cores of reef of disjointed silicated sandstone, which is awkward to bore and bad shooting. Cutting 113 pure sand, 114 hard material, consisting of silicated sandstone mixed with stiff white clay. A number of the cuttings being awkward to plough, the ploughs the contractor had not being heavy enough, the contractor was compelled to obtain heavier ploughs. The road for a distance of five miles, over which the contractor has had to cart his water, is heavy sand, necessitating him employing nearly as many live stock in carting water as the contractor had horses working in the cuttings. He was compelled to cart water in some instances from Bellamy’s Well, at 87 miles to 100 milesthat is, 13 miles.
– Can the Minister indicate what those numbers signify in regard to the mileage?
– The honorable senator knows the mileage at the beginning and at the end of the Teesdale
Smith contract. My information does not disclose the mileage at which these cuttings are located, but I can get the particulars.
SenatorRae. - We have no means of identifying the cuttings, otherwise.
– But, as my honorable friend walked over the distance, he should be able to say how far his judgment indorses the opinion which I have just read. The foregoing are two statements by officials, and it will be seen by those who compare them with the reports that were placed before the Minister at the time he arrived at his decision, that they clearly indicate that the country is not of the kindly and beneficent character which Senator Gardiner would have us believe. I hold in my hand a letter which has recently been received from an extremely practical gentleman of extended experience - a man who knows this country, and is thoroughly familiar with this class of work. That he does not happen to be a politician ought not to detract from the value of his opinion. He says -
I suppose there are few men know that country better than I do. Smith has got about 300 yards of sand work to do, and the rest is all tableland country, in most places very hard and stony, and the roughest bit of the line between here and Tarcoola ; and absolutely no water within 6 miles from the south end and 10 from the north end.
I have just shown, from an officer’s report, that in one instance the contractor had to cart water 13 miles.
– That is not much.
– For a big camp and equipment, it is a long way.
– I have seen it carted much farther.
– So have I; but when one comes to cart water for a camp containing a large number of men, and a very large number of live stock, he will find that it adds materially to the working cost of the plant, and therefore necessitates the payment of a higher price for the job -
He has to cart all his water through that heavy sand at Oakden Hills (Do you remember your walk through it) to supply both men and horses, and anything he makes out of his contract he deserves it. He is now laying 6 miles of piping to carry the water out to Lake Windabout.
This letter is addressed to Mr. Richard Foster, a member of the other House.
– Who is the writer of the letter?
– I am not going to give his name.
– What good is it to read the letter unless you give the name of some authority?
– From the indignant way in which the honorable senator interjects, from the dictatorial way, I might say, one would think that I am bound to shape my course here according to his whims and fancy.
– What is the use of quoting a man’s letter and not giving his name? He may be a fictitious friend of yours.
– He may; and the interjection only shows the kind of standard the honorable senator will set up for his colleagues.
– I would not like to adopt your standard.
– I am quite prepared to believe that the honorable senator would fake a letter to bring here.
– You know more about land faking and other things than I do.
– It is a letter sent on to me by Mr. Richard Foster for all it is worth.
– I never did any land faking.
– Nor did I. And there is a very good reason why the honorable senator did not. No one would trust him with any business to do.
– I would not trust you very far.
– There is a large number of men who have trusted me, and do not regret it.
– Do you hold the officials responsible for the change of policy to contract labour?
– I do not know that that question is involved in this matter now.
– You are shouldering the responsibility on to the officials. Are they responsible for the change of policy ? Did the Government accept their advice in regard to the change of policy?
– The honorable senator is bringing in other matters; but I do not propose to deal with them now. I have not said a word to the effect that the Government are absolved from responsibility because they follow the advice of their officers. As a matter of fact, from the many interjections, I do not know that I am able to say anything.
– Will you admit that it is reasonable that we should have read to us some advice or authority before the contract was started? This is all after evidence.
– It was there in the report made by Mr. Deane. Anxious not to trespass too much on the time of honorable senators, I was assuming that they are as familiar as I am with the report which was submitted to the Minister, and on which he acted; and, therefore, I did not propose to read everything.
– I have never received a copy of it.
– I will try to make good the omission.
– In the other House the Minister has made a very frank statement. He has said that it will not occur again.
– I was assuming that honorable senators knew the papers which had been quoted in the other House; but, as Senator Rae is not familiar with this paper, I have no objection to read it.
– I am only familiar with the newspaper reports.
– We all knew that it had to be dragged out of the Government.
– These are utterly unworthy insinuations. There was no such attempt.
– They are facts.
– The moment the matter was mentioned, the papers were forthcoming.
– Was the offer of Mr. Timms forthcoming? It had to be dragged out of the Government.
– Surely every one knows thatin that case, Mr. Deane has frankly written to say that he overlooked the matter.
– Good old Deane ! You are sheltering yourself behind him again.
– It is not a question of sheltering behind Mr. Deane. When an officer, whose duty it was to put the paper before the Minister, did not do it, and tells the world that he did not do it, no fair man would hold the Minister responsible for that.
– He has a hopelessly bad memory.
– He has a bad memory, on his own showing; but am I to be held responsible because somebody forgets something ? It was not a question of withholding information which had been put before the Minister, and which he had failed to consider. Here is a case where an officer distinctly says, “ I forgot to inform the Minister on a very important matter.”
