6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday the AssistantMinister of Defence informed me that not much money had been spent so far on the Port Lincoln Naval Base. I ask the honorable gentleman if he will take steps tosee that the money voted on the Estimates is spent, and the work carried out at an early date.
– I shall have pleasure in bringing the matter before the Naval Board with a view to compliance with the honorable member’s request.
– As it is expected that wheat will be imported into Australia this year, I draw the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the fact that when the last importations of fodder were made, a large quantity of inferior fodder was imported, together with many vegetable pests, of which we have not been able to rid ourselves since. I ask the honorable gentleman if his Department cannot take steps to provide that the whole of the wheat imported shall be used for milling purposes, or, at any rate, that none of it shall be used for seed.
– The honorable member’s request seems reasonable, and I shall get the Quarantine Department to look into the matter.’ We have already prohibited the importation of certain produce to prevent the introduction of disease.For instance, we have prohibited the importation of lucerne hay from either North or South America- for the moment I forget which.
– On the 16th December last I asked the Assistant-Minister of Defence for information regarding the number of men who have volunteered for service abroad, their occupations, their nationalities, and their religions. Can he supply that information ?
– The Defence Department is preparing a roll giving the names of the men who have enlisted, with their former occupations. I do not know whether information regarding their religions is also to be obtained and made public.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether’ his attention has been drawn to some criticism of an advertisement that has appeared in the Government Gazette, inviting applications from persons to fill a position for which the qualifications of a ship’s surveyor and of an examiner for master’s and mate’s certificates must be combined. Will the honorable gentleman look into the matter and inquire whether it is not practically impossible to obtain any one person possessing the qualifications required for the two classes’ of work to be done?
– I have not seen the criticism referred to, but I think that the Gazette advertisement refers to two distinct positions. A ship’s surveyor must, I believe, have . engineering knowledge.
– I shall show the criticism to the Minister.
– In the absence of the Minister of External Affairs I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has given attention to the desirableness of abolishing the position of agentgeneral, allowing the quasi-diplomatic duty - which is part of the function of the agents-general to be performed by the High Commissioner, and leaving the rest of their work to be done by the commercial agents? Such a change would lead to economy, which is much needed at the present time.
– I do not know whether my colleague has given consideration to the matter, but to make a suggestion on . the subject to the States would be like interfering with the sacred ark. I have made other . suggestions to the States, and, if it is the general wish of members, we must make a suggestion on this subject, but we shall have to be very careful how we convey it. I take it that it is for the electors of the States to say to their representatives whether they will have seven diplomatic agents representing Australia in Great Britain or one. I think that one is sufficient.
– In the absence of the
Postmaster-General, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to show consideration to mail contractors who are being ruined by the high price of fodder ?
– I understand that my honorable colleague answered that question yesterday.
Cookburn Sound and Westernport
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
House complete reports from Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice of his recommendations in regard to the Naval Bases at Cockburn Sound, Westernport, and other - places, with plans and estimates of cost?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The following paper was presented : -
Proclamation by Administrator fixing date for commencement.
In Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding £3,130,000 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1915.
The increased expenditure on tbe Expeditionary Forces makes necessary the granting of further Supply. A message from His Excellency will be received later in the day covering a large sum; this motion relates only to the monthly proportion that is necessary.
– Do I understand that this is the additional amount required for the expenditure for the whole of the financial year?
– This is the monthly proportion of the additional amount which will be recommended by a message from His Excellency.
– Does the additional expenditure amount to £3,000,000 per month ?
– That will be the expenditure up to the 15th May.
– Then does the Treasurer propose to ask the House for a further amount before the end of the financial year?
– I may, unless the Estimates are passed in the meantime.
– The passing of the Estimates has nothing to do with this amount, which, I understand, is an additional estimate. We are entitled to know exactly what the right honorable gentleman is proposing.
– I have already said that this is to provide for the additional expenditure on account of the Expeditionary Forces.
– I congratulate the right honorable gentleman on his most lucid exposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply (Considera tion resumed from 11thDecember, vide page 1684) :
– I do not know whether any explanation can be given of the reason for raising the salaries of officers in another Chamber. I would be loth to make any adverse reference to the officers concerned, but considerable objection has been taken to the raising, unde’r the present circumstances, of the salaries of officials who are already highly paid. I, too, regard this policy as open to objection. I suppose this action has been taken in order to bring the salaries of the Senate officers on a par with those paid to the officers of this Chamber. I would not take such serious objection to the raising of the salaries of highly-paid officers if it were not for the fact that there seems to be a smooth passage always for the highly-salaried man to a higher salary, whilst difficulties are placed in the path of the rank and file of the service when they ask ito have their meagre emoluments increased. There is the instance of the letter carriers having to fight their way through the Arbitration Court before they could obtain even a modicum of redress. I noticed that an officer of the Public Service Commissioner’s office made a general statement before the Court that the men in the Service are slowing down, and Mr. Justice Powers, in delivering his award, said that that officer had not given one item of evidence to support the statement he had made. I am taking advantage of this opportunity to make a reference to the position in the Service generally. There are some men in the Service who are doing valuable work, and yet who have not been receiving fair salaries, and have not been granted an increase since they entered the Service. It is not fair at this stage to give increases to men already receiving high salaries. I understand that when certain salaries in this Chamber were increased in the last Estimates it was thought unfair to pay . lower salaries to officers occupying similar positions in another place, and that it was decided to grant these proposed increases at that time.
– It was done then.
– Yes, I believe the increases had been paid long before these Estimates were framed. I make my protest against that policy. I have the greatest respect for the officers concerned, and I believe they are doing their duty reliably and well, but I am pointing out the difference in the treatment of the highly-paid men on the one hand, and those on the other hand who are earning just a meagre salary. At this time of high cost of living, if any officers are entitled to consideration, they are the lowlypaid men.
– Do you suggest that Mr. McAnderson should be paid more than 7 guineas per day?
– Before I criticise that payment I desire to know what Mr. McAnderson is doing, and if I think that he gets too much for the work he performs, my protest -will be heard. In regard to the officers of another place, however, we know the services those gentlemen perform, and I have some diffidence about criticising the increase.
– I believe that I am the culprit in this matter.
– You bet ! The honorable member would not have raised the objection if the increase had not been given from this side.
– There may be something in that, because no man in the House is so keen in defending the actions of his own party, or is so quick upon the scent of anything done by members on this side, if by attacking our actions he thinks he may gain a little kudos for himself. The honorable member rose to protest against an item, and then assured us that he had no objection to it. What is the honorable member’s objection about if it does not relate to this item ? If there are other high salaries he wishes to attack, why does he not enumerate them?
– I cannot attack everything under this heading.
– Do I understand that the honorable member does not wish to reduce these salaries?
– The honorable member said that he did.
– Then he ought to have the pluck of his convictions and move for a reduction of the item, instead of making general statements which are only so much “ smoodge “ to the people outside. Every member knows the value and the purpose of those statements. That line of conduct earns the contempt of all manly men. The honorable member protests against the high salaries, and then says that he does not wish to reduce them.’ That is typical of a lot of the reforming zeal on the Government side. The explanation of this item is very simple, but who can have anything but contempt for conduct like that of the honorable member for Maribyrnong? The honorable member mouthed a speech about high salaries, and then said that he did not wish to touch them.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The explanation of this matter is very simple. In last year’s Estimates provision waa made for an increase in the salary of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, on a joint recommendation from the then Speaker, the honorable member for Lang, and the President of the Senate, that the salaries of the clerks should be augmented. Those gentlemen pointed out that corresponding positions in the State Parliament were rated more highly than in our own, and that neither of the officers mentioned had received any increase in his salary since Federation began. They further urged very strongly that the proposed increases were long overdue. Accordingly I agreed to provide in the Estimates for the increases. Mr. Speaker submitted his recommendation properly to the House, but the President omitted to formally submit the proposed increase for the Clerk of the Senate, and, consequently, the latter was not voted. Subsequently the President sent me a strong protest against the exclusion of his own officer; and, of course, I took the responsibility of correcting the error, and asking the Treasurer to provide for increases to both clerks. “What we are doing now is merely to regularize the payments which have how been going on for, I think, about eighteen months. Why the honorable member opposite should at this stage introduce a discussion about the Public Service, the Arbitration Court, and all the rest of it, I cannot imagine. He knows very well that such subjects have no relevance whatever to the item now before us, and he could take an opportunity later on to discuss the Public
Service and other subjects. If the honorable member can show a case in which any officer has been too highly paid for his work, I think he will find some sympathetic consideration on this side. It is time we dropped what I cannot help regarding as a “smoodge” to people outside, and addressed ourselves seriously to the discussion of the Estimates. There is no doubt that the Estimates are swollen and high, but I guarantee that the honorable member for Maribyrnong opposite will not propose to reduce them a penny.
.- T am prepared to accept the challenge of the Leader of the Opposition in reference to the “smoodging” to people outside. Indeed, I am prepared to go further, and, if in order on the vote before us, to move that there shall be no increase in the salary of any officer receiving over £300 per annum, while the war lasts.
– My word, you are game !
– I know, and this is a time which demands courage on the part of every honorable member.
– The honorable member favours a reduction of salaries?
– I am not suggesting any reduction, but I contend that we are not asking too much when we say that officers with over £300 per annum shall not be entitled to any increase during the war.
– How many officers under the -present Estimates would be affected by this motion?
– Several hundreds. I have gone through the list as carefully as is possible considering the way in which the Estimates are made up. If honorable members look at page 92 of the Estimates they will realize how difficult it is to arrive at the number of officers who would be affected. It will be seen that last year there were seventy-four officers, and this year there are eighty-three, or an increase of nine, while the increase in salaries is £20,000. A similar state of affairs may be found right through the Estimates, particularly in the Defence Department, both military and naval; and it is practically impossible for honorable members to arrive at an exact knowledge of what increases are- being proposed to individual officers, or how many are affected. With’ the Leader of the Opposition, I believe that we are faced with a very critical state of affairs in our national existence; and it is a time when we must have courage and confidence in ourselves, and, at the same time, some regard for the future. The honorable member for Maribyrnong does not overstate the argument, or even exhaust what might be said as to the position outside. The cost of living has increased enormously! Men who are receiving anything from £3 to £4 a week are finding it very difficult to make both ends meet, and a man in receipt of less than £3 a week is pushed to live within his income, and act honestly. How some of the poorer classes are able to live at the present time completely puzzles me ; and the facts show that some of the ladies must be better treasurers and financiers than are the men. Officers who are in receipt of over £300 a year should, at any rate, be able without much difficulty to get along under the present circumstances. I limit the operation of the motion to the period of the war, because I believe that the extraordinary expenditure and the unfortunate circumstances will gradually disappear after the war is over.
