7th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and readprayers.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; and Bill read a first time.
—Are wepast the stage for giving notice of questions and motions, sir?
Honorable Senators. - No.
Motion (by Senator Mill en) agreed to-
That the second reading of the Bill be an order of the day for a later hour of the sitting.
– I wish to point out, in. reply to Senator O’Keefe, that if the Government had chosen to go on with the Bill they could have ‘done so, because the Standing Orders providing for notice of questions to be taken before the business of the day is called on have been suspended.
asked the Minister for Defence,upon notice -
Will the Minister make a general statement as tothe action takenby the various Commonwealth Departments on matters affecting enemy aliens?
– The honorable senator asks for information from various. Departments. The information regarding the Defence Department is available, but I am waiting for information to come from other Departments, and therefore I have to ask that the question he postponed.
– The question is hardly correct as it is stated. Senator Pratten asks the Minister to make a general statement as to the action taken by the various Departments on matters affecting enemy aliens. The Minister has no right to make a statement without the permission of the Senate. Therefore Senator Pratten asked the Minister to do something which he has no right to do without leave.
Industrial Workers of the World.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– My colleague states that the report of his speech is substantially correct. In regard to the second part of the question, the Government does not deem it desirable at this juncture to disclose information in its possession.
– If I cannot get the evidence in the possession of the Government, in what sort of a position does it place me?
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to these questions have not arrived yet. I expect they will arrive during the day, and therefore I ask the honorable senator to repeat them at a later hour.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act 1901-1916.-
Proclamation, dated 15th August, 1917, prohibiting exportation (except with Minister’s consent) of dried apricots and peaches.
Proclamation, dated 15th August, 1917, revoking proclamation of 18th May, 1917, prohibiting exportation (except with Minister’s consent) of empty bottles.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired at Port Augusta, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
.- I moveThat this Bill be now read a second time.
I feel that I am under an obligation to inform the Senate as to the reasons for suspending the Standing and Sessional Orders to enable this measure to go through at the present sitting. I have no desire to pass the Bill through to-day if the Senate is of a contrary opinion; but I moved the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders to enable the Bill to go through if, after hearing what I have to say, the Senate should deem that course desirable. ‘ The first reason for submitting the motion for suspension was that, owing to that admirable celerity with which the Senate works we have cleaned up our business-paper. In this regard I may be permitted to say, without making; any invidious distinction, that the Senate is an admirable example to many legislative bodies in this country. Another reason why I submitted the motion was that owing to the fact that we had disposed of the business presented to us there is no other work available today. It is obvious that if we dispose of this measure to-day the Senate can, without detriment to public business, and possibly to the convenience of honorable senators generally, see no necessity to meet next week.
– Is not that a bit ‘of a bribe?
– I do not know that it is. I regard all honorable senators as being much beyond the reach of bribes.
– Of course, there are exceptions.
– As my honorable friend suggests, there may be an exception. I am merely stating the facts, and honorable senators can draw their own deductions from them.
This is a very simple Bill, inasmuch as it is one with which we are familiar from having to deal with, corresponding proposals every year. It authorizes the Govern ment to spend the sum of £1,257,000 out of revenue on certain public works which are detailed in the schedules attached to it. I need hardly tell honorable senators that if these works are approved by the Senate it is desirable that the Department charged with their construction should be free to proceed with them at the earliest possible moment. The only point which may occur to honorable senators is the one of policy, and that is as to how far public works should be constructed out of revenue and how far out of loan. But there is no need for the discussion of that point on this Bill. The works now submitted to the Senate for its approval will be constructed out of revenue, and if honorable senators should feel disposed to demur to the constructing of works out of loan the place for their criticism will be, not on this Bill, but ‘ on the Bill in which they will be asked to vote loan moneys for the construction of other public works.
The present proposals of the Government, as covered in this measure, involve an expenditure of £1,257,000 out of revenue as against an expenditure of £4,301,000 out of revenue last year. The later proposal to be submitted to the Senate will be one to provide for an expenditure of £2,750,000 out of loan. But, as I have said, that is a proposal which’ can, and, I think, should be dealt with on its merits, and does not in any way affect the present one. The public works proposals of the Government for the cur rent financial year amount to £4,000,000, as against £4,301,000 in the last financial year. Even these figures hardly disclose the real nature of the reduction that has been made, because last year £4,301,000 was spent. Honorable senators know from past experience that the amount voted by Parliament, that is, the Estimates, is rarely reached. There is almost invariably some portion of the amount which is unexpended at the end of the financial year. If the experience of the past is repeated it is obvious that the expenditure for this year will show a very considerable reduction on the expenditure for last year. With these few observations I submit the Bill to honorable senators.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) [11.151. - I notice an item of £11,000 in the schedule to this Bill to cover expenditure at the Federal Capital. A considerable time ago it was decided to establish the Federal Capital at Canberra. Up to date we have spent approximately £2,000,000 on the Federal Territory. Now, apparently, the total expenditure proposed there for the current financial year is to be cut down to £11,000. If the proposal to construct the Federal Capital at Canberra is to be entirely abandoned by the Government they should be honest enough to say so in a straightforward way. For various reasons almost everything that has been attempted at Canberra has been thwarted, and now a vote of only £11,000 is provided to continue the construction of the Capital. That is very unsatisfactory, to my. mind. I realize the difficulty of removing the Capital from one place to another, but I am not sure that it would not be far better to abandon Canberra as the Federal Capital altogether than to proceed at this snail’s pace with its construction. Honorable senators who have visited Canberra know that a very efficient water supply system has been provided there, a power house has been constructed, and substantial brickworks have been erected. Other improvements have also been made there, but apparently all the expenditure upon these works is to be regarded as only so much wasted money. The public and the Senate are entitled to know what really is the intention of the present Government with regard to proceeding with the construction of the Federal Capital.
I believe it is intended to undertake preliminary work in connexion with the establishment of an- arsenal at Canberra, and some expenditure has already been incurred on this account. I should like to say that, while I have no objection to the appointment of a chemist at £750 per year, or to his being provided with every possible office and other accommodation, the first thing the Government should do in connexion with the construction of the arsenal is to recognise that workmen will be required for the work, and that suitable house accommodation should be provided for them. I have previously referred to the disgraceful accommodation provided at the Federal Capital for the men employed in the construction of the power house, and for some who are now employed at the brick works.
– What item is the honorable senator now referring .to ?
– I am referring to the proposal to construct an arsenal at the Federal Capital.
– That is not covered by this Bill.
– I know- there is a vote on the Estimates for the purpose, and I am reminding the Senate that all Governments have failed in the past to provide decent house accommodation for working men employed at Canberra. It is no doubt quite the correct thing to supply a house, which, I understand, cost more than £2,000, for the Administrator of the Federal Territory. It was quite correct, also, to provide up-to-date house accommodation for permanent and semipermanent officials employed there; but I am complaining that the ordinary working men- employed at Canberra have been expected to provide their own house accommodation, although they are only intermittently employed, and are frequently decorated with the order of the sack. That is a kind of thing that should be stopped. If the Government can afford to spend thousands of pounds in providing house accommodation for the Administrator and other officers, why cannot they furnish proper accommodation for the workers employed ‘at the Federal Capital ? People wonder why workers jib and object to the conditions of their employment. The marvel to mo is that they should be so tame as they are. If they gave more consideration to the mat ter they would not . work at all until they received better treatment.
– The honorable senator is preaching a doctrine that is popular just now.
– It is all very well to be told that kind of thing by honorable senators opposite and their friends, who never knew what an honest! day’s work was, and would not know how to ask for a job if they were out of employment.
– How long is it since the honorable senator worked ?
– I do not like even to think about work. It makes me quite ill. I do not suggest) that Senator Millen ever did any work an all. I strenuously object to the neglect! on the part of the Commonwealth Government to provide decent house accommodation for workers employed at Canberra. I had some photographs taken of the workmen’s huts there which would form a most interesting exhibition. This Commonwealth is sufficiently’ wealthy to provide proper house accommodation for workers at the Federal Capital. Why should working men be singled out for this invidious treatment while the permanent officers employed at the capital are so well looked after?