– On a recent occasion you took the opinion of the officer with a bad memory against that of Mr. Chinn.
– It is a curious thing that, when an interjection from the other side is disposed of, my honorable friends come along with another. The question of Mr. Chinn has nothing to do with this matter at the present time.
– You admit that Mr. Deane has a bad memory.
– Since when was it discovered that he had a bad memory? I do not want to bring the name of Mr. Deane unnecessarily into this discussion, but honorable senators opposite are forcing me to do so. Mr. Deane was the permanent head of the Department, and it was assumed that, being the paid professional adviser, the advice he put forward was not only the best advice obtainable, but was complete. He himself has told the country that he did fail in a very important particular, which disposes of Senator McGregor’s extremely unworthy suggestion that Mr. Timms’ communication to the Department had to be dragged out of the Government. The Government did not know of it.
– Oh !
– Now comes an imputation that the Government did know of the document. The Minister who was the head of the Department has told the House and the country, and Mr. Deane has confirmed his statement, that that matter was never before the Minister. Then we have the insinuation that the whole thing is a put-up lie. a conspiracy between Mr. Kelly and Mr. Deane to shelter the former at the expense of the latter’s memory.
– I think that the Minister should say whether the officials or the Government are responsible for the change of policy.
– I do not propose to be dragged away just now by the tempting offer of my honorable friend.
– :But you will not answer the question.
– Not at this time. Senator Rae has reminded me that I was going to read the report from Mr. Deane on which the Minister acted. It reads as follows -
Between Lake Windabout and Eucolo Creek the line goes over tablelands. The ascent to the tablelands and the descent on the other side involve earthworks of considerable magnitude, possibly 100,000 cubic yards of cutting at each end.
This matter it has been proposed by Captain Saunders to work by day labour with the small plant for which tenders have been called.
I am not at all satisfied that this is the best way of doing it, but I do not want to interfere with his arrangements. I suggested, however, gome time ago, to some men of experience that they should go to Port Augusta and inspect the work, with a view to submitting a price.
– Will you tell us who the men were ?
– I have nothing to do with whom Mr. Deane spoke to.
– I have.
– Go and ask Mr. Deane.
– All right, we will try.
– All that I have to do is to put before the Senate the statements on which the Minister acted. If Senator McGregor wants to make gross imputations about Mr. Deane, let him do it.
– It will be done.
– All right, but that does not involve me or my colleagues.
– You ought to find out the facts.
– The report continues -
This they did, and concluded they would want 5s. a cubic yard for the cuttings, and, as they had no plant themselves, the Government to supply plant, tools, water, and so on.
Mr. Teesdale Smith, the wellknown contractor, has been to Port Augusta and talked the matter over with Captain Saunders, and yesterday he came here to’ see me. He is just finishing a contract in the Eyre Peninsula, namely, the extension from Minippa to Streaky Bay, for the South Australia Government, and he has a large quantity of plant, tools, men, and horses at his disposal. He submits an offer to do the work, and I wired his terms to Captain Saunders for his opinion.
– He had eight water tanks.
- Mr. Kelly is not responsible for how many water tanks Mr. Teesdale Smith had. He could not be expected to leave his Department to go over there to count them, nor could he be expected to go there and find out how many yards of earth had to be shifted. In this matter he could only take the advice of his officers.
– Is it not reasonable to expect that Mr. Saunders would know something about the tanks ?
– My honorable friend may assert that the officers should know. Well, here is what they say about it. No Minister with any respect for himself would try to shelter himself unfairly. I do urge that when specific statements are made to a Minister by his responsible professional officers he is entitled to assume that they are correct. The wire to Captain Saunders reads -
Smith offers take piece-work from 92 to 106 miles. Cuttings, 4s. 6d. ; banks, 2s. 6d. He will find water, plant, explosives, horse feed. Completion in three months from acceptance. Do you recommend acceptance?
Captain Saunders replied in these terms -
Re Teesdale Smith’s offer. I consider the time stated to complete work warrant paying prices stated. Falkingham stated he wanted 5s., and we were to supply plant, tools, water, and pay men. I cannot do the work in three months.
Continuing his report, “ Mr. Deane writes -
It will be seen that, in Captain Saunders’ opinion, no better arrangement for carrying out this work properly can be made, and I ask the Minister to allow me to enter into a contract with Mr. Teesdale Smith on these lines. Mr. Smith is quite agreeable to paying a deposit and entering into a contract according to our specifications. The value of the work at each end would probably be between ?20,000 and ?30,000, and he offers to pay a deposit of ?1,000 right away.
– Can you tell us what “ each end “ means in the phrase “ work at each end “ ?
– It means, I take it, each end of the contract-
This is an urgent matter, and I think the chance, which has been quite unexpected, is a good one, and should be seized with the object of carrying out the work effectually and promptly.
Mr. Smith has to dispose of his plant from the Minippa-Streaky Bay contract, and he cannot hold his offer open for more than a day or two, otherwise, the plant, horses, and men will be dispersed. I strongly recommend the serious consideration of Mr. Smith’s offer, and shall be glad to have the Minister’s approval with the least possible delay.
