8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Eon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) if he will consider the advisability of arranging for literature to he available at the various offices of the Repatriation Department, setting forth the advantages to be obtained in the different States in connexion with land settlement?
– Following on the remarks made by the honorable senator yesterday on the Supply Bill, I have already taken steps to see that a communication shall be sent to the several State Governments to know whether they will co-operate with my Department in that direction.
The following papers were presented : - Defence Act. - Regulations amended. -
Statutory Rules 1920,Nos.111 and
Hallways Act. - By-law No. 15. War Precautions Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 119.
– I asked a question yesterday in reference to the powers of the House Committee in reference to the pay of officers of the Senate, &c, and I understood the President to Bay that he would give me information in reply today.
– I asked that the question should be handed in in order that I might supply the information asked for, but I find that it was not handed in. I cannot be expected to remember the wording of a lengthy question. I suggest to the honorable senator that, as the Senate will shortly be going into Committee on the Supply Bill, he might, when the vote for the Parliament is before the Committee, state what he desires to- know, and possibly the information can be supplied . to him then.
– I shall hand in the question. I am sorry that I did not hear your request for it.
War Bonus to Officers of the Senate - Public Service Associations and Returned Soldiers.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Question. - 1. Will he take the necessary steps to see that the war bonus of £20 -per annum granted to the various Public Service Associations is made available to those members of the Public Service who, on account of duties, classification, &c, cannot become members of an association, although willing to do so? 2.. Will the Prime Minister also see that the bonus is made retrospective to all officers now debarred from receiving it?
Answer. - The necessary action has already been taken in the direction indicated by the honorable member.
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I shall have inquiries made, and furnish the honorable senator with a reply as soon as possible.
Provision for Appeals
asked the Minisler representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to appoint a Board to hear appeals against land valuations as recommended by the Crown Lands Valuation Commission! denator E. D MILLEN. - The question of the appointment of the Board is under tho consideration of the Government.
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Treatment of Informant
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Should I be in order in resentingsuch a mean method of answering questions?
– No; the honorable senator would not be in order in commenting upon the answers to questions on notice.
– The honorable senator cannot shape both question - and answer.
– To answer a question in thatmeanand petty way is beneath the dignity of Parliament.
– I move.
That this Bill ‘be now read a second time.
This is a Supply Bill to cover payment for the ordinary service of the Government for three pay days. The previous Supply Bill passed this session was for one month. It will be seen that the amount provided for in this Bill is slightly ‘ in excess of 50 per cent, of the amount provided by the previous measure, on account of the inclusion of a third pay day, whereas the previous Bill covered only two pay days. There are no items in this Bill to which I think . it, necessary to direct the attention of the Senate, but, should information be desired upon any of the items, I shall endeavour to answer any queries made by honorable senators, and to place before them such facts as they may desire to become acquainted with.
– There is a matter connected with the Prime Minister’s Department in which I take an interest and to which I should like to refer. I should be very glad if the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Mill en) would be good enough to give honorable senators some little information as to what the Commonwealth ships are doing. I understand that we now have a fleet of boats engaged intrading.’ It is possible that a report upon what these vessels have been and are doing has already been supplied ; and I offer my apology if, in the multiplicity of papers which honorable senators received, I have overlooked it. I shall be glad if the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) willinform the Senate as to the number of ships we have, and the nature of the trades in which they are engaged. I noticed a paragraph in the newspapers’ to the effect that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has stated that the Commonwealth ships have had to face very keen competition fromthe Shipping Ring in Great Britain, and that the Government weremaking an effort to defeat them. I understand that, in view of the tremendous opposition by the companies in Great Britain, there was greatdifficulty in securing; sufficient outward cargo, and that in consequence the vessels of the Commonwealth
Line, have been despatched to other countries in order to keep them going. Although I have always been a keen advocate of the Government establishing a line of steamers, I am not in favour of the policy being continued if our ships are to trade with other countries, which will be the means of preventing the Australian people from deriving the benefits due to them. A line of Australian steamers should be the means of conserving the interests of the Australian people, and should not be run merely for the purpose of making profit. I know that we have to face a tremendous amount of opposition; but if we entered into the business in a determined way we should be able to defeat the Shipping Ring.
– We have to beat them, or be beaten.
– Exactly, and if we cannot do it we deserve to go down. Some time ago I said that we could defeat the objects of the Shipping Ring by lowering freights, because even if the Australian people had to make up the loss incurred on their boats they would be gaining by having goods delivered in Australia at a cheaper rate. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) informed me at the time that the companies were not lowering their freights but were adopting a system of rebates, under which any person who sent one ton of cargo by a Commonwealth vessel would forfeit the rebates on the whole of the cargo subsequently sent by the boats of private companies. Obviously this is a matter that we have to face, and I still think there is a way of competing on a fair basis without sending our beats to other countries. Would it not be possible for the Government to undertake the carrying ofmails by its own vessels between England and Australia?At present mails are carried under contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Company and the Orient Company, the latter company being subsidized by the Australian Government to the extent of £170,000 per year - that was the contract price before the war - and the former company by the British Government. The vessels of these two companies sail fortnightly, and we are thus given a weekly service. I would like to know whether it is not possible for the Government to undertake the work that is being done by the Orient
Company. If that were done and we. had a regular fast mail service there are certain consignees in Australia who must secure seasonal goods by fast vessels and who would ship by Commonwealth vessels. It is quite clear that consignees in Australia could not afford to send their goods by other than fast vessels, and if we had a fortnightly service our vessels would receive their patronage. If the consignee was in any way penalized by the Shipping Bing we would have the substantial support of Commonwealth merchants.
I understand that the mail contract with the Orient Company will expire within eighteen months or two years, when another contract will have to be drawn/ u,p. In view of these circumstances I shall be glad to know what the Government intend doing at the termination of the present arrangement, as there is no reason why the £170,000 - or whatever the amount may be- - now paid to the Orient Company by the Postal Department should not be paid to the Commonwealth Government.
.- I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer to a matter which I brought before the Senate during the last Parliament - namely, the pension allowances to our blind workers. On that occasion the Senate was almost unanimously of the opinion that something should be done to amend the Invalid Pensions Act in order that blind pensioners might be permitted to earn all they could without being penalized by a reduction of their pension allowance. At present, if the pensioner earns £62 per annum, he draws no pension; if he earns any amount below £62, he receives a pension allowance sufficient to bring his aggregate income up to £62 a year.
– On a point of order, Mr. President, I wish to know if the honorable senator is in order in discussing this matter on the second reading of a Supply Bill? I desire your ruling for my own information.
– The rule that governs the debate on this or any other Bill is that of relevancy. The subject of pensions is included in the provisions of this Bill, and therefore the honorable senator is entitled to discuss it.
– I thank you, Mr. President, for your ruling. If honorable senators will turn to page 5 they will see there an item £7,175 for Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office. That item, I contend, gives me the right to direct the attention of the Minister to this matter. I am not in the habit of inflicting long speeches on honorable senators.
– I think you have a record second to mine in this Chamber.
– Well, it is always -safe to follow a good man, and I am now taking the opportunity to bring this question of our blind pensioners’ allowances under the notice of the Minister, in the hope that before the Supply Bill is passed we may have a definite statement, of the Government policy. I have asked several questions as to this, matter, and have been told that it is under consideration, but, after all, it is so simple that it should require no consideration at all. The adoption of my suggestion would not lead to an increased, expenditure ; on the contrary, it would encourage production, because blind workers would then be induced to add to their earnings without the fear ‘of being penalized. This is a very moderate request, but it means a lot to those unfortunate people who have been deprived of their sight. Notwithstanding their disability they derive a great deal of enjoyment from life, and are particularly interested in the progress of their special industry of brush making, broom making, mat making, and work of that kind. I feel sure that- Ministers are in sympathy with the proposition. The vast majority of our blind pensioners accept their inevitable position with a good deal of cheerfulness, but at present they are encouraged to draw their pensions rather than add to their income, because if they earn any money they forfeit a corresponding amount of their allowance.
– Is the allowance of £62 paid whether a pensioner is an. inmate of an institution or not?
– Yes, because the Blind Institutions are not institutions within the meaning of the Act. They are regarded as industrial schools.
– Quite a number of blind pensioners live outside the institutions.
– I am aware of that, and I may point out that the amount provided by way of pension is altogether insufficient for their requirements. “With the exception of their sight, they are in full enjoyment of all their faculties, and so they require additional money. Their case is a particularly hard one. It is a perfectly fair request that they be allowed to add to their income without being called upon to suffer a reduction of their pension allowance.
– The present system puts a premium upon idleness.
– The honorable senator is quite right. Senator Newland is also interested in this subject. I am sorry that we have to keep hammering away at the Government in order to improve the lot of our blind pensioners. I trust they will immediately introduce an amendment of the Act, so that our blind pensioners may earn all they can without having their pension allowances reduced.
– Honorable senators will recollect that a few months ago I read a statement setting out the position of our blind pensioners, and referred particularly to the case of one industrious blind man who, after working hard for eight or ten years, during which time he saved a small sum of money, was called upon by the Department to set out his. position. He did so. As a result, his pension allowance entirely ceased, and he was called upon to refund a considerable sum of money. Although that was strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Act, it was a scandalous thing to do, and as has been said this afternoon, the present Act places an absolute premium upon idleness. Only yesterday certain blind workers in the Adelaide institution informed me that recently they had waited upon the State Government for an increase in their grant. The Premier of South Australia was quite sympathetic, but pointed’ out that an increase in the grant to the institution and an increase in the pay of the employees would mean a further reduction in the -Dension allowance, so that the State would be still further maintaining the institution, and thus saving the Commonwealth the money which it had under taken to pay under the provisions of the
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I am confident that, if a vote of this Chamber or of the Parliament were taken upon this question, not a dozen members would oppose the increase for which we are asking. After what was said in this Chamber some time ago, I entertained no doubt that the Government would amend the Act, so far as blind pensioners are concerned, and I am very disappointed that they have not done so. I urge them to delay action no longer, in order that blind pensioners may know exactly where they stand. We. are hammering at the door of the Treasury, and I would impress upon the Government the need for furnishing us with a final reply to our request, be it either in the- affirmative or the negative.
There is another matter upon which I briefly desire to touch - I refer to the shipping and mail service to the Pacific Islands. Upon page 4 of the Bill, under the Prime Minister’s Department, will be found an item of £7,500 relating to this service. I should like to know precisely the period that the amount proposed to be appropriated is intended to cover. I have many friends in the Pacific Islands, and their letters to me are one continuous wail of dissatisfaction with the poor mail and steamer service which is at present provided. If the amount of £7,500 is intended to cover only the period that is covered bv the Bill, it is certainly a very considerable one for the service which the residents of the Pacific Islands are receiving. In my judgment, it is high time that we embarked upon a definite policy in regard to these islands. Their position in relation to the Commonwealth has changed very materially during the past year or so, and. we must recognise that, in the future, very much greater facilities for trading with them will have to be provided, if we wish’ to retain their trade. We have already done certain things in regard to what was formerly known as German New Guinea, but it seems to me that no comprehensive policy has vet been laid down. It is true that a report upon German New Guinea ‘has been furnished to this Parliament, but it is of a very unsatisfactory character.
– Have we yet received a mandate over the Pacific Islands?
– But the terms of the mandate have been settled to such an extent that the Commonwealth would be justified in taking action inthe direction of providing adequate trading facilities with the residents of these islands. The fact that the mandate has not yet been received will scarcely be urged by the Government as an excuse for their failure to do something of a definite character. As a matter of fact, according to a report furnished to this Parliament, certain gentlemen were sent down there, though God knows exactly what they did.
– They dis- agreed.
– They certainly did that. They disagreed so materially that I am confident that no honorable senator will be satisfied to give effect to their recommendations. However competent they may be, their report is of absolutely no assistance to the Government. However, I shall embrace another opportunity of expressing my views upon that question. But I do hope that something will be done to give the residents of these islands, who are working under unfavorable climatic conditions and who are isolated from the rest of the world, more frequent means of communication with’ the mainland. A similar remark is applicable to a portion of Australia, which is very much nearer to the Seat of Government than are the Pacific Islands - I refer to the Northern Territory. Upon page 7 of this Bill will be found an item relating to the general services which are provided for that Territory. We have also had a report upon its administration by Mr. Justice Ewing, and I am sure that no honorable senator who has closely followed the affairs of the Territory during the past three or four years will claim that that report is of a satisfactory nature. Upon a future occasion I hope that we shall be able to say exactly what we think of it. In the Northern Territory at the present time there are tremendous resources awaiting development. There are vast areas suitable for pastoral purposes and immense mineral wealth. I have taken a very great deal of interest in the Territory for a considerable period, and I have correspondents in various parts of it who are constantly telling me of the great mineral wealth that lies hidden there, and of the vast possibilities of the pastoral industry.
– I would point out to the honorable senator that, however appropriate his remarks might have been upon the motion for the first reading of this Bill, they are scarcely in order upon the motion for its second reading.
