8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 8 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation when we are likely to know what action the Government are taking in regard to “War Service Homes for which people applied at a. contract price of £700, but which are now being charged for at a higher figure.
– It is not pos- sible to name a definite date when the information asked for will be available, but I can assure the honorable senator that we shall not trespass upon his patience very much longer.
Superannuation-Retiring Agefor TransferredOfficers
asked the Leader of the Governmentin the Senate, upon notice -
Will he indicate if it is the intention of the Government to introduce the . Public Service Superannuation Bill in the Senate, or alternatively, in another place, during the present session?
– A Superannuation Bill has been prepared, but has yet to be considered by the Sub-Committee of Cabinet which deals with Public Service matters. “Whether the Bill will be introduced this session depends on circumstances.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the decision of the High Court in the case of Le Leu v. Commonwealth Government, what action does the Government intend to take in respect to -
Will the Government indicate its ‘intentions with regard to those officers whose salaries and emoluments were reduced as a result of the Commonwealth classification?
– The answers are -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to validate certain acts performed by persons purporting to act as War Service Homes Commissioner and Acting War Service Homes Commissioner, and to validate the ap- p ointment of a person as Acting War Service Homes Commissioner.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Senator E. D. Millen) read- a first time.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to -
That leave be given to. introduce a Bill for an Act to repeal the Commonwealth . Salaries Act 1907.
Bill presented, and . (on motion’ by Senator Gardiner)read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Thisis an ordinary Supply. Bill, with the exception of one provision. When I say that it is an ordinary Supply Bill I mean that it provides for the continuance for one month of the ordinary services of the year upon conditions to which Parliament has already given its sanction. The exceptional provision is for. three instead of for two pay days. Public Service salaries, as honorable senatorsare aware, are paid fortnightly, but it happens on this occasion that the third pay day of the coming financial year will . fall on the 4th August, and unless the course proposed in this Bill were adopted, it would be necessary, before the 4th. August to ask for a further warrant to enable pay- merits due oil that date to be made. That is: the only way in which this. Bill is in any way an exception from the ordinary Supply Bills. There is, however, one item covered by the Bill : to which. I wish specially to refer. In. the votefor the Postmaster-General’s Department it will be observed that there is an unusually large amount providedfor. That arises from the fact that there is- included in the vote an amountof £200,000 payable to the Imperial . Government under these circumstances:. Prior to the war. Australian mails were carried under the contract with the Orient Company. With the outbreak of war shipping was dislocated, and, as honorable senators are aware, many vessels, were commandeered for war purposes., That applied particularly to boats of the Orient Line. Consequent upon that disturbance of facilities for the carriage of our’ mails, it became necessary that Australian mails should be shipped on any occasion which offered, and. they were frequently shipped, on vessels of the. Peninsular and Oriental Line, with which the- Imperial Government had their contract for bringing English mails here. Under an arrangement which exists under the Postal’ Union Convention we became liable to the Imperial Government, which had the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Company, for certain charges in respect of the mails placed upon boats under contract with the Imperial authorities. Quite recently they submitted their account in conformity withthe Postal Union. Convention, and claimed. from us an. amount of £321,000.
– How many years did that cover ?
– Without being particular to a month or two, I may say that the period it covered commenced immediately after the war broke out.
– Did we therefore pay proportionately less to the Orient Company? The reason I ask is that if that course were adopted it would account for some of the surpluses claimed by the Post and Telegraph Department.
– I am informed that the Orient mail contract was suspended, and, therefore, payments under it ceased.
– That would represent a saving of about £170,000 a year, and would account for a surplus.
– The amount provided for in this Bill covers a number of years, and the cost to Australia is less- than it would have been had the original contract with the Orient Company been fulfilled. I have said that the Imperial Government claimed £321,000, but after considerable negotiation between that Government and our own, they have agreed to accept the sum of £200,000, and that amount is in this Bill included in the vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is rather interesting that when our facilities for the transport of letters’ became less the number of letters to be forwarded very greatly increased, consequent upon the fact that so many of our soldier citizens were in Europe. The percentage of mail matter to be carried increased tremendously; by 189 per cent. in one year, and by 529 per cent, in the year in which the maximum of. mail matter was carried. These figures show the great- effect on the weight of our postal matter which was consequent upon so. large a number of our citizens, being abroad, and the correspondence passing between them and. those whom they had left at home.
– We sent a very large percentage of. that correspondence by transport.
– Possibly so, but I mention as a matter of interest the very large increase in the amount of postal matter carried during the war.
– As soldiers letters were carried free of postage, can the Minister tell us whether the Imperial Government or the Commonwealth Government bore the cost of their transport?
– The Commonwealth Government have to pay it under the Postal Union Convention.
– The cost is included in the amount of £200,000.
– Yes; that is our contribution to the Imperial Government on that account, they, in turn, having provided the service. I do not know that there is anything else in the Bill to which I should refer. If, in the course of the debate, honorable senators submit inquiries,I shall endeavour to obtain the.information they desire.
– As under this Bill we shall commence the expenditure on public services for the new year, its consideration affords an excellent opportunity for the Economy League, which, I suppose, is represented in the Senate, to get to work on the reduction of expenditure right from the beginning. If we pass a sum of money for public services for the month of July, measured by last year’s votes, that will be a very good reason why, at the end of July, we should pass another Supply Bill based on last year’s votes for August, and so on for September, October, and until the end of the financial year. But as there is in Melbourne, which is the home of economy, a burning desire for retrenchment, that is being fanned into flame in certain quarters, I should like to see a development of that movement in the Senate. If there are any members of that League here sufficiently interested to try to bring about economy, I suggest that they move a reduction in the Estimates of each Department by 2½ per cent. They may think that is not enough, and declare for 5 per cent., and possibly some, even more enthusiastic, may declare for 10 per cent. If it is essential to retrench in any of the Departments, to my way of thinking the only people in a position to retrench effectively are the heads of Departments andthe Ministers concerned. I do not think the Senate can take up any item and say, “We will wipe this out,” or, “ We will reduce that.” I have a pleasant recollection of being connected with the Retrenchment party in the New South Wales Parliament thirty years ago. The Government and Opposition were very evenly balanced, and we sent the Estimates back to be reduced by 10 per cent. They were reduced by 10 per cent, accordingly. That stands as the highest -achievement in economy ever accomplished in any of the Parliaments in Australia. There are, of course, Governments so sensitive as not to stand that kind of treatment, and it may be that quite a number of gentlemen who manage the affairs of the Commonwealth Departments might refuse to carry on if they were treated so rudely as the Parliament of New South Wales in 1891 treated the Government of that State.
– Is the honorable senator going to move one of the. amendments he suggests?
– No ; I want to get behind the economists, not. in front of them. It is bad enough to lead one party without trying to- lead two, especially when the second is a growing party whose strength I do not know and whose policy has not yet been made public.
On the first reading, I referred to the fact that the soldiers were . expecting the payments of one-third of their war gratuity bonds in May, 1921, onethird in May, 1922, and one-thirdin 1924. Quite a number of honorable senators seemed to think I was introducing something new: Senator E. D. Millen, the Minister for Repatriation, tried to make out that it was the first time any one had ever heard of the promise that a payment of one-third would be made in May last, one-third in May next, and the balance at the expiry of the term, or that the bonds were to be redeemed in three equal instalments.
– I did not say that the third would not be paid. I referred to the payment of one- third of each individual bond, in contradistinction to one-third of the aggregate amount.
– What I meant to say was that, altogether apart from the necessitous cases, and the bonds held by widows, the deliberate promise was made by the Government before and after the election that one-third of the bonds would be paid in May, 1921.
– That is, one- third of the total amount.
– One-third of the total remaining amount altogether apart from the payments to widows and other necessitous cases.
– That is not in dispute.
– Senator Gardiner did not argue in that way yesterday. He said one-third of each individual bond.
– I said that a distinct and definite promise was made to the holders of the bonds that one-third of their value would be paid in May, 1921, one-third in May, 1922, and the remainder at the end of the term. That is definite enough. It is what I said yesterday, and what I am saying now.
– I did not dispute that. What I disputed, and the honorable senator will find this made clear if he reads the interjections that I made while he was speaking, was that there was any promise to pay one-third of each individual bond.
– I do not doubt that the honorable senator can at any time get in an interjection which will convey to the Senate what he has in his mind. He generally has an excuse ready to escape his opponent’s argument, and- escape the facts.
– Every ‘ one of us thought that you meant that one-third of each individual bond was to be redeemed.
– It might save time if every honorable senator . agreed that there was a definite promise by the Government that, after the necessitous cases had been paid, one-third of the remaining amount would be redeemed by the Government in May, 1921. If that is conceded I need not go further’.
– Will you now withdraw your statement that a promise was made to redeem one-third of each individual bond!
SenatorGARDINER.- If the honorable senator admits that the head of a Government can distinctly promise returned soldiers that, irrespective of the necessitous cases, one-third of the total amount would be redeemed in May, 1921, and the remaining two-thirds in equal instalments later, and that that promise does not carry with it the implication that each bond-holder is to be treated equally, I shall know where I stand. When Mr. Hughes introduced the Bill he dealt with his pre-election promises, and quoted from the Brisbane Courier. Part of that quotation is as follows : -
Bonds to be cashed by the Treasury in cases of hardship, of special urgency, on the marriage of a soldier, or on the re-marriage of a soldier’s widow. Bonds not covered under the above heads to be redeemed as follows: - The Treasury to take up at least £500,000 per annum, in May, 1921, the whole of Australia’s share Of indemnity payable by Germany to the Allies, which may be estimated at anything between £7,000,000 and £15,000,000, to be earmarked for the redemption of gratuity bonds. If the indemnity actually received on or before May, 1921, does not reach £10,000,000, the Government to make good the deficiency up to £10,000,000. The Government is to redeem the balance of the outstanding - bonds after May, 1921, in not more than three equal annual instalments. The Government undertakes that if, after May, 1921, the financial and general outlook in the local or foreign market warrants raising the outstanding balance, or any part thereof, by loan, it will do so.
That is a fairly definite statement. I have here also an even more definite statement of the Returned Soldiers’ League on the question whether the whole of the returned soldiers were promised that their bonds would be redeemable in three instalments, commencing in May, 1921.
SenatorFoster. - Was that a branch, or the Federal Executive?
– I am quoting from a report in the ‘ Sydney Morning Herald, which is headed “ War Gratuity” - “ Soldiers Demand Cash”-“ Mr. Hughes’ Offer “-“Returned Soldiers’ and Sailors-‘ Imperial League.” I am merely going back, on ‘this question, which- I raised yesterday, because an attempt has been made in certain quarters to prove that I misrepresented the position. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr. Curtis, an official of the League, said that he had received a statement from Mr.. Hughes to read to the meeting in regard to the gratuity. According to this, Mr. Hughes promised -
I desire honorable senators to be fair in this matter. I stated that a definite promise was made by the Government to redeem one-third of the bonds in May, 1921. I have quoted a definite promise by Mr. Hughes, which, according to Mr. Curtis’ statement at the meeting, was in Mr. Hughes’ writing, and given to him in the interests of Mr. Hughes and his Government. It was to the effect that, in addition to the special grants, £12,000,000 worth of bonds would be redeemed in May, 1921.
– It does not say “ in addition.”
– Does it not? Then listen to this -
Mr. Hughes pointed out that the bonds cashed by the banks and the Repatriation Department would probably amount, by that date, to £10,000,000, so that the Treasury would have to arrange for the redemption of over £20,000,000 in this period.
If honorable senators still persist in arguing that that is not a definite promise of a redemption in May, 1921, of one-third of the bonds, after all those separate conditions had also been met, then I cannot read the English language as printed, or cannot understand it when I do read it.
-Does the honorable senator still maintain that that means the redemption of one-third of each bond ?
– I have always given the Government credit for being fair, but if the honorable senator wants me to say that the Government would redeem the bonds of its own supporters, and refuse to redeem those, of its opponents, I will say it for him. Honorable senators were prepared, according to their in terjections yesterday, to say that no such promise had been made-. What other derduction can we draw from . a promise which says, “We anticipate that the necessitous cases, and the amounts redeemed by the banks and the Repatriation .Department, will amount to £10,000,000, and the Government are prepared to find over £20,000,000 in May, 1921”? “
– I agree with you that the promise was to redeem one- third over and above the’ necessitous cases and the amounts taken un by the banks and the Repatriation Department.
- Senator E. D. Millen’s interjection raises the doubt whether there was a definite promise that each individual bond-holder would receive one-third of his bond. in cash. I take it that the credit of an Australian Government is still sufficiently good to insure that, when a promise is made by its head to redeem one-third of the bonds in May, 1921, every bond-holder will have the right to consider himself entitled to the redemption of one-third of his holding. If we have a Government which makes promises which only it understands, and makes them merely to deceive, keeping something back, and putting on its words an interpretation which no fair reader can construe out of them, then I am prepared to let Ministers have the whole advantage of that, and I hope it will do them good. I have quoted the Prime Minister’s definite written promise as used at a meeting of his friends before the election that, after £10,000,000 worth of bonds had been taken up by the banks and the Repatriation Department, and by payments in necessitous cases, and pay ments to soldiers who married, and soldiers’ -widows who re-married, the Government were prepared to find an additional £12,000,000 in May, 1921. I do not shift from my interpretation of that statement as a distinct and definite promise to every bond-holder that his one-third would be repaid in May, 1921. I can find no reason for thinking that one bondholder was going to be treated differently from another.
– What if ona wanted cash and- another did not?
– I presume the one who did not want cash would not present his bond for payment.
– Then the other would get two-thirds? That is what the Government are doing now.
– Not only are the Government not doing it, but they are not going much out of their way to cash bonds even in necessitous circumstances.
– I have not found it bo.
– I shall send all my cases on to the honorable senator if he can get them through. It may do him good at the election.
– If there is any good to be got at the election, the honorable senator will not pass it on to Senator Thomas.
– Yes, because Senator Thomas goes up for election within the next year or two, and I do not go up until the following election. I want honorable senators to be clear that in what I said about the Government’s promise to redeem the bonds, I was stating the facts on information in my possession. Senators Payne, Duncan, E. D. Millen, and one other -were prepared yesterday to contradict my assertion:
– I contradicted what you said yesterday, and do so to-day; but. you have shifted your ground entirely. You have found -out since that you were wrong, and axe- now trying to hedge.
– My statement yesterday, unless Senator Duncan will also contradict the official report, was as follows : - ‘ ‘ A distinct and definite promise was made to the holders of these bonds that one-third of their value would be payable in May, 1921, one-third in 1922, and the remainder at the end of the term. At present quite a number of bond-holders who were anticipating the payment of one-third in May,’ 1921, are very disappointed.” That is the statement the honorable senator contradicted yesterday.
– No; I contradicted the other statement which you made yesterday, that . the promise was to redeem one-third of the bonds of each individual holder.
– Why not adhere to your statement?
- Senator Duncan’s interjection was - “ I have not met many, and I come in contact with a good number.” My statement is that a certain number of ex-soldiers expected that their bonds would be cashed in May. and Senator Duncan now says that I am not repeating what I said yesterday. If the honorable senator persists in adopting that attitude he will soon realize that much reliance will not be placed on his utterances.
– I still say it. The honorable senator is shifting his ground.
– The honorable senator will think differently after he has had longer experience. During many years of public life the accuracy of my statements has seldom been challenged.
– The honorablesenator is so adroit.
– His memory is . at fault.
– It is very useful not to remember at times. I desire the Minister for Repatriation to state, when replying, whether the promise of the Government is to be honoured, and whether, in addition to the £10,000,000 paid by the banks, and what has been paid in necessitous cases, the Government intend to pay £12,000,000 as promised.
– The honorable senator has not shown that the Governmentmade such a promise.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate is not yet clear on the point.
– The honorable senator was quoting from a newspaper report of what some individual said the Government intended doing.
– The Minister will not accept, that.
– I will take the Hansard report of the Prime Minister’s speech when he introduced the War Gratuity Bill.
– The report is taken from a reputable paper, the Sydney Morning Herald, and, so far as I can gather, it has never been contradicted by the Government.
– I have heard the honorable senator question the accuracy of the reports appearing in that paper.
– On this occasion it published a report supplied by Mr. Curtis, the secretary of the Returned Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, in which he said that the Prime Minister had communicated a certain statement to the league. If the Minister for Repatriation will not accept that authority, it will not be long before the public will not accept statements made by the Prime Minister. -
– From what paper was the honorable senator quoting?
– A report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
– The name of the secretary is Cortis and not Curtis. As the name is wrong, probably the whole statement is inaccurate.
– I think it would be well if Senator Duncan did not attempt to side-step the issue, as the returned soldiers know that the promise was made by the Prime Minister.
– What is the date of the paper in which the alleged statement appeared?
– I shall hand the extract to the Minister, so that ho can peruse it. The report I quoted was taken from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 10th November, 1919. Practically the same statement was made by the Prime Minister in Parliament in March, 1920, when the War Gratuity Bill was under consideration, when he said that if the indemnity actually received before May, 1921, did not reach £10,000,000, the Government would make good the deficiency up to that amount. The Prime Minister’s statement in the Brisbane Courier and in Parliament before the last general elections was definite and clear. He said that if the indemnity were not paid before 1921, the Government would pay £10,000,000. ‘ That, of course, was irrespective of the money that would be paid over by the banks, and in necessitous cases. I speak with a good deal of feeling on this matter, because when one rises to make a statement on a matter concerning which there is some doubt and suspicion, honorable senators endeavour by interjection to obscure the issue, in the hope that nothing more will be heard of it. A definite promise was made to the soldiers, and it was confirmed by the Prime Minister when he introduced the War Gratuity Bill in March, 1920. But the Government supporters, who claim to be enthusiastic for, and to have a monopoly of enthusiasm for, the soldiers’ interests, now endeavour to discredit my statement.
