9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has seen the report of a statement made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Maris) , to the effect that goods are piled up in Germany, with which it is intended to flood the dominions, and recommending that the British preference duties should be allowed only on imported goods of 100 per cent. British manufacture. Has the Government come to any determination with respect to increasing beyond 25 per cent. the percentage of British manufacture required to secure the preference given to British imports?
– The Government has had this matter under close and careful consideration for some little time. It is very sympathetic with the suggestion that the percentage of British material and workmanship should be increased to secure the British preferential duties on goods imported into this country. It is hoped that some conclusion on the matter will be arrived at before Parliament rises.
– In view of the fact that there is a large number of toymaking factories established in Australia, some of which can turn out toys to the value of £100,000 and upwards per annum, and employ a very large number of Australian workmen, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that the dumping duties on toys have been removed. If not, is it proposed to remove them, or to take them off all classes of toys not of the exact pattern and size of toys manufactured in Australia?
– The matter to which the honorable member referred is under consideration by the department. The dumping duty on some kinds of toys has been removed, but it still remains on mechanical toys. Favorable consideration will probably be given to the continuance ofthe dumping duty on metal toys which are made in Australia.
– As a number of public servants who will be transferred to Canberrawhen it becomes the Seat of Government will have children of an age requiring secondary education, and itis improbable that there will be high-grade secondary schools there for some time to come, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will take into consideration the advisability of widening the scope of instruction given at the Duntroon Military College, in order that those requiring secondary education may be enabled to obtain it there?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive the consideration of the Government.
– With reference to the amount allocated for the undergrounding of telephone wires, will the Treasurer, when the Estimates of the Post and Telegraph Department are being discussed, give honorable members information as to the amounts allotted to the different places in the Commonwealth in which it is intended to spend money on these works?
– I hope when the Postal Estimates are being discussed to be able to supply the information asked for.
Tariff Board’s Report
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if hehas yet received the Tariff Board’s report on the broom millet industry, and, if not, when he expects to receive it!
– I have not yet received the report’.I shallmake inquiries concerning itforthe honorable member.
Mr.FORDE. - Can the Treasurer inform honorable members when theamendment of the Superannuation Act will he introduced, in fulfilment of his promise made last year, so as to bring within the scope of the Superannuation Act a number of public servants taken over from the state services to the Commonwealth, and who, at deathor on their retirement, had not been ten years in the Commonwealth Service. I have in mind two cases which I have previously brought under the notice of the Treasurer, those ofthe late Mr. George Gray, ofRockhempton, and the late Mr. G. A. Stephens, and heknows all, about the matter.
– The promise which the Government has giventhat this matter will receive consideration as soonas the report of the actuaries is available willbe kept.
Mr.FENTON - Asthediscussionon the Estimates for the Department of; Trade and Customs was closed, lastnight at a very interestingstage, though honorable members wished to debate them further, I should like to know -whether the Minister for TradeandCustoms will instruct his officersto,at will himself during the recess, inquire into the general conditions and requirements of lighthousesand lighthouse keepers, with a view to making the conditions morecomfortable for those in charge?
– I think I can answer the honorable member in the affirmative.
– In view of the reports in various newspapers, and rumours that are afloat, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has entered into communication with any firm or firms, orthe agents of capitalistic companies, for the sale of Cockatoo Island Dockyard? If not, has amy proposal been made, or is there any intention at present on the part of the Government, to dispose of that institution?
– The answer is in the negative.
– Has any offer for the dock been made during the last two years? If so, will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House the papers relating to it?
– No offer for the dock has been made for a long time. I have a recollection that one was made long ago, but I cannot recall thefacts. I shall look into the matter and inform the honorable member later.
Mr.O’KEEFE. - Asthe House has passed abill to grant financial assistance to Tasmania, and asportion of the revenue which is to provide that assistance is to to obtained fromthe institution known as “Tattersalls,” will the Treasurer confer with the. Postmaster-General and endeavour to impress upon him the absolute necessity and fairnessof removing tire prohibition placed by the Postal Department on the carriage of mails for that institution?
– Ishallbring the matter personally under the notice of the Postmaster-Genenral.
– Can the Prime Min ister yet announce the names of the members of the Canberra Commission?
– I am not yet able to say who the commissioners will be.
asked the Minister for Tirade and Customs, upon notice -
– The only communication I have received from the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce is a roneo copy of their comments on the Bill now before the House, and which I understandhas also been supplied to other honorable members.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In last night’s edition ofthe Melbourne Sun an article was published headed, “ Bruce, ‘ A mug.’ “ A second heading read, “ I would not have paid.” The first paragraph of the report stated - “It was a case of catching a mug,” said Mr. Hughes to-day in attacking Mr. Bruce’s payment of £309,000 toEngland on account of enemy ships captured in Australia during the war.
Later, I am madeto say, “ It was a case of catching a mug.” The report, which is ostensibly an account of an interview with me, is a complete misrepresentation of what I said. I have been tempted on occasions to use picturesque phraseology, but I deny most emphatically that I used the word “ mug,” which isnot in my vocabulary. I keenly resent the publication of this report. It conveys a reflection upon the Prime Minister that I should be very sorry for him to think came from me. I assure him that it did not. A report of the same interview also appeared m theMelbourne Herald of the same date. Therepresentatives ofthe two newspapers were in my roomtogether, and the interview was given to them simultaneously. The Herald report is substantially correct, and as it contains no reference to the objectionable word “mug,” honorable members may accept my explanation as correct. In any case, I say again that I did not use the language attributed to me.
Motion (by Mr. Anstey) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted tothe honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), on account of ill-health.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions:
The information is as follows : -
Australia of such patients as are accepted by the Imperial authorities as their responsibility. If such a case is accommodated in a state institution, the state is reimbursed the cost of maintenance and treatment by the Repatriation Commission on behalf of the British Government. British ex-soldiers not accepted are in the same position as ordinary civil cases.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 10th September, vide page 4178) :
Home and Territories Department
Proposed vote, £622,370.
– This vote affords an opportunity for discussing the unsatisfactory manner in which the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) has handled a very urgent matter, namely, the rescue operations in connexion with the survivors of the wrecked vessel Douglas Mawson. The lives of two white women are understood to be in jeopardy, and, in such circumstances, no other man in the Parliament would have been so indifferent as Senator Pearce has been. It is incomprehensible that he should have dispatched a vessel having a speed of one knot per hour to rescue two women when speedier means of transport were available. It is the duty of the Government to answer the statement in this morning’s Age that the Huddersfield is partly owned by Mistress Pearce, An increased subsidy has been paid to the owners of this ship, in which, apparently, the Pearce family is interested, and it is strange that a vessel so unsuitable should have been selected for urgent rescue work. I feel confident that had Mrs. Pearce and Miss Pearce been captives of the blacks a more speedy vessel would havebeen sent to their rescue. I understand that some of our naval vessels are on the Queensland coast, and the public is entitled to know why one of them was not sent on this important mission. A man could walk almost as quickly as the Huddersfield can travel. I hope that the dilly-dallying that has taken place in connexion with this matter is not due to the fact that one of the women in danger is the wife of a mere labourer. Honorable members on this side of the House will not tolerate such dilatoriness when human lives are at stake, and we shall not rest until the
Government has given some satisfactory explanation of the measures that have been adopted.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for South Sydney is of vital importance, and we have a right to expect from the Government a satisfactory answer to the charges made against one of its members in a section of this morning’spress.We know that a great deal of time was wasted in order that the Huddersfield might be chartered to engage in rescue work, for which a speedier vessel should have been obtained, and could have been obtained if the Minister had so desired. The person directly responsible is the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), and in the absence of a satisfactory explanation the public is justified in forming the opinion that the delay in dispatching a vessel to the rescue of the two captive women was in order that a charter might be given to a particular boat, in which the Minister or his relatives are said to be financially interested. If the lives of these women have been jeopardized in order that grist might be brought to the mill of a Minister’s family, a very serious offence has been committed. In this morning’s A ge the following questions are asked : -
Is it a fact that the following allotments of shares were registered at the RegistrarGeneral’s Office within the past twelve months in the Elcho Island Naphtha Petroleum Company, 140 Little Collins-street, Melbourne : - Between 15th October and 13th November, 1923, Percy Whyte Pearce, Miller Point, Alphington, clerk, 10 shares; Elizabeth Maud Pearce, Park-street, South Yarra, domestic duties, 60 shares; Walter L. Smallhorn, Coppin-street, East Malvern, civil servant, 249 shares.
During February, 1924 : - Percy Whyte Pearce, Crisp-street, Hampton, 10 shares.
Between 29th April and 30th June, 1924: - Percy Whyte Pearce, Crisp-street Hampton, 10 shares; Boucaut Bay’ Petroleum Company, 2,500 shares.
The persons mentioned are either engaged in the Home and Territories Department or are relatives of the Minister.
– Not all of them. Because a man’s name is Pearce, it does not follow that he is the son of a Minister.
– Does the honorable member deny that he is the son of a Minister ?
– We are asking the Government for an explanation. The Age says: - “The Melbourne Telephone Directory gives the address of Senator Pearce as Park-street, South Yarra.” That address corresponds with the address of one of the shareholders in the Elcho Island Naphtha Petroleum Company.
– It does not correspond with the Hampton address.
– No. Of course, it may be only a remarkable coincidence that both Senator Pearce and one of the shareholders live in the same street. It is due to the House and the country that this matter should be cleared up. If the Minister has an explanation to offer to this very serious charge, it is his duty to supply the committee with the facts.
-What is the honorable member’s charge?
– That the Minister has been guilty of dilatoriness, and that at least, one of the shareholders I have mentioned belongs to that Minister’s family. Although more speedy vessels could have been engaged, the dispatch of a rescue expedition was delayed in order that a charter might be given to a wornout, slow vessel that was entirely unfitted for the service. The charge of undue delay is serious enough, apart from the suspicion as to the ownership of the vessel. It is stated that the Huddersfield is unseaworthy, and, in the circumstances, honorable members are entitled to know why it was chartered. When the lives of two women were at stake the Government Ought to have required no prompting to act with the utmost dispatch; it could not have found on the Australian coast a more unsuitable vessel for urgent work. The suggestion that has been made in regard to the ownership of the vessel may not be true, but the Government should take the earliest opportunity of making the facts public.
– The statements made by honorable members opposite regarding the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) are very serious, and they call for a prompt reply. The opposition has raised two questions. One is whether the Government has shown a full realization of the seriousness of the position of these two women, and has exercised due expedition to bring about their rescue at the earliest possible moment. That point- has already beendealt with several times. The second is whether the Huddersfield is not totally unsuitable for the employment on which she is engaged, and was employed on this work deliberately, so that some pecuniary advantage might accrue to a member of the Government, through one of his relatives, and to an officer in the Department of Home and Territories, which controls the administration of the Northern Territory. Regarding the first question, I remind honorable members that the first intimation that was received that these women were in the hands of the blacks was on the 18th July last. A report to that effect appeared in the press. The Home and Territories Department at once communicated with the Administrator of the Northern Territory about it, and received from him a confirmatory reply. The Administrator requested that he should be given a free hand to take whatever action might be necessary to rescue these two women. The Minister for Home and Territories immediately wired back, consenting to this. The only ship which was then available at Port Darwin was the Huddersfield, and the Administrator considered that it would be more expeditious to dispatch her immediately than to attempt to get a high-powered vessel from some other part of Australia. His judgment would obviously be influenced by the fact that for the work of rescue it was imperative to engage the services of bushmen familiar with the Northern Territory, and knowing the natives there. As such persons were at Port Darwin, that was the obvious and natural starting point for the expedition. The Huddersfield was not dispatched as rapidly as was anticipated,which is much to be regretted. Difficulty was experienced in finding a crew and other personnel for the ship, notwithstanding her proposed mission. Eventually, however, the vessel got away. Ministers, equally with other honorable members, regret that she has not greater speed, but she was the only vessel then available. Whatever other action might have been taken, it- would have been impossible to hasten the expedition to an extent that would have been of any real value. These women are not yet rescued, and it is suggested that there has been improper delay. As I said the other day, there has been no avoidable delay, and an attempt to bring about the rescue more expeditiously Would certainly have risked the lives of these unfortunate women. Experienced bushmen, accompanied by natives of the district where they are thought to be, have gone inland, and are endeavouring to negotiate with the natives who are believed to hold these women. It is suggested that it would have been better to send a cruiser and an armed force, but if honorable members will use their common sense they will realize that that would have been fatal. Any appearance of armed strength would inevitably result in the natives destroying the women, and hiding the evidences of their crime against the arrival of a punitive expedition. The action that has been taken is the wisest course, being that most likely to effect a rescue. Should the women be rescued, it will then have to be considered what actionshould be taken against the natives concerned. If honorable gentlemen will bring an unbiased and fair judgment to bear upon this matter, they will not support the charge against the Minister of delay in sending this expedition. It has been suggested this afternoon that theHuddersfield was employed - to usethe words of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) - because she is “ partially owned by Mistress Pearce.” The honorable member further said that the Pearce family was interested, and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) said that lives had been jeopardized that grist might be brought to themillof the Minister.
– I asked whether that was a fact..
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) also interjected that the vessel belonged to a company in whichthe Pearce family held shares.
– Can the Prime Minister deny that?
– Those charges have been flung at the Minister for Home and Territories, a gentleman who during the war did wonderful service for this country, and was then responsible for a department with an annual expenditure of over £50,000,000. No breath of reproach has ever been heard against him throughout his career, and yet charges of this sort are made now. I shall indicate how little substance there is in them. In this morning’s newspaper appeared a statement which has obviously been carefully worded so that in no possible circumstances could action be taken against the proprietors for libel. Yet there is no doubt that the interpretation that may be put upon it is one which honorable members opposite have not hesitated to apply to it this afternoon. That statement refers to two companies, the Elcho Island Naphtha Petroleum Company, and the BoucautBay Petroleum Company. The names of shareholders of the former company are set out, and amongstthem is that of Percy Whyte Pearce, Miller Point, Alphingtom, clerk, ten shares. In February, 1924, he is shown as acquiring another ten shares. This person is not a relation of either the Minister for Home and Territories or his wife, and the Minister has no knowledge of him. There are. other names mentioned, among them being “ Elizabeth Maud Pearce,Park-street, South Yarra, domestic duties, 5.0 shares.” She is the wife of theMinister for Home and Territories. The Elcho Island Company, in which these shares are held, was formed to take out a licence for the purpose of prospecting for oil at Elcho Island,Mrs. Pearce bought 50 shares in that company, upon which she has paid up £25. She made that investment at her own desire, and out of her own money. The Minister had nothing to do with the matter. Mrs. Pearce is not interested in the Boucaut Bay Company at all, and nobody has ever suggested that she holds shares in it. The Boucaut Bay Company tendered to supply a shipping service for the Northern Territory, tenders for which were invited some time “ago. It. has been suggested that subsequently to the tender of that company being accepted, the subsidy was raised from £5,000 to £6,000. That is quite untrue. Alternative tenders - the first for one vessel, and the secondfor two vessels - were invited . For one vessel the subsidy was to be £5,000, and for two vessels £6,000. This company’s tender was accepted, and a contract providing that, two ships should be used was -entered into, the subsidy being £6,000. There is not the slightest foundation forthesuggestion that the amount of thesubsidy was increased after the acceptance of the tender.
– What is the name of the othervessel ?
– I think the other vessel that is being used is called the John Alee. When the company obtained the contract the Huddersfield was in .Sydney undergoing her trials. I emphasize the fact that it was not the Home and Territories Department, but the Navigation Department, which had to determine whether the vessel was fit for the service for which she was. to be used. In Hansard, of 27th. August last, honorable members may see a report on that vessel by Captain G. D. Williams, . the Deputy Director of- Navigation in New South Wales. The Navigation Departmentpassed the vessel as seaworthy and suitable for the service she was to undertake. Af ter the Huddersfield had undergone her trials, and was accepted as suitable for this service, she proceeded to the Northern Territory, but she has not yet engaged in the work for which she was sent there. The contractors have been carrying out their contract with the John Alee, and another vessel which, apparently, they have hired. In view of her recent performances, it is obvious that an investigation will have to be made into the suitability of the Huddersfield for the service required under the contract. The necessity for some investigation is the more obvious, because of the unsatisfactory running- of the vessel when proceeding: from. Sydney to- Darwin. At present the whole -matter is the subject of correspondence between the Administrator and the department. That is a matter altogether apart’ from the relief expedition in which the- vessel is engaged. At some- date; which we have- not yet been able to- ascertain, but which in the, newspaper statement is set out as being between ‘the 29th- April and 30th June’ of the- present year,, the Boucaut Bay Company, which ownsthe Huddersfield, acquired’ -shares in the Elcho Island Company: Apparently, the Elcho Island Company also acquired shares in the Boucaut Bay Company. The acquisition of those shares was. subsequent to the contract of which I have spoken. Therefore, on the date on which the contract was entered into, Mrs. Pearce had no interest in the Huddersfield. She was never, and is not now, a shareholder of the Boucaut Bay Company. She is. a shareholder in the Elcho Island Company to the extent of 50 £1 shares. That’ company owns shares, valued at £25,000, in the Boucaut Bay Company; but1 has not a majority of the shares in that company. Yet it is suggested that lives are being jeopardized in order that grist might be brought to the mills of Ministers. Such reckless charges, which cannot be substantiated, should not be made. It is true that a Mr. Smallhorn. who is employed in the Home and Territories Department, is a shareholder in the company to the extent of 249- shares, and because of that, it is suggested that he also has done something highly improper. As soon as tha* fact came under the notice of the Government, inquiry was instituted, but while it ‘has not yet been possible to ‘ complete it, there is no ground for the suggestion that this officer has done anything improper. That, he has invested a sum of money in a company - an investment which may prove to be unsatisfactory - is not in itself justification for the charges which are being made against him.
– Is the Government going on with that inquiry against h-im:?
– We are ascertaining all the facts, in order to give Mr. Smallhorn the opportunity to refute what is obviously a suggestion that he has acted improperly. That is only fair to him. As these charges have been made, the Government, and, in particular, Senator Pearce, desires that, they shall be. thoroughly investigated in any way that this House, may wish. We are anxious that there shall be no ground for a charge that anything in relation to this matter has been hidden. If honorable members still -consider that .there is. any ground for suspicion, or. .any, reflection on Senator Pearce, the. Government is prepared to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the whole matter. Charges of this nature against the- honour of Ministers cannot be made without, action beingtaken. I am, however, convinced that in> view of the facts which I have given- to the House, no reasonable persons- either inside or outside of Parliament - will believe that anything improper has taken place in connexion with this matter. I do not’ propose, at this stage-, to say anything regarding the other matter which has been referred to. With regard to the shareholders of the Boucaut Bay Petroleum- Company, -if they are of opinion that this matter should be investigated, the Government will be only too pleased to give them any assistance, but, for my own part, I do not think there is the slightest ground for any inquiry into the suggestions which have been made.
– What is the shipping service tendered for? Is the run of these two vessels from Darwin to Elcho Island?
– Let me first deal with the matter to which I am now referring. I trust that honorable members are not going to make this an issue which will leave an impression on the public mind that something is charged against a Minister of the Crown who has rendered very great services to this country. I am sure that no impartial person, who had an opportunity of considering the facts, would consider for a second that there are any grounds at all upon which to base a charge of any character against this Minister. With regard to the services tendered for, the tenders were for a vessel, or two vessels, alternatively, with varying subsidies, to make in one case, I think, three voyages round the Territory, not merely to go to one spot, but to call at various places. The services to be rendered were set out in the tenders, and certain conditions were to be fulfilled. These are being carried out by ships other than the Huddersfield, which, so far, ha3 never yet been on the run she was sent north to take up. In view of the performance of this vessel, there are grave doubts whether she can satisfy the conditions required for employment in the service.
.- Whilst listening to the Prime Minister my heart was filled with sympathy .for the right honorable gentleman. I feltthat it is unfortunate that a Government, so pure and innocent, should have to fight its way through a maze of suspicion and slander. It would appear that members of the Opposition are not the only persons who from time to time make accusations . against this Government. Only yesterday I went through a little list of charges against the Government, prepared at one time by the honorable member who now occupies the position of Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). I noticed that the scandals about which he was concerned were seven in number, and he wanted various inquiries and commissions to investigate them. Of course, at the present time, the honorable gentleman does not want those inquiries made. Some accusations have been made by honorable members on this side, one of which is now the subject of inquiry by a royal commission, and of it we shall hear more later. Now, we have the respectable daily press making insinuations and accusations against this innocent and pure Government. The Prime Minister has risen in explanation, and has given a certificate of good character to a Minister in another place. He says that this gentleman has lived an honest and a virtuous life. We cannot judge by the past; we must judge by the present. The fact that a man has lived honestly for 50 years would not be an argument against an accusation that he had been dishonest during one hour. First of all we had the statement made that two women were . lost in the Northern Territory. It is said that some sympathy was aroused, and it was felt that they must be found. Apparently, the rumour that the women are still alive in the Northern Territory was accepted as correct. The Government immediately communicated with the Northern Territory, and left the officials there to carry out the work of rescue. The Prime Minister has said that the relief expedition started from the obvious and natural point of departure. But the natural point of departure in such a case depends on the facilities obtainable. One place may be 100 miles away from the point to be reached, and another 1,000 miles away, but the question to be determined in a case of this kind is from which is the swiftest means of transit obtainable. Although the matter has been discussed here a dozen times, and the question has been raised by the member for. the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and honorable members on this side, I have so far not spoken upon it. I venture to say now that if these two women had been the wives of responsible men in this country it would not have been left to the Administrator of the Northern Territory to find the ways and means to rescue them. The Government would have placed at disposal for the purpose all the resources of the Commonwealth. The resources of the Commonwealth do not consist merely of an old hooker that cannot go more than 1 mile an hour. They include the menofwar that are the property of the Commonwealth, and that early in November will be found steaming from all parts ‘ of Australia to a particular port in this country. If early in November next, these vessels can come from all parts of Australia and meet in the port of Melbourne in time for a great public event, surely they could have proceeded from all parts of Australia as swiftly as possible to the point which it is necessary to reach in order to seek for the lost women. I have not heard any honorable member on this side suggest that an armed force should be sent to seek for them. All that I have heard is that the best facilities for the purpose at the disposal of the Commonwealth should have been availed of. Now, with respect to the Huddersfield, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories a question, without notice, concerning this vessel to-day, and he asked me to put my question on the notice paper; The honorable gentleman could not answer, but now the Prime Minister has answered for him. The right honorable gentleman is in the unfortunate position that he must answer for all the gang of incapables around him. Not one of them can speak in defence of his own department, and the Prime Minister has to be the spokesman for them all. There is a vote of £6,000 on the Estimates to subsidize a coastal service for the Northern Territory. Is such a sum adequate for a coastal service for any portion of Australia ? It is an absolute disgrace that a vessel with a tin-pot boiler and absolutely incapable of serving any public need should be subsidized for such a purpose. I should like to know what the conditions of the tenders for this service are. I know that in a previous case of the kind there was a vessel concerned that could not get >ut of- the port of Fremantle. She lay rotting in that port, month after month whilst her owners were drawing a public subsidy. The Huddersfield was rotting in the port of Darwin, incapable of going to sea, whilst her owners were drawing public money. The Prime Minister tried to side track the issue by telling us that the wife of the Minister for Home and Territories is interested in the Elcho Naptha Petroleum Company and not in the Boucaut Bay Petroleum Company. But these are one and the same company. The names are merely the alias under which they masquerade. They are interwoven, their capital is common property and they have a common office. A and B put in tenders and B gets the contract, and the shareholders of both participate in the subsidy. But apart: from these matters altogether, the disclosures in connexion with the Huddersfield show that she is a’ vessel of ‘a’ type that should not be chartered by the payment of public money. Leaving the accusations about Senator Pearce, and the rescue of the lost women out of the question, it is a scandal that a vessel of this character should be chartered with public money. The mere fact that the Navigation Department allows such a vessel to go to sea should be the subject of a public investigation. How can it be said that a ship that can travel only one mile an hour is fit to go to sea?
– She can’ do that only with wind and tide in her favour.
– She simply is at the mercy, of wind and tide, and liable to drift upon the nearest reef. The chartering of the Huddersfield for a public service is a matter for investigation, and the Government that would tolerate such a thing deserves condemnation. This has become one more of the many things which the Government has to explain away. It represents another nail in its coffin. Members of the Government are constantly on their feet to explain away charges made against them. It is not difficult for a man to explain away his own delinquencies, and to suggest that some error which he is charged with making is not an error, but a virtue. The members of the present Government are constantly in- the unfortunate position of having to explain away their public conduct and the results of their administration. To. put matters to the test, and as a protest against the conduct of the Government iri connexion; with the Huddersfield, I move -
That the amount for division 37, “ Administrative £33,683,” be reduced by £1.
I submit this motion as an expression of the opinion of the committee that the coastal service supplied per medium of the Huddersfield is inadequate and should be remedied, and also as a protest against the association of the Minister for Horn* and Territories (Senator Pearce) with any of the linked up companies connected with -the Huddersfield.
.- I am quite with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) in his condemnation of the Navigation Department for having passed as fit for service in any part of the Commonwealth a vessel that can do only five knots an hour. Any one who has been on the northern coast must know that at Darwin there is a rise and fall of tide of 26 feet. War vessels crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria have been known in the course of one night to be carried north or south by the tide as much as 30 miles, and it has been necessary for those in charge to take observations in the morning to find out where they were. The Huddersfield, which -can only travel at five knots an hour, could not steam into the harbour at Darwin or Thursday Island .against a head tide. I asked, for some information as to the places at which the vessels engaged in the subsidized service should call. Unless we have further information than has .so far been received, itwould appear that public money is being -spent to enable vessels of the subsidised -company to trade -with ports in which the company is itself concerned.
– They have to call at a port at the bottom of the Gulf.
– We want to know whether that is so. Without that statement, honorable members can take only one view. It is a scandal that such a boat should be employed to work where there are such strong tides and currents.
.- The country will be startled by the inadequate and unsatisfactory reply of the Prime Minister to the serious charge levelled against the Ministry regarding the mail services in the Northern Territory, and the action taken to rescue the two women captured by the Borroloola blacks. The Government has been repeatedly questioned about the nature of the expedition, and cannot, therefore, plead ignorance. The honorable member for tlie Northern .Territory (Mr. Nelson), who has a thorough knowledge of the district in which this scheme of activity has been undertaken-
– Scheme of inactivity.
– I am rightly corrected. The honorable member for the Northern Territory suggested that a ‘further expedition of experienced bushmen from the Katherine River should be sent to supplement the expedition from Darwin. The Government should not have been satisfied to send merely an expedition from Darwin, but should have employed any craft available in the north of
Queensland. It is known that warships are on that coast, and are doing nothing more important than engaging in social functions. The Brisbane is at Rabaul and the Geranium off Townsville. The Government can have no excuse for the inadequate and unsatisfactory assistance it has rendered to the captured women, who, I claim, have a right to expect the authorities to use the whole resources of the Commonwealth at their disposal. The ship that has been sent, the Huddersfield, was delayed in the port of Darwin for nearly a fortnight, but no attempt was made during that time to equip her with wireless apparatus. The result is that little is now known of the location of the vessel, or of the service the expedition has rendered to the women. The position is intolerable, and demonstrates the ineptitude, callous indifference, and incapacity of members of the Ministry, who are branded for all time as political pigmies. If the mother, wife, sister, or daughter of a -supporter of the Government had been captured by the blacks, we know what vigorous action would have been taken by the Government, but the captured women are “the wife and daughter of a labourer. The facts seem to suggest that the Government is not so alert as it should be when the life of the wife of a mere labourer is in danger. A charge has been made that a member of the Government has an interest in the company that owns the Huddersfield. The Government, in answer to that charge, admits that the wife of the Minister for Home and’ Territories (Senator Pearce) has an interest in that company, and that a certain public servant has an interest in it also. The Government has agreed to ‘ hold an inquiry, but against whom? Not against the Minister, but against the public servant. The circumstances remind me of an incident in this chamber a few days ago, when Ministers, who should, themselves, have been placed in the dock, shifted -their responsibilities on to the shoulders of a public servant. In this cowardly and contemptible way they avoid answering charges that are made against them. For the service that this vessel renders, the Government pays an annual subsidy of £6,000, but the value of the vessel is not more than £5,000.
– Why does not the honorable member tell the truth?
– I demand the with drawal of that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– When the lash is put over the members of the Government-
– When the lies are put over them.
– The honorable member for Macquarie has accused me of lying, and I demand the withdrawal of that statement.
– I did not say that the honorable member was lying. I withdraw the statement “ when the lies areput over them,” and substitute “ when the inaccurate statements are put over them.” .
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to explain himself, but I am satisfied that his indifference will not be satisfactory to his constituents. The. people of this country demand that effective steps shall be taken to relieve these women.
– The criticism has been directed, I understand, to the item relating to the subsidy of £6,000 for coastal shipping services in the Northern Territory. The Prime Minister, when dealing with this matter, said that, if his explanation of one part of the theme that has formed the subject of criticism was not satisfactory, he would be prepared to move for the appointment of a royal commission, and that in any case an official inquiry would be held into an allegation made against an official of the Home and Territories Department. How can the Minister ask the committee to vote for an item that can, if the committee so desires, be made the subject of an investigation by a royal commission, and is, in any case, to be the subject of an official inquiry? The matter could be settled in a simple way. I do not credit for one moment the charges made against Senator Pearce. Not even a prima facie case has. been made out, but a situation has been created that makes it impossible for the committee to proceed as if nothing had been said. Therefore, the right thing to do, in my opinion, is, to postpone the item until the Government has had an opportunity to consider what to do.
– The item has nothing to do with the charges made by the Opposition. Honorable members opposite have accused the Government of indifference and maladministration in not sending a better ship than the Huddersfield to relieve the women captured by the Borroloola blacks.
– But the Ministry has engaged the Huddersfield.
– The item in the Estimates relates to the Huddersfield only as a mail steamer.
– That is the whole question.
– The Huddersfield has now been sent on a mission to rescue these women, and in her place we have had to employ another boat.
– But we cannot pay £6,000 to a company to carry mails at a. speed of a, mile an hour.
– The mail contractor supplies two boats, the Huddersfield and the John Alce. As the Huddersfield has been employed on this mission, the company has had to supply another boat for the mail service. I do not know whether the sum of £6,000 is too much to pay for this service, but the Government has” entered into a contract that it must honour.
– Does the contract not contain conditions relating to speed ?
– I do not know. I. have not’ seen the contract. I havehad nothing to do with it. TheActing Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) sprang a question on me. He knows that I am not in the Department for Home and Territories, and that if he had given me ten minutes’ notice of the question I could have obtained the information. Instead of doing that, he condemned me for not; knowing all the details of matters I have not had time to investigate.
– Can the Minister inform the committee whether it was intended, when the ship was chartered, that she should put to sea?
– I do not know what was intended, except that, as soon as it was known that two women were in thehands of the Borroloola blacks, the
Administrator asked the Minister to give him a free hand. The Administrator engaged the Huddersfield, and he, as the servant of the Minister, did all the work. The Minister had to be guided, more ‘ or less, by his advice. Honorable members have been told at least a dozen times during- recent weeks that the Huddersfield was the only vessel available at Darwin, and could be senr> to Borroloola quicker than any other vessel that could be obtained. I suppose the decision of the authorities at Darwin was based on the manner in which the Huddersfield had performed her duties in connexion with the mail service.
– We have been told she has never been used in the mail service.
– -The Administrator of the Northern Territory informed the Minister for Home and Territories that the Huddersfield could be sent to the scene of trouble more rapidly than a destroyer or any other ship that could be obtained. Why the Opposition has suddenly commenced to take such a keen interest in this matter I cannot understand, unless it is because the press has been making all sorts of charges against the Government.
– Has Mr. Nelson any shares in this company ?
An Honorable Member. - Has Mr. Jackson’ any shares in it J
– No, but . Mr. Nelson has.
– The other charges that have been made by honorable members opposite are too contemptible to be answered.
.- The administration of the Home and Territories Department has been challenged on account of the miserable way in which it has handled a very urgent matter. After what I have heard of the unseaworthiness of the Huddersfield, I doubt whether, even if we are fortunate enough to rescue the women from i he blacks, the vessel will be able, to deliver them safely in Darwin. She seems to have no steaming power, and is at the mercy of wind and tide. If the tide is against her when she sets out on the return passage to Darwin she may drift back to Borroloola. For the last six weeks questions have been frequently asked from this side of the House regarding the steps the Government was taking to rescue the unfortunate survivors of the Douglas Mawson. We heard in July that two unfortunate women were prisoners of the natives, and the Government has taken two months to despatch a rescue expedition. It seems to me that the women are endangered by the apathy of the Government more than by anything else. The argument of the Prime Minister that their lives would be jeopardized if a warlike expedition were sent against the Borroloola blacks is absurd. How could the natives know whether a boat approaching the coast was a war vessel or a trading vessel) Their only concern would be the danger to them from firearms. The Government should have summoned by wireless the nearest vessel to the northern coast and despatched it to Borroloola. The heart of the Australian people has been stirred by the dilatoriness in ‘connexion with these rescue operations, but apparently the meek and lowly followers of the Government will vote as the Prime Minister directs without any regard for the importance of the subject under discussion.
Mr. BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) £3.58].- The Government cannot agree to the proposed reduction of the vote, particularly as one of the purposes of the amendment is to indicate disapproval of the action of the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce).. A suggestion has been made that the item for the payment of a £6,000 subsidy for a mail service on the coast of the Northern Territory should be postponed until the contract hag been further inquired into. I assure the committee that the Government has no intention of paying money to any company that does not fulfil its contract. If the conditions which were laid down when the tender was accepted are- not being complied with, not one penny will be paid to the company. I indicated in my earlier remarks that the performances of the Huddersfield when travelling from Sydney to Darwin were such as to cause grave, doubt of heT ability to fulfil the conditions of the contract. That matter is being investigated.- The evidence obtained so far appears to indicate that the vessel is incapable of doing what is required of it under the contract, but I- give the committee my assurance that no money will be paid unless all the conditions are fulfilled. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) suggested that even if we are fortunate enough to get the two women out of captivity, their lives will be further endangered by the unseaworthiness of the Huddersfield, but every precaution will be taken to ensure their safe return to civilization.
– The committee is entitled to know the terms of the mail service contract.
– Tenders were called for by advertisement, and the honorable member . can see the conditions of the contract at any time.
– A contract was made on the 1st April, 1924, with the Boucaut Bay Petroleum Company Limited for a coastal shipping service. The company has provided, under the agreement, two auxiliary schooners, the Huddersfield and the John Alee. It is required to maintain an efficient coastal service, for the carriage of cargo and passengers to the usual landing places at Roper River, Booroloola, Victoria. River, and such intermediate ports and stations as the Administrator may require. The subsidy payable under the agreement is £6,000 per annum. As the Huddersfield has been chartered for the rescue expedition, the company has to provide another vessel for the mail service.
.- The John Alee was previously engaged in the Northern Territory coastal mail service, and was discarded as unfit for the purpose. She was sent to Fremantle, and laid up there for months. When I was in Western Australia recently, I heard statements as to the persons who were partners in the vessel, but I made no use of them. The John Alee is now linked up with the Huddersfield, in a new company, and I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that the subsidy of £6,000 per annum is to be paid for a service by a mail boat with a speed of one knot an hour. The subsidy is more than double the value of the ship. I have seen documents showing the price at which both vessels were bought, and even the John Alee is being subsidized annually to an amount in excess of her market value.
– Other tenders were received, and that of the Boucaut Bay Company was considered the best.
– The John Alee was previously discarded as incapable of maintaining an efficient service, but the same owners have got a fresh contract through another door. This vessel is to be subsidized to the extent of £6,000 . per annum for a service which it cannot perform. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Atkinson) has admitted that the Huddersfield has been specially chartered for- the rescue expedition, and apparently a further payment will be made for that service.
– That is so.
– A nice state of affairs 1
– The Vice-President of the- Executive Council stated that the organization of the rescue expedition was left to the Administrator of the Northern Territory.
– I said that the Administrator asked that he should be given a free hand.
– And the Minister for Home and Territories agreed to that. When human life was at stake he should have issued definite instructions that the best ship within reach should be chartered. We have been told some of the conditions of the mail service contract, but not one word has been said about the speed which the vessels were required to have. What is the use of making a contract for a mail service unless a minimum speed is specified?
– It may have been specified.
– Surely speed is of the essence of a mail contract.
– I. have not read the contract myself. It is now in- the hands of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan).
– The position is unsatisfactory. A contract has been entered into with a shipping company, and £6,000 a year is being paid for the carriage of mails in the Northern Territory by two vessels, that, put together, are not worth that sum. How can we possibly develop the Northern Territory and increase its population if unseaworthy vessels are used for the carriage of cargo and mails there.
– Is it not possible to obtain particulars of the tonnage, freights, and speed of these vessels?
– The Government cannot give that information. I ask the Minister to obtain particulars respecting the speed of these vessels, their ports of call, and the nature of their work.
Question - That the amount for division 37 “ Administrative £33,683 “ be reduced by £1 - put. The committee divided;
Noes .. .. ..29
Majority. . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia.) [4.14].I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories when the electoral rolls for the Queensland Federal electorates will be brought up to date. There has. been no reprint of these rolls since 1922, and this seriously inconveniences persons who desire to peruse them. I understand that reprints havebeen made in Victoria and South Australia, and that in Western Australia and Tasmania reprints are now being made.
. -An examination of the Estimates shows that only one head of a department - the Chief Electoral Officer of . the Commonwealthreceives a salary of less than £1,000 a year. This year his salary is shown on the Estimates as £950 per annum.
Mr. BRUCE.He is not the head of a department.
– At any rate, he holds a very important position, andI ask the Minister to consider increasinghis salary.
.- I have repeatedly asked in this House for rain gauges to be placed in two new farming areas in Western Australia, Mullewa, and Morowa. Twelve months ago this matter was held over because the department said that no money had been provided for rain gauges at those places . It is important that the primary producers, there should have particulars of the rainfall. I ask the Minister whether provision is made in the Estimates this year for these rain gauges.
, - We all recognize the great value to the primary producers of the meteorological observations throughout Australia. Recently I brought under the notice of the Government Meteorologist a rather extraordinary feature respecting the weather conditions here and , in South Africa. The seasonal conditions at any time in the Transvaal and Southern Africa are similar to those experienced six weeks later in the southern districts of New South Wales. This matter has been brought under my notice by a friend who has. farming interests in both the Transvaal and in New South. Wales. The frequency of this occurrence is. evidence that it is more than a coincidence. I need hardly point out to the Minister that if we were able to establish that, such a thing regularly occurs, it would beof great value to Australia. In theautumn of last year conditions here were very unfavorable. It looked as if we were about to experience another drought. My friend at that time received a cable from South Africa, saying that the drought conditions which had been prevailing there had broken, and that good useful Fains had fallen. On the strength of that cable he wrote to the local newspapers, pointing out what had) occurred in South Africa, and stating that he anticipated a break of the drought hereabout the beginning of June, Exactly six weeks from the date of the cable, valuable rains fell over the whole of the southern portion of Australia. I asked the Government meteorologist to have the records of South Africa compared with those for southern Australia. When I first wrote to him he rather discounted the possibility of the weather conditions in South Africa and the southern portion of Australia being in any way connected, but when I wrote to him a second time, and placed additional facts before him, he said that such a ‘thing might exist, but that the department had not sufficient, funds at itsdisposal to carry out the investigations.This is a matter ofsuch importance that funds should be provided to enable these investigations to be carried out. Similar meteorological -observations are, no doubt, conducted in the Transvaal, and in South Africa generally, as in Australia. I think every civilized country makes observations of this nature.
– Are the two countries in the same latitude?
– Practically so. I do not suggest that these conditions would apply to South Africa and to the northern portion of Australia. It is generally accepted that the atmospheric pressure systems travel from west to east at fairly regular periods. I understand that we have notless than 46, nor more than 51, of such changes in the course of a year. Sometimes they take place after four or five days, and sometimes after eight or nine days, but generally these changes occur practically weekly. It is probable that some valuable data may be obtained by comparing the records of the Transvaal and South Africa generally with those for southern Australia. If we were in the position to know six weeks ahead the weather we were likely to receive, we could at times prevent great losses. I ask the Minister to have the necessary funds made available to enable comparisons to be made in the direction I have indicated.
– Iunderstand that the meteorologist has given this matter some attention, but there is no amount on the Estimates for the purpose. Iadmit the importance of this matter, and realize that it would well repay Australia to investigate a question of thisnature. So far as I am able, I shall see that the honorable member’s remarks are brought before the Minister and the meteorologist.
-It should not cost a great deal to correspond with South Africa on the subject.
-As to the question raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), I do not think that there is any provision on the Estimates which would justify me in saying that rain gauges will be specially provided. Itisnot a question ofrain gauges only, but of other instruments also. There are about6,000 of these stations throughout Australia, and the department does its best to make the grant cover as many of them as possible.
.- I was promised that provision wouldbe made in these Estimates for the rain gauges to which Ihave already referred.
I desire to draw attention tothe necessity for a meteorological station off the coast of Western Australia similar to that which exists at Willis Island off the Queensland coast. At Willis Island there isa meteorological ‘station which’ supplies warnings of approaching storms to shipping and tothe residentson the coast of Queensland. Because of those warnings theyare able to provide against the tornadoes which sometimes visit them with such devastating results. In the northwestern portion of Western Australia, also, tornadoes, locally called “ willys,” are experienced from timetotime. Fortunately, they are notoffrequent occurrence,but when theydovisit that area, the effect is always disastrous. Sometimes as manyas 20or 30 pearling boats are destroyed, in addition to, probably, a score of lives. It has been suggested by men who should know that the erection of a meteorological station at Browse Island,in latitude 14 about 100 miles west of Cape Bougainville, in. the Kimberleydistrict, would serve a Very useful purpose, in that warnings of approaching storms could be issued to the people of Broome and other pearling centres. The Government of the United States of America established a meteorological bureau in the Philippines, which has proved of immense benefit to the people as far distant as Hong Kong, and nas resulted in the saving of thousands of pounds worth of shipping and many valu-able lives. I trust that something will be done in the direction indicated.
.- I draw attention to the necessity for a properly equipped station at Lord Howe Island, which is situated in a most dangerous zone for shipping. Several wrecks have occurred in the vicinity. Trouble isexperienced because of the lack of wireless communication with the island. For the safety of shipping, and of those who go down to the sea in ships, it is essential that such a station should be erected, as at Lord Howe Island excellent opportunities to give warning of approaching storms exist. The people on the island are quite prepared to bear a proportion of the cost, but are unable to meet the whole responsibility. The Government should render them some assistance.
There is a mail service running from Sydney to Lord Howe Island, to Norfolk Island, and to the New Hebrides, costing about £40,000 per annum. The last contract was let by the Prime Minister’s Department, but I have since been informed that in future the service will be * under the control of the Home and Territories Department. Before the war there was a fortnightly service, and two boats were engaged. But when the war broke out a -five- weeks’ service was established, and to-day, nearly six years after the termination of the war, there is still only s monthly service. Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company, who hold large interests in those islands, have a dominating influence in the shipping services to and from Australia - an influence which has been sufficient to withstand my best efforts. Although we are paying a subsidy to this company, goods are frequently left on the wharf at Sydney, and on the wharfs in the islands, causing delay and loss to those concerned. Passengers are subjected to great inconvenience travelling to and from the islands, as they frequently have io sleep on deck, and put up with conditions which are far from satisfactory. The contract with this company expires in July next. Some time ago I endeavoured to have alterations made, as I believed that other companies would run vessels to these islands if suitable facilities were offered them. If such facilities were provided better boats would be used, and all persons concerned in trading with the islands would be given greater-satisfaction… The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) has been concerned about the disadvantages’ under which settlers in the New Hebrides labour as a result of the condominium form or’ government there, but they suffer greater disadvantages because they have not an adequate mail service with the Commonwealth. If a satisfactory service were provided, thousands of tourists would be continually taking the voyage from the Commonwealth to Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, and the New Hebrides. I have been engaged in correspondence with the department on the subject of the improvement of the service, but I have been unable to overcome the influence of the shipping companies. I wrote some strong letters to Burns,. Philp and Company, concerning the need for alterations upon one boat, on which the sanitary conditions were very unsatisfactory, and I believe I was the means of having this boat laid up and repaired. If better boats were provided there would be a great increase in the trade between Australia and the Islands. It is heartrending to know that unsatisfactory services are provided and to be unable to overcome the influence at work to prevent any improvement. The service to the Islands must pay Burns, Philp and Company well, as the boats are full both ways with cargo and passengers. The Government should try to make arrangements for an improved service with some other company if Burns, Philp and Company will not improve existing conditions.
