7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took .the chair at 11 a.m. and read prayers.
Payment of Commission and State Boards - Land SETTLEMENT and Land Taxation.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether a deputation of returned soldiers waited upon him during the week, and, if so, did he refuse the request of that deputation, and will he inform the Senate of the nature of the request and the reasons for his refusal ?
– No deputation of any kind has waited upon me this week,, but, in response to an invitation from myself and the Repatriation Commission, members of the Returned Soldiers Association’s Conference, now sitting in Melbourne, met the Commission ‘ in the Re- patriation Department’s rooms recently. They put forward there a request that the machinery under which the present Act is administered should be so altered as to provide for a paid Commission and State Boards to which their association should be entitled to nominate some members. My reply was that that was a matter foi the Government to consider, and one which in no sense was proper.-to bring before the Repatriation Commission, which was only required to administer the Act, but that I would, fully and faithfully represent to my colleagues in the Cabinet the views they had stated. I may say further that the Repatriation Commission invited the delegation to discuss repatriation problems with them, hoping to profit by the discussion, but the delegation declined to do that.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether it is a fact, as stated, that it is the intention of the Government to exempt from land taxation blocks of land purchased or resumed from private owners for the settlement of re- turned soldiers? If so, have the landowners been notified that their land will be more valuable in consequence of this exemption from taxation, and that therefore the effect of the proposal will be really to place in the pockets of the landowners the capitalized value - ‘ -
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled, in putting a question, to argue the matter.
– Is it not true that the effect will be to put the capitalized value of the taxation into the pockets of the owners of the land ?
– The view suggested is so much a matter of opinion that I fear it is impossible to give any answer that would be at all satisfactory to Senator Grant.
Ordnance Stokes, Leichhardt
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he has considered the advisability of discontinuing the erection of the Ordnance Stores at Leichhardt in view of the fact that the war has come to’ a close?
– No ; it has not been decided to discontinue them.
Shipment of Blue Peas - ‘Service on Queensland Coast.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister whether, in view of the comparatively greater value of blue peas over wheat, the Government will do their best to see that space is obtained for blue peas in any ships coming to Australia for the purpose of shipping Australian wheat overseas. I understand that various communications have been addressed to the Government regarding the importance of this matter, which is a burning question in Tasmania at the present time?
– The whole question of shipping in its relation to the ex- portation of Australian products is receiving the very close and serious attention of the Government. I shall see that the matter to which the honorable senator has referred is specifically brought under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister.
– In the absence of Senator Maughan, I wish to ask whether the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister is in a position to reply to questions which the honorable senator asked on the subject of the shipping service on the Queensland coast.
– Senator Maughan asked the following questions : -
I have received the following additional information to that already supplied in previous answers : -
Arrangements have now been made for the Adelaide Steamship Company’s steamers to call at Mackay on their trip northward, in addition to calling there on the voyage southward. The Deputy Controller of Interstate Shipping states that this alteration in the service is being made as a trial only, and that it is possible that the consequent alterations in the sailing dates at other ports may cause Some congestion .it those ports. The matter will therefore require to be reviewed later.
Arrangements have also been made for the s.s’; Levuka to make a special trip from Sydney to North Queensland ports and return, calling at Brisbane, Mackay, Townsville, and, if necessary, at Cairns. This vessel should help considerably to relieve the pressure on the passenger accommodation of the steamers at present in the service.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the shipbuilding policy of the Government if he will take into consideration, in regard to the Commonwealth policy of building wooden ships, the fact that within the last few days a wooden ship, built by private enterprise in Hobart, and able to make a deep-sea voyage, has been launched and has secured an Australian purchaser! Will the Government take that fact into consideration in connexion with any proposed extension of their shipbuilding policy?
– I shall see that the representations contained in the honorable senator’s question are placed before the Acting Minister for the Navy.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Arising out of that reply-
– Order! It has frequently been ruled that questions arising out of questions on notice may not be asked.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It provides for the raising of £1,242,194. Of this amount £902,786 will be required for various works, lands, and material, and £339,408 for redemption of Northern Territory loans. I direct special attention to these figures, to show that the amount proposed to be expended on works, material, and land resumption is comparatively small. The Bill covers a sum of £105,000, which will probably remain unexpended on the 30th of June, 1919; but the amount is included in the schedule, because the liability will be incurred within the present financial year. It is anticipated that the expenditure on works from the Loan Fund will amount to £72,2,63 less during the current year than it was during the financial year 1917-18. Provision is being made only for the completion of works already commenced and the commencement of works of a very urgent nature.
The money for the loan will be borrowed from the Australian Notes Fund - and I may mention here that the present earnings of that fund amount to £1,500,000 per annum. It is hoped that most, if not all, of the loan expenditure upon works during the financial year may be obtained from the earnings of the Australian Notes Fund.
– Does the figure stated represent the net earnings of the fund?
– Yes, the net earnings. Two matters of policy are involved in the Bill, and to these I direct the special attention of honorable senators. They are the Commonwealth Arsenal and the Naval Bases.
With regard to the Arsenal, if there is one lesson that the British Empire has learnt in this war, it is the danger of unpreparedness, and if there is one part of the British Empire that ought to have learnt that lesson more than another, it is Australia, but there is a tendency on the part of some people to have very short memories. Many people, in dealing with the question of preparedness in Australia, and of making Australia selfsufficient in the matter of war material, used to argue in this way: The British Navy will control the seas; so long as it does so, we shall always be able to get supplies, and there is, therefore, no necessity to expend large sums of money to make ourselves absolutely self-sufficient. Let us examine that argument in the light of the events of the war. There never was a time in the war that the British Navy did not absolutely control the seas, yet experience has shown that for the greater part of the time it was impossible to get supplies of war material to Australia.
