3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Acknowledgment of Address-in-Reply.
Mr. SPEAKER reported that he had forwarded to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral a copy of the Address-in-Reply agreed to by the House, and had received from His Excellency the following acknowledgment : -
Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I receive from you the Address adopted by the House of Representatives in reply to the Speech delivered by me on the occasion of the opening of the Fourth Session of theThird Commonwealth Parliament; and it affords me very great pleasure to notice the expressions of continued loyalty to the Throne and Person of His Majesty the King.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill.
– As this is the first meeting of the House after the adjournment to allow Ministers who had accepted an invitation to attend the Conference of Premiers held in Melbourne last week, it is due to honorable members that I should inform them that the Conference assembled and dealt with a number of matters. Its resolutions will reach us in due course.
– As the Prime Minister is not speaking to a motion, I cannot allow him to proceed until leave has been granted by the House.
– The general understanding is-
– Does the honorable member object to the Prime Minister making a statement? There can be no debate on the question that leave be granted.
– On previous occasions the Leader of the Opposition, at least, has been permitted to reply to statements made by the Prime Minister. The matter referred to is most important, and I think should be dealt with differently.
– I havenot the remotest intention of trenching on disputable ground.
– I do not object to the making of a statement.
– The honorable member seems to anticipate something more than a statement. Ministers attended the Conference by invitation, and. in regard to one important matter, agreed to conclusions which, having been approved by the Cabinet, will be submitted to Parliament as early as possible. I hope to make an early statement as to the arrangement come to, and to lay on the table papers relating thereto, probably this afternoon.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition desire to speak?
– Is it the wish of the House that the Leader of the Opposition be permitted to speak ?
– I ask you, sir, whether it is not the right of the Leader of the Opposition to reply to any statement made by the Prime Minister. There may be something in our rules which prevents it, but, in most of the Parliaments of which I have knowledge, if the Prime Minister makes a statement, the Leader of the Opposition has the right to follow him without asking the indulgence of honorable members.
– My attention having recently been drawn to the fact that two honorable members addressed the. House when no motion was before it, without obtaining leave, I undertook that that would not be permitted in future, and have, therefore, asked for leave on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on this occasion. I take it that honorable members are willing to hear the Leader of the Opposition.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I do not take exception to the action of the Prime Minister in making a statement, but I am sorry that he did not tell us more regarding the Conference. He failed to state why the country was not permitted to know the reasons for which the Conference arrived at the conclusions to which he referred. I ask him to let us know later whether he and his colleagues attended the Conference under duress, and were compelled against their will, and despite their protests, to sit behind closed doors. The Minister of Defence laughs, but this is not a laughing matter. His laughter is of the kind that those resort to who find themselves in a position of difficulty, and try to make light of it.
– We are not in the slightest difficulty.
– The Prime Minister ought to say whether he believes it to be a sound principle of government for a young Commonwealth like, this that our representatives should- discuss with the Premiers’ of the States questions1 affecting public finance without allowing the people to know the reasons by which they were guided. From my point of view their action is absolutely indefensible. The honorable gentleman failed in his duty in not telling us that the Conference was held in secret against bis will, if it was so.
– The-honorable member’s remarks are a fine condemnation of the methods of the Brisbane Labour Conference.
– There can be no object tion to a political party . discussing its affairs in private. If the Premiers and Commonwealth Ministers had associated for purely party purposes it would have been different; but I cannot regard the Conference as a party one, notwithstanding many indications which make it appear that the Commonwealth Ministers and the Premiers met, not as representatives of Governments, - but as an association of gentlemen having common political ideas, their object being to protect their, political interests rather than the welfare of the community.
– Has the Prime Minister any objection to saying now whether he agreed to the Conference, of Premiers and the representatives of the Commonwealth sitting in secret, whether he protested against that proceeding, and whether he will be good enough to say when he will lay before this House the statement to which the press refers as that which brought the Premiers to agreement? I should be glad “if he will let us have the statement as early as possible, because I understand from the press that the agreement seriously affects the Budget proposals that are before us.
– Neither my colleagues nor myself took any .exception to sitting with closed doors, or, naturally, we should have followed the simple expedient of walking out. The information to which the honorable member refers is, as I have said, in course of preparation - indeed, I hoped to have it by this time - and as soon as it. arrives, it will be circulated without delay. At an early date - probably next week - I propose to give notice, of a Bill iri this relation, which will enable the matter to be discussed in- every detail.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs in a position to state the present position regarding the Federal Capital ?
– Following on the cor- ‘ respondence which was laid ‘on the table last week by the Prime Minister, a further communication has been sent to Mr. Wade, Premier of New South Wales, suggesting that he is mistaken in his view that New
South Wales will be placed in an anomalous position by passing an Act of surrender, and pointing out to him the advisableness of taking steps to have an Act passed.
State Quarantine: Agricultural Bureau
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General a question without notice. A few days ago I received the following telegram from Devonport, Tasmania : -
Authorities preventing delivery potatoes landed Melbourne, prior prohibition passed inspector. Is this legal ? Can you assist ? Prompt action necessary.
The question I ask the Attorney-General is whether he is aware of an embargo having been placed upon the entry into Victoria and New South Wales of Tasmanian grown potatoes prior to the advent of a deputation of Tasmanian State parliamentarians which recently waited upon the Minister of Trade and Customs. And further, is the Minister aware of a rumour to the effect that this action is to a large extent attributable to the operation of a ring, or combine, which has created a corner in potatoes to the detriment of the public, which the said ring is cruelly plundering ?
– I have only the same means of information that the honorable member has in regard to the issue -of a proclamation under an alleged inspection law of the State of Victoria. As I intimated before, if -there is an inspection law in force, and it is necessary for inspection that even prohibition should be proclaimed, the proclamation may be legal, though I am not offering a legal opinion, but merely referring to a section in the Constitution. As to a combine,I have no information. If the honorable member thinks there is a combine of an Inter-State character, and will bring the matter before the Department, it will be looked into.
– I desire to direct attention to the fact that Western Australia has quarantined potatoes from Victoria and South Australia, that New South Wales has quarantined potatoes from Victoria and Tasmania, that Victoria has quarantined potatoes from Tasmania and part of Victoria, and, I understand that Queensland has quarantined potatoes from nearly all the States.
– Queensland ports are quite open.
– Does the Minister, who represents the Minister ofTrade and Customs, not think that the Government should exercise their authority under the Quarantine Act, and that some Federal action should be taken, instead of allowing the States to fight against each other?
– I have been informed by the Department of Trade and Customs that representative Ministers of each of the States have recently held a Conference with a view to preventing the evil complained of. So far as the information in possession of the Department on the 19th August last went, it was not thought necessary to take any action ; but since then, the Conference to whichI have referred has been held, and certain resolutions arrived at and I shall again put the matter referred to by the honorable member before the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– fs the Minister aware that the Irish blight is of serious moment to those engaged in potato growing? Will he assist as far as possible in expediting the establishment of a Federal Agricultural Bureau, so that assistance may be given to the growers in every State to stamp out the disease? Will the Minister assist the various States in their endeavours to prevent the disease spreading from State to State?
– We are pressing forward with the Agricultural Bureau Bill, one of the chief objects of which is the investigation of suchdiseases, with a view to obtaining results upon which the States may be consulted in order that proper administrative action may be taken to secure their effective eradication.
– Does not the Minister think that in a Federated Australia we should quarantine the afflicted area or areas where the blight exists, instead of quarantining a whole State? As an illustration, it would be unfair to place Gippsland under a disability, because of some trouble in the Western District of Victoria.
– I have in my hand a newspaper report, setting out a copy of the resolutions agreed to by the State Ministers of Agriculture. They decided that an immediate-effort to secure uniform and effective legislation should be made by all States with regard to potatoes and other solanaceous plants. With regard to the particular point raised by the honorable member for Bass, they also agreed -
That each State should subdivide its whole area into districts and take immediate steps toascertain the extent of the prevalance of Irish
Blight within its borders, with a view to quarantining all districts where the disease is found to exist.
Details for giving effect to this are provided. That is in agreement with the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs interview the Minister of Agriculture and Water Supply for Victoria and endeavour to persuade him to remove the embargo from the potatoes that are now stacked on the wharf in Melbourne, provided that after they are examined only sound ones are sent out?
– I cannot undertake to interview the State Minister. I can only refer the honorable member to the agreement that has already been made among the States with respect to the matter, by which possibly the desires of the honorable member may be carried out.
– The potatoes on the wharfs will rot if action is not taken at once.
Pensioners in Hospital - Questions to Applicants - Employment of LetterCarriers - Western Australian Claims.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether, seeing that the ‘Maitland Benevolent Asylum is a charitable institution, supported by voluntary subscriptions, and receives no subsidy from the Commonwealth Government, and that there are many old-age pensioners who, recognising the comfort and attention they receive, prefer to seek a home within its walls rather than provide for themselves outside, and that during the time they are supported by the institution they are debarred from drawing any pension, and the institution is consequently obliged to provide the whole costof their maintenance, he will take steps to so amend the Act that the cost of providing for these old-age pensioners may be a first charge on their pensions, and that the pensions be paid to the institution towards the maintenance of the pensioners to recoup the institution for its outlay ?
– I regret that I cannot agree to do as the honorable member desires immediately. The matter is surrounded with considerable difficulty. The present law may look hard from one point of view, but any change in the direction suggested by the honorable member would be very difficult and troublesome. I promise, however, to give the matter consideration.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he has yet taken steps to modify in a liberal direction the list of questions put to applicants for pensions under the Old-age Pensions Act ?
– I intend to give some attention shortly to the matter, but have not yet had time to do so. I shall look over the list and ascertain whether the questions cannot be made more suitable.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to a suggestion made on Saturday night at a meeting of the Letter Carriers’ Association to the effect that letter carriers might be utilized to distribute pensions to old-age pensioners? Will the honorable gentleman consult his officers as to whether that is practicable?
– I did notice, in reading the newspapers, that a suggestion of that kind had been made. It has been brought before us before, but I am informed that there are a good many difficulties in the way. I shall be glad to have the matter specially looked into.
– Is the Treasurer aware that considerable dissatisfaction exists in Western Australia as to the delay in dealing with old-age pension claims, and that numerous letters of complaint are appearing daily in the papers ?
– I have not had any complaints, and I believe they have not been numerous ; but I have noticed that there is a great discrepancy in Western Australia between the number of applications for pensions and the number approved of. Steps have already been taken to expedite the matter, and I am in hopes that they will be successful.
– Some months ago, Mr. Speaker, I brought under the notice of your predecessor the desirability of printing on correspondence sent out from this building the words, “If not claimed within seven days please return to the House of Representatives; Melbourne.” One of my objects was that unclaimed correspondence should be returned unopened. I should like to ask that that matter be taken into consideration, and effect given to it. If any correspondence is returned to the House the clerks will know the writing of the honorable member to whom it belongs.
– That is the first I have heard of anything of the kind, and inquiries will be made at once.
– In connexion with the reported withdrawal of British warships from the search for the Waratah, and in view of the fact that shipmasters seem to be almost without exception of opinion that the vessel is still afloat, will the Prime Minister communicate with the Admiralty as to whether they cannot see their way clear to make another effort to find the vessel ?
– Within the last ten days I communicated with His Excellency the Admiral on the subject. The reply received showed that it was practically impossible at present to detach any vessels from the Australian service for the purpose, the supposed position of the Waratah being very much nearer the South African station, which had sent two or more cruisers in search, and that it was impracticable to do so from the Australian centre.
– The answer just given by the Prime Minister seems to have been made under a misapprehension. I did not refer in my question to the possibility of vessels of the Australian squadron being utilized in the search. I am quite as well aware as he is-
– The honorable member must not debate the question.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that two ships belonging to the Imperial squadron, stationed, apparently, at Cape Town, have been searching for some time for the Waratah, and that the search has been abandoned by them ? Further, does he not think there is a possibility of the Waratah, if still afloat, having drifted out of the ordinary trade routes, and whether in these circumstances - since there are many Australian citizens on board that vessel - he will appeal to the British Admiralty to despatch warships to make a further effort to find the vessel ?
– It is difficult to appeal to a body like the Admiralty on a subject of this kind without implying that they are indifferent to a recognised obligation to take every necessary step in connexion with a marine disaster. Coming from us, such an appeal would have the justification that special anxiety exists in Australia, since many of the Waratah’ s passengers are Australians; but the reply to a former request for local intervention being unsuccessful, I feel some difficulty in making a further appeal to the Admiralty direct. I will take the matter into consideration.
Officers and the Government Policy - Rifle Ranges : Yarrawonga and Molong - Warrnambool Battery - Colonial Naval Men.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether his attention has been drawn to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of a meeting recently held at Goulburn, and addressed by General Gordon and Colonel Ryrie, the Ministerial candidate for Werriwa. The report is headed - defenceschemeapprovedbygeneral gordon.
Fisher Scheme Impracticable.
I wish to know whether, if General Gordon is allowed to publicly approve of the Ministerial scheme, and thus publicly condemn the Fisher scheme, the Minister will see that every soldier in the ranks, however humble, may have an equal opportunity to criticise freely the policy of the Government.
– I am inclined to answer the question by asking another, namely-: Does the honorable member know that General Gordon gave utterance to those sentiments? I understand the honorable member to be referring to the head-lines of the report of what occurred. Would it not be better to authenticate the statements before asking any questions derogatory to General Gordon?
– It is not the first time.
– I have to say, generally, that I have no fault whatever to find with the very admirable statement of the case which the honorable member for Werriwa has just made. I agree that all members of the forces ought to be equally at liberty in regard to such matters; I do not think that the Commandant has rights over and above those of any other member of the force ; but I say again, that it is difficult to answer such questions precisely until we know definitely what has taken place. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall have the matter inquired into.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence a question with regard to the Yarrawonga rifle range, which was condemned as unsafe by the inspecting officer some months ago. The club has made two applications to the Department for information as to what is necessary to make the range safe and fit for rifle practice, but has obtained no satisfactory reply. Will the
Minister give instructions that the information required shall be immediately furnished ?
– I certainly will do so. The case mentioned by the honorable member is one of a number which has arisen, and just how to meet the difficulty, which is of a general character, I do not know. I shall, however, have inquiries made into this case.
– Is the Minister of Defence aware that the establishment and equipment of a rifle range at Molong has been under the consideration of his Department for more than twelve months, and will he state when the Department proposes to deal with the matter?
– I cannot say at the moment when it is proposed to deal with the matter, but I will make inquiries and inform the honorable member.
– Is the Minister of Defence aware that the Warrnambool battery has been for a long time left without an instructor? There are now four large guns there, but the commanding officer, junior officers, and members of the battalion have no sergeant-major to instruct them in the working of the guns. It is absolutely necessary that something should be done in order that the men may be properly trained. Will the Minister use his best endeavours to send a competent instructor there as soon as possible?
– I hope that when the Estimates have been dealt with it will be possible to do something in the direction mentioned by the honorable member.
– The following cable appsared in this week’s press -
In the House of Commons on Friday, Mr. McKenna, First Lord of the Admiralty, introduced a Bill to amend the Colonial Naval Defence Act of 1865.
The amendment empowers Colonial Governments to provide that the seamen raised under the 1865 Act may be bound to general service in the Royal Navy, in case of emergency.
Can the Prime Minister state whether that is one of the first fruits of the Imperial Defence Conference, and if he or the Australian delegate to the Conference was consulted? The matter is important, as such an Act would bind Australian seamen in the future to join the Royal Navy as required by the Admiralty.
– My information on the subject is precisely that of the honorable member himself.
– Will the Minister of Defence state if the Defence Bill is yet ready, and, if so, when he intends to introduce it?
– I hope it will not be very long before the Bill is introduced.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether he has received a report of the decisions arrived at by the Imperial Defence Conference. If so, when does he propose to give the House an opportunity to consider them? It was stated, in the press the other morning that they would not be made public until the return of the delegate. I should like the honorable gentleman to tell us whether that is so or not, and, if it is not so, to state at approximately what date he will give the House an opportunity of discussing the Conference’s recommendations.
– We have no definite information regarding the decisions of the Conference. They have not come to hand yet, nor have we any information as to what is intended regarding the secrecy or otherwise of the proposals. We shall consult the House the moment we are in a position to do so. The matter will not be delayed longer than we can help.
– I wish, Mr. Speaker, to ask a question as to the removal from the Library of a picture of the House of Commons, showing that women who visit that Chamber are put in a cage, from which they view the proceedings. I desire to know whether, if a picture of the House of Lords may be hung in the Library, why a picture of the House of Commons cannot also be exhibited there?
– This is, perhaps, a matter for the Library Committee, of which I am a member. I shall have inquiries made, and will inform the honorable member of the result.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General whether it is true that the prosecution initiated in connexion with hostile witnesses who appeared before the
Royal Commission on Harvesters has been abandoned - in other words, whether it is true that it is not intended to appeal against the decision of the police magistrate?
– It is true. The information was laid, at the suggestion of the Commission, with a view to aiding their inquiry. After the hearing of the first case, which, to an extent, was a test one, there was not, in my opinion, a reasonable chance of a conviction, if an appeal were taken, and having seen the honorable member who was President of the Commission, I recommended that further proceedings should be stayed on terms which were arranged.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state whether it is not a fact that the questions which were put to the witnesses, and on their refusal to answer which the prosecution was based, were first submitted to the officers of the Crown Law Department, who advised that they were within the scope of the Commission ?
– Part of the proceedings occurred before I took office as AttorneyGeneral. I saw all the papers, however, and know that the questions which were put to witnesses by the honorable member as President of the Commission, were previously settled at the request of that Commission by my Department. These were the questions on which the prosecutions were based. Subsequently, when the Commission intimated that certain witnesses had refused to answer questions which, I understand, had been answered by others, I saw the honorable member and asked him whether he considered that the answering of such questions was essential to the inquiry. He informed me that it was, and we then told him that the Department would afford him assistance in conducting a prosecution if the Commission desired that one should be instituted. The prosecution took place ; but there being a reasonable doubt as to whether the scope of the Commission covered the questions asked, I thought it advisable not to proceed with the appeal. Terms were therefore arranged, and the case was discontinued.
– In view of the admission that the questions were submitted to, and approved by, the ‘Crown Law officers, I ask the Attorney-General on whose advice the appeal to the High Court from the Police Magistrate was discontinued ?
– The position was this : Conceiving it to be my duty to assist the
Commission in enforcing the answering of its questions, I saw the honorable member, who was President of the Commission, regarding the request that proceedings should be taken, and told him that I had a doubt as to whether the scope of the Commission covered them, but that if he desired to proceed, I would assist him by allowing the Crown Solicitor to help him with the information. One information being dismissed, I had to consider whether we should appeal. As the Commission’s report had already been presented, nothing would have been gained by the answering of the questions then, and, believing that there was a doubt as to whether the Commission covered the questions which were settled by the Department - not by me - I thought that further proceedings should not be taken. Before discontinuing the appeal, I informed the honorable member that I thought it should be discontinued. In my opinion, it was proper to discontinue it.
– I wish it to be made plain that what the Commission did was done on the advice of the Crown Law officers. I ask the Attorney-General what were the terms of the final settlement regarding the discontinuance of the prosecution?
– Before discontinuing proceedings of this kind, we like to try to get out of paying costs. It was the opinion of the lawyers acting for the Crown that, if we appealed, there was no chance of conviction, and I think that under the circumstances we did very .well in discontinuing on the terms that no costs should be paid on either side. I have endeavoured to make it clear that the questions were settled by my Department at the request of the Commission, prior to my coming into office, and, I think, settled correctly.
– If there was any fault, it was that of the Crown Law officers.
– I think that, had I been in the position of my predecessor, I should have done exactly as he did, so far as the form, apart from the authority for, the questions was concerned. The questions were properly settled and properly put, the Chairman of the Commission acting throughout with a right sense of his position. If fault ib to be found, it is in regard to the resolutions of the House on which the Commission was issued.
Mr.DEAKIN.- The questions without notice this afternoon have necessarily been more numerous than usual, because we are reassembling after an adjournment of some days. Without in the least reflecting on those who have asked them - because they were all pertinent to our business - may I suggest that, at this period of the session, it being highly desirable to economise time, as a rule, questions should be asked only upon notice, and that where there is special urgency, making notice impossible, Ministers should be informed beforehand, so that they may be prepared with the information desired.
– I ask the leave of the House to make a reply to the Prime Minister’s statement.
– It was merely a request to the House.
– I did not understand the Prime Minister to do more than make a request ; and, therefore, if the Leader of the Opposition wishes to follow him, he may do so.
-No one can rightly accuse me of taking advantage of opportunities for wasting time for party purposes; but the words just uttered by the Prime Minister, which will be recordedin the official report, may later afford an occasion, if not for him, for others on his side of the Chamber, to state that time has been wasted, notwithstanding the protests by the official head of the House.
