2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the following statements published in the Trinity Times, of Queensland, on the 12th inst. : -
We publish below the full text of a wages agreement made by a Mossman magnate with a new arrival in the country. The unfortunate Williams mentioned therein was led to believe that 12s. was the current rate of wages, and on arriving at Mossman and telling his fellowworkers and hearing what they received, he cleared out and made for Mount Molloy; but a wire having been sent, the Mount Molloy policeman met him and locked him up for two days and two nights until policemen from Mossman arrived on 30th ult., and took him back to be tried before a tribunal of Kanaka-loving J.’sP. Williams is only a recent arrival from the old country, and such conduct as that of “ Gus Hayes, Esq.,” will not tend to encourage immigration. Williams bears an exemplary character, judging from his testimonials.
The following is the agreement under which Williams was arrested : -
Marsh’s Agency, 19-20 Town Hall, Brisbane.
Memorandum of agreement made this 17th day of August, 1906, between Gus Hayes, Esq., Mossman, Port Douglas, of the one part, and William S. Williams of the other part. The conditions are that the said W. S. Williams hereby agrees to serve the said G. Hayes, Esq., as general farm hand, and to make himself generally useful on the farm for the term of twelve months ; to obey all reasonable commands of the said G. Hayes, his agent, or overseer; to be responsible for allproperty entrusted to his charge; to be of respectful demeanour during the said period of twelve months. In the event of W. S. Williams not fulfilling his pari of. the agreement now mutually entered into, the transit charges from Brisbaneto Mossman, Port Douglas, having been previously defrayed by his employer, to be deducted from his wages. Wages to begin from day of arrival at Mossman. In consideration of the above conditions being satisfactorily performed, the said Gus Hayes agrees to pay the said W. S. Williams wages at the rate of12s. per week, and to provide him with board and lodging.
In witness whereof,&c, &c. - (Signed) S. A. Galdoway, agent for employer. (Signed) W. S. Williams, employe.
Witness - W. H. Britten.
Does the Minister know whether Mr. Gus. Hayes is registered for the receipt of sugar bounty ? If so, will he see that in future the bounty is not paid to Mr. Hayes, supposing that the allegation is correct, and that the rate of wages in the district is more than 12s. a week. Will he further ascertain whether other bounty applicants in the district are paying that rate of wages, and if so, will he take action accordingly ?
– The case has not been brought under my notice, but it seems an extraordinary one. I shall institute inquiries in, regard to it at once. If the statements are true, and I have power to take action in the matter, I shall do so.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That a return be laid upon the table of the House showing -
How many postmasters were raised in the reclassification to the grade of their offices?
The names of such postmasters, if any, and what was the reason for their being so raised?
How many postmasters who appealed were raised to the grade of their offices?
What are theirnames, and on what grounds were the appeals granted?
Mr. W. J. HALLAM.
– I wish . to know whether the return I moved for respecting the services of Mr. W. J. Hallam, of the Telegraph service, Hobart, is yet available ?
– Before the Estimates come on, I shall let the honorable member have what information is obtainable on the. subject.
– Under the postal regulations, the employes of the Post and Telegraph Department are entitled to leave at certain times of the year, and to annual leave, but the practice has sprung up of requiring, them before they are allowed to go away to find persons who will perforin their duties. For instance, a letter-carrier, wishing to go away on the day’s leave in every fortnight to which the regulations entitle him, has to find a boy who will relieve him on his round, and casual labour so employed has sometimes to do a week’s work for a day’s pay. Will the PostmasterGeneral see that this curious system, which conduces to sweating, is ended before the dissolution of Parliament, and that his employes are permitted to get their leave without hindrances being thrown in their way ?
– I am aware that there has been some difficulty in connexion with giving leave to the officers of the Department, but arrangements are being made which it is thought will overcome it. I have no desire that any one should work for a week for a day’s pay, and hope to make some changes which will enable a number of the more poorly paid officials to receive better consideration. We are endeavouring to get rid of many practices which have formerly prevailed in the Department, but are now regarded as undesirable.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral cause inquiry to be made in regard to the circumstances under which leave is granted to the letter-carriers in Bondi. Waverley, and Randwick, Sydney, with a view to seeing, before the dissolution of Parliament, that they are permitted to enjoy the full privileges attaching to their position ?
– Has the Prime Minister received a further communication from the Prime Minister of New Zealand in regard to the New Zealand preferential duties ?
– Not since the receipt of the telegram to which I have already referred. In that message the Prime Minister of New Zealand stated that, until the Committee of the House of Representatives, to which the matter has been referred, reports, and the feeling of the House is indicated, he will not be competent to express an opinion as- to the probable fate of the agreement. I have kept myself in touch, as far as possible, with the criticisms of the public men and news papers of New Zealand, and regret to say that, on the whole, they are quite unfavorable.
– I have received the following telegram from Captain Strachan: -
Provided I take witnesses to Papua, prove my case, will Government compensate for injury done and loss sustained?
I wish, therefore, to know from the Prime Minister whether, if Captain Strachan and others who have been aggrieved by the action of the Papua officials, put their cases before the Commission which has been despatched to the Territory, and that body finds that wrong has been done to them, money compensation will be paid? What responsibilities have the Commonwealth Government in the matter?
– In the event referred to, it would be our duty to forward the evidence and the finding of the Commission to the British Government to consider what steps, if any, it would take in regard to the actions of those who were at the time its officials.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Cusoms whether, on the revision of the bounty, system, he will, if proper data is placed before him, provide for a bounty on the export of poultry ?
– I should like the honorable member to place the matter before me more definitely. I feel that at the present moment it is not likely to be agreed to.
– Seeing that there has been considerable comment in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales which appears to be due to a misunderstanding regarding the Lands Acquisition Bill, will the Prime Minister make a statement as to the true intention and effect of that measure?
– There are in to-day’s newspapers further references to the measure, made, it appears to the Government, under misapprehension. The Premier of New South Wales has forwarded the opinion of his Attorney-General in regard to the Bill, which has been commented upon point bv point by our Attorney-General. I shall lay the papers on the table, because I think that: they settle the issue involved.
– In view of the outburst of feeling in Western Australia in reference to the rejection of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill in another place, does the Prime Minister think it possible to make one more effort this session to get the measure passed, seeing that a majority of the Senate is understood to support it?
– If the honorable member can show me that a majority for the Bill could be obtained this session, it might be well to lake the matter into consideration, but, under the circumstances, I am afraid that the result of further action would not justify his expectation.
– Some time back I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs a question of which he hardly realized the importance. It related to the suggested importation from South Africa of an ant which it is thought would destroy our rabbits. I have since received a letter from Dr. A. A. Brown, of the Victorian Department of Agriculture, in which he says that in view of the fact that the ant is such a terrible scourge, it would be madness to permit its introduction to Australia, because it would undoubtedly attack our flocks and herds and commit frightful depredations. I shall hand the letter to the honorable gentleman, and I hope that he will seriouslv consider the matter.
– I shall make further inquiries into the subject. If the ant is likely to be a danger, it would be best to prohibit its introduction.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs made arrangements for allowing the people in Bass Strait to vote at the coming election?
– I gave a decision the day before yesterday, which will enable them to record their votes.
– On Wednesday the honorable member for Fremantle asked the following questions : -
The Public Service Commissioner has forwarded the following information : -
Albany, and was retired under the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act as an excess officer. The junior officers referred to are being usefully and profitably employed, and are engaged on a different class of work to what Mr. Gardiner was. It would be unfair to dispense with the services of one of these in order to make room for Mr. Gardiner, who has not nearly earned his salary for some considerable time past.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
– The honorable member for Moreton asked the following questions on the11th inst. : -
The following are the replies: -
asked the Minister, re presenting the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I am informed-
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, during the coming parliamentary recess, the Government will lake steps (if necessary, with the consent and co-operation of the States of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales) to get the best expert and engineering advice as to Jocking, or using for navigation and irrigation to the fullest extent, the Murray, Darling, and Murrumbidgee Rivers?
– Inquiries of this nature have been made within the last year or two by the States named, and an agreement has been arrived at between their Premiers, in connexion with which a measure is being drafted for submission to their respective Parliaments. I fail to see that any offer of assistance from the Commonwealth would be welcome, though, as the Government take the deepest interest in this great Australian project, it would be very cheerfully given if desired.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
As it frequently happens that press letters containing manuscript are undulydelayed in delivery, will he issue an order that all press letters containing manuscript be delivered with the same expedition” as ordinary letters?
– Instructions will be given for press packets containing manuscript to be placed in the bags with letters as far as practicable, so that they may be delivered with the same expedition.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
If telegrams undelivered to addresses in Carlton and North Carlton can be returned to the Elgin-street and Rathdown-street Post-offices instead of being sent to the Telegraph Office at Fitzroy ?
– There will be no difficulty in arranging for telegrams to be dealt with in the manner suggested, and instructions will be given accordingly.
– On Wednesday last the honorable member for North Sydney asked these questions: -
The number of Customs officers engaged in gauging casks of imported liquor, and in testing strength thereof, and the salaries of such officers -
The number of casks gauged during the six months ending 31st August, 1906 -
The following are the replies : - 1. (a) Gauging, four officers’ salaries, £750; testing, four officers’ salaries, , £695. (b) Gauging, two officers’ salaries, £595; testing, two officers’ salaries, £520 2. (a) 12,245 casks; (b) about 8,200 casks.
– With reference to answer No. 2, furnished on the 26th instant, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Brisbane, has furnished the following information: -
Time worked by all day telegraphists in Brisbane for four weeks ended 22nd September, averages 43 hoars 44 minutes per week, or 87 hours 28 minutes per fortnight. One half of day staff allowed off at 1 p.m. Saturday, other half working until they can be spared off, which is usually before 2 p.m., but there are occasions when necessary to keep them on.
It will thus be seen that the hours worked are stated to be less than the number laid down by the Public Service Commissioner.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That leave be granted to bring in a Bill to amend the Excise Tariff Act 1905
.- I should like to know what is the nature of the Bill, because I understood that an arrangement was arrived at yesterday in regard to the remaining business to be transacted this session.
– It is merely a short Bill, which is designed to overcome what the Attorney-General thinks is a flaw in the principal Act.
– Do I understand from the Minister that it is merely a machinery Bill?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) pro posed -
That leave be granted to bring in a Bill to amend the Post and Telegraph Act of 1901.
.- Perhaps the Postmaster-General will be good enough to briefly explain to the House the purpose of this Bill.
– This is a measure which I promised to introduce to clothe the Postmaster-General with further powers in connexion with the cutting off of telephones from houses which are being used for immoral or illegal purposes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) agreed to-
That the second reading of the Bill be proceeded with forthwith.
– In moving- -
That the Bill be now read a second time,
I desire to say that it is a short measure consisting of only four clauses. The crux of the Bill is contained in the following provision : -
After section fifty-seven of the principal Act the following section is inserted : - 57A. - (i.) If the Postmaster-General has reasonable ground to suppose that any telephone is being used by any person in connexion with or in furtherance of gaming or betting, or any illegal or immoral purpose, he may by order forthwith determine the agreement with the subscriber relating to the telephone, and thereupon the telephone shall be disconnected from the telephone exchange, and all instruments, wires, and other property of the Postmaster-General in connexion with the telephone shall be removed from the premises of the subscriber.
Under the Post and Telegraph Act the Postmaster-General has not sufficient power to enable him to cut off these telephones unless under existing agreements. He can only disconnect them after he has secured a conviction against the offenders.
– Who savs that?
– That is the opinion of the Crown Law officers. I have given instructions that no further agreements are to be made unless they contain a provision empowering the PostmasterGeneral to disconnect the telephones to which they relate if the authorities have reason to believe that the instruments are being held for an unlawful purpose.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the fact that last week I wrote to his Department, enclosing a copy of a publication which is passing through the post in New South Wales at press rates, but which, so far as I can gather, contains not a solitary item of news. It is entirely made up of bookmakers’ advertisements, and of advertisements relating to pedestrian meetings. I asked the Department whether such a publication came within the category of a newspaper to be carried at press rates, under the terms of the Postal Regulations, and I requested that the journal in question should be returned to me without delay, as I wished to bring the matter up when the Estimates were under consideration. I have received an acknowledgment of my letter, but the publication itself has not been returned to me. I wish to ask the Post-) master-General whether a provision cannot be inserted in this Bill to prevent the continuance of such an abuse of the intention of Parliament, so far as the carriage of newspapers at press rates is concerned.
– I am glad that the PostmasterGeneral has brought this measure forward, but I should like to ask him, in all seriousness, whether it is intended for use, or whether it will be numbered amongst those Statutes which have been set aside, and which have not been availed of for any practical purpose. Since Federation was accomplished we have multiplied our Statutes, but many of the laws that we have passed are to-day dead letters, so far as their important provisions are concerned. For instance, we had a tremendous fight con cerning the way in which “Tattersall “ should be treated and we inserted a provision in the Post and Telegraph Act with the object of preventing him from carrying on his consultations. That provision has proved to be an absolutely nugatory one. If this measure is to partake of the same character, it is a waste of time to pass it. I seriously advise the Postmaster-General to make quite sure that he intends to put this Bill into operation before asking us to pass it. We only make ourselves ridiculous when we enact laws which are subsequently laughed at outside of this House. Nothing can tend to bring out Statutes into greater contempt than the practice of passing them in such a form as to render their provisions absolutely futile. I hope that this measure is intended for use, and is not merely designed to satisfy some outside demand for legislation of this character. I am heart and soul with the object of the measure, but I desire to know from the Postmaster-General whether it will be used to the full extent of its possibilities in the direction indicated. Personally, I think that the Minister has already quite enough power to deal with these abuses. While he may not have the power to cut off telephones before securing a conviction, he will recollect that all the telephonic contracts entered into are for six months only. At the end of that period every such contract is open to revision, and the Postmaster-General may decline to renew it. Consequently, in the absence of this legislation, he could exercise a great deal of power in the direction indicated. I am not quilte sure that it is necessary to pass this Bill to clothe him with the power that he seeks, and to prevent the Commonwealth Government from providing facilities for the carrying on of unlawful and improper proceedings. In my judgment, the Minister has every power to absolutely control the telephone now, and, therefore, I do not see that any grave necessity exists for a further grant of authority in the direction outlined.
– Surelv there can be no harm in giving him additional power, if there be any doubt about it?
– Not at all. I desire merely to know whether the power is intended to be used. In view of the legislation which we have already enacted, that is a verv proper inquiry to make.
– I think that the present Bill is a verv necessary one.
– It is a measure whch is intended for use, and ns far as possible, I will endeavour to see that it is honestly administered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and considered in Committee pro forma.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That leave be granted to bring in a Rill to amend the Patents Act 1903.
Bill presented and read a first time.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 27th September, vide page 5583) :
Department of Defence
Division 44 (Central Administration),
.- At this period of the session, and knowing that all sides of the Committee are agreed that in order to conclude the remaining business of the session, it is necessary to complete the consideration of the Estimates to-day, it is obviously impossible for any honorable member to devote to the questions which were raised by the Prime Minister in his speech last evening anything approaching adequate attention, or to speak with anything like the fullness which the importance of the subject demands. I take it that the Prime Minister’s statement was an enunciation of the intended policy of the Government, and had no immediate relation to the Estimates under consideration, Consequently I shall confine my remarks to a very few minutes, reserving to myself the right to deal with the matter after fuller consideration either here or elsewhere. In this connexion I would suggest to the Prime Minister that for some years past the great and important problem of defence and the way in which a defence policy for Australia is to be developed, has been dealt with in a somewhat cavalier way. The practice has been to have a general debate upon the first item on the Estimates of the Defence Department. The time at which these Estimates are considered every year varies. On this occasion they have been brought forward during one of the last three or four days of the session. We can never hope to deal adequately with a subject of such farreaching importance unless we have something more than the casual opportunities for debating it which have so far been offered us.
– The naval part of this scheme, or whatever is substituted, must necessarily come independently before the House, and so challenge discussion.
– A year or two ago I suggested that when we had formulated a scheme of defence it should be brought before us in the shape of a Bill, providing for a special appropriation. That would afford us several opportunities to fully consider it.
– That is undoubtedly the right step.
– I think, too, that the question should be dealt with at a reasonably early period of the session. The subiect of defence is one of the greatest, and, at the same time, one of the most difficult that we have to consider, and there should be no hurried discussion of it. I am glad to know that the Government’s very grave proposals “of defence will receive full and careful consideration, and will not be dealt with in that casual wav which has hitherto marked our consideration of thequestion. My desireis to speak very briefly. I do not wish even to express a final opinion on the somewhat indefinite proposals - if I mav use that phrase without offence - submitted last night by the Prime Minister. Whilst the honorable and learned gentleman laid down certain proposals, he did so in a limited way that leaves us entirely at large as to the methods by which they are to be financed. I propose to state my position by reading one or two extracts from a minute which I wrote on the10th Mav of last year, after the inauguration of the Council of Defence, and when the general problem of the Australian defence policy was first submitted to it. I take this step in order to make quite clear what my view was then, and is now, and to show, if I may venture to say so, that although the details may not be exactly the same as others that have been considered, the Government proposals contain nothing that has not been previously foreseen as the possible development of an Australian policy.
– It has been contemplated bv all parties for years past ; there are no proprietary rights in it.
– Quite so ; but I am sometimes charged with being hostile to certain lines of thought. Mv views are expressed in this, minute in half-a-dozen lines.
Given an insufficient supply of money to carry out all the objects required, the order in which they should be carried out is this : -
That quotation, as well as the speech delivered last night by the Prime Minister. and, indeed, most utterances that have been made on the subject, recognise that in our efforts to develop Australian defence, we are continually confronted with the financial problem. It recognises that as our finances are at present - and the Prime Minister recognised this fully last night - we cannot hope to do all that we would do. Consequently the problem before us is not only what we ought to do but, having decided what we want to do, and finding that we cannot complete the whole scheme at once, to determine which portion of the proposals is of the most pressing necessity. I should strongly deprecate any scheme which involved leaving either branch of our defence system in an incomplete condition. To intermit our efforts in one direction before we had a substitute ready in another would mean an interregnum, during which we should have two bad legs . instead of one to stand upon. One of the remarks made last night by the Prime Minister has caused me a good deal of apprehension in this regard. The honorable and learned gentleman said that there must be an adjustment between the sums which the Committee, after full deliberation, will set aside for the purpose of national defence, and those which it is proposed we shall devote to this purpose. That is to say, he proposed, in effect, that a maximum amount should be fixed for defence purposes, and that we should then consider what proportion should be devoted to the military branch, and how much should be spent on the naval side.’ That proposal, stated as a general proposition, is one that cannot be disputed ; but, if carried into practical effect it may result in neither the military nor the naval defences being in a satisfactory condition. Neither might have devoted to it a sum sufficient to enable it to be complete. The suggestion was made last night that a sum of ^250,000 a year should be transferred from the military to the naval vote.
