8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to know from the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs if he is in a position to supply answers to some questions I asked some time ago ?
– On the 4th May Senator Gardiner asked . the following questions : -
I said that inquiries were being made, arid I am now in a position to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
Inquiries have been made in each of the States, and it baa been ascertained that in no instance has a boot. factory been closed for the reason alleged; but in some cases, owing to a falling off in orders, the number of hands employed has been reduced. Most of . the factories concerned are now employing the full normal number of hands.
– On 13th May Senator Gardiner asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
It is not possible to give the whole of the information asked for by the honorable senator, as all woollen goods imported are not recorded separately.
The following statement shows the ‘ annual value of such woollen goods as are recorded separately in the statistical classification which were imported into the Commonwealth from 1909 to 1910-20, also the gross Customs duty collected- on such goods lor the same years.. The goods concerned are flannels, woollens n.e.i., wool yarns,’ wool felt hats. Woollen, socks and stockings imported siucu 1918-19 are also included, prior to which date they were not recorded separately: -
asked the Minister representing- the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. Yes, in. London, by the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Commonwealth^
– I move -
That this Bill be now read n second time.
I anticipate the ready concurrence of the Senate in this motion. Some little time ago the Government removed from his office Lieut. -Colonel Walker, who was acting as War Service Homes Commissioner. Under the War Service Homes Act, it was provided that no one could hold the office of Commissioner who was at the time am uncertificated insolvent. The fact that Lieut. -Colonel Walker caine within that category rendered it obligatory upon the Government to remove him from his office. In view of the fact that his appointment was irregular, it appears necessary, or at all events desirable, that what he did when informally acting as War Service Homes Commissioner should now be validated. Such matters, for instance,’ as the transfer of titles are involved. For similar reasons, validation is required of acts performed by the Acting War Service Homes Commissioner. The doubt is raised that there not being a properly appointed War Service Homes Commissioner there could not be a properly appointed acting occupant of the office. The purpose of this Bill is to validate the acts of the two gentlemen referred to in the discharge of the duties of the offices they filled.
– I do not think that any one can take reasonable exception to this Bill, but the Senate was at least entitled to be given some reasons why Lieut. - Colonel Walker was removed from the office of War Service Homes Commissioner in addition to the statement that it has been found that he was not eligible under the Act for appointment to that office. If the information at my disposal is correct, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), when appointing Lieut. -Colonel Walker to the office of War Service Homes Commissioner, was aware of all the circumstances surrounding his insolvency.
– I want to give that an absolute and flat denial.
– The Minister denies that. I suppose that honorable senators, in common with myself, have received a circular dealing with this matter, in which the statement is made that Lieut. -Colonel Walker, being connected with a gold mining company, became liable during his absence on active service to pay certain sums of money, and was made insolvent by a bank. There was nothing discreditable to him in the matter, and his credit, so far as cash is concerned, had he been here, was sufficient to enable him to meet any obligations, even those for which he was not morally responsible, although legally liable. The information at my disposal is that the bank manager’s name was given to Senator Millen - I do not say that that is a fact, but it is the information supplied to me - to enable the honorable senator to communicate with that gentleman. T am informed, also, that other people did communicate with the bank manager, and that that communication was sent before the appointment of Lieut. -Colonel Walker. I, of course, accept the Minister’s statement that this is not correct, but the point I want to make is this : Here is a gentleman considered by the Government fitted to fill one of the most responsible positions in the Commonwealth Public Service. He fills it for about eighteen months, and suddenly there is discovery of a defect in his title to the position. I may be wrong, but I think that honorable dealing required that there should have been done then what is being done now. Lieut. -Colonel Walker’s previous acts should have been validated, and then what was wrong with his appointment should have been made right, and his reappointment should have taken place. If there was some other reason . for getting rid of him, the straightforward course for the Government to adopt was to discharge him from his office as unsatisfactory. I make no comment upon the way in which Lieut.-Colonel Walker carried out his duties of War Service Homes Commissioner. The Minister is in the best position to do that.
– The honorable senator could do it, too.
– My position as Leader of the Opposition made it necessary for me to criticise some of the work of the War Service Homes Commission.
– I remember the’ honorable senator’s criticism on one occasion.
– Lieut.Colonel Walker was appointed under conditions concerning which he claims there was no secrecy. There is nothing alleged derogatory to his character, and, although he was adjudicated insolvent while away fighting for his country, the Government would have been well advised if they had re-appointed him when this defect in his original appointment was made known. If the Government have any other reasons, in justice to Lieut.-Colonel Walker the straightforward course is for them to make them public.
– The honorable senator made one public.
– I claim the right to criticise men who are conducting public business.
– It is rather unnecessary for the honorable senator to make that assertion.
– We are here for that purpose. It is a part of our duty. I do not know whether I take a wrong view of my position here, but if any case comes under my notice in which I think injustice has been done, I believe it my duty to bring it before Parliament, but not before inquiring into the truth or otherwise of . the charge. Lieut.Colonel Walker carried out his duties, I believe, satisfactorily for eighteen months, and at the end of that period it was suddenly discovered - according to the Minister’s statement - that, technically, he was a bankrupt. Lieut.Colonel Walker, however, said that his bankruptcy was annulled by the Law Courts. If his insolvency was the only reason for his dismissal, the Government could have remedied the position by reappointing him. If the Government were anxious - probably that is not the correct word - to get rid of this gentleman, why did they not say so? If they were so dissatisfied with his services that they thought the work could be more satisfactorily accomplished by some one else it is their duty to make that clear.
– I thought the honorable senator prompted’ ‘the Government to dispense with his services.
– When I criticise a public servant it is usually for some particular action. But criticism can be uttered without saying that the man who is thought to have made a mistake should be dismissed.
– The honorable senator generally criticised the exCommissioner’s administration. ‘
– The honorable senator will find my criticisms in Hansard. It is true that I was not satisfied with some of his work . in New’ South Wales. I think it was the dismissal of a Deputy Commissioner by Lieut.Colonel Walker in circumstances somewhat similar to those we are now discussing of which I complained. In the case of both Major Evans and Lieut.-Colonel Walker something more should be said, or, perhaps, already too much has been said. I think the Senate was, and is still, entitled to further information on this matter, and I trust that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) will go a little out of his way to give the reason why this action has been taken. Lieut-Colonel Walker’s bankruptcy has been annulled by the Courts of Queensland, and the honorable and straightforward course to pursue - if there was no other reason for his dismissal - was to re-appoint him. The Government are not acting fairly to themselves, or to the people of Australia, because the whole matter could have been carried out in a straightforward way, however distasteful it may have been. This gentleman was removed from office owing to something which he claims the Government were aware of at the time he was appointed. The Minister for Repatriation has denied that, and I am prepared to accept his statement.
