8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson’) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– On the 28th August, 1919, when dealing with the prohibition of the importation of sheep dip, I quoted a number of cablegrams which had passed between the general manager nf Messrs. Copper and Nephews and their head office in London. Amongst them was one, which appears thus in the Hansard report of ray speech (vol. LXXXIX., page 12060)-
Require general description of Leggo’s plant, and what is the present actual capacity enable us to decide adaptability of process.
Messrs. Cooper and Nephews have no desire to re-open the controversy, notwithstanding that they are still distinctly at variance with, a number of statements which were made by their competitors, and which <I quoted in this House, but they attach great importance to the cablegram which I have just read. Unfortunately the Hansard record of it is not quite correct. The cablegram should have appeared in Hansard as it appears in the official file, aa follows : -
Require general description of Leggo’s plant, and what is the present actual capacity enable us to decide adaptability our process.
In Hansard the word “ of “ appears instead of the word “ our.” I make this correction, as the matter has been brought under my notice, and I express regret that the mistake has occurred.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Home and Territories whether he has been successful in his negotiations with the South Australian Government, and has secured the adoption in that State of a uniform State and Federal roll?
– The position is as follows: - ‘The Electoral Bill introduced by the Premier of ‘South Australia for the purpose of providing for co-operation with the Commonwealth in the preparation, printing, and maintenance of a joint electoral roll which will meet the requirements of Commonwealth elections and State House of Assembly elections has now passed through all stages in the Assembly, and its second reading in the Legislative Council. I am informed that the third reading in the Council will be taken to-day, and that no opposition is anticipated. The Commonwealth roll will be the foundation of the joint roll, which it is proposed shall be utilized for the purposes of the State general elections, to be held, it is understood, during the earlier part of the next year.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether, in view of the statements that have been -made from time to time about the sources of revenue of various public men in the Commonwealth, the Government will seriously take into consideration the publication of a list of the subscribers to the testimonial presented yesterday to the Prime Minister and the amount subscribed by each.
– I think we have too much to do this session to undertake a laborious enterprise of that kind.
-Yesterday I asked the Treasurer a question regarding a promised interim payment to the Public Service. Has his attention been drawn to a telegram sent by Mr. O’Connor to Sydney, stating that £4 4s. a week has been fixed as the basic wage! Can he inform the House whether any such decision has been arrived at, and, if so, by whom?
– Iread that a telegram had gone from Mr. O’Connor to those whom he represents in New South Wales, but I do not know where he got his information. There is nothing in it whatever.
– I wish to know whe ther the Minister for Home and Territories can advise the House whether a rumour prevalent in Port Pirie, that the gantry now installedat the town is tobe transferred to Port Adelaide, is correct ?
– This is the first I have heard of the matter.
– I wish leave to move a motion. Recently the House referred to the Public Works Committee a matter of very great urgency. The Public Works Committee Act makes it imperative that the Committee’sreports shall be presented to Parliament, but as it is impossible for the Committee to present its report on this subject before the Christmas adjournment, I desire to obtain the formal permission of the House to present it, in the first instance, to the Governor-General. It will, of course, come before Parliament directly we re-assemble.
– I object.
Victorian Supplies: Refusal to Unload Steamer
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs make a statement as to the trouble that has arisen in connexion with the unloading of supplies of sugar at Port Adelaide?
– My attention has been drawn to this unfortunate occurrence. We have had the greatest difficulty in obtaining sugar from abroad, because there is a world’s shortage of sugar. We have, however, endeavoured by every means in our power to obtain sugar, recognising how much an ample supply of it means to the comfort and convenience of the citizens, and remembering also that we have a great fruitgrowing industry whose prosperity largely depends on the securing of adequate sugar supplies. Those from whom we have bought the sugar, however, have absolutely declined to repack it in 200-lb. bags. We had either to take the sugar in such packages as we could get it in, or not buy it at all. We have offered to the wharf labourers in South Australia every possible additional assistance for the unloading of the sugar, and are prepared to pay the extra cost of it; hut so far we have been unable to get the unions to agree to take the sugar out of the ships.
– I have already made a statement in regard to the quantity of sugar available in New South Wales, and the price at which it is being sold there. I now ask the Minister, who seemed to doubt my statement, whether he will make a special effort to see that Victoria gets a fair supply of sugar?
– And every other State, also.
– My attitude in this matter is provincial, because I know that New South Wales is getting more than its share. I ask the Minister to make an extraordinary effort to get some of the excess supply in New South Wales for the people of Victoria. I can furnish him with the names of some men in New South Wales who have so much sugar on hand that they can afford to sell it at 5¼d. per lb.
– I have stated, on a great number of occasions, that the existing supplies of sugar in Australia are distributed pro rata to every State. In addition, we are making special arrangements to purchase from outside Australia an extra supply of white- sugar in order to meet the requirements of the fruit season in all the States. A shipment of 5,000 tons of white sugar is due to arrive in Victoria at the end of this week or at the beginning of next week, and the whole of it will be made available for this State. In regard to the price at which sugar is being sold, all I can say is that we have pooled all freights, and are selling sugar at exactly the same price in every State. Of course, if a retailer in any portion of the Commonwealth chooses to sell it for less than the proclaimed price of 6d. per lb., it is his own affair. He is perfectly entitled to do so if he wishes to attract trade by that means.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether he has seen a. statement to the effect that the sugar which the wharf labourers in South Australia have refused to handle would be handled by the wharf labourers in Melbourne, and whether that statement is correct?
– I have not seen a statement to that effect; but the position is that if we cannot get the Port Adelaide wharf labourers to unload the sugar in South Australia we shall be compelled to bring it on here, and I understand that there will be no difficulty experienced in regard to the handling of the sugar at this port.
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that a decision has recently been given by a magistrate in Launceston that a person other than a returned soldier does not unlawfully and falsely represent himself to be a returned soldier if he wears a returned soldiers’ badge, as long as he does not trade on it?
– Regulations 80a. and 80b provide that any person who is not a returned soldier who represents himself to be one is liable to be prosecuted, and I take it that the wearing of a badge can be regarded as representing oneself to be a returned soldier.
– Supposing a person is wearing the badge of his f ather, who has been killed?
– I do not know; but I should say that the wearing of: a badge to which one is not entitled is to f alsely represent oneself as a returned soldier.
– After reading the leading articles in this morning’s Age and Argus dealing with the War Precautions Act Repeal Bill, which was passed through the House so expeditiously last night, will the Government seriously consider whether they will proceed any further with that measure?
– After reading the articles in question, I came to the conclusion that, in each case, the writers were not conversant with what took place here.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways cause surveys to be made of all likely routes for the north:south railway, so that this House may be provided with sufficient knowledge to enable it to decide upon the best location for that line?
– The general policy in regard to Northern Territory railways is, of course, determined by the Government; but it is a matter that more particularly concerns the Department for Home and Territories-. The Department for Works and Railways is only responsible for the work of construction in the Territory, and, of course, also for the management of a line when it is built. I hope to submit to the House a motion asking the Public Works Committee to inquire and report upon a specific proposal for a railway line; but, in addition to that, the Department has caused an inspection to be made of another line to the border of Queensland, and the information gathered in that way will be made available to the House. The Prime
Minister has also promised, so I am informed, . to have inquiries made in regard to railway routes in other portions of the Northern Territory, and that information, when obtained, will also be made available.
- Mr. Speaker, by your courtesy, I would like to ask whether it is a fact, as stated by the President of another place, that you have refused permission to officers of the Joint House Departments to give evidence before a Select Committee appointed by the Senate?
– As a matter of fact, no application hasbeen made to me by the Senate orany Committee thereof for permission for any officer to give evidence before a Select Committee appointed by the Senate for the purpose of making certain investigations, which, so far as I can see, do not cover any officers of this Parliament outside those immediately under the control of the Senate. According to the Senate Journals, this Select Committee was appointed -
To inquire into and report to the Senate on the question of the officials engaged in and about the Senate, and the working of the Public Service Act, so far as it concerns officers controlled by the Senate or Committees of the Senate.
As far as I am aware, no Committee has been empowered to extend its inquiries beyond the authority given in that resolution. The power to send for persons and papers was not even asked for or given to this particular Select Committee. In any case, however, no application has been made to me for permission for any officer of this House, or of any of the Joint Departments, to attend and give evidence before this Select Committee. The proper course is, not for an officer to apply personally to the Speaker for such permission, but for the Senate to make application to the House, as provided in the Standing Orders. The Speaker has not the power to give or withhold his consent to any officer giving evidence before a Select Committee appointed by either House. Neither has a Committee of either House the power to compel the attendance of a member or officer of this House without the consent or authority of the House itself. The proper procedure is laid down in standing orders 365, 366, and 374- 365. When the attendance of a Member of the Senate, or any Officer of the Senate is desired to be examined by the House or any Committee thereof (not being a Committee on a private Bill), a message shall be sent to the Senate to request that the Senate give leave to such Member or Officer to attend, in order to his being examined accordingly.
A similar procedure must be adopted in connexion with officers of this House. Standing order 366 states -
Should the Senate request by Message the attendance of a Member of the House before a Select Committee of the Senate, the House may forthwith authorize such Member to attend, if he think fit. The House, if similarly requested by the Senate, may also instruct its own Officers to attend such Committee, if the House think fit. 374. No Clerk, or Officer of the House, or Shorthand-writer employed to take minutes of evidence before the House, or any Committee thereof, may give evidence elsewhere in respect of any proceedings or examination heard at the Bar, or before any Committee of the House, without the special leave of the House.
It will be seen, therefore, that the proper course to pursue, if officers of the House are to be examined, is for a message to be sent in terms of the Standing Orders, and the authority of the House itself obtained for leave for that officer to attend and give evidence. I might add that a similar standing order exists in respect of another place; but,so far, no application of the kind has been made to me.
– Has the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) noticed the following in this morning’s press: -
Are we to build up a free, masculine Australia, where men can be candid, brave, true, and unhampered by a foreign brand of officialdom, or is Australian citizenship to be regulated and spied upon according to the narrow prejudices and enmities of some cheap and spiteful political usurper?
Will the Minister also say whether the writer of such words will be liable to be prosecuted tinder the powers taken by the Government in the measure which this House passed last night?
– When the measure in question has become law, and when the contingency arises and the matter has come before me, I will be prepared to give a decision upon it.
Sale of Cocoanut Plantations
– By to-day’s mail I have received a letter from a returned soldier at Rabaul, who states that he is unable to buy a cocoanut plantation, although he wishes to do so. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say what methods are being pursued by the Administration in regard to such matters as these?
– No decision has yet been arrived at by the Government concerning the realization of those properties in the Pacific territories which have been expropriates. When a policy has been decided upon, I have not the slightest doubt that if the Government decide to realize on estates of the character indicated by the honorable member, the claims of returned soldiers will be given every consideration.
– In connexion with the Committee which the Prime Minister indicated that it was the intention of the Government to appoint regarding building activities at the Federal Capital, will the Minister for Works and Railways make a statement before the adjournment announcing the conditions and the terms of agreement under which the Committee is to work,so that honorable members may have an opportunity to consider the whole matter before finality is reached ? If the Minister is not prepared to adopt such a course, will he undertake that the whole matter be held over until a statement can be made?
– Although a general statement upon this subject has already been made, I will be quite prepared to make a further statement before the adjournment; in fact, I will undertake to do so.
– Is it the intention of the Government to get into communication with the Government of New South Wales, who have promised to construct a railway from Yass to Canberra? In view of the projected activities of the Federal authorities at the Capital, I wish to know what steps have been taken to have this railway project pushed on with.
– I suggest to the honorable member, who is most influential, that, when he next goes to Sydney, he should personally get into communication with his friends who are in power in New South Wales. He might refer his query to them, especially in view of the fact that his friends in that State are constantly protesting against the delay in this matter of the Federal Capital. I strongly suggest that the honorable member gets the whole of the New South Wales members who are sitting on his side of the House to approach Mr. Storey direct, and so help us in regard to the building of the Capital. May I add, further, that I am just given to understand that a letter has already gone forward from this Government to the New South Wales authorities couched in the general terms of the honorable member’s inquiry ?
– When do the Government expect the Parliamentary Public Works Committee to present a reportwith respect to the direct route of railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges?
– At a later stage, today, I hope to submit a proposal to the House having to do with the reference of that specific subject-matter to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report.
– If the Public Works Committee is required to do this job, will the Government see that the lives of its members are insured before proceeding to the inquiry? And will they provide the Committee with camels for transport purposes?
Question not answered.
– I wish to know whether the promise of the Prime Minister will be honoured, namely, that an opportunity will be given to private members, before the adjournment, to discuss whatever matters they desire to ventilate. Will such an opportunity be given, or is it the intention of. the Government to finish their business tomorrow ?
– It is the intention of the Government to finish tomorrow.
– Then, will you give us to-morrow for private business?
– The situation is entirely in the hands of honorable members. If they will treat the Government kindly, I feel confidentthat they will be all right.
– There have been cases in which the luggage of wives and other dependants of returned soldiers - personal effects ranging in value up to £30 - have been lost by the licensed carriers employed by the Defence Department. I wish to know whether, in such circumstances, the Department will take steps to reimburse dependants for their losses.
– Every such case will be dealt with on its merits. If it is found that the Defence Department is culpable, it may be taken for granted that it will bear the expense.
– For some time past there have been rumours, and more than rumours, in press intimations that it is intended to form an Empire Parliament. Quite recently such rumours have developed, and now it is said that the intention is to form an Empire Cabinet. Have the Government come to any decision in this matter? If so, will they inform honorable members of the exact position ?
– At no time has such a matter been raised.
– Has the Treasurer been approached by the Treasurer of Queensland with a view to theCommonwealth assisting the State Government to raise a loan for developmental purposes? If not, may I ask the right honorable gentleman whether, if he is so approached, such a request will receive his sympathetic consideration?
– No such approach has been made, and I am afraid that I have as many duties relating to finding moneys for the Commonwealth as will occupy all my time. I fear that we must leave Queensland’s affairs to Queensland people.
– I desire to ask the Acting Leader of the House, in the absence of the Prime Minister, whether he has noticeda statement which was published in the Sydney press the day before yesterday, to the effect that a Sydney firm, known, I think, as the Intercolonial Trading Company, is offering Australian wheat to the Italian authorities at 15s. 3d. per bushel; and whether he does not think that the Australian Wheat Board should make such sales without the intervention, of middlemen?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matter; but I am informed by my honorable colleague, Mr. Poynton, that the Prime Minister has already denied the alleged facts.
