5th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair st 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Answers to Questions
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether he has any information to supply in answer to the question I put concerning the advance of Commonwealth money to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company?
– The question which Senator Oakes asked yesterday, and repeats to-day, has reference to the Commonwealth Bank. I regret to have to inform the honorable senator and the Senate that, in spite of every effort to obtain an answer to the question,I am unable to supply one.I remind Senator Oakes that the attitude taken up by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank with regard to this and similar questions is apparently that there is no obligation on him to answer them, nor any compelling power in this, or in another place, to make him do so. It is in these circumstances that I have been unable to obtain for Senator Oakes an answer to his question.
– Arising out of the answer given by the Honorary Minister, I ask the honorable senator whether the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has taken up the attitude that he is in no way responsible to this Parliament ?
– If I conveyed that impression to Senator Keating, it is probably more than I should have done. I tried to explain to Senator Oakes, and to the Senate, the difficulty I hadnot only on this, but on previous occasions in obtaining answers relative to the management of the Commonwealth Bank. I said that it seemed to me - and I offered no criticism on it - that the attitude adopted’ by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, whether right or wrong, was that he was under no obligation to answer questions dealing with the management of the internal affairs of the Commonwealth Bank.
– And the investment of its funds.
– The investment of its funds is of course included.
– Does he regard it as a National bank or a private bank?
– Order 1 The question cannot be argued. Questions are submitted only for” the purpose of eliciting information, and answers to them must be confined to supplying information.
SenatorRAE. - Should I be in order in asking the Honorary Minister whether there is any reason why, providing the security is good, money should not be advanced to one concern or firm equally with another?
– In answer to Senator Rae, I may say that I am not now, and do not ever hope to be, in the position of Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The question he asks me is one which should be asked of the Governor of that institution. I cannot answer it.
– When the Honorary Minister was replying to questions put to him in regard to the Commonwealth
Bank, Senator Oakes said, and the statement will probably appear in Hansard, that no one knew how the business was being conducted, and they had no opportunity of knowing. I ask the Honorary Minister if it is not a fact that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, in compliance with an Act of this Parliament, is bound to furnish information of the fullest possible descriptionregarding the working of the bank from time to time.
– And his statements must be audited, too.
– Yes; duly audited.
– As I understand the matter, it is the duty of the Governor of the bank to furnish information to Parliament from time to time. I do not know that it can be said that the Governor of the bank is obliged to furnish what Senator Findley has in mind when he uses the phrase, “ the fullest, possible information.”
– The doings of the bank, the same as in the case of other financial institutions.
– So far as I understand the Act, he is obliged to furnish information to the shareholders of the bank-. - the people of the Commonwealth - such information as, for instance, the directors of private banks have to furnish to their shareholders at their usual meetings.
Contract for Carriage of Sleepers : Water-ways : Excavation of Tank.
– The Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs stated yesterday, in reply to a question I put to him in regard to the arrangement made for the carriage of sleepers from Western Australia to Port Augusta, that the contract was entered into on the 16th September, 1913. I ask now whether the honorable senator is quite sure that the contract was entered into on that date. Is it possible that that was the date on which the quotations were submitted ?
– I can only give the honorable senator the information I gave him yesterday. It came to me from a branch of the Home Affairs Department; it was in writing, and very specific, and I could only repeat it to-day. I shall ask for a confirmation of the information.
– If the honorable senator securesthe information during the day, will he let the Senate have it?
– I will.
Senator PEARCE (for Senator Russell) askedthe Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Objections :removal of Names : Printing ofrolls.
– I wish to ask the Minister in charge of the Electoral
Branch of the Home Affairs Department a question in connexion with a statement made in another place by Mr. Falkiner, the Liberal or anti-Labour member for Riverina. I shall read a portion of the statement to make my question clear. The honorable member said -
I should not have spoken in this debate but for certain statements made by the honorable member for Illawarra about the number of names taken off the roll in Riverina. This is the first time that Riverina has ever been organized politically from one. end to the other. It is now organized by the Liberals, and by the farmers and settlers. These bodies are going through the rolls, and are challenging the right of names which should not be on the rolls to remain there, and sending in those names through Mr. Parkhill, the general secretary of the Liberal League. The names are not being objected to by a man who knows nothing about them. They are being objected to on the authority of local bodies.
I ask the Minister responsible for the administration of electoral affairs whether he will see that the strict letter of the law is carried out, and the 5s. deposit accompanies every objection, as there appears to be an effort being made to disfranchise electors of Riverina.
– I have not seen the statement quoted by the honorable member. I do not know from what he was quoting, butI shall instruct the officer of the Department to see that the law is carried out.
– I wish to inform the Senate that I was quoting from Hansard of the 19th of this month.
– For which branch of the Parliament?
– I shall hand the quotation up to the Minister, that he may be able to note the statement made.
– Lest there should be some misunderstanding of the answer I have just given, I wish to say that the law requires that a deposit of 5s. shall be made only when a properly drawn out objection is lodged,and not when information is merely supplied to the Electoral Registrar.
– In the course of an interview published in the Baily Herald, of Adelaide, on the 18th of this month, Mr. 0. H. Stevens, the Commonwealth Returning Officer for the State of South Australia, is reported to have said -
Instructions have been issued by the head office in Melbourne that canvassers are not to leave cards at houses, so that we cannot boblamed for this not being done.
Will the Minister in charge of the administration of the Electoral Act say whether those instructions were issued, and, if so, by whose authority?
– I am not aware that such instructions have been issued. If they were, they were issued on the authority of the Chief Electoral Officer, who has sole charge of these proceedings.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council undertake, even now, that the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department will issue to officials a definite instruction that the law requiring a deposit of 5s. with every objection, where it is necessary that such a deposit shall be made, will be carried out?
– Where a formal objection is lodged, a deposit of 5s. must, under the law, be made. But I should like to point out to honorable senators that, since the law came into operation, only one 5s. deposit has ever been made.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council, without notice, if he has any information from the Electoral Branch in. regard to the telegram I read yesterday from Bullfinch, Western Australia, which stated that objections had been lodged to the names of a number of people on the Federal rolls there, including people who had been on the field from its inception!
– A telegram was sent, but no reply to it is yet to hand.
– Will the honorable senator give me a reply to my question later, should the information be received ?
– I shall communicate with the Department, and see whether any reply has come to hand. If it has, I shall inform the honorable senator of it.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council say whether we are to have a definite assurance that supplemental rolls containing all the names added since the main rolls were compiled will be printed, and in sufficient time before the issue of the writs to permit of the rolls being inspected?
– Supplemental rolls will be issued. Until I know the dates’ on which the various operations in connexion with the elections are completed, I am unable to answer the remaining part of the honorable senator’s question.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The officers concerned have been communicated with, and such information as may be available will be furnished as early as practicable.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Am I to understand that, in connexion with the latest rolls that will be available in Victoria, there will be prepared a list of persons to whose names objections have been lodged, and that that list will be available after the issue of the writs ? If so, what guarantee is there for any voters in Victoria that, although their names may appear on the newest printed rolls, they will he able to vote at the coming elections?
– I can only repeat the answer which I hare given to the honorable senator. I have no further information in regard to this matter.
– Does the Minister think it is a fair thing that, after the latest rolls have been printed and circulated, the Government should be parties to the publication of a later list containing the names of persons who have been objected to up to the eleventh hour, and that that list should be available only after the issue of the writs, making it impossible for persons who have been objected to to vote at the coming elections?
– As far as I am aware, that is the ordinary proceeding which is followed out.
– That will not be the proceeding if I can help it.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the Senate as to what amount of money was paid by the various State Governments by way of commission on Savings Bank accounts in the various States ? If the Minister has not the information, will be undertake to supply it?
– I have not definite information on the subject at present, but there is a sum of £8,000 on the Estimates for the present financial year for the purpose. I made some inquiry, and I am given to understand that a little more than half of that sum represents new expenditure.
The following paper was presented: - Navies - Relative strength in Pacific.
– I wish to ask whether the Addresses presented to the Governor-General, and His Excellency’s replies thereto, will be printed as parliamentary papers?
– They will be printed ; and, in view of the general interest which members of this, and the other branch of the Legislature take in the matter, I have ordered a considerable number of copies to be furnished.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether, in view of the early termination of this Parliament, he will inform the Senate if it is intended to lay the final report of the Commission on the Fruit Industry on the table to-day or to-morrow ?
– I am unable to answer that question.
– Will the Minister obtain information as to whether the report is to be laid on the table, and inform the Senate to-morrow morning?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information the honorable senator seeks.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answersare as follow -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Defence Department : Administration : Cockatoo Island Dockyard: Naval Construction : Naval Bases : Cockburn Sound : Westernport - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. Railway : Mr. Teesdale Smith’s Contract.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without, delay.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
A custom has grown up here on the first reading of a money Bill–
– We have not forgotten it.
– I do not think that any honorable senator can forget the custom. It is not usual, I think, for the Minister introducing a Supply Bill to go into details at this stage. I propose to leave that, I am sure with the full con-: currence of honorable senators, for the second-reading stage.
– I do not know whether the Honorary Minister intended us to take his reminder as a general invitation; but I can assure him that, on this occasion, at any rate, there is no intention to forego our privilege, because this offers, perhaps, the most convenient opportunity to let the people of this country know what they will have to deal with at the forthcomingelections. It is well known, of course, that the Senate has a certain amount of power over a Supply Bill. I have no doubt that my honorable friends on the opposite side would like us to take what might be termed the heroic course;but I can assure them that the challenge which was thrown down has been accepted in earnest, and that this Bill, which is the only measure that now stands between the Parliament and tho people, will not be used by this side to prevent that challenge from being taken up. With the Supply Bill out of the way, the people will have an opportunity of passing judgment upon those who have occupied the Treasury bench during the past twelvemonths. We intend to take this opportunity to let the people know some of the sins- of omission which the Government, have committed during that period, and some of their sins of commission. I do not intend to go over the whole gamut, because that would take too long, and I might, perhaps, be charged with “ stonewalling” the Bill. It would be quite beyond the power of one man to remember all the’ Government’s sins of omission and commission, so I propose to confine myself to the particular blunders of which they have been guilty in the Department with which I was for some time associated, and that is the Defence Department. Regarding their blunders in connexion with the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, I desire to. refer to a couple of articles which have appeared in the official organ of the Fusion party in N ew South Wales. The Sydney. Morning. Herald of the 5th June contains a leading article on this subject, from whichI quote the following passage: -
It is clearlythe duty of the Federal Government to take the grave facts with regard to the condition of affairs at Cockatoo Island, which we publish elsewhere, into its immediate and closest consideration.
The article continues - lt is unnecessary to attempt to allocate the responsibility for the state of affairs now obtaining. What is certain is that no Government, realizing its obligations, darc neglect for one moment the amelioration of the present position. The building of war-ships is a very serious and vital national work, and an important adjunct to the possession of a navy. But it is work that must bc adequate, or it ought not to be done at all. There can be no cheese-paring in this brunch of defence work, for the expenditure of millions of pounds on naval construction depends on the efficient management of the department that controls this expenditure.
Further on, the writer says -
If waste of money and gross delays ii.ro due to the lack of a system of piece-work, then the Minister must face this problem, even if it be an unpopular and somewhat difficult undertaking. And so forth. Many of the evils at present existing can be removed. It will be the duty of the Government to remove them, if the building of war vessels is to continue in Australia without an excessive drain on the public resources, and a delay in construction which is expensive in itself and a serious drawback to the efficiency of the Royal Australian Navy. The difficulties are great, but the greater the difficulty the greater the opportunity for the Minister of Defence to prove that he has the desire and the capacity to carry through with expedition and thoroughness an essential reform in the defence organization of the Com.” mon wca 1th.
On the 16th June, the Sydney Morning Herald published a special article, from which I make this quotation -
In view of the discussion in Parliament, it may be stated that the general features1 of the situation at Cockatoo Island, >as emphasized by the new general manager, have been known to the Naval Board and the Minister of Defence and his predecessor for a considerable time. They were the subject of representation by Mr. Cutler, who was Mr. King Salter’s predecessor in the management .of the dockyard, by the Management Committee who controlled the works on behalf of the New South Wales Government, and by -the State Government, when the transfer to the Commonwealth was’ made.
The conditions obtaining at the Dockyard w.ere also, it is understood, communicated to the Naval Board by Commonwealth officials some time ago. The report of Mr. Julius on the power plant last year also revealed some aspects of the deficiencies in equipment. The Department has, therefore, ;been in possession of the main facts regarding the Dockyard for at least a year, and in .some respects for a longer period.
Several matters needing reform were from time ~to time deferred, pending the arrival of the new general manager, t .For -some reason (in keeping, however, with the general procrastinating policy adopted with regard to the Dockyard), Mr. King-Salter’s appointment was delayed for several months, during which time conditions grew steadily worse. An Advisory Committee was appointed by the Commonwealth Government with a view of selecting’ a suitable expert in naval construction for the post of general manager. The Committee comprised Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson (upon whose report the organization of the Royal Australian Navy was based) ; Captain HaworthBooth, naval adviser to the Commonwealth in London; and Mr. Denny, the well-known Dumbarton shipbuilder. After considering a verylarge number of ^applicants, the appointment of Mr. King-Salter was recommended as the first of six names submitted to the Government in May, 1913. Mr. King-Salter was, however, not appointed till January, 1914, and did not arrive in Australia till last March. It is believed that a great deal of valuable time in reforming conditions at the Dockyard would have been saved if Mr. King-Salter’s services(which were available) had been secured at an earlier date.
There is reason to believe that the report of Mr. King-Salter has been in the possession of the Minister of Defence for several weeks.
When the late Government took over the dockyard they knew that up till that time only dredges and small launches had been constructed there, in addition to which one torpedo boat destroyer had been reconstructed. They knew that a considerable portion of the machinery had been adapted to the purpose for which it waa used, that some of it was obsolete, some of it out of date and some of it unsuitable. They knew, therefore, that a general reorganization of the dockyard was necessary, and that a considerable quantity of new machinery would have to be purchased before the dockyard could ba made up-to-date for the building of warships. With that end in view, they took steps to have a committee appointed in England to advise them of a suitable man for appointment as general manager. On the 5th May last year, whilst the elections were proceeding, and whilst I was absent in Western Australia, the recommendation; of that body reached the Commonwealth. When I returned from Western Australia the Fisher Government had been practically defeated. It was only a matter of a few days before its members would be leav-ing office, and, in those circumstances, it would have been wrong for me to make any appointment. We made no appointment, therefore, and the papers were left for my successor to-deal with. What happened ? He was scarcely in the saddle before he made a most vicious attack on his predecessor in office in - connexion with the general administration of the Naval Bases, and particularly in connexion with this dockyard. He cannot plead, therefore, that he did not know that a bad condition of affairs existed at Cockatoo Island. Of course he attempted to lay all the blame for these conditions upon the late Government. He attacked us, and we had to accept responsibility. But to-day he has been in office for twelve months with a knowledge of the conditions which then obtained, and he has now to answer to the people of this country for what he has done to put them right.
– Hear, hear!
– Let us examine the record of the Minister’s attempts to put them right. In the first place, it will be admitted that a general manager had to be appointed. Mr. Cutler was an acting manager. He was not an employe of the Commonwealth. He had made recommendation after recommendation, all of which had been hung up, because of the pending appointment of a general manager. If the present Government decided that they would take eight or nine months to make up their minds regarding the appointment of a general manager-
– They did not.
– We shall see. If the Government resolved to occupy eight on nine months in making up their minds about the appointment of a general manager, obviously the wise course for them to have pursued was to act upon some of Mr. Cutler’s recommendations so as to overcome the difficulty of which the Minister of Defence made such a mountain upon his advent to office. He came into office in June of last year. He could not say that the committee appointed to advise the late Government in the Old Country was not a committee whose recommendation was worth acting upon, because Admiral Henderson had been in charge of one of the most important dockyards in Great Britain for some time, whilst Captain Hayward Booth was the trusted adviser of the” Government in regard to naval matters at the other side of the world, and Mr. Denny was one of the best known shipbuilders in the Old Country. This committee, after going through the applications, recommended the appointment of Mr. King Salter. The Government, however, took no action to appoint that gentleman as general manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. In reply to certain questions which I put to the
Minister a few days ago, we were informed as to the date when the appointment was made.
– Then why does the honorable senator say that there was eight or nine months of delay if he has that date before him ?
– I will tell the Minister. The first question which I asked was -
On what date was the recommendation for the appointment of Mr. King Salter,as manager of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, received from the Committee in Great Britain which was appointed to advise the Government?
The answer supplied was - 5th May, 1913.
The other question put to the Minister reads -
Upon what date was the appointment made ?
The reply was -
The appointment dates from 30th January, 1914; but the definite offer was cabled Mr. King Salter on 31st December, 1913.
That was six months from the time that the Government assumed office.
– Then why does the honorable senator go about the country, saying that it was eight or nine months?
– The fact is that Mr. King Salter did not definitely accept the appointment till February, 1914, and he did not take up his duties until March of this year. My statement is that the Government allowed a period of nine months to elapse from the time they took office until Mr. King Salter entered upon his duties in Sydney. This, too, iri the case of a dockyard which the Minister had declared was in a hopeless state of disorganization, upon which he affirmed we had wasted thousands of pounds, and in connexion with which, according to him, intolerable delays were taking place. If the late Government were guilty of all these things, what must be the sentence on the present Ministry, who, knowing all about them, took nine months to make the appointment of a general manager, and during that period refused to give effect to a single recommendation of the acting manager? If the charge of confusion can be sheeted home to the Fisher Government as the result of their administration of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, what charge can be sheeted home to the present Government, who allowed nine months to intervene before making an appointment?
– As the appointment was offered to Mr. King Salter in December, how can the honorable senator say that we allowed nine months to elapse ?
– If action had been taken by the Minister when he assumed office, Mr. King Salter could have taken up his duties much sooner than he did.
– I did take action.
– The Minister informed us only the other day that he waited until the High Commissioner came to Australia in order that he might consult him on the matter before taking definite action. Now, Sir George Reid may be a very clever politician, but he is certainly not an authority on naval construction. Yet the Minister declined to accept the recommendation of three competent gentlemen in England regarding the appointment of Mr. King Salter, and preferred to await the arrival of Sir George Reid in order that he might first have a conversation with him on the question. In order to show that the late Government were quite aware of the conditions which obtained at the dockyard, and that they were preparing to take every step necessary to put that dockyard on a proper basis, I come to the appointment of Mr. Julius for the purpose of advising the Government as to the best means of providing an up-to-date power plant there. That gentleman was appointed whilst I was Minister of Defence. We all remember the sensational action taken by the Minister to call public attention to the carelessness of the late Government in this connexion. In order to direct the attention of the electors to the alleged carelessness of his predecessor in office, he dramatically closed down the dockyard on receiving the report of Mr. Julius regarding its condition.
– On receiving advice from the Naval Board.
– Advice from only one member of the Board. Was that action on the part of the Minister taken for any other purpose «than that which animated him when he made an attack upon the Fisher Government previously, namely, a desire to create in the public mind an impression that we had entered into a bad bargain, and that the present Ministry had to undertake a Herculean task in putting things right? But supposing that everything which the honorable senator said was absolutely justi fied - that the plant at the dockyard was dangerous to human life - what can be said of his subsequent action? The answers given to questions to-day show that the Government have not installed a new power plant yet - that they have not even called for tenders for it. They have taken out a few of the boilers, but, with that exception, the power plant at Cockatoo Island Dockyard to-day is the same as that which they took over from their predecessors. ‘
– Was there ever such an exhibition of hypocrisy ?
– Exactly. When the Minister took the sensational action which he did, he possessed an advantage over us in that he had the report of Mr. Julius in his possession and we had not. But to-day we have that report in our possession, and we are thus able to show that Mr. Julius never said that the plant was dangerous to human life, although the Minister endeavoured to make it appear that he had done so. In giving evidence before a Select Committee which inquired into this matter, Mr. Julius emphatically contradicted the statement that lie had said that the use of the plant was dangerous. I hold in my hand a Parliamentary paper which was printed on the 14th September of last year, and on pages 3 and 4 of it are to be found the only statements which can be in any way construed into indicating weakness on the part of the boilers. Mr. Julius said -
All of them were, I believe, second-hand boilers when installed, and at the present time considerable repairs have to be effected every week-end to keep them running for another week.
The pressure at which they are working, namely, 100 lbs. per square inch, is altogether too low for economic operation, and the maximum quantity of steam available from the whole of the boilers, pressed to their utmost, is quite insufficient to run the engine plant at its full output; and, in fact, at the present time it is difficult to reach 65 per cent, of this figure.
The position at present, therefore, in regard to this power plant may be summed up as follows : -
There is nothing there about the boilers being dangerous to human life. All this was known to the previous Government, and that is why they appointed Mr. Julius to report and advise them as to the plant that should be substituted for the old and obsolete boilers then in existence. Mr. J Julius goes on to make a recommendation. After the dramatic action of my honorable friend opposite, a Board was appointed to report on the boilers, and on the 7th August they submitted their report, in which they draw attention to the fact that a number of boilers are worn out, but not in any paragraph of their report, although they go into details, do they speak of any of the boilers as being dangerous to human life. Various witnesses before the Select Committee said a worn-out boiler was not necessarily dangerous. It means worn out for economic, effective work. Although the Committee of officers from the Department knew the dramatic action that their chief had taken, and that something desperate was required to buttress him up and save his face, not a word appears in their report as to one boiler being dangerous to human life, working at the pressure at which they were working. The Minister shelters himself behind the Naval Board, but he was. present -at ‘the meeting of the Board when the matter was considered. He ought to know that there is a telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne, and that Mr. Julius is on the telephone or could have been reached by a telegram. Yet the simple idea of sending a telegram to Sydney and asking Mr. Julius whether the boilers were dangerous to human life never occurred to him. They were so anxious to star this .particular item in their policy that it never occurred to them to send a telegram to Mr. Julius.
