3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister of Defence aware that, although a fullday’s parade of the Tasmanian cadets has been ordered for the 9th inst., the hats needed by the boys and promised by the Minister have not yet arrived?
– Upon the honorable member drawing my attention to a similar matter some months ago, I gave instructions that no incident of the kind should happen again, and was informed that action had been taken which would remove such a probability. I promise the honorable member that I shall get into communication with the authorities at once, and that, if the incident is repeated, something will happen.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he in a position to state what the Government purposes doing with reference to the matter of the importation of patent medicines? .
– The Cabinet, after considering the question, has thought it best to re-introduce its Bill formerly before the House. This measure will enable us, within the limitations of the Constitution, to deal with the importation of medicines into Australia ; but, unless our legislation is supplemented by similar State legislation, its provisions can be easily evaded. Having consulted the Attorney-General, I find that it is not competent for us to do more.
Existing Trained Military Reserve - Naval and Military Expenditure - Rifles and Morris Tubes - Stay of Imperial War Vessels in Melbourne.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will ask the Military Board how many men under fifty years of age there are in Australia who, though not serving in the forces at present, have nevertheless passed through the volunteers or militia ranks, and have therefore had military training, and are practically a valuable trained reserve in times of emergency?
– With the object of forming a reserve of those who had passed through the Citizen Forces, . I instructed the Military Board early this year to consider and submit a scheme. Regulations for the formation of a Reserve Forces List were published in Gazette of 19th September, 1908 - Statutory Rule 1908/102 - and the formation of such a reserve is being carried out. Had records been kept, as will be done in the future, there would be a possibility of obtaining the information with something approaching accuracy, but there are no records. It is difficult to suggest, in the absence of them, how information could be obtained, which would be of any value, more especially when the following details are required : -
I will consider the matter, and if it be possible to devise any scheme or procedure by which even approximate figures can be arrived at, I will inform the right honorable member.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Referring to question No. 8 of 27th ultimo, as follows: - “What was the amount of the actual expenditure (exclusive of ‘ special defence material ‘ and ‘ new special defence provision’) on account of the Military and Naval Defence of the Commonwealth for the year 1906-7 and the year 1907-8. Also, his estimate for the first year’s expenditure under the new system, including ‘special defence material’ and ‘new special defence provision.’ In both cases excluding the payment under the Naval subsidy payable to the Imperial Treasury “ -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
It may be mentioned that there appears to be some likelihood of aiming tubes being superseded in the British service by a special miniature rifle, and it is not intended to order any more tubes for the Commonwealth Military Forces until the result of inquiries, which the officer in charge of the Commonwealth Offices in London has been asked to make, is known.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In reference to promise made in the House in October, 1905 (Hansard, p. 4047), that a vessel of the Imperial Squadron would spend six months yearly at Melbourne -
Has this been carried out since?
Will he obtain a return showing the number of days spent by each of the subsidized vessels during 1905, 1906, and 1907 at Melbourne?
Is there any reason why Melbourne is so rarely visited by these vessels?
– The statement made by the then Naval Commander-in-Chief was to the effect that no definite rule could be laid down, but that the principal ports of Australia would be visited as often as possible, and that the Katoomba was at that time spending about six months of each year in Hobson’s Bay. There have been frequent visits since, but so far as I am aware they have not totalled six months. There are, I believe, three vessels of war, the Powerful, the Challenger, and the Pegasus, in the Bay at the present moment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
What is the arrangement, including cost of preparation of plans and specifications with supervision, between the Federal and State Governments in the erection and construction of new works and buildings, including repairs and alterations ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
In accordance with the resolutions of a Conference of representatives of the Commonwealth and States, afterwards ratified by the respective Governments concerned, for such services as they render the State Works Departments are recouped as follows : -
Six per cent. on new works and buildings costing over £100, plus expenses of clerks of works, as prescribed in the “ Commonwealth Public Works Regulations.”
On new works and buildings costing less than £100 - 10 per cent. in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, and 8 per cent, in Tasmania.
On all maintenance, repairs, and furniture - - 10 per cent. in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, and 8 per cent. in Tasmania.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The amounts shown under the various States in the Treasurer’s quarterly statement, as balances in Trust Fund - Old-age Pensions Account - represent the cash which happens to be, for Treasury purposes, in such States. They have no relation to the expenditure, which is charged on a population basis.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Melbourne, has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
With reference to the reply to a question, asked on the 5th September of last year(Hansard, p. 2890) - Have the arrangements with regard to voting machines, which were then stated to be “ in course of progress,” been completed, or in any way advanced?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Yes. Ten voting machines or models have been submitted to, and examined by, the Committee appointed for this purpose, and advice has been received that twelve additional machines or models are in course of construction. It is anticipated that the Committee will be in a position to furnish a comprehensive report early in the next year on the whole of the machines submitted.
Motion (by Mr. John Thomson) agreed to -
That a return be laid upon thetable of the House showing -
The premises leased by the Federal Government in the several capital cities of the States.
What they are used for.
What rents are paid for each.
Motion (by Mr. Archer) agreed to -
That a Return be laid upon the Table of the House showing -
Quantity of each spirit which entered the Commonwealth in 1907.
Quantity of each spirit made in the Commonwealth in 1907.
Consumption of the various spirits in the States in 1907.
Other statistical information available with regard to the above.
Debate resumed from 3rd November (vide page 1878) on motion by Sir William Lyne - .
That the item, “ The President £1,100,” be agreed to.
– I hope that I shall be able to continue my remarkstoday in a calmer atmosphere than prevailed last night. I regret that I was not permitted then to continue for a few minutes longer, since but for a referenceto the question of the transfer of the States debtsI had almost concluded my speech. I certainly hope that the debate will not be started anew to-day. I understand that the honorable member for Mernda claims that his scheme for the transfer of the debts of the States would involve absolutely no loss to the States themselves, and. that they would simply continue to pay by way of interest on their debts the same amount as they had done before. His proposal, as I understand it, is to return to the States a fixed sum of £6,500,000 per annum based upon the average returns for the three years 1902-5, and as the total amount of interest payable by the States is £8,700,000 per annum, there would thus be a difference of £2,200,000 per annum which they would have to make good. The honorable member proposes that the payment of that amount shall extend over a period of twenty years, and that it shall be decreased to the extent of 5 per cent. annually. The honorable member urged that in this way the States, instead of suffering a loss, would gain to the extent of the 5 per cent. cumulative reduction made each year. I fail to see how it would be possible for the States in the first place to escape such a large liability as is represented’ by their debts without paying anything. The amount returned to the States upto 30th June last averaged£7,775,000, and under the honorable member for Mernda’sscheme they would lose the difference between that sum and the fixed amount of £6,500,000 which he proposes shall be returned to them.
– They have been receiving a great deal more than three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– That is so; but the fact remains that they would have to give up a considerable sum.
– They have no claimupon us over and above the three-fourths.
– Quite so; but the difference between the amount which the honorable member for Mernda proposes shall be returned to them and that to which they are entitled under the Braddon section represents several hundred of thousands of pounds. I find, further, that the Government proposal is to return only £6,000,000 per annum to the States, instead of £6,500,000, as proposed by the honorable member for Mernda, and that would result in their having to make good a difference of ,£2,700,000 in respect of their interest bill.
– The honorable member for Mernda admitted that his calculation made no provision for old-age pensions, a Commonwealth scheme not having been agreed’ to when he prepared it.
– If old-age pensions were payable throughout the Commonwealth, some of the States would be relieved of a considerable expenditure which they now incur in that respect. But, as it is, some of the smaller States where oldage pensions schemes are not in .operation would have their revenue largely decreased under the Government -proposal, whilst they would secure no compensating advantage in the shape of relief from the expenditure on old-age pensions, such as would fall to the lot of the two most prosperous States of the union. As the total amount payable in respect of interest on the debts of the States is £8,700,000 per annum, it ought not to be said that the adoption of the honorable member for Mernda’s scheme would involve no sacrifice to the States.
– But the States are now paying that amount by way of interest.
– They are, but they are also receiving from the Commonwealth, under a statutory right, nearly £6,900,000 per annum, as against a return of only £6,000,000, which the Treasurer proposes to make to them. That means that they would have to make good a difference of about £900,000 per annum.
– The honorable member is omitting the payments in respect of oldage pensions.
– Under the scheme proposed by the honorable member for Mernda, that amount will have to be paid for twenty years, but under the Government scheme it will have to be paid for no less than thirty-five years. That being 90, I do not think that it can reasonably be said that the States are to receive something for nothing. Even if the Customs and Excise revenue remained as it is, the States, for the next thirty-five years, would have to make good a difference totalling between £32,000,000 and £33,000,000.
– It all comes out of one pocket.
– The honorable member’s interjection is very pertinent to the point I was trying to make. If it all comes out of one pocket, the people of the States will eventually have to pay, through their taxation, the amount the Commonwealth has to pay, because they are the people of’ the Commonwealth. It is therefore necessary to see what advantage is to be gained by all this shuffling and handing over of debts to one central authority. The only advantage that can be derived appears to be that the Commonwealth may borrow cheaper than the States can. But at the present time, seeing that Japan is not able to get rid of her war loans, which she offered at £90 at 6 per cent., and that Prussia is paying 5 per cent, on £92 for her money, while Canadian 3 per cents, since the financial crisis are no longer at par, there does not appear to be much prospect for some time to come of Australia obtaining money at 3 per cent. We appear to be taking upon ourselves as a Commonwealth a very large financial responsibility in the hope that we shall be able to get money at a cheaper rate than we are doing now. A good deal of the trouble has arisen through our trying to take over too much. Seeing that in any case the saving by the Commonwealth in interest must be almost entirely upon the loans held externally, and not upon those held in Australia, we could arrange the matter much better by taking over only the London money, which totals £183,000,000, and bears an interest charge of £6,640,000. The Commonwealth could take those loans over gradually as they fell due, and allow the States, without any of these complicated financial transactions, to face their Australian-held debt only. The amount that we must return to the States, so long as the Braddon clause continues to operate, will exceed the amount required to pay off the Londonheld loans ; and it is only on that part of the national debt that any profit can be made by the Commonwealth for the people of Australia. We could not induce Australian bond-holders to take less than 3.6 per cent., which is the average interest payable at present on the Australian-held loans. I believe that Australian money could be used more profitably than that. Our only chance, therefore, will come from trying to float into Australian consols the £183,000,000 held outside. We should not need to ask the consent of the States to take those loans over, although it would be necessary to amend the Constitution in order to deal with any of them which have been incurred since the adoption of the Federal Constitution. Not only does that sum of £183,000,000 represent the amount of the States debts upon which it will be possible to make a saving, but the interest on it comes absolutely within our powers to meet out of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise .revenue. The difficulty about the Government scheme and that of the honorable member for Mernda is that it is necessary to obtain the consent of every one of the States to the transaction, and, if only one of them stands out, the scheme falls to the ground. Western Australia, for instance, would not be greatly advantaged by it.
– Would it be necessary to get the consent of all the States if an amendment of the Constitution were agreed to?
– I think the amendment of the Constitution contemplated so far is directed purely to the question of taking over the debts incurred since the Federation was inaugurated, and not to the question of whether the States will join in or not.
– Should not that cover the whole power required ?
– The honorable member appears to think that that amendment of the Constitution would give the Commonwealth power to limit the rights of the States to borrow except through the Commonwealth. That touches the crux of the whole question. Unless the people are ready to agree to that in the shape of an amendment of the Constitution, it will be necessary to secure the agreement of all the States to the scheme. If they can borrow where and when they please, it will mean that in some years, when the Commonwealth has to convert £20,000,000 or £25,000,000 of old State loans, the States will come in offering better terms and repeat -the disastrous cutthroat policy of the past.
– The State electors would at once refuse to allow the State Governments to borrow if they had to borrow at higher rates.
– The State electors have not shown that tendency in the past. A little while ago two Australian States wanted to float large loans. One offered 3J per cent., and the other immediately offered 3! per cent., while New Zealand came in shortly afterwards and offered a loan on the Melbourne market at 4 per cent. Consequently, unless the Commonwealth has some control over future State borrowings - and that can only be secured bv the consent of all the States, or by an amendment of the Constitution - the future dealing by the Commonwealth with the national debt will be in danger of being prejudiced.
– If the Commonwealth can borrow more cheaply than can the States, the people of the States will demand that the States should borrow through the Commonwealth.
– The Premiers and Treasurers of two States have stated publicly that the Commonwealth cannot borrow more cheaply than the States ‘can. That was said by the Premier of Victoria, and also by the Premier of New South Wales when he was lauding the financial reputation of his State.
– But that is not the last word on the subject.
– Perhaps not, but the same would be said again, and I have not the slightest doubt that if any State wants money in the future and the Commonwealth exercises no control, it will proceed to borrow. The States will want to borrow money, because Western Australia, for instance, could some day easily spend £100,000,000 on railways in the necessary development of her vast area. No doubt that State will some day have a very large railway system, and it will not limit its borrowings unless we can obtain an amendment of the Constitution to compel it to do so. This is the first time that I have heard an amendment of the Constitution for that purpose suggested. Without it, Western Australia will not limit itself to such direction as the Commonwealth likes to give it.
– I do not suggest that.
– If it is not secured by an amendment of the Constitution or by agreement the clashing of the States and the Commonwealth in the money market will be disastrous to any attempts at economic financing in the future. The honorable member for Mernda’s scheme - and, in fact, every scheme that has so far been put forward - proposes some financial control, either jointly by the Commonwealth and States or by a Council of Finance, to limit the States in their future borrowings and prevent them clashing with the Commonwealth.
– There will be an arrangement as to the manner in which the loans will be placed.
– The scheme of the honorable member for Mernda goes further. That honorable member stipulates for the absolute right on the part of the Commonwealth to limit State borrowings except through the Commonwealth, and insists on the Commonwealth having a satisfactory guarantee of the payment of interest and the repayment of principal of all loans that the Commonwealth floats for a State.
– He did not dogmatize on that point.
– He did not dogmatize, because the .principle has been so generally accepted that it was not necessary. I have put forward these views because the honor orable member for Mernda has from time to time met various alterations and criticisms of his scheme, and I should like him to give them consideration, seeing that under that part of his scheme the Commonwealth cannot work without the consent of the whole of the States, and the Commonwealth would eventually have to take the matter into its own hands, if we are to take the honorable member’s view of the writing on the wall.
Item agreed to.
Department of Home Affairs
Division i (Home Affairs), £5,948.
– I should like to draw the attention of the Treasurer to the fact that, during last year, the expenditure was exceedingly small in comparison with the money voted, and great complaints have been made that certain facilities which were very urgently required have not been provided, owing, it is said, to lack of funds. In 1907-8, the sum of £285,646 was voted for works and buildings under the Depart ment of Home Affairs, and, of that, only £126,098 was expended. That money wasvoted on the 25th September.
– That was on the Estimates-in-Chief ; there was another vote passed afterwards, in April.
– That may be, but it is to be hoped that this year we shall not have the same experience. If we provide funds for necessary improvements, we ought to feel certain that a fair proportion of the money will be expended, so that the works may not be held over for future years. A glance at the Estimates shows that an enormous number of the items are re-votes. For instance, on the first two pages of the Works and Buildings Estimates, we find that eight items out of nineare re-votes, and that discloses an unsatisfactory state of affairs, to overcome which some means ought to be adopted. If we have a repetition of last year’s experience, we shall find complaints growing louder. It was promised long ago that there would be a more rapid execution of works, especially if the Estimates were passed early. I admit that, even last year, the Estimateswere not passed as early as they might have been, but, at any rate, they were agreed to in September, when only three months of the financial year had gone by ; and yet, instead of three-fourths of the expenditure taking place in the remaining three-fourths of the year, we find that less than half the amount voted represents the expenditure.
^^]. - I was myself very much surprised to find at the end of the year that so little of the money voted had been spent. I may point out, however, that the whole of the money appropriated for the Postal Department was expended, with the exception, I think, of £8,000; and there must always be a small balance.
– The Treasurer is speaking of the expenditure by the Post and Telegraph Department itself, and not of what is expended for the Post and Telegraph Department by the Department of Home Affairs.
– The Department of Home Affairs has a certain sum for works, and so has the Post and Telegraph Department. For works, there was, I think, a sum of £174,000 voted, and a balance of nearly £100,000 remained unexpended ; but of -that fact I was not aware until the end of the year.
– The amount appropriated was, I think, £285,000 odd.
– I am speaking of an item of £174,000, of which £.100,000 remained unexpended. I made inquiries, and two reasons were given to , me for the position of affairs. One was that it required considerable time to prepare specifications, and another was that the Department could not get the works pushed on by the States Departments of Works.
– Is it a fact that the public works of the States are carried out before the works of the Commonwealth ?
– I do not like to make any definite accusation without being certain, but such is the statement to me, and such is the impression left upon the Department of Home Affairs. During last June I urged that there should be expedition, and, if my desires had been carried out, and the money expended, we should not have had so many re-votes this year. Another result would have been that, instead of £333,000 being returned to the States over and above the proportion of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, the amount of £100,000, or whatever it was, would have had to be deducted. This would not have had any effect on the amount placed to Trust Funds, but it would have reduced the amount returned to the States. I have very strongly directed the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to this matter, and asked him to push forward works as rapidly as possible. As the year is proceeding I have, in anticipation of the Works and Buildings Estimates passing at an early date, approved of preparations being made for the expenditure of a great deal of money to which I felt sure honorable members would take no exception. That I have done with a view of getting the works well advanced, so as not to have left over any large unexpended balance. It has been impressed upon me by those who administer the Works and Buildings branch of the Home Affairs Department that it is about time we had1 a Works Department of our own. I have made inquiries as to the cost, and find that it must be much larger than the percentage at present paid to the States. However, I shall consult with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, and ascertain whether it would not be better to pay a little more, and have the works carried out promptly, than to have these unexpended balances each year.
– Does the Minister know whether the works which are carried out by the Department of Home Affairs are done more speedily ? That Department may be in fault as well as the Departments of the States.
– Our Department is behindhand in connexion with such works as the construction of the telephone tunnels. Those are large works, and it has taken considerable time to prepare the plans for them.
– If inquiry were made, it might be found that the States Departments are not entirely to blame.
– I base my remarks on the information which has been given to me. I am glad that- the honorable member has drawn attention to this state of affairs. As Treasurer, I have urged both Ministers concerned to push the works forward, and, judging by the applications which have been made to me for the authorization of expenditure, they are doing so. In many cases, however, I cannot authorize expenditure until it has . been again agreed to by the Parliament-
.- The proposed expenditure of £5,948 is not large, but it must not be forgotten that this is only a vote in advance for a work which is estimated to cost in the end at least £30,000. I have no objection to this, but I wish the Committee to know what it is doing. When a member of the Queensland Parliament, I for years advocated the preparation of the Estimates so that in a separate column would be shown the ultimate cost of any work for which a vote was. asked on account. In the past, Treasurers have frequently manoeuvred to get a large work undertaken by persuading Parliament to vote, in the first instance, a small sum, it being discovered later that the money so voted would be wasted altogether unless the larger expenditure of which it would form part was sanctioned. I commend the Treasurer for having brought forward the Works Estimates this afternoon, so that they may be passed as speedily as possible. Apparently, however, the Department is not very serious about the work immediately under discussion, seeing that last year only £52 was expended upon it. The plans for the proposed building would cost more than that, the sum being scarcely more than sufficient to pay for advertising for designs. It is incumbent on the Treasurer to tell us why nothing more has been done. If the plans are ready, it ought to be possible to spend more than £5,94% in the eight months of the financial year which remain.
– This is a re-vote for a work which it is estimated will cost in all £30,000. The building is to be erected on land adjacent to the Royal Navy Stores at Darling Harbor. Land has been acquired by the Government as a site for a store which will take the place of premises which are at present rented, and on it is to be erected a plain, steel-framed, brick, six-story building, fire proof in construction. The dimensions of the land are 224 x 41 feet. In this building bulk stores for the Departments of Defence and of the Postmaster-General will be received, stored, and despatched by sea or rail. Modern quick lifting and carrying machinery, suitable to the weights to be handled, will be provided, in order that the minimum of time and of labour may be required to take stores from ships to the building, and despatch them by rail or, sea. A contract has been let for the foundations, which are now in progress. Some time ago, when there was a dispute in regard to the reserve at Dawes Point, I agreed with the late Sir John See, then Premier of New South Wales, that the State should keep Dawes Point, and that the Commonw wi 1th should receive 600 feet of land at Darling Island, next to Pyrmont. I have inspected the site, and am of opinion that not less than 600 feet will be required, because we shall need to find berthing space for large vessels. The water opposite the site has been deepened, but I am sorry to S3n that I recently discovered that the Commonwealth has obtained only about 20c: feet.
– Is that all that the Commonwealth got for Dawes Point?
– Yes. Sir John See must have forgotten the arrangement, or there was carelessness somewhere. The railway runs down the tongue of land known as Darling Island. I understand that Birt and Company lease a few hundred feet, while the Naval authorities are in possession of other land close under the cliff, the Commonwealth having about 200 feet lying between.
– Who is responsible for the arrangement?
– I do not know. It was not made when I was in office. The honorable member for North Sydney tells me that when he took office he found that it had been made, and could only give effect to it. The Department of Home Affairs has not yet supplied me with the information on the subject for which I have asked. I am satisfied that we have not enough land, and will require an extension. If Messrs. Birt and Company have not too long a lease, we may ultimately get some of the land which they now hold. At present we do not need verymuch, but ultimately we shall require more. Berthing space is needed for the coasting vessels which bring piles, telegraph posts, and other similar supplies for the Department of the Postmaster-General.
.- The Treasurer’s statement shows that a bad deal has been made in exchanging Dawes Point for a small piece of land at Darling Island.
– The State Government pays for Dawes Point, and the Commonwealth has to pay for the Darling Island site in the same way as it has to pay for the transferred properties.
– A poor business arrangement has been come to. The land which the Commonwealth has acquired is not on the east side of Darling Harbor, where there is deep water; but on the west side, between Darling Island and Pyrmont, where there is a bit of a cove.
– The water is deep enough.
– The western side of the island is not so, good as the eastern side. Darling Island belongs to the Government of the State, and by the extension of railways and the erection of wharves, has been made one of the most important places cn Port Jackson for the handling of goods and produce. A water frontage of 200 feet is not sufficient on which to erect stores estimated to cost £30,000.
