2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table the following papers: -
Report of the Pacific Cable Conference.
Report of the Governor of South Australia, in respect to the Northern Territory.
Correspondence with the Premiers of the States regarding Immigration.
Mr.CURTIN (Brisbane).- The Brisbane Daily Mail, of: the 25th August, reports me as having said in this Chamber, on the previous day: -
Other amounts were lent to New South Wales, and some banks’ total receipts were £21,978. The note tax in the different States, brought in £18,434.
That report is absolutely incorrect. What I did say was something quite different from the statements attributed to me ; but instead of a correction of this report, further false and untrue statements were published in the same newspaper last Tuesday. I feel that it is only fair to my constituents to make this correction, especially as the editor of the newspaper was an unsuccessful candidate at the first Federal election for the seat which I now occupy.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if it is intended that Mr. Atlee Hunt shall report on the various matters which he has taken into consideration during his visit to New Guinea? If so, will the report be available to honorable members ?
– Mr. Hunt is preparing a report, and there will be no objection to making available to honorablemembers so much of it as may relate to business before Parliament.
asked the Postmaster General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Referring to questions 3 and 4, asked by Mr. Johnson on 17th August last, and replies thereto-, reported in Hansard No. 6, page 1105, will he states -
What is the total number of defalcations by officers of the Department in New South Wales?
What is the total sum of such defalcations?
What isthe total amount paid to the Department by the financial institutions interested in reimbursements on account of such defalcations?
Have such financial institutions been called upon to meet their full liabilities in respect of such defalcations? If not, why not?
– The following information has been furnished by the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following replies have been furnished by the Public Service Commissioner: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
With reference to questions 5 and 6, asked by Mr. Webster on the 4th August last, relating to alleged representations by Departmental officers to the State Public Service Board of New South Wales, respecting the promotion of Mr. W. H. Golding, will he communicate with this Board and endeavour to furnish replies to those questions ?
– The following information has been furnished by the Public Service Commissioner: -
It is not considered desirable to communicate with the State Public Service Board on a matter which can have no bearing upon the present position of Mr. Golding as Clerk in Charge of Stores.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
With reference to question 7, asked by Mr. Webster on the 4th August last, relating to the appointment of the Chief Clerk of Stores, Sydney, will he give particulars of the services of Messrs. W. H. Golding and P. S. Eldershaw, and the grounds on which it is held that Mr. Golding ranks senior to Mr. Eldershaw?
– The following information has been furnished by the Public Service Commissioner : -
Mr. Golding has twenty seven years’ service ; Mr. Eldershaw thirty-four years’ service, but as postal inspector the former held the superior position. The appointment was made on the ground of efficiency.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th September, vide page 2076) :
Division 4 (Telegraphs and Telephones), ?169,150
– I think that the time has arrived for us to consider whether it is desirable to duplicate the conveniences afforded to residents of the larger centres of population, while most necessary facilities in the way of telegraphic, telephonic, and mail communication are being denied to residents in the remoter country districts.
– Surely the honorable member does not wish to raise the cry of “ town versus country “ in connexion with this question ?
– No ; I have no such desire. I strongly advocate bringing everything up-to-date, but at the same time I believe the Australian cities have been well looked after and are fully able to care for themselves. I do not blame the present Government for the condition of affairs upon which I am now commenting, but they should consider whether the more remote portions of Australia are to remain absolutely starved in the matter of postal and telegraphic facilities. I represent one of the largest and most sparsely-settled districts in Australia, and I find that, owing to the policy adopted by the Department for years past, it is impossible to obtain any new service within my electorate unless the authorities can feel assured that it will pay from the outset. The PostmasterGeneral indicated last week that he intended to depart from the hard and fast lines previously laid down in that respect, but I fear that his good intentions are not sufficiently virile to enable him to break through the practice which has been followed so long. We have heard a great deal about the excellence of the condenser system, and the numerous facilities which have been provided as the result of its adoption in some portions of the eastern States. I do not wish to say one word in disparagement of that innovation, but honorable members must not lose sight of the fact that it provides merely for the duplication of existing facilities - that the condenser system of telephoning has been installed only in places which previously enjoyed telegraphic communication. The introduction of the system has undoubtedly resulted in great improvement. Its effect may be likened to that which follows the construction of a railway between places which were previously served by mail coaches. But it should not be assumed that any benefit has been conferred on those outlying settlements which are most in need of facilities for communication. Speaking of the case of WesternAustralia, with which I am most familiar, I would point out that prior to Federation, the moment that a mining field was discovered a telegraphic surveyor was sent out to cut a track in readiness for the construction of a telegraph line; whilst postal facilities were provided forth with as a matter of course. The State’ Government did not stop to consider whether the telegraph line would pay or whether the revenue derived from the mail service would balance the expenditure by the end of the year.
– That was during the boom, when the Government had plenty of loan money to spend.
– There was no boom in 1897, when many of the new mining fields were opened up, and many of the works to which I am referring were carried out. The State Government recognised that postal and telegraph facilities were essential to the development of the country, and they immediately supplied them. Under the Federal administration, however, the residents of these remote districts are unable to secure the conveniences with which they were previously so readily supplied. This is not calculated to impress them with the advantages of Federation, or to make this Parliament popular. I would mention the case of Black Range, a new township which lies midway between Lawlers on the east, and Mount Magnet on the west, 100 miles from either place. The settlement has a population of more than 500 adults. I was through that country in 1900, when not a soul was to be seen, but during the last two years a settlement has been formed, and several mines are now being successfully worked. I have repeatedly applied for a telegraph line to Black Range, but I have always been met with the objection that it would not pay. I would ask honorable members to consider the position of persons in this outlying district who are in need of medical attendance as the result of illness or accident. A distance of 100 miles requires to be traversed in order to procure medical or surgical assistance, so that at least three days must elapse before a doctor can reach a man who has sustained a fracture of the arm or of the leg. In fairness to these people, who, after all, are not the least worthy class of settlers in this country. I think that this Parliament ought to lay down some new rule by which assistance shall be granted to them, by way of subsidy, in procuring these facilities. Let me cite still another case. I refer to a place called Buxtville, containing a population of nearly . 300, and two banks, and distant only eighteen miles from a telegraph line. So far, I have been unable to get telephone communication extended to that town. In this connexion I may- further point ‘to Parker’s Range and Mount Jackson, each having a population of 200, and each being situated about eighty miles from Southern Cross. If a miner or a resident meets with an accident there, two or three days must elapse before a medical mau can reach him. I can assure the Committee that at the present time the public are instituting a comparison - and a very unfavorable one - between the management of the Postal Department under the State and its management under the Commonwealth. Last week I heard the representatives from other States discuss in a very unfriendly way a proposal to spend upon new works and buildings in Western Australia a larger proportion of Commonwealth revenue than that to which its population seems to entitle it.
– It stands to reason that more money must be spent in those districts which, as yet, are undeveloped.
– That is exactly my point. I think that more allowance ought to be made for expenditure in a new territory than some honorable members appear disposed to make. A country in course of settlement should naturally appeal to honorable members for larger endowments than those required in the case of an older and more settled country. Still 1 do not feel inclined to resent the criticism indulged in, since this expenditure has been placed upon a per capita basis. I feel that, from the point of view of the representatives of other States, there is a good deal to be said against expending the money of the people of Queensland or Tasmania upon new works and buildings in Western Australia, especially in view of the bookkeeping provision of the Constitution, under which the earnings of these post-offices are enjoyed by the people of Western Australia alone.
– The method now being adopted is a one-sided evasion of the bookkeeping system.
– Although I believe that the late Treasurer has simply given effect to the provisions of the Constitution by charging the expenditure upon new works and buildings upon a per capita basis–
– That expenditure was debited against the respective States in which it was incurred for three years and no complaints were made.
– That is so. The Treasurer discovered that a very large sum would require to be debited to Western Australia during the present year if that arrangement were carried out, and as the result of inquiry, he was legally advised that, in order to give effect to the provisions of the Constitution, he must debit the cost of these new works and buildings upon a . per capita basis. Some time ago, as one way out of the difficulty, I suggested to the Government of Western Australia that it should take the place of the private individuals chiefly concerned by offering to guarantee to make up to the Commonwealth Government any deficiency in the cost of carrying out these services. I suggested to the then Premier of Western Australia that where so much was lost upon a mail service or upon the extension of telegraphs, the Government of that State should take the place of a municipal council, and guarantee the Federal authorities that thev would make good any deficiency. At first he seemed disposed to favour that idea, but upon looking into the matter he appeared to think that it would complicate the position of Western Australia when the Commonwealth. Parliament was called upon to pay the value of the transferred properties, Upon that account he ultimately declined to give the. necessary guarantee. I confess that I am quite unable to see how Western Australia could be embarrassed by the adoption of my suggestion.
– Upon the face of it, the honorable member’s suggestion appears to be a sound one.
– I have not been able to discover the grounds for the objection which the late Premier of Western . Australia entertained to my suggestion. In proof of my statement as to public feeling in the western State regarding the refusal of postal facilities, I desire to .quote from a letter which I have received from a gentleman who represents a remote portion of that State- J refer to the far northwest coast - in the Western Australian Parliament. He has authorized me to make this complaint public, and I have no hesitation in doing so. ‘My informant is Mr. Isdell. the representative of the Pilbarra district. He says: -
We have a new tin-field about 60 or 70 miles west from Port Hedland, and as it is principally lode tin, and 1i large number of leases have been applied for, there is every prospect of its being permanent. A great deal of money has been and is being invested there. The present population is about 250, and is rapidly increasing. There is no mail communication of any sort, the nearest post-office being Port Hedland, 70 miles away. Nearly two months ago an offer to run a fortnightly mail for a subsidy of £2 per week was made to the Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth.
That officer, it appears, has no power to accept a tender of that sort if the amount exceeds £20 per annum. The result was that the matter was referred to Melbourne and nothing further has been heard of it. Mr. Isdell thus concludes his letter : -
Every one in Western Australia complains of Federation, and nothing would have pleased us better than if all the West Australian Senators and . Representatives had handed in their resignations when the Survey Bill was rejected, lt would have brought the other States to their senses quickly. The loss of control of postal matters over here has been a curse to Western Australia.
Under these circumstances I ask what course can we adopt to secure better postal and telegraphic facilities for these remote places? So long as these works are charged per head of tha population I feel that there is a good deal to be said; from the stand-point of the other States against any extraordinary increase of expenditure in Western Australia.
– Until the States debts are taken over.
– As long as the bookkeeping section is in force. I agree with the view expressed by the late Treasurer- in delivering his last Budget statement, that that provision should remain in operation for at least ten years, so far as Western Australia is concerned. That being so, honorable members will recognise the reasonableness of the proposition I have to make, namely, that an arrangement should be entered into with the State Government by which the Commonwealth would be at liberty to deduct from their excess revenue the cost -of new works and buildings in Western Australia. That, I think, is a fair proposal. I observe that in the Budgetpapers the excess of Customs and Excise revenue which is returned to the States after .one-fourth has been deducted by the Commonwealth is described as surplus revenue. That is far from an exact description ; and, in making this proposition, I am speaking of the surplus denominated as the balance due to the State over and above the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue which the Constitution requires to be returned to the State. I find that by the end of the next financial year we shall have returned to Western Australia, in round figures, £900,000 over and above the three-fourths required by the Constitution to be returned.
Would it not have been better, instead of giving that immense sum to the State politicians to play with, to have kept our own services up to date by means of payments out of these moneys? This excess sum has been expended by the State in the construction, among other things, of nonpaying railway lines. I have no desire to say anything against the construction of those lines, for I trust that they! will soon pay their way; but as the result of the system we have been adopting, the Government of Western Australia have been enabled not only to construct railways to agricultural districts, which are on the non-paying list, but to erect Government batteries for the reduction of auriferous ores - at a cost of from £5,000 to £7,000 - sometimes in districts where there is neither a post-office nor a telegraph station. Is it not reasonable in these circumstances that the people should arrive at the conclusion that the State Government is doing immensely better than the Federation? And yet the fact remains that the State is enabled to carry out these works largely by means of money which the Commonwealth need not return to it unless it pleases. A good deal is, therefore, to be said in support of the objection of the other States to the. debiting of new works and buildings on a *per capita basis. I have the authority of the late Treasurer for the statement that there is nothing to prevent the Federal Government from agreeing with the several States that provision shall be made for these works out of the balance due to them, or, in other words, that they shall be treated as preFederation expenditure. ‘ That is the system which I should prefer. The right honorable member for Balaclava informs me that as Treasurer of the Commonwealth he adopted it in other cases, with the consent of the Government of the States con:cerned; and, that being so, there is no reason why we should not follow it in the case of Western Australia. With the introduction of such a system the representatives of other States would not be so ready as they are at present to keenly scrutinize expenditure proposed to be incurred upon new works and buildings in the western State. I do not think that I need detain* the Committee much longer; but I would again impress upon the Government the necessity to give immediate attention to this question. Federation is undoubtedly becoming extremely unpopular amongst the best classes of our citizens - the settlers and pioneers of the back country - and this unpopularity, so far as Western Australia is concerned, is due solely to the failure of the Commonwealth to supply residents of sparsely populated districts with mail and telegraphic services. The people are not unmindful of the reduction in telegraphic rates and other minor advantages which have flowed from Federation, but the absence of mail and telegraphic services touches them at the sorest spot. It is a matter that comes home to every man, woman, and child living in these isolated districts, and the want of reasonable facilities in this direction is naturally felt very severely by them. While proposing to furnish the cities with uptodate appliances in the matter of telephone services and other conveniences, the ‘ Government should seriously consider the position of those who dwell in the remote parts of Australia, and should ascertain whether or not some arrangement can be made with the State Government whereby the Commonwealth will be able to improve their situation. It is not for me to propound a scheme, but the question is becoming one of such importance in the Western State that the time has arrived when it is advisable for the Commonwealth Government to review the policy with which we started - .that all new services should pay their way. That is a justifiable condition to impose in respect of new services for cities and thickly-populated districts; but is it reasonable to expect new telegraph lines or mail services to sparselypopulated parts of the Commonwealth to earn sufficient to pay interest on the expenditure upon them? These works should be regarded as tending to develop the country, to promote settlement in the interior, and to make large and prosperous cities like Sydney and Melbourne possible. The time has arrived when the Government must reconsider the question of the terms upon which new services to outlying districts shall be granted. I am sure that the Postmaster-General and his colleagues, as well as the late Postmaster-General - who is acquainted with the rural life of Australia - desire to do everything they can to promote settlement. The question to-day is a live one. Every one agrees that we need to attract immigrants to Australia, and if we really desire people to settle in the interior, it is only reasonable that we should give them the facilities that are necessary to anything approaching a rational life. Mail services and telegraph or telephone lines are helpful to this end, and should be granted wherever possible. I personally am a great believer in the telephone system, as an aid to settlement. I am confident that if we could, by some means or other, connect every farmer’s house in Australia with the telephone system, we should, in .that way, give a great incentive to settlement, because it is the isolation and monotony of country life that drives people into the cities, and depopulates the rural districts. In view of all these facts, I appeal to the Government, with all the earnestness that I can command, to review the policy to which they and their predecessors have been committed, and to give the question of the extension of facilities to country districts the fullest and fairest consideration.
– I should like to impress upon the Postmaster-General the necessity of departing from the present system of dealing with applications for postal and telegraphic services for sparselypopulated districts. If a thinly-populated district applies for a telephone or postal service, it is called upon first of all to furnish the Department with a guarantee that the service will pay. And if after a report is made, it .is thought that the revenue would not pay the interest on the expenditure, the application will not be granted unless the residents will guarantee any deficiency in the working of the line. This system is wrong, and does not encourage men to go into outlying districts and settle there. In new districts farmers have quite enough to do to clear their land and pay their way, without being called upon to guarantee the working of telephone lines, and also find sites for post-offices. In some districts the residents have not only guaranteed the Department against loss, but have also erected the lines, and when an application is received from another district the Department points to what has been done by the residents in other districts, and asks the applicants to imitate their example. That is not fair or right, and it is no wonder that, while such a course is followed, Federation is not so popular as it should be. Owing to the manner in which the Department has been administered, one hears persons say : “ The postal service was a long way better when it was under the control of the State.” It should be better under the administration of the Commonwealth. This year the Commonwealth will return to the States £400,000 more than it need .return. It is only right for the Postmaster-General to make use of a portion of this sum in granting telegraphic and telephonic facilities to country residents. The honorable member for Coolgardie mentioned the necessity for providing means for communicating with doctors in urgent cases. It is absolutely necessary, I think, that these facilities should be granted, if only for use in such circumstances. At the present time an official office will be provided with an outside lamp, while an unofficial office has to be approached in the dark. I do not see why this distinction should be drawn when light could be provided at such a small cost. Although these are little matters in themselves, still they tend to make the service unpopular. I trust that lighting arrangements will be provided for all offices. I cannot appreciate the policy of subsidizing steam-ships to carry our mails to other parts of the’, world, while -ordinary assistance is refused to settlers in the back-blocks. We talk here day after day about how we intend to populate the country. If we wish to promote immigration, we ought to provide the necessary conveniences so that to residents in country districts life may be worth living. In New South Wales, although1 it is pretty well populated, there are large tracts which are only just being opened out. Take the settlers’ in the great Don Dorrigo country, about which we hear so much. They have sent petition after petition to the Post and Telegraph Department, but to each request a deaf ear has been turned. In these districts, postal and telegraphic conveniences are just as necessary as are good roads, so that the residents may be able to know what is going on in the world, instead of continuing to live like a number of savages. I trust that in the future the Postmaster-General will favorably consider any request for the extension of telephonic or telegraphic conveniences to sparselypopulated districts, and1 will not ask the applicants to guarantee the working of the lines.
– While it is a very proper thing to consider in the most liberal spirit possible the extension of postal, telegraphic and telephonic facilities in country districts, still it is not wise, I think, to lose sight of the fact that the Post and Telegraph Department pretends to be a commercial institution. We say that in the public interests it is essential for the Commonwealth to have a monopoly of telephonic and telegraphic communication, and postal work generally. While I believe in extending facilities to the little aggregations of people in country districts wherever it is possible, and would even strain a point where the revenue from a proposed line wasnot likely to meet the expenditure, still the: fact that we are not able to grant all the facilities which may be desired by country people is no reason why we should refuser to institute between large centres new developments in means of communication, which would be likely to pay. Surely it must be apparent to everyone that if we instituted paying means of communication between large centres like Sydney and Melbourne, the revenue would help us ro grant to country districts facilities which, underpresent circumstances, we are not able toprovide. It seems to me that the honorablemember for Coolgardie has taken up a. rather peculiar attitude. This year, the Department expects to receive a revenue of £247,000 in Western Australia. Theordinary expenditure for the State is- £282,000, and, in addition to that sum, pew works and buildings to the value of £60,000 are proposed, bringing the total expenditure up to ,£342,000. In other words, on the postal and telegraphic services in that State there will be a loss of £95,000 odd this year.
– It strikes me that Western Australia is doing very well.
– It strikes me that Western Australia is doing very ‘handsomely indeed1, when the Commonwealthproposes to spend in that State a large proportion of the money which is to be contributed by the residents of other States,, particularly on account of new works and buildings.
– But the people of Western Australia will pay for works in other directions.
– For the provision of new works and buildings in Western Australia, £60,000 is to be contributed, largely on a per capita basis, by the people of other States.
– We assist lo pay for other Federal works.
– It was quite a fortunate thing for Western Australia when the iniquitous system of doing away with the bookkeeping method in regard to new works and buildings was instituted last year- by the late Treasurer. Perhaps it is only just to remark that when last year I drew attention to the manner in which the change would operate against the States which had taken the precaution to make some provision in the past for works and buildings, there was hardly an honorable member who cared to raise his voice in support of my protest.
– The people of Western Australia will have to pay afterwards.
– I admit that as soon as the transferred Departments have to be paid for, or arrangement? have been made to pay the interest on the estimated value, the practice will right itself, but several years may elapse before definite action can be taken, and, during the interval, certain States will reap an advantage at the cost of the others. I noticed that the other day the Premier of New South Wales protested against this system having been instituted. But it is a curious thing that he allowed twelve months or more to go by before making his protest. It would have been much more effective had he made it at the time of the innovation.
– New South Wales does not come off very badly.
– But she does. She is paying a large amount for works in Western Australia.
– This year she is only £25,000 to the bad.
– Is that all ? New South Wales could do very well with that £25,000. Although a year or two ago we were wont to boast of being able to assist the necessitous States, we are to-day in such a position that .£20,000 or £25,000 is of material importance to us. Though it is stated that it was inevitable that the bookkeeping system-^ should be abandoned so far as concerns new works arndt buildings. I know that for the two or three years’ during which the bookkeeping system was adhered to in respect to that class of expenditure not the slightest protest was made by “any of the States. They all recognised that, whatever the constitutional position might be, it was perfectly equitable that until the transferred properties were paid for, each State should be debited with the expenditure within its own borders. I cannot understand how it was that the late Treasurer made the alteration. There was no demand for it.
– The law compelled him to do it.
– It is useless to say that, because if the argument were sound the law should have compelled him to do it two or three years previously.
– The difficulty was accentuated in regard to new works, and the system could not continue.
– I am doubtful whether the law did necessitate a change.
– It is “other” expenditure, not expenditure on transferred services.
– That is a question upon which legal gentlemen are not able to agree.
– Have lawyers differed in their advice with regard to the allocation of “other” expenditure?
– The argument is that we are compelled to put outlay upon new works and buildings on a per capita basis, because it is expenditure on works apart from those in existence when the departments were transferred; and I say that if that argument were sound, we should, have to debit on a per capita basis all additional expenditure in connexion with the departments, no matter under what heading it might be.
– Is there an authoritative opinion to that effect?
– I do not know what the honorable and learned member would regard as authoritative.
– The honorable member led us to infer that legal opinions had been obtained on both sides.
– Has a legal opinion been given to the Commonwealth ?
– I cannot say that, but I have heard of opinions from some legal gentlemen. As to whether they have been given to the Treasurer I do not know. But I repeat that no requests were made by any States, so’ far as I have been able to ascertain, that there should be a change. On the contrary, some have protested against it being made. However, the point to which I particularly wished to draw attention was that the honorable member for Coolgardie objected to extra facilities being given to the people of Sydney and Melbourne, whilst the expenditure in Western Australia was cut down.
– The same is the ‘case with’ Queensland and South Australia.
– In each of those States there is a considerable loss on the working of the Post and Telegraph Department. I say again that when we give to Western Australia extra facilities, costing .£95,000 more than the receipts, we are doing a very fair thing by that State - a very fair thing indeed. We are actually spending in that State on postal work and facilities .£95,000 more than we are likely to receive.
– Where does that appear?
– In the Estimates for the year. There .is another point which the honorable member might consider. This new expenditure for communication between two principal cities of the Commonwealth concerns States in which a large profit is made on the working of the post-office. In New South Wales this year it is estimated that after allowing for all works and. buildings expenditure there will be a profit of £73,000. I admit that that does not allow for interest on capital previously expended, but I have not- taken that into account in any of these calculations. In Victoria there will be a profit of £40,000. Yet the honorable member objects to an expenditure which it is stated by the officers of the Department will show a further profit.
– Where is that statement as to the profit made?
– It is made by the PostmasterGeneral.
– According to the Estimates there is a loss of only £6,000 on the working of the Department in Western Australia.
– If the honorable member looks up the Estimates he will find that the estimated revenue is .,£247,000, and the estimated expenditure is £’282,000, in addition to which there is an expenditure of £60,000 on new works, buildings, and additions.
– That” is not a loss.
– It is all expenditure ; it is so much in excess of what we are receiving.
– The honorable member ought to add, to get at the true position, the Customs and Defence expenditure in the various States.