We have received no information from the Vice-President of the Executive Council as to how the vote of £11,000, to which I have referred, is to be spent. I was at Canberra the other day, and it appeared to me that the brick works were closed down, and construction work at the Cotter River dam was stopped. The powerhouse a’pparently has been completed, and we should be told what is t’o be done with this vote of £11,000. Is iti proposed to expend this money on the- construction of workmen’s dwellings at Canberra? I was informed some time ago that plans had been prepared for house accommodation for workers at Canberra, but apparently nothing further has been done in the matter. Unless this money has already been hypothecated, I suggest that a large portion of it should be used to provide proper house accommodation for the workmen who will be employed at Canberra later on. The men employed at the Cotter River were provided with some kind of accommodation, but those employed in the construction of the brickworks and the power-house had to provide their own house accommodation, and some of the houses they erected did not cost more thoi £10.
– People would not be permitted to erect such dwellings in any other town in Australia.
– I do not know of any municipal authority that would permit the erection of such houses as were provided for working men at Canberra. One would think that this was done purposely in order to discredit the Capital site.I do not suggest that that was the reason for the course adopted, but that one would be justified in coming to that conclusion. All previous ‘ Governments have failed in this regard, and it is up to the present Government to see that proper house accommodation is provided for workers employed at Canberra, and especially if it is intended to go on with the erection of the arsenal.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in moving the second reading of the Bill, said there might be a discussion on the question of policy as to whether money for public works should be provided out of revenue or out of loan. I think that the honorable senator missed the main question, which is whether any money should be provided for new and unproductive works during the war. It seems to me that we do nob realize fully enough that at present we are in a state of war, and may require every single penny that we can borrow or obtain from revenue in order to conduct the war. When Federation was established, we were invited to believe that, by the amalgamation of a number of State Departments, we should be able to save a lotof money, but there has been nothing but squandering and extravagance in expenditure since the Federal Parliament came into existence. We are now engaged in a perfect debauch of expenditure. It is from this point of view that I direct special attention to this measure. We are asked to agree under this Bill to the expenditure of over £1,250,000. I suppose that most of the money has already been spent, bub I trust that we shall be afforded a proper opportunity to go thoroughly into these matters when the Estimates are before us. Why in the name of heaven should we be asked to spend £98,571 on quarantine stations? Why should we have elaborate quarantine stations established in time of war ? I have never had the misfortune to be quarantined myself, but some of my friends who have had the experience have told me that they spent a most enjoyable time in quarantine down at the Heads here.
– That is only one place ; there are seven quarantine stations, and they were all absolute wrecks when handed over to us.
– What was good enough for the people in peace time ought to be good enough for them in war time. We are becoming far too luxurious in Australia. Everybody wants a palace to live in.
– And some have palaces to live in. and others have hovels.
– Very few. I am not complaining of the working men wanting a better place to live in, but I strongly object to the building of enormous palaces at Canberra and at quarantine stations, particularly in time of war, when we have to go cap in hand to the British Government to borrow money.
– Is a £10 house too much for the ordinary worker ? Senator FAIRBAIRN. - I said I did not object to the worker having a proper place to live in. There are a lot of hovels about Melbourne that want sweeping away; they are a disgrace to the place. I will back the honorable senator up in every way in that matter, but it is perfectly ridiculous to build a palace at a quarantine station that is used only once in five or six years, and generally located in very healthy surroundings, forming a sort of seaside resort.
Another proposal is to spend £86,000 odd on new post-office buildings. We have many magnificent post-offices already. We have done for many a year with the splendid building in Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, but another one has been erected at the corner of Bourke and Spencer streets at a cost of £211,000. I congratulated the Deputy Postmaster-General the other day on actually dwelling “in marble halls,” whereas the poor working man, as Senator Grant says, has to live in a £10 house. Of course, the postal officials had to walk upstairs in the Elizabeth-street building, but I dare say it did them good, as it gave them a little exercise.
– A lot of the country post-offices are starved.
– But is it fair to spend £86,000 on new and swagger buildings away in the country? What I fear is that we shall absolutely run aground for want of money to bring the soldiers back from the war.
– There is nothing in this schedule for any “marble hall” at the corner of Bourke and Spencer streets.
– I am simply using it as an illustration of the debauch of expenditure. If the honorable senator will come with me, I will show him the beautiful marble portico there. It is a place fit for the Doge of Venice to live in. The’ Senate ought to consider, as a matter of policy, whether the money provided in this Bill ought to be spent at all. I understood that in time of war the only new expenditure should be on reproductive works. New post-offices cannot be called reproductive, especially where we have something already that we can get along with for a time. To build new post-offices and underground telephone wires in these times is simply extravagance run mad.
– The question of maintenance comes in there. Senator FAIRBAIRN.- It might be necessary to carry on the present system at a little extra cost, but it is better to do that than go cap in hand to borrow money. We seem to have lost the sense of proportion. We talk of a million now as we used to talk of a few shillings a little while ago.
– A hundred millions is nothing to Sir John Forrest.
– Sir John Forrest’s celebrated saying was, “ What is a million?” But that means nowadays, “What is a hundred million?” I enter my protest here and now. I shall do it more emphatically when the Estimates are presented, but I want to call the attention of the Government now to the fact that we are at war. We can hardly realize that fact here. Our expenditure goes on increasing, and we do not knowwhere it will end.
– I call attention to the item of £25,000 for wireless telegraphy. I could have wished that some small sum up to £500 had been added for the erection of a residence for the radio operator atKing Island, if it is absolutely necessary to spend the whole of the £25,000 on radio works in course of erection or in contemplation. King Island is cut off from Victoria or Tasmania except for a small steamer service once a week or so, which ‘ in rough weather often becomes once in three weeks. Unless some provision is made for the erection of a residence for the officer there, I understand that the fiat has gone forth from the gentleman in charge of wireless telegraphy at the Navy Department that the station will be closed down. I yesterday asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy whether it was intended to close the station unless the residents of King Island provided the operator with a residence at their own cost. I charge the officer of the Department who supplied the answer read by Senator “Pearce yesterday with absolutely side-tracking the question, because the information at his disposal was certainly not given.
– The honorable senator can hardly connect that matter with the Works and Buildings Estimates.
– I want to suggest that the £25,000 voted in this Bill is not sufficient, because it is no use erecting a radio station if the man who has to work it has no residence. The residents of King Island cannot have wireless communication with other parts of Australia - and this might be necessary some day for defence purposes - unless the officer has a roof over his head. Perhaps those in charge believe in the sleeping-out treatment to such an extent that they want the operator to camp on the beach. The following extracts from a letter from him show what he has had to put up with: -
We arrived - only place, hotel, 5 guineas a week; and, well, you know, on my salary of £4 10s. a week, what this sort of thing is to me, so I simply had to wire the chief - with what result? He threatened to close down the station if the residents would not find me a house - again, result - offered one 9 miles from station, and another one in the town that was formerly a stable; and the carpenter told me that before he put down the floor he wheeled out 3 tons of horse manure; no windows in the dam place, and no stove for cooking. Kent. 15s. a week.
– When that station was in private hands, where did the operator live?
– I do not know. But if the Navy Department considers the station of sufficient importance to keep open, it should provide the necessary accommodation for the official, or say straight-out to the residents, “ We will have to close your station.” All that has eventuated up to the present is the halfandhalf sort of threat that I have described. The residents offered a house 9 miles distant, or, as an alternative, a house which had been a stable, and which, according to the letter, had no windows in the adjective place, at a rental of 15s. per week. The station accommodation is a disgrace to the Department, and the official incidentally mentions in his letter that all his furniture is still on the wharf being smashed to pieces. It seems to me that this is a queer way of conducting a business. It is necessary to provide communication for taxpayers who, by their geographical position, are absolutely cut off from the mainland or from Tasmania, except by means of a small steamer about once a week. Sometimes in rough weather they are shut off from the outside: world for two or three weeks. After many representations made in this Chamber and in another place, the authorities consented to give the people of King Island wireless communication. It was obvious, of course, that it would cost too much to lay an ordinary cable. The wireless station was first established, I believe, by a local resident, and subsequently it was taken over by the Commonwealth’ authorities. It is now under the control of the Department of the Navy, and the Government would not be extending generosity too far if they erected a small residence at a cost of £200 or £300.
– Perhaps provision is included in the item of £11,000.
– So far as I have been able to gather from replies to questions, I do not think so, but I am hoping to get a little more information before the Senate rises, as this is urgent, and probably we shall not be sitting next week.
– Would you regard an expenditure of £200 or £300 as satisfactory?
