1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In presenting a petition from50 residents of Korringa and neighbourhood against the proposed construction of certain works for the diversion of the waters of the. River Murray, I desire to state that I have received a telegram from the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, intimating that he has a similar petition, signed by 174 residents ofRenmark.
-I asked the Acting Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral on Thursday lost a question with reference to the installation of the telephone system at Grafton. The Minister’s reply was that the matter was then being inquired into, and I should like to know if he has yet received any information.
– There has been a series of most untoward accidents in this telephone extension. After the tenders were called, two contractors, each of whom had his tender accepted in turn, failed to carry out the work. The vote expired on the 30th June last, and it was necessary to wait until the. sum appropriated was revoted in the Bill, which is to receive the assent of the Acting GovernorGeneral to-day. I assure the honorable member that there will be no further delay.
– I should like to know what are the intentions of the Government regarding the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act in relation to the pearl-shelling industry in Northern Queensland during the recess?
– Arrangements are now being completed. I hope that in a day or two we shall be in a position to take such measures as will allow the owners of the pearl-shelling fleets to replace the men who are returning to their homes. We shall require a satisfactory guarantee that these men will not enter the Commonwealth except for the purpose of being signed on, or under short exemptions, and that they shall be expatriated at the termination of their engagement. In addition, a movement is taking place, which we shall be able to assist by other means, for reducing the number of aliens who were in the Commonwealth prior to the operation of the present Act. Careful returns are being prepared showing the names of all aliens who enter the Commonwealth in connexion with the pearl-shelling industry or otherwise, and each person will be carefully marked off only when he. leaves the Commonwealth at the expiration of his term of engagement. By an alteration of the administrative methods hitherto pursued we hope to obtain at. Thursday Island what has not been secured up to the present - a complete record of those coloured aliens who are in, enter, or leave the Commonwealth.
Bill returned from the Senate, with the following message from His Excellency the Acting Governor-General : -
In accordance with section 58 ofthe Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Acting Governor-General returns to the Senate a proposed law intituled “An Act to regulate parliamentary elections,” which has been presented to him for the King’s assent, and transmits herewith amendments which he recommends to be made in the said proposed law.
In Committee :
– I move-
That the amendments recommended by His Excellency the G overnor-General be agreed to.
The amendments are merely consequential, and may safely be agreed to as a matter of form.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Home Affairs to a report appearing in one of the newspapers regarding the discussion which took place yesterday upon the tour proposed to be made by Members of Parliament during the recess. It is represented that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked, by way of interjection, whether cigars and whisky were to be provided, and that the Minister replied - “ If the Government will not pay for them I will do it myself.” I wish to ask the Minister if he said that if the Government did not pay for the whisky and cigars for honorable members, he would pay for them himself.
– I did say so, and I will do it.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I desire to know whether the Minister for Home Affairs when explaining a certain item on the Estimates stated that it was intended to give the honorable member for Gippsland an opportunity to visit the sites proposed for the federal capital, because he had been unable to join in the tours of inspection previously undertaken ?
– I mentioned that there were seven or eight honorable members who could not go when the previous tripswere organized, and that amongst them was the honorable member for Gippsland, who could not very well travel in the same way as others. I had previously spoken to the honorable member on the subject, and there were six or seven others, who I, understood, were prepared to make the trip through Gippsland to Bombala. I thought it was only right to offer to these honorable members the same facilities as were afforded to others.
– As a matter of personal explanation, I think it is only right to say that no one had a right to use my name in connexion with expenditure such as that referred to. I stated distinctly to this House that when the number of sites would be reduced to four or five, I should visit them in my own time and at my own expense.
– When does the Minister for Home Affairs propose to appoint the committee of experts to consider the claims of the proposed capital sites ?
-As soon as possible after the prorogation, when we are in the calm of recess, I intend to lay the matter before my colleagues.
– In view of the importance of having the report ready for submission to Parliament when the next session opens, I desire to know whether the Minister for Home Affairs is prepared to say that the appointment of the committee of experts will be one of the first acts of the Government in recess.