– That suggestion was not made by the Prime Minister.
– No. Any rule of thumb process of that kind might result in unmitigated disaster to the soundness and value of Australian defence. The Prime Minister said that we must revise our expenditure in connexion with, other branches of the Military Forces, and that we must look at the military Estimates to see what economies can be effected in regard to them. The economies to be effected by the saving of small sums here and there - economies in the limited sense of the term - will not provide the honorable and learned gentleman with any large sum. If he is going to effect savings on the military side for the purposes he has announced it will mean the remodelling of the scheme of re-organization, so far as the total number of troops to be employed is concerned.
– Or the payment.
– That is so. A common method of effecting economies is to reduce the payment to privates. It is argued there are a lot of privates, and that if we take a little off the allowance to each we shall make a big saving. I shall hesitate a long while before concurring in any such proposal. The partially-paid forces in Australia, whether military or naval, certainly do not receive remuneration beyond the services they render. If we regard the matter as a purely business proposition, they are underpaid. As at present advised, I should certainly oppose any reduction in the pay of the privates, although for a number of years we have continually taken action in that direction. If this proposal simply means that our military expenditure is to be reduced below the point of efficiency - and I venture to say that the taking of ,£200,000 or £250,000 from the military vote would have that effect - then we shall enter upon a course fraught with danger, and extremely undesirable. It will mean that we shall have two inefficient means of defence instead of one, which, as far- as its efforts can extend, is sufficient. In the absence of any specific proposals by the Government, however, it is difficult to deal with this matter. We must wait until we have the detailed proposals before us. The only test of the soundness of the general proposition is to be found in the character of the detailed proposals themselves. It is when the Government say “ We are going to cut off this or that, or institute this or that system,” that the soundness of the general principle and the wisdom of its application can be determined. One other proposal which I did not fully understand was made by trie Prime Minister. He spoke of uniformity of training, and of efficiency, and also, I think of uniformity of control in connexion with any vessels that we might build or equip in or for Australian defence. The honorable and learned gentleman passed rather lightly over that phase of the question. What I wish to know is whether these proposed vessels for Australian defence are to be, in all circumstances, retained for purposes of local defence?
– These particular ships are.
– Under no circumstances are they to be subject, from the Prime Minister’s point of “view, to the control of the Admiralty - to be used by the Admiralty for any other purpose than that of Australian defence ?
– They will be under the sole control of the Commonwealth Government. It will be for the Commonwealth Government to say whether any proposals , from the Admiralty or any one else should be accepted ; but I .hope to see the personnel, training, and discipline part of the Imperial Navy.
– I do not understand how, as a matter of practical arrangement, the Prime Minister is going to succeed in carrying out those two somewhat inconsistent objects.
– They do not appear inconsistent to me.
– If that is the view which the honorable and learned gentleman takes, nothing that he mav have said about these proposals harmonizing with the general strategical questions as to the defence of the Empire, as a whole, can stand. Any such harmonizing is practically impossible.
– I do’ not think so. Within the limitations laid down, I think that such harmonizing is practicable.
– I am merely expressing my own views, and the Prime Minister, of course, is entitled to his own.. Does he mean that, for the purposes of training, these ships are to be under the control of the Admiral of the fleet on the Australian station ?
– I mean that for the purposes of training, the men placed on these ships should have to pass through the schools and ships of the Australian Navy. Here they will be under their own, officers, and any control by the Admrialty will be similar ‘to that which was exercised, in respect of inspection and examination, over the States forces.
– We are to have practically an independent Australian naval force.
– On the political side.
– Whatever arrangements may be made to secure efficiency - whatever arangements may be made to have the men who are in command trained elsewhere - at the beginning, as a matter of fact, the proposed naval force is to remain an independent naval body, controlled bv Australia for purely Australian naval purposes? In no sense, except that they will be available for Australian defence, will they be a portion of the Imperial Defence Force any more than our Australian militia or land volunteer forces are part of that force.
– There will be a closer connexion because of their training in the Imperial Navy, under Imperial control. That will insure the maintenance of the same system, the same methods, and the same spirit.
– That is only as a matter of training.
– But it is very important.
– It is merely a means to the end. When the Government .have achieved their purpose, these forces are to be absolutely independent of any general scheme of naval supremacy.
– The only political control will be that of the Commonwealth.
– I wished to have that statement from the Prime Minister, because, when speaking last night, he did not make very clear the intentions of the Government upon this point. The matter is one that will require careful consideration. The scheme outlined last night is too general to permit of any detailed discussion of it at this stage, and the Prime ‘ Minister’s statement is so recent that I freely confess that I desire more time to think it over before expressing a definite opinion upon it. I am in the position of one who is rather seeking information than expressing an opinion. There are only two other points to which I desire to refer. The- Prime Minister mentioned the possibility of a universal service in the future, beginning with cadet training. I repeat the opinion previously expressed by me that we cannot criticise the form of universal service contemplated until we know exactly the shape these proposals are to take ; but, so far as one can judge, the probabilities of danger to Australia are too remote to justify any substantial interference with its ordinary industrial welfare.
– Hear, hear.
– Consequently, universal service, while in one sense an ideal, is in another an interference with industrial welfare.
– Not necessarily.
– It can be justified only by the existence of a reasonably obvious danger.
– Surely its educational value is great?
– Quite so ; but I hope that the Prime Minister will allow me to finish what I have to say on this phase of the question. It seems to me that the most wholesome form of universal service that we could have for a considerable time in Australia is a universal cadet system. I have said once before, and -I repeat the statement, that I should like to see an addition to the three traditional R’s of our State school curriculum, so that it would embrace reading, “writing, arithmetic, and rifles. That is a summary way of describing a proposal that, in connexion with our schools, instruction should be gwen in physical drill, in the handling of arms, and in the elementary principles of discipline. That, it seems to me, is essential. While I give the Government every credit for the extension of the cadet system in which they are now engaged, I would point out that it still has the great defect of being not universal, but selective. Whilst I recognise the alluring value of uniforms to the young mind, it seems to me that universal cadet training does not depend for its success upon uniforms. It should be as much a matter of course for the boy at school to attend to the training allotted to cadets as to devote himself to any other part of the school curriculum. In fact, the spirit of the average boy is such that I think he would find the cadet work more interesting than a good many of the other subjects to which his attention is compulsorily directed during school hours. It is impossible at this stage to deal in any reasonable way with the question of the central administration, and the Government policy in connexion with our military and naval forces. I am satisfied now. as I was when the system first came into operation, that the principle, of the Council of Defence is a proper one for Australia to adopt, and I understand that
I he Ministry does not falter in its adherence to this view.
– The present Ministry, however, has given the system but a slight chance of succeeding. When we have regard to the Administration, to the individuals composing the Council, and the way in which it has been carried on for the last nine or ten months we must recognise that no system, however good, could, in such circumstances, be successful. Under that system provision is made for a Council of Defence with a secretary. The secretary of the Council has been in England for many months. The Board of Administration - and I am sneaking of the military side, because I take that as a type - conosists of four members with a secretary, and is assisted in its administration by various directors, who are experts in their particular line. Of the four members of the Administrative Board, one has been in England for many months - and very wisely too. But it is curious that no arrangement has been made for a qualified officer to carry on his work while he is away. It has been conducted anyhow. Of the directors one very valuable officer is also in London, his appointment there being what I may call a temporary permanency. I speak of the Director of Stores. Then the system required, and still requires, an InspectorGeneral, quite apart from the board ; otherwise the whole principle of the system is broken into and contradicted. Yet we now have an acting Inspector-General, who remains a member of the board, and we have proposals made in the Estimates for the appointment of a comparatively junior officer as successor to the Deputy AdjutantGeneral. I do not know who is to succeed the Deputy Adjutant-General on the board, and I do not want to know at present, because I prefer to discuss the matter quite apart from any individual.
– The machinery is there, but the parts are absent.
– Yes, the machinery is there, but one after another the parts have been taken away. No wonder the public express surprise that the machine is not working properly. I say also without hesitation that the Minister has been Board, Inspector-General, and everything else, upon various occasions - that he has ‘ been the whole machine, and has arrogated to himself that right. Under such circumstances no system could be a success, and the Ministry which, professes its continued belief in this system might at least so carry on the administration- as to give it a chance.
– In what way does the Minister arrogate to himself the powers of the board ?
– I do not want to spend the whole day in discussing the matter. I am referring to the Minister of Defence and not to his deputy. I venture to say that, if the Vice-President of the Executive Council were able to express a frank opinion, it would prove to be very much the same as mine.
– It would be, if the honorable and learned member were right.
– That is just why I say it would be the same as mine. The system of administration by a board has been attacked on the ground that it cannot succeed - that you must have one central mind dominating everything. Perhaps that was the Minister’s idea on various occasions. The experience of history and of other nations is in absolute contradiction to such a view. I need mention only one striking instance of the success of the Committee system as contrasted with individual control, and that is afforded by the Japanese army. That army was developed, and went through the Russo-Japanese war, under the council and board system, as contrasted with the Commander-in-Chief system. Practically every nation in the world adopts the same method in connexion with its military administration, and that portion of the defensive and offensive equipment of the United Kingdom which has excited the least criticism, namely, the Navy, has been carried on under a similar system for hundreds of years. The fact that the CommanderinChief system of control requires that one man shall do indefinitely more than any individual can possibly do - if only because of physical and time limitations - renders it impossible, and I am glad to know that the Government have no idea of reverting to it. But, unless the necessary qualifications for each position are fully recognised, and men are chosen who possess those qualifications, this or any other system will prove a failure. I must confess that I am not satisfied that the Government, while recognising the correctness of the principle I have described, have always found it convenient to put it into practice. However, I do not wish to dwell upon that point at present, because it is of not much use, in view of the fact that the electors will soon have an opportunity to express their opinions upon all these questions. I would only again express the hope that we - that is, those of us who have the privilege of being in the next Parliament - shall have an opportunity to discuss these matters systematically, and that ample time will be afforded. I do not blame the present Government any more than any other for the fact that in the past we have been called upon to discuss these matters hurriedly at the fag end of a tiring session. I wish to know whether the Government intend to keep the Inspector-General and his duties apart from the Administrative Board ? Paragraphs, which have all the appearance of being inspired, have been published in the newspapers, to the effect that the In spector-General is to retain his seat on the Board, and that a junior officer is to be appointed as Assistant Adjutant-General, whilst the position of Deputy AdjutantGeneral is to be abolished. The curious statement has been made that the position of Deputy Adjutant-General is to be abolished because that title is not in harmony with our Australian conditions. Why the title of the Assistant Adjutant-General should be harmonious and that of the Deputy Adjutant-General inharmonious is, to me, perfectly incomprehensible. Then it has been suggested that the InspectorGeneral is to be invested with greater executive power than at .present. I can hardly credit that this is being done upon the advice of the Acting Inspector-General, because he has always taken the view that the duties of the office should be those of an inspector.
– I cannot definitely reply to the question of the honorable and learned member as to whether the Inspector-General is to have a seat on the Administrative Board. The matter will be decided at the end of the year, when the term of the present InspectorGeneral expires. Brigadier-General Finn maintained - and I presume that there is no secret with regard to it- that, after he had done work of the utmost importance to the Commonwealth, his reports were set aside by a Board holding different views.
– If you concede his view you will have to revert to the system of the control by the General Officer Commanding.
– I am merely presenting General Finn’s view. At present the Board is placed in a position of control, and the question is whether the Inspector-General should overrule the Board, or vice versa. Common sense suggests that every man should give the best that is in him to the community. When the Government have perfected their arrangements, I am sure that harmony will prevail between the Board and the Inspector-General. The Minister informs me that he is fully conversant with both sides of the question, but that at present he cannot inform the House exactly what the position of the InspectorGeneral will be. The question of the Assistant Adjutant-General will be settled at the same time.
– In other words, the Government do not want to tell us anything.
– Ihave told the honorable and learned member all I know.
.- I wish to direct attention to certain matters which I am sure must be regarded as of the most serious importance. Shortly after the new system of defence was inaugurated by the late Minister, a. proposal involving great changes in the naval policy of the Commonwealth was referred to the Council of Defence. The Naval Director embodied his views in a paper in regard to which strong differences of opinion arose in the Council of Defence - the body responsible under the Act for any changes in defence policy. The Cabinet then decided to refer the whole question to a higher authority - the Imperial Defence Committee. The Naval Director was sent to England to inquire into and study the different processes of naval construction, whilst the Chief Intelligence Officer of the Commonwealth was also sent home to give to the Imperial Defence Committee all the local information that they might require in order to enable them to furnish their report in the full light of local conditions. The Imperial Defence Committee practically embodies the wisdom of every branch of the Imperial Service. When a naval question arises they refer to the Admiralty ; when an engineer ing question has to be dealt with they seek information from the officers commanding the engineer services : when artillery questions are on the tapis the chief artillery experts are called upon for their advice, and so on. The function of the Imperial Defence Committee is to coordinate the advices received. The Committee has nowfurnished a report which offers as sweeping a condemnation of the Naval Director as could possibly be conceived. They say that his report has been drawn up without a proper appreciation of naval development. Yet the Commonwealth Government no sooner received the report than they handed it over to the Naval Director, and empowered him to criticise it. The Naval Director has availed himself of that power. I ask how they can possibly justify their action? It is not usual to allow an appeal from the High Court of Australia to a bench of stipendiary magistrates, and I challenge Ministers to show me a single instance in which the action of a higher authority has been submitted for review to an individual who has been condemned by it. In view of the attitude which I have taken in. regard to this matter, I wish to make it plain that, while the information which I, as a layman, have been able to collect, leads me to indorse the views expressed by the Imperial Defence Committee in reference to the merits of the report of the local Naval Director, I think that he may give many years of good service to the Commonwealth in some capacity or another. My point is that he should not have been selected to criticise that report, seeing, especially, that it so seriously criticised him. I seriously complain, too, of the action of the Ministry in submitting the purely military side of the defence problem, as presented in the report, to a committee of local officers, in the absence of our Chief Intelligence Officer. The officer who is responsible under our system for the recommendation of changes was sent to England to place at the disposal of the Imperial Defence Committee all information of a local character which it might need, and I believe took with him plans of our fortifications, and other documents of the kind. Can the Vice-President of the Executive Council tell me whether they have been returned ?
– I shall ascertain.
– Were the Chief Intelligence Officer in Australia he could explain to the local authorities the evidence which the Imperial Defence Committee had before it in framing this report; and, indeed, I should not be surprised to learn that the officers of out forces protested against the instruction to criticise a report of whose groundwork they had no knowledge. Their verdict bears out a supposition of the kind. My point is that it was an almost indecent thing to submit the report of the supreme Imperial authority on defence, the preparation of which has taken months of anxious thought and care, including the consideration of the evidence of our Chief Intelligence Officer, to a few officers hurriedly called together in Melbourne to furnish a criticism within a few days, and without knowing the facts upon which it had been based.
– I presume that the Government will not come to any final decision until Captain Bridges has returned.
– Captain Bridges is a valuable officer, and his views will be considered.
– This is not a personal matter. Whoever held the position of Chief Intelligence Officer would be responsible to Parliament for any change of this kind, and changes should not be made in the absence of the person filling the office. I wish to know from the Minister why the two local Committees did not sit together. Why did they sit independently, when considering a co-ordinated report, in which the views of the Admiralty and of the War Office are reconciled, if reconciliation was necessary ? Why was it considered necessary to dissect, and to make inharmonious, that report, by referring, it in sections to independent naval and military Committees? Although the Prime Minister paid the highest tribute to the harmonious nature of the report, the Minister of Defence referred it to two independent Committees, with the inevitable result that Parliament does not know whether their views are reconcilable, both’ advising large increases.
– Both Committees recommended local naval defence of some kind.
– But why did they not sit together? The question is what kind of local naval defence should be adopted, and what should be the supervising authority. I am glad that the Prime Minister intends to see that there shall be one standard of efficiency and discipline. in the Australian and Imperial Naval Forces.
Mr. Joseph Cook. - This morning he seemed to go back on his utterances of yesterday by interjecting that our local naval defence is tq be a purely Australian concern, subject to local authority.
– He said that it “will be under the control of this Parliament, but pointed out that harmony will be obtained by identity of interest, and the training of our men in the British war vessels.
– The idea expressed by the Prime Minister last night was that the principle of Imperial co-operation should be recognised by the continuance in some form of the Imperial naval agreement, and that our officers and men should learn their business thoroughly in the Imperial navy before serving in the Australian ships.
– Yes; but the Australian ships would be subject to the control of this Parliament. Nothing else is possible.
– I admit the difficulty of the position, although no one more strongly favours Imperial naval co-operation than I do. I should prefer a more outright system. This is a step in the direction of securing what I desire, inasmuch as it insists on the necessity for co-operation, by arranging that our officers and men shall serve in the Imperial Navy before joining the Australian Navy ; and, no doubt, it will be necessary to keep the Australian ships moving about to prevent stagnation. My present complaint is against the action of thi– Ministry in dissecting the Imperial Defence Committee’s report, and laying it before two separate Committees, with the inevitable result that we have two criticisms upon it, which may, or may not, be reconcilable. The action of the Government was indecent, and without precedent. They submitted the report of what they have characterized as the highest defence authority in the Empire to an officer whose professional knowledge was seriously questioned by that body. I should like art explanation of the course which was taken.