– I mentioned that sum, it is true, and I think that, providing the timber could be obtained on the island, suitable accommodation could be secured for about £500, and, perhaps, the Department of the Navy would be justified in limiting it to that amount. At all’ events, if this expenditure were authorized, the residents of King Island would then not have just cause for grievance as at present. The position is intolerable, because the man who is getting only £4 10s. a week is compelled to pay £5 5s. per week for accommodation for his wife and family at the only suitable place available. Small as this matter might appear from a national stand-point, it is urgent and important to the few hundred people living on King Island, and I hope it will receive attention.
– Can the Minister in charge of the Bill say what was the amount on the Estimates last year for expenditure on works? In his second-reading speech he mentioned the sum of £1,250,000 to be spent out of revenue, and that there would be a further Bill providing for expenditure out of loan to the amount of £2,750,000, making atotal of about £4,000,000 for this year, as compared with £4,300,000 last year. He added that the £4,300,000 was less than the amount passed by Parliament on the Estimates. How much less wasit ?
.- Before the Minister replies I desire to brine under his notice the question of a dwelling attached to a post-office at Huonville. It was well known, before the official now in charge received his appointment, that the house did not provide sufficient accommodation for his family.
SenatorO’Keefe. - He is one of the best officers of the Department.
– I know he has a very high record, and, as I have said, although the Department knew the accommodation was not sufficient, still he was sent there. He thought, however, that he had only to put his case before the authorities to insure further provision, but I understand the inspector has reported against making any additions to the building, The man is compelled, therefore, to suffer inconveniences which ought not to be allowed in a civilized community, and if there areany more such cases - and I suppose there are throughout Australia - there would be justification for spending not only the sum mentioned in the Works Bill, but a considerably larger amount, in order to overcome difficulties of this character. Of course, I can hardly expect that the Minister will be able to give details of expenditure such as this, but I hope he will take a note of the matter and see that proper provision is made for postal officials.
It lias occurred to me, also, that as the Commonwealth Government are endeavouring to launch a ship-building project, provision should be included in the Works Bill for the expenditure, but I do not notice any such item. Surely this money will not be provided for out of loans ?
Another matter to which I desire to refer is the proposal, made about three years ago, for a rifle range at Launceston. Estimates were then prepared, but that work has not been commenced yet. Three years ago it waa agreed there was a necessity for it, but when I made representations six or eight months ago to the Minister for Works, I was informed it was not considered urgent. I hope this matter will be attended to in the near future.
– In reply to the complaint made by Senator O’Keefe concerning the accommodation for the radio operator at King Island station, I may inform the Senate that the wireless station referred to has a rather interesting history. Some time ago Tasmanian senators made repeated representations, on behalf of the residents of King Island, that the wireless station which was then being worked, not by the Government, but by private persons for experimental purposes, should be taken over and operated on behalf of the people of King Island. At that time the Postal Department controlled radiography, and upon inquiries being made it was found there was no justification whatever for the course suggested, because the estimate of revenue was so insignificant that there would be a substantial loss on its working.
– Can the Minister say if the revenue from other radio stations meets expenditure?
– I could not say that, but the King Island radio, as a Government station, was asked for by the local residents, while all other radio stations have been established by the Department without any requests from local residents. Therefore, the King Island station stands by itself. One would naturally assume that when the position was put to the local residents they would realize that as the Postal Department could not be run at a loss, they would be expected to make the best arrangements possible in order to secure the convenience. They continued their agitation through members of Parliament, and at last the Government yielded to pressure, and agreed to appoint an operator. Now, what was the attitude of the local residents ? When the man was sent over to take control of the station, he found that the charge for his accommodation would be £5 5s. per week, or, as an alternative, that he would be expected to occupy a house which has been described in such scathing terms by Senator O’Keefe. These patriotic residents of King Island were anxious for the Government to come to their assistance, but when the Government did appoint an operator they provided for him a residence which has been described as unfit for a human being to live in, and for which they charged a rental of 15s. per week. I think, therefore, that honorable senators, instead of launching their invectives against -the Government in regard to this matter, should direct some of their indignation against the residents of King Island.
– I do not accept the view that the responsibility rested on them to provide a house.
– I point out to honorable senators that the station was not required for naval or defence purposes. It would never have been established, and would not be maintained for a day, so far as the Navy is concerned. It is maintained solely for the convenience of the local residents, who, in the circumstances, ought to provide the official with a dwelling at a reasonable rental, instead of offering him a building which, according to Senator O’Keefe, is not habitable.
– Are there not throughout the Commonwealth numerous wireless stations which are being conducted at a loss,, merely to provide the public with conveniences?
– My information is that this station stands by itself. There is not a station in Australia upon which there is such a dead loss. If the residents of any rural area desire the establishment of a telephone service they have to guarantee the Department against any possible loss on its working. The least that the residents of King Island can do is to co-operate with the Government by providing the wireless operator there with a suitable residence. The Government cannot undertake to erect a residence for him, because such a work would cost not less than £500 or £600, and would thus add considerably to the already large loss which is being sustained upon this station.
During the course of his remarks, Senator Guy referred to the question of the need for establishing new rifle ranges. The Government regretfully have had to take up this attitude: that all rifle ranges which are not absolutely essential to the training of >the Australian Imperial Force must stand over till after the war.
– Are no other rifle ranges included in this Bill ?
– None; except ranges for which contracts have previously been entered into. There has been, for example, a new rifle range erected at Liverpool, but that range is being used to-day solely by the Australian Imperial Force. The decision which has been arrived ab- by the Government- will, of course, affect all States. In normal times the Department would be pleased to provide new rifle ranges, but at a time like the present they are not justified in doing so.
– When was that determination arrived at?
– About four or five months ago. Where it is necessary to extend existing rifle ranges for the training of the Australian Imperial Force that course will be followed, but, subject to this qualification, the Government have decided not to provide fresh ranges until after the /termination of the war.-
– If no other honorable senator desires to speak, I would like to say a few words in reply to the criticism which has been levelled against the Bill. Senator. Grant asked for a declaration of the attitude of the Government in regard to works at Canberra. He wished to know whether the Government proposed to abandon works there. They do not propose anything of the kind. But they do feel that at a time like the present it is incumbent on them to suspend operations which are not immediately urgent, and from which no advantage can be obtained within a reasonably early period. It is not, therefore, intended to spend money on new works in the Federal Territory during the present financial year. The amount provided is to enable the Department merely to preserve the works already constructed, and to meet liabilities- from the previous financial year in repect of orders placed, but for which accounts had. not been paid prior to the 30th June last. That makes the position fairly clear, and in conformity with that policy the amount to be expended on public works during the current financial year has been reduced to the smallest possible dimensions, namely, £1,100,000. In regard, to the arsenal, ‘ I would point out that that work is not covered by this Bill. Senator Grant will have an opportunity of discussing that matter when later proposals are submitted.
Senator Fairbairn raised’ the question of whether we should spend any money at all oh public works at the present time, and urged that our efforts in this direction should be reduced as far as possible. As a mere declaration everybody will subscribe to that formula;, but it is a little difficult to go with the honorable senator if he means that we should immediately come down as with a guillotine and stop all ‘works. There are some works, war or no war, which, unless we are absolutely bankrupt, it will be advantageous to carry through. The Government have not attempted to shut down upon all ‘ works ; but, as far as possible, they have endeavoured to dispense with or postpone undertakings of less urgency than those which are covered by this Bill. The honorable senator picked out two instances to support his contention, but I do not think that he ‘could have been more unfortunate in his selection. He mentioned the works at quarantine stations, and said that surely we could dispense, with them in time of war. I am not aware that infectious diseases pick the time of their appearance to meet our convenience. There is a prospect of these stations being required just as much in time of war as in time of peace.
– They are quite good enough now.
– The whole of the amounts provided in this Bill will not be spent upon works which have not yet been commenced. Some of them come to us as a legacy from past commitments. In other words, they are intended for the completion of works that are now in hand . I am sure that Senator Fairbairn, with his business knowledge, will admit that it would be folly to leave a building incomplete.
– So these works represent the extravagance of the Labour party ?
– They represent works already in hand, but whether they were started by the short-lived Government which preceded the present Ministry, orby the Government before it, I cannot say. But the works are already in hand, and the amounts set down in this Bill are necessary to complete them.
– Why was not this money expended last year?