– There are numbers of skilled men getting over £6 a week; would the honorable member apply the motion to them ?
– I would apply the motion to all officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who are getting over £300 a year.
– The honorable member was speaking only of salaries in the Estimates, whereas I am talking of wages.
– I can deal only with the Estimates.
– Oh, I see!
– I am sure that the honorable member does not wish to mis- lead me..
– Not at all, but at the docks there are men getting more than £6 a week; what would the honorable member do with regard to them ?
– We are now dealing only with the’ Estimates, but I should be glad later on to join with the honorable member in dealing with the case of workers outside.
– Why should the man in an office be subject to this proposed reduction, while a man outside, with perhaps no obligations, is allowed to go free?
– Simply because we are now dealing with officers affected by the Estimates.
– How does the honorable member propose to amend the vote now before the Chair?
– It has been a regular custom for Governments in financial difficulties to immediately make a reduction in the Public Service salaries - to resort to retrenchment so-called - but, so far from favouring, I should oppose any such proposal, because I do not think the circumstances are severe enough to warrant it. My proposal is simply a temporary expedient to conserve the finances, and to assist the Government in their conduct of the business of the country.
– If increases are long overdue, is not the motion tantamount to a reduction?
– There can be no reduction of something a man has never had. In submitting the motion, I am making no charge or suggestion against the efficiency of the officers affected. The proposal is very general in its scope, and would apply to every Department of the Public Service. It is a fair thing that all increases, even automatic increases, should be suspended for the time being.
– What about the Public Service Act?
– The Act does not matter, if Parliament refuses to pass the money. Quite a large number of officers are down in the Estimates for increases of salary ranging from £10 up to £100, and there is one for whom an ..increase from £500 to £700 is proposed. That ia an officer on the Kalgoorlie to ..Port Augusta railway.
– Mr. Poynton - a very able man.
– I am sorry that the honorable member should introduce personal considerations into the discussion.
– What is there personal about that?
– My desire is that this motion should be discussed on the broadest and most general lines, with no reference or application to particular individuals. If I were to express my own personal opinion I might, in the case of the officer to whom it is proposed to give an increase of £100, be inclined to say that he is well worthy of it - that it is long overdue - but I do not wish personal considerations to enter into the matter.
– Is the honorable member prepared to make any sacrifices himself ?
– If the honorable member were to move an increase in our parliamentary salaries at present I should oppose it. . In the Prime Minister’s Department increases are proposed for eleven officers; in the Treasury for seventeen officers; in the office of the Attorney-General for three officers; in the Department of External Affairs for sixteen officers; in the Department of Trade and Customs for thirty-two officers; the Department of Home Affairs for twenty-six officers; and in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for forty officers. I shall not go through the whole list in detail; but there are 183 officers, and the amount involved is over £5,000. In other Departments there are eighteen officers receiving increases up to £100, and the amount involved there is £1,790. The question, as I Bay, ought to be discussed quite apart from any particular officer or officers; our only consideration should be the greatest good of the greatest number. I am unable at the present time to go before my constituents, and justify increases from £25 to £100 to officers who are receiving £600, £700, and £800 per annum, while ordinary working mcn, who are the great mass of the people, and on whom we have to depend to see us through the crisis by keeping our works going, have to scrape along on £3 or £4 a week, which is only too difficult to get. One of the saddest sights in the capital cities of Australia to-day is the procession of unemployed; and yet here we are to-day shovelling away money to men who are receiving in salaries practically more than they know what to do with. I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, whether such a motion as I have foreshadowed is in order on the vote before us?
– I am bound by the rules of debate, and under those rules the Committee may consider only matters referred to it. The question now before us is the expenditure in connexion with the Senate; and, therefore, the motion would not be in order, inasmuch as it covers the whole of the Estimates. However, the honorable member’s object might be gained by moving the reduction of one item in the vote for the Senate, the decision being accepted by the Minister as applying to the whole of the Estimates.
– I shall deal with the matter in another way. I move -
That the item “ Clerk of the Senate, £1,000,” be reduced by £100. as an instruction to the Government that no increase of salary be granted during the continuance of the war to any officer of the Public Service receiving over £300 per annum. In submitting this motion, it is not my desire to single out the Clerk of the Senate for special treatment. Unless’ the principle is to apply in all cases where officers are receiving over £300 per annum, then I do not desire that it shall apply to the Clerk.
– I think I shall bo able to explain this matter to the Committee. The increases covered by this division were made, not this year, but in 1913. . In that year, this House agreed to certain items in the Estimates providing for increments to certain officers of this House. Later on, when dealing with the Estimates, the Senate felt it was in duty bound to see that its officers were similarly treated.
– That is not right. I have already explained the matter to the House.
– The ‘ President, Senator Givens, brought the matter before the Treasurer of the day.
– No; the President, Senator Givens, and the honorable member for Lang, who was then Speaker of this House, made a joint application to me for these increases.
– But whilst the Estimates provided for increases in the case of certain officers of this - House, there were no similar items in the Estimates relating to the Senate.
– It was an omission on the part of Senator Givens.
– I do not say whose fault it was, but the fact remains that these increases did not appear on the Estimates for the Senate. They were granted in 1913, however, and the money was paid out of the Treasurer’s advance. It will thus He realized that, although these increased amounts appear for. the first time in the Estimates for this year, the increases .were paid in 1913-14.
, - This matter is new to me. I take no exception to the views expressed by the honorable member for Brisbane, but it is my duty to tell the Committee that, if his motion were agreed to, the saving so effected would be practically negligible, even if the war were to continue for a considerable time. If we are going to try. to meet the war expenditure in this way, we shall utterly fail.
– That is not the point of the criticism.
– The point of the criticism is that, owing to the war, there should be no increments in respect of officers receiving over £300 a year. This Parliament has remitted to the Public Service Commissioner the power to make regulations providing for the payment of increments on a graduated scale according to the efficiency of officers and the services rendered by them.. If the payment of these increments were dropped for a year- or two, the effect would, in many cases, be felt by the persons concerned, not only during the time that they were withheld, but throughout their lives. The saving would be quite paltry, and’ would not be in keeping with the dignity of the’ Parliament. I do not think our Arbitration Courts have seriously taken into account the refusal of increases because of the war.
– In New South Wales that has been done.
-Has not that action been withdrawn f .
– I think not. No increases are given.
– Here and there such action may have been taken.. I am one of the optimists, of Australia. Apart from the regrettable and deplorable dearth of remunerative employment for a large portion of our best people, there is no indication of any reduced . production of wealth except that resulting from the drought. The Government have considered the question of whether there should be a percentage reduction of salaries or a reduction of the Public Service, and have arrived at the conclusion that it is not advisable at present, nor would it be of any practical utility in the financing of our war expenditure, to resort to either expedient. I wish . to take this opportunity to. repeat a statement that I made earlier in the session, that it will be the duty ofthe Treasurer in future to require that all recommenda tions by the Public Service Commissioner for the granting of increments shall be submitted to him before they are laid before Parliament, and to take any action upon it that may be thought fit. That will be done in future. I ask the honorable member for Brisbane not to press his motion. The Government’ can see their way to finance the affairs of the Commonwealth without resorting to any extraordinary means during the present financial year. If any action of the kind is to be taken, it should follow systematic lines, and should bo in connexion with the new Estimates, which are almost due. Nothing would give a worse impression here and elsewhere than would be gathered from the laying down of a hard and fast rule that no increments’ shall be granted to officers receiving more than a certain sum per annum. The honorable member himself, in the case of his own employes, would feel that he was as -much entitled to grant increases to men receiving £6 a week, if they were doing good work, as to grant increases to men of capacity and industry who were receiving only £4 or £5 per week.
.- I hope that the honorable member for Brisbane will not press his motion as it stands, since if it goes to a vote I shall be placed in a false position. In the first place, I am absolutely opposed to the principle that no officer receiving over £300 a year should be granted an increment. If a man is legitimately entitled to an increase of salary, he should receive it. The honorable member for Brisbane, however, proposes to reduce the salary of an officer who, I think, is not entitled to the increase that has been granted him. Thus, if I voted against the motion because I do not think all increments should be. refused to officers receiving over £300” a year, I should at the same time lay myself open to the allegation that -I was in favour of the Clerk of the Senate receiving £1,000 per annum. I do not think he ought to receive this increase of £100 per annum. The Secretary to the Treasury receives £900- per annum; the Clerk of the Senate, if this increment be confirmed, will receive £1,000 per annum. In the name of Heaven, how can it be said that the responsibilities of the Clerk of the Senate are greater than are thoseof the Secretary to the Treasury! I ad- mit that the last-named officer also re- . ceives £150 per annum as officer administering the old-age pensions and maternity allowance, hut as Secretary to the Treasury he receives only £900 per annum. That, too, is the salary received by the Secretary to the Department of Defence. I am inclined to think that the position of that officer, particularly at the present time, is just as responsible as is that of the Clerk of the Senate. If we are going to give the Clerk of the Senate £1,000 a year, we should increase the salaries of these two officers in the same way; but, seeing that the Government have made no provision for such an increase in their case, they must consider that £900 per annum is sufficient.
Mr.Rodgers. - Would the honorable member repudiate an arrangement already made?
– I am in no way blaming the late Government. The way in which these increments were granted was unfortunate. The matter was not submitted to the House. ‘
– An explanation of the omission was made in this House in the last Parliament.