– Does the honorable member think that the site is unsuitable?
– According to what the Treasurer has said, it is unsuitable, because there is no room for expansion. It is a valuable piece of land.
– It might be possible to secure more space.
– That could be done by buying up a portion of the Pyrmont foreshore. Darling Island is, in reality, no longer an island, since it is connected with Pyrmont, a western suburb of Sydney. The honorable member for North Sydney has pointed to the weakness of the system of re-votes, and the Treasurer has replied that either the Public Works staff attached to the Department of Home Affairs is not competent to deal with all our public works, or that the delays that take place are due to the inaction of officers of the Public Works Departments of the States. Whenever complaint is made of delay in the execution of Commonwealth works, we are told, either that the Estimates were passed too late to enable the whole vote to be expended within the financial year in which it was passed, or that there was delay on the part of the Public Works Departments of theStates in attending to our requirements. The States Departments of Public Works naturally give preference to their own undertakings.
– They do not keep a special staff to attend to Commonwealth works.
– They do not. We are face to face with the very important question of whether or not we should establish a Commonwealth Department of Public Works.
– It is only fair to remind the honorable member that the Ministerial Committee reported that there had been no serious delay on the part of the Public Works Departments of the States in carrying out the more important works of the Commonwealth.
– I am not at liberty to put before the Committee evidence that I have recently obtained in regard to that matter ; but I know that it is usually said that the responsibility for delay in carrying out Commonwealth works rests with the States Departments of Public Works.
– We need to learn what proportion of the Commonwealth works in each State is supervised by the States officials.
– Exactly; we are rapidly approaching the time when we must determine whether we should have a Commonwealth Department of Public Works. I would remind the Committee that at present we have attached to the Department of Home Affairs a Public Works staff in respect of which there is an expenditure of £18,000 per annum. That staff consists of thirty officers, including some highly-paid men, and we ought to be told why they are unable to keep pace with the requirements of the Commonwealth. What are we receiving in return for this expenditure of £18,000 per annum?
– Are the officials of our Public Works staff paid that sum to keep prompting the State Departments to take action?
– That is a very pertinent inquiry. I should like to learn from the Treasurer what is the proportion of Commonwealth works supervised by our own officials? We have, at present, a Central Public Works staff, and also a staff in New South Wales and in Victoria, under Commonwealth control. Nevertheless, we are told that they have to go to the Public Works Departments of the States for assistance. Exclusive of special defence works, the proposed expenditure on new works and buildings this year is practically the same as that for which we made provision last year. We are dealing with these Estimates a little later than we did last year, so that the unexpended balance is likely to be greater than it was before. I should like the Treasurer to obtain from his colleague, the Minister of Home Affairs, some information as to the reason why such a large proportion of the amount voted for new works and buildings each year remains unexpended. I do not wish to be unfair to our own Public Works staff, and am personally in favour of the establishment of a Commonwealth Department of Public Works, believing that it would result in economy and give us effective control over our own works. It is unreasonable to expect the Public Works Departments of the States to set aside local undertakings in order that theymay attend to our requirements. They receive at present a commission of from 6 to 10 per cent. on all works executed for the Commonwealth, and that amount added to the sum which we now expend on the Public Works staff of the Commonwealth would go a longwaytowards equipping a department of our own.
– Since the Treasurer has referred to me in connexion with the Darling Island project, I feel called upon to. state what was the position when I had to deal with the matter as Minister of Home Affairs. I then heard nothing of any offer of 600 feet. When I had to deal with the question, the proposed area had been reduced to 224 feet. An arrangement had been made with the British Admiralty for the use of part of the original, block, and, I ‘ think, that an arrangement had also been made with Messrs. Birt and Co. for the use . of another portion. I had nothing to do with any proposal to transfer to the Commonwealth 600 feet of land on the Island ; but I dealt with a proposition that there should be handed over to the Commonwealth a frontage of 224 feet, as one of a long list of properties, for the transfer of which we were endeavouring to arrange. As a matter of fact on the date of my retirement from office I had, I think, effected a settlement in regard to every other property in. the list, but as negotiations had not been completed in regard to this one block, I had to leave the whole matter to my successor. We were glad to receive an offer of 224 feet on Darling Island, since it was a valuable deep-water frontage. Speaking from memory, the arrangement arrived at was that the Admiralty should be allowed to overlap our water frontage if the occasion arose, and that we should be permitted to make use of the Admiralty’s water frontage in the same way.
– So that it would be possible for large vessels carrying Commonwealth stores to lie to there?
– That is so.
– There was at one time an area of 600 feet available.
– Portion of that frontage had been parted with before I took office as Minister of Home Affairs. When the Premier of New South Wales wished to increase the price at which the block of 2 24 feet had ‘been offered to us, I declined to complete the arrangement, and left the whole matter to my successor. I have since spoken to a gentleman who was a member of the See Government, and have been informed by him that he knows nothing of an offer of 600 feet having been made to the Commonwealth. The Treasurer states that an arrangement was made with the late Sir John See.
– The honorable member will remember that there was a dispute.
– In regard to the land at Dawes Point. This water frontage is a valuable one, and under the arrangement with the Admiralty, it should be possible for big vessels to go alongside.
– As bearing on the suggested establishment of a Commonwealth Department of Public Works, I should like to point out to the Treasurer what seems to be a reasonable deduction to draw from the figures with regard to appropriations and expenditure. In South Australia, all Commonwealth works are supervised by State officers, and from what I have heard in the other States, some are supervised by officers of the Department of Home Affairs, and others by officers of the Public Works Departments of those States. It is interesting to note that in South Australia, where our works are supervised by the States officers, practically every penny supplied by the Treasurer is applied. A great deal of money is required in connexion with telegraphic and telephonic works in that State, and, but for a miserable addition of £1,000 to the actual provision made, about thirty men, engaged in the underground installation of telephone wires in Adelaide, would have been dismissed last week. At the present time something like £10,000 is required to enable the work to be completed before the electric tram wires are put up.
– I think that the work is now going on.
– I . have been making inquiries within the last forty-eight hours, and can assure the Treasurer that, unless he finds within the next few weeks a sum of £10,000 in connexion with this work, there will be complete confusion between the underground installation of telephone wires and the erection of overhead wires for the Tramway Company. By referring to page 291 of the Estimates, honorable members will see that a sum of £34,304 was appropriated for these works in South Australia in 1907-8, and that £34,226 was actually spent. In connection with the immediately preceding item there was an appropriation of £9,000, and an actual expenditure of only £4,811. T do not know what is the explanation of this large unexpended balance; but I surmise that in that ease the materials had to be found by the Department of Home Affairs, and that as they were not forthcoming the money could not be expended by the officers of the State. I only ask that that be borne in mind in connexion with the establishment of a Commonwealth Public Works Department. The Treasurer stated that in some cases he had made advances in addition to the appropriation. Those advances appear to have been confined to one or two States. In New South Wales, for the construction of telephones and telegraphs, the actual expenditure was .£4,000 or £5,000 more than the appropriation. In Queensland there has also been an excess of expenditure over appropriation, but no excesses of that kind are to be found in the case of the other States. In Victoria the expenditure was a good deal less than the appropriation. I cannot understand this in the light of the allegations that works are not being pushed on as expeditiously in New South Wales as the people there could wish. I mention these things at this stage, so that when the items are reached the Treasurer will be in a position to give us a more lucid, or, at all events, more convincing explanation than he has suggested up to the present.
– I should like an explanation from the Treasurer of the item of £2,000 in the appropriation for 1907-8 for a launch. Out of that only £65 was expended. Is it for a Customs launch, or a pleasure launch ? Is the amount commission on a sale, or money expended towards the building of a launch ?
– The item to which the honorable member is now referring is in Division No. 2. Division No. 1 is before the Committee.
– I hope that the Treasurer, as the matter has been brought under his notice, will supply the information when .that division is reached.
.- I cordially agree with the suggestion that it is necessary to have a Commonwealth Department of Public Works. Over and over again I have experienced considerable difficulty in getting works completed, and on inquiry I have found that the matter was practically hung up in the State Department. Consequently^ one can get no satisfaction from the Minister. His reply is, “ We are urging the State Department to proceed, and doing all we can to accelerate the matter.” The onus is then thrown upon one to approach tha State Department, and one cannot readily do that unless one appeals to the State member. Consequently we, as Federal members, are placed under a compliment to the State members by having to ask them to intervene. Only yesterday I received a letter which shows how these works are delayed. For some months past it has been proposed to build a Post Office which is urgently needed at Cessnock, in my electorate. At this late date I received a letter from the Department, tothe following effect -
With reference to previous correspondence respecting the proposed erection of a new postoffice building at Cessnock, New South Wales, I have the honour to inform you that the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, recently reported that the papers and plan relating to the matter were being returned to the Works Director for New South Wales for an amended estimate of cost and sketch in connexion with certain alterations to the Telephone Exchange room, suggested by the Electrical Engineer, Sydney.
That is where the matter stands at present,, and from that morass it is absolutely impossible to drag it out, without the intervention of the Minister himself. I cordially agree that we should have a Public” Works Department of our own. TheTreasurer states that the building which he purposes to construct is to be fireproof .- I have seen a great many buildings supposed to be fireproof, but when a fire comes along they seem to burn better than any others. I would ask the Treasurer to endeavour, if possible, to have the building fitted with a system of sprinklers, which, so far as my experience goes, is the only method of preventing destructive fires. The Treasurer told us on. one occasion when putting the Quarantine Bill through the House, that there would not be much additional cost entailed.
– The honorable member’s memory is too good.
– One requires a very long memory to follow the Treasurer. If his memory with regard to his promises was as good as ours is, it would be very much better for his reputation as a man of his word.
– I. always carry out my promises.
– The honorable member carries out his binding ones. He has two classes of promises - one binding and the other not. There is an item of £200 for quarantine stations. That is just the thin edge of the wedge, and the Treasurer ought to be careful not to expend too much money on quarantine.
– - The Committee has been asked during this short debate to consider the advisability of establishing a Commonwealth Department of Public Works. I admit that there is a good deal to be said in favour of it, but we should first give serious consideration to the practice which has hitherto been followed, and the way we have been treated. While there has been a considerable amount of delay in many cases, my experience is that it has not been altogether the fault of the States Public Works Departments. In many cases there is so much circumlocution between the different Departments and offices as to who shall approve or condemn different buildings that to blame the State Departments is sometimes a convenient way of shifting the responsibility on to a body with which we have no power to deal. The State Departments are responsible to some extent for the delay in the carrying out of public works in the shape of repairs, additions, and new buildings, but my experience is that when some such work is decided upon there are quite a number of different gentlemen whose business it is to have a finger in the pie. We have first to move the Post and Telegraph Department to say that the repair or new work is necessary. The matter then goes through the Deputy PostmasterGeneral’s office, from him to the Inspector for the district, thence back to the State Public Works Department, from there to the local officer, then back to the district officer, and back again to the State Department, and so on round and round until one has to be very conversant with the .intricacies of the different Departments to be able to follow the sets of papers in connexion with each case, and one is afterwards very fortunate if he is able to put the saddle on the right horse. I wish to caution the Treasurer and the Government before they attempt to create a Commonwealth Public Works Department. I put a question on the business-paper to-day which had a direct bearing on the matter. I asked for information as to what we paid the States to carry out and supervise these works. The information read by the Minister representing the Minister; of Home Affairs, was that, according to an arrangement made, the States receive, on new works costing over £100, 6 per cent, plus expenses of clerks of works as prescribed in the Commonwealth Public Works Regulations ; while on new works and buildings costing less than £100, 8 per cent, is paid to Tasmania, and 10 per cent, to all the other States; and on all maintenance, repairs, and furniture, 8 per cent, to Tasmania, and 10 per cent, to all the other States. During the financial year just closed we expended £126,098 on additions, new works, and buildings, under the control of the Department of Home Affairs, and on page 28 of the Estimates-in-Chief it is stated that the amount paid to recoup the various States for salaries, &c, for supervising the work - and this I understand includes the cost of the Public Works staff - was £7,500, or a little over 6 per cent. 011 the total cost. Our experience of Government Departments teaches us that we cannot start another Department of our own and duplicate all the officers, inspectors, and so on for anything like 6 pep cent. The proposal must be regarded not from the sentimental point of view of whether we ought to have a Department of our own or control more officers than we do, but from the stand-point of whether, if adopted, it will enable us to carry out the works in the most economical way possible. No Department that I know of could carry out these works in the way that they have been carried out by the different States Departments for anything like 6 per cent. We know that the works of the States being carried out in conjunction with some of our works account for delays, particularly in smaller matters. In the State which I represent it had been quite common to see three or four inspectors in a country town, superintending, one a post office, and others a court house, and various works. This only leads to a multiplication of expense. This has now been remedied and the whole is superintended by one man. I am afraid that similar circumstances would be repeated if we had a Works Department of our own, and I suggest that, before any ‘ alteration be made, the question of the relative cost of the two systems ought to be looked into. While something may be said in favour of our having a Works Department of our own, the present system is, I think, the more economical.
– I wish to strictly obey the ruling of the Chairman in regard to the discussion of questions of policy, and, consequently, I shall do no more at present than congratulate the Government on the proposed expenditure of £2,000, which I understand, is to assist the Government in their benevolent policy of universal conciliation - in enabling honorable members and distinguished persons to realize in congenial company the beautiful surroundings and glories of Sydney’s beautiful harbor.
– It is an excellent vote for the purpose.
– I think that for the purpose there could not be a better vote. It is the only way-
– The honorable member will have an opportunity of discussing this matter on the next item.
– If it were a mere question of vote, I should concur; but we have here a broad question of policy.
– While I am quite prepared to allow a general discussion on the first item, I do not think it is in order for an honorable member to, at present, refer to any - special item.
– I think I see three grounds on which the honorable member for Wentworth may be regarded as being in order. In the first place, this is a very proper time to protest against the Government incurring public expenditure in anticipation of a vote of Parliament.
– This sum was voted last year.
– But with no idea that the particular vote was to be used for the purpose. This is a serious matter. The money voted last year was for a Customs boat, strongly built, and fit to battle with all sorts of emergencies. That was a most excellent vote.
– Order !
– That is only one of my grounds. In the second place, I think that the question of fiscal policy is involved.
– Order !
– Is that not a matter we can review now ?
– The honorable member may discuss the general question, but I ask him not to refer to particular items.
– If the Chairman asks me that as a personal favour, of course, I yield, owing to my great respect for him personally and officially. I suggest, however, that we are entitled on this occasion to criticise the actions of the Government. We are voting money; and since we can review the Estimates generally, surely we can pick out items worthy of special attention.
– The honorable member will not be in order in dealing with any special item.
– Have you read the last edition of May, Mr. McDonald? However, I shall not press the matter further, because I am not anxious to come in conflict with the Chair, especially in view of a certain tragedy which is said to have occurred in another State.
. -In view of the statement of the Treasurer, we are entitled, I think, to know who is responsible for the action of which he complains, because the position disclosed appears to me to be most serious. We are incurring an expenditure of something like £30,000 on building Commonwealth stores at Darling Harbor, and the Treasurer tells us that that will be practically wasted if we are limited to the small space now at our disposal. In the course of the negotiations, the interests of the Commonwealth appear to have suffered to a serious extent; and if a Commonwealth officer is responsible he ought not to be allowed to remain in . a position to make similar blunders in the future. On the other hand, if a Minister is responsible, we ought to know who that Minister is. No time should be lost in ascertaining whether the blunder can be rectified, and the Commonwealth rights secured. As to the curtailed’ expenditure in the Post and Telegraph Department, there is seething discontent in the country districts, and, to a lesser degree, in the larger centred of population. The Treasurer says that he has hitherto made the provision asked for, but that this year he proposes to reduce the amount. In looking over the Estimates, I find that last year we voted for additions, new works, and buildings, £285,646, of which £159,548 remained unexpended at the end of the year; and presumably that was returned to the States. It would be just as well to know how far the Post and Telegraph Department has suffered in this connexion. In the works for that Department, under the control of the Department of Home Affairs, in New South Wales, £40,332 was appropriated’, and only £10,933 expended, leaving an unexpended balance of £29,399 ; and yet, at the same time, we are told that the services are starved owing to want of money. Not only are new works never entered upon, but approved works are unattended to; and all this shows unmistakably that there is a screw loose somewhere in the administration. When the Treasurer asked us to vote all this money, we were led to suppose that it was intended to be spent on the specified works.
– Surely the honorable member is not suggesting that money is voted for one purpose, and used for another ?
– I do not know, but, at all events, a large proportion of the money voted last year remained unexpended ; and I presume that, in view of the re-votes we are asked to make, the works have not been carried out. The position would be different if the money we voted last year were available now; but, under the circumstances, the money has now to be found out of new revenue; and that seems to make clear one of the reasons why there is so much friction and trouble. All the States suffer in common in this connexion ; and I have simply quoted New South Wales, because I am more familiar with the conditions there. We have the Electrical Engineer declaring to the Royal Commission on the Post and Telegraph Department, that a sum of something like £800,000 is needed to bring his branch of the Department into a state of efficiency. That is saying nothing in regard to the expenditure for new works which the public urgently demands. I wish to know from the Treasurer the cause of the enormous disproportion between the appropriation and the expenditure of last year, and whether what happened then will happen again this year. What is the use of voting money which will not be expended? If the expenditure cannottake place because of faulty administration, let us have the matter remedied. It seems to me that there is undue friction and too much red-tape procedure in the relations of the Commonwealth and State Departments. It is hinted that the officers of the States do not deal speedily with Commonwealth work because they look upon it as an additional task, and it is said that they give the greater part of their time to State work, doing the Commonwealth work in their odd time. However that may be, the present state of affairs is unsatisfactory. Parliament should not be asked to vote more money than can be expended. If the trouble lies with the administration of the States Departments, we should be asked to remedy the evil by appointing more officers of our own. But whatever the nature of the difficulty, we should be fully and thoroughly informed regarding it, and steps should be proposed for removing it. What is the use of asking us to pass the Works and Buildings Estimates as quickly as possible, on the ground of urgency, if only part of the money voted will be expended ? Last year, out of £285,000 appropriated, only £126,000 was expended, votes amounting to £159,000 lapsing.
.- The observations of the honorable member for Calare are justified, and I regret that the story which he told is not a new one. Each year since Federation our expenditure on works and buildings has been considerably less than our appropriation. This year the Estimates should have been laid on the table much earlier than was the case, because Parliament met over two months after the end of the financial year, and during those two months the Department should have prepared them. Generally, it is not possible to present the Estimates until Parliament has been sitting a month or six weeks, because the finances of the year cannot be reviewed by the Treasurer till the financial year has ended ; but in this instance they should have been presented at the beginning of the session. Last year we voted no less than- £1,098,000 for works and buildings, but only £877,000 was spent, £221,000 remaining unspent. This year, no doubt, a number of votes will lapse, because only six months remain in which to spend the parliamentary appropriation. Something should be done to amend this unsatisfactory state of affairs. Throughout the Estimates one comes upon votes of last year of which very little was expended.
Mr.Mahon. - Not much is asked for Western Australia this year.
– That is so. We expect the members of the Labour Party from that State to see that fair play is obtained from the Ministry which they support. We have heard a great deal about the want of funds in the Department of the Postmaster-General ; but I find that the appropriations of last year were not expended. In New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania, money availablefor the construction and extension of telephone lines was not used, though the Department, seeing what an outcry had been made about its needs, might have been expected to spend, not only the whole appropriation for the year, but, in addition, a good part of the Treasurer’s advance.
– There would have been no difficulty in carrying out the works authorized for Tasmania.
– The PostmasterGeneral should explain why this has happened.
– The Department spent within £8,000 of what it received from the Treasurer. The right honorable member is making no allowance for savings.
– No allowance of that kind will apply in the case of Victoria, for whose public works the appropriation was £25,000, of which only £12,000 was expended. When I was Treasurer it was the rule that a Department, if it applied for them, could obtain the amounts which had been estimated as savings. They were granted out of the Treasurer’s advance.
– That is the rule now.
– The Departments were told, “We do not think that you willrequire this money, but if you do, we will letyou have it out of the Treasurer’s advance.” I hope that these Estimates will be passed as soon as possible, because a good part of the year has now gone, and it is necessary that the proposed works should be put in hand at once.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 2 (Trade and Customs), subdivision 1 (New South Wales), £2,366.
.- There is nothing that one of an utterlygenerous nature dislikes so much as to be interrupted in a charitable interpretation of the action of an opponent. I was giving what to my mind was the most charitable interpretation that could be placed on the action ofthe Treasurer in purchasing Mr. Hordern’s yacht as a Customs launch, when I unfortunately ran foul of the Standing Orders. But I am sincere in expressing my deep admiration of the altruistic policy that underlies the action of the Ministry in purchasing a yacht which, however unsuitable for Customs purposes, is none the less as suitable a yacht as could be bought for the money for entertaining one’s friends or those of the Government. The yacht that has been purchased for the Government is one of the prettiest pleasure boats that we have in Sydney harbor, and as such is dirt cheap at £2,000.
– She has not cost us £2,000. She cost, I think £1,700.
– The whole cost of acquiring this magnificent yacht is some £2,000. The honorable member for Lang will be the first to admit that no prettier pleasure yacht could be secured in Sydney harbor.
– And it is also said to be suitable for Customs purposes.
– There I join issue with the honorable member. Can it be said that a boat with an ordinary curved bow, a long overhanging stern, and with glass windows and curtains all round her, is suitable for use as a Customs launch to take Customs officers or any one else alongside big vessels? I do not think that the Treasurer really believes that that is the purpose for which it is intended.
– Are not curtains necessary ?
– I do not wish my honorable friends to run away with the idea that the yacht is badly equipped. She has a really first-class piano.
– That is not so.
– There was certainly a piano on board when she was owned by Mr. Hordern. But, apart altogether from pianos and furnishings, she is well equipped. She has magnificent state-rooms, and splendid state lockers for state cigars and state whisky. She is really the best vessel of which I know for conciliating the opponents of the Ministry. But it is absolutely ridiculous to purchase her for use as a bona fide Customs launch. She cannot be used for such purposes. The Treasurer has had some experience of buying pleasure yachts. Just before he retired from office as Premier of New South Wales, he bought the white elephant of an American millionaire - the Victoria - which was put in commission in New South Wales, “ for visiting lighthouses.”