– If the honorable senator does not know it, at least thirty-five members of this chamber are aware, that when Parliament has approved of a particular work being carried out, it is not always possible to get the specifications prepared and the undertaking completed within the financial year.
– It ought to be.
– No doubt it would be if the honorable senator were Director of Works. The existing difficulty would be overcome if he would forsake his public career and accept that position.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive. Council guarantee that he will get it?
– I will if he can demonstrate his fitness for it.
Anothermatter which was referred to by SenatorFairbairn was the General Post Office, Melbourne. This occupies a similar position to that occupied by the works at the quarantine grounds. He spoke of the “ marble halls “ in the new building, but I would point out that the marble halls are already there. The amounts provided in this Bill are for the completion of works in hand, and for carrying out certain alterations to the old building in Bourke-street - alterations which have been rendered necessary because of the transfer of the main operations of the Post Office to the new building in Spencer-street. The intention is to alter the Bourke-street building in such a way that it will house some, at present, very scattered activities of the Post Office. It is thought that by this means the public convenience will be consulted, and that considerable economies will be effected.
asked me a very pertinent question as to the estimated and actual expenditure upon public works last year. I have already said that the amount thus expended was £4,300,000, and that the estimated expenditure was £5,500,000. This year the estimates total £4,000,000. It will thus be seen that there is a very great difference between the amount voted last year and the amount sought to be expended this year. Of the vote last year 22 per cent. was not expended. Although I cannot say that a similar unexpended balance will not remain at the end of the present financial year, it is manifest that if the same ratio be maintained, the expenditure this year will be only a little in excess of £3,000,000. I do not.wish honorable senators to misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that that saving will be effected, but it does seem reasonable to suppose that when Parliament is asked to authorize the expenditure of a smaller amount - as it is this year - a larger proportion of it will be spent. But presumably it will not be possible to expend the whole amount during the current financial year. I do not know that any other points have been raised by honorable senators which have escaped my attention, but if so, and I am reminded of them in Committee, I shall endeavour to supply further information.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Abstract agreed to.
– I wish to direct attention to the fact that there has already been expended on the east-west line more than £6,000,000, and that because of ineptitude, disregard for the public convenience, and inability on the part of the Minister of Works and Railways to settle a trivial dispute, on the eastern section of that line, work there has been suspended. We are informed that the estimated loss on the railway, at least for a number of years after it is brought into operation, will exceed £200,000 per annum.
– To which item is the honorable senator addressing himself?
– I am addressing myself to the item of £11,087 for Commonwealth railways on page 2.
– That item does not refer to the east-west railway, but to some votes for the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway.
– Under either the item of £11,087 for Commonwealth railways, on page 2, or the item of £5,621 for works and railways, on page 3, I am entitled to refer to the fact that the construction of the east-west railway is partially hung up. It is a most extraordinary thing that the Commonwealth is unable to so arrange matters that a trivial dispute must be allowed to exist day after day and week after week. Apparently, the men engaged on the western section of the line are to continue at work until such time as they will complete the gap of 50 miles between the two sections.
– I rise to order, sir. I direct your attention to the fact that Senator Grant is dealing with a matter which is not affected by an item in the Bill. The item of £11,087 in the abstract under the head of “ Under control of Department of Works and Railways,” is put there for the convenience of honorable senators. It is an abstract of the three items which appear on page 16 under the head of “ Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway.” It does not involve a single penny for the east-west railway.
– On page 3 of the Bill we are asked to re-vote the sum of £3,000 for works and railways in Western Australia.
– That is a re-vote for the Department of Works and Railways, and not for works and railways.
– Then this item refers to the Department only, and not to construction work?
– What are you worrying about in regard to Western Australia?
– What concerns me is that the Government are taking no steps to bring to an end a trivial dispute on the eastern section of the transcontinental railway. I think that I am entitled to direct attention to this matter.
– Before the honorable senator directs attention to anything I should like to have the Chairman’s ruling on the point which I raised.
– I have looked closely through the schedules, and I think that Senator Grant is not in order in referring to the east-west railway under cover of the three items which appear on page 16 under the head of “ Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway,” and which are summarized in the first section of the abstract.
– I wish to direct public attention to what the Government have done during the past few months in order to prevent the employment of labour. I find that Parliament voted for Works and Railways, £5,621; Home and Territories, £11,000; Quarantine, £12,781 ; Lighthouses, £1,000 ; Trade and Customs, £388; Defence, £116,798; Post Office buildings, £35,526 ; Commonwealth Railways, £5,992; Northern Territory, £17,893; and Papua, £285; making a total of £207,284. What is the use of the Senate placing sums at the disposal of the Government unless they are able to organize a staff which can judiciously expend the money?
– How much has been expended from the 30th June to this date?
– Up to that date the sum of £207,284 was not expended, but it should have been. There is no reason why the works should be closed down, because the Minister” can easily get money from the Treasurer’s Advance account.
– What are you growling about?
– I am growling because the Government, for reasons best known to themselves, have refused to employ labour and expend money placed at their disposal. The permanent officers must be going slow, either on their own volition or at the direction of the Government, when they refuse to advise the responsible Minister as to how the money ought to be expended. I hope that when the Government next appeal for money they will not show’ such a substantial amount unexpended at the end of the term for which it was voted. This is an effort to refuse indirectly to employ the workers of this country. I guarantee that the salary of the Minister and of every permanent officer will go on without the slightest interruption. The bulk of this sum of £207,284 ought to have been expended in casual labour, but for reasons best known to themselves the Government did not so expend it.
.- This Bill provides for the expenditure of £1,250,000 on public works out of revenue. I understand that later we snail have a Bill for the expenditure of £2,750,000 out of loan funds on works practically similar to those which we are asked to approve of to-day. I was glad to hear Senator Millen say that ‘the total amount placed on the Estimates last year for similar services was £5,550,000, and that of that sum only £4,300,000 was expended, showing a financial saving of £1,200,000, which I should describe as very necessary economy in war time, the money being required for more urgent purposes.
– It would be very interesting to know where the money was saved.
– I am surprised that Senator Grant, in war time, after the Prime Minister of England has publicly stated that the last £100,000,000 may win the war, should object to any saving being made by the Government.
– The salary of the Prime Minister has not been reduced during war time.
– Nor has that of the honorable senator.
– But workers have been discharged. 4
– Unfortunately, one is unable to debate in great detail Estimates of this sort.- The proposal before the Committee is that we should pass the sum of £486,679 in respect to works and railways items which cover over seventeen pages of the Bill. I wish to draw attention to two or three items which, in war time, could very well be done without. Some mention has been made of the accommodation for Commonwealth officers at Geraldton, in “Western Australia. Although the sum of £3,000 appears on the Estimates for the work, I understand that the ultimate cost will be £16,000. In roughly scanning over the items which make up this sum of £486,679, I find that approximately half of the amount will be devoted to the erection of new buildings. I invite the attention of the Committee to some of these buildings. I quite agree with much of the criticism passed by Senator Fairbairn on the item for quarantine, but I cannot understand the reason why, at this urgent juncture, when they are paying 5£ per cent, for money in London and issuing bonds at a discount of lj per cent., the Government are proposing to spend £9,000 odd on an animal quarantine station. Surely the provision we have for the quarantining of animals would do to go on with. Such expenditure, to my mind, does not show a due regard for the financial position of the Commonwealth. Under the head of “ New South Wales naval expenditure,” there is an item of £2,800 for alterations to stores and paving yard at Darling Island, an item of £5,000 for a new drill hall and offices at Rushcutter’s Bay, £400 for alteration to Naval Staff Office at Newcastle, and similar items throughout the schedule. I direct attention to the buildings at’ Garden Island. When the Commonwealth inaugurated our own Naval service, I understand that we took over the very large and commodious buildings which the British Admiralty had built on the island. Surely the storage and office accommodation which was good enough for the British Australian Cruiser Squadron was good enough, and sufficiently complete, for our own Naval Unit. The expenditure upon the Naval Bases will probably come up for discussion later on. There is an item down for the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. I believe that the information available to the Government is that the rifles made at this establishment cost, approximately, £7 each, whereas the estimate of their cost when the erection of the establishment was proposed was about £3’ 10s. each. The Government may also have information as to whether the rifles turned out at the Lithgow Factory have been found to be efficient. We are asked to pass these items in a happy-go-lucky way to carry on until next year, without knowing whether the Commonwealth is getting value for the money expended. I should like to remind the Committee of what is going on in England in connexion with buildings required during war-time. At the back of the Prime Minister’s residence, No. 10 Downing-street, they are putting up wooden huts for the temporary accommodation of officials who will be required only during war-time.