– The members of the honorable senator’sparty claim to have that monopoly. But doesthe honorable senator remember how the members of the Sydney City Council persecuted a man for months and kept him out of employment?
– I am not dealing with State matters. In dealing with a Supply Bill, we have an opportunity of disclosing facts, that should be made public. The measure before us covers quite a number of important matters, and I suggest that this is the time for the members of the Economy party to start their campaign. I know, Mr. Deputy President, that I cannot deal with the different divisions in the schedule on the second reading, but I shall take the first Department - that of the Parliament - which offers an excellent opportunity for exercising economy.
– Why begin here?
– Because it happens to be the first Department.
– The economists always start on some one else.
– That is quite true. The amount provided for the expenditure of Parliament for the period covered by this Bill is £5,866. In what direction can economies be effected under that item ?
– Reduce the amount paid to the Leader of the Opposition by £200.
– That might be all right. But it must be remembered that when this generous Government granted the Leader of the Opposition £200 a year, they deprived him of a more remunerative position on the Public
Works Committee to make room for one of their own supporters.
– Would the honorable senator have taken two jobs?
– No. During the twenty years I have been in Parliament, I have not been a member of a paid Committee, and as far as looking for perquisites is concerned, I have just as good a record as the next man. As the Leader of the Opposition has been mentioned, I may say that if there is any man who earns his money, surely he who occupies that position does so.
– I am not suggesting that it should not- be paid.
– It was a suggestion.
– I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition is not paid piece-work rates.
– No. If we should economize, and this Bill gives us the opportunity, let us do something worth while.
– Is the honorable senator’s Bill the first shot of the economists ?
-I desire to stir them up, to see what they intend doing. If they will not start now, it will be useless for them to complain about Canberra a week or two hence. When we commence referring to economy I do not think it is fair to suggest that only those employed in the Public Service should be called upon to make sacrifices. If it is to be a question of economy, there should be reductions all round. Those who advocate economy should ask . not only the members of the Public Service, but the large firms, to reduce high salaries by 20 per cent., so that those who are in more fortunate circumstances should share in the reduction, because there is just as much patriotism in the Public Service as there is in the so-called Economy League. Under this measure an amount of £5,866 is provided for this Parliament. What reduction can be made there? If we reduced the members’ salaries it would not amount to much, because they are only a small item.
SenatorFoster. - And if you increased the messengers’ wages it would not amount to much.
– They could be increased without affecting the dignity of
Parliament or interfering in any way with the services they render.
– That is not economy.
-I do not know whether it is not, because it is right to pay well for satisfactory service. The Economy Campaign must start on a logical basis, so that all sections of the community will be affected. We should call upon those who are in more prosperous positions - particularly those outside the Public Service - to find more money in order to pay our war debts off more rapidly. What objection could there be to a special income tax of 50 per cent, on all salaries over £350 a year until our war debts are discharged ? If such a tax were imposed - there would not be a very large number in the Public Service who would suffer - our war debts would be paid off at a more rapid rate, and the burden on the workers would be considerably reduced. As I have stated, there is an amount of £5,866 for Parliament. The Prime Minister’s Department, an ever growing, one, requires £18,000; the Department of the Treasury, £92,000; and the . AttorneyGeneral’s Department, £8,000. I do not know whether it would not be economical to increase the vote of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, because if there is one slow Department in the Commonwealth it is that of the Attorney-General. I believe, however, that the Department is ill-equipped, and as it is not- economical to hold up business for any time, an increased vote might be the means of the work being expedited. There is also an amount set down for defence purposes, and in this connexion I wish to thank the Minister for the information he has given concerning his Department. He cannot, of course, disclose all that is taking place in regard to the making of munitions. I inspected with pleasure an intricate piece of workmanship which he submitted to me yesterday, and I must admit that satisfactory efforts are being made in the direction of defending Australia. -I accept his statement of yesterday, that one-third of the vote for defence purposes is being used to supply material for the defence of Australia. I should like to . know whether there is much scope for economy under such conditions. Personally, I would largely discontinue the services connected with that Department, except the equipment section of it, and all the money which I could save in that way I would devote to providing the machines which are requisite for our effective defence.” I gather from the Bill that the cost of the military . arm of our Defence Department for one month will be £112,000. Even that does not seem to be a very large sum when we consider that it represents a month’s Supply for a warlike nation like Australia. I am ‘forced to the conclusion that Australia is a warlike nation, because when I look around I find a general to the right, a general to the left, and a general in front of me. Under the Bill provision is made for an appropriation of £240,000 in connexion with our Navy Department. Seeing that our military preparations will cost only £112,000 for that period, there may be a little room for economy in regard to the proposed vote of £240,000 for the Navy Department. But we must remember that a portion of that expenditure may be necessary’ in connexion with the construction or repairs of docks, or ships, or submarines. Obviously, we cannot have an effective naval defence unless we are willing to pay for it. Then it is proposed to expend a sum of £114,000 upon our air services. I think that that amount is a pretty stiff one for a month’s Supply for a new branch of the Defence Department. The whole of that money, I think, should be used in the purchase of machines.
– What is the use of machines without men ?
– If we have the men,, but not the machines, the men will be of no use whatever; but if we have the machines very little time will elapse before we can train men to use them.
– We have the men.
– A military authority upon my left interjects that we have the men, and I agree with him’. Then it is proposed to appropriate £81,000 for a month’s Supply in connexion with the Department of Trade and Customs. I think that in the interests of economy we could wipe out that Department altogether. We are invited to vote £112,000 for the military defence of this country, and £240,000 for its naval defence, whilst at the same time we have in existence a Department of Trade and Customs which is doing its best to prevent exporters from abroad sending to Australia, without any cost to the public, machines which would be of infinite benefit to us if we were at war to-morrow. In this connexion I specially refer to the duties upon motor lorries, motor tractors, motor cars, and motor cycles. . Let us imagine Australia at war, with an ample supply of motor cycles, motor cars, and motor lorries. Let me assume that the possession of a sufficient number of motor cycles, with side cars attached, would increase the effectiveness and mobility of our forces by three, that an adequate supply of motor cars Would increase its effectiveness and mobility by seven, and that a sufficient number of motor lorries would increase its effectiveness and mobility by eleven. Obviously, the three combined would increase the effectiveness of our forces by twenty-one. When we consider the wide spaces in this country which are not traversed by railways, we must admit that there is no matter of greater importance than that we should possess the vehicles which will be needed to carry both our men and our guns wherever they may be most urgently required.
– With about a week’s supply of motor spirit upon hand !
– The Protectionists will tell the honorable senator that theneed for them is a good reason why the transport vehicles mentioned by him should be manufactured in Australia.
– I know that the Minister is aware of what the Protectionists think, because they have been putting their arguments before him for years. But fifty years’ experience of Protection by Victoria has not put this State very much ahead of the rest of Australia. If the duties upon motor cycles, motor cars,and motor lorries were remitted, the people of this country-
– Yesterday the honorable senator was arguing that we should manufacture our own war equipment.
– I was, and I am still, arguing it.
– The honorable senator” is arguing that we should import the motor vehicles which he has enumerated.
– What duty does the honorable senator suggest should be imposed upon them ?
– None whatever. If the Defence section of this Chamber is in earnest, its members cannot shut their eyes to . the fact which I am endeavouring to stress.Just imagine a duty of 40 per cent, upon a motor cycle! If I were Minister for Defence, I would encourage all the young men upon our farms to use motor cycles, by supplying them with these machines upon easy time-payment terms, so that we should always have a force available whose members had been effectively trained for war.
– That would mean the creation of another new Department - a Time-payment Department.
– Yes ; but it would be a Time-payment Department which would return us very good value for our money. If we spend hundreds of thousands of pounds for defence purposes, and at the same time shut out, by meansof high duties, machines which could be effectively used in time of war, our attitude is a ridiculous one. Upon many occasions the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has wisely remarked that we must take to heart the lessons of the war. I agree with him. But if there is one lesson more than another which I have learned from the war, it is that it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of motor traffic in time of war.
– Does the honorable senator think that the lesson in regard to motor transport in France is of any value to Australia, where we have not the same class of roads?
– If we are in earnest upon the question of economy, some of the salaries which are now going to “brass hats” can be expended upon the construction of good roads. The Minister has told us that one-third of our military expenditure is being devoted to the manufacture of munitions, and that consequently there is no room for economy in respect of that vote. I do not think that there is: But why should we put an army of officials around our coast for the . purpose of preventing admission - without - the payment of very high duties - of such machines as motor cars and motor cycles, not to mention other means of motor transport?
– What about the agriculturist ?
– He has learned the lesson that it is impossible to protect him.
– Does the honorable senator say that we cannot manufacture in Australia all the’ motor cars that we require?
– Victoria has been protected for fifty years, and it has not manufactured one yet.
– The reason may be that she has not been sufficiently protected.
– I am arguing in favour of the abolition of the Department of Trade and Customs.
– Is the honorable senator dealing with motor cars or with the question of protecting the primary industry of soldiering?
– I desire to protect the lives of our soldiers should we ever be called, upon to defend ourselves against an invader. Why should it be necessary for us to employ an army of Customs officials to keep out of this country the machines which are most necessary for its defence ? Long-range guns for our defence would be useless in the absence of motor lorries to carry the necessary shells to them. Under this Bill the Government propose to spend the best part of £500,000 upon war preparations during the next month, whilst, at the same time, they contemplate incurring a large expenditure in shutting out those transport vehicles which would be of the greatest possible service should war unfortunately overtake us. If the Defence Department permitted all the farmers who were willing to do so to take over motor lorries and motor tractors, conditionally that they undertook to keep them in order, when war broke out we should have not only a large number of effective machines but a sufficient force of men who had been trained to handle them. I remember hearing a statement by a very high military authority concerning the evils which resulted, through the inability of the drivers to efficiently handle a certain tractor which had only just come into use. If the duties upon the motor vehicles which I have mentioned were remitted for, ‘say, two years, the men who are engaged in the motor trade would have their warehouses full of them.
– Does not the honorable senator know that we have been manufacturing very fine “motor tractors for some years f
– My information is that there is not one engine of the class required’ for motor ^ cars or motor lorries being made in Australia to-day. If honorable senators have better information let them tell me where such engines are being made.
– The honorable senator was speaking of motor tractors.
– I can take the honorable senator to Ballarat and show him two places where the engines of which ha speaks are being manufactured.
– It is idle to say that these things are being made here, because they are not.
– The honorable senator is misinformed.
– If we really desire to encourage the manufacture in Australia of articles necessary for Defence purposes, there is a better way to do it than by having an army of Trade and Customs officials around our coast. The way to do it is to say what we want done, and what we will give to have it done. We say that we want to defend this country, and yet the most effective weapon for its defence is not admitted free of duty. An official of the Trade and Customs Department will say to the owner of a motor car, “ You cannot bring that into the .Commonwealth until you have paid duty upon it to the extent of £40 for every £100 of its value.”
– That is our way of collecting the most effective weapon of defence, which is revenue.
– I am glad to hear Senator Duncan say that our revenue must come from the. workers.
– Do the workers own the motor cars? Why this insistent pleading for the owners of motor cars?
– My pleading for the motor car is because of its value for defence purposes.
– The honorable senator would put them on the free list.-
– I would put them on the free list to-morrow if I had my way.
– I thought that the honorable senator always argued that in the long run all taxation comes from the workers.
– Yes, all except taxation of land values. Under this Bill, I am not permitted to enter into a discussion as to. who pays taxation. It permits me only to give reasons why officials paid to keep goods out of this country should be removed.
– The honorable senator has argued in favour of the manufacture in Australia of munitions of war. Would he not be logical if he were to insist on the manufacture of motors in this country, to carry the munitions to the Front?
– Yes, absolutely. Let the Government start upon their manufacture, and I shall not care what duties they impose. I have a statement in my possession to the effect that when Mr. Henry Ford, of motor-car fame, proposed to establish a branch of his business, his opponents were notafraid, because they reckoned that it would take five years before . he could come into competition with them. If the Government propose the expenditure of another £1,000,000 for the manufacture of motor cycles, lorries, and other engines of war, they will find me supporting them, although I am such a staunch economist. The point I make is that the Government are not doing- that, and at the same time they are asking us to spend a lot of money for defence purposes. Why should they not be logical, and say that as we are not mailing these machines, which are necessary for the defence of the country, we shall admit them free of duty, so that, when war finds us, we shall be in a position to use them? That would be a sound proposition for either a Protectionist or a Free Trader. The Government are asking us to spend about £350,000 per month for war purposes, and at the same time they say that the most effective machinery for conducting a war shall not be allowed to come into the Commonwealth free of duty.
– Has the honorable senator ascertained how many motor cycles were imported into Australia during the last six months?
– I have no information on that point, but I have figures which show that the duty on a cycle, which was £12 before the present Government came into office, is “£48 now.
– What is the duty on motor cars to-day.
– I understand that it is £40 for every £100 of value. .
– I am afraid that the discussion is becoming wide of the question before the Chair. It is not competent for the honorable senator, on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, to enter upon a discussion of the Tariff.
– I am particularly anxious,, sir, not to come into conflict with you. I . am dealing with that part of the Bill which covers the supplyasked for the Trade’ and Customs Department, and I have it in mind to submit an amendment for the abolition of the whole of the officials connected with the Trade and Customs Department.
– The officials or the officers?
– Officials, officers, and everything else connected with it. I am prepared, sir, to take your ruling as to whether, in proposing an amendment of that kind, it is not competent for me to say something about the absurdity of putting up a Customs barrier around Australia.
The’ PRESIDENT.- I think the honorable senator should not discuss the Tariff on the motion now before the Senate.
– I suggest as a circumstance in mitigation that there is about to be an election in Queensland,, and I may not have the privilege of being here when the Customs Tariff Bill- is before the Senate. However, I shall accept your ruling, and as the Bill provides for votes for the Trade and Customs Department, I can refer to that Department, when we are dealing with the schedule in Committee.
There are several other Departmentswhich can be dealt with more effectively in Committee. I might refer to the Department of Works and Railways; and I am doubtful whether that’ is- not a Department which might be abolishedwith advantage to the Commonwealth. Most of our Departments are top heavy. Their overhead charges are, far too great. I am not referring now to the salaries of individual officers, because, in my opinion, if there is one section of the community which more thananother is insufficiently paid in proportion’ to ability and service, it is the Commonwealth Public Service. In the State which I represent the salaries of the public servants have been reduced by the State Government by about 6 per cent. I mean to say that they have been effectively reduced by that amount by the decision of the State Government to tax those salaries to that, extent. I think there is only one thing left for the Commonwealth Government to do, and that is to make the reduction good to public servants in New South Wales.
– That would be tak-% ing the money from one pocket and putting it into another.
– What is done now is to take the money out .of the pocket of the public servant and put .it into the pocket of the State.
– We might give a grant to New South Wales.
– Tasmania is the only State that is in receipt of a grant, and New South Wales pays half the amount from a feeling of friendship towards the people of Tasmania. The interjections of honorable senators are tempting me to get away from. the principles of the Bill, to which my remarks should be confined, and I shall therefore reserve further remarks until we are considering the schedule of the measure in Committee. I should- like again, however, to suggest that the Works and Railways Department is one which should be given strict attention by the Cabinet, to see that we are getting value for the money spent on it. I am not commenting on the officials, their salaries, ability, or services, but on the undue overhead growth of various Public Departments. This will have to be attended to by the present or by - some other Government. When a Department is brought into existence, the staff grows and flourishes exceedingly, though whether the work is accomplished more effectively is quite another question. I again ask the Economy party, now that we are beginning the expenditure for a new year, to give us some indication of what .they mean .by economy. I suggest to them . again that this is the Bill in connexion with ..which they should start their campaign.
.- The few remarks I have to make on the second reading of this Bill will be confined as closely as possible to one or two items covered by the measure. I should like, however, to say that I was” astounded to hear- Senator Gardiner advocate the abolition of the Customs system at this time, and on the ground of our war experience. I thought that if there was one thing which we learned during the war, it was the necessity of every country being self-contained and self-reliant. . Surely the experience which not only we, but the great centre of our Empire, had during the war brought home to us with irresistible force the necessity of having tho whole of our requirements provided by ourselves.
One other matter to which the honorable senator referred was the desire for economy. There -is one thing which those gentlemen who are so pronounced in their advocacy of economy overlook, and it is the fact that in Australia we have all the machinery of government necessary for governing a population ‘of 50,000,000. I do not see how we could have less, or how we could abolish any of our existing Departments. When we suggest to the advocates of economy that some Department in which they are particularly interested should be abolished they at once resent the suggestion, but they are always ready to advocate the abolition of Departments in which other persons are concerned. We have a population of only a little over 5,000,000, and consequently our cost of government is abnormally high, but if we had a population of 50,000,000- the cos.tof government would not be very materially increased. If our people are to be efficiently governed, I find it difficult to suggest anything in our machinery of government that we can do without.
– Is not the cost of sustaining a civilized being more than that of sustaining an uncivilized being?