– Did the British Navy have absolute command of the seas?
– Yes. This only shows that there are other factors than the control of the seas, which, those people lost sight of altogether. Our control of the seas was as near as possible to being absolute. No enemy flag could show itself on any sea in the world. It had to keep under the water, and if that is not absolute control I do not know what absolute control consists of. But our short-sighted critics never considered certain other factors which showed themselves during the war. We were unable to get supplies of all sorts of things to Australia. War supplies were also needed at the heart of the Empire itself. Great Britain found itself short of those things, and for a considerable period in the early part of the war was unable to supply itself with them, and had to call on neutral or friendly nations to furnish them. The Government feel that, with their responsibilities, they cannot lose sight of these lessons. In making this statement, I want it to be distinctly understood, that it is not .an abandonment by the Government of the principle that” Australia -must prepare to supply itself with munitions of war. A great deal of the criticism that has been directed at the Arsenal proposal is in that direction, and the conclusion the Government have come to is not in the slightest degree the result of that criticism. It is caused by altogether other considerations, which I shall now detail.
The Government proposals were first brought on, not by. this but by a previous Government when the war was raging, and when the end of the war was not in sight. Those proposals then had- to be dealt with on the best advice that we could get. A lot of people are very wise after the event, and ask, “ Why did you not get the best advice the Empire could supply?” The Government of the day and this Government tried to get that advice, and were told point blank by the British Government that they could not release any of their experts, for very obvious reasons, and could not even release Mr. Leighton, the manager of our own Arsenal, who was filling in England very important positions under the Ministry of Munitions. They told us that” the best thing we could do was to send a delegation to India, see what had been done and was being done there; and apply the lessons to Australia. We did -this. We got together a mixed Commission of the best men obtainable in Australia and sent them to India. Then came the question of the site. Honorable senators will remember that ultimately we got together a Commission of the very best experts that we could find in Australia to deal with that question. All sorts of men were on the Commission. They were not merely military men or engineers, but’ men such as .Mr. Delprat, who had considerable business and organizing capacity, and men representing the railway systems of Australia. That Commission pronounced in favour of the Tuggeranong site. Time went on; the various Governments met difficulties of a political and other character in bringing this question to fruition; and before the thing was actually set going, the war ended in an armistice.
That armistice opens up several entirely new factors in the situation. One of the most important is that it releases the highest experts in the Empire. The termination of the wax in victory also releases to the Empire a huge quantity of war materiel. That was a factor which did not exist until the armistice was signed, and no Government could have taken it into consideration until victory had been actually achieved. Victory having been achieved, that large quantity of materiel is released, and the basis upon which the previous Government and this Government were proceeding prior to the signing of the armistice is entirely altered in consequence. They were proceding on the assumption that it would be necessary to start from bed-rock to build up our resources and supplies of warlike materiel. To-day we know that we can meet all our existing requirements from the stock of material that the war has released. Then there is the question of the Peace Conference, which may, and it is hoped will, drastically alter international relationships, and possibly provide greater security for peace-loving nations such as Australia. “We all wish that that may be done, and it is possible of realization. If realized, it will throw an entirely new light on the necessity for the supply of war materiel, and the amount to be supplied. Then the third and very important factor is that the termination of the war will enable the Government to have these proposals thoroughly criticised and analyzed by the highest experts from England. Since the termination of hostilities by the armistice, the Government have been giving very close and serious consideration to these matters, and in view of their important bearing on . the question, they have decided to defer the commencement of operations at Tuggeranong, and have cabled to the British Government to -ask them to release Mr. Leighton, the general manager of our Arsenal. Throughout the war he has been occupying the highest responsible positions under the British Ministry of Munitions. When some people in this country decry our own experts, that fact should be remembered. Mr. Leighton went there as the manager of our Cordite Factory. He comes back equipped, not only with the technical knowledge he possessed before the war, but with the added experience he has gained through the important part he has played in actually creating arsenals and factories in England during the period of the war.
– Can you specify any position he has occupied there T
– He is on the central organization of the Ministry of Munitions, and has been engaged by them to lay out and superintend the erection of workshops, munition factories, and explosive factories of various kinds. We are asking, not only that he should be released, but that he should be accompanied to Australia, if possible, by two or three other experts of differing types, who will be able to examine this proposition in all its bearings. That communication has already gone, and, in the meantime, the Government do not propose to carry on any expenditure ‘ whatever on the Tuggeranong site. But it is necessary that we should retain the vote in the schedule to this Bill, because we hope that those experts will be immediately released. We assume that when they come here they will be quickly capable of giving us an opinion on the work that they think should be gone on with. By the time they arrive we shall probably know the decisions of the Peace Conference, and, armed with that information about the outlook, and with their advice as to the lines on which the work should proceed, this vote will enable us then at once to make a commencement.