– Do you not think it rather lax that the Minister, having known that certain contractors were asked to do the work, did not say to Mr. Deane, “ Are there not any other offers?” .
– Of course, it is very easy for my honorable friend to say that the Minister should have done this, that, and the other. But I do ask honorable senators, in fairness, as reasonable men with some business knowledge, to consider the actual position. First of all, the matter is urgent, no one disputes that.
– I do; I cannot see the urgency of it.
– The matter is urgent in this way, that the track-laying gang were coming up behind at a rate greater than that at which the road work was being prepared, and it was necessary, therefore, to get greater speed on in preparing the roadway. It was quite evident that the track-laying gang were going to overtake those in the early portion of the line unless something was done. If the track-laying gang had overtaken those who were preparing the roadway, then the gang would have been thrown idle.
– Could not the Government have got more men?
– That raises . another question. First of all, the work was urgent.
– You were too eager to let a contract; prejudice was responsible for the whole thing.
– I think there is no justification for that statement, but let it pass. What I want to bring home to the Senate is the position-
– You are on a bad wicket.
– My answer to the statement of Senator McGregor is that long before we went into office these matters ought to have been foreseen, but so eager were our predecessors to make a start at this work that they hurried a whole lot of plant and men there before they were ready to make a decent start.
– Do you not know that we were blamed for not starting earlier ?
– They were never blamed for haste.
– Certainly not for what I call haste, but they did proceed there without looking far enough ahead. The position was that the matter had become urgent. The point we are now trying to clear up is not whose fault it was that these difficulties arose, but whether, .the difficulties having arisen, the proper steps were taken to get out of them. Irrespective of whose fault it was, it was urgent that the work should be pushed ahead. The urgency was the justification for what was done. It was upon that ground that Mr. Deane recommended the acceptance of the tender. It is not for me to say at this juncture whether his advice was good or bad, but I would ask honorable senators in fairness to put themselves in the position of the Minister. He is told that matters are coming to a deadlock - that a big gang of men will be thrown idle unless the work ahead of them can be expedited. The responsible officer then, supported by his subordinate officers, recommends to the Minister that the best way out of the difficulty is to make this arrangement with Mr. Teesdale Smith. The Minister is then in the position of having either to reject or accept the advice of his officers. I venture to say that whichever he had done this House would have found fault with it.
– Or to ask if there were any other offers from the other contractors to whom it had been suggested that they should go up and see the work.
– ‘As a matter of fact there were no other offers in.
– What about Mr. Timms ?
– It is not fair to mention Mr. Timms as against the Minister, seeing that Mr. Deane has admitted that he made no mention to the Minister of Mr. Timms’ offer.
– The Minister might have asked if there were any other offers.
– It is very easy to say after it is all over what the Minister might have done. I appeal to Senator Pearce, as an ex-Minister, to say whether, when a report comes to him in that way, he is supposed to assume that he is being misled by the suppression, intentional or otherwise, of important facts.
– If I had asked other contractors to go up and look at the work I should have wanted to know the result of their visit.
– But Mr. Kelly did not ask any other contractors to go up.
– Why did he not ask them ?
– Apparently it does not much matter to my honorable friends opposite whether Mr. Kelly has a good or a bad case. They intend to use the incident on the principle that “any stick is good enough to beat a dog with.”
– Why did he not ask Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice to go and have a look at it?
– I am glad of that interjection. We are told in this case that the Minister ought not to have accepted the advice of his officers, but should have assumed Ministerial responsibility and overridden them. I have a distinct recollection that when it was intimated that I, as Minister of Defence, was calling in other advice than departmental on the question of Naval Bases, I was told that the professional officers of the Department were on the spot, and that I ought to accept their advice or get rid of them.
– Not on matters of policy.
- Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice was not called in to advise on matters of policy.
– Mr. Deane was.
– Mr. Deane was not called in on matters of policy at all. The question was one of expediency. The Minister wanted to know what was best to be done to push ahead the work that was blocking the plate-laying gang.
– Were Mr. Kelly and Mr. Cook utterly ignorant of Mr. Timms having personally waited on the Department in regard to this matter?
– Absolutely ignorant, as is shown both by their own statement and by the fact that when Mr. Timms’ name was mentioned, Mr. Kelly communicated with Mr. Deane to ask why Mr. Timms’ letter had not been placed before him, and Mr. Deane replied by letter intimating that in some unaccountable way he had forgotten to inform the Minister that Mr. Timms had called on him.
– Did not Mr. Timms wait on Mr. Kelly?
– Was Mr. Kelly aware of the fact that Mr. Falkingham had also made an offer?
- Mr. Falkingham is mentioned in this paper, and, therefore, the Minister knew of his offer, but it was higher than that of Mr. Teesdale Smith.
– Is the Minister sure of that?
– The official report contains the following telegram from Captain Saunders - ” Re Teesdale Smith’s offer. I consider the time stated to complete work warrants paying prices stated. Falkingham stated he wanted 5s., and we were to supply plant, tools, water, and pay men.”
– That 5s. was to complete the operation of removing the dirt from the cuttings, and putting it on the embankment without any further payment.
– Who says so?
– I do.