– I merely wish to stress that, whilst we are spending huge sums of money in the Northern Territory, nothing of a practical nature is being done. There is no plan upon which our expenditure is based. Only to-day a question was asked here as to the population of the Territory, and, in the course of his reply, the Minister pointed out that, since the closing down of Vestey Bros.’ works at Darwin, some 500 Europeans have left the Territory.
– Some had their passages paid.
– Yes, some had their passages paid who had big banking accounts, and had no right to have them paid. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) informed us that 500 Europeans had left the Terri- , tory. When we South Australians refer to the Northern Territory- and we know something about it - we generally find that persons from other parts of Australia smile, as if the place was not worth a snap of the finger and thumb. Working men in the Territory have earned higher wages than in any other part of the continent. Great works have been erected there, and a tremendous amount of money has been spent. Those works have been, closed down, but I am not going to say whether the closing down was justified or not. The fact remains that they are closed down, and that today a large number of men are unemployed in Darwin, which is at the northern end of the Territory. The schedule provides nearly £10,000 for the expenses of the Territory, I presume for the period covered by the Bill; but we do not know what is going to be done, and in what direction the money is to be spent. The same thing applies as applied to the Pacific Islands - there is no comprehensive scheme, and no information is given to Parliament as to what the future policy is to be for the government of our Possessions. It is time, and more than time, that Parliament and the country were taken into the confidence of the Government, and some policy set out for the development of these areas. We are asking for more people to come to our shores - and, Heaven knows, we need them - but whilst there is plenty of room in the centre of Australia for them we cannot put them out there, and let them fly round the tops of the trees like crows or hawks. They have .to be provided with employment arid means of communication in whatever part of our Possessions they are settled. I hope the Government will take into consideration the necessity for setting out some system for the future management and development of our Possessions. The men who go out and develop areas such as I have been describing in the Pacific Islands, or in the centre of Australia, deserve at the hands of the Government the very best that can be given to them. They want, at any rate, to know for the next ten or twenty years what the developmental policy of the Government will be. I say to the Government with all the strength I can command that it is time, and more than time, that something was done to develop the great Territories which we possess.
I urge again that, whatever may be done with regard to the Territories I have been speaking of, urgent and important as those questions may be, they are not so urgent or important as the claims of those ‘blind men and women for whom Senator Earle and myself have appealed this afternoon. I sincerely hope that the Minister will place our representations before the Treasurer, and that the Treasurer will agree, for only a comparatively small amount will be involved, to pay the full pensions to these men and women irrespective of any earnings they may he able to make for themselves.
– I feel that I ought to voice my opinions regarding some items in the schedule, in the hope that Ministers, having heard my views, may carefully consider my suggestions, with a view to giving relief in certain directions. I notice that an amount is provided for the development of oil-fields in Papua. Every one recognises that oil is one of the necessities of the present day, and that the wise spending of money in the endeavour to discover the sources of oil in any part of the Commonwealth or its Dependencies is a proposition that ought to be encouraged. I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for Repatria tion (Senator Millen) the fact that we have in Tasmania an extensive shale deposit, to which the attention of the Federal Government has been directed time after time in the hope that they would enter into a contract with the company operating the deposit, but up to the present nothing has eventuated. We continually hear of the necessity of developing our resources, but the company, who have been operating at Latrobe for some years, have been hampered to some extent by lack of capital, and dependent more or less for the success of their enterprise on the Federal authorities undertaking to become a customer if they could supply the oil. I had hoped that some time ago a contract of some kind would be entered into between the Commonwealth and the company, and that the company would be. able to carry on operations successfully. They are prepared to extend their plant and operations considerably, if they are assured that the Commonwealth will make a contract to take their product.
– At a price.
– I am not in a position to say what offer has been made, but I understood from the manager of the company some time ago that they were prepared to carry out the work and produce the oil if they could get a contract at a price which ought to be satisfactory to the Commonwealth Government.
– Does he allege that they can supply cheaper than the Vacuum Oil Company ?
– When you say, “ a price that ought to be satisfactory,” does that mean satisfactory in the opinion of the manager?
– I mean at a price that would be equivalent to the price being paid elsewhere for the same commodity. The Minister, in reply, would probably be able to explain whether or not oil can be produced .by the company at a price equal to that at which it can be obtained from other sources. In any case, every effort should be made by the Government to foster and develop any industry which can be carried on in any State of the Commonwealth. I hope the Government will pay great attention to the possibilities that exist in that shale oil field, because if it can be developed and made profitable, the Commonwealth as a whole must necessarily benefit.
I wish to refer briefly to an item which has been brought before the Senate in the form of a question - I mean the sale of commodities which the Defence Department holds in excess of requirements. I have noticed in the daily papers recently an advertisement of cloth to be sold to the general public at a certain price. Some time ago a large quantity of flannel, blankets, and other articles was offered and sold to the general public, and in some cases large quantities of goods have been sold by tender to merchants. In the best interests of the community, the general public of Australia should be enabled to purchase these goods at as low a price as possible. Those who furnished the necessary funds that these goods might be produced were the people of Australia, and the majority of the people, being taxpayers, have felt the burden very heavily indeed since the outbreak of war. As the people have furnished the money for these materials, surely it is reasonable to ask that any member of the public should be able to purchase any surplus goods not required for military purposes at a reasonable advance on cost price. I was very pleased that Senator J. F. Guthrie asked a question on this subject yesterday. It seems to me that if John Brown, a taxpayer of the Commonwealth, has contributed by taxation to the output of a yard of cloth by » Government factory, and if it is part of a surplus in the hands of a Department, he is entitled to buy it at as small an advance as possible upon cost price.
– That would be giving some taxpayers a benefit which others could not avail themselves of.
– I realize that an!y profit made on the sale of this cloth goes into the general revenue, but in view of the exceptionally high cost of living, the reduction of which we all advocate, it does seem to me to be a wrong policy to demand from the people, who have provided this material for the soldiers,- a considerable advance upon cost price for surplus cloth which is not required by the soldiers.
– The public can get this cloth at 10s. per yard less than the price for which they can purchase similar cloth anywhere else.
– That is not an answer to my objection. If the public could get the cloth at £1 per yard less than) they would have to pay for similar cloth elsewhere any objection would still remain, and my contention is that if it costs 15’ per cent, on cost price to distribute this cloth the general public should have” the right to buy it at that advance upon cost price.
– All the people have produced it, but only some of the people would get it.
– No, there need be no -reference; anyone requiring it could get it.
– Would a man living out on the Darling have an(y chance to obtain a suit length from Melbourne 1
– There is no reason why he should not.
– The interjection of the Minister for Repatriation raises a point which I desire to answer. In my view the system of distribution adopted by the Defence Department is a wrong system. It is on that account that preference is given to certain sections of the community. In Tasmania and in New South Wales people outside the metropolitan area have no opportunity to benefit from the distribution of this cloth.
– That is not so.
– Senator Foster’s interjection has reference to the supply of this cloth to returned soldiers, whilst I am speaking of its distribution to the general public.
– The honorable senator is referring to tweed which has been supplied so far only to returned soldiers.
– I do not care whether the material is tweed or blankets. My contention is that the Government should make same arrangement by which people in every district throughout the Commonwealth may be in a position to participate in the distribution of these goods. I am aware that mothers of families in provincial towns in Tasmania, who find it difficult to make ends meet at the present time, would welcome the opportunity to obtain a few yards of this cloth for their children. They cannot do so because it is sold at one or two depots in the principal cities only. Surely it is possible to secure a reliable representative of the Department to supervise the distribution of these goods’, and so enable them to be sold to the general public- at cost price plus the cost of distribution.
– Even if the Government fail to do that, there is still no justification for profiteering.
– I desire also to refer to a matter brought under my notice during last week in connexion with the income tax schedules. I intended to bring a copy of the schedule here this afternoon, and will, no doubt, be able to produce one before we have finished the consideration of this Bill. My purpose is to lay it before the Minister representing the Treasurer, and to ask him whether any reasonable man could expect the ordinary taxpayer to fill in the form supplied, not because of the multiplicity of the questions set out, but because of the fact that one-fifth of the typed matter on the form is practically obliterated by a dark, royal-blue mark on the side. I saw a man, whose eyesight is fairly good, compelled to use a magnifying glass in order to read through the dark blue stripe on the form. This has caused a lot of trouble, and I am at a loss to know the reason for it.
– Lack of paper.
– Lack of paper, and a surplus of ink. It seems to me that the Department selected the worst possible colour, in order that the officials in the Taxation office might be able to identify the forms.
– My objection to the form is that there is not enough ink and there is too much tax.
– We all share that’ objection.
I notice that a fair amount is set down in the schedule to this Bill for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to consider the possibility of giving a better service to people living in the out-back districts. I am aware that the Department has considered it necessary to lay down some hard and fast rules with regard to the carriage of mails and delivery of postal matter in remote districts, and always stipulates that before any service can be supplied there must be a quid pro quo in the form of revenue. We very much need a larger population in the out-back districts, and if the Government could see their way to make the regulations with regard to these services a little more elastic in order to induce people to go into these districts to cultivate some of our present waste lands, it would be well worth their while. The policy of the Department should be, wherever possible, to encourage people to leave the city and take up their residence on lands that can be made productive. At present the Postal Department would appear to follow a policy the reverse of that. I know that an effort should be made in the administration of public Departments to1 make ends meet, but I think that where any surplus is received from the business transactions of city post-offices it should be utilized in giving additional facilities to out-back settlers. Cases have recently been brought under my notice where men have been compelled to leave districts in which they intended to settle because of difficulties and inconveniences surrounding their life there. One of the greatest objections to settlement in out-back districts is the lack of postal communication with the nearest centres of popula-tion.’
I wish to enter my protest, as a senator of Australia, against the continuance of the payment of the maternity allowance to all and sundry. Whether a mother requires this assistance or not, it is forth* coming under the administration of the present system. Stated in a few words, it means that people who hardly know which way to turn in order to meet their liabilities, are compelled, by taxation, to provide a luxury, in the shape of a £5 note, to persons well off in this world’s goods. That is not right. The maternity allowance was first introduced, I take it, for the purpose of reducing the deathrate of mothers and infants by insuring that there should be a little more money in the houses of those who are not too well off to provide necessary comforts at a particular time. Unfortunately, as our statistics will show, the object for which the allowance was instituted has not been gained. I trust that the Government will seriously consider the necessity of revising the legislation dealing with this matter, so that the allowance shall be paid only to those who really need it. Some honorable senators may think that that would make it more . or less of a charitable allowance. Nothing of the kind. Surely when a little stranger comes to the home of a mau in receipt of £500 or £1,000 per year he is not justified in applying for a £5 maternity allowance.
– He has to pay taxation in another way to make it up.
– I am aware of that; but his next-door neighbour, in receipt of £150 per year, and with a family of five or six children, is also taxed to provide tha wife of a comparatively wealthy man with a maternity allowance. That is not a reasonable proposition. It was not considered when the allowance was established that many people who now apply for it would do so. I know that it is the custom of people who are fairly well off in the matter of this world’s goods to apply for and obtain the maternity allowance.
– -The official figures show that in 90 per cent, of cases of childbirth the allowance is applied for.
– That is so; and, in my opinion, it is not a fair thing that Commonwealth money should be expended in that way. I desire to indorse and support the remarks made by two honorable senators who have preceded me with respect to the invalid pension given to blind people in the Commonwealth. I recognise that no greater affliction can befall a human being than to suffer the loss of his sight. Surely if we can brighten the lives of our unfortunate blind brethren in the way indicated, we should do so. The cost involved would not be great, and it would be wise if the Government considered the advisability of removing what I regard as a blot upon our legislation in this regard.
– I desire to refer to some remarks which have fallen from Senator Payne in connexion with the distribution of woollen goods, manufactured in the Government mills. The honorable senator said that he thought the cloth manufactured by the Government should be made available to the public of Australia. I tried, yesterday, to direct the attention of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to the fact that any surplus of woollen manufactured goods should be made available to returned soldiers. I urged that they should be given preference, and that they should get khaki cloth, which costs the Government from 6s. to 7s. 3d. per yard to manufacture at cost price, plus the cost of distribution.
– I was supporting the honorable senator.
– I think that the honorable senator urged that these goods should be made available to the public in different parts of Australia.
– There is not a sufficient quantity at present available to supply the pressing requirements of returned soldiers. The Government have done excellent work at the Federal “Woollen Mills at Geelong. They are manufacturing tweed there which they are selling to returned soldiers, through their organizations, at very little beyond cost price, which is very cheap. I should like to give praise to the management of the Federal Woollen Mills for the magnificent quality of material turned out there, and the very low prices charged for it. I urge the Government to increase their output of these tweeds; but I quite understand that they cannot do so immediately. I know many returned soldiers who are unable to get a suit length, and I am pressing the Government to make the khaki cloth, which they are now advertising for sale to the public at 15s. per yard, available to returned soldiers at as close to cost price as possible. Senator Payne said that the people of Australia have enabled the Government to manufacture these goods at the low prices quoted. I should like to say that the wool-growers of Australia are primarily responsible for the low~ price at which these goods can be manufactured by the Government.