As the matter of the Naval Bases affects a Department other than my own, I ask the leave of the Senate to read a statement dealing with it. (Leave granted.) “ In September, 1917, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), at the instance of Cabinet, submitted a request through the Naval Board of Australia to the British Admiralty for advice as to whether the experience of the war rendered necessary any fundamental revision of the Henderson scheme for Naval Bases. It was desired to know whether the Commonwealth should proceed with the works at Cockburn Sound as projected by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice; whether the primary Naval Base as described by Admiral Henderson in his report were still required, or whether any important modification could be indicated ; whether the Admiralty was continuing to build Naval Bases on those lines; whether our present naval developments as regards ships and bases should proceed .as at the time or whether the Commonwealth should proceed faster or slower or differently in the light of the experience of the war. “ On 24th January, 1918, the Commonwealth Naval representative in London cabled that he anticipated that a reply which was about to be sent through the Colonial Office would advise a continuance of developments at Sydney and Flinders as recommended by Admiral Henderson; that the work at Cockburn Naval Base should be proceeded with up to the completion of the first stage as advised by Sir M. Fitzmaurice; and that developments in connexion with all other bases, &c, should, as far as practicable, having regard to existing financial commitments, be suspended until the end of the war. The Naval representative added that the Admiralty were not then able to give the question the close consideration that was necessary, but that they would review the whole situation, and furnish a preliminary reply as soon as circumstances permitted. The Naval representative followed up his cable by a letter (30th January, 1918), in which he mentioned that the Admiralty had suggested in a tentative fashion that, possibly on the conclusion of the war, the Commonwealth might desire to have further personal advice from some senior Admiral, but that he had said that he had not received any intimation of any such intention on the part of the Commonwealth, and that the suggestion would, perhaps, come better from Australia than from the Admiralty. He had perused the statement drawn up by the Director of Plans at the Admiralty, which was made entirely from a strategical point of view without any consideration of the political and financial sides of the question. The Admiralty ultimately concurred in his suggestion that the matter would not be confined to the strategical aspect. They did not appear to thoroughly appreciate the peculiar political divisions of the several States, and seemed to think that the Commonwealth could entirely ignore the States in all matters of Defence policy. Further, that the general trend of thought as regards the development of the first primary Naval Base in Australia should be devoted to the expansion of Sydney. The difficulties of expanding Cockatoo Dockyard were also not recognised by them. The
Naval representative added that he was satisfied that the report as furnished to the Board by the departments concerned was not considered to have thoroughly got to the bottom of the situation, and that the Admiralty had, therefore, stated that the whole question would be reviewed at a later date, and a further report furnished if desired. “ The Admiralty was again approached, and replied iu general terms as follows, in a despatch dated 23rd May, 1918:- It had given, much preliminary consideration to this important matter, but with regret had arrived at the conclusion that it was impossible in the present circumstances, to devote to it the amount of full and detailed investigation demanded by the magnitude of the interests involved, for the reason that the members and officers of the staff were at present continually occupied in consideration of urgent questions directly connected with the war. In several important respects, moreover, the experience of the war could not be considered definite enough to enable the Admiralty to base upon it recommendations that would affect the execution of a scheme extending over a considerable number of years. They, therefore, thought it necessary to defer giving a final opinion until a fuller and more careful investigation could be made. They felt sure the Commonwealth Government would concur that this postponement was advisable. As soon as it was practicable they would be prepared, if the Commonwealth deemed it desirable, to select one or two naval officers with full experience to visit Australia. In the meantime they offered the following advice on the course which they thought it desirable to pursue in the immediate future in regard to works actually in hand: - Pending full consider a lion of the whole question, the development of Sydney should be proceeded with in accordance with Admiral Henderson’s scheme ; that Flinders Depot, which was understood to be nearly ready for use, should also be completed. .Cockburn Sound to be completed up to the first stage of the scheme laid down by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, but not to be carried beyond that point for the present. With those exceptions, it was suggested that the development of the various bases proposed in the Henderson report be temporarily suspended in all cases in which it was practicable to do so without serious inconvenience or financial loss. “ The Cabinet considered the matter, and decided to request the Minister for the Navy in London to get into personal touch with the Lords of the Admiralty, to see whether it was not possible, in view of the indefinite nature of the former Admiralty advices, to secure the services of a first class expert from Britain, who would be qualified to advise the Commonwealth Government as to how far if at all, the bases and fleet programme involved in Admiral Henderson’s scheme ought to be varied in view of the lessons of the war and the financial position and prospects of the Commonwealth. “ Sir Joseph Cook replied that he was in close contact with the Admiralty, and thought he would be able to arrange for a visit from one of the most eminent of the British Admiralty, and hoped to be able to advise in a few weeks. “In October, 1918, Sir Joseph Cook asked by cable how far the stoppage of work at the Henderson Base would render useless the work already done, and suggested that we get the opinion of the Director of Naval Works. He also asked later (6th November;. 1918) for information as to the progress’ of the work. This information was duly sent to> him on the 22nd November, and the Acting Prime Minister added a note for the information of Sir Joseph Cook, as follows : - ‘ Strong and increasing feeling in. Parliament and press against this expenditure. I think a wise course would be to. practically sus- pend work until Admiralty expert visits Australia and. reports.’ “ Cabinet again considered the whole question,, and determined that, as Flinders Base was so near completion, and transfer of Naval Depot at. Williamstown was involved in its completion, all necessary works there should be pushed on without delay. “As to the Henderson Base, in view of the fact that certain dredging works might be seriously injured’ if dredging now stopped, that this and some related works should be- conducted as salvage and pre- servation undertakings, but that all other works, the prime cost of which would be heavy, were to be postponed until the British expert visited Australia and reported.”
In regard to that matter, the position at present is this: The Government are proceeding to do whatever work is necessary at Sydney, and we are asking for a vote in this Bill to complete Flinders Base, but it is proposed to suspend operations at Henderson Base, with “the exception of such work as may be necessary to prevent loss of money already expended. Our engineers advise us that if the dredging of channels were to be suspended, there is a strong probability that the whole of the dredging already done would silt up, whereas if the cutting of the channels were continued, the necessary scour would be caused, and thus the channels would keep open. That, and some reclamation works, are about the only operations that are to be continued at Henderson Base until the naval expert arrives and reports1 on the whole scheme.