– The position was explained in the public press.
– The solicitors who prepared the information that appeared in the press, and also in the circular referred to, depended, I presume, under the information received from Lieut.-Colonel Walker.
– Yes, I believe the circular was prepared and distributed by his solicitors.
-brockman. - As a matter of fact, it was.
– The weak point in the Government’s case is this. If this officer’s services were satisfactory, and there was no other serious reason for dispensing with his services when the defect was discovered, why did the Government not immediately re-appoint him? Perhaps there is some other reason why the Government desired to get rid of him In dealing with individuals, particularly those employed in the Public Service, we have to be very careful before taking drastic action to remove them from their positions. I realize that what I am saying has very little bearing on the provisions of the Bill we are now discussing, but as this measure is to validate the actions of Lieut.. Colonel Walker during the time he held the position of Commissioner, I think it is due to the Senate and to the country that the Minister should give a full and frank statement as to Lieut. -Colonel Walker’s dismissal, and why he was not re-appointed. If his services have been satisfactory, that could have been done with advantage to the Government and the public. It is very unfair to place Lieut.-Colonel Walker . in his present position. I trust the Minister in his reply will make a definite statement, because we are dealing with a gentleman whom the Government thought fit to occupy a very high position, the duties in connexion with which he apparently carried out satisfactorily for a considerable time.
– I desire to 6ay a word or two in reply to the statements made by Senator Gardiner. First of all, whether the accusation or charge formulated by the honorable senator is correct or not, he has admitted that this Bill must be passed. A similar measure would have had to be presented to Parliament even if Lieut. - Colonel Walker had been re-aippointed.
– Senator Gardiner recognises that it has to go through in view of the circumstances.
– Even if Lieut.-Colonel Walker had been restored to his office, as has been suggested, this Bill would have still been necessary, and it is necessary to validate the acts of the Acting Commissioner. I, therefore, presume that the Senate agrees to the passage of the Bill. I desire to repeat what I have said already by interjection, that I give an absolute, flat denial to the reiterated statement that at the time of his appointment, I had knowledge of Lieut.Colonel Walker’s bankruptcy. I will leave it to honorable . senators’ own judgment to say whether they can conceive for one moment of any Minister, in view of the direct prohibition in the Act against the appointment of an uncertificated insolvent, making an appointment deliberately in the face of that Act after being informed that the applicant was insolvent.-
– Is there any ground for the suggestion that you were referred to the bank or the banker?
– There is this ground for it, that when Lieut.Colonel Walker was asked for certain personal references he supplied them, amongst them being one from the manager of a bank. I do not know whether that was the bank concerned in Lieut.Colonel Walker’s insolvency or not.
– Did the bank in itsreply notify you of the insolvency during Lieut.-Colonel Walker’s absence?
– I should be prepared to make a full and ample statement on this point but for the fact that Lieut.-Colonel Walker is threatening legal proceedings. For that reason, especially as my honour and truthfulness, apart from any other matters, are concerned, I propose to ask the Senate to excuse me from making any further statement on the matter at this stage. If Lieut.-Colonel Walker goes into Court, as he threatens to do, the Court will be “the proper place for me to disclose the several steps taken, and to present the evidence which I have in support of my contention that I was in ignorance of the fact of his insolvency.
Whether the Government should have re-appointed Lieut.-Colonel Walker is quite another matter, upon which opinions may differ; but there, again, one prime factor in the position has reference to the particular thing which Lieut.Colonel Walker is affirming through hia circular. Here, again, if Lieut.-Colonel Walker wants to seek redress through the Law Courts he has no right to ask me to disclose my defence in this Chamber. I leave it at that, with the additional information that very shortly Mr. Rodgers, who is acting as Assistant Minister for the War Service Homes Department, and who with considerable industry is addressing himself to several sections of that Department, will make a full statement of the position of affairs there.
– Will that statement be open to discussion when it reaches this Chamber ?
– Yes. I mention Mr. Rodgers, because although I am still Minister for Repatriation, and he is acting as my assistant, honorable senators know enough of these two Departments to understand that no one man can . throw himself wholeheartedly into either of them without neglecting the other. ‘Some division of the work was therefore necessary. Mr. Rodgers will shortly have all the material brought into regular order, which will enable him to make in another place - and in substance the same statement will be made here - a statement informing Parliament exactly how the various matters stand. That statement will be open to discussion in this and another place. When it is made, I can assure honorable senators that it will not be open to the criticism of being wanting in fulness or frankness.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Validation of acts of James Walker in capacity of War Service Homes Commissioner).
SenatorFOSTER (Tasmania) [3.25].- In consequ.ence of what Senator Millen has said, I take it that I and others are passing this measure for the purpose of validating the work . that has been done, without in any way expressing any opinion as to the merits of the appointment or dismissal of Lieut. -Colonel Walker.
– Without prejudice.
– The honorable senator expresses my meaning. I understand that we shall have an opportunity of discussing these aspects of the case when the statement referred to by Senator Millen is made by the Assistant Minister.
– That is so.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Agreement with Orient. Steam Navigation Company.
Debate resumed from 12th May (vide page 8314), on motion by Senator Russell -
That the Senate approves the Agreement made and entered into the 27th day of April, 1921, between His Majesty’s Postmaster-General in and for the Commonwealth of Australia of the one part and the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited of the other part for the carriage of mails and services to be performed as therein provided, a copy of which Agreement has been laid upon the table of the Senate.
– I should almost think from a glance at the proposed contract that it is of more interest to Tasmania than to any other State. It seems to me that the Orient Company has tightened up the . previous agreement to its own advantage. Most honorable senators, being here as the representatives of private enterprise, will consider it a perfectly legitimate business proceeding for a company having the whip hand over the Commonwealth to improve its position when a chance comes, of renewing its agreements. This company has improved its position. It has also most seriously prejudiced Tasmanian interests, by the fact that the vessels will not call at Hobart so frequently under this Agreement as they did under the old contract.
– Or at any other port.
– Yes ; but that is of more importance to Tasmania than to the other States. It does not affect New South Wales to the same extent, because any vessel which comes from the Old World must go to Sydney, even if it carries no mails. The principal centre of the trade of Australia must be visisted. I see very little use in the Senate discussing the proposed Agreement. I take it that- the Government have secured the best deal they could get from the company, and have brought their best business brains to bear in the negotiations. The Government have the confidence of the present Parliament, and although we might see in the Agreement something that we should like to improve or alter, the company is, under present conditions, practically in a position to say, “ Here is the most we will give for the money ‘we are receiving,” and there is very little chance of any debate or discussion improving matters. It is quite possible that the Government, in entering into this contract, have done quite as well as any other Government could have done in similar circumstances. But the fact remains that under the system of private enterprise a big shipping company has been afforded an opportunity to take a little more from the Commonwealth and to give a little less in return. That has always been the policy of private enterprise.