– Mav I explain that I did not say what has been attributed to me.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
– The reason why the Government are able to manufacture this splendid material at a low price is that under the wool appraisement scheme the manufacturers in Australia, including, of course, the Federal Woollen Mills, were able to secure the first choice of the best wool in the world at its original appraised price, which was materially below the 15½d per lb. at which the clip was sold to the British Government. As a matter of fact, the manufacturers of Australia have, ever since this scheme was first initiated, been getting their wool at the absurdly low price of 12.44d. per lb., and, therefore, it is the wool-growers of Australia, far more than the general public, who are responsible for this tweed, cloth, and flannel being available at such a price, and they should he given the credit.
– And they are entitled to the profits.
– Some of the profits. If the Government had not taken the wool from the growers at 12.44d. per lb. a large quantity would have been sold in the open market, and the growers would have been entitled to 50 per cent, of the net profit. I am not complaining of the scheme to any great extent, because it -has been a magnificent one, and fairly administered. As a wool-grower, wool-broker, and taxpayer, I would like to take this opportunity of giving great credit to the Central Wool Committee for the magnificent work it has done in an honorary capacity from its inception, and I regret that, for months past, the Government have been taking certain action in connexion with the disposal of wool, and entirely ignoring their advisers on the Central Wool Committee.
– (By leave.) - As I appear to have been misunderstood by Senator J. F. Guthrie, I desire to say that my point was that the people of Australia, having provided the wherewithal hy which this cloth could be manufactured, were justified in expecting that they would participate in the distribution of the surplus not required by the Department. I made no comment as to who should receive credit for the good value of the products.
– I do not know that I should be called upon to detain the Senate for, any length, because I am not in possession of the knowledge that would enable me to give some of the information desired, although I may desire to do so.
Senator Thomas has raised a point which is one of considerable interest, and has expressed a desire for information concerning the Commonwealth Government line of steamers, the trade in which they are employed, and the policy which dictates their commercial undertakings. I presume also he desires to have something like a working balance-sheet. He further suggests the possibility of our steamers being employed as mail carriers.
– I did not mean the present vessels, but a proper line of mail steamers.
– It is obvious, of course, that vessels apart from those now owned by the Government would have to be employed, and probably those being built from time to time could be utilized. I am’ sure Senator Thomas will appreciate what I am about to say, and that is that the information he desires, if it is to be complete, is necessarily more extensive than that I have at present at my disposal. Generally, I would like to say that much of what he suggests in his inquiry is true, and before I am in a position to amplify it I would like the opportunity of bringing before the Senate a complete statement, which I shall do, either in the form of a paper or’ of a statement, in which. I will make clear the attitude of the Government concerning the points he has raised.
Senators Earle and Newland have returned, with their accustomed per:tinacity, to a matter in which they have for some time been keenly interested, and that is the position of the blind pensioners in the Commonwealth. I desire to remind the honorable senators who have dealt with this matter that when the Budget is presented the Government will have an opportunity of making known their intentions.
Senator Newland also raised the question of the mandated territory, and every one recognises the desirableness of announcing the Government policy in this connexion. I can- only inform the Senate that such a policy will be embodied in a Bill to be presented ito both Houses of Parliament, which will enable members in either Chamber to express their opinions on what is intended.
Senator Newland also referred to the Pacific Islands mail service, and to the amount of £7,500 which,’ I may inform him, is a quarterly, and not a monthly, payment. There was no similar provision in the previous Supply Bill, as the payment now included falls due this month.
Senator Payne introduced the question of oil supplies from the Tasmanian Oil Company, and, although I do not suggestthat his statements were inaccurate, they were at least incomplete. The Government are trying to develop their resources in Papua, and, in addition to folio-wing up what is a sound ‘ commercial proposition, are doing so because they own the land, and would naturally own the oil if it were discovered. There is, therefore, a very strong inducement to discover oil in our own Territory, rather than on lands controlled by private companies. The Government, however, are not adverse to efforts being made to discover oil by other means, and we have already made certain offers in that regard. The proposal submitted by the Tasmanian Oil Company was of a nebulous character, and, I am informed,, was somewhat on these lines : It was merely an inquiry, rather than an offer, as to the quantity of oil the Navy Department would be prepared to take- The Department intimated that it was prepared to take 4,000 tons of oil, at the rate of 160 tons per hour. Negotiations were not completed, because -the company was not in a position to say what it could do. It was, therefore, impossible for the Navy to wait until the company could make a definite announcement. Arrangements had to be made to meet the needed supply. At that time, the Tasmanian Government intimated that it was prepared to take over the Latrobe proposition, but that Government did not remain in office, and the intentions of the present Government are not known. If there is a prospect of developing oil resources in that or any other State, the Government, or the country, or both, should make up their minds as to what they can do, and submit a definite proposition for the consideration of the Commonwealth Government. An offer to supply oil, and not a mere request for Commonwealth assistance, should be submitted. Tasmania, or any other State, need not be afraid of meeting with other than a very cordial reception from the Commonwealth Government in any definite proposition they -may submit.
The somewhat complicated question concerning the sale of wool to the Defence Department, and the -sale of any surplus product, is not quite as simple as some may think. The Department does not desire to profiteer at all; but obviously, there are two interests to serve. The cloth belongs to the whole of the people of Australia, and, as Senator Payne recognises, the whole of the people having contributed are entitled to it. Every one is interested, and the Defence Department have adopted a fair course by holding the scales evenly between the whole of the people of Australia and those who were fortunate enough to obtain supplies. At its full market value some cloth would readily sell at . from 70 to 80 per cent, above what the Defence Department is charging; and that is rather shaky ground upon which to base a charge of profiteering. Those who do not get the cloth have an interest in it, and are fairly entitled to have their interests considered. I think the Defence Department endeavoured to consider the whole of the people who owned it, and at the same time to supply it at a reasonable rate to those who could get it. Some little time ago the Defence Department made available some material which it had, and which it sold to the retailers in the States on the understanding that it was to be disposed of at cost price. They immediately proceeded to do so, but others came in, and even sent their employees to secure it in retail lots, which they made into garments that they sold at the full market rates. It seems that somehow or other as soon as material is offered below market rates the bigger is the inducement for some one to come in and play tricks.
I think it is generally admitted that the time has arrived for a more liberal postal and telegraph service, particularly in our rural areas, and the Government have announced their intention to adopt a policy of this character. I trust that the proposals that will shortly be submitted in connexion with the Estimates will be a substantial redemption of what has been promised.
– I regret he is absent for the moment - referred to the blue band on income-tax returns, and to the difficulty taxpayers experience in reading what is printed under the coloured portion of the form. I do not know what sort of return the honorable senator was criticising; but I venture to say that the copy which I have in my hand is as plain and distinct as could be desired. Any one who is fortunate enough to have to fill in a taxation form can follow quite easily the questions set out ‘thereon, and to me their purport is painfully plain. I would suggest that the honorable senator who made the complaint should compare the return to which he referred with the copy I have before me.
– The forms supplied in South Australia were so indistinct that it was difficult in some cases to read them.
– I ask Senator Newland to peruse the form I have.
– The forms supplied in South Australia have a much darker band.
– It may be that they were printed in South Australia.
– The Government are not considerate enough to allow such printing to be done there.
– On the South Australian forms the ink had run, and it was difficult to read them.
– There is npt a line on this form that I cannot read with ease. Doubtless the dark-blue stripe is for some purpose.
– I think they have a different coloured stripe every year.
– I do not know the reason for the stripe, but probably Senator Bakhap’s suggestion is the correct one. and that the Department has a different coloured stripe each year for the purpose of distinguishing the forms of one year from those of another.
– I think that there is no stripe at all for New South Wales.
– But the Department uses paper of a different . colour for New South Wales. I shall draw the attention of those charged with the responsibility of administering the Taxation Act to the remarks made by honorable senators. It may be possible to achieve the purpose aimed at by the Department, and at the same time remove one cause of complaint.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Sum available for the purposes set forth in Schedule).
. - As this clause deals with the sum set forth in the Schedule, I may be permitted to make a few observations. At the outset I should like to congratulate you, Senator Bakhap, upon your elevation to the position of Chairman of Committees. Under the item “ Parliament, £5,440,” I have to complain of discourtesy on the part of the Government in regard to appointments to the Public
Works and Public Accounts Committees. Six months ago, when nominations were being invited, I received an intimation from the Government asking for nominations to represent the Opposition, and I replied that I preferred that Senators McDougall and Needham should continue for the remainder of their term in this Chamber. Upon this occasion, however, I wired to the Leader of the Government in the Senate nominating myself for appointment to the Public Works Committee, because, as I have been a member of this Chamber for over ten years, I feel I have every qualification for the position referred to. I may here say, however, that I had no desire to draw two salaries. Those honorable senators who have been associated with me will know that on no occasion during my parliamentary career have I put myself forward for appointments to any of the paid Committees of this Parliament. On this occasion the position came to me as the sole representative of the Opposition in this Chamber, and I was willing to take it. Surely, if the Government objected, they could have intimated that, as I had recently had an addition to my salary as Leader of the Opposition, I could not expect also to draw a salary as a member of the Public Works Committee. I would have been glad to forego that. I claim that I would have made a useful member of- that Committee, but the Government, disregarding any qualification I possess, denied me the opportunity of being represented on that . body. I think it is far better that I should make an open complaint of- discourtesy than allow any feeling of discontent to smoulder. As Leader of the Opposition I have no security of tenure at all, because, in the event of the Farmers’ party coming into power, which I may say is an event anticipated daily, I take it that Senator Millen will then lead the Opposition, and so my occupation will be gone. An appointment to the Public Works Committee would, on the contrary, give me some security, but the Government thought fit to depart entirely from the custom of this Parliament by denying any representation to the Opposition.
– I should like to have an explanation from the Government concerning the statement made by Senator Gardiner. I do not think there was any intention of discourtesy, but I presume the Government felt that as the honorable senator is to all intents and purposes “ the whole team and the dog under the waggon,” he could not very well discharge his duty as a member of either Committee, and at the same time perform his duty as Leader of the Opposition. Senator Gardiner has referred to the fact that since he has been in this Parliament he has never sought any additional emolument- for services on any of the paid Committees. In my opinion that may be regarded as one of his most serious drawbacks. I believe it is possible for a public man to immolate himself too much on the altar of public duty and thereby neglect to some extent his own personal welfare, and those who rightly look to him for the wherewithal to live, because the public will at length leave him, in the words of Byron, like “ a weed flung from the rock,” and forget all about him. I do not regard the fact that Senator Gardiner has never sought emolument for a public position as altogether a virtue, though I believe I am in the same boat myself. My view is that the public men of this or any other country give full measure, well pressed down, of service, and too often they are neglected in the end. We can all recall the fate of the late Bight Honorable Bichard Seddon, whose death was regarded as a public calamity. Shortly afterwards an attempt was made to raise a sum of money by public subscription to erect a memorial to his name, but only a few pounds was raised, and there the matter remains to this day. I . feel satisfied there was no intention on the part of the Government tfe treat Senator Gardiner discourteously, but I am afraid that, capable man as he is, his reputation would suffer if he attempted to fill these combined offices. I do not recognise it as a shining virtue to abstain from enjoying that slight recognition in the form of emoluments for public service which occasionally come the way of public men. We hear a lot of criticism from the newspapers. Newspapers ! What are they doing for the common weal ? What sacrifices do they make ? They sell their wares for a penny and twopence, and they are profiteering now, nearly every one of them. There is only one important paper in the Commonwealth, the Brisbane Courier, which is sold to the public for Id. The journals of this city are supposed to direct and mould public opinion. What are they doing? They are never tired of vilifying the actions of public men. . They are making a profit out of criticism, that -is all, whereas the public men are showing an edifying example by sacrificing themselves for the common weal.
– Let me assure Senator Gardiner that there was no intention of personal discourtesy towards him in making the appointments to the Public Committees referred to. I say this as a member of the Senate rather than as a member of the Government, because these Committees are the creation of the Parliament and not of the Government. It is a practice for the Leader . of the Government .at the commencement of each session to nominate members for appointment on the Standing Committees of the Senate, and Senator Gardiner has been recognised in regard to these appointments, but the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee are in a somewhat different position. Members of these paid bodies are elected from the Parliament, and it is competent for any member of the Senate to nominate any other member for appointment. Therefore any responsibility for the omission of Senator Gardiner rests with the Senate and not with the Government. I say this in justice to the Government, and I think Senator Gardiner will recognise that the position is as I have stated. Regarding Senator Gardiner’s position as Leader of the Opposition, I may point out that if he is to perform his duties efficiently by scrutinizing all the business that will come before this Chamber he will have no time for the work of any other Committee.
– But you know there is a possibility of a stronger Opposition shortly.
– I admit that there is a possibility of a more critical and a more impartial- Opposition in the future.
– It is strange that I was not overlooked in the appointment to the Standing Committees of the Senate.
