7th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the follow, ing statements which were published in this morning’s Age: -
HOBART. - On the motion for adjournment of the Assembly on Tuesday night, Mr. Belton said that discharged soldiers were compelled to travel from the north-west coast to attend Launceston hospital for special treatment for wounds received on active service, and pay their own railway fares. He did not think that was fair.
The Premier said it was not a matter for the State Government, but for the Federal authorities to see that the men wore properly treated. It was not lack of appreciation on the Govern ment’s part, but it should be done on proper business lines.
Mr. Whitsitt said that one. man who had come back with Mb jaw gone bad left his father killed in action in France, and yet he was compolled to travel well over 100 miles to hospital, and pay his own railway fare. The Tasmanian Government shouldnot be so mean or so shabby as to allow their own soldiers to be treated like that. The Federal Government had no regard for Tasmanians.
Will the Prime Minister ascertain whether those statements are founded on facts?I do not believe that they are.
– I have not seen the report referred to, but I shall ascertain whether the statements therein are correct. Should they be so, I shall immediately take steps to remedy the stateof affairs referred to. .
– What provision, if any, is made for the relief of men who, having returned from the Front, are unable to get work, but are not physically fit for arduous employment? I have a letter from a constituent, who has returned after two years’ service in Gallipoli and Egypt. He has been discharged, the unit of which he was a member having been disbanded. He does not draw a pension, nor receive an allowance, and he cannot get work. Those in charge of the Patriotic Fund refuse to assist him.
– If the honorable member will give me the name of the soldier referred to, and the circumstances of his case, I shall endeavour to answer his question at a later date.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence had his attention drawn to a paragraph in the Bulletin-
– It is disorderly to ask questions founded on newspaper statements.
– Then I ask whether it is a fact that in any military hospital in Melbourne the officer commanding is supposed to arrive at 9 o’clock, . and that a body of men has to stand at arms, sometimes for two or three hours, until he comes. If that is so, will the Minister instruct the officer commanding to telephone when he is likely to arrive, so that the men will not have to stand about doing nothing?
– The question is vague and indefinite. If the honorable member will tell me what hospital he refers to, and give other particulars, I shall have an inquiry made into the matter.
– Will the House, have an opportunity to see the proposed regulations, .or orders, or instructions, that it is intended to enforce for the control of» the use of coal, gab and electricity? On the last occasion when such regulations were issued there was great comment on the fact that picture theatres were al- ‘ lowed to blaze with, lights when food-pro- .ducing establishments nad to close down.
– I have no objection to the matter being brought befor the House from time to time. So far, every step taken has been made public.
– When ia it proposed to enforce restrictions on the use of gas, coa], &c. ?
– I think at the end of this week, but I am not quite sure about that.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether he intends to go any further in restricting the importation of luxuries %
– Not at tho present juncture.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence’ aware that the volunteers who are filling the places of the strikers in Sydney are mostly men eligible for service abroad ? Will ho bring the matter under the notice of the New South Wales Recruiting Committee f
– The desirability of enlisting for active service abroad has, I think, been brought under the notice of all eligible men.
– Is the Minister aware that a very large proportion of those out on strike are eligible for military service, and -will he give the recruiting officers every facility for interviewing^ them t
– I have uo information regarding the ages of either the men out on strike or the volunteers who have taken their places, but eligible men will be welcomed by the recruiting agencies wherever they may come from. *
– If possible, will the Prim© Minister get the Inter-State Com mission to investigate, as part of its present inquiry, the output of employees during a period of, say, seven years up to the present date, so that the country may know whether there has been any general slowing down by workmen, and a resulting diminution in the output of labour, arid in the -return given for services paid for?
– This seems to me to fall under the same head as the question asked by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) in regard to interest. I am afraid that the Inter-State Commission is not specially qualified to undertake this inquiry; nor do I think that evidence such as would be convincing could be given. One- may have one’s opinions, and may know certain things; but I do not think that a useful purpose could be served by including this question in the cost of living inquiry.. However, I shall consider the suggestion.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The matter has been. referred to the Central Wool Committee) but, as the Committee is sitting continuously, it has not been able to supply any information, to-day.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
When will Staff Sergeants-Major, and other non-commissioned officers of the Acting Staff, bo given an opportunity to qualify for promotion?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Staff Sergeants-Major of the Instructional Staff are afforded opportunities twice yearly of qualifying for promotion to First Class Warrant Rank.
Non-commissioned officers temporarily employed on the Instructional Staff to fill existing vacancies, or to temporarily replace those on active service, will, at the conclusion of the war, be permitted to compete amongst themselves forany vacancies which may then exist.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– This question relates to details of the policy of a Bill already before Parliament, and should more properly be raised during the debate on that Bill. However, as it appears on the notice-paper, and I did not see it before it was placed there, I shall allow the question to be asked on this occasion.
– I am asking the question, not with a view of causing any disturbance, but for the purpose of getting information. .
– It is unusual to give these details. I ask the honorable member to defer the question until to-morrow.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questionsare as follow: -
askedthe Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
With reference to newspapers weighing 20 ozs. being delivered to citizens at their address, will he also arrange for the delivery of packets over 1 lb. in weight, which at present are not delivered, and thus remedy an inconvenience to the public?
Mr.WATT- The Postmaster-General is not aware of any newspaper weighing 20 ozs. being delivered by the Post Office at any homes, and will be glad of the names of the papers referred to by the honorable member, and of the towns in which they are delivered, so that the matter can be investigated.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable members questions are -
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the appointment of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts during the second session of the seventh Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the appointment of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works during the second session of the seventh Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, Etc
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 22nd August (vide page 1339):
DepartmentofWorks and Railways.
Division 1 (Works and Railways), £5,621
Motion (by Sir Johnforrest) again proposed -
That item No. 1, £670, be agreed to.
– So far, the debate has covered the whole of the Estimates. I should like an intimation from the Committee whether it is the desire of honorable members to continue the debate on the Estimates generally, or that the Estimates shall be dealt with in Departments.
.- Many items of expenditure that formerly appeared in the Estimates of expenditure from Revenue have been transferred to the Loan Account. Included amongst them are lighthouse’ construction, the Arsenal, and. the Naval Bases. I think that we should have at this stage a general discussion on the action of the Government in distributing proposed expenditure on various new works over the revenue schedule now before us, and a loan schedule which will subsequently be considered. In last year’s Estimates there was no provision for any expenditure out of loan funds on new works, buildings, &c, whereas this year the Government provide in the loan schedule for an expenditure of £2,742,725. The Treasurer in his Budget speech led the House and the country to believe that the Government were effecting a saving of about £3,000,000 on public works. Upon examination of these Estimates we find that, whereas last year about £4,000,000 was paid out of revenue on account of new works and buildings, this year the Government propose to expend, out of revenue on these services only £1,200,000. It would thus appear at first sight that, as compared with last year’s figures, there is a saving of over £3,000,000 in this expenditure. The actual fact is, however, that the Government have transferred to loan account a large proportion of the expenditure paid last year out of revenue. It is a mere juggling with the figures dealing with ‘the services of the Commonwealth. There should be a general discussion on this action on the part of the Government.
– We desire a general discussion on a principle, and the honorable member dennes the principle to be debated as that of “ juggling.”
– The principle involved is whether or not the Estimates should be put before us in a plain, straightforward manner. That is the principle I wish to discuss.
– Not at all; it is the principle of insults with which the honorable member desires to’ deal.
– That is not so. No Leader of the Opposition was more liberal in his insults to Ministers in charge of Estimates than was the right honorable, member when he sat on this side.
– Assuming that it is the policy of the Government to provide for certain works this year out of loan . account, how would the honorable member, if he were in office, sett out that fact other than as -we have done in these Estimates ?
– I do not say that the Government should not make any provision for expenditure out of loan account. My objection is that they led the people outside to believe that they had effected a saving of over £3,000,000 in these Estimates, whereas they have merely reduced the amount to be spent out of revenue, and. made provision for practically the same expenditure out of loan fund. Several of these items call for discussion. There is, for instance, the proposed vote of £16,500 for public offices at Geraldton, a comparatively small town in Western Australia, having a population of about 4,000. There are Only three Customs officers in that town, and only twenty-four officers employed in the whole of the postal services of the district. I consider that it is an absolute wast© of money to spend so large an amount on the erection, of Commonwealth buildings in such a town. I shall probably be met with the taunt that these buildings were promised by a previous Government.
– The proposed expenditure is well justified.
– I do not say that substantial buildings should not be erected, but I certainly do contend that £16,500 is too much to spend on Postal and Customs buildings in a town like Geraldton.
– The revenue of the Geraldton Post-office is third on the list for Western Australia. It ranks next to that of the Kalgoorlie Post-office.
– And if the PostmasterGeneral were here he would tell us that the Postal Department as a whole is not a paying proposition. This Government was elected professedly as a Government of economy.
– I believe the item to which the honorable member is referring was first proposed when he held office as a Minister.
– I am not sure that it was. I see no such statement in the Estimates.
– Of course, it was not a juggle at that time, was it?
– The Minister for the Navy is now dealing with quite a different point from that on which I raised the question of juggling. He suggests that the erection of the Geraldton Post-office and Customs House was first proposed by a Ministry of which I was a member.
– The matter of erecting quarters for Customs offices at Geraldton was referred to the honorable member when he held office as Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I do not think so; but, in any event, I can say that no specific sum of expenditure was referred to me.
– The honorable member is following the general principle he has always adopted of condemning all that he ever did when in office.
– Not at all. The Government of which I was a member provided for new works, buildings, &c, out of revenue. This Government, however, will declare from the platforms of the country that, whereas last year £4,300,000 was expended on new works, buildings, &c, they provide in’ these Estimates for an expenditure of only £1,200,000. They will conveniently forget to tell the people what they are spending out of loan account on these services. I well remember the series of articles written by” the Minister for the Navy, Mr. Cook, when he was in opposition, concerning the expenditure of the Labour party. They were subsequently published in pamphlet form with the title of “ The Financial Carnival.”
– When the Labour Government commenced the erection of Com- mon wealth buildings in London, did it provide for them out of revenue or loan account 1
– I could not say offhand.
– At any rate, you made provision from loan ?
– Very likely, but we did it straightforwardly. Under all the circumstances I think we ought to have a general discussion on the principle of borrowing for works before we start the consideration of the items.
– During the remarks of the previous speaker the Minister for Works and Railways interjected that, providing the principle of the Government was to borrow money for works, what other method could be used than the present one of showing that intention ?
– In the presentation of the Estimates.
– I do not intend to deal with that point. I make no charge against the Minister for Works and Railways of being too keen on borrowing money for public works if the money can be got from revenue. The present Treasurer, however, has always advocated borrowing money for works, so as to pass the indebtedness on to the future.
– He also always advocated a sinking fund.
– -The Treasurer has always advocated the lessening pf taxation for the purposes of public works. It seems to me a foolish arrangement to provide for an expenditure of very nearly £3,000,000- out of loan for works, when the Government already have £13,000,000 allocated for war expenditure. Why should there be any duplication of borrowing? We have to borrow for the war, and I do not see why we should not take out of that £13,000,000. what we require for works.-
– If the honorable member saw the items which comprise the £13,000,000 he would not advocate that course. That includes pensions, interest, and other recurring .charges for which we could not borrow.
– If th© £13,000,000 had been raised by special taxation for war purposes, I Could understand its being restricted to war purposes, but I know there has been no arrangement of the kind.
– The honorable member’s argument amounts to raising money to pay interest.
– It does not.
– It does, in actual fact.
– It appears to me as though the Government were trying to show as small an expenditure as possible on the war, seeing that they are paying for it out of revenue. In other words, the Government would rather tax for public works than for the war. I agree that interest and pensions should be met out of revenue, but this allocation of £13,000,000 is, broadly speaking, for war purposes. I have nob gone into the items, but I doubt if for this year £13,000,000 is necessary for interest and pensions; at any rate, if it is necessary this year, God help us in the future ! When we have such an enormous amount set apart for the war it seems strange to insist on a system of borrowing for public works, especially when we have not had such borrowing in the past. Mr. Fisher, when Treasurer, made special arrangements for the expenditure on the east-west railway, and for the Commonwealth Buildings in London, the money being taken out of the note issue; and I cap see no reason for the present change, unless it is the ambition of the Treasurer to carry out his idea of, as far as possible, passing on these charges to the future. If* at the present time, there was an abnormal expenditure on public works I could understand the departure, but with the present restrictions I see no need for borrowing. Finance may not be my specialty, but even the knowledge I have causes me to look at the proposal with some shade of fear, the more so when I remember the Treasurer’s ideas on the subject. I know it is useless voting against’ the proposal, because the brutal majority behind the Government will carry it. However, I hope the Ministry will no(t allow the Treasurer to carry out his idea of borrowing,, especially, as I say, when there” are so many restrictions upon the expenditure on public works. A good deal of trouble has been caused, not ‘ only by the decrease of public works on the part of the Commonwealth Government, but also by similar action on the part of the State Governments, and that is why I am pleased that the Government are making provision for certain loans to the States for public works. It is to the restriction placed upon public works that most of the industrial unrest of today is due. I can understand the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) smiling when I make that statement, but I know it is true. During the last eighteen months there has been a feeling through- out the States that it is the determination of the Conservative section of the community to restrict Government expenditure for a certain purpose, namely, economic conscription.
– That feeling has been fostered by your people.
– The honorable member has, nowand again, had several knocks from those whom he describes as my “ people,” and I can quite understand his interjection; but he knows as well as I do that, while the trouble may have been fostered by my “ people,” his “ people “ have fostered it still more.
– I deny that.
– I should think there are honorable members opposite, as well as on thisside, who can see the danger of the proposed departure at this stage, when so little money is being spent on public works.
.- The honorable member who has just sat down seems to approve of the Commonwealth lending money, which is loan money, to the States to enable them to construct public works, but to bitterly resent the Commonwealth doing for itself what he wishes the Commonwealth to do for the States.
– You will admit that the proposal before us is a departure?
– Of course it is. I am speaking in a non-party sense, for I am personally not too keen on spending these moneys on public works at the present time. But to any person who has that sort of prejudice or objection, the method adopted by the Government ought to be most welcome, because I warn my honorable friend that, when these Estimates have gone through, there will come the Loan Bill. When the Loan Bill comes forward the honorable member will have the opportunity of wiping out these items if he so desires.
– I shall vote for the Loan Bill, but I would like to see these works carried out from revenue, especially when £13,000,000 is allocated from revenue for war purposes.
– The amount to which the honorable member refers is expenditure for which no loan could decently be raised. It represents an annual expenditure which brings no return to the Commonwealth, and is spent for the purpose of honouring a financial obli gation of a yearly nature. It must be met out of revenue if the Commonwealth is to remain solvent. My objection to the course taken is not the purely academic one, which, as it came from the lips of the honorable member, was slightly selfcontradictory. My objectionis to burdening our loan account with expenditure which we can do without until we are through the present crisis. For that reason I welcome the system of bringing forward the Works expenditure in a separate Bill, and I shall take the utmost liberty of criticism in regard to any work which seems to me to be unnecessary and wasteful at such a time as this.
.- I do not desire to discuss these Estimates generally. My object in rising is to offer a few remarks in regard to certain objections which have been voiced to the erection of a new post-office and Customs House at Geraldton, which is in my constituency. First of all, I draw attention to the fact that the item is a re- vote. In fact it was placed on last year’s Estimates by the Administration of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member, holding the portfolio of Minister for Trade and Customs. I had occasion to interview the Works Department in regard to this building, and found that the matter had been referred to the Customs Department and to the Postal Department. At the time I was not desirous of seeing any large expenditure undertaken in connexion with public buildings, because of the outbreak of the war, and the Government also were not anxious to put up this building at Geraldton for the same reason, but a few thousand pounds was provided on the Estimates, so that if the position of affairs improved later on they could go on with the work. On this occasion the Minister has simply taken care to see that he will be in a position to commence the work if he feels it is necessary to do so towards the end of the financial year. Geraldton is a very important town. Over half-a-million pounds’ worth of wool was taken to Geraldton this year to be appraised. It is the commercial centre for a large agricultural district, and for the whole of the Murchison gold-fields. A new post office is necessary because of the wretchedly insanitary condition of the present building. It must be remembered that Geraldton is very close to the tropics. There are about twenty employees engaged in the building, and the accommodation is very cramped: I presume that the departmental officers in considering the question of putting up a new building, anticipated that a larger office would be required, not only for postal purposes, but for Customs and other Federal officials.
– Geraldton is a centre which is growing very rapidly.
– If the existing building will serve the purpose while the war is in progress, I do not urge the early construction of the new premises. Instead of the Leader of the Opposition seeking to make a point out of this proposed building at Geraldton, in order to reflect on the present Administration, he should draw attention to the awful scandals in connexion with the buildings at the various Naval Bases. For instance, it is proposed to spend £500,000 in the bush on buildings which will provide no facilities for the general public, and upon which extravagance of the grossest type has been exercised for the last few years. If he had called attention to this he would have been doing something more to the advantage of the public and the public purse.