– When a Government or institution, or any lay authority, has to deal with a matter in regard to which expert advice is needful, it virtually says to its skilled advisers, “ We know very little about these details, but we wish you to make it clear to us on broad, general, grounds that the course suggested is the proper one to follow.” If an expert cannot make clear to the lay mind, on general principles, that the course proposed to be taken in regard to any technical matter - whether it be the control of an army, the equipment of a vessel, or the adoption of a certain telephone system - is the proper course, the latter acts wisely in rejecting it. The Government, having received the report of the Imperial Defence Committee, the Minister of Defence said to the officers by whom he is surrounded - supposedly competent men whom thecountry pays for their professional knowledge - “ As you virtually manage the defence affairs of this country, I look to you for advice in this matter.” The Minister has practically said to his officers. “I am simply a layman. I have received this report from the ablest authorities in the Empire. I want you to work loyally under the scheme which it outlines. If, however, it contains anything in regard to local control which requires further consideration, I should be glad for you to give me your opinion upon it.” There can be no fault found with that attitude. That portion of the Committee’s report which dealt with guns and forts, and those matters which the Government sent a very able officer to England’ to furnish, information concerning - I refer to Colonel Bridges - was practically accepted. Even from the standpoint of policv, it seems to me that the Minister acted rightly by calling his officers together, and practically saying to them, “ Is there anything in the report of the Imperial Defence ‘Committee which, in your opinion, we ought not to accept?” After receiving their recommendations the lay mind was in a position to accept the responsibility of deciding. The naval portion of the report of the Imperial Defence Committee carries with it the necessity for other considerations than does that relating to the land defence of the Commonwealth, in regard to which everybody is in agreement so far as general principles are concerned. Some people are of opinion that Australia should not establish a navy of her own, but that it should be left to the Imperial Navy to protect our shores. There is, ‘however, a majority of our countrymen who belong neither to the school which believes in the establishment of an Australian Navy nor to the other school which favours our relying only on the Imperial Navy for coastal defence. There is an intermediate school who believe that the deep-water portion of our defence must a.l:ways be undertaken by the Empire, and who recognise that the great cost that would be involved in the establishment of an Australian Navy puis that proposal out of court were there nothing further to be considered. Thus section believes that in order to protect that portion of our trade, which enters our ports, something ought to be done in the direction of floating coastal defence. The average Australian says, “ We cannot afford to build a navy. We have noi the necessary money. England has a great navy to protect the Empire. I subscribe something towards the maintenance of that navy, though, perhaps, not very much ; but I am content to rely upon it for national protection.” Then arises the next consideration, “ Is Australia to do nothing further ? “ That is where the expert disappears, and the politician comes in.
– Is Captain Creswell the politician ?
– I repeat that that is where the expert disappears, and the politician comes in. The politician has to decide whether the Imperial Defence Committee was right in saying that Australia should have nothing locally controlled for her defence that floated.
– Does the Imperial Defence Committee go so far as to say that?
– They say that any efforts of Australia in the direction of establishing a navy should be directed to a co-operative fleet under one control.
– The Imperial Defence Committee practically say. “ Put your forts in order. With regard to your land defences do certain things, but in the matter of your coastal defence have nothing to do with anything that floats.”
– Every expert in the world says the same thing.
– The Imperial Defence Committee say that we should have nothing to do with anything that floats, unless it is placed under one control.
– Thev say that the British Navy should deal with everything. That virtually means that the Australian people must not own anything that floats for defence purposes.
– The Minister is misrepresenting their opinion. They say -
In the future it may be expected that an increasing number of ships specially manned and officered by Australians will be included in the fleets and squadrons of the Royal Navy.
– I re-state the case in this way : Everybody must agree that the Imperial Defence .Committee is not in sympathy with .any effort on the part of the Australian people to provide for their coastal defence by craft of any description locally controlled.
– They are not sympathetic with the proposal to establish independent authority and control over that defence.
– We are dealing with the question of what this Parliament should do in respect of coastal defence. The Imperial Defence Committee say that that work should be undertaken solely by the Imperial Navy. Then the politician comes in and says, “ The Australian people desire some system of local floating coastal defence.” This is not a matter for expert opinion at all. It is simply a question of whether we are to have any floating coastal defence under the control of the Australian people. The Government believe that they are properly interpreting the views of Australians when they say that in connexion with Australian defence there should be craft of some description. That is the whole case.
The Government may be wrong, but I do not think that they are.
– The whole business is floating.
– I do not think that the honorable member believes that. The first point which we have to consider is, “ Are the Government right or wrong in believing that the sympathies of a vast majority of Australians are in the direction of providing money with which to establish some kind of craft for coastal defence - a system controlled by Australians, and under the supervision of Australian officers “ Up to that point, I maintain that the Government are right. But they have received a very able report, which has been prepared by expert authorities, of whose opinions I speak with all due deference, and that report in effectsays, “ Do nothing in the direction of floating coastal defence.” The Government are determined that they will do something in that direction.
– The Imperial Defence Committee say that the Government proposals will not achieve their object.
– Their report says that we should have no floating coastal defence.
– -They say that these specific proposals will not achieve their object.
– They affirm that torpedo destroyers such as the Government propose to purchase, in fact, any svstem of defence of this nature, will be of no use. The Government believe that it is necessary to do something in that direction. Therefore they consulted the best officers that we have - in the persons of Captain Creswell, Captain Tickell, and others - and asked them to express their views upon this matter. Those officers have dealt with, the question in, the broadest possible way. They declare that all other nations are building torpedo destroyers.
– For what purpose?
– For the purpose of defending our coasts and commerce.
– Only minor powers are doing that.
– I should like the honorable member to have a discussion with some of the higher authorities upon that subject. I quite recognise that he has had opportunities of so doing; but at the same time I think he will find that we are not wrong.A good many nations in the world are in such a position that they say, “ We cannot build huge battleships ; we have not the money to enable us to do so.” It is questionable whether any nation will in future build minor battleships. On the other hand, every nation is constructing torpedo boats and torpedo boat destroyers. Therefore, the Government suggest that we should procure a certain number of those vessels. We believe that the amount represented by their purchase, as recommended by the local committee, is rather large. The Government, therefore, decided in favour of those which have been most tested - that is to say, vessels of the Teviot type. We have resolved to purchase a certain number of destroyers of that description and torpedo boats.
– The Government are not going to place the orders immediately ?
– The honorable and learned member knows perfectly well that nothing definite can be done in the matter until after the next Parliament reassembles.
– The Minister is giving an excellent exposition in regard to torpedo boat destroyers, but he has not yet explained why the Government submitted the report of the Imperial Defence Committee to the consideration of officers, one of whom has been declared to be not au fait with the latest developments.
– The real test of ability is agreement. I frequently think that the honorable member is intelligent when he is saying something with which I agree.
– Does the Minister think that the Imperial Defence Committee would so characterize anv officer lightly?
– The Imperial Defence Committee say: -
These proposals seem to be based upon an imperfect conception of naval strategy at the present day, and of the proper application of naval force.
We say that sort of thing to each other across the table every day.
– But the statement was made by the “highest naval authority in the Empire after months of investigation.
– Every expert makes such comments regarding another expert with whom he is not in agreement. The Government . absolutely refuse to accept the naval recommendations of the Imperial Defence Committee. We say, “ We believe that the Australian people require and demand some kind o’f floating coastal defence, and we will proceed with it.” We have formed our own opinions in respect of the policy of so acting. We believe that we are right, and that not 5 per cent. of the Australian people are antagonistic to our proposals. We believe that we are properly interpreting their views when we say that there should be some sort of Australian floating defence.
– I believe that, too.
– We believe that the people are in agreement with us, and consequently we have abandoned the naval portion of the recommendations of the Imperial Defence Committee. Accordingly, the Minister consulted his best officers, and asked them to advise us in regard to. the matter. They have done so, and we have now placed their recommendations and the proposed action of this Government before Parliament.
.- I do think that honorable members have just cause for complaint against the practice of submitting the Estimates for consideration at such a late stage of the session. They are generally discussed at the eleventh hour, when it is quite impossible to criticise them thoroughly with a view to improving existing conditions. Ever since the Federation was established new schemes have been submitted each year in respect of Australian defence. At no time, however, have we been afforded an opportunity of exhaustively discussing those schemes. I listened with interest to the proposals of the Government, which were outlined in the speech delivered by the Prime Minister last evening. The question of whether we are. going to adopt an elaborate system of coastal defence or to extend our land forces, is an interesting one, and the Minister must admit that since Federation the defence sys- tem, considered as a whole, has not been conducted upon satisfactory lines. While successive Administrations haw been thinking out new schemes no attempt has been made to deal equitably with the existing system, either from the point of view of the men in the forces, or those of the taxpayer. I have had occasion from time to time to put questions in regard to the administration of the Departpartment, and must say that, in response to these, I have either received evasive replies, or a series of contradictory statements. One can obtain anything but the absolute bald truth in regard to any matter affecting the Department. I propose now to refer to the item relating to the granting of prizes for shooting competitions. Certain associations regulate the distribution of the Government grant!, and from time to time recommend where the competitions shall take place. The Northern Rifle Association of New South Wales receives an annual grant of £250, and since Federation has been holding its annual competitions at Singleton. The whole of the forces in the northern district, if they wish to take part in these matches, have, therefore, to journey to a town 60 miles north of Newcastle. The number of militiamen and volunteers in the Maitland and Newcastle district is six times greater than is that in the Singleton district, so that under the existing system 800 or 900 men are put to the inconvenience of journeying to Singleton, where there is a force of only about 146. to take part in these competitions. This practice is continued, notwithstanding that in 1904 the officer commanding the forces in New South Wales recommended that for the following reasons the annual rifle matches should take place at Newcastle : -
There is no rifle range at Singleton, except that at Whittingham, on the property of Messrs. R. and D. Faulkner, which has not been under military supervision since1901. This range is about three miles from Singleton.
It was said before this that the competitions were held by the association at Singleton for the reason that the most uptodate range in New South Wales was to be found there.
Newcastle is a much larger military centre and easier of access to a large number of riflemen ; consequently the number of local competitors will probably be greater, more especially in view of the fact that, owing to local difficulties chiefly, the units at Singleton have been unable to fire for two years.
Better range facilities, especially as regards service matches, and easier access to the range itself.
Singleton was chosen in1800 as being the only place in the north with a suitable range. This situation is now reversed (vide copy of correspondence attached,marked “A.”).
This minute was sent to head-quarters, Melbourne, where the General Officer Commanding in 1904 appended a note to the effect that the matches should be held as before at Singleton.
– What has happened since then?
– The matches were again held at Singleton last year.
– For what reason?
– That is what I desire to know. In view of the opinion expressed by the State Commandant of New South Wales, why should the Department insist upon a large body of men having to travel from Maitland and Newcastle to Singleton to engage in matches on a rifle range 3 miles out of the town, and thus to lose practically three days’ work, whereas if the matches were conducted in Maitland or Newcastle they would lose only one day?
– On the face of it, the present system appears ridiculous.
– The absurdity of the excuse offered by the association, that Singleton possessed the best range in New South Wales, is shown by the report of the State Commandant, which I have read, and the fact that the Committee were recently asked to agree to a large vote for the erection of a new range there. I shall never object to any legitimate expenditure, and whilst I think that the 146 men at Singleton should have the same facilities to acquire proficiency as marksmen as have any similar number of men in the other districts, I urge that we should pause before sanctioning the expenditure of an enormous sum on a rifle range in that town. A range capable of meeting local requirements should be sufficient. My experience in these matters is doubtless that of many other honorable members. There is another question to which I desire to refer. “ The regulations provide that men who form guards of honour shall be paid for any loss of time so incurred. I have in my possession a copy of an order to the effect, but after some men in my district had turned out to form a guard of honour, they were told that they would receive no pay. We cannot expect men to take an interest in the militia or volunteer movement if we treat them in this way. There seems to be a want of business capacity on the part of the military authorities. In New South Wales tenders are called for the supply of rations, at so much per head, to the men in the Permanent Forces, and the same rate is allowed whether the caterer has to supply a large or a small body of men. Every one knows that when a man has to cater for a large body of men, he can afford to provide a more liberal fare than he can give when he has to provide at the same rate for only halfadozen. As a matter of fact, however, this point is not recognised by the Department. I hope the Minister will see that men serving on small stations receive the same rations and pay as are secured by others more favorably situated. I have, from time to time, brought before the Department my complaint in regard to the holding of rifle competitions of the Northern Association at Singleton, and if there be any attempt to hold the next matches there, I shall demand a full inquiry.
– I regard these proceedings as positively farcical. We have had experience of three systems of defence within the short space of six years, and we are told by Ministers that nothing is to be done immediately to bring about any reform. I shall follow the proceedings of the Government with the greatest possible interest, because the subject of our defences is of paramount importance. If our defence arrangements are defective we must be in a perilous position. I am somewhat sceptical as to the wisdom of following up a separate Australian naval policy. If I could see any chance of securing efficiency, consistently with economy. I should be perfectly prepared to establish an, Australian Navy. But as matters stand, there is no prospect before us but utter confusion,.
– Nothing is done when schemes are brought forward.
– No. The Prime Minister last night eloquently described the last proposed scheme, and concluded by telling us that nothing was to be done by this Parliament in regard to the more important of the propositions, namely, that relating to naval defence. It is necessary that we should consider matters connected with our naval and military defences concurrently. Our land defences would be absolutely ineffective against any raiding force unless the sea were protected. The Prime Ministertold us that a distinct movement forward was to be made in the direction of developing a purely Australian means of defence, and that the greatest possible deference would be paid to the opinions of our Australian naval authorities, and particularly to those of Captain Creswell.
– He did not say that.
– I suppose that there is no other naval authority to whom the Government look in matters of purely Australian concern. What kind of a certificate of character have the Imperial Defence Committee given to Captain Creswell ?
I have not met that officer, but I am sure that he must be very clever, because of the way in which he makes hisi personality felt; but the certificate of character given to him by the Imperial Defence Committee is not reassuring. In view of the report of the Committee, Ministers ought to be sure of their ground before they decisively and definitely accept Captain Creswell’s proposals.
– We are in unison with Captain Creswell only upon the general principles of coastal defence, and with regard to the type of vessel to. be employed.
– Here is what the Imperial Defence Committee say of Captain Creswell’s proposals -
They appear to be based upon an imperfect conception of the requirements of naval strategy at the present day, and of the proper application of naval force.
That condemnation is as sweeping and general as it well could be. And when we remember the delicacy with which the Imperial authorities always treat matters affecting the Colonies, we can quite understand that the thoughts of the Committee were very much stronger than their actual written expressions. They go on to say that nothing short of an efficient fighting navy will suffice for the defence of our coasts. I do not know upon whom we may rely in this matter, if not upon the naval experts of the Empire. Surely they may be taken to have the best possible knowledge and skill.
– The honorable member knows how the experts are always altering their views.
– Yes, as to the application of naval principles, but not upon broad questions of naval strategy. For instance, the principle that you must hunt your enemy and destroy him - that you must have your fleets always mobile, and not cooped up in your ports holds as good to-day as when it was first asserted.
– The views of experts havechanged as to the class of vessel you should use to carry on your hunting operations.
– Yes. But all the experts agree that forces which are capable of hunting the enemy must be maintained if you wish to protect your coast line, and recent history has shown that those powers which keep their naval forces at home eventually go down. In face of the universal acceptance of the principle to which I have referred, Cap tain Creswell suggests that we should have a mosquito fleet which should work within local lines, and outside those of Imperial defence. Where are these lines and delimitations? It is Captain Creswell who draws arbitrary lines which are supposed to circumscribe the sphere of Imperial defence. The Imperial Defence Committee denounce any such notion as fallacious and dangerous. The Defence Committee make it clear that there is no such delimitation, and ought not to be any - that the Imperial Navy ought to be free to go into every nook and corner of the Empire, and I do not understand Captain Creswell when he speaks of a fleet operating within purely local lines. The Vice-President of the Executive Council indicated that the Imperial Navy was intended to operate upon the deep sea; but all our experience shows that the Navy is not intended to do anything of the kind. The British Navy is intended to insure the protection of the coast of Great Britain by hunting the enemy and by destroying his fortifications and works of defence.
– A certain number of cruisers might escape the vigilance of the British Navy, and harass our trade until such time as they could be driven away again or destroyed.
– That is purely a supposition, and the possibility is almost entirely refuted by the facts put forward in the Imperial Defence Committee’s report. In that report, it is pointed out that, with the appliances for obtaining information which we have today, it would be practically impossible for a raiding expedition to visit Australia without its intentions being known, while we should have in our seas a force superior to any enemy’s fleet which could make the venture.
– It would not injure the Empire if we did something for our own protection.
– The question is, can we do anything of value? The honorable member for Bland spoke last night of protecting certain vital points ; but, so far as I understand the subject, every inch of our coast line is open to possibilities of attack, and an enemy wishing to land a force in Australia would choose, not the neighbourhood of the big cities, but some isolated place. The honorable member and his party are never tired of telling us that we ought to fill up Australia in order to lessen our vulnerability. When he speaks of defending certain places by means of a mosquito fleet, he is following Captain Creswell in assuming that there is a line within which its defence operations would be valuable; in other words, he is manufacturing for his own purposes a definition of naval strategy and Australian defence. It is the easiest thing in the world, having laid down one’s own premises, to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, and it seems to me that that is where our experts are going wrong.
– It would be easy to fight and repulse the enemy if he would attack according to our directions.
– Exactly. How can the honorable member for Bland, or Captain Creswell, or any one else, know whence a raiding expedition will come? The success of naval operations depends largely upon the element of surprise, an enemy turning up where least expected.
– The fear of the Japanese torpedo boats caused the Dogger Bank incident, which shows the importance as an offensive weapon attached by belligerents to such vessels.
– All navies are not so disorganized as that of Russia.
– Unless our offensive force is efficient, the enemy, who will know pretty well what the conditions are, will laugh at it, and, having found our weak spot, will attack it. I cannot understood the assumption that it is possible to have an efficient local defence except within lines within which the Imperial Navy cannot operate. It is not laid down in the Imperial Defence Committee’s report that there are such lines. The recommendation is that the fleet shall be kept mobile, to go wherever there is a. foe to meet or interests to protect. The report regards Captain Creswell’s assumption as entirely wrong, and criticises him as very few colonial officers have been criticised. It is quite clear, having regard to the delicacy and consideration which it was thought desirable to extend to a colonial proposal, that the Committee had a, very distinct opinion on this subject. I understand that since the issue of his report Captain Creswell has modified his views very considerably, or has re-stated them in a form more in accord with the principles of defence laid down by the Committee, showing that the broad features of its criticism were absolutely just. The honorable member for Bland, in speaking of the desirability of having a mosquito fleet, said that such a fleet is thought necessary for the defence of Great Britain; but are the conditions the same? Great Britain is in proximity to European countries, which may at any time be her enemies. The great European Powers are nearer to each other than are many parts of Australia. That is why the coast of France swarms with all kinds of operative destructive forces, lying ready to dash out at any moment to attack the English defences.