– I can assure the honorable senator that there was no intention of showing him any personal dis- courtesy in the appointments to the two Committees referred to.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Divisions 1 to 12 (proposed vote), £5,440.
– I take this opportunity of replying to certain questions which have been addressed to me by Senator Thomas in regard to the Joint House Committee. During the afternoon he courteously furnished a copy of these questions to the Assistant Clerk, who is also the head of the Joint House Department. His first question reads -
How often has the House Committee met during the twelve months, from 30th June, 1919, to 1st July, 1920?
The answer is that it has met only once during that period. His second question reads -
When did the Committee meet last?
The reply is -
The last meeting was held on the 2nd October, 1919.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether it is in order for any honorable senator .to do what Senator Givens is now doing, namely, discuss in Committee a question of which notice has. already been given?
– I desire to say a few words upon the point of order which has been raised. In the first place the questions put by Senator Thomas are not proper questions to appear upon the notice-paper, and I refused permission for them to be placed there yesterday. It is not proper to address questions to the President in that way. As a matter of fact, these questions will never appear upon the business-paper, but I wish to oblige Senator Thomas by giving him all the information that it is in my power to give him. However, I submit to your ruling.
– It appears to me that the questions which were put by Senator Thomas cannot be submitted in the usual way, and therefore I rule that it is not out of order for them to be discussed in relation to the division of “ Parliament,” which is embodied in the schedule to this Bill.
– The third question put to me by Senator Thomas reads -
Have the Committee the power to recommend rises in the salaries of attendants, messengers, and waiters in the Senate ?
I need scarcely point out that there are no waiters in the Senate, but there are waiters in the Refreshment Room, which is under the control of the Joint House Department. However, that is a small matter. Of course, every member of the public has a right to recommend anything that he may please. Nobody can take away from any individual his right to make any recommendation that he may choose. But the responsibility for fixing the salaries of officers of this Parliament, as well as of those servants who come under the jurisdiction of the Joint House Committee, rests, by Act of Parliament, upon Mr. Speaker and myself. Parliamentary officers come under the provisions of the Public Service Act, just as do officers outside of Parliament; but for the purposes of administration in the case of the former, Mr. Speaker and myself take the place of the Public Service Commissioner. The responsibility is thus cast upon us by Act of Parliament of determining questions of promotion, increase of salary, &c, just as it is thrown upon the Public Service Commissioner in regard to public servants generally. A similar answer will apply to Senator Thomas’ next question, which reads -
Have the Committee power to inflict fines for negligence, &c, of duties?
The Committee may make any recommendations that it pleases. It may report any person whom it may think is negligent in the discharge of his duties, but it will then, be for Mr. Speaker and myself to inflict any fine that in the circumstances may be deemed appropriate.
– The House Committee has no power in the matter?
– No; because the Public Service Act specifically casts that responsibility upon Mr. Speaker and myself. Of course, the House Committee possesses various powers of management. For the information of honorable senators who are new to this Chamber, I may point out that there are five Departments created by the Public Service Act in this Parliament, viz., the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Library, the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, and ‘ the Joint House Committee. It is only in respect of those matters which come under the jurisdiction of the Joint House Committee that that body is vested with any responsibility whatever. It has, for example, the responsibility of deciding upon what privileges shall be extended to, or what restrictions imposed upon, visitors to ‘this building. It has a responsibility in connexion with the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms and the use of the Queen’s Hall, and also over matters which are common to both branches of the Legislature.
– Is the House Committee responsible for thebeating of a carpet in the Senateclub-room?
– Its recommendation would go a long way; butthe Government are really responsible, because they would have to provide the money for the work. The Public Service Act enumerates these various Departments in the parliamentary building. (Senator Keating. - But it does not constitute them as such.
– It does not recognise the Joint House Committee at all. What it does is to cast a responsibility upon Mr. Speaker and myself.
– The responsibility of Mr. Speaker and yourself is inherent in your offices, and is not due to any Statute.
– But it is also recognised in the Statute.
– It is recognised in the Statute, but it is also inherent in your offices.
– That is quite true. I have experienced very great difficulty in securing a meeting of the Joint House ‘Committee during ‘the time that I have occupied the position of President of this Chamber. In the first place, honorable senators will recognise that there is only one day a week upon which such a meeting can be held with convenience to its members, namely, on Thursday, in the forenoon. The Inter-State members do not arrive in this city until Wednesday afternoon, the Houses are sitting all clay on Friday, and when they adjourn those members return to their homes. Consequently the only time at which a meeting of the Joint House
Committee can conveniently be called is during the forenoon of Thursday. But honorable senators will recollect . that that is always the time which is selected for the holding of party meetings, so that when a meeting of the Joint House Committee does take place it is exceedingly difficult to retain a quorum. I am now waiting for a favorable opportunity to call a meeting of the Committee; but I purposely refrained from doing so until the new members of the Senate had taken their places in this chamber. Further, I thought it would be useless tocall such a meeting until we had the regular annual business to place before the Committee. Now the chief business for the consideration of that body is the management of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms, and proper consideration cannot be given to that question until we have before us the annual balance-sheet up to 30th June. That balance-sheet is never submitted to the Committee until it has been scrutinized and certified to by the Auditor-General. Only one short month has passed since the close of the financial year, so that the Controller of the Refreshment Rooms is only now able to complete his balance-sheet and submit it to the Auditor-General. It is probable that a fortnight will elapse before we are in a position to place that balancesheet before the Joint House Committee. At the earliest opportunity, however, I shall call a meeting of that body, and ask its members to solve a problem which has perplexed me very sorely - the problem of how we can run our Refreshment Rooms at present prices, considering the enormous increase that has taken place in the cost of commodities generally. I shall be very glad if the members of the Committee can find a way out for me, because the matter has been a source of great worry to me during the past twelve months.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Divisions 13 to 20 (proposed vote), £23,721.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [4.46].- Under the heading of “ Prime Minister’s Department “ an amount is provided to cover salaries and contingencies in connexion with the office of Trade Commissioner in the United States of America.
Only a few days ago, I noticed an announcement in the press that the Government intended at an early date to appoint a High Commissioner for the United States. I should like to know whether they intend to appoint a High Commissioner who will be required to discharge duties outside of those at present being discharged by our Trade Commissioner there. Personally, I can see no justification for any such appointment, although the appointment of a Trade Commissioner is a very wise one. I understand that the announcement to which I have referred was made when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was replying to statements which had been made by a certain gentleman in America. I think we can disabuse our minds of any idea that statements by that gentleman are likely to foment trouble between America and Australia. The majority of the people of America will accept them at their true value. We have only to read the cables which have since been published in order to recognise that. Already, many Americans have written to practically all the leading newspapers there, avowing their recognition of the fact that the gentleman in question cannot be accepted as the mouthpiece of Australians generally. I fail to see that any necessity exists for the appointment of a High Commissioner for the United States of America
[4.491. - There is no item in this Bill which relates to the appointment of a High Commissioner for the United States of America. The amount to which the honorable senator has directed attention merely covers salaries and contingencies in connexion with the office of Trade .Commissioner in the United States. The appointment of a High Commissioner for America will necessitate the. enactment of legislation, just as did the appointment of a High Commissioner for the United Kingdom. When that legislation is brought forward, honorable senators will be afforded a full opportunity pf expressing their approval or disapproval of the proposal.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 26 to 33 (Treasurer’s Department), £79,830; and divisions 37 to 43 (Attorney - General’s Department), £10,950, agreed to.
Home and Territories Department.
Divisions 44 to 55 (proposed vote), £52,085.
– Upon one or two previous occasions, I have spoken upon the question of the right, of any person to open a butcher’s shop in the Federal Capital. This may not be a very important matter to us, but it is one of great importance to the residents of the Federal Territory. Until a little time ago, nobody could open a butcher’s shop there. If the Federal Territory is in such a condition that no one can start a butchering establishment in .any part of it, one would naturally begin to hesitate about going to Canberra.
– There is no population there.
– There is some population. When I put questions about this matter I was told that an Ordinance was being prepared to enable what was necessary to be done. When I last asked, I was told that the Ordinance would probably be issued in July. As we are now in August, I should like the Minister to let us know how the Ordinance is getting on.
– The following is the reply from the Department on the subject raised by Senator Thomas : -
The necessary Ordinance authorizing the issue of slaughtering licences in the Federal Capital Territory has been passed. A complete set of regulations has also been approved and is about to be gazetted. It will be necessary, in order to give effect to the Ordinance and Regulations, to issue certain proclamations and appoint an inspector. Attention is being given to these matters, and the business is being expedited as far as possible.
.- The question of making an arrangement with the States, either that they should co-operate more fully with the Federal Statistical Department, or that the State Statistical offices should be abolished and the Commonwealth do the whole of the work, has been discussed from time to time. Is it likely to reach finality?
Do the Government intend to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commissioner, who inquired recently into the affairs of the Northern Territory, regarding the abolition of certain offices, and the bringing closer together of various officials in the Departments up there?
Th© Commissioner’s report shows that a number of officers have little to do, and that the work of the various Departments could be better undertaken by smaller staffs, or by a staff controlling not only the Northern Territory, but some of the other Territories in the immediate vicinity.
.- Attention is also drawn in the report of the Royal Commission on the Northern Territory to the shameful waste of money on the running of steamers at Darwin. I believe it ran into £8,000 per year. I should like an immediate assurance from the Government that they are making some attempt to reduce the loss in that direction*.
– What provision is being made to -keep some of our Australian timbers constantly in stock? . This matter originally came under the Department of Home Affairs, and, as Senator Pearce will remember, timbers stocked soon after the inception of that policy were afterwards used with great advantage for rifle butts at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, while others were used in the building of Australia House in London. I should like to know whether the policy laid down some years ago has been consistently or Vigorously pursued. Before the Bill escapes from the Committee stage, I hope the Minister will be able to furnish information about the policy of the Government in that regard. I am not sure whether the matter comes under the. Department of Home and Territories or the Department of Works and Railways.
– I call attention to the item “Rent of Buildings.” Every honorable senator who has dealings with the Departments knows how difficult it is to locate them, not only in Melbourne, but in the capital cities of other States. Tha Departments are frequently being changed and added to. or decreased, although. I confess that the decreases are very rare. An item of £7,210 is provided in this schedule for rent. That, I take it, is for one quarter, and honorable senators can easily reckon what it is costing the Commonwealth to rent buildings to house the Departments every year.
– It must cost us £90,000 odd.
– I do not think it is so much.
– This Bill covers only six weeks.
– That makes it all the worse.
– Our rents must run to over £100,000 per year.
– No one’ can claim that it is a good or economical policy to pay out so much for that purpose, apart altogether from the convenience of persons who have to deal with the Departments. It is time the Government adopted the policy of erecting offices for the Commonwealth services in every capital city. Their duties sometimes take the members of the Works Committee to ‘other States, and the Committee invariably asks what rents are paid, the number of offices occupied, and their location.
– And we notice how scattered they are.
– It seems as if the officers who were responsible had gone as far apart to the various points of the city as they could. This may be explained by the fact that some of those placed in charge are of an economical turn of mind, and look for cheaper quarters away from the main centres. If we rent offices in the centres of the main cities we must be prepared to pay large amounts for them. It is time the Government formulated a scheme for the erection of buildings in the central portion of every capital- city for the accommodation of all our officers under one roof. Against that may be urged the possibility of- the trans- f er of this Parliament to Canberra in the near future; but such buildings will be just as necessary with the Capital at Canberra as with the Capital in Melbourne. Possibly there will not be so many offices occupied in Melbourne, but no matter where the Capital is, offices will be required in every other city. In Adelaide an excellent and valuable site is available for the erection of a building right in the heart of the city. It was acquired by the Postal Department many years ago and has lain vacant ever since. The people who occupied it previously were cleared off the place by the Government. We now occupy something like twenty different offices in Adelaide to house the Commonwealth services. I hope that, in this matter, the Government will safeguard the convenience of the public and the money of the taxpayers by erecting buildings in which they can house their own officers, and thereby save the large amounts now paid in rentals from year to year.
– The usual item for the Meteorological Branch appears under the Department of Home and Territories. Have the Ministry in contemplation any scheme for giving the. residents on the north-west coast of Western Australia, and the north-east coast of Queensland, timely information about the approach of storms ? Having travelled lately along the Queensland coast, I know that the people in the towns there are very apprehensive about the approach of storms, and the Federal Government should do all they can to give them proper warning. A serious storm recently occurred in North Queensland, and caused loss both of life and property. The policy- of the Meteorological Branch has been to get as wide a range of observation as possible. Mr. Hunt, who has always been sympathetic and anxious to make his Department the medium by which dwellers along these remote coasts may be notified of the approach of storms, has done all he possibly can with the limited means placed at his disposal. Is the amount in this schedule larger than formerly ? Does the policy of the Government include provision for linking up the isolated stations on our coast line for the purpose I have mentioned ? The storms in those parts take a very erratic course, and the stations that would be required to give early warning of their approach would need to- be placed’ almost in a circle. The “ willy-willy “ that occurred on the north-west coast of Western Australia, and sent the Koombana to the bottom, travelled almost in a complete circle. There would have been no h’ope of securing a warning of the approach of that storm from the direction at which it entered the coast and swept inland. One theory was that it came across the Indian Ocean. What is needed on the north-west coast is to establish some chain of communication between the coast line and the adjacent country or islands. If we cannot work in with the Dutch Government, we ought to make some effort to obtain the benefit of the information at their disposal. What is wanted in the case of Queensland is the establishment of wireless stations along the coast line, and perhaps, on the islands in the Pacific, so that residents may have warning of the ap proach of storms in time to enable them to make their property as secure as possible, and reduce the loss to a minimum. Do the Government propose to put on the Estimates any extra money for this purpose ?