– Not at all; I am speaking simply of the postal revenue. If we are justified in retaining the post-office and telegraphs as a Government monopoly, we ought to extend all modern facilities in connexion with them to the people of the chief cities. If we are not prepared to do that, we ought to hand over the post-office and telegraphs to private enterprise. Does any one mean to tell me that in two cities like Melbourne and Sydney, each with a population of over half-a-million, any private company which had the management of this Department, would, for such a length of time, have allowed them to remain without telephonic communication ? Yet honorable members argue that we should refuse to give those facilities which a private company would long ago have afforded.
– I do not say that.
– That is the effect of the argument - that because we are not able to do all we should like to do for the outlying districts, we should refuse to extend to the large cities facilities for which they themselves will pay.
– The honorable member wants to starve the country districts.
– The honorable member knows that I do not wish to do anything of the kind. All I say is that we should not refuse to give facilities to the people of the big cities, who are prepared to pay -for them at a rate which will give -a profit - that we should not refuse those facilities simply because Ave are not able to provide all the conveniences we should like to provide in the back country.
– Who has estimated the alleged profit?
– The officers of the Department, I understand.
– Has a guarantee to be given ?
– Where the departmental officers estimate that there will be a profit, a line is always provided without a guarantee.
– The honorable member knows that guarantees have been reduced considerably.
– I am glad to say that I know that to be a fact. Before the honorable member for Coolgardie entered the Chamber, I said that I had every sympathy with the extension of postal facilities in the country districts; and the late PostmasterGeneral, the honorable member for Macquarie, deserves some credit, together with other Postmasters-General before him, for their efforts in that direction. But so long as we make the Post Office a Government monopoly, we should be prepared to conduct it on ordinary business lines ; and when our experts say that a telephone line will pay, and pay. handsomely, we do an in jus- tice to merchants and others if that line is not constructed.
– Why not give the same facilities in the case of country lines?
– That is already done. There is no difficulty about the construction of any country line which, in the opinion of the departmental officers, will return a profit.
– If that principle had been applied in the past in Queensland, none of the backblocks would have had these facilities
– I do not say that in every case we should refuse to construct a linethat will not pay. All I am saying now is that we are not justified in refusing to construct a line which it is demonstrated will pay, We cannot approve of all nonpaying lines if we are to make the Department a success ; but as one who desires to see the Post Office continued as a Government institution, I hope the day will never come when the Department will refuse to grant facilities that would be granted by a private company. No one can doubt that a private company would, a considerable time ago, have connected the two populous cities of Melbourne and Sydney by means of a telephone line.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY. (Darwin).The telephone system of Melbourne is absolutely disgraceful. It is the system that Noah employed when reporting the flood.
– The honorable member will be able to deal with that matter on the next item.
– Unless the Government can give me some guarantee that Tasmania is to be provided with a few conveniences which are required in the Postal Department, I shall oppose the expenditure of this money in New South Wales. The honorable member for Coolgardie had a lot to sav about the smallness of the expenditure in Western Australia, but I find that for that State the sum of£73,718isput down, as against£11,196 for Tasmania, though the population of the two States is equal, or nearly equal. I do not say that the honorable member for Coolgardie desires that Western Australia should leave the Union, but that honorable member has received suggestions from members of Parliament in that State that it should secede unless all the facilities they require are provided. Jeff Davis, and the other leaders of the Southern States, determined to retire from the American Union, but after four years of struggle, they were whipped back again, and it may yet be necessary for the Commonwealth to whip States into the Australian Federation. I should insist on the Commonwealth retaining the whole of the revenue to which it is entitled, and expending it in the different States for the benefit of the people of those States. The Commonwealth Government is becoming unpopular mainly because of the provincialism of the various officers who have control of the Commonwealth business in the States. Take, for example, the Deputy PostmastersGeneral. If, in the State of Tasmania, I desire anything done for the benefit of the people of the backblocks, the Deputy Postmaster-General there opposes the suggestion, however important or necessary it may be. As an illustration, I mav say that some time ago I urged that the post-office at Ulverstone should be opened for a quarter of an hour each evening after the arrival of the mail train, so that the letters might be distributed to citizens who were waiting for them. That proposal was opposed by the Deputy Postmaster General of Tasmania, and months and months elapsed before the late PostmasterGeneral, the honorable member for Macquarie, gave a trial to the system I had suggested. But what happened ? The order was that the post-office should be opened for a quarter of an hour each evening after the arrival of the train, and the order was carried out, but the quarter of an hour was utilized in sorting the mails, and no letters were delivered. I made another appeal to. the Postmaster- General, and a peremptory order was sent to Ulverstone that the postoffice must be kept open for a quarter of an hour for the delivery of letters to the people. The Deputy Postmaster-General again reported against this convenience. Only lately he sent in another report tothe effect that the people did not require it, although a great many of them had petitioned me to try to get the post-office opened for them. The late PostmasterGeneral insisted that the post-office should be opened, as I suggested, and it is now kept open as a permanent arrangement. One might as well try to get up Niagara Falls in a hickory nutshell as try to get one of these deputy postmasters-general to do anything. This is what makes the Commonwealth Government unpopular in the different States. People will say - “ Before Federation we could go to a member of the State Parliament, and he would get these- things done for us.” We never shall have anything done in this country until some of these high officials are sent to Japan or to Timbuctoo. I suggest to the Postmaster- General that we have now an opportunity to experiment with wireless telegraphy. It is no longer a matter of experiment in the United States. We all know that King Island has no connexion with the mainland of Tasmania or with Victoria, and there are between 700 and 800 people living there. They have mail communication now only once a week. I brought this case before the House long ago, and endeavoured to persuade one of the Commonwealth Governments to induce one of the steam-ship companies to allow a steamer to call there regularly, in order to give the people decent postal facilities, but I was not successful. I now ask the Postmaster-General whether he could not usefully experiment with wireless telegraphy between Burnie and King Island. If the experiment results in failure we need spend no more money on it, but if it is proved to be a success, the system might be used all over the Commonwealth, and it would obviate the necessity of erecting telegraph wires. The matter is worthy! of consideration by this House and by the Government. I also suggest that the Commonwealth Government should not hand back to the States any portion of the one-fourth of the revenue to which the Commonwealth is entitled. They should utilize it for the benefit of people in outlying portions of the Commonwealth, in giving them reasonable means of communication with the various important cities. I believe in the establishment of telephonic communication between Melbourne and Sydney. I believe that we should have a system in this country which is now recognised as up-to-date in America. The reason why the majority of people object to Socialism and socialistic government is because we do not make our head officials work. They are lethargic to a degree which suggests the application of a galvanic battery.
– Yet the honorable member supports Socialism.
– The system is all right, but the officials do not do the work required of them. What we want in this country is change, and I am beginning to believe that permanency in the Civil Service heads is not a good thing. They have a much tetter service in America than we have in Australia, although the head public servants there know that they must go out every four years.
– The great bulk of them are now under a Civil Service Act. .
– Those below a certain grade are. I think it would be well if we could retire a number of the top officials in this country. We might give them pensions and send them round the world, and let their juniors in the service have promotion. We should then have some progress in our Public Service. Everything in the service now is bound up in red tape, and if you wish to get anything done in any of the Departments you may become blue or green mouldy before you obtain what you want. I hope the Postmaster-General will _ consider my suggestions favorably. I am satisfied that we should have telephonic communication between Melbourne and Sydney. We should Have an up-to-date system; but we have here a telephone system which was the system in vogue in America when I left that country sixteen cAr seventeen years ago. A man rings the bell until he is tired, and then in disgust he decides to visit the man he has tried to ring up.
– If the Commonwealth Government had an unlimited amount of money to spend, I do not suppose there would be any opposition by representatives of other States to the proposal to provide telephonic commutation between ‘Melbourne and Sydney. There is an aspect of the question other than that dwelt upon by the honorable _ member for Bland. It should not be forgotten that the people whose money will be spent in providing this communication between the two most important cities of the Commonwealth are also the owners of the Commonwealth estate. To say that private enterprise would have provided this communication is not to prove that the Commonwealth will be justified in providing it whilst so many other parts of our great estate are so inadequately served in the matter of modern means of communication. It may be urged that this telephone system, if established, would pay working expenses, and even a profit, but there is an indirect profit which should be taken into consideration in providing means of communication with rural districts and the back country parts of the Commonwealth. We hear many professions of the desire which honorable mem- bers have that there should be less concentration of our people in cities and more extensive settlement in our country districts. Whilst we make these professions we seem to be willing all the while to pamper those who are concentrated in cities, to the detriment of those who are living in the back-blocks. I cannot complain very much of the way in which my demands for conveniences in my district have been met. by the Post and Telegraph Department, but it is a comparatively settled district, and I have some sympathy with those who have gone out to do the pioneering work of settlement in districts where the amenities of social life and the conveniences of civilization are very few. If we have £25,000 or£30,000 to spend in this Department, before we think of spending it in addingto the conveniences which, if not quite up to date, are very nearly so, of the people living in great cities, we should try to. provide some conveniences in places that have none at present. That is the view I take, and I should have been better pleased if in these Estimates it had been proposed to spend some money in giving telephonic and telegraphic facilities in districts of the Commonwealth which are only just being opened up to settlement.
– This proposal will make money. It is claimed that this communication will prove profitable.
– I would point out to the Treasurer that the Commonwealth benefits by the settlement of people on the land, even though the receipts of the Department from telephone rents and threepanceintheslot telephones may noit’ always cover the cost of providing these services. If the giving of increased telephonic communication leads to greater settlement on the land, our Customs revenue and the land revenue of the States will both increase, while the whole community will benefit in a hundred and one ways. Therefore we should not take into consideration only the payments in hard cash received for services of this kind ; the indirect benefits which result must also be remembered. I shall not vote against this proposed extension, but I would rather have seen the money it is proposed to expend to connect the two largest centres of population used to extend the telephone system in rural districts.
– The proposition of the honorable member for Moreton, reduced to its simplest terms, resolves itself into this - that the closely-settled portions of the Commonwealth are not to advance until the sparsely-settled portionshave reached the same standard of development.
– No; I merely desire that fair play shall be given to all.
– The honorable member objects to the erection of a telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney while there are outlying portions of the Commonwealth which are without rapid means of communication.
– Heart hear.
– The people in the outlying districts will have to contribute to the cost of this work.
– The people of Melbourne and Sydney contribute a larger proportion of the cost of all public worksthan do the people residing in sparselysettled districts. I venture to think that if the proper method of developing communication is adopted, the most populouscentres, where’ profits are most likely to beobtained from these services, should alwaysbe a little ahead of, and set the pace for, outlying districts.
– That is all that we want.
– I understand that it is the opinion of officials in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department that a telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne would return a profit of something like 10 percent.
– After makingevery allowance, including the estimated loss in receipts from telegrams, it is thought that the proposed line wouldreturn a profit of 5 per cent. net from the start.
– That would provide money for the extension of the telephonesystem in other directions. If State enterprise is to be justified, it must providefacilities of communication where profit is. to be earned quite as much as where profit: is not tobe earned. The proposed telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney will not benefit my constituents, but its: erection is, on the figures submitted, a justifiable enterprise. It is one which a private company would certainly undertake, and a State should at least give the facilities which a private company would giveto the public. The usual complaint is that the State undertakes too much; but in this instance it is urged that it should do less than a private company would do. If we are not to have long-distance telephones in Australia, the proposed telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney should not be erected, and if we are to have such telephone lines the two largest cities of the Commonwealth are obviously the natural termini of the first of them.
– In addressing myself to items i. and 7 of subdivision i, I would remind the honorable member for Bland that the people of the other States were fully aware, prior to Federation, that the postal revenue of Queensland did not cover her postal expenditure, because of the large area over which her population is scattered”. I, for instance, represent a constituency about as big as New South Wales, but _should the pioneers who have gone out there to extend the bounds of civilization be penalized by being refused means of communication ? The large centres of population in the eastern coastal districts have every facility in the way of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services for rapid communication ; but it is very difficult to obtain anything in this way for country districts. Ever since I have been a member of Parliament I have advocated the extension of the telegraph into a certain district, but, although successive PostmastersGeneral have promised to see if something cannot be done, and although the request has been reduced from a request for a telegraph to a request for a telephone, nothing has been done. What is wanted is telephonic communication between a place on the borders of. Cooper’s Creek, between Stonehenge and Jundah, and the nearest telegraph office, some forty miles away. I do not say that the line would pay handsomely from the start, but the township which it would serve is on one of the main stock routes of Queensland, and settlement in the neighbourhood is increasing. The residents of the district were quite willing to pay some extra charge if required, but the authorities asked them to enter into a guarantee to pay the interest upon an expenditure of £10,000. They must have known that such a suggestion was preposterous, because there are only about twenty residents, none of whom know how long they will remain there. It would have been much more to the advantage of the people of Queensland if that State had stood out of the Federation, because all the facilities which are now denied to the outlying districts would unquestionably have been granted by the State Govern ment. The honorable and learned member for Corinella says that the proposed telephone between Melbourne and Sydnew should be provided, if it will return revenue sufficient to pay interest on the outlay. I quite agree with him, but I think that if such a work as that contemplated prove profitable, the proceeds should be devoted to the provision of telegraphic and telephonic facilities for residents in the remoter settlements. The honorable member for Macquarie, when he was Postmaster-General, promised honorable members that if they left matters in his hands he would be able to meet all their requirements. Upon that understanding, I consented to the Estimates being passed, but I am in the same position today that I occupied twelve months ago. I have, therefore, made up my mind that I shall not allow these Estimates to pass unless some guarantee is given that the question of providing telegraph and telephone facilities to the outlying districts will receive consideration. The honorable member for Darwin suggested that wireless telegraphy might be utilized as a means of communication with outlying places, and I would suggest that an experiment with that system might be tried with advantage over the forty miles of rolling downs which separate the two places to which I have referred. The Government apparently have made up their minds to do nothing for the outside districts. They are content to devote their energies to improving the conveniences provided for the people living in the large centres of population, such as Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, and Fremantle. The money which has been spent in Fremantle alone would have been sufficient to provide for telegraph sendees to the whole of the outlying districts. The time has arrived for representatives of the country electorates to band themselves together, in order to secure fair treatment. Whenever the interests of the big capitals are affected, the representatives of all the States join forces, and I think that the re- presentatives of the country districts should adopt a similar course. I shall not be content until I am assured that Western Queensland will get a square deal, and, in order to test the feeling of the Committee, I move -
That the item “ New South Wales- Construction and Extension of Telegraph Lines, Instruments and Material, £12,000,” be reduced by £1.
– Honorable members who are opposing the proposed vote for the construction of a trunk telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne are mistaken in supposing that it has anything whatever to do with the question of the extension of telegraph and telephone services in the country districts. I quite agree with the honorable members who urge that wherever possible telegraph and telephone facilities should be granted to residents in the country, but I do not see that the item now under discussion in any way affects that question. I think it is desirable that we should avail ourselves of the very latest improvements in the means of communication. Honorable members have not failed to secure the construction of telegraph and telephone lines in country districts, because of the improvements which have been made in the metropolitan services. It’ should be our object to infuse a little life into the Post and Telegraph Department, and to induce our officers to seek new business instead of shirking their work. If we succeed in doing this we shall soon secure all the extensions we require. Although the condenser system has been in operation in other parts of the world foi1 many years, our electrical engineers for a long time steadily declined to avail themselves of it, and now that a step has been taken in the right direction we should encourage them in every way we possibly can. Our officers should keep themselves thoroughly in touch with what is going on elsewhere, and should confer upon us the benefit of the experience gained in the great centres of scientific activity. We are not called upon to experiment for ourselves. We shall do very well if we keep pace with the rest of the world. Long distance telephones have proved successful elsewhere, and I thoroughly approve of the proposal to establish a telephone system between Melbourne and Sydney. We do not need to be assured by the Departmental officers that the line will pay, because common sense suggests that a large amount of business which cannot be very well conducted by means of the telegraph line will be transacted through the telephone. It is not proposed to benefit merely Sydney and Melbourne, but I understand the intention is to extend telephone services from the main trunk line as far as possible to all the towns that can be connected through the principal intermediate stations. If the proposed new line were to be regarded merely as a feeder to’ the telephone system, it would pay exceedingly well, and therefore I shall give the work my heartiest support. Should this experiment prove successful, telephone connexion between Brisbane and Adelaide will doubtless follow. I contend that it would be wise to erect main telephone lines through the various country districts, and to extend branches from them in almost every direction to complete the system. In short, it would be an advantage if every farmer’s house in Australia enjoyed telephonic facilities. It stands to reason that the more revenue we derive from this source, the more money we shall be. in a position to expend. Upon some of the long-distance lines connected with Sydney, the subscriber’s voice can be heard much more clearly than it can upon other circuits, when he is, perhaps, engaged in speaking to somebody who resides in the next street. In the past we have been too prone to neglect the interests of those who are located in remote districts. The extension of the condenser system has proved a blessing to many people in sparsely populated areas. By means of that system, the exPostmasterGeneral, during his term of office, connected the towns of Cobar and Nymagee, which are sixty-five miles apart, so that it is now possible for mining managers in those places to communicate with each other promptly.
– That work did not cost more than about £20.
– I expect the present Postmaster-General, who has progressive ideas, to go one better than his predecessor, by connecting Cobar with Sydney, from which it is distant some 453 miles. Branch services could then be extended from the main trunk line, and thus the whole of Australia could be connected. I believe that there is a big future for our telephone system, andi that its use will not necessarily conflict with that of the telegraph. But even if it entirely) superseded the telegraph, I claim that we should employ the best means of communication obtainable.
– I think that the ex-Postmaster-General is to be complimented upon having taken the initiative in installing the condenser telephone, system, which has proved such a great success. During the short period that he remained in office, he connected numerous outlying places with the metropolis of Sydney at a very small cost. The revenue which is being derived from these lines is very great indeed. That the present Postmaster-General should have taken the matter up in earnest was only to be expected, seeing that he is such an enterprising man. I trust that he will continue to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor. I hope that he will extend the condenser system in the district which I represent, and which forms the very centre of the- electorates in New South Wales. The extension of that system, however, will be impossible, if the amendment proposed be carried, because it will be tantamount to an instruction to the Postmaster- General that the amount of £12,000, which appears upon these Estimates must be materially reduced. The line between Sydney and Cobar, which the ‘honorable member for Darling wishes to see constructed, would. I suppose, form) part of the connexion which it is proposed to make between New South Wales and South Australia.
– I would point out to the honorable member that there is no money provided upon . the Estimates for that purpose.
– There is a proposed appropriation under “ additions, new works, and buildings.”
– That was for last year. I would point out that the amendment was submitted for the purpose of indicating to the Government that they should not proceed with the construction of the proposed telephone? line between Sydney and Melbourne.
– That is so. At the same time, it is impossible to connect Sydney with Melbourne, in the absence of the necessary appliances, and if the proposed vote be decreased by £1 ^ constitute an inti mation to the Postmaster-General that the expenditure is to be materially reduced. This is merely a technical way of intimating to the Minister that the Committee does not approve of the construction of the line. In the United States of America - the home of electricity - long-distance telephones have proved an immense success, and, judging by the experience of New South Wales, there is very little doubt “that this line will pay. Australia is in this respect far behind many other countries that have thoroughly availed themselves of the march of electrical science. Even in Honolulu, nearly every house is connected with the telephone system, while in the outlying parts use is made of the telegraph wires by means of the condenser system. I hope that the Minister will stand by his guns, and oppose a reduction of the item.
– I wish to cast an intelligent vote on this question, and am, therefore, sorry that the PostmasterGeneral has not shown what income the. Department expects to derive from this line.
– I have referred to it on two occasions.
– The honorable gentleman said that it was estimated that it would yield 5 per cent, net on the capital outlay. In proposing this expenditure, amounting as it does to something like £42,000, the Minister should have explained at the outset what revenue the Department anticipated to derive from the line, and also the extent to which its construction would probably reduce the telegraphic revenue. Had that been done, we should have been able to give an intelligent vote. It must be admitted that this is a large expenditure, having regard to the means of communication that the people of Sydney and Melbourne ‘already enjoy ; but if it can be shown that the line will be a paying concern, I shall have no objection to the item. Ministers in charge of the Post and Telegraph Department are usually very careful in dealing with applications for postal and telegraphic services for outlying districts, although they are entitled to special consideration, and we should carefully consider the position of the smaller States before agreeing to this expenditure, unless it can be shown .that the undertaking will be a profitable one.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - By leave of the Committee, I wish to withdraw my amendment, and to submit another.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I have listened with considerable interest to the debate on this matter, and must express my surprise that the question of town verms country should have been raised. Since the beginning of the present year something like 400 towns have either been connected with the telephone system, or their connexion with it has been approved.
– Only by means of the condenser system.
– We have endeavoured by means of the condenser system to give them a cheap and effective service.
– But nothing has been done for those who are most in need of such a service.
– Judging from the letters in the possession of the PostmasterGeneral, a great many residents of country districts appreciate what has been clone for them, even by means of the condenser system or other cheap telephone lines. Let me refer to a service recently granted in the electorate of Wide Bay. A proposal was made to construct a telephone line from Brisbane to Gympie, arid it w-as originally estimated that the work would cost £4,800. The estimated revenue to be derived from the line did not warrant such an expenditure, and I therefore approved of an officer familiar with the condenser system being sent to Brisbane to ascertain whether that system could not be adopted. The result was that the service was granted, by means of the condenser system, at a cost of a little over £100, and the honorable member for Wide Bay will admit that it is working satisfactorily. It would have been impossible to agree to the construction of a line costing £4,800.
– I am always willing to take anything of the kind, and I admit that the service is very good.
– Why did not the Department agree to connect Jundah and Stonehenge ?
– I do not know. I know that the present Postmaster-General is not losing sight of the condenser system as a cheap and ready means of serving sparsely-populated districts. As I have said, no less than 400 towns have either been connected with the telephone system, or their connexion with it lias been approved during my term of office.
– The honorable member deserves all credit for that.
– I take no special credit for it. ‘ I simply did my duty in insisting on the condenser and other cheap telephonic systems, adopted in some other countries, and a few towns here, being extended to hundreds of country towns - about) 400 since the first of the year. During the last session I promised honorable members that wherever possible I would extend telegraphic and telephonic facilities to country districts. I agree that we should give ‘ those residing in remote parts of the Common wealth the benefit of any system that will tend to lessen their isolation, for we know the disadvantages under which they labour.
– We had to give a guarantee before the Department w;ould erect a trunk line; but no guarantee was asked in connexion with the service extended by means of the condenser sv stem
– That is so.
– Then let us have lines by means of the condenser system
– Under the old system a guarantee of £300 a year was asked in respect of a line estimated to cost, say, £2,500, notwithstanding that the revenue derived from that line might amount to £260 per annum. Under the new system, however, the people concerned are simply asked to give a guarantee in respect of interest which the revenue would not be sufficient to meet. I hold that we have no right to call upon the persons concerned to guarantee the whole of the interest upon the expenditure incurred in erecting a telegraph or telephone line, without regard to the revenue which the Department will receive from it. During my term of office I not only varied the departmental practice in this respect ; but by means of ‘the condenser system and the use of trees or fences in place of telegraph poles, I did much to extend telegraphic and telephonic facilities to country, residents. In these circumstances, I fail to see why the question of town versus country should be raised. Residents of rural districts will really be served by the construction of a trunk telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne. I would remind honorable members of our experience in connexion with the construction of a telephone line from Sydney to Bathurst. No one would say that that line was erected* solely for the convenience of those living at each end. As a matter of fact, a large number of country towns are connected by means of this through telephone, and have the advantage of speaking, not only with Sydney or Bathurst, but with all intermediate stations. And so with the trunk line from Sydney to Melbourne, the intermediate towns will benefit by its construction. Before approving of the inclusionof this item on the Estimates, I carefullydiscussed it with the accountant and the departmental electrician, and was thoroughly satisfied from the reports I received” that it would be a good paying speculation.
