8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. X. Givens) took the chair at 3. p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented ; -
Return relating to appointments made under the Navigation Act.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired at East Maitland, New South Wales.
Military Offences and Civil Law.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia -
Minister for Defence) [3.2]. - I ask permission to read an opinion in connexion with the question raised by Senator Elliott when, the Defence Bill was recently under consideration in this Chamber. [Leave granted.]. When the Bill was under consideration here. Senator Elliott raised a question as to the effect of one of the clauses, and desired that I should obtain the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral upon it. , I referred the matter to the Attorney-General’s Department, and as I think it will be of interest to honorable senators, I now read the opinion ‘supplied by the Solicitor-, General: -
The Acting Secretary to the representatives of the Government in the Senate has forwarded for advice the following memorandum : -
During the debate in Committee of the Senate, in connexion with clause 35 of . the Defence ‘ Bill1921, a question was raised by Senator Elliott as to whether this clause,if given effect to, would override the ordinary criminal law.
Clause 35 of the Defence Bill is as follows : -
Penalty : £500 or imprisonment for three years.
The following is the relevant extract from Hansard, vide page 8238: -
– This is such a serious matter that it may result in persons guilty of a very serious offence escaping with the comparatively light punishment of three years’ imprisonments . I suggest that the . proposed section might be referred to the Attorney-General for an opinion as to whether, by making this an offence under the Defence Act, we would not be< overriding the civil law of theStates.
-i shall, have the point raised by the honorable senator looked’ into.” While the clause was before- -the Committee I expressed to the Minister in - charge of the Bill my opinion that the clause would not have the effect apprehended by Senator Elliott.
The Solicitor-General proceeds to add -
In my opinion the proposed enactment will not affect the right, in an appropriate ‘case, to take proceedings under the law of a State.
R.R.Garran, Solicitor-General. 80/7/1921.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council if ho is yet in a position to answer the questions I previously put to him in connexion with appointments in. the Navigation Department?
– On the 14th July, 1921, Senator Duncan asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions: -
I am now in a position to give the information Bought for which has been supplied to mo in the following terms; -
Position.- Director of Navigation (J. K.
Ge-rti/icate,- Extra Master’s, Foreign-going, issued August, 1908.
Eexperience. - 1914-16 - In command Australian transports Boonah, Barunga, Boorara; 1916-17 - representative of Commonwealth Shipping Board at Port Pirle, South Australia; resigned to volunteer for active service) 1918- appointed Inspector of Transports, United Kingdom, in which capacity was responsible for the equipment and fitting in England of all Australian transports.
Salary. - £800 per annum.
AwiKon.- Deputy Director of Navigation, New South Wales (G. D., Williams).
Certificate. - Master’s Certificate, Foreigngoing, issued l5th March, ‘ 1908.
Experience. - Attached for ‘ some years to State Public Service of Victoria) served five years with Commonwealth Naval Forces; awarded. D.S.O : .
Salary, - £654 par annum.’
Position.- Deputy Director of Navigation, Queensland (N. G. Boskruge). * ^.Certificate.* - ExtraMaster’s, Foreign-going, issued 3rd January, 1916.
Salary. - £606 per annum.
Position), - Deputy Director of NavigationVictoria (L. J. Bolger), South Australia (J. Henry), Western Australia (J. J. Aire;).
CerM/icates.- These officers all hold Masters Certificates, Foreign-going; numbers and date of Issue not on record.
Experience. - For periods of over six years prior to. present appointment acted as Distrlct Officers, Commonwealth Lighthouse Service, in States of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia respectively.
Salary. - £654 per annum.’
Position. - Deputy Director of Navigation, Tasmania (F. W. Hood).
Certificate,-* Extra. Master’s, Foreign-going, issued 1895; Marine Surveyor’s Certificate, New South Wales, issued 1905.
Experience. - For seven years prior to present appointment was District Officer, Commonwealth Lighthouse Service, Queensland,
Salary.- £516 per annum.
Position. - Frincipal Examiner of Masters and Mates (W. MacGowan).
Certificate.- Extra Master’s,’ issued 1001.
Experience. - Was for six years principal , of a navigation school in Melbourne and Adelaide.
Salary.-£516 per annum.
Position. - Engineer-Surveyor in Chief and Examiner of Engineers (J. Fadden).
Certificates. - Extra 1st Class Engineer’s Certificate, Issued 21st April, 1906; Marine Engineer-Surveyor’s Certificate, issued 26th November, 1914.
Experience.- For five and half years was Senior Engineer-Surveyor and Examiner of Engineers, Marine Board of Victoria.
Salary.- - £864 per annum.
Position.- Chief Nautical Surveyor (L. R. Sunderoombe).
Certt/lcafss.- Extra Master’s, issued 1906: and Pilotage Exemption Certificates, for nineteen Australian ports.
Experience. - Has had periodic dockyard experience extending over thirteen years; was for thirteen years -in the service of the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, “during: five years of which acted as Master; Chief Officer of Australia’s first Hospital ship,Grantala.
Salary.- £600 per annum.
Position-Chief Overseer of Seamen (A. H. D.Gransbury).
Certificate.- Master’s, issued I3th April, 1917
Experience. - 1915-17 - In service of Western Australian Government; commanded four-masted barqueCarrabin until sunk by enemy action in United Kingdom waters, October, 1917 ; commanded several H.M. ships, mine-sweeping and patrolling North Sea; February, 1920 - invalided, as physically unfit for further active service.
Salary - £516 per annum.
Duties to be Collected.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate, in view of the proposed termination of the session so far as the House of Representatives is concerned, and the continuation of the sittings of the Senate to deal with the Tariff, what will be the position, so far as the collection of Customs duties is concerned, in respect to any requests that may be made by the Senate to another place for an increase or a reduction of the duties now set out in the schedule to the Customs Tariff Bill? Will the higher duties be collected,- and a refund be made if our requests for . lower duties are accepted, or will increased duties be charged immediately should the Senate request the increase of those duties ?
– The position is very plain, and is indicated by the Constitution itself. No alterationof the schedule to the Customs Tariff Bill which the Senate may request can be operative until it is accepted^ by the House of Representatives. We do not alter the duties set out in the schedule. They will continue to be collected, as they have been for some time. Any action we take here is in the nature of a request to the . other House to make alterations, and until the other House sees fit to accede to our requests the duties set out in the schedule to the Bill will continue to be collected.
Dismissal of Captain Tait
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
The reasons are -
Representation of Australia
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
If the United States of America does not accord separate representation to the different Dominions of the British Empire at the Conference or Conferences which President Hardinghas invited the nations to hold at Washington, will the Government make a timely request to the Imperial Authorities for the _ inclusion of a representative or representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in the personnel of the British Empire Delegation?
– This matter is seriously engaging the attention of theGovernment.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 20th July, vide page 10308) :
Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
For the purposes of this Act there shall he a Tariff Board consisting of three members.
– I move -
That the clause be amended by adding the following* sub-clause : - (2). The Tariff Board shall, in the exercise of the powers conferred upon it by this Act, perform the functions heretofore exercised by the Bureau of Commerceand Industry, which is hereby abolished.
A good deal of opinion has been expressed in the* Senate against the creation of unnecessary- Boards, particularly on the score of economy. If we examine the functions of the Board to be created under this Bill, as set out in clause 15, and the functions carried out by the present Bureau of Commerce and Industry, it will be found, broadly speaking, that they overlap in almost every particular. Where they do not overlap, a slight amendment in clause 15 will enable the proposed Board to carry on the work now undertaken by the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. We have, I am informed, a growing Department of Commerce and Industry, the head of which is drawing a high salary from Commonwealth revenue.
– Will the honorable senator read the functions of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry?
– Yes. The first is -
The effective organization of -each industry from within in order to secure the employment of modern methods in all stages of production and distribution.
That represents a pious hope more than anything else.
– It has not accomplished anything.
– No. But it has expended a very large sum- of Commonwealth money without achieving any results. The second function is -
The encouragement of new, and. further development of established industries.
That is a function that could be exercised by the proposed Board, as the whole object of the Tariff is the encouragement of new industries and the development of those already established.
– I cannot see any relation between the functions of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, and those provided in clause 15.
– BROCKMAN.That clause may have to be amended.
– Who are the members ?
– The director is Mr. Stirling Taylor, and the Council consists of representatives elected by Chambers of Manufactures, Chambers of Commerce, primary producers, and other chief commercial interests of the Commonwealth who are good enough to advise from time to time on matters in their respective domains.
- Senator Crawford knows something about that.
– Yes. I understand the honorable senator is a member.
– I was a member of the Council.
– But the honorable senator has not received any communications regarding meetings of the Council for some time.
– It is a very lively Board.
– Yes. And we have to pay £1,500 a year to the gentleman who presides over it.
– Are there any fees?
– I would not suggest that that is the reason why the Board has not been called together. The other functions are: -
The furnishing of reports on: (a) Prospects of trade in various countries; and (b) Best methods of meeting foreign competition in overseas markets, and particular methods adapted to the various countries where there is opportunity for expansion of trade.
These are two functions which could very well be left to the merchants of Australia when they require assistance of any value, because I am sure .they are likely to be more alert in their own interests than the Bureau of Commerce and Industry could possibly be. The fourth function is : -
To inform oversea inquirers as to the opportunities for establishing industries in the Commonweal th
What Board could be better informed on that point than the body it is proposed to create under this Bill, particularly as the proposed Board is to inquire into the profits made by manufacturers.
– Is it not more a trade than a Tariff Board?
– I think not. The proposed Board could very well deal with the various functions I have mentioned. Moreover, it would be the means of saving the Commonwealth taxpayers a considerable sum each year. The amalgamation of the two Boards could very easily be carried out, and the functions of both performed by the one body. I strongly recommend my amendment to the favorable consideration of honorable senators’.
– I trust the. Committee will not accept this amendment. Despite the affirmation of Senator Drake-Brockman that the functions of the two bodies are practically the same, they are not. The work of the proposed Tariff Board is confined to the operations of the Tariff.
– The results would probably be the same - negative.
– Not necessarily
– Order! It would be a misuse of the power conferred upon me by honorable senators if I permitted discussion on a matter which I thought did not come within the compass of the Bill. Honorable senators will do me the credit of believing that at all times I endeavour to keep -the discussion in Committee as wide as possible; but it seems to me that - the -amendment submitted by Senator DrakeBrockman does not come within the scope of this Bill, and its purpose could hardly be effected in a measure of this description. This Bill deals with matters solely concerning the Tariff, and the amendment seeks to abolish another institution which it is not clear is endowed with anything like identical functions. Reluctant though I am at any time to curtail discussion, or to fail to receive amendments, I feel I cannot accept the amendment in its present form. Therefore, I rule it out of order.
– I object to the Chairman’s ruling, and pursuant to the standing order, I hand in my objection in writing.
In the Senate:
The Chairman of Committees. - I have to report that, while clause 5 of the Tariff Board Bill was under consideration in Committee, Senator DrakeBrockman submitted an amendment to the following effect : -
The Tariff Board shall, in the exercise of the power conferred upon it by this Act, perform the functions heretofore exercised by the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, which is hereby abolished.
After reflection, I ruled that the amendment was not in order, and therefore I did not permit the discussion to continue. Senator Pratten took exception to my ruling, in the following terms : -
I disagree with the Chairman’s ruling for the reason that under clause 15 the Tariff Board is empowered to inquire into and report upon everything commercially concerning the primary and secondary industries of Australia.
I came to the conclusion that the functions of the Tariff Board will appertain absolutely to the Tariff, whereas the amendment purported to abolish an institution constituted under another Act, and in regard to which I cannot discover any identity of functions. It seemed to me that the amendment was outside, the scope of the Bill which the Senate was considering in Committee, and that it would be improper to permit the time of the Committee to be occupied in discussing it. I have now to submit the matter for your review and decision.
Senator Pratten. - As you, sir, have already been informed, I have dissented from the ruling of the Chairman upon a specific matter which has been raised by the amendment submitted by Senator Drake-Brockman. I do not know whether I accurately caught what the Chairman said in his opening remarks, but I am under the impression that he stated that he had ruled the amendment out of order because it conflicts with an Act which is already upon our statute-book. May I point out that there is no Act under which the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, to which reference is made in the amendment, was created. By no stretch of imagination, therefore, can it be urged that the amendment conflicts with any Statute law. It certainly conflicts with au administrative act, but it is within the competence of this Parliament either to amend an administrative act or to include it in any Bill which may come before it. Senator Drake-Brockman has very properly pointed out that the creation of a Tariff Board to discharge the duties set out in clause 15 of this Bill would practically mean the duplication of the whole of the activities of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. The four functions of that Bureau were read by the honorable senator, and the whole of them fall within the ambit of the trade, commerce, and industry of Australia. ‘If you, sir, will refer to clause 15 of the Bill, you will find that the powers to be conferred upon the proposed Tariff Board are unlimited in connexion with its inquiry into “any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the Tariff.”
-In relation to the Tariff.”
– But the Tariff is everything.
– No, it is not.
– It is everything in connexion with the trade, commerce, and industry of this country. How Customs duties are imposed or how they are remitted, affects the whole of our import and export trade. We cannot sell abroad without being affected by the Tariff, nor can we buy there without being similarly affected. We cannot, buy or sell from our own people without being affected by the Tariff. Consequently the Tariff covers everything that is connected with the commerce and production of the Commonwealth. Inasmuch as the functions of the Tariff Board will cover everything connected with our primary and secondary production, I hold that the amendment is perfectly in order. I repeat that it does not conflict with any Act of Parliament, and that the func tions of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, as officially set out in a Government publication, are covered by clause 15 of this Bill.
– I confess that when the amendment was first submitted, I thought that it was in order. Upon further examination, however, I can see that there is a vital difference between the functions of the proposed Tariff Board and those of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. There is also a vital difference between their statutory authority. It is quite clear that the Bill which is now before us is linked up in every clause with our Customs and Excise Tariff.
– It is to be incorporated with our Customs Tariff Act.
– In the very clause which was mentioned by Senator Pratten it is linked up with that Act.
– But Senator Pratten stated that there is no legislative authority for the existence of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry.
Senator Pearce. - In that statement he is quite wrong. The legislative authority for the Bureau in question is to be found in the Appropriation Act. Parliament has therefore authorized its establishment, and has provided the salaries which are paid in connexion with it. The Appropriation Act is just as much a Statute as is the Customs Tariff Act. The only difference between the two bodies mentioned is that we are proceeding by means of other legislation to indicate the functions of the Tariff Board, whereas in the case of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry we indicated ‘ its functions by means of regulations, which have been read by Senator Drake-Brockman. Moreover, it is clear under standing order 201 that any amendment submitted by an honorable senator must ‘be relevant to> the subject-matter of the Bill under discussion. What is the subject-matter of this Bill? It is a Bill to authorize the establishment of a. Board to. deal with the Tariff and nothing else. Senator Pratten himself admits that the Tariff is intended to stimulate production. . But the Bureau of Commerce and Industry discharges a subsequent duty. Its function is to deal” with production after things have been produced, and to arrange for their profi’t able sale. That function is quite distinct from the functions to be discharged by the proposed Tariff Board. It might be a proper subject for another Bill, if Parliament thought fit to define its functions in that way rather than by regulation, but it has statutory authority in the shape of the Appropriation Act. The effect of this amendment is to amend the Appropriation Act, because it proposes to abolish something that has been constituted under the authority and with the consent of Parliament by means of that Act. If we can do what the honorable senator proposes in this way, we would carry the principle very much further by tacking on all sorts of provisions to this Bill, abolishing other authorities which Parliament may have set up in various ways.
-brockman. - The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), with his usual eloquence, has argued that my amendment is not relevant to the Bill. His principal objection is that the Bureau of Commerce and Industry is brought into being under another enactment. If the inclusion of the item ‘ ‘ Director, Bureau of Commerce and Industry “ in the Estimates is a legislative enactment of the variety contemplated by our Standing Orders, then the Minister’s contention is correct. All that appears in the Estimates is the line I have indicated, with the salary attached to it. The Bureau is a body created to carry out half-a-dozen functions, which : are not laid down by any legislative enactment. They are brought into existence by some Department, probably by Mr. Stirling Taylor himself. Consequently, the objections raised by the Minister for Defence are not in the least applicable. I submit, moreover, that the functions prescribed for the Bureau in the document I have read, which is not the legislative enactment that brought the Bureau into existence, if not identical with the functions prescribed by clause 15 of the Tariff Board Bill, are very similar to them. Paragraph d of sub-clause 2 of clause 15 mentions, among the questions into which the Tariff Board is to inquire, ‘ Any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary and secondary industries in relation to the Tariff.” The whole object of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry is to deal with the industries of Australia.
– Not in relation to the Tariff.
– How or what it is related to is not laid down by any legislative enactment.
– If the* honorable senator will excuse me, that question has nothing to. do with the point at issue. The only point at issue in the ruling of the Chairman is that of relevancy.
– I submit that the amendment is relevant to the Bill, because the functions of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry are very similar to those prescribed by clause 15 for the Tariff Board that we are now creating.
– I am in agreement with you, sir, that this is not the time to discuss the functions of the two bodies. What we have to decide is whether the amendment can be accepted by the Chairman as relevant to ana matter contained in the Bill. I support the Chairman’s ruling, because, although Senator Pratten has argued that the amendment should be accepted on the ground that the Bureau has been created by Ministerial act and not by legislative enactment, I contend that the position is just the opposite. We never find an Act of Parliament repealing or abolishing a Board or other body unless that Board or other body has been appointed by ah Act of Parliament. We must repeal something that has been passed by the Legislature, and not a Ministerial act performed under the powers conferred upon the Minister during a recess, unless that Ministerial act has been afterwards indorsed by Parliament at the Minister’s request. There is only one way to deal with the question of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. We have passed no Act bringing it into existence, but we shall be asked annually to vote a sum of money for its operations. That is the only opportunity given to Parliament to deal either with its abolition or with the curtailment of its powers. For these reasons I submit that the Chairman’s ruling is perfectly constitutional, and that no other could have been given. I shall probably have an opportunity later to deal with the difference in the functions of the two bodies, if a further amendment which can be debated is moved, but at present it is only a waste of time to discuss the similarity of those functions, when we have no power to deal with the existing body under the Bill now before us.
