5th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President tookthe chair at 3 p.m, and read prayers.
– Has the Minister representing the Postmaster-General yet obtained an answer to my questions about the statement of Mr. Justice Dobbie, at Hobart, regarding the unsafety of postal notes ?
– To-day I received from the Postal Department a reply, which reads -
Replying to your note regarding a telegram which appeared in the Age of the 21st instant purporting to contain remarks by Mr. Justice Dobbie, of Tasmania, warning people against using postal-notes, as they were unsafe, I have endeavoured to ascertain the exact words mads use of bythe Judge, but have been unable to obtain any authoritative statement on the subject, although I am given to understand that the report in the local paper (the Daily Post) is substantially correct. According to this, the words used by the Judge were, “ I never would use a postal-note myself. It is by no means a safe form of transmissionof money.”
Ofcourse, thesafest and best way of sending small remittances by post is by money order. This is specially notified to the public in our Postal Guide.
So far as postal-notes are concerned, however, special provision has been made by . the Department to safeguard the public in their use by providing that the name of the payee and the office at which the note is to e paid may be filled in by the sender, and requiring that the payee must receipt the note before it is cashed by the Department. Provision is also made that a postal-note may be crossed, like a cheque, when it can be paid only through a bank. Further than that, even if the spaces for the name of the payee and of the paying officer are not filled in, the person by whom the postal-note is presented for payment is required to duly receipt it.
So far, therefore, from postal-notes being unsafe, it will be seen from the foregoing that special opportunities are afforded to the public for safeguarding themselves in connexion with their use.
– Has the Minister of Defence received from his Department a report concerning a matter -which he promised to inquire about, and that is a statement that an examination had been held in connexion with the Senior Cadets at the Sydney Grammar School extending over many months, that no results had been notified to the competitors, and that some persons had been promoted to the position of non-commissioned officers without having passed that examination?
– If I remember aright, when the honorable senator last questioned me on this matter, I gave him an answer which had been placed in my hands, and which I intimated did not appear to me to sufficiently meet his inquiry, and told him that I had forwarded the papers back to Sydney for the purpose of getting further information. I have not yet received the additional information.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General saY whether any action has been, or is being, taken in relation to the matter mentioned by me last week, namely, the provision by the mail contractors between Tasmania and the mainland of a loose-box or bag at the Launceston wharf on such occasions as a tender is used to convey passengers to the steamer
– I have received the following reply: -
With reference to the extract from Hansard of the 22nd instant, which was recently forwarded to this office, relative to inquiries made by Senator Keating respecting the facilities tor the reception of late letters at the Launceston Wharf, I beg to inform yon the Deputy Postmaster-General, Hobart, has advised by telegraph that he is endeavouring to arrange with the contractors to have a loose letter bag placed on board the tender and taken to the Loongana when mails aru conveyed to her by tender.
He adds that further information will be supplied at the earliest possible moment, and on receipt thereof you will be again communicated with.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs now in a position to say whether any difference of opinion has arisen between the Federal Government and the Imperial Government concerning the Navigation Act; and, if so, whether it is a contributing cause to the delay in the proclamation of the Act?
– I am glad to say that I have a reply, which reads as follows: -
With reference to the attached extract from Hansard, forwarded by you on the 23rd instant, I am directed by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Groom) to say that with regard to the marked portion thereof there is not, nor has there been, any misunderstanding whatever between the present Government and the Imperial Government in regard to the Navigation Act. His Majesty’s assent to the Bill was given without reservation of any kind.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.Can the Minister of Defence yet make available any information in the way of correspondence or report from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank about the proposals made at the recent Premiers’ Conference with regard to the Savings Banks?
– In reply to a communication forwarded by the Treasurer to the Governor of the Bank, the latter did furnish a letter which may be regarded as a report on this matter. The honorable senator, no doubt, has seen that the Governor of the bank has made a copy of his letter available to the press; but I am getting another copy of it for presentation to’ the Senate.
Bill presented by Senator Pearce, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Senator STEWART and read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence :Report by manager, Small Arms Factory, on question of use of Australian timber in manufacture of rifle stocks.
Northern Territory. - Ordinance of 1914. - No. 1 - Brands.
Public Service Act 1902-1913. - PostmasterGeneral’s Department. - Promotion of A. Bennett as Inspector, 2nd Class, Inspection and Inland Mail Branch, Victoria.
Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account Act 1911. - Transfer of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council, dated 16th May, 1914.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether it is true, as reported, that the Government intends to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the operations of the Beef Trust; and, if so, how they intend to proceed and to obtain evidence in regard to the operations of the trust outside of Australia ?
– The Government have decided to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the operations of trusts and combines, and the position of Commissioner has been accepted by Mr. Justice Street. The terms of the Commission are being drafted, and I have no doubt that they will be available in the course of the next day or two for this and the other branch of the Legislature. I anticipate that they will supply the information which the honorable senator seeks.
– Do I understand that the Government have appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the general question of trusts and combines, or into the operations of a specific trust or combine ?
– The Government have made the Commission wide and general.
– Is it not a fact that a decision of the Privy Council will preclude a Royal Commission from compelling witnesses to give evidence regarding any business outside of Australia with which they may be concerned.
– I am asked if it is a fact that a decision of the Privy Council has a certain bearing or effect. I am not in a position to answer that question, which is purely a legal one.
– Has it not been so decided by the Privy Council?
– I desire to announce that, immediately on receipt of the news of the death on Sunday morning of the wife of Senator Barker, I undertook, on behalf of myself and of this Chamber, to send him a telegram of sympathy and condolence. I hope that my action will have the indorsement of the Senate.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney- General, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
When the official map of the Commonwealth of Australia is completed and ready for distribution, is it the intention of the Government to supply members of the Federal Parliament with a copy?
– The answer is -
The map will be of large size, and not suitable for such distribution. Copies will be supplied to Parliament House for reference by members. The question of supplying lithographic copies to members is now under consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable senator, I beg to lay a statement on the table.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the statement made in reply to a question by Senator Gardiner on Thursday, the 21st inst., showing that approximately 40 per cent. of the Teesdale Smith railway contract remained unfinished, is it intended to enforce the penalty clause of the agreement immediately after the expiration of the due date of the contract, or has any extension of time been granted, and, if so, for how long and for what reasons?
– The answer is -
The penalties will be enforced. Mr. Teesdale Smith has, however, claimed that his time of commencement should date from the 27th February, 1913, the date when he received completed plans of thesection, although the advance copy of plans with which he was furnished some little time before he was furnished with completed plans, should, it is held by the Railways authorities, have enabled him to make a start then. This matter is under reference to the Crown Law Office.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
I.. Has the Leader of the Senate seen the statement by Sir John Forrest in the newspapers of 22nd May, blaming the Scaddan Government for delaying the building of the transcontinental railway ?
Has Sir John Forrest forgotten that it was alleged that the refusal of his Government to pay current rates of wages, as paid by contractors on the railway, was responsible for the stoppage of construction in Western Australia ?
Is it a fact that the Federal Government cancelled and repudiated a contract with the Western Australian State Government for 1,400,000 sleepers?
Is it a fact that the Federal Government arc now trying to enter into another, but much smaller, contract for sleepers?
Is it a fact that the Federal Government arc trying to impose conditions in that contract that mean taking the control of the timber lands of Western Australia out of the hands of the State Government?
Is it a fact that these conditions are put into the contract in the interests of timber contractors in Western Australia?
Is it a fact that almost every timber district in Western Australia has at public meetings condemned the action of the Federal Government in cancelling the original contract for sleepers?
Is it a fact that resolutions were passed at many public meetings in Western Australia, and in Sir John Forrest’s own division in particular, calling on him to withdraw his support from the Cook Government if they refused to reinstate the sleeper contract entered into by the Federal Government under Mr. Fisher ?
Is it a fact that it was pointed out to Sir John Forrest that if he withdrew his support from the Cook Government they would either be forced to restore the contract or resign, and that another Government would reinstate the original contract?
– The answers are -
Western Australia, and if the State, by failure to supply, and interference with private timber-getting, prevents this being done, the Commonwealth should not be blamed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Under what regulation is it provided that confidential reports of commanding officers upon officers under their command are, in so far as any reflections upon such officers are concerned, read over to the officer before being forwarded to head -quarters?
– The answer is -
There is no “ regulation,” but Commonwealth Military Standing Order 22 provides that any annual confidential reports of commanding officers upon permanent officers under their command, which adversely reflect upon the officer concerned, are to be read verbatim to him by the officer making the report.
The standing order referred to reads as follows : - “When, however, the officer who, in accordance with paragraph 16, first renders the report, considers it necessary to record any fault which affects an officer’s character as an officer and a gentleman, or his fitness for his present position, or for promotion to a higher one, the particulars of the adverse report are to be read verbatim to him by the officer making it, in the presence, when possible, of the second in command of the corps, and when this is not possible, by letter. A note will be made in the report that these instructions have been duly attended to, or an explanation furnished when they have not been carried out. If the result of the report is considered by the Military Board to prejudice the officer’s chances of further promotion, he will be so informed.”
The instructions printed on the form (CM. Form A.26), upon which annual confidential reports on all officers, whether permanent or militia, are rendered, provides that : - “ If any thing disadvantageous be recorded by commanding officer, or if any of the questions cannot be answered satisfactorily, the particulars are to be communicated to the officer verbatim, as recorded on the report, and a note that this has been done is to be made on this report.”
It is the invariable rule of the Department to insist on the observance of these instructions.
I should like to add that I am causing a copy of that form to be forwarded to the honorable senator.
asked the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What was the cost per chain for constructing conduits at Ballarat by day labour and by contract labour?
– The answers are -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, has furnished the following information : -
The cost per chain for constructing conduits at Ballarat by day labour was £18 12s.1d.
The lowest tenderer’s price for the work was £25 8s.10d. per chain.
asked the Min ister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– I should like to ask you, sir, whether a reply to my question; regarding contracts for the supply of sleepers for the transcontinental railway, which was given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council in the form of a written statement, but which was not read by him, will appear in Hansard?
– No statement which was not read will appear in Hansard. It will, however, appear in the Journals.
– In order to overcome the difficulty, I would ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council if he will be good enough to read the answer to my question so that it may be published in Hansard.
– I have not seen the answer, but there seems to be no objection to its being read, and I shall be glad to read it.
– One reason why answers which contain matter sufficient to make a return are presented in that form is that it was thought by previous Parliaments that it would be unnecessarily loading Hansard, and often detaining the House, to read out a lot of details which cannot always be as readily grasped by listening to them as by seeing them in print. It has become quite a common practice to present such answers in the form of a return, which can then be printed if the Printing Committee so order. That is the reason this course has been adopted in the present case.
Debate resumed from 22nd May (vide page 1442), on motion by Senator Oakes as amended -
That the following Address-in-Reply he agreed to: -
To His Excellency the Governor-General.
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and our thanks for the Speech which Your Excellency’s predecessor (Lord Denman) was pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Rae had moved -
That the following words be added: - “ 2. Your Advisers deserve special condemnation for their gross favoritism and betrayal of the public interest in letting a costly contract for railway construction without providing the safeguard of public competition. “ 3. Furthermore, your Advisers’ constant efforts to coerce the Senate (which, being elected on the widest possible basis, is the constitutional guardian of the people’s liberties) into abject submission to their will is an attempt to subvert the Constitution, and thereby imperil the harmony existing between the various States of the Commonwealth, and is deserving of the severest censure.”
– Senator Ready, who has the right to resume the debate, has missed his boat from Tasmania. I do not know exactly what his position will be on his return, but I hope he will be allowed to resume his speech before the debate closes. I shall not deal with the constitutional aspect of this debate, which has been most ably covered by Senator Pearce, who showed in a very fine speech that the present constitutional position does not warrant the double dissolution which the Government are seeking. We have to remember that we are living under what is called representative government. There is no complication in the present situation in the shape of balance-of-power parties or third parties. There is a clear-cut, well-defined party position. We have two parties, with no go-betweens, and consequently, by counting noses, we know exactly where we stand. At the last election, where the Government claimed a victory, inasmuch as they are now in possession of the Ministerial benches, they actually failed to secure a majority of the seats contested. That fact alone shows that no good case can possibly be made out for their claim for a double dissolution. We know that in this Parliament there are sixty-five members in opposition to the Government, who have only forty-five members. Even at the last election only forty-five men came back from the country on the Ministerial side, as against forty-eight of their opponents. These facts prove that they are a minority Government, and therefore in seeking a double dissolution they are asking for something to which they are not constitutionally entitled. Their claim cannot possibly hold good in these days of representative government, seeing that the two simple measures that were introduced in another place and sent up here to form test questions were passed there only by the casting vote of the Speaker. I propose to devote the rest of my remarks to the state of affairs that has existed on the transcontinental railway since the present Administration took office. Questions have been asked in this chamber in regard to a contract at the Western Australian end of the line, and I am sorry to say that Ministers have not been candid in their replies. They have not stated the case as it actually exists, or as it existed recently. They have tried to mislead the Senate in order to get out of a difficulty similar to that into which they fell over £he Teesdale Smith contract. They recognise that they have what I might call a “rotten, bad case ‘ ‘ in connexion with the latter contract, and in order to avoid having a similar exposure hanging over their heads for letting a contract without calling for tenders, they have tried in a rather slippery manner to side-step the question by making out that the other contract to which I refer is merely a small piece-work matter, and not a contract at all. I will read the replies given here - and these are merely a repetition of those given elsewhere - to show the miserable way in which Ministers, recognising the difficulty that they are in, have tried to get out of their responsibilities. With regard to what is known as Mr. Morris’ contract, Senator Pearce asked -
Not as usually known as a contract. In July, 1913, I approved a recommendation of the Engineer-in-Chief that lie should have authority to let piece-work where it was considered that the work could be carried out to better advantage and more economically by doing so; also of the rates being authorized by the Engineer-in-Chief. The Engineer-in- Chief fixed a scale of rates, and several small portions of piece-work were let by the acting Supervising Engineer, Kalgoorlie.
As a matter of fact, the contract was let to Mr. Morris, who has been for many years a well-known contractor on the gold-fields of Western Australia, in partnership with Mr. Mayman. It is all nonsense to make out that such a wellknown firm as Mayman and Morris would go in for a piece-work system. No one who knows them would believe it for a moment, although the statement might go down with those who are not acquainted with them. So far from this being a small piece-work job, there are at least 130 men employed by the contractor and paid daily wages in the usual way. A task is not set out for them any more than it was for the men employed under the Government in constructing other portions of the line. The men are engaged as they were under the Government in clearing and carrying out the earthworks from the 72-mile to the 200-mile peg. The contractors have entered into an agreement with the union controlling this class of work in that portion of Australia. This is the agreement that was entered into in Kalgoorlie on February 26th -
Negotiations were concluded to-day between the Trans-Australian branch of the General Workers Union and Messrs. Mayman and Morris, contractors for the Government, on the subject of increased rates of pay and improved conditions of labour for men employed on formation and clearing work on the Western Australian section of the Trans-Australian railway. The result was that an agreement, was arrived at which dates from 1st March next, and will last until the men reach the 200- mile peg. They are now- 75 miles out. The rates of pay and conditions are set out as follow : - Gangers, 20s. per day, wet or dry-
The men employed by the contractors when previously employed by the Government were promised that their rates of pay would be increased from the time they reached the 60-mile peg for all work beyond that point. I do not hold the present Government responsible for themaking of that promise, because they did not make it. It has been their practice to repudiate almost everything the previous Government did in connexion with the employment of labour, and the previous Government were pledged to increase rates when the 60-mile peg was reached. The contractors *m this case have recognised the. universal rule in the West that rates of pay shall be increased in accordance with the distance of the work from Kalgoorlie, where it is acknowledged that the minimum rates for work in that part of the country are .paid. The rates provided for in this agreement are much higher than the rates previously paid to the men engaged in the work, but that was only in accordance with what was expected by the men when they got beyond the 60-mile peg. To continue, the rates of pay provided for in the agreement -
Navvies, 13s. 4d.; tip-men, trimmers, hammer and drill men, and jumper men, 14s. 2d.; nippers, 10s. per day; scoopmen and ploughmen, 13s. 4d.; tool sharpeners, 15s. per day; clearers, 13s. 4d.; powder monkeys, 15s.; tradesmen’s labourers, 14s. 2d.; camel-drivers, leading hands, 15s. per day, seven days a week, no overtime; camel-drivers, off-siders, 13s. 4d., seven days a week, no overtime. The following conditions have been arranged : - Free supply of shovels-
That is more than Mr. Teesdale Smith did for the men engaged under his contract.