– I could show the honorable senator scores of similar erections at the back of the offices of the Minister for Defence.
– In many places we are- putting up magnificent brick and stone buildings. I do not know whether there are any marble palaces about Melbourne; but, apparently, according to these Estimates, at least £250,000 is to be spent on new buildings. 1 hold that it Is the duty of the Government, even though the Committee should agree to the votes they are asked to pass, to see that during the ensuing twelve months a firm hand is placed upon expenditure.
– Ifc would be better if we erected more Commonwealth buildings, and paid less rent.
– While I do not object to the item of £11,000 for works at Canberra during war-time, I agree with much that has been said by Senator Grant concerning expenditure there. I think that we must, ‘at an early date, consider whether we should continue the erection of new Federal buildings here, when that will make it more difficult for us in future to remove the Seat of Government from Melbourne. I was glad to be informed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that £1,200,000 was saved from the votes passed by this Parliament last year. As we shall be called upon to give our approval to votes totalling £4,000,000 for the ensuing year, I trust that the Government will make an effort to save even a larger sum this year than they were able to save last year, so that they may prove themselves a truly National Government. After all, the biggest question we have to face is the question of finance. I should like to ask whether the estimates of works controlled by the Postmaster-General’s Department are those submitted by the officers of that Department?
– Yes, as approved by the Cabinet.
– I have on previous occasions referred to the inconvenience experienced by soldiers’ widows who have received separation allowances, apparently under a misapprehension .
– Order ! I do not see how the honorable senator can connect allowances paid to soldiers’ widows with these Works Estimates.
– I wished to refer to the matter only incidentally. It seems to me that the Department concerned should deal very liberally with these widows. They filled in the customary forms and received separation allowance, apparently under a misapprehension.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in discussing that matter on these Estimates.
.- I should like an explanation from the Minister for Defence regarding an item of £6,500 to be paid to the credit of Trust Funds - Small Arms Ammunition Account. The Minister might give some information, also, about the vote of £10,000 for the Woollen Cloth Factory. Perhaps he can inform the Committee as to the amount of military cloth being manufactured, and whether it is up to our requirements. If so, we should be told what this vote of £10,000 is for. We might have a statement from the Minister, also, with regard to the Cordite Factory. Then there is an item of £8,000 for the Small Arms Factory. I should like to know what is going on in connexion with this most expensive establishment. We might be told what class of man is engaged there. The vote of £8,000 is set down for additions’ to the plant, and we are thus again invited to pile up the capital charge when it is questionable whether this establishment is worth the money which ifc has cost the Commonwealth.
.- With respect to the first item referred to by Senator Pratten, I may say that we have Trust Funds established in connexion with our factories. Those who draw upon our small arms ammunition have to pay for it, and various sums have to be paid into Trust Funds from the Treasury to make up deficiencies in the accounts which occur from time to time. This is explained, for instance, by the fact that the cost for ammunition charged to the various rifle clubs is not the cost to the Government, and the Treasurer must pay into the Trust Fund the difference between the cost to the Government and the cost at which ammunition is sold to the rifle clubs. As regards the Woollen Cloth Factory, I do not think the honorable senator could have expected that, without notice, I should be able to say how many thousand yards of cloth the factory has produced. It has produced a very large quantity of cloth, which, in the opinion of experts in the trade, is the best cloth yet turned out in Australia. The factory is producing sufficient to meet the requirements of the Defence Department, and part of the requirements of the Post and Telegraph Department.
– Sufficient for the over-sea- men ?
– Yes. The cloth is also being produced . at the factory at a rate equal to the rate of production outside. The vote appearing on these Estimates for the Woollen Cloth Factory is necessary to cover the cost of additional plant ordered some time ago, and which is shortly to be installed. The Cordite Factory has been very largely extended since the war began, and it has played a very important part in the supply of ammunition during the war. Although, perhaps, it may not be a fair’ comparison to make, I may say that, notwithstanding the fact that wages here are very much higher than they are in the United Kingdom, we are making cordite to-day more cheaply than it is made in England. I am in the happy position of being able to tell the Committee that the manufacture of big gun cordite has recently been undertaken at the factory. The vote appearing on these estimates for the factory is ‘required to pay for the purchase and installation of the plant obtained for the manufacture of big gun ammunition. Only this week the big gun cordite made in Australia was tested with big guns, and proved to be equal to the best big gun cordite imported. In connexion with these items the Commonwealth is certainly getting value for its money, and we have the further satisfaction of knowing that to-day we are in a position to manufacture cordite for big guns, whereas previously it was necessary to import all that was required. With respect to the Small Arms Factory it has to be borne in mind that it is of a very complex character. No one can say that in the past its operation has been altogether satisfactory, but its output has been increasing, whilst the cost per rifle has been decreasing. I do not say that the output is yet satisfactory. As a matter of fact it is not, and I have said so to those employed at the factory. I have been negotiating with them to endeavour to secure a better output.
– Where are the rifles going that are made at the factory?
– They remain in Australia, because until recently all the rifles we had were sent overseas, and we have now to replace them.
– How do they compare, as to cost, with rifles to be obtained elsewhere ?
– The cost is very much higher than that for which rifles could be purchased for some time before the war, but honorable senators have to bear in mind that during the first two and a half years of the war we could not get rifles anywhere at any price. When the war began it was not a question of the cost of rifles, because if we did not make them ourselves we could not get them at all. I may say, for the information of honorable senators who have sometimes been critical of delay in connexion with the manufacture of rifles at the Small Arms Factory, that although the British Government placed large orders for rifles with American firms at the commencement of the war, not a single rifle was delivered in fulfilment of those orders until eighteen months after the declaration of the war, although these firms had the rifles and all that was necessary was that they should be altered from one class of rifle to another.. This goes to show that the manufacture of rifles is not the simple .matter that the man in the street sometimes believes it to be.
– The American firms referred to may have had prior orders for other things.
-No, the orders for rifles were the most urgent, and yet not a single rifle was handed over to the British Government for eighteen months after the orders were placed.
– What did the honorable senator say was the reason for that?
– It was due to the complexity of rifle manufacture. There are a tremendous number of jigs and gauges required, and it is a very complex matter even to change from one class of rifle to another. The Americans used the Springfield rifle, whilst the British service rifle was an entirely different weapon.
– Is the honorable senator serious in telling the Committee that an American rifle factory’ cannot swing over from one type to another in less than eighteen months?
– Yes; I have it on the authority of the War Office itself that the American firm did nob produce a single rifle under that contract until eighteen months after the order was given.
– That is different from swinging over from one type to another.
– The honorable senator may assume what he likes as to the cause. I am telling him ‘the facts. I am only assuming the cause to be exactly the same trouble that we struck here - the complexity of manufacture, the number of different operations that have to be gone through, and the number of different parts of which a rifle is made up. I do not profess to be satisfied with the way in which our rifle factory has produced in the past. I am endeavouring to get a better system and a better output, and am glad to say that the output shows an improvement every week with some slight lessening of the cost. I hope that will continue, and that we shall get a rifle at a more reasonable cost. The efficiency of the rifle has been very satisfactory indeed.- We have reports in the Department, not only from our own, but from British, experts, on the rifle used in Egypt and Gallipoli. These reports are absolutely satisfactory. There were some reports that were not so satisfactory about rifles that were not sent overseas, but were used in Australia. The explanation is this - there was a first test at the factory, and then before the rifle was sent oversea there was another test made, and all those about which there was any doubt at all were eliminated. The rifles used in Australia had not passed the second test, whereas those used overseas passed both. Some of the former developed faults which were afterwards traced to their cause in the factory. That cause has long since been eliminated, and the rifle to-day is eminently satisfactory.
– Will the Minister give the Committee information about the item of £20,000 for the flying school? It is evident that aeroplanes are going to play an exceedingly important part in the future conduct of the war.
– Then the quicker we get the item passed the better.
.- It is because the Government recognise that aeroplanes are playing a very important part that this item appears. Australia can do very great service in training men here for flying in connexion with our
Armies at the Front. This and other items are for the purpose of extending the facilities for training and instruction at the flying school at Point Cook. By this means we shall be able to train more aviators, and do so more thoroughly, than in the past, because we shall have a better plant, better equipment, and better service generally. I may state for Senator Fairbairn’s benefit that all the buildings are of the plainest description, and include no palaces.