– Yes, it did.
– The Minister never acted upon it at any rate. Did he allow the Board to stop him from doing so 1 Does the Board run the Minister, or does the Minister run the Board ? The Minister shelters himself behind Mr. Julius’ report, and so does the Board, and yet they never thought to ask Mr. Julius himself, who, above all others, ought to have been able to; say if the boilers were dangerous. All they wanted was to draw attention to the Cockatoo Island dockyard and make political capital out of it. They were anxious to produce a dramatic effect by closing down and telling the people that the Labour Government kept -men ^working on boilers where there was only the thickness of a piece of paper between them and eternity. The Select Committee of the Senate most effectually dealt with this matter. In their report, ordered to be printed on 20th November, 1913, they said -
In the course of the inquiry your Committee found that the partial closing down of the works was unwarranted, as the evidence clearly showed.
– Your friends.
– Does the honorable senator say that this report -was not justified by the evidence ? The Committee proceed to back up their finding by the evidence of the witnesses whom they called.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Were any of them asked if the boilerswere dangerous to human life 1
– What did they say ?
– I will read the evidence bearing on the subject. .Mr. Julius, the engineer appointed to examine and report upon the works, gave the following evidence : -
Engineer-Commander Barnes, Chairman of the Board that surveyed the boilers, who ought to know something about the matter, if any one does, because he actually surveyed them .after the sensational closing down, and is an /inspector on the works, says - 385. You do not think there was any immediate danger of the explosion of the boiler? - No ; I do not think so. 496. Was there any general idea, prior to this stoppage taking place, that such should occur ? - No ; it came as a surprise to me.
He was the gentleman representing the Naval Board at the yard, and had been there ever since the Warrego was put together. That he is a competent engineer is proved by the fact that the honorable senator put him on the Board to survey the boilers, as chairman. Mr. H.
Kidd, Consulting Engineer, gave the following evidence: - 584. As a professional man, of many years’ standing, you think that the action taken by the Naval Board was, under the circumstances, somewhat unnecessary? - Yes; had they apprehended any difficulty, they could have got one boiler taken off at a time, and quietly examined the whole lot. 585. You do not think there was any occasion to discharge men, and reduce the working power of the plant? - Certainly not.
And Mr. William Kidd, late Establishment Engineer at the dock, testified as follows : - 654. You would not take it to mean that, they were dangerous? - Undoubtedly not. 676. The Naval Board expressed the opinion that if the condemned boilers had been worked much longer’ under the conditions disclosed, an explosion would have been inevitable? - That was impossible. 681. In your opinion, if the boilers that were in use previous to the survey were in use today at the working pressure, they would be perfectly safe? - Yes, in my opinion.
– Still the Naval Board expressed the opinion quoted in question 676.
– I do not know; ibut the chairman said so. Mr. P. Holmes, assistant foreman boilermaker at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, who should also know something about boilers, was asked- 870. And what would you say to the statement that if the boilers had been worked much longer an explosion would have been inevitable ? -I think they were wrong; I would say that in my opinion they were making, a mistake. 871. You believe there was no danger to life or limb ? - None. 872. You think it was a ridiculous and extreme statement ? - Yes.
Mr. Woolnough, Engineer; Constructor, another member of the Board of Survey; testified - 2089. Could you not. have surveyed these boilers at Cockatoo Island without throwing them all down at the one time?- Mostdecidedly. It is not necessary to survey more than one boiler at a time.
Yet my honorable friend shut the lot. down, sheltering himself behind the Naval Board, who acted on the recommendation of one man - the Third Naval Member, whom Senator Millen still retains on the Board.
– Do you think he ought to go?
– That is for my honorable friend to say. The responsibility, is, his. He cannot have the matter both ways. He cannot shelter himself behind an officer, and say that that officer gave him wrong advice, and still retain him in the service, saying that he is perfectly satisfied with him.. He must either say, “ The advice was wrong, and I am. doing wrong in retaining on the Board a man who gave me advice which showed him to be incompetent,” or he must say, “ The advice was right,’ and I stand by it and by him.”
– Hear, hear!
-If that is the honorable senator’s attitude, he must take the responsibility of Captain Clarkson ‘s advice, which he acted upon.
– If Clarkson was right, Woolnough was, wrong.
– Clarkson recommended that the . boilers’ should all be blown down, and Woolnough said there was no need for it. He also gave the. following evidence : . - “ 2171. Had the use of the words “ practically worn out “ in this report any relation to the question of danger, or did it relate to the stability of the boilers for a longer lease of life? - After hearing Mr. Julius’ evidence-, I should say that ho probably referred more to the installation of the new power plant than to anything else. 2172. And that he did not think he was warranted in considering whether the boilers were or were not dangerous? - He has said that he did not, and I am prepared to accept that statement, and to believe that he used the word “ practically “ in that sense. 2183. I feel confident that the boiler could have been repaired in a few days? - I thought at the time it was possible to stud it, and. that that would be a comparatively cheap job, but the men to whom I have referred asserted that the plate underneath was in such a condition that they could not risk studding it, but that they would have to take it off, drill it right through, and rivet it. 2184. It was only on account of the cost of repairing the boiler, that it was condemned? - Yes.
Captain Clarkson gave- the- following evidence, which is interesting, as showing what was in his mind : -
I have reported very strongly against. Cockatoo Island as a naval ship-building establishment, and there are several reasons why. First of all, it is an island, and difficult uf access. It cost money to get material there, and to get material away from it. It is difficult from the point of view of labour; the men cannot live near it, and it takes them a long time to get there and to get to- their homes afterwards. They probably have to leave home in. the morning with a very poor meal, and get a scratch one in the middle of the day, and. it is very late at night before they get another. That is- working under poor conditions. With regard to the island itself, the area is limited. There’ is a. very big’ rock in. the centre, with, a limited amount of flat land around. You cannot lay out shops to the best advantage; that is, you cannot lay them out as shops are laid out in other parts of the world, so that the raw material comes in at one end and goes through a series of operations until finally fixed on the ship. The place is as hot as the ante-chamber to Hades in the summer. It is hot because that huge rock in the centre absorbs the heat and keeps off the wind. Whichever way the wind is blowing the men are working under fearful conditions, which men ought never to be asked to work under. The blacksmith foundry, and all those shops, are worked under shocking conditions; and I object for that reason. I contend that any work done there will be done at great cost. Nobody gets any good out of it - the Government do not get any good, nor do the men, nor any one. I have always contended that it would be perfectly easy to find another site in Australia, and equip it with up-to-date, modern machinery in every particular, at a less cost than has been incurred for Cockatoo Island. We should then be able to turn out our ships cheaper and quicker.
He recommended that we should not take over Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and actu1 ally recommended us to establish a new dockyard for the building of war-ships at Port Lincoln, South Australia. Would the Senate follow that advice ?
– It is the best place in the world.
– It is one of the finest harbors in Australia, if not the finest. No one can say anything against it as a harbor. He says it would cost money to get material to Cockatoo Island, but, if that be so, what would it cost to get material to Port Lincoln ? Unless one got a full ship-load of material, everything less than a ship-load would have to be transhipped from some other port in Australia.
– The stuff is there.
– What stuff?
– The Iron Knob.
– I think that Senator Guthrie will have a better acquaintance with the geography of South Australia in three months’ time than he has now. The Iron Knob is at the other end of the Gulf. Again there is no coal supply at Port Lincoln or anywhere near it. There is no coal supply in the State of South Australia, and all the coal required for the dockyard, if established there, would have to be brought from New .South Wales. There is no labour supply at Port Lincoln. The total population of the place is somewhere about 1,500, and I ask honorable senators to contemplate a proposal to establish a dockyard at a place where there is a very small population, and hundreds of miles from any place where there is a considerable population. Any surplus labour required at any time would have to be brought a great distance from one of the capital cities of the Commonwealth. I did not take that advice.. If Senator Millen likes to take it and establishes a Naval Dockyard at Port Lincoln he must accept the responsibility. I think the honorable senator would have some difficulty in getting Parliament to vote the money and in persuading the people of Australia that that is the place to establish a dockyard for the building of war-ships. When ‘this gentleman condemns the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, I want the Senate and the country to know that the same gentleman made the recommendation to establish a dockyard at Port Lincoln. After a recommendation like that from him, I did not take very much notice of Captain Clarkson’s objections to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– I suppose the honorable senator thought Cockatoo Island an ideal site.
– I did not; but I say that it had already reached a certain stage of development that could not be said of any other dockyard in Australia.
– That was the only thing to be said in favour of it.
– Yes. It was not an ideal site, but it had reached a certain stage of development which permitted a start to be made with the construction of war-ships there more quickly than at any other -place in Australia. Moreover, we had entered into a contract with the Government of New South Wales for the construction of war-ships. That contract was not. proceeding satisfactorily, and we very soon realized that it would be more satisfactory to take over the dockyard altogether.
– That condition of things was largely brought about by friction between Captain Clarkson and others.
– I make no secret of the fact that Captain Clarkson opposed both root and branch the taking over of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. He has continued his hostility to it ever since. Whenever he can give it a bump by a hostile report he never neglects to depreciate and defame it. I now come to Mr. Cutler, who was at the time acting manager of the dockyard. Strange to say,
Senator Millen never thought to send a wire to Mr. Cutler to ask him whether he thought the boilers were dangerous or not. The first news Mr. Cutler received of the matter was the intimation to close down the works. That is a nice way in which to treat a man in charge of important works like those. Mr. Cutler said - and this will be found at page x of the report of the Select Committee -
I was in possession of the fact that the Chairman of the Survey Board had stated that he was going to condemn the whole of the boilers, which statement was made before the examination of the boilers had actually started.
That is a singular thing. I should like to ask the Minister of Defence whether he ever followed up that statement? It seems to me that ifc should have been followed up. Here is a charge made by Mr.1 Cutler that the Chairman of the Survey Board had said he was going to condemn the whole of the boilers before the examination of the boilers was started.
– Who said so?
– That is the statement made in the evidence I have quoted from Mr. Cutler.
– That was Mr. Cutler’s statement.
– He admits that.
– No one admits it.
– Engineer Commander Barnes gives this evidence- at question 431 -
It has been stated that it was the intention of the Board to condemn all those boilers; is there any foundation for that? - No; no foundation whatever. The boilers were surveyed in all true conscience.
Have you heard about that statement? - I heard something this morning. Of course, being a Board, there is a lot at stake. The statement I made to my assistant-
Who is he? - Assistant Overseer McMillan. I said to him, “ I am afraid that those boilers will have to be condemned.”
That was before the examination of the boilers.
– This is the witness the honorable senator brought in to show that the whole of the inquiries were necessary. The honorable senator rested his case on Engineer Commander Barnes just now.
– I rest my case on no one. I give the evidence for what it is worth. Mr. Cutler was asked at question 132-
Can you prove that Commander Barnes said, before examining the boilers, that he intended to condemn them? - Yes; I will substantiate that with a witness if you wish.
By Senator Mullan. - When will it be practicable to get that witness? - Any day you like.
By Senator Guthrie. - Who is he? - The statement was given to me by an assistant overseer, Mr. McMillan. He is to be found at the Dock.
Then follows the evidence of Engineer Commander Barnes, which I have quoted. In answer to question 1607, Engineer Captain Clarkson gave this evidence -
You did not ask the General Manager what was the pressure? - No; I thought it was better to have an independent man to examine and an independent Board to condemn the boilers afterwards. “ Condemn “ them? - It is a term used in the Navy. To condemn a boiler is to simply examine it, and state what action is to be taken.
That seems to me to be a bit too thin. I do not know whether Senator Keating would be satisfied with an answer like that from a witness. The honorable senator would probably follow it up with a little cross-examination. He would want some proof that to “ condemn “ means merely to examine.
– It does not mean examination. It means judgment.
– At question 1591, Captain Clarkson gave this evidence -
Where does Mr. Julius say that the boilers are dangerous? - I never said he did say so.
Did the Minister of Defence hear that?
– I will bring the honorable senator his minute signed by himself, and he will see from that what I had before me at the time.
– In his evidence, Captain Clarkson denies that he said that Mr. Julius stated that the boilers were dangerous.
– Mr. Julius did not say ifc.
– There is this evidence at question 1596 -
If they were dangerous after Mr. Julius’ report, they were dangerous while you were working them ? - I say that if no repairs were made, and they were being worked at a higher pressure than when I knew them, they were dangerous.
He never wired to Mr. Cutler to know if he was working them at a higher pressure. At the next question there is this evidence -
And you knew they were dangerous? - No; I did not know what repairs had been done, and I did not know at what pressure they were working until the report. I acted on Mr. Julius’ report.
Mr. Julius and every other expert says that Mr. Julius did not say they were dangerous? - . He says that they were worn out.
But he says that he didnot wish to convey the impression that, they were dangerous, and that nobody could take that from his report? - We did.
– Is there anything in the papers to indicate the normal pressure at which the boilers were working?
– Yes; the pressure at which the boilers were working was considerably below a dangerous pressure.
– We tested them Up to three times their working pressure.
– At question 1605, Captain Clarkson was further examined -
Then, from the knowledge you had, you knew the boilers were dangerous the whole time they were working ? - No, because I did not know what pressure they were working at.
This is the Third Member of the Naval Board dealing with the part of the administration that comes under him. He makes a drastic recommendation to the Minister, and yet he says that he did not know at what pressure the boilers were working at any time. I come now to the evidence of Mr. Manisty, the then Secretary of the Naval Board. In answer to Senator Rae, at question 1911, I find this evidence -
Did each individual member of the Board read Mr. Julius’ report right through before proceeding to act upon it? - I read it, and I think that Captain Onslow did so. The Minister read it, and I am sure that Captain Clarkson did.
You proceeded collectively to discuss it? - Yes. It arrived on a Wednesday, together with ft duplicate copy, which, I think, was given to the Minister. Captain Clarkson took the report home with him, with a view of considering it before the Board met next morning.
Would the Board have met next morning in any case? - A special meeting was held to deal with the report. We considered it a serious matter; but Captain Clarkson suggested that we should wait until the following day before taking action.
Yet there was no telegram sent to Sydney
Who was absent from that meeting? - Admiral Creswell was the only absentee.
Was the discussion prolonged? - I should hardly say it was. We discussed it from halfanhour to three-quarters of an hour.
Was a special meeting convened to consider the matter? - I am practically certain that a meeting was convened for that purpose.
Was there any difference of opinion as to the meaning to be given to the words “ practically worn out”? - No; but I think a suggestion was made that we should ask Mr. Julius for a further interpretation.
There was then an idea that the phrase might be open to more than one construction? - I thought it was a rather serious action that we proposed, and we considered whether we should obtain from Mr. Julius any further confirmation of his statement. I do not think there was any doubt, however, as to what should be done.
– Mr. Manisty says that there was no doubt as to what should be done.
– His evidence continues -
There was a unanimous opinion that “ practically worn out” meant “absolutely dangerous “ ? - The opinion was held that there was a possibility of danger, and that we should not be justified in carrying on in the face of that report until we had definitely ascertained whether there was any danger.
Yet they never sent a telegram to ask the inspector, if they did not trust the acting manager, at what pressure the boilers were working.
Who proposed that Mr. Julius should be asked to say what he meant by this report? - I think it was the Minister.
The suggestion was overruled ? - It was not taken up.
Was Mr. Julius then in Sydney? - Yes.
How long would it take to send a telegraphic message to Sydney, and to receive a reply? - From four to five hours, or even less at certain periods of the day.
You received Mr. Julius’ report on Wednesday, 30th July, and you met on the following morning ? - Yes.
An urgent telegram was then sent ordering the closing down of the works. On whose authority was the meeting convened ? - Thatof the Minister. He was in the office when the report arrived, I think, or else we telephoned to him about the matter.
There was really an informal meeting on the Wednesday? - Yes; we were anxious to get the report, and the Minister told me to let him know as soon as it arrived.
That accounts for the arrival of the report being generally known on the Wednesday? - Yes.
Evidently the Minister must have got an inkling that there was something in the report, and, therefore, was prepared to act as soon as it arrived, because he asked the secretary to let him have the report as soon as it was received. After its arrival, the Wednesday afternoon was allowed to go. No action was taken to get in touch with Sydney or to communicate with Mr. Julius, although there was a doubt in the minds of the members of the Naval Board, and apparently of the Minister,- as to what was meant. Whether it meant dangerous or not, there was no attempt to ask Mr. Julius. But on Thursday morning it was said, “ We will close down the works ; throw the men out of employment; create a sensation throughout Australia; give another stab in the back to the idea of the Australian Navy; discredit the idea of war-ship building in Australia a little more-
– Absolutely, yes. It can be seen sticking out a foot right through the piece. The whole thing was simply a diabolical attempt to create in the minds of the people the idea that the building of war-ships here is impracticable, too costly and too cumbersome.
– This is too childish.
– It is not childish. It can be seen all along the line.
– Every quotation you have read has been quite to the contrary.
– The proceedings of the Naval Board and the Select Committee show that the Government did not want to know what Mr. Julius intended to convey. They did not want to know anything about the boilers. It was sufficient for them to put a strained interpretation on his report and close down the works, so anxious were they to discredit naval construction in Australia, and incidentally to have a hit at their political opponents. The concluding paragraphs of the Committee’s report read as follow: -
– As Minister of Defence you brought the parts to Australia and assembled them here?
– Certainly, in order to give Australian workmen the first opportunity they had ever had to do anything in the way of construction.
– That is what you call building a war-ship!
– At the same time, I may inform the honorable senator that we sent a number of Australian workmen Home in order that they might gain experience.
– I quite agree with you in that, but why not build the parts here and assemble them here?
– We had no complaint of any kind.
– No, because you were a Free Trader.
– My honorable friend is now supporting, a Government who would build the ships in England if they could.
– I would not support a Labour Government.
– When the order for the Australia was placed, the Government which the honorable member was supporting were negotiating with firms in England to construct the .whole of the fleet in England. If he calls for the papers he will find that my statement is correct.
– What did you do as a Minister? You compromised; you brought out the parts and assembled them here, yet you talk about building a warship here!
– We at once stopped the thing, and commenced the construction of one cruiser and three tor,pedoes here. If the Liberal party had been returned in 1910, not one would have been constructed here, but the whole, lot would have been built in England.
– Quite the contrary..
– That shows the attitude of the Minister’ in that regard.: Any one knowing the facts would assume that the Ministry were fully seized of the necessity for a new power plant.: They thought so much of Mr. Julius’ report that they took immediate and drastic action. What has been the history of the matter since then? It has been disclosed here to-day. The Select Committee did not sit until October of last year, and the dockyard was closed down some time before then. Here is the history as given by the Minister to-day in answer to my question -
The recommendation of Mr. Julius was received on 31st July, 1013. An agreement was subsequently made with him to prepare plans and specifications, and supervise the work of installation, this agreement being contingent on the necessary funds for the work being sanctioned in the Loan Bill.
Why should it be made contingent upon funds being provided by Loan Bill?
– Where would you get the money if Parliament did not vote it?
– If Parliament did not vote the money in the Loan Bill, the Minister could have fallen hack on the Consolidated Revenue.
– You would have had to get an appropriation then.
– The fact is that the Government are trying to shelter themselves behind the necessity of a Loan Bill to provide the money for the purchase of the power plant. The money for the specifications would have been a mere bagatelle. There was no necessity to include that item in the Loan Bill, and there was no reason why, immediately after the report of Mr. Julius had been received, the Minister should not have given an instruction for the preparation of the specifications and the plans for the power plant.
– The agreement with Mr. Julius covered more than that. If you read it aright you will see that it says so.
– The Minister further stated -
An agreement was subsequently made with him to prepare plans and specifications and supervise the work of installation, this agreement being contingent on the necessary funds for the work being sanctioned in the Loan Bill. The Loan Bill passed on 19th December, 1913. In the meantime Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice had reported on Cockatoo Island, and it was necessary to take his recommendations into consideration.
The present Government live on reports; they do nothing on reports.
The Third Naval Member of the Naval Board had a conference with Mr. Julius in Sydney on 24th January-
That is six months after the first report was put in.
– A month after the report was available.
– Apparently the Minister could not have a conversation without a Loan Bill.
– We had to wait till he returned from his Christmas holidays in New Zealand.
– Did he have his Christmas holiday in July, 1913?
– He was in New. Zealand at Christmas time.
– What was the Minister doing for six months before Christmas?
– Waiting for a Bill to appropriate the money.
– The Minister could not have a conversation without a Loan Bill. I can understand him saying that Australia cannot have a Navy without a loan, but now the Government are coming to something dreadful. They cannot have a conference without a loan -
The Third Naval Member of the Naval Board had a conference with Mr. Julius in Sydney on 24th January-
It takes a month after the conference to digest it - and on 24th February Mr. Julius was requested to take in hand the necessary arrangements for the provision of the new power plant. On 26th March Mr. Julius and the general manager, Cockatoo Island, submitted a joint recommendation that tenders be invited alternatively for both steam and Diesel plant.
This was in March, but we are nearly in July again; that is twelve months from the time when Mr. Julius submitted his report, and no tenders have yet been called ; nothing has been done. The money was voted in the Loan Bill on 13th December, 1913, and is still unspent. Chaos still remains at the dockyard, and the Minister says “ it is all due to my predecessor.” I come now to another expert, Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice. He made this statement -
On the 4th December, accompanied by RearAdmiral Sir William Creswell and Mr. Fanstone,I went in a launch around Sydney Harbor; and made myself acquainted with the general features of the harbor. On the 5th December, accompanied by Sir William Creswell, Engineer-Captain W. Clarkson, and Mr. Fanstone, I visited Cockatoo Island, and was met by Mr. A. E. Cutler and Mr. Carr. We spent all day on the island examining the different work in progress, the general arrangement of shops, and the machinery employed.