– I acknowledge that as many questions in proportion to numbers were asked on this side as on the other.
– There was nothing unusual in the questions without notice asked this afternoon. I hope and believe that the Prime Minister is now in earnest in wishing to proceed with business ; and 1 shall assist him in doing so. Business should be proceeded with ; it is not enough merely to talk about pushing on with it.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Public Service Act - Home Affairs Department - Public Service Commissioner’s Office - Promotions of -
W, J. Skewes, as Secretary,1st Class, and W. J. Clemons, as Registrar, 2nd Class.
Papua. - Ordinances of 1909 -
No. 3. - Supplementary Appropriation 1908-09, No. 7.
No. 7. - Supplementary Appropriation 1908-09, No. 8.
No. 9. Amendments Incorporation.
No.13.- Wild Birds.
No.14. - Jury Ordinance Amendment.
No.16. - Hawkers and Pedlers Repeal.
No.17. - Supplementary Appropriation 1908-og, No. 9.
No.18.- Gold Buyers.
No. 19. - Rice.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the fact that female cleaners are citizens of the Commonwealth equally with all other applicants for employment under the Commonwealth, will he arrange so that these citizens are not compelled to apply to the Secretary for Home Affairs, to the Deputy Postmaster-General, to the Comptroller-General of Customs, to the Secretary for Defence, but to have the application for such work received at one place only?
– My reply to the honorable member’s question is : -
The Public Service Inspectors only register applications for employment under the provisions of the Public Service Act. Female cleaners, like other casual labourers, are exempt as a class from the operation of the Act, and their employment rests with the Minister of the Department concerned. As it is found necessary to interview female cleaners to ascertain their fitness before appointment, it is thought that it would only add to their difficulties to ask them to also register with the Public Service Inspector of the State in which they desire to be engaged.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
Difficulties often arise in obtaining parades for examination purposes in connexion with the practical tests, as such parades have to be fitted in so as not to interfere with the Field Training or Musketry, and Staff Officers appointed to conduct the tests may not be able, owing to other duties, to attend on the days which might suit a corps.
Promotions to fill existing vacancies have in no cases been delayed owing to the practical portion of the examinations not having been carried out.
In Commiitee of Supply: (Consideration resumed from 13th August, vide page 2508), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That the item, “The President,£1,100,” be agreed to.
.- In proceeding with this debate, after the Conference of last week, we must discuss proposals which will subsequently be seriously altered, and perhaps altogether withdrawn. Apparently Ministers are no longer free in regard to them, being bound by an agreement of which we know nothing officially, which alters the basic principle of their Budget. I ask the Treasurer, therefore, whether he now intends to issue Treasury bonds for £1, 200.000 to make good the deficiency which he has anticipated. If not, he should inform the Committee. Until we have a statement of the intentions of the Government regarding the conclusions arrived at in conference with the Premiers, we can do nothing, and the discussion of the Budget will be a waste of time. If I rightly understood a statement which I read in the press, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer no longer think it necessary to borrow.
– Where did the honorable member read that I had said that ?
– During my absence in the north, I read a newspaper telegram stating that the right honorable gentleman and the Prime Minister had intimated that, owing to the agreement come to with the Premiers, they did not think it would be necessary to issue Treasury bills to make good the anticipated deficit on the finances of the current year.
– “ It might not even be necessary “ were the words I used.
– The Treasurer will agree that that is a most important departure from his Budget statement ; and I should like to know from him, or a representative of the Government, whether that action was taken because some of the Ministerial followers said they could not continue their support if this proposal were persisted in?
– I have no knowledge of that.
– My knowledge comes from Hansard, in which there is a distinct and definite statement from supporters of the Government that they could not support a policy of the kind.
– Why does the honorable member ask me. if he knows himself?
-I ask the Treasurer whether the Government have taken action with the Premiers in order to save their own political position, and not to further the interests of the Commonwealth ?
– And I say thatI have no knowledge of that.
– It is not for me to complain of a statement of that kind by the Treasurer ; but I do say that the Government have changed their attitude, seeing that the Prime Minister distinctly stated that he hoped this agreement would enable them to avoid the necessity of issuing Treasury bonds.
– What harm was there in that statement?
– I am not now speaking of “any harm” ; the point is that we have a Ministry, which, we are told, was brought into existence to enable responsible government to prevail; and yet one of its first acts is to negotiate with the States representatives, and agree, not to a Commonwealth policy, but to a policy which is going to be temporarily useful to itself, but, which, from my point of view, takes no note of the welfare of the people. What becomes of the great cry of “trust the people”? I have heard the right honorable member for East Sydney, as well as the Prime Minister, say that there is no greater safety to a country than to “trust the people.” If that be so, I think the time has come when the people, apart from politicians, should have a say in the matter. If the people can be trusted to guide the destinies of the Commonwealth and the States, why is it necesary for the Premiers and the representatives of the Commonwealth Government to meet in conference, and, without consulting the people, determine their future financial relations? Why is it necessary for the Conference to take place absolutely free from any public discussion ? As I understand from a newspaper interview, the right honorable member for East Sydney thought it his public duty to send a letter to the Premiers in Conference stating his views regarding the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. It is a very serious matter, that neither the opinions of the Government, nor the written communication addressed to the Conference by an experienced public man like the right honorable member for East Sydney has yet been allowed to see the light of day. What becomes of the cry “ trust the people”? The recent action of the Government is far from an honest effort to trust the people; it is an insidious effort to bring about a combination of the principal public men in the States and the Commonwealth, so that they may come to an agreement which will assist them in their political position to-day, but which will be to the detriment of the people of the Commonwealth in the future. I have no hesitation in making that statement. The right honorable member for East Sydney lays claim to having performed some public service to the Commonwealth in limiting the operation of the Braddon section to ten years, but he has now done a great disservice to the people by endeavouring to perpetuate the worst features of that section. It has been said by way of apology, by the Prime Minister and those who are supporting him in the present proposals, that if the Constitution is altered to enable the Commonwealth to pay the States 25s. per head in perpetuity, the alteration may be reversed in time to come. I hope, however, that there is no honest public man in Australia who will seriously defend that position.
– Why should the alteration he reversed unless the debts are taken over?
– That is another matter. At the inauguration of Federation this section was deliberately inserted in the Constitution to provide for a proportionate return of the net Customs and Excise revenue to the States ; but a very different state of affairs prevails to-day. After experience of the Constitution an agreement is sought to be made between a Federal Parliament now in existence and the Premiers of the State Parliaments now in existence; and the agreement is to amend the Constitution to insure to the States a specific amount of the Commonwealth revenue for all time. Though not competent to deal with the legal aspect, I feel that if the Commonwealth Parliament, with the experience it now possesses, entered into an agreement of the kind, it would be guilty of an absolute breach of faith if it thereafter interfered with the rights secured by the States under that agreement. That is why I say that the position in regard to the Budget has been completely altered. In my opinion, apart from the method, the amount proposed to be given to the States is excessive. I go further and say that if the amount mentioned is agreed upon, the government of Australia cannot be carriedon as it ought to be in the interests of the welfare of the people and the development of the country.
– Does the honorable member think the amount too much?
– I think that it is too much, and that it would be absolutely impossible for any Government to provide it in later years. I go so far as to say that it is a piece of political hypocrisy to offer such an amount. Let us glance at the return per head from Tariffs in other parts of the world. First, let me quote from Coghlan for the year 1899- 1900, page 774. In New South Wales in th::t year, the gross return, I think, from the Tariff was £1 5s. ?d. per head ; in Victoria, £1 19s. ; in Queensland, £3 6s. ‘ 5d. ; in South Australia, £1 4s. 8d. ; in Western Australia, £5 9s. 2d. ; and in Tasmania, £2 9s. rod., or an average of £2 is. per head. This, of course, was prior to Federation ; and since then the amount per head has increased, but not so considerably as some honorable members appear to think. The Statesman’s Year-Book informs us that in the United Kingdom the average return from the Tariff per head is £* 9s- 8d. : in Canada, £e 19s. 2d.; in Australia, £2 6s. lod.
– That is for the vear 1906-7.
– Quite so, but the honorable member will agree with me that it is a very fair average, which in no wellgoverned country - even a wealthy country - the people should be asked to exceed. It is very difficult to get the exact figures in regard to the United States, but, approximately, the return there is £1 9s. per head. Germany is a great and progressive country of which we hear much, and which scares us now and again, because of the great ability of the German people, not only to conduct their affairs, but to direct the affairs of other countries. Tt is said that every European nation is afraid of Germany ; and yet the return from the Tariff in that country is only 1 6s. per head. As I understand the interjection recently made by the honorable member for North Sydney, he has it in his mind that the Commonwealth, later on, will be in a position to take over the States debts, and thus be relieved of the payment of 25s. per head.
– The Constitution contemplates the taking over of the debts.
– The question of taking over the States debts does not involve bitter political party feeling, and, therefore, does not arouse any great interest; but it is a matter of the gravest moment to the people. There is no one whose opinion on the subject I would prefer to that of the honorable member for North Sydney, and I ask him whether this Parliament is more likely to be able to do a service to the people of the Commonwealth by taking over the whole of the
States debts after they have provided for the payment of 25s. per head in perpetuity, or before that provision is made? In my opinion the : time to deal with the question of the States debts is now, and not after we have provided for the payment of the 25s. per head. I make the prediction that the people of the Commonwealth will live to regret such an arrangement if it be made. The Premiers certainly ought to regret and be ashamed that they did not accept the generous offers made by various representatives of the Commonwealth regarding the acceptance of responsibility for the whole of the debts. It is a great pity that there have not been more financial discussions on this question in this Parliament. I do not hold myself altogether free from blame for not pressing the matter further ; but, again and again,, while sitting on that side of the House, I made representations to the Prime Minister that he should fix a time for a financial debate on this important question. As often, however, as it was promised, so often was that promise shut out by what I suppose were regarded as more important matters. There have been no more important matters in bygone days than this, but we have allowed our opportunity to pass, as I believe, to the serious financial injury of the people of the Commonwealth. The Treasurer, after careful investigation, estimates his net Customs and Excise receipts at £2 9s. 7 Jd. per head for this year. I think, speaking from memory, that that is correct. But those are not our actual receipts. We shall not have nearly that amount of money in our possession legitimately. If the Treasurer will look at the sugar Excise and sugar bounty arrangement, he will see that an income, varying from £600,000 to £800,000, will absolutely disappear, and cannot be included in the legitimate Customs and Excise revenue in ordinary circumstances. Deducting 3s. per head on account of that amount-
– It would not be so much.
– lt will be very near it. I understand that the basis is a population of 4,300,000.
– The sugar Excise is estimated for this year at ,£600,000.
– There is a small- crop this year, but .the amount was over £800,000 the year before last, and the Treasurer can rely upon that revenue averaging about £700,000.
– To what is the honorable member referring when he speaks of a revenue of £800,000 ?
– In the early days of Federation, with a view to making an economic difference between the production of sugar by white labour and by coloured labour, we introduced what I call a superstructure on our Constitution by imposing Excise duties on all sugar produced in Australia, and returning to the white growers, first by way of rebate and afterwards by way of bounty, three-fourths of the total amount collected from that special Excise. It is proposed by our present Acts that those two operations shall cease. That is, we thought that as soon as the white labour could be absolutely protected, it would be undesirable to continue the Excise, which provides the money to be handed back in the shape of bounty.
– There is no such qualification in the Act. It ceases at a given time.
– I am not discussing the policy now. I am discussing the question ofthe inflation of the Commonwealth revenue for a considerable number of years by that superstructure for a political purpose. The money received from the sugar Excise cannot be looked upon as an ordinary recurring receipt from year to year. It will not recur.It is simply an extraordinary increase for a time in our Customs and Excise revenue which the Treasurer ought to have taken into account when negotiating with the State Premiers. I do not know whether he did so or not, but he cannot depend upon that amount.
– We are quite well aware of that.
– Very well. From his present Customs and Excise revenue of £2 gs. 7½d. per capita, he ought to have deducted at least from 2s. 6d. to 2s.9d. I presume when we get the extraordinary document that convinced the Premiers we shall find that fully set out. Deducting then, say,2s. 7½d. on account of the sugar Excise from the £29s. 7½d. per capita of Customs and Excise revenue, £2 7s. is left. The Treasurer then gives away 7d. per head more - for the first year, at any rate- as a contribution towards the £250,000 quite properly allotted to Western Australia. Therefore, even if the Treasurer’s estimate is exceeded, he cannot expect in the most favorable circumstances to have more than £2 7s. per head during the current financial year. What does that mean? He will have to pay 25s. per head to the States, not in this financial year, but from July next, when the new agreement begins, and that will leave him 21s. or 22s. per head for Federal purposes. The Treasurer’s estimates in his present Budget demand a greater amount of revenue than would be given him by 22s. per head of the population.
– This year?.
Mr.FISHER.- And next year. Obviously the Treasurer has not enough for his present commitments for this year, or he would not ask for authority to issue Treasury bonds for £1,200,000.
– This year he is returning more to the States.
– I know he is, but the commitments which he has notified, without taking into account the policy of the Prime Minister, involving as it does the expenditure of quite £2,000,000 more on defence, the Northern Territory, and the extension of the pensions system, show that it is absolutely impossible for any Treasurer to finance the Federation without getting more revenue. The right honorable member for East Sydney is reported in the press to have stated in an interview - and I regret the words which are quoted as his in inverted commas - that the only way the Government could” get at the multitude of the people “ was through Customs and Excise. In two places the context led one to believe that the right honorable gentleman was a strong and determined advocate of the principle of “ getting at the multitude “ in that way.
– I never used the expression “getting at the multitude” in my life. I said it was only through Customs and Excise that the mass of the inhabitants could bear any share of the taxation, because the expense of levying direct taxation on small amounts would be so great that it would be impracticable.
– That, of course, is not so brutally frank as the other, but its purport is the same.
– I think the masses of the people ought to help to bear the State, as well as the Federal, burdens.
– So do I, but they are making a fair contribution when we demand from them £2 10s. per head.
– The honorable member is quite right, but that is not my fault.
– I think quite sufficient is being extorted from them, but the right honorable gentleman knows that he spoke, not of the present amount, but of an amount in excess that will be necessary for Commonwealth purposes. What he said could have no other meaning, and he ought to admit it. He stated that to give 25s. per capita back to the States would, of course, deplete the Commonwealth revenue to a certain extent, but would allow absolute freedom to the Commonwealth Government to impose further indirect taxation. That further indirect taxation must be levied, not on those best able to bear it, as I have heard the right honorable gentleman so eloquently advocate from time to time, but on those least able to bear it. Every person, whether earning large or small amounts, would have to bear an equal proportion of that deficit.
– I got precious little help in this House whenI tried, for seven years, to keep down indirect taxation.
– I am not here to charge the right honorable member with what he has done in the past ; but the fact that he did not get support in the past is no reason why he should go back on the principle of a life-time, and assert that the burden must be shouldered by those least able to bear it.
– Surely the true test of taxation is that it should be in proportion to people’s means !
– The honorable member for Parkes will not contend that revenue duties fall equitably on people according to their means?
– I do not sav so.
– Then what is the use of keeping up a farce of that kind ?
– It is equally difficult to show that they fall unfairly.
– It is the simplest thing possible to show that they fall grossly unfairly ; because taxation on the necessaries of life, speaking generally and according to absolute fact, falls most heavily on the toiling masses, who have larger families, and who, themselves andtheir families, consume proportionately a larger amount of dutiable goods than the wealthy do.
– Give them pensions for their children.
– The honorable member for Melbourne is quite right.
– That statement of the honorable member for Wide Bay would have been admirable when the Tariff was being discussed. Why did he not try then to keep the taxation off the multitude?
– I did, and I shall do it again. One of the gravest charges that can be brought against the present Prime Minister in regard to the agreement which he has made with the State Premiers lies in that. If he is a Protectionist, and believes in Protection, or the new Protection, as we do, he must know that he cannot have a large Customs revenue and have effective Protection also. If he relies on raising his revenue by indirect taxation in order to carry out the agreement, he must absolutely have abandoned Protection. He cannot have it both ways. It will be said that those who take exception to the agreement, because it is to be in perpetuity, are endeavouring to do an injury to the States. I hope the time is near at hand when the public men of the Commonwealth will not be afraid to express their views even although they may tell politically against them. There are in the States no people who are not peopleof the Commonwealth. There are no people interested in the States who are not equally interested in the advancement of the Commonwealth. Let us be honest enough to face that position, and to say that the only way of dealing effectually with the question of the transfer of the States’ debts is by applying gentle pressure to the States. It is foolish for the States Governments to delay dealing with this matter, but the fault of the States Premiers in this regard will not be so disastrous as will be the result of the preamble to the present agreement, prepared, I presume, by the Prime Minister. We have in that preamble some “ hifalutin “ language as to a financial agreement having been arrived at, and yet that agreement provides for the appointment of a. RoyalCommission to inquire into and consider the best possible means of dealing with the States’ debts, after we have irrevocably committed ourselves to the giving away of the Commonwealth revenue. We are to hand over first of all five-ninths of our revenue to the States, and having done that we are to enter into negotiations with the States to hand us over their debts in place of the money they have received. How hopeful honorable members opposite mustbe. At present the States are holding tenaciously to their debts as if they were great assets, and they seem to be disposed to continue in that attitude. We have in the preamble to the agreement a statement that we are going to negotiate with the States to hand us over their debts, whilst at the same time we hand them over five-ninths of our revenue. We can do nothing with their debts unless we get back the money we are proposing to give them, and embody in the Constitution a provision to that effect.
– The Constitution already provides for that. Mr. FISHER.- I do not think so. If. we once declare that the States are to receive out of the Customs and Excise revenue a sum equal to 25s. per head of their population, we cannot take back that money under the section of the Constitution which enables us to’ take over their debts.
– But we could, if we chose, leave them to pay the interest on the debts.
– How would that advantage the Commonwealth? What advantage will be conferred on the ‘Commonwealth by the States crediting us with their 25s. per head of the population instead’ of finding the money themselves. Is that the remedy which was intended by the people when they entered into Federation, with a view of our having one instead of seven borrowers? I think not. I have not the shadow of a doubt that if the Commonwealth had the handling of the whole of the debts of the States, it could within three-quarters of a century, wipe out both principal and interest without exacting the contribution of a penny from the people to a fund for that purpose. And yet the Government, for nothing more nor less than a desire for their temporary continuance in place and power, have openly and freely given away a great principle by which a saving of tens of millions could have been effected.
– I am surprised that the honorable member should make such a statement. .
– The right honorable member, at all events, will not say that it fails in directness, or that it is too subtle to be understood.
– It is merely an assertion.
– It is a statement of fact which has been confirmed by others. I have no desire to reflect on the individual honour of the Government, but I say that as a Ministry, in arriving at an agreement with the States, they were seriously’ influenced by the political aspect of this question. I have heard the Prime Minister speak again and- again of tremendous difficulties which would almost shake the Federation to its foundations, and declare that appalling consequences would result from our failure to do this or that. But there is nothing wrong with the Commonwealth, or the people of the Commonwealth. The people know exactly what it will cost to govern them, and if the position is honestly explained to them, they will readily pay up. They may remove one member, or every one of us, from this House, but they will honestly face their obligations just a& the race from which they come have done in every other part of the world.
– What ‘has the honorable member to say about the Labour party’s scheme, which the exAttorneyGeneral said was to be for all time?
– I think that the Treasurer must have misunderstood the honorable member for West Sydney, if he says he declared that it was to be for all time.
– I have marked in pencil a statement made by the honorable member, as reported in Ilansard, relative to the Brisbane scheme being for all time.
– It is not to be for all time.
– I find that the honorable member for West Sydney said -
Whatever may be the shortcomings of the Brisbane scheme, it had, at least, the merit of practicability.
– I was contrasting it with the proposals of the present Government for a temporary arrangement in regard to the Braddon section.
– And the honorable member said that the scheme adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference was to be for all time.
– I shall state my position in reference to that scheme. It was undoubtedly a good outline of a scheme, and apparently the best that had been submitted to the country.
– No fear, my scheme was a better one.
– One must express one’s own views. The Brisbane Labour scheme had this merit : that it stated in plain, unmistakable language what was really intended. A share of the revenue was to be returned to. the States after 1910.
– It was a reply to the statement that the Labour party were going to neglect the interests of the States.
– And it was to be a per capita distribution.
– As the honorable member for West Sydney has very properly said, we, as a party, had to meet, as we” have always had to meet, the statements of unprincipled men on the press, and elsewhere, who declared that it was our design that the Commonwealth should retain the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue after 1910.
– And the same statement is made to-day with a view to securing the adoption of the agreement just arrived at.