– Why not connect Broken: Hill and Adelaide?
– I shall come to that matter presently. It was then suggested that we might erect a light wire between Sydney and Melbourne, but if that suggestion were adopted we could not make an extension in the future to Adelaide or Brisbane. It is now considered that the first cost will be the cheapest in the long run, and that it is desirable to erect a heavier wire between Sydney and Melbourne, so that in the future - and, I hope, at no distant date - an extension could’ be made to Adelaide, on the one hand, and to Brisbane on the other. If we had a line between Melbourne and Sydney, all the intermediate stations could be connected, and the subscribers could communicate with various centres.
– Of what benefit would that be to people out on the Barcoo?
– My honorable friend will not say, for one moment, that because country people happen to be connected by railway they should be denied telephonic facilities. Take large centres like Seymour, Wangaratta, Wodonga, Albury, and Goulburn. If this line between Melbourne and “Sydney be constructed, the residents of those centres would be able to “ cut in,” and talk to various centres.
– But they are already provided with a telegraphic service.
– My honorable friend must admit that the telephone is an advance upon the telegraph. We have a right to grant the facilities which people prefer to have.
– Let some of the out-back people have the out-of-date arrangement.
– Let it not be thought for a moment that I am against the granting of such facilities to country residents.
– The honorable member is arguing against it all the time.
– No ;. the records of the Department will testify to the contrary. I am quite prepared to take my physic like any one else, but when honorable members say that this proposal involves the question of Sydney and Melbourne, as against the country districts, I join issue with them, and say that the erection of the line would be a great convenience to the persons resident in intermediate centres.
– Every one in the Committee agrees with the honorable member, but the people in the way-back places want facilities, too.
– I quite agree with my honorable friend. Allowing for the loss on telegraph messages, this line is estimated to give a return of 5 per cent., otherwise the return is estimated to reach 10 per cent.
– What would the working expenses be?
– The working, expenses could not amount to a large sum. A staff is maintained at Melbourne and Sydney, and at nearly all the intermediate places, like Wagga Wagga, and, therefore, it would not be necessary to employ many additional hands.
– Would not the line have to be maintained?
– Between Sydney and Melbourne, the same staff is employed to look after the telegraphic and telephonic services. The employment of one or two additional hands for this line would not entail a large expense. Under the condenser system, telegraph wires are used for telephonic purposes. If we had a metallic circuit between Sydney and Melbourne, on the same principle, and it were found necessary to increase the telegraphic facilities between the two points, the telephone wires could be used for telegraphic as well as telephonic purposes, at very little expense indeed.
– Would it not introduce an element of confusion?
– No; because the telegraphic’ wires in many places are used simultaneously for telegraphic and telephonic purposes. There would be no possible risk in so using the special line between Sydney and Melbourne.
– Could not the present telegraph wires be used for telephonic purposes ?
– Only on a day when there was not much traffic. On a quiet Sunday I spoke from Sydney, on important business, to one of the officers of the Department at Melbourne, and the experiment was very satisfactory. The question of country extension is not involved in this proposal. I feel sure that the Committee will sanction any fair and legitimate expenditure for the purpose of giving telephonic communication to country towns.
– What objection is there to carrying out this proposal on the guarantee principle ?
– What necessity is there to resort to that method when it can be seen from the returns that the line would pay?
– We cannot believe the returns.
– We have only to use our common sense to realize that a telephone line connecting Sydney and Melbourne, and serving all the large towns between those points’, must be a paying speculation. I remember that when I was discussing the matter with the electrical engineer here, he said that he would not mind investing some money if it were a commercial undertaking.
– We always .hear that sort of remark when a thing is being mooted.
– I have not formed that opinion of our public officers. I believe that, as a rule, public officers are -very keen critics, and try to advise a Minister in the right direction. They are paid to perform a public duty, and have a right to express an honest opinion.
– They are frequently advocates of the policy of doing nothing.
– A Minister should encourage his officers to furnish him with a true and honest report, and if he disagrees with a recommendation he must take the responsibility of his action-. I believe this expenditure is quite justifiable, because it would be reproductive, apart from the fact that the line would connect two large centres, and would enable the Government to connect Melbourne with Adelaide and Sydney with Brisbane, and possibly to connect many other centres, such as Gympie with Sydney, and even Melbourne.
– Will the honorable member tell us why, when he was PostmasterGeneral, he did not consent to the construction of a telephone line between Broken Hill and Adelaide?
– I am afraid that the Chairman would rule me out of order if I were to discuss that question. I will leave the honorable member for Barrier to answer it. I trust that the Committee will consent to the proposal under consideration.
– I intend to support the amendment of the honorable member for Maranoa, believing that a guarantee should be obtained. I wish par:ticularly to remind1 the Government that on Friday I gave notice of an amendment to test the principle whether post-offices should be constructed by means of a charge upon the State or on a per capita basis. I wish to know when I am to have my opportunity.
– The honorable member can test the question when we are taking the Western Australian votes.
– That must be distinctly understood.
– On Friday I asked for the postponement of this item in order to have an opportunity to make inquiries and to read the official reports. I do not share the feelings of those who have expressed a fear -that the construction of this work will interfere- with the extension of telephonic communication in the country districts. As far as I can judge, it will be a profitable undertaking, and it also offers the possibility of the extension of telephones to intermediate stations. But I wish to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to this point. He is aware that numerous applications are made to the Department for telephonic and telegraphic communication in the country districts. In the case of applications from some parts of my district that are pretty well settled, the people interested are not able to get any satisfaction from the Department. As far as I can learn, when such applications are made a report is furnished, showing that from the departmental point of view there is no justification for undertaking the work. In one or two cases the applicants have inquired what guarantee is required by the Department. These applications have not elicited a reply. That is not justice, and it is not business. Where people are prepared to put down the money the Department does not deal fairly with them in pigeon-holing their application. With regard to the work under discussion, while it may lead to a decrease of telegraphic business, I do not look upon that as material, because the telephone caters for a class of business that is not generally done by telegraph. But what I fear will happen is this : When a profit is shown on the trunk line a demand will be made for the reduction of the rate, and the PostmasterGeneral will be too plastic-in the hands of the applicants. In the estimate furnished to us no account is taken of the wearing out of the poles, and of the cost of repairing or reconstructing the line at some future date. Nor are such facts considered when applications are made to reduce the rate.
– We are told that the profits are to go towards the extension of country lines.
– There is no hope under our system of administration of making a profit. Has a profit ever been made out of our railways or our Post Office?
– There may be a profit on a section.
– As soon as there is a profit on a section, there is a clamour for the reduction of the rate.
– When the rates are uniform that cannot happen.
– I fear that, by the reduction of the rate, a profit will be prevented, with the result that the loss so occasioned will be used as an argument against the extension of the telephone system to remote districts. The estimate in this case is 6s. for three minutes’ conversation. As soon as it can be” shown that there is’ a profit, after paying interest and maintenance on the line, there will be a demand to reduce the rate to 4s. The fact that the reduction of the rate has caused a loss will be lost sight of when applications are made to connect remote places with intermediate stations on the trunk line. I am perfectly satisfied, however, after the inquiries I have made, that there is ample justification for this expenditure, and that, so far from hampering the extension of telephone facilities to intermediate stations, it will increase the possibility of such connexions being made.
– The view that I: take of this proposal is that, as many of the principal cities of the world are connected by telephone - as there are telephone lines between Paris and Berlin, and Chicago and New York, for instance - it is high time that Melbourne and Sydney were connected in the same way. But the point about which I particularly wish to speak is this : Compliments have been paid to the present Postmaster-General and the exPostmasterGeneral on the use of the condenser system, which has enabled telephones to be extended to remote districts at a cheap rate. The old system was prohibitive, but the condenser system has reduced the cost considerably. That is complimentary to the ex-Postmaster-General, because he seized upon the idea, and it is a further compliment to the present Post- master-General, who has seen the wisdom, from a business stand-point, of continuing the system.
– The system was initiated in Tasmania.
– The departmental officers have been complimented to-day ; but it must not be forgotten that while, for many years, this’ system has been known and utilized in the old world, the taxpayers of Australia in the pre-Federal days, and also in Federal days, have been deprived of its advantages, through the negligence, to say the very least, of those officers who have thus caused large sums of money to be ruthlessly expended in the construction of telephones under the old system. I should like to hear either the exPostmasterGeneral or the present PostmasterGeneral explain this apparent neglect or want of knowledge on the part of departmental officers.
– The system was applied in Tasmania years ago.
– But it was not applied on the mainland.
– The departmental officers on the mainland said that the system was impossible, while it was actually in operation in Tasmania.
– This is no personal matter with me, because, so far as I can remember at the present moment, I am not acquainted with any of the officers concerned ; but, in my opinion, this is the time to ventilate what is really a serious charge.
– Remit the question to a committee, and ascertain wnether the condenser system is effective.
– Such occurrences tend to make one look most Carefully into the statements of departmental officers. If the neglect be proved, or admitted, the officersshould receive a severe “jacketing,” if no further punishment, from the PostmasterGeneral.
– I rise to support the proposal to erect the trunk telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney, and to express the hope that the amendment will not be accepted. As the representative of a country district, I am opposed to guarantees being asked for in such districts ; because, in my opinion, the PostmasterGeneral, or the Department, should decide whether a telephone line should or should not be provided.
– That matter may be dealt with on another item.
– I am sorry that the question town versus country has been- introduced into this discussion. If I remember rightly, I was one of the first, if not the first, last Friday, to ask for additional information on this proposal before I, as a metropolitan representative, would be prepared to vote. The PostmasterGeneral has assured us that according to the departmental officers this proposed trunk line will pay, but honorable members representing country districts say that the officers are wrong in their estimate - that they have probably exaggerated the amount of revenue which will be obtained. Many “honorable members, however, have from time to time said that the departmental officers have under-estimated the amount of revenue which would be obtained from proposed country telephone lines, and have used that as an argument why no guarantee should be exacted. I know that if an ordinary citizen in Melbourne or suburbs desires to have his place of business connected with the telephone system, and there is no line running past his premises, he is compelled to pay two years’ rental in advance. It appears to me that the Department is only applying the principle which has been advocated by honorable members. I believe that the re> ports of the officers are correct, and I trust that honorable members will agree to the item.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I resent the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra. The honorable member ought to quote the remarks which he says I made, because I feel sure that I never made them. “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander “ ; and if small communities and private individuals are called upon for guarantees, the same rule should hold good in the case of large communities. In an out-back electorate, if telegraph or telephone facilities are desired, the municipal council, the shire council, or the divisional board is called” upon, not to give a written guarantee, but to put down actual cash. If regulations are made, they ought to be applied impartially to large communities find to small and scattered communities. The honorable member for Macquarie, when he became Postmaster-General, promise^ to do anything and everything for the people in the country, and I. like the fool I am, took him at his word. We have been told the same tale year in and year out by successive Ministries ; and yet the ex-Postmaster-General has the effrontery to now say, “ I have done more for the country than any other PostmasterGeneral.” I admit that the exPostmasterGeneral has done much in connexion with telephone communication bw means of telegraph lines; and if the condenser system is so effective, why not try it on the proposed line, and save £30,000 or £40,000?
– The line is too long.
– Then’ let there be short circuits. If the condenser system is good enough between Gympie and Brisbane, it ought to be good enough between Melbourne and Albury.
– We cannot reduce the distance.
– Anything can be done in these days, and my suggestion could be carried out by means of stations with stronger batteries. If it is such a. good system as the late Postmaster-General has claimed, let it be applied to this line. I have no opposition to the line merely because it is between Sydney and Melbourne, but I think this proposal should be treated in the same way as are others of the same kind. I would ask every representative of a country district to demand that the same conditions should be carried out in connexion with this line as would be insisted on if they applied for- a line in their own electorates.
– I think that the late Postmaster-General did good work in extending the condenser system. There were officers in the Department who had undertaken work of this kind to enable telephonic facilities to be given, especially in Tasmania, at less expense than .they could otherwise have been provided for. That the honorable member for Macquarie, while officially connected with the Post and Telegraph Department, extended that system is to the honorable gentleman’s credit. I hope that it will be further extended. No doubt all officials are, to a certain extent, conservative, and even7 expert naturally desires that the service inaugurated by him shall be the best in the world. But conditions in Australia are quite different from those existing in older countries where there are large centres of population at short distances apart. We have here a sparsely populated country, and our people have greater need of telephonic and telegraphic facilities than those in older and more thickly populated countries. We must economize, and must endeavour to give the fullest facilities we can with the money at our command. For that reason, I think that the condenser system should be availed of to the fullest possible extent. At the same time, I do not contend that it is practicable to apply this system to telephonic communication between Sydney and Melbourne.
– The honorable member for Macquarie says it is.
– Who is to pay for it?
– The honorable member for Barrier seems exceedingly anxious to have this communication provided, whether it pays or does not.
– I am going by the report which says that it will pay.
– There is a great deal to be ‘said for the contention of the honorable member for Maranoa, that there should be only one system throughout the Commonwealth in these matters. I know that when I ask for telephonic communication, the Minister peremptorily demands a guarantee.
– I am against that.
– That may be so, but the honorable member does not happen to be Postmaster-General, If he were, and then said that he was against guarantees, the position would be altered.
– It is for this House to decide whether guarantees shall be demanded or not.
– The honorable member must be aware that it is the Minister who decides where a guarantee shall be demanded, and there is no appeal from him.
– If this House were to say there should be no guarantee demanded, does the honorable member mean to say that the Minister would ask for one?
– The Minister would then be in a position to say : “ We have no money to build this line.”
– That is another question.
– It comes to practically the same thing.
– That would put country districts in a still worse position.
– Do not honorable members see that the effect would be the same? We have heard very little of any agitation in Melbourne or in Sydney for this telephonic communication. Who are the persons who have deputationized the Government on the matter? Who are the people who have appealed to Parliament by petition or otherwise for this convenience for Sydney and Melbourne? We have heard nothing of them. There can be no doubt that those who have had the administration of the government of the Commonwealth have had the interest of these great cities at heart. We have had evidence of that in more than one contract and in more than one proposal which has come before this Parliament. I am entirely in favour of telephonic communication wherever it can be shown to be advisable; but I think that the evidence submitted in support of this proposal is insufficient to warrant its being carried out without a guarantee. The two great cities of Melbourne and Sydney should not find it difficult to comply with conditions which are imposed on very much smaller centres of population, where one would expect that the people would be less able to show that telephonic communication would be likely to prove profitable.
– I rise to support the proposal of the PostmasterGeneral for the establishment of telephonic communication between Sydney and Melbourne. So far as a guarantee is concerned, I think I am correct in saying that even in country districts, where it is thought that a telephone will pay, it has been provided without a guarantee.
– That is not my experience.
– I am giving my own experience. .Shortly after the establishment of Federation I made an application for telegraphic communication between Wollongong, the great coal centre of the Illawarra district, and the metropolis of Sydney. The officers engaged to report on the line estimated that it would cost .£3,100, and I was asked, by the then PostmasterGeneral, Senator Drake, to put down a cash guarantee of £750. The trouble in providing a guarantee of that sort is to say who is to put his hand into his pocket to find the money. What is every one’s business is no one’s business.
– Can the honorable and learned ‘member for Illawarra deal with guarantees now? .You, Mr. Chairman, ruled me out of order when I did so.
– I understand that the honorable and learned member for Illawarra merely wishes to say that, instead of insisting on a guarantee, the Department, in the case to which he alludes, ultimately instituted a telephone on the condenser system. Any discussion as to the advisability of requiring a guarantee for the proposed trunk line between Sydney and Melbourne would be out of order on this item, as anticipating the discussion on item No. 7.
– I am merely answering the honorable .member for Maranoa, and trying to show that in some instances telephone lines have been erected in country districts without a guarantee being required. In the case to which I am referring the colliery proprietors of the district were prepared to put down £250 of the £720 asked for, but it was impossible to get the balance. When the honorable member for Denison became Postmaster-General I submitted the matter to him, and he, after consultation with his officers, reduced the guarantee to £425. It was impossible, however, to raise that amount; but subsequently, when the honorable member for Macquarie became Postmaster-General, and I again submitted the matter, he was able to authorize the granting of communication by means of the condenser system, at a cost of £65, instead of the £3,100 which was the amount of the original estimate for erecting a separate wire. The present arrangement is so good that, in speaking the other day from Sydney to the Mayor of Wollongong, at a distance of fifty-three miles, I found that I could hear and be heard as easily as when speaking through my own telephone at Neutral Bay to another subscriber on the central exchange. I know of other similar instances in my own constituency, and in. those of other honorable members, in which the late Postmaster-General did all that he could, when a proper case was made out, to increase telephonic communication in country districts.
– In my constituency a line on the condenser system, 100 miles in length, answers very well indeed.
– The present PostmasterGeneral is extending the telephone connexion from Wollongong to Kiama, another twenty-five miles, with a view to a further extension to Jervis Bay, if the Kiama connexion be a success. As honorable members know, telephonic communication between Jervis Bay and Sydney would be of great service for defence purposes. In connexion with the erection of a* telephone between the silver mines at Burragorang and Sydney, trees were in many cases used instead of poles to carry the wire. In years gone by, as has been pointed out by other honorable members, the departmental officers always tried to carry out public works in the best style possible, so that they might be pointed to with admiration ; but the last Postmaster-General got away from the old system, and ^.deserves great credit for the economy which has thus been effected’. The present PostmasterGeneral,who also represents a country constituency, and understands the wants of the pioneers and producers of the interior, .will, I feel sure, carry on the good work of his predecessor. The proposed telephone between Sydney and Melbourne must be looked upon purely as a business concern. The only question to be asked concerning it is,. Would the line pay? If the PostmasterGeneral has satisfied himself on that head,. I feel sure that we ought to support the proposal, and every honorable member who has gone into the matter must be of the opinion that the line would pay.-
– I wish to inform the Committee that the most complete investigation of this proposal shows that, after allowing for possible loss of telegraphic receipts, amounting to, say, £r,900 a year-
– The amount is an unknown quantity.
– Yes, and .it must be remembered that the telephone picks up business which is not done by the telegraph, as a rule. After making that allowance, we expect to obtain a net profit of over 5 per cent, from this work, which makes it a good business arrangement. With regard to the demand that a guarantee should be asked for, I would like to know from whom a guarantee could be required ?
– That question can be discussed only under item No. 7. ;
– As honorable members may think that too much reliance is being placed upon the departmental estimate, I would point out that, after the telephone line from Geelong to Melbourne was opened in 1899, it returned only £129 2s. per annum, but the revenue has gone on increasing, until, in 1904, it amounted to £1,661 1 is. 2d. The Ballarat to Melbourne line was opened in 1899, and in five years its revenue grew from £811 17s. 3d. to £1,821 9s. 3d. The Bendigo to Melbourne line was opened in 1900, and its revenue has grown from £505 ns. per annum to £1,259 I0S- 2d’- last year. Those figures are convincing evidence of the fact that as soon as the public realizes the convenience of these telephones their use increases by leaps and bounds.
– Has not the expenditure upon these lines increased in the same ratio as the receipts?
– How could it do so? The honorable mem’ber appeared to maintain that if the proposal to connect Sydney and Melbourne by telephone were agreed to, the vote for country telephones would be starved, but that is not so. If the honorable member will look at last year’s Estimates, he will see that in every State last year we had plenty of money in. hand, and, as a matter of fact, the general complaint in this Chamber was that it was not being expended.
– I asked for a small telephone line, and I did not get it.
– I am assured by the officers of my Department that there is plenty of money for carrying on these services.
– I shall be round at the Minister’s office to-morrow.
– If honorable members can suggest extensions which are likely to pay as well as the line between Sydney and Melbourne will pay, I think there will be no difficulty about getting them carried out. Reference was made by the honorable member for Coolgardie to a telephone line to Black Range. The erection of that line has been estimated to cost £4,920, while the revenue would be only £168, leaving a shortage of £577.
– But the estimate of cost is terribly high.
– Yes, for the erection of 100 miles of wire. I received a lower estimate than that. The Postmaster-General’s figures relate to a telegraph line, whereas a telephone line would be sufficient.
– I can only give the Committee the figures which are supplied to me. The Treasurer says that the estimate is too high. Since I became Minister I have had to refuse one or two requests which I pressed upon the Department when a private member. An application was made” by honorable members from Western Australia for a telephone service at Fitzroy River, which would have involved an expenditure running into thousands of pounds, whereas the revenue would probably not have amounted to even hundreds of pounds There is no money available for the con struction of such lines. A guarantee could not be given in the case of the proposed trunk line between Sydney and Melbourne, because the Department took up the work of its own accord. It was “thought that a good chance was presented to make money, seeing that additional means df communication were required between two great cities. The officers, after making the most careful inquiries, came to the conclusion that the line would pay, and that revenue would be derived that would probably enable the Department to spend money in providing telegraph and .telephone services for other places. Some question has been raised with regard to the expenditure per capita upon new works in the different States, and I should like to point out that neither New South Wales nor Victoria will be starved from that stand-point. I find that of the amounts provided for new telephone and telegraph works, New South’ Wales will get £7i233 > Victoria, £16,807 ; Queensland, £8,314; and Tasmania, £3,119, under the per capita proportion. South Australia is allotted £2,842, and Western Australia will get £32,631 above the per capita proportion. I have no objection to that, because I think that if these works are necessary, they should be constructed. As was remarked by the honorable member for Coolgardie, in ‘a. State like Western Australia, where new mining centres are springing up, new lines must be constructed and new buildings erected. I think that if the law of averages is allowed to operate, there need not be very much difficulty in connexion with the per capita distribution of expenditure. Honorable members referred to a number bf other matters, particularly to the guarantees required in connexion with the construction of country telephone wires. I should like to say that the Department have to pursue a cautious policy in regard to .the extension of telephone services, because, if we did not look carefully into the proposals, we should very soon land ourselves in a financial muddle. When honorable members speak of what was done in Western Australia a few years ago, they appear to forget that the State Government then had large loan funds at its d: s.posal, whereas we have to construct all works out of revenue. If the Post and Telegraph Department is to be run on commercial principles - I admit that the question whether it should be so administered is open to debate - it will be difficult to carry out works that offer no prospect of becoming remunerative. As I explained last week, our policy is not to adhere to any hard-and-fast rule with respect to guarantees, if it can be shown that there is some reasonable prospect of the proposed line becoming a paying concern. If we find that we are likely to incur a small loss on lines which it is highly desirable to construct, whilst we can assure ourselves of a profit in connexion with others, such as the proposed trunk line between Melbourne and Sydney, we can strike an average, and make the profitable line recoup us for the losses which we incur upon such services as have been referred to by the honorable member for Maranoa.
– Will the Minister say whether he would be prepared to approach the Western Australian Government and ask them to allow these works to be constructed out of surplus revenue and charged as expenditure incurred prior to Federation ?
– That course has been advocated; but I think that if we approached any State Government and asked it to consent to our withholding from it any larger sum than we now retain it would not receive the request favorably. The Government must take into consideration the finances of the States in order to avoid seriously embarrassing the States Treasurers.
– But it is optional with the Commonwealth Government to appropriate the surplus revenue.
– Perhaps so; but we must be careful to move slowly in a matter of that kind, lest we embarrass the States. If honorable members will turn to last year’s Estimates they will see that there is no necessity to adopt (the course suggested, because in many cases not more than 40 per cent, of the money voted was expended. All that the Department desire is to look at these matters from a reasonable commercial stand-point. If they do not consider that a line is likely to pay from the outset they nsk for a guarantee from those interested. The amount of the guarantee was considerably reduced by my immediate predecessor, and also, I believe, by the honorable member for Coolgardie, and there is every desire to carry out these works as far as possible.
– If the works are constructed they will find work for the people.