– Can the Minister state what proportion, if any, of the £10,000 allotted for armament and stores for fixed defences will be expended at the Thursday Island fortress ?
– I cannot say offhand. These are the ordinary normal requirements to keep the fixed defences in repair and supplied with warlike stores. Thursday Island will get its quota, but nothing extraordinary is included in the vote for that place.
– Does the Minister regard the fortress at Thursday Island as efficient ?
– The honorable senator will see that that is a question I am not likely to answer at this juncture.
– They are asking similar questions in the House of Commons. Why not here?
– And Ministers are giving similar replies.
– They are giving a great deal more information than is given here.
– What is being done about the proposal that ships shall be constructed by the Commonwealth Government? We see most conflicting reports in the press day after day of deputations and interviews, but it is impossible to ascertain what is really being done.
– That matter is not covered by this Bill.
– I take it that the item of”£50,000 for machinery and plant yard and floating plant, at Cockatoo Island Dockyard,” will provide equipment which will be used, partly at any rate, for the docking of the ships proposed to be built, and the Minister might, under cover of that item, tell the Senate what is being done, or whether all the talk is so much wind. There is an impression abroad that that is all it is, and the Government should tell the people whatthey are doing towards the construction of a fleet of ships.
– The item referred to by Senator Grant would appear in the Bill even if there were no project for building merchant ships. The work mentioned is necessary for equipment at Cockatoo Island, which is a naval establishment for maintaining our fighting vessels. The honorable senator should raise his interesting question on an appropriate occasion.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion(by Senator Millen) agreed to— Th at the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Senator O’Keefe this morning asked for certain information about the radio station at King Island. [See page 1417.] The following replies have been furnished: -
– Certain answers were given this morning by the Vice-President of the Executive Council to questions put by me about a speech made by the Minister for Works and Railways at the Commercial Travellers Club, regarding the promoters of the existing labour troubles in the eastern States. As one who has been for forty-two years an officer of one of the unions which has come out, I claim that any Minister making a charge such as
Mr. Watt made in public ought to give me the information on which he based it, so that I may have an opportunity to repudiate it. His statement is absolutely incorrect. None of the influences he refers to are at work in my union. There are influences which I am not going to mention, but they are neither American nor German. To brand me as an Industrial Worker of the World conspirator from America is unfair, and it is time the members and supporters of the present Government gave up travelling from platform to platform crying about the disloyalty of the men in the unions. It would suit them better if they made some attempt to settle this industrial dispute. I guarantee that’ if they sent Senator Pratten and myself to Sydney with full instructions, we would settle the affair in ten minutes. Fully 40 per cent. of the men foremost in this strike supported the Government at the last election. The men out on strike to-day are not disloyal. They are striking against the pernicious, damnable, sweating system that is being introduced into the industrial life of this country. The Government cannot deny that ‘this is so. The papers do not pub-‘ lish the facts. We do not hear a word about the appointment of eighty “ sweat “ bosses. Some of the men out on strike today were never in a union; in fact, they repudiated unionism and Labour politics altogether, yet to-day they are out against this system. Any Minister before he accuses me as a member of one of the unions of conduct such as is charged against us by Mr. Watt has a duty to make an attempt to settle the dispute.
– Mr. Watt made no reference to unions.
– He did. He is reported as follows -
He did not say that the men who struck were criminals, but he did say it of those at whose instigation and agitation the trouble arose. Driven out of America, members of the Industrial Workers of the World sought other spheres, and many had come to Australia. Evidence in the possession of the Government clearly indicated that these men were the chief promoters, throughout the eastern States of Australia, of the existing trouble.
The existing trouble is the railway strike, and the charge made by Mr. Watt is that the instigators of that strike are men from America, driven out of that country because they were members of the Industrial Workers of the World - an absolutely incorrect statement.
– When the Bitting of the Senate was suspended I was replying to a criticism made by one of the Ministers concerning the attitude of the men in the present industrial crisis. I resent the assertion that this trouble has been fomented by paid agitators, and that it is in the nature of a revolt against the Government. I maintain that just the opposite is the case.- The trouble - which is purely industrial and nonpolitical - has been brought about by the introduction of the obnoxious American Taylor system into the industrial life of Australia. I am going to show that it had been premeditated by a section of the employers. Speaking on the 27th May, Mr. Forwood, President of the Chamber of Manufactures, at a meeting in Sydney, said -
It had been resolved in the early part of the war, that every effort ‘ should be made by employers of labour engaged in manufactures to keep the wheels of industry moving, and they had a right to expect that the workmen would loyally assist in that direction. Nevertheless, a certain class of agitator had deliberately taken advantage of the Commonwealth being at war to stir up strife, with the result that there had been continuous trouble, many strikes, and the labour market had been practically in a state of chaos. Some of the strikes that had taken place in connexion with the Government and private establishments engaged in the manufacture of articles required for war purposes were a standing disgrace, to those who had formulated them. Manufacturers had been so harassed by the constant demands for altered conditions of employment and increased pay that a number have gone out of business, and very many had put money into the war loans that would otherwise have been used for increasing^ plants and improving methods of manufacturing.
It was frequently said that the only possible chance the people in the Commonwealth had got of preventing terrible trouble coming after the war was in the development of primary and secondary industries. The problems of how this was going to be successfully carried out were difficult to solve, but not insurmountable. Cutting of prices by manufacturers, for various reasons, and paid agitators, had caused trouble.
Mr. Forwood says very little about this phase of the trouble. He went on -
Agitators and sneak thieves should be boycotted in every industrial concern throughout Australia. Nothing was more certain to happen in the not distant future than the entire breakdown of the White Australia policy, unless the ever-increasing systems of strikes and “ go-slow “ were abandoned. Large quantities of goods manufactured by coloured labour had been admitted into Australia, and this_ quantity was constantly increasing. If Australia was to take the place in the world of nations that the wonderful climate and natural resources entitled her to, there must be a reversal of the existing relations between Capital and Labour.
In his opinion payment by results for services rendered was the better system to adopt, and this to be by bonus, a standard rate of pay being agreed upon for a given quantity of work performed, with an agreed bonus rate, payable every pay day, for all extra work performed. This was a method’ in operation in many American and Canadian factories, with great success, both to employers and workmen.
In order to bring about a better understanding between employers and “workmen conferences should be held between representatives on both sides for a law to be passed making it penal for any strike to take place unless a properly conducted secret ballot of the men engaged in any industry threatened was first taken.
– Whom are you quoting ?
– Mr. Forwood, President of the Chamber of Manufactures, and I agree with him absolutely.
– But piece-work is against your union rules.
– I agree with Mr. Forwood in the last portion of his speech. That is not piece-work. I am not a lover of strikes. I believe in making it penal to strike, but I would treat all sneak thieves alike - employers as well as others who cause strikes. On the day that Mr. Forwood made his speech, to which I have already referred, there was another strike in Sussex-street. It was not, however, a strike of workmen, but of retail produce merchants, and in the same paper the following report appeared : -
The strike fever spread to Sussex-street today.
It was not an industrial dispute, but a protest on the part of the Sydney and suburban retail produce merchants against the decision of the Sussex-street merchants to increase the price of Tasmanian potatoes by 15s. per ton on the rates ruling at the beginning of last week. Not a single bag of potatoes changed hands, and retailers pointed out that they will not buy at the price of £6 15s. per ton, the rate demanded for best redskins. They declared the price to be exorbitant, as there was no shortage in Sydney; in fact, there was a surplus. To-day’s arrivals totalled 10,200 bags, while the carry-over from last week was nearly 12,000. The wholesale merchants regard the situation as serious, and some are inclined to think that it will be necessary to meet the retailers’ demands.
But, behold ! next morning something happened. The strike-breaker, in the shape of John Chinaman, appeared on the scene, for the report proceeds -
The dispute between the wholesale Sussexstreet produce merchants and the city and suburban retailers over the increase of 15s. per ton in the price of Tasmanian potatoes, was settled to-day. The importers declined to give way, and the retailers were equally determined not to buy; but when they found that the Chinese had stepped in and paid the full rates and weresecuring the best of the brands, the “ strike “ gradually subsided, and the wholesale merchants had no trouble in securing the rates they demanded.