– Naturally the cost of government must be increased proportionately with the increased cost of other services. What I want to impress upon those who are clamouring for economy is that if we had five or tcn times the number of people we have at present in Australia, the cost of government would not be increased in any very great measure.
I wish to make a reference to the question of pensions for the blind. The case to which I intend to refer may be considered an isolated one, but that should not influence us. What is important is that a legitimate grievance should be remedied. It will be remembered that last year this Parliament carried an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act exempting blind pensioners from the ordinary disqualification attaching to pensioners generally. We made provision that blind pensioners should be permitted to earn up- to £4 5s. per week without any diminution of the . pension they receive from the Pensions Department. . It was intended that that should apply to all blind pensioners. Unfortunately - and I do not hold the Draf ting Department of the Government blameless in this matter - section 22 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was not amended as it should have been. That section reads - No person shall receive an invalid pension unless …. his relatives, namely, father, another husband, wife, or children, do not, either separatelyor collectively, adequately maintain him.
I am sure it was the intention of Parliament, and, I believe, it was the intention of the Government, when that amendment was passed, that this section should be also so altered as to allow a blind pensioner, although his father might be in a position adequately to maintain him, to receive the full amount of his invalid pension. I addressed the following letter to the Treasurer some time ago dealing with this specific case: -
Hobart, 19th May, 1921.
Right Honorable Sir Joseph Cook, Federal Treasurer.
Dear Sir. - May I present for your special consideration the case of a blind pensioner. He has been refused the pension on the grounds that his father is able to maintain him (section 22, Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act). His father’s income is approximately £518 per annum, and if his son Tom was his only dependant he might reasonably be expected to maintain him, but, unfortunately, he is not. His elder brother is a complete invalid, and his second brother has now developed blindness, and his sister, through illness, has had to relinquish a position by which she earned her own living; so you can imagine how far £518 would go with four invalids in the house. I know it was your intention, and the intention of Parliament, when the last amending Bill was passed, to pay the pension to blind persons, irrespective of what assistance they might get from friends; hut, unfortunately, section 22 of the Act was not amended, hence this trouble. Now the only way that I can see that justice may be done to blind persons, and the intention of Parliament given effect to, is by a more liberal interpretation of the Act. This son is over twenty-one years of age, and if the father turned him out the pension would have to be paid. However, I leavethe case to you with confidence that you will do the best.
I received the following reply: -
Department of the Treasury, 3rd June, 1921.
Senator the Honorable J. Earle, Parliament House, Melbourne.
Dear Sir. - With reference to your letter of 19th May, addressed to the Treasurer (copy attached ) , I have to say that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provides that no person shall receive an invalid pension if his relatives, namely, father, mother, husband, or wife, adequately maintain him. Information in the possession of the Department shows thatTasmania, is being adequately maintained by his father. The Act does not provide for differential treatment in the case of children who are over twenty-one years of age, and under the circumstances the law will not permit of the payment of pension. I regret, therefore, that nothing further can be done in the matter.
I cannot understand why, in the face of the Act of Parliament and the desire of the Government, the law need be so strictly administered to the very letter. There is no doubt in my mind, andIdo not think there is any in the mind of the Government, that their intention, and the intention of Parliament, was that a blind pensioner should be placed on a different footing from those invalided through other causes. There was a long debate on the question at the time, and the amendment of the Act was fully justified by the arguments then advanced.
– That section applies to all invalids:
– Quite so, but other sectionsof the Act provide that the ordinary invalid pensioner shall not be allowed to earn more than £65 a year, and if he is in receipt of more, his pension is reduced, whereas the blind pensioner was specially dealt with in consideration of his special affliction. If any body of people were ever grateful for an Act of Parliament, the blind people of Australia are grateful to this Parliament for being given the opportunity of earning what they can. I do not think I ever participated in anything which gave greater satisfaction to others, or brought greater satisfaction to myself, than the passing of that Act. I appeal to the Government to introduce an amending Bill, if that is absolutely necessary. I do not know whether there are any other cases than the one I have named. There may be many, but if there is only one, that instance indicates such a manifest injustice to the individual concerned that Parliament might even rush a short amending Bill through to correct the error which obviously took place when the last Bill was before it. The father, in this case, is a really good ‘citizen, and, I am sure, will carry out his responsibilities to his family to the last penny; but he has two blind sons, one crippled, and an invalid daughter, so that practically the whole family is invalided, and his position is especially hard.
– Are the members of his family adults 1
– Yes. -If he turned the boy out, which he would be legally justified in doing, the boy could draw the pension and earn what he might, but from the fact of his living at home with his father, the Treasury Department argue that the father is quite able to maintain him. He, therefore, cannot receive the pension, which is decidedly unfair and unjust in every way.
Another important question concerns the position of old-age pensioners who are in various institutions. It has been brought up several times in the Senate. When the Old-age Pensions Act was passed, the general practice was that the old-age pensioners in institutions were maintained to the extent of 8s. per week by the Commonwealth, which paid the money to the States or to the institutions themselves, and the pensioners also received 2s. a week each as pocket money. Since then the pension has been increased to 15s. per week, but the pocket money has not been increased to the old folk. I do not know whether the Commonwealth Government has increased the money paid to the institutions for the maintenance of pensioners, but the failure to increase the pocket’ money paid to the old people themselves is contrary, to the proper policy. We ought to do all we can to encourage the old people to go into these institutions, where they are often better cared for, nursed, and kept clean, than elsewhere, and their remaining years made much more comfortable. - The policy the Government has adopted rather tends to keep them out of the institutions. If they can stay out, they receive 15s. per week, but if they go in they are paid no more than the 2s. a week which was originally granted. This question has been brought before the
Treasurer, and when I last raised it here the Minister representing the Department promised to bring it before the Government, but so far I have had no intimation that they have come to any decision.. I should like the Government to consider it, and to see whether they cannot increase’ the pocket money to at least 5s. per week. Honorable senators know how rar 2s. will go in the purchase of tobaccoor other little articles that old people want.
– The amount allowed is the difference between the total pension and what is paid to the institution.
– I do not know how the matter is adjusted. I do not know whether the States axe now receiving 13s. per week or ‘ whether some other method is followed. The amount involved in my request is very small. I am sure the great majority of the old people deserve the slight increase, although some may be in their present position through their own, fault.
– Perhaps the States would- do something in that direction by cooperatiom with the Federal authorities.
– I have no doubt they could. I appeal to the Federal Government to take the initiative and, if necessary, to ask the States to do something to make the lives of these old people a little brighter than at present.
Another question which arises concerns the expenditure of nearly £750,000 a year on the maternity allowance. I spoke of this some time ago, and believed, from the Minister’s expressions, that my remarks met with considerable sympathy from the Government. We are not getting reasonable value for the money which is so expended. I am not advocating any reduction, and this is not an economy stunt on my part, for I would expend more money in advancing the object for which the vote was originally passed - that is, to increase the naturalborn population of Australia . If the system of public maternity clinics, nursing homes, and so on was extended-, a great deal better work would b’e accomplished. I have had an opportunity to observe the work carried on in Hobart by the Child Welfare Association, .where a number of enthusiastic ladies are associated with doctors, and meetings are held, at which prospective mothers receive advice as to the treatment of their children. Pure milk supplies are arranged for, where the mother may purchase milk at a standard price, or get it free if she is unable to pay. Children’s garments are provided by the association, and, generally, whereever necessary, advice is given and care expended on the upbringing of the child. In the method we have adopted of paying £5 on the birth of practically every child in Australia, we are rather misguided.
– It ought to be called the doctors’ and nurses’ bonus.
– There is a great deal of truth in the suggestion that the mother in most cases acts only as an agent between the Commonwealth Government and the doctor or the nurse, but it is also true that in many instances the money is misapplied. I find, from sworn evidence taken before a Committee of which I was a. member, that for 99 per cent. of the births in Australia the bonus has been claimed. Practically in every case the maternity allowance has been claimed. If the institutions I have named were subsidized by the Government a great deal more effective assistance would be given to those people who require it, and those who do not need it would not suffer.
– It would be making paupers of some people.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong, asI would be the last to assist in doing that. I have seen the work of these institutions, and can say, without hesitation, there is absolutely no suggestion of pauperism, because women of all classes visit the clinics to receive advice, which they frequently pass on to others. I quite understand what Senator Thomas has in mind, but I would bc the last to do what he suggests. I feel sure that this system could be carried out without branding any one as a pauper. I strongly urge the Government to take the earliest opportunity of considering the advisableness of dispensing with the present system of paying maternity bonuses, and to spend a similar amount in co-operation with the State Governments. I believe that if anamount of £750,000, which is at present expended, were devoted to the work I have suggested, the State Governmentswould co-operate by subsidizing that work. I feel positive that a considerable number of Australian citizens would also assist by augmenting the funds, and thus render valuable aid to those whom we desire to benefit.
I desire to refer to our expenditure in searching for oil. There is an item in theschedule dealing with the work at Papua, and I would like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) to indicate what is being done in that direction. I have a very strong suspicion that there is an unseen and powerful influence existing in Australia with the object of preventing the discovery of oil. lt is most remarkable that every effort to discover oil in Australia has been frustrated, either by ridiculous mismanagement, or some accident at what may be, to some, a most opportune time. In connexion with the shale oil in Tasmania a syndicate was floated, with which a gentleman who is a member of this Senate was closely associated. They obtained the services of a man who had been employed by a big oil company to manage the affairs of the syndicate, and advise it as to the capital required.; but, instead of starting to exploit the discovery in the most economical way, the retorts were placed on the opposite side of thehill from the adit. Honorablesenators will readily realize that with the deposits on one side of a hill and the retorts on the other, the handling costs were considerably increased, with the result that the syndicate became insolvent.
– Who was responsible for that?
– The manager, or the syndicate which was taking the advice of an expert officer.
– Why is the honorable senator suggesting that it was the result of sinister influence?
– That is what I suggest, and, although I believe such is the case, I cannot prove it. The same peculiar happening occurred in New South Wales. Honorable senators, I suppose, are well aware that, approximately, £1,000,000 was spent at the Wongan Valley, where a railway was placed on the’ opposite side of the hill from where the deposit existed. After expending, approximately, £1,000,000 the company found that when they were in a position to commence operations their capital was exhausted, and they had no opportunity of developing the deposit. At Roma, in Queensland, where natural gas is rising from the earth, there are strong indications of oil; but when the bore reaches a certain depth, and one at which they expect to find oil, something breaks, and the bore becomes choked.
– That is quite a common occurrence in boring for artesian water.
– It is a common occurrence.in boring for oil. So far as I can learn, when the point at which they expect to discover oil is reached, something breaks, and the money expended is lost. In regard to Papua, I wish to be very careful, because I have the highest opinion of Dr. Wade, with whom I was closely associated in connexion with his report upon the shale deposits in Tasmania. He appeared to me to be a practical man; but I am now advised that, after all the money we have spent in Papua on his advice, the AngloPersian Oil Company, in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government, has abandoned the original site and commenced operations 40 miles distant.. The Minister for Repatriation can inform me if I am correct, but I have read a statement to that effect in a reputable paper, and I, therefore, believe it to be true.
– On whose advice did they do that?
– It was done evidently on the advice of the AngloPersian Oil Company, as they are contributing to the cost, and I imagine that they would make a genuine effort to discover oil. It is not likely in these circumstances that they would wish to throw us off the scent. I would like to know if our expenditure in co-operation with this company is anything appreciable. If Dr. Wade, as Australia’s oil expert, agrees to abandon all that has been done, and recommends additional expenditure upon a site 40 miles away, some explanation is necessary. Perhaps when the Minister replies he will be able to give some information on the point.
– I think I owe an apology to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) for being absent from the chamber last evening when he replied to the suggestions I made concerning the possibility of boys from Dr. Barnado’s Home immigrating to Australia. I believe the Minister’s reply was sympathetic, and could be regarded as somewhat in the nature of a promise. There is one point to which, I think, the Minister did not reply, and that was in connexion with my desire to know what economies were expected as the result of the inquiries by the Economies Commission.
– I endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to reply to the honorable senator’s statement, but whether he will consider the answer sufficient is another matter.
– In moving the second reading of this Bill, the Minister for Repatriation referred to the fact that the Government were paying the Imperial Government a sum of £200,000 for letters carried on a poundage basis by the Peninsular and Oriental Company during the war, which, of course, was the proper thing to do. We pay £170,000 a year to the. Orient Company, and when letters are taken by the Peninsular and Oriental Company they are paid for at poundage rates. We have heard at times that the- PostmasterGeneral’s Department has shown a substantial surplus, but if during that time money .which ought to have ‘gone to the Orient Company has not been paid, the surpluses must be reduced. I understand that the Peninsular and Oriental Company claimed £321,000. They made a claim for £300,000, but Mr. Oxenham; who was in England at the time attending the Postal Conference, succeeded in securing its reduction to £200,000. In view of the fact that packages’ come under a special rate, it seems odd that we should have been asked for £100,000 more than we were really liable for.
– Under the - Postal Union convention, and under a “contract between the imperial Government and the Peninsular and Oriental Company, if that company earned money for the carriage of mails outside the contract, the British Government was entitled to the whole or a part of its earnings. Under the Postal Union rates, the £391 000 referred to was - a fair and legitimate charge. But the Imperial authorities have treated Australia liberally, as they usually do.
– That is a different position altogether. Then we are not paying the Imperial Government £100.000 to which they are legitimately entitled.
– We are not paying the full- amount which they could legitimately claim.
– It is very good of theBritish Government to forgo that £100,000. They have rendered a certain service, and they were entitled to that money. Consequently, it looks almost like mendicancy on our part to ask them to forego it.
I come now to another question. I find that the Taxation Department imposes income tax upon the Cricketing Association of Australia. I ask the Government to have that taxation remitted. Senator E. D. Millen. - Would the honorable senator exempt other sporting bodies ?
– Thereare some thatI would not exempt. But I am speaking on behalf of the Cricketing Association, and I will give my reason for so doing.
– The honorable senator must remember that this is not a measure imposing taxation.
– But we are dealing with a vote for the taxation office.
– We are dealing with Supply, and not with the methods by which Supply might be raised. We are dealing merely with the distribution of Revenue. The honorable senator’s remarks would have been quite in order upon the motion for the first reading of the Bill yesterday.
– Seeing that a certain sum of money is to be voted to cover the salary of the Taxation Commissioner, is it not competent for me to criticise his action ?
– The honorable senator is referring to a person who is not responsible for the way in which taxation is raised. This Parliament alone is responsible for that.
– That is so. But for a considerable time this afternoon I listened to an honorable senator who complained of the way in which certain pensioners are being dealt with.
– That is a question which may properly be raised under this Bill, seeing that it provides for the payment of pensions. In the circumstances, I must ask the honorable senator not to make an extended reference to the subject of taxation.
– I have no desire bo transgress our Standing Orders, and if it be npt competent for me to deal with the matter now, I shall embrace another opportunity to refer to it. At the present time, Australia is beingadvertised by our cricketers in England in a more effective way than it is being advertised by all the money we are expending upon immigration.
-brockman. - Do not leave Kirkwood out of the picture.
– The Prime Minister himself has admitted that nobody is advertising Australia better than are our own cricketers. It is particularly unfortunate, therefore, that the Cricketing Association,, which has done so much for the encouragement of this sport, should be unnecessarily penalized.
Upon several previous occasions I have entered my strong protest against the continuance in office of an Acting Public Service Commissioner instead of a permanent Commissioner. Having looked into the matter, however, I find that the position is even worse than I thought it was. For nearly five years we have had an Acting Public Service Commissioner who could have been dismissed by the Government at practically a moment’s notice. The Statute under which he was appointed contains only two sections, one of which reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Commonwealth Public ServiceAct 1902-15, the Governor-General may appoint William Burton Edwards, Esquire, Public Service Inspector, to be the Acting Public Service Commissioner as from the 4th day of May; 1916, to hold office as such Acting Public Service Commissioner until the appointment of a person to be Public Service Commissioner, or until the GovernorGeneral otherwise directs.
Under that Statute, during the past four or five years the Acting Public Service Commissioner might have been dismissed at a moment’s notice, without any reason being assigned for his dismissal. The’ inspectors who are associated with him occupy exactly a similar position. This is a very serious matter. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell), when moving the second reading of the Public Service (Board of Management) Bill, affirmed that the existing system had broken down. I differ from him. But that it has not broken down is certainly not the fault of the Government. Under our Public Service Act, even a messenger boy cannot be dismissed without reference to an Appeal Board. Similarly, a lettercarrier’* services cannot be dispensed with without quite a number of formali-ties having first to be complied with. When the Commonwealth Public Service Act was passed in 1902, the Public Service Commissioner was appointed for a term of seven years. His inspectors were appointed upon a similar tenure, and only the two Houses of this Parliament were empowered to remove them from office. The idea underlying that procedure was that these officers ought to be made strong and powerful. That was a very proper course to adopt. But for some years past these officers might have been called upon to resign at any moment. The term of Mr. Skewes, who is a Public Service Inspector, has expired-, and for some time he has held his position only in an acting capacity. This gentleman is frequently called upon to appear before the Arbitration Court to present the case of the Government to that tribunal. The ex-Public Service Commissioner, Mr. McLachlan, has properly pointed out that it is no easy matter for the Government to get evidence for their side of any case before the Arbitration Court. He says -
In the actual proceedings of the Court in connexion with the hearing of evidence, the interests of justice have been seriously prejudiced by the fact that while the claimant organizations were able to make a free selection of witnesses from the whole field of employees, on the side of respondents (the Commissioner and Department concerned), it has been a matter of the utmost difficulty to obtain witnesses from within the Departments, owing to the strong aversion of branch heads against appearing in the Court and subjecting themselves to be cross-examined and pilloried by their subordinate officers. One notable case which was brought before the Court occurred where a manager of a Telegraph Branch, who had submitted evidence on behalf of the Department, was the subject of an ‘ insulting resolution carried by the Association, and was made the recipient of an iron cross with an opprobrious epithet engraved thereon.