– I am in favour of finding work for the people; but
I desire that it shall be profitable work. With regard to the suggestion, of the honorable member for Darwin that the wireless telegraphic system should be resorted to in order to establish communication with King Island, I can only say that we are very carefully considering the question of making use of that system, and that there is no reason why we should not make an experiment in the direction the honorable member suggests if we can do so at reasonable cost. We shall, however, have to select our localities with a view to economy. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Moira say that a number of applications sent in by. him had been pigeonholed, and that he could get no reply to an offer by some residents in his district to give a guarantee in connexion with the construction of a telephone line. I can assure the honorable member that if he will supply me with particulars of the case to which he refers a reply shall be sent. Wherever there is any prospect of a line proving payable we are prepared to accept a guarantee from those interesed in it. In some cases, however, we cannot accept a guarantee. For instance, if we were asked to construct a telephone line, and the officers reported that it was never likely to pay, we could not accept a guarantee. We cannot obtain indefinite guarantees, and we do not think that we are justified in incurring liabilities which are likely to prove a burden to the community generally. I need hardly say that the other matters to which honorable members have referred will receive my careful attention. With regard to the contention that telephonic communication between Melbourne and Sydney should be established on the condenser system, I would point out that the officers report that that would not be practicable because the distance is too great.
– I have no desire to prevent the construction of any telephone line which is likely to prove remunerative. At the same time, it seems very unfair that the expenditure upon these works should be charged upon a per capita basis, seeing that the respective States in which they are erected alone benefit by the revenue derived from them. In passing, I may mention that in Queensland1 the condenser system was in vogue prior to Federation. The Engineer of Telegraphs, Mr. Hesketh, I believe, had developed that system very considerably there. I know that persons who were called upon to use the telephone some six or ten miles out of Brisbane often experienced a good deal of trouble as the result of the operation of the condenser system, which has now been extended to the other States. Whilst that system is better than nothing, it is far from being perfect. I am sure that if we. can obtain a perfect service, without resort to the condenser system, we shall be glad to use it. In the meantime communication by means of the latter system is better than no means of communication at all.
-After the touching appeal by the PostmasterGeneral to honorable members in the corner, I am very glad to support him in opposition to their demands. The main trouble this afternoon seems to be connected not so much with the question raised by the honorable member for Maranoa as with that which was mentioned by the honorable member for Coolgardie. I refer to the proposed telegraph line to Black Range. For a time it seemed as though we should experience considerable difficulty in solving the problem presented to us. The Postmaster-General, however, with his usual readiness, discovered an original way of overcoming the trouble. He suggested to the Treasurer that his well known love for Western Australia might enable him to devise some means of surmounting the difficulty created by the departmental insistence upon the 10 per cent, deposit. I understand that the cost of the line in question would be about £5,000, so that a deposit of to per cent, would represent only a very small contribution on the part of the State to which the right honorable gentleman owes so much. Honorable members in the corner, who object to the payment of the sum of £4,000-
– To which “ corner “ does the honorable member refer? There are no members of the Labour Party in the “ corner.” We are all in the open.
– I am referring to those honorable members who have addressed themselves to this question. But honorable members there are not always in the open. The original complaint against allocating various sums to lines such as that upon which it is proposed to expend £4,000 came from members of the Labour Party, who desire - before these lines are built - the develop ment of their own districts by telephonic communication. I wish to point out that the Treasury is not a milch cow. It cannot undertake to provide money for lines which are not likely to prove remunerative. It has been shown that this line will return 10 per cent. upon its capital cost from the outset, or 5 per cent. after allowing for the decreased revenue which will be derived from the telegraphic lines with which it will compete.
– Some of us have heard that statement before.
– The assertion has been made by responsible Ministers. Do honorable members in the corner mean to tell me that the present Postmaster-General is not responsible? Surely those who advocate Socialism so strenuously should welcome an investment by the State which will yield so good a return as 5 per cent. I wish to appeal to the patriotic spirit of those honorable members who have raised all the fuss this afternoon. Let them consider for a moment what would happen to any democracy in which the desire of every representative in Parliament was to obtain from the Treasury as large an expenditure as he could upon the district which elected him. If such a state of things became common in any democracy, every honorable member would be elected solely on account of what he could secure from the Treasury. Similarly, every Ministry would be chosen on account of what it could give to honorable members. As a result, within a very short period, we should experience that national bankruptcy which has always been associated with the views of my friends in the corner. Having made these few conciliatory remarks, I do not propose to say anything further in’ regard to the proposed line between Melbourne and Sydney.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - In listening to the little lecture which has just been delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth, as to what honorable members desire on behalf of their own constituents, I was very much amused. There is no doubt that he is a true representative of Sydney.
An Honorable Member. - The honorable member himself is not a bad representative of Queensland.
– If I do not voice the opinions of my own constituents, I am certain that the honorable member for Wentworth will not do so. I do not object to the proposed expenditure upon this line, but I contend that it should be placed upon the same plane as other lines throughout the Commonwealth. I therefore move -
That the item, “ New South Wales, portion of trunk telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne,£19,000,” be amended by inserting after the word “ Sydney “ the words “ to be built on the guarantee principle.”
Question - That the words “to be built on the guarantee principle “ proposed to be inserted in item 7, subdivision 1, be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I presume that honorable members, when they voted to secure the application of the guarantee principle in this case, were simply entering a protest against the action of the Department in requiring a guarantee from the applicants for telephone lines in country districts. If so, I thoroughly appreciate the reason which influenced their votes. I feel that if a line should be constructed, the Department ought not always to ask for a guarantee from the applicants. But if we intend to construct all these lines out of revenue, we shall have to wait a very long time indeed before many necessary works can be constructed. It is not quite fair to debit the whole cost of a line against one year’s revenue, when possibly it would pay for itself in the course of eight or ten years. I think it is the duty of the Ministry of the day to see what amount they could properly expend in this direction each year. Are we to wait until the revenue is sufficient to enable us to construct all the lines which are needed, or are we to deal with certain lines, and borrow the necessary money fortheir construction? In this particular case, we are . asked to appropriate the sum of £19,000 out of this year’s revenue, and we have the assurance that the line will pay for itself in about ten years. I am told that, after allowing for the interest on the outlay and the cost of working expenses, the return will be about 10 per cent. If that estimate is at all reliable, it does seem ridiculous that the whole cost of the line should be charged against the revenue for this year, because in so far as we pursue that policy, so much the less money shall we have to spare for granting telephonic communication elsewhere.
– Does the honorable member suggest that a loan should be raised for this purpose?
– Certainly. If there be a number of works which, if constructed, would yield a return of 10 per cent., it is certainly very foolish on the part of the Commonwealth to delay the raising of a loan, because otherwise we might have to wait a very long time indeed for such works to be constructed.
– This year the Commonwealth will return a surplus of £400,000 to the States.
– It is high time for the Parliament to reconsider its determination on this point. We all know that it is highly unpopular at the present time to talk about borrowing money, but the real objection is not to the raising of a loan, but to the application of the money. If in past times States Parliaments have applied loan money badly, that is a very good ground indeed for condemning their action ; but it is not a good ground for objecting to all future loan proposals. We are rapidly approaching a time when we will have to consider whether we ought not to raise a loan to carry out works necessary to the development of the Commonwealth. During the last three or four years, the construction of many necessary works has been delayed, simply because we have declined to consider any proposition in this direction. Judging from the present feeling of honorable members, there does not appear to be much prospect of a Loan Bill being passed by this Parliament. It seems to me, however, that such a measure will be necessary, and that there could be no objection to it if we made provision for a reasonable sinking fund. If we are going to defer the carrying out of many urgent works until the necessary funds can be provided out of revenue, very great delay must occur. The position is, that whilst we are refraining from borrowing, the States Governments are not exercising that great care of their finances that many would desire, and that we cannot prevent them from floating whatever loans they please. Thev may go on squandering the whole of the real assets of Australia, and yet the Commonwealth is not to raise a loan in order to carry out many services urgently required in connexion with the Postal and Telegraph Department. Why should we delay to construct works that are estimated to yield a good return ? The officers of the Post and Telegraph Department assure us that there are many proposed works that would earn up to 7 per cent., and even 10 per cent., on the capital expenditure, and yet, owing to lack of funds, we cannot carry them out.
– Estimates are often wrong.
– That must always be so, but, in the majority of cases with which we are called upon to deal, we can make sure that, so far as human judgment can go, .the Estimates with which we are supplied are reasonably correct. I, therefore, think it is necessary for us to reconsider the whole position, and I hope that before next year’s Estimates are submitted, the Ministry may see .their way to determine whether our capacity to carry out much-needed works should be limited, as at present.
– We did not expend all that was voted last year.
– In many cases, the apparent savings on votes for telephone lines represent the difference between the cost of copper wire and that of installing the service by means of the condenser system. The right honorable gentleman, as a private member, must be aware of the great difficulty we have experienced in securing either telegraphic or telephonic extensions. Lest it might be inferred that I am recommending the adoption of a loan policy by the Commonwealth Parliament, I think it desirable to explain that, in my opinion, borrowing should not be resorted to unless shown .to be absolutely necessary. In view of the ample returns that some of the proposed works would give, we have to consider whether we shall not have to fall back, to a certain extent, upon a loan policy, on. the lines I have indicated. I hope to see such an extension of the telephone- system that it will be installed wherever there is a. telegraph line. In my own electorate, for’ example, there are three or four large centres of population doing business for the most part with Goulburn, which might have telephonic communication with that city by means of the condenser system. In the same way, telephonic communication might be established between some of the smaller towns and Yass, Young, Cootamundra, and’ other places. The cost would not be great, for it would be necessary to use copper wire, only in the erection of a few trunk lines. I thoroughly agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for Coolgardie,, as to the degree to which settlement might be encouraged by means of the extension of our telephone system, and I hold that it should be our endeavour to connect all country districts in this way. I hope that the Postmaster-General will not hesitate toask the Committee to pass whatever votes are necessary to give us a full development of the telephone service. During the last three or four years it has been almost impossible to secure any extension of it. In support of this contention, I could cite at least half-a-dozen cases, in addition to those mentioned by the honorable member for Coolgardie, that have occurred in my own electorate, and I dare say that otherhonorable members could also bring forward instances in which much needed extensions of the system have been refused. I trust that in these circumstances the PostmasterGeneral will do all that he can in this direction to enlarge the sphere of usefulness of his Department.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- I do not know what weight the Treasurer attaches to. the suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, that we should carry out new works by means of loan moneys; but I desire to say that I am emphatically opposed to such a policy, and trust that the Government will hesitate a long time before agreeing to its initiation.. The honorable and learned member’s statement that, whilst the Commonwealth was refraining from raising loans to carry out these works, the States were able to borrow,, and could squander loan moneys as they pleased, is really an argument in favour of a non-borrowing policy on the part of the Union. Had we not adopted that policy from the very establishment of Federation, the financial condition of the States would have been very much worse than it is.
– Is not the honorable member confusing “ borrowing “ with “ squandering “ ?
– The honorable and learned member’s political experience is confined to this Parliament; but I have been a member of a State Parliament which was not averse to the raising of loans for public works, and can say unhesitatingly that I have never heard of a proposition, no matter how outrageous, to spend money that was not said by its supporters to be in respect of an absolutely reproductive work. Those seeking expenditure of loan money are alwaysready to assert that the work to which it is to be devoted is sure to be reproductive, but as soon as the vote has been agreed to a different attitude is assumed. The honorable and learned member has said very truly that a non-borrowing policy has restricted our operations, but I am sure that the late Postmaster-General will agree with me that the works which we have constructed out of revenue have been done, perhaps, 40 per cent. cheaper than would have been the case had they been constructed out of loan money. The condenser system about which so much has been’ said this afternoon, was introduced really because of lack of funds to erect trunk lines. There is a very old saying that Parliamentary gods very seldom know what revenue there is in economy, and I would remind the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that the system of paying for works out of revenue means economy in administration, Furthermore, I venture to say that the attitude of the Federal Parliament has had a salutary influence on the States Parliaments. I know that the Parliament of Queensland has refrained from borrowing largely on account of that influence. Undoubtedly for some years past the people of my State have had to suffer, and are still suffering, from the non-expenditure of loan money. But within a very few years their position will be infinitely better. Thev are actually paying their way out of revenue now. I trust that the Government will not inaugurate a loan policy for the Commonwealth, but will proceed cautiously and quietly. I venture to say that to enter upon a borrowing policy would be to reverse the pledges that many of us have given to out constituents. If there is one thing as to which I have claimed that credit can be given to this Parliament it is that it laid down a non-borrowing policy in its initiation. I trust that that policywill be continued for some years to come. I admit that it is impossible to say just now what the Federal Parliament will do in the distant future. It is impossible to say that money will not be borrowed.
– How would the honorable member propose to pay for nationalizing all the means of production, distribution, and exchange?
– I would deal with every case as it arises. I have heard leading financiers on the Opposition side of the House say that there is no difficulty about transferring property from one to another. It is a mere matter of transferring credit. Indeed, I think I have heard the honorable and learned member for Werriwa say that it did not matter who gets the money, so long as it is kept in the country.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I am delighted indeed to hear from the deputy leader of the Labour Party that it is possible for a Government to waste money. It is now admitted that, no matter what Government is in power, it is capable of extravagant expenditure.
– The Age recently said that taxation was necessary in order to increase wealth.
– I should say that no one outside Yarra Bend would express such an opinion. The honorable member for Wide Bay is mistaken if he thinks that I should advocate borrowing money simply for the purpose of borrowing. I wish to make it clear that. I am no advocate of borrowing money when it is not urgently required. But at the same time I think that the principle of Tefusing to borrow money, under any circumstances, because of the fear of its being squandered, can be carried too far. At the present time there appears to be no necessity for a loan. But if we are to undertake more works, some of them of an expensive character, we shall be unable to construct them out of revenue, and borrowing will be necessary. However, that contingency is not likely to arise until, at any rate, another election has taken place.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa).- I hope that the Government will not take serious notice of the statement of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. From what I can judge, he wishes to wreck the Government; because I can tell them this - that on the very day when they bring forward a loan proposal I walk straight across to the Opposition side of the Chamber. If the Government want to get wrecked, let them propose to borrow, and there can be no possible doubt as to what will happen.
– What about the Western Australian railway?
– Well, I do not believe in the construction of that railway, and never have believed in it.
– Queensland lived on loans for some years, and did very well.
– I do not know that she did very well.
– How could her railways have been built without loans?
– Railways are not Queensland. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa knows very well that the Treasurer is in favour of loans, and that is why he has made this bid to the right honorable gentleman, to induce him to believe that he will have the support of some of the members of the Opposition. But, as a matter of fact, if any loan proposal were brought forward, the honorable and learned member for Werriwa would take the Treasurer to his bosom and sting him.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- Honorable member after honorable member from the Labour corner has been addressing the Committee on the question of the necessity for economy in the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth. I earnestly hope that they are sincere in the views which they have expressed ; because I must say that iri the State from which I have the honour to come the policy of the Labour Party has not led us to believe in their economical aspirations. I am especially glad to hear that the Labour Party is steadfastly opposed to loans, because I understand that one of its main planks is the transfer from private ownership to the State of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange. How is it proposed to pay for those properties?
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in discussing the policy of the Labour Party?
– This discussion would have been more in place on the Budget; but the honorable and learned member for Werriwa introduced the sub ject, and of course it is competent for an honorable member to suggest that expenditure should be provided for by loan. But a general discussion on the wisdom of a loan policy is not in order.
– I was about to conclude, when I was interrupted. I can understand that the honorable member for Herbert is anxious to prevent a discussion of the policy of his party on this subject. I hope that the Labour Party will always be as economical as it now professes to be, and will therefore refrain from the Socialistic exploits which its members profess to have in view.
– The statement that the Labour Party have always advocated public borrowing is madethrough gross ignorance, or is a deliberate misrepresentation.
– I say that, as to the State from which I come, the statement is absolutely correct.
– It is not correct.
– It is correct.
– In New South Wales the Labour Party was responsible for the spending of £17,000,000 of borrowed money in four years.
– That is absolutely true.
– I have just heard the honorable member for Bland say that something which I have said is a lie.
– I ask honorable members to assist me in keeping order, and not to degrade the proceedings of this Committee by hurling interjections across the Chamber. At the time the honorable and learned member for Wannon drew my attention to the fact that something offensive had been said to him, I was about to appeal to him, in the name of his constituency, not to break one of the rules of debate. I did not hear the remark to which attention has been called, but I understand that the honorable and learned member for Wannon complains that something he said has been characterized as a lie.
– The honorable member for Bland says that something I said is a lie; and that, I think, is unparliamentary language.
– If that be so, I ask the honorable member for Bland to withdraw the expression.
– I said that the remark of the honorable and learned member for Wannon, that the Labour Party of New South Wales had spent £1 7,000,000 of loan money, is one of the usual Conservative lies ; and I do not withdraw that statement.
– The honorable member for Bland said that something I said is a lie.
– I did not.
– I never said that the Labour Party of New South Wales had spent £17,000,000. What I did say was that that Labour Party had kept in power a Government who spent £17,000,000 of loan money at a time when it could have been ousted by the Labour Party at a day’s notice, because the Labour Party were in a majority.
– As I have already told honorable members, I did not hear what occurred. It seems to me there is a conflict of opinion between two honorable members as to what really was said, and that conflict is a commentary on the difficulty in which honorable members place the Chairman by not observing the ordinary rules of debate. I feel sure that if the honorable member for Bland did make that allegation against the honorable and learned member for Wannon, he would be the first to withdraw it. However, I have the assurance of the honorable member for Bland that he did not make the statement, and I accept that assurance.
– I am sorry to have raised this hornet’s nest, though I cannot feel that I am in any way responsible. I should have not have made the remark I did had it not beenfor the fact that the honorable member for Wentworth, in one of his attempted funniosities, alleged that the Labour Party are responsible for the extravagant expenditure of large sums of loan money. The inference to be drawn from that remark is that the Labour Party are prepared to advocate loans’ at any time in order that there may be expenditure in the different States. As I said before, any statement to that effect is made through gross ignorance, or is deliberate misrepresentation. As a matter of fact, the Labour Party have always opposed loan expenditure; and on every occasion I shall resent such statements as have been made by the honorable member for Wentworth.
– I cordially support the position taken up by the deputy-leader of the Labour Party, the honorable member for Wide Bay. I hope that the Commonwealth will not indulge in borrowing; and I indorse the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth as to the borrowing policy supported, or connived at, by a section of the party called the Labour Party in New South Wales. I say without fear of successful contradiction, that, while theLyne-See Government were in power, and Mr. O’Sullivan was Minister for Works, more public money was squandered in the most shocking and shameful way than ever before or since in Australian history.
– Order ! Will the honorable and learned member take his seat ? I point out that the honorable and learned member is not now discussing the item under consideration ; and, if he will pardon me, I would also say that he is pursuing a line of argument which is not calculated to cause the proceedings in the Committee to be as orderly as they ought to be.
– I make these remarks by way of personal explanation, because my accuracy has been challenged. I shall not detain honorable members more than two minutes. I say that that particular Government in New South Wales lived by the grace of the Labour Party, and could not have existed without their support; and, therefore, that the Labour Party was responsible for the expenditure.
– The honorable and learned member is not now in order.
– That is the end of my personal explanation.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - My desire is to move in regard to the Victorian portion of the trunk line, a similar amendment to that which has already been submitted to the Committee on another item, namely, that the words “ under the guarantee system “ be inserted. I shall not occupy time in discussing the matter; but I point out that this is the only chance I shall have for the next twelve months of expressing my disapproval of the treatment of the country electorates by the Government.
– Why not do thatwhen considering the EstimatesinChief?
– In my opinion this is the proper time to do so. I say emphatically that something should be done towards keeping the promises which have been made to us by Governments year after year.
– There is a general election coming!
– A general election is immaterial to me. I do not know how it is with the honorable member for Dalley. I have asked each successive Government questions in regard to this matter, and have always received the promise that it would be looked into; and the Government are still looking into the matter. As it seems, however, to be the wish of the Committee that these items shall be passed, I shall not submit the amendment I indicated.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- Then I think that I ought to undertake the task of submittingthe amendment. I take it that honorable members are practically agreed that there ought to be no guarantee system. In Queensland, owing to the extensive area, it is very difficult in places to obtain telegraphic and telephonic facilities; although, as the Postmaster-General ought to be reminded, if telephonic communication were extended in certain districts it would remove a degree of inconvenience which is hardly appreciated by those who live in closely-settled centres. If this work is to be carried out without a guarantee, the same principle should be extended to every portion of the Commonwealth. If this principle is not to be extended to every other portion of the Commonwealth, there is no reason why it should be applied to telephonic communication between Sydney and Melbourne. These two big cities draw their very existence from the country districts of New South Wales and Victoria, and while we deny telephonic and telegraphic” communication between country centres, unless the people interested are prepared to provide the guarantee required of them, it is proposed to provide telephonic communication between Sydney and Melbourne without any guarantee. These two wealthy cities should certainly be able to provide a guarantee. A case came under my notice of an application for telephonic communication between two important mining centres, each having a large population. The applicants were told that the Department must have a guarantee, and when they said they were prepared to give a guarantee they were told that it was a cash guarantee that was required. They had to plank down the money to cover any loss that might arise from the working of the line for three years. After the guarantee required, in this instance, had been given, it was from eight to ten months before the line was constructed. It would appear that the Government now propose a departure from the principle previouslylaid down, and before this item goes through. I desire to know whether the principle followed in the past is to be definitely abandoned, and whether, in future, applications for telephonic communication in country districts will be granted without a guarantee? If I do not get a promise to that effect I shall divide the Committee on this vote, asI did on the previous vote for the samepurpose.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EdenMonaro - Postmaster-General). - I point out that the Government could not adopt theplan the honorable member for Kennedy asks them to adopt, and if they were to doso, the effect would be to debar many country places from securing telephonic communication. Without a guarantee it would* be impossible to provide telephonic communication in many country places. We are quite prepared to help where it is. shown that there is a reasonable chance that a telephone line will pay. We could’ not ask for a guarantee in this instance, because no one has specially asked for this line. It is a proposal’ put forward by the Department. Theofficers of the Department, looking intothe figures, have come to the conclusion that this would prove a remunerative work, and the Department therefore, wishes tocarry it out. To ask a guarantee in support of the estimates of the officersof the Department, would be absurd. They are satisfied that this line will pay, and, in that case, why should we ask for a guarantee? If we were to say that in future we shall do awa.y with all guarantees, the effect would be to deprive manycentres of the advantage of telephonic communication. We do not insist on guarantee in the case of country districts, where it can be shown that a telephone line will pay. A guarantee is asked for where it is shown that the request is made for a telephone line which cannot be expected to pay. Under the guarantee system, we now permit people to assist by doing a certain portion of the work required to be done, as, for instance, by the putting up or supply of telegraph poles. The system is worked in such a way as to give every facility which can be given. We are now altering the regulations to meet the people of country districts as far as possible. If honorable members will look at the Estimates for last year, they will find that the sum provided for this purpose was not expended There need be no fear that the Department will not have plenty of money to enable it to comply with all reasonable requests of this kind during this year. The responsible officers in each of the States have provided on these Estimates for every reasonable request for telephonic communication. I can promise the honorable member for Kennedy that the Government will carry out the evident wish of the Committee, and will deal very liberally with the people in sparsely-settled districts.
Mr. STORRER (Bass).- I voted against this proposal in the last division ; but, seeing that the great majority of the members of the Committee are in favour of it, I shall vote on the other side if a division is called for on this item. I do not believe in preventing the business of the Committee being carried on when a large majority of honorable members have made up their mind that this is a work which ought to be cartied out.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- That is a most extraordinary position for an honorable member to take up. A thing is, right or it is wrong. If the honorable member thought this proposal wrong, and consequently voted against it, and if he now proposes to vote for it, and against his own conviction, that is his business and not mine.