– The honorable senator now suggests that Mr. Falkingham’s offer should have been accepted. This afternoon Senator McGregor denounced Mr. Falkingham as an utterly unreliable man. I do not know whether that is so or not. If Mr. Falkingham’s offer was a much better one, then the officer who wrote that memorandum did not put the case before the Minister fairly and fully. I am not prepared to believe that that is so.
– You will not deny that that is the case?
– Will the honorable senator affirm it? Is he merely putting out catching inquiries, or is he pre: pared to state definitely that Mr. Falkingham’s offer covered both operations?
– The Minister is in a position of responsibility, and it is for him to say whether my statement is correct or not.
– The honorable senator brought the matter up; he made an insinuation. Does he stand by it or abandon it?
– Do you deny it?
– The question is whether the honorable senator affirms it. There is nothing for me to deny until an affirmation is made. The honorable senator in this case has done an absolutely unworthy thing. He has no justification for his statement, but is feeling round in the hope that by aiming a stone he may hit something.
– On a point of order, I take exception to the Minister’s remark that I have made an unworthy statement. I stated that Mr. Falkingham had made a lower offer than Mr. Teesdale Smith, in that he proposed to remove the earth from the excavation and -place it on the embankment without making any extra charge for putting it on the embankment.
– The honorable senator is now attempting to make a personal explanation. I ask the Minister of Defence to withdraw the particular expression to which Senator Long has taken exception.
– Anything that the honorable senator regards as personally offensive I withdraw, and express regret for having said it ; but when an honorable senator by means of a question really makes an affirmation there is surely some obligation on him to show the ground on which he made it.
– If the Minister is at a disadvantage I will not press the question.
– I am not the Minister in charge of the Department, and cannot be expected to know every detail in a case of this kind. I ask honorable senators whether if they had been in Mr. Kelly’s position they would not have taken Mr. Deane’s advice. Ninety-nine men out of every hundred would in the circumstances have done exactly what Mr. Kelly did. I come now to the question of the character of the country, and the price. There was a basis for the price paid to Mr. Smith. That was the price which he had obtained in open contract for similar work he had just completed for the State of South Australia.
– But the Minister must admit that that is not a good basis to go on unless it can be proved that the country was similar.
– I recognise that no comparison between work in one place and work in anothercan be perfect. I mention the fact merely as an indication that a similar price was given for similar work a little distance away. I am prepared to admit all the weaknesses of the comparison, but it is some indication that the price was not as excessive as has been stated to-day. Senator McGregor would lead honorable senators to believe that about 6d. per yard was a handsome price for the work.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable senator harped upon work that used to be done at ridiculously low prices in the days when he was throwing earth about.
– Is the Minister aware that Mr. Deane swore in evidence that 3s. a yard was a- fair price to pay for diorite excavations - much harder country than this?
– I did not know it, and if I did I do not know that it would help me. One cannot institute comparisons between localities far distant, but while we are dealing with the question of prices it would be interesting to mention the cost of making the line from Canberra to Queanbeyan, the figures for which have recently been made up. I do not put this forward as parallel work or similar work to that in which Mr. Teesdale Smith is engaged, but every one will admit that the conditions at Canberra should be much easier than those on the edge of the desert of South Australia. They are nearer civilization, the water difficulty is absent, and there are other features reducing the cost in the Federal Capital as compared with the cuttings on the east-west railway. This report, recently obtained from Mr. Bell, comes at a rather opportune time, although of course it is quite, independent of the controversy regarding the transcontinental line : -
With reference to the estimated cost of constructing the Queanbeyan to Canberra railway, I have to advise that the original estimate of cost of this line, as made bv the late EngineerinChief on the 19th July, 1911, was £20,000 to £25,000, which amount provided for grades of 1 in 30, with 70-lb. rails, and curves not sharper than 10 chains radius.
On the 6th February, 1914, Mr. Deane minuted he wished it placed on record that the reason his original estimate of £25,000 had been increased up to that date by £12,000 was due to improvements in the class of line, permanent way, materials adopted, and additional works ordered.
The Chief Commissioner, New South Wales Railways, constructed the portion of the line within his own boundaries, but the rest of the line was constructed by the Railways Construction Branch of the Public Works Department, New South Wales, and the total cost to date is, approximately, £42,825 14s.1d.: but it is estimated that an additional £1,110 10s. will be requiredto complete the line.
The actual length of main line is 4 miles 75$ chains, and the length of sidings is 1 mile 75j chains.
There is on .hand lj miles of material (rails, sleepers, and sundries), valued at £2,852 15s. lid., which amount is included in the £42,825 14s. lid. mentioned above.
The cost of the line to Canberra works out at £6,300 per mile complete. The estimated cost of the portion of the line on which Mr. Teesdale Smith is working, including the amount paid to Mr. Teesdale Smith, is £6,734 per mile.
– Is that also a gradient of 1 in 30.
– The grade there is 1 in 100 which is much better.
– What is the limit of curve?
– I cannot give the information, nor do I think it makes much difference, although the grade certainly does. I take it that the east-west line is fairly straight as compared with the other. On the Canberra line they are using light rails and sleepers as compared with those on the other line.
– According to the Minister’s statement, 70-lb. rails are being used on the transcontinental line.