– A mosquito fleet is the weapon of the minor Powers.
– It is a weapon necessary to Great Britain, because of her nearness to possible enemies.
– Every Power is building or buying torpedo vessels.
– That is because they are near to one another. But there is no foreign country within 20 miles of Melbourne, possessing a fleet bristling with menace and warlike possibilities, ready to attack us at a moment’s notice. The position of Great Britain is not analogous to that of Australia, and therefore we cannot slavishly adopt a systemwhich is thought to be valuable there.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Defence Committee points out that the protection of the Australian floating trade, whether on the high seas or in local waters, demands for its effective accomplishment the closely concerted action of powerful sea-going ships. What mention is there of the imaginary line drawn by Captain Creswell ?
– Perhaps he refers to the 3-miles limit.
– I do not think that naval strategy takes account of such limits.
– Captain Mahan has stated that the naval base for the defence of Australia is in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
– Yes. There is nothing in the Imperial Defence Committee’s report about a mosquito fleet at all. That body says that powerful seagoing fleets are just as necessary to protect Australian trade in local waters as they are upon the high seas. They then go on to say -
A separate Australian Navy could not find in any effective organization of the Naval Forces of the Empire a role commensurate with the cost of its creation and maintenance, or worthy of the aptitude for sea service -of the inhabitants.
In other words, they affirm that even if we could successfully organize an Australian Navy it would not be worth while to do so, since it would be immensely more costly for us to operate it than it would be for the Imperial Government to operate the whole of the forces of the Imperial Navy for us. I also point out that these proposals to provide mosquito fleets for purely coastal defence will be of little value, since the most powerful ocean-going fighting ships are necessary in local waters as well as upon the high seas. Apart from all these considerations, what I want from the Government is a definite proposal. During the past six years no less than three defence schemes have been originated, or an average of one for every two years. How it is proposed to formulate a defence scheme, and to test it within two years, passes the comprehension of any mortal. In our six years’ experience as a Commonwealth we have already entered upon three schemes of defence.
– Did we really enter upon those schemes?
– Not one of them has been given a fair trial, and certainly the scheme which was last organized has not been worked out. The only pretence which we have made of following an intelligent line of action was when the honorable and learned member for Corinella ventured to outline a scheme for the fulfilment of a plan which had been formulated bv Major-General Sir Edward Hutton.
– Was his scheme any different from this scheme?
– If there be no difference between the two, where is the necessity for the new scheme proposed by the Prime Minister?
– Was the scheme submitted bv the honorable and learned member for Corinella opposed to anything which is contained in this scheme ?
– I do not think that in its broad outlines it differed from the present scheme. But the Treasurer must recognise that instead of developing and perfecting that scheme we are venturing upon other projects.
– I scarcely think so.
– The Prime Minister has outlined a scheme which will involve a further expenditure of £750,000 annually.
– I think it is in the nature of a supplemental scheme.
– But is it not better to complete our present force first?. What is the use of having all these schemes only partially operative, and therefore ineffective? The first thing that we should do is to make our force thoroughly efficient, and then we should proceed with the elaboration of further proposals. If we are going to build a fighting vessel1, let us equip it thoroughly. What is the use of having ten vessels, the armament of which is not complete, and none of which are .able to stand against a modern ironclad?
– I do not admit that we have been changing. We are simply supplementing the scheme which has already been adopted.
– We are going on with nothing complete. That is the’ plain English of the position. Before we have time to complete one arm of our defence, we are off in another direction
– I do not admit that there was anything new in the scheme submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
– Therefore, there is nothing’ hew in the elaborate proposals of the Prime Minister.
– We are continuing to expand.
– I am verv much afraid that we are not. Instead of elaborating new schemes-
– Schemes are called new when in reality they are not.
– I should like to hear what the Treasurer has to say of the plan suggested by “the honorable member for Bland in regard to the land defence of Australia.
– The whole of our military service is so unstable that nobody will dream of putting his son into it.
– I sincerely hope that we may never have to test our scheme in war time. I ami afraid that we should find it woefully deficient for the purposes of real defence.
– It is time that we had something of a. practical nature.
– What is something “ of a practical nature “ ? I listened to the speech which was delivered last evening by the honorable member for Bland, in which he made certain suggestions regarding our land defence, but all that he said was that he hoped we should adopt a modification of the Swiss system. A modification, at what cost? Further, how is that modification to suit our Australian conditions ?
– Wait till the honorable member for Bland gets upon the Treasury benches, and he will then tell us.
– In the meantime, are we to have no scheme. of defence?
– That is the business of the Government
– What is the honorable member’s own scheme?
– My scheme is to stand by what we have already, and to continue to perfect it until a better scheme is formulated. I do not pretend to be a military and naval expert.
– I should like to know how we are going to perfect it.
– The way in which we are administering our Defence Department is taking the heart out of the men in our Defence Forces. There is hardly one of them who has his heart in his work. In the first place, we are constantly nibbling at their pay and equipment, and in the second, it seems to me that the way of preferment is not as open as it ought to be. I am afraid that there is too much influence operating throughout the service to enable our best men to have the best chance of rising. I am not sure that today our best men are in the supreme positions.
– That complaint is always made, and always will be.
– And very probably it will always be made with some basis of justification. It is a matter to which we must constantly look, so long as human nature is what it is. I say that this sort of thing is going on in Australia to an extent that it ought not. Instead of producing newfangled schemes of defence every week or every month, instead of writing vague articles about them, and indulging in a lot of popular talk, let us make the scheme which is in operation to-day efficient. That need not deter us in the slightest degree from the formulation of new plans. My complaint is that everything we are doing is in a shocking state of incompleteness. No scheme is given a chance to mature before another is upon its heels. I fear that in the multitude of schemes there is no safety, but quite the contrary. I should like to hear from the honorable member for Bland what are his ideas in respect of a land force for Australia. I read the article upon the subject which he contributed to the Call, but it contains nothing of a definite character. He merely desires a modification of the Swiss system. What sort of a modification? The whole of Switzerland could be put in’ one of our small States, and there would still be room to spare. Consequently a system which might suit Switzerland might be totally inapplicable to the broad acres of Australia.
– Am I bound at this stage - before the country has decided upon the scheme - to give details?
– Does not the honorable member see that the nature of the modification which he proposes is everything ?
– He proposes a modification to suit the conditions of Australia.
– How can we tell that until we know what is that modification ?
– The honorable member wants details in regard to a scheme which cannot be adopted for some time to come. Yet he himself is always chary about giving details in respect of any matter which he brings forward.
– I have no plan to formulate.
– The honorable member is asking for details in a most unreasonable way. I am prepared to give those details, but I am not prepared at this stage to commit myself to them unalterably.
– I am not ready to consider the proposal to adopt the Swiss system of providing a land force unless I know from the details that it is applicable to Australia.
– We cannot discuss schemes without knowing their details.
– The principle involved is whether any measure of compulsory universal training shall be insisted upon.
– The honorable member ought to know by this time that the details of schemes are everything. When he talks about the principles of defence in a fine, vague way, he does not bring us any nearer a solution of this difficult problem. That is my complaint against the proposals of the Prime Minister. After disentangling the small amount of real pabulum from the wonderful speech which he delivered last night, I find that he makes no definite proposals whatever. To-day the VicePresident of the Executive Council has told us that nothing is to be done in respect of the scheme outlined by the Prime Minister until after Parliament has been consulted.
– That is in respect of naval operations.
– I am speaking of naval operations. A complete system of defence can only be secured by the concurrent development of both arms of our Defence. Therefore, while these schemes are being developed in the minds of those who are best able to formulate them, we should endeavour to get the best results that we can from our present system. That seems to me a practical way of dealing with this question.
– I wish to bring under the notice oftheCommittee two cases which indicate that the administration of the Department of Defence is somewhat at fault. The honorable member for Newcastle this morning protested against certain procedure on the part of the military authorities, and I wish to enter my protest against the attitude taken up by them in respect to other matters. In connexion with the retrenchment of certain officers, a very mean and shabby practice has been adopted. A member of the Defence Force in Brisbane, on 30th June, 1902, received from the Department a letter containing the following statement: -
Instructions have been received from the General Officer ‘Commanding that the regulations respecting retirement for age will not take effect until1st September, 1902. In the meantime you are granted leave of absence from1st July inclusive until further orders.
This was a clear, explicit statement that the services of the man in question were to be discontinued at the expiration of his two months’ leave of absence, which was to commence on the day following that on which he received this communication. The leave of absence was granted him, and during that time he received his ordinary pay. He was duly retrenched in September, but out of certain gratuities payable to him in respect of his length of service, the Department actually deducted the pay which he had received during his leave of absence. That, to my mind, was a mean and shabby thing to do, and the man very naturally objects to the treatment meted out to him. When I brought the matter under the notice of the Department, the only excuse offered was the paltry one that all those who had been retrenched had been treated in a similar way. Such a system is most unfair. I now desire to bring under the notice of the Minister the case of a man in the Department, who, whilst on service, met with an accident, which resulted in his losing two or three fingers. An inquiry was held, and a recommendation was made that he should be granted £30 by way of compensation for the injury he had received. Subsequently itwas recommended that he should receive£80. He was then asked to send in a claim, and in the end he received a letter to the effect that it was not considered that the loss of two or three fingers was a disablement. The unfortunate man has received nothing by way of compensation for his injuries, but I trust that the Minister will give both these cases his favorable consideration. I certainly do not think that these men have been fairly treated.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister a procedure on the part of the Department which I certainly cannot understand. We had in Tasmania a little cadet corps, which had accumulated£380, contributions having been made to the fund by the boys themselves. When the cadet corps were taken over by the Commonwealth, the Department decided that this sum should be paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and it made the paltry grant of £30, or £10 each, to three cadet corps in the State. It is felt in Tasmania that this money was practically the property of the cadet corps, and should not have been paid into the general revenue. I am certain that the Minister never contemplated that anything of the kind should be done.. If the money were handed over to the cadets, it could be utilized for the purchase of uniforms. We have several flourishing cadet corps in Tasmania; the boys are taking a great interest in the movement, and it also receives great attention at the hands of the head teachers of the schools, who act as officers. I would also point out that no provision has been made for instructional classes for cadets.
– The instructional staff has been materially increased.
– But the cadets in Hobart and Southern Tasmania generally find that no provision has been made for their instruction. The formation of instructional classes is one of the first essentials to the establishment of efficient corps. Another complaint is that no provision has been made for the cadets going into camp.
– Provision is made for their being treated as usual.
– Does the Minister say that provision will be made for their going into camp with the ordinary forces ?
– I cannot absolutely say that that willbe done, but I am quite satisfied that they ought to go into camp.
– The Minister made a statement that, prior to the volunteer forces being taken over by the Federation the State Government had considerablyreduced their number, and that the expenditure had to be largely increased to bring them up to the standard. The first report issued by Major-General Hutton - namely, that presented in 1902, when the Tasmanian forces were first taken over - shows that the forces of the States at that time were as follows: - New South Wales, 9,700; Victoria, 6,400; Queensland, 5,000; South Australia, 3,000; Western Australia, 2,000; and Tasmania, 3,000.
– That was the nominal strength.
– It was the actual strength.
– That number would not have paraded.
-The right honorable member is in error. The difficulty in connexion with the parade of the troops in Tasmania occured two years after the forces had been taken over by the Commonwealth. Major-General Hutton. in this report, gives a statement of the relative fighting forces in proportion to the population in each State, which shows that the fighting forces of New South Wales and Victoria were below the average, that those in Queensland were 900 above the average, South Australia 300 above the average, Western Australia 100 above the average, and Tasmania no less than 1,600 above the average. Tasmania’s defence force before Federation consisted almost entirely of volunteers, and the percentage of men who went into camp there was larger than that in any other State. The trouble occurred when the Commonwealth proceeded to grant payment to part of the forces. When the fighting forces of Tasmania were brought under the Federation she had per head of the population nearly double the number possessed by any other State in the Union. I sincerely trust that the Minister will accede to my request that the sum of£380 accumulated by the cadet corps of Tasmania will be returned.
– They have not applied for the money.
– They have, and have been told that it has been paid into the Consolidated Revenue. I am certain that it is not the intention of the Government that this money, which has been saved by the corps, should be dealt with in that way.
– - Under the usual procedure in dealing with such moneys a certain course must be pursued, and if a good case is made out a refund is granted. I cannot definitely reply at this stage to the request made by the honorable member, but I will promise to give him a full statement on Tuesday next.
.- Will the Minister inform me whether the papers relating to the parade of troops at the A.N.A. exhibition, Sydney, are yet available.
– In accordance with the promise that I gave the . honorable member, I made inquiries first of all at head-quarters, Melbourne, and was informed that the authorities there had no papers bearing on the case. I then asked that a telegram should be sent to Sydney requesting that the papers be supplied to me. There seems to be some doubt, however, as to whether there are any papers, since such matters are usually left in the hands of the Commandant. I have informed the Acting Secretary of Defence that a statement of the case must be obtained as soon as possible from Sydney.
.- Let me briefly put the case before the Committee. An exhibition of Australian manufacturers was held last January in Sydney ; but unfortunately it was a failure.
– It was not.
– I gather that it was.
– There was a debit balance of , £1,100.
– But in the view of the Minister that would not indicate a failure. The management of the exhibition asked the military authorities in’ Sydney to provide a military display, and so to improve the “gate.” I believe that the military authorities hesitated to accede to the request, and that the matter was then referred to Melbourne. Within twenty-four hours the necessary permission came from Melbourne, and the troops took part in the “ exhibition.” I wish to point out the significance that attaches to this action. The australian Field Artillery are a branch of our Forces which must have the utmost possible training to render them efficient. Only a small number of days are available for drill of all kinds, and only five or six days per annum are devoted to firing practice. At about the date that this exhibition was arranged, (the field artillery were to have been called out for two days’ firing practice, but instead of that they were required to drill at full pay at what was, in some respects, a partisan exhibition.
– It was not partisan at all.
– At any rate, the men had two days’ practice for show purposes.
– Yes, for the benefit of the Australian Natives Association. No doubt the exhibition was a very good one, but I would point out that these men are paid and give up their time in order that they may become efficient, and if they are required to attend exhibitions, instead of doing practical work, thev will never become of any use.
– They are useful for show purposes only.
– I know that that idea is becoming prevalent, and it seems to me that Australian defence matters are justifiably assuming )a farcical ‘aspect. The Minister was guilty of something approaching tampering with the true and proper administration of his Department. Some clays ago I asked for the production of .the papers relating to this case, but could not obtain them; so that if there be any trifling inaccuracy in the facts as I have stated them, the fault is not mine. ‘Apparently, it is difficult to obtain any information from the head-quarters office.
– The honorable member takes it for granted that his charges are well grounded, and then makes use of a number of acrimonious adjectives. Before any one charges a Minister with tampering with the admin istration of his Department, he ought to be able to prove his case.
– I cannot obtain the papersnecessary to prove it.
– When the honorablemember asked me for the papers, I did my best to obtain them from the military authorities. I was told that there were nopapers here. A wire was sent to Sydney, and it was ascertained that the matter had’, been dealt with by the District Commandant, and that no papers were available. The honorable member, charges the Government with having extended to a partisan exhibition certain patronage anc? support which, probably, would not have been given in another case. I guarantee, however, that when full information isforthcoming we shall find that there is no1 thing in the charge, and that the trainingof the Australian Artillery has not beensacrificed
.- If the general discussion is concluded, I should like to move for the reduction of the Estimates. I said last night that they showed” an increase of nearly £80,000 upon theamount agreed upon by all parties in 1902- as the maximum to be -spent upon our Defence Forces, irrespective of the money required to provide warlike stores. That agreement was arrived at with the assent of the then Minister of Defence, as representing the Government, of the present leader of the Opposition, and of myself acting onbehalf of the members of my party from whom I could obtain an expression of opinion.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that that agreement was; intended to bind Parliament for every year afterwards ?
– The amount I have indicated was specifically mentioned as thesum that should not be exceeded - that is,, of course, unless some new development took place.
– I remember the occasion but I did not think that that was intended. I did not agree to the arrangement; but, on the other hand, specifically disagreed? with it.
– Naturally, there would always be the reservation that a new development might justify an increase, and the arrangement was not intended to provide for all possibilities on the naval side; but the agreement related to the amount to be allocated to defences, irrespective of pro- vision for warlike material. I said that I thought that any expenditure in that direction should be provided for apart from’ the amount spent upon training. The amount set down, for training, was £700,000, and, as £100,000 .has since been added to the naval subsidy, the total to-day would be, roughly speaking, £800,000. In view of the fact that the Government indicate that next year they must make some substantial reduction on the military side, in order to provide for the expansion of our floating defences, this is surely an inopportune time to increase the Military Estimates by from £70,000 to £80,000. With a proper reorganization, we could materially reduce the Military Estimates, and some reconstruction is absolutely essential if we are going to do anything in the matter of coastal defence. I desire to bring about a reduction of £50,000 ; but perhaps it would be more convenient if I moved for a reduction of £1, on the understanding that, if that be agreed to, the Committee will thereby express their desire that the larger reduction shall be made.
– What about the extra expenditure on rifle clubs?
– There has been an expansion of the expenditure upon rifle clubs and cadet forces. I do not object to incurring an increased outlay upon rifle clubs, “because I believe that the more men we «can train to the use of rifles the better will be the prospects before us in regard to defence matters.
– The members of rifle clubs are hardly a substitute for other troops
– Perhaps not. But I regard land forces, except so far as they perform garrison duties, as constituting our second line of defence ; and, in view of the importance which I attach to floating defences, it does not seem to me necessary or wise to devote such a large proportion of our total ‘expenditure to the development of the military side of our defences. The least that might be expected was that the Government, would keep within the total expenditure agreed upon some time ago. It “is for Ministers to decide how the necessary reduction shall be made.
An Honorable Member. - I suppose the ^honorable member does not wish to interfere with the vote for the cadet forces?