.- I wish to protest against the treatment meted out to Queensland in the Estimates for new works. On page 269 of the Estimates there is an almost complete absence of new works for Queensland, while other States seem to have had no difficulty in getting whatever grants they required.
– Perhaps -the other States changed their representatives in Parliament.
– That is the most interesting and .illuminating interjection we have had for some time. It is rather significant that we hear quite clearly from a gentleman who secured his seat because of his support of the policy of the National Government, which protested its virtues so persistently as it did during the recent election, that the votes for new works and buildings are given in return for political support.
– Let me say that the Government repudiate the statement made by the honorable member.
– It was not repudiated when it was uttered. Why has not the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) been rewarded?- That honorable member has good grounds for com plaint, because, of the way in which his constituency has been overlooked, in spite of the fact that repeated requests have been made for post offices and other buildings in his electorate. -The neglect of the Oxley district would point »to the fact that it is not a personal matter. The Government have exercised considerable discrimination against Queensland. If. political support has been the determining factor, that State should have received a fairer share. When it returns to sanity in regard to its political faith, and throws out ‘the supporters of the present Government, it will have less than nothing if the policy of grants for political support is pursued. It has little enough now. The Ministerial party gained in Queensland three senators and one member of the House of Representatives at the last election.
– There are no politics in the Works Estimates, so far as I am responsible for them.
– That is a protestation of virtue which has been made by every Minister in every Parliament in the world.
– I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) will admit the truth of it in my case.
– I accept the Minister’s statement, because if I were to contradict it, I would have no way of proving that I was right. The amount set down for Works and Railways is £5,621, of which Queensland gets nothing. The sum of £16,325 is set down for Home and Territories, of which Queensland gets nothing. The sum of £14,714 is set down for Trade and Customs, of which Queensland gets nothing; and that State gets nothing of the £72,815 for naval expenditure, or of the £149,673 for military expenditure. Of the £86,588 to be expended on post-office buildings, the Cinderella State gets only £1,110.
– Of which amount the honorable member’s constituency gets most.
– I am not arguing the matter from that’ point of view. This sum is made up of £400 for sundry postoffices, £250 towards the cost of a parcels post-office in Brisbane, and £460 for the Caboolture Post-office. Yet, for a postoffice at Geraldton, a township with a population of 3,000 inhabitants, £16,500 is to be spent.
– Queensland is fortunate in not needing post-offices.
– The need for them is as urgent in Queensland as in any other State. A parcels post-office is urgently needed in Brisbane. Plans were begun for a building six or seven storeys high, and now the Government asks us to vote £250 towards the cost of a building which, to be of any use, must cost in all between £15,000 and £20,000.
– £80,000 isto be spent in Queensland on an acetate of lime factory.
– I am speaking now of the poverty of the vote for postal buildings. An increasing number of requests for better postal facilities in my own electorate are reaching me, and . I am aware of the urgent need for such buildings in the constituency of Oxley, which comprises South Brisbane. A piece of land was selected there for a post-office, but the building has not been erected. Post-offices are needed in various parts of the city of Brisbane and its suburbs, but we have been told by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral there that the Government have imposed such severe restrictions on him that he cannot authorize any increases. If that be true, why is there no lack of funds for postal conveniences in the other States? The expenditure in Victoria is to be £28,000, and in New South Wales £41,000. I do not say that that is more than is needed, but I complain that a discrimination is being shown against Queensland, or that the Deputy Postmaster-General has put too literal an interpretation on the instruction to observe economy. Unfortunately, only one member of the Ministry comes from Queensland, and he is only an Assistant Minister. Apparently he has not sufficient influence with the Treasurer to secure fair consideration of his State. We all expected a severe limitation of expenditure, but Queensland should not be treated differently from the other States. Why are the urgent necessities of Queensland receiving no consideration when postoffices are being scattered here and there over New South Wales and Victoria?
– Queensland is only a baby compared with New South. Wales, whose population is much greater.
– Has the population of New South Wales increased at a greater rate than that of any of the other
States to necessitate this increase in postal expenditure ?
– Practically the whole of the proposed expenditure is for Sydney requirements.
– Post-offices are to be provided for Armidale, Brewarrina, Camperdown, Delungra, Inverell, Lithgow, Macksville, and Strathfield.
– The major part of the expenditure is for Sydney.
– The severe limitation of expenditure which we had a right to expect would be applied to all the States seems to have been applied to Queensland more than to any other.
I wish to say a word or two regarding the proposal to provide for certain expenditure out of loan fund instead of out of revenue. Should it be held that this is not the time to refer to the matter, I shall reserve my remarks until the Loan Bill comes before us. I find that the printing of the Commonwealth Manual of Emergency Legislation is provided for out of loan money, as is also the press cable service for supplying news to members of the Expeditionary Forces, the Conference regarding the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, and part of the cost of the referendum of October last. But the biggest item of all is the pay of the Citizen Forces, namely, £100,000. Surely a regular service like this should be met out of revenue.
– Does the honorable member refer to camps of training?
– Camps of training are provided for in a special item, £47,500 being set down for them.
– The paragraph to which the honorable member refers is headed “‘Home service’ expenditure consequent upon the war.”
– Is it suggested that the pay of the Citizen Forces is consequent upon the war?
– If men of the Citizen Forces are called out for service at Thursday Island, is not that consequent upon the war? A number of men are mobilized for service in Australia.
– Last year £93,000 was paid out of loan fund under this head. The Government which the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) supported was responsible for that.
– The Estimates of last year were introduced by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton).
– The Government of. which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was a member was responsible for them.
– I find , quite a number of smaller items to be paid for out of loan money, including the compilation of a history of Australia’s share in the war, and the expenses in connexion with the film censorship.
– The film censorship is entirely a war service. It was established for a military purpose.
– It is most unfort- unate that the papers presented to honorable members to help us to understand the expenditure are so confusing that we do not know whether any particular item is connected with the war or not. Under the circumstances now obtaining, we are unanimously of opinion that war expenditure must be largely, although not exclusively, chargeable ‘to loan moneys. We cannot hope to meet our war expenditure out of revenue. But we have certainly a right to expect that the ordinary expenses of the country will be met out of revenue, and that to some extent our war expenditure also will be defrayed from those special revenues which are being raised at the present time. If that is not done, why have we a demand for extra taxation? Either our ordinary expenditure has increased, demanding extra taxation, or, if it has decreased, there is no need for the extra taxation. Members of the Government have talked a good deal lately about the necessity for economy. Some time ago, the Minister for the Navy was very free in his remarks in regard to the need for a very drastic reduction of expenditure. Senational statements have been made, and platform speeches have been utilized to show the enormous extravagance that is taking place in the Public Service. If such extravagance exists, what indication have we that the Government propose to reduce expenditure? On the contrary, we find that items which previously were charged to revenue” are now not met by the ordinary revenue, even supplemented by extraordinary taxation. The people have an idea that the extra income taxation, and the levy on war-time profits, are to meet our war expenditure.
– So they are.
– According to the Estimates, the revenue, supplemented by extra taxation, does not cover the ordinary expenditure apart from the war, because we are charging to loan fund a number of items which previously were paid for out of revenue. If it is necessary to transfer that expenditure to loan fund, what is being done with the extra revenue that is being raised? It is not being expended on the war.
– It is.
– The war expenditure is all put down as a charge against loan moneys.
– The money for interest, sinking fund, and pensions all comes out of taxation.
– An ex-Treasurer must speak with a certain amount of authority, and I ask him whether the charges he has mentioned are sufficient to swallow up the increased revenue, and necessitate the charging to loan fund of some works that previously were paid for out of revenue?
– That is the exact position.
– I am pleased to have that explanation. .
– It is in the Budget.
– I certainly did not gain that impression from the Treasurer’s statement when introducing the Estimates.
– The item of £13,000,000 mentioned in the Budget for war expenditure covers the charges to which I have referred.
– We are aware that the interest charges must be met, and we must find revenue with which to meet them. If we are to understand that the expenditure on interest and other things consequent on the war necessitates the charging to loan of works previously paid for out of revenue, we have an idea where we are, and we realize that the Treasurer is justified in transferring some expenditure to loan account. At the same time the country has a right to demand that loan money shall be provided for war purposes only at this time, and that our ordinary disbursements, even including the expenditure on principal public works, shall be met out of revenue. We ought to raise sufficient revenue to meet that expenditure, and if the proposals of the Government are not yet sufficient to enable that to be done, I am prepared to support them in adopting any proposal that is reasonable and fair in its application, so that during this time of war our revenue may be increased to the extent of meeting all ordinary expenditure, and preventing the charging to loan of disbursements that, in all reasonable circumstances, ought to be met out of revenue.
– I sought last night to elicit certain information from the Minister for Home and Territories in regard to expenditure thatis being incurred in the Federal Capital Territory. I suppose the Territory is still under the dual control of the Minister for Home and Territories and the Minister for Works and Railways. Is it always to continue so?
– The apportionment in this matter is complete.
– Does that mean that the Minister for Home and Territories has control of the officers who, for example, carry out the construction of a railway in the Federal Capital Territory?
– That has not been said; nor is it a reasonable inference from what has been said.
– I have no wish to be unfair; but my difficulty is that I do not know whether to address questions to the Minister for Home and Territories or the Minister for Works and Railways.
– I myself do not know yet; that will be settled in a little while.
– I asked last evening why a surface railway is being constructed from the power-house across the Molonglo River to the civic centre, and the Minister for Home and Territories stated that the purpose of the railway was to facilitate the farming operations of some of the lessees.
– He did not say anything of the kind.
– That was one of the reasons. Another reason is that the materials are already bought and delivered, and part of the work is constructed.
– That is my complaint. I do not think that work was authorized. I am not blaming the present Administration, but other Administrations seem to have obtained from Parliament a lump sum vote to be expended, without particular works being properly specified. Out of those lump sums certain officers, with peculiar whims about particular works, have commenced undertakings which Parliament, if it had been consulted, would have refused to sanction. Unless a big works policy is carried out in the Territory, I cannot see that there will be any necessity for years to come, for any surface line in the Federal Capital Territory. However, I rose particularly to ask a question of the Minister for Works and Railways. Many of us have been waiting anxiously for the verdict of the Minister or the Cabinet in regard to the inquiries which have been made into the expenditure at! the Federal Capital, and I had hoped that when these Estimates were before us, the Minister would take the opportunity of elucidating the position.
– I shall be able to do that when we come to the items. I think all this discussion is irregular and a waste of time at this stage. Whatever information I can give on the individual items honorable members will be welcome to.
– I shall resume my observations when we reach the items upon which I desire information.
– At the outset of my remarks, which will be brief, I wish to express surprise ati the method of discussing the Estimates. This is the first time in my experience that, during a general debate on the Estimates, members have been allowed to discuss individual items. My purpose is to discuss financial questions generally, and I desire first of all to draw the attention of the Government to what, in my opinion, is a waste of money, and at the same time evidence of a lack of appreciation of the functions, of the Federal Government, and perhaps also of the State Governments. When the people were asked to vote upon the question of federating, they were led to understand by the political leaders of the day that the functions of the Federal and State Parliaments would be clearly defined, and that there would be no overlapping of the two authorities. Yet, in my opinion, several Departments of the Commonwealth are duplicating work which is done by the States, or vice versa. For instance, the administration of the Electoral Department is costing the Commonwealth about £60,000 per annum, and I think we may safely say that electoral administration is costing each State £25,000. Surely we have a right to expect an effort to be made to amalgamate the Electoral Departments as far as possible. Here we have Commonwealth and State electoral officers and * offices doing precisely the same work. The same may be said of the taxation Departments. I would’ urge upon the Treasurer the necessity of conferring with the various States in order that we might have one taxation office covering the whole* of the taxation matters, of the Commonwealth and the States. The present system of having separate Commonwealth and State offices and staffs is not only expensive but aggravating to the taxpayers, called upon as they are from time to time throughout the year to furnish State and Federal returns relating to their incomes.
And so with our State banking institutions. I well remember the fight that took place between the States and the Commonwealth in regard to the proposal that the Commonwealth should encroach upon a business the conduct of which was considered at that time, at all events, to be the peculiar privilege of the States. We declare that we desire economy. The Government tell the people that they are reducing expenditure as much as possible, and yet we have Commonwealth and State banking institutions, both owned by the people, and dealing with the same people, with two expenditures, and with separate offices, side by side in the smallest of our villages, doing exactly the business which could be done just as well with only one office. The Treasurer will probably say that we cannot force the States to enter into a compact with the Commonwealth for the transaction of this banking business. Surely it is riot asking ‘too much of responsible Ministers, who, by virtue of their positions, must be business men, to urge that instead of duplicating the work of banking, and attending to the surplus cash of the people of Australia, they should take steps to see that the work is done by only the one office in each town ! I hope that the Minister will make an effort to bring about at the earliest date the amalgamation of the electoral, taxation, and banking systems of the Commonwealth and States.
Conferences have taken place between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to this question, but up to date very
Mr. Heitmann. little has been done, save in the direction of uniform taxation methods; Having regard to the Treasurer’s Budget statement, I am disappointed with the Government efforts at economy when I find the expenditure of different Departments increasing. The expenditure of the Commonwealth Parliament itself is increasing year by year. Honorable members are expected to look closely into this expenditure, and, if possible, to curtail it. I notice, also, that even during these times of stress quite a number of Commonwealth officers are receiving more than small increases in salary.. I believe in paying a good man well for the work he does, but during this time of war the Government should be particularly careful in regard to increasing the salaries of officers of the Public Service when there is so much poverty outside. ,
– With all due respect to the honorable member, what has all this to do with the Works and Buildings Estimates?
– Some of the officers to whom the honorable member refers are in control of works.
– I understood that a general discussion was allowed on the first item in these Estimates. I do not wish to detain the Committee beyond saying that wherever possible I am going to assist the Government to economize. This is a time when we should show the people of Australia that not only the Government, but honorable members generally, have been in earnest in assuring them that they desire and intend to economize. I hope that will be done.
Motion agreed to.
.- I regret that the honorable member for Dampier is temporarily absent from the chamber, since I desire to refer to the item of £16,500 for the erection of public offices at Geraldton - an item in which he is interested. I am not likely to say in his absence, however, anything that I would not say in his presence. I have no desire to do any injury to Geraldton, or any other town, but I feel that it is time a halt was called in the erection of expensive public buildings out of all proportion to the needs of the district for whose services they are to provide. Here we are face to face with a proposed expenditure of £16,500, and if we agree to the item it will be rightly assumed that the Parliament approves of such expenditure.
On reference to the Public Service list, I find that there are only three Customs officers at Geraldton, and some twentythree or twenty-four postal officers. Two positions in the Postal Department there are vacant at present, and five members of the staff are on active service. Unless their positions are filled by temporary employees, there axe thus only some seventeen postal officers for whom we have to provide. There should be a thorough investigation into the whole matter. It is all very well to say that some honorable member who held office in a previous Administration agreed to the erection of Commonwealth offices at Geraldton, or somewhere else; but what is the actual position? I have always regarded as a well-considered rule the provision that we should not erect quarters for public servants where they can obtain accommodation outside. I think that the only exception I made to that rule was when the residence provided for an officer at Roeburne was swept away by a hurricane, and the man had no chance of obtaining outside accommodation. If there has been any departure from that rule so far as Geraldton is concerned - and I do not think there has been - there must have been some good reason for it. The post master at Geraldton receives £432 per annum, and the Chief Customs officer is in receipt of a salary of £335. I should say that it was not proposed to provide quarters for both these officers, and I certainly hold that, wherever possible, ‘the provision for quarters should be struck out. If neither of these officers reside in these public buildings a caretaker might be necessary, but it is infinitely better to employ a caretaker whose family may assist him in cleaning the offices than to erect expensive quarters for the postmaster or the principal Customs officer.
– It is always advantageous to have a postmaster living on the postal premises.
– I have no wide experience of country constituencies, but postal employees in the metropolitan area object very strongly to living on the postal premises. I believe that is the general feeling amongst postal officers throughout Australia.
– Better quarters are usually provided in country districts.
– That is the very reason why we should be careful in erectingthese buildings. The Public Service Commis sioner will tell any one that compelling the officers to live in the official buildings has caused more trouble, I shall not say than anything else, but as much as anything else. I do not desire to move an amendment, because I am afraid that honorable members on the other side might think I had acted for some party purpose; but I think that honorable members on both sides will agree that the matter of accommodation should be considered carefully, with a view to seeing whether it is not possible to erect the< necessary buildings for a smaller sum than £16,500.
– The State Government buildings in some towns cost double that.
– In my travels in the various States I have seen some very extravagant buildings, for instance, the Customs House at Rockhampton, which is altogether too big for the place.