– Yes, and SO-lb. rails on. the other line, with correspondingly heavy sleepers. When one makes allowance for the additional cost necessarily arising from the disabilities of the location of the work, one can only say that the Government will not lose a great deal on the portion of the transcontinental line to which Mr. Teesdale Smith has contributed. Senator Senior shakes his head-
– Yes, because I know the average price of railway construction in South Australia, and it is as much as 50 per cent, less than is being paid to Mr. Teesdale Smith.
– Unless South Australia generally is a hopeless desert, the average price of railway construction in that State is not a fair guide as to what the cost should be of the line which Mr. Teesdale Smith is making. I have pointed out that a long line of pipes had to be laid down to get water, and to avoid carting it for 13 miles.
– Not an uncommon thing for a farmer to have to do.
– There is some difference between a man carting water for his household and a limited ‘number of stock and carting water for 300 men and a large number of stock. It will be admitted that this has involved a considerable addition to the working cost.
– The contractor had the pipes laid down when we were there.
– But they had to be paid for.
– Aud probably he will sell them to the Commonwealth later, and get his money back.
– That is one of those things which Senator Rae is in the habit of saying, but it will not carry conviction, even to the honorable senator, to suggest that this is a bad contract because the contractor may sell these pipes to the Commonwealth to get his money back. We heard from Senator Gardiner yesterday a statement that Mr. Teesdale Smith has but a very small plant. I think the honorable senator gave him credit for having 150 horses, camels to the value of £1,300, a few small scoops, and odds and ends. I have here a statement on the subject of the plant, which I am given to understand is not a hearsay statement at all, but an official valuation of the plant on the work at present, and the total valuation is given at £11,742.
– Any details?
– Yes, I have the details here. I do not know whether the Senate would be interested to hear them, but I can read a few of the items, which will satisfy honorable senators that the valuation is not an unreasonable one. There are three camel teams, set down at £350 apiece. I think that Senator Gardiner put the value of the camels down at £1,300.
– Yes, for two teams.
– There are three down in this statement at a valuation of £1,050. From my knowledge, unless values have recently changed very much, £350 is not an unreasonable price for a camel team. There are 160 horses, at £30 apiece. Any one who knows anything of the value of horses, or of the type used by railway contractors, will admit that £30 is not an excessive price for such horses. There is another item of forty scoops at £4 apiece. I do not think that any one will quarrel with that valuation, if it refers to the kind of scoop that I have in mind.
– I can get the same scoop, singly, for £2 7s. 6d. in Adelaide.
– I am not in a position to argue about these details, but, with all deference to Senator Rae, I am prepared to believe that this is a reasonable statement of the valuation of the plant, judging from the items in respect of which I am competent to form my own opinion.
– I got that price from the firm that is supplying Teesdale Smith with the scoops.
– The items in this statement in respect to which I can form an independent judgment appear to me to be quite reasonable. For instance, the statement includes three waggons at £50 a-piece. I do not regard that as anything like an excessive price. I have paid a much heavier price for a secondhand waggon of the ordinary type that knocks about in the back country. I mention these things, not as conclusive, but as indicative of the fact that the undertaking to which. Mr. Teesdale Smith has committed himself is not the light and easy picnic that Senator Gardiner tried to persuade the Senate it is, but a very serious contract, the many difficulties of which justify the prices he is being paid.
– The honorable senator would not contend for a moment that the total cost of the plant should be charged against a three months’ contract?
– By no means. But I would remind the honorable senator that whatever plant is used, apart from the question of wear and tear, there is always the possibility in such a part of the country of inability to dispose of it to advantage at the close of the contract. It is argued by my honorable friends opposite that the Government, in letting a contract, must bear some portion of the cost of the plant for that reason; and that is one of their arguments against the contract system.When a man is called upon to provide a plant worth £10,000 or £11,000, he is entitled to something in respect of wear and tear and depreciation, and, possibly, also to something to compensate for the risk that he may be unable to dispose of it at the close of the contract for anything like its market value.
– Mr. Smith already had the plant for the Minnapur Hills contract.
– That may be so; but he had to provide the plant for this contract. I have endeavoured to combat the very extreme views stated by Senator Gardiner as to the easy nature of the work under this contract. Passing from that, I wish now to say a word or two on the question of responsibility. It is a word which is used very often without meaning very much.
– In politics.
– I admit that limitation. Every Minister has to take the responsibility of accepting or rejecting the advice of his officers. When honorable senators say that a Minister must take the responsibility, and cannot shelter himself behind his officer, what does that mean? Every time a Minister indorses a recommendation of his officers, he accepts responsibility, if he is guided by it. Where an officer in a Department is in a proper position to advise the Minister, it is the duty of the Minister to accept the advice or the responsibility of overriding it. I venture to say that Ministers will be found to get into trouble more often for overriding and departing from the advice of their officers than for following it. I have been called to task for having passed over the advice of the officers of my Department. Half the miseries of my life to-day arise from the fact that I occasionally find myself differing from my officers. I think that a Minister accepts as much responsibility in differing from the recommendations of his officers as in adopting them.
– A bit more, if anything.
– Possibly. I am glad to have the admission. It shows that the responsibility of Mr. Kelly, if he had not adopted the advice of his officers, would have been greater than it was in accepting it.