– I desire, Mr. Speaker, to address a question to you. I am sure it is very obnoxious to the whole of the members of the House that there are employees of this Parliament who are receiving less than what is recognised as a living wage. In the event of the Government bringing in the new basic wage, will you, sir, kindly see that it is applied also to the employees of this House?
– I am not aware that any male employee of this House receives less than what is known as a living wage. So far as I know, their wages are in accordance with the award rates.
-Some are receiving less than £3 10s. per week.
– I can say positively that no male employee of this House is receiving less than £3 10s. per week. So far as my memory serves me, £194 per annum, inclusive of the bonus, is the lowest wage paid to any male employee of the House. That is the wage paid to a temporary cleaner.
– One hundred and eighty-two pounds.
– Plus a bonus of £12 per annum, which brings it up to £194.
– There is a doubt as to the bonus being paid to some of the employees.
– The bonus has been applied to all the lower-paid employees, although cleaners, under the award, were not entitled to a bonus. Their salaries were fixed at £182 per annum, inclusive of a previous bonus. Under the terms of the award, a bonus did not apply to the men who were receiving that wage; but, recognising the justice of representations that were made by some of the officers of the House that their wage of £182 was inadequate, I gave the additional bonus of £12. That is the position to-day.
As to the basic wage, to which the honorable member has referred, I replied yesterday to a similar question addressed to me by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley). If any alteration is made in regard to the salaries of public servants generally, the employees of Parliament House will not be allowed to remain in that respect at a disadvantage as compared with others in the lower-paid branches of the Public Service.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House whether Messrs. Cooper and Nephews have established factories in Australia for the manufacture of sheep-dip?
– The works have nearly been completed, and it is hoped that manufacturing operations will commence next month.
– I desire to ask the Acting Leader of the Government whether it is correct, as currently rumoured, that during the recess the Cabinet is to be reconstructed - that the Prime Minister is to proceed to London as HighCommissioner, that Senator Millen is to be appointed the representative of the Commonwealth in the United States, and that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is to go to some unknown place ?
– I am amazed that my honorable friend should address such a question to me. He knows very well that he and I had a conversation this morning about affairs in Russia.
– Does the right honorable gentleman mean to say that He is going there?
– I should be glad to take the honorable member there.
– And I would be pleased to accompany the right honorable gentleman.
Suspension of Standing Order
– I desire to ask the Acting Leader of the Government when an opportunity will be afforded me to move notice of motion No. 18 standing in my name, which relates to the payment of compensation to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) in connexion with the election which was voided by the Court?
– I shall replyby asking the leave of the House to move the suspension of the standing order under which no new business can be taken after’ 11 p.m. We had better secure for ourselves all the time available between now and to-morrow.
Mr.Tudor.- That means an all-night sitting?
– It may or may not. It is quite clear that a good deal of business is cropping up at the last mo- ment, and it is necessary to take this precaution. If it is at all possible we shall avoid a late sitting.
– It would be better to meet next week than to have an all-night sitting.
– There is no need to meet next week, and I ventureto say that honorable members are not anxious that we should do so. I ask leave, Mr. Speaker, to submit this motion.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would preclude the taking of new business after 11 o’clock p.m.
It is quite obvious that this motion is as much in the interests of honorable members opposite as in the interest of the Government.
.- I do not oppose the motion, but I take it that it means the we are to have an all-night sitting. For my own convenience, I would rather we continued our sittings over next week than sit all night on any occasion. I hope that we shall. have an opportunity to discuss the report of the Basic Wage Commission, which is one of the most important ever presented to this Parliament. It marks, I believe, a new era so far as wages are concerned.
– We have no copies of it.
– I requested a messenger to obtain a copy, and I obtained one on the day the report was presented, and doubtless honorable members could have done the same. The report, I believe, was also laid on the table, and I hope the debate on it will not be curtailed in any way. It would be infinitely better to devote a weekto debating the report than hurry into recess.
– I have the strongest objection to new business being taken after 11 o’clock.
– For once in a session?
– Unless we are given some indication of the nature of the business to be taken, I object to new business after 11 o’clock, when it is difficult sometimes to keep a quorum. I had the strongest objection to the proposal to erect the Note Printing Office in Melbourne, which was proposed a little while ago, but the motion was introduced unexpectedly, and was carried without debate, although the Government knew there was strong opposition to it. The matter referred to by the Leader of the Opposition involves an important principle.
– May I say at once that the Government have no new business to introduce? .
– If that is so, what is the need for the motion?
– It is in order that we may get through the business on the notice-paper.
– The motion of which the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) speaks was on the business paper for weeks.
– But some business I am specially interested in has been on the notice-paper for months, and some business has been there foryears. Under this motion the whole of the Standing Orders with regard to the order of business may be set aside, and special motions picked out for favour. We ought to know what business is to be brought on under this motion before we assent to it.
.- I have a decided objection to all-night sittings.
– I have not suggested that we are going to sit all night.
– From the motion, it is obvious that the Government, if necessary, intend to bring forward new business after 11 o’clock, and that means sitting all night. In the light of my experience of one session in this House, and of the way in which business is conducted when we sit into the small hours, I consider that we might just as well move the closure and pass the business without debate. I am as well able, I suppose, as anybody to sit throughout the night, and I am prepared to do so if necessary, but I do not think it right, merely for the sake of getting into recess, to conduct our business during hours when men are not in a fit state of mind to give proper application to it. My suggestion is that, instead of having any all-night sittings, we should, if necessary, continue the session over next week.
– I hope that honorable members on both sides will oppose this motion, which means that the Government, by means of an all-night sitting, will force all the business through. There is no immediate hurry, and, personally, I would prefer to sit for another fortnight rather than continue the business after 11 o’clock. These all-night sittings “ take it out “ of me, and other honorable members also; they may be all very well for the younger members, who regard them as fun, but they are not good for men who are getting up in years. If the Government are in any particular hurry to get into recess, I remind them that the Appropriation Bill is through, and they can, if they so desire, terminate the business at once. There are now only the carbide question and the basic wage question to consider; When the orders providing for the closure were before the House, we were told that they would have the effect of doing away with all-night sittings.
– You supported that proposal.
– I did not; but when it was passed I hailed it with pleasure, because I thought it would really do away with all-night sittings. It is the Government “hacks,” who keep a quorum, on whom the hardship falls. When the “ gag “ was introduced into this. House we were told it would do away with too much talk; then there was a limitation placed on the speeches; and, finally, we adopted the “guillotine.” The Government have all these powers, and if they want to use them, now is the time, rather than having all-night sittings, killing half of us. I hope the majority of members will not consent to new business after 11 o’clock, because it means a continuous sitting until we finish.
– During my eight years’ experience in this House I never remember a session when a similar motion was not adopted. Prolonged sessions are all very well for honorable members who can get to their homes every week-end ; but, for the sake of those of us who have to stay continuously in Melbourne, it is about time that a spurt was put on with the business. Last night it was almost the unanimous opinion of the House that we should proceed with the Murray Waters Bill, and put it through; and in my opinion the Government made a mistake in not taking that course. No matter what Government is in power, it is always the practice to sit longer hours at the close of the session in order to finish the business; indeed, this applies to every Parliament in the world. I am quite prepared to finish the business this week. I would much rather see new business taken after 11 o’clock, and sit on for a couple of hours.
– A couple of hours !
– I do not care if we have to sit for three or four hours after 11 o’clock. I would rather do that than see the “gag” applied ruthlessly and brutally, as would otherwise be the case in the closing hours of the session.
– Why not meet at 9 o’clock to-morrow morning?
– It was a mistake that we did not meet earlier, both yesterday and to-day. I am quite prepared to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James
Page) and meet to-morrow morning at 9 o’clock. I am also prepared to sit on Saturday morning to get through the business. If we can finish this week by sitting an hour, or three or four hours, longer, either at the beginning or at the end of the day, I am willing to do so, because the session has been fairly long, and to nearly every honorable member pretty strenuous. If the Government desires, on emergency, to bring on new business after 11 o’clock, so that we may adjourn by Saturday, I shall support that course rather than come here again next week.
– I oppose the motion. The honorable member for Franklin is not a good tipster. Last evening he said that the Country party in theState Legislature was going to put out the Lawson Government, but we know now that half of its members supported the Government. One of the most vital matters affecting, not only this Parliament, but also the men and women of the country, is the report of the Basic Wage Commission, which the Prime Minister has described as a revolutionary one.
-The honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter.
Mr.CONSIDINE. - I am showing reasons why the motion should not be carried.
– The honorable member may mention the basic wage report as a reason for not agreeing to the motion now before the House, but he must not now discuss that report.
– I do not wish : to discuss it; but what the Prime Minister says about it is a reason for not carrying the motion. The. report involves such fundamental changes that the full attention of the House should be given to it; but if we are to have a continuous sitting until all the business before us is disposed of, honorable members will not be in a condition to properly discuss this or any other matter. I have had a fair experience of all-night sittings. Generally 75 per cent. of the members of the House are then absent from the chamber, though within call to apply the “ gag,” if necessary, and Ministers and others lose their tempers because of the strain upon them. Members have neither the inclination nor the ability, under such circumstances, to discuss matters properly. There is no reason why we should be in a hurry to adjourn overChristmas. The people, especially those particularly concerned in the basic wage report, will not thank us for rushing through business to shut up Parliament for six months, if not for longer.
– It will not be for so long.
Mr.CONSIDINE. - I predict the future from what I know of the past. The Appropriation Bill having been passed, the Treasurer will not have to ask for Supply until the middle of July. The Prime Minister is going to London to attend the ImperialConference, and I understand that there are to be some great changes in the Cabinet. All this means a protracted recess. Therefore, while there are great problems to be settled, involving the vital interests of the community, I shall not consent to the recess, especially as conditions are getting worse and worse outside.
-Let us get to the discussion of these vital matters now.
– The honorable member may discuss only the proposal that new business may be taken after 11 o’clock. He may not discuss in detail the different matters with which the House may deal.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 16
– With regret I move -
That the honorable member for Maranoa be suspended from the service of the House.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member was, therefore, under standing, order No. 59, suspended for the remainder, of the day’s sitting.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– My colleagues are arranging for at least two of the three dredges- to carry on the work.
Retiring Age - Vacancies et Customs Department.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the action, pending in the- High Court relative to the retiring age of those officers, of the. Federal Public Service in South Australia who- were transferred to the Commonwealth Service at its inception; will the
Government refrain from retiring any such officer reaching the age pf sixty-five years until the matteris determined?
– It is not considered that there is sufficient justification for departing from the general practice of retiring officers in all States at sixty-five years of age.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he arrange, in connexion with any appointments of Inspectors in the Customs Department, Sydney, that such positions be duly advertised, and that senior officers qualified for such vacancies shall be given the opportunity to fill the positions?
– The requirements of the Public Service Act and regulations thereunder have always been, and will be, strictly complied with.
Protection from Landlords.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon -notice -
Whether, in any scheme for the reconstruction of the Legislative Council of Papua, the Interests of the native races will be adequately safeguarded by providing for the nomination of members to represent such races equal in number to the members elected to represent the white population?
Mr.POYNTON. - The honorable member may rest assured that in the proposals which will be put forward the Government will see that the interests of the native population are not prejudiced in any degree whatever ; but I doubt whether the course suggested is the most desirable method of securing that end.
Interestsof Native Population
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that the Government has appointed a Commission to inquire into the organization of Government, the collection of revenue, the disposal of Germanowned property, and other matters relating to the political and material administration of the mandated territories in the Pacific, he will secure the appointment of a Commission to inquire into and report upon the best methods of conserving the interests of the native populations of those territories, and insuring their well-being and development in order ‘that the principle enunciated by the Peace Treaty that “ the well-being and development of such people form a sacred trust on civilisation “ may be given effect to?
– It is considered that the experience already gained in. connexion with the administration of native affairs in Papua obviates the necessity for the appointment of any such Commission as that suggested by the honorable member.
– On. the 23rd November, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 5th November, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following questions: -
Whether the Government will have prepared a statement, and have the same laid on the table of the House at the earliest opportunity, respecting the following: -
The total amount paid by the Govern ment during the periods July, 1918; June, 1919; July, 1919; and June, 1920; in connexion with the medical and surgical administration and staff at the Military Hospital at Keswick, South Australia?
A detailed list of practitioners, and the respective amounts received for duties, at the above hospital?
A list of practitioners permanently at tached to the staff?
A list of practitioners in the service of the Department at this hospital who also have a private practice?
A list of practitioners who are in the service of the Department at the above hospital, and who are also retained by other Government Departments, and what amounts are received for such other duties?
I then replied in the affirmative. The particulars desired have now been obtained, and are as follows: - 1. (a) Financial year 1918-1919, £26,755 9s. 9d.; (b) financial year 1919-1920, £28,170 13s. 9d.
The increase in expenditure for thefinancial year 1919-1920is attributed to the following:
During 1919-1920, the Department of Psycho-therapeutics, under Colonel C. L. Strangman, and later LieutenantColonel H. K. Fry, D.S.O., increased its activities in the treatment of nervous diseases.
Full-time Officers -
Major P. W. Rice (secretary and registrar), 33s. per diem; total amount received, £15116s.
Major (Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) A. W. Hill, Officer in Charge, Curative Workshops, 33s. per diem; total amount received, £151 16s.
Captain (Temporary Major) N. R. Bennett, R.M.O., 33s. per diem; total amount received,, £151 16s.
Lieutenant (provisionally) (Temporary Major) W. A. Pryor,R.M.O., 33s. per diem; total amount received, £15116s.
Lieutenant (provisionally) (Temporary Major) W. K. Pavy, 33s. per diem; total amount received, £7711s. (47 days only).