– Or the railway station at Maryborough, Victoria.
– Quite so.
– Surely the honorable member knows what Customs business is done at Rockhampton, which is second to Brisbane as a port?
-I know, but I think that too much expenditure in these directions has been authorized by various Parliaments.
– What is the revenue at Geraldton from the Customs ?
– I have not the figures here, but I merely contend that there has been extravagance in the erection of public buildings.
– And Queensland has been the biggest offender.
– These offices at Rock hampton were built twenty or thirty years ago ; perhaps the circumstances were like those of the Hobart Post Office, the view being taken that the Hobart people might have a good building as Federation was coming on and the Commonwealth would pay for it.
– That was not the position at all in regard to the Rockhampton buildings. I should say that 60 per cent. of the wool of Queensland goes through that port.
– That wool never gets near the Customs House, to which only the figures regarding the exports are taken.
– Is that not good enough?
– The Public Works Committee was instituted to inquire as to works estimated to cost over £20,000; but I think that, if that Committee’s field of inquiry had been extended, it would have been found possible to bring about great economy in connexion with buildings estimated to cost much smaller sums. In my opinion, the same care has not been exercised with public money as would be exercised by honorable members in the case of their own money. Of course, if this expenditure of £16,500 is justified, it ought to be passed; but I suggest further inquiry with a view to ascertaining whether less elaborate offices and quarters will not suffice. As I have said, I do not care to move for a reduction of the vote, but that seems the only course open to me, and I move -
That the item, “ Geraldton, Commonwealth offices - towards cost, £3,000,” be reduced by £1.
. -The Leader of the Opposition is very good at suggesting the reduction of expenditure on country offices, but the honorable gentleman has no knowledge whatever of the conditions under which officials have to live in these outback places.
– If the officials were left to private houses, they would not be able to live decently.
– Of course not. It is idle for the Leader of the Opposition to attempt to place the Rockhampton Customs House on the same level as the Hobart Post Office, for the former was erected when there was no idea of Federation. There is another Customs House at Townsville, and these two cities have a right to a proper public building. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the exports from a port do not affect the Customs House.
– They do not give any work to the Customs Department.
– Has the Customs work to be done on the wharf?
– Supposing there was a port at which no Customs revenue was collected, would the honorable member say there ought to be a big Customs House?
– There would be no need for a Customs House.
– The honorable member shouldtalk of imports, and not of ex ports, and tell us the Customs revenue collected.
– I can get that information. If there are no imports there is a big staff in the charge of the sub-collector; and the ex-Minister for Customs was guilty of a gross dereliction of duty in not stopping the unnecessary expenditure. Rockhampton, as I say, is the second port of Queensland.
– I know; but I think that most of the Queensland imports go. through Brisbane.
– That is not so. If there is one State more than another in which all business does not filter through the capital, it is Queensland. There is a port for Central Queensland, another for Northern Queensland, and others all up the coast; and there is scarcely any traffic from Central Western Queensland that does not go through Rockhampton. I shall support the Government in their proposition, because I know from personal and practical experience the difficulty which officers outback have to find quarters.
– Especially when they are married men.
– Quite so. I knew one man who had to go to such a place, and, for lack of quarters, was obliged to leave his wife in Brisbane.
– That does not apply to the proposal before us, because Geraldton is a city on the coast.
– Are the people to live in tents or balloons on the coast?
– There , are 4,000 people at Geraldton.
– Then all the more reason for good offices. Besides, these places grow, and, as was said in the early days of Federation, we must keep up the prestige of the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, it costs very little more to add quarters to the public offices; and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) knows that there is nothing better than a contented Public Service.
– But we are at war!
– I know it, if only from the factthat only £1,000 appears in the Estimates for the whole of Queensland, although a “ few bobs “ are to be spent in Victoria.
– I shall vote to strike all these items out if they are unnecessary.
– The honorable member is at perfect liberty to do so; but last night the Treasurer told us that these works are absolutely necessary; and I hope the Government will “ stick to their guns,” in spite of the “Little Pedlingtonian “ from the Yarra.
– I am sorry that the Minister representing the Department has not satisfied the Committee as to the absolute necessity for this expenditure.
– That is the Government plan !
– It is a bad plan at any time, and unpardonable now, in view of the fact that the Government told the country that they were going to practise the most rigid economy in public expenditure. It is right that proper quarters should be provided for the officials, and if any necessity had been shown for the expenditure of £16,000 odd at Geraldton, we might take no exception. This, however, is a very old town, which I believe is now more prosperous than ever from an agricultural point of view. The population is increasing, though not phenomenally; it is not like a mining field which experiences new and unexpected mushroom developments.
– They have six pubs!
– There are many towns which have six pubs, and the owners would like to sell them at a very low price, when the remaining two might be of some value. The question is whether this expenditure is justified, and is immediately necessary. Under any conditions the expenditure, in my opinion, is very large for a town ofthis population.
– What do the people expect to do with the buildings?
– I do not know. If Geraldton has got on fairly well up to date, why incur this expenditure in a time of war, especially, as I say, in view of the fact’ that the Government told the constituencies in every part of Australia that they were going to be an economizing Government - that they were going to scrutinize every item of expenditure, and undertake none that was not absolutely and immediately necessary ? This we have not been shown, and we have the pretty spectacle of the Winthewar Government being criticised by the Leader of the Opposition on the score of economy.
– Many of the critics do not know anything about the matter.
– Then we should know something about it. If the Leader of the Opposition calls for a division, I shall vote with him. Honorable members should be true to the professions they made during the elections in regard to economy. Possibly the Government may be able to justify this expenditure; but, until they do so, and until they justify any other expenditure of this character at this time, I shall vote against them in regard to it. /They must first justify the immediate necessity for any expenditure before I can vote for it, because I
Tegard it as criminal to incur any expenditure that is not absolutely necessary during this time of war, and because, owing to the present excessive cost of building, expenditure of this kind involves an additional load upon the taxpayer for all time. I ask honorable members of the National party to be true to their principles and declarations on the hustings in regard to public expenditure.
– The honorable membersays that no money should be spent unless there is justification for it; and the question. in regard to this item of £3,000 is whether the spending of that amount is justified or not. I have no political interest in the item to which the honorable member is objecting, but as I lived in Geraldton for some time, and represented the Geraldton electorate in the State Legislative Assembly, I can offer some little explanation in regard to it. It is not proposed to spend £16,000 upon a new postoffice in Geraldton during this year. Not more than £3,000 is provided for this year. It is a pity that the Minister in charge of the Estimates has not the information in regard to the receipts and expenditure of this particular post-office, because he could have shown that it is the third most important post-office in Western Australia outside Perth, and that its receipts are nearly equal to those of the Kalgoorlie Post-office. The present building is altogether inadequate. The telegraph operators and the clerks attending to the publicare compelled to work in the same room, and the public, at the counter, can see the operators at their work. It is not right that the public should he able to hear messages being received or transmitted.
-Will it take £16,000 to prevent it?
-I do not suppose it will; but when we consider that it costs £1,000 to build a small cottage of five or six rooms, we will not get anything very extraordinary in the shape of a public building for an expenditure of £16,000.
– There is a galvanizediron stable in Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, which is used for a telegraph office.
– I should say that it is good enough for Melbourne. There is a huge annual expenditure in placing telephone wires underground in the cities, and the loss on the telephone service for the cities of Australia amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds; yet there is nothing said about that expenditure or that loss by city members. The proposed expenditure will provide between twenty and thirty officers with proper accommodation, and will also cover the cost of a ibond store.
– What is the nature of the present building?
– It is a stone and brick structure, and the postmaster’s quarters are upstairs. The idea is to place all the Commonwealth buildings in the one block. That is a very desirable proposition. The post-office will serve not only a population of 5,000 in Geraldton itself, but also a population of between 30,000 and 40;000 in the district of which Geraldton is the centre. Around this town is the finest belt of wheat-growing country in Western Australia, a belt which is continually expanding; the copper mines of Northampton do their business through Geraldton, and the business of the Murchison goldfields, extending north and south for about 200 miles, also filters through the same town. In fact, there are about ten electorates in the State House which transact their business through Geraldton. Furthermore, it is the largest port on the western coast north of Perth. I admit that the present building could be patched up, and that accommodation could be provided with a smaller expenditure, but I do not think any honorable member would sanction a patched-up job for a solid town that is permanent and steadily growing. Iwould not object to deferring the construction of a post-office there if
I did not know that great inconvenience was caused by the present inadequate accommodation, and that the work of the Department cannot be carried on economically under present conditions. Something must be done for the sake of improving the conditions under which the employees in the Geraldton Post-office have to work, as well as for the sake of the economical working of the Department itself.
– I remind honorable members that the sum of £3,000 was voted for this building on last year’s Estimates. The fact that the money was not spent does not alter the necessity for providing an increase in the accommodation at Geraldton, which the honorable member has just described as utterly in. adequate. The Department is now paying £247 as rent for the present building.
– How far will the £3,000 go ? Will it tide the Department over a few years?
– The £3,000 is but a first instalment in connexion with the complete scheme, which will cost £16,000. The object is to have a building, at Geraldton that will house all the Commonwealth activities in that town.
– That is a very fine phrase.
– Considering the honorable member considered the Estimates with this item previously, I presume he understands it. I have not the information as to the rent paid for the present Customs House. The desire is to have all the Commonwealth agencies accommodated in one building - the postal work, the Customs work, and also the electoral work, and ultimately the quarantine work. The postal revenue in 1915-16 was £6,250. Geraldton is an important centre. It is a seaport from which four railways branch out, and it is the centre for a big back country.
– What is the Customs revenue?
– I have not the figures, but shall obtain them.
– Wool to the value of £250,000 was exported in one year.
– That is nothing.
– It is something. It indicates the importance of Geraldton. It is extraordinary how popular expenditure in a large city is, but once a decentralization policy is pursued, such as expendi- ture in an economic centre which must ultimately develop into an -important place on the Western Australian coast as Rockhampton, Townsville, and Cairns have developed on ,the Queensland coast, there is opposition. The departmental officers have had some regard for the future. It is cheaper to do so instead of proceeding in a piecemeal style, and having to tear down and rebuild later on.
– It means building at the costliest time.
– There is urgent necessity for building a new post-office at Geraldton. Of course, we can do without a great many works in a time of war, but it is considered advisable that this expenditure should be incurred for the efficient conduct of the postal and other business. The Government are keeping down expenditure to the greatest possible extent, and the works upon these Estimates’ are all of immediate urgency and necessity. Geraldton is a growing district, and its necessities have been appreciated. In fact, the work has already been delayed, and the Government have felt justified in placing this first instalment on- these Estimates. We hear the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) complaining of the parsimony of the Government in not doing anything for Queensland; but in order to provide for the efficient working of the services performed by the Commonwealth we must regard the Commonwealth as a whole, and carry out works of pressing necessity irrespective of the claims of different States.
– Is this one of those works ?
– It is regarded as an important work.
– By whom ?
– By the Postal Department. If honorable members reduce the amount, they will do so under a misapprehension.
– Surely we should have the information for which we are asking?
– I have said that the work is regarded as a necessary one. The intention is to house within the building all the Commonwealth activities of the’ place.
.- It is amusing to hear the Minister talking about economy when, as a matter of fact, the expenditure on new works last year was £2,535,641, and the Government proposes to spend this year £2,742,725.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the division under review..
– I do not know how the Minister can justify many of the items in this Estimate and satisfactorily explain the exclusion of proposals for works quite as necessary as the Geraldton post-office. I a’gree with the honorable member for Wakefield that we should not spend money on buildings at this present time if the existing offices can be made to serve. Building is most expensive now.
– It will be many years before it becomes less expensive.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie said that the present office could be patched up and made to do, and we should act in regard to public affairs as we do in regard to our private affairs. The expenditure of £200 or £300 to make the present building serviceable might be justifiable.
– There would have to be an extension of the present building.
– That does’ no* necessarily include the remodelling of the building.
– I think it would cost nearly £3,000 to do anything satisfactory.
– The Government tells us that only works that are urgently needed are being proceeded with, yet the Estimates show that this year they propose to spend on new works £200,000 more than was spent last year; and, although the greater part of this expenditure last year was out) of revenue, this year it is to be provided mainly from Loan Funds.
.- The statement of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) that the proposed works expenditure for this year is larger than that of last year seems to me not to touch the question. What we wish to know now is whether the proposed expenditure of £16,500 oh a post-office at Geraldton ia absolutely necessary. Very little information has been given to us on this subject. Although the work is said to be necessary, the money voted for it last year was not spent. A town with only 5,000 inhabitants cannot be called a large one.
– It la a seaport town.
– And there are 15,000 farmers living in the country immediately surrounding it.
– Up to the present time, the existing offices have served. As the honorable member for Batman pointed out, an iron shed has served as telegraph office for the City of Melbourne for many years. That being so, a small township should be prepared, at a time like this, to make its present postal accommodation do. It is possible that the expenditure of £3,000 might make the present accommodation satisfactory, but we are not told how the money is to be spent. It might be used merely to pay for foundations for a building to cost £16,500. At a time like this, when private persons put off building whenever they can, we should not commit the country to an expenditure, of £16,500 that does not seem justifiable.
– I suggest that the division be allowed to go, and I undertake that nothing shall be done in connexion with this work until a full explanation has been given to honorable members, and they have had an opportunity, if they so desire, to express their opinion on the matter. The Postmaster-General, within whose Department it falls, has-been ill for nearly a fortnight. I ask that the division be allowed to pass now, so that we may get on with the Estimates, and I give the assurance that honorable members shall have another opportunity, if they so desire, to consider this proposal after an explanation has been made to them.
– The right honorable gentleman promises distinctly that honorable members shall have an opportunity, if they so desire, to deal with this matter again?
-Yes, if they so desire
.- No one is more ready than I am to object to wasteful expenditure. I know Geraldton, and the present post-office there. Although that centre is an important one, that in itself would not, at the present time, warrant the expenditure of a large sum of money on a post-office there. It must be remembered, however, that the existing building is an abomination, and may be condemned by the health autho rities at any time as insanitary for the twenty or’ thirty men that are employed in it. The building is an old stone one, and, as Geraldton is close to the tropics, it is often intensely hot. Were the present accommodation condemned, the Government would probably be compelled to get other premises. There are large buildings which were erected many years ago, and were not required for the purposes for which they were erected, which, probably, could be obtained, but they would not be suitable, because theyare right away from the centre of the town. Last year money was put on the Estimates for the Geraldton Post-office, but I, as the member for the division in which the town is situated, did not urge the expenditure, because I thought that, this beingwar time, we ought not to spend more than was absolutely necessary. I think, however, that there should be some amount on the Estimates which the Government could use should it be compelled to do something to the building. The promise of the Minister for the Navy not to do anything until further information has been furnished should satisfy honorable members. If it be shown that health considerations require expenditure, I am sure that honorable members opposite will not object to the money being spent. While the present accommodation may be put up with, the building may at any time be condemned by the health authorities, and then the Government may be compelled to spend a large sum in alterations.
– I am informed that the Customs revenue of Geraldton is £15,652.
.- I suggest that this item should stand over” until more information has been furnished regarding it. As a rule, once its Estimates are passed, a Government does not pay much attention to the remonstrances of Parliament. The expenditure of £16,500. in Geraldton should provide accommodation for a picture show or a circus in addition to , a post-office; it would pay for a much larger building than would serve a town with twice the population. I understand that there are about 5,000 persons living at Geraldton, so the proposed post-office will cost about £3 10s. per inhabitant. At the present time building materials are very costly. Steel has been used a good deal in Com- monwealth structures of late years, and it is three times as costly now as it was a little while ago, and galvanized iron for roofing is four’ times as expensive as it was twelve months ago. We should let Geraldton put up with its present accommodation until building materials are obtainable at moderate prices. I believe that the people of Geraldton would be agreeable that this work should be postponed, and would commend us for practising economy. The expenditure of £16,500 at this port would not help to win the war, and I believe that when they have obtained further information on. the matter the Government will admit that they have been hasty in proposing to expend such a large sum in a place like Geraldton during war time.
– There is a danger sometimes of Ministers allotting certain sums of money for the carrying out of works which, although they do not come within the purview of the Public Works Committee, may be the foundation for the expenditure of many thousands of pounds. The absence of information in regard to this comparatively small item discloses a very peculiar state of affairs. At this period in our history we are asked to scrutinize expenditure more closely than ever, and we should have an assurance that any works which will ultimately cost £25,000 will be investigated by the Public Works Committee.
– Works such as the Cordite Factory at Maribyrnong.