– In either case, ifthe Minister is wrong, he has got to take his gruel.
– I do not mind the honorable senator putting it in that way, so long as we know where we stand.
– The policy of the Government was wrong to start with.
– I am not arguing that.
– It has been proved to be wrong.
– Honorable senators cannot say that in this case, because, if they do, instead of talking about the Teesdale Smith contract and Ministerial responsibility in connexion with it, they should have been talking of the advantages of day labour over contract labour. If honorable senators, in the privacy of their own chambers, and communing with their own hearts, will put themselves in the position of a Minister, the position in which Mr. Kelly was, they will admit that if they were given the advice of an officer paid a good salary, and occupying one of the most important positions in the Public Service of Australia; with behind him a reputation of many years standing as a competent officer, ninety-nine men out of a hundred-
– He was too smart, but not clever enough.
– That is an accusation against Mr. Deane, and I do not propose to make any accusations against him.
– It is of Mr. Kelly I am talking.
– What was Mr. Kelly not smart enough to do? I say that there was before him the advice of an officer whose business it was to give advice. I admit at once that nothing that has been said here, or elsewhere, or that could have been said in the course of the debate on this matter, in criticism of my colleague, would have been a bit too strong if he had done what he has done against the advice of his officers. His position then would have been very different from what it is to-day. In this case, a responsible officer of the Department puts certain information before the Minister. It is immaterial, for the purpose of my argument, whether the information was right or wrong, since the Minister had a right to assume that it was correct information.
– He had to accept the responsibility of it.
– Of course he had. Who are the men who make accusations against Mr. Deane? They are my honorable friends opposite. I wanted to leave Mr. Deane’s name out of the matter, but my honorable friends would not permit that. I say that, in the circumstances as they are known to every one, if there is any blame attaching to any one in this matter, it is not to ‘my honorable colleague, Mr. Kelly.
– The honorablesenator is a good “ pal.”
– Quite apart from any kindly regard or personal esteem that I may have for Mr. Kelly, I assure honorable senators that I have not said a single word on this question that I would not have said regarding any other man who might be similarly placed.
I pass from this matter to the final portion of Senator McGregor’s address, in which -he dealt with the test Bills. They seem to furnish some cause for merriment for the honorable senator. He spoke of these Bills as quite insignificant little affairs, in respect of which no Government would be justified in what he calls delaying the business of the country. The honorable senator pointed out that, to get these test measures through and arrive at a final solution of the difference of opinion between the two Chambers may take not only months, but years, and he suggested that, during all that time, the business of tlie country would be tie’d up. That would be a very serious thing if that were all that could be said on the subject. But is the business of the country going to be tied up as the honorable senator suggests ? If nothing were said about the test Bills, is not the business of the country tied up already by the difference of opinion between this Chamber and the other ? One must not judge the difference of opinion between the Government and the Senate by particular Bills that have been introduced. We have already had a warning from the President of the Senate that, if the present Government dare to introduce into .this Chamber Bills that are distasteful to the Opposition, they will be “booted out.”
– There are plenty of things that are not distasteful.
– That is quite true, but the present Government do not intend to shape their programme of legislation according to the wishes or suggestions of their opponents.
– Why not?
– Because you are such a bad lot. Honorable senators may disabuse their minds of the idea that the sole matters for which the Government are fighting are the two test’ measures that have been referred to. There are much bigger principles than those involved in those measures at stake.
– That would not be very difficult.
– I do not mind admitting that. But it is known perfectly well to my honorable friends opposite that there are fundamental differences between the two parties. The Liberal party cannot give effect to its principles and aspirations until it has control of both Houses of the Legislature - such a control as will enable it to give effect to its political desires.
SenatorRae. -Would not the Government be acting more reasonably if they made sure that they had control of one branch of the Legislature before attempting this double-barrelled business?
– The one thing we are aiming at is, at the earliest possible moment, to ask the people of this country to decide into the hands of which political party they will intrust their political destinies. I do not pretend to disguise the fact that the issues involved are much bigger than are the two test measures. But the only way in which those issues can be decided is by the submission of test Bills. At the bottom of all government is finance, and, from the experience of last session, when a Loan Bill made its appearance in this Chamber, it is clear that a very wide difference of opinion exists between the two political parties here regarding financial methods.
SenatorRae. -Rightly so.
– I am quite aware that any difference of opinion between SenatorRae and myself means that he is thoroughly satisfied that he is right and I am wrong. But if there is one thing over which a Government must have control it is that of finance. No Ministry can continue in office unless they have control of the financial affairs under their jurisdiction. This Chamber gave the Government an intimation last session that it would not allow them to deal with financial questions in the way that they wished.
– It differed from the Government on one detail.
– Not upon a detail ; a principle was involved. Honorable senators will admit that in order to carry on the government of this country under the machinery that we have adopted, the Ministry of the day must be responsible to the other House, and must at least have some assurance that their measures will also be approved by this Chamber.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - The Government accepted our view on the financial question last year.
– I am now telling the honorable senator that we did not accept it. We found our financial proposals mutilated, and that is one of the reasons why we are taking the earliest opportunity of introducing test measures for the purpose of enabling us to take advantage of the dead-lock provisions of the Constitution.