Walking time shall be allowed the men for walking the full distance one way.
The agreement goes on to explain that -
The secretary of the union, Mr. Costello, has been appointed by that body to represent the men affected.
Honorable senators will see that this work is being carried out under an agreement which is as much a contract as that entered into with Mr. Teesdale Smith. Whether there is a written contract between Mr. Morris and the Government we do not know. We do know that Mayman and Morris have undertaken a contract, and are employing all the men who were previously employed by the Government on the construction of the line. The contractor has recently been obliged to stop work, not because he withdrew from the piece-work proposition, as stated by Ministers, but because the rail head is so far away from where his operations were stopped that he is unable to get water and provisions out to keep the men going. Since the strike on the line occurred, the engine running to the end of the rails has been stopped because the men engaged upon it are on strike with the rest. Honorable senators will see from this that there is something which the Government are concealing. Why were they not candid enough to admit that they had entered into a contract with Mr. Morris, and omitted to call for tenders ? They have offered various excuses to make good their contention that this is not a contract at all, but merely piecework, the .object being to free themselves of responsibility for not having called for tenders for the work. I hope .the Government will yet recognise their responsibility in the matter, and do what decent people would do in the circumstances. The whole administration in connexion with this railway is so smellful that men having any respect for their own reputation would insist upon an inquiry into everything connected with it. I sympathize with the Government to some extent, because I recognise that they were guided by a consulting engineer who was a most unreliable person. If they have been led into this through following his advice they should let the Senate know how far that advice went. While the Government would be justified in acting upon the advice of the Engineer-in-Chief upon purely engineering matters, that would not free them from the responsibility for the policy adopted in connexion with the construction of this railway. We know that, in regard to the construction of public works, there is a well-defined difference between the policy of the present Government and the policy of the Labour party. We know that they have proclaimed their intention to have everything on this railway done by contract, as far as possible, instead of by day labour. We can agree to differ as to the merits of the two systems, but where the condition of giving publicity to their intention has not been fulfilled, in order that public money should be spent to the best possible advantage, the Government ought to set at rest the suspicion which is in the public mind regarding these jobs. It is they alone who are responsible for the suspicion which surrounds the Teesdale Smith contract. I do not propose to say more about the Morris contract, except that it is on all-fours with the Teesdale Smith contract as regards noncompliance with the ordinary condition of calling for tenders. As regards the rates, I do not think that there is anything wrong. We know that the rates Mr. Morris and Mr. Mayman were paying were the cause of the stoppage of the whole of the works. You cannot persuade a man who lives in the backblocks that he is entitled to be called anything else but a blackleg or a scab if he is caught working for less than the current rate in his district. Now the current rate in the locality of this contract is 13s. 4d. per day. The Government will not give that rate to the men, and consequently the responsibility for the strike can be surely ascribed to them. How long do they intend to allow this state of affairs to continue? The whole of the construction work in Western Australia is suspended. I can assure the Government that they need not expect the men who do the hard work to cave in. They are not likely to work for less than they believe they are entitled to receive. The job will be at a standstill until the Government are prepared to pay the current rate in the district. It was stated here to-day, in reply to questions, that the Government are paying higher wages than are paid’ to men working on mines.
That’ is an absurd statement. A man on a mine is doing different work entirely. The Government might just as well have said, in reply to the questions to-day, that they are paying higher wages at Kalgoorlie than are paid at Melbourne. If the Government wish to see this work proceeded with, there is only one thing they can do, and that is to agree to pay the current rate of wages. The pick and shovel work which is done on the surface for the road boards is much more comparable with the work done on the railway, but it is absurd to compare labouring work on the surfaceof a mine - and very simple kind of work it is - with the work of road-making. In the bush, right away from Kalgoorlie, there is no means for a man to live in the same way as he can do in an established town. Everything is so different that it is really foolish to make a comparison. In regard to the wages paid by road boards on the gold-fields, in every instance of which I have had experience, the rate of pay has been higher than that which is offered by the Government for doing somewhat similar work. I have mentioned these facts in the hope that the Government may reconsider their position, and try to bring about a settlement of the dispute at the Kalgoorlie end of the transcontinental railway.
– They cannot be in much of a hurry to finish the line.
– They are in no hurry apparently; otherwise they would have tried to bring about a settlement earlier. I wish to touch briefly on the Teesdale Smith contract. I do not propose to go into details, because I think that the matter has been placed so fully before the Senate that there is now very little left to be said by me. I notice that no supporter of the Government has endeavoured to justify the attitude taken up by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs. He said he was responsible, and was going to accept all responsibility, for the contract. That statement sounds all right, but where does his responsibility begin and end ? For a Minister to make that statement, and let the matter drop at that, is not going very far; he is not taking a great load on his shoulders. It has been shown as clearly as is possible that the contract has cost at least £20,000 more than it should have cost - that is, in comparison with the cost of similar work on the transcontinental railway.
– That is to say, it has cost double as much as it ought to have done.
– Something like £41,000. The work, based on thecost of similar work in similar country’ on the transcontinental line and on the gold-fields railways,’ has cost at least. £20,000 more than it should have cost. I ask the Government what is the responsibility of Mr. Kelly in a case of” this kind?
– Are you aware -that In South Australia the line from Tailem Bend to Pinnaroo was built at a cost of £973 per mile?
– That is quite true, but the railways in South Australia, have not been built as cheaply as the lines in Western Australia, where much higher rates obtain. Mr. Kelly is reputed to be a rich man. Is he going to make good the £20,000 which, through his ignorance, or perhaps something worse, he lost to the taxpayers in handing over this contract to Mr. Teesdale Smith? If he says in a “ hifalutin “ way that he takes all responsibility, let him “carry the baby.” Let him find the money that Mr. Smith is pocketing, and thenwe shall see that there was some meaningin his statement to the House. Either he must be prepared to pay the bill or he must admit that he has been robbed,, and retire from his position, so that the public may feel that something like business methods are being pursued in the Home Affairs Department. If he hangs on to the position and to his cash, he is taking no responsibility; he is merely taking a little kudos of a cheapkind, and that, I am confident, will not satisfy the public, nor do I think it will satisfy the members of the Senate or of another place.
– He does not seem to be quite so “ cock-sure “ as he was.
– I think it is ridiculous for the Assistant Minister, in the face of what honorable senators know about railway construction, to take up the attitude he does. The Minister of Defence made a comparison betweenthe cost of the Canberra line and the cost of the 14 miles of line let to Mr. Teesdale Smith, and also between the two kinds of country. The comparison is absolutely ridiculous, . consideringthe undulating and rocky nature of the country at Canberra. Any political novice, even a kindergarten politician such as Mr. Kelly, should know that it will cost a great deal more to build a railway in country where there are rivers to be crossed, bridges to be constructed, hard rock to be excavated, and so on, than to run a line over flat country where there is practically little other than sand to shift. Any man who seriously institutes a comparison between the two kinds of country, or the construction of a railway through them, merely exhibits want of knowledge. Let me now point out the cost of railway construction in Western Australia. The first gold-fields railway constructed in Western Australia was the line from Southern Cross to Coolgardie, a distance of 114 miles. It was constructed through country somewhat similar to that which the transcontinental railway is to traverse, and it was built at a cost of £527 per mile on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. The work was carried out by contract, and perhaps it is the most cheaply constructed line in Australia. The goldfields railway from Mulliwa to Cue, a distance of 196 miles, was constructed at the rate of £640 per mile. The line from Coolgardie to Kalgoorlie, a distance of only 23 miles, cost £726 per mile. These figures indicate the kind of country which the transcontinental railway is being taken through, and suggest, too, that behind the Teesdale Smith contract, costing, as it does, over £3,000 for earthworks alone, there is something which has not been revealed. I feel satisfied that Parliament will unearth the something. There is no need for me to further thresh this subject. We have heard a good deal about the contract. I now propose to tell the Senate something about the man who is behind this contract, in order that the public may be seized of the full facts of the case, and may know the kind of individual with whom the Government like to do business.
– He told me that he preferred cheap coolie labour to Australian labour.
– I can quite understand that. Mr. Teesdale Smith is very well known in Western Australia, where for some time he stood at the head of the biggest Timber Combine in the Commonwealth. He filled the position of general manager of that combine, and drew a salary of £5,000 a year - an enormous salary even for a trust to pay. Whilst he was drawing this magnificent emolument he paid the most wretched, sweated wages ever paid by any man who has employed labour there.
– Was not that what he got the £5,000 a year for ?
– There is no doubt that, in order to make up the £5,000, he had to take a good deal from the labouring man. He paid the notoriously low wage, for Western Australia, of 7s. per day, and not until a strike took place was any improvement in the condition of his employes effected.
– It is a pity that he could not be made to live on 7s. a day.
– To compel him to do that after having received a salary of £5,000 a year would mean starvation to him. On one occasion, whilst filling the position of manager of the Timber Combine, Mr. Smith was asked if he regarded 7s. per day as a sufficient wage to enable a man to maintain his wife and family. His reply was, “I do not concern myself at all about how far 7s. a day will go. I am here to get labour at the cheapest possible rate, and all that I will give is 7s. per day.” I may mention that Mr. Frank Wilson, the Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia, who is the paid advocate in the Arbitration Court of the Timber Combine - he occupied a similar position to that which was filled by Senator Oakes before he entered this Chamber-
– He was a paid agitator.
– Yes. I hope that Senator Oakes gave satisfaction for the wage which he received. Mr. Frank Wilson went even one better than Mr. Teesdale Smith. He wanted to get labour for 6s. 6d. per day. I mention these facts for the purpose of showing what would be the lot of the workers if such persons had their way. At the time of which I speak, the truck system was in full swing in that portion of Western Australia which was ruled over by the Timber Combine. Honorable senators will understand that these timber concessions are a considerable distance from established towns. The word “concession,” I confess, is rather a confusing one, and I have never been able to understand why it is applied to these districts. However, it is the word which is always used in Western Australia. The Timber Combine rules these places with an iron hand. It has its own stores, and it will not allow business men to go there and enter into competition with them. I have seen commercial travellers ordered off the trains which run between the Government lines and those of the Timber Combine. They were not allowed to solicit orders in the timber mills. I repeat that the truck system was in full swing at the time, and it is well known that the men employed by Mr. Teesdale Smith frequently found themselves in debt when pay day came round. Not only was the truck system followed, but for the houses which, in some instances, the men had built for themselves out of scrap timber, rents were charged that were out of all proportion to the value of the buildings. In this way Mr. Smith’s £,3000 or £5,000 a year was made up. It was made up by robbing the workers in that particular industry. After the strike a change came over the scene. Mr. Teesdale Smith’s resignation was announced to the public. For some time it was not known what led up to his resignation. When I read some of the correspondence in which that gentleman engaged, in order to influence the public mind in regard to trusts and combines, it will be seen what an unscrupulous character he is. Evidently he did not like the idea of losing the very good billet which he had enjoyed. But one would expect that a man occupying such a position would have had some sense of decency and loyalty to the company which had employed him, and that he would not seek to “ blow the gaff “ on them after he had lost his berth - that he would not expose their tactics and endeavour to do them harm. But that is precisely what he did. He attempted to injure them through quite a number of persons. At that time there was a newspaper published in Perth called the Morning Herald, the editor of which was Mr. Drayton. Mr. Drayton received a very great quantity of matter from Mr. Smith which was calculated to expose the methods pursued by the Timber Combine. The correspondence which I propose to read by no means exhausts the material in my possession; and if an inquiry is instituted into the Tees dale Smith contract, I shall embrace the opportunity to place the whole of it on record. Mr. Teesdale Smith, writing; from the Australian Club, Melbourne, on the 16th March, 1908, said-
Dear Chinn. - Let Drayton know that business pressure prevents me sending my weekly budget by this mail. Besides, I think one does not want to get going too strong so far away from polling clay.
– Was that letter published in the newspapers?
– Not in the form in which I am giving it. The letter proceeded -
Ease up a bit, and drop a bombshell about once a fortnight or so. - Yours, &c., Teesdale Smith.
That letter was written to a man whom Mr. Teesdale Smith has endeavoured to injure as much as possible - I refer to Mr. Henry Chinn, late Supervising Engineer of the Western Australian section of the transcontinental railway.
– I thought there was something similar to the Chinn business about it.
– Mr. Smith is one of those individuals who were mentioned by Mr. Deane. I intend to connect Mr. Deane with Mr. Teesdale Smith, and to show that there is something behind that combination which has not yet been made public. This is a matter which should be probed to the bottom. When the Chinn inquiry was in progress, Mr.. Deane repeatedly stated that he had been warned by Mr. Teesdale Smith to have nothing to do with Mr. Chinn. We tried to find out from Mr. Deane what Mr. Teesdale Smith had said against Mr. Chinn, but could get no direct reply to our queries. All that we could get was an insinuation that Mr Deane, as Consulting Engineer-in-Chief, should not employ Mr. Chinn on the railway. He said he also had a letter that he had received; but we could not get that letter out of Mr. Deane, nor could we get Mr. Teesdale Smith to come forward and give evidence at that time. It would have been interesting if Mr. Smith had come forward. Perhaps we should have found out things which would have prevented the Government from having anything to do with him. The second letter is dated from the Hotel Australia, Sydney, 5th March, 1908, and runs as follows : -
Mr. McMurtee, general manager of Millar’s Combine, with his eastern manager, is here fixing up timber contracts with the Merchants’ Association, which will bind them to obtain all supplies of jarrah or Western Australian timber sold, absolutely from the combine. It is rumoured that the price has advanced about 20 per cent., which means that the consumer will be paying fully 40 per cent. more than he was five years ago, previous to the unholy union of association and combine - which has brought forth a miniature trust of the Standard Oil type. It is an open secret that jarrah shipped by Millar’s Combine has always received from the shipping associations more favorable terms than the timber shipped by other producers, either in the shape of rebate or lower freight. The one deadly principle aimed at by the Standard Oil Combine was the rebate system, and it was through that means that they were enabled, step by step, to undersell and drive out all opposition.
There is no doubt as to the originals of these letters, and we shall challenge the Government on them. I hope the Government, for the sake of their own reputation, will take up the challenge. The third letter, which is dated 5th March, 1908, is addressed from the Weld Club, Perth, the leading club in that city, in the following terms: -
Get your friend to publish a real snorter,as a leader or sub-leader, on the question of the co-operative agreements - could make a really artistic bit of reading.
– We are getting an insight into Mr. Chinn now. You are letting the light in on him.
– These are letters written to Mr. Chinn by Mr. Teesdale Smith.
– But you do not give us the answers.
– If there are any answers, I should like to know what they are. That matter could be brought out by an inquiry, or Senator Millen may get the answer from his friend, Mr. Teesdale Smith.
– The letters show the very close correspondence between Mr. Teesdale Smith and his friend, Mr. Chinn.
– Certainly they do. There is no doubt about it. The letters show the manner of man Mr. Teesdale Smith is.
– You cannot tar one man without tarring both.