– I have heard and read outrageous statements regarding the designs of the Labour party, but am glad to say that fewer and fewer people are placing any credence in them. We now find the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Premiers of the States meeting and congratulating themselves on having been able to evolve a scheme so near to that proposed by the Brisbane Labour Conference that the Labour party would not be able to object to it. That shows they initiative, and the farsightedness of honorable members who have the privilege at present of governing the Commonwealth.
– And the honorable member is now going back on the Brisbane Labour Conference scheme.
– I am not.
– I invite the honorable member to read the statement made in this House by the honorable member for West Sydney.
– That statement may be best explained by the honorable member who made it. The scheme adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference was to be in perpetuity in the sense that under it there was to be a return to the States of the balance remaining after the services of the Commonwealth had been provided for. But it did not declare that henceforth and for ever there was tobe no change. The services contemplated were specifically set forth. We said that the States should continue to receive a share of the Federal revenue, and that such annual share should be paid to the States in the form of a fixed sum per head of the population. That is still our policy, and it is apparently the policy of the present Government. So far as I can see they are mere copyists.
– Very well ; do not go back on the scheme.
– We are going forward. The scheme further provided -
That such annual share be paid to the States in the form of a fixed sum per head of the population, such sum to be ascertained during or before the year 1910 on the basis shown in the fourth paragraph.
That the proportion of revenue allocated to the Commonwealth must be sufficient to cover -
All existing expenditure apart from reproductive services; -
– Existing !
– Exactly; what is an “existing service”? Is it not a service which will expand from year to year, according to the necessities of the Commonwealth ? Surely it is not a service which is to stagnate. If the population of the Commonwealth increases, then there must be an increase in a lesser degree in the expenses of the services of the Commonwealth. The Brisbane scheme further provided that the proportion of revenue allocated to the Commonwealth must be sufficient to cover -
– For which the scheme agreed to at the recent Conference does not provide.
– Quite so. How is it possible to interpret that provision as meaning that a distinct and specific amount is to be set aside for that service, and is not to be increased if necessary in the future? What a ridiculous proposition. I hope that nothing will prevent the extension of invalid and old-age pensions. We were not the first to arrange for the payment of such pensions, but I hope that we shall soon stand in the first rank in regard to the amount paid and the range of those benefited. This, therefore, is a service which will demand more and more of the public revenue. I would like to remind those who complain of that cost that, in the year 1907-8, nearly £2,000,000 was taken from the people, and we are now returning part of it. I hope, therefore, that their complaints will not continue. The next paragraph of the proposal was -
An additional sum, not to exceed One million pounds, for the expanding necessities of the Federal Government, such as the creation of the Federal Capital, railway undertakings, and the development of the Northern Territory.
That disposes of the statement that the amount was to be a sum fixed upon at one period of the history of the Commonwealth, to continue for ever after unchanged.
– A very different interpretation was given by the members of the Committee which framed the scheme.
– At Hobart, I expressed the view thatI am expressing now, and did the same at Gympie. When I spoke at Hobart, the Premiers were interrogating me as to whether the party was bound to carry out certain planks of its platform not yet in operation. Every Labour candidate is asked to accept and support the party’s programme, but no elected member is ever asked to do anything contrary to his pledges, or anything he has not pledged himself to do. The electors are too honorable to make such a request to their representatives. But that does not prevent persons of political bias - and the Prime Minister is not free from the charge - from trying to do us injury by asserting that we are not free.
– That is not the point. The honorable member is aware that a very different interpretation of the Brisbane scheme was put forward by the members of the Committee which framed it immediately after the Conference adjourned.
– There were those in Sydney who thought that the scheme would provide in perpetuity the actual sum available when the estimate was made; but the great weakness of the arrangement was that a five years’ period was to be taken and averaged, the contribution to the States being fixed for ever afterwards accordingly. I have never been in favour of that. As chairman of the Convention, I think I know what was in the minds of the members. The scheme, it must be remembered, was only one for general guidance, and, in J:he circumstances, a good one. But the party is not so tied to it as to allow injury to be done to the country by having it carried out to the letter. As I pointed out at Hobart and at Gympie, its wording is not as clear as it might have been ; but it was evolved and submitted for approval towards the end of a long and arduous Conference which lasted for several days, and is no reflection on the party which drafted it, as the sheet anchor of statesmen who desire the welfare of the country rather than their own political existence. I feel that we cannot discuss the Budget until we know the position of Ministers regarding the agreement with the Premiers.
– That agreement has caused the Treasurer to alter his intention regarding the issue of Treasury bills, and therefore has a great “bearing on the Budget. I feel that I cannot discuss the Budget until I know what the arrangement with the Premiers is.
– That is my position. In common courtesy, we should be informed, without a moment’s delay, regard ing the agreement with the Premiers. The agreement was arrived at in a manner which I consider reprehensible, but I understand that it is an honorable agreement. Some of the press supporters of the Premier of Queensland spoke of it as a triumph for him, while the Melbourne newspapers declare that the Prime Minister is jubilant about it. An agreement which so greatly pleases both parties must be an excellent one, but what about the people ? If they knew the loss involved by leaving the debts in the hands of the States, and allowing a seventh Government to come upon the money market, they would insist on a change. Short as. this session is, and important as the issues regarding defence and other matters to be brought before us are, there should be a full and ample discussion of the financial position at the earliest possible moment. Until the people care educated in these matters; they cannot express a right opinion. It is deplorable that many members of the Parliaments of the States hold the view regarding the Harper-Lyne scheme for the conversion of the State debts that the Commonwealth would take over the assets of the States as well as the debts. I have explained tn some of them that it is not so; but they have been incredulous. This great want of knowledge regarding the financial proposals is due to the lack of discussion here and on the public platform. I would remind the Prime Minister that the net revenue set out is not the sum that can be calculated on for any future eventuality. An amount ranging between 2s. 6d. and 3s. must be allowed for under the operation of the sugar Excise and bounty, which will make a considerable reduction, leaving him at the most 22s. per head, when he has his financial freedom. It’ is true that he may then propose duties as he pleases, but I presume and hope that he will not try to pile up revenue duties. I understand that the Premiers have agreed that, if we pass a Bill this session providing for the alteration of the Constitution, they will allow the Government to deduct £600,000 from their share of the revenue this year. Is it proposed to pass Bills through the State Parliaments to allow that to be done?
– I do not think so.
– As a layman, I doubt whether the Commonwealth has power to make any deduction from the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue due to the States in the present financial year. The difficulty is that all the information I have as to the agreement is necessarily taken from the newspapers ; and I am there told that, during the present year, if the referendum be in favour of the Government proposal, the States will agree to make the Commonwealth a gift of £600,000. I should be glad if any delegate at that Conference can point out in what way the Federal Government are to be empowered to get possession of the money. My own opinion is that no payment of the kind could be made without express authority under Acts of the State Parliaments. I do not think that the State Premiers, great and important as they are, can give away State moneys without an express vote of their Parliaments. As I said, however, I speak as a layman, and may be altogether in error. Perhaps the Treasurer will give us some information on the point, seeing that he has made a statement to the effect that the £600,000 may relieve him from the embarrassment of borrowing. I think he ought to tell us how he is going to be put in possession of the money. If sis separate Bills have to be passed in six separate Parliaments there mav be some difficulty; and ‘it would be wise for the Treasurer to make sure of his position. The Prime Minister may be ‘able to tell us in what way this proposal is to be carried out. Is it to be part of the question put by the referendum?
– Either way the honorable member has mentioned.
– That is rather too diplomatic a reply at the present stage. If this agreement can be carried out either way, there is another extraordinary position involved, as it appears to me as a layman. I understand that, when the Constitution was passed, it was the undoubted right of the States for ten years to receive threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue. But we now find the State Premiers agreeing with the Commonwealth to violate that agreement.
– Two years ago the honorable member himself voted for the same thing- to alter section 87.
– The Treasurer must be dreaming, because I did nothing of the kind. The’ right honorable gentleman is speaking of the Bill relating to special duties ?
– But that did not reduce the return of three-fourths of the revenue to the States.
– Yes ; I expect so.
– Section 87 was inserted to secure three-fourths of the net revenue to the States for ten years.
– And the honorable member voted to take some of that return a away by special duties.
– The Treasurer does not really understand the question, or he would riot say that.
– I ought to know something about it.
– If the right honorable member applies his mind to the question he will see he is in error, because that measure could not be regarded as an amendment of the existing state of affairs. As to the Naval Agreement, I understand, from a question asked to-day, that neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Defence is in a position to state the real facts regarding the conclusions of the Imperial Defence Conference.
– They are not quite ready yet.
– Will the Prime Minister tell us whether the members of the. Government are as determined now as they were four months ago, when private members, to present a Dreadnought to Great Britain?
– That offer stands; the honorable member has seen the offer that was communicated.
– I have, and my opinion now is the same as it Was four months ago. It. is one of the “regrettable features of recent- history in both Great Britain and Australia, that a number of our public men and people have shown a readiness to take up any screaming cry, though it be to the disadvantage of the reputation of the race.
– The honorable member is fond of attributing motives !
– I am not attributing any motive. I believe that the intentions of the great body of the people were patriotic and admirable, but I do not think that it enhances the reputation of the race when we become frightened at every scare. I- understood that we were a race of people who never really got afraid - that if we were “ licked,” we took our “ licking “ - and to show ourselves farcically scared is a poor compliment to our predecessors. In my opinion, the defence policy of the late Government, on both its naval and military sides, was more effective than that suggested by their successors. The late Government not only announced a policy at Gympie, but, as the members of the present Government well know, they communicated a secret despatch to the Imperial Government, setting out clearly a’nd distinctly their views regarding the naval defence of Australia, and co-operation, in this connexion, with the Mother Country. There was no ambiguity about that document; and it was not made public because the late Government believed it to be to the national advantage to keep it secret. There has been, in my opinion, during the short life of the Commonwealth, far too much communication with the press on the part of Ministers for political advantages; and the time has come when international affairs should be left out of party politics, and an endeavour made to place them on a higher plane.
– The late Government were great geniuses !
– We do not claim to be geniuses. The Treasurer knows that what I am stating is a fact.
– The honorable member does not seem to give the present Government credit for anything in the comparisons he is making !
– I did not compare the scheme of the Labour Conference at Brisbane with the scheme of the Government. When the Government, claim that their scheme of defence is very nearly, akin to that of the Labour Conference, that certainly is a compliment to the Labour party. But I say that the policy announced b) the Government in regard to the gift of a Dreadnought was not a policy at all, and, further, was never intended to be a policy, but was merely a move for party purposes which has served well.
– Why say that?
– Because I believe it. I do not think that the Treasurer was ever very enthusiastic about the Dreadnought business. To do him justice, he, no more than I, liked the hysterical feeling aroused at the time. The right honorable gentleman has the spirit of the race which likes to look every difficulty and danger calmly in the face, prepared to meet it in a determined way. I had intended to say something about the proposed borrowing policy, and to point out that the Government seem to be the natural descendants of that distinguished and immortal personage, Micawber. I shall be very glad indeed if any arrangement can be made to prevent the Commonwealth borrowing. At Gympie, and elsewhere, I have said that I should view with political horror a seventh borrower going on the London or any other market. Until we have the debts consolidated, the Commonwealth should refrain absolutely from borrowing. I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Parkes, that until we have before us the agreement entered into at a secret conclave between the representatives of the Commonwealth Government and the Premiers of the States, we ought not to seriously discuss the financial proposals of the Government, because that agreement undoubtedly changes the position. I had not the pleasure of hearing the Treasurer deliver his Budget speech, but I congratulate him on the fact that it is his third Commonwealth effort. I regret that he should have associated with his statement a proposed borrowing policy. Sir George Turner made a similar proposition in the early days of Federation, and he lived to say publicly again and again that he was thankful to honorable members who had prevented his carrying it into effect. I hope that the present Treasurer will also live to regret his proposal to make up the deficiency, of his revenue by the issue of Treasury bonds. In this country, during the last three years, there has been produced wealth equal to an average of £38 per head of the population - a proportion unprecedented in any country in the world. Yet we are asked to believe that we cannot raise sufficient revenue to carry on the necessary services of the Commonwealth. Such a suggestion, in what might reasonably be called boom times, is a statement of financial incapacity. If the States and the Commonwealth are financially embarrassed when the country was never in possession of greater wealth, what will be the state of affairs when droughts return, with consequent difficulty and financial disaster? The truth is that we have not the public men who will face the situation. The people of the Commonwealth know that further taxation is necessary; and I believe that they would take kindly to the man, from whatever party he might come, who would say, “ We demand from you sufficient to enable us to carry on the services of the Commonwealth and the States properly, and by that means alone are we determined to conduct the finances. We are resolved not to go on the market to borrow until the State debts are consolidated.” When such a Treasurer arises, I am sure that he will be acclaimed by the people, as any man ought to be who has the welfare of the Commonwealth at heart.
– I am sure that every member of the Committee shares with me a feeling of great difficulty in dealing with these important problems at the present stage. I quite indorse the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that it is impossible to discuss the merits and demerits of the Budget until we know exactly how far the Budget proposals are to be altered by the results of the Premiers’ Conference, and it is impossible for us to discuss the results of the Conference in the altered light of the Budget. We are therefore called upon to take part in the discussion of this afternoon in an almost helpless condition in regard to the data upon which our remarks shall be based. The new arrangement arrived at between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer on the one side, and the State Premiers on the other, has resulted in a. change of financial policy. We do not know the extent of that change. We have learnt in an imperfect way through the press that it will be no longer necessary to issue Treasury bills for £1,200,000; but we are unable to say how in other respects the Budget proposals are affected, and we are therefore unable to debate the chief items in the Budget. It would have been infinitely better and fairer to honorable members to postpone the Budget debate until the Government were prepared to lay before the House the proposals which they have to make as the result of the Conference, so that the whole of those two important matters might have been debated together in the light of their relationship to one another. Together they would have formed the financial policy of the Government. I am in this difficulty with regard to the Budget debate, that later, when the Conference scheme is put before us, you, Mr. Chairman, may rule that it is too late to go back and discuss individual items in the Budget. One is therefore forced to take part in this discussion on most imperfect data. The Treasurer must see that we are placed under great disadvantages.
-i do not see it.
– Then the right honorable member must be dull. He has thrown his Budget at us, and, of course, it is our duty to criticise it where it needs criticism. But it is quite clear from the interviews with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, as published, that the result of the Conference has been to alter many of the proposals in the Budget. One result is that the Treasurer has now withdrawn his proposal to put £1,200,000 of Treasury bills upon the market.
– I have not. Where did I do that ?
– I saw that it was stated to be no longer necessary. Do I understand that it is still proposed ?
– It might not be necessary when the agreement takes effect, but the agreement must be adopted first.
– Have not the States providedhalf of the amount?
– They are going to, but that is not settled yet.
– We do not require a high standard of intelligence to see that if the proposals which the Government intend to make, as the result of the Conference, are put into force by Statute, they will alter the Budget, especially in regard to the loan policy.
– That is all.
– If the new proposals are not adopted, I presume the Treasurer will then fall back on his original proposition.
– Then go on with it.
– The Treasurer’s admissions show the force of what I am saying - that we do not know whether the proposed arrangement is one which we should be prepared to accept in lieu of the proposals which the Treasurer has made in the Budget. I should like to discuss the Budget on the supposition that no alteration is to be made. I have not been Treasurer “ fourteen times,” but I have had the honour of being Treasurer in the largest State in Australia, and can claim to know something of national finance. Turning now to the Budget proposals, I want to say that it would have been a much bolder project if the Treasurer had proposed that all the money that has been spent in this and past years upon permanent works in connexion with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should be placed under loans. In that way he would have supplied himself with sufficient money under his consolidated revenue account to get over all the difficulties of the present.
– A good deal more than that. ‘
– The right honorable member would not have had much more than was required. The accumulated expenditure of a loan character upon permanent’ ‘ works, such as post-office sites and buildings, would come to about £4,000,000 for the past seven or eight years. If that sum had been boldly put under loans, and the proceeds of it used as consolidated revenue for the purpose which the Treasurer had in his mind, instead of proposing to float Treasury bills to pay old-age pensions, he would have had a couple of million pounds by which the Department could have ‘been placed upon an absolutely business-like footing. I regret that with a majority behind them the Government did not do that. I quite recognise that it is part of the fixed policy of the Labour party to oppose loans in any circumstances.
– Oh. no.
– I have never heard of any exceptional circumstances in which they would approve of loans being raised. I should be very curious to know how they proposed to deal with a question like the taking over of the Northern Territory or the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway without resorting to a loan. I take it that the true principle of distinguishing expenditure by loan and expenditure by revenue is this : That where you have an asset which is revenue producing, and permanent in its character, either with a stationary or a growing value, you are perfectly justified in handing on the cost to subsequent generations and paying interest during the time of the present generation. That principle applies to railways and public buildings of a revenue-producing character. I should be glad to learn from the Leader of the Opposition, when a convenient opportunity offers, what distinction the Labour Party draw between floating a loan to build a railway that may not pay its way. and floating a loan for building a postoffice which will pay its way. There must be some principle underlying this fine distinction.
– The principle of paying interest is always a vicious one if you can do without it.
– I am afraid the honorable member does not understand the recognised principles of business. I invite him to ask any banker, merchant, shipowner, or insurance, authority whether every substantial business in big cities is not conducted upon the. principle that capital expenditure shall not be taken out of revenue. Whether it is a grocer’s shop or the business of the largest merchant in one of the capitals, whether it is a bank building or an insurance building, the hon orable member will find, if he studies the balance-sheet of any company, that it is a recognised principle that additions to capital must not be mixed up with the revenue of the concern. Yet that is a principle which this Parliament has not yet adopted.
– No business man would borrow money to buy stock for his business if he had the capital in the bank.
– It depends on the use that he can make of his money. In business it sometimes pays to borrow money and keep other money ready for emergencies. I am speaking of the distinction between loan and revenue, and I wish to express my regret that the Treasurer did not take the course I have indicated. He knows that in the State which he had the honour of managing for ten years the principle was carefully recognised by him as Treasurer.
– We did not borrow for buildings if we could, help it.
– The right honorable member, whether he could help it or not, adopted the well recognised principle that if a work is permanent and produces revenue, it should be paid for out of loan. I challenge him to say whether in Western Australia he ever paid for such a work out of revenue.
– Yes, we paid for our post-offices.
– Then the right honorable member acted on a principle which is not recognised in other States.
– Perhaps so, but we had the revenue.
– Ever since Federation began we have been starving the Postmaster-General’s Department in order to spend money upon purposes which could have been, paid for, not only legitimately, but with greater accountancy propriety, out of loan money.
– In order to “ give money to the States.
– The honorable member is wrong in using the words “in order to.” There is no doubt we gave money to the States, but I do not connect the two facts. This year the Treasurer states that the Postmaster-General’s Department has produced a loss of nearly £400,000. As a fact, that Department, if criticised from a sound accountancy point of view, has . produced a profit . of £300,000, because in the Budget there is a statement that nearly £700,000 was spent during the last financial year on new sites and new post-offices. We are, there- fore, in this position, that the Department is producing a huge profit of over a quarter of a million sterling, while at the same time it is being starved to satisfy the view of the Opposition as to the policy of borrowing, by being deprived of its own earnings for extensions. We have now established responsible government in the Commonwealth, and the Treasurer has a sufficient majority behind him to resort once more to the sound financial principles which are observed by the States, as well as by sound commercial institutions.
– All past Treasurers have had at their disposal sufficient money to put the Postmaster-General’s Department on a sound footing.
– I admit that. I have not attempted to deal with any particular party. We feel in every constituency the result of the system which has been adopted. We are constantly receiving from the postal authorities letters explaining that funds are not available for revenueproducing services that we desire to have carried out, while the very Department in which this occurs is producing a profit of £350,000 a year, which is being used for other purposes.
– I doubt that.
– I invite the honorable member to consult any financial expert outside Parliament, with a view’ of ascertaining the correctness of the principle I am enunciating. If it is right, then, ever since Federation, we have been piling up an accumulation of permanent revenueproducing assets representing nearly £4,000,000, the value of which might and ought to have been used for postal purposes.
– Are the moneys expended on postal works debited against the Department ?
– No, they are debited against the general revenue. The accounts of a State are not always kept as separate and distinct as they might well be; but every Treasurer in the past would have been justified in charging to a loan account the expenditure on permanent revenue-producing works. If the Treasurer, by virtue of his opportunity, had gathered up all these expenditures over past years, and, finding that they amounted to something like £4,000,000, had raised a loan upon those legitimate grounds, using £2,000,000, which, I believe, is his own estimate of what is necessary to put the Postmaster-General’s Department in tho rough working order, we should have had the Department in a better condition than it has ever been in since Federation. We should have had sufficient money at our disposal to bring about that change and to make up the old-age pensions requirements without resorting to the issue of Treasury bills, and should have had in addition something like £500,000 in hand to work upon.’ I contend,also, that the Treasurer, whether or not for the purposes of impressing the Conference of Premiers I cannot say, has much exaggerated what would have been the financial difficulties of the Commonwealth if that policy had been resorted to. He frequently speaks, when referring to the revenue of the Commonwealth, as if the Western Australian transcontinental railway would affect our revenue, or as if the construction of the Northern Territory line would do so.