.- I wish to refer to a very important vote for a branch of the department under discussion, which is rendering very valuable service to the people of Australia. Any one who has anything to do with men on the land knows how eagerly they watch forecasts by the Meteorological Bureau. I regret to find that the Estimates show a reduction in the expenditure proposed for this service. In 1923- 24 the vote passed waa £62,889, and the actual expenditure for the year was £39,096. The vote proposed this year is only £32,973. The vote for last year was unexpended to the extent of £23,000, and the vote proposed this year is £6,123 less than the actual amount expended last year. I should like to know the explanation for the reduction, in view of the requests that have been made for increased services by the Meteorological
Bureau. I- -represent, a. district that was responsible for a deputation, on the 27th October, 1923, from the Rockhampton City Council to the then .Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page), and the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Austin Chapman). The deputation placed before these gentlemen the following requests for improvements in the meteorological service for the benefit of country districts: -
These are very reasonable requests. They received the consideration of the gentlemen to whom they were presented, and the heads of the Meteorological Department, but for one reason or another they have not yet been complied with. The Commonwealth Meteorologist in reply to them, said, inter aiia -
I have to point out, however, that exten-sions of existing meteorological services are possible only so far as limitation in respect of the financial position for such services will permit.
In spite of this statement, as I have just pointed out, the vote this year is cut down to about one-half of what it was last year. In view of the huge expenditures of the Commonwealth, £32,000 is a comparatively trifling vote for so important and valuable a department.
– Of last year’s vote, £25,000 was only a book entry.
– The honorable gentleman will admit that the vote proposed this year shows a reduction of £6,123 on the actual expenditure of last year. I ask him to consider the advisability of making the vote for this year £62,000, as it was last year. If the vote is increased as it ought to be, there will be some probability that the requests put forward by the Rockhampton Municipal Council will be complied with. By the issue of forecasts at midnight, the latest weather informa tion could be made available to the public in the newspapers of the following morning. In the matter of the distribution of forecasts -by the.: use ‘ of trains, the Commonwealth Meteorologist said that this practice was tried in the United States, but he did not know whether it was still followed there. This request is worthy of consideration. Honorable members know how farmers come into the nearest railway station to meet nearly every train, and it would be very helpful to them if they could read on notice-boards placed on the sides of trains the weather forecast for the next 24 or 48 hours. The deputation that waited on the present- Treasurer when he visited Rockhampton was actuated by the very best of motives, and those who attended it felt that there was an urgent need for a better meteorological service than we have at the present time.
– I have said that £25,000 of last year’s vote was really only a book entry, and did not represent money actually provided. There have been reductions in salaries to the extent of £1,000, and in contingencies in this branch of the department to the extent of £1,600. Honorable members will see that the services of the department have really not been curtailed. A month or two ago I submitted a motion to return to the former system of supplying telegraphic information about floods and other weather conditions in the back-blocks of Australia. As a result, a much-improved service is now provided.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has made a request for a meteorological station on Browse Island, near Cape Bougainville, on the northwest coast of Australia. Telegrams with reference to the weather on the coast of north-western Australia are received by the department; but the question of a station on the island mentioned by the honorable member has not been considered by the department. I shall bring it under the notice of the Minister.
– For the rental of buildings occupied by the Treasury the Parliament last year voted £26,500, and over £19,000 was expended. For this year the estimate is only £12,300. I assume that the reduction is due to the smaller number of buildings required for taxation purposes, but it is difficult to see that this, by itself, can be the reason for such a large decrease in the vote.
– I understand that the reduction is due to the amalgamation of the Federal and State Taxation offices. Offices that were previously rented bythe Commonwealth are not now required.
.- On the Estimates every year there is a large division for rentals of offices. It is expected that many of the Commonwealth officeswill be removed to Canberra within the next eighteen months. The total amount estimated to be paid in rent in 1924-25 is £100,953, and if £36,000 paid for post offices is deducted, an amount of £64,000 remains.
– The estimate is a reduction of £10,000 on that of last year.
– The expenditure last year was £98,576.
– But the vote was £110,250.
– The Government holds a large area of land in Melbourne, and that could be used for offices. There is vacant land at the Victoria Barracks and at the rear of the Customs House in Flinders-street. There is also space for further buildings near the Elizabethstreet Post Office. I assume that land is also held by the Government in the other capital cities. I protest against the large annual expenditure for rent. Several government departments are accommodated in the new post office at Perth, and I understand that a large postal building will be erected at Brisbane. An expenditure of £64,000 per annum would meet the interest bill on new buildings in which our officers could do their work more efficiently than is possible under present conditions. I admit that there is a difficulty in estimating how many departments it will be necessary to remove to Canberra. The Government could undoubtedly save a large sum of money by occupying its own buildings instead of renting buildings belonging to others. An officer of the Works and Railways Department had his eye for many years on the site on which the Melbourne Herald recently built. He said it would be very suitable for a suite of offices, in which departments of the Commonwealth could be concentrated. When one looks at the Herald building, one realizes that that officer’s point of view was right. I urge the Government to make investigations. and submit a scheme to the committee. It is a subject worthy of consideration.
.- Some discussion took place in this committee this afternoon regarding mining administration. The officers of a department that issues mining leases or licences for oil ventures should not be permitted to have any personal interest in those ventures.
– What will happen when Dr. Wade’s report is submitted? The individuals and companies interested will get the first sight of it.
– That will be very undesirable. I should like an assurance that the department will investigate the statements made to-day, and that if it is found that officers of the department are “using ‘their positions to further their own interests, prompt action should be taken againstthem. The department should announce that it will be regarded as a serious offence for an officer of a department to be interested in any venture assisted by that department. I do not know whether oil licences have been issued from Melbourne or Darwin.
.- Honorable members on both sides of the House, if they agree on anything, agree that the Northern Territory should be developed. I regret very much that the vote for that purpose is inadequate.
– The Northern Territory is all administration and no development.
– Exactly . Some time ago Parliament passed a Northern TerritoryLand Ordinance, and it was stated that the Government would assist development by making available an adequate sum of money for road making in the Territory, so that motor transport would be practicable. An agreement wasentered into with the holders of large areas of land whereby they surrendered portions of their land on the understanding that the money would be made available. The necessary action, however, has not been taken. There is no question but that the money provided for the development of the Northern
Territory- is inadequate. When speaking on the budget, I emphasized the necessity for railway construction in the Territory, which can be developed only from the south. I do not advocate any particular route, but there must be railway communication between the Territory and the southern states. Pending the advent of. the railway, a great deal of good can be done, at comparatively small cost, by the erection of concrete crossings over the rivers. If the roads are reasonably good, motor transport can successfully compete against the railway, except in the transport of stock, but if the crossings over the rivers are bad, the. whole road is blocked to motor traffic. I understand that cartage in the Territory costs 2s. 9d. per ton per mile, and as goods have often to. be carried 400 or 500 miles, the cost of transport, is a very heavy drain upon the settler. I believe that with motor transport that charge could be halved. I recently asked a question in the House regarding the need for the Commonwealth to provide funds to make crossings at the Finke River, and minor water courses between Alice Springs and Oodnadatta. The authority of the Commonwealth to make crossings in South Australian territory has been questioned; but it is unreasonable to expect the South Australian Government to expend money upon services that will be useful only for the development of the Northern Territory, and as the Commonwealth grants money to the states for main road construction, there is no reason why it should not grant a sum to the South Australian Government for the building of concrete crossings at places in that state, in order to improve the approach to federal territory. As the honorable member for Boothby pointed out, not only would the improvement of the roads facilitate thecarriage of goods at lower rates, but it would improve the social life of the settlers. I understand that if an assurance is given- that the crossings over the watercourses will be made, a company will be formed to provide a regular motor service between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs. In the interval before the construction of a railway, such a service would be a great boon to the settlers. They- would be able to live under better social conditions, and to obtain wire notting if they wished to fence their holdings in order to raise sheep. The mining industry, too, could be developed in a way that is not possible under present conditions. When, later, railways are built, these roads will act as feeders to them, and the development which will have taken place in the meantime wilt assist materially to make the railway pay. The construction of a railway, across the Barklay Tablelands to Camooweal, and thence through Western Queensland to Bourke, would do much to~ develop the eastern portion of the Northern Territory. . There is great scope for the development’ of the sheepraising industry in that portion of the Territory, and it is an industry which can be expanded without danger of overloading the market. That is an important consideration at a time when there is over-production in many other primary industries. Although I am loath to believe that the Barklay Tablelands and adjacent areas are as rich as some honorable members have said, I believe that there are considerable expanses of the Territory which are suitable for the production of wool, and I trust that the Government will, during this year, do a great deal more than it has done in the past to develop that country. For a time, progress- was blocked by the delay in this Parliament in dealing with the proposed new land ordinance, . but that ordinance having been promulgated, there is no excuse for further,, delay: I regret that the vote for the Northern Territory is not considerably greater, because, unless theCommonwealth is prepared, to spend more money there, the Territory will, be a burden, on us for all time.
– The principal neces*sity is to reduce the “cost of getting goods- to the Territory.
– I realize that, and have already suggested the construction of low level concrete crossings over- the rivers in order to make the country suitable for motor transport. If a vigorous developmental policy is adopted, the Territory, instead of being a burden and menace to the Commonwealth, will be converted into an asset of which; we shall have every reason to be proud.
.- Little or no land will be transferred, under the ordinance with which this Parliament dealt recently, until the Government definitely commences the developmental policy that it promised to the landholders. Last year £24,000 of the vote of £39,000 remained unexpended, and the amount proposed for this year is less than the unexpended portion of the vote. The Estimates ‘ are passed about the month of September in each year, and the money is not available before that date, although the department may anticipate parliamentary approval to some extent. No money can be expended in the Northern Territory from November to March, which is the rainy season, and the consequence is that at the end of each financial year there is a large unexpended balance which is not re-voted. That is not fair to Parliament or to the people in the Northern Territory, and I ask the Minister to give the committee an assurance not only that the whole of the money provided in this year’s loan’ Estimates will be expended, but that at least another £25,000 will be provided for very necessary works. In company with the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), I recently interviewed the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral regarding the establishment of a motor mail service between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs. I mentioned the necessity for improving the roads, and the Minister said, “That has nothing to do with me; go to the Minister for Home and Territories.” I saw the Minister for Home and Territories, and he replied, “It is useless to interview me; talk to the Treasurer.” From those answers I inferred that the Minister had drawn up a programme of expenditure which the Treasurer had reduced to a minimum, and I am -very disappointed that the amount provided on the loan Estimates for this year was only £20,000. In a letter which I received from Colonel Brinsmead, who recently went round Australia by aeroplane, he referred to the tragedy of the hundreds of miles of unoccupied mitchell grass country. That fine grazing land will never be fully utilized until proper road facilities are provided.
I wish to say something about hospitals. At the present time, the only hospital in the interior of the Territory is that conducted at the Victoria River by the Australian Inland Mission. It was built partly by public subscription, and partly by Government subsidy. There is another mission hospital within 45 miles of the railway, or about 245 miles from Darwin, but in an area of about 450,000 square miles there is not another establishment for the care of the sick. One hospital was started at Alice Springs more than three years ago, but it will not be staffed until after the next wet season. But even when it is in operation there will be a distance of 600 miles between it and the next nearest hospital, which is at Marranboy. On the Estimates appears an amount of £1,000 for the “ establishment and maintenance of nursing homes.” Last year, £1,674 was expended wholly in connexion with the Victoria River Hospital. The amount provided by the Government is quite inadequate: I ask the Minister to get in touch with the Inland Mission authorities, and offer to help them carry out their scheme to establish hospitals at Newcastle Waters and Brunette Downs. If that is done the immediate hospital needs of the Territory will have been met, but there will still be people in isolated parts 250 miles from a hospital.
The statement has been made that the Treasurer will make an additional amount of £10,000 available for low-level crossings over the rivers. I ask him to do the job thoroughly while he is at it, and provide at least an additional £25,000, and ensure that the whole of the money, made available is expended in the current financial year.
.- Recently, I referred to the necessity for doing something to enable people in the Northern Territory to get their supplies more cheaply. Year after year we expend large sums of money there, and get no tangible results. There is a large staff of public servants who have nothing to do, and considerable unemployment, solely because no development is taking place. It is impossible to carry out any big work in the Territory, because of the great cost of all commodities, and naturally no man will go there and invest his capital and labour unless he has a prospect of making a profit. The Public Works Committee recommended that for a period of five years no harbour dues should be charged at the port of Darwin. I have been informed that recently a vessel called at Darwin to take cattle to Java ; it was in .port a couple of hours, and the light and harbour dues amounted to £77. Lights are established round the coast, and the ships trading from New Caledonia to Java, although they do not touch Darwin, have the benefit of them, and- pay nothing towards their maintenance. If a vessel trading from Java to Sydney calls in at Darwin, the harbour dues and other port charges are so heavy that heavy freights ave charged and subsidies asked for from the Government. I strongly urge the Government to make Darwin a free port for the next ten years - free of Customs and harbour dues - and to try to give special facilities to vessels trading there. That would be far better than paying large sums of money to maintain at Darwin a big staff of officers who really have no work to do. They must be kept there in case -their services are needed. The Government should also make special concessions on the railways, for, say, five or ten years, and although a loss would be incurred, the people there would be given an opportunity of making good, thus encouraging others to settle there.
.- The Government should alter the method of administering the Northern Territory. No progress will be made there nor in the adjoining Kimberley territory unless we change the method of government. In the Northern Territory in 1921-22, the expenditure was £289,000, and the deficit £217,000. The revenue was actually onefourth of the expenditure. Of the amount of £289,000, salaries and contingencies absorbed £119,000. From 1918 to 1922 the population decreased from 4,600 to 3,500, and if it continues to decrease at the same rate, in another twelve years the Northern Territory will be devoid of people. No country can be governed at a distance. If we handed half of the amount proposed to be expended to persons made responsible for local government in the Northern Territory, there would be greater opportunity for development, because they know their own needs better than we do. We should rid ourselves of the old tory idea that the Government knows what is better for people at a distance than they know themselves. If we continue our present method of adminis tration, the Northern Territory will soon be a white elephant as far as the Commonwealth is concerned. To develop thatcountry we must establish a local government, and advance to it some portion of the money that is at present being expended there. I am quite satisfied that such an action would have a very beneficial result. We are every year expending the equivalent of £80 per head of population in the Northern Territory, and this shows, at any rate, that our present methods of administration are entirely ineffective and wrong.
– When speaking on the budget I dealt at length with the Northern Territory, particularly regarding the provision of a motor mail-service there, and it is not necessary to repeat now what I said then. With the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), I hope that the Government will not refrain from making alterations of and improvements to crossings and roads in South Australia, simply ‘ because they are not in the Commonwealth territory. The Northern Territory must be developed from the south, and the Commonwealth must shoulder this responsibility, because the South Australian Government is not at all likely to provide these improvements. There are a number of things essential to the development of the Northern Territory. One hospital established there is controlled by the Government, and £1,000 appears on these Estimates for the establishment and maintenance of nursing-homes. I am, of course, excluding Darwin. The lower portion of the Territory cannot be developed without an adequate water supply. The present conditions are deplorable. The shortage of water between Alice Springs and the rail-head is so great that cattle have to be sent forward in relays. The result is that cattle which left the Macdonnell Ranges in splendid condition arrive at the rail-head to be sold as “ stores.” Under these conditions that part of the Northern Territory is not likely to be developed. Honorable members have already stated that telephone communication should be established to assist settlers, who live, perhaps, 50 miles from a telephone station, and who now are not allowed to tap into the telegraph line right alongside them even in cases of emergency. The Government should take steps to remedy these conditions. In any case, it would not involve a great expenditure. The time has arrived when the Government should give effect to its promises and provide better facilities for the settlersin the Northern Territory.
.- For many years past the expenditure in the Northern Territory has been absolutely wasted, and I should like to know the receipts and expenditure there for the last five or ten years. A railway through the Territory is urgently required, especially for defence purposes.. In its present unprotected and’ undeveloped state that country is a weakness to Australia.It is not barren or unproductive, because, in many parts, the soil is rich. Development cannot possibly be expected to take place under the haphazard system of administration that has been adopted for many years past. It is absolutely necessary to provide roads and bridges to enable goods to be quickly transported. Telephone and mail services are also necessary. To provide those facilities an. expenditure of from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 would be involved, and, if a progressive policy is. to be adopted-, that sum should be made available straight away. We axe simply expending a large sum of money to maintain an army of servants in the Northern Territory. Many experts have reported upon that vast area and the manner in which it could be developed. There is no need for further inquiry. In a country of vast distances the first essential is water. The Government is making Crown lands available for settlement, but, without water, people cannot be expected to live in that country. Men have proved that to their sorrow. There is evidence of rich mineral deposits in the Northern Territory, but men will not attempt to develop them if, by so doing, they will have to face almost certain death through lack of water and’ transport facilities. We should adopt a comprehensive policy of development, including the provision of railways, roads, mail services, and- water supplies.
.- Certain commonplace remarks about the Northern Territory are earnestly made by some honorable’ members, and one of those is that it is the back-door to the Commonwealth and the Achilles heel of Australia. For some particular reason they state that it is especially necessary to defend Darwin. I have never been able to understand why Darwin, rather than Wyndham or some other place on the north coast, should be considered the weak point of our defence. I fail to understand why there should be a special obligation upon the Commonwealth to place forts and defence facilities at Darwin rather than at many other points in the north. If the northern coast of Australia is the danger point, it is as important that the northern coast of Queensland should be defended as that Darwin should be defended. Some defence authorities take the view that a railway running south from Darwin would provide not so much a means of defence as a means of entrance for a potential enemy. They contend that so long as there are no proper means of land communication between the northern coast and the other portions of Australia, the north of Australia is relatively safe from invasion. The Commonwealth is not able to. govern a territory situated so far away, where the population naturally demands something in the nature of representative institutions. In this connexion I draw a distinction between the Northern Territory and the islands in the Pacific. The people in the islands are more primitive, and, generally, are in a different category altogether from the residents of the Northern Territory. The arm of the Government becomes palsied when it has to stretch so far. The position would be the same if the Commonwealth were endeavouring to govern the northern portion of Queensland or the north-western part of Western Australia.
– If there was a settlement at Alice Springs, does the honorable member suggest that it could not be controlled by the Commonwealth?
– If there was a settlement in the southern portion of the Territory, its administration might be a. different thing. Ever since the Commonwealth has had control of that portionof Australia it has made a hash of it. I understand that South Australia, hasvery strong feelings regarding the development of the Northern Territory and the construction of the North-South railway. Last year,. Sir Henry Barwell, the then Premier of that state, was reported to have made an offer to take the Territory off the hands of the Commonwealth. If. South Australia to-day is prepared to repeat that offer, I ask the Government to give it serious consideration. Probably one who makes such a suggestion will be termed provincial and “ little Australian “ in his outlook, but there is no essential difference between the Northern Territory and the northern portion of Western Australia. If we have a special responsibility in relation to the one, we nave an equal responsibility in regard to the other.- If South Australia thinks that she is able to develop the Northern Territory better than the Commonwealth is doing it, for heaven’s sake let her try.
– She failed miserably to develop it when she had it.
– If we could be relieved of the Northern Territory, and of the obligation to build the North-South line, simply by handing the Territory back to South Australia free from debt,, we should be doing a good thing from that point of view. That would not be an abandonment of a national obligation if it were done with South Australia’s consent. Iii conclusion, I emphasize that in substance the- position is the same in relation to Queensland and the northern portion of Western Australia, as it is in connexion with the Northern Territory.
.- We have heard of the suggestion from South Australia that if the Territory is not better developed that state will demand its return, but if it is .practically beyond the capacity of the Commonwealth to develop that great area, I do not see how a state like South Australia, with its limited population and finances can develop it unless it is done by introducing something new. During the many years that South Australia held the Northern Territory, what did she do with it? Chinese were employed to build the first section of the railway, and for a time the place was an open door for Asiatics generally. I do not suggest that the- honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) desires that, nor do I at this stage wish to attack the ex-Premier of South Australia, Sir Henry Barwell. I understand that he is about to visit the East, to investigate certain matters. If he does so, ‘it is more than probable that he will return convinced that the White Australia policy is the only one for Australia. Sir Henry Barwell expressed the opinion that the only way to develop the northern parts of Australia was to introduce black labour. I disagree entirely with him respecting the means by which Northern Australia should be developed. About five years ago, when in Western Australia, I encountered another advocate of black labour, in the person of the Bishop of Bunbury. He said that all the country north of the tropic of Capricorn should be inhabited by coloured people. He stated, further, -that -if capitalists were allowed to utilize coolie labour, they could develop that portion of Australia more rapidly than it- has been developed in the past. To say that coloured people shall be allowed to inhabit only that portion of Australia north of an imaginary line,, and that they shall not cross that line to proceed further south, is ridiculous. If that suggestion were followed we should soon have a piebald race. Although a representative of another state, I am thoroughly in favour of the Commonwealth abiding by its agreement with the people of South Australia. If a railway is built to connect the Territory with Southern Australia, it should run from north to south. I believe that the southern portion of that Territory cannot be successfully administered from the northern end. In that area there are places which have a good rainfall and splendid water supplies, as well as ideal climatic conditions.
– The best rainfall is in the north.
– That is only during certain portions of the year. In the Macdonnell Ranges there is a good supply of excellent water, and some of the finest horses ever bred in -Australia were reared there. -Not far distant there is also some good sheep country. A portion of the administrative staff for the Northern Territory should be located somewhere in the south. It would then be possible to superintend that area in a much better manner than is now being done. I have not visited the Northern Territory, but when the Commonwealth took it over I endeavored to acquaint myself with the position that existed. I desired to know the amount of liability the Commonwealth would incur in respect of the Oodnadatta and the North-South railways. If the Territory is not being developed properly, it is the duty of this Parliament to alter the existing methods. At present it seems to be no man’s land. Its people have one representative in this chamber. He may speak as eloquently and as often, .as he desires, but he may not vote. That is not giving proper representation to that section of the people- of. Australia. Some time ago certain officials in the High Com.missoner s office expressed the opinion that the Northern Territory should be devoted to sheep instead of to cattle. The growing of wool is a profitable occupation at the present time, and is likely to remain so for some years. And it is quite possible that some advance could be made in the Northern Territory if numbers of persons could be induced to take up the grazing of sheep there. I believe that we had in Australia at one time as many as 100,000,000 sheep, but to-day we have not more than 75,000,000. I understand that seven or eight years ago there were about 60,000 sheep in the Northern Territory, whilst to-day there is not one-third of that number there. Still, it is clear that at one time there were people who considered it profitable to graze sheep in the Northern Territory. We .have been told many times that the Territory is rich in mineral resources, and certainly nothing would be more likely to attract people to it than the discovery of a good gold-field. I remember that one Minister who had charge of the Northern Territory considered that it would be a good idea to subsidize prospecting parties, as the discovery of valuable mineral deposits would certainly lead to a great access of population. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook> believes that nothing can be done with the Territory with an expenditure of less than £35,000,000 ‘or £40,000,000. The Commonwealth could not undertake such a huge expenditure, and certainly no State Government could afford to do so. We incurred an expenditure of £400,000,000 in connexion with the war, and whilst it may be regarded as an insurance payment, we are getting no annual return from it. With the financial burdens tha.t rest upon our people, we cannot afford to expend many millions in the Northern Territory, and I am afraid that it will be some time before any substantial development takes place there’. Some people in South Australia contend that if the Northern Territory had remained under the control of the South Australian Government, railways would have been constructed there under the land-grant system, and that these would have led to its development. I should like to have some information as to how far the. existing Northern Territory railway has been extended, how i£ is paying, and whether the bridge over the Katherine River ls still in course of construction. I believe
I hat if a line is to be constructed through (he Northern Territory, it should be bv the direct north and south route. I am aware that some representatives from Queensland, and also some from New South Wales, consider that it should be diverted to connect with the Queeusland and New South Wales railway systems, but in my view we have a right to consider in this connexion the development of the central portions of the Northern Territory and the eastern portions of Western Australia. Queensland and New South Wales are able to look after themselves in the matter of railway construction, but Western Australia has a vast area with a limited population, and a very limited purse. I believe that the eastern portion of Western Australia, the northern portion of South Australia, and the central portion of the Northern Territory contain great mineral resources, and if these are to be developed the transcontinental line should run directly north and south. 1 think it would be better that some of the administrative staff of the Northern Territory should be stationed at Alice Springs instead of having the whole of the administration of the Territory conducted from Darwin, as at present.
I should like to remind honorable members that we have already expended something like £8,000,000 in the Northern Territory, and, all told, there are at present about 3,000 souls up there. If the £8,000,000 were divided amongst them, each would have enough money in the bank to keep them without doing any work. I do not think it is wise of the Government to continue to spend money in the Northern Territory when past expenditure there has been so barren of results. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) has told us that, in his opinion, it is of no use attempting to tackle the development of the Northern Territory with a vote of less than £25,000,000. In my opinion, it would be far better for the Commonwealth Government to transfer the few people who are now in the Northern Territory to Western Australia, where their labours would be more productive. Who is going into the wilds of the Northern Territory to listen to the dingoes howling at night? The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) is going to look for minerals there during the recess, but I am afraid the dingoes will get him. For several months of the year the Northern Territory is no place for a white man. A friend of mine who was up there told mo that at night he had to get into a boat and go to sea in order to obtain a comfortable sleep, as it was impossible, because of the number of insects, to sleep comfortably on land. I advise the Government to look at this matter from a practical business and commercial standpoint, and consider whether it is worth while to spend more money in the Northern Territory. We are told that South Australia wants the Territory returned to her, and I say, “For heaven’s sake let the’ South Australians have it at once.” I would let them have it for £4,000,000, which is half the debt the Commonwealth has incurred in connexion with it.
– I cannot reconcile the attitude towards the Northern Territory of the honorable member who has just sat down with that which might be expected of the representative of a state which is so largely dependent upon the benevolence of the Commonwealth. The honorable member’s only grievance would appear to be that the grant made to Tasmania is not more substantial.
– Is not more in keeping with the justice of the case.
– The Minister may be regarded as a special pleader for Tasmania, and at some other time I may take advantage of an opportunity to consider how he has accounted for his stewardship as a representative of that state. There appears to be a desire on the part of some honorable members, perhaps unintentionally, to misrepresent the potentialities of the Northern Territory. Those who have been there speak of it. in the most favorable terms, and their recommendations should be given more consideration than they have been. The latest report, from Dr. Stefansson, is most encouraging as to the possibilities of Central Australia, and also the more southern parts of the Northern Territory. I should be sorry if any remarks of mine were to interfere with the negotiations proceeding between the Premier of South Australia and the Prime Minister on this matter, but I should like some information concerning them. I trust that honorable members, before expressing an opinion about returning the Northern Territory to South Australia, will realize that the duty is imposed upon this Parliament to develop the Territory. They should recognize that it is a Commonwealth obligation, and that the Commonwealth alone possesses the financial resources necessary to enable its development to be satisfactorily carried out.
.- I should, not have said a word on this occasion but for the dismal speech of the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt). Owing, perhaps, to the fact that he comes from the little island of Tasmania, he has no conception of the vastness of Australia. I have taken a trip to the Northern Territory, and I am quite satisfied that no part of Australia is so rich ‘in mineral wealth. Copper, tin, and gold exist there in abundance, and the country is good for agricultural and pastoral pursuits. Apart from mining and the raising of stock, however, there is not at present much inducement for people to go there. When the Labour Government, which did so much to develop Australia, was in power, the then Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Batchelor) took a very keen interest in the development of the Northern Territory. Had there not been a split in the ranks of the party, there is no doubt that the Northern Territory to-day would have thousands of inhabitants who would be producing untold wealth. It does not require a genius to discover the wealth in the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) has no cause to paint such a gloomy picture. The island from which he comes is retrogressing. Its condition is the result of government by conservative politicians, but I expect that it will improve when the Labour Government has had a reasonable opportunity to justify itself. The honorable member’s speech reminds me of articles that were published in the Evening News in Sydney 50 years ago. Queensland was then depicted as a second hell, if there is a first hell, and the man who had the temerity to take a woman from New South Wales to Queensland was regarded as being, fit for the scaffold.
My wife got so nervous that she would not. allow me to go from Sydney to Newcastle unless she accompanied me. Many of those who are making dismal speeches are serving their own interests. In some of the pastoral journalsa scheme has been mooted for building, a. fence across the Territory, with a piebald race on one side of it, and a white race on the other. Self interest has dictated that policy. I saw a man. in the. Territory named Captain Street, who had been there for over 30 years. He was as fine a specimen of manhood as one could hope to see; he was 6 feet 2 inches high, he weighed from16 to 17 stone, and his wife had about twelve children. Mr. Batchelor sent departmental officers to the Territory, who established what was known as “ BatchelorFarm.” It has been demonstrated that on that farm almost anything can be grown. The soil is a rich red loan, in which all kinds of vegetablesintroduced from the southern states can be grown.I can quite understand that honorable members opposite have no enthusiasm for developmental works in the Territory, but the Labourparty, when it was in office, had its heart and soul in: the work. I look forward to the day. when we shall be able to show once again our determined spirit, and our love of Australia.
– I cannot sit quietly here and listen to my state being abused by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West). He forgets that the Commonwealth is depriving. Tasmania of revenue which is being used for Commonwealth undertakings, one of which is the Northern Territory. That is why Tasmania is impoverished. So the honorable member will see that the “ boot is on the other leg.” In reply to his remarks about me, all I wish to say is that his loudness of mouth, and supercilious expressions are merely an open confession of his mental deficiency.
.- Many honorable members seem to think that the Northern Territory has a very trying climate, which is unfit for a white population. I remind thehonorable member for. Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) that. Lord and Lady Stradbroke recently made a. trip through the Territory, and that Lady Stradbroke, in communicating with her friends in Melbourne, said that it was- a land of stars and sunshine through which she would recommend the most delicatewomen to take a trip. She travelled through what some people choose to call a barren country, and was much impressed with it.
I am sorry that the Government has not made a definite statement regarding the construction of the North-South railway. The time has arrived when we must employ efficient methods for the development of the Territory. I know of no other government that would allow such a great tract of country to remain almost uninhabited, and without railway communication or aerial services. No one can. deny that it is excellent grazing country. It is superior in that respect, I believe, to Queensland, and it has been demonstrated what Queensland can produce. There are thousands of men in Australia to-day, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Darwin has said, who. would be prepared to settle in the Territory on much smaller areas than are nowoccupied if railways wereprovided. It is impossible for the Governmentto escape the obligation of constructing a line from south to north. The sooner that work is undertaken the better it will be for the Commonwealth. Wild dogs and rabbits are getting into the centre of the Territory, and the longer it is left unpopulated the greater will be the ultimate expense to Australia.It would be better to spend a few million pounds during the next year ortwo to provide railways for the settlers than to find ourselves compelled tospend many times that amount later. Ithink that honorable members will agree with methatthe beef trade is likely to Be hampered for some time to come. Brazil, Canada, and the Argentine are very much nearer than we are to the world’s markets. They have great herds of cattle, and with the lower cost of freight from those countries to Europe they can compete advantageously with the cattle raisers of Australia. That is one of the reasons why the export of cattle and beef is practically stagnant, and the cattle-raisers of Queensland and the Northern Territoryhave had to ask the Commonwealth for a bounty on exports. The Northern Territory is admirably adapted for the production of wool, and expertsdeclare that formany years the price of wool will be maintained. That being so, and the cattle-raising industry being practically bankrupt, the Government should, instead of allowing a fine tract of country to remain in the hands of a few people who are engaged in raising cattle for which there is no market, construct a railway so that those who desire to engage in wool production may do so under reasonable conditions. Any man who goes into the Territory to start sheep raising has to contend with the wild dog pest, which is one of the greatest curses in Australia, and will cost theland-holders many millions of pounds before it is eradicated. No man will select in country infested with dingoes, unless he is assured that he will be able to get his stock and wire netting at a reasonable cost, and that his clip will be carried to market by some more economical means than a camel train. Very little wool is grown in the Northern Territory to-day. but it must not be assumedthat people are not prepared to engage in wool productionthere if reasonable conditions are provided. The Territory has been maligned by a large section of the Australianpeople.
– Through ignorance.
– Yes. Not so many years ago the people in thesouthern states weretold that Queensland was fit only for blacks, and that no white man in his sober senseswould dream of selecting land there. Yet, onlylast week, a block of 10,000 acres atRockbank, near Longreach, in western Queensland, attracted over 6,300 applicants. About Longreach andWinton is the mitchell and blue grass country, which isfamed as pasturage for sheep and cattle. The same class of country extends through western Queensland to beyond the centre of theNorthern Territory, and if theCommonwealth desired to open up that area to the sheep-raiser, it could make an arrangement with theQueensland Government for anextension of the Townsville line to theborder, and then the Commonwealth could extend the Darwinto Alice Springs line to meet it.
Sittingsuspendedfrom6.30to8 . p.m.
– Before the adjournmentI was dealing withthe possibility of the CommonwealthGovernment arranging with the Queensland Government to connect. Cloncurry with Port Darwinby railway, in order to give quick access from the centre of the Territory to the coast of Queensland.
– A very good proposition.
– It would be the quickest and cheapest route. It has been advocated that the Commonwealth Government should grant land to aprivate company, which in return would construct the NorthSouth railway. That proposition cannot beentertained for one moment. The responsibility of building thatline must be shouldered sooner or later by the Commonwealth Government. Many people, including members of this Parliament, are prepared to spend millions of pounds on the unification of the railway gauges of Australia, and on the building of a railwayfrom Port Augusta to Hay. But there are more important works to be done than the unification of the railway gauges, and one isthe building of the North-South line. It would be stupid at this stage toconstruct arailway from Port Augusta to Hay, because the proposed route would runthrough a lot of poor country which is sparsely popu lated. Expenditure on such a line would not be justified. Ifthe Commonwealth Government is goingto spend money on railway construction, it should utilize it for thebuilding of the North-South line. We cannot expect the Northern Territory to prosper whilevast tracts of land are used solely for the grazing of cattle. There is no export trade in cattle, and prices are low.
Mr.Manning. -Even the cattle industry is at a great disadvantagewithout a railway.
– That is so. It took many years to authorize the construction of a railway to serve thebig stations in Victoria Downs and adjacent districts, and, even so, the nearest railway point is Charleville orCloncurry, and cattle cannot travel there unless in a good season with plenty ofwater and grass. The building of the NorthSouth line would encourage the settlement of white people in the Northern Territory, and this would be far better than developing that country by coolie labour, as has been advocated by some people in this country. The average person, in ignorance ofthe climatic conditions of the Northern Territory, will
Bay that no white man should live there; but I ask honorable members who .have visited the Territory whether they have ever seen there a puny man, woman, or child. It is well known that a very fine type of men have settled in the Territory - men of splendid physique, and as hard as a brumby. They have lived there for a quarter of a century and more, and under no circumstances would they leave the climate, the country, and the. life. In the development of the Territory we have marked time too long, and the people are amazed at the large expenditure there without any return for it. The cattle raising and other industries are languishing, and the white people are leaving that country, as there is no opportunity for them to make a living without railway communication. If the North-South line is constructed, twelve months after its completion thousands of people will flock to the Territory to raise sheep and to develop its mineral resources. It is to be regretted that many people look upon the Territory as a black man’s country; but the day will come when the Territory will be properly developed, and they will be forced to alter their opinions.
.- There is a great deal of dissatisfaction among the officers of the’ Commonwealth Territory of Papua, because there has been no reclassification of their positions for some years although they have been asking for it for some considerable time. They have had considerable correspondence with the department, and the following letter, dated the 8th July, was written by Mr. J. G. McLaren, Secretary of the Home and Territories Department, to Mr. A. E. Pratt, representing the public servants of Papua: -
With reference to your interview with me in May last, I have to inform you that the Commonwealth Public Service Board of Commissioners was, on the 6th June, again asked to indicate an approximate date on which it might be possible for an - inspector to visit Papua for the purpose of undertaking a classification of the Papuan Public Service.
A reply has now been received from the secretary of the board, copy of which is enclosed, for your information.
The Lieutenant-Governor has been requested to advise the Public Service Association, Port Moresby, accordingly.
The following letter was sent by the Secretary of the Public Service Board to the
Secretary of the Department of Home and Territories:^-
With reference to your memorandum of 6th June, 1924-24/5664-1 am directed to inform you that the board regrets that it will be impracticable to release a Public Service Inspector for classification duties in Papua for some time to come. The work of classifying the Commonwealth Service is proving heavy, and is making considerable demand upon the staff of the board. This is likely to continue for at least two years. Further, it is anticipated that the services of Public Service Inspectors in all states will be requisitioned in sitting on Appeal Boards dea.ling with appeals against classification, and this will render it difficult to withdraw an inspector from his office for any length of time.
That is a very unsatisfactory position as far as the public “servants of Papua are concerned. They have made repeated requests for a definite date to be fixed, within the next six months, for the reclassification of that Service. One of the troubles of this tropical service is that there is no proper system adopted to select suitable officers, and one has only to look at the recent report of Colonel .Ainsworth on the Mandated Territory of New Guinea to ascertain how the affairs of that Territory have been bungled by inexperienced officers. The Indian Public Service is recruited in a proper and systematic manner, and the public servants there receive a salary commensurate with their duties. After ten years’ service if they retire, they receive a pension. Some such system should be adopted for the tropical services under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government. I shall quote a few examples to show the disparity between the salaries paid to public servants in Papua and in the Mandated Territory. The principal medical officer at Rabaul receives £1,200 a year, and in Papua from £800 to £900, a difference of £300 between the maximum salaries. The medical officers in the Mandated Territory receive £1,000 a year, and in Papua from £675 to £800, a difference between the maximum salaries of £200. The district officers in the Mandated Territory receive from £708 to £780, and in Papua from £575 to £700, a difference between the maximum salaries of £80. There is a difference of £279 between the salaries of the collectors of customs in the Mandated Territory and of those of Papua, and a difference of £104 in the case of surveyors. The Papuan public servants have been negotiating with the Government for some time, trying to get a reclassification of their positions, and a suitable increase in their salaries. One excuse and another has been offered by the Government for not making it. Those public servants wish the reclassification to be made by Mr. Clements, of the Public Service Board, a very capable officer in whom they have absolute confidence. I ask the Minister to come to a speedy decision so that the positions of these men may be reclassified within the next six months. Colonel Ainsworth, in a report dealing with one of the Mandated Territories, showed that the conditions there were not what they should be, and, writing of the administration of the Territory of New Guinea, he said -
I do not propose going into any considerable detail regarding the various departments of the Government of the Territory. There are, however, certain matters affecting good government which I consider require comment. In numerous cases there seems to be a tendency to over-centralize work in the Secretariat. This produces interference by the Government Secretary with the normal duties of the heads of some of the departments. The result is considerable friction, lack of confidence, and the danger of causing departmental heads concerned to lose interest in their work. Obviously the head of a department should be held entirely responsible for the conduct of the department, subject to general control of the Administrator. Any other policy must tend to confusion and lack of efficiency. If it should so happen that the Administrator cannot, for just a,nd .sufficient reasons, trust any particular head of department, then, the obvious course is to find some one who can be trusted: Whatever the reason for the interference, there can be no question as to the undesirability of over-centralization, and overburdening the Secretariat with details which should be undertaken by the departments concerned. Possibly inexperience in matters of administration generally may be the cause of some of the misunderstandings.
On page 13 of his report, Colonel Ainsworth said -
Important factors affecting the progress and welfare of the natives are as follows: - (a) Absence of any constructive policy - the generally expressed idea of policy in the Territory is “ their moral and material well-being.” Such a phrase has, however, little meaning, unless you have some tangible idea of how the moral and material well-being is to be achieved. (&) Considerable ignorance of conditions and the general requirements and desires of the native people. (c) Entire absence of any knowledge by Government officials of any native language. (ti) Absence of any real agricultural instinct and development by the natives.
I shall not quote further from the report. What I have quoted is sufficient to show that there is a good deal of room for improvement in the Mandated Territory, and I now ask the Minister to give the report very careful consideration, and take early action to put some of the recommendations into effect. Thing3 are not as they should be in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. That remark applies particularly to the pernicious chit system, and the lack of housing accommodation. Because of the chit system, young men in Chinese hotels sometimes become indebted to the publican to the extent of £20 or £30 in one night. So long as a man is sober enough to sign chits, he can get drink. A system which is undermining the morals of the young men there to such an extent should be abolished by the Government. Commonwealth officials who are sent to these Territories should be treated fairly. A proper tropical service should be built up, and every effort should be made to improve the conditions of the officers. The unsatisfactory accommodation provided for them is responsible for much of the discontent that exists. The public servants in Papua desire that a reclassification of the service in that Territory should be made without delay. It is useless to say that a Commonwealth officer cannot be spared to do it. The putting of this matter off from time to time is unfair to the men, and does not reflect credit on the Government.
– Has the Government promised a reclassification ?
– It has been promised, but the excuse has been that Mr. Clements cannot be spared. I ask the Minister to look into this matter, and to have a reclassification of the Service made as early as .possible.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Works and Railways Department
Proposed vote, £948,854.
.- I desire to refer to the buildings resumed by the Commonwealth in the area surrounding the new post office in Perth. In this area certain buildings were taken over by the Commonwealth and have since been let to various tenants. Many of them were renovated, and structural alterations were made to others. Complaint, has been made that the alterations - particularly the verandahs - do not comply with’ the by-laws of the City of Perth. When I made representations to the department, I was informed that these structual changes had been carried out in accordance with the city by-laws, but oncommunicating with the Town Clerk of Perth, I received the reply that that was not so. This matter has caused a good deal of comment in Perth. The Commonwealth Government should be the. first to observe the by-laws of the city in regard to the buildings under its control. I believe that in this matterthe Minister has been misled by his officers, and I hope that this protest, together with the correspondence which I have forwarded to him, will lead tothe department in the future complying strictly with ‘the city by-laws.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). In Perth, we have what is probably the finest post office in Australia, but adjoining it the Commonwealth has built one-storied buildings which are a disgrace to the city. I understand that one of them was set apart for a branch of the Commonwealth Bank, and that the premises adjoining were let to a private bank. From a business point of view that is not desirable.
I desire also to refer to the housing accommodation provided along the transcontinental railway forthe employees of the department. Any honorable member who has travelled along that line must have beenstruck with the unsatisfactory nature of that accommodation. Not only are the dwellings unsatisfactory, but excessive rents are charged for them. , The buildings are oftimber, with matchboard partitions. The boards have been placed on one side of the studs only, and as they have shrunk considerably, there is no privacy whatever. A rental of 6 per cent. of the capital cost of £450 is charged. As one who has some knowledge of buildings, I consider that,with the railway facilities at the disposal of the Government, these houses should’ not have cost more than £250. I realize that they were -erected during the war period, when prices were at the peak, but the employees should not be penalized on that account. For buildings which are homes only in name, they are charged a rental of l1s.6d. per week. In South Australia and in Western Australia much better buildings are let to the railway employees for 10s. per week.