– If any charge can be brought against Mr. Chinn in the matter, let him take the responsibility. I am not going to shield him, or anybody else. I propose that every one shall shoulder the responsibility to which he is entitled, and I hope the Government will not shirk their share. I ought to explain that, at the time of the timber strike in Western Australia, before the men returned to work, a co-operative agreement was entered into between them and the Timber Combine. Mr. Smith was the manager and representative of the combine. The co-operative agreement was the result of the conferences, and the timber mills of Western Australia were to be worked on the co-operative principle; but, for some reason that has not been made public, the agreement never came into actual working operation.
– Was Mr. Smith an applicant for the position of manager of the co-operative company?
- Mr. Smith, so far as I was able to see, was the only man who would get much out of it at £5,000 a year as manager. I understand there was a kind of agreement that he should remain as general manager of the mills; but the very short shrift that he got immediately afterwards, which threw him out of his position, showed that his only hope of continuing at £5,000 a year was to throw over the Timber Combine and enter into the co-operative scheme that he had so carefully concocted.
– What was Chinn doing at this time if he was in such close correspondence with him?
– If Senator Millen, as a representative of the Government, will agree to an inquiry, he will have an opportunity to ask all those questions.
– Why do you not read the answers to those letters?
– Because Mr. Teesdale Smith has them. If the honorable senator can find me the answers I shall only be too happy to read them. The letter is as follows: -
Perth Weld Club,
Perth, 5th March, 1908, 5.30 a.m.
Get your friend to publish a real snorter, as a leader or sub-leader, on the question of the co-operative agreement - could make a really artistic bit of reading. Nine months ago an agreement was signed, pledging the right of the men to “ do “ for themselves, and to give them a chance of showing that they were as capable as the company to ‘ manage and run (heir capital - that is, their labour - but have the men had their chance to lift themselves up ? No. Though nine months have elapsed, the nien up to date have not even had the chance of seeing the cover of an agreement. Why have they been kept out of their common law rights so long? The fact that the company have withheld so long should be proof enough of how important the company thinks their agreement is to the men, under which the men would cease to be tools, and would become so equal to the company, as they would be thinkers as well as and not doers only; and is it not proof to the men that what they were told, viz., that they would make, or increase their pay, 10 to 15 per cent. ? The company knows that, and don’t want this percentage on, say, 2,000 men’s wages, which means an annual loss of over £30,000 per annum to the bone and sinews of the business, and as long as the company can keep men quiet they are not likely to give way. Men signed industrial agreement. Why has not the other been signed by the company? Bap it into leaders of the men for allowing Millar’s to hoodwink them so long. Hint that it may be that it has taken so long because maybe the company’s solicitors here manage the directors here, and the London Board, and the best legal talent obtainable in London, are at work framing such an agreement as no body of men could or would work under. Must be one of two things : the company either want it or don’t. H former, could have been brought about in a week or two; if they don’t want it, why not tell the men so, and pay them an increase all round of the difference. Make this very strong^.
Senator Pearce was one of the leaders in that strike, and Senators Lynch and Needham were also directly concerned, whilst Senator Henderson amd myself collected money in the eastern States to keep the men from being .starved into submission to Mr Teesdale Smith’s sweating conditions. Mr. Smith’s advice to .the editor was to “rub it into them,” and to make the article very strong. Here is more matter of the same kind. These are memoranda written by Mr. Smith for a series of articles in the Perth morning paper, exposing the tactics of the Timber Combine in Western Aus- tralia and other States. They were written on board the Kyarra in pencil and in a somewhat disjointed way, to be afterwards knocked into shape, and a series of articles published as the outcome.
– To be knocked into shape by Mr. Chinn again?
– As the articles were to appear in the Perth Morning Herald, I suppose the editor, Mr. Drayton, would be responsible for them.
– Were they sent to Mr. Chinn first?
– Yes ; and he takes the responsibility of giving them to me. Here is the powder for an article as supplied by Mr. Smith -
For forty years American citizens have been trying to burst up the Oil Trust, but all efforts failed. . . . What has taken place there is now at work in Western Australia. The Timber Combine for years now have been manipulating the outside sources of supply (like the Standard Oil), buying up all the timber that can be got from the little man, and getting other companies to come in with them, with the result that practically all the marketable timber supply is. controlled by the combine.
I quite agree with what Mr. Smith says there. No man knows the facts of the case better than he does. No one in Australia knows the timber trade better, and he is dealing with a subject with which he is familiar in every sense of the word -
The public must now pay any rate the combine demands, and timber that cost £3 12s. per load will go up 50 or .100 per cent. This happened repeatedly with oil. Is it not time the people realized, before it is too late, that any more combines is not for their benefit ?
I hope the Government, who are now considering the appointment of a Royal Commission to go into the matter of trusts and combines, will make Mr. Smith one of the Commissioners, because no man in this country knows more about combines and their tactics than he does. As this statement shows, he is well up in their tactics, and knows exactly what they do. He would make a splendid commissioner, and would give an interesting report on these matters.
– Does the honorable senator think that he could not be bought off?
– Not him !
– I should like to know what was paid to Chinn for this work.
– Later on, if an inquiry is held, Mr. Teesdale Smith will be able to tell us. The statement continues -
The State is fortunate to have still a small area of timber land available. This will prove a great boon to the Government, and put it beyond the power of the Timber Combine. The Government should be careful not to allow the combine to get hold of this area. The combine has refused to ratify the co-operative agreement entered into between the workers and the combine. They (the men): could follow out the line of work that has been agitating the mind of the community so long-
One would not think that Mr. Teesdale Smith was a Socialist. viz., the working of the timber of the State on co-operative lines. But the combine is making a strenuous effort to block the men going on with the agreement. The combine ib paying away gratuitously higher wages than the Court awarded, to try and create dissension and discontent amongst the workers, to dislocate the efforts put forth on behalf of the men by those that worked for their efforts daring the strike. If the Court had to be persuaded at inordinate length that the combine should not pay higher wages, and that it was necessary in the interests of the industry that lower wages should be paid, and that the combine could not pay higher wages and live, now, in face of this, the combine is paying higher wages to some of its employes, surely it is a fair thing to ask why? If they can placate some of the men in the hope to defeat the co-operative scheme.
Honorable senators will see that in this statement Mr. Teesdale Smith is backing up the men whom he was fighting against only a few months before. Here he justifies the men who struck in order to better their conditions; but when the case came before the Arbitration Court the men had no more bitter opponent than Mr. Teesdale Smith. He was the head and front of the defence of the combine at every turn. He tried all he knew to defeat the men who had gone on strike; but it is evident from this statement that in his heart he knew he was doing wrong. He knew that in asking’ that the railway freights should be reduced on timber bought from the combine, a concession which was granted by the Government, he was asking for- something to which he was not entitled, and which the combine did not require. Here in this statement he is ‘ 1 turning dog ‘ ‘ on the very people who paid him at that time. He is exposing their tactics by supplying information of this kind for publication in the press. This is the kind of man whom the present Government have preferred to let in by the side door, in order that they might give him a contract without calling tenders,, so that other contractors would have an opportunity of competing with him for the work.
– Does the honorable senator not think, in view of these letters from Chinn, that the less he says about “turning dog “ the better?
– When a man like Mr. Teesdale Smith is let into the public employ in the way he has’ been, after injuring another man as far as he possibly could, I consider that that man is quite justified in getting level with him in any way that he can. I hope that Mr. Chinn will get level with a few more of his enemies, some of whom are in the present Government, and many of them <are in the Teesdale Smith contract.
– Members of the present Government?
– Many of the enemies of Mr. Chinn are mixed up in this contract in some way or another.
– The honorable senator means to say that there are some decent men connected with the contract.
– They are very decent men.
– The honorable senator has done Chinn more damage this afternoon than was done him by anything that came before the Select Committee.
– If that be so, the honorable senator will be glad, but, certainly, he does not look pleased. I am doing the members of the present Government no good, anyhow. I am showing the manner of man they are prepared to do- business with.
– The honorable senator has shown that the Commonwealth was justified in getting rid of Chinn.
– By exposing the tactics of the present Government, Mr. Chinn is getting level with those who persecuted him. The information I am giving is; something that the public are entitled to know. If Mr. Chinn, has done wrong, I am not here to defend him ; and I certainly do not intend to defend the present Government or Mr. Teesdale Smith. What I say here is that the statement I am reading exposes the character of the man to whom: the Government have given a contract at double the rates usually paid for the work, and to whom they have practically made a present of £20,000.
– Why should Mr. Teesdale Smith be given a present of £20,000?
– I do not know how much Teesdale Smith supplied in the shape of election expenses. If we knew exactly how much Teesdale Smith is worth to the Government at election time, I could tell Senator Guthrie whether he is getting a sufficient return through this contract.
– If the honorable senator is trying to insinuate that the Government gave the contract to Mr. Teesdale Smith because of any contribution or assistance at election time to the party funds, let him say so.
– I am not itf possession of any more proof than the indirect proof which is before us. I say that Mr. Teesdale Smith is getting exactly £20,000 more than he should get for the work he is to carry out under the contract. Why is he getting this money?
– He is getting the same rates as were current and paid by the .Government of South Australia.
– The honorable senator knows that is not correct.
– It is correct.
– It is ridiculous to say that he is getting the same rates as were paid by the Government of South Australia. Such rates were never before paid for inland railway construction in Australia.
– It is a scoundrelly thing for the honorable senator to say that the Government gave the contract because of any party advantage they derived from Mr. Teesdale Smith.
– Let the Government institute an inquiry, and we shall then see what they did it for.
– Institute an inquiry for any scoundrelly accusation the honorable senator may make?
– It is common rumour that Teesdale Smith contributed largely to the Fusion party’s funds.
– It is a common lie spread by you and others.
– I rise to a point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order I Before the honorable senator rose, ‘ I had risen to ask “Senator Millen to withdraw his statement that Senator Findley was guilty of “a common lie.”
Sentor Millen. - I did not say that Senator Findley was guilty of it. I say that it is a common lie - and I repeat the statement now - that is spread around the country that the Government gave the contract because of some pecuniary advantage which their party organization received from Mr. Teesdale Smith.
– Then the honorable senator said to Senator de Largie, “It is a common lie spread by you and others.”
– No; the honorable senator did not say that to me.
– I say that the Minister of Defence ought to be called upon to withdraw his statement, “ It is a common lie spread by you and others,” if he indicated any honorable senator in this chamber.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Senator Millen has stated that what he said was that Senator Findley said something which was a common lie spread by some one outside this chamber.
– No; the honorable senator’s words were “ by you and others.”
– I rise to a point of order. As the members of the Government are so touchy on points of order, I wish to say what I believe was the remark made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I said that it was a common rumour that Teesdale Smith contributed largely to the Fusion “party’s funds, and Senator Millen said, “ It is a common lie spread by you and others.” I ask whether that statement is in order.
– The honorable senator is giving currency to it now.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -I stated that that statement was not in order, and I asked Senator Millen to withdraw it. Senator Millen denied that he had made the statement attributed to him. If Senator Findley objects to the statement made by Senator Millen I shall ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– I object to the statement that I spread any lie.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Then I ask Senator Millen to withdraw the statement.
– If Senator Findley takes that as a reflection upon his own veracity, I willingly withdraw it. I ask your protection, sir, and the protection of the Chamber. Am I, as a Minister, to sit here and be told, even though it should be only by the repetition of statements made outside, that I am a member of a Government who have given a contract for the purpose of obtaining a big advantage for its party funds? I am entitled, sir, to your protection, as one of the Ministry, from insulting insinuations of that kind.
– I object to that withdrawal. I do not consider it a withdrawal at all when it is introduced with the words, “ If Senator Findley takes that as a reflection upon his own veracity.” I did not ask for a withdrawal upon that condition.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Senator Millen has withdrawn the statement as applied to Senator Findley.
– He got off very lightly. He should be asked for an unqualified withdrawal. I was suspended for less.
– I do not know why Senator Millen was so touchy when I referred to those who are mixed up in this contract.
– Let the honorable senator leave out his insinuations against the Government, and I do not mind what he says.
– Why, then, is the honorable senator so angry? We know that the Government have hidden themselves behind certain names. Mr. Deane has been more than once dragged into this matter. All I have said is that we want an inquiry. I say that a number of men who were the persecutors of Mr. Chinn are mixed up with this Teesdale Smith contract. We want to know exactly how far the Government, Mr. Teesdale Smith, and the late Engineer-in-Chief are in it. Senator Millen himself has not been too guarded in expressing himself in this chamber in regard to some of these people. At this stage it will be interesting to honorable senators to hear Senator Millen’s opinion of Mr. Deane, the late Engineer-iii-Chief, so that they may have some idea of the character of tho men we are dealing with. When there was a debate on the transcontinental railway in the Senate, and Senator Millen was referring to Mr. Deane’s principal report, known as the 1911 report, he was hostile to the construction of the railway, as all his colleagues were. The party opposite tried to prevent the railway being constructed, and I may say that from the way in which they are carrying on in Western Australia to-day they are succeeding very well in preventing the construction of the line. What did Senator Millen say at the time referred to ?
– That was the time when the honorable senator was declaring that Mr. Deane was everything he could wish him to be.
– I did not know Mr. Deane’s private or professional character at that time, and therefore could not express an opinion.
– But the honorable senator did express an opinion.
– All I knew was that he had occupied for some time the position of Consulting Engineer on the transcontinental railway. So far as I knew he was fit for the position. I did not say much for or against him for the simple reason that I did not know him. But Senator Millen came from the State in which Mr. Deane had been employed for many years as a professional engineer. It was no doubt from that experience of him that the honorable senator formed his opinion of him. He said during the debate Jo which I have referred -
I want to get back to the paragraph again, and to say that nobody, not even a cowboy cn the smallest farm in the country, would have permitted himself to sign it.
– Do you not think that you ought to read the paragraph? It has a very important bearing on that.
– This was a Paragraph in Mr. Deane’s report regarding the transcontinental railway and the lands it was to run through.
– The report referred to had reference to the number of sheep available to be trucked every year, a matter on which Mr. Deane, as EngineerinChief, evidently did not know anything.
– I am quite prepared to accept the Minister’s opinion of Mr. Deane; but I want this matter to be again put before the public. Senator Millen continued -
I direct attention to the fact that a public officer, who ought to have been impartial, has put into his report stuff which would disgrace the mining prospectus of a “ wild-cat show.”
I asked whether this man had been dismissed by the Government, or had been allowed to resign, and they, I understand, have allowed him to resign in spite of the opinion held of him by Senator Millen, and in spite of the smellful jobs with which, I think, he can be charged - a charge which’, I think, can be brought home if an opportunity is afforded. I do not care about making charges against any man who is not a member of Parliament, because those who are charged are not in a position to speak here. I recognise that one assumes a great deal of responsibility in standing here and making charges. But for the fact that these men are carrying out a public work, and are getting paid by the Government for performing the work, I would be the last man to make any statement- about them here. We all have an obligation to fulfil. We know that public money is being squandered. We know, too, that these men are at the bottom of the squandering, and consequently it is my duty to expose their tactics if I possibly can. It is of no use for any one .to say that Mr. Deane is no longer Consulting Engineer-in-Chief . He is drawing from New South Wales a pension of £462 per annum. A man who has a character such as Senator Millen said Mr. Deane has, and who has a connexion with Mr. Teesdale Smith in the way -.that I suspect he* has, is not entitled to a pension from the taxpayers of Australia. We want to get at the bottom of this business and to see that justice is done. I do not desire to make charges against Mr. Teesdale Smith or Mr. Deane, but I want them to get an opportunity to answer the charges. If an inquiry is authorized, these men will be put on a level with myself and will be entitled to defend their character if anything is said here to-day which should not have been said. I will now resume the reading of Mr. Teesdale Smith’s epistle to Mr. Henry Chinn. Continuing, he says -
The combine is not sawmillers in the sense that is provided in the Land Act.