– What is that work likely to cost?
– I think it will be a very small matter, involving practically only the wages of the men engaged and wear and tear of machinery. The Government feel that this is the maximum amount of work that ought to be done.
But it is obvious that, as about £500,000 has been spent at Flinders Base, and as the land and buildings at Williamstown are only in the way of shipbuilding, and were only a temporary arrangement as far as the Naval units are concerned, we ought to complete the’ Flinders Base. It .is considered that about £150,000 or £160,000 will do this. The expenditure involved in this Bill will be carried out along those lines. The Government are still in communication with the British Government in regard to the visit of these experts. We are given to understand that there wilt be no difficulty, and that experts will be made available at an early date. Probably the Government will be able to make an announcement shortly in regard to this matter.
– Do I understand the Minister to say that some of the money has already been expended?
– I take it that is so, because we have had Supply Bills. The practice is that each month, until we actually pass the Loan Bill, a Supply Bill is introduced, dealing with current expenditure. This Bill includes all such liabilities and provides for commitments for the rest of the financial year.
– Then -this Bill includes money already spent and to be spent ?
– It is the vote for the financial year.
– I desire to say a few words on this matter. I hail with the greatest satisfaction the (pronouncement that the Minister (Senator Pearce) has made on the question of future naval and military expenditure on account of loans, particularly in relation to the Arsenal and “the Naval Bases. It will be remembered that at various times in this Senate a great amount of ‘doubt has been ‘expressed as to whether or not the Government were going in the right direction in completing the ‘scheme laid down by Admiral Henderson for the Naval Bases, and in .undertaking the construction of the Arsenal while the war waa on. We have been assured from time to time by responsible Ministers that the course then being pursued was the correct one, and that it had the indorsement of the most expert opinion; but to-day the Minister has told us that, owing to the signing of the .armistice, .and the changed conditions of the war bringing about a more favorable international outlook, it is advisable to review the whole position in regard to naval and military expenditure. I repeat that I hail with considerable satisfaction the attitude of the Government in relation to these two matters. We know that part of the money has already been expended, and in this Loan Bill there are items of about £300,000 on account of the Bases, and £150^000 on account of the Arsenal. The Government are taking the correct an<l business-like course in hanging up this expenditure until the international position has more fully developed. Fortunately, we have achieved victory, and it is the hope of every member of this Senate that armaments will be very largely done away with in the future, and tEat if Naval Bases are required at all, they will be for the accommodation of an international fleet, under the British flag, to keep the freedom of the seas. Clearly, another world’s war cannot happen for a long time to come. Consequently, expenditure on naval and military matters can be indefinitely postponed. I am glad that the Government have decided not to hurry in this matter until the international situation is cleared up, and I hope thai; if eventually these proposals are completed, they will be in some modified form., and in consonance with the very best expert advice that the world can give.
Expenditure on works such as these has been continued, probably, on the advice of departmental officers. I regard such advice as not unprejudiced.’ Probably in many directions we have built up officialdom and, shall I say, a circle of officials whose interest it is to continue the expenditure of Government money in certain directions in order to keep their billets. But there are many directions in which we can economize, and I hope that leathers such as these will have the keen attention of Ministers. I am confident that the pronouncement of the Ministry to hold up these works indefinitely has given a great amount of satisfaction, because this expenditure, I am sure, has caused honorable senators very much concern.
Shipbuilding has been mentioned this morning by the Minister. That is another matter which, to every thoughtful person, must be one of grave concern. The Commonwealth has been committed to the expenditure of some millions in connexion with contracts for ships, and it is already known that wooden vessels are a complete failure so far as possible future profit is concerned. Contracts have been entered into, with no time limit, for more wooden ships, and as far as I can see, when we return to normal, pre-war conditions we shall lose at least £1,000,000 as compared with the world’s post-war parity of prices. I hope that the Minister will consider what the position of the Commonwealth will be when the whole of these ships have been completed, and their cost has been ascertained. In that direction, too, I think that we ought to proceed slowly. Of course, I recognise that all that has been done has been done under war conditions, and I am not suggesting that it has not been rightly done; but I am sounding a note of warning. I do trust that the Government will not rush into further contracts at this juncture
– They have not intimated their intention of doing so.
– I am perfectly justified in sounding this note of warning. Certain acts may be very commendable in war time, but now that the world is rapidly getting back to normal conditions, the placing of any further contracts for ships should be deferred for the present.
– We want all the ships that -we can get.
– I disagree to some extent with the interjection of the honorable senator, because it assumes that we want all the ships we can get at any price.
– - Yes, at any price.
– My information is that in about twelve months we shall return to normal conditions, and that a ship, which to-day is worth £40 a ton, will then be worth not more than £20 per ton. Consequently, we shall be wise if we feel our way forward cautiously.
Of course, I recognise the necessity for establishing the shipbuilding industry in Australia. Ten years ago I stated publicly that I should hail with the greatest satisfaction a proposal that Australia should build her own ships, in her own dockyards, out of her own iron, with her own workmen, and that she should pay for them with Australian gold.
– Ten years ago the honorable senator said that, and yet today he says, “go slow.”
– I do not wish. to be misunderstood. But this is certainly not the time to go quickly either in regard to the building of our Arsenal, the construction of our Naval Bases, or in letting contracts for the building of ships at ‘war prices. This is a most important matter to the people of Australia, and the success or failure of our efforts will largely influence them in the future.
– According to the press statements this morning, about forty new ships are to be put on the Australias trade.