. - Before the Minister replies to the remarks which have been made by other honorable senators, there is one matter which I should like to mention, arising out of what Senator Newland said with regard to the location of Commonwealth offices in the different centres of population. The. honorable senator referred to the difficulty of finding the different Commonwealth offices in Adelaide.
– I mentioned Adelaide only because I know it so well.
– As a member of the Public Works Committee, Senator Newland visits other parts of the Commonwealth, and he knows the difficulties presented in this regard in all the centres of population. Two years ago, or possibly a little more, I had the privilege, or responsibility, of submitting to the Commonwealth Government a proposition with regard to the city of Launceston. There, as elsewhere, the offices accommodating Commonwealth activities were scattered. At the time, we were trying to float one of the loans, and the premises then occupied by the Commonwealth Bank in Launceston were very small. It was because, as a member of the Committee, I found I was so cramped for room that I applied myself to looking for better accommodation for the Commonwealth Bank in Launceston. I learned from the manager of the Bank that he had been in communication with different people, and had found it almost impossible to get better accommodation. Following up the matter, I found that it was possible to get very much better accommodation, and, incidentally, I discovered that it was possible for the whole of the Commonwealth Departments carrying on work in Launceston to be accommodated under the one roof. As a result of the investigations I made, I put before the Commonwealth Government, all the members of which were in Sydney at the time, the statement that the whole of the Federal activities in the northern part of Tasmania, including the Commonwealth Bank, could be accommodated under one roof. I put my proposition in writing under my own hand. I had not the slightest interest in the matter, except as a citizen of the Commonwealth and a representative of Tasmania; but, apparently, my proposal was not considered except by the Commonwealth architect. I learned that the Commonwealth architect commended my proposition very highly, but nothing was ever done to give it effect. Recently, I visited Launceston, and found that a great portion of the premises to which I refer was still unoccupied, and that it is stall1 possible to house every Commonwealth activity, with the exception of the Post Office, iii those premises. The Oldage Pensions Department, the Navy Department, the officer concerned with the civil aspect of military affairs, could all be housed there, and a room could be provided for Senator Newland and the other members of the Public Works Committee when they visited Launceston. A room could be provided, also, for the Prime Minister’s Department. Only last month, when I visited Launceston, I obtained information through the courtesy of the manager of the Commonwealth Bank, whom I did not know, that, from the point of view of space, with a little adjustment, the cost of which would be insignificant, all the accommodation to which I have referred could be provided under the one roof. The manager of the Bank told me that the walls of the building had been timbered up, and some appearance of finish given to them consonant with the dignity of such an institution as the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. He informed me that the upper portion of the premises were not yet occupied. If the Minister will inquire of the Department concerned, he will find on record the suggestions I made - I think in June, 1918 - for the housing of practically every Commonwealth activity in northern Tasmania under that one roof. I can assure the Minister that it is still possible to do so, and as we are given to understand that the Government are desirous of economy, I hope that they will take advantage of my suggestion. With a little re-adjustment of the premises, not only every demand of the Commonwealth to-day, hu£ every demand for the next twenty or twenty-five years for space for Government offices could be met in these premises. We should consider the advantage to the public of being able to point to one building as the Commonwealth offices to persons desiring to do business with any Commonwealth Department - a local Australia House, so to speak. Like Senator Newland, I have been a member of the Public Works Committee, and have visited the different States and recognised the disadvantage of having Commonwealth offices scattered about a city. If Ministers will look into the matter I feel sure they will find that the suggestion I made might be adopted with advantage, expediency, and economy.
– In reply to Senator Foster’s question on the subject of the compilation on the census, I do not wish to discuss the matter beyond saying that for some years the Commonwealth Government have been endeavouring to induce the State Governments to agree to the taking of a uniform census throughout Australia. At the Premiers’ Conference in 1916 it was agreed that the Commonwealth and States Governments should secure the cooperation and practical amalgamation of these Departments. Similar steps have been taken to bring about the amalgamation of ‘ the State and Commonwealth Electoral and Taxation Departments.
With regard to Senator Keating’s remarks on the subject of timber, the Government took action in connexion with the matter prior to the war, and a little is still being done in the way of the purchase of timber. The high cost has been due to the cost of freight and difficulties of haulage during the currency of the war. We are still carrying on in a limited way, and I expect to be able to confirm what I have said as soon as I am able to get into touch with the Department, which was closed at the time the honorable senator made his references to the matter.
In regard to the rent which is paid for buildings occupied by Commonwealth Departments, I want to say that the present position is due to the gradual growth of Commonwealth activities, and the postponement of the establishment of the Federal Capital. ‘There are Commonwealth offices in Melbourne to-day that are a disgrace even from a sanitary point of view. I have worked for years as a Minister in a box of a room measuring something like 10 feet x 12 feet. There has been a prejudice against the building of Commonwealth offices in Melbourne, because it is urged that this is only the temporary Seat of Government. People call out about economy, but I know that in the early days we had to pay £150 a year for very inferior accommodation.
– The bulk of the Commonwealth offices in Spring-street are mere rabbit-warrens.
– They are a positive disgrace to the Commonwealth, and should not he tolerated any longer. In the early days it was considered that the accommodation offering was good enough, because we should soon he going to Canberra. Some of the offices in which Commonwealth Departments are now being carried on are totally unfit from a health point of view for occupation. We are paying to-day much more in rent than would represent the interest on the capital required to provide comfortable accommodation for Commonwealth Departments in any centre. Wherever we go to establish the Seat of Government, it must be admitted that for the next hundred years Sydney and Melbourne will remain the great business centres for the conduct of Commonwealth activities. The question of providing suitable Commonwealth offices in every leading city in Australia should be faced. We have hundreds of thousands of people doing business with the Commonwealth offices in these centres, and they should he accommodated as far as possible under one roof.
– I hope that we shall not spend any more money in Melbourne.
– I am prepared to support the provision of decent offices “for the Commonwealth in Melbourne, as well as in Perth, and I hope that that provision will be made. 1
Senator Lynch said something about the necessity for securing warning of Queensland storms. A good deal of work has been done in connexion with this matter. I noticed recently a proposal to have examinations made by the Navy into weather conditions, and conditions generally on our coasts. I take it that the work of the Navy in this connexion will embrace testing the depth of the waters in our various ports and also the prevailing weather conditions on different parts of our coasts. I have nott the, in formation on the subject before me at present, and so cannot give it in detail.
With regard to providing Commonwealth offices at Launceston, Senator Keating will not ask me to go into that matter again; but I know that in other cities the same difficulty arises, and there is the same necessity for the accommodation of Commonwealth Departments in one building. Most of the matters to which reference have been made are at present receiving the sympathetic and serious consideration of the Government. During the war, inconvenience was caused in many directions, but now we are approaching normal conditions the position should’ improve.
– When, is it the intention of the Government to considerthe Royal Commissioner’s report on the Northern Territory?
– The Government are considering it every day, and certain definite steps have been taken. It is not, however, the simple proposition it appears to be, but the Government hope’ to come to a decision at an early date.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 56 to 82 (proposed vote), £140,955.
– I shall be glad if the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) can make a definite statement concerning the military and commercial aviation policy of the Government. We have reached the stage when we have to admit that aviation is not only a military necessity, but that it can be used to great advantage in developing the country. In this connexion I am . sure I am voicing the opinion of all honorable senators when I say that we are all gratified to learn that Lieutenant Parer and Lieutenant Macintosh who have both displayed powers of endurance and pluck, have reached Australia after a most adventurous passage. I would also like to learn whether the Government (have made any offers to Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith, and the two mechanics who accompanied them in their historic flight to Australia, as the services of such brilliant men could be utilized to advantage in the development of aviation in the Commonwealth? These men displayed wonderful capacity in accomplishing what they did, and it is highly desirable that their services should be secured by the Commonwealth. I notice from this evening’s Herald that it is the intention of - Sir Ross Smith to visit England to exhibit moving pictures of his great flight, and in the interests of Australian aviation I consider that the services of such distinguished sons of Australia should be secured.
– All the Defence Department is doing at present in the matter of aviation is to continue the policy that was in force during the war. The instructional school and workshops are being retained pending a decision of Parliament as to the future policy to be adopted in connexion with military and civil aviation. We have had to increase the staff to some extent to provide for handling and housing ihe gift of 128 aeroplanes, together with ,he necessary gear and equipment, made by the British .Government. T. am sure it will be well worth the time of honorable senators to visit the depot at Nicholsonstreet, Fitzroy, where the machines are stored, as they will then realize the worth of the magnificent gift, which is valued at approximately £750,000. These machines have been presented to the Commonwealth Government, with the necessary equipment, free of all cost, and will be the means of saving a tremendous expenditure on the part of the Government. The Government are not overlooking the question of aviation, and the proposed expenditure is now receiving final attention before inclusion in the Estimates which come before Parliament for approval. Certain preliminary steps have had to be taken in connexion with civil aviation, as when the Constitution was drawn up aviation was not considered, and it is questionable whether the Commonwealth or State Parliaments have power to regulate civil aviation. Some authorities say that the Commonwealth have full power, but in order to be sure the matter was discussed at the recent Premiers’ Conference, where it was recognised that we could not deal with the air in six compartments, and that it was necessary to agree on the question of legislation. The State representatives were quite prepared .to vest the power to control civil aviation in the Common wealth, and the State Governments have undertaken to pass the necessary legislation, reserving to themselves police powers such as they have in connexion with other matters under Federal control. Legislation is now being framed in accordance with the terms of an international agreement drawn up at an International Conference last year, at which the Commonwealth was represented. We are 110W legislating on the lines of that agreement, with such additions and modifications as we consider necessary to meet local requirements. When the Estimates are submitted the Government will announce what they are prepared to do to assist civil aviation. Senator Thomas will admit that under the present circumstances I am unable to say more.
– The Minister did not refer to Sir Ross Smith.
– Have the Government taken steps to secure a base for seaplanes, and, if so, have they taken into consideration the suitability of Corio Bay, on the northern shores of which the experts assure us the conditions are perfect for establishing such a base?
– I regret that I overlooked one of the points raised by Senator Thomas. No offer has been made to Sir Ross Smith, because the Government have no authority, and it would be impossible to offer either Sir Ross Smith or Sir Keith Smith any position in our present aviation service that would be worth their consideration. Although Sir Ross Smith is visiting England for the purpose of lecturing and displaying pictures, it must be admitted by any one who has seen the pictures and heard his lecture that such a venture is likely to be more remunerative than anything the Government could offer. I know it is the intention of Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith to return to Australia when, they have completed their tour, and to become permanent citizens of the Commonwealth, so that it will be quite possible for the Government to make them an offer should the opportunity arise. .
Senator Guthrie referred to a base for seaplanes, and that question must also await the decision of Parliament. If the Government defence proposals are adopted such bases will, of course, be necessary. Certain sites have been explored, including one at Geelong, and, no doubt, within the limitations of the authority given by Parliament, the most suitable sites will be selected.
.- I desire to obtain from the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) some information concerning the administrative and instructional staff. I understand that some ih.ne ago the rates of pay of instructional staff sergeant-majors and warrant officers were increased. The Minister for Defence stated that substantial increases had taken place all round, but in going through the figures I have ascertained that a number of men - prominent noncommissioned officers who have been in the Department from ten to thirty years - have received increases not exceeding, in some cases, 2d. a fortnight. I noticed a paragraph in the newspapers to the effect that the Minister for Defence had admitted that some of these men had not received the consideration which the increase in the cost of living and the general increase in. wages demanded. Some of the non-commissioned officers concerned, who are amongst those who have made the Australian Army; were in the Defence Department when promotion was by rotation. I believe the policy has now been altered, so that merit is recognised, even if it overrides seniority. If an additional amount is not provided in this particular item, I would like to have some assurance from the Minister for Defence that those officers who have been promoted by rotation, irrespective of the ability they have displayed in the past, shall not be overlooked. Many of them have grown old in the Service - one will be retiring in a couple of years - and it is only right that they should receive fair treatment. Some who have been in the Service for twenty years now learn that others, who have been there only seven or eight years, will, under the new scheme, be receiving within ls. or 2s. per week of their salary, notwithstanding the fact that they have had years of experience. These men deserve better treatment, seeing that the method of promotion has been altered, and I trust the Minister for Defence will give a definite assurance that every consideration will be shown them.