– The neglect of the buildings under the control ofthe Commonwealth has been brought under the notice’ of the Minister from time to time by both the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. It is true in this connexion that a stitch in time saves nine. By attending regularly to the painting of buildings, and by effecting any necessary repairs expeditiously, large savings can be made. In the matter of neglect of buildings the Commonwealth Government is one of the worst offenders. Instead of setting, a bad example, this Government should set a good example to other property owners. The Duntroon Military College is an example of this neglect. Many other instances could be given. Some of these ‘buildings, which were taken over from the states, have been allowed to get into such a state of repairs that they are a disgrace to the Commonwealth. This state of affairs is, no doubt, due to the cheeseparing policy of the present Treasurer and his predecessors in office, but it is a wilful waste to allow buildingsto get into such a bad state. We should not lose the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar, and public buildings shouldnot be allowed to get into disrepair. I trust that the new Minister, for Works andRail ways (Mr. Hill) will write a new page in the history of his department by seeing, that our public buildings are kept an repair.
.- With the concurrence ofthe ActingLeader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), I move -
That the amount for division 104”Works and Buildings- £231,853 “ be reduced by £1.
I submit the amendment as an instruction to the Government toconduct an investigation into the administration of the War Service Homes Act, and to consider the necessity forthe removal of many anomalies arising from the conditions of occupancy. It is well known that there is still a good deal of dissatisfaction amongst occupants of war service homes. The action taken bythe Government last year in remitting the excess cost from homes which cost above £800 has created a worse anomaly, in view’ of the position in which ex-soldiers whose homes cost less than £800 haverelatively been placed. Brickstructures, valued at £900, have been reduced in value to £800,whereas the valuation of weatherboard structures, previously valued at £700, has remained the same.
– I do not see anything about war service homes in the division upon which the honorable member has submitted his amendment.
– The division deals with works and buildings, and war service homes may be said to be buildings. The department is asking basic wage earners, who are ex-soldiers, to pay deposits before they can enter into possession ofwar service homes. It has, at the same time, refused to extend assistance to make gas or electric light connections, to render the homes a little more comfortable. The administration of the act calls for careful investigation. I am not the only complainant in this matter. The honorable member forCorio (Mr. Lister) has previously raised the matter. There has been, a good deal of dissatisfaction expressed, particularly in Victoria,’ by returned soldier organizations, and the soldiers’ relatives associations, concerning the way in which the homes are valued and the act is being administered.
– I should like to say a few words in reply to the honorable member who has just spoken. This is not the division on which his amendment should have been moved, but, as the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) says, we might as well take a vote on this division as on any other, and I agree with him, we may now consider the matters referred to by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). Any reduction of the vote will, of course, lessen the chance of war service homes being put into a more sanitary condition.
-A reduction of £1?
– Every one must admit that the war service homes administration improved materially during last year.
– The Government has commercialized the department.
– The ex-Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart.) did very good work indeed, in his administration of this department. I know, from my visits to. various- state capitals and interviews with many returned soldier leagues, that satisfaction with the administration has very considerably increased. Every officer in the War Service Homes Department is making strenuous efforts to ‘ bring into operation an efficient system. I hope honorable members will recognize that everything possible is being done to improve the position of affairs. We are building homes as rapidly as we can, and arrangements have been made with four of the states to use their existing agencies for the purpose. Satisfactory arrangements are also being made to ensure that the homes shall be kept in proper order. I trust that the committee will reject the amendment.
.- If one is to judge by the number of returned soldiers who have been evicted from war service homes, the administration has not been quite the success that the Treasurer would have honorable members- to believe it has. There should be a commission of inquiry appointed in connexion with war service homes, because returned soldiers are being called upon topay more for their homes than they should pay by reason of oversupervision or bad supervision of construction-. The valuations putupon someof the cottages should be reduced to what the buildings would have cost had their construction been carried out in a proper manner. Returned men are being taken to court, and are being evicted because they have failed to keep up payments that are excessive. Even after their eviction attempts are made to obtain from them arrears of payments. The homes should be assessed at reasonable values, so that the occupants of them may be able to pay for them.
.- The division under; consideration covers works and buildings, and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has moved the reduction of the amount by £1in order that we may have a vote on the administration of the War Service Homes Department. I thought, that the amendment would have at once gone to a vote, and the matter would be settled, but. as the Treasurer has pointed, out that it has been moved in the wrong glace, I say above all things, let us be formal. Let us, therefore, withdraw the amendment and submit it later on in the right place, when we may have the advantage of reinforcements. We shall probably.be better able to handle the question at an early hour of the morning. Will the honorable member consent to withdraw his amendment?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I wish again to remind the Government that it should go on more rapidly with the work of ballasting the transcontinental railway. The line should have been ballasted long ago. A considerable amount of money has been spent in opening up quarries to procure ballast, and as nothing is being done, that expense has been wasted. The speed which could be attained on the railway if it were ballasted properly would shorten the journey between Western Australia and the eastern states by several hours. This would greatly increase the traffic, because it would make the line more attractive to the public. It is pleasing to note that, in the last quarter of the financial year that has just closed, the cost of working expenses was, for the first time in the history of the railway, made up and slightly exceeded by the receipts. I want to see the ballasting of the line proceeded with, as it would make it more remunerative, and enable it to give a better service to the travelling public.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £8,208,930.
– Before the Estimates for this department are discussed I should like to make a brief statement about the money that will be expended this year out of loans and revenue. Provision is made for an expenditure of £3,230,000 on telephone and telegraph wires, and £800,000 on post offices and sites. That amount was decided upon for two reasons, although it was thought to be less than what was necessary. One reason was that it was found that in the previous year, when £4,000,000 was made available out of loan moneys, in addition to the revenue of the Post Office, that a great part of the work could not be carried out. The second reason was that it was desired to bring the total borrowings of the Com monwealth within the terms of the arrangement made between the Commonwealth and the states. It has now been found that, owing to the increase in the staff, and to a scheme that is made possible by an analysis of the amount of material coming to hand, we can increase the amount while still keeping within the arrangement made with the states. It is intended later in the session to provide an additional £700,000 out of loan moneys for Post Office works. I shall bring down a loan bill that will set out in detail the works proposed to be carried out. They will include 76 new buildings and 65 additions and alterations to buildings. The bill will be- distributed in ample time for honorable members to discuss it thoroughly. The Government finds that it is able to make a start with the buildings that were unfortunately omitted from the programme of works last year. There were commitments last year for £602,000 for works in hand, and £173,000 for works for which the plans had been drawn but the contracts had not been let.
– Can the Treasurer give the committee some idea of the new works that will be included in the bill?
– It will include a proposal in which the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) is particularly interested, for it will permit of the work in connexion with the SydneyNewcastle and Newcastle-Maitland cable being put in hand in readiness for laying the cable as soon as it arrives. I have not a list of the new post offices proposed, but I can assure honorable members that it will practically fulfill all the promises that have been made. I think there will even be some mention of Burrowa.
.- It is well to get this belated announcement from the Treasurer. Evidently he applied the pruning knife too severely when he was framing the Estimates. The right thing for him to do now is to tell the committee that he has made a blunder, and has been corrected. Even with the extra £700,000 of loan money mentioned by the Treasurer the total amount provided will be £1,000,000 short of what is required to keep the postal machinery, particularly the trunk lines, in a proper state of repair. I know that postal experts have advised the Minister to that effect.
– They could not spend the money in the year.
– The Treasurer has been boasting that never before has so much work been carried out. That is because all parties in this House agreed to a £12,000,000 loan. The officers of the Postal Department understand the requirements of Australia, and when they prepared certain estimates for the Treasurer, he cut them down by nearly £1,500,000. I want to see these works progress continuously. I do not pose as knowing more than the Treasurer, but I know that he has been given certain advice by the experts of the department. Had he not come forward with the announcement about the belated loan bill, the work of the Postal Department would have been reduced to chaos.
– That is not so.
– I am one of the most patient members of this committee. I have been promised a telephone exchange at Ascot Vale. It is not yet completed, although the job has been in hand for seven years. The delay has been due to Treasurers not adopting a progressive policy. If works are hot carried out during the financial year it is usually because the Treasurer does not allot at the beginning of the year sufficient money for the postal officials to obtain plant and materials. One of the virtues of the loan proposal was supposed to be that it would provide for a continuous policy. It is, therefore, not a question of what can be done within a year. I suppose we should be thankful for what is provided, but in view of the amount necessary it is a mere bagatelle. Before the end of the financial year honorable members in their different constituencies will find that certain works have not been carried out because, even with the additional £700,000, sufficient money is not being provided.
– I do not want to know whether any provision is being made for telephone exchanges at Ascot Vale and in other closely-settled districts where one can walk to two or three exchanges in ten minutes, but I am concerned about getting telephone facilities in isolated districts where the people are miles away from a doctor and the conveniences of town life. Promises have been made to provide telephones and extend mail services in the country.
– The honorable member will get three new post offices in his electorate.
– Perhaps ‘ the honorable member laughs because h© knows that something will be done to provide an ornamental building at Newcastle. I am not concerned about ornamental buildings in big centres of population. Before the Government talks of borrowing millions of pounds to provide wireless and other conveniences for the people in the large centres of population so that they may hear opera selections, it ought to consider the provision of the necessaries of life for people in the country.
I should like to know when the Government will follow the little country of New Zealand by reducing the postage rates. How long shall we continue to charge double the rates for letters and telegrams that we should charge? Nearly every one who sends a telegram now uses a red form, which means double rates, if he wants to have the message delivered promptly, for he knows that a telegram on a white form would not be transmitted much more quickly than a letter. I should like to know why the postage rates are not being reduced. To reduce the rate for letters to one penny would not involve the Government in any loss. Almost all countries have at one time or other reduced their letter rate from 2d. to Id., and the effect has been, except in one isolated instance, that within three years the aggregate revenue at the lower rate has amounted to more than it was before the postage was reduced. It has been clearly demonstrated that Id. is the ideal and best paying rate of postage for a letter. In Australia we once had penny postage, and the people found it a great convenience. Some people say that low rates of postage benefit only the merchants and big business men.
– Doe3 the honorable member want postage rates to be reduced ?
– That is easily done. All he needs to do is to tell the Government that if it does not reduce the rates he will vote against it. That would bring Ministers off their perch.
– That might have the effect of bringing the honorable member to this side of the chamber, and I do not want that to happen. Often, in this world, we have to take the lesser of two evils. I am surprised that the honorablemember is opposed to cheap telephones and postage.
– The honorable member is mistaken.
– I am glad that I have misunderstood the honorable member.
– Move an amendment as an instruction to the Government to reduce the vote. .
– It is all very well for the honorable member to be cynical. He represents a metropolitan constituency where the people can get comparatively cheap telephones, butin the isolated parts of Eden-Monaro some men have to pay up to not only £6 or £7 for the rent of a telephone, but also £10 or £15 towards the cost of erecting the line. All taxation is paid by the primary producers; they also pay the merchants’ postage bill, and therefore they are entitled to be considered. My desire is to see a telephone in every house in the Commonwealth. A telephone in every house at £1 per annum, each subscriber having six free calls per day in order that he may reach the trades people, and paying a penny for each additional call, would not only convenience the people, but would also be profitable to the Commonwealth. Why cannot Australia follow New Zealand in the reversion to penny postage? At the Postal Conference, in Italy, about fourteen years ago, at which all the countries in the world, with the exception of China and Ethiopa, were represented, I proposed the universal adoption of penny postage, and the delegates stated that every country had at some time in its history reduced its postage by half, and that in all but one instance the revenue had been greater at the lower rate. History proves that penny postage is profitable, and why. cannot we adopt something that will put money into the Commonwealth Exchequer, while at the same time giving greater convenience to the people? The Postmaster-General must keep in step with the times. New
Zealand has introduced a cheap telephone system as well as penny postage. I am not advocating the case for the merchants, although there is no reason why they, too, should not be convenienced, especially as the extra postage they now pay is recouped from the pockets of the primary producers. Practically all the members of this chamber are middlemen, and if we produce nothing, we pay no taxation. It is amazing that honorable members who represent country electorates should be lukewarm towards a proposal to give to their constituents cheaper postal and telephonic facilities. In a country home a telephone is almost as necessary as a fireplace, and the people out back have as much right to be provided with necessaries and conveniences as have city people. I shall do what I can to give greater comfort to the people in the remote districts, and I know of nothing that would suit them more than cheaper telephones and postage. The popularizing of the telephone would give more employment to mechanics. A few years ago, my suggestion that the cost of erecting telephone lines might be reduced by carrying the lines on fence posts and trees was ridiculed, but telephone lines so constructed were effective, if not quite as effective as they would have been if borne on independent poles. However, a bad telephone is better than none at all. I ask the Minister to enlighten the apparent ignorance of some honorable members by supplying the committee with information regarding recent telephonic developments in New Zealand, and other countries. If I could have my way a telephone in every home at the low rate of 5s. a quarter would be madecompulsory. In advocating cheaper rates 1 am not proposing an experiment; I am urging the adoption of something that has been proved a success in other countries. I look forward to an early reversion to penny postage, and the introduction of cheaper telegraphic and telephonic rates.
– Put it to the vote.
– If I do not get satisfaction from the Minister, I shall certainly put it to the vote.
– But not this year.
– The honorable member seems to be anxious to have a vote taken on this matter.
– Yes, and I shall give the honorable member a chance of voting.
– I shall support the honorable member if I think he is right, but, as he rarely is, I am not promising very much. Telephones should not be restricted to those only who live in big mansions. They should be enjoyed by the man who lives in a humble cottage.
– What about first putting a bath in to every home ?
– The honorable member may speak for himself, if be needs a bath.
– Are not our rates for telegrams the cheapest in the world?
– They are not.
– Then the PostmasterGeneral’s statement must be wrong.
– What is the use of claiming that a telegram of sixteen words can be sent for1s. or1s. 4d. when, for all practical purposes,, a sixteenword telegram costs 2s. or 2s. 8d. ?
– Urgent rates.
– And more than 75 per cent, of the telegrams are sent at urgent rates.
– That is nonsense.
– Very few telegrams are sent at ordinary rates, because the service is too slow. Is the honorable member for Kalgoorlie prepared to tell the people on the isolated gold-fields that he will not support a proposal for reduced postage and cheap telephones ?
– No, nor is the honorable member.
– I am advocating the reduction of rates, and the honorable member admits, by his interjection, that the people desire such a reform. Should we not give the people a convenience they want when it will cost the Commonwealth nothing ? I believe that penny postage would pay better than the present rates. Does the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) think that the cottager in Balmain should not have the telephonic conveniences that are enjoyed by people in large homes ? I am particularly concerned for the people living outback. Apparently some honorable members do not think they should have conveniences, but I shall never cease to advocate that those who carry the great burden of taxation shall receive reasonable consideration from this Parliament.
I am not taking the Minister to task, because he only represents the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson). But I, knowing; bis experience of bush life, shall be considerably surprised if, when the PostmasterGeneral returns, he does not seriously consider reverting to penny postage. More revenue will be received from penny postage than from l1/2d. or 2d. postage.
– With penny postage, the Postmaster-General might reduce the employees’ wages.
– I do not think that the Postmaster-General would have any such desire. The people living in isolated districts have as much claim to consideration as have the employees in the city, and even they require cheaper telephone facilities, to enable them to communicate with tradesmen and others. The farmer, in a dairying district, with a family of five or six, has no union to increase his rate of wages and conditions. He has to accept what prices he can obtain for his products. He already pays in taxation more than he should, and he should be relieved to some extent by a reduction in the postage rate. This should bedone, not only in the interests of the country districts, but also in the interests of the workers in the suburban areas. Only the other day I received a clipping from a newspaper, indicating that the Government and people of New Zealand were thoroughly satisfied with penny postage. Australia should have the same privileges and rights as exist in New Zealand. The proper rate of postage in this country is 1d. I ask the Minister to carefully consider this matter, and see what can be done.
– I . am pleased that the Treasurer intends to bring down a bill providing for an additional loan appropriation of £700,000, and I hope that the new buildings and post offices to be constructed out of that loan will include a post office at Burrows, in my electorate. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman) cleverly connected thesubject of penny postage with cheap telephones. I agree, and the majority of honorable members support me, that additional telephone facilities shouldbe given to the people in the outback districts. The Treasurer, perhaps because he has control of the purse and wishes to avoid expenditure, seems to be the only honorable member opposed to such a policy. I am prepared to oppose, on any platform in the Commonwealth, the reduction of the postage. When the last reduction was made, I received many letters from my constituents in country districts supporting my attitude in voting against it. Many of my correspondents believed that if the Government had allowed the postage to remain as it was, and had used the revenue to provide additional telephones, greater benefit to the country would have resulted.
– Did the honorable member reply, pointing out that under penny postage the revenue would be greater?
– The revenue would not be greater, because the Treasurer, when delivering his budget, instanced the loss of revenue because of the previous reduction in postage. Penny postage would serve the purpose of a certain class of the community - the big business men, the land sharks and the commission agents. Penny postage would assist only those who farm the farmer. The honorable member mentioned the benefit that penny postage would bestow upon a dairy farmer with a family of five or six. In any case, that family would not write more than one letter a week. Penny postage would assist only those people who inundate the farmer with circulars advertising machinery and other requirements. There is a difference between penny postage and cheap telephones. It is inconceivable that the administration of the Commonwealth should be carried on without additional telephone facilities in country districts. The lack of such facilities is keenly felt in cases of illness and emergency. I wish to bring before the Minister one or two matters that are a standing disgrace to the Postal Department. Some time ago in this House I asked that a receiving office be placed atWombalaThe people, there have no means of getting their mail, and the district is steadily growing. The nearest post office is Scarborough or Clifton, and their letters or telegrams are delivered at one of those places. After some time the local progress association persuaded the Postal Department to establish a receiving office at
Wombala. but the conditions imposed by the department prevented that office from functioning. There is a railway siding at this place, and instead of allowing the mail bag to be thrown off there, it was delivered at another station, and the lady in charge at Wombala had to walk from 3£ to 5 miles to obtain the mail. She resigned her position because of that arduous walk. The department refused to throw the mail bag off at Wombala although the train had to slacken down because of sharp railway curves in that locality. I have also received a letter requesting that the officer in charge of the Otford post office be permitted to issue money orders. At present the residents there have to walk 4 or 5 miles to another post office to obtain money orders. The department” persistently refused to make this post office available for this purpose.
– People living in town often have to walk 1^ miles to a post office.
– That would apply only to people on the outskirts of a suburb, but these people have to walk 4 or 5 miles. I ask the Minister to look into this matter, and also to arrange that the mail bags be thrown off at the railway siding at Wombala. When the Tariff Board Bill was before us, I referred to the Metal Manufacturing Company at Port Kembla. If that company can go to the court, and, by some special means obtain awards which are different from the awards operating generally, it should not be protected. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which is the largest customer of this company in Australia, should bring pressure to bear on the company to make it comply with the conditions existing in the same industry in New South Wales. I have here a letter from the secretary of the union, a man well known to me, and whose word I am prepared to accept, in which he says : -
I was in Sydney yesterday, and in nearly every street I came across drums of English telephone cable being laid, similar to that which is manufactured by the Metal Manufactures Limited.
While cables are imported from England these men are thrown out of work, because there are not sufficient orders to keep them employed. That bears out the contention of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton), that the Government is not giving proper consideration to Aus.tralianmade goods.
– I think that the Kembla works are at present unable to turn out sufficient cable to meet requirements, but that they hope to be able to do so soon.
– Evidently the company says one thing to the Minister and another thing to the men. The reason given to the men for their discharge was that sufficient orders were not being received to retain them. In view of the differing statements, the position should be investigated. I ask the Minister to give me an assurance that he will make inquiries into the matters I have raised. When the Appropriation Bill is before us, I hope to find that provision is made for a post office at Burrowa.
.- I cannot allow the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman) to pass without challenge. I have been accused of having no consideration for the men outback. I think that honorable members generally realize that I have endeavoured to be a friend to these men, but as the people of my electorate and those of other electorates also may read his remarks in Hansard, I desire to correct the wrong impression that may be made. I speak on behalf of people more than 30 miles away from a doctor, such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa. Birdsville, a town in the Maranoa electorate, is situated 240 miles from a telephone. Its distance from the telephone was the same when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was Postmaster-General. On the Victoria River a hospital was recently established by the Australian Inland Mission. That hospital is 200 miles from a telephone. Many cases could be mentioned in which men have been battling for years to get the cheap telephones referred to by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. With them, it is not a question of the rate charged, but of getting telephones and mails at any price. The people on the Victoria River and throughout the Northern Territory now get a mail service once in six weeks. They would willingly pay 2s. 6d. a letter to get a fortnightly service. It is useless for the honorable member to talk about penny postage when so many people outback are asking for these facilities. Fifteen years ago, when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was
Postmaster-General, a telephone line from Camooweal to Powell’s Creek in the Northern Territory was proposed, but nothing has since been done. It is time also that a telephone line was constructed from Marree to the Queensland border. If the Ministry will bring down proposals for the provision of these services, this House will see that they are agreed to. People talk to-day of wireless communication for these outback districts, but that would not do away with the necessity for telephones, as it would be impossible for every outback settlement to bear the expense of a sending station. I hope that the Minister will not overlook the claims of these isolated stations in regard to both telephone and mail services.
– I desire to refer to a matter affecting many of the towns in the southern portion of New South Wales. For years complaints have been made that letters posted after 5 p.m. in Sydney are not delivered the next day in the southern towns of Cootamundra, Wagga, and on to Albury. A train for these towns leaves Sydney at 10.5 p.m., and if some means of posting letters up to a later hour were provided it would be of great advantage to the people of those towns. This matter does not affect one town only, but all the towns from Cootamundra to the border.
– Is there a travelling post office on the train that leaves at 7.50 p.m. t
– The important point is that mail matter posted at the General Post Office in the ordinary receptacles after 5 p.m. is not dispatched to the southern towns I have named on the same evening. When representations are made regarding this matter the department states that there is a receptacle provided at the General Post Office, Sydney, in which letters for those towns may be posted up to 6.5 p.m. Unless a person had a guide to show him the position, it would take him ft long time to find that receptacle. Persons who complain to the department receive the stereotyped answer that there is a receptacle at the western end of the post office where letters for the southern towns can be posted up till 6 o’clock. .
– The box is open only between 5 and 6 p.m.
– The department acknowledges that inconvenience as caused to business people and others, and the Postmaster-General himself has admitted that something should be done. Nothing has been done, however. If the grievance exists - and the department admits that it does - the position should be rectified. The present position is worthy only of the stone age.
– Would it meet the desires of the honorable member if letters to go by that train could be posted up to 7 p.m. ?
– Yes ; so long as proper facilities for posting were provided in a convenient place. If this matter is attended to, it will meet ti long-felt want, and I am glad to have the intimation from the Minister that he realizes the true position and is desirous of remedying it. This matter is so important that I shall connect with it only one other thing so that it shall not be obscured, and that is the wholly inadequate efforts made to cope with telegraphic services, in some of the big southern towns. I take Wagga as a case in point. This is a big repeating station for a large number of ether places on the southern line, and there has been no real improvement of the conditions there for quite a number of years. Some small additions have been made to the equipment which are quite inadequate to cope with the increased business. I am not using language that is too strong when I say that the equipment and general facilities are woefully inadequate for the conduct of the business of this large repeating station. The staff is a very capable one, but the office facilities are quite out of keeping with the importance of the town. The need for improvement at Wagga has been pressed upon the department for a long time. On the occasion of the visit of the Postmaster-General to that town he admitted bo me tbat there was room’ for drastic changes. He admitted that the place had grown wonderfully, and that nothing had been done to improve the conditions for years. I know that before he left for Europe he made representations on the subject, and he promised me, in answer to my appeal to him, that the necessary change would be brought about. I should be grateful to the Vice-President of the Executive
Council if, in the absence of the PostmasterGeneral, he would see whether something cannot be done to bring about a more satisfactory state of affairs in regard to these two matters which I have placed before him. All the southern towns are weary of making representations, and I do not intend to leave these matters rest until more business-like arrangements are adopted..
– I regret very much that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) is not present to listen to our protests. He will get them second-hand, and they will not have the same effect upon him as they would if he were present to hear them made. Ho decided some time ago that he must attend an international conference overseas. If the press- reports can be depended upon the honorable gentleman did not stay long at the conference. He stayed only -a few days and then returned to the Wembley Exhibition. When a Minister of the Crown leaves the Commonwealth ostensibly to attend an important international conference he should stay to see the work of the conference done before he leaves it. Complaints have appeared in the Australian press concerning an estimated loss of £20,000 which may accrue to the Commonwealth yearly as the result of a decision arrived at by the conference in connexion with international postage rates. It has even been suggested that the Commonwealth should withdraw from the Postal Union because of the decision arrived at by the conference. I agree with the contention that we should have penny postage, and I am not in agreement with many of my colleagues on this side of the .House in this matter. It was farcical to listen to the speech delivered by /the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Sir Austin Chapman) to-night. Twelve months ago I moved in this House for a reduction in postage rates to give us penny postage, and only one honorable member supported me. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro did not in any way show that he was in favour of what I proposed. Every other country in the world has penny postage, and the Commonwealth is lagging behind in the matter. Oddly enough, those who oppose penny postage argue that we must have higher postage rates if we look for greater postal facilities. In the next breath they argue that we should not make the PostmasterGeneral’s Department a revenueproducing department.
– It should be a business department.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. We cannot make a business of a public utility. The honorable member might as well contend that because a home does not show a profit, in pounds, shillings, and- pence a man should cease to keep it. It would be ridiculous to regard everything from the point of view of business. We have always contended that the Postal Department is one of service and not of business or revenue. We have kept up high rates of postage during the last twelve months, but no honorable member will say that we have increased our postal and telegraphic facilities as a result. If we raised the existing rate during the next twelve months, we should at the close of that period have the same crop of complaints that we now have to make of the inadequate facilities, provided by the department. The postal buildings throughout Australia are a disgrace to the Commonwealth: It would be a stretch, of the imagination to describe the majority of them as sanitary.
– Does; the honorable member refer to offices which the department is building?
– I say generally that the post offices of Australia are a disgrace to the Commonwealth.
– The Department is now putting up some very good buildings.
– That is. something like, saying “ a fellow is a good fellow when he has it, but he never has it.” The department puts up good buildings when it puts them up, but it rarely puts them up. On one occasion, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Paley) described the position well when he said that he got very nice letters from the Postmaster-General, but he got no bricks and mortar. We all receive letters in answer to our representations, which close something in this way: “ The work is approved, but, in view of the large number of these works that have been approved, we cannot state when “this particular work will he commenced.” Since I have been a member of this House, I have been faced with the same difficulty every year. We make our representations and prepare our case; public money is expended in sending departmental officers to inquire into works proposed, and then we receive the communication that the department is pleased to be able to approve of the work, but, in view of the fact that so many, similar works have been approved, it isimposssible to say when it will be commenced. In the meantime,, conditions change, and the price of building materials goes up. When we refer to the matter on the next year’s Estimates, we are told that there is a great difference between what the work would have cost when it was approved and what it would cost at the pre-
Bent time. Then we must go through the same old round again, and finally receive the same letter from the department again. All this goes to show that sufficient money is not made available for necessary postal works. I am informed that, in the various states, the Postmaster-General’s Department, is discharging men engaged on construction work, in, putting up and renewing trunk telephone lines. The war is over; we have a surplus of revenue; the Treasurer says ho is able to remit taxation ;, and there ia a contemplated expenditure of £8,0.00,000 on two cruisers* which will be obsolete, and will be sunk, as the Australia was sunk, before they fire a shot. In the, circumstances, it, is not too much to ask that something should be done to provide better postal and telephonic facilities. We need new telephone lines and the duplication of trunk lines between important cities and the different capitals. We need more telegraph lines, and, in fact, the telegraph and telephone services require to be built up in order that they may be of use, not only in times of peace, but to do the work which might be required of them if Australia were menaced by an invasion. The telephone and telegraph services would play a very important part in such an event. Some of the money proposed to be spent on defence might be better expended in. increasing the services I speak of. Every one knows that it is almost impossible to send an ordinary wire on a Saturday, even between this Parliament House and Sydney. I had an experience of this only a couple of weeks ago. A wire was sent from this House to myself in
Sydney. It was dispatched a little after 11 o’clock in the morning, but was not delivered in Sydney until 6 o’clock in the evening. The reason is that there is too much congestion on the lines, and urgent telegrams take precedence. People have been caught time and again by sending ordinary telegrams, and the Postal Department, because it will not duplicate the lines, is able to extract urgent rates for telegrams that should be sent at ordinary rates. Some of the mishaps in the Postal Department are ludicrous in the extreme. It should serve the community, and should not be run on pinchpenny lines. A responsible postman is employed to deliver letters on which the postage is l£d. The department would not think of trusting a telegraph messenger with letters, but it sends out boys of tender years with telegrams. I have a, friend who is in business as a garage proprietor in Sydney. His name is Alfred Barber. A customer wanted him to meeta train early one morning*, and to convey him to his home. It is important to my friend, as a business man, that he should keep his business connexion together, and therefore a telegram making a business “appointment is a valuable document to him. It arrived in Sydney at 5 p.m., and was handed to a young boy for delivery. He went to the building where my friend was in business. The garage is in the basement, but upstairs there is a Greek club in which there is a barber’s shop. The telegram was addressed to “A. Barber,, 151 Castlereagh-street, Sydney.” Tt was delivered to the barber’s shop, and did not reach the man for whom it was intended until 10 o’clock the next morning. Telegrams should not be given into the care of boys, particularly irresponsible boys of tender years. I mention that case because it came under my personal knowledge. The gentleman who told me about it was Mr. Barber himself.
– I sent a telegram from Burnie to Melbourne, and got here first.
– I can quite believe that. Delays are often due to the telegraph staffs being overworked. I do not blame those who are in charge of the department, either the Deputy PostmastersGeneral or the telegraph supervisors. They are doing the best they can with the money placed at their disposal. What is lacking is a Government with breadth of vision. I have received a number of letters from my constituents complaining that mail services are so badly arranged that they have to travel long distances to collect their letters. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he should arrange with mail contractors to deliver mails at the homes of settlers, instead of a mile and a half away. Mailmen are quite willing to tender on those lines. It would entail a little extra expense, but would result in a much more effective ‘service. The mail services in the country are often only “ shandygaff “ services. I have a copy of a letter that I presented to the PostmasterGeneral in which a man complained that he had to keep a horse and sulky and drive 21 miles a week to collect his mail from where the mail contractor deposited it on the boundary of his holding. The delivery of mails at the homes of settlers would obviate a lot of duplication of effort. A man often finds,, after going to the place of delivery, that there is no mail for him.
I should like to say a few words about the remuneration of those in charge of allowance post offices. The pay is very small, and it is frequently only because people want the facilities of a mail and an allowance post office that they undertake the work. By no stretch of the imagination can it be said that they are adequately paid. Successive governments have refused to increase appreciably their allowances. When speaking on a previous occasion I drew attention to the fact that many small places that had been settled for a long time would never have a big population because they were within moderate distances of fairly large towns, and were grazing localities. I have drawn attention to the, district of Cobbarah, on the border between my electorate and the electorate of New England. That district has been settled for many years, but the post office is a tumble-down, stone building which, when I last visited it, had a hessian ceiling. In it there are several hundreds of pounds worth of valuable instruments belonging to the Government, for it is a telephone exchange as well as a post office. If a careless person started a fire, the interior of the building would go up in smoke like a piece of tinder. An allowance is made to the postmistress for the premises and lighting, and, if my memory serves me, it amounts to £32 per annum. That sum of money would pay interest on a building that would not be a disgrace to the Commonwealth. “When I was up there I felt ashamed to be a member of a Parliament that would allow a building like that to be used for one of the great services of the Commonwealth. The allowance post offices in many districts will never become official offices, and while they remain semiofficial offices I suggest that, the Commonwealth should provide the buildings. Otherwise there is great risk that? valuable instruments will be destroyed as well as great inconvenience caused to the public during replacement.
In company with other honorable members I have waited upon the PostmasterGeneral, and made representations regarding travelling post office facilities. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), and I, placed the facts before him. I am surprised to learn from the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that there is no travelling post office service on the Melbourne mail that leaves Sydney at 7.50 every evening. It is well known that the travelling post office is the most expeditious means of sorting mails for delivery en route and at the end of the journey. The PostmasterGeneral referred certain phases of the subject to the department, and was informed that some of the things of which we complained could not be remedied. The travelling post office on the northwest train makes up the mails for a certain number of suburbs of Sydney. On the ai rival of the train at Sydney the mails are taken to the general post office, where they are re-sorted and sent out to the different suburbs, but not in time for the morning delivery. The consequence is that mails posted in the country on Friday are not delivered until Monday, and sometimes not until Monday afternoon. This causes serious delays and great inconvenience to business men. It is another illustration of the inadequate services provided by the department. It is of no use to rely upon a letter posted in the north-west of New South Wales on Friday being delivered in a suburb of Sydney on Saturday. If delivery is required on Saturday, a telegram must be sent at a cost of 3s. or 4s., if it is such a telegram as would be sent, cay, by stock agents and others. Men engaged in that class of business are forced to spend many pounds that they would not need to spend if letters were delivered expeditiously. That is one explanation why the telegraphic business of the post office is booming to-day. When Mr. Webster was PostmasterGeneral during the early years of the war he regarded the department as a business concern, and endeavoured to make it pay. He curtailed the services unduly, no doubt in accordance with the policy of the government of the day, and although the department did show a profit, there was widespread indignation amongst the people. Because of the parsimony practised during those years, development was retarded, and loans had to be raised to make up the leeway. I suggest to the present Government that it does not save money by delaying the granting of facilities; in fact, it actually loses money, lt is well recognized that there are many proposals for telephone and telegraph lines which, if carried out at once, would from their inception yield a profitable return on the outlay. They must be provided sooner or later, and the only effect of delaying them is to withhold from the people a needed facility. “ In the meantime, the rate of interest is increasing, and later, when the public clamour compels the Government to instal these services, it will have to pay, instead of 6 per cent., probably 6^ or 7 per cent, for the loan money employed. Many telephone lines have been asked for by the people in the western districts of New South Wales, and the undertaking of the works is thoroughly justifiable. The Bourke to Sydney project is an example. The head offices of many of the stations about Bourke are in Melbourne, and the owners are prepared to pay almost any price for quick communication between the two centres. More business can be done in a three-minutes conversation than by reams of writing or pages of telegrams. If the relay telephone system were introduced, say, from Bourke to Dubbo, Dubbo to Sydney, and Sydney to Melbourne, the department would receive a handsome return upon its outlay. It is actually losing money by not providing that facility. It is a shame that the men in charge of the affairs of the Commonwealth in this Parliament have not sufficient breadth of vision to proceed with a vigorous policy- of providing greater postal, telegraphic, and telephonic conveniences to ‘ people living in the outlying districts where they are far removed from medical attention and the other comforts of civilization.
.- I am surprised at the criticism which has been directed against the administration of the Postal Department. At no time since the inception of federation has there been such development and progress in the department as during the last year. Not only have postal and telegraphic rates been reduced by the amount of nearly £1,000,000, but a vigorous policy of construction has been inaugurated. Tenders have been let for hundreds of miles of telephone line, the erection of which is delayed only through the lack of the necessary labour. The money which Parliament has voted is being expended as freely as it could be without extravagance and waste. In many districts construction is delayed only because qualified workmen and materials are not obtainable. As a member of the Public Works Committee I know that the same state of affairs applies in every city of the Commonwealth as well as in country districts. Neither the department nor the Government is to blame. The department is rapidly overtaking arrears of work, and I am sure that honorable members opposite realize as clearly as I do that it has achieved a great deal during the last twelve months.
– If the honorable members’ constituents have reason to complain of not having received reasonable treatment, that is evidence that he has been neglecting them. I quite agree with those honorable members who urge that the telephone services should be extended. In my own electorate tenders have been accepted for several lines, but the labour to carry out the work is not available. There is considerable dissatisfaction with the remuneration paid to allowance postmasters, and I admit that they have a genuine grievance. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to the desirability of making the lot of these officials a little brighter. They are doing good work, and whilst some of them are fairly comfortable because of income from other sources, others are not receiving anything like adequate remuneration for the services they are rendering.
– I agree that the Commonwealth could very well afford to be more generous in the provision of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities. There is not much agitation amongst the bulk of the people for the introduction of penny postage, but there is in some districts, particularly in the electorate I represent, a great deal of discontent with the postal and telegraphic services. The department might very well extend the issuing of money orders by allowance offices. I agree with the honor able member for Indi that the people who conduct these offices are doing good work, for which they are inadequately paid. In fact, in my electorate the department experience considerable difficulty in finding men to undertake the work at the remuneration offered, and in one suburb it has been obliged to frequently change the officer, with resultantinconvenience to the public. The department should also extend the business of these allowance offices. Unnecessary hardship is caused by compelling old-age pensioners and persons desiring to do money order business to walk a mile and a half to a postoffice when this work could be done at an allowance office. In regard to the extension of the telephone service, it is a pity that the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Sir Austin Chapman) did not exert his influence more strongly while he was a Minister of the Crown. I agree with his sentiments; but mere talk is futile. The charge for the installation of telephones is too high, and could be considerably reduced. The telephone makes country and outer suburban life more bearable; indeed, it has become a neces: sary adjunct to modern civilized life rather thana luxury. I press that view upon the Minister in charge of the Estimates. The department takes a too shortsighted view of the requirements of many districts. That may not be so noticeable in country districts as in areas that include rapidly-growing suburbs. I represent an electorate in which the suburbs have been growing at a very great rate for anumber of years. About eight or ten years ago the attendance at the chief school in one suburb - Hurstville - was about 700 children. Recently, before the establishment of an adjacent school, the original school had become the largest in the southern hemisphere, and had an attendance of 2,500 children. The postal requirements of the district were met several years ago by the building of an office which has been made to do duty until the present time. Alterations are now being carried out at a large expense, but the whole architecture of the building has to be changed, and while the alterations are proceeding the department has had to lease another office. This is one of the most healthy areas about Sydney; it has pleasant surroundings and railway communication, and ten or twelve years ago its development into one of the most populous suburbs of that city could havebeen foreseen. If the department had not been short-sighted it could have designed that post office building in such a way that when additional accommodation became necessary it could be provided without entailing costly structural alterations. It surely would have been more economical had the Postal Department taken a long-sighted view of the postal requirements of the locality. There are ten or more suburbs in my electorate urgently in need of post-offices, and I dare say that when the agitation becomes so great that it cannot be resisted by the department, their claims will be granted. If the past procedure is to be adopted, the Department will provide offices which, while perhaps adequately fulfilling the present needs of the district, will soon become congested. “Wonderful progress has been made throughout the whole electorate, and it will continue to grow, because it will be served by the first train to be electrified in New South Wales.
– Which suburb is that?
– The district I refer to stretches from Oatley to Mortdale, Penshurst, Hurstville, Carlton, Kogarah, Rockdale, Banksia, Arncliffe, and Tempe ; while towards Botany Bay are Kogarah Bay, San Souci, and Sandringham, with Peakhurst, Dumbleton, and Bexley on the other side of the line. My remarks apply to the whole of that quickly-growing district. As soon as it is absolutely certain that a suburb will grow, the department should commence to build post offices to cope * with* the increasing requirements of the district.
– That is alwayvs done.
– It was not done, in the district of Hurstville. The post office there is by no means adequate, and another building is to be hired while alterations are being made to the present structure. How does the Minister reconcile that with his statement?
– When was the post office built?
– I could not give the exact date, but it is by no means a new building.
– I am talking of recent buildings.
– Then I hope that practice will be followed in the future. The same argument applies to the purchase of land for postal purposes in these districts. In one of the suburbs that I have mentioned there is an agitation to select a site on which a post office may later be. built, but the department is not taking any action in the matter. Oatley is to be the terminus of the electrified line, and land there can now be purchased at from£2 to£3 per foot. If past procedure is followed, the Government will refuse to purchase that land until its value is from £10 to £12 a foot, and because of the high cost only a small block will be purchased. The Government, since it claims to be a business government, should step in before the unearned increment has been added to the value of the land, and purchase it as a site for a post office. This is one of the disabilities of the short life of Parliament, because there is no incentive for the government of the day to look forward, say eight, ten, fifteen, or twenty years, so that future generations may benefit. The district that I have mentioned should be viewed differently from others not making the same progress. I move -
That the amount of division III., “ Central Staff, £49,747,” be reduced by £1.
I do this to draw attention to the great dissatisfaction existing in the mail branch of the Postal Department, chiefly among the postal sorters and letter carriers, because of the reclassification recently made by the Public Service Board under the act. I do not know of anything that has given a greater shock than the action of the Public Service Board appointed to reclassify the Commonwealth Public Service, in investigating the affairs of the General Post Officer - which is certainly doing very well as a business institution, since it is making a profit - by reducing the employees’ salaries, condemning them as being unfit, inefficient, or inattentive to their duties. It has not only reduced the postal employees’ salaries, but has also flouted the award of the Public Service Arbitrator appointed by the Commonwealth Government.
– The Public Service Bill deals with that subject.
Mr.F. McDONALD. - I assure the Minister that when the bill comes before this House I shall have more to say about this matter unless the Government has taken steps to rectify the injustice done to the postal employees by the Public Service Board. I know what it is to be a public servant, although I had nothing to complain about respecting the relations between my superior officers and myself. I was in the Civil Service when the civil servants were miserably paid, and under a tyrannical rule similar to that at present being imposed by our Public Service Board, particularly upon the employees of the Postal Department. I know something of the dictatorship that existed in those days, but by a change in the personnel of the departmental heads there came about a great increase in human understanding and sympathy, and proper recompense was given for the work performed by civil servants. It was a most wholesome influence throughout the department, and the happiest relations existed between the employees and the officers in charge. To-day, however, the Federal Civil Service is seething with discontent owing to the unfair and inhuman classification imposed by an unsympathetic, and, to a certain extent, incompetent board. I am not exaggerating when I say that its rule is tyrannical. I need only instance a case which recently came under notice, in which an employee in the post office had written an innocent letter to a member of this House, asking if he could interpret an award that had been made. He wrote to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), who is now on the other side of the world. Mr. Marks opened the letter, and since it was not from one of his constituents, he forwarded it to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr). This honorable member saw that there was nothing improper in the request, but he discovered that the letter had been written by a constituent of thehonorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), who noticed that the letter contained merely a request for information. He sent the letter to the Public Service Board, with the result that both the honorable member for Reid and the employee in the post office received a shock. The board considered the action of the employee in writing to a member of Parliament to be highly improper, and it decided to go to the trouble of seeing that the young man concerned was “ disciplined.” The board pointed out that it intended to bring under the notice of his department the fact that he had broken the regulation which stated that he must not use undue influence to secure promotion or other advantage. I ask how that regulation was in any way broken by a simple request for information to be supplied to him. If the board is unable to adjudicate fairly on a simple matter such as that, no wonder it has failed in trying to adjudicate on such a complex problem as was presented by the classification of the Public Service. The employee referred to has been reprimanded, and he has been warned that any repetition of such conduct may possibly result in much severer punishment. It seems to me that every citizen, even if a member of the Public Service, is entitled to approach his representative in Parliament. Although I uphold the Public Service regulations, I claim that the action of the board is an example of petty tyranny, and savours very much of militarism. In the appointment of the Public Service Board the Government adopted the principle of preference to returned soldiers. This principle is always followed where highly-paid positions are concerned, but little assistance by the principle is afforded to the ordinary “ digger.” Two of the members of the board held high rank in the Military Forces, and although we recognize the service they rendered during the late war, we do not wish to see military rule imported into civil life.