– Yes, and the Government are endeavouring to cancel contracts into which they have entered foi the construction of wooden ships in America. I do not desire that Australia shall be prejudiced in the future in regard to the shipbuilding industry.
– Clearly the Government take the same view if they are seeking to cancel contracts.
– Exactly. While it may never be necessary to build our Naval Bases or our Arsenal on the lines that have been laid down, it will be necessary to establish the shipbuilding industry in Australia using our own iron ores. I do urge the Government not to be satisfied with hotch-potch contracts and temporary expedients in connexion with the launching of a few thousand extra tons in Australian waters, but to proceed with the shipbuilding scheme upon a foundation which will be successful, and which will prove lasting, not only during our time, but during that of future generations. If we mishandle the position now we shall largely prejudice for a long time our .chance of establishing the industry upon a firm foundation.
I hail with the greatest satisfaction the changed attitude of the Government in connexion with our Naval Bases and the Arsenal. A similar attitude was taken up by some honorable senators more than 12 months ago. While the Ministry have been slower in arriving at their decision than we would have liked them to be, I am glad that they have at last arrived at it.
.- Now that Senator Pratten has constituted himself the Leader of the Opposition, I extend to him a cordial invitation to come across the water. It is the usual practice for Senator Gardiner, as Leader of the Opposition, to follow any Minister upon the introduction of a Bill. However, that does not matter. I congratulate the Government upon the fact that they propose to borrow the money which will be required under this Bill, from the Australian notes fund. By adopting that course the Commonwealth will not be £1 richer nor £1 poorer than it is now.
I wish now to refer to the policy of the Government in connexion with our Military and Naval Bases. In view of the intimation published in this morning’s newspapers from President “Wilson that warfare is about to cease, and that nations are to be disarmed, it would be foolish indeed for us to incur any huge expenditure under these headings. This morning I asked a question in regard to the money which it is proposed to spend upon the Ordnance Stores at Leichhardt. That proposal ought certainly to be knocked on the head. The expenditure on wool stores at Wentworth Park, Sydney, ought to be similarly dealt with. As one who has recently had an opportunity of visiting our Naval Bases, I am convinced that the gravest mistakes have been made. The money which has been spent upon them has been absolutely squandered. The most idiotic schemes I ever saw have been perpetrated on the people of the Commonwealth at these Bases. At one of them, a wharf has been built on dry land, and the water is being brought up to it. In Western Australia, too, there should be a huge dockyard established if we are to have a Fleet Base there. But the Henderson Naval Base is the very worst spot in Australia at which to locate it. There a big basin is being made in order to permit large ships “to enter it. But even if these works aTe stopped, it will be necessary to continue some expenditure at out Naval Bases if we are to avoid scrapping some of the expensive plant that is in use there. I am convinced that we shall have -to look round for a more suitable Base than can be provided at Cockburn Sound. It will cost so much to make that Base available to any sort of man-of-war that the scheme is altogether out of the question. Such’ a Base must necessarily be one at which, in time of war, large ships may be repaired. Surely there are places in Western Australia at which a graving dock could be established in substitution for the obsolete floating dock which has been suggested. “A floating dock is never built where it is possible to construct a graving dock. If we are to have floating docks at the Henderson Naval Base, four of them will be required, and, under pre sent conditions, it will take thirty years to build them. God knows what the world will be like at the end of that period, so far as war is concerned.
In regard to the shipbuilding scheme mentioned by Senator Pratten, I am one of those who never favoured the Government proposals in relation to the existing conditions of working. But while the Empire was at war I deemed it my duty to remain silent upon that question. To-day, I find that the Commonwealth Government have just been fined £50 for having broken anaward of the Arbitration Court. Theyare attempting to set up a tribunal of their own against the tribunal which has been established throughout the Commonwealth. Now, whilst it may be expedient in time of war to constitute a somewhat different tribunal, it is obviously their duty in time of peace to carry on the shipbuilding industry in the same way as any other industry is carried on.
– There is no vote for shipbuilding in this Bill.
– I am aware of that, but the Minister mentioned it.
– I did not.
– Then the Leader of the Opposition ( Senator Pratten) did. I really thought that when he spoke of it he would have been pulled up by the President. I have nothing further to say on the Bill. In view of the large amount of business that we have to transact, we might as well put it through as soon as possible.
– By way of personal explanation, I extremely regret that I rose immediately the Minister for Defence (,Senator Pearce) had concluded his remarks. I did not see Senator McDougall at the table at the time, and was under the impression that you, sir, were about to put the question without debate. I exceedingly regret my apparent discourtesy to him and to my nonable friends opposite, and hope that they will accept my explanation.
– I wish to know why it is necessary for the Government to pay any money for the resumption of land in the Federal Territory. An item is set down for the year amounting to £12,000. I was under the impression that the Federal Territory belonged to the Commonwealth. There seems to be an extraordinary amount of money asked for in connexion with the resumption of sites generally. Altogether the sum set down for the current year totals £133,725. I would be interested to peruse a return furnished by the Government showing whether the persons claiming the various amounts are paying taxation on their land up to its full value. One point in particular, regarding which I hope to hear an explanation, has to do with the sum of £8,035 for land for a laboratory at Royal Park, Melbourne. Is this a duplication, or portion of a duplication, of the expenditure of £20,000 recently voted in connexion with the establishment of the Institute of Science and Industry? Or is it an entirely new vote for land which will be required in connexion with the Arsenal? If that be so, I want to know why the Arsenal laboratory is not to be at Tuggeranong. I understand that for the present the Government have abandoned the project of building an Arsenal at Tuggeranong; but if those works are built on the Federal Territory, it would be very much better to have the laboratory there also. I understand that no actual work has yet been done at Tuggeranong, beyond some preliminary matters having to do with the proposed railway.