These, I may mention, are all wellknown arguments against the combine in Western Australia. We have argued that the combine broke the conditions of the Land Act under which they took up the land. We have pointed out that the concessions’ should have been resumed long ago, because the persons were not entitled to them, and were preventing selection, because they were acting in a doginthemanger fashion by locking up a lot of land which, so far as timber was con- cerned, was practically cut out. This information, coming from Mr. Teesdale Smith, who knows the inside workingsof the combine, ought, I think, tostrengthen the arguments used by the Labour party time and again in Western Australia. Mr. Smith goes on teadvise the writer of the articles to instance all the little towns where the combine now have their business, and to point out that small retailers have been driven out of the business. This is what he said -
At Broome Hill the combine are not only retailers of timber, but employ carpenters to do jobs in the town, cutting out the small tradesmen.
No more competition with the combine in timber, and when they start out in opposition to the small tradesman, how long is the opposition going to last?
The Canning Concession and the Jarrahdale Concession should be rated under the Land Act at 10s. an acre. As the combine will not. allow selectors on these concessions, these concessions should be abolished, and a land tax put on by Parliament. This land is not held for timber purposes, as it has all been practically cut out of timber, but to prevent opposition to the combine stores; for if these lands were thrown open, and stores started within reasonable distances, the profits from combine’s stores would materially decrease.
The whole of the 350,000 acres of land in these concessions would be taken up within a very short time if get-at-able, as it is some of the best land in Western Australia.
This communication will be printed in Hansard, and the public will thus learn something about the tactics of the combine ahead of the Royal Commission who are inquiring into this matter. At the same time, the public will learn something about the men whom the Government prefer to employ rather than have their construction work done by day labour. The public will gain some knowledge of the man who was able to interview the Minister and obtain from him a contract without tenders being called, or without any publicity being given to their intention. We shall then learn whether the public think that this is an honest and fair way of doing their business, when the day-labour principle does not permit of corruption in any shape. We shall then be in a position to go to the country on the question of day labour versus the contract system, with all its corrupt practices, such as this case undoubtedly exposes. If this debate has done nothing else, it has exposed the very smellful jobs of Mr. Teesdale Smith, and by-and-by the public will be in a position to decide which political party proposes to conduct their business in the most sensible and honest way. There are, I think, other reasons why an inquiry should be held. So far there has been an enormous expenditure on the transcontinental railway, far above the estimates furnished by Mr. Deane when we were asked to pass the Railway Construction Bill. When we find that his estimates are being enormously exceeded, we have a right to know as soon as possible the reasons for the excess. Now that the contractors have got their nose into the business, the cost of construction will go up and up. If, during the next two years - and I suppose it will take at least that time to build the line - the expenditure continues to exceed the estimates, it will be the most expensive railway which has ever been built in Australia, instead of being, as it should be, one of the most cheaply-built lines. Through similar country, the Government of Western Australia have had railways built at a cost of £500, £600, and £700 per mile. The transcontinental railway, I think, ought to have been built for about £1,000 a mile; at any rate, so far as earthworks are concerned, at about onehalf the amount which Mr. Teesdale Smith is getting. I have taken out the estimates of Mr. Deane, as furnished in his report of 1911 to the Commonwealth Government, and the actual cost of construction, as shown in the schedules issued from time to time by the Department. I find that on the four principal items his estimates have been exceeded by £1,348,255. His estimate of the cost for rails and fastenings was £1,012,0.00. Up to the present time rails and fastenings have cost £1,431,523, and only 700 miles of rails have been purchased. His estimate of £1,012,000 was for the whole length of the railway, namely, 1,063 miles. The cost of sleepers and ballast was estimated at £1,038,000. So far, £1,466,321 has been spent for about 700 miles of sleepers and ballast; that is £426,321 more than the estimate, and all the sleepers have not been purchased yet. Mr. Deane’s estimate for plate-laying for 1,063 miles was £153,000, and already £526,989 has been spent .under this head. There is only one explanation of this excess, and that is that Mr. Deane did not estimate the cost of haulage in connexion with the platelaying. As regards rolling-stock, the
Commonwealth has already purchased £441,436 worth. Mr. Deane estimated that £315,000 would be sufficient to buy all the rolling-stock required for the line. On these four items the actual expenditure has been £3,866,266, as against Mr. Deane’s estimate of £2,516,000, showing an excess of £1,348,255. If this rate of expenditure continues, there is no knowing what the actual responsibility for this line is going to be. Therefore, I think that in connexion with Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract the inquiry, if the Government intend to let us have an inquiry, ought to be given a sufficiently broad scope, to take in the present expenditure on day labour, the past expenditure in this regard also, and the purchase of stock. Where a suspicion exists that there is something wrong with a contract - and such a suspicion undoubtedly exists in the case of the Teesdale Smith contract - it would be well to inquire into the purchase of all this material with a view to ascertaining whether the Commonwealth has been charged fair prices for it or not. I hope’ that the Government will recognise that it is their duty to set the public mind at rest by granting an exhaustive inquiry into the whole matter of the construction of this transcontinental railway. I hope, too, that they will no longer delay a settlement with the men who are on strike at the Kalgoorlie end of that line. Those men are merely asking for the rate of wages which is being paid by a private contractor, and their claim, therefore, ought to be conceded, as it is fair and beyond all cavil.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.57]. - It is with some degree of reluctance that I intervene in this debate, which -has now been prolonged over several weeks. But, in dealing with the matters upon which I propose to touch, I shall endeavour, as far as possible, to avoid repeating arguments which have been previously advanced; and where I do dwell upon questions which have been dealt with by other speakers, I shall strive to introduce new matter. I want, as the lawyers say, to take a preliminary objection to the way in which the position is put in paragraph 2 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. That paragraph reads -
My stay in Australia has been a most pleasant and useful one to me, and I would fain hope it may have been’ of some slight service to
Australia. My relations with both Governments and people have been of the happiest kind, and Lady Denman and I shall leave Australia with feelings of the deepest regret.
In that paragraph it will be noted that, whereas the word “ Governments “ is printed with a capital “ G,” the word “ people” is printed with a small *’ p.” I suppose that this is indicative of the view entertained by the Government of the relative importance of themselves and of the people. But I venture to say that when an appeal is made to the electors the position will be entirely reversed. We have been told that the reason Parliament has been called together at this unusual time of the year is to transact urgent public business. With that end in view, the Ministry have introduced two so-called test Bills which can “have no effect whatever upon the existing condition of things, and which they knew would have a tendency to delay, instead of to expedite, the transaction of public business. I am not going to dogmatize upon those two measures. I recognise that we are sailing on an uncharted sea in regard to the dead-lock provision of our Constitution. ‘ There is no similar provision in any other Constitution with which I am acquainted. But I do say that the dead-lock which it is proposed to create by these two Bills is an entirely artificial one. That can be conclusively proved by a reference to the history of those measures. Last year the Government in their statement of policy declared their intention to introduce Bills dealing with an amendment of the electoral law and with the Arbitration Court. The Bill dealing with the electoral law proposed, among other points, to restore the postal vote. The other measure was intended to exclude from the operation of the Arbitration Act the rural workers of the Commonwealth and preference to unionists. These Bills were submitted in another place. But on the 31st October, before the Senate had committed any overt or covert act, the Government suddenly dropped those Bills, and substituted two others for them, with the avowed object of provoking a conflict with the Senate. Those measures were forced through the other branch of the Legislature with malice aforethought. The Government applied the “ gag “ on every possible occasion. I repeat that the history of those Bills conclusively shows that if a dead-lock is created, it will be an artificial dead-lock. Coming to the Premiers’ Conference, I wish to say that, in my judgment, such gatherings serve a very useful purpose, so long as they are confined to their legitimate sphere - so long as they deal with matters in which, the States are jointly interested, and with which they cannot deal independently. The fact of the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the States meeting in consultation has also a tendency to bring about harmonius relations between the Commonwealth and State authorities. But the Premiers should confine themselves to matters which come within their jurisdiction, and ought not to attempt in any way to usurp Federal functions. For example, when they come to deal with industrial laws, it appears to me that they are trenching upon a matter which should be reserved to the Commonwealth, and which can be more effectively dealt with by the Federal authority. Amongst the matters which properly come within the jurisdiction of the Premiers’ Conference is that of the State debts. Although the Commonwealth possesses the power to take over the debts without consulting the States, it would be very unwise to take arbitrary action of that character. Then there is the question of a uniform railway gauge. That is a matter in respect to which there must be joint action. The Murray waters is another subject upon which united action can very appropriately be taken by the States and the Commonwealth. But if the States are to attempt to enact legislation upon matters which can be better dealt with by the Commonwealth, I ask where was the necessity for federating? If that sort of action be insisted upon, we shall get back to the old days when a Federal Council was in existence. Some honorable senators will doubtless recollect the pre-Federation period, when there was a Federal Council consisting of representatives of the various States. South Australia was represented upon that body, and I remember the late Sir Richard Baker describing it as a body that had nothing to do and no power to do it. It is a pleasure for me to be able to commend the Government for something. Whether they have blundered into it or not I cannot say, but there are some measures in respect of which they have adopted a proper and statesman-like attitude. Amongst these is the agreement arrived at with the States in regard to the utilization of the Murray waters.
There is plenty of water in that great river to supply all the States for both irrigation and navigation if properly utilized, and the key to its utilization lies in a proper system of locking. Only three of the States will directly participate in the benefit, and there is no reason why they should not share in the cost. Queensland will also benefit to a certain extent, because some of her waterways drain into the Murray, and the locking of the Murray for navigation purposes will benefit her, although perhaps not to the same extent as New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. As those three or four States will participate iu the benefit, they cannot possibly have any objection to the Commonwealth paying the comparatively small sum of £1,000,000, considering the benefits that will be received, towards the better utilization of the Murray waters. Western Australia and Tasmania will not directly benefit by the expenditure, but I would point out to their representatives here that Western Australia has received special consideration under .the Constitution, and Tasmania has been provided for by more recent legislation. By those means the whole body of the taxpayers in the other States have contributed towards certain privileges to which those two States were fairly entitled.
– You are more likely to get opposition from some States that are going to benefit directly than from the States that will not benefit.
-Colonel O’LOGHLIN. - Some opposition has already been indicated by one of the organs of public opinion in Victoria, but we in South Australia have become quite used to having our negotiations with Victoria banned by the Ago, and are not surprised to find that paper taking up the same attitude in regard to the present proposals for the utilization of the Murray waters. I unstintingly compliment the Government on the action that they have taken in this regard, and hope that the arrangement will be duly ratified by the State Parliaments. I know there are difficulties ahead, but I believe that even in Victoria the arrangement made by their Premier and other Ministers at the Conference will be honoured and the scheme carried out.
– Is this the third or fourth agreement?
-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I think the fourth. The previous ones have been tentative. Both Mr. Price and Mr. Verran, Labour Premiers, entered into arrangements, and Mr. Verran, I am glad .to say, finding that he could not get much satisfaction out of Victoria, took the matter in hand himself, sent to the United Sta>tes for an expert, Captain Johnson, and proceeded with the locking of the Murray within South Australian territory, independently of the other States - a position which has been indorsed by the present Government. He also entered into an arrangement with New South Wales for the establishment of a large storage basin in Lake Victoria. The proposal put forward at the Premiers’ Conference to transfer the Commonwealth Savings Bank business to tho States is unthinkable, and should receive the strenuous opposition of every member of both Houses. Having established a National Bank, a bank in which all the people are shareholders, we should not for a moment entertain the proposition to eliminate from it the particular part which deals with the savings of the common people, to use rather an objectionable expression. We should not be asked to cut out the man whose monetary position is not sufficient to enable him to have an account with the ordinary commercial banks.
– He still has the States Savings Banks. What difference does it make to him ?
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I take a fatherly interest in the States Savings Banks, having been for twelve years a trustee of the South Australian institution, and an excellent institution it is in every way, but we have established a national scheme dealing with ^banking as a whole, and there is no reason why we should divide it bv eliminating the savings bank part from the general scheme.
– You are coming in as a competitor with already established Savings Banks.
– Our warrant for doing so is contained in the Constitution, which places banking and currency in the hands of the Central Government. This was a mandate indorsed by the people. When exercising our right to take over certain activities from the States under the
Constitution is there any precedent or warrant for our doing so in a partial manner only? We might just as well say that when taking over defence we should take over the naval part only and leave the military part with the States.
– That could not be done under the Constitution.
.- I do not think that, under the Constitution, we could divide the Savings Bank part from the general banking part, and that is the position suggested by the governor of the bank himself.
– Mr. Miller does not take that view. He says that he cannot alter the present methods until an Act of Parliament is passed.
– He also suggests that it will probably require an alteration of the constitution before it can be done.
– He means the constitution of the bank, not of the Commonwealth.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.It might as well be suggested that, in taking over trade and Customs, the Commonwealth should take over the Customs and leave Excise with the States.
– That, again, is expressly provided for by the Constitution.
– We get back to the same position, that where the power to deal with banking is given to the Central Government, it means the whole power, which should not be divided. Can honorable senators give me any instance where, under section 51 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth has only partially exercised a power?
– I cannot give an instance of the kind in Australia, but if we like we can exercise part of a power and leave the rest of it to the States as a matter of fair play.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.Can the honorable senator give me any instance where any Federal Government have taken a power over in a partial manner ?
– Is it fair to interfere with State activities which you cannot abolish altogether ?
– Surely the honorable senator does not attempt to say that the Act under which the Commonwealth established the Savings Bank is ultra vires?
– The Commonwealth had the right to do it under the Constitution, and the honorable senator can give me no instance of any power which a Federal Government have a right to exercise being dealt with, either here or anywhere else, in a partial manner. I strongly object to our National Bank dealing only with the commercial man, the man who has a chequehook and a banking account, and leaving out the much larger proportion of the people who want to invest their small savings. Our opponents do not want this bank to be even a commercial bank, because they know that it competes with their particular friends, the private banking institutions, who are the mainstay of their party.
– The governor says he wants it to be the bankers’ bank, so as to assist the private banks.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I do not object to that. It should be the bankers’ bank, and the bank of the Commonwealth Government, and all the State Governments; but it should be the poor man’s bank also. This is the reference to the subject in the Speech -
My Advisers have, in conference with the State Premiers, undertaken to bring before Parliament at an early date certain measures to 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.
I desire particularly to emphasize the last part of that statement. What is to prevent the Government from doing this “ great service “ to the people, without making any haggling conditions? Is there anything in any Act to stop them from joining with the States and offering all the facilities which the Commonwealth Bank can offer for doing all the business of the
States? Why should they make any haggling conditions about a proposition which, they say, is to be of such immense benefit to the States and the Commonwealth? If it is a good thing, why not do it ? If they choose, then, to go on with any negotiations, and can arrange any feasible scheme for the States to continue the Savings Bank business and the Commonwealth Bank to go out of it, that should be a separate matter altogether. I am entirely opposed to any such proposal; but there is no reason why they should place the two things in opposition, and say that if we do not agree to the proposal to hand the Savings Bank business over entirely to the States they will not bring in a Bill to achieve this great scheme which is to be of such immense benefit to the States and the Commonwealth. If it is a good thing for the Commonwealth National Bank to deal with the whole of the business of the State and Commonwealth Governments, the scheme ought to be proceeded with without hesitation or delay, and without any hampering conditions such as are suggested in the paragraph that I have just read.
– As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Bank is now doing the business of the Tasmanian Government.
.- I have been pleased to see that the State of Tasmania has in this matter shown a splendid example to ‘the larger States. I am reminded of the saying, “ A little child shall lead them.”