– I do not think it is necessary that the issue should be argued at greater length, because it appears to me quite clear. Whether the Bureau of Commerce and Industry has statutory authority for its existence or not is entirely beside the question. It makes no difference whether it has or has not. The only consideration by which the Chairman and myself are bound to be guided, in deciding whether any amendment is or is not in order, is whether it is relevant to the Bill which the Senate or the Committee is considering. If it is relevant, no other power exists to prevent the Senate or the Committee from dealing with it. That, therefore, is the only point which I have to decide. ‘ Honorable senators are quite right in pointing out that the. duties of the proposed Tariff Board are fully defined, and clearly set out in clause- 15. of the Bill. Every one of them has some separate and distinct relation to theworking of the Tariff, and the duties of the. Board are limited by and confined to the provisions of. that clause. As I understand, the duties and functions of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, they have nothing to do with the Tariff. They are to organize matters in order to insure the smooth working and carrying out of the various operations of trade, commerce, and industry in Australia generally. They have nothing to do with the Tariff, or with the Tariff Board. They constitute an entirely different and separate matter, and, therefore, cannot possibly be relevant to this Bill. Whatever may be my opinion, or the opinionof the Senate, with regard to the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, this is not the proper occasion on which to express it. I rule that the proposed amendment is not relevant to the Bill, and must, therefore, support the Chairman’s ruling.
– The. clause, provides for a Board of.threemembers. -In view of all that has, been said , with, regard . to the . amalgam mation of, Qqvernmen’t.. activities in the; direction, of trade,-, and commerce that, are now, overlapping^ I; tfcink-. a, little more elasticity o.f operation might be provided by increasing the proposed, number of members of the.. Board: We now. have a Board of Trade, a. Bureau of Commerce and Industry, a Flax Committee; and we may have more governmental organizations to-morrow. As the Senate has decided, by a division, of nineteen to eleven, on the motion for the second reading of the Bill that we are to have a Tariff Board, I should like -to make that organization practically the supreme commercial authority of Australia.
– That is what I was driving at.
– There is one matter not included within the ambit of the powers of the proposed Board which might be attended to by such a Board; very much better than in the way which it is intended to deal with it at some future time. I refer to the very controversial matter of the appointment in foreign countries, and in other portions of the Empire, of trade agents in connexion with the exportation of Australian goods. I do not intend to use arguments to show why this is a controversial, matter, but will content myself by saying that, if a certain policy is, pursued by the Bureau of Commerce and Industry in connexion with the appointment of trade agents, and that certain recommendations made to the Minister are not to he br ought before Parliament until, perhaps, after these agents have been appointed,, the country may be faced with the obligation of meeting a very considerable expendi.- ture indeed-. As an illustration for the purpose of argument, and not of. criticism, I may refer to the appointment of, a commercial agent in Shanghai at a salary of. £2,000 a. year- with two assistants as secretaries, at. £1,000 a year each, and the usual office paraphernalia. Coming back to the clause, I should like the membership of the proposed Boar.d, to- be- increased j in, view of the amalgamation atr some future time of the present disconnected organizations dealing with Australian import and export trade. Little birds have? been whispering that it is proposed; to. appoint some more- of thesecommercial, agents, to. whom, I have, referred.
– The- Minister has definitely stated- that no more- are- to-be ftp*pointed without- Parliament- first being, consulted-.
– I am glad to hear the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) make that statement;. It will relieve the minds of many of usv I understand that it was only yesterday stated for the first time elsewhere that no more commercial agents abroad would .be appointed without the specific authority of Parliament. I feel strongly that no better Committee could be suggested to advise the Government and Parliament as to where commercial agents should be appointed abroad than a strong Tariff Board, which, by reason of its deliberations, would be au fait with the whole of the import and export trade of Australia. I submit for the consideration of the Minister the addition of a few words to this clause to make the Board a little more elastic, in order that, in the not distant future, the Government may intrust to a strong Tariff Board some of the functions which are now performed by other Commonwealth commercial organizations.
– Getting back to my interrupted statement, I -was pointing out that there is some misconception as to the functions and powers of the proposed Tariff Board and the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. The powers of the proposed Tariff Board will have direct relation to the Tariff. The functions of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry are quite distinct. Some honorable senators are, apparently, ready to criticise without examination die work done by different Commonwealth organizations, and I gladly extend to them an invitation to visit the offices of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry and become familiar, with the task in which it is engaged.
– As I ruled an amendment referring to the Bureau of Commerce and Industry out of order, I ask the Minister not to indulge in a discussion of its functions.
– Senator Pratten proposes– the strengthening of the proposed: Tariff Board, audi let me say/ that that course- may be very easily adopted later by the introduction of an amending- Bill, if k is- found- desirable. I do not think that, we should consider- a proposal to increase the number of members of the proposed Board until we know whether the organization, as- proposed in the Bill, will be effective or not.
Clause agreed to* . ; :* .
Clause 6 -
.- I move-
That after the word “Board,” line 3, the following words be inserted : - “ two of whom shall be members of the House of Representatives and one shall be a member of the Senate.” 1 submit this amendment in the interests of public economy. The people throughout Australia are clamouring for economic government. There is a great out-, cry against- the creation of additional Boards. I have every sympathy with the creation of a Board for the regulation, of the incidence of the Tariff, hut in this clause the Government propose- a Board constituted of a chairman, who is to receive £1,400 a year, and two> other members, who are to receive £5 5.s. per sitting. Under clause 17, the Board may, on its own initiative, inquire into and report- on any of the matters referred to in sub-clause 2 of clause 15, so that it may sit day and night the whole year round. This would mean an expenditure of £10 10s.. for every day, in addition to the salary of the chairman. As reasonable beings, surely we can arrange that the Tariff Board shall be constituted of members of this Parliament! We are elected by. the people to look after the business of the country and are paid £1,000 a year to do it. We have a Public Works Committee and a Public Accounts- Committee at the present time performing functions of great value at a minimum cost. I understand that the members- are paid’ only their expenses.
– I’ think that every State is represented: on each of the Committees referred to.
– That is- not necessary. I suggest that the Tariff Board should* consist of two members of the House of Representatives and one of the- Senate, because the House of Representatives has double the number of members; who comprise the Senate. We do not expect the members of the Tariff Board to be experts upon’ every matter involved in the Tariff. It is all very fine for the Government to contend that experts are required to regulate . the Tariff., but it cannot possibly be expected that the members of the proposed Board will be experts upon every subject covered by the voluminous schedule to the Customs Tariff Bill.
– Senator Bakhap has said that in this Parliament we have experts of every conceivable sort.
– We could not put them all on the Tariff Board.
– I have proposed that only three should be appointed to the Tariff Board. The function of the Board will be to collect evidence. It will sit and examine witnesses. It will call eminent officials of the Customs Department, leading manufacturers, and consumers, and representatives of every branch of industry. It will hear the evidence of these witnesses, and will report to the Government. Surely members of this Parliament could* exercise those functions as well as any outsider! They could certainly do so more cheaply and effectively. We are paid £1,000 a year each to do this work, and we ought to do it. As a ‘representative of South Australia, I object to shouldering upon the people of Australia another Board. These Boards crop up like mushrooms in the night. People go to bed at night and thank God that at least there is no Board appointed “in connexion with the Tariff, and they may rise next morning to discover that while they slept one has been created.
– Would the honorable senator pay members of Parliament constituting the Board so much a sitting ?
– That is a detail which could be considered later by the Senate and by the House of Representatives. I should say that they should be given their travelling expenses. Certain allowances are made to members of Parliament, acting on Royal Commissions. I was informed by one who took a prominent part as a member of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard Royal Commission that his allowance did not cover his expenses in Sydney.
– Is such an imputation against Senator Reid in order?
– It was not against Senator Reid. The honorable senator is barking” up the wrong tree. The country is sick and tired of Boards, which have cost the country a good deal of money, and we, as responsible legislators, have to protect the people’s interests. We cannot lightly create a new Board such as this, the chairman of which is to receive £1,400 a year, and the other members £5 5s. each per sitting, apparently with the option of saying how often they will sit. I trust the members of the Committee will consider the responsibility which rests upon them, and support the amendment which has been submitted in the interests of economy.
– I trust the Committee will not accept the amendment moved by Senator Benny. In the first place, the proposed Board must be a continuous body, and be prepared to give decisions on matters which arise from time to time in the Department in regard to the interpretation of rates and classifications in the schedule. Such questions as these will arise almost daily.
– And the honorable senator said that it would be necessary for the Board to meet only once a week.
– I have already stated that two members of the Board will devote a good deal of their time to inquiring into questions of detail, and that a meeting of the full Board will only be convened when questions of policy are to be decided. Honorable senators can realize the position which would arise in the event of a Committee consisting of members of the two Houses being appointed, some of whom might be representatives of Queensland or Western Australia. When Parliament is in recess or during an election, it would be practically impossible to obtain their services, when probably merchants and others vitally interested would he awaiting decisions. The work of the Board could not be suspended during recesses, because the position would, in that event, become chaotic. This is an economy dodge, and I do not think that members of Parliament occupying honorary positions would be prepared to devote the time required to fully consider the detailed work to be undertaken. Members of Parliament arc not paid for serving on Boards, but for assisting in framing legislation, and if they arc to do extra work they should receive additional remuneration.
– But what of the Public Works Committee?
– That is a very excellent body, doing splendid work, although some of its decisions have been criticised in the public press.
– Senator Wilson and Senator Reid unselfishly served on the Cockatoo Island Dockyard Commission without any remuneration.
– That may be so ; but they were appointed to do work which occupied a comparatively short time. I do not think that a senator from Queensland or Western Australia would act on the proposed Board in an honorary capacity, because he would have to pay his expenses during a recess to visit Melbourne to deal with an accumulation of cases. Personally, if I were a member of the Board I would not object to attending meetings at the Customs House here, but I do not think Senator Drake-Brockman, who is a representative of a distant State, would act unless he received his expenses.
– Do I understand that the two business men suggested are to be selected in Melbourne?
– Not necessarily. The members of the Board of Trade are independent men, and they meet at least once a fortnight.
– The business men on this Board would not be independent very long if they had to carry out the work suggested by the Minister.
– If members of Parliament were members of the Board, and had to pay their own expenses, they would not remain in office for two weeks.
– You do not ask business men to pay their own expenses?
– In some cases they do.
– The Bill provides for five guineas per sitting and expenses.
– Members of the Board of Trade have not received one penny,- and ha,ve performed valuable work in the public interests. The members of the Flax Board have also done ex cellent work in establishing the industry in Australia. The flax produced in the Gippsland district was sampled, and after being sent to the Old Country was found to be second only to that produced in Belfast. This product was sold at £300 per ton, and although the success achieved was due largely to the efforts of the members of the Flax Board, they were not paid one penny as expenses. If members of Parliament were appointed to the proposed Board, its work could not possibly be continuous.
– I understood the Minister to say that he Knew over a hundred men who would be willing to serve on the Board.
– Yes, and Senator Bakhap said that there were 111 - he was referring to the members of both Houses - who were fully qualified; buE I think we were both rash. For specific duties a number of men could be obtained who would render satisfactory and honorary service to the Commonwealth. Men of keen intellect and ability are necessary.
– Are not there” such men in Parliament?
– I do not suggest that there are not; but as I have mentioned, they are not in a position’ to render continuous service. I ask the Committee to- reject the amendment.
– I am sorry the Minister (Senator Russell) is not prepared to give favorable consideration to the amendment moved by Senator Benny, who, I regret, did Dot move to amend a previous clause which limits the number on the Board to three.
– We can recommit that clause if necessary.
– A Parliamentary Committee consisting of seven members could be appointed. I believe the object in ‘appointing a Committee such as that suggested is to save the “Commonwealth expenditure, and to avoid the duplication of unnecessary Boards. The Minister said that the proposed Board would exercise functions quite -‘distinct from those performed by, the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. I believe the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) admitted receiving valuable advice from that Bureau, and if we examine the functions outlined in clause 15 it will be found that the work of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry is similar to that to . be performed by the proposed Board. The members of the Bureau, apart from the Chairman, who receives £1,500 a year, are acting in an honorary capacity. I believe Senator Crawford is a member.
– I was, but I do not know if I am now.
– The Council, I understand, has not met for two years, and if reports are issued we should see them. I ask the Minister to seriously consider the amendment, as he knows it is the desire of the majority of the Committee to effect economies wherever practicable.
– As the Minister (Senator Russell) knows, I am opposed to the appointment of a Board; but if one is to be created I do not think it should consist of members of Parliament. If a Board, such as that suggested by Senator Benny, were to be created, who would be willing to act in an honorary capacity? There are 111 members in both Houses, and if one senator was to be selected from the Senate, and he was not to receive outofpocket expenses, I would like to know who would be willing to act.
– Let the honorable member speak for himself.
– I am speaking from my knowledge of Parliamentarians. When the Public Works Committee and Public ‘Accounts Committee were first appointed, it was ^announced that the members of the latter were not to be paid fees, although the members of the former were to receive payment for their services. There was a rush to fill the positions on one Committee and a difficulty in getting members to act on the other. Senator Benny suggests that members should be paid out-of-pocket expenses and so much per sitting.
– That is so.
– Then where is economy to be effected ? The Minister, I think, said that the sitting fees would be £5 5s. a day The Government might get a member of Parliament to do the work for £2 10s.
– Who would do his work in Parliament?
– That is another point, about which I shall speak before I resume my seat. We have to deal with things as they are. It has been suggested that, if outside business men were appointed they would have meetings in the mornings and afternoons, perennial meetings I think it was suggested, with the object of drawing fees. Well, I have known members- of Parliament, appointed to the Public Works Committee, ready to meet pretty often.
– Are you implying that they held meetings for the sake of the fees?
– The honorable senator can imply that, if he likes.
– But do you imply that?
– I do not mind saying that I have known members of Parliament, on the Public Works Committee, very anxious to have meetings. They are just the same as other men. If it is said that outside business men on the Board would hold meetings frequently for the sake, possibly, of drawing the sitting fees, outside men will naturally turn round and say that the members of Parliament would do just the same.
– I understood you were always in favour of positions on these Boards being filled by members of Parliament.
– I have-not been in favour of that principle. If I had my way I would abolish altogether the Public Works Committee.
– What about the Public Accounts Committee?
– Concerning that Committee, I may say that the original intention was that its members should receive no payment, and they should not leave Melbourne for the purpose of any inquiry. Their function was to investigate the financial aspect of public undertakings, and to do the ‘ work in Melbourne. Senator Bolton’s interjection about the work of a member of Parliament was a very pertinent one. If members are appointed to positions on these Boards they cannot attend so regularly to their parliamentary duties. At the present time two members of this Parliament are away in the Northern Territory on a special inquiry.
– And they are doing good work, too.
– I am not suggesting that they are not doing good work. All I say is that they cannot be there and here at the same time. This is a very serious matter. When members of Parliament receive these appointments “and are required to leave Melbourne we grant them leave of absence from their parliamentary duties.
– Some members of Parliament who are not members of Boards are absent, too.
– That is so. I merely point out that if honorable members receive these appointments, it is their duty very often to be absent from Parliament, and, therefore, they cannot do their work here. I am not, of course, reflecting upon those members who are at present away in the Northern Territory.
– They are wasting public money, but it is not their fault.
– I. would not say that. I simply say that they are absent from Parliament. Another aspect to be borne in mind is that if a member of Parliament is appointed to this Board, he will, undoubtedly, be influenced by his constituency, because he has been returned for his advocacy of certain views with which he has come to be identified.
– But all he would be required to do would be to inquire and report.
– Of course; but undoubtedly his reports would be influenced by his opinions. Last evening, when we were talking on this subject, I drew attention to the fact that several years ago an inquiry was authorized into Tariff matters. Among those who made the inquiry were Sir John Quick, Sir George Puller, ex-Senator Higgs, and another Protectionist. It is remarkable that, although they all heard the same evidence from the same witnesses, we had differing reports- from them.
– That does not sound very wicked.
– Perhaps not; but it shows clearly that a man is influenced by the political opinions of his constituency. Who is there amongst us that hai not got one eye on the elector? Perhaps I am judging other honorable senators by’ my own standard, and possibly it is not very high. If honorable senators do not care about the opinions of their electors, well and good. I do. I am absolutely against the appointment of any Board. The last man I would seek to appoint would be a member of Parliament.
– I voted against the second reading of the Bill, but now that it is in Committee we want to make it as perfect as possible. I should like Senator Benny to amend his amendment by .providing that the chairman shall be an administrative officer of the Customs Department, as proposed by the Government. Then with the two members, one drawn from the House of Representatives and the other from the Senate, the Board would, I think, be satisfactory..
– I think the honorable senator’s idea is a good one, and I shall accept it.
– I do not wonder at the Minister (Senator Russell) opposing it at the first blush, because it is a big change, and so I suggest that consideration of the clause be postponed in order that the Minister may see if something can be done to meet honorable senators. The ‘ idea originally was to relieve the Minister for Trade and Customs of some of his work. I think that if the chairman is an officer of the Customs Department, and two members are appointed as suggested, they will be practically Assistant Ministers, without salary, of course, although they will get their travelling expenses, which, I think, is about £3 3s. per day. We should then have amongst us experts who would be in ‘ a position to give us sound advice on Tariff matters. Unfortunately, members of Parliament are unable to read all the reports that are circulated. The amount of reading that is placed in their hands is so voluminous that very few have time to deal with it properly. A Board composed of two members of Parliament, with the chairman an officer of the Customs Department, would mean . continuity of work, and, in this sense, the results should be satisfactory. So far as the Senate is concerned, the Government could select a member with a full period of six years to run. I think the suggestion is well worthy of consideration.
– Take the experience of the Wheat Board. It cost us nearly £80 to bring a delegate of the Board from Western Australia to Melbourne. He got £4 a day when travelling, as well as railway fares.
– If a member of Parliament were appointed to the Board there would be no railway fares - he would use his railway, pass. The only expenditure would be £3 3s. per day travelling expenses. After, all, it is not very often necessary to bring any one from such a distance.
– We could not ignore Queensland and Western Australia.
– I do not think any State would be ignored. I have thought over this matter very carefully with a desire to help the Government to make the Bill as perfect as possible, and this is my suggestion. In the two Houses of Parliament we have some of the finest experts chosen by ‘ the people, and surely it would be possible to select two who would be prepared to undertake duty on the Board.