– I have the question of interest in mind.
– I hope that the Treasurer will not inadvertently confess that there is no possibilityof the Western Australian railway paying interest on its expenditure.
– It cannot do sobefore it is opened.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that it will take ten years to construct that line, and that, therefore, many yearsmust elapse before it can involve any charge on our revenue. It is not one of our immediate difficulties, neither is the payment for, nor the construction of the transcontinental railway in, the Northern Territory one. Those proposals may be, for years to come, put on one side, so far as our current financial needs are concerned. I, therefore, say that if the Commonwealthhad followed the soundprinciple of charging to loan account expenditure on permanent worksof a revenueproducing character, we should not have had to look so blankly at our finances today. I wish now to refer to the question of defence, because obviously, when it is brought before us in connexion with the report of the Conference, we shall not have the same opportunity to do so. I am not at all satisfied with what has taken place in England in regard to naval defence. I, in common with many otherhonorable members, have shown a desire tocertain from the Government whether the Honorary Minister, Colonel Foxton, went to England perfectlyfree with regard to the negotiations that were to take place. I take it that the primary purpose of the Conference which has been held in London was to ascertain what, in the opinion of the Imperial authorities, was the most desirable form of defence for the Empire. I think it was understood that the different Colonies should abstain from putting forward any particular policy, as representative of local opinion, likely to sway the Imperial authorities in their conception of a scheme for Empire defence. Most honorable members will have noticed - and it is much to be regretted - that whenever any apparently authoritative statement is made with regard to colonial wishes, many English statesmen are too ready to so shape ‘ their own opinions as to make them lit in with those colonial representations. We saw that in connexion with the Conference of 1907. If it is believed that Australia, Canada, or New Zealand wishes this or that to be done, many English statesmen are too ready, instead of giving us the wisest and best results of Imperial opinion, to fit in their views with those of the different Colonies. Honorable members opposite will know that two sets of representations as to what is Australian sentiment and aspiration, in regard to naval affairs, have been made to the Imperial Government; They have been told, on the one hand, that Australia aspires to possess a flotilla of torpedo boats and torpedo-boat destroyers; and, on the other, that it wishes to contribute a Dreadnought to the British Navy. As the result of many meetings, of which I have had personal experience, I believe that Australian feeling, if it can be expressed concretely, is in favour of helping England in whatever scheme her ablest experts think best fitted for the defence of the Empire. If the Honorary Minister who was sent to England took with him a’ definite cut and dried scheme as to what Australia is said to want, and if that scheme has influenced the Imperial Defence Committee in coming to a conclusion as to the defence of the Empire, then we have not, and shall not have, from the Conference what the people of Australia desire. They did not wish the Defence Conference to be influenced in any way by what this or that politician believed or imagined Australia wanted. They desired that the Defence Conference, with its greater knowledge, its wider opportunities, and larger number of eminent men of authority, should be left perfectly free to conceive a scheme in the interests of the Empire, wholly irre- spective of what this or that local politician thought best for his particular Colony. The question is whether that has been done. I am very doubtful.
– How would an expression of opinion on the part of an individual delegate influence the Conference?
– The Honorary Minister went to England as the representative of the Commonwealth, and if, by the instruction of the Government, he said that Australian aspirations, were in the direction of a local -Navy, that statement might undoubtedly influence the Imperial Defence Conference in framing a scheme which would, to some extent, harmonize with that wish.
– He would probably say the same outside the Conference as he would at the Conference itself.
– I am speaking of the Honorary Minister, not as “ Colonel Foxton,” but as the representative of the Commonwealth. If, accompanied by Captain Creswell, whose interests are bound up in an Australian Navy, he went to England with definite instructions, and represented that what Australia wanted was a local Navy. I have no hesitation in concluding, from experience, that what the Imperial Defence Conference would say is : “We must conform to some extent with Australia’s wishes.” In such circumstances, we should obtain from them a scheme for the defence of the Empire, which was not entirely their own, but their own. modified by what had been represented to them as the wishes of Australia. If, for instance, Colonel Foxton had been instructed by the Government to inform the Conference that what Australia desired and insisted upon was to supply Dreadnoughts to England. I am very much inclined to think that the Imperial Defence Committee would have said : “ We must take this into consideration.” I submit therefore that it is the wish of the bulk of the Australian people to put forward no particular aspiration, except one, to assist in carrying out that scheme for the defence of the Empire which the highest authorities in Great Britain consider most desirable.
– That we should take part in every one of Great Britain’s wars?
– We have shared in every one of Great Britain’s opportunities to defend ourselves, but I am not going into that question with the honorable member. My view is that the fate of Australia, like that of all the other Colonies, is bound up with the fate of Great Britain. I do not doubt for one moment that the fate of Australia must stand or fall with that of the Mother Country ; and I go further, and say that the fate of the Empire will never be decided in southern seas. It will be determined either in the Mediterranean Sea or the North Sea. Captain Mahan has said that the naval base, even for the defence of Australia, is in the Indian Ocean, and not in the harbours of Australia. If that is so, it must be admitted that we cannot differentiate between our interests and those of the Empire. We cannot suffer without the Empire suffering as a whole. I very much fear that, although it has been represented to us that the Honorary Minister went Home with a perfectly free hand, merely to acquaint the Imperial Defence Committee with Australian conditions, and so to help them in their deliberations, he was instructed to put forward a particular policy as representing the desire of Australia.
– Would the honorable member deny him the right to take part in the deliberations, and to share in the shaping of a policy ?
– I do not denythat right for one moment. I think that a knowledge of local conditions may be of great assistance to the Committee; but it is clear that not merely local conditions, but alleged local aspirations also, have been considered, perhaps, more than they ought to have been, because the scheme provided for New Zealand appears to be entirely different from that provided for the defence of Australia. We know that Sir Joseph Ward took up the position that expenditure upon a local navy was a waste of money, and that New Zealand was prepared to contribute to whatever scheme the Imperial authorities thought fit in the interests of the Empire. That is now provided for, according to the press, in the case of New Zealand. What is prescribed for us is apparently in compliance with the alleged aspirations of the ‘ Australian people for a flotilla, of torpedo boats of the River type. We shall not know definitely until the Honorary Minister returns, what he represented as Australian public feeling. Party feeling should not enter into this matter. It was wrong for our Honorary Minister, if he has done so, to represent the views of this side of the House as the desires of Australia, just as it would have been wrong for Senator; Pearce to represent the opinions of the
Labour party as those of Australia. The attitude of the Government towards the Conference should have been, and I sincerely hope has been this : “ We give, through our representative, all the information we possess regarding Australian conditions, and we desire that the Conference, composed as it is of the ablest and most experienced men which Great Britain has in her service, shall evolve a scheme for the defence of the Empire to the cost of which we may contribute.” As the Prime Minister stated earlier in the afternoon that he does not know definitely what has been settled by the Conference, I have nothing further to say on the subject now, except that, judging by a press interview in which the honorable gentleman expressed his pleasure that his own formerlyproposed scheme had been adopted, there is colourable ground for assuming that the Honorary Minister went to London to propound a certain policy “ as being that which Australia desired. I have other notes upon the Budget and the Premiers’ Conference, but the two are inextricably mixed up ; and until we know the policy of the Government regarding the resolutions agreed to with the Premiers, it will be impossible for us to deal satisfactorily with either.
.- Does the Government intend to continue this debate now?
– We propose to pass the first item of the Estimates, and then to proceed with the Works and Buildings Estimates. Honorable members, by preventing us from doing this, will be depriving persons of work.
– We have heard that before.
– Honorable members opposite perhaps, do not care; we do. We are following a practice that has obtained for years.
– Never before was there a case like this.
– A fortnight ago we were discussing a Government motion for a special adjournment, the result of which has been the loss of five sitting days. As the Opposition voted against that motion, it cannot fairly be charged with delaying1 business. We cannot discuss the Budget with any advantage until we know what was done at the Premiers’ Conference. I object to the proposal to pay to the States, for all time, 25s. per head per annum. It would be impossible to give effect. to .it under a protective Tariff. At present all we know about the proceedings of the Conference has been obtained from the inspired press reports, which were- carefully sub-edited by its Chairman. But we know enough to be aware that the statement of the honorable members for Moreton and Robertson that they would Vote against the Government’s borrowing proposals, has been sufficient to cause Ministers to abandon them, and to offer the States an extra sum per annum for all time to get themselves out of their present difficulty.’ . The revenue for the year 1907-8, when the last Tariff was introduced, was £9,600,000, and for the following year £11,600,000. But if the Tariff properly protects our industries, it will give us a comparatively small Customs revenue in the future. Neither Free Trader nor Protectionist wishes to- raise more money from Customs duties, excepting on narcotics and stimulants,’ which return from 15s. to £1 per head. The Treasurer’s estimate of revenue for the current year is greatly over the mark. We shall receive less in future than we have received in the past. However, it is impossible to discuss his Budget proposals ‘until, we know what the Government agreed to in conference with the Premiers, and therefore .1 hope that the right honorable gentleman will allow progress to be reported, until we have that information. It is not an unusual tiling to allow a week to elapse between the delivery of the Budget ‘and the opening of the Budget debate, and the circumstances in this case are quite extraordinary. The first item of the Estimates having been agreed to, the general debate, must cease.
.- The honorable member for Parkes put into a nutshell the. reasons why we cannot adequately debate the Budget proposals until we know what was done at one of the most important Conferences that have been held in Australia. Unfortunately that Conference was held in the dark. According to the Age of the 23rd August -
The more we study the caucus of State Premiers and secret conclave with three of the Federal Ministers, regarding it in the light of the work it has done, the more it bears the aspect ‘ of a conspiracy against the statutory rights and liberties of the Australian Commonwealth.
I, as an Australian citizen, lodge my protest against the secrecy of the proceedings. I dare the Premiers to claim the right to represent the States. The Treasurer was nominated by the Parliament of Western
Australia to represent that State in the Convention of 1897, but he is the only man of the ten left in a high political position. I do not think that the people would accept the Premiers as their representatives. Yet they had the impertinence to say that they would not let the public know what they were doing. They would not even let the press know. On one occasion, at a meeting in a chamber of this building, it was resolved by those present to hold up their right hands and swear by the Eternal Maker that they would not divulge what occurred, but the newspapers afterwards published a very correct account of the proceedings^ including a statement of the oath that was taken. Perhaps the Premiers and Commonwealth Ministers will keep their secret better. When men are afraid to make known their opinions, it is best for them to keep silent, and there is good . reason for keeping press representatives out of party meetings. But surely the Conference was not a party meeting ! One of the Premiers who took part in it has been compelled, to ask the Governor of his State for a dissolution, and that paid official has, in my opinion, exceeded his duty in granting a dissolution before exhausting the possibilities of the present House. Parties are so nearly balanced in the Queensland Parliament that the voting means. thirty-six for, and thirty-five against, the Government ; so that if the present Premier be relegated to the dunghill of political oblivion, what of the Queensland representative at this famous caucus? Then, in South Australia the scale is trembling ; so that the Premier of to-day may not be the Premier of to-morrow if there be a dissolution. Even in Victoria matters are uncertain; and I could not blame the late Premier if he did bump out the present Premier, in view of the treatment accorded to the former. I have shown that three Premiers out of the six are by no means in a secure position. If the people of Australia authorize Cabinet Ministers to take a certain course, those Ministers on their own responsibility ought to submit proposals. Is there any shandygaff or half-and-half Protectionist on the other side of the House who will say that he desires to increase the revenue through the Customs House? If there is, let him come out like a man and call himself a Revenue-Tariffist. I resent strongly the idea that any Parliament shall have the power to impose on future generations the payment of 25s. per head per annum ; and, as a Protectionist, even up to prohibition point. I hope we shall not have to raise revenue through the Customs House. I know that the infamous Braddon”blot” made it necessary, before we could spend£1, to collect £4 at the Customs; and this must be regarded as the height of absurdity. I have been a Revenue-Tariffist to the extent demanded by that section, but never again will I give my vote except on straight Protectionist lines. Let the Tariff be free for everything we cannot produce, but up to prohibition point, if necessary, on everything thatwe can make. I have been hitting hard at the Department which has the administration of old-age pensions ; and it is therefore pleasant to pay the officials a little compliment. I have a letter from a gentleman, from whom I differ very widely as to the number and nature of the questions put to old-age applicants, and in that letter there occurs the following -
In reply to your letter of the 3rd instant, 1 may state that the Government takes no action at any time to claim possession of the whole or any part of the property owned by an oldage pensioner.
Property affects only the amount qf pension payable, deductions as fixed by the Act being made if the property exceeds a certain specified sum.
When a pensioner dies, any person who is out of pocket in respect of the pensioner’s maintenance or funeral expenses willbe paid any pension due up to the pay-day preceding the death.
Geo. T. Allen,
Commissioner of Pensions.
That is a courteous letter, showing administration on humane and equitable lines, such as we would expect on the part of a Federal officer. I desire, however, to bring under the notice of honorable members the case of William Hill, aged eighty-two, who receives from the Federal Government only 4s. a week as a pension. This old man has a small annuity of £14 a year from his late mother’s estate, and, under the Victorian Old-age Pensions Act - which was mean in comparison with the Commonwealth Act, owing a great deal to the action of the honorable member for Flinders, then Premier of the State - the recipient had 10s. and 8s. I do not know whether honorable members think that old-age pension administration is, with me, like King Charles’ head; but, until things are altered. I shall refer to the matter as often as the rules of the House will permit. Old-age pensions is a question in which I take a great deal of interest, as, indeed, I think every honorable member does, though cases of hardship may not be so directly brought under their notice as under mine. The leading article in the Age newspaper of the 23rd August contained the following
Mr. Deakin was given to understand by the
Premiers that if he came to an agreement with them on the lines they required they would support him and his party at the next general elections. But if not, then they would run State Rights candidates of their own, and thus frustrate the chief object of the recent Coalition.
Time and again I have had to fight that newspaper, and also to quote from it when 1 thought it was right; and the words I have just read meet with my approval, and I think they will meet with the approval of every citizen who really considers the matter. Are we to imagine that this great “Liberal combination” of odds and ends and fragments of God knows what, called the Fusion Government, would stoop as low as to make such an arrangement with the six self-appointed State delegates to the Conference? I have sufficient confidence in the Prime Minister to think that he would not agree, but I know his softheartedness, which permits him to be swayed by persevering persistent men, and how his long record has been besmirched thereby. But, after all, who cares for the Premiers of the six States, even if they do come out and fight? If they can show that they are right, and that those who are opposing them are wrong, they will receive the support of the citizens of Australia.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– I have a recollection of one Premiers’ Conference in which, I think, the freedom of the citizen was betrayed. That was the Conference where the right honorable member for East Sydney performed his famous volte face, which resulted in the Federal Constitution being not so wide or liberal as it should have been. Had there been provision in the Constitution for the referendum, there would have been a very different verdict after the last change of Government. If the citizens had had the power of the referendum, we all know that we should have had to face our constituents, and what the verdict would have been, in view of the wave of enthusiasm that would have swept throughout Australia. I claim that the Constitution is imperfect in this respect; and I shall take every opportunity to support the referendum, which would, at any rate, get rid of our cursed system of party government. I know that the honorable member for Perth has moved in favour of elective Ministries, but with, 1 am afraid, hardly any hope of success in the immediate future. With the referendum, Ministers would be elected, and each one would be answerable to the House, so that one failure would not mean the defeat of the whole Government. Under such circumstances, there would have been no such gathering as this Premiers’ Conference or caucus, without every one of us knowing what was to be done. If it is claimed that the business was got through more quickly in private, why does not the Government order the galleries of this House to be cleared? 1 dare them to take that step. They would not exist a fortmight if they dared to do so. The Labour party have been threatened for years, but threatened men generally live long, and the party will go on until, perhaps, in the course of years, it is superseded by another that wants to move still faster. I hope, however, that before that time comes, the Liberals on the other side - for surely there are a few there, just as there were a few just men in the two cities of the Plain - will help us to secure the referendum, so that what has happened lately in our community will not be able to occur again. I do not blame the Government in one sense for meeting the Premiers; but I would far sooner that their deliberations had . been open to the light of day, so that the people might have known exactly what their true opinions were. We know that some men can give concessions, and that the law of concessions has been the means of obtaining many a stepping-stone towards true Democracy. The politics of the six Premiers represent not a. consensus of opinions of the citizens of Australia, but the opinions of the dominant parties of the day, and those six dominant parties are altogether opposed to the principles enunciated . from this side of the House. A good many of them are opposed even to principles that would be enunciated by the half-Liberal members that grace the other side. The question of the transfer of the State debts to the Commonwealth must also be taken into consideration. It is well known that the States cannot borrow to such advantage as the Commonwealth can, because the money-lenders of Europe would prefer the security of the Commonwealth. It makes my gorge rise to hear them referred to as though ‘they constituted the silken ties that bind us to the older land. Those silken ties come, not from the moneylenders’ vaults, but from the blood brotherhood and kinship of the human beings that speak the English tongue. If the financial magnates in the older land represent the silken ties, then there were more silken ties between England and Turkey and Egypt, when Turkey was under the rule of the vile despot who was recently deposed, than ever existed between England and Australia. The States, in many cases, have borrowed unwisely in the past, and at too high rates of interest, and, consequently, the community to-day is saddled with an unfair and unjust burden. We know that the stay of the human unit on this earth is only a fragmentary portion of time. Every one of us is a mere parasite, clinging to a rock that is being whirled through space, but the land on this planet is here so long as the planet lasts, and the land will benefit by the money expended in improvements. The land should, therefore, pay the interest on the money borrowed in the past; but it does not pay it to-day. There will, perhaps, be a Land Taxation Bill introduced by this Government to bring that about ; but I object to the debts of the States being taken over later on, and I also object to any State being allowed to borrow more, unless certain safeguards are imposed. That is my view as a member of a Parliament elected by a freer and broader franchise than any State Parliament in Australia. This Parliament consists of two Chambers, each elected by only one test value - that test being the life value of the citizen, and no State in the Commonwealth has so free and open a franchise for both its Houses. That is another argument against accepting the decisions of a Conference or caucus of self-appointed State Ministers, who represented, not a Parliament elected by the free and enlightened vote of the whole of the citizens, but Parliaments, parts of which, at least, are elected on a much more restricted franchise. Now is the time for the Commonwealth to take over the accumulated State debts, if it is ever to do so. If I could speak with a full knowledge of what went on at the Conference, I might gladly support portions of the agreement arrived at; but, being in ignorance of what went on, how can I support what I do not know? I should like to see the Commonwealth take up its full and proper position with the termination of the Braddon “blot.” No
Commonwealth in the history of the world has been the equal of that of Australia ; for no other Commonwealth Parliament has dominated a continent. Even that mighty collection of English-speaking units known as the United States of America does not do so, although by the completion of the Panama canal North America will soon be made a continent in its proper geographical sense. Now is the time for the Commonwealth to take over the State debts, and to insist that henceforth the States shall not borrow any more money outside of the Commonwealth. I do not suppose that any honorable member would wish to prevent them from borrowing within their own borders, and, personally, I think we could safely let any State borrow within the confines of the Commonwealth itself. When we take over the debts, if the interest, plus the expenditure on old-age pensions, plus invalid pensions, and plus the ordinary expenses of the Commonwealth Government, absorb all our present revenue, then all that will be left for us to do will be to tax- the land for defence purposes. I believe the honorable member foi Coolgardie has tabled a motion to the effect that the land should pay for the defence of the community. That proposal meets with my full and cordial approval. Those who have the land will have most to lose, if this country is ever invaded. The man who lives only by the exercise of his mental powers, or by manual labour, would not fare so badly, because, after all, labour must be employed, and brains can always command a fair value, whereas the man who owned the land, losing everything, would lose far more. Why should not an equitable land tax be imposed to pay for the whole of the Defence Forces, with power to increase it in moments of emergency ? When danger threatens our national existence, surely it is “to the land that we must look. I do not deny that a proper and justly thoughtout income tax is fair, but that at present is within the functions -of the States. A property tax, such as has been adopted in New South Wales, would also have to be considered, but how can we carry on the finances of the Commonwealth if we bind ourselves for all time to pay 25s. per head of the population to the States? As a true Protectionist, I hope that the revenue from the Customs will steadily decrease, as the manufactories of Australia rise in their splendour to compete with the world. A really protective policy should raise so little through the Customs House that it would become necessary to impose direct taxation. The position reminds me of the see-saw so popular with schoolboys. On the one hand is the true Free Trader. I believe that the new Protection has killed the absolute Free Trader, and that the honorable member for Lang is the last remnant of a famous band. The true Free Trader honestly held the conviction that not a penny piece should be raised through the Customs House. The real Protectionist, on the other hand, will go as far as prohibition on what can be manufactured in Australia, and does not want revenue raised through the Customs, because he wishes everything .that cannot be manufactured here to come in free. Those two are at the two ends of the see-saw, but, in the middle, we find the middleman, or revenue-tariffist, and he bosses the two, leaning a little to one side or the other to keep his balance. That is why, to my mind, the Braddon section was called the “ Braddon blot,” because it gave power to the middleman, or revenue-tariffist, to control both the true Free Trader and the true Protectionist. Those two have a common desire to raise revenue from direct and not from indirect taxation, but if we enact for all time that a payment of 25s. per head shall be made to the States, we must insist upon having revenue. Tom Paine, perhaps the greatest Englishman that ever was unjustly used, the third Republican in the United States of America, and, I think, the fifth in France, said, “No king, no Government, no Parliament, no body of men, has a right to register and rivet laws upon the coming generation. Each generation of humanity has the inherent right to alter and amend any Jaw, and the dead hand of the past must not control future generations for all time.” That is my opinion, and the opinion of every Democrat, and the same principle permeates every scene of our political life. Laws are perpetually being altered and amended for the benefit and betterment of the human race. Every Act that is placed upon our statute-book, every Bill that is brought into this Chamber, represents a revolt against control by the dead hand of the past. If my reading of a quotation from a leading article in the Agc is correct, that this proposal is to be imprinted on the Constitution for all time’, I shall vote against it. It should not be permitted otherwise than as the result of a referendum, and a limit should be put even to the decision of a referendum, for it is not right that any proposal should be fastened on the people for all time by the dead hand of the past. Let me cite as an instance of the infamy of trying “to control the future for all time an incident which occurred . in this very chamber. About 1883 a big trust which has dominated’ Melbourne for many years - the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Limited - engineered, and it has been said by means that were not altogether just, the introduction of a Bill in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria handing over to them for all time the streets of Melbourne. That Bill was introduced by the Government of the day, but there was at least one man in the House, the late Mr. Godfrey Downes Carter, who saw the evil of the proposal, and it was primarily due to his action that the period of control was reduced to thirty years. What was the attitude of the company towards Mr. Carter? Money was spent lavishly in the St. Kilda district, which he represented, and the object with which it was expended - that of causing Mr. Carter to lose his seat in Parliament - was secured. Subsequently he took advantage of a vacancy which occurred in the representation of Melbourne, and was again returned to the State Assembly; but the lesson taught him, made him a little more Conservative than he had been. I was glad, when he passed away, to stand in this chamber and give him my meed of praise for his splendid action in preventing the control of’ the streets of Melbourne being given to the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company for all time. That company to-day will not allow its employes to join a union or a Labour league, although I dare say it would not object to their becoming members of the National Association or any like organization. I repeat that the debts of the States should be transferred to the Commonwealth, and that the States should riot be allowed to borrow save through the Commonwealth. If that were done, I am satisfied that the Federation would be able to borrow at 1 per cent, less than the States on the average have been .able to do. Quite recently 5 per cent, was paid by the Victorian Government. If the debts of the States are transferred to the Commonwealth we shall have also to consider carefully the proposal for a Commonwealth note issue. I do not think that the Treasurer proposes to borrow to provide for the construction of the national railway across Western- Australia ; but I would point out a direct way of overcoming the difficulty in regard to the payment of interest. Australia should be ribbed with lines of steel, giving the quickest means of communication between all the State capitals. I desire also to see a railway to the far and empty north, so that when we have settled our own people bymeans of just land laws, and opened wide our arms in welcome to all white Europeans, we shall be able to settle them as -immigrants have been settled under the land-grant railways system of America ; but with the difference that our citizens would be working for their own benefit and that of the country, whereas on the land grants of America and Canada men worked for the benefit of one or other of those huge and mighty combines which have too great a power in controlling the destinies of America. We should have three great assets in connexion with the construction of the Western Australia transcontinental railway. We should have, first of all, the land which would be handed over to the .Commonwealth for the purposes of the line; and then we should have the permanent way, and finally the rolling-stock. Assuming for the sake, of argument that it was found that the line could be constructed at a cost of £5,000,000, we could issue £5,000,000 in notes, which would be used in paying the contractors, who, in turn, would use them in paying their employes. . They would be made currency by the Commonwealth, and every penny-piece so raised would be spent in connexion with the line. There would then be a further issue, say, of ,£1,000,000 to provide for rolling-stock, making a total note issue of £6,000,000. In that way we should be able to find the necessary funds for building the railway without having to pay a penny in interest. If the returns from the railway amounted to only -£500 per annum above working expenses, that surplus would be used in reducing the liability incurred in the construction of the line, and notes to the value of £500 or more would annually be destroyed. That process would be continued year after year until the whole liability had been met. The notes would be guaranteed by the rolling-stock, the permanent way, and the land on which the line was built, and in addition it would be guaranteed by the Government. Would any citizen of Australia refuse to accept such notes? The curse of interest is the cancer-growth of our twentieth century civilization. A return recently issued showed that Victoria had borrowed something like £50,000,000, and that, although she had paid £50,000,000, in interest, she still owed something like £54,000,000.