– I shall not ask the honorable member how I shall vote.
– I did not ask the honorable member to do so, and it will be time enough to make an interjection of that kind when I do. It is a matter of no moment to me how the honorable member votes. The Postmaster-General has told the Committee that no one has asked for this proposal, and that it has emanated entirely from the Department. Seeing that there is already a splendid telegraphic service between these two great cities, I appeal to honorable members to say whether it would not be much better to spend this £30,000 in assisting in the development of the country districts of New South Wales and Victoria. The Minister’s explanation has put the proposal in a very much worse light than that in which it appeared before, and I feel justified now in going further than I did on the last occasion, and in moving that the item be omitted.
– I cannot take such a motion, as it is equivalent to a direct negative of the question submitted to the
Committee, which is “ That the item be agreed to.”
– I shall achieve my object by dividing the Committee, and voting against the item.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EdenMonaro - Postmaster-General). - When I say that no one has asked for this work, what I mean is that there is a general public demand for it, but that there is no one to whom we could especially apply for a guarantee.
– How does the Minister know that there is a general public demand for it ?
– Surely the honorable member knows what a general public demand means? I point out that the passing of this vote will not in any way interfere with the construction of lines in the country districts. I have already explained that there is plentv of money provided to give effect to all reasonable requests of this kind likely to be made from country districts in all the States.
– I have listened to the explanation of the PostmasterGeneral as to the reasons for erecting a trunk telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney, but I should like to know how he can support hjs contention that the work can be paid for out of revenue without decreasing the amount available for the extension of telephone communication in the country; districts. I see no immediate necessity for the erection of this trunk line, and I shall not support the proposal if, as I anticipate, its cost will jeopardize the interests of country districts. I find that only £12,000 is proposed to be spent by the Department in the construction of telephone lines in New South Wales, and yet we are asked to spend £34,000 on a trunk line between Sydney and Melbourne, New South Wales contributing £19,000 towards the cost. Neither can I understand how the Postmaster-General can maintain that the public demands the carrying out of this work. I know that at the time the New South Wales Government decided to convert the metropolitan steam tramways into electric tramways, there was no public agitation for that conversion; but public necessity and convenience demanded that the Government should adopt an up-to-date mode of traction. Probably the PostmasterGeneral takes the view that the position in regard to this proposed work is the same ; that, owing to the need of providing up-to-date means of communication between the two principal cities of the Commonwealth, the Government are compelled to carry out what would be a serviceable, and, at the same time, profitable undertaking. But if £34,000 is to be spent out of revenue on the erection of this trunk line, how will the necessary and growing requirements of country districts, in the way of telephone communication, be met? I could understand the Minister’s contention that the interests of country districts will not be jeopardized if he had given an indication of his determination to introduce some reform in the administration of the TelephoneDepartment which would effect savings which would do something towards meeting the cost. For instance, if he were going to introduce a toll or call system, such as all authorities are agreed would increase the revenue and impose a fair charge on metropolitan subscribers, I could understand the argument that the expenditure of revenue on the proposed trunk line would not cause a smaller amount than usual to be available for country telephone extensions. Until the Department has adopted the call or toll system which is in vogue in other countries, we shall be catering too much for subscribers in the big cities of Australia, to the injury of the residents in country districts, if we agree to the proposed work. City subscribers at the present time obtain from the Telephone Department a service out of all proportion to the amount which any otheT method of communication’ would cost them.
– The telephone charges in Australia are not lower than the charges in other countries.
– They are lower in proportion to population. The telephone service costs the great business houses of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide a very small amount in comparison with the service which they obtain, or with the cost of communication prior to the introduction of telephones. But it has become recognised throughout civilized countries that the telephone system can be worked equitably only by adopting the call or toll method of charging. Until city subscribers are asked to pay in proportion to the service they get, as compared with the service given to country subscribers - because whereas business houses in the city use their telephones almost continuously throughout business hours, shopkeepers in the country use theirs less than a dozen times a day - we should not seek to extend the advantages and conveniences which they at present enjoy. I am not prepared to vote for the item, first, because I feel that city subscribers at present are given more consideration than country subscribers ; secondly, because I do not regard the work as necessary ; and thirdly, because I do not think that the undertaking can be paid for out of revenue without reducing the amount available for the extension of telephone lines to remote country districts. Moreover, I do not think that we should confer further benefits upon residents in the large centres of population, who are already deriving undue advantage from the use of the telephone system as compared with other subscribers, because they are not called upon to pay in proportion to the use made of the telephone. In the interests of the country districts, which I consider will be injuriously affected by the expenditure of a large sum of money onthe proposed trunk line, I enter my protest against the work being undertaken. I should be glad to hear a declaration from the Postmaster-General that it is intended to adopt a more equitable system of charging for the use of telephones. If that assurance were given, I might be inclined toalter my view with regard to the proposed work, but otherwise I shall oppose it.
– The only question that we have to consider is whether the proposed work will pay. I presume that careful estimates have been made, and that the officials of the Department have satisfied themselves on that point. I could hardly imagine that a telephone line between two cities containing about 1,000,000 inhabitants would not pay. Twenty years ago I knew of a telephone system connecting cities not nearly so large as Sydney or Melbourne, which returned a good profit on the outlay. We need only look to the experience in regard to our railways. The suburban railways of Melbourne have always paid, whereas the country lines have in many cases involved’ loss, and we have had the same experiencewith our telephones. I wish to see the system extended throughout the country districts as far as possible, and if I thought that the construction of the proposed trunk line would interfere with the provision of reasonable facilities to residents in thecountry I should not view it with favour. The Department are doing as much as thev possibly can, and that is saying a good deal, to extend the telephone facilities in the country districts, and the Postmaster-
General has assured us that there will be sufficient money in reserve to enable him to deal liberally with the residents in outlying localities. So far as my own district is concerned, every facility; that I could expect has been granted. We have to remember that the telephone system is a comparatively new one, which we are only beginning to build up, and in connexion with which it is often difficult to arrive at reliable estimates of cost. Some twelve or eighteen months ago an estimate was given for the construction of a trunk line thirty or forty miles long in the electorate which I represent., The cost was set down at about £900. At a later stage another estimate was furnished, the amount being £600, and eventually the estimate was reduced to £270. I presume that these reduced estimates were arrived at as the result of experience, and possibly owing to the fact that the Department were able to obtain material at a cheaper rate. It was found necessary to abandon the condenser system in that particular case, because it would not work well over the long distance.
– The condenser system ought to work thoroughly well over a distance of thirty or forty miles.
– That was not the experience in the case referred to, because it was found to be impossible to send a message over the line, even after trying for an hour.
– I know a case in which the condenser system is being operated quite satisfactorily over al distance of 150 miles.
– I am told that difficulty is also experienced in working the condenser system over a long distance in the Hamilton district. Of course, very much depends upon the connexions on the line. If a clear line can be obtained, messages can be sent by telephone.
– There are several connexions on the line to which I refer.
– The residents who are interested in the proposed line offered to enter into a guarantee, but this was not accepted, and further inquiries are being made. I believe in the guarantee system, because both Ministers and members would be placed in a very difficult position if no regard were paid to the prospect of the proposed lines yielding revenue. Wherever doubt exists, however, I think that a liberal view should be taken by the Department.
– We Give the residents the benefit of the doubt.
– So long as that is done, we shall not have much cause to complain. I think, however, that the work of constructing lines which have been approved of might, in some instances, be greatly facilitated. In one case, eight or nine months elapsed after the work had been approved and the guarantee given, before the line was constructed. On inquiring at the Department as to the cause of the delay, I was told that the wire supply had run out. That appeared to me to be a very poor excuse. I do not think that, the Minister has heard of this case : A gold rush took place in one part of my electorate, and it was desired that connexion by telephone should be established with the nearest town, eight or nine miles away. Accompanied by a gentleman who has been a representative of the district in the State Parliament, I waited on the Secretary to the Postmaster-General, and represented to him that the residents were willing to enter into the necessaryguarantee. This Mr. Scott expressed his willingness to accept. I said to Mr. Scott, “ You now have an opportunity to show how spry you can be.” What was the result? Two or three months afterwards, I was fold that nothing had been done in the matter.. I immediately visited the Department, with the idea of reviving it, but at the end of another three months nothing had been done. There must be a screw loose somewhere when seven or nine months are allowed to elapse, after a work has been sanctioned by the Department, before it can be completed. These are matters which require looking into. I think we are going to have an excellent telephonesystem established in the country districtsEach subceeding Postmaster-General has been helping the matter forward a little, and I am quite sure that the present occupant of that office will prove as energetic as was any of his predecessors. I am satisfied that when we approach him upon any subject in regard to which a doubt exists, he will give us the benefit of that doubt.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). -I trust that the opposition to this vote will be withdrawn, in view of the previous decision of the Committee. There are one or two matters which I should like to explain, in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Bland and others, concerning my objection to this trunk telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne. I did not, as the honorable member supposed, claim that the construction of that line would deprive country districts of any essential reform or facility. I merely desired the policy of duplicating services where people enjoyed every convenience should be reviewed so that fuller justice should be done to country districts. I quite agree with the Postmaster-General that, as a commercial concern, it is the function of the Department to supply necessary facilities for the transaction of business to those who require them, and who are willing to pay for them. Consequently, the Department had a perfect right to look at this proposal in a purely business light, and if it thought, after receiving expert advice, that the line would pay interest on the cost of construction, together with working expenses, and still yield a profit, it was perfectly justified in seeking to get parliamentary approval of it. But the PostmasterGeneral has not submitted to us the evidence supplied by his experts as to the revenue-earning possibilities of the line.
– Yes, I have.
– He said that it would return 10 per cent. on its capital cost.
– I heard him say that it would return only 5 per cent. The Government ought to see that a great work of this character returns more than 5 per cent, on its capital cost. I quite agree that in view of the mail, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities which are enjoyed by Melbourne and Sydney it is only fair that we should scrutinize this proposal very carefully, and make absolutely sure that the revenue-earning possibilities of the projected line come up to the Minister’s expectation. I do not for a moment pretend that its construction will deprive any portion of the country of facilities which it may require. At the same time, neither the Postmaster-General, nor any member of the Government, appears to have met the case which I have endeavoured to put before the Committee. I pointed out that this condenser system, no matter how excellent it may be, will confer no advantage whatever on those remote country centres of population which do not enjoy telegraphic communication - in short, that it is merely a duplication of existing facilities. It is an exemplification of the biblical saying “To him that hath ‘much, much shall be given.” But the centres to which I refer have no conveniences at all. Some of them do not even enjoy a mail service. The Go vernment have not attempted to meet the case of 500 people who are located in the midst of a desert, who are 100 miles distant from any other township, and have no means of obtaining the services of a medical man in case of an accident or illness in less than three days. Nor have they met the position which I put to them earlier this afternoon, when I stated that if the cost of these works and buildings is to be charged on a per capita basis the protests of the representatives from the other States are entitled to respect. Seeing that those States are called upon to contribute to the outlay, they are perfectly justified in protesting against what they regard as undue expenditure. The Government have not attempted to meet my suggestion that they should endeavour to arrive at some arrangement with Western Australia in regard to these works. I have already said - and I repeat it - that since the establishment of the Federation that State has received from the Commonwealth Treasury something approaching £900,000 in excess of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue which the Constitution requires shall be returned to it. Instead of having refunded all that money to the State to enable it to erect mining batteries - which are, of course, very necessary - and to construct agricultural railways - which are equally necessary - I contend that we ought to have looked after the important services committed to our charge - the postal and telegraphic services. I can quite understand the attitude of the honorable member for Wilmot, who naturally feels that Tasmania should not be called upon to contribute towards the cost of these undertakings. I have suggested a means by which the whole difficulty can be overcome without any violation of the Constitution. I would again impress upon the Government the desirability of paying for these works out of the balance which is at present being returned to that State - a balance which this Parliament absolutely controls - instead of submitting them to the necessarily hostile criticism of honorable members. Before the Government refuse to meet the demands of population they ought to seriously consider my suggestion. I would remind the Committee of the position of an honorable member, representing, as I do, a remote portion of Western Australia, containing, perhaps, fifty or sixty small centres, which are urgently in need of mail, telegraphic, or telephonic facilities. The Government of that State establish mining batteries there, costing from £5,000 to £7,000 each, whereas I am unable to obtain an expenditure of £2,000 for the erection of a telephone line. That is the position in which the Federal representative is placed, and the people naturally institute comparisons between the efficiency of the State and the Commonwealth Parliaments. When the Post and Telegraph Department was controlled by the State, its surveyors and linemen followed close on the heels of the prospectors. A mining camp had scarcely been formed when the telegraph service was extended to it, and the requisite postal facilities were afforded. It is only natural that those who saw what was done by the State in pre-Federation clays should be disgusted with the result of the transfer of this Department to the Commonwealth. I have put before the Committee the position of many of the mining centres in the great interior of Western Australia, which is represented by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and myself. The State Government goes to almost unlimited expense in furnishing miners and prospectors with every facility to carry on their work, and yet I cannot induce the Government of the Commonwealth to assist them in any way.
– Why should Western Australia have the exceptional treatment which the honorable member has suggested ?
– It would not lae exceptional treatment, for I understand’ that the right “honorable member for Balaclava, when Treasurer, by arrangement with the State concerned, sanctioned the erection of works and buildings which were not paid for on a per capita basis, but were treated as expenditure incurred before Federation. If that way be open to us - and I believe it is - Western Australia can secure many necessary works without being subjected to the criticism of honorable members who naturally feel that the revenues of the States which they represent are being applied to the carrying out of undertakings in. another part of the Commonwealth. All these works will have eventually to be paid for. and a proper balance struck. Meanwhile, as we do not know when the transferred properties are to be paid for, and much has to be done before that day arrives, the fairest arrangement that could be made would be one by which these works would be paid for out of the balance due. to Western Australia over and above the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to which she is entitled under the Constitution.
– That would be equivalent to the State constructing the works out of its own revenue.
– Quite so. I attempted to solve this difficulty when I was in office. I then approached the Premier of Western Australia, and have done so since, with a view to induce the State to indemnify the Government of the Commonwealth against loss in providing these services. For some reason or other, however, the Premier of Western Australia was inclined to believe that difficulties would arise, and probably involve the State in some loss, when the transferred properties were being taken over.
– How could that possibly occur?
– It was not apparent to me at the time,’ nor has it since been shown to my satisfaction that such a contingency would arise.
– I voted, on a previous division, against the construction of the trunk telephone line’ between Melbourne and Sydney, and did not intend to speak to the question ; but I am grateful to* the honorable member for Kennedy for affording me am opportunity to ask the Committee to reverse the vote which it gave on that occasion. I do not take up the position that my constituency has not been fairly treated, nor am I opposing this proposal simply from the stand-point of town versus country interests. My opposition to it is based on the ground that, in view of the position of the finances of the States and the Commonwealth, it is work that we should not undertake unless there is a strong public demand for it. I have yet to hear that there has been a demand for the construction of the line.
– Does; not the honorable and learned member think that the Department should act on its own initiative ?
– When I have urged the construction of a telephone line, and a guarantee against loss has been sought bv the Department, I have applied to those making the demand for the service to give the necessary indemnity against loss. But that cannot be done in connexion with a work for which there is. no public demand. As to the interjection made by the honorable member for Macquarie, I certainly think that the Department should take the initiative in regard to any work that is likely to pay, provided there are no other urgent demands upon the revenue of the Commonwealth or States. The revenue from the telegraph service will be considerably reduced by the building of this line.
– The line will pay, and’ will not interfere with any other service.
– I am willing to accept the estimate of the departmental experts that it will pay 5 per cent, on the capital ‘ outlay. The honorable member for Grampians has said that the position in regard to this service is very much like that of suburban railways, which, as a rule, make good some of the loss incurred on country lines. I would remind him, however, that when an application was made recently for the construction of a suburban railway line, the Victorian Minister of Railways took up the position - and in this he was supported by the Commissioners - that it was unwise to agree to build a railway simply because it would pay, inasmuch as the money so expended might be used to greater advantage in extending conveniences to the residents of other parts of the State that were less fortunately situated. He urged that that was the view to be taken, particularly at such a time of financial stress as now exists. Inasmuch as Melbourne and Sydney are well served by telegraph lines, and no demand for a telephone service has been made, I think it would be very foolish for us to enter upon this undertaking when there are more pressing demands upon us.
– The people of Geelong asked for a telephone service, although they had telegraphic communication with. Melbourne.
– When the people in the same way demand a telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne, there will be some justification for this proposal. The very existence of n public agitation for_ a certain work affords some guarantee of its success. I ;wish ‘honorable members to understand that, by their vote on this item, they will not commit themselves to an expenditure of only £34,000, because we shall have almost immediately to provide telephone lines to Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Hobart. It would be very ungracious on the part of those who represent New South Wales and Victoria to protest against the proposal, because if they did th’ey would! be met with the state ment, “ Telephonic communication has been established between Melbourne and Sydney, and why should not the capitals of other States be similarly treated”?
– The honorable and learned member is unwilling to make a start. That is all this is.
– I do not wish to make a start, because our spending power is limited. It would be extremely unwise at the present time to vote the money, when we cannot) afford to undertake works which’ are necessary, and far more important than is this line. It was only the other night that the honorable! and learned member for Corinella said that for the safety of the Commonwealth it was necessary to spend almost immediately ,£800,000 on defence works and equipment, but he would not take the responsibility of placing that sum on the Estimates this year.
– I was going to bring the matter before the House in another way, and during the present session, if I had been afforded an opportunity.
– Bearing in mind that statement of the honorable and learned member, and believing that his claim on the Commonwealth is justified by the necessities of the position, I shall avail myself of every opportunity to effect a saving where, in my opinion, a work) is not necessary, and there is no public demand for it. The money which could be saved in that way could be spent on defence works and equipment, which are absolutely necessary.
– As soon as the vote for warlike stores is reached, I shall tell the Committee what I propose to do, ami see if the present Government will take action.
– Perhaps the Government may do so,’ although; apparently that is not their intention. By making economies in these Estimates, we shall only be responding to *a proper call to insure the safety and preservation of the Common-‘ wealth.
– Does not the honorable and learned member think that this line would be more useful than a few more brass buttons on a uniform?
– I would rather have telephone lines than a display in brass buttons, but we want men to defend even our telephone lines. We do not want an enemy in Sydney to be using- this telephone while the honorable member is look- ing up Hansard to ascertain what nasty things he said a few years previously about men in brass buttons. For these reasons, I shall vote for the omission of the item.
Mr. WILKINSON (Moreton).- We have been told repeatedly that the erection of this telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney is justified because it will pay. But I wish to point out that whilst the outlay is to be charged per capita, apparently the profit is not to be distributed by the same method. In my opinion, if the States are to be called upon to bear the cost of erecting the line, then the profit from its working should be apportioned amongst them on the same principle.
– Yes; but it cannot be done.
– That shows that it is an absolutely one-sided arrangement. I do not think that the statement that the line will earn a profit of 5 per cent._ justifies its construction under existing circumstances. If we had plenty of’ money available to spend, there could not be the slightest objection to the Commonwealth undertaking any work which would be reproductive.
– Is not a profit of 5 per cent, good enough?
– It is good enough if we have any amount of money to spend on works which are required. But, as was pointed out in the debate on the Budget, the Commonwealth’ has reached to within about £400,000 of its spending power.
– But we shall save an expenditure of £1,100,000 on the sugar bounty directly.
– It shows a rather narrow spirit for an honorable member to taunt a Queenslander in that way when he rises to honestly express his opinions. The bounty is of no more concern to me than to the representatives of New South Wales, because the sugar-growers in that State as well . as in Queensland participate in the benefits of it. I am not speaking against this item in a spirit of provincialism, or from a feeling, of antagonism towards New South Wales or Victoria, but merely because I wish to see justice done to the other States. If we had an’ unlimited spending power, there would be every justification for the Commonwealth to construct this or any other line which would pay interest on the outlay and meet the working expenses. But when we have almost reached the limit of. our spend ing power, there are other issues to be considered than the mere earning of 5 per cent, on this line.
– Do not all the branches depend upon the trunk line?
– Yes, if they are connected with the trunk line, but not otherwise. The branch lines will have no connexion with the line running from Melbourne to Sydney. This work is nott nearly so pressing as is the provision of some means of communication for those persons who are required to do the hard graft of pioneering. Melbourne and Sydney enjoy a mail service by rail and boat, and telegraphic communication, but many settlers in outlying districts have merely a horse mail, and when they get a coach service they think they are almost in heaven. Such persons deserve a little more consideration than they get. If we have £30,000 odd to spend, it could be spent more profitably, and more in the interest of the whole community, by giving distant settlers that communication which they require and which would serve to make them more contented with their lot.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I am rather surprised at the views put forward by the honorable and learned member for Corio and the honorable member for Kennedy when opposing this item. I believe that every honorable member, whether he represents city or country, is in favour of giving facilities of communication to country residents. No proposal has been made by the Government to withdraw any facilities from the people in the country. They are anxious to extend them.
– But we have not the money.
– The honorable member knows that additional facilities have been given to country people in his own State. He need not fear that there will not be money available, if any additional sum is required. Quite a new idea has been put forward by the honorable arid learned member for Corio. He says that the reason why this proposal, although it will pay, should not be carried out is that no request has been made for it. He admits that the Department thinks it necessary. We ought to encourage the departmental officers to make inquiry on their own initiative. We ought not to wait for outside persons to make demands, although when thev are made they should be inquired into. The humblest officer iri the Public Service should Le encouraged to make suggestions which will be for the benefit not only of the Department but of the public. This will be a payable work. The PostmasterGeneral points out that there will be a return of 5 per cent. on the capital invested. The estimate made to me, when I authorized the work, was that there would be a return of 10 per cent. But a deduction has been made on account of the estimated loss from decrease of telegraphic business to the extent of 5 per cent. That loss, however, is largely imaginary.
– With whose capital is the line to be built ?
– With Commonwealth capital.
– What is to be done with the profits?
-Whatever profits are made will be for the benefit of all Australia.
– They will be for the benefit of the people of New South Wales and Victoria.
– I understand that those who advocated Federation did so because it would be for the good of Australia. We are here to legislate in the interests of Australia ; and a business proposal, which shows an estimated return of 5 per cent., even after deducting the supposed loss from decrease of telegrams sent, is one which no business man would hesitate to carry out. It is true that the work will be a great advantage to the people of Sydney and Melbourne, but it will also benefit the people of country towns, such as Seymour, Wangaratta, Wodonga, Albury, Wagga, and Goulburn. All those towns can be connected, and have the advantage of telephonic communication with Sydney, Melbourne, and intervening stations. I have a recollection of a proposal to extend telephonic communication in the interest of the electorate of the honorable member for Corio. The people of Geelong wanted to have direct communication with Ballarat, instead of having to pay on the distance from Geelong to Melbourne, and thence to Ballarat. By means of the condenser system, the Department were able to meet them. But on the principle laid down by the honorable and learned member, as no petition was lodged - although the Department, in the public interest, thought the work ought to be carried out - that should not have been done.
– There were several petitions and a deputation, and I wrote a largenumber of letters. If that is. not a publicdemandI do not know what is.
– The honorablemember then wanted a direct wire between Geelong and Ballarat.
– No, I did not.
– I think so; but because the Department thought it desirable to carry out that reform, according to his reasoning, they were wong in not waiting until there was a definite and clearly expressed public demand. In my opinion, such works ought to be carried out as soon as it is shown that they will be in the public interest.
Mr. CAMERON (Wilmot).- The honorable member for Moreton has put a pertinent question to the Postmaster-General. Hehas pointed out that while this, as a new work, will be paid for out of the Consolidated Revenue, the profits, if there areany, will go to New South Wales and Victoria. In other words, the smaller States will have to stand the racket of the loss if there be any ; and if there are profits, the larger States will receive the- benefit of them. Is that fair?