I am dissatisfied with the manner in which workmen at Canberra have been housed. Housing accommodation on the Federal Territory has been a standing disgrace to this and past Governments. If the Government intend to build an Arsenal at Tuggeranong, they should see to it that suitable housing accommodation is provided’. The workmen should know with reasonable certainty that their employment will he continuous. If it is good to employ a chemist at £750 per annum in the laboratory years before the Arsenal has been constructed, and to provide him with a .permanent position,, it should be equally right to give the ordinary workmen equal security of tenure, and to provide them with decent housing accommodation. I understand that certain steps have been taken with regard to this matter, but I would like to hear some assurance that housing at Tuggeranong will not be overlooked.
Some time ago I was present at the site of the Henderson Naval Base, and, while I do not profess knowledge of what is required at a Naval Base, it appeared to me to be an entirely unsuitable site for the purpose. Reverting to the provision of housing accommodation for Government workers for all Government establishments, it would lead to much more satisfaction if some definite assurance were given now. It is not right that the Government should treat their workmen differently from ordinary permanent officials. Certain bricklayers were employed at Canberra some time ago; but it was a disgraceful fact that they had to pay their own fares to the Federal Capital.- Why should permanent Government employees receive full return for their outlay upon fares while ordinary workmen are not accorded the same privilege ? The men who do the actual manual labour should be treated just as fairly as individuals whose time and qualifications are permanently given to the Government.
– As a considerable portion of the money to be provided in the Bill is practically for war purposes, I desire to say that while the war was in progress I yielded to no man in my desire that everything should be done to help Britain and the Allies. I felt it my duty to assist in carrying out the pledge that, if necessary, we should give our last man and last shilling in bringing the war to a successful conclusion. But I agree with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that the signing of the armistice has put an entirely different complexion oh the whole situation. It means peace upon out terms, and that Germany must pay what we demand. The armistice, as it was arranged by Marshal Foch - and God bless him for having made it so stringent - has placed the enemy entirely in the power of the Allies, to do with him exactly as we may deem fit. The war is virtually over, and we are to have peace. I trust it will be so lasting that the world shall not see any further wars.
We have won the greatest war in the world’s history. We have won it from a stage when we were not in the slightest degree prepared. That first army of the British nation was alluded to by our enemies as “ A contemptible little army.” Australia practically had not a gun to shoot with; and yet we and our Allies have won the greatest conflict known to the world. Having emerged victorious, are we now to go on building up as though there were another war to be waged next week?
– On a point of order, is the honorable senator in order in discussing the war upon this measure? I am merely asking for information, as I, too, am anxious to make reference to the same subject.
– I understand that the honorable senator is not discussing the war at length, but is referring to the fact of the war having practically come to an end, and is contending that that is a reason for an alteration in his attitude towards the measure under discussion, The honorable senator is entitled to do that, but he would not be in order in discussing the war itself at length.
– If there is any honorable senator who considers that I am disloyal in my utterances, I will concede this: To have made certain of my statements prior to the 11th November might, perhaps, have been looked upon as somewhat disloyal. The point which I desire to make clear is that the Bill seeks to provide for the expenditure of money practically upon preparations for the continuance of warfare. It is intended to manufacture munitions of war, and to complete Naval Bases. But it will not be necessary within the next 100 years to make great preparations for further warfare. It should not be forgotten either that munitions deteriorate actually within one or two years after their production. What is the use of all this great expenditure in building up an Arsenal and completing Naval Bases? One would think that we were just about to enter upon a conflict instead of having emerged victorious from the greatest of all struggles’. I would stop all unnecessary expenditure at this juncture in relation to munitions of war. We are not wise in pushing on with huge expenditure in view of all the circumstances. I do not care what America may be doing, or what may be the intention of any other country. Rather than enter upon further preparations for battle, it should be our intense desire and effort to make a lasting peace.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to make any statement as to what is being done, or is contemplated, to make provision for workmen’s houses at Tuggeranong? I referred to the matter during the second-reading debate, but no explanation of it was made by the Minister in reply. I ask the honorable senator now whether any steps are being taken to secure that workmen employed at the Arsenal will be properly housed?
– As I have said, the whole of the works at Tuggeranong are to be deferred until we have received expert advice on the whole question of the Arsenal. I may mention, however, that in the plans, as laid out, provision was. made that the works first to be commenced were the construction of the railway and the construction of buildings on a proper scale for the men who would be employed in connexion with the Arsenal. The vote for the purpose included the amount required for houses for the men on a decent scale.
– I notice in the schedule an item of £8,035 for land for a laboratory at Royal Park, Melbourne. It seems to me that that is an extraordinarily high price to pay for land for a laboratory. It should not be necessary to establish such an institution upon valuable city land. There is, I have no doubt, plenty of land around Melbourne, suitable for the purpose, which could be secured for as many hundreds. of pounds as the number of thousands of pounds set down for the purpose in this schedule.
.- The land referred to is in North Melbourne, and is required for the Serum Institute. Of course, land in a hig city like Melbourne is fairly expensive.
– This land is at Royal Park?
– It is adjacent to Royal Park. It is really within the city boundaries.
– Are we buying the whole park?
– No, a block of land close to the park. Any one who knows that part of Melbourne must be aware that land there is very valuable.
– Can the Minister give the Committee any idea as to the area that is being purchased?