– The pre-: sent rates of pay . of the administrative and instructional staff came into operation on the 1st April, 1920, and the revision resulted in an increase of approximately £30,000, spread over the whole number. Judging by the complaints received, one would naturally come to the conclusion that no one had received any advantage, but it is obvious that some of the men must have received substantial benefit. Complaints were made both by members of Parliament and by members of the staff, and their representations were submitted to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). We went into the question again, and we found that complaints arose in this way: As honorable senators are aware, the members of the administrative and instructional staff, like all public servants, are classified in grades, and in the case of staff sergeant-majors there would be three or four ‘ grades, each carrying a different rate, which is reached by annual or triennial increments. When the new scheme was initiated, Cabinet gave very careful consideration to the question of fixing the salary for each particular grade. The Department had ruled that under the new scheme a man was to be placed cn the salary nearest the salary he was receiving when, the change was made. It followed, therefore, that a man might have reached the third grade, and have been close up to the maximum salary of his class, which, might approximate to the salary of the first or second grade under the new. scheme, with a result that, although he received only a small increase of salary, he might probably be brought back one or two grades ; whereas a man who entered the Service more recently might obtain the full benefit of the new rates and be brought close up to a man who had been very much longer in the Service. The Government realized that this would be an injustice, and so we altered the scheme so that a man could retain whatever grade he had arrived at, and still get the new rate of pay for that grade, the increased pay to be retrospective from the inauguration of the new scheme. Honorable ‘ senators will find that this will remove the greater; part of the grievances referred to. There are, however, still some grievances connected with technicalities on the question of pay which are very difficult for a layman to grasp ; and in order to rectify them we have arranged for a committee of non-commissioned officers and warrant officers from the two larger States, because their conditions are typical of all the States, to be brought together to voice, in a practical way, their opinion upon the various points that have been raised. By this means, we hope to get direct representation of the men’s point of view, and, if there are grievances, to rectify them. There is one grievance which we shall never be able to overcome, namely, the limitation of the number of men required for the higher paid positions. In such a small regular Service as ours, it is obviously impossible for all men to start at the bottom and work right p to the top. There must be a limit to the amount which a man can reach. This limitation must be his capacity to rise in rank or grade, though some men seem to think that they can automatically rise from year to vear, and that their salary shall be determined by length of service, irrespective of rank.
– Or ability.
– Yes, some men seem to take that view, too.
– Absurd !
– We hope that by the method I have suggested we shall be able to rectify all legitimate grievances.
– I notice, that for rifle clubs and associations’ there is set aside the sum of £1,900, and for rifle range stafF, £1,275. I have looked through the schedule in the hope of finding a larger amount, but without success. If this sum is to be distributed on a pro raid basis for the purpose of encouraging rifle clubs and associations, it is wholly inadequate. During the war, the vote for rifle clubs was seriously reduced, and at the present time one State Government is considering the question of withdrawing railway travelling privileges from members of rifle clubs desiring to attend their matches. In view of the opinion expressed by those military leaders who some years ago visited this country, as to the value of rifle clubs in any defence scheme, the sum set aside by the Government is quite paltry; and on behalf of those men who engage in this laudable form of recreation, I urge a substantial increase. They deserve more generous treatment. I cannot help contrasting their position with that of any metropolitan football club which can command an exceedingly large revenue in the form of gate money. The Government would be well advised to restore that measure of encouragement which was given prior to the war if, indeed, they cannot increase the amount..
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to a case which, I have no doubt, can be multiplied throughout the Commonwealth. I refer to the treatment .of a Tasmanian area officer, a man who has seen active service, and has had the highest military honour conferred upon him for his services. Following his appointment, he was put to considerable expense to settle his family in his district, but has now received notification not that the position is to be abolished, but that his appointment is to be terminated, and his place taken by some one else. I do not know what regulations govern these appointments, but it appears to me that being a returned soldier, well qualified for his duties, he should receive special consideration, as now he will be obliged to remove his wife and family to some other centre where he may obtain employment. His is a very hard case indeed. He did not bring it under my notice personally. I know he would not do that. When I was inquiring the other day how he wasetting on, I learned he was leaving theistrict because his appointment had been terminated; and I cannot help thinking that he has not been well treated.
.- I am sorry I am not in a position to disclose the intentions of the Ministry concerning the matter raised by Senator Lynch, but the Government will be presenting the Budget very shortly, and our policy with regard to rifle clubs and associations will then be fully set out. I hope the Budget will be presented during the present month. The amounts in the schedule to the Bill are intended for the purpose of maintaining the status quo. I cannot say ‘any more than that at this stage.
Referring to the question raised by Senator Payne, I do not know the officer referred to, and so I cannot speak of him as an individual case. All I can say is that all appointments to the position of area officers have been temporary. When the war broke out a number of these men offered their services, and went to the Front on the understanding that when they returned their positions would be available for them.
– That provision, cannot apply to this particular case, because this man is -a returned soldier.
– I do not know the case referred to. All appointments to the position of area officers are being made from the ranks of returned soldiers. But there is another important point to be borne in mind. The underlying principle of the Kitchener scheme, under which the Military College at Duntroon was established, is that the permanent staffof the ‘Commonwealth Military Forces shall eventually be drawn entirely from the ranks of Duntroon graduates. As these men leave college, they spend a year in either England orIndia for the purpose of getting regimental training, and when they come back they take up their positions as area officers for the training of our future soldiers. This is the first step upwards; but, up to the present, we have not been able to supply the demand for officers. If the honorable senator will furnish me with the name of the officer referred to, I shall make the necessary inquiries, and see what can be done.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 83 to 100 (Department of the Navy), £349,450, agreed to.
Trade and Customs Department.
Divisions 100b to 115 (proposed vote), £78,655.
– On the item “Navigation, £125” desire to ascertain from the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs when the Navigation Act is likely -to be proclaimed, and when the Federal authorities will take over the administration in a proper manner. At. present, a good deal of confusion exists among those connected with the mercantile marine because of the delay in appointing officers, particularly subordinate officers, for the administration of the Department in the different States. In New South Wales, which, as honorable senators are aware, is the leading State from the stand-point of the volume of navigation to and from its ports, the staff of the Navigation Department, which up to the present time has been administered by the State authorities, has been for a considerable period in a condition of ferment owing to lack of information regarding the intentions of the Government as to the manning of the new Department. The mercantile community are anxious to know what gentlemen are to fill the position qf DeputySuperintendent in each of the States. I desire to be told when the Government intend to constitute this Department in a thorough manner in order that the shipping and mercantile community may know precisely where they stand and what are the intentions of the Government in regard to the future.
.- I desire to say a few words in reference to the Commonwealth Police. As it is apparent that the only work which this force is called upon to do is connected with the Department of Trade and Customs, I suggest that instead of its members being kept in a state of suspense as to when their appointments will be terminated, their services should be utilized exclusively by that Department.
– Senator Duncan has asked when the Government are likely to proclaim the Navigation Act, and to create the necessary staff to administer it. May I remind him that that Act was proclaimed, but owing to the abnormal shipping conditions which obtain at the present time, and the threat on the part of quite a number of vessels trading on the remote portions of our coast, to withdraw from’ that trade if the provisions of the Statute were enforced in their entirety, the coastal sections of the Act were repealed. It will be impossible to re-proclaim the whole of the Act until shipping becomes more normal, and the period when it will be re-proclaimed will depend wholly upon) the rapidity with which we can buy or build ships in Australia. ‘Coming to the question of the staff required to administer the Act, I would point out that a Director of Navigation has already been appointed, as also has a secretary, and these officials are now busy framing regulations under the Act. Applications have been received and are under consideration for the appointment of Chief Navigation Officer in each port of Australia. But I cannot say when the Act will again be proclaimed for the reason which I have already given.
.- I ask the Minister representing the Minister for. Trade and Customs if it is not possible to make an arrangement whereby dutiable goods may be admitted to a port on the north-west coast of Tasmania - for example, at Burnie? That portion of Tasmania has grown very rapidly during the past few years, and as all the importations for the west coast of that State - with the exception of those which go direct to Strahan - have to pass through Burnie, it has been found very inconvenient to compel goods whose destination is the west coast to first go to Launceston. Some years ago we had an officer on the north-west coast who attended to this work - I think he was a postmaster. It ought to be possible for the Government to make some arrangement whereby the public convenience in this matter may be met.
– Are there many oversea boats going direct to Burnie?
– We have not had any for some time. But in] the near future we are hoping to get a direct steamer service. If the Minister will look into the matter and see that some arrangement is made under which the position will even be temporarily relieved, his action will be much appreciated, whilst I am certain that it will not prove prejudicial to the Customs Department.
– Nobody is more keen to establish agencies for the collection of revenue than is the Customs Department. From what Senator Payne has said the chances are that, owing to the dearth of shipping during the past four years, it has been found unnecessary to retain as a Customs officer the gentleman of whom he spoke. I believe that most of the shipping to Burnie goes from Australian ports, so that the duty, upon imported goods has already been paid. I know the port of Burnie, and as it is bound to become a centre of great importance, it will require to have its own Customs officers in the near future. But I do not know whether the shipping business at present being done there will justify the granting of -Senator Payne’s request. I shall certainly look into the matter, and will let him know the result of my inquiries.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions . 118 to 128 (Works and Rail- ways Department), £50,765, agreed to.
Divisions 130 to 139 (proposed vote), £608,450.
– A few days ago, upon a motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I suggested that some injustice had been done to a postal official, and asked that’ I should be permitted to see the file of papers in connexion with the case. I was rather surprised to receive the following reply : -
It is not the practice of the Department to allow a perusal of the files of papers dealing with staff matters under the provisions of the Public Service Act.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) added -
I am unable to see my way to depart from the principle laid down by my immediate predecessors that such papers shall only be produced as the result of action in Parliament, and then only when strong presumptive evidence is. submitted that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.
I had always understood that any honorable senator who wished to do so was entitled to see papers dealing with the case of any person whom he thought had been unjustly treated. There was a time when that was so, and I wish to know whether that rule has been departed from. It seems absurd to refuse an honorable senator permission to see official papers in the circumstances I have outlined. It’ frequently happens that a person comes to a member of Parliament with a complaint that he is the victim of injustice. The member is allowed to ‘ peruse the papers dealing with the case, and - in nine cases out of ten - he discovers that no injustice has been done. If I were permitted to see the papers relating to the case of the postal official to whom I have referred, the chances are that no further action would be taken. But the real question that is involved here is whether I have a right to see them. I have brought this matter forward to-day in order that the Minister may be in a position to give me a definite reply:
There is another matter which is not very important in itself, but to which I desire to direct attention. I refer to the type of the answer which is often vouchsafed to inquiries by honorable senators. Some time ago I had a notification from the Parliamentary Librarian that a certain book had been forwarded to me in Sydney. Days passed, and the hook did not arrive. Accordingly, on the 14th June, I wrote to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales, stating that on the 4th June the Parliamentary Librarian had forwarded a book to me which I had not received. Upon the 26th June I again wrote to the Deputy Postmaster-General, stating that on the 14th June I had written him complaining of the non-receipt of a book forwarded by the Parliamentary Librarian, and intimating that the hook had come to hand on the 23rd June. In that letter I stated-
As it was posted on the 4th in Melbourne, apparently it was handled very leisurely by the Post Office officials.
I received a reply to the effect that the reason I had not received the book earlier was that it weighed more than 1 lb., and ‘that the Post Office officials did not deliver parcels in excess of that weight. I then wrote to the Deputy Postmaster-General as follows: -
I am in receipt of your letter of the 13th instant in answer to my communications of the 14th arid 2<>th June. I regret to say that I am not satisfied with the reply. You were good enough to say that an inquiry into the matter elicited that the article in question, namely, a book, was found in the delivery section of this office waiting application, as it exceeds the 1 lb. fixed for postal articles to be delivered by postmen. In the first place, I have weighed the book, and the weight is 131 ozs. ls that over 1 lb. ? Do you weigh articles avoirdupois or troy? In the second place, if the book was over 1 lb., ought not I to be informed of the fact that a parcel weighing over 1 lb. was at the post office awaiting delivery? No such communication was sent to this office, because on several occasions 1 asked the messenger whether >a bOOk had been received at this office, and on each occasion he said “ No,” until on the 23rd June the book was called for.
You stated, as far as could be ascertained, no application was made by an officer of the Commonwealth Offices for the book, which was finally specially delivered. It is quite correct that no application was made by an officer of the Commonwealth Offices at the General Post Office for the book, but I desire to know whether it is the duty of the Post Office to inform one; that a book over-weight was there or not. You say that it was finally specially delivered. It was delivered, but only after I had written complaining of the non-delivery of the book; and, if the parcel was over 1 lb., why was it delivered, instead of informing me that it was there? 1 am sending across the book, that it may be weighed by your Department, and I shall be glad if you would look into the matter, and satisfy yourself as to whether the reply given to me in your letter of the 13th July was correct under the circumstances.