– The Government had introduced their test Bills before the Loan Bill was submitted.
– Any Bill which has been passed by the other Chamber becomes a test Bill if this branch of the Legislature rejects it.
– Then any Bill which is rejected here becomes a test Bill.
– Any Bill which is rejected by this Chamber may be made a test Bill by the Government.
SenatorRae. - It is an anomaly that a Government which has a majority of only one in another place, and which is in a big minority here, should still cling to office.
– It is not half the anomaly that would be presented if my honorable friends remained in office when they were in a minority elsewhere. This is a matter we can discuss as constitutional students. We have adopted a political system which requires that the Government of the day shall be responsible only to one House. It is unthinkable that a Ministry could be formed in that House if they were only supported there by a minority. Therefore, small though our majority may be elsewhere, it represents the Government of this country.
– The honorable senator knows that in no other Legislature in the world does a Ministry remain in office on the casting vote of the Speaker.
– It depends entirely on the circumstances of the case. I remember a case in which a Ministry, headed by Mr. McGowen, remained in office after they had not a majority.
SenatorRae. - They had a majority in every vote that was taken.
– They had not. On the occasion when Mr. McGowen resigned, they had not a majority. Not only had the Government no majority, but they took extreme means to create one. Let me remind my honorable friends, in all seriousness - when they urge that the present Government ought not to have taken office - that we took office because the Fisher Government resigned and advised the Governor-General to send for Mr. Cook. Therefore, I say that the only proper and constitutional thing which could be done was done. An honorable senator asks if Mr. Cook could not have declined to accept office. The GovernorGeneral could certainly have declined to accept the advice tendered by Mr. Fisher: but what would have happened then t
– There would have been another election.
– It is an unthinkable proposition that, a month after the people had been subjected to the expense, turmoil, and worry attendant upon a general election, the Houses should have been dissolved, and another election held. Such a thing has never occurred elsewhere.
– The position has never arisen elsewhere.
– The accepted practice has been for the Governor-General, or representative of the Crown, to exhaust the House by every expedient before granting a dissolution.
– Does the Minister of Defence know of any case in which a Government clings to office when there is a big majority opposed to it in one elective Chamber, and when it exists in the other only on the casting vote of the Speaker ?
– It depends upon how the Chamber in which there is a. majority against the Government is elected. I acknowledge, with a feeling of pride, that there is no other elective upper Chamber which is at all parallel to the Senate. Therefore, to some extent, we are like the heathen - a law unto ourselves. Replying to the question of Senator Rae, I wish to say that I have known Governments to hold office in one House although a very strong opposition to them existed in the other. I believe that state of things has occurred in Victoria.
– In such cases, do the Government ask for a double dissolution when there is a conflict between the Houses ?
– They have asked for it a dozen times.
– Is not the Ministry’s objection to resigning based on the fact that Mr. Fisher would be sent for?
– Suppose that he were sent for, would he form a Ministry?
– I cannot say.
– I venture to say that he would try to do so. In what position would we then find ourselves? A moment or two ago I was asked if Mr. Cook could not have declined to accept office. But if it were not a proper thing for him to form a Government, with a majority of one behind him in the other Chamber, would it be a decent thing for Mr. Fisher, who is in a minority, to form a Government?
– Of course it would.
– Anything done by the other side is proper, I suppose.
– Mr. Wade once refused to form a Government.
– I can respect him for taking up the attitude which he did on that occasion. I repeat that Mr. Fisher resigned, and that the only course open to the Liberal party was to form a Government. It is not our fault that our majority is so small. Honorable senators opposite cannot blame us for that. They cannot blame us because we are taking the only step open to us to make that majority a substantial one, and to give the electors an opportunity of solving a state of affairs for which we are not responsible, but for which the country is responsible, inasmuch as it expressed itself indefinitely on the political issue.
– Only so far as one House is concerned.
– So far as the dominant House is concerned.
– Then that House alone should be sent to the country.
– Suppose that that course were followed, and that ,the Liberal party were returned with a big majority, do honorable senators wish me to believe that the size of that majority elsewhere would influence them in their votes ?
– The Constitu tion provides for that.
– It makes no provision for it until after a double dissolution.
– The members of the triumphant party in the other Chamber would at least be able. to claim that their views expressed the will of the people at a later date than did the views of the majority here.
– Would Senator O’Keefe change his vote if the Liberal party were returned to the other House with a big majority? The reason why we are so extremely anxious that both Houses should go to the country is because we recognise that if one House alone is dissolved our party may come back with a big majority, and still be impotent.
– Then the Government will have the right to ask for a double dissolution.
– We have the right to ask for it now. I can only accept Senator O’Keefe’s interjection as meaning that if the Liberal party were returned with a big majority in the other House he, and other members of his party in this Chamber, would be prepared to swallow their principles.
– No, but the Government would then have a right to get a double dissolution.
– That would mean a treble dissolution, with the Senate sitting back all the time. I can quite understand that Senator Rae would regard such a position as touching the loftiest heights of statesmanship. But, candidly, this Government must decline to put its fortunes to the stake with a double-headed penny.
– The Government will not be as well off after a double dissolution as they are now.