– I am not in favour of Senator Benny’s amendment, and I am not satislied with the original provisions in the Bill. To properly investigate all the matters that are set out in the Bill will call for constant attention from members of the Beard, and certainly require much more time than a member of Parliament cr any man actively engaged in business can possibly give te ‘them. I favour the appointment of three salaried members of the Board ; men who. would be expected to give the whole of their time to Tariff matters. The Minister (Senator Russell) gave me the impression that the official member of tho Board would continue to be engaged in administrative work of the Department. But the Bill itself makes specific provision for his retirement from his ordinary office to assume the duties of a member of the Board.
– There will be a lot of correspondence to deal with.
– In all probability the first act of the Board will be to engage a secretary. I do not think, that its chairman would act as secretary, although he will doubtless exercise some supervision over all correspondence. The members of the Board will require to meet almost daily; and in these circumstances I do not think that either a member of this Parliament, or a person who is actively engaged in business, can devote the necessary time to efficiently discharge the duties of a member of the Board
.- The Boards which have been appointed in this country during the past five or six years have certainly reflected no credit” upon the Government, nor have they given satisfaction to the people. For various reasons many Boards have. been appointed, and most of them have proved futile. Nevertheless, I think that it is necessary to create a Board if the very important duties which are outlined in the Bill are to be properly discharged… The only matter with which I am concerned is the constitution of the Board. If its work is worth doing, it is worth doing well; and if we desire a job to be done well we must pay well for it. With Senator Crawford, I should like to see the proposed Board constituted of three salaried men, who would be wholly responsible to the Government for the performance of their duties. If we appoint to it two outside business men at a certain rate of remuneration per sitting, much of the work will he done in a perfunctory manner. If it is not possible to create a Board consisting of three paid members, then the suggestion of Senator Fairbairn that the chairman should be a public servant, and that one of the other members should be chosen from the House of Representatives and one from the Senate, is, I think, a good one.
– I have listened with a good deal of interest to this debate, and I certainly agree with the suggestion which has been put forward by (Senator Fairbairn. Possibly that may prove a way out of the difficulty in which we find ourselves. Having formulated a Tariff, it is amazing that we should be asked to assume that it may lead to such pernicious practices as will warrant the appointment of a Board to supervise its working. That is an argument which ought to be sufficient to make every honorable senator a; Free Trader. Under the Customs Act 1901, a Customs Department has been constituted with all its ramifications, and now we are asking one of these officers to educate this Parliament. If it beessential that a Board should ‘be appointed to act as a guide to the Customs Department in certain matters, that Board, to an extent, will supersede theDepartment. When we begin to talk in that way, we shall’ be faced with a large- expenditure. Personally, I am opposed to this Bill lock, stock, and barrel. As, however, a majority of the Senate are in favour of it, we can only endeavour to make it as perfect as possible, and to insure that it shall operate in as economical a manner as possible. If we appoint a Customs officer as its chairman, let us provide that the remaining members of the Board shall be drawn from this Parliament - one from each House.
– I am quite prepared to accept the suggestion which has . been made by Senator Fairbairn.
– Does the honorable senator think that the other House will accept that amendment, seeing that it has seventy-five members, while we have only thirty-six ?
– I cannot say. Senator Crawford stated that far too much time will require to be devoted to the duties of the Board to permit of the appointment to it either of a member of this Parliament or of a man who is actively engaged in business. May I point out to him that eight years have elapsed since the last Tariff was framed, and that in the interim no consideration whatever has been given to it. In the absence of the proposed Board, the present Tariff will have to, stand until Parliament is asked to reconsider it. But as there is a continual variation in our manufacturing industries, it is certain that the Tariff will require to be amended in the no distant future. The duty of the proposed Board will be to constantly keep an eye upon the operations of the Tariff. Consequently, I do not tbink there is much weight in Senator Crawford’s argument. On the other hand, the suggestion which has been made by Senator Fairbairn is a reasonable one, which I am prepared to accept. I therefore ask leave to amend my amendment so as to make it read : “ One of whom shall be a member of the House of Representatives and one shall be a member of the Senate.”
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
– I hope that the Committee will not seriously consider the amendment. We ought to be particularly careful to avoid even the suspicion that any recom mendations by the proposed Board are based upon political grounds.
– Why, the Tariff itself has to be altered by politicians.
– But they are elected for that purpose upon direct party issues. Surely we do not wish to bring politicians into our administrative Departments. If we have a political Board, both parties will require to be represented upon it, as well as both Houses. Consequently, I can see chaos developing. No Department would be safe - especially a big Department like that of the Trade and Customs Department - if the suspicion were engendered that men were elected to the proposed Board because of their political views. Honorable senators do not mean to tell me that we should not have the Labour party asking for half the representation upon it.
– The dominating party is responsible for the administration of our Departments.
– If politicians were appointed to the Board, its services - would not be continuous. Probably changes in its personnel would take place every time there was a change of Government. Yet what we urgently require is steady, careful administration of our Commonwealth Departments.
– We change the personnel of our Standing Committees after the election of every new Parliament.
– That is so; and the people sometimes change their political influence. Whilst I do not think that a politician should be debarred from appointment to the Board any more than should any other individual, such a practice would create a suspicion that would be injurious to our public life.
– The greatest safe- guards we have to-day are to he found in our Standing Committees.
– I trust that the amendment, as amended, will not be carried.
– If the proposed Board was to be an administrative one, I would be in perfect agreement with the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell). But it is to be constituted for the purpose of making inquiries into certain matters, and of reporting to the Minister, who, in his turn, will report to Parliament. The honorable gentleman’s argument that every party in politics will desire to be represented upon the . Board if politicians are appointed to it will apply with equal force if its members are chosen from outside. If a Customs officer be appointed as chairman, that fact, in itself, will largely tend to continuity of service on the part of the Board. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, also stated that if the amendment be carried the personnel of the Board may be changed as the result of a parliamentary election. My own experience is that it would be a great blessing if, as the result of an election, changes were effected in the personnel of some Boards. As a majority of this Chamber have decided that a Tariff Board shall be created, it is our duty to do everything possible to perfect the’ jaeasure, and to assist the Go- vernment to keep faith with the people of this country. Some honorable senators have argued that politicians would not be able to devote the necessary time to the discharge of the duties required of members of the Board. Yet when we “ were discussing the remuneration of two of its members, the Vice-President of the Executive Council interjected that the Board would need to meet only about onoe a week. Now we are told that politicians would not be able to devote sufficient time to discharging the functions of members of the Board. I take the liberty of answering that statement on behalf of another section of the Senate, if not the whole of it, by asserting that senators are prepared to render every service within ‘their power while they sit in this Chamber, although it is, perhaps, somewhat of a novelty, to find parliamentarians expressing their readiness to have more responsibility and more work cast upon them. The people are crying out from one end of Australia to. the other for public economy, and bodies are being created by public opinion in* the effort to bring it about. Surely it is time we got down to things practical in the matter of controlling expenditure, and offered to render our services, in a private way on a Board’ whose only business it will bo to advise the Minister administering the Tariff. It is ridiculous and absurd, to say that, members, of. Parliament have not the necessary time.. For a considerable period, the Senate is in recess,, and five out of- every six of the Inter-State’ members who are brought to Melbourne, have the whole, of their mornings at their disposal. They could give these to the community, and, I think, are ready and . willing to render that service. It was stated by . the Minister yesterday that there are in Parliament men conversant with all sections and classes of trade and commerce. We are the elect of the people, and where could you go better than to Parliament to choose the members of an advisory Board, whose duty it will be to assist the Government? This proposal will heip to bring about the economy and efficiency which the public to-day are rightly demanding from the public men of this country.
– I urge the Committee, in the interests of Parliament itself, to be very careful in making the proposed departure in the machinery of government, because that is what it comes to. One of the charges made against the system of parliamentary or party government - and I have heard it made at other times and on other occasions by some of those very members who have- been speaking to-day in support of the amendment - relates to the power of patronage of a Government amongst its supporters. There is a certain amount of force in the charge that, the more we multiply the paid positions in Parliament to which a Government or a dominant party may nominate its supporters the more we sap the independence of Parliament. I take it that we are all interested in maintaining parliamentary government, and we ought not to do anything which is calculated to give to its enemies - and God knows they are plentiful enough - rocks that they can throw at us with some effect.
– There is no suggestion to pay members of Parliament for this work, js there ?
– Do not let’ us throw dust in our own eyes. No one who knows- what happened in connexion with the Committee of Public Accounts will listen- to that suggestion. At the outset the Committee was an honorary body,, but its- members were not satisfied; to let things remain at that. There wasa continual, agitation until- they were paid in- the same way as the members of the Public Works Committee, as they had a perfect right to be.
– The most serious charge against parliamentary government to-day is that Parliament is losing control of everything, and handing it over to Boards.
– That charge is made, but the other charge to which I have referred is made also. They may be mutually destructive, but they are made. I have heard in this and another Chamber the various paid offices and the numbers of Ministers pointed out as an indication of the way in which Governments and parties retain political power. That is an argument which is continually being used. Assuming that the amendment is carried, there can be only one member appointed to the Board from each House. Do honorable senators think that Parliament is going to be satisfied to stop there ? If it is, then the dominant party for the time being will appoint one of its own members in each House. Are the other parties going to be .satisfied with that? If they are, it will be with the reservation that- as soon as a change of Government takes place the personnel of the Board will change at once.
– So does every Prime Minister and every Minister.
– If Senator Benny agrees with that, where is he going to stop? Is it desirable to introduce into this country the American principle by which, with every change of Government, there is a change in the Public Service? Remember that the members of’ this Board, although not exactly public servants, will be just on the border line. They will be doing administrative detailed work.
– No, they will be simply an advisory Board.
– I can still hear the echoes of the speeches made here yesterday, in which several of the honorable senators who interjected just now pointed out that the Bill was unnecessary, as the Minister could have got his officers to do the work. It is perfectly true that the Minister could have appointed his officers to do the work, but the Minister and the Government thought it necessary and advisable to go beyond that and give the proposed Board statutory authority and functions. That is not in conflict with my statement that this is an administrative Board. Honorable senators who support the amendment are going to initiate in Australia the iniquitous American principle that with a change of Government there must be a change of the officers of the administration. This is the commencement of that principle, and, if the amendment is carried, this will be the first Australian Act of Parliament in which it has been embodied. I appeal to the Committee not, for the sake of making two more paid positions, for that is what it amounts to, to put that pernicious- and iniquitous American principle into one of our Statutes. That is what it will mean, because no Government representing the dominant party is going to have at the Customs Department, advising its Minister of Customs, two members of the opposite party. Honorable senators know it quite well; and if they carry the amendment they do it with their eyes open to that fatal fact. No Minister of Customs of the official Labour party, or of the Country party, if they come into power, will continue his administration advised by two Nationalist members, assuming the Nationalists to compose the Opposition.
– But you have provided for the limitation of the terms of the appointments.
– That has nothing to do with the point. What I have said is the essential thing which honorable senators know they are going to do if they put party representatives into these administrative positions. I appeal, to the Committee, for the sake of our parliamentary institutions, not to do that. It is a fact that members of Parliament will not have the time to do the work which is called for, if the work is to be efficiently done. It is all very well for Senator Wilson to say that” members have their mornings free. I am surprised that he should say it, because he knows it is not a fact.
– You do not mind my being honest, do you ?
– I say it is not honest. J do not mean that Senator Wilson does not say it honestly as regards himself, but if members of Parliament do their duty as members they find quite enough to occupy their time when the Senate- is not sitting. If a member does his duty as he should, he can find quite enough to do in attending to his correspondence and departmental work. This is the first time that I have heard a member say that he has spare time. I never found any spare time as a private member. Bearing on that point, what has recently happened in connexion with the Public Works Committee? A most important inquiry is proceeding, which Parliament asked the Committee to carry out. How many members of the Committee could be found to carry it out? Why could not they be found to carry it out? It was because their political duties necessitated their attendance here. Those members who are carrying it out are taking a certain amount of political risk in being away from their political duties here. It is not a fact that the members of the Senate or of another place are elected to perform the duties set out in the Bill. They are elected for quite other purposes. Their duty is to make the laws of this country, and to act as the watchdogs of the Administration of the country. If honorable senators are going to pub into the hands of the dominant party all these paid positions, because that is what it comes to, they are going to sap the independence of Parliament, and lessen the numbers of those who can take up an independent position in criticising the administration of the Department. These two men will be linked up with and tied up to the administration. They will be practically officers of the Department. I am not making this appeal to the Committee from any desire to triumph over a member who has moved an amendment. Something more inspires me to speak in this matter. I appeal to the Committee again to consider what position they will place these members in, and the position in which they will place the chairman of the Board. He will be a public servant, and his salary will have to be voted by Parliament. Honorable senators are putting him in a position of superiority, as the chairman of the Board, over two members of this Parliament. Is that a wise or fair thing to do? I take it that we want to get from the chairman his ripe and independent judgment, to the best of his ability. He will meet these members of Parliament, who, in a sense are his masters and employers, on the Board, and may have occasion to differ from them. The questions on which he differs from them, and on which, possibly, the Minister will act on the advice of the members, may subsequently be discussed in Parliament. Are honorable senators going to close the mouths of those members in Parliament, and prevent them from discussing such questions? If not, those members will be in a position to come here and criticise the chairman, and give their point of view, while the chairman, who is the principal officer of the Board, is to be dumb. He will have no voice except through his printed report that comes before Parliament subsequently In my judgment we shall have an unworkable Board. Every now and then an election or some other political stunt takes place. During the five years of the war we had three elections and two referenda. In an election every senator, in the bigger States at any rate, has to be away about three months, nob only from Melbourne, bub even from the capital city of his State. In these circumstances, what possible chance has a member during that period of giving attention to his duties as a member of the Board? What is going to happen in the interim? These cases, which are continually arising, cannot be delayed. There are cases arising out of the interpretation of departmental bylaws. There may ‘be an application regarding certain tools of trade which in some circumstances are free and in others are dutiable. Applications of that sort the Board has to determine.
– How is it done now ?
– By the Minister on the advice of his departmental officers, and the Government propose to transfer that inquiry and advice from the departmental officers to the Board, which will advise the Minister. It is practically an administrative matter. These questions will have to be held up during an election, or during the absence of the mem.bers of Parliament, until they return to Melbourne. There will be a period of suspense. No duties will be collected on the goods, and they will have to be kept in bond.
– In such conditions as the honorable senator refers to, two would be a good quorum for a. Board of three.
– Two members of the Board might not be available to form a quorum, as the two political members might be away from Melbourne in connexion with an election. Though I may not be a candidate, I am sometimes supposed to take part in an election. Senator Wilson may perhaps be able to sit back, but the rest of us are expected to go on the stump at election time. This may he a minor objection to the amendment, but it should be given some weight. I say in all seriousness that the amendment proposes the introduction of a most pernicious American system, and 1 appeal to Senator Benny not to press it.
– The honorable senator forgot to apply that principle in considering the Defence Bill.
– I do not know that I did.
– The principle of not permitting a member of Parliament to bold an executive command in the army.
– I know of no instance of the kind. If the honorable senator does, it is his duty to inform Parliament and the country.
-I” ask the Minister not to discuss matters connected with the Defence Bill. He may make only a passing allusion to the interjection.
– I did not intend to do any more. The amendment, in my opinion, is the first attempt made to introduce a pernicious and iniquitous American system, which I hope, for the sake of parliamentary government- in Australia, will never be tolerated here.
.- I hope to make a speech of record brevity on this amendment. After listening to the many good speeches on the amendment, I wish to indorse in toto the remarks which have fallen from the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). I think that his arguments are unanswerable. I do not see how any member of the Committee who has supported the amendment can put up a single reason- able argument against those to which we have just listened from Senator Pearce.
.- I must vote against the amendment. I showed, by the vote which I gave on the second reading of the Bill, that I am altogether against the appointment of the proposed Tariff Board. It seems to me that the amendment would merely add to our difficulties if it were adopted. I interjected just now that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) forgot, when we were discussing the Defence Bill, to apply the principle which he has just now laid down with so much emphasis.
– I rise to a point of order. Only just now you, sir, prevented me referring to the Defence Bill, and in the circumstances I think that the honorable senator should not be allowed to r©f Gr to it
– I was listening very carefully to the remarks of Senator Elliott. He had not proceeded sufficiently far with his argument to enable me to determine whether he Avas in order or not. A passing allusion to the matter in question is in order but no lengthy discussion can be permitted of the principles of any measure other than that under consideration.
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Elliott has just announced his intention to refer to the attitude which I took up in dealing with the Defence Bill.
– I understood that the honorable senator desired to make a simple allusion to that matter for the purpose of illustrating his argument on the amendment before the Chair. That is permissible, but no lengthy reference to the principles of any other measure will be allowed.
– I merely wished to remind honorable senators that during the consideration of the Defence Bill I pointed out the danger of members of Parliament being appointed to offices in the Public Service, which has just now been so emphatically expressed by. Senator Pearce in connexion with the proposed appointment of members of Parliament on the Tariff Board. When the Defence Bill was under consideration I submitted an amendment which would have had the effect of preventing any member of Parliament accepting a command in the Army. That was done in accordance with the very salutary rule that is followed in the British Army. Such officers in their capacity as members of Parliament might be called upon, in the performance of their duty to their constituents, as unfortunately, I have been compelled .to do, to criticise measures brought forward by the Minister charged with the administration of the Department in which they served, on the advice of the permanent officers of his Department. At the same time, in their military capacity, they might be under the orders of permanent officers of the Army.
My point is that in such a case’ precisely the same position of difficulty would arise as that which might arise if members of Parliament were appointed to the proposed Tariff Board. It was to meet precisely the objections which Senator Pearce has urged with so much force against Senator Benny’s amendment that I proposed my amendment to the Defence Bill. J ust as I was opposed to members of Parliament being appointed to commands in the Defence Forces, I am now opposed to their appointment on the proposed Tariff Board, and I must object to the amendment for the same reason.
– Honorable senators supporting the amendment, including the mover of it, have suggested that memoers of Parliament might be appointed to form the Tariff Board just as they are appointed to form the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. I point out, however, that the Publio Works Committee is appointed by Parliament to advise as to the necessity of carrying out certain public works, and supply Parliament with information upon which it may be guided in the expenditure of public money on public works.
– All that the Tariff Board would have to do would be to advise.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. The Public Accounts Committee advises Parliament as to whether money voted is properly spent. Both these Committees fulfil a duty to Parliament itself. The Tariff Board, if composed of members of Parliament, would be in an entirely different position. I indorse the remarks of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who, I think, is to be congratulated upon the very able speech which, on the spur of the moment, he delivered against the amendment. The supporters of the amendment are to be found amongst honorable senators who voted last night ‘to kill the Tariff Board. They are out to destroy the Bill, and I do not blame them if they think they are right in doing so, though I consider that they are making a very great mistake. The proposed Tariff Board will not report to Parliament, but to the Minister for Trade and Customs. It will be a Board to advise the Administration.