He does not think too much of the island or the works there. I want to read an extract, because this expert imported bythe Government at great cost had one good word to say for us, anyhow, which needs to be said at the present juncture, in view of the attempt now being made to put all the blame on the workmen in the dockyard -
I ought toadd that the work which I saw in progress was of good quality, and left very little to be desired. I have, however, no doubt that the work here costs more than it would cost in good modern shops. After careful consideration, it seems to mc that any improvements to be made at Cockatoo Island must be dependent altogether on the programme of ship-building which may be adopted for this yard, and that until such programme is arranged over a scries of years it is not possible to settle to what extent more money should be spent on shops, machinery, wharfs, &.c.
This was on the 24th December, 1913. Have the Government any programme? We are waiting to hear what the Prime Minister has to say.
– Had your Government any programme?
– Undoubtedly, and we carried it out.
– In regard to Cockatoo Island?
– They had; I will state their programme directly.
– The quotation continues -
The cruiser, I understand, can probably be launched in April or May, 1014. If thu slip on which the cruiser is being built is to be used continuously, as is necessary if the yard is to be worked economically, all arrangements for the next ship to be laid down on that slip ought to be well in hand now. When specifications for material have to bc sent to England, when the plates and bars have to bc rolled there and sent out to Australia, it takes a long time to lay down a ship after a decision lias been arrived at to build her.
This was in December, 1913. Have any orders been sent to England? Has Parliament been asked to sanction any proposal for the ordering of more plates for building other ships? Not a word has been heard. “ Preference to unionists “ has been of infinitely more importance than the Australian Navy. A dead-lock between the two Houses has been of far more importance than getting these works going in an economical and workman-like fashion, and so the Minister wastes his time in political cockfighting, and leaves these, to his mind, less important matters to drift. The quotation continues -
First alternative. - If it is definitely decided to continue building continuously over a series of years at something like the present rate, namely, with one light cruiser and two destroyers on the slips at the same time, all obsolete machinery at Cockatoo Island ought to bc taken out, a power station built, and all the new machinery, and, if possible, some of the remaining old machinery, electrically driven. Advantage ought also to be taken when putting in the new machinery to make » better arrangement of shops, so as to obtain snore economical working.
My second charge against the Government is that they have no plans or proposals. They are simply drifting along, and a dead-lock suits them. The delay with the building of the Brisbane suits them, because they know that as soon as she is ofl the slip it will disclose the fact that they have no plans; that they have made no preparations for the building of any ship to follow her, and that, therefore, men must be thrown out of work and the dock- yard practically laid idle. The Government have planned all through for delay. The whole of their programme for the dockyard for the last year has been delay. Leaving that matter, I will pass to Fremantle, at the other side of the continent, and deal with the provision of Naval Bases. A Fleet without a Naval Base is hampered, cannot move, and certainly would be useless in time of war. The late Government had a programme to provide the Naval Bases necessary for the Fleet. They had Admiral Henderson’s programme in that regard, and were proceeding with it. The present Government, as with the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, wanted to find fault with the late Government. They wanted to show the electors that we were a set of incompetents, and so they said, “ The Labour Government blundered again at Cockburn Sound. They chose the wrong spot. They acted with insufficient advice. We must get another expert out to advise us.” And so they brought out Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, at a cost of 4,600 guineas and incidentals, which will be disclosed when the Budget is submitted in the next Parliament. Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice has been here, and gone away. He reported in December, 1913. What is the position after .the Government have had his advice? Cockburn Sound is in exactly the position to-day that it was in when he came out. No sooner did my honorable friend assume office than one of his first acts was to discharge about 100 men employed there in proceeding with the development of the Naval Base. Since then the Government have had about forty or fifty men pottering about and getting in each other’s way. They have had the report of an expert. What did he tell them ? For the information of the Senate I shall read what he said -
I arrived at Fremantle on 4th November, and was met by Mr. H. H. Fanstone, Director of Naval Works, and Captain C. J. Clare, C.M.G., District Naval Officer at Fremantle. I spent ten days making an examination of all parts of Cockburn Sound and adjacent land, the harbor and harbor equipment at Fremantle, and the Swan Eiver between Fremantle and Perth. I examined sites for possible quarries, and also the State quarry at Boya. . . The matters requiring further information are mentioned below : -
Best position in Cockburn Sound for Naval Base. - Although Jervoise Bay was proposed by Admiral Henderson, I considered it advisable to have some borings and soundings south of Jervoise Bay, so that full information might be available for estimating the cost of work at different places. These borings and soundings have now been completed.
They were the borings and soundings necessary to enable Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice to say whether Jervoise Bay was the best spot in Cockburn Sound for a Naval Base.
SenatorRae. - What did he say?
– That is known only to my honorable friends opposite. But I know, by implication, what he said, because paragraph 8 of this report reads -
There are three possible points in Cockburn Sound for a Naval Base. These are Jervoise Bay, which the late Government said was the best site ; Case Point, which is 6 miles south ; and Mangles Bay, which is 12 miles south. Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice recommended that a trial shaft should be sunk to see if the ground at Cockburn Sound was suitable for the establishment of a graving dock there. Where are the Government putting down that trial shaft?
– At a spot which Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice declared is equal to any site in Cockburn Sound.
– That spot is Jervoise Bay. But horses will not drag the information from the Minister that Jervoise Bay was selected by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice. He is too anxious tosave the political skin of Sir John Forrest. I can imagine the Treasurer, in conference with Senator Millen, exclaiming, “ For God’s sake do not tell the electors of Western Australia that Jervoise Bay is the spot where the Naval Base is to be established, and where a dockyard is to be constructed, because I told them that
Senator Pearce had made a mistake.” The fact remains, however, that the shaft in question is being put down in Jervoise Bay.
– Are we to understand that the late Government recommended Jervoise Bay as the Base for the construction of the Australian Navy?
– Nothing of the kind. What I am endeavouring to make the honorable senator understand is that Admiral Henderson recommended the establishment ofa Fleet Base at Jervoise Bay; that the late Government undertook a preparatory survey of that spot, and of other parts of Cockburn Sound; and that, acting on the advice of their responsible officers, they decided that it was the best site available. . They were about to proceed with the works required to make it a Fleet Base, when the present Government - which the honorable senator supports - came into office, stopped operations on the pretext that there waa not sufficient information available; and brought out an expert from England at a cost of £4,600. That expert reported in December of last year, and my prophecy is that the Government will not do anything until after the impending elections, because otherwise they must show that the Fisher Ministry chose the right spot.
– Are we to understand that the late Government were committed to Jervoise Bay as a Fleet Base ?
– Undoubtedly, on Admiral Henderson’s recommendation. That officer recommended that there should be two primary Fleet Bases, one at Sydney, and the other at Jervoise Bay, in Cockburn Sound.
– He did not recommend Jervoise Bay.
– I charge the Government with having, for political purposes, and with a view to scoring off the late Government, cost this country somewhere about £10,000. They expended £4,600 in importing an expert from the Old Country; and they have spent another £3,000 or £4,000 in putting down that trial shaft, which was totally unnecessary, because, as Senator Millen has said, one can determine the nature of the strata at Jervoise Bay, and for 12 miles south of it. Let me tell him that, 5 miles north of Jervoise Bay, the Western Australian Government established a dock, aud the bottom of it fell out into the Indian Ocean. The late Government did not need anything more to convince them that they could not put down a dock at Jervoise Bay. What Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice said, in effect, to the present Government was, “ If you wish to play with this matter, you may put down a shaft here. It will kill time.” That is all that the shaft is being sunk for. What will happen at Jervoise Bay is what happened at Fremantle - the workmen will strike the Indian Ocean. The people of Western Australia are laughing at the Minister and at the Naval Board for putting down a shaft costing thousands of pounds within a few miles of that ghastly failure which cost Western Australia £200,000 - a failure which was engineered by the Liberal party there. As a matter of fact, that party won an election upon it. With that circumstance staring us in the face, we refused to consider the question of the establishment of a graving dock at Jervoise Bay, and declared that if a dock was to be established there at all, it would have to be a floating dock. The fact that the Government are putting down a shaft there is an acknowledgment that what they did, they did for political purposes, and nothing more. Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice was brought out from the Old Country to condemn the late Government. He was sent down to PortWestern with that object in view. Yet what does he say? He says -
This close examination was made so that by means of the knowledge thus obtained, accompanied by examination of the large scale chart, I might be able to satisfy myself that the best site had been chosen for a Naval Base. . . . I have, after roughly estimating the works at each place, come to the conclusion that Hann’s Inlet has been wisely chosen as the cheapest site for a Naval Base in Port Western, assuming that it is used for destroyers and submarines ouly.
Dealing with the works which weplanned there, he says, on page 3 of his report -
I have gone through the drawings of the wharf, and other works proposed, with Director of Naval Works, and consider his proposals are generally satisfactory. There may be some small alterations which I will discuss with him before leaving Australia. I should like to add that the work so far carried out at the base seems to me to be of a very satisfactory, although only a preliminary, character.
That is the report of the expert who was brought out to condemn, but who remained to bless.
– Why does not the honorable senator read the passage in which he condemns what the late Government proposed?
– He does not condemn the late Government’s proposals. What he does condemn is some proposal for a workshop, which never came before me at all.
– And the method of dredging.
– He does not condemn the dredging. In that connexion, he says -
I am, therefore, of opinion that a bucket dredger or bucket dredgers ought to be employed for the entrance channel, and a suction dredger with revolving cutter for the turning basin. All the dredgers ought to be able to dredge their own flotation. I understand there are at the present time two bucket dredgers under construction, which it is proposed to use at Flinders Naval Base. Both these dredgers have, under contract, to be able to dredge 900 tons per hour.
Does that condemn what we did in regard to dredgers? Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice recommends that bucket-dredgers be used for the entrance channel, and adds that he understands that two bucketdredgers are in course of construction. I am glad that the Minister has reminded me of those dredgers. It is true that we ordered two dredgers, one of which was to be constructed in Australia, whilst the parts of the other were to be obtained from England and assembled here. Those parts have now been lying in Cockatoo Island Dockyard for three months, and no attempt has been made to put them together.
– Can the honorable senator find the men to do the work ?
– I wish the honorable senator would. The union cannot do so.
– I am satisfied that the men can be found.
– The honorable senator must know that the men in the trade will not do this assembling work.
– I know nothing of the kind . The Victorian Government have just built a dredger, and I have not the slightest doubt that men can be found to undertake the work of assembling the parts in question at Cockatoo Island Dockyard if proper conditions are offered them and proper wages are paid. Yet these parts have been rusting in Sydney
Harbor for the past three months, and my honorable friend has not done a tap towards putting them together.
– I wish that the honorable senator would find men to do the work.
– The late Government let a contract in Sydney to Messrs. Poole and Steele for the construction of one of these dredgers. The period covered bv that contract has now expired, but no penalty has been imposed.It will be remembered that the Government would not extend any consideration to the Western Australian Government in regard to its contract for the supply of sleepers, but when dealing with private firms they have an extremely tender conscience. Evidently they think that it would be cruel to enforce the penalties provided in the case of a contract for the construction of the dredger, and accordingly they have extended the time of the contractors. That is further evidence of their policy of delay. Indeed, delay and procrastination seem to be the chief feature of the administration of Senator Millen in Naval Defence matters. That being so, what else can we expect but wasteful expenditure and discord in the Navy Office? I put these facts before the electors of Australia, backed up as they are by the evidence which I have read from official reports.
– Before replying to the statements of Senator Pearce, I would like to express my regret at the circumstances which are responsible for him speaking earlier in the debate than the Leader of the Opposition. I only trust that the indisposition which has prevented Senator McGregor from being present in this chamber will be of brief duration, and that we shall see him here again before the session closes. I turn now to the matters which Senator Pearce has brought forward, and personally I can have no objection to him affording me an opportunity for dealing with some of the very reckless statements which he has made, not only in this chamber, but outside of it, and which - if I am any judge of his methods - he will continue to make despite the fact that ample refutation of them is forthcoming. It would be impossible for me, in the brief time that I propose to occupy, to deal with the thousand and one matters which are involved in the statement of the honorable senator and with the important naval establishments which formed the subject of his criticism. I shall attempt however, to deal with some of the major ones - major in the sense that attention has been directed to them by his statements this afternoon. The honorable senator commenced by reading quotations from the Sydney Morning Herald, which is a new source of inspiration for him. There were only two definite statements in the whole of the extract he read from that paper, although it contained a good deal of reckless assertion. One was that the Government must at once introduce piece-work at Cockatoo Island, and the other that, although we had Mr. Julius’ report in hand recommending the provision of a new power plant, no steps had been taken to carry out that recommendation. That is the influential journal whose advice he urges us to take, insisting, apparently without regard to consequences, and without preliminary inquiries or conferences with the men, on our at once introducing piece-work. The honorable senator could only have read the quotation to show that it carried his support, and that we were open to the criticism which the writer launched against us.
– Shame ! A corkscrew is straight after that.
– I do not understand the honorable senator’s purpose in reading the quotation unless it was to bring forward the recommendation which the paper made with considerable emphasis, that I should, at all costs, introduce piecework at Cockatoo Island. Is anybody here prepared to indorse that suggestion?
Then as to the second statement: If the writer of the article had looked at the records in the columns of his own paper, he would have known that this Government did take action to meet the requirements shown to exist in Mr. Julius’ report when it asked Parliament to appropriate money to supply the power plant.
– I suppose there was nothing to prevent you having a consultation about the matter first?
– The honorable senator is welcome to any consolation that he can find in the fact that an officer went from Melbourne to confer with the engineer there about a multiplicity of details. It is quite natural, when dealing with a plant of which the cost runs into thousands of pounds, .to have, not one, but many conferences.
– I do not object; but you said -you could not even have a consultation because the money was not voted.
– There is nothing to justify that assertion. Senator Pearce has referred to the alleged delay in the appointing of Mr. King Salter, repeating the statement which he made a little time ago, and to which I offered a very reasonable and fair-minded answer. He said nhat when he left office -there was in the Department a recommendation from a committee appointed by him in favour of appointing Mr. Salter as manager at Cockatoo Island, and the honorable senator has been going about the country alleging that a delay of eight or nine months took place afterwards. I concluded the matter in December, and we took .office at the end of June - so that the period was only about five months, because for a month after we took office I was unable to do anything in the way of appointments owing to the Government having been challenged by a vote of censure by the honorable member’s party. There is a well-known rule, which I anl not certain we ought to respect too closely outside matters of policy, that when a Government coming from the country is challenged it ought to abstain from all but routine business until it has made its position good in the House. After the censure motion had been disposed” of, I f felt ifc my . duty, in spite -of the recommendations -of the committee, to make other inquiries regarding which I informed the House in December last. I do not feel bound to take the recommendation of any committee without inquiry, no matter how influential its members. This committee had recommended a gentleman who occupied at that time a position which suggested to me the advisableness of making other inquiries about him. I never had any doubt about his professional qualifications, but I thought it advisable to make other inquiries as to his possession of -tact, and his capacity as a manager for an Australian dockyard, knowing that he was coming straight from a naval dockyard at Home to take .charge of .a yard manned by Australians, who were familiar, perhaps, with conditions other than those existing in a British yard. I thought it would be nothing short of disastrous to bring put here a gentleman who, for want of certain per sonal qualities, might be found illequipped to take charge of our establishment. I, therefore, made other inquiries, and in the course of these, while communicating with the High Commissioner, I ascertained that he also was informed regarding this gentleman, and was on his way out to Australia; so I .thought it better to delay the matter until I had an opportunity of personally conversing with Sir George Reid about it. Senator Pearce now twists that round and says that I was waiting for Sir George Reid’s advice as to the professional qualifications, of Mr. Salter. What I did, before I ever thought of delaying until Sir George Reid came, was to institute inquiries, which could not be made in a day. I am pleased to be able to say that as the result I satisfied myself that when I cabled Home for Mr. King Salter at the end of December, I did so with more confidence that I was inviting the right man to come here than perhaps has been the case with any other man with whose appointment I have had anything to do.
– Do you agree with his recommendations as to piece-work ?
– I will deal with that matter later. I have fully justified what little delay did take place, because we wanted in a manager tact and other personal qualities necessary to lift the yard up from its present unsatisfactory condition on to a good, sound basis. The delay which ‘did occur is more than justified by the results. In any case, ifc was not a delay of nine months; at the most, it was five months. I do not suppose that will prevent Senator Pearce from saying nine months when he next goes on a platform, because he has repeated the statement this afternoon. Although I reminded him that the appointment was made in December, and although he held in his hand a document showing that it was made then, he still did not feel any sense of shame in repeating the statement.
With regard to the closing of the yard, Senator Pearce said that when I first dealt with the matter I had an advantage over him and others, inasmuch as I had Mr. Julius’ report, and he had not. I do not know how far that is true, because my recollection is that the, report was handed to the press by roe very shortly afterwards. In any ca-se, it was made available to this Chamber. I must remind the honorable .senator that the evidence he read this afternoon was all obtained after I closed the yard. That evidence, for what it is worth, was not available to me when I came to the decision which caused the boilers to shut down.
– They were all your own officers, and all available for you to ask before you took action.
– They were; but does the honorable senator suggest that, having obtained the advice and recommendation of the principal officer in the Department, I was to go down to the minor officers and ask them also what they thought? The question to-day, so far as I am concerned, is not whether Cockatoo Island Dockyard ought to have been closed then in the light of what honorable senators know now. The only question I am concerned with now is whether, in the light of the information put before me at the time, I was justified in taking the course I did. Here is the evidence on which I acted. Here is the report placed before me. When Senator Pearce said that I had acted upon the advice of one member of the Board, I corrected him, and said it was the advice of the Board. Senator Pearce said, “ No, it was one member.” Here is the document, signed by three members, and the fourth one was absent through illness. The recommendation which came to me was this -
The following is extracted from the report of Mr. Julius, viz.: - “ The whole of the boilers, of which there arc six, are practically worn out. All of them were, I believe, second-hand boilers when installed, and at the present time considerable repairs have to be effected every week-end to keep them running for another week.” I am of opinion that the Board, having received this report, can pursue no other course than to immediately order the fires in these boilers to be drawn, and the boilers put out of, use until a survey can be made by a board of engineer officers. This will entail the suspension of a number of men for at least a week, in the case of a favorable tcport being received. On the other hand, if the boilers aru condemned as unsafe as the result nf this survey, the work of construction must In: stooped until other plant can be provided or other arrangements made.
That minute was originally drawn up and signed by Captain Clarkson, and on it is written, “ I concur, H.M.” - meaning Mr. Manisty - and “ I concur, C.H.O.,”’ meaning Captain Onslow. I believe the minute came to me at a meeting at which the matter was discussed, and I remember stressing the point with members of the Board present as to whether or not they thought we were justified in delaying the matter to make further inquiry, and the assurance was given to me then that the matter was too serious to take the risk.
– You took the risk of postponing the meeting till the next day.
– I did nothing of the kind. That was settled at the only meeting at which I was present. In view of that statement, no one can say that, as a layman, with the advice of the professional gentlemen of my Department before me that even delay was dangerous, I could conscientiously do other than I did. If this had been a private establishment, and it had been known that private employers were keeping boilers like this in use, every honorable senator would have denounced it as an evidence of greed on the part of a capitalistic employer. In the State House Senator Rae will remember we frequently heard claims for the inspection of land boilers, because of the great danger to life and limb incurred by those working with unsafe boilers.
– Quite right.
– When, therefore, a report signed by three members of the Board reached me, telling me that this was the only possible course to take, the position was very, simple. Was I prepared, in spite of that advice, to run the risk of keeping the boilers working, or was I to follow the advice tendered to me and take the course of safety?
– Does the honorable senator not think that he could have telegraphed to Mr. Julius?
– I could have done many things. I wish again to draw attention to this report. I affirm that I raised the question as to whether we could confer again with Sydney, and the answer was given to me, and no one demurred to it on the Board, that the matter was too urgent, that the danger loomed too largely, and that there should not be a moment wasted.
– Hear, hear ! There should be no attempt to get confirmation, of course.
– I do not know that any man could have done other than I did. The three members of the Board presented a minute to me that, because of the way in which they read Mr. Julius’ report- and it is immaterial whether they read it right or not - they came to the conclusion and advised the Minister that it was dangerous to continue to run those boilers. I say that I should have been criminally guilty if, in view of that, I had not immediately ordered the boilers to be closed down for examination. No other member of the Senate but Senator Pearce would urge that against me as a crime.
– Is it not a fact that the Minister received Mr. Julius, report and postponed consideration of it until next day?
– No; it is not. The explanation of that is this: I may point out that Mr. Manisty, in his evidence, did not confirm that, but said he thought it was so. I speak now after many months have gone by, and my recollection of the matter is that when the report first came before us I did not have an opportunity to read it. I received a telephone message next morning that it was necessary to have a Board meeting, because of the serious nature of the report, and I at once went down to the meeting.
– Mr. Manisty said that there were two copies of the report, one of which was given to the honorable senator, and the other passed round to the members of the Board.
– That is quite right. The report was a long document. I receive many reports over night that I have not time to read before I go to bed. I did not read that report. I did not consider that it was sufficiently urgent to do so, and next morning I was informed of the serious nature of it, and that the Board desired a meeting to consider it, and I went down to the meeting. In any case there was the recommendation from three members of the Board, and there was only one course open to me, and that was to follow their advice, or, in the alternative, to run what appeared from the papers to be a serious risk, involving the lives of human beings. What were the alternatives to be considered ? The worst that could happen from following the course I approved was that there would be a little delay - a temporary shutting down of the works. The other alternative, had these boilers been as dangerous as the Board advised me they were, was to risk the sacrifice of life. Senator Pearce can take that risk if he likes. I will not do so now or at any other time.
I come now to the question of Cockatoo Island. One thing which has occurred today has been interesting, and may be useful, and that is the assertion by Senator Pearce that when he and his Government took over the yard they knew that much of the machinery was obsolete.