– And was given away.
– She was practically given away by the Government. The Treasurer and his friends were afforded a unique opportunity for displaying their hospitality on her spacious decks !
– I do not think that I was ever on board her.
– The honorable gentleman undoubtedly knew all about her. She was purchased for about £20,000, and was sold two years later for £10,000 - a scrapheap price..
– She cost the Government £30,000, or £35,000, although she cost £75,000 to build.
– Then I have underrated the credulity of the Treasurer. It appears that he purchased for £35,000, a yacht which, two years later, had to be sold for £10,000. In the meantime, of course, more than that value - to the Ministry - had been obtained out of her. Is the yacht, that has just been acquired by the Commonwealth, to be used for visiting lighthouses ?
– I think that I saw the honorable member, and some of his friends, on board her the other day.
– No. When I asked the honorable member about this purchase, he replied, “ It is all right, Kelly. You may have her whenever you ask for her.” But I have not yet availed myself of his hospitality.
– The honorable member has not to ask me for the use of her. He has simply to go to the Department, and to ask for her, when she is not being used for Departmental purposes.
– The Treasurer must not imagine that honorable members are going to be influenced in voting on this item, by the question of whether, or not, they are to be allowed the services of this unique “ Customs launch.”
– Was there any vote in respect of its purchase?
– No. That is another point to which I was about to come. When last year’s Estimates were under consideration, we were told, I believe, that the proposed vote of £2,000 was to be devoted to the building in Australia, of Australian materials, and by Australian workmen, of a vessel that would be better than any launch that could be constructed for the money elsewhere.
– This vessel cost £7,000 in England.
– So that, instead of being constructed in Australia, she was imported from that “ foreign country,” England, and I think that the engines that were in her when Mr. Hordern owned her came from the United States of America. I ask the Committee, in. all sincerity, whether we sanctioned the purchase of a pleasure yacht for £2,000, or the local construction of a Customs launch for that money? The Committee has not been asked to ex press an opinion upon this purchase. What does it mean?
– It means a very cheap vacht.
Mr.KELLY.- We have it at last : A cheap yacht for Ministers to entertain - whom ?
– The honorable member.
– We are reaching the depths of absurdity, when we propose, under the guise of acquiring a Customs launch, to buy what is really a first-class pleasure boat, for harbor purposes - a boat that can be used for only such purposes.
– The honorable member is in error.
– I would not willingly do the Minister an injustice, but, as one who has had a great deal to do with boats, I do not hesitate to say, that it is ridiculous to suggest that this vessel could be used for serious Customs work. She would be crushed by any ship with which she came in contact. A Customs launch needs to be solidly built, in order that she may go alongside moving vessels.
– I have a photograph of her.
– Well, then, I propose to move that the further consideration of the discussion be postponed pending the production of the photograph.
– I am rather surprised at the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth, more especially as he claims to have some knowledge of yachts. Apparently he does not know much about this vessel. Accompanied by the honorable member for Wentworth, I made a visit of inspection to her, and did not then hear any of the objections which the honorable member has just raised.
– The honorable member was told at the time, that she was useless for Customs purposes.
– Quite the contrary so far as I was able to ascertain. Experienced officers of the Customs told me she would suit the purpose admirably. She is built of solid teak, will stand much wear and tear, and cost something like £7,000 to build in the Old Country. She is a handy yacht, and, while she is eminently suited, as has been said, for carrying distinguished visitors round Sydney harbor, she is also suitable for ordinary Customs work, provided that certain minor alterations are made. If she has a string piece carried round the outside line of her deck, to serve as a fender, she will be able to go alongside vessels coming up the harbor, and to put Customs officers on board them without risk of damage.
– Has not that alteration been made?
– I understand that it has not. I was under the impression that Mr. Reeks, the naval architect, had been requested to report as to what alterations are necessary to render the vessel suitable for use as a Customs launch, but whether he has done so or not I am unable to say. I have learned with surprise from Mr. Miller, of the Works Department, that, at present, it is proposed only to make some trivial alterations of a temporary character. This, I think, is foolish. All necessary alterations should be made and the yacht “put in first-class order. At present she is fitted with light’ chain plates for her shrouds to pass through, and there is a risk when she is ranging alongside a wharf that the piles might carry them away. A string piece would do away with this risk. Tapering from the bow it could gradually swell to the chain plates along the side, and taper away again to the stern, and if nicely rounded would add to the appearance of the vessel. She certainly requires re-decking, which should be done straight away, and she is too heavily sparred for harbor work. Her engines and rudder also require some attention. With those alterations, I am satisfied that the Commonwealth has made a very safe investment in the purchase of the yacht. She is admirably adapted for pleasure purposes, but no less admirably, when the necessary alterations are carried out, for ordinary Customs work as an auxiliary boat. In contrast to her, I would remind the honorable member for Wentworth that a boat was built locally for the Customs Department - I am not sure whether at Mort’s Dock or the Cockatoo Dock - of which -everything was made in the country, and, as far as possible, I believe her engines were made here, and yet that boat has never given satisfaction.
– Tt is nonsense to say that a good boat cannot be built in Sydney.
– I know that;’ but that boat has been an absolute failure.
– She is no good at all.
– Only the other day, I am informed, the top of her boiler flew out, and she is now out of commission undergoing repairs. There were too many fingers in the pie in her construction. Her cost was great and her upkeep has been exceptionally heavy. The Treasurer has done the Commonwealth a distinct service in buying the vessel at present under discussion, although she is more of a pleasure yacht than a boat for rough knock-about work, and it may be necessary later on to acquire another. A similar vessel might with advantage be obtained for Port Phillip, because I do not think the Customs Department in Victoria has any boat suitable for its work. T shall not cavil at expenditure of that kind, which I regard as absolutely necessary. This particular investment is one in which the Commonwealth has obtained in every way a very excellent bargain.
.- The Prime Minister, on 9th October last, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Dalley, said that this boat cost £1,700, whereas the amount on the Estimates is £1,916. How is the difference accounted for ?
– I think £50 is for different fittings required.
– And the rest is for alterations.
.- I hope I shall be able to gain the attention of the Minister, speaking, as I do, from the Ministerial corner. I have no dout. that the yacht purchased is a beautiful one, and I trust that it will be at the disposal of members of Parliament, in order that they may be able. to supervise the efficient working of the Customs Department on the waters of Port Jackson. I do not know that members have yet been invited to make use of it. I have not received an invitation yet; but I trust that I shall not be forgotten. I quite admit that occasionally it will be necessary that the yacht should do some work in connexion with the Customs Department, but I hope that will be at a time when it is not wanted for more important purposes. Has the Treasurer made any statement to the Committee as to the grounds upon which he secured the authority of Parliament for its purchase? Was it intended for the Customs Department,, or for more important public purposes? Is it charged to the Customs Department? Of course, we do not care where it is charged to, so long as it is at our disposal. Might I ask also whether it would nt have been infinitely better to construct a Customs launch in Australia instead of buying a launch which I believe - I am not sure - has the tainted record of having been built in some other part of the British Empire?
– The Government could not have got one anything like her for the money.
– That is a vile free-trade doctrine which I should think would have led the Treasurer to scout the transaction. It is the most damning admission I have heard in connexion with the Treasurer’s financial administration.- Was it a cheap bargain, or was it not? But is it not a deplorable thing that such a consideration should have prevented the employment of our own hard-working artisans - the men who contribute not only to the progress and strength, but so largely to the revenue of the country? Is this a worthy proceeding? Surely the Government that was capable of so many exploits in the regions of dear finance-
– They have profited by the experience of the past.
– Is it because the money is running out? This throws a lurid light upon the financial necessities of the Government. Now that all the money has been spent, some attention must be paid to the question of economy. But where will the Treasurer be when he has to regard questions of economy? No wonder his temper is breaking down under the financial strain involved by such mercenary and contemptible considerations ! Where is my friend, the honorable member for Gippsland, who always wears such a contemplative attitude, and seems so profoundly sagacious? What has he to say to this transaction ? Consider the magnificent opportunities that we should have had of building this vessel in the Commonwealth, and hoisting our Commonwealth ensign over a triumph of Australian industry. Will the honorable member allow these despicably cheap transactions to be perpetrated? Is this sort of thing to go on? On behalf of the gentlemen who usually sit in this part of the House, I wish to warn the Treasurer that we have put up with a good deal during the past two years or more. We have had nothing but promises, on which the Ministry have lived - and on which we have lived - and we are now approaching a very severe ordeal in another arena. Of course, the Treasurer runs away. * That is the only effective answer that he ever gives to a pointed attack, but I wish to tell him that our patience is becoming exhausted. I trust that it will not be necessary for us who sit in this part of the House to do anything to show that we mean what we say.
.- I am a little pained at this falling away from grace on the part of the Treasurer. If a vessel of this character cannot be built in New South Wales, there is a splendid place in my electorate where it could be built perfectly.
– Not at the price.
– Why did not the Treasurer have the boat built in Sydney?’ This is a serious matter. The Minister of Education for Victoria some time ago imported ‘ certain German pianos, and hisrecent retirement was really due to his action on that occasion.
– I trust that a similar result will follow this transaction.
– The “piano” in, this case is, I believe, all right, as it is of local manufacture, but I hope that if another boat has to be obtained tenders will be called locally. I am sure that what happened in this case must have been ar* oversight on the part of a man of such staunch protectionist principles as the Treasurer. I feel that my manufacturing friends have a good deal to complain of in this matter.
.-! announced mv intention of moving that the consideration of this item be postponed until the Treasurer could produce a photograph of the vessel in order that the Committee might know whether she is devised for Customs purposes bond fide, or whether she is to be a pleasure yacht such as the Treasurer has proposed. Some information which has since reached me has not made me altogether at quarrel with her purchase, because I understand that seagoing qualities are claimed for her. I know that she is only a harbor-going vessel’ of the best character, but if the Treasurer thinks she has sea-going qualities, and theTreasurer, who, I understand, proposes totake a long sea voyage, intends to make the voyage in her, then her purchase is- about the best investment that the Commonwealth has yet made. Consequently, I shall not move the amendment indicated.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 2 (Victoria), £3,000
– Is this amount of £3,000 for a laboratory in Victoria for the building, or is it all for apparatus?
– In this matter, there is a re-vote of £1,000 included in this amount, and also “ new service “ £2,000, towards the total estimated cost of £5,000. Owing to the Commerce Act and the extension of the provisions of the Customs Act in regard to compounding medicines, and so forth, the analytical work has been greatly increased both in the Victorian branch and the Central Office. Many questions are referred to this office from the other States, and as goods are necessarily detained until a decision is given, it is requisite that the Department should be in a position to give prompt decisions, and thus avoid the complaints received from merchants. Hitherto the analytical work has been conducted by the State analysts ; but now there is a Commonwealth analyst, and a new building is to be erected contiguous to the Customs House, to provide administrative and laboratory accommodation, suitable for the probable requirements of the next ten years.
– Is the building on Commonwealth land?
.- I notice that last year £1,000 was appropriated for this purpose, but that there was no expenditure. Can the Treasurer say that it is likely that the laboratory will be proceeded with in the near future?
– Yes, immediately; I think arrangements are already made.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 3 (Queensland), £100,” agreed to.
Subdivision 4 (Western Australia), £3,261
– In regard to the provision for the Customs House at Fremantle, I notice that there is no marginal note as to the total cost. Is the cost set down the total?
– The work is in progress, and the amount provided, £3,050, is to meet the payments under the contract.
– That will complete the cost?
– Yes, that is what is intended.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 5 (Tasmania), £100, agreed to.
Subdivision 6 (Trawler), £14,727.
.- In reference to the sum provided for a trawler, I should like to point out to the Treasurer that in South Australia recently an important deputation of fishermen pointed out that trawling might result in destroying the feeding ground of some of our fisheries. It was pointed out by the deputation that, after a time, trawlers in the Old Country had had to abandon the grounds owing to the diminished fish; and I mention the fact so that the attention of our experts may be drawn to it, because it is somewhat important, if the allegations of the fishermen are correct. Of course, it is in the power of a State to prevent the Federal Government from trawling, seeing that the Federal power is only beyond “ territorial limits” - though what that means has never yet been explained. At all events, the States have control of all fishing within the three-mile limit; and we may not expect the trawling to be kept outside that, though, I believe, in some parts of the old world, trawling is carried on forty or fifty miles out. It it not likely, however, that the Treasurer can carry on trawling operations without getting into a domain exclusively that of the States.
– If the States do not require any trawling work to be done inside the three-mile limit, of course the Commonwealth will not do any ; but I feel satisfied that the States will desire trawling to be carried on. At any rate, not long ago I saw a statement to the effect that the Premier of Victoria was awaiting anxiously for a trawler to be built, in order that it might assist in the development of the local fishing grounds.
– What was the original estimate of the cost of the trawler?
– It was £8,000 ; but the actual cost is £14,445. That cost, I may say, was considerably less than any of the tenders, some of which went as high as £20,000. I know that this is a most dangerous subject for me ; because the trawler represents a socialistic work. When we could not get what we conceived to be a reasonable price, I saw Mr. Lee, the Minister of Public Works in New South Wales, with the result that the State Government gave an estimate, and carried out the work. The vessel is to the design of Messrs. Reeks and Christie ; and the reason that the price is higher than that of vessels in the northern hemisphere is that we have had to provide for light and ventilation below. Further, we have had to provide two cabins for scientific men, who will be engaged in making observations and records. I notice that Sir Joseph Carruthers said that we could get the best of trawlers in the Old Country for £8,000 ; but, after he had an interview with the Prime Minister, I think he changed his opinion. I am reminded by the honorable member for Bourke that we further have to provide more accommodation for our men than is provided in the northern boats, being compelled, by our own laws, to afford a certain amount of air, light, space, and so forth.
– It is a great mistake to build this boat of iron, considering that she may have to go amongst reefs.
– I thought so myself, and suggested that it should be built of wood. However, I could not presume to go against the experts, whose reports were dead against a wooden boat.
– But this trawler is intended for deep-sea work.
– At the same time, the vessel may have to go to Thursday Island or off the Queensland or Western Australian coasts, where she will be amongst reefs.
– Is it true that this vessel is splendidly upholstered?
– I do not know that she is; I hope that the fittings are distinctly plain.
.- I am glad so much information has been afforded by the Treasurer ;. and I am prepared to believe that, in construction, this vessel is all that is desired.. The honorable member for Angas has, however, pointed out a complication that may arise, if it be found that the trawler does harm to well-known fishing grounds within State limits. Another aspect is represented by the question whether we are going to endeavour to make the trawler self-supporting by selling the fish caught; because, if so, the Commonwealth will at once come into competition with local fishermen. I have always understood that the object of the trawler is to discover where our fishermen may find new fishing grounds.
– That is the object-
– The maintenance of the vessel will, of course, be a permanent charge; and I desire to know whether the Government intend to secure fish for the market to defray working expenses?
– I do not think that that is intended at present.
– Surely the fish will not be thrown away.
– No. But we do not wish to come into competition with the fishermen.
– If the fish are not to be thrown away, some use must be found for them. The exploration of our fisheries by means of a trawler is, perhaps, justifiable ;. but it will cause trouble if the fishermen are interfered with in the way suggested’ by the honorable member for Angas, or by the selling of the fish which are caught. The Department must decide whether the trawler is to be self-supporting. If it is to be so, and the fish which it catches aresold, the fishermen will suffer from the competition, whereas if the fish are not sold, the maintenance of the vessel will bean annual charge upon the revenue. Off Tasmania there are magnificent fishing grounds, and from time to time effortshave been made to obtain assistance for their development. The trawler may do. exploratory work there and elsewhere on our coasts which will justify its cost; but at the present time we do not know what will’ have to be expended annually on its maintenance.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [5.14].- I wish to know from the Treasurer what the annual cost of the trawler will be.I understand that it is not intended to vend the fish which it catches, to help to defray the expenses of maintenance.
– I think I said that twelve months ago.
Colonel FOXTON.- I am glad to havethe statement reiterated, so that there may be no misunderstanding. But if the fish are not sold, they will have to be returned to the sea.
– They can be sent to theasylums and hospitals.
– They can be sold to the fishermen. There was a fear that the trawler would interfere with those engaged in the fishing industry, but it will not do so.
– The Minister is going to make the fishermen the middlemen.
– If they charge very high prices that ought to be stopped.
Colonel FOXTON.- At present, the middlemen are chiefly Italians and Greeks. It is they who make all the money, by charging high” prices, the poor, hardworking fishermen getting very little. I am glad to know that the fisherman is to have an opportunity to better his position ; but how does the Treasurer propose to select those who are to be permitted to buy from the trawler, and thus become middlemen?
– That is a matter for the Minister of Trade and Customs.
Colonel FOXTON. - It will be interesting to learn what process of selection is to be followed.
– The Government should tell us how the fish are to be disposed of.
Colonel FOXTON.- They are to be sold to the fishermen.
– I said that they might be sold to the fishermen.
Colonel FOXTON.- If they are not to be sold to the fishermen, to whom are they to be sold? It would be ridiculous to return them to the sea. Had that been intended, Parliament would have hesitated about authorizing the construction of the trawler. Perhaps the’ Treasurer will inform me what the annual expense of the vessel will be.
– I shall give the information presently, and deal with some other points as well.
Colonel FOXTON. - I should also like to know when the trawler will commence work, and where it will operate. How long will it remain in any locality, and what parts of the Australian coast are to be explored? I expect information from the Treasurer in reply to these questions.
.- I understand that the business of the trawler is primarily to discover and explore our fishing grounds.
– And to- determine, as far as possible, the habits of our fish.
– The vessel will move from place to place, and, no doubt, if it 3s convenient, will sell the fish which it catches, the proceeds of the sales going towards its upkeep. I do not think that this will seriously compete with the fishermen.
– Why should not the fish be given away?
– I do not see why they should not be sold, and the proceeds used for defraying the upkeep of the vessel.
– They would be but a drop in the bucket.
– They would not go far. The upkeep of the trawler will be an annual charge on the revenue.
– Did not the honorable member know that when he voted for it?
– Certainly; but I wish to know what the annual cost of it will be. No doubt, if it discovers valuable fishing grounds, the undertaking will be profitable. I understand that the steamer is to cost about £1.6,600, and I wish to know if that amount will cover the expenses of construction, equipment, and fitting for sea. The original estimate was £8,000, but I understand that a much better boat than was at first proposed has been launched, and that it has been built iii the ‘Commonwealth. If a superior boat has been built locally at a reasonably extra charge, I think we should be satisfied; but I should like to know what the total expenditure will be.
.- If the Government gets as good return for all its expenditure as it has got for the money paid for this trawler, it will do very well. Parliament decided that the vessel should be constructed to explore the fisheries of Australia. She was built in the Government shipbuilding yards by men residing in my own electorate, and is a most creditable piece of engineering- work. We have obtained in her a splendid bargain. The honorable member for Brisbane appears to be greatly concerned as to the cost of her upkeep. I would remind him that we decided that the Commonwealth should undertake the task of investigating the fishing grounds in Australian waters, and that it was hoped that, as the result of the exploratory work done by this vessel, we should make discoveries that would lead to the establishment in Australia of large fishcanning industries. Such an investigation must necessarily involve a considerable expenditure. As an amateur fisherman, I do not think that we shall find along our coasts the profitable fishing grounds that some expect to discover, although the representatives of Tasmania tell us that big hauls of edible fish may be secured along their coasts. The trawler will not return to port from day to day. She is a deep sea vessel, capable of withstanding any storm that is likely to occur on the Australian coast, and will be so equipped as to be able to remain at sea for several consecutive weeks. Her upkeep is sure to be an expensive item. In the first place, her master and crew must necessarily be picked men. and their wages will not be those paid to ordinary fishermen. Then, again, scientists are to be employed in connexion with her, and, having regard to all these facts, the Treasurer must not imagine that she is not going to cost us more than would a small fishing boat. If we are to have anything like a scientific investigation of out waters with a view to the development of the fishing industry, the Treasurer must be prepared to provide a considerable sum foi her maintenance and equipment. Even if our experiments in this direction fail, we shall suffer no loss so far as the construction of the trawler is concerned. It must not be forgotten that the Commonwealth Government proposes at an early date to take over the control of lighthouses, and that this vessel will be eminently suitable for the periodical visits of inspection. As to the question of manning, I would suggest to the Treasurer that the Department should take care to obtain through the Public Service Commissioner the best possible crew. ‘ The success of the experiment will depend largely upon the way in which the trawler is manned, and I think that honorable members will find that there is very little to cavil at in regard to the item.
– I have listened with much interest to the speeches that have been made c-i this question. An excellent suggestion lias been thrown out by the honorable member for Dalley as to the work which this? vessel might do in connexion with the inspection of the lighthouses which we propose before long to take over from the States. She is eminently suitable for such work, and without her we should have either to charter a steamer, or to build one specially to enable a periodical inspection to be made.
– Then she is also to be, ‘jo to speak, a lighthouse ferry.
– Yes; why should she not be so used?
– I do not say that she should not.
– The honorable member for Brisbane desired some information as to the cost of manning the trawler. He will find ait page 45 of the Estimates every item set out in detail. Provision is made there for the expenditure of oyer £3, 000 °n the vessel. There is also an expenditure of £2,710 in respect of fishing gear and other items, and a proposed vote of £1,090 in respect of the wages of the crew ; an item of £600 for the payment of a Director of Fisheries, and one of- £130 in respect of the salary of an assistant naturalist for part of the year. About a fortnight ago, I had a very interesting conversation with Dr. Ramsay Smith, of Adelaide, regarding the fishing industry of Scotland. I learned that for eight years he practically had charge of the industry on behalf of the British Government, and ho has promised to send me several works that he has written upon the habits of fish in those waters.
– Had he charge of the fishing industry there?
– I cannot for the moment recall the exact details’ of his appointment, but he was either an officer or the head of a Commission appointed by the British Government to deal with the scientific branch of the industry. He is sending me certain information which I am sure will prove of great value. Dr. Ramsay Smith referred specially to the importance of studying the habits of fish, and the foods for which they have a liking, with a view to discovering when certain fish are likely to be found in certain waters. He also gave me a great deal of information of much practical interest. I would recommend those who are interested in this subject to avail themselves of the first opportunity they have of discussing it with Dr. Ramsay Smith, who, I should imagine, is more familiar with its scientific features than is any one else in Australia.