– It is an attack on the privileges of honorable members.
– Yes. This young man, by going to the front, showed that he did not uphold militarism. He took part in a war against a policy of “ frightfulness,” but the board has adopted this policy towards members of the Public Service.’
– Does the honorable member seriously say that a reprimand is an instance of rightfulness ?
– Yes. Petty tyrants always understand the psychological effect of such a policy. The board believes in adopting disciplinary measures whether employees have offended or are only supposed to have committed a breach of the regulations. But I point out that a reprimand by the board will stand as a mark against this employee for all time. Does the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) consider that a policy of f rightfulness ?
Mr.F. McDONALD. - That is quite in keeping with the honorable member’s ideas of proper disciplinary measures, and of the amount of freedom that should be allowed to citizens in communicating with their representatives in Parliament.
– What freedom is there in compulsory voting ?
Mr.F. McDONALD.- I fail to see any analogy between that subject and the matter I am discussing. By the time that the whole of the Public Service has been frightened it will have cost a great deal. It would be easier to take steps forthwith to frighten them all. I suggest that in front of all our public buildings a group of statuary, symbolic of the members of the board, should be erected. The figures representing the members of the board should have raised heels, so that every civil servant,upon entering the office, may place his neck under one of them. Some mechanical contrivance could doubtless be invented to bring the heel down on his neck. When pressing the Bundy clock, he could at the same time register his complete renunciation of all his statutory rights. That suggestion should commend itself to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), and perhaps to the members of the Ministry. I challenge the Government to prove that this man has not been tyrannically and unjustly treated. Recently certain charges were made against another civil servant. The Government then said that if civil servants were attacked, a royal commission would be appointed to see that their rights were conserved. That was said when the civil servant affected was highly placed in the service. Will the Minister be as jealous of the rights of the humble civil servant when his own appointees have taken away from that civil servant his most sacred constitutional right? The Government has censured this man and has blighted his career without just cause. If some action is not taken before the Public Service Bill comes before us, I shall then have more to say regarding this matter. I ask that some inquiry shall be instituted to see why this unjust treatment has been meted out to this man.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It ill becomes the members of the Opposition to attack the Government on its policy in connexion with the development in the post and telegraph services of Australia. Never before in the history of the Commonwealth has there been such a vigorous policy of post and telegraph construction, or has the public been so generously provided for. Miles of telephone lines have been erected all over the continent, and many country centres have by this means been brought into contact with civilization. In one respect, however, I agree with the other members on the other side; I refer to the remuneration of the officers in charge of the allowance post offices. They are expected to do too much for too little. They are rendering invaluable service to the Commonwealth, and should be adequately remunerated. I was particularly sorry, when reviewing the Estimates, to find that, after being definitely promised by the Postmaster-General that provision would be made for new post offices at Beenleigh, Kirra - Coolangatta - Marburg, and Rosewood, in my electorate, that such provision has not been made. The post office at Beenleigh is about 53 years old. Extensions cannot be made to the building, because the walls are too old to hold a nail. This town is denied the privilege of a continuous service and private boxes because of lack of suitable accommodation. I urge the Government to make provision for this town in the Supplementary Estimates. Kirra is a most progressive seaside resort in southern Queensland. A definite promise was made that a post office sufficient to meet the requirements of the town for the next 25 years would be provided. The Government of Queensland is meeting the Post and Telegraph Department, and is making available a central site for a post office. At Marburg, near Ipswich, an area of land has been purchased, but so far nothing further has been done. Rosewood, one of the oldest centres in West Moreton, and a most progressive place, is also overlooked, although a promise was made that this town would be provided with suitable post office facilities. Generally, the policy of the Government in regard to these matters has been most generous, but that generosity on this occasion has not been extended to the electorate of Moreton. Other honorable members may have been more fortunate. I have discussed these matters with the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, who state that these items were omitted from the Estimates when they had to be considerably reduced after compilation. I congratulate the Government on its generous and vigorous policy, and trust that these matters to which I have referred will be definitely put right in the Supplementary Estimates.
– I wish to again refer to the case with which I was dealing when the time allotted to me under the Standing Orders expired. I know something of the feelings of the civil servants when they are treated as this man has been treated. The classification of the board is unfair and inhuman. It is almost brutal in its incidence, while it certainly is not economical. Those who have studied this question agree that if we are to have an efficient civil service, there must be contentment among its members. That contentment cannot exist unless they feel that they are being treated with at least ordinary justice. This classification which has been imposed upon them by the board is not treating them justly. To show the true effect of the Public Service Board’s wage reductions in the case of sorters it should be mentioned that the award rates of pay were fixed on the cost of living index-number 1642 - for the twelve months ending the 30th June, 1923 - representing a basic wage of £195, fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator on this number. For the twelve months ending the 31st of March, 1924, the cost of living index-number stood at 1720, justifying an increase of the basic wage from £195 to £204. This increase of £9 is rightly due to sorters and all other Service employees of adult age. It will, therefore, be seen that the Public Service Board proposes to filch from the present sorters - classified as mail officers, grade 2 and 3 - the following amounts: -
First year, £7; second year, £9; third year, £11; fourth year, £13; fifth year, £15; sixth year, £17; seventh year, £19.
A glance at the budget shows that the average salary enjoyed by these officers is about £4 a week, not more than the basic wage, but this is the way in which the Public Service Board intends to treat them if it gets its way. It should be noted that the Public Service Board acknowledges that rates of pay should be adjusted periodically according to the rise or fall indicated by the cost of living index-numbers of the Commonwealth Statistician. This acknowledgment is contained in the classification proposals under the caption “ Review of Scales of Salary,” but as the adjustment proposed by the board is to be applied to the basis of the reduced and inequitable rates of pay fixed by classification the injustice imposed in the first place, if allowed to stand, will be perpetuated for all time. I ask the Government not to allow this to be done, because once it is agreed upon by the Government it will stand for all time, and these officers will have no means of redress. What right has the Public Service Board to ignore the index-numbers after professing tobe guided by those used by the arbitrator? It seems to me this is another means of getting behind the system of arbitration. Why are we paying £2,000 a year to a Public Service Arbitrator if his awards are to be treated as nothing, and are to be flouted by three other men, one of whom is drawing £2,500 a year, and the others £2,000 a year each? It would be well if the Public Service Commissioners were placed for three months on the wage they prescribe for these officers. If the Government wish to set up a body to foment discontent in the Public Service, they can do so at less cost than £40 or £45 a week for each member of it.
– What would the Government say if the employees refused to acknowledge the right of the arbitrator to make an award, and ceased work ?
– Yes, what a fuss would be made !
– The honorable member knows quite well that the Government cannot interfere.
– It is strange that the Government should appoint a number of men and give them these powers, and then declare that it cannot interfere.
– The Public Service Act controls the position.
– The Governmentcan amend the act.
– Parliament can do so.
– Why did not the Government bring in a bill to limit the power of the board?
– Such a bill has already been introduced in another place.
– We do not know that an amendment made in another place will be assented to by the Government when the bill comes to this House. There are other cases in the Service much more glaring than the one I have just quoted. There are women employed in the mail branch, some of whom have seen service for 30 years, and yet the Public Service Board has seen fit to reduce their salaries. Ihave seen these women working in Sydney in one of the most unhealthy buildings in Australia. The board finds that they are earning about £4 7s.6d. a week, and immediately cuts off £44 a year. One woman has had her salary reduced by £38, six have suffered a reduction of £32, three others have been reduced by £20, one by £18, three by £15, two by £8, and one by £4. To show what a capable board we have, two of these women have had their salaries reduced by £2 a year. What nicediscrimination is there!
– What authority has the Public Service Board to override an award given by the Arbitrator?
– The authority given by the Government. They are the appointees of the Government. Of course, the Government will not now accept the responsibility, and they declare that the board derives its authority from the Public Service Act.
– It is the act which was passed by this Parliament that governs the matter.
– A previous government passed the Public Service Act. The act may not be altogether defective, but it is regrettable to find that the members of the Public Service Board have interpreted its provisions in the way they have. It has been shown by the case mentioned by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) that the members of the board are not efficiently carrying out the duties allotted to them.
– What authority has the board to override the decisions of the Arbitrator ?
– It is expressly stated in the act that the board can override an award of theArbitrator.
– But the public servants can appeal.
– Yes ; they can go to the Arbitrator and obtain an award , the benefits of which are taken away by the Public Service Board, when they can return to the Arbitrator and appeal, but such a process should not be tolerated . It is ridiculous to be paying members of the board salaries amounting to £6,500 a year merely to give them the right to deprive public servants of the privileges granted by the Public Service Arbitrator. What a nice business arrangement for a so-called business Government to make !
– This Government is not responsible.
– Why not amend the act?
– That can only be done by Parliament. .
– An amending bill is to be dealt with.
– I am aware of that. If we are to have serious trouble caused by the hoard year after year, and in consequence are to be forced to deal with amending bills to rectify the stupid mistakes made by the board, it is time the Government seriously considered whether that body is competent to do the work for which it was appointed. I seriously ask the Government what the board has achieved since it was appointed twelve months ago to justify its cost. The service is a mass of seething discontent in consequence of the injustices which have been forced upon it, and the attempts which have been made to undermine the principle of arbitration. It seems that this is an underhand way of getting behind the principle of arbitration, and, if that is the case, the Government should consider if the board, as at present constituted, is likely to render useful service to the Commonwealth. Do the Government consider that the expenditure of £6,500 a year on the board is justified when, as a result of its work, the salaries of female workers have been reduced to the extent I have mentioned. The amendments to the Public Service Bill which the Government has accepted in another place will not satisfy the public servants, and they are not likely to be supported by a majority of honorable members in this chamber. Under a principle adopted by the board, women are not to be paid the same remuneration as men, although they are doing the same work. The Government should introduce an amendment to provide that male and female workers performing the same duties shall be paid equal remuneration.
– The Public Service Bill is not under discussion.
– I am sorry that, instead of moving to reduce the amount in this division by £1, I did not move a reduction of an amount sufficiently large to compel members of the board to be placed on a basic wage for twelve months.
– The honorable member could not do that under this division.
– No, but I would have done so had I been in order. If the Government studied the question from an economic stand-point, they would find that no great harm would result from treating the public servants more generously.
.- I understand the amendment before the committee has been submitted in order to direct the attention of the Government to what has resulted in consequence of a classification of the mail branch. The amendment is somewhat premature, because, as some honorable members are aware, a Public Service Bill dealing with this matter is on the noticepaper, and will, in all probability, be discussed this session. The honorable member has, no doubt, made out a verygood case from his point of view. It is not fair to the public servants or to the committee for the honorable member to move an amendment that will have no effect upon the Classification Board, but may defeat the object of the Government. I understand from the Minister’s interjection that the Public Service Bill will be satisfactory, and I am prepared to wait for it. I ask the honorable member, who appears to be keenly interested in the matter, to withdraw his amendment and wait for the bill. There is no hope at this late hour of getting a proper decision on this question. A large number of honorable members are engaged outside the chamber, and do not know that the amendment is before the committee. They have received no notice ofit, and I am not willing to assist the Opposition to get a catch vote.
.- Will the recent classification come into operation if the Public Service Bill is not passed during this session?
– If the bill is not passed the classification will operate.
– In other words, the classification will operate if the bill is not passed, but if it is passed officers will be safeguarded by some of the provisions of the bill.
– There is an amendment in the bill that has passed the Senate that will operate notwithstanding the provisions of the Public Service Act, but if that bill is not passed the Public Service Act will operate.
– Whether the bill is passed or not the classification will operate. If the bill is passed in its present form the complaints of the public servants will to a minor extent be met.
– What bill is. the honorable member discussing ?
– I am dealing with the mail branch of the post office, and am asking a question arising out of the classification of the employees in that branch. I wish to enter my protest against what the honorable member for Henty (Mr. F. Francis) has said about a catch vote. Many honorable members have sat here prepared to endure the stress and strain of a threatened all-night sitting, and if other honorable members are not here to record their votes that is not our fault. That factor should not enter into our consideration. I shall reserve my further arguments for the Public Service Bill, which the Treasurer assures me will be introduced before the session closes.
^ - - - - -
Question - That the amount for division 111, “Central staff, £49,747,” be reduced by £1 - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Does the Government desire to dispose of the Estimates for the Postal Department to-night?
– Yes, and the Health and Miscellaneous Estimates also.
– I protest against the brutal treatment which the Government is meting out to honorable members. The Prime Minister promised that ample opportunity would be afforded for the discussion of (he budget and the Estimates, and now we are threatened with an all-night sitting. If the Government attempts to do business by that method it will meet with trouble. We are prac tically at the commencement of the Estimates for one of the most important departments of ‘ the Commonwealth, in which there is what the honorable member for Barton rightly characterized as seething insubordination. Every honorable member has been practically inundated with letters from members of the Public Service regarding the treatment they are receiving, and it is unquestionable that they have good grounds for that protest. Matters of such importance should be discussed at reasonable hours. If the Government is attempting to bludgeon the Estimates through, it is courting ignominious defeat. I warn Ministers that it might be well to report progress now so that we may to-morrow discuss with clear heads and good hearts matters affecting the Public Service and the whole peopleof the Commonwealth. One of the greatest blessings that any country can have is a loyal and contented Public Service. When there is dissatisfaction and irritation, there is bound to be inefficiency. We are showing ourselves to be a very foolish body of legislators. The national Parliament might reasonably be expected to conduct its business sensibly and during normal hours, but it invariably presents a miserable and contemptible spectacle in the concluding weeks of each session. The manner in which we conduct our business is helping to bring parliamentary institutions into contempt. I ask the Prime Minister . to reconsider the decision of. the Government to proceed with the consideration of these Estimates to-night.
– I call attention to the state of the committee. [Quorum formed.]
– A hint has been dropped that legislation will be introduced which will relieve the anomalous state of affairs in the Public Service. Parliament created a special Arbitrator, with a separate department, to regulate the salaries and conditions of the Service. The Public Service Arbitrator was appointed by the) Commonwealth Government, and he has made certain awards. The Public Service Board appointed last year was requested by the government of the day to reclassify the whole of the Public Service. In carrying out that classification, the board came to. a. decision which has upset many of the awards made by the Public Service Arbitrator. It is a very peculiar position in which to place that officer and also the public servants. The Government has promised that this anomaly will be rectified in the Public Service Bill.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing under Division 3, the Public Service Bill or the Public Service Arbitrator.
– An amendment dealing with the Public Service has been accepted.
– I accepted an amendment to reduce the amount of Division 3 by £1. It had nothing whatever to do with the Public Service.
– My remarks concern the department which is under discussion. Postal employees, including letter-sorters, letter-carriers, postmen, telegraphists, telephonists, and others are affected by the awards of the Public Service Arbitrator, and also the decisions of the Public Service Board. The Labour party voted against the appointment of both the Public Service Arbitrator and the Public Service Board. “We objected to the first on the score of expense, and to the second because we believed that one commispioner should be appointed instead of three. This evening the honorable member for Barton (Mr. P. McDonald) pointed out that the action of the Public Service Board has placed certain disabilities upon members of the Public Service. One employee asked a member of Parliament to interpret for him an award by the Public Service Arbitrator, and because of that he was reprimanded by the board and told that if a repetition occurred he would suffer a further penalty.
– The board afterwards admitted that the employee did not commit a breach of the regulations.
– The action of the Public Service Board in reprimanding this employee reminds me of days gone by, when employees were singled out by heads of departments and, through persecution, forced to leave the Service. It is this kind of thing that brings discontent in the Service, and unless the cause is immediately removed it is likely to disrupt a department, if not the whole of the Public Service. It is only rightthat such matters as these should be discussed on the Estimates. Honorablemembers to-night have had an opportunity of giving to the Government firsthand information respecting the discontent that exists in the Commonwealth Service. I, myself, had the opportunity this afternoon to ask the Government to increase the salary of the Chief Electoral Officer. Other honorable members have instanced the miserable wages received by certain allowance postmasters. Unlesshonorable members take this opportunity of drawing attention to grievances existing in the Public Service, no attempt will be made to remedy them. In the House of Commons, which has over 600 members, more minute details than are dealt with in this Parliament are discussed.
Sitting suspended from12.4 to 12.34 a.m.
Friday, 12 September
– For purposes of economy the Government has secured a supply of cheap envelopes to contain telegrams, but the supposedly transparent portion does not permit of the address being read through it. Not only is that the case, but the address on the enclosure is frequently so indistinct that it is difficult to read it when taken out of the envelope. It is false economy to have cheap envelopes of this nature. These matters cause inconvenience, and, in addition, destroy the confidential nature of the message, as inorder to ascertain the name of the addressee, the envelope has to be torn open. I ask the Minister to give this matter hisattention.
The rights of a large body of employeesin the Postal Department are jeopardized by a recent classification of the Public Service Board. There is no lack of loyalty or faithfulness to duty on the part of the employees, but considerable dissatisfaction exists among them becauseof the unsatisfactory nature of the classification and the uncertainty as to their future. Various organizations within thedepartment have incurred considerableexpense in preparing cases to be heard before the Public Service Arbitrator, but now we find that the Government seeks to introduce a form of reclassification that destroys the effect of the awards previously made. There has been a repudiation of the standard set up by the Public Service Arbitrator, in that the increments to which these officers are justly entitled under his awards are to be discontinued after a certain date. Private employers are required to observe strictly the arbitration awardswhich affect theiremployees, and it is only right that the Government should do the same. Instead of setting a bad example to other employers, the Government should honour these awards in spirit as well as in letter. Not only are men concerned, but also a considerable section of the female employees of the Commonwealth are affected. This action will result in the department failing to attract the best youths and maidens of the country. The reasonis that Ministers have not been so good as their word; they have gone back on their promises to these people. Although many of these employees have had experience ranging from sixteen to 30 years, they will be deprived of the emoluments due to them. I wish to place on record how this action will affect employees in the mail branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The basic wage of £198 granted under the classification represents an index number of 1664. This index number is alleged to be arrived at by taking the average of the cost of living figures for the three years ended 31st March, 1924. An annual adjustment of salaries will be made on the. index number for the year ending the 31st March, the adjustment to take effect from the 1st July, following. The classification provides that if the index number exceeds 1719, for every 50 points or portion thereof, an increase of £6 per annum shall be granted. The index number for the year ended 31st March, 1924, was 1720, and, therefore, on the board’s own reasoning, the basic wage declared should have been £204, not £198. The index number 1720 represents £215 per annum. Following the system recently adopted by the Public Service Arbitrator of deducting £10 per annum from each adult male employee for the payment of child endowment, a basic wage of £205 is left. If the board’s finding is enforced for the first year, members will lose £7 on the basic wage, and it is quite possible that they will continue to lose amounts ranging up to £7 in every succeeding year. Here are some examples : -
T he Judges of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, after full consideration, granted in all awards the sum of 3s. per week above the amount shown by the index number to cover the seasonal fluctuation in the prices of necessary commodities. The basic wage in every instance is adjusted quarterly. I claim that if outside workers receive this payment on a quarterly adjustment of wages, public servants should receive at least an equal amount on a yearly adjustment. The basic wage granted by the board should be in the vicinity of ‘ £213 per annum. The Commonwealth, in this matter, is a very poor example to private employers. The classification sets out increments that are to he automatic for mail officers in grades 1, 2, and 3, provided that the tests that will be held once a year are passed. This provision appears to be an improvement, but we question whether the right will accrue to all. It is significant that at the time this classification is issued with automatic increments, the Government proposes to amend ‘ section 20 of the Public Service Act with the object of giving the Public Service Board power at any time to deal with officers who are in excess in any particular class or grade by reducing them to a lower class of work and salary. I should like to have a quorum present to listen to my remarks. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member’s remarks are so uninteresting to members of his own party that not one of them is present to listen to him.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) will not be taken seriously by any one who knows how little time he spends in this chamber. The Government supporters should discharge their responsibilities and duties by maintaining a quorum.
– I wish to raise a point of order. When you stated, Mr. Deputy Chairman, that a quorum was present, you made a mistake. There were fewer than 25 members then present.
– I counted 25 members, including myself.
– There was not a quorum when you counted the committee, and, that being so, you should have reported the fact to Mr. Speaker.
– I submit, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that as you have declared that a quorum was present, it is not competent for an honorable member to declare otherwise. There is a quorum present now, and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) cannot successfully contend that a quorum was not present some time ago.
– I declared that a quorum was present, and that decision stands.
– The average weekly wage paid to adult male workers in 1914 was £2 15s. 7d., and the average weekly wage awarded to postmen by the Arbitration Court in that year was£3 2s. 4d. In 1923 the average weekly wage of adult workers throughout the Commonwealth was £4 14s. 4d., and for postmen under the classification £4 10s. If the postman’s wage had maintained the same proportion to the average wage of adult workers as in 1914, the maximum weekly wage would have been £5 6s. 2d. The Government cannot claim that it has maintained the conditions that prevailed under the classification of 1901, and under the reclassification during the Fisher Administration in 1911. The high standard set up by Parliament in 1901 was continued until the outbreak of the war, but later governments have lowered the standards, and deprived many worthy officers who haverendered faithful service of the emoluments which were their due according to the standards obtaining in the Service when they joined it. Although female employees are required to perform the same duties as males, they do not receive equal remuneration. Some women who have served for periods varying from 23 to 39 years, find at this late stage in their official life that their salaries are reduced under classification by £44 per annum. Their experience makes them most valuable officers; they perform the duties of assistant sorters, and sometimes of sorters. Equal work should be rewarded with equal pay, and prior to 1914 equal pay to both sexes was granted by the Public
Service Commissioner. Equality was maintained by an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in 1915, and by an award of Mr. Justice Powers to the Letter Carriers’ Association in 1920. During all those years the Public Service Commissioner raised no objection to paying both sexes equally for doing identical work. In 1920 Mr. Justice Starke inserted in the award granted to the Letter Carriers’ Association a clause that the salary at that time received by any member of the association should not be reduced, irrespective of the amount for his class set out in the award. In November of that year the Commonwealth Government granted an allowance of £12 per annum to cover the increase in the cost of living, and even then no distinction was made between the sexes. It has remained for the present Government to introduce such discrimination. The Government has committed a breach of faith with the female officers by depriving them of an established right.
Another very undesirable feature of postal administration is the creation of what are termed temporary positions of charge. There are temporary acting line inspectors, acting senior linesmen, and acting lines foremen. Many of the men, although only temporarily employed, hold senior positions. The effect of this system of temporary appointments is to deprive the officers of emoluments and allowances that should come to them because of their added responsibility. In connexion with the construction of lines in country districts, when a job in one town is completed men are dismissed and re-engaged at the next town. In this way, the men are deprived of their travelling allowances and of that continuity of employment which would qualify them for permanent employment. That is a very unsatisfactory system.
– The honorable member’s time has expired, but, with the consent of the committee, he may take his second half -hour now.
– It is intended in the reclassification of the Service that provisional appointments shall be made without an increase of salary. Honorable members will readily perceive how this system may be abused. Indeed, it is not altogether an innovation I have in mind a fourth class officer, who for two years was doing the work of a third class officer. Whenever he made a request that his promotion should be gazetted so that he might receive the emolument of the higher class, the endorsement of the head of the department was withheld, and he was required to continue to do third class duties for a fourth class salary. That savoured of sharp practice by the department, and although I placed this case before the Treasurer about twelve months ago, and asked that immediate consideration be given to it, I have not yet received a final reply. When such things happen, is it any wonder that there is dissatisfaction throughout the Service? I appeal to honorable members to recognize the just claims of officers to protection against practices of this kind. I call attention to the state of the committee.
A quorum not being present, the Chairman reported its absence to the House.
– A quorum is present.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know, sir, under what standing order you declare that a quorum is present when a report has been submitted to you by the Chairman of Committees that a quorum is not present. I have endeavoured to inform my mind from the Standing Orders respecting the position, but I can find nothing in them dealing with this circumstance.
– If the honorable member had read the Standing Orders carefully, he would have no difficulty in ascertaining the basisof my ruling. Whatever the view taken in committee may have been, section 39 of the Constitution provides that one-third of its members, namely, 25, constitute a quorum of the House. That section reads -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the presence of at least one-third of the whole number of the members of the House of Representatives shall be necessary to constitute a meeting of the House for the exercise of its powers.
One-third of the members is 25, and when I counted the House, as now, that number was present. If the honorable member desires to open up the question, what constitutes a quorum in committee, I am prepared to deal with it, to prevent further confusion.
– I shall be glad if you, Mr. Speaker, will make the position clear, and show how there may be a quorum in the House when there was not a quorum in committee.
– That is scarcely the question to which I referred. The question, what is a quorum in committee, is the important one. It would appear at first sight that, under Standing Order 216, a quorum in committee is 26. That Standing Order reads -
The quorum in committee of the whole shall consist of the same number of members exclusive of the chairman, as shall be requisite to form a quorum of the House.
The quorum in committee would, therefore, appear to be 25 plus the chairman. But early in the operation of this Parliament - in 1906 - the matter was considered on a point of order raised deliberatelyby the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), who, subsequently, became Speaker. At the time, Mr. Speaker Holder occupied the chair. Perhaps I had better read to the House the argument contained in the statement of that point of order, and the decision of the Speaker. The passage appears in volume XXXV., page 6403, of the Parliamentary Debates under the heading, “ Constitution and Standing Orders: Quorum” -
– Would I be in order in referring at this stage, as a question of privilege, to a division taken in committee this afternoon?
– I do not see how the question of privilege could arise. Of course, an honorable member can always take a point of order.
Mr. Deakin. ; Does the honorable member’s point of order affect this bill?
– A point of order is always in order.
– As affectinga division which took place in committee this afternoon, I wish to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker,to Standing Order 216. which says that - “The quorum in committee of the whole shall consist of the same number of members, exclusive of the chairman, as shall be requisite to form a quorum of the House “ - and section 39 of the Constitution enacts that a quorum must consist of - “ at least one-third of the whole number of the members of the House of Representatives.” I wish to know whether a division which was taken in committee this afternoon, wherein it was shown by the tellers’ lists that the number of ayes was 18 and of noes 6, making altogether only 24, exclusive of the chairman, can be regarded as of any effect. Standing Order 233 provides that -
If notice be taken, or it appears upon a division in committee, that a quorum of members is not present, the chairman shall leave the Chair of the committee, and shall inform the Speaker thereof, but make no further report.:
No decision of the committee shall be considered to have been arrived at by such division.
The Chairman of Committees, on the tellers’ lists being handed to him, left the chair, I understand, for the purpose of reporting to you, sir, that it appeared upon the division that there was not a quorum present, and I understand you to rule that there was a quorum present. When you so ruled, had Standing Order 216 escaped your recollection, or do you consider it ultra vires of the Constition?
-The figures showed me that in the division 18 members voted “Aye” and 6 “ No,” and they, with the chairman, made up a quorum of 25.
– According to Standing Order 216, a quorum in committee must consist of 25 members, exclusive of the chairman.
– I had to give my decision in accordance with the terms of the Constitution. There being 25 members present, I had no recourse but to rule that there was a quorum as provided for by the Constitution.
– Then do you regard Standing Order 216 as ultra vires of the Constitution ?
– I have not to rule that. It is a matter for the Chairman of Committees to decide if occasion arises.
Then further questions were put by the honorable member for Lang and the honorable member for Parramatta - then Mr., afterwards Sir Joseph Cook. Comment was made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon) that a standing order could not override the Constitution. The Speaker eventually said -
I consider that the final reference must always be to the Constitution - that it is the superior authority that binds all of us.
For the information of the honorable member for Hindmarsh let me say that that is the only ruling on the point he has raised, and unless I am prepared to override it, is the law that governs this Parliament. I wholly accept the view entertained by the then Speaker, who was a distinguished parliamentary disciplinarian and authority, and I am not prepared to overrule his decision. It would appear from Standing Order 216 that a larger quorum is necessary in committee than in the House, but I refuse to regard that as the meaning, on a fair interpretation, of section 39 of the Constitution. I say that until Parliament otherwise provides, or until the Speaker rules differently from Mr. Speaker Holder, a quorum is 25 members; in committee inclusive of the chairman, and in the House inclusive of the Speaker.
– Would it be competent for the House to resolve itself into committee seeing that there is not present the quorum required by the Standing Order.
– I have no official information of the number of members who were present when the committee was counted by the Chairman, but the House is at liberty at any time when it is qualified to function, as it is now, to resolve itself into committee of the whole. If it is found, when the committee sits, that there is not a quorum present, the Standing Orders are clear; the Chairman must report the fact to the House, and then the House deals with the matter again. It is not necessary to have a special resolution for the House to resolve itself into committee of the whole, as the Chairman of Committees left the Chair for a special purpose, and he will now resume it.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to point out that the situation has not altered since you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, reported that there was not a quorum present in committee.
– But it has. At least three more members have come into the chamber.
– In the circumstances I shall not press my point of order. I hope that Ministers will realize the injustice that, has been done to officers who are required to do duties of a higher grade than those for which they are classified. I have already brought under notice a case in which an officer has been doing work as a temporary employee in the third grade, and has not received the remuneration due to him. Men engaged temporarily as telegraph linesmen should not be denied continuity of work and the allowances due to them. When senior positions are being filled, such as those of acting line inspectors, senior linesmen, and acting lines foremen, permanent and not temporary officers should be appointed. Officers in the Postal Department have been seriously affected by the recent determination of the Government. Let the Administration act fairly towards those employees who have rendered good and faithful service to the Commonwealth. Even at this unearthly hour honorable members should enter an emphatic protest against members of the Public Service being deprived of their privileges through the tyranny of an ungenerous board. Further remarks that I have to make concerning the relation of the reclassification to other branches of the Commonwealth Service will be reserved until a later date.
– Under “ Overseas mails “ in Division 112 is an item of £130,000 for the conveyance of mails by the Orient Steamship Company. If some of the mails are carried by the Commonwealth Government’s “ Bay “ liners, should not a deduction be made from the contract price ?
– The contract is made from year to year, and it is, of course, open to the Government at any time to consider whether or not its terms should be varied. As far as possible, the Government is availing itself of the services of the vessels of the Commonwealth GovernmentLine, and the matter mentioned by the honorable member will be borne in mind when the renewal of the contract is. under consideration.
– Recently I asked the Prime Minister for some information respecting the Braybrook wireless transmitting station, and was informed that on the 8th October that station will be ready to transmit messages and entertainments. The Braybrook station is under the control of three firms in Melbourne and one in Sydney. We, on this side, object to any private concern having the control of wireless communication, as we believe that, like our telephone system, this service should remain in the hands of the Government.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the Government should provide musical and other programmes?
– If theatrical people and others are desirous of having their programmes transmitted throughout the country, there is no reason why the Government should not make the necessary arrangements. If we followed the example of the British Government, private enterprise would not be allowed to take hold of this public utility.
– Wireless communication in Great Britain is in the hands of private concerns, except so far as longdistance wireless to the dominions is concerned.
– I believe that, notwithstanding theslight variation by the late Government, successive British Governments have insisted that, so far as Empire wireless was concerned, it should remain in the hands of the state. Even now, the British Government retains the right to compulsorily acquire any private plant. I have been informed on good authority that it is possible for the Braybrook station to transmit messages at the present time. The plant there is about three times as powerful as that at the a’Beckettstreet station; but it is stated that the company is withholding the transmission of concert programmes and other entertainments until such time as it is possible for a large number of receiving sets to be imported. I hope that the Prime Minister will see that the Braybrook station commences transmission at as early a date as possible, so that those people who have obtained receiving sets, and have paid their licence fees, may get some return for the money they have expended. I should like the Minister to say whether Amalgamated Wireless Limited will receive any royalties from the Braybrook station, and,” if so, whether the Government will participate in them. Apart from its possession of the Marconi patents, Amalgamated Wireless Limited is a big manufacturer of broadcasting and receiving sets. Some powerful influence seems to have been at work to cause regulations in favour of long wave lengths to be adopted in Australia. This is the only countryin the world to adopt such long wave lengths for general broadcasting. I believe that time will prove that the Government acted unwisely in permitting private companies to control wireless communication in Australia. I have great faith in the future of this means of communication, and believe that, together with the telephone system, it will continue to grow in popularity, and that it will be of great benefit to the people outback. If only because of the possibility of wireless transmission making rural life more attractive, I consider that the Government should retain control.
– It may have been gathered by some honorable members that I take more than a passing interest in the subject of wireless. 1 dd not pretend to bring to bear upon it more than ordinary and average intelligence and .information, but it is of such grave importance to the Commonwealth that I think it would be superfluous for me to offer an apology for saying a few words more under cover of the motion now before the Chair. I should like to ask the Prime Minister what this sum of £47,200 represents. Does it represent a further payment of our share capital, Otis it part of the debit that the Commonwealth has to carry, like the old man of tha sea, by virtue of the agreement that was made in 1922, broken by the Amalgamated Wireless Company, and repaired by grace of the Commonwealth in 1924. To me it is intolerable that my remarks should be heard by such a small number of members of the committee. It is only 2 a.m. ! I call attention to the state of the committee.
The bells having been rung -
– A quorum is present.
– I challenge the accuracy of that statement. May I ask how many honorable members are present?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Twentyfive.
– Including yourself?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Yes.
– I contend that that number is insufficient to form a quorum. May I inquire on what grounds you base your decision ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Section 39 of the Constitution Act provides that. “ one-third of the whole number of the members of the House of Representatives “ shall constitute a quorum.
– Section 39 of the Constitution provides that -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the presence of at least one-third of the whole number of the members of the House of Representatives shall be necessary to constitute a meeting of the House for the exercise of its powers.
Standing Order 216 provides that -
The Quorum in Committee of the Whole shall consist of the same number of Members, exclusive of the Chairman, as shall be requisite to form a Quorum of the House.
I ask you, first, how you propose to get over that declaration ? You will notice that section 39 of the Constitution provides for a “ meeting of the House.” I should like your ruling on that aspect of the case.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Batman will remember that a few moments ago, when I quoted section 39 of the Constitution, I pointed out that it said that “ at least one-third of the whole number of the members of the House of Representatives “ shall constitute a quorum. I declared, after counting them, that 25 members were present, and that number constitutes a quorum.
– I bow submissively to you, sir ; but I must raise a further point. I submit that 25 is not one-third of 76, and there are 76 members of the House.
– The honorable member is wrong there. He has included the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– I shall deal with that interjection in a moment. I do not want to be too positive about it; but I should say that one-third of 76 is 25$. It has been argued that that means 26 ; but I do not insist on that. I say it means what it says - 25J. Twenty-five members and one-third will satisfy me; but nothing less will. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson)–
– The honorable member for Batman must address his remarks to the Chair.
– I am doing so, and am countering something that was said by the honorable member for Bass. I was about to remark that, .with a display of erudition which has not previously been noted, he claimed that the honorable member for the Northern Territory did not count. I am not unfamiliar with the provisions of the Northern Territory Representation Act. That act must be read very strictly, because it limits the rights, and, in some respects, does so very arbitrarily, of the honorable member for the Northern Territory. But it does not limit the rights of honorable members of this House other than the honorable’ member for the Northern Territory, and in his case, only to the extent expressly stated. I refer you, in order to show that I am perfectly candid and desirous of assisting in carrying on the business of the committee in an orderly and expeditious manner, to section 5 of that act,which says -
Territory shall not be entitled to vote on any question arising in the House of Representatives.
The relevant sub-sections, 2 and 4, although they expressly relate to the constitution of the House, make no reference to the constitution of the committee, which is in a certain sense a subordinate body to which the House delegates certain detailed work. I submit that this act, which seeks to limit the rights of a member of this Parliament - unquestionably the member for the Northern Territory is a member of the House - does not relate to the constitution of the committee, and could not do so unless that was expressly stated. That brings me back to my original contention that the House consists of 76 members, and that 251/3 members are requisite to form a quorum.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN. Although sub sections 2 and 4 of section 5 of the Northern Territory Representation Act do not mention the committee, it is distinctly implied that “ member of the House “ must mean also “ member of the committee.” In other words, the lesser is included in the greater. Therefore, the point of order raised by the honorable member for Batman is not sustained.
– I must again bow to your ruling, and proceed with my remarks on wireless.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, ?143,921.
.. - I desire to bring under the notice of the Government an injustice that has been done to a worthy servant of the Health Department, I refer to Miss P. Lawlor, the matron of a hospital in the Federal Capital Territory. Some time ago a serious epidemic of influenza occurred in the Territory, and a very heavy strain was placed upon the medical and nursing staff. The visiting medical officer, Dr. Stoker, received a gratuity of ?50 for the services he rendered at the time;but the matron, who had the greater responsibility of controlling the hospital and caring for the inmates, and who, when stricken with influenza,left her bed prematurely in order to continue her ministering duties, working night and day, was not included amongst those who received special recognition for the extra work they performed. As Dr. Stoker received ?50 in recognition of his services, it is only fair that the matron of the hospital, who rendered far greater service, should receive some reward. She applied to the department for special consideration, but was informed that the work she performed during the epidemic was within the terms of her engagement. I do not think that itwas originally contemplated that such duties should be included in her engagement, and I ask the Minister for Health to give this case his personal attention
– We on this side of the House appreciate the fact that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, have repeatedly emphasized the importance of national health, and if you can succeed in convincing the Government to view this subject as you yourself view it, as a result of your long experience, you will have done something to justify your existence and your conversion from an excellent surgeon to a politician. We expected that with two such distinguished members of the medical profession as yourself and the Treasurer in this Parliament, the matter of health would become one of importance; but, like yourself, I am disappointed that the Government has not increased the vote thisyear to any great extent. I hope that the Government will take your advice, and even now substantially increase it. The extra vote now proposed by the Government will not go far to extend the work carried out in the past. I suggest that the Government set aside annually a certain sum of money to provide bursaries and scholarships to enable the children of poor parents to enter upon professional careers. We know that the states are doing something in that direction at present. Some of them have a bursary system under which the most brilliant “of our boys and girls whose parents are unable to afford to send them to high schools may be there educated. There are grave defects in that system. It is inadequate, because it is limited to a few. I have been a teacher, and I know something of the circumstances. Boys and girls are selected because of their superior ability and because their parents cannot afford to educate them. They are granted bursaries, which give them four years’ education at a high school. When that is completed, their parents are often compelled, because of their poor circumstances, to send them to work, and the students are, therefore, unable to complete their education at the university. That applies particularly to children of fairly large families, the older members of which are compelled to work to support the younger children. Quite a number of such cases have come under my notice. I suggest that the Commonwealth set aside a large sum of money each year to supplement the bursaries given by the different states. The students can then be trained in the different sciences connectedwith our various industries as well as medicine. The scheme would be similar to that under which the lads are trained at the Jervis Bay College. The children would enter a bond to serve the Commonwealth for a certain number of years at a stipulated salary. The Commonwealth would then have at its disposal the services of a number of professional men skilled in all branches of science. This would be of great advantage to this country. Of course, we look forward to the day when we shall have our own university at Canberra; but until that time we can work in conjunction with the states. Research work in the different sciences has been entirely neglected, because the time of our scientists is usually occupied in making a living for themlelves. Imagine the number of scientists who could beengaged under this system on research work connected with the problems confronting us in the Northern Territory and New Guinea! These will remain with us for a long time. Under the scheme that I have suggested a great many men would be engaged in the study of such problems at very small cost to the Commonwealth. The scheme would be different from that at Jervis Bay, because lads are trained at the naval college irrespective of their parents’ financial circumstances. Under this scheme bursaries would be available to the children only of parents who could not afford to give them a professional education. My experience amongst schools is that comparatively poor children have as much ability as others who are born in much better circumstances. I ask the Government to give serious consideration to such a scheme as I have outlined.
– The honorable member forgets that many university graduates find it difficult to obtain a position.
– It is being continually stated that too many students are taking the medical course. Just after the war there was a phenomenal number of medical students at the- universities, and it seems remarkable that although the medical profession is supposed to be overcrowded, the man on the basic wage, who requires medical assistance, cannot obtain the services of a medical practitioner at a lower fee than that prevailing before the war.
– The medical fee should have increased in accordance with the cost of living.
– It has increased.
– My experience has been otherwise.
– Health being a matter of national importance, I should like to see the services of medical men made available at a much cheaper rate than that now charged for them. I am well aware that many members of the medical profession remit fees to persons who are in poor circumstances, but the cost of operations is far too high for persons on the basic wage. A just cause of complaint is the monopoly of careers secured to those students whose parents are an a position to pay for their higher education. I am sure that nobody who has read of the remarkable career of Professor John Hunter, of Sydney, will doubt that in all branches of science Australians are equal in ability to the people of any nation. As soon as Professor Hunter had finished his university course he was lecturing to the professors and eminent surgeons in Sydney. He was almost immediately made professor of anatomy at the Sydney University, and he has now had the honour conferred upon him of delivering what is regarded as the most important medical address given annually in the United States of America. I compliment you, sir, on the emphasis which you have placed on the subject of public health.
– Following on the speeches of yourself, sir, and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), on the subject of public health, I promised to indicate the attitude of the Government in regard to it. The Government wishes to emphasize the fact that’ it has always recognized the importance of this matter, and especially the. importance of prophylactics and preventative measures. It is recognized that health problems cannot be separated by federal and state boundaries, and that .the whole machinery for dealing with them must be provided for by some properly coordinated scheme which takes into consideration the part that should be played by local-governing, state, and federal authorities. Let me consider, for instance, the very. real problems that are arising in connexion with the settlement of the Murray Valley, which runs through three states. This area is being densely settled, and the prevention of the pollution of the surface waters is under the, control of three different health authorities, without any attempt being made at coordination. Unless a proper policy of public health is adopted, we may see in the Murray River settlements outbreaks of the most virulent epidemics imaginable. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in May, 1923, the Commonwealth Government raised this subject, and suggested that the states should join with the Commonwealth in the appointment of a royal commission to thoroughly investigate public health administration with a view to determining and co-ordinating the sphere of action of the local-governing authorities, the medical profession, and the state and the federal authorities, and to consider especially how the funds provided throughout Australia could be most economically and efficiently used. Unfortunately, however, the suggestion of this Government met with a cold reception. It was evident from the speeches of the state Ministers that they imagined that some inroad was being attempted on state activities. The matter was discussed at length, and finally the State Premiers agreed to meet the wishes of the. Commonwealth Government to the. extent that, instead of supporting the suggestion for a royal commission, they consented to a conference of the various public health officers of the states and the Commonwealth. For a considerable period an effort was made to convene such a conference, but in November of that year it was found that the State of Queensland would not permit its medical officer of health to attend, and finally the idea had to be abandoned. The Government has written to the various state authorities suggesting the appointment of a royal commission, and asking them to nominate representatives, so that an examination of the whole field may be made, especially for the purpose of preventing duplication of effort. Following upon a motion I submitted at the Australian Medical Congress, in 1920, the Commonwealth Government adopted a policy for the establishment of laboratories in country centres. This resulted in a further duplication of federal and state activities, and, consequently, the Commonwealth Government has decided to wait until the proposed royal commission lays down the lines on which each Government shall proceed. It is proposed that the commission shall inquire into the relationship of health administration to other activities of government, the extent to which medical research is necessary in the interests of public health, the distribution of responsibility as between Commonwealth and the states which would give the most efficient public health system, and the de- sirability, in the interests of efficiency, of decentralized public health administration. But, especially is the commission to be asked to deal with the matter which was stressed by the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), and the honorable member for Darling - the treatment and prevention of venereal disease. At the present time, owing to the initiative of the Commonwealth Government during the war years, there is a certain amount of co-operation in regard to this disease, but unfortunately only five out of the six states have been willing to .co-operate with the Commonwealth, even to the point of accepting the money it is willing to advance. The royal commission will be asked to investigate the subject of venereal disease, and, as soon as its recommendations are available, the Government will put them into effect as far as possible. If Parliament is not sitting at the time, it will endeavour to make the necessary financial provision to bring about an amelioration of the conditions under which disease is now being treated. As the honorable member for Calare pointed out, the Government recognizes the enormous toll of health and life that various diseases are taking to the detriment of present and future generations. This Government has made a beginning towards the establishment of a federal scheme of cancer research. The sum of £5,000, which has been placed on the Estimates this year, will prove sufficient for the preliminary work. After that work has been done, it will probably be necessary to augment the amount very considerably.