– No, I cannot. As we must have scientists associated with the Serum Institute, it is advisable that it should be established near the University, where scientists will be available. I would remind Senator McDougall that, under the Lands Acquisition Act, the Commonwealth can acquire land at a fair valuation. The interests of the Commonwealth .are, therefore, safeguarded, and honorable senators can depend upon it that the Government will not pay more than the real value of the land. The amount set down is the estimate of the Department of the amount probably required for the land.
.- In his speech on the second reading of the Bill, the Minister referred to certain big items in connexion with which economies are to be effected; but I notice in the schedule a number of smaller works, to some extent associated with the larger works referred to, in connexion with which I think there is room for economy. Under the Department of Defence, there is an item of £8,000 for the Acetate of Lime Factory, for ma chinery and plant, and towards the cost of the factory. Now that we have been successful in winning the war, there is no urgent necessity to go on with this work; and I should like some statement from the Minister to show that the Government are prepared to economize in connexion with these smaller matters. There is a further vote of £10,000 for the Acetate of Lime Factory under the Department of Works and Railways. I should like some assurance that it is the policy of the Government to put the pruning-knife in all round, and not solely in connexion with the expenditure on the Naval Bases and the Arsenal.
– I think there is always a danger of the public, the press, and Parliament taking up economy as a catch-cry, without analyzing what is really meant by it. Here is a factory, on which we have spent upwards of £100,000. It is now beginning to produce, and will make Australia selfcontained in the supply of an article which, we have always hitherto had to import, and will use as raw material something, which has hitherto been allowed to run to waste. The votes in this schedule are required to complete the Acetate of Lime Factory, and make it efficient. Would it be economy to cut these votes out, and prevent the factory working properly and efficiently? The matter has only to be considered to show that that would be the most foolish and spendthrift policy that could be pursued. It would be “spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar.” We cannot stop the production of munitions. If we did so, Senator Foll would be one of the first to complain that rifle clubs throughout Australia could not secure ammunition for their practice. They cannot obtain it unless we make cordite to fill the cartridges, and the Acetate of Lime Factory supplies the acetone required in the manufacture of cordite.
– I do not suggest that it should be wiped out altogether.
– I am afraid that, quite unconsciously, the honorable senator is playing up to the catch-cry for economy which is repeated in the press, in which certain items of expenditure are starred day after day, without any consideration as to whether it would be true economy to avoid that expenditure. I am not addressing Senator Foll alone in this connexion; but I suggest that every honorable senator should consider what is proposed in connexion with each item, and remember that it would be folly, and not economy, to cut out such a vote’ as that set down for the Acetate of Lime Factory, when the completion of the Factory will give us a new industry in Australia, and enable us to utilize raw material which has hitherto been allowed to go to waste.
.-The land to be purchased at Royal Park for the laboratory may be worth £8,000.
– I have ascertained that there is no vote for the purchase of the land in this Bill.
– It is one of the items of “the schedule.
– That is so’; but if the honorable senator will look at the second column of the schedule, he will find that the vote for the purchase of this land has already been made available under an appropriation by a previous Act.
– Am I in order in referring to the vote?
– The honorable senator is quite in order.
– Anyhow, the money has been spent.
– Speaking from memory, I believe that the amount set down for the purchase of this land is more than was paid for the site in East Melbourne, oh which the huge Commonwealth Offices have been erected. We have forty different offices in about fourteen different streets in the city of Melbourne, and we are now to have another Commonwealth property in another street. The reason given by the Minister why a site for this laboratory is necessary close to the University is a nonsensical reason for the purchase of land at such a price. Lands are purchased, and buildings erected for the Commonwealth with apparently no idea of the necessity for economy. Even in connexion’ with the furnishing of Commonwealth offices there is evidence of the most extravagant expenditure. I do not know who is responsible; but I enter my protest now against the high price proposed to be paid for a site for this laboratory. I have recently assisted in the investigation of matters connected with the renting of premises by the Commonwealth Government, and I suggest that this is one of the votes in connexion with which economy might be practised.
Senator Colonel ROWELL (South Australia) [12.25]. - Can the Minister give the Committee any information with respect to the Murray waters scheme? Now that the war is at an end, I consider that it represents one of the most important works going on in Australia. The Commonwealth Government are liable for a certain amount of the expenditure involved in the construction of the Murray River works, and I should like to have some information as to what is being done in connexion with the scheme.
.- I agree with Senator Rowell that it would be true economy for Parliament to push on with the completion of the Murray waters scheme. Anticipating that a question would be raised on the subject, I have the following information to supply to the Committee in connexion with the vote : -
The amount of £99,000 is the Commonwealth Government’s contribution towards the actual and estimated expenditure on works and investigations pursuant to the River Murray Agreement for the year 1917-18 (and the period prior thereto), and the year 1018-19.
The total amount which it was estimated would bes required during the financial year 1917-18 (including an expenditure of £188,000 incurred by the three constructing authorities prior to the date of the appointment of the Commission) was £420,000 - the Commonwealth Government’s quota being £90,100. Owing to the fact that the Commission’s investigations into the expenditure incurred prior to the 31st January, 1917, were not completed during that year, the moneys which the four contracting Governments were asked to furnish were not drawn upon during the year 1917-18.
The Commission’s estimate of expenditure for the year 1918-19 was £209,000; but, as it was estimated that a balance of £168,000 would be available for moneys asked for in connexion with the previous 3’ear, the total amount which the four Governments were asked to contribute during the current year was £41,000 - the Commonwealth Government’s share being £8,D00.
The total amount which the Commonwealth Government has been asked to provide for the years 1917-18 and 1918-19 is £99,000.