– We made that admission twelve months ago.
– My honorable friend did; but there is one admission which Senator Pearce has not made yet, and that is that he played the Senate false regarding the taking over of Cockatoo Island. It is just as well, when we are going into ancient history, that we should go into it all.
– Does the honorable senator make the assertion that Senator Pearce played the Senate false?
– I do.
– From any one else the statement might be serious.
– Well, here is Hansard in support of it. I am going to put Senator Rae into the box. On the 19th December, 1912, Senator Rae asked Senator Pearce, who was then Minister of Defence -
To those questions Senator Pearce replied -
Preliminary negotiations with regard to this matter are now proceeding, and the Government hope to be in a position to make a statement shortly with regprd to the matter. “ Preliminary negotiations “ ! Yet, within a week of that a wire was sent to Colonel Miller, at Canberra, to arrange to go to Sydney to represent the Government in taking over this transferred property.
– No, in making a valuation.
– The whole thing was practically completed within twentyfour hours of the time that Senator Pearce made that statement.
– That is not correct.
– I will modify the statement, and say within a few hours.
– That is incorrect.
– Then I can produce the documents, and show them to honorable senators. Within a week of the time when Senator Pearce made that reply - the question was asked on the 19th December, and the telegram to Colonel Miller is dated the 24th of the same month - Colonel Miller was instructed to proceed to Sydney to represent the Government in taking over the property. It was no mere question of valuation preparatory to taking over the property, but the actual taking over of the property. The papers disclose, not that preliminary negotiations were in progress, but that the negotiations at that time were completed with the exception of one or two details referring particularly to the position of the officers who were to be transferred. This piece of deception by Senator Pearce was duplicated in another place by his leader, Mr. Fisher, who assured the members of the House of Representatives that they would be consulted before the transfer was completed. The right honorable gentleman never kept that promise. There was in this case an attempt to get the matter through without Parliament being informed of it. The Ministry desired to place it in such a position as to prevent criticism of their action until it was too late to criticise. There was a very good reason for this. Senator Pearce knew that he was taking over an obsolete plant, and the State Government knew that they were getting rid of it. No sooner did the State Government find this ready purchaser than they loaded the burden upon their friends, and immediately set to work to select an ideal spot where they are. starting an up-to-date establishment for much less than the last Commonwealth Government paid for an obsolete one.
– They are establishing something entirely different.
– My honorable friend is quite right. No one would ever dream now of building the establishment which he bought at a cost of nearly £1,000,000. Senator Pearce has again referred to what he has described as a policy of delay, and says that we did not act on Mr. Julius’ report as promptly as we might. I gave an answer to-day to a question put by the honorable senator with regard to this matter. It indicated that Mr. Julius, having presented his re port, I think, in July, was then invited to come to Melbourne and confer with the Naval Board. It was not possible for him to do that in twenty-four hours. Mr. Julius is a busy man. He would not be worth much to the Department if he were not. As a busy man, well up in his profession, it was some time before he was available for the purpose. When he was available there were many details to be discussed, as honorable senators can readily understand. The upshot was that an agreement was arranged with Mr. Julius to put through all the plans and specifications, to call for tenders, and, when they came in, to supervise the installation of the plant. It is quite obvious that we were not in a position to spend a single penny on the plant until Parliament had made the necessary appropriation. There was, therefore, a clause inserted in the agreement providing that it was to be contingent upon Parliament making the necessary provision. No doubt Senator Pearce would have rushed into the matter, quite ignoring Parliament. I have not the slightest doubt, judging by the way the honorable senator took over Cockatoo Island, that he would have snapped his fingers at Parliament, and would have blundered ahead without considering the result. It did not appear to me that that would be a right course to follow in view of what was due to Parliament, or that it would be good business. I therefore inserted in the agreement a provision that it was to be contingent upon a parliamentary appropriation. As early as possible we got Parliament to appropriate the money, £175,000. Steps were then immediately taken to inform Mr. Julius that he might get to work. I do not know whether he had gone before the Loan Bill was passed, but Mr. Julius notified us that he was going away for a holiday at Christmas time, and he went. On the 24th January, the Third Naval Member of the Board had a conference with Mr. Julius. Some attempt has been made by the cheap wits of the Opposition to suggest that it was not necessary to get a parliamentary appropriation to justify a conference. Of course it was not. But having got the appropriation it was necessary for some one to go still more into detail with Mr. Julius as to the way in which his recommendations were to be carried out. For that purpose the Third Naval
Member travelled from here to Sydney in order to thresh out the whole matter. The result was that Mr. Julius was thengiven the necessary authority to proceed. He had to draw up plans and specifications of the plant required before tenders could be advertised for. I cannot say whether honorable senators know anything about an extensive power plant ; I do not myself; but I understand from inquiry that it includes a multiplicity of separate machines and parts, and carefully drawn specifications are required for each. As my honorable friends opposite tell us, when calling for tenders we should always beware of the contractors.A contractor is a man who appears to be wanting in any conception of what is right.
– This is humorous.
– That is the view my honorable friends opposite take. Yet they find fault when, in this case, a few weeks’ time was spent in drawing up plans and specifications upon which to advertise for tenders for an intricate power plant.
– Without imputing dishonesty, is it not a fair thing to say that some contractors require watching?
– The answer given to Senator Pearce discloses the fact that, on the 24th February, Mr. Julius was given final instructions to proceed. I assume from what follows that he then got into touch with the general manager at Cockatoo Island. It must occur to any one that, in putting in new plant in place of an old one, the new installation must proceed on such lines as will not throw the establishment idle. Mr. Julius, therefore, got into touch with Mr. King Salter, and a month later they submitted a joint recommendation urging that, instead of proceeding on Mr. Julius’ recommendation to invite tenders for one plant only, alternative- tenders should be invited in order that the Board might be able to determine as between the two plants which would- give best value for themoney. That is what has happened, and nothing more can happen until Mr. Julius has completed his plans and specifications. I do not know, but I presume that by this time, they are nearly completed; but that is a matter for which I have no responsibility.
SenatorGuthrie. - What were the alternative plants?
– The Diesel engines as against electrically-driven engines. This is the matter of which Senator Pearce seeks to make so great a mouthful. The delay was inevitable, since we had first to obtain parliamentary sanction for the expenditure. Whatever delay has occurred since must be. charged to a professional gentleman - Mr. Julius - who has. been engaged in. drawing up plans and specifications upon which tenders will be invited..
– That is not the question at all. The question is, How have the works been going on during that time?
– Nothing has been done.
– Senator Pearce again utters his little parrot cry, and says that nothing has been done. I want to know what can be done when a new” plant is required but to set to work to obtain it. Will the honorable senator say that he could have obtained the plant any earlier than we have done?
– I should like to know how. The only way in which the time could have been shortened was by proceeding without parliamentary authority. That is exactly what. Senator Pearce did when he bought Cockatoo Island without obtaining the sanction of the Senate or of the other branch of this Legislature.
– Would the oost of getting plans formulated contingent upon obtaining Sdpply have been a very great undertaking? It would have saved a lot of time.
– Probably it would. But the honorable senator will notice that the arrangement with Mr. Julius was one which, I think, had everything to commend it. He was not only to prepare the plans and the specifications, but to superintend the installation of the plant. There is a great deal in that. As honorable senators will know, a man who draws up the plans and the specifications, who is the architect of the installation, is the best man in the world to see that it is properly carried out. The arrangement made with Mr; Julius was on the basis that he did the whole thing. If we were not going to get the money there was no need to proceed’ under that arrangement.
– If the Loan Bill did not pass, you were not going to have the power plant.
– If the Loan Bill did not appropriate the money we could not have had a new plant. Parliament had to make some appropriation. Senator Guthrie interjects that we are going to work with the dangerous boilers. It is not true that a single boiler which was condemned by the Naval Board was worked for a moment afterwards.
– Yes, they are working now.
– No. The boilers which were disclosed as dangerous were thrown out, and we immediately purchased other boilers to take their place.
– You only purchased two locomotive boilers.
– It was on a general condemnation that you proceeded, not on the condemnation of specific boilers.
– Whether the condemnation was general or not, it was sufficient and complete for any one in my position. It is pressing party animus to an extreme to try to make out that with such a recommendation as I had there was any other course open to me than to follow the recommendation. The whole of the boilers which were the subject of the test were condemned, although one or, possibly, two of them were permitted to continue under certain reduced pressure for a limited period.
– And all with the exception of two were subsequently pressed into the service again.
– If they are in service again it is without my knowledge, nor do I believe the statement for a moment. I do not believe that the boilers which were condemned by the Naval Board have ever been used for. a minute since then. I challenge Senator Long to bring anything forward to support the reckless statement he made.
– There were only two boilers condemned j the others were worked at a reduced pressure, as you know. Many of them are working there now.
– Of course, there were many boilers working there when the establishment was closed down. The assertion was, that there were still dangerous boilers working there.
– No, not one.
– The honorable senator talks very wisely now. I ask any one to stand up here, and say that with that recommendation from three members of the Naval Board before him he would have done other than I did.
– J would say that your experts stated afterwards that the boilers were not dangerous.
– It is a question of what the experts said then, not afterwards. I am not concerned with the evidence given to the Select Committee later.
– Mr. Julius in his report never said that.
– I am not saying that he did. I say that the recommendation from the Naval Board, based as they said it was on his report, told me that the boilers were dangerous.
– You ought to be proud of the Naval Board.
– Anyhow, there was a friend of the honorable senator’s on the Board who signed ‘that recommendation.
– Any honest man is a friend of mine.
– The recommendation was signed by Captain HughesOnslow, on whose behalf the honorable senator kept us all out ‘ of bed one night. Senator Pearce, who never tires of asking that we should keep defence out of the arena of party politics, and who never misses an opportunity of trying to make defence a party question, has alleged to-day that what has taken place on my part has been an attempt to belittle or to deprecate the possibility of ship-building in Australia. The answer to that allegation is the statement of a few simple facts. If we wanted to prevent Cockatoo Island Dockyard from having a fair chance; if we wanted to create the impression that war-ships could not be built there; if we were out to destroy the initial effort which has been made there, would we have taken the first opportunity that came to us to ask Parliament to appropriate £175,000 to replace the obsolete machinery which Senator Pearce had bought a few months ago? Would we have taken the action we did to bring out here, at a good salary, a gentleman like Mr. King Salter; would we not have been prepared to let the establishment run along as it was, in a condition of muddle, knowing that if it was allowed to continue it would surely run itself out in the course oi time? If we were anxious to see this establishment end in total failure, would we do what we are prepared to do now, and that is to invite Parliament to vote a sum of £200,000 to still further equip this establishment and replace the obsolete machinery which Senator Pearce bought, and about which he made such a fuss at the time? That is the answer to the statement that we are not trying io give Cockatoo Island Dockyard a fair chance. Senator Pearce also said that we were without a programme; that we only sought delay; that we wanted the whole thing to run to the ground; that we were anxious, when the Brisbane was launched, that the men should be discharged ; that we were taking no steps to provide for a continuity of works. I have no doubt that when he leaves this Chamber he will make these statements again.
– Hear, hear; I will!
– Before the honorable senator departs, let me show the little foundation there is for his statement. Let me first deal with the programme of the honorable senator, who says that we have no programme. A little while before he left office, he sent to British shipyards orders for two ships - the submarine depot-ship and the oil-ship. He spoke about the programme of his Government. It was to send orders’ for vessels to be built out of Australia.
– Would you have built the submarine depot-ship here?
– I would. When I found that it is was to be Built in the Old Country, I cabled to the Admiralty saying that the present Government desired to build the war-ships in Australia.
– I am sure that you would !
– I am now giving the Senate my assurance that a cablegram was sent to the Admiralty.
– I am sure that you would have built a submarine depot-ship here !
– There is no doubt as to the submarine depot-ship, but there is a difficulty in regard to the submarines. The submarine depot-ship is merely a tender to the submarines, and could be built in Australia as easily as the ships which we are building here to-day.
– You were complaining a few minutes ago that you cannot put a dredger together.
– I am now trying to contrast our programme with that of Senator Pearce. ,He, apparently, had no difficulty in finding men. If that is the case, why did the honorable senator send the order for these two boats to be built outside Australia? When I found what the position was, I caused a cablegram to be sent to the Admiralty, telling them that the present Government were anxious that these vessels should be built in Australia, and asking them to say how far they were committed, because by that time tenders had been received. An answer came back which disclosed that in fairness to the Admiralty they could not then counteract the orders which Senator Pearce had given.
– Nor would they have done so.
– That statement of my honorable friend must go for what it is worth. I give to the Senate my assurance that I submitted to the Cabinet a proposal in favour of building the ships here, that the Cabinet approved of the proposal, and that, as the result, a cablegram was sent Home.
– Of course you did, but you cannot pub a dredger together.
– Let me tell my honorable friend, who must be in the habit of handling truth very lightly when he says that he will not accept my definite statement that at the time I put my minute before the Cabinet the question of the shortage of workmen was not as pressing as it was to-day. The attitude of Senator Pearce forces me to say that I do not care whether he accepts my statement or not.
– Public actions speak more loudly than words.
– Here are public actions, such as finding every penny which is asked for to equip Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– You are not spending it.
– I do not want to go over the ground again.
– How much of the item of £175,000 in the Loan Bill have you spent?
– I cannot tell the Senate at present.
– Not a penny of it.
– That statement is not true, but it is like other of the reckless statements which the honorable senator makes.
– Tell us how you have spent the money.
– Honorable senators know that I cannot tell them how much has been spent out of any item.
– Tell us approximately.
– Nor can I do so approximately. The last statement is on a par with other reckless statements which this ultra-party politician is always making on a matter which he pretends should be kept out of the arena of party politics. No fair-minded man can charge the present Government with any delay in spending that portion of the £175,000 necessary for the installation of a new power plant. I have shown my honorable friend what his programme was - sending orders for the building of boats outside Australia. He said that the present Government were anxious, when the Brisbane was launched, that there should be no other “boat to take her place, that the workmen should be thrown idle, even appealing to their very natural fear in order to prejudice them against the Government. It would have been very much better and more honest, but very much less like Senator Pearce, if he had told the truth, and said that, whilst he did what he could to divert work from the establishment, at the same time he was speaking without any knowledge of what the Government intended to do. Let me point out the difference between the last Government and the present one.
– You have been proposing to do something for the last twelve months.
– What the honorable senator did as the result of three years’ work was to send certain orders for ship-building out of Australia. If I could not do something better than that in three years I would give up trying.
– Who made the arrangement to construct the Brisbane and the three destroyers?.
– Are you going to live on that for ever? I am asked who made the arrangement. It was Senator Pearce, and he made such a bad arrangement that he had no sooner made it than he found that he was in a hopeless muddle; and, as he has admitted to-day, in order to get out of the muddle somehow, he was compelled by the State Government to take over a million pounds’ proposition of old plant.
– A bad case - abuse the other side.
– That is exactly what the honorable senator has been doing all the afternoon.
– I have been giving facts.
– Then, heaven forbid that I should ever deal with facts. We are asked questions in regard to taking over this proposition. Senator Pearce has told us this afternoon why he took over the establishment. It was because he had such a contract with the State that it was hopeless to expect to get it carried out; the thing was breaking down then. The late Government had blundered in.
– It was because the Naval Board could not agree amongst themselves.
– Was it the differences on the Naval Board which caused Senator Pearce to make that agreement? Let Senator Rae answer that question.
– Your party would not have been sorry if all the war-ships had been constructed outside of Australia.
– Why did the exMinister of Defence send the orders out of Australia? The best answer to the interjection is that I tried to stop the orders from being completed at Home, so as to have the vessels built here.
– Our Minister has given very good reasons - reasons which the public will know.
– The ex-Minister of Defence has given no reason yet why he sent these orders Home. But having sent the orders Home, it came with a very ill grace from him that he should charge the present Government with trying to leave Cockatoo Island Dockyard without work to keep the men employed.
– He has given a reason; he is a Free Trader.
– There is the position. It is time that Senator O’Keefe and others ceased these absolutely unfounded aspersions about our trying to leave the dockyard without work’ when it was the Labour Government, I repeat, who sent the orders for ship-building out of Australia - orders which I tried to countermand in order to have the work done in Australia. In contrast to the action of my honorable friend, who did what he could to divert work from these shores, and to put money into the pockets of workmen other than those engaged at Cockatoo Island, I intend to show what is proposed by the present Government. I admit that Senator Pearce did something. He did not merely propose to send the order for building these ships out of Australia - he sent them. Here is the programme of the present Government - it is rather a long minute, and I do not know whether I had not better give the substance of it.
– It is good window dressing, I suppose.
– Probably it is better window dressing than is sending orders for the building of ships out of Australia. I should have made no reference to this matter, but forthe very impudent andunjustifiable assertion that the Government are anxious to discredit the building of war-ships in Australia.
– Go on; “ dress the shop window.” More promises.
– Does Senator Pearce desire us to order the materialtoday that is required for the building of a ship five years hence? The position in regard to Cockatoo Island Dockyard is that it is necessary to proceed to coneider the construction of a subsequent vessel before the vessel on the stocks has been completed. In order to do that, we have to look ahead, and see how soon orders should be placed for the materials required for the construction of vessels to be subsequently built. Perhaps it would bewell for me to read a portion of the document which I hold in my hand, with a view to showing exactly to what the Government are committed.
– And which the Minister is going to hand over to his successors inoffice.
SenatorMILLEN. - I have no doubt that our successors will find it yery difficult to getaway from it.
– Where do the present Government propose toget the necessary money?
-When honorable senators opposite receive answers to their questions which they do not regard as palatable ones, they ask other questions. How these obligations are to be met does not in any way affect the question of whether or not Cockatoo Island Dockyard is being kept fully employed. But the proposal of the Government is that this additional ship-building programme shall be defrayed out of revenue.
– The lesson of 1910 has sunk deeply into the Minister’s mind.
– That will not prevent my honorable friend from going round this country and repeating his libels. I propose to read a portion of the minute regarding this matter which I submitted some time ago to my colleagues. In it I dealt with the necessity which exists for providing for continuity of work at Cockatoo Island. That continuity of work is necessary in orderthat the establishment may be run with businesslike economy, and that the management may be able to retain a thoroughly trained and equipped staff. Otherwise the advantage which we gained in the building of one ship would be lost in connexion with the construction of another. It is, therefore, desirable to provide for continuity of work, in order that, as far as any establishment can do so, we may keep attached to Cockatoo Island the men who are skilled in the particular work to perform which the dockyard exists. I also pointed out in my minute that, in order to give effect to the Henderson programme, it was time to consider steps for the placing of orders for further vessels. Following these preliminary observations, I went on to say -
These considerations have induced the Government to approve a minimum ship-building programme covering the next five years. Only in some such way is it possible to carry on Cockatoo with anything likeefficiency and economy, and, at the same time, give effect to the Henderson programme. This, it willbe remembered, provided for the construction of -
One submarine depôt ship by the end of 1914-
That is the depot ship that was ordered from Home by my honorable friend, Senator Pearce -
Three submarines by the end of 1916.
Three destroyers by the end of 1917.
Threedestroyersbythe end of 1918.
These are in addition to the vessels already built or now in course of construction.
The Board, however, having fully considered the whole matter, advised, in place of the above, two light cruisers of the Brisbane class, and two improved submarines. In making this recommendation, the Board is following the lead of the Admiralty at Home. It appears not improbable that the present type of destroyer will disappear altogether, its place being taken partly by the improved submarine, which is, in fact, a submersible torpedo-boat, and partly by a new type of light cruiser which is in the nature of a destroyer destroyer. It is also considered by the Naval Board that the cruisers will be of more naval value in the immediate future than the six destroyers originally proposed. The proposed modification, I am pleased to say, has the approval of Admiral Patey, who, in addition to the reasons advanced, expresses the opinion that they will be more satisfactory for the training of the personnel than the destroyers would be. These two cruisers will bc built at Cockatoo; but, regarding the submarines, it is recommended, owing to the special and intricate structure and mechanism of these vessels, that they should be ordered from British yards. It will be sufficient if the orders for these vessels arc placed next year.
The total estimated cost of the modified programme will bc f 1,700,000, a sum slightly less than the estimated cost of the programme for which it has been substituted. This cost will be spread over the next four or five financial years. These proposals> as I have stated, the Government have decided to adopt as a minimum programme, leaving it open for any additions to be made, should circumstances render such action desirable.
It will be seen that these building proposals, covering the next five years, while continuing the steady development of the Australian Fleet, will also give effect to the policy of continuous work previously set out as being desirable regarding Cockatoo Island; but both a3 regards carrying out the building programme and providing for Cockatoo, it is clearly necessary to place orders a considerable time ahead.
The Government have adopted that minute, and instructions have been given to order the material for the first cruiser. The material for the other cruiser will be ordered sufficiently early if it is ordered next year.
– Is that the complete naval programme for the next four years ?
– - Certainly not. It is the minimum programme. In addition to the ships which will be built here, there are two more submarines which will be obtained from British yards. These will furnish the whole of the vessels which Admiral Henderson recommended should constitute the Navy up till the end of 1919.
– With an improved plant one would expect that the vessels would be built quicker.
– No improvement in the plant will add to the stocks at Cockatoo Island. There is only one place at which we can lay down the keel of a boat like the Brisbane.
– That is all the more reason why we should establish a dock at a place like Hobart.
– Now that the honorable senator has directed my attention to that matter I shall have great pleasure in looking into it. I would only like to add that -
The substitution of cruisers for destroyers entails some little variation in tlie matter of personnel, but it is not anticipated that there will be any difficult)’ on this score, as recruiting in Australia is now on a sound basis, and has exceeded expectations.
That is the answer to the statement of Senator Pearce that the present Government have no programme. This shipbuilding programme is put forward as a minimum, and one which, supplemented by other vessels which the Department will require, and which other Departments will require, will, I venture to say, provide a sufficient amount of work to keep Cockatoo Island Dockyard going during the next four or five years.