Mr. McLachlan points out that it is not an easy matter, when the Government have to go to the Arbitration “Court, to secure witnesses. We have created a special Court for the Public Service, of which Mr. Atlee Hunt is President. Mr. Skewes is the officer who represents the Government in presenting their case wherever it is necessary. I was much struck recently by reading something which appeared in a newspaper in con nexion with ‘.the inquiry by the Royal (commission appointed to investigate conditions at ‘the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. -The statement was made in the newspaper, that Mr.. Hayes, who was secretary to the Commission, made a definite complaint to the Commissioners- that he had been threatened by the secretary of ope of the Labour unions that when the Labour party came into office he would lose his billet because he had given evidence on behalf of the Government against some of the workers.
– I suppose he was going on -experience of action taken by Labour Ministers when the honorable senator was a Minister.
– Perhaps ; but that, at all events, is what Mr. Hayes said.
– -Was there not a report in the newspapers about some one becoming Minister for the Navy ?
– That is what I am referring to.
– I think it is as unlikely that a Labour Government should come into office as that the person referred to should be Minister for the Navy.
– I take it that what was suggested was that, should a certain person who was a brother of the person making the threat become Minister for the Navy, Mr. Hayes would be dismissed from the Service.
– Is it wise to repeat that statement when it was denied on oath before the Royal Commission?
- Mr. Hayes still adheres to his statement. I happened to be present when he was cross-examined by the person who is said to have made use of the threat, and I do not hesitate to say that I believe Mr. Hayes as against that person. That is a case in which an attempt was made to intimidate a public servant who gave evidence before a court of inquiry. If Mr. Hayes was threatened, it would still be a difficult matter to dismiss him, because he happens to be a permanent official, but Mr. Skewes, at the present moment, is not a permanent official, and might be dismissed by the Government at a moment’s notice. It is high time that officers, -upon whom so much depends, should tie given permanent positions. In spite of the fact that officers acting temporarily as . inspectors . may be dismissed, we can speak highly of their strength of character. their ‘ integrity,- and the work they have done. Their ‘Services have justified the judgment of Mr. McLachlan, who was responsible for their appointment to (he position which they now hold temporarily. I say that the time has come when we might reasonably ask that such men should be permanently appointed. I do not say that Mr. Edwards, who is Acting Public Service Commissioner, should be made Public Service Commissioner, or that Mr. Skewes should be appointed permanently as an inspector, but I do say “that their positions should no longer be held by officers temporarily appointed to them.
.- I do not know that I would have taken any part in the debate on the second reading of this Bill -were it not for the fact that, in his speech this afternoon, Senator Gardiner seemed to resent the attitude I took up yesterday regarding his statement concerning the redemption of war gratuity bonds. I- want to say in reply to his utterances to-day that I think his experience of the feeling amongst those who are holding the bonds is singular. I have moved about amongst returned soldiers, probably as much as Senator Gardiner has done, but I never heard any suggestion by a returned soldier that he interpreted the statement made by the Prime Minister’ (Mr. Hughes) some time ago to mean that one-third of each war gratuity bond would be redeemed in 1921. I have very carefully read the statement made by the Prime Minister, and I cannot read into it the interpretation put upon it. by Senator Gardiner. The Prime Minister -promised that in May, 1.921, provision would be made for the redemption of a certain proportion of the value of bonds then existent. .No one can read into that the suggestion that he meant to convey to- the returned soldiers that one-third of each individual bond would be redeemed. I do not know what has actuated Senator Gardiner in making his statement, but I feel that it may give rise to a good deal of disappointment amongst men holding gratuity bonds, who may be induced to believe that they have been misled by the Government.
– Does that not suggest the answer to the honorable senator’s own question?
– I am not a returned soldier, but I have taken a very great deal of interest- in their welfare, and I -say that .1 -believe that the Government have redeemed their promise with regard to the war . gratuity bonds. I think that they have adopted the right attitude. Many of -the holders of these bonds do not .desire their redemption’. Surely it is far better that the Government should make provision ‘ for the redemption of bonds held by those who are in need of cash than that they should redeem one-third of all the existing bonds, whether in necessitous cases or net. I trust that Senator Gardiner will refrain from attacking the’ Government with regard to the measure of relief they are prepared to afford to the men who served their country so well during the war. I always resent any suggestion that the Government have not done all that they could do in that direction. I hold no brief for the Government, but if I think they are unjustly attacked, I feel it is my duty, as a member of the Senate, to give expression to my views with regard to what they have done.
– Probably if the gratuity bonds were made negotiable only a few would be put on the market.
– I am not referring to the possibility of gratuity bonds being put on the market, but to the charge made against the Government of not having redeemed the promise made by the Prime Minister to those who received the bonds. I am quite satisfied that the promise has been kept to the letter. No doubt the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), in replying to this debate, will be able to tell us the value of the bonds that have been redeemed, and whether the promise of the Government in this connexion has been fulfilled.
Looking through’ the schedule of the Bill, I notice one or two’ matters to which I should like to refer. There is one subject which has already been mentioned, and that is the continuance of the present conditions under which the maternity allowance is paid. I indorse every word uttered by Senator Earle on that subject this afternoon. Last year I made my first appearance in this chamber, and I took the earliest opportunity to protest against the conditions under which this allowance is paid. I hope that the Government will evolve some scheme which will insure that in every case where assistance is necessary it will be forthcoming, but that the allowance will not be paid where it is not needed. I took the opportunity during the recess to read a portion of the debate which took place when the proposal to pay a maternity allowance first came before Parliament. I find that the view expressed by the majority of those who voted for the allowance was that some provision should be made to meet the necessities of the case, but it was never suggested by any member of the Parliament who took part in the debate that the £5 maternity allowance would be accepted by every parent of a child born in Australia in the future. It was suggested that only those who really needed the allowance would apply for it. We find that what Senator Earle has said is perfectly correct, and in almost every case of a birth in Australia the parents claim the maternity allowance. . We have to call upon people in receipt of very small incomes to pay their share of taxation, and we should make provision that people with very small means should not he called upon to pay any portion of a maternity allowance to wealthy people whenever a little stranger arrives in their home. I said last session, and repeat to-day, that I would approve of any scheme which will provide that, if the present allowance of £5 is inadequate in certain circumstances, it shall be increased in order to meet the necessities of parents, and this could be done if at the same time we decided that the allowance should not be paid to persons who are in no need of it.
-brockman. - What about using the money for women’s hospitals?
– It might be used for women’s hospitals, baby clinics, childwelfare associations, bush-nursing associations, or in any way which would tend to secure that mother and child would in every case be properly cared for. It is appalling to find on reading our statistics that, with the additional medical and scientific facilities which are at our disposal to-day, the rate of infantile mortality is rather increasing than decreasing in Australia. It was contended when the maternity allowance was first proposed that it would lead to a reduction in the rate of infantile mortality.
The object for which the allowance was provided has not been attained.
-Still, infantile mortality is less in Australia than in any other country in the world, with the exception, perhaps, of New Zealand.
– That is so.
– The proper comparison is not of Australia with any other country, but of Australia with itself, over a series of years.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
– My point, is that the object sought to be attained by the. payment of the maternity allowance has not been realized. I believe that it might be realized if the money voted for the purpose were used in other directions, such as I have suggested.
As to Senator Earle’s statement about the allowance made to oldage pensioners in charitable institutions controlled by the State authorities, I should like to make a suggestion to the Minister whereby the case could be met. To-day, and for some time past, the sovereign has not been able to purchase anything like the amount of goods it did in normal times. Although consideration has been given to that fact by the Commonwealth in almost every other instance, it has not been given in the case of the old people who receive 2s. per week while in State-aided institutions. The old-age pension has been increased to 15s. per week to meet the increased cost of living, and I take it that the amount paid to the State Governments by the Commonwealth for the maintenance of the old people in the institutions has also been increased proportionately.
– I understand that the State Governments have received the whole of the increase.
– That may be so. I suggest that, as the amount of pension has been increased by the Federal Parliament, the amount paid to the pensioner for pocket money should be increased proportionately. If that means a slight decrease in the amount paid to the State authorities for maintaining these old people, it is reasonable that the States should bear it. The sum of 3s. per week will obtain for the old people barely what they obtained for 2s. a week in normal times, and it is surely reasonable, therefore, to suggest that they should be paid 3s. per week, the balance of 12s. per week to be retained by the State authorities for their maintenance. In all probability that arrangement would meet the case. The men only use the pocket money to buy extra tobacco, and the women use it to purchase a few little things that add to their comfort. They have had to go short, because 2s. will not purchase as much as it did prior to the outbreak of the war.
Reference has been made to the necessity for economy, and Senator Gardiner dwelt at some length on it in connexion with the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth. He spoke of the Taxpayers’ League and other organizations which have been formed to insist on economy being observed and exercised by the Commonwealth Government. I am an economist, because I do not believe in money being spent by the Commonwealth Government without their getting value for it. I believe we are all at one in that regard ; but, in fairness, not only to the Commonwealth Government but also to the State Governments, I must observe that the people outside, who have to find the money, very often fail to recognise that £1 in the hands of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth or the Treasurer of a State can purchase no more than can £1 held by an ordinary citizen. If thedecreased purchasing power of the sovereign applies to the ordinary citizen, it applies just as forcibly to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth or of a State. If in normal times the Treasurer could obtain a certain amount of material, or goods, or services for £1,000,000, he can to-day obtain only about £600,000 worth of goods, or material, or services for that sum. Therefore, although we have apparently a much larger revenue, it does not follow that we are more extravagant than we were, because our expenditure is keeping pace with the revenue, and is much larger than it was. We may be more extravagant, but we can only arrive at a true solution of the question by careful analysis.
– Do you not think we are more extravagant?
– I believe we are; but I want to be absolutely fair. The time has arrived whenwe must economize as far as we possibly can, while preserving efficiency; but it is not economy to have inefficient service in any Department. It is true economy to insist on obtaining full value for the money we spend. If we can keep our expenditure within reasonable bounds, and assure the people that we are getting value for it, thereis no room for complaint. Every one is forced to admit to-day that the prices of commodities are on the down grade. We shall find that many of the materials and goods required in our Commonwealth operations can now be purchased at much lower rates than a few ‘ months ago. The time is ripe, therefore, for the Government to consider the question carefully, and to show those who have to find the money that it fully realizes the seriousness of the financial position of Australia. With prices showing a falling tendency, there will be a corresponding decrease in the expenditure required to obtain the same results that were obtained with a larger expenditure last year. The public are keen enough to look at these matters from most points of view; but I do not think they have been as keen as they might have been in recognising the fact that the sovereign is no more valuable in the hands of the Treasurer than in those of the ordinary citizen.
-brockman. - You mean they are misled by the press?
– Very often they are.
.- Senator Gardiner spoke of the war gratuity bonds, and the promises made by the Prime Minister when the gratuity was first mooted to him by the Returned Soldiers’ League. I wish to state the promises which, in my opinion, were made to the men, and the belief which the majority of them held regarding the ultimate cashing of the bonds. I was present, not as the representative of one of theStates, but as a sort of adviser to the representative from Tasmania, when we first interviewed the Prime Minister regarding the bonds. After considerable discussion, it was felt at the time that it would be impossible for the Commonwealth to raise money to provide a gratuity payable in cash to the returned men. The Prime Minister put it to us very frankly that the only possible market then open to borrow the money required to pay the bonds was the American, market, and that, in view of the rate of exchange - at that time the £1 sterling ‘ was worth only ia little over three dollars - and the high rate of interest obtainable in America, it would be unwise to consider a cash payment. He then dealt rather fully with the fact that great sums of money would have to be raised for repatriation purposes, and finally it was put to him by one of our delegates that the soldiers would be . prepared to accept a gratuity payable in nonnegotiable bonds. The Prime Minister asked the representative of each State individually whether he would accept that suggestion on behalf of the soldiers of his State, and the men accepted it unanimously. The position, as I understood it - although I .admit that on this point I am at variance with one or two of my colleagues who were present - was as follows: - The Commonwealth guaranteed, in regard to necessitous cases, £500,000 a year from revenue. I think that wa3 all that was guaranteed at that time. That sum was to be . used for cashing bonds in necessitous cases, and where soldiers were married, after their return. In addition, any man applying for a “War Service Home, or for assistance in land settlement, or in any other .phase of the activities of the Repatriation Department, could cash his bond in repayment of his indebtedness in that direction. I was also clearly of the opinion that the total amount of the indemnity which the Prime Minister then hoped would be payable by Germany in May, 1921,. was to be used in reducing the amount owing at that date on the war gratuity bonds, apart from the amount which had been paid in necessitous cases or through the Repatriation and “War Service Homes Departments. It was further suggested that the banks might cash a certain amount. The Minister for Repatriation may not be aware qf ihe fact, but I know that, in the initial stages of the negotiations which the league conducted with the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister set his face very definitely against the banks cashing any of the bonds, because he said, “We are in the position of being able to say, - or of having to say, to the, banks, with regard to the loans which we are floating for repatriation purposes, that they must take up whatever amount is undersubscribed.” I think he also said, regarding a loan which the Government had recently floated, that” the Government had called on the banks to take up £4,000,000 or £5.000,000 compulsorily. I understood that, if the German indemnity was not paid when it became due, the Government was pledged to make good, to that extent at least, not less than one-third of the bonds then, remaining, by redeeming them in -cash. Some of my colleagues differ from my understanding of what the Prime Minister promised at the time, but in support of. my view I would point out that a various number of millions was spoken -of in computing the amount of money which would be. claimed from the War Gratuity Branch of the Treasury on account of soldiers who used their bonds to make payments to the Repatriation Department, and the strong point which the Prime Minister made, in my recollection, was that the loan which, would be floated for repatriation purposes would be relieved to the extent of the value of the. bonds which were paid over to the Repatriation Department. That is, if £10,000,000 were paid into the Repatriation Department in the shape of gratuity bonds, the repatriation loan of £20,000,000 or £25,000,000 would be relieved of the payment of that amount of cash.
– If a soldier was granted land on rental, as was the case in Tasmania, and the rent fell due, he could pay for.it with a gratuity bond. I admit that if the State Government was the landlord, and wanted the rent, it would look to the Commonwealth Government to cash the bond, but I understood at the time that the Prime Minister hoped that that would not be necessary. I believe that an arrangement was afterwards made by which a certain number of business people - I know some of them in Melbourne - were granted permission to cash war gratuity bonds, thus relieving the Treasury of the obligation to cash them in a certain number of necessitous cases, “But on the distinct understanding that those business people would not be able to demand cash for the bonds at the Treasury immediately. To that extent the Treasury would be relieved, but not entirely. I believe the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) was about to interject that the Government had to find the money in any case. I was. under the impression that the amount expended for repatriation purposes, and that which was paid out from the Treasury, after exceeding the £500,000 per year, would be apart from the one-third which would afterwards be required. In justice to the Government I think it is fair to say that I know that the promised expenditure of £500,000 has been largely exceeded, and that very much better arrangements have been made by the Government than were contemplated in connexion with the permission given to business people to cash bonds in certain circumstances. As far as possible, I believe the Treasurer has done all he could to meet’ the position. Further, the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, which has a mem.bership of over 150,000, has agreed that the present is not an opportune time to endeavour to raise a special loan for the cashing of bonds, particularly wh’en a number of the holders are not needing the cash, and in that way the soldiershave again shown that they have the interest of Australia at heart. I know of one man who has framed his bond, and has it hanging on the wall, which indicates that he never intends to cash it ; but that, of course, is an extreme case. . There are, however, thousands of men to-day who are in need of money; but, on the other hand, there are some whose immediate requirements are not pressing. From the information I have gathered from members of” the War Gratuity Board, there are few ex-soldiers in Australia who ave really necessitous and who have been unable to get their bonds cashed.
Following on the. question I submitted to the Minister for Repatriation as to whether, in the event of the death of a soldier his widowed mother, if she had children depending upon her, would receive a pension, I received the reply that if it could be shown that the soldier was the Support of the family, or that the mother had had children who were dependent upon her twelve months prior to the enlistment of. the soldier, a pension would be paid. My contention has always been that we have to consider what a soldier would have been doing if he had lived. A case might arise where a boy of nineteen had enlisted, and after going to the Front his father died. It is said by certain supporters of the attitude adopted by the
Minister or the Commission, that a boy of nineteen could not do much in keeping his mother, or brothers, or sisters- That may be so in some cases. A boy may have enlisted at nineteen, and have been killed when he was twenty, but if he had lived until he was twenty-three or twentyfour, he would have been the main support of his mother, and brothers, and sisters.
– I do not think that point is in dispute. What the Commissioners ask is why it is that the boy who . was killed was always the one supporting his mother, and not those who remained alive.