– Certainty. I shall bring the matter before my colleagues within a very few days.
– Can the Minister for Home Affairs tell us when the Public Service Act will be brought into operation?
– I cannot fix the exact date. I had a conversation yesterday with the Public Service Commissioner; who told me that as soon as two or three matters connected with the regulations can be finally dealt with, the Act will be proclaimed. Probably this will be done within a month, and possibly within a fortnight.
– I should like to know whether the Acting Minister for Defence is in a position to lay before honorable members the details of the defence retrenchment, which he said he would endeavour to present to-day ?
– If I were to submit full details of the proposed scheme I. should occupy a considerable time, but in view of the statements made in reference to the direction in which retrenchment should take place 1 think it is due to myself that I should present a summary of the proposed scheme. On referring to Hansard I find that last week I stated -
I undertake to reduce the expenditure for the present year as stated, and to reduce the Estimates for next year by £62,000…… I give my word, which I hope the committee will accept . . . that the reductions will be made, not in the direction which some honorable members seem to fear, but mainly in the expenses of the administration staff. I cannot give particulars now, but I shall take care that the spirit of the debate to-night is reflected in the reductions, and that honorable members shall not be in any way hoodwinked or misled.
Later on I said -
The Estimates include rifles and warlike stores, but do not embrace the construction and maintenance of works. The leader of the Opposition says that it is desired that the reduction which is to be effected this year shall not apply to the provision which is mode for warlike stores. That is not intended, and will not be done. Next year a little more or a little less money may be appropriated for warlike stores, according to the requirements of the year. I reduced the amounts provided on the Estimates for the purchase of warlike stores quite as low as I felt justified in doing, and the reductions to be made in accordance ‘with the wish of the House will be effected in connexion with the administration, from the Head-quarters Staff downwards.
That is the gist of what I said. I do not want honorable members to think that the whole reduction can be made in the cost of the administrative staff. In order to show that this i3 so, I have had prepared a’ return showing the cost of the administrative staff, including all” permanently employed officers and non-commissioned officers, other than permanent artillery and permanent engineers. The total is £72,148, including State staffs; and it is manifest that, on such a sum, it would be quite impossible to make a reduction of £62,000. I have received from the General Officer Commanding, a report suggesting reductions in order to effect a saving of £62,000. A summary of that report shows that it is proposed to reduce the Head-quarters Staff by two officers and one clerk. In each of two of the States, a commanding officer has been retired under the provision as to age limit, but I do not think I ought to mention names. In the administrative and instructional staff it is proposed to do away with ten positions for commissioned officers, made up of four in New South Wales, two in Victoria, and one each in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Of these ten positions, four are already vacant, so that only six officers would retire. It is proposed to dispense with the. services of fourteen warrant and non-commissioned officers, made up of nine in New South Wales, two in Queensland, one in South Australia, and two in Tasmania ; and to reduce the establishment of the permanent artillery by ten officers and 363 non-commissioned officers and men. The establishment of the artillery is now short by seven officer’s, and about 100 men, and these vacancies, which would not be refilled, are included in the proposed reductions. The establishment of the permanent artillery would then remain at 33 officers, and 660 non-commissioned officers and men. It is proposed to reduce the permanent engineers by three officers - two of these positions are at present vacant - and by four noncommissioned officers and men. A reduction in contingencies is expected by £6,436 ; in the cost of camps of instruction, £6,025 ; and in expenditure on uniforms for reservists, New South Wales, £800.
– Are there no reductions in the civil branch 1
– -I believe it is proposed to dispense with one or two clerks in the civil branch. I have told the General Officer Commanding that the Headquarters Staff, and also the Head-quarters Staffs in the States must “be still further reduced to a considerable extent. I have suggested that a conference should be held, or that the General Officer Commanding should devise some more simple method of dealing with the business, especially in the States, so as not to necessitate the passing of so many papers, which compels the employment of numerous clerks.I give the House this information in order to protect myself, and to show what steps have been taken in regard to the recommendations already made.