– What about Mr. Dannevig ?
– I am referring more particularly to the information possessed by Dr. Ramsay Smith with respect to the habits of fish in Scottish waters. Mr. Dannevig was appointed Inspector of Fisheries to the Government of New South
Wales on the recommendation of Dr. Nansen, the explorer. I met Dr. Nansen several times in London, and he was good enough to send us plans for the trawler that we have built. He informed me that in Mr. Dannevig we have one of the best experts to be found in the British Empire. The honorable member for Brisbane inquired where the trawler would commence operations. « I cannot answer that question definitely, but should imagine that she will commence her investigations in the colder waters along the coast of Tasmania,or the southern coast of Australia.
– Seeing that the trawler has been constructed, is it not time that the Department elaborated a plan of operations ?
– I should, think so; although I do not suppose that the vessel will be in commission until three or four months hence. Probably honorable members are not familiar with the habits of some of the edible fish to be found in Australian waters, but the subject is certainly an interesting one. For instance, what is known as the school trumpeter found in Tasmanian waters, usually keeps fairly close to the coast, but we do not know that there are not further out to sea feeding grounds where it may be found at certain periods in large numbers. There is also what is known as the solitary trumpeter which grows to a large size, and is usually found some miles off the coast.
– Is it intended to follow the solitarytrumpeters with the trawler?
– They are called solitary trumpeters because they are not a school fish. We do not yet know the habits of the pilchard on the New South Wales coast, and I presume that the habits of the herring are much the same. All we know is that the pilchard comes in from somewhere to the south-east, strikes the coast about the Promontory, and then runs right along the coast some distance out till it gets to the south of Queensland, when it goes away north-east. This vessel ought to find out where those fish come from, and where they go to at certain periods. They pass along the coast for three or four months in the year. I believe they are just about finished now. Then there is the large mackerel - not the small mackerel that we get along the New South Wales coast, but the large mackerel - which goes along the coast of Tasmania, coming from the south or south-east, just as the pilchard does. It runs alongthe east coast of Tasmania until it gets to the north, and then it goes away to the northeast. That fish comes in myriads, like the pilchard, and its habits should be discovered.
Colonel Foxton. - There are other fish further up the eastern coast.
– Probably there are many others that I do not know of.
– If the trawler can find out the whereabouts of the whiptail it will do some good.
– There is plenty of work for the scientific trawler to do. I cannot say definitely what will be done because the matter is not in my Department. Otherwise I should have had an investigation made already. But I should think that the colder waters would be the first to be dealt with, seeing that there the better fish as a rule are to be found. Very likely that will be the wish of the Minister who has charge of this work. In the matter of scientific discovery, and in communicating with the lighthouses, we shall have plenty for the trawler to do, and she will answer the purpose well.
– Is it proposed to do any canning ?
– Some Scotch fishermen are out here now to get information about Australian fish for the purpose of forming a large company to carry on canning work. I dare say they will be very glad to receive any particulars that will help them in the matter of preserving fish. I do not think that we shall be disappointed in the development of the fishing industry. The first idea in connexion with this trawler was that we should ascertain whether we could not take some practical step which would result, not only in finding fish for the Australian people, but in getting up a great canning industry. I think that in that direction the trawler will do very useful work. I received a letter - I think last year - from a company in Ireland which had been pickling mackerel for export to some part of America, asking me if I could tell them whether the mackerel thatthey had been accustomed to deal with were to be found in Australian waters. The Tasmanian mackerel is the same fish. I do not mean the smaller mackerel that is to be found further north. The large mackerel is very rich, and a fine eatingfish. I do not know whether it is what is called the horse mackerel. I sent the company all the information that I could furnish, and J think I received a second letter asking for more; but I could give them no more than my personal experience. The large mackerel are so numerouson the east coast of Tasmania in June, July, and August, that we boys used to throw a line in from the platform on sheerlegs, where the whales used to be tried out, and jag up the line, which never came up without hooking two or three of those large fish.
– That is a fisherman’s yarn. What bait did you use?
– We used no bait at all.
– What is it proposed to do with the fish caught by the trawler?
– The object is not to set up a trade against the fishermen, but what fish are caught will not be wasted. It will be only a day or two before they are brought in. A boat engaged on scientific work will not come in every day, or even every second day, but fish will be caught fifty and 100 miles away from the coast.
– What is the good of that? The boat might as well go to the Old Country.
– It will do a great deal of good if, as the result of its investigations, canning work can be undertaken. I agree that the fish caught by the trawler should not be lost. I am not prepared at this stage to state in detail in what way they will be dealt with, so far as regards helping the’ public to get cheaper fish. Both here and in Sydney fish is a great deal too dear, and the fishermen ought to supply both Sydney and Melbourne with much cheaper fish. That is a development which it is hoped will take place.
– The trawler will not be able to break that Combine down.
-Probably not, but the trawler might be able to keep it in check. As the matter is not in my Department, I cannot say definitely what will be done with the fish that will be brought in; but certainly the Government will not agree to anything in the nature of wilful waste.
– How much is it going to cost us per annum ?
– About £3,000.
– That is an impossibility.
– On page 45 of the Estimates-in-Chief details are given.
– Provision will have to be made for the running cost, such as fuel, and wear and tear of machinery.
Sr WILLIAM LYNE.- All that is provided for in the Estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs, the total for the fisheries division being £3,574.
– What does the expenditure of £16,600 on the trawler cover?
– The total estimated cost, including supervision, is £16,650, made up as follows : - Contract, £14,445; nets, lines, warps, &c, £700; cutlery, &c, £45 ; trawling windlass, winch, fairleads, £730; supervision, £730. The work of construction is being carried out by the State Department ot Public Works, and will, it is anticipated, be completed in the early part of January, 1909. The pioneering work in connexion with deep sea fisheries is an important duty devolving upon the Commonwealth. The waters beyond the three-mile limit must be explored, so that we may determine what fish may be of value, and in what manner they may be caught.
– It does not seem to cover scientific apparatus.
– The amount seems to cover everything that is at present anticipated. I have advanced money out of the Treasurer’s advance to prevent the work being held in abeyance, and I think, if my memory serves me right, that some scientific apparatus has been provided.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 2a (Quarantine Stations), £200, agreed to.
Division 3 (Defence), Subdivision 1 (New South Wales), £18,202, and Subdivision 2 (Victoria), £17,495, agreed to.
Subdivision 3 (Queensland), £22,423.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [5.53]. - I desire some information in regard to the site for artillery range and manoeuvre ground at Beerburrum. There is an item of £200 towards the cost. I am glad to see that, because it appears to fix the purchase of the site. I take it that even that small amount would not be asked for if it had not been determined that this site should be adopted. My constituents will be very glad to know that the site is to be purchased, and will also be pleased to learn that it is likely to be made available at an early date.
– - Beerburrum as a site for artillery range and manoeuvring ground must be regarded and judged from the point of view of a large training ground for all time.
– It is one of the worst possible places that could be selected !
– That is the point which has been raised. Beerburrum was one of the sites suggested as readily obtainable from the Queensland Government, and on reasonable terms; but, after investigation, some doubt was created as to its suitability. I should not be justified in recommending Beerburrum as the site on my present official information. I think that the Queensland Government can furnish us with an easily accessible site in another place on reasonable terms.
Colonel Foxton. - Can the Minister indicate where that other site is?
– I am not quite sure whether I should do so, but the House will be consulted with regard to the matter. The £200 will not be expended unless I am prepared to recommend Beerburrum as the most suitable place obtainable; and, perhaps, the better way would be to halve the provision made for Beerburrum or some similar site.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [5.57].- The information is not so satisfactory to me as I had hoped it would be, because, with all due deference to the Minister, I think he will have great difficulty in finding 1 more suitable site than Beerburrum.
– If that be so, we shall accept Beerburram
Colonel FOXTON. - The point is that something definite ought to be done. This matter Kas been postponed from year to year; indeed, it was discussed even prior ito Federation. As I explained on a previous occasion, the Field Artillery in Queensland has, for the last two or three years, been unable to fire a solitary shell either in instructional practice or in what is called service practice.
– The point is whether this site is suitable for all time, and I think I can easily satisfy the honorable member on that point.
Colonel FOXTON.- If the site is not suitable, the Minister, with the assistance of his responsible officers, ought to make up his mind to take a decisive step. I do not ask the Minister to disclose any other place he may have in his mind, because such a disclosure might be inadvisable; but if Beerburrum is not to be selected, let a decision be come to at once, in the interests of the Defence Forces in Queensland. The efficiency of a very important arm of our defence - and, indeed, the whole of the State forces to a certain extent - is undermined by the fact that there is no suitable artillery range, though I do not say there is not a suitable manoeuvring ground, because such ground can be obtained’. I have’ been over Beerburrum several times, once in company with General Finn; and, as Minister of Lands in Queensland, I naturally took a deep interest in the question. In my opinion, there is no place more suitable, where a sufficient area of Crown lands can be obtained. And even there it will be necessary to purchase a certain amount of privatelyowned land, though the proportion is inconsiderable, and the land of no great value. There is, I may say, an admirable water supply, and the. Glasshouse mountains make a splendid background behind the targets. There is, I believe, only one small farm of no great value which it would be necessary to purchase.
– I shall be glad to show the honorable member, or any honorable member, the reports on the question. It would suit the Department well to have Beerburrum, but the reports are somewhat disquieting.
Colonel FOXTON.- What are the objections ?
– Finality could be reached easily with the Stale Government in the case of Beerburrum.
Colonel FOXTON.- That is the point, and I am satisfied that the place is a good one for the purpose. The State Government have reserved the land for seven or eight years, and we cannot expect them to continue to reserve it, in view of the present rate of land settlement.
– Is Beerburrum near Brisbane ?
Colonel FOXTON. - It is thirty-five or forty miles by rail from Brisbane. The Field Artillery had their instructional service practice last Easter on private ground at Tambourine Mountains, which are some sixteen or seventeen miles from the nearest railway station.
– The Tambourine Mountains are not far from Brisbane.
Colonel FOXTON. - But there is a day lost in going and’ a day lost in returning.
– The marching does the men good.
Colonel FOXTON. - That is all very well, but those days ought not to be wasted.
– It shows the men a bit of real service.
Colonel FOXTON. - That sort of training they can get without breaking into the ordinary camp training, or the time allotted for shell practice. Of course, under the new system, the Field Artillery will probably be out in camp at two periods of the year ; at any rate, I desire to impress on the Minister the necessity of coming to some finality. As a State Minister, and as an officer commanding this particular branch of the militia, I can say that, so far as my knowledge goes, there is no doubt that this site is most suitable, and could be obtained at a reasonable price, not only for the purposes of an artillery range, but as a general manoeuvring and camping ground.
– The matter will be looked into without delay.
.- On last year’s Estimate, the sum of £12,000 was provided towards the cost of the Brisbane rifle range, and yet we hear it said that there is no money to carry out such work. We all know that this rifle range ought to have been provided years ago. The money was appropriated early last year, and yet, so far as this rifle range is concerned, we are in the same position now that we were then.
Colonel Foxton. - There has been an advance.
– Nothing has been spent, and the reply always given by the authorities is that there is no money for the work. There is neglect of duty on the part of somebody, but whether it be the Minister or the Military Engineer we provided for last vear, I cannot say; and I should like the Minister to explain.
– The difficulty in regard to the Brisbane rifle range is one of long standing. I presume that every honorable member remembers the discussions we have had regarding the various sites, and, speaking from memory, it was about twelve months ago that the present site was determined on. When I was in Brisbane about four months ago, arrangements had been completed for obtaining this site. The matter is brought to my mind clearly, because it was represented to me that the option would cease if we did not close at once ; and I wired to the Department of Home Affairs, from which instructions were sent down to settle the matter. I know that the Commonwealth is in possession of the site, and that the work isgoing on.
– Up to the 1st of July not sixpence had been spent.
– July may have been the period of which I am speaking. At any rate, I think that the people of Brisbane will find themselves in a very good position in regard to this rifle range.
– Then why is the work not carried out?
– The work will be expedited, and there will be no further trouble.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [6.9].- I congratulate the Minister on bringing this matter pf the Brisbane rifle range to what I understand is finality.
– The honorable member hasmore confidence in the Government in thismatter than I have.
Colonel FOXTON. - I happen to know from private sources that some portion of this property has been transferred to the Commonwealth ; and I am quite sure that the vendors would not execute the transfer unless they had been paid.
– Payments were probably made in July.
Colonel FOXTON.- The transfer has, I believe, taken place since July. I congratulate the Minister upon having at last,, after many delays, provided the capital of Queensland with an excellent rifle range.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 4 (South Australia), £1,621, and subdivision 5 (Western Australia),. £7,685, agreed to.
Subdivision 6 (Tasmania), £8,259.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Defence to item 3. It (providesa re-vote of £56 for drill-halls, for which the appropriation last year wast £252, and the expenditure £7. I wish toknow what has become of the balance of last year’s appropriation. Has the Department discovered that it asked for toomuch, and that £56 will do what is needed? Proper drill-halls are required in one or two important centres in Tasmania, and I. have already brought under the Minister’s notice, in writing, the requirements of Sheffield in this connexion. There is a very active body of men there.
– Apparently, the explanation is that £56 will cover the necessary expenditure.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 4 (Post and Telegraph), subdivision 1 (New South Wales), £36,498.
– I wish to draw attention to an extraordinary state of affairs, which is capable of being emphasized by reference to page 284 of the Estimates. I could draw attention to it, and support my arguments with instances, on any other division ; but. on the page which I have mentioned there are no fewer than eighteen items in connexion with which sums ranging from £300 to £7,000 were voted last year, while money was expended in regard to only four.
– It has been pointed out that, because of delays of various kinds which have been explained, large sums were not expended by the Department of Home Affairs last year, and we have not asked for re-votes of the full amounts this year, because we wish to prevent the repetition of what then occurred.
– The position is extraordinary. The re-votes for New South Wales under subdivision No. 1, with which we are now dealing, total £19,606, while we are asked to vote in all £36,498. But the total expenditure to which we are committed, is about £70,000 more, or about £106,000 altogether. Notwithstanding the delays of last year,we are again putting off, until some future time, the expenditure of £70,000.
– We cannot expend more money in the time.
– On page 284, there are twenty-one items, in connexion with all but three of which re-votes are asked for. Surely, since the money was originally voted, there has been time to prepare plans and specifications for the proposed works.
– Not in every case.
– The EstimatesinChief were passed nine months, and the Additional Estimates at least seven months, before the close of the last financial year, so that there was surely time to begin, if not to finish, more than four out of the eighteen works to which I have alluded. At any rate, there has been time to have proper plans and estimates and specifications prepared, and tenders should have been called for.
– The honorable member must bear in mind that only eight months of the present financial year remain, of which two will be consumed in calling for tenders and letting contracts. Not very much work can be done in six months.
– Minor works could be carried out in that time.
– Under the Ministerial arrangement, there will never be more than six months in any year for the carrying out of new works.
– That is so. I find that where a work is to cost only £800 or £900, we are asked to make provision for its partial construction this vear, with a view, I suppose, to its completion next year. Apparently, Ministers have been paring down the expenditure in every direction, and their provision for new works and buildings is, to a large extent, a sham.
– There is a number of large commitments which will not come before Parliament again next year.
– £1,500 is proposed to be re-voted towards the cost of alterations in the General Post Office, Sydney. There has been great complaint about the lack of room there for the satisfactory transaction of business, and last year £7,000 was appropriated to meet the case. But nothing was expended, and, notwithstanding that the Minister himself has declared the alterations to be urgently needed, only £1,500 is asked for this year.
– Because we are spending a large sum on a parcels post office elsewhere, and are also leasing premises. The alterations to the main building will, therefore, not cost anything like the original estimate.
– The total cost is £18,000. The cost of the parcels post office is estimated at £26,500, but only £1,000 is to be voted towards the work this year. For a post office at Katoomba, £700 was voted last year, but not a penny of the amount was spent, and this year only £300 is to be re-voted. Why a small work of that kind cannot be completed within the year I do not know ; the plans and specifications should be ready. For a post office at Lithgow, estimated to cost £2,000, £1,000 was appropriated last year, but nothing spent, and only £500 is to be re-voted this year.
– That has been explained.
– These cases do not seem to be capable of reasonable explanation. It is not surprising that the administration of the Department is considered unsatisfactory. For a post office at Murwillumbah, estimated to cost £1,500, that amount was voted last year but nothing expended, and we are now asked to re-vote only £500. Apparently, even small buildings are to be erected on the instalment principle, so much being done each year. The Tingha post office was estimated to cost £800, and £400 was voted for it last year; but nothing was spent, and the re-vote this year is only
– Will the Department be able to spend that amount in the year?
– It might do so with an effort.
– It will make a big try. These matters are under the control of the Minister of Home Affairs.
– I hope that the Minister will succeed in getting that large amount spent. I am not blaming the Postmaster-General. The fault lies, apparently, with the Treasurer, or another Minister, but the Ministry, at all events, must be held responsible. We find that in respect of a building which is to cost £800, it is proposed to expend this year only £100, although £400 was voted for the same work last year. In the next item we have provision made for an expenditure of £400 on a post-office at Wahroonga, the total cost of which is to be £1,750, and in respect of which £1,400 was appropriated last year. Then we have an item of £600 towards the cost of a telephone exchange at Ashfield, which will involve an expenditure of £1,500, and in respect of which £600 was voted last year.
– Item 21 relates to the construction of post-offices at an estimated cost of £6,000, which is to be spread over four years. Only £1,500 is to be appropriated this year.
– That is so; but I have been dealing only with items in respect of which appropriations were made last year. There is no excuse for all the delay that is taking place in connexion with these works. The administration of our Departments must have reached an extraordinary stage, when having had twelve months in which to prepare plans and specifications for a building estimated to cost £800, it is found impossible to expend more than £100 in respect of that work during the current financial year. I have alluded to these items, not because they relate to New South Wales, but because they are grouped more comprehensively in this estimate than in those relating to the other States. The Estimates in regard to new works in other States, however, disclose the same unsatisfactory position. The examples I have given show that there is gross mismanagement somewhere.
– It is to avoid mismanagement that we are. adopting this practice.
– Surely, the honorable member does not mean to say that this practice is to be adopted - that only £100 is to be expended during the year in respect of a building estimated’ to cost £8os, and the plans and specifications for which the Department has had’ nine months to prepare.
– No; but under thissystem we shall learn what can be done, and shall be able to say that we have expended all that has been appropriated.
– It seemsto me that it is simply the result of an effort to cut down the Estimates. We are asked to commit ourselves to a state of affairs far worse than has been disclosed in connexion with any other Estimates. In connexion with only four items out of a total of eighteen, for which appropriations have already been made, has any expenditure been incurred. No satisfactory explanation is possible.
– We have; admitted that.
– The Minister does not recognise that he is admitting, not only that the system has been unsatisfactory, but that it is to be still more unsatisfactory. Reference has beenmade to the desirableness of creating a Commonwealth Department of Public Works ; but honorable members do not appear to recognise what it would cost tohave Commonwealth officers all over Australia to supervise Commonwealth works. If our works are managed in this unsatisfactory way at the present time, what will be the position when we have a Works Department of our own?
– I agree that the cost of such a Department would be enormous, but if we had had such a Department we should have avoided two-thirds of the delay that has taken place in carrying out Commonwealth works.
– I should like the honorable member to show what justification he has for that statement. The position, at all events, is unsatisfactory, and we seem to be drifting from bad to worse.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to7.45 p.m.
– In the first item of this subdivision provision is made for an appropriation of £3,862 in respect of “ sundry offices.” Last year, the amount appropriated was £6,049,and the amount actually expended was only £3,168. This year we are to have a re-vote of £1,862, and a new vote of £2,000, making a total appropriation of £3,862, or a sum slightly in excess of the actual expenditure under this heading last year. I fail to understand how the PostmasterGeneral is going to keep in repair all the post-offices in New South Wales and to make the necessary additions that are required in many instances with such an appropriation. It seems to me that we shall not be able to secure accommodation for the telephone exchanges that are urgently needed in many country districts, and that there is no likelihood of necessary improvements being made. If, as is proposed, we are to become the custodians of these transferred buildings, we must certainly keep them in repair, and a vote of £3,862 is wholly inadequate to maintain the many post-offices in New South Wales as they ought to be kept. The fact that the appropriation proposed to be made exceeds the actual expenditure of last year does not prove anything further than that we are to have an accumulation of unfinished works that should have been dealt with before. It does not by any means prove that the expenditure under this heading last year was adequate. Representatives of country districts know that it was not, and itwould seem that we cannot hope for any improvement during the current financial year. Unless we are to have a larger vote we cannot expect that attention to country postal buildings that should be given to them. The number of items in respect of which amounts are voted and re-voted is becoming remarkably large. In connexion with a certain work in my own electorate there has been an item on the Estimates for three successive years, and we have not yet had the plans prepared. It is impossible to ascertain with whom the responsibility rests. Inconnexion with the proposed election of a post office at Coff’s Harbor, difficulty was experienced in obtaining a site, and now that a site has been secured, I learn that the man who prepared the plans for the proposed building apparently forgot that it was designed to be used as a post and telegraph office, and made no provision for a battery room. The Government cannot say that the delay in carrying out new works is due to the failure of the Parliament to place at the disposal of the Department the funds necessary to carry them out. It is for the Government first of all to propose what expenditure shall be incurred, and then to indicate how the money is to be found. In connexion with a long list of new works in New South Wales, for which provision was made last year, we find that an expenditure on new works has been incurred in only four cases. I hope that an end will be put to these delays. As to the item relating to the erection of telephone exchanges, I hope that the exchanges named therein are not the only ones that are to be erected this year. The proposed vote in respect of them is certainly £162 in excess of the appropriation made last year, but it is not sufficient to cover all that is required. I am in the unfortunate position of having within my electorate a partiallyconstructed telephone exchange which will be completed goodness knows when. In an important’ centre in my electorate telephone poles were erected last April, but the telephone exchange has not yet been opened. In several other cases subscriptions have actually been collected from subscribers, but the exchanges have not yet been opened. What reason can there be for delay in opening offices or exchanges the construction of which has been completed? I trust that I shall not be asked in this connexion to exercise for another two years that patience which I have exhibited since my return to this Parliament. If I am, I am afraid that the breaking strain will be reached. I hope that I shall not be accused of parochialism in pointing to the singular fact that while the total appropriation in respect of post and telegraph buildings in New South Wales under subdivision No. i is £36,498, it is proposed to appropriate £119,584 in respect of similar works in Victoria. I do not say that the provision made for these new works in Victoria is in excess of what it ought to be; I merely congratulate the people of this State on having been able to secure for themselves such consideration. Ample provision ought certainly to be made for new postal works in a big State like New South Wales, which is not so developed as is Victoria, and where we have magnificent distances. There are other items to which I shall refer later on. T have only to say that in my opinion sufficient provision has not been made for the maintenance of postal buildings in New South Wales, and that the procedure is not what it ought to be to enable new works to be carried out within a reasonable time.