– I again take the opportunity of expressing my regret and disappointment at the failure of the Government to make adequate provision for the nation’s health. The amount made available for this year is £124,480, or £2.494 more than last year’s vote. That sum is altogether inadequate. By the appointment of a royal commission to deal with this important question, the Government is shirking its responsibility. The result will probably be that, after the expenditure of a considerable sum of money, the Government will fail to take any action to give effect to the commission’s recommendations. By insuring the health and vigour of the nation, we shall do a great deal for our defence. To spend money in research work in connexion with cancer, venereal disease, and tuberculosis is better than to spend it on research work in the hope of finding a poisonous gas for the destruction of life.
– The sum of £15,000 is provided in these Estimates for the treatment of venereal disease.
– I am aware of that, but the amount is totally inadequate. Even in time of peace we have an army council it is still more necessary that we should have a health council. But the Government is more concerned with convening conferences of its naval and military chiefs, and with the designing and improving of means to destroy life, than in convening conferences of health experts to devise means to prevent loss of life and to lessen the infantile mortality in our midst. When the Health Department Estimates were under review, last year, the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) was not present with us. I endeavoured then to draw attention to the various diseases which were working such havoc among our people, but did not receive a great deal of support. I tried to get the Prime Minister to agree to a substantial contribution to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Some months later the right honorable gentleman replied that the Government could net see its way clear to contribute. I consider that greater good would result from a contribution to that fund than from the expenditure of a few thousand pounds on this research work in the Commonwealth.
– Would the honorable member prefer that we should subscribe to that fund rather than to the Sydney University Cancer Fund ?
– We should subscribe to both funds. The Imperial Cancer Research Fund was established bv contributions from all portions of the Empire, with a view to making a great combined effort to ascertain the cause and cure of cancer.
– The money voted by the Government is being devoted to the federal fund only.
– The amount is not sufficient to cope with a disease that is taking its toll of 5,000 lives annually in Australia.
– It is adequate for the initial preparations this year.
– If £50,000 were made available, it would not be too much. In 1919, there was an epidemic of influenza in Australia which caused the loss of 11,000 lives. At that time the Health Department could, not do enough to restrict the area of infection, and . every step possible was taken to minimize the risk. No expense was spared to deal with that outbreak. If we had an outbreak of bubonic plague, the federal health’ authorities would make every effort to control it. But nothing is done to deal with the three dread diseases - the red plague, the white plague, and cancer, which are responsible for the loss of many thousands of lives each year. The honorable member for Calare, in making known some important figures relating to , national health, has rendered a great service to the community. Of 386,000 men who were examined for service in the Australian Imperial Forces, 33.9 were unfit. Of the single men between 21 and 30 years of age who were called up under the home defence scheme, 51.1 per cent. were fit, and 48.9 per cent. unfit. Those figures reveal a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. Instead of making available for the protection and the improvement of the public health the miserable sum of £124,000, we should provide an amount three or four times greater. Of the amount now made available, 75 per cent. will be absorbed in administration expenses, leaving a very small amount for research work.
– The honorable member should remember that the department administers the Quarantine Act.
– I realize that. If it is the duty of the Federal- Government to train men to defend the country, it is equally its duty to see that we have a healthy race of men whose services can be utilized in any emergency. I hope that the Government will realize the importance of this matter and will pay attention to the representations made by the honorable member for Calare. Last year, I urged that the expenditure on health in the Northern Territory should be shown separately from the expenditure in Queensland, but this year they are again given in a lump sum. Honorable members should be able to ascertain the amount spent in connexion with health matters in the Northern Territory, which is solely under the control of the Commonwealth. I hope that the Government will make available a sufficient sum of money not only to enable venereal disease to be stamped out, but also to permit of research work in connexion with cancer and tuberculosis. The more we realize the importance of the national health the better will be our position from a defence point of view.
.As a layman, I am at a loss to understand the necessity for a royal commission to inquire into the incidence of venereal and other diseases when the Commonwealth is able to draw upon the results of research work undertaken by experts throughout the world. Most of the older countries of Europe have made exhaustive inquiries in regard to disease, and in the United States of America much has been done in that direction. Our immediate task is to make provision for the prevention of disease. I should like to see a larger sum provided for research work in relation to cancer and tuberculosis. In every one of our hospitals we have a commission in the form of perpetual medical research. The prevention and cure of disease should be our first concern. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) has referred to the high infantile mortality rate and the ravages of tuberculosis and other diseases to which so many succumb. In addition to spending money to prevent and cure disease, every effort should be exerted by the Government to co-ordinate the efforts of the State Governments.
– That is what we are trying to do.
– And how will a royal commission assist to that end?
– We have tried every other means.
– The people of Australia to-day are clamouring for an extension of federal powers. We are trammeled by the ridiculous limitations of our Constitution.
– Most health matters can be better handled by a local than a central authority.
– That is a matter of opinion. I agree that it may be advisable to deal with many health matters on the spot; but it cannot be disputed that confusion and inefficiency result from the present want of co-ordination. Disease knows neither state nor municipal boundary. We could have local health authorities and yet have national control. Co-ordination would save a lot of money, and avoid much duplication. The people are tired of the duplication, not only of health services, but also of other governmental activities. I do not wish to argue the need for broadening our Constitution, but every one must admit that the federal power in regard to health administration needs extending. I should like to see the Commonwealth issue an ultimatum to the states requiring them to come to a definite decision one way or the other. If they are not prepared to hand over a larger power of health administration to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth should not accept such a large share of responsibility. That would force the states to allow the Commonwealth more administrative power. I should like the Treasurer to explain how a royal commission will materially increase our knowledge of disease. The infantile death-rate and the appalling figures quoted by you, Mr. Temporary Chairman (Sir Neville Howse) the other night about the deaths of women in childbirth, are of great national concern. We are spending enormous sums of money upon immigration, and I feel tempted to repeat again that hackneyed phrase, “ The baby is our best immigrant.” If more attention were given to the provision of clinics and hospital treatment, better results would be obtained.
Proposed vote agreed to. miscellaneous Services.
Proposed vote. £3,066,433.
.I wish to refer briefly to the item of £137,697 for “Payment to the Central Wool Committee in respect of wool supplied for local manufacture of wooltops.” The circumstances of that payment have been debated very fully. Members of the Opposition have expressed their views in speeches and votes. I do not propose to go over the ground again, but members of the Opposition cannot vote for this item.,’ I therefore move -
Thatin Division 128 the item “ Payment to Central Wool Committee in respect of wool supplied for local manufacture of wooltops, £137,697” be omitted.
– I agree with the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) that this matter has been thrashed out to the last detail. I appreciate his point of view. Members of the Opposition have made it quite clear that they object to the payment, and desire to record a vote against it. I shall follow the example of the honorable gentleman by not debating: the item.
.- The Prime Minister should, at all events, state whether he has ascertained the destination of this money. Will the British Government get half of the amount, as it did on the previous occasion ? If that information is not due tomembers of the Opposition, it is due to supporters of the Government, of whom a majority are opposed to half the money going to the British Government, whichhas never made a claim for it.
– We are not dealing with the British Government.
– We are asked to agree to the payment of £137,697.
– But not to the British Government.
– The honorable member cannot escape his responsibilities in that way. The British Government received half of the other payment of £137,000. The honorable member takes his duties very lightly - that is the kindest thing to say of him. He will, no doubt, tell the electors that he voted for this money to be paid to the wool-growers, but he has apparently never inquired where it will go. He knows quite well that the number of growers who will receive any benefit from it is extremely small. The great majority of the growers are not now associated with Bawra, their places having been taken by speculators. This claim was made in the days of the Wool Pool, before Bawra was formed, and when the growers would have derived some benefit from it. During the three years immediately before the formation of Bawra, the then Government resisted the claim, and for twelve months the present Government also resisted it; but when the small growers had left Bawra, and the speculators had taken their places, the Government decided to make the payment. When the honorable member for Indi and other members of the Country party tell their constituents that they supported the payment because it would benefit the wool-growers, they will be saying something that has no foundation in fact. No fewer than 53,000 woolgrowers were forced out of Bawra. No option was left to them. They received a notice saying that on a certain day they would be forced out.
They had no option; on a certain date they were pushed out. Small growers in the Indi electorate know that they will not benefit by this payment. Those who will benefit include the great pastoral companies that doubled their holdings in Bawra, when they ascertained that this payment was to be made by the Government. I leave it to honorable members representing country constituencies to say to what extent those companies represent the growers. Mr. Edmund Jowett holds, I understand, about 100,000 shares in Bawra, which, no doubt, include many of the shares formerly held by small men, who were forced out of the association. The Australian Land and Mortgage Company, and other great pastoral associations, do not represent the small growers. I venture to say that not one-tenth of the original growers will receive a penny of this money.
– That is quite Incorrect. I happen to be one of the original growers - a very small one.
– If that is so, I hope the honorable member will not vote on this item.
– I am interested to only an infinitesimal degree
– If the honorable member’s interest is even so small as he states, he would do wrong to vote on a matter in which he is financially interested. I hope that when a division is called for be will leave the chamber; if he does not, I shall ask the Chairman to rule whether p> member, holding shares in Bawra, is entitled to vote for a payment to that organization. The honorable member for Indi, also, may be an interested party. I still maintain that the bulk of the original wool-growers are not represented in Bawra.
– About 90 per cent, of them are.
– That is not so. About 120,000 wool-growers contributed to the pool, and the Prime Minister admitted that 53,000 of them had been forced out. Those figures dispose of the honorable member’s statement that 90 per cent, of the original growers are still in Bawra.
– Ninety per cent, of the shares still remain in the hand3 of the growers.
– The evidence in disproof of that statement is even more conclusive. Sir John Higgins stated that millions of pounds worth of the shares had changed hands in a few months.
– They were transferred from grower to grower.
– Unfortunately for the honorable members contention, we have evidence as to the persons to whom the shares were transferred. The Australian Estates and Mortgage Company increased its holding to 103,000 shares.
– That company is a grower.
– To what extent does it represent the small growers in the Indi electorate? When the honorable member for Indi is seeking the votes of the working farmers in his electorate he will refer to that company as their enemy.
– The electors of Indi did not want the honorable member’s twaddle.
– The honorable, member has only to record a few more -votes such as he has given during the last few days, and there will be another change in the representation of Indi. He will never be able to explain to his constituents his attitude in regard to this payment, or convince the growers that he put up a fight for their interests when he consented to half of the amount paid to Bawra being passed on to the British Government, -which never asked for the money. The interests of the big companies are diametrically opposed to those of the small growers. The people who are benefiting by this payment are the speculators and enemies of the small growers.
– Some of the companies are largely co-operative.
– That I have mentioned is not. Honorable members may say that this money is to be paid to the growers, but the fact is that when Bawra was formed, 53,000 of the small men were kicked out.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that they were, bought out.
– And were glad to getout.
– They were not given an opportunity to say whether they would go out or not. About the time’ when the Government agreed to make this payment which the previous Government had resisted, some of the wealthy speculators, who had inside knowledge of what was impending, doubled their holdings. That is one of the worst aspects of the case. Certain persons were informed that this payment was to be made, and they consequently increased their holdings, while others, who had not the benefit of inside knowledge, were forced out of the pool. The last vestige of argument that was left to the Government to justify this payment vanished when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) returned to Australia. The Government previously said that, in making this payment, it was honouring the promise made by the former Prime Minister of Australia, but, unfortunately for the Ministry, that gentleman denied that he made any such promise. A number of honorable members supporting the Government hold Bawra shares, and I do not think that they should vote on this matter. Thu honorable member for Gippsland (M.r. Paterson) reminded me that he is a shareholder. The. former Prime Minister made a promise that if the wool which had been pooled were shipped abroad, and any profit were made on it over and above the appraised price, the woolgrowers would get a share of it. There would have been every justification for sharing the profits with the original wool-growers, 53.Q00 of whom were forced out of the pool. But the British Government has made no claim for any share of the profits on wooltops manufactured in Australia for export, and it will be a crime against this country, and particularly against the wool-grower, if any portion of this money is paid to that Government. No honorable member can possibly justify this payment unless he has some understanding from the Prime Minister respecting its destination. If such an understanding is not given, we shall have to challenge the votes of honorable members who are shareholders in Bawra. If the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), knowing that half of the payment is to be made to Great Britain, votes with the Government, there will be a tale to be told in the Wangaratta newspaper different from that which appeared some time ago when, through its columns, his speech was made known to his constituents. They were told that he put up a great fight so that the wool-growers might get what they were entitled to from this payment; but they will now be told that the honorable member for Indi made no protest against the payment, although he knew that half of the money was to go to the British Government. He also failed to protest against the small wool-growers being forced out of Bawra. It is clear that this payment will affect only a small section of the original shareholders. I ask your ruling, Mr. Chairman, whether any member of this committee who is a shareholder in Bawra has a. right to vote on this payment.
– Until that matter comes up for discussion under a specific item, I do not intend to take any notice of the point of order raised by the honorable member for Hume.
– It seems to be suggested by honorable members in the Corner that they, and indeed the committee generally, are not concerned with the ultimate destination of this money. The Prime Minister has taken it as accepted and proved that morally, at all events, the Commonwealth was under an obligation to pay this money to Bawra. I do not think that he has ever seriously argued that the country was under any legal obligation to pay it. If the payment is being made in recognition of a moral obligation, and not because the Government is legally bound to make it, clearly the payment is in the nature of a gift, and being a gift of Commonwealth funds made by the trustees of the Commonwealth, it is our strict duty to inquire as to the ultimate destination of the money. If this were a debt owing to the growers, I should merely make the comment that it was a most suspicious fact that Bawra should have disgorged so substantial a part of it to the British Government; but since it is merely a gratuity, I say that it should not be paid until an undertaking was given that no part of it would be disbursed in that way. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has shown that very many of the persons it was originally intended to benefit will receive no advantage from the payment of this money as they are out of the picture, and the arguments strengthen that this amount of money should not.be voted, even to the present shareholders of Bawra. I realize that, as far as votes are concerned, no wealth of argument will affect the position. Yet the duty of honorable members on this side is to record their protest against the payment at every stage. When Ministers, and the rest of us, go before our political masters, the electorates will be able to appreciate the fact that members on this side, at any rate, have been consistent in their opposition to what they consider a misuse of public funds. I cordially support the amendment.
– Before this second instalment of the Government’s tribute to its masters, the big capitalists of this country, is paid, we should again place on record our opposition to the wrongful taking of money from the public funds. The small grower has been made the stalking horse, but he practically is not concerned, since 53,000 of the original shareholders were pushed out of Bawra, willy-nilly, and have not received what they considered the fair market value for their shares. A former member of the Corner party,’ who is alleged to owe large sums in land tax, has holdings in Bawra which have approximately increased to the extent of the sum he is alleged to owein land tax. The holders of shares in Bawra who were early on the scene had information, in my opinion, which was not available to the public.
– This is the hour when ghosts walk:
– The Minister does not like us to raise the ghostsof the past. The accumulation of arrears of taxation is probably considered a matter sub judice since a “ dud” commission is now sitting.
– The honorable member should not make a reflection on a royal commission.
– I am reflecting on the Government that appointed the commission. I understand that in another Parliament the constitution of a royal commission now sitting has been openly discussed by members of the same political party as that of the right honorable gentleman. The Prime Minister endeavoured to camouflage the” position by saying that his great desire was to honour the promise of his late politically assassinated leader, who in turn promptly repudiated the suggestion that he wanted promises he might have made honoured by this Government, particularly considering that the Treasurer was responsible for his loss of political power. One can only describe the action of the Government as evidence of a lack of administrative ability.
– Would it not be better to say that the Government was cleaning up the mess left by other persons?
– Any person with a grievance can be satisfied if public money is used for the cleaning-up purpose. The “other” persons happened to be among the Minister’s own colleagues in this chamber. The honorable member always endeavoured to save them when a vote in connexion with any of their misdeeds was taken. I can understand the haste with which the present Prime Minister endeavoured to smother up this affair by paying out public money to appease those people. The loss to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth amounted to many millions. In a widely-circulated country journal, which has previously always supported these gentlemen, attention was drawn to the fact that in two payments alone over £500,000 was lost to Australia. The exPrime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) was driven from office through the instrumentality of the Leader of the Country party. The charge of being an accessory before the fact in relation to these payments therefore rests on him. I am tempted to repeat the well-known verse -
There was a young lady of Riga,
Who went for a ride on a tiger.
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And a smile on the face of the tiger.
– Order! It is not in order to quote doggerel in this chamber.
– The right honorable the Prime Minister himself established a precedent by quoting doggerel on one occasion.
– I did not.
– The last argument put forward for paying over this money was that it was to be paid to the growers of the wool. That would have been the only valid excuse for making this payment to Bawra, but it has been pointed out that a great many of the original growers were not in Bawra at the time when the money was paid over. Honorable members behind the Government state that the payment was made because of pressure from the British Government; but a perusal of the files shows that no such demand was made. If there was any method by which we could have tested the legality of this payment in the High Court of Australia, I believe that the court would have decided against the action taken by the Government and have granted an injunction restraining the Government from paying over this money. This is one of the worst examples of misappropriation of money that has occurred during the whole period of responsible government in Australia.
– My view is that Ministers could be impeached.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is a legal luminary whose light shines very brightly in the firmament of the profession in which he is placed. I am prepared to accept his opinion in face of all others. A great deal of indignation was shown iu this chamber in connexion with the subject of the payment. The Prime Minister suggested that because I said that presents were made to certain officers of the Crown by the Central Wool Committee, one of the directors of which was also the “ big wheel “ in Bawra, I did something which was improper. In view of the numberless decisions which have gone against the Government inconnexion with legal matters, I con’sider that the Government has been badly informed by its legal advisers. During the discussion the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) pertinently interjected that there were rumours that certain gentlemen who were called upon to give advice to the Government on this matter, and said that it would create “ good feeling,” had received presents from an organization of which Sir John Higgins was a member. Even if the work which the public servants referred to did was done with the permission of the Government, that does not lessen the offence in the slightest degree. When the Prime Min,ister was contending that no influence had been brought to bear on the head of the legal branch of the Commonwealth, the honorable member for South Sydney interposed that the present might at least have created a good feeling towards the organization in the mind of the officer concerned. The only person who could enlighten us in this ^matter is the gentleman himself. It is not for me, or for the Prime Minister, to say that he was, or was not, influenced. We can only state the facts, and leave the public to judge whether it was right that a paid officer of the Crown should receive payment for services rendered to outsiders, and afterwards interpret a promise made to those people involving £375,000. The Public Service regulations provide that a public servant is not allowed to work for outsiders. If this work was done for the Commonwealth, the officer concerned should have been paid by the Government for it, and should not have received an honorarium from’ the Central Wool Committee. It was entirely wrong for the officer to place himself in that position, especially when he was a highly-paid official who. acted practically in a judicial position. If his services were made available by the Government, he should have been paid by the Government, and not by the Central Wool Committee. The gentleman1 who received this present from the Central Wool Committee afterwards advised the Government to pay the money over, which was done. This action on the part of the Government shows the awful position into which the administration of the Commonwealth has fallen since a Labour Government was last in office and anti-Labour influence made itself felt in the government of the Commonwealth of Australia. Irregularities have arisen which no business man would tolerate for a moment in connexion with his affairs. No honorable gentleman on the other side would trust his legal adviser if he knew that that legal- adviser had received presents of money from an opposition source. The whole action was opposed to all the best traditions of British government and to the position which should be taken up by the legal advisers of the Commonwealth. I remind honorable members opposite, many of whom came into this chamber because of the dissatisfaction of the electors at the slavish following of the then Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) by some who were previously members of this chamber, that they are to-day slavishly following the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). Honorable members opposite do not look for even a reasonable excuse for supporting the Government. I do not suggest that the Prime Minister could give an excuse half as good as the right honorable gentleman who preceded him (Mr. W. M. Hughes) could give. He has not the wealth of political wisdom possessed by his predecessor, who, whatever his faults, could make the best of a bad job. The present Prime Minister does not seem to trouble, for he knows that his followers will support him in any. case. It is not that he cannot do better, but he realizes that it is not necessary to make the attempt. It is easy to convince any person of the righteousness of a proposal that will financially benefit him.
– The honorable member for Gippsland is one who will benefit.
– The honorable member for Gippsland, I have no doubt, will see more virtue in this payment if he benefits by it. If it was a grant to the Australian Workers Union or the Trades and Labour Council, he would not see half so much virtue in it.
– Does the fact that he has a few shares in Bawra make so much difference !
– It certainly appears to create a good feeling towards what is proposed. Politically, the Prime Minister should be complimented on the docility of his followers, for they are the most easily convinced “ responsible “ men I have ever met. The right honorable gentleman can convince them with any case that he cares to state. I am thankful that the matter will not end with the vote taken in this committee.. There is a wider field in which we can appeal to the men and women who were pushed out of Bawra and the taxpayers who have to find this money. We should not appeal to those that remained in Bawra and increased their holdings. Those that were turned out will now have to help to pay the schemers who took their places. I trust that the electors will look after their interests sufficiently at the next election to remove from office the Government which is responsible for these things.
– Mr. Chairman-
– I think we should have a quorum to listen to the Prime Minister. Only five of his supporters are present. [ Quorum formed.]
– I shall not delay the committee very long. Nothing has been said this morning that has not been saidmany times before. The only real difference between this and previous debates is that the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) has to-night made more unpleasant remarks and insinuations against responsible officers of the Public Service than he made previously. He is known so well, however, and has been heard so often on this subject, that one need not trouble to take any serious notice of him. Most of the statements made have been reiterations. Why have all these things been said again? The indications are that honorable members opposite will use the report of their speeches when they go before the electors. They imagine that when they are before the electors they will be able to obtain credit for themselves by distorting the facts. May I offer them a little advice? I have had to consider this question at very great length, and I know a lot about it. I am consequently fairly well able to judge how the caseagainst the Government should be presented, and I advise honorable members opposite to discard their own personal efforts, because they are of no value, and to fall back upon the case as presented by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). I assure them that he stated the case much better than they have done. I have sufficient knowledge of human nature to believe that my advice will not be taken, and that honorable members opposite will continue to feel quite sure that their feeble efforts are better than those of the honorable member for Yarra. Therefore, toprevent other honorable members from plunging into the ring and finding themselves committed to their own speeches and to relying on their own vanity, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Committee divided..
Majority … … 11
– The Prime Minister’s speech did not touch the merits of the question and gave no answer to the inquiry as to whether the Government has decided that the British Government is to receive half of this second payment to Bawra. Surely he owes to the country a statement as to the destination of this money. Have honorable members on the ministerial side no interest in the manner in which public money is paid out? If they have not, they will ask no questions, but the people whom they claim to represent will desire to know the meaning of their votes in this chamber. It is of vital importance to know whether £137,000 of the country’s money is to be paid to a government which has never made any claim to it. Apparently the Prime Minister does not consider that he owes any explanation to his supporters, and they are prepared to support him whether he is right or wrong.
– I rise to a point, of order. Before the amendment is taken to a division I desire you, sir, to rule whether any honorablemember who has a pecuniary interest in Bawra, and, therefore, in this proposed payment, will be entitled to vote? Standing Order 296 provides that a member shall not vote upon any matter in which he has a directpecuniary interest.
– That point of order was discussed at length on 23rd
August, 1923 - Hansard, vol. 105, page 3380 - when the Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) ruled that it was not the prerogative of the Chairman of Committees or the Speaker to decide whether or not a member should vote upon any question, that being a matter within the jurisdiction of the House or the committee. My personal opinion is that the interest of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) in the proposed payment to Bawra is not a “ direct pecuniary interest “ within the meaning of Standing Order 296, but it will be the prerogative of the committee to decide the issue if the vote of the honorable member is challenged.
Question - That item 15, Division 128, be omitted (Mr. Anstey’ s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 11
– I wish to refer to the coal industry under item “ Tribunals under the Industrial Peace Act,” Division 134. Since I dealt some weeks ago with certain disasters in the coal-fields, a new and a serious development has taken place. Had it not been for a merciful Providence, another mining disaster, involving the lives of 200 or 300 men, might, in all probability, have occurred a few days ago. That is a further argument for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire exhaustively into the whole of the conditions applying to the coal industry, with the object of making it compulsory for mine-owners to provide safety appliances and other essentials, so that the mines shall be worked as scientifically as possible. I wish to quote an article of news from Newcastle which was published in the Sydney newspapers. Industrial trouble was involved, and the proprietors of the mine gave notice- to the men to return to work at a certain time, which they refused to do. The article reads -
It is a good tiling, from one viewpoint, that the Borehole Colliery is idle, owing to the expiry of the proprietor’s notice to the men.
District Check Inspector, Mr. J. leeton, has submitted a report to the executive officers of the northern miners, which shows that on a recent inspection he found gas in the mine sufficient, had it been ignited by unlucky chance, to have blown hundreds of workers into eternity. “ We examined No. 10 rise district,” says the report, “ and found a volume of gas coming from five of third north slope; also No. 5 and third north slope, which fouled all working places in this district. “ We found the deputy, and he was immediately instructed to erect hurdles to dilute the gas in these places. Some time later we inspected this part, and found the hurdles had been erected. “ There is not sufficient supervision by those in charge in this district. There is ample ventilation to convey gas away if properly looked after. “ There is no shot firing on the day shift, otherwise the places would have been stopped.” “ We have previously drawn attention on more than one occasion,” said Mr. Hoare, president of the northern miners, to-day, “ to the fact that the obsolete oil safety lamps in use at this colliery have exploded. “ Fortunately none burst into flames on the day this gas was present, otherwise there would have been no one left to tell the tale. “ Iu all probability the mining experts would have attributed the appalling result to a cigarette butt.”
The miners have repeatedly called the mine-owners’ attention to the fact that obselete gas lamps used in that mine have frequently exploded, and it is very fortunate indeed that on this day an explosion did not take place. In the Bell Bird disaster, about twenty men were killed, and two bodies were left in the mine for six or eight months, until it was safe to break the seal that had been placed on the mine. That explosion occurred on a Saturday when only a” few men were in the mine. Had it occurred on an ordinary working day, 300 or 400 men would have been killed. An inquiry was held and the jury made the following statement. : -
That the evidence did not prove how the disaster occurred, and the jury, therefore, recommends that gentlemen of mining experience be appointed and vested with- the powers of a royal commission to ascertain the real cause thereof.
I urge the Prime Minister to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the conditions of the coal industry. Only the other day a royal commission was appointed to investigate certain charges that were made against a public servant of high standing. A royal commission on health is also” to be appointed. I admit these matters are important, but the importance of establishing the good name and integrity of a public servant cannot be compared with that of saving the lives of thousands of miners. Nearly every week mining disasters happen, the news of which shocks the nation. The Government of New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government granted an amount of £500 to aid “the widows and orphans of the men killed in the- Bell Bird disaster, but it would have been much better to spend £2,000 in appointing a royal commission, so (hat proper safety appliances might, as a result of its recommendations, be installed in the mines. If the tremendous sacrifice of miners ceased, because of the work of such a commission, any expenditure incurred on it would be not a loss, but a great saving to the Commonwealth. The jury that inquired into the Bell Bird disaster strongly recommended that a royal commission should be appointed to investigate mining conditions. Another article headed, “ A Sensational Report from Check Inspector Barnes,” was published in a Sydney newspaper. This man absolutely refused to enter one or two mines, because of the danger from gas. His report, dated 11th December, 1923, reads-
Having read the various requests made to the Government since the Bellbird disaster for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the disaster and the future working of the South Maitland coal-field regarding safety and best method of working the seam, and the Government having refused to grant a commission, I would like to make a statement of facts concerning the actual necessity for such commission.
Having had eleven years’ experience as district check inspector, nine years in the Newcastle district, two years in the Maitland field, and 30 years of practical coal-mining, I am of opinion that the conditions prevailing in the Maitland field and the modern necessity for additional clauses in the Cool Mines Regulation Act warrant the demanding of a royal commission. I venture to state that if it is not granted greater disasters than Bellbird are liable to occur in the near future.
Seeing that there are insufficient precautionary measures in operation to give the required protection to human life, though not pessimistic, I am of opinion such conditions exist in the Maitland field that at any time we might hear of one of the greatest disasters that has ever occurred in a coal mine.
Those are alarming statements by a man with practical knowledge. It is of vital importance to appoint a commission to consider the best means, to .adopt for the protection of human life, and the improvement of the conditions in the coalfields from the economic and humanitarian stand-points. I hope that the royal commission to be appointed on public health matters will be asked to take exhaustive evidence in regard to the obsolete oil lamps used in the mines to-day. There has been an alarming increase in the South Coast mines of miners’ nystagmus, and the hook-worm disease, owing to the absence of proper sanitation. It is often stated that the mining industry could not stand the additional economic burden that would be imposed upon it if more money had to be expended on the provision of safety appliances, rescue stations, and the improvement of the sanitary conditions. Let me point out that although the price charged by the coal vend is 21a. 9d. per ton at the sea-board, there is a state coal mine in New South Wales that is producing coal at 10s. 9d. a ton at the pit’s mouth, and also giving its employees a fortnight’s holiday with a free railway pass. I believe that that is the only mine in New South Wales that has adopted a sanitary system. I shall give some figures to show that the coal industry can afford to provide the improvements desired. Theminers’ representatives in the New South. Wales Parliament declare that inquiry will show that all coal could be produced at from 4s. to 5s. a ton less than the present price, while providing for propersupervision and safety appliances. Thecoal vend controls about 90 per cent, of the industry, and the commission should inquire why it is that coal costing 21s. 9d. a ton at the ship’s side at Newcastle costs 40s. a ton delivered to the manufacturers inSydney, and 60s. a ton when it reaches the small consumers. In 1916 the coal tribunal increased the miners’ wages to the extent of about £390,000. The owners immediately put up the price of coal from 12s. to 15s. a ton, which gave them an extra profit of £1,400,000, the net profit over the wages increase being £1,010,000. In 1917 the coal tribunal further increased the wages of the miners by approximately ls. 9d. a ton, and the coal-owners replied by putting up the price 2s. 9d. a ton, giving them a further profit of £500,000. In 1920 the coal tribunal gave the miners a further increase of approximately 17 per cent., which worked out at an increase of about 3s. a ton on the cost of production. To meet this the coal-owners put up the price of coal 4s. a ton, from 17s. 9d. to 21s. 9d. This gave an extra profit over and above additional cost of production occasioned by increases to the miners’ wages of £1,000,000 in 1916, £1,500,000 in 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1920, and £2,000,000 in 1921 and 1922. Prom 1916 to 1922 the mine-owners grabbed £11,000,000, extra profit. These figures only apply to profits made at the port of shipment, and do not cover the intermediate profits made by the distributing agents of the Coal Vend. A glance at the disclosed profits of the coal companies will verify them. The August issue of the Australian Investment Digest shows that the coal companies increased their profits 36.66 per cent. A coastal shipping company, with large interests in coal, furnishes a good example. Its original authorized capital was £780,000. In 1920 it re-valued its assets, including £561,000 in disclosed reserves, and it reconstructed as a £3,000,000 company, pre- senting its shareholders with three shares for every one held, without taking in one penny of new capital. In the three-year period succeeding the watering, this company paid equal to a return of 150 per cent, on its initial share capital. Another company controls an output of about 3,000,000 tons of coal per annum. Its profits for the five years from 1918 to 1922 totalled £1,718,009, or £200,000 more than its issued capital. Another company which, fourteen years ago, was registered with a nominal capital of £11,000, was reconstructed for the second time in 1920, when its books disclosed a surplus of £150,000. In 1920 it made its shareholders a present of six additional shares for every one held, and on this inflated capital it paid a dividend of 15 per cent., or 105 per cent, on its original capital. In the same year another company, when reconstructed, gave its shareholders four shares for every one held, and it paid a dividend of 8 per cent., or 42 per cent, on its original capital. In 1920 another company reconstructed with an authorized capital of £1,000,000. Its original, capital, in 1908, was £200,000. I am taking this action because I claim that these huge profits are made at the risk of the lives of the thousands” of men engaged in the industry. In the south coast district of Kew South “Wales, there are thousands of men who, because of miners’ nystagmus, are unable to do hard work, and are getting a mere pittance to support their affliction. A few weeks ago, two lives were lost in a coal mine in Victoria, and honorable members will recollect the awful disaster which occurred in Queensland some years ago. These dangers axe not confined to any one state, but exist in all the coal mines of the Commonwealth. Any tribunal to deal with this matter should be appointed by this national parliament. These men are asking only for justice. They do not seek favours. They are prepared to accept the verdict of any tribunal which may be appointed, because they know that their claims are just. Wo nation can afford to neglect this industry, as it is the foundation of many other industries. It is not right to ask men to work in mines under the existing conditions. Because I believe that this is a matter on which a vote should be taken, I intend to test the feeling of the committee. We have been told repeatedly that any attempt to alter the Estimates in any way is equivalent to a vote of no-confidence in the Government. I have no desire to move a vote of no-confidence, but consider that this is a matter which should be decided on its merits, and without any political bias. I believe that if honorable members would look at this question fairly and honestly, the sound judgment of this Committee would grant a royal commission to inquire into jit. With the view to rendering the operations of the Industrial Peace Act more effective, I move -
That in division 134 the item £3,000 (AttorneyGeneral’s Department) tie reduced by £1.
I submit this amendment as an instruction to the Government to appoint a royal commission to exhaustively inquire into the coal industry, having particular reference to conditions of labour, the safe and efficient working of the mines, and a comparison of the cost of production with the retail price of coal.
– I think that all honorable members appreciate the motive that has prompted the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) to take this action, but I suggest that it will not accomplish what he desires. As the honorable member knows, matters respecting safety in mines, and legislation in relation to mining generally, are under the control of the State Parliaments. , If the Commonwealth Government were to say that it proposed to appoint a royal commission to inquire into a matter which is really one for the states, we should immediately antagonize the states who, with a considerable measure of justice, would claim that we were usurping their powers and interfering in matters over which they had complete control.
– The Industrial Peace Tribunal overrides the states now.
– That tribunal deals with only one phase of the question. The Commonwealth has its arbitration courts, and enjoys the right to determine some of the conditions under which men shall work; but the Commonwealth has not the right to legislate for safety in mines, or to deal with the questions involved in the major part of the honorable member’s amendment. If the honorable member will consider the matter, he will agree that any such action as he proposes on the part of the Commonwealth would be resented by the states. A conference of state Premiers is to be held in the near future, and I suggest to the honorable member that the best way for him to accomplish his object is to have representations made to that conference, with a view to a commission of the character indicated by him being appointed. Whatever sympathy the Commonwealth Government may have with the object sought by the honorable member, it is quite clear that the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into matters which are under the sole jurisdiction of the states would not only fail to accomplish his object, but would very likely antagonize the states, and make it less likely that they would take action along the lines indicated by him.
A royal commission is about to be appointed to bring about co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the states in regard to health matters, and to prevent duplication and overlapping. That commission will have to consider the vital question of the health of the people of Australia as a whole. I can imagine no subject in connexion with that inquiry which will be of greater importance than that of industrial health. When the reference to that commission is framed, it will undoubtedly embody the consideration of questions affecting industrial health. A royal commission on insurance has already taken a great deal of evidence in regard to the subject. Obviously, any scheme of national insurance would be dependent on the statistics obtainable in relation to industrial health generally. When the report of that commission is presented, we shall probably find that it will contain a great deal of information in connexion with this question. I trust that the honorable member will not press for a vote to be taken. To do so would not advantage the case he has so much at heart. It would be better to try to get the matter considered by the State Premiers when they next meet in conference.
Question - That the amount of division 134 “ Tribunals under the Industrial Peace Act, £3,000” (Mr. Lazzarini’s amendment) be reduced by £1 - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I hope the Treasurer will take care in the coming financial year that none of the £1,500,000 advanced to the Treasurer is used to satisfy claims such as the payment of £137,697 to Bawra. I do not think that Parliament ever intended the Treasurer’s Advance to be used to meet such claims.
– I desire to address the committee briefly on the item, “Cotton Research, £1,000.” As the representative of the electorate that grows more cotton than any other electorate in Australia, the item is of great importance to me, even if it is not important to the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister would give more consideration to members, he would not have them discussing such subjects as this at this hour of the morning. He looks displeased, but I am not here to please him, but to state my views, and I put the case for the cottongrowers. The amount provided for research should be increased to about £20,000. As the cotton industry is still in its infancy, a lot of research work will have to be done to discover means for combating pests. This is not only a Queensland, but an Australian question, and I want the Commonwealth Government to be generous in its grants for the fostering of the industry. There are certain parts of Australia other than Queensland, notably the Northern Territory, that are suitable for growing cotton, which, as it is a dry weather crop, may be grown there evenbetter than in other parts of Australia. Any assistance that the Government can give in co-operation with the states to carry out research work should be given willingly. The Government should be prepared not only to assist in the growing of cotton, but also to encouragement of the establishment of cotton-spinning and weaving mills. It could assist the secondary part of the industry by providing adequate tariff protection.
– Has the honorable member read the report of the conference of representatives of the Commonwealth and the states held about a week ago ?
– Yes, and I believe that it will do much for the cotton industry, because it will result in the cotton-growers getting control of the industry and purchasing the plant now owned by the Australian Cotton Growing Association..
– The conference did not deal merely with the question of ginning plants, but it laid down a basis for doing all the things that the honorable member suggests should be done.
– That is contingent upon the Commonwealth Government doing its part. I want the Government to treat the industry generously, particularly in the matter of providing substantial grants for experimental plots and other research work. The possibilities of cottongrowing in Australia, particularly in
Queensland, are very great. The people engaged in the industry in that state are proudly endeavouring to do their part to make the Empire independent of outside supplies of cotton. The factors operating against supplies being obtained from outside the Empire are such to-day as to give Queensland a unique opportunity to establish a new and important Australian industry. The Queensland Government has not been slow to realizethis, and in 1919 it decided to guarantee a price of 51/2d. per lb. for raw cotton. That involved a risk for the Government. I admit that the Commonwealth guaranteed to pay half of any loss that might be incurred in guaranteeing a price of 5d. per lb. in 1923-24 and 1924-25, and of 41/2d. per lb. in 1925-26. The Commonwealth has refused to pay the loss of £22,000 incurred in the 1922-23 season. In Queensland alone there is an area of approximately 50,000,000 acres suitable for cotton-growing, and the climate has been demonstrated to be eminently suitable. Manufacturers in Great Britain pay approximately £200,000,000 annually to other countries for raw cotton. Of that sum approximately £150,000,000 goes to America, £30,000,000 to Japan, and the balance to India and other countries. There is every prospect of Australia being able to obtain a large share of that £200,000,000. It is worthy of note that while the output of raw cotton in the world, particularly in America, is decreasing, the demand for cotton is increasing. The Mexican bell weevil destroyed 35 per cent. of the American crop last year, and the area now affected is 85 per cent. of the total cotton-growing land. As a result, America requires all her raw cotton to keep her own spindles working. We in Australia should be thankful that we are not afflicted with the pests that have ravaged the cotton-fields of America. This isan island continent, and if the Commonwealth and states co-operate in assisting the industry in its initial stages, I believe it will become the second greatest industry in Australia. Queensland is growing 90 per cent. of Australia’s cotton crop, and I believe it will continue to grow that high percentage. In 1919, when the Queensland Government first guaranteed a price, the total value of the crop was only £853. Last year, in spite of the very severe drought, the value of the crop was £256,579, and next year, if the growers are fortunate, its valuewill reach about £1,000,000. If production is increased at the rate of £1,000,000 a year, the industry will become a most important one to Australia in a few years. It is essential that the cotton-growers should realize the advisability of co-operatively controlling the ginneries. Although the Australian Cotton-growing Association did, in the initial stages of the industry, give it a great impetus by putting money into it, I am afraid that if the association is allowed to retain control after the expiration of the present agreement, it will became in the cotton industry what the Colonial Sugar Refining monopoly was in the sugar industry. That is why I am pleased to note that as a result of the recent cotton conference in Melbourne, which was attended by representatives of the Federal Government, the State Governments, and the cotton-growers of Queensland, a tentative policy was formulated to give the growers representation on the board of directors of the Cotton-growing Association, with a view to their purchasing the whole of the plant now owned by the association. I stand for the co-operative control and ownership of the industry by the farmers. I am glad that the difficulties placed in the way of the growers by the legislation prohibiting the growing of ratoon cotton has been removed sufficiently to enable them to grow that cotton for one ratoon crop at least. In districts where we have not a reliable and consistent rainfall it is difficult, and in some cases well nigh impossible to grow annual crops. Because of the uncertainty of the weather, the growers cannot depend on getting a “ strike “ every year. Therefore, I must support the growing of ratoon cotton, and I hope that, with the amending legislation passed by the Queensland Parliament and the co-operation of the Commonwealth in research work and in other ways, the industry will become, with the zealous work of the farmers, in a few years, the second largest industry in Australia.
– All the facts related by the honorable member for Capricornia have been exhaustively surveyed during the last few days by the Cotton Conference, which has laid down a policy embracing all the points he has mentioned. There fore, there does not appear to be any necessity to further debate the matter on this occasion.
Proposed vote agreed to.
War Services Payable out of Revenue.
Proposed vote, £1,145,572.
Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [6.4 a.m.]. - Division No. 141, “Repatriation Commission, £1,090,295,” should afford an opportunity to discuss repatriation matters generally, but I protest against being required to address myself to this subject at such an unreasonable hour. This method of conducting business is unfair to honorable members, and makes it quite impossible for us to deal adequately with the matters brought before us for debate. Ministerial supporters must be taking their responsibilities very lightly when they are prepared to allow this division to pass without a word of criticism, helpful or otherwise, of the Repatriation Department, which deals with pensions and other matters affecting the welfare of soldiers, for whom they lately evinced such warm regard. I make that protest because this is not the first occasion on which we have been improperly limited in respect of time and opportunity to debate this subject. A royal commission, composed of medical men, and representative of all the states, is at present sitting to assess war-service disability. I hold firmly the view that its powers are too narrow to satisfy reasonable requirements. Protests have been made - and they voice the view which honorable members on this side hold - that if the commission is to serve a useful purpose, it must investigate the whole field of repatriation administration. The point of immediate concern to me, however, is that I was informed that yesterday therepresentatives of the Victorian branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League presented themselves before the commission to give evidence in regard to particular cases in their own state and were refused a hearing on the ground that to hear them would be unfair to thesoldiers of other states. I cannot understand how such a hearing would be unfair to anybody, but I do know that the authority best qualified to give evidence in regard to Victorian soldiers is the local branch of the association, or, if possible, the aggrieved soldier himself.
The commission, has decided that the evidence must be tendered through the federal secretary of the organization. Naturally the federal secretary has not the same local and intimate knowledge as has the Victorian branch, and it is impossible for the men who have been refused a hearing to instruct the federal secretary at short notice in regard to all the cases that will be under consideration. What applies to Victoria applies equally well to other states. The Victorian branch of the association feels greatly aggrieved.
– Cannot the federal organization call as witnesses the representatives of the Victorian branch? That is what I understood would be done.
– I am informed that the evidence of the Victorian officials has been rejected. But if those witnesses will be called, and their evidence taken, my objection to the procedure on that ground will be largely removed. Whatever happens, the body to present the soldiers’ cases to the commission is the local branch, which is intimately acquainted with the conditions. I ask the Treasurer to inquire into this matter, because yesterday’s refusal to hear the Victorian delegates caused considerable annoyance, and even indignation, amongst the soldiers.