– I do not think that the company is giving a little less in return for a little more, though we are certainly getting a less frequent service under the new contract.
– The Orient Company will carry our mails a less distance than they did formerly, and will occupy a longer time in doing it.
– Their expenditure is much greater than.it was.
– I know that. It is becoming greater all the time. But, no matter how large it becomes, it is the workers who will pay it. If the expenditure of the company is greater than it was, so also art the profits. The company hold the whip hand at the present time, and they are driving a hard bargain “with the Commonwealth. They are getting better results from driving that hard bargain than they obtained under the previous contract. Under the new arrangement, the time occupied by their vessels in the carriage of our mails will be greater than it has been hitherto, the amount paid for the service will be greater, and altogether the company have tightened up the agreement to their own advantage. The only consolation that we have is the knowledge that the Commonwealth is now building vessels of its own. I hope that the Government will push ahead with the construction of those vessels as rapidly as possible, so that they may be in a position to carry our own mails. If we possessed a few fast vessels of our own, which would give us a more frequent service, the position would be immensely improved. The sooner we escape from the position of the Commonwealth being obliged to accept whatever terms the Orient Steam-ship Company chooses to offer it, the better. At the present time there is absolutely no competition between the overseas shipping companies here. Our only ray of hope is that the Commonwealth may expedite the building of vessels which will be able to supplant in the ocean mail service the boats which are privately owned. Believing as I do that the future development of Australia will warrant the construction of such vessels, the Government will be well advised to press forward the work of building them as rapidly as possible. I understand that in another place the PostmasterGeneral mentioned the fact that under this new mail contract we were likely to get something more than a monthly service. If that be so, I hope that provision will be made for it in the agreement itself; in order that there may be no mistake about it. I trust that the Government ‘will be sufficiently alert to see that the arrangement to which’ the Postmaster-General alluded rests upon something more substantial than a mere statement in a letter from the Orient Steam-ship Company to himself. Of course, we might insist upon these vessels being run upon purely unionistic lines.
– I suppose that it is the labour conditions which -have compelled the company to tighten up the agreement.
-I recognise that Senator Wilson is the great champion of private enterprise in this Chamber.
– The labour conditions provided for in our Navigation Act will apply to the vessels employed under this contract.
– So that my remark was perfectly justified.
– The Commonwealth is in the unfortunate position of being obliged to accept the best arrangement that it can get from the Orient Steam Navigation Company. I can only express the hope that, as soon as the Commonwealth possesses sufficient vessels of its own to enable it to conduct a European mail service, the PostmasterGeneral will give this company twelve months’ notice of his intention to ter,minate the contract.
SenatorRussell. - Two of our own vessels will be ready tbis year.
– I bope that very soon quite a superior class of oceau liner for the carriage ofoversea mails will be built by the Commonwealth. Our chief need at the present time is the means of getting our primary products to the markets of the world as quickly and as cheaply as possible. One has merely to look at the enormous profits made by the various shipping companies during the war, at a time when the Empire was struggling for its very existence, to realize what has been taking place. During that period the shipping companies of the world made profits which would almost have liquidated Australia’s war indebtedness. They did so by squeezing the last ounce of profit out of the Governments of the Empire and the peoples of the Empire.
– Who did not at that time ?
– Senator Wilson is always candid enough to honestly express the views of his party. During the period of the war the shipping companies squeezed from the public such huge profits as to cause one to wonder whether we were a civilized community to permit such practices.
– I ask the honorable senator to say who did not.
– As far as the profiteers, whom the honorable senator so ably represents, are concerned, I do not know who did not.
– The honorable senator has not answered my question. He has not said who did not. The unionists, whom he represents, obtained all that they could right through the piece.
– Most of the able-bodied men whom I represent went to the war, and many of them left good positions here to fight for 5s. or 6s. per day, whilst the shipping companies were swelling their profits to an exorbitant extent. Hundreds of thousands, nay, millions, of workers in this and the other allied countries did not look for profit at that time, though they looked death in the face very often. Whilst they were doing that, the very worst offenders in the matter of profiteering wei’e the shipping companies.
– The honorable senator does not represent all the men to whom he has referred.
– I do not want to split straws about that.
– The Orient Steam Navigation Company practically went out ‘of business because it lost its boats through the action of submarines.
– I know that the Imperial Government commandeered a number of the boats . belonging to the company.
– The company received good money for the ships, that were lost through submarines, because they were well insured.
– But there were no boats with which to replace them in those days.
– I remember a statement that was made by Mr. Bonar Law, a gentleman whose authority to, speak on the subject will not be disputed by any honorable senator. He said, in the British House of Commons, that he had some shares in a ship that was sunk by a submarine, and was greatly surprised to receive a cheque in compensation enormously in excess of any money he had ever put into it. He gave the exact amount which he received as compensation for his share in the ship that was lost.
– Yes; £130,000.
– I thank Senaton Foster for his confirmation of my statement. I am referring to the whole of the shipping companies, and any one who looks up their returns will be astonished at the profits they made, and still more astonished that a civilized community should have permitted them to make such profits when other people were not only losing money but leaving their families to eke out an existence, which became less and less satisfactory because of the increased charges imposed by profiteering firms.
– In the later part of the war that was stopped.
– Before the war started, Australian wheat was carried to London by ships for a rate of from 6d. to 10½d. per bushel. It was being carried for 4s. dd. . per bushel when the war ended, and I venture to say that it is not being carried now for less than 2s. 6d. per bushel. It is of no use to deny that these shipping companies saw their opportunity during the war and took advantage of it to reap huge and exorbitant profits. I realize that the Orient Steam Navigation Company is not looking for a very exorbitant profit under the Agreement we are now considering, because I suppose there is’ a limit to the profits they can make now. The shipping companies are working together, and. their spheres of influence are marked out. Because of this combination and of the conduct of the shipping companies during the war, and because of what will be their conduct in the future, so far as Australian interests are concerned, I hope that the Government will proceed with all the expedition possible to substitute for the present contract system for the carriage of mails and produce from Australia their conveyance in ships owned by the Australian people.