– I am glad to have that explanation. Notwithstanding the reply it was definitely and distinctly stated that in cases where it could be shown that a mother was dependent upon a boy twelve months prior to the enlistment, a pension would be paid. I think the Minister will give me credit for not attempting to push a claim where I have felt that the exsoldiers or their dependants were endeavouring to impose upon the Department. I know of a case where a man had received training at a vocational school, and was afterwards earning £4 18s. per week. Later, when he was out of work he submitted a claim for an allowance; but when inquiries were1’ made it was found that the total income of the four people with whom he was living, in addition to the £2 2s. he received, was £6 19s. per week. When I was asked to assist in obtaining an extra living allowance I said that I would not do anything of the kind. I was informed, I believe by the Board, that amending legislation was required to give it power -to pay pensions to the widowed mother or brothers and sisters of a deceased soldier, unless it could be proved that the soldier had been supporting his mother. ‘
I do not wish to weary the Senate by making lengthy references to the work of the War Service Homes Department, because the Minister has assured me this afternoon that my patience will not be tried much longer. But this question’ is one which concerns a great many widows of soldiers and widowed .mothers. Many took possession of houses on the understanding that they were to cost £700, but have subsequently been informed that the price was to be increased to £836. I introduced a deputation of women to the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr.
Rodgers), many of whom went into homes costing £700, but six or seven months afterwards they received a notice from the War Service Homes Commission saying that the houses were to cost £836, and requesting that the additional amount be paid immediately.
– I know of similar cases where the soldiers have thrown up their homes.
– And some have refused to take them at all.
– Yes. I believe it will be necessary for the Government to shoulder the responsibility, and I am hoping that when the Minister replies he will make a statement to that effect. When people such as those I have mentioned have agreed to purchase homes at £700, it is often an absolute impossibility for them to find an additional £136, particularly when many of them are receiving reduced pensions. The living allowance has been dispensed with, and the amount received in thousands of cases is 20 or 30 per cent. less than it was when the price was fixed at £700. They cannot possibly find the interest by way of rent for the larger amount. I think it is time those who are engaged in constructing these homes began to give the soldiers for whom the houses are being built a fair deal.I know of one instance where a Deputy Commissioner visited a building where a workman was tossing bricks about in a careless manner, and when he was asked how many bricks he was laying he replied, “ Do you know this is a War Service Homes job?” The officer replied, ‘ Yes, it is ; you put on your coat and go to the office for your wages.” I think some of those who- speak of our returned soldiers and of the sacrifices they have made, should endeavour to give them a fairer deal by rendering service in keeping with the money they receive, which would be the means of houses being built at a more reasonable cost.
– I find myself in a somewhat difficult position this evening, because - without wishing to reflect on you, Mr. President, or on honorable senators - much of the debate this afternoon would have been more appropriate on the first reading of the Bill. It is impossible for me, at this juncture, to deal with many of the matters brought forward during the second- reading debate, because, I submit, on the second reading we should deal only with the principles of the Bill. To-day, topics ranging from the payment of a maternity allowance to the discovery of oil in Papua have been introduced.
– All of which are mentioned in the schedule.
– It is hardly to be expected that I should utter any remarks worthy of consideration upon such a variety of important subjects on the second reading of the Bill.
– Why can information be given on the first, and not on the second, reading?
– One expects to have to answer inquiries when the first reading of a Supply Bill is under consideration, and departmental officers are available to supply the necessary information. If the points raised by some honorable senators are overlooked, I am sure they will not regard it as discourteous; that is the explanation.
A matter which attracts my interest is Senator Gardiner’s renewed claim to be the surprise creator among honorable senators. He surprised me yesterday, but the surprise caused then was nothing compared with that which he endeavoured to stimulate in my mind to-day. May I draw attention to the ease with which Senator Gardiner passed from quoting Hansard, in which appear the Prime Minister’s own words, to a newspaper report - obviously a curtailed one - of a report made by a gentleman, founded upon a statement made by the Prime Minister.
– One supports the other.
– I shall show that it does not. The Prime Minister’s first public utterance on this question, which was indorsed by him when introducing the War Gratuity Bill in the House of Representatives, was to this effect: After having dealt with the undertaking to make money available for the cashing of bonds in necessitous and other circumstances, he said the Government undertook to cash bonds to the value of £500,000 a year, an amount which Senator Foster says has been exceeded. The PrimeMinister went on to say -
The whole of Australia’s share of the indemnity, payable by Germany to the Allies, which may be estimated at anything between £7,000,000 and ?15,000,000, to be ear-marked for the redemption of gratuity bonds. If the indemnity actually received on or before May, 1921, does not reach ?10,000,000, the Government to make good the deficiency up to ?10,000,000.
Asno indemnity kas been received, the obligation of the Government was to find ?10,000,000 by 31st May. It is important to note how the balance was to be paid. The Prime Minister said that the balance of the bonds outstanding after May, 1921, would be redeemed in not more than three equal annual instalments. Let us take the value of the bonds issued at ?30,000,000- as a matter of fact the value does not reach that figure, but that is a convenient basis on which to work.
– The definite statement of the Prime Minister was that ?10,000,000 would be paid in 1921, and the remainder in equal annual amounts.
– Exactly. That was on the 4th November, and on the 22nd the Prime Minister said that the Government undertook to find ?500,000 a year for necessitous cases until May, 1921, and then to find ?10,000,000, and the balance in three equal annual instalments He added that he had been, able to do something better than that, that he had arranged for ?6,000,000 worth of these bonds to be cashed immediately. It cannot be contended for a moment that that ?6,000,000 was to be in addition to the ?10,000,000. It was a part of it, and proportionately as the Prime Minister was able to cash these bonds, he was reducing the amount to be paid by the Commonwealth in redemption of his pledge.
– Hisown statement does not bear that out. His statement was that ?10,000,000 would be devoted tp necessitous cases, and that the banks would cash an additional ?12,000 000, making more than ?20,000,000 altogether.
– I dispute that statement entirely. Suppose that the Prime Minister had managed to arrange with the banks that they would cash ?30,000,000 worth of bonds, would the Government still have had to find ?10,000,000 in May of this year?
– If the Government had found ?30,000,000 cash the whole of the bonds would have beenredeemed.
– But the Prime Minister promised to find ?10,000,000 this year. Senator Gardi ner declares that the payment of that ?10,000,000 must not be regarded as a set-off to the Prime Minister’s promise.
– What I said is contained in the Prime Minister’s written statement, which I handed to the Minister himself.
– The honorable senator did not quote the Prime Minister’s written statement, but merely a chance description of it to an audience. I can show that it is wrong in one particular, and I am only surprised that Senator Gardiner did not detect its weakness.
– I shall be very pleased if the honorable gentleman will do so.
– The statement reads -
Mr. Curtis saidhe had received a statement from Mr. Hughes to read to the meeting in regard to the gratuity. According to this, Mr. Hughes promised -
Immediatedistribution of bonds on the assembly of Parliament.
Bonds will be taken by banks and Repatriation Departments, and the equivalent of cash in purchase of land and houses.
Cash will be paid in all urgent cases, and where a soldier marries or a soldier’s widow re-marries.
The Government will redeem in cash, by May, 1921, not less than ?12,000,000 sterling.
– Continue the statement.
– I am going to do so, because I am now coming to that portion of it which discloses the error of which I have spoken. Obviously, Mr. Curtis is giving his own interpretation of the document, or a newspaper is giving its interpretation of what Mr. Curtis said. The statement continues -
Mr. Hughes pointed out
It is quite clear, therefore, that this is not Mr. Hughes’s document, but merely somebody’s interpretation of it. It is a verbal expression of somebody’s opinion of what that document contained. The statement reads -
Mr. Hughes pointed out that the bonds cashed by the banks and Repatriation Departments would probably amount by that date to ?10,000,000, so thatthe Treasury would have to arrange for the redemption of over ?20,000,000 in this period.
Where does Senator Gardiner get the ?20,000,000? If ?12,000,000 was the obligation which the honorable senator affirms the Government shouldered, and £10,000,000 in addition was to Ve paid, the total would have been £22,000,000. I suggest, therefore, that the £12,000,000 is a newspaper misprint.
– The first £10,000,000 was in the nature of an estimate, and the £12,000,000 was the amount which the Prime Minister undertook to find.
– Nowhere else can the honorable senator find any reference to £12,000,000.
– Does the Minister repudiate the statement of the Prime Minister ?
– No. But because the honorable senator chooses to accept the figures of some person outside, he has no right to accuse the Government of having failed to live up to their pledge. What is wrong with Mr. Hughes’ statement to Parliament ? To me, the position is abundantly clear, and the explanation which I have given is that which has been accepted by all who have devoted consideration to the matter. The original estimate of the value of the bonds to be issued was. £30,000,000. The Government undertook to redeem £500,000 worth of bonds every year in order to meet necessitous cases. That would be equivalent to an expenditure of £750,000 during the eighteen months ‘ which have since elapsed; but to make myself perfectly safe I am willing to say that it represents £1,000,000. But what is the position? The Government have already redeemed £2,,250,000 worth of bonds in that way. That hardly discloses a breach of faith ou the part of the Ministry. Then the Government arranged with the banks to immediately cash £6,000,000 worth of bonds. But for that circumstance, the banks would not have cashed them. The Government also secured the active cooperation of many private individuals who took up these bonds, with the result that already £13,500,000 worth of them have been cashed out of . a total, not of £30,000,000, which was originally, supposed to be the amount of the issue, but of £25,800,000. More than 50 per cent, of these bonds, therefore, have been cashed, and we are continuing to cash them wherever the circumstances of the soldier warrant that course being taken.
– Then Senator Gardiner’s thunder has gone.
– It is bound to go if honorable senators will stand for the repudiation of the Prime Minister’s statement.
– That fact, however, will not prevent Senator Gardiner from affirming outside that the Government have not honoured their pledges.
– They have repudiated them.
– I would like to know of what the repudiation consists.
– The Government were to redeem one-third of these bonds within a certain period.
– And we have redeemed one half of them. It will, however, be the honorable senator’s effort to show the contrary, irrespective of the merits of the case. Nevertheless, I am quite convinced that the consensus of opinion is that the Government have not merely made an honest, but a successful, effort, to redeem their pledges to the soldiers. For the rest, I am willing to leave the matter to the common sense of the people and to the verdict of the soldiers themselves. Senator Gardiner and’ his party have made many efforts to damage the Government in the eyes of the soldiers, but the soldiers have not forgotten -the attitude of the two political parties towards them. If we leave the verdict to them we may be confident of what their answer will be.
– You are not game to put up a candidate for the seat that is vacant now.
– The honorable senator has not very many soldier colleagues alongside him.
– You put through this Parliament an absolute swindle of an Act to prevent me having colleagues here.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator is entitled to say that.
– The honorable senator must not refer to an Act of this Parliament in those terms.
– It was a swindle.”
– Now that my attention has been called to the matter, 1 must ask the honorable senator to withdraw that expression. He must not speak disparagingly of an Act of Parliament, because that would be a reflection upon Parliament itself.
– Will you, sir, allow me to speak upon a matter of privilege?
– If it be a matter of privilege, certainly.
– Then, as a matter of privilege, I shall move a motion.
– Order ! The honorable senator cannot do that.
– I thought that, when speaking upon a matter of privilege, an honorable senator was bound to conclude with a motion.
– I shall decide whether the matter is one of privilege when I have heard it.
– An Act which swindled me out of colleagues in this Chamber is a swindle.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not proceed in that way. Our Standing Orders are very explicit upon the point. Standing order 415 reads -
No senator shall reflect upon any vote of the Senate, except for the purpose of moving that such vote be rescinded.
The same rule applies to an Act.
– Read the standing order which applies to an Act.
– It is not necessary to do so, because a Statute is the result of a vote of this Senate. For the honorable senator to say that any vote of this Chamber has resulted in a swindle is to speak disrespectfully of it. The question does not require argument, because there are scores of precedents to be found in the practice of the House of Commons, which quite bear that out. Unless he is moving for its repeal, an honorable senator is not entitled to speak disrespectfully of an Act of this Parliament. Therefore I must ask Senator Gardiner to obey our Standing Orders, and to withdraw the objectionable statement which he has made.
– If you, sir, will read any standing order showing that I am not at liberty to say that my colleagues are not here because a swindle was perpetrated, by means of which they were prevented from getting a fair deal and a fair count at the last elections, Ishall be prepared to withdraw.
– If my ruling is wrong, there is a proper way of disputing it. The honorable senator has been here quite long enough to know that it is not in accordance with parliamentary practice to reflect upon any vote of the Senate.
– The Act upon which I am reflecting was not passed by the members of this present Senate, or even by this Parliament.
– The honorable senator is not in order in disputing my ruling.
– I shall simply test the standing order, and see how far we can go.
– Very well. I rule that the honorable senator is out of order, and ask him to withdraw his statement.
– I decline to withdraw it, because I have merely spoken the truth.
– I again ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– Having spoken the truth, I cannot withdraw my statement.
– The honorable senator having refused to withdraw, I now name him to the Senate. But before asking the Leader of the Government to take, the necessary action, I wish to give him a further opportunity to make any explanation or apology which he may desire to make in accordance with the forms of the Senate.
– I am very much obliged to you, sir, for the opportunity which is now afforded me of making an explanation. My explanation is that I have conscientiously referred to an Act and the way in which I know it has worked. In my opinion, it is a swindle.
– The honorable senator must not say that.
– The standing order under which the Senate may exclude an honorable senator from its deliberations affords mean opportunity to make an explanation. But before doing so, I ask you, sir, to read that portion of the standing order which permits me to make an explanation.
– I have given the honorable senator an opportunity to make an explanation, but that opportunity does not mean an opportunity for him to repeat his offence. Standing order 440 reads -
When any honorable .senator has been reported as having committed an offence he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit, and afterwards a motion may be moved -
– Having been called upon to make any explanation or apology I think fit, I rise to explain that my statement, to which exception has been taken., is the truth, absolute and unquestioned.
– Even if it were the truth, it should be expressed in an orderly way.
– I have to repeat that, having looked perhaps more closely into the operation «of the Act to Which I have referred than other honorable senators, who may not have been so .concerned about its working, I found that it worked in such a way that certain candidates were excluded from the Senate because the votes recorded for them were never counted. Whereas the votes recorded for Senators. Cox, Duncan, and myself were counted up to the last ‘preference, even the second preference votes recorded for Messrs. Grant and McDougall were not counted. I make the statement that the Act under which that was done was -a swindling Act, and that is merely good English to apply to it.
– Order! Will the honorable senator resume his seat? I have ruled that an honorable senator taking advantage of the opportunity to make an explanation or apology has no right, in doing so, to continually repeat his offence. If the honorable senator desires to make any explanation or apology without repeating his offence, I give him the opportunity to do so. I regret that his feelings should have been excited, but I appeal to him, for the sake of the camaraderie and good feeling which should exist amongst members of the Senate, to adopt the proper and manly course usually adopted of apologizing for the statement he has made. The honorable senator asked me which of the standing orders prevents an honorable senator from reflecting upon any Statute passed by Parliament. He will find that it is standing order 418, which provides that - -
No senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper ‘motives, and all personal reflection on members, shall, be considered highly disorderly.
Senator Gardiner knows that the remarks he made were not in accordance with that standing order, and I ask him to take the proper course, and the course most becoming to an honorable senator occupying the responsible position which he holds iri the Senate, and apologize for the statement he has made.
– Your reading of standing order 418 convinces me that I. was out of order. As I was not in order in using here language of the. kind which I did use, -I apologize for having used it;’ but I shall go outside, where such niles’ do not obtain, and will make the statement there. I apologize for my breach of the standing order, which has now been brought under my notice for the first time.
– In the course of the debate Senator Earle referred to some matters which he has previously brought before the Senate with persistency and clarity. He referred to the Old-age and .Invalid Pensions Act, and ! should like to say that I think he will find that if section 22 of that Act, to which he referred, were repealed without qualification it would cover more than the case of the blind, in whom the honorable senator is specially interested.
– Any amendment to it that was proposed could be qualified.
– All that I can undertake to do, in the circumstances, is to see that the honorable senator’s remarks on this subject are brought under the notice of my honorable colleague, who deals with such matters.
I should like to say, on the subject of oil explorations to which the honorable senator has referred, that he seems to be in some doubt as to the actual position. Some time ago, as honorable senators are aware, the Commonwealth Government despatched a certain party for the purpose of carrying out exploratory work. That undertaking has terminated. As a consequence of negotiations between the
British Government and the Commonwealth Government, both of whom are very keenly interested in obtaining supplies of oil for the Navy and for other purposes, it was agreed that each should pay half the cost of carrying out exploratory work.
– Not the Anglo-Persian Oil Company?
– No. The Anglo-Persian Company has supplied the experts to make the necessary investigations, and to that extent was an instrument in giving effect to the agreement which was signed by Mr. Long on behalf of the British Government and by Mr. Hughes on behalf of the Commonwealth. Under that agreement each party to it undertook to find up to £50,000 for the work of exploration. The question arose as to who should carry out the actual work, and, as it could not be carried out by the British Government or by the Commonwealth Government, an arrangement was made by which the expert scientists and geologists in the employ of the AngloPersian Company, in which the British Government holds a controlling share interest, should carry out the actual work of exploration, and that the company should be recouped the actual expenses incurred. There was to be no concession of privileges in regard to supplies of oil if any were found.
– What benefit was to accrue to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company if oil were discovered ?
– None at all. Paid officers of the company, in which the British Government holds the controlling share interest, wereto carry out the work, and the expenses they incurred were to be met.
– Is it a fact that they started exploration within 40 miles of the place where Dr. Wade had been working ?
– I cannot tell the honorable senator about that, but Dr. Wade has passed from the scene.