– I was not aware of that, but I repeat that I do not blame the late Government for what took place. If the honorable member for Brisbane will move that the salary of the Clerk be reduced by £100 per annum, I shall support him, but I am not prepared to vote for his motion as an instruction to the Government that every public servant receiving over £300 per annum shall not be granted any increment.
– It was with considerable diffidence that I brought the matter forward at all, and I think I have been subjected’ to an unjustifiable attack by the Leader of the Opposition. When I got up to speak I placed the blame for this matter upon the present occupants of the Treasury bench. I had no idea that the ex-Prime Minister was responsible for it in conjunction with the President of the Senate, but I think his professions of yesterday are not being’ borne out by his performances to-day. If he wishes this session to be continued in a spirit of peace’ and amity, I think he is setting a bad example. If the
Leader of the Opposition wants fight be will find in me one prepared to give him as much as he is prepared to receive.
– I never want to fight, you know that.
– It is all very well to apologize afterwards ; but you should have apologized while you were on your feet. It seems rather peculiar that when salaries are being talked about the word “ smoodge” is so often used. The Leader of the Opposition is prepared to attack the salaries of those who are not within hearing, but not of those who are - he would not “ smoodge “ for one moment.
– Who says that I am not prepared to attack salaries?
– You speak about men who are not in this Parliament receiving high salaries. I think that is showing cowardice. I ‘think it would not be right to start on this question of salaries were we not to start in our own Parliament. That is the reason why I approach this subject with considerable diffidence. If the session had been continued in the ordinary way there would, I think, have been a protracted discussion upon the raising of high salaries. I intended to bring the matter up, and I was only performing what I considered to be my duty in mentioning the matter at all, though I am not prepared to go the same length as the honorable member for Brisbane. We have heard the honorable Leader of the Opposition denouncing propositions with all the language of his extensive vocabulary, riddling them with criticism’, but not concluding with a motion; but. when I, a humble member, make any criticism, he says it is “smoodging” to those outside, and that I should have proposed a motion of dissent. I say in connexion with the war that masses of people are finding their burden’ heavy enough. They are finding the bullion, and they are spilling the blood; and it is unfair to tax them more at home. In connexion with our public services things are being done that ought not to be done, and things are not being done that ought to be done. The honorable member knows . of officers occupying high and important positions whose salaries have remained stationary ever since they have been in the Federal Service. Some men are not being paid the value of their services. I cannot, however, go the whole length the honorable member for Brisbane has proposed, though if he will frame his resolution for the reduction of this one item I am prepared to vote with him.
– It may help honorable members, if I give them the figures. If the motion of the honorable member for Brisbane were carried it would mean a saving on this’ year’s Estimates of £6,245.
– I think those figures are wrong. I have my own table here.
– The figures were given to me officially- The increases to officers receiving between £300 and £400 will amount to £4,236; to officers between £400 and £500, £1,426; from £500 and upwards, £587; making a total of £6,425.
.-r-I hope the House is not going to make any departure from the arrangement made by the Speaker and the President with the then Prime Minister. This is merely ratifying an arrangement, as the honorable member, ought to know. But what surprises me is that a motion of this description should have come from a. gentleman who since the war started has had increases to his own salary from this Chamber in- the shape of fees. If the gentleman will come along with a suggestion that his own emoluments should cease, and that members of the House should accept some reduction of their own salaries, he will have my support.
.- I feel in a position similar to that of the honorable member for Barrier. . The honorable member in this motion is committing us to preventing increments being paid to any civil servants. We have, however, the Public Service Act, which provides for certain increases to be paid to public servants from time to “time. I have a recollection that honorable members of this House have criticised very severely the Public Service Commissioner for not giving effect to that Act - in not providing increment* to those who were entitled to them. If we carry this motion it will be taken as an instruction, to the Government that no increases shall be paid at all, and, to my mind, such an action will not stand any test. The Act provides that the increases shall be paid, and if they are not paid the officials who are entitled to them have only to bring the matter to a test, and you will find that we have done wrong. If we pass an Act of Parliament, we ought to adhere to it. Nobody cries out more than we do ourselves if the law is not carried out, and yet we are here asked to carry a resolution practically setting aside an Act of Parliament regulating the salaries of civil servants. I do not think such a proceeding’ would be legal, and it would leave . the . Commonwealth open to any action that might be taken by the public servants themselves; and they would be perfectly justified in taking that action. I cannot see eye to. eye with the honorable member in making hie proposition apply to every one. If we had time to go through the different positions held by public servants, many . cases might be found where officers were doing more for the money they are receiving than they should, and where increases are really justified. While, however, I am prepared to deal with any particular matter on its merits, I am not prepared to vote for a resolution giving an instruction to Ministers to refuse increments due to a large body of public servants.
– So much has been already said upon this matter that I think a view ought to be expressed by each person who. intends to vote on a subject of this importance. I want to say at the outset that I hope no Government will ever set up £300 a year as a standard of em- ciency, as it would do if this motion were given effect to. The work the clerks of Parliament have to. do has been referred to, and I think quite unthinkingly. We know if a Bill passes this House the responsibility rests upon the clerks of Parliament to see that it is given proper effect to. .A mistake made in the passing of a Bill might result in endless litigation. Consequently, work of considerable responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the clerks in this Parliament. The honorable member for Brisbane also suggested that the action he proposes is necessary as a result of war. Personally, I cannot follow him in that argument. I may not be as optimistic as some people, but I do not think it is the war that is troubling Australia at the present time so much as the drought. I believe that Australia will benefit as a result of the war, and I am in agreement with those honorable members who. say we are suffering a great deal more from the effects of a disastrous drought. I believe that because I come from a district where there is much suffering; and, in that respect, the’ argument of the honorable member for Brisbane, so far as it relates to the war, falls absolutely flat. I am against making £300 a year a standard, and I hope this Government and this party will never come down to the level of saying that, whatever service a man renders to the Commonwealth, £300 will be the standard of his’ efficiency.
– Would that apply to honorable members?
– I notice no mention has been made of the payment of salaries of honorable members themselves. I do not want to be misunderstood in this matter. I have no particular sympathy with those in receipt of high salaries, but when £300 is proposed as a standard, I am entirely against it. I might have been with the honorable member if he had placed the standard higher, but there are many good men in receipt of £300 a year, a sum which only gives a bare margin, and in certain instances I can quite understand that itdoes not give any margin at all. I might be with the honorable member, however, if he had applied his proposal only to the highly salaried officers of the Commonwealth.
.- I am very glad to hear the honorable member for Indi say he hopes we shall never adopt the standard of £300 as sufficient remuneration in our Civil Service. I think the great trouble in our Civil Service is that we are not prepared to pay for brains. Go to the big industrial enterprises of the world, look at the enormous salaries which they pay to those guiding the destinies of those enterprises, remembering that they are commercial enterprises run by men anxious to make profits out of their own money, and I think you will recognise that in Australia we are not paying anything like the remuneration which I believe is necessary to get the management of our national affairs into hands that will make our great business undertakings payable concerns. I venture to go further. We have not in our Civil Service, particularly in our great business undertakings, any officers employed at a salary at all proportionate to the tremendous responsibilities they are called upon to discharge. Take our Post Office. The Postmaster-
General comes down here and calmly tables a report which says that we are losing £500,000 a year on our Post Office! With all due respect to the gentleman in control of our Postal Department, I venture to say that if we had in control of that Department the very best brains the world could give, and were prepared to provide the remuneration that would secure those services, though it might cost us £6,000 or even £10,000 extra each year, the Department, instead of showing a loss of £500,000, would probably show a profit, which would be true economy from a national stand-point. When we are prepared to pay decent remuneration, motions such as that outlined by the honorable member for Brisbane do nothing but discourage those in our great national service who are striving to do their best.
.- I oppose the motion. At the outbreak of the war, the Premier of New South Wales took panic, and; gave instructions for the shortening of hours and the limitation of employment, and the mere fact of the Premier of the State having set that example had an exceedingly bad effect on all employers in the State, and if the Commonwealth Parliament decides that there shall be no increases in the salaries of its servants, the decision will be used as a lever by Wages Boards, Arbitration Courts, and private employers. Our finances are not in such a deplorable state that we should set such a bad example. We are not in such a position that we cannot afford to pay fair and reasonable wages to every class in the community, and why should these men, if they have acquired their positions by their qualifications, be made scapegoats because they happen to be receiving over £300 a year? Why should they not receive proper compensation for their labours ? To refuse it to them would be a mistaken policy. I have always advocated the payment of good wages, and I cannot support any reduction at the present time.
Mr. Mcwilliams (Franklin) rn.47]. - I do not agree with the standard set up by the honorable member for Brisbane, but, at the same time, I think that this discussion will do some good. We must remember that the Estimates were prepared before Australia entered upon the present serious conditions - certainly the most serious it has ever encountered. The country is suffering far more from the results of the disastrous drought than from the war. The four southern States - Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania - have had absolutely the worst season from which they have ever suffered, and nine-tenths of the people outside the ranks of the Civil Service have had to face very serious reductions in their incomes and their salaries, and are in a worse position to-day than they were twenty years ago. Yet, on a drought-stricken and war-stricken community we intend to impose additional taxation. Seeing that the Estimates were prepared before the war, and before the drought, in view of these two great calamities from which the people in the four southern states have so severely suffered, the Government would have acted wisely had they considerably revised them before the meeting of the House.
– The position here is not worse than that of having too much rain, as in the Old Country.
– What a recompense to the man who has to kill his stock because there is no feed is the knowledge that there is too much water at the other side of the globe! The discussion to-day will do good, and I hope that we shall not lose sight of the fact that the people of Australia who are paying the taxes are suffering from these two. great calamities to which I have referred. I think that the . civil servants should be prepared to stand in line with the general taxpayers, and say, “ Knowing that other people have had to make very serious sacrifices, we are prepared to join with them, and accept some little sacrifices ourselves.”
– I intend to vote for the amendment, not because I think that the money that would be saved would help us in financing the war, but because, as I am here to represent my constituents, I believe that if a vote were taken among them they would support the amendment.
– And they would also vote for a decrease in your salary.