– Although that factory is situated in one district, it is established for the benefit of the whole of Australia. It differs from a post-office which is to be built for the convenience of one small section of the community. The honorable member will agree, after the investigations which he and I, as members of the Public Works Committee, have made of expenditure at Naval Bases and elsewhere, that undertakings carried out by the Naval and Military authorities should not be excluded from the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. If any proposed works should be investigated by that body, they are particularly those carried out by the Naval and Defence Departments.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 2 (Home and Territories), £16,325
– There is a proposal here for the erection of a building for the Meteorological Bureau, in Sydney, at a cost of £4,950. After what we have been told by the honorable member for East Sydney in regard to the increased cost of materials, I should like some information in regard to this item, so that we may be able to judge whether there is justification for the expenditure.
– The Meteorological Bureau in Sydney is one of the biggest offices in connexion with the Meteorological Department, and up till the present time it has been accommodated in buildings owned by the New South Wales Government. On more than one occasion the State authorities have extended our tenure, but this year they gave us imperative notice to quit. There is no building in which to carry on the observations in Sydney, and it is therefore necessary to erect new, premises. This work is absolutely necessary, and cannot be postponed.
.- If the reasons mentioned by the Minister constitute the only justification for this expenditure the Committee should not agree to it. The erection of this building will not help us to win the war, or to do anything except to measure rainfall and record atmospheric conditions. That work can be very well done at the Observatory in Sydney. I sympathize with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) when he states that items of expenditure should not be agreed to unless it can be shown that they are definitely and urgently necessary for the welfare of the Commonwealth. This Meteorological Bureau is a luxury. It piles up records, some of which are1½ inches in thickness, and members receive copies, which are immediately relegated to the waste-paper basket. That fact provides evidence that economy could be effected in the printing of matter of this kind, which should be distributed only amongst those people in the community wh6 understand it. The provision of buildings for measuring rainfall and wind velocity can very well be deferred to a time when it is not necessary to tax the people so heavily as they are being taxed at the present time in order to provide money for the carrying on of the war. Looking at these Estimates, one would imagine that a considerable saving is being effected in public works expenditure, but when to this total of £1,257,000 is added the proposed loan expenditure we have a combined total of over £4,000,000. These figures as to expenditure out of revenue would lead one to believe that we were making enormous reductions in the Works Estimates, when as a matter of fact we are not. We are here as a Winthewar party to economize, and since this item will not help to win the war. I move-
That the item, “ Erection of building for Meteorological Bureau, Sydney, £4,950,’.’ be reduced by £1.
– I had not been ten days in the Department before I asked for a report on -every branch of expenditure within its control, and I have here to-day ‘a full report with regard to the Meteorological Bureau. I appreciate the criticism in which the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) has indulged on the score of economy, but would remind him that the safety of our shipping depends upon the accuracy of the information supplied by the meteorological bureau.
– But our ‘ships are all tied up at the wharfs !
– That may be, but the elements go on. As the boatswain says in the first act of The Tempest, “ If you can command these elements to silence, and work the peace of the present . . . use your authority.” The Meteorological Bureau does, from day to day, a lot of routine work, requiring the most careful observations and scientific knowledge. I have here a synopsis of that work.
– What premises are at present occupied by the officers of the bureau in Sydney ?
– They are housed in the Sydney Observatory, where stellar observations are made by the State Astronomical Department. The State deals, not with meteorology, but with astronomical matters. We have been occupying part of the Sydney Observatory, but have now to leave, since the State requires *the whole of the accommodation there. I made inquiry as to the necessity of erecting this building, and found that there ‘ was no escape from it. Our officers must continue in the same place, or as near as possible to it, in order to ensure accuracy in their forecasts.
– Half of the forecasts we receive are wrong !
– Human efforts are directed to ideals that are rarely attained. But for that we should not be in Parliament. After spending seventeen years in Parliament, as many of us have done, I think we should deal, where science is concerned, with a little liberality and judgment. I could obfuscate the intelligence of almost every honorable member, I believe, if I were to give the details of the work of this branch of the Department. Its work is very comprehensive. There is, for instance, a daily weather service. Bulletins, as well as maps, are issued, giving full information concerning the atmospheric elements, pressure, temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind direction, velocity, and sea disturbance throughout the Commonwealth. Again, there are daily rain maps, and daily weather charts and forecasts which, in the majority of cases, are fairly accurate.
– What would we suffer if we did not receive them for twelve month’s ?
– I do not think we should suffer if about nine-tenths of our current . civilization were abolished, norwould the people suffer very much if we were to shut up this chamber for a year or two. We have to be guided . by the average in human life, and the nearest approach to accuracy is that which we obtain from men of scientific training. We have established throughout the Commonwealth a number of stations. There are no less than 400 climatological stations and also 5,000 rainfall stations, while a whole series of observations are taken as regard floods, weather disturbances, and so forth. I may tell the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) that I obtained from the bureau some valuable information as to the possibility of agriculture being carried on in the Northern Territory.
– Most of the rain-gauge stations consist merely of a kerosene tin with a hole in it=-
– Some great ends are obtained by the simplest means, and I am glad that there is some simplicity in connexion with this bureau.
– Is it not strange that the State Government of New South Wales should “kick us out” of this building during the war?
– They are simply asking us to go. Our bureau deals only with moonshine, they think, while their Department deals with the stars. They ask us to leave because they require more room in connexion with their stellar observations.
– Have the Government purchased the land on which this building is to be erected?
– No. The bulk of this proposed vote is for buildings. We shall have to ereot buildings as near as possible to the site at which we have hitherto carried on these observations, and I have been advised by Mr. Hunt that the site proposed is the best for the purpose. I have here a departmental note setting out that the buildings now occupied by the bureau are the property of the State Government of New South Wales, who desire to obtain possession of them as soon as possible. The Meteorologist points out that it is most desirable that his records should not be disturbed, and so it has been decided to erect a building on a site which is State property, but leased to the Commonwealth for fifty years at £25 per annum. It is also pointed out that the present premises are ill-lighted and inconvenient, are very old, and fit only foT a storeroom. I have also gathered, from an oral examination of the officers, that we must provide for this accommodation, since the New South Wales Government cannot allow us to remain any longer at the Observatory.
.- The explanation given by the Minister ought to induce honorable members to vote for the amendment. The Treasurer, in his opening statement, said that he would not enter into details, as Ministers in charge of the Estimates of the various Departments would be here to give all the information desired. The Minister for Home and Territories has said that this item relates, not to his Department, but to that of the Minister for Works and Railways, who is not here.
– I did not say that.
– The work is under, the control of the Minister for Works and Railways. Why is he not here.?
– But the question of policy is not dealt with by him. I have given some particulars of the item.
– The explanation given by the Minister for Home and Territories is likely to lose him more votes than it will gain for the item. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) has reminded us that we are at war, and that the Government have promised to economize. The Minister should, in the circumstances, ask the State Government to allow our officers to remain at the State Observatory until the end of the war, as it is not convenient to erect buildings at this stage.
– I have asked, but have been told that the offices are required for the State service.
– According to the explanation read by the Minister, they are required “as soon as possible.” The references made by the honorable gentleman to the work performed by the officers of the Meteorological Bureau would be very much to the point if we were, proposing to abolish the bureau and its work, but since we are not making any such proposition, they have nothing to do with the question. I hope that the honorable member for Henty will stand by his amendment.
Mr. FINLAYSON (Brisbane) [5.181.- I am prepared to support the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) in his proposal to reduce the item as an indication to the Government that they should not proceed with the erection of the proposed new building; but I do not agree with his suggestion that the whole of the work of the Meteorological Bureau should be abandoned for a year. The whole value of meteorological records depends upon their permanency and continuity. To suspend for one year the taking of meteorological records in Sydney would throw the whole system out of gear. We have it that the work has been carried on for some considerable time in an unsuitable building, but the records seem to go on. As a member of the Public Works Committee, I know that some most valuable information as to the rainfall in the Federal Capital Territory was obtained from the meteorological records in Sydney. I believe that if the State Government were appealed to we might be allowed to continue in the occupation of the present accommodation,and should thus bo able to economize to the extent of this item of £4,000.
Question - That the item “ Erection of building for Meteorological Bureau, Sydney, £4,950,” be reduced by £1- put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I should like a little information regarding the item of £11,000 for “ Sundry preservative works “ at theFederal Capital. I understand that during the last financial year Mr. Griffin, the Director of Design and Construction, built a railway, or purchased some rails and other material for a railway and a bridge to cross the Molonglo from the existing terminus to what is called, by that gentleman, the proposed civic centre in the capital. I never could get any information as to who authorized the expenditure, but I am perfectly satisfied that this railway will not be of any use towards the completion of the Capital during the time that most of the members of this Parliament will live. I should like the Minister to explain whether this item to which I have drawn attention will cover such expenditure as that on this railway - whether any of that work will be done under this vote, and, if so, what ?
– The ex pression “ preservative works,” is rather indefinite, and I do not know that I can father it; but it covers two principal works. It will be remembered that about two months ago we practically shut down the works at the Federal Capital, and this vote is really to pay for works carried out up to the time we did so. There was a vote of about £20,000 for avenues, but that was knocked on the head, though one, I think the Adelaide avenue, had to be completed up to a certain time, and paid for to the extent of £5,000 or £6,000. This vote is really for the completion of works between the 30th June and when we stopped work.
– Has this money been expended?
– Yes, I think so. I do not think the term “ preservative works “ was the one to apply, but it is a Treasury designation.
– Is the vote for the nurseries ?
– No; there is a special vote for the nurseries. This rather deals with large works such as the avenues. I practically stopped all work except those we had in hand.
– This is to protect work that has been done.
– Is it not new expenditure?
– No, it is practically a re-vote. As to the railway, about which a question has been asked, there is on the Loan Estimates about £8,400 for that work, which will complete the line from Queanbeyan to that part of the city site known as the business centre. It has been constructed for about5½ miles from Queanbeyan to thepower-house, and it is of 80-lb. rails, and will form part of the line across the Territory. It will run, as I say, to that part of the city known as the business centre, a distance of about 3½ miles. I do not know how much, but some work had been begun, including part of the bridge, when we ceased work; and it was suggested to me that it would be just as well to finish it. I know there will be a doubt about the expediency of doing so; and at first Cabinet intended not to go on with it, but the matter was considered, and it was thought better to complete the work. It means the finishing of the construction of what is called the tramway, or that portion of the line from the power-house, and it will cost about £8,000.
– It will cost a good deal to cross the Molonglo.
– A bridge has to be put across the Molonglo. I was told that some of the material had already been bought or contracted for, and, asa matter of fact delivered. Not very much of the line had been built, but I believe that practically all the material had been ordered or delivered. I was told that it would help the development of the agricultural interests of the Territory. At present, we receive about £28,000 a year in rents, though the actual cash received is about £23,000, the balance representing concessions, or covenants entered into by thelessee to clear the ground of rabbits, erect fencing, and do other work.
– Those rentals apply to the whole of the Territory ?
– Yes. We have spent about £661,000 in the purchase of land, and we must try to guard ourselves against loss. There is a vote on the Estimates of about £112,000 in connexion with land acquired, but in dispute and not paid for. I went into the matter very carefully, and, as I say, I waa informed that the continuation of the line would help the development of the agricultural interests. I do not know that it will have any great effect at once, for I think we shall not get very much return from the Territory until the Capital is built, and there is population there. However, we have purchased nearly 200, 000 acres of land, and it is our duty to make the best of it; and, as one of the instrumentalities, this railway may serve a subsidiary purpose.
– If the Minister will assure the Committee that no portion of the £11,000 will be spent on the railway or bridge which Mr. Griffin has been constructing, I have no more to say.
– I forgot to mention that very little of the vote will go towards the railway, which has been practically shifted to the Loan Estimates. In addition to the preservative works, the vote will cover about £5,000 of liabilities incurred for material for the railway.
– Sleepers, and such like?
– I do not exactly know what the material is; and on this point the Works Department could give more information.
– The Minister for Works and Railways promised a full explanation.
– I have only the general knowledge that a quantity of material has already been ordered - to the extent of about £5,000 - and we cannot get out of the contract. That is the part of the vote that will be allotted to the railway.
– I am puzzled by the explanation given by the Minister as to why this item is called “ preservative works.” I thought at first it was to provide for the upkeep of existing roads and so forth, but, apparently, it is a new work.
– Of the item, £5,000 is for material for which we have to pay. The balance is for completing work begun up to the time when we shut down on works at the Federal Capital. The item is thus preservative of the line already built.
– It is rarely one can criticise the distinguished literary authority now occupying the office of Minister controlling the Federal Territory in regard to the clarity of his English; but in this case, the calling of such a vote preservative is certainly open to question.
– I may save my reputation by saying that I did not give it that name, and I do not know how on earth the word came to be used.
– The Minister has given an explanation which is voluminous and complete, if somewhat unclear,butIsuppose that it is the best that we can expect. It is time this Parliament arrived at a final determination as to what it intends to do in regard to the Federal Capital. I would not mind leaving this project absolutely alone until after the war, provided that the Government retrench in a similar way, and at the same time, all over Australia. In any case, I think the Government should tell us at an early date what they intend to do with the Capital. As far as I can make out from the Minister’s estimation, the only new expenditure there ‘to which they are actually committed at the present juncture is that which cannot be avoided in connexion with claims for compensation in regard to land.
– And that in regard to keeping what works have been completed going, the power-house for instance; also afforestation and the development of the land itself.
– We must preserve existing works.
– That is where the term “preservative” comes in.
– I can accept the assurance of the Minister that he is not initiating new socialistic works in that Territory, such as jam factories, &c.
– I have no desire to supplement the persiflage of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, or to become too seriousover the matter; but I happen to know that the amount placed upon these Estimates is the very minimum that could be reached after a verycareful discussion between the Treasurer and Mr. Griffin. The latter gentleman recognises the fairness of the contention that all public works should be stopped, and I know that he has satisfied the Treasurer that the amount now proposed to be voted is the very minimum that will secure the preservation of the works that are now proceeding. I have been an advocate, I candidly confess, of more expenditure at the Federal Capital, but I have not been successful. This expenditure, as the Minister has’ explained, is merely to keep going work which has been done, and to pay for material that has already been ordered.
.- The explanation given by the Minister is not as satisfactory as that which he gave last night.. The laying down of a surface line from the power-house to the proposed civic centre at Canberra is nothing but a wicked and wilful waste of public money which Parliament was never asked to authorize. I understood the Minister to say that £5,000 was to go towards payment for material for this work.
– The £5,000 has to be paid for material already ordered. We cannot get out of our contracts.
– It may be an unimportant item, but I regard this expendi- . tura of £5,000 in war time as wicked and wasteful expenditure, without any authorization from this House.
– A debt incurred must be paid.
– It shows the slipshod fashion in which work is conducted behind the backs of honorable members. Yet we are held responsible by our con stituents for the expenditure of every penny shown on these Estimates.
– All of the material was ordered during the last financial year.
– I am speaking in general terms in condemnation of the manner in which expenditure has been incurred at the Federal Capital. I want to know who authorized the ordering of the material, and on whose authority the work was carried out. Some of us know something about this particular work. Some of us have traversed the Capital site over and over again. With the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story), I question whether in the lifetime of some of the younger honorable members of this House it will be proved that this length of3½ miles of railway is necessary. If we had called for designs for the erection of the Parliament buildings, or any other big institution near to where Parliament House is tobe erected, I could understand light tramways being run to it from the ‘present terminus of the railway, in order to take material over them for the construction of the building; but the explanation we have had in regard to facilitating the operations of agriculturists is not worth a snap of the fingers. It is not sufficient reason to advance to honorable members with any degree of intelligence for indulging in this expenditure.
– That argument may be applied to any of the works at the Federal Capital.
– To a certain extent, that is so, but the more it is applied the more it bears out what I say. I do not blame the present Minister any more than his predecessors. It seems to have been the policy to ask Parliament to vote £300,000, £400,000. or £500,000, and very often the Minister at the table has not been able to supply any information in connexion with the items on which the money wasto be spent. To-day we have a party in power which prates about economy, and yet they ask” us to pass this item when the money might just as well have been tipped into Hobson’s Bay for all the utility it will be at the Federal Capital.
– When did the honorable member begin to feel his sense of repentance?
– I had nothing to do with the selection of Canberra as the site for the Federal Capital. That was the initial mistake, and building a city under the conditions prevailing there will mean that the Capital will cost this country a huge sum of money. But, he that as it may, if I consider any expenditure is wilful waste of money, it is criminal on my part to remain silent. No proof is forthcoming that the expenditure of this £5,000 is necessary, and I do not believe that any authorization was given by this House for it. It seems to me that in some Departments some officers can get the ears and the support of members of Parliament by telling them stories in regard to certain works, and by supplying them with certain information. If honorable members listen to the twaddle of certain individuals who are departmental officers for the time being, and permit the expenditure of money without justification, they are recreant to their promises to the people and to the best principles that should characterize the actions of members of Parliament. Rich as Australia is, I do not think that it can afford to spill £5,000 here and £5,000 there on works of no utility.