Most of the money so borrowed was expended on reproductive works. -Had the course which I suggest been adopted Victoria would have had reproductive works bringing her in revenue without being called upon to pay any interest. What is known as the Guernsey market experiment furnishes an excellent example of what might be done in this direction. The Channel Islands were not conquered by England or France. They are the allied States of Great Britain and Ireland, and books relating to a currency experiment made by the citizens of Guernsey were removed from most of the libraries of the world. Luckily some were retained in the United States of America, and the books since published on this very question would fill a fair-sized library. About 1832, when it was not so easy to borrow money in London as it is to-day, the people of Guernsey desired to erect a market, and when the question was put before the LieutenantGovernor, he said, “ You have your brickmakers, your bricklayers, your carpenters, and your masons. That being so, why do you not build your market? You have the land.” The seeds of those words bore good fruit. A meeting of the citizens was convened, and it was decided to issue currency notes to the amount of £4,000 to provide for the cost of constructing the market. The market was built, and a revenue of over £500 a year was obtained by rentals, and on one day of the year, which was set apart as a holiday, the equivalent in notes of the revenue so secured was annually destroyed. Within less than ten years the whole of those notes had been burnt, and the citizens had a revenue-producing property bringing in over £500 a year. Just as a grain of sand may be a unit in a huge block of sandstone, so a small example like this may form a sound basis for building a railway across half the continent by means of funds obtained in the same way.
– Who would cash the notes?
– There would have to be a circle of exchange, with a final changehouse, or a place where they could be exchanged. In the .Channel Islands the note issue to which I have referred was accepted in payment of rates and taxes. The Commonwealth could claim, as it has a right’ to do, that the Government alone should issue notes, and an issue of £5,000,000 currency notes could be quickly put into use. The .Commonwealth could accept the notes in payment of Customs duties, postal, rates, and other departmental charges. When we have a Lands Department, which will be soon, it also could accept them in payment of rent. They would be ear-marked to provide solely for the Adelaide to Perth railway, and a certain number of them would be burned as they got back to the Treasury. If honorable members think that it is necessary to have gold behind the currency, let me recall to their memory the fact that the Bank of Venice lasted for 600 years, during 300 of which it had no cash basis. It would have been in existence now had not Napoleon’s army destroyed it.
– Would the honorable member accept such notes in payment of fees ?
– I should take them gladly. Do honorable members think that if the Commonwealth controlled the lands the infamies which disgrace the State land laws would continue? Certainly not. There has never been a more favorable land system than that which applies to New Guinea, and if we controlled the land of Australia, we should deal with it as we have, dealt with the New Guinea’ land, solely with a view to settling population upon it. I once heard it said in a State Legislature that any one can get land in Victoria. Any one who has money can do so. The .Age newspaper has done a noble and splendid work in writing down the land tenures which disgrace this State. I selected in Gippsland thirty-five years ago. If there is plenty of land available for selection now, much more was available then ; but it was my fate to be sent into an almost impenetrable forest. There I lived for three years, and, with the help of another lad, did what I could to improve the holding. My exertions brought me a stock of good health which has endured until the present moment, but I was never out of debt while there, and had I put similar energy into any other occupation would have got a good return, whereas I did not make a penny. In South Australia - where there is a territory many times greater than in Victoria - there were recently at least 1,000 applicants for 125 blocks, and the newspaper reports show that land is never offered for selection without being eagerly applied for. Nothing could be more pitiable than the condition of persons who have been induced to come from the old world to settle here, and after being sent from place to place, find themselves unable to get land. When the Estimates are under discussion, I shall speak on several of the items. For instance, I resent strongly the proposal to give an officer a gratuity of £250 in connexion with economy of administration in the printing of stamps, which may be due to the sweating of underlings. If he has kept down expenses by reducing salaries, or getting hold of persons who, because they have not been three years in the Commonwealth service, are not entitled to the minimum rate of £2 per week, I shall vote against the proposed increase. If, on the other hand, I find that he has earned it by his cleverness and invention, without injury to others, I shall say, “ Good luck to him. May he live long to enjoy it.” I do not blame the Treasurer for wishing to get the item passed, though I feel that we should not discuss the Budget until the proposals of the Conference are before us. I protest against the caucus methods which were adopted at that Conference. Not because of the name “ caucus.”
That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
This Conference will live in the memory of the Democracy of Australia as an attempt, by six self-appointed men, three of whom have a very slender hold upon office, to impose their personal views upon the community. I resent this strongly.
– There should be a quorum to hear the honorable member’s peroration. [Quorum formed.]
– It is said that the swan, when dying, sings his sweetest notes, but all I have to say in conclusion is that, loving Australia as much as any man can love his native land, I feel that I echo the thoughts of every honorable member when I say that she will never reach a higher pitch of civilization than we wish her to reach, or teach abetter lesson to humanity than we wish her to teach. It is only by passing just laws and obeying wise counsels that we can set a good example to other parts of the world. I desire that Australia, like Papua, shall . have a land system which will be an example to other countries, a system which has been equalled only by that of the Jewish people in their years of jubilee. I hope, too, that our land will be defended, not by gilded spurred roosters, or gentlemen who have lost their waists, as an honorable member has remarked, but by men filled with a love for it, and determined to hand it down to those of their own race. Our posterity will bless us if we give them good laws, and curse us if we give them bad laws. I protest against the attempt of the Conference, or caucus, to fix for all time the contribution of the Commonwealth to the States at 25s. per head.
– I think that the Treasurer should report progress until we have been informed regarding the resolutions of the Premiers’ Conference, which are bound up with the Budget. The Treasurer has made no provision for the transfer of the Northern Territory, the construction of the transcontinental railway to Western Australia, immigration, defence, and other important projects. I wish to know if it will be possible to carry any of them out.
– The arrangement with the States will not take effect until the beginning of nextyear.
– Next year we go before the electors.
– In any case the Budget will not be affected.
– Undoubtedly it will be. I desire to know what bearing the arrangement with the Premiers will have on the proposed loan policy. I have only the press reports, and, according to these, the Treasurer has entirely shifted his ground since he delivered his financial statement. It was said that the Budget would deal with a situation without precedent in the history of the Commonwealth, and with that I agree. But why was it so ? Simply because, as the Prime Minister said, the financial situation required not only a much closer and more searching examination than usual, but also the consideration of new expedients. We had one expedientbefore us when the Treasurer presented his Budget, and, since the Conference met, an entirely new expedient has been proposed : but what that is, or how far it reaches. I cannot possibly tell. I have no desire to talk at large. My desire is to talk about the Budget which I could do for an hour or two, showing it to be an entirely defective and unsatisfactory statement, and I should be accused of wasting time if I occupied another hour or two in dealing with fresh proposals inseparably associated with the Budget. It is necessary to test the feeling of the Committee, and, therefore, I move -
That progress be reported.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member cannot submit that motion while he is making his speech.
– The motion can be submitted by an honorable member at any time in Committee, when he mav rise as often as he chooses, provided that if it be defeated, it must not be moved again within a quarter of an hour.
– Mr. Chairman, I desire–
– The motion must be put without discussion.
– But I desire to discuss the point of order.
– If I allow the honorable member to discuss a point of order, it will open up a debate, and the Standing Orders distinctly state that this motion must be put without debate.
Question - That progress be reported - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Department of Home Affairs
Division 1 (Home Affairs), £8,608,
– The amount of the Estimates for Additions, New Works, and Buildings is £1,054,124, as against an expenditure last year of £668,306. I am very glad that an arrangement has been made by which these Estimates may be considered now, because we cannot authorize the works to be proceeded with until we have the authority of Parliament. As honorable members know, the Bill which will embody these Estimates is separate from the ordinary Appropriation Bill. Ministers will be very glad to explain any items as we proceed ; and, at present, I do not think I need do more than move that the first division be agreed to.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 2 (Trade and Customs), subdivision r (New South Wales), £670, agreed to.
Subdivision 2 (Victoria), £5,000
.- Perhaps the Minister of Home Affairs will give us some information in regard to the laboratory to be erected in Victoria?
– A contract has been let and is in progress. The laboratory is being established at the Victorian Customs
House. Owing to the Commerce Act and an extension of the provisions of the Customs Act in regard to compounded medicines, etc., the analytical work has greatly increased both in the Victorian branch and the Central Staff. The work has hitherto been done by the State Government Analyst, but the Commonwealth requirements are so large and are increasing so rapidly that the work is frequently congested. Many questions are referred to the Victorian office from other States, and as the goods are necessarily detained until a decision is given, it is requisite that the Commonwealth should be in a position to give prompt decisions and thus avoid the complaints now received from merchants. An allowance was made to the State Government for services rendered, which has been discontinued.
– Where is the laboratory being erected?
– In a street immediately behind the Customs House.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Subdivisions 3 (Queensland), £97 ; and subdivision 4 (Tasmania), £100, agreed to.
Subdivision 5 (Trawler). £350
– Perhaps this is a suitable time to ask for some information in regard to the trawler. Are we to be told anything as to what the trawler is doing, and whether the results are of any benefit to fishermen or the country generally?
– This item is only for a launch. The trawler itself will come under consideration in the general Estimates.
– It has been brought under my notice that this trawler is not doing what it might do ; that is to say, the catches are not analyzed, and the results so published in detail as to be of utility to those who earn their living by fishing. Fishermen who plyoutside the Sydney Heads are complaining of the lack of any information as to what might be done in the way of catches around the coast; and I ask the Minister to shed a little light on the matter.
– The trawler has not been long on active service, and a’ certain amount of exploration work must be done before those engaged are in a position to give any information. I quite agree with the honorable member for Macquarie that any information there is should not be delayed for annual reports, but made available from time to time as speedily as possible. I understand that when this matter was under discussion previously, it was suggested that an annual report be compiled and published. As this is new information a lot of it will probably lose its value if delayed too long. I saw in the press that experiments were being made in manufacturing fish manure, and it was stated that they had not been so far successful. Many other investigations might be of considerable service to fishermen and the public generally, and instead of keeping the results for an annual report, a report of anything important should be submitted to the Minister at once, so that, if necessary, it could be laid before Parliament and made public.
.- How dees the Minister intend to obtain the launch? Is the Fitzroy dock to be asked to build it, or are specifications to be prepared by the Department, and tenders called in the various States? Many of tho:.e engaged in the building of launches may be looking out for a chance of doing the work, and they should know what is going to be done. I have not the slightest doubt that it will be built in Australia. When it was proposed to construct the trawler tenders were originally called for, and afterwards the work was given to the Fitzroy docks. I find no fault with that.
– I think the trawler cost twice the original estimate.
– The cost exceeded the original estimate, but it was not twice the amount. Eight thousand pounds was voted bv Parliament as an estimate, and I believe the trawler ultimately cost about £14,000, but that was less than we should have had to pay under any of the tenders that were put in in the first case.
– A tender for .£10,000 from Tasmania was accepted at first.
– I do not think any tender was accepted. There was some difficulty in carrying out the work in Tasmania, and complying with the conditions as to wages and hours of work. I would remind the Minister that many engineering firms would be prepared to build a small launch, although they might not be prepared to undertake the construction of a trawler.
– The proposal is that tenders be publicly invited for the construction of the launch, which is to be used for landing purposes at bar harbors, for inshore work generally where the trawler cannot be navigated, and for special work at sea.
– Will the launch be always taken with the trawler?
– Yes j that is the idea.
.- I should like to know from the Minister whether this will necessarily- be a new launch. The Commonwealth launch now in use in Sydney harbor, which I believe answers her purpose admirably, originally cost Mr. Hordern £6,000, and. the Commonwealth was fortunate enough to buy her for £1,600. I am informed that there are 1.500 launches of all kinds in Sydney harbor, and it is quite possible that the Commonwealth might get better value for its money by buying one of them, than by having a new launch built. It is only fair to say that Mr. Cutler, who has published several rather boastful statements as to’ what he could- do at the Fitzroy dock, had to confess recently that he was unable to make there a crank shaft for the Powerful. I understand that an order had to be sent to England for it, although some months ago . I saw a statement by, I think, the same gentleman, that even a Dreadnought “could be built at the Fitzroy dock. Statements of that kind ought to be more carefully made. I wish to add that I was under the impression, until about three weeks ago, that the trawler was not doing as good work for the Commonwealth as we expected; but it is only fair to state that r spent some hours recently in investigating her work and examining the charts of her different explorations round Tasmania, and left with the impression that she is doing excellent work. She has nearly fully explored the waters round Tasmania and in Bass Strait. She has made some most valuable explorations, and has not stayed only where she has found a good fishing ground, because her object is not to catch fish, but to ascertain and place on record where fish can be caught. Like the men in Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village, who came to scoff and remained to pray, I went to the office expecting to see blank spaces where the results of her voyages should be shown, but I came away deeply impressed with the utility and amount of the work she had done.
Mr. STORRER (Bass) (8.4].- I had the pleasure of going over the ‘Fitzroy dock recently, and found it an up-to-date estab lishment, reflecting great credit on those who manage it. I do not know why they could noi make the particular shaft re: ferred tto by the honorable member for Parkes. It may be that they had not sufficient room, or had not the necessary machinery at the time. I saw an account of a discovery made by the trawler on the east coast of Tasmania, of a warm current flowing down from the tropics. . I have heard of that ever since I was a boy, and if that is the class of discovery which the vessel makes it will not be of much value. I have not seen the charts referred to by the honorable member for Parkes, which may be very valuable, but the discovery made so much of by the press was very stale news indeed.
.- I do not wish to canvass the merits or demerits of the Fitzroy dock, although I trust that whenever we have a reasonable opportunity of assisting an undertaking of that kind, it will be availed of. I hope the Government will proceed with the greatest caution regarding the suggestion of the honorable member for Parkes to buy a second-hand launch. The launch bought from Mr. Hordern for Customs work in Sydney harbor was good value for the money as a pleasure boat, but she was so totally unfitted for the work for which the Commonwealth purchased her that I think she has been very little used for that purpose since she was procured. The launch which the Government wish to have built for £350 will have to be used in the open sea, so she must be seaworthy and specially fitted for her work. The majority of the launches that I know of in Sydney harbor, which are pleasure boats, ‘are totally unfitted for those purposes. No matter how cheaply they could be bought, they would be very dear to the Commonwealth- at the price. The Government might possibly be able to drop upon a second-hand boat suitable for the purpose, but, in view, of the exceptional work which the launch will be called upon to do, the Government might well adhere to their original proposal and have it built. >Ir. ATKINSON (Wilmot) [8.8]. - I hope the Minister will call for tenders for the launch in such a way that other places besides the Fitzroy dock will have a fair chance of competing. No doubt if we want a suitable launch for the trawler, it will be necessary to have it built. It will have to be specially adapted for its work, and very strong. Possibly, £350 may not be sufficient to provide a suitable launch, but we have gone so far in the matter of trying to find the best fishing beds in Australian waters that, unless we spend a little more, all that we have put into the business so “far may be lost ; and, therefore, I hope that if ‘a suitable boat cannot be provided for £350, the Minister will not stop at that amount. I am sure Parliament would be quite prepared to back him up in going a little further, so long as we got what we wanted. I hope the Minister will give all the firms in Australia a chance of competing.
.- Before we spend any more money, it might be as well for the Minister to consider whether the trawler is doing any good work, and is worth the money spent on it, and if we should spend this extra £350.
– It is doing splendid work.