– The State of Tasmania got a solid cash consideration for doing it, too.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.One result which has followed from the Commonwealth Bank entering into savings bank business is that in South Australia, and, I believe, in all the other States as well, there has been a considerable extension of the facilities offered to the public by the State Savings Banks, and a liberalizing of their regulations, which has been very much in the interests of the public. So far as general depositors are concerned, I do not think the proposal to ‘ abolish dual control of the Savings Bank business will “ cut much ice.” At present the general depositor has the choice of two banks, and the com* petition between them has already led to the liberalization of the methods of the State Savings Banks in his favour. In the circumstances, the abolition of the dual control of the business is not likely to arouse the enthusiasm of the general depositor. I am personally in favour of the savings bank business and the whole of our national banking being carried on by one bank. As I indicated when the Minister of Defence was speaking, if there is to be one control of national banking, as I believe there should be, it ought to be national rather than provincial. The Minister took some exception to the word “ provincial,” but I am not particular as to the phrase, and I say that national banking should be conducted by the Commonwealth rather than by the States. That should be self-evident, because the .Commonwealth has control of all the post-offices, and could impose a uniform system and regulations throughout the States. It must commend itself to the public generally that it is better that there should be a central control than that there should be six different systems in operation in the different States. If there are not to be six different systems operating in the States, the different State Parliaments must pass six similar Acts coordinating the system adopted.
– Competition is the life of trade. If they put up the rate to 4 per cent, they will get the money.
– The private banks charged the Tasmanian Government 6 per cent, on their overdraft, but the Commonwealth Bank charges them only 4^ per cent.
.- I am not satisfied that the Commonwealth Bank has done as much as it should do for the benefit of the public during the time it has been in existence. I agree that we should make every allowance for Mr. Denison Miller in the difficulties he has had to meet in the starting of a new system in the teeth of the opposition of all the private financial institutions, aswell as of the State Governments. The Commonwealth Bank has turned the corner, and is making a profit much sooner than any one could reasonably have expected. I do not believe that even the most sanguine- expected that the bank would show a profit for the first three or four years at any rate. It is evidence of its sound and healthy condition” that it has already been able to show a profit which, I am sure, will be largely increased during every succeeding year. But I look forward to the time when the Commonwealth Bank will abolish the iniquitous banking charge of 10s. a year imposed upon the customers of banks. This practically amounts to a charge by the bank for using the moneys of their customers. I look forward to the time when the Commonwealth Bank will be prepared, as many London banks do, and as some private concerns in Australia do at the present time, to pay a small rate of interest - 2 or 3 per cent, on current accounts. If the Savings Banks are able to pay 3 or 3£ per cent., I do not see why the Commonwealth Bank, which has no dividends to pay to shareholders, and has many facilities for business which private financial institutions cannot command, should not be able to pay a small rate of interest on current accounts.
– The honorable senator should bear in mind that the banks may make, losses, and must make provision against them.
– Every bank is subject to losses. The Savings Banks make losses sometimes. The South Australian Savings Bank is one of the safest and best managed institutions of the kind in the Commonwealth, and yet, during the time I was a trustee, it occasionally became possessed of properties which had to be sold at a loss. Every bank must take a risk of that kind. I believe that the time will come when the Commonwealth Bank will abolish the iniquitous banking charge to which I have referred. I can remember the time when that charge was first made. For many years previously there was no such charge. It was only imposed when the managers of the different private banks laid their heads together and discovered that new means of exploiting the public. I believe also, that the Commonwealth Bank will be able to pay a small rate of interest, 2 or 3 per cent., on current accounts. That would make the commercial banks sit up, and would put an end to a system under which the public have been bled by the financial institutions for many years. There is one other matter connected with the Savings Bank branch of the Commonwealth Bank to which I wish to direct attention. I refer to a regulation which is used by opponents of the bank to very seriously damage it. It deals with a matter which has already been considered by the Senate. I was not in the Federal Parliament at the time, but I believe that it was owing to the action of the Senate that a provision in the Commonwealth Bank Bill, similar to the regulation to which I refer, was eliminated. It was a provision that the bank should not be responsible if a depositor’s pass-book was obtained by some one else, and money fraudulently drawn from his account. I have here a Savings Bank pass-book of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and quote from it Regulation No. 27-
The officers of the Savings Bank shall diligently endeavour to prevent fraud, and to identify every depositor transacting business with the Savings Bank; but in case any person presenting a depositor’s pass-book, and producing a withdrawal form purporting to bear the signature of the depositor, or stating himself to be the depositor named therein, shall unlawfully obtain any deposit or sum of money from the Savings Bank during the hours of business, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia shall not be responsible for the loss so sustained by such depositor, nor be liable to make good the same.
– Hear, hear!
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.Does the honorable senator approve of that?
– No; I voted against it. I contended that the same provision should be made for the protection of the small depositor as for the big depositor. Senator Walker also tried very hard to defeat that provision.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I understand that the Senate did strike out that provision from the Commonwealth Bill, that the other House agreed to the amendment, and that, in defiance of the will of Parliament, the governor of the Commonwealth Bank has included the provision in the regulations of the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
– The honorable senator should not forget that that could not have been made a regulation without the approval of the Fisher Government. It had to be done by Executive authority.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I doubt that statement. It may be correct if the honorable member means that the Fisher Government were responsible for the provisions of the Act placing the control of the bank entirely in the hands of the governor.
– The regulations must receive Executive approval.
– I think not. I understand that the Commonwealth Bank Act makes the governor of the Bank an absolute Czar, responsible to no one. Of course, he is not at liberty to contravene any of the provisions of the Act.
– It is competent for Parliament to disallow the regulation.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I do not think it is possible for Parliament to disallow these regulations.
– Yes; they have to be laid on the table, the same as other regulations.
– Does the honorable senator not think that this is an exceptional case because of the powers given to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank?
.- I do not think that these regulations have to be submitted to Parliament.
– Yes, all regulations.
.- If that be so, Parliament has been very remiss in this matter. Having expressed its views so strongly against this provision in the Bill, Parliament should not have allowed it to go through as a regulation.
– A number of honorable senators were in favour of the provision.
.- I have special knowledge in connexion with this matter. I am able to say that, with an experience of sixty or seventy years, the South Australian Savings Bank did not find it necessary to have such a regulation.
– They have it in Victoria and in some of the other States as well.
– Not in New South Wales.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.There were some slight losses in South Australia, but the experience of the bank showed that such a regulation was absolutely unnecessary. My point is that this regulation is being used by the opponents of the Commonwealth Bank to disparage it. When a man proposes to deposit his savings in the Commonwealth Bank, he is told, “You should not do that; you will have no security. Bead that regulation.”
– The Commonwealth Trading Bank protects the rich man’s account against forgery of a cheque, but the Commonwealth Savings Bank does not protect the worker’s account.
.- In almost every bank, if any one forges the signature of a customer, the bank is held responsible.
– The honorable senator forgets that no one can obtain money from the Commonwealth Savings Bank without producing the depositor’s passbook and his signature to an order. Surely that is sufficient protection.
.- It is not sufficient protection, because these Savings Bank pass-books pass through hundreds of hands. Country depositors send their pass-books through the post. They are handled by the Savings Bank officials, letter carriers, and other postal officials. If any of these are dishonest, they may appropriate a pass-book, and forge a signature.
– A signature they have never seen?
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.They may have means of obtaining the depositor’s signature. That may not be a difficult matter. The fact that the Savings Bank officials are not responsible in such cases renders them less careful in the examination of signatures than they would otherwise be.
– Does the honorable senator not see the opportunity for collusion which would be left open without such a regulation?
.- I do not, and I can speak of the experience of sixty or seventy years of the working of the State Savings Bank of South Australia. That experience shows that there is no necessity for such a regulation, and that is the experience also of the New South Wales Savings Bank. I am strongly against the regulation, which I know is used very largely to damage the bank. I trust that the governor will see fit, at the earliest opportunity, to abandon it, as it is quite unnecessary and very harmful. I quite sympathize with the desire of the State Governments that the money deposited in the Savings Banks should be made available for the development of the country. I think that that idea was amply carried out in the proposal which the ex-Prime Minister made to the State Governments, and that was that the States should be entitled to the whole of the old deposits and 75 per cent. of the new deposits, with an equal call on the remaining 25 per cent., and a share in the profits. There was hardly anything left to the Commonwealth Bank under that proposal, seeing that it would have to bear the responsibility of financing and managing the affair. Surely a partial call on 25 per cent, of the new business was not unreasonable? Some States asked that they should have a share in’ the management of the Commonwealth Bank, but the Fisher Government would not consent to that request, because the Act provides that the management must be vested in the governor of the bank.
– Mr. Holman decided that it would be better to hold on to the £30,000,000.
.- Of course, that is the view of Mr. Holman. I saw a statement the other day that he would watch how honorable senators would deal with this matter, seeing that they had been elected as the guardians of State rights. I believe that honorable senators, whatever action they may take in this regard, will be better able to justify their position than Mr. Holman will be able to justify his flying in the face of the principles on which he “was elected. I must apologize for making a short reference to the Teesdale Smith contract, which has been hammered out in all its phases. I have a few figures which, I think, ought to be placed before the Senate. In the South Australian Register of 31st May the Prime Minister is reported to have said, I think at Melbourne, on the previous day -
Testimony still accumulates to show that the Ministry has made a reasonable and businesslike arrangement with Mr. Teesdale Smith upon this now celebrated contract. One would imagine that what had been done by the present Ministry had never been done by any previous Ministry in any place. It will be remembered that Mr. Verran sent along a testimonial for Mr. Timms as a good contractor, and the value of that testimonial is enhanced, as we learn that Mr. Verran himself had had experience, not only of Mr. Timms, but also of his one-time partner, Mr. Teesdale Smith.
I find from the last report of the Public Works Department of South Australia, which has just been issued, that Mr. Verran attempted to build a line on the coast of South Australia departmentally. Continued strikes and trouble with the men were of such a character that Mr. Verran’s Ministry gave it up as a hopeless task, and accepted an offer from Mr. Teesdale Smith to do the same work.
This is the sentence to which I want to call particular attention -
Note that this was an offer, and not a tender. I am in a position to say that that statement is untrue. I think that I ought to know something about this matter, seeing that the railway referred to on Eyre’s Peninsula was in the district I formerly represented, and that I was in the State Parliament when the incident occurred. One provision of our public works system in South Australia is that tenders for the construction of railways and other public works must be called. In the case of the Minnipa Hill railway, that provision had to be put in force; tenders were called, and Mr. Teesdale Smith was the lowest tenderer. Another provision of our public works system is that the EngineerinChief of the Department may tender for a public work. The Department did so in this case, and their tender was lower than that of Mr. Teesdale Smith, who, I may say, sent in the lowest tender from outside. I think the Department’s tender was about £16,000 less than his tender. The Government accepted the tender of the Department, who carried on the work for some months, when, as mentioned by Mr. Cook in his statement, difficulties arose, and, finally, the Verran Government decided to ask Mr. Teesdale Smith if he was still prepared to undertake the work on the conditions in respect of which he had tendered, and he agreed. Tenders were, therefore, called for the work, and the statement of Mr. Cook, which he emphasized, that it was an offer, and not a tender, was not correct. It was really the acceptance of a tender after the Government had found great difficulties in carrying out the work departmentally. With regard to the prices which have been paid for work on the west coast, I have a statement taken from a report by Mr. J. C. B. Moncrieff, Engineer-in-Chief for Railways in South Australia. My colleague, Senator Senior, quoted various estimates for excavating and other work on the western railways, but those figures were taken from a Public Works report of two or three years ago. The report from which I am about to quote some figures is the report for the present year, and the one referred to by the Prime Minister -
The following statement of the cost of excavation in cutting and bank work, prepared by Mr. J. C. B. Moncrieff (Chief Engineer for Railways in this State), shows the cost of that class of work on all the lines we have been building in the last two years, and when it is seen that the price has varied from ls. 6d. to 5s. per yard, one realizes how difficult it is to make comparisons which would be of any value.
I am quoting from a statement made by Mr. Butler, Commissioner for Public Works, who was endeavouring to help a Fusion colleague out of the blunder and trouble he has got into over the Teesdale Smith contract.
Yeelanna to Minnipa Hill line, 87,555 cubic yards, cutting to bank, 4s. 6<1. per cubic yard; 89,071, do., 3s. 8d.; 83,776, do., 3s.
Darke’s Peak, 52,800, do., 5s. ; 61,000, do., 4s.
Decres Bay, 22,460, cutting, 4s. 6d.; 19,970, filling, 2s. 6d.
Mount Hope, 28,450, cutting, 2s. 9d.; 34,000, filling, ls. 9d.
Brown’s Well, 524,800, cutting to bank, 2s. 3d.
Paringa, 29,337, cutting, 2s.; 25,7C4, filling, 2s.
Loxton, 76,742, cutting, 2s. ; 44,888, filling, 2s. “ Cutting to bank,” I understand, means taking out of the cutting and placing in the embankment. Summed up, this quotation shows that the highest price paid was 5s. for a very small portion of the work, and that the lowest price paid was ls. 6d. Taking the good with the bad, the average price paid by the State for the work was 2s. lOd. - that is for work for which Mr. Teesdale Smith, under his Federal contract, was given 7s. I may mention, too, that more difficulty was experienced in providing water for some of the State lines than has been experienced in providing water for the eastern end of the transcontinental line. I hope that I have adhered to my promise not to traverse any matter dealt with by other speakers. The mover of this Address-in-Reply gave us a dissertation on the value of the Constitution and the almost superhuman virtues of its fifty framers. He practically told us that it was a sacred ark of the people’s rights, which it would be sacrilege to touch. I do not know whether he was aware at the time that the Government had indicated that they intend to lay violent hands on this wonderful work of supererogation which the fifty statesmen framed, and which was supposed to last for all time. The Attorney-General has indicated very clearly that this Constitution wants amending, and he proposes, or his Government propose, at some time or other, to submit measures for that purpose. He has told us that the limitations imposed by the High Court, and extended by the Privy Council, have so altered the Constitution that, practically, its framers would hardly know it now, and that it is imperative that certain alterations should be made. This statement, I think, must have come rather as a shock to Senator
Oakes, after getting his cue and endeavouring to extol the Constitution as something so immaculate that it should not be touched in any way. I have noticed a rather significant thing. The Attorney-General, who is really the main force in the Ministry, has said that, so far as he can arrange, the proposed alterations of the Constitution will not be referred to the people at a general election. We know as a matter of fact that the voting on the referenda proposals when they were submitted apart from a general election was very small. On that occasion not more than 50 per cent, of the electors exercised the franchise, whereas when the same proposals were submitted at a general election the number who voted was quite 70 per cent. I trust that when amendments of the Constitution are contemplated they will always be submitted to the people at a general election, so as to insure the biggest possible vote on such important matters.
– Before this motion is disposed of there are certain matters to which I would like to refer. I ask honorable senators in all seriousness whether they think the country has been benefited by the course which has been pursued in this Chamber since the accession of the present Government to office? To my mind there are several matters which require prompt attention, not only at the hands of the Government, but at those of this Parliament. Honorable senators cannot take the control of business out of the hands of the Government, and consequently the Opposition is compelled to follow in their wake. Now what are Ministers trying to do ? I. have read the Speech which was put into the mouth of the GovernorGeneral by them, and in it I fail to discover a single gleam of hope, so far as the people of Australia are concerned. There is nothing in it which is of any value whatever to the ordinary man or woman throughout the length and breadth of Australia who desires to make his or her living by the work of hand or brain. It is not a worker’s programme. I do not know whose programme it is.
– That of the man who wants to stand still.