– Possibly, but not probably. But they would certainly resent increases at present. Other honorable members, perhaps, do not get each day in their mail letters such as I do from men who are out of work and in need and distress, and are pleading for jobs.. If we cannot provide sufficient work to put bread in a man’s cupboard, surely it is not the time to give an extra £2 a week to a person already receiving £900 a year. Such increases create very considerable irritation among the people.
The honorable member for South Sydney states that he does not wish to set a bad example to private employers, but I doubt if any private employers are now giving increases to men who receive over £300 a year. If there are such cases they must be exceptional.
The honorable member for South Sydney, unwittingly, I think, did injustice to the Premier of New South Wales, probably through a general misunderstanding that seems to have there come about. The honorable member said Mr. Holman had taken fright, and proposed reductions in wages and hours to employers.
– He proposed a reduction of hours.
– The honorable member is not putting the. matter fairly. In some cases firms employing 600 men found that as a result of the war their business decreased by a third.
– Caused by the action of the State Government.
– I believe in “ giving the devil his due.” Some people think that because Mr. Holman has offended them in some ways they should heave bricks at him on every occasion.
– He can dodge them.
- Mr. Holman is certainly one of the ablest public men in Australia - if he is not the ablest.
– I quite agree with you.
– If the honorable member for Oxley and others will hear me out, they may obtain material upon which to come to a fair conclusion on this point. In the case of an industry employing 600 men the output was diminished by a third, but under the terms of a Wages Board award the employer had no other course but to put off a third of his men, and in the circumstances a request was made that power should be given under the Wages Board award, so that instead of 200 men being put. off there could be an agreement between the 600 men for a voluntary reduction in their hours all round, thus bringing about an equal distribution of the loss of employment.
– I was speaking of Government employe’s.
– The same thing was done in regard to railway employes; there was a reduction of time instead of a large number of men being put off. The honorable member for Barrier, who is present, will know that when thousands of men were put off the mines at Broken Hill, and thrown on the resources of the State, the Premier of New South Wales, instead of leaving all these men in want, provided that there should be a sharing of the loss of employment by a reduction of hours on railway works, in order to find employment for these Broken Hill men. That method was infinitely the preferable one to adopt as against the cast-iron method of some men being employed full time, and others being thrown out of employment altogether. If the Premier of New South Wales caused a reduction in wages and hours in any other way I am not aware of it.
The honorable member for South Sydney, who sits by me, now tells me that he agrees with me, and that what I have outlined is quite correct. I was sure that he did not wish to do any injustice.
The statement has been made that if any increments to our civil servants are blocked, the effect will be permanent on “the officers concerned. When, through the dissolution of Parliament, we lose so many weeks’ salary from time to time we suffer a permanent loss. If a man loses employment, he can never make good the consequent loss of wages, however hard he may work in the future.
– What is proposed meansa permanent reduction in salary for the remainder of the term of service.
– I do not agree with the Prime Minister. If there were an arrangement that, when the officer whose salary is in question had received £1,000, he was to have his salary increased next year by £100, and by another £100 a year after, that officer would be affected permanently, and it may be that there are officers in the Service who were appointed on. the distinct understanding that they would receive regular increases until a -certain maximum was reached. If that is the difficulty in the way of the acceptance of the amendment, the Government would be -well advised to postpone the consideration of the matter, to give time for investigation, so that the cases in which injustice would be done could be made known.
A number of honorable gentlemen who have spoken to the amendment seem to bc in harmony with its mover on many points, but have stated that they will not vote for it because it does not exactly meet their views. Probably no proposal ever comes before a . Parliament that exactly meets the views of every honorable member who supports it, and we are forced generally to take the nearest expression of our views that we can obtain. Although the amendment does not quite represent my views, I shall vote for it, because, at a time when the Government cannot find money to provide work for the unemployed, and to carry on necessary public undertakings, public servants whose salaries are well above the living wage should not be given increases. ,
I hope that the honorable member for Brisbane will stick to his guns, and will give honorable members an opportunity to show their constituents what are their real views on this matter. If the amendment goes to a vote, I, for one, shall support it.
– The honorable member for Brisbane has not done wisely in choosing an item of Senate expenditure to test the feeling of the Committee .regarding the matter on which he has spoken. The Senate insists that it has the right to fix the salaries of its officers. The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives hold that it is for them to fix the salaries of the officers of their Departments.
– It is for them to ask for what amounts they wis’h ; but it is for the Parliament to say what sums shall be granted.
– No doubt; but if we amend a Senate proposal, that Chamber may delay the passing of the Estimates.
– Will the honorable member support the amendment if it is moved on another item ?
– No. My suggestion is made merely to help the honorable member for Brisbane to test the f eeling of the Committee. The President of the Senate wrote to me a very strong protest against the leaving of this increase off the last Estimates.
– There is no similar increase in the Estimates of the House of Representatives.
– No. The increases of the House of Representatives were passed on the last Estimates. When the increases were agreed to, the honorable member for Lang, who was then Speaker, revised his Estimates, but the President omitted to do the same. Both Senator Givens and the honorable member for Lang wrote protesting against the omission of the Senate increases, but when we promised to pay them out of the Treasurer’s Advance, as a mistake had been made, the President and the members of the Senate were mollified. There will be plenty of opportunities for testing the question which the honorable member for Brisbane wishes to raise ; though I should like to draw attention to the absolute futility of his proposal. Members sitting near him, who have been in Parliament many more years than he has, have seen many attempts like his fail, and must know that what he proposes can achieve nothing. The Prime Minister has told him that the amount involved is negligible. His desire is that the men at the top should contribute specially to the cost of the war. But he discriminates among such men, which is unjust. There are men working for wages for the Government who receive more than £6 a week, and his proposal would not affect them. Why should they be treated differently from men who are working for salaries? There are men at the docks, at the Small Arms Factory, and elsewhere whose wages come to more than £6 a week. Why should they be treated differently from other workers whose remuneration is termed “salary”? No one but the Government can undertake the reduction of items in the Estimates. I am not sure that the whole of the Estimates do not need revision. There is an increase of about £2,000,000 this year, and I do not know where we are going to stop, though I cannot point off-hand to the source of the trouble. What is needed is patient and continuous investigation, and I hope that the inquiries of our Committees and other investigations will enable us to pare down the cost of administration without decreasing efficiency or lowering salaries. I have never been in favour of cutting down salaries, holding the opinion that, as a rule, the higher the wage paid the more effective is the labour given. But I am not inconsistent in saying that there should be a thorough investigation of the Estimates as a whole, in view of the large increase of expenditure *on the ordinary departments of Government. What the honorable member for Brisbane proposes would not make any material reduction. At best it would reduce an increase of over £2,000,000 by £60,000 or £70,000.
– By only £6,200.
– That makes it the more ludicrous. The honorable member for Brisbane ought to raise the question some other way. If he does so, the Government may be able to do something to give effect to his views.
– Are we to understand that the honorable member for Parramatta was officially informed by the Senate that that body would delay the Estimates if this increase were not provided for?
– The threat was not made in exact words, but the hint was conveyed. The honorable member for Maribyrnong said that I was “willing enough to cut down the. salaries of officers who were not in the Chambers. That is an absolute and unqualified misstatement, and I am not going to allow the honorable member to send out to his constituents “ gags “ of that sort. If the honorable member for Brisbane wishes to undertake a thorough revision of this expenditure, he should raise the question in another way. He might move a motion on some other item in another Department, and let the decision of the Committee be an instruction to the Government to reduce these Estimates, but what the honorable member is proposing now is to do an absolute injustice. There are a number of officers in the Service who are getting £300 per annum. The honorable member’s idea is that a man receiving £280 may have his salary increased to £300, but the man already receiving £300 shall get no increase. The effect of that would be to place two different grades on the same salary, so that one man might be controlling others, and yet receiving no greater pay.
– That would apply if we drew the line at £900.
– It would, and there is only one just thing -to do, and that is to make sure that we get the equivalent of the salaries we pay.
– I take this opportunity of communicating to the Committee the following official figures regarding the increases in salaries in this and previous years. In 1910-11 the nominal increase in salaries was £12,070, and the actual increase £11,724; in 1911-12, nominal increase £14,424, actual £13,888 ; 1912-13, nominal increase £15,431, actual £14,781; 1913-14, nominal increase £25,896, actual £25,055 ; 1914-15, nominal increase £19,404, actual £18,546. The difference between the nominal and actual increases is accounted for by the fact that some of the officers provided for were not employed until a later period than was estimated. The following increased amounts were provided for officers of all divisions within the range of salaries mentioned: - Between £200 and £300, £12,297; between £300 and £400, £4,236 ; between £420 and £500, £1,426 ; and between £520 and upwards, £587. Prom those figures it will be seen that the total of increments to officers receiving over £300 was £6,249.
, - I hope the honorable member for Brisbane will not proceed with his proposal, because it has been the custom ever since this Parliament was brought into being for the Speaker and President and the Clerks of both Houses to be on an equality in regard to salaries, and I believe there is on record a resolution of the Senate insisting upon equal treatment in that respect. I believe the custom is the same in all the Parliaments of Australia. These increases appear on the Estimates now in accordance with the promise of the previous Government to comply with the request of the Speaker and President in regard to the salaries of the officers concerned. It is not easy, nor is it I think usual, for any Government to refuse compliance with the wishes of the President and Speaker in regard to the salaries of Parliamentary officers - in fact, they look upon the Parliamentary vote as being independent of the Government of the day. Those officers, they say, are especially the servants of Parliament, and Parliament, not the Government, must look after their interests. My experience has been that when any such question comes before Parliament, the House always sides with the Speaker and President against the Government. Therefore it is the wish of every Government to comply, as far as possible, with the wishes of the responsible officers of the Senate and House of Representatives. That the increases were not granted to the Senate officers at the same time as they were granted to the officers of this Chamber was due solely to an inadvertence; fresh Estimates were not sent forward by the Senate, although they were sent forward by the House of Representatives. As soon as this omission was pointed out to «-the Government, it agreed to rectify the disparity which had been created. If would point out to honorable members that, however much they may claim that this House is supreme in regard to the Estimates, in practice that is not found to be so. We desire the assistance of the Senate in every way, and if it is the wish of the Senate that these increases be paid, I am willing to grant what is asked. I hope we shall not open up any dispute between the two Chambers in regard to the salaries of their respective officers.