– Does the Minister’s statement mean that the building of commercial vessels will be undertaken?
– I do not know whether Senator Rae is referring to the building of vessels for other Departments, or to shipbuilding for outside firms.
– I mean for other Departments.
– The Customs Department and the Defence Department both require the construction of a good many launches, &c.
– The most commendable part of the Minister’s declaration is that the Government propose to find the money with which to give effect to this programme out of revenue.
– Does the Minister mind telling us how he came to be converted to that idea ?
– The interjections of my honorable friends show how little ground Senator Pearce had for his statement that we have no programme. The fact that they now recognise that there is a programme which will require to be paid for induces them to ask where the money is to come from.
– This is the most comical thing I have ever heard of.
– To the honorable senator nothing is so comical as truth. I would now like to say a word or two in regard to the labour difficulty at Cockatoo Island. It is undoubtedly serious, and that seriousness arises from two things - an insufficiency of labour, in spite of all that has been said to the contrary by Senator Pearce - an insufficiency which is practically admitted by the secretary of one of the largest unions there. It has never been disputed that there has been a shortage of labour there of late.
– Hence the hanging up of the Naval Base, the construction of the transcontinental railway, &c.
– Senator de Largie sees at once a very close connexion between men who are employed ito build railways and the skilled workmen who are required in boilermaking.
– The Government apparently cannot get men to do anything.
– It is a very fine certificate for the present Government that since they have been in office employment! nas been so plentiful that it is difficult to find men to undertake it.
– There are 6,000 names on the books of the Labour Bureau in Melbourne to-day.
– If the honorable senator can find competent hands amongst them he is at liberty to say that we require the services of 600 additional men at Cockatoo Island at the present time.
– If they were Labour men the Minister would sack them .
– That is a ridiculous statement to make. I appeal to Senator McDougall whether the great bulk of the men employed at Cockatoo Island to-day are not union men.
– Because you know you could not get them outside the unions.
– First, I am told, “ You could not get them outside j” and then, “You would not let them in.” Which am I to listen to ? The position is that there is a shortage of labour there, and Mr. Salter has made two recom mendations, one that we should try to make up the shortage by obtaining men who are not now recognised as fully qualified boilermakers to do some work requiring less skill, and the other to introduce a system of piece-work. I believe both proposals, particularly the latter, will be extremely distasteful to the men employed at Cockatoo Island. Am I to approve of Mr. Salter’s report, and so signify my desire that he should immediately try to introduce the piece-work system ? I know perfectly well what would happen if I did. When I see the papers outside clamouring for instant and drastic action, I ask myself whether they ever consider the responsibility which rests on me in trying to bring about the necessary changes there by such means as will avoid any dislocation of the work now going on. I am not free to devote all my time to this matter, but I have placed myself in direct communication with the union there in order that I may put before them the point of view of the manager, hear what they have to say, see how far it may be possible to put Cockatoo Island upon an improved basis, and ascertain if ifc can be done with the entire co-operation and cordial support of the men themselves.
– How would you scream about the dictation of unions if a Labour Minister dared to do that?
– The honorable senator may use that sort of political claptrap if he likes ; but I regard the position as far too serious to. be jeopardized by hasty action of any kind. I am not to be influenced by the extravagant declarations of journals ordinarily friendly to my party, or to be perturbed by the gibes of my honorable friend opposite. I shall go ahead in the course I have marked out for myself, to get face to face with the men, and see whether we cannot devise some system which they will agree to accept, and which will remove many of the difficulties under which the Cockatoo Island Dockyard labours to-day. The matter concerns them as workmen there as much as it does myself as representing the Department.
– There are no difficulties with the workmen at Mort’s, which is a similar institution.
– I am not dealing with Mort’s. I have given the best guarantee a man can give of my desire to insure that the working conditions at
Cockatoo Island shall be such as will enable matters to proceed smoothly. Had I wished to take other and more drastic action, I could possibly have done so with results which would have been very undesirable to Cockatoo Island itself. I do not propose to do it, but mean to see if it is not possible, by friendly conference with the men, to arrive at an understanding which will, at any rate, give us a larger supply of labour than we have at present.
– The men would sooner be starved than take employment from such a Government. They starved the poor railway workers at Kalgoorlie into submission.
– Mr. Rosser, a New South Wales labour union leader, said that Mr. Joseph Cook gave the men a better deal at the. Federal Capital strike than the previous Government did.
– There is not a man at Cockatoo Island to-day who is getting less, and large numbers are getting more, than the State award.
Senator Pearce says that Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice’s report on Naval Bases was made in December, and that nothing has been done. He cannot pretend that he has not read the report, and if he had cared to be honest with himself - I say nothing about being honest with the House - he would, have told the House that Sir Maurice clearly indicated in it that further information was required before he could make definite recommendations to the Government. The. honorable- senator went on to say that Sir Maurice had stated that the base at Jervoise Bay had been fully explored, bores put. down, tests made, and examinations completed. To show how partially Senator Pearce has read the report, as a matter of fact Sir Maurice left here detailed instructions for a great many more tests to be made, other bores to be put down, and further examinations to be completed. The honorable senator also knew that there were recommendations from Sir Maurice that he wanted further information, but he did not mention this to the House. He simply stressed the fact that Sir Maurice had said that certain bores, examinations, and surveys had been completed.
– To enable him to decide for Jervoise Bay.
– There is not a word in the. report to show that Sir Maurice said it was sufficient to enable him to do so. If it is so, it is an accusation that Sir Maurice has written down that he has already enough information to enable him to decide, but also recommends the Government to spend money in order to enable him to get further information.
– He has decided, and you will not admit it.
– He has given no indication to me, either in an official document or personally, that he has made up his mind.
– He tells you where to put down that bore.
– When he put that down, I asked him, “ Does that, indicate that you have- reasons for deciding in favour of Jervoise Bay ?” He said, in effect, “ No; butthe geological formation from there southward is so similar that a shaft put down anywhere will tell me what I wantto know. The only reason it is goingdown is that it is nearer your camp where the workmen are, and therefore it is handier to get through with it.” Yet Senator Pearce has deliberately stated that Sir Maurice has advised us that he prefers Jervoise Bay, and that we aresuppressing the truth. There is absolutely no justification for that assertion.
– Then what are you putting the shaft down there for?
– Because Sir Maurice said he wanted to ascertain by testing the ground whether it was possible to put a dry dock in there. Senator Pearce had turned the dry dock down.
– Why test that ground if you are not. going to have it at Jervoise Bay?
– Because the geological formation from there south was so similar that the shaft, if put down anywhere, would tell Sir Maurice what he. wanted to know.
– Geologically north it is the same.
– The honorable senator may say so, but Sir Maurice did not.
– Does he say it is different ?
– I had no need to, ask him about it, and did not. Had I been in a position to tell him that Senator
Pearce, the great geologist and engineer, could assure him on the point, probably he would have treated the honorable senator’s opinion on these matters as seriously as I Jo myself.
– Why not admit that you wanted to waste the time ?
– Because that is an unjustifiable libel. Every action taken by the Government has proceeded on the assumption that Admiral Henderson recommended that Cockburn Sound be thoroughly examined first. All the honorable senator did was to have an inspection, and a big banquet prepared for all and sundry, bringing them in from the highways and byways to celebrate the fact that his Government were going to establish in Western Australia a big Naval Base.
– That is a romance.
-It sounds like a romance when you read the account and see.the bills that were paid for it.
– Banquet! It was a case of ginger-ale and a sandwich.
– If there was not a banquet there, it was the only public function that my honorable friends had without one, but undoubtedly there was a banquet and a public demonstration there. Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice has a reputation behind him, and is not likely to fool it away to please anybody. The fact remains that he has not only left instructions that further tests were necessary before he could give a definite opinion - although Senator Pearce could give an opinion months before without any such test - but he also left detailed instructions as to how those tests were to be carried out.
– Those tests were carried out to the letter.
– They are not finished yet.
– They were completed when you came into office.
– The tests which Sir Maurice wants have not yet been completed.
– All that Admiral Henderson asked for were completed.
– What Admiral Henderson asked for was never attempted until this Government came into office - that was, a thorough exploration of Cockburn Sound. It suits Senator Pearce for political reasons, to enable him to get a move on on the eve of the elections, to regard what was done during his term of office as a full and thorough examination of that place. This Government decided to call in Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, not being satisfied with the professional advice available in the Department, where works of this kind, involving large sums of money, were concerned - I suppose in Cockburn Sound alone £2,000,000 was involved - and knowing how easily and frequently money is lost in modern works because of faulty engineering. Having done so, the only thing to do was to follow his advice. He comes along and says, “ The information you have is good enough as far as it goes, but before I, an eminent engineer, with a particular knowledge of this class of work, can decide anything, I want further information.” He directed that that information should be obtained. It has been obtained, and sent on to him from time to time. Until he forwards us the definite plans which it is part of his contract to supply, indicating whether the work is to be proceeded with, it is not possible to make any considerable headway there. The only thing that can be done is to do some preliminary work, quite small as compared with the major undertaking, which can be pushed ahead. I do not know what Senator Pearce wanted the Senate to believe when he made this serious allegation : that he assumed that Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice had told the Government, “ If you want to play with your money, go on sinking a shaft.” What about his reference to Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, when he first came here, as an understrapper in the engineering world ? The gentleman upon whom he was relying was Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, and he does no good to his own political reputation or standing when he refers to a man at the head of his profession as an understrapper. Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice is pne of the three gentlemen selected by the Admiralty to act as advisers with regard to works of that kind.
– I said he was an understrapper as compared with Sir John Coode, the head of his firm, who had already reported on this site, and not as compared with any of your officials.
– He was referred to in the press report as an understrapper.
– I said that last year, when debating the matter and reading Sir John Coode’s reports. I then said, “ The manyou have called in now is an understrapper of this firm.” I did not use that word to-day, and you know it.
– Perhaps I ought to apologize to Senator Pearce for assuming that what he said last year he means this year, but he did taunt the Government with bringing out what he called an understrapper. There was no comparison about it in the newspaper statement.
– I said as compared with Sir John Coode.
– The papers did not report it in that way. The honorable senator made a definite statement.
– Let us have the newspaper report.
– It is not difficult to supply it, and I will see that my honorable friend gets it. Senator Pearce forgets that time has passed since Sir John Coode made his report, and I doubt if Sir John is still in the land of the living. A firm may have existed ten or fifteen years ago, but those in subordinate positions then would be at the head of affairs now, because the older men pass away.
– Sir John Coode’s report stands.
– It does; but does the honorable senator still say that Sir Maurice is an understrapper to Sir John ?
– Cockburn Sound is still there as it was when Sir John Coode reported on it.
– It is a strange thing that when I wired to the Navy House for a copy of Sir John Coode’s report, they said they had not got it.
– We had it.
– It is strange that they knew nothing about it. Sir John Coode was never thought of down there until after this matter came up, and the late Government heard that he had previously made an examination of these banks; so they wired to the West to get a copy of his report, and had some trouble in getting it..
– I saw his reports, and read them before any of the preliminary work was done.
– Before I pass from references to Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, let me say that I hope that Senator Pearce will tender me an apology in the course of this debate.
– I think the honorable senator owes me several apologies.
– Some time ago, the honorable senator asked me for copies of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice’s report, and I sent them to him. Then, in a statement he made in an interview with a representative of the press, he charged me with having furnished him with only a portion of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice’s report. I complain of the statement, because when he sent me a letter I rang him up and told him that I was sending him the report. Then he rushed into print and accused me of having furnished only a partial report, or portion of the report, after I had given him an assurance that I was sending him the lot. Senator Pearce did not correct his statement next day, and did not even say that he was mistaken. But he slipped away, leaving the matter at that stage. I know what party fighting is, but surely there is such a thing as acting in a decent and manly way in matters of this kind ! I now give Senator Pearce an opportunity of repeating his statement that the report’ I sent him was only a partial one, and that I was suppressing something.
– I say now that the honorable senator wasl suppressing the fact that Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice recommended Jervoise Bay as the spot for a naval harbor.
– If the honorable senator repeats that statement, there is only one little word with which I can describe it. I have given the assurance that there was not a word or a letter in Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice’s communications’ to me to show what his final choice was. Any man who says the contrary is a liar.
– The proof is the putting down of the shaft.
– The shaft is being put down where Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice suggested that it should be put down. Senator Pearce made a statement to the press’ conveying the impression that I was suppressing a portion of the report. There was not a vestige of truth in that statement. The honorable senator must know it, and by this time, if he possessed the instincts of a man, he would have withdrawn the allegation he made.
– The honorable senator must acknowledge that the shaft is being put down there.
– How many times must I explain the matter? The point is not where the shaft is being put down. The point is whether I was informed by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice that he had selected Jervoise Bay. I say that if any man says that I was, he is a deliberate and wicked liar.
– The honorable senator is getting strong.
– There is1 only one way to deal with a man like Senator Pearce.
– Order ! I call the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that if he addressed his remark to Senator Pearce, he should withdraw it.
– I said that if any man made the statement, he would be a deliberate and wicked liar.
– The Minister followed that up by saying that that was the only way to reply to Senator Pearce.
– That was in reply to an interjection by another honorable senator.
– The subsequent statement of the Minister seemed to indicate that he applied his first statement to Senator Pearce. According to the rules of the Senate, such a statement is disorderly, and ought to be withdrawn. I ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– According to the rules of the Senate, then, I withdraw. I do not know that there are any other aspects’ of the matter which it is necessary that I should deal with. If I have spoken warmly, I make no apology for it, because I feel that, in this matter, Senator Pearce has sought, by partial statements, and by ignoring the simple and obvious facts of the case, to launch a mere political accusation against me in the conduct of the Defence Department. I have no particular reason to take any exception to that from Senator Pearce, but I do ask honorable senators to recollect that in connexion with all the matters to which he has referred they will find in the speech I have made to-day what I submit is a sufficient answer to his very wild statements. I do not want anybody to think, because I have spoken as I have done with regard to Cockburn Sound and with regard to Cockatoo Island, that I am not as conscious as anybody could be of the great extent of the work yet to be performed.
– Could the honorable senator say a few words as to the position of the Flinders Naval Base ?
– I have not done so, but I have a note on the subject here. I thought that, perhaps, I was unduly occupying the time of the Senate. With regard to Westernport, this is the position : Senator Pearce, not concerned again as to whether the works at Westernport were being proceeded with, but concerned to make out that Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, as he would suggest, brought out here to curse the Labour party, had remained’ to bless them, affirmed that Sir Maurice had approved of what was done there.
– He said that we chose the right site.
– Nobody ever challenged the site.
– Yes, the honorable senator did. He said that we chose that site exactly as we had chosen the site at Cockburn Sound, and that we were not competent to choose the site.
– There is a very different proposition at Hanns’ Inlet to that confronting us at Cockburn Sound. If a mistake were made in selecting Hanna’ Inlet, it would only have meant the dredging of a channel for a few more yards than would otherwise have been necessary. No one ever challenged the selection of that site. But it was thought that as Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice was coming out to give advice on works of magnitude like Cockburn Sound, it would be a mistake not to obtain his advice also upon the projected works at Westernport and upon Cockatoo Island. What Sir Maurice did make clear to me, and what I could not get cleared up in any other way, was that the proposals at Westernport were largely in excess of the requirements as laid down by Admiral Henderson.
– The proposals of whom ?
– The proposals of the Department, and what I venture to>’ say would have been the proposals of my honorable friend if he had remained in charge of the Department long enough, because he developed the happy knack of putting “Yes” on to everything put before him.
– I am going to make an admission for the benefit of my honorable friends opposite should they succeed to Minsterial office. It is that if they wish to be popular in a Department they must agree with everything that the officials put before them. If they do that, the officials will go round and sing their praises in such a way as possibly to lead them to believe that they are bigger men than they really are. Any man who goes down to one of the Departments, especially the Defence Department, and believes it to be his duty to look into matters, and give a decision upon them as they appeal to him, is not going to be as popular as a man who will sign anything that is put before him.
– Is that not a rather serious reflection upon the high officials of the Defence Department?
-I do not know what it is, but it is true.
– Senator Millen is, of course, the first man who ever had the courage to do that.
– I am not saying that I was the first who had the courage to do it, but I do say that my honorable friend never had the courage to do it.
– The honorable senator was the only one.
– My honorable friend brings up matters here, and I am putting the naked truth about them before the Senate. Coming back to Senator Russell’s question, and the position at Westernport, let me say that Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice gave us a general indication of what it was necessary to do to carry out Admiral Henderson’s proposals. The plans for the detail of the works have been completed, and authority to proceed with them has been given. The most serious question there is that of dredging. We could have finished a great deal of the work at Westernport during the last twelve months. I can tell the Senate of some of the work that would have been proceeded with if I had not taken charge of the Department. The proposition was made to me a good whileago to approve ofthe construction ofa wharf. Before I had been in the Department very long, an order was submitted to me for the purchase of a lot of machinery for the construction of thewharf. I marked it “Deferred,” Itcame up again the other day, and I was reminded that it had been put before me about twelve months ago. I thought then that it was time to say why I had deferred it. I do not claim to be an engineer, but I could see at once that there was no need to proceed with the construction of that wharf twelve months ago, seeing that it was quite impossible to get any ship to tie up to the wharf until the channel was dredged. There have been some delays in the completion of the dredges, and in arranging for the dredges Senator Pearce apparently did not think of the necessity of a tug to pull them out.
– Did it take twelve months for the honorable senator to discover that a tug was needed?
– So far as I am concerned, I only recently found it out. I assumed thatmy honorable friend, having been three years in chargeof the Department, had made all his preparations for carrying out the work.
– That is an admission that the honorable senator is npt so smart after all.
– I do not make any claim to be smart. I want to say that no one could take charge of the Defence Department and pretend that he knew everything that was going on there.
– Does the honorable senator want one dredge one tug?
– That would depend on how they were working. It seems to me that in that comparatively narrow channel onetug should be enough if a sufficient numberof hoppers are provided.
SenatorRussell. - Would it pay to buy a tug for the purpose of shifting two dredges into the channel and out again?
– If Senator Russell will make me an offer of a tug now I shall gladly submit it to the Board. We are up against the difficulty now of getting a tug built. The difficulty of getting a tug built to-day is very considerable. That is one of the things thatwill make for a little further delay. I hope to overcome the difficulty byhiring or obtaining from some othersource atug that will enableus to start dredging as soon as thedredges areavailable, which Ithink will bewithin sixweeks’ time. I do not meanto say thatdredging will proceedthen, because the necessary hopperbarges will still require to be provided. But I anticipate that it will not be very long now before a’ start can be made with the most serious undertaking at Westernport - the dredging of the channel.
– What power tug is required ?
– I cannot answer that technical question.
– I want to get the honorable senator what he wants.
– The honorable senator will render a great service to the Defence. Department if he will say where we can secure a suitable tug for the purpose. I had hoped that we should be able to build the tugs we required at Cockatoo Island.
– I do not say this by way of a charge, but my information is that the number of hands at Westernport has been considerably reduced. Is it the intention of the Government to push on with the work of the Flinders Base?
– Undoubtedly it is, but, as I have explained, it was useless to proceed with a portion of the work which would remain idle until another portion of it had been completed. That is one of the complaints I make against the administration of Senator Pearce. The honorable senator gave no business consideration to the time and order in which works should be proceeded with. So far as I can do so, with my humble capacity, I am trying to correct that.
– The honorable senator has done nothing but suspend things since he has been in charge of the Department.
– I make no secret of the fact that I suspended the construction of the wharf to which I have referred. I challenge any one to say that I took a wrong action there when it would have been from eighteen months to two years before a boat could have been got up to the wharf.
– The honorable senator claims to have been capable of forming an independent judgment on that matter. How is it he was not capable of forming an independent judgment on the question of closing down the Cockatoo Island Dockyard?
– Because I was capable of forming an independent judgment on a simple question. as to whether a wharf could be used when it was constructed, it does not follow that I was able to form an independent judgment upon the safety of a number of boilers.
– The honorable senator had a report.
– The report came to me in the form I have indicated, to the Senate. It was a clear declaration from a responsible engineer officer of the Department that it was dangerous to continue using those boilers.
– The honorable senator has been responsible for throwing more men out of employment than any other Minister.
– As for throwing men out of employment, a few of them did, perhaps, lose a little. The blow of closing down the works, if it was a blow, was eased to them by the fact that they knocked off on Thursday, and on Friday were paid for the balance of the week. On the Monday very few of tlie men were out of work; on the Tuesday still fewer; and by Wednesday, with the exception of a few engaged in the shops, they had all been absorbed again. The alternative to that was, as I said before, risking their lives; and I was not prepared to take that risk. Perhaps I ought to apologize for taking up so much of the time of the Senate, but tlie matters with which I have dealt are not unimportant, and honorable senators will admit, in view of the ‘emphatic charges and statements made by Senator Pearce, that I was entitled to the indulgence of the Senate whilst I replied to them.
– I must congratulate Senator Pearce and the Minister of Defence on the very spirited way in which they dealt with the question of defence. The Senate is, I think, to be congratulated that Defence is not a party question. One wonders what might have happened here to-day had it been a party question. I recognise that, with regard to many matters, these two honorable senators possess a deeper and wider knowledge than belongs to ordinary members of the Senate; but if one may judge by the temper displayed by the Minister before resuming his seat he got the worst of the argument, otherwise he would not have tried to use the language which he sought to apply in an underhand way to> the ex-Minister of Defence. It is perfectly satisfactory to know that Defence is not a party matter. But, why, may I ask, have three hours been occupied in discussing in minute detail one or two matters which could have been dealt with easily by the last two speakers? I think Senator Pearce deserves every credit for the way in which he has put his case. The Minister, to the extent he has gone in trying to complicate the question–
– In defending himself.
– There is a little to defend.
– Nothing to attack.