– As Senator Guthrie has interjected it may be that of the man who wants to stand still. Now this is an age of progress. Only a short time ago most travelling was done either by boat or horse conveyance. Then came railways and steam-ships, and now we are beginning to fly. If such progress can be made in human locomotion why is it we arc developing so slowly on the social and economic side? The reason is that a certain section of society has determined that things shall remain just as they are, for the simple reason that they are doing very well under the present system. But there is one question at any rate with which the Parliament might busy itself without further delay. It is a question of most urgent importance to the people of Australia, and one which the Government have shelved by relegating it to the Inter-State Commission - I refer to the Tariff. Now, the Tariff has in it great possibilities. As has been pointed out on many occasions, we have in Australia the raw material of every known industry. We have the men and women who are capable of engaging in those industries. We have a crop of young people entering our labour market every year, and we are bound to see that ample opportunities of profitable work are provided for them. But are the Government doing anything in that direction ? They have put the question of the Tariff in the hands of the Inter-State Commission, and it appears to me that that body will be inquiring into it till after the Greek kalends. Perhaps in twenty or thirty years, when we are all dead, the Inter-State Commission will wake up and present its report. When the Bill for the establishment of that body was before the Senate I said that if I thought the control of the Tariff was to be handed over to it, I would not vote for its appointment. I was doubtful even then as to what would happen. But now I am sure. The Government have handed over the Tariff to the Inter-State Commission to save them from taking any hand in putting it through. It is pretty safe to say that Australia believes in Protection. That is the fiscal policy of the people of this country. Now, why do not the Government take the Tariff question in hand and deal with it ? If they did so I am sure they would have the assistance of the Opposition. I am certain that every member of the Opposition would give them all the assistance possible.
– Does the honorable senator mean to make the Tariff higher or lower ?
– I will tell the honorable senator if he will cultivate that best of all virtues - patience. The Government profess to be very much superior in talent and business capacity to their predecessors. In fact they hold themselves up to the public as the Government of all the talents. Why do they not take up this question ? The very composition of the Ministry furnishes the answer. They are a hybrid Government. They are composed of Free Traders and so-called Protectionists.
– So was the last Ministry.
– I am not referring to the last Ministry, but to the present one. I dealt with the last Ministry when they were in power. Let us take the members of the Government in this Chamber. Senator McColl is a Protectionist, and Senators Millen and demons are Free Traders. In the other Chamber there is the Prime Minister, the Hon. Joseph Cook. We all know what he is, or was. He used to be a Free Trader of the most extreme type.
– So was Senator Stewart.
– That was before I had my eyes opened. I did not know very much then. When I was a Free Trader I knew very little about the conditions of Australia. I was in exactly the same position then, as Senator Gould is now. Then there is Sir John Forrest. He is a Protectionist. I do not know what is the attitude of the AttorneyGeneral on the fiscal question.
– He is a bit wobbly.
– My impression is that he is wobbly on a number of questions. There is only one matter upon which he is at all steadfast, and that is in his opposition to any progress. Then there is the Minister of External Affairs, the Hon. Patrick McMahon Glynn. My impression is that he is a Free Trader. The Minister of Trade and Customs, the Hon. Littleton Ernest Groom, is a Protectionist of a kind. The Postmaster-General, the Hon. Agar Wynne, is, I think, a Free Trader.
– He is a strong Protectionist.
– I remember that he made a speech some time ago in the House of Representatives, in which he advocated the imposition of duties upon tea and kerosene, and I therefore came to the conclusion that if he was not a Free Trader he was aRevenue Tariffist. Then there is the Honorary Minister, Mr.
Kelly. I do not know what he is.
– A Free Trader.
– Then the members of the Government are principally Free Traders. There are only two or three strong Protectionists amongst them. These are the Treasurer, Senator McColl, Mr. Groom, and Mr. Wynne. All the rest are Free Traders, and apparently their influence in the Cabinet has outweighed the influence of the professed Protectionists. But it seems to me that, no matter what may be the fiscal opinions of Ministers, it is their duty to carry out the policy for which the people of Australia have declared, and undoubtedly that policy is one of Protection and not of Revenue Tariffism. The electors have declared for a fiscal policy which will give us less revenue and more industries. That appears to be the crux of the whole question of Protection. The only reason why the Labour party desire a Tariff is to create industries. If one digs into the history of Tariffs he will find that in the early days of Tariff legislation the object in view was not the creation of industries, but the getting of revenue. The one idea in the minds of those who first initiated Tariff legislation was to shift the burden of taxation from the backs of the rich on to the backs of the poor. Unfortunately that is the position in which we find ourselves today. Although the great majority of the people of Australia tolerate a Tariff for no other reason than to create industries, yet we have the most extreme revenue Tariff in the whole world. The only other country that gets more revenue per head from its Tariff is New Zealand. In the United States, whose industries have been largely built up under a highly protective Tariff, the revenue yield is only about 25s. per head ; whereas our Tariff returns about £3 a head, and the New Zealand Tariff yield is slightly over £3. The Tariff of Germany, which is a strongly Protectionist country, brings in about 15s. per head; and that of France yields also under £1 per head. The Australian citizen, therefore, pays much more by way of taxation through Customs and Excise than does the citizen of any other country except New Zealand. Why does this go on ? Why do not the Government give effect to the policy which the people have laid down for them ? Do they think the people so foolish or gullible as to overlook their fault? I remember warning the last Government about the dangerous course they were pursuing in omitting to deal with the Tariff. Everybody knows the consequences of their inaction in that regard. I believe if they had dealt with the Tariff in a proper fashion they would not now be in the cold shades of opposition. Unless the present Government take action, I am certain they will meet the fate of the last.
– The late Government did all they promised to do.
– They did nothing. When the honorable senator was in Opposition he described himself as a Himalayan Protectionist, a towering Everest of Protection, under whose shades the millions engaged in large protected industries might recline; but when he became a member of the Government he dwindled to a very small mole-hill. I wish to say nothing about the last Government. It is dead and buried. I am dealing with the present Government, not that I expect much from them, but because I conceive it to be my duty to tell them how they might profitably use their own time, and the time of the Senate, instead of trifling it away in futile and useless discussions, and on Bills such as they propose to bring before us. Here is something that will do good to the people. We want population. Have honorable senators ever asked themselves if we are in a position to defend ourselves? We are barely 5,000,000, with a huge continent to develop. We have within our own boundaries material for every conceivable industry, yet last year we imported nearly £80,000,000 worth of goods. At a very moderate estimate, we might easily have produced at least half of those commodities ourselves. That is the policy which the people of Australia want carried out. Are the various Governments going to continue to defy the wishes of the people? If they do, I can assure them that, one after the other, they will all come deservedly to grief. Why do not the present Government deal with the Tariff ? Why have they handed it over to the Inter-State Commission? One reason is that they see, as clearly as honorable senators do, that we shall soon be in financial difficulties. Our expenditure is going up by leaps and bounds, while our revenue is not increasing in the same proportion. There can be only one end to such a condition of affairs. The Government are afraid to touch the Tariff because they fear to lose revenue; but if we lose revenue through altering the Tariff, there are other ways of raising it, very much fairer and more humane, and much more in the interest of the people themselves. Under our present system, the principles which ought to govern taxation are completely inverted. We ought first to begin with the strong, and go down gradually, as our necessities compel us, to the less strong, and only in the last extremity should we appeal to the poorer people. That is a principle with the theory of which every one will agree. It is exactly the same principle that we apply to defence. When we want soldiers for the army, we draw upon the strong and athletic, and leave the aged and infirm to be called out only in the last extremity. That is an excellent principle, the common sense and utility of which must appeal to every one. The same principle ought to be applied to taxation. Go first to the fit, to those who are able to contribute to the cost of government, and when we have exhausted them, go down the scale. Instead of this, we begin with the poorest, and only in the last resort do we tax the rich. The more income or possessions a man has, the less he contributes in proportion.
– The last Government did not say so.
-I am not troubling about the last Government now. I said what I had to say to them to their face, while they were on the Treasury Bench.
– Why have you been so silent since they left that bench?
– I am not silent now. I am saying what I have to say to the present Government.
– This is the first time you have spoken for a long while.
– It is of no use to be continually barking. I am trying now to tell the present Government what I think to be their duty, just as I told the last Government theirs. Under present conditions, a man earning £3 a week, with a family of five - his wife, himself, and three children - actually pays £15 per annum to the Commonwealth revenue through Customs and Excise, because the average Tariff yield per head throughout the Commonwealth is £3.
– That is usually the effect of a Protectionist Tariff.
– We shall discuss that later.
– The honorable senator will not be given the opportunity.
– I am trying to show the taxation paid by the poor man as compared with that paid by the rich. Here is a man who earns £150 a year, £15 of which he has to pay away in taxation.
– Some one else may pay a portion of it.
– I am taking the average. That is the only thing I could do. This particular family may pay more or less than £15, but I take the average, and this man, with a family of five, has to give five weeks’ wages to the tax gatherer. Now I take the case of a man who receives £1,000 a year, or £20 a week.
– Why not average the whole lot?
– I am giving the honorable senator two averages. If he is not satisfied with my way of dealing with the matter, it is open for him to get up and give his own view later. I take the case of a man earning £20 a week with a family of five. I assume that, instead of paying £3 per head for this family, he pays £4, because, as a rule, rich people pay a little more through the Customs than do the poor people. That would make his payment £20. I assume that he pays an additional £20 in the shape of income tax. In some States this taxation would be more, and in others: less. His total taxation would be £40 per annum, or two weeks’ income.I ask honorable members to mark the difference. The poor man, getting only £3 per week, has to give five weeks’ labour to the tax gatherer, whilst the man getting £20 a week has to give only two weeks’ earnings.
– If the honorable senator errs at all, it is on the side of moderation.
– I am deliberately understating the case. The average wage of the worker is much more nearly £2 per week than £3, and the burden upon a man receiving only £2 a week would be much heavier than even upon a man getting £3 per week. Looking at the matter broadly, it may be laid down as an axiom that the poorer a man is the heavier this kind of taxation presses upon him. In a democratic country such as Australia is it is clearly the duty of the Government to see that the burden of taxation is placed on the broad, strong shoulders of the rich, or, at all events, a very much greater proportion of the burden than the rich are asked to bear at the present time. In doing this the Government would be killing two birds with one stone. They would not only be relieving the poor from a most inequitable burden of taxation, but would be doing something which would create new industries throughout the Commonwealth, and stimulate those now in operation. It would put fresh life into our social and economic system.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– This matter of the incidence of taxation is of much more importance to the people of Australia than are the trifling matters which the Government have called upon the Senate to consider. I do not know whether the Government are prepared to put their professions into practice, but I ask this professing Government to begin to deal with this question. On the subject of the inequality of sacrifice demanded from the various citizens, let me say that honorable senators will agree that we all profess to be equally anxious to legislate in such a way that the poor man shall be given the best show possible, and that the burdens imposed upon him shall be of the very lightest character. If that be the case, we have here an excellent opportunity to relieve the poor man to a great extent of the serious burden of taxation now resting on his shoulders. We should remember that it is the poor working man with a big family who suffers most unfairly under the existing system. Any honorable senator who wishes to discover the facts for himself may do so by consulting Mr. Knibbs, who shows, on the authority of statistics, what we all know as a matter of fact, and that is that the workers have the biggest families, and that very often the poorer a worker is the bigger is his family. Here, then, is something which, if Parliament acts wisely, must make itself felt in every home in the Commonwealth. I have pointed out the difference between the taxation paid by the poor working man and by the comparatively wealthy man. The poor man earning £3 per week under the existing system has to work five weeks to pay his quota of taxation, whilst the man getting £1,000 a year has to work only two weeks to pay his share. Is that a fair thing? In taxation there should be equality of sacrifice.
– Is not that an argument against Protection?
– I was going to say that the honorable senator is not a Protectionist, but, perhaps, what I ought to say is that he does not seem to understand what Protection is.
– Put simply, it is making the many pay to make the few rich.
– I wish to impress upon honorable senators the fact that the present system of taxation presses with undue severity on the poor. Senator Blakey apparently thinks that our Tariff is a Protectionist one.
– No; I think it if a mongrel Tariff.
– My objection to it is that it is not a Protectionst but a Revenue Tariff. I desire to see it altered, because, by making it a Protectionist Tariff, we shall not only create a large number of new industries, and stimulate those we have, but we shall get less revenue from it, and in consequence be compelled to go where we ought to be going now for our revenue, and that is to the people who are able to pay taxation. That is a principle that every politician, who professes to be a patriot, ought to support. Every Labour man is bound by the planks of his platform to support it. I do notthink we have a plank in the Federal platform to that effect, but I know that in the Queensland Labour platform there was a plank which read, “ The re-adjustment of the incidence of taxation.” This is important, not only from the financial, but from the industrial, aspect. It is important as affecting, not only our primary industries, but also the national wealth of the continent. I would ask the Government to take up the question of the Tariff and deal with it. Their reply will be that it has been remitted to the Inter-State Commission. Do not the statistics before us supply sufficient evidence to convince any unprejudiced man that we are importing very much more into this country every year than we ought to import? Per head of population, Australia is the largest importer of any country in the world. That does not only demonstrate, as some would have us believe, that we are the best-off people in the world. While I admit that, I say that it demonstrates also that we are importing a great many things which we could, and ought to, manufacture for ourselves. The only means by which these huge importations can be lessened is by an alteration of the Tariff. Are the Government prepared to alter the Tariff in a Protectionist direction? I do not think they are. I ask them to do so, but I know perfectly well that they have no intention to do anything of the kind. They know that if the Tariff is altered in a Protectionist direction a reduced revenue will be the result, and they know further that if they get less revenue through the Customs they must get more from some other direction, and the only other direction which I think would be permitted by the people of Australia is an increase of our land value taxation. This financial aspect of the question has a strong bearing on our industrial and social life. The present system permits individuals and companies to hold up huge areas of land in every portion of the Commonwealth. Very little taxation is imposed upon them. The only land value tax of any consequence that has been imposed is the Federal land tax. The Labour party is entitled to all credit and possible praise for making that beginning. Where I find fault with the last Labour Government is that it did not go further by increasing the tax and making it effective. But that duty devolves just as much on the present Government as it did on the last Government. We want to change the incidence of taxation ; that is number one. We want to free the lands of the Commonwealth; that is number two. And we want to establish a large number of secondary industries from end to end of this continent; that is number three. Surely that is a policy which ought to appeal to every member of the Senate, whether he belongs to the Government side or to the Opposition side! I know perfectly well that the Government will not touch this question. Why ? Because it is supported by the manufacturers largely. I know that a number of manufacturers are appearing before the Inter-State Commission, and giving evidence that they are quite satisfied with the present Tariff, and that they do not want any change. That may be evidence to me and to members of the Senate that under the present Tariff these manufacturers are making a profit, but it is not evidence against raising the Tariff in a Protectionist direction. What these men fear is that if we had an effective Tariff from a Protectionist point of view, capitalists from the older countries of the world would come here, and, with the large amounts of money at their command, enter into various businesses, instal the latest machinery and the most modern industrial organization, and thus crush them out of the field. The only point that ought to weigh with this Parliament and with the people is this: Are we importing goods that we could very well make here? I submit that We are. I think that any man who gives any consideration to the subject will agree that that is the case. I do not hope for anything from the present Government. I believe that agitating the question here may have some effect, if not on the Government, at least on some section of the electors. Now, the electors are not fools. They know perfectly well the burdens under which they stagger. They know, too, that they have been promised relief time and again, and have been deceived. If we are not to stand convicted as humbugs and hypocrites, surely the time has arrived when we ought to do something in this matter ! I have spoken so often here on the question of land monopoly that I am almost ashamed to be time and again bobbing up with what an ex -senator used to call King Charles’ head. I believe now, and have believed ever since I was able to come to a sensible conclusion, that this is the most important subject that can occupy the attention of the people of Australia. I believe that land monopoly is literally strangling the progress of the continent. Here we have a population of barely 5,000,000 holding one of the finest portions of the earth’s surface with huge, empty areas in every State of the Union. Yet we find that it is one of the most difficult things imaginable for a man to get land in any State, even in the youngest and least settled of the States. Some time ago I gave instances where selections were thrown open in various States. What happened in Queensland a short time ago ? Five grazing farm selections were thrown open at a place called Welltown How many applications were there, do honorable senators think? From every State in the Commonwealth came applications, numbering in all 900, for five paltry grazing farm selections.. Again, about a month ago, three selections were thrown open on Portland Downs, a station in the central portion of Queensland. Although no applicant was allowed to apply for more than one selection, yet 710 applications were sent in. There you have over 1,600 applicants for eight grazing farm selections. Some persons will tell me that a large number of the applications were bogus. Suppose that 1,500 of them were bogus, the disproportion between the bond fide applicants and those who were able to get land would still be outrageous. Suppose that there were only 100 persons out of the 1,600 who really wanted land, a state of affairs exists which is not only a disgrace to the Commonwealth, but is retarding its advance in every shape and form. Another question comes in here. We hear a great deal about the increased cost of living. Here were 1,600 individuals who were prepared to go into the industry of growing sheep and cattle, but only eight of them could obtain land on which to do so. Need we wonder that the price of meat is going up. If there was no American Beef Trust or other trust is it not reason enough for the advance in the price of meat that land on which cattle and sheep can be reared has become so scarce that only a comparatively small proportion of those who are willing to engage in the industry can find land on which to operate? There is another aspect of the question. Probably Victoria is the State more ridden by land monopoly than is any other State in the Commonwealth. According to the Victorian Tear-Book for 1910 - the latest I can get - the total holdings in this State were 60,240. The holdings from 1 acre to 3130 acres numbered 40,888, and the holdings over 320 acres numbered 19,352. The average area of the holdings up to 320 acres was 110 acres, and on this area the bulk of the cattle are reared and the bulk of the produce of Victoria is produced. The area owned by private persons with holdings up to 320 acres is 4,523,324 acres, the average holding being, as I have pointed out, 110 acres. The area owned privately by persons with holdings larger than 320 acres is 21,877,494 acres, the average holding being 1,120 acres. A very common objection taken to the proposal to split up our land monopoly is that people cannot make a living on a small holding - nothing less than several hundred acres is any good. Yet in Victoria we have over 40,000 persons living on an average holding of 110 acres, and living comfortably, I presume. The larger proportion of these holdings, I believe, would be under 110 acres. That proves up to the hilt, I think, that it is not necessary, at least in Victoria, for persons to have anything more than what may be termed a comparatively small holding. I find that in Tasmania the number of small holdings is very large; I cannot give the exact number, because the Tasmanian statistics are not very definite, but I gather that there is quite a large number of small orchards and potato farms throughout the State. The number of small holdings in New South Wales, I believe, is also comparatively low. I find that everywhere throughout the Commonwealth a very large proportion of the produce is grown, as is the case in Victoria, on what might be termed comparatively small holdings.