Visiting Medical Officers -
Captain (Temporary Major) R. L.Keni- han, R.M.O. (part time), total amount received, £127 10s.; Captain C. Brown, Anesthetist, total amount received, £11 16s. 3d.; Lieutenant-Colonel A. M. Cudmore, Surgeon, total amount received, ‘ £18 15s.; Colonel C. T. de Crespigny, Visiting Physician, total amount received, £24 7s. 6d.; Colonel M. H. Downey, Alienist, total amount received, £1 17s. 6d.; Lieutenant-Colonel H. K. Fry, Physio-therapeutist, total amount received, £120; Major A. M. Morgan, Oculist, total amount received, £32; Lieutenant-Colonel H. S . Newland, Plastic Surgeon, total amount received, £19 13s. 9d.; Colonel H. A. Powell, Visiting Surgeon, total amount received, £24 7s.6d.; Major H. K. Pavy, part-time Resident, total amount received, £6; Major R. Pul- leine, Aural Surgeon, total amount received, £2 5s.; Colonel T. G. Wilson, Gynaecologist. Total, £1,073 7s. 6d.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time
This is a measure of considerable importance to the Commonwealth. 1 regret that, owing to the long period of negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States, it was only yesterday when the final signature was- placed upon the documents. We took immediate steps, however, to bring the Bill before Parliament ; and the State Parliaments, apparently, are acting with equal alacrity, if an indication may be taken from the fact that I have just received word from South Australia to the effect that the Bill which it is necessary to pass through tho Legislature of that State was agreed to by the Legislative Council last night, and will be submitted to the House of Assembly to-day. Honorable members are aware that in 1914 an agreement was arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, with a view to regulating the distribution of the waters of the Murray, and for the- construction of certain works so as to secure and insure irrigation and navigation, and for the appointment of a Commission having denned powers under the agreement. The agreement was signed- on the 9th September, 1914. The Federal Act ratifying tha agreement was assented to on 15th November, 1915 j and on 31st January, 1917, the Commission was constituted and set out upon its- work.. The object of the original agreement was, among other things, to provide for the construction of certain works on the Murray. These’ included the building of a large storage basin on the Upper Murray, the construction of a storage basin- at Lake- Victoria for the supply of South Australia, and for the construction of thirty-five locks and weirs. Nine of these latter are situated between Wentworth and the Murray- mouth.
– I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.’]
– Seventeen of the locks and weirs- are situated between Echuca and Wentworth. Then there are nine other locks and weirs which were- to be erected either on the Murrumbidgee or on the Darling - the decision regarding the sites to be left to New South Wales. That State decided to put those nine looks on the Murrumbidgee. The works, altogether, were estimated to cost £4,663,000. That was an estimate made in of about 1913, and,, of course, it will not hold good- to-day. .The- agreement was that each of the States should contribute £1,221,000 and the Commonwealth £1,000,000. The liability of the Com. monwealth was limited to that sum 0f £1,000,000. But if there was an excessive expenditure in connexion with the construction of the works, the burden of that excess was to fall in equal proportions upon the three contracting States. The Commission was constituted by a rep.resentative of the Commonwealth, acting as President, and of one representative from each of the.- three contracting States. The decision of the Commission upon all matters, except those which were purely formal, had to be absolutely unanimous. First of all, the contracting Governments were required to submit a general scheme of works to the Commission, and the Commission was either to approve thereof, or to suggest’ amendments. The scheme of South Australia was for the construction of the nine locks and weirs apportioned to that State. The general scheme coming before the Commission from Victoria and New South Wales was for- the construction of. the locks and weirs in the respective areas to be controlled by those States. When it came to a matter of actual construction, each State, under an obligation to construct any particular work, would submit to the Commission the plans and estimates therefor. The Commission would them authorize the works, or make suggestions for- their, improvement. The scheme- would- next go back to the individual State, and the States would afterwards go ahead as the constructing authorities. The money is contributed by the various contracting parties, and the constructing authorities are paid by the Commission for the works carried out. The power of employment of all workmen has resided with the State constructing authorities, in each case. I have been President of the Commission, for some time; and I wish to Bay that we, as a Commission, realizing the great importance of this work, did all we could to press forward with its expedition. We achieved some considerable success - so much so that we had considered all the general schemes. We approved of and authorized the construction of the Hume reservoir, at a cost of about £1,639,000. The portion of the work upon the Victorian side of the- river was to be carried out by the Victorian constructing authority ; and the New South Wales part, on the New South Wales side, was to be carried out by the constructing authority of that State. We accepted tentative proposals to expedite this matter, and already, I am happy to say, considerable work has been done in assembling material, organizing the plant, and making provision for the actual conduct of the work. We authorized also the Lake Victoria scheme, and considerable work upon that project has been in progress. The South Australian Government undertook some of the work themselves, and provided for the remainder to be done by contract. We authorized the Victorian Government to proceed with the Torrumbarry scheme. A good swing forward was achieved upon that task; and matters were going well when, unfortunately, labour troubles arose and interfered with progress. We, as a Commission, also authorized the construction of .locks No. 2, No. 3, and No. 9, in the lower portion of the Murray. In addition, the surveys of the river have been proceeding all the time. This work, I might say, requires the most minute and accurate care; we cannot take risks with respect to these great projects. I have to record, further, that when the work of the Commission was started, the Blanchetown weir, in South Australia, was already in progress. The South Australian constructing authority had already made considerable progress in the construction of that work, but, unhappily, for three years it was blocked owing to the conditions existing in the river. However, lock gates, and what are known as the navigable pass, have been constructed; and the South Australian Government were forging ahead with the construction of a coffer-dam to complete the whole of the weir across the river, when, again unfortunately, industrial troubles intervened, and blocked further progress.
It will be seen by my brief review of the works put in hand, that we were making good progress; but, at the same time, the practical experience of the working of the Commission, and of its relation to the State constructing authorities, was such that the Commonwealth Government were not satisfied that we had an organization most fitted to drive alan? with these great national projects., smoothly, and without conflict of authority or outbursts of industrial troubles and consequent delays. In the first place, the method of authorizing .the works was unsatisfactory because each State had to originate its own scheme. Then that scheme would be sent along to the Commission.
At this stage, I wish to pay a tribute to the engineers who were my colleagues upon the Commission.After having worked with them, and not forgetting their obligations as representatives of the States concerned, I desire to say that there could not have been more harmonious co-operation displayed by a more disinterested party of men. They are all gentlemen of considerable ability and skill in their professions. They have readily accepted suggestions one from the other, and. have been able to furnish very sound advice to the constructing authorities. But, as I have indicated, the various plans for works had to come to us, and then, after authorization by the Commission; it was left to the States to carry out those works. There was no means by which the Commission could get a driving force into the works to expedite construction. That wa’s a most serious defect. The next most serious defect was that where there is an industrial dispute with any of the State constructing authorities, there is always a hitch and subsequent difficulty in effecting a settlement and insuring further progress. The most striking instance in regard to this matter has been afforded at the Hume Reservoir. There, as I have already indicated, the work on one side of the river is being carried out by the New South Wales Government, and, on the other side, by the Victorian authorities. The conditions existing on the New South Wales side are consistent with those required by the laws of that State ; while on the Victorian side another set of conditions exists.
– Are the rates of wages different ?
– Tes ; the men are paid 2s. a day more in New South Wales. There is an anti-Labour Government in Victoria.
– The honorable member should be fair. I do not think he ought to introduce comments of that nature in connexion with this measure. Besides,, it should be mentioned that the conditions existing on the two sides of the Hume job are different, and, thus, the disparity in wages is, to some extent at any rate, offset. There has been a strike which has held up work on the Torrumbarry weir just at a time when the state of the river was most favorable for proceeding with construction. In South Australia, through Failure to settle the industrial dispute which arose, there has also been a block. It seemed. to the Commonwealth Government, therefore, that there should be, in regard to these works - seeing that tl.ey are one distinct whole - one defined control. There should be the one authority having the oversight of the whole of the industrial conditions, and all the workmen in all the areas ought to be placed on a similar footing.
– Hear, hear!
– These matters came before the Government, and we decided to place the position before the different States. At the Premiers’ Conference held in May last we pointed out the difficulties of the situation, and the States agreed to six resolutions, which I shall presently specify. I have been speaking, so far, only of those things which will be affected by what we propose in this measure to-day. Under the agreement, as I stated at the outset of my remarks, the Commonwealth is at present liable for £1,000,000, and for that sum only. When the agreement was made, the Commonwealth took upon itself responsibility for practically one-fourth of the expenditure. We undertook to be liable for. £1,000,000, and each of the States agreed to a liability of £1,221,000. The States, however, were able to show us that, owing to the great advance in the price of material and the increased cost of labour, the constructional work could not possibly be carried out at the rates estimated in’ 1914, and that,’ there-fore, our contribution of £1,000,000 was inadequate., _ In , reply, we said to them, We are prepared to join with you as a fourth partner, and to bear our proportion of the increased cost of carrying out these works.” That is the first variation of the original agreement. We considered that we were entitled, as one of the contributorries, to ask that the work should be carried out more expeditiously, and that a more effective control should be exercised.
– How will that be possible 1 You will not be able to avoid industrial troubles.
– I am not suggesting that, as the result of the passing of this Bill, we shall avoid all industrial troubles; but we are providing a means for the settlement of grievances. We are endeavouring to create a set of conditions under which we shall be better able - to secure uniformity, and to remedy grievances.
– But for the industrial disputes that have occurred this Bill would not have been necessary.
– That is not so. As I have already mentioned, the method of construction was too slow, and steps had to be taken to expedite it. I hope that the honorable member (Mr. Riley) will indorse our proposals to secure uniform conditions. The second resolution agreed to reads -
That where the amount to be contributed by any State in any year exceeds the sum of £125,000, the Commonwealth to advance to the States, by way of loan,, the amount of the excess.
In addition ,to its own quota of £125,000, the Commonwealth to contribute to the Commission a sum equal to that advanced to each individual State.
That is to say, the four contributing parties will supply, for the purposes of the work, £500,000 per annum; and if more is required, the Commonwealth will lend the States whatever is necessary in excess of their quota in order that there shall be no holding up of the works. We do not want the scheme to be delayed owing to any of the States being unable to find the necessary funds. It was further resolved that -
The agreement to be amended, with a view to giving to the Commission full control over all matters relating to the initiation and construction of works referred to in the agreement, which control ait present rests with the respective constructing authorities.
Under this new arrangement, the Commission will be the constructing authority. In’ future, the designs and plans, instead of being supplied from three different sources, will be prepared by the Commission. The Commission will, of course, co-operate with the States. It will inform the States of the proposed locations of the various locks and weirs to be constructed, so that due regard may be paid to their irrigation requirements.
The Commission will carry out the construction works from one end of the river to the other.
– In the event of any conflict of opinion as to the work to be done, what will happen?
– That is provided for in the agreement. There will be no difference of opinion as between the States and the Commonwealth; but any matter of first-rate importance coming before the Commission for decision must, under the new agreement, be decided by a majority of three to one. If the Commission is equally divided on thequestion, then, under a clause in the existing agreement, the matter must be decided by an arbitrator.
– Have the various States passed the legislation necessary to give effect to these proposals?
– Mr. Estell yesterday signed the agreement on behalf of the New South Wales Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) signed it on behalf of the Commonwealth on Tuesday. Mr. Lawson has signed it on behalf of the Victorian Government, and Mr. Bice has signed it on behalf of South Australia. This Bill has already been passed by the Legislative Council of South Australia.
– This is merely to ratify the agreement entered into with the Premiers.
– Yes, and the Bill must be passed by the four Parliaments concerned before the scheme can come into effective operation.
The next question that arose was in relation to the employment of staffs. The desire was that no duplication of staffs should occur. An arrangement was, therefore, made with the States that the Commission should utilize to the full their professional and clerical staffs. For instance, Mr. de Burgh, who has been designing works in connexion with the scheme, will continue to carry on under the Commission.
– Are we not likely to have in that way a divided authority?
– No. The Commission will be the controlling authority.
– Supposing the New South Wales Government desired to utilize Mr. de Burgh’s services in some other di- rection, what would happen ?
– Then the Commission would have to employ some one in his stead. The desire is that there shall be no duplication of staffs, and that advantage shall be taken of the matured experience of officers who have been associated for some time with this undertaking. The appointment of all officers and servants will be in the hands of the Commission.
Owing to adverse industrial and other conditions, the works have been held up for, roughly speaking, twelve months, and a most serious loss to Australia has thus occurred. The people are looking forward to the establishment of irrigation settlements along the river. Already soldier settlements are being established there, and settlers are anxiously waiting the construction of the big storage reservoirs, which are more important than are the locks. Every effort will be made to push on with them, and the parties have undertaken to proceed with these works without cessation.
– How long will it take to complete them?
– Under the original agreement the intention of the contracting parties was that so far as was reasonably practicable the Lake Victoria works should be completed within four years; the Upper Murray storage works within seven years, and all the remaining works within twelve years. Owing to the delays that . have occurred, and the adverse conditions which have been encountered, that is no longer possible. The States have agreed to delegate to this Parliament power to set up a Federal tribunal to settle industrial disputes, and, as provided for in clause 6 of the agreement, the necessary legislation conferring upon us that jurisdiction will be passedby them. The works, on completion, will be handed over to the various contracting States. All the works below Wentworth will be handed over to the South Australian Government; the Murrumbidgee works will be controlled by New South Wales, and there is to be a mutual agreement between Victoria and New South Wales as to the control and operation of the “seventeen locks along their boundaries.No alteration is being made, however, “in the original agreement as to the basis ofthe distribution of water.
The general purpose of this new arrangement isto endow the Commission with greater authority; to assist on the financial side and to remove the obstacles that are retarding the progress of the -work so that as soon as possible this great scheme may be brought into full fruition. I had often visited various spots along the Murray River before I took charge of the Department and becarne President of the Commission, but it was not until I had to make a close study of its conditions that I realized what this great stream meant to Australia. It has enormous possibilities, and the more one studies it the more one realizes how vastare its potentialities. The river, of course, has its limitations. It cannot supply more water than its catchment area provides, but experience has shown us how much can be done by the proper utilization of that which it does supply. The whole of this scheme has been carefully worked out on a scientific basis, and when completed should lead to an immense accretion of wealth and prosperity iu the part of Australia to which it relates.
– Will it cost more than £4,600,000 ?
– Double that amount.
– That was- the original estimate, but while I do nob intend to prophesy, I think that if the whole scheme is carried out at a cost of £8,000,000, even ‘ then it will prove to be a cheap job for Australia. The experience obtained in ‘carrying out this great work will be of infinite value to the rest of the Commonwealth.