– I cannot understand why the Department has ‘cut the vote for the Katoomba post office down to £300. Last year £700 was voted towards the total cost of £1,100, and none of it was spent. The land has been purchased for some time. There are seven or eight months of this financial year to go; the job is not a big- one; the plans have been prepared, and if the Department is really going on with the work, I cannot understand why the whole building cannot be completed in that time. It is not as if they were starting afresh on the matter., for it has been in hand ever since the honorable member for Parramatta originated it. The plans have not only been prepared, but have been amended and sent to the Public Works Department in Sydney, and why such a paltry sum as £300 is put down I am utterly at a loss to understand. If any of the money is going to be spent the whole of it will be wanted. It is of no use to make two bites at a cherry. This amount is no good. If the Department of Home Affairs intends to let the contract, the whole amount should be provided. If it is only a stall-off it would be very much tetter to leave it off the Estimates altogether, so that we might know what to expect. I suppose that this year, like last year, the Department will not spend a’ penny of the money. I have asked again and again for a statement as to the position in regard to the Lithgow post office. Over two years ago the present Minister of Trade and Customs, who was then PostmasterGeneral, visited the place. There was some dispute about the sites. The honor able member reported in favour of one, and the Cabinet confirmed his choice. I understood then that the matter was being gone on with. Now I cannot find out whether the site has been bought. Does this amount of £500 towards the total estimated cost of £2,000 include the cost of the site, or does that appear somewhere else? If it does include the cost of the site, then the Department proposes to put up a building that will be altogether insufficient for the requirements of the town. Has the land been purchased?
– Will the honorable member look at item 27 - “ Purchase of sites, £6,646 “ ?
– I suppose the purchase of the Lithgow site was included in that item, of which, bv the way, only £2,976 was spent last year. Things are in a dreadful state in the present post office at Lithgow. The premises are quite unsuitable. The building is too small. The public office is altogether inadequate for the work being done there, and it is only with the greatest difficulty that the people are able to transact their business. The ex-Postmaster-General recognised that. The reports of the officers bear out my statements; and I urge upon the Department the necessity of going on with the work as soon as possible. Apparently, when the Government want to get hold ot a launch to run round the harbor with in Fleet time they are able to obtain one on the spur of the moment, but I have seen nobody so good as the present Government at delaying and humbugging matters which are of immense importance to other people, but which apparently they want to put off to a more convenient season. I certainly cannot understand” the vote for the Katoomba post office. If any money at all is wanted, the whole of it is wanted.
– It is anticipated that £300 is as much as we shall be able to spend this year.
– If the Department intend to let a contract for the building, all the money ought to be voted.
– We voted large sums last year, contracts were let, only a portion of the work was done, and the money has all to be re-voted. We are not adopting that plan this year.
– I suppose the contract will be let for the full amount of £1,100. If the contractor does £500 or £600 worth of work and only £300 has been voted, what will be done?
– We will take the balance out of the Treasurer’s advance. But we do not anticipate that more will be wanted.
– The first draw that the contractor will want will be at least £300, so that the Department seem to be paring it very fine.
– I urge upon the. Postmaster-General the necessity nf utilizing the money to be voted for postal and telephonic works.
– I have nothing to do with the spending of this money.
– The Minister has every opportunity of hurrying on the Home Affairs Department.
– No opportunity whatever.
– The Minister appears to be quite satisfied to say, “It is not my fault,” and do nothing. If I were the head of a Government Department I should do my best to stir up the cause of the delay. A large number of the excuses given by the Post and Telegraph Department for the non-fulfilment of promised public works are shown by these Estimates to have been not altogether veracious. I know instances in my own electorate - and other honorable members have numerous examples of the same thing - where works are said not to be proceeded with because of lack of funds, but these Estimates show that the Department has not utilized the funds voted. Last year £4,000 was voted for item 23 - Erection of telephone exchanges at various suburbs of Sydney - and only £838 was spent. Those works are urgently necessary, and I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs to see that they are immediately put in hand, so that the money will be spent this year. We seem to go through the farce in this Parliament of constantly voting supplies for works, the money for which is not expended before the close of the year. The fault of this undoubtedly lies with the Ministries that have conducted Commonwealth affairs for the past seven or eight years. If they will not bring down the estimates of the cost of public works, how can the officials of the Home Affairs Department proceed to put the works in hand? They cannot take steps in that direction until the Estimates are passed, and the Government take good care that the Estimates are usually the last thing submitted to Parliament before it rises. Under our system of doing business the
Estimates should be submitted the momentParliament meets, and driven right through before we do anything else. Only by such methods will the officials of the Departments be able to carry out works which Parliament has authorized. Until the Government of the day cease to conduct public business upon lines which tend to their own immediate comfort in this House, and transact it for the public good, we are bound to have the distorted and strained finance of which the country has been complaining.
– Earlier in the debates on these Estimates- 1 referred to the striking discrepancy between the amount appropriated last year and the amount expended. This division is a striking example. It applies to the Department of the Postmaster-General, in connexion with which there have been during the year many urgent appeals for expenditure. Perhaps the PostmasterGeneral will inform the Committee how it comes’ about that, in the face of all the appeals for works, only £10,000 of the £40,000 voted last year was expended.
– That is a matter for the Department of Home Affairs.
– But the expenditure relates to the Department of thePostmasterGeneral.
– I have nothing at all to do withthe buildings.
– If the PostmasterGeneral has nothing to do with theconstruction, his Department has to find the money.
– Unfortunately, I have to find the money.
– At any rate, the Treasurer finds the money at the request of the Postmaster-General, and theDepartment of the latter has to find the plans.
– Well, I should like some finality. I had occasion some time ago to communicate with theDepartment in reference to the carrying out of works of this kind. First of all, I was referred to the PostmasterGeneral’sDepartment, where I was told that the matter in question was one for the Department of Home Affairs. At the Department of Home Affairs, the chances are that I was told that it was a matter for the Department of the Postmaster General, or that the State Department was responsible for the delay ; and finally, no doubt, the information was that, although everything was ready, the Treasurer had not provided the money. That is the sort of battledore and shuttlecock administration that goes on; and I desire to know who is responsible. Despite urgent appeals, only £10,000 out of the £40,000 voted was spent ; and I desire to know whether we may expect a similar policy to be followed in the future. I notice there are appropriations for sundry offices, and, under this heading last year, out of the £6;000 voted, the sum of £2,800 was left unexpended. Much dissatisfaction has been caused in this connexion ; and I may say that in some of the larger offices in the country, the adoption of the condenser system of telephony has resulted in very primitive arrangements for carrying on the work. At Condobolin the telephone system is worked alongside the telegraph system, with much attendant inconvenience ; and the same remark applies to the office at Barmedman, where the public have to carry on their telephone conversations in the room devoted to the general work of the office, their conversations being heard at the public counter. As we all know, a great essential in the telephone business is privacy ; and the only way to meet the public requirements is to have proper cabinets constructed. When, however, requests are made for cabinets, the reply is that there is no money to carry out the work, and the conditions under which it is carried out reflect no credit on the Department. Only during the present week I presented to the Postmaster-General a communication from the municipal council of Cowra, calling attention to the congested state of the business there, and the necessity for some reform, in the interests not only of the officers of the Department, but of the general public. I am pleased to know that the Postmaster-General is prepared to grant the requests made in this connexion, and will ask the House to grant a sum of money for the purpose. I should like to know, however, whether the work will be carried out this year. There is another item to which I should like to direct attention. There are many farming centres, generally railway towns, which are growing in importance ; and these are not like mining townships, which may disappear as mining “gives out,” but are substantial and progressive. In many such places it is necessary to convert offices from the non-official to the official status, and the first step would be, of course, for the Department to acquire suitable sites, the selection of which, if left till later, may prove infinitely more expensive. Amongst such places are Manildra, Koorawatha, Stockinbingal, where, in the near future, there must be provided properly equipped official offices. It is not to be wondered at that, under the conditions which the Estimates disclose, there should be seething dissatisfaction in the Department itself, and amongst the people more particularly affected. There is a general absence of proper administration.
.- The discussion of the Estimates affords honorable members an opportunity to keep a watchful eye on the public expenditure. The honorable member for Calare has spoken of what the Estimates disclose; but, in my opinion, the Estimates are so framed as not to disclose;, but rather to hide facts which ought to be made public; and the items immediately under discussion afford a capital illustration. We find that, of the sum of £40,332 voted in 1907, only £10,933 was expended, and, as a matter of ordinary business, one would expect the unexpended balance to appear as a re-vote this year. As a matter of fact, however, instead of a re-vote of the balance, we are asked to vote a smaller sum. There is a considerable shortage. Either the discussion of the Estimates for 1907 was a sham, or the present discussion is one. The only other inference to be drawn is that the Minister last year misled the Committee, I do not say intentionally, or was misled by those who framed the Estimates. If £25,000 was required in connexion with twenty-one items last year, and the money could not be spent, then, because it was impossible to get out the plans in time, we should not be asked to vote only £10,000 for the same items this year. The total expenditure in connexion with these twenty-one items, including re-votes, is £19,420, which is less by £1,000 than the unspent balance of the appropriations of last year.
– And no work has been done this year.
– The Government are not expending money on new works this year, although the Estimates are for new works and additions.
– These Estimates are faked.
– The honorable member, in his classical, Collins-street style, says that the Estimates are faked, and a shrewd man would, no doubt, take that view of them. At any rate, they disclose discrepancies which I do not understand. The mere fact that Parliament votes money does not prove the wisdom of the proposed expenditure. Does the Minister inquire of the experts who ask for the money whether the expenditure is necessary, and will give a profitable return? If, say, £200,000 is applied for in connexion with the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, are such questions asked ? If the directing officer of a large private business concern proposed a big expenditure, he would be called upon to show that it was necessary, and likely to be profitable. Parliament, however seems satisfied to vote money without asking questions. When expenditure is needed, we should certainly make provision for it. But the Minister who proposes it should be armed with information by his expert advisers, showing that it is warranted. These Estimates have not been framed so that he who runs may read ; a man is more likely to run away, from them than to read them. I ask the Minister to explain why the re-votes on one particular page are less than the balances left over from the appropriations of last year. Is it that there has been no fresh expenditure this year, or that the amount voted last year was sufficient for this year also; or are we merely voting in the dark, trusting to chance for justification ?
– Some of the remarks addressed to the Chamber since the dinner adjournment are unreasonable, honorable members overlooking the need for balancing the public accounts. Are those who have indulged in this severe criticism aware that the Treasurer hopes, by means of his manipulation of the Estimates, to balance up his accounts so that at the end of the year he will not have a penny to his credit ?
– This is conjuring, not balancing.
– I call it doing the balancing trick. On almost every page of the Estimates there is evidence of manipulation, for the purpose of making the national expenditure balance the national income. I do not characterize this manipulation as dishonest. The Treasurer, however, has been compelled to pare down his proposals for expenditure in order that the total outgoing shall not exceed the one-fourth of the revenue which the Constitution permits the Commonwealth to expend. I take strong exception to the manner in which public works are now carried out. It is farcical to vote hundreds of thousands of pounds each year, knowing that the moneywill not be expended. In connexion with one Department this year the re-votes total £90,000. But while, throughout the estimates of the Department of Home Affairs there is a continual stream of re-votes, there are no re-votes in connexion with the appropriations over which the Departments concerned have direct control. For instance, there are no re-votes in connexion with the Department of the Postmaster- General.
– We spent all but £8,000 of the appropriation of last year. No revotes are asked for, because the appropriation was a general one, amounts not being allotted to specific works. Considering the magnitude of the sum, the actual was very near the estimated expenditure:
– I am complaining only of the difference between the way in which money is expended by the Department of Home Affairs and by other Departments. The more we control our own public works expenditure, and the less we rely upon State assistance, the better it will be for us. Five months of the year have nearly passed and when the Estimates are through, we shall have to seek the assistance of State officers to oversee much of the proposed expenditure. They will take up the work when they have finished the task set them by their own Governments, and if the business of their offices is congested, our applications must stand over.
– The States will have a good opportunity to further reproach the Commonwealth with incapacity.
– We can alter this system if we choose. According to the Minister who is representing the Minister of Home Affairs, we pay about 10 per cent. for the oversight and control of public works by State officials. If private clerks of works or architects were offered the task at such a commission, we should have fifty applicants for it.
– Perhaps that is more likely. Notwithstanding that we pay a high commission, the State works take precedence of ours. Therefore the present system is wasteful as regards expense, and disastrous as regards delay. The situation must be faced sooner or later, because, year by year, it is getting worse instead of better. And so it comes about that out of a total of £213,000 appropriated last year in’ respect of new works connected with the Post and Telegraph Department, £90,000 has not been expended.
– And the bigger the volume of Commonwealth work going to the Public Works Departments of the States year by year, the less will be done.
– That is evident. These re-votes are increasing year after year. The matter is one which we can, and ought to remedy at the earliest possible moment. We have an expensive public works staff, and all that we need is to engage more men. We have the men at the top of the service, and are paying them good salaries, but they have hardly any one under them. We need more officers to undertake the supervision of these works for the Commonwealth. If we had more our works would be carried out with greater expedition, and for far less than they are at present. There are some reforms that we can bring about, notwithstanding the present limitations and disabilities of the Department. For instance, I do not see why the works represented by these re-votes should not be put in hand within a month of the passing of the Estimates. The Departments might at least anticipate parliamentary approval of re-votes. It seems to me, however, that the Departments do practically nothing until the money has been voted ; that it is not until that stage is reached that they set to work to get out the necessary plans. Everything should be in readiness. If Ministers do not give their Departments their head to a greater extent than they have been in the habit of doing, one-half of our appropriations each year will be absolutely sham votes, inasmuch as they will not be expended within the year. With a large number of unemployed, and a large expenditure sanctioned by Parliament, we are making a great show ; but in its essence it is a sham. I blame Ministers themselves for much of what has happened in this connexion. A change might be brought about,” if a little more fearlessness were displayed in the administration of the Departments. The honorable member for Dalley referred to the fact that we have no estimate of the value that we derive from the money that we spend. I quite agree that we have a right to know what this money is wanted for, and what is likely to be the result of its expenditure. We are told that an additional sum of £2,000,000 needs to be expended to bring the Post and Telegraph Department up to date. Why was it left to & Royal Commission to obtain that statement from one of our highly placed and responsible public officers ? We have been told that, year after year, there has been a difficulty in obtaining money, for even small works required in connexion with the Department. Why is it that such a statement has not been made direct to this House, through the responsible Minister? If a further expenditure of £2,000,000 is required, Parliament should set itself steadily to face the position, but before we agree to such an expenditure, we should have a very definite idea as to the , direction that it is to take. The officer charged with the chief responsibility for the present condition of affairs, says that he requires £2,000,000 to extricate himself from the position into which he has been allowed, or perhaps compelled, ‘to drift, and to meet that expenditure we find provision made on these Estimates for an outlay of a little over £300,000.
– He says that that expenditure must extend over the next four years. He does not say that it is necessary this year.
– That means an additional expenditure of £500,000 a year.
– Every honorable member who has referred to the matter in the Committee, has assumed that the officer in question suggested that such an expenditure was necessary during the present financial year, whereas his estimate covers a four years’ expenditure.
– That is over and above the ordinary expenditure of the Department.
– No honorable member may live to see carried out the works for which provision is made on these Estimates.
– Then the honorable member says, in effect, that these Estimates are a sham.
– The position is the same every year.
– I agree with the honorable member, but a change can be effected. Until it is, we must blame Ministers who are from time to time in charge of the Department.
– The Postal Commission is going to make an alteration.
– No; it was appointed, not to alter anything, but to investigate, and to report to this Parliament. We have to make what alterations are necessary, and, if the honorable member will help us to force the Minister to bring about a. change, we will make the attempt.
– I shall come up to the penitent form to-night.
– When we get the Minister close to the penitent form, the honorable member will come no further, and so this condition of affairs has come about. I do not wish to indulge in any statements to the effect that, “I told you so,” but six years ago, I predicted, in a speech in this House, practically all that has happened regarding the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. I saw then that nothing was being done to meet difficulties that were arising.
– Has the honorable member suggested any remedy?
– No fantastic remedy is needed. All that we require is capability at the head of the Department, and sufficient money to keep it up to date. When the Post and Telegraph Department was first taken over by the Commonwealth, we had the statement of experts that £500,000 was necessary to place it on a sound footing. I was ridiculed by many honorable members when I said then that we ought to face the position boldly, and that Ministers should ask for an additional vote of £500,000, so that the Department might have a chance. As a matter of fact, it has never had a chance since its transfer. Ithas been going from bad to worse, until to-day we are told that an expenditure of £2,000,000 is necessary to place it on a proper basis. We do not know what the result in the end will be. Certain it is that every year will find the position very much worse, and I hold that the Minister in charge of the Department must be held responsible. I am not referring particularly to the present Postmaster-General. The chief offender is the Prime Minister himself ; he is chiefly responsible for the present state of the Defence Department, as well as of the Post and Telegraph Department. The honorable gentleman has allowed no Minister to remain in either of those Departments long enough to makehimself conversant with what needs to be done. For six years we have had a pro. cession of Ministers, through what are, perhaps, the two most important administrative offices in the Commonwealth. No Minister has remained long enough in either of them to enable him to gather up the threads of the difficulties which there present themselves, and the result is that they have simply been shelved.. Meantime, the policy of the Post and Telegraph Department, when any demand in the House has become clamant, has been to make a proposal for reducing by a shilling or two the prices charged for certain services rendered. Who does not remember the statement, made from time to time by the exPostmasterGeneral, that he would not be satisfied until the people were able to secure a telephone service for1s. per week? The officers of the Department are now telling us that the telephone service is too cheap ; that it is not commercially profitable. Is it not the height of absurdity - is it not almost a national disaster - that Ministers should play with the interests of the country, as they have been doing, in connexion with the Department ? Where are we toobtain any improvement ? I see no prospect of any. This Department can earn money if it is permitted to do so. It can balance its own ledger very readily, if the Ministerin charge of it is permitted to put it on a commercial basis. I am not arguing that that should be done. The Department, I know, has a developmental as well as a money making function.
– A very strong one.
– I admit that to the full, but there must be reason in all things. Since the transfer of the Department to the Commonwealth, it has lost on its transactions nearly £2,500,000. The total debit shown in the balance-sheet, sincethe Department was transferred, is about £350,000, but if we add to that interest year by year, since the date of transfer, we find that the debit is nearer £2,500,000- than £350,000, as stated by the PostmasterGeneral. The Department, whichhas lost £2,500,000, now requires an additional expenditure of £2,000,000 to put it right. Yet Ministers come to the House, year by year, with nothing but proposals to make this service and that service cheaper. We have evidence of absolute want of business control of the Department, and it is only left to those who are not familiar with all the minutia of its control to blame the Minister in charge of it, who is solely responsible. Are we to expect re- votes to the extent of £100,000 on the next Estimates? I am addressing myself now to the honorary Minister, who represents the Department of Home Affairs in this Chamber. I have never believed in having spending Departments out of this Chamber. It may be convenient sometimes to have them elsewhere, but it should be only temporarily. The spending Departments ought to be here where the expenditure is initiated. Can the- honorary Minister state whether any better steps have been taken in connexion with this year’s expenditure than in connexion with last year’s? Nearly five months of the year have gone, whereas only three months of last year had gone when the Works Estimates were voted; yet, with nine months to spend the money in, re-votes to the extent of £90,000 are asked for. How much are we likely to have to re-vote next year, seeing that only about seven months of the present financial year remain in which to spend the whole of this money ? It appears that things will oe worse next year instead of better, and I urge the honoraryMinister to see if he cannot quicken the pace of the Department so as to expend the money and find work for those who are badly wanting it just now in various parts of Australia, and so, in carrying out the intentions of Parliament, do a little good for. the great unemployed problem outside. This money is in small amounts which are distributed well over Australia. I know of no money that could be spent to more advantage in finding labour for those who want it; but, instead’ of being spent, the votes appear year after year. It may be an excellent way to keep quiet those members who have these amounts on the Estimates, but it is not honest that the money should be voted and re-voted year after year with people crying out for these works, while we are able to tell them nothing except that the money is on the Estimates. I hope we shall see a better state of things during this financial year.
.- This is not the first time that I have complained of the slowness with which works are done, but I feel that the system is more to blame than are the Departments. Is there anything to prevent us doing as is done in the States, for instance? If we vote a sum of money for a work this year, why cannot it be credited to that particular work, instead of being re-voted? There is nothing to prevent that being done, and then the work could go on without waiting for a re-vote. The money would have to be accounted for, and would have to be spent on the particular work for which it was voted. That appears to be the only solution of the difficulty.
– If it were not for the revotes we should have no Works Estimates at all fins year, so that the present system is only a sham.
– Then the sooner we recognise that the better. It is unfair to complain of the Departments, which can do nothing for months after we meet. . After we have passed these Estimates they have to be passed by the Senate, and not till then will the Departments know exactly what Parliament has approved of, and be in a position to draw up specifications, call for tenders, and get ready for the works. By the time they have them in hand the financial year is drawing to a close, and the whole of a vote often lapses. The votes ought not to lapse. Under the. old system it was necessary to re-vote the money, because we had to hand back the surplus to the States. With regard to South Australia, it is not fair to say that it is the fault of the State officials that the work is not done. They have done their best to do it whenever they have obtained authority, but the trouble is to get the authority. All these works have been on the Estimates for some time, yet there is no authority for the Departments to go on with them, and it is not fair to make it appear that the States Departments stand in the way.