– I am glad to have the assurance of the honorable member, who is undoubtedly a practical fisherman j but I have heard a different opinion expressed by still more practical men who have to earn their livelihood by sea fishing, and have also seen articles written by men on the Gippsland Lakes, to the effect that the alleged discoveries being made by the trawler are, to a large extent, discoveries only to the new fisheries director, and are not new to fishermen. Fish said to have been found by the trawler for the first time in our waters have been known for years to local fishermen, and have been thrown overboard by them as unfit for sale. There are some fish which practical fishermen do not regard as of value as a food supply, but they are being advertised as new discoveries by a gentleman who comes from the north of Europe, and who has had comparatively little experience of Australian fisheries. That is one of the ill- effects of employing a theorist to deal with practical matters. At a later stage, when we have before us the Estimates providing for the salaries of the trawling staff, I shall put before the Committee a list of fish said to have been discovered in Australian waters by Mr. Dannevig, but which, by their common name, are well known to local fishermen, and when caught are thrown overboard by them. We have also been told that many new fishing grounds have been found by the trawler, including a bay in a group near King’s Island, to which Victorian fishing boats have gone for many years. Fishermen at Queens cliff have actually erected a hut there, and have used it in rough weather, yet the bay was reported as a new one for fishermen. These discoveries may be new to Mr. Dannevig, but I am told by men who have carefully read his reports, and who are anxious to gain information on the subject, that not one new fishing ground has yet been discovered, nor have any new species of fish been found along the southern coast of Victoria or .the north coast of Tasmania.
– The honorable member for Corio’s criticism is very unfair. To criticise the experiment when sufficient time has not elapsed to. allow much to be accomplished is to condemn it before it has been fairly started. Such criticism comes mostly from men who know the least about the work. If honorable members would make themselves familiar with what has already been done by the trawler, I think that their criticisms would be considerably modified. What has been said with respect to the Director of Fisheries is most unfair. Mr. Dannevig comes from the north with a long and practical experience. He has been in the service of New South Wales for some time, and competent officers there credit him with being an able man. I do not profess to be extensively acquainted with the subject, but I think that, in Mr. Dannevig, the Commonwealth has a reliable and competent officer.
– What do the fishermen in the honorable member’s electorate say of him ?
– The fishermen in my electorate fish for Murray cod. Fishermen in many cases are like the honorable member - strong in their criticism’ with respect to subjects with which they have not made themselves familiar. As for Mr. Cutler, my knowledge of him is that he, too, is a competent man. I do not think he would attempt to exaggerate the capabilities of his dock, or make unjustifiable representations as to what he could do there, lt is possible that he cannot make a crank shaft for the Powerful, but that is not an every-day requirement, and if his dock is not fitted with the necessary machinery, he could not be expected to supply it on the spur of the moment.
– And the erection of such machinery would not be justifiable unless there were orders to go on with.
– Quite so. Mr. Cutler is an able man, and the Committee may rest satisfied that he will do ample justice to any work which the Commonwealth may give him. Then, with respect to the building of a small boat for the trawler, I think that in nine cases out of ten the Department will find it better to build a boat to the specifications laid down by those competent to determine what is required than to obtain a secondhand one.
.- I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Corio indulge in a most unfair criticism of the work of Mr. Dannevig. The trawler has only been in commission for a few months, and nothing more than a preparatory examination and survey of part of our coast has been made, so that it is most unfair to adversely criticise the work which it has done. lt is to be regretted that so much of that kind of criticism is indulged in. Before there has been time for a report to be furnished to the House, the honorable member for Corio1 has seen fit to repeat a lot of tittle-tattle as to what fishermen in his electorate think of the work of the trawler. It is quite possible that some fish which have been discarded as useless by local fishermen are among those said to have been first discovered by the trawler, but they may have been so discarded because of insufficient knowledge as to their suitability for canning and other purposes.
– It is possible that some people do not like the publicity that is given to the location of good fishing grounds.
– There may be something in that contention.
– One discontented fisherman could give rise to rumours of the kind mentioned by the honorable member for Corio.
– Very readily. Apart from the question of whether or not the fishermen desire to have withheld from the public the location of good fishing grounds, we have to remember that the natural scorn which the practical man has for the man whom he views as a theorist is, in itself, sufficient to account for any little adverse criticism such as that which the honorable member for Corio has mentioned. We ought to stand by our officers until we have good evidence that the work which they are doing is useless. If, as is said, alleged discoveries on the part of the trawler are in no sense new to local fisher men, then we ought not to have constructed a trawler, or else those in charge of it are incompetent to do the work. We have no reason to believe that either inference is correct. We are all hopeful of the best results to the fishing industry following the work of the trawler, and we should not create additional difficulties, and make those engaged in the work discontented by repeating mere tittle-tattle or unfair criticism based upon insufficient knowledge.
– I come from that part of the east of Scotland - the Aberdeenshire coast - where trawling is carried on upon a very large scale. Mr. Dannevig had six years’ experience of that coast, and all that the honorable member for Corio has said as to local fishermen knowing all the grounds, and as to the trawler destroying the fishing trade, is mere moonshine. The same was said of the trawling which first took place on the east coast of Scotland. All the fishing grounds” that were trawled over. on the east coast of Scotland in the early days were known to local fishermen, but it was not known that they could . be profitably trawled. We may catch fish at Queenscliff in the primitive way in which they are being caught to-day, but we have to ascertain whether it would pay the public to engage in trawling enterprises. I have had a chat with Mr. Dannevig, have read his reports, and am satisfied that he is doing splendid work. As the result of trawling on the east coast of Scotland, thousands of tons of fish are now being sent to the English market, whereas only tons of fish were sent down in the days gone by. That change would not have been brought about but for the enterprise of some of our merchants in engaging in what was considered at the time to be a hazardous undertaking.
– The whole of the North Sea is now charted, so as to show the location of any particular class of fish.
– That is so. Amongst other valuable work done by Mr. Dannevig will be that of re-stocking some of our fishing grounds. The great trouble on the east coast of Scotland is that trawlers have to go further and further away from the shore in order to make their hauls. I asked Mr. Dannevig whether they had yet attempted to re-stock fishing grounds, but he said that- they had not vet taken up that branch of his work. ‘ It would be a simple matter to re-stock our fishing grounds. Various methods have been adopted for re-stocking our oyster beds, with great success, I am sorry that any honorable member should listen to, and repeat, the tales of fishermen, before taking the trouble to ascertain what the Director of Fisheries is doing. There has always been an outcry against new -inventions, although experience proves that the community invariably benefits by them. We cannot estimate the revenue likely to be obtained from the fishing industry. ‘ The six weeks’ harvest of the sea which comes to Scotland is equal to the whole income of the land, and there is no reason why our fishing industry should not be as successful. The trawler has caught many fine edible fish not known to the general public. I myself have tasted a specimen not known on any table at which I have sat in Australia. We should allow this survey work to proceed! Any kind of boat will not do for the trawler, but if) we vote the amount asked for, it will be possible to obtain a suitable boat.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 3 (Quarantine), subdivision 1 (N ew Stations), £1,000.
– I hope the Minister will say how many quarantine stations it is proposed to provide for. and where, they are to be located.
– The Committee should be informed of the intentions of the Government regarding quarantine matters generally.
– The Commonwealth has taken over the control of quarantine, and appointed Dr. Norris director. He is now occupied’ in arranging for the transfer of the State officers who have been engaged in quarantine work, and will recommend for appointment all whom he considers suitable. The quarantine stations of the States will be transferred to the Commonwealth, but I do not think any new stations will be erected this year, the proposed vote being chiefly to meet unforeseen exigencies.
– Repairs must be made .to the existing stations.
– They are provided for in another part of the Estimates
– I wish to point out that Beauty Point, opposite Beaconsfield, 7 miles inside Tamar Heads, and 30 miles from Launceston, has been made the quarantine station for that part of the Commonwealth. I understand that the site has been adopted on the recommendation of the medical officer for Tasmania; but surely the Commonwealth officer should know that it will cause great inconvenience to passengers and all connected with shipping, if vessels are detained while the health officer proceeds 30 miles” down the river to make an inspection. Formerly, vessels used to be allowed to come up close to Launceston before being examined. There is no medical officer to- meet steamers at the Heads, and the medical officer lives at Launceston. I understand that the matter is being inquired into, and I hope that an alteration will be made.
.- I wish for information regarding the question of re-votes generally. In this subdivision £200 is set down as a re-vote. Cannot arrangements be made for spending within the year the money voted for public works ? The present system misleads the public. The list of works to be undertaken each year is published throughout Australia, with the statement that the money has been voted for them. This naturally pleases those in whose districts expenditure is to take place. But, either intentionally, or for lack of proper management, much of the money voted is not spent, and has to be re- voted. The present system reminds one of Micawbers practice of giving a promissory note, and thanking God “ that that debt is paid.”
– The Estimates are not passed early enough in the year to enable all the money voted to be expended.
– The re-votes total £51,000. The present system has existed from the very first, but is unknown in the States. It inflates our yearly expenditure to no purpose. There should be a better system, so that we could be sure that the money voted for any work would be spent on it.
– In some cases the Government anticipate not being able to spend the whole sum voted.
– That is so. On page 288 of the Estimates, £45,000 is put down as an amount which it is anticipated may not be expended during the year.
– But the Treasurer must find the money if the Department can expend it.
– I do not think that the explanation is that the Estimates are passed too late, because I’ find that, whereas there are many re-votes in connexion with departmental expenditure coming under the control of the Minister of Home Affairs, the Department of the Postmaster-General has been able to spend even more than the sum voted for it. I think that there is too much red-tape in the management of the Department of Home Affairs.
– Plans and specifications are now ready in the Department for the construction of a number of works which will be undertaken as soon as the Estimates are passed.
– The plans should in every case be ready before the Estimates are “passed. Should the Committee strike out any item, the proposal is sure to be brought forward later on, so that the work done on. the plan would not be lost.
– A work’s item has never yet been struck out.
– On the other hand, there are many re-votes every year. I am sure that the honorable member for Illawarra will impress upon his officers the need of making preparation beforehand for spending the money voted by Parliament for public works.
.- While I agree with the honorable member for Grey, that we should not have to revote large sums every year, I do not think that work should be proceeded with by the Departments in anticipation of the passing of the Estimates. We have no higher privilege, and no more, serious duty, than the control of the finances of the country. We can only maintain absolute control of. the legislation of the country, which it is our boast to hold, while we control the administration through the finances. The preparation of plans means an expenditure of money, and possibly a very large expenditure.
– The Treasurer spent money on dies for the coinage.
– I think the Treasurer was wrong on that occasion, because I hold that expenditure without authority is improper. It is, unfortunately, true that such expenditure has often been entered on by Governments in the past ; and I am glad to think that the Treasurer is becoming prudent in his political age, and that we are likely to have but few recurrences of this sort of thing. The preparation of plans is distinctly the beginning of expenditure without the chance of Parliament considering whether that expense is justified;- and Parliament will surrender, to the detriment of the people, one of its most important privileges if it allows this system to continue. The reason for the continual re-voting of money is, I think, almost entirely the fault of this House. For many years past we have suffered the respective Governments, for their own convenience, to bring down the Estimates, so late in the year” that the Departments have sometimes had little opportunity tq expend the money voted in the course of the vear. If honorable members look’ at page 281 of the Estimates they will find an item of £6,000 which it was anticipated would not be spent in the course of the year 1908-9; and if honorable members make a computation of the period of the year which remained after the Works Estimates were voted last year, they will see that the Department did more than its average share by expending the proportion spent of the money actually voted.
– On page 288 there is an item of £45,000 which is not expected to be spent this year.
– This has gone on from year to year. The £45,000 referred to is part of a total expenditure of £^263,000. We have already been more than two months in. this year, so that the Department expects to expend more than the pro: portionate amount for the year in the ten months left. The Estimates are not later this year than in previous years; but, if we desire anything like economy in their preparation, ,we w,i’11 ‘see that they are passed at the beginning of the year, and the Departments thus enabled to base their Estimates on the expenditure, and not on the unexpended Estimates, of the preceding year. ‘ I urge on the Treasurer the advisability of dealing with the Estimates at the earliest possible moment. Honorable members opposite for the first time in their lives are anxious to have ihe Estimates brought down early.
– I have every year urged that they should be brought down earlier.
– I except the honorable member; but, like many others in his party, he has more often expressed his determination to have things done than he has succeeded in having them done. The honorable member and his colleagues were sitting for some seven years on this side, and, though some of them had good resolutions, the bad practice continued. It is due to the universal suspicion which Governments, for some reason, hold of those in Opposition. The Government feel that the moment they bring down the Estimates every opportunity may be taken to talk, in order that public business of a controversial character may, be delayed. It is about time for the Commonwealth Government to deal firmly with a situation of this sort. It is obviously in the public interest that the Estimates should be brought down early; and if that interferes with other business, the Government ought to take the responsibility, as is done in a bigger Parliament, of giving only a certain and reasonable time for the passing of the Estimates. I offer these suggestions to the Treasurer, and hope that on the next opportunity he will inaugurate some such reform.
– I think that on every occasion honorable members, on more than one side, and certainly honorable members of the party to which I belong, have complained of the late period at which the Estimates, and particularly the Works Estimates, have been submitted. I do not recollect any occasion when objection was raised to any of the works proposed, or when the Estimates did not pass quickly. The Government are responsible, but, in another connexion, the Treasurer has pointed out what he claims tobe the inevitable delay in obtaining returns at the end of the financial year, and has urged that he could not have made his Budget speech earlier. If that be so, it is evident that there must be some change of method in regard to the Works Estimates. Personally, I do not think we shall ever succeed in getting our works carried out with expedition until we have our own Works Department. As to re-votes, I do not place much importance on the preparation of plans as a cause of delay. We know that in regard to such buildings as post-offices, there are plans already prepared of buildings suitable according’ to the population of the centre to be served, and it is only necessary to ascertain the sort of foundations required, the slope of the ground, and so on. There may sometimes be delay in securing the necessary block of land ; and fresh tenders may occasionally have to be called. After this, the matter has to be sent on to the Works Departments of the States ; and we know that the State officers, who carry out the work, depend for promotion on the State Governments ; and, therefore, the Commonwealth business takes second place. In this, I think, can be found the main cause of the delay ; and, as I say, that cause cannot be removed unless we have, at extra cost, a Works Department of our own. Over and over again I have traced the delay to the State Departments. The States’ are paid for the work done-; but we all know that the officers are expected to do the State work ; and, as they are kept pretty busy, they have not the chance to expedite the Commonwealth work. By way of illustration, I may point out that where stationmasters’ are utilized by the Commonwealth as postmasters, satisfaction is never given, because the men say that they have first to attend to their business as railway officials. In my own electorate, the money for a certain post-office was voted about six years ago, and there have been re-votes since, with, I suppose, another re-vote this year. We are a long-suffering people in the West, and have not grumbled much ; and possibly in a few more years the building may be started. I recognise that the fault does not lie with the Commonwealth officers; but I hope that the Minister will make some vigorous effort to get the work done more quickly. There should be a more definite understanding with the State Works Departments, so that the Commonwealth work may take its proper turn. I do not know whether it is possible to have the Works Estimates earlier in the financial year ; but I think it is not, because the Treasurer must know what his revenue is to be in order to make up the Estimates. Hence some provision should be made for the work continuing preparatory to the next re-vote; and, although the difficulty is an awkward one, it ought not to .be insurmountable.
.- As I interjected when the honorable member for Wentworth was talking, I have always objected to the amounts we have been asked to re-vote. Honorable members will find, however, that in all probability the re-votes on the present occasion are fewer than previously. The work, as has been pointed out, is done by State officers, who are more accessible to the members of the State Parliaments than they are to members of the Federal Parliament; and, in addition, under the present financial arrangement, if Commonwealth works are not done, it means that all the more money will be available for return to the States. That is another reason for not pushing on with Commonwealth works; but if the suggested per capita arrangement is carried out, I think we shall find each State clamouring for as much work as possible; because its return from the revenue will not thereby be affected. The honorable member for Wentworth said that, while I had objected to the late submission of the Estimates,- I and my col- leagues had not done anything by way of remedy. But that is precisely the position of the honorable member himself to-night. I cannot recall a single case where a proposed work has ever been struck out of the Estimates.
– The inclination is to put others in.
– Unfortunately that cannot be done. I think the honorable member for Wentworth misunderstood what the honorable member for Grey intended regarding the preparation of plans. It is advisable that plans should be prepared as soon as possible, so that even if the work is held up for twelve months it can be gone on with at once when the vote eventually does go through, as it is practically certain that it will. While I object to revotes, I must say that there is less cause of complaint regarding the re-vote of £200 for quarantine than in regard to any other re-vote upon the Estimates, because the Director of Quarantine was not appointed until nearly the end of May this year, and it was impossible to spend the money before Dr. Norris had an opportunity of travelling through the States to see where new quarantine stations should be located.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that in these Estimates we are asked to re-vote amounts for works on which not one penny of the amount previously voted has been spent. There must be something wrong there. While it may be impossible to get the whole of the work done on account of the late passing of the Estimates, something ought to be spent, and no work should be put on the Estimates unless the Department is prepared to go on with it. I hope the Minister will look into the matter and see that as much of the money voted as can be spent is spent.
– The question of re-votes is assuming such serious importance that it is time something was done in .respect of them. Last year we were asked to deal with the Public Works section of the Estimates as a special matter, just as we are asked to do to-night, so that the Department might be enabled to complete the works within the . financial year. Large sums of money have been voted on previous occasions, and at the end of the year the first intimation which members have of the fact that the money has not been expended is when the work comes up again on a re- vote. The
Estimates should be so drawn, and the Department so equipped, that votes will be asked only for works that are in a position to be carried out. When the money is voted the -Department should take the work in hand and see that it is carried out. It is useless to put make-believe ‘Estimates before Parliament and the country. But that is all these Estimates are, ‘if there is no intention to carry out the works, or if the Department fails to carry them out. There are, however, some Departments for which votes were asked and granted last year, but when it came to a question of carrying out the works the departmental reply has been that there is no money available, and. that they must be held over for the next year’s Estimates. In looking over this year’s Estimates for similar works I find that the amounts voted last year were not expended. I should like to know how that happens. The Department has been pursuing a penny wise and pound foolish policy in making’ what the Government call “ savings “, by refusing to expend money which Parliament has voted. That was all very well some time ago, when the. savings went to the States, and it suited the purpose of Ministers, who were anxious to conserve the interests of the States, to starve the Federal Departments. That policy is now, however, recoiling on the Department, as is evidenced by the pre-, sent unsatisfactory condition of the, PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Instead of there being a saving, there has been a considerable loss, and a great amount of friction. A lot of the work, if taken in hand at the time, could have been done for much less than it will cost now. I hope the present Government, instead of showing many “savings” at the end of the year, after asking the Committee to pass these votes as a matter of urgency, will select only works which they intend to carry out, and then spend all they can on them, so that next year we may not discover that the services of the Commonwealth have been starved and put in an unsatisfactory position by the unsatisfactory policy which has been pursued in the past.
– I may say in answer to the honorable member for Calare that, so far as I have been able to judge during the short time that I have been in charge of the Home Affairs Department, all the officers are most zealous to have everything done in the quickest possible manner with a view to carrying out the works for which money has been voted. I think honorable members must look to some other quarter than the officers of the Department for the reason for these large re-votes every year. As ‘the honorable member for Yarra has said, there are on these Estimates less re-votes than has even been the case before, and I can assure honorable members that the Department is now ‘ in a better position than it ever was before with regard to plans and specifications being ready for the carrying out of works. As the honorable member for Yarra pointed out, it did seem strange at first that a re-vote of £200 should appear for quarantine; but it is only recently that Dr. Norris was appointed, and the Federal Government took over quarantine. There has to be a re-vote of the £200 because there has practically been no opportunity of spending it. The sum of £1,000 is required for probable expenditure in the establishment of new quarantine stations where-, after fuller investigation by the director, they, are found to be necessary.
– Has the Minister any idea where they will be?
– I have no idea, as the investigations have not yet been made. They will be conducted by the director, and when he has fixed on the proper positions for the stations, the work will be carried out.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division’ 4 (Defence), subdivision 1 (New South Wales), £31,724.
.- There are in this division a number of votes that seem to call for some explanation from the Minister of Defence. I do not know whether he is taking any interest in the Department at all, and I should be the last to suggest that he should.
– These are matters connected with the Home Affairs Department.