There is one part of the resolutions passed by the Premiers which we are not adopting. It was resolved -
– There is not a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– The idea was that this scheme of irrigation would better the lands in the -Murray Basin and the neighbourhood generally, and that, therefore, when lands were given an enhanced value there should be a deduction to the extent to which they had been bettered. The
Premiers’ Conference agreed with that view, but on further consideration by the States and other authorities it was found to be really impracticable of application. Provision to that end, therefore, is not embodied in the agreement.
– That waa agreed to by all the States.
– The resolutions to which I refer were subject to the approval of the Cabinets of the various States, and, as I say, they were found to be impracticable. In the first place, we are dealing with three States with diverse systems of land tenure. In the Murray Basin, there are large settlements like Mildura, and recently the Redcliffs Estate has been purchased, and is being made availableThen there are soldier settlements, and also that at Renmark and others, all with different systems of land tenure. It is not as though we were starting a scheme for new country in which uniform conditions could be applied to all who were to benefit. In some of the localities, such as Kerang, instead of new lands being opened, the lands already occupied are given an assured supply, with gravitation instead of pumping from the river; the benefits arising from this scheme vary in different areas. In Victoria an enormous area has been settled under irrigation schemes, this State having done splendidly in work of the kind. Another practical difficulty was that it had not been decided into what localities the surplus water that this scheme will bring into being should be distributed, or what land would be resumed; that is a matter for future survey. Those concerned would know that at the moment their lands were resumed, they would get compensation only to the extent of the value from 1st July, 1921, plus 10 per cent., and it might be years before the resumption took place; and that was a difficulty which might affect development and also improvements. For those reasons a reconsideration of the resolution led to the conclusion that it would be unwise to embody it in the agreement. After all, it is still left to the States who have control of their own lands to decide how they shall be disposed of, and the value to be placed on them. It is a land problem for the States themselves to solve..
The Commission’s function is not to interfere with the conditions prevailing in any of the States affected, but to construct these works, provide the water and control it, and see that the equity of the agreement is observed justly.
This Bill simply carries out the agreement I have explained, and the ratifying measure Which accompanies it contains comparatively few clauses. The Commission is given the necessary power to construct the works, enter on lands, and do all that a construction authority may do.
– The betterment proposals are struck out?
– They are gone altogether; they were never in the agreement, but only in the resolutions passed at the Premiers’ Conference. To sum up, the Bill provides for. the increase of the Federal subsidy, the control of design and construction by the Commission, with power to settle terms and conditions for all the employees in the river basin, and the setting up of a Federal Tribunal, if need be, by delegation- from the States, in order to settle disputes. The general object of the measure is to insure expedition in the carrying out of the work, and enable Australia as speedily as possible to realize the full benefits of this great river.
– To a great extent I welcome this Bill. To those who have followed the work already done in connexion with this great scheme it must have appeared that the best interests of this country were being thwarted by the disorganisation that has prevailed since its initiation, owing, principally, to three different States dealing with the industrial question in three different ways. For many months there has been a cessation of work on the Victorian side because the men rightly refuse to work under- prevailing unfair conditions. The men employed on the New South Wales side were receiving some 2s. a day more than is paid to the men on the Victorian side, and this, very naturally, led to discontent and trouble. However, we are assured by the Minister (Mr. Groom) - and from the little time I have been able to devote to the consideration of the Bill it would appear - that there will be an end of difficulties of the kind. All who realize the great possibilities of this work to Australia must welcome any measure which will have that result. In my opinion a comprehensive scheme of this kind should have been in operation from the inception of the work, for if ever there was a work which could be described as national, it is this. We have only to observe what has taken .place in the case of Mildura in order to appreciate the results of extensive irrigation. There is no doubt that when the proposed work is carried out there will be many Milduras along the river Murray, and, therefore,
Ave must all welcome the somewhat late appearance of this agreement. I shall not dwell on the fact that the conditions on the New South Wales side of the river are better because there is a different Government in that State.
– Do not strike a jarring note!
– There is the temptation to do so, but I shall resist it. It is well that a work of this kind should be carried out under conditions which will secure uniformity - which will prevent discontent on the part of any men employed because they are not enjoying the same terms as are men who are working under a Labour Government. This, indeed, is the only reasonable way in which a work of this character can be carried on. . It is a work that affects Australia, and, therefore, it is the duty of the whole country to see that uniform regulations with good wages are applied.
Yesterday I asked the Minister - (Mr. Groom) a question, or rather I preferred a request which had been forwarded to me by a certain municipal body.
– It was quite a reasonable question that the honorable member asked, but I thought it better to make the explanation to-day.
– I only wish to present the point of view as it has been presented to me by the municipal body I mentioned. An agreement was entered into by the Premiers concerned as to the acquiring of land by the States. ‘ That agreement, as pointed out by the Minister, was that lands would be -acquired by the States as at their value in July, 1921, plus 10 per cent.
– That was agreed to by resolution at the Premiers’ Conference, subject to the approval of the various State Governments.
– I understand that that agreement was not ratified by theState Governments.
– All that has been ratified by the State Governments is the final agreement, which has been signed.
– It is hardly correct, I think, to describe the decision of the Premiers as an agreement; but the point of view of the body that wrote to me was that the decision, or agreement, was a good one. I do not, of course, know how much consideration they had given to it.
– Everybody along the river that I know of was unfavorably disposed to it.
– The point of view presented to me was that it would be an equitable agreement - that it was only fair that those persons who would be benefited by enhanced values to any great extent as the result of a national work
– Is there any instance of the principle having been previously adopted ?
– Yes, at Canberra, where the valuations are fixed as in 1908, although they are almost double now.
– That is one instance of the application of this principle, and I have no doubt that, in ten years’ time, the lands at Canberra will be five or six times as valuable as they are to-day.
– There are no private lands at Canberra.
– There is, of course, that difference; and I quite see the point of view of the honorable member forWimmera (Mr. Stewart) that to apply the principle to private land-holders under this scheme would be to apply a principle that has been adopted nowhere else.
– If you do not apply it, you will give the land-owners millions in the increased value of their land.
– That applies everywhere. The municipality which has written to me thinks that the principle is wrong. I am putting this matter forward on their behalf, and I take it that the reply of the Minister is that the matter is not the business of the Commission, but is being left to the respective State Governments ; and therefore this Parliament cannot deal with it-. I take it that the State Governments have the power to resume land. I know that the New South Wales Government has such power.
– And I believe that the Victorian Government has certain powers of resumption; at any rate, in respect of large estates.
– I think that that is so. Therefore it is the State authorities that must be approached in all matters relating to the acquiring of land.
– The matter is entirely one for the State authorities. Neither the Commonwealth nor the Commission has anything to do with it.
– I think it is best that the States should deal with it, as land matters are within their control.
– Are we not determining now what principle of payment should be applied?
– No ; that matter has been left entirely to the States.
– Personally, I think that the State Governments are the right authorities to deal with it.
The bringing about of uniformity in the carrying out of this scheme is a matter that concerns this Parliament and those who know what has taken place must have been struck with the terrible waste that has occurred through delays arising out of industrial disagreements, brought about by improper conditions imposed by a certain State. Members would be amply repaid by a visit to the districts concerned, because they would then see the possibilities of the scheme, and what it means to the country. The Bill will, I think, assist the carrying out of the work, and for that reason I welcome it, hoping that this great enterprise will be pushed on. I know how construction has been hindered by the cessation of work, because of want of uniformity of conditions on both sides of the river.
.- - It is very pleasing to find a Bill dealing with a great national work, such as that now under discussion, being debated in a non-party spirit. The Minister must have been gratified when such a stern and relentless critic of the Government as the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) gave the measure his blessing.
– I thought you, too, were a relentless critic of the Government.
– Not on this occasion. I am heartily in agreement with, the Minister on the general principles that he has outlined. Undoubtedly, under the old arrangement, when plans had to be sent by the State engineers for approval by the Commission, and then returned to the State Departments for the construction of the work, great delays occurred, and want of uniformity in the conditions of employment on both sides of the river also caused delay and dissatisfaction. It is to be hoped that, under the Bill, conditions will be established which will create a better feeling among the men engaged upon the construction works. The financial proposals of the Government are, I think, sound. I think that it is a good thing to provide that when over £125,000 is required in any one year the extra amount may be advanced by the Commonwealth. That prevents any of the States concerned making an excuse for not doing its share on the grounds of lack of finance. I am glad that the provision for the acquirement of land at its value in July, 1921, plus 10 per cent., was struck out. I understood that it was originally proposed for a term of ‘five years, and, later, for a term of ten years. It was, however, a revolutionary proposal. Were effect given to it, a property valued at £5,000 in July, 1921. and worth £12,000 in July, 1926, could be resumed by the Government in the latter year at the lower figure, plus 10 per cent., even though the land were not needed for construction purposes. I do not say that it is unsound in principle to ask for some contribution from land-owners when the public money spent in a certain locality lias increased the value of property there, but inasmuch as that principle has never been applied in and about the capital cities of Australia, where there has been a huge expenditure of public money, I do not see why it should be applied in a rural district. Were the application of it universal, there might not be objection to it, but I object to its application in the first instance to country lands.
I hope that every effort will be made to expedite the construction of the Hume reservoir. Irrigation settlements are springing up all down the Murray valley, and irrigation is booming now .as it has never done before in this country. But while this is taking place, and everyyear a greater quantity of water is being drawn from the river for irrigation purposes, there is no more water going down the river now than there was years ago. I live within three miles of the Murray, and I saw that magnificent waterway in 1914 merely a collection of pools between sandbanks. In that year of drought it was touch-and-go with the MilduraNyah settlements. What little water there was left became so salt that some of the orchards there aTe still showing the effects of its use. A dam had to be put across the . river at Mildura to hold what little water there was trickling down the watercourse. Obviously, if we get another drought like that of 1914, now that the irrigation requirements of the country are so much greater, the position, will be ever so much more serious, unless something is done to conserve water. This need for con- servation makes the construction of the Hume reservoir imperative. Australia suffers from droughts perhaps more regularly than any other country, and .we should try to conserve every drop of water that we can. It is over thirty years since the Chaffey Brothers, with a band of followers, settled at Mildura. They have blazed the trail in regard to irrigation, and Australia has had no better citizens. There is a great future in irrigation, not only for fruit-growing, but also for the growing of fodder for stock. Some people talk about the possibility of there being an over-production of dried fruits, but I am not afraid of “it. I am satisfied that Australia can get rid of all it can grow with every drop of water it’ has. But the completion of the Hume reservoir is an urgent necessity in the interests of the great settlements already established along the River Murray. It has been truly said that honorable members have only to visit the valley pf the Murray to be impressed with its possibilities; and I give a standing invitation to honorable members who care to make the trip to come along. I shall make all the necessary arrangements for them.
– Hear, hear! I shall do the same on my side of the river.
.- We ought to realize that a very vital alteration has been made in the agreement with the States, and that there is no longer any limit as to the amount of money the ‘Commonwealth may be called upon to contribute in connexion with the River Murray irrigation and water conservation scheme. Under the original agreement we agreed to contribute £1,000,000 towards the completion of the necessary works, but now the amount we may be called upon to pay is indefinite. I do not think that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) can say how much the scheme will eventually cost.
-That is true.
-I ask the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) whether he does not think there ought to be a limit on the liability of the Commonwealth? The Commission consists of representatives of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, together with a representative of the Commonwealth, so that the States have a majority of votes, and are ina position to commit the Commonwealth to any sum of money for this scheme.
– The Commonwealth’s liability is limited to the works specified in the agreement.
Mr.HIGGS. - But the estimated cost of the works has been increased from £4,663,000 to £8,000,000.
– Each individual State will be called upon to pay as much as the Commonwealth does;
– But as each individual State is in the happy position of being able to charge rent for the land which is irrigated, it will be able to secure a revenue from the scheme, whereas the Commonwealth will get nothing directly, though it may do so indirectly. When the Commonwealth granted assistance to Tasmania to the extent of £500,000, that State was looked upon as the recipient of charity. Now the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia are to receive a present of at least £2,000,000. But I am not’ objecting to that, because, if I were asked to say what national matters the Commonwealth ought to push forward, I would at once mention irriga- tion as one of them. I think the public of Australia ought to consider whether we are not spending too many millions of money on new railways, and not enough on irrigation.
Mr. W. B. Chaffey, one of the pioneers of Mildura, pointed out recently that one of the great advantages of. irrigation settlements was the fact that the settlers have more social intercourse than is usual in country districts, and can help one another in time of trouble. This is impossible where one’s- neighbours are 5, 15, or 20 miles away. I was pleased to notice the national outlook of the honorable members for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) and Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), because I am hopeful that when Queensland approaches the Commonwealth Government for a similar contribution for irrigation works and water conservation in south, central, and north Queensland, it will receive similar sympathetic consideration at the hands of the Treasurer and his colleagues. I quite agree with honorable members that there is an object lesson with which we all ought to become acquainted in the Murray Valley, and I hope to see irrigation in all parts of Australia, where it is required. At the same time, it was disconcerting to read certain remarks made by Mr. Storey, the Premier of New South Wales, at the recent Conference between Federal Ministers and State Premiers.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Speaking of the Murrumbidgee irrigation scheme, which cost the State of New South Wales over £5,000,000, Mr. Storey said that the State had not been able to sell even half of the area already irrigated and made available, and he pointed out that when the Murray River scheme was completed there would be two huge schemes established, while apparently there were not sufficient settlers for one. It would certainly be deplorable if, after the expenditure of £8,000,000 on this new scheme, we were not able to find people to occupy the area irrigated. It is the duty of the Government of the Commonwealth to endeavour to induce settlers to go on to these lands, but where we are to get a desirable class of settlers remains to be seen. Perhaps we shall need to have a more magnanimous outlook on the world, and not confine our search for immigrants to the United Kingdom.
– So long as we get an ample export market I am not afraid of thepossibility of not getting settlers for this area.