– I understand that the honorable member for Brisbane has taken action to-day in order to give expression to an idea in regard to salaries that is permeating Australia. After a long experience of political life, I think I may fairly say that those officers who are in contact with honorable members, and particularly those in Departments who come into contact with Ministers, have rapid advancement, as a rule, and frequently are placed over men who are their seniors, and equally competent to carry on the work. There are Departments of the Commonwealth Service in which the officials are not receiving fair salaries, and I think that the present method of granting increases does require careful consideration, in order that we may introduce a more, direct and equitable system. Any official who is in receipt of a salary of £500 and upwards is very well able to meet the exigencies of the present extraordinary situation. I would remind the right honorable member for Swan that this House is all powerful in this matter, and I personally have no regard for the precedents of past Parliaments. Although it may be difficult for honorable members who are brought into contact with officers to refuse them increments that they desire, it must be remembered that there are other officers whom we never meet, who do splendid work, who perhaps never even have a conversation with a Minister, and by that very absence of contact lose their chance of promotion. I think this discussion has raised a greater question than can be settled on a single item of the Estimates. It is a matter sufficiently important for the House to take into full consideration, so that no member of the Public Service may feel that h© has been passed over unjustly in favour of some other official with whom a Minister has come closely in contact. I believe that in the Home Affairs Department two officers have been unjustly promoted over other officers who had been longer in the service, and were more deserving. One officer to-day is receiving much less than his abilities and past work entitle him to. My remarks on this subject have particular reference to two Liberal Ministries of the past.
.- This discussion appears to have arisen from a statement of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, in reference to the increment granted fifteen months ago to the Clerk of the Senate. Honorable members opposite have on every platform advocated the principle of equal pay for equal work; and if that holds good in the case of the working classes, it ought to hold good in the case of the high officials of the Commonwealth.
– What does the honorable member mean by ‘ ‘ working classes “ ? It is a most objectionable expression !
– I mean working men.
– Is the honorable member referring to himself ?
– The phrase includes myself. At all events, would the honorable member for Capricornia, who receives £600 a year, be content with a resolution of this House that I should receive £700 a year?
– If the honorable member were paid by results, £70 per year would be ample for him.
– At any rate, the intelligent electors of Calare think otherwise, and the average intelligence of my electors far exceeds that of the honorable member. If it be proper to pay tha Clerk of the House of Representatives his present salary, it is only just that the Clerk of the Senate should receive similar emolument - equal work deserves equal pay. As to the proposal of the honorable member for Brisbane, no one can seriously think that at the present moment the Government contemplate entering upon an orgy of extravagance. This is no time to give all kinds of increments to public servants, considering that we are going through one of the worst droughts we ever had.
– Absolutely the worst. However, at such a time as this, we should give the Government all reasonable support, leaving increments and similar matters to their intelligence and good sense. In my opinion it would be very unwise to adopt the motion of the honorable member for Brisbane. If there were a brilliant young fellow drawing £300 ‘ a year in the Public Service, and it was felt desirable to promote him to another position in another Department, carrying with it an increment of £100 a year, surely it would be good policy to make the promotion. In my opinion the motion, if passed, would very much impair the efficiency of the Public Service.
.- The little exhibition we have had this morning is, to my mind, proof, if any were needed, that Parliament is essentially and entirely an inconsistent place. In three minutes we passed a resolution for a Supply Bill involving £3,500,000 without any discussion, and now we have honorable members opposite holding up the Estimates of their own Government, and detaining us for hours, while we discuss whether some item shall be reduced by £100.
– We are discussing a principle.
– And what is that principle ? The motion is to reduce this particular officer’s salary by £100; and in the abstract the object of the honorable member for Brisbane is to see that no man gets a permanent salary of more than £300 a year. Does the honorable member intend the motion to also cover temporary assistants in the. Public Service? Take the case of Mr. McAnderson, who is a. member of the same party as that to which honorable members opposite belong.
– He is an intelligent man.
– Being an intelligent man, he is held to be entitled, when out of a job, to a fee of seven guineas a day without comment; but, should he not be a member of the party opposite, or if his views are not the views of that party, his much smaller salary is to be cut down by £100 a year. “Why not treat everybody in identically the same way, whether of the Labour Party or not? Why not treat all according to the same “ principle,” which was the word used by an honorable member opposite when I asked the honorable member what he was really after ? The honorable member for Brisbane states that he has no objection to Mr. Boydell, but, at the same time, he moves that Mr. Boydell’s salary be. reduced. This reminds me of another motion which was moved by the honorable member for Brisbane, and was the occasion of much wordy warfare, voicing his particular objection to an institution of this House. The honorable member moved the complete abolition of that institution, but it is still here.
– We shall have the 6 o’clock rule applied to that institution now.
– Then all I can say is that, if that happen, we shall soon have a movement in favour of day sittings! I ask the honorable member to realize that the motion he has submitted is not fair, but seems to pick out in the most invidious way a particular officer. The proposal cannot have a general application of any utility, because, after all, the Government are from day to day appointing men at very high salaries to do specific work. If the Government are allowed freedom of action in regard to putting their own supporters outside into the fattest billets offering, it is not reasonable to propose to cut down the salaries of individual officers in the way now suggested. However, I am satisfied that the House will stand behind this particular officer, and see that he gets the same salary as the occupant of another similar, position. This gentleman is doing good work, and I hope he will not be victimized in consequence of any fad or any desire for cheap advertisement outside.
.- I had not intended to speak, but, under the circumstances, I desire to show exactly where I stand. The honorable member for Wentworth has not done the honorable member for Brisbane justice in charging him with having singled out any one individual. Had the honorable member been present when the motion was submitted he would have known that the mover was confined to one particular item. The principle behind the motion has much to commend it; at any rate, to the. electors of Australia. As the honorable member for Cook has said, the increases in salaries proposed in the Estimates have shocked the electors; and as to this view i can at least speak on behalf of my own district. While reductions in wages and so forth are taking place in every walk of life, we are asked to docilely approve of increases to public servants. It has been suggested by some honorable members that the motion means robbing people of what is rightly theirs, but we must remember that the operation of the motion is1 confined to the duration of the war.
– Does the honorable member agree with private employers who cut down salaries?
– The motion does not propose to cut down salaries, but merely to stop increases, and there are very few private firms who have given any increases during the present war. On the other hand, in many cases wages and salaries have been cut down, and further, the time of employment has been reduced, even by a Government. The burden of the war is falling heavily on the working section of the community, using the words in their narrowest or industrial sense. These people are feeling the pinch very much; and I know that, in my own district, at any rate they are wondering how much more they will be asked to bear. The unfortunate lot of some of the women whose supporters have gone to the front has been brought prominently under notice in my constituency; and the people of Adelaide are beginning to rise in indignation because of the fact that a section of the community have to be fed with bread from the Trades Hall. In the case of one woman, I was told that, in the absence of her husband at the front, she was given an allowance of £1 ls., out of which she had to pay 10s. for rent; and her position may be realized when it is known that she has six children to support. I made inquiries at the Defence Department as to whether that was the maximum allowance, and I was told that it was; and I understand that the woman has had to apply to those controlling the Patriotic Fund. In supporting this amendment, we do not desire to attack any individual salary. While I cannot go as far as the honorable member for Brisbane has done in fixing a certain margin, I feel that, in supporting his proposal, we shall only voice the opinion of our constituents that, while those enjoying high salaries have not been called upon to submit to any reduction, the pinch of the war is being felt by those least able to bear it. The burden of the war is not being equitably borne. We have passed Works Estimates for £4,300,000 in respect of the current financial year, but, although eight months of the year have elapsed, only £1,500,000 of that amount has yet been expended. We feel that sufficient is not being done for those who have to succour the women and children left behind by our soldiers. I do not wish to see any man underpaid. Such a thing is foreign to the desire of honorable members on this side; but when sacrifices have to be made, we wish the burden to be equitably distributed. By agreeing to this proposed vote without offering any protest, we should not be doing our duty to our constituents.
.- With all due respect to the mover of this amendment, I cannot refrain from expressing the opinion that it is a somewhat hollow pretence. He cannot hope to accomplish what he claims will follow the acceptance of his amendment, and, in the light of recent happenings, it is certainly a very hollow proposal. Only yesterday we were informed that the Treasurer had agreed to pay a fee of £7 7s. per day to an examiner of accounts.
– He is to receive a fee of £8 8s. per day when away from home.
– Quite so. The position, I admit, is only a temporary one. I had expected the Government to come down with a comprehensive scheme for equalizing conditions. It is notorious that we members of Parliament, at £600 a year, are receiving much more than we would if conditions were- equalized. If the Government intend to equalize conditions, then , I shall be with them. I dare say I should not have seen the inside of this chamber but for my association with the Kyabram movement, which was primarily an attack upon the tall poppies of the Public “Service. I am, therefore, in sympathy With any movement to prevent those who have a little more than they want receiving still more while there are in the community many who are receiving less than they actually need. In consequence of the war and the drought, the conditions in Australia are bad all round, but the position is worse in the States that are under Labour dominance. There is good reason for the Labour party to be restive, but they should give expression to their restiveness in Caucus, where their protests would have some effect in inducing the Government to bring down a comprehensive scheme. If they did that, they would show that they were in earnest. The Labour Government in Western Australia has proposed a reduction of salaries in respect of the very class that they were supposed to uphold and benefit. In the West Australian of 24th ult. there appears this statement -
A railway employe at Brown Hill summed up the position when he stated that last fortnight his pay was £5 ]7s. 6d., in place of £7 ls. 3d.
That means that he is receiving lis. 10 £d. per week less than was previously paid to him. The actions of the State Labour Government have brought about conditions which make such an imposition upon the workers a necessity.
– Does the honorable member blame the State Government of Western Australia for the drought?
– I blame them for the conditions prevailing there.
– They can be blamed for much incapacity.
– That is only the honorable member’s opinion.