Just at the time that Mr. Forwood was proclaiming that strike agitators should be penalized, the wholesale produce merchants of Sydney were demanding an increase in the prices of produce. Who pays for this increase? The wharf labourer and others are called upon to make up the extra 15s. per ton demanded for those potatoes.
– Who gets it?
– That is what I want to know.
– The producer.
– No. I know, at all events, that the wharf labourer does not get it. Directly he wants an increase in his wages he is held up to the community as a man who is creating trouble and as one causing a rebellion. All these people ought to be in the same boat. At the time I had the audacity to reply to Mr. Forwood ‘s remarks, and I sent a letter to the Daily Telegraph, which refused publication, but I got it in the Sun, though it was cut out afterthe first edition had been printed.
I believe that if a little tolerance had been shown between employer and employee, the present strike could have been averted. For weeks, and indeed for months, a pistol was held at the heads of these men. They were told either to take the sweating system or leave it. I do not believe in strikes, but I am not going to stand here and allow any Minister of the Crown to speak about paid agitators fomenting strife when, as I say, all trouble could have beensettled amicably by a conference. Forty per cent. of the men in my union, the men who are now on strike, are behind the National Government, and they were behind them on the Referendum. Those men, however, are now out on strike to-day against this obnoxious Taylor sweating system. No private employer would have tolerated trouble over this matter for a week. The men who should be blamed are the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales. This system against which the men protest has been described by the employers as -
The substitution of a science for the individual judgment of the workman.
The scientific selection and development of the workman after each man has been studied, taught, and trained, and experimented with, instead of allowing the workmen to select themselves and develop in a haphazard way.
The intimate co-operation of the management with the workmen, so that together they do the work in accordance with the scientific laws which have been developed, instead of leaving the solution of each problem in the hands of the individual workman.
What is that but a sweating system? The men in the New South Wales Railways have always given the price of their jobs, and they are willing to do it to-day, but Government speed-bosses have been appointed - eighty-five of them, at £250 a year each - and provided with stopwatches to check the men. That is what this system is, and I say it is a crying shame that the Commonwealth Government should stand by and allow this dislocation of industry to take place, when all the trouble could be settled by negotiating with the New South Wales Government, as they would have done with any private employers had they been responsible for the strife. I resent the statement that unionists are responsible. I have been connected with unions in an official capacity for forty-two years. Whenever possible, I go to their meetings now, and I declare they are not agitators or Industrial Workers of the World men. Many of them have been in the Government establishments for twenty, thirty, or forty years. Do honorable senators think they would give up their work, and some of them within two years of their superannuation, without reasonable cause? This is not a revolt against the Government, but a protest against an obnoxious system, and the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales must be held responsible for this industrial upheaval.
– Do you believe in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay ?
– I do, and always did, and personally I never had any trouble, though I was for many years honorary secretary of my union, at a time when “ Tom “ Johnson was Chief Commissioner. I remember that, on one occasion, he sat down upon the present Chief Railways Commissioner for having caused trouble in the railways system of New South Wales. I knew, when the present Commissioner was appointed, that it would not be long before there would be unrest among the men, and all this could have been avoided if the Railways
Commissioners had- only held up their hands: If a few words of conciliation had been uttered the men would have been back at their work to-day.
In conclusion, I deplore the attitude adopted by one of the Ministers of the Commonwealth in proclaiming from the housetops that the men had been led by agitators, disloyalists, and anything else he likes to call them. Other members of the Commonwealth Parliament, in their speeches at the Town Hall, have indicated that they really do not understand the position, and evidently they had never endeavoured to_get at the real cause of the trouble. All they know is that members on this side are political opponents, and therefore they take advantage of every opportunity to “ put the boot in.”
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) [2.591. - Those who have had experience of State employment admit, as a rule, that it is more attractive to the general worker than private employment, but as one who has worked a good deal for private employers, as well as for the Government, I was never able to see very much difference between the two.
– Both are objectionable to you, I suppose.
– For the information of the Minister I may state that I have had the pleasure - if one can call it a pleasure - of working for many years upon a number of the principal public buildings in Sydney, so I know exactly what I am talking about. The honorable senator has never been known to do any work. But he is yet a young man, and we may live to see him retrace his steps and engage in a useful but honest occupation.
– He does a good deal of work here.
– When I speak of work, I mean manual work. I draw a very definite line between those who work mentally and those who work manually. No doubt, the Vice-President of the Executive Council does a good deal of mental work. The reason why persons prefer Government to private employment is because the work is more continuous and the pay more certain. Men in . the service of the New South Wales Railways Commissioners, who have been there for a great many years - some of them for twenty years and longer - who have never been known to take a very active part in industrial matters, are not likely to leave their employment without very grave reason. I can scarcely recollect a strike of any magnitude on the New South Wales railways. It should be quite obvious to any impartial observer that a man who has spent a lifetime in the railway service of that State, and who would find it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to obtain employment elsewhere, would seriously consider his position before he took the extreme step of going upon strike.
– Does not the honorable senator think that there are a great many men on strike now who did not wish to go on strike?
– I do not. Of course, it is every day stated in the Age and Argus, to which the honorable senator is no doubt subservient, that members of trade unions are led by well-paid, sleek, fat, bloated agitators.
– Is there no truth in that statement?
– None whatever. That class of individual is to be found only on the employers’ side. The man who thinks that he can easily lead a body of unionists in Australia should take on the job. Senator Guthrie knows that the task is a very difficult one. Every member of a union has one vote, and men do not go upon strike until they have given the matter the very gravest consideration. The New South Wales railway employees did not take this extreme step without first giving it the most careful forethought. To-day, the cost of living is exceedingly high. Within the past few years it has risen approximately 30 per cent. But the men’s wages have not been increased 30 per cent, during that period. Would the New South Wales railway employees throw up their jobs without very serious reasons?
– Railway employees have thrown up their jobs because they could not get three days’ strike pay.
– If the Minister for Works and Railways had done his duty, he would have found a way out of the difficulty to which the honorable senator refers, and work on the east-west line would still be in progress.
– He would have had to pay them for three days during which they were on strike.
– The Minister -waa prepared to pay them one-half of the amount which they claim.
– That was 50 per cent, too much.
– Seeing that the Minister offered to pay them one-half of the amount which they claimed, he must have been satisfied that there was some reason behind their demand. But, owing to his refusal to do the right thing, work on the eastern section of the east-west line has been hung up.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Minister should have paid men for the three days that they were on strike?
– I do not know the particulars of the case. But certainly the Minister ought to have found some means of satisfactorily settling a small difficulty of that kind.
– Arbitration is the law of the Commonwealth.
– The men employed by the New South “Wales Railways Commissioners were promised that during the currency of the war their industrial conditions would remain unaltered. Yet, despite that promise, the Chief Railways Commissioner sought to introduce into the railway workshops at Randwick a system of costing to which the men were absolutely opposed. The press of this country, with very few exceptions, has consistently and persistently put before the public the Commissioner’s side of the case, and has refused to put the employees’ side. One would imagine that the men were opposed to any card system - that they were against it being known how much any particular work was costing. But such is not the “case. As a matter of fact, in all private engineering establishments in New South Wales, at Cockatoo Island, and even in the Randwick workshops themselves, a card system is in operation. But it is not the system which the Chief Railways Commissioner desired to see observed in those workshops. No matter how frequently the press may declare the contrary to be the case, what he desired to ^introduce was a system of timekeeping which would have the effect of speeding up and dehumanizing the employees in those workshops. In these circumstances the men did the right thing in going out on strike.
– Just now, Senator Guy said that arbitration was the law of the land. Yet the honorable senator is now advocating resort to a strike.
– If the Chief Railways Commissioner was not prepared to submit to arbitration, what else could the men do? They have deliberately offered to place the whole matter in dispute before an impartial tribunal, and to abide by its decision.
– After they went out on strike.
– Before they went out on strike. Of course, there may be some men who are anxious to go upon strike, but I do not know them. Then the members of other organizations, acting in sympathy with the strikers, also ceased work. That is all right. When Germany began to walk over Belgium, was it not right for the other nations to come to her aid? The Chief Railways Commissioner of New South Wales endeavoured to foist the obnoxious Taylor card system upon the men, and they were quite right in refusing to accept it. Had they accepted it, it would have been merely a matter of time when the system would have been put in operation in other establishments.