– I admit that it is impossible to interfere with that, but my deliberate opinion is that the cadet forces were better looked after by the States
Governments than they are now. I think that the cadets might very well have been allowed to remain under the control of the States until we had more money to spend, and certainly until after we had made provision for coastal defences of some character. We cannot, however, go back upon the arrangement that we have made with the States, and therefore I do not suggest that the expenditure upon the cadet forces should be interfered with. The appropriation for the Australian Light Horse - one of .the most expensive arms of the service -
– It is not the most expensive. Artillery is more expensive, and so are technical corps.
– Light horse costs £16 18s. lod. a man, and there may be a proportion of the central administration expenses to add to that. Field artillery costs £19 16s.
– I think that we should be justified in spending a little more on artillery. That force certainly requires more training than infantry does. I am convinced that our light horse is out of proportion to the other branches of the service.
– Requests for the formation of light horse corps are received every day.
– Military officers have assured me that the light horse already provided for is disproportionate to the other branches of the service, and could be reduced without injuring its effectiveness. It is not a question as to the value of one branch or another, but of spending the money of the country to the best advantage. The Government might well reduce expenditure in regard to some branches of the service, while giving encouragement at the present rate to rifle clubs, and even to cadets. I think that a mistake has been made in regard to the cadet force, but I admit that we cannot reverse our policy now. We should not, however, consent to a large increase of the total military expenditure.
– The honorable member should move the reduction of the vote by a specified amount.
– I cannot do that without curtailing the opportunity of other honorable members to move reductions in detail; but I have stated that my desire is to secure a reduction of .£50,000, and on a former occasion the Committee agreed to a reduction of the vote by a nominal sum, on the understanding that a much larger saving would be effected. The late Sir Edward Braddon moved the reduction of the vote by £i, to indicate that a reduction of £130,000 was desired, and the Ministry of the day effected an even greater saving in pursuance of the Committee’s instruction. I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1.
.- If anything was needed to point to the necessity for dealing with defence matters earlier in the session, it has been furnished by the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, moved only an hour or so before the time practically agreed upon for finishing the Estimates.
– I mentioned my intention last night.
– I am not surprised at the proposition, because it seemed to me that some of the Prime Minister’s utterances last night almost invited! action of the kind, though I do not suppose that he contemplated it. Whether we are spending too much ‘or too little, the rule of thumb method of dealing with our Defence Estimates is utterly without excuse. Three years ago a similar amendment, to which 1 was opposed, was accepted by the Government of the day.
– The Government had to accept it, and will have to accept this, if the Committee agrees to it. I am sorry that a reduction of £250,000 has not been proposed.
– I hope that the Government will not accept the amendment. I do not pretend to be satisfied with the state of our- defences, or with the manner in which the military administration is conducted. I do not pretend that our system is perfect, or even nearly so, But an attack such as has been made upon our military expenditure is not warrantable. Honorable members should attack the Estimates in detail. I hope that thev Government will strenuously defend their proposals, although I do not approve of all the items contained in them. Honorable members labour under a delusion if they think that Australia can be defended for ever on a maximum expenditure determined in 1 go 2. It would be better to say straight out that we are not prepared to deal properly with the subject of defence, and are ready to do without defence preparation, trusting wholly to the protection of the Imperial Navy.
– Why does our military system cost so much more than that of Canada ?
– I do not wish to make a comparison between the forces of the two countries, but I would remind the Committee that in some of the years in which the Canadian expenditure was very low, the Dominion troops did not get the training which was necessary, and, as trained men, existed only on paper. It is our business to determine what land forces, and, if you like, what sea forces, the Commonwealth should employ, and then to vote the money necessary to equip and train them, and to maintain them in the highest degree of perfection. A proceeding like that proposed will not do what is necessary. The Government are starting with a second scheme before they have finished the first. Our land forces are not properly equipped or fully trained. More than the amount set down will have to be expended before that can be done.
– When will it be finished ?
– We shall never finish keeping our forces in an efficient condition.
– Then must we never make changes?
– I do not say that we should never make changes, but, having adopted the scheme, we should complete or abandon it. We should not play the fool in this matter, asking for a certain amount of money, and then refusing to expend it. The Government say that thev will consider economies next session, and intend to save on the military side ; but when thev come to work out the details, they will find that that is not so easy. Our only defence at present is our land defence, and it will be time enough to talk of dispensing with our land forces when we have that navy which some honorable members think will do such wonders. Until we have some other form of defence, it will be madness not to maintain an efficient land force, unless we are ready to frankly admit that we depend, not on our service, but on the might of the Empire.
– We do not propose to do that.
– A reduction of ^50,000 is proposed without a word of warrant for it beyond the fact that some years ago an amount was decided upon bv Parliament as sufficient for our military expenditure.
We have not been told how any of this money is to be saved.
– We will show that in going through the Estimates.
– Savings may be possible here and there, but they cannot be very large unless whole units are wiped out. If it is intended that a certain number of regiments of infantry or of light horse, or certain departmental units, are to disappear, that ought to be indicated. There is scarcely a regiment of light horse which* is wholly provided for on the Estimates now, and this incompleteness is unsatisfactory. We should determine upon the number of units we desire, and thoroughly equip and train them, making provision for no others ; but we should not drive more holes into the .present incomplete system. With the exception of the infantry, our regiments are not complete, and if the Government are forced to retrench to the extent of .£50,000, they will do it by cutting off a squadron here, and a company there, and doing away with training somewhere else.
– The saving will be made on the partially-paid volunteer forces.
– The partially-paid troops get little enough now for the work which they do, and I shall not be a party to saving in that way. The proposal to reduce the expenditure should be justified by an exhaustive - I do not say expert - discussion of details. I do not concur in the proposition of the honorable member for Bland, and I hope that the Committee will not agree to it.
– No one knows better than does the honorable and learned member for ‘Corinella that if we were to vote £1,000,000 for military expenditure, the authorities next year would want more.
– That is not the point.
– The right honorable member for Swan has told me that when Minister of Defence, he had to cut down the Military Estimates by some thousands of pounds. By how much did the honorable and learned member for Corinella cut down his Estimates?
– By a very large amount. The military authorities have regard solely to the efficiency of the service, without considering expense. It is the duty of the Government to do that.
– We have to consider expense, because we are responsible to our constituents. To tinker with defence is sheer madness. Last night the Prime Minister, in his able speech, told us that, since Federation, the Defence administration could b» divided into three periods, the first being the General Officer Commanding period, and the second the Defence Council period. He did not say what the third was.
– The third period has been one of muddle. I agree with what the honorable member for Corinella has said about the efficiency of the forces. Let us decide what forces we are to have, either on land or sea - such and such strength in artillery, infantry, mounted troops, engineers, and so forth - and then make them as efficient as possible.
– Providing whatever money may be necessary for the purpose.
– Yes. I do not believe in starving the Defence Forces. At present we have maladministration from beginning to end, and if once in a year Parliament did not do something to check it, our defences would get in as bad a condition as they have ever been in.
– Does the honorable member think that’ cutting down these Estimates will affect the administration of the Department?
– I am aware that it would not. The very persons whom we desire to touch would not be touched. The Government would cut off a unit here and a unit there.
– That is the only way in which it can be done;
– I can show how some thousands of pounds can be saved upon the Defence Estimates without doing that. For instance, about £1,400 might be saved upon the offices of Secretary of Defence and Director of Stores. These officers’ are now dr.’ England, and the Defence Department is being run without them. Why not transfer the amount of their salaries to the Department of External Affairs?
– I understood that we voted £2,000 or £3,000 for their expenses.
– We have not voted anything for their salaries. The Department cannot be carried on permanently without a Secretary and a Director of Stores. It is almost criminal that we should be without a Director of Stores.
– My point is that the salaries of these officers are being charged to the Defence Department, when they are not engaged upon defence work. Year after year, successive Governments say that this shall be done, or that shall be done. But what has beer, done? The Defence Department is in a worse condition to-day than it has been since the Federation was established. I thoroughly agree with the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that if we are to have a Defence Force, we should have a proper force, and, if not, we should depend upon the Imperial Military and Naval Forces to defend us, and pay them a subsidy for doing so. We should then know exactly what we were doing. It. is idle to deny the fact that we have men at the head of the Defence Department in the different States who ari incompetent. They have received promotion, not by reason of merit, but because of their seniority and influence. It is quite true - as the honorable and learned member for Parkes remarked this afternoon - that in New South Wales people will not allow their sons to enter, the service because of the uncertainty which is connected with it. The same remark is applicable to Queensland. I know one mar. there who has been tried in every Department of the Government service, and who has failed miserably. Then Mr. Philp said, “ Let us put him into the Defence Department.” That man has since passed his examination in that Department, and has headed the list an all subjects. At the present time, ihe is a major in the Defence Forces there, although only a few months ago he proved himself to be a, most hopeless incompetent. As a matter of fact, he did not know the difference between a roan horse and a bay one. Then honorable members will recollect the farce that was enacted at Queenscliff at the beginning of the present year. Discipline was thrown to the winds, and I fear that it has never been restored. ;
– What does the honorable member think was the cause of that?
– I have mv ow,n opinion. Had I been Minister of Defence, it should not have happened. I should not have allowed it. I hold in my hand some correspondence relating to an officer who has rendered gallant service in the. field, who has been specially mentioned in de spatches, and who has been highly commended by Imperial officers for his work in South Africa. I refer to Captain Bailey, of Queensland. Before he went toSouth Africa a second time, he was promised that upon his return he would beappointed to a permanent position in the Military Forces. Captain Bailey joined the F Company, Queensland . volunteers, in> February, 1887, and served in the ranksuntil August, i88g. He joined the Darling Downs Mounted Infantry in September, 1889, as a private. He was appointed’ corporal in 1890, sergeant in 1892, and1 quartermaster-sergeant in 1893. He received his first commission «n 1895, wasappointed captain in 1898, and served as. an officer in the first contingent despatched by Queensland to South Africa. He was appointed adjutant of the Queensland Sixth Contingent, and was afterwards appointed chief staff officer of Colonel Gordon’s mobile column, which took such, an active part in the Boer drives in the later stages of the war. The column consisted’ of the following troops: - Two companies of the 42nd Regiment - the Black Watch ; 600 officers and men of the Imperial Yeomanry, 500 officers and men of the South African Light Horse, a field hospital, a supply column, and a section of engineers. This position he held until the end of the war. He then went home to England to attend the British School of Musketry, and qualified as an instructor in musketry, the use and mechanism of the machine gun, and the range finder. He subsequently returned to Australia, only to find that all the good appointments were filled - some of them by officers who had refused to go to South Africa. He then applied to be examined for the rank of major, but, although he held a certificate from. Hythe, England, he was compelled to again take up musketry, and to pass in-it. However, he did pass for major in 1903, and was appointed to that rank in August, 1905. That position he now holds. He is an officer who has proved his capabilities, and who has risen from the ranks, but, notwithstanding that, the authorities will not appoint him to the Permanent Forces. He is unable to find out the reason for their objection, but my own opinion is that it is because he has risen from the ranks - from the plebeians. The following is a copy of a letter which was forwarded by Captain Bailey to the A.A.G. and CS.O.’, Victoria
Barracks, Brisbane, on22nd November, 1902 : -
Sir,- I have the honour to request you to be good enough to informme what position I now hold in the Commonwealth Forces of Australia.
My appointment as Adjutant on the Permanent Staff has never been cancelled or confirmed, yet a junior officer (who declined to go to South Africa), and who was appointed after I was, is now D.A.A.G. for one of the States. This I cannot understand, as it appears to me that fighting for King and country counts rather against than for one, as the above clearly proves.
I trust that this letter will be forwarded to Head-Quarters, so that justice may be done.
To that communication he received the following reply : -
To Captain H. Bailey, Q.M.I
It would be better for’ you to redraft this letter, as it is undesirable to forward one which contains reference to appointments made by the General Officer Commanding.
Should you therefore wish your request granted, will you submit a fresh letter, bearing in mind the following points are clearly stated : - (1) What was your exact rank and appointment when you went to South Africa. I understand you were an officer in the Q.M.I., but temporarily employed on the Staff as Adjutant from1st February,1901, and that owing to you joining a Contingent this lapsed, and your appointment was not confirmed.
Major for A.A.G. and C.S.O
Brisbane, 25th November,1902
Captain Bailey was not appointed temporarily at all, but on probation for six months, when the appointment should have been either cancelled or confirmed. That was never done, but on his return he was informed that his appointment had lapsed, because he went to serve his country. This he could not understand, as it did not apply to other staff officers. Captain Bailey’s first letter was returned to him, and in lieu of it he wrote the following to the Chief Staff Officer, Victoria Barracks, Brisbane: -
Sir, - I have the honour to bring under your notice the following, and trust that I may be informed as early as possible what my position at present is in the Commonwealth Military Forces.
I have held the rank of Captain in the Queensland Defence Force since 1898, and on my return to Queensland with the1st. Contingent, was appointed Adjutant on the Permanent Staff on probation from1st February, 1901. I noted as Adjutant at the Camp at Lytton for the 5th and 6th Contingents, and was offered and accepted the Adjutancy of the latter Contingent, which sailed for South Africa on 4th April, 1 901.
I was not aware nor did I receive any notification that my Staff appointment lapsed when I went to South Africa, and was surprised on my return to find that my name had been overlooked.
I have gone to considerable expense to proceed to the School of Musketry, Hythe, which I would not have done had I the slightest idea my services would not longer be required on my return.
What I now wish is that my original appointment be confirmed, as from1st February, 1901, so that by my going to South Africa I have not lost seniority.
Trusting this matter will receive favorable consideration, - I have the honour, &c,
Subsequently several letters passed through the proper channel, but Captain Bailey never secured any satisfaction, and consequently had to allow the matter to drop. But in 1904 he again applied, under the new regulations, for a position on the permanent staff, as there were two vacancies, and his application resulted in the following correspondence: -
Brisbane, 14th November, 1904. From the A.A.G. and Chief Staff Officer,
With reference to Captain Bailey’s application for appointment on the Instructional Staff, the application was forwarded and recommended by the Commandant, and the following reply has been received from the D.A. General, HeadQuarters, Melbourne.
The Generalvincer Commanding desires me to say that Captain Bailey’s application has been noted, but that he cannot hold out any hope of an appointment, more especially when it is borne in mind that on the 27th inst. Captain Bailey will have attained the age of 35 years, the limit of age for appointment.
By order (Sgd.) G. H. Irving,
O/C. 14th. A.L.H.
Will you be kind enough to inform Captain Bailey accordingly.
By order (Sgd.) H. G. Chauvel,
Major, Acting A.A.G., &c,
Forwarded for your information. Please note and return.
O/C. 14th A.L.H.
Noted. I have the honour to respectfully request that my application be treated as a special case, as per the latter part of Paragraph 22, Part III., of the Regulations.
My reason for this request is on account of my having served on the Staff in the Field for over 18 months.
Sgd. H. Bailey, Captain
– To that letter Captain Bailey received the following reply : -
From the A.A.G. and C.S.O., Brisbane.
To the O/C. 14th A.L.H., Toowoomba.
With reference to previous correspondence, please be good enough to inform Major H. Bailey that the following instructions have been received from the Military Board : - “Major H. Bailey, 14th A.L.H. (Q.M.I.) should, I am directed to say, be informed that as he is over the maximum age prescribed by the Regulations, his application cannot be approved.”
By order (Sgd.) S. A. Pethebridge.
Secretary Military Board.
He has high military attainments. At his own expense he proceeded to England, went through the musketry and rangefinding courses at Hythe, and obtained firstclass certificates. It is now said that, as he is over thirty-eight years of age, he cannot be appointed a major, and that he must be “turned out to grass” like an old horse. Being unable to obtain any satisfaction from head-quarters, in December, 1905, he wrote, as a last hope, to Colonel Ricardo, of Melbourne, asking whether he could do anything for him, and if he remembered the many promises made to him before proceeding to South Africa.
To this he received the following reply: -
Melbourne, 31st January, 1906.
My dear Bailey, - I can quite understand that vou feel aggrieved, but at the same time there is no getting over Regulation 73(a), and I think on reflection that you must see what a false position you would hold on the Instructional Staff. If appointed, you would come in junior to men of 18 and 20 probably, and as your chance of promotion would be very slight, you would have to retire at 45, and you would then be in a worse position than now to tackle a fresh job. As regards the promises made to you when going to South Africa, I am afraid they go for nothing (at least, I have found it in my case), they are like pie crusts, made to be broken.
I know you like soldiering better than any other job, but believe me if I had my time to live over again, it is the last job I would tackle, though, like you, I love the work. - Yours sincerely. - (Signed) Percy Ricardo.
The following is a note made by Captain Bailey after receiving this wonderful letter: -
I do not want to get over Regulation 73(a), or any other regulation, and I have not the slightest intention of going junior to men of 18 and 20, but I want to be placed in the same position on the Staff that I occupied before I accepted the position of Adjutant for the 6th Contingent. I only want justice.
As a matter of fact, Captain Bailey at the present time occupies one of the best civil positions in Queensland. He is not on the look-out for a job, but he feels that he has not been justly treated by the Department. I agree that he has not. If one man is allowed to ignore the regulations, why should another not be allowed to do so? Captain Bailey is undoubtedly a capable man. Whilst in South Africa he was mentioned in despatches, and I have before me a bundle of recommendations in which he is spoken of in the highest terms. If men of ability are to be treated by the Defence Department as he has been, then we can never expect any good result from it. No one knows better than does the Minister that at present merit has no chance in the Defence Forces. I do not know Lt.-Col. Bridges, but I have no hesitation in saying that he is the only manin Australia to-day fit to take command of the Commonwealth Forces. And yet the excuse made by the Minister for refusing to make him Inspector-General was that there were many men senior to him in the forces.
– “ Australia for the Australians !”
– He is an Australian officer, and I repeat that he is the most capable man in Australia to-day.
– What authority has the honorable member for that statement?
– I know what he has done. Only recently he passed at Home the examination for the rank of lieutenantcolonel, which none of the other officers here could pass. As a matter of fact, some of the members of the Board of Examiners here do not hold the full rank of colonel, and cannot pass the examination.
– They are given chance after chance to pass the examination, while others are turned out of the forces.
– That is so. One of the officers has been allowed a further period of two years in which to pass the necessary examination whilst Captain Bailey, who is “ up to snuff “ as a military officer, is not given a show.