These are the steps now proposed to be taken -
The River Murray Commission lias urged the three contracting State Governments to furnish to it, at the earliest possible moment, the general schemes of works to he carried out by the three States under the Agreement.
The importance of the River Murray scheme from the point of view of the provision of employment for returned soldiers, and in connexion with the making available of land for settlement purposes, has recently been brought under the notice of the three State Governments, who have been asked to use every endeavour to place their proposals in the hands of the River Murray Commission at the earliest possible date.
Within the last few clays the Commission has been advised by the New South Wales and Victorian Governments to the effect that a decision has been arrived at regarding the site for the Upper Murray storage, which work, when completed, will provide for the storage of 1,000,000 acre-feet of water. The site decided upon is that at the junction of the Mitta and the Murray.
The surveys and investigations being carried out by the three Governments referred to are well advanced, and it is ‘anticipated that plans, estimate of cost, &c, in regard to this work will be in the hands of the Commission within, the next few months.
Surveys are proceeding in regard to some of the locks and weirs to he constructed ‘by tire New South Wales and Victorian Governments, and it is expected that the proposals in regard to two or three of such locks and weirs will be forwarded to the Commission shortly.
In regard to the South Australian section of the works, the work at the lock at Blanchetown is proceeding. The South Australian Go,vernment have submitted their proposals in regard to the Lake Victoria storage, and two further locks, which will receive the consideration of the River Murray Commission at its meeting to-day and to-morrow.
Honorable senators will see that this important matter is receiving attention and consideration.
.- I listened with attention to the statement made by the Minister with regard to the Murray waters scheme. In view of the large sums of money that are being called for under the provisions of the Act of 1915, arrangements should be made whereby members of this Parliament can personally view the area.. While the land on both sides of the Murray is probably all that could be desired for settlement purposes, as large sums are to be spent there year after year we should be enabled to make a. fairly comprehensive inspection, which could be done inside of three weeks or a month. If that were done, I consider it would .pay handsomely. Will the Minister also inform us what area of Crown land within the Murray basin is available for irrigation purposes ? It is all very well to say that the Government have the right to resume land under proper conditions, but, while no doubt they will pay fair compensation to the people concerned, we ought to have an idea of how much Crown land is available in the area, and how it is proposed to make it available for settlement.
.- The terms on which the land will be made available , is a matter entirely for the State Governments and Parliaments. The Commonwealth has no control over the land. I shall see that the honorable senator’s suggestion, that a party of members should visit the proposed works, is brought under the notice of the Minister who has control of the Murray waters question.
.- The item, “Land for lighthouse purposes, £7,984,” appears in the schedule under the control of the Department of Home and Territories. Is that part of the scheme put forward by Commander Brewis some years ago, and does any of the money represent purchases of land in Queensland? Commander Brewis strongly recommended that certain sites for lighthouses should be secured round the continent, and specially indicated that certain lights should be constructed on the Queensland coast, which he considered the most dangerous and badly lighted of all.
– He was as emphatic about our north-west coast.
– He was very emphatic, also, about the north-west coast of Western Australia. I was interested to hear the Minister mention economy, and, judging by the details’ of the Bill before us, there is no doubt about their economy so far as Queensland is concerned, because the only vote that I can discover having reference to Queensland is a sum of about £800 out of a total commitment of over £2,000,000.
– “What about the Acetate of Lime Factory? That is to be in Queensland.
– I thought .that was purely a Victorian matter. This Bill is on a par with a good many others that we have had in the last few years appropriating Commonwealth . public funds, because most of the money seems to be appropriated for New South Wales and Victoria. I am not speaking in a parochial sense. -There may be some very good reason why more public money is not spent in Queensland. I should not like to think, it is because we have a Labour Government in power there..
– I have not the exact details of the places where land is to be resumed,- but the following items appear in the schedule under control of the Department of Trade and Customs : - “ New lighthouses, including upkeep of vessels for construction work, and optical and other apparatus for lightships, £16,000 “ and “ Additions to existing lighthouses, £11,515.” The question raised now by ‘Senator Maughan was raised when the Works Estimates went through, and I read a schedule to the Senate at the time. My recollection is that quite two-thirds of that vote was for the Queensland coast, which was considered one of the danger spots of our coast-line, and carries a heavy traffic. I am now informed that the whole of the item to which the honorable senator has referred is for Queensland.
Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) ri2.38]. - Honorable senators have been querying the value paid for land at Royal Park, Melbourne,. but it strikes me as remarkable that this large sum of money is asked for to purchase land for lighthouse purposes, considering that lighthouses are generally placed on isolated portions of the sea coast, which- cannot have much value.
– Probably I can set the honorable senator’s mind at rest on that matter. Included in this item is the purchase of land at Brisbane for a depot for lighthouse stores, such as beacons. That is what makes the total so high.
, - I am pleased to hear the Minister’s explanation, because it seemed extraordinary that such a large sum should be spent, for lighthouse sites, considering where lighthouses are usually situated. I make bold to say that the State Governments should give the Commonwealth whatever land is necessary for lighthouse sites, and I hope that in the future it will not be necessary to pay any more money for that purpose. I can quite understand that payment for land in Brisbane for a lighthouse dep6t may absorb the whole of this item.
– It is a big sum even for that.
– It is fairly large. I am sura the State Governments, if appealed to, will not charge high prices for land for lighthouse sites, which must almost invariably be waste Crown land. I trust that feature of the matter will be insisted on in any future negotiations.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill resid a’ second time, and reportedfrom Committee without Amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 12.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181206_senate_7_87/>.