– I am against this Agreement, though on altogether different grounds from those which have influenced Senator Gardiner. I do not agree with much that the honorable senator said. I would scrap all contracts of this kind if I had my way at the present time. If we are to carry on in the old way, the Government may be said to have made a fair bargain under this Agreement. But things are very different from what they were some time ago. The last contract we had with the Orient Steam Navigation Company involved the payment of £170,000 per year for a fortnightly service. It is now proposed that we should pay £130,000 a year for a monthly service. We shall he getting considerably less relatively for tho money we pay. The reason I would scrap this Agreement is because I believe in something quite different from what is here proposed. In the first place, this is not merely a mail contract. It is rather a misnomer to speak of it as a contract for a mail service to Europe. A mail contract purely would cover the transport of mail matter to and from London and Fremantle within a certain time. The reason we are asked to pay £130,000 for a monthly service is not because of the carriage of the mails, but because of what is expected from the company besides the carriage of our mails. The Agreement is based, to a great extent, upon agreements of the past, but it is more than a mail contract. One of the conditions of the contract is that the boats must start from London, and they must go to Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. If this were merely a mail contract, why should it be provided that the boats must start from London and go back to London ?
– They must go to Tasmania for apples.
– Why should they, if this is merely a mail contract? When the Postmaster-General makes a contract for a- mail service in a country district he asks the contractor to carry mail matter from one place to another.
– He sometimes insists that a certain kind, of vehicle shall be used for the carriage of the mails.
– I admit that. It is quite clear that this is a contract for more than the carriage of mails.
– We get our mails carried more cheaply because the company’s boat3 are able to earn other revenue than the subsidy paid for the carriage of the mails. The honorable senator would not send a boat from England to Australia with only mails on board.
– I am not suggesting anything so ridiculous.
– No one can use the cargo space on the mail boats without paying for it.
– I admit that. But -under. this Agreement the mail boats are expected to go to certain places, whether it suits them to go there or not.
– To take the mails to those places.
– If the honorable senator knew anything about the matter he would know that they do not take the mails to those places. The mails are taken out of the boat at Fremantle. I am afraid that Senator Wilson is a Rip Van Winkle. He appears to have forgotten that we have a trans-continental railway. Under the Agreement the company is not required to take the mails any further than Fremantle. There ie provision in the Agreement that the ships shall have a certain area of insulated space for the carriage of butter and other perishable produce, and it is provided that the company shall not charge more for the use of this insulated space than i3 charged by vessels other than mail boats.
– Is that not reasonable, in view of the subsidy paid for the carriage of the mails?
– That is what I turn coming to. The mail boats are faster than other vessels engaged iu the carriage of perishable produce, and, therefore, those making use of the insulated space in the mail boats are given an advantage. The mail boats are run to a time schedule, and persons using them for the export of butter are in a position to say, within an hour or two, when their butter will reach London. Shippers of perishable produce, therefore, prefer to use the mail boats.
– Not for the export of fruit.
– I admit that the honorable senator speaks as an expert on that subject, but I still say that those who make use of the mail boats for the export of other perishable produce gain a decided advantage over those who ‘must use the ordinary boats for the purpo.se. That advantage has to be paid for, and it is to be paid for by the subsidy of £130,000 which, under the Agreement, is to be paid to the Orient Company for the carriage of our mails.
– We previously paid £324,000, and a subsidy of £130,000 is reasonable as compared with that amount.
– What we paid was £200,000, and that covered a period of four years. Are the poundage rates higher ?
– If the poundage rates would not involve more than a subsidy, why cannot the mails be carried on that basis?
– The poundage rates would apply to other vessels, as well as those of the Orient Company.
– When a subsidy is paid it benefits those who send goods to Great Britain. The percentage of butter that is shipped to Great Britain by mail boats is comparatively small, as it is about one-half of what it was before the war, because, instead of a mail boat leaving, every week, as was* the case in pre-war days, there is now only a fortnightly service.
– Is the .honorable senator suggesting that, this is a bad bargain?
– From the stand, point of mails, I say that we are making a bad bargain, because the contract includes other service.
– The honorable senator is losing sight of the fact that Great Britain’s claim for £321,000 was reduced to £200,000, because Great Britain shared in the benefits of the service.
– I shall deal with that later, when discussing more fully the poundage rates. In connexion with the £130,000 contract we asked that boats of a certain class should trade between Australia and Great Britain throughout the year. The big shipping companies, if they had their own way, would hot send vessels of a certain class here all the year round. Before the war it was the custom of the Orient Company and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company to utilize their best vessels in the Australian trade for about four months, and during the remainder of the year to send vessels of a somewhat inferior type:- During ‘ certain periods, when the passenger traffic is slack, it would be possible for a saloon passenger to promenade the deck, and say that he was . monarch of all he surveyed, because, in some voyages,, there- would not be more than a half-a-dozen passengers on the boat. The Government, in accepting this contract, have insisted that boats of a certain class shall run throughout the year; therefore I do not think the shipping companies are asking too much, and in that respect I differ entirely with the opinions expressed by Senator Gardiner.
– Does the honorable senator think that the companies would conduct the service with two types of vessels, using boats of an inferior class in the off season?
– It is the policy of the company to utilize their best boats during the busy season ; but ‘ under the contract they must use vessels of a certain standard. It is obvious that they would prefer to utilize the smaller boats during the slack season, and those of a more luxurious type when a larger ‘number of people were travelling. Instead of paying the companies a subsidy I think it would be better to have our mails carried on a poundage basis, although there would not then be such regularity in the delivery of letters.
– We would have to take our chance.
– That would be fatal to business.
– The money saved by carrying mails on a poundage basis could be devoted to improving the cable service, which would enable messages to be transmitted from Australia to England, and vice versd, at cheaper rates. Most of the business is at present done by cable, and is confirmed by letter.With a cheaper . cable’ service business would increase, and the trans-Atlantic cable connecting with the Pacific cable by the land line which crosses Canada could be utilized, and messages sent at 3s. per word.
– That line is already congested.
– It was during the war period.
– It still is.
– Well, we should have another line.
– That would not cheapen the cost of cabling.
– It would. Much of the expense at present incurred is in consequence of the Atlantic cable being in the hands of private companies. Sanator Keating said that the cost of cabling would not be reduced if the service were duplicated; but it must be remembered that at present a very good profit is being made.
– We could not send documents by cable.
– I know that. But commercial men are doing much of their business by cable and confirming it by letter. Under the poundage system, letters could be’ delivered in Great Britain as frequently as at present. The subsidy has been used as a means of opening up trade overseas. When our forefathers first came to Australia subsidies were paid, and they were to some extent responsible for us having vessels of the present type in the trade. I am inclined to think that the Orient Company would prefer carrying mails on a poundage basis, because at present there are certain conditions which they are compelled to fulfil. If the Orient Company carried mails on that basis during the four months when the traffic is heavy, they would be able to utilize their vessels to the best advantage. When the Government enter into a contract with a shipping company it is provided that mails shall be delivered within a certain number of hours.