– I understand that, briefly put, the honorable member says that Captain Bailey left his position in Queensland to proceed on service to South Africa, and that when he came back he found another man had taken his place.
– That is so; another man had “ jumped his job.”
– Obviously, that ought not to be.
– He was promised that, on returning from South Africa, he would be appointed on the permanent staff. I should like to know whether the regulation to which reference has been made in Colonel Ricardo’s letter is that which Colonel Le Mesurier was allowed to ignore. On reading it, I find it has no application to the case of Captain Bailey, who simply asks for a square deal.
– I shall at once look into the case. I cannot understand how it could have happened.
– I have no personal interest in Captain Bailey, who is travelling manager in Queensland for the Massey-Harris Company. I met him a little time ago at Roma, and, having heard how he had been treated, I asked him to put his case in writing, promising that I would see what could be done. I come now to Mr. Patchett’s case. Having read all the papers relating to it, I say unreservedly that I think he is a fool. It would appear that he was given every opportunity by Captain Creswell to do the right thing, but refused to do so; so that he has no one to blame but himself for his present position. I do not say whether he is in the right or the wrong, but I do say that justice ought to be done. The Minister should be the very first to take action. He is a disinterested party, and is prepared to treat all officers alike. If Mr. Patchett is suffering an injustice, and is willing to be courtmartialled, his request for a court martial ought to be granted him. Clause 88 of the Defence Act provides that -
Except in time of war every member before being dismissed or reduced for any alleged offence may if he so request be tried by court martial.
The Department of Defence has denied him that right. If he takes my advice, he will make formal application every month for his salary, and at the end of twelve months will sue for it. In my opinion, he has been illegally dismissed, and could successfully sue for the recovery of his salary.
– The Department is dealing with him under martial law, not civil law.
– We are not in a state of war here. Ihope the day will never, come when we shall have to fight in Australia, for, as the honorable member for Parramatta has said, our defence system is in such a chaotic condition that we could not hope for success. There are a few items in the Defence Estimates which I propose to challenge. I propose, for instance, to move the omission of the item relating to the salary of Colonel Ricardb. This was the officer who, in the course of an afterdinner speech, said he was a State officer first, and a Commonwealth officer afterwards. If he holds that view, let him go to the State for his “ screw.” This is the only way in which we can teach these gentlemen that they are servants of the Commonwealth.
– He says that he did not make the statement.
– I am informed by some members of the State Parliament who were present that he did. It would seem, however, that he was so flurried that he did not know what he was saying.
– Perhaps the statement was made by Colonel Ricardo under the influence of momentary excitement.
– It was either that or seasickness. I believe that on the day in question it was fairly rough on the Bay. I trust that the honorable member for Bland will not insist on the Defence Estimates being reduced by £50,000, unless he is prepared to specifically indicate the items that should be cut down. A lump sum reduction would assuredly fall on those least able to bear it. As we’ proceed, I shall attempt to secure a reduction of item after item, until the total amount be reduced by
– It is certainly right that pending the adoption of a complete scheme of defence, we should endeavour as far as possible to curtail expenditure in this direction. If the Defence Estimates are to be reduced by £50,000, then the honorable member for Bland has taken the proper course, for I feel satisfied that we should be liable to make many blunders if we set ourselves the task of reducing individual items. I should prefer to allow the Estimates to remain as they are rather than that honorable members themselves should attempt to reduce them in the absence of the information necessary for their guidance. It is time that we had a complete system of defence. The Minister has no right to expect the Com mittee to grant an increased vote until he is able to tell us exactly how it is proposed to expend the money. It cannot be denied that eversince Federation the Department has been in a state of chaos. I have been connected with the forces from the inception of Federation, and know that the position is most unsatisfactory. Favoritism has been shown, and it is time that some of the officers were turned out of the service. Let me refer to a case in which I am not personally interested. A number of the best men have left the Scottish Infantry Regiment in Western Australia on account of the treatment they have received. A certain lieutenant attached to the corps was recently summoned in connexion with a share deal on the Stock Exchange, and succeeded in evading his liability by pleading that the transaction was contrary to the provisions of the Gaming Act. I have made repeated inquiries with regard to this matter ; but, so far, no explanation has been offered of the action of the Department in retaining a man who has been guilty of conduct unworthy of an officer and a gentleman. When a poor sergeant recently retained£10 which did not belong to him, and was sued for it, and had to pay the money into Court, he was drummed out of the regiment. The officer to whom I have referred is apparently a friend of the Commandant, and, in addition to being a member of the’ leading club in South Australia, moves in the highest circles of society. It is simply scandalous that he should be allowed to retain his position. I shall not be a party to the granting of moneytopay officers of his description.
There is no doubt as to the necessity for the reorganization of our forces. The Scottish Infantry Regiment in Adelaide, with which I was connected, and assisted to form, never asked the Commonwealth for one penny piece in the shape of pay, for the reason that we had men who could afford to give their services for nothing. But that is not the case at present, and I think that the Department made a big blunder when they substituted partially paid for volunteer regiments. I trust that, in the case to which I have referred, the Minister will endeavour to see that justice is done, and that he will thus maintain the honour of the forces and insure respect for the Department. I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Bland. If it is defeated, I shall hesitate to take the responsibility of making reductions in detail, because that course would probably lead to a further disorganization of our military forces.
.- I thoroughly indorse the remarks made by the honorable member for Maranoa with reference to Captain Bailey. One man mentioned in connexion with his case was Major Le Mesurier, with regard to whom I recently asked the Minister of Defence -
The reply was as follows -
Major Le Mesurier has been declared to be over age, and also incompetent, and I think it is the duty of the Minister to explain why he is permitted to retain his present position, and also why Captain Bailey has been so unfairly treated. I desire the public to know how the officers and gentlemen connected with our Defence Forces look after their own interests and disregard those of the men. If the affairs of the Defence Department were as well managed as are those of the officers, for their own welfare, it would be very much better for the community. I should like to know whether the statements made by Senator Styles in his minority report as a member of the Hawker Inquiry Board are true. I refer to his assertions that the officers fixed different prices for the goods sold in the canteen at Queenscliff, and took care that they should be obtainable by them at prices considerably lower than those at which they were available to the rank and file. The officers concerned in this arrangement were Major Hawker, who has since been removed to Sydney, Major Dangar, and Lieut. Long-Innes, who has been sent to Canada. It was stated that the differential prices were fixed for the benefit of the men, because all the profits were spent in promoting games and sports. The officers were asked at the inquiry if they ever engaged in games of cricket or football in which material purchased out of the canteen funds was used, and they had to admit that ‘they did. Furthermore, it transpired that they had made free use of the billiard-table which had been paid for out of the profits derived from the canteen. It was estimated that1d. profit was made upon a bottle of brandy or whisky sold at the price at which it was purchasable by officers. Therefore, if five or six officers - and there were not many at Queenscliff - drank a bottle of whisky per day, the canteen would benefit to the extent of about 6d. per week. In order that there may be no confusion with regard to this matter, I desire to quote the list of prices at which goods were sold at the canteen. The list is as follows: -
R.A.A. Canteens (Victoria.)
Prices to be charged to sergeants’ mess or officers. - Sergeants’ mess and officers may obtain the undermentioned goods at the prices placed against each item on signing a requisition for same. These requisitions must be attached by the canteen steward to his stock-sheet, otherwise he will be debited with the ordinarysale prices.
Note. - This list to be posted on a board and hung in canteen and stores.
Surely it is contemptible for an officer to so order affairs at the canteen that he shall have to pay less for his liquor than is charged to the rank and file. It was stated that the prices were fixed, with a view to prevent drunkenness amongst the men.
– Probably that was why matches were dearer.
– Surely it was not with the object of encouraging sobriety that the prices of teetotal drinks, including mineral - waters, were raised. The honorable member for Maranoa was not complimentary when he called Mr. Patchett a tool. The latter knew certain statements to be true, and if he had withdrawn them, would have been a self-convicted liar. Therefore, he would not withdraw them. But if the Minister of Defence has a heart, he will authorize an inquiry, during which the evidence will be taken on oath. Not another whitewashing, trumpery frivolous thing like the Hawker Inquiry Board. This man is entitled to a court martial, by which witnesses would be examined on oath, and would not be able to squirm out of telling the truth. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to bring all the pressure that he can upon the Minister of Defence to authorize the constitution of a just Board of Inquiry or a court martial, taking evidence on oath. In my experience, the average officer is no better than a policeman, and I do not know why he should be permitted to give evidence except on oath. In all courts of justice witnesses are examined on oath, and there cannot be anything but suspicion in regard to findings based on unsworn testimony.
– I shall recommend the Minister to recognise whatever rights Patchett is entitled to under the regulations.
Honorable Members. - Question.
– As I have sat here week after week helping to keep a quorum, I shall not be buldozed or intimidated when I wish to speak on a subject in which I am interested. I wish to provide for the reduction of the Military Estimates by £276,000.
– The question before the Committee is the reduction of the first item by £1.
– Then I shall move another amendment. My position, in a nutshell, is this I look upon every £1 spent on defence as so much lost to the community. No honorable member can . name a fort in Europe, or anywhere else, which ever successfully withstood a siege. Every fort, after being besieged bv an army, has been captured. Therefore, every sovereign that we divert from legitimate enterprise to expend upon the maintenance of a military oligarchy is a violation of the rights of a peaceful working community.
– Forts have often been useful in keeping armies engaged which otherwise might have done mischief elsewhere.
– I am opposed to militarism, because it is of no use to this country, and Iam against wasting the people’s money in starting a mud-scow fleet.
– If we must be licked, we are not going to take it lying down.
– Interest at 3½ per cent, on the £876,000 which it is proposed to expend on defences this year means a loss of £30,000 a year to the country for all time. The money could be very much better expended in increasing our population from hundreds of thousands to millions-. It will bebetter to have a population of 8,000,000 or 10,000,000 than to spend the money on tin-pot, rusty, antiquated guns that are obsolete as soon as they are bought. If instead of wasting our money on military shams, we increase our population, we shall acquire a strength which the world will recognise.
.- In a general way, I am ready to support any proposal tending to economy, but the amendment has been sprung upon the Committee too suddenly, and I am afraid that if it be carried the more poorly-paid members of the service would suffer. That being so, I shall vote with the Government.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– Is it the desire of honorable members that the remaining divisions be puten bloc ?
Honorable Members. - Hear. hear.
– It will still be competent for honorable members to move amendments in regard to any items to which they take exception.
Naval. - Divisions 45 and 46 (New South Wales). £6,025 ; divisions 47 to 49 (Victoria). £23,743; divisions 50 to 52, (Queensland), £16,253; divisions 53 to 55 (South Australia), £6,905 ; division 56 (Western Australia), £300 ; division 57 (Tasmania), £150. Militarv. - Divisions 58 to 67 (Thursday Island), £16,794; divisions 68 to 74 (King George’s Sound). £5138; divisions 75 to 93 (New South
Wales), £185,004; divisions 94 to 111 (Victoria), £169,795; divisions 112 to 129 (Queensland), £79,252; divisions 130 to 146 (South Australia), £44,243 ; divisions 147 to 162 (Western Australia), £35,587 ; divisions 163 to 179 (Tasmania), £28,648.
Amendment (by Mr. Page) put -
That in division 94 (Victorian District Headquarters Staff), the item “ Commandant,£800,” be left out.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I wish to move an amendment in Division 76. I understand that we are dealing with the Estimates of the Department as a . whole.
– We are dealing with the Estimates as a whole, and while any honorable member is at liberty to move an amendment, it is impossible, once the Committee has dealt with it, for another honorable member to propose an amendment in regard to an earlier item.
– Perhaps I can get over the difficulty by moving a reduction of the total vote by £500.
– That would block any one else.
– My desire is to strongly protest against the conduct of which Major Hawker has been guilty. I have looked very closely into the papers connected with his case, and I am of opinion that the Defence Department would be well rid of him. With the object of striking his salary off the Estimates, I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £500.
.- There is just one matter to which I should like to direct the attention of the Minister. It is a veryspecial case. I refer to the position occupied by the senior cadet battalion in Victoria. This regiment is sarcely a cadet regiment at all. As a matter of fact, its members are not senior cadets in the proper sense of the term. For the past ten or twelve years they have gone into camp regularly with the ordinary volunteer and militia troops, and they have proved their capacity to hold their own. At the last encampment I had the honour to command them, and I know that they did a twenty-miles march, and manoeuvred at the end of it just as well as did any of the other troops. I urge the Government not to lose the services of this regiment, which costs the Commonwealth less than does any other regiment of infantry. It is a body which is capable of being moulded into a very fine regiment indeed. It consists of excellent material, and possesses good officers; but because it is known as a body of senior cadets it is likely to suffer in the rearrangement of our cadet forces. I ask the Government to endeavour to prevent that.
– I am in thorough agreement with the honorable and learned member in the matter, and the Governmentwill do the best that they can.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by £500 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the PostmasterGeneral.
Division 180 (Central Staff), £8,823; division 181 (New South Wales), £910,136; division 182 (Victoria), £639,814; division 183 (Queensland), £418,279; division 184 (South Australia), £258,624; division 185 (Western Aus tralia), £283,313; division 186 (Tasmania), £127,212.
– I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1.
Honorable members will recollect that some months ago I had a notice of motion upon the business-paper relating to the telephone rates which are being charged by the Postal Department in districts where the condenser system is in operation. The position is that when these telephone lines were first projected the Government anticipated that they wouldhave to erect copper wires in order to carry on the service. But that is not the case. As a result, lines which it was computed would cost several thousands of pounds, cost only a few hundred pounds. But the Department declines to reduce the charges made upon them, although in some instances they are almost prohibitive. I ask the Committee to afford residents of the backblocks an opportunity of enjoying the same telephonic and telegraphic facilities which are enjoyed by residents in metropolitan centres. I submit this proposal with a view to securing a reduction of the charges to which I have referred.
. -I regret that owing to the late stage which we have reached in the session, honorable members are now called upon to authorize an expenditure of about £2,500,000 almost without discussion. To my mind the Postal Department touches the lives of the people more closely than does any other.
– The honorable member should ask the Government to report progress.
– I believe there was an understanding arrived at that the consideration of these Estimates should be completed to-day in order that the Senate may be afforded a proper opportunity of ‘ considering them. Every honorable member could point out items in connexion with which grievances have arisen, and there are several matters to which I desire to direct the attention of the Minister. In the first instance, I would point out the unsatisfactory position in regard to the contract post-offices. In answer to a question which I put to him recently, the Minister presented a return showing that there are in Victoria thirty-nine contract post-offices having a revenue of £400 per annum and over. I understand that the Prime Minister has an urgent motion to propose.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the honorable member for Coolgardie do take the chair.
– Having regard to the density of its population- and its comparatively circumscribed area, Victoria should have nothing like as many contract and allowance offices, as there are in any of the other States; but, as a matter of fact, it has more. In the past there has been a great deal of sweating in connexion with these offices, and even at the present time there is much room for improvement. The Postmaster-General has informed us that as soon as a contract office has a revenue of £400 per annum it is entitled to be made a staffoffice. As a matter of fact, many of the thirty-nine to which I have referred have a revenue of over £1,000 per annum. In answer to a further question, however, the Postmaster-General informed me that only seven of these are about to be raised to the status of staff offices. Any one having a knowledge of the metropolis will admit that during the last ten years there has been practically no alteration in the population in the vicinity of the City-road - South Melbourne - and the East Melbourne Post Offices, which have a revenue of £1,007and £1494 respectively, so that it may safely be assumed that for many years the Department hasbeen deriving a revenue of £1,000 per annum from each of those contract offices. There are also contract offices at North Fitzroy and North Carlton, which yield a revenue of over £1,000 per annum, and the population in the vicinity of both of these offices is rapidly increasing. I hold that as soon as the existing contracts expire all these offices should be raised to the status of official offices. A return presented to the House on the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports shows that when the revenue of an office falls below £400 steps are at once taken to make it an allowance office, and I hold that if these offices may be reduced in status without delay, there ought to be no difficulty in raising them with equal celerity, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will take steps to see that all offices earning a (revenue of £400 per annum are at once made staff offices.
– I. desire to ask the PostmasterGeneral to take steps to comply with the request of the people of Wynyard, Tasmania, that the local post-office should be removed to a more central situation. At the present time it is practically a quarter of a mile out of the town. I was disposed to move that the item representing the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General of Tasmania should be reduced by onehalf, because it seems to me that whilst that officeris a good clerk, he is a bad Deputy Postmaster-General.
– The honorable member should not say that.
– I would not retain him in a business office for twentyfour hours. The post-office at Wynyard is by the waterside, and the town cannot be extended on one side of it unless it is built on pontoon bridges. If the PostmasterGeneral will say that he will endeavour to carry out the implied promise made by him when in Tasmania, that this post-office would be removed to a more central position, I shall be satisfied.