– When the defence consists in not only answering, but levelling direct charges and using language which should not be ‘used here or elsewhere, the defender exceeds the reasonable limit of what should be the defence of a Minister. If the honorable senator expects his Estimates to pass without reasonable criticism from the Senate, without the critics being subject to the kind of defence to which Senator Oakes referred, it is not in accordance with the method which I have always seen adopted in dealing with Estimates. However, that is a matter between the Minister and the ex-Minister. As we have an opportunity of dealing with grievances on a Supply Bill, I desire, in the closing hours of the Senate, to again refer to the question of the Teesdale Smith contract. I was perfectly satisfied when the Select Committee was appointed to deal with the facts which they would bring out. Some of the gentlemen representing the Government have taken exception to me being on the Committee, as the references made by me to the matter here pointed me out as a partisan. In my long experience I have rarely known a Select Committee to be appointed except at the instance of a partisan. The custom has been for an honorable member who believed that some wrong had been done to bring the matter forward, and to make out the strongest case he could, and when a Select Committee was appointed to come forward and get out the evidence in the best possible way. But, after all, the chief purpose was to have a good Committee appointed, who would come to a decision on the evidence adduced. I do not propose to refer to the proceedings of our Select Committee, because the statement has been made in the other House that the inquiry has come to a standstill.
– Do you suggest for a moment that there was any one who objected to your presence on the Committee?
– I did, for one.
– I do not mind the objection of Senator Oakes. I am merely leading up to my reason for speaking now, as there might not be many other occasions for me to express my opinions. I told the Senate some time ago that I had visited the locality of the contract, and that a job had been perpetrated in giving a fat contract to a man without calling tenders. That was plain English.
– You arrived at a decision before you had heard any of the evidence.
– I was of that opinion, and went to the scene of the contract to test it.
– You will agree with my objection to your going on the Select Committee, seeing that you had already taken part in a division on the AddressinReply which condemned the Government for the same thing.
– I will state my reason for accepting a position on the Select Committee. My long parliamentary experience had led me to think that a Select Committee always included the men who had brought the subjectmatter of the inquiry before Parliament, and that the reason for having them on the Committee was that the whole evidence could be brought out on each side. Leaving myself out of the question, I believe that a very fair Select Committee was appointed by the Senate. It included three senators from each side whose partisanship could not be questioned. I propose to deal now with what has happened with regard to the contract. I intend to deal briefly with the evidence supplied by persons interested in letting the contract, and that is the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs and the parties to the correspondence laid on the table. First I want to refer to a statement by Mr. Poynton, who, speaking in another place, said -
I may say that I am credibly informed that there was another tender, and I should like to know whether the Prime Minister knows anything of the matter.
Mr. Joseph Cook. It is not so.
It will be seen that Mr. Poynton is referring to another point, and, to make the position absolutely clear, I may mention that he was alluding to a tender by Mr. Timms. Later, Mr. Poynton said -
Mr. Baxter’s visit showed that the Government were in favour of tenders, and Mr. Timms was in communication, it is said, with the Engineer-in-Chief. This, however, has been kept in the background by the Government.
Colonel Ryrie. - That is a serious charge to make.
Mr. POYNTON. I make the charge, and I stand by it.
Mr. McWilliams. Was that offer made to the Minister ?
Mr. POYNTON. A member of Parliament does not like to take undue advantage of his privileges; but there are circumstances in this, and other contracts, that have a very ugly look, and every one of them oan be traced to one man.
Mr Kelly was evidently out of the chamber when Mr. Poynton made that statement.
– What did the Minister say to that?
- Mr. Poynton continued his speech, but Mr. Kelly came in a little while afterwards, and Mr. Poynton, turning directly to him, said -
The Honorary Minister has, I see, now entered the chamber, and I should like to repeat that a contractor named Timms made * an offer to do the work which has been under discussion this afternoon.
Mr. Kelly. No such offer was before me at the time the contract was signed. I can assure my honorable friend that I am having tho fullest inquiry made into the circumstances.
Mr. POYNTON. Will the Honorary Minister also inquire whether the offer I have referred to was received in the Department?
Mr. Kelly. Yes.
Mr. POYNTON. I have been informed, and I believe that my information is correct; that Mr. Timms put in an offer for this particular work. My informationmay be wrong, but I was told this week in Adelaide that Mr. Timms was in communication with the exEngineerinChief. If he was, then the Minister should have known of it.
Mr. Kelly. Certainly.
Mr. POYNTON. There were other things of which tho honorable gentleman, on his own showing, was not aware.
Mr. Kelly. If I had thought that there was any one else in as favorable a position to do this work as was the man who got the contract, I certainly would not have approved of it.
I have read from Hansard of the 21st April, page 156. 1 think that this statement by Mr. Kelly will be taken by every reader of it as the statement of a man who was not aware of Mr. Timms’ offer. I desire now to refer to the correspondence which has been laid on the table, and to show that, on the 21st April, Mr. Kelly was not only aware that Mr. Timms had made an offer, but he was aware that Mr. Timms, a brother of the Joseph Timms referred to, and Mr. Hobler, one of the engineers employed by the Government, had had a conference on the point as to whether Timms’ offer had been before the Department. Not only had there been a conference on that point, but Mr. Kelly had sent Mr. Hobler to Mr. Deane for the correspondence. This happened on the 28th February, but on the 21st April we find Mr. Kelly telling the House, or, if he did not tell the House, leading it to believe, that he was not aware of any offer by Mr. Timms. I do not wish to put forward statements of my own, because they might be refuted, but I desire to put the hard facts, which appear in the correspondence, side by side with what Mr. Kelly said to the House. On page 36 of the parliamentary paper I find a copy of a telegram which was sent, on the 4th May, from Mr. Hobler, at Port Augusta, to the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs at Melbourne, in answer to a telegram from the latter -
Your telegram second instant at interview Timms had with you on twenty-eight February so far as I recollect he stated to you that he had written Mr. Deane asking to be allowed to tender if tenders were called for any portion of the work. After interview you told me to see Mr. Deane and tell him you wished to know if such a letter had been received. I saw Mr. Deane immediately on return to office and told him of Timms’ statement and your wish. Mr. Deane looked up the file at once and said that he had completely overlooked the letter when dealing with Teesdale Smith’s offer and that he would see you personally and explain matter. I was under impression he had seen you about it.
Here is a telegram to the Assistant Minister in which Mr. Hobler states that Mr. Kelly, Mr. Timms, and Mr. Hobler had discussed the question of Timms’ offer to do the work. Yet, six weeks later, we find Mr. Kelly telling, or leading the other House and the country to believe, that he was not aware that a second offer had been made. This matter is too serious to be allowed to go on the mere passing of this Parliament. On page 33 of this paper I find a memorandum from Mr. Deane to the Minister, which contains this paragraph -
The matter did not crop up again until Mr. Timms came to see the Minister on the 28th February. On this occasion the latter sent for Mr. Hobler. I understood from Mr. Hobler, when he came back to my office, that the Minister wanted certain information, and I know that Mr. Hobler looked up the papers. I do not know what happened afterwards, as I thought that Mr. Hobler was carrying out the Minister’s wishes.
That will, I think, set beyond doubt or dispute that when Mr. Kelly spoke in reply to Mr. Poynton, and by his language implied that he was not aware of Timms’ offer, his memory was something like that of Mr. Deane. He had actually forgotten the interview, or, if he had not forgotten it, he was misleading his colleagues, the Parliament, and the people.
– There is nothing in what you say to show that Mr. Kelly knew of the offer. There is only an account of an interview held a considerable time before. There is nothing to show that Mr. Kelly knew of Mr. Timms’ offer.
– I may not have the capacity to make myself clear, but I have- tried to do so. I have read Mr. Kelly’s statement, in reply to the remarks of Mr. Poynton on the 21st April, where he led the House to believe that he did not know of Mr. Timms’ offer, and I have read tlie” statements of Mr. Hobler and Mr. Deane, showing that on the 28th February Mr. Kelly, Mr. Timms, and Mr. Hobler sat side by side in the Minister’s office and discussed this very question of Timms’ offer, and that Mr. Kelly sent Mr. Hobler to get the papers in regard to it. I do not want to be tied down to the argument that when Mr. Kelly let the contract he was not aware of the offer. What I am complaining of now is that Mr. Kelly, as Assistant Minister, has not dealt in a candid way with the Parliament.
– Why does he not present all the papers?
– We cannot judge from the papers which have been presented.
– The correspondence which has been laid on the table contains very few original letters. It comprises mere copies for the most part. Not only are they mere copies, but one can see for himself what the last report of Senator McGregor points out, and that is that the whole of the correspondence is not given.
– And some of what does appear is mutilated.
– One has only to read ,the printed correspondence to realize that.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The actions of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs throughout the debates in the other House, in regard to the correspondence that has been laid on tlie table of the two Houses, and in the treatment of the Select Committee of the Senate appointed to inquire into the Teesdale Smith contract, were not those of an honest man, of a man who has nothing to hide.
– Is that a proper statement to make about a Minister?
– The Standing Orders provide that no senator shall reflect on another senator, or on a member of the other branch of the Legislature. As Senator Gardiner’s remark is deemed by tlie Vice-President of the Executive Council to be offensive, I ask him to follow the parliamentary practice, and withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, but I referred to the actions of the Minister, saying that they were not the actions of an honest man ; I did not say that the Minister was not an honest man. Let me explain to what I referred. When the papers in this case were asked for in the other House, the Minister laid on _the table certain documents as being all the papers connected with the contract, but they were only those papers that it suited the honorable gentleman to make public. When a ‘ Select Committee was appointed by the Senate, on which the Government side is well represented, three of the seven Liberal supporters in the Senate being members of it, the Minister prevented his chief clerk from producing the papers, and, acting on advice given by the Prime Minister, declined to appear before the Committee himself. Were those the actions of an open and straightforward man? But I do not wish to be abusive; the papers speak for themselves. What was the Minister’s first reply when charged by the Leader of the Opposition with having let a contract without public competition ? It was that time was the essence of the contract; that there was urgency in the matter. The exEngineerinChief, Mr. Deane, said, however, that he “ suggested some time ago to some men of experience that they should go to
Port Augusta, and inspect the work with a view to submitting a price.” Therefore, time was not the essence of the contract. Picked Government favorites were told that this plum was waiting to be gathered, and they went to Port Augusta to make an inspection. There was no advertisement in the Argus or Age or Herald or Telegraph, nor in any Adelaide paper, asking the general public to make an inspection, and to offer a price. The invitation to inspect was confined to a few picked favorites of the Government. Later, a contract was entered into between the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs and Mr. Teesdale Smith. The Minister says that he has not signed a contract. I asked question after question on the subject, and the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs in the Senate maintained that the Assistant Minister had not signed the contract. But some of the correspondence reads as if a contract had been signed, or, at least, a rubber stamp impressed on a contract. To what does the Honorary Minister refer in the following letter, written by him to the Crown Solicitor ? -
Captain Saunders, Supervising Engineer, Port Augusta, saw me this afternoon with reference to Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract. He had seen the recommendation of the EngineerinChief With regard thereto dated the 5th February, 1914, before he saw rae in company with the Engineer-in-Chief and Mr. Teesdale Smith. He took the recommendation as applying to the section from 92 to 106 miles. He remembers that the recommendation in question was handed to the Minister shortly after he and others arrived, and that after reading it the Minister asked the Engineer-in-Chief whether he had satisfied himself as to the rates asked for being if anything slightly less than the rates paid by the Government of South Australia to Mr.’ Teesdale Smith for similar work, and that on receipt of the Engineer-in-Chieft’s assurance of this fact, I stamped my approval on the papers.
That letter is signed “ W. H. Kelly.” I asked if there was not a contract entered into. Moreover, having examined the papers laid on the table, I can find no stamped document among them. Why has this document which was stamped been kept back, and why were senators and the members of the other House led to believe that all the papers in the case had been made available for perusal by them ? Is the Honorary Minister above Parliament ?
– Does the honorable member, being a member of the Select
Committee of the Senate, think that he ought to discuss this matter here before the Committee has reported ?
– I have deliberately refrained from speaking about anything which is the secret of the Committee, and is unknown to the community at large. My .references have been to what has been made public here or in the other House, and to what appears from the papers. I could say much more, but I do not wish to speak about what I have learned .as a member of the Com:mittee. I do not. wish to make that knowledge public.
– Does the honorable senator think that he should discuss the matter before the Committee has reported ?
– I consider that my public duty calls upon me to refer to what was the beginning of one of the biggest jobs that could have taken place. I cannot refrain from speaking about it on the floor of the House, the Government having had every opportunity to show that there is nothing crooked in the actions of Ministers, and not doing so.
– The honorable senator has not answered my question.
– With the knowledge at my disposal, I am aware that this contract would have been the beginning of many other like contracts had not the whole thing been nipped in the bud.
– That is a mere assertion.
– It is proved by the correspondence in our possession, and could be proved even more fully by means of the correspondence that should have been laid on the table, but has been held back. Does anything justify a Minister, when the promise has been made that the papers in connexion with a contract will be laid on the table, in laying on the table a few originals, and a great many copies and keeping back papers that should not be kept back? There is no justification for such a thing, and yet members of the Government would try to bind me down because I am on a Committee which the honorable senator knows will never have an opportunity of reporting. Time is the essence of the contract in this case, and I am taking care to use my time to let the public know what is happening.
– So will I.
– I would be very pleased to hear the honorable senator. To some people this contract may appear a small matter, and they may say that there is not sufficient in it to warrant all this fuss being made. What can be more reprehensible than a Government in office letting to one of their own picked favorites a big contract without the safeguard of public tender? Could a worse principle be adopted by those who are responsible to the people for the administration of the Public Departments? Let us consider for a moment the extent of the contract. Upon that point the following communication by Mr. Deane is informative -
Office of the Engineer-in-Chief. 84-88 William-street,
Melbourne, 16th February, 1914.
Department of Home Affairs, Melbourne.
Contract for Earthworks.
A tender has been accepted for earthworks, South Australian section (92 to 106 miles).
Contractor. - H. Teesdale Smith, Adelaide.
Contract Amount- £41,626 10s. 6d. (Schedule of Rates).
Schedule of Rates. - Quantity, rate. &e. -
Preliminary Deposit. - Nil.
Final Deposit.- £1,000.
Date for Completion. - 9th May, 1914.
Contractor has been requested to forward to you £1,000 as final deposit. Please inform me when this has been received.
Those figures show the extent of the contract, and I desire to ask what that 4s. 6d. per yard is paid for. Mr. Teesdale Smith has received 4s. 6d. a yard for loosening the earthworks in the cutting; not for carting the soil out of the railway line, but merely for drilling a hole into ground of the chalk-like substance like that produced by Senator Rae. It is ground so soft that one shot would loosen many tons, which would merely require to be scooped up and carted away. I have it on the authority of an experienced contractor that whenever a contract is entered into for loosening earth in this manner the soil is put into the embankments at no additional cost, unless the embankments are of great length. In this contract there are over 100,000 yards of cuttings, and over 134,000 yards of embankments. Worse than the business genius at the head of the Department to which an honorable senator refers is the genius of the whole of the party in trying to smother this business up. This is the policy that keeps the party funds sufficiently financial to return the Government members to Parliament.
– You will remember that I offered to supply the name of a reputable contractor who would have been willing to undertake that work at 4s. 6d. per yard without any additional payment for depositing the soil on the banks, but my offer was never accepted.
– Every effort has been made by the Government to cover up the magnitude of the real presents that were made to Mr. Teesdale Smith. As one excuse, they have said that there was a difficulty in regard to water supply. As a matter of fact, from Bellamy’s Well to the beginning of the track there is a line of pipes; the water trickles out into the tanks, and is loaded on to the camels’ backs. A water supply is ready to hand. There is a distance of 287 chains of surface formation, for which the contractor gets 45s. per chain ; that is a distance of a little more than 3½ miles. If the contractor gets, as he does get - I had the figures a little time ago - less than £700 for that distance, it means that the other 10 miles runs out at about £4,000 per mile. In attempting to blind the public to the real facts, the Government have dared to make a comparison between the finishedrailway to Yass-Canberra and the Teesdale Smith contract. No such comparison can be made. I have seen both lines, and I know that on the finished line from Queanbeyan to Canberra there is an overhead bridge, with steel girders, spanning a stream over 70 feet wide, whilst the Teesdale Smith contract is not for the making of a railway, but only for the loose earthworks. The culverts, even the small Monier pipe culverts, have to be put in by the Government. Mr. Teesdale Smith had merely to remove the loose earth in the cuttings, and run it out on the embankment, and yet the Government are comparing the price of the finished line at Yass-Canberra with the work done by Teesdale Smith, and are saying that it is a fair comparison.
The Queanbeyan-Canberra line passes through a number of hills with small, hard, blue granite-like cuttings, infinitely harder than any along the Teesdale Smith length of line. There is no work in the latter worth more than1s. or1s. 6d. per yard, yet the Government are paying 4s. 6d. per cutting and 2s. 6d. for embankments. Everybody knows that a yard from a cutting will make more than a yard on the embankment, and the result is that Teesdale Smith is getting nearly 8s. per yard for that earthwork. These are facts that ought to be kept before the public. Some people think that I should keep my mouth shut, because I am on the Committee; but, so far as any effective report is concerned, that Committee’s investigation has been deliberately blocked by the Honorary Minister, who whines about his character having been impugned.
– And he took good care not to vindicate it.
– Before the date on which Mr. Fisher spoke on this matter this little notice was issued by Mr. Kelly to the Secretary of the Department -
In view of irregularities in connexion with the allocation of excavation and formation work to Mr. Teesdale Smith, a general instruction is hereby issued requiring all special contracts to be submitted for Ministerial approval before being forwarded to the contractor for signature. (Signed) W. H. Kelly.
What were these irregularities? What had been discovered that the public were not let into the know ? Are Ministers above Parliament and the people? The people pay the bill and find the money, and the Government have shown by their Estimates that they have not been making ends meet by about £100,000 a month since they have been in office. They are able to make a surplus to show the public, only by taking more than one and a half millions of the surplus given to them by the late Government when they left office. Yet they can afford to have irregularities in the Department, and to let contracts by which the contractor gets double and treble the price he ought to get, without even the safeguard of public tender. Is that a fair deal? The whole correspondence must convince one who reads it carefully that Mr. Kelly deliberately tried to mislead first the other House, and finally, as will be seen by the letter I am goingto read, himself. Here is a letter written to Mr. Henry Deane on the 22nd April -
You will remember that at the time my approval was sought on your recommendation of the 5th February last for the allotment of work between 92 and 106 miles from Port Augusta to Mr. Teesdale Smith I was informed by you that Mr. Teesdale Smith had the requisite plant immediately available to carry out his contract, and was, therefore, in ‘a better position than any other contractor to do the work.
Since the meeting of the House, I have become aware of Mr. Joseph Timms’ letter and telegram to you, both dated 24th January last, and your reply to him of the 28th idem, copies of which are attached. I would be glad if you would explain -
How it is that the above offers were not submitted to me when Mr. Teesdale Smith’s offer was recommended to me for acceptance?
Why the correspondence in question, which had a material bearing upon the issues, was never sent to head office for Ministerial consideration ?
For Minister for Home. Affairs.
What can be thought of a Minister who writes a public document of that kind, when in the same papers it is shown that Mr. Kelly, Mr. Hobler, and Mr. Chas. Timms, on behalf of his brother, discussed this matter on the 28th February. It is not only an attempt to deceive the people outside, but so far has it gone that it seems an attempt on the part of the Minister to deceive himself. He deliberately sits down, and writes a makebelieve letter to Mr. Deane as if altogether ignorant of the fact that the matter had been discussed by himself and the others in his own office, and that Mr. Hobler had been sent by him to fetch and produce papers in connexion with it. There is no doubt that at the time he wrote that letter Mr. Kelly was aware that Mr. Timms’ offer had been turned down. Of course, Mr. Kelly may endeavour to put the whole blame on an officer who has retired, but I should like to see a system of parliamentary government in which the responsibility is taken by the Minister in charge. Nothing could be more despicable than that a Minister who is responsible, and can be punished by Parliament, should hide behind an officer who has left the Department. I spoke before of Mr. Deane’s excuse of lack of memory, and that excuse may be perfectly genuine, for many a busy man may forget an important matter; but in the case of Mr. Kelly, his memory failed him to such an extent that, when he was questioned by Mr. Poynton in the House, he pretended to have no knowledge of what had occurred. The facts cannot be repeated too often, but I am deterred from saying more by the anxiety of the Government to conclude the business, and by the fact that there are other important matters that have to be considered apart from the Government. On 5th May, Mr. Kelly wrote as follows to the Engineer-in-Chief: -
With reference to my minute of 16th March, 1914, asking for results of latest costing under Saunders’ management for 5 miles of similar country to that between 69$ miles to 92 miles, in connexion with which Mr. Teesdale Smith asked for, and was refused by me, a contract for earthworks - I would be glad if you would kindly advise me why the results in question have not been submitted to me.
I have been over this line; and I ask why the Minister picked on 69
– Was not the work provided for to 69J miles?