– The honorable member is a changed man. I have never heard him say this before.
– The honorable member for Parkes is a changed man. With all the patronage he can control he is endeavouring to father this” item through the Estimates.
– Because I know that it cannot be avoided. It is for material that has been ordered. Of what use is it to hold a post mortem now?
– I am not holding a post mortem on the item. Have all the rails been purchased? Have all the excavations been made? Has the bridge been built across the Molonglo River?
– I understand that it is not yet completed.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay again knows more than Ministers.
– I was there the other day.
– I know that some honorable members were at the Federal Capital the other day. We have too much of these visits for certain purposes.
– Has the honorable member been to the Federal Capital?
– I have been there more often than the honorable member for
Parkes, and, without boasting,I can say that I know more about the Capital site than the honorable member knows. It has fallen to my lot as a member of the Public Works Committee to inquire into some of the expenditure there.
– Is it a sin to go to the Federal Capital?
– The honorable member should retain his composure. I have been there more often than the honorable member, and I have been able to play a little part in endeavouring to save the Commonwealth a little money. I am surprised to hear a prominent economist of the National party saying that! we might just as well go on with this expenditure.
– I say that we should pay our debts.
– We can stop the construction of the line. We can store the material.
– Economy is not parsimony.
– I am not preaching parsimony.
– The honorable member is preaching non-payment of debts. The material has been bought.
– The honorable member is in an excitable state of mind, and I can excuse him. I believe that we can save fully £2,000 or £3,000 on this item. Some of the material has been purchased, and probably some of the work has been done but if other works at the Federal Capital could be stopped at the instruction of a certain individual, this particular work could have been hung up at the same time. Some individuals wish certain work in the Territory to be proceeded with, but not other work.
Mr.SAMPSON (Wimmera) [5.51]. -The Minister has stated that £5,000 of the £11,000 that is asked for is to be used to pay for materials already purchased. There is also in the Loan Estimates an item of £8,300 for the construction ofa surface line ofrailway. It is generally agreed that the public works in the Territory which have already been constructed must be kept in good order, and ‘that a certain expenditure is necessary to that end. But we should not spend anything on new works which are not necessary. As a member of the Works Committee, I have visited the Territory, and I know, that this surface line will not serve any useful purpose except constructional work. As a feeder to settlement it would be of very little value, being only 3 or 4 miles in length. As no constructional work is now going on, the railway is unnecessary. I hope that the Minister will take into consideration the suggestion of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that the rails and sleepers that have been ordered be stacked and stored, or, perhaps, used on some other railway. I hope, too, that he will take out of the Loan Estimates the item of £8,000 odd, providing for the construction of this surface line.
– These matters are receiving consideration.
– Can the Minister say what weight of rails has been ordered?
– I think 80-lb. rails. The line is to form part of a main line to cross the Territory.
– In the course of time there is to be a line connecting Queanbeyan and Yass, and crossing the Territory within the city ‘area, where it will be depressed, so that the roadways may ‘be taken over it. The proposed line, however, is merely a surface line for constructional work, and, undeT present circumstances, is unnecessary. No doubt heavy rails were purchased so that they could be used in the permanent line.
– The Minister has given a very fair explanation of this item, and I cannot understand the excitement of the honorable member foT Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) in regard to it. It wouldbe well to get a report from the Engineer in Chief for Railways regarding the railway that has beenreferred to. My opinion is that it is a Griffin proposal, sanctioned by the ex-Minister, and that the Engineer in Chief for Railways knows nothing about it. All matters of this kind should be submitted for report to our engineers, who are as competent to advise on engineering matters as any engineers in the country. If Parliament permits work to be sanctioned without the obtaining of professional advice, there will be a tremendous loss of public money. Parliament should see that Ministers who would sanction works without getting professional advice are not kept in office. Those (responsible for selecting such a Minister should take the blame of the present situation, instead of seeking to gain kudos by excitedly advocating the reduction of the item. No railway should be constructed until the advice of competent engineers has been obtained, and Parliament has authorized its construction. There’ are some ugly rumours regarding this particular work. It is said that a job lot of metals was bought.
– By whom ?
– By the wise man who controlled the Territory. The present Minister is no more responsible than is the honorable member or myself. He is doing the best he can, and is giving the Committee what information he has. We must pay for the materials that have been ordered. There is a howl now about the wasting of public money, but the responsibility should be placed on the right shoulders. There was a Minister in power who allowed ‘a certain officer to do whatever he liked in the Territory, and ignored the advice of his engineers. The outcry against the item is merely to obtain notice in to-morrow’s newspapers. This sort of humbug and hypocrisy should be put down.
– The materials referred to were ordered before I took office.
– Who was the responsible Minister?
– Mr. O’Malley. Now we have to face our responsibility. If we choose to let our affairs be muddled we cannot evade our liabilities. The materials having been ordered, we must pay for them.
.- I am not, satisfied with the explanation of the Minister.
– The honorable member has exhausted his right to speak.
Proposed Vote agreed to.
Division3 (Quarantine), £98,571
.- Last year £80,000 was voted, and £76,622 spent by the Quarantine Department on new buildings and stations, alterations, and additions, including sites, and this year it is proposed to expend £59,442 in that way. In attacking this proposal I cannot be accused of being actuated by State feeling, as the various States seem to be similarly treated. I do not know why this expenditure is needed. I have visited the principal quarantine stations in Australia, and am of the opinion that unless an epidemic be expected the proposed expenditure is grossly extravagant in the present time of war. If there is any expenditure which could at the present time be allowed to stand over, it is expenditure on the quarantine stations. It is proposed to spend. £9,300 at Portsea, bub I venture to say that if that amount be spent there the money will be wasted, the accommodation at Portsea being sufficient to meet any likely demands during the nextfew years.
– It has always been described as quite insufficient.
– The Department has been subjected to criticism regarding it whenever cases have been sent there.
– I have been through the grounds and buildings, which, in my opinion, are as good as any that could be erected to-day. In incurring this expenditure at the present time, when the prices of material are so high, we shall not get value for our money. A block of land on the Yarra, between the Coode Canal and the old river-course, is being utilized for a quarantine ground. On the occasion of the last outbreak of plague that area was covered with wooden buildings, and the facilities then provided for dealing with plague cases metall requirements. The idea seems to have got into the minds of the men who framed theseEstimates that any buildings to be constructed by the Commonwealth must be of the most expensive and elaborate type. At such a time as this, the people’s representatives should take a stand and prevent money being squandered.
– The quarantine stations have only recently been taken over by the Commonwealth, and we are putting them in good order.
– Then we must assume that the condition in which they were handed over by the States was so shocking as to be a disgrace to civilization.
– It was.
– I do not think the stations were in as bad a condition as the honorable member suggests. Admitting that they were not quite up to date, the expenditure of £76,000 on them last yeaT must have gone a considerable way towards putting them in proper order.
– There is hardly any new work included in these votes.
– I think it would be wise of the Minister to give an explanation of the items, so that we may know where we are.
– Although quarantine passed under the control of the Commonwealth some time ago, an investigation of the stations throughout the Commonwealth had to be made. It was found that in some of the States the conditions were such that we had to completely remodel the stations and establish new centres to meet the changed conditions. Last year, the sum of £80,000 was provided for the erection of new buildings and conveniences, and of that sum £76,522 was spent. Ishall give to the Committee particulars of the amounts to be expended in each State, and the nature bf the proposed expenditure. For New South Wales we are providing £5,399, of which only £394 is for new works, which consist of sewerage and fencing. The balance is for the completion of works authorized last year. In Victoria, we estimate to expend £9,350 at Nepean and Royal Park. Of that amount, only £1,944 is for minor new works, including road making, fencing, sewerage, and minor alterations in buildings. In Queensland, the estimated expenditure is £12,838, of which £4,865 represents new expenditure, and the balance of the £12,838 provides for the completion of the new buildings at Lytton, Cairns, Townsville, and Thursday Island. It was realized that, owing to their adjacency to the Orient, it was important to have up-to-date quarantine buildings at our. northern ports. Of the amount of £4,865, £1,800 is for the provision of cottages for launchmen at Lytton, as a consequence of the new policy of examining the larger boats lower down the river. Other proposed works include disinfecting apparatus, tramway, and train at Thursday Island, and minor works, such as roadways, mortuary, mooring buoys, &c. Ofthe sum of £15,000 estimated for South Australia, all but £2,318 is for the completion of works previously authorized. The new work is the erection of a retaining wall to prevent the incursion of high tides at the quarantine station at Torrens Island. Western Australia is another State in which we have had to make extensive provision for quarantine purposes. The estimate this year is £15,415, of which new works will absorb £2,631, which will be used for improving the existing quarantine station at Geraldton, and some minor works at Geraldton and Bunbury. Only £1,440 is provided for Tasmania, and that includes £1,200 for the erection of a caretaker’s cottage and for carrying out other minor works as a commencement on the reconstruction of the quarantine station at Barnes Bay. Honorable members will understand from the particulars I have given that nearly the whole of the money asked for in these Estimates is for the completion of works previously authorized, and that we are not undertaking any new works of considerable magnitude.
.- The quarantine service was taken over by the Commonwealth, and a Director of Quarantine was appointed in 1909. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, in 1910, the Government had under consideration a proposal for carrying out works which would bring the whole of the quarantine stations of Australia up to date. Before embarking upon the suggested expenditure, the Government sent Dr. Norris, the Director of Quarantine, on a trip round the world for the purpose of making investigations which would insure the expenditure of money to the best possible advantage. Since that date three or four Ministers have had control of the Customs Department, but I do not think the wisdom of sending Dr. Norris on that trip has ever been questioned. Any honorable member who has ever been in quarantine will admit that even the most up-to-date quarantine establishment in Australia - that at North Head, Sydney - is by no means perfect. I understand that most of the money provided on the Estimates is merely for the carrying out of. work that was recommended as a result of Dr. Norris’s investigations. There has been one addition to those proposals, namely, the making of provision in Queensland to cope with any outbreak of yellow fever, the danger of which , has been increased by the opening of the Panama Canal. I think that all the money provided for quarantine works has been, and is being, spent to the best possible advantage. Another interesting item in this division is that of “ Isolation hospitals for seamen, £9,118.” At the present time, seamen and others employed on vessels who, on arrival in port, are found to be in fected with venereal disease are treated in our quarantine stations. I am rather surprised that no part of the proposed expenditure under that heading is to take place in Victoria. I do not think any action has been taken to provide in this State an isolation hospital for such pases. As the result of certain occurrences, the Quarantine Department considered it necessary in the interests of the travelling public to make this provision. On the occasion of my last visit to the Sydney Quarantine Station, I saw there some twenty or thirty persons who had been taken off various vessels, and were suffering from venereal disease. The cost of the treatment of these cases is borne, not by the Commonwealth, but by the owners of the vessels from which the men are taken. Quarantine is practically an insurance against the introduction of disease into the Commonwealth, and we could scarcely spend our money in a better way than in bringing our quarantine stations as nearly as possible up to date. While I have taken, and shall take, exception to other items in these Estimates, I do not think any objection can be made to those relating to the quarantine service. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) proposed to make some reference to the item relating to the Serum Institute. When I held office as Minister for Trade and Customs it was decided to establish that institute, and Dr. Penf old was selected and asked to come to Australia to take charge of it.
– Is he here now ?
– I understand that he is. It was considered by the Quarantine Department, which is really a Commonwealth Department of Health, that we should, prepare our own serums. The desirableness of doing so was brought under our notice soon after the war broke out. It will be remembered that there was then a serious outbreak of cerebro-spinal meningitis in Australia, and it was considered that the meningitis serum which we were obtaining from America could not possibly beas good as that which wecould prepare here. Such an institute is a valuable means of protecting the health of the people. The question as to whether the Serum Institute should be associated with the Calf Lymph Dep6t at Royal Park is a matter of policy to be determined by the Government. When I held office I was of the opinion that the institute should be established at the Federal Capital.
– Is there any necessary connexion between the Serum Institute and the Calf Lymph Depot at Royal Park? As a reason for establishing the institute in Melbourne, it has been urged that there is.
– I do not think there is any necessary connexion, save that the officers engaged in preparing vaccine at the Calf Lymph Depot at Royal Park could also do certain work for the Serum Institute. From a departmental point of view, it would also be desirable to have it at Royal Park, since it would then come under the direct supervision of the Director of Quarantine. Apart from those considerations, I think it would be advisable to have it at the Federal Capital. Every item relating to the quarantine service is designed to give effect to the policy inaugurated by the Government of which I was a member, and under which it was proposed to spread over a number of years the expenditure necessary to improve our quarantine accommodation. Some of the items, such as that relating to the isolation hospital for seamen and the Serum Institute, are, however, absolutely new. As far as concerns the other items, Dr. Norris laid out the plan which is now being followed in regard to quarantine, and I do not think that any exception can be taken to the items relating to the Department.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to7.45 p.m.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 4 (Lighthouses), £1,000; division 5 (Trade and Customs), £14,714; division 6 (Defence), £222,488; division 7 (Post Office Buildings), £86,588, agreed to.
Division 8 (Commonwealth railways), £11,087.
.- According to these Estimates it is proposed to transfer the expenditure on the Katherine River railway to loan account, and I Bhould like to hear from the Minister whether it is proposed to deal with this and similar items immediately, or to first have the general debate on the Budget ?
– That was practically promised by the Government last night.
– So far as I know, an opportunity will be given to debate the whole question.
– What I desire to know is whether we shall have an opportunity to debate the Budget generally before we are asked to vote for the construction of works and buildings to the amount of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 out of loan moneys? Is it intended to hang up the whole of the works, including the arsenal, the naval bases, the Commonwealth railways, and so. forth, until we have debated the Budget?
– I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition was present last night when the matter was mentioned, and I suggest that he consult the Minister for the Navy, who was then leading the House.
– I think the Minister for the Navy gave an assurance.
– As I understand, the Minister gave an assurance, in reply to a question I put, that on the first item in the General Estimates there would be a general debate on the finances.
– That does not answer the point I raised, which was whether these works would be held up until we have had that debate.
– Many of the works are being gone on with already.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 9 (Northern Territory), £30,000; and division 10 (Papua), £285, agreed to.
Postmaster-General’ s Department.
Division 11 (Telegraphs and telephones), £399,178.
.- This is another instance of where works have’ been transferred to loan account. Last year, for the construction of conduits and laying wires underground, we appropriated £146,592 for New South Wales, £18,770 for Victoria, £34,080 for Queensland, £15,088 for South Australia, £29,000 for Western Australia, and £7,280 for Tasmania, and this year we are asked to appropriate a larger total, namely, £270,811, the whole of which has been transferred to loan account. Then, this year, no details are given, whereas last year all the necessary information was set out. Unfortunately, the PostmasterGeneral is away at present, but we ought to be afforded more information in regard to these particular items, considering that over ‘ a quarter of a million of money, which was previously obtained from revenue, is now to be obtained out of the Loan Fund. We have not heard whether it is proposed to go on with this very necessary work, although during the past few years we have been laying the wires underground, and the whole of the experts agree that it is the better and cheaper way. I am anxious to hear the reason why the Government have adopted the policy of transferring to loan, works that hitherto have been paid for out ‘ of revenue. In Victoria, as in the other States, some works of this kind have been paid for out of revenue, and some out of loan moneys; and this, of course, must cause difficulty in keeping the accounts clear. I should prefer the Government to follow the old procedure, adopted from, practically, the commencement of Federation, of paying for these works out of revenue. Those honorable members who were here in the first session will remember that, when the Estimates were before us, there was a proposal to borrow £500,000 for various works; but there was an amendment carried, which was taken as an instruction, that, as far as possible, necessary works should be constructed out of revenue. Of course, large works such as those connected with the Capital City and the transcontinental railway, may be constructed out of loan moneys, but it is a different matter in the case of comparatively small items. We ought to have a fuller statement from the Minister in charge, and I ask : What is the policy of the Government in this connexion t
. I should quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition were I not fully acquainted with the fact that the PostmasterGeneral, when I was a member of the Ministry, did all he possibly could to curtail his expenditure for the year. In conversation, he “agreed with me that it would not be wise to go in for an extensive policy of telegraph and telephone work, seeing that copper wire is now considerably dearer than under normal conditions. It is possible to charge certain new works’ to loan, but I do not believe in so treating renewal work, such as new poles in the case of .telegraph or telephone lines already in existence.
– That is not attempted here.
– It is not, and I merely mention this because I know such a thing has been done.
– lt is quite possible that the system of laying the lines now proposed may be out of date in ten years, and the idea of charging the work to loan is absurd.