– It will not be an administrative Board.
– It will be an advisory Board for the Minister for Trade and Customs. I point out that if there were two members of Parliament on the Board they would in all probability exercise a greater influence upon the Minister than ordinary public servants would be able to do.
– The Bill provides that the Minister may or may not take notice of reports of the Board.
– The Minister will be human, like every one else, and he would be more likely to be influenced by members of Parliament, who will be meeting him frequently on terms of equality, than he would be by an ordinary member of the Public Service. In my opinion, it would be a very dangerous step to take to bring politics into the administration of the country in the way proposed.
– What about Ministers?
– They are -before’ the public as heads of the different Departments. r The public are the critics of Ministers.
– Who would be the critics of the Board ?
– If members of Parliament were on the Tariff Board, the public would not know what influence they might bring to bear upon the Minister for Trade and Customs and his administration. The suggestion that the amendment is desirable on the ground of economy is merely so much camouflage to satisfy those interested in the economy stunt.
– I object to the Board altogether in the interests of economy.
– Senator Fairbairn and other honorable senators engaged in the economy stunt are against all Boards.
– If the honorable senator picks up the Age any day, he will find that Senator Fairbairn is on a dozen Boards.
– Men in Senator Fairbairn’s position are on as many Boards as they can be elected to.
– The honorable senator does not object to that.
– No; I do not. But as soon as it is proposed, by the Government to appoint a Board to do just the same kind of work as is done by the Boards on which certain honorable seria^ tors are represented, they at once object to their appointment. If a Parliamentary Board is to be constituted, it must be appointed by the Government. They will select members of their own party Those members will be objected to on party grounds by members opposed to the Government. Such a Board would be exposed to criticism in Parliament, not because of its work, but because of its personnel. Each party in Parliament would expect representation on the Board, and so its membership would be swelled to that, for instance, of the Public Accounts Committee. Where would the economy come in then? If the proposed Board consisted of seven or eight members free from political influence it might be .desirable.
– The members of the Public Accounts Committee receive 25s. a day for expenses.
– I am not referring to the Public Accounts Committee, but to the amendment which has been submitted on the score of economy. Many of those who are supporting the amendment are new to political life.
– Do.es the honorable senator object to that?
– No ; but after they have been in Parliament as long as some’ of us they will realize that when once the ball is set rolling expenditure will increase.
– The honorable senator does not advocate economy.
– Yes ; but after thirty years of public life I have come to the conclusion that when once an honorary Board is appointed it is not long before it is incurring expenditure on a very extensive scale. Senator Thomas has already referred to what occurred when the Public Works Committee and Public Accounts Committee were first appointed. The records will show that the members of the Public Accounts Committee, who were to act in an honorary capacity, soon expected similar remuneration to that received by the members of the Public Works Committee. This is a serious step, and one which I cannot support, because I am not in favour of bringing members of Parliament into close touch with the administration of such an important Act.
– Would not the same remarks apply to a Minister ?
– Because the Minister is only one member of the Cabinet.
– The Minister has the only “ say.”
– Of course, he has. If we adopted the amendment undue influence would probably be brought to bear upon members, as has been the case in America. I do not believe that Australians are .better than Americans, but I think it can be said that our politics have been cleaner.
– Most of the American history to which the honorable senator refers was municipal and not governmental.
– If the honorable senator is in touch with the political life of America. - I believe he is, in connexion with some phases of it - he will realize that my statement is quite true, because apart from municipal control a good deal of undue influence has been exercised in connexion with the administration of their Customs laws.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to address the Chair.
– Those who are fully acquainted with American history, particularly in relation to the imposition of Customs duties, know that undue influence has been exercised on those responsible for administering their Customs laws. I am astonished at Senator Fairbairn acting as. he is, particularly after his long experience in political life.
– I am anxious to assist the Minister.
– If such is the case, I think the honorable senator should be prepared to support the clause as submitted by the Minister (Senator Russell).’ If we follow the suggestion of Senator Benny, we are likely to create many difficulties. We should be prepared at least to experiment with a Board such as that proposed.
.- I am sorry I cannot support Senator Benny in his effort to confine the personnel of the Board to members of the Legislature. I have had extensive experience of work undertaken by members of Boards and Committees, and I know of no men who could have worked more thoroughly and intelligently than those on some bodies appointed by the Government. In a Democracy such as Australia it should be our endeavour to retain, as far as possible, the confidence of the people in our administrative and advisory institutions. The proposed Board is certainly an advisory one, and if the advice tendered is supported by sworn evidence, it becomes obligatory on the part of the Government to accept it, otherwise they would be in an awkward position when submitting it to Parliament. ‘ The idea of appointing members of the Legislature seems all very well, but to me it is absolutely impracticable. Paragraph d of sub-clause, 1 of clause 15 provides that the Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report questions affecting the necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties. What confidence would Protectionists have in the advice of a Board on which Senator Gardiner and Senator Thomas, who are pronounced Free Traders, were acting? Those two honorable senators do not believe in the imposition of any duties. What confidence would others have in the advice of a Poard consisting, say, of you, Mr. Chairman, a pronounced Protectionist, and of half-a-dozen other honorable senators who’ are just as emphatic in their belief that Protection is in the interest of Australia? They would not place the slightest reliance in the advice of such a body.
– The Government would not select them.
– Perhaps not. Members of Parliament are compelled, by virtue of their position in Parliament, to announce their beliefs and prejudices either for or against Protection, and, having done that, they would bo called upon to judge between two policies when an investigation is. undertaken. The suggestion is impracticable, and I strongly advise Senator Benny to withdraw his amendment.
– I do not admit its impracticability .
– After the honorable senator pronouncing himself a strong Protectionist, almost up to the point of prohibition, in the interests of Australian industries, he cannot possibly be qualified to investigate and advise on the question of whether there should or should not be increased duties. He has already made up his mind.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) is an advanced Protectionist, and he has done it.
– The Minister is the mouthpiece of the Government, and, although selected by the Prime Minister, he is appointed with ‘the concurrence of his colleagues.
– I could hold an inquiry and submit an unbiased report.
– There is a difference in administering a Department with the concurrence of Parliament, and advising the Minister, particularly as the dispute may be between two different policies. Members of Parliament are eminently suited for inquiring into certain public questions, but I am not in favour of a Board consisting of members of Parliament. As the Board will, to some extent, have to perform judicial functions, the work should not be undertaken by men who have publicly announced their policies. With considerable reluctance, I shall oppose the amendment, and, although I have confidence in members of Parliament acting on Committees, I do not think they should act in this connexion, for the reasons I have given.
– I listened with great interest to the speech delivered by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and his arguments would have been almost unanswerable if based on true premises, but, as they were not, they break down at the outset. If the proposed Board was to be administrative and not advisory, there would have been a great deal in the arguments submitted by the Minister for Defence. Hecreated a bogey, and proceeded to destroy it with much eloquence and vigour. The Minister is afraid that the “system of parliamentary government would break down if we appointed a Board such as. Senator Penny suggests ; but, in my very humble opinion, the greatest danger that at present exists is the delegation of powers to extraneous Boards. By Act of Parliament, and by administrative acts, we are constantly setting up Boards, the members of which are not responsible to the people, and, consequently, do not have to face the electors.
– And the people have to carry the burden.
– Yes. If we adopt Senator Benny’s suggestion, and appoint members of Parliament as the majority on this proposed Board, they will in due course go before the electors to justify their actions both as members of the Board and as members of Parliament; and thus we shall have a greater guarantee of integrity and honesty than in a Board appointed in the way proposed by the Government.
– One member might have to go before a red-hot Protectionist constituency, and another a red-hot Free Trade constituency.
– This is the position : We have in power a Protectionist Government. If they go out of office the parliamentary members of the Board would ?o out too. There is nothing; more objectionable about that than about a Prime Minister going out of office.
– It will be apurely political Board if it depends on the fortunes of the Government.
– I do not care what it is. It will be an advisory, not an administrative, Board. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) has emphasized the fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs is overworked and needs assist’^ance X say he ought to get it, but that it should . be parliamentary assistance. When we were on active service we found, from time to time, that staff officers got. killed, became sick, or were evacuated from one cause or another, or else they had a habit of being promoted.
– A good habit, I should say.
– Yes, on the principle that a’ dead major is a live captain’s hope. Thus it became necessary to fill the positions which they had been holding. At first the authorities were unable to secure properly trained officers to hold down these jobs, but the difficulty was got over by appointing what were known as staff trainees, so that when any office in the army became vacant, there was always some one, properly trained, ready to fill the position. That will be so in this case. By adopting Senator Benny’s amendment we shall be appointing staff trainees, so to speak, at the Customs House. We shall have our parliamentary representatives down there getting instructions in the proper handling and administration of the Customs Department. What can be more desirable?
– Then the right thing to do is to appoint an Assistant Minister.
– That may be one method of meeting the difficulty, but Senator Benny’s amendment meets with my approval, because, while our parliamentary representatives axe being trained in the work, we shall also be providing for the proper diecharge of the functions of the Board.
.- I have no desire to give a silent vote on this important matter. At first I felt disposed to support the amendment, but after consideration I have come to the conclusion that the best results1, to the country- as a whole will not be secured by its adoption. The suggestion that the Board should be composed of members of Parliament appears to be good, but one cannot fail to notice that very often the interests of the country are neglected through the absence of members of Parliament who have been appointed on various Committees or Commissions, and it seems to me that the people who send us here would not be getting a fair deal if we adopted the amendment. When speaking on the second reading yesterday, I opposed the proposed heavy expenditure; but, as it is passed, I am prepared now to do all I can to assist in making the measure more acceptable. I. am not, however, prepared to adopt any scheme of which I do not approve; and I am afraid we shall not get the best results from the adoption of Senator Benny’s amendment. I am not going to dwell at length on Senator Drake-Brockman’s remarks. His view would, no doubt, be sound if the proposed Board were to be administrative, but as it will be purely advisory, in my judgment, Senator DrakeBrockman is entirely at fault in his attitude towards the remarks made by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce)! He forgot, apparently, when saying that the electors would favour members of Parliament being appointed to the proposed Board, that members of both Houses must take the full responsibility for accepting or rejecting the recommendations of the Tariff Board when they- come before Parliament. Taking all things into consideration, I do not think that the hest results can be expected from the acceptance of the amendment.
– I should like to say a few words in justification of the vote which I intend to give in support of the amendment. I am not concerned so much about the merits of the amendment itself as T am about the principle which it seeks to embody in the Bill. I have been in this Parliament for four or five years, during which time there has been a great deal of Government activity caused by the war. I have seen Board after Board develop as a result of administrative acts, and, practically speaking, members of” Parliament have not been considered by the Government in any appointments to honorary Boards. I believe I can say that all members of this or the last Parliament were ready to render honorary public service to the full extent of their time and ability. But what happened? Board after Board was constituted, and Parliament was ignored, and very often this absence of parliamentary representation on these Boards was the cause of great political difficulties and complications.
– And many political gymnastics.
– I am not going to say that. We, as members of this Parliament, are responsible to our respective electors; and we who are members of the National party have to answer for the virtues or sins of the Government, who in their turn are responsible for the actions of Boards that have been constituted by them. There was no parliamentary representation at all on the great majority of Boards called into existence. In this connexion I may mention the Commonwealth Shipping Board, the InterState Shipping Committee, and the Central Wool Committee. It is true there were two members of Parliament on the last named, but they were not appointed qua members of Parliament, but as representatives of the wool-growers. There was the Council of Finance, and that most-important organization which controlled the metal trade of Australia, as well as the Economies Commission; and there is in existence now the Central Coal Board and State Coal Boards, upon which there is no parliamentary representation. Members of Parliament know little about their operations. . Perhaps I may be permitted to suggest that it would have been to the advantage of my friend, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), had one or two members of Parliament been co-opted in connexion with the War Service Homes Advisory Board. There is the Australian War Museum Committee, the Board of Trade, and the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. I understand that Senators Guthrie and Crawford are nominally members of this Bureau. But Senator Guthrie has intimated, that all he knows of it is limited to the first picnic which was held, and Senator Crawford has informed me that he has received no notification in regard to any meetings for the past two years.
– But I had nothing to do with the picnic to which the honorable senator has alluded.
– I absolve my honorable friend from that. _Then there is a very important Committee in connexion with the Bureau of Science and Industry. There is no member of Parliament upon that body. There are many other matters in respect to which the Government should co-opt the services of those members of Parliament who are always ready to render honorary service to the country.
– There are two parliamentarians upon the Shipping Board, and five politicians, Federal and State, upon the Wheat Board.
– I am unaware that there is any member of Parliament upon the Shipping Board.
– The late Senator R. S. Guthrie was a member of the Shipping Board.
– He was for a time. He was appointed to the Board upon its inception. The Board was afterwards reconstituted without him - a procedure to which he very rightly objected. Subsequently, he was again placed upon the Board, but, unfortunately, he died, and his loss from a shipping stand-point ia a loss to this Parliament, and no parliamentarian has succeeded him.
– Upon the Flax
Board there was only one parliamentarian - the Minister who was in charge of it. The other members were chiefly the heads of the State Agricultural Departments.
– I did not mention the Flax Board. I deliberately omitted it because it would not serve the purpose of illustrating my remarks. What was the result of constituting all these Boards during the war, ‘ and of omitting to co-opt upon them a representative ofthis Parliament? During the currency of the War Precautions regulations there grew up in connexion with nearly every important service in this country unofficial dictators. No member of Parliament was able to alter anything which was done by them. Scarcely anything has caused the members of the National party so much trouble as’ have some of the acts of these unofficial dictators. One matter which came immediately under my own notice, I may be pardoned for mentioning. Honorable senators will recollect that during the term of the last Parliament. I moved the adjournment of the Senate to call attention to a comparatively small matter connected with the export of tin scrap. Owing to the official dictatorship which then existed, I was unable to achieve my object, which was to prevent the loss which private individuals and this country were incurring owing to the arbitrary action of one of these dictators. The result is that the owners of that scrap have lost a market for £7,000 or £8,000, that they have the. scrap tin in store in Melbourne, that the works which were supposed to have bought it from them have been closed up for some months, and have not even paid for the scrap which they have used. That is an illustration of the fallibility of some of the persons to whom were delegated practically the powers of this Parliament.
– Surely, there must be some mistake. The Government never ran a tin-scrap factory..
– I hope that my honorable friend will not deliberately misunderstand me. He must remember some of the circumstances ‘ of this particular case, and the arguments that were advanced in favour of the action which was then taken. That action has since ‘been proved to have been absolutely wrong. It was of no benefit to anybody in the Commonwealth, and it has. resulted in severe and unnecessary losses to those people to whom the prohibition applied. Consequently, I repeat that the Government would be well, advised if they co-opted upon the proposedBoard the services of some members of this Parliament. Every honorable member can bring to bear in conference, certainly, a different view from, and perhaps a wider point of view than can, any commercial man in the community. I shall vote for the amendment of Senator Benny in order to prevent members of Parliament being ignored in connexion with matters of administration and the meetings of the advisory bodies of some of the most important services of this country. I am not satisfied with the Bill because of the overlapping which will occur in connexion with the functions of the Board and ‘those of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. I suggest that as the Bill is not an urgent one it does no.’; “matter whether the proposed Board is constituted this month, next month, or six months hence.
– The other night the honorable senator said the measure was so urgent that the consideration of the Tariff should l-i postponed to allow it to be proceededwith.
– I admit the that interjection is a fair one. But we now know the form which the Bill will take, and one provision which mustbe incorporated in it - : -
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Seeing that the Tariff yields annually about £40,000,000, we must recognise that it is scarcely right that a single individual should exercise control over it. What business man or what company would vest in a manager authority to do just what he chose? Yet that is practically the position in regard to one-man control of the Customs Department. 3E intend to support Senator Benny’n amendment. T believe that it is necessary that members of this Parliament should get into closer touch with administrative matters. They should be not merely legislators, but administrators tus well.
– We should accept our responsibilities.
– Under this Bill we shall be assuming a new responsibility which I have no desire to shirk. Notwithstanding the statements published by newspapers, I hold that members of Parliament are more than the equal of the men who are to be found outside. I do not believe that we can secure the services of outside individuals who will, give the best that is in them to assisting the chairman of the proposed . Board in returnfor certain fees. Personally, I should have preferred the Board to have been constituted of four members - the chairman, with two members from the House of Representatives and one from the Senate. The creation of such a body would not increase the expense of administering the Customs’ Department, and for that reason I shall support the amendment. I am satisfied that its adoption will result in very great advantage to the Commonwealth. It will throw upon members of Parliament the responsibility of doing more than they are doing at present. It will also provide them with a training which will make them better fitted to discharge their parliamentary duties in the future.
– I take this opportunity to complete the remarks which I was making when interrupted by a, at times, very exasperating standing order. I should like the consideration of this Bill to be suspended. The Government might earnestly take into consideration the question whether the proposed ‘ Board cannot be greatly strengthened and made to comprise practically the whole of the other commercialactivities that the Government are now carrying on. I agree that its chairman should be a prominent Customs official, and hope that, whatever is ultimately decided, there will be no niggardliness so far as his salary is concerned. The Bill* has not been enthusiastically received in either House, and, in conjunction with what has occurred in another place in relation to a further measure relating to the trade and commerce of Australia, I feel that, if we are to have a Board of Trade, or a Tariff Board, or a Board of Commerce land Industry - to my ‘mind -these names iiare synonymous - it is better to have one strong organization in which the whole of the people will have confidence. I speak of the whole iof the people, because they are all interested in the trade, commerce, and industry of the Commonwealth. That one Board should be presided over by an ‘experienced . and trained official of the Customs Department, : and could consist, if honorable senators liked, of some members of Parliament, and some people from outside. I submit this suggestion in all seriousness. The passing of this Bill this month, or next, or the month after, is not -vital. We shall not finish the Tariff -discussions for ‘several weeks, and it is bound to be some little time afterwards before even the incidence of any of the duties that we impose or reduce will begin to be felt. Therefore, after the very exhaustive discussion that has occurred here and in another place, I should like to see the Government consider the position carefully from this stand-point. There is no question that the Committee appointed some years ago to consider the restriction of the importation of luxuries during the war, and the Committee appointed twelve months -ago to inquire into the whole . ambit of taxa- . tion within the Commonwealth, would have been materially strengthened by the presence of members of this Parliament. The Committee -appointed in connexion with the Canberra operations would . have, been strengthened by the addition of members of Parliament, and, certainly, the Murray River Waters Commission would have been materially strengthened by the presence of one or two members of this Parliament from South Australia. I could adduce many other arguments why the amendment should be carried. One is that, if it is . accepted, the Government may see their way clear to postpone the whole of the further clauses pending consideration in the direction of the almost unanimous desire of the Senate. For these reasons, I shall vote for Senator Benny’s amendment.