– I should like to ask the Acting Minister for Defence what reductions are proposed in the South Australian Instructional Staff?
– I think the proposal is to reduce the staff by one. I may tell the honorable member, for his own satisfaction and that of other representatives of South Australia, that I have told the General Officer Commanding that, in my opinion, the instructors generally will have to be reduced by one-half. That, of course, will mean the reduction of the number of instructors in South Australia by one-half.
– Does the Minister consider that a reduction of the Instructional Staff by one-half is fairly carrying out his promise made when the Estimates were under consideration? That promise was that the line providing for the instructional staff in South Australia would be altogether omitted.
– The honorable member must be gifted with second hearing, because I never said anything of the kind.
– The “numbers” would have been against the honorable gentleman had such a promise not been made.
-I said then practically what I am saying to-day. I did not fix the number, but I think I led honorable members to understand ‘ that I presumed there would be probably a reduction by one-half. I do not think it would be just to the forces to altogether withdraw the instructors.
– That was not the idea conveyed at the time.
– I have done my best, and I am going a great deal further than was intended, by now asking the General Officer Commanding to make a general reduction in the instructional staff by one-half.
– Can the Minister point to any remarks of his in Hansard which bears out his present statement?
– I cannot very well point to any particular passage, but I do not think that the honorable member can point to any words of mine in Hansard which bear the meaning he has indicated. I never made any such statement.
– I make the statement that I had the assurance from the Minister that this line in the Estimates would be struck out.
– Is it not a fact that during the discussion on the Defence Estimates the Minister for Home Affairs said that he was going to strike out the line which provided for the instructional staff in South Australia : that subsequently, on the same day, he said he had been informed by the Clerk, that such action could not be taken ; and that he then said he would see that the money was not expended ?
– I said that I was going to strike out the line in regard to the instructors ; but I said further, that it should not have appeared in that way - that the money should have been paid out of another item.
– I should like to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, when the Defence Estimates were before this House, I was not induced to stay my hand in this matter of moving that the line relating to drill instructors be omitted by a suggestion made to me?
– In the House?
– By me ?
– I did not say that the suggestion was made by the Acting Minister for Defence : but I would direct his attention to the following extract from the Hansard report of his speech, which is to be found at page 16430 : -
As to the drill instructors, it hasbeen explained to me that to withdraw the amount from the Estimates now would cause a great deal of trouble. Therefore I wish to say that I shall deal with the matter in anotherway, which I think will be satisfactory to all parties. The amount will be continued upon the Estimates, but it will not be used unless it is absolutely wanted, and I venture to think that the whole of it will not be wanted.
– The report is correct. I made that statement, and I repeat it now.
– But the Minister proposes to retain five instructors, which is contrary to the understanding.
– As the first part of the honorable member’s question was addressed to me, I would state that except that I knew that there had been some proposal for the reduction of the number of drill instructors, I knew nothing of any understanding in reference to them. As I was passing from the Chamber when the matter was before the committee, I think the honorable member, who had been following the question very closely, made some observation to me that the settlement now proposed was satisfactory. What that settlement was, or how it was proposed to be made, I did not then nor do I now know.
– The understanding was that the line would be withdrawn.
– About six months ago this House called for a return in reference to patents. I should like to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs what progress has been made in the preparation of that return ?
– It has been an exceedingly difficult and lengthy job to obtain information ; and I find that the papers harenotyet been sent to my office.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister tell us whether it is proposed, during the recess, to “convert the present select committee on the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill into a Royal commission ? If that be the intention, I would remind the honorable gentleman that the session has lasted a long time, and that a Royal commission will mean a considerable strain on the Ilansard staff, who, I understand, will be called upon to report the evidence. Does the Acting Prime Minister consider that that is quite fair to the reporters? I also wish to know if the Acting Prime Minister knows of any precedent in the history of Parliament of a select committee being” transformed into a Royal commission ?