– I agree. Mr. Samuel Mcintosh, who was of great assistance to us on the recent trip to the Murray River, and who is a very able man, declares that he has no doubt about the matter, and that, . even allowing for a 50 per cent. reduction in the high prices at present obtainable for dried fruits, settlers engaged in this class of work on the irrigation areas will make a very good living. He has no fear that Britain will not take the whole of Australia’s surplus of dried-fruit products, and he prophesies that by the time this irrigation and water conservation scheme has been carried out, even at a cost of £8,000,000, there will be at least 1,000,000 people earning a good living in the Murray Valley. Although I think there ought to be a limit in the Bill as to the amount of money the Commonwealth is to be called upon to contribute towards the cost of the work, I do not say for one moment that if the scheme costs more than £8,000,000, the extra amount which the Commonwealth would be called upon to pay as its share should be refused. What I claim is that we should have some idea from the Bill itself as to the amount of money which we shall be expected to furnish in the shape of a free gift to the States. I shall vote for the Bill; but I confess that, as a representative of a large State with a small population, I am voting for a gift to two of the most populous States of a considerable sum of money in the hope that when Queensland approaches the Commonwealth for a similar concession, it will receive the same sympathetic consideration.
– I see no prospect of any limit being exceeded which would cause the slightest embarrassment to the Commonwealth Treasurer. The scheme is not being rushed along at a sufficient rate to cause any undue demand to be made upon the Commonwealth Treasury.
My main interest in this matter is simply this: Every additional settler placed in the River Murray Valley means £4 per head in the shape of Customs duties for each man, his wife, and each child, which, considering that we are only paying onequarter of the cost of the scheme, will be an ample return for the Commonwealth Treasury.
– It is the best investment the Commonwealth Treasurer has ever had.
– I think so. It was one of the main reasons which induced me, originally, to enter into the scheme, and it is the reason why the other day we proposed to accelerate the work by standing in to the extent of about a quarter of the cost. It will be an immensely paying proposition for the Commonwealth, and if, at any time hereafter, the work should be rushed along by leaps and bounds, and the Commonwealth Treasury is embarrassed, the Government can always come to the House and put on the embargo suggested by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs).
– That would be repudiation, which I did not suggest.
– However, there is not likely to be any embarrassment. I only hope that we may be a little embarrassed in the way the honorable member has suggested, because then we shall also be embarrassed with an overflowing revenue, which would be of advantage at the present time.
.- The Government are to be congratulated, both upon the original agreement and upon that which is proposed in this measure. When it is remembered that the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States concerned removed a vexed question which had almost threatened to prevent the consummation of Federation, we should not forget to offer our congratulations to the present Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) upon having been the means of bringing about a settlement, some five or six years ago. It was his intervention, as Prime Minister, with a promise on behalf of the Commonwealth to be responsible for the quota of £1,000,000 of expenditure, which removed the impasse that had existed for thirty or forty years. Whatever other titles to fame the right honorable gentleman may have, his contribution to the solution of the Murray River problem should be among the most lasting.
I take a different point of view from that of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). I regard this subject as one in which the Commonwealth, as a whole, is vitally interested. The money expended by the Commonwealth, being simply one-fourth of the total outlay, is sure to be amply repaid. The whole question of conservation of water in the Darling and Murray systems is a national matter in the truest sense of the term. I would support the appointment of a Commission to handle all the problems and projects arising out of those great water systems. Not only have there been considerable vexations and difficulties among the interested States in connexion with the control and allocation of the waters of the Murray from its source to its mouth, but there are problems arising in connexion with the Condamine and Dumaresq Rivers, on the border between New South Wales and Queensland. Because of the attitude of the New South Wales authorities during the past ten years, nothing has been achieved in the direction of securing conservation and irrigation. Settlers have agitated for it for a long while. The Queensland Government, six years ago, carried out an extensive survey which indicated that a huge reservoir could be constructed at comparatively .little cost, and provide for the irrigation of an enormous area, suitable for such purposes. However, those interested have not been able to get the New South Wales Government to authorize a survey and an examination into the possibilities which lie on the New South Wales side of the Dumaresq. If a Commission had been appointed to enable the Commonwealth to intervene and take over all such schemes of conservation and irrigation, a great deal more would have been done in those directions. I was much impressed, when in Egypt, by reading the statements of Sir William Willcocks, that great engineer who carried to completion the construction of the Assouan Dam. In his book dealing with that enormous work, he remarks that it would have been well for the statesmen of Australia and South Africa if they had had the good fortune to be trained in India and Egypt, for the money which has been expended in Australia and South Africa upon railway construction would then have been’ used for water conservation and irrigation projects, with the results that the railways would have been able to build themselves.
.- I also support the Bill. I have had an opportunity to inspect the irrigation schemes along the Murray, and I am convinced that the work there has been well done. Fortunately for Australia, and for the settlers themselves, there are excellent . men on the job. I do not think it would be possible to secure better officials than Mr. Hill and Mr. Mcintosh, both in relation to the schemes themselves and with respect to the settlement of returned soldiers. I would like the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to bear in mind that Australia is extending its production of dried fruits 1 and citrus products to an enormous extent. I heard it remarked during the tour of inspection that the output would probably reach at least eight times the total of the pre-war figures. Supposing that the people of Australia can consume twice as much as before the war, there will still be left a huge surplus which will have to be exported. Prior to Federation, dried fruits from other parts of the world, more particularly from Greece, were coming into Australia at 2£d. per lb., and a protective duty of 3d. per lb. had to be imposed to encourage local (production. Although the cost of production overseas has risen, and the consumption of these products has increased very rapidly, I question very much whether the world’s parity will be anything approaching that which has been foreshadowed. It would be wise for the Government to try to make arrangements for preferential treatment with respect to our dried fruits imported into Great Britain. Otherwise, it may be disastrous to leave the producers to sell their output under the same conditions as prior to the war, when settlers were able to get only 2d. per lb. for their surplus products.
– There are no prices for any dried fruits as low as 2d. per lb. today.
– I am speaking of conditions which existed before the war. The surplus was sold to distilleries at 2d. per lb. I saw thousands of cases of fruit which could have been sold in Queensland without difficulty at 6d. per lb., and yet. the growers were getting only 2d. per lb.
The reason was that there is an association which controls price and the quantities which may be despatched to any one of the States. I told the growers that I would be pleased to give them 5d. per lb. for 10 tons of fruit I saw at the distillery at Mildura, but they could not sell, seeing that the quantity to which Queensland was entitled had already gone on to that State.
– It must be remembered that the distilleries have to make a certain quantity of spirit for the fortification of .wines.
– There was no wine produced in the neighbourhood of the distilleries of which I speak. The surplus production of the fruit-growers was bought for 2d. per lb., and turned into a white spirit, about 70 per cent, overproof, which was subsequently sold to wholesale chemists and druggists, and winemakers, in various parts of Australia. The producers had to be content with the price offered by the distilleries, because there was no other market. There is no danger in the near future that the people who are being settled in large numbers upon these areas will be handicapped with a surplus such as is likely to render their labours unprofitable. But such a contingency could be entirely obviated if the Government were to step in. I urge them to make arrangements by which the surplus products of the returned soldier settlers shall find markets in other parts of the world at a remunerative price, even if the Commonwealth Line of Steamers has to be utilized for the carriage of the produce overseas to profitable markets. As the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has said, Queensland members support this measure. But we trust that, when we may be asking for the authorization of any similar project, which Queensland hopes to- be able to do - we long for irrigation and water conservation - the same cordial support will be given by honorable members from other States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.
– I move -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works ‘Committee
Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its report, viz : - Erection of an additional telegraph line from Perth to Eucla, via transcontinental railway route.
I also lay upon the table the papers connected with this project.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz. : - Perth- New General Post Office building under construction - Extension by two floors for the accommodation of the Taxation and other Government Departments.
I lay on the table the plans, estimates, and other necessary documents. ‘ The estimated cost of the two additional floors proposed is from £45,000 to £50,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz.: - Sydney - General Post Office Remodelling and additions.
I lay on the table the plans, designs, and other papers. The estimated cost is £260,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That. 3n accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1C13-1014, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz. : - Sydney - Offices for Taxation and other Commonwealth Departments.
I lay on the table the necessary plans and other documents. The estimated cost, exclusive of the site, is £145,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz.: - North Melbourne - Erection of automatic telephone exchange.
I submit the necessary plans and documents. The estimated cost is : Site, £745; building and ventilating equipment, £9,000; exchange equipment, £86,295. Total, £96,040. Estimated revenue:
1922, £19,120; 1927, £29,730.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend section 14 of the Industrial Peace Act 1920.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That Orders of the Day Nos. 2 and 3 be postponed until after the consideration of Order of the Day No. 4.
. -Order of the Day No. 4, which the Minister now desires to bring before the House, relates to the resumption of the debate on the motion submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) providing for the prohibition of the importation of carbide of calcium except under certain conditions. I am afraid that there may be some debate on that motion, and that the time at our disposal for the consideration of the report of the Commission on the Basic Wage will thus be materially reduced. In the ordinary course of events, we shall not have more than eight hours in which to discuss that report, which is of greater economic importance to the workers of Australia than any other document that has ever been submitted to this Parliament.
– I desire to enable the House to deal without interruption with that report by getting these matters out of the way. The Minister (Mr. Greene) has a suggestion to make which he thinks may do away with further debate on the motion in regard to theimportation of carbide of calcium.
– I cannot say whether or not that matter will be discussed at length, but I certainly object to any curtailment of the time at our disposal for the discussion of the question of the basic wage. It is all-important, and its consideration should be proceeded with without delay.
– I am willing to accept an amendment of the motion relating to the prohibition of the importation of carbide of calcium, so that it will read that the importation of carbide of calcium into the Commonwealth shall be prohibited “for twelve months from date,” except under licence. That will provide for the fixing of a permanent date. What I am anxious to do is to bridge over the period between now and the passing of the Tariff, when, if the House gives the necessary authority, we shall be able to deal with direct cases of dumping.
– The honorable gentleman is not in order in discussing that matter at this stage.
– I merely desire, sir, to give the House an indication of what I propose to do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
prohibition of importation.
Debate resumed from 22nd November (vide page 6812), on motion by Mr. Greene -
That the importation of carbide of calcium into the Commonwealth be prohibited, except under licence by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and subject to the following conditions: -
That the price of Australian carbide of calcium f.o.b.Hobart shall not exceed £30 per ton, except with the approval of the Minister; and
That the Minister is satisfied that the price charged for Australian carbide of calcium is not excessive.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That after the word “ prohibited “, line 2, the words “ for twelve months from date” be inserted.
. -When speaking to the main question last Monday, I gave figures showing the value of the importations of carbide of calcium into Australia. The Minister (Mr. Greene) then stated that in the early stages of the war there was a tremendous increase in the price. That statement does not agree with the importers’ figures, as set forth in the Customs returns. Carbide of calcium was worth from £10 to £13 10s. per ton
– Up to 1917.
– Up to 1917-1918.
– As soon as the contracts ran out, prices went up.
– At all events, I object to any company having all its own way, particularly when it will have a monopoly. Before submitting this proposal the Government should have had an inquiry into the whole matter. In every case in which we have provided for the payment of a bounty, at least during the last ten years, we have taken steps to insure fair conditions for the employees engaged in the industry. We are giving the company concerned in this case an absolute monopoly of the business, and there is no proposal on the part of the Government to provide for the observance of fair and reasonable industrial conditions. We should impose conditions similar to those embodied in the Iron Bounty Act, the Wool Tops Bounty Bill, and other measures of the kind. I object to all save Government monopolies.
– I understand that all the employees in this industry are members of the Australian Workers Union, and are most anxious that this proposal should be adopted.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), who is president of the Australian Workers Union, . nas not taken up that attitude.
– And even if the statement made by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) is correct, it does not affectthe principle involved.
– Exactly. It is a sound principle, and when it is proposed to grant a monopoly to any particular company we should take care to protect the employees. I hope that the Minister, if he is entering into any agreement or contract with the company concerned in this case, will see that the employees are properly protected.
– I will give the House the assurance that if an agreement is signed by the company, I shall see to it that it contains a clause
– Similar to the provision in the Bounties Acts to which I have referred in regard to the protection of the employees?
– Yes, I will do that.
– I am satisfied with that assurance. It is our duty to see that fair treatment is insured to every one connected with the industry.
.- I desire to ask the Minister (Mr. Greene) whether he will take steps in connexion with this proposal to insure that there shall be a sufficient supply of carbide of calcium to meet the requirements of the States? Queensland, in proportion to its population, uses more of this material than any other State.
– I shall see to that.
– I desire, further, to be satisfied that no objection will be raised by the company concerned to shipping the carbide of calcium from Tasmania and the other States by the cheapest possible means?
– I give the honorable member my assurance as to that.
– I am pleased that the Minister has submitted this motion.. The industry to which it relates is a new one, and should be safeguarded. It is in its initial stages that an industry is most in need of protection, and I think the Government are taking the proper course. So long as the public are equally safeguarded there can be no objection to it.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Awards and Orders made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and other documents in the following cases : -
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Association. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
Australian Letter Carriers’ Association. (Dated 17th November, 1920) (two.)
Australian Postal Electricians’ Union. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
Australian Postal Linemen’s Union. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
Commonwealth General Division Telephone Officers’ Association. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association - (Dated 17th November, 1920.) (Dated 19th November, 1920.) (Dated 22nd November, 1920.)
Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Asso ciation. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
General Division Officers’ Union of the Trade and Customs Department of Australia. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
Line Inspector’s Association - Commonwealth of Australia. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
Meat Inspectors’ Association - Commonwealth Public Service. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
Postal Sorters’ Union of Australia. (Dated 17th November, 1920.)
Professional Officers’ Association. (Dated 18th November, 1920.)
Audit Act- Finance 1919-20- The Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure during the year ended 30th June, 1920, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work : - Extension of the Pine Creek-Katherine railway southward, as far as Mataranka (Bitter Springs).
I lay on the table of the House the plan and all the documents required by sections 59 and 60 of the Commonwealth Railways Act of 1917.
– What is the length of the proposed extension?
– Sixty-five miles and 35 chains. The Public Works Committee was asked to inquire into this proposed work and on 30th August, 1916, presented its report, showing that by a majority of five to three it had agreed, “ That the proposed extension be approved.” There was an amendment that -
The Committee approves of the construction of the line to Bitter Springs,as a part of the main line, but considers that as this section does not promise to give any largely increased traffic in the near ‘future, or to serve as a feeder to the Darwin-Katherine line, its construction on local grounds is not urgent.