– So long as there is a division of responsibility there will be delay.
– That does not follow. I have been complaining of the revote system for ‘several years. I have followed out cases where; money had been voted for a work, and afterwards had to be re-voted for several successive years. In every instance I have proved that it is not the State officials that are to blame, nor do I want to put the blame on the Home Affairs Department. They have not the time in which to do the work, because the system is wrong. “If a post-office is to be built somewhere, and the work cannot be done before the end of this financial year, why cannot the work) be credited with the amount voted, instead of our having to revote trie money again next year? The Department might be ready to go on with the work at the .very beginning of the next financial vear.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the money should be put into a trust fund?
– It would be just as legal to put the money to a trust account for works approved of By Parliament as it is to put money into a trust fund for old-age pensions or defence.
– The decision of the High Court goes that far.
– The Judges indicated that this Parliament had power to do it.
– Why should we tie this money up when we are not spending it?
– Under the system I suggest the money would not be tied up, and there would be no lapsed votes. Very likely the Department would have half the work clone before we could get the re-vote through. I should like to put the honorable member for Parramatta in Colonel Owen’s place. He would find it most difficult to get the work done. That officer lias no authority to go on with the work or to call for tenders until it has been approved of by both Houses.
– In connexion with re-votes ?
– Those all lapsed under our system at the end of the last financial year.
– That is a pure technicality.
– The system I suggest is the real solution of our difficulty. So long as we continue on present lines, there will be a growth of the re- votes each year. That is shown by past experience. Unless we load the Home Affairs Department with an extra number of officers, for whom there is work for only about six months of the year, and keep the Department doublebanked so as to rush the work through in six months, we shall always have the same difficulty under the present arrangement. By the method that I suggest, the Department could go straight on with the work instead of having to wait until the House has discussed a no-confidence motion, or finished a long Budget debate, only to reach the Works Estimates when half the year has gone.
– The suggestion the honorable member has just made has been made about twenty times to the Postal Commission since it has been sitting.
– Does the honorable member know anything in the Constitution to prevent its being adopted?
– Hitherto, under the constitutional obligation, we had to pay over the balances to the States at the end of the financial year.
– The High Court indicated that we had the right to keep back money which Parliament had appropriated.-
– There is no doubt that we can do it, but we have not done it.
– I urge my suggestion on the Committee as the way out of a difficulty that we seem to be getting further into every year.
– I have great sympathy with the suggestion of the honorable member for Grey, because I have never been able to understand why this. Parliament has felt itself tied hand and foot to old methods of accounts in connexion with the various Departments. The honorable member, however, overlooked the fact that hitherto we have had to adjust the balances with the States at the end of the financial year, whereas we are at liberty now to modify that practice in a direction indicated by the High Court in its judgment on a recent measure - one which I ventured on the floor of the House to approve of. So long as we appropriated the various amounts, we could have got over the difficulty which stood in our way, but we did not do so. The whole question lay in the amounts being properly appropriated. There is. great strength in the contention that the amounts included in the re- votes have already been properly appropriated for specific purposes, and that we should have been justified in retaining them instead of handing them over to the States if we had so desired. I am also in entire sympathy with those honorable members who have revealed to-night the extraordinary position that under the present Estimates there are to be voted, for works previously approved of, smaller sums than were voted for the same items last year. For myself, I have no complaint to make on behalf of my own electorate, the PostmasterGeneral having seen the full force of the representations made to him in favour of increased accommodation and facilities. This is a Department which enters into the daily life of every man, woman, and child, whatever position they may occupy ; and there ought to be, at any rate, greater continuity of method and policy. The present Postmaster-General is following one who energetically endeavoured to fulfil the important duties of his position : but we have had so many PostmastersGeneral, with changes of policy, that the Department is not now in anything like proper working order. The facilities should be increased and perfected j and that can only be brought about by the Government grappling the question in a business-like manner, and letting the country and the House know whether it is the postal branch, the telegraph branch, or the telephone branch which is a drain on the resources. I have previously pleaded for a segregation of the accounts so that we might be enabled to obtain specific information on this point; but at the present time, notwithstanding promises that have been made, we are entirely in the dark. I do not look for any practical results from the Royal Commission, the time of which seems to be taken up in criticising certain officers.
– The honorable member cannot have read much of the proceedings !
– The general question of the public convenience does not seem to be attacked bv the Royal Commission in any business spirit.
– No doubt, if the honorable member were on the Commission, he would do wonders !
– The honorary Minister, who acts as chairman of the Commission, is, I am sure, doing his best under the circumstances ; but if he desires any practical results, the Commission will have .to cease devoting their attention to the pettifogging affairs of individual officers.
– If the honorable member had read the evidence he would riot make such a statement !
– I have read the newspaper reports of the evidence, and the estimate I have formed is, I believe; shared1 by the general public. The honorable member who preceded me has justification for his request that some- method should be adopted whereby the permanent officers of the Department,, whether of Home Affairs or the PostmasterGeneral, shall not be under thenecessity of waiting for specific votes before undertaking necessary expenditure..The Department of the PostmasterGeneral is, of all others, one of which the head’ should be allowed a free hand in judiciousand thoughtful expenditure; and the suggestion I have referred to is well worthy of the consideration of both the PostmasterGeneral and the Treasurer. I haveprotested against the way in which the Estimates are submitted to the House. We follow the old method of the States, and” find ourselves flooded with a mass of figures, but without any real informationas to the exact position. I hope - thoughI feel it is like beating the air to. hope - that the Ministers will give practical consideration to the suggestions that are madeto them.
– The honorable member’s; constituency seems to be attended to very well !
– The demands of my constituents are so manifestly just, that 9 nr Minister would at once comply with them : and we are only surprised at our ownmoderation.
– In these re- votes, and the construction of new work generally, we havethe key to a great deal of dissatisfaction in the administration of this great Department which so closely affects every individual member of the community. If a new post office is required, for instance, the local bodies move, reports are made by inspectors, the project is considered by the heads of the Departments, and, all the routine having been gone through, theTreasurer is called upon to find the money. Even then, the question has to come before Parliament; and it is not decided until -members have tired themselves outtalking on the financial statement. Eventhen, when the Works Estimates have been passed, it takes about three months to secure the site, and then plans have tobe adopted so that in some cases the end of the year has arrived, and the people- have to wait for the passing of the next Estimates before the post-office is provided. I do not know how many years it is since a post-office was promised and provided for in part of my constituency ; but I see this year again ^400 has to be re-voted for the purpose. It is evident that the whole system is wrong ; and we all must bear the responsibility. For myself I do not see why the Works Estimates should not be proceeded with before the Financial Statement, as would be done in any ordinary business concern. I suppose that we have copied the States in beginning our financial year on the 1st July, but it seems to me that it would be more convenient in many respects to commence, it on the 1st January. We have a number of very able and intelligent men in high positions in the Department of Home Affairs, and, other Departments, and there ought to be no lack of suggestions to enable us to get over our difficulties. We here are supposed to be the cream of the intelligence of the Parliaments of die country ; and we ought to be able to show the States an example and evolve some better plan ; and incidently I may point out that we have had Royal Commissions and Select Committees to investigate much less important questions. Although there are amongst honorable members a number of able financiers, we have not been able to evolve a practical scheme of getting our works carried out in reasonable time. In New South Wales the Commonwealth works are carried out by the States officials, who very naturally are expected to see to the work of the State first. The Commonwealth work is a sort of extra job, and the system is byno means working satisfactorily. It would appear as though we should have to establish a Works Department of our own, because it is too much to expect from human nature that the States officers shall attend to the Commonwealth business first. There is not such a friendly feeling on the part of the Mother State to the Commonwealth as we would desire, although, of course, I do not presume to say that that has any influence on the officers’ who have to carry out our public works. In any case, our works are delayed, and1, as a matter of fact, appear to be forgotten. It is highly desirable that we should have officers of our own, whom we could hold responsible to the Commonwealth, and to the Commonwealth only. It seems to me that the present method is unbusinesslike, and should be altered. We might, perhaps, deal with the Works Estimates before discussing the financial statement as a whole. It might be well to decide, in the first instance, what works are absolutely necessary, and then provide money for them. In this way a considerable amount of time might be gained. In any case, there must be delay ; but the delays now are disgraceful, and it is not surprising that the public is disgusted. The promise is made that a certain work will be carried out when the Estimates are passed, but after that nothing is done. In one town in my electorate the local people have spent money in providing wire and poles for a telephone connexion ; but the Department has not performed its part of the contract. These people would not have spent their money had they known that so much delay would occur. There are many minor works, for which only general provision need be made by Parliament. I hope that the Commission of inquiry will make some suggestions in this matter. A Department like that of the PostmasterGeneral should be given a considerable sum out of which to provide for minor works. At present it suffers considerably from lack of funds, not only in the carrying out of urgent works, but even in regard to the manning of offices. I have already complained that, in one instance, an office is being run almost by boys, the letters being delivered by contract until recently, when the contractor went on strike, because he was not receiving enough pay. It should not be necessary to wait until the financial proposals of the Government have been discussed at length to get authority for necessary expenditure. My suggestion is that the Works Estimates should be brought forward at the beginning of the financial year, questions of finance being dealt with later. At present, officers are often asked to carry out works in anticipation of parliamentary approval, and there is always the risk that Parliament may not sanction these works.
.- The criticism of these Estimates forces one to two conclusions, that the spending Departments should hustle more to get works constructed, and that the Department of the Postmaster-General is in need of more funds. I have a plea to make on behalf of the country districts. While the wants of the people in the cities are fairly attended to, those who are struggling in the country, in positions of isolation, are dealt with in a very niggard fashion. Only £100 is put down for the construction of the Tingha Post Office. It took the Department of Home Affairs eighteen months to buy a site for this post-office. I do not advocate that the Department of the Postmaster-General should be run on commercial lines, but, in a matter of this kind, more businesslike methods might be introduced with advantage. Mr. Wertheim did not wait long after the passing of the Tariff to purchase a site for, and lay the foundation of, his large piano factory. But the Department of Home Affairs was eighteen months in buying a site for a country post-office, on which it is proposed to expend this year only £100. The people in the country districts need telephonic and telegraphic communication more than do those in the city, who live close to each other. At Tingha the business of the Department is quadrupled, but the work has to be performed in a little crib, which has now been moved from the old site to the new. Then, the important commercial centres of Tamworth and Gunnedah require to be linked together by telephone. That could be done at small expense, and yet no amount has been put on the Estimates for it. There is a line from Brisbane to Wallangarra, but, as it is not to be continued on to Sydney, the business of the northern districts is congested. This extreme niggardliness towards the people in the country must arouse feeling. In one instance, after the local people had agreed to place on the ground the poles necessary for a telephone extension, the Department found that it had no money to carry out the work, although the length of the line would be only four miles. Not only does the Department say that it has no money for these works, but it also complains that, if carried out, they would not produce sufficient revenue. Those in the country have never asked for id. telephone messages. Sooner than be without telephone communication, they would pay a rate of 3d. The 1d. rate may be sufficient in the towns, where thousands of calls are made each day, but the country people would not mind paying more if they could get the convenience. It is obvious that the construction branch is undermanned, because in thriving districts work cannot be done, by reason of the inadequacy of the staff. I trust that when the next Estimates come before us the ground on which many of the present complaints are based will have disappeared, and I hope that the Department of Home Affairs and that of the Postmaster-General will hustle more in carrying out works for the benefit of the country.
.- There seems to be some confusion in the minds of honorable members about these re-votes. It has been said that if a work has been started too late in the year to enable an appropriation to be spent, the vote lapses, and the work, having come to an end, cannot be resumed until there is a revote. Surely all Commonwealth public works do not cease at 5 o’clock on the 30th June.
– That was suggested by the honorable member for Grey. If, for instance, a painter is engaged in painting a public office on 30th June, he does not cease operations in order to wait for a re-vote that may not be made until the following December.
– What I meant to convey was that moneys in hand under constitutional obligations had to be handed over by the 30th June.
– A work once commenced, is carried on until completed.
– And we have to obtain fresh votes in order to carry on.
– In order to comply with what is thought to be the requirements of the Constitution, we make re-votes in respect of appropriations made but not wholly expended within the financial year. As a “matter of fact, there is something in the nature of humbug associated with these re-votes. Many of the amounts in respect of which re-votes are made, are actually expended before we are called upon to deal with them. If, for instance, an appropriation were made in the middle of the financial year in respect of a work that would take twelve months to complete, that work, once started, would be carried on until finished, and the re-vote made in respect of it would be merely a matter of form.
– If a vote is not expended! by the end -of the financial year in which it is made, it must lapse.
– But the work in respect of which the appropriation is madegoes on.
– In the subdivision with which we are dealing, thereis a list of eighteen works for which appropriations were made last year, but in respect of only four of which any expenditure has taken place.
– I sympathize with the complaint that in many cases only a very small proportion of the appropriations made is actually expended, and think that some method ought to be adopted by which an earlier start might be made with new works every year. I do not agree, however, with those who say that we should noi avail ourselves of the Works Departments of the States, and that we should have in all the States a huge Commonwealth Public Works staff to supervise our undertakings. It frequently happens that States officers, while supervising State works in country towns, can at the same time attend to Commonwealth works there, and in that way much overlapping is avoided. Speaking generally, no complaint of delay in carrying out Commonwealth works can be made- against the officers of the Public Works Department of South Australia. In many cases, they have appealed to honorable members to hasten the giving of the necessary authority to go on with works for which they have everything in readiness.
– No such request is made in New South Wales. The Public Works Department of that State has quite enough local work to attend to.
– I think that the Commonwealth would be perfectly justified in having a Works staff of its own in New South Wales and Victoria, where much larger undertakings are carried out than in the other States. . I have never been able to ascertain the basis on which the Department determines what is the proper amount to expend in respect of postal buildings in different towns. In some cases, offices costing £4,000 are erected in small towns, whilst buildings costing only a few hundred pounds are provided in large centres of population. By way of example, I would point *o the fact that a town in my electorate, having a population of 20,000, has been able to secure an expenditure of only £300 or £400 on additions to the post-office there, whereas it is proposed to expend £3,800 on new postal buildings in a centre of population in the electorate of Kooyong.
– In the last-named case, we are not taking over the old post-office buildings.
– That explanation throws no light on the system adopted by the Department in determining what shall be expended on postal buildings in different cities or towns.
– The honorable member is referring to the Hawthorn post-office. There is at present connected with the municipal buildings there a post-office which is valued at so many thousands of pounds, lt is required for other purposes, and, instead of taking it over from the State at the valuation put upon it, we are building a new office.
– That may be an explanation of one particular proposal, but there is no parity between the sums proposed to be voted for postal buildings in different parts of the Commonwealth.
– Has the honorable member ever been in Hawthorn?
– I have, and I know it is not a small town. I do not grudge it the proposed expenditure, although I have invariably found that representatives of South Australia experience the utmost difficulty in securing a vote for a small post-office, or even a minor alteration to a postal building in that State. Since Federation, we have had much less than our fair proportion of expenditure on a population basis. If the Department is short of funds, I do not object to this treatment; but I certainly do object to large sums being expended on postal buildings in small centres in some of the States, when a comparatively small expenditure that is urgently necessary in connexion with postal buildings in South Australia is withheld.
– The honorable member will find that the representatives of South Australia have got nearer the margin of what they have asked for than have the representatives of any other State.
– That simply shows the modesty of the South Australians. In this division, provision is made for an expenditure of about £15,000 on telephone exchanges in New South Wales. I believe lhat that expenditure is justifiable, but when I appealed to the Postmaster-General to provide a telephone exchange at Norwood, I was met with the statement by the postal authorities that the most that could be done this year was to make provision for the purchase of a site. If the Department finds it difficult to provide funds towards the purchase of a site in one case, how is it possible for it to fmd the money necessary for the erection of exchanges in the suburbs of Sydney ? For seven or eight years, I have been urging the claims of one town in South Australia to an exchange; but have not been able to secure its proper recognition. The postal authorities have no right to cut down proposed works in South Australia, whilst at the same time they deal liberally with the other States.
– - The proposed expenditure on postal buildings this year in South. Australia is ,£12,000, as against £36,000 in New South Wales.
– New South Wales and South Australia are this vear the principal sufferers in the direction to which I have been referring.
– The proposed expenditure in the case of Tasmania is only £2,600.
– Since Federation, both Tasmania and Western Australia have had expended on postal buildings far more than is their proper proportion on a population basis.
– We have obtained practically nothing.
– I hope that the Minister will explain the system under which the Department determines that some of the suburbs of Sydney are in more urgent need of telephone exchanges than are some of the suburbs of Adelaide, or that a suburb in Melbourne requires a post office costing some thousands of pounds, wh’Ist a suburb of Adelaide, having practically the same population, needs a post office costing only a few hundreds of pounds.
– The volume of business should be the control! inn factor.
– That does not agree with the statement made to me last year, when .[ questioned the proposed expenditure of some £3.000 on a postal building at Northam, Western Australia. That is a comparatively small place with not a very large population, and nothing like the business compared with the other towns that I am referring to. I suppose it was the dignity of the place and various other considerations that constituted its claim, and probably it is the dignity of Hawthorn and Canterbury which piles up their totals also. After a great deal of trouble a wretched addition has been made to the post-office at Unley. I would ask the Postmaster-General to read the report in the Adelaide Advertiser and
Register of remarks made at the last meeting of the Unley Municipal Council, in order to see what the local people think about the Commonwealth expenditure on post-office requirements in that district. The work is now practically finished, and is found to provide wretched accommodation. This is the only post-office in a city with 20,000 inhabitants. The expenditure on it has not been more than £1,000 right through, and the Commonwealth’s share of that is only about £200 or £300, with precious little to show for it now. Will the Minister ascertain whether the comments made in that report are not justified? I should dearly like to obtain some idea of the method by which these sums are allocated for the various post-offices.
– I should like the Minister to make a statement about the important matters that have been brought before him, and especially as to the amount which was not expended last year, and the great number of works in this particular subdivision for which money was voted last year, but which were never touched.
– Most of them were on the Supplementary Estimates.
– I do not think comparisons between State and State, such as the honorable member for Boothby made, are generally desirable; but as he compared the expenditure in South Australia with that of New South Wales-
– I was not taking one year only.
– Taking last year and this year together the expenditure in South Australia is £21,700, and in New South’ Wales £47,900.
– I said that New South Wales was in the same box as we were.
– The honorable member wanted to know why this expenditure should go on in the Sydney suburban post-offices, without an equivalent in South Australia, but on those figures the honorable member should admit that South Australia has got far more than its proportion. Last year £9,200 was spent in South Australia, and in New South Wales, with a much larger amount voted, only £10,900 was spent, in a State of about four times the population. That does not show any preference to New South Wales.
– I certainly never said there was.
– The honorable member wanted to know why certain post-offices should be erected in the neighbourhood of Sydney.
– I was referring to exchanges.
– I readily accept the honorable member’s statement. In any case I do not care for these comparisons, because the amounts vary in different years, and I do not think that any State is picked out for preference or the reverse. But I do find fault with the extraordinarycondition of affairs, which, if it continues, will throw the Department into an absolutely unworkable condition, that out of eighteen items in the subdivision now before the Chair, only four had a penny spent on them.
– Most of them were in the Supplementary Estimates.
– Some were, but although the expenditure did not take place last year, it is only provided for to a limited extent this year. For buildings which would cost £800, £900, or £1,100, only £300 or £400 is provided this year, although we voted more than that last year.
– That is high finance, and the honorable member does not understand it.
– I do not know that it is high finance, but it is finance of a kind. It is the effort to not spend over that last £1 that the Treasurer is taking of the estimated revenue for the. current’ year. He is frightened of tumbling over the edge. He does not leave himself with a penny at the end of the year, and to accomplish the wonderful feat of making the revenue and expenditure balance so exactly he is skimming these post-offices and other works which the Governmentprofess to give, but of which they are only giving a little at a time. Only the foundations can be put in with some of the amounts that are proposed for the whole of the building. The Government have reduced the; £7,000 voted last year, of which they did not spend a penny, to £1,500, for the alterations to the General Post Office, Sydney, the total estimated cost of which, according to a footnote, is £1.8,000. That is the progress that we are making in this Department.
– That is a most unfair representation. The £18,000 was for the purchase of land. We have leased land instead, so that the money for the purchase will not be wanted, and the work will go on without any delay.
– The Minister states 111 a footnote to his own Estimates that the estimated cost of the work is £18,000. That is for a work for which only £1,500 is voted this year.
– That is for a building. The other was for land. The intention was to purchase land outright, but the Railways Commissioners have come to an arrangement with us by which we lease the land at £600 a year. The fact that we have not purchased land will not necessitate alterations to anything like the same extent.
– It necessitates them to the extent of £18,000.
– Nothing of the kind. The honorable member is connecting two items that have no relation to one another.
– In the item to which I am referring, there is no reference to the purchase of land. The Minister declared in his speeches at Sydney that this was an absolutely necessary expenditure.
– So it is, and it is being conducted in a way that will save at least £25,000, give all the accommodation wanted, and be much better for the postoffice and the service.
– The £25,000 referred to by the Minister appears in regard to another item - “ Parcels “ Post Office, Sydney, towards cost, £1,000,” to which a footnote is attached stating that the total estimated cost is £26,500. That is where the so-called saving is effected. It was intended to alter the Sydney General Post Office to provide for trie Parcels Post Office, but that idea was abandoned and land was leased instead.
– We were going to purchase land at a cost of £25,000.
– Look at the rapidity with which this work is to be carried out now. Only £1,000 is provided for this year, although there is no land to purchase. It is merely a question of a building.
– The plans have to be prepared and the whole of the. work arranged. Does the honorable member suppose that plans of that kind can be prepared in a week or two?
– I see that that is a new item, and the Minister’s statement may be a fair answer in that case.
– It will not only be a great improvement, but will save nearly £30,000, and give more accommodation than would otherwise have been given.
– That does not answer the other fact that £7,000 was voted for necessary alterations in the Sydney General Post Office and not spent, although £18,000 has to be expended.
– No, it has not.