– It is proposed to appoint theselectcommittee as a Royal commission, bu t it is not proposed to make’ any demand on the Ilansard staff for the remainder of the year. Any demand which may require to be made thereafter depends upon the arrangement which was made with the members of the staff at the time of their engagement by the Prime Minister, who, by that time, will be here, and able to deal with the question. We all concur that every consideration is due to members of the Hansard staff, who have borne the unexampled burden imposed on them by an unexampled session.
– Does the Minister for Home Affairs know whether it is the intention of the Public Service Commissioner to pay the men employed in the general division of the public service the minimum wage of £110, as soon as he receives information proving that the men are entitled to the advantage, or does the Commissioner intend to wait until the men in the clerical division have passed the necessary examination ?
– I should have liked notice of the question, having regard to its importance, and the liability to mistake in making a reply. As far as I know, I believe, that as soon as the Commissioner is in a position to say that the men referred to are qualified to do the work, they will get the minimum wage.
– But will the Commissioner wait for the men in the clerical branch to pass the examination before he gives the wage to the men in the general branch?
-I think that the minimum wage should commence as from the same time in both branches.
– But the men in the general branch are entitled to the wage as soon as the Act is proclaimed.
– What I mean is that those entitled to the wage should receive it as from the same time that those in the other division receive it. When the Government are in a position to give a minimum wage to one division it will be given to the other division.
– It is generally rumored in the public service that the Commissioner intends to make all who get the minimum wage of £110 pass some kind of examination. I wish to ask whether it was not the intention of the House that the minimum wage, apart from any examination, was to be paid to all men, not in the clerical division?
– At the present moment, I am not aware of the intentions of the Commissioner. I have had no conversation with him on this point, but I anticipate that he will satisfy himself as to the qualifications of the men in the general branch, not by a technical examination, but probably by some practical examination. Without knowing exactly what is in the mind of the Commissioner, I think that before he does anything he will very likely consult me as to the best course to be adopted.
– Can the Commissioner deny any man the £110 ?
– If a man, in the Commissioner’s opinion, cannot do the work, I think the £110 may be denied.
– I desireto ask the Acting Prime Minister when, so far as he can foresee, we shall be called together again?
– The question demands an amount of foresight of which I am quite incapable. Our meeting next session will depend very largely, first on circumstances that may intervene after the rising of the House, and, in the next place, on the business which it may be possible to introduce in consequence of the recent visit of the Prime Minister to the mother country. That visit had reference not only to the questions of defence which were considered at the Imperial Conference, but also to inquiries directed to a number of other matters of practical importance, such as the appointment of a Commonwealth High Commissioner, and the conversion of the debts. If the inquiries of the Prime Minister on these points enable the Government to mature the measures dealing with them sufficiently early, it may then be necessary to provide for a session of some duration before this Parliament closes.
– Suppose the conversion of the debts is not undertaken, will that affect the date of meeting ?
– That is one factor among many. .
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has yet framed a regulation dealing with the question of ship’s stores ?
– I have not ; but, in view of coming events, I hope to be able to do so very shortly.
– I desire to ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether it will not be found, after he has made his reductions in the Defence Estimates relating to South Australia, that the forces there still cost more than they did prior to being taken over bv the Commonwealth ?
– There may, or may not, be an increase over the actual expenditure of last year. I have already explained the matter by showing that last year’s expenditure was not as great as it would ordinarily have been, owing to the fact that a number of men in the forces went to South Africa, and that while they were on service there pay was not debited to South Australia but was met by the Imperial Government.
– The same thing has occurred in every State.
– It is unfair to compare the actual expenditure for last year with the Estimates for this year. In view of the fact’ I have stated, last year’s actual expenditure cannot fairly be compared’ with the Estimates for the current financial year.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister why, in view of the fact that this House comes directly from the people and acts’ directly back on the people - and that ,in all Assemblies where some sit, and many stand, the sitters are considered superior to the standers - members of another place should not be brought down here in connexion with the prorogation ceremony? Will the Acting Prime Minister see that in future the closing ceremony takes place in this House ?