– The Railways Commissioners of New South Wales did not propose to introduce the Taylor card system, so why talk about it?
– There is not one place in Great Britain where the Taylor card system is in operation to-day.
– Why right a phantom?”
– It is not a phantom. Senator Pratten does riot for a moment imagine that these men, who have landlords to keep, and who have to pay their rents every week-
– In Broken Hill they say they are not going to do that.
– Of course, the workers of Broken Hill are quite up to date. I should like to see the New South Wales railway employees devote as much attention to the question of land taxation as they are devoting to the Taylor card system. If they did so, they would soon make very substantial progress. The card system which the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales desired to introduce into the Randwick workshops is not in operation to-day in any part of
Great Britain. In very few places is it operative in America. It is a system which, if put fully into operation, would reduce men to the position of mere machines. This is how it would work. If, at Eveleigh, it required, say, three hours to do a certain piece of work, five or six men would be put on to that piece of work, perhaps not simultaneously - that would be too glaring - but at different times.
– You are only supposing this, you know.
– I do not mind relating my experience of this work, to see what the honorable senator thinks of it. At the Central Railway Station, Sydney, where I was employed for some time, every stone on the building was numbered. The first course was numbered “No. 1 course”; the second course was numbered “ No. 2 course “ ; the third course was numbered “ No. 3 course,” and so on up to the top of the building. If a man got the cornerstone that would be numbered 1 over 1; the second stone would be numbered 1 over 2 ; the third stone would be numbered 1 over 3, and so on; so that the man in charge of the building knew, not only who worked a particular stone, but the exact time he took. Let me now explain how it worked out. One man might commence a certain piece of work at 8 o’clock in the morning, and finish it off in twenty-four hours, that is in three days. Another man might commence a similar piece of work a week afterwards, and take twenty-five hours to do it. Another man might take twentyseven hours, and, perhaps, one man would take twenty -eight hours. Twenty-eight hours might be regarded as rather too long, but no visible objection would be raised to the man who took that time. There are hundreds of stones of exactly the same texture requiring the same amount of work. Another man came round, asked for employment, and got it. The foreman found that the last man who had come on the job could perform the work in twenty-seven hours. Consequently, the man who took twenty-eight hours was noted. He might get a further trial on other work, or he might not. The man who took the longest time on a piece of work was passed out without a comment. That is a card system which, I think, is fairly objectionable.
– Is that the Taylor card system?
– No. The Taylor card system is even worse than that one. The honorable senator, who has had no practical experience in the way of manual work of this character, will admit that even that card system is a fairly objectionable one, and one which, in my opinion, ought not to be tolerated.
– That system is in operation to-day in the Sydney Worker office.
– No system of that sort is in operation there. It may be remembered that a little time ago the men in the Worker office at Sydney went on strike.
– Because they had been printing strike stuff for years.
– These men went on strike, and were characterized by some very hard names by Labour men, who, since that time, have left the Labour party, and are now sitting on the opposite side. There is a very easy and very effective way of circumventing a card system of that sort, but I shall not go into that part of the business. Senator Rowell himself can think that out. The Taylor card system would mean that, in the workshops at Eveleigh, Randwick, Newcastle, and Bathurst, men would be put on to do exactly the same kind of work, not on the same day, and not, perhaps, in the same week. Their time would be carefully noted.
– Without the knowledge of the worker.
– Yes. It must be remembered that, under the Taylor system which Chief Commissioner Eraser desires to foist upon the workers at Randwick, the men themselves would not keep the time. They would not initial their own cards. They would know nothing about the matter from personal knowledge. The work would be done at each of these four establishments, and the average time taken at each establishment would be recorded. The work might take from three to four hours atEveleigh. The average time for the work would be, say, three and a half hours at Eveleigh, and then that would be regarded as the maximum time in which the work ought to be done, and it would be put down at that point: Of course, the man who did not) come up to the three and a half hours’ limit would stand a very good show of being passed -out.. Then the average time wouldbe taken at Bathurst, at Newcastle, and at Randwick, with the resultthat when the figures were all added together the average time for the whole of the establishment might be reduced to three and a quarter hours. That would then be re- garded as the maximum time to be allowed or performing that piece of work, and it would go on until only the most expert men could possibly reach up to the maximum amount of output. What would become of a man who was prepared and willing to do a fair average amount of work? Apparently he would be passed out at the earliest possible opportunity. There is no justification for that kind of thing. I am not one of those who would stand up and support any man who simply desired to hang on to his job, Every man should be prepared to do - andI think a great majority of men. are willing and capableof doing - a fair day’s work, but I do not consider that any man should be compelled to do more than he is physically capable of doing. I believe that that is what the Taylor card system - the system which the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales desire to introduce - really is.
– Do you believe that?
– It is a rotten argument. .
– There is nothing rotten in the statement, so far as I can see. I willingly admit that every man should do a fair amount of work.
– I should think so.
– I should think so, too; but the Taylor card system demands much more than a fair amount of work.
– You have not tried it.
– How could it demand more work?
– I have worked under a card system which was sufficiently stringent for me, and for everybody else who operated under it; but I do nob believe that it is to be compared, perhaps from the lack of opportunity, to what is known as the Taylor card system. If the honorable senator read an account of what that system really is, I do not think that he would for a moment support it.
– Where did you get your experience of it?
– I have had experience of a very stringent card system in connexion with the construction of the Sydney railway station. This is what Mr. Taylor himself says of his system, and he ought to know -
The first experiment be mentions took place in the Bethlehem steel works. A gang of seventy-five men were employed loading pigiron into trucks. Each pig weighed 92 lbs., andan average days work per man was loading 12½ tons for 1 dollar 15 cents. Taylor made the handling of pig-iron a mathematical study, and as a result of his calculations arrived at the conclusion that loading 47½ tons was a fair day’s work for a man. Out of the gang of seventy-five men one was specially selected to test Taylor’s conclusions.
He was subjected to a pyschological process, being impressed with the idea that he was. a high-priced man, and as. such he could earn 1 dollar 85 cents if he would do exactly as he was told. The man, a Dutchman, agreed, and under the system handled 47½ tons per day.
Another seven were again specially selected, hut were physically unable to do the task set.
On page 59, Taylor writes : “ Now one of the very first requirements for a man who is fit to handle pig-iron as a regular occupation is that he shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type.”
– Who is responsible for that statement,
– The author of the Taylor card system, of which the honorable senator is such a vigorous supporter.
– Is that Taylor’s paper from which you are reading?
– It is an extract from his own book, called the Scientific Management of Industry.
– It is very suspicious that you will not give the name of the newspaper.
– I am quoting from the Australian Worker of Thursday, 23rd August.
-The only newspaper which was courageous or fair enough to print that account from Taylor’s book.
– The article continued -
The man who is mentally alert and intelligent is for this very reason, entirely unsuited to what would, for him,be the grinding monotony of work of this character.
– Does it not all boil down to the. fact that the men do not want to let the employers know what they do?
– In the Randwick workshops, for years past, a card system has been in operation.
– Order ! I have listened to the honorable senator repeating that statement over and over again. I must ask the honorable senator to cease speaking if he has nothing more to say. This continual repetition cannot be allowed to go on.
– I have no desire, sir, to contravene your ruling. I only wish to say that there has been acard system in operation——
– The honorable senator has made that statement at great length several times, and there is no need for him to repeat it.
– The honorable senator who interjected appears not to have heard mo making that statement.
– Order! The honorable senator must obey my ruling. The fact that an honorable senator did not hear him make a statement is no excuse for his continually repeating it.
– Unfortunately, the daily press of Melbourne are not prepared to publish any statements of this kind. They carefully suppress them. As a consequence, the people of Melbourne will not have the pleasure of knowing what remarks I made on thissubject unless they read Hansard.
– Order! I have no jurisdiction over the press, hut the Standing Orders are mandatory that I must not permit the tedious repetition of remarks. I ask the honorable senator, therefore, to continue his speech in relation to new matter, and not to further repeat what he has already said.
– I shall endeavour, sir, to adhere to your ruling.
– But the honorable senator has no quorum to talk to now.
The bells having been rung -
– The time has expired during which the hells are to be rung, and there being no quorum present, the Senate stands adjourned until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 5th September.
Senate adjourned at 3.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 August 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170824_SENATE_7_82/>.