– That is why we ought to be careful. If we do charge much of this work .to loan, we shall require a large sinking fund.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we should be in a position to review the items to be charged to loan account, but last night the Minister for the Navy gave us to understand that if we passed these Estimates the Loan Estimates would be introduced in due course, and upon them we would have the fullest opportunity of criticising the expenditure which has been transferred to loan funds. He also promised that) each Minister would submit the fullest information in detail ; and he assured the Committee that the works necessary for giving employment were confined to the Estimates now before us. It was on that distinct understanding that I, for one, agreed to facilitate the passing of these Works Estimates’.
.- I must express my utter disgust! and indignation at the- action of the Ministry in transferring ‘certain items from revenue expenditure to loan fund. Those who have any knowledge of the administration of affairs in Australia know well that in the past, State Governments have been condemned for having spent loan moneys on things for the use of the public which have a very short life. Sir George Reid furnished Sydney Government House with crockery and spoons out of loan funds. I am pleased that the Government that I supported on my entry into public life decided to spend revenue on works’ with lives of short duration. I think I am correct in saying that though copper wire may have a long life the insulation surrounding the wire has a very short life, and that with the destruction of the insulation the copper wire becomes useless. Therefore I cannot agree to the inclusion of expenditure on undergrounding telephone wires in Loan Estimates.
– Will there be a sinking fund for this undergrounding expenditure!
– If the honorable member had as much knowledge of the world as I have, be would know that a sinking fund is the greatest farce we could possibly have, because, if we’ have a sinking fund of £1,000,000, we simply borrow £2,000,000, and use half of it to create the sinking fund. I cannot understand any Parliament entertaining such an unjust and erroneous system pf administering the affairs of the country as to spend loan funds on undergrounding wires for the telephone services. A poverty-stricken private firm might issue debentures in order to run it’s concern, but even .then its debentures would not have more than a few years’ life. Here we have a Government with a large revenue proposing to spend loan moneys on work that will have a very short life. A Papuan or an Australian aboriginal with a large sum of loan money at his back could manage the affairs of Australia as well as honorable members opposite are managing them now. No schoolboy would be so lacking in intelligence as to spend loan moneys on laying telephone wires underground. Since the telephones were first instituted in Sydney about twenty-five years ago the system has been altered five or six times, and we do not know that we have even now the most perfect system in operation. To ask the Parliament of Australia to permit of telephone wires, switchboards, and other telephone material being purchased out of loan moneys is to ask it to consent to the administration of affairs in a manner that is diametrically opposed to the best interests of the Commonwealth. It is asking unborn generations to pay for the telephones which we use to-day 3 I do not want my children’s children tt> pay for any advantages that I enjoy and should pay for. These telephone wires must deteriorate. The best insulation has not more than a life of ten years. The honorable member for Wakefield stated this afternoon that the Committee ought to accept the promise of the Minister for the Navy in regard to not proceeding with certain works, but my experience in this Parliament, and what I have seen in the New South Wales Parliament, tells me that when the Government of the day gets its Estimates, it does not care a snap of the fingers for what members may say. Parliamentary criticism then is of no more effect than a mustard poultice on a wooden leg for the curing of a cold.
Unless we block these Estimates until some definite promise has been obtained from the Ministry, we shall not secure the reforms that we desire. It will be a disgrace to Parliament if we permit the charging to Loan Fund- of works which, in their nature, can have but a very short life. There is nothing in regard, to which members are, as a rule, so devoid of knowledge as the items which make up a set of Estimates, and I am more convinced of that at the present time than I ever was before. My present attitude is determined by principle, and would be the same if any other Government were in power. I take a keen interest in financial matters, and read everything relating to finance that comes my way. I admire a certain weekly journal for its contention that the State Parliaments and this Parliament have always been too ready to place to. loan account expenditure which should be borne out of revenue. Although the British Parliament is composed largely of lawyers and railway magnates, it is more careful in financial matters than are Australian politicians. But, even in the House of Commons, the conclusion has been come to that honorable members should have more information respecting Estimates than they have hitherto had, and arrangements have been made to that end. It is no pleasure to me to oppose the passing of these Estimates. My desire is to give the Government every assistance. I have prayed to God that it may bring forward some measure which will help to the winning of the war, but I cannot remain silent when it is proposed to pay for perishable works out of loan. We should get from the Government the promise that this will not be done.
– To what items is the honorable member referring?
– To Item 7 of Division 11, “ Construction of conduits and laying wires underground,” is attached this note,’ “ To be provided from Loan Fund in 1917-18.”
– But no vote for this work is asked for in the Estimates now under discussion. The Loan Bill is not now before the Committee.
– My point is that works of this kind should be paid for out of revenue. They should not be charged to Loan Fund. At every opportunity I get I shall object to that.
.- The .Government have decided that all substantial buildings, such as the Perth Postoffice, for which we are providing £45,000, are to be paid for out of loan money, because they constitute an asset which ia to be handed down to future generations, and may endure for 200 years. The telephone conduits and the wires placed in them are of such a character that they will have a minimum life of fifty years. That being so, it is the policy of the Government ‘that all substantial buildings, and all conduits, shall ia future be constructed out of loan account.
.- Through the absence of the PostmasterGeneral the Committee is at a great disadvantage to-night, because the proposed expenditure in his Department totals nearly £400,000, out of a total of £1,257,000. I wish to elicit some information in regard to the automatic telephone system. In some centres of population tile telephone service is in a very congested state, and I should like the Treasurer to inform the Committee whether automatic equipment is available, so that the proposed new automatic exchanges can be brought into operation at an early date.
– Provision has been made for one automatic exchange in Sydney, and another in Melbourne, I believe.
– The Public Works Committee long ago approved of automatic extensions in two Melbourne exchanges, and in either one’ or two exchanges in Sydney.
– Provision has been made for them.
– When may we expect these automatic exchanges to be completed, so that those centres which are being starved in< the matter of telephones may enjoy an adequate and up-to-date service? Some of the exchanges were overcrowded with subscribers months ago, and I suppose it is only because of the war that we have not heard complaints from all over the Commonwealth.
– Even before these Estimates were brought before Parliament, the Postmaster-General was very insistent in asking me to authorize him to enter into contracts for two new extensions of the automatic system, one in New South
Wales, and the other in Victoria. Eventually he got his way. Honorable members will see that last year only £16,000 was spent on new switchboards and extensions in New South Wales, whereas we propose to spend £84,000 this year in that State, whilst in Victoria £4,000 was spent, as against an estimate of £60,000 for this year. It is not expected that the whole of “the equipment for which orders have gone forward will be available and installed this year, but I know that the Postmaster-General is very anxious to proceed with the work.
– They have not started to build exchanges yet.
– But they will be built if this vote is agreed to.
.- I am sorry that the Postmaster-General is not present. When we reach the main items I hope that honorable members generally, and especially those who represent country constituencies, will have something to say in regard to the administration of the Postal Department in relation to the out-back districts. The way those districts are treated in the matter of mail and telephone services is absolutely disgraceful. We are always expressing a desire to get people to go out back and build up the country, and when they go there, Parliament will give them nothing. There is no greater enemy to the man in the back country than this Parliament. Everything that is required for the cities is given at once, but if a telephone or mail service is desired for a country district, the people are at once asked how much money they are prepared to guaranteed It is said, “ This service will not pay. Put up 50 per cent, of any estimated loss upon it, erect posts along the route, and assist, us generously in building the line.” The way in which the Department is treating out-back settlers is disgraceful. Only the other day the residents of a little country district were told that,’ unless they contributed £20 2s. a year towards an estimated loss of £40 a year on a projected mail service, they could not have it. A similar condition of affairs exists in regard to the telephone system. A perusal of the PostmasterGeneral’s report will show that an enormous loss has been sustained on telephone services within the metropolitan areas throughout Australia during the past two or three years. In the Sydney metropolitan area, for example, the loss the year before last amounted to £146,000, and last year to £116,000. Yet the people of Sydney have never been asked to guarantee a single sixpence of that loss. But when it is proposed to confer a few of the benefits of civilization on settlers in remote parts of this continent, they are told that they must furnish substantial guarantees against possible loss.
Mr.Fenton. - If the honorable member will bring forward a definite proposal upon this question, he will command the support of quite a large number of members of this Committee.
– I shall deal exhaustively with the matter on the Loan Estimates, where there is a sum of £400,000 set down for conduits. The PostmasterGeneral is not present, and, therefore, we cannot obtain an answer to our inquiries in connexion with it. It is a pity that, in the matter of mail services and telephonic communication, more consideration is not extended to the country districts. If any of those services ought to pay, certainly they ought to pay within the city areas.
– Which city - Melbourne?
-No. Sydney occupies the worst position. ‘I find, however, that in New South Wales the loss on these services last year aggregated £142,000, of which £116,000 represented the loss within the metropolitan area of Sydney. There were also big losses in Melbourne and Perth. All these city services should be compelled to pay before the country districts are called upon to furnish guarantees. The Department is treating the rural areas of the Commonwealth altogether too harshly. Indeed, there seems to be a disposition on the part of the Government to refuse country districts the postal and telephonic facilities which they so urgently require. Only the otheT day I received from the Postal Department a memorandum to the effect that the establishment of a telephone service for a distance of 25 miles in the country would cost £50 per mile.
– Where was that?
– In a country district.
– But some of the honorable member’s country districts are as large as Victoria.
– This service was to be erected right alongside a railway. It was to extend from Greenhills, a few miles from York, outwards, and the departmental estimate for a standard telephone servicewas £50 per mile. It was a most preposterous estimate.
– What about running trains from the country at a loss, at the expense of the city people?
– I have often heard that statement made. But the honorable member for Parkes has had some experience of the Public Service, and he knows that it is the feeders to our main-line system which make that system pay. Every honorable member will recognise that if it were not for the little bit of back country that is being served with means of communication there would be no cities. However, I shall defer my remarks upon this question until the PostmasterGeneral is present. I hope that the Government will see that settlers in remote country areas are provided with some of the conveniences of civilization.
– I wish to support the remarks of the leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Dampier. When the Treasurer delivered his Budget speech he announced that he would not bother to go into details, but would leave Ministers to explain their own departmental Estimates. Where are Ministers now?
– The PostmasterGeneral is ill.
– Cannot we have a Minister present who will act for him, and who will consult the departmental expert?
– What does the honorable member wish to know?
– I desire to know where in New South Wales it is proposed to erect the telegraph lines, instruments, and materials, which, according to these Estimates, are to cost £12,000.
– These items have appeared on the Estimates for years.
-Then there is another item of £83,900 for “new switchboards and extensions” in that State. Where are they to be placed? I would direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that we now have in office a Treasurer who prides himself that he has had twenty years’ experience in that capacity. So that, unless one has had an experience as Treasurer of at least five or ten years, he cannot offer a suggestion to the honorable gentleman without being informed that he knows very little about the subject of which he is speaking. I invite the attention of honorable members to page 279 of these Estimates, where the Treasurer has apparently decided that he will furnish the Committee with some information. There we find that the sum of £63 is to be spent upon the Inverell Post-office, and £3 in respect of the Delungra Post-office. These details show that it was the desire of the Treasurer at one time to give some information to the Committee. In respect of a total expenditure of £6,141 in Division No. 7, with which we have dealt, there are no less than nine different items, set out with extraordinary detail, but in respect of a total expenditure of £171,400 on telegraphs and telephones in New South Wales, under Division 11, we have ‘ practically no information.
Where is this £171,400 to be spent?
– I do not know.
– The right honorable gentleman, with his twenty years’ experiences as Treasurer, and notwithstanding that he is a member of a so-called responsible Government, says he does not know how this money is to be spent.
– The honorable member ought to have a little more sense, and should not behave like a boy. We are not children.
– We are not; and that is why the Opposition wish to know where this money is to be spent.
– I have already told the honorable member that it is to be expended in New South Wales.
– But where?
– Somewhere in the metropolitan area.
– Is the whole of it to be expended in Sydney, where a Million Club has been established with the object of securing, as soon as possible, a population of 1,000,000 in that city ? The curse of Australia is centralization - the massing of hundreds of thousands of people in the metropolis of each State and the starving of the rural districts. We understood that the Government and their supporters were a great National party.
– So we are; and we were good enough to knock out the honorable member’s party.
– Mark the magnanimity of this National party ! Because Queensland returned certain members of the Labour party to this House, it is to be punished by this Government.
– In what way ?
– For instance, we find that in this division only £2,900 is set apart for new switchboards and extensions in Queensland, as compared with £83,900 for the same purpose in New South Wales, and £59,094 in Victoria.
– And what provision is made for such items in South Australia, Western Australia’, and Tasmania?
– The Treasurer is not going to side-track me in that way. I desire to know why so small a sum is to be expended on new switchboards and extensions in Queensland ? ‘
– When the honorable member was Treasurer, only. £261 was expended, under that heading, in Queensland, although a sum of £4,550 was appropriated.
– That sounds very well; but it must not be forgotten that I left office before I had time to go through the Estimates for 1916-17.
-The item of £70,000 for construction and extension of telephone lines, instruments and material in New South Wales is to provide for new subscribers in both city and country districts. A similar vote is passed every year. Then, again, of the item of £83,900 for new switchboards and extensions, £81,000 is to provide for the Sydney automatic exchange.
– The Treasurer cannot get away from the fact (that only £2,900 is to be expended on new switchboard’s and extensions in Queensland.
– As against your £261.
– It was not my £261. I had left office before the Estimates for 1916-17 were passed.
– They were practically prepared, before the honorable member left office, and that is the only provision he made.
– No; it is a libel. Mark the revengeful spirit of this National Government as displayed in these Estimates. We have an item of £250 towards the cost of a parcels post building at Brisbane, and £460 for the Caboolture Post-office. Compare those items with the provision made for new services in other States. 1 am glad, however, that the Treasurer has been able to obtain some information in regard to the special items to which I have called attention. It is within the power of a Ministry to order the expenditure of large sums of public money in constituencies that are represented by their own supporters. The present PostmasterGeneral toured his constituency quite recently, and boasted of the number of new post-offices and telephone lines he had been able to secure for it. We ought to know what money is being expended in the various constituencies in New South Wales.
– The works referred to by the Postmaster-General were carried out while the Labour Government was in office - at a time when the PostmasterGeneral was one of the “benighted” on the other side.
– That does not improve the position. We look to the National Economy party to set a good example. If we failed in that respect- and I deny that we did - it is for the National Government to set a good example by making a fair distribution of Commonwealth expenditure. I do not suppose that we shall find in these Estimates a single proposal to expend Commonwealth moneys in the electorates of Capricornia, Brisbane, or Maranoa.
– Or Oxley ?
– There may be a little expended in’ Oxley, but it cannot be much, since the total proposed vote for Queensland is only a few thousand pounds. We should also know in what constituencies the proposed vote for telegraph and telephone services in Victoria is to be expended. In the event of unification it would be a disastrous thing to have in this House, as we have now, apparently, some fifty members representing New South Wales and Victoria, and playing ducks and drakes with the public money. That is what is happening now, notwithstanding that we have six State Parliaments. The greater part of our Commonwealth expenditure is taking place in the two States of - Victoria and New South Wales.
– And is provided by them.
– The honorable member would support the view that the major portion of this money should be spent in Sydney and Melbourne. That is not a national policy. If it is, I should like the Minister for the Navy to get up and’ defend it. I should like the right honorable gentleman to say whether he thinks that this is the way in which Estimates should be presented to this House. I venture to say that he cannot defend this method of submitting Estimates. I did expect from the Treasurer, who prides himself upon twenty years’ experience
– The honorable gentleman should not be jealous. He desires to disparage’ long service.
– No, far from that. I merely wished to suggest that the Treasurer must know all the methods, tricks, and ingenious contrivances for covering up public expenditure in such a way as to get Estimates through Parliament with the least possible trouble.
– These Estimates do not differ from last year’s Estimates.
– I was not long enough in office as Treasurer to alter the system. We should have more details concerning the vote of £171,400 to be expended in New South Wales, and the vote of £109,449 to be spent in Victoria.
– I shall give the honorable gentleman the information he desires.
– I hope the honorable gentleman will mention the towns and other places in which the money is to be spent.
– The honorable gentleman has directed attention to votes of £70,000 and £83,900 for New South Wales, of £40,881 and £59,094 for Victoria, and also to some votes to be expended in Queensland. His complaint is that these votes are not itemized in such a way that honorable members may know exactly what city, town, or district is to be benefited by the proposed expenditure. The Estimates which the honorable gentleman himself would have presented to this House would have been submitted in exactly the same way as these are submitted. The reason why the details sought for cannot be specifically set out as regards telephones is that this is recurring expenditure, and a vote is put down to meet applications for telephones and telephonic extensions. Applications come in for extensions in country districts to meet the development of those districts, and, as a matter of fact, we do not know at the pre’sent moment what particular cases or lines these votes will cover. It is, however, known from the experience of the Post and Telegraph Department that these votes will be devoted in the main, if not wholly, to country expenditure. . A general vote is included in the Estimates for applications for telephones and extensions to districts during the year. People send in applications for the construction of country lines-
– And never get them.