– In closing the session in the other branch of the Legislature, we follow an historic precedent, dating back many hundreds of years.
– We should create precedents.
– It is a precedent not to be lightly departed from in any case, and especially in view of the fact that members of another place are elected by the whole body of the electors as we are elected.
– But they represent only water and trees and bandicoots.
– I think that the compliment that we pay to them cannot be cavilled at.
– Why not prorogue by proclamation, and save all the fuss 1
– Just as the President, by tradition takes precedence of Mr. Speaker, so, according to custom, we concede to honorable members of another place a precedence which simply marks our respect. What we value is real power. In matters of precedence we are perfectly prepared to bow to them.
– I should like to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the drought in Queensland and New South Wales still continues, and that the outlook for the farmers and pastoralists is, if anything, more unpromising than ever - and having regard also to the fact that the disasters occasioned by the drought are extending to Victoria- the Government can see their way to remit the fodder duties, so as to enable the farmers to save their starving stock?
– I see no prospect of any such remission. The fact that Victoria is now suffering as the States of New South Wales and Queensland have most unhappily suffered cannot alter our attitude, which must be in accordance with the needs and wishes ofthe whole of the people of Australia. Their deepest sympathy goes out to the afflicted districts, but the permanent policy of the whole cannot be dictated even by their temporarily sad condition.
– Then the Australian attitude is starvation !
Ministers laid upon the table the following papers : -
Ordered to be printed.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that the Government have appointed a gentleman to act as the representative of the Commonwealth at the Durbar at Delhi, and, if so, whether the appointment will involve any additional expenditure?
– No appointment has been made, and no nomination will be made’ until the Prime Minister returns. When a nomination is made, it will involve practically no expense to the Commonwealth.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The honorable member asked me a question in regard to this matter some time ago. I mentioned then that I had applied on two occasions to the Treasurer of South Australia for certain information, but that it had not been furnished. Immediately afterwards I made a third application for the information, but up to the present time I have not even had an acknowledgment of my request. We have the information so far as the two years which have elapsed since the inauguration of the Commonwealth are concerned, but in regard to the previous year we have to pick out the details from various documents. That has been done to some extent by my accountant, who is a very careful officer; but I do not desire to make any official statement with regard to the expenditure in any State until I have satisfied myself as well as I can that it is correct. I shall then be able to give the Treasurer of the State in question an opportunity to point out any inaccuracy if a mistake has been made. I have not had an opportunity to examine the information which has been obtained, but propose to do so as early as possible. I shall endeavour to obtain the official information from South Australia, as I have obtained it from the other States. As soon as I have completed the statement, I shall take care that it is circulated amongst honorable members, and made public. Taking into consideration the fact that we are now constructing new works and buildings out of revenue instead of out of loan moneys, and that in some years we have had to pay off heavy arrears belonging to an earlier period, we shall be able to show that there has been no extravagant increase. The increase will be small indeed, and will have been occasioned by the growing necessities of the Postal department, and similar demands in other directions.