– The honorable member need not fear that there will be a loss.
– That does not alter the position. In the first place, the Commonwealth Government is going to takemoney which, if it were not expended in this direction, would be divided amongst the States in proportion to population.
– If there be a loss, the two States mentioned must bear it.
– That is not so, because anyloss will be borne per capita by the other States. In other words, Victoria and New South Wales stand on “ velvet.” It is a case of “ heads we win, tailsyoulose.”
– That is not so.
– It is absolutely so.. If the line be constructed out of Commonwealth funds, to which all have contributed, any loss must fall on the whole of the States, whereas any profit will be divided between the two largest States in proportion to the amount of business whicheach brings to the line.
– What about the £8,000 voted for Tasmania last week?
– Where Tasmania has received £8,000 or 8,000 shillings, New South Wales find Victoria have received £200,000 or£300,000.
– The honorable member must admit that Tasmania has been treated very fairly.
– On the contrary, Tasmania, on every possible occasion, has been used as a camel to assist in carrying the burden, but no attempt has ever been made to return anything to that State, or to afford any justification for the wrong done to it, beyond the retort, “ You have the ports of the Commonwealth open to you.” , Just as if Tasmania wanted the rubbish of Victoria or New South Wales !
– The New South Wales ports were open to Tasmania for years.
– They were thrown open in the interests of the people of New South Wales, who had no love for Tasmania, but only love for their own stomachs.
– New South Wales will bear one-third of the cost of tha construction of this line.
– Is the honorable member making this speech, dr am I ? If the representatives of New South Wales and Victoria are so strongly desirous to have this line, and believe so firmly that it will not only pay, but pay handsomely, it seems to me that section 96 of the Constitution might very properly be put into operation with regard to the profits. That section is as follows : -
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
If we agree to assist in constructing this line, the profits, which we are told will be so large, might be distributed on a per capita basis amongst the other States. That suggestion is, I think, a fair one.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - The honorable member for Wilmot has shown us the true complexion of the case. He has pointed out in forcible language that if there be a loss on this line, that loss must be borne by the whole of the States, but that any profits will be divided between Victoria and New South Wales, although the smaller States will have to pay their quota towards the cost of construction. New South Wales and Victoria are grumbling about trade leaving them ; indeed, they are just like young kangaroos - the more they get the more they want. If any representatives of the smaller States vote for this item, thev will simply consent to those States paying the cost of constructing new works in Victoria and New South Wales, without any prospect of sharing in the revenue benefits.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The honorable member for Maranoa has emphasized the statements of the honorable member for Wilmot, but the latter gentleman did not put the case fairly. No doubt New South Wales and Victoria will benefit if there is a profit, but they must also bear any loss there may be. It must be remembered that New South Wales will contribute one-third of the cost of construction, and Victoria nearly one-third, the balance being borne by the other States; in other words, the two great States bear twothirds of the cost of all works constructed in the other four States in the Union. If the honorable member for Wilmot had the interests of his State at heart, he would vote for this item without a word of complaint, because the small, compact State of Tasmania has more to gain from such a system than have the larger States. The honorable member for Wilmot very inaccurately stated the case, and I hope that his excitement will not influence other honorable members.
Mr. CULPIN (Brisbane).- I protested when a similar vote for New South Wales was before us, being, convinced that the cost of the construction of this line must be borne by the Commonwealth as a whole, while the revenue will go to the two larger States. I think it is improper, however, to talk of the profit to those two States, because there is really something more. The cost of construction, which is the real expense, is, as I say, borne by the whole of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for Robertson seems to think that because Victoria and New South- Wales will have to pay two-thirds of the expenditure involved in this proposal, the other States need not complain if they are called upon to make up the balance. I have complained of this system all along. I care not which State gains by its application ; it is a rotten system - the more it is looked into the more one becomes convinced of that - and it must lead to extravagance in every State. If this proposal is followed to its logical conclusion, pressure must be brought to bear on the Government to provide telephonic communication between the capitals of all the States. Why should Sydney and Melbourne be the only capitals provided with the convenience of telephonic, as well as telegraphic communication, at the expense of the Commonwealth ? No one can argue that they are entitled to this consideration any more than are the capitals of the other States. The whole thing is on a wrong basis. It cannot be contended that it is fair that expenditure should be charged on a per capita basis” until we have arrived at the time when revenue is also pooled. By way of pouring toil on the troubled waters, and overcoming the difficulty, I throw out a suggestion. If the PostmasterGeneral will promise the representatives of the other States that within a reasonable time similar propositions will be made for their advantage, this vote might be assented to. Why should not Tasmania have direct telephonic communication with Melbourne? Why should not Broken Hill be connected with Adelaide, and Adelaide with Melbourne, in the same way ? We are indebted to the late Postmaster-General for having introduced the new system which has been the means of providing telephonic communication for various centres in South Australia at a reasonable cost. When I asked for telephonic communication with Petersburg, the honorable member for Macquarie will remember that the Department demanded a guarantee of £4,500. A guarantee was required also in the case of Moonta and other places. I represent one of the largest districts in the Commonwealth, and in it are many towns which have neither telegraphic nor telephonic communication. To my mind, it is extravagant to spend £34,000 on this connexion, when it is no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of places in the Commonwealth which should have telephonic communication, and which, so far, have not even telegraphic communication.
– The honorable member will admit that within the last few months a large number of places in his State were provided with telephonic communication.
– I have already said that we are indebtedto the late PostmasterGeneral for many such connexions. Is it to be understood that where large works are involved, no guarantee is to be required ?
– If it can be shown that the line can be worked at a profit.
– How is that to be shown?
– Cannot the honorable member trust the officers of a Government department ?
– Has the honorable member for Wentworth not been sufficiently long in Parliament to know that Government officers frequently err in their estimates of probable expenditure? The revenue from this line will be pooled with the other revenue of the Department in the two States of Victoria and New South Wales, and we shall never have any means of knowing whether it is a paying concern or not. I again protest against the inauguration of this system until we are in a position to pool revenue as well as expenditure.
– I voted against the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Maranoa, and against the principle of requiring a guarantee for all these undertakings. I hold the view, which members of the Government have previously expressed themselves as being in favour of, that all reasonable facilities should be given and life made as easy as possible for the men who are doing pioneering work in remote dsitricts of the Commonwealth. It is one of the functions of the Post and Telegraph Department to do all that it can to make the lives of those who live in the interior of the country as happy and as comfortable as possible. Holding these views, I have favoured considerable expenditure in providing telegraphic and telephonic communication between different centres in the various States, even though they may not always pay. I wish to emphasize the remarks of the honorable member for Coolgardie when dealing with the condenser system. Where it has been inaugurated there is proof positive of the previous existence of a telegraph line. The difficulty we have in various portions of the extensive State of Western Australia is in getting the original telegraphic communication. I believe that the Government are justified in incurring considerable expenditure in order to bring the people in the back districts into communication with those in the cities. Looking at the estimates of expenditure proposed for New South Wales, I may say that I favour the idea of the Commonwealth assuming control of the service in the different Slates, and erecting the necessary, works to carry out the system inaugurated by the late Treasurer. In the same year a greater expenditure may be necessary in one State than in another. But I believe that we shall gradually find a level in this matter, and we should be prepared to “stand in “ so far as expenditure as well as revenue is concerned. The honorable member for Wilmot was astray in expressing the opinion that in the event of a loss arising under this proposal it will have to be borne pro rata by the people of the whole of the Commonwealth.
– The Department will have power to close the line at any moment.
– In the event of a profit being obtained from the working of the line, it will go to New South Wales and Victoria; while, if there is a loss, those two States will be responsible for it. Seeing that only £12,000 is set apart in these Estimates for the extension of telephones throughout New South Wales generally, and that, in the view of a great many of the representatives of the State, more money is required to improve the means of communication now possessed by country districts, I am opposed to this project, though I am not bitterly opposed to it. There is no crying necessity for carrying out the work, although we have the assurance of the Postmaster-General, supported by that of the late PostmasterGeneral, that there is a reasonable prospect of a profitable revenue being obtained, which considerably mitigates my first antagonism to the proposal. I think, however, that the expectation of the PostmasterGeneral and his responsible officers that the public will be willing to pay 6s. for every conversation of three minutes’ duration is too sanguine.
– It would be cheaper to pay that rate than to use the telegraph.
– That would depend upon the business to be done. It must be remembered that the use of the telephone will reduce the revenue from the telegraph.
– Does the honorable member put that forward as a reason for not improving our facilities for communication ?
– I think that we must consider whether- this work is so urgent that it demands immediate consideration. The Postmaster-General told us first that there is a public demand for it, and afterwards that no individual request has been made for the construction of the line. The honorable member for Macquarie is so satisfied that a big profit will be obtained from the working of the line that he will not admit the possibility of loss.
– I should not advocate the erection of the line if I were not.
– I, at any rate, am not so satisfied. Although honorable members have a great deal to; say about assisting the producer, I think it is the producers of George-street and Flindersstreet who chiefly will benefit by this work. However, if this is a reasonable business proposition, the only question we have to decide is whether the line should be erected now or at some future date, after telephones have been extended to districts which are more urgently in need of means of rapid communication.
Mr. LEE (Cowper). - I cannot understand why there should be so much objection to this proposal, seeing that we have the assurance of the PostmasterGeneral that the work will pay from the start, and that it will serve not only Melbourne and Sydney, but all the intermediate towns. No guarantee is, required if it is evident that the line will pav. and I am sure that if the representatives of other States can bring forward cases in which lines will pav from (the start, the Postmaster-General will be glad to erect them without asking for a guarantee. I do not think that the Honorable member for Wilmot could suggest an extension which would pay without the Postmaster-General consenting to make it at once.
– I can instance a casein which I offered a guarantee to the late Postmaster-General, and he would not givea post-office.
– The late PostmasterGeneral is here to answer for himself. Under the circumstances, it would be a waste of time to discuss this matter further. I do not think, however, that the PostmasterGeneral will get as much business if he makes the charge 6s. for every three minutes’ conversation as he will get if he charges a lower rate.
Question - That item 3, subdivision 2, “Victorian portion of trunktelephoneline between Sydney and Melbourne, £11,000” be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item agreed to.
Mr. CAMERON (Wilmot).- On Friday last I gave notice of my intention to move the reduction of the vote for Western Australia by £1, in order to raise the question whether the Government were right in debiting to the States, on a per capita basis, the expenditure on certain buildings in Fremantle. My view is that under the Constitution the State in which such works are constructed should bear the cost of them. If honorable members will look at section 89 of the Constitution - and that is the only provision that has any bearing on this point - they will see that it is therein provided that all buildings taken over by the Commonwealth shall be maintained at thecost of the various States by whom’ they are transferred to the Commonwealth, and that any new buildings that may be erected in connexion with the transferred services shall be paid for by the States on a per capita basis - that is,that the States shall contribute to suchcost in proportion to their population. My contention is that the pro posed new post-office at Fremantle is not a new work in any sense of the term, but is merely intended to replace one of the transferred properties. It is well known that there was a post-office at Fremantle at the time when the Departments were transferred to the Commonwealth, and that the building then in use for post and telegraphic purposes has been utilized up to the present time. Although the new building may not.be erected on the site of the old structure, it is none the less intended to be substituted for it, and to answer the same purposes. When previously dealing with this subject, I expressed my appreciation of the soundness of the position taken upby the honorable member for Coolgardie, who seemed to me to strike the true keynote when he said that the discontent which prevails amongst representatives of the smaller States, as the result of the want of recognition on the part of the larger States of the great responsibility which rests upon us in regard to the finances of the States, would be, to some extent, allayed if the cost of new buildings were deducted from the revenue returnable to the various States. I do not know that I need take up very much time in discussing this matter. If honorable members will read the Constitution they will see that the proposed building at Fremantle cannot be regarded as a new work. It may be argued by the representatives of Western Australia that the business of the post-office at Fremantle has increased to such an extent that it is absolutely necessary to provide a larger building ; but that does not affect the point I am raising. I move -
That subdivision 5, “ Western Australia, £23,000,” be reduced by£1.
– May I ask the honorable member if he has considered what the real effect of his proposal would be - or, rather, how short a distance it would carry him? As the honorable member is aware, we have now nearly completed arrangements for the valuing, as a preliminary to the taking over from the States, of the whole of the transferred properties, and when such properties are taken over by the Commonwealth they will haveto be paid for on a per capita basis. Therefore, if the honorable member had his way, and if the proposed building were constructed nominally at the expense of the State as soon as the transferred properties are paid for its cost will be charged per capita. So that if the honorable member succeeds in carrying his amendment, the expenditure for the moment will be charged to the State, but presently - as fast as the matter can be arranged - it will be charged per capita. Consequently no real gain will be effected.
– How long will it take to arrive at an agreement in regard to the price to be paid for the transferred properties ?
– We have practically arrived at an agreement as to the basis of valuation with two or three of the principal States, and with them there only remains the ‘ question of calculating the amounts and arranging for their payment. After a great deal of delay the basis of the valuation has at length been satisfactorily arranged.
– I do not mind prophesying that it will be some time yet before the matter is finally dealt with.
– Why not do what is legal in the ‘interim?
– If the honorable member succeeds in carrying his proposal he will have gained nothing. On the legal question, without offering an individual opinion, I think he will see that a line has to be drawn somewhere when a State work is being replaced by another of a much larger and more expensive character. From the very inception of the Commonwealth, it was claimed by the States that in charging them with renewals which include a certain amount for improvements we were dealing with them rather harshly. They claim that no amount should be charged for improvements, but we have taken a reasonable latitude in that direction, and they have been satisfied by being reminded - as I have already reminded the honorable member - that when these works are taken over by the Commonwealth they will be paid for per capita, so that, after all. the arrangement is merely a temporary one, which will not injure them. The honorable member for Wilmot chose a post-office to illustrate his contention, and I desire to follow his example. Let us take the case of a small post-office on a new goldfield, which becomes a Kalgoorlie. When the State erected its building, it probably provided two or three rooms in which business could be comfortably carried on, at an expenditure of £400 or .-£500. But after the mines were discovered, people flocked there, and it became necessary to erect a larger building at a cost, perhaps, of £6,000 or £7,000.
– Does not the State reap the benefit from the larger building?
– Certainly, it reaps, the benefit of the revenue derived from it. Nevertheless that work has to be paid for per capita, and the special revenue benefit which the State enjoys is terminable at the close of the bookkeeping period. It is true that the State gets the benefit of the revenue which that post-office returns, but only during thebookkeeping period, which may be terminated within the next twelve months. Consequently the gain may be limited to» twelve months. If the honorable- member looks at the matter from either aspect he will see that the Commonwealth will have to pay for the building, per capita soon,, and that the State will soon lose the revenue which, it derives from that source Hi’s proposal’,, therefore, which is intended to benefit the: State, would benefit it only temporarily.. The practice of charging the expenditure on these works on a population basis hasbeen established.
– It was established only last year for the first time.
– With regard to postoffices, the practice has obtained ever since the establishment of the Federation. Itis quite true that last year the Treasurerlaid down a new principle, under which he charged the cost of a number of works? which had been previously debited to theStates on a per capita basis. Now that the bookkeeping period has nearly expired, is it not too late to reconsider the position which we accepted last year on the advice of .the then Treasurer? We have accepted this new method of allocating expenditure. To reverse it now would only make confusion worse confounded. Under the circumstances, I submit that the gainanticipated is illusory, and that to alter the present practice would involve considerable inconvenience for an inconsiderablegain.
– I think that a mistake was made last year in altering the system which previously obtained. For three or four years the Commonwealth had charged the States in which any works or buildings were constructed, with .the outlay upon them. That principle was absolutely open to ho objection, because - as the Prime Minister has mentioned - so soon as the transferred properties are paid for. those works, which were previously debited to each State, will be paid for as part of the- transferred properties. They will technically be regarded as having been transferred, inasmuch as they will be works and buildings, which were constructed to keep up the establishment, as at the time of the inauguration of the Commonwealth. But last year the Treasurer threw out some doubts as to whether that was the better system, and with very great reluctance he adopted the method of charging the cost of these works on a population basis. After having found his confusion worse confounded by the constitutional opinions expressed by lawyers, he was exceedingly doubtful of the policy of apportioning the expenditure per capita. Apparently the present Treasurer entertains less doubt upon the matter, because the effect of carrying out the per capita principle will be to relieve the obligations of Western Australia to a considerable extent.
– I did not prepare these Estimates. The Committee adopted the per capita method of charging this expenditure last year.
– I do not know that it did. The Treasurer mooted the matter, but there was no decision of the Committee upon it.
– I protested against it, but there was no decision on the part of the Committee.
– The Treasurer intimated that he intended to adopt the per capita method.
– He expressed grave doubt as to the constitutionality of the course which he proposed to take.
– He announced his intention to take a course of action which was not challenged. K
– By referring to Hansard, of last year, page 5650, I find that the then Treasurer said -
The provision to which I have referred has puzzled me very greatly, and, although I have consulted the law advisers of the Crown in regard to it, I have not been much helped by their opinion.
Upon the next page, he says -
Whatever view I might entertain in regard to expenditure upon post-offices, telegraphs, and telephones, I can come to only one conclusion concerning defence expenditure, namely, that it ought to be charged against the whole of the Commonwealth upon a fer capita basis.
It will thus be seen that he remained doubtful as to all other expenditure, except defence. To my mind, there is no distinction between the two, save that one is revenue-producing and the other is not.
– If the honorable member will read what is reported a few lines lower, he will see that the late Treasurer laid down the course of action which he intended to pursue.
– What I stated at the beginning of my remarks is quite correct. The right honorable member for Balaclava indicated that it was with very great reluctance that he was about to change the system which had previously existed. In my judgment, it was a great mistake to alter the system which had been in force for four years.
– The Constitution contemplates that “ other “ expenditure shall be charged per capita.
– But the point is whether or not this is “ other “ expenditure. For four years we acted upon the assumption that it was not.
– We may have acted wrongly. The position became untenable.
– When the properties come to be valued we shall have certain parts of them treated as transferred, while others will be regarded as not having been transferred. Probably the confusion of the valuers will be equal to that of the Treasurer when they have to settle on what basis they are to value these properties. It is for this reason that I say the mistake was in altering the system that had been followed for four years. The valuations may or may not be on a uniform basis, but in the long run it cannot make much difference, because the State under the old principle would have the amount refunded subsequently, assuming the valuation were a proper one. Although the honorable member for Wilmot is correct in his view that this is transferred expenditure, it would be almost a pity this year to make another alteration in the system.
– I do not altogether agree with the honorable member’s view of the Constitution.
– The right honorable gentleman does not consider that a slight extension in the scope of a Department makes the incidental expenditure thereby incurred “new expenditure.”
– I do not think that the cost of erecting a fort where there was none before could be considered as transferred expenditure.
– But would the right honorable gentleman consider the cost incurred in improving an existing fort was new expenditure ?
– The position in that case might be different.
– Surely it could not be new expenditure. New expenditure must be that incurred in launching some new policy. We determined at the Convention that certain Departments should be transferred as going concerns, and’ surely the cost of slight renovations or repairs, or additions to transferred buildings, should not be considered as new expenditure. Such expenditure would be incurred in continuing the old Departments, and in keeping them up to the’ necessities of business. However, as I have said, lawyers differ on this point, and I regret that in the circumstances the Government did not adhere to their original system of dealing with these items as transferred expenditure. The honorable member for Wilmot is now attempting to get away from the system adopted for the first time last year.
– The alteration can easily be made.
– No doubt the honorable member’s contention is right in principle, and I should like to hear from the Government before I say that I shall not support them.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).The honorable member for Wilmot has raised an important point, which was well considered when the late Treasurer submitted his Budget last year. At that time I went into it very carefully, and expressed myself as strongly of the view that the practice adopted by the late Treasurer for the first four years of the Federation was absolutely wrong. I said that he had been charging to the different States respectively the cost of works done within those States, whereas he ought to have charged it as “other expenditure” on a per capita basis. I think that a great deal of the confusion has arisen from importing into the Constitution words that it does not contain. There is no such expression as “ new expenditure “ in the Constitution, and we are not now dealing with the question of what is expedient. We are bound by the words in section 89, which primarily refer to the time before the imposition of uniform duties. Under the latter part of the section, of course, the period after the imposition of uniform duties is governed by the same conditions ; but still primarily the idea is that for the time being we shall debit expenditure in these two ways. The words are simply that -
The Commonwealth shall debit to each State -
The expenditure therein of the Commonwealth incurred solely for the maintenance or continuance, as at the time of transfer, of any Department transferred
All other expenditure is to be dealt with ona per capita basis. The only question now before us is whether the erection of a new building at Fremantle in substitution of an old building comes within paragraph a with regard to “ maintenance or continuance as at. the time of transfer.” I understand that the words, “ maintenance or continuance “ were used with reference to the up-keep” - both as regards repairs and staff - of the Departments as they stood at the time of transfer, and that the idea in using them was to secure that there should be debited to the State such expenditure as happened to be incurred on any post-office as it then stood.
– Is every appointment to be treated as new expenditure ?
– If an increase were made in the staff, it would probably be “ other expenditure.”
– And yet the State would get the extra revenue.
– It is true that all the revenues collected in the State are 10 go to that State. It is a question not of what ought to be done, but of what is the meaning of section 89 ? We cannot get away from that section, and it is useless for us to say that the provision is unreasonable. I am not discussing that phase of the question.
– If a new post-office te erected in Fremantle, it will be the property of the Commonwealth?
– There is nothing in the Estimates to show that the new post-office is to be erected on the site of the present building. That being so. the Commonwealth will be compelled by the Constitution to take over the old post-office, although it will have this new building.
– That may be very extravagant, but the point we have to consider is whether the expenditure incurred in building a new post-office on a different site, as the honorable member suggests, will amount to the “ maintenance or continuance “ of the Department as at the time of the transfer. I think that the honorable member has, as a matter of business, bit upon what is a flaw in the section ; but at the same timeI feel that we are bound by that provision. I didmy best last year to follow the late Treasurer’s exposition of his doubts, on the point, and I confess that I fail to know why he should have had any. Although the honorable member for Wilmot will be able to put his finger on several injustices which will arise from what is being done, I am obliged to vote against him, as I feel bound by the Constitution. I ask the honorable member ‘to confine his attention to the question of what is expenditure incurred solely “ for the maintenance or continuance as at the time of the transfer of the Department.”
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I agree with the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne that if we are to interpret the words of section 89 of the Constitution Act in their ordinary literal meaning, we shall certainly be landed in the difficulties which he has indicated. I do not agree with him, however, that the canon of construction of a Statute such as this one is the literal or the primary apparent meaning of the words. There must be some regard paid in such a case, I think, to the general intention of the legislation. Before the right honorable member for Balaclava delivered his Budget speech last session, I felt that it was very difficult indeed to say where sole maintenance or continuance ended, and new expenditure began, that if you went beyond the offices, and one. might say the officers which were in existence at the time of transfer - which seemed at first sight to be the intention of the section - it was very difficult to say exactly where the line should be drawn. But while my doubts were not resolved any more than were his by the opinion of a previous AttorneyGeneral, expressed with the usual caution, I felt that, in the matter of these new works and buildings, as the Prime Minister has pointed out this evening, this was only a temperary arrangement, and that if they are charged to the States to-day they must be taken over and paid for by the Commonwealth on a per capita basis tomorrow. If it be a loan from one State to another for a few years, it will not be a loan of the amounts which appear on the Estimates, but only a loan of the difference between the amount advanced and the charge to the State on a per capita basis. It will not bear the ordinary aspect of a loan ; it will not be a loan of what would otherwise be interest-bearing money, because it will be expended either by the Commonwealth or the State in the ordinary services of the year. It will simply be a loan from one’s income as contrasted with a loan from one’s capital. I venture to say that, except in the case of Western Australia, which is getting, of course, considerably more than her per capita share, the difference will be comparatively slight, and it will be found that Tasmania will not pay very much out of Western Australia’s excess over her per capita share of the money which is being spent.