– They do get them. I might inform the honorable gentleman that in the preceding year the vote corresponding to the vote on these Estimates for construction and extension of telephone lines, including instruments and materials, was £82,000, and of that amount £63,000 was spent.
– Most of that went in the installation of automatic exchanges.
– If we take New South Wales, for instance, the vote of £83,900 for new switchboards and extensions covers the automatic exchange to be installed in Sydney. There is a vote of £40,881 for construction and extensions in Victoria, and £59,094 for switchboards, of which amount £50,000 is to cover the cost of the installation of an automatic exchange at Malvern.
– Will other places besides Malvern be provided for out of that £59,000? What about Collingwood?
– I shall try to get that information for the honorable gentleman. The issue is not that of town against, country. The Department is trying to meet the necessities of both town and country.
– They do not make the towns pay.
– I am dealing now with expenditure. Honorable members will see that these items could not be detailed in the way suggested. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr: Higgs) was Treasurer, and, if he had continued in office, he would have brought up these Estimates in exactly the same way. He would take the Estimates prepared by his officers, and would suggest to honorable members that they were perfectly right, but to-night he has made the alarming discovery that these votes ought to be itemized. I have shown that if the votes were not submitted in this way it is possible that country necessities arising during the next twelve months could not be met, as they cannot at present be foreseen.
.- The Honorary Minister (Mr. Groom) said that it was impossible to itemize this expenditure, and in the next breath he told us that so many thousand pounds were to be spent in installing an automatic exchange at Malvern. The Minister could ascertain from his officers that certain automatic switchboards are to be put in. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) will bear me out when I say that we have two automatic exchanges in Victoria - one at Geelong and one at Brighton.
– Yes; the automatic exchange was tested at Geelong first.
– The experiment was first tried at Geelong, and it has answered very well. The departmental officers say that they prefer the automatic to the manual switchboard.
– It is much better at Perth. There is a magnificent service at. Perth.
– I suppose that is the reason there is a vote of only £2,360 down for Perth on these Estimates, whilst on the Estimates for 1915-16 there was a vote of £5,500 for that city.
– The automatic exchange has been installed at Perth for nearly three years.
– The Government should certainly tell us where automatic switchboards are to be installed.
– In Victoria at present only one is decided upon to be provided for by these Estimates, and that is to be installed at Malvern. It will absorb some £50,000 of the vote. It has been found absolutely essential to introduce it here, otherwise the system would break down.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Henty upon being able to secure this expenditure.
– He had nothing whatever to do with it. The switchboard has been placed at Malvern on absolutely public grounds.
– As for my own electorate, we have no exchange, and many of the subscribers have to pay extra rental because they are more than 2 miles away from the nearest switchboard. Some of the subscribers are connected with Hawthorn, some with Northcote, some with Windsor, and others with Central Exchange. Each successive Government for years have proposed to place an exchange in either Abbotsford or Collingwood, and I believe the necessary land has been acquired. As we all know, telephony varies from most other enterprises inasmuch as the more subscribers there are the more expensive it is to work an exchange; and at the Central Exchange the manager will point out to visitors thousands of wires that axe necessary for the purpose of connecting every subscriber with every other subscriber. Sydney, I believe, has a better service than Melbourne, simply because in the New South Wales capital there are more exchanges; and this is one of the reasons why telephony is cheaper in the northern city.
– The Department loses more money in Sydney.
– That is owing to the harbor, the configuration of the city, and the difficulties of laying the conduits.
– Great concessions are given to city subscribers in regard to distances, and, altogether, they are treated very well.
– I think that, if honorable members were to inquire, they would find that the charges for the trunk line of 566 miles between Sydney and Melbourne are the lowest in Australia.
– In the world.
– I understand that our rates are practically the lowest in the world, and the trunk line I have referred to is remarkably cheap, especially when it is considered that, after 8 o’clock at night, the line may be used for three minutes at half the day-time rates.
No one can accuse me of ever having, during my presence in this House, set up town as against the country. When it was proposed to construct the trunk line between Sydney and Melbourne, I was the first, if not the only one, to suggest that those who desired to have the line should be asked to give a guarantee, just as country people are.
– In the country districts, during the last twelve months, we have been treated with what I must call absolute meanness.
– I think the honorable member must especially mean since the present Government came into power. I sincerely hope the Government will give us a little more detailed information in regard to the expenditure on new switchboards and extensions.
– This is wasting time: The honorable member knows all about the matter, and has for years.
– That is not fair. I am not given to wasting time. If the Treasurer thinks for a moment, he will see that, if we desired to waste time, the three or four honorable’ members on this side could occupy hours at least
– You may occupy twenty hours if you like.
– We have no intention to do that. I submit I have dealt fairly with the Government, for I have ‘referred to no items except those on which I really desire information. If all this money Has been spent in certain places, we ought to know the facts.
– I gave the information in regard to New South Wales.
– Where in New South Wales is the new switchboard?
– It is the new automatic switchboard, which will absorb £81,000 out of the £83,000 - practically the whole lot.
– I have in my mind places where there are no exchanges, and “ where people have to pay extra rates on that account.
– There is more expense owing to tho special wires.
– In my own electorate we have the City Exchange on the west, the Hawthorn Exchange, 2 miles away, on the east, the Windsor Exchange, 2J or 2£ miles away, on the south, and the Northcote Exchange on- the north. A glance at the map will show a blank area in my electorate, so far as an exchange is concerned ; and this, I submit, is not fair to the people who have to use the telephone.
– Why did you not put the matter right when you were in office?
– I admit that I tried. I know of no place similarly situated.
– The system will he extended as fast as money is available.
– All I ask is that the exchange promised at Collingwood or Abbotsford shall be provided.
– In very few words I desire to call the atention of the Minister to the recent policy of economy adopted by the Postmaster-General, so far as it concerns country settlers. While I indorse the statements made by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), I am quite in sympathy with the PostmasterGeneral in his desire to make two ends meet as faras possible. But there is a limit beyond which he has no right to go, and in his treatment of outside services he can be most rigid and unsympathetic. I have. a good many instances in my mind, but I shall content myself with one. I have in my hand a letter from the Deputy Postmaster-General in reference to a town which for thirty or forty years has had two mail services. Those interested are informed that, because the cost of these services is £12 in excess of the revenue, the services will have to be discontinued unless the settlers make up the difference.
– Is it a weekly or biweekly service?
– It is a service of two days a week. This is not a solitary case. A good many honorable members, I think, could cite similar cases. I urge upon the Department the necessity of being generous to outside settlers who have few of the advantages of civilization. I do not like to speak of the treatment of the country as compared with the city, but I cannot refrain from quoting a few figures from’ a return regarding the telephone service in the metropolitan areas of the Commonwealth. In 1914-15 there was a loss of £298,000, while in the following year there was a loss of £190,000 in four out of the six capitals. Brisbane and Adelaide showed a profit.
– The return does not cover the post and telegraph services, too.
– My honorable friend knows if it did a considerable loss would still be shown. He is aware that the aggregate loss in the Postal Department is much more than what I have quoted. There is no complaint made about this loss on the tele phone service in the capitals, and the people in the metropolitan areas are not told thattheir privileges will be curtailed because of that loss. I wish to impress upon the Honorary Minister that these facilities to country districts are necessary instruments of production. We couldnot continue settlement and development were it not for the facilities. Does he not think it is going a little too far, when there is a discrepancy of only a few pounds between the expenditure and the revenue, to ‘fell the people outside, who deserve every encouragement instead of this kind of rigid treatment, that they will haveto make up the paltry few pounds, otherwise the service will be discontinued ?
.- My complaint is that in regard to postal matters enough money is not asked for. I cannot understand honorable, members criticising these Estimates so severely! It is supposed to be a business Department, but it has never been provided with a sufficient working capital. As has been explained by the Honorary Minister, a great deal of the money which the Committee is now asked to pass is for the carrying on of necessary work which has to be done during the financial year. If the work had to be planned out before voting the money there would be an immense delay.
Regarding the automatic telephone exchanges, it is generally recognised that they have proved a very great success. At Perth, as well as at Geelong, when I was in charge of the Department, the Chamber of Commerce took the trouble to ask its members to report their experience of the working of the automatic exchange. On the receipt of the reports, the chamber passed a resolution expressing their great satisfaction with the system. In Sydney the automatic exchange is working satisfactorily, too. I understand that a portion of the new money on these Estimates is wanted to make the connexion complete.- I am surprised to hear that Malvern has only reached the stage when it is to have an automatic exchange. When the war broke out, in 1914, the Malvern exchange was so congested that we had to refuse to accept more subscribers. It was in such a disgraceful condition that no more business could be undertaken. On the Estimates of the Department for that year I put down a very large sum - something like £300,000, I think. We were aiming at an extension of the cables and the installation of the automatic principle in the exchanges. The instruments, of course, involved a very considerable sum. Owing to the war we had a reduction in the number of subscribers. An increase in the telephone rates also affected the subscribers’ list. I presume that through the operation of these two factors, more particularly the war. the Department has had to struggle along. ‘ It is really, surprising to me that it has been able to exist so long with the money at its disposal. The very large sum which I had put on my Estimates was cut down by the desire of the Treasurer, Mr. Fisher; otherwise, more automatic exchanges would have been in operation to-day.
I desire to say a few words regarding the difference between Sydney and Melbourne. It is, and always will be, far more costly to establish and work a service in Sydney.’ The country is very rough, the city is divided by the harbor waters, ^ the cables have sometimes to be put under the water, and the streets are very crooked, many of t.hem running into dead ends. Solid rock has to be cut to lay the cables. In Melbourne we find alluvial formation and long streets. There is no comparison between the° two cities as regards overhead wires. Sydney is more subject to storms than is Melbourne. The repairs cost more, and there are far more angles to be run. These reasons often explain the difference in the estimated and actual cost of the original work and the difference between the estimated and actual cost of working. The Department has always lacked sufficient working capital. At the same time, as it is a Government Department, I recognise that it is proper that the Estimates of any work should come before Parliament for approval, particularly in regard to the larger works that have to be planned some time ahead. The Collingwood exchange is a case in point.
– Not a brick of that building has been laid yet.
– When I was PostmasterGeneral there was an idea of making a re-arrangement in regard to that particular exchange for the purpose of connecting the existing subscribers. The work was mapped out, but pressure upon the finances prevented the completion of the scheme. It is three years since we planned these automatic exchanges, and I am surprised that it has taken so long to supply particulars of all these works. I see no reason why there should be any hesitation in giving information as to when they will be put in hand. My complaint in regard to the other expenditure that is not specified is that the amount is not big enough. The Postmaster-General is absent, but there will be another opportunity of bringing matters under his attention. ,
I agree with the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that the country interests are unfairly treated. I do not think that people should be called upon to give guarantees. My idea was to raise the charges, and in that way make the people pay for the service given. The PostmasterGeneral has had under consideration for some time some suggestions that I have put before him in regard to giving improved facilities in country districts, and I know that he is collecting information in regard to the matter. I was very much surprised to ‘find that the telephone exchanges in fairly large towns in the Darwin electorate were closed at 6 o’clock. For instance, Ulverstone formerly had a continuous service, but the Department increased the amount of revenue which would justify a continuous service, from £150 to £250, and as the people of that town were not able to provide a revenue of £250, although they were able to provide within a few pounds of that amount, their continuous service was cut off. It causes a great deal of annoyance to the people of the town. In the neighbourhod of these towns in the Darwin electorate the -problem of closer settlement has been solved. There are small farms of 50 acres and 100 acres of rich land, so that the farm houses are very close together. The farmers are willing to use the telephone service, but as they work away from their houses during the day, the exchange is closed by the time they get home to their tea. I have urged the Minister to extend the hour to 8 o’clock. This would enable the farmers who have the telephone to do their business when they return from their work at night, and I am .sure it would lead to yan extension of the use of the service. In my opinion, the telephone should be installed in every farm house. Iri the case of the neighbourhoods of these towns in the Darwin electorate no great extension of lines would be required, so that the cost to the Department would not be verygreat. The Minister is collecting information in regard to the cost, and so on; but I have suggested to him that the exchanges should not be closed in some cases until 8 o’clock, and in other cases until midnight. I have also suggested that there should be continuous service in other cases. In the Darling electorate there is a continuous service in towns not a quarter of the size of some of the towns in the Darwin electorate. The Postal Department takes as a basis the revenue received in the particular office, whereas in the Darwin electorate there is a considerable trunk-line revenue between different adjacent’ towns. I have suggested to the Minister that if he is to consider the revenue of an office as a basis for deciding at what hour an exchange should close - things must be looked at from the Ministerial point of view as well as from the point of view of the public; he should also take into consideration the whole of the revenue received in a district where there are quite a number of towns a few miles apart. These towns in Tasmania are quite a contrast to towns in other portions of Australia. Par instance, . there are immense distances between the towns in the Darling electorate.
Some three years ago I had a draft design which, I think, should “be carried out, that is, a re-arrangement in connexion with the telegraphic section of .the Department. My idea was’ to make it self-supporting. The telegraph service in Australia is cheaper than that which is provided in any other part of the world. The public servant in Australia receives higher wages and works less hours than apply in any other part of the world, and the telegraph and telephone rates are the cheapest in the world. The public would not complain if they were asked to pay a fair thing. I agree with the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that the cost of these low charges should not fall upon the people in the country districts. It is a shame that the people in the congested places should not be made to pay more than they are paying. It is unfair of the Department to offer the country people a service only on condition that they share the loss. , That condition is not imposed in the cities, and I agree with the honorable member for Dampier that the big cities are what they are because of the efforts of the producers in the country. I do not want to raise the old cry of town against country, but the Department should be run for the Commonwealth as a whole, with uniform charges and uniform regulations throughout. The times are abnormal just now, but I understand that the Department is now nearly approaching the period when its accounts will balance. Some of the changes made when I was Postmaster-General, in the direction of securing more careful supervision, economy, and efficiency, and cutting out waste* have contributed towards that result. The present PostmasterGeneral has told us of other steps which he has taken in the same direction, but it has been a big job to get the accounts to balance, because it is not long since the Department was nearly £500,000 behind on its yearly accounts, when interest was included. The general question of what work should be charged to loan and what to revenue, can be dealt with later , when the whole policy of the Government is debated ; but with regard to the conduit work mentioned, I am in a .position to point out that that has always been paid for out of loan money, because it is very big work of a semi-permanent character. The cables, if laid .down properly in this way, have, according ito the experts, a life of at least fifty years. When the conduit work was begun it was intended to extend it ‘also to the country towns, because’ it means an immense saving in the working of the service. The only difficulty is that if the cables are laid too close in the cities there is a risk of interference from the electric tram lines, but, generally speaking, the views of our experts as to the value of this system are upheld by experience in other parts of the world.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has indicated that, as far back as 1914, when he was PostmasterGeneral, he was of opinion that the building of the new automatic telephone exchanges for Malvern, Collingwood, Ascot Vale, and Sydney had been authorized. It is a marvel to me- that any factory inspector should allow the Malvern Postoffice to be conducted as it has been for so long, with so large a number of telephone operators on the upper story. If any private employer treated his employees in that way he would be heavily fined. In the case of Ascot Vale, I was informed on a Friday that on the Monday morning the erection of the new telephone exchange would be begun. The money was provided on the Estimates, yet on the Saturday morning the Home Affairs Department was notified by the Postal Department not to begin operations, as the automatic equipment was not available. The war has certainly prevented us from obtaining the automatic material essential for these exchanges, but several times to-day I have asked, without receiving a reply, whether the Department is now in a position to inform the Committee if the equipment is now available. The Department has purchased sites in Sydney, Collingwood, Malvern, and Ascot Vale, at a cost of many thousands of pounds, and still holds the land. The Ascot Vale exchange was authorized before the Public Works Committee came into existence, but the other three works were submitted to the Committee, and passed by them. No building operations have yet been commenced, and the reason given is that the automatic equipment is not yet available.
– The Malvern exchange is to be proceeded with.
– Does that mean that the equipment is available, or likely to be available in the near future ? Otherwise we shall find the money appearing again next year as an unexpended vote.
– A tender has been let for the Malvern exchange.
– I presume the equipment has been contracted for in America, but has it arrived yet?
– Unless some unforeseen war event occurs, the Malvern exchange ought to be completed very soon.
– It is to be hoped that this really means a commencement. The delay is costing the Department and the subscribers a considerable sum.. The plan was to place in certain4 areas in the big cities automatic telephone exchanges, which would allow shorter lines to be constructed, and a cheaper service to be given. Sydney and Melbourne have been plotted out in that way, but until the automatic exchanges are established the Department cannot reasonably look to the telephone branch to pay as it ought. The new exchanges, when erected, will lessen the cost to the subscriber and the Department, and create a far better service. I am glad that at Malvern, at any rate, the congestion is to be relieved, and hope that this will be but the forerunner of the establishment of the other exchanges at a very early date.