Question - That the words proposed , to be inserted be inserted (Senator Benny’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause & -
The Chairman shall receive, in addition to his salary as an officer of the Public. Service, an allowance which, together, with his salary,, shall not exceed. Fourteen hundred pound’s a year,, and each of the other members shall receive an allowance- of five guineas per sitting’.
– I move -
That, the words “which together with his salary shall: not exceed. Fourteen, hundred pounds a year,” be left out,, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the foll’owing word’s : “ of Two hundred pounds’ a year.”
I explained on the second’ reading that it would be better to fix a. specific amount for the remuneration of the chairman. I take it for granted, first, that it will be an officer very high in the Department who will be appointed as chairman;, but the Minister for Trade and Customs, may find men. in the Department who, although not so high in status, may possess superior talents as investigators), or a judicial mind of a higher quality than is to be found among those Customs officers who are higher in the Service. The salary of. such a man may not be more than £500 or £600 a year; and, if he were appointed as chairman of the Board, his extra* remuneration as chairman would, in. the circumstances, be £800 or £900 a year, which I consider would be- more than -commensurate with thei duties he- would be called on to perform.. My amendment would provide for an allowance of £200 for his services as chairman of the Board, in addition to his salary as a Customs officer. If the Minister or the Committee think that is rather parsimonious,, or cutting it too fine, I am not particular as to the exact amount. I merely want to establish the principle of making a definite allowance for the services rendered by the officer as chairman of the Board, rather than giving him an allowance to make up his salary as a Customs officer to a sum not exceeding £1,400 a year.
– Do you think the clause limits the choice?
– I think so.
– I would like to remind Senator Earle that under the clause there is no compulsion to pay the chairman of the Board £1,400 per annum. That is the maximum amount which it is provided he shall receive together with his salary as an officer of the Trade and Customs Department.
– It is not enough. Does’, the Minister consider it a fair thing that the chairman of the Tariff Board’ should receive only £1,400, in view of the salary paid to Mr. Stirling Taylor, who receives £1,500 a year?
– I believe’ that the Comptroller of Customs, receives a salary of £1,400, but the majority of the chief officials of the’ Department receive considerably less than that amount, and should one of them be selected for the position of chairman, of the Board, the £1,400 provided, for would represent a considerable increase of salary in his case-. In view, of all the circumstances, I ask that, no alteration should be made in the clause..
.- I move-
That the word “ Fourteen “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Fifteen.”
– In the interests of economy.
– I will not answer to my honorable, friend about economy. Let him be responsible to- the people of Tasmania for the vote he gave last night.
– I am. always responsible for my votes.
The . TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Buzacott). - Order! I point out that the Committee has just decided that the word “ Fourteen “ shall remain as a part of the clause, and Senator Pratten’ s amendment cannot, therefore, be received.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
It is not the intention to take literal advantage of the permission sought by this motion, but to enable us to proceed so far as our time and energy will permit, without undue delay, with the consideration of the Bill. I ask the Senate to agree to the motion in order that it may not be necessary to have an adjournment between the first-reading and second-reading stages of the Bill.
– At what time does the Minister promise we shall rise tonight?
– Does that not depend on the progress made?
– I do not care to interfere with the desire of the Government to go on with the business of the country. The Minister, for Repatriation proposes the suspension of the Standing Orders to avoid the necessity of an adjournment between the first-reading and second-reading stages of the measure. I have come to the conclusion that our Standing Orders have been wisely framed to enable honorable senators to discuss measures freely at their different stages. I take it that what is behind the present motion is that the Government desires this Supply Bill to go through by 4 o’clock to-morrow afternoonin order to meet the convenience of honorable members in another place. It is asking rather too much of the Senate that we should put this measure through by to-morrow afternoon when it is received here only at 6.30 o’clock, and we shall not begin to discuss it until 8 p.m. Honorable senators should seriously discuss the Supply Bill or should not bother to discuss it at all. I remind the Leader of the Senate that in another place one day in each month is set aside for the discussion of grievances. That is a very wise provision, but in this Chamber we have no’ opportunity to discuss grievance’s except when a Supply Bill is under consideration. ‘
– I remind the honorable senator that no effort has ever been made here to curtail discussion on the first reading of a Supply Bill.
– That may be so, but under the motion submitted by the Minister, when the first-reading stage is completed we may go on to the second reading and right through with the Bill. Of course, if one or two members of the Senate wish to make things a little unpleasant for the Government, they might do so, whether the Standing Orders are suspended or not.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– When the Senate adjourned; I was objecting to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E.’D. Millen) suggesting, that the Senate should dispose of the Supply Bill by 4 o’clock to-morrow. I quite recognise that if honorable senators have little of consequence to bring forward there is no reason why the request should not be complied with, but I do not see why a Bill should be discussed in another place and after it is received here we should be asked to limit discussion so that it can be returned within a specified time. I can remember the time when I did not believe in the bicameral system.
– Or in the Senate.
– No. I always looked upon the second Chamber as obstructive or useless; but. of late I have been endeavouring to disabuse my mind on that point. I believe, however, there is a good deal in the contention if a Supply Bill involving the expenditure of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 has to be passed with very little discussion. The measure has been brought before the Senate at S p.m., and we are asked to conclude our discussion by 4 o’clock to-morrow. It may be necessary to have an all-night sitting, but I think that undesirable, because the convenience of another place should not be considered to our detriment.
This afternoon we have been- discussing an important Bill-
– The honorable senator must not discuss that measure now.
-I do not intend to, Mr. President; I was merely saying that an important measure has to be placed aside in order to suit the convenience of honorable members in another branch of the Legislature.
– They have been sitting a long while and deserve some consideration.
– And we shall be sitting while they are in recess, so we should also be considered. There is, however, no reason why the two Houses should not work amicably together. I merely protest against the suggestion that we should pass the Bill by 4 o’clock on Friday.
SenatorE. D. MILLEN (New South Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [8.5]. - I trust I made it clear, when speaking previously, that the Government had no intention of demanding - because we- have not the power or the desire - that the discussion on this Bill should be limited. I merely pointed out. that we were anxious to get the Bill through by 3.30 p.m. tomorrow, to meet the convenience of honorable members in another place. Even if we do that, honorable senators will see that there will be ample time for discussing the measure if we rise at the usual time to-night, -because the other measure would have been under consideration without any suspension of the Standing Orders. If the measure is not passed in the time suggested, nothing more can be done. I ask honorable senators, however, to assist the Government, without any breach or abrogation of their responsibilities, to enable that to be done. I have moved the motion, and in doing so I believe I am meeting the known wishes of honorable senators. not to sit late tonight. If honorable senators will cooperate, there is no reason why the discission on the Supply Bill should not be completed in time for it to be. returned to the other Chamber at the time mentioned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
War Service Homes Commission: Administration : Case of LieutenantColonel Walker : Powers of Commissioners : Ministerial Responsibility: Land Purchases and House Building: Findings of Public Accounts Committee : Acquisition of timberareas :purchase of erected Dwellings: Accumulation of Material: Cost of Houses - Transferred Public Servants: Retiring Age.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
It is quite unusual for a Minister introducing a Supply Bill to speak on the first reading ; but I desire to take advantage of this opportunity to deal with a matter at present exercising, not only my own mind, but those of honorable senators, in reference to the War Service Homes Department. .
I wish to deal with two aspects of the case. The Senate will be supplied a little later with all the details, statistical and otherwise, and will then have an opportunity of going mere thoroughly into the administration of the Department. There are two points to which I shall briefly refer, because they concern myself as distinct from the Department. The first is in connexion with the circumstances in which Lieut. -Colonel Walker was removed from his office as Commissioner for War Service Homes, and in connexion with which, I say at once, my veracity is challenged. Lieut. -Colonel Walker, as honorable senators are aware, ‘ was appointed to his position as Commissioner in ‘ February, 1919. During my absence in England, the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers), who was temporarily administering the Department, learned that Lieut. -Colonel Walker was an uncertificated insolvent. at the time of. his appointment. The Assistant Minister interviewed Lieut. - Colonel Walker, who admitted the fact; but said that I was aware of his insolvency at the time of his appointment. I was then within a few days’ journey from Melbourne, and the Assistant Minister, with the concurrence of the Cabinet, temporarily relieved Lieut.Colonel Walker from his position, and gave’ him the assurance1 that before definite action, was- taken, he would arrange an interview between us to ascertain if the facts, were as stated. Lieut.-Colonel Walker, in support of. his contention, said there was a telegram on the file which conveyed the information concerning, his insolvency. That is so; because Lieut. - Colonel Walker produced the file, and the telegram was there. Perhaps I might at this juncture be permitted to read a statement as. to what transpired, knowing as I do that it carries the indorsement of what both the Assistant Minister and I said, was the position. The, statement, made byrne on the 21st March last, immediately after an interview with Lieut.-Colonel Walker, reads -
On my return journey- to Melbourne. I, was met at Ballarat by Mr., Rodgers. That gentleman informed’ me’ of the- position that had been, created by the disclosure of the fact that Lieut.rColonel Walker.- was’ insolvent at the time of his. appointment. He- further stated that Lieut.-Colonel Walker said that I was aware , of the insolvency. Consequent upon this statement I’ sought an interview- with Lieut.-Colonel Walker, which interview took place in the Minister’s room; at. the House of: Representatives on, Friday last,, at 10.30 al.m;- I informed Lieut.-Colonel Walker of what: Mr:. Rodgers had told me, and asked Eieuit.-Colonel1 Walker if that correctly represented his- statement to my colleague. He replied’ definitely in the,’ negative,, and -said thai: he could, not, possibly say what 1 lcmew, and- what I did’ . not’ know; but, from thc> fact, that; the’ telegram relating’ to his* insolvency was on, the. fife, he assumed that I knew when, discussing, the; matter with, my colleagues.
After leaving; Lieut.-Colonel Walker I wentover . to the Cabinet room t’o attend a Cabinet meeting timed for 11 o’clock. As the Cfrbinet. had. not- formally-‘ assembled! I -relMed to such. o£ my colleagues.’ as were- present what had transpired, between Lieut.-Colonel Walker and myself. Those of them who had met Lieut’.-Cbronel Walker at the time it was alleged’ that he1 made’ his original’ statement were -so definite as: to his having! clearly affirmed my knowledge of his insolvency that I thought it advisable to seek a further, interview with Lieut.-Colonel Walker, and asked Mr: Rodgers1 to endeavour by telephone to secure: Lieut.-Colonel Walker’s immediate attendance. On- Lieut.-Colonel Walker’s attending in: response to. the invitation I left the Cabinet with Mr. Rodgers, and we- interviewed liFeut.-Cblonel Walter in the Prime Minister’s adjoining’ room. I pointed out to Lieut.Coloneli Walker the discrepancy in the statement which my colleagues informed me he had made and that which he had made to me earlier’ in the day. I asked him -to state definitely’ whether* he had affirmed that I was personally aware1 of his’ insolvency when* apgcoying; 06 : his appointment:, lie. stated, de finitely that he did1 not affirm that 1 ‘was personally aware of . the insolvency, but- he assumed that I knew of it from the fact that the telegram, from Mr. Cupples was on the tile. ° He further spontaneously stated, that he fully, accepted my statement that I was not aware of the insolvency, or’ of the existence of the telegram referring, thereto,, at the time the appointment was made.
That was written on the 21st March, and underneath it the Assistant. Minister has written that paragraph. 2, which refers to “the interview between the Assistant Minister, Lieut.-Colonel Walker, and myself, is substantially correct. Since that interview Lieut.-Colonel Walker has, repeated in print and in the memorial addressed to honorable senators, and honorable members, in another ‘place have reiterated the statement, that I knew of his insolvency. If. the matter rested between Lieut.-C61onel Walker’s word and my own, honorable senators would have to elect for themselves which version they would credit; but I submit that it is not a question of my word against- that- of Lieut.-Colonel Walker, because my- word has been indorsed by Lieut.-Colonel Walker himself, and the obligation is; therefore, upon him to explain’ the diss- ‘ crepancy between bis., . affirmation: and subsequent denial that I knew of’ the existence- of the telegram conveying the notification that he was. an uncertificated insolvent.. ‘ Notwithstanding, his1 denial of my knowledge of’ the matter, he now repeats’ his> original statement. I submit; if this gentleman’ is prepared to adopt tactics1 of this- kind’, that– unless he can give’ some- satisfactory explanation - his credibility should not’ bc placed beside mine. I . desire to place- honorable, senators in possession of what, the files- da’sclose: Lieut.-ColonelWalker was* inter-1 viewed by me and’ two’ other members of the- Cabinet who were- appointed’ a subcommittee for- the. purpose. Later I personally interviewed Lieut.-Colonel Walker. That was. prior to* the appointment; The interview being- satisfactory, Lieut.-Colonel Walker1 was asked1 to supply the names of per’sonal references’,, which he did. Tele1 grams- were1 sent- to three- gentlemen* stat=ing that we contemplated offering’ the appointment to Lieut-Colonel Walker, and asking for their views. as to his character and capacity. Replies- were- received. to two telegrams, one . coming to hand at 3.45 p.m. on the 25th February, and the other at 6 p.m. on the same date.
– Who were the gentlemen?
- Mr. Baker and Mr. Hargreaves. One is a gentleman at Albury, and the other a Queensland resident. The third I shall deal with presently. I submit that it is more important to note the times at which these telegrams were received than the names of those who sent them. Mr. Baker’s wire bears the General Post Office stamp 3.25 p.m. on the 25th February, and Mr. Hargrave’s 6 p.m. on the same day. I do not know what margin of time honorable senators would care to allow for the, transmission of these messages to the Department, but it appears that there must have been some margin. Whether these messages reached my office on the same day, that is, the 25th Eebruary, I cannot say; but it may be assumed they were there before me on the morning of the 26th. That, I take it, would be a reasonable assumption. There is no record when one was received, nor do the telegraph authorities now send out books for signature . as formerly, but ‘it may be assumed that one of the telegrams, at all events, was in my office . on the 25th February, and . certainly both were there early on the 2,6th. Now, the letter offering ‘the appointment to Lieut.Colonel Walker left my office on the 26th February. The third wire, that from Mr. Cupples, reached the General Post Office at 3.59 on the evening of the 26th. I cannot . say, and there is no record of the time that telegram reached my Department, but obviously it must have been late that evening; but, even if it did, it “was not in time to be opened that day. The letter appointing Lieut.Colonel Walker went out on the 26th February, and there is a strong presumption that it was despatched before the receipt of the telegram from Mr. Cupples. That telegram Was never shown to me. It is a curious fact -when one bears in mind the dates and hours I have mentioned. That there was an opportunity to -show it to me may be ‘correct. I do not think that the Comptroller, Mr. Gilbert, ‘saw it himself, in spite of what he now says. I am perfectly confident that he did not ‘ show it to : me. I ‘want ‘to pass . from that matter, but I -am somewhat loath to leave it, because, as honorable senators will understand, I -am affected by it. I have been twenty-five years in the public life of this country, and I do not want my -word to be doubted now.
– Would it “be reasonable for Lieut.-Colonel Walker to assume that the Minister had -seen the telegram ?
– That is exactly what Lieut. –Colonel Walker -said in his interview with myself . and Mr. Rodgers. He said, “ I did not know what you knew, but I assumed from it being on the file that you did know of it.” That is & very different . thing . from . saying that he knew I had seen . the telegram. It was right and proper that in the circuinstances he should assume that I ‘had seen it, hut the question of some one being at fault and -the ^question whether I am lying . are two totally different questions. 1 have told ihe Senate what happened. Some one was at fault, whether intentionally or unintentionally, in regard . to that wire. I do not think now that it was Mr. Gilbert. ‘ I think -that in his statement Mr. Gilbert is confusing the wire he did show to me with the later wire, which was received, in all probability, after the letter offering the appointment to Lieut.-Colonel “Walker had gone out.
I want to leave that matter, and icome to the ‘ administration generally of (the Department. I . have no desire to evade the proper responsibility which belongs to me, but I decline to accept responsibility which . Parliament deliberately placed rapon other shoulders. The War Service . Homes Act created a Commission, and gave to the Commissioner very wide independent powers. The reason for that was obvious. The argument was that in a matter of this kind it was not desirable -nhat political influence should operate. For. that -reason, Parliament appointed a War Service Homes Commissioner, with almost unlimited powers of control. First of all,Lieut.Colonel Walker had the power “to appoint such officers as he thought fit, ‘.to control and dismiss them, and to pay them such . salaries as -he thought fit. As . the names of some officers have been mentioned in connexion with the Department, let me say that Lieut.-Colonel Walker never ‘consuited -me as to ‘the appointment of anybody. He consulted me” only with regard to the dismissal of one officer. It is true that when he sought the transfer of an officer from the main Repatriation Departraent, he did consult my convenience as to when that officer shouid leave the main Department. He never consulted me as to whether or not he should make any appointment from an office boy up to his chief of staff.
Honorable senators will pardon me for dwelling a little on this matter. They will see the reason for it later on. Section 5 of the War Service Homes Act of 1918 provides that -
I intend to analyze these powers of the Commissioner. He could acquire what land he liked subject to two reservations. He had to obtain the Minister’s consent for land sought to be acquired that was public land, such as roads, and so on, and he had to obtain the consent of the Minister where the land sought to be acquired exceeded in value £5,000. Within those two limits he could operate free from control in whatever way he thought fit. The limit of £5,000 in value did not apply to materials under the terms of the Act, and he could buy what material he pleased without reference to the Minister. Rightly or wrongly, Parliament invested him with that power.
– Did not the point crop up in the course of the debate on the Bill, and did not the Minister accept the same responsibility as to value with regard to everything ?
– Many points cropped up; but I am entitled to assume that a Bill as it leaves Parliament contains the will of Parliament. I do not say that it expresses the unanimous opinion of Parliament, but that does not matter, and the fact is that the Act from which I have quoted was passed by majorities in both Houses of this Parliament.