– The honorable senator must not overlook the coal position.
– No. The number of hours occupied in transport is greater under the new contract than under the old. If we subsidize the company and compel it to deliver letters all the year round within a certain number of hours they base the time to be taken on the period occupied by the slowest boats. If a company is informed that letters must be delivered within a certain number of hours, it naturally arranges that the time occupied by the faster vessels shall not be less than that taken by the slower vessels. If the more modern ships were to complete the trip in, say, forty-eight hours less, the Government would naturally expect other vessels to make the trip in the same time. A similar understanding exists in connexion with mails delivered by coach in the back country. There would be a contract to carry mails from, say, Broken Hill to Wilcannia, in so many hours. Sometimes the journey could be done in less, and I have been on mail coaches when they would not arrive ahead of time. They did not want to exceed the contract time, which was based not on a good trip, but on the average trip. So it is with these boats. Under the poundage system, we should have for four months in the year a quicker and better service, and for the remaining eight months the possibility is that, so far as letters were concerned, we should not have quite so good a service, but even that is open to question. We should however, have more competition. The subsidy does away with competition with this kind of boat. Senator Gardiner was quite right in saying that if we give the mail boats a subsidy to carry the mails, we grant them a monopoly. They are in a ring ; they will not compete one against the other. If, however, we throw that system overboard, and simply institute poundage rates, we shall leave it open to any boat we choose to compete for the carriage of the mails. We need not give the work to boats which we consider too slow. We should give it only to those which we thought were good enough. Immediately we did that, we should have more boats coming to this country.
– Does the honorable senator seriously argue that the chance of getting a few tons of mails to carry would induce ship-owners to send their ships to this country?
– No ; we could- put the mails on any boats we chose. The mail boats have- an advantage so far as passengers are concerned when they have the subsidy. They put that all in, and have to arrive to time, and maintain a certain rate of speed, all of which has to be paid for. It is quite possible that, with the poundage system, we might not have such quick boats during a certain portion of the year, but we should have more boats competing for our trade and commerce, and we should therefore have a larger mercantile fleet coming here. At present, we have more boats than we need, if what Senator Payne told us yesterday about five Commonwealth vessels lying idle is correct. As there are more boats here at present than we need, there is no immediate necessity for more competition, but this is an abnormal time, and I am confident that the day is not far distant when we shall want more boats than are coming. There was never a time in the history of the world when Europe needed our raw material more than it does to-day. The reason why we cannot send it there is that Europe has not the money to pay for it. Still, the need is there. and the time will come when we shall want all the boats that we can possibly get. The Agreement provides that the Orient boats must go as far as Sydney and Brisbane, and can, if so desired, go to Cairns, so long as that does not interfere with their leaving Brisbane and Sydney to time. That is very kind and nice of the Agreement, but if we had poundage rates, the boats could go to Cairns if it suited them, and to Brisbane if it suited them.
– And if it did not suit thom, they would not call there.
– They would not; but some other boat would go there. One reason why we have no competition in some of our ports is the subsidy we give to mail steamers. The payment or nonpayment of subsidies has been a . great question in England, but the system is being done away with now. It is pointed out that it does not help shipping, as trade and commerce is quite sufficient, and a subsidy given to a shipping company only grants it a monopoly to the disadvantage of other lines. Some years ago the Cunard Lino was subsidized by the British Government, and letters from England to the United States of America had to be carried in the Cunard boats. The White Star Line then initiated a much swifter service. Two steamers used to leave Liverpool on the same day, but the unsubsidized White Star boat would reach New York about forty -eight hours ahead of the subsidized Cunard boat. Merchandise would be put on the White Star boat and be in New York for about forty-eight hours before the letter advising of its despatch arrived. The Americans did not do anything so foolish. They paid no subsidy, but simply allowed the letters to go by the first boat that left. I believe that in America subsidies have now been, to a great extent, abolished. I stand for the poundage rates, by which we should get a better service for four’ months in the year than we are getting now, and for the other eight months we should, in a very, short time, get an equally good service. The letters might not be delivered quite as regularly, but we can look forward to having a better cable service, and to the extension of the wireless system, so that that would make very little difference. I should say that the ordinary business man would prefer to do more of his business by cable than he does to-day. I stand also for cheaper cables, so that not only business men, but also people who come here on social visits may have the opportunity of using the cable service freely. It would bring us nearer to England and we should utilize it to the fullest possible extent. Immigrants are coming here, and we want them hero. We want to be in touch with the Old Land, and the Old Land wants to be in touch with us. This can be brought about if the cable service i3 cheapened, and I see no reason why it should not be if the matter is properly looked into. The money could be much better spent in that way than in paying a subsidy to mail steamers, and asking for these other things which are mentioned in the Agreement besides the carriage of mails. We should simply pay poundage rates and leave all the other matters to look after themselves. I do not expect the Government to accept my scheme at present, but the time will come when we shall all of us be a little more sensible.
– Perhaps we will collect our own poundage on our own beats.
– We may. Apart from the poundage rates, the Government, in asking, as they do, for the boats to run to time, and to do other things, and to be of a certain character, have not made too bad a deal, considering the position of affairs to-day. I am glad, however, that the Agreement has not been entered into for a long period. It can be terminated by either side on giving twelve months’ notice. That, I think, is a very fair provision. Failing our being prepared to go in for poundage rates, I do not see that the Government could do very much better than they have done.
– In considering the motion for the ratification of the contract before us, it behoves us to look at all the circumstances of to-day surrounding our communication with the United Kingdom and Europe. Senator Thomas takes exception to the contract because it provides for something more than the carriage of mails. It is headed in large letters “ Agreement for the Carriage of Mails,” and probably Senator Thomas’ objection on that score could be met by adding the words “ and other purposes!” I do not share Senator Thomas’ view as to the necessary character of a contract of this kind. He seems to suggest that a mail contract should be a contract that has for its ^object and purpose, and all its incidents, merely the transport of mails. He has -given illustrations in regard to other mail contracts in support of that view.