The matter of not getting the hook for a few days was neither here nor there. Had I been told that somebody had, by mistake, put it in the wrong box, I should have said nothing about it. I recognise that in a big Department employing 12,000 or 13,000 officials, mistakes must occur.; but I object to members of Parliament’ receiving answers that are not correct. It is evident thaI t some one “ sold a pup “ to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Mr. Young. I do not believe that Mr. Young deliberately sent me a reply which he knew to be incorrect, but, obviously, some officer sent Mr. Young a reply which was not correct. I have not yet received a reply from Mr. Young to my letter dated 14th July. Possibly it is in my box in Sydney, although I asked that my letters should be sent to me here. What I want to know is what is done with officers who simply an answer which is obviously incorrect? I made a complaint also about the non-delivery of a telegram, and the Department gave me an answer with which I was satisfied. I am sorry that I did not get the telegram; but I recognise that in a hig Department like that, a book, letter, or telegram must obviously go astray sometimes.
– The report of the ex-Public Service Commissioner gives very interesting information regarding the Postmas’ter-General’s Department. It points out the tremendous increase in the telephone business. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that ] many telephone exchanges have reached the limit of their present resources. In a number of cases people who have applied for the installation of telephones have been informed that on account of the existing switchboards being used up to the limit of their capacity, and the number of applications being made for new telephones, it will be impossible to install a machine for at least eighteen months from the date of application. Telephones are a means of revenue, and their use should be encouraged, as is done in America by private enterprise. It is the duty of the Postmaster-General’s Department to ma’ke facilities available as speedily as possible for the installation of fresh telephone lines wherever they are required.
– We shall have wireless in the back-blocks in a few years’ time.
– I hope we shall. If it brings the back-blocks into closer communication with the more- settled portions it will be a very fine thing for Australia. In many exchanges would-be subscribers are up against a dead-end so far as the Postmaster-General’s Department is concerned. Every effort should be made by the Department, in cases where the switchboards are full, and new applications continually pouring in, to increase the accommodation. I regard the Telephone Branch as purely a business proposition. The Government run it in this country, although in other countries it is managed by private enterprise, and it is the duty of the Government to use every means to encourage people to install telephones. They are not only a great convenience to the public, but a good source of revenue to the Department, and I urge the Department not to be niggardly in this matter.
– Senator Thomas is in error if lie believes that there are any rules which prevent him from seeing departmental papers; but we deliberately established the Public Service Commissioner to keep questions of jobs and the administration of the Departments generally away from Parliament House. There may bo exceptional cases, and it is only these that members should bring before Parliament, where they concern wages or matters of discipline. The case referred to by Senator Thomas was one of discipline. If he will give me a brief statement of the facts, and show me that he has any reason to believe that an injustice has been done, I will see that an opportunity is afforded him to peruse the papers. Somebody must take the responsibility, and members cannot be expected to go into every detail of administration ; but, wherever a member will take the responsibility of saying that he honestly believes a big grievance exists, or that an injustice is being done, we will help him to remedy it.” There is no law to debar us from doing so. The honorable senator also said that some of the postal officials had sold the Deputy Postmaster-General a “pup.’’ If there are such individuals in the Department, they ought to be put out; but we cannot take the evidence in this chamber. I shall be glad if the honorable senator will let me have definite facts. A case of that sort ought to be looked into. We cannot act on suspicion; but if the facts are supplied I shall ascertain what official is responsible for giving misleading information to the Minister or his deputies.
I agree with Senator Foll that the Telephone Branch should be a purely business proposition; but will he tell me where we are to get wire from ? We have tried all over Australia to obtain wire and other materials for telephones, but in vain. We cannot make any definite promise, but we are distributing such material as we have in. the order of priority of applications. That is all we can do until supplies become more normal. I will bring’ the matter again under the notice of the Postmaster-General, but I cannot guarantee that he will be able to do more than he has been doing to meet the difficulty.
– The title of the book which was sent across to me was The Power of a Lie. I am not quite satisfied with the Minister’s reply about the papers. I understand him to say that if I think an injustice has been done, and tell him so, I can see the papers.
– Not necessarily. The Minister is the custodian of the papers, and must be the judge. If he gives you a negative reply, you have your remedy. You can move the Senate to order their production.
– I have been in Parliament a good many years, and have not bothered the Departments a great deal on these matters. Any one who thinks that I would go down to a Department and ask for papers for the mere fun of the thing is very much mistaken. It would not be in keeping with my record. I asked for the papers in this case because, as I said at the time, I thought an injustice had been done. It is unfortunate if one has always to put the whole of a case before Parliament. I have already had a chat with a very important officer in the Department, and can say safely now that I do not think there is anything in the case. I am inclined to the view that if I saw the papers that would be as far as I should go with it. If a member is of opinion that an injustice has been done, he should be able to go to the Department and ask the Minister to let him have a look . at the papers. Is the Minister always to say, “No, you must bring the matter before Parliament?”
– The Minister may say you can see them; but, on the other hand, he has a right to say “ No.”
– I do not object to a Minister having the right to say ‘ ‘ No “ in the case of certain papers, but the letter I . received from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) practically means that I cannot see any paper concerning what are called staff matters. These are the Postmaster-General’s words: -
It is not the practice of the Department to allow the perusal of files of papers dialing with staff matters under the provisions of the Public Service Act, and I am unable to see my way to depart from the principle laid down by my immediate predecessors.
I take it that his “ immediate predecessors “ have laid down a line of conduct different from that followed in the Department previously. I could understand a Minister saying, “ There are certain reasons why I object to your seeing the papers concerning a particular case.” In this instance, I asked by telephone if I could see the papers. The Secretary replied that as soon as the Minister came in he would speak to him and let me know. Then I got this letter. As it happened, I saw the Minister a little while afterwards on the Renown and spoke to him,. He said, “We have laid down a rule under which you cannot see the papers.” He did not mean in these particular circumstances, but a general definite rule.
– On staff matters? Senator THOMAS. - Yes. I have stood up in this House and another place against political influence in connexion with the Public Service as much as anyone, but that does not mean that Parliament cannot have the necessary informa tion to discuss the Estimates, or that if a member thinks an injustice has been done he may not bring the case before Parliament, which, after all, is the final arbiter. If a member is refused access to the papers he will probably take up a good deal more of the time of Parliament than he otherwise would. If he could see the papers, he might find that the person who came to him with a grievance had “ sold him a pup.” I care very little in this particular instance whether I see the papers- or not. Am I to understand that, if a member goes to a Minister and asks to see papers, there is no definite general rule that he is not to see them, but that that applies only to special cases ?
– That is the rule I have always followed.
– If Mr. Wise’s letter to me is to be interpreted in the way Senator Pearce indicates, I have no objection. If the rule is to be interpreted in the terms, as I read it, of the letter from the Postmaster-General, it is a very serious matter. It would appear from that letter that the only way in which an honorable senator can get access to a departmental paper is by putting up a case in Parliament, and wasting its time in demanding the production of half-a-dozen documents. Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral give me any assurance as to the way in which the rule is- to be interpreted ?
– I think that the interpretation of the rule by Senator Pearce is correct. I can again submit the . matterto the Postmaster -General, and will undertake to give it my personal attention.
– I am not greatly concerned about this particular instance. There is a principle at stake, and that is what I am putting up a fight for.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 145 and 149 (War Services), £367,525; division 35 (Refunds of Revenue), £100,000; and division 36 (Advance to Treasurer), £500,000, agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended and Bill read a third time.-
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Although the measure is in some respects new, in another sense it is an old friend, because on a former occasion honorable senators spent about seven weeks debating the provisions of a similar measure, which eventually was passed unanimously and sent on to another place. Certain features of the Bill are, as I have said, quite new. There is, for instance, the principle of control by one director instead of three, and, in my judgment, this is an improvement, because, as a rule, Boards have not the happy knack of despatch in’ business matters. It is not the intention of the Government to set up an institution in competition with State activities. The real work of the Director to be appointed as head of the proposed Institute will be to organize and co-ordinate the work of the best scientists obtainable, either in Australia or elsewhere. We cannot set any geographical limits to our selection. There is a consensus of opinion that the commercial and industrial development of Australia is wrapped up in the success of a properly equipped scientific institute. We have a country of almost unlimited possibilities, and if we call the hand-maid of science to our assistance, many of the problems that at present baffle us and hinder our progress will be overcome. These difficulties, which have done so much to impede our progress, are costing us millions of pounds annually. They are a very serious handicap, but already we have one or two notable achievements to our credit, and it may be profitable to mention them.
We all remember the menace of the mice plague a few years ago. Within a few weeks enormous damage was done to our wheat stacks all over the country, and subsequently, no less than twenty-seven or twentyeight different species of weevil pests made their appearance. The authorities responsible for the safety of our produce sought the co-operation of the British Government, and Professor Lefroy, who was sent to Australia, carried out a considerable number of experiments to re condition our wheat. This work, he estimated, could be carried out for about 3d. per bushel. Then the South Australian Government, in co-operation with the Wheat Board, had voted £1,000 for experiments in the same direction, and to Mr. Hargraves, a distinguished scientist in the service of the South Australian Government, belongs the credit of having perfected an efficient method for the treatment of our damaged wheat by the use of carbon dioxid.
– He has’ not received very much reward so far.
– The Wheat Board operations have not ceased yet, and I trust Mr. Hargraves’ name will never be forgotten. 1 may also mention some valuable discoveries in connexion with the growth of flax. During the war, and because of the shortage of flax for Imperial purposes, very successful experiments were carried out in Victoria. For the first year the available seed gave us about 2,000 acres of flax, and now we have about 10,000 acres under cultivation. Our product is regarded as equal to the second quality best Irish flax, worth about £246 per ton. But this is not the most important feature of the industry. In other countries flax is grown for either fibre or seed. The experiments carried out at Drouin, in Victoria, have demonstrated that the local flax is capable of producing both fibre and seed of good quality. This, I understand, is due to the special selection of seed and suitability of the climate.
In the northern State the tick pest and the worm nodule call for scientific investigation, and it will be the special work of thisnew Institute to organize all the work that has been done up to date in this and other directions. It will be the duty of the Institute to co-ordinate, and not to supersede present scientific activities, I do not say that the Commonwealth can set better scientists than can the States, or that it should enter into competition with the States. We hope to utilize the services not only of officers of the Commonwealth and State Departments, but also those of University professors, and we shall seek to bring these men together in a common bond of union. We have to make a start sooner or later in connexion with this matter.
At present Australia is faced with such problems as the cattle tick, worm nodules, white ants, tuberculosis in stock, and sheep blowfly, not’ to mention problems in cotton growing and viticulture.
– The first pest on the list should be that of the prickly pear.
– I admit that that is a big problem. I understand that in Australia the prickly pear covers a bigger area of land than is at present under cultivation. I believe that, by the use of an insect which has been 1 imported, one class of prickly pear can be destroyed. Upon the other hand, this particular insect evinces as strong a disinclination to tackle certain classes of pear as it exhibits a partiality for another class. But even if we can only lessen the evil, that is surely better than doing nothing.
Generally speaking, industry in Australia is backward from the standpoint of methods that we adopt in respect of organization. It is true that one may point to an odd exception, such as the recent development in the Newcastle steel works. But we must admit that shipbuilding and other big industries which we must establish in Australia are in comparatively a backward position. Again there are industries in our midst which are 5 per cent., 10 per cent., and 15 per cent, below the standard of efficiency. I have experienced very great difficulty in attempting to fix a uniform price for flour in Victoria, because the difference in the cost of its production varies as much as £1 and even 30s. per ton. The result is that a price which will permit of one miller obtaining a good thing from the industry will, perhaps, ruin another. All the problems which I have enumerated have a right to be investigated with a view to obtaining the best results. A man need not be a great scientist if he is a keen observer, in order to achieve good results. Where he has a valuable idea, the proposed Institute will seek to develop it for him. We should be prepared to assist men with ideas by giving them the benefit of the best scientific advice, and by spending a little money in an attempt to develop their ideas.
The greatest ideas have not always come from the colleges of learning. Upon the outbreak of war, two things were made very apparent. It at once became obvious that Great Britain had practi cally lost the art of making lenses which were suitable for field glasses and glasses for the Navy. To a large extent she had been dependent upon Austria. As a result of the shock which the Empire sustained Upon the outbreak of hostilities, this problem was tackled courageously by Britain, so that to-day she is turning out lenses superior to the Zeiss lens of foreign countries. I am extremely glad that that is so. Again, one of the provisions that had to be inserted in the Peace Treaty, after the Allies had conquered Germany, was that Germany should again provide them with dyes. I need scarcely recall our own experiences in that connexion during the past four years. I do not say that we have yet reached the same standard in regard to the production of dyes that Germany has reached. If these discoveries could have been made in a day we should never ‘have been in the position that we now occupy. We cannot look for immediate results in all these matters, and we must be satisfied to face a long, steady job in our endeavour to assist the pastoral, industrial and mining interests of this country.