– I have some recollection of the point croppingup in connexion with large expenditure for any purpose.
– -I have no doubt that it was discussed in the Senate.
– And the Minister, I think, accepted some responsibility.
– What responsibility? The Minister accepted responsibility for assenting to the purchase of land of over £5,000 in value.
– I think that his responsibility went further than that.
– I shall be glad if the Honorable senator can show that to me in the section I have quoted from the Act.
– I am speaking of the debate on the Bill, and not of the Act.
– I am not controlled by a debate, but I am by an Act of the Parliament. Some honorable senators might, iii the course of the debate on the Bill, have urged the view suggested in the honorable senator’s interjection, but afterhearing that, view Parliament ultimately decided to give the War Service Homes Commissioner the power to which I have > referred. It did not place upon him any restriction with respect to the value of materials which he might purchase. That was done in a subsequent measure, when from experience I had seen the wisdom of placing upon the Commissioner a restriction with regard to the purchase of material of the value of £5,000, similar to that we had placed upon him in regard to the purchase of land of that value.
Lieut-Colonel Walker was given power under the original Act to build War Service Homes by contract or by day labour. Section 17 of the Act reads -
The Commissioner may erect dwelling-houses on land acquired for the purposes of this Act, or may enter into contracts for the erection of dwelling-houses on land so acquired.
Parliament there deliberately gave the Commissioner the choice of either method, and in doing so absolved the Minister of responsibility for the course which the Commissioner decided to adopt. The Commissioner under the Act was responsible for administrar tion, and the Minister was responsible only for policy. I want to draw a clear distinction between the two things, and honorable senators as parliamentarians will appreciate the difference between them. If the administration proved to be- unsatisfactory, it is true that the Minister couicU step in and suspend or dismiss the Commissioner, but he could not interfere with the administration itself. I wish to deal with matters of policy first. The policy adopted, whether right or Wrong, was fully placed before Parliament. Before the Bill was passed in the Senate or in another place, it was made clear that it was intended that the policy should include the purchase of land and materials in big parcels. The term I used on the occasion was “ the purchase in a wholesale way.” It contemplated group buildings, and the making of an agreement with approved institutions for carrying out the purposes of the Act. In consequence of that provision, the agreement was tabled here and in another place, and no exception was taken to it. There may have been one or two voices raised in criticism, but Parliament did not take action to nullify the agreement, and to that extent Parliament became as responsible for it as was the Minister.
I am assuming to-night that administration rather than policy is under review, and that brings me to this point : I say that the Minister had no control over the administration so long as he knew that it, was going on satisfactorily. He could not be held responsible for mistakes of officers, for their wilful disobedience of orders, or their supply to him of wrong information. He could, and would be responsible if, having discovered these things to have taken place, he failed to take steps to prevent their repetition. That is the way in which I interpreted my responsibility for administration.
Before the Government or I, as Minister, knew that anything was wrong in the matter of administration, I commenced to feel it. One may get an uneasy0 feeling that things are wrong, and yet be unable to find sufficient evidence to justify the removal of - an important officer like the War- Service Homes Commissioner. Feeling that things were not as they ought to be,I took steps to cause an inquiry to be made into the work of the Department. I appointed a well-known Sydney accountant to inquire into the Department from top to bottom, so that he might.be in a position to tell me what was wrong, and the way to put it right: That appointment was made in July of last year.”
Afterwards) when- I was away from the Commonwealth, evidence accumulating that things were not proceeding as satisfactorily as could be desired, the Government supplemented my action by the appointment of an Advisory Board, with General McCay at the head, that was empowered to go into the Department, and speed up. inquiries into the various’ branches of the administration. That Advisory Board is still in existence. Theresponsibility was upon the Government: and the Minister to take steps to put righfc what was believed to be wrong with the administration, and they accepted that responsibility. The result of the inquiries referred to are before the Government, but they have not enabled us to arrive at a final decision in1 regard toall matters. They have, however, enabledus to decide that in re-organizing the Department we shall get back to the contract system - that we shall eliminate the system under which the Commissioner has been his own builder.. We intend to revert to the contract system, both as to building and as to the purchase of materials. -In otherwords, we shall go out of the building business, and bring the War Service Homes Department more into line with what may . be regarded as a building society.
– Then the Department will dispose of its present stocks by public auction?
– No. If we did that, and placed upon the market the very considerable stocks which are now in existence we should be inviting certain loss. But it is possible to avoid that loss by passing gradually from one system to another. Moreover, it is a very reason-, able proposition that in calling for tenders for the erection of future houses we should require the contractors to draw their supplies from us, providing-, that we can furnish them with those supplies at the market price.
– Then what are the Government going to do with the timber areas which they have purchased ?
– I am dealing now with the future policy of the Department, and I ask the honorable senator to allow me to ‘proceed “in my ownfway.. The Government will, by a gradual process, of absorption, pass from the present system to. the ; f-ull contract system.
– The* Department can enter into contracts: for labour only, and may. use its own, material while it. his any.
– I have already said that we can require, contractors to tender for the erection of houses-, with a stipulation that they shall draw their supplies’ of timber from- our- depots. We can1 either sell to them at the- market price or ..allow- them to reduce their tenders ‘ to the extent of the value of the> material which is supplied to them, by the- Department. By that means we hope to- minimize! or: avoid loss: upon contracts! which- have air ready been, entered into. As to the reorganization itself., then Government , whilst retaining in essence the principle or. a Commissioner, with very considerable administrative9 powers., feel that the powers which were granted to the late Commissioner were far too wide. It is proposed, therefore;, to circumscribe those powers very much- indeed. As the powers of the Commissioner are curtailed it follows that the responsibility of the Minister will, be increased. Increased responsibility requires increased power, for responsibility without power creates’ an entirely false position-.
I wish now to- say a few words in regard to the findings of the Public Accounts Committee. Those who have analyzed its report know that it. refers to four principal matters. The first finding of the Committee is that land has been purchased with undue haste and rashness. The Committee. - condemns several purchases of land, and also several houses, upon the ground that they are faulty in construction and material. They further condemn the delay which has taken, place in building, as it has added to the cost of the: buildings when erected.
– Were the houses’ which they condemned built by contract or by day labour ?
– I am just coming to. the figures. In regard to the statement of the Public Accounts Committee that land has been purchased with undue haste and rashness, I wish to’ say that Mr. Earle; whose exact title in the Department: I doi nob know, was sent by Lieut -Colonel Walker to interview me in< regard, to; land purchases’ towards– the- end of. 1919’. At that, interview, certain- propositions were., put. up to me, which I thought were rather lavish, and,, consequently, I gave Mr.. Earle, certain, instructions; which; were* to be. followed.. Those’ instructions were taken down in. writing by him,, and were duly forwarded to,i. and recorded in, the head, office in- Melbourne. This- is the way in which, his communica<tion. reads, -
The Minister disapproves, of very large areas being purchased: owing, to -
the considerable time the property would be. on our hands, before complete development and the sale of homes.. This means the Commissioner is burdened with large interest, -rates, and overhead’ charges; which must’ be; recharged, and. makes the not immediately developed’ areas expensive.
The Minister considers the- present estimation of our requirements too ‘high, and’ does not approve of considerable’ land areas- being purchased, for- anticipated requirements over and above -our building capacity., ‘No land should be purchased, for more than our requirements for twelve months hence.
That was the policy which I laid down., and upon it I am open to.be commended or condemned. I submit, however, that it was a fair, reasonable, sound, and cautious- policy. Let us see what steps the War- Service Homes: Commissioner! took to give effect to- that policy. Only a few weeksr later, the- following’ instructions, for which Lieut. -Colonel Walker must accept, full responsibility, were’ sent out to the Deputy Commissioners in’ the various’ States -
Land values in the vicinity of the Commission’s building operations will undoubtedly increase considerably, therefore a resolute policy of land acquisition, must be maintained, and land must ‘be acquired’ in advance of requirements. On- the lines indicated in statement in’ paragraph (r) a minimum programme of three years and a maximum of five years’ acquisition should be effected in the very near future.
It will- thus be seen that only a few weeks after T had laid down the policy that purchases were not to be made in excess of twelve months’ requirements, instructions were issued, to the deputies’ in the different States’ to buy up to three years, and even five years’, requirements. Unless it can be- assumed that I could watch every clerk, and see every document that went out of the office, I cannot be: held responsible- for a deliberate breach’ of the1 policy set out in such, plain, terms: ins the’ instructions^ which I gave tor Mr: Earle.
The Public Accounts Committee have alsc condemned certain purchases- of’ land;; and in the light of the information which is now available, their condemnation appears justified. Dealing with the least desirable estate to which they refer, namely, Roe’s estate, its’purchase was recommended by Mr. Earle, whose . recommendation was indorsed by Mr. Goodwin, the SurveyorGeneral of the Commonwealth, a tried and trusted officer, who was in the Public Service of this country long before War Service Homes were ever thought of. I have every confidence in . that gentleman. He may have made mistakes, or he may have been misled, but he was the highest authority to whom I could turn to assist me in this matter. The recommendation of Mr. . Earle was supported by the SurveyorGeneral, and indorsed by Lieut. - Colonel Walker. I approved it. What else could a Minister do in such circumstances? He could hot run round and inapect the land himself. He could not make Jiis own valuations. He must rely upon the reports of the expert officers who are attached to his Department. Unless the Minister could accomplish the impossible, there was only one thing for him to do when that report came before !him. He had either to approve or reject it. We required land, at the time, and I approved the purchase of this estate. In order to show the nature of the land, the purchase of which I was asked to approve, may I read the following report upon this estate ?
– What estate is it?
– It is Roe’s estate, at Waratah, near Newcastle- -the estate which has been chiefly condemnedby the Public Accounts Committee.
– The one which is mostly under water’?
– It is subject to inundation. The report reads -
War Service Homes -Commission. (N.S.W. Branch), 114a Pitt-street, Sydney, 17th November, 1919.
The Commissioner, Melbourne.
Roe’s Subdivision, “Waratah, ‘Newcastle.
I beg to submit the above subdivision for purchase for immediate building operations.
I have made an inspection, and’ the property is four minutes from the Waratah railway station and four minutes from the Mayfield tram. Fares - railway, 5d., 4d.; tram, 3d.; and contains approximately 12½ acres, and is right in the centre of a large industrial area, with tram service, and is about . 2¾ miles from the G.P.O, Newcastle.
The property has . been subdivided, all the roads constructed, blue metalled and gravelled, with footpaths, and have been taken over by the Municipal Council.
The land is excellent, good top, splendid bottom for building sites, level, well-drained, is very healthy, and is situated in a very popular residential and industrial area, selfcontained.
In connexion with this subdivision, the vendor has also offered the seven blocks in Roe and Southern streets adjoining, and . negotiations were opened for £8,500 for the total properties.
After -subsequent interviews the vendor has now placed under offer to me the whole of the property for the sum of £8,100.
The area . gives me a total of . 3,728 feet frontage to roads, upon which we could enter into possession, and ‘Commence immediate building operations.’ This price works out at approximately £2 3s. per foot. Although this is not cheap for our purpose, it compares very . favorably with property in the vicinity. This subdivision is, without doubt, one of “the best . propositions in Waratah, and much inferior land has recently been sold from £2 10s. to £3 per foot. As a . good, sound, ready-to-build proposition, I do not think wo could do better in order to ‘expedite our immediate building operations. The subdivisional plan attached hereto shows the blocks averaging 39.7 feet each, consequently these blocks would cost the soldier applicants an average of £85 8s., which would be very reasonable for this class of property.
I have : an option, and this offer remains open to me until the 20th instant.
Plan of the . subdivision is attached hereto, and I recommend the . property for purchase, viz., the . subdivision and the seven blocks aforesaid,at a total price not exceeding £8,100.
Water, . sewer, and gas mains are laid on, and . electric light is available by giving due notice for connexion to the Council. ! ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ W. j. Earle,
That is signed by W. J. Earle, supervising engineer, and underneath it : is the following -
Having in view the prices paid for land in this locality, I am ‘of opinion that the price asked is very reasonable. The streets ore formed, and the land . is -ready , for building on.
That is signed by J. T. H. Goodwin, SurveyorGeneral. That -was the report which came to me with a recommendation from the Commissioner that the estate should be purchased.
– Who is Mr. Earle, who made the report ?
– He was the supervising engineer of the War Service Homes Department.
– Is he in the employ of the Government now ?
– Not of this Government.
– Is Mr. Goodwin still in the employ of the Government?
– He is an old, trusted, and capable officer. In the light of that report, which apparently dealt satisfactorily with every point that one needed to consider, indorsed as it was by Mr.- Goodwin and the Commissioner, there is not an honorable senator who would not have approved the purchase.
– Were there not other valuations?
– Other valuations in addition to three - no.
– Who was the vendor of the estate, and who were the agents ?
– I cannot say at the present moment. As a matter of fact, the names of the vendors are set cut in the report of the Public Accounts Committee. Senator Wilson has asked if there were nob more valuations of the property. If the reports of three officers to the Minister are not sufficient, how many ought we to have? It is true that in purchases involving bigger sums of money, private valuers were sometimes called in.. The services of such firms as Messrs. Richardson and Wrench, of Sydney, were occasionally requisitioned. But in a purchase involving the sum of only £8,000, the Minister was surely entitled to say that the reports which be had received were, ample warrant for his approval of it. James Roe appears in the Public Accounts Committee’s report as representing the vendors. Another matter involving a sum of £26,000, was the purchase of what was known as Piatt’s Estate, at Newcastle. According to the Public Accounts Committee, there was nothing wrong with that block except that it was rather far distant from tram and train. It is situated at Mayfield, and the Australian Agricultural Company were the vendors. Its distance from tram and train was a disability; but let me point out the circumstances, which seemed to outweigh that disability. I cannot do better than read the report as submitted to me on that point -
The land is situated in a splendid locality, and constitutes, good building allotments if subdivided. Huge industrial works are within a few minutes’ walk, and further large works are. to be erected in the vicinity. Water is laid on along Maitland-‘road, but there is no sewerage system,’ although advantageous for same. Electric light could be extended on request to the City Council. The site is generally elevated and healthy, ?and lends itself admirably for residential development.
The position with regard to that block was that, although rather distant from train and tram, it- was within a few minutes’ walk of big industrial concerns: It is to the credit of the district of Newcastle that the number of recruits which it sent to the war was high, and the calculation as to the number of men who would be applicants, plus those who would become eligible as they married from day to day, indicated and justified the acquisition of an area there, there being nothing wrong with the block except its remoteness. I submit, therefore, that in view of the number of applicants and the proximity to the block to those industrial works, there was justification for purchasing it. Here, again, I purchased on the report of the three officers previously named.
I wish to deal now with a more serious matter. I mentioned that the Commissioner had power to purchase land up to the value of £5,000, and I want to put on record this incident to show what transpired in the Department. I mention it now because it was referred to in evidence given before the Public Accounts Committee in Hobart the other day. It was alleged that 35 acres of an estate there had been purchased by the War Service Homes Commission for £8,100, although only a few months ago the same sum had been paid for the whole estate of ninety odd acres. In giving these figures, I speak from memory. On reference to the file, I find that proposition was submitted to me, and that I sent it away on the ground that the information was not sufficient to admit of my coming to a decision on it. It never came to me again, but the land was purchased by the War Service Homes Commissioner in two parcels, and the fact that it was in two parcels brought the price of each parcel below the limit of £5,000 fixed by the Act. I ask the Senate if I am responsible for that?
– It is a disgraceful thing.
– Honorable senators can form their own conclusions. I am only giving the facts, but I submit that no responsibility can attach to me -when action of that kind is taken behind my back, whatever the motives may have been, clearly in contravention of the spirit of the Act itself. That is not the only instance of that kind.
– Cannot yon prosecute them criminally if they rob the country?
-I am dealing just now with matters in which it seemed to me that I was personally involved. I want to show what part I played, and where, so far as I can Bee, the responsibility does not rest on my shoulders. The Minister cannot be held responsible where improper transactions of that kind are carried through behind his back.
Let me take the next point referred to by the Public Accounts Committee. I want the Senate to understand that I am in no sense quarrelling with the findings of the Committee. TJn fortunately I am bound to indorse much of what it has said. The next point is the matter of inferior houses. The Committee inspected , and condemned forty-seven, and the press has so starred those fortyseven condemned dwellings that an impression has been created that they are typical of the work of the Department. I am confident that when the Committee reviews the work of the Department as’ a whole, as it probably will in its final report, it will be the first to repudiate the idea that those houses are typical of the whole of those constructed by the Department. May I point out that twenty-seven of the forty-seven condemned houses were built by the Commonwealth Bank, and twenty were built by the Commission. I do not want to suggest that, because the Bank has committed errors, it in any way exonerates the Department, but when a verdict is being passed, I am entitled to point out the proportion of inferior houses constructed under each authority. It appears to me that, whether intentionally or otherwise, a sorb of effort has’ -been made . to create the impression that the Bank has done its work fairly well, bub that in some way or other the whole -of the houses built by the Commission are hopelessly inferior.
– What State were those condemned houses in?
– I am dealing with the New South Wales report.
That is the only one made by the Committee so far.
– How did the proportion of inferior houses compare?
– The percentage would be higher in the case of those built by the Commonwealth Bank than in those built by us. I am not seeking to suggest that the fact of the Bank making a mistake relieves the Department from any responsibility for faulty workmanship in its own case. The point I am making is that, because fortyseven houses out of the total built were found to be inferior, they must nob be regarded as typical of the whole aggregate.
– Is it not rather a question, of how many houses in all the Public Accounts Committee inspected 1
– Those are the only ones the Committee mentioned, and it viewed them because complaints regarding them had reached it. The total built or building in ‘ New South Wales - because some of the houses which the Committee inspected were not completed at that time - was 2,300, so that the number which the Committee condemned was less than 2 per cent. I admit that- it is deplorable that even one house should have to be condemned, but it is a very different matter to say that only 2 per cent, have been proved hopelessly defective, as compared with the assumption that the defective houses are typical of the lot.
– Can we assume that allthe rest are right ?
– That would be going to the other extreme, but I feel confident that the vast majority of the houses, whatever other criticisms may be directed against them, have been well and faithfully built according to the specifications submitted either to those in control of the day-labour system or to the contractors.