– Did he protest against the action of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company people for the reason I have stated ?
– I could not say, but, human nature being what it is, I think it is very possible that he did protest.
– Dr. Wade did not make a very brilliant success of his work while in Papua.
– There is no occasion to condemn him on that account.
– I am not saying anything in condemnation of Dr. Wade. I think that something may be said in commendation of the new steps taken by the Commonwealth Government in inducing the Imperial Government to come to their assistance in the matter because of their interest in securing supplies of oil for the Admiralty. I think that there is room also for commendation because the Anglo-Persian Oil Company has been called upon to make available some of their best men for the purpose of exploration. .
– If we could not secure honest work under those conditions, it is impossible to secure it.
– I think I may add that if we could not secure skill in that way, it is impossible to secure it in any other way. I do not assume that Senator Earle suggests that any malign or sinister influence hae been at work to frustrate our efforts in this direction.
– I do not think so as applied to efforts in Papua, but I am nol so sure about previous efforts.
– I should not be inclined to take that view with regard to the operations in New South Wales. I think that the reason for the failure there was the reason which has been accountable for failure in the case of hundreds of mines in Australia. Gold mine after gold mine, because of mismanagement, has resulted in failure. Yet no one will suggest that the failure was due to the exercise of some sinister influence against the production of gold. Mistakes are always made, and will continue to be made.
Senator Thomas referred to the vote included in the amount set down for the Postmaster-General’s Department. I have managed to secure a little further information in connexion with it.I understand that the Imperial Government were entitled to charge £321,000 under the terms and conditions of the Postal Union Convention. The Commonwealth Government pointed out that to some extent the Imperial Government were themselves responsible for the disruption of the mail service by commandeering the Orient Company’s boats. In addition, there was some extra cost thrown upon the Australian Government in carrying out matters, if hot at the request of the Imperial Government, then in such a way as to assist and expedite undertakings in which the Imperial Government were concerned. They ‘were entitled, as I said, to ask for £321,000, but, taking a broad view of the matter in their usual and characteristic spirit, they agreed to com1 promise upon a payment of £200,000. If any matters of detail are referred to in Committee, I think I can promise to furnish honorable senators with the information they desire. , ^
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Divisions 1-12 (Parliament), £5,866.
– I do not know whether it is competent for us to increase the votes set out in the schedule. We might send a request to another place to increase the amount proposed for the equipment of the Senate. I am perfectly satisfied from the -experience of the last few months, since the President has been wearing a wig at the request of a large number cf honor-able senators, that there are other things necessary to maintain “ the dignity of this Chamber. Why not a mace? In another place they have the mace as well as the wig, and the Senate would seem to be somewhat behind in this- matter., I think that, in order to keep up the dignity of the Senate, an officer carrying a mace should be required to bear it twice round the chamber before placing it at the head of the table, which is really the proper place for it, and not .at the foot, as is done in another Chamber.
– Our weapon - is the black rod.
– If the black rod will do the business as well, I do hot see why the officer. in charge of it should not carry it round the chamber in opening the sittings of the Senate. Since we last discussed the wig, I have been looking up history for information about it. I spoke of it as originating away back, in the very early days, but quite a number of people have since assured me that- 1 was absolutely wrong, and that the wig came into use in the middle of the seventeenth century. One gentleman quoted to me what that great diarist Pepys said when wigs were coming into general use in England. He stated that the wig came to England from the French Court. The then King of France, Louis the “umpteenth” - I am not sure which one it was - was a very vain man, and very proud of his hair. When it began to ‘fall out -he adopted the wig to cover up what he considered a deformity. The aristocrats of England after chat time all wore wigs. I am speaking of a period ‘ just following the real Revolution, when, for the first time, England had a republican form of government, which, I venture to say, proved itself the most effective form of government it ever had. Pepys spoke of wigs coming into general use in that country in .the middle of the seventeenth century, and added that he had just had his wig baked. I understand that the aristocrats in these days all wore their hair long, and were fairly “lousy.” When wigs came into general use, it was an easy way to get rid of the vermin to have them baked, and there were public places where that was done. Another place might accept a suggestion from me to provide an amount on the Estimates for the establishment of an oven in connexion with this Parliament. The presiding officer of -another place has worn the wig for some time, and now that it has been adopted in the Senate, I do not think we should have it by itself. If another place has the mace, we should at least have the black rod, and introduce more form and ceremony into the opening of the Seriate to give the proceedings the proper amount of dignity. There might be a parade twice round the chamber before the President took the chair in his wig, so that we might see him” to full advantage in his flowing robes, and admire him in the costume he has now adopted. I shall not quote again the statements he made in the earlier days to show how strongly he was opposed to- the wearing of the wig when he had not the job himself, or dilate on how strongly he hankered after the fleshpots of Egypt when he had not got them. The thing that was to him an abomination in the costume of the gentleman who presided over the Senate at that time took on quite a different aspect after he was elected to the position. He then found it necessary to adorn himself as his earlier predecessors had done. ‘
– What is the amount we propose to vote for the wig this year ?
– I do not know. That was the point which troubled the President when he was a private member.
In those days he reckoned that one of the expenses which Parliament would have to meet would be the varnishing of the black rod occasionally, and I take it that his wig will have to be brushed, or powdered, oi combed, or even baked now and then. Now that we have begun to dignify the proceedings of Parliament by the wearing of a wig, we ought seriously to lay ourselves out to see whether we cannot go further. Imagine the President, preceded by the black rod and followed by the other officials, majestically parading round the chamber, and honorable senators standing bareheaded, and with heads bowed, as they passed ! What a splendid commencement that would be for the session ! Having taken one step, the President should take a few more.
– What do you suggest for the Leader of the Opposition?
– It would be quite in keeping with the views of his opponents if the Leader of the Opposition were to lie down, and permit the President to walk over him. That, I presume, is one of those matters that will be left to honorable senators to decide. Probably it can be arranged to their satisfaction, if not to mine. I do not know that the President would desire to wipe his feet on me. I think he is satisfied with the authority he exercises in the Chamber. I know that I am more than satisfied. I thought it right to express . these few thoughts regarding Parliament on an occasion when Mr. President, being present on the floor of the chamber, has the opportunity to reply to them.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 13 to 19 (Prime Minister’s Department), £18,877.
– I understand that the amounts provided for salaries and contingencies in the High Commissioner’s office are on the basis of previous expenditure, but will they cover the whole of the payments in connexion with the High Commissioner’s office, not only in London, but also in Paris? Further, is the Minister aware that considerable dissatisfaction is expressed regarding Australia’s representation in Paris through the branch of the High Commissioner’s office established there? I have had communications from people who have visited that office, and am informed by them that the provision for Australia there is not merely inade quate, but of such a character as seriously to reflect upon this country. One. item referred to by a correspondent was the non-provision of a London Directory and an Australian Directory. I am informed that the only directories available’ in the branch were several-years old, and that, on attention being drawn to the fact by my correspondent on more than one occasion, he was informed by the officer in charge that he was absolutely afraid to ask the London office for a more uptodate Directory, because of the reception which a request of that kind had met with when it was made some months previously.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) was in France not long ago. I wonder if he took the opportunity to see this office in Paris. If he did, he probably saw how inadequately it was provided. If it is necessary for us to establish trade relations with continental people, Paris is the centre from the continental point of view where most of the exchange is done, and any representation we have there ought to be appropriate, or we should have none at all. My information has come, not from one, but from several correspondents, and from Australians who have gone to France since the war to visit the battlefields. Ordinarily, they would not have gone to France on business; but, having gone there, they have called at the office of the High Commissioner in Paris, only to be astounded at the most inadequate representation of Australia that obtains there, and the very few opportunities there are even for Australians to get from that office information regarding Australian activities on the, other side of the world. If that office is inaptly and inappropriately equipped, it is time the Government woke up to the fact, and either disestablish it, or make it more in keeping with the dignity and position of the Commonwealth. In the years to come a much larger number of Australians will go to France than ever went before, because of the hallowed associations that some of the fields of France have for the relatives of those who fell there in the great war. When those people are passing through Paris, if they know the Commonwealth has an office there, they will call at it .for information or advice. I earnestly hope that the Government, mindful of these facts, will see that whatever branch of the High Commissioner’s Office is established in the French capital is suitable and serviceable.
SenatorE. D. MILLEN (New South
Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [6.27]. - The divisions now under discussion do not cover the amount for which the Commonwealth Government is responsible in connexion with the office to which Senator Keating has referred, but his remarks are just as pertinent here as they would be elsewhere. I had an opportunity to visit the office,and must admit, with a considerable amount of regret, that I largely indorse what Senator Keating has said. The representation of Australia in Paris is not nearly on a sufficiently pronounced scale. The gentleman who is there, probably, does as well, and perhaps even better, thau he might be expected to do with the facilities provided for him. If it is worth our having representation in Paris at all - as I think it is - it is worth having it done properly. I do not blame the High Commissioner. The gentleman in Paris, who is an Australian by birth, is allowed quite a modest amount per year for his office and other expenses. I think it is about £500 a year.If Australia wants effective representation on the Continent, she can give up all idea of getting it for £500 a year. I would almost go so far as to say that, unless we are prepared to make that office effective, we might as well close it. At present all it does, and all it can do effectively, is, in the case of Australian and other travellersj to furnish the little information that they require; but to say that it is a trade centre in the interests of Australia is to misuse terms. I cannot indicate to the Senate any definite action which the Government have in view, but the reorganization of the office is under consideration. I hope at no distant date to be able to tell the Senate what the Government have decided. I am sure that the majority of the people of Australia would say that this is a thing that ought to be done, and I hope the Government will do it, and I am certain that as soon as they do there will be a howl against increasing the cost of government. In Australia, as in any other country, we cannot have omelettes without breaking eggs, and if Australia is worth advertising and pushing, as she is, we must incur the necessary expense, and take the ordinary business risks in order to do it.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 25 to 33 (Department of tha Treasury), £92,880.
.- Is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to make a statement regarding the intentions of the Government in connexion with the maternity allowance? Do they intend to reorganize the whole matter in accordance with the views that have been expressed by myself and other honorable senators ?
Senator E. D. MILLEN (New South
Wales - Minister for Reparation) [6.30]. - Senator Payne cannot expect me to make a definite statement at this stage on a question of Government policy. I shall see, however, that his remarks, and the remarks of all other honorable senators bearing on questions of Government policy, are brought under the notice of the Cabinet.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
Divisions 37 to 43 (Attorney-General’s Department), £8,384; agreed to.
Divisions 44 to 55 (Home and Territories Department), £58,265.
– With respect to the items having to do with the Northern Territory, of which there are six, aggregating £8,920, I wish to ask whether, in view of information concerning recent occurrences in the Territory, the Government can furnish the public with any idea of their intentions ? When may a statement of policy be expected ? It would appear that in the course of their administration the Commonwealth officials at Darwin have experienced considerable difficulty in collecting taxes. A number of residents have refused to make payment, and have been imprisoned. By certain of their fellow citizens these people are regarded as martyrs. According to press reports today, a large meeting was held at Darwin last night, and among those present was a gentleman who took part in prosecuting an offender. Presumably he had been engaged by the Commonwealth to conduct the case against a person who had refused to pay his taxes ; but the circumstance of his presence at the meeting would seem, to indicate that, in his opinion, there was justification for the gathering.
Several-resolutions were agreed to concerning the future attitude of residents and having to do with the representation of the Territory in the Federal Legislature.
Earlier this session the Government introduced a Bill into the Senate which contained a proposal to grant a certain degree of representation in this Chamber. It failed to pass, however. Since then there has been some indication that the claims of the residents of the Northern Territoryto modified representation elsewhere would be considered.
The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) has recently visited the Territory, and perhaps upon his return some definite announcement may be made. That extreme northern part of Australia has been the cause of considerable embarrassment to the Commonwealth Administration, and, whatever may be said concerning the merits or demerits of the situation, the obvious fact remains that the administration has not been very satisfactory. In so commenting, I do not refer merely to the present Government or to any particular Government or Minister. Apart’ altogether from the feelings of the residents, there is strong apprehension on the part of the community generally regarding the future of the Territory, where much Commonwealth money has been, and is being spent. I do not expect that the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) will be able, or is prepared, to make a comprehensive reply at this moment ; but it is due to the public and particularly to citizens of the Northern Territory, that as soon as possible the Commonwealth authorities should indicate their intention to make an exhaustive pronouncement of policy. Meanwhile, trouble at Darwin is becoming intensified, and is likely to grow worse until the Government shall have broken their long silence. I do not expect any statement, however brief or lacking in definiteness, before the return of the Minister for Some and Territories, but it should tend to restore norma] conditions if the Government took the earliest practicable occasion to indicate their future line of action.
. -The Government are aware of the generally unsatisfactory conditions prevailing in the Territory, but as hasbeen shown by the departmental administration, while Ministers have no desire to be harsh to citizens disposed to take the law into their own hands, we are determined to maintain the law, whether that law be good or bad, and whether the grievances of the residents be well or ill founded. In a country such as the Commonwealth, with constitutional means of redress always available, and with a Parliament ever alert to probe complaints regarding public grievances or disabilities, the Government cannot find justification for any individual citizen defying the law-. Senator Keating has suggested the importance of making a definite statement. The Government are not indifferent to what is transpiring in the Territory. The Minister directly responsible has recently visited that region, and will shortly return. We propose to await his return in order to obtain a first-hand account of his impressions and a direct statement relative to the condition of affairs. As soon as possible after the return of’ the Minister for Home and Territories the Government will address themselves to the problem of the Territory, with a view to arriving at some final and definite policy, and will then announce that policy in the interests alike of Australia as a whole and of residents of the Territory in particular.
– The Minister appears to think that those citizens of Darwin who have refused to pay their taxes are lawbreakers, and, as such, must be punished. That may be a sound view, but it should not be forgotten that these people are called upon to obey laws which they have had no hand or voice in making, and to pay taxes at the behest of a Legislature in which they have no representation. I trust that when the Government may be considering their policy, upon the return of the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), they will not deal with the Territory as though it were a portion of Australia which has its direct representatives in the Federal Parliament. Rather, they should apply themselves to the situation as the British Parliament would deal with a Crown colony.
– The Territory has been dealt with as the British Government deal with a Crown colony wherein the local residents are given opportunities to elect their own members to a council. I am not saying, of course, that that is sufficient, but the analogy holds.
– Rightly or wrongly-and, I think, rightly - these people maintain that they are being unfairly and illegally penalized. The familiar saying,” No taxation without representation,” is perfectly sound in its application to the Northern Territory.
– Then the honorable senator countenances the breaking of the law by residents of the Territory?
SenatorGARDINER.- If they have had no voice in making a law, can they be saidtohave broken it?
– But the honorable senator does countenance their breaking the law?
– My views may be put in that way if the honorable senator wishes; he may interpret any statementsas he likes. As for taxation without representation, I suppose that that was really the reason why Great Britain lost America. The citizens of the American colonies were among the most lawlovingand law-abiding people of the world.
-Great Britain was not spending money in America as the Commonwealth has done in theTerritory.
– Britain was spending much money in America. An army was being maintained there, for instance. But, generally, if a difference of opinion arises, it is not a bad practice to try to learn the other man’s point of view. One cannot get much out of a man who thinks he has been wrongly treated. If some of the residents of Darwin have adopted drastic means of making known their plight, it is becausethey are convinced that such course is not only right, but thebest. The peopleof the Territory consider that the onlyeffective method of bringing their grievances prominently before their fellow citizens of Australia is to resist payment of taxes. Senator Wilson says, “ You countenance law-breakers.”
– The honorable senator said he did. I did not say so of him.
-Senator Wilson put the words into my mouth. However, it is not a question of countenancing breaches of the law, for, after all, there is something above the law. If a law is unjust, men are morally right in resisting it. The residents of the Terri tory consider that the law is unjust, her cause taxation has been imposed upon them by a Parliament in whichthey have no representation. They demand representation before they will pay their taxes. If Parliament adopts the attitude of Senator. Wilson, and calls them lawbreakers, there is little likelihood of them receiving justtreatment.
– Did I suggest that?
– The honorable senator is the only one who accused them ofbeing law-breakers.
SenatorE.D. Millen. - They would not be in gaol, if they had not committed anoffence.
SenatorGARDINER. - Senator Millen adoptsthe attitude that they would not be in gaol if they had mot broken thelaw ; but offences against the law must atall times be considered upon their merits. What if these men are making martyrs of themselves? What if they feel that they have been so unjustly treated that they are justifiedin defying the law and submitting to punishment? We have to consider whether we are doing any good by placing them in that position, and if there is not a reasonable wayout of the difficulty. The Government have a difficult proposition to handle, and, as the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) has visited the Northern Territory, and is doubtless coming back with fullinformation,the Government will be in an infinitely better position to deal withthe question when he returns.
– The Government endeavoured to do something.
– The Government wereso satisfied of the injustice to which the residents of the Northern. Territory were being subjected - I will put it that way, even if theGovernment do not approve - that theywere prepared to give them representation in the Senate, but honorable senators were not agreeable to the proposal. By introducing their Bill the Government recognised that the residents of the Northern Territory were being unjustly treated. They went to the extent of introducinga measure into this Chamber to give them representation. But that Bill did not get through, and, of course, the Government cannot bc held responsible for that.The introduction of such a measure ledthe people to believe that an effort was being made to give them representation in the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The action of the Government should have shown reasonable men that their interests were being sympathetically considered from a distance.