I leave the royal commission and turn to the permanent commission that administers repatriation.It does not matter what evidence is brought before the administration if the members of it wilfully falsify that evidence and persist in supplying incorrect information to members of this House as to particular cases which have been dealt with.
– Does the honorable member say that the commission is doing that ?
– I submitted incontrovertible evidence in respect of the case of a man named Holland that the commission or its officers had deliberately misled members of the House, the former Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), the late Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and myself. I stated to the Minister, when discussing this matter previously, that I was not making any charge against the Government, but was definitely making a charge against the members and officers of the commission in terms which I had carefully prepared. Unfortunately, the
Government has assumed responsibility for what happened in that case, and, through the Treasurer, has expressed its entire satisfaction with the defence offered, by the chairman of the commission, and also with the separate replies by Mr. Teece, one of the commissioners, and Mr. Ryan, a deputy commissioner. Those gentlemen replied to my strictures, and, if it were not so tragic, it would be amusing to read their defence. They make no answer to the charges worthy of any serious consideration. So far as Mr. Teece is concerned, the reply accentuates the unctuous’ hypocrisy of that gentleman. So far as the chairman of the Repatriation Commission is concerned, it identifies him with misleading statements that have been made to members of this House. He has adopted them, and expressed his satisfaction with them, and he must, of course, bear the full responsibility for them. This unfortunate man - William Holland - enlisted when he was over age, having represented his age as being less than it was for the purpose of rendering service. He was embarked on board the Ballarat, which was subsequently torpedoed. He was cast into the sea, suffered in his health, and eventually contracted tuberculosis. He is now in an advanced stage of that disease, and is clamouring fruitlessly for admission to a hospital under the control of the Repatriation Department. When ho offered himself for enlistment he was a strong man, engaged in hard manual labour - a man with no record of tuberculosis in his family as far as has been ascertained. This man of unimpeachable character has been represented by the members of the commission as unreliable in his statements, and doubts have been cast - without any evidence whatever - on his story of what happened to him. He is to-day an outstanding example of harsh treatment at the hands of the commission. I previously charged the members or officers of the commission with lying, and I then proved that they had lied about this case. I expressed the view that Mr. Teece was unfit not only for the position of member of the commission, but for any position in the Public Service. My case concerning the chairman personally was not then so strong, because I believe that he would probably be able to dissociate himself from any knowledge of the case; but, unfortunately, he has adopted the attitude of his colleague, and has made himself partly responsible. I charge him, too, in this matter. What would be thought, I wonder, if this habit of prevarication were general in the Public Service? What would be thought, for instance, if similar methods were adopted by the officers of this Parliament - men whom we trust as faithful and loyal in the discharge of their, parliamentary duties, and who, whatever their personal opinions may be respecting the views and actions of members, treat them as representing the public with the respect that is due to them, and above all, act with candour and honesty? The members of the Repatriation Commission in the case quoted have acted with a lack of candour, and have displayed scandalous dishonesty. The new royal commission will have no effect so long as the permanent commission acts in a dishonest manner. The chairman of the commission, Mr. Semmens, and Mr. Teece -are now giving evidence before that royal commission, and if they are correctly reported in the Age of 10th September, the following is an example of their evidence : -
What are the functions of the commission? - As far as pensions are concerned, to lay down the principle under which the act shall be administered ; to receive and decide appeals from the state boards, and to deal with certain classes of claim which it is desirable one body shall adjudicate upon for the sake of uniformity. In the great majority of cases the decisions of the state boards are adhered to, but not always. The advice of the medical boards is of great assistance. In regard to assessing pensions, first of all the eligibility of the claimant had to be established, and then the connexion between the disability he was suffering from and his war service. That is thoroughly investigated by medical men. His own statement, his army medical history, and, of course, his present condition, also anything which happened between his discharge from the army and the medical examining date are fully examined.
I call attention to the closing words : “ His army medical history, and, of course, his present condition, also anything which happened between his discharge from the army and the medical examining date are fully examined.” In the case of Holland none of those conditions were complied with. A thing that stood out conspicuously in their reply was that they were influenced almost entirely, by a casual report of a medical man who, I think, in 1917, declared that Holland was medically unfit. They absolutely rejected the individual medical opinions and the reports of the boards of inquiry, which in various capacities under the Defence administration dealt with this case. With unblushing effrontery they continued to represent that there was no evidence that Holland’s disability either in origin or by aggravation was attributable to his war service. In the face of that contention, I put on record evidence from not only reputable but even eminent medical men and boards, who declared that Holland’s war service was either the aggravating cause or the originating cause of his disability. This mass of evidence was entirely disregarded on an absurd technical ground by the members of the commission, and they relied upon the evidence of the medical man who had examined Holland years before, disregarding the fact altogether that his tubercular condition had not then developed. This is a very grave scandal. It is an amazing thing that a member of this House is able to stand in his place and take the full responsibility for the statement that the members of the Repatriation Commission had lied, either actually or by implication, about this case, and had deceived members of Parliament, including the former Prime Minister, the late Leader of the Opposition, and myself. It is lamentable that the Treasurer - should step . behind them, evidently believing it to be his duty to defend them merely because they are in their present position. The chairman, Mr. Semmens, re-assured by the attitude of the Treasurer, has now insolently flouted members of Parliament in his evidence before the commission. This is the report -
The commission is quite free from political influence and pressure? - Political influence, yes; but there have been attempts by members of Parliament to have certain things done, but they had no effect. There was no interference on the part of the Minister or the Government with the commission.
I tell Mr. Semmens that he may live long enough to find some day that the activities of members of Parliament have had an effect on him. I should be ashamed to lend any support to a government that countenances for a single moment the conduct of Messrs. Semmens and Teece. I shall not include the other gentleman, because I do not think be is so distinctly culpable. No inquiry is being made into this matter. The persons interested said nothing until I dragged
Out from them their excuses. They never asked for them to be printed or published. They sat down, and will continue to sit down, under this charge that I make against them. Apparently they dare not have it investigated. They know that they are convicted in advance by the evidence. There has been no uprising On the ministerial side as there was in the Case of the Commissioner of Taxation, when Mr. Scullin was told that he had £one too far in making charges - which, by the way, he had not made - against a responsible officer of the department, and a Royal Commission was appointed. Of course, Mr. Scullin was quite correct. There is to be no inquiry into the charges that I have definitely made. The Government is behind the Repatriation Commission, and has expressed itself as satisfied. It has taken the responsibility upon its shoulders, and must carry it. I stand by what I have said. It must be remembered that a man making an application for benefits under the Repatriation Act is, according to the law, liable to a heavy penalty if he makes a false statement. Yet these highly-paid members of the commission make false statements about this man’s application without the slightest fear of being called to account. I obtained from the Treasurer the statement that on the whole he was satisfied with the reply given. That is the only answer about the inquiry that has been made. Mr. Ratcliffe, the secretary of the Fairfield branch, who worked up the case for the returned men, was informed by the royal commission now sitting that he could not be heard, and that the case would have to be presented through the secretary of the Federal body. The Government has taken the responsibility for what has been done, and, flattered by that useful knowledge, the chairman of the commission insolently boasts, if the report in the Melbourne Age be true, that representations of members of Parliament have had no effect. I presume the inference to be that members of this House have been ignored. These gentlemen apparently can rest quite secure for a while in their positions, but after all, the records remain. I -may be able at some future time to drag them before some independent tribunal and face them with the documents that make prevaricators of them.. The subject is certainly one for a searching investigation. Evidence should be called to show how the Repatriation Commission has treated individual claims, and has ignored members of Parliament and members of a former government. What will be our position if we cannot trust responsible officers of the Public Service on questions of fact?
.Some fourteen months ago I brought under the notice of the Treasurer a number of cases concerning returned soldiers, who had either received war pensions and had had them cancelled, or had been denied pensions from the’ time of their discharge from the Australian Imperial Forces. The Treasurer agreed to appoint a committee of returned soldiers who were members of this House. The committee has been in existence, I understand, for about seven months, but so far as I am aware little progress has been made. The Government realizes that the committee has proved futile, and owing to the strong pressure brought to bear by honorable members on both sides, and by the Returned Soldiers Association, it has decided to shelter itself by the appointment of a royal commission composed of medical men to deal with such cases. Such a commission composed wholly of medical men will not satisfy the great majority of the returned soldiers who are deserving of some representation on the commission.
– They nominated one of the members of the commission.
– Since the discharge of the members of the Australian Imperial Forces 45,587 appeals have been dealt with. The number of men discharged in New South Wales is 144.253, and in Victoria 95,216. Practically the whole of these men would be entitled to repatriation benefits. The number of persons for whom war pensions have been claimed in New South Wales is 120,787 and in Victoria 124,846. The total number of war pensions granted in New South Wales is 100,168, and in Victoria 111,795. In New South Wales 49,037 more soldiers were discharged than in Victoria, but 11,000 fewer claims were granted in New South Wales than in Victoria. The number of claims rejected in New South Wales was 20,351, and in Victoria 12,745. These figures are sufficient to lead one to believe that the administration of the department in New South Wales has not been so sympathetic as it has in Victoria. No doubt a considerable number of the men whose claims have been rejected are the victims of shabby treatment. In one case the soldier received a full pension for four years, after which the pension was stopped. I asked to see the papers, but the Treasurer refused at that time to allow me to peruse the file. As a result this case, along with others, was referred to the soldiers’ committee, but after waiting fourteen months, I have not yet received a final decision. The commission refused to review its determination or to grant a pension. Although I wrote to the Treasurer a month or six weeks ago asking him to make the files available to me, I have so far had no reply. I do not care what reasons are advanced for the refusal to grant these pensions, honorable members have a right to see the files and to ascertain whether unfounded reports are contained in them.
– Has the honorable member been unable to see the files?
– I wrote to the Minister about six weeks ago, and about a fortnight ago I spoke to him in this chamber regarding the matter, but I have not yet seen the files. I am not satisfied with the information that I have received from the Treasury. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that he had been misled by the department in connexion with one case. That was the case of ex-Private William Holland, in which both Mr. W. M. Hughes and the late Mr. Tudor were misled by the department; and there is a grave possibility that in connexion with other cases also honorable members have been misled.
– My eyes have been opened in regard to that department. I would not trust it with a dog.
Mr.C. RILEY.- As these men were accepted as fit when they enlisted there is every reason for their cases being treated sympathetically. Before embarkation they were again examined and found fit. In the case of Sampson, a pension was granted for four years. This man went away fit, but returned unfit. If he was not entitled to a pension, why was it paid to him for four years? I have in mind the case of another man concerning whom I made representations to the commission.For two years after he returned he received a full pension, but it was then reduced to 60 per cent. That meant that his living allowance was denied him, because his incapacity was not 65 per cent. That man had been a member of the Manchester Unity Lodge for twenty years, and the lodge records showed that during that period he had had only one week’s illness. Yet he was denied his rights under the Repatriation Act. There were scores of other cases in connexion with which I hoped that the Soldiers’ Committee which was appointed from this House would do something. I am informed by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) that the committee did grant a pension in one case. If there was justification for the granting of a pension in one case, the question arises: In how many other cases was an injustice done? The Repatriation Commission state that many of the disabilities from which these men are now suffering were aggravated not so much by their war service as by venereal disease and alcoholism. Many of these men made great sacrifices and rendered great service to their country. The commission in dealingwith them should realize the service that they have rendered to their country, and should endeavour to estimate the extent to which the privations they endured were responsible for their condition. A number of cases have come under my notice of men suffering from chronic rheumatism, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and heart trouble, who have been refused a war pension. As one who has some knowledge of active service conditions, . I consider that their present ailments are to a very large extent due to exposure, and to the privations’ of war. The Government should accept its responsibility in regard to these men, and insist upon the fullest and most sympathetic consideration being given to their cases. Although almost six years have passed since the cessation of hostilities, pensioners are, for the most part, still required to report for examination every six months. These frequent examinations are undesirable, and in the case of men suffering from nervous troubles the effect is anything but good. Surely the time has arrived when the com- mission can permanently assess the war disabilities of these men. The largenumber of medical officers required for these examinations adds to the cost of repatriating our soldiers. I hope that the cases that I have placed before the Treasurer will receive his personal attention, and that something will be done to enable these unfortunate men to get pensions commensurate with their disabilities.
Mr.MAKIN (Hindmarsh) [6.45 a.m.]. - A good deal of my time has been taken up with matters affecting soldiers’ pensions, and in a great number of cases I have not secured that measure of success in my dealings with the Repatriation Commission that I am convinced the claims deserved. I know of cases which were treated most unsympathetically, and 1 have protested repeatedly to the commission and to the Government. I recognize that it is humanly impossible for the Minister, with his multifarious duties, to give personal attention to all these cases, but the facts referred to this morning by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) constitute so serious a charge against the members of the commission that the Minister should himself inquire into the case. The Government must accept its full share of responsibility for what is done. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley ) has given us some of his experiences in connexion with these cases. I feel that the fame is overdue when some responsible Minister should be set apart to deal solely with repatriation matters. At present, too much delay occurs. I thought that when a committee of members of this House was appointed to deal with these cases, we should receive satisfaction from such an independent tribunal. For some time I was in communication with the department in connexion with a returned soldier, who I felt deserved greater consideration than he had received. 1 was dissatisfied with the decision givenby the Repatriation Commission in his case, and, therefore asked that it should be referred to the Soldiers’ Committee. After some considerable time had elapsed, and I had almost given up hope that the matter would receive attention, I received an intimation that the committee had seen this soldier’s file, and considered that there was no reason why I should not have access to it, if I so desired. I made no request to peruse the file, for
I was familiar with the facts of the case, but I desired that the committee should do something to alleviate the circumstances of this man. Upon further investigation I found that the Soldiers Committee was mere camouflage. The Government made these returned soldiers believe that the committee would be a tribunal for the redress of their grievances. It has proved, instead, a hollow sham. It could very well have relieved the Treasurer of the responsibility of determining these cases. Even at this late hour, I suggest that the committee should be clothed with power to make decisions, and to review effectively cases in which the commission has failed to mete out justice. The tribunal should at least be open for honorable members to make their representations to it. I wish to refer to two other cases I have in my mind. A man named A. Moon, of Keswick, South Australia, enlisted for active service. He was a labourer on the wharfs at Port Adelaide, and, according to his references, he had lost very little working time, and certainly none through illness. The department is in possession of a form stating that Moon admitted that he was suffering at some time from asthma and bronchitis. He returned to this country, and became so ill through the development of chronic asthma and bronchitis that he found it necessary to seek not only medical treatment, but also an adequate pension. The department would give him treatment only as an outpatient, and refused to admit him to the military hospital at Keswick. His disease developed so seriously that he was unable to attend the hospital, and ultimately died. I make a serious charge against the Government and the commission regarding this man - I say they murdered him, and that it is impossible to. justify their callous indifference. His case, moreover, is not an isolated one. I have the particulars of the case of a man named Gathercole, who returned to this country as a “ cot case.” He does not live in my electorate, but I was called upon to interview him by way of assisting the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), whose interests I represent at the present moment. He returned to this country, and for a period ofyears was under medical treatment at Keswick. When the authorities found that they were unable to relieve his incapacitation, they discharged him, and recommended him to seek admission to the Adelaide Public Hospital, endeavouring by this means to relieve themselves of responsibility. I have heard of people who have sought treatment at the Adelaide Hospital, and have thereby disqualified themselves for certain medical benefits that would otherwise have been provided by the department. These are, no doubt, cases of a special nature. Returned men have suffered severe injustice, and in the instance to which I have referred, a life has been lost. I have reason to hold in high esteem certain officials who are associated with the Repatriation Department, but they know my view - that they have not interpreted the Repatriation Act as sympathetically as they might have done or were expected to do. The opinion is, no doubt, held that the work of the department is lessening.
– That is true.
– That interjection shows how little the honorable gentleman knows about it. I received an assurance only yesterday from a responsible officer of the Repatriation Department that the cases being dealt with by the department are not on the decline.. The “ problem cases,” which are special cases requiring the services of committees in the different states, are not on the decline.
– The honorable member is referring to special, not general, cases.
– Even if they are special cases, they bear out my contention. Surely it is reasonable to demand a tribunal, from which these men will receive the consideration due to them. The excuse often put forward by the department that the diseases existed before the war is mean and miserable. The Government should take responsibility for the men who were fit enough to be accepted for enlistment. Because of so-called pre-existent . ailments . many returned soldiers have been deprived of pension benefits that they would otherwise have received, and to which I emphatically assert, they are entitled. Although the pensions of soldiers have been reduced, we have heard nothing of a reduction in the pay of those who constitute the commission. In saying that I do not wish to be disrespectful to the commissioners. Let me give one instance of an injustice in what is called a pre-existent ailment case. A man named Williams, of South Australia, was recorded as a “ T.B. case.” He was receiving the full pension, and he claimed a special pension. He was informed by the department that his application had been before the proper authority, and that his claim had been refused. Being unable to understand how the section quoted in the communication could apply to his case, he referred the matter to me. I came to Melbourne, and secured from the department the reason for his disqualification, which was that the disease was pre-existent. When I conveyed that information to the soldier, he said, “You know that I was quite healthy -before my enlistment.” I asked him if he had a medical certificate, and he said, “ Fortunately. before enlisting, I consulted the family doctor, and I have a clean bill of health from him, and also from the medical officer of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, with which I took out a policy.” I brought his certificates to Melbourne, and in due course the commission granted a special pension to him ; but if I had not interested myself in his case, and he had accepted without a protest the bald statement that he was ineligible under a certain section, Tie would have been deprived of what was rightly his due. No doubt there are hundreds of men throughout the Commonwealth who have been similarly disqualified on the ground that their disease was pre-existent, when, as a matter of fact, they were perfectly healthy before their war service. At any rate, if* there was any doubt as to when a disease originated, the .soldier should receive the benefit of it. The cases I have mentioned proved the need for the creation of a further tribunal, and I hope that, as a result of the speeches which have been delivered this morning, the returned soldiers will be secured against wrong decisions by the Repatriation Department, and that such decisions will not be considered final. The Minister controlling repatriation should also accept his share of responsibility, and not endeavour to shelter himself behind the commission.
– I do not agree with the attitude of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) towards the commission. The charges he made were replied to by the commission, and a copy of the reply was furnished to him. Although one member of the commission admitted that he had been mistaken in certain respects, lie explained his actions to the satisfaction of the Government. The commission, having decided that Holland’s illness was not aggravated by war service, it would be illegal for it to expend money on his treatment. The royal commission now sitting will determine whether the method used by the administration for determining the measure of pre-war disability, and its aggravation by war service, is correct. If the commission’s report necessitates the revision of that method, Holland’s case will be reopened. The parliamentary committee has not functioned as well as I had wished, but that is not my fault, for I have done my best to induce its members to meet more frequently. On the few occasions on which they did meet they did valuable work, and materially assisted me in separating the cases which might be discussed in the House from those who, by reason of the intimate nature of their details, could not be discussed publicly. I think everybody has recognized that practically all the cases remaining to be dealt with by the Repatriation Department, and which need a good deal of consideration, are medical, and I disagree from the contention of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) that the royal commission should not have been composed of doctors. Probably 99$ per cent, of the remaining cases are “ problem cases,”, and the royal commission, because of the calibre of its members,, is the body best qualified to adjudicate upon them. The soldiers nominated Dr. Sanford Jackson, of Queensland, as their direct representative, and all the other members, with the exception of Dr. Anderson, are returned soldiers. Even Dr. Anderson- did a good deal of work in connexion with soldiers during the war. I think you, Mr. Temporary Chairman (Sir Neville Howse), will admit that doctors do not acquire the military spirit as rapidly as you, when Director of Medical Services, desired. For my own part, I never learnt to distinguish one King’s regulation from another, and I think that you had the same experience with nearly all the doctors under your control. They never developed any of the spirit that has been said by some to characterize the officer class, or desired to deal harshly with the. men under their care. In fact, the doctors who have been examining and treating the soldiers in the hospitals have shown greater consideration to them than they ever extended towards their civilian patients and friends. I see no evidence of the economies that are said to be practised in connexion with repatriation. The pension list is being increased, and an attempt is being made to reach that ideal condition when all the applications for pensions will be completed, and the pensioners will not be called upon to report periodically for review. I recognize that that review keeps the patient continually disturbed in his mental outlook. Over fifty pensions are being completed every week, and it is hoped that before long the whole of the cases that can be finalized will have been dealt with. A lot of them are automatic, and will not come up for review. As to the suggestion that a Minister should be always available to whom honorable members could report the cases that are referred to them, the Prime Minister has already stated that a Minister will be allotted to that “work. At the present time Senator Crawford is available, and I have no doubt that as soon as the royal commission reports, as I hope it will do within a few day3, this work may be satisfactorily allotted. There is no need for honorable members to be as pessimistic as they declared themselves to be in their speeches this morning, because the administration of the Repatriation Department, and the handling of the problems in connexion with pensions, is improving every month. I personally do not receive now one-tenth as many complaints as I was receiving during the last Parliament. The war is receding further into the background, and, moreover, the repatriation system is improving. I assure honorable members that the Government appreciates the necessity for giving to the soldier the best possible treatment and the utmost consideration. In regard to the complaint of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that the representatives of the Victorian branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Association cannot appear as witnesses before the royal commission, I assure the honorable member that I shall endeavour to get into communication with the chairman of the commission to-day, and, failing that, I shall certainly do so before Tuesday next.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [7.29 a.m.], - For the last two and a half hours, while honorable members have been in a state of physical fatigue and mental collapse, the committee has been considering two of the most important divisions in the Estimates. I hope that the returned soldiers will note who are their friends. From 5 a.m. to the present moment, when neither the soldiers nor their friends could get in touch with honorable members, we have been discussing their grievances. I’ know this rushing of the Estimates through the committee occurs every session, and every session I protest against it. No matter what Government is in office, I shall resent all-night sittings for the purpose of disposing of the Estimates. I thoroughly disapprove of such tactics, for which the Government is wholly to blame. Whenever possible I shall, on the public platform, expose this Government respecting its method of pushing the Estimates through, and limiting the discussion on important matters, such as Repatriation andWar Service Homes. There are certain phases of those subjects which need sifting to the bottom, and in this respect theGovernment’s lack of action is disgraceful. I protest against the Ministry’s brutal method of pushing the Estimates’ through this committee.
.There is no purpose to be served by further discussing repatriation matters at this hour in the morning. The royal commission is hopelessly inadequate, owing to the limitation of the scope of its inquiry. It can only inquire into the nature of a pre-war disability, and its aggravation by war service. In entering my protest, I follow the example of the honorable member for Maribyrnong by using the remarks used by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), when he criticized the Hughes Government, and spoke of the brutal way in which the Government pushed measures through Parliament without giving honorable members an opportunity to deliberate on them in an intelligent manner.
– I wish to refer to the graves of soldiers and the payments to the War Graves Commission. While I was away I had an opportunity of seeing cemeteries in France, Gallipoli, and Egypt, and any one who has a relative or friend buried in any of the cemeteries under the control of the War Graves Commission can rest contented in the knowledge that his grave is being well cared for. The way in which the graves are honoured and respected by those who view them would appeal to the hearts of relatives here. The War Graves Commission has done great work, and honorable members can rest assured that the caring for the graves of our soldiers is being effectively done by it.
, I am very dissatisfied with the administration of the War Service Homes Department, the Commissioner in charge of which is the officer to whom I referred in connexionwith repatriation. But for all practical purposes the administration of War Service Homes in Victoria is in other hands, and not very sympathetic hands at that. A number of evictions of soldiers from their homes has taken place. That is bad enough, but the number of threats of evictions is even worse. The administration is harsh and not over-competent. I have a great deal of evidence relating to cases brought under my notice, but I do not propose, after an all-night sitting, to deal with it at thishour of the morning. The responsibility rests with the Government.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Government the unsatisfactory position respecting the War Service Homes erected at Albion, nearSunshine. In that settlement are 67 homes built upon exceptionally flat land, offering no possibility of effective drainage. If the Minister desires to prevent a serious outbreak of fever, or some other epidemic, in that locality, something should be done before the summer to improve the lay-out of the settlement. The construction of the homes is defective, and in some cases water falls from the roofs on to the allotments. Any water that happens to drain into the channels remains there. There is no street in that settlement free from water, because the channels are almost level. I visited that locality with the secretary to the department and the architect in March of this year. They saw at once that the conditions were unsatisfactory, and that something would have to be done immediately. The shire council refuses to act in the matter. Those responsible for the erection of these homes are to blame for not making provision for effective drainage. Water pipes from the roadway crossing on to the footpath project 3 and 4 inches above the level of the channel. I ask the Minister to issue instructions to his officers to make a full inquiry, and to see if something cannot be done in the interests of the people of the settlement.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £3,425,829.
.Can the Minister tell the committee the nature of the duties of the employees engaged in the construction branch of the Navy, seeing that no naval construction work is now being undertaken?
– They do the repair work, and they are on the staff at Garden Island.
– I should like an attempt to be made to improve the housing conditions of the civilian workmen at the Jervis Bay college. If honorable members will look at the photographs of the hovels occupied by these workmen - the pictures appeared in a recent report of the Public Accounts Committee - they will see that these dwellings are a disgrace to the Commonwealth. Yet the occupants are actually charged rental for them.
– I have read the report of the committee, and I have seen with feelings of shame the photographs published at the end of it. I hope that the Minister will be able to give honorable members a satisfactory assurance concerning these structures.
– On my first visit to Jervis Bay, I saw the dwellings, and I came to the same conclusion as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). Last year, after the Estimates had been passed, I was able to obtain a sufficient sum to provide for the erection of one good cottage. On this year’s Estimates, three more are provided for ; and an additional three will appear on next year’s Estimates. The occupants pay only a nominal fee for the right to occupy the present premises. I realize that the houses are discreditable to ‘the Commonwealth, and I will see that the men shall be properly housed as Soon as possible.
– I suggest that steps be taken to make the boys’ training ship, H.M.A.S. Tingira, more presentable in appearance. A coat of paint would effect a great improvement to the vessel.
.Referring to naval establishments I notice that there is a reduction in the vote for the sea-going staff, while the expenses of the central office are enormously increased . What explanation can be given of this?
,- The apparent reduction is due to the fact that the cost of an additional 750 men employed has been included in the special vote of £1,000,000 for defence.
– In division 61 there is an item of £16,484 under the heading “ To be paid to credit of trust fund - Uniform, Clothing, and Necessaries (Naval) Account.” The statement was made some time ago by the Minister that as far as possible the clothing required for the Australian Navy was purchased in Australia. How has the Commonwealth fared in the purchase of cloth since the woollen mill at Geelong has been closed? When the mill was placed under private management, it was said that the price of cloth was increased by1s. 6d. per yard. Is the Commonwealth served as well under private enterprise as when the mill was conducted as a public utility? It has been said that some of this cloth must come from the other side of the world, but the Minister should be able to prevail on the officers to take something that is manufactured in Australia which, if not exactly of the same texture as that imported, is very nearly the same. We should endeavour to clothe the officers and men of our Navy with Australianmade material.
– Very little khaki cloth is now bought, as the postwar equipment was so large that we have not required it. The quotations for naval cloths is a little less than when the mill was sold. Our difficulty has been, not to get low quotations, but to keep the men who make those quotations up to the standard. We have at times had to return some of the cloth as not being up to the standard. I think that only one cloth is now imported. In the list which was supplied previously several kinds of cloth were included, but they were only short lengths for sample purposes. The only, cloth which is now imported is that which is very sparingly used for the full-dress uniforms of the officers. The balance of the material is made in Australia. The clothing factory is doing excellent work, and with the Post Office work we are able to keep the men working full time in the canvas shop as well as in the ordinary tailoring establishment. I think that the suggestion of the honorable member that other honorable members should see the clothing factory is a good one. Some protest was made by the other canvas works because we were paying higher wages than were paid outside. So far as the general requirements of the Navy are concerned, I shall bear in mind the suggestion of the honorable member that we should not adhere absolutely to the sample from Great Britain if we can obtain Australian supplies which, in essential details, are equally good. For example, I should not object to a shoe brush of Australian manufacture if it contained fourteen bristles in each hole as against fifteen or eighteen in the imported article. Australian articles are now used even though they do not comply strictly with the samples received from the Admiralty.
.- I should like an explanation from the Minister in connexion with item 63 - “Expenses of officers and men and, in certain cases, their families, proceeding to and from Australia.” Last year- £30,000 was expended for this purpose, whereas the vote for this year is £40,000.
– The amount is required to meet the expenses of officers and men who were lent to the Royal. Australian Navy and will be returning to the United Kingdom on the termination of their term of service, and also for passages for officers and men lent by us to the Royal Navy. Wherever an Australian officer is qualified,’ he is appointed to any vacant position. At one time there was some difficulty in getting
Australian seamen who had reached their A.B. rank to go in. for the higher ratings. That difficulty has, however, been overcome, and in the schools wehave now almost the full complement that are required for the different classes. Besides the interchanged officers, there are also a number of Jervis Bay boys who go to England.
– There must be a considerable number of officers and men exchanged.
– Yes. Australian officers have in some instances reached the rank of commander. Jervis Bay boys have reached as high as lieutenants. Before Jervis Bay was established, we sent cadets to the English colleges, and some of them have obtained rank as high as lieutenant-commander. All above the rank of commander, with the exception of two- or three men, including Captain Hyde, are English officers. Until our own men reach that standard, officers must be brought here to fill the higher positions.
– Some of our Australian men have been prevented from reaching the higher positions.
– Probably they were not up to the standard.
– They had to stand down for the imported men. I shall give the Minister privately at least one case.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will do so, as before any nian has been obtained from England I have satisfied myself that no Australian competent to fill the position has been available. The late Commodore, afterwards Admiral, Addison, was verykeen on getting Australians for all positions. He said that Australian ratingsand officers could hold their own with the best in the British Navy.
– Who has the right to say that the Australians shall be givena. chance ?
– The Naval Board,, with the approval of the Minister.
– The services of a number of menwere dispensed with by the Naval Board, and I have been informed that men from British ships were put on in their place.
– Does not the honorable member mean men from Australian ships ?
– They may have come from Australian ships, but origin- ally they came from Great Britain. I do not want to be unduly suspicious, but I know that sometimes highly-placed officers who come from the Old Country are more favorably disposed towards men from England than towards Australians. There is a tendency to displace the Australians by these men from England, or to retain them in preference to Australians. To bring in men from outside is unfair to Australians, and causes discontent. I hope that the Minister will watch this matter very carefully.
– I should like some information from the Minister regarding the vote for the Hoya! Military College at Duntroon. During its investigations the Joint Committee on Public Accounts ascertained that for an expenditure of approximately £40,000 twelve staff officers were being turned out from the institution per annum. That number represented the requirements of the Australian Military Forces. In view of the world tendency towards peace and a better understanding between the nations, it is probable that that number will not be needed in the future. The expenditure in connexion with this institution is so great that we should consider whether is is necessary to train so many officers. I have made a recommendation in a minority report of the Public Accounts Committee. Is the Minister prepared to accept the advice of either the majority or the minority of that committee? There is no justification for the expenditure of so much money for such a small return. The staff of the college could, no doubt, instruct a larger number of students at very little extra cost. If it is necessary to train men for the defence forces, some arrangement should be made with the University of Melbourne or Sydney to give them a preliminary training, after which they could receive technical and military training at the permanent land establishment.
– I have given very careful attention to the reports of the Accounts Committee, and I agree with the majority rather than the minority report. The majority report is endorsed by experts inside and outside the permanent and citizen forces. I admit that the Duntroon College is very ex pensive. In reducing the number of students to twelve, I have gone too far, and the number will probably have to be increased to sixteen; but, even on that basis, the college will be very expensive. Three proposals are being considered by the Government. The first is that additional men shall be trained at Duntroon for civilian positions in the mandated territories. The second proposal is to use the college as a secondary school when the Commonwealth administrative staffs go to Canberra. The third proposal, which was submitted by Professor Maccallum, is to establish ‘ Duntroon as a Commonwealth university, which would issue degrees upon examination. The Government is considering those proposals, and hopes, by the adoption of one of them, to increase the usefulness of the college ‘and to employ to better purpose the services of the excellent professors and lecturers we have there.
– The suggestions I put forward are supported by eminent authorities, and are contained in the recommendations of the David report.
– The David report very strongly favoured the continuance of the colleges, but stated that if we did abolish them the only other possibility was to send the boys to a university for two years, and then take them into the permanent forces for two years. Professor David suggested that after leaving the university they should go to the Victoria Barracks, Sydney. , I hold that it would be very undesirable to have a training college for military officers in the heart of a big city, so that suggestion did not appeal to me.
– The members of the Accounts Committee, who comprise representatives of both Houses of Parliament, and of all political parties, endeavoured to arrive at a satisfactory solution of this difficulty. We realize that a big expenditure is involved. Duntroon, this year, including the amounts mentioned in the footnotes, will cost £45,694. I had in my mind the idea that Duntroon would soon be in a fairly closely-settled area, and that educational facilities would have to be provided in the Federal Territory. We felt that it would be better to educate 60 men there, and thus reduce the cost per student. The students intended for civil life would go through the same course of study as the military students, and, like them, would pay no fees. The committee was very emphatic that no fees should be charged. Entrance to the college, in those circumstances, would be by examination.
.For division 66, “Professional, general, and clerical staffs,” a sum of £59,371 is provided. If any of these positions have been recently created or recently filled, the salaries for each of them should be shown separately, as is done in other departments.
– These men are under public service conditions, and their rates and salary will be fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator.
– In division 70 there is an amount of £135,485 for universal training. I understand that the Minister has decided to extend the annual camp.
– Yes, from six to eight days.
– What is the reason for that?
– Sir Harry Chauvel said that the two additional days of training would give results that would amply justify the extra COSt involved.
– How many lads will be in camp for the eight days?
– Approximately 35,000 to 40,000 throughout Australia.
.- The amount set down in division No. 75 for rifle clubs and associations is £30,455, or £6,000 less than was voted last year, and £1,400 less than was expended. 3 The Minister stated on a former occasion that he hoped to increase the amount for rifle clubs. They certainly should not be starved, and complaint has been made that ewen the old vote was not sufficient.
– The Treasurer has agreed to make an additional amount available, so that the vote for this year shall not be less than was actually expended last year. I hope we may be able to do even better than that.
– Riflemen render good service to the community by making themselves efficient marksmen, and they are a valuable adjunct to the Defence Force. Even if the Treasurer increases the vote to the amount actually expended last year, that will not satisfy me. I know that riflemen in some of the larger clubs have under taken to help the smaller country clubs by coaching young marksmen. Any extra money made available by the Treasurer will not be expended exclusively in prize money,, but will enable some of the better marksmen to travel and assist to educate the junior clubs in the proper use of the rifle.
– “ General contingencies,” in division No. 78, include “ compensation for injuries on duty.” I desire to know the policy of the Government in regard to Australian civilians who were interned in Germany during the war, and suffered in health thereby. The case to which I shall refer is by no means isolated. The man concerned was informed that under part 8 of the Treaty of Versailles there is provision that reparations shall include compensation for damage caused by any kind of mal-treatment of prisoners of war. I understand that the British Government made available a sum of between £6,000,000 and £10,000,000, out of which compensation was paid to civilians who were interned in Germany, and suffered mal-treatment. The Australian, whose case I am stating, made a claim upon that fund while in England, but was informed that whilst the Government had every sympathy with him, it could allow compensation only to its own subjects, and he was referred to the Public Trustee in Melbourne. In a letter written to him from Australia House, he was informed -
Repatriation claims are now being dealt with in Australia, where your claim has been forwarded. The enclosures in your letter have also been forwarded to Australia.
Any further, communication in connexion with the claim should be addressed to the Commonwealth Public Trustee, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne.
He applied to the Public Trustee, and received the following reply: -
With reference to your communication of 7th February, 1924, relative to your claim lodged under the reparation clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, I have to inform you that action is now being taken with a view to determining the preliminary questions that are involved in the consideration of claims such as yours, and you will be advised as soon as a decision in regard thereto has been made.
In a subsequent letter, addressed to me from the same office, I was advised -
So far no claims such as that of the gentleman referred to have been dealt with by the Commonwealth Government, and no funds are in any case available from which any payments might be made. The whole matter has, however, been engaging the attention of the
Public Trustee for some time past, and it is expected that final steps will be taken at an early date to ascertain what policy is to be adopted in regard to it.
– This matter should have been referred to when we were considering the Estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs, the Minister for which controls the Public Trustee.
– Perhaps the Minister for Defence can tell me whether the Government has adopted any system for assisting cases of this kind.
– I do not know of any, but I shall inquire.
– If the Minister will look into the matter Ishall be very grateful.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Special Defence Provision.
Proposed vote, £1,000,000.
Mr.MAHONY (Dalley) [8.46 a.m.].I move -
That the amount for division 83, “ Special defence provision to cover first year of developmental programme, £1,000,000,” be reduced by £1.
I do this as an intimation to the Government to build the two 10,000-ton cruisers in Australia. The whole of. the arguments advanced against building the cruisers here could be legitimately advanced against the development of any other industry. The Government has deliberately adopted a policy of encouraging and assisting industries, and in view of this, it is most remarkable that the shipbuilding industry should be neglected. A commencement must be made with this industry if, as the Prime Minister says, we are to provide for the. defence of Australia. The argument, however, applied against the commencement of this industry could be applied 50 years hence. We must make an attempt to provide our own means of defence. The Prime Minister has stated that he intends to call for tenders for the building of these cruisers. I doubt that statement, in view of a report which appeared in a London newspaper, the Sunday News, dated 20th July, 1924. It is headed, “Australia’s New Cruiser’s,” and reads -
News that the Australian Government intends to build both of its new cruisers in place of one in Britain gives satisfaction to shipyard workers in Glasgow. English and Scottish centres expect to divide the work.
I can quite understand that such news would give satisfaction to the workers in
Glasgow, but it is not very pleasing to the workers of Australia. The suspicion is abroad that the orders for these cruisers have already been placed, and I want a clear and definite statement from the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that, in reply to questions by him, I have said that nothing of the sort has been done. I reaffirm that now.
– Such a report appearing in English newspapers would not be published unless there was some foundation for it.
– Does the honorable member suggest that what I have said is not true?
– I do not know what to believe. It is remarkable that English papers should publish such news, and that the Prime Minister should airily say it is not true. However, we shall ascertain the exact position later.
– Does the honorable member believe everything he reads in the newspapers ?
– No; but it is remarkable that a report should be published that the Australian Government intends to build both its new cruisers instead of one in Great Britain. The wording clearly indicates that the order for one cruiser has already been given. I wish now to refer to the report of Sir John Monash, who was appointed by the Government to investigate the reason for the divergent estimates supplied by the Commonwealth Shipping Board and the Navy Board. This gentleman, in a few days, made a report which was held up by the Government for some time. In it, he mentions the uncertainty of getting a reliable estimate, and points out that it is impossible to arrive at an actual estimate in the absence of plans and specifications. Respecting cost of armaments, he said -
In order to illustrate the difficulties to which I refer, I instance the question of armaments. . . The Shipping Board drew the apparently liberal inference that a modern 10,000- ton cruiser would be armed with 600 tons of miscellaneous ordnance at a present-day average cost of £500 a ton, or a total cost of £300,000, delivered at British factory. Adding the cost of transportation and the “ building-in “ of such armament, a sum of £410,000 was set down as the finished cost of this part of the work in Australia. Subsequently, however, a specific inquiry was addressed to the Admiralty upon this ‘very matter, with the result that a cablegram recently received from the High Commissioner gives the English price for this armament at the unexpectedly high figure of £810,000, implying a completed cost in Australia for same of roundly £900,000.
Sir John Monash rushed into this matter, and, not being an expert, he accepted the figure of £810,000 as the armament cost for one vessel, whereas it really applies to both vessels. The original estimate of the Shipping Board was approximately correct. That shows clearly that om this one point Sir John Monash’s report is not reliable. In it he implied that the Navy Board has over-estimated the overhead charges, and did not have any reliable data before it upon which to base its estimates. He roundly condemned altogether the estimate of the Navy Board. In reference to the Shipping Board, be said -
By reason alone of the evident care and completeness with which these estimates have been prepared, they are entitled to very great respect, and could,, in my opinion, be regarded as acceptable-
– Read on.
– Sir John Monash continued - except for the underlying doubt as to whether the general character and type of tlie cruiser envisaged by the Shipping Board corresponds with tlie latest Admiralty designs. “
– That puts a somewhat different complexion upon the matter.
– It does nothing of the sort. The type of vessel was known to certain experts of the Navy Office. However, I shall deal with that subject later. Referring to machinery, Sir John Monash said - “The Shipping Board has assumed that, based upon that of the Glorious class, 90,000 horsepower would be requisite to give the desired speed of 33 knots; although that board claims that its estimate of the cost of such machinery has been liberal enough to provide, if necessary, for at least 120,000 horse-power. As against this, it is known that a modern Italian 10,000- ton cruiser is being built with engines of 160,000 horse-power; and a Washington cruiser is said to be similarly provided.
It is well-known that in naval and ordinary merchant ship construction, vessels are built to a certain balance. A boat of 10,000 tons would have its various parts apportioned in percentages, otherwise it might be top-heavy. -The bow might be liable to dive or be too high out of the water, or it might have a decided list. Shipbuilders and. naval contractors are well aware of this. They know the displacement of a 5,000-ton or 10,000-ton vessel, and the same proportion of balance as far as the hull, the superstructure and the internal fittings are concerned must be kept, otherwise the vessel would be a failure. If the percentage of weight in the hull were reduced and increased on the engines, the engine power would be so groat as to force the vessel to dive or to shake itself to pieces. When Sir John Monash speaks of horse-power he does not know what he is talking about. The shipping authorities know exactly what horse-power is required to drive a vessel at a certain number of knots an hour. Sir John Monash obtained some inkling of the fact that if weight is taken off nome part of the vessel it has to be made up on another. He admits that in his report. The estimates of the shipping board, which is composed of experts, are, in his opinion, worthy of the greatest respect. It is well known that if we wait for plans and specifications we shall be in no better position when they arrive than we are in to-day. Sir John Monash made a minute examination of the estimates prepared by the Shipping Board, and he complimented it on its work. It went into every detail of the cruiser, and gave a price for every part, and a reason for fixing the price. On the other hand, the Naval Board failed completely to: justify its estimates. Sir John Monash attempted to make another point in his report, when he mentioned that if the £1,000,000 extra, which a cruiser built in Austrafia would cost, were saved by having the vessel built in Britain, it could be usefully employed otherwise for defence purpose. “We can appreciate that statement, knowing Sir John Monash as we do ; but surely* even he perceives that money spent on a cruiser is expenditure for defence. Does he hope that if this money is not spent on an Australian-built cruiser, it will be spent to provide more “ cushy “ jobs at Victoria Barracks for men who1 wear a little bit of red on their shoulders? He, and the Government also, should remember, when thinking of this matter, that if the £1,000,000 is spent in Australia, it will be paid in wages to Australian workmen, and will circulate here.
– And so help to create a market for our primary producers.
– It will, indeed. Sir John Monash says of this £1,000,000 -
It is, in fact, the sum which would provide wages at standard rates for an estimated period of about three years, to some 1,300 workers.
If these 1,300 men were engaged in the construction of a cruiser, sufficient work for another 1,000 men could be found in other activities in the dockyard, so that in all 2,300 men would be employed. Taking the Australian average family of a man, his wife and two children, it will be seen, therefore, that if this amount of money were spent in building a cruiser in Australia, work and maintenance would be provided for 9,200 persons for three years. Sir John Monash also says . in his report -
The aspect to which I desire to draw your attention is that this £1,000,000 would be permanently withdrawn from the whole population of the Commonwealth, for the immediate, but very temporary, benefit of a negligible percentage of its population.