– That specially applies to where the land is good and the rainfall is adequate.
– As the honorable senator interjects, this specially applies to districts where the rainfall is good, and where there are other advantages. It is in these districts very largely that the best land is monopolized. I would like to impress upon honorable senators that a very large proportion of the small holders in every State are placed in a most disadvantageous position as regards making a living. They are very often far from a railway line. The land they occupy is almost invariably indifferent, and in many cases they are outside the rain area or on the fringe of it. The best lands in Queensland, largely in New South Wales, and certainly in Victoria and Tasmania, are owned principally by what may be termed comparatively large holders. There is the position as it appears to men The best lands of the continent are to-day held by monopolists. The wonder to me is that our agricultural and pastoral industries are as prosperous as they are. It says a great deal for the climate of Australia and for the dogged determination and perseverance of the settlers. It has often been said, and said with a great deal of truth, that the farmers look upon the Labour party as their worst enemy. Very often people think that some one who is really their worst enemy is their best friend. The Labour parties in Australia, Federal and State, are the best friends that the farmers ever had. The farmers, unfortunately, labour under the delusion that the Labour party wishes to tax them off the land. We wish to do nothing of the kind. We want to tax the speculator, the monopolist, who now holds the land, to such an extent that he will be compelled to sell to the bona, fide farmer at a reasonable price.
– Or use the land himself.
– Exactly. I wonder whether the unfortunate farmer who has to buy land at anything from £10 to £100 per acre has ever calculated how much the monopolist taxes him. Take, for example, a piece of land the true unimproved value of which probably amounts to no more than £2 per acre. The monopolist holds on to it until a railway is built, and until all the other advantages which spring from communal action have been realized. He then sells the land for £10. per acre. That happens every day of the week in Victoria, and, I am sorry to say, in almost every State of the Commonwealth. Just consider how much that means as a tax on 100 acres of land. The 100 acres are sold for £1,000. Now, in many cases, £S00 of that sum would represent the communitycreated value. Capitalize that amount at 5 per cent., and it represents £40 per annum. That is the tax which the monopolist of private land imposes on the unfortunate individual who buys from him. Upon 100 acres it would represent about 8s. 6d. per acre. That is a tax such as the Labour party in its wildest dreams never thought of imposing upon anybody. Yet it is the tax that the private land monopolist imposes upon the unfortunate persons who are compelled by circumstances to buy his land from him. Then this same monopolist is looked upon as a tin god, and people bow the head and bend the knee to him. What the farmer wants is to get on to the best lands of the Commonwealth. As I interpret the policy of the Labour party, it is that the small agriculturist is entitled to every advantage of land and situation and climate which the various Governments of Australia can give him. Undoubtedly the man who settles on the land is the backbone of the country, and the Labour party recognises that just as does everybody else. If he is to get the best out of his industry, he must be given the best available opportunity. But he does not get that now. I am sure that every honorable senator has considered this question. How is it that the sons and daughters of .farmers are continually drifting into our big towns? Is it that life is better in the city, or is it because, owing to land monopoly, opportunities are not available in the country? I believe that nine out of ten farmers’ sons who come to the city looking for work as railway porters or policemen, are driven there by land monopolists. What chance is there for the young working farmer’s son to obtain land in Victoria, with land commanding £30, £40, and £50 per acre? Take an average holding of 100 acres. At £20 per acre, an outlay of £2,000 would be required to purchase it. Where is the working farmer who can hand over that amount to his son to enable him to purchase a farm, quite apart from stocking it? As a result, the farmers’ sons drift into the city. We all deplore that. They are the best men possible to settle on the land, because they have been there from their youth up. Yet here we are scouring Great Britain, America, and the Continent in search of what we are actually destroying at our own door by our insane and unjust system of land monopoly. That is the system which the Government are pledged to support. They live on the trusts and combines, and on every one of these greedy, grasping, plundering organizations. Whatever may be the private opinions of Ministers, they dare not lift their little finger to touch these organizations. But I say that the Opposition have no such responsibility towards any organization. Their masters are the people. They are pledged to see these things carried through; and I am certain that if the people of Australia give them another opportunity, they will not neglect it.
– The Labour party had three years of office last time.
– And they did very good work, although they might have done better. I trust that when they get another opportunity they will not neglect to do better.
– We will shake things up.
– If I am here I will shake them up. I have said that this question is the most important which can occupy the attention of the people of this country. Look at our cities. They are bloated and overgrown. Half the people of Victoria live in the city of Melbourne. Half the people of this continent are living in the cities. Yet there is no better place in the world than Australia for the people to live in the rural areas if only they had the opportunity to do so. But wherever my feet take me, this one damning thing - this blood-sucking dragon of land monopoly - meets me at every step. If I go to the northern part of Queensland I find it there; in’ the western part of that State I meet it; in New South Wales I find it, too ; and when I come to Victoria it is gnawing the vitals out of the people here. It is in Western Australia, and also in Tasmania. Tasmania cannot keep her population. As soon as a hundred children are bom, about 150 grown-up persons leave that State. They cannot live there owing to bad .government. I trust, however, that under the Labour Government which has now been installed there, things will take a turn, and that Tasmania will not only be able to keep the population she produces, but will be able to attract a great many more people. That State is probably one of the finest portions of the Commonwealth. I look forward to the day when it will be the great industrial centre of the Commonwealth. It has resources, so far as the development of water power is concerned, that no other portion of Australia possesses, and I am quite sure that its people, having had a taste of good government as presented by Labour, will, like Oliver Twist, demand more and more of it. There is one thing which the Tasmanian Government have done which deserves commendation - I do not know whether the transaction has yet been completed, but if not, I hope it will be - I refer to its purchase of all the rights possessed by the hydro-electric company. That will give the Government of that State a control over the water power, which may be utilized to very great advantage in the interests of the people of that portion of the continent. I do not think I need say any more on the question of land monopoly, except to add that land value taxation is not taxation at all. It is the community-created value passing into the public Treasury, where it ought to go instead of into the pockets of private individuals, where it now goes, and where it has no right to go. I do not wish to labour this question. The only factor which gives a greatly added value to land is the presence of population. We had a case in Melbourne not long since of a small block of land which had been let many years ago on a building lease at £3,000 a year. That block was recently sold for about £65,000. I say that that £3,000 was community-created value, pure and simple. It was taxation imposed upon the community of Melbourne and Victoria by private individuals. That represents1 a state of things which ought not to be allowed to continue, and which cannot be allowed to continue if the country is to prosper as it ought to do. In Australia we have spent hundreds of millions of pounds in building railways, constructing roads and bridges, and in establishing postal and telegraphic services, not to mention schools and various other institutions. Each one of these has added to the community- value of the land. Yet up to the present, with the exception of a very small proportion, the whole of the vast annual sum which has been created by these improvements is finding its way into the pockets of private land-holders. I have gone into the matter fairly closely, and I find that a sum somewhere between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000 per annum of community-created values is finding its way into the pockets of private individuals. I think that I have understated rather than overstated the amount.
– The honorable senator is well under the mark.
– In a calculation of this kind it is better to be under the mark than to be open to the charge of having exaggerated. Surely this is a leak which ought to be stopped. I say that about £25,000,000 per annum, which should find its way into the Treasury, is at the present time passing into the pockets of private individuals. We are spending over £2,000,000 a year upon old-age pensions, which honorable senators opposite would abolish if they could.
– The honorable senator knows that that is not correct.
– They hate them as the devil is said to hate holy water. I have forgotten how much is annually expended on the maternity allowance. Yet honorable senators opposite exhausted all their eloquence and ransacked the dictionary for words to describe the iniquity of the maternity bonus. We cannot give £5 to a woman who has performed one of the chief functions of nature without being exposed to obloquy by honorable senators on the Ministerial benches. Will they tell me that the oldage pensioner does not deserve the dole he gets from the Government? Has he not lived and worked in Australia for thirty or forty years, perhaps more? Is not a woman who adds to the population of this country worthy of the amount that we pay her? Honorable senators opposite say she is not, yet we pay between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000 a year to people who have done nothing for the country. The man who owned the block at the corner of Collins and Swanstonstreets did nothing towards the development of Australia, except buying that allotment, yet the country is paying him, or his heirs and successors a donation which probably amounts now to £4,000 or £5,000 a year, and many of those heirs are probably absentees. This is the acute and vital difference between those now on the Government bench and we who sit on theLabour benches. They grudge the dole to the old-age pensioner, and the woman who gives birth to a child, but they lavish the wealth of the community on the idle, unprofitable, and wasteful rich. I recently read in a newspaper a suggestion, said to have emanated from a Labour man, although I hope that is not true, that the two parties might combine and work for the good of the country. Fire and water could combine as easily. Their way is not our way. The differences between us and them are so acute and vital that no compromise is possible. The fight between us must be to a finish, and, so far as I am able to forecast the future, I know which party will be the victor. I trust that no attempt will be made by the Labour party to compromise with the party now sitting on the Government benches, or with any party that may evolve out of it. We are after a complete change of the present system. We know what it is and what it has accomplished. I read in the papers almost every day that Socialism has been tried and found wanting. I do not know where that has happened. I do not know where it has even been tried yet; but I know something else, which is quite enough for me - that capitalism has been tried and found wanting. It has slain its millions of people in every country under the sun. It is dealing death on every hand now, and that being the case, the system must be changed as soon as possible. We have come to a period in the history of representative government when there can be no compromise. I hear of a good many nostrums being proposed nowadays to restore the efficiency of the parliamentary machine. The only thing I see wrong with the machine is that the Labour party has not a majority in both Houses. We are told we must adopt the initiative and referendum. I think we have something better at the present moment. We have not the initiative, but we have the referendum at every election on many subjects. When a party is intrusted with power, it is intrusted with a mandate to do, not one thing only, but quite a number of things. To propose to submit every great issue to the people by way of referendum is merely an ingenious device of the enemy to retard the progress of the Democracy. If you submit an important question to a referendum of the people once, and are defeated, you can do nothing until you submit it again, and we have questions ofthe first importance cropping up by the dozen every year. Is every one of them to be submitted to a referendum ? The thing is unthinkable. People would get tired of it. Some people say that the virtues of parliamentary government have been exhausted, but parliamentary government was never so virile in its history as it is now. We never heard about the institution of Parliament being played out until the Labour party became a dominant factor in the politics of this country. Government by Parliament was good enough for our opponents while they controlled Parliament, but now they see the danger of some other power coming into the arena and usurping the position they previously occupied, they make the discovery that Parliament is played out. I believe it is, so far as they are concerned, but so far as the Labour party is concerned, I trust it will not allow itself to be bamboozled by any political nostrums like elective Governments or the referendum. I believe in the initiative and referendum, too, but not as some of our friends would like to see them applied. I have said before in this Chamber, and after thinking the matter over very carefully I see no reason to change my opinion, that, so far as defence is concerned, Australia is attempting the impossible, and doing nothing effectively, while the possible is quite within her reach. She is trying to put a Fleet upon the water and an Army upon the land. She cannot do both. At present she has neither Fleet nor Army, and it is extremely unlikely that she will have either within the next twenty years. Our Fleet is of no more use against even a third-class Power than a cockle-shell would be against a hammer. While we are not able to put an effective Fleet upon the sea, and at the same time provide a sufficient Army on land, if we limit our efforts to one of those we shall be able to do all that Australia, in her present circumstances, can reasonably be expected to do in the matter of defence. If we took every farthing of our revenue we could not provide a sufficient Fleet. It is beyond our circumstances and beyond our power, and we ought, therefore, to abandon the attempt. What, then, is to be done? We can establish an Army. We can provide a system of shore defence which would be sufficient to protect us against any possible invading Power. We have the example of the Boers. Why should we forget the gallant fight they put up against the strongest naval Power in the world?
– How long has the honorable senator entertained this view?
– I have expressed it here on one occasion previously, and have been expressing it privately for years, as my comrades in the Labour party can testify. The Dreadnought Australia might as well be sent to the scrap-heap now for all the good she is. In fact, any boat that we could build would be merely scrap iron within a few years, but if we drill and train our young men to shoot, provide other shore defence in the way of forts, and duplicate and widen our railways along the coast, we shall do a great deal towards preserving our country against the attacks of an enemy. As things are now, any moderate naval
Power could deal with the whole of our Fleet in about twenty-four hours.
– They could do the same with our forts.
– I believe so.
– Then, is it not better to have a movable fort?
– I do not propose to enter into details. I do not profess to have any military knowledge. Our Fleet at present is worth nothing, and if we poured all our revenue into it it would still be worth nothing. Our Army at the present moment is also worth nothing, but we can put it into such a condition as will enable us to make as gallant a fight against any possible enemy as was ever made by the inhabitants of any country. Let us abandon the impossible, get right down to business, and do what we can do. I am aware that some people contend that we ought to keep up a Fleet, if it were only to add to the British Fleet.
– Yes; where is the honorable senator’s Imperialism ?