When this measure was previously before us, the Government were pledged to exercise the greatest economy. ‘They are pledged to the same thing to-day. But there is a difference between economy when it means the cutting down practically of all expenditure, and expenditure for developmental purposes. One can recall hundreds of industrial developments every one of which has many times repaid the amount that was expended upon it. The conferences that have been held with scientists in Australia for experimental purposes have returned to this country more than the Institute will cost during the next twenty years. When the Bureau of Science and Industry was created we did not attempt to settle the problems with which we were faced, but merely endeavoured to get together all the information bearing upon them, and to build up a fine library. We then summoned to our aid the best men in the Commonwealth, irrespective of whether they were Commonwealth or State officers, and requested them to confer together for the purpose of laying down a plan of campaign. In the initial stages we found that two States had two different methods of campaign. What we desire to do is to get all of them to co-operate with us in order that the money expended upon scientific research may be spent in accordance with a definite plan. It is the intention of the Government to appoint the best man procurable as Director of the Institute. -He will require to be a firstclass organizer. There are many (men in our midst who are specialists, but who have had no experience of organizing. By that I mean that they have had no experience of getting together the best brains obtainable in Australia and of securing from them the best service. In addition, the Director must have a free hand to engage specialists for a specialist’s job. It is idle to get a second-class man to do a first-class man’s work. In these circumstances we shall have to pay heavy fees, but I do not hesitate to say that we shall be adequately recompensed for that.
I am glad to say that at a recent Premiers’ Conference there was a unanimous desire to co-operate in a bigger and wider effort in this direction. Under the Bill, a Bureau of Agriculture is to be established. This country is destined to be one of big agricultural developments. Everybody knows that hitherto we have merely scratched the surface of the soil, and have not attempted to farm in the true sense of the term. Even in the Mallee I have been struck with the difference between the returns obtained by men upon adjacent blocks. It frequently happens that a man with an inferior block will secure a return of five or six bushels per acre more than his immediate neighbour. What the Institute will* do is to adopt the method which has proved most successful . in matters of this kind, and to give it the widest publicity. Then in connexion with our manufactures” we need to elevate the standard as much as possible. We are not at all jealous of the work which has been done by the States. On the contrary, we congratulate them upon it. But we want all the good men who are available, instead of battling along as individuals, to grapple collectively with the big problems which face Australia in the eradication of certain pests. America, which is probably one of the most progressive countries in the world from an agricultural standpoint, was not satisfied to continue paying £6,000,000 a year upon agricultural research. Since the close of the war she has increased the amount by £3,500,000, mak- ing a total expenditure of £9,500,000 annually. That amount, however, will be repaid to her over and over again as will any expenditure incurred by Australia in this connexion. Collectively, we are poor as compared with other coun- tries.
– That is why we cannot afford to sit back.
– Exactly. What is ah ordinary grass plant in Great Britain may present quite different characteristics here. Look at our friend brer rabbit. Originally he was a pest in Great Britain, but to-day he is a luxury there.
Having decided to create the most effective machinery for accomplishing the object which we have in view, I believe that with the co-operation of our scientists and manufacturers we shall succeed. But it would- not be fair to expect a man who has a brilliant idea to spend money to develop it in the interests of this country. There are many clauses in the Bill which provide that a man who works for the Institute shall not be permitted to devote his time to producing things in his own interests. Upon the other hand, anything produced by the Institute will become the property of the Crown.
– How about patenting such things?
– Probably we shall do that. The men who work for the Institute will probably be compensated to an extent, by means of bonuses over which Parliament will have full control.
– But I was referring to individuals who obtained information through the Bureau.
– We shall not attempt to appropriate the inventive genius of any man for the Institute. All those things can be managed by a tactful Director with business capacity, who will organize the system in the interests of the inventor and the community.
– Under our patent law the original inventor must get the patent.
– That is so, and in this case by helping the individual we shall be helping Australia, too.
We are not likely to start the erection of new buildings in rivalry with the States. It may be necessary for the Commonwealth to establish one or two special laboratories, which the States could not be expected to put up on account of their enormous size or cost, but if we do this they can be utilized in common for the whoeof Australia. We shall try as far as possible to use the laboratories of the various States in co-operation with the State authorities, but I believe that the States are not so well equipped in the matter of laboratories as we could wish them to be. The Bill instructs the Director to utilize all existing State agencies as far as possible before the Commonwealth is called on to step in, and likewise to use those engaged by the States up to a certain point. He is directed not to start fresh investigations, ‘but to try to take up the work of investigation in cooperation with the States at the stage it has reached. Time after time the experience gained by past investigations has been found very effective up to a certain point, but the work waiting to be done requires a good deal of money, and, I believe, it should be done by one united effort on the part of the whole of Australia and Australia’s scientific institution’s. We come into this business more as an organizing force than as a dominating power trying to interfere with everybody else. In its wording, the Bill is a sweet and simple little measure, but it has a very ‘big purpose It has immense possibilities for good in the development of this country. If we can only increase the production of some of our manufactures by even 1, 2, or 3 per cent, it will make a wonderful difference when we come into active competition with the rest of the world on the return to Australia of normal conditions. I believe we have spent about £37,000 in getting ready for this Institute with the experimental or advisory committee, but its efforts have saved many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds to this country already.
I ask honorable senators not to look on the measure with prejudice, and not to say that it is of no use, because scientists talk and theorize, and do not do things. The Bill is not simply an attempt to organize the academic scientist. It does more; it seeks to bring him into touch with the practical manufacturer, tradesman, and engineer in order that Australia may gain the benefits which she needs. It is not a party Bill in any sense. It is an effort to strike an effective blow for Australia; and I trust that honorable senators will give it their closest attention. I shall be pleased to listen to any suggestions for its improvement, so long as they do not interfere with its vital principles.
Debate (on motion by Senator Earle) adjourned.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Generally speaking, the Bill contains only technical amendments of the existing Act, shownto be necessary . by. experience, but it includes also one or two principles to. which I desire to direct special attention. There is no doubt about the quarantine power in the Constitution. Legal authorities are agreed that that is quite clear and distinct, and leaves no room for doubt; but the events of the last influenza epidemic in Australia have made certain new proposals necessary. We had plenty of notice of that epidemic. The disease had almost completed a circle around the world. It had passed through Europe and reached South Africa, and on the other side it had come as far as New Zealand. It looked an impossibility for us to escape completing the circle. The Commonwealth, as the power with absolute control of quarantine in Australia, called together conferences of the State authorities to make preparations to meet the danger. The machinery that was devised looked perfect on paper, but as soon as the rumour of the first few cases in Australia spread, the States, to put it quite plainly, went mad, with the result that we had eventually to withdraw, and all Australian control was lost, except so far as concerned oversea vessels. This, unfortunately, happened right in the middle of the demobilization of our troops, and boatloads of our soldiers coming back were quarantined in several States, and eventually dumped down in a State that had been made practically a quarantine area. A great deal of suffering was caused, and everybody now admits that quarantine, as conducted at that time, was practically a farce. I do not mean to say that in those cases where persons were inoculated the attack of the disease was not modified or even prevented, but from one end of Australia to the other the machinery controlling the business was absolutely farcical. Men on vessels were quarantined in Western Australia, and again in South Australia and Victoria, and eventually kept out in midstream for three or four days in Queensland. . People were put” to all sorts of trouble, and no good was done, while what went on at the borders was nothing but sheer farce. It was a preposterous attempt to limit a thing like influenza to geographical boundaries.
Under this Bill. we take the power, if a disease develops into a national crisis, as’ the last influenza epidemic did, to proclaim certain areas which will come under the Australian quarantine laws or health laws for the time being. In normal circumstances, the State laws will remain in operation, and we will utilize them and co-operate with the State authorities, whilst still conducting our overseas health inspection under our quarantine powers; but, in the event of an outbreak becoming too big for one State and crossing the borders of other States, we shall issue a proclamation, if we deem it wise to do so, giving the Commonwealth complete power, and that proclamation, with the regulations under it, will supersede the whole of the State powers. We shall in this way institute a unified Australian action throughout the length and breadth of the country to accomplish our purpose.
Another amendment made by this measure is this : A vessel may be quarantined on account of cases of disease like cholera or influenza, but there is no power under our Quarantine Act to compel any one to be inoculated or vaccinated except in the case of small-pox. By this Bill we take the power to compel those on the ship, and any one attending to them within the quarantine area, to be vaccinated or inoculated, if necessary. This would mean practically in the last resort, if the whole of Australia were quarantined, the application of compulsory vaccination or inoculation, but the development would be very slow, because certain parts might be proclaimed quarantine areas without affecting other parts.
The Bill contains a rather novel provision, which may become historical. It includes a new definition of “vessel” to cover aeroplanes coming overseas. Sir
Ross Smith and Lieutenant Parer, who are to he congratulated on their achievements, have shown us a new way to enter Australia. We expect a big increase of air traffic, and it must be remembered that aeroplanes may arrive here after landing in countries where cholera and other diseases rage. We welcome those who have come to us from overseas by this means, but, art the same time, we do not want them to leave a trail of disease behind them. We are not likely to humbug aeroplane travellers by unnecessary restrictions. Hangars will be provided in the most suitable places, where the aviators can land and undergo their quarantine or cleansing without very much difficulty, and it is provided that, in the event of a storm, they are not compelled to land only at those particular spots.
I have frankly drawn attention to the inclusion of a provision for compulsory vaccination or inoculation in certain cases. There may be objections to this; but, at the -same time, anything is better than, to allow diseases to spread in Australia without making some serious attempt to check them.
Debate (on motion by .Senator Earle) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 1851), on motion by Senator Foll -
That this Senate is of opinion that Australian Trade Commissioners should be appointed in various centres of the world where their presence is likely to be of benefit to Australian export trade.
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting their concurrence in the above resolution.
– The Government have no objection to the motion. They have been considering the problem of oversea trade representation, both in’ Cabinet and through the Board of Trade, for some time. They feel that the time has arrived when Australia should lose her commercial isolation and look for markets abroad to develop her export trade and promote the interests of her producers.
– Do you think these Trade Commissioners do any good?
– I do. All progressive countries have commercial agents. America had only 26 or 27be- fore -the war. Recently she had increased her number to 70, and now she has 187 in various parts of the world, including Siberia. The industrial progress of a country is a fair measure of the intelligence of its people.
– ‘Have not the Australian States had Trade Commissioners before?
-Yes ; but the people of the world have now heard of Australia as a nation. Men who go out representing separate States find that in some parts of the world even the names of their ‘States have never been heard of; Other countries know of Australia today, and there never was such an opportunity for extending our trade, so far as sentiment is concerned. The war, and the world’s demand for goods, have brought us into closer contact with the other peoples of the earth. Japan, for instance, did an enormous business here during the war, while India, Egypt, and other countries have been using Australian goods, and know to the fullest possible extent the value of them. An Australian Trade Commissioner who goes to Mesopotamia, where we sent so much of our bacon and jam during the war, will go there now, not as a foreigner, hut as the representative of a country whose products are well known.
-Will you give us the history of what the Trade Commissioners sent out by the various States have done?
– Senator Thomas could not mention an Allied country’ in the world to which Australian flour or wheat was not sent during the war.
– As the result of the work of trade agents?
– No, as the result of the necessities of those countries. It has been quite a common thing, for instance, for the Wheat Board to receive four, or five cables in the course of a day, asking for wheat, or flour from various countries. We sent wheat to Egypt, India, France, Italy, Roumania, Bulgaria, and even to Turkey. The people of these countries were in need of foodstuffs, and those which we could send had a good reputation. I am not in favour of the engagement of a useless array of public servants to act as trade agents to the Commonwealth. I think that we should be able to securo the services of Australians who have been in touch with business in the Commonwealth to push the consumption of our ‘ products in other parts of the world. I believe that the appointment of such agents would pay remarkably well.
– The honorable senator is very optimistic.
– Senator Thomas might do good work in America.
– I am afraid that Senator Thomas is too great a pessimist to do good work of this kind in the United States of America. Most Australians are optimistic, and although our boys did perhaps talk at large a little they did this country a world of good. I think that it is our duty as trustees of the public to do the best we can to find markets for the products of Australia in order to promote the development of the country. We have sent millions of pounds’ worth of our products overseas, and I hope that we shall yet send more of our products to the value of hundreds of millions of pounds, as we must, ourselves, for some years to come receive the exports of other countries. I repeat that the Government do not oppose the motion, and I assure honorable senators that before we are much older the Government will take very definite steps to see that Australian trade interests are properly represented in various parts of the world.
.- My observationsin reply to the debate on this motion will be very brief. I desire to express my appreciation of the attitude of the Government towards it. I regard the stand which they have announced their intention to take in this matter as a very wise one. It is scarcely necessary that I should say any more, butI do sincerely trust that the Government will not wait until the motion has been debated in another place, if long delay is. likely to take place, before putting into operation the idea which itexpresses. I again congratulate the Government upon the way in which they have received the motion, and I trust weshall see it given, effect to at a very early ‘date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 8.51 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200805_senate_8_92/>.