He apparently forgets that it would circulate in Australia and would be used to pay storekeepers’ bills, rates and taxes, rents, and other costs of living. It can, therefore, hardly be said, that if, would be withdrawn. I dispute his statement that only a negligible percentage of the population would reap “ very temporary benefit “ from the expenditure of it. If the cruiser were built here, work and maintenance would be provided for 5,000 people outside the dockyard altogether. That is a conservative estimate. So that if we have the cruiser built here at least 14,200 people will benefit. That cannot be considered to be a negligible factor in the case. My estimate is based on the number of men who would be employed on the work in and out of the dockyards, and I have attributed to them the average Australian family. I think that that is fair. I ask honorable members of this committee who are protectionists where there is an industry in any constituency which maintains 14,200 persons which has not appealed to the Government for protection. Yet, notwithstanding that this industry is vital to Australia, some honorable members do not seem inclined to be sympathetic to it. The Prime Minister has said that the safety and prosperity of Australia depend upon the carriage of our goods over sea to the mar kets of the world. Surely we cannot expect to rely for ever upon Great Britain to do our shipping and build our ships. We should begin to do something for ourselves. The Prime Minister has announced that he proposes to call for tenders for the construction of these cruisers in the following manner: - (1) The building of the two cruisers in Great Britain; (2) the construction of one in Great Britain and one in Australia; and (3) the construction of one in Australia. British shipbuilders are to be given three opportunities to secure the work; but only one is to be given to those engaged in the industry in Australia. I submit that the tenders should be invited on similar conditions in both Great Britain and Australia. The Prime Minister has said : “ I can give my assurance that the Cabinet is unanimous in its desire to have this work done in Australia, provided - “ There is always a proviso. The conditions under which the Australian ship-builders will be required to submit their tenders make it almost impossible for them to get the work. The Government, before calling for tenders, requested one of the prospective tenderers, the Commonwealth Shipping Board, to submit a price for the work. That price has been made public. All honorable members know that an armaments ring -controls the price of armaments. That ring is now acquainted with the price that the Australian Shipping Board will want should it be entrusted with this work, and it will take all care that the price of the armaments required by that board will be prohibitive, so that it will be impossible for the work to be done in Australia. That -is quite clear from the information that we already have, for the Australian Shipping Board, after making, inquiries in Great Britain, estimates that the cost of the necessary armaments will be £810,000, which is double what ib ought to be. Agents of the armament ring have been haunting the corridors of this building for the last few weeks, and last week, when the Prime Minister rose to make his statement of the Government policy on this matter, the agent of one of the biggest armament firms in Great Britain was seated in the gallery. What chance has Australia when tactics of this kind are adopted against her ?
– Would the honorable member turn the agent out of the gallery?
– If the Labour party were in power, it would be of no use for these people to haunt the precincts of the House, for the Labour party would make it very definite that it intended to have the work done in Australia.
– At any price?
– What does price matter, compared with the development of the country? What does cheapness matter if your country is ruined in the effort’ to secure it? If cheapness is obtained at the cost of unemployment, it means ruin. An army of hungry, unemployed men marching through the streets of our cities is an army of revolution and destruction. We shall conserve the best interests of our country bv building a cruiser in Australia. Why is there so much chaos in almost every country today? It is simply because there is so much unemployment. People need work, so that they may have food and other necessities of life, and when they do not get them their tendencies are towards revolution.
– How many of the world’s unemployed could be absorbed in shipbuilding ?
– If the Government decided to build a cruiser in Australia, every unemployed man here would be at work in a very short while. No other industry absorbs so many tradesmen as shipbuilding. Practically every trade is required. The engineering, ironworking, woodworking, and painting and decorating trades in all their ramifications are required.
– All skilled artisans, I suppose ?
– The Minister should remember that every skilled artisan has a helper with him. No other trade provides work for a greater variety of artisans than shipbuilding. I admit frankly that we cannot build a cruiser in Australia as cheaply as it can be built in Great Britain. I do not suggest that the cruisers could be constructed in Australia at the price at which they could be built in Japan, Germany, or even at Hong Kong. If the Government want cheapness, they should call for tenders from ship constructors in Germany or Japan. The price would then probably be in keeping with their requirements, although the workmanship would not, of course, ap proach the high standard of that performed in Australia. By deliberate legislative enactment, we have established standards of wages and the conditions under which workmen shall operate, and have provided that if men who are aggrieved do not cease work their complaints can be ventilated in the Arbitration Courts of the country, which are always prepared to record a fair decision. The courts have decided the wages to be paid to workmen engaged in. different branches of industry; but, although the Government have given our workmen the right to go to the Arbitration Court to secure fair wages and conditions, they say, as in this case, that they will send the work out of the country because, in their opinion, the cost is excessive. The whole thing is absurd. To show the extent to which all sections of the community are interested in this matter, I shall quote a resolution passed at a meeting convened by the Lord Mayor of Sydney, and held in the Sydney Town Hall. Honorable members will see that’ all sections were represented, and that the delegates demanded that the work of. constructing cruisers for service in Australian waters should be undertaken in Australia.” Included in the organizations represented were the Australian-made Preference League, the Chamber of Manufactures, the Employers Federation - that is not a Labour body - the Australian Industries Protection League, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and a number of trade union organizations. At that gathering the representatives unanimously demanded that the work should be given to Australians. The resolution reads -
This meeting, representative of all sections of the community, including the Chamber of Manufactures, Employers Federation, Trades Union employees, the Australian-made Preference League, and the Australian Industries Protection League, view with consternation the proposal of sending the contract for the construction of two cruisers required in Australia out of the Commonwealth, and enter an emphatic protest against such action. We earnestly and unanimously demand that the Government of the Commonwealth shall have the cruisers built in Australia, and as far_ as possible of Australian material, thereby keeping the money in Australia, and ensuring our self-reliance, national development, and general prosperity. That the foregoing resolution be forwarded by urgent wire to the Prime Minister, and that a copy be sent by post to each member of the Federal Parliament.
The meeting was a most enthusiastic one, and, as the resolution clearly shows, the people are strongly against the proposal of the Government to send the work out of Australia. We have ship construction experts in Australia; practically every man at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, from the Director down, has had experience in the great shipbuilding yards in Great Britain. I have gone to the trouble to prepare a return showing the experience of these men ; but, without wearying honorable members by quoting it, I am able to say that practically every employee has worked in the shipbuilding yards of Vickers Limited, Armstrong and Company, or others in the Old Country. We have highly skilled experts in Australia. We also sent a number of young Australians to Great Britain to receive instruction in the work of shipbuilding, and they are now available in Australia when their services are required. The Government have expended thousands of pounds in sending young men to Great Britain to receive instruction in submarine and other forms of naval construction, but when they return work is not available for them, so that Australia does not receive any return for the money expended. It is a most suicidal policy. The work these men ‘ have done speaks for itself. The Ferndale, which is the latest vessel constructed in Australia, will be undergoing her sea trial within the next fortnight, and will be placed in commission in about six weeks’ time. When the work on this vessel is completed hundreds of men will be thrown out of employment. I ask honorable members opposite in all seriousness if they are prepared to assist in throwing these men to the wolves. Honorable members supporting the Government are sent here not to represent only one section of the poople, but to protect the interests of all. I wish now’ to deal with a very serious aspect pf this subject. I believe a deliberate attempt has been made to prevent this work.:being given to Australian workmen. I am sorry to find that such an attempt has been made by the Navy office. Sir John Monash roundly condemns the estimates submitted by Engineer-Captain Sydenham.
– It was the estimate of the Naval Board.
– I am glad to have that information from the Minister. In the Navy Department there is a wellknown expert ship constructor who was brought from Great Britain to prepare plans and estimates. He computed an estimate and handed it to EngineerCaptain Sydenham, but the price did not suit that officer or the Navy Board, and nothing more was heard of it.
– That is a serious * charge.
– Yes, and I shall prove it if necessary. This expert submitted an estimate of £3,000,000. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) interviewed this officer, and he therefore knows of whom I am speaking. His estimate was so strongly in favour of the construction being undertaken in Australia that the anti- Australians in the Navy office “sat on “ it, and refused to make it public. The officer who submitted the estimate of £3,000,000 was Mr. Leask, and his figures should be produced.
– To what extent was that estimate increased by the Navy Department ?
– In round figures, by about £700,000.
– We could, of course, lay down two cruisers proportionately cheaper than one.
– Did Mr. Leask submit an estimate for two cruisers?
– No, his price was for one. Mr. Leask submitted his estimate to his superior officer, Engineer-Captain Sydenham. I do not know if EngineerCaptain Sydenham, or any one else, was responsible, but I do know that Mr. Leask’s estimate was suppressed. Sir John Monash did not see it, neither was he given an opportunity to discuss its details with the naval expert.
– What guarantee would there be that the vessels would be built at the price estimated?
– What guarantee have we that the vessels would be built at the prices estimated by other authorities? The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) is opposed to everything Australian, and is the most rabid anti-Australian who has ever occupied a seat in this chamber.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the estimate?
– The Prime Minister will be able to inform the committee if he asked Engineer-Captain Sydenham and Mr. Leask to prepare estimates and whether the Minister for Defence was to keep in touch with them. Did the Minister ever get in touch with the expert ship constructor in the department? No. The estimate was suppressed because the price was in favour of Australia. The price did not suit the Royal Naval officers in our Navy Office to-day, and it is about “ time we started to root out some of them and replace them with young Australians who have the interest of this great Commonwealth at heart. In their deliberate anti-Australian policy they have gone further. Perhaps the Minister will recollect that on the 13th August of this year, when thousands of deserving men in Australia were seeking employment, the Minister signed a minute giving approval to the conversion of the H.M.A.S. Silvio into a survey sloop for service in the Australian Navy at an estimated cost of £68,000, the work to be carried out in Great Britain. This astounding decision was reached notwithstanding the fact that thousands of unemployed were in our midst. In case there may be any doubt concerning .the accuracy of this statement, I shall give the number of the file so the minute can be traced. The file number is GA 603/231/31. That is clear and definite. The Minister can sec where his approval was given for the expenditure of £6S,000 in Great Britain.
– Where is the vessel now ?
– In Great Britain. The point is that the alterations were necessary. Those alterations, however, would not materially affect the vessel, and could have been made in Australia. Thus the money spent would have provided work for Australian people.
Sitting suspended from 9.S0 to 10.30 a.m.
– The work could have been done just as well in Australia.
– We were told that about the Adelaide.
– I am not at all surprised that another anti-Australian should have said that. The honorable member for Swan never ceases to decry Australia, but one of these days the people of this country will put him where he ought to be. The Prime Minister has stressed the point that an order for the construction of the vessel could not be placed in Australia because plans and specifications were not available. If he had been sincere, he would have seen that plans and specifications were available long ago, because the necessary documents could have been obtained. Technical journals which I have consulted show that, early in April of the present year, orders were placed by the British Government for the construction of cruisers in the Mother Country j and as those vessels will be similar in type to the proposed cruisers for the Australian Navy, the Prime Minister could have cabled for plans and specifications in December last. But, apparently, the right honorable gentleman was not sufficiently interested, otherwise the necessary plans and specifications would have been made available, and the work could have been done in Australia. It is evident that the Prime Minister, and his lieutenant, the Treasurer, are so busy patching up the pact that they cannot find time to give attention to proposals for the development of shipbuilding in Australia. An order should be placed immediately with the Cockatoo Island Dockyard for one cruiser. Then, if the Government wishes to make a comparison of costs, tenders could be invited for a second cruiser, and preference, to the extent of at least 60 per cent. - as is done in connexion with other industries - be given to the Australian tenderers. I am quite satisfied that if the Government will allow its supporters an untrammelled vote in this matter, there will be an overwhelming majority of the committee in favour of the construction of these cruisers in Australia. If honorable members are allowed a free hand, they will not be shielding themselves behind the party cry, but will vote for Australia. This dockyard should be maintained for defence purposes. The British. Government realizes the importance of providing employment for men skilled in naval construction. One vessel, we are told, has been on the stocks for seven and a half years as a stand-by for the employment of expert shipbuilders, so that when the time of trial comes the necessary staffs will be available for all work that may be equired of them. The position at Cockatoo Island is serious. The vessels it present in hand will be finished within six weeks, and unless continuous employment is provided, hundreds of highlykilled men will have to seek work elsewhere. What would be Australia’s position if, as the Prime Minister has suggested, this country were attacked by a hostile naval power? Unless we had a naval dockyard in full operation, the necessary repairs to naval ships could not be undertaken perhaps for months, and we know that delay in the repair of naval vessels very often is the turning point in decisive naval action. Evidently the Prime Minister is not very much concerned about that. He is more concerned with schemes to provide employment for people at the other side of the world. To me this is a strange doctrine. So far as I know it is not preached in any other country. How can we develop our industries if, whenever we can get a commodity 21/2d. cheaper elsewhere, we refuse to encourage Australian workmen? A very important principle is involved in this question. We should do all that is possible to build up an Australian sentiment and make Australia a nation. That is the spirit we should endeavour to f oster. We all remember how we were thrilled when the first vessels of the Australian Navy, created by the Fisher Labour Government, entered Australian waters. An intense feeling of patriotism pulsated through the veins of every man, woman, and child in Australia. If we want cheapness we can get our work done in China or Japan. It is not fair to compare the work of Australian workmen with that of low-grade workmen of other countries.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the workmen of Great Britain are low-grade?
– No, but I say that the workmen of Australia are better than the workmen of Great Britain. This has been proved time after time. When the last Australian-built ship arrived in the Mother Country, experts in shipbuilding were astounded at the class of work that had been put into the vessel, and stated they would not have dreamed of putting such high-class finish into a
British-built ship. I appeal to the committee to give Australians a chance to do his naval construction work. All sections of the community are asking for it. Mr. Ludowici, chairman of the Chamber of Manufactures, presiding at a great meet- ingintheSydneyTownHalllastweek, declared he had been in consultation with he unions concerned, and was quite satisfied that they would do the work satisfactorily. I am certain that if the Government gives the Australian workmen a, chance they will respond magnificently and deliver the goods.
Mr.C. RILEY (Cook) [10.43 a.m.].This All-Australian Government which, when it was formed, prided itself on the fact that all of its members were Australianborn, is now showing how to support Australian industries by placing a contract for the building of a cruiser outside theCommonwealth. The Government, together with its supporters, and many anti-Australians outside the House, suggests that delay in construction is a deciding factor against the building of these ships in Australia. In this respect Australia does not stand alone. The Governments of other countries have to putup with delays. I have a return showing what is the position in the Mother Country. In the House of Commons, on the 27th February, Mr. Amnion, replying to a question submitted by Viscount Curzon, as to the time occupied on the construction of certain cruisers in British dockyards, gave the following information: -
Frobisher, laid down August, 1916, to complete end of June, 1924, eight years.
Effingham, laid down April, 1917, to complete end of March, 1925, eight years.
Enterprise, laid down June, 1918, to complete end of July, 1924, six years.
Emerald, laid down September, 1918, to complete end of March, 1925, seven years.
It will be seen, therefore, that considerable delay has occurred in the construction of those four cruisers in Great Britain, which, as the Minister for Defence informed me some weeks ago, are to a great extent similar to the 10,000-ton cruisers the Commonwealth proposes to have built. The Frobisher was laid down during the war, when rapid construction was vitally necessary, and the delay in its completion is inexplicable. As a matter of fact, the time occupied in constructing the Adelaide and Brisbane compares very favorably with the time occupied in building vessels of a similar type in Great Britain. I have a little knowledge of the costing in the construction of cruisers. I was in charge of the labour costs at Cockatoo Island some years ago, and quite recently I had occasion to point out to honorable members one of the many reasons which were responsible for the high cost of war-ship construction in Australia. Labour and material used on repair jobs of all descriptions were charged up to the torpedo destroyers and cruisers under construction. Orders were issued by the Naval Board that all establishment charges were to be spread over jobs costing more than £1,000, and as the only jobs costing more than £1,000 were the cruisers and destroyers these vessels had to carry the burden of the whole of the establishment charges at Cockatoo Island. This Government only a few months ago agreed to pay £275,000 to Bawra when there was absolutely no legal liability to make that payment, and allowed half of the amount to be paid to the Imperial Government, which had made no claim for it. It authorized the payment of £309,000 to the Imperial Government in connexion with the sale of ex-enemy vessels, notwithstanding that the previous Prime Minister and his Government refused to make such a payment, and was also prepared to remit land taxation amounting to £1,300,000. Yet it croaks about the exorbitant cost of placing an order for cruisers with Australian dockyards. Ministers will not give Australian workers a chance to demonstrate what they can do, and will not allow the shipbuilding industry of Australia to profit by this most excellent opportunity to strengthen tlie Commonwealth from a defence point of view. Some honorable members have referred to what they describe as the “ goslow” tactics at Cockatoo Island. I was on the island for a number of years. I was there when Donald Grant, the famous I.W.W. man, was employed on the island. I can say from my own observation that no man gave a fairer day’s work than did Donald Grant. The other workers, too, all did honest work, and if they are given the opportunity ou this occasion I can assure honorable members that they will “deliver the goods.” By interjection, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr.-
Seabrook) asked the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) what guaranteecould be given that the cruisers would be turned out within a reasonable time if built locally. No such guarantee can be given any more than the Prime Ministercan guarantee that cruisers built in Great Britain will be completed within a reasonable time. I have just shown that many of the cruisers laid down in 1916 and. 1917 will not be completed until next year. The extra cost of building the Adelaide and Brisbane, and the delay involved in their construction, were largely brought about by the many alterations in design authorized by the Naval Board. As much as £60,000 was authorized to be spent on alterations on theAdelaide. It is well to remember that these cruisers were not constructed in a private dockyard, but ‘were built in a Government dockyard controlled by the Department of the Prime Minister. Many naval experts and supervisors were appointed to supervise the work, and honorable members can realize that when a man has a fairly comfortable job he is not too anxious for it to come to an end. Therefore, there was considerable unnecessary delay, as the longer the vessels were on the stocks, the longer these naval supervisors retained their jobs. It is just as well for honorable members to know the factors that helped to delay construction and increase the cost of the war vessels that have been constructed in Australia. Some months ago I brought under the notice of the House the fact that when Mr. King Salter, the general manager of the dockyard, had a motor garage built at Balmain, material and workers were dispatched from the island to Balmain to build it. I handled the costing cards on the island, and, consequently, know what I am talking about; yet when I asked a question in the House some months ago with regard to the ‘cost of this garage I was told that the Commonwealth had not been charged with it. Owing to the way in which the costing system at Cockatoo has been manipulated private work and country orders, as many people have described them, have been debited to cruisers and other vessels under construction. No establishment could stand charges of that nature. “Wrongful charging of material and labour is detrimental to the success of the ship- building industry. In bis ‘ report, Sir John Monash refers to the information originally obtained by the Prime Minister, that cruisers, of the type desired could be built in Great Britain for £1,900,000. After analysing that information, Sir John Monash says that he is definitely of opinion that there are no reliable figures of the prices in Great Britain of a modern 10,000-ton cruiser to guide us in this matter. The Naval Board has submitted an estimate of the cost of local construction, and Sir John Monash, in commenting upon that estimate, which was presented by Engineer-Captain E. D. Sydenham, R.N., the Director of Engineering <of the Royal Australian Navy, says :. -
Unfortunately, during the discussions, it -emerged clearly that a number of the data and -factors employed by him could not be accepted as accurate.
Later on Sir John Monash says: -
Specifically, Captain Sydenham has assigned the sum of £171,000, i.e., 24 per cent, of £712,500, as representing the mere cost of transportation from England to Cockatoo Dock of some 10,000 tons of miscellaneous materials, raw and fabricated ! This is an average of £17 a ton. In my opinion, which is based upon documentary information supplied by the Shipping Board, and confirmed by my own experience of considerable importations of structural materials during the past three years, the figure set down for transportation charges is certainly at least £130,000 in excess of the truth.
What reliance, therefore, can be placed on advice tendered by the Naval Board to the Government or embodied in any. report to Parliament? It is absolutely valueless. My experience of naval men is that their attitude is absolutely antiAustralian. They have been brought up in an atmosphere quite foreign to Australia, and they have no time for anyone unless he has the brand “R.N.” on his coat. Captain Sydenham, according to the report of Sir John Monash, spoke of the very heavy overhead charges at Cockatoo Island. In my opinion, these should not be used as a justification for not affording the shipbuilding industry of Australia, a chance to make good. Captain Sydenham assigned 35 per cent, as the correct ratio of overhead charges at Cockatoo Island, and Sir John Monash, who is prepared to accept the figures supplied by the Ship- . ping Board, namely, 28 per cent., commenting upon this estimate, says: -
I consider that the Naval Board has overestimated these overhead charges.
Reading Sir John Monash’s report, one must come to the conclusion that the Naval Board is determined, as far as possible, to crush Cockatoo Island. If the present Government is prepared to do its duty and continue the good work laid down by the great Australian Imperial Force a few years ago in giving the Australian people confidence in themselves, it will not hesitate to place orders for the construction of the cruisers in Australia. Officials at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, men with considerable experience, gained in shipbuilding yards in Great Britain, and men for whose opinion I have every respect, have informed me that if an order for the building of two cruisers is given to the dockyard it will mean a saving of £500,000, and that the second cruiser can be launched nine months after the first cruiser. We have recently built at Cockatoo Island the steamers Fordsdale and Ferndale. There is no comparison, so far as workmanship is concerned, between these . vessels and vessels built in British dockyards. I have been able to closely scrutinize the work put into the cruisers that have been built in Australia and that put* into the construction of the battleship Australia. The riveting and much of the hull work iri the Australia were a disgrace. I have been over every part of it, and I could, if necessary, bring evidence in proof of my statement. The Australian excels in his workmanship. Although the labour cost would be considerably higher if a cruiser were constructed in Australia, it would be worth while to have the work done here, because employment would be provided for our own people, and a struggling industry would be given a helping hand. During the early hours of this morning the committee dealt particularly with the estimates in connexion with the naval establishment. I asked the Minister what were the duties of the ship constructor, who is receiving £656 per annum. The Minister informed me that he was engaged at Garden Island upon repair work. Whilst listening to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) this morning, I ascertained that this officer, at the request of the Naval Board, had submitted an estimate for the construction of a cruiser in Australia. That estimate amounted to £3,000,000. It was apparently too damaging for the Naval Board. because the matter was not carried any further. Had I been acquainted with those facts when the committee was considering the matter, I should have had something further to say about the withholding of this expert advice from the committee. Whilst in England some time ago, Sir William Clarkson, who is a member of the Naval Board, selected this man on account of his expert knowledge of naval ship construction. I dare say that this expert in ship construction went to considerable trouble to prepare his estimate, and was careful to be accurate in every detail. Yet his estimate has been thrown into the waste-paper basket! I am forced to the conclusion that, because he was selected from a private shipbuilding yard, he is not acceptable to those who have been reared in the atmosphere of the Royal Navy. The time has arrived when we should cultivate an Australian sentiment. When the matter of Australian woollens was being discussed this morning, the Minister for Defence informed us that practically the whole of the serge required for the Australian Navy was of Australian manufacture. That was very pleasing news to honorable members, especially to those who are particularly interested in the textile industry, and who are aware of the depression that exists in that industry at the present time. Yet we find that in August of this year the same Minister gave authority for the conversion of the Silvio into a surveying sloop. As far as I have been able to ascertain, no external alterations were necessary, but work costing £68,000 is to be done on this ship outside Australia. I am not surprised, because I know that the Una - formerly the Comet, which was captured in New Guinea by the Australian Navy in the early stages of the war - was in Mort’s Dock a few weeks ago undergoing repairs. Work which the Government should, and could, put in the way of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard is be. ing given to private enterprise. We can only conclude, therefore, that the Government is not actuated by a desire to further the interests of Australia, but wishes to foster private enterprise. I hope that the Government will not allow the excessive costs that were associated with the construction of the Brisbane and the Adelaide to prejudice it in considering the important matter of placing an order for the construction »f these two new cruisers. Delays have occurred in cruiser construction in Great Britain. The naval gentlemen who strutted round Cockatoo Island whilst the Brisbane and the Adelaide were being constructed knew that the longer the ships were on the stocks the longer would they retain their jobs and their salaries. The Government should hesitate before placing an order for the construction of the cruisers outside Australia. If it were equal to its responsibilities, it would decide to build both cruisers in’ Australia. I do not say that they must necessarily be built at Cockatoo Island. I am prepared to see private shipping yards spring into existence. If one cruiser is given to Cockatoo Island to construct, perhaps the same old story will be repeated, and many other jobs will be charged to it that do not rightfully belong to it. We have had incompetent officers who have estimated that from £5,000 to £7,000 would be required for certain naval repair work, but when that work was nearing completion they found that the cost would ‘be in the vicinity of £10,000. Instead of admitting their blunder, they have issued instructions for the cost above the estimate to be borne by the Brisbane or some other vessel then under construction. I do hot stand for that. I am keenly anxious that the Government should investigate ‘the complaint I have made with regard to the general manager’s motor garage that was built at Balmain, with dockyard material. The Commonwealth Investigation Bureau should inquire into the matter,, and thus render a service to the taxpayers and to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I trust that this work will be kept in Australia, and that the Government will inculcate in the people a. spirit like that which animates the American people, by placing a duty upon foreign-built vessels, and imposing a penalty upon ships that are repaired in places other than Australia.
– I thought that the Minister (Mr. Bowden) would have made a statement that would have cleared up one or more of the points that have been raised during the debate. But since he has not done so, I must deal with the matter as I find it. I differ from some who have spoken. I think that this question is one of the greatest importance tothe Commonwealth, and must be considered from the stand-point of national defence, and from that stand-point only. I part company, therefore, with those who think that it should be considered as an economic or financial proposition, though I do not deny that such aspects have to be taken into consideration. The question is not whether money should be spent in this or in any other country to relieve unemployment, but whether the committee is assured that these two cruisers are necessary for the safety of the Commonwealth, and suited to form an integral part of our scheme of defence. I assume, of course, that the Government approaches the matter from this standpoint. By those who look through misty Utopian spectacles, and see a world beating the sword into the plough-share within a very short while, this matter is regarded, of course, quite differently. With their view I cannot be expected to sympathize, and I do not do so. As for world peace, I suppose we all pray most earnestly for it. I do not really think that there is any difference between parties in that respect. At the bottom of their hearts all men want peace.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– But we approach our objective by different paths. I am not one who thinks that the reign of peace is to be hastened by a complete disregard of the teachings of history, _of the promptings of human nature, and of these deep passions which have existed in mankind from the beginning, and are likely to last to the end. In a world peopled by mau as we know him, there will always be danger of war. That being so, aud because we, above all people in the world, are in a position in which it is imperative that we should be able to defend ourselves, I have always favoured a vigorous and adequate defence policy for this Commonwealth. It is from, that stand-point, therefore, that I view thi* matter. A great deal has been said about the encouragement of Australian industry. I, too, shall have something to say about that; but I declare at the outset that unless 1” was firmly convinced that these cruisers are necessary for the safety of this Commonwealth, and are to be regarded as an integral part of the defence policy of the Commonwealth, I would not vote for the expenditure of a penny upon them merely to provide work for unemployed artisans. I cannot conceive of a worse way in which money could be spent than in the building of war-ships that are not necessary for the national safety. This is perhaps the only part of the British Labour party’s policy with which I totally disagree. The British Labour Government, whose head was a notorious pacifist during the war, has put forward as a pretext - as I conceive it to be - for the building of cruisers, the excuse that their construction will provide work for Britain’s unemployed artisans. I do not agree with such a policy. I cannot believe that Britain is building cruisers to find work for its own unemployed. I know very well that Mr. Thomas, Mr. Clynes, and other members of the British Ministry hold totally different views in this connexion from those held by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. I suppose that he, when brought face to face with the facts, had to follow the lead given by Mr. Thomas and Mr. Clynes, and travel along the road which the English people were resolute to take. To build cruisers in order to find work for unemployed men at a time when Britain is at its wits’ end for money, at the very moment when the nations are considering whether al] war-ships should be scrapped is not a sensible policy, or one consistent with the Labour party’s platform. But once it is agreed that the building of these cruisers is necessary for the safety of the Commonwealth, the whole superstructure of the arguments against the proposal disappears ; objections against the expenditure must be regarded not as vital elements in the -problem, but merely as incidental. If it is necessary to assure the safety of the country that we should have these cruisers, how utterly futile is the argument that we might save £500,000 by having them built in Britain ! I cannot accept that kind of argument at all. Either the cruisers are necessary for the safety of the country, or they are not. That they are necessary is the only reason why we should contemplate their construction at a time when by all accounts it is not easy to obtain money - although certain events that have happened recently would seem to indicate that the opposite is the case. We should not contemplate the expenditure of this money unless it is absolutely necessary, as necessary as for a man to pay the premium for his fire or life insurance, no matter how difficult it may be to do so. I assume that the Government has assured itself that these cruisers are essential for the safety of this country. If this is not so, what are we considering, and what have we to go upon which will help us to form an opinion as to whether the proposed expenditure is justified? I assume, therefore, that the Government is following the advice of the British Admiralty and its own experts on this vital question as well as upon the type of ship to be built, and that it is a type which will fit into any scheme of Imperial defence, which, whether it has been formulated or not, circumstances will compel to take a certain definite shape, clearly enough known to the men whose business it is to concern themselves with principles of Empire naval strategy. This being so, and the vessels being necessary for our safety, we have to ask ourselves what are the arguments in favour of their being constructed in any other country but this. I submit most emphatically that the onus is upon those who wish to construct them out of the country to make out a case in favour of such a course. They will find it difficult to do so. On what does their objection to construction in Australia rest? Is it not an admission that at the bottom of their hearts those who make it regard this country as immature to a degree that makes her almost despicable in comparison with other nations, and incapable of compassing this work which is necessary to its own safety ? This Australia of ours, which has long been admitted by the nations as entitled to sit as an equal with them in the councils of the world, is evidently regarded by the Naval Board in a very different light. The board approaches this question with its mind already made up. It is perfectly obvious, from Sir John Monash’s very clear report, that it never seriously contemplated that Australia was capable of building these ships. It assumed at the outset that Britain was the only country in which they could and ought to be built, and it proceeded to buttress that assumption with arguments about cost and estimates, which Sir John Monash has shown rested upon mere guess-work. In the opinion of the Naval Board our workmen are incapable, and our people in a stage of hobbledehoydom, not to be regarded as serious competitors in any great national work. I resent the underlying assumption of the board very much. The manner in which its estimate was compiled, as any one can see very plainly from Sir John Monash’s report, is one calculated to give offence to any Australian. I think I have in my career shown plainly enough that I am a believer in Empire, and I have not been slow to say how much we owe to Britain. I have never hesitated to champion her cause; but we are Australians, and the best service we can render Britain and the Empire, after all these years, is to show that we are fit to govern this country, to develop and defend it. This is our right and our clear duty. “We should’ not hand over this* necessary work, which is vital to our safety, to those who long ago entrusted us with the government of our own affairs. Are we such spineless, anæmic creatures as to be incapable of bearing the great responsibilities which free government imposes upon us? “What is the record of Australia in peace and war! But yesterday, as it were, we asserted our right to be regarded, as serious competitors with other nations, by securing the contract for the construction of the North Shore Bridge. We did that against the competition of ‘the world. We can, we ought to, build these cruisers. There are men in this country and in this chamber who can say nothing good of Australia, but under the pretence of cheapness prefer that the machinery and plant necessary for our development and safety should be brought from Britain. But that is not their real reason for their preference. They prefer it because it is British and not Australian. I am not that kind of Britisher at all. It is the duty of Australians, who take a pride in their achievements, who glory in the fact that their soldiers gained for them a position amongst the nations of the earth, to assert themselves, and incumbent upon us as citizens of this country, to comport ourselves and act as an equal amongst the nations. When the building of cruisers to provide for national safety is the policy of the Government, it should surely entrust their construction to the Australian people, unless by some incurable defect in our character it be shown that we cannot grow up, and are condemned to a perpetuity of immaturity. In which case this country is not worth defending. The onus of showing that these cruisers shall not be built in Australia is on those who say that they ought to be built in Britain.. In my opinion they ought to be built in Australia.. In no other way oan they serve as effective instruments of our national safety. I should be the last to say one word against the necessity for equipment and material. I have been a very enthusiastic supporter of every means possible to ensure efficient equipment for this country on land, at sea, and in the air. ‘ But the defence of a country is not assured by ships, cannon, aeroplanes, or poison gas, and depends on its mcn and the spirit animating the community. Germany did not go down merely because she was beaten on the field, soldier against soldier, by the Allied Forces, but because her spirit failed her, her morale had broken. Did we not realize during the war that the great thing was to keep up the spirit of the country, to inspire it to fresh effort when it was beaten down? Did we not lay on its bare back, already torn and bent, the lash of our perfervid appeals urging it to fresh exertion 1 Why did we do this ? Was it not a recognition of the fact that not only the spirit of the men at the -front must be maintained, but the spirit of the whole people ? What are these1 ships for 1 They are to defend- this country. Is,the country worth defending? If it is, der must be an appeal to national sentiment. Some honorable members on the other side have asked how this national sentiment is to be kindled. Is it to be kindled by loud-sounding speeches at. gastronomic functions? Some people seem to think this is the beginning and end of patriotism ! There is only one way in which to build it up. We must express ourselves nationally in out works; words are not enough. The people must have a sign. They must see something in which the spirit of the country is embodied. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) spoke of the entry of the Australian Navy into the Sydney Harbour in 1913. It seemed to me, and to others also on that day, that the spirit of Australia had- taken shape. It was the very incarnation of the spirit of this great wide land. The navy was then, and- is now, the only national symbol in which Australia has expressed herself. If we are to inspire the people of this country with national sentiment, and to prove to the world that we are a nation in something more than name, we cannot allow this time to pass and weakly hand over to an elder brother work which we are well able to do ourselves. . We have shown our capacity. It is not as though we were asked to do something incredibly difficult which we have never attempted. We built the Adelaide. I have no doubt of the capacity of the Australian workmen, or of the experts who are in. our -service. But it is not enough, to build the ships. They must be manned, and they must be supported by the spirit of the citizens. When the people of Australia see these vessels being built - the formless, inanimate pieces .of metal taking shape, and becoming animate with a great purpose moulded into instrumentalities for “ ensuring the safety of the Commonwealth,” potent and terrible repositories of mighty power, a symbol of our nationality, the outward and visible sign to the world that we are resolved to defend- ourselves -national sentiment will be awakened, and breathe into them the breath of national life. Of all nations in the world we are most entitled to be regarded as a Pacific power. We are set in the Pacific Ocean, and our policy is peace. We are, I hope, chastened a little by experience, and we realize that we live in a world in which it- is necessary for us to defend ourselves. I ask the Ministry why it hesitates, if it is hesitating - and I have, no information which would lead me to believe it is - to stand its ground? lt has been suggested- that the element of expense should sway our judgment and decide our ..policy. But there is no evidence that these vessels would- cost more to construct in Australia than in England. In all human probability they would cost more. Sir John Monash, in his report, states that there is a strong assumption - amounting almost to a certainty - that their construction in Australia would cost a great deal more than if they were built in Great Britain, but the amount of that excess cost we do not know. But there is no evidence to show that the excess cost would be relatively more for ships of war than for other things needed by the country. Australia has a different standard of living, and different rates of pay from other countries, but beyond that there is no evidence that, man for man, unit for unit, and £1 for £1 of capital, Australia cannot turn out vessels as cheaply as Great Britain or any other country. Given the same plant, and those adventitious aids which enable labour to exert its power most’ effectively and economically, Australian workmen need not be afraid to compete with any workmen in the world. But suppose the vessels would cost relatively more to build in Australia; unless they would cost so much more that this country could not find the money, they should bc built here. But, apparently we have the purse of Fortunatus, for there is nothing that we cannot buy when it comes to the pinch. It is not seriously contended that their construction in Australia would cost very much more than if they were built abroad.. It may cost 40 per cent, more or 50 per cent.; I do not know whether it will or not. No one seems to know what the cost would be either here or in England. So much is perfectly clear from Sir John Monash’s report. The evidence upon which the Naval Board arrives at it’s conclusion is shadowy indeed. It is mere guesswork, vitiated by the assumption that Australia cannot do the work. The estimates of the Commonwealth Shipping Board are of a totally different character. No one seemed to know at the time the estimates were prepared what type of vessel it was asked to consider. We should be told exactly tho kind of vessel to be constructed. There is no ship yet afloat of the type that the Government is contemplating. This brings us to the clement of time. It has been said that one reason why the ships could not be built here is the length of time their construction would take. That argument is very weak, unless the matter bc regarded as very urgent. And if it be urgent, if six or eight months would make the difference between defeat and victory, we may well inquire why this leisurely way’ of approaching the matter? It has been known for many months that the cruisers, were wanted, yet nothing has been done. Why? I do not think that there is any evidence that six months would make a vital difference, nor is there evidence of which I am aware that Australia would take longer to construct a vessel than Great Britain. If there is such evidence, it can only arise out of the difference in the quality of the plant available for the work of construction. If this Government is satisfied that the construction of the cruisers is essential to tho defence of this country, it should, as part of a great national policy, equip our yards with the most up-to-date plant’ in the world. If there is no doubt in the minds of Ministers as to whether cruisers are the best means of defence, and not submarines or airships, that is the position they should take up.’ I know the difficulties that confront the Government. I am not so insensible to them that I would ask this Government to do anything that I would not be prepared to do myself. The manner in which tenders are to be called for, according to the press report, does not commend itself to me..
– Hear, hear !
– I do not know what would be acceptable to honorable members opposite, but to call for tenders for two vessels in Britain, and for other tenders for one in Britain and another here, makes the result a foregone conclusion, if the matter is to be decided on the basis of time and expense. There is only one possible tenderer in Australia, and that is practically a government instrumentality. We have, therefore, a reductio ad absurdum. The Government will practically be a tenderer for one of these vessels, and it knows that its tender must be . in excess of the British tenders. No doubt the acceptance or otherwise of the tender will be decided when Parliament is in recess, and we shall- not have an opportunity to express our opinion about what is done. It seems to me that the surest way to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion would be to invite tenders in both Australia and Britain for one ship only. That would be a plain declaration of our intention to construct at least one of the vessels here. If the Australian tender was at all comparable with the lowest British tender, it might be made to apply to the construction of two vessels in. Australia. I am perfectly certain that the people of Australia will regard any proposal other than that one vessel at least shall be constructed in Australia fis most unsatisfactory, and opposed to the best interests of the Commonwealth. The Government apparently have already taken some steps with regard to this matter. If it is entirely unembarrassed by its previous declaration or any action of its own, it should approach this matter from the stand-point of a selfreliant people, resolute to show their capacity to govern and to act as a free nation among the other free nations that form the British Commonwealth. It is high time that we’ shook off this ancient tradition that no good thing can come out of Australia. This tradition lies heavily upon some of the newspapers of this country, more particularly on certain reactionary newspapers in our great cities. Until recently, those newspapers could see no good in this country, and their comparisons were always to the detriment of Australia and to the advantage of Great Britain. But lately, since the advent of a Labour Government in Great Britain, these journals have been a, little chastened, and, no doubt before long, they will be prepared to admit that good can come out of Nazareth. I am quite certain that this country is becoming more and more determined every year to assert and express its nationality. That assertion to-day is not only compatible with a loyal determination* to remain in that glorious partnership of nations that make up the British Commonwealth, but declares the only way in which the Commonwealth can endure. I hope the Government will see its way clear to have these- cruisers constructed in Australia.
– The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) is at a disadvantage in being unfamiliar with the history of this matter, and the action taken by Parliament. He asked whether these cruisers were necessary for the safety of Australia, and whether all advice that could be obtained in that regard had been’ obtained. We have received advice not only from the British Admiralty, but also from the Council of Defence in Great Britain, that the cruisers are necessary and that they should be of the 10,000-ton type. I shall not now detail the reasons for that advice; the committee has already had that information. The question of time comes in to the extent that the Melbourne and the Sydney are practically obsolete, but, by the carrying out of extensive repairs, they have been made serviceable for another two or two and a half, or. at the most, three years. The Sydney will probably be quite obsolete in two years, and the Melbourne in about two and a half years, when they will not be worth spending any more money on. The necessity for replacing these two cruisers at the same time created the difficulty about where the ships should be built. The Government felt it undesirable to have two shipbuilding yards in Australia, one at Walsh Island and the other at Cockatoo, each building one of these cruisers. That would have meant organizing two .staffs when there- appeared to be no possibility, after the one cruiser had been built, of keeping both of them together. Consequently, after a very full discussion, the House decided that one of the cruisers should be ordered in England. Then arose the question of where the other should be built, and before any order was given the Government used every means available to ascertain the probable cost of building one of the cruisers in Australia. The Government was to some extent at a loss, because, since the making of the Washington Treaty, constant changes have been made in the designs of the cruisers. The cruisers mentioned by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) were of 9,700 tons, and were as near the 10,000- ton limit as possible. After the Washington Treaty had been signed, the different nations tried to design for the greatest possible striking power and the highest attainable speed within the limits of 10,000 tons. The armament was changed from time to time, and the horse-power of the engines was constantly increased. The Government had great difficulty in ascertaining the probable cost of building one of the cruisers here. There was then no possibility of getting plans and specifications, because designs were in a state of flux. It is only quite recently that the plans and specifications have been sufficiently advanced to enable reasonably accurate estimates to be made. When the Government got into that position it asked the Shipping Board and the Naval” Board to estimate from the information available the cost of the cruisers. The basis of the calculations was the figure of £1,900,000 given to the Prime Minister when he was in England as the cost of building a vessel in England, but even on that basis the estimates were very divergent. It was thought undesirable to proceed further until a more definite price had been ascertained. The suggestion was made that a representative of the Naval Board, a representative of the Shipping Board, and Sir John Monash should meet together and try to form an opinion of the approximate cost. When they met it was found that the two parties that furnished the estimates adhered to their statements, and that the Shipping Board had carried the matter farther than it had done previously by trying to visualize the vessel. On that basis the Shipping Board made a detailed estimate, and supplied specifications, setting out what it thought would be included in the estimate, and what the ship would cost if built in that way. The estimates were very carefully prepared. The Naval Board’s estimate was not prepared in the sam e way.
– The Naval Board jumped to conclusions. Its estimates were haphazard.
– They were not haphazard, but were based on the estimate of the cost in England. The board made inquiries, and prepared careful estimates of the additional cost of the materials and labour in Australia.
– Sir John Monash wiped out that estimate.
– Yes; but there are several factors that have to be taken into consideration. Sir John Monash spoke of his own experience, but the material that the Victorian Electricity Commission, of which he is the chairman, has imported, is in a very different class from the machines, auxiliary engines, and electrical equipment required for the cruisers. The Naval Board estimate included not only cost of freight, but took into consideration the total increased costs of material in England and Australia, including the costs of packing, &c, in England, and the additional cost of Australian material. I am not defending the estimate of the Naval Board; I am not able to say whether it is correct. I am -merely trying to state exactly what happened. The board estimated that the additional cost of labour in Australia would be 2.25 per cent., and Sir John Monash estimated that it would be 2.04 per cent. The percentage of 2.25 was used in the calculations made for the contract obtained by a large firm carrying out an important contract in New South Wales. The Naval Board has not at any time expressed an opinion whether these cruisers should be built in Australia, and it is not a fair representation of the facts to say that it has. The board was asked for an estimate of the cost of building the cruisers.
– And it lied about freights.