– I desire now to bring under the attention of the Postmaster-General the situation in regard to the lower-paid officers in the Department. When the classification scheme was under consideration, the position of the letter-carriers was discussed at great length, and many arguments were advanced in favour of the service being placed on a more equitable basis. Being dissatisfied with the classification, the letter-carriers in Victoria instituted proceedings in the Law Courts, and, in the end, the High Court ruled that the classification scheme deprived them of their existing and accrued rights under the Act passed by the Victorian Parliament shortly before they were transferred to the Commonwealth service. Thefull Court of Victoria held that under that Act they were entitled to receive £150 per annum, and it seems to me that if the Public Service Commissioner can, by means of a classification, destroy the rights of men in this way, no officer of the Department is safe. It has been held that certain high officials, such as heads of Departments, can not be classified, and it will be observed that at page 201 of the Estimates provision is made for the payment of the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria at the old rate of £9°° per annum. It is stated in a footnote, however, that any future occupant of the office will receive only £750 per annum. I have no desire to say a word against the present Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria, but I certainly do not think that the lower-paid men in the service should be subjected to treatment different from that extended to those in the higher ranks. If the rights of the higher-paid men, as existing at the date of transfer, are preserved, there is no reason why the lowerpaid men should not also receive the increases to which they are entitled under the Victorian Act. It would seem, however, that because thev fought for their rights they are to suffer, whilst others, probably because they happen to be on the higher end of the scale, are paid their increments without demur. It is fortunate that the House insisted upon fixing a minimum wage instead of adopting the suggestion that the matter should be left to the Commissioner. .1 hope that the Postmaster-General will take the case of the letter-carriers into his favorable consideration, and see that they obtain fair treatment. Another matter to which I desire to refer relates to the examination of telegraph operators. I have handed to the Minister a statement in which the female operators complain that the examination to which they are subjected is unsatisfactory. In answer to the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, the honorable gentleman stated to-day that Mr. Hesketh had not reported on the question of the use of the automatic transmitter, but that hd, had expressed the opinion that it was perfect. In view of that statement, one cannot help asking what, in the opinion of the Minister, is a .”report.” Must it be either a written or a printed document? Cannot a report be made orally? The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne also inquired why the transmitter was used in Victoria and not in New South Wales, and was informed that it is now being used in the mother State. I should like to know what percentage of the candidates who submitted themselves for examination in New South Wales passed in the use of the automatic transmitter, so that we might compare the returns with the passes in Victoria. In reply to a further question by the honorable member for Northern Melbourne, the Postmaster-General said that it was not necessary that those who went up for examination should be allowed, first of all, a trial use of the transmitter; but, as a matter of fact, they were given from three to five minutes to test it. It was stated that it was not necessary that the candidates should have an opportunity to accustom themselves to the transmitter. Mr.. Hesketh stated that the sound of the automatic transmitter, as compared with that of the ordinary instrument, was as different as printing is from writing ; therefore, those who used the automatic transmitter for the first time were placed at a great disadvantage. When we passed the Public Service Act, honorable members on both .sides of the House desired that examinations should be conducted under ordinary routine working conditions, and that no special test should be applied that would be calculated to present obstacles to the promotion of deserving and possibly highly capable officers. It was further desired and understood that the public servants of every State would be dealt with on the same footing, and that officers in the smaller States would be subjected to the same examination as had to be passed by those in Victoria and New South Wales. We were told last year, when a number of operators went up for examination, that the automatic transmitter was perfect. It has, however, been subjected to some alteration since that time, and it is still pronounced to be perfect. If it had been perfect on the first occasion, it should not have been necessary to make any change. Those officers who failed to pass the test in the first case are, I think, entitled to some consideration, if it can be shown that the condition of the machine placed them at any disadvantage, or contributed to their want of success. There is one other matter to which I desire to direct attention. Some time ago the honorable member for Grey and I questioned the Minister of Home Affairs with reference to the Sunday labour which telegraph operators were called upon to perform. I know that many persons develop conscientious scruples when they are compelled to work on Sundays. I do not wish, however, to refer to that aspect of the case. I have always understood that officers who were compelled to work on Sundays were entitled, by the regulations, to be paid at the rate of time and a half, and I think that telegraph operators should certainly receive extra remuneration. The Minister of Home Affairs promised that operators, many of whom have had to work for eleven, twelve, and thirteen days without any rest, should not be required to work more than six days on end without a day off. It seems to me that as the Department charge double rates for any messages sent on Sundays, they should pay their employes more than the ordinary rates. It must also be remembered that those who are called upon to perform duty on Sundays have not the same facilities as are available on week days for getting to and from their homes in the suburbs. This point should be taken into consideration. I trust that the Postmaster-General will look into the whole question, and do his best to discourage Sunday work.
– I wish to protest against such an immense sum of money as that proposed to be voted in connexion with this Department being dealt with in such a than House. I have previously directed attention to the undesirability of keeping the Estimates back until the last moment, and then hurrying them through without proper consideration. The Government apparently think that it is easier to transact business when there is but a small attendance of honorable members; but I strongly object to the way in which the affairs - especially the financial affairs - of the Commonwealth are being dealt with. It was recently stated in the newspapers that the PostmasterGeneral had agreed to allow paper patterns to pass through the post as newspaper supplements. I have received some communications from persons engaged in the business of newspaper publication work, in connexion with which paper patterns are distributed. They regard the PostmasterGeneral’s action as illegal. The Post and Telegraph Act 1901, section 28, sub-section 2, says -
A publication printed on paper, and issued as a supplement to the newspaper shall be deemed to be a supplement, and to be part of the newspaper, if - (a) It consists in substantial part of reading matter other than advertisements or of engravings, prints, lithographs, or coloured supplements ; and
It has the title of the newspaper with which it is issued printed on the top of each page of letter-press.
The Postmaster-General cannot make regulations except in conformity with the Post and Telegraph Act. There is nothing in that Act which empowers him to make any such concession to a newspaper as would permit paper patterns to go through the post as supplements. A supplement must “in substantial part “. consist of reading matter, and it must have the title of the newspaper with which it is issued printed on the top of each page of letter-press. There is no letter-press with a paper pattern which in any way conforms to the requirements of the Act so as to entitle it to be issued as a supplement. A decision was given regarding this matter about four years ago. The decision of the Department was in writing under the signature, “Robert Scott, Secretary,” - that paper patterns were not supplements as defined by sub-section 2 of section 28. Does the Postmaster-General intend to persist in treating these paper patterns as newspaper supplements ? Another point worth mentioning is that a paper pattern issued with a newspaper, though not as a supplement, would bring a revenue of1d. to the Post Office. But under the proposed arrangement it would only pay about1/4d. Consequently, the revenue of the Department will suffer, even if what is proposed be legal. But I point out the illegality of it. Apparently, the only reason for makins this concession is that a certain publication printed in Melbourne, and which is in no sense a fashion journal, proposes shortly to issue paper patterns
– Is that Fitchett’s New Idea?
– I do not wish to mention the title of the publication. It seems probable that the Postmaster-General has been misled into the belief that he was doing a thing which would advance the interests of a certain journal without injuring other people. But in this case it is pointed out that what is proposed would injure very seriouslv persons engaged in the business of issuing paper patterns in connexion with society journals.
– Surely the honorable member is not against free competition?
– It is not a case of free competition, but of the legality of the procedure of treating as a supplement what is not a supplement. It might as well be said that a cloth pattern issued with a newspaper was a supplement. If the Minister proceeds to give effect to what is alleged to be his intention, he will be acting beyond the scope of his powers. Passing from that matter, I wish to draw attention to the extraordinary condition of the Postal service regarding the status of a number of its officers. Many of those in most important positions in New South Wales are not really gazetted to the offices which they hold. Some papers laid on the Library table a little while ago, which I had an opportunity to peruse, included a report from the Acting Chief Clerk, Mr. Russell. I find from it that there are, occupying positions though not properly gazetted to them, the following officers in New South Wales : - The Deputy Postmaster-General, the Chief Clerk, the’ Clerk in Charge, the Senior Clerk of the miscellaneous branch, the Appointment Clerk of the same branch - who has been in the same position for four years - the Telegraph. Manager, the Second Assistant, the Assistant Electrical Engineer, the Cashier, and the Distributor of Stamps. Two inspectors are. at present acting officers, and until recently there were more acting inspectors than properlyappointed inspectors in the Department. In addition to those originally mentioned who are only “ acting,” and in many instances have been doing so for a long time, there are in the General Post Office an “ acting” assistant superintendent of mails, an “acting” telephone manager, and scores of minor officials who have not been permanently appointed to the positions which thev occupy. Then the officer in charge at Tamworth has been an “ acting “ postmaster for about three years, the officer at Bourke for about four years, the officer at Newcastle for over a year, and the officer at Goulburn for about a year; while throughout the Department there are scores, and possibly hundreds, of junior officers who have not been permanently appointed to their positions. Mv information is obtained from the report of the “ acting “ Chief Clerk, Mr. Russell, of Sydney. He points out that these make-shift arrangements are not conducive to efficient service or proper responsibility, and that the loyalty and self-sacrifice of the staff in working “ far into the night and on Sundays without expecting fee or reward or even commendation ‘ ‘ is largely responsible for the efficiency of the Department. To quote his own words -
Suppose each officer had stopped work at the regulation hour, and not worked voluntarily on Sundays, complete breakdowns in the Public Service, disorganization, and chaos would most assuredly have occurred.
It is insisted that most of the trouble arises through not filling vacancies. There is a minute on the report expressing astonishment that this state of things exists; but, so far as I can ascertain, no attempt has been made to put an end to it.
– A great deal hinges on the appointment of the permanent head for New South Wales.
– Yes; but the honorable gentleman must admit that officers who are only acting cannot command the respect from, or exercise the authority over, their subordinates that permanent officers can do.
– Subordinates have more confidence in permanent officers.
– That is so. As the matter is a very serious one, I hope that the Postmaster-General will look into it, and that no time will be lost in appointing a permanent Deputy Postmaster-General, and making as many other permanent appointments as possible. Another matter to which I have had occasion to make frequent reference is. the practice of employing clerical officers to do the work of general officers, particularly in the mail branch of the Sydney General Post Office. These men complain that they do not receive promotions in the clerical branch when thev occur, because of their special fitness for the work which thev are doing. No doubt heads of Departments naturally try to keep round them the most efficient men procurable, to facilitate the business of the office. But it is unjust to keep back from promotion those who are most efficient. Hitherto I have called attention in vain to the anomaly that the more efficient a man the less chance he has, under some circumstances, of receiving promotion. While I do not like to have to repeat complaints, I must take advantage of this opportunity to impress upon the Minister the necessity for jiving the matter his serious consideration. I have made representations to the Department and to the Commissioner without mentioning individual cases,1 and I do not think that in doing so I have gone beyond the scope of my legitimate duties. But hitherto my efforts have been like beating the air. I wish now to pass on to another matter - the practice of getting station-masters to act as postmasters without remuneration. One case of the kind has been the subject of a good deal of correspondence between the Department and myself, without satisfactory results - that of the station-master at Mortdale, near Sydney, who for a long time has been acting as postmaster without remuneration. I have not with me a letter received from the Department in regard to the case, but shall quote a similar reply, sent to the Premier of New South Wales, about it -
Sir, - With reference to the letter which you forwarded to this office some time since, from Mr. J. Reilly, stationmaster at Mortdale, New South Wales, respecting a claim made by him to this Department for payment whilst acting as Postmaster at that place, I have the honour to inform you inquiry has been made, and the following is copy of a report submitted by the Acting Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, in regard to the matter : -
Mr. Reilly’s appointment was made in the usual manner relating to the appointment of railway officers, viz. : - That the allowance paid for the conduct of the duties is paid direct to the Railway Commissioners.
As his letter of appointment clearly points out ‘ that the remuneration allowed him by the Railway Department includes payment for his services as Postmaster, Mr. Reilly’s claim is untenable, as the allowance for the Postal duties has already been paid to the Railway Commissioners.
Of course, if the Post Office Department pays the Railway Department for the services of its officers, with the concurrence of the officers themselves in the arrangement, there is some difficulty ; but the reply which I have read does not quite fit the circumstances of this particular case. He points out that his appointment was not made until after he had occupied the position of station-master at Mortdale for two years. Consequently, he had to undertake these duties without receiving any extra remuneration whatever. I know that in a number of cases where station-masters have been appointed, it has been arranged that they shall act as postmasters as well. If they agree to do so, of course they have no claim for additional salary. But in this case Mr. Reilly had been appointed as station-master for two years prior to being called upon to discharge the duties of postmaster. Consequently, any regulations of that kind would not apply to him. He says -
I should certainly have declined accepting such duties at the rate of salary received by me, namely, £150 per annum.
He affirms that the amount due tohim for two years and eleven months service, at £16 per annum, is £46 13s. 4d. I think that that amount might very well be paid to him.
– Ought it to be paid by the Railways Commissioners or by the Commonwealth ?
– If the Railways Commissioners will not pay him, I think that more than a moral responsibility rests upon the Postal Department to see that he is paid. I should like to have the assurance of the Postmaster-General that the matter will be the subject of proper inquiry.
– I give the honorable member that assurance.
– I do not mean a perfunctory inquiry, but a real genuine inquiry. I am heartily sick of the stereotyped replies tardily given by the Department. When the Estimates of the Public Service Commissioner were under consideration yesterday, I referred to the case of Detectives Gilder and Gowen, who, I think, have been most shamefully treated. In each of these cases the sums involved - whilst they mean much to the individual - are so trivial to the Commonwealth, that it is contemptible and paltry for the Government to take up the attitude which they have adopted. Where a moral responsibility rests upon the Commonwealth, it ought not to stand upon its strict legal rights.
– What about the letter deliveries ?
– The honorable member has reminded me of one matter which had quite escaped my memory. About the beginning of the session I addressed two or three communications to the Department embodying complaints which had been made in respect of late letter deliveries, and asking for a more efficient service in certain localities. But I have not received any information bearing upon that subject. About a week ago I wrote to the Deputy Postmaster-General reminding him that I had not received an answer to my requests, but I have not been favoured even with an acknowledgment of that letter. In the matter of correspondence, it seems to me that there is vast room for improvement in the methods adopted by the Department.
– My experience is quite the reverse.
– The honorable and learned member may be specially favoured in that respect. I have always found the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales and the Acting. Deputy PostmasterGeneral very obliging, and very willing to render every possible assistance. But in the matter of replying to correspondence, there is considerable room for improvement in the Department. My trouble is that constituents usually attribute their failure to get their wants attended to to neglect on my part, which puts me in a false and very unfair position. After a couple of months Have passed, it is not an unusual thing to receive- from a constituent a letter bewailing my apparent inattention to the particular matter which he has brought under my notice, when, as a matter of fact, I have at once, on the receipt of the first communication, brought it under the notice of the Department, with a request for its consideration. There is room for improvement, and in future I shall make a careful note of the dates on which I write to the Department, and those on which I receive replies to my communications.
.- I have received to-day two letters in reply to com.munications addressed by me to the Postal Department, in which the statement is made that the subject-matter of my request has been submitted to the Secretary to the Postmaster-General, who will communicate with me. I wish to know whether this is to be taken as an indication that a new rule has been adopted in regard to the correspondence of the Department. Hitherto, I have always received from the Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria very prompt replies to any letters on matters of detail that I have addressed to him, and on Questions of principle affecting the Department I have always written to the Minister. It would appear, however, that instructions have been issued that the Deputy PostmasterGeneral is not to address letters to members except through the Secretary of the Department.
– I will look into the matter.
– I understand that in the General Post Office in the capital of each of the States a room is set apart for the convenience of members of the Federal Parliament, and I desire to point out to the Postmaster-General that after the next general election accommodation for ladies will be required, since a Miss Selina Anderson is to be returned to the House of Representatives.
Mr. DAVID THOMSON (Capricornia] [5.35]. - The honorable member for Darling, who had to leave rather hurriedly to catch his train, requested me to bring under the notice of the Minister a complaint by a Mr. Muleavy, that three letters addressed to him, care of Yarrawin Station, Brewarrina, had not been delivered. I have not the full details of the case, but I understand that the letters were sent out to Yarrawin, were returned to Brewarrina, and I presume sent on to the Dead Letter Office. When 1 lived in the district, a private bag usee? to be sent cut to Yarrawin and I believe that that practice is still in force. It is, to say the least, singular that Mr. Muleavy should have been treated in this way. I have a similar complaint to make in regard to the non-delivery of the Worker to a subscriber employed on Cato’s Station, Mumblebone, via Warren. The man in question was working on the station for some months, but the Worker, which’ was sent to him every week, was returned to the office. The general feeling is that if those to whom private mail-bags are sent out refuse to deliver letters and papers to people living in the vicinity, the privilege should no longer be extended to them. It has been implied during the debate that in some cases the Postmaster-General has not been as attentive as he might have been to the requests for increased postal facilities. I can only say that I have never had any cause to complain. Although I have voted against Government proposals quite as often as any member of the Labour Party, the -Postmaster-General has always responded ‘very readily to any request that I have made, and, indeed, I may say the same of his predecessors. I now desire to bring under notice a complaint in regard to the Mount Morgan Post Office. Some time ago, I succeeded in inducing the Minister to remove the office from a higher to a lower point, and it was found necessary to cut down the ground at the back of the office to the extent of 4 or 5 feet. No steps were taken, however, to prevent the earth being washed away, and in wet weather there is nothing but slush and mud in front of the postmaster’s residence, which is immediately behind the office. I trust that the Minister will take steps to have this grievance remedied.
I feel sure that if an officer were to visit the place the matter would be attended to at once. An inquiry would elicit that it is necessary either to concrete or to brick a portion of the wall, otherwise a part of the building will be undermined. I hope that some action will now be taken. If the electors of Capricornia return me to the House I shall see that it is taken.
– I have listened with very great attention to honorable members. I can only promise to give the utmost consideration to their representations, and endeavour, as far as possible, to meet their views. Probably the honorable member for Yarra knows that the question of the test for lady telegraphists really rests with the Public Service Commissioner. He insists upon the test being made.
– Cannot the Minister smash the machine?
– When I wanted to test the question on the Estimates for the Department of Home Affairs, the PostmasterGeneral advised me to wait until his own Estimates were reached, and I took his word.
– On the representations which have been made to me, I shall have very great pleasure in looking into the question. It does not matter whether it comes before my honorable colleague or myself, because justice will be clone. I listened with very great interest to the remarks regarding sweating in contract offices. I repeat that there is no desire on the part of the Government or the Department to countenance sweating. We propose to come down with a strong hand on some officials if it is true that they encourage the evil. As regards contract offices, honorable members know the position.
– How is it that in East Melbourne there is a contract post-office, when the revenue for the last ten years has averaged over £1,000?
– After the revenue of a contract post-office exceeds ^400. the Department generally proposes to create an official post-office. But the residents, represented in many cases by the Federal member, say that verv great satisfaction is being given by the person in charge, that they have every convenience thev can expect to enjoy, and do not desire a change to be made.
– Is that fair to the officers in the service?
– At times we are in a dilemma between the officers and those who, although not under the Commissioner’s control, have some claim upon our consideration. For instance, a postmaster or other bread-winner dies, and leaves a widow with children ; she understands the major portion of the office work. If a contract office is available we give her an appointment. She gives great satisfaction, does everything possible, the residents are satisfied, and ‘consequently we are very loth to interfere.
– That is quite right, too.
– I felt sure that the honorable member would admit that we are right in that respect. In almost every case I have asked the opinion of the Federal member, who generally has a good local knowledge. I shall always be very glad to confer with any Federal member.
– I am not against the state of affairs of any particular office, but against the principle.