– When it is put before the country that certain tall poppies of the Service are receiving increments while reductions are made in the pay of the more poorly-paid men, it will be recognised that there is a screw loose somewhere, seeing that we have in power a Government whose special appeal to the people was that, if returned, they would equalize conditions. The Opposition have promised to assist the Government in every proposal incidental to the war, and we shall be found behind them in every proposal that will benefit the great mass of the people. When, however, they put forward a sham, they cannot expect us to support them.
.- I shall support the Government in their ‘opposition to the amendment, since I am one of those who believe that if a man properly does the work set to his hand he should be properly paid for it. I do not believe in setting up a high standard for the Service and expecting to get at an inferior salary men with the qualifications necessary to maintain that standard. If the Government, in their wisdom, have seen fit to increase the salary of the officer under discussion - and I understand that it was increased last year to make it of a parity with the salary of the Clerk of this House - then the Committee should ratify their action. As I understand the amendment, the honorable member for Brisbane proposes that no officer in receipt of a salary of more than £300 a year shall receive an increment during the continuance of the war. If a man in the Public Service is due, under the regulations, for an increase of salary during the currency of the war, surely there is no reason why it should not be paid. He must have earned it, and if he has, surely the Labour party should be willing to pay it.
– Is there any Public Service regulation providing for automatic increases for officers receiving over £300 a year?
– There is a practice which is far more effective.. The honorable member for Adelaide says that we ought to carry .this amendment, otherwise his constituents will receive a shock. They are evidently accustomed to such things. They got the shock of their lives last month when the whole State of South Australia, with the exception of the honorable member’s constituency, expressed itself in favour of closing all hotels at 6 p.m., so that the honorable member’s argument that this amendment should be carried, otherwise his constituents will receive a rude shock, must go by the board.
.- In my opinion, officers of the Public Service receiving £900 per annum are well paid, and there is no necessity to increase their remuneration, as proposed in this case, to £1,000. I cannot support the amendment as if? stands, but if the honorable member for Brisbane proposed that the salary of this officer should be reduced to £900 per annum, I should be prepared to vote for it. I have no sympathy with the contention that because the President and Mr. Speaker suggested this increase we must therefore vote for it. I have to justify before my constituents every vole that I give in this Chamber, and I . claim my right as a member of Parliament to have a voice and a ‘vote in the determination of what increases shall be paid to officers of “the Public Service. By carrying this amendment we might do an injustice to many officers of the Service. It is obvious that we should be calling upon one section of the Service to contribute heavily to the cost of the war whilst another section - -those already in receipt of £1,000 a year - would not be required to make any contribution whatever. The amendment would deprive every officer in1 receipt of, say, £301 per annum of the right to obtain an increment of, say, £20 per annum during the continuance of the war, although under the Public Service regulations he might be entitled to it. He would thus be paying £20 per annum towards the cost of the war, while an officer receiving £1,000 per annum, who was not entitled to any increment, would escape. I do not think the honorable member for Brisbane could have had any such intention in his mind when he submitted this proposition. I shall say no more, as I understand that it is desired to take a vote before we adjourn for lunch. I am prepared to vote for an amendment to reduce by £100 the salary of this officer, because. I think that £900 a year is sufficient for the office.
.- I think the Committee should ratify the action of the Government. This increase of £100 per annum has already been paid to the Clerk of the Senate, but, owing to an omission on the part of someone, the increased amount did not appear on last year’s Estimates. It would be most unwise for the Committee to pass without proper consideration an amendment of this kind. If we did, we might find ourselves in conflict with the Public Service Act, and hitting public servants in a way that we should not desire. I do noil think it is the wish of the honorable member for Brisbane that public servants shall be required to take less than the remuneration to which they are legally entitled; but if the amendment were carried, it seems to me that a difficulty would arise in connexion with the Act it. self. It might, for instance, make it impossible during the continuance of the war for an officer in receipt of £300 per annum to be promoted to a higher class to which a higher salary was attached. The amendment is really unnecessary*
The Treasurer has told us that its adoption would result in a total saving of only £6,000. If there is to be any real sacrifice because of the war, then I am sure that honorable members generally will be prepared, to assist the Government in passing some broad, general scheme, including a provision for the reduction of our own allowances. The Treasurer has told us that h© does not need this paltry saving to help him to finance the Commonwealth during the present financial year, so that if the proposition is pressed to a division I shall vote against it.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Fishes) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages to be passed without delay.
Resolution of Supply adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move - i That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year ending 30th June, 1915, a sum not exceeding £3,130,000 be granted out of the consolidated revenue fund.
I take this opportunity of explaining to honorable members why this money is required now. If honorable members will look at the Estimates, they will see that it was calculated, when they were first submitted, that the war expenditure would amount to £9,800,000. As a matter of fact, up to the present time there has been expended the sum of £7,425,000, and there is wanted over this amount the sum of £3,130,000, making a total of £10,555,000, or an excess beyond the total amount provided for in the Estimates of £755,000. Honorable members will remember that there was a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, covering further expenditure of £7,500,000. That gave authority to Parliament to proceed with the amount on tIle Estimates, plus £3,500,000, while we are asking now for £3,130,000, as I will explain. It may be pointed out that the previous estimate of £9,800,000 was passed on the assumption that approximately 42,000 troops would be despatched by the end of J une next. As a matter of fact, however, more than 45,000 men have Already been despatched on active service, and there are 25,000 men undergo ing training in Australia, and these it is expected will be sent away before the end of June, making a total of over 70,000 troops during the financial year. Naturally, when honorable members hear that, they will not desire any further explanation, but may I embrace this opportunity just to bring under the notice of honorable members how the British Government are dealing with this question. Turning to the Supplementary Estimates for 1914, it will be found that in the Votes for Supply each Department is simply voted on as requiring £1,000 - “Pay, &c, Army, £1,000”; “Medical Establishment, pay, £1,000”; “Territorial Forces, £1,000 “ ; ” Supplies of Clothing, £1,000”; and so on, and so on-
– That is done for an obvious reason.
– I am not complaining.
– It is done to prevent the enemy knowing what is being done.
– Exactly. But I am pointing out the difference between their method and our method. We have to tell Parliament how many men we are training, in order to get this Estimate through. I do not know whether it would not be wise for us to conceal what we are doing, too.
– I do not’ know that we want to know anything that will do us any harm.
– I am not sure that it will do any harm, but I think it is just as well for me to show the manner by which the British Government is carrying out its military and naval expenditure - by simply stating an account, and leaving it to the Lords Commissioners to advance all the money required for matters concerning the war. This further amount I am asking for, I think, will coyer the whole of our expenditure up to ‘the end of June; but, if it does not, I presume honorable members are like the Government, and that they will be ready to vote any further necessary expenditure if it is in the direction of providing more effectively for shortening the war.
– I do not think any one on this side of the House, or any one in the House, desires the Government to make public anything that is likely to be to our disadvantage. We do not want to proclaim to the world any such thing, as I have no doubt the Prime Minister thoroughly understands. We recognise that we are fighting for our existence, and we are quite willing to assist in carrying on the King’s Government and in doing all that we can to assist the Mother Country. The only matter to which I take exception - and it is more a matter of account than anything else - is that there seems to be & disposition to mix up in the Treasury accounts the expenditure for war and the expenditure for ordinary purposes. I think that is undesirable. I know the position, and I have spoken to the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Allen, about it, and he has explained to me the difficulty, which, I have no doubt, is a real one. But while the system is convenient to the Treasury, I do not think it is so convenient to the members of the House or to the public generally.
– Does the honorable member suggest anything?
– I understand that the expenditure on the war has been paid from loan funds provided by arrangement with the Imperial Government. They borrow for the Commonwealth, and we have to undertake to repay them and pay interest meanwhile.
– That is correct.
– That is quite satisfactory. But all the money that we receive from the Imperial Government under this arrangement of loan money is taken into the ordinary current account of revenue, and, in fact, carried to revenue.
– I think that is statutory.
– There should, I think, be some means provided for dividing what is war expenditure and what is ordinary expenditure. Tak© a ship of war - the Australia, for instance. There is a good deal of ordinary expenditure in that. There is also a considerable amount due to the war. It is not easy to divide it, and no doubt there 13 difficulty in the way. The expenditure has to be divided hereafter if it is not divided as we go along. Such a system as the honorable member indicated is adopted in the various States, where loan expenditure is charged against loan funds, and ordinary expenditure against revenue account. That system has been adopted all over Australia, and I do not see why some means of similarly dividing the expenditure could not have been devised by us. We should have loan Estimates for loan expenditure, and ordinary Estimates for ordinary expenditure, instead of which we are treating the whole of this as ordinary revenue expenditure. We want to avoid making charges against revenue when they are properly charges for loan, regarding which we have to pay interest and sinking fund. I only mention the matter to my right honorable friend so that he may give it his attention.
– We shall be glad to consult the honorable member.
– There may be some means of dividing the expenditure hereafter if it cannot be done as we go along. I should like to see the two things kept separate, so that we may know what we have spent on the war which is properly chargeable to loan, and what we have to charge against the ordinary revenue. As far as I am concerned, with my colleagues on this side of the House, we are only too willing to assist the right honorable gentleman in every way to carry out the duties and obligations which we owe to ourselves and to the Empire in this awful and terrible crisis.
.- I should like to be quite sure exactly as to the position, because on turning to the Estimates in chief on page 65, I find, according to the figures given there, that the total amount which is made available for war expenditure, and which appears elsewhere as coming out of loan funds, is £11,742,750. Apparently the Prime Minister has, in these figures which he has given us, simply included the pay of the Expeditionary Forces which appear on page 65 under two items, and has left all the other items alone.
– These are the Treasury figures that have been handed to me.
– Page 65 of the Estimates of expenditure shows similar items which go to make up the estimated expenditure consequent upon the war, which is set down at £11,742,050, which expenditure is shown elsewhere as being provided out of loan money. Now, I wish to know whether this additional sum of £3,130,000, which raises the estimate of expenditure on the Expeditionary Forces to £10,555,000, is to be spent solely on the two items which appear in the Estimates as “ Expeditionary Forces “ ?
– Yes; because we have raised the number from 42,000 to 70,000.