– Whether it did or did not time alone can prove. It is worthy of note that subsequently the amended estimate of the Shipping Board amounted to practically the same figure as the original estimate of the Naval Board; but when the amended estimate of the Shipping Board was put in the Naval Board amended its estimate also. Sir John Monash found himself in the same difficulty as the Ministry was in. I wish to draw the attention of honorable members to two paragraphs in his report, in which he speaks of the difficulty of making the estimate. Because an agreement could not be obtained between the. three parties, Sir John Monash submitted a report based upon the statements of both sides. In it he said -
I desire to preface my remarks with an expression of opinion that it is a most difficult, if not entirely impossible, task to formulate, at the present stage, and with the meagre information yet available, a thoroughly reliableestimate, in. the sense desired. This arises in no degree from any lack of capacity on the part of the several authorities who have attempted to prepare such an estimate, but entirely because of the absence of reliable information as to the number of fundamental characteristics of the design of a modern cruiser.
Then he pointed out that the Washington treaty profoundly affected those characteristics, and later said -
My conclusion from these considerations is that no estimate, however skilfully and carefully, prepared, can be regarded as absolutely reliable in the sense which you desire.
The report then went on to point out the changes that had been made in regard to armament and machinery. The honorable member for Dalley referred to an armament ring. But even if there be such a ring the question of relative costs is not affected thereby, because whether the ships be built in England or in Australia, the armament will have to be purchased from the same people. The honorable member also quoted an extract from an English Sunday paper, and upon that evidence declared that it was doubtful whether the Government, intended to call for tenders at all, notwithstanding the assurance by the Prime Minister that the Cabinet hasdecided to do so.
– That is only camouflage in order that the Government may get into recess, and then place an order in Great Britain.
– The honorable member weakens his argument by making such base insinuations.
– How did that English newspaper obtain the news?
– Goodness knows where the press gets its information. The honorable member quoted those portions of Sir John Monash’s report that suited him, but in regard to those portions which do not accord with his own views, he said that Sir John Monash does not know what he is talking about.
– Of course, he does not.
– The honorable member said that the presentation of the report to Parliament had been delayed by the Government, although he knows that as soon as the report had been considered by Cabinet it was laid on the table of the House.
– Itwas held up for a week.
– Does the honorable member consider that too long a time in which to study so important a document? He has endeavoured to prove that Sir John Monash endorsed the Shipping Board’s estimate and rejected that of the Naval Board, whereas he emphasized his opinion that neither estimate, based upon such limited data, could be depended upon.
– What did he say about the £1,000,000 to be spent in Australiain wages ?
– He said that each cruiser, if built in Australia, would cost at least £1,000,000 more than if it were built in Great Britain. I would remind honorable members that there are two other things that are urgently necessary for the naval defence of Australia, namely, a seaplane carrier and a dock large enough to accommodate any vessel of the Royal Navy that may visit our coast. Any Government must consider whether the building of a seaplane carrier and a dock would give employment to the same number of men as would the construction of a cruiser, and whether those conveniences could be obtained for the same amount of money as would be saved in building both cruisers in Great Britain. If, with a stated sum, we could buy two cruisers in England, and still have enough money left to build the seaplane carrier and the dock, such a policy must receive consideration. The Government has come to no determination to build the second cruiser abroad.
Its only desire is to ascertain the facts as to the cost of local construction, and to give other shipbuilding yards besides Cockatoo an opportunity to tender for the vessel if they so desire. An application has been received from the Walsh Island shipyards to bo given a chance to tender for the construction of a cruiser, and it should be allowed to do so if Cockatoo Island is afforded that opportunity. The Government has wisely and logically decided that it will ascertain what the cost is likely to be before it enters into a contract for the construction of a ship in Australia. The suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley that the work should be carried out locally regardless of cost could not be adopted by any government.
.- As I have been for 30 hours on deck, I shall not speak for long. In the course of this discussion there has been some reference to universal history, national prestige, the sentiment of a people, and the relative capacity of Australian and other workers. Sentimentalism makes no appeal to me. We have been told that war always has been and always will be, because human nature does not change. Nothing is more ancient than brutality, cannibalism, and slavery, yet they have disappeared, or almost so. Man’s progress has been a record of constant conquest over the evil practices and absurdities of the past, and as slavery has passed away and we dream that poverty, too, will disappear, so do we hope that the bloody monstrosity of war between nations will likewise become a thing of the past. In primitive communities might was right; justice was the will of the strongest and most masterly persons in the crowd; but as brute power has been robbed of its authority in civil life, and arbitration and a judicial system have taken its place, so we believe that methods other than the employment of brute force will settle the disputes between nations. The question before the committee is whether Australia requires two new cruisers, and, if so, where they shall be built. I have no sympathy with those royal and ancient agencies that stir up the blood lust amongst nations, so that in war a few men may gather a harvest of wealth while other men lose their lives on the battlefield, and profit-mongers may wax fat on the misery of widows and orphans. Against such abominations it is necessary that we should make war. A few years ago I attended a shipping dinner in Leadenhall-street at which Lord Inchcape, the shipping magnate, was present, and he said in tlie course of his speech, “ Our ships are in all ports. Our flag flies on all the seas. Labour varies in quality and price in all countries, according to differences of race, character, and industry, but I can tell you that the experience of my company has been that whilst we pay more for labour in Australia than in any other country, it is cheaper than any other, having regard to its relative productivity.” We hear a lot of talk about nationality and the great imperial sentiment, and we read something day by day of what is meant by the imperial sentiment, and ties of race and blood and kin. Every man born on English soil knows how little those who govern care for the masses, when they degrade the muscles and sinews of the workers by whom their riches are won, and even the souls of the workers are attuned to the slums in which they dwell. Before the war, the Peninsular and Oriental Company and Lord Inchcape and others of his kind had driven their own countrymen out of their ships and put black crews in their places. Manned with cheap coloured, labour, those ships traded in all parts of the world. But when the war drums beat and men were wanted the niggers were put aside, and white men once more manned the ships, not to defend the nation, but to defend the property of the owners. But, in the words of an old song, ‘ ‘ When the war is over, God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.” And so these ships are no longer manned by the white men who fought for the owners on the battle-fields of France, and kept the highways open for shipping. Where are those men today? Once more they are idle in the ports and cities of Great Britain, and once more the ships are filled with a nigger population. And so rapidly has the re-manning of British ships proceeded that last week the newspapers were able to tell us that nine-tenths’ of the shipping entering our ports is manned, not by men of the “ bull-dog breed,” but by the niggers who were useless during the war. The men who were called upon to defend the owners and their property are left to starve. So much for nationality and the imperial sentiment.
I will not discuss the details of these cruiser construction proposals; they havebeen clearly set out by the honorable member for Dalley. I can quite understand the diversity of opinion amongst experts studying from different angles theprobable cost of these vessels and the problem of whether they should be built in Great Britain or Australia. Upon such complicated questions there might be an honest conflict of opinion. I can understand that even experts might differ as to the relative productivity of labour in two countries. A man thinking of the dockyards and huge shipbuilding establishments on the Clyde River, in Scotland,, might wonder how the comparatively small, plants of the kind in Australia, could successfully compete with them in economic production. One would naturally think that the greater mobilization and organization of labour in Great Britain and their long experience would give her naval contractors a great advantage over Australian contractors. But if you feed human beings, and improve their conditions, you develop not only their bodies, but their minds, too, and you increase the value of their labour. If you take men from the Clyde and bring them to Australia, they develop greater productive capacity in the more congenial, surroundings. Men in Australia have a greater capacity for work, not becausethey were born upon its soil, but because of their social environment, and the organization of the working class has giventhem hope and good prospects for the future. The advantages that they derive from the land of their birth stimulate them to greater effort, and it is the Labour party’s ideal that the Australian of tomorrow should outshine and outsparkle the Australian of to-day. I do not claim to be an expert in freights, but any man, by walking down the street and calling at the shipping agencies, can learn that freights on goods to England are 100 per cent, higher than those on outward goods. The freight to England on meat, butter, and meat carried in refrigerators is front £14 to £17 a ton. The average freight on general cargo from Great Britain to Australia is about £5 a ton. The freight on iron and steel products is from 70s. to 140s. a. ton. Where the British manufacturer is in competition with the Australianmanufacturer in no case does the freight on the goods exceed 140s. a ton. Yet the Naval Board had the audacity to tell this Parliament that it would cost an average of £17 a ton to ship British raw material out here for the building of a cruiser in Australia. Surely we are not so stupid and ignorant as to believe that. Had I been the Minister, I would have said to the official responsible for such an estimate, “ Do’ you take me for a fool that you put such an absurd statement before me?” If Great Britain is paid £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 for a cruiser, we send that amount not in money, but in products, and these are used to feed the workers there. But although we believe in international brotherhood, we cannot support this ideal at the expense of our own people. We must first of all build up our own industries, and extend the hand of fraternity to our own poor and destitute. The question may be asked whether men should be engaged on the work of constructing cruisers, either here or in Great Britain. If we have to choose between those alternatives, we say let them be engaged here. If these instruments of war are built here, whether it be a good or a bad thing to build them, they will at least be built under conditions congenial to the sentiments of our people, and their construction will help to develop the nation. There is no article that our workers consume that cannot be made in Australia. If the two cruisers are built in Australia, we shall stimulate the iron and steel industry, which is essential to the existence of a nation. In Australia these cruisers would be built by highly paid, well equipped, well-clothed and well-housed workmen, but in Great Britain they would be built by poor, miserable, impoverished men working under high pressure. We do not want a man of war or anything else that is cheap because of the degradation of the workmen, black, brown, yellow, or white, engaged in the malting of it. Regardless of party feeling our aim is to develop our own industries, and if we do that the population will naturally increase, and Australia will become a great nation. But, although we are determined that these cruisers shall be built in Australia, we look forward to the time when, instead of building instruments of destruction, we shall apply our efforts to the increasing of means of production, to providing better homes and better living conditions for our people. Although we must adapt our ideals and sentiments to the particular environment in which we find ourselves, we live in the belief that with greater educational facilities and wider knowledge, we shall soon have a community living in comfort and contentment. Although the Naval Board may jeer and gibe at the Labour party, the time will come when it will have to adapt its policy to the sentiment and ideals of the people we represent, and must recognize what this party stands for. In the blackest hour, when we were defeated and disappointed we were told that the sun of labour would never rise again, but it is rising again, and rising fast. The Labour party is in power in five states of the Commonwealth. Those controlling the Naval Board must remember that when the Labour party gains office it will have to conduct the naval branch efficiently, and frame its polity not in accordance with British ideas, but in accordance with the sentiments of the people of Australia, and the ideas and conceptions of this party.
.- The speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) this morning has justified that attitude that has throughout been adopted by .members on this side of the chamber respecting the building of the two cruisers. We have stated that if they are to be built they should be built in Australia. The Government has evidently determined that they shall be built, and the Shipping Board and the Navy Board were asked to submit estimates for the cost of these cruisers if built here. No employer of labour carrying out constructive work would submit tenders amounting to £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, without having before him the specifications and plans of the work proposed to be carried out. The Government denied, for a considerable time, that information was being bidden from honorable members. The Prime Minister stated that he had been requested by the British Government to give it an order for one cruiser to provide work for the British unemployed, and this he refused to do. Although he made that statement, he told the public of this country that the Government had determined to build one cruiser in England irrespective of whether it could be built here or not. If Australia can build one cruiser, she can build two. The Prime Minister told us that the Government proposed to place an order -for one cruiser in Great Britain, but that there was a prospect of building the other cruiser in Australia. But, as has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), conditions have been imposed on the tenders that make it almost certain that the second cruiser will be built in Great Britain. One order has already been placed there, and it is common knowledge that if the two vessels were built by one firm, the cost of each would be considerably lessened. Australian firms will not be given an opportunity to build one of these cruisers. The Government is not only unpatriotic, but anti- Australian. The Acting Leader of the Opposition has shown the difference in the treatment meted out to the artisans and seamen of Great Britain in time of peace and in time of war. In peace-time, British ships are very often in charge of a British captain, the rest of the crew being of other nationalities. In war-time, the crews were wholly British. That cheap form of patriotism does not exist anywhere else in the world. I must -say for other nations, to some of whom we have been opposed, that whilst their Governments demand patriotic conduct from their people in time of war, they are themselves patriotic in their regard for their people in times of peace. If one goes aboard a foreign ship he will not find Britishers on it, but the people of the nation to which it belongs. The Government said that it was useless to talk at random, and that it could not give an estimate of the cost of the cruisers until it knew the facts from the official standpoint. It was informed by the managers of the “Walsh Island Dockyard prior to this that there was no data available upon which to found a reliable estimate. No practical man would risk his reputation by saying what it would cost to build a modern warship unless he had before him complete specifications of material and equipment considered necessary. The number of capital ships which a nation is permitted to build has been reduced as a result of the “Washington Conference, and this has led to- the nations building 10,000-to.n cruisers with as much of the armament equipment and speed of the battleship as they can put into them. When the Minister for Defence told us that he had an estimate of £1,900,000 for the building of a modern vessel of this description he showed that he did not know anything of the matter, or that he had been misled by those who advised him. A reference to the Naval Gazettewill show that the estimate to which the honorable gentleman referred was for a vessel of the old Raleigh class, which cannot in any way be compared with the cruisers that are being built to-day. We . are determined to defend Australia, but when we ask our men to fight in its defence we say that they should be given the employment provided by the manufacture of the weapons of war with which they will be equipped. The policy of the Government is to buy abroad our ships of war, our guns, and the shells to be fired by them. The Government professes to desire to build up the sentiment of nationality whilst, we are 16,000 miles away from the source of supply of the materials we require for defence. So far as the capability of our artisans to build ships is concerned, although . such comparisons are objectionable, we say that our artisans compare more than favorably ‘with those of any other part of the Empire. It is the opinion of employers - and, amongst them, of one who is not an Australian - that our workmen are pre-eminent in any employment they take up. The Government causes the words “Buy Australian Goods” to be stamped on every envelope sent through the post, and no doubt the Prime Minister, when he opens the Manufacturers’ Exhibition, will tell those present what a good thing it is to establish manufacturing industries to give employment to the people. Yet, when it is a question of spending the people’s money on the construction of cruisers, he gives the work of building one to the shipbuilders of Britain, and imposes conditions for the building of the second such’ as render it impossible for Australian shipbuilders to tender for it successfully. The Government has broken the pledges it gave to the people at the last election. It was returned as a Nationalist Government in favour of protecting the industries of this country. Yet its policy has been to damn everything Australian and to buy all it could outside this country. The people will take notice of what it has done. We are prepared to do our part in the defence of tie country. We should know the best and most economical way to do so, and we have a right to demand that patriotism shall guide us in times of peace, as well as in war. A contented people are best fitted to defend their country. Discontented nations are beaten by numerically weaker, but contented people. The nations that have survived against odds have been those whose governments have fostered love for their country by the care taken of its citizens.
. -Were I to deal with this question oratorically I could, I suppose, work myself up to phrases both perfervid and acrimonious.
– Does the honorable member think that he could emulate the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) ?
– I do not know that I desire to do so, because we are considering a matter which requires to be dealt with in the cold light of reason, rather than in the lurid heat of rhetoric. We have heard a great many eloquent expressions this morning, but it has appeared to me that few of them have really gone to the heart of the matter. There is a tendency in this Chamber, in dealing with questions of this sort, to consider that they are answered by general phrases and wide generalizations that do not get down to hard facts. I have been rather surprised at the way in which the question has been handled this morning, because it would appear from the attack which has been made that the Government has already decided that the second cruiser is not to be built in Australia.
– No; because it has decided not to build the first in Australia.
– That has been the decision of a majority of the members of this House.
– I am sorry for them.
– Perhaps one would rather have the honorable member’s pity than his approval. The House has already decided that one of the cruisers shall be built in Britain, but it would appear from the debate that the Government had decided to build the second cruiser in Britain also. The true position is that the Government refuses to come to a decision upon the matter until it is in possession of definite data. It would appear that it is expected by the Opposition to give an order for a cruiser to be built in Australia - in fact, honorable members opposite have said so - re gardless of what it may cost, and without knowing what it will cost. I have been somewhat surprised at the adoption of this attitude by honorable members opposite, because, if there is one principle which the’ Opposition frequently enunciates, it is that war is a wicked waste, and that all expenditure on warlike preparations is uneconomical, unnecessary, . and disastrous. When some expenditure on preparations for war has been decided on one would have thought that the Opposition would have endeavoured to provide that that wasteful and uneconomical expenditure should be as little as possible. On the contrary, it having been decided that something must be spent on the very undesirable purpose of preparing for war, members of the Opposition say, “Although we consider all such expenditure wasteful and wicked, we should make this preparation regardless of cost, and without even knowing what it will amount to.” Could anything be more illogical or unreasonable? How can men profess to absolutely disapprove of this kind of expenditure, and at the same time recommend that it should be undertaken regardless of any limitation ? There are very good grounds for the Government hesitating to comply with the request of the Opposition. I take this opportunity to read some figures, so that honorable members may understand what it would mean to have these cruisers constructed in Australia. These figures apply to ships actually built here, and have been supplied to me by the Defence Department. Some ships have already been built in Australia for the Royal Australian Navy, namely, the destroyers the Torrens, the Swan, and the Huon, and two light cruisers, the Brisbane and the Adelaide. The estimated price for building similar vessels in England was, in the case of the light cruisers, £450,000; and for the destroyers, £80,000. The actual cost of these vessels built in Australia was -
Torrens, £158,600, or £78,600 over the estimate;
Huom, £148,300, or £68,300 over the estimate ;
Brisbane, £746,600, or £346,600 over the estimate;
Adelaide, £1,271,700, or £821,700 over the estimate.
Bad as those figures show the position to be, that is not the only aspect of the case. The estimated time for the supply of a destroyer built in England was fourteen months, and for a light cruiser, 21 months. The time actually occupied in the building of these vessels in Australia is shown in the following statement: -
Torrens, 42 months.
Swan, 43 months.
Huon, 37 months.
Brisbane, 47 months.
Adelaide, 56 months.
Those longer periods are of great importance from more points of view than one.
– There was no hurry at the time, as there was no war on then.
– That interjfiction shows the extraordinary view of the position held by the honorable member. Possibly, the workmen went specially slow because there was no war on.
– The honorable member loses no opportunity to malign the Australian workmen.
– For those periods, the money expended on the construction of the vessels lay absolutely idle, bearing a high rate of interest. Possibly, the worst feature of the case is that, because of the long time taken in their construction, the effective life of the vessels was considerably reduced. By the time that they were launched they were, to a certain extent, obsolete, and had before them a shorter period of effective life than should have been the case. If figures like that are to be ignored, I maintain that this Parliament is lacking in its duty to the people of Australia. It is very easy for honorable members to say that I am maligning the Australian workmen, and that I am an anti-Australian because of my attitude in regard to this matter; but I entirely repudiate such charges. “We hear a great deal about the men who will be paid the wages if the vessels are constructed in Australia, but very little about the people who will have to pay them. I consider that it is my duty to defend the people who pay the wages. It has been said that representations to have these vessels constructed in Australia have been made by all sections of the community. That is a very difficult thing to prove. It certainly has not been proved up to the present. I noticed the composition of the deputation which waited upon the Lord Mayor of Sydney recently to urge that these ships should be constructed here. It consisted of representatives of a number of bodies whose importance and authority were not such as was indicated by their names. Some of those bodies represented very close groups of special interests, groups of interest which honorable members opposite have combined to malign in this House, but which, on this occasion, they regard as important sections of the community. Many of the representations made were prompted by the self-interest of those making them. It is the duty of honorable members of this committee, so far as they can do so, to protect the public from exploitation by any section of the community that desires to take advantage of their position. I do not malign - and I refuse to be represented as maligning - the ability of the Australian workmen; but we have heard so much about giving the workmen a chance that I consider it is time that we thought of the interests of the general taxpayer. An important portion of Sir John Monash’s report has not been referred to in. this debate. I therefore propose to read it. It was suggested by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) that that report indicated that the ships should be built here. My reading of that report is very different. I shall read the last paragraph of it: -
The aspect to which I desire to draw your attention is’ that this £1,000,000 would he permanently withdrawn from the whole population of tlie Commonwealth, for the immediate, but very temporary, benefit of a negligible percentage of its population ; whereas if this large sum could be saved by the outright purchase of this cruiser from a British ship-building firm, it could be made available, in its entirety, for the immediate benefit of the same industrial class, for reproductive works from which the whole of the people could permanently benefit; or, alternatively, could otherwise be usefully employed for defence purposes.
– Sir John Monash, in that report, went outside the terms of his appointment.
– Whether that was so or not, his report has been quoted to show that he was in favour of the vessels being built here, but the paragraph that I have read does not suggest that. In a matter of this nature, honorable members must form their own opinion, and make their own judgments. I am not quoting Sir John Monash’s report because I have no opinion of my own to express, but I have quoted it to show that the tenor of that report was misrepresented this morning. One other statement hae been made to which I feel that a reply should be given. It has been said that if it is considered necessary to build these ships hi England, because they could be obtained more cheaply than in Australia, they might as well be constructed in Japan. That is a ridiculous argument, as a moment’s reflection will show. We would not reveal to a possible enemy the details of the means of defence on which we should have to rely in case of war. It is unfortunate that one side of the case was presented to the House this morning by the Minister only. I am sure that the opinions which have so far been raised do not represent the opinion of the majority in this chamber, or of the people of Australia as a whole. Many of our people believe that defence is necessary; but, because of the present economic conditions, they feci that they cannot do .much at this juncture. They consider, however, that what is done should be done on sound lines. There are many who feel that the problems Ave now have to face are evidence that, in the past, we have not always proceeded along sound Hues. Instead of constantly resorting to declarations of our superiority and supremacy, and taking up the attitude that no one can teach us anything, we should do well to examine the past to ascertain whether we have been proceeding along right lines, and whether it might not be better for us to alter our methods, and, perhaps, retrace our steps in some directions. Most people are surprised to know that so great a difference exists between the estimated cost of constructing the cruisers here and in England. I should much prefer to see the ships built here, but because of the system which we have built up it is impossible to do that. We ure now faced with the consequences of our past actions. Instead of saying that the vessels must be built here at any cost, we should examine our past conduct to see whether it has not been responsible for many of our present troubles. The time may yet come when those who today indulge in the cheap gibes of antiAustralians and little Australians concerning those who try to guide public opinion aright, will realize that we were the better Australians and the truer patriots.
Sitting suspended from 1.8 to 2.15 p.m.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The other day, when an item relating to exenemy ships was being considered, I addressed the committee and subsubsequently left the chamber. I understand that after I had left a division was taken. In one at least of the newspapers of this city - and, I presume, in others - some comment was made on the fact that I did not vote in the division which was taken on the item, and it was asserted in one newspaper, at any rate, that I deliberately refrained from voting because I was apprehensive of the consequences of taking part in the division. There is no truth whatever in the assertion. When the item was called on, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) moved an amendment. The item, was delayed by a discussion that arose on other items in the votes for the same department. I had an appointment to keep at 5 o’clock, and I notified the honorable member for Yarra that unless the subject was called on soon I should have to leave without speaking. The item was called on about twenty minutes past five, and I spoke, and then left to go to a medical man. As I told the honorable member for Yarra that I should not be back until after the dinner adjournment, I assumed that a division would not be taken until after my return. I was not informed when I came back that there had been a division, although I knew,- of course, that the discussion had terminated. I did not see the reference to my absence until Wednesday,’ and I did- not know, even then, what were the numbers in the division. When I left the chamber I felt reasonably certain that’ a division would not take place. I regret that I was not here to vote, and I now desire to state that had I been here I should have voted for the amendment of the honorable member for Yarra.
– I cannot discuss the building of the cruisers with any enthusiasm. I deeply regret that the Government has decided to proceed with the building of them, because two honorable members of this Parliament are attending the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva, and are participating in the carrying of resolutions in favour of international arbitration and the holding of another disarmament conference. It is to be earnestly hoped that the result of the meeting of the League will be a better understanding between the nations, and a slackening in the race for armaments. Australia is a member of the League of Nations, and one of the principal objects of the League is to end that. The United States of America has agreed’ to participate in another disarmament conference, and the Geneva Conference has supported the. idea.
– The Australian Government is doing no more than other governments are doing. “We are only replacing obsolete ships.
– In the direction of peace this country should lead. We have nothing to gain by war, and no power is encroaching upon us. The Government would be wise not to proceed with the construction of the cruisers until the result of the proposed disarmament conference is known. Apart from that, the’ Government should wait for the report of the delegates now at Geneva. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), and the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), have attended the Assembly of the League of Nations, and when the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Littleton Groom) and the Leader of the Opposition . (Mr. Charlton) come back to Australia, we shall have a small body of honorable members who have taken part’ in the proceedings of the League. It would b.e of advantage to the people of the country if these honorable members conferred together and took the House into their confidence regarding the decisions of the League and the desires of the people of Europe. The proposed disarmament conference may decide against the use of 10,000-ton cruisers. If the conference of the League of Nations and the disarmament conference have any result in the direction of restricting armaments, the size of the cruisers must be reduced. We are taking a step in the dark. The defence of this country should not be made a party matter. All honorable members desire that this country should be defended, but while the Geneva Conference is sitting and Australia is represented there, the spending of money on the building of cruisers cannot be justified.
– The two cruisers are to replace two old cruisers.
– They will be about double the tonnage of the cruisers they will replace.
– The world has changed a lot since the Sydney and Melbourne were built.
– And I hope the world will continue to change in the direction of further disarmament. It is of no use preaching about the brotherhood of man, peace on earth, and good will towards men, unless we endeavour to give our preachings practical effect. If the cruisers are built in Great Britain, who will man them? If Australians are not good enough to build them, are they good enough to man them ? The logical consequence of building them in Great Britain would be to man them in Great Britain. The taxpayers of this country, and not the British people, will pay for the cruisers. It has been demonstrated that we have, in this country, mechanics who are equal to any that are to be found elsewhere. Let us build the cruisers here and man them here. Suppose that, when the cruisers arrive, our people say : “ You have built them out of this country, so you had better get men from another country to man them.” We ought to take our courage in our hands and do as we did in the great war - play our part fairly. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) and others have said that building the cruisers in Australia would cost over £1,000,000 more than the building of them in England. I do not advocate spending money to. provide employment unless that employment can be made reproductive. What we are doing at present is to send work out of the country and to spend money to bring people into it. I believe the great majority of the people, if they had an opportunity, would vote for the cruisers being’ built here. Even if they cost a little more than they would cost in Great Britain, Australians would get the benefit of it. The honorable member for Perth argues that German pianos, for no other reason than that they are cheap, should be landed in Australia free of duty. What would happen to the industries of this country if that were adopted as a general policy! Industries would languish, we should be troubled with unemployment, and the progress of the country would be retarded. Imagine the feelings of a man’s wife and children, when they know that the breadwinner has no prospect of employment. Such conditions breed bolshevism and discontent. The way to make our country prosperous is to keep our people employed by circulating money here. A saving of £1,000,000 by placing a contract abroad would be a mere bagatelle compared with the injury that would be done to the community. An important ship-building industry which has been gradually built up would be dislocated. I remember the time when one party in this Parliament proposed to offer a Dreadnought to the Mother Country. The Labour party opposed the proposal and advocated “ an Australian Navy, built in Australia and manned by Australians, and paid for with Australian money.” For that we were stigmatized as disloyal and opposed to the Empire, but our policy was endorsed by the people, and we were returned at the general elections of 1910, with the largest party ever returned to support a Commonwealth Government. The present Government is reversing Labour’s policy, and to be logical it should man the new “ships when they are built with men from abroad and purchase their oil ‘ and coal in the cheapest foreign markets. I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision, or at least give the committee some assurance that both cruisers will not be built outside Australia.
.- So much has been said on this important subject that a statement is due from me regarding my attitude towards defence. I do not pose as a naval or military expert, and certainly not as a strategist. I have been a member of this House for twenty months, and have not yet been able to learn how to be of service to my constituents or the Commonwealth; so my strategy counts for nothing. We have heard a great deal about pacifism. I claim to be a pacifist as far as I dare. After what I have seen of the grief and misery caused by war I would be an inhuman, monster if I were not prepared to makealmost any sacrifice for the sake of peace. Throughout my life the principle of tolerance has been inculcated into my mind. In my youth a man whom I dearly loved said to me, “ You are too intolerant and impulsive, and too ready to resent what you consider a wrong. You should study and practice patience and tolerance. Never be the cause of a fight, and doeverything possible to keep out of one. You may be called a coward, but tolerate even that. But there may come a day when the honour of yourself and thoseyou love is at stake; then fight with all your might. In brief, never fight if you can help it, but if you have to fight never yield until you cannot help it.” I followed that advice, and it sometimes brought me some terrible drubbings. Some honorable members have said that human nature does not change; others say that it is always changing for the better. The trouble is that human nature changes too much and too quickly. An honorable member may be a pacifist to-day, but events may so shape themselves that to-morrow he will be no longer a pacifist, and want to fight almost anybody. Often I have started out in the morning chock full pf good intentions, and have felt peaceably inclined towards everybody and everything, and have returned home with a cartload of broken resolutions, and a feeling of bitterness towards everybody. I have entered this House believing that everybody was my friend, and that I could not have an uncharitable thought towards any honorable member, and I have left the chamber in the same afternoon feeling as bitter as gall. It is idle to say that human nature does not change. The biggest drubbing in my life I received at the hands of a pacifist; at least, he said he was a pacifist, and I believed him. The man who cheated me worst in a deal was a socialist. In that instance, too, my credulity betrayed me. And the greatest rogue I ever met in business was a perverted professor of Christianity. No man respects and reveres more than I do a true pacifist, an honest socialist, or a sincere Christian, but there cannot be a greater war-monger than a bogus pacifist, a greater menace to the social system than an insincere socialist, or a bigger abomination in or out of hell than a hypocrite. We should all try to be sincere and genuine. Every man in this House may be a pacifist, but let us be honest with ourselves. I was born in Australia, and have never been out of it ; no man is prouder of this country than I am. But we have an unfortunate habit of saying, “ This is our glorious heritage. Who dare impugn our rights?” Australia, is our heritage as long as we are worthy of it, and people it, and are prepared to defend it. But let us drop cant and hypocrisy, and realize how we became possessed of the continent. Thank God, our forefathers, who made the country fit for our occupation, were real pioneers and honest workers. They came to Australia, and said, “ This is a glorious country that is worth having. It has abundant resources, a beautiful climate, and everything that God could bestow. Yet it is peopled by only a few nomadic blacks.” So they took possession of the laud and peopled it. We are very glad they did, because the aborigines were not effectively occupying it, could not defend it, and consequently had no right to it. In that our forefathers were right. But suppose that in the future some Mohammedan or Confucian or Buddhist leader were to say to his people, “ Go you, and take Australia. It is occupied by a mere handful of people who are always quarrelling amongst themselves, and have made no preparations for its defence. It is a glorious land. We want room for our people. Take it from them. They will not resist very much, because they are divided amongst themselves, and are not able to defend their possessions.” I will support any effective measures for the defence of our glorious country. I would not vote with any Government for a policy of aggression. I would say, as the adviser of my youth said to me, “Never cause a fight. Do all you can to avoid trouble, but be ready to defend yourself if you are attacked.” In regard to the vexed question as to where the new cruisers should be built, I am not a freetrader. I desire to be a fair trader, but fiscal considerations do not apply to this matter. The money with which the cruisers are to be built has been taken from the poc kets of our own people. I am glad it has not been borrowed. The cruisers should be built in Australia, if the conditions are at all reasonable. Sir John Monash has, in his report, estimated the overhead charge at £600,000. I cannot understand how that total is made up; it seems to be altogether too large. Let us encourage thrift and self-reliance amongst our people. Those who would get a big “ cut “ out of the local construction of the cruisers should be more reasonable and agree to do the work more cheaply. It is not the workmen alone who takes down his country. Sometimes the workers say, “ The bosses are getting a big cut out of this business, and there is no reason why we should kill ourselves with overwork.” Then both employer and employee are at fault, and the country suffers. I believe that if the controllers of industry would be reasonable and tolerant they could induce the men to unite in demonstrating that Australia can build ships at a reasonable price. We cannot expect to build them as cheaply as they are built in England. A great deal of the material for ship construction must be imported, and our shipyards are not as advanced as are those of older countries. But there may come a time when we shall have to depend upon our own resources. Therefore, if we can possibly build our own warships, let us do so, unless the cost would be altogether excessive. If it were proved that our workers would go slow on their job, regardless of the expenditure incurred by Australia, I should vote against the construction of the cruisers here. I myself have never known this to happen. Very often workmen do not work to the utmost of their capacity because those in charge of them are greedy and avaricious. It is all. very well for a man to say that the workers go slow, but he is not always in a position to judge fairly. Let me give a case in point. In the heat of a summer’s day I was standing in Spring-street under the shade of a building. I was talking to a friend, and I looked across the road and saw three old men who were using long-handled shovels in repairing the road . I have been a navvy, and have done that kind of work, and know what it means. I was thinking what an awful pity it was for those men to be working there in the heat of the sun, and Isaid to my friend that it was not fair, as younger men should be doing it. Under the trying conditions I was surprised at the quickness with which they worked. I am a strong man myself, but in that heat I should not have enjoyed working eight hours a day on that job. I thought it was a pity that our civilization could not evolve some” more equitable system. Then along came a couple of young fellows dressed to kill, one of them particularly so. He wore spats, had a diamond ring on his finger, and a diamond in his tie-pin. He carried a walking stick in the orthodox fashion. They stood alongside of me and commenced talking. One said to the other, “ Charles, you have here an illustration of this notorious go-slow policy which is so prevalent in Australia. No doubt these men receive 12s. 8d. or 13s. 4d. a day, an impossible wage for such a menial service. They are not even trying to earn it. How can a country progress under such conditions? “ This young man may have been a most valuable citizen, and worth to the country a great many like me, but he was an unfair critic, because he could not get the other man’s view-point. I do not blame him for making those remarks, as he evidently did not see things in the right focus. He did not know what it was to stand iu the boiling sun for eight hours using a long-handled shovel. I did not insult him, but walked away. Honorable members there have an illustration of what often happens. We at the top very often want too much for our service, and we expect too much from those at the bottom. We should try to be human, and to obtain a truer focus in order to see the other man’s case properly. If we did that, then these cruisers would not cost too much. It is easy for a man getting £2,000 a year to say that his employees are not doing their duty. I do not say anything derogatory about any one, but we should set our employees an example by using all our energies in the work we undertake.
.- The reasons for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) were ably stated by him, and forcibly supported by other honorable members on this side. I also support it. If we are to build cruisers, they should be constructed in Australia. It is truly foolish that honorable members should not hp unanimous on this point, but. the position is that the Government and this party are at daggers drawn on the question of supporting Australian industries. Although, in the opinion of many, it may be idle to talk of the peace of the world when the world is at war, and although it may be deemed foolish to talk of disarmament when other nations are arming, I believe that Australia is in accord with other countries in thinking that, if possible, peace should be brought about. We have now a unique opportunity to increase the fame of Australia by striking a note for universal peace in accord with that struck elsewhere in the world. The Government should let it be known to our representatives at the Geneva Conference and to the world at large, that we are staying our hands in the construction of instruments of war, the expenditure of money on war-like preparations, the extension of hours of training, and the building of war-ships, and that. we, at the outposts of the civilized world, are making a gesture of peace. I commend the Government for one thing it has done this, session. It has sent representatives of both sides of the House to represent Australia at Geneva. This is the first time that such an action has been taken. And it is not too late at this juncture to pursue a line of conduct th-it. even if it does nothing else, will encourage the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who are representing us at the Assembly of the League of Nations. This should be done even if only for the encouragement of the delegates from the small nations of Europe and other parts of the world, so that they may realize that Australia, although small in numbers but vast in possessions, a country that has led the van in the progressive legislation of the world, takes its stand for disarmament. If we stayed our hand in building instruments of’ destruction, it would be a fitting recognition of the splendid decisions that have already been arrived at at Geneva. They are leading to something that will be unique in the history of the world. If we increase our defence expenditure and do not accelerate disarmament, we shall be treating that conference and its decisions with contempt, declaring to the rest of the world that we have no faith in them. We have had a lecture onsincerity by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson). Let us do one sincere action in this great moment of the world’s history ; because I believe thatthe world is tired and sick of war. The lessons of the war have been learned, and if the Government takes some action to indicate its sincerity and belief in the ideals expressed at the Geneva Conference, it will wipe out many of its political sins.
Question - That the. amount of division 83, “ Special Defence Appropriation, -£1,000,000,” be reduced by £1 (Mr. Mahony’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion : (by Dr. Earle Page): agreed to-
Thatincludingthe several sums already voted for such services therebe granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year ending 1924-5 a sum notexceeding £20,643,568.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Committee ofWays and Means covering resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Dr. Earle . Page and Mr. Bruce. do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that the Senate had agreed to the Bill asamended by the House of Representatives, at. the request of the ‘Senate.
Billreturned from the Senate with amendments.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion byMr. Atkinson) read afirst time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Mr.PARKER MOLONEY (Hume) [3.12]. - I wish toraise a question of privilege.Last evening when the committee’ was discussing an item of the
Estimates’,; involving: the payment of £137,000 to Bawra, I raised the question whether the votesof certain honorable members who are interested as shareholders in that company should be allowed. The Chairman of Committees stated’ that the matter was one for the decision of Mr. Speaker. I now desire, sir, to briefly ask your ruling upon it. In connexion with the payment of £137,000 to Bawra, which, I take it, is a gift to the company, I point out that in a list of names of share-holders of Bawra I find those of the following members of this House: - The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), the honorable member forCorangamite (Mr. Gibson), the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt), the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning.), the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr.Paterson), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), and the honorable member forRiverina (Mr. Killen).
– I have no objection to doing that. I am taking this action solely from a sense of public duty. Honorable members who are interested should have no objection to a ruling from you; Mr. Speaker, to decide whether or not they are justified in recording their votes or not. Standing Order 296 has a direct bearing on this matter. It reads -
No member shall be entitled to vote in any division upon a question in which he has a direct pecuniary interest, not held in common with the rest of the subjects of the Crown, and a vote of any memberso interested shall be disallowed, but this shall not apply to motions or public bills which involve questions of public policy.
I claim, that under that standing order no other interpretation can be placed; upon this payment than that it is a direct gift to a public company, that every shareholder in that company will benefit from the distribution of that gift, and that they therefore have a direct pecuniary interest in that gift, a pecuniary interest not held in common with the rest of the subjects? of the Crown-. On a previous occasion a motion by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) was submitted, in connexion with the vote of the honorable: member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), which challenged his right to vote on the question of the remission of taxation on Crown leaseholds.. Having gone through your ruling on that occasion, the interpretation that I place upon it might as well be stated here. I gathered from your, ruling on that occasion-
– I gave no ruling on thatoccasion, but participated in the debate, at the request of the House.
– You drew a distinction when you spoke, in pointing out that the interest of the honorable member for Riverina was one which was held in. common with the rest of the subjects of the Crown. I should say that, strictly interpreted, that opinion would hold good, because a question of taxation would be a matter in which the honorable member for Riverina, and other honorable members, as well as people outside, would be similarly interested. The case in connexion with this company is an entirely different matter. I have referred to the payment as a gift. I contend that those honorable members whom I have named have a direct pecuniary interest in the gift, an interest not held in common by the rest of the community.
-W as my name mentioned ?
– The name of the honorable member appears on the list of shareholders.
– What is the date of that list?
– I have gone through the list of shareholders which was supplied to me, and on that list the name of the honorable member appears.
– Order! I remind the honorable member for Hume that, he is now raising a point of order, and not embarking on a general , debate on this subject.
Mr.PARKER MOLONEY.- I simply desireyourruling, Mr. Speaker, in order to ascertain whetherhonorable members who were pecuniarily interested as shareholders in this company were entitled to vote when the question of the payment of the sum of £137,000 to a company in which they had a direct pecuniary interest was before the committee. The Chairman of Committees, not feeling disposed to give a ruling upon it, directed me to submit the question to you for a ruling. I submit that Standing Order 296 applies in this case. For my part, I cannot see that it is possible to place any other interpretation upon it than that these members come directly under the heading of persons who have “ a direct pecuniary interest, not held in common with the rest of the subjects of the Crown.” They were interested in this company in a way in which other members of the community were not, and T consider that their vote should not have been allowed. In any case, I think that they should not have voted. That opinion is shared by honorable members on this side of the House. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) admitted that he was a shareholder of the company, as did also the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson). Those honorable members, and honorable members generally, will be glad to know exactly where honorable members stand in a matter of this kind. I, therefore, ask for youlruling
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– I cannot hear a personal explanation until the point of order has been disposed of.
– I am not, and never have been a shareholder of this company, and do not know where the honorable member obtained the information that I was a shareholder.
-The honorable member for Hume has stated a question of order, and asks me to rule upon it. He has made reference to a case that was dealt with in this House in the early part of this session, that is, on the 23rd August of last year. He does not claim that that case is similar, but he claims that it may illustrate the point in which the House is interested. The honorable member was in error, I take leave to suggest to him, in saying that I ruled on that occasion ; I was careful to follow the ancient practice, and not to rule but, with the concurrence of the House, I was permitted to participate from the chair in the debate. Expressing no definite view - again following the Speaker’s tradition in all British Parliaments - I gave the House the benefit of whatever research I had been able to make into the history of such matters during the preceding day or two. I then endeavoured to show that questions of this kind have a very long, interesting and important history. But the one thing I tried to make plain on that occasion was that it has never been regarded as the right, privilege, or power of the presiding officer - whether the Chairman of Committees or the Speaker in open House - to rule on and decide such matters as this. The British House of Commons, and many of our Australasian Parliaments, have decided, since the inauguration of such questions, to hold the decision of them in their own hands, for reasons which will be obvious to honorable members on reflection. It should not be competent for a Speaker, with or without party bias, to disqualify or disallow the votes of one, two, or more members in any particular division, and the Houses of British Parliaments have jealously held the right to determine whether a vote should be allowed or disallowed when challenged in the proper way. The immemorial practice is that such questions become questions of privilege, and not of order. A question of privilege, as honorable members know - although they will not, I am sure, object to the. . re- minder - must be dealt with on a substantive motion by the honorable member t who raises it. If honorable members will, in their leisure during the week-end, read the observations 1 was permitted to make some thirteen months ago, they will see all those principles laid down, and I suggest for the consideration of those interested in this matter, that if it be deemed important, the House might be prepared at some suitable occasion before we separate, to entertain, as a matter of privilege, the question raised on a substantive motion in respect of this particular matter.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I .was not in the chamber when the point of order was raised. I am neither directly nor indirectly pecuniarily interested in Bawra to the slightest degree. I was one of the original shareholders, but disposed of the whole of my interest. Speaking from memory, T believe that took place over three years ago. I suggest to the honorable member for Hume, that before he makes charges against honorable members he should be careful that he is accurate in his statements.
– The honorable member’s name appeared in the list of shareholders.
– The honorable member for Hume persists in saying that I was a shareholder, and I ask him to withdraw that statement.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is obliged by practice to accept the statement of the honorable member for Mac quarie (Mr. Manning).
– I accept the statement. The name of the honorable member appeared on the list of shareholders; but it is possible that he may have sold out since that date. However, the question I have raised is not affected, and the names of the other honorable members Ihave mentioned stand, with the exception of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), whose name happens to be the same asone appearing on the list of shareholders.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c.
No. 36 of 1924 - Australian Postal Elec- tricians’ Union .
No. 97 of 1924 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 38 of 1924- Australian Postal Assistants’ Union.
No. 39 of 1924- Commonwealth Telephoneofficers’ Association.
No. 40 of 1924- General Division Officers’ Union of the Trade and Customs Department.
No. 41 of 1924- Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 42 of 1924- Professional Officers’ Association.
No. 43 or 1924- Australian Postal Linemen’s Union.
No. 44 of 1924 - Australian Telegraphists’ Union.
No. 45 of 1924- Commonwealth Postmasters’ Association and Australian Postal Assistants’ Union.
Nos. 46 and 47 of 1924 - Australian Letter Carriers’ Association.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until
Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
House adjourned at 3.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240911_reps_9_109/>.