– The Constitution provides the only way in which we can solve the problem with which we are confronted. Nobody supposes that any member of Parliament is keenly anxious to face the people before the term for which he was elected expires, unless an absolute necessity for so doing arises. We always express a very burning desire to face the electors again, but every honorable senator knows that there are considerable disabilities attendant upon such an event quite apart from the result. No honorable senator is anxious to see the doors of this Parliament close in order that he may go upon an election tour. But the conviction has been forced upon the Ministry that the only thing which they can do, consistent with the preservation of their self-respect, is to solve this entirely unsatisfactory state of affairs at the earliest possible moment.
– If, as the AttorneyGeneral declares, the constitutional construction of this Chamber is wrong, how will a double dissolution cure the evil?
– I am not aware that the Attorney-General has said that the constitutional construction of this Chamber is wrong.
– Oh, yes he has.
– If my honorable friends are referring to a speech which was recently delivered by Mr. W. H. Irvine, I invite them to read it again. They will then find that he was not advocating a reform in the constitution of this Chamber, but that he was setting out what are the difficulties that arise from the fact that this Chamber is constituted as it is. But in stating these facts he was not expressing any opinion.
– He proposed a scheme for reforming the Senate.
– What was the scheme ?
– Read his speech.
– He proposed amongst other things to deprive us of powers that we now have.
– The AttorneyGeneral advocated nothing. He there put forward various alternatives, and proceeded to show the objections or the disabilities to each.
– He wound up by advocating one.
– He merely put there the possibilities of meeting this difficulty as against the difficulty in the present Constitution.
– He suggested a veto scheme.
– Yes, undoubtedly he did and discussed it - a matter which we might discuss here if we were anxious to perfect our Constitution, but just now I am not concerned with that at all. The fact is that there is this difficulty existing. The Constitution points clearly and plainly to the only way in which the Government can solve the difficulty. It is not to be solved by the resignation of the present Government with a majority, because if that change were made you would have in office a Government with a minority. In my opinion the present Government with a majority had better be in charge of the affairs of the Commonwealth than a Government with a minority.
– Do you not think that your Government should propose a scheme for remodelling the Senate, seeing that your Attorney-General is so emphatic about the matter ?
– Do I understand my honorable friend to say that there is something wrong with the Senate?
– So Mr. Irvine says.
– All that I say is wrong with the Senate is its personnel. Years ago Senator Rae and I asked the people of New South Wales to reject the Constitution Bill because of the structure of the Senate, but the Bill having been accepted I said at once that so far as I was concerned I should regard it as not only a constitutional- obligation but a moral obligation on the larger States to adhere to it, and make an effort to loyally carry it out. I propose personally to do that.
– If you are going to dissolve the Senate on every occasion when it differs from the other House will you not for all practical purposes destroy the Senate ?
– No one proposes to dissolve the Senate on every occasion when it differs from the other House. I have already said that if the only things in dispute were the two matters covered bv the test Bills there would be no necessity for the heroic measures which are to be resorted to, but while they are the test measures to meet the requirements of the Constitution, the real fact from which there is no escape is that the two parties are fundamentally opposed, and it is not possible for the Government of the day to move ahead with its legislative proposal. I would venture an apology for having trespassed on the time of the Senate so much except that my honorable friends opposite are largely responsible for the infliction they have created.
– We have got something out of you anyhow.
– Then I have not spoken in vain. There have been one or two little interchanges in the course of this debate. If I have in any way contributed to any display of feeling on the part of my honorable friends opposite I can only regret my share of it.
– During his speech the Minister of Defence made reference to a statement which I am alleged to have made outside. I think that as President I have the same right to make a personal explanation as has any’ other member of the Senate. I have no objection, either inside or outside the Senate, to any criticism that any honorable senator may be pleased to make on anything I have said. I ask for no quarter in that direction; I expect none, and probably when it comes to my turn I will give none. When I took this position I gave up none of my rights, nor do I intend to do so, to fight outside this Chamber for the principles of the party in which I believe. While I am in the Chamber I hope to carry out its duties as fairly and as honestly as I can.
– So you do.
– The only reason why I got up to make this explanation was that if I must be criticised outside the Senate and inside for’ the statements I have made, I want it to be clearly understood what the statements are, so. that there shall be no misconception about them. The Minister of Defence, in speaking, said I had publicly stated that the Senate would “ boot out “ any of those measures which were distasteful to the Labour party. I did not say anything of the kind. What I did say was that if the Liberal party were in earnest in desiring a double dissolution, and if they really believed in their own policy, it was the easiest thing in the world for them to get a double dissolution, because they had always announced that they were utterly opposed to the great measures “passed by the Labour party during the three years of the Fisher Administration. These included such measures a3 the Land Tax Act, the Commonwealth Bank Act, the Maternity Allowance Act, and several others. I said that if the Liberal party were in earnest in desiring to get a double dissolution, an easy way to get it, if they believed in their own policy, would be to come down with a measure repealing any one of these Acts, which that party had previously so strenuously opposed, and see how short a time it would take the Senate to “boot” the measure out, not once, but, if necessary, a dozen times.
Debate (on motion by Senator Ferricks) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 May 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140507_senate_5_73/>.