– I know that a large number of people in Australia are Imperialists. I do not say that I am an Imperialist. I aman Australian first, and I wish to tell the people of Australia that if Britain goes down, they will have only their own right arms to depend on. And Britain may go down. If Britain’s Fleet is not large enough, it is the fault of the wealthy people of Great Britain. If they chose to tax themselves, they could double their Fleet without doing themselves any injury. They might do that if they would only tax themselves for the purpose, instead of spending their money, as very many of them do, in wasteful and wicked extravagance. When I deal with this subject, I always approach it from the Australian point of view; and I have this thought always dominant in my mind, that at the last resort Australia will have no one to depend on but herself. If Britain is unprepared and goes down, as surely as tomorrow’s sun will rise, some foreign enemy will come here and try to take possession of this continent. We need not deceive ourselves on that point. The habitable portions of the globe’s surface are becoming so scarce and valuable now that the struggle for this empty continent will be a great one, and inevitable unless we prepare ourselves to repel any possible invasion. By increasing our population, by framing a Tariff which will create secondary industries, by breaking down land monopoly, and thus enabling tens of thousands of sturdy farmers and farmers’ sons to settle on our lands, and by establishing a land force, we may place ourselves in a position to give a most excellent account of ourselves against any possible invader. I put these thoughts before the Government and the Senate for what they are worth. I say that, instead of frittering our time away talking about a Government Preference Prohibition Bill, a Postal Voting Restoration Bill, and such paltry things, we should turn our attention to big questions, and do something which will increase our population and our prosperity, and that will insure the safety and the very existence of the people of Australia.
– What about the reduction of the cost of living ?
– Increased land settlement would help to solve that question.
Debate (on motion by Senator Lt.Colonel Sir Albert Gould) adjourned.
Adjournment of Debate on AddressinReply - Clothing Factory - Denham versus Ferricks Libel Action - Prosecution of Cadet - Papuan Oil Fields - Trusts and Combines.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I think it is due to the Senate that the Government should inform us why they have adjourned the debate on tile Address-in-Reply at this hour. It appears to me to amount to discourtesy to call us here to-day and then adjourn the debate on the AddressinReply when only three speeches have been made. When a Government who have expressed themselves as so anxious to get to the country, and to do other heroic things, asks the Senate to adjourn so early in the evening, we are entitled to know their reason for doing so.
– This is not the first occasion on which it has been done during the same debate.
– It is not the first, but it ought to be the last.
– Order ! I remind Senator Rae that the Senate has ordered the debate to be adjourned, and that no other business can be taken until the Address-in-Reply has been disposed of.
– Surely I am in order in discussing the early adjournment.
– I thought the honorable senator was speaking under a misapprehension.
– Not at all. As every honorable senator makes his speech in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, we get nearer to the time when it can be disposed of, and other business taken. My point is that if Senator Gould had wished to speak there was plenty of time this evening for him to have made his speech.
– The honorable senator is not in order in asking the Senate to proceed to-night with the debate on the Address-in-Reply when it has decided that that shall not be done.
– I am not asking the Senate to proceed with the debate, but contending that there was plenty of time for another speech to be delivered this evening.
– Order ! The honorable senator is now reflecting upon a vote of the Senate, and he is not entitled to do that under the Standing Orders. The Senate has just affirmed that the debate on the Address-in-Reply should be adjourned. It is not for me to say what were the reasons which animated the Senate in arriving at that conclusion. All I am concerned with is that the Senate has affirmed that the debate should be adjourned, and the honorable senator is not entitled to reflect upon that decision of the Senate.
– Very well; I am only too anxious to obey your ruling. I have no doubt that the Senate was animated by the highest wisdom. Nevertheless, I think it is not well that we should get into the practice of adjourning after doing so very little work. We should try to carry on the debate referred to more expeditiously in order that important matters awaiting attention may be dealt with. Whether I am in order or out of order, I hope that it will not happen again.
.- I wish to obtain some information from the Minister of Defence. I am given to understand that a number of the men employed in the clothing factory under the honorable senator’s control are not now working full time. I understand that there is any amount of work to be done to supply the Defence Forces with clothing required, and to keep all the employes of the factory fully occupied, so that each may take home a full pay on every pay-day. I am told that the Forces in various parts of the Commonwealth are not as well supplied as they might be with clothing, and, in the circumstances, it is strange that there should be any of the factory hands idle. I can understand that just now, as we are nearing the end of the financial year, the Government may desire to conserve the public funds as much as possible in order that they may make as good a show as they can in their financial statement. But they have a duty to perform to the employes of the Commonwealth, and while there is work for them to do, no man should be sent home at the week-end with less than a full week’s wages. I should like to know from the Minister whether there ia any truth in the statement that the clothing factory hands are not now fully employed ?
– I wish to take advantage of the motion to make a few remarks which I could not make within the bounds of a personal explanation. During my speech on the Address-in-Reply, I made some reference to delegates of the Employers Federation being in this chamber, and the Minister of Defence interjected that that was a libel, and that I found it easier to libel people here than to libel them outside. The honorable senator referred to a matter which occurred outside this Parliament. I had no desire to drag it in, and so refrained from replying ‘to the interjection at the time. I was going to allow it to drop, but I have found since then that many newspapers have taken the matter up. The Sydney Morning Herald, in a leading article, castigated Senator Rae and myself for having made some references to the Chief Justice of the High Court. In the article there is a reference to myself, and the statement is made that I recently passed through the ordeal of some libel actions, that I had to pay £600 damages, and consequently wished to hit back at the Judiciary. Nothing was further from my mind. I wish to inform the Sydney Morning Herald, and other newspapers that have taken up the cry, that I did not have to pay any damages, and that we finished up those libel actions far more favorably than did Premier Denham of Queensland. Although I restrained myself, and did not reply to the interjection of the Minister of Defence, that was because I did not desire to drag the matter into the National Parliament. The strictures which have been made upon me in the press since have forced me on the defensive, and I wish briefly to give the facts to the Senate. I did make some statement concerning a transaction by the firm of Denham Brothers, of which Premier Denham, of Queensland, is a member, but never in any statement, or by implication, did I at any time infer that the firm, or Premier Denham, was guilty of dishonesty outside the ordinary transactions of produce agents or middlemen. From the platform I characterized the operations of these middlemen as fleecing the farmers, and I characterize the system under which they work as legalized robbery now. You, Mr. President, and other Queensland senators and public men in Queensland, have referred to the legalized robbery of those engaged in other industries, such as the sugar industry. From a thousand platforms in Queensland the operations of a certain company have been referred to as legalized robbery. I made the same kind of statement in reference to the operations of produce trusts and middlemen generally without special application to the firm of Denham Brothers beyond quoting a particular transaction as an illustration of what I condemned. I can briefly describe the transaction in this way : A consignor at Caboolture sent to the firm of Denham Brothers in Brisbane three bags of maize and three bags of potatoes for sale. He got a reply from Denham Brothers saying that the maize was of very inferior quality, and realized only ls. 6½d. per bushel. In regard to the potatoes, he was informed that the potato market was absolutely glutted, and the pick of the market realized only 5s. per cwt., and that his potatoes from Caboolture, though not being absolutely the worst on the market, realized only ls. 3d. per cwt. There was some mistake in the office of Denham Brothers, and this letter of advice was transcribed into an order from Caboolture for the supply of three bags of maize and three bags of potatoes. On that date, 1st March, three bags of maize and three bags of potatoes were wrongly sent to Caboolture without having been ordered. With, them was sent a letter of advice saying that the maize was of the best quality at ls. 10d. per bushel ; and despite the fact that Denham Brothers informed Thompson, the consignor, that on that date the potato market was glutted, and the pick of the market realized only 5s. per cwt., they sent him three bags of potatoes, for which they charged him 10s. per cwt. About two months after my criticism, and after instructions had been given for the issue of the writs, according to Mr. Denham himself, there came forward an explanation that the potatoes sent to Thompson at Caboolture were the best Tasmanian potatoes. No such explanation was given to Thompson at any time, although he made repeated requests for some explanation. I mentioned the case from the platform in order to illustrate the great discrepancy between the price paid to producers for commodities and the price charged to consumers for the same commodities. I was using it simply as an argument in regard to the high cost of living. I made no particular charge against the firm of Denham Brothers, and we were ordered to pay in the verdict of £600. Although the special jury gave their verdict for £300 damages in each case, Mr. Denham himself was very pleased with the settlement. We were pleased, too, but I do not think that we were more pleased than he was.
– You appealed against the judgment?
– Yes. The settlement, of course, was attributed to generosity on the part of Mr. Denham. He was not very generous in the witness-box, nor did the attitude of his counsel in his cross-examination of me indicate that he had been instructed on the lines of generosity. I will tell the Senate when Mr. Denham became generous. It was when the case was taken out of my hands by the combined unions, when the Australian Workers Union put in £500, the Butchers Union £300, the Waterside Workers Union £300, and the Central Political Executive, which is the head of the Labour movement in Queensland, £300 or £400, raising the sum of £1,400 in a few days, with the idea of paying the £600 damages and paying their costs, so “that we could go on with an appeal to the Full Court. Mr. Denham became generous when the Australian Workers Union and the other unions instructed our counsel to go on with the appeal, and when the combined unions of Queensland were prepared to spend £2,000 in the cases, not for the sake of a seat in the Senate, but for the right of free speech. It could not be got away from that my criticisms were on the public acts of a public man, because he had been going round the country saying that the increased cost of living was attributable to the legislation of the Labour party. However, the settlement was arrived at on this basis-, that we paid £550 towards their costs, and that we paid our own costs. Their costs, as they were taxed and given to our side to pay, without the £600 damages, amounted to £780. Therefore, Mr. Denham had to pay over £200 of his own costs in addition to costs which were not taxed, that is, costs between solicitor and client, which, of course, would not be allowed. I was well satisfied with the settlement, and so was the Labour party in Queensland, who conducted the fight. I think that Mr. Denham was more pleased, but if he or any of his friends want further reference to the matter I can only say that the next time I find myself on the stump in Queensland, whether in a State or a Federal election, I shall have no hesitation in reviewing the whole of the circumstances.
– If the Minister of Defence has not the information at present, will he ascertain whether any report has been received from the officer who, during the regime of the late Government, was to be sent to Papua to conduct investigations into the oil-fields there? The honorable senator, I think, will recognise that it is very important that we should be kept advised of any development in that regard. I would like him to ask the Minister of External Affairs if there are any reports in existence, and, if so, whether he will make them available to honorable senators?
– I wish to assure the Senate that the last thing that was in my thoughts in agreeing to the proposal to adjourn the debate on the Address-in-Reply was anything in the nature of a reflection on the Senate, still less an insult. I gathered from the action of the Senate itself on more than one occasion during the debate on the Address-in-Reply that it was disinclined in the present state of the businesspaper to sit late, and the Senate having cordially approved of motions coming from the other side to adjourn-
– Order ! I did not allow Senator Rae to discuss this matter. Under the Standing Orders the question, “ That the debate be now adjourned,” is not subject to discussion, and the Minister, like Senator Rae, it appears to me, is trying to evade the rule and to discuss reasons why the motion for the adjournment should have been carried when the matter has already been decided.
– I want to disabuse your mind, sir, of a desire to evade your ruling. I did not propose to discuss the action taken by the Senate, but the reflection which was made on me personally of having sought to insult the Senate. However, I shall not pursue that line of argument, except, with your permission, to assure the Senate that that was the last thing in my thoughts. I agree with Senator Pearce as to the important issues which will hinge on the success or otherwise of the effort being made in Papua to discover commercial oil. I shall ascertain from my colleague if he is yet in a position to make a statement as to the results of the investigation being conducted by the expert to whom the honorable senator referred. With regard to the question of Senator Barnes, I cannot say definitely whether the position is entirely as he stated it ; but I do know that on more than one occasion during the last two months there have been fluctuations in employment, and some reports as to broken time. Whenever I have made an inquiry into this matter I have been informed that the situation arose from the fact that the estimates originally adopted for the working of that factory were evidently on too large a scale, and that, as a result of that, the Department has necessarily had to cut the work down. I have laid it down that in the case of every factory the manager shall endeavour to arrive at what one may call a normal staff - that is, a staff which will meet the average requirements of the factory - and, should there come a little rush, there shall be no frantic effort to bring in addi tional hands, with the inevitable result that they will have to be dismissed after a while or the operatives called upon to work partial time. It seems to me better to try to fix what is the average staff required, taking one month with the other, and one year with the other. If that can be adopted, there should be no such thing as a dismissal of hands, except for incompetence or something of that kind; still less should there be any broken time. I have laid that down as a policy to be aimed at. I can only regret if we have not yet reached what, I think honorable senators will agree with me, would represent an ideal set of conditions for public factories.
– Does the Minister know anything of any shortage of military clothing amongst any of the Forces?
– I can assure the honorable senator that, as far as I am informed, his information is without foundation. If the work were there to be done, no one would be asked to work broken time. There is not at the present moment sufficient work to keep everybody in all the Departments fully employed. Some of the Departments are working briskly; but in others there has been a shortage of work, necessitating the partial time to which the honorable senator has referred. A little time ago Senator McDougall brought up a quite pathetic case of a lad, whom he represented as being not as big as a rifle, being fined in a Sydney Court half-a-crown for wearing a military uniform when not on duty.
– For wearing a military shirt.
– A shirt is part of a military uniform. Honorable senators must recognise that there must be some restriction on boys wearing military uniforms when not on duty. The uniforms are not provided for the boys to wear on their camping or sporting expeditions, but are provided for the purposes for which the boys are enrolled under the Act.
– Does the same thing apply to officers?
– A lot of them sport round in their gold braid and fancy rig.
– If the honorable senator thinks that no officer should wear a uniform off duty, he can table a motion to that effect, but I am not now dealing with that question. I do put it to honorable senators that there must be some restriction on the use of uniforms supplied by the country for other than military purposes.
– Should not that apply to officers as well as to boys?
– I rise to order. I desire to know whether, in replying, the Minister is entitled to introduce new matter?
– Strictly speaking, the Minister of Defence is not in order; but I thought it would be conducive to the business of the Senate to allow him to supply information which was asked for by Senator McDougall.
– I do not wish to give the information if it is offensive to the Senate.
– The practice is most offensive.
– The Minister of Defence is not really replying to a debate in the ordinary sense of the word, because he did not initiate a debate when he moved the motion formally. On this motion the Minister, in common with every other member of the Senate, has the right to refer to matters which may not be relevant to the question at issue. Therefore I do not propose to restrict the Minister in any way.
– I hope that Senator Gardiner will recognise that I was only trying to meet the convenience of a member of his party. It is very difficult for me to judge the temper of the Senate. Whenever I make a special effort to oblige it in any way some one finds fault with me. I assure Senator Gardiner that I do not want to be standing here and giving information. I am not doing this to please myself.
– Ought not the restriction to apply to officers as well as to cadets ?
– Suppose that the boy was going to a levee.
– If the boy was going to a levee it is a pity that the honorable senator was not at the Court to put that point forward by way of defence. The information given to me is that it was brought under the notice of the military authorities in New South Wales that military uniforms and equipment were being used rather freely by members of the Forces when going on private recreation - camping trips - and that special instructions were therefore issued that the trainees were to be warned that the use, for private purposes, of Government property issued to them for military purposes was a breach of the regulations. The District Military Commandant at Sydney states that all the cadets were warned accordingly on three separate occasions. It was after these warnings had been given that a cadet named R. McQuillan, seventeen years old, was proceeded against by summons. He was too old to be taken to the Children’s Court, but he was not, as the newspaper paragraph indicated, taken to the Police Court. He was taken to an intermediate Court, which exists in New South Wales, and which is known as the Industrial Court, and by the magistrate presiding there he was fined 2s. 6d., with 3s. costs. I do not think that there was anything in the nature of a breach of justice in that matter.
– It would be far better economics to put that money into a new shirt for the lad.
– I dare say that when Cadet McQuillan hears the sentiment of Senator Rae he will be able to suggest that the honorable senator can carry out his good intention. That is the information I have on this case. May I add to a remark I made at the beginning of the sitting in order to put myself right? I wish to supplement an answer I gave to Senator Findley, who asked me a question or two relative to a Royal Commission about to be appointed to inquire into the operations of trusts and combines. I said that the Commission would be drawn out in general terms. That statement is quite true, but I omitted to mention that the Government had requested Mr. Justice Street to give immediate and first attention to the operations of the alleged Beef Trust, and that he had agreed to meet the wish of the Government in this regard. He left Sydney to-night for the purpose of commencing the inquiry in this city, where he is due to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 May 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140527_senate_5_74/>.