– Perhaps as a matter of general principle the honorable member is right. But he must admit that it is a very curious rule to which there is no exception.
– But the honorable member has such a number of exceptions.
– At times the honorable member believes in making an exception, and very often I agree with him, because he always looks at the merits of the case. The question of the condenser charges is verv familiar to me, because he has frequently pressed it upon my attention. He has argued the matter to that point that he has nearly convinced me that something will have to be done, notwithstanding that the officers report that it is a difficult subject to deal with. I propose in the near future to make some reduction in the charges for trunk line conversations. But the difficulty is that if I proposed to make a reduction it would have to apply in all cases, otherwise I should get on to what my honorable friend admits is dangerous ground - that is making exceptions. We cannot make exceptions, but I propose to make a slight reduction. I have asked for a lot of information, at the honorable member’s instance. I shall carefully look into the whole question and I believe that with the alterations, and the general liberalizing of telephone affairs generally, I shall be able to do something to meet his desires. It seems to me that where a service does not cost very’ much - and the honorable member impressed me very much with his argument in that respect - there is a very strong reason in favour of our keeping the charge as low as possible. I must ask the honorable member to be content with that assurance. I cannot tell him definitely to-day what I propose to do. Acting upon the representations which he has made to me, and which I must say are backed up to a large extent by figures and facts which have been brought under my notice, I shall endeavour to make - in fact, I will make some alteration. What it will be, or how it will apply, .must be decided after consideration of the whole subject with my officers. I am sure that the honorable member will not ask me to do more than that.
– I have not got that much up to now.
– I could not give the assurance before. The honorable member will admit that it is only within the last three or four weeks that I have obtained the information I wanted. It has been shown to him as it has been received. If he were in my position he could not do more than that.
– I am satisfied that the Minister will do what he can.-
– With regard to the question raised by the honorable member for Darwin, I shall endeavour to see if I can do anything, but w/e are in a difficult position. There is some doubt as to which is the most central position in Wynyard, but so soon as we can come to a determination as to the way in which the town is sure to extend, we shall endeavour to give every facility. I have given as many conveniences in Tasmania, in common with other States, as I possibly can. I give careful attention to all these matters, and pay great heed to the representations of honorable members. As regards the paper patterns, I must confess that the honorable member for Lang has placed the question, before me in a new light to-day I shall have the legal aspect looked into forthwith. I was under the impression that we have the power, but after his remarks a doubt has arisen in my mind.
– I did not speak on the subject, but there is a. good deal of doubt.
There is a paper which is doing a great amount of good, and it is an Australian paper.
– There are many Australian papers concerned, and I think the honorable member for Lang will acquit me of having a desire to forward the interests of one paper i,n particular, and no matter how we may differ across the table, he will agree with me that it is a good thing to encourage anything Australian in a reasonable way. I shall look into the matter, and advise him as to the result. As regards officers not officially recognised, the trouble is with, the Public Service regulations. We cannot fill a position when the officer is away on furlough ; we must wait until it has expired. In New South Wales there has been great difficulty, because during the past few years there has, on several occasions, been an acting Deputy Postmaster-General. Two or three men who had reached the age limit had a certain amount of furlough, in some cases extending over six months, and during that period acting officers had to perform their duties. For instance, when a Deputy Postmaster-General has gone on furlough the chief clerk has become acting Deputy Postmaster-General, and so on, down the grades. That accounts for the number of acting officers.
– In some cases in country offices postmasters have been acting for years.
– At any rate, we are making efforts now to deal with the question. In New South Wales we have had a scheme of amalgamation. We have postponed the filling ., of some vacancies until we can see clearly what positions must be filled, and what positions may be abolished. In a short time we hope to have a permanent chief officer appointed, and then every effort will be made to fill other positions, and thus remove existing anomalies. I quite agree that an acting officer has not the same power as a permanent officer, and may not receive due consideration from those over whom he has control. I shall give the matter every consideration, and see what is best to be done under the circumstances. As to the honorable member’s statement relating to the general and clerical divisions, I can scarcely understand that the facts can be as he states.
– They were so represented to me by the officials of the association .
– I shall have attention directed to the honorable member’s remarks, and take steps to have matters placed on a proper footing. As to overtime, my own opinion is that officers who work more than the usual number of hours, except on the occasion of some special rush, ought to be treated well. I shall place the observations of the honorable member before the Public Service Commissioner, because, after all, it is that gentleman who must deal with a matter of this kind. I have no desire to have men in my Department working at a low wage or working overtime for no extra remuneration ; indeed, in view of the work performed, I regard the Post and Telegraph Department as one of the worst-paid Departments in the whole of the service.
– That is so in New South Wales, at any rate.
– We are now making the conditions uniform throughout the Commonwealth, and when I can get mv friend the Treasurer to agree with me, I may hope to remedy some of the anomalies to which mv attention has been directed. As to the employment of stationmasters, I may point out that the Railway Commissioners will permit their officers to act for the Commonwealth only on condition that the payment is handed to the Railway Commissioners, and that they are allowed to make their own arrangements. The honorable member has, I think, made out a special case for Mr. Reilly, and I shall take what is really the only possible course - make further representations to the Railway Commissioners, who, I understand, have already been paid.
– Will the Minister also get a statement from Mr. Reilly as to his position ?
– I shall do so, if such a step will not jeopardize Mr. Reilly’s position with the Railway Commissioners.
– It would, perhaps, be better to get a member of the State Parliament to ask for a statement of the kind, because the Commissioners mav object to supply the information to the Commonwealth.
– I shall forward any representations which the honorable member for Lang may care to make.
As to the case of Gilder and Gowen, I shall speak to the Public Service Commissioner, and see if something cannot be done. If officers are deserving, or are suffering any injustice, I do not see that we should allow the question of whether it is a State or a Commonwealth matter to stand in the way. Surely we can come to some conclusion, and I shall see what can be done. In reply to the honorable member for Corio, I can say that there has been no change in the instructions given to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Melbourne. There is no desire to have any delay ; but the difficultymay have arisen from the fact that the papers are in the central office, and, consequently, the Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria desires to refer to the Secretary of the Department, in order that he may deal with the case with full knowledge.
– That means delay
– I “have no desire for delay, but rather that the work may be performed in the quickest way to the satisfaction of honorable members and of the public generally. As to the matter brought under my notice by the honorable member for Capricornia, on behalf of the honorable member for Darling, I understand that the gentleman, referred to has a private mail bag, in which letters and newspapers addressed to his employes are sent, but that he refuses to deliver the newspapers, and sends them back to the postoffice.
– That is what we understand.
– The statements made warrant me, I think, in looking into the conditions under which the private mail bag was granted, and, when I ascertain the full facts, I shall be pleased to communicate them to the honorable member for Darling. As to the trouble at the Mount Morgan Post Office, I know that that is a most important place, which, if I may say so, is very well represented. I shall not wait until the honorable member is triumphantly returned to this House, but will at once take steps to see that the yard is put right. There are two or three other matters to which I would like to refer. For the year 1905-6 the revenue was £2,824,182, or £191,631 in excess of that for 1904-5 ; whilst the expenditure was, ordinary, £2.-637,516, and new works, £145,102, or a total of £2,782,618, so that the revenue exceeded the ordinary expenditure by £186,666, and exceeded all expenditure by £41,564. For the year 1906-7, it is estimated that the revenue will be £2,970,000, whilst the amounts provided on the estimates of expenditure are - ordinary, £2,726,203; new works, £281,277 ; or a total sum of £3,007,480. Provision has been made for an unusually heavy expenditure for new telegraph and telephone works, so as to permit of improvements in the telephone system by placing wires under ground, and providing new switch boards and instruments, additional exchanges, and so forth. I am informed that the savings likely to be effected will bring the expenditure below the revenue. Then, I should like to say that in February last the commission on Inter-State money orders was reduced by 25 per cent., and there has been such a satisfactory growth of business since that it is intended to make a uniform charge throughout the Commonwealth of 6d. for each £5 or portion thereof, instead of, as at present, on Inter-State money orders 9d. for each £^5, and previously is. for each £5. It is proposed to extend the telephone system wherever possible throughout Australia, and to give increased facilities at lower prices. I may say that most of the applications we receive from the country are for telephones on the toll system. I have had the financial aspect of the matter carefully considered ; and it is now proposed to charge a minimum of £5 per annum in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide, and £4 10s. per annum in Perth and Hobart, allowing six free calls per diem. That is a very material improvement from the subscribers’ point of view, because they really are given 1,000 free calls each half-year, which they can make at any time - if a subscriber does not use his telephone for twenty-five weeks, he may have his 1,000 calls in the twentysixth week. The new scale of charges will enable business people to obtain an improved service for £5, as compared with! the present charge of £9 per annum in Sydney and Melbourne, £6 per annum in Brisbane, and £10 per annum in .Adelaide. In Perth and Hobart the charges are now £7 and £6 respectively. There will also be greatly reduced charges in the country districts. At present the minimum charges for telephones in country districts are as follows : - New South Wales, for business service, £8 per annum, and for domestic service, £5 per annum ; Victoria, £7 and £5 respectively; Queensland, /[6 for each class of service; South Australia, £5 for each class of service ; Western Australia, £7 and £5 ; and Tasmania, £6 and £4 ios.
– Why those differences in the charges as between States?
– Those are the old State charges. Under my proposals, in all cases where the population of the centre does not exceed 10,000, it will be possible for any subscriber to obtain a service with six free calls per diem at the following rates : - For an exclusive service, £4 per annum ; for a two-party service, £3” per annum j and for a three or more party ser1,7C’’. ,£2 10s. per annum. The two-party service is private, and in other respects is equal to, if not better than, that afforded1 by a single line, the only difference being that only one person can use the former at a time.
– Does the Minister mean> by a three-party service a service of three people in the same building?
– No; the people may be some distance apart, but they all are connected with the one main line. This applies more particularly to the country districts. The party system has been in vogue in America for some years, and hasproved of great service in the country districts. Under the toll telephone system, I propose to give subscribers a service with six free calls per day for considerably less than is now charged, and I am quite confident that when the people become acquainted with the fact that an efficient service can be secured for a low charge, there will be very few homes in the country that are not connected with the telephone system.
– When will the new system come into operation?
– Any one may send in an application to-morrow, and we shall start to deal with it on Monday. We cannot immediately bring the new system into force in the cities, because of the new switchboards that will have to be established; but in the country districts we shall be able to introduce it as soon as we can make the necessary local arrangements. Applications may be made forthwith, and we shall establish telephone connexions as rapidly as possible. I propose to give subscribers the option of coming in under the flat-rate system or the toll system until the 1 st February next. After that date no more flat-rate subscribers will be accepted. I do not propose to interfere with those who are already connected with- the telephone, but any new subscribers after the ist February will have to come under the toll system.
– The option of coming under the toll system is not open to Melbourne subscribers at present?
– No; but I propose to at once put everything in train so that those who desire to come under the toll system can do so at the earliest possible moment. I have already given instructions that tenders shall be called for the supply of new instruments to replace all the old instruments in Australia. lt will take some little time to bring about the change, which will have to be made gradually. The finances of the Department are now in a flourishing condition, and I think that we must march with the times, and give the public the best possible service. I intend to establish an exchange a i the General Post Office, Melbourne, and to have the metallic circuit introduced., and when these improvements and others have been effected, the whole system will be very much improved, and, I hope, completely satisfactory. Some hundreds of thousands of pounds will have to be spent, and the work will have to be done gradually, but we propose to start forthwith, and to continue our operations upon the most progressive lines. After having carefully looked into the financial aspect of the telephone system, I find that we are now receiving a net profit of 10 per cent, per annum, and I am fully satisfied that the more we can keep down rates and improve the service, the more largely it will be availed of, and the greater will be the satisfaction given to the public. That is one of the reasons why I propose to allow a larger number of free calls than was intended in the first instance. We must be generous to the public, and make reductions in charges and increase the facilities as the expansion of the revenue warrants. By adopting this policv I trust that we shall be able to make the service one of the most popular in the Commonwealth. There has been a considerable development of telegraphic and telephonic communication in country districts, owing to the liberal policv now adopted, and a number of lines have been erected which previously were reported not to be warranted. If there are any other matters upon which honorable members desire information, I hope that they will bring them under my notice. I trust that I shall have the pleasure of seeing them back here next session, by which time the Post and Telegraph Department will be very much improved. If honorable members will continue to help me as they have done in the past, I am sure that we shall give satisfaction to the public.
.- I desire to refer to a matter which has already been dealt with by the honorable member for Yarra. A statement was published in the Age of Saturday, nth inst., to the effect that female telegraphists in Victoria had been subjected to efficiency tests which had never been applied to. lady telegraphists in any other State. Old fossils in the Post and Telegraph Department in Melbourne should not have it in their power to apply to public servants who are seeking promotion conditions differing from those under which the claims of public servants in other States are put to the test. If, for instance, the automatic transmitter is to be used in connexion with examinations of telegraphists, it should be employed in all the “States. I know that a number of the higher officials in the post-offices in Victoria desire to shunt all women workers. It was impossible to obtain justice for them when the Department was under State control, but, under the better regime of the Federal Government, we have been able to secure for women the same wages that are paid to men performing similar work. I trust that the Postmaster-General will see that no injustice is done to the women workers in his Department.
– I promise the honorable member that the female employes in the Department shall have every consideration.
.- I wish to congratulate the Postmaster-General upon the work he has done in introducing reforms, more particularly in connexion with the extension of telephone services, and the reduction of the rates. There is a general impression that the Department is slow to move after a decision has been arrived at. If the Minister will infuse a little of his own energy into his officers, and will see that the proposed reforms are carried out as speedily as possible, he will earn the thanks of the public.
– Having achieved the object with which I moved my amendment, I am quite satisfied. The Minister might have given me the information he has just vouchsafed some weeks ago. Other honorable members have been “ buttering him up,” and the honorable member for Capricornia has stated that he could always get what he askedfor. For my part, I have had to fight the Minister every time, and even then have not succeeded. In withdrawing the amendment, I have to say that the Minister has, in the closing hours of the session, done one of the best things, from the point of view of the country districts, that has been done since the Federal Parliament has been in existence.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Resolutions from Committee of Supply adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the Services of the year 1906-7, a sum not exceeding £3,054,780 be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Deakin do prepare und bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and, the Standing Orders having been suspended, passed through all its stages.
MINISTERS laid on the table the following papers : -
Observations by the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth upon a memorandum by the Attorney-General of New South Wales, and correspondence with the Premier of New South Wales in regard to the Lands Acquisition Bill.
Report by the Postmaster-General upon the International Postal Congress, Rome, April to May, 1906.
Amended Public Service regulations, Nos. 104 and 163A, Statutory Rules 1906, Nos. 77 and 80; repealed regulations No. 17, 18, 21, and 90, and substituted new regulation No. 21, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 79.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
– In moving-
That the House do now adjourn, it is with the greatest possible satisfaction that I have the honour to inform honorable members that we have to-day succeeded in completing, provisionally, a treaty for reciprocity with British South Africa. Negotiations have been prolonged for some months, but, owing chiefly, I venture to believe - in some degree at all events - to the great interest taken in the proposal by the High Commissioner, Lord Selborne, the task has at last been brought to a successful issue. The difficulty has been that almost the whole of the trade between the two countries consists of exports from Australia to British South Africa, our imports from there being very small at present. The treaty is drawn upon those lines. Of course, it will not bc made public until the proposals are submitted to this House. But, as honorable members are aware, under the terms of the South African Customs Convention there concessions are made by way of reductions in duties, and the concessions from us will also be by way of reduction of duties. Now that we have brought a prolonged negotiation to a successful issue, I trust that, even at this late period of the session, the agreement will meet with the approval of both sides of the House, and result in great benefit to the country.
– I offer the Government my heartiest congratulations on what they have done towards securing reciprocal trade with British South Africa, whereby Australia has a great deal to gain. Tasmania has suffered considerably through losing contracts which, she had previously been supplying for years, and I hope that she will now win back what she had lost. I think that I may, on behalf of the Opposition, say that the Government will not have much difficulty in regard to this treaty.
.- I congratulate the Prime Minister upon having succeeded in bringing these negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion. 1 am a preferentialist, and directly concerned in the export of our staple products, but none of the proposals for preferential trade which have been submitted to the House have given me such satisfaction as this, for securing reciprocal arrangements with British South Africa. I trust that the agreement, will have the support of all sections, knowing as I do that it will have the most beneficial’ effects in regard to Australia.
– 1 wish to refer to a matter about which I should have spoken when the Estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs were under consideration had not an engagement prevented me from doing so. I desire to bring briefly under the notice of the Prime Minister the fact that the regulations drafted by the Customs Department to govern the importation of patent medicines and infants’ and invalids’ foods do not carry into effect the desire expressed by honorable members in voting for the resolution of the honorable member for Barrier. The drugs in the list, with but one exception, are vegetable products, mineral poisons having been left out of account altogether. The intention of honorable members was that the packages or bottles containing patent medicines should be labelled with information as to the constituent parts of their contents ; but what is provided is that if they contain any of the drugs specified that fact must be announced on the label. What we really want to know is the composition of these preparations, the feeling being that a large number of so-called patent medicines are not medicines, but are calculated to do harm, and that many of the infants’ and invalids’ foods are absolutely valueless. If it is not obligatory that information be given on the labels of the contents of these preparations, they will continue to be imported and sold as at present. I hope to be able to refer to the matter again next week, but in the meantime I ask the Prime Minister to cause an investigation to be made as to why the Customs Department , has given effect to the resolution of the House in such an extraordinary manner.
.- I indorse what has been said by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, and will, like him, take another opportunity to speak at length on the subject to which he referred. I desire to give my meed of con gratulation to the Prime Minister, because of the conclusion of the negotiations for reciprocity with British South Africa. I trust that the closer relations and more friendly feeling which such an agreement with those States will bring about will cause their people to understand the real feeling of Australia in regard to the Chinese question, and our desire that that blot upon the fair fame of the country shall be removed. I trust that the word “ reciprocity,” which comes down to us from the great Chinese philosopher, will be the means of causing them to know that we look with horror and loathing upon the action of the wealthy classes there in importing Chinese labour.
– The matter referred to by the honorable member for Laanecoorie is receiving attention, and I shall have great pleasure in bringing his remarks under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at . 6.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 September 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060928_reps_2_35/>.