That, however, was negatived by five votes to three, and the Government now ask for authority to proceed with the work. It will be necessary for me to give certain information to the House, inasmuch as conditions have changed considerably since the date of the report of the Public Works Committee. In the first place, the estimated cost of the line, instead of being as it was in 1915, £320,000, is now £750,000, but of that £94,500 is in connexion with the high-level bridge over the Katherine River, so that really the cost of the line, exclusive of that work, is £655,500. The reason for the increase in the estimated cost is furnished by the increased price of material, freights, and landing charges, railway rates and wages, the basic wage in the Northern Territory having increased by 40 per cent. It is proposed to construct the line with 60-lb. rails and wooden sleepers, on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, but constructed to carry a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-14, the following work be referred to the Parliamentaay Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon : -
Extension from Mataranka to Daly Waters.
The line at present runs as far as the Katherine River, and this House has just now approved of an extension for 65 miles and 35 chains further south. The estimated cost of the line is £1,040,298 on a 4-ft. 8½-in. road, to be laid with a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. The estimated revenue is £27,000. The present is a proposal that the Public Works Committee shall inquire into a further extension of 95 miles, and the line, if approved, will adapt itself to any deviation that may be proposed at any time. The reports go to show that the further theline runs south the better it will pay, because it then will enter cattle and sheep country. If it be decided to connect with Queensland this extension will permit of that being done; it will also permit of the line running straight through the Territory as in the original proposal. There will be nothing to prevent connexion from either side.
– This, in my opinion, is a very important matter. Ever since this line has been before us, I have held the opinion that it has been started from the wrong end. The line has already been carried some 200 odd miles into nowhere, and through some of the most God-forsaken country in Australia. So far as my information goes, it is now proposed to still further extend the line into the same class of country.
– But it is approaching better country.
– According to all the reports the best country on this line is in the vicinity of the Macdonnell Ranges; that is the opinion of all who have visited the country, and have reported or written about it.
– The next motion I have to submit relates to that very country.
– I think a mistake will be made if the two proposals are placed before the Public Works Committee at the same time. If the inquiry is to be such as works of the kind deserve, one of the lines is quite sufficient to occupy the attention of the Committee for a very considerable time; and it would be sheer folly to ask them to do more.
– It would be sheer folly to have only one line considered.
– If the line from Oodnadatta to Macdonnell Ranges does not open up better country than the line which is the subject of this motion, we ought to seriously consider whether we should spend even a pound upon it.
– The line must pass through barren country in order to reach better country.
– It is admitted that the very best country is in the vicinity of Alice Springs and the Macdonnell Ranges.
– No, no.
– I have had the advantage of many conversations with the late Mr. Patterson, the contractor who constructed the telegraph line very much on the route that the proposed railway will follow, and I say that for the greater part of the distance there is practically no tableland at all. Towards the Queensland border, on what is known as the Barclay Tablelands, I believe there is some of the best pastoral country in Australia, and there is excellent country of a similar character on the other side approaching Wyndham. Following the telegraph line down, however, we go through “ the Dead Heart of Australia “ - practically all barren country.
– I do not believe all we hear about “ the Dead Heart of Australia.”
– If the honorable member were to travel over the linefrom Darwin down he would see that there is not enough growth to feed halfadozen goats. I would heartily support a proposal to refer to the PublicWorks Committee a proposed line north from Oodnadatta towards Alice Springs, and through the MacdonnellRanges, where there is excellent country. In the other direction, however, the conditions are exactly the reverse. The Public Works Committee will have all it possibly can do until Parliament meets again in dealing with one of the proposed lines, unless it contents itself with a perfunctory inquiry in Melbourne. I believe, of course, that the Public Works Committee will give us an excellent report, but to submit both lines to it at once is to impose an impossible task. If the line were taken from Oodnadatta north we would know we were going into country where some results could be obtained, but the proposed 95 miles of line leads to nowhere, as the Minister must admit.
– I do not admit that by any means; the proposed lines are both essential to the development of the Territory.
– The Minister . must admit that this 95 miles of line traverses country that is barren and desolate. It appears to me almost an act of folly to hand over to the Committee these two works, 1,000 miles apart, and. ask it to report upon them next year.
– The proposed extension does not reach the point at which there is likely to be any controversy as to deviation. That question will not arise until Newcastle Waters is reached, and then I suppose there will be a battle royal as to whether the line should go towards Camooweal and Queensland, or take the direct route. Quite likely a good deal of what the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mc Williams)says is correct, but I certainly do not like the term “ the Dead Heart of Australia.” The term “dead heart “ has been used because the interior appears to be a sandy desert.
– It is not a desert at all.
– No, and I do not approve of the use of the term. In the northern Sahara the Arabs, by tapping subterranean sources of water supply, have turned what was an arid and sandy desert into a fruitful plain, and what can be done in any other part of the world can be done in Central Australia. There are vast subterranean supplies of water all over Australia, there being hardly any place where a supply of somekind cannot be obtained, either fresh, brackish, or salt.
– Can artesian water be used for irrigation ?
– Western Queensland would be almost deserted to-day were it not for the artesian water.
– Artesian supplies are good for stock, not for irrigation.
– Will the honorable member say that science is at a standstill in regard to the treatment of bore water?
– The best oranges in the world are grown with water from the Pera bore, near Bourke.
– The artesian supplies in Queensland are diminishing.
– That may be; yet, nevertheless, we have an enormous supply of artesian water.
– But there is too much magnesia in it for irrigation.
– A gentleman associated with the Agricultural Department of New South Wales has a method for eliminating from bore water the socalled deleterious elements, thus making it useful, not only for domestic and stock purposes, but also for the fertilization of land. I am going to sound a warning note to South Australian and Western Australian members. The eastern and northern part of Western Australia has as much right to expect to be developed from the proposed transcontinental line as has the western portion of Queensland. Probably in time we shall have all the connexions shown on the plan, but it must not be forgotten that there are large areas in eastern and north-eastern Western Australia capable of development. At present thousands of aboriginals live there fairly comfortably. Should there ever be a proposal for departing from the north-south route, I shall be a bitter opponent of it. It is my belief that our vast underground supplies of water will make the interior fruitful.
– Australia is very much alive, so that its heart cannot be dead. The words to which the honorable member has objected are only a phrase.
– Yes, but such phrases get into use on the other side of the world, and keep alive the idea that Australia is a land of drought. I remember that at school I was taught that the Mallee district in Victoria was desert country; but now that I am a man, I find that the finest wheat is being grown there. Let us do all we can to develop the whole of Australia.
– The railway has been made from Darwin to the Katherine River, adistance of 198 miles 54 chains, and we have approved of its extension to Mataranka,. another 65 miles. It is now proposed to ask the Public Works Committee to investigate and report on a further extension to Daly Waters, 95 miles further. From Daly Waters to Newcastle the distance is 90 miles. Our Railways Commissioner tells me that the advantage of extending the line to Daly Waters ‘is that it brings it nearer to the main sources of live-stock, and to the rich lands of the Barclay Tableland, while the extension must form a part of the north-south through line or any line to be constructed through to Queensland.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its report, viz. - Extension of the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
I lay on the table the plans and specifications connected with this proposal. The length of the proposed extension is 297½ miles.
– How much of it would be within the Northern Territory?
– About 180 miles. It was estimated thirty years ago that the cost of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line by this route would be £1,735,000, or £5,876 a mile. Since then, however, the cost of labour has at least doubled, the price of rails and sleepers will be about three times as much, and general stores and material will probably be twice as expensive. It is proposed to construct this line so that it may be readily converted to the standard gauge. If 80-lb. Tails are used, the cost is estimated at £4,109,446, or £13,813 per mile, and if 60-lb. rails are used, the estimated cost will be £3,878,398, or £13,036 per mile. Numerous water-courses of considerable extent have to be crossed, and there will be 4 miles of high-level bridging. The line south from Darwin is a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line, but the earthworks and other construction are designed for easy conversion to a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge line. The revenue is estimated at £16,000. As to the matter about which the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked, a preliminary inspection has been made from Maree into Queensland by Mr. Hobler, and the Prime Minister has promised that information regarding the territory will be obtained from practical men.
– Will the information be available when the Committee reports upon this proposal?
– The Prime Minister has promised to obtain it as soon as possible. Before any railway can be constructed, this House has to approve of the recom mendation of the Public Works Committee, and then Parliament must pass an Act authorizing its construction. After that it is for the Treasurer to provide the necessary funds.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Compensation to Mr. McGrath.
.- (By leave). - I move -
In view of the fact that the settlement of the questions in connexion with the disputed Ballaarat election was delayed for many months, and that the Ballaarat election of December, 1919, was declared ; null and void through official errors, this House is of opinion that some compensation should be made to David Charles McGrath, who, by reason of such official errors, was compelled to contest two elections, and, as a result of such official errors and of an additional election, was involved in much unnecessary but unavoidable expenditure for which the Government should make allowance.
It will be remembered that at the last election Mr. Kerby was declared to have won the Ballarat seat from Mr. McGrath by one vote, but on an appeal to the High Court the Judge found that thirty or forty errors had been made by the departmental officials, and he was unseated. On a second election being held, Mr. McGrath was declared to be elected. That Mr. McGrath was not given the seat in the first instance is due to no fault of his own; he lost the election through the mistakes of departmental officials. The Prime Minister and Treasurer promised that the House should have an opportunity to deal with this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– (By leave) - I had intended to speak to the motion to which the House has just agreed. I quite agree that something should be done to compensate the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) for the unfortunate results of the Ballarat election in December of last year, and I rise simply bo suggest some lines upon which I think he might be compensated. There have been similar cases. The precedent of recouping candidates for the expenses involved in re-contesting elections has already been established., and both candidates at the Ballarat election have been recouped those expenses, but whereas in each other prior case the member eventually returned at the fresh election was out of the Chamber for about three months only, the present member for Ballarat was absent from this chamber for over six months. My idea is that the honorable member should be treated as the other cases have been treated up to the same period, namely, three months, but that in the circumstances it would, perhaps, be fair to pay him three months’ salary, accounting for the difference between the three months’ loss of salary the others had to suffer, and the six months’ loss of salary he has suffered.
– Why should a successful candidate be called upon to suffer any loss of salary?
– Everybody who goes to law suffers except
– The lawyers.
– They are the only people who do not suffer. I think that the case of the honorablem ember for Ballarat would be substantially met if we paid him a sum of £250. That is the direction in which my mind is leading me at the present moment.
.- (By leave.) - It is unfortunate that the opportunity of ascertaining the sense of honorablemembers upon the proposal to pay the honorable member for Ballarat only three months’ salary was not taken. The honorable member ought to be placed in as good a position as that of the gentleman who was declared wrongly elected in December last. He should be paid his salary right up to the time when the December election was declared void. Surely the person who ought to have been rightfully elected should draw his salary all the time.
– But Mr. McGrath was not rightfully elected. If every vote had been allowed and polled properly, there would still have been a tie.
– I can speak with some authority on the matter, because I took part in the case.
– I am referring to what was contained in the report of the Judge.
– The right honorable gentleman’s statement of the case is not quite correct. It is quite true that there would have been a tie if the votes polled that were not properly counted had been counted, but there were some persons who were entitled to vote who were prevented by an official error from voting for Mr. McGrath. Had the election been conducted properly, the present member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) would have been member for Ballarat from December last.
– It all turns on that point. If that is the case, the honorable member should receive his salary for the full period.
– Who is to prove that those who did not vote would have voted for Mr. McGrath?
– The sworn evidence showed that the only persons who were prevented from voting were those who would! havevoted for Mr. McGrath. They were prevented from voting by official errors. If these official errors had not taken place, Mr. McGrath would have been declared elected for Ballarat on the 13th December. Other honorable members may be in the same position at any time. Surely the State should bear theexpense a parliamentary candidate is put to through an official error. There is no doubt Mr. McGrath would have been member for Ballarat as from 13th December, and he ought to be placed in at least as good a position as that of Mr. Kerby from the 13th December. Perhaps the Treasurer can see his way to get the sense of honorable members on the matter.
– I think the honorable member should let well alone. Mr. McGrath is getting a fair thing.
.- As the only honorable member who has been placed in a similar position, I would like the leave of the House to make a statement.
– It is most irregular to carry on a debate in this way by means of speeches made by leave of the House, but of course it rests with honorable members to say whether any honorable member should have leave to make a statement.
– Honorable members may recall the fact that I appealed against the election won by Sir Malcolm McEacharn, upon which £5,000 was spent. In the little area bounded by Elizabeth-street, Bourke-street, Victoriastreet, and Spring-street, Melbourne, more postal votes were recorded than were recorded in the whole State of , Queensland at one election, or in the whole State of Western Australia in two. elections. In the High Court it was shown clearly that bribery and corruption had been used. I felt at the time that I was wronged by the sum of money paid to me’ to recoup me for my expenses, and I feel certain that if the matter were left to the decision of Mr. Kerby, whom I regard as a personal friend, he would say that Mr. McGrath should have been placed in the position he would have occupied if the electors of Ballarat had been permitted to cast their votes. Of course, Mr. McGrath’s case differs from mine. In my case bribery and corruption were rampant. In Mr. McGrath’s case the election was upset because of mistakes made by the electoral officers, which I hope will not occur again. I appeal to the Treasurer to be generous, and not to keep too tight a string upon the Treasury bag. The honorable member for Ballarat has been put to the expense of two elections, just as I was, and I do not think any honorable member or the public outside would object to his ‘being paid the full six months’ salary to which he would have been entitled had he been elected at the first election. I hope that the wisdom of the House will see that that is done.
.- (By leave.) - I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Parliamentary Allowances Act 1920.
My reasons for desiring to introduce the measure indicated above are various. It is not that I feel that honorable members have committed a crime or done any wrong, or that they have departed from the procedure which is rightly theirs in passing the Parliamentary
Allowances Act. My main reason is that, since we have been elected by the people to manage the affairs of Australia, and conduct its destiny through the most troublous times in its history, following upon the greatest of all wars, we should be examples to the people. If the payment of the basic wage is to be made upon lines similar to those which we have followed in granting to ourselves increased allowances, where will Australia be? We cannot very well enjoin economy upon other sections of the community in view of our own actions. I believe that, for the sake of Australia, a better policy would be, instead of granting increased wages to all and -sundry, to agree, from one end of the land to the other, to accept exactly half the salary which each individual is now receiving. That would rapidly tend to lower the cost of living. The probabilities are that commodities would come down to a similar extent; and Australia would thus be left a margin with which to pay her huge obligations. If we give the lead to increases on all hands, we will be merely adding to the difficulties which are laid upon our shoulders as members of the National Parliament.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 9.19 p.m.