.- J can assure the Treasurer that I will offer no objection to expenditure for the Post-‘ master-General’s Department, as I shall be glad to see an increase, so far as coun try services are concerned; for out of ? total national revenue of something like £35,000,000, this is the only Department which renders direct service to the people; this is the one Department that delivers the goods straight to the family home. I regret to know, therefore, that the funds for the construction of telephone lines will, be less than previously.
– We are spending over £200,000 more this year than last year.
– Not on country construction. I am not an advocate of reckless expenditure, but I want to emphasize the fact that the installation of the telephone will go a long way towards solving the difficulties of country settlement. At present, every time a country resident, or group of country residents, desires the erection of a telephone line, the proposal has to.be submitted to the Department, , which sends an inspector to report on the scheme; but, unfortunately, the Department does not get in close touch with the intending subscribers. In a business of such magnitude, there ought to be close connexion between customers and the Central Administration. The present method is too costly, too slow, and too cumbersome. The people get tired of so much backing and filling on the part of the Department. We talk frequently of decentralization. Surely this is the time to practice it. Steps should be taken to see that country postmasters have some grounding in engineering, as well as general knowledge, so that they may be able to deal with country proposals of this nature.
– The country postmaster has a multitude of duties now.
– I am aware of that, but they could be passed on to a clerk; and, generally speaking, they are not in keeping with what is expected of a man drawing a large salary. No great business in this city would be conducted on the lines of our post-office.- In our banking institutions, for instance, the manager of a country bank is not a mere cypher.
We ought to introduce a system under which country contributors could approach’ the local postmaster with a locality plan and information as to the material available along the line, so that a good common-sense business man, as a postmaster ought to be, would be in a position to decide on the business aspect of the proposal, without reference to the Central Administration. In our country districts there ought to be a properly equipped constructional department capable of dealing promptly with all such proposals.
I desire, now, to refer to our country mail services. This matter was mentioned by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr.Foster), who rightly said that at the present time our mail services are probably of greater value than ever, because nearly every home has relatives at the Front, and all the people are anxious for news.
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter) . - Order ! The honorable member is now discussing something outside this Division. He will not be deprived of any privilege, as he will have an opportunity to speak on this matter when the other Estimates are under consideration.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 12 (Government Printing Office), £1,500
.- Is the Minister in a position to give information with regard to the Government Printing Office ? If I remember aright, we have only one permanent employee in that building, the whole of ourwork being undertaken by State employees.
– We have a good number of men under the Government Printer. I know that we had to take the responsibility of dismissing a man the other day.
– I am aware that we have a great amount of plant and material, but I do not think we have many employees. We provide the money for the office to do Commonwealth work.
– There is an item of £5,000 for compositors’ salaries in the General Estimates.
– That is to cover work done by the State on account of the Commonwealth.
– Why should the Commonwealth appoint men to do its printing when those who are employed by the State can do both the Commonwealth and the State printing?
– I do not suggest that the Commonwealth should make additional appointments, but those who do the Commonwealth work should be Commonwealth employees. I pointed that out when the very first set of Commonwealth Estimates was under discussion. There are State employees who although they have been employed continuously for more than twenty years, are still classed as temporary employees. I understand that the reason why the Commonwealth has not provided a staff of its own is that we are always expecting that the Parliament will be removed to a Seat of Government elsewhere.
– In any case we shall require printers and printing machinery.
– In the EstimatesinChief £20,000 is. set down for the Government Printing Office.
– That is to pay for the work done on our behalf by State employees. I shall be glad if the Treasurer will ascertain what number of employees the Commonwealth has in the Government Printing Office.
– I shall procure the information asked for.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 14 (Rifle Clubs and Ranges), £10,500, agreed to.
Division 15 (Military Stores,&c.), £179,500
.- The sum of £10,000 is set down for “ Woollen Factory, additional machinery and plant.” Last year we voted £10,000 in this item, practically all of which was spent . I ask the Minister in charge if he can give us particulars of this expenditure, and also regarding the proposed expenditure on the Flying School?
– The money is to be spent on the factory which is now fast approaching completion. The expenditure proposed will enable the factory to pro vide the full requirements of the Department under normal conditions.
– It will produce enough cloth to clothe the Cadets and the members of our Citizen Forces in normal times?
– I understand so - the full normal requirements. The item relating to the Flying. School is to provide additional material and equipment. We are trying to keep pace with the progress that is being made in aviation.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Navy.
Division 16 (Naval Works), £120,000; division 18 (Construction of Vessels for other Departments), £56,060, agreed to.
Home and Territories Department.
Division 19 (Purchase of Sites), £4,200, agreed to.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1917-18, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., a sum not exceeding £1,257,617.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means covering resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr.Glynn do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and read a first time.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- We seem to be doing business too rapidly to permit the Minister for the Navy to give us the information which he promised regarding the proposal to expend £16,500 on the erection of a building at Geraldton to house what he referred to as “ all the Commonwealth activities.” He promised to give the House an opportunity to express an opinion on that proposal. I should like to know how that will be pos sible after the Bill has become law. Was “it part of the right honorable gentleman’s method of getting business through to promise an explanation, and then not give one?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
The following papers were presented: -
Customs Act -
Proclamation prohibiting Exportation (except under certain conditions) of Dried Apricots and Peaches (dated 15th August, 1917).
Proclamation (dated 15th August 1917) revoking Proclamation (dated 18th May, 1917) prohibiting Exportation of Empty Bottles.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Port Augusta, South Australia -For Railway purposes.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That a tax be imposed on incomes derived from sources in Australia at the following amounts and rates, namely: -
- Rate of Tax upon Income derived from Personal Exertion,
For so much of the whole taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 the average rate of tax per pound sterling shall be Threepence and three eight-hundredths of one penny where the taxable income is one pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of one pound sterling of the taxable income by three eight-hundredths of one penny.
The average rate of tax per pound sterling for so much of the taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 maybe calculated from the following formula: -
For every pound sterling of taxable income in excess of £7,600 the rate of tax shall be sixty pence.
For such part of the taxable income as does not exceed £546 the average rate of tax per pound sterling shall be that given by the following formula: -
For such part of the taxable income as exceeds £546, but does not exceed £2,000, the additional tax for each additional pound of taxable income above £546 shall increase continuously with the increase of the taxable income in a curve of the second degree in such a manner that the increase of tax for one pound increase of taxable income shall be - 11.713 pence for the pound sterling be tween £545 10s. and £546 10s. 12.768 pence for the pound sterling between £550 10s. and £600 10s. 14.672 pence for the pound sterling between £699 10s. and £700 10s. 16.512 pence for the pound sterling between £799 10s. and £800 10s. 18.288 pence for the pound sterling between £899 10s. and £900 10s. 20.000 pence for the pound sterling between £999 10s. and £1,000 10s. 27.600 pence for the pound sterling between £1,499 10s. and £1,500 10s. 33.600 pence for the pound sterling between £1,999 10s. and £2,000 10s.
- Rate of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income derived partly from Personal Exertion and partly from Property.
In addition to the tax payable under the preceding provisions, there shall be payable, in the case of incomes in respect of which the tax is calculated under the foregoing provisions, an additional tax equal to 25 per centum of the amount of the tax so calculated.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions, the tax payable by any person who -
would, apart from this provision, not be liable to pay an income tax of one pound or upwards; shall be one pound.
There shall be payable by every male person (whether in receipt of a taxable income or not) who, on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and seventeen -
Provided further that where the Commissioner is satisfied that by reason of the support given by a person to his dependants the payment of the full amount of tax would impose hardship on the person, the Commissioner may reduce the amount of tax payable by that person to such amount as the Commissioner in his discretion determines.
that he has been on active service outside Australia during the present war or is a member of an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia; or
I may explain to honorable members that subdivision F contains the only new tax. ‘ Subdivisions A, B, C, D, E, and G merely reimpose the rates of income tax which were imposed by the Income Tax Act of 1916. The wording in subdivisions A, B, and C has been altered from that used in the Act of 1916, but the legal effect is the same in each case. Questions have been raised as to whether the wording used in the 1916 Act achieved the purposes of that measure. The Department has been advised that the desired purpose was achieved, but in order to set the purpose beyond all doubt the wording has been altered. But the rates imposed do not in any way differ from the tax imposed in last year’s Act. I do not wish to do more than move the resolution to-night. The resolution will require to be passed in Committee, and then a Bill will be introduced to give effect to it. Honorable members are aware that this tax has to be renewed each year.
– Why make the tax permanent? Do you wish to dodge parliamentary review in some year?
– We are only doing what was done by the previous Government. It is necessary that this Bill should be agreed to soon, because the Department is busy preparing the machinery for the collection of the tax, and desires to know exactly the intentions of Parliament.
– Are you going to collect the tax before December of this year?
– I do not think that anything unusual is desired. Honorable members will realize that there must be a legal authority for what the Department is doing, and the R - will provide that authority.
Industrial Crisis: Gas and Elec tricity Supply: Government Inactivity. Card System: New South Wales Coal Mines - Order of Business.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy a question in regard to the restriction of gas supplies in the homes of the people. As he is curtailing the use of electricity and gas for domestic purposes within certain hours -
– I would like to curtail it here a little.
– That is just the question I had intended to ask. Does he mean to curtail the use of electricity and gas by inaugurating day sittings during the con- . tinuance of the strike? Such an innovation would be beneficial, not merely to the health, but also to the minds and pockets of honorable members.
.- Can the Minister for the Navy give us any information in relation to the notification which appears in this evening’s papers that the Government of New South Wales have taken over the whole of the coal mines of that State? In view of the litigation which took place between the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales in regard to the obtaining of wheat supplies, have the Government any assurance that a similar difficulty will not be experienced in obtaining coal supplies? I would also like to know the particular business with which we are to proceed to-morrow.
.- I am very pleased that the honorable member for Maranoa has raised the question of the restriction of gas and electric lighting during the continuance of the present strike. It appears to me that the Government are acting in an altogether too previous manner. What is the object of alarming the public mind in this way? The Government propose very shortly to restrict the use of gas. and electricity in the homes of the people of Melbourne. Do they desire to incense the people against the railway strikers in New South Wales? Where is the necessity for these alarmist regulations?
– Alarmist regulations ?
– They are alarming the public, who, as a result, will probably be induced to purchase supplies of kerosene and wood.
– Why not? Are the miners going back to work?
– Are the Government making any attempt to settle the existing dispute ? Are they using their good offices to bring the unhappy struggle to an end?
– Oh, yes. They are imprisoning the strikers.
– They are imprisoning the strikers, and supplying the artillerymen with ball cartridge to fire on anybody who refuses to obey orders at the wharfs. Will the Minister for the Navy tell me of a single thing which the Government have done?
– What does the honorable member say - that we are supplying the artillery with ball cartridge to shoot down the strikers at the wharfs ?
– I do not think there is an atom of truth in that statement.
– But the Minister dare not say that it is untrue. I challenge him to do so.
– I do say that it is not true.
– Then the honorable gentleman is talking of something about which he knows nothing. The artillerymen have been supplied’ with ball cartridge.
– What is ball cartridge, anyhow?
– It is the same thing that wounded a man who was rowing in the Bay shortly after the outbreak of war, and who refused to stop when called upon.
– I do not know of any artillerymen at the wharfs.
– He means the men who are doing sentry duty there for the transport service.
– The Minister for the Navy does not know his business. He is acting Minister for Defence, and yet does not know what is going on. Ministers ought to take sufficient interest in this great industrial dispute to be aware of what is transpiring.
– There are soldiers at Williamstown and at the Victoria Dock at the present time who have been there for a week.
– If the Minister is not taking sufficient interest in this dispute - which is assuming gigantic proportions - it is his duty to do so at the earliest pos- .sible moment. The strike has arisen as the result of the New South Wales Government endeavouring to speed up employees. A number of unionists have struck in sympathy with the railway employees, and people seem to be very much surprised at their action. Because they have struck their action has been described as a “mutiny” and as “making war on the community.” But those who thus condemn them must, surely, have forgotten that amongst the wage earners and unionists of this country it is a recognised principle that an injury to one is the concern of all. No Government has any right to try to speed up its employees.
If a Government represents a nation, why should it try to speed up ite employees and to get the last ounce of work out of them?
– Why talk such utter rot at a serious time like this ?
– What, action is the honorable member taking to try to put an end to this dispute ? Is he the gentleman referred to in a morning newspaper as having said to a press representative, “This fight had to come’!? What was the meaning of that statement, 1 The dispute seems to be assuming such serious proportions that the Government should take some action to try to put a stop to iti instead of issuing alarmist regulations calculated to inflame the public mind.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) a matter which must appeal to him, since it refers to an industry with which he is’ well acquainted. I refer to the fact that the Parliament of New South Wales, after a very short discussion, has removed from its Coal Mines Act the provision that only practical men shall be employed in a coal mine. The State Government has taken control of the collieries of New South Wales; and the result of this amendment of the law is that when the Commonwealth requires coal, no coalminer will be prepared to work in them. They will be worked by men who ar_e totally unfit to do so without endangering property and life. This is a very serious matter. The right honorable gentleman knows that the amendment of the law in the direction I have named is an infringement of a principle which was embodied in our legislation only after years of agitation for it. Both the British and the American Coal Mine Acts provide that only practical men shall be employed in coal-mining. No miner will go down a mine to work alongside non-unionists. Regard for his own life and for the property of the mine-owners would prevent his doing so, because he knows that the non-unionists are not practical men. I believe that the Minister for the Navy could exercise a good deal of influence with the State Government of New South Wales, so far as this question is concerned. I hope that he will point out to them the stupidity ot their action, and the fact that such an amendment of the law will mean a great risk to the lives of ! those who .work in coal-mines. If he ‘ does, he will receive the support of every ‘ honest citizen. Mine-owners and miners alike will feel that he has done right. I . have received information by telephone from Sydney, from an unofficial source, to the effect that the coal mine- owners will not work their mines under this new arrangement, but will throw upon the State the responsibility for any loss of life which may result from it.
– Dealing, first of all, with- the question that has been raised as to the gas in the House, I may say at once that I am in favour of restricting it to the fullest possible extent.
– Ib that a threat?
– It is a Scotch joke. As to the coal mines,, and the distribution of coal, I wish to inform the Leader, of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that, whatever the State Government of New South Wales may do in regard to the ‘acquisition of coal mines, we shall have control of all the coal won, and shall take steps to see that no one State is allowed to interfere with the distribution of such coal stocks as may be available. With us rests the responsibility of seeing that Australia as a whole is fairly treated a3 to the coal that is available.
Coming to the question raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West)- as to the amendment of the Coal Mines Act of New South Wales, I have seen in the newspapers the statement that some step is being taken to modify the law to meet the circumstances of the time. I admit its seriousness. May I suggest, however, to my honorable friend, that there is a very easy way out of this difficulty. I hope that he, too, will appreciate his responsibility, and will advise the miners of New South Wales as to how they may very easily avoid all this kind of special legislation. They can do so by going back to their work. They have no wages quarrel, and there are no conditions of any kind that are unsuitable to them. They have had a new award. They made a solemn agreement, which was to extend over three years, but they immediately broke that agreement, after being granted better conditions and very largely increased wages. They, can avoid all this turmoil by keeping to the compact, and honouring it as they should do.
Mr.West. - The Minister knows very well that the coal-miners cannot work unless trucks are brought alongside the mines to carry away the coal. They were blocked in Kew South Wales owing to the trucks not being available to receive thecoal.
– My honorable friend should not regard us as so many innocents. We know exactly what has taken place. He knows in his heart, as well as I do, that there is no justification for this hold-up on the part of the coalminers of Australia.
As to the matter of artillerymen with ball cartridge on the wharfs, I have only to say that no artillerymen have been put on the wharfs for the purpose of overaweing the strikers. There is on the. wharfs throughout Australia the ordinary guard. That guard has nothing whatever to do with the strike. It has to do with the safeguarding of our ships, and preventing a repetition of the Cumberland disaster. That is all thathas taken place. A more vigilant guard mnst be kept for that reason, and that reason alone. Now, as to the business for to-morrow. Tomorrow is Friday, and we are hoping to clear out of the way a few of the little Bills which appear on the business-paper. There is the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill, the Freight Arrangements Bill, the Sugar Purchase Bill, the War Loan (United Kingdom) Bill, and the Invalid and Old-age . Pensions Bill. I hope that we shall be able to clear a number of these little Bills out of the way to-morrow, so that we may be ready to consider the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill on Wednesday next.
– The War Loan Bill is not a little matter, since it will be necessary to discuss the policy of the Government in paying out of loans what ought to be paid out of revenue.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK. - That has nb- thing to do with the War Loan Bill. The honorable gentleman had better Bee these Bills before he proceeds to criticise them.
– I should like to see them, but the Government are keeping them back.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 August 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170823_reps_7_82/>.