– The work from Port Augusta up to 76 miles had already been done during the latter part of Mr. Saunders’ management under Government control, and the rails were running to that point. The Minister knew that from 70 miles was the hardest cutting, and if he got the cost of that included he would again be able to make a comparison as to the cost under ordinary management. We have the evidence of Mr. Hobler that the cost was 2£ per cent, more than under day labour; and the excuse is made that the work was urgent. It was so urgent that no Minister can now say whether or not the contract is finished. I could speak at great length on this matter, but, as I said before, I have no desire to do so. Honorable senators have tried to twit me with the suggestion that, being a member of the Select Committee, it is not altogether according to parliamentary etiquette for me to make any remarks before- the Committee have finally reported. The Committee, however, have made one report; and I have deliberately refrained from commenting on anything that has come to my knowledge as a member of the Com mittee, confining myself to information laid on the table of the House, to what has taken place in the other Chamber, and to what is within my personal knowledge.. The very fact that a contract has been let without calling for public tenders constitutes a grave danger to the administration of the Department, if it be allowed to pass without check or challenge. The Minister complains that we are imputing corruption to him, and holds out his hands to show that they are clean. Why does he not take the opportunity that a fairly-constituted Committee gives him, to let the public know that his administration is above suspicion, and will stand investigation? If the Minister declines to avail himself of that opportunity, I decline to keep my mouth closed, but arraign him at the bar of public opinion for letting a contract under a system of pure favoritism - for giving to one favoured man an opportunity that was refused to all the other contractors in the Commonwealth. So far as plant is concerned, Mr. Timms undeniably had a larger and better plant for quickly completing the work. If any honorable member follows the correspondence as closely as I have, he will see that behind this small contract was a big one, which has been stopped by the discussion of this question in Parliament,in the press, and oh the platform. For this the public are the richer, and even the colleagues of this Minister are the better. These secret contracts will not bear the searchlight of public opinion, and Mr. Kelly has had the opportunity presented of testifying whether he has been straightforward in his administration. I accuse Mr. Kelly of three or four acts of deliberate trickery to the House of Representatives and the Senate. He refused, in the first place, to admit that he knew of Mr. Timms’ . offer,, leading the House to believe he knew nothing; secondly, he had papers laid on the table purporting to be the complete papers, which they were not; thirdly, he refused to allow the representative of his Department to produce the papers before the. Select Committee, thus delaying the investigation; and now, according to- Mr. Joseph Cook, he has been advised not to appear before that Committee. If that is the action of an honest man I am no judge of honest men. So far from being the attitude of a straightforward man, who has nothing to cover up, it is, to my mind, what might be expected from one who has blundered badly, and is trying to get out of the difficulty by the good old way of placing the blame on some one else, hoping that Parliament may prorogue or something turn up to prevent his being called to account. Seeing that the Select Committee of which I have the honour to be a member will not have another opportunity of dealing with this matter, I could not allow this Parliament to close without adding these statements to what I have previously said upon the Teesdale Smith contract.
Debate (on motion by Senator de Largie) adjourned until Order of the Day No. 4, Private Business, had been dealt with.
Motion (by Senator Henderson) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day number 4, private business, relating to Home Rule for Ireland being proceeded with forthwith.
– Great as is the inducement to enter upon a discussion of the subject-matter of my motion, in deference to honorable senators present and to the position of public business, I have decided to do nothing more than move it, with an addendum in the nature of an instruction to you, sir, if you will permit me to do so.
– It will be better to deal with that matter separately.
– Then I move -
That, in view of the opinion expressed by the London Times, that “Nothing just now could exercise a more salutary influence,” in Great Britain, “ than an authoritative pronouncement by the overseas peoples upon the Irish question,” and accepting that journal as interpreting correctly the feelings of an important section of the inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland, the Senate desires to reaffirm, and does hereby re-affirm, the Address to His Majesty the late King, passed on the 23rd November, 1905, as follows : - “ That, in accordance with the most treasured traditions of British Government and British justice, and for the cementing of the Empire into one harmonious whole, this Senate is of opinion that Home Huie should be granted to Ireland.”
– I do not feel disposed to allow this motion to pass without saying a few words regarding the view which I take of the inexpediency of its introduction here. When this matter was first brought forward, in 1905, I expressed views which I entertain just as strongly to-day, and which I have no more hesitation in expressing now than I had then. The view which I voiced on that occasion was that this Commonwealth Parliament was not only not justified in interfering with the internal affairs of other portions of the Empire, but that the Senate would be the first to resent similar action if it were taken by the Imperial Parliament or by any other Parliament in the British Dominions. In support of that view, I should like to make a quotation from a recent public utterance by Mr. Fisher. Not long ago, some matters connected with the internal government of the South African Federa-tion occupied public attention here, aa elsewhere, and Mr. Fisher, amongst other public men, was either invited to give an opinion, or did give an opinion, upon them.
– Mr. Fisher is not a member of this Chamber.
– But he is a public man in Australia, and I venture to say that we are entitled to assume that amongst the members of his own party, at any rate, his opinions are regarded a« worthy of consideration.
– Then the Minister intends to make this a party question?
– Certainly not. In addressing the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Mr. Fisher is reported in the Argus of 16th February last to have said -
Whatever determination was come to in legard to the South African incident, he hoped that the Mother Country would not see fit to interfere with the policies of the Overseas Dominions, but would allow the autonomous Governments to manage their own affairs.
That was a very sound position for him to take up. But it is equally sound, if, instead of assuming the position of one of the autonomous Dominions being dictated to by the Mother Country, we reverse it, and picture the position which exists here to-night - that of one of the Parliament* of an autonomous Dominion attempting to obtrude its views, and by that means seeking to influence the current of public affairs in the Old Country.
– But this motion is in support of the Imperial Government.
– Whether it is in support of, or in opposition to, the Imperial Government, is immaterial. If it be proper that the Parliament of one of the self-governing Dominions should seek ibo support the Imperial Government, it must be equally competent for it to oriticise and denounce that Government. In my opinion, it is extremely inadvisable that we should attempt to take part in matters which belong exclusively to another portion of the Empire.
– Did not a previous Government, of which the honorable senator was a member, wish to present a Dreadnought to England a couple of years ago?
– I recognise that, since the resolution of 1905 was adopted, a distinct change has taken place in regard to the matter upon which this motion bears. No greater proof of that can be looked for or desired than that memorable and historical speech made by Mr. Balfour in the House of Commons, when he admitted the failure of his life’s work as an opponent of HomeRule, when he declared that the time had arrived when some form of self-government should be conceded to Ireland, and pleaded for an effort to be made to arrive at an arrangement which would render that form of government acceptable to all parties in Ireland .
– An old die-hard.
– He can hardly be described as a die-hard, in view of the testimony of Mr. Asquith, his political opponent. It seems to me that we are asked by the motion to affirm that the measure of Home Rule now before the Imperial Parliament should be pushed through apparently at all costs.
Several Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear?
– I am glad I have not misunderstood the purpose of the motion. It is intended to be read as a declaration by this Senate that the measure of Home Rule now before the Imperial Parliament should be pushed through at all costs. I enter a strong protest against such a motion going through. I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that Ireland is armed from north to south, and arrayed in two hostile camps, and that it is recognised by the Imperial authorities at Home that the slightest false step may precipitate a civil war.
When we stand face to face with a position so serious as that, it seems to me that it is time for silence and nob for motions of this kind. My friends may deal lightly with the matter ; I cannot. I can conceive of no more pitiable spectacle, nothing of more serious moment to the Empire as a whole, than the result of one shot being fired in Ireland.
– Who started that business ?
– I am not concerned with who started it. All I am concerned in now is that we are asked to declare that the Senate of the Commonwealth Parliament wishes to see the Home Rule Bill pushed through irrespective of all consequences. I protest against such a motion being carried here at a time when the best men and the most patriotic minds in Great Britain and Ireland are seeking for some solution which will secure to Ireland what it desires without bringing about the undesirable and disastrous consequences to which I have alluded.
– The motion will help them.
– If I thought it would bring about what is set out in the motion, the welding of the Empire into one harmonious whole, I should vote for it, but I venture to say that there is no honorable senator who does not honestly believe that if the Home Rule Bill is forced through without some modification or some arrangement with the dissenting section of Ireland we shall be face to face with the most serious crisis in the history of the British Empire.
– Do not threaten.
– I am making no threats. I do not wish to do so. I view the matter far too seriously. So far as I can read’ the cables published in the papers and the news they have to convey to us, the position is viewed by those responsible for the conduct of the affairs of Great Britain as so serious that they have faltered in the course they set for themselves, and they are seeking in every direction for a door which will lead to a solution of the difficulty that has proved so far greater than they have been able to surmount. .
– Because they are dealing with aristocratic rebels.
– I do not think that such terms dispose of the matter.
If there were only a few of those, I do not think the British Government would have faltered .as it has done. But it has recognised, just as thousands of loyal Britishers have recognised, that to push the matter to .an extreme would mean precipitating a crisis.
– Is it not a fact that the Home Rule Bill has been pushed through all its stages as far as the House of Lords?
– Yes; but the Government are bringing in an amending Bill.
– It is only a promise Bill.
– There are only two points I wish to put. No matter how strongly honorable senators may hold views on one side or another, I cannot see how they can shut their eyes to the fact that the position at Home is extremely critical, and fraught with the utmost danger. In these circumstances, it seems to me extremely undesirable that a Parliament not immediately concerned with the outcome of this struggle should attempt, by such a motion as this, to declare that an action at which the Imperial Government falters should be pushed through, rightly or wrongly. For the two reasons that I have given, first, that it is in my opinion a pernicious practice which is growing up, for Parliaments in outlying Dominions, by resolution, to interfere in matters which are of purely local concern to other portions of the Empire; and second, that at this juncture a motion of this kind will be pernicious rather than helpful, I propose to vote against it.
– I do not propose to give a silent vote on this matter. At the same time I do not propose to take up much of the time of the Senate. I have no wish to probe into the motives that have actuated the mover and his friends in bringing forward this matter - honorable senators are within their rights - and I have not a word to say against Irishmen who desire to see Home Rule for Ireland, but I feel that the submission of this motion is an unwise step, and, as my leader has stated, one that would be resented perhaps more bitterly by those who are supporting the motion to-night than by any other section of the community if interference with our affairs came from the Old Land, or any other part of the British Dominions. It is also an unwise step because it will not help affairs at Home, as the honorable senator thinks it will, because it will only tend to make the situation more embarrassing than it is at present. It is a question upon which the people of this country are very much divided. I admit that a very large portion of our people are strongly in favour of Home Rule for Ireland, but at the same time there is probably an equally large portion against it. Further, I say, this is not our business. The question was not put to the country when we were before the electors. We were not asked whether we favoured Home Rule for Ireland or not, and I do not think we are called upon here to give judgment in regard to this matter;
– You preached Home Rule when you opposed the referenda.
– Yes; and the men who have been trying to destroy Home Rule in this country for the last few. years are crying out for Home Rule for another country. According to Senator Long, those who are opposing Home Rule are a number of “ aristocratic rebels.’1 What has he to say about the 10,000 trade unionists of Belfast who protested very strongly against Home Rule and found fault with their Labour brothers in England who were supporting it?
– Where did you get that information ?
– From the public press. The honorable senator knows that it is perfectly true. If the motion is intended to lead to some solution of the difficulties in the Old Country, it will utterly fail, but it is probably intended to put some honorable senators, who are very shortly to go to the country, in a hole, and work to their detriment. But I can assure honorable senators that they are dealing with a double-edged sword that will turn against themselves later on. It is throwing into Australian politics, where there are already quite enough difficult problems, and where there is quite enough strife, another bone that will cause contention. In conclusion, I have only to say that, if this motion is intended to be merely the expression of a pious hope, it will do no good, and that if anything more is intended it will be utterly useless. I therefore join with my leader in what he has said, and do not intend to support the motion.
– Like Senator McColl, I do not intend to give a silent vote on this motion. I regret exceedingly that the Minister of Defence, and his colleague, the VicePresident of the Executive Council, have felt themselves called upon to oppose it. It is all very well for the Minister of Defence to say that he has read Mr. Fisher’s statements in regard to the South African Government. South Africa, like Australia, is one of the Dominions of the Empire, whereas this motion relates, not to a Dominion, but to the very heart of the Empire itself, in which every Britisher, whether he lives in South Africa, Canada, or Australia, is interested. If we do not have peace, order, and good government at the heart of the Empire, how can we expect that Empire to sustain and maintain its position before the rest of the world? This motion begins -
That, in view of the opinion expressed by the London Times, that “ Nothing just now could exercise a more salutary influence,” in Great Britain, “ than an authoritative pronouncement by the over-sea peoples upon the Irish question “- and so forth. Is not the London Times recognised as one of the most important newspapers in the world, and, in view of the opinion which it has expressed, are we to remain silent, as the Minister of Defence has asked us to do? I hold that we are in duty bound to give expression to our opinion on this question.
– We are very glad to express our opinion, and quite a number of us are not afraid to do so.
– We claim the same liberty.
- Senator McColl would have us be silent, but we are not going to be dumb. Although I sit on this side of the House, I was sorry to hear any one representing the Government of Australia at the present time speaking as the Minister of Defence did to-night.
– It was painful.
– It was. I invite the Minister of Defence and his colleague, Senator McColl, to examine the map of the world and to note the many parts coloured red as an indication that they belong to the British Empire. He will observe that Australia and Canada loom large territorially, and that England, Scotland, and Ireland are but small territorially. Yet this little trouble - because, after all, it is a little one - that is occurring at the heart of the Empire is probably going to disturb the equilibrium of the whole of the British Empire. Let me remind honorable senators that, before next month, the King himself will experience the same difficulty with which the Governor-General of Australia has recently been faced. He will have to act.
– It is not as bad as that, I hope.
– His Majesty will have to act. The Parliament Act of 1910 provides that if the House of Commons passes a Bill twice, and that Bill rs rejected twice by the Lords - and, by the way, the Lords will not do what this Senate did-
– We have not a Veto Act here.
– Quite so, but the Lords, with all their hereditary antagonism to Home Eule, will never do what honorable senators opposite did recently with a certain measure. They will not be so contemptuous.
– They are not game to fight.
– I repeat that they would not be so contemptuous. The House of Lords has turned down Home Rule before to-day, and turned it down by 12 to 1.
– The House of Lords ?
– Yes, by 333 to 30 votes, but I would remind the honorable senator that, unlike his party, they have never rejected a Bill on the first reading. On the 30th of this month they will take the second reading of the Home Eule Bill, and will probably reject it.
– But the House of Lords has never had to deal with such a contemptible Bill as was the Government Preference Prohibition Bill. There is no comparison between the two.
– It does not suit the honorable senator to say otherwise.
– This is Irish wit.
– It is neither wit nor humour. Next month probably the responsibility of determining what action shall be taken by him will devolve upon His Majesty himself.
– If he does not assent to the Bill he will have to follow the House of Lords and be vetoed, too.
– I think he will do exactly what our own GovernorGeneral did in the recent crisis - he will take the advice of his Ministers.
– But His Majesty will have the advantage of having much better advisers than the Governor-General has in the present Government.
– Whether it be His Majesty or the Governor-General, he has to act in accordance with the opinion of his advisers. His Majesty will act on the advice tendered to him by his advisers. We are going to see translated to England the problem which we had recently in Australia, I sincerely regret that it should have been necessary to have any debate whatever upon this motion.
– Do not “ wallop your own Joss.”
– It was necessary for me to say a few words in view of what had been said by the Minister of Defence. I wish to make my position clear. I am, and always have been, a strong advocate of Home Rule, not only for Ireland, but for Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales, with an Imperial Parliament governing the whole. I wish to dissociate myself entirely from the opinion that has been expressed on thi3 question by honorable senators on this side of the Chamber.
– I, too, do not propose to allow this motion to pass without giving expression to my views upon it. I have but recently returned from the heart of the Empire to which Senator Keating has referred, and can say that there are there many hundreds of thousands of people who, I have no doubt, would wish to be able to describe this trouble, as Senator Keating has done, as but a little one. It is by no means a little trouble. It is one the immensity of which very few of us out here can recognise. The moment one is brought into somewhat immediate contact with the strong feelings expressed by people of all classes and denominations in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, with regard to this impending difficulty, one realizes how grave it is. It is because I have just come from the Old Country that I feel that I cannot cast a silent vote to-night. Looking at the motion, I am constrained to ask whether every honorable senator who proposes to vote upon it has read it. The very terms of the motion are sufficient to make one hesitate before supporting it when one knows the real facts. The aspiration expressed by the motion is that something should be done by Parliament to assist in cementing the Empire into one harmonious whole. It goes on to say that the Senate is invited to express the opinion that Home Rule, if granted to Ireland, will bring about this desirable result. I say deliberately, with the full knowledge of what I am saying, that in the mind of no man in Great Britain to-day, strong Home Ruler or anti-Home Ruler, is there any hope at all, much less a confident hope - and I embrace all classes in that statement - that if the Home Rule Bill as now introduced is brought into effect without any amendment there will be anything like harmony in the British Empire. That is the confirmed opinion of all men who think.
– Is it all harmony in the Empire at the present moment?
– It is not; but it is all dread, and fear, and apprehension, and immense anxiety throughout the whole Empire, and all over Ireland itself, as to what is going to happen to any and every class in Ireland if the Home Rule Bill becomes law.
– What is going to happen if it does not become law?
– We all know that there is trouble, but, between having some impending trouble, which we all hope may still be allayed, and precipitating a crisis, the end of which no man can conceive, there is an enormous difference. I say advisedly that I know the Home Rule Bill will bring no peace or harmony to Ireland. Those who are avowedly and openly pledged to the Bil] may wish it, and I can quite understand their wishing it; but I say deliberately that, keen as they are for it, they are, with others who are in politics, and on this particular question, opposed to them, in a state of indescribable anxiety and dismay at the immediate future of Ireland and Great Britain because of it.
– Wherever have you been ?
– I have been in touch with these things, and hold these opinions in common with hundreds and thousands of men of all classes.
– You are pitting that knowledge of mushroom growth against that of men who have been in it all their lives.
– My words are true, and the honorable senator knows that I thoroughly believe them. I assure him that if I can be confident of anything I am confident of this. By this resolution we who are accustomed to legislate, and who know what an immense difference there may be between two Bills with the same title, are asked to use a bald, loose phrase that not one of us in our capacity as senators would put up with for a moment. We say “Home Rule!” I ask What measure of Home Rule? What kind of Home Rule Bill ? I am not dealing with the one now being submitted for amendment; but, even taking that, does any one of us know its full contents?
– We do not go into the merits of that.
– That is the whole point. We, as a body of legislators who, if they ought to know anything, ought to know the immense difference there may bc between two Bills of the same title, are asked -
Senatorde Largie. - To approve of a general principle.
– That is not so. We cannot do it, and every one knows it. I am not speaking pro or con on this matter, although, of course, I am going to vote on the motion ; but every one of us must admit that there may be an immensity of difference between Home Rule measures. We might have some sort of Home Rule Bill which would bring- Ireland into what all of us want to see it - one harmonious whole; but surely honorable senators will readily admit that a Bill proposing to give Home Rule may bo introduced which will bring about the disastrous opposite. That is what I fear the present Home Rule Bill will do. I indorse what Senator Millen said. I say, with all respect to the Senate, that I do not believe that our resolution will have any effect, and that I do not think it ought to. I am in accord with what. Senator Millen said on that point.
– You have got to be.
– I have not got to be. I am on my own initiative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Henderson) agreed to -
That the President be requested to take the necessary steps in order that this resolution of the Senate may be communicated to His Majesty the King.
Conduct of Public Works - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway: Sleeper Contract : Mr. Teesdale Smith’s. Contract - Cockburn Sound Naval Base - Cockatoo Island Dockyard - Powers of the Senate : Constitution Alteration Bills - Double Dissolution.
Debate resumed from this day (vide page 2537).
– Senator Millen, when addressing the Senate, enumerated all the public works which the Government have on their programme. But his effort is only a piece of window-dressing in preparation for the general elections.. To listen to the’ honorabe senator, one would never have thought that he is a member of a Government who, although they have been twelve months and more in office, have not only failed to submit a programme of public works of their own, but have stopped almost every public work started by their predecessors. I am safe in saying that no previous Government of the Commonwealth were responsible to a greater extent for the suspension of important public works. I can safely say, also, that no Government in Australia has ever in the same time been responsible for creating so many “unemployed in the Australian labour market. We have only tto consider the state of affairs in Western Australia to recognise the truth of my -statement. The present Fusion Government were responsible for the cancellation of the sleeper contract entered into between the Government of Western Australia and the last Federal Government. “That contract was proposed by the State Government of Western Australia with the object of developing a province of that State which has remained in its original condition since the white race came to Australia. No province on this continent has been more neglected than that particular part of Australia, though it possesses perhaps the most admirable climate in the Commonwealth-
– And some of the richest land.