– I am sure that any criticism directed to the Defence Department would be most improperly delivered to the Minister of Home Affairs, who is in no sense responsible for the causes of it. I wish to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence, who has just entered the chamber, to one or two matters concerning his Department. He will notice a number of re-votes for rifle ranges. Considering the very large and comprehensive orations that have been recently delivered as to the necessity for putting the forces of this country on a proper footing, and the fact that we have been told that really all that was wanted was money, we should have some explanation why money that has been lying to the credit of the Government has not been utilized to repair existing deficiencies. I do not hold the Minister wholly responsible for all these things, but I should like to know from him any departmental reasons why all this money has not been spent. There seem to be good reasons why it should be spent, and no doubt there may be some equally good reasons why it has not been. I thought I had plumbed the depths of possibilities in this chamber, and that nothing could surprise me or ruffle that calmness of demeanour which sits upon me so easily ; but I am bound to say that I view the attitude and action of the Minister of Defence at this moment in very much the same way as a man who was suddenly thrown back to the time when the ichthyosaurus and the pterodactyl ploughed their cheerful way about, would regard an attempt at a playful waltz or a light and airy gavotte by those gigantic animals. It is with the same feelings that I see the honorable gentleman attempt light and airy persiflage, and a bonhomie which sits upon him as lightly as armour would rest upon a young debutante at a Court reception. I want to know, not whether he can laugh, for I see that he can, and not whether he can make a joke, for I know that he cannot, but why this money has not been spent on rifle ranges. The Minister of Home Affairs wishes to know to which item I refer. In item 3 we have a re-vote of £1,339 for additions to rifle ranges. Then I come to new works, and find item 9, which, under the same heading of “ revote,” provides £174 for rifle ranges, item 14, which provides £278 for a rifle range site - and this is not the only site, I may be permitted to remark - as well as a number of other items. I am not sure whether the blame for the non-expenditure of these votes is to be attributed to the Department of Home Affairs, or to the Defence Department, but one or the other is responsible. My experience of the Department of Home Affairs leads me to believe if possible that mel blame may rest with it.- It is one of the most conventional Departments in the Public Service. Matters there pursue the easy routine that has been laid down by Providence, as calculated not at all to shorten a man’s days, or to perturb his soul. I endeavoured on one occasion to secure a rifle range lor Bathurst, and succeeded, so far as the Defence Department was concerned, with an ease .that disturbed my equilibrium for some time, but the Department of Home Affairs did not deal with it for some weeks. I even overcame the inertia of the Lands Department of New South Wales, which did violence to its traditions by disposing of the matter in one morning.
– The honorable member was lucky.
– It was a unique experience. I was saddened by the thought that the delay occurred within the Commonwealth sphere, although I thoroughly appreciated the view that the delay was necessary - that if there were not something in the nature of a second Chamber, as it were, to deal with hasty suggestions by persons outside the Government, the position might be serious. Speaking generally with regard to these re-votes, I think that the explanation given by the Minister mat the reason why the Department had Been unable to expend the item of £200 for quarantine, was that Dr. Nor’ris had onlybeen recently appointed Director of Quarantine, is unanswerable; but so far as 1 know, a like circumstance does not apply to any of the re-votes for the Defence Department. The Minister of Defence must join with us in this crusade. It cannot be to his interest not to spend money that is available. In failing to do so, he is neglecting his own interests, and that again is a departure from his settled habits which one cannot understand. I should like to have from the Minister a general explanation of the reason why the amounts made available for new’ works in connexion with defence, are so completely inadequate to meet the circumstances of the present situation. These new works are not all under the control of the Department of Home Affairs. 1 do not profess at present to be able to say what other classes of new works are included in the schedule; but the total amount available is only £40,000 more than was expended in 1907-8, which was a normal year. In x 908-9 the amount expended was £156,000 less than’ in 1907-8, and we were told by the Treasurer that the proper comparison, was not with last year, but with X907-8, since that was a normal year. When the Minister of Defence was on this side of the House, he pointed out that we were starving the military services, and the Government of the day last year presented Estimates which had been so severely cut down that much criticism was directed against them. Those Estimates provided £156,000 less for new works than was provided in the Estimates of the previous year, and it was never asserted that in that previous year there had been too great an allocation of funds for this purpose.
– Is the honorable member speaking of what was voted in that year, or what was expended?
– I am speaking now of the expenditure. Our present circumstances so pressingly demand a large expenditure that we ought to have from the Minister a statement as to why he proposes to expend so little. I take it that the item of £6,016 for the Lithgow Small Arms Factory relates only to the building of the factory, and that the other cost is charged against the Defence Department.
– Will the honorable gentleman say when the factory will be ready for occupation, and when will the plant for making rifles be set up? I should also like the Minister of Home Affairs to tell us, if the construction of the factory comes within his Department, what stage the operations Gave reached, and when it is proposed to hand over the building, ready for occupation, to the Defence Department ? There are a’ number of other items with regard to drill halls, and so forth.
– I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, whether the honorable member is in order in anticipating items, and whether he is not limited to the discussion of the particular item before the Chair.
– On the point of order, I should like to point out that it is very difficult for an honorable member to avoid anticipating items, in a matter of this kind, and 1 think that the honorable member for West Sydney is endeavouring to’ traverse the Estimates in a way that will make their general comprehension easy to the Committee. I hope, sir, you will rule that he is in. order.
– It seems to me that there is nothing in the point of order. I have not mentioned details to a greater extent than is necessary.
– The honorable member was perfectly in order. He was discussing matters covered bv the subdivision.
– With regard to the proposed vote for building and engineering works for a cordite factory in Maribyrnong
– The honorable member may not refer to that now.
– I hope that the Minister will inform us why the amount set down for new works is so small, and why the re-votes are so numerous.
– Considerable dissatisfaction has been created throughout the country by the manner in which rifle clubs have been treated. Whilst we have been discussing the advisability of increasing our military proficiency, the rifle clubs have not received fair and reasonable treatment. Complaints in this regard come from both Molong and Forbes.
– I am glad to have been able to make provision for the Molong rifle range.
– The old range was condemned more than twelve months ago, and a new site was not selected until a great amount of trouble had been caused, largely, it was said, because the Department had not made plain what it desired. Then it was found that nothing could be done to make the site available, because no money had been voted for the purpose. I urged that, in view of the peculiar circumstances of the case, a special vote should be obtained, but it was not done. I presume that now the work will be taken in hand, and I hope that the expenditure will take place within the year, instead of the vote being allowed to lapse. At Molong, there is a squadron of the Australian light horse, whose members indulge in shooting practice, and a rifle club, but for twelve months neither has been able to fire a shot. A similar state of things has prevailed at Forbes, where the old range was condemned as unsafe a year ago, and- complaints of a like nature come from other centres. Something practical should be done to help those who are willing to sacrifice their time in preparing for the defence of their country. Nothing is more likely to damp the enthusiasm of our young men who wish to perfect themselves in rifle shooting than the apathy of the Department. The policy which it should adopt is to show more activity. If what has happened in the past is continued in the future, our young men will be so disgusted that, after a time,, the Department will not be able to command the service which can be commanded if they are treated decently.
.- I was delighted to hear the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney regarding the non-expenditure of much of the money voted last year, which has caused serious inconvenience and loss to the rifle clubs affected. The reasons why the Government of which he was a Minister failed to expend the money voted by Parliament are difficult to ascertain, but one of them, no doubt, is that he was so busy explaining what a friend the -defence movement had in him, that he could not find time to see that his colleague, the Minister of Defence, was doing the work which Parliament wished to have done. I hope that before the Estimates have been dealt with, the present Minister will give the Committee information as to the proportion of rearmament proposed to be effected in the fortifications this year. The Estimates are a little vague. They show that the expenditure on emplacements for. Sydney is proportionately less than that for other places. It may be that those other places need the money more. The interests of Australian defence, and public economy, will be best studied by the re-equipment of the existing fortifications without delay. Most authorities are agreed that ships are unlikely to attack fixed harbor defences, but such defences are necessary. Guns on hydro-pneumatic mountings, such as we have at present at Sydney and Melbourne, on the tops of hills, are the wrong guns for such positions. These guns are for positions close to the water level. The disappearing apparatus makes their fire slow, and increases the number of men necessary to serve them. With quick-firing artillery, we could get the same defence with fewer guns and men. I . should like the Minister of Defence, before making his statement to the Committee, to very seriously consider that aspect of the question. Years ago, before the Imperial Defence Committee recommended the change to quick-firing guns, I pointed out that it would mean a very large saving; and the Minister should let us know exactly how much could be saved on the Estimates every year by the conversion, because this business ought to be done at once. It was in 1906 that we went to the expense of sending an officer, in whose particular province this matter lay, to the Imperial Defence ‘Committee. The whole matter was gone into in the light of the plans and so forth presented ; and on the receipt of the report of the Committee, separate Commonwealth Committees were appointed to consider it. We have had the recommendations of those Committees some three years ; and I am not wrong in saying that practically nothing whatever has been done. We cannot blame the present Minister, who has shown himself to be full of activity; but it is about time the question was dealt with, especially in view of the fact that to deal with it will lighten our financial burden. I should also like the Minister to explain how much of the first line equipment of the existing field forces will be still required after the money we propose to vote for the new equipment of waggons and so forth has been spent. This is an extremely important subject, and I am inclined to think that the Honorable member for Hindmarsh, speaking for the then Minister of Defence, promised, at the dying stages of last session, to see that the first work of the new Government would be to equip the first line of the existing field forces.
– And it would have been done had we remained in office.
– I do not blame the exMinister, because he “had not charge of the Estimates. The existing forces are without the power to move until there is a first line equipment.
– There is very little money on the Estimates for this purpose - most of it is for cadets.
– There is some money on the Estimates, but not enough.
– There is only £40,000 for anything besides the cadets.
– The actual amount required is something like £200,000, and it will have to be provided. I should like the Minister to make a very full statement on the question, because the sooner the House understands the better, that it is not the slightest use having men unless there is power to move them and keep them in action. Our forces are merely an inert, if armed, mob until ammunition waggons and other scientific apparatus have been provided, in order to make them a mobile army in the field.
.- In regard to re-votes, I should like to draw attention to that for a site and drill hall at Newcastle. That item, to my knowledge, has been re-voted for the last four years ; and, while I do not blame this any more than any other Government, I say that the system must in some way be at fault. A total expenditure of £2,000 is contemplated; and surely the Department should make up its mind before asking for such a sum? I should like to know from the Minister whether any provision is made in these Estimates for a. rifle range at Adamstown, where, to my knowledge, the men are so cramped as to be in positive danger while undergoing their annual training. This, I take it, is the second most important of all the ranges.
– There are two items amounting to £325 - £215 being for the rifle range, and £no for the caretaker’s quarters.
– That is not enough”, because, at the present time, the caretaker’s quarters are not fit for anybody to live in. In regard to the new armament of the forts referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth, I well recollect that, when a vote was first passed, it was for Western Australia ; and, in that case, we saw none of the humbug we have seen since. There was a clamour for guns that were really too big for the place- big enough, not only to cover the area of range, but to blow Rottnest Island out of the water - and the magnate in charge at that time saw that the money was spent, and everything provided as desired. I believe that the armament of the Tasmanian ports was taken in hand the following year ; and I desire to know what portion of the Commonwealth is to receive consideration this year. If there is one port that would be attacked by any squadron in search of a naval base, it is a coal port, such as Newcastle. In the case of that port, however, I find that there is merely a sum of £120 for the resumption of ground on the north side of the harbor ; and, if that is not playing with the matter, I do not know what is. The fort there is admitted by all experts to be absolutely out of repair, and to really require reconstruction ; and yet it is the fort most likely to be attacked in the first instance
– I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the want of a drill-hall at Cootamundra, which is the head-quarters of the Riverina Rifle Association. One sees in that country town more military enthusiasm than in any similar town I know. There the De-, fence Department engages a hall, and pays . rent for it, but the building is so very small as to be of very little service, while the rent would easily pay the interest on the amount required to provide proper accommodation. I brought the matter under the notice of the Department some time ago, but was informed that funds were not available for the erection of a hall. When I pointed out to the people that there were difficulties in the war, it was suggested by Dr. Florance, a local medical man, that the Defence Department might apply for one of the many State Government reserves in the district, and that, if it were granted, the people of the town - themselves had sufficient enthusiasm to make them willing to pay the cost of the erection of a building. I laid the suggestion before the Department, and received from the Acting Secretary the following reply, which rather staggered me -
In continuation of my letter No. 5875 of 25th ulc, respecting the proposal for the building of a Drill Hall at Cootamundra by public subscription on condition that the site was granted by the Commonwealth, I am directed to inform you that the Minister of Home Affairs is of opinion that the principle involved is unsound^ and it is therefore regretted that the proposal cannot be entertained.
The Department will not build a hall, nor will they allow the people to pay the cost of one out of their own pockets.
– What about the “ liberty of the subject” now?
-And what about the “encouragement of private enterprise “ ?
– Was that reply sent’ by the present Ministry?
– Yes; the letter is dated the 20th July. I did not conceive that any Ministry would so discourage private enterprise as this Fusion Government have done, when they deliberately refuse to allow the people, at their own expense, to erect a drill-hall for themselves. To show the unwisdom of the attitude of the Government, one has only to read in the Melbourne Herald, of this evening, an account of an interview with Major-General Hoad, who has a good deal of knowledge of how military matters are managed in the United States. That gentleman refers to the patriotic impulse there is in America, and how both the States and the Federation make grants to encourage the movement. Major-General Hoad said -
In some cases bodies other than the State Legislatures make appropriations. In Alabama the County Commissioners are authorized to appropriate £5 a month for the expenses of each company of militia in the county. In many of the large cities money is appropriated for the maintenance of militia and armouries by the city councils. It is also interesting to note that, in not a few cases, drill halls have been built by private subscription.
The Minister, as a lawyer, will have a great, regard for precedent, and there is a precedent which shows that, in America, if people are enthusiastic enough to build a hall, the Government are enthusiastic enough to accept it. If it is the policy of the Defence Department to discourage the efforts of enthusiasts in the way that I have indicated, it is a very bad policy, and ought to be speedily altered. People who are enthusiastic enough in defence to give their time to training, and to bringing local forces to a -state of efficiency, ought net by any means to, be discouraged.
– How many men have you ‘ at this place ?
– I cannot say off-hand, but we have’ a squadron of” junior cadets, a squadron of senior cadets, and a pretty, big force of local volunteers. It is the centre of the Riverina Rifle Association, and big meetings are held there every year. Those who are prepared to devote their time to learning to defend the country ought not to be” asked to put their hands in their pockets, to give their money as well. If you get a tailor who will sew for nothing, you ought at least to provide the thread and cloth. If the Department can get men to give their services for nothing, it ought to. provide them ‘ with a drill-hall, particularly when it is. paying more for rent than would “provide the ‘ interest on the money expended on a drill-hall. “
Mr. THOMAS BROWN (Calare) [°-57l- - I wish to emphasize the undesirableness of asking Parliament to “vote money, and then telling people that there is no money available, when at -the end of the year the Government come down and show what they call large savings or unexpended surpluses. ‘ The sum of £4,836 was voted for additions to rifle ranges last year, and only £2,572 was expended, showing a so-called saving of £2,264; while £791 was voted for new works for rifle ranges, and £617 was expended, or a “ surplus “. of £174. A large number of sums voted last year, as a matter of urgency, appear here as re-votes. Nine hundred and ninety-nine pounds was voted for a site and drill-hall at Newcastle, and £658 was expended. A vote of £2,000 is asked for this year for the same purpose, but if the Department could only spend £600 last year, how are they going to spend £2.000 this year? Four hundred pounds was voted last year for a drill-hall and site at Raymond Terrace, but nothing was expended, and the whole £400 is to be re-voted this year. Nine hundred and ninety-three pounds was voted last year towards the cost of a rifle range at Henry Head, and only £1 was expended. Three hundred pounds was voted for a site for the Yass rifle range, but only £22 was spent, and a further vote is asked for for the current year. Two hundred and nine pounds was voted for sites for signalling stations at Belle Vue Hill and Gore Hill, but nothing was expended, and the same vote is again asked for. For a garrison hospital, Victoria Barracks, £400 was voted last year, ,£205 was expended, and £195 is now asked for as a re- vote. For a gun park and harness rooms for the Australian Field Artillery, £2,000 was voted last year, and only £8 was expended. This year £5,000 is asked for. Three hundred pounds was voted for the manufacture and storage of ‘ target frames, and only £49 was expended. Two hundred pounds was voted for a new hull and boiler for the submarine mining steamer Ohm, but nothing was expended, and the steamer is still waiting for her new hull and boiler. In the whole of the subdivision £18,202 was voted,’ and only £8,664 was expended, leaving a “ saving “ of £9)538- The Minister asks us to appropriate £31,724 for the current year, and if the same policy is pursued, then, next year, instead of finding that the whole sum has been expended, we will find that, at the same rate, only £i5*,826 has been used, and the rest will appear as a “saving.” It is about time some new policy was introduced. If the money is not required, and cannot be expended, the Committee should not be asked to perform the unnecessary work of voting it, and so mislead the people. There is a proposed vote of £1,300 for remodelling the district commandant’s quarters at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney. That appears as a new item. Not long ago, there was a warm discussion as to whether the Victoria Barracks were not occupying land that was too valuable for the purpose. They are situated in the growing suburb of Paddington, and the site has become most valuable. They lie between the main building part of Paddington, and the Centennial Park. It was suggested in the interests of both the State and the Commonwealth that the land should be made available for building purposes, and the Commonwealth provided with a more suitable and extensive site else- where. If there is anything in that proposal, why expend so large a sum- on remodelling the district commandant’s quarters ? Has this proposal been seriously entertained, or is it likely to be? What justification can there be for expending this large sum for that purpose, when it is probable that in the near future the site will be required for other purposes, and the money will have been wasted?
– The case quoted by the honorable member for Werriwa is not a solitary one. In South Australia, there is a rifle range used by large numbers of our Military Forces, and there was not a shelter shed on it, but I am glad to say that the Minister has provided for that. It would, however, have been erected years ago by the Commercial Travellers’ Association, who have a splendid rifle club, but they were told by a former’ Minister precisely what the honorable member for Werriwa has been told by the present Minister of Home Affairs. If the Department will not allow the citizens to provide a drill hall, they ought to provide it themselves. I may say that the Department had no objection to a large number of citizens, including myself, paying for our own Scottish uniforms. Everybody, however, is not in a position to buy his uniform. I do not know whether the Minister of Defence agrees with his colleagues in regard to the matter, but 1 would advise him, when he finds a spirit of patriotism among the citizens that leads them to put their hands in their pockets, toencourage it. Ministers appealed to the people to put their hands in their pockets to provide a Dreadnought, but the people would not do it. Here they are willing to put’ their hands in their pockets to provide a drill-hall, shelter-shed, and uniforms. If this principle is to be adopted, it should be of general application, and Scottish corps all over the Commonwealth should be immediately notified that in future their uniforms will be provided by the Department. These men have done the right thing in proposing to provide their own shelter-shed, drillhall, and uniforms, and if that principle is to be observed, let us stand by it. If it is thought to be unsound in one case, however, it must be unsound in others. It was at considerable sacrifice that some of the men I have mentioned provided for their own uniforms; and I hope that the Minister will look into the matter. I was delighted to find men willing, not only to give their own time to the work of the corps, but to provide their own uniforms ; and I hope that, like the United States of America, the Commonwealth will be prepared to take all the assistance that its citizens are willing to offer in this direction.
– In reply to the honorable member for Calare, who referred to re-votes in connexion with the Department of Home Affairs, and said that its policy was misleading, I shall give one of many examples of the difficulties of the Department, and show why re-votes are absolutely necessary. Let me take the case to which the honorable member referred - that of the Yass rifle range site. The position is that a re-vote has to be taken this year for the following reasons: - During 1907, negotiations were entered into with the lessee of the land proposed to be used as a range. On 27th August, 1907, the lessee expressed his willingness to allow the site to be used as a rifle range under certain ordinary conditions, and promised that there would not be any interference on his part during the remainder of his tenancy, which covers several years ; and that, in the event of his subletting the estate, he would make provision for the continuity of the privilege he was offering. Subsequently it transpired that the sub-lessee declined to grant the necessary lease. The amount submitted is to enable the Commonwealth to acquire the land in question. That is an illustration of why it is necessary to obtain re-votes. It is not because of any desire on the part of the Department to mislead the public, but because of awkward circumstances which arise particularly in connexion with the acquisition of sites for rifle ranges. The Minister of Defence has been worrying the Department ever since I have been at the head of it to secure a rifle range at Baulkham Hills, in his own electorate. We have been endeavouring to make provision for it, but, owing to the inability of the owner of the land required to satisfy the Crown Law officers as to his title, the matter has been hung up for months.
– Is the delay due to the failure to come to an understanding as between the State and the Commonwealth with regard to titles?
– No; the two examples I have given relate to privately-owned properties. In reply to the honorable member for Newcastle, I would inform him that plans and specifications for the Newcastle drill-hall are ready to enable the work to be proceeded with as soon as these Estimates are passed. As to the Adamstown range, I find that, in addition to the sum °f £3T5 which I said was on the Estimates for that work, there is a further sum °f £7°- I agree with the honorable member for Calare, that it is not surprising that considerable dissatisfaction should exist among rifle clubs and that such organizations should be encouraged in every way. On numerous occasions I have had reason to complain, but difficulties of the nature I have indicated have arisen in connexion with the acquisition of sites.
– It seems extraordinary that only about half the sum voted last year could be expended.