Before the Commonwealth was established, when the several States had their -own Postal Departments, it was custom - ary for them, in connexion with mail contracts, to assist in district or local development, and the Post Office was used for that purpose. Many a mail contract was entered into under the State regime which -embodied provisions that went far beyond -the mere carriage of mails. That was quite natural when the Department was administered by Governments which were also charged with the many functions in regard to internal development with which the several State Governments were then, and still are, intrusted. When, , however, the Postal and other Departments of the States were transferred to the Commonwealth, the transferred Departments, for the first ten years, were carried on under a bookeeping system which required a certain proportion of the Customs revenue to be returned to the States. Under what was known as the Braddon section, each of those transferred Departments began to realize that it was necessary to discharge only the functions that strictly appertained to it. I well remember the early days of the Commonwealth, when the policy of the Postal Department was very clearly to confine itself solely and wholly to the provision of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities. Anything beyond that it did hot purport to do, even to the extent of painting telegraph poles in towns or cities.
– Or- putting up a clock.
– Or putting up a clock in a post-office tower. In the early days of the Commonwealth, the Postal Department said, “ That was all very well when the Department was under the States, but now it has been transferred to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth is under an obligation to provide only the facilities which a Postal Department ordinarily furnishes, and to carry out those duties as economically as possible. We must have regard to the fact that we are associated with the Customs Department, a large revenueearning concern, under the new regime, and that three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue has to be. returned to the States. We are, therefore, not going to paint telegraph poles or erect structures which serve any other than mere utility purposes in connexion with the Department itself. We are not going to install clocks in vacant clock towers or to do anything in subvention of the opening up of territory, but we are going absolutely to confine ourselves to mails, telegraphs, and telephones.” That is the attitude taken up by Senator Thomas. But I would remind the honorable senator that the Commonwealth is not now hampered, as it was during the first ten years of its existence, by a constitutional obligation to return to the States a certain proportion of its Customs and Excise revenue. Further, Australia’s position to-day is very different from what it was when the last mail contract was entered into between the Commonwealth and the Orient Steam -ship Company. Since then there have been world-shaking events, and Australia, as part of the Empire, now feels more strongly than ever the necessity for keeping in close communication with other portions of that Empire, and especially with the heart of the Empire itself. That being so, and seeing that we have a certain number of vessels trading between Australia and the United Kingdom, the Postal Department set out in connexion with this contract to obtain something in the nature of regularity and frequency in our mail service. Prior to the war we had a contract with the Orient Steam-ship Company for a fortnightly mail service. That service, alternating with the service which the Peninsular and Oriental Company was providing under contract with the Imperial Government, gave to Australia and the United Kingdom a continuous and regular weekly service. The Orient Steamship “Company were contractors to the Commonwealth Government and the Peninsular and Oriental Company were contractors to the London Post Office, and these companies so alternated their sailings that between the United Kingdom and Australia we had a regular weekly service. During the war, ‘however, there was a great disturbance in the conditions of communication between .ourselves and the Old Country. Even since the Armistice our communication has been irregular, although our mail service has been a little more frequent than it was during the war period itself. But those who have been in the habit of receiving mail matter from the Old Country know the annoyance ‘to which “they have been subjected ‘by reason of the fact Chat frequently weeks would pass without any English mail being received. Then suddenly their boxes would be crammed with books, letters, ‘and other matter which had -come by ‘‘the European mail. These books ‘and letters rep’resented the .ac- cumulation -of three or f our weeks’ mail matter. Perhaps a week later there -would be another big volume of -English correspondence, and this -would ‘again be followed by a period of four -or five weeks during which ‘no -oversea mail ‘‘matter would be received. Such a- condition of things cannot be regarded as satisfactory. If there be one thing more than another which the new mail contract will- secure it is regularity in our mail service. It will also insure a more frequent service, even though the contract itself is for tlie despatch of vessels monthly. We know that a contract has been entered into by the Imperial Government with the Peninsular and Oriental Company for the carriage of mails from England to Australia, and if the arrangement which previously obtained between the Peninsular and Oriental Company and the Orient Steam-ship Company be continued, the sailings under these two contracts will alternate in such a way that we shall
Obtain a regular fortnightly service. That will constitute an immense improvement upon anything that we have had for years past. Takin’g all the circumstances into consideration, remembering the disturbance which has taken place in our communications consequent upon the ‘war, the diminution of freights which are offering, as well as the difficulty of getting, as many bottoms as are available into actual service, the Government are to be congratulated upon having made a contract which will insure that very desirable frequency and regularity ..to which I have referred. Senator Thomas has stressed the importance of ‘any contract for the carriage of mails being exclusively confined to that service.
– If the honorable senator will .pardon me for interposing, 1 said that it would entirely depend upon the circumstances of the case. X said that years ago ,the contract should not have been limited to the carriage df mails.
-.- The -honorable senator’s view is that in- -the early days df Australian settlement it was quite possible “that -the .granting of subsidies ‘for the establishment of a .mail service did -much “to promote the welfare of this country, and “was probably justified. But he is of ‘opinion .-that Australia has mow emerged from its infancy in that ‘regard, and that its .position to-day, irrespective <Sf mails, attracts the frequent ‘visit to our -ports of oversea- ships, -df whose presence we could ta’ke ‘advantage, under the poundage “rates, to secure the ‘benefit of a f requent -mail service. If that view -were approved by this Senate or ‘by .the
Parliament of the Commonwealth, obviously all that the Postal Department should consider would be the transit of mail .matter from Fremantle in the West, or Darwin in the North, to the nearest suitable European rail port, or, perhaps, to the nearest suitable Asiatic rail port.
– No, to London.
– The contract is for the carriage of mails from Fremantle to an approved southern European port. If, therefore, we were to adopt the narrow view outlined by the honorable senator we should merely have to consider the transit of mails from Fremantle or Darwin to the nearest port on the European continent which enjoys regular and rapid communication with London. If we made provision for that, no doubt we could get vessels specially constructed for the service. Twenty-five years ago the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company established a line of small boats which ran between Port Said and Brindisi. These supplemented the services of larger vessels. They carried the mails very rapidly from Port Said to Brindisi. They also conveyed passengers who desired to shorten their journey, and who transferred to them from the larger vessels ; but those passengers, owing to the vibration caused by the speed at which these smaller vessels travelled, had to submit to great discomforts. If, therefore, we .were to regard this contract merely from the stand-point of the transit of mails, I have no doubt that if we selected some European port which is in rapid communication with London we could secure a line of very fast steamers which would convey our mails from Fremantle or Darwin to that port.
– What port does the honorable senator suggest?
– Some southern European port. I am merely indicating what would be the logical course for us to adopt if we agreed with the view which has been expressed by Senator Thomas. In that case there would be no necessity for us to consider a provision in our mail contract that our mail steamers should call at Adelaide or Hobart. Perhaps Senator Thomas would then be satisfied. I do not think that mail steamers specially built for such a short and rapid transit of mails would be constructed with any view totheir calling at Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane.