The Public Accounts Committee did not discover the defective houses to which I have referred. I do not want the Senate to think thab the Department was blundering along without knowing the mistakes which had been made. The Department knew of them, and had already taken steps to correct as far as possible bhe defects which had been discovered. The Department had, with regard to the houses at Cessnock and elsewhere; taken steps to remove the offi- : cers responsible; and they had been removed before the Committee’s inspection. In addition, the Department had, at the contractor’s expenses - for the bulk of those houses were being built by contract and not by day labour - proceeded to remedy the defects. Since the Public Accounts’ Committee were there, a report has been received which would indicate that the work of putting the defective buildings into as good order as possible is practically completed, and that many of the men for whom they were built have notified their satisfaction and their willingness to occupy them.
– Has any compensation been given to the soldiers for the time they were kept out of occupationo f the cottages owing to defective work ?
– I have never found that a landlord would pay me compensation because- his house was not ready for me to go into. There has been no guarantee, nor could there be any, as to the time at -which the soldiers would be able to go into - the houses. I can sympathize with soldiers who have, been kept waiting, but when yon have 17,000 applications, and each applicant wants his house next week, it is impossible to satisfy them, -all, and ‘ somebody has to - wait. It is a physical impossibility to build 17,000 homes, within a few months.
– I understand that same of the soldiers had to get out while repairs were being made.
– I cannot anBwer that question, but I doubt if that happened in more than an isolated case or two. I believe some occupants had to get out at Goulburn, but those houses were built by the ‘Bank, and were not taken over by’ the Department until all the’ defects’ were put right; that is, if they have been taken over yet.
– Is 17,000 the total number of applications that have been received for the building of houses to date?
– I do not know that those figures are up to date. There were 17..00O ‘ applications in some time ago. Whether the number has been increased or decreased, or . whether the number who have been, supplied has to be deducted or not,I cannot say.
– May we reasonably assume that that would approximately be the- extent of the Department’s activities?
-You cannot say - that,, because every day soldiers are ‘getting married, and as they marry they become eligible. Many do not even wait until they are married, but make application to. us, saying, “ We intend to marry.”
– Were those defective houses put right at the expense of the contractor?
-In the. case of those built by contract, yes. Those built by day labour were- put right at the expense of the Department, so that the charge will not fall upon the soldier.
As regards defective houses, it is stated iu the report of the Public . Accounts Committee that Mr. K easing, honorary architect of the New South Wales branch of the Soldiers League, stated in evidence that he had found that the houses’ now being built by the . Commission were of excellent construction. I submit that that evidence is worth something, because that gentleman, who is a professional architect, was appointed by the Soldiers League to watch the interests of the soldiers.
Another point which the Committee stresses is the delay in building, and the fact of this, delay, seeing that . interest charges had to be added, increasing very much the cost to the future occupant of the home. That is admitted and regretted, but’ it seems to me that it is entirely due to the imperfect organization which the Department had created for supervising its day-labour ‘operations. Day labour may be, and I believe in certain circumstances can be, used very effectively, but it is absolutely essential to have over it the most complete and well-keyed-up controlling organization. That was entirely absent- in the case of the War Service Homes. I have mentioned that day labour is to be abandoned.
– Will the Department penalize the soldiers for the extra expense incurred owing to the want of organization ?
– If the honorable senator means cases where the costhas gone beyond the statutory limit, the reply is that except where soldiers have themselves’ been responsible for the amount being exceeded by asking for additions, or’- where they nave agreed to accept the house within- a certain . limit, Broadly speaking.,, the’ Government propose to shoulder that loss.
I turn now to another aspect of this matter. When the Commissioner first took office; and in conformity with the policy of the> Government announced when I presented the Bill to this Chamber,, the Commissioner then set about assembling supplies’ for the work. It was quite: clear at that time that the market was. short of . building, materials. The: Commissioner endeavoured to obtain these through the ordinary channels; expecting, of course,, some reasonable concessions from those who were in . a posir tion to- contract, for the supply of timber, bricks, and other materials for- building purposes but, he found it practically impossible, to, get supplies in any guaranteed quantities,, ox at anything like, a, reasonable concession- on. market rates., So much is admitted,in the earlier repoart. of the Committee to which I’ have- referred. He was,, at the same time, severely criticised by the associated builders’, of. this city and of. Sydney for seeking to enter an already denuded and barren market for building material.
– Was there an artificial shortage at that time ?
– I do not know; The Commissioner, at all events’, was unable to obtain his supplies under the ordinary contract system, and, as a consequence,, he entered into negotiations for the purchase of the timber areas to which Senator Duncan has made reference.. I direct attention to the fact that the Commissioner entered into negotiations for the purchase of many of these things before, by accident, I learned of them at all. I.” want to stress that point, because it was apparent that the Commissioner, by entering into these long-distance contracts without the knowledge of the Minr ister, little understood what, was due to the Minister. It was, as I have stated, only by accident.. I learned, that these negotiations were in progress. The. first contract had been completed before I heard of it. and to have broken, it would have involved, the Government in legal action. After1 1 learned, of these things-, I. took the- matter to- Cabinet, and <Dal> inefr agreed, that. I should go on, subject to my satisfying; miyself that, each contract was a sound . business proposition.
It is necessary that-I should refer now te- the building’ programme pf the Depart ment. The amount set aside f or the purchase of houses- already- erected was £250,000>; ‘but instead of following out this policy, the Commissioner purchased houses already erected to the extent of nearly £3,000,000’. As a result of spending so much money in this way, he- had on hand a great quantity of material for which, there was: no use. I. want the Senate to understand this position. I hope- 1, have made- it quite clear.
– That brought about a suspension of- operations, I presume?
– Yes. The Government are reviewing these contracts and making such adjustments as appear to be: desirable in the circumstances. The action, of the: Commissioner’ in purchasF- ing- houses’ already erected, . to the extent of nearly £3,000,000, was- clearly a violation of the policy laid’ down by the Government. Many of these purchases, were effected1 long before the Government knew anything about them. Contracts had been entered’ into, and the soldiers had. frequently paid their’ deposit, so that there was only one thing to do in order to avoid losses to the soldiers, and that was to complete the purchases. This placed the Department in the position in which, it finds itself to-day with regard to a superabundance of supplies and an absence of. funds.
Many of the houses, built by the Commissioner exceeded the cost laid down in the Act. I refer to this matter, because I am, to some extent, involved, in it, as on two or more occasions; when attending the opening of certain groups of cottages, I told those interested in. the matter that the price fixed by the Department had not been exceeded. It is regrettable to know now that, in the case of 1,400 houses, the statutory limit has been exceeded, by a total amount of £130,000.
– Were they built by day labour?
– Yes. I refer to this matter because, as I have said, I made public: statements regarding it,, the first occasion being the opening of a group of cottages at Bell, in Victoria. But, before making any statement at all, I asked the Commissioner if he could tell me the: cost of the houses; because I intended to make a public statement, and I did not wish to. be bowled out the following. week by the disclosure of some error on the part of the Department. I requested him to carefully check the cost of each building, and then to get his accountant to verify his figures, so that I could be on perfectly safe ground. The figures supplied by the Commissioner were those which 1 used at the opening of the cottages at Bell. I followed the same course’ at the opening of cottages at Belmore, in Sydney. 1 regret now to find that . the cost in each case exceeded the figures given to me b;r, I think, from £35”, to £80. I want to emphasize, however, that I cannot be held responsible for inaccurate information “given to me by my. departmental officers; I cannot be expected to check the figures and the costing system of the Department. I discharged my responsibility when I took every reasonable precaution to get the most, reliable information from the responsible officers of the Department. I lr.ention this matter, because, to some extent, my veracity is involved. I asked Lieut.-Colonel Walker. how he could give me the cost of these houses to -a £10 note, and he said, “ I can . tell, to half-a-crown, the cost of every stick of timber that goes into these houses.”. Isay, then, that, with such an assurance, I was perfectly justified in using the figures supplied to mo. . 1 regret, as much : n any one else, that they. were wrong, but I repudiate altogether the suggestion that, with any fairness, I can be held responsible for them.
The Act requires that once a year a report of the activities of (he Department shall be made available to Parliament. That report is in course itf preparation. I hope it will be availab le soon. In the meantime, I shall be pleas fed to give honorable senators any inclination at my disposal. Necessarily, it, isnot possible, in , the brief summary which I have presented, to deal with all the matters that may properly find a place in the report to which I nave referred.
– Will the Minister make it quite clear that soldiers will not be required to shoulder the extra cost of the houses “that have exceeded the esti- mate ?
– I- have al- . ready pointed out that where the extra cost is the fault of the Department, the soldier will not be charged the extra amount; but, in cases’ where a soldier entered into an understanding with regard to excess costs, . it is fair to. ask him to stand up to his bargain. In no case will the soldier be penalized through any default of the Department.
– That is, to say, where a soldier has contracted to pay £800 for a house, if it costs more, the Go- ernment will shoulder the extra cost?
– Yes, unless the extra cost has been incurred with the concurrence and approval of the soldier himself.
– I have had occasion during the last two weeks to. make inquiries concerning the position of officers who were transferred from the South- Australian State Service to the Commonwealth Service. Honorable senators . may think that these inquiries have been prompted by the decision recently -given in the High Court., relating to a long-standing grievance of transferred officers. The present position has caused a good deal of hardship to a great number of public servants who were originally members of the South Australian Public Service. At present many Commonwealth officers are receivingnotices from Commonwealth Departments that they are to retire in a short period because they have reached a certain age. I was anxious to receive a definite reply from the Government - although I do not wish to press the matter unnecessarily - and I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen) to’ . immediately consider the position, in which these men are . placed. Although quite a number, have been notified that they are shortly to retire, according to. a recent decision of the High Court, these officers should be allowed to continue in the Service for another five years. Apart from the fact that their period of service has been reduced by five years, officers transferred from South Australiahave had to suffer a considerable reduction in salary and in the matter of furlough. According to the decision of the High Court, the Government will be. called upon to make up the value of thei. difference between the time when they were retired and when they would havebeen called upon to retire had they remained in the service of the State. In one. instance an officer who was in the Commonwealth Public Service was called upon to retire, and after doing so reentered the State Service, where he is today occupying a fairly remunerative position. This shows conclusively that the. position has not been created since they were transferred, but that the policy is still in existence. This matter should be settled as early as possible, because it is of the utmost consequence to those who are being called upon to terminate their service. For the information of honorable senators I shall quote the case of a postmaster at’ Port Adelaide, who was an officer of the third class, receiving a nominal salary of £310. I am sorry Senator Thomas is not present, because, when I -have stated on previous occasions that transferred officers had to submit to a reduction-, he said that my statement was incorrect, because their salaries had been increased. The officer in question was in receipt of a definite salary of £310 per annum, in addition to which he received allowances covering house rent and light, which could not reasonably be estimated at less than £80 a year. He conducted the Savings Bank agency, which returned £150 per annum, and he was also Begistrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, for which he received a fee of 2s. 6d. for each registration, which would represent, perhaps, £100 or £150 a year. In addition to selling stamps in the local office, he distributed them’ throughout the district on a 2½ per cent, commission basis, which returned about £100. These allowances totalled about £480, and he thus received £790 per annum. If he had remained in the State Service this income would have continued for another five years, that is, until he was seventy years of age. Senator Thomas has said that the salaries of transferred officers were increased, and in this case, the officer’s salary was raised from £310 to £410, but in consequence of the deductions which were made in respect to allowances he received £300 less. That is an Irishman’s rise. This gentleman is now deceased, and his widow has to suffer in consequence of the loss of salary.
I know of another similar case’ where the sons, after the father’s death,” joined the Australian Imperial Force and served abroad. The mother-, in a communication, estimates that the loss to her husband in salary- was at least £400, and over a period of five years, after -making certain deductions, it would approximate £1,800. Notwithstanding the decision recently given by the High Court, certain public servants are now being notified that their period of service must terminate when they reach sixty-five years. One estimable officer, occupying a prominent position in the Postal Department in Adelaide, in a fortnight’s time, according to the’ notice he has received, will have to retire. I know that the Government cannot rush this matter through at a moment’s notice; but I. do not think I am asking too much when I suggest that the notices to retire should have been withheld and the men allowed to return to their positions after their furlough had expired until a definite decision had been reached. Circumstances such as these must create dissatisfaction and discontent, and public servants cannot help feeling that the Government are not doing what they expect them to do, and that is to act promptly. The law that applies to the servants should also apply to the mastei’3. The decision -of the High Court affects not only South Australia, but also officers who were transferred from Tasmania. Officers in the Postal Department were assured by the then Postmaster-General that their accruing rights would be retained, and on that basis many of them supported Federaition. Although the promise was not in proper legal form, the obligation still rests upon the Government to carry out the promise. The High Court has decided that these men’s claims are justified, and, I do not think that officers who have rendered satisfactory service, and who transferred on the distinct understanding, should be held between heaven and earth in this manner.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I should like to direct attention briefly to a few of the matters dealt with in the Bill. It is a Supply Bill, and the amount asked for is £4,903,879. This amount, added to the amount of _ the previous Supply granted,- will enable payments to be made up to 30th September next. Omitting special payments, the position is that the total of the two Bills will amount to £7,620,803. From this must be deducted interest arid sinking fund payable to the British Government, £1,319,881; Treasurer’s’ Advance, £1,500,000 ; and arrears of overseas mails, £200,000: . The difference’ between the total of these1 items and the total of the two Supply Bills^-the previous Bill and the- one with wnicn we are now dealing - leaves us for ordinary items a total of £4,600,9’22; One-fourth of the annual votes for 1920-21, other than votes for /Treasurer’s Advance and interest due to the British Government, represents £6,018,139, so that the amount actually asked for now for ordinary services represents £1,417,217 less, than- the proportion of the votes fox the corresponding period of, last year.. The. interest and sinking fund to which I have made reference are due undera definite arrangement which was completed between Mr. Chamberlain- and. myself in the early part of. this year.
A few figures! in reference! to the financial position, of the Treasurer may be of interest to honorable senators1.- The revenue surplus brought forward from 1919-20 amounted to £5.747,000. The Budget estimate of surplus at the close of the year ending 30th June last- was £240>000’. The actual surplus was £6’631’,000; or £6,391,000’ more than was anticipated. It will’ be seen that the surplus with which1 the last financial year was commenced was not only kept intact, but £1,000,000 was added to it as a result of the receipt of a’ greater re> venue than was anticipated, as well, as of large savings effected by the Government.
The. revenue, receipts were greater than the estimate by £2,161,000. The chief items of increase were Customs and Excise, £3,876,000’; income tax, £751,000; entertainments tax, £300,000 ; and “ miscellaneous,” £394,000. The chief items of decrease were Post Office, £933,000, and war-time profits tax, £1,916,000.
– Are we likely to get in any of. the war-time profits tax?
– The figure I have mentioned is the amount by which, the revenue from this source was less than the’ Treasurer anticipated, to receive, but that amount is left outstandv ing to come’ in this year.,
– Is this an actual amount or am estimate?’
– It is, of : course; an estimate until it is received.
The expenditure out of revenue was less, than the Budget estimate ‘ by £4,252,000;, £713,000. being for ordinary services,, and £3,539,000 on. account of war services. That is considered satisfactory in view -of. the very drastic cutting, down’ of the Estimates bef ore presentation to. Parliament, and. of the fact; that the Government had, to meet, basie wage and Court, awards not, contemplated at the time, the’ Budget statement was made. I think I may stress’ the fact that the expenditure; . during the financial year, was £4,252,000 less than the amount approved, by Parliament.
The expenditure’ for additions, new works; and buildings chargeable to reve nue was less than the estimate by £970,000. The savings on war services chargeable to revenue were under the heading of the Australian Imperial Force £1,447,000, repatriation. £1;135,000,. and interest on loans £668,000. The, total expenditure,, namely, payments out of revenue, war loan, and works loan,for which the Budget estimate was £98,864,000, was actually £92,869,000, representing a saving as compared with the estimate of £5,995,000. In addition, £2,710,000 was paid in cash for war gratuities.
Coming to the accounts for the current financial year, it is not possible to speak definitely of the present year’s figures, at this stage. A fall in Customs revenue and income-tax revenue is likely.
– It is an absolute certainty.
– The Trea. sury, I remind the- honorable senator, always, uses moderate, language.,
– On this, occasion, it is wrong, because the shrinkage in revenue must be so enormous.
– Then I may assume that the Treasury, in referring to the matter, does not speak in extravagant terms. Though the- war-time profits tax nominally expired on the -30th of last month, there is outstanding a sum considerably over £2,000,000^ which it’ is expected will be almost wholly collected this year. That: answers, the interjection which Senator Payne made just now.
As a set-off against the probable drop in revenue, it is anticipated that -we shall be able to make large savings in expenditure. It is necessary to again draw attention to the bedrock expenditure in the shape of interest and sinking fund which will probably be increased this year, invalid and old-age pensions, maternity allowances, other statutory obligations, and the irreducible expenditure of running the Departments.
The -expenditure out of War Loan Fund, mainly for soldier land , settlement and War Service- Homes, will be much below the amount expended last year. In connexion with Works Loan Fund, although efforts, are being made to reduce the amount, a considerable reduction cannot be looked for, as it will be again necessary to provide about £3,000,000 to complete contracts for the construction of Commonwealth ships. lt is not possible to speak .more definitely at present in regard to this year’3 figures, as the Estimates are still far from complete. It is necessary only to say that the Government, as they have always done, will keep down expenditure to the absolute minimum consistent with the efficient working of the Departments and to insure that they Government shall get 20 shillings of service for every £1 of expenditure.
I should like to add a word or two with respect to the public debt. The gross public debt on the 30th June, 1920, was £381,415,000. During the year 1920-21 just ended, the new debt created amounted to £38,472,000. From this must be deducted the debt redeemed during the year, including £2,000,000 reduction of estimates of war gratuity, and this represents £18,292,000. So that the increase of debt for the year 1920-21 was £20,180,000. This leaves the gross debt on the 30th June last ‘ at £401,595,000.
The’ net public debt may be arrived at by deducting from the above figures the amounts to be repaid to the .Commonwealth in respect of the indebtedness of the States for soldier land settlement, War Service Homes, &c, which total £70,000,000, leaving approximately a net debt on the 30t’h June last of £331,595,000. The net public debt twelve months ago was £340,915,000.
The war loan expenditure of the last twelve months is almost wholly recoverable, and although the gross debt increased during that time by £20,180,000, the net debt has decreased by £9,320,000.