– Only an eighth of the vote.
– Tasmania will not pay an eighth of anything. She will merely pay on the ratio of 180,000 to 4,000,000, roughly speaking. I object most strongly to the application of the principle that the expenditure in each State chargeable per capita shall be exactly proportionate to the per capita contribution of the State. Victoria is paying for everything so far as these charges are concerned.
– Not for everything.
– I do not say that Victoria is paying everything, but merely that she is paying for everything of this kind. There is no way in which she is making a profit.
– Victoria is get’ting a larger return than any other State.
– There is the item of £10,000 for the Melbourne General Post Office.
– If we take the proportion to which Victoria would be entitled on a per capita basis, I do not think there is any way in which she is getting a return equivalent to the amount she pays on a per capita basis, and she is making no complaint. So far as these payments are concerned, she recognises that it is inevitable that, in the settling of these matters, we cannot proportion everything absolutely to the old state of affairs. Otherwise there would be none of the giving while there would be all the taking of a Federation.
– Tasmania is contributing to the sugar bounty to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– I do not wish to be lured into a discussion of either the fiscal question or the sugar bounty. What pressed on my mind in coming to the conclusion with the late Treasurer that it was best to charge new works on a per capita basis was that it meant a comparatively small loan for only a year or two.
– What was the reason for altering the previous practice?
– The w6rks partook more of a Federal than of a State nature, and whatever legal argument was to be drawn from section 89 of the Constitution it was against the previous practice. Take, for instance, a new work like the fort at Fremantle. I do notfind anything in that section, even on a liberal construction, which justifies us in calling it transferred expenditure chargeable against Western Australia.
MY. Watson. - I think that it is just as much so as the appointment of an additional gunner in the artillery there.
Mir. McCAY. - That is another matter. It is an argument against the honorable member’s view, not against mine.
– I do not think so.
– It is an argument against charging as “ transferred “ expenditure many things which are now so charged, not an argument against charging as “ other “ expenditure things which are now so charged.
– The whole position is unreasonable.
– That is the fault of the Constitution.
– I do not think that any Court would take any such view.
– I think that the Justices would probably give an elastic meaning to the words “ maintenance “ and “ continuance,” but I do not think they would go so far as to regard a new work which is a part of a general strategic defence of the Continent as a work for the maintenance or continuance of the Department as at the time of transfer. That argument applies, although not with the same force, to a new telegraph line or a new post-office. There is a convenient working line which may be drawn between current expenses and new works, even if it be not a strictly legal line. I think the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne will agree with me that a practical line can be drawn even if a legal one cannot.
– What is the force of the word “ solely “ ?
– That is an unhappy word. The balance of argument and con venience is very strongly in favour of the course adopted by the last Government, and which the present Government propose to continue ; and I would suggest to the honorable member for Wilmot that he gains a very small advantage at the expense of considerable inconvenience, if he were to press this amendment to a successful issue.
Proposed vote (items 1 and 7 of subdivision 1, item 3 of subdivision 2, and subdivision 5) agreed to.
Division 5(Government Printing Office), £1,500
– There is an item in this division of £160 as a contribution towards the cost of sewering the Government Printing Office. That building is one over which, so far as I know, we have no control. We have nothing to do with it except that we get our printing done there. We have certain machinery in it, but the building belongs to the Government of Victoria. I also direct attention to the fact that, although last year , £1,500 was appropriated for machinery and plant, the actual expenditure was £2,593. The expenditure, therefore, exceeded the appropriation by a considerable sum. We have a right to complain, first, that the appropriationshould have been exceeded ; and next, that we should be called upon to contribute towards the sewering of a building over which we have no control. I raised a similar question last year, and I hope that the Treasurer will look into it. We have no guarantee that the estimate will not be exceeded again. I trust that the Treasurer will exercise more control over the Printing Office than seems to have been the case in the past.
– This expenditure of £1,500 is for the purpose of obtaining linotype metal, and also for the purchase of a machine to repair the linotype machines.
– Why was the vote exceeded lastyear?
– I cannot tell the honorable member off-hand. The whole of the expenditure is in connexion, with our linotype machines, and the building in which our printing is carried on. i shall be glad to make inquiries and give the honorable member detailed information whenthe general Estimates are being considered-
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 6 (Special defence material), £ 1 40, 000.
– In respect to the consideration of these Estimates, the Committee has been very much assisted by the very clear and comprehensive statement made by the late Minister of Defence. In the course of that statement the honorable and learned member explained that the Estimates before the Committee were practically his, and not those of the present Government. We found them in the Treasury at the time of our taking office, and the period which has elapsed since then has been, of course, insufficient to allow my colleague, the Minister of Defence, to make an examination of the whole of the items involved from his own particular point of view, in order to submit them comprehensively to the Government. But, at the same time, enough advance has been made in the consideration of these Estimates for me to feel that it is but just to call the attention of the Committee to several items of expenditure which the Government do not propose to carry out as they are here set down.
– I suppose that the honorable gentleman will move alterations.
– I am not yet in a position to move the addition of items and the substitution of others, for reasons which I will presently explain. The late Minister of Defence, in the course of the speech to which I have alluded, pointed out that the position which he occupied was that of every previous Minister of Defence; that is to say, that he had far more obligations, if one might so term them, than he could possibly hope to cope with in one year. It became, therefore, not a question of doing what he desired, and neglecting what he did not desire to do ; but his task was to consider the various proposals in the order of their urgency, and in the order of their comparative importance, and to pick out those which, in his opinion, most called for attention at the present moment. The honorable and learned member laid down the principle on which he had proceeded. It was desirable, he said, to complete part of the scheme before proceeding to other parts. In one portion of his speech, reported in Hansard, at page 1684, he set out the position very clearly. He pointed out that-
The votes proposed for the curent year will, to a large extent, complete that scheme.
That means Major-General Hutton’s scheme -
For instance, the vote for accoutrements will complete the accoutrements for the field force upon a war establishment; that for saddles will complete the equipment of the light-horse upon a peace establishment; the vote for the field artillery will bring us within twelve of our total number of guns, and will complete the equipment of sixty out of seventy-two guns. In the same way the vote for camp equipment will complete the equipment of the garrison force ; and that for medical equipment will complete the equipment of the field force upon a peace establishment. Every one” of these votes will practically complete some work which was already in progress.
That was the principle on which the honorable and learned member proceeded. I need not say that those statements are correct, and that the honorable member’s proposals would complete to the extent which he mentioned those various purposes. But that may, perhaps, have been interpreted by the Committee in a larger sense than intended, except in regard to the very first item of £32,500 set down for accoutre- ments. There was . £7,000 spent last year, with this additional sum for this year - and a very large sum it is - for providing the infantry, which now possesses accoutrements on the peace footing, with accoutrements necessary to a war establishment. The Australian Light Horse, which at present has no such accoutrements, will be equipped, not only on a peace footing, but on a war footing.
– The men have accoutrements, but the horses have not.
– Exactly; but these items cover the special accoutrements, so far as is necessary to raise the Australian Light Horse to a war establishment.
– The items cover the things which the men carry on their bacKs or around them.
– And these things are summarized under, the word “ accoutrements,” although it includes much more.
– This applies to the mounted troops.
– It is to them I refer. As a matter of fact, the precise accoutrements which have to be carried by the horses have not yet been decided on.
– I think they have practically been decided on.
– In regard to this particular vote, it is true that the £3 2 , 500, if voted, will practically complete the equipment in what are termed the accoutrements. But with item 2, “Saddle-trees, stirrups, and bits, £10,250,” and item 3, “Making saddles, £22,500,” we find an addition to the sum on the Estimates of j£32>75°- We shall require next year, £32,800, which will make £66,550; or, if we add the garrisons which are not provided for under Sir Edward Hutton’s scheme, we shall require £71,270 in order to finally complete the provision for saddletrees and the making of saddles for a war establishment. Omitting item 4, “ Field Artillery - guns, harness, waggons, and ammunition, £58,882,” in regard to which I have no alteration to suggest, we come to item 5, “ Camp equipment, £8,000.” I find here again that £8,062 was spent last year, and £10,238 will need to be voted next year, making £26>3°° to place the equipment on a war footing. Item 6, “ Miscellaneous - tools and other material,” £1,840 was spent last year, whilst next year £3,1.60 will be required to complete the equipment. Item 7; “Medical equipment, £5,653,” is in addition to the j£5:8o8 voted last year.
– £^1 1,000 was voted last year, and £5.800 spent.
– There will be £8,114 voted next year, or a total expenditure of £19,575, to completely equip the field force. Altogether, therefore, a very large sum, approaching £60,000, will be required to really complete the late Minister’s items.
– On a war footing.
– I am speaking always of a war footing, as I did in regard to the first item of accoutrements.
– That is the first matter which must be completed - the accoutrements.
– Now we come to items 8, 9, and 10, on which there is no difference of opinion between the ex-Minister of Defence and the Government, and as to these I have no suggestion, to make, though I may have a statement to lay before honorable members. But as to item 11, which is £2,000 for mounting the Cerberus guns, the ex-Minister of Defence informed us that he had1 intended to remove it from the Estimates, where the present Government found it. _The present Minister of Defence was not’ aware that his predecessor had intended to remove the item, which was left until, it was too late to make any change. This item, I need not say, it is proposed to ignore altogether. I have referred to certain items, because, in respect to them, there is a differ ence of opinion between the present Minister of Defence, and, so far as I am ault to follow the matter, a difference of opinion between myself and the ex-Minister of Defence. It appears to the Government that the provisions inserted are less urgent than some other provisions which might be made with advantage at the present time. To make the matter quite clear, let me first refer to other items which appear to the Government quite as urgent as they did to the late Minister of Defence. There is item 4, which is £58,000 for field artillery. This is to provide the artillery with proper guns, harness, waggons, and 500 rounds of ammunition for each of eighty-four guns. We have, at present, thirty-six 15-pounders, and twelve in process Deconversion in England, and we shall have thirty-six 18pounders, twenty-four of which were ordered last year, and twelve of which are to be ordered this year. There still remain another twelve to be ordered next year. Last year, there was £67,000 voted for the field artillery.
– That was the amount spent; we voted ,£72,000.
– Next year, we shall need £48,686, making a total of £175,000 to effectively equip the field artillery. This appears to be a very urgent matter. Item 8, which is £2,000 for equipment of field engineers, also appears to be urgent. Honorable members will see that this latter is in addition to the £2,000 voted last year; and, I may add, that £2,2 16 more will be required next year, making a total of £6,216 for the field engineers. Then machine guns are another necessity, and £10,260 is proposed for four Maxims, and the proportion of ammunition required with them. That is in addition to £9,072 voted last year, and to £24.508 which will be required next year, or in subsequent years. A total of £43,840 will be required before we can complete our equipment in regard to machine guns. Then comes item 10, which covers the provision for the two 7’5 guns and one 6-inch gun for Fremantle, and the supply of ammunition. Items 12, 13, and 14 are small, providing for six gyroscopes, service shell for 8-inch and 6-inch guns, and submarine mining equipment, and 12-pounder equipment, all for Queensland.
– I think the last is a doubtful item, too.
– These are small items, but, so far as my colleague has gone, he sees no reason to think that there are more urgent matters to which they need give place.
– I am inclined to think that item 14 is not necessary.
– I shall have the benefit of the honorable and learned member’s opinion. The position we find ourselves in is one of some difficulty. With our predecessor’s Estimates, so far as the items alluded to are concerned, which mean £95,000 outof the total, we agree in every respect. As to the items to which I first called attention, and which the exMinister of Defence proposed - except in regard to the Cerberus guns - with a view to completing Sir Edward Hutton’s scheme for the field and garrison forces, it seems to the Government doubtful whether the full amounts, or anything like the full amounts, ought to be devoted to those purposes this year. It appears to us that there are other matters more urgent, and, first, I may mention the provision of cordite, especially for the big guns.
-Is it proposed to make the cordite locally?
– Not only is the cordite manufactured abroad, but I believe the whole charge for big guns comes out made up ready for use - a completely manufactured article. It would be unnecessary, and, perhaps, unwise to go into details, even if I had them ; but I think the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and those acquainted with the circumstances, will admit that we have an insufficiency of cordite at the present time.
– I presume the Prime Minister is speaking of fixed defences?
– When I alluded to the cordite, I meant, by the colloquial reference to big guns, fixed armaments.
– Is it proposed to locally manufacture cordite?
– We require to import the made-up cordite, because we are not yet manufacturing it here.
– Cordite can be manufactured here, butthe Government will not pay the price for it.
– We shall no doubt be able to manufacture cordite; indeed, we must of necessity undertake its manufacture, but I am now only dealing with the expenditure for this year. The supply of cordite at present is insufficient; and if we are to be able to utilize our fixed armaments and most modern guns in harboT defence, it is, in the opinion of my colleague, the Minister of Defence, absolutelynecessary to have a considerably larger supply. If an emergency arose, the necessary cordite could neither be manufactured here, nor hurriedly supplied.
– How long does the Minister think it will be before we shall have sufficient ammunition to allow of practice with the quick-firing guns we have?
– So far as I am definitely instructed on these matters, it will not be long. But I prefer not to discuss details, tor reasons which the honorable member will understand. I think it is necessary that there should be practice, and quite admit that practice under service conditions is impossible, except with cordite. Practice with black powder is good in its way, but it is not practice under service conditions, and it is not the practice which is required. I am thinking not only of practice, but of possibilities - let us hope, extremely remote - of the immediate future, which to my honorable colleague appeared to strongly suggest the wisdom of supplying ourselves with cordite for our fixed guns, before we concern ourselves with the supply of accoutrements or saddlery. The late Minister of Defence, in the course of his remarks, made an appeal to the Committee not to be captivated by a proposal to increase the number of rifles. I can assure the honorable and learned gentleman that his remarks caused me toagain look into the question more closely, giving that due weight which I think ought to attach to his opinions. Yet, having looked into the question, and admitting, as the honorable and learned gentleman said, that we have one rifle for every effectiveman of our forces intended to use a rifle, and also nearly 5,000 rifles more, nevertheless, when I find that the recommendation of the Imperial Defence Committee at homeis that the supply of rifles should be at least 50 per cent. above the full requirements of its own effective force-
– They are trying to workoff some of their rejected rifles on to us.
– We are not obtaining; any rejected rifles at present.
– The short rifles are rejected.
– They have not been rejected. They have been adversely criticised, but they are still being manufactured and served out, and. so far as myown limited knowledge of the subject goes,. the question of superiority is still a matter of grave debate in England between recognised authorities who take different views.
– The official view is so far in favour of the new short magazine rifle.
– The manufacture of them has been almost stopped, and the issue of them has been almost completely stopped.
– That is a most important matter, which must not, of course, be overlooked; but it does not affect the principle laid down by the Imperial Defence Committee, and to which our attention has been particularly directed. Remote as we are from the old world, and incapable of manufacturing these weapons at present, it is desirable that we should take some steps towards increasing the number of magazine rifles of the best type within the Commonwealth in case of emergency. These are the two great items to which our attention is specially directed. We are not yet in a position to say definitely, for reasons I am about to give, exactly how much it will be necessary to divert from the numerous items I have mentioned, but my honorable and learned friend, the late Minister of Defence, is aware that cordite is very expensive, that rifles are also expensive; and it is therefore very easy to swallow up two-thirds of the sums he proposed to devote to the various objects mentioned which appear to us to be less urgent than necessary provision for cordite and the increase in the number of rifles. The reason why I do not come down with any definite proposal in this regard is because my honorable colleague and the members of the Government generally, hold that no scheme for the year ought to be proposed in regard to defence generally, and particularly in regard’ to the supply of defence stores, which is not part of a scheme laid down for a number of years. The former practice of annual dealings was put aside, when we commenced to deal with Major- General Hutton’s recommendation for the expenditure of £575,000 upon a scheme in which we looked a certain number of years ahead, and made certain definite provision. It seemed to us that, in considering the question of defence, what is demanded of us is that we shall not simply propose something for one year, but that we shall propose whatever may be necessary for this year as part of a scheme stretching over a number of years. I am aware that , my ttionorable and learned friend laid down the same principle in his speech, though, perhaps, in other words. Like . the honorable and learned gentleman, we foresee that this will mean a very large expenditure in the gross - an expenditure which he estimated at something like £800,000 - in order to make it complete. We desire that none of this money shall be thrown away, but that we shall, so far as we are able in the time at our disposal, provide from the very start for a consistent plan of supplying our various deficiencies. These may be in connexion with our land forces - to refer in my colloquial way to the ordinary military forces - or in connexion with our garrison forces, fortifications, or other harbor defences, all of which need improving, as my honorable and learned friend agreed. We desire that to whatever purpose expenditure is to be devoted it shall be on a settled plan. My honorable and learned friend started with a similar idea when he made provision for accoutrements, saddlery, camp equipment, tools, and supplies, as matters of most urgent importance. The point on which we differ from the honorable and learned gentleman is that, so far as our present information takes us, we consider an adequate supply of cordite ammunition for our fixed guns, and provision for more rifles, matters of much more urgent importance. We also desire to do something further on the excellent lines pursued by the honorable and learned gentleman for the encouragement of rifle shooting. This will depend very largely on the amount of money which, on inquiry, it is found can be spared. We are also inclined to afford some better opportunities for the practice of rifle shooting, in addition to the provision made by the late Minister of Defence.
– There is additional provision for the purpose provided on these Estimates, the increase being from £3,700 up to £6,000.
– I am not positive as to the extra amount, but think that we can take a further step, though the increase may not amount to much, in view of contingencies.
– Not out of the vote for warlike stores, surely ?
– It would not be out of the vote for warlike stores, but from what could be spared from the vote for warlike stores.
– That is the same thing. Instead- of paying for warlike stores, the Government propose to give the members of rifle clubs an opportunity to travel.
– To travel, in so far as that is necessary to afford them better opportunities for rifle practice, and to attend rifle competitions. The amounts to be devoted to these purposes will be very trifling in comparison with the amount which will be swallowed up in making what we consider adequate provision for a supply of cordite and for extra rifles.
– What about rifle ranges? They have not been very liberally provided for, so far.
– We have been looking into all these matters, and in these respects we have been improving year by year, so far as our funds have permitted. These are some of the. items down for consideration: To cheapen ammunition to riflemen, to give them a little extra travelling, better rifle ranges, and better opportunities for practice in rifle shooting. I admit that all these matters were under the consideration of the late Minister of Defence.
– Does this not disclose a very serious departure ? Is it a question of a difference of opinion between the Minister of Defence and the ex-Minister, or has the Council of Defence changed its opinion between June and September?
– It is largely, no doubt, due to Ministerial initiative, but these questions are under consideration by the Council of Defence now, and, I presume, were considered by them previously.
– Why have they changed their opinion so completely, in a few months ?
– I did not say that they had changed their opinion.
– Perhaps the honorable and learned gentleman will say whether expert opinion is behind the Minister in these suggestions?
– There is expert opinion behind the Minister, but I am not yet prepared to say that the Council of Defence has finally decided anything. I am aware that the Minister has been in consultation practically with all the expert officers of his Department in endeavouring to arrive at a wise conclusion.
– The Council of Defence was going to give us continuity of policy.
– I hope it will. We desire to adopt these Estimates, which, as honorable members know, were framed for us, so far as we can; there is no wish to make alterations for the sake of altering. But we take the view that the items I have mentioned do not represent the most urgently needed expenditure on warlike stores this year. When we have completed a full inquiry into the whole matter we will propose substitutions.
– Shall we have an opportunity to discuss the substituted proposals ?
– Yes, after the. Minister . has consulted his expert advisers, and the Cabinet has considered the scheme as a whole. In the meantime we ask the Committee to agree to these Estimates, because we hope that our substituted proposals will not increase the expenditure, although they may alter the mode of its appropriation. I feel that this explanation is imperfect, but the Minister himself sits in the Senate, while for the last fortnight I have been deprived of the assistance of the honorable member for Richmond, who, has represented him in this Chamber, and has given the subject his undivided attention. I have, however, tried to acquaint honorable members with what is in the mind of the Government at this stage of their Defence policy.
– The announcement of the Prime Minister, that specific proposals in substitution for these Estimates will be submitted to the Committee for consideration at a later date naturally makes one feel bound - and, indeed, willing - to allow the proposed vote to pass, on the understanding that an opportunitywill be afforded for the discussion of the new proposals when they have crystallized from their at present apparently nebulous condition, and have been formulated by the Government. The honorable and learned gentleman stated that, in his opinion, the proposals of the Government should be part of a permanent scheme, not subject to alteration year after year. In that view I entirely concur, and, as he is probably aware, there are minutes in -the Defence Department in which that is pointed out very clearly.
– I was not aware, though it was pointed out very clearly in the honorable and learned member’s speech.
– It is pointed out in the first minute laid before the Council of Defence. The other day I asked the Government to recognise the seriousness of the position, by breaking through what, I hope will be the Commonwealth practice of abstaining from borrowing, by advancing to ourselves, so to speak, the money necessary to put our defences into a proper position, and I again press that view upon their consideration. The matter is too serious for us to say, “ We will spend so much this year, so much next year, and so much the year afterwards.” We cannot afford to spend out of revenue all that is required, nor can we justly deprive the States of any substantially greater amount than we deprive them of now. But I would remind the Committee, quoting the substance of words which I heard not many weeks ago, .that if trouble did arise, and an enemy came to our shores, he would not make any allowance for the fact that we had not been able to provide out of our annual revenue the funds necessary to defend ourselves properly, but would probably be so discourteous as to take advantage of the fact. I have no great hope of the Go- vernment being able to borrow money for this purpose, even on short-dated Treasury bills. The Prime Minister shakes his head. I do not know if he means that to be a confirmation of my opinion.
– I feared so. When the honorable member for Bland said that Ave had better carry out this work Avith money provided out of revenue, I feared that the Prime Minister would play Polonius to his Hamlet.
– That is ungenerous.
– Surely one is entitled to criticise the political situation in terms as mild as that. I do not think that the Prime Minister considers himself personally affronted by my remark.
– I consider the honorable and learned member mistaken.
– So Polonius would have said had he been accused of too ready an acquiescence in Hamlet’s views about the shape of the cloud. As the next best alternative - though I’ do not think it anything like what .the necessities of the situation demand, because nothing will satisfy them but the course I have urged - I suggest that the Government should follow a precedent set in Victoria some years ago, when a scheme Avas perfected for the partial equipment and partial development of the Victorian Defences. I am sorry that the term “ Special Avarlike stores “ has been discarded in these Estimates for the term “ Special defence material.” There must be a peculiarly Quaker-like feeling abroad.
– The alteration Avas not made by me.
– I did not make it. Perhaps the honorable and learned member did.
– I have the same bellicose heading in my copy, and last year the term employed Avas “ Special warlike stores.”
Howe,er, the term is immaterial, so long as we make proper precision. Each year, from the 30th June, the obtaining of these supplies is entirely suspended for some months. If the Government are prepared, as they should be, to give honorable members full opportunity to consider a complete scheme some little time before the end of the session, I urge them to embody it in the schedule to a Bill which will contain clauses limiting the amount to be spent each year. In that way, if the Bill is passed, we shall have a special appropriation for a series of years, and the Department may go on without a break developing the specific scheme of which Parliament has approved.
– Has that not been done already ?
– No. The money is voted every year, though Ave now know enough of the subject to be able to provide under a special Bill for funds to carry out the scheme for a series of years.
– What does the honorable and learned member think the appropriation should be?
– We require an expenditure of £800,000 ; but, if no loan is to be raised, Parliament must decide how much shall be spent each year.
– How much does the honorable and learned member think should be spent?