– And, as Senator Pearce says, some of the richest land. It is a well-known fact that the gigantic karri timber will grow only upon soil of a very superior kind. In order to open up that province at a time when the unemployed difficulty had reached a rather acute stage in Western Australia, the State Government undertook, as a means of finding remunerative work for the unemployed, the erection of timber mills in that part of the country. It was hoped that, while producing an extremely valuable article in the shape of sleepers for the transcontinental railway, the operations of those mills would be the means of opening up one of the richest districts in Australia, and of making way for settlement. By cancelling the sleeper contract the present Government are reponsible for upsetting the good intentions of the State Government, who spent £200,000 to build railways and instal machinery for this industry. They are responsible, also, for hanging up the construction of the western section of the transcontinental railway and for delaying the completion of that line. We have only to listen to speeches such as that delivered by Senator Millen to recognise their utter hollowness, and that they are merely political trimming before an election. What has been the attitude of the Government so far as the Naval Base at Cockburn Sound is concerned ? Our political opponents in Western Australia clamoured for the starting of the work there. The late member for Fremantle, Mr. Hedges, more than once accused the late Minister of Defence of .going out of his way to delay the starting of works at Cockburn Sound, with the object of keeping men out of the electorate at election time. We are now told by Senator Millen that Senator Pearce, as Minister of Defence, began that work before he should have done so, and began it for electioneering purposes. Who are we to believe, Mr. Hedges or Senator Millen ? But whether the work was begun too soon or too late, the present Government have been responsible for its suspension from the time they took office up to the present time. Again, we can consider the position at Cockatoo Island - a place which was a perfect hive of industry for as long as I can remember it. What is the position of affairs since the present Government took office? The place is now as silent as if a hammer never rang on a boiler there. The new General Post Office in Perth is another of the public works provided for by the Labour Government, but blocked by the Fusion Government. The history of this Fusion Government has been the suspension of public works wherever it has been possible to suspend them. In the face of these facts, Senator Millen lias had the audacity to outline what will be, if it ever materializes, the greatest public works policy that Australia has ever seen. Surely the honorable senator does not expect us to take him seriously ? Surely he does not think that the electors will swallow such ridiculous promises made just before an election ? I should like now to refer to a matter which has been more in the public mind of late than any other. I refer to the constitutional questions which havebeen discussed in this chamber during the last few weeks. The Fusion Government have failed entirely to introduce any useful legislation. Whilst they are leaving no record in that direction, they are undoubtedly “making history, so far as upsetting the Constitution is concerned, in a manner which noprevious Government ever attempted. During the last twelve months we have- had several violations of the Constitution by the present Government. It was not that they was any occasion for bringing about that state of affairs; it waa not that the legislation introduced had any need to raise any great constitutional issues. It was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to get out of a difficulty in which they have been from the beginning of their existence, and that is the difficulty of being in office without a majority in each House. For the purpose of reducing the numbers against them in this Chamber, the Government have gone out of their way to raise the most important constitutional crisis which has ever been raised in the history of the Commonwealth. Party reasons, and only party reasons, are at the bottom of the position in which we find ourselves to-day. The Government are prepared to destroy the all-powerful position which the Senate has occupied since the beginning of Federation. They are ready to rob the Senate for all time of its rights under the Constitution for the sake of gaining a mere party advantage for the time being. The Constitution gives to the Senate, and rightly gives to it, enormous powers. It is not created in the ordinary way in which an Upper House is elected. The Upper House of a State in Australia, or the Upper House in the Old Country, is brought into existence by some privileged means of election, by some means other than by the adult voters in the community. According to my reading of history, the Senate is the one Upper House in the whole world which is elected on an adult franchise, and, as the result of that broad franchise, it is at the same time the most democratic Upper House in the world. Australia is the only country in which, as far as I Enow, the Democratic or the Labour side has been able to capture the Upper House. Therein lies the reason for the present antagonism to the Senate by the reactionary party. It is not because there is any need, or any weakness in our Constitution, that the present crisis has been brought about. The one object in view is to destroy the only Upper House of a democratic nature in Australia. I am sorry to say that honorable gentlemen who have been members of the Senate from the start, and may now fairly be called its enemies, have lent themselves, for mere party purposes, to destroy its powers. When we re- member how the Democrats in the Federal Convention struggled to place the Senate on such a broad and democratic basis as to secure to it co-equal rights with the House of Representatives, with the one exception of introducing money Bills) when we recollect that the Democrats in the Convention, of the type of Mr. Kingston, Mr. Isaacs, Mr. Higgins, and, may I include in the gallant band, Mr. Deakin and Mr. Reid, fought to secure for the Senate a more broad and democratic Constitution than was enjoyed by any Upper House then in existence, we must be surprised to find men who claim to be entitled to use the glorious name of Liberal entering into a conspiracy to rob the Australian Upper House o.f its democratic character. I have only to refer to the debates in the Convention to prove what I have said. When the Constitution was first suggested, it was not intended that the Senate should be a democratic House. It was expected to be similar to the Upper Houses of other countries. It was thought that it would eventually become like the Senate of America, which is frequently called “ the rich man’s club.” Nearly all the members of the Federal Convention predicted, and expected, that none but men of very great wealth would be able to win a seat in the Senate because of the enormous expense of contesting an election. That seemed to be the prevailing idea, and the Democrats in that body laboured in order to make the Senate as democratic as possible by placing it practically on the same basis as the House of Representatives, inasmuch, as in the case of a proposed law for an alteration of the Constitution, the Senate would have as much power as the other House, and provided that the proposed law passed through the Senate, it would be referred to the people, so that they might give their judgment. In the light of these facts, we can understand the difference between the meaning of the word “ Liberal “ in bygone years and. the meaning of the word as it is used in Australia to-day. The power to amend the Constitution is perhaps the greatest power of all to be found in that instrument. According to a well-known constitutional writer and authority, Professor Burgess, if a Parliament has the power to bring its Constitution into harmony with the will of the people, that country can never go very far wrong. Our Constitution was framed in such a way that from time to time, just as the popular wish might desire, it would be possible for the Senate to pass a law to bring the Constitution into line with the will of the people. Therefore, a power to amend the Constitution may be rightly said to be one of the greatest powers it contains. In Political Science and Constitutional Law, Burgess says, at page 137 -
This is the most important part of a Constitution, upon its existence and truthfulness, i.e., its correspondence with real and natural conditions depends the question as to whether the State shall develop with peaceful continuity, or shall suffer alterations of stagnation, retrogression, and revolution. A Constitution which may be imperfect and erroneous in its other parts, can easily be supplemented and corrected if only the State be truthfully organized in the Constitution ; but if this be not accomplished, error will accumulate until nothing short of revolution can save the life of the State.
We all believed that the Constitution gave the Senate the right to pass a proposed law, and have it submitted to the people for approval or rejection ; but we have found, within the last few days, that, notwithstanding the clear and definite statement in section 128, that if either House of the Parliament passes a proposed law it shall go automatically to the people, the present Government has advised the Governor-General that he may not submit six proposed laws passed by this Chamber. That means that the Government of the day can practically force the Governor-General to take an unconstitutional step. I do not think that a democratic people, as the Australians undoubtedly are, will permit a crime of this sort to be committed without the punishment which it is in its power to mete out to those who are guilty. As I am speaking, not to the few honorable senators who are present, but to thousands of electors outside - to the people in the far-off States, who should be made to understand the real effect of what has been done by the Government - I shall read the opinions of some of the framers of the Constitution on this point. It was proposed in the Convention that proposals for the alteration of the Constitution, if passed by a majority in each House, should be submitted to the people ; but Mr. Justice Isaacs, who at the time was Attorney-General for Victoria, moved an amendment providing for the submission of a proposed law after it had been passed by either Chamber. So that one House could not defeat the other House if it wanted to amend the Constitution, the proposed law was to go to the voters of the Commonwealth. He said - page 717 of the reports of the Melbourne sittings -
All I desire to say in support of the Victorian Assembly’s suggestion is this, that, if either House - I do not care which - bringsforward a proposal and the other House does not agree with it, then there shall be an opportunity, if the House originating the proposal desires to refer the proposal to the people, as a people; and the States, as States. This protects the States, and it protects the people.
Having taken as his motto the words, “ Trust the people,” he said, further -
I only ask for some ultimate means of preventing catastrophe.I only ask those honorable members who say “ Trust the Federal Parliament “ to go further and meet the inevitable by trusting the people who are behind the Federal Parliament. Let us trust the people whose interests are all in all to us, who have to pay the taxes, whose life, whose liberty, and whose property are at stake, and not necessarily stand by the rigid system of electing men for general purposes, and of allowing those men to say finally whether the people shall ever have a voice in the matter or not. I would point out that a question affecting the Constitution is different from all other questions. It may be right - I do not think it is - to say that on ordinary matters of legislation Parliament should have its own way. On matters of Constitution it is surely right to let the people have an opportunity of expressing their opinions one way or the other.
Mr. Justice Isaacs thought that Parliament should have its way on questions of legislation, but that on constitutional questions, which are much more important, it should be the duty of the people to give an opinion, and that either House should not be allowed to prevent the people from giving an opinion. The Senate has, on two occasions, passed six Bills for proposed alterations of the Constitution, which have already been submitted to the people on two occasions. Under section 128, and in accordance with the views of the framers of the Constitution, these Bills should be again submitted to the people; their submission should not be blocked by the Fusion Government advising the Governor-General not to submit them. This advice robs the Senate of its powers, and prevents the people from expressing an opinion. Not only is the Senate “ gagged “ for the time being, but the people are also “ gagged.” They are not permitted to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to these important proposals.
– The motto of the Liberals is “ Mistrust the people.”
– We have shown that it is not, by going to the country.
– What is to be gained by that appeal to the people, except the opinion of the public regarding the violation of the Constitution? Parliament will find itself in the same eni de mc after the election as it is in now, and has been in since the beginning of Federation. But had these great constitutional questions been submitted to the people, and had Parliament been given the powers for which we ask, it could then do something. As it is, public money is being spent uselessly. This grand double dissolution which the Fusion Government have brought about will give no return for the money spent on the elections. It is really a penal dissolution, punishing the Senate because it would not back down on the well-known principles of a majority of its members, namely, preference or protection to trade unionists. The Government, to destroy that majority, have determined to destroy the powers of the Senate. Truly we are making history. Before passing from this aspect of the question, I would like to give the Senate a few more quotations.
– - The honorable senator suggests the idea of the Chinaman who, when he wanted roast pig, burnt down the house in which the pig lived.
– This is burning down the house to roast the pig with a vengeance, and I hope that the pig gets thoroughly roasted on this occasion for having set fire to its’ own house. As I cannot expect that my opinion will carry as much weight with the gentlemen who compose the present Government, as the words’ of such individuals as Mr. Deakin and Sir George Reid, I propose to quote now from the opinions of those two gentlemen, in order to fortify the remarks I have already made. Speaking, on page 731 of the Federal Convention Debates, in Melbourne, Mr. Deakin said -
I would rather see several means of setting in motion the regular and constitutional process by which proposals for the amendment r.f the Constitution might be considered by the people, either at the desire of majorities rf this Commonwealth Parliament or of either Federal House, or of a majority of the States Parliaments. It appears to me that the extension of the power which my honorable and learned friend proposes is very desirable and equitable.
That would be giving the Senate equal! power with the House of Representatives -
If we lay to heart the experience of America we shall find that men of all parties unite in agreeing that a cardinal defect of the AmericanConstitution is the difficulty of having any amendment submitted to the electors of theRepublic.
In giving expression to that opinion Mr. Deakin was repeating what we know tobe a well-established fact. The greateststigma on the Constitution of the UnitedStates is the fact that it cannot be alteredto meet the demands of public opinion.. When that Constitution was originallyframed, perhaps as a document it expressed some of the finest sentiments and: grandest principles of government of thattime, but owing to the decisions of theSupreme Court and to that Conservativeelement in America which has dominatedthat Republic for so long, the American Constitution has not kept step with thewill of the majority, and it has cometo be recognised that it is almost, impossible to effect the slightest amendment of it. It was in order to provideagainst that state of affairs that theframers of our Constitution gave so much power into the hands of the people of Australia by means of the referendum, and as a first step they made both Housesequal, so that if one House passed a Bill for a proposed amendment the otherHouse could not possibly block it. Whenthe framers of the Constitution werebuilding, they thought they foresaw thepossibility of a Conservative or reactionary Senate, and it was in orderthat the Senate would not block legislation for the amendment of the Constitution that this power was put into theConstitution. But to-day, in spite of the fact that we have a democratic Senate, the very situation which theConstitution framers sought to avoid has been brought about by the political trickery of the present Government, who have forced the Governor-General totake an action which, I am sure, that gentleman in his heart disapproves of. I now propose to quote Sir George Reid’s opinion. And remembering that that gentleman was one of the founders, not only of the Constitution, but also of the Fusion, and knowing that he is the Fusion’s great authority on manythings, it would be well to let the public- know what he thinks in regard to these matters. Sir George Reid said -
The object is to relieve the Senate from a comparatively helpless state in reference to ?n amendment of the Constitution, and to place it, as representing the States, in the position of being able to appeal to the States on a question of an amendment of the Constitution. The view I take is that, instead of degrading the Senate, it puts it in a position of absolute equality with the House of Representatives in a mutter which lias hitherto loosely been supposed to belong more to the House of Representatives than to the Senate.
Then he goes on to say -
If the proposals are serious ones, why should -not the Senate have the absolute right by an absolute majority of asking the opinion r.f the people upon a proposed amendment of the Constitution 7 Surely the States, as represented by the Senate, have a right to take such a verdict with regard to the proposed change.
Honorable senators will see that Sir George Reid saw at that time - I think he was alone in that respect - the possibility of the Senate being a democratic House, and he thought that if it was a democratic House it would wish to exercise its will in regard to proposed alterations of the Constitution.
– Sir Henry Parkes saw that long before Sir George Reid.
- Sir Henry Parkes was not a member of the Convention.
– The thought in Sir George Reid’s mind was that some problem affecting the States might crop up, and that the .representation in the Senate, being States representation, this Chamber might come into conflict with the House of Representatives.
– No doubt Sir George Reid took that view, and as this is the States House, it was a very proper view to take. Let us suppose, for instance, that the financial advantage given to Western Australia, whereby for ten years that State received slightly more from the Consolidated Revenue than any other State, were to be wiped out by the House of Representatives, owing to a combination of the representatives of the big States of Victoria and New South Wales; or that similar action were taken in regard to the Murray waters question, which so closely affects the State of South Australia, and that the States House were powerless to protect - the interests of the State affected, then the Senate as a States House would be rendered completely useless. That is the position we find ourselves in to-day. Three or four years ago the Fusion party were howling throughout the Commonwealth about the Labour party trying to bring about unification and robbing the States of their rights. Yet they to-day, at one fell swoop, are robbing the Senate of the right to protect the interests of the States. I hope the people will recognise this fact at the forthcoming elections. If they do, we may look for fewer Liberal representatives in the Senate in future. I should now like to quote the opinion of Mr. Justice Higgins, a gentleman who has ever been regarded as one of the foremost Democrats of Australia. We must all admire the manner in which he presides over the Arbitration Court, which, in my opinion, is a tribunal more difficult to conduct than any other in the country. As time goes on, the law will more and more, I think, be called upon to decide . industrial matters, and eventually the greatest Court in the land will be the Court of industrial arbitration. Mr. J Justice Higgins performs his onerous duties with eminent success, and in the utterances I am about to quote he recognises that the Senate ought to have the power to which I have been referring. When dealing with the matter, he said that if one House were permitted to block the will of the other, we should have that stagnation which we found in every Conservative Upper House in the world; and that, therefore, there ought to be a reference to the people. During the Federal Convention at Melbourne, he said-“
But as I understand it now, it is, in. .brief, this :- That supposing the Senate or the House of Representatives should wish to have an amendment of the Constitution, and the other House does not agree to it, then there shall be a referendum to both States and people, as to whether the amendment shall be law or not.
Mr. Isaacs ;That is it.
Mr. HIGGINS. ; If that is the proposal, I shall vote for it. I think the Premier of New South Wales is quite right when he says that it is not a Radical matter at all. It is not a question of Liberal politics or Conservative politics, but simply a question of common sense, and it is a device that may be used either by the Senate or by the other House. If the Senate should wish to have an alteration of the Constitution, and possibly it will, I do not see why, assuming that there have been due safeguards taken, it should not have the matter referred to the States and to the people as here proposed.
I think I have quoted sufficient to show that the attitude taken by the Labour party in reference to the memoranda presented to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral a few days ago - the answer to which we heard yesterday - is supported by what took place at the Convention. I am satisfied that the people outside, when they’ get the opportunity, will wreak their political vengeance on those who would rob the Senate of its well-established right, and make it practically useless for the purpose of legislation; otherwise, I see but very little prospect for the Senate in the future. We shall simply be asked to say “ ditto “ to any legislation passed by another place, no matter how ridiculous or unnecessary that legislation may be; and if we refuse, this Chamber may be dissolved at any moment at the whim of the Government of the day. I have no doubt that the people will insist on giving either House the right to bring about any alterations in the Constitution that may, from time to time, be deemed necessary. The people, I hope, will be able to fully appreciate the position. Even our political opponents cannot say that we have shirked responsibility for our actions. We have not attempted, to unduly protract debate, but have, as far as possible, expedited business, in order to have an appeal to the country. Had we chosen, we could have availed ourselves of many means under the Standing Orders, when the Government Preference Prohibition Bill was sent to us, to block public business for months; but we showed our utter contempt for that measure by, to use a phrase that has become somewhat celebrated, “ booting it out “ at its first appearance.
– That Bill was unimportant; whereas the measures affirmed by the Senate and sent on to the other House are most important to Australia.
– That Bill has been so trenchantly dealt with that it is unnecessary to refer to it again. If we are not the natural guardians of the Senate, I do not know whom we oan expect to stand up for its rights. We made our protest through the proper channel, namely, the Governor-General, whom we thought to be something more than a mere “rubber stamp”; but his reply was simply that he had “consulted his advisers.” If we turn to figures, however, we see that the Gover nor-General’s “ advisers “ consist of practically one member of the House of Representatives ; so that it would appear that the majority of twenty-two in the Senate counts for nothing, as against that one. And this is what responsible government has come to in the Commonwealth! A tangle of the kind can only be unravelled by the electors of Australia; and I look forward to the present Government being shot out of their position, just as they were four years ago, when, after the secret conference, they thought they had such a strong combination that Labour was “ down and out “ for years. That the Fusion Government went down in 1910 was a fortunate thing for Australia.
– That Government went down for the same reasons that the Labour Government went down three years afterwards.
– The Labour Government did not go down three years afterwards, but, as a matter of fact, cameback with an increased number of supporters in the country. It is true that the numbers were not sufficient to give them power in the House, of Representatives; but the party, so far from “going down,” have increased their numbers at every election from the beginning, as I have no doubt they will increase them at the next elections.
– I do not propose to follow the constitutional arguments, interesting, though they may be, that have been advanced, although there are any number of eminent men who could be quoted on the other side. A great deal of nonsense is being talked about the rights, of the Senate being taken away, and so forth; but, as a matter of fact, the Constitution is working exactly as its founders; anticipated and intended. To establish a Federal form of government the small States had to be brought into the Union, and in order that they might not be overborne by the larger States, equal representation in the Senatewas provided. On the other hand, in order to obviate the possibility of thesmall States dominating the other Chamber, which is the superior branch of the Legislature - holding, as it does, the control of the purse, and being vested with the power of making and unmaking Ministries - a safety-valve had to be provided, namely, that of the double dissolution. When Parliament becomes unworkable, the provision relating to the double dissolution comes into operation. Nobody can say that this Parliament is workable, and, therefore, effect is being given to the Constitution by sending both branches of it to the electors. For a party which mouths its love and affection for the people to exhibit such reluctance to face the electors as is exhibited by my honorable friends opposite, is very amusing indeed. However, I will not pursue that phase of the subject further. I wish, however, to call attention to one or two remarks made by Senator de Largie. He stated that the present Government had stopped works all over the country, and had thus created unemployment. I desire to show how incorrect is his statement. Let me take the case of the construction of the transcontinental railway, with a view to showing whether the Government have created unemployed. The Fisher Government controlled that line 284 days, and employed, on an average, 429 men; whereas the Cook Government controlled it 331 days, and employed, on an average, 851 men, or a little more than double the number. In the matter of platelaying, the Fisher Government laid 18 miles, at the rate of fifteen days per mile. The Oook Government laid 163 miles, at the rate of two days per mile. The Fisher Government surveyed 86 miles, at the rate of three days per mile; whereas the Cook Government surveyed 391 miles, at the rate of 1 mile per day.
– So far as the survey is concerned, it is well known that before the late Government relinquished office the Western Australian end of the line had been surveyed for 100 miles, and on a new route at that.
– These figures have been made up carefully by the Department, and their accuracy cannot be challenged.
– I challenge it. I know the country. They are utterly wrong.
– They are not. If he doubts their accuracy, the honorable senator may move for a return. In the matter of earthworks, the Fisher Government constructed 49 miles at the rate of five days per mile, whereas the Cook Government constructed 242 miles at the rate of two days per mile. I come now to the question of cost. Under the Fisher Government the cost of construction was from 30 to 50 per cent. higher than it is under the Cook Government.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council is talking upon a subject in regard to which he has absolutely no data.
– I repeat that the cost of construction under the Fisher Government was from 30 to 50 per cent. more than it is under the Cook Government. Later on I shall give the official figures in detail, because they are absolutely correct. Senator Pearce opened his remarks this afternoon by declaring that he intended to take this opportunity of showing up the sins of omission and commission of the Government. In other words, he intended to blacken the Ministry before an appeal is made to the country. Followed as he was by the Minister of Defence, I do not think he made much out of his attempt. Of course, the rank and file of the Opposition followed in a similar strain. Senator Gardiner spoke of the Teesdale Smith contract. During the last two months he has lived upon that contract, and so have other members of the Opposition. It is the only thing they have upon which to go to the country. Theyill probably find, however, that they are making a mistake. In letting that contract, there was only one object in view. I do not say that it was quite a wise thing to let it without calling for tenders. But the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has accepted the fullest responsibility for his action. There were two points which had to be connected, and which were 14 miles apart.
– Will the VicePresident of theExecutive Council answer just one question?
– I will not. I did not interrupt the honorable senator, and I do not wish to be interrupted. The platelaying plant at the eastern end of the transcontinental line was idle. There were forty men depending for employment upon that plant. The object of tha Government was to connect the two ends of the line as quickly as possible, in order that these men might be kept in employment. Accordingly, the work was regarded as one of urgency. It was pressed upon the Minister by the engineers as one of urgency. They assured him that the price quoted for the work by Mr. Teesdale Smith was a fair one, and, believing that it was, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs let the contract. Now I would ask, “ Have the public lost anything by reason of this contract?”
– They have not. When the accounts come to be squared up, it will be found that the Government have not made such a bad bargain as has been represented, and that the contractor has not made a great deal out of his contract. I merely desired to make this reply in contradiction of the statements which have been made here to-day.
Debate (on motion by Senator Newland) adjourned.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended, and (on motion by Senator Millen) Bill read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended, and (on motion by Senator McColl) Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council if there has been any response to the queries I put yesterday and repeated to-day, and in connexion with which I read a telegram, concerning objections to certain names on the Federal roll in the Bullfinch district, Western Australia?
– The information was asked for yesterday by telegram, but, as no reply had come to hand when the House met, a further telegram was sent asking for the information to be expedited. No reply has yet. come to hand. We have done all that we could to get the information desired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140625_senate_5_74/>.