– I draw attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]
– I should like to give honorable senators a few details of the headings under which the public debt was reduced. It was reduced by £7,780,524 by means of profits from the note issue. Northern Territory loans redeemed out of the Works Loan Fund represented £223,814. There were payments of accrued deferred pay, Australian Imperial Force, amounting to £245,280. Treasury-hills raised for war purposes in 1919-20, and redeemed out of revenue in 1920-21, amounted to £903,000. War gratuities were paid out of the WaT Loan Fund to the extent of £2,710,897. War savings certificates redeemed out of loans, sinking fund, and war loan securities repurchase account, represented £3,482,046. Inscribed stock and bonds, war issues surrendered in payment of estate duty and redeemed out of loans sinking fund, accounted for £946,310. The reduction in the original estimate in the cost of war gratuity represented £2,000,000. These figures give a total of £1-8,291,871.
I have rather hurriedly given headlines of certain features of the public finances of the country; and, on the whole, I think that the figures can be regarded as very much more gratifying than has been anticipated in view of thecriticism of the administration of the Government by persons outside.
– I have felt somewhat relieved after listening to the statement just delivered by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen). It is indeed’ a pleasure to know that the finances of the Commonwealth are being placed onsuch a sound footing, as the honorable senator’s statement would indicate to the critics of the Government and of Parliament who are so fond of talking of the extravagance of the present Administration. Since the discussion in another place on this :Supply Bill, it has been interesting to notice that -certain, of the- daily press have, to a’ very large extent, changed their tune. For instance, in the daily press of Melbourne this morning the Government is congratulated upon its very fine handling of the finances of the Commonwealth. Those of us who have taken the trouble to make ourselves cognisant with the real financial position have known for a considerable time that the Government has been doing all it possibly could from the financial point of view. Nevertheless, critics of the Government outside have never lost an opportunity to endeavour to hold it up to the contumely of the public by suggesting that it has not paid that attention to the finances which their importance deserves. It is, therefore, indeed a pleasure to learn from the Minister for Repatriation that the finances of the country are in such a sound position, and that, so far as the future is concerned, it is not necessary that we should be so anxious regarding the financial situation as some persons would suggest.
There are one or two matters referred to in the Supply Bill to which I should like to refer at this stage. One was mentioned by the Minister. I refer to the question of soldier land settlement. There is quite a large sum of money set aside in this Bill for Repatriation purposes. It amounts to something like £544,000, and of this amount £520,000 is for payments in connexion with the expenses of repatriation. So far as the question of soldier land settlement is concerned, there has been for’ some months a dispute raging between the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurer of Nev) South Wales, with respect to the amount of money which is payable by the Commonwealth to that State for the purposes of repatriation. Whoever may be in the wrong, the sooner this unseemly squabble is ended, and some regard is paid to the interests of the men who are suffering by reason of its existence, the better it will be both for the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales. Whilst the squabble is in progress, our soldiers are being denied the opportunities which the people have de-‘ cided they should get. It ought to be possible to bring these two Treasurers together, and for them to arrive at some’ basis of settlement in the interests of the soldiers, who are chiefly concerned. It as a distinct loss to the nation that these men, who would become producers if afforded the opportunity, are being prevented from doing so.-
There are one or two other matters to which I think attention should be called. There is, for example, a question which is of interest, not merely to the people of New South Wales, but to those of the entire Commonwealth. The Bill ‘contains no. adequate provision for the carrying on of necessary works in the Federal Capital area.
– This is not a Works Bill.
– I quite recognise that. It is a Bill which is intended to cover the costs of administration. The small amount of administration for which it provides in the Capital area shows that no great amount of work is being carried on there. It is some time since the Government promised that work at Canberra would be vigorously proceeded with. Yet in spite of that promise, very little is being done in that great national centre.
– That is much to the credit of the Government.
– This matter is regarded so seriously by the people of New South Wales that I cannot see anything looming on the political horizon which is so likely to smash the Government in the near future. I know the feeling which actuates a large number of members of this Parliament.
– Does the honorable senator put Canberra before Australia?
– I put the fulfilment of pledges before the continuance in office of a Government which is not prepared to honour its pledges. People are growing tired of the shilly-shallying policy of the Government in regard to Canberra. Attention has already been called to this matter by various members of this Parliament. I view it so seriously, knowing the feeling of a great many members in respect of it, that I think it constitutes the greatest danger which the Government has to face if it is to continue in office.
– If that is the only thing which threatens them, they are safe for life.
– I do not think so. One -political party is solidly prepared to proceed with works at the Federal Capital. Another section has just about concluded that” if something be not done immediately to honour the constitutional obligation of the Commonwealth to the people of New South Wales, some other Government ought to be afforded an opportunity of honouring it.
– I think that is quite enough. The statement of the honorable senator is just about as near to a parliamentary threat as I have heard for a long time.
– It may be. But the statement was not made with the idea of exciting any commendation in New South Wales.
– Thehonorable senator will not get it anywhere else.
– I care nothing for commendation from elsewhere. What I am concerned about is the honouring of the obligation laid upon the Commonwealth Parliament by the Constitution which we are pledged to uphold.
– I came here absolutely opposed to the Federal Capital project.
Sena.tor DUNCAN. - And there are other honorable senators who are not prepared to honour the pledge of the National party and the Government. That is why Ministers are able to back and fill upon this important national matter.
– Cannot we wait another twenty years before incurring such a stupid expenditure?
-Make it forty years, when the money expended upon War Service Homes will have been returned.
– This discussion is valuable, as showing the length to which certain honorable senators are prepared to go in the matter of honouring the constitutional compact with the people of New South Wales. Senator Wilson would be one of the first to rise in wrath if some other honorable senator urged that the building of the North-South railway would constitute a national extravagance, and, therefore, ought not to be proceeded with.
– One work is a question of national development, whilst the other is a question of idle ornament.
-Of course,- the honorable senator was bound to see a difference between the two things.
– But it looks like a geographical difference.
– Precisely. We desire to build a national capital to which the eyes of Australia may turn; a home for the administration of this great Commonwealth ; whilst Senator Wilson wishes to run two lines of rails across an arid, stony waste, which can never be profitably developed, and which in a few years will constitute an object lesson of what can be accomplished by a Parliament when it sets out to show how stupid it can- be.
– Canberra would not be a home, but a hiding place.
– Then it would have its advantages.
- Senator Bolton has not been there. A visit to Canberra has previously resulted in a complete change of views on the part of certain, honorable senators, who now recognise the wisdom of the Commission which recommended its selection.
– It is only a year or two since the rabbits left it.
– They went to South Australia, and’ one or two of them have since been elected to the Senate.
I congratulate the Government upon the financial position. They have exhibited the finest business acumen in administering the various Commonwealth Departments, although it was a sorry tale to which we listened to-night from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen). Personally, I entirely acquit him of any blame, so far as that phase of his administration is concerned. But there is in it an object lesson for us. That object lesson should teach us that no very great amount of dependability can be placed upon departmental officers. Here were trusted Government officials, the remainder of the staff being business men. Yet, as the result of their maladministration, the Commonwealth has been mulct in an expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds, which can never be recovered. Worse than that, the soldiers have been so humbugged over the whole business that thousands of them have been forced to make other arrangements to acquire homes for themselves. They have had to wait so long . for the homes which they were “to get from the Department that their hearts have been almost broken. These are matters which should give us cause for thought when, in the future, we come to consider whether we should place any very great amount, of reliance on departmental officers. To me it is an object lesson of the danger of divorcing departmental administration from parliamentary government. This Parliament deliberately took out . of the hands of the Minister, and -out of the hands of Parliament itself, the administration of the War Service Homes Department. It would not tolerate political interference with ‘the administration of that Department. What has been the result? Had Parliament, through the Minister, retained control of the Department; had we required reports to be submitted to us from time to time, there would not have been this awful waste and muddle, and the returned soldiers, whose interests we are so anxious to serve, would have received a much better deal.
– The politicians will be blamed for it all the same.
– That may be so, and the Government may be blamed for it, but it is no fault -of theirs, unless it be for agreeing to hand over to the gentle- men who formed the War Service Homes Commission the management of such a great Department and the spending of so many millions of money, outside altogether of the control of Parliament. It is an object lesson to me, and never, so long as I remain in Parliament, will I consent to divorce departmental administration from parliamentary responsibility.
– It shows’ the danger of nationalization.
– Perhaps it does. It shows, at any rate, that we can have Government interference run mad. It shows also that when Government Departments, freed from “ responsibility to Parliament, obtain control of any great enterprise, we can expect only muddle and extravagance in the Department, and consequent hardship to those in whose interests the Department ought to be administered. I again congratulate the Government on the financial position of the affairs of the Commonwealth, and I hope they will tatesuch steps as will - insure that never again shall we have the kind of thing that the Minister for Repatriation has ‘drawn attention to tonight. I acquit him most willingly and fully of any complicity in the criminal negligence revealed in the report that he has made to Parliament to-night.
– I wish to commiserate with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) on the <sad statement of facts which he has had to place . before the Senate. I feel that there is no confrere of the honorable senator who does not, so far as we know now, at any rate, entirely acquit him of blame. He seems to have taken every precaution that any Minister or business man could take. Nevertheless, Parliament is not going to be held blameless for this terrible blunder. To me, as a business man, it seems rather extraordinary that a gentleman of the name of Walker should have been selected, apparently a little hastily, and paid a salary of £1,500 per annum, with power to spend mil-lions. The Minister’ seems on his own showing to have been, unfortunately for Australia, surrounded by a den of thieves. I am not well up in parliamentary procedure or tactics, but I should like to know if the Government contemplate prosecuting any vendors or agents, or ‘any of their officers, for conspiracy to defraud, because it seems to me that there could not possibly have been such flagrant misappropriation of the people’s money by apparently a little coterie of men working together, unless there had been conspiracy to defraud. This is a very grave question, and such blunders have been committed that I am sure a great deal more will be heard of it.
I regret that, whilst the Minister has shown a supposed surplus of over £6,000,000 for the year ended 30th June last, those figures require a great deal of dissecting, which in a short debate at this late hour of the night we are not able to give them. I wish to impress on the Government the extreme gravity of the financial outlook and the urgency for economy. I have more than once stressed this, but cannot do it too often, because I know something of the trade of this country. I would impress on the Government the fact that, owing to the enormous depreciation in the value of everything that Australia produces, we are going to have a shrinkage in the value of our exports for the next two or three years of probably 50 per cent, as compared with the average of the last three years. With that huge decrease in the value of our exports, we shall have a corresponding decrease in . the amount of money that we have abroad ta purchase, with. Consequently, not’ only are the Government not going’ to have any material income ‘tax to collect’ during the coming- year- - r understand that’ last year they collected £ir,000,000U.but they are , going to have an enormous shrinkage also in the revenue from Customs. The Customs’ receipts- have been unduly inflated by the fact that the importers ordered far more goods than, they wanted, and these have been delivered to them by the manufacturers abroad, during the last six months. The importers have had to pay duty- on them, and the Customs - revenue has been, in consequence, unnaturally swelled. r am surprised1, in view of the’ very grave financial outlook and’ the most urgent need for- economy, that Senator Duncan should-, at this most, inopportune time; have brought up the question of building the’ bush capital. We all know that* it was. a- compact-, and that- the work will have to be done some time. We also know that Canberra, after due investigation, has been selected as the site of’ the future capital;’ . but how any honorablet senator, in view, of the extraordinarily grave financial outlook, can reprimand the- Ministry at this time- for not placing on the Estimates a sum of money to go on with the bush, capital, is beyond my comprehension.
We are- asked to-night to pass a> Bill authorizing the expenditure of £5,000,000 for’ the next two months. I say emphatically that it- is most unfair at this late hour for another place to send such a measure to the Senate, and ta allow us only until to-morrow afternoon to debate item, after item involving- the expenditure of the people’s money to that huge extent.
– That is a mistake.. What you are discussing is the- regular wages and salaries comprising the ordinary expenditure. There are no1 new votes in the Bill.
– It- is bad. enough to know that, at a few moment’s notice and without time to criticise properly, we are asked* to pass a vote of £5,000,000.-
– As- another place is adjourning, we are asked to give a cheque for £5,000,000 for wages for the next two months.
– I enter my protest against being asked to vote- even’ two1 months?- wages- at such short- notice, without a fair’ opportunity of criticising the way the- money is- to be spent.
, -It was gratifying, to hear- the reference made to the financial position by the Minister in charge of the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen).. Brief as that statement was, it was sufficient to give us cause for congratulation that, the . financial year through which-, we have just passed’, has. been satisfactory. I am agreeably, surprised to. find that, the Treasurer’s estimates have been considerably exceeded, in many directions, and that revenue has flowed in in much larger, amounts from certain sources than was anticipated.. I. give this portion of the Legislature- credit to a certain extent for the position, in. which we find ourselves today. Last year- honorable senators- spoke very plainly about the necessity for conserving our sources of revenue and curtailing expenditure wherever- possible, and m. their wisdom rejected a proposal by which the Treasurer would be deprived of: a large sum. of money. I ascertain, from, statements’ made by Ministers, that the Treasurer received during the last financial year £300,000’ more from the entertainments’ tax’ than he; anticipated when he prepared his Budget.. That, is a sum which he would, not have received if a certain Bill had been passed by this Chamber,, so that we can pat ourselves, on the back, and claim that, as a. House of review, we contributed to that extent ta the present satisfactory financial: position of the Commonwealth. We began the year with- a surplus of £5,747,000, and the Treasurer estimated that he would have a very small surplus at the. end ‘ of the year. The figures show that at the end of the year we had a surplus of £6,631,000, so that the actual- surplus on the year’s- operations amounted to the very respectable sum of £884,000. We have reason’ to congratulate ourselves on1 such a satisfactory result. The Minister has spoken with regret of the fact that the Postal revenue during the financial’ year did not return the’ Treasurer the amount he anticipated by £933,000: If I remember rightly, it was the general opinion of this1 Chamber; when the Bill’ for the revision of the postal rates was submitted to us, that’ the same volume of correspondence could not reasonably be1 expected’ to pass through the Post Office’ under’ the1 heavier imposts, as went’ through that channel under the old charges. The figures for the year prove that that opinion was justified. That will v account to a great extent for the fact that the Treasurer has received £933,000 less from that source than he estimated. I am glad to know from the Minister that the sum of nearly £2,000,000 still outstanding for war-time profits taxationwill be received during this year, if the Treasurer’s estimate is realized. We shall want all the money we can possibly get- during the ‘ coming year, and I hope that those arrears will be realized. Last year -the Treasurer had to face an additional expenditure, due to the awards of the Arbitration Court and the adoption of the Basic Wage Commission’s recommendations, of something like £600,000, and this year the amount will be in the vicinity of £1,000,000; the reason for the larger sum this year being that the awards operated for only portion of last year. Taking all these facts into consideration, and remembering also that we have been able to pay £2,710,000 in redemption of war gratuity bonds, there is every reason to feel satisfied with the result of the last financial year’s operations. I notice that the’ Treasurer’s speech referred to the additional revenue received owing to the transfer of the Notes Branch of the Commonwealth Bank, and that he has very properly applied the accumulated profits to the redemption of the public debt. I am glad that Senator Guthrie made some reference to the possibilities of the present financial year. Although it is probable that wo shall not receive the amount which the Treasurer will estimate from the income tax, I think it will not be far short of the estimate, because it will, not be levied upon income earned this year, but last year, when, although wool may have been lower in price, wheat was high. I agree with Senator Guthrie that we cannot expect such a large amount from Customs duties as we have enjoyed during the past year or two. A cursory examination of the Tariff must lead to this conclusion.
– We hope so; that is, if the Tariff is going to be effective.
– From a Protectionist point of view, such a state of affairs will, ‘no doubt, be satisfactory, because it will be evidence that the Tariff is effective; but we must realize that it will be absolutely necessary for the Treasurer to place his hands upon a very large amount of revenue in order to meet the obligations of the Commonwealth. Where is that revenue to come from ? If Senator Vardon’s hopes are. realized, revenue from Customs will be very much less this year.
– We are hoping that the income tax will balance it.
– We can hardly hope for additional revenue from this source during the next few years.
– Do you mean to say that the Protective policy will decrease entirely the incomes of the people? .
– I do not want to be drawn into a. debate upon the effects of the Tariff, but it is obvious that all expenditure must be kept within reasonable limits. Senator Guthrie’s, remarks were to the point when he urged honorable senators to insist upon economy in administration. We shall have to analyze very carefully all estimates of expenditure. I do not suggest, of course, that all expenditure should cease. Some expenditure is essential in the interests of the whole community. There has never been a time in . our history when so much care should be exercised as at present and during the next few years.
– It would help us if the. honorable senator would be specific.
– I shall have an opportunity, a little later, to specify what items of expenditure I regard as essential, and what items may, in my opinion, be curtailed.
– The Supply Bill was placed on the table at 6 or 7 o’clock, and we are expected to get it through by 3.30 to-morrow. .
– One honorable senator objected to rushing the Supply Bill through, but there was no other course open to the Government tonight.The Bill simply provides for the authorization of the requisite moneys to carry on the ordinary business of the Commonwealth during the. next two months.
– Then why discuss it at all?
– I rose to express my gratification at the present financial position, but, as honorable senators are entitled to deal with any matter that may be referred. to in the schedule, I wish now to bring under the notice of the Minister a complaint made to me by a’ resident of the North-west Coast of Tasmania with regard to regulations of. the Post and Telegraph Department relating to the use of telephones in any town or city. Subscribers, I understand, are entitled to the use of the telephone service without extra charge within a radius of S miles from the local post-office, but it uppears that- the unfortunate users of telephones in country districts, those people who happen to be beyond the 2- mile radius, have to pay mileage on the entire distance from the post-office. The gentleman who made the complaint to me lives 8 miles from Burnie, in Tasmania.He states he has to pay mileage on the full distance, whereas telephone users living within 2 miles of Burnie are not called upon to pay any mileage. His contention is. that this is not fair, and that it does not encourage people to live outside the areas of towns. He claims that they should be on the same footing as those telephone subscribers living within the town area, end that he should only be charged mileage on 6 miles, instead of 8. I hope the Minister, will make a note of this complaint, and convey it to the PostmasterGeneral.
– That position ought to be altered.
SenatorWilson. - He is not 8 miles outside the area, and he should not pay on that distance.
– He has applied to the departmental officers, and they tell him that they have no option but to charge him full mileage rates.
Debate (on motion . by Senator Wilson) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 July 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19210721_senate_8_96/>.