Mr. E. SOLOMON (for Sir William
McMillan) asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 4. I have read and considered the petition. Every information required by the House will be supplied.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, UPon, notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I beg to state that -
– Mr. Speaker, - It now becomes my very pleasant duty, on behalf of the members of this House, to tender to you in very brief and simple fashion an expression of our appreciation of the manner in which you have discharged the duties of your exalted position. The dignity, the equity, the complete mastery of your functions which you have displayed during the current session, have, I am sure, satisfied the whole Parliament that among all the experienced politicians of the States assembled in this House no one could have been selected who was able to fulfil more adequately the very important duties of your distinguished office. In wishing you the enjoyment of the recess which you need, as much as any other honorable member, you will, I hope, accept our assurance that we recognise how well and thoroughly it has been earned by your devotion to duty. We also appreciate the work of the Chairman of Committees, who, during this session, has probably occupied the chair for a longer period than any Chairman of Committees in any Parliament of Australia, and who, in the difficult position which he occupies has, by his devotion to duty and his determination ‘ to maintain the best traditions of his office, given universal satisfaction. In regard to those officers who are not elected, but by whose aid the business of this House is transacted, we admit with frankness and obligation the great assistance which they have rendered at all times to honorable members. The capable recorders of our proceedings - as, indeed, all the other officers of the House, and even its messengers - have passed through a session which has made an unparalleled demand upon their strength and ability. The first Parliament of Australia may well congratulate itself upon the fact that it has been able to gather about it so efficient and so generous a a staff. Before I resume my seat, may I express to my friends upon the opposition benches, and also to those who have done us the honour of sitting upon this side of the Chamber, the acknowledgments of the Government for the courteous treatment which we have at all times received at their hands. No one will pretend that we have not been confronted with many serious and many new difficulties. But we have managed to surmount them, and to transact business of a character never before attempted in this part of the world with an absence of those personal altercations, which sometimes cause our critics to censure the working ofrepresentative government. Taking into consideration the enormous strain to which we have been subjected by the duration of our proceedings, and the immense fruitfulness of our labours, I can sincerely congratulate the House upon having risen to the great demands made upon it, and upon having discharged its duties in a manner that will reflect lasting credit upon its members.
- Sir, it would not be right if the Opposition did not join in the well-deserved appreciation of yourself and .the officers of the House, to whom allusion has been made by the Acting Prime Minister. I feel that I am expressing the views of honorable members upon this side of the Chamber, when I say that we felt from the beginning - and experience has confirmed our original impression - that in your hands, not only the interests of the Opposition, but those of all members, and the honor of the House itself, were safe. I heartily join in the encomiums which have been passed upon all the other officers of Parliament. With the Government and their supporters, we have, of course, had many disputations and some battles. We do not regret them, but we are pleased that they were conducted in a good humour and an honorable manner upon both sides. On behalf of the Opposition, I thank honorable members opposite for many courtesies, and I would especially thank those who were good enough to occasionally cross to this side of the Chamber, and thus assist us to achieve some of what I regard as very well deserved victories. I shall content myself with adding that though we have had our differences, on the other hand we have had much pleasant intercourse, and have learned to appreciate some, who, at the beginning of the session, were strangers to us. I sympathize with those representatives of the different States who have been so long absent from their homes, and I hope that they may now enjoy a lengthy sojourn there - if they are able to find them after this long interval. I trust that the good spirit which has distinguished the first session of the first Parliament of the Commonwealth will be present to a still larger degree in its future sessions.
– Speaking on behalf of those honorable members who belong neither to the Government nor the Opposition, I join in the, expressions of high appreciation of the admirable manner in which you, Mr. Speaker, have discharged the duties entrusted to you during the session which is now closing. In some Parliaments members of the labour party’ are credited with a disregard of the methods of parliamentary procedure, but after the experience of the present long session, which has covered proceedings which were likely to engender the greatest amount of heat, the members of that party in this House have the fullest possible confidence in you, and appreciate the fair and exemplary manner in which. you have adjudicated between conflicting interests and parties. We are all under a debt of gratitude to the other officers of Parliament for the work which they have performed, and the obliging way in which they have assisted us upon every possible occasion.
– I desire to thank honorable members from the bottom of my heart for the many kind remarks which have been made concerning myself, and which have been endorsed by the House generally. Any success which I have achieved in my present office has been due to the generous assistance and support that has been extended to me by all sections of the House. On behalf of its officers, I thank honorable members for the encomiums which have been passed upon their services. May I also wish honorable members a very pleasant recess and a happy re-union a few months hence.
The Usher of the Black Rod was admitted, and announced that His Excellency the Acting Governor-General desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate Chamber.
Mr. Speaker, accompanied by honorable members, then proceeded to the Senate Chamber, where His Excellency the Acting Governor-General was pleased to deliver a speech (vide page 16735), declaring Parliament prorogued until 14th November, 1902.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 October 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19021010_reps_1_12/>.