– Then why do Ministers bring down false Estimates? I he Minister accuses himself or one of his colleagues of doing so. The Estimates are incorrect on the Minister’s own showing. I take still more exception to the smaller items. Where a post-office is to cost £800, we voted £700 last year; not a penny was spent, and the Government propose to vote only £300 this year. I would take no exception, if there were only a few items, but when we have, in the case of New South Wales - and this applies also to other States - fourteen items upon which there was no expenditure out of eighteen on a single page of the Estimates, some explanation is necessary.
– I have already told the honorable member that these items were voted on the Supplementary Estimates, and that there was no possible opportunity to do the work.
– All these items were not voted on the Supplementary Estimates ; indeed, it would be a great reflection if all the works were provided for in those Estimates. The EstimatesinChief were passed in September, and that left a longer time than usual for the execution of the works, and still the results are worse than usual. Certainly some attention ought to be given by the Minister to the matter.
– Ample attention has been given to the matter. I made a reply in the general debate, and the Treasurer admitted that the system would have to be altered, and that steps would be taken to that end.
– The Postmaster-General had opportunity to reply, and had I not seen that he was going to allow the criticism to pass without comment. I should not have risen. We ought, I think, to have some assurance that the present system will not continue, because, bad as it has proved in previous years, it is infinitely worse this year. I do not object to economy ; but, when we are told that the works are necessary, some explanation ought to be forthcoming.
. -The honorable member for North Sydney, in taking me to task just now, drew attention to the small amount voted for New South Wales under the item before us. Honorable members must recollect, however, that I was speaking generally, and not on this vote particularly. It will be seen that, in the .PostmasterGeneral’s Department, there is, in the case of New South Wales, an appropriation of £126,700, and, in the case of South Australia, £33.5°°-
– That is proportionate.
– I am not finding fault with the proportion. In the vote we have just passed, referring to defence works under the control of the Department of Home Affairs, £18,000 is provided in the. case of New South Wales, and £1,600 in the case of South Australia. That is disproportionate ; but on that score I am making no complaint, because it would be absurd to suppose that the moneys can be allocated on a per capita basis. However that may be, over a series of years there ought to be something like a per capita distribution of the expenditure on public works. As a matter of fact, the two States that are prejudiced, if I may use the word, are New South Wales and South Australia, the rest of the States having received more than their share on a per capita basis over a series of years.
– The honorable member is wrong, because Victoria is still £14,000 to the bad.
– That was before the alteration made by Sir George Turner in regard to allotting the transferred expenditure on a per capita basis. But, while I make no objection to the allocation, it is exceedingly annoying under the circumstances to be told that there is no money when application is made for the expenditure of perhaps £10 on a telephone. It has happened more than once that I have made application for a telephone which simply meant- the connexion of the premises with a line which passed the. door, and that, after twelve months’ delay, I have been told . that there was no money available. It is admitted that the South Aus.tralian Deputy Postmaster-General is by no means urgent in his claims, and I do not think that any one will charge the representatives of South Australia with being too persistent.
– I have already admitted that the present system is extremely unsatisfactory, and the Treasurer has stated that he has already taken steps to make an alteration if that be possible. As to the items which appear as re-votes, steps have already been taken to prepare plans and specifications, and tenders will be called immediately. As to the smaller amounts, steps have been taken to have plans prepared, and everything put in working order, so as to have all completed within the year in which the money is voted. That explains why the sums are not so large as in the previous vear. I admit that the system is faulty ; but, as I have said, steps will be taken towards an alteration.
– I do not like any invidious comparisons as between New South Wales and South Australia, but I should like to know on what principle, if there is one, the reduction is made in the requirements of the various States. If the Postmaster-General or the Treasurer said that each State was to have a fair proportion according to its alleged necessities, I could understand the position ; but if there are other considerations taken into account, I point out that as already stated New South Wales and South Australia are the only two States which, under the present method, are losing money. On page 87 of the Budget paper I think it is shown that New South Wales has in five years lost £147,000, in other words, that the cost of the buildings there has been £147,000 less than would have been expended under a -per capita system of charging obligations. In South Australia we have had to pay £14,000 more than the cost of the works constructed. The honorable member for Yarra has interjected that that applies only since 1903. But before that year the per capita system did not operate, each State being debited with the actual cost of the works carried out there. If special circumstances are to be taken into account, I should like the Treasurer, .who is generally philanthropically inclined, where public moneys are concerned, to remember that the South Australian Post and Telegraph Department has paid from the beginning. In the three years preceding 1900, its average ‘profit was £53,000, and although there is a better system of keeping accounts now, the State can show good results since Federation. Taking the accounts of the last twelve months, however, although the Department there needs an expenditure of £72,000, it is to get only £32,000. If £72,000 were expended, there would still be a surplus of £4,000. It is curious that, although £72,000 is needed, only £29,000 net is to be given, of which £13,000 is for exceptional expenditure on a new switch-board. Deducting that, the amount proposed ito meet the requirements of the State is only £16,000.
– A similar remark might be made in regard to the Victorian Departments.
– My point is that the South Australian Department pays, and would return a substantial profit if £72,000 was expended on new works, additions and repairs there. New South Wales is entitled to a large expenditure, because she contributes more than she gets, and there are exceptional reasons why South Australia should be more fully considered.
.- Honorable members have teen at pains to show that the Victorian Department is receiving . an advantage, but if the expenditure this year is at the rate of that of last year, that will not happen. According to the figures given on page 87 of the Budget papers, £44,000 more; should have been spent in this State up to the end of last year on the per capita basis than was spent, whilst South Australia should have received only £4,000 more. If we cannot get the Departments of the States to. carry out our works satisfactorily, we should enlarge our Works Department. The honorable member for North Sydney has pointed out that, although £7,000 was voted for alterations to the General Post Office, Sydney, last year, not a penny of the money was spent, and similar instances might be shown in the Victorian Estimates.
– There is something in the statement that the present allocation of expenditure is unequal. I accept the principle that expenditure for new works may well be allocated on a per capita basis, but while under the bookkeeping system each State is regarded as a separate entity, there is the moral obligation to make this allocation as fair as possible. At the time of Federation some of the States had their Departments in the most up-to-date condition, while in other States things were in a mess. No one should complain because the expenditure in one State is greater than that in another; but the Postmaster-General should mete out rough justice in its allocation. Victoria is entitled to have more spent for construction purposes on such works as the undergrounding of telephone wires than is New South Wales, where a great deal of this undergroundi ng had alreadv been done; but there are other considerations which require that the latter should be more liberally treated in connexion with the renewal of her main trunk lines, some of which are shockingly inefficient. But whenever expenditure is asked for, the reply is, “ Wait until the Estimates have been passed,” yet works promised a year or two do not appear on the Estimates. In many respects the New South Wales Department is going backwards. In my own electorate, trunk lines have been promised, but no provision is made for them on the Estimates. I do not like mentioning these matters here, and certainly would not sleep on the Minister’s doormat. It should not be necessary to do that. But I am tired of sending back to my constituents the negative replies which come to their requests. Certainly definite promises should be carried out. I express the hope, humbly and becomingly, that the PostmasterGeneral will carry out some of those which he has made concerning my electorate. I represent a district which is very largely a suburban area, but which, nevertheless, contains a great deal of country. The distance across my electorate is about 80 miles, and yet it is supposed to be a suburban constituency. In some parts of it population is rapidly increasing, and telephonic facilities have been very much neglected. I hope that I shall not continue to receive negative replies from the Postmaster-General’s Department
Where all this money is being expended puzzles me. It certainly does not come my way. However, I am prepared to believethat the Postmaster-General is doing his best, only I wish that his best were a little better so far as I am concerned. I hopethat it will be so in the future. Whilst the present system of control continues, it is my duty to see that a fair thing is done to my own electorate. I have never considered myself too big to look after the interests of my constituents. It is a proper thing that an honorable member should dowhat he can for the development of the district which he represents. More than once I have noted the great discrepancies between the capital expenditure in the various States, but I recognise that under the existing system it is impossible to prevent anomalies in that connexion. All I ask is that the Postmaster-General will endeavour to approximate to some rough standard of justice in the spending of moneys which are contributed by the various States.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision No. 2 (Victoria), £119,584.
– I desire to direct attention to the item “ Sewerage, sundry offices, £775.” I would point out that under this heading last year we appropriated £768, of which only £149 wasexpended. There was thus an unspent balance of more than £600. Yet it is proposed to re-vote for the sewerage of sundry offices this year only £215. I should like some explanation of this item.
– The explanation is that in the sewerage of our offices we have to depend to a very great extent upon the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Board has not extended certain areas, and we have placed upon the Estimates the amount which will probably be expended under the circumstances.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision No. 3 (Queensland), £31, 340.
.- It appears to me that this subdivision consists principally of penny numbers, re-votes, and footnotes. Judging bv the footnotes certainworks are projected which are estimated to cost a fair amount, yet the sums provided for carrying them out are verysmall indeed. Under this heading last vear we voted £30,443, of which only £18.162 was expended, leaving a balance of £12,281. Yet the Government ask for a re- vote of only £11,216 - a difference of £1,065.As a matter of fact, the amount which it is actually proposed to appropriate this year - apart from the re- vote - is £20,124. The subdivision includes a proposed vote of £2,000 in connexion with the erection of eight post offices in Queensland. Last year the site of one of these offices was purchased, and an application was made by the residents of Southport for the establishment of a telephone exchange. They were asked to delay the application for some time, until thenew post-office was established. It was pointed out that it would be a waste of money, and an inconvenience to the residents, to have an exchange in the old post-office, as it was intended to build a new one. Now I find on these Estimates a sum of only £2,000 for the erection of eight new offices. I should like some information as to how the £2,000 is to be divided up.
– It will depend upon circumstances.
– It seems to me to be fooling the people to ask them to wait until a new post-office is erected, unless the work is proceeded with. It would be better to have the exchange in the old postoffice.
– The honorable member would not like that.
– I should prefer it to waiting twelve months.
– If the honorable member will sit down, we will proceed with the work to-morrow.
– I will take the Minister at his word.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 4 (South Australia), £12.551 .
– I desire to call attention to an item that does not appear upon the Estimates. I refer to the accommodation at the post-office at Goodwood, South Australia. I drew attention to the condition of the office some time ago. The postmaster there, who has a large family, is not only not provided with sufficient accommodation, but there is no bathroom or washhouse, nor any convenience whatever.
– I ordered a bathroom to foe erected. I had a note from the Deputy Postmaster-General, saying that he did not think that a bath was required. I said that it was wanted in South Australia more than in any other State, on account of the heat.
– It is only fair to say that the Commonwealth was not responsible for this post-office. It was erected during the State regime. The building is unsuitable for so large an area. I see no item on the Estimates for an enlargement, however. It would be a serious mistake not to enlarge the building. The population of the district is growing rapidly. Houses are demanded faster than they can be erected. I am certain that the PostmasterGeneral could obtain full value for the present building, and could easily choose a suitable site for a new one. The conveniences are nothing like what are required for such a large district. I should like to know whether anything is to be done?
– Yes. I will make a note of the matter.
– The PostmasterGeneral made a note of it on the previous occasion. Some of the residents went to a great deal of trouble to give particulars as to the building, and to obtain information regarding the wants of the district, and there was a report from the Deputy Postmaster-General. I remember that official saying that the present accommodation would do for five years. But in a growing district like this, we ought to look more than five years ahead. Within the last five years the postal business has more than doubled, and it is still increasing. I had expected that money would be provided for improved accommodation on these Estimates.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 5 (Western Australia), £11,181; and subdivision 6 (Tasmania), £2,665, agreed to.
Division 5 (Telegraphs and Telephones), subdivision 1 (New South Wales), £91,656.
.- There is a vote upon these Estimates for £49,101, for the construction and extension of telephone lines, instruments, and material. Does this amount include any vote forworks submitted to Parliament on the 13th December last year? I remind the Committee that on that occasion the Treasurer laid before honorable members a statement regarding certain expenditure for works and buildings not provided for under the Estimates, but urgently required. He stated that these works were required partly in consequence of the unforeseen expansion of business, ‘and on account of demands for money by the Post and Telegraph Department. Amongst other items, there was one for the construction of special telephone lines from Sydney to Woollongong, Sydney to Katoomba, and Sydney to Gosford. It was stated that unless an expenditure of £52,5.58 was incurred, it would be impossible to complete essential works in New South Wales. A little further on the Treasurer stated that there was no doubt that a great deal of the work asked for was of an urgent nature, and that it was very desirable that it should be undertaken during the present financial year. He made a reference to the Treasurer’s Advance Account, out of which the money would be paid. In his statement he said -
I make this statement now, in order that Parliament may understand the situation, and not bc surprised if additional estimates for new works and buildings to the amount of about £120,000 are introduced. In the meantime, unless any very strong objection is taken I shall anticipate the approval of Parliament by authorizing such works as appear to me to be of the most urgent character. I desire to keep the expenditure, if possible, within the limit expressed in my Budget speech.
On the 13th December, 1907, the Treasurer said that these works were of such an urgent character that he could not wait for’ any Supplementary Estimates to be passed - they were not passed until the following April - but wanted to put them in hand at once. When I asked the honorable gentleman the other day, on the motion for adjournment, whether the construction of the trunk line to Katoomba was being proceeded with, he said “No.” I should like to ask the Postmaster-General whether provision for the construction of three special trunk ‘ lines for New South Wales - from Sydney to Woollongong, from Sydney to Katoomba, and from Sydnev to Gosford - is included in this item” of £49, rot, and, if not, when the Department ‘ intends to proceed with the works which his officers have reported are of an urgent character. Although these lines were not included in last year’s Estimates, the Treasurer considered them so urgent that he made, as I have shown, a special statement to the House in, reference to them, and proposed to proceed with them in anticipation of the vote of the House. With the passing of time, the urgency has not decreased, but has rather increased.
– The Treasurer has already stated that the works are not provided for on these Estimates ; but that, if possible, more money will be advanced to the Department for the purpose of carrying them out. They have been put on the list of urgent works required, but are not provided for. It has been stated to-day that in order to carry out urgent works, such as have been mentioned, the Department would require an appropriation of £700,000; but it is not possible to make that provision at this juncture.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta mentioned how his electorate had suffered at the hands of the Department, owing to its inability to meet the great needs of his constituents, although it was in close touch with the city. If that is the case with respect to an old-settled electorate, what is it in the case of those electorates which would each include the whole of the electorates round Sydney, and leave a lot of room to spare? Take, for instance, my electorate, which extends from near Dubbo to Cootamundra, and from near Mount McDonald to near Euabalong, an immense area of country which practically comprises the wheatgrowing belt of the State. Settlement is extending rapidly there, and provision of this character is required in order to bring the settlers in touch with larger centres, and thus enable them to conduct their business. During the last twelve months, the complaint has been that, whilst the Sydney postal authorities have recognised the needs of these centres, and are satisfied that the extension of telegraph and telephonic communication which was asked for would be a good paying proposition to the Department, still they have not been able to act, because the necessary money had not been provided for them. Here is a section which is under the direct control of the Postmaster-General, and I find that whilst on some items the expenditure lias exceeded the appropriation, on other items the appropriation has exceeded the expenditure, leaving an unexpended balance of something like £10,000. Take the first item, “ Construction and extension of telegraph lines, instruments, and material.” £21,506 was voted, and only £15,396 wa« expended, leaving an unexpended balance of £6,110. That has happened in spite of the fact that a number of the lines have been held up because it was alleged that no money was available. Only recently I brought before the Department 0 proposal to construct a line between Cudal and Manildra, which -is very urgently required, to provide telegraphic and telephonic communication, and the reply was that the work had been considered and approved, but could not be carried out until Parliament had made the necessary provision. Let me now take the next item, “ Construction and extension of telephone lines, instruments, and material, including the construction of conduits and placing wires underground.” Last year the appropriation was £79,911.. and the expenditure was £83,179, or £3,268 in excess of the appropriation. While that was so, and a large number of applications are held up awaiting the provision of funds, still, on these Estimates, it is proposed to appropriate only £49,101, or about £34,000 less than was spent last year. This very important Department, in a very vital direction so far as settlement is concerned, is asked to be satisfied in the coming year with about £34,000 less than was expended last year; and with that increased expenditure, last year a large number of applications from country centres had to be held up. I have a lot of correspondence which, if read, would bring home this grievance very strongly to the Minister; but I shall content myself with reading two communications. From the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Sydney, I received a communication saying that an application for a telephone exchange at Koorawatha had practically been approved ; but he goes on to say -
I may add, however, that even if the establishment of the exchange mentioned was approved of the question as to when the work could be carried out would depend on the provision by Parliament of funds for new works of this class.
Still, in face of that statement, we are asked to vote nearly £35,000 less than was expended last year. Here is another communication, which I handed to the PostmasterGeneral a few days ago. It relates to a proposal which has been under consideration for a very considerable time. At. last, when the writer had got fairly desperate over the matter, he wrote in these terms -
In reply to your communication re telephone from Condoblin to Bobadah, I have to point out that you have taken about eight months to give a reply, and at this rate of progress it would take about 80 years to build the line, if you live long enough to decide to do so. You estimate the cost of construction at £i,7So, but I would like you to understand that it is not a heavy line of railway we are asking for.
The writer goes on to suggest that the PostmasterGeneral might allow that community to construct the line, and use it for twenty years, when they would be prepared to hand it over to the Department, provided that they were allowed to utilize all the revenue it earned during that period. That is a sample of the correspondence which honorable members receive and forward to the Department,, as the outcome of the policy which has been pursued during the past few years. I am considerably disappointed with the provision made on this year’s Estimates.
– And yet the honor able member voted that the Budget was satisfactory.
– I did not. The honorable member knows that the motion to which he refers was moved with the object of consolidating the opponents of the Labour movement in this House.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Notwithstanding that the Department, in order to meet urgent demands from country districts had to exceed the appropriation made last year, the Estimates submitted in respect of new works and buildings this year provide for an expenditure of nearly £35,000 less than was actually expended last year on works that are absolutely necessary to the development and progress of the Commonwealth. I must express my dissatisfaction at the arrangements that are being made. I hope that supplementary Estimates will be submitted so that the bare needs of this side of the Department may be supplied.
.- I wish to enter a protest on lines similar to those which have been adopted by the honorable member for Calare in regard to the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. I have in mv electorate a business man who has been endeavouring for six or seven months to have his premises connected with the telephone exchange. So far he has been unable to obtain any satisfaction from the Department, and only to-day, in response to a further request that I made on his behalf, I received ‘another stereotyped reply from the Department. One could understand the cry of want of funds if big works were involved, but it is ridiculous to think that the Department is unable to supply a telephone connexion. The position is humiliating.
– What reason is given for the delay.
– The only explanation given by the Department is that ‘ ‘ the matter is being attended to.”
– Nine thousand new subscribers were connected last year.
– Then the Department must have known that there was likely to be a large increase in business, and should have made arrangements to meet it. We find, however, that it has not done so. The gentleman of whom I speak has only recently commenced business, and the failure of the Department to connect his premises with the telephone exchange is a serious drawback to him. Persons who would be prepared to do business with him if he were on the exchange now go to others who are connected with it.
– How would it do to hand back the control of the Department to the States?
– I should not like to see that done. A great mistake has been made in returning to the States surplus revenue with which many necessary works in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department might have been carried out. One would think that the PostmasterGeneral, who, as a business man, has had to provide for his own private enterprises, would exercise ordinary business precautions in the administration of his Department.
– But the making of a telephone connexion in any of our cities would not involve any expenditure worth speaking of.
– It may be that the necessary instruments are not available.
– The trouble is that there are hundreds of applications to be dealt with.
– In days gone by the Postmaster-General, when questioned about postal works relating to his Department, said that he had been unable to obtain the necessary funds from the Treasurer, and we have been told, on the other hand, by the Treasurer himself, that money which he advanced to the Department has not been expended.
– He did not say that of the Post and Telegraph Department. He said that it had expended within £8,000, of the amount granted.
– That £8,000 might have proved sufficient to provide the telephone instruments that are required.
– Is it possible to more closely estimate so large an expenditure as is that of the Department?
– The exPostmasterGeneral said some time ago that with the introduction of the toll system there would be a large expansion of the telephone business.
– And there has been.
– My point is that the Government knew that there would be a great increase in business with the introduction of the new system, but took no steps to provide for it
– We did.
– Is not the failure to provide for an anticipated increase of business a phase of mismanagement ?
– We provided last year for an additional expenditure of £10,000. in this respect.
– But if an additional expenditure of £20,000 was necessary, why was it not provided for? I hope that the Postmaster-General will rouse his Department.
– Things are very unsatisfactory.
– The appointment of a Royal Commission shows that they are not satisfactory so far as the Post and’ Telegraph Department are concerned. I am inclined to believe that if the PostmasterGeneral had a little more ironin his composition, and were prepared to meetany display of backbone on the part of the Treasurer with a like display, the position of his Department would be moresatisfactory. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will stand up for his Department, and that, if big works have to wait, at any rate connexions with the telephone exchanges will be effected. The case to whichI have referred does not require an extra line, for the man is in a street where there - is a number of telephones. It simply means a connexion and an instrument. It is humiliating and ridiculous that a man should find it necessarv to hunt one up week after week, and still not get a paltry thing like that done.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) £11.12]. - This item is a staggerer to me. To cut it down by nearly one-half is little less than monstrous. Apparently things are to be infinitely worse in New South Wales than they have been last year. Of all the items in the Department this is the one that ought not to .be curtailed. Yet it is cut down from an expenditure last year of £83,800 to an estimated expenditure this year of £49,000, at the very source and root of all our complaining. I do not know what the Postmaster-General is thinking of. ls this his doing or has the Treasurer forced him into it? The Committee ought to be given some reason for this extraordinary state of things. We have all been expecting a great increase in this item. Things must be worse next year when only half the vote is provided in ;spite of all the complaints made and all the promises of amendment given by the Postmaster-General. Two honorable members have just complained very properly that tilings are not satisfactory. The honorable member for Cook said there was mismanagement, and his colleague, the honorable member for Calare, complained of the way in which his electorate was being treated. I might remind those honorable members that they voted deliberately a day or two ago to say that the finances were satisfactory.
– I should like an opportunity to reply to the honorable member. This is no blank cartridge to consolidate the Opposition.
– The next time the honorable member replies I hope he will not make the incorrect and silly statement that we had designs on our friends in the Opposition corner. We were discussing the Budget and said exactly the same things about it as we and the honorable member and his colleagues are saying now. The chain is off them- that is all. Honorable members in the Ministerial corner say one thing and vote exactly the opposite, and then they must say something to. excuse themselves.