– That would appear 4o be the case ; but it is regrettable to find that the efforts of . the Government were thwarted by their own supporters; because it requires a majority of this Senate to reject va Bill. The residents of the Territory do not possess as much information as the Minister on thi3 matter, and they, may believe that the action of the Government was a mere “put up.” They realized that the Government introduced a measure and a majority of the Senate rejected it, and after making repeated complaints they decided to take drastic action.
– The Senate did more than reject it, because we passed a resolution in regard to the subject-matter.
– That suggestion embodied something else.
– Representation in another place was suggested.
– Some thought that the Northern Territory should be attached to South Australia, which was impossible.
– I suppose that would be adding insult to injury. That is a way out of the difficulty, and as a whole-hearted Australian I would like to consider the advisableness of returning the Northern Territory to that State, including all we have done there, because, as far as the Government control of the Northern Territory is concerned, I do not think it can be claimed that it has been a success.
– South Australia never spent a penny before.
– I am quite prepared to redress the grievances of South Australia, which has lost a valuable territory.
– I do not think South Australia is prepared to accept it.
– If the- Territory is handed back to South Australia we should be prepared to give back the Federal Territory to New South Wales.
– If there was any offer to drop Canberra, and give NewSouth Wales its freedom, that State would accept, that offer. The Government have recognised that the Northern Territory desires representation. Before the Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth the residents there had representation in the South Australian Parliament, and now the Territory is under the control of the Commonwealth Government it is only natural that they should desire representation. Another “way out of the difficulty would be to create another State, and then, under the Constitution, they could have six representatives in this Chamber and five members in the House of Representatives.
– If we did that we would depopulate the Territory.
Senator CRAWFORD.They would have such representation as Parliament determined.
– There may be something in that. The disparity between the population of Tasmania and that of the Northern Territory is, after all, not much greater than that between the populations of New South Wales and Tasmania.
– But Tasmania is an original State.
– Of course it is. The creation of another State would provide a way out of the difficulty, as by that the people of the Northern Territory would have representation, and would then have an opportunity of bringing before us its prospects and possibilities, and some of us would probably live to see the day when it will become one of the most, prosperous portions of the Commonwealth.
– It cannot be developed without a railway.
– If a railway is to be constructed it should connect up with the Queensland system.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Have ‘ the Government considered the question of improving the shipping service between Papua and the mainland ? I have had a good deal of private correspondence from people living in Papua who are very optimistic concerning its possibilities, but they say that the principal obstacle in the way of advancement is the lack of communication. They are now dependent solely on the Burns, Philp line of steamers, which, I understand, is providing an irregular service. This is a considerable handicap to the people living in Papua who are carrying on business there. AsI understand some of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers are laid up, possibly the Governmeut might make the experiment of placing, at least, one of their boats in this trade. Will the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) state whether the Government have given consideration to that proposition, or to any other which will bring the people inPapua and the Fiji Islands into closer communication with the mainland?
– I listened with interest to the honorable senator’s remarks concerning the confidence of the residents of Papua in the future of their territory, and I trust their enthusiasm is justified. At present what they really require is an increased expenditure of Commonwealth money. The additional facilities which the honorable senator mentions arc undoubtedly desirable, and the Government are endeavouring to provide them, but are confronted by the demands of the shipping companies for increased subsidies. Negotiations are proceeding, and I think the honorable senator will agree that it is desirable that I should not say anything further at this juncture.
.- I desire to refer to the Commonwealth Steam-ship Line, and wish to have your direction, Mr. Chairman, as to whether I can do so under this vote or under that relating to the Department of Trade and Customs.
– That is under the Prime Minister’s Department.
– When coming up the Bay a few days ago I saw something which would exercise the minds of the people who have to find the money. A number of the Commonwealth ships were lying idle-
– I rise to order. I desire to know whether it is competent for the honorable senator to raise a matter which refers to a vote which has been previously dealt with?
– I do not think that the honorable senator desires to contravene the Standing Orders, but I must rule him out of order in discussing the matter he has introduced in connexion with this vote. A little further on there is a heading “ Navigation,” under which he may be able to make any remarks about shipping. I must ask him to refrain from commenting upon the Commonwealth shipping service under the Home and Territories Department.
– Iam sure the honorable senator will recognise that I have no desire to suppress discussion, but I can see, the difficulty which would be created if, after having passed an item, we adopted the practice of giving it further consideration.
– I asked for the direction of the Chairman.
– When my time expired I was about to say that when the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) returns, and the Government are considering the question of representation, I hope they will not be unnecessarily harsh with those residents in the Northern Territory who are fighting for a great principle. They should be regarded as unselfish patriots, willing to sacrifice their personal liberty in order to bring prominently before the people of Australia the unjust manner in which they have been treated.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 66 to 79 (Department of Defence, Military), £112,875.
– I notice that the amounts proposed to be appropriated in connexion with the Clothing Factory, Harness Factory, and the Woollen Cloth Factory, namely, £250, £150, and £250, respectively, are, in each instance, to be paid into the credit of a Trust Fund. It seems, therefore, that there is some special method of dealing with the various Factories under the control of the Defence Department. I would like the Minister to explain why a Trust Fund has been established in connexion with each of these Factories, and why the supply granted by this Parliament has to be paid into those funds ?
– I am rather glad that .this question has been raised. because, it affords me an opportunity to point out the unfortunate position in which these Factories find themselves. Take, for example, the Clothing factory, which provides the uniforms for our Forces. That Factory has no funds of ite own, because, although there is a vote for the cost of the uniforms, that vote is not paid over to the Factory, but is paid into a Trust Fund. The salary of its staff and the wages of its employees are paid out of that fund, as is also the COSt of the materials which it uses. In the case of the uniforms, the money for material is paid from the Trust Fund in question into the Trust Fund of the Woollen Mills, which supply the cloth. The proceeds, therefore, from these Factories find their ‘ way into the Consolidated Revenue, and there is. .a vote from the Consolidated Revenue into the Trust Funds to keep the Factories going. If any of these Factories make, a profit,, as most of them do, that profit is not shown, except in their balance-sheets. The Woollen Cloth Factory made a profit of upwards of £6Q,000 one year, but that profit did not go into the Trust- Fund. It was paid into the Treasury, and the Treasury month by month pays into the Trust Fund -.sufficient to keep the-. Factory solvent, and to enable it to -pay its operatives as well as to pay for the material which it requires.
– - Are the earnings of the Factories, treated as ordinary revenue?
– And those earnings go through the ordinary accounts ?
Senator Duncan.Is the balance paid over monthly!
– Yes; it is paid into the Trust Account. The only payments into the Trust Account are made direct from the Treasury. All the receipts from each Factory are paid into the Treasury. That fact explains the votes which are proposed under this Bill. They do not imply that the Factories have made a loss.
Proposed vote agreed to. (Divisions 80 to 95 (Department of the Navy), £240,643.
.- There is one matter connected with this Department which was brought under my notice some time ago, when I embraced the opportunity of placing it before the Minister. It relates to the Royal Australian Naval College. Whilst the Minister acknowledged that the statements then made were correct, he said that the reason for the complaints was that no funds were available. I have seen the honorable gentleman in reference to this matter, and he has no objection to .my bringing it before the Committee. Some time ago I had the privilege of visiting the Naval College, and the impression which it made upon me was that it is the finest educational institution in Australia.. -Its administration is excellent in every respect. As honorable senators are aware, its students are required to undergo a very severe physical test, and it may be assumed, therefore, that they represent the finest physical type of youth to be found in the Commonwealth. Yet several of the parents of these .students approached me not long since and stated that they could not, understand why it was that the boys during vacations exhibited every symptom of imperfect health. A few of the parents had had their lads medically examined, and in two cases I was- informed that the doctors’ opinion was that their illness was largely due to poorness of blood, which probably could be traced to the dietary scale provided at the College. Upon inquiry I ascertained that it had been the’ custom for the College to receive weekly supplies of vegetables from Sydney. These vegetables towards the end of the week were naturally very stale and altogether undesirable as articles of food. I learned, also, that it was very difficult to procure fresh meat, as the College is situated 25’ miles from the nearest railway station. The supply of freshmilk, too, had to be carried daily a distance of from 12 to 14 miles. It is evident, therefore, that the illness of these lads was. due to the deficient dietprovided at the College. Upon communicating with the authorities there I was: told that the students are continually suffering from boils. It is true that quite. recently a bi-weekly supply of vegetables has been provided. But the whole position is summed up in the final reply given by the Minister in regard to the supplies of fresh meat, milk, and vegetables. He said that “The necessary funds and staff for this purpose were not available, and, as the present supplies are considered adequate and satisfactory, no change is considered necessary.” It seems to me to be a foolish policy to prejudice the success of this institution by endeavouring to effect such a small economy. It would be a good thing if the College produced its own vegetables, meat, and milk. There are 300 acres attached to the institution, and an expenditure of a few hundred pounds would remove the only defect which I can find in it.
SenatorE. D. Millen. - Would the honorable senator be good enough to again quote the sentence which he read in regard to the supply of provisions?
– It is contained in a report from the captain in command of the institution, which readsVegetables supplied. - From the 3rd February of this year, there has been a local bi-weekly supply, and it is reported that the vegetables have been from that date fresh and good. Prior to this year the supply of vegetables was obtained periodically from Sydney. It is reported that boils have been prevalent amongst all persons at the College. Endeavours have been made to remove these complaints, and for the last two terms boys suffering from boils have been provided with- meals in a special mess formed for them in the hospital, where more green vegetables and fruit are supplied than can be provided in the general mess. The medical officer of the College reports that boils seem to be less frequent now than formerly, and attributes this improvement to the fact that fresh meat has been supplied from a local source during the current year. A. liberal supply of lime juice is also supplied to the cadets during the summer months, with the object of minimizing this complaint as far as possible.
Suggestion that vegetables begrown by staff, and also that cows be kept for supply of fresh milk. - The necessary fundsand staff for this purpose are not available, and, asthe present supplies are adequate and satisfactory, no change is considered necessary.
The fact that the College has been conducted for some years under these conditions seems to point to the desirableness’ of making it self-contained.
– It ought to pay to do to.
– I asked Senator Bolton to quote the sentence which I had imperfectly caught, because in the absence of the. explanation which he has since given the impression might have been conveyed that the authorities at the College were carrying on operations, knowing that the supplies of food were unsatisfactory. But there is the definite statement from them in the report which the honorable senator has quoted that they regard those supplies as adequate and satisfactory. It would be a very serious matter if the impression got abroad that the Government were withholding from the students of that institution necessary articles of diet and were thus jeopardizing their health. But it is quite clear from the statement which has been quoted that whatever may have been the cause of the temporary shortage of supplies, the supplies which are now available are regarded as adequate and satisfactory. I confess, however, that the whole thing comes as asurprise to me. Possessing the knowledge which I do of our back country, and knowing that there are places where milk, outside of tinned milk, is never seen, and where there is always a shortage of vegetables, when I am told that, at a place like Jervis Bay, boils are breaking out amongst the students of this College because of some temporary dislocation in supplies, I decline to believe it. If it. were so, how is it that much worse conditions do not prevail throughout Australia? Even though honorable senators may not have lived as I have done in the back country, they know something of the conditions there, and that people in the remote districts have often to put up with a shortage of supplies of vegetables and milk. Yet, we never hear of these troubles as a result. Does it seem reasonable that boys attending a college not more than 20 miles from a railway station, and provided for according to adietary scalewhich we may be certain has been approved by a medical authority, should have developed this trouble for the reason stated ? I cannot believe it.
– There is their own admission.
– It is admitted that the trouble has occurred, but it is not admitted that it was due to the shortage of vegetables and milk.
– Outside medical opinion says that it is.
– ThenI should like to askthedoctorswhogave thatopinionwhyamuchworsecondition of things does not prevail throughout Australia.
– So many boys are not congregated in one centre elsewhere.
– I am satisfied that quite as many boys as are attending the College at Jervis Bay can be found in many townships in Australia.
– The trouble would be more easily noticed amongst a number of boys together in an institution than amongst a similar number of boys scattered about a town.
– That might be so; but apparently the parents of the boys have noticed the occurrence of. the boils, and I assume that the parents of boys throughout Australia would be equally as observant of the condition of the health of their boys. The real question which Senator Bolton has raised is as to the advisability of the institution making arrangements for growing its own vegetables, and providing its own milk supply. That is a different proposition, and makes clear the statement quoted from a report that there were not funds available for that purpose. It is clear that the vote provided, while sufficient to meet the cost of supplying vegetables and milk to the institution, was not sufficient to oover the cost of employing gardeners to grow the vegetables, and employing men to carry out the work necessary to provide a milk Bupply for the institution on the spot.
– The milk comes from a distance of 12 or 14 miles.
– In some of the country districts vegetables are carried from 50 to 100 miles.
– By train, but not on horseback.
– By train or by coach. There is no reason why they should be brought to the College on horseback unless there is a regiment of horse marines under training there. A 20 miles ride is but a morning sprint before breakfast compared with the distances I have been used to. Whether it would be more economical or more satisfactory for the College to provide its own vegetable and milk supplies, I am not in a position to say, but I should say that the reason why vegetables and milk are supplied under the existing conditions is that the other proposition has never been put before the Department.
– It has been put by the chief officials that it would be a most desirable thing if the College were selfcontained in these matters, but the heads of the Department have set their faces against the proposal, and for no practical reason.
– I ask the honorable senator not to be too hasty in his judgment of this matter. I have never known a public institution to object to the enlargement of its borders. I know of no public Department that would noi, if that were possible, prefer to provide everything for itself. That appears to be human nature as developed in the Public Service. It should be possible to determine with some degree of certainty the advisableness or otherwise of giving effect to the proposal which the honorable senator has mentioned. The College authorities must know what their vegetable and milk bills amount to.
– Even the Minister concerned is in favour of the proposal, and yet it cannot be carried out.
– I think that the Minister has only to ask that a vote to give it effect be placed on the Estimates.
– Some naval official probably says, “ It is not done.”
– If the authorities at the College can show that vegetables and milk could be supplied more economically in the way proposed than under, the . present method, I have no doubt thatattention will be naid to their representations. The important point at present isthat, in the opinion of the authorities, the supply of vegetables and milk to the boys is adequate and satisfactory. I should not like the impression to go abroad that they wereinsufficiently or improperly fed.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 97 (Air Services), £34,000, agreed to.
Divisions 98 to 113 (Department of Trade andCustoms), proposed vote, £81,889.
– Some time ago, we passed a Bill which altered the practice in existence until then with regard to the calculation of tho value of goods for the purpose of assessing duty payable in the case of goods coming into the Commonwealth from countries with a depreciated exchange. As a result of the passing of that measure, or rather of a decision of the High Court then recently given, it was anticipated that there would be claims made upon the Customs Department for the refund of excess payments made under the previous system of calculating prices for duty. I should like to ask if, in the course of the administration of the Customs Department, claims of this kind have been dealt with, and if any are still outstandiug. Can theMinister give us any idea of the amount already refunded to importers because of the altered practice? I am given to understand that claims have been sent incontinuously since the alteration was made, and have been met, though to what extent I am not aware.
– I am afraid that I cannot supply the information asked for, but I sent for it as soon as the honorable senator referred to the matter. I can only tell him that, following the decision of the High Court, which was the starting point for these claims, they did come in, and many of them have been met. It seems to me that it is natural to assume that some should be pending, but it is impossible to say whether any more will be presented. I ask the honorable senator to permit the vote to pass now, and at a later stage I will give him the information for which he asks, if, in the meantime, I am able to obtain it from my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene).
– It is now a considerable time ago since it was decided by the Commonwealth to take over the State Departments of Navigation. Officers were appointed at fairly substantial salaries, and, although the war has intervened, it was anticipated that long before this navigation, with the exception of minor matters, would be entirely controlled by Comonwealth authority. It is some years ago since the. first Director of Navigation was appointed for the Commonwealth. Since then one or two gentlemen have bfien appointed to succeed each other in that very important and well-paid office, but so far the Department has not done anything in the direction of organizing for future development which would warrant the expenditure already incurred, or warrant us in continuing to pay money for its upkeep.
– The Navigation Act has only just been brought into operation.
– It was proclaimed in operation a month or two ago, but the organizing work of the Navigation Department is supposed to have been going on all the time. There has been a Director of Navigation, and a Deputy Director wasappointed some six or eight months ago. Various other officials have been appointed, but very little is known to honorable senators, or to the commercial public,concerning what is being done by the Department, or what it proposes to do. I think that we should have some information as to the work of the Department, and whether it is proposed to take over from the State Governments at leait those sections of their Departments which it will be necessary to take over if the Commonwealth is to run the Navigation Department in a proper way. The position at present is very unsatisfactory. State officials are like Mahomet’s coffin, suspended between earth and Heaven. They do not know whether they are to remain State officials or become Commonwealth officials. The sooner the matter is cleared up the better it will be for the Navigation Department, and for the commercial section of the public.