– I have already explained the principal reason for that failure. As for the Molong range, a return before me shows that a sum of £’238, amongst others, is set apart to provide that range with sunken mantlet, targets, and other equipment to fit it for use.
– Will the Minister explain why, in connexion with item 13, which relates to. a rifle range at Henry Head, only’ £1 was expended last year, although £993 was voted for the purpose?
– Where is Henry Head?
– Just inside the North Head of Botany Bay. The Department explains that provision was made in last year’s Estimates for this work to be carried out at Long Bay, but the site could not be obtained from the State Government, and it has been decided to transfer the expenditure to Henry Head, which is Commonwealth property. The estimated cost is £2,000. The accommodation at Randwick rifle range is inadequate for riflemen in and near the metropolitan area. It is proposed to provide a sunken mantlet with shutter targets, stop-butt, firing mounds, &c.
– Take item No. 3, which relates to additions to rifle ranges. Is the delay that has taken place in connexion with that item due to the inability to obtain a site?
– No. I have before me a table showing that a sum of £734 is set apart for rifle ranges at Adamstown, Armidale, Unchelago, Randwick, Raymond Terrace, Singleton, Tamworth, East Maitland, Penrith, and other places. To that amount has to be added £17 for the Singleton rifle range and £12 for the Penrith range, bringing up the total to £763.
– What has been delaying the expenditure in connexion with item 3 ?
– I cannot say. I have only had control of the Department for a very short time, and, as I have already said, in my judgment its officers are veryzealous, and use every endeavour to carry out the work allotted to it in the interests of the Commonwealth. So far as I can gather, the trouble is due to the failure of previous Governments to give the officers the opportunity to expend the amounts voted by Parliament. I feel sure that the fault is not that of the Department, but rather of those who have had control of it in years gone by.
.- Making every allowance for the fact that the Minister has only been in office for a few weeks, it is still difficult to understand why this money has not been spent. He says that the Department is full of zealous officers who are doing their level best to spend the money, but for some reason or other which he cannot fathom somebody prevents them. The position is most pathetic. The Minister tells us that previous Governments have suffered from the same diabolical conspiracy. Though he has been in the Department ten weeks he has not been able to get to the bottom of it. To my certain knowledge the rifle clubs are most zealous and energetic, in endeavouring to obtain additional facilities. Every time they come up against any person in authority they are told that if there is one thing more than another that the Minister’s heart is bleeding for it is to give them a fair start. Well, here we have £!)339 set down for rifle ranges, and the Department has been unable to find a way of spending the money for the last three years. No body knows why. We speak of there being only two parties in politics. My own opinion is that there is some secret society or combination in our community, banded together to prevent money being spent which has been voted by Parliament. No one seems to be able to fathom it. There must be a password or some mysterious sign, a knowledge of which is necessary before any one can) learn how this wonderful society is conducted. But is_the Minister taking any steps to find out why this money has not been spent? I utterly refuse to believe that his zealous officers have been prevented from spending it by any Minister of the Crown or any combination outside. But even if such should be the case the present Government came into office to right all wrongs and set up a new order of things. They are responsible. If this is the result of setting up a new order of things 1 consider that the Government are behaving too meekly altogether. I turn to item 15. What is the matter with the Belle Vue Hill, and Gore Hill sites for signalling stations? Why is the money for those purposes being re-voted? What is wrong? I have no doubt that the works are wanted. Why are not the Government spending the money ? Parliament has voted it. Why, there are men walking up and down Bourke-street to-night, not one of whom would be unable to spend this money in twenty-four hours if he got the chance; and here is a Government, the very cream, the elite of the country - a Government in the formation of which all sections “in politics have been ransacked, and all creeds and nations explored - who do not know how to spend money when it is voted I Incapacity is written on their very brow. They are neither able to conceive a policy nor to put it into execution. I did think that, allowing for everything, the power to spend money, which the meanest creature on earth seems to have - excluding those abnormal monstrosities called misers, who are despised by all mankind - would be possessed by them. I admit at once that the Minister’s Department is one - as he will find as time goes on - which suffers from that inertia, that determination not to lie moved out of its gait, which is characteristic of some departments. But surely the Minister ought to see to it that something is done. I am not going to blame him, but I do say that this money ought to be spent. I admit the validity of the excuse put forward as to the transfers of land. If a man will not sell there is an end of the particular transaction. As to those items, therefore, which involve land transfers, the Minister’s explanation is sufficient. But as to other items. that do not fall within the same category, his explanation is utterly insufficient.
– The honorable member for West Sydney has referred to item 15, relating to Belle Vue Hill and Gore Hill signalling stations. These are two very high positions in close proximity to Sydney which have been used for long” range signalling communications. Around Gore Hill, however, we understand that there are some very keen land grabbers. It is thought by the Department that if we are to have the use of these particular sites, as we have had for some time past, it is absolutely necessary to acquire land. This money has been revoted for that purpose.
– Has. the Minister anything to say as to the refusal of the Department to entertain the offer .made by the people -of Cootamundra?
– It has been customary to allow drill-sheds to be constructed only by departmental expenditure. Furthermore, at Cootamundra there exists only half the unit which entitles a township to a drillhall.
– Does the Minister object to persons erecting a hall for themselves?
– We must all be glad to know that persons are ready, from patriotic motives, to act for themselves ; but my opinion is that this work should be done by the Commonwealth. Cootamundra is not a head-quarters, but consideration will he given to its application when the necessary unit exists there.
– While [ recognise that the Government has not been in office long enough to be censurable for the failure to expend money which has been voted upon defence, I feel bound to take advantage of the occasion to point out that the fortifications of Sydney are anything but up to date. The best “guns there are capable only of firing 100-lb. shells for 10,000 or 12,000 yards. They are mark 7, quick-firing guns, and there are about half-a-dozen of them. On battleships such guns are relegated to the second batteries, the first line of fire comprising guns capable of throwing 960-lb. shells a distance of from 18,000 to 20,000 yards. The Sydney forts would therefore be unable to check a modern warship, the guns there being little better than no equipment at all. This matter is so grave that one of the first acts of the Government should be to make good the deficiency. A. modem warship can fire a shell, nine times as heavy as any that could be fired by our shore guns, 8,000 yards further than they can send their projectiles. Since I have been in the House I have urged successive Governments to do more for the rifle ranges. Al Orange, although money is in hand for a new range, one obstacle after another has prevented its expenditure. I’ understand that new targets are to be placed on the present range; but that will not meet the case. So many riflemen wish to shoot, including young fellows who are being coached, that it is dangerous to have only one range. Out of the 150 riflemen in the town, sometimes 100 desire to shoot on the same afternoon. Surely it is not too much to ask the Minister to see that the transfer necessary for the acquirement of a new range is agreed to. In no centre of New South Wales are better riflemen to be found than at Orange, where there are three or four clubs in one town. That surely is sufficient justification for my request.
.- It is a fallacy to suppose that warships would be ready to attack land fortifications, it being recognised in every navy in the world that a land gun is infinitely better defended than a gun on board ship, and that, while a ship is an easy target for a land gun, such a gun is a difficult - almost an impossible - thing to’ hit from the sea. Besides, the ammunition with which a ship is provided is limited. The proper objective of a war vessel is the enemy afloat. In bringing herself within range of a shore battery she adds its guns to those of the opposing fleet. Of course an armoured vessel having none but 6-inch shore guns to fear could run the gauntlet of them without suffering more than damage to her superstructure in unarmoured parts, and in a place like Sydney could do a great deal of mischief when she got through. But she would not take the risk where great possibilities did not exist. A war vessel will not attack a fort which is in any way effective. What will keep an armoured enemy from running the gauntlet of comparatively light artillery is either submarine mines or an equivalent ; and I ask the Minister what is proposed to be done in regard to the existing submarine mining service in Australia ? The Imperial Defence Committee recommended its abolition on the ground that in British ports it was being superseded by submarines and submersibles. I ask the Minister whether he proposes to abolish the submarine mining service; and I suggest, in a few words, some serious consideration regarding it. In the first place, although the British Government have done away with submarine mines, because their ships are constantlyusing home ports, the German Government, who have to fear enemies on their coast, are going in more than ever for submarine mining defence. If the Minister determines to go ahead with submarine mining, does he propose to take steps to insure obtaining supplies for our submarine depots after the supply depots in England are abolished? He will have to get stores to supplement those we use from time to time ; and, in the course of a year or two, it will be impossible to obtain them from England, and there will be no alternative but to obtain them from some other country, which is most undesirable, or to make provision for ourselves. I think the latter alternative would be expensive ; but it is the only one if he intends to retain this particular form of harbor defence.
– I hope honorable members will not consider me wanting in courtesy if I do not reply to the many questions addressed to me to-night, because the hour is late, and I understand we desire to get home. I have made a note of all the observations offered, and shall look carefully over them to-morrow, and hope to furnish replies to most of them in the course of the consideration of the Estimates. The last point raised by the honorable member for Wentworth is a most important one, and, before giving him any definite reply, I should like to consult the experts of. the Department ; and so with regard to many other matters. I have made some notes containing interesting comparisons of expenditure, in order to correct my honorable friends opposite ; but they will keep until some other time.
– Item 7 ought not to be allowed to pass without justification.
– I regret that when replying to the various points raised I omitted to deal with this item, which is one of £1,300 for the remodelling of the district commander’s quarters at Victoria Barracks, Sydney. The explanation given by the Department is that the vote is for an extension of the accommodation, and the re-adjustment of the plans, so that the various rooms may be entered without the necessity of going into the open air or by a covered-in way on the back verandah; and for the remodelling of the front rooms, and providing bay windows, in order to afford light and ventilation. The rooms are so badly lighted and ventilated at present that the commander’s wife has been unable to live there. The quarters were built for a barrack-master on a very bad design. The rooms are small and inconvenient, and, in some cases, without proper means of access from one room to another.
– Is there any proposal to change this site for another site at an early date?
– I think that, on different occasions since the time of the late Sir John See, when he was Premier of the State, there have been proposals to that effect, but the matter has not come before me since I have occupied my present position; and I understand they have been abandoned.
– Will the Minister look into the question before he spends the money ?
Proposed vote agreed to.
Potato Blight - Old-age Pensions : Administration.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- To-day certain questions were put to the Minister of External Affairs in regard to the potato disease which is affecting nearly all the States of Australia at the present time. I want to bring one phase of the matter under his notice. When New South Wales issued an order prohibiting the introduction of potatoes, it was generally understood, and it was stated by the Minister in Victoria,that it would be three weeks before the latter State could take similar action, owing to the regulations requiring notice of intention to issue a proclamation to be given. Since then Victoria has decided to stop Tasmanian potatoes from being introduced.
– No. They have quarantined the potatoes on the wharf, which is a different matter.
– Seeing that the Minister of External Affairs promised today to interview Mr. Graham on the matter-
– I did not promise to interview him. In fact, I said that I could not.
– I hope that if the honorable gentleman can take any step in the matter, he will bring clearly under the notice of the Victorian Minister the fact that a large quantity of potatoes was landed at the port of Melbourne before that prohibition order was issued. I also wish the honorable gentleman to point out that the time for sowing seed potatoes has practically gone by.
– Not at all; they are planting now.
– I understand that at the present time potatoes are not being imported for that purpose, and that the majority of the potatoes on the wharf would simply pass into consumption in the city of Melbourne. Of course, if thereare any unsound potatoes on the wharf, let them be condemned by all means ; but in view of the statement of Mr. Graham, I think it would be a fair thing to allow the sound potatoes to pass into consumption, as they probably would all be consumed in this city.
– I wish to call the attention of the Treasurer to the manner in which the Old-age Pensions Act is administered in SouthAustralia. If an old man of sixtyfive years of age, with all the qualifications for an old-age pension; happens to have earned £52 last year, is out of work now and does not know when he will get work, he is denied a pension. I could mention a similar case of an old man of about seventy years of age, but his grievance is to be rectified, because the facts had only to be put before the Commissioner to enable him to see that an injustice was being done.
– If the honorable member would only do that in every case, the result would probablv be the same.
– The Commissioner cannot rectify the injustice I refer to, unless the Minister intervenes. If a person earned £52 last year, he is denied an old-age pension simply because it is presumed that he may earn a similar amount this year. During the various debates on the subject in this House, I never heard, a single member once suggest that any person who had reached the qualifying age should not be entitled to apply for an old-age pension. In fact, the Act allows a man to apply for work, and so long as he does not earn more than 10s. per week, he is entitled to a pension of 10s. per week, but here we have a case - and I suppose these cases number scores, if not hundreds - where an old-age pension is denied, simply because a man earned £52, or more, last year. The Deputy Commissioner told me that some men were knocking off work in order to apply for oldage pensions. I asked : “ Why should they not?” He said: “Well, a man may get an old-age pension, and then go and earn 30s. up country next week.” I said: “ In that case, the man could no longer get a. pension.” He said: “How are we to find it out?” I said: “That is your trouble. It is an offence against the Act.” I should like the Treasurer to look into the matter, because I am sure he will agree that the intention of the Act was that all who were qualified to get an old-age pension should receive it, and that they should not have to wait a whole year without getting any sustenance.
– We cannot act unless the honorable member will give specific cases.
– I have given them.
– I want to know who the persons are. I cannot tell the Deputy Commissioner unless I have that information. Each case has to be dealt with on its merits.
– The Deputy Commissioner in Adelaide can furnish particulars of the cases. I will now give the case of a man nearly seventy years of age who earned £4010s. last year, and who possesses the highest character. The Deputy Commissioner says that there are other cases of that kind. I understand that while the man is capable of work, he has first to find work before he can apply for a pension.
– - I could not give a general direction.
– I think that the honorable gentleman could. In my opinionthe Act is not administered in accordance with the intention of Parliament.
– It is administered by the Commissioner, and not by the Minister.
– The intention of Parliament was that if a man earned 20s. per week he should get no old-age pension, but that if he earned only 10s. or 15s. per week he should get a proportional pension. All I want the Minister to do is to give an instruction to the Commissioner that the Act is to be administered on those lines.
.- I also have to complain of the way in which the Old-age Pensions Act is administered. I am informed that many of the cases in New South Wales are in their present position owing to the action of the local authorities. I find that instructions have been given from Melbourne in a way which, I think, is not creditable to any one connected with the administration of the law. Some cases have come under my notice which, to say the least of them, are really aggravating. Take the case of an old man whose daughter goes out washing a couple of days per week, in order that she may be able to look after her parent. Her income so earned is deducted from the payment to the father. I do not think that that was the intention of Parliament.
– That is quite illegal.
– I have received a letter saying that it is done. The intention of the Act is being departed from in another respect. Clearly any money derived by old-age pensioners from Friendly Societies, or similar associations, is exempt, and no deduction can be made in connexion therewith. In New South Wales we have a Miners’ Accident Relief Fund, and in cases where men have been injured, deductions are being made illegally, simply on the ground that the men are receiving money from the fund. Deductions are also being made in respect of the few sticks of furniture which poor old people have in their homes. The definition of “ property “ was never meant by Parliament to include the furniture which old people may have. I hope that the Minister, instead of acting as he does, will take notice of these complaints when they are made, and see that the Act is administered according to, not only its wording, but also the intention of Parliament. If these cases are not adjusted the adjournment of the House will have to be moved in connexion with the administration ofthe Act.
– Some time ago I urged the Treasurer to abolish the awful questions put to applicants for old-age pensions.It is not good in a British, Christian, civilized country to have such questions put to people who are old pioneers and old soldiers of industry.
– Are those the questions as originally framed?
– I am not troubled about who did this. What I want is some one to clean it out. Itis sad, when one comes to fill the forms in, to have to put these questions to people. It is bad enough to be poor in this world, but it is awful when the fact is rubbed in with such questions.
– No one has complained to me about them.
– A good many have complained to me. Perhaps these people do not see the right honorable gentle man often. Why, on the other hand, should a person who has a nice house be deprived of a pension? We ought to encourage thrift, and I hope the Ministry will do so. Apparently, however, people are to be told that before they can get pensions they must be in absolute destitution. We should rather encourage every person to accumulate all he can, for that is good for the country. We should not deprive a person of a pension because he has a nice house. My great aim in life is to see everybody well off. I would have nobody poor, and nobody very wealthy, but everybody with a fair share of the good things of the world.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer a feature of the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act of which. I am sure, he will not approve. A man who has been in this country for nearly fifty years either deserted his wife, or she deserted him, forty-two years ago. Let us assume that he left his wife. Because of that he has been denied an old-age pension.
– That is the law.
– It is not the law. If the right honorable gentleman were saddled with things that he did forty -two years ago, I do not know what would happen to him. Section 17 of the Act says, “ If a husband has not, for twelve months or upwards, during five years immediately preceding that date . . . deserted his wife. ‘ ‘ Here is a man who, forty-two years ago, left his wife, or she left him. If he has paid his way, and acted as an honorable citizen since, he has wiped out whatever he did then. He is a miner, a pioneer, and has been a hard-working man all his life, but because of what happened forty-two years ago he is to have no pension. That shows the petty -mindedness of the officials who administer the Act. In an Act of this kind everything lies in the administration, and some of these officials have minds like hens, not like human beings at all. I shall supply the Treasurer with the name of the applicant, and some of the particulars, and I am sure he will see that the alleged cause is not sufficient to deprive the man of the benefit of the Act.
.- There is a practice in the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act for which the persons administering it are in no way responsible, but I might refer to it now as the subject has been somewhat canvassed. The question has arisen whether an old man and an old woman who are married are to have their pensions assessed on the half of the joint property of both, or on the property of one separately and individually. Recently, in my own electorate, a man’s pension was refused because his wife had enough money to debar him from getting the pension if she had been living with him. He pointed out that he was no longer living with her, and then, because, I assume, she was not separated from him by some decree of a Court, as required by the Act, that separation was regarded as not a separation de facto. I admit that safeguards must be provided against fraud, but if a practice of that kind is to be generally applied - at present it is applied under the Act, and I see little chance of amendment at present - old-age pensions will not be so much a benefit to people who require them as young-age pensions for aspiring legal gentlemen in the Divorce Courts who are anxious to get payment for securing decrees. Many people are too poor to get a decree in their old age for desertion, or a judicial separation. It would be far more expensive for them to get the judicial decree asked for by the Act than it would be advantageous to draw a pension for the few years which remain to them. This is a matter of serious importance, which might well be considered by the Treasurer while considering the other matters that have been mentioned.
– I shall be very glad to look into these matters, but the Minister, although he may be said to administer the Act, has very little power, if any, under the Act, so far as I can see. The Act is administered by the Commissioner. It is true that the appeal is made to the Minister, but he must send it on to the Commissioner whose decision in the matter is final. The Minister has no power to order the Commissioner to do anything, and it is, perhaps, just as well that it should be so. I believe that the Act will be best administered by the Commissioner, who is not a politician. I have no doubt that a great many cases will arise which are open to a difference of opinion from the stand-point of the way in which they are viewed. The Commissioner occasionally confers with me in regard to them, and I can assure honorable members that it is not an easy matter to decide whether or not a man is legally entitled to a pension. All sorts of attempts are made to obtain pen sions by persons who are not entitled to them. Individuals possessed of thousands of pounds worth of property have applied for pensions. If honorable members will give me. specific cases I shall do my best to have them investigated, and the persons who place them before me will receive replies. But I cannot undertake to look into general cases. The officers who are charged with the important duty of administering the Act must be careful of the revenue of the country.
– What about the poor old applicants for pensions?
– lt is possible to err the other way, and to a very much greater extent. If honorable members wish to throw open the Treasury to everybody let them say so. When honorable members complain in this House of the way in which responsible officers are discharging their duties, they render the administration of the Act very difficult.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer to a special case. The right honorable gentleman has said that he thinks it would be best to refer cases of injustice to the Commissioner, or to a Deputy Commissioner. I object to their reference to a Deputy Commissioner .upon the ground that the Deputy Commissioner in each State may rule differently. I would also point out that the amount which a mari earned last year can scarcely be accepted as an indication of his probable earnings this year. Let me give a couple cf specific cases Which exist in the Fawkner electorate. In that electorate there resides an old man and his wife, who are seventythree and seventy-six years of age respectively. The old man is worn out, but, through the generosity of his employer he was permitted to work till three months of the present year had expired. In making his claim for a pension he admitted that his earnings last year amounted to £76. He is now incapable of work, but because he and his wife are possessed of a house which is worth £180 they are allowed a pension of only is. 6d. per week each. I maintain that it was never the intention of this Parliament that persons in such a position should receive such paltry pensions. I believe that the Commissioner would grant these people larger pensionsif he did not fear being hauled over the coals by the Treasurer. I shall supply the honorable gentleman with the names of the individuals in question, and I hope that their claims will receive favorable consideration. In conclusion, I would point out that paragraph 1 of section 24 of the Act specially provides for cases of this description. When honorable members are aware of the facts of cases such as I have, cited it is their duty to let a little light in upon them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 August 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090825_reps_3_51/>.