– I call attention to the want of a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– It gives me no pleasure to ask leave to introduce this Bill. I appreciate, as much as does any honorable member, the additional £400 a year, and I do not wish to represent myself as being the only member prepared to make a sacrifice. I have been receiving the additional allowance since it was passed, but, with the object which I have already stated, I am ready, if honorable members will join with me in passing this measure, to sacrifice it. The prestige of this Parliament would be greatly improved if, at a time like this, we made such a sacrifice.
– It would be no sacrifice to the honorable member.
– That is not correct. I gave up a larger emolument than that which I am now receiving in- order to enter this Chamber. When I came here I understood that the amount payable to honorable members was to be £600 a year.
I am one of those who believe that the public are not the best judges of what a member of Parliament should receive. I think there is. some difficulty in the way of a member of Parliament, or any one else, establishing his own worth. A wise and independent tribunal, representative of all classes, should be able to recommend to the Parliament an amount that it would be reasonable for us to receive.
The fact that I am submitting this motion when we are so close to the Christmas vacation is not my fault. The motion has been hung up for four or five mouths; but in the circumstances I desire to be as brief as possible. I have cast no aspersions on any honorable member, and have taken this action only because I do not consider that the Parliament acted wisely in deciding to increase the allowance.
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Prowse, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 23rd November (vide page 6821), on motion by Mr.
That the papers be printed.
.- I regret exceedingly that so much of our time this evening has been occupied with other business.
– By the picture show.
– Yes. In that way we have lost an hour and a quarter. When speaking earlier in to-day’s proceedings, I expressed the hope that we should be able to devote at least four hours to the discussion of the report of the Basic Wage Commission before we adjourned at the ordinary time this evening; but, as it is, if we adjourn about 11 o’clock, as usual, we shall have been able to devote only an hour and a. half to the consideration of this, one of the most important reports that has ever been presented to Parliament.
– It is absurd to attempt to debate it at this stage.
– I intend, at all events, to express my views on the subject this evening.
– The honorable member, I suppose, was supplied with a copy of the report a week ago, whereas we were not.
– It was laid on the table of the House when the Prime Minister dealt with it on Tuesday last. I took a copy of Mr. Piddington’s memorandum from the table, and received a printed copy of the report from one of the messengers. In October last it was my privilege to introduce to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) one of the most representative deputations of trade unionists that has ever waited upon a Minister of the Crown in Australia. That deputation represented organizations that were prepared to go to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court for the redress of their grievances, and the Prime Minister promised that he would appoint a Commission as requested to inquire into the question of the basic wage. In support of my statement as to the representative character of the deputation, I think it only right to say who were present, and what organizations were represented by them. The carters and drivers were represented by Mr. R. Cheney, the enginedrivers by Mr. H. C. Gibson, the Australian Workers Union miners by Mr. Little, the tramway employees by Mr. J. Jewell, the bootmakers by Mr. Richards, the builders’ labourers by Mr. P. Smith, the brick pottery workers by Mr. Sinclair, the Commonwealth Clerical Association by Mr. T. C. Maher, the fuel and fodder employees by Mr. McPherson, the storemen and packers by Mr. P. Clarey, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers by Mr. Barker, the clothing trades by Mr. Carter, and the gas workers by Mr. Croft. There were, I believe, other organizations’ representatives, and every one of them was of a Commonwealth character, and they represented over a quarter of a million trades unionists. The gentlemen whose names I have mentioned are the general secretaries of the organizations who have conducted many cases in the Arbitration Court, and their request to the Prime Minister was that such a Commission should be appointed. On the 30th October last year the Prime Minister delivered his policy speech at Bendigo, and a portion of that speech is quoted in the report of the Commission as follows : -
Tho intention of appointing this Commission was first announced by the Prime Minister, the Sight Hon. W. M. Hughes, P.O., in delivering the policy speech of the Government at Bendigo on the 30th October, 1919, for the general election of that year. The announcement was thus reported: - “ If we are to have industrial peace we must be prepared to pay the price, and that price is justice to the worker. Nothing less will serve. We have long ago adopted in Australia the principles of compulsory arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes and of the minimum wage. The cause of much of the industrial unrest, which is like fuel to the fires of Bolshevism and direct action, arises with the real wage of the worker - that i3 to say, the things he can buy with the money he receives. This real wage decreases with an increase in the cost of living. Now, once it is admitted that it is in the interests of the community that such a wage should be paid as will enable a man to marry and bring up children in decent, wholesome conditions - and that point has been settled long ago- it seems obvious that we must devise bettor machinery for insuring thu payment of such a wage than at present exists. Means must bo found which will insure that the. minimum wage shall be adjusted automatically, or almost automatically, with the cost of living, so that within the limits of the minimum wage at least the sovereign shall always purchase the same amount of the necessaries of life. The Government is, therefore, appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into the cost of living in relation to the minimum or basic wage. The Commission will be fully clothed with power to ascertain what is a fair basic wage, and how much the purchasing power of the sovereign has been depreciated during the war; also how the basie wage may be adjusted to the present purchasing power of the sovereign, and the best means, . when once so adjusted, of automatically adjusting itself to the rise and fall of the sovereign. The Government will, at the earliest date possible, create effective machinery to give effect to these principles. Labour is entitled to a fair share of the wealth it produces. The fundamental question of the basic wage having been thus satisfactorily - because permanently - settled, there remain other causes of industrial unrest which must be dealt with if we are to have industrial peace. . .”
The Commission quotes that extract from the Age of the 31st October last year. I agree with the Prime Minister when he says that this question must be settled, and I leave it to the Government to honour the definite pledge given to the people of Australia that they would at the earliest possible date create effective machinery to give effect to the principles they profess. The report of the Commission is now in the hands of the Government, and I ask them to give effect to their recommendations - it is for the Government to decide. Was this only an election promise, like many ethers, made for the purpose of fooling the electors into voting for Government nominees? If that is the fact, let the Government say so, and the people will know exactly where they stand. Will they say, as the Prime Minister is alleged to have said - i -
– If you talk like that outside you will be convicted of sedition!
– I shall take my chance. A Trade Union Congress is called for Saturday week to consider this question, and I have received an invitation to attend. I shall accept the invitation, and at that congress I shall say what I am saying here now. Within the last ten minutes or quarter of an hour I have received the following telegram: -
The Prime Minister has definitely promised that if twenty-four members agree, Parliament will not adjourn before decision re basic wage for Federal employees. Major Marr will make one; will you make another?
Yes, I will. I will make one to keep a House, and I think I speak for every honorable member on this side. It is all very well for the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), who has been away - as no doubt he has a right to be if he likes - while I have been waiting here for this debate.
– He is here pretty constantly, you know!’
– I am not finding fault with the honorable member for Parkes. It was on Tuesday last that the Prime Minister told us that he could do nothing, and he referred to the refusal of the increased industrial powers for which the Government asked. In his policy speech at Bendigo the Prime Minister did not base his attitude on that fact - he did not say that this basic wage would be given if the vote was in the affirmative. I see that Punch, which is owned by Mr. F. W. Hughes, and is au alleged humorist paper, states that the
Labour party has been “ caught “ - that we urged the people to vote “ No “ on the question put to them at the last election. That is a downright and deliberate misstatement; indeed, I shall put that fact more shortly, if I am allowed to do so, and say that it is a deliberate lie.
– Not as regards South Australia !
– It is a lie so far as Victoria is concerned - so far as this paper is concerned, when it is stated that every member of the Labour party asked the people to vote “ No “ in reference to the grant of industrial powers.
– In South Australia every Labour candidate did.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to make his own speech. It is all very well for honorable members who have been Labour members, and are anxious to “ trip “ those who have remained solid, and are fighting for this basic wage for the workers.
– Anyhow, I am not called a “rat’’ by my own party!
– I must ask honorable members to allow the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) to proceed with his speech.
– I did not quite catch the interjection of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell). If he is referring to an incident this afternoon, I feel confident that if five minutes had been allowed to elapse, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) would have apologized.
– Let me say that, perhaps, J. was not quite wise in using the expression I did.
– No man can call me a “ rat.” I could have “ ratted “ on my principles, but I have refused.
– No one can call me a “rat” either!
– I must ask honorable members to cease these personal recriminations, which have nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– I made no personal recriminations.
– I hope the honorable member will proceed without any personal references, if possible.
– This publication, Punch, which, as I say, is owned by Mr. F.W. Hughes, who, as honorable members know, was associated with the Government in the wool-top business, and who the Government are prosecuting, says that the Labour party have “fallen in.” The Labour party have’ not “ fallen in.” Let me tell the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) that every Nationalist member in the State Parliament of Victoria signed a memorandum urging the people of Victoria to vote “ No “ on the referendum, and in every constituency in Victoria the people voted “Yes.” I am referring to the State Nationalists - the Lawsonites. The Labour party was divided on the question, some deeming it advisable to vote “ No,” and others, including myself, favouring the affirmative.
– In South Australia your party voted solidly in the negative.
– I wish to refer to the terms of the Basic Wage Commission. They were to inquire into and report upon -
The report of the Commission, according to the Prime Minister, was furnished to him last Sunday. He told us in his speech that he referred’ the report to his colleagues on Tuesday; and, according to the press, there was a meeting of the Government party at 2 o’clock, though whether it was to consider the report I do not know. In any case, the PrimeMinister referred the matter back, not to the Commission, but to the chairman (Mr. Piddington), who furnished the right honorable gentleman with a memorandum covering five printed pages, dated the 22nd November, which was last Monday. In a footnote to that memorandum Mr. Piddington says -
The subject-matter of this memorandum is outside the terms of the letters-patent of this
Commission, and I have at no time discussed it with any of my colleagues. Having received your request at 5 p.m. to-day, there has been no opportunity to summon my colleagues to ascertain whether they desire to take part in this matter, therefore I do not sign this memorandum as chairman.
The Prime Minister gob that memorandum at 9 o’clock on Monday evening, and stated in his speech that -
The memorandum which I intend to move shall be printed was supplied to me last evening.
Then the right honorable gentleman went on to quote the terms of the memorandum. Mr. Piddington got the request to prepare at at 5 o’clock on Monday afternoon, and he furnished the Prime Minister with matter, represented by five pages of print, at 9 o’clock the same evening, only three or four hours later.
– And we are expected to believe it!
– Honorable members oan please themselves. The members of the Commission were not consulted, because, as Mr. Piddington says, the matter was outside the terms of their commission. Compare the Prime Minister’s procedure on this occasion with his procedure in 1918, when he received a report on meat from the Inter-State Commission. Deputations waited on him at that time, not ‘of consumers, but of selling agents, and, as a result of the protest made by the latter, the Prime Minister had no fewer than two other reports prepared before Parliament ever saw the original report. The right honorable gentleman did that because, in his opinion, the report was an unwise one. On the present occasion he did not ask Mr. Piddington to call the Basic Wage Commission together and supply the information which was desired. The Commission was composed of seven gentlemen, three representing the workers, and three the employers. The employers’ representatives were Mr. G. M. Allard, representing the Chamber of Commerce of Australia; Mr. J. A. Harper, of Adelaide, representing the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia; and Mr. E. E. Keep, on the nomination of the Central Council of the Employers of Australia. The first two gentlemen resigned their position, but Mr. Keep retained his till the finish. Mr. Allard’s place was taken by Mr. Morley, and Mr. Harper’s place by Mr. Gilfillan. The President, as I say, did not call the Commission together, but I can tell honorable members that Mr. Gilfillan was in the lobbies of this House on Monday evening at the time the Prime Minister was asking Mr. Piddington to give him further information. As honorable members know, my room is next to that of the Prime Minister, and I know that Mr. Gilfillan was in the lobby. Why were not the members of the Commission called together to give the ‘ Prime Minister the information he required? Six of the seven members of the Commission were in Melbourne. I know that Messrs. Cheney, Gibson, and Maher, the Labour members of the Commission, were here. I am informed that the Commission met yesterday morning, after they had furnished their report, but they were not called together to he asked their opinions on the subjects upon which Mr. Piddington was asked to give his opinion. He was asked for a memorandum on the following matters : -
Although the public servants were represented on a deputation, which waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), this Commission was appointed to fix a fair basic wage, not for the Public Service only, but for the men who were continually appealing to the Arbitration Court. The Prime Minister stated that the history of this matter goes back to 1907, when Mr. Justice Higgins, in what is known as the Harvester case, laid down a basic wage. In 1906 Parliament passed an. Act to provide that employers who were afforded protection by the Tariff should give fair and reasonable conditions to their employees, and should sell their manufactures at a fair price. It was alleged that McKay, of the Sunshine harvester factory, did not do that. The honorable member for Ballarat will bear me out in the statement that McKay shifted his factory from Ballarat to Braybrook to evade the Factories Act, as Braybrook was then in a shire. McKay was willing to take all the Protection he could get, but he would not give fair and reasonable conditions to his men. I have said that on the platform when McKay was present. I have said it at Richmond, Collingwood, Ballarat, and in this House. On an appeal to the Court, Mr. Justice Higgins raised the wage of men to whom McKay was paying 5s. 6d. a day to 7s. a day. Mr. Justice Higgins confined his figures to rent, groceries, bread, meat, milk, fuel, vegetables, and fruit, and the average of the list of nine house-keeping women came to £1 12s. 5d. That expenditure did not cover “ light, clothes, boots, furniture, utensils, rates, life insurance, savings, accident or benefit societies, loss of employment, union pay, books and newspapers, tram and train fare. sewing machine, mangle, school requisites, amusements and holidays, intoxicating liquors, tobacco, sickness and death, domestic help, or any expenditure for unusual contingencies, religion, or charity.” Mr. Justice Higgins allowed 9s. 7d. for clothing and the miscellaneous requirements just enumerated. Will any honorable member say that those items could be purchased for 9s. 7d. per week? According to the Commission-
The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures (published five years after the Harvester case) showed that the rent of a four-roomed house in Melbourne in the year 1907 was 8s. lid., nearly 2s. per week more than was laid down in the Harvester case. It would seem to be a fair inference that the rent of 7s. included in the Harvester wage was that of a four roomed house in Sunshine in 1907. . In 1914 the Commonwealth Statistician found that rent and food together constituted (speaking approximately) 60 per Cent, of the ordinary expenditure of a household, leaving 40 per cent, for clothing and miscellaneous….. It was, however,
Strongly contended in the years of the war that clothing, in particular, had increased in price at a greater ratio than any other section of the cost of living, and this conten- tion the figures now ascertained by this Commission fully justified.