– But there are other items appearing on “ the Estimates upon which there has been increased expenditure. For instance, the item “ Camps - ordinary services, £114,000; expenditure consequent upon the war, £157,500.” Is portion of the money we are now called upon to vote to be expended in connexion with that item ?
– I cannot say. The best method is to vote so much for training camps, and distribute the expenditure in the best way we can.
– I was merely endeavouring, following upon the lines taken up by the right honorable member for Swan, to ascertain whether the war expenditure is being kept separate, as far as the Treasury accounts can do so, from the ordinary expenditure of the year.
– As far as fairly strong language can induce the officers to do so, that is being done.
– We all agree that the war expenditure should be kept distinct as far as possible. ,
– I agree that the extraordinary war expenditure should be distinct from that upon the ordinary services.
– When the Estimates were presented to us, and were previously under consideration, I felt that the amount set aside’ for Expeditionary Forces was hardly sufficient - in fact, did not amount to what we might reasonably be called upon to expend in doing our fair share in the war. As to this additional sum asked for, so long as the Treasurer sees that the” money is wisely expended, and is not squandered, I am sure honorable members will- vote to the full any and every amount .for which he asks.
.- In the limited time at our disposal, I have looked very carefully through the statement the Prime Minister submitted on Wednesday, and I cannot grasp what the financial situation will be at the end of the year. I take it that there is £18,000,000 to come from the Imperial Government, the whole of which amount will pass on to the States by the end of the calendar year.
– They will get an amount equal to the sum we receive.
– I find that the total estimated expenditure provided for is £37,583,715, and that the estimated receipts for the financial year are £36,361,314, including £10,500,000 from the war loan from the British Government. Assuming that theadditional £6,500,000 for the Expeditionary Forces, and £3,5”00,000 for works, promised by the Imperial Government, do not come to hand, we arrive at a sum of £10,000,000, which the Treasurer could not balance, without borrowing the £10,000,000 from the banks. We have had to arrange with the banks tolend us in exchange for notes about £.10,000,000 from their reserves, which they very badly need for imports.
– I hope the honorablemember will not go into that matter. The banks entered very cheerfully intothe agreement, by which they benefited asmuch as we did.
– I saw, at the time, one or two of the bankers, and I confess that it seemed to me more like reluctance than cheerfulness. Without borrowing that £10,000,000 from the banks free of interest we could not have carried on on the Budget presented last year. Actually only £3,000,000 of that £10,000,000 from the banks has been taken up at the present time.
– We could have taken more.
– I understand that it is all at command, but the money is advanced only until the end of the war, and to me the position looks dangerous. The note issue, which must be taken into consideration in the financing of the war expenditure, is £26,664,323, and the gold held is £10,109,165, of which £3,000,000 presumably is money borrowed from the banks. The Treasurer admitted in his statement the other day that in order to increase the volume of the note issue by £10,000,000 more he must avail himself of the £7,000,000 not as yet drawn from the banks, and he proposed to extend the note issue to between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000.
– That depends upon how long the war will last.
– The position may get much worse if the war extends, and we will need to borrow more;, but no matter how our expenditure may increase, we should know exactly what we are driving at. Our aim may be defeated by circumstances, but we should be able to state approximately in advance the revenue we expect from certain sources, and the expenditure we must be prepared to meet. I cannot conceive from the memorandum of the Treasurer what our position will be at the end of the year. We are actually carrying on by borrowing to some extent from the banks.
– The honorable member might raise this discussion better on a general debate. At any time I shall be glad to afford him a day on which to debate the matter, but to-day we are dealing with a special war vote.
– Ministers should know of any apprehension that exists in the minds of the Opposition.
– There can be none in connexion with this war vote.
– The question before us is in relation to a sum which is portion of the total amount of £28,000,000 that is to be got from the Imperial Government, as now disclosed by thememorandum which the Treasurer has placed before us. The additional borrowing is to be for additional expenditure in connexion with the Expeditionary Forces, and we are now asked to sanction part of that additional expenditure, and I ask for a particular explanation as to how we are going to carry on. “Undoubtedly the note issue is increasing out of proportion to thp reserve. When the war is over we shall find that we cannot contract this great volume to.the normal conditions of a note issue without a great strain on our fluid assets. The banks may require their £10,000,000 at any moment, and at present our gold reserve is only £7,000,000, if we leave out of consideration the £3,000,000 received from the banks. As a matter of fact, the disproportion between the gold reserve and the volume of the note issue is increasing. On the 29th December last, the note issue was £16,365,336, and we held against it gold valued at £7,016,216, and there was about £9,300,000 odd which was uncovered and available for investment with the States on interest-bearing loans which produce a profit. The Treasurer made a statement which I saw in the press on the 3rd March, and he gave the total volume of note issue as £25,232,463, and the gold reserve at £10,133,227. Now, with practically the same gold, we have nearly £1,600,000 added to the issue, and we are only commencing. We are increasing the volume by the ordinary payments for public purposes, and as that increase goes on we shall arrive at a stage when the gold reserve will be nearly 25 per cent.
– Not while I am at the Treasury.
– I hope not. We can never be secure if we approach the statutory limit. As a matter of fact, the Bank of England now has a much smaller note issue than the gold held against it. I have the figures for the Reichsbank, the Bank of France, and the Bank of England. Not even the Reichsbank, with its volume of £250,000,000 before the war, has in reserve only the proportion of gold that we have. I am not going to surmise from what sources the gold reserves of Germany have been obtained. We must be very careful in the financing of the note issue. The total issue of the Reichsbank at the end of last December was £250.000,000. and there was a total reserve of 59 per cent., with a gold cover of 42 per cent. The American banks under the banking system of last year are supposed to have a cover of 42 per cent. I do not wish to be led into a discussion as to how it is that the Reichsbank has got that money. As a matter of fact, it is at the present time a. subject of inquiry, and people do not know whether the money has been lent by Austria or not.
– The honorable member takes no notice of current accounts and deposits.
– I am- not eliminating or disregarding any factor affecting my argument. There is a banking system in Germany on which T have not touched, though I am aware of its relations with the central bank.
– The honorable and learned member has cast a doubt on the note issue.
– No ; what I say is that we must be careful.
– More careful than we are now ?
– I have not said that anything wrong has been done up to the present time. My complaint is that the figures do not throw sufficient light on the method proposed for balancing at the end of the year. The right honorable gentleman admits that the note issue is likely to expand to £40,000,000, and it is not clear how, if that happens, he will be able to keep a gold reserve which will maintain even the statutory backing of 25 per cent, to which we ought never to approach. There has been a large increase in the volume of the note issue, and I acknowledge that in war times the increase above the normal volume demanded by commerce must be substantial. There waa a temporary increase in Great Britain, but it, as a substantial addition, lasted only for a few weeks. I do not wish to go into the commercial side of the question. I do not in any way condemn the financing of the right honorable member, but I repeat the expression of disquiet which I and others uttered some six months ago as to what may occur if there is a very large increase in -the volume of the note issue, and it should become necessary to reduce that volume to something like what was the normal limit before the war. How can that be done without destroying the gold reserve? If you have to depend on a gold reserve, the greater part of which is at the call of the banks, under the arrangement _ you have made with them, the position may become, not serious in regard to our solvency, but embarrassing to the Treasury.
– I regret that this question should have been raised on this particular occasion, when, as I have already explained, the Committee is being asked to sanction expenditure necessitated by the hurrying away of a larger expeditionary force than was anticipated when the original Estimates were tabled. We require a special appropriation, amounting to £3,500,000, plus the amount provided for already, to enable the present estimated expenditure to be met. No man in the country can tell whether this sum will be sufficient to meet our requirements to the end of June, but the estimate is the best that the Defence Department can make, and I am sure that I speak for Parliament when I say that if more men can be provided more money will be supplied. No one would welcome more than I should a discussion of the financial position and of the best manner of financing Government operations during these difficult times. I join issue with the honorable member for Angas on his statement that the private banks, which have been generous and straightforward in their transactions with me, are in any way embarrassed or suffering injustice, or weaker because of the arrangement with me.
– I spoke of their operations in regard to the financing of importations, and my remarks were based on some authority.
– The honorable member does not wish me to turn aside from the direct question of the financing of the Commonwealth to discuss whether the margin of exchange lies here or in Great Britain. One of the difficulties of the position was that the rate of exchange was against Australia, and we had to consider how best to get over that difficulty. The proposition was that the Commonwealth should raise money in London, if possible. I suggested that we should appeal to the British Government for a loan of £18,000,000 for war purposes if the banks would co-operate with us and give us a loan of £10,000,000. I thought that in that way we could finance the States and get rid of the exchange difficulty. It is a remarkable fact that’, immediately the transaction was carried out, the financial credit of Australia altered, and every person interested in finance considered that the trouble was ended, not for a day, but for a year, and, perhaps, until the end of the war. The banks have given us £3,000,000 in pursuance of an arrangement with the Commonwealth whereby both their interests and ours were protected. I have expressed, again and again, my opinion of their patriotic and businesslike action.
– It enabled the public works of the country to be carried on through State instrumentalities.
– The honorable member for Angas spoke of the difference between the amount of gold held against a note issue of £25,000,000 and that held against a note issue of £27,000,000.
– There is an increasing disproportion between the note issue and the gold reserve.
– Because, as I have told Parliament, we have not taken from the banks their last two monthly instalments.
– I know that.
– Yet the honorable member has made a statement which, if uncontradicted, would create a false impression.
– I said that you’ will borrow £7,000,000 more from the banks, and that you have to make your payments in notes to keep your services going.
– Two instalments are due by the banks, but I have not taken them, because I have not needed the money, and I do not think it should lie idle if it can be used. We have had more consideration for the private banks than the honorable member would have.
– When the war is over, the Government will have to pay £10,000,000 to the banks. I wish to know how it is proposed to contract the volume of the note issue then ?
– One of the honorable member’s questions was how will the gold reserve be maintained. I am maintaining it by not demanding more than is absolutely necessary for the safety of the note issue.
– The note issue is safe enough.