– I asked merely for poundage rates.
– The honorable senator seems to prefer poundage rates to a subsidy, because he believes that the development of the Commonwealth is such that we can always be assured of boats calling at our ports, and, therefore, of the carriage of our mails. As honorable senators are aware, we have, under our Post and Telegraph Act, power to place our mails upon any vessel leaving our ports. All vessels before leaving our ports are required to give the Post Office a certain amount of notice of their intended departure in order that iiic Department may, should it feel so disposed, place mails on board them. The owners of such vessels are required to accept for this service remuneration upon a scale that has been fixed by the International Postal Union. But if we only exercised our powers in that regard, we certainly should not satisfy the people of the Commonwealth.
– I admit that we possess that power now. Under the existing contract, £170,000 is being annually paid to the Orient Steam-ship Company for the carriage of our mails, and consequently the Government endeavour to forward every letter that they possibly can by an Orient boat. They would have to pay £170,000 to. the Orient Steam-ship Company if the company never carried a letter.
– That is so, but if Senator Thomas’ suggestion were adopted, and we had in hand the £130,000 proposed as subsidy, the disposition of the Postal Department would certainly be to put mails on every outgoing steamer.
– Not necessarily. They would not put mails on a slow boat.
– They might not make use of a vessel which was known to be slow, but they would put mails; on steamers leaving Australia which might take a considerable time to arrive, at their port of destination.
– If a man indicates on his letter that he desires it to go by a certain boat, it will be sent by that Boat, and so the people have some say as to the vessels by which their correspondence shall be conveyed.
– The public generally do not take much notice of the dates at which particular boats are leaving Australia.
– The business man does, though I admit that the ordinary citizen does not.
– A vessel may leave ite last port of departure in the Commonwealth with the intention to arrive at a port in the United Kingdom by a certain date, but in these days of wireless telegraphy it may be diverted, and instead of reaching the United Kingdom in six or seven weeks after leaving Australia, it may not do so for twelve weeks. The Postal Department would have no assurance when a boat went away that it would go direct to the United Kingdom, although at the time it left Australia the master of the vessel might have fully intended to go direct. I am inclined to think that if we adopted the poundage system we . should have to pay for an irregular and uncertain service quite as much as the subsidy provided for under the Agreement. Senator Thomas suggested that we would save a considerable amount of the subsidy if we adopted the system of the transport of mails at poundage rates, and that the money so saved might be applied to the increase of cable facilities and the reduction of cable charges. I doubt very much whether the adoption of the poundage . system would give us a surplus which would warrant its investment in the direction indicated by the honorable senator. I doubt whether it would be possible, except in isolated instances, to send by cable -such orders as are now sent by mail from wholesale distributing houses here to buying agents in London or direct to manufacturers in the United Kingdom.
– I should say that it would, but I am not an expert in the matter.
– I am in the same position as the honorable senator in that regard. But in the course of business I have seen huge orders, covering pages of many different columns, with marks that were pure hieroglyphics to any one not connected with the particular industry to which they referred. They are eent by mail, and at the other end are understood as dearly as if they were written in ordinary English. I cannot imagine such orders being cabled to the Old Country,
– Most business companies have elaborate code systems.
– I believe that is so; but a very long message would require a considerable number even of code words. I say that the Government are to be congratulated upon securing this Agreement. The term of the contract commends itself very much to me. It will tide us over the present position, and will put an end to the uncertainty and irregularity of mail communication which we have had to put up with for some time past. It will give the Commonwealth authorities time to look around. I must say that I am, personally, a little surprised that the Orient Steam-ship Company have been induced to enter into a contract for so short a term. Senator Gardiner assured us that the company would get everything from the contract, and would hold the thick end of the stick, but, in view of the term of the contract, I think that the Commonwealth Government are getting the advantage. Senator Gardiner has told us that, in his opinion, the best way of carrying mails between Australia and the United Kingdom is to use our own Commonwealth ships for the purpose. The trouble is that we have no Commonwealth ships at present available for that purpose.
– I advocated that many years ago.
– No doubt if cur ships were available we could utilize them for the carriage of mails. The term of this contract will give the Government an opportunity to consider the practicability of the course proposed by Senator Gardiner and the best means to adopt to carry it out. Having regard to existing circumstances, I consider that this contract is one upon which the Commonwealth Government can be congratulated. Senator Gardiner has said that under it the mail vessels will not be required to call at Hobart as frequently as under the previously existing contract. That objection applies with equal force to every port referred to in the contract. The reduction in the number of calls at a particular port is proportionate to the reduction in the frequency of the service. I would point out to the honorable senator that while the contract imposes upon the company the necessity of calling a certain minimum number of times at certain ports, there is nothing in it to prevent them calling at those’ ports more frequently if they so desire. The contract does not interfere in the slightest degree with the vessels of any other steam-ship line calling at the ports referred to. I have noi doubt that whatever may be the conditions of the contract between the Peninsular and Oriental Company and the Loudon Postal Department, the boats of that company will be prepared to call at Tasmanian ports if business offers, as well as at ports in New South Wales. What the company will do in this matter rests with themselves, and will depend entirely upon the business offering at various ports. It is with very great pleasure indeed that I support the motion for the ratification of this contract.
– I join with Senator Keating in congratulating the Government upon having secured a contract which will almost guarantee regularity in the carriage of our mails. I also congratulate the Government upon having provided for regularity in the carriage of our mails through the medium of a contract, rather than by extending the scope of its commercial interests. Senator Thomas has said that some years ago he advocated that Australia should run her own mail boats, but to my way of thinking, before Australia can do that, the Government must first learn how to carry on a business on commercial lines. We all recognise the difficulty of inducing ships to come to Australia, to-day, and of inducing ships that are here to remain here. Our difficulty doe3 not arise from the commercialism of which we have heard so much, but because, in our northern and western ports, it has been found almost impossible to induce men to load or discharge boats for a reasonable wage. I believe that, for the purpose of a mail contract, it is unnecessary that we should provide for any more than the delivery of mails at Fremantle. We should make use of the railways of the Commonwealth in the distribution of mails from that port. I can. see no necessity for embodying in this Agreement a provision requiring the boats employed in the mail service to go right away round from Fremantle to Sydney.
– The honorable senator and I agree on that point.