– The * honorable member says something and means nothing.
– The honorable member meant nothing by his vote. He is only trying to show what a foolish vote lie gave.
– We should be more foolish to put the honorable member on the Treasury bench.
– If I were there I should not stand the honorable member’s nonsense as the present Ministers stand it. I would not stay on the Treasury bench to be treated in the way in which Ministers are now treated. The honorable member for Calare spoke of my electorate as being small enough to be put into his own two or three times over. What has that to do with the linking up of telephone connexions ? I am not complaining . altogether of the lack of new telephone connexions, although it is part of my complaint, as it is part of his, but one of my great sources of complaint is that services which are in existence and for which people are paying are absolutely of no use to them. If the honorable member wanted to’ speak on the telephone line to Gosford he would have to pay tenpence, and would then be very lucky if he got a connexion worth having. The service is worn out, inadequate, and wants maintaining. I ask that connexions which are now nominally in force and for which the people payshould be made effective. What has the honorable member’s large electorate to do with that ? The honorable ‘member should not try to do his business at the expense of other people. He knows nothing of mv electorate and need not have begun meddling in that way.
– I was simply pointing out that the honorable member’s electorate was an old one, whereas mine was a new one, being settled, and that his electorate had the advantage of postal treatment long before mine.
– I suppose that many places in my electorate have had no “ treatment “ at all. According to the honorable member’s argument they should have preference over his electorate, since, mine is an older one.
– The honorable member’s electorate was attended to before mine was thought of.
– It may have been, and yet there are many places in it which have no telephonic connexion. In many other places the service is not adequate. The honorable member for Calare and the honorable member for Cook, if they mean what they have said, if they are sincere, have a chance now to take action to express their opinion in an even more definite way. ^
– The Opposition were only kite-living the other day - getting all the members on that side together.
– Will the honorable member do a little kite-flying now? Is he sincere? Does he sav there has been mismanagement of the Department?
– I was sincere in my desire to keep the honorable gentleman off the Treasury bench.
– So that the honorable member’s be all and end all is to sacrifice his electorate for personal reasons. Is that what he wishes his constituents to understand ?
– No; not for personal reasons.
– The honorable member professes to believe in an ideal, a propaganda, and a programme, and apparently the sum of his personal desires is to visit vengeance on other honorable members, and to do that he is prepared to starve his own electorate, and to keep men in. power who will not do justice to that electrorate.
– Order ! I ask the honorable gentleman to confine himself to the question.
– I was merely replving to an interjection. I express my sense of disappointment in connexion with these Estimates by moving -
That the vote be reduced by £1.
.- I now wish to ask the questions which I proposed to ask earlier in the evening. A paper was laid on the table on the 13th of last December.
– The honorable member for Nepean referred to that paper.
– I was not present when the honorable member did so, and I do not know whether the PostmasterGeneral has given the information I wish to obtain. I see no reference in these Estimates to the urgent works referred to in the paper mentioned. It is a “ Statement by the Treasurer of certain expenditure for works and buildings not provided for on the Estimates, but urgently required.” I do not know whether the works have since been carried out. The paper shows that in New South Wales £34,000 was required for ordinary telephone extensions, £6,598 for the construction of special trunk telephone lines from Sydney to Wollongong, Sydney to
Katoomba, and Sydney to Gosford, and £11,960 for the construction of the SydneyTenterfie!d copper telegraph wire to meet the wire being erected in Queensland to provide for the Inter-State and international business. These sums make a total of £52,558, and a note is added to the following effect -
The Department states that unless this expenditure of£52,558 is made it will be impossible to complete essential works in New South Wales.
In another paragraph in this paper, I find the following statement -
Now, there is no doubt that a great deal of the work asked for is of a very urgent nature, andthat it is very desirable that it should beundertaken during the present financial year.
Perhaps the Postmaster-General will say whether these works stated by the Treasurer to be urgently necessary in December last have been provided for in these Estimates.
– I have already said that they have not.
– Yet, according to the Treasurer’s statement they were urgentlyrequired in December last.
– We recognise their urgency, and hope to be able to provide for them perhaps in supplementary Estimates.
– If they were urgent: last year we may assume that they are still more urgent now, and yet the Treasurer has made no provision for them in these Estimates for 1908-9. I would ask the Postmaster-General whether he thinks this is a proper way of doing business oris likely to commend itself to the people.. I should like to ask him about another matter to which I have already made somereference. I have said that the difficulty of finding £28 appears, from an official communication, to be a stumbling block in the way of the establishment ofa very necessary telephone bureau at a busy suburban station near Sydney.I should like to know whether the honorable gentleman - has been able to obtain any further information concerning thatmatter. He will remember that I gave him the letter - T received from the Department at his.
Own request, with a view to his’ making - inquiries.
– I attended to the matterat once, and asked that it should be looked into.
– Surely the expenditure of £28 ought not to be an insuperable obstacle to the carrying out of what is admittedly a most necessary work.
– I hope that the deputy leader of the Opposition does not intend to press his motion. We have come nearly to the close of the Works and Buildings Estimates, and are very desirous of passing them as soon as possible. I am afraid that the honorable member’s motion will re-open a long discussion.
– What is the PostmasterGeneral’s explanation of the vote?
– Simply that we have not vet enough money available to meet all these demands The sum which has been available has been distributed to the best advantage with an undertaking by the Treasurer that if the revenue comes in more freely than he anticipated at the beginning of the year, more money will be found for these works. The honorable gentleman expressly stated that in delivering his Budget speech. What more can be expected ? All the money we have is appropriated for one service or another.
– -And we have not enough money to carry out urgent works.
– I do not know of any State that ever has. Certainly we have not enough for that purpose.
– Is that the reason the Treasurer cut down the vote by onehalf?
– The Treasurer could not place on these Estimates more than one- fourth of the revenue from Customs and Excise, which he felt certain would be received within the year. If present prospects continue it is possible that the revenue will be a good deal in excess of the estimate, and that will permit of the carrying out of many of these works that are admitted to be urgently necessary. The Treasurer could not have proposed in these Estimates to expend more than the one-fourth of the revenue allotted to the Commonwealth under the Constitution. That is a contingency which could not be considered. Consequently, these reductions had to be made, and they have been frankly admitted. Such reductions must continue in these Estimates unless we are fortunate enough during the interval between this and the preparation of the next Estimates to devise some scheme for relieving the special pressure upon this Department, particularly in connexion with the extension of telegraphic and telephonic communication.
– The matter should be tackled at once.
– We have already given a good deal of attention to it, and are giving it further examination in the light of the fresh facts adduced by the Postal Commission. Every one recognises the urgency of the situation, and that it requires to be met, although it cannot be met all at once.
– Is there any reason why this item, in particular, should be cut down bv half?
– A very great portion of this vote is lor the undergrounding of wires in New South Wales.
– A large proportion of this money is spent in that way.
– Along some of the principal streets of Sydney.
– But these are only little conduits.
– They are very expensive. Under the circumstances, I hope the honorable member will assist in passing these Estimates to-night.
. -Iamvery much averse to persisting with my proposal this evening, when honorable members are away at a function, the circumstances of which impose some obligation on those left here. On the other hand, it is unfortunate that a vote like this should be passed under such circumstances. I tell honorable members candidly that otherwise I should have pushed this question to a vote in order to obtain an expression of opinion from the Committee on what I regard as, perhaps, the most important item in the Estimates of the Postmaster-General. If there is one item which ought not to be cut down it is this, out of which arises all the trouble of the Department.; and yet, strange to say, it is the one item singled out for drastic retrenchment in this particular year.
– On what other items could there possibly be any reduction?
Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- Does the PostmasterGeneral wish me to pare down his Estimates for him?
– This is the only item on which there can be a reduction.
– Only the other day I expressedthe opinion that this Department ought to have more money spent upon it.
– Quite so ; but I am now referring to discriminating between items.
– There are many items on which retrenchment might be made.
– Where are they?
– Is it fair to ask such a question of me at this moment? At any rate, I will say that almost any other item in the Estimates of the Department would better bear reduction than this. The Postmaster-General may say what he likes, and the Prime Minister may help him, but they are only saving up trouble for the future ; and the longer the delay, the greater the trouble will be. It is evident that the Treasurer has put his knife into this item, irrespective of consequences. My idea would be 10 get the Committee to emphatieally express the opinion that money should not be saved on this item, of alf others. Under the circumstances, however, I shall not push my proposal further. But I do request the Postmaster-General to find money for some of the more urgent works. Unless something is done in that direction, I shall feel it my bounden duty to test the question in a full House. I think I know what the sense of honorable members is ; but if my friends in the Labour Corner, who are obsessed by the idea that anvthing they do. is justifiable - while honorable members on that side play the partv game every day of their lives, and condone this sort of thing-
– I have already called the honorable member to order for taking that line of argument, and I must ask him not to pursue it further.
– I obey your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but still I do not think I have transgressed in the slightest. I ask leave to withdraw the motion, but again express the hope that the PostmasterGeneral will see his way to carry out works, some of which, in my own case, have been actually promised for three years, and are now withdrawn.
. -The Post and Telegraph Department represents the one branch of the Public Service which can assist the toiling settlers in the back-blocks : and yet we are told that there are not sufficient funds to enable the ordinary postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities to be provided. We ought to very seriously consider the position; and I suggest that it would, perhaps, be wise to postpone other proposals for large expenditure in order to enable this Department to be more liberally dealt with. The position is a very serious one indeed, when we are told by the Prime Minister that works which have been promised for two or three years cannot be carried out for want of funds.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Parramatta, a few moments ago, left the subject under discussion, and, with some personal animus-
– I rise to a point of order.
– I must point out to the honorable member for Cook that he was the aggressor when he interjected in a disorderly fashion. I promptly called the honorable member for Parramatta to order at the time, and I ask the honorable member for Cook not to press the subject.
– The honorable member for Parramatta was challenging me for a vote which I gave on another occasion.
– As soon as I gathered what the honorable member for Parramatta was going to say I called him to order.
– I should not like all the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta to appear in Hansard without some reply ; and, therefore, I shall take another opportunity of dealing with the matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 2 (Victoria), £96,575 ; subdivision 3 (Queensland), £42,774, agreed to.
Subdivision 4 (South Australia), £.30,955.
.- I wish to know what additional plant is required for printing postage stamps, postal notes, and money order forms in South Australia.
– £400 is asked for as a re-vote, to substitute a new machine for one which has broken down. There has been no alteration of policy.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 5 (Western Australia), £21,520; subdivision 6 (Tasmania), £15,660; subdivision 7 (Special Cables), £57,000, agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Division 6 (Government Printing Office), £1,000, agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Division 7 (Rifle Clubs and Ranges), Subdivision 1 (New South Wales), £4,820 ; subdivision 2 (Victoria), £5,100; subdivision 3 (Queensland), £1,970, agreed to.
Subdivision 4 (South Australia), £1,275.
.- To the items covering grants to rifle clubs for ranges, and expenditure on miniature rifle ranges for cadets, is the footnote “ previously provided on Estimates of Department of Home Affairs.” Is it to be inferred that the Department of Defence is now carrying out and supervising works previously looked after by the Department of Home Affairs?
– That is very wise. Under the old arrangement, trivial matters were often delayed in a manner which was extremely vexatious.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivision 5 (Western Australia), £2,070; subdivision 6 (Tasmania), £700, agreed to.
Division 8 (Special Defence Material), £39,656.
– I notice that, while last year £29,000 was voted for fieldartillery, ammunition waggons, harness, and spare parts, and accessories for field guns the vote this year is only £16,050. Surely in an army like ours, of which one of the essentials is mobility, we are doing wrong in reducing our expenditure on equipment of this kind? I find, too, that, while £7,000 was voted last year for camp equipment, the expenditure this year is to be only £2,083. Then, again, while the vote last year for cadet rifles and spare parts was £20,100, we are asked thisyear to vote only £10,000. That is encouraging the cadet movement with a vengeance. I should like to know from the Minister of Defence what is the reason for these large reductions.
Mr. EWING (Richmond- Minister of Defence [11.47]. - The proposal is to provide an ammunition waggon for each of the twenty-four eighteenpounders now in the Commonwealth, and the twelve on order from England, which is an advance upon anything which we have had before.
– But why are smaller votes asked for this year?
– To fully equip our forces would require an expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the country cannot be expected to go to the expense of doing everything at once. It will take years to furnish a thorough equipment - in fact, we shall always be spending money in this way. In Australia there is now a cadet rifle for every cadet.
– Over what age?
– For every cadet.
– I have been told that there is only one rifle for every lira cadets.
– If the honorable member will let me know where there is a shortage of rifles, I will see that weapons are supplied.
– I hope that the Minister will give more consideration to the cadets than they have yet received from the Department. The amount provided for Tasmania will allow of only half the cadets going into camp, so that considerable dissatisfaction will be caused amongst those who do not go under canvas. Although the Government proposes to compel all our citizens to join the Defence Forces, it does not make provision for equipping hundreds of boys who are anxious to join the junior and senior cadets. The names of these boys have been given to the officers, but they are not registered, owing, it is said, to the inadequacy of the grant. That is avery serious matter indeed. Boys who are anxious to join the cadet forces are prevented from doing so because of the absence of the necessary financial provision. If their services were accepted it would not be necessary to provide additional instructors - the present staff would be ample. Would it not be wise to incur the slight additional expenditure necessary to enable officers to enrol lads who are at present being refused admission to the cadet ranks? I also ask the Minister to inquire whether the amount provided upon these Estimates is sufficient to permit of only half our cadets entering the annual encampment.
– I will make the inquiries suggested by the honorable member, with a view to seeing what can be done.
.-I would point out that under this subdivision lastyear we appropriated £104,050, of which we expended only £73,889. Yet we are now asked to vote only £39,656. It appears to me that if we desire to increase the efficiency of our Military Forces we are going to work in the wrong way. For cadet rifles and spare parts last year we voted £20,100, and expended £23,285. Yet it is proposed to appropriate only £10.000 in this connexion. What is the explanation of this item?
– Where are the rifles? I am told that in some places fifty cadets have only from ten to twenty rifles between them.
– I recollect that on the occasion of the last Empire Day celebrations there were about fifty or sixty cadets at Parramatta South who possessed only a dozen rifles between them. One of the cadets adversely criticised the Government, because some of the boys were provided with Chinese crackers in lieu of rifles, with which to salute the flag. The whole of the cadets from the Parramatta South Superior Public School possessed only about a dozen rifles between them. Wherever one goes one hears complaints that the cadets cannot obtain a sufficient supply of rifles, and that very little encouragement is given to boys to join the cadet forces. I note also that it is proposed to appropriate only £70 for the purchase of torpedoes and gyroscopes, notwithstanding that £390 was voted in this connexion last year, every penny of which was expended. Instead of cutting down a vote of this description, we ought this year to expend as much as we did last year.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 9 (New Special Defence Provision). £8,604.
.- Last year I observe that £32,000 was appropriated in connexion with the proposal to establish a small arms factory in the Commonwealth. The whole of that amount was expended, and I should like to know where it was expended?
– It is being expended on the purchase of machinery.
-I think it highly probable that in December next - certainly, not later than January - the Government will be in a position to accept tenders for the machinery, which it is proposed to instal in the small arms factory.
– But when will the building be erected?
– I cannot say. We are makingali the progress that we cam. The building cannot be proceeded with until the exact character of the machinery to be installed is determined. I can, however, assure the honorable member that there will be no delay in the matter.
.- With respect to the establishment of the cordite factory, I notice that last year we appropriated £10,000, and spent nothing. But during the current financial year the Minister is asking for a vote of only £2,000. Why is that?
– Those who are advising the Government in this matter declare that the sum of £2,000 is all that we shall require to expend during the current financial year. The undertaking is a very intricate one, and we are assured by those who are in a position to know that the proposed appropriation will be sufficient.
– Apparently the Government intend to purchase machinery before the building has been erected.
– Having decided the type of machinery that we require, we will then determine how it shall be housed. There will be no delay in the erection of the factory.
.- The £250,000 which has been set apart for harbor and coastal defences-
– That sum does not appear on the Estimates for this year.
– I understand that that money has been paid into a trust account. Have the Government yet decided whenthey will expend it, and if so, upon what particular policy or scheme it will be spent ?
– We are now engaged in preparing a scheme which will be laid before Parliament at the first opportunity.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Division No. 10 (Commonwealth Offices in London), £5,000.
– I would ask the Prime Minister to postpone the consideration of this item, which relates to the expenses incurred in connexion with the acquisition of a site for Commonwealth offices in London, so that it may be dealt with upon the Estimates-in-Chief.
– I think I can do better. I ask the honorable member not to move the postponement of the item. I will undertake that not a penny of this vote will be expended until Parliament has had an opportunity of discussing it. I anticipate that probably next week, a motion regarding the acquisition of a site for Commonwealth offices in London will be submitted to this Chamber, Until that motion is adopted, and the general plan of the Government approved, there will be no necessity for the expenditure of this money. But it will be necessary to have the matter discussed then, and nothing will be lost by allowing it to remain over for the present.
– Under those circumstances I shall allow the matter to go without further remark, but I shall have something to say with reference to it when it comes before the House again.
– There will be a further opportunity, I hope, next week.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 190S-9, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding ^720,541.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution reported and adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted.
That Mr. Deakin and Mr. Croom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by. Mr. Deakin and passed through its remaining stages.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to thank honorable members tor the assistance they have given us in enabling us to have provision for works and buildings made available so early.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has on several occasions gone out of his way to challenge honorable members sitting in this corner, including myself, in reference to the vote that they gave the week before last on the motion of no-confidence submitted by the leader of the Opposition.
– When have I done that ?
– On several occasions.
– I should like to say that my reply to the honorable member is-
– Is this in order Mr. Speaker.
– I have no idea of what the honorable member for Cook intends ‘to say
– Is it not a bit cowardly of the honorable member- ?
– If the honorable member for Cook is referring to something that occurred in Committee, I cannot hear him, and must ask him not to proceed.
– I am not referring to something that took place in Committee particularly, but to remarks made by the honorable member for Parramatta on several occasions in the -House; although in addition to what he has said on other occasions he made the same references in Committee.
– I ask the honorable member to give me an assurance that the matters to which he refers took place otherwise than in Committee.
– Yes, I have heard them on several other occasions.
– I rise to order. The honorable member professes to be making a personal explanation. I submit that he must connect his remarks with something that I have said definitely. He has not done so yet. He appears to be on a vague quest of some kind, and is not making a proper personal explanation. It is quite obvious that the honorable member wishes to attack me for some reason or other. Not that 1 strongly object ; I do not mind the honorable member attacking me if 1 may reply to him.
– No personal explanation can be replied to, and I ask the honorable member for Cook to avoid making anything in the nature of a personal attack upon any other honorable member.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is quite unnecessarily fearsome.
– I am very much afraid !
– I have no personal ill-feeling towards the honorable member in any respect, although he assumes that I have.
– What is the point that the honorable member desires to explain?
– I wish to explain, in connexion with the vote given on the motion of no-confidence moved by the leader of the Opposition - and in reply to insinuations which have been made - that I regarded the motion in question as a mere piece of tactics by the Opposition for their own purposes.
– The honorable member is not making a personal explanation in saying that.
– Have I not a right to speak upon this matter upon the motion for the adjournment of the House?
– The honorable member will see that I am quite at a loss to know how to take what he is saying. I have no personal knowledge of any such remarks as he has alluded to having been made in the House. “ If the remarks were made in Committee I cannot hear the honorable member upon the motion for the adjournment, or by way of personal explanation.
– As a matter of fact, the remark to which the honorable member refers was made in Committee.
– I wish to refer to the matter on the motion for the adjournment. What I am referring to was not a matter which took place in Committee particularly. I understand that I am in order in speaking if I wish to do so upon the motion for the adjournment.
– The honorable member is not in order in speaking on the motion for the adjournment with reference to a matter that has taken place in Committee; but he is at liberty, if he pleases, to make a personal explanation if it relates to a matter concerning which he has been misunderstood, and he has a right to state how he puts himself right.
– Am I not in order in referring to the debate on the motion of no-confidence? Am I not allowed to say a few words as to my own position?
– If the honorable member was misunderstood in connexion with that matter, or if, in regard to any matter he considers himself placed under a misapprehension, he is at liberty to clear that up; but otherwise he is not in order, because that debate was closed by the taking of a. division, and cannot be re-opened under any circumstances.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in connexion with the debate on the no-confidence motion. I do not regard that debate as other than a move by the leader of the Opposition to bring into line what he called the two wings of the Opposition. I desire to quote the following lines on the question, from the Sydney Daily Telegraph, of16th October -
Whatever may be Mr. Reid’s prospects or his hopes-
– I rise to order. This, sir, will be a very interesting discussion if it is permitted ; but I point out that the honorable member is now re-opening a debate, and that he must be replied to if he is allowed to proceed. I submit that on the motion for adjournment, it is not in order for the honorable member to re-open a debate unlesshe can connect his remarks with some specific statement which has been made, and which requires an explanation on his part.
– The honorable member appears to be able to anticipate what the honorable member for Cook intends to say, but I am utterly unable to do that. He may have been about to say something which would be perfectlv in order, or he may not, but I am not able to judge until he has spoken.
– The Sydney Daily Telegraph of16th October, 1908, said -
Whatever may be Mr. Reid’s prospects or his hopes as to his being able to carry his motion, there is no doubt that right at the back of it. is a desire to force the hands of the Corner Opposition.
On the following day it said -
But there is no uncertainly that the true reason behind Mr. Reid’s move has been a deter.mination to force the Comer men to toe the mark.
– The honorable member may be explaining something which has been stated by the press, but he is not making an explanation concerning his own attitude. Will he make clear to me how the quotations bear upon his own attitude?
– I wish to show from the organ which supports the leader of the Opposition, that it was thoroughly understood in the country that the motion of no-confidence by the leader of the Opposition was moved with the express purpose of bringing the two wings of the Opposition into line, and that that is a very good reason why honorable members on this side should not regard that motion in any other light.
– I think, sir, there should be a quorum to hear this important explanation.
A quorum not being present,
Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House at 12.17 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081104_reps_3_48/>.