– Then what is the trouble? The suggestion was made that we should reduce the gold reserve to 25 per cent., but I have never supported such a reduction. We have said definitely and distinctly that the statutory reserve should not be less than 25 per cent, at any time, but with such a statutory reserve it would be impossible to reduce the proportion of gold held to 25 per cent. I have always advocated 33 per cent, as a sound working margin, but at the present time it is from 35 to 38 per cent. The banks have agreed to hold certain notes for their own purposes, and not to present them, an undertaking which I believe they are honorably carrying out.
– They will present them when the war is over.
– I shall come to that point, and, if the Opposition thinks necessary, I shall be glad to afford opportunity for the full discussion of the financial position. To discuss a side issue might disturb the public mind, because the full facts might not be put before the public. As to the £10,000,000 lent by the banks, to be repaid at the end of the war, I do not think that there should be the slightest difficulty in wiping off the debt, or in coming to some satisfactory arrange- ment regarding it. There is no reason to fear that the Commonwealth credit will not be as good then as it is now, unless, of course, our enemies are the victors, in which case nothing will much matter, though we shall have the satisfaction of having done our best. We have lent £18,000,000 to the Governments of the States, which they are to repay at the end of the war. The British Government has lent us the same amount for an indefinite period, which may be from eight to fourteen years. What we are to get returned from the States will be a great help.
– Is that to be utilized for the purpose of repaying the banks and reducing the note issue ?
– A man in my position would be a fool to say so far ahead what he is going to do with any particular amount of money, because no living man can tell at this time what he will be required to do at some future date, any more than can any honorable member know what will be the position of the money market a year hence.
– I am referring to the repayments by the States.
– The amounts lent to the States are due to be repaid two years from the time the loans were entered into. Whenever the war ends, the settlement will not be much earlier than the date I have indicated. The £18,000,000 which the Mother Country has loaned to us is not due to be repaid at that time; therefore, that amount will be available, and I have the best of reasons for saying that the bankers themselves will be quiteanxious to make conditions regarding the- £10,000,000 they have lent to the Government. There is a false impression that the gold reserve in Australia is being depleted; as a matter of fact, it is increasing. If we continue as we are doing at present, there will be no embarrassment of any kind when the war ends
– What I desire to know is whether the money to be repaid by the States to the Commonwealth is to be used to reduce the note issue and for the repayment of the amount borrowed from the banks?
– In my opinion, it would be the duty of any Government at the end of the war to reduce the note issue to normal.
– But is the money to be repaid by the States to be devoted to that purpose 1
– I have already said that a man would be a born fool who would earmark any money for a particular purpose, because the credit of the whole Commonwealth, which is much more important than the sum of £10,000,000, will be available.
– Then what is to be done with the money returned by the States!
– I shall leave that matter to the future. That money will be paid ‘ into Consolidated Revenue, and dealt with as. may be decided by the persons appointed by the people to carry on the business of the country. If I have anything to do with the matter, the agreement entered into with the banks will be strictly carried out, and the note issue will be reduced to its normal proportions as soon as possible after the war is over. That matter can soon be adjusted at the end of hostilities. I can again tell the Committee that the Government are in favour ‘of a convertible note issue. We are in favour of a safe gold margin to be held against the notes. Nobody is compelled to take those notes, although the banks have entered into arrangements in certain cases to hold the notes during this period of crisis. I desire to say again that if this matter is to be raised piecemeal, I would much prefer that it should be dealt with on a separate motion so that it may be discussed in detail, and so prevent any persons, who may wish to do so, damaging the credit of the country by saying that there is danger. There is no danger, nor is there likely to be any, so long as we have a convertible note issue. I believe it will be possible to increase the note issue to £40,000,000 without the slightest danger or difficulty, and in saying that I am uttering not only my own opinion, but the opinions of some of the best-informed and most patriotic authorities in Australia.
– I did not hear the early part of this discussion, but I heard the latter remarks of the right honorable gentleman, and I hope that he does not include me in the category of enemies of the credit of the country. I am certain that my colleague who has raised this matter is also entirely out of that category. May I suggest that in discussing these matters it would be infinitely better if the right honorable gentleman would cease raising the cry of “ wolf “ every time re ference is made to a financial matter. Somehow the right honorable gentleman seems obsessed with the idea that anybody who asks a question about the finances or the Commonwealth Bank is an enemy to the credit of the country. That sort of fustian should cease.
– You did very well yesterday. Do not spoil your record now.
– If I am spoiling my record, it is because the right honorable gentleman has set me an example. He should give others as well as himself credit for wishing to conserve the credit of the country. He should be the last to complain about anybody on this side of the Chamber wishing to do anything to damage the credit of Australia. As I understand the issue which has been raised, the honorable member for Angas makes a clear distinction between the note issue and the solvency of the general finances. He has made it clear beyond possibility of cavil that the credit of the country is unassailable; but that is not the point. The question he raised is pertinent, and will have to be met some time or other, although, personally, I should not have raised it at this stage. The position is that very shortly the note issue will have reached £4”5, 000,000 or £50,000,000.
– I hope not.
– I do not see how the right honorable member is going to escape that result. He will have to go far beyond the £40,000,000 at the rate he is travelling at the present time. Let us suppose that the note issue shortly reaches £40,000,000. Immediately the war is over the right honorable gentleman will be under his first obligation to reduce the volume of notes, and, therefore, the volume of the gold reserve. And, as he has only £4,000,000 of gold, which was in the reserve originally, plus the £10,000,000 which he has received from the banks- a total of £14,000,000 to set against the £40,000,000 worth of notes - he must realize that he will require to make some tremendous adjustments of the finances the moment the war period is over. We have a right to ask what is in the right honorable gentleman’s mind, considering that he makes these arrangements with the banks of so temporary a character. I could understand it, and we should be much easier in our minds, if he had made an agreement with the banks that the arrangement was to continue after the war until he had had a reasonable opportunity of setting matters right.
– The arrangement is until after the war is over.
– But immediately the war ceases the Treasurer is under this obligation to the banks, and where he is to get the money from to repay them is a problem. There is another fact . to be considered.: The total volume of the notes issued at the commencement of the war was about £10,000,000 or £11,000,000, of which about half was in actual circulation. The balance was in the coffers of the banks. Therefore, if there was that actual circulation of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in ordinary circumstances, the right honorable gentleman, in order to meet the. present extraordinary circumstances, will require to extend the issue to £45,000,000 or £50,000,000. ‘
– It is £27,000,000 at the present time.
– The honorable member admits the likelihood of the issue reaching £40,000,000, and I think that, by the time he has met hia obligations to the States and the expenditure on the war, and has financed the Government requirements during the next twelve months, he will have raised the issue into the region of £45,000,000.
– We receive as much monthly as we give to the States.
– The Commonwealth receives as much credit as it gives, but it does not receive gold.
– There is no difference.
– It is really a currency problem as to how far we may inflate our note issue beyond the capacity of the gold reserve to bear it.
– We have a surplus of gold in Australia.
– There may be a surplus of gold in Australia, but the Treasurer has not got any of it. Personally, I should not have raised this discussion, except to utter a word of caution, as I think we are entitled to do. My impression is that the Government are at the limit of their possibilities in regard to the note issue, and I am not sure that they have nob already overstepped the limit. We cannot carry an unlimited note issue. All those nonsensical theories on the subject that used to be enunciated so warmly have been thrown overboard. The hard facts of actual experience have knocked a lot of that nonsense out of our heads, and I congratulate the right honorable gentleman on the way he replied a few days ago to a union, the members of which thought that he had nothing to do but to turn the printing machine and keep the whole of the unemployed throughout the length and breadth of the country in full employment. I know that honorable members on the Government side are in a little trouble, over this matter. They have gone over the whole country continuously and persistently telling the people that unemployment could be made to cease if only Labour were at the helm and in charge of all the country’s resources; but now that this time of national stress has come, they find that all their Labour propaganda on the unemployment question has failed them miserably.
– Would there not have been more unemployment if we had not the note issue J
– I am not here to suggest that there would hot have been. But I am pointing out that honorable members on the Government side have had to take a lot of their stuff out of the shop-window because they have found that it is not current value in these crucial days.
– Is this non-contentious matter?
– Are the finances of Australia a non-contentious matter? There is another matter to which I am going to refer, and I shall hope for the support of some of the honorable members on the Government side. I wish to know why all these herculean efforts to find work for the unemployed have resulted in only £1,500,000 of the £4,500,000 voted for public works being spent in nine months?
– More than that has been spent.
– The righthonorable gentleman himself furnished the figures, and I suppose he is not misleading the House.
– I furnished those figures, but the honorable member knows that accounts come in heavily at the end of the year.
– I shall be glad to hear that that is so, because every penny of this money should bespent.
– You will find that it will all be spent, and judiciously spent. Mr. JOSEPH COOK.- Of course, it follows that if the honorable member has the spending of it, it will be spent judiciously. I hope that the Prime Minister, whenever we on this side ask for information about the finances, will not accuse us of trying to besmirch the credit of Australia, because I can assure him that we are just as anxious as he is to avoid that sort of thing.
– I did not say that; what I said was that there might, be a false impression created.
– It is idle to accuse the honorable member for Angas of such a thing; and I only hope that the Prime Minister will gracefully give us a little information when we ask for it.
.- I was under the impression that we were at war with the Turks, but I have been informed that a Turk, who, furthermore, is the secretary of the Young Turks Association in South Australia, is employed in the censor’s office as an interpreter, and has the handling of Turkish letters. We have been informed by cable that the Young Turks Association in Turkey is very anxious to obtain the assistance of more Germans in order to help to “ knock us out “ ; and it seems to me that there is something amiss somewhere. It is hard to understand why a Turk, and particularly the secretary of such an association, should be employed in the censor’s office.
– I shall look into the matter at once.
– I ask the Prime Minister not to depend entirely on the usual stereotyped reply from the Defence Department, but to make inquiries elsewhere, in order to ascertain whether, what I have said is correct. I shall say nothing further on the matter at this stage, except that if what I have said is proved to be incorrect, I shall apologue to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Resolution reported and adopted. Ordered - .
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and passed through all stages.
House adjourned at 3.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 April 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150416_reps_6_76/>.