– The more the better; but our expenditure is limited by the requirements of the States. I do not wish to repeat what I have already said on this subject, but I ask the Government to bring down their proposals, so that honorable members may deal Avith them, not in the form of a motion, but in the shape of a schedule to a Bill, so that, good, bad. or indifferent, Parliament may lay down a scheme which will be followed for a number of years. If that is done, the Department will be able to proceed to carry out the scheme, whoever may be the Min.ister in charge, without having months of harassing anxiety each year as to what amount will be voted, and how it should be expended.
– Major-General Sir Edward Hutton’s scheme was practically approved of by Parliament.
– The interjection of the Treasurer brings me to another point. Parliament practically approved of MajorGeneral Hutton’s scheme, and I suppose that is why the present Government are proposing to depart from it.
– Not because of that, but we are acting in spite of it.
– All history proves that a small force properly equipped will always beat a large force insufficiently equipped. The Prime Minister mentions that the Government propose to increase the supply of cordate ammunition for the heavy artillery in connexion with our fixed defences, which is not at present up to the recognised Imperial standard, and this, of course, will entail the expenditure of more than a few hundred pounds. This very question was considered by Major-General Hutton, who is undoubtedly the ablest soldier we have had in Australia for a number of years. With a knowledge of all the circumstances, he did not recommend more than appears in his scheme, except, if I am correctly informed, in one particular regard. Major-General Hutton’s scheme provided for an expenditure of £13,000 upon artillery ammunition in connexion with our fixed defences, but I am informed that by a clerical error the figures, £31,000, became altered to £13,000, and appeared in the report in that form. I admit that we require more ammunition for our big guns, but I contend that what we have would probably prove sufficient for the requirements of any emergency that is likely to arise during the next few years.
– That is a view that has not been presented to us. It has been represented that our supplies are not sufficient even for immediate requirements.
– I arrived at the conclusion I have indicated after carefully going into the figures. I do not) propose to mention any figures, because I do not consider that they should be allowed to enter into a discussion on matters of this kind. I admit, however, that the ammunition question weighed heavily upon ray mind, and, of course, I did not come to any conclusion on these matters without consulting all the officers whose expert opinions were worth having. I have no very great quarrel with the Government on that point, although I say that in my personal opinion they are making a mistake. In connexion with item 6, “‘Miscellaneous - tools, and other materials,” I may say that I would far sooner have 30,000 rifles, and a proper supply of trenching and other tools than 40,000 rifles without proper supplies of tools. Tools may be supplied locally at a pinch, although not perhaps to the fullest extent that might be desired.
– That is the point; the tools can be supplied locally.
– What I wish to point out is, that as far as a peace establishment is concerned, we have not even a complete equipment for our forces. We have not a complete equipment for the men who are actually enrolled, and the Prime Minister indicates apparently that the supply of saddles which are necessary to equip merely the present light horse, is to be delayed in order that extra supplies of cordite, and an additional 5,000 magazine rifles, may be purchased.
– I would rather have 10,000 rifles than 5,000.
– The rifles may be fairly estimated to cost £5 each ; therefore 5,000 rifles will cost £25,000, or, if the order be increased to 10,000 rifles, the outlay will be £50,000. I should be very glad to see an additional 10,000 magazine rifles in Australia, but I ask what particular danger will be met by increasing our supply of rifles to that extent, as contrasted with the danger that would be guarded against by the expenditure of money in other directions? The first question we have to ask ourselves in determining a defence policy for Australia, and thereby determining what forces we require to raise and equip, is, “What is the danger that we are likely to have to face?” In other words, what are the probable, and what are the possible risks to which we are exposed ? I say unhesitatingly that the least risk we incur is that of an invasion of Australia in force - the risk against which the piling up of modern rifles is intended to guard.
– We do not want to pile up the rifles, but to place them in the hands of the people.
– The Postmaster-General is quarrelling over a matter of terms. I would ask of what use would the additional rifles be if they were placed in the hands of the people unless there was an enemy to shoot at ? What danger would be met by the acquisition of 10,000 additional rifles as compared with the danger that would be guarded against by the equipment of the present force? If we obtained1 this additional supply of rifles we should have 45,000 magazine rifles, and would possess a force of only 10,000 men properly equipped, and another 35,000 insufficiently equipped. I do not know of any probable danger to which we are likely to be exposed that would require us to place 45,000 riflemen in the field.
– We can get saddles made in this country, whereas we cannot manufacture our own rifles.
– We cannot get saddles made in Australia in a day. If the Minister is content to wait until the enemy is at our gates he is prepared to run counter to the lessons taught by the history of every war that has taken place. Every lesson to be derived teaches us that the army that is ill equipped is the one which in a short contest loses, and in a long contest suffers enormous losses before it can secure its proper share of success.
– That is not borne out by the. history of the French revolution. It was the well -equipped troops of the allies that were defeated1 by the ill-equipped French troops.
– I do not derive that lesson from the history of the wars of Napoleon. I do not say that any amount of equipment will enable badly led forces to defeat well-led troops. I am assuming equality of leadership. All history tells us that lack of equipment is the cause of disaster. One has only to look at the history of the Civil War in the United States to learn that more than once the southernStates, would have won if their armies had been as well equipped as they were courageous and well led. If before we provide against the obvious danger of attack r by comparatively small- numbers, which “our field force of 30,000 would easily be able to meet, we provide against a more remote contingency, I contend that we are reversing the proper order of things. I am not going to quarrel with the details to which the .Prime Minister has referred, because I shall have an opportunity of doing that at a later stage. Much as I desire to see Australia a nation of riflemen-, I claim that the proposal to purchase more rifles before completing the equipment of a definitely determined force, is consonant with no scheme of defence against probable dangers. It means preparing for the remoter contingency before completing our preparations for the nearer contingency* It is on that ground of principle alone that I quarrel with the particular item mentioned by the Prime Minister. I am quite aware that there is a vague feeling abroad that the more rifles we possess the better off we shall be.
– Is that only a “ vague feeling “ ?
– It is vague, because it has not been crystallized into asking - “ What are we going to do with the rifles ?” Only the other daw a man in Western Australia remarked to me - “We shall never be safe in Australia until we have 500,000 rifles here. There are a million able-bodied men in the Commonwealth; let us have a rifle for every second man who is fit for service.”
– Does the honorable and1 learned member contend that we have sufficient rifles?
– I do not.
– Would it not be better to have a shortage of saddles than a shortage of rifles?
– There is no shortage of rifles for any probable contingency. Is it likely that within the next twelve months Australia will be invaded in force? If war were to break out at any moment, is it not far more likely that we should suffer from flying invasions than from an attack in force?
– Why should not we provide against both contingencies?
– Because we have not the money.
– Are we not here to insure that Australia shall have a proper system of defence?
– I admit that we require all these things. It is a question of which we should undertake first. I contend that by increasing the supply of our rifles before completing the equipment of the existing forces - by increasing the supplies of our second line of defence before completing the equipment of our first line is unsound policy.
– Even when the supplies for our second line of defence consist of rifles, whereas the equipment of the existing forces merely involves the supply of bandoliers and belts.
– I may tell the Prime Minister that bandoliers and belts form a very important part of the equipment of the service. I protest against the theory that the defence of the Commonwealth can be intrusted to men who have merely to be given rifles and a pocketful of cartridges, and told to go off and fight. There is a good deal more than that required. A certain amount of training is absolutely necessary. If there is to be a choice . between the purchase of additional rifles and the training of our leaders - and by “ leaders “ I do not necessarily mean officers at the top of the tree, because a corporal is just as much a leader as a general, though to a lesser extent - I should prefer to see more money spent in sending an increased number of officers abroad for instruction. In imagining that by merely increasing the supply of rifles, we shall make Australia safe, we are committing the gravest of errors. The danger which will require Australia to use 60,000 rifles in the field is so remote as to be unworthy of consideration compared with the clanger that might require us to place 15,000 or 20,000 men in the field. When the pinch comes, it will come quickly. If war were to break out at any point on our coast, we should requireto send our troops there immediately. We should not be afforded an opportunity to complete the manufacture of the requisite number of saddles. We could not send a wire to the enemy, saying, “ As soon as our saddles are finished, we will come and fight you.”
– We have the saddles now.
– As a matter of fact, the saddles at present in use are either the property of the mounted men themselves, or are nearly worn out. Moreover, in a citizen army we have to satisfy not only the public whom it is designed to protect, but the reasonable feelings of the members of the forces themselves, because they are practically volunteers.
– Are they not willing to supply their own saddles ? They have done so in the past.
– They do so now. This vote for the purchase of saddles appeared upon last year’s Estimates. The reason the saddles were not supplied was not because the work was postponed to enable something more pressing to be carried out, but because difficulties arose in connexion with the steel arches required in their manufacture, and because I decided that, as far as possible, everything connected with them should be made in Australia. As a matter of fact. I found that we could obtain the saddles as cheaply in Australia as we could in England, whilst, at the same time, we could exercise more supervision over them, so far as quality was concerned.
Troubles arose, however, in obtaining samples, and this caused delay. I consider that a proper saddle upon a horse is almost as important as is a proper rifle in the hands of a trooper. A mounted man is no better than his horse, and the rider of an animal with a sore back is of no use. I only offer these few observations with a view to impressing upon the Government the nature of the danger that we have to meet. I ask them to allocate their expenditure accordingly, instead of merely satisfying an uncrystallized idea as to what the defence of Australia would best consist of. An army of magnificent riflemen possessed of plenty of ammunition, would be of no use, unless it was well led, well equipped, well trained, and well supplied, and unless it was able to move about freely, knowing that supplies would come forward from its base.
– The honorable and learned member for Corinella, who is more fitted than is any layman in the Commonwealth to speak upon defence matters, has laid down a most excellent principle, which should guide us in all our deliberations - the principle that, in considering what things we want, we should have regard to what we want them for. The honorable and learned member seemed to think that that principle would naturally lead us to suppose that a “ field force “ was a more pressing requirement for the Commonwealth than is the proper completion - I say “ completion “ advisedly - of the coastal defence of Australia. While agreeing with the honorable and learned member that what we want above all things in connexion with our defences is continuity of policy, I disagree with him when he says that a field force is better designed to meet the more probable dangers’ of Australia than is the coastal defence - the defence of our shipping and centres of population.
– I do not think I said that.
– But it was implied in the argument.
– I do not think the honorable and learned member did make that statement; but, whether intentionally or not, he implied it.
– I said that a field force of fixed dimensions properly equipped would meet our probable dangers better than would the indefinite extension of the numbers of rifles we possess.
– I absolutely agree with the honorable and learned member in that respect; but is it not infinitely more probable that our coastal defence, rather than the field force of which fee has been speaking, will be called upon to meet the first attack that the Commonwealth has to fear?
– I do not think so. I believe that the back door is just as likely to be attacked as is the front door
Mfr. KELLY. - I do not agree with the honorable and learned member, and I shall put very briefly the reasons why I cannot agree with him. All our schemes for the defence of Australia are based on the proposition that England is able to maintain command of the seas in time of war. Now, we know that it has been laid down by the Imperial authorities on coastal defence that while we have command ofl the seas, every section of the Empire must be prepared first of all for a raid, or even for an attempt at forcing a passage on the part of isolated ships or small squadrons of the enemy ; and we further know that Great Britain has made preparations to prevent such raids by securing an immense preponderating strength in cruisers. I mention this point only to show the honorable and learned member for Corinella that any ships that came here to attempt a raid, or to act in any of the other offensive capacities open to them, while Great Britain still maintained control of the seas, would be able to stop in one place for only a very short time. They would not be in a position to engage in that form of attack to which the honorable and learned member has referred - a “ deliberate attack ‘ ‘ on any point of the coast line of Australia - and it would be only in cases of ‘ ‘ deliberate attack ‘ ‘ that definite landing parties would act in conjunction with the fire from those ships. It is laid down in Artillery Training for 1904. - a work that is quoted throughout the Empire as the “ authority “ on coastal defence - that there are three, or, including “ bombardment “ - a most unlikely form - four attacks to which we might be subjected. Taken in the order of their danger, the first is a “raid,” the second the “ forcing of a passage,” and these two attacks are both possible, and, we are told, probable while the command of the sea is still maintained by us - while the third attack is that which the honorable and learned member for Corinella apprehends, a “ deliberate attack” on cities by combined land and naval forces. It is laid down in the same authority that this form of attack is impossible while England commands control of the seas.
– Is not that work issued in England in respect only to English conditions ?
– It is issued for the Empire, and is recognised, not only in England, but throughout the Empire.
– It is a garrison artilleryman’s view of garrison artillery duty.
– It expresses the view held, not only by garrison artillerymen, but by the. naval authorities, that no definite expedition - and when I use the word “expedition” I mean expedition, of landforces - could be sent oversea against us by a foreign power until command of the seas had been taken away from the country now possessing it. That shows that, for the form of attack to which we are most exposed, neither a field force nor a conscript force is the protection we most urgently require. In the extremely able speech on defence which the honorable and learned member for Corinella delivered a week or two ago, he mentioned, as one of the uses to which our field force might be put, that it might be directed against some of the foreign possessions in the neighbourhood of the Commonwealth. I can only say that a field force that had built up for itself a very fine field artillery - if it ever attained the efficiency necessary to properly manoeuvre and use that artillery - would find its field artillery of little use against those possessions ; for the type of mountain guns or mule guns required for use against those possessions is not provided for in the equipment of our field force. But I do say that a field force is infinitely more useful than is a vast inconglomerate of untrained immobile men, armed with rifles, but lacking in any of the equipment which the honorable member has properly described as absolutely necessary. I wish to point only to this one fact in this regard : that we havein Australia an average of only one and a quarter inhabitants per square mile. A third of that population is centred within a very small area. So that, if we take onethird of the 775,000 men available for military service, that third, which is living in the different centres of population, could be used as a very valuable adjunct to any defence force in those particular centres; but, as a means of repelling invasion, it would be useless. It would be immobile, and, on the face of it, quite without the commissariat and other trains absolutely requisite to make a force easily concentratable at threatened points. It could not be moved; nor could the very sparse population; and, therefore, soldiery, outside our centres of population, could not be concentrated on any point attacked by the enemy. If an enemy came here for any purpose after our command of the seas had been lost, it would be to occupy territory that we had not occupied; and I hold that it would be far better for the Commonwealth to devote the money it is now proposing to spend on mere rifles to repel invasion, if not to the real defences of the country, then to a scheme to increase the population. A large population as, after all, the very best weapon we could have against occupation of territory.
– ‘’ Mere rifles “ are very handy.
– They would not be very handy in Western Australia, when their bearers were wanted in Queensland ; or in Sydney, when they were required in Northern Territory, and when we had not the means to convey them from one point to the other ! The expenditure proposed to be incurred will be useless to any except the big centres of population, which will probably never be invaded until other parts of the Commonwealth have been occupied. All I wish to put this evening is first the urgency to properly equip, as the honorable and learned member for Corinella said, one section of our Defence Forces at a time; and the section which, I suggest, requires most urgently to be equipped, since it is the first that would come into requisition, is the coastal defences. I have .already shown that, so far as the defence of Sydney goes, we have not sufficient cordite ammunition to permit of practice with the quick-firing guns. I do not agree with the honorable and learned member that our coastal defences are in a reasonable position to repel attack when we have not taken the common precautions necessary to make ourselves efficient in the use of these guns. We have not the men’ required to man the guns with one gun’s crew per gun. Furthermore, we require very urgently one particular type of gun there - the 12-pounder gun - as an anti-torpedo boat armament. These are the defences which I would urge on the consideration of the Prime Minister as neces sary to be completed before all others are dealt with.
– I am glad to notice the spirit which has come over the Committee since last session. It shows that certain history which has been made during the past year has brought honorable members into a rather serious mood concerning defence matters. It was with a good deal of pleasure I noticed that the Prime Minister, even before he attained office, in an interview which he gave to the Melbourne Herald, struck a note which showed that he was leading public opinion in this direction. I am sorry that I have not been able to get all the details of his scheme, and I was not able to follow them as quickly as did the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who had an alreadycomplete knowledge of the scheme, ana* from whom I certainly expected to get a longer explanation than he gave.
– I spoke very fully on the subject a week or two ago.
– Yes ; and .1 read thespeech of the honorable and learned member with very great interest. I did expect to hear from him a fuller explanation of the detailsof the scheme. However, we are promised that it will be submitted by means of a definite motion by-and-by. I should like an opportunity to compare his scheme, which certainly seems to have a logical, consistent base, with the scheme which has been put forward by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Minister of Defence. There is not the slightest doubt that a comparison reveals that a serious departure has taken place. We were promised, although I never expected it, a continuity of policy from the Council of Defence and the Military and Naval Boards, but we find that two-thirds of the proposals in respect of special warlike material have been swept away, and new proposals have been intro:duced
– The only way to get continuity of policy would be to insure Parliament knowing what the Council of Defence proposes from time to time.
– That should be done at a private sitting. In my opinion, these questions should not be discussed in public. I do not wish the representatives of the press to Le excluded, because I believethat, if it came to the last stage of patriotism, they would suppress information which should not go to the public and the enemy L
I think that the ideas propounded by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, in his recent speech, were largely brought into his mind by reading the details of Major-General Hutton’s scheme, and by constant consultation with his principal advisers and the Council of Defence. It contained certain detailed military proposals which I think military nations would not have allowed to go forth. Even the slight details we get give certain information, which it is inadvisable to publish, but which certainly could be discussed at a private meeting of the Committee with the Council of Defence.
– Every one seems to know all about defence except this House.
– Since the honorable member read up a book called The Garrison Artillery Manual 1904 he seems to possess absolute knowledge on every phase of the defence question.
– The honorable and learned member has not even got the name of the book aright.
– I acknowledge with deep regret that I do not know the title of the wonderful little book which has imbued the honorable member with complete knowledge, not only on defence matters,, but on every other subject which comes before the Chamber. As to the amount to be spent by both Minister and ex-Minister on new field artillery, although it is quite wise that we should equip our field artillery, still I. hold that we want a permanent field artillery corps.
– The honorable and learned member is prejudiced on the subject of the militia field artillery.
– I am. From the nature of their training and their special work, I do not think the field artillery should be entirely confined to militia. It is specialized work for specially trained men. One of the disastrous provisions which I think the honorable and learned member introduced into the Defence Act was that in which, except for purposes of instruction, the field artillery had to be entirely militia or volunteer. There is no doubt but that far too great importance has previously been attached to field artillery. Take the highlytrained permanent artillery that was engaged on each side in the late RussoJapanese war. Of the casualties which were reported to the Head-quarters Staff, 85 per cent. were due to rifles, 7 per cent. to bayonets, and only 8 per cent. to field guns and shrapnel, although field guns are the most expensive part of a fighting force.
– It does not follow that there would not have been greater casualties amongst the infantry if they had not had the protection of field guns.
– Certainly not. But in Australia we should certainly have the nucleus of an effective field artillery force. On the cordite question I am completely with the Prime Minister, but is the Committee aware that for the sum of £6,000 we could get our cordite made in Australia? It has been brought under the notice of every Minister of Defence since the portfolio was held by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, that the Deer Park Explosives Company, which makes dynamite, gelignite, and all the explosives kindred to cordite, is prepared for the sum of £6,000 to erect the necessary plant and buildings to manufacture such cordite as we might require at a cost of 3s.; whereas the Department is paying 2s. At the time of the South African war Waltham Abbey - the place in England from which we get our cordite - immediately raised the price from 2s. to 2s. 6d., so that the increase, instead of being 50 per cent., would be only 20 per cent. It is absolutely necessary that our cordite should be made here.
– These questions are all part of a larger scheme.
– But what does it mean? The Prime Minister gets twelve months’ ammunition for his garrison guns and rifles, but the whole of that would be fired away in two days in time of war. What is to happen to the country then? The Prime Minister admits that he would like to carry out both schemes, if he could. But he does not think that we want equipment completed before everything else. Why should we not adopt both schemes ? It might mean that the expenditure on defence would-be increased from £178,000 to £278,000, and of course the cry would he raised that we were not returning to the States as much as they expected. But the whole position in regard to the importance of defence is altered by the fact that we have near to us an energetic, able, well equipped and armed nation that is going to play a large part in the Pacific. In view of that fact, we shall not do our duty to the people of this country unless we make sure that we are properly defended. I would support any Minister of Defence who proposed to increase and improve our defences until they reached a stage of absolute efficiency. If we do not do these things, our enemy in time of war will not desist from attacking us because we are not ready; and, if that should happen, the very people whom we are trying to save - the States Treasurers - would be the first to blame us for leaving the country undefended. Let me remind honorable members of some lines in Tennyson’s ballad of “ The Fleet.” On an occasion when Sir Graham Berry, then Agent-General for Victoria in London, was speaking at a banquet, he referred to the scandalous way in which the defences of the Empire were neglected. Tennyson, who heard his remarks, went home and wrote “the ballad from which I shall quote. He emphasized the danger of neglecting the defences of the country, and said that if they were neglected in time of danger -
The wild mob’s million feet
Will kick you from your place.
But then too late.
I commend that thought to the attention of the Minister and of the Government.
– When I listen to these marvellous military authorities I feel inclined to bow down in abject submission to them, except for the fact that history teaches us that all the improvements in munitions of war . and in armament have come from civilians and not from men of the military type. There cannot be a greater reflection cast upon any body of men than that. Although military men profess to know all about the subject, we may be perfectly certain that they are least fitted to take charge of the organization of the defence of a country. What else can be expected? If the military field is the best calling for which a man thinks that he is fitted, what sort of a creature must he be? He might as well be a ram or a bull, because, apparently, his highest ambition is to be shot; and really I do not know why any oneshould deny him that pleasure if he wants it. That is how I feel when I hear these military men talking. I am a man of peace - especially when every one else agrees with me. Nothing annoys me more, and rouses a greater feeling of indignation within me, than when I hear people urging that we must waste pound after pound upon military equipment. Where is it going to end? Sooner than live in a state of constant dread of invasion, I would die a thousand times. I admit that we must place our country in a proper condition of defence. I do not object to that. But we ought to recognise one thing clearly, and that is that the men who go in for a military life are not the best men to organize and direct the defence of the country. Because, a man who goes in for a military life early in his career, does not have his brain stimulated, as does the man who has to compete with his fellows in civic life. After twenty years of military service, he is not fit to take his partin organizing warfare. Take England for instance, where there are many thousands of men trained to a military life. The army was actually using the old Brown Bess muzzle-loader thirty years after everybody in civil life who used a rifle was using a breech-loader. ‘The more we begin to rely upon our volunteers for our defence the better it will be. There may be one exception to that rule in regard to the. permanent artillery, because I do not think that it is possible to train men to be good shots in a few days. We should take every advantage of our civilian soldiers. Men who have taken up the practical work of defence with enthusiasm are likely to be the best for all practical purposes. I must again deplore the tendency on the part of some honorable members to favour the spending of a large sum of money on defence. If we must do that, let us spend half of it in introducing new settlers and putting them on the land. In that way we shall secure a body of men who will be able to take their share in the defence of the country, and we shall not have a mere phantom army.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to pass the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill through all its stages without delay.
Resolution of Committee of Supply reported and adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means -
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for additions, new works, buildings, &c, for the year 1905-6, a sum not exceeding£418,91 1 be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– There was practically an arrangement come to that honorable members on this side should not object to the necessary motion’s in connexion with the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill being taken as practically formalmotions, since an opportunity has already been afforded for a full discussion of the various items in Committee of Supply. We are all aware that several very good reasons can be given against the suspension of the Standing Orders, especially when large sums of money are to be passed, but as honorable members have already had an opportunity to discuss the matters provided for in the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, it is not necessary to further refer to them at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Deakin and Sir John Forrest do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages without debate.
. -I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
As the first business for to-morrow, we propose to proceed with the second reading of the Representation Bill, and after that with the Commerce Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at11.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050912_reps_2_26/>.