In 1914 the Judges of the Arbitration Court were asked to reconsider the fixing of a basic wage on the then cost .of living. The Commission says -
The invitation extended to re-open the Harvester case was accepted by the Federated Carters and Drivers Union in their case, begun in April, 1917. During the hearing, the representative of the union submitted, in a written address, statements and arguments why the Court should no longer derive its basic wage from the Harvester basic wage. The Deputy President of that Court refused to re-open the matter upon the ground, amongst others, that it would involve his departing from the practice of the Court since its inception, and His Honour suggested that the representative of the’ union should offer himself as a witness ‘’ when the Commission or Board is appointed to make the muchneeded inquiry into the cost of living.”
He did not offer himself as a witness because he was appointed a member of the Commission. Then, in 1918, Mr. Justice Powers said -
The representative of the Acting Public Service Commissioner, the representative of the Employers Federation- of Victoria and New South Wales, and .the representative of the seven unions now before the Court joined in urging that the Federal Government should appoint a Commission, or some body, to take evidence with a view to fixing a Federal living wage for a man, his wife, and family of three on a scientific and humane basis, or to authorize the Commonwealth Statistician to do so.
He went on to say that he had, on more than one occasion, recommended that course to the Federal Government. If any member of this Parliament votes against the acceptance of the Commission’s -finding, he must be prepared to answer the question, “ Do you believe that the workers have a right to live? “ I believe that every worker has a right to live in decency and comfort.
– Hear, hear!-
– The representatives of the Employers Federation, of the Chambers of Commerce, and other employers’ representatives on the Commission signed the report. The only objection they take is that the unions will not speed up. But practically the whole of the boot factories in Australia are now closed. How can there be any speeding up when there is no work to be done ?
– Why have those factories closed?
– Because there is no work to be done; the closing is not due to any industrial trouble. The Prime Minister has said that the industries of Australia cannot pay this living wage; but I say that no industry has a right to exist in the Commonwealth or anywhere else that cannot pay a living wage to the men engaged in it. Mr. Piddington, in his memorandum, says of the conjugal conditions of the people that, of the total male wage-earners, 438,735 have never married; 90,617 have families the children of which are grown up; 69,174 are married but childless; 78,288 are married, with one child; 77,752 are married, with two children; the balance of husbands and children being 220,400. In any attempt at averaging, regard should behad to the fact that a man cannot keep himself and, a wife for what a single man could live on, and so much is required for each child. The basic wage that has been recommended does not allow for the saving of a great deal of money for the complete furnishing of a house. The Commission speaks of it as the amount required to keep a man, his wife, and three children in reasonable comfort. Will members say that our industries cannot afford to pay it? In Melbourneand in Sydney at the present time the building trade is brisk, and carpenters, plumbers, stonemasons, and bricklayers are all getting more than £1 a day. Of course, they are not employed every day in the year.
– And the cost of living is going up.
– Are not the profits of the employers increasing also? They themselves admit that they are. Mr. Piddington, in his memorandum, speaks of 879,000 children; but I ascertained from the Commonwealth Statistician today that the present population of the Commonwealth is 5,300,000, of whom 2,970,000 are of twenty-one years of age and upwards; 750,000 between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one; and 1,580,000 under the age of fourteen. Where are most of those children to be found ? Not in residential suburbs such as Toorak, South Yarra, Hawthorn, and Kew; but in the working-class suburbs like Richmond, Brunswick, Collingwood, and Footscray. The birth rate is 50 per cent. greater in the working-class suburbs than it is in the residential suburbs. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports. (Mr. Mathews) has immortalized himself because of a little poem on this subject which he put into Hansard. More of the 1,580,000 children in Australia belong to the workers than belong to the nonworkers; probably 80 per cent. are childdren of the workers.
– There are more children in Balmain than in Mosman.
– I know that Mr. Piddington’s memorandum was made hurriedly. He himself said so. I maintain that there are more than the . 90 children which Mr. Piddington says should be allotted to every employee in Australia. But when we consider the enormous profits made by the manufacturers in comparison with the decrease in the purchasing power of the wages paid to the employees, no one will contend that the industries of Australia cannot pay higher wages than they are paying today. I. have taken the trouble to ascertain the output of the factories in Australia according to the latest statistical returns available, and compared them with the wages paid. The following table is most illuminating: -
From 1913 to 1918 the wages have increased by £4,773,181, while the value of the output of the factories has increased by £64,192,858. These figures are supplied by the manufacturers themselves to the Statistician, and are not prepared at the Trades Hall, or by any representative of a trade union. The manufacturer may make misstatements about his income in order to avoid the payment of income tax, but he is not likely to underestimate the amount of the wages he pays or overstate the amount of production in his factory. He knows all the time that the Income Tax Commissioner may challenge his figures. Mr. Ewing, the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation, told the Taxation Commission the other day that he had secured information from every available source. Now let me take the other side of the question from the employers’ own figures, as set out in the following equally interesting table : -
The share which has gone to the manufacturer is quite apart from whatever he. draws in the way of remuneration for his services, as the wages of working proprietors are always included in the wages returns. While the _ wages of the workers have increased from 1913 to 1918 by £4,773,181, the share which the manufacturer has drawn has increased from £31-,547,199 to £41,192,477 in the same period. How, therefore, can it be said that the industries of Australia, cannot pay more wages? In this House we asked the Treasurer to supply information compiled from income tax returns to show how some people in Australia are building up enormous profits. We did not ask for the names. We suggested that the taxpayers might be designated by numbers, as had already been done in a return placed before the Victorian State Parliament. However, as we were told that the information could not be furnished, I have been compelled to fall back upon the figures which Six Alexander Peacock quoted in the Victorian Parliament in 1916, showing the profits made from year to year by 265 taxpayers. I quote a few of these cases in the following table : -
Can any one tell me that these people cannot pay a living wage to the workers, that the workers have no right to live in decency and comfort, that this Parliament should adjourn without dealing with this matter, or that we are to tell the organizations which trust -the Arbitration Court for the redress of their grievances that we are prepared to shut up shop or look at a picture show, and not attend in the House for the purpose of dealing with a question so all-important to them? As a matter of fact, if it is found necessary, we ough to sit here every day right up to Christmas in an endeavour to give justice to the workers.
– If we sat here for twelve months, how could we deal with those who are outside the Public Service ?
– In his memorandum, Mr. Piddington points out that this Parliament can pass legislation imposing a tax on every employer according to the number of his employees, and providing for the payment of so much to every employee according to the number of children he has under the age of fourteen. As Mr. Piddington, who is an able constitutional lawyer, says that this can be done, the Government have a right to say whether they are prepared to do it. I would like to see the employers fighting this case in the Courts; they certainly should pay that which has been decided to be a fair basic living wage. Though I am as strong a Protectionist as is any other member of this House, if the manufacturers in the Yarra district chose to fight this case in the Courts, I would vote to give them a dose of Free Trade rather than afford them Protection solely for the purpose of enabling them to sweat their employees.
– In carrying out the principle of discriminating between married and single employees there is a likelihood of that discrimination working to the disadvantage of the married man.
– I presume that each workman’s child under fourteen would be registered, and as the employer would be taxed so much for each employee, it would make no difference to him whether his workmen were married or single. My complaint is that this particular matter should have been re-submitted to the whole Basic Wage Commission, and not to the Chairman only. It was unfair to place on him the onus of answering in a few hours all these questions which are so important.
– It might be well, even now, to submit Mr. Piddington’s memorandum to the full Commission.
– The Government referred the report of the Inter-State Commission on Meat back to it three times. There are organizations which have been waiting for months, and even years, to get their cases heard by the Arbitration Court. They are prepared to accept the awards of that Court.
– There is nothing in that, because these very men have just got an award from the Court.
– I am not speaking of the public servants, but of such organizations as the employees in the clothing trade, engine-drivers, gas workers, the amalgamated engineers, the builders’ labourers. The other day I introduced a deputation of the last-mentioned to the Prime Minister. Their spokesman said they had been waiting for about four years since they had lastsecured an award from the Arbitration Court, and now they wanted a more speedy method of obtaining justice. They desired to come within the scope of the Industrial Peace Act, so that they might obtain a direct conference with the employers. As for the public servants, the Prime Minister said some days ago that he was going to make their wage £4 4s. per week. That is a matter for the Government to decide; but the conditions under which the public servants are working to-day are such as to have created seething discontent. The way in which the best of our public servants are dropping out and seeking better prospects in private spheres of activity constitutes a matter of grave concern. When we see employees in the Public Service dissatisfied, as they are to-day with Mr. Justice Starke’s award, and claiming that under it they will be in a worse position than they were eighteen months ago,we must be impressed with the feeling that it is high time the Government considered the whole grave subject.
– That is quite a misrepresentation. The award to which the honorable member has just referred will cost this country £350,000.
– And the Treasurer will say, I suppose, that that will ruin the country. When, during the discussion of the first Commonwealth Public Service Bill, I moved for the insertion of a clause to provide a minimum wage, the then Treasurer, the late Sir George Turner, said my proposal would ruin the country. This is a country which seems to stand an awful lot of ruin without being any the worse off for it. I now ask for consideration for those who have been waiting for years to secure justice through the Arbitration Court. Is it any wonder that the workers should become more and more restless, and be determined to obtain justice for themselves, when they learn how their toil is piling up enormous profits for the employers, while their share - owing to the ever -receding value of the sovereign - is getting less and less? In the annual report of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry for 1920, there is a return showing total issues authorized in respect of new and existing companies from 26th January, 1916, to 31st December, 1919, together with the purposes for which the issues were authorized. Honorable members will recall that during that period no company could increase its capital, and no new company could be formed without official sanction. During the period in question, the total issue of new capital was more than £111,000,000. Of that, nearly £63,000,000 was subscribed in cash; £12,500,000 was subscribed by the transfer to capital of reserves and undivided profits; while more than £36,000,000 was subscribed by the transfer of assets other than cash. Honorable members know full well that that lastmentioned total largely represents goodwill. In other words, the £36,000,000 was water, and the workers of Australia had to make profits to provide dividends upon that capital, which really had no existence. Now the Government are trying to rush this House into recess without giving justice to the workers. I, at any rate, shall not permit that course without vigorous protest. I have quoted from the figures of the employers themselves. Let me now turn to the findings of a Nationalist Commission appointed by the late Holman Government in New South Wales to inquire into the enormous profits made by the coal companies of that State. The Worker, from which I shall quote, has turned its attention to three typical cases, and the statistics are so interesting that I quote them in full, as follow: -
I emphasize that this was an independent Commission. The particulars set out in the table furnish eloquent reasons why the workers of Australia are anxious to secure redress of their grievances.
In connexion with the Basic Wage Commission’s findings, the Government deliberately stated that as soon as possible they would give effect to the report of that Commission ; they said that at the earliest possible date they would create effective machinery to that end. In view of that promise, and in order to bring matters to a head, I move -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ and, in accordance with the definite pledge given by the Prime Minister in his policy speech at Bendigo on 30th October, 1919, the Government should give effect immediately to the finding of the Commission.”
– What are the findings of the Commission ?
– They are to be found on page 58 of the report of the Commission, and are as follows: -
In answer to clause 1 of the Letters Patent -
The actual cost of living at the present time, according to reasonable standards of comfort, including all matters comprised in the ordinary expenditure of a household, for a man with a wife and three children under fourteen years of age, isin -
In answer to clause 2 of the Letters Patent -
In answer to clause 3 of the Letters Patent, the basic wage may be automatically adjusted to the rise and. fall from time to time of the purchasing power of the sovereign, as follows: -
These are the findings of the Commission. One of the most striking features of this report is that, notwithstanding the statements made from time to time by honorable members opposite as to the enormous increase in the cost of living in the State of Queensland, of which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) was Premier for several years, we have the finding of this independent Commission, signed by every member of it, that the cost of living in Brisbane is 10s. 10d. per household per week less than it is in Sydney.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Then I can only express the hope that those who desire to do justice to the workers of Australia will support the amendment which I have moved.
– In view of the many serious aspects of this question, and having regard to the fact that honorable members generally desire to give it fair and open-minded consideration, I hope that the adjournment of the debate will be agreed to. I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
In section 14 of the principal Act there is no express provision in regard to the decision of the majority of a Special Tribunal being the decision of the Tribunal, nor is there any express provision that, whore the members of * Special Tribunal are equally divided, the opinion of the chairman shall prevail. It is quite possible that the section would be interpreted bya Court in accordance with the terms of the amendment which we now propose to make; but, in order to prevent any possible controversy on the point, the Government have introduced this Bill, in which it is provided that -
Section 14 of the Industrial Peace Act 1920 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - “ (3) At meetings of a Special Tribunal the opinion of the majority shall prevail; and where the members of the Tribunal present are equally divided in opinion, the opinion of the chairman shall prevail. “ (4) Two-thirds of the members of a Special Tribunal shall form a quorum.”
I ask the House to deal with the Bill at once.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through all stages without amendment.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr.RYAN (West Sydney) [10.44].- I rise to ask the Acting Leader of the House (Sir Joseph Cook) whether, before the House rises for the Christmas vacation, an opportunity will be given honorable members to proceed to a division on the amendment which has been moved this evening by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) on the motion by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) for the printing of the report of the Basic Wage Commission.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) to the conditions under which the letter-carriers work in the Sydney Post Office. I was in the office the other day when 200 lettercarriers were working shoulder to shoulder in a room which has neither ventilation nor natural light. On the same floor there is a large room called the old despatch room, 110 feet by 40 feet, with a second floor, the third of that size., which has been standing idle for the past, five years. Surely there must be some gross mismanagement when men are herded together under such unhealthy conditions while there is so much space available. If those rooms were let they would, in such a situation as Martinplace, command a rental of at least £100 a week, and yet they are permitted to remain unused for years.
– I shall make inquiries into the matter.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) asks whether, before the House rises for the recess, a decision will be come to on the amendment which has just been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in reference to the basic wage. I can only say that I hope a decision may be reached, and that to-morrow.
– But if not reached tomorrow we may sit on. We are all anxious to come to a decision.
– Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201125_reps_8_94/>.