.- I should like to have some information as to the actual position of the vessels constituting the Commonwealth line of steam-ships. Some time ago a Ministerial statement was made, showing that the operations of the Commonwealth line of steamers had. been eminently successful last year, but recently I noticed a paragraph in the press in which it was reported that business had fallen off to a considerable extent, and very great difficulty was experienced in securing freight. Coming up the Bay the other day I noticed at Williamstown and Port Melbourne five vessels lying idle, which I assumed were Commonwealth steamers,because they were identical in appearance. If the Minister could make a statement regarding the immediate or near possibility of freights being secured for these vessels, it would be very satisfactory to the taxpayers. I do not know whether the crews have been paid off or not, or whether the vessels are lyingthereawaitingfreightswhichareavailableat
Williamstown; but from their general appearance I should say the vessels are at rest until the opportunity arises for them to be put in commission again. I shall be glad to hear from the Minister whether there is any likelihood of trade reviving, and whether every effort has been made by the Government to obtain freights from some partof the world to keep the boats in commission. I should think their capital value was atleast £250,000, and I am naturally exercised in my mind as to how long this valuable asset of the Commonwealth is likely to remain idle. I do not know if the Department is offering special inducements to obtain cargoes, but it will be. far bettor to run the boats at a small loss than to let them lie idle, because idle assets deteriorate very rapidly.
Has anything been done to carry out a promise made to me some time ago by the Trade and Customs Department to appoint an officer, who is at present residing at Devonport, to act as Customs officer for Devonport and Burnie? For some years we have had no Customs officer operating on that coast. Both those ports are important, and many business people there import their merchandise direct from the Old Country, and have been put to the inconvenience of passing their entries at Launceston. Some years ago both Devonport and Burnie were ports of entry. The appointment of a Customs officer would be very welcome to the importing section of the community on that part of the Tasmanian coast.
– It is impossible for a Minister to have at hand detailed information regarding minor administrative matters in the Departments, but I will communicate with my colleague in the morning regarding Senator Payne’s observations about the appointment of a Customs officer for Devonport and Burnie. I cannot say on the spur of the moment whether such an appointment has beenmade.
Ican assure Senator Payne that the Government does not keep its ships idle because it wants to. There is an unfortunate dearth of freight to-day, but that is not peculiar to Government ships. Every paper records idle tonnage all the world over, owing to what we all hope is merely a temporary depression in trade. As there islesstrade to do, fewer boats arerequired to do it. I cannot give the honorable senator any indication as to when brisker times may be expected. I wish I could. I hope that the present conditions will be of short duration so far as a country like Australia is concerned. If Providence is reasonably kind to us, and the good season we have now continues, it will not be long, I trust, before these clouds will pass away, and we. shall be basking againin the sunshine of full prosperity.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions114to123 (Department of Works andRailways). £60,820.
– Some time ago I raised the question of the break of gauge, and Iunderstand that the Government has appointed a committee of experts, ofwhom the chairmanwas to be brought from England or America, while the other members were to be Australian railway engineers. I saw in the press some timeago that the chairman had arrived, and that the Committee had begun their work. I do not expect the Minister to have the information at his finger-tips ; but I should like him to ascertain for me howfar the Committee have gone, and when there is a probability of getting their report. I have no doubt they are doing their work well and expeditiously, and I know that it is of great importance. I understand that when they do report they will practically tell the various Governments what the gauge should be for all the Australian railways. I trust that when the report is available, the various. Governments will make up their minds to adopt the gauge recommended by the Committee, because it would be of great advantage to the whole Commonwealth for the gauges of the railways in Australia to ‘be made uniform.
– An item of £50 is provided for the “ Federal Territory railway (Queanbeyan- Canberra).” Are we to understand that this represents the working expenses of that line for the period covered by the Bill? An amount of £29,000 is provided for the working expensesof the KalgoorliePort Augusta railway for the sameperiod, and £3,100 is set down for the working expenses of the railway from Darwin to the Katherine River, in the Northern Territory. A small item of £75 appears in connexion with the Port
Augusta-Oodnadatta line, but that is to meet the Commonwealth’s proportion of the charges in connexion with the Port Augusta, railway station. If this item of £50 covers the working expenses of the line in the Federal Capital Territory, is it to be taken as a manifestation of great economy, or is it that the railway is not operated very frequently?
– There is a vagueness about some of the items, particularly in this Department. I would understand from the item of £29,000 for the working expenses of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway that it represented the monthly loss on the working of the line. I notice that it is not a payment to a trust fund, as in the case of previous items to which I drew attention. So far as my knowledge goes, the £50 for the Queanbeyan-Canberra line is not for actual working expenses. I understand, that a few: men. are at work carrying the line further into the Territory, and the item is intended, I think, to meet expenses in that connexion. . The other items for the working expenses of Commonwealth railway lines total £32,100 for the month, which is at the rate of £385,200, or nearly £400,000, per year.
– It is not all loss. It represents the working expenses, which have to be voted by Parliament; but there is also revenue coming in.
– That is the point I want to have made quite clear. The income Of the lines is, I presume, paid into the Consolidated Revenue. Are the working expenses also paid from theConsolidated Revenue, or is any attempt made to meet them from the receipts of the lines? Can the Minister give the Committee any informationas to what loss the Commonwealth railways are making?
– I am under the impression that the Uniform Railway Gauge Commission is at work,and has made some progress. I cannot say how much, nor am I in a position to tell Senator Thomaswhenwe may expect its report. If the honorable senator reminds me of the matter next week, I shall endeavour to obtain more definite information for him.
Regarding the Queanbeyan-Canberra line, about which Senator Keating spoke, an arrangement exists between the Commonwealth Government and theGovernment of New South Wales, by which the State of New South Wales runs that section. For this it is paid a lump sum per year, and the £50 in this schedule represents one-twelfth of that amount. With respect to Senator Duncan’s question, it is necessary for Parliament to authorize the Department of Works and Railways to appropriate money to meet working expenses; but that item is quite distinct from any revenue which may be made, for thelatter goes into the Consolidated Revenue. The line under consideration does not, as a matter of fact, incur the loss shown in working expenses; the amount should be reduced by the total of receipts standing to the credit of the system. I may . remark, in this connexion, that if one were to call upon all the accountants in the world to devise some system of presenting Budget particulars in order to reveal public accounts in the worst possible light, no more perfect method could be suggested than that which is in operation. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has referred to a specific example. He pointed out that it would appear that a pertain factory under the control ofthe Defence Department cost so much to run - that is to say, that therewas a loss ofa specified amount in maintaining it. As a matterof fact, the factory generally makes a profit. It certainly earns a large proportion of the money charged against it. Yet, from the method of presentation of the facts in the Budget files, it- would appear that the factory is debited with the whole amount ofits working, costs as an absolute loss. I shall cite another instance from the affairs of my own Department. Certain people have been so patriotic as to leave varying sums of money to the Repatriation Department. These gifts total at present,I think, about £150,000. Thesum has been put out at interest, and £12,000 has accumulated. That amount, however, has been made to appear as a debit against my Department, under the system of bookkeeping employed in the Treasury. The £12,000 has to be paid into the Treasury in order that it may be paid back to the Repatriation Department, and, so that this transactionmay take place, the Treasurer has to ask Parliament for authority to pay the sumover; Thus it is made toappear as an item ofexpenditure debited against repatriation, whereas, in fact, the £12,000 is an asset earned by my Department. The system may be all right from the point of view of the Treasury, but it does not command my respect.
.- I am glad that the Minister has referred in such frank terms to the difficulties surrounding one’s understanding of the exact financial status of any Department or branch. I would suggest, as is done in the State Parliaments, that an indication be given on the Estimates of the Departments which are revenue producing, and of the estimated revenue therefrom which would give the necessary information to honorable senators.
I desire to make one or two references to postal matters, and to ask that my representations shall be brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General. A considerable time ago the Department of Works and Railways was requested to effect some alterations and additions to the Burnie post-office. The proposal remained in abeyance for a long while, but last year tenders were invited for alterations to the front of the building in order that urgently necessary accommodation might be afforded the public. However, the departmental estimate was very little more than half the sum of the lowest tender received; consequently, no tender was accepted. At that important seaport, which has been accurately described as the front door of Tasmania, absolutely inadequate postal facilities exist. Burnie is a busy - place, having not only the interests of the town itself, and also those of its maritime connexion; but it is the centre also of one of the finest agricultural districts in the northern portion’ of ‘ the island.. The post-office has a counter which is 8£ feet long. At that space must he transacted the business of a post-office, a money order office, a Savings Bank, . and a Pensions Branch, together with all the other activities associated with n post-office building. Inevitably, business becomes congested, and public and . staff are greatly inconvenienced. Some time ago, when urging the PostmasterGeneral to speed up the alterations aud additions, I was informed that the project had been temporarily abandoned, and that a report was being obtained regarding the purchase -‘of a site” for the erection pf a new postal building. I urge .-Watt ‘ the Department concerned should make haste. I nave been told that’ during the past year at least fifty additional applications have been lodged for private letter-boxes. The Department is losing revenue. A sum of money was voted last year for the erection of a new postal building at Ulverstone. It is necessary that ‘that work also should be put in hand as speedily as possible.
Senator GARDINER (New South
Wales) [9.24]. - I am surprised and disappointed at the lack of “any reference to Canberra by Victorian economist members of this Chamber. As Leader of the Opposition it is my duty to prepare myself with data upon which to debate any matter of public interest likely to arise here. It would seem that all my painfully prepared ammunition concerning the Federal Capital is to be wasted. . I had expected a determined attack, but the threatened - or, at any rate, naturally anticipated - offensive has not developed. It is the responsibility of my Victorian economist colleagues, of course; and I can only presume that they now unanimously favour the transfer of Federal governmental and parliamentary activities to Canberra.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 125 to 135 (PostmasterGeneral’s Department), £S9 8,425.
– I notice two items having to do with this Department, the first of which mentions a sum of £100, “ New South Wales Postal Institute,” and the other, £300, » Victorian Postal Institute.” Some timeago, the. cx-Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) established a Postal Institute in Melbourne. On several occasions subsequently I inquired whether the Government intended to confine- the novelty to this city, or to extend it to other capital cities. A similar institution is now in course of establishment in Sydney, and the item here appearing is the first, I think, which Parliament has been asked to approve for that work.
– No; the first grant was authorized last year-
– Is’ it- intended to confer the privilege of possessing Postal Institutes to other cities and country centres? If only employees in the larger capitals are to be benefited in this manner, the question will arise whether some system of interchange should not be established, so that officials in the country may serve a term at headquarters in order that they, too, may. avail themselves of the establishment of Postal Institutes.
– Some time ago, a regulation was issued by the Postmaster-General’s Department to the effect that no one would be permitted to charge more than 2d. for the use of a telephone. What is the purpose behind this regulation ? I can quite understand that where people have had a telephone installed for public convenience it would be wise to intimate that the charge for its use should be not more than 2d. per call. But if one has a telephone connected with a private residence, one is not bound to make it available to persons outside tho household.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that private subscribers should be allowed to be profiteers if they desire?
– Yes. I may have a private telephone, and a neighbour or a stranger may call at my residence late at night, after I have gone to bed, and request the use of the telephone. I may object, whereupon he may urge that his need is so great that he is willing to pay ino half-a-crown. Why should I not be permitted to charge more than 2d. in the circumstances? In a boarding establishment where a telephone has been installed, the proprietress may deem it necessary to make a charge, say, of 3d. She may know that numbers of calls are made for which she receives no payment, and she may come to the conclusion that, in order to cover such losses, a charge of more than 2d. is necessary. Every Postmaster-General desires to institute some great reform, and up to the present moment this is the greatest I have seen during the present administration.
– I trust the honorablesenator does not expect me to give the reasons which influenced the Department in coining to that decision.
– Certainly not.
When in the Blue Mountains some time ago, I visited the post-office at Wentworth Falls, and found to my surprise’ that the office and the telephone cabinet outside is lighted by kerosene lamps, although the electric light cables which supply the electricity to the town are outside. The kerosene lamp in the telephone box is not always burning, and consequently considerable inconvenience is experienced by those who desire to make calls. I drew the attention of the Department to this matter, and have received a letter from the Deputy PostmasterGeneral to the effect that inquiries were being made, but owing to the lack of funds the request could not be granted. It is particularly difficult for those who have to do business at a country post-office on a winter’s evening; when the only light available is that provided by kerosene lamps. As the installation of electric light in the post-office and telephone cabinet would be of great convenience to the people at Wentworth Falls, I trust the Minister will bring the matter under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
– In regard to the question raised by Senator Keating concerning postal institutes, I replied, partly by interjection, that one in New South Wales had been in existence for some time, as a vote for that purpose appeared in last year’s Estimates. As to the future operations of the Department, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise), with whom I have communicated during the last few minutes, has sent me a memorandum to the effect that it is the intention of the Department to extend postal institutes as funds and circumstances will permit. Accommodation for this purpose has already been provided in the new postal buildings at Perth.
Senator Thomas’ inquiry, as he himself admits, is one to which he, as a reasonable man, would not expect an answer to-night. Even if I furnished the reason which animated the Department in coming to the decision to which he has referred, I am not at all certain that it would prove sufficient and satisfactory to the honorable senator. The matters, however, to which he has referred will be submitted to the Department.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 147 to 151 (War Services), £304,000 .
.- Some months ago I asked the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) a question concerning the number of houses erected by Messrs. J. and H. G. Kirkpatrick for the Commonwealth Bank, and by the. War Service Homes Department. . By the answers submitted,, the Minister appeared to resent the question, because I suppose he thought I was desirous of proving that the Bank authorities had been constructing houses more successfully than the Department. An inquiry has been proceeding in connexion with this matter, and the Melbourne Age of the 16th June, 1921, reported as follows: -
At yesterday’s sittings’ of the Federal Public Accounts Committee Mr. H. G, Kirkpatrick, of Messrs. J. and H. G. Kirkpatrick, architects to the Commonwealth Bank War’ Service Homes section, continued his evidence, commenced in Sydney.
Witness (Kirkpatrick) drew the Committee’s attention to some adverse comment by a Sydney newspaper of the work of the Commonwealth Bank War Service Homes section..
The chairman stated that the great majority ofcomplaints related to the houses built by the War Service Homes Commission, and not by the Commonwealth Bank.
Witness. - It is very gratifying to hear you say that, because people are always confusing the two bodies.
– We certainly have had a few complaints with regard to the Commonwealth. Bank houses, but there have been no complaints whatever regarding the great majority of the houses built by the Bank. That tact is worth putting onrecord.
Witness then gave particulars regardingthe number of War Service Homes built by the Commonwealth Bank. Up to the end of June, 1920, the Bank had built 731 out of a total of 767 erected in Australia.
On the following day the same newspaper contained this paragraph -
There was not sufficient information in thesecondreport, and I therefore obtained from Messrs J. and H. G. Kirkpatrick additional information, which I desire to place on record. It reads -
It will be noted that the chairman, Mr. Fowler, of the Federal Public Accounts Committee, stated that, “There have been no complaints whatever regarding the great majority of the houses built by the Bank, and that the fact isworth putting on record.” It is also interesting to note the architects of Australia are now stating that the Bank architects were not overpaid, notwithstanding the fact that there was a lot of criticism about this matter some time back. At the Committee’s request we have forwarded them a statement of our expenses. The statement was prepared in detail, and showed that our total expenses to datewere £38,062 17s.5d., while the amount due was £45,065 6s. 6d. We may state that the work is not completed, and until it is completed will cost us a further £4,000; therefore, making our total expenses approximately £42,000 odd. The following is the amount of work carried, out and completed up to 31st May, 1921 : -
It will be noted by the above figures that thereis a further 114 homes to complete. It will also be noted by the above that 1,877 contracts have been entered into, at a total cost of £1,165,537 3s. 5d. The average cost per home, has been £620.95. This average cost shows that we have worked within the £700 limit, as originally provided by the Act, and this has been, done by a large margin, as can be seen. We wish to state that this average amount includes fencing, path making, and in nearly every instance sewerage, besides the erection of thehome.
Ihave taken the trouble to put this further information before the Committee, because it is information which should have been vouchsafed, had a complete reply been given to. my question.
– That is not the full information.
-I am satisfied that the facts which I have quoted put in a fair way what has been done by the Commonwealth Bank in the matter of building homesforour soldiers. I am very glad to have been afforded this opportunity of placing those facts upon record.
– SenatorGardiner has come here, as he himself admits, with a carefully prepared brief, by the firm of Messrs. Kirkpatrick. I am not in a position to check his figures, nor do I wish to do so. I am not going to engage in a controversy as to whether the Commonwealth Bank made more mistakes than did the late War Service HomesCommissioner. But I confidently submit that the number of complaintswhich reached him are no true indication of the number of imperfect houses which have been built by the Commonwealth Bank. Of course, when a Government Department is concerned, there is a great tendency for people to be more vocal about it than they would be if a private institution were concerned, There is only one matter in the statement read by Senator Gardiner to which I wish specifically to referMessrs. Kirkpatrick give the number of contracts which they have let, the amount involved in them, and the average cost perhome. They alsoclaim that they have constructed these houses within the limit of expenditure imposed by the Act. But they say not a word about who provided the land. I know that, in a very large percentage of cases, the men themselves found the land, Consequently, the comparison which they institute is not a fair dne. The value of the land would require to be added to maketheir statement of cost comparable with any statement of the cost of the houses which have been erected by the late War Service Homes Commissioner. That is why I interjected that the statement presented by Senator Gardiner was not a full one. When I see it in Hansard I shall have an opportunity of looking into the figures which he has submitted. But, in the meantime, I thought it was necessary for me to inform honorable senators of one great discrepancy in the statement of Messrs. Kirkpatrick.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division35 (Refunds of Revenue) (£70,000) and Division 36 (Advance to the Treasurer) (£760,000), agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– That set down on thenotice-paper for to-day, preceded by the second reading of the War Service Homes Commissioner Validating Bill. Then there is the little measure known at the Public Service Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at9.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 June 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19210629_senate_8_96/>.