– Then I can report progress if I have induced S’enator Thomas to go so far with me. While Senator Gardiner was speaking, I asked him to say who, during the war, did not lay themselves out to secure profits. That remark was strongly resented, and the honorable senator suggested that he would not think of looking for profit in that way. It is easy to express indignation when such things are said, but I have noticed that the honorable senator is as anxious to secure this world’s goods, and to make profits, as I am myself. I may say that I have not noticed the name of the honorable senator, and of another honorable senator who resented my remark, on the economy list of members of the Senate, who are drawing only £600 a year.
– They have sense.
– I admit that they have.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator T. Bakhap). - It is not in order for the honorable senator to discuss the parliamentary allowance on the motion before the Chair.
– I bow, sir, to your, ruling. No member of the Senate’ would approve of any company taking advantage of the conditions due to the war to make unjust profits. I remind Senator Gardiner that; during the war period, the wages of unionists went up from 10s. to 17s. per day in most industries. I resent the imputation that I represent profiteers. I represent the average Australian, who is out to make good, and who uses his brains to do so. We have to realize that it is absolutely essential to have a regular mail service between Australia and Great Britain, as otherwise commercial interests would be seriously interfered with. Our letters must be delivered on time, as our obligations have to he met within a certain period, and for that reason I am pleased the Government have been able to enter into a contract which, to me, is satisfactory. I trust the time will not come when we will undertake the building of our own ships to carry mails when a better service can be provided by private enterprise.
– As this contract has been before honorable senators for a considerable time, and they are doubtless conversant with its provisions, it is not my intention to add to what I have already stated. The rate is somewhat higher, but it must be remembered that at the time the previous contract was entered into wages were lower and coal could be obtained at a cheaper price. Notwithstanding the fact that the companies are prepared to use the best coal in their ships, they have been compelled to accept inferior supplies because the best collieries in Great Britain have been closed for some months. It is impossible for vessels to travel at high speed when coal of a satisfactory quality is not available. I am sure honorable senators are glad to learn that the coal miners in Great Britain are returning to work on Monday, and the difficulty in this direction has now been overcome. The completion of this contract was conditional upon Great Britain making an arrangement for an alternative service by the Peninsular and Oriental Company, and 1 have just received a communication from the Orient Steam-ship Company to the effect that such an agreement has been completed. We shall, therefore, have a regular fortnightly service instead of a weekly one, as was the case before the war. (There is the possibility of our own vessels carrying mails to Australia, and it is hoped that at least two will be available for that purpose this year. In view of all the difficulties I think we have done very well in arranging a contract on this basis. The impression exists that ships are plentiful and can easily be obtained, but such is not the case. Some time ago there was an extensive trade between Great Britain, India, and China, and vessels, after leaving the last-mentioned country, called at Australian ports to pick up cargoes of wheat. Owing to the unusual conditions which have prevailed in consequence of a diversion of trade occasioned by the exchange position and other circumstances, these vessels are not new calling here, and vessels have to come from Great Britain to Australia in ballast. Wheat has been shipped from Australia at 47s. 6d. per ton, but owing to the uncertainty of trade in the East, strikes in Great Britain, and other causes, freights are likely to increase. The position is not as easy as it was a few weeks ago, and most of the ships now laid up are slow boats which cannot be run at a profit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Wednesday next.
I am moving in this direction because there has been a revision of the Public Service Bill, and it has been found necessary to draft some technical amendments. We shall endeavour to have them circulated before we re-assemble on Wednesday next, so that honorable senators will have an opportunity of perusing them.
– Why could we not have been informed of this adjournment last night? I asked the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) last night what we were going on with to-day, and he should have told us.
– The Minister- was not in possession of the facts, because when he made his statement the subCommittee of the Cabinet was still considering the amendments. Time will be given honorable senators to study the amendments, which do not affect the first portion of the measure to any extent. The Government think it desirable that the Senate should meet on Wednesday next instead of tomorrow. We could go on with a discussion of the Bill in Committee to-morrow, and we are not, therefore, asking for an adjournment until Wednesday next for the convenience of the Government.
– I have no objection to the adjournment until Wednesday next, but I have on numerous occasions asked Ministers to consider those who reside in other States. I questioned the Leader of the Government in the Senate last night as to
Avhat business was to be dealt with to-day, and I gathered from his reply that we had sufficient work before us to keep us occupied for the remainder of the week. We are now informed by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that certain technical amendments are being drafted, and that the Senate will not meet until Wednesday next. If we had been given that information last night, we could have been spending the time in sunny New, South Wales instead of shivering in this cold bleak atmosphere. We have duties to perform in the States we represent, and we are now compelled to waste time because the Government have not given us sufficient notice of their intention to adjourn. With three Ministers in this Chamber, surely it issot unreasonable to ask that we should be advised . an hour or two beforehand of the business to be dealt with by the Senate. The South Australian members have also been inconvenienced, and I trust that in future the Leader of the Government in the Senate, or the Minister in charge at the time, will give honorable senators from, other States inore consideration.
– The honorable senator always places me at a disadvantagewhen hie speaks, but in all seriousness I think he is doing me an injustice on this occasionin view of the explanation of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce).
– Thatshould have been made yesterday.
– Senator Thomas rather implied a charge of misrepresentation .
– The honorable senator’s remarks implied that because the Senate was told one thing last night, and because circumstances arose necessitating an alteration, I was endeavouring to mislead the Senate.
– I did not mean that. The Minister should have been correctly informed.
– Until the Senate rose last night, a sub-Committee of the Cabinet was dealing with the question of amendments to the Public Service Sill, and it was not until later that it was found necessary to alter our arrangements. Last night Ministers were engaged until after the Senate adjourned, and it was only after they had completed their labours that we were in a position to say that it was not desirable to proceed with the Publio Service Bill to-day. That is a reasonable explanation.
– That is all right for those who reside in Victoria.
– I can quite understand the honorable senator desiring to return. to the attractions of the mountain air, but it was impossible to say last night precisely what would happen, and intervening circumstances necessitated an alteration of the programme.
– Could we not have been considered?
– I do not think that the honorable senator can accuse ine of laok of consideration. I have never obstructed any proposal for an adjournment when it has been brought forward.
– Will the Minister see that it does not happen again f
– I am not disposed to give any such assurance. If we proceeded to disouss the Bill in Committee in its present form, amendments would be brought down, perhaps next week, and we would have to go over our work again.
– The Minister is quite right, but we ought to have been informed.
– That was impossible, and I feel sure that honorable senators will benefit by the course we have taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired in New South Wales at - Lismore; Young.
Defence Act. - Regulations amended - StatutoryRules 1921, Nob. 115, 116, and 117.
SUPPLY BILL rNo. 1) 1921-22.
Senate adjourned at 5.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